Vintage Leon Festinger

Last month I discovered a collection of cassette recordings of interviews with famous psychologists of the 1970s.  There are quite a few of them and some of the names instantly brought back memories from my undergraduate lectures of the 1990s.  Not wanting to throw them away, but also having no equipment to listen to them or share them, I decided to buy a cassette to MP3 converter and patiently digitize them to see what they’re all about.  Some of the cassettes were produced by ‘Psychology Today’ which is still well and truly in business, but there are others produced by ‘BSIP Ferranti Limited’ which appears to no longer exist.  For that reason I am going to share the Ferranti recordings as I think they are no longer owned by anyone and I am hoping not to get into any trouble (anyone out there who thinks otherwise please let me know!)

The tapes originally retailed at £2.50 + VAT according to a 1974 edition of the New Scientist.  The recordings are part of a collection called the ‘Brain Science Briefings Library’ and the first one I am sharing is Tape 4 featuring an interview with Leon Festinger (1919-1989) recorded in 1973.  A very comprehensive obituary for Festinger was published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, and obituaries also featured in major newspapers such as the New York Times.  Festinger was best known for his work on cognitive dissonance.  Scroll below the picture to hear the recording.


Vintage recordings of the 1970s.



International Congress of Psychology 2016

From July 24-29 2016 the 31st International Congress of Psychology was held in Yokohama, Japan.  I had the privilege of attending this huge event with contributors from 90 different countries.  I was presenting research published last year exploring the topic of feedism.  My presentation slot was limited to 15 minutes including questions so it was difficult to condense a year’s research into such a small amount of time but I just about managed it.  Have a listen to my first ever SoundCloud!

The abstracts from ICP2016 are published online with open access here.  Slides and photos below.

Yokohama Slides PDF

Yokohama 3

Opening ceremony featuring traditional Koto players.


Outside the conference venue.


Conference venue from the Landmark Tower (top left around the bottom of the curved hotel).


Teaching in Hong Kong

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Hong Kong to deliver the beginning of Social Psychology 2 to students studying BA (Hons) Social Sciences at HKU Space University.  This was my first experience teaching overseas and my first visit to Hong Kong.  What a time to visit the Pearl of the Orient…  In the week I was there planned student protests were confined to the financial district (Central) and Tamar Park.  I followed these with interest and while there was widespread awareness of the protests and TV coverage, there was no real disruption in the city and I managed to get about quickly and easily.  The real escalation in activity began about 24 hours after my departure and I am following developments through some excellent accounts on twitter such as Occupy Central and Varsity CUHK.  I support the students in Hong Kong and I hope they can all keep safe.

Teaching overseas was intense and hard work.  After about 19 hours of travelling from Edinburgh I arrived at 5.30pm on Sunday and went straight into meetings at 9am on Monday (no mercy for my cold or the considerable jet lag!)  Tiredness inevitably strikes in the mid afternoon when it is bed time in the UK.  On Tuesday morning teaching began at 9am for an intensive three and a half hours.  This is where I made an effort to get to know my new students for the few days I would be with them.  The students at HKU Space were very friendly and very keen to learn.  It was a genuine pleasure to meet and work with them.

My Social Psychology 2 class at HKU Space.

My Social Psychology 2 class at HKU Space.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was going to be learning a lot alongside my students.  I had never considered how much cultural information I take for granted when teaching – examples, jokes, prices, imagery – all of these things have to be adapted for your teaching to have the same meaning in a different context.  Sometimes my efforts were met with amusement (e.g. when I decided to talk about the Happy Valley Racecourse in Hong Kong for my gambling example instead of betting on football matches at William Hill!).  The next day I was teaching again for a four hour block in the afternoon and my students showed impressive focus during a week where they attended from 9am to 5.30pm almost every day.  I found such long periods of teaching hard work but then had a day free to explore wonderful Hong Kong.

View from The Peak.

View from The Peak.

Dim Sum on the Street.

Dim Sum on the Street.

My teaching in Hong Kong raised some questions for me about the value and meaning of psychology.  In May I attended a conference in Singapore where Professor Olwen Bedford spoke about indigenous psychology.  I really enjoyed her presentation – it quickly made sense to me and I was keen to know more.  For Social Psychology 2 I was teaching attitude formation and heuristics developed in a western culture.  This is essential for a British psychology degree and my Hong Kong students are specifically working towards a British degree, but I can’t deny it felt strange telling them what was ‘normal’ when for them, it may not be.  Both of my visits to Asia this year have caused me considerable reflection on psychology and teaching and I’m glad of that.  I think Hong Kong will be in my thoughts for some time.


Earlier this month I was invited to an exhibition at HMP Barlinnie where Theatre Nemo put on a display of the work it had been doing with prisoners.  This work included taiko drumming (which there was a performance of), drawings, writing, guitar playing, and singing.  I found this very interesting and the prisoners themselves appeared to have enjoyed producing the work immensely.  Attending this event put a lot of ideas and questions in my head about the potential therapeutic role of creative activity for prisoners and for other groups of people.  It’s unlikely I will ever get the chance to do any of my own research in this area but that didn’t stop me having a browse of the work that has already been done.

Discovering the journal ‘The Arts in Psychotherapy’ was a bit of a treat for me.  It might not have the biggest impact factor out there but it was full of just the kind of research I was curious about.  It was difficult to decide which article to pick for discussion so I may present a few over the coming weeks.  An article by Jang and Choi (2012) investigated the use of clay to build ego-resilience in adolescents.  The results suggested that the use of clay over 18 weekly sessions lasting 80 minutes each produced a statistically significant increase in ego-resilience.  This increase was seen within the clay group over time and between the clay group and control group.  Increasing ego-resilience allows individuals to deal better with change and threatening situations without experiencing emotional or behavioural problems.  Ego-resilience is about effective adaptation and it is something a person can develop rather than an unchanging characteristic.

In Jang and Choi’s study the 18 week clay programme was split into three periods: the beginning stage (sessions 1 to 6); the middle stage (sessions 7 to 14); and the final stage (sessions 15 to 18).  During these sessions there was self-exploration, building rapport with other members of the group, self-perception, emotional regulation, and promoting optimism as well as regular displays and discussion of the pottery that had been made.  All of these experiences can help to build ego-resilience and this appears to be heightened when developed alongside the clay based activities.

The authors surmise:

“The continued and repeated experience of pottery-making throughout the sessions contributed to bringing about a positive change in the regulation and expression of emotions.  In addition, the plasticity of clay made it easy for the participants to finish their clay work successfully.  Curiosity, toward the process through which a clay piece was transformed into glassy pottery and molding techniques or kiln firing that were learned in each session were factors that contributed to the positive changes.” (page 249)

There is already a history of using clay in therapeutic ways (see Sholt & Gavron, 2006) so this study adds to that but uses a more experimental/quantitative approach.  There are some criticisms that can be made of Jang and Choi’s methodology but I have put these aside for the purpose of this blog.  My aim is to discuss different types of work and different themes rather than offer a lengthy and detailed critique on a single piece of research.  This paper encouraged me to think about psychology as having a much more physical dimension and gave me a better understanding of the mechanism that may be at work with the Theatre Nemo participants.

Jang, H. & Choi, S. (2012).  Increasing ego-resilience using clay with low SES (Social Economic Status) adolescents in group art therapy.  The Arts in Psychotherapy, 39, 245-250.

Sholt, M. & Gavron, T. (2006).  Therapeutic qualities of clay-work in Art Therapy and Psychotherapy: A review.  Art Therapy, 26, 66-72.