Programme exploring the limits and potential of the human mind
Psychology of soap operas like the Archers; Awards Finalist
Checking in with a long-running soap opera can help us psychologically.
Claudia Hammond grew up overhearing the Archers as her parents listened - and wants to know what fans get out of the drama.
Life-long Archers fans Helen and Marjorie grew up listening to the world's oldest soap opera. Jane is the first in her family to listen and Callum got into it because of his nan. Sadly she now has dementia and can only remember characters and events from the 1960s. But Callum still feels close to her when he listens with his partner who's expecting their first baby this summer. He's been shocked by Alice's problems with alcohol but hopes that she can get the support she needs, now that her secret is out.
Jane and Helen both had difficult relationships with alcohol in the past - and can relate to what Alice is going through. Jane explains that alcoholism is a life-long illness and not a moral choice. She believes that her past issues have helped to shape who she is today and is open about it to try to reduce some of the stigma surrounding alcoholism. Marjorie believes that Chris is out of his depth and needs to take advice on how to support Alice - information she has found invaluable in her own family.
Professor of neuroscience at the University of Westminster Catherine Loveday is an enthusiastic part-time Archers fan. She tells us about new research on post-natal depression.
We hear from Dr Dara Greenwood, who's associate professor of psychology at Vassar College in the United States and studies what we get psychologically out of soap operas. She's says our brains are hard-wired to be drawn to people's stories, whether they are fictional or from real life. She also recognises that the escapism has drawn people in during the pandemic.
Producer: Paula McGrath
Pen or keyboard - what's best for notetaking; All in the Mind Awards; USA racist killings and mental health of black Americans
The pen is mightier than the laptop when it comes to notetaking. Or so we used to think. Daryl O’Connor, Professor of Psychology at the University of Leeds, breaks the news to Claudia Hammond that one of her favourite studies showing writing notes rather than typing them is best, hasn’t been replicated. Apparently it’s how much you write – on a computer or on paper – that predicts success.
There have been more than 1100 entries for the All in the Mind Awards and in the Professionals category, 30 year old Libby, who has an eating disorder, nominates her GP, Dr Celia Belk. They’re now finalists and they tell Claudia about their special doctor-patient relationship.
It’s two weeks since the former Minneapolis police officer, a white man, Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd, who was black. Millions around the world saw the distressing film of his killing but researchers in Utah in the US decided to measure, using big data, how much hearing about racist killings like this, affect the mental health of black Americans.
Dr David Curtis tells Claudia that his team selected 49 high profile cases of either police killing black people, a failure to indict officers accused of such killings, or white supremacist murders. And the results show worsening mental health for black, not white, Americans in weeks where there are two or more of these high profile cases.
And Daryl O’Connor also reports on another American study, this one from the emerging area of research into micro-aggressions – denigrating somebody because of their ethnicity by micro assaults, micro insults and micro invalidations. This research shows exposure to microaggressions is linked to worse PTSD symptoms.
Produced in association with The Open University
Producer: Fiona Hill
Memory under lockdown; Awards finalist StrongMen; Lockdown resilience
Claudia Hammond talks to Professor Catherine Loveday of Westminster University about her new research on our memories during lockdown. Have our memories really got worse during the pandemic?
And Claudia meets the first of the finalists in the All in the Mind Mental Health Awards 2021: we hear about StrongMen - a group set up to support men who have been bereaved. It was nominated by Adam Lee who suffered severe mental health issues following the unexpectedly loss of his daughter. The awards recognise the people and organisations that have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help you with your mental health. Radio 4 listeners nominated the unsung heroes and after a process of sifting through the entries, a judging panel of people with extensive experience of mental health has selected nine finalists, three from each category.
And how come some people have found lockdown to be a positive experience. Is there anything those of us who've found it harder can learn from them?
Producer: Adrian Washbourne
Produced in association with The Open University
Rapport; Brain health in later life; Changing optimism through lifespan
What is the best way of getting on with people at home and at work? Psychologists Emily and Laurence Alison have spent their careers working with the police as they build rapport with suspects, sometimes terrorism suspects or perpetrators of domestic violence. And their conclusions about how best to do it have lessons for the rest of us too. They discuss their new book, "Rapport: the four ways to read people".
Claudia catches up with Helen who nominated a finalist in the group category of the 2018 All in the Mind Awards to find out what she’s been up to in the last two years.
What can you do in middle age to protect your brain later on? Everyone’s brain changes as they get older, but some people maintain their cognitive health and others don’t. Rik Henson, Deputy Director of the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at the University of Cambridge, has brought together studies using brain scans with research where people in their 80s are asked to look back on their lives to try to work out the impact middle age activity can have on preserving your faculties.
Do we have everything to look forward to in our teens and then realise later what life can throw at us? Bill Chopik Assistant Professor of Psychology at Michigan State University, carried out the largest study of its kind to discover when optimism peaks, with surprising results.
Claudia's studio guest is Catherine Loveday, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Westminster.
Producer Adrian Washbourne
Racism, awards and hypermobility
Claudia Hammond asks why there is little research in the UK into whether childhood racism can cause mental health problems in the future. She is joined by BBC Broadcaster, Rajan Datar, psychiatrist Kam Bhui and Professor Craig Morgan to discuss the importance of investigating racism and its effects and how recent findings are pointing towards the kinds of changes that need to be made in the future. Claudia catches up with Hannah who nominated the winner in the group category of the 2018 All in the Mind Awards to find out what she’s been up to in the last two years. Also Madeleine Finlay reports on why being double-jointed means you might be more likely to be prone to anxiety.
Producer: Pam Rutherford
Wellcome Trust Mental health initiative; teenage sleep; choices children make
What really works when it comes to preventing and dealing with mental health difficulties? Can a world exist in which no one is held back by mental health problems.? That’s the vision of Professor Miranda Wolpert Head of the Mental Health Priority Area at the Wellcome Trust. With £200million to spend over five years, Miranda Wolpert and her team are taking a radical new approach to addressing anxiety and depression in 14- to 24-year-olds. Claudia hears about her new vision in addressing mental health problems in young people
Sleep problems are common in adolescence, and often related to anxiety and depression. But one factor which might be affecting mental health in people in their twenties is how they slept as teenagers, according to new research from Faith Orchard - lecturer at the University of Sussex. She disentangles exactly what is going on and teases apart the specific sleeping difficulties involved in the complex relationship between sleep, anxiety and depression.
We use various mental shortcuts to save our brains effort. One of those is that when we’ve made a choice in the past and rejected one option, we carry on rejecting that option and downgrade the thing we didn’t choose and actively avoid it if we are offered it again. And until now what wasn’t realised was that infants who of course have far less sophisticated thinking processes, do it too. Does this mean it’s intuitive, rather than something we learn to do? Alex Silver from the University of Pittsburgh dissects the evidence
Producer Adrian Washbourne