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Conversation article: the PPI scandal is far from over – here’s why

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Julie Robson, Bournemouth University

The PPI scandal led to the largest consumer redress scheme in British history, with over £38 billion paid to claimants to date. The deadline for customers to submit their claims was set at midnight on August 29 2019. But, almost one year later, hundreds of thousands of registered claims remain outstanding. And to make matters worse for the banks, a swathe of new claims have started rolling in.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) hoped the deadline would bring the scandal to an orderly conclusion and offer protection to consumers while helping to restore market integrity. The banks hoped it would enable them to draw a line under it and move on. But the situation seems to be getting worse.

The problem now comes in the form of unfair commission payments. PPI commission rates were deemed to be unfair for two main reasons: when they were too high or when they were kept secret.

When they were too high they accounted for, on average, 67% of the PPI price. In the most serious cases they accounted for 95% of the cost of a PPI policy.

When secret, they were (obviously) undisclosed to the customer. That customer – had they been better informed – may have queried the value of their PPI policy. Especially if they had they known that the majority of the price was not going to the product provider (for example, the insurer underwriting the protection cover for the loan or credit card) but to the bank who sold the PPI policy to them.

Court judgements

Awareness of the unfair commission payments on PPI policies is not new. But recent court decisions mean that customers can potentially claw back all of the commission they have paid and claim after the 2019 deadline.

The issue first came to light in the November 2014 Supreme Court case, Plevin v Paragon Personal Finance Ltd, after which the FCA changed its guidance on what could be claimed as part of the PPI redress scheme. This change enabled customers to claim commission that accounted for over 50% of the price of the PPI policy and became known as the Plevin rule.

Payments to customers were however restricted to commission that was in excess of 50%. In other words, successful claimants only received part of the commission that had been paid to the banks.

A series of other court cases saw the position change again, as claimants were awarded the full commission where the bank failed to disclose large commission payments to the customer. As almost all PPI policies earned high commission rates, this change was significant and opened the floodgates to new claims.

Customers who have received a partial payment, have had their claims rejected or have not claimed so far can now claim, citing the unfair compensation. Even customers who were not mis-sold PPI and were happy with their policy can potentially claim as the high commission payments may not have been disclosed to them.

The potential for new PPI claims based on the unfair commission payments could not have come at a worse time for the banks as they are still facing a backlog of existing claims to process. A survey conducted in March this year found that 60% of PPI claimants had not heard from their bank about the progress of their claim and half of these had not even received an acknowledgement letter.

Banks were overwhelmed by the volume of claims and although the expected time for banks to respond to such claims is typically eight weeks, the FCA managed this expectation by predicting that most claims would be resolved by summer 2020.

Coronavirus disruption

But this deadline was set before COVID-19 disrupted the world and it now appears unlikely to be met. Now many customers remain frustrated that their cases have not been resolved as the new unfair commission charges issue further aggravates and complicates the issue.

The original PPI scandal severely damaged consumer trust in the banks as a lack of integrity was at the heart of the case. PPI mis-selling was something that the banks could have controlled and was an intentional act as the banks placed profits above their customer welfare.

My own research has shown that when trust is damaged by a lack of integrity, it is difficult to restore. The banks needed to display clear evidence of an intention to get rid of negative influences.

For a start, all banks should have immediately apologised for the mis-selling. Some did, but this was only after they lost a high court case trying to overturn the FCAs ruling on PPI mis-selling. The banks really needed to signal to employees the importance of a customer-centered culture and change employee incentive systems to align with long-term performance, rather than short-term profit.

Banks need to embed ethical values into their routine actions and decisions. So far, the evidence is that not all banks have bothered to take such steps.

Julie Robson, Associate Professor Marketing, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: Going green dramatically benefits businesses

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Jagannadha Pawan Tamvada, University of Southampton and Mili Shrivastava, Bournemouth University

The onset of the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown have imperilled businesses worldwide. It will be tempting for firms to put any commitment to the environment in the back seat as they attempt to recover, especially as some governments reduce requirements and undermine environmental protection.

This is short-sighted: businesses do not have to sacrifice their environmental goals for protecting their growth. Greening initiatives like offering green products or services, introducing green processes internally, hiring employees to promote sustainable practices, or going beyond compliance requirements, can actually help firms.

Using data on 9,236 small and medium businesses in 35 countries across Europe and the US, our research suggests that on average, businesses benefit from going green, although the type of greening that gives the most significant benefit may differ between firms.

Here are four main ways that greening can benefit businesses.

1. Innovative market niches

By offering new green products or services, a business is more likely to cater to an emerging trend or niche market, which can make it more competitive. Frugalpac, a UK-based company that makes paper-based packaging for liquids that cut carbon footprints, received a £2 million investment during the pandemic – a time when most other companies were struggling for finance.

Already seeing widespread success for their recycled paper coffee cup, Frugalpac’s innovative paper wine bottle, also made from 94% recycled paper, has led to new opportunities and partnerships.

Companies focused on sustainability can rapidly expand by catering to new niche markets internationally. Consider D’light, a company that offers innovative lighting solutions for people who do not have access to electricity. The company has transformed the lives of more than 100 million people across 70 countries through its green product offerings while raising US$197 million (£150 million) in investment.

Earlier this year, the Danish energy supplier Ørsted, formerly known as Danish Oil and Natural Gas, was named the most sustainable company in the world. This success followed from its transformation to a green energy supplier – which went hand in hand with accelerated profits.

By catering to new niche markets using green products and services, these businesses have emerged as future leaders in their sectors. Of course, not all companies are suited to finding such niches. But sustainability can be promoted in other ways like green working practices and processes, for example.

2. Employee motivation

Job seekers are increasingly attracted to companies that care for the environment. The employees of firms that promote sustainability are more likely to believe that their employer will care for them, and are more satisfied with their jobs.

Such companies create a higher sense of personal and organisational purpose that makes work meaningful. A recent poll shows that millennials and Gen Z’s are more concerned about the environment than any previous generation. This means they prioritise employers who put sustainability at the forefront.

Millenials and Gen Z’s are more worried about the environment than any previous generations.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator/Unsplash, FAL

By some estimates, companies that follow green practices have a 16% boost in employee productivity. Although establishing a direct causal link can be difficult, some of the greenest companies, such as Cisco, Tarmac or Stantec, are also considered the greatest companies by employees.

3. More engagement

Greening initiatives signal to external stakeholders, such as investors and customers, that a business is committed to doing good. This can lead to increased investment, customers and stakeholder loyalty. This is pertinent in the aftermath of COVID-19 as there is heightened awareness about the need to protect the environment.

For example, highly sustainable companies benefit from superior stock market performance in the long run, according to research looking at American companies in the period 1993-2009. Investors are increasingly questioning firms on their commitment to sustainability, and expecting meaningful steps from them for integrating consideration of such issues into their investing criteria. This is reflected by the tenfold increase in global sustainability investment to US$30.7 trillion by April 2019 since 2004.

More recently, Polysolar, a company that makes glazed windows that generate electricity, has secured more than double the investment it sought on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. And large companies such as Unilever have benefited from increased stakeholder engagement and loyalty by adopting greening practices and products, addressing a dark history of environmental exploitation.

4. Increased efficiency

Greening processes can result in efficiency gains by reducing energy costs, allowing businesses to secure green tax credits, improving operational efficiency, and embedding circular economy principles internally.

Such gains directly translate into commercial benefits. As many as 75% of UK businesses that invested in green technologies subsequently enjoyed commercial benefits, even if financial concerns pose barriers to making these green investments in the first place. For large companies such as Proctor & Gamble, these gains can run into billions of pounds.

Conversely, in cases where businesses harm the environment, they have to be prepared to incur significant costs. A prominent example is the famous case of Volkswagen, which has even adversely impacted the performance of other German car manufacturers like BMW and Mercedes Benz.

For all these reasons, time is ripe for business to go green.

Jagannadha Pawan Tamvada, Associate Professor in Strategy and Innovation, University of Southampton and Mili Shrivastava, Senior Lecturer in Strategy, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: The hidden impact of coronavirus on Gypsy, Roma Travellers

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Vanessa Heaslip, Bournemouth University and Jonathan Parker, Bournemouth University

We know well by now that coronavirus does not affect everyone equally. In England and Wales, Black people are four times more likely die from COVID-19 than white people, while people from a Bangladeshi background are twice as likely. Coronavirus has also had a disproportionate effect on people experiencing poverty.

It’s clear that this disease heightens existing inequalities. Some of the most marginalised people in the UK are Gypsy, Roma Travellers, yet they are often left out of research and outreach programmes.

We do not currently know the rates of death and severe illness among these communities. And without better data about their experiences of COVID-19, the true impacts of the pandemic on Gypsy, Roma Travellers could remain dangerously hidden.

Health inequalities

Gypsy, Roma Travellers are not a homogeneous group, but rather consist of different communities with diverse needs. Even within the same community group, there can be many varied experiences of living through the pandemic depending upon personal, social and environmental factors.

That said, research indicates that the continuing COVID-19 pandemic will be extremely challenging for many individuals within the disparate communities.

The last census in 2011 noted that 76% of Gypsy, Roma Travellers in England and Wales lived in houses or apartments. This offers the least challenging experience, as people have access to basic amenities such as electricity, gas, sanitation and water supplies.

Those living in caravans, however, are likely to experience more difficulties. A 2019 Houses of Commons briefing paper noted there were 22,662 Traveller caravans in England, of which 57% were on private sites, 29% were on local authority sites and 14% were on caravan sites. There are increased challenges for those living on these sites during the pandemic, including accessibility of gas bottles, sewerage and obtaining fresh water. Those living on unauthorised sites experience the most significant problems, especially in accessing suitable sanitation and waste disposal.

Discriminatory policies towards these communities have meant that sites, whether they are provided by a local authority or privately run, are more likely to be located close to motorways, major roads, railways, refuse tips, sewage works and industrial estates, all of which are damaging to the health of people who live there. It is perhaps not surprising therefore, that Gypsy, Roma Travellers have a worse health status than the wider community average, dying between seven to 20 years earlier than the rest of the population.

A review across five regions in England and Wales noted that 66% of Gypsy, Roma Travellers had bad, very bad or poor health. Poor air quality, proximity to industrial sites, asthma and repeated chest infections in children and older people were noted in around half of all interviews undertaken for the review. Health access is incredibly difficult for people in these communities, which means that such problems are often not picked up until much later in the illness trajectory, leading to poorly managed chronic conditions.

As COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory disease, this places Gypsy, Roma Travellers in a precarious position – many will meet the criteria for high or moderate risk.

The impact of social distancing

As well as physical health impacts, we also know that there are mental health consequences that come from the COVID-19 pandemic. These too are likely to disproportionately affect Gypsy, Roma Travellers.

These communities often have a very strong family culture, and many live in large, extended family groups. This culture is an important protective mechanism against the harsh stigma and discrimination they face in wider society.

A desire to roam and travel is also deeply embedded as a core part of the identity of Gypsy, Roma Travellers. The distancing measures enacted in response to coronavirus reduce social contact within communities as well as people’s ability to be nomadic and roam. Both of these factors have implications for the long-term mental health and well-being of people within these communities in which mental ill-health is on the increase.

A lack of data

As well as widespread stigma, a major difficulty in truly understanding the impact of coronavirus on Gypsy, Roma Traveller communities is a lack of systematic data collection.

While Gypsy, Roma Travellers were recognised as a distinct ethnic minority category in the last census, the NHS does not currently incorporate this category into their ethnicity data. As such, individuals are not identified in health services as originating from these communities. Nor are they included as a specific ethnicity in Public Health England’s reports on COVID-19 health disparities. Instead they are merged into the category of “any other white background”.

Unless this is addressed at a national level, the health impact of coronavirus on these marginalised communities will remain hidden.

Vanessa Heaslip, Principal Academic Nursing, Bournemouth University and Jonathan Parker, Professor of Society & Social Welfare and Director of the Centre for Social Work and Social Policy, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: Link between autism and eating disorders may be due to an inability to identify emotions

Alexithymia is a personality trait characterised by an inability to identify and describe emotions.
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Rachel Moseley, Bournemouth University and Laura Renshaw-Vuillier, Bournemouth University

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rates of any mental illness. They don’t discriminate, affecting people of all ethnicities, sexualities, gender identities, ages and backgrounds. However, one group is disproportionately affected by these disorders: people on the autism spectrum.

Eating disorders in autistic people are poorly understood, but they tend to be more severe and long-lasting. The longer a person lives with their eating disorder, the harder it is to recover. This may partly explain why some studies suggest autistic people have a poorer prognosis in therapy.

Longer-lasting eating disorders are associated with a greater likelihood of death. The fact that autistic people are vulnerable to chronic eating disorders, alongside other mental illnesses, may be one reason why they die one to three decades earlier, on average, than non-autistic people.

So why are autistic people more vulnerable to eating disorders? A couple of reasons have been suggested.

Dieting

One general and major risk factor for developing an eating disorder is dieting. For people who might already be genetically vulnerable to eating disorders, dieting seems to kick-start something in the brain that can develop the disorder.

While autistic people aren’t more likely to diet than the average person, certain features of autism – including attention to detail, determination and intense fixated interests – may make them better able to maintain the restrictions needed for long-term weight loss when they choose to diet.

The cognitive rigidity that we see in autistic people may also make it easy for them to get stuck in patterns of eating behaviour, while their preference for sameness may cause them to have a limited diet to begin with. For some autistic people, insensitivity to hunger, gastrointestinal problems and sensitivity to tastes, smells and textures make eating difficult anyway.

Paper bag with frowning face next to empty plate and cutlery.
Certain autism traits may already make eating difficult for some.
ChameleonsEye/ Shutterstock

Moreover, because autistic people are often bullied and socially isolated, dieting and weight loss may give them back a sense of control, predictability, reward and self-worth. Eating disorders may even numb feelings of anxiety and depression.

Alexithymia

A core feature of people with eating disorders is that they find it difficult to identify and cope with emotion. As autistic people struggle with emotions in similar ways, our research team wondered whether this might help explain why they are more likely to have eating disorders.

The personality trait characterised by an inability to identify and describe emotions is called alexithymia. Being alexithymic is like being emotionally colour-blind, and it ranges from subtle to severe. While one alexithymic person might find it hard to pinpoint what emotion they’re feeling, another might notice physical signs such as a racing heart and be able to identify they’re feeling angry or frightened.

Alexithymia is associated with many negative outcomes like suicide and self-injury. In part, this may be because people who cannot identify or express their emotions find it hard to soothe themselves or get support from others.

To see whether alexithymia might contribute to eating disorders in autism, we looked at eating-disorder symptoms and autistic traits in the general population. Autism is a spectrum disorder, so everyone has some level of autistic traits – it does not mean they are actually autistic. Nevertheless, these traits can tell us something about the nature of autism itself.

In two experiments with 421 participants, we found that higher autistic traits correlated with higher eating-disorder symptoms. We also found that higher levels of alexithymia wholly or partially explained this relationship. Our results suggest that having higher autistic traits alongside difficulties identifying and describing emotions may make these people more vulnerable to developing eating-disorder symptoms.

Interestingly, we found differences between male and female participants. While alexithymia was related to eating-disorder symptoms in women, there were no links between alexithymia and eating-disorder symptoms in men. Since the male group was small, however, we couldn’t be sure these findings would hold up in a bigger sample.

Next steps

This research can’t show conclusively that alexithymia causes eating disorder symptoms in people with autistic traits, or indeed autistic people. It might be that the relationships work backwards, and eating-disorder symptoms give rise to alexithymia and to autistic features.

However, first-person accounts from autistic people are consistent with the idea that alexithymia might play a role in their eating disorders. One participant even described how restricting her calorie intake reduced internal sensations that – unknown to her, being unable to identify them – caused her much anxiety.

If supported by further research, these findings have potential implications for treatment. Clinicians already know that therapies need to be tailored for autistic and non-autistic patients, but how best to achieve this is still uncertain. Preliminary research like this may offer some clue by highlighting alexithymia as a potential target. Alexithymia is currently not addressed by clinicians either in autistic people or in those with eating disorders

As there are many negative outcomes associated with being autistic – such as high suicide rates and greater risk of eating disorders – it will be important to explore how much alexithymia, not autism itself, actually contributes to these negative outcomes. Focused interventions to treat alexithymia might potentially reduce these risks.

Rachel Moseley, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Bournemouth University and Laura Renshaw-Vuillier, Senior Lecturer, Psychology, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: Video games affect your moral development but only until you’re 18

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Sarah Hodge, Bournemouth University

Young people have probably spent much more of their time than usual playing video games over the last few months thanks to the coronvirus pandemic. One report from telecoms firm Verizon said online gaming use went up 75% in the first week of lockdown in the US.

What impact might this have on young people’s development? One area that people are often concerned about is the effect of video games, particularly violent ones, on moral reasoning. My colleagues and I recently published research that suggested games have no significant effect on the moral development of university-age students but can affect younger adolescents. This supports the use of an age-rating system for video game purchases.

Our sense of morality and the way we make moral decisions – our moral reasoning – develop as we grow up and become more aware of life in wider society. For example, our thoughts about right and wrong are initially based on what we think the punishments and/or rewards could be. This then develops into a greater understanding of the role of social factors and circumstances in moral decisions.

There is a long-standing debate around the effects of video games on moral development, particularly in young people, which typically focuses on whether violent content causes aggressive or violent behaviour.

Yet the moral dimension of video games is far more complex than just their representation of violence, as they often require players to make a range of moral choices. For example, players from the game BioShock have to choose whether to kill or rescue a little girl character known as a little sister.

A player with more mature moral reasoning may consider the wider social implications and consequences of this choice rather than just the punishment or rewards meted out by the game. For example, they may consider their own conscience and that they could feel bad about choosing to kill the little girl.

Plastic arcade game gun pointed at screen.
Video games’ affect on moral reasoning goes beyond how violent they are.
Sean Locke Photography/Shutterstock

We surveyed a group of 166 secondary school students aged 11-18 and a group of 135 university students aged 17-27 to assess their gaming habits and the development of their moral reasoning using what’s known as the sociomoral reflection measure . This involved asking participants 11 questions on topics such as the importance of keeping promises, telling the truth, obeying the law and preserving life. The results suggested a stark difference between the two groups.

Among secondary students, we found evidence that playing video games could have an affect on moral development. Whereas female adolescents usually have more developed moral reasoning, in this case we found that males, who were more likely to play video games for longer, actually had higher levels of reasoning. We also found those who played a greater variety of genres of video games also had more developed reasoning.

This suggests that playing video games could actually support moral development. But other factors, including feeling less engaged with and immersed in a game, playing games with more mature content, and specifically playing the games Call of Duty and playing Grand Theft Auto, were linked (albeit weakly) with less developed moral reasoning.

No effect after 18

Overall, the evidence suggested adolescent moral development could be affected in some way by playing video games. However, there was little to no relationship between the university students’ moral reasoning development and video game play. This echoes previous research that found playing violent video games between the ages of 14 and 17 made you more likely to do so in the future, but found no such relationship for 18- to 21-year-olds.

This might be explained by the fact that 18 is the age at which young people in many countries are deemed to have become adult, leading to many changes and new experiences in their lives, such as starting full-time work or higher education. This could help support their moral development such that video games are no longer likely to be influential, or at least that currently available video games are no longer challenging enough to affect people.

The implication is that age rating systems on video games, such as the PEGI and ESRB systems, are important because under-18s appear more susceptible to the moral effects of games. But our research also highlights that it is not just what teenagers play but how they play it that can make a difference. So engaging with games for a wide variety of genres could be as important for encouraging moral development as playing age-appropriate games.

Sarah Hodge, Lecturer in Psychology and Cyberpsychology, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article – Stonehenge: how we revealed the original source of the biggest stones

Stonehenge: how we revealed the original source of the biggest stones

Andre Pattenden/English Heritage

David Nash, University of Brighton and Timothy Darvill, Bournemouth University

Stonehenge, an icon of European prehistory that attracts more than a million visitors a year, is rarely out of the news. Yet, surprisingly, there is much we don’t know about it. Finding the sources of the stones used to build the monument is a fundamental question that has vexed antiquaries and archaeologists for over four centuries.

Our interdisciplinary team, including researchers from four UK universities (Brighton, Bournemouth, Reading and UCL) and English Heritage, has used a novel geochemical approach to examine the large “sarsen” stones at Stonehenge. Our results confirm that the nearby Marlborough Downs were the source region for the sarsens, but also pinpoint a specific area as the most likely place from where the stones were obtained.

Two main types of stone are present at Stonehenge: sarsen sandstone for the massive framework of upright stones capped by horizontal lintels; and a mix of igneous rocks and sandstones collectively known as “bluestones” for the smaller elements within the central area.

Part of Stonehenge casting shadows.
Inside the sarsen circle.
James Davies/English Heritage

Research in the last decade has confirmed that the igneous bluestones were brought to Stonehenge from the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire, over 200km to the west. The sandstones have been tracked to eastern Wales although the exact outcrops have yet to be found. However, the origins of the sarsen stones has, until now, remained a mystery.

Stonehenge is a complicated and long-lived monument constructed in five main phases. The earliest, dated to about 3000BC, comprised a roughly 100m-diameter circular enclosure bounded by a bank and external ditch. Inside were various stone and timber structures, and numerous cremation burials.

The sarsen structures visible today were erected around 2500BC and comprised five trilithons (the doorway-like structures formed from two uprights joined by a lintel) surrounded by a circle of a further 30 uprights linked by lintels. The trilithons were arranged in a horseshoe formation with its principal axis aligned to the rising midsummer sun in the northeast and the setting midwinter sun to the southwest.

Locating the sarsen source

Conventional wisdom holds that the sarsens were brought to Stonehenge from the Marlborough Downs, some 30km to the north, the closest area with substantial scatters of large sarsen boulders. However, the Marlborough Downs are extensive and greater precision is needed to understand how prehistoric peoples used the landscape and its resources.

Our research has identified what might be termed the “geochemical fingerprint” of the Stonehenge sarsens. We started by analysing the geochemistry of all 52 remaining sarsens at Stonehenge (28 of those originally present are now missing, having been removed long ago).

This phase of the work involved using a non-destructive technology called portable x-ray fluorescence spectrometry (PXRF). Carrying out the PXRF analyses required access to the monument when it was closed to visitors and included several night shifts and one early morning analysing the lintel stones from a mobile scaffold tower. Data collection is never easy!

Diagram of Stonehenge layout
Most sarsens had the same chemical signature.
David Nash, University of Brighton, Author provided

Analysis of the PXRF data showed that the geochemistry of most of the stones at Stonehenge was highly consistent, and only two sarsens (stones 26 and 160) had a statistically different chemical signature. This was an interesting result as it suggested we were looking for a single main source.

Then came a major stroke of luck. We were able to analyse three small samples that had been taken from one of the stones in 1958, Stone 58, part of the group of sarsens with a consistent chemistry. Using a method known as inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) gave a high-resolution geochemical fingerprint for the Stonehenge sarsen. Like all good detectives, we could now compare our fingerprint with those of the potential sources.

Man examining stone rod.
David Nash examining the core from Stone 58.
Sam Frost/English Heritage

Sarsen blocks are found widely scattered across southern Britain, broadly south of a line from Devon to Norfolk. We sampled stones from 20 areas, including six in the Marlborough Downs, and analysed them using ICP-MS.

Comparing the geochemical signature from Stone 58 against our resulting data revealed only one direct chemical match: the area known as West Woods to the south-west of Marlborough. We could therefore conclude that most of the Stonehenge sarsens were from West Woods.

Our results not only identify a specific source for most of the sarsens used to build Stonehenge, but also open up debate about many connected issues. Researchers have previously suggested several routes by which the sarsens may have been transported to Stonehenge, without actually knowing where they came from.

Aerial view of Stonehenge
Many mysteries remain.
Andre Pattenden/English Heritage

Now these can be revisited as we better appreciate the effort of moving boulders as long as 9m and weighing over 30 tonnes some 25km across the undulating landscape of Salisbury Plain. We can feel the pain of the Neolithic people who took part in this collective effort and think about how they managed such a Herculean task.

We can also ask what was special about the West Woods plateaux and its sarsens. Was it simply their shape and size that attracted attention? Or was there some more deep-seated reason rooted in the beliefs and identities of the people that built Stonehenge?

Revealing that all the stones came from a single main source is also important and accords with the evidence that the sarsens were all erected at much the same time. But what about the two sarsens whose fingerprints differ from the main source? Where did they come from? The quest continues, and the questions just keep coming.The Conversation

David Nash, Professor of Physical Geography, University of Brighton and Timothy Darvill, Professor of Archaeology, Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation – National anthems in sport: songs of praise or memorials that are past their use-by date?

National anthems in sport: songs of praise or memorials that are past their use-by date?

Keith Parry, Bournemouth University; Daryl Adair, University of Technology Sydney, and Jamie Cleland, University of South Australia

International sport has resumed in the UK with the cricket Test match between England and the West Indies. Before play, in addition to a rendition of Jerusalem (the “official hymn” of England cricket), both teams and officals “took a knee” in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Nationalistic traditions, such as playing anthems at sport matches, have been a key part of society for many years but now may be time for change.

Symbols of colonialism, such as statues, place names and rituals, are attracting unprecedented criticism in postcolonial, liberal-democratic societies. That is especially so when memorialised individuals and institutions are viewed as unworthy – by 2020 standards – of such honour.

The most immediate concern, driven in part by BLM, is racism. One aspect of that is whitewashed commemoration, in the way that civic observances tend to sanitise uncomfortable truths.

Nationalistic songs – especially national anthems, which venerate a particular tradition – can both embrace and marginalise. So it’s no surprise that debates around the suitability of anthems – both official and unofficial – are not new. For instance, in 2016 the suitability of the British national anthem was debated in the House of Commons.

Intriguingly, the concept of “the nation” – and anthems invented to represent them are – historically, young. The modern nation state is a product of the 19th and 20th centuries.

So, it is not surprising that many of the ideas and assumptions associated with national identity are rooted in what historian Eric Hobsbawm has deftly labelled “the invention of tradition”. In the context of the British Empire, this process involved both the celebration of conquest and, as is typical of imperialism, the subjugation and control of indigenous cultures.

Given the major role sport played in the establishment of empire for Britain, it is no surprise that the first sporting event to feature a national anthem was a rugby match in 1905 between Wales and New Zealand. Soon after, in the United States, the playing of the national anthem before baseball matches became a feature during the first world war. The Star Spangled Banner, not officially recognised until 1931, carried patriotic weight as the song was already used to honour the nation’s military.

Anthemic activism

Exceptionally, national anthems at sport events have involved athlete activism. More than 50 years ago, the Black Power salute protest of Tommie Smith and John Carlos (supported by Australia’s Peter Norman) during the US anthem at the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games received worldwide attention. Smith and Carlos were vilified for highlighting the racism and discrimination present both inside and outside of American sport.

American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, along with Australian Peter Norman, during the award ceremony of the 200-metre race at the Mexican Olympic games.
Angelo Cozzi (Mondadori Publishers)

In 2016, Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the playing of the national anthem ahead of NFL matches. He stated: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour.”

He and fellow anthem protesters were labelled by loyalist critics as anti-American. They received death threats, and were described as “sons of bitches” by the US president, Donald Trump (whose comments often pander to white nationalist sentiments).

But in the wake of BLM, sport has become a site for widespread anti-racism activism. Athletes are increasingly using their profiles to draw attention to social movements that challenge inequalities and injustices – especially those underpinned by structural racism.

In professional sports leagues from Britain to Australia, matches have been preceded by players taking a knee. Players and officials are keen to show their support of BLM and, belatedly, Kaepernick.

Even the typically conservative NFL is now allowing athletes to advocate openly in respect of BLM. The league has also indicated a plan to play the song Lift Every Voice and Sing, widely known as the Black national anthem, during the first week of the season.

Moreover, in another sign of changing times, the Washington Redskins has announced it will review their name – which, after all, speaks to conquest and genocide of Indigenous Americans. The power of BLM to invoke change cannot be underestimated. As recently as 2013, the Redskins’ owner said that the team would never change its name, conveniently ignoring repeated appeals and protests by Native Americans.

Swing low and other stories

In Britain, BLM has catalysed debate about the appropriateness or otherwise of fans singing the “unofficial anthem” for English rugby, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. This song has been sung with gusto at [rugby matches since the 1960s].

Precisely why it was embraced by fans is unclear. But some black players now reveal they are uncomfortable with their sport revelling in what was, originally, a black Christian hymn that combined “spiritual belief with the hardships of daily life as a slave in antebellum America”.

Whether or not it knew of the song’s history, the Rugby Football Union has commercialised and profited from its appropriation of an African-American slave hymn.

In Australia, too, there has been debate about whether the national anthem is appropriate in that it fails to recognised Indigenous Australians. This movement saw a protest by Indigenous Australians ahead of key rugby league games in 2019.




Read more:
Our national anthem is non-inclusive: Indigenous Australians shouldn’t have to sing it


Our recently published research found that protests by high-profile Indigenous athletes can move debates on societal inequalities back into the spotlight.

Making positive change

Formula One World champion Lewis Hamilton has championed BLM activism in his sport. He remarked recently that racism is still not understood by many people, especially by whites who have not experienced it.

In societies where whiteness has long been privileged, the voices of black and indigenous athletes are important in raising concerns about inequalities and maltreatment according to race. In sport, part of that discussion involves nationalist rituals and symbols that – by their colonialist nature – reinforce structural inequities.

Is it justifiable to question the nationality or commitment to the nation of anyone that critiques the viability of a national anthem or what it stands for, merely by choosing not to stand or sing when it is performed?The Conversation

Keith Parry, Deputy Head Of Department in Department of Sport & Events Management, Bournemouth University; Daryl Adair, Associate Professor of Sport Management, University of Technology Sydney, and Jamie Cleland, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Management, University of South Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation: How Bali could build a better kind of tourism after the pandemic

Farizun Amrod Saad

Jaeyeon Choe, Bournemouth University and Rick Stafford, Bournemouth University

COVID-19 has hit tourism-reliant destinations hard. The Indonesian island of Bali, for example, where 70% of the population depend on tourism, has seen extensive job and income losses since it closed its borders in April.

The economic impact so far has been greater than that of the Bali bombings of 2002, with losses of around 9.7 trillion rupiah (about £551.3 million) a month.

In the past, the island’s image as a peaceful paradise with a rich cultural and religious heritage has made it a highly resilient tourist destination. Bali recovered swiftly in the wake of past crises, both natural and man made, including the Gulf War (1990), a cholera outbreak (1995), Sars (2003) and bird flu (2007).

But without significant investment and diversification, there are widespread concerns that this crisis could be different.

A different approach may now be needed to save the tourism industry – and to make sure its benefits are more evenly spread. We believe that now is the time to adjust the model in Bali away from surf, parties, and yoga towards rural villages with high poverty rates across the island (especially the underdeveloped north-east).

To do this, government support is required to build small-scale tourism that will provide new livelihoods. This might include everything from dolphin watching and snorkelling trips, to food tourism and “experience tourism” focused on traditional fishing and farming.




Read more:
African tourism has been put on ice by coronavirus – here’s how some countries are reviving it


That support does not necessarily need to be in the form of cash. When we interviewed small-business representatives in Bali last year, they called not for financial subsidies, but for marketing training and access to tourism-research data.

As one entrepreneur told us: “Many local creative businesses are managed as informal family businesses. They lack knowledge in professional management and marketing skills.”

He also spoke of the need for improved collaboration between IT experts, business consultants, local universities and policymakers.

Yet there are important risks to consider when attempting to build a new kind of tourism. “Authentic” experiences can often be manufactured by large businesses, preventing regional economic development (other than occasional low-paid work) in the most deprived areas.

And without investment in tourist infrastructure, it would be too easy for tourists to prefer the manufactured version over the true “authenticity” on offer from local communities. Carefully considered investment, however, could lead to sustainable development.

According to Dr Luh Putu Mahyuni, a sustainable business consultant and economist at Undiknas University: “The pandemic provides a wake up call for Bali to foster […] new types of tourism such as gastronomic tourism.”

She told a webinar we hosted in May: “The tourism sector needs to develop products with other sectors so as to create a more resilient and sustainable economy.”

Reliable visitors to Bali’s shores.
Shutterstock/NattapolStudiO

To boost that economy, the island should also consider a tourist tax, while reducing taxes on small-scale home-stays, and better regulating the presence of Airbnb. It also needs to restrict foreign ownership of property, limit destruction of viable farmland and limit business sizes in the south of the island.

An island of opportunity

Notwithstanding all the devastation it has caused, COVID-19 has given the world an opportunity to pause and reflect on how things may change in its aftermath. The tourism industry in Bali (and many other places) is no exception.

For tourism is often seen as a solution to all kinds of problems, from economics to conservation. But as our research has shown, unless tourist money is kept in the local community, the benefits do not materialise.

And besides the major financial concerns on Bali, and the need for a tourism-led recovery, the authorities must also face up to deeply entrenched levels of structural inequality. Poverty, homelessness and dispossession existed long before the pandemic.

The island must learn from what happened 18 years ago, when the bombings led to job losses and increased rates of depression, alcoholism and crime. And we hope that Bali can use the current crisis as an opportunity to look at the causes of such social problems, rather than the symptoms. To move on and build a more resilient island, where responsible tourism plays a major role in alleviating poverty.The Conversation

Jaeyeon Choe, Senior Lecturer in Tourism and Leisure, Bournemouth University and Rick Stafford, Professor of Marine Biology and Conservation, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: Sierra Leone faces coronavirus as rainy season hits – local disaster planning will be key

Sierra Leone faces coronavirus as rainy season hits – local disaster planning will be key

Local coroanvirus awareness raising in Funkia Market, Sierra Leone.
Trocaire/Flickr, CC BY

Lee Miles, Bournemouth University

The government of Sierra Leone called a state of emergency on March 25, seven days before the first case of COVID-19 was even confirmed. The virus has spread steadily since then, with 1,272 cases confirmed and 51 deaths as of June 19.

At the same time, the country has begun the rapid countdown to the full onset of the annual rainy season, which raises challenges of its own, especially for the flood-prone local communities in the capital, Freetown. In mid-2019, Freetown and other major Sierra Leonean cities were engulfed in major flooding. Before this, in 2017, more than 1,000 people died in major mudslides in the capital.

This year, there has been recognition that more forthright action is required. My colleagues and I are currently working with Sierra Leone’s Department of Disaster Management and Freetown City Council to create disaster preparedness guides for district councillors, disaster managers and local volunteers. The goal is to have several guides and handbooks available by July 2020 across four major cities of Sierra Leone to improve scenario planning if multiple disasters happen at once.

In recent years, there has been a strong focus among those who plan for disasters to build more robust forms of resilience in local communities. Not least in Sierra Leone, where – like most of Africa – disaster management relies heavily on local volunteers and traditional forms of community leadership.

Across Africa, there are many poverty-stricken slums and informal settlements. These are vulnerable to natural hazards such as flooding, suffer from overcrowding, and often lack running water and electricity.

As past experiences of Ebola in west Africa demonstrated, it’s also important to focus on the local communities. Poor handling of pandemics and other natural disasters by national governments and international institutions can lead to resistance, inertia and non-compliance among communities and influential community leaders. In the case of the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak, there were many instances where local communities did not trust or were slow to heed advice that ultimately delayed responses to the disease and ended up costing further lives.

Today, local communities in Sierra Leone could be confronted with a perfect storm when it comes to preparing for future disasters and events. Better disaster management is an imperative, particularly in the face of three inter-linked challenges.

Coronavirus transmission

First, there is the impact of COVID-19. Community transmission is becoming a stark reality. The situation in both Sierra Leone and elsewhere in Africa remains highly challenging given the fragile state of many African health services and the limitation of bringing external humanitarian assistance on the ground during the crisis. It’s possible that overcrowded urban communities in some parts of Africa will become sources of future COVID-19 outbreaks and even be an endemic source of reoccurring COVID-19 incidents in the future.

Current COVID-19 prevention tools, such as social distancing and the prevention of mass gatherings to reduce the spread of the disease, are highly challenging to administer in such areas. In many ways, the local communities in Sierra Leone – and Africa more widely – often do the best they can with what is available. Yet, the reality is that COVID-19 is likely to have an impact on the local communities.

Climate threat

Second, the practical, discernible impacts of climate change mean that many local communities are already facing worsening dry seasons with increased fires and droughts, followed by more unpredictable and erratic rainy seasons. Cities in west Africa, such as Accra in Ghana or Freetown in Sierra Leone, or central African cities such as Yaounde in Cameroon, now endure almost annual experiences of flash flooding and landslides that threaten to overwhelm poverty-stricken communities.

There is a growing paradox of frequency here. Local disaster managers and volunteers must meet public expectations to handle ever more frequent disaster. But they also recognise there is very little real time to build this local knowledge and review capacity before the onset of the next deluge, flood or fire.

Overlapping disasters

Third, local communities in Africa are increasingly aware that they also face multiple hazards that are very likely to overlap over the rest of 2020.

There will be major difficulties in delivering effective responses to flood and pandemics such as COVID-19 simultaneously. The standard response to flooding in Freetown is to move those affected to the safety of a large stadium or hall or school, placing them out of harm’s way in often large, robust locations. Yet this poses challenges for carrying out measures needed to contain COVID-19, such as avoiding large gatherings or social distancing.

Local communities need to think more deeply through how they plan for these combinations of possible disasters to save lives in the future. And yet, as my own research is finding, this raises a very serious challenge in that the local areas often lack even the most basic and accessible documentation, guidance and training in risk assessment and disaster management plans.

It’s often said that all disasters are local. The rest of 2020 is likely to prove this point more than ever for resource scarce, often poverty-stricken local communities in Africa. There is an urgent need here that must be addressed as quickly as possible.The Conversation

Lee Miles, Professor of Crisis & Disaster Management, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article – Coronavirus: the future of women’s football is under threat

England’s Nikita Parris and US’s Crystal Dunn at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Semi Final match in France.
Jose Breton- Pics Action/Shutterstock

Beth Clarkson, University of Portsmouth; Alex Culvin, Durham University; Keith Parry, Bournemouth University, and Stacey Pope, Durham University

Women’s football has made great strides in recent years. Attendances at the women’s FA Cup final continue to set new records. One survey suggested that one-third of adults are interested in the women’s game and 69% of those believe it deserves the same profile as men’s football.

However, the coronavirus pandemic has left the game in a precarious position. Although the suspension of elite football in England was initially applied evenly to both men’s and women’s competitions, there will be deeper and more far-reaching consequences for the women’s game.

The Football Association’s (FA) 2017 Game Plan for Growth, which included doubling the number of women and girls taking part in football by 2020 and improving commercial prospects, has largely been left unfulfilled. Such promises of equality (football for all) by the FA are starting to sound hollow. The Women’s Super League (WSL) and Championship seasons have now been cancelled. In contrast, plans to resume the men’s Premier League and Championship advance at pace.




Read more:
There are plenty of female superstars in football, but very few women coaches – here’s why


In our recently published research – the first academic study on this topic – we have highlighted why the pandemic is impacting men’s and women’s football differently.

Significant challenges

Prior to the pandemic, elite women’s football was already facing poor pitches, lower wages and prize money and conditions far behind men’s clubs. The biggest challenge for women’s football is that elite women’s teams rely on sponsorship for income. For example, 80% of Manchester City Women’s turnover is from commercial activity, most of which is sponsorship.

Women’s sport is also underfunded when compared to men’s in terms of things like marketing and prize money – see the tweet below. COVID-19 is also likely to hit many businesses’ profits hard, leaving companies who previously wanted to invest in women’s football unable to. If this causes the pool of sponsors to shrink – a pool that is already small – the future of women’s football will be under financial threat.

At the same time, financial strain on men’s football means women’s football could be one of the casualties. The majority of elite women’s teams are secondary sides under the umbrella of the professional men’s club. There are numerous examples in recent history where relegation or financial hardship for the men’s club has resulted in cutting ties with the women’s team.

For example, when the men’s club withdrew their financial support in 2017, Notts County women’s club collapsed the day before the new season, leaving their players jobless and, in some cases, homeless. When men’s teams cut their ties like this, women’s teams can be left with no choice but to fold.

Finally, elite women’s football is partially funded by the FA. The association has put significant investment into the women’s sport since professionalisation occurred in 2018, but historically, women’s football has been undervalued by the FA. It banned women’s matches from the grounds of FA-affiliated clubs between 1921 and 1971. And during earlier periods of financial insecurity, clubs and the FA cut investment to the women’s game.

Worryingly, the governing body has predicted a loss in excess of £100 million as a consequence of COVID-19. Grassroots and women’s football are not areas likely to be axed, but at present, there is no clear message that women’s football will continue to be invested in.

Steps to save the game?

Women’s football has gone through tough times before. It is resilient. So, COVID-19 may not be a fatal blow. However, swift and decisive action is needed to protect the recent momentum and growth of women’s football in England. Our recommendations are:

1) Clubs must shift their perspective so that women’s football is viewed as a core business and not as a goodwill gesture to the community.

2) Clubs should be entrepreneurial and innovative in their approaches to generating revenue for the women’s game, such as crowdfunding.

3) Women footballers are often on short-term contracts and juggle other jobs and family responsibilities alongside football careers. Issues surrounding wellbeing might be felt more acutely in women’s football. Clubs must work to actively support players.

4) The 12-month delay to the Women’s European Championship, now due to be held in England in 2022, should be seen as an opportunity. Leveraging mainstream interest in the Men’s 2022 FIFA World Cup, a “festival of football” could be created to attract fan interest in the women’s game.

5) When the game restarts, women’s football supporters must remain faithful in their support of the game. Visible advocates will show the governing body and clubs that there is a sustained demand for women’s football.




Read more:
Sing when you’re women: why it’s time to take female sports fans seriously


If we are to continue advancing a “new age” of women’s football, it is important that the women’s game is part of the conversation about football’s return. Without a clearly communicated strategy for the women’s game, the future of clubs and players’ health and wellbeing remain at risk.The Conversation

Beth Clarkson, Senior Lecturer in Sports Management, University of Portsmouth; Alex Culvin, Postdoctoral Researcher in Professional Women’s Football, Durham University; Keith Parry, Deputy Head Of Department in Department of Sport & Events Management, Bournemouth University, and Stacey Pope, Associate Professor in the Sociology of Sport, Durham University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How to support children with special educational needs as they return to school

Children and parents have struggled to adjust to homeschooling. Now, some have to cope with returning to schools which will seem very different to those they left at the beginning of lockdown. One group of children, though, are facing challenges beyond those experienced by the majority.

Children with special educational needs (SEN) make up around 15% of all pupils in mainstream education. Developmental dyslexia is the most common condition in this group, estimated to affect between 10%-16% of the UK population. Autism is much rarer, affecting about 1.1%.

Our research suggests that children with these conditions might find it especially difficult to adapt to changes in their education. We need to recognise the extra challenges homeschooling and online learning have posed for many children – and take this into account as schools reopen.

Extra challenges

Many people think of dyslexia as a language disorder, but it also affects the memory and people’s ability to verbalise ideas and to pay attention. Even in the best of learning environments, struggles in school are likely to lead to low self-esteem for dyslexic children.

Dyslexia can affect many aspects of a child’s life.
Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH

These difficulties are also experienced by autistic children, who may perceive the sensory world differently. Sounds can be magnified, for example, making it hard for a child working at the kitchen table to drag their attention away from the ticking of a clock or the dripping of a tap. Their experience of “not fitting in” also affects their self-esteem.

Another aspect of autism is concrete, black and white thinking. Some autistic children struggle with homework because they think school is for work and home is for play. Routine and predictability is crucial for these children. The move to home education has been another change for them in a sea of turmoil caused by the pandemic.

In school, autistic and dyslexic children would often have specialist support in place to help them with these problems. Without this kind of support, problems with attention and self-esteem may make learning at home very difficult.

It’s also important to recognise that dyslexia and autism are often inherited. Educational and emotional support at home may be limited, further disadvantaging the child and reinforcing the parent’s own potential sense of inadequacy. Children with SEN are also more likely to come from poorer families, an additional layer of inequality.

Positive impacts

Recent research has found that while many children with SEN (and their parents) are indeed more anxious and sad than usual, some families actually report minimal or even positive impacts of distance learning under lockdown. For some children, lockdown is a respite. For dyslexic children, it means they are not the child who is taken out of typical lessons to catch up on other work.

Some parents of children with SEN have reported positive outcomes from home learning.
MIA Studio

For autistic children, it may be an escape from the bullying which is tragically endemic in this group. Many autistic children, including those with a type of autism called pathological demand avoidance, are simply too anxious to attend school regularly.

Remote online education may offer children a greater opportunity for personalised learning at their own pace. For these reasons, many parents of SEN children choose to homeschool their children even under normal circumstances. They argue that home-schooling allows teaching to be built upon the child’s interests, while removing them from rigid standardised testing which is focused on the majority of learners and may set children with conditions like autism or dyslexia up to fail.

Back to school

As schools begin to reopen, advice is already emerging around how best to protect and support children. It’s important to make children feel safe and in control as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.

Experts suggest that emotional and social development should take precedence over school work. Some children may need special help with this. Autistic children, for instance, may need to be explicitly taught how to play appropriately, and may need adult assistance to make friends.

Learning in small groups may benefit children with SEN.
iofoto/Shutterstock

Before the coronavirus pandemic, teachers were advised to set up small circles of friends for vulnerable children. As such, the current advice, which recommends that children should stay in small groups, may be well suited to those with special educational needs. However, teachers will also need to actively adopt other strategies to foster social bonds between the child and their peers.

As always, it will be important for parents and teachers to collaborate closely to ensure as much consistency as possible. There are things that teachers and parents can do to help children deal with difficult emotions. Children might also be dealing with bereavement and new financial insecurity at home. The involvement of other child specialists, like psychologists and social workers, might therefore be beneficial.

To help build a sense of control, we need to do more to help children with special educational needs succeed in school, respecting their own pace and learning styles. As this situation evolves, we must be mindful of its impact on the already entrenched inequality that hampers these learners. However, the situation also forces us to come face-to-face with the cracks in our previous systems and come up with new ways of doing things which might, in the long term, reap surprising benefits.The Conversation

Julie Kirkby, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Bournemouth University and Rachel Moseley, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Congratulations to Psychology colleagues

This week the journal BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth  accepted a new paper written by three Bournemouth University Psychologists.  The paper ‘Be Quiet and Man Up: A Qualitative Questionnaire Study into Men Who Experienced Birth Trauma’ is written by Emily Daniels, Emily Arden-Close and Andrew Mayers [1] . The paper, using online questionnaires, argues that fathers reported that witnessing their partner’s traumatic birth affected them. They felt this affected their mental health and relationships long into the postnatal period. However, there is no nationally recognised support in place for fathers to use as a result of their experiences. The participants attributed this to being perceived as less important than women in the postnatal period, and maternity services’ perceptions of the father more generally. Implications include ensuring support is available for mother and father following a traumatic birth, with additional staff training geared towards the father’s role.

This paper adds to the growing pool of publications by Bournemouth University staff on men and maternity care.  Earlier research work has been published in The Conversation [2] and  the Journal of Neonatal Nursing [3-4].

 

Well done!

Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen

Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal health (CMMPH) and Associate Editor BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth

 

References:

  1. Daniels, E., Arden-Close, E., Mayers, A. (2020)  Be Quiet and Man Up: A Qualitative Questionnaire Study into Men Who Experienced Birth Trauma, BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth  (accepted).
  2. Mayers, A. (2017) Postnatal depression: men get it tooThe Conversation, 20 November https://theconversation.com/postnatal-depression-men-get-it-too-87567
  3. Ireland, J., Khashu, M., Cescutti-Butler, L., van Teijlingen, E., Hewitt-Taylor, J. (2016) Experiences of fathers with babies admitted to neonatal care units: A review of the literature, Journal of Neonatal Nursing 22(4): 171–176.
  4. Fisher, D., Khashu, M, Adama, E, Feeley, N, Garfield, C, Ireland, J, Koliouli F, Lindberg, B., Noergaard, B., Provenzi, L., Thomson-Salo, F., van Teijlingen, E (2018) Fathers in neonatal units: Improving infant health by supporting the baby-father bond & mother-father co-parenting Journal of Neonatal Nursing 24(6): 306-312 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnn.2018.08.007

Conversation article: Oscars 2020: Why people are talking about visual effects

As the presentation of the 2020 Academy Awards approaches, there has been a lot of buzz around the visual effects category. Two films – Sam Mendes’s 1917 and Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman have, in particular, attracted a lot of attention for the tricks they use to immerse the viewer in the characters and storyline.

The first film to win an award for visual effects, in the first ever Oscars ceremony in 1929, also won best picture. American special effects artist and film director Roy Pomeroy won for Wings, a first world war movie featuring breathtaking realistic dogfight sequences. His work still looks amazing, given the tools he had to work with. In the 90 years since he won his award, though, visual effects have become ever more sophisticated.

Big bangs theory

If we take a look at the films that are nominated for Best Visual Effects in this year’s Academy Awards, we see five very different types of film.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the continuing sci-fi saga of the battle between the Jedi and the Sith. A set of tried-and-tested visual effects techniques were used in the film.

This included the return of a fully digital replacement for Princess Leia using pieces of old footage of the late Carrie Fisher and computer-generated elements to create a complete character that blended seamlessly into the new narrative. Most of the environments were created in the computer and then composited with actors’ performances against a green screen that allows backgrounds to be replaced with digital sets.

Avengers: Endgame, is the final episode of a comic book-based world of superheroes and their enemies in one final, epic battle. Green screens played a huge part in this film as well, allowing intricate digital environments to play their part in the storytelling.

As you’d expect there are plenty of pyrotechnics, explosions and battle scenes that were made with animated digital characters.

Rumble in the jungle

The Lion King, a computer-generated remake of the Disney classic, originally animated, on the whole, by hand in 2D. Many of the techniques used in this movie were originally developed for the making of the 2016 remake of Jungle Book which, like The Lion King, was reworked as a fully digital film – apart from Mowgli who was played by a real boy.

In The Lion King, director John Favreau developed a technique that he felt would inform the animation of the animals in a far more realistic way than how animation is traditionally created. Rather than simply recording voice actors in a sound booth, he put them in a studio and filmed them acting together so that animators had nuanced reference to work with to ensure the tiniest of reactions were captured in the creatures’ performances.

Virtual reality also played a big part in the making of the film. Camera operators were able to use digital sets to see the environments and move digital cameras in a realistic way.

Forever young

The Irishman jumps between present-day action and as far back as the 1950s, made more complicated by the fact that the characters are played by the same actors. The point of difference is that prosthetics and makeup weren’t used, but stars including Robert De Niro and Al Pacino were “de-aged” using computers, using images of the actors from photographs and previous films to build “digital masks” in the computer that replaced the actor’s real faces.

This meant that De Niro who plays the lead role was, at 74 when filming began, playing the role of a man in his 30s and by the end of the film the same man in his 80s. How successfully is something that has been hotly debated – but nobody can doubt the expertise with which the artists carried out their task.

Spot the joins

The final film nominated is the first world war epic 1917, co-written, produced and directed by Sam Mendes. Loosely based on a story Mendes was told by his grandfather, the film relies on a single shot depiction of the entire narrative, following the main character on his journey to get a message to the front line. This technique, also used in 2015’s best picture winner, Birdman, required meticulous planning to ensure that the cuts that occurred were invisible to the viewer.

Camera moves were choreographed to allow two scenes that were filmed in the same location at different times to be taken into the computer and “stitched” together as if they were one complete shot. Doing this over and over enabled the illusion of one continuous sequence.

Like many films though, 1917 used a host of other visual effects techniques that were unseen. This is often regarded as the pinnacle of success in visual effects – an effect that can’t be seen versus one that is smacking you in the face with a large, wet fish.

Appliance of science

Some of the nominated movies need visual effects to create worlds and creatures that don’t exist, while some employ tricks to enhance the cinematic experience and the ability of the filmmaker to tell their story. All of them use the technical expertise of visual effects artists to bring the director’s vision to the screen.

And there’s a great deal of scientific knowhow that goes into creating cinematic illusion. The movie that won the visual effects award in 2014, Interstellar, involved recreating the appearance of a black hole. To do this, visual effects artists worked with scientists to accurately model the phenomenon. The results were so advanced that scientists have since cited its importance to their ongoing work.

This scientific knowledge underpins flawless visual effects production. Not only does a visual effects artist need to know how their tools work, they need to be able to understand the science that informs the visuals we see on the screen. Human and animal anatomy, lighting, pyrotechnics, fluid simulation, mechanical engineering and robotics are just a few of the scientific disciplines that add strings to a visual effects artist’s bow.

So, when we talk about visual effects and the people who create them, remember the science that supports almost everything they do. Every frame is looked at in minute detail, so much so that the casual viewer might never understand the hours that go into making one of these films look the way they do and allow us to sit back and enjoy the story.The Conversation

Chris Williams, Senior Principal Academic, National Centre for Computer Animation, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation: Trump the transgressor: the psychological appeal of leaders who break the rules

Many of today’s politicians appear to appeal to the basic human need for safety, presenting their versions of strong leadership as the best hope for order and safety in a fearful world of growing instability and risk. Much evidence confirms that this appeal is certainly an important factor in the political landscape.

But alongside this, other psychological dynamics are currently influential in a number of Western democracies – particularly in attracting people to support populist leaders and their agendas.

One of these – which is of particular relevance to the impeachment trial of the US president, Donald Trump – concerns the pleasure and excitement that some citizens appear to find in a leader who breaks rules and ignores taboos. These transgressions can come in various forms, such as controversial statements, unconventional lifestyles or disrespectful approaches to the political process. But they can also extend to improper activities and abuse of power – such as those detailed in the impeachment charges against Trump – or anti-democratic activity and violence.

 

Rule breakers

I suggest that support for this kind of leader can be understood as “identification with the transgressor”. This is an idea modelled on the concept of “identification with the aggressor”, a term coined by the psychoanalyst Anna Freud in 1936. Since then, psychologists have used the concept to understand a range of behaviours, including our tolerance of or collusion with bullies.

Different types of transgressive leader can appeal to transgressive parts of ourselves. Like others before him, the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, Anna’s father, observed that some measure of resentment towards authority and of a longing to cast aside the rules, is a universal feature of the human psyche. In its development since Freud, the psychoanalytic tradition has examined how this longing is a legacy of the painful process of emotional development we each undergo very early in life as we come to accept the limits placed on us as requirements for membership of human society.

Where there are good reasons to think that normal political processes are failing, many people can feel a surge of gratitude towards a leader who breaks with some conventions with the aim of bringing more integrity and legitimacy to political life. Lech Wałęsa in Poland and Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia, and others who led the way out of totalitarianism for countries in the Communist bloc, were certainly transgressors within the political worlds they confronted. They could be identified as a force for good in a corrupt or sclerotic system.

But given our built-in ambivalence towards authority and rules, we can also identify with political leaders whose transgressions are driven at least in part by more destructive impulses. While promising their supporters a better world, these leaders use rhetoric that focuses on the urgent need to attack existing authorities and destroy existing arrangements, with little real attention paid to how to replace them.

One example is a coup leader who, once in power, has little plan for bettering their country. At worst is the leader free of most if not all moral constraint, who is contemptuous of international standards of conduct, and unconcerned by the human costs of his or her own conduct.

Trump set out to break the rules of American politics.
By oleskalashnik/Shutterstock

Impact on voters

Therefore, one psychological question hanging over the US impeachment proceedings is the extent to which Trump’s support base will judge him negatively over the events at the centre of the impeachment trial. When Americans head to the polls in November 2020, how many will be inclined to enjoy Trump’s truculent dismissal of any criticism, and his capacity to brazen it out?

Remember, evidence of Trump’s questionable moral conduct was available to the US electorate in 2016. Following the release before the election of a videotape in which he boasted about groping women without their consent, 91% of those likely to vote for Trump said in a CBS/YouGov poll that the tape didn’t change their view of him. And Trump was elected.

The refusal by many voters to censure Trump for his transgressions has a powerful psychological basis to it in the wish to break free of authority. This can also be enjoyed without the guilt that would, for most people, usually accompany an assault on widely held values.

That’s because a leader like Trump offers an opportunity to combine transgressive pleasure with the moral high ground. This emotional package is offered to those who identify with Trump’s (somewhat erratic) self-presentation as a fusion of pleasure-seeking rebel and visionary saviour, leading an insurrection against the corrupt authorities – “the swamp”.

The eulogistic book on Trump by Conservative commentator Ann Coulter is one of many demonstrations of how much his supporters are energised by the wish to attack the “establishment” for their own alleged transgressions. Of course, not all Trump supporters feel this way, or support him for the same reasons.

This populist attack on the established elite can enable the supporters of the transgressive leader to feel that they are on a moral crusade, as well there for a pleasure kick. This could be a powerful aid to Trump in the coming election. We should expect such a transgressor figure to continue attracting strong identification and support, unless challenged by a leader who can somehow disrupt the transgressor’s psychological relationship with their support base.The Conversation

Barry Richards, Professor of Political Psychology, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation – Fergal Keane: hopes that BBC reporter’s courage will help remove stigma of PTSD in journalists

In the hard-nosed world of journalism, admitting to suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has traditionally been taboo – a sign of weakness never to be admitted to colleagues in the newsroom where the remedy was often a stiff drink or two. Despite repeated efforts over the past decade to draw attention to the dangers of mental illness faced by foreign correspondents, that stigma has not gone away.

It can only be hoped that may change now that one of the BBC’s most high-profile correspondents, Fergal Keane, has shared publicly the PTSD he has been tussling with privately for several years.

The BBC announced that after decades of covering conflict, its veteran war reporter would be changing his role from that of Africa editor to “further assist his recovery”. The corporation’s head of newsgathering, Jonathan Munro, said: “It is both brave and welcome that he is ready to be open about PTSD.”

Keane is not the first correspondent by any means to have shared in public the impact that covering a relentless diet of conflict, crisis and disaster can have on even the most resilient human being. His BBC colleague Jeremy Bowen, Middle East editor, spoke about his own diagnosis of PTSD in 2017, characterised by bouts of depression related to his work.

Janine Di Giovanni, winner of the 2018 Courage in Journalism Award.
World Bank Photo Collection, CC BY-SA

Renowned foreign correspondents such as Janine di Giovanni have also written movingly about the effects of PTSD. In her 2011 memoir, Ghosts by Daylight, she confessed that crisis had become normality and “this real life, with all its sharp edges was terribly difficult”.

Combat fatigue

Almost two decades ago, research by South African psychologist Anthony Feinstein underscored the importance of efforts to introduce structured trauma training and counselling into news organisations. His first major study of 140 war journalists published in 2002 found that they had significantly more psychiatric difficulties than journalists who did not report on war.

In particular, the lifetime prevalence of PTSD in journalists who cover war was similar to rates reported for combat veterans, while the rate of major depression exceeded that of the general population. In 2018, Feinstein conducted a retrospective study of PTSD data collected over 18 years from journalists who have covered conflict across four continents.

Between 1999 and 2017, data had been collected from 684 journalists covering stories ranging from the 9/11 attacks and the Arab Spring to drug wars in Mexico and the refugee crisis in Europe. The data showed that the majority of the correspondents did not display prominent symptoms of PTSD at any one moment in time. But over a longer time-frame (many correspondents were spending well over a decade covering conflict) the data confirmed that rates of the full PTSD syndrome can approach those experienced by those engaged in actual combat – and he cautioned that news organisations could not afford to be complacent when it came to their duty of care.

Raising awareness

Large news organisations such as the BBC and Reuters have made great strides in recognising the issues associated with PTSD and providing both training and support. This has been reinforced by the work of a US-based global charity, the Dart Centre for Journalism & Trauma which offers a range of best practice guidelines and resources to safeguard the mental well-being of journalists.

This is not just about those on the frontline of foreign reporting. Almost every journalist will end up covering traumatic news events in their career – whether this be sexual violence, traffic accidents, or criminal trials. Most recently, there is a growing awareness of the dangers posed to journalists in the newsroom monitoring incoming, raw user-generated content from the sites of conflict, terror and disaster worldwide – what has been dubbed the “[digital frontline]”.

It is a point that was highlighted in a 2015 survey by Eyewitness Media Hub. This major study on the issue surveyed 122 journalists around the world and concluded that:

Office-bound staff who used to be somewhat shielded from viewing atrocities are now bombarded day in and day out with horrifically graphic material that explodes onto their desktops in volumes, and at a frequency that is very often far in excess of the horrors witnessed by staff who are investigating or reporting from the actual frontline.

Slowly but surely, journalism courses at universities in the UK are becoming aware of the importance of trauma training before students enter this professional environment. We would like to think that the work we are doing at Bournemouth University through both education, research and professional practice – in conjunction with the Dart Centre, BBC and others – is starting to make a difference.

The aim is to create an awareness of how people caught up in traumatic news might react and how to conduct ethical interviews with victims and survivors of trauma. In addition, we feel it is only responsible to make our journalism students aware of the mental stresses that journalists are exposed to whether on the frontline or in the newsroom.

Coping strategies

That doesn’t mean we should assume that every journalist who covers a distressing news story or handles sensitive material will develop PTSD. But it is important to do our best to build resilience and develop coping strategies so that journalists can bounce back stronger from the impact of covering distressing news.

As Keane’s case illustrates, PTSD can often present itself long after events. He has spoken and written about the effects that covering the 1994 Rwanda genocide had on him. It can only be hoped that the courage Keane has displayed in moving himself away from the frontline will send a signal that it is acceptable to recognise mental health issues in journalism.

Far from turning his back on the profession, according to the BBC he intends to “continue to provide original and compelling journalism” and hopes to draw on his experiences to guide and nurture young journalists. This can only be positive for the next generation of journalists.The Conversation

Stephen Jukes, Professor of Journalism, Bournemouth University and Karen Fowler-Watt, Senior Principal Academic, Centre for Excellence in Media Practice (CEMP), Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: 3D printing of body parts is coming fast – but regulations are not ready

In the last few years, the use of 3D printing has exploded in medicine. Engineers and medical professionals now routinely 3D print prosthetic hands and surgical tools. But 3D printing has only just begun to transform the field.

Today, a quickly emerging set of technologies known as bioprinting is poised to push the boundaries further. Bioprinting uses 3D printers and techniques to fabricate the three-dimensional structures of biological materials, from cells to biochemicals, through precise layer-by-layer positioning. The ultimate goal is to replicate functioning tissue and material, such as organs, which can then be transplanted into human beings.

We have been mapping the adoption of 3D printing technologies in the field of health care, and particularly bioprinting, in a collaboration between the law schools of Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom and Saint Louis University in the United States. While the future looks promising from a technical and scientific perspective, it’s far from clear how bioprinting and its products will be regulated. Such uncertainty can be problematic for manufacturers and patients alike, and could prevent bioprinting from living up to its promise.

From 3D printing to bioprinting

Bioprinting has its origins in 3D printing. Generally, 3D printing refers to all technologies that use a process of joining materials, usually layer upon layer, to make objects from data described in a digital 3D model. Though the technology initially had limited applications, it is now a widely recognized manufacturing system that is used across a broad range of industrial sectors. Companies are now 3D printing car parts, education tools like frog dissection kits and even 3D-printed houses. Both the United States Air Force and British Airways are developing ways of 3D printing airplane parts.

The NIH in the U.S. has a program to develop bioprinted tissue that’s similar to human tissue to speed up drug screening.
Paige Derr and Kristy Derr, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences

In medicine, doctors and researchers use 3D printing for several purposes. It can be used to generate accurate replicas of a patient’s body part. In reconstructive and plastic surgeries, implants can be specifically customized for patients using “biomodels” made possible by special software tools. Human heart valves, for instance, are now being 3D printed through several different processes although none have been transplanted into people yet. And there have been significant advances in 3D print methods in areas like dentistry over the past few years.

Bioprinting’s rapid emergence is built on recent advances in 3D printing techniques to engineer different types of products involving biological components, including human tissue and, more recently, vaccines.

While bioprinting is not entirely a new field because it is derived from general 3D printing principles, it is a novel concept for legal and regulatory purposes. And that is where the field could get tripped up if regulators cannot decide how to approach it.

State of the art in bioprinting

Scientists are still far from accomplishing 3D-printed organs because it’s incredibly difficult to connect printed structures to the vascular systems that carry life-sustaining blood and lymph throughout our bodies. But they have been successful in printing nonvascularized tissue like certain types of cartilage. They have also been able to produce ceramic and metal scaffolds that support bone tissue by using different types of bioprintable materials, such as gels and certain nanomaterials. A number of promising animal studies, some involving cardiac tissue, blood vessels and skin, suggest that the field is getting closer to its ultimate goal of transplantable organs.

Researchers explain ongoing work to make 3d-printed tissue that could one day be transplanted into a human body.

We expect that advancements in bioprinting will increase at a steady pace, even with current technological limitations, potentially improving the lives of many patients. In 2019 alone, several research teams reported a number of breakthroughs. Bioengineers at Rice and Washington Universities, for example, used hydrogels to successfully print the first series of complex vascular networks. Scientists at Tel Aviv University managed to produce the first 3D-printed heart. It included “cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers” and used cells and biological materials from a human patient. In the United Kingdom, a team from Swansea University developed a bioprinting process to create an artificial bone matrix, using durable, regenerative biomaterial.

‘Cloneprinting’

Though the future looks promising from a technical and scientific perspective, current regulations around bioprinting pose some hurdles. From a conceptual point of view, it is hard to determine what bioprinting effectively is.

Consider the case of a 3D-printed heart: Is it best described as an organ or a product? Or should regulators look at it more like a medical device?

Regulators have a number of questions to answer. To begin with, they need to decide whether bioprinting should be regulated under new or existing frameworks, and if the latter, which ones. For instance, should they apply regulations for biologics, a class of complex pharmaceuticals that includes treatments for cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, because biologic materials are involved, as is the case with 3D-printed vaccines? Or should there be a regulatory framework for medical devices better suited to the task of customizing 3D-printed products like splints for newborns suffering from life-threatening medical conditions?

In Europe and the U.S., scholars and commentators have questioned whether bioprinted materials should enjoy patent protection because of the moral issues they raise. An analogy can be drawn from the famed Dolly the sheep over 20 years ago. In this case, it was held by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that cloned sheep cannot be patented because they were identical copies of naturally occurring sheep. This is a clear example of the parallels that exist between cloning and bioprinting. Some people speculate in the future there will be ‘cloneprinting,’ which has the potential for reviving extinct species or solving the organ transplant shortage.

Dolly the sheep’s example illustrates the court’s reluctance to traverse this path. Therefore, if, at some point in the future, bioprinters or indeed cloneprinters can be used to replicate not simply organs but also human beings using cloning technologies, a patent application of this nature could potentially fail, based on the current law. A study funded by the European Commission, led by Bournemouth University and due for completion in early 2020 aims to provide legal guidance on the various intellectual property and regulatory issues surrounding such issues, among others.

On the other hand, if European regulators classify the product of bioprinting as a medical device, there will be at least some degree of legal clarity, as a regulatory regime for medical devices has long been in place. In the United States, the FDA has issued guidance on 3D-printed medical devices, but not on the specifics of bioprinting. More important, such guidance is not binding and only represents the thinking of a particular agency at a point in time.

Cloudy regulatory outlook

Those are not the only uncertainties that are racking the field. Consider the recent progress surrounding 3D-printed organs, particularly the example of a 3D-printed heart. If a functioning 3D-printed heart becomes available, which body of law should apply beyond the realm of FDA regulations? In the United States, should the National Organ Transplant Act, which was written with human organs in mind, apply? Or do we need to amend the law, or even create a separate set of rules for 3D-printed organs?

We have no doubt that 3D printing in general, and bioprinting specifically, will advance rapidly in the coming years. Policymakers should be paying closer attention to the field to ensure that its progress does not outstrip their capacity to safely and effectively regulate it. If they succeed, it could usher in a new era in medicine that could improve the lives of countless patients.

[ You’re smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversation’s authors and editors. You can get our highlights each weekend. ]The Conversation

Dinusha Mendis, Professor of Intellectual Property and Innovation Law and Co-Director of the Jean Monet Centre of Excellence for European Intellectual Property and Information Rights, Bournemouth University and Ana Santos Rutschman, Assistant Professor of Law, Saint Louis University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: You’re probably more susceptible to misinformation than you think

Online misinformation works, or so it would seem. One of the more interesting statistics from the 2019 UK general election was that 88% of advertisements posted on social media by the Conservative Party pushed figures that had already been deemed misleading by the UK’s leading fact-checking organisation, Full Fact. And, of course, the Conservatives won the election by a comfortable margin.

Internet firms such as Facebook and Google are taking some steps to limit political misinformation. But with Donald Trump aiming for reelection in 2020, it seems likely we’ll see just as many false or misleading statements online this year as in the past. The internet, and social media in particular, has effectively become a space where anyone can spread any claim they like regardless of its veracity.

Yet to what degree do people actually believe what they read online, and what influence does misinformation really have? Ask people directly and most will tell you they don’t trust the news they see on social media. And a landmark study in 2019 found 43% of social media users admitted to sharing inaccurate content themselves. So people are certainly aware in principle that misinformation is common online.

But ask people where they learned about the “facts” that support their political opinions, and the answer will often be social media. A more complex analysis of the situation suggests that for many people the source of political information is simply less important than how it fits with their existing views.

Spurious thinking

Research into the UK Brexit referendum and 2017 general election found that voters often reported making their decisions based on highly spurious arguments. For example, one voter argued that Brexit would stop the takeover of the British high street by foreign companies such as Costa Coffee (which was British at the time). Similarly, a Remain voter spoke of mass deportations of any non-UK born resident if the country left the EU, a much more extreme policy than anything actually put forward by politicians during the campaign.

During the 2017 election, various claims were made by survey respondents that unfairly questioned Conservative leader Theresa May’s humanity. For example, some falsely argued she enacted laws that led to flammable cladding being placed on the exterior of Grenfell Tower, the London block of flats that caught fire in June 2017, killing 72 people. Others called her Labour opponent Jeremy Corbyn a terrorist sympathiser, or a victim of a conspiracy to discredit him by the military and industrial elites. The common thread was that these voters gained the information to support their arguments from social media.

How do we explain the apparent paradox of knowing social media is full of misinformation and yet relying on it to form political opinions? We need to look more widely at what has become known as the post-truth environment. This involves a scepticism of all official sources of news, a reliance on existing beliefs and biases formed from deeply held prejudices, and a search for information that confirms bias as opposed to critical thinking.

 

People judge information on whether they find it believable as opposed to whether it is backed by evidence. Sociologist Lisbet van Zoonen calls this the replacement of epistemology – the science of knowledge – with “i-pistemology” – the practice of making personal judgements.

A lack of trust in elite sources, in particular politicians and journalists, doesn’t fully explain this large-scale rejection of critical thinking. But psychology can provide some potential answers. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Twersky developed a series of experiments that explored under what conditions humans are most likely to jump to conclusions about a specific topic. They argue intelligence has little impact on making ill-informed judgements.

Intelligence tests demonstrate the capacity to perform logical reasoning, but cannot predict that it will be performed at every moment it is needed. As I have argued, we need to understand the context of people’s decisions.

Everyone wants your attention.
Andrew E Gardener/Shutterstock

The average undecided voter is bombarded with arguments from political leaders, especially in marginal seats or swing states that can make a difference to the outcome of an election. Every politician offers a redacted account of their or their opponents’ policies. And voters are aware that each of these politicians is trying to persuade them and so they retain a healthy scepticism.

The average voter also has a busy life. They have a job, perhaps a family, bills to pay and hundreds of pressing issues to address in their daily lives. They know the importance of voting and making the right decision but struggle to navigate the contested election communication they receive. They want a simple answer to that age-old conundrum, who most or who least deserves my vote.

So instead of conducting a systematic critical analysis of every piece of evidence they encounter, they look for specific issues that they see as driving a wedge between the competing politicians. This is where fake news and disinformation can be powerful. As much as we like to think we’re good at spotting fake news and being sceptical of what we’re told, we’re ultimately susceptible to whatever information makes it easiest to make a decision that seems right, even if in the long term it may be wrong.The Conversation

Darren Lilleker, Associate Professor of Political Communication, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.