The psychology department has hosted two supra-curricular talks so far this term, the first by Dr Rebecca Brewer form the Royal Holloway on autism and Alexithymia. This was a great introduction to the basic diagnostic aspects that define autism in terms of the classic triad of impairment (communication, social interaction and restrictive / repetitive behaviour).
Alexithymia is defined as a subclinical phenomenon involving a lack of emotional awareness or, more specifically, difficulty in identifying and describing feelings and in distinguishing feelings from the bodily sensations of emotional arousal (Nemiah et al., 1976).
Dr Brewer highlighted how her research has shown that while alexithymia is more prevalent in autism, it appears to be a comorbid factor (an additional but unrelated diagnosis). So, while it would be initially tempting to see alexithymia as a root cause of the emotional processing difficulties seen in autism this is not the case, though this group is clearly more susceptible to displaying this additional disorder.
Our second speaker was Dr Liz Newton who provided students with an excellent overview of the role of a research active academic working in the university sector. Dr Newton also discussed her route into higher education after having had a family, and then going on to pursue a successful academic career.
Dr Newton clearly set out the value of achieving strong ‘A’ level grades regardless of immediate intentions, to maximise future opportunities for gaining entry to a good university as mature students later in life. She also discussed her research into problem solving and mathematical ability and made excellent use of video case studies that highlight that mathematical language differs from regular speech communication (typically lateralised in the left hemisphere of the brain) and is probably located in the right hemisphere of the brain.
Both talks were very well attended attracting strong pupil attendance many of whom were from the lower school.
We have two additional speakers lined up for December and January and are very excited to be in the process of arranging a year 12 visit to the new psychology department labs at the London School of Economics. This will enable our students to spend a day learning about and practically engaging in collecting psycho-physiological measures.
Dr S Noyce