Recently I posted about an area of research I am interested in and mentioned that we were going to Pisa to present the results at the European Health Psychology Society Annual Conference.
I jokingly asked if Psychology could help the leaning tower and we concluded that the research I was offering up for scrutiny probably wouldn’t.
However the “Inclined Tower“, as a Swiss friend calls it, offers up an obvious, and visual, comparison with some of the benefits from attending conferences.
Its actually quite unusual to learn astounding new facts at academic conferences. Most of the formats involved are just too short and the programme too crowded to allow for a long and detailed examination of new research (that’s what Journal papers are really for). In Pisa there were nearly 1,300 separate pieces of research being presented, either in 15 min oral presentations, posters, symposia, or round table discussions. And all this over 4 days [programme in pdf format].
While you may not spend a lot of of time learning new material, you are forced to look at things from new angles and applying your thoughts and feelings in new ways. In other words from a ‘New Perspective’!
You’re exposed to the work of people with very different, though equally valid, research philosophies.You can see how they tackled similar questions but from different perspectives (sometimes wildly different).
Studies in psychology provide and require multiple perspectives to be applied in order to understanding people as individuals and as individuals in a community. Research findings and implications about the mind and mental processes as well as studies of the development and behaviour, maintenance and change of socially significant behaviour are all of importance in understand and explaining (at least in part) the world we live in and how we situate ourselves within it.
p.s. John here, I sat in on some of the presentations and there were a couple of very interesting points. Traditionally the shift change in hospitals has been seen as a vulnerability and has resulted in a culture of long shifts. Some research indicated that safety might actually be improved with more shift changes, since they were more often catching problems than causing them. It was the act of explaining what was going on to someone new, a fresh pair of eyes, that caught these oversights. Equally, they sometimes gave people the impetus to make a decision. For a start up company that’s charging along eyes on the prize, taking time out occasionally to explain that bigger picture to an impartial observer, is a huge benefit.
It was also notable the lack of technology awareness in health care messages and communications. Not just the use of social media but viral gaming, mobile data capture & evaluation, and general webbiness. As I tweeted from the conference (I was in the minority having a mobile data device with me), online avatars working from fixed scripts do not make for very convincing ‘companions’. There is a lot this community could learn from places like the Pervasive Media Studio here in Bristol and the ecosystem around them.
For a technical civil engineering description of the tower and various attempts to ‘straighten’ it check out this page. 🙂