Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash

Learning is a term people appear to understand instinctively. But if we pause for a moment and think about all the things we have learned, are learning or hope to learn in the future, it becomes apparent that not all learning is the same. Perhaps I want to learn to cook or to play the guitar; is this learning the same as say, wanting to become more skilled in mathematics or increase my knowledge of Victorian England? Perhaps you would like to speak French so that you can spend time in Paris and speak confidently to the locals? …


Do you ever get lost in a book? I know I do. Time appears to dissolve and I often become so absorbed in the story that when I’ve reached the end, the characters remain with me for hours and even days. It’s not unusual for people to hear the voices of these characters in their heads long after they’ve put the book down. It’s also been found that, for some people at least, the brain treats the fictional characters in much the same way as it does the reader.

Hearing Voices

According to a 2017 paper by researchers at Durham University, around…


Streaming services have radically altered the way we watch television. In the not too distant past we would eagerly anticipate the latest instalment of our weekly TV show and perhaps even feel a little sad when it was over, only to feel the same rush as our emotions cycled round to the same time the following week. Services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have changed that. We can now watch every episode back to back in a binge fest of epic proportions. …


Our memories are awash with experiences; the daily events of our lives, snippets of history, scientific theories, general information about the world around us… the list is limitless. Over time, these experiences create blueprints in our long-term memory so that we can better understand the world without having to re-learn or re-consolidate everything into our cognitive architecture. Psychologists often refer to these blueprints as schemas or schemata.

But these schemas also have a more sinister side, often leading to stereotyping and prejudice. Furthermore, they can potentially be manipulated and used for the advancement of fake news and propaganda, amplifying internal…


I recently experienced a rather distressing event. It certainly wasn’t life threatening by any means, neither was it an event with any long lasting consequences but, nevertheless, it did cause some short-term concern. What was this thing? I hear you ask.

A few days ago I woke with the song Saviour’s Day by Cliff Richard spinning through my mind on what appeared to be a never-ending loop. For those familiar with this perennial ‘classic’, it was the chorus that repeated through my inner ear, you know, when Cliff sings, Open your eyes on Saviour’s day, don’t look back or turn…


I’m lying on a beach, the gentle sound of the waves crawling to the shore. I can feel the towel beneath me and the sand between my toes; it’s grainy and I don’t like the way it scratches at my skin. I sit up and brush the sand from the towel and spy the children selling their trinkets to the tourists further along the beach. We bought some silver from them yesterday and promised to bring them some shampoo and other spare toiletries. Hannah from Kerala, with her brightly coloured sari and rings on her toes, silver and gold bangles…


Postcodes aren’t exactly interesting, at least that’s what I thought. I’d been reading about how cognitive psychologists from Cambridge University had been involved in the design of the UK postcode system in the late 1950s and happened to mention it briefly on Twitter, a kind of admission of my own nerdiness.

A couple of my followers replied suggesting I create a thread about what I’d learned. I suspected they were either joking or were just as nerdy as me. I duly obliged, hoping that someone might find it interesting.

Less than 24 hours later my thread was trending. People had…


Families can be stressful; just think about the times we gather to celebrate a wedding, a birthday or a religious festival. We may also have experienced the storm and stress of the adolescent years and other events in the wider world that increase anxiety and worry, eventually spilling over into our daily lives.

The Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Laing often wrote of families as being at the root of many psychological problems, while others have linked family disharmony to conditions such as schizophrenia. Generally, however, families aren’t necessarily dysfunctional, but they can be stressful.

As a father I’ve always tried…


I’ve taught teenagers for more than a decade and managed to raise one myself; the jury’s still out on how successful the latter has been, but it seems to have gone okay. We tend to see the teenager years as defined by, what American psychologist G. Stanley Hall called, storm and stress. But don’t worry; it’s not that bad, as Aristotle pointed out:

‘Youth are heated by nature as drunken men by wine’

Okay, so that might not fill you with confidence. How about Socrates:

‘Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when…


It’s an unusually warm day in early spring and I’m in Skipton, a beautiful market town at the southern tip of the Yorkshire Dales. I’m revisiting and reconstructing my past.

For a couple of years in the early 1980s I lived here, in a tall terrace house on a road that seemed so much steeper to the younger me. At the top of the road there used to be a number of council office buildings; we would climb onto the roof of the smaller building during the weekends when the site was empty, sit and chat or dare each other…

Marc Smith

Chartered Psychologist. Behaviour Change. Becoming Buoyant — out now https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0367441624

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