SG Psych Stuff @ SPS Psych Week 2018: Review Part 1

Image Credit:
Singapore Psychological Society has conducted a week-long series of talks, known as SPS Psych Week 2018.  I would say it was overall a fruitful week and interesting discussions were brought up each time after the talk.  There were always participants who stayed back to discuss further with the speakers with regards to their concerns or points of view.  Here’s are some of the takeaways and what have been shared during the SPS Psych Week 2018.

Day 1
Topic: Coping in our World of Disruption: How technology has affected our mental health and methods of coping with stress
Speaker: Jeremy  Oliveiro (Lecturer at Ngee Ann Polytechic and MINDEF Defence Psychologist)

As a lecturer in Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Jerry finds that he needs to be kept up to date on the technology to be used for the class facilitation.  Jerry thinks that students these days depend a lot on the technology and would be more motivated or tend to concentrate better with the use of technology.  At the same time, Jerry has also shared the technology can be a good tool for assessment or coping mechanisms, but it also can have significant impact on our mental health and any related psychological issues.
Changes due to modern technology
One of the impacts that Jerry shared was that we tend to accept delayed gratification lesser these days.  For instance, television and movie frames these days are showed less than 4 seconds for each scene.  This indirectly has caused us to be easily frustrated if any scene appears for too long.  It does transfer the same effect to our daily living.  The example he stated was that we used to be able to wait for bus for more than half an hour, and yet we tend to be more upset if we must wait for more than 15 minutes now.
Another prominent example is that we tend to hook up with the games on easily these days due to the variable reward system.  Research showed that variable reward system engaged a person more as compared to the fixed reward system (Weinschenk, 2013).

Benefits of technology
With regards to tools used during the lesson, Mentimeter and Kahoot were mentioned to be used to engage students.  Students seem to be more engaged with these use of technology as compared to ‘I talk, you listen’ kind of teaching style.
Another crucial point to note also that social media platforms are also used to create different support groups or awareness campaigns to help those in needs to tie through their down-periods.  These are the beauty of using the technology to benefit the community.

Issues of technology
The above video showed that how current society has put more emphasis on the phone than anything else.  For instance, we take photos before we eat, we take videos when we watch concert or celebrating birthdays, we take photos during the meet up just to be posted on Instagram and many others.  We have gradually neglected the connection with humans.  We connect so much with each other via social media that we may sometimes overlook the actual emotions that we have within ourselves or even our loved ones surrounding us.

My biggest take away from this session was that the technology is always good to be used to plan a more creative lessons or creative ways to engage the audience.  However, it is also important to manage the purpose of the technology or the content that people read from websites.  It is indeed not easy to manage; hence, it still boils down to educators or parents to facilitate or manage the content that may ultimately affect the students or children’s tendency to be addicted to technology.

Day 2
Topic: Minds and Miners: Disruptive technology in psychological research
Speaker: Karyen Chai

Advancements in technology has positively impacted research in psychology, such as the development of the electroencephalography (EEG), Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), and the use of algorithms.  The device that most of us can’t live without - our cell phones - has also increased our efficiency in data collection through online surveys.
Image Credit:
Thanks to our mobile devices (and Wi-Fi), researchers are now able to collect substantial amounts of data at a fraction of the cost.  Along with the substantial amounts of data comes data mining.

Data Mining
What comes to mind when we think of data mining?
Big Data?  Statistics?  Facebook?
The essence of data mining is to extract patterns from substantial amounts of data to understand and predict.  Data mining is commonly used in businesses (e.g., stocks), medical research, and companies like IBM, eBay, Facebook, and Google.  However, data mining is not yet as commonly used in psychological research (Cheung & Jak, 2016).
Data mining at work:  One moment you’re scrolling through products on eBay, the next moment you see advertisements of the same product appearing on Facebook!
While data mining has the potential to strengthen empirical research in psychology (Cheung & Jak, 2016), there are some things that we need to consider.
Pros of Data Mining
  • Unfiltered truth
  • Proven to work
  • Statistical significance
Cons of Data Mining
  • Loss of privacy
  • Questionable ethics
  • Targeted marketing/information
Some important questions about data mining, as Ms Karyen asks, are:
  1. Who does the data belong to - us or the data collector?
  2. Who is having our data?
  3. If we use services for free, does that give companies the right to use our data?
  4. If we pay for the services, should data collectors not be allowed to use the data?
These are important questions, but they lie in a ‘gray area’ and there are no straightforward answers to them.

So what can we do about it?
For practitioners:
  • There is a need to ensure that clients are making an informed choice about providing their personal data.
  • The amount of data used should ensure anonymity of the client.
  • How long should these data be stored - 5, 10 years?
For individuals: 
  • Be more aware of the data that we are sharing online.
In sum, data mining can potentially bring huge benefits to psychological research, but many questions remain about its ethics and our loss of privacy associated with its use.  I came to the talk with some questions in mind about data mining but left with even more questions!  However, data mining is already being used in some psychological research (e.g., Cheung & Jak, 2016) and I believe that this trend of using big data will inevitably grow in psychological research.  Thus, we need to ask these questions to ensure ethical usage of these data.

If you like to learn more about Big Data and its implication for psychological research, here's a video by American Psychological Association:

Conclusion for the first two days of the talks
They are rather very informative and so far, we have been quite benefited from the talk.  There will be another post coming up to cover the rest of the talks.  If you have attended the talks as well, do share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Cheung, M. W., & Jak, S. (2016). Analyzing big data in psychology: A split/analyze/meta-analyze approach. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1-13. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00738.
[Full article link:]
Weinschenk, S. (2013). Use unpredictable rewards to keep behaviour going: Do you know what the casinos know? Retrieved from: