17 April 2016

How to Deal with Exam Stress, Mindfully

The following blog was written by guest blogger, Greg Savva.  Greg works as a psychotherapist and offered to write the blog to support my students as we head into exam season and are undoubtedly feeling some pressure.  I hope you find his advice helpful!  Any questions about the points raised, feel free to email me, tavis.king@thetutorking.com or visit Greg's website for psychotherapy at www.enduringmind.co.uk.

Students are well aware of how studying for A Levels can cause anxiety and stress, especially during exam season. Help is at hand. There are ways to deal with stress using specific mindfulness techniques to keep calm in difficult circumstances. Stress is a normal response to heightened emotions when someone is under pressure. Everyone gets anxious. It might be due to excessive worry or facing something we're afraid as we project our hopes and fears into an imagined future. These include beliefs such as “I’m going to forget everything or fail”, “I’m going to disappoint my parents”, “I’m not going to be able to get a job”.

Since the perceived problem is usually disproportionate to the reality, it creates more anxiety than usual. During exam season the stress and heightened emotion, accumulates over time in our bodies causing hormones like adrenalin and cortisol to trigger a ‘fight and flight response’. This is a physiological process in the sympathetic nervous system which increases your heart rate, shortness of breath, tension in the neck and back, perspiration, trembling and nervous tics or even panic. If we convince ourselves "I'm going to fail", then our heartbeat and breathing speed up as we walk into the hall to find our seat. We begin to perspire, tremble or feel like going to the toilet more often. This sets our thoughts racing, seeking out signs of danger and putting our bodies on high alert. Our brain goes onto overdrive in a cycle of negative thinking and anticipates the worst possible outcomes.

A low level of stress is sometimes helpful – when it is used to motivate us to meet a deadline or predict and solve a problem, but sometimes anxiety can overwhelm us. What we have to learn to do is regulate the extremes through simple interventions; as well as daily practice so the stress has no chance to accumulate. Take regular breaks from your study and try these activities:

Mindfulness of breathing - is a simple but effective technique because it uses a physiological process to relive the physical symptoms of stress in the body. Take a break every 20 minutes to remind yourself to straighten up and breathe deeply. Start by sitting upright. Then begin breathing in and out slowly. Find your own rhythm, inhaling through the nose and out through the mouth. Pause momentarily, then try again. Try breathing using your diaphragm fully extended, breathing from the tummy and not your chest - it will encourage deeper breaths. Keep at it for 3-5 minutes until your stress subsides.

Stretching exercises – after a period of intense study stand up during breaks and stretch off the tension and stiffness out of your muscles, focusing on the back, neck and shoulders. Do this for 5-10 minutes. Neck rolling, shoulder rolling and shaking out tension from your limbs also works to get rid of cortisol and lactic acid build-up.

Walking in the garden, park or other natural space – choose your favourite beauty spot outside and pick up the pace of your walking so that you can notice your breath deepening. Pay attention to your five senses, taking pleasure in your surroundings.

Sound meditation – choose a safe place and meditate by focusing solely on the sound of things like a flowing stream, birdsong, the wind rushing through leaves, the patter of rain, or distant calls of children.

Ditch caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes and sugar – do not use these to de-stress as you will effectively create a relationship of dependency on them. Try to detox your mind with enough water and even chamomile tea, which has a calming effect. Drugs will also mess with your mind so steer clear.

Regular exercise – using yoga, swimming, running or the gym but not excessive bursts of energy highs. Get sweaty to release the stress hormones and lactic acid that has built up in your muscles.

Relaxation – go for a sauna. Get a massage. Use relaxation tapes.

Try to stop fixating on the bad stuff – for every negative worry or thought: "I am useless at maths", chuck in a positive one "But I am amazing at art".

Make a list of all the things you're stressing over – with immediate issues, prioritise and solve them as you go throughout your daily routines. Take your time, go slow. If you rush you will increase stress levels. With medium term problems; put down a date and time when you can solve them. With problems where there are no clear solutions, physically tear them off your list and discard them in the bin, as it is pointless worrying about them. Be disciplined and don’t let your mind wander back to them. 

22 January 2016

2016 Academic Year - Information for New Clients

Hello Everyone!

Thank you for visiting The Tutor King of Hampton Court.  This academic year, things are getting very exciting indeed in the world of private tuition.

As many of you know, the A-level psychology curriculum changed this year.  This has created… well… chaos isn’t a strong enough word.  A third of students are doing A2, a third of students are doing AS resits, and a third of students are doing A-Level “Year 1” which looks a lot like AS, but is a bit more difficult as those exams are two years away! 

However, The Tutor King is on the case!  Our new Learning Resources are fully updated, and you are very welcome to have a look at them right here!  Also, we offer tuition for nearly all the major exam boards; AQA, OCR, Eduqas (The new Welsh Exam Board/WJEC) and IB.  In addition to our beautiful PowerPoint Slides that accompany lessons, The Tutor King also offers an online classroom through Edmodo.com to further support learners with additional learning resources, enrichment learning, quizzes and homework help between sessions-all inclusive of the price of regular weekly lessons!

Currently, The Tutor King has availability for new psychology A-Level students.  Just get in touch to have the best psychology tuition around!

What?  You’re not here for A-Level tuition?  That’s OK!  As it happens, our services are ever-expanding to meet learners’ needs.  This year we are providing tuition for:

  • GCSE Psychology (AQA)
  • Bachelor’s Degree Psychology
  • Master’s Degree Psychology
  • Essay Writing with Review & Proofreading
  • Dissertation Writing (Humanities & Science)
  • Statistics and SPSS Use
  • Counselling Skills

I’m especially excited about teaching GCSE Psychology.  This under-rated, under-used GCSE is perfectly placed to prepare learners for the tough new specifications of A-levels.  It’s an utter shame more secondary schools do not teach it, because it would be so helpful in preparing learners for studying towards A-Levels.

Have a look around.  You might find reading The Tutor King’s CV helpful, or you may even wish to have a look at his TutorHunt Profile to get further details about prices and services.  If you would like to arrange an initial assessment, please e-mail in Enquiries@TheTutorKing.com.

14 March 2015

Systemising and Empathising across The Republic of Armenia and The United States

The Tutor King of Hampton Court is very pleased to share a preview copy of his newest work Sex, Culture, Cognition & Career Choice: Investigating the Influence of Culture on Baron-Cohen’s E-quotient and S-quotient among Americans and Armenians.
Many people hold the traditional view that women are more empathising, nurturing and caring than men.  Also that men are born to be more technically-minded than women.  It can appear as if girls were born to care for dollies while boys were genetically engineered to play with trucks and blocks.  Click here to download the file.

Well my most recent research suggests otherwise.

I argue that the whole process of gendered behaviours is a result of cultural influences.  For my MA research, I surveyed Armenians and compared these wonderful people to Americans.  Previous research has suggested that women in Armenia are more systemising because in the 1990s and 2000s, women made up the vast majority of computer science college programmes, while in America, women only make up 15%.

What I found when I collected scores of empathising and systemising was that cultural differences influenced how systemising women were!  The gender gap in systemising was twice as large for Americans as it was for Armenians.

But the real surprise was that there were no gender differences in empathising at all!  Culture was the only difference, as Armenians were more empathetic than Americans, but within each culture, men were not statistically different from women in identifying others' emotions and responding accordingly.  
So why do so many studies say the opposite?  Well I suggest that these studies are flawed, usually sampling university students in very divisive college programmes that make them identify stronger with their scientific or humanistic disciplines.  In reality, when people grow older and take jobs that are not so polarised, they actually equal out in their ability to be emotionally minded.

This work is the result of my research I did to earn my MA in Gender, Sexuality and Culture. 

Please, have a read of my cross-cultural psychology article.  If you would like to reference it in your research, go right ahead.  Just acknowledge that it is currently under review with the Journal of Gender Studies.  And if you want to talk to me about any comments or feedback you have about this piece of work, go ahead and email me at Tavis.King@TheTutorKing.com.

 Click here to download the file.

The present study reviews the debate of essential sex differences forwarded by Simon Baron-Cohen and the neuroconstructivism argument made by Cordelia Fine. Moreover, this study also examined sex differences in systemising and empathising across Armenia and the United States. Cultural differences in empathising and systemising were hypothesised based on the historically high numbers of female computer science graduates in Armenia, indicating a female preference for systemising. First, it was hypothesised that nationality would predict empathising and systemising while controlling for sex; second, that nationality would moderate the association between sex and systemising, with American males showing higher levels of systemising compared to American females and Armenian females showing equal or greater levels of systemising compared to Armenian males; and third, that nationality would predict differences in empathising and systemising while controlling for sex and empathising/systemising professions. Results revealed that Armenians were more empathising than Americans, with no sex differences within either culture; that men were more systemising across cultures, however, nationality moderated the association between sex and systemising, with a systemising gender gap greater for Americans than for Armenians; and that across the USA and Armenia, there were no differences in professions for empathising and systemising cognitions. Implications regarding the evidence of cross-cultural differences in systemising and empathising are discussed and support Fine’s neuroconstructivism argument. For instance, it is proposed that Armenians are more empathising than Americans because their culture derives greater happiness from natural harmony and relationships whereas Americans find happiness through career aspirations and intellectual autonomy. Also, it is suggested that gender theorists should consider further exploring the language problem of Baron-Cohen’s hypothesised use of language as either empathising (pragmatic language) or systemising (abstract systemising). Furthermore, this study calls for additional cross-cultural studies to find for nations where females are equal or greater to men in systemising-mindedness.

 Click here to download the file.

20 January 2015

SPSS tuition for Psychology Dissertations: Bachelor's and Master's Degree Students

Did you know that The Tutor King of Hampton Court can also help you with your SPSS data analysis?

Available online or in person, The Tutor King can help you with:
  • Data Cleaning to deal with Missing Data Sets
  • Calculating and Recoding New Variables
  • Descriptive Statistics
  • Reliability Analysis
  • Factor Analysis
  • Writing Research Questions, Aims and Hypotheses.
  • Reporting Results in APA Writing Style
Don't wait to the last minute to get your statistics right.  Begin analysis today, the right way by calling The Tutor King of Hampton Court!

23 December 2014

New Clients for Spring Term and Skype Tuition

The Tutor King of Hampton Court is currently accepting new A-Level students for Psychology (AQA and OCR), Philosophy (AQA), Sociology (AQA) and Religious Studies (AQA and OCR).

Also, we're pleased to announce that as a trial, the Tutor King is offering Skype Tuition lessons for £20 per hour!  This is a huge discount on private tuition and offers greater flexibility for students who need tuition at times that suit busy schedules.

I often say, too many students wait until the last minute for tuition and hope it will bring about miracles before exams.  Don't wait, get in touch today and prepare early!

9 September 2014

Information for New Clients: Academic Year 2014-2015

Hello!  Welcome to The Tutor King of Hampton Court.  This previous year has been a very difficult and challenging year, not just for yours truly, but also for my A-level students from the 2013-2014 academic year.  With no exams taking place in December, many had to study hard to remember twice as much for double the exams.  It was a real challenge for A-level students everywhere.  However, we persevered and I would like to congratulate my students for performing wonderfully.  Similar to last year, I met my students when they had C’s, D’s, U’s and F’s brought forward from the previous year, but I also had a few students who I met who wanted tutoring to help keep them on top of their game in order to maintain their A’s and B’s.  I would like to take this time and wish a heartfelt “Good Luck” to my 4 learners who finished the year and start University this month.  I would also like to congratulate Danny, who has accepted a place at University of Liverpool to study in their Psychology programme, which he was inspired to do after reading this blog!

In other news, I’m just finishing off my second master’s degree at Birkbeck College, which is an MA in Gender, Sexuality and Culture.  It was a difficult year working outside of my psychological comfort zone.  But once again, with a bit of hard work and flexibility I have finished my dissertation (only yesterday) and plan to submit on 26 September 2014.  This will be great news for A-level students seeking to take Gender as part of their Unit 3 Psychology Special Topics.  In addition to this, I am very proud to announce that I will be studying my Ph.D. part-time at Brunel University.  I will be studying how cultural values influence the association between parental acceptance/rejection and internalised homophobia.  I haven’t picked my nations yet, but I’m thinking about the UK, Mexico, India, South Africa and Japan as candidates.  My supervisor will be Dr. Tara Marshall and I cannot wait to start work in January!

Now, for information for new clients.  I have confirmed my teaching schedule at Surrey Adult Learning and I will be able to see private tutoring clients on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  Also, I have expanded my A-level lesson plans.  So in addition to teaching AQA Psychology AS & A2 for “A” and “B”, I am also teaching OCR Philosophy of Religion.  So I’m going to try to mix a bit of religious studies into my blogs this year.  If you would like to study with me, please contact me at enquiries@thetutorking.com.

And last, but not least, I have lots of Adult Learning Classes being offered by way of Surrey Adult Learning.  If you look to the left, you will see I have added a new tab for classes offered.  So if you are unemployed, retired, have some time during the day or looking to enrich your evenings with more than telly, have a look at my lectures and classes and perhaps something will interest you.

Good luck to all my learners, young and old, for the coming academic year.  Remember what I always say:

Class is not something you arrive at.  It’s something you bring with you.

4 August 2014

Criticisms of Connellan, Baron-Cohen, Wheelwright, Batki and Ahluwalia's "Sex differences in human neonatal social perception" (2006)

So I wrote the following for my dissertation and realized that it was all wrong and it was too much me talking, not enough of my researchers talking.  I was getting personal.  So its been ripped out of my dissertation and put on the blog for your reading pleasure.

These are methodological criticisms and alternatives in regards to Connellan et al. (2006).  For any of this to make sense, you will need to follow this link and read the original paper.

However, to give you the gist of what's going on, Connellan et al., did a study where the experimenter used her own face as stimuli for empathising.  This has been criticised by Cordelia Fine and others as poor experimental methodology as her face could have unconsciously moved eliciting more face-looking time from females, while her hand could have unconsciously moved the mobile around to encourage more looking time from males.  I address criticisms and methodological alternatives.

With due respect to Ms. Connellan’s physical appearance, all babies show preference for attractive faces over unattractive faces (Langlois, Ritter, Roggman, & Vaughn, 1991).  Resulting differences then may simply be that for female infants, Connellan’s face was marginally more attractive than an alien mobile and for male infants, Connellan’s face was marginally less attractive than the alien mobile.  In this way, evaluating attractiveness may also be in relation to the position the infant was in when the stimuli were presented: with the infant lying on their back or sat upright in their mother’s lap (Fine, 2010). 
Also, there is evidence that infants show preferential facial recognition for the gender of the primary caregiver at 3 and 4 months (Quinn, Yahr, Kuhn, Slater & Pascalis, 2002).  While the aim of the study presented by Connellan et al. was to show that socialisation had not taken place at one-day-old, it seems probable that the infants were in contact with both of their parents for the first 24-hours of life and thus, socialisation did begin before the experiment took place.  Again, it seems odd that only a female’s face, Connellan’s, was presented as stimuli for empathising.  If an infant experienced greater contact with the father in their first day of life (e.g., fathers who are holding their infants while their mothers get some well-deserved rest), this would confound the results by Connellan et al.  As Connellan is female, this would confound the results if infants who were in greater contact with their mothers in their first day preferred looking at her face over and above infants who had greater contact with their fathers.  This is a confounding variable that could have been easily controlled for if Connellan et al. premeditated a male experimenter to present his face to half the infants while Connellan’s showed her face to the other half. 

Furthermore, there is the question of the stimuli medium, itself.  For the study, Connellan et al. found that using an arts-and-crafts project (the alien mobile) was an acceptable approximation for systemising, while using Connellan’s flesh-and-blood face as a measurement for empathising.  The original study notes in regards to the face stimuli that “[Connellan’s] hair was tied back, she wore no make-up or jewelry, and the face was positioned 20 cms above the subject. She adopted a positive, pleasant emotional expression, while remaining silent. Movement of her head was natural, while continuously facing the infant” while in regards to the mobile, “ The mobile itself was attached to a stick 1m in length, and was held above the infant’s head, at the same viewing distance (20 cm). The mobile moved with mechanical motion, since any movement of the larger ball caused the smaller ball to move contingently.” The question then, is that if an object held on a stick was acceptable for the systemising approximation, why then would the empathising stimuli not be like-for-like?  That is to say, a cut-out puppet of Connellan’s face and attached to a stick in lieu of her own real face could have been enough of a contrast to the alien mobile to approximate for empathising.  Or perhaps, if a cut-out were too static for empathising to take place and if an artistic element was important, a 3-D mask of Connellan’s face could have been used as well.  The idea being that both options are an improvement over Connellan’s real face because the art projects could be controlled for movements as opposed to the movements in Connellan’s real face which were not adequately controlled for.