Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Encyclopedia of Social Work

The impact of addictions and means of prevention, treatment, & recovery

September is National Recovery Month in the US. Recovery Month is a time dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding of substance use and mental disorders. It’s also a time to celebrate those who are in recovery and those who do recover. The goal of the observance month is to educate others that addiction treatment and mental health services are effective, and that people can recover. With respect for this time, we compiled some statistics on addiction disorders to support awareness of these issues and show that individuals are not alone.

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Genome editing’s brave new world

“O, wonder!/How many goodly creatures are there here!/How beauteous mankind is!/O brave new world,/That has such people in’t!” Shakespeare’s lines in The Tempest famously inspired Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World, first published in 1932. Huxley’s vision of the future has become a byword for the idea that attempts at genetic (and social) engineering are bound to go wrong. With its crude partitioning of society, by stunting human development before birth, and with its use of a drug – soma – to induce a false sense of happiness and suppress dissent, this was the opposite of a ‘beauteous’ world.

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oxford journals

Why peer review is so important

As part of Peer Review Week, running from 19-25 September 2016, we are celebrating the essential role that peer review plays in maintaining scientific quality. We asked some of our journal’s editorial teams to tell us why peer review is so important to them and their journals.

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What has functional brain imaging discovered?

Functional magnetic brain imaging (fMRI) is a method that allows us to study the workings of the human brain while people perceive, reason and make decisions. The principle on which it is based is that, when nerve cells or neurons in a particular region become active, there is an increase in the blood supply to that brain area. This can be visualized because the scanner can be sensitized to the changes in the blood oxygen level that occur when the nerve cells become active.

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Influencing social policy in the public interest

How can psychologists and other social scientists interested in making a difference become more fully and effectively engaged in the policy world? To address this question, in-depth interviews were conducted with 79 psychologists who were asked to describe their policy experiences over the course of their careers, with particular focus on a major policy success.

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Science, sincerity, and transformation of near-death experiences

One of the first great philosophical books, Plato’s Republic, concludes with the recounting of a near-death experience. Socrates relates the myth of Er, a soldier who died in battle but came back to tell what he saw in the other world. Like other myths in Plato’s works, this is meant to supplement Socrates’ philosophical arguments and to help instill noble beliefs. It’s a last ditch effort at making the case for living a just life.

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Social Work

The impact of suicide: World Suicide Prevention Day and why suicide awareness matters

Each year over one million people worldwide die by suicide. In the United States, approximately 42,000 people die by suicide each year, with a suicide occurring every 12.3 minutes. It is the 10th leading cause of death overall, and the 2nd leading cause of death for youth under the age of 24. For World Suicide Prevention Day, we’d like to tell you why this matters to us and why it should matter to you.

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Hypnosis and the conscious awareness of intentions

A hypnotist tells a subject that their outstretched arm will begin to rise upward as though tied to an invisible balloon. To their astonishment, the subject’s arm rises just as suggested, and seemingly without their intention. While it may appear as though the subject is being controlled by the hypnotist, it is well established that nobody can be hypnotised against their will. Hypnosis therefore seems to present a paradox

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JMT cover

A new (musical) direction for healthcare?

Most would agree with the idea that music can have a powerful hold over us—our thoughts, feelings, and movements. Given this, how might music help measure thoughts, feelings, and movements in a way that allows professionals in healthcare improve client treatment? The music therapy profession seems to be experiencing a surge in developing data-measuring tools that incorporate music in the client assessment.

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Building community: lessons from swimming

What would be the impact if our current policy to insure safety and prevent drowning were to pay people to swim with each swimmer? No one could go swimming unless they had a paid professional, or paraprofessional, swim with them. Our present policy in human services and mental health is kind of like paying people to insure the safety and well-being of others.

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Olympian pressure

Recent years have brought recognition that sportsmen and women may have mental health needs that are just as important as their ‘physical’ health – and that may need to be addressed. Athletes are people too, subject to many of the same vulnerabilities as the rest of us. In addition to our everyday anxieties, the sports world contains a whole host of different stressors.

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Journal of Public Health cover

Mental health inequalities among gay and bisexual men

Depression, substance abuse, and suicide have long been associated with homosexuality. In the decades preceding the gay liberation movement, the most common explanation for this association was that homosexuality itself is a mental illness. Much of the work of gay liberation consisted of dismantling the pathological understanding of homosexuality among mental health professionals.

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Some very short reflections on social psychology

What emerged from these studies was a whole area of psychology that revealed the motives and processes that drive peoples’ prejudices. Discovering that it was a basic tendency to categorize that lies at the heart of prejudice had huge implications. It meant that to tackle prejudice we have to not only address the social, the economic and the political: we also need to tackle the psychological.

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Brain journal

The lifelong importance of nutrition in pregnancy for brain development

The importance of a healthy diet for proper functioning of the brain is increasingly being recognized. Week in, week out studies appear recommending a high intake of certain foods in order to achieve optimal brain function and prevent brain diseases. Although it is definitely no punishment for the most of us to increase our chocolate consumption to boost brain function, the most important period during which nutrition affects our brain may already be behind us.

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Suicide and the First Amendment

What does suicide have to do with the first amendment right to free speech? As it turns out, the question comes up in many contexts: Can a state university student be disciplined for sending a text threatening suicide to another student? Can a young woman be criminally prosecuted for repeatedly texting her boyfriend to insist that he fulfill his intention to commit suicide?

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Musical Prodigies

Is musical success written in the stars?

When we look at the so-called “miraculous gifts” of musical prodigies, it is easy to get caught up in the nature vs. nurture debate: are these prodigies born or made? But we won’t be entering here into the discussion as to whether genetics or education plays the greater role. Instead, there may be a secondary element to this debate that is often overlooked, an element that intrinsically ties together these two conflicting sides.

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