All in the Mind

BBC  |  Podcast , ±30 min episodes every 2 weeks, 1 day  | 
All in the Mind examines how we think and behave. It’s presented by psychologist Claudia Hammond. She investigates the latest techniques being used by mental health practitioners, speaks to people with psychological issues and uncovers all the most recent research from the world of the mind. Every year there are 2 series of 8 episodes of All in the Mind, in the spring and autumn. Each programme is 28 minutes long.

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The Anatomy of Kindness

In the Anatomy of Kindness, a three part documentary series, broadcaster, author and psychologist Claudia Hammond interrogates what it means to be kind, who we are kind to and the benefits of being a kind boss.

For the first of the three programmes Claudia examines our motivations and decision making around kindness. She meets a super altruist who risked his life for a stranger, his motivation, he says, is to make the world a better place. A car accident left neuroscientist Professor Abigail Moore stranded on the outside lane of an American freeway facing the oncoming traffic. In a split second a stranger made the decision to run into the oncoming traffic and save her, without thinking of the danger. This act of heroism shaped Abigail’s research. She looks at such extreme altruists and her work explores the relationship between psychopathy and extraordinary altruism.

Professor of Philanthropy Sara Konrath was surprised to discover that narcissists are just as likely to give to charity as very empathic people, but a remarkable act of empathy was her inspiration to research this topic and we discover what she owes to a very kind person who entered her life at a pivotal time.

But what about the everyday acts of kindness? Can we ever say we do something for someone else without expecting something in return? Psychologist Jo Cutler says that we weigh up the effort to do something for someone else every time we act, even when it’s as simple as holding the door open. Nichola Raihani, Professor of Evolution and Behaviour and author of "The Social Instinct, how cooperation saved the world" thinks we've evolved to be altruistic, it’s the reason why we have been so successful as a species and altruism brings reputational and status benefits. But how cynically do we act when we are kind?

Claudia examines the evidence and decides whether you can ever carry out an act of pure kindness.

The Anatomy of Kindness Results

Claudia Hammond and guests announce the results of the biggest ever public science project on Kindness. With over sixty thousand participants from across the world this unique work helps to fill some of the research gaps and learn more about how kindness is viewed within society at large. Led by a team of researchers based at the University of Sussex, in partnership with BBC Radio 4, Claudia is joined on stage at the BBC Radio Theatre by Professor Robin Bannerjee who has been crunching the data. Together with poet Raymond Antrobus, Stylist magazine editor in chief Lisa Smosarski , comedian Elvis McGonagall and clinical ethicist Professor Deborah Bowman they unpick what the results tell us about how experiences of kindness might relate to health, well-being, and other social and psychological aspects integral to human nature.

Looking inside the minds of our pets - and our relationships with them

Delving into animals' minds - and our relationships with them - Claudia Hammond wonders whether our pets care if we get hurt. Would a dog - or even a cat - give a monkey's if their owner fell over? Researchers like Dr Karen Hiestand are keen to explore the differences between canine and feline reactions. At the University of Sussex she works in the field of anthrozoology - analysing the relationship between humans and other animals. In one study she asked dog and cat owners to feign injury, setting up small cameras in their homes to monitor reactions, hoping to find out if the pet have empathy. We hear about the initial findings.

For years our understanding of animals was limited by attitudes like that of Descartes who thought they were merely machines made of flesh. Charles Darwin famously wrote in The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals that animal minds only differed from our own by degree, not in kind. Today some of the methods scientists use to measure animal responses are adapted from studies on children who've not yet learned to talk.

Mental health campaigner and All in the Mind Awards judge Marion Janner used to take her support dog Buddy wherever she was went, whether it was onto mental health wards or into the BBC studios. Marion says she helped to keep her safe during crises related to her borderline personality disorder because she knew she couldn't do anything which prevented her from looking after Buddy. Last year when Buddy died Marion gained comfort from her other dogs and an aquarium filled with fish.

On a walk in the park, we hear how Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy Polly has similarly helped her owner Sam to come to terms with the death of her previous dog Margo. The whole family was devastated by the loss and put a large plant where Margo's bed used to be because the room felt so empty. The Blue Cross for Pets charity offers support to anyone who's lost a pet - on the phone and online. We hear from their Bereavement and Loss Support Service manager Diane James about it can affect people as profoundly as human loss.

Cats have had a bit of an image problem - as the recent headline "How to Tell if Your Cat is a Psychopath" shows. Karen Hiestand says their apparent aloofness and accusations of laziness ...

Fish Oils for depression, Pain pleasure and a good life, Kindness, Comedy memory

Fish oil supplements are often touted as good for your heart health, but a new study finds they may also help fight depression. Alessandra Borsini of King’s College London has been examining the impact of these omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the lab and has followed up with a promising trial on severely depressed patients. She discusses how and why this might prove useful for those for whom current antidepressants don’t make a difference.

Does a good life involve more than just pleasure? Could suffering be essential too? The psychologist and author Paul Bloom argues in a new book called The Sweet Spot that the activities that provide the most satisfaction are often the ones that involve the greatest sacrifice or suffering and how embracing a balance between the two is the key to a life well lived.

Claudia’s guest is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Catherine Loveday of University of Westminster, who launches a new study on our memory for comedy - investigating whether various types of comedy could be applied in a way that music is increasingly being used in therapy.

Producer Adrian Washbourne
Produced in association with the Open University


The Expectation Effect. Claudia talks to science journalist David Robson about how our reality can be changed by our beliefs, from being able to see more clearly in bright sun if we believe we are wearing good quality sunglasses to getting long lasting pain relief from a placebo labelled exactly as that. Claudia talks about new guidelines from the British Standards Institute on buildings and neurodiversity. Called 'Design for the Mind', Jill Hewitt from Buro Happold and Jilly Corbyn from the National Development Team for Inclusion discuss the impact design features like lighting and sound can have on neurodivergent people and the best ways to design buildings so they are a relaxing environment for everyone. Also in the programme, how scientists are showing how the fine motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease like writing or cutting are benefitting from musical therapy. Claudia discusses the research with Isabelle Buard from University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Earworms in sleep, body sensations and image, Louis Wain exhibition

Many people listen to music for hours every day, and often near bedtime in the hope of a good night’s sleep. But if you can’t get the tune out of your head could this be counter-productive? In new research, neuropsychologist Michael Scullin of Baylor University has looked at the rarely studied effect of these so called earworms, offering new insights into the way music is processed in our brain during sleep and effect music has on both sleep quality and quantity.

There’s growing evidence that signals sent from our internal organs to the brain play a major role in regulating emotions and fending off anxiety and depression. Claudia meets Dr Jane Aspell of Anglia Ruskin University who’s found that the strength of the connection between our brain and internal organs is linked to how we feel about our appearance – and could in future act as a biomarker to help identify, or even predict, negative body image and its related conditions.

And Claudia visits a new exhibition examining the work of the hugely popular Edwardian illustrator Louis Wain. His playful, sometimes even psychedelic pictures helped to transform the public's perception of cats As a patient at the Bethlem Psychiatric Hospital he continued to produce many drawings of gleeful and often outlandish creatures, and his body of work demonstrated the therapeutic and restorative effect that closeness with animals can have on a person’s mental health.

Claudia’s studio guest is Professor Catherine Loveday of the University of Westminster

Producer: Adrian Washbourne


Programme exploring the limits and potential of the human mind. Producer: Deborah Cohen.

Depersonalisation disorder; Air pollution and mental health; Counter-messaging

Depersonalisation disorder involves feeling completely disconnected from yourself or from reality. It’s among the most common yet under-recognised psychiatric conditions and as such is hard to diagnose. Joe Perkins whose new book Life on Autopilot charts his 14 year experience with the disorder, discusses his long journey on the road to formal diagnosis, the need for innovative treatments, and why this disorder is so little understood or discussed.

City-wide air pollution has adverse effects on our heart and lungs, but there is now increasing evidence that air pollution isn’t great for our brain either. Recent research shows that adults exposed to high levels of traffic-related air pollution are more likely to experience anxiety and mild depression. But could it also contribute to the course and severity after the onset of more serious mental illness? Claudia Hammond meets Ioannis Bakolis of Kings College London who in the first study of its kind, has examined the extent to which air pollution exposure leads to a more severe course of illness in people experiencing first episodes of psychotic disorders.

And Claudia’s studio guest Professor Daryl O’ Connor discusses a new study into an effective way to counter the way disinformation spreads unchecked, and how inserting a counter-message, just once, into a close replica of a deceptive rival’s message can undercut its persuasive effects.

Producer Adrian Washbourne

Produced in association with the Open University

Persecutory delusions, engine idling and taxi driver brains

Claudia Hammond talks to Daniel Freeman, a clinical psychologist at the University of Oxford about a trial into a new talking treatment for people experiencing persecutory delusions. Called the Feeling Safe programme, the trial has had positive results and has transformed the lives for many of those receiving it, including Joe, one of the trial participants. Claudia talks to Professor Catherine Loveday about the lives and work of psychiatrists Aaron T Beck and Professor Sir Michael Rutter who have both died. She also talks to social psychologist, Fanny Lalot about how different signs at a railway level crossing in Canterbury might influence drivers to turn their engines off while they're waiting for the barriers to lift. Also in the programme, Professor Catherine Loveday talks about a new study looking at how taxi drivers brains help us understand and improve navigational skills. Producer Pamela Rutherford

Does working in the office boost well-being?

Many people who were able to work from home have abandoned the office since the start of the pandemic, attending online meetings via social platforms while they balance their home and work lives.

We hear from business psychologist Professor Binna Kandola about how his research revealed that although everyone's wellbeing has been affected by the pandemic, women have felt its negative effects most. He believes that this may be because being seen in their homes on Zoom meetings might have reinforced the stereotypical image of women as homemakers, eroding their role as breadwinners.

We hear from Lizzie who started a new job at the beginning of lockdown. She's now met some of her colleagues and is enjoying the return to the office rather than working at her kitchen table.

Catherine Steele who's an associate professor of psychology at the University of Leicester believes that meeting online falls short of "real-life" experiences - missing a lot of the informal communication which happens naturally in the office or coffee queue, where trust can be built. She says the return to work needs to be managed according to individual needs to get the best out of people.

Glenn Dutcher is an experimental economist at the University of Ohio in the United States and his most recent work revealed that people working alone had more ideas than those working in teams of two - though fewer of their ideas were original.

Christine Grant from the University of Coventry was studying homeworking long before the Covid pandemic when it was difficult to find people to take part in her research. She found that as well as upsides such as flexibility there were also downsides like working longer hours. As agile or hybrid working becomes more common she advises people to be aware of boundaries and take proper breaks from their office to avoid a "hybrid hangover".

And Joe Devlin from University College London has done some research for the rail industry during lockdown on people's attitudes towards commuting. Surprisingly many enjoy the daily journey into the office which provides a "buffer" between home and work - especially if they strike up a conversation with strangers.

The Kindness Test

When was the last time you did something really kind for someone or someone else did something really kind for you?

In the Kindness Test Claudia Hammond and guests are looking at the place of kindness in today’s world, asking what it really means, what happens in our brains when we act kindly and whether there can ever be a role for it in the cut-throat worlds of business and politics.

And with many aspects of kindness remaining under-researched, with your help Claudia will be asking you to fill in the gaps by taking part in the Kindness Test.

To launch this major new public science project, Claudia is joined by her guests:
Robin Bannerjee, Professor of Psychology at the University of Sussex and principal investigator for the Kindness Test
Dan Campbell-Meiklejohn, Lecturer in Psychology and Director of the Social Decision Lab at the University of Sussex
Pinky Lilani, Founder and Chairman of the Women of the Future Programmes that unlocks a culture of kindness among leaders
Jennifer Nadel, co-director of Compassion in Politics

Producer: Erika Wright

All in the Mind Awards ceremony from the Wellcome Collection in London

Claudia Hammond hosts the All in the Mind Awards Ceremony from Wellcome Collection in London and meets all the finalists.

Back in November we asked you to nominate the person, professional or group who had made a difference to your mental health. Throughout the current series we've been hearing the individual stories of the nine finalists, and this edition offers the chance to recap the people and organisations who've made a huge difference to other people's lives - and to hear comments from the judges and winners from each of the three categories.

The event is hosted by Claudia Hammond.

Judges are BBC sports presenter and commentator Colin Jackson; mental health activist and researcher James Downs; mental health campaigner Marion Janner; Director of Mental Health at the Wellcome Trust Miranda Wolpert; former NHS mental health director Mandy Stevens

Produced by Adrian Washbourne, Pam Rutherford and Paula McGrath

36 episodes

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