May’s Kaleidoscope column from the British Journal of Psychiatry

Each month SLaM/IoPPN staff Sukhi Shergill, Dan Joyce and Derek Tracy write an update on developments in mental health from around the world. Their summary of this month’s findings are below, and the full column can be found here:

‘Assortative mating’ means choosing your partner because of their (presumably) pleasing mix of qualities, and how they fit with your own. In other words, we don’t randomly bump into people and start relationships, at least not most of the time. At least never again. Evidence shows that we really do tend to have both physical and personality traits in common with our significant other: did you know that your intelligence level is the trait you are most likely to share? A fascinating new study has explored if this transcends to mental health: i.e. if one has a mental health issue, is it more likely that one’s partner also will? The answer is yes. Perhaps this seems obvious or intuitive to you, but it doesn’t hold for one’s physical health. Why?

Remember Cecil the lion, the one who was shot by the American dentist? The result was significant public furore, and the very contemporary phenomenon of trial-by-twitter. “Moral outrage” and “third party punishment” are the terms, and they’re part of an interesting (pre-twitter) evolutionary development in how we broadcast our own trustworthiness; a paper from Nature explains.

The ‘extreme male brain’ is a model used to explain autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Under this hypothesis we all have complimentary empathising (sharing emotions) and systematising (applying logic) systems in our brains. There’s fairly robust evidence that at a population level women typically have better emotional intelligence, whilst men are typically better at listing their five favourite Kevin Bacon movies made between 1985 and 1995 and deciding who’d win in a fight, a shark or a crocodile*.

Anyway, the ‘extreme male brain’ model says that ASD is an excess of the ‘normal maleness’, and it might explain why there are more men with this condition. So far so good? Well what about an extreme female brain? Some scientists are now arguing that an excess of empathising (“hyper mentalising”) may underlie borderline personality disorder and depression, and explain why more women suffer from these. Please send your moral outrage on this concept direct to the authors, and don’t cc us.

*If it’s a great white shark, it wins; otherwise the crocodile every time.

The full column can be found here

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