//Should be placed in the header of every page. This won't fire any events

The psychological ‘secret weapon’ England used in the 2018 World Cup

In the 2018 World Cup, England's team was aided by an unconventional team member: a psychologist who equipped players with tools to navigate the mental and emotional sides of the game.


England will not win the 2018 World Cup after all. But despite a loss to Croatia, this year’s team deserves applause, as The Guardian put it, after earning a spot in the semifinals in the face of less-than-optimistic expectations. This year’s team was different than past clubs—younger, less storied, and ultimately more victorious. But what was perhaps most unique was the team’s in-depth experiments with an unconventional tactic: integrated sports science.

In late 2017, the FA hired psychologist Pippa Grange as Head of People and Team Development. The 47-year-old naturalized Australian, a former athlete who graduated from Loughborough University with a degree in sports science, was tasked with transforming the club’s culture and equipping players with psychological tools to help them better navigate the mental and emotional aspects of the game.

“There is a dawning understanding that it will take more than the carrots or sticks to get people to keep performing and to keep striving for excellence,” Grange wrote in her book Ethical Leadership in Sport: What’s your Endgame? “Athletes, like everyone else, want something to believe in, a vision that they can invest in and an organisation that they are proud to belong to.”

The players, who in the past were only offered access to a team psychologist if they requested it, seem to have embraced Grange’s views on sports culture.

“She’s an amazing person,” England midfielder Dele Alli said on Monday. “Everyone listens to her when she talks.”

Grange doesn’t just instruct players, though, but also encourages them to get to know each other rather intimately. In small groups, the players shared life stories, anxieties and ambitions, with the goal being, as team manager Gareth Southgate said in a profile on Grange from The Guardian, to make “them closer, with a better understanding of each other.”

It seems to have helped.

“We’ve spoken to the players about writing their own stories,” Southgate told The Guardian. “Tonight they showed they don’t have to conform to what’s gone before. They have created their own history… We always have to believe in what is possible in life and not be hindered by history or expectations.”

Grange has also encouraged the players to put down their smartphones and play games with each other instead; limit their use of alcohol and social media; complete daily wellness questionnaires; and use individually tailored visualization strategies to score during penalties.

In a 2013 article, Grange wrote that she’s interested not only in the wellbeing of a sports team, but also in how a team’s ethos impacts the broader culture.

“For me, sport is a gift; an opportunity that we can choose how to use as a means of cementing our values—national and personal. If it showcases national identity, what do we want to showcase? What commitment does each of us make to representing, evolving and renewing that identity? If it is a deep part of our lifestyle, how will we continue to invest and protect that lifestyle? One thing is for sure—it won’t happen without our intent.”

Here are some of the tactics encouraged by Grange.

Stay motivated in the face of challenge

In her 2005 thesis titled The Stress Is Unbearable; I Hope It Lasts, Grange wrote about how athletes can use various tactics to shift to preferred “states” and “frames” of mind when under pressure.

“Using the tenets of reversal theory and metaphors (such as the pendulum swinging both away from and towards the preferred state) may give the athlete a sense of optimism that a shift does not necessarily equate to a catastrophe, and the preferred state, if lost, will be available again.”

Don’t fear failure

A preoccupation with success can be unhealthy if it leads one to avoid the possibility of failure, according to Grange.

“It’s a funny paradox,” she once wrote. “Our successes are achieved through trying, and trying most often ends in failure. Every day in our general lives and our sporting lives we will win some and lose some; it’s just part of the way life should be. It could be missing out on a promotion, being pipped at the line in a running race or bombing out in an exam—it doesn’t matter—the important lesson is to learn from our failures, reassess, rethink, move forward (sometimes in a different direction) and keep those dreams and goals alive.”

Reframe emotions

As Southgate said, there’s no reason to be “hindered by history” once you understand that you can control how emotions are framed. A good example comes from the midfielder Dele Alli, who told reporters he was “excited, not nervous” about upcoming matches.


3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Keep reading Show less

Why it’s hard to tell when high-class people are incompetent

A recent study gives new meaning to the saying "fake it 'til you make it."

Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • The study involves four experiments that measured individuals' socioeconomic status, overconfidence and actual performance.
  • Results consistently showed that high-class people tend to overestimate their abilities.
  • However, this overconfidence was misinterpreted as genuine competence in one study, suggesting overestimating your abilities can have social advantages.
Keep reading Show less

Maps show how CNN lost America to Fox News

Is this proof of a dramatic shift?

Strange Maps
  • Map details dramatic shift from CNN to Fox News over 10-year period
  • Does it show the triumph of "fake news" — or, rather, its defeat?
  • A closer look at the map's legend allows for more complex analyses

Dramatic and misleading

Image: Reddit / SICResearch

The situation today: CNN pushed back to the edges of the country.

Over the course of no more than a decade, America has radically switched favorites when it comes to cable news networks. As this sequence of maps showing TMAs (Television Market Areas) suggests, CNN is out, Fox News is in.

The maps are certainly dramatic, but also a bit misleading. They nevertheless provide some insight into the state of journalism and the public's attitudes toward the press in the US.

Let's zoom in:

  • It's 2008, on the eve of the Obama Era. CNN (blue) dominates the cable news landscape across America. Fox News (red) is an upstart (°1996) with a few regional bastions in the South.
  • By 2010, Fox News has broken out of its southern heartland, colonizing markets in the Midwest and the Northwest — and even northern Maine and southern Alaska.
  • Two years later, Fox News has lost those two outliers, but has filled up in the middle: it now boasts two large, contiguous blocks in the southeast and northwest, almost touching.
  • In 2014, Fox News seems past its prime. The northwestern block has shrunk, the southeastern one has fragmented.
  • Energised by Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Fox News is back with a vengeance. Not only have Maine and Alaska gone from entirely blue to entirely red, so has most of the rest of the U.S. Fox News has plugged the Nebraska Gap: it's no longer possible to walk from coast to coast across CNN territory.
  • By 2018, the fortunes from a decade earlier have almost reversed. Fox News rules the roost. CNN clings on to the Pacific Coast, New Mexico, Minnesota and parts of the Northeast — plus a smattering of metropolitan areas in the South and Midwest.

"Frightening map"

Image source: Reddit / SICResearch

This sequence of maps, showing America turning from blue to red, elicited strong reactions on the Reddit forum where it was published last week. For some, the takeover by Fox News illustrates the demise of all that's good and fair about news journalism. Among the comments?

  • "The end is near."
  • "The idiocracy grows."
  • "(It's) like a spreading disease."
  • "One of the more frightening maps I've seen."
For others, the maps are less about the rise of Fox News, and more about CNN's self-inflicted downward spiral:
  • "LOL that's what happens when you're fake news!"
  • "CNN went down the toilet on quality."
  • "A Minecraft YouTuber could beat CNN's numbers."
  • "CNN has become more like a high-school production of a news show."

Not a few find fault with both channels, even if not always to the same degree:

  • "That anybody considers either of those networks good news sources is troubling."
  • "Both leave you understanding less rather than more."
  • "This is what happens when you spout bullsh-- for two years straight. People find an alternative — even if it's just different bullsh--."
  • "CNN is sh-- but it's nowhere close to the outright bullsh-- and baseless propaganda Fox News spews."

"Old people learning to Google"

Image: Google Trends

CNN vs. Fox News search terms (200!-2018)

But what do the maps actually show? Created by SICResearch, they do show a huge evolution, but not of both cable news networks' audience size (i.e. Nielsen ratings). The dramatic shift is one in Google search trends. In other words, it shows how often people type in "CNN" or "Fox News" when surfing the web. And that does not necessarily reflect the relative popularity of both networks. As some commenters suggest:

  • "I can't remember the last time that I've searched for a news channel on Google. Is it really that difficult for people to type 'cnn.com'?"
  • "More than anything else, these maps show smart phone proliferation (among older people) more than anything else."
  • "This is a map of how old people and rural areas have learned to use Google in the last decade."
  • "This is basically a map of people who don't understand how the internet works, and it's no surprise that it leans conservative."

A visual image as strong as this map sequence looks designed to elicit a vehement response — and its lack of context offers viewers little new information to challenge their preconceptions. Like the news itself, cartography pretends to be objective, but always has an agenda of its own, even if just by the selection of its topics.

The trick is not to despair of maps (or news) but to get a good sense of the parameters that are in play. And, as is often the case (with both maps and news), what's left out is at least as significant as what's actually shown.

One important point: while Fox News is the sole major purveyor of news and opinion with a conservative/right-wing slant, CNN has more competition in the center/left part of the spectrum, notably from MSNBC.

Another: the average age of cable news viewers — whether they watch CNN or Fox News — is in the mid-60s. As a result of a shift in generational habits, TV viewing is down across the board. Younger people are more comfortable with a "cafeteria" approach to their news menu, selecting alternative and online sources for their information.

It should also be noted, however, that Fox News, according to Harvard's Nieman Lab, dominates Facebook when it comes to engagement among news outlets.

CNN, Fox and MSNBC

Image: Google Trends

CNN vs. Fox (without the 'News'; may include searches for actual foxes). See MSNBC (in yellow) for comparison

For the record, here are the Nielsen ratings for average daily viewer total for the three main cable news networks, for 2018 (compared to 2017):

  • Fox News: 1,425,000 (-5%)
  • MSNBC: 994,000 (+12%)
  • CNN: 706,000 (-9%)

And according to this recent overview, the top 50 of the most popular websites in the U.S. includes cnn.com in 28th place, and foxnews.com in... 27th place.

The top 5, in descending order, consists of google.com, youtube.com, facebook.com, amazon.com and yahoo.com — the latter being the highest-placed website in the News and Media category.
Keep reading Show less

Mother bonobos, too, pressure their sons to have grandchildren

If you thought your mother was pushy in her pursuit of grandchildren, wait until you learn about bonobo mothers.

Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • Mother bonobos have been observed to help their sons find and copulate with mates.
  • The mothers accomplish this by leading sons to mates, interfering with other males trying to copulate with females, and helping sons rise in the social hierarchy of the group.
  • Why do mother bonobos do this? The "grandmother hypothesis" might hold part of the answer.
Keep reading Show less
//This will actually fire event. Should be called after consent was verifed