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Apr 21 2014

Monday Miscellany: Permission, Pat Answers….Peeing.

1. I…..yeah, my hometown.

There’s an old adage in Texas criminal justice reform that’s become downright apocryphal: It goes that jailtime should be reserved for the criminals we’re “scared of, not the ones we’re mad at.” In the case of 23-year-old Daniel Athens, who will be spending a full year and a half in a State Jail facility for peeing on the Alamo, we can probably downgrade that to “seriously annoyed with.”

2. The quote about nobody being able to make you feel bad without your permission (or inferior without your consent, depending on which internet source) is something I usually see attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, though I’ve also seen Susan B. Anthony and Helen Keller. It’s also ridiculous and probably harmful.

Now, first off, “shrugging off other people’s insults and accusations” is a learned skill. If you’ve ever raised a kid, you know most of them don’t come pre-baked with the “Eh, whatever” switch – if you yell at them, they cry. If other kids make fun of them, they get upset. Actually placing the “Okay, they’re mocking you, but do you respect their opinion?” switch in place is a process that takes years, requires a healthy ego on the kid’s part, and isn’t 100% successful.

So expecting everyone to have that skill is kinda jerky. Admittedly, it’s a vital skill that everyone should actively cultivate – without it, abusers can emotionally manipulate you into the most awful of situations by pressing your “guilt” button whenever you complain about valid stuff.

But not everyone had nice parents. Not everyone’s discovered how to interrupt their emotions with logic. And as such, sneering, “Well, you chose to feel bad”isn’t actually true. They have yet to develop a barrier between the onrush of primal feelings and the rationality to say, “Wait, no, that’s actually something I shouldn’t feel.”

3. Elizabeth Bear on writing characters with disabilities. A much more nuanced take than I generally see about writing characters outside the norm.

 We all need narratives. As a species, stories are how we parse the world.
[....]

People with disabilities are people with agency and their own lives. They are the heroes of their own stories; not anybody else’s. Some disabilities are visible; some are invisible. Some are permanent and some are transient. Some are acute and some are chronic. And some are accrued over the course of the story.

I’m not going to say that a character with a disability is just a person like any other, because lived experience affects our worldview. My disability informs mine, for sure. It affects how I interact with people and how I think.

But a disability is not a characterization. A disability is not a character. “Being blind” is not a character description any more than “being female” is. Unless you think all women actually are Smufette. In which case I cannot help you.

4. Nodnodnod

But if you’re worried you’re psychotic, that’s probably the most important question to you. The reason this came up at a big conference is that it’s a really common question. Psychotic people ask it a lot. If you’re psychotic, then the fact that you believe these strange things no one else believes has become one of the central things in your life. And to you it’s less important that the person be Validating And Accepting than that you settle this problem that is tearing your life apart.

5. I know much of this is the result of careful cultivation, but tumblr is really where I get some of the best social justice writing. This piece on Pacific Rim and Captain America and this one on boundaries vs. orders showed up on my dash this week.

Apr 19 2014

Illusory Bodies, or What If We Totally Confused Your Sense of Owning Your Body?

The short version of our research is that some scientists got together and had this conversation:

“Hey, hey, you know that iconic study where researchers made people think a rubber hand belonged to them?!”
“Yeah! and how it’s been used in research about racism, pain, empathy, and like, basically everything?”
“WAIT. WAIT. What if we did that. But with someone’s WHOLE BODY?”
“Oh, that’s been done before too.”
“No, no, no, what if we did it with a different SIZED body?”

…and then some scientists turned that into a serious sounding grant application and now here we are, making people believe they inhabit slimmer and larger bodies.

But why? I mean, besides the sheer fun of it, of course. Because eating disorders. One of the common clinical assumptions about eating disorders, especially anorexia nervosa, has been that a component of not-eating comes from inaccurately perceiving body size. Specifically, people with anorexia think they’re larger than they are1. An interesting demonstration of this phenomenon involves making people with anorexia walk between progressive narrower spaces, and then making non-anorexic controls do the same. From the study [AN = anorexia nervosa participants, HC = healthy controls]:

AN patients started rotating for openings 40% wider than their own shoulders, while HC started rotating for apertures only 25% wider than their shoulders. The results imply abnormalities in AN even at the level of the unconscious, action oriented body schema. Body representation disturbances in AN are thus more pervasive than previously assumed: They do not only affect (conscious) cognition and perception, but (unconscious) actions as well.  (Here’s an interesting followup investigating this behavior in perspective-taking)

Anyways, the question was, it seems like perception of your body size being inaccurate would result in an eating disorder symptoms…except that thus far, we’d not determined a causal connection. BUT, what if we could make people perceive their body incorrectly?  If we could make them think their body was larger or smaller than they thought, would we see a measurable increase or decrease in eating disorder pathology? Okay, but how do we do this?

Creepy headless mannequins.

Obviously.

The illusion takes inspiration from the rubber hand studies. Picture this: you hide the participants arm from their field of view–put it in a box or somesuch. Then, in full view, you put a rubber hand. Tickle the hand with a feather, while simultaneously tickling the participant’s hand. Repeat, with a variety of sensations: tapping, tickling, rubbing. Then threaten the rubber hand: jab it with a pin2, make as though you’re about to stab it with a knife. The participant will react as if you’d just jabbed them with a pin, often experiencing pain in the location of the pin in the rubber hand, or sharply increasing heart rate and comical flinching when menaced with a knife.

Our proprioception–the sense of knowing where your body is in space–is frighteningly malleable. If it appears that that detatched hand on the table in front of you is yours, and if you feel sensation when you see the hand touched, well, then of course that thing in front of you is your hand.

Further, after a bunch of duplications and manipulations of the rubber [bodypart] illusion, we also know that post-experiment, people have weird beliefs about their actual body, thinking features are longer or larger. So, if we trick you into believing the rubber hand with the long fingers is yours, then stop the experiment, when you look down at your actual hands, you might perceive the fingers to be longer. Now, let’s do it with a whole body.

So of course, the first thing you have to do is pull the head off the mannequin and replace it with a camera, angled downwards so the mannequin is facing downwards, and looking at the shape of its body. That camera feed is then linked to a set of goggles, which the participant wears. One RA, who will probably avoid clearly describing her job on her resume, stands between the mannequin and the participant, and touches both simultaneously.

Participant feels: contact of RA touching him.
Participant sees: view from mannequin perspective, with a small or large body, but also sees a hand touching the mannequin.

Do this for enough trials, and the participant’s brain will synchronize the incoming information and, rather than keep trying to remember that the mannequin is a mannequin, decide that all the incoming sensory information lines up, and the view through the goggles is the view when looking down.

Then the RA threatens the participant with a knife3.

bodiesbodiesbodies

 

 

 

 

Well, not quite. The RA pretends to slash the mannequin with the knife, which is captured by the camera and relayed to the participant. Skin conductance, a known measure of fear, is taken, and we can get a fairly good guess about whether the participant thought we had made them sign a consent form and then stabbed them. (This is the scientific equivalent of “Made ya look, didn’t I? Didn’t I?)

This process is repeated with the slimmer mannequin and the larger mannequin for each participant. Between each illusion, they’re run through a battery of tests measuring body satisfaction and measures of eating disorder psychopathology. Two results stand out.

1. Firstly, in the larger body condition (LB), the participants didn’t seem to have much of an emotional reaction. Body satisfaction didd’t change significantly, nor did participants misperceive their actual body to be larger. The mannequin was 115% of the size of the participants (who all clustered around the same BMI). Increasing your size 15% is significant, but unlike in the smaller body (SB) condition, participants seemed non-reactive.

A few theories here. It might be that the participants just entered with inaccurate perceptions about their bodies, believing them to be larger than they are. So, when presented with a larger body, in front of them, they just didn’t notice much change. Also interestingly, it seems as though size-change illusions aren’t asymmetric. Participants in other research more readily believed that they possessed doll-sized legs than giant legs.

The third part of this isn’t directly related to the results, but the researchers noted that the LB condition still had a flat stomach and muscle definition, so it may be that the participants still viewed themselves as having a socially desirable body. I’d want a replication with a flabbier dummy.

2. ‘Owning’ a smaller body did have an impact on body satisfaction. Predictably, it increased. However, I want to point out that all of these participants had normal-BMIs, and the slim mannequins were approximate 85% the size of the participants. Or, to put it another way, the bodies were at the size considered the cutoff for anorexia.

Secondly, after the SB condition had ended, and participants were away from the mannequin, they believed their actual body to be smaller, and gave smaller estimated hip-size numbers than prior to the condition. This, as noted in 1, didn’t occur with the large body.

I admit, I completely expected the LB condition to have the larges effect, emotionally and in terms of ED psychopathology. Even funhouse mirrors can startle and upset me, and I assumed that believing you owned a larger body would cause the same. Importantly, these were non-clinical participants–without an eating disorder diagnosis. It may be possible that they simply had more immunity to such an experience, or that their interactions with proprioception are fundamentally different.

Either way, I think we can agree that creepy mannequin studies are creepy.


Full paper located here. [I didn't distinguish strongly between Experiment 1 & 2, as found in the paper, and didn't cover all of the scales and correlations]

1Caveat: historically, anorexia has included an upper bound of weight in the definition, meaning that not-eating-while-overweight wasn’t called anorexia. This radically impacts who is studied and while it leaves me frustrated at research, I can’t conjure up better methodology retroactively. So, this statement reads better as “people in a specific definition of anorexia who would probably be described as slim already think they’re larger than they are”

2This is a stickup!
…I’m so sorry. 

3“And what were your duties while working at the Body and Self Laboratory?” “Well, I beheaded mannequins and threatened people with knives.” “You’re hired!”

Apr 16 2014

Things Psychology Accidentally Taught Me

via Flickr user Deradian, some rights reserved

via Flickr user Deradian, some rights reserved

1. Never commit a crime unless you know you can get away with it. Otherwise you might end up in front of a jury, and juries are TERRIFYING. So are eyewitnesses.

2. If you want to read through research quickly, you can read the abstract and skip the methods and results reporting in favor of the discussion. This is particularly useful if you have four classes, each with daily readings, and want to get to the people who keep filling your inbox with interesting research. It’s unfortunate that it appears that even people who should read through all the mathematical analysis also fail to do this.

3. Brain pictures are very pretty. However, unless you have very specialized knowledge, this is about as much as you can offer when faced with a brain picture and little other information.

4. There are more than 100 neurotransmitters. However, there are less than ten that have familiar-to-the-public names. If you keep repeating this to yourself, headlines that read “TURNS OUT X WAS IMPLICATED IN BEHAVIOR Y” get exponentially less interesting.

5. If you’re unfamiliar with the prisoner’s dilemma, volunteer your services as a subject in social psychology studies. We’ll fix that for you.

6. Transcranial magnetic stimulation is awesome to watch until you realize that it’s a little tool that can disrupt your brain through the skull….and that your brain is fairly important for things like breathing and heart function, and TMS is “almost like a stroke” [If you're squicked by watching people lose brain function, I wouldn't click that link.]

7. Cohen’s d is a method for determining effect size. It’s also a great way for psych of gender researchers to make jokes while sounding serious.

8. Memory is fixed? Hahaha. hahah. Memory is only slightly less scary than twelve people determining your fate.

9. Trust nobody who tells you there’s a participant next door.

Apr 14 2014

Monday Miscellany: Caring, Comments, K.C.

1. Stephanie on why ‘zero-tolerance’ harassment policies sound pretty, but do damage.

Finally, zero-tolerance policies fail because they’re difficult for organizers to follow. This seems counterintuitive, but it’s true. When there’s a one-strike-and-you’re-out policy, it gets harder for organizers to determine they’re making the right choice. Patterns of behavior are easier to work with than a single incident. Except in blatant cases, a single incident may be ambiguous where a pattern of behavior won’t be. This can lead to very high standards of evidence being required for action because the only action allowed is drastic.

….

These policies also fail because they discourage reporting. People who experience undesirable behavior under zero-tolerance policies know that reporting may well lead to expulsion. That frequently isn’t what they’re looking for. They just want the behavior to stop. This means that much undesirable behavior goes unreported. Even people who have experienced significant harassment won’t always report if reporting means taking responsibility for someone being expelled and excluded.

2. On soldiers returning home after war, and hidden guilt.

The story of the Trojan horse, delivered as a gift but transporting lethal agents instead, has long served as an allegory for the destructive power of secrets – like the unaddressed guilt hidden in the minds of soldiers, repeated with every homecoming for thousands of years. War’s simple premise, killing, is like that Trojan horse, devastating those sent to do it and, ultimately, the society they return to when the war is done. The insidious damage is only made worse because wartime killing, a philosophically problematic act, has been left out of the global dialogue. After all, how can humanity’s greatest civil crime, killing, become heroic in the context of war? There are practical considerations as well: will too much discussion of killing make soldiers hesitate or even rebel against protecting us from threats?

3. Chana on the Caring Less Game.

4. Miri on depression and isolation.

I recently saw the movie Frozen (yes, just recently). A lot of things resonated with me in that movie, but in particular I liked the theme of connection. In the movie, Elsa tries to hide her magical talent (and, by extension, her entire self) from everyone around her, even the little sister she loves, in order to keep them safe from the magic and to keep it a secret. That to me sounded a lot like a metaphor for depression, whether or not it was intended to be one. I also go to certain lengths to keep people from seeing how miserable I sometimes am*, and I also do this in order to “protect” them from worrying about me, from the frustration of being unable to help, and from whatever mild or severe drop in mood they may experience upon exposure to me. Like Elsa, I ultimately fail at this.

Elsa discovers in the end (spoiler alert) that the only way to prevent her gift from consuming her and everyone around her is through connection with others, through being close to people she loves and experiencing the positive emotions that brings. Likewise for me, there is no relief from depression without connection. Locking myself away in a tower makes for a good fairytale, but not so much for a recovery.

5. Julia with a lovely reflection:

As a child, many of us heard the slogan, “My body belongs to me” as part of a campaign against sexual molestation. It’s a pretty fundamental concept: you decide what to do with your body, who touches it, all of that. Autonomy and self-determination don’t get more basic.

In the weeks around my daughter’s birth, I’ve been thinking about all the ways your body does not belong to you.

6. I know K.C. through sidebars in textbooks and asides in lectures. As the result of an accident, KC was unable to recall things he’d done–only facts. In the jargon, he had no episodic memory. Now, K.C. has died.

7. I’m posting this, not because of the original link (though the advice offered is great) but because of the comment I found, via awkwardeer Kathryn:

People do change, people can learn and improve. They do get second chances.

Those chances do not have to be with me.

I can forgive and never have to speak to them again. I don’t have to give them another opportunity with me, the world gives them the chance to be a decent person to many other people every day. They should take the world up on that offer, but for my part? I’m busy with my life. Forgiveness just resets the clock to “total stranger” not “trusted companion”.

Apr 13 2014

No, You Probably Don’t Want ‘Peer Reviewed Evidence for God’

I have a story to tell you about Daryl Bem.

Daryl Bem is known for a variety of things–in part for, along with Sandra Lipsitz Bem, raising his children in as gender-neutral a household as possible. He’s a professor at Cornell, and has authored papers on, among other things, group decision making and psi.

You know, psi. Also known as predicting the future. Precognition ESP. That sort of thing.

A long while ago, two scientists undertook a review of the literature surrounding precognition, and their names were Bem and Honorton. As this story was originally told to me, Honorton entered the review believing ESP existed, and brought Bem on board as a more impartial investigator. Somewhat less long ago, in the year of my birth, Honorton died. Again, as the story goes, Bem decided to continue the project in honor of his collaborator, eventually publishing a review that favored precognition.

Enter those skeptics (ruining everything, amirite?) who claimed to have found flaws in the review. Now, somewhat committed, Bem returned with not one, but nine experiments designed to illustrate, with minimal human interference, whether or not psi existed, once and for all. I’m told they were intentionally set up to enable ease of replication and clear observation. And, lo and behold, they came in favor of the existence of psi. This would be a less interesting story of scientific arguing if the paper hadn’t been published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a very well known, peer-reviewed journal–possibly the highest regarded in social psychology.

This left psychologists in a bit of a pickle.

Jounals shouldn’t publish stuff in favor of ESP!
But it was approved and peer-reviewed!
But it makes us look silly!
But we can’t turn things down just because we don’t like the idea! That’s not science!
But ESP isn’t science!
But peer review!

And it’s enough of a controversy that every social psychology class I’ve taken has included an aside about ‘that silly psi study’. There remain a number of psychologists who think that JPSP should have declined to publish. And again, I want to point out that the Bem study passed every requirement for publication…it’s just that the topic was psi.

There are three things you can take from this:

You can decide that psi exists. After all, there’s peer reviewed evidence for it.

You can decide that JPSP shouldn’t have published Bem’s research or other research that might make the field look like we believe in psychics.

Or you can decide that we could use more rigorous methods for everyone, and that peer-reviewed publications are a step on the way to endorsing a belief, but not the end. (Guess where I fall?)

And in the meantime, atheists, please let’s stop demanding “peer reviewed evidence for god” when talking with the religious. You just might get what you wished for, and then what?

Apr 12 2014

Measles and the Inoculation Effect

I gave a talk at Illinois-Wesleyan earlier today about marketing, persuasion, and pseudoscience.

As part of the notes, I mentioned that I had heard recently, but wasn’t sure of the veracity, that the measles outbreaks that were getting so much skeptic attention, were being wrongly blamed on anti-vaxxers. A few hours later, my RSS feed produced this gem, Measles Outbreak Traced to Fully Vaccinated Patient for First Time.

Well, that’s terrifying.

…a fully vaccinated 22-year-old theater employee in New York City who developed the measles in 2011 was released without hospitalization or quarantine. But like Typhoid Mary, this patient turned out to be unwittingly contagious. Ultimately, she transmitted the measles to four other people, according to a recent report in Clinical Infectious Diseases that tracked symptoms in the 88 people with whom “Measles Mary” interacted while she was sick. Surprisingly, two of the secondary patients had been fully vaccinated. And although the other two had no record of receiving the vaccine, they both showed signs of previous measles exposure that should have conferred immunity.

Now I want to talk about the inoculation effect.

The phenomenon, which is the closest psychology can get to convincing me to never argue for any cause I believe in ever, holds something like this: if you give someone a weak argument and they are able to refute it, they will be more resistant to stronger and similar arguments in the future.

On the one hand, this can be great. Don’t want kids to smoke? Start them with some arguments made for smoking (it’s coooool! everybody’s doing it!) and ask them why they’re bad arguments. Late, when some swaggering teenager* offers them a cigarette and leans in to say that all the cool kids are doing it, those kids won’t have to come up with an argument on the spot–they’ll be more likely to decline. This makes intuitive sense–if you’ve already thought about reasons that make All the Cool Kids Are Doing It an awful argument for smoking, you don’t have to create them on the spot. Practice makes perfect and all that.

Except that the other side of this problem is scary. What happens if you have a social movement you care about (not that any of my readers do, or anything…) and people are making terrible arguments for your side?** Then you come along with a better argument…and it fails, because your audience is used to knocking down the bad arguments and doesn’t care to listen to you.

Something like this:

A: I’m pretty skeptical about global warming. I’m not sure it’s real.

B: Yeah, but last summer was really hot! Remember how many record-breaking heat waves we had? When we were growing up, can you imagine having to stay in to avoid the heat so often? Or having so many deaths during a heat wave?

A: Okay, but this winter was one of the coldest on record. In fact, it was record-breaking! It’s mid-April and things are just starting to warm up. This global warming stuff is stupid.

Poor, unwitting C, who comes along later: But [scientific consensus, climate data, ice caps, desolate-looking polar bears]

A: GLOBAL WARMING IS A MYTH!

Or perhaps, let’s take an example that’s closer to home. Say you blame anti-vaccine advocates for causing a measles outbreak. Say you have headlines like Thanks, Anti-Vaxxers. You Just Brought Back Measles in NYC, or Measles is spreading, and the anti-vaccine movement is the cause. Or even Thanks Anti-Vax Loons: The Return Of The Measles And The Backlash Against Jenny McCarthy. And then, imagine what would happen if it turned out that you were completely wrong, and vaccines or lack thereof didn’t cause measles, and suddenly a bunch of people might be less likely than ever to get vaccinated.

That would be scary, no?

*I dunno, this is how peer pressure was always portrayed to me. 

**…or, my personal fear, that you ARE the one with the unpersuasive arguments?

Apr 07 2014

Monday Miscellany: NPR, Non-monogamy, Neurocomic

1. I grew up getting my news from NPR. So, uh, this was terrifying. (Bonus points if you read it in the anchor’s voices)

2. There’s been some excellent writing on aspects of polyamory recently. From Mitchell on jealousy, and Ferret, on compersion.

I look at compersion as a nice-to-have, a goal you should strive towards if you can do it. But “compersion” is often used as a club to smack people down for having feelings, and too many people have feelings of jealousy or fear or concern or even outrage to just dismiss them wholesale.

If all you ever feel when your lover’s off smooching someone else is happiness? That’s awesome! I envy you! I, however, often feel happiness mixed with fear that I’ll be replaced, and jealousy that New Guy can do things for her that I can’t (or else why would she be dating a carbon copy of me?), and it’s difficult enough to get past those feelings without the extra layer of “Oh, I must be bad at this if I have doubts.”

3. One of the refrains I heard a fair bit growing up was that science said that having premarital sex was bad because oxytocin! Shockingly, that’s a gross oversimplification. A better one, and an interesting article on the whole:

The hormone oxytocin is usually associated with positive traits like trust, cooperation, and empathy, but scientists have now found that it can make people more dishonest when their lies serve the interests of their group.

“This is the best evidence yet that oxytocin is not the ‘moral molecule,’” said Carsten de Dreu from the University of Amsterdam, who co-led the study, which was published today (March 31) in PNAS. “It doesn’t make people more moral or immoral. It shifts people’s focus from themselves to their group or tribe.”

4. I have lots of feelings about how children in the developing world are used as pawns and props: see also, adoption in non-Hague abiding countries. But it’s particularly apparent in the responses to World Vision, a support-a-child org which briefly announced it would employ married LGB staffers, then reversed its decision.

Within a day of the initial announcement, more than 2,000 children sponsored by World Vision lost their financial support. And with more and more individuals, churches and organizations threatening to do the same, the charity stood to lose millions of dollars in aid that would otherwise reach the poor, sick, hungry and displaced people World Vision serves.

So World Vision reversed course.

Stearns told The New York Times that some people, satisfied with the reversal, have called World Vision headquarters to ask, “Can I have my child back?” as though needy children are expendable bargaining chips in the culture war against gay and lesbian people.

5. Neurocomic: a bound, illustrated story of how the brain works.

Apr 02 2014

Speaking at Illinois-Wesleyan, 4/12 [UPDATED]

I spent much of my spring break in Boston and ran into a few people who live in the area, but hadn’t met in person. And I heard, more than once, “You’re Kate! From the internet!” Which….is true.

However! I am planning to exist in my corporeal form in two weeks, when I’ll be speaking at Illinois-Wesleyan University for their Secular Student Alliance group.

Details and description below:

Topic: Women & Pseudoscience

Time & Date: 3pm, Saturday, April 12th

Location: State Farm Hall  - 1402 Park St

Summary:
Much of alternative medicine and pseudoscience is marketed at a demographic: women, and especially mothers. What does this look like? How should we speak about skepticism and change skeptical activism in order to address this? I’ll be pulling from recent research (see here and here for interesting background) and personal experience.

 

Mar 31 2014

Spring Quarter: The Reading List

Books read in the last quarter and associated break time. By my count, about 23 books over ten weeks (not all of them pictured).

Books read in the last quarter and associated break time. By my count, about 23 books over ten weeks (not all of them pictured).

It’s the first day of my last quarter of undergrad; the hallowed Last First Day.

Winter quarter’s reading list, which was overwhelming and left incomplete (fourteen books for two classes over ten weeks, I ask you.) can be found here. This quarter’s list is far more manageable, and I imagine most of it will be read on buses and planes and trains to conferences and talks.

School Reading:

An Unconventional Family, Sandra Lipsitz Bem
I’ve read this before; sophomore year a housemate was in the psychology of gender class I’m now taking. It’s…weird. Premise: two professors who care about gender equality decide to raise their children (one boy, one girl) in entirely gender neutral ways. The writing is superb, the interviews with the children are enthralling. However, every single time I think about it or am in a class that discusses the Bem family, I am wildly uncomfortable with the metaphorical tapping on the glass that my peers do. How cool! Kids whose parents experimented on them by raising them in an entirely different way than their peers! That’s a touch too close to my lived experience to feel comfortably distant.

The Social Psychology of Gender: How Power and Intimacy Shape Gender RelationsLaurie A. Rudman, Peter Glick
A professor last year once asked the class, how many of us thought gender was primarily the result of underlying biological/genetic components, and how many thought it was the result of socialization. Then, without reacting, the professor asked the class which of them had taken more classes with Professor X (known for discussing socialization in relation to gender) and which had taken more classes with Professor Y (known for discussing the evo/bio basis of gender). Not surprisingly, the answers to the first and second question broke down along the same lines. I’ve not taken any classes with Professor Y, and this

Asian American Women and Men: Labor, Laws, and Love
This class has been interesting so far, but as the textbook hasn’t made it to my doorstep, all I can tell you is that I don’t know much about Asian American-specific gender studies, and that this might fix that.

Memory Alan Baddeley, Michael W. Eysenck, Michael C. Anderson
A textbook! About human memory! For a seminar on the neuroscience of memory! Yeah….that’s about all I know so far.

Just Because Reading:

Labyrinths of Reason: Paradox, Puzzles, and the Frailty of Knowledge, William Poundstone
I found out a few weeks back that after my freshman year, Northwestern offered a freshman-only class on paradoxes, with this as one of the textbooks. It was 1c on Amazon…and now here we are.

I Don’t Want To Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression, Terrence Real
I’m a few pages in, and find the book interesting, if light on data. Depression is my go-to example of psychopathology getting their maps and territories in disarray, and I’m hoping this might give me a better picture of why exactly we’re having such issues. Failing that, I want a better model of what it feels like/looks like to be a man with depression. The book is (so far) heavy on anecdotes and light on data. Enjoyable to read, but not telling me new information yet.

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness, Kay Redfield Jamison
I’ve read this one before, but have forgotten much of it, except that I keep telling other people that I liked it. I saw Kay Redfield Jamison speak at NU earlier this year, and picked up a copy not long after.

Core Readings in Cognitive Psychology

Things On the Previous List, Still Unread

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, Ray Baumeister
I have an odd affection for Baumeister, having once given a very long presentation about why I thought he was wrong. I’ve never read any of his non-academic publications, and since everyone seems to have very certain and completely opposite ideas about how willpower works, I’m starting with the book I hear people citing most in casual conversation.

Thinking, Fast & SlowDaniel Kahneman
Kahneman’s work on decision-making is worth reading. MegasuperADJECTIVE worth reading. None the least because it’s a nifty shorthand for categorizing feelings in conversation. (“My System 2 knows that this is stupid and completely untrue, but my System 1 is having a lot of trouble with not feeling like I deserve to eat.”)

Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
You know when you get completely caught up in a task and time flies by? You’re working and passionate and impossible to distract? That’s called ‘flow’, coined by Csikszentmihalyi and I haven’t been feeling it. Or the creativity. Which brings us here.

Listening to ProzacPeter Kramer
A well-known-ish popular psychology book that I keep hearing people reference. I’m overly skeptical–the blurb wonders if Prozac work on character rather than illness–but that might be gimmicky publishing. All things considered, I need to have a better idea of the popular-writing-on-psychiatry.

Against DepressionPeter Kramer
Pennies and pounds and all that–I picked up Kramer’s other book. It seems less sweeping: who has depression, and what’s that like?

The Screwtape LettersC.S. Lewis
Mike, who gifted me with Good Omens (from last quarter’s list), included The Screwtape Letters, as the demons of the two seem to be similar. I dunno if I agree yet, but I will sharpish.

This list of reading will displace my current Reading List page at the top of Gruntled & Hinged, and will remain up there until mid-June.

 

 

Mar 31 2014

Monday Miscellany: Vohs, Value, Online Vigilantism

Personal note: I’m concluding my undergraduate studies in June. Effective August, I’ll be starting a Masters in Social Work here. The only reason this isn’t in all caps is because I’m pretty sure I wore out all my all-capsing shouting with joy over the weekend, when I found out. So! Boston for me :) Now! Links!

1. I’m going to be reading all of this long article on ego depletion/decision fatigue. I don’t have much of an understanding, except that one days when I have to make lots of food/menu/when to eat choices, I end up entirely unable to locate willpower or motivation for nearly anything else.

2. I don’t have Aspergers, as this author does, but much of this article on value and feeling of value to friends resonated with me.

I have trouble with relationships in which I don’t feel like I’m of use—in which I don’t have something concrete to offer. I am much better at the explicit economy of professional relationships than the more nebulous territory of friendships. When it’s not explicit, I find it immensely difficult for me to eke out what’s expected of me.

[...]

Like Abed, I have trouble imagining a place for myself in any world not of my own making. I see other people’s tolerance of and interest in me as a finite resource, one I can renew to a limited extent by being of use, but which will eventually and inevitably run out. I have a long and serial history as a flavor of the month. I assume—based on precedent, although the individual countdowns can vary significantly—that most of my friendships are running on borrowed time.

I’ve only recently begun to feel as though I have relationships in my life that aren’t in this model; where it is reasonable and acceptable and right to assume that they will last.

3. There is some awful and unnuanced social justice writing on tumblr. This, however, is not it.

4. Miri takes on the ‘online vigilantes’ who are out to make strangers feel horrible For Their Own Good ™

The reason all this stuff has caught my attention isn’t just the sexism and body-shaming it often entails, but the circular reasoning of it–something I’ve noted about these types before. We’ll punish you for putting photos of yourself online because it’s a stupid thing to do. Putting photos of yourself online is a stupid thing to do because we’ll punish you for it. You shouldn’t wear ill-fitting clothing that exposes parts of your body that shouldn’t be exposed because then people have to look at it. People have to look at you wearing ill-fitting clothing that exposes parts of your body that shouldn’t be exposed because we just took a photo of you and put it on the internet. Women who put sexy photos online have no self-respect because putting sexy photos of yourself online is a bad thing to do because it shows you have no self-respect because putting sexy photos online is a bad thing to do because–at this point my ability to write words breaks down and I have nothing to say but WHAAAaaaaAAAAT A;LSDKFASLKDF;ASDFAJ;D?!

5. Two links over at Scott’s: an expansion/response to a conversation had on my wall about bad arguments and advice and the typical mind fallacy.

6. I laughed for a long while at this. Say what you will about Twitter, but it gives a great outlet for sharing humor.

Happy Monday!

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