Monday Miscellany: SkepTech, SATs, State-of-the-Art Prosthetics

I re-emerge! I have survived finals and am (impatiently, nervously) waiting on answers from grad school. This week involves vacationing in Boston and the reanimation of my blogging.

1. Every year, my college runs an Eating Disorder Awareness Week. And every year, I avoid the student union like a plague during the Eating Disorder Awareness week. I find the idea of everyone focusing on talking about loving their bodies overwhelming and triggering as hell, and know most of my friends with eating disorders do the same–avoiding an event that’s supposed to be about supporting their conditions. So, are there other benefits to be gained from the Week? Are we, perhaps decreasing stigma? Or preventing people who might be at risk for EDs from developing them? Yeah, no, probably not.

2. On April 4th through the 6th, I’ll be in Minneapolis, attending/speaking/running SkepTech. I attend a number of skeptoatheist conferences year to year, and SkepTech is one where I expect to attend and learn entirely new things from the speakers. Talks I’m anticipating: The Game Theory of Firefly, medical technology and making evidence-based funding decisions, and hearing all the interesting discussion on creating effective sex ed on the panel I’ll be moderating.

3. Forget the emotional burden of deciding to seek therapy–narrowing down who is a good therapist for you is hard. Here’s some advice.

4. And speaking of therapy and mental illness, yet ANOTHER excellent response to the question Are we pathologizing normalcy? Next, I’d like to stop having to constantly answer it. 
As a sidenote, if anyone has high quality books that critique psychiatry or clinical psychology, please refer me. I’ve read American Psychosis (good, but focused on institutional care and deinstitutionalization), am reading Listening to Prozac (mostly because anti-psychiatry people always open by asking if I’ve read it) and was utterly unimpressed by Book of Woe.

As a psychiatrist, I see this as the biggest challenge facing psychiatry today. A large part of the population – perhaps even the majority – might benefit from some form of mental health care, but too many fear that modern psychiatry is on a mission to pathologise normal individuals with some dystopian plan fuelled by the greed of the pharmaceutical industry, all in order to put the populace on mind-numbing medications. Debates about psychiatric overdiagnosis have amplified in the wake of last year’s release of the newest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the so-called ‘bible of psychiatry’, with some particularly vocal critics coming from within the profession.

It’s true that the scope of psychiatry has greatly expanded over the past century. A hundred years ago, the profession had a near-exclusive focus on the custodial care of severely ill asylum patients. Now, psychiatric practice includes the office-based management of the ‘worried well’. The advent of psychotherapy, starting with the arrival of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis at the turn of the 20th century, drove the shift. The ability to treat less severe forms of psychopathology – such as anxiety and so-called adjustment disorders related to life stressors – with the talking cure has had profound effects on mental health care in the United States.

5. Part of my job currently involves assessing surveys about religion and nonbelief; it’s lovely to see Pacific Standard talk about how careless survey questions and reporting can lead to unhelpful information.

6. This is an excellent summary of why engineering psychology is important. Pretty prostheses are not the most functional prostheses.

It’s easy to watch video clips of dexterous and dynamic prostheses and think, who wouldn’t want that? But there are plenty of circumstances in which prescribing such a device would be a misunderstanding of what a patient really needs. In one study that explored the needs of amputee farmers, the researchers interviewed a man who was given a myoelectric arm—something that is not only expensive, but also completely unsuited for farm work. Myoelectric devices cannot get wet or dirty, two things that are nearly guaranteed during a day of farming. The farmer in question simply kept the arm in his closet—a $100,000 device sitting there gathering dust.


Monday Miscellany: Puns, Purple Line, Pets

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 8.03.37 AM1.  Watch out friends, “that’s ambiguous news!” might be my new favorite exclamation. Leah on the Congressional Budget Office.

2. I’ve a hunch that this exchange (excerpted at right) from A Moment of Innocence will make some large portion of my readers go all starry-eyed.

3. The What Happens After Game, a coping strategy via Mitchell.

4. A list of weird psych experiments. I’m pretty unnerved by what the footsie experiment implies…and unnerved that I can say “unnerving footsie experiment” and mean it.

5. Today in catering to my exact interests, someone’s made a map of coffee shops by their proximity to Chicago’s public transportation. I can personally vouch for everything off the Purple Line.

6. A thoughtful discussion of owning and pets and pet diets for vegans and vegetarians.

7. Open adoption is the most common standard in adoption services now. (The author claims 95%, when I worked in adoption services I was told around 85%). This piece from The Atlantic is a warm story of what that can look like.

8. A self-experiment in noticing confusion. Linking to this not because it was new to me, but because it’s the sort of psych-ish-somewhat-related-articles I enjoy finding on Less Wrong.

9. This is a well written article on eating disorders and relationships. I wish I didn’t have an instinctive recognition for this excerpt:

The authors also highlight literature arguing that women with eating disorders may also avoid sexual encounters due to psycho-social factors including self-consciousness and/or anxiety, body shame, and low sexual satisfaction. Perceptions of sexual intimacy may be lower for women with anorexia and bulimia, and while this may improve with recovery, sexual difficulties may persist.

10. Punning fuckery, biology edition.

Monday Miscellany: Weasleys, Trolls, Regret

1. Rude doctors aren’t just annoying, they’re dangerous to patient health.

A substantial body of data attributes medical errors to interactions among hospital workers. Calls for improved patient safety gained traction from the late 1980s through the early ’90s, when Australian researchers reported a shocking find: the vast majority of medical errors, some 70‑80 per cent, are related to interactions within the health care team. In the early 2000s, a report by the Joint Commission that accredits health care organisations in the US studied adverse events over a 10‑year period and discovered that communication failure was the number-one cause for medication errors, delays in treatment, and surgeries at the wrong site. It was also the second leading cause of operative mishaps, postoperative events, and fatal falls.

The link between harsh words and medical errors was reignited in 2012 when Lucian Leape, professor of health policy at the Harvard School of Pub­lic Health, published a two-part series in Academic Medicine. ‘A substantial barrier to progress in patient safety is a dysfunctional culture rooted in widespread disrespect,’ Leape and his co-authors asserted. ‘Disrespect is a threat to patient safety because it inhibits collegiality and co-operation essential to teamwork, cuts off communication, undermines morale, and inhibits compliance with and implementation of new practices.’

2. On the myth of ‘girls don’t count’

They were real. They were real and they counted. They’re not shadows among the men I saw. But I wanted them to be. I wanted to avoid the consequences, to avoid thinking, to avoid wondering what it meant. These men, they told me what it meant: it meant nothing.

3. This appears to be an evidence-based eating disorder app. [!!!!!!] (I’ve downloaded but not had a chance to play too much.) There’s also a version for clinicians!

E.E. Buckels et al, "Trolls just want to have fun," Personality and Individual Differences, 2014.

E.E. Buckels et al, “Trolls just want to have fun,” Personality and Individual Differences, 2014.

4. Research into internet trolling: exactly as terrifying as reading the comments sections on your average news site would have you believe. Identified trolls scored high on psychopathy, sadism, narcissism (caveat: I’ve not been terribly impressed with previous measures of narcissism), Machiavellianism. You know, exactly the sorts of people you want clogging up the conversations.

I’m going to take a moment here to be thankful for first time comment moderation and you, thoughtful readers.

5. While I adored the Harry Potter books, I fell into a common pattern–I admired and identified with Hermione and saw Harry as the protagonist. Ron? The sidekick. This defense persuaded me that I’ve done a grievous wrong.

So what about Ron? He actually tends to a very clear gap in the ranks—providing a sense of family unity and street smarts. While Ron himself may often feel crushed by the burden of familial expectations, he extends the closeness of the Weasley clan to his friends both figuratively and literally. Harry and Hermione do both eventually become members of his family through marriage, but more importantly, Ron always treats them as blood. It’s there in every holiday Harry spends with the Weasley family, with that first sweater Harry receives on Christmas, and the unconditional love Harry and Hermione are both offered only because Ron’s family know how much these children mean to their son. I mean, he steals the family hover-car with the help of the twins because he’s worried that Harry is being held hostage by his abusive relatives. That knight parallel from their mega chess battle is looking more and more apt.

6. More of this, please.

Abortion opponents have been pushing the idea that abortion hurts women, that they feel regret. With 1.3 million women having an abortion every year, it’s likely that a certain number do feel regret. That’s the natural curve of any kind of big decision. What we want to know is: Who are those women and what do they need?

7. Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is a disorder of collagen, making connective tissue or skin weak. These functional-but-decorative finger splints are gorgeous and creative. Too often, assistive devices are designed to hide, instead of taking advantage of their position as eye-catching accessories.

Monday Miscellany: Bobulating, Addiction, Empathy

1. I may be occasionally gruntled or hinged, but I’ve got nothing on Robby’s wordplay.

I love discombobulating words; and recombobulating them; really, bobulating them in all sorts of ways. Though especially in ways that make new poetries possible, or lead to new insights about the world and its value.

I’m very fond of the approach of restricting myself to common words (Up-Goer Five), and of other systematic approaches. But I think my favorite of all is the artificial language Anglish: English using only native roots.

2. Phillip Seymour Hoffman died, sparking a discussion about addiction and recovery. Aaron Sorkin writes a tribute, and Mind Hacks has a wonderful wrap up:

Addiction has a massive effect on people’s choices but not so much by altering the control of actions but by changing the value and consequences of those actions.

If that’s not clear, try thinking of it like this. You probably have full mechanical control over your speech: you can talk when you want and you can stay silent when you want. Most people would say you have free will to speak or to not speak.

But try not speaking for a month and see what the consequences are. Strained relationship? Lost job maybe? Friends who ditch you? You are free to choose your actions but you are not free to choose your outcomes.

For heroin addicts, the situation is similar. As well as the pleasurable effects of taking it, not taking heroin has strong, negative and painful effects.

This is usually thought of as the effects of physical withdrawal but these are not the whole story. These are certainly important, but withdrawing from junk is like suffering a bad case of flu. Hardly something that would prevent most people from saving their lives from falling apart.

 3. Writing about research is important–and it matters who you use as the baseline.

4. Filed under: Hunh: The Difference Between “Significant” and “Not Significant” is not Itself Statistically Significant

5. I tried to make the appropriate skeptical response face to this, but my facial muscles weren’t up to it: is long term psychoanalysis better than other psychotherapies?

6. This post on empathy and being a standardized patient…yes. If you read nothing else, read this.

Empathy isn’t just something that happens to us—a meteor shower of synapses firing across the brain—it’s also a choice we make: to pay attention, to extend ourselves. It’s made of exertion, that dowdier cousin of impulse. Sometimes we care for another because we know we should, or because it’s asked for, but this doesn’t make our caring hollow. The act of choosing simply means we’ve committed ourselves to a set of behaviors greater than the sum of our individual inclinations: I will listen to his sadness, even when I’m deep in my own. To say “going through the motions”—this isn’t reduction so much as acknowledgment of the effort—the labor, the motions, the dance—of getting inside another person’s state of heart or mind.

This confession of effort chafes against the notion that empathy should always arise unbidden, that genuine means the same thing as unwilled, that intentionality is the enemy of love. But I believe in intention and I believe in work. I believe in waking up in the middle of the night and packing our bags and leaving our worst selves for our better ones.

7. …and now that you’ve read one thing this week, you should read another: Scott’s response on seeming and being empathetic.

One of my mentors taught me the important technique of having a tissue box near me at all times. If someone gets into an emotional situation, I unobtrusively place the tissue box closer to them, which signals that I suspect they’re upset and I’m okay with it, without bludgeoning them over the head with the fact. Sometimes questions work: “Are you okay?”, “Is there anything I can do to help?”, “Do you want to talk about this more, or do you want to move on?”

And part of what I had to do was unlearn my habits from communication classes and empathy exams. In the exams your goal is always very virtue-ethics-y: to demonstrate that you are The Kind Of Doctor Who Feels Empathy. In real life, your goal is consequentialist: there’s a person in pain in front of you, and you need to figure out how to help them. In what I think is C. S. Lewis’ phrase, you need to get out of your own head and do what’s best for the patient. Which sometimes involves reference to the content of my own head – all psychiatrists know that the therapeutic relationship is one of the most powerful weapons in medicine – but only if the patient cares what’s in there.

8. This is the Mental Elf blog. Say what you will about needing food and shelter, but I think I could subsist on puns and mental health research.

Monday Miscellany: Allomancy, Bargh, Cherrypicking, Divorce

1. This week in results I can barely believe, gentrification appears to decrease the chances that longtime residents will leave. I’m slightly less skeptical given that the researcher himself didn’t anticipate getting these results–he expected the opposite. (h/t Scott)

Lance Freeman, the director of the Urban Planning program at Columbia University, says that’s what he believed was happening, too. He launched a study, first in Harlem and then nationally, calculating how many people were pushed out of their homes when wealthy people moved in.

“My intuition would be that people were being displaced,” Freeman explains, “so they’re going to be moving more quickly. I was really aiming to quantify how much displacement was occurring.”

Except that’s not what he found.

“To my surprise,” Freeman says, “it seemed to suggest that people in neighborhoods classified as gentrifying were moving less frequently.”

Freeman’s work found that low-income residents were no more likely to move out of their homes when a neighborhood gentrifies than when it doesn’t.

2. I used to think Allomancy was my favorite system of magic. I was so, so wrong. (Also, credit to Scott)

3. Mental health issues in hospitals and emergency rooms are a growing problem.

Nationally, more than 6.4 million visits to emergency rooms in 2010, or about 5 percent of total visits, involved patients whose primary diagnosis was a mental health condition or substance abuse. That is up 28 percent from just four years earlier, according to the latest figures available from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in Rockville, Md.

By one federal estimate, spending by general hospitals to care for these patients is expected to nearly double to $38.5 billion in 2014, from $20.3 billion in 2003.

The problem has been building for decades as mental health systems have been largely decentralized, pushing oversight and responsibility for psychiatric care into overwhelmed communities and, often, to hospitals, like WakeMed.

In North Carolina, the problem is becoming particularly acute. A recent study said that the number of mental patients entering emergency rooms in the state was double the nation’s average in 2010.

More than 10 years after overhauling its own state mental health system, North Carolina is grappling with the consequences of a lost number of beds and a reduction in funding amid a growing outcry that the state’s mentally ill need more help.

4. So, uh, how does being a hitman work? Oh good, someone did quantitative research on that.

The results of their detailed search of British cases that matched this description in the period between 1974 and 2013 only turned up 27 contracted hits or attempted hits “committed by a total of 36 hitmen” (there was only a single “hitwoman”), but the researchers used the sample to tease out the details and profiles of typical killers-for-hire.

The main thrust of the paper, which will be published in the Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, is that hitmen do not operate with the drama, professionalism, or glamour that mob films and spy novels afford them. In actuality, the majority of killers select jejune settings for their crimes, have occasionally bumbling performances, and are often hired by contractors with lame motivations.

5. I once had a professor who offhandedly said “hah, he probably just cherrypicked whichever results looked pretty” when a student expressed shock at the results of some priming research from John Bargh.

(The example of priming I hear most often cited in popular conversation is that giving a stranger a cup of hot coffee, rather than iced, will make them think more positively of you.)

Not five minutes later, the professor praised Bargh for being the leading researcher in this growing new field. The ridiculousness of being known for squashing data into conclusions and being one of the most well known social psychologists didn’t seem to register.

That story makes this article investigating Bargh’s work even more compelling. (And because aaaah, what, Donellan has a blog?! </psychnerdery> I’m going to particularly note this in-blog link on Bargh as well.)

ETA: as I was scheduling this post, there was an update. It’s like a soap opera!*

6. Hunh. Discussing relationship movies decreased divorce rates. In retrospect, I suppose this makes sense. Instead of some awkward feeling counseling session, the movie couple can serve as a proxy. As long as everyone pretends they’re talking about Jack and Rose you can debate issues like differing family backgrounds or drawing one another naked. (link via Julia)

*Really, who can resist making bad shower puns? Not I. 

Monday Miscellany: Beersheba, Bailouts, TUESDAY

I was at a conference all weekend, and most of last week, so apologies for posting consistently, then disappearing. I’m going to crawl out from under this homework pile, and blogalogging shall resume!

1. I’m in a class about the Hebrew Bible this quarter, and we just covered the first two-thirds of Genesis. Which makes The Ride Back To Beersheba a timely link. (h/t Taylor)

2. “Hiroo Onoda, the Japanese soldier who refused to accept defeat in World War II until finally surrendering in 1974, died today. In thematically related news, Obamacare opponents have organized their latest campaign to repeal the “Obamacare bailout.”” That is a real opening to this article, and I think I love it.

3. Today in expensive things I want but shouldn’t buy, Durr watches. They vibrate every five minutes–no clock face, no readout–and make you attend to how much time is passing. Temporal orientation!

4. Wendy Davis Drops an Atomic Truth Bomb on Desperate Sexist Republicans. This headline is a real thing. On the other hand, this is a tumblr for kick-ass ledes.

5. On the other hand, Politico has a thoughtful article on Davis. Unlike many pieces of such style, it doesn’t pretend to know if it can answer whether she would make a good governor. Even more appealing to me–it doesn’t gloss over details in pursuit of a pretty picture. Yes, it’s possible that Davis’s ambition and work ethic might have resulted in the eventual divorce of the Davis family. Is it that surprising that a power shift within a relationship could be destabilizing? Journalists, take heed.


While she has been portrayed as the materialistic beneficiary of a duped husband, let me offer another plausible interpretation: At some point Jeff Davis astutely realized he had married a woman who aimed to do more than answer phones and serve salads. He saw that it would be not just in her interest, but his, if he facilitated her advance. He helped her go to law school not only out of the goodness of his heart but because he was betting on her economic prospects, as women have long bet on the prospects of men. How many hundreds of thousands of American women worked to put a husband through law or med school? Did we criticize the men who benefited? Jeff Davis did for his spouse what wives have long done for husbands: He invested in her—their—future.

6. I did not expect to find that a post titled “Why Scientific Papers Are Like Pop Music” would be an entirely apt metaphor, but here we are.

7. More snarky research papers.

8. Researchers have invented a bra that unhooks for ‘true love’. Yes, that is an actual claim they are making. I…..

…yeah, on that note, I think we’ll end. Happy Tuesday! If you live in the arctic tundra that is the Midwest, I hope you’re staying warm. Elsewhere, I am envying you. And I like winter.

Monday Miscellany: Misophonia, Maps, Marshmallows

1. The Edge Question is up: What scientific idea is ready for retirement? I haven’t made it through all of them (and every time I try, I lose hours to exploring past questions too). This response, Science as Self-Correcting, is one of the best thus far. It is a feel-good trope, it is a great way to make a fast and sloppy argument for science over religion, but it is simply not accurate. We’re not great at correcting ourselves in the best of circumstances, why would this mysteriously be true in science? (h/t Ed Yong)

But hiring, promotion, and grant committees typically don’t value the contributions made by individual researchers using these tools. As long as this continues, progress may be slow. As Max Planck observed, revolutions in science sometimes have to wait for funerals. Even after the defenders of old practices assume their final resting places, the antiquated traditions sometimes endure, in part from the support of institutional policies. A policy does not die until someone kills it. New reforms and innovations need our active support—only then can science live up to its self-correcting tagline.

2. I would really really like to see a psychotherapeutic treatment for anorexia succeed. Unfortunately, what I see is poor data collection,, treatments with little impact, and statistical handwavery. This is an excellent exploration of one such study, but contains photos of anorexia and discussion of weight.

3. And speaking of disordered eating, Andrea looks at eating disorder prevention, and what actually works. Using evidence!

4. Also at SED, misophonia in patients with eating disorders. File this under “…hunh”


A lot of people have a red handle installed deep in their person, where if somebody yanks on it, it hurts. For some people, it’s some terrible mistake they regret, and for some people, it’s something they’re always trying to get better at that hasn’t worked, or a relationship they can’t repair, or a weakness that makes them self-conscious, or a memory that’s sort of awful. I’m not any better or worse off than anybody else in having something like this in my nature/history; the only difference between mine and anybody else’s is that mine ison the outside.

I mean, let’s say your red handle is that you have a busted relationship with your parents. You’re a happy person, but there’s this one thing that’s really hard, that you haven’t really figured out, that’s just … a thing you haven’t overcome. Imagine if you had to walk around with a big sign around your neck that said, “Once called my mother a terrible name and we haven’t spoken in 10 years.” So that everybody knew – strangers, friends, nice people, mean people, salespeople, people on the train, people who drove by you in their cars while you were walking. Eeeeeeverybody. This is what it’s like to have your red handle on the outside. It can feel a bit like you are at the mercy of literally everyone.

In other words, stop with the fat jokes at Chris Christie. Actually, drop the proper noun there. People are fat, and sometimes this is their red handle, and perhaps you should stop pulling it.

6. Things West Wing taught me. Well, that and forever associating Andrew Jackson’s presidency with cheese.

7. SW friends in particular, you should be reading the whole sky, but this piece on book recommendations in jail ought to convince you. I’ve linked previously to Doing time.

8.  I might endorse switching to describing biases and heuristics as doing mental triage–there are all sorts of flaws with biases–people view them as universally negative, then don’t want to consider that they might have been caught in one, people use them to snipe at arguments rather than address substance, etc–and heuristic isn’t a sticky word that people are liable to recall and use. (h/t Peter Hurford)

Again, we all do this, but we are often reluctant to admit it because we want to present to the world a façade of rationality: I hold my views firmly because I have carefully examined the alternatives and have justifiably rejected them. And sometimes we have indeed carefully examined the alternatives; but usually we haven’t. We’ve undertaken intellectual triage and set a great many possibilities aside with limited or no scrutiny. This is what Dawkins has done with Christianity; he just thinks he hasn’t.

In general, practicing such triage is okay — indeed, it has to be okay because there’s no plausible alternative until we live much longer, eliminate sleep, and acquire faster internal processors — but it’s the sort of thing that can easily go wrong, primarily because, as a self-justifying defense mechanism, we try to fortify our position by attacking or dismissing all the people who believe the things that we’ve decided not to investigate.

9. I’m probably not going to get tired of analyses of the marshmallow test, but this one is from the NYT, and it’s excellent.


Monday Miscellany: Ghost-Story Provocative Musicals Edition

1. I love everything about snarky psychology writing. Which makes these hidden gems in psychology publications wonderful.

B.J.H. would also like to thank the U.S. Immigration Service under the Bush administration, whose visa background security check forced her to spend two months (following an international conference) in a third country, free of routine obligations—it was during this time that the hypothesis presented herein was initially conjectured.

2. I think I contribute more to practical psychology than theoretical, lab-research stuff, but this makes me pretty happy I didn’t test that hypothesis.

3. Over at Science of Eating Disorders, Tetyana keeps investigating Mandometer(r) treatment for eating disorders. In particular, their claims about EDs not being mental illnesses.

Reason #1: The failure of psychotherapy argues against an underlying mental health disorder. The poor long-term remission rate for patients with eating disorders using interventions aimed at treating their psychiatric symptoms (reviewed in the Introduction) suggests that these symptoms are not the cause of their eating disorder.

Oh, now I understand! If it’s not cured by psychotherapy, it’s not a disorder! Hey, where are you going with those goal posts?

4. I know I wrote a whole piece about an overgeneralization spotted on PsychToday, but these Ten Research-Based Wedding Vows are brain-meltingly adorable.

5. I have a dopey devotion to Netflix. It has brightened many a badbrain day and been a source for all those Big Lebowski references that had been stumping me. This longread on reverse engineering Netflix is joyous.

6. Electroconvulsive therapy gets a terrible rap–in my experience few undergrad psych students seem to even know it’s a viable therapy for some with depression and bipolar disorder. This theory is appealing (lookie there, full text!), but if wanting neatly packaged theories to be true made them so, damn, would research be easy.
[Laymen’s version of conclusions promoted by paper: getting electroconvulsive therapy changes how much grey matter you have. How this changes is what can be used to predict how patients respond to ECT. Also, since the grey matter changes are localized, it might be possible to use a more targeted type of intervention in the future.]

7. Family goes in for 23anMe genetic testing, finding out that daughter isn’t related to her father. Normally, this would lead to family tensions and uncomfortable conclusions. Not…quite? (h/t Ed Yong)

8. Dr. Isis on how we structure graduate programs. Predictably, I read this between working on grad school applications.

Graduate education in the United States is structured such that advancement is predicated on success in a couple of high-stakes events. As a student, I took a qualifying exam in my second year and it tested my basic knowledge of my field. I took another exam in my third year which tested my understanding of the scientific method and process. At the end, I defended my thesis. At the time, each of these events felt like they could make or break me; if I failed, my career was over and there was no redemption for me. In retrospect, having now been on the other side of this process, I realize that there was enough investment in me that I was not going to be allowed to fail miserably. I was too clouded by the idea of failing a test to be able to see that.

Structuring graduate education as a series of high-stakes events is problematic. There are few events in my career that feel high-stakes anymore. I submit an article to a journal, it gets reviewed and rejected. I take the reviews, revise the paper, and try again. I write a grant. It doesn’t get funded. I revise it and submit it again. Or I submit another one. I teach and get some negative feedback. I incorporate that feedback into my lectures next term. Short of complete and total incompetence, no single event really has the potential to end my career. With each thing I do, I learn and I keep plugging forward toward my goals. I surround myself with mentors and more senior scientists who objectively and routinely evaluate my career and provide me feedback.


Monday Miscellany: Cold, Cold, COLD

Due to horrifying cold and some reasonable concerns by drivers about the safety of piloting a double-decker bus on incredibly icy roads, I’m spending a few more days in Columbus, Ohio, complete with cuddling and this hot chocolate. Stay warm and safe, lovely readers! Here’s some links to read by the fire.

1. To be honest, I expected this study, When Sex Doesn’t Sell: Using Sexualized Images of Women Reduces Support for Ethical Campaigns, to be poorly conducted. I was pleasantly surprised to see attention to confounding variables and replications!

In Study 1, a sample of Australian male undergraduates (N = 82) viewed PETA advertisements containing either sexualized or non-sexualized images of women. Intentions to support the ethical organization were reduced for those exposed to the sexualized advertising, and this was explained by their dehumanization of the sexualized women, and not by increased arousal. Study 2 used a mixed-gender community sample from the United States (N = 280), replicating this finding and extending it by showing that behaviors helpful to the ethical cause diminished after viewing the sexualized advertisements, which was again mediated by the dehumanization of the women depicted. Alternative explanations relating to the reduced credibility of the sexualized women and their objectification were not supported.

2. Voldemort! Horcruxes! Harry Potter name-calling! This is international diplomacy. No, really, it is.

3. You should definitely not listen if you find discussion of childhood sexual abuse triggering or especially unpleasant, but This American Life did a segment on recovered memories. The movement, which is an embarrassing chapter of psychotherapy, involved therapists assisting and encouraging their clients in falsifying memories, usually about sexual abuse (though you’ve likely heard of the satanic ritual abuse cases). TAL interviews one victim of the therapy, and Linda Ross, a therapist who practiced this therapy, implanting false memories for years, before recanting.

4. This. This so much. Even my favorite books–those by Tamora Pierce, with feminist, strong, spidren-slaying heroines–play into this trope. I’m quite sure that Cosmo and fashion models aren’t realistic models, but find me an admired protagonist woman who isn’t slim or lanky or statuesque. (Source article wasn’t my favorite, but is here)

One of the most insightful things I’ve ever read about eating disorders and body esteem in general was a comment on my blog a while ago that I regret being unable to find now. The writer was saying that most people think girls want to be skinny because of Hollywood and Vogue. This girl wanted to be skinny because she wanted to be a protagonist.

She didn’t expose herself to mainstream fashion magazines or TV; she was interested in art films and books and indie music. But no matter how alternative the movie, the protagonist was almost always skinny. And wanting to be a protagonist means wanting to be someone, as most people do. Apparently, your story is only worth hearing, you’re only someone, if you’re skinny—it’s like, theblueprint of a human. Once that’s down, you’re allowed to be as interesting and protagonist-y as you want! Apparently.

No matter how much people our age have been raised on girl power and believe in yourself and you are beautiful, ignoring the beauty standards of the culture we live in is close to impossible. And as this lady pointed out, these standards and expectations exist outside mainstream culture like reality TV and tabloids; they exist in punk and indie cultures, in “artsy” Tumblr cultures that are all about looking like a fairy, but only if you’re a skinny white girl.

5.  I’m not planning to have children, but this post by Julia was wonderful. What would you add. (Twitter friend suggested identifying enemies and responding appropriately to hate, Facebook friend suggested rhetoric and argument, particularly assessing the claims of others.)

Monday Miscellany: ACT, Autism, Anorexia

1.  I haven’t started the book by the same name, but Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for eating disorders seems fairly promising. (Psych Today article, academic abstract)

2. The New York Times has a lovely piece on the NYC Solstice Celebration, and secular celebrations as a whole.

3.  The title doesn’t convey this very clearly, but gender-flipping characters in children’s books is one way to easily populate a fictional world with equal representation. (Okay, leaving this pull quote up, because it was part of the original post, but do read this comment thread.)

Despite what can seem like a profusion of heroines in kids’ books, girls are still underrepresented in children’s literature. A 2011 study of 6,000 children’s books published between 1900 and 2000 showed that only 31 percent had female central characters. While the disparity has declined in recent years, it persists—particularly, and interestingly, among animal characters. And many books with girl protagonists take place in male-dominated worlds, peopled with male doctors and male farmers and mothers who have to ask fathers for grocery money (Richard Scarry, I’m looking at you). The imbalance is even worse in kids’ movies: Geena Davis’ Institute on Gender and Media found that for every female character in recent family films, there are three male characters. Crowd scenes, on average, are only 17 percent female.

More insidiously, children’s books with girl protagonists sometimes celebrate their heroines to a fault. Isn’t it amazing that a girl did these things, they seem to say—implying that these heroines are a freakish exception to their gender, not an inspiration for readers to follow. Children’s lit could benefit from a Finkbeiner Test. (Well-intentioned kids’ media can, ironically, introduce their youngest listeners and viewers to gender barriers: The first time my daughter heard the fabulous albumFree to Be … You and Me, she asked “Why isn’t it all right for boys to cry?”)

So Bilbo, with her matter-of-fact derring-do, was refreshing.

4. Scope insensitivity is a hell of a drug. Peter Singer with a nice holiday reminder about separating things that make you feel warm and fuzzy from things that are effective charity donations. And the Gawker piece about the piece (WHY is this a thing, internet?) is on point itself (with bonus self-awareness about clickbait titles!).

“It’s obvious, isn’t it,” Singer asks, “that saving a child’s life is better than fulfilling a child’s wish to be Batkid?” Yes. It is just as obvious as obvious can be. Even a five year-old could see that it’s obvious. But that will not stop this line of argument (and our perhaps overly provocative headline) from enraging those who prefer to luxuriate in a bath of warm and fuzzy emotional validation, rather than to think about this simple fact: In a world of scarce resources and limitless need, it’s just common sense (and common decency) to direct our charitable resources to those who need it the most. It is not moral to pour charity money into non-life-and-deathcauses when that money could be used to actually save human lives.

5. Harrumph. Waiting lists seem to impact effectiveness of treatment. File this under Could We Please Have Fewer Confounds, Maybe?

6. And in other things where Kate is Grouchy But Also More Informed, it seems like oxytocin is not as solidly linked to trusting behaviors as I’d thought.

With the relevant post-Kosfeld data favoring failures to replicate by 3:1, I think a dispassionate reader is justified in not believing that OT increases trusting behavior–at least not in the context of the trust game. Should we do a few more studies just to make sure? Fine by me, but it seems to me that we, as a field, should have some sort of stop-rule that would tell us when to turn away from this hypothesis entirely–as well, of course, as how much data in support of the hypothesis we would need to justify our acceptance of it. In addition, I’m struck by the fact that no one has ever gotten around to reporting the results of an exact replication of Kosfeld. In light of the Many Labs Projects’ recent successes in identifying experimental results that do and do not replicate, I’d personally be content to believe the results of several (five, perhaps?) large-N, coordinated, pre-registered exact replications of the Kosfeld experiment.

And from the same article, a nice reminder that nobody snarks like an annoyed psychologist.

I also remain unconvinced that intranasally administered OT even makes it into the human brain in the first place. (Many experts think the brain is involved in the control of behavior, so this particular gap in our scientific knowledge seems to me like a problem that OT researchers should be taking a lot more seriously.)

7. Still shopping? Give the gift of books. Specifically, this book: Conned Again, Watson! Canon-styled Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson solve tales based around probability and logic and math. I loved the original Conan Doyle versions, and these fit right in.

8. This post gives me many thoughts, but right now, I’ll present it without comment (though a trigger warning for some glamorizing of eating disorders)

Ginia Bellafante put it well a few years ago, in a book review for the New York Times:“Anorexia is a disease of contradiction: it demands both discipline and indulgence …. The anorexic disappears in order to be seen; she labors to self-improve as she self-annihilates.” Bellafante describes the condition as “an intellectualized hallucination.” That concise definition is better than any I’ve read, and it points to the conflicted way in which we talk about the disease: our intention is critical, but our language is celebratory.

9. The one study to RULE THEM ALL.

And on that note, Happy Monday!