Monday Miscellany: Solstice, Schizophrenia, Substance Addiction

Robby, Miri and I, reunited and silly with happiness pre-Solstice and post-bagel.

1. I talk a lot with adjectives–things are spectacular and wonderful and glorious and amazing and awesome. But I think, to catch the joy of what the Brighter Than Today Solstice in New York was, I think I’d tell little stories.

How it felt to sing among friends–something I haven’t done in years.
The joy of watching an entire group of people laugh and cry and be in awe together.
Book recommendations flying thick and fast at the reception–attendees carrying books! (That’s not even including CFAR’s box of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality)

Joyous singing, gathering, community. What a way to close the quarter.

2. On “why didn’t you tell me?”

3. The language we use to talk about substance addiction matters. In fact, it matters very much:

Those clinicians exposed to the “substance abuser” term were significantly more likely to judge the person as more to blame and more deserving of punishment than the exact same individual described as having a substance use disorder. We tested these terms in a general population sample and found even larger differences with more negative and punitive judgments strongly associated with the “abuser” term.

Luckily, the current federal drug czar (try putting that on your resume) seems to be on board with treating drug addiction more like a complicated problem for science and less like a convenient political football.

4. When I was working in schizophrenia research, and in discussions I’ve had since, that marijuana can trigger earlier onset of schizophrenia in those at-risk already has always been a foregone conclusion. I’ve certainly repeated it enough–bolstered by studies such as this and this. Now, some new research that makes the opposite claim: marijuana has no measurable effect on schizophrenia onset. (academic link)

5. For those with disordered eating, veganism and vegetarianism are not as simple as investment in animal-rights or environmentalism.

Food justice is complicated, and we live in a world in which the use of animals for human profit is taken for granted, often invisible, and ingrained culturally (I just realized there are at least three animal-marginalizing expressions in this post that I wouldn’t have used when I was a vegan). I don’t begrudge anyone what they choose to eat, or not eat, anymore. I respect vegans and I will continue to try to find a place where my values and my health are both satisfied. But I’ve learned that food is so much more than just food––for some, due to health concerns, it’s an enemy. For others, it’s love. For still others, it’s power and control. And for far too many people, it’s an unmet need.

6. An ode to the crazy, messy, impulsive, and uncomfortably honest romance of Love, Actually.

Love Actually is only a traditional romantic comedy insofar as it is a film about romance that has humor. It does not have the structure required of the genre. To be honest, if you’re going to compare it to any one film you should probably compare it to Crash, the working title of which I’d like to think was Racism, Actually.

If the theme of Crash is “We’re all at least a little bit racist deep inside” the theme of Love Actually is “We’re all a little crazily romantic deep inside.”

Love Actually is, in fact, less a film about love as it is a film about people who think they are in love. Almost all of the stories center around people who either early on, or before the film even begins, figure out they’re nuts about someone and then spend the five weeks before Christmas wondering, “What do I do now?” It’s a bit like Hamlet but with romantic gestures instead of, you know, death.


7. A long read on the story behind the Intense World theory of autism. Well worth the time, with bonus accessible neuroscience and not-terrible coverage of autism!

What have you been reading lately?

Monday Miscellany: Dunning, Kruger, & I Can’t Even

1. You know you’ve done a good job (or at least, you’re overestimating less than usual…) when David Dunning himself comments on your writeup of the Dunning-Kruger effect. For bonus, read the original paper–or at least the abstract. It begins…

In 1995, McArthur Wheeler walked into two Pittsburgh banks and robbed them in broad daylight, with no visible attempt at disguise. He was arrested later that night, less than an hour after videotapes of him taken .from surveillance cameras were broadcast on the 11 o’clock news. When police later showed him the surveillance tapes, Mr. Wheeler stared in incredulity. “But I wore the juice,” he mumbled. Apparently, Mr. Wheeler was under the impression that rubbing one’s face with lemon juice rendered it invisible to videotape cameras (Fuocco, 1996).

….and it only gets better from there.

2. Beautiful things to look at: a crisp infographic–how many millions of lines of code? Your genome, World of Warcraft, the Large Hadron Collider? And even prettier: abandoned observatories.

3. Once upon a time there was a terrible article about habits of the rich that the poor should emulate. And then there was this article, and we could all go back to trying to live happily ever after.

Dave Ramsey probably wasn’t expecting this much pushback when he shared a piece by Tim Corley contrasting the habits of the rich with those of the poor. In her response on CNNRachel Held Evans noted that Ramsey and Corley mistake correlation for causality when they suggest (without actually proving) that these habits are the cause of a person’s financial situation. (Did it never occur to them that it might be the other way around?)

Ramsey fired back, calling the pushback “immature and ignorant.” This from a guy who just made 20 sweeping assertions about 47 million poor people in the US — all based on a survey of 361 individuals.

That’s right. To come up with his 20 habits, Corley talked to just 233 wealthy people and 128 poor people. Ramsey can talk all he wants about Corley’s research passing the “common-sense smell test,” but it doesn’t pass the “research methodology 101” test.

To balance the picture a bit, I wanted to take a fact-based look at 20 things the poor do on a daily basis…

4. NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts has Dessa. That is all.

5. Over at Brute Reason, What This Depression Survivor Hears When You Call Religion A Mental Illness

“Whether or not I think someone is mentally ill is more important than whether or not they think they’re mentally ill.”

And in addition to that, the fact that probably zero religious believers think that their religion qualifies as a mental illness is a good indication that you should stop saying that it is. Of course, you can and should disagree with them on other things, external things, like whether or not god exists or whether or not religion is a net good in society or whether or not people can be ethical without religion. But what goes on in their own minds is something they know much more about than you ever will.

My week involved a lot of walking past this sign.

My week involved a lot of walking past this sign.

6.  I have a lot of feelings about this article about negative vs. excessive feelings.

7. This article on internet linguistics. Much thought-provoking. Very analysis. Wow.

In other news, my finals are donedonedoneDONE. (I mean, for at least ten weeks, until the next round. Go away, reality.)

Monday Miscellany: Forensic Psychology, Fighting, & Replicating Research

1. Free access to popular forensic psych articles! I’ve been caught up in work and school, but Citizenship: A Response to the Marginalization of People with Mental Illnesses and The Ethics of Life and Death: Advance Directives and End of Life Decision Making in Persons with Dementia open on my computer.

2. This is not like what I normally post, but THIS IS A WEBSITE FOR UNGRUNTLING. Obviously, relevant to my interests.

3. Wait vs. Interrupt Culture.

4. Captain Awkward #524: How do I fight with my partner without ruining everything? Captain Awkward posts give me the urge to print them out and hand them to passing strangers.

Another part of love is telling the other person when they can help you better, which from your examples it sounds like you’re doing already.
But you and your partner don’t fight at all, and that is wigging you out. So I want you to think about what a fight is, versus a disagreement or a need. To me, a FIGHT is insulting and yelling and cursing and slammed doors. It’s rage and wanting to hurt feelings and sticking metaphorical pins in your loved one’s soft places.
You do not have to fight to prove that your love is true.

5. A Day in The Life of an Empowered Female Heroine

She strolled up to the bar and planted a firm-yet-sexy pump-encased foot down on the rail. The bartender looked at her and started pulling out little frilly umbrellas and Malibu and speared slices of pineapple to make some kind of girl drink, but she held up her hand. “A whiskey,” she said, her voice low in her throat. “Neat.”

Behind her the pool table exploded. Every man in the bar immediately grew a beard. The jukebox made a record-scratching sound, even though it was an mp3-playing jukebox.

6. Evaluating positive psychology interventions in school. The results are about what I’d expect, but the article is great.

7. What happens when a data-driven person has a tumblr and a divorce? Quantified Breakup.

8. Oh, psychology and reproducibility. Social psychology is a tricksy beast, and one way to tackle that has been the ManyLabs project, which attempted to do large-scale replications of 13 previous findings. Surprising (to me, at least, the occasional cynic) all but two of them replicated. So no, it’s probably not true that exposing people to American flags makes them more conservative, and no, people probably don’t endorse the current social set-up if you show them money. (We should take heed, social-justicey-liberals, these have been two the oft-cited psych-derived talking points.) Concerningly, anchoring seems to be stronger than we thought.
8a) Here’s a thoughtful piece on what we should get from the ManyLabs research.
8b) And some concerns about replication-driven psychology research.

9. Maria Bello’s piece on bisexuality and partnerships makes me ache with feelings. Resonant. Rich. (I’m starting to sound like I’m describing a wine. Just go read it.)

It’s hard for me even to define the term “partner.” For five years I considered my partner to be a friend then in his 70s, John Calley, with whom I talked daily. He was the one who picked me up each time I had a breakdown about another failed romance. Because we were platonic, did that make him any less of a partner?

And I have never understood the distinction of “primary” partner. Does that imply we have secondary and tertiary partners, too? Can my primary partner be my sister or child or best friend, or does it have to be someone I am having sex with? I have two friends who are sisters who have lived together for 15 years and raised a daughter. Are they not partners because they don’t have sex? And many married couples I know haven’t had sex for years. Are they any less partners?


Monday Miscellany: Trolley Killers, Pain, PTSD

1. Via Stephanie, new and fascinating pain research out of Stanford.

Neuroimaging studies from several different labs examining diverse types of pain offer tantalizing clues. They all show that chronic pain patients have stronger connections among brain regions involved in pain perception and processing, as well as losses in gray matter in those areas and perturbations in brain chemistry compared to healthy individuals.

These changes are so profound and consistent that a computer can be trained to spot chronic pain patients by their brain scans alone. In 2011, Mackey’s team demonstrated just that. They taught a computer to recognize the brain activity pattern of a person experiencing acute pain. In 2012, they extended the work to chronic pain. When they fed structural MRI pictures from patients with lower back pain and healthy controls into a computer, it was able to distinguish these groups with 76 percent accuracy, based largely on gray matter changes.

Working with colleagues at Lucas, Mackey, who has a PhD in electrical engineering, also perfected a technique to obtain functional imaging scans of the spinal cord (tricky because the spine shifts with every breath). At a 2013 conference, his team presented preliminary evidence of amped-up connections in the spinal cord—which is responsible not only for routing messages to the brain but for sending inhibitory signals back to the body—that may play a role in chronic pain.

2. Imagining the Post-Antibiotics Future

3. Genetic Russian Roulette (and read the comments, too, for some discussion of Sudbury Schools)

4. The words you use matter. We’ve known for a while about how much self-report can be skewed, but in clinical interview settings, it’s particularly important to talk so people can understand you.

5. Nightmares as a problematic and intrusive symptom of PTSD, and techniques for treating them.

6. And speaking of nightmares, here’s a comprehensive-but-readable roundup of the research.

7. ….YES.
Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 2.44.33 PM Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 2.44.46 PM

8. I know everyone’s going to be bowled over in shock, but an actual longitudinal study in the UK found that videogames don’t seem to measurably change kids’ behavior.

9. On teaching consent to children. I post versions of “teach kids to honor and expect consent-based ethics!” posts pretty regularly, but it’s an important enough idea to bear repeating.

I cannot express how important it was to actively practice saying “No” and “Stop” forcefully. I’m not going to lie: I thought the playful ‘Smiley-No’ was kinda fun. I’m not sure how I got the idea that saying “no” when I actually mean “yes” was fun. Does that idea come from ambient social-messaging, or some sort of natural impulse? I doubt I will ever know. But for my brother, the playful ‘No’ was indistinguishable from the serious ‘No’ so long as I still had a smile on my face.

There are plenty of reasons why someone (females in particular) would present a ‘Smiley-No’ when they seriously mean ‘No’. In fact, it’s totally natural to smile and laugh when afraid as a form of appeasement. There’s even a catchy name for this behavior; its called ‘tend and befriend‘. Additionally, females are socialized from a young age to suppress their voices, to be soft- spoken, and not-be-forceful in general.

Whether the tendency to give a ‘Smiley-No’ when we are truly frightened comes from nature or nurture, the fact that it’s so ingrained is all the more reason to actively break the habit by practicing.

10. I’m breaking my own rule about only posting linking to things I think are worth rereading and sharing, but how could I not link to something that contains these arguments?

Once both heterosexual marriage and gay marriage are legal, there will be no reason to prohibit bisexual marriage.


The secular case for polyamory will go something like this: If it’s legal to be right handed, and legal to be left handed, then it should be legal to be ambidextrous.

11. So I’ve said this several times now, but go read Worm. I can’t say you won’t regret it–it will certainly suck you in and eat up your free time, but it will be SO WORTH IT.

Monday Miscellany: Vivaldi, Fourier, TUESDAY

I failed at posting this properly on Monday. Mostly because I was so busy having fun at Skepticon. Can you blame me? (Answer: yes, but you should click these links anyways)

1. Facts So Romantic is exactly my kind of column. Romance is good research tailor to your interests, y’all. Or flowers. Whatever floats your boat. Anyways, FSR is here making the Fourier transform seem positively dreamy.

2. Signaling and the stress of ‘whistling Vivaldi’:

Social psychologist Claude Steele revolutionized our understanding of the daily context and cognitive effects of stereotypes and bias. The title of his book alludes to a story his friend, NY Times writer, Brent Staples once shared. An African American man, Staples, recounts how his physical presence terrified whites as he moved about Chicago as a free citizen and graduate student. To counter the negative effects of white fear he took to whistling a classical music piece by Italian composer Vivaldi. It was a signal to the victimless victims of his blackness that he was safe. Dangerous black men do not listen to classical music, or so the hope goes. The incongruence between Staples’ musical choices and the stereotype of him as a predator were meant to disrupt the implicit, unexamined racist assumptions of him. It seems trite perhaps, an attempt to make whites feel at ease unless we recall the potential consequences of white dis-ease for black lives.

3. I’m lucky enough to know Erik in Real Life(tm) and this piece about UnderArmor, Northwestern football, and what it means that we glorify injury is amazing.

[…] we’d much rather see “service” and “country” written across the backs of our players’ blood-stained uniforms than “chronic traumatic encephalopathy,” the neurodegenerative condition that is responsible for what most people know as “the concussion scandal” sweeping the NFL. Because just like real warriors, we want our football players to keep fighting when they get blood spattered on them, or have a concussion, or, like legendary quarterback Brett Favre, can’t remember their daughters’ soccer games. What we don’t want them to do is kill themselves, like four NFL players or ex-players did in an eight-month span last year. You could be retired Chargers icon Junior Seau, or a young, active player like Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, who shot himself outside the team’s practice facility after murdering his girlfriend in front of his 3-month old daughter. It doesn’t matter. No one’s immune to the mysterious but all too common “something” that football can do to you. Of course, our real warriors also kill themselves—at a rate a recent estimate placed at around 22 veteran suicides every day. It turns out that it’s much easier to fight through some blood on the outside of your jersey, or uniform, or flag, than it is to fight through what can go on inside your head.

4. Now that we’re married, can we go back to being queer?

5. Language and how it can give you more ways to divide and clarify your understanding.

6. On consent in romantic relationships:

There’s a lot of fuzzy usage around the word consent. I would like to propose a tightening of the definition, because if we are not clear about what consent is, we cannot possibly succeed in communicating about it. Consent is about me: my body, my mind, and my choices. My consent is required to access the things that I own. You do not need my consent to act, because I do not own your body, your mind, or your choices. However, if your behavior crosses into my personal space, then you need my consent. If my romantic partner goes out and sleeps with a dozen random hookups, he may have broken an agreement, but he has not violated my consent. If he then has sex with me without telling me about his actions, he has violated my consent because he has deprived me of the ability to make an informed choice.

7. People with really great memories are actually not so great at sifting through misinformation. Hunh.

8.This one isn’t a link. I just had a wonderful time at Skepticon 6 and I am just starting to come down from the ridiculous happiness of seeing dearly loved people. I twirled and made silly faces and tabled and was recognized by some of you dear readers. (This still leaves me speechless and flabbergasted) and wow, waking up in Chicago was a bit of a letdown today. So many thanks to the wonderful people who made that happen.

Monday Miscellany: Gorilla Opacity, Polyamory, Bad Statistics

1. Polyamory doesn’t get a free pass at being radical without an analysis of power in our interactions.

2. On signaling status and using luxuries to get past gatekeeping, The Logic of Stupid Poor People.

Why do poor people make stupid, illogical decisions to buy status symbols? For the same reason all but only the most wealthy buy status symbols, I suppose. We want to belong. And, not just for the psychic rewards, but belonging to one group at the right time can mean the difference between unemployment and employment, a good job as opposed to a bad job, housing or a shelter, and so on. Someone mentioned on twitter that poor people can be presentable with affordable options from Kmart. But the issue is not about being presentable. Presentable is the bare minimum of social civility. It means being clean, not smelling, wearing shirts and shoes for service and the like. Presentable as a sufficient condition for gainful, dignified work or successful social interactions is a privilege. It’s the aging white hippie who can cut the ponytail of his youthful rebellion and walk into senior management while aging black panthers can never completely outrun the effects of stigmatization against which they were courting a revolution. Presentable is relative and, like life, it ain’t fair.

3. Statistics Done Wrong: A Woefully Complete Guide

If you’re a practicing scientist, you probably use statistics to analyze your data. From basic t tests and standard error calculations to Cox proportional hazards models and geospatial kriging systems, we rely on statistics to give answers to scientific problems. This is unfortunate, because most of us don’t know how to do statistics. Statistics Done Wrong is a guide to the most popular statistical errors and slip-ups committed by scientists every day, in the lab and in peer-reviewed journals. Many of the errors are prevalent in vast swathes of the published literature, casting doubt on the findings of thousands of papers.Statistics Done Wrong assumes no prior knowledge of statistics, so you can read it before your first statistics course or after thirty years of scientific practice.

4. Bystanders won’t always interpret you as charitably as I do.

5.  Miri responds to this post in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

 Folks, nobody will hear you loudly doing nothing about bigotry. Nobody will care that you determinedly, passionately shrugged and closed the browser tab and moved on. The best case scenario of this is that trolls will keep trolling and bigots will keep bigoting.

The best case scenario of speaking up is that you change minds. The good-but-not-best case scenario is that you don’t necessarily change any minds, but the bigot will stop posting bigotry because they’ll realize they’ll be hated for it. And others won’t see that bigotry and either be hurt OR assume that it’s okay and they can do it too.

6. Back in my homestate, Texas A&M combines religion and neuroscience into a new course. How this could be a course I’d jump at the chance to take: what does religion change (if anything) in the brain? Are those changes religion-specific? Do certain kinds of rituals result in certain kinds of responses? What about spirituality? Does one have to believe in the supernatural stuff, or just participate in the ritual?  What this course actually is:

[…]when discussing evolution of the nervous system, the students will also consider the Biblical book of Genesis and other creation stories. The lesson about action potentials — the cellular process that transmits information within and between neurons — will also include a discussion of Descartes and dualism between mind and brain.

7. Found this pullquote on tumblr from Allie Brosh’s new book, Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened. You should almost definitely buy it here.

Most people can motivate themselves to do things simply by knowing that those things need to be done. But not me. For me, motivation is this horrible, scary game where I try to make myself do something while I actively avoid doing it. If I win, I have to do something I don’t want to do. If I lose, I’m one step closer to ruining my entire life. And I never know whether I’m going to win or lose until the last second.

8. Via Scott at Slate Star Codex, this study, entitled The Invisible Gorilla Strikes Again: Sustained Inattentional Blindness in Expert Observers. And you know, I think I’m just going to let him explain:

You remember the Invisible Gorilla Test? Now they’ve done the same thing, except that this time they ask radiologists to evaluate a patient’s lungs for potential cancer, and see how many of those radiologists fail to notice that the patient’s lungs also contain a gorilla. I am not making this up. One day, we will tell our grandchildren about the bad old days when science was about discovering bosons and stuff instead of just cataloguing the situations in which we can trick people into ignoring gorillas.

Yes, this is a link post that just quoted a link post. Let’s just ignore that.

Aaaand, now that I’ve linked you to something that used “gorilla opacity” in serious terms, I think that’s enough silliness for Monday.

Monday Miscellany: Anorexia, Anonymous Comments, Alternative Energy Sources

65632_10200463503102210_1178298586_nIf I managed to publish this on time, I’ve survived it to Week 6 of 10, in my ninth quarter of academics. (One quarter of the last three years was spent at Fabulous Unspecified Internship.)

1. PubMed has opened commenting with the intention of allowing it for all PubMed authors. This cannot possibly go wrong.
Upside: No anonymous comments!
Downside: little moderation.

2. Women in my family have been shrinking for decades. [Trigger warning for eating disorders like woah.]

3. Reviewing the DSM 5 as a dystopian novel…death by a hundred lines of cutting satire.

For all the subtlety of its characterization, the book doesn’t just provide a chilling psychological portrait, it conjures up an entire world. The clue is in the name: On some level we’re to imagine that the American Psychiatric Association is a body with real powers, that the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual” is something that might actually be used, and that its caricature of our inner lives could have serious consequences. Sections like those on the personality disorders offer a terrifying glimpse of a futuristic system of repression, one in which deviance isn’t furiously stamped out like it is in Orwell’s unsubtle Oceania, but pathologized instead. Here there’s no need for any rats, and the diagnostician can honestly believe she’s doing the right thing; it’s all in the name of restoring the sick to health. DSM-5 describes a nightmare society in which human beings are individuated, sick, and alone. For much of the novel, what the narrator of this story is describing is its own solitude, its own inability to appreciate other people, and its own overpowering desire for death – but the real horror lies in the world that could produce such a voice.

I…suddenly feel like one of those antidepressant commercials with the little cloud over me.

4. If you have been recently describing people who want to have children as breeders and/or children as spawn, stop. [See also: Cease! Desist! and ohmygod whyyyyy were you doing that?] Chana also pointed me to this piece from Leah, which made me think of the importance of tolerating the occasionally fussy baby as part of how we provide social support to parents. If supporting adults doesn’t seem a good enough reason, social support seems a factor in preventing abuse and neglect of children.

5. This is not psychology related, but it is wonderful. In fact, even the announcement is great enough that I’ll let it speak for itself:

What we are offering you today is the opportunity to bid on a digital portrait of your dashing visage, executed by the one and only Zach Weinersmith, the author and illustrator of the wildly famous Sunday Morning Breakfast Cereal webcomic. This is an incredibly rare opportunity, not available since the days of Veláquez in the court of Philip IV, to have yourself preserved for all time, a masterpiece that future collectors will vie for to display on the walls of their own palaces. Needless to say, this is not something you’ll want to miss out on.

6. Still not psychology, still hilarious. @HardSciFiMovies. You should really just take my word for it and go follow them, but for the skeptics:

Xenu of the Galactic Federation demands eternal dominion over all life. He decides to start his own religion. It is popular with celebrities

A hacker must break the encryption on the explosive device within 60 seconds. This would require a computer the size of Mexico. He dies.

A scientist would usurp God, to toy and tinker with the very fabric of life. The resultant kumquats have increased mold resistance.

A scientist bursts into a White House meeting to announce urgent findings to the President. A number of Secret Service personnel are fired.

7. Treating anorexia nervosa in adults. There’s a very thin silver lining in this, but mostly AN is treatment-resistant in ways you won’t see in teen populations.

8. Wind Turbine Syndrome


Monday Miscellany: Male Gamers! Millenials! Midterms.

It’s Monday! I have midterms! So, whilst I dog-paddle furiously in academic soup and mix metaphors with abandon, here’s some links.

1. Even as I knew Male Gamers Only was a satire, I got caught up in it and I had…Feelings.

2. The Curse of Cute. Dammit, science, ruining EVERYTHING. (…She said, sipping clean water and using the internet.)

3.  Attention, news media. Not all Millennials are white and privileged. [See also: not all people

I have a timer set on my phone. It counts how often I hear the words “millennial” or “Generation Y’er” with some sweeping crass generalization about how awful people my age are. It is coupled of course with photos, of some Instagram-lit, tattooed, white manic-pixie dream girl and her alt-rock flannel boyfriend. The chances of the poster children looking like me (fat, and unambiguously black) hover between not-in-the-slightest and Christmas miracle. Rhetoric that comes anywhere close to talking about my life is even less common.

It’s easy to to make fun of the entitled, selfie-taking stereotype. In reality those of us born between 1980 and 2009 are a diverse group, who have had extraordinarily different experiences growing up. The lack of engagement with race, class, regional, political and immigration issues in journalism about millennials does us all a disservice by dodging the serious questions of what our coming of age means for the future of America.

4. This piece about science and whether there really is a self correcting mechanism, makes me feel like a psych hipster. I was suspicious of priming research before Kahneman made it cool. And this:

It is tempting to see the priming fracas as an isolated case in an area of science—psychology—easily marginalised as soft and wayward. But irreproducibility is much more widespread. A few years ago scientists at Amgen, an American drug company, tried to replicate 53 studies that they considered landmarks in the basic science of cancer, often co-operating closely with the original researchers to ensure that their experimental technique matched the one used first time round. According to a piece they wrote last year in Nature, a leading scientific journal, they were able to reproduce the original results in just six. Months earlier Florian Prinz and his colleagues at Bayer HealthCare, a German pharmaceutical giant, reported in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, a sister journal, that they had successfully reproduced the published results in just a quarter of 67 seminal studies.

5. The psychology of intent versus impact. Yeah, we’re really bad at untangling the two. Here’s why.

6. Talking to our children about rape.

7. Neil Gaiman on libraries.

They were good librarians. They liked books and they liked the books being read. They taught me how to order books from other libraries on inter-library loans. They had no snobbery about anything I read. They just seemed to like that there was this wide-eyed little boy who loved to read, and would talk to me about the books I was reading, they would find me other books in a series, they would help. They treated me as another reader – nothing less or more – which meant they treated me with respect. I was not used to being treated with respect as an eight-year-old.

But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.

8. There are new ethical guidelines for experimental testing involving humans, and by and large, it’s awesome. Not awesome? Things like this [emphasis mine]:

Granting agencies increasingly require that research they fund involving [randomized controlled trials] will be preregistered, but many psychological intervention studies are simply noncompliant. Checking published randomized clinical trials of psychological interventions, one finds that more recent ones are registered, but that often the outcomes reported in the published papers differ from what is reported in the registration. Alternatively, the registration involves designation of a primary outcome that could be assessed by a full range of measures, without stating which measure will be used. Researchers thus assess psychological distress with the BDI, the CES-D, the distress thermometer, adjective checklists, and a battery of self-reported anxiety measures. They then pick the measures that make the intervention looked most effective. This is the source of rampant selective reporting of outcomes and confirmatory bias. The proportion of clinical trials that report negative outcomes continues to decline, and there’s little doubt that this stems from selective reporting, not improvement in the design and evaluation of interventions.

My reaction. Luckily, these new guidelines are extending what sorts of trials should be registered.

Happy Monday!

Monday Miscellany: Pirates, Psychotherapy, Prestige

1. Psychotherapy’s Image Problem: I have some quibbles with this article. For one, it’s a pretty rote process to test a psychiatric medication. You have the pills, which are, most importantly, not as unique and complicated as People Practicing Therapy, you compare them against treatment as usual or placebos and then you do statistical magic* and have some sort of answer about how helpful it is. So yeah, of course it’s easier to have the American Psychiatric Association putting out guidelines for use. Secondly, the writer (as was pointed out in several letters to the editor) pitted medication and therapy interventions against each other, when in fact many people use them together–and that seems to be something we’d like to encourage.

2. Again, a caveat. This article about a Wyoming cowboy who prefers dresses to pants could use some help with framing. But, “He asks classes not to judge him by his dress, and they’ve responded. Students once arrived in hoodies, removing them to reveal pink hair ribbons and matching pink shirts. Goodwin nearly wept at the gesture.” didn’t leave me dry-eyed.

3. Why would a blogger at Science Based Medicine and an editor at PLoS One accept an article about homeopathy for publication? Because he had great reasoning, that’s why.

4. ElodieUnderGlass writes to a reader about work settings and the adults that inhabit them.

The woods are a tough mistress. Lots of us live in them. Many of us can’t afford to stake our money on a principle. Many of us sacrifice our dignity on the altar of Customer Service, and we don’t do it because we enjoy it. Nobody goes to school hoping to be an Ophelia. Nobody wants to grow up to be a telemarketer. People don’t usually work in factories for spiritual fulfillment.

5. Oh ho, those entitled Millenials want to pay for their groceries! Just live on that prestige! In other words, I’m really really fed up with the way universities force students into unpaid internships. Northwestern does it, and ProPublica isn’t a fan.

6. Dateline told me it was true, video games are making our kids violent. But what if they’re also influencing them to run too many errands?!?!11l!!!

“It’s a concern that has been expressed by society for a long time now,” said Butow. “It goes back as far as the 1999 Columbine massacre in the United States, and potentially even further than that. For more than a decade, we’ve had to consider, as parents, what we’re exposing our children to, and I don’t think there’s a single parent with a teenage child who has not asked themselves at one point or another ‘If I buy this game for my son or daughter, am I encouraging arbitrary behaviour or acts of inexplicable charity?’”

*not actually magic. Or as simple as bang! results. But, simpler than people

Monday Miscellany: BF Skinner, Baby Boxes, Ballet

For the whimsical macabre, you should be following the Night Vale twitter account. (I suppose you could also listen to their podcast, but I never got into it.)

Shannon Friedman on the anti-placebo effect:

Its easy to miss treatment working.  For example, as a kid grows up, its easy to miss how their vocabulary is growing, but for someone who doesn’t seem them every day, it may be immediately obvious “my how they’re talking more!”  In other words, an anti-placebo effect is what happens when someone is having an intervention that is causing their life to improve, but the person does not believe that they are improving.
The reason that this is important is that those recovering from anxiety and depression have a tendency to believe that they are not doing as well as they are – due to this cognitive bias creating an anti-placebo effect for them, which results in their giving up too soon on interventions which are effective and thus not getting better and regressing to old unpleasant patterns.

This is really important, but it’s also confounded by the fact that many interventions (particularly in cases of depression) don’t work for many–even most–people who try them. Taking your own metrics is a way to sift through this a little, but given how many people experience as a lack of motivation, “just track progress very carefully!” seems oversimplified.

As far as data tracking goes, I suggest SAM for anxiety tracking and MoodPanda seems to be a good start for charting ups and downs of emotional state.

Rats appear to model empathy, and also are much more accurate, much cheaper alternatives to drug dogs.

BF Skinner (known for behaviorism and operant conditioning) built a box….for his baby. (And it’s definitely not what you’re thinking)

Halloween always manages to assemble a collection of weird-‘sexy’ (sexy house costume), appropriative-‘sexy’ (sexy Cherokee warrior), and of course, the mental patients, the straitjackets, and the ‘sexy’ psychos. This year, the internet banded together against the portrayal of mental illness as sexy, and began to tweet pictures of themselves going about their business in their everyday #mentalpatient costumes. And companies responded!

What I won’t tell you about my ballet dancing son:

I’ll tell you about a baby boy who felt music in his soul before he could crawl, grooving to the beat of push-button toys in the church nursery and spawning jokes about his young parents’ need to curb the tendency if he was to become a “good Baptist baby.”

I’ll tell you about a toddler spinning on his head on the living room carpet, the grocery store linoleum, the church foyer tile, eliciting amused comments from strangers about his wannabe break dancing. I’ll tell you of his unquenchable need to move in the presence of rhythm and an obvious inborn ability to feel music.

I’ll revisit the memory of him bounding in the front door on a December afternoon, tossing his kindergarten backpack and, wild eyed, telling us of the music class in which people leaped and twirled to music, strong men jumped high in the air, danced on their toes and lifted ballerinas across the stage. He wore black sweat pants and a white undershirt every day of Christmas break that year, asked Santa for black ballet shoes, watched dozens of online videos of boys’ ballet techniques and by Christmas day had memorized every note and crescendo of the entire Nutcracker Suite.