Monday Miscellany: Geeks & Gourds

The Five Geek Social Fallacies: back online again, and for those of us returning to school and friends, worth rereading. Numbers 1 and 3 always manage to trip me up.

It’s fall, otherwise known as decorative gourd season, motherfuckers. McSweeney’s is hit or miss–this one’s a hit.

City Ballet pays tribute to 9/11:

How well does CBT for bulimia generalize?

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is commonly described as the evidence-based treatment for bulimia nervosa. But do the findings from nearly perfectly crafted trials, with stringently followed protocols and “ideal” participants apply to the “real world”? How generalizable are the findings from carefully selected participants to clinical populations where, for one, the prevalence of psychiatric comorbidities is relatively high?

In other words, CBT has been shown to be efficacious (i.e., it works in a controlled experimental research trial setting) but is it effective (i.e., does it work in a clinical setting where clients might have multiple diagnoses and complex needs)?

The article that made me grin the most this week was a tribute to Nina Davuluri, and the one that made me think was this discussion of psychoanalysis and CBT.

And this is from two Skepticons ago, but I’ve been meaning to watch it for ages. Now that I’ve crossed it off my unending to do list (and, like the Hydra, it immediately sprouted two more tasks), I can say that yes, you should watch it too. It’s a nice intro-level talk for those unfamiliar with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), but won’t bore you–quite the opposite, actually!–if you’re more advanced.

What’s the last thing you memorized?
Me: O Captain, My Captain, by Walt Whitman. (Okay, this was about six years ago, where we had to present five pieces as part of our history studies. But I don’t know that I’ve memorized anything more recently)

Monday Miscellany: All Caps-y BRAINS Edition

Pete Etchells takes a look at what data we have on screen-time and mental health. (Spoilers: it’s not as simple as TV = bad.)

Miri on making the normal abnormal.

Here is a “normal” thing in our society: a young woman walks down the street at midnight, one hand clutching her keys and the other holding her pepper spray with her finger poised on the trigger. Her heart pounds and she walks as fast as possible. Few other women are still out, but plenty of men hang around, walking freely down the street. A few of them shout sexual comments at the woman just for shits and giggles.
So what I want to do is to get people to look at this differently. I want them to see how weird, how artificial, how bizarre this actually is. I want them to imagine a sentient alien species visiting Earth and furrowing their brows (if they have brows) and wondering, “Wait, so, you divide your species in half and one half can’t walk down the block without getting harassed or threatened by the other half? And your solution to this is not for the ‘men’ to stop harassing and threatening, but for the ‘women’ to stop walking alone?!”

GUYS. WE MADE A BRAIN-LIKE THING IN A LAB. It’s a bit of a proto-brain, without neural networks, but it is SO. COOL.

Pretty is a set of skills.

Have spare time? Want a less-jargony intro to artificial intelligence risk? Robby has curated one for you. I’m only on Part II–much like Wikipedia, I get lost in links within the linked articles.

Give people time to be stupid: compassion in the face of questions.

Haters gonna hate? Yeah, there’s a psychological explanation for that.

Poverty increases cognitive load, leading to a decrease in mental ability.

In a series of experiments run by researchers at Princeton, Harvard, and the University of Warwick, low-income people who were primed to think about financial problems performed poorly on a series of cognition tests, saddled with a mental load that was the equivalent of losing an entire night’s sleep. Put another way, the condition of poverty imposed a mental burden akin to losing 13 IQ points, or comparable to the cognitive difference that’s been observed between chronic alcoholics and normal adults.

The finding further undercuts the theory that poor people, through inherent weakness, are responsible for their own poverty – or that they ought to be able to lift themselves out of it with enough effort. This research suggests that the reality of poverty actually makes it harder to execute fundamental life skills. Being poor means, as the authors write, “coping with not just a shortfall of money, but also with a concurrent shortfall of cognitive resources.”

Binge-eating and the ‘rewards’ system.


Monday Miscellany: Theoretical Godlessness, Social Psychology, & Coffee

Today in Social Psychology is a Many-Variabled Beast: that marshmellow test, where children had to do a ‘delay of gratification’ exercise in waiting to eat a marshmellow in return for having two marshmellows as a reward….is actually way more complicated. There’s this article, and also this one. As it turns out, when you try to simplify social psychology and apply it across the board, you’ll miss things.

We have a new blogger! His name is Alex Gabriel, you should read what he has to say about coffee, and he once made me incredibly happy by designing this poster:


Somewhat like Richard Wiseman’s 59 Seconds*, PsyBlog is here to help you use Real Actual Science ™ to unbork your brain. In this case, Six Weird Tips To Lose Weight. Er, sorry,  Six Quick Tips To Get Your Brain in High Gear Fast.

Melanie Tannenbaum makes my inner psychnerd happy when she talks about psychology’s brilliant, beautiful, scientific messiness:

Psychology is a science.

Shut up about how it’s not, already.

I clearly cannot just say that without explaining why psychology is a science, although sometimes I wish I could just join the biologists, chemists, and physicists who are never faced with having to answer such questions. So I will start by quoting the main thrust of Dr. Berezow’s argument, and then explaining why the 20-year-olds who take my Intro Social Psych class each semester could have told Berezow why he’s wrong by the end of our first week of class.

Is talking about body image actually useful? Well…maybe not.

HeadQuarters is the Guardian’s new psychology blog, and it’s quite a bit better than I usually expect from mainstream psych-journalism. Take a look at this piece on anti-depressants. There’s science! Very little jargon! Even nuance!

For something totally different, Dancers Among Us.

We’re not all mentally ill:

Mental illness is many things. But there’s one thing it most emphatically is not — and that is everyday fears, worries, doubts, and attractions. (Of the items on Rick Warren’s list, “compulsions” is the only one that belongs.) Seeing mental illness as ordinary emotions is a fundamentally flawed view,  one that harms people actually living with such illness.

What have you been thinking through lately?

*59 Seconds is excellent and worth reading. General premise: what can science tell us about being more happy? Think self-help, but evidence-based. 

Monday Miscellany

My friend Robby said something I like quite a lot:

It’s hard damn work to be a brain. Not only are there THINGS to be sad about aplenty, but there are like a bajillion frillion chemicals you got to juggle just to keep things in working order at the best of times, to say nothing of the not-best of times when you have stress lasers firing all the time.

I am impressed with brain for being so awesome almost all of the time. We didn’t evolve to be happiness factories, yet somehow we manage to have lots of happiness a lot of the time. That is pretty sweet.

I was rereading Chana’s archives and particularly liked this piece, A Personal Journey to Rationalism.

Healer Syndrome

We start believing our own marketing messages. We start believing that we can treat practically anyone, that every patient does need us, that we do offer a unique and therapeutically potent service. We start thinking of ourselves as healers, whether the word ever crosses our minds or not. Any excessive self-promotional behaviours are fully justified by our self-confidence: it’s not wrong when you really can help almost everyone … right?

This is the most dangerous form of healer syndrome — subtle and insidious.

Ed is taking a step back and changing how he uses mental illness in conversation and blogging.

James Croft on why he comes back to this movement.

But, however dispirited and burnt out I sometimes feel, something keeps me coming back to Humanism, and it is simply this: Humanism represents the highest human values in a way unmatched by any other social movement or lifestance. No other movement can claim so proudly that they put the highest human values right at the center of their worldview, unadulterated. In Humanism there is nothing valued above the dignity of persons, the primacy of reason, and the necessity of hope for the future. Humanism represents the single best hope for the future of our species: given the potential threat of climate change it may be that if our species has a future at all could be dependent on how Humanistic a world we create.

I hope so very much that the future looks a lot more like you. To Katie and Arin.

The upside of denial.

 What have you written recently?

Monday Miscellany

Ashley has a list of female protagonists in YA literature. I especially endorse Tamora Pierce–she’s my favorite author of all time. I actually had to replace a few books I’d read to pieces.

Over at Overcoming Bias, a nice way to differentiate between what I’d describe as being smart and being intellectually curious.

I know many folks who consider themselves intellectuals. I guess they think that in part because if you asked them “What have you been up to lately?,” they’d tell you about books, articles, blogs, or twitter feeds that they’ve been reading. Or perhaps TED talks they’ve watched. This is why I prefer the question “What have you been thinking about lately?” And I’ll usually be a bit disappointed if the answer isn’t about a question they’ve been trying to answer.

Via Chana, this piece from Olivia: Support is a Two Way Street

Ok, obvious thing is obvious, but many people, particularly support people, forget this. Any relationship you’re in requires a give and take of support and being supported. This is true EVEN if the person you’re in a relationship with has a mental or physical illness and needs more support than the average bear. A lot of the time support people think that they can’t burden their friend/family member/lover with any more troubles, and so they keep all their own difficulties to themselves. They want to protect their loved one. They think it’s showing that they care: they will take care of you through anything, but they won’t ask anything in return.

Unfortunately this tactic will make both parties feel like shit.

Excessive, Obsessive, Compulsive? The Links Between OCD, OCPD and Excessive Exercise in Anorexia Nervosa

Gahhh, how did I not know that OKCupid has a blog about user data?!



Monday Miscellany


Scott, Who By Very Slow Decay

I guess I always pictured dying as – unless you got hit by a truck or something – a bittersweet and strangely beautiful process. You’d grow older and weaker and gradually get some disease and feel your time was upon you. You’d be in a nice big bed at home with all your friends and family gathered around. You’d gradually feel the darkness closing in. You’d tell them all how much you loved them, there would be tears, you would say something witty or pious or defiant, and then you would close your eyes and drift away into a dreamless sleep.

And I think this happens sometimes. For all I know, maybe it happens quite a lot. If it does, I never see these people. They very wisely stay far away from hospitals and the medical system in general. I see the other kind of people.

 Internet, we need to talk about how inappropriate uses of social media for charity.

Apparently this post is going to be heavy on the all-caps warrioring, but GAH LOOK THE NEW COSMOS TRAILER IS OUT. LOOK AT IT.

Why Banning Pro-Ana Is a Bad Idea

As far as I see it, in practical terms it means that information about treatment opportunities (such as participating in a study), awareness campaigns, or information about new health lines or recovery websites, are less likely to reach pro-eating disorder bloggers. This is bad news.

Right now, many individuals who follow my Science of Eating Disorders Tumblr either run blogs that are devoted to thinspiration or are active members of pro-eating disorder communities. Membership in pro-eating disorder communities and pro-recovery or neutral communities is not something that is NOT mutually exclusive–a point that often seems to get missed in discourse on this topic.

If these communities are pushed into the depth of the internet, into isolated and tightly knit communities, off mainstream social media and blogging websites, then reaching those communities will be harder. This isolates these individuals even more AND it isolated (or creates a big gap) between the individuals trying to reach them.

All you ever wanted to know about eye contact.

When the giant shame spiral of suckage eats your momentum in recovery.

Between you and being okay is the giant shitpile of things you didn’t do for so long that all need to be done now. So instead of momentum, healthy new habits, great leaps forward….it’s hunting down old paperwork, cleaning science experiments out of the fridge, calling the student loan people, and 6 month’s worth of unpleasant chores and administrative tasks. It’s all way harder and more fucked up and more expensive than it would have been if you’d just done it when you were supposed to, so even though you are theoretically doing better everything sucks proportionally more.