On this, the last day of February, I recall how I used to pity those poor kids who could only celebrate their birthdays on the actual date, every couple of years. I felt uncomfortable about the ambiguous nature of the leap year birthday. I mean, those poor kids had to hesitate and figure out an understandable response to the question, “How old are you?”.
I have always had a distaste for ambiguity. Therefore, I ask a lot of questions. (Liars HATE it that I ask a lot of questions. I catch them off guard, it seems…) I ask people a lot of questions, not because I’m nosy but because when I have all the facts about a given situation, I can make better decisions for myself. It isn’t a judgement issue. It’s more like: “If you’re going to do this….then I’m going to do that.” “If you are going to call back later, I’ll leave my phone on. If not, I’ll turn it off so I won’t be disturbed while I work.” It isn’t that I’m asking someone TO call back. Whatever their decision about this is, will be fine with me. I just want to know one way or the other so I can take action accordingly.
Turns out that science has now substantiated why ambiguity bugs me ( or all of us) as much as it does. The phenomenon actually screws with our heads. According to a study published in the Journal of Science, the reason lies in how the brain responds emotionally, and sometimes, even illogically, when forced to make decisions based on conflicting or little evidence. These so-called ambiguous decisions are different from decisions that we think of as risky decisions. No wonder the person who is being lied to, for example, appears so nutty to the rest of the world. That person is being fed conflicting information. The heart hears what it wants to hear, but the head says, “Um….hold on there just a minute….That doesn’t make sense!”
Wait….If it looks like a duck…then, it IS a duck….but it also looks like a rabbit. Which do I choose?
When faced with a risky decision, one is not sure about the outcome of a particular choice but can have a notion about the probability of success. In an ambiguous decision, a person is ignorant of both factors. Thus, the uncomfortable feeling….the uncertainty, and sometimes illogical and absurd behaviors.
Brain specialists would say ambiguity is the discomfort from knowing there is something you don’t know that you wish you did. This probably stems back to the fight or flight area of the brain, the hippocampus, and is a matter of survival. In the previously mentioned experiment, subjects were given the opportunity to place ambiguous bets while their brains were scanned using a functional magnetic resonance imager (fMRI). In this part of the experiment, participants were given the choice between placing a monetary bet on the chances of drawing a red card from a “risky” deck that had 20 red cards and 20 black cards…that is, where the probability of choosing either color was 50-50, and making the same bet with an “ambiguous” deck where the color composition of the cards was unknown.
In the majority of cases, the participants decided to place the risky bet. Logically, however, both bets would have been equally good because in both cases, the chance of pulling a red card on the first draw was 50-50.
The brain scans taken during the experiment revealed that ambiguous betters were often accompanied by activation of the parts of the brain known as the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). These are two areas of the brain that are involved in the whole emotions processing thing. The amygdala has been found to be closely associated with fear, which, again, harkens back to being in survival mode. If you think about it, a correlation between aversion to ambiguous decisions and activation of emotional parts of the brain makes perfect sense from an evolutionary point of view. Do I go into that dark cave or don’t I? Well, first, I need to know if a saber toothed tiger is in there, right? And I’m going to be a little nervous about it until I find out. Should I leave my boyfriend or not….Well, first, I need to find out if he really IS cheating on me. In the modern human brain, this translates into a reluctance to bet on or against an event if it seems at all ambiguous.
The results of this study could help those of us in the field of Psychology, understand how humans make decisions in the real world, because the choices people make are often based on very limited information. (i.e…..All signs point to cheating, but he denies it….or I’m not going to walk into that dark cave if there’s a tiger in there, because it will eat me alive. )
Makes sense to me.
Anyway….Happy Birthday, Leapers…er…Leap Yearlings…um…people whose birthdays are on leap year. Here’s a nice mug. Have some coffee.
Life is a balance between holding on and letting go.
Things have changed.
I used to walk into a room and wonder if the people there would like me. Now, when I walk into a room, I wonder if I will like them. The need for external validation is not important to me, at this point in life, and I don’t have to actually like someone for them to have value in my life, nor to have value in theirs. If there is a job to be done, I simply do it. I have optimized, categorized and am moving full speed ahead. I am letting go of the negative and embracing those positive relationships that are good.
The relationships that remain are solid.
I have learned to let go of the people and things that do not serve my best interests…the ones that hurt and deceive me ….and this has really helped me to stay focused and to do good work. This has freed up a tremendous amount of emotional and physical energy. It can be difficult when one lets go of family members or of people who were once close friends…..but as things turn out, letting go of those with whom your values, ethics, morals and beliefs do not align, can help propel you forward and free you to do what you are best suited to do in life.
The people that *really* matter to me are functionally in my life, although I am forced to use that term (“functionally”) loosely when referring to one significant person. That is an unfortunate situation that I cannot talk about here.
The solution was simple. I let go of the drama and embraced all of the many good things that I hold so close to my heart and things have never been better. I now sing about my happiness to other audiences and I go to bed every night with a smile on my face, knowing that I am loved.
My husband has returned to Portland, full time, from the Bay Area and we have immersed ourselves into a plethora of creativity. His health is much better than it was, even a year ago. He attributes this to our being together so much of the time now. I am watchful over is health, feed him good, home-cooked food and make sure he gets lots of exercise. He seems so happy, and I’m glad he is home. He is writing plays and working with a partner on creating original musical scores for his plays. I have the biggest art commission of my life, am working on my novel every day. I have successfully completed the composition of two country and western songs that will soon be ready to shop. I and am putting a new business together and am also spending lots of time with Ingrid in these last days before she is immersed into French school. I am thoroughly enjoying the wonderful city where we live. John and I are reorganizing our home and getting rid of possessions that we no longer need. Everything is about moving ahead and being happy.
Everything that we are doing, together and individually, can be either directly or indirectly attributed to making the best choices about letting go of the dead weight of the crazies. I cannot believe I ever hesitated.
Life is so uncomplicated now. Why didn’t I make these decisions years ago?
This is my friend, Nan, a powerful woman that I am very proud to call a friend. Please read about her new television show by clicking HERE.
This is gun fetishist Evan Hernandez of Florida, who likes to dress his kids up as shooters and etch Biblical inscriptions into his gun gear. On Sunday he was playing cowboy in front of a mirror with a loaded gun and it went off, killing his 6 year-old daughter Izabella, a leukemia survivor. Please call Florida 14th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Glenn Hess at (850) 872-4473 or (850) 472-4461 and tell him you want charges brought against Hernandez immediately.
South Carolina’s state beverage is milk. Its insect is the praying mantis. There’s a designated dance—the shag—as well a sanctioned tartan, game bird, dog, flower, gem and snack food (boiled peanuts). But what Olivia McConnell noticed was missing from among her home’s 50 official symbols was a fossil. So last year, the eight-year-old science enthusiast wrote to the governor and her representatives to nominate the Columbian mammoth. Teeth from the woolly proboscidean, dug up by slaves on a local plantation in 1725, were among the first remains of an ancient species ever discovered in North America. Forty-three other states had already laid claim to various dinosaurs, trilobites, primitive whales and even petrified wood. It seemed like a no-brainer. “Fossils tell us about our past,” the Grade 2 student wrote.
And, as it turns out, the present, too. The bill that Olivia inspired has become the subject of considerable angst at the legislature in the state capital of Columbia. First, an objecting state senator attached three verses from Genesis to the act, outlining God’s creation of all living creatures. Then, after other lawmakers spiked the amendment as out of order for its introduction of the divinity, he took another crack, specifying that the Columbian mammoth “was created on the sixth day with the other beasts of the field.” That version passed in the senate in early April. But now the bill is back in committee as the lower house squabbles over the new language, and it’s seemingly destined for the same fate as its honouree—extinction.
What has doomed Olivia’s dream is a raging battle in South Carolina over the teaching of evolution in schools. Last week, the state’s education oversight committee approved a new set of science standards that, if adopted, would see students learn both the case for, and against, natural selection.
Charles Darwin’s signature discovery—first published 155 years ago and validated a million different ways since—long ago ceased to be a matter for serious debate in most of the world. But in the United States, reconciling science and religious belief remains oddly difficult. A national poll, conducted in March for the Associated Press, found that 42 per cent of Americans are “not too” or “not at all” confident that all life on Earth is the product of evolution. Similarly, 51 per cent of people expressed skepticism that the universe started with a “big bang” 13.8 billion years ago, and 36 per cent doubted the Earth has been around for 4.5 billion years.
The American public’s bias against established science doesn’t stop where the Bible leaves off, however. The same poll found that just 53 per cent of respondents were “extremely” or “very confident” that childhood vaccines are safe and effective. (Worldwide, the measles killed 120,000 people in 2012. In the United States, where a vaccine has been available since 1963, the last recorded measles death was in 2003.) When it comes to global warming, only 33 per cent expressed a high degree of confidence that it is “man made,” something the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has declared is all but certain. (The good news, such as it was in the AP poll, was that 69 per cent actually believe in DNA, and 82 per cent now agree that smoking causes cancer.)
If the rise in uninformed opinion was limited to impenetrable subjects that would be one thing, but the scourge seems to be spreading. Everywhere you look these days, America is in a rush to embrace the stupid. Hell-bent on a path that’s not just irrational, but often self-destructive. Common-sense solutions to pressing problems are eschewed in favour of bumper-sticker simplicities and blind faith.
In a country bedevilled by mass shootings—Aurora, Colo.; Fort Hood, Texas; Virginia Tech—efforts at gun control have given way to ever-laxer standards. Georgia recently passed a law allowing people to pack weapons in state and local buildings, airports, churches and bars. Florida is debating legislation that will waive all firearm restrictions during state emergencies like riots or hurricanes. (One opponent has moved to rename it “an Act Relating to the Zombie Apocalypse.”) And since the December 2012 massacre of 20 children and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Conn., 12 states have passed laws allowing guns to be carried in schools, and 20 more are considering such measures.
The cost of a simple appendectomy in the United States averages $33,000 and it’s not uncommon for such bills to top six figures. More than 15 per cent of the population has no health insurance whatsoever. Yet efforts to fill that gaping hole via the Affordable Health Care Act—a.k.a. Obamacare—remain distinctly unpopular. Nonsensical myths about the government’s “real” intentions have found so much traction that 30 per cent still believe that there will be official “death panels” to make decisions on end-of-life care.
Since 2001, the U.S. government has been engaged in an ever-widening program of spying on its own—and foreign—citizens, tapping phones, intercepting emails and texts, and monitoring social media to track the movements, activities and connections of millions. Still, many Americans seem less concerned with the massive violations of their privacy in the name of the War on Terror, than imposing Taliban-like standards on the lives of others. Last month, the school board in Meridian, Idaho voted to remove The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie from its Grade 10 supplemental reading list following parental complaints about its uncouth language and depictions of sex and drug use. When 17-year-old student Brady Kissel teamed up with staff from a local store to give away copies at a park as a protest, a concerned citizen called police. It was the evening of April 23, which was also World Book Night, an event dedicated to “spreading the love of reading.”
If ignorance is contagious, it’s high time to put the United States in quarantine.
Americans have long worried that their education system is leaving their children behind. With good reason: national exams consistently reveal how little the kids actually know. In the last set, administered in 2010 (more are scheduled for this spring), most fourth graders were unable to explain why Abraham Lincoln was an important figure, and only half were able to order North America, the U.S., California and Los Angeles by size. Results in civics were similarly dismal. While math and reading scores have improved over the years, economics remains the “best” subject, with 42 per cent of high school seniors deemed “proficient.”
They don’t appear to be getting much smarter as they age. A 2013 survey of 166,000 adults across 20 countries that tested math, reading and technological problem-solving found Americans to be below the international average in every category. (Japan, Finland, Canada, South Korea and Slovakia were among the 11 nations that scored significantly higher.)
The trends are not encouraging. In 1978, 42 per cent of Americans reported that they had read 11 or more books in the past year. In 2014, just 28 per cent can say the same, while 23 per cent proudly admit to not having read even one, up from eight per cent in 1978. Newspaper and magazine circulation continues to decline sharply, as does viewership for cable news. The three big network supper-hour shows drew a combined average audience of 22.6 million in 2013, down from 52 million in 1980. While 82 per cent of Americans now say they seek out news digitally, the quality of the information they’re getting is suspect. Among current affairs websites, Buzzfeed logs almost as many monthly hits as the Washington Post.
The advance of ignorance and irrationalism in the U.S. has hardly gone unnoticed. The late Columbia University historian Richard Hofstadter won the Pulitzer prize back in 1964 for his book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, which cast the nation’s tendency to embrace stupidity as a periodic by-product of its founding urge to democratize everything. By 2008, journalist Susan Jacoby was warning that the denseness—“a virulent mixture of anti-rationalism and low expectations”—was more of a permanent state. In her book, The Age of American Unreason, she posited that it trickled down from the top, fuelled by faux-populist politicians striving to make themselves sound approachable rather than smart. Their creeping tendency to refer to everyone—voters, experts, government officials—as “folks” is “symptomatic of a debasement of public speech inseparable from a more general erosion of American cultural standards,” she wrote. “Casual, colloquial language also conveys an implicit denial of the seriousness of whatever issue is being debated: talking about folks going off to war is the equivalent of describing rape victims as girls.”
That inarticulate legacy didn’t end with George W. Bush and Sarah Palin. Barack Obama, the most cerebral and eloquent American leader in a generation, regularly plays the same card, droppin’ his Gs and dialling down his vocabulary to Hee Haw standards. His ability to convincingly play a hayseed was instrumental in his 2012 campaign against the patrician Mitt Romney; in one of their televised debates the President referenced “folks” 17 times.
An aversion to complexity—at least when communicating with the public—can also be seen in the types of answers politicians now provide the media. The average length of a sound bite by a presidential candidate in 1968 was 42.3 seconds. Two decades later, it was 9.8 seconds. Today, it’s just a touch over seven seconds and well on its way to being supplanted by 140-character Twitter bursts.
Little wonder then that distrust—of leaders, institutions, experts, and those who report on them—is rampant. A YouGov poll conducted last December found that three-quarters of Americans agreed that science is a force for good in the world. Yet when asked if they truly believe what scientists tell them, only 36 per cent of respondents said yes. Just 12 per cent expressed strong confidence in the press to accurately report scientific findings. (Although according to a 2012 paper by Gordon Gauchat, a University of North Carolina sociologist, the erosion of trust in science over the past 40 years has been almost exclusively confined to two groups: conservatives and regular churchgoers. Counterintuitively, it is the most highly educated among them—with post-secondary education—who harbour the strongest doubts.)
The term “elitist” has become one of the most used, and feared, insults in American life. Even in the country’s halls of higher learning, there is now an ingrained bias that favours the accessible over the exacting.
“There’s a pervasive suspicion of rights, privileges, knowledge and specialization,” says Catherine Liu, the author of American Idyll: Academic Antielitism as Cultural Critique and a film and media studies professor at University of California at Irvine. Both ends of the political spectrum have come to reject the conspicuously clever, she says, if for very different reasons; the left because of worries about inclusiveness, the right because they equate objections with obstruction. As a result, the very mission of universities has changed, argues Liu. “We don’t educate people anymore. We train them to get jobs.” (Boomers, she says, deserve most of the blame. “They were so triumphalist in promoting pop culture and demoting the canon.”)
The digital revolution, which has brought boundless access to information and entertainment choices, has somehow only enhanced the lowest common denominators—LOL cat videos and the Kardashians. Instead of educating themselves via the Internet, most people simply use it to validate what they already suspect, wish or believe to be true. It creates an online environment where Jenny McCarthy, a former Playboy model with a high school education, can become a worldwide leader of the anti-vaccination movement, naysaying the advice of medical professionals.
Most perplexing, however, is where the stupid is flowing from. As conservative pundit David Frum recently noted, where it was once the least informed who were most vulnerable to inaccuracies, it now seems to be the exact opposite. “More sophisticated news consumers turn out to use this sophistication to do a better job of filtering out what they don’t want to hear,” he blogged.
But are things actually getting worse? There’s a long and not-so-proud history of American electors lashing out irrationally, or voting against their own interests. Political scientists have been tracking, since the early 1950s, just how poorly those who cast ballots seem to comprehend the policies of the parties and people they are endorsing. A wealth of research now suggests that at the most optimistic, only 70 per cent actually select the party that accurately represents their views—and there are only two choices.
Larry Bartels, the co-director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt University, says he doubts that the spreading ignorance is a uniquely American phenomenon. Facing complex choices, uncertain about the consequences of the alternatives, and tasked with balancing the demands of jobs, family and the things that truly interest them with boring policy debates, people either cast their ballots reflexively, or not at all. The larger question might be whether engagement really matters. “If your vision of democracy is one in which elections provide solemn opportunities for voters to set the course of public policy and hold leaders accountable, yes,” Bartels wrote in an email to Maclean’s. “If you take the less ambitious view that elections provide a convenient, non-violent way for a society to agree on who is in charge at any given time, perhaps not.”
A study by two Princeton University researchers, Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, released last month, tracked 1,800 U.S. policy changes between 1981 and 2002, and compared the outcome with the expressed preferences of median-income Americans, the affluent, business interests and powerful lobbies. They concluded that average citizens “have little or no independent influence” on policy in the U.S., while the rich and their hired mouthpieces routinely get their way. “The majority does not rule,” they wrote.
Smart money versus dumb voters is hardly a fair fight. But it does offer compelling evidence that the survival of the fittest remains an unshakable truth even in American life. A sad sort of proof of evolution.
Let’s make this one go viral, folks. This is an important message. ANY message that makes females feel “less than” males is a bad message. Any message that makes males feel “less than” females is a bad message, too.
Please re-blog, tweet and spread this message to the best of your ability. It will do some good. Thanks!
It is raining softly today, but still very nice outside….mild. I hesitate to even write this entry, because I don’t want to sound like this is about me. So many people have it worse off than I do…but my feelings of loss have increased exponentially over the last week and it would be impossible for me not to mention the affect this has had on my life. If not for the love of my husband and my best friend, I would probably be falling apart right now. After writing about the deaths of two friends over the last few days, I have just learned of a third who was gunned down on a street corner in Bogata, Columbia, while waiting for a bus.
I mentioned in a previous entry that I had lost no friends in years…and except for these deaths, that is still a true statement, but oh, what losses these are! I feel them tremendously. They weigh heavily on my head and heart today and I have been weepy this morning. I am so sorry for their family members and other friends, and wish there was something I could do to make this a less painful time for them. Fortunately, my husband is flying home this afternoon to lend his usual loving support to me, and I am counting my blessings that I have him. He and I will attend our other friend’s memorial service together, but more than that, will take comfort in one another’s company during this sad time.
Steve’s was a senseless murder and the shooter has not been apprehended. I have no further details, other than the fact that a friend from Texas was visiting him and was also shot, but not seriously injured. Steve, a musician first and computer engineer second, had discovered a love for anthropology in his 50’s, and had set out to get his PhD in Cultural Studies. He was working on his dissertation and close to completing the program. He was one of the finest guitarists I have ever known and was a very loving, kind person.
We had only spoken twice since he had been in Columbia. Each time, I could hear a new spark in his voice, the sound of joy of discovery and freedom. He loved living there and had embraced its culture and was having a great time. He spoke fondly of the beautiful people there. There are mean thugs everywhere, so I am not bitter about his being in Columbia and I do not attribute his death to his being in Columbia. I am happy that he got to experience life there. He had wanted to do this for a long time. Had he stayed in Texas, his nutty ex probably would have shot him eventually. He had recently left a very bad, abusive marriage and was starting over. He had highest hopes and although traumatized, felt great about his new life. He had eventually planned to return to the US and teach at a university on the East Coast. Always full of fun and adventure, Steve was. I miss him already.
Ironically, in a conversation with my Aunt this morning, she relayed that she had also lost 3 friends over the last week, and that all of their memorial services are to be held this Saturday.
Into every life a little rain must fall. However, after having returned from a long, contemplative walk, I can think of so much I have to be thankful for right now. The significant relationships that I have are all the more important now. That is the silver lining. I know how lucky I am. I am sad, but not discouraged. I will not dwell on the sickness and death. I will cherish the good things and feel honored that, for now, they are my own. I have been blessed and or this, I am grateful.
Goodbye, Stevie. You were a good friend.
A client hired me to write about this topic, and as I investigated, I decided that the topic was pretty interesting, so I’ll post the gist of my article here:
Each day, people try to influence others. I do it. You do it. Everyone does. Could be about something small. Could be about something major.
For instance, I spend a good deal of time on this blog talking about the merits of healthful eating. It doesn’t really matter to me, with any level of significance, what anyone else eats, because that simply isn’t my business….but on some level by writing about healthful eating I suppose I am probably trying to influence or convince you, the reader, to choose better eating habits so that you, too, can enjoy the many benefits of doing so. Trying to influence or persuade others is a natural thing to do.
There are numerous ways of persuading another person to do, think or feel something. It is my opinion that positive influence is the most effective and best way to do that.
Let’s break this down into understandable terms and take a look at some of the choices:
Influence is simply the power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen: a person or thing that affects someone or something in an important way. I wish to positively influence others.
The operative point here is use of the term, “without directly forcing them to happen.” I, personally, believe that influence and persuasion are fairly interchangeable.
Persuasion is a voluntary choice on the part of the person being persuaded. While influence and persuasion can be used in negative ways, they are inherently the more positive of all of the ways of convincing someone else to do something, because neither tactic involves forcing someone to do something against his or her will.
Now, let’s talk about the nasty cousins of influence: manipulation and coercion. Usually, when people have a negative reaction to the word influence, they are actually conjuring images and ideas about these words:
manipulationManipulation is unfortunately and incorrectly equated with influence. It’s a bad thing, in my opinion. I guess it’s understandable that people equate it incorrectly with influence, since there really is only one small difference between the two . Manipulation occurs when someone exerts shrewd or devious influence especially for one’s own advantage.
coerceThe act of coercion is to make (someone) DO something by using force or threats or to GET (something) by using force or threats.
Coercion is probably the ugliest of the lot. It’s pretty much a do-whatever-it-takes approach. Brainwashing and torture fall under the heading of coercion, as do threats, screaming, hitting….Know what I mean?
How does coercion work?
The tactics of psychological coercion often involve anxiety and stress, and fall into seven main categories.
1. Restrictive techniques or exhaustive, exact repetition of demands.
2. Attempted establishment of control over the victim’s social environment, time, and sources of social support by creating social isolation; removing contact with family or friends who promote self-esteem, independence, positivity, and sense of well-being. Economic controls may contribute.
3. Rejection of alternate information and separate opinions. Rules exist about permissible topics to discuss. Communication is highly controlled.
4. Forcing the victim to re-evaluate the most central aspects of his or her experience of self and prior conduct in negative ways. The victim is made to feel like a “bad” person. Efforts are designed to destabilize and undermine the subject’s basic consciousness, reality awareness, world view, emotional control and defense mechanisms. The subject questions, doubts, and reinterprets his or her life and adopts a new “reality.”
5. Creating a sense of powerlessness by subjecting the victim to intense and frequently confusing, conflicting actions and situations which undermine the victim’s self-confidence and judgment.
6. Creating strong, aversive, emotional arousals in the subject by reactions such as intense humiliation, loss of privilege, social isolation, social status changes, intense guilt, anxiety, and manipulation.
7. Intimidation of the victim by implied power, size, voice amplitude, or implied threat. Psychological coercion can be applied to such a degree that the victim’s capacity to make informed or free choices becomes inhibited. The victim becomes unable to make the normal, wise or balanced decisions which they most likely or normally would have made, had they not been manipulated. The cumulative effect of psychological coercion can be an even more effective form of undue influence than pain, torture, drugs or the use of physical force or threats.
Coercive psychological systems violate the most fundamental concepts of basic human rights. They imply ownership of one person or group by another. They violate rights of individuals that are guaranteed by many declarations of principle worldwide. An interesting fact, however…..
Often, the victims of coercion will rebel against the person or entity using the coercion and may give the impression that they are following that person’s orders, when, in reality, the opposite is true. Bullies with a mentality low enough to attempt coercion, however, are clearly too stupid to realize this.
How many of you love television programs that have to do with crime solving? Shows such as CSI, Dateline and others that entail looking inside the heads of criminals are quite interesting. They tend to hook their audiences by providing clues that audience members can easily fit together to solve the crimes from home. When I signed up for a Forensic Psychology class this term, I thought this was what I would be doing. In reality, crime solving is only a tiny aspect of being a forensic psychologist. The discipline is so much more than these highly publicized sensational aspects. The rest involves a fusion of psychology and technical law that can easily confuse even the most astute student.
A lot of people equate forensic psychology with forensic science or law enforcement. They tend to think that the forensic psychologist arrives at a crime scene, surveys the area and eventually identifies a number of psychological clues that can help catch the bad guy. These things that you see on TV easily lead to a number of incorrect conclusions about what Forensic Psychology is. In fact, psychologists are rarely called upon to act in this capacity at all.
Simply stated, Forensic Psychology refers to any application of psychology to the legal system. Most often it is clinical psychology, but not always. There are different ethical standards regarding confidentiality and other issues that apply in the forensics field, as opposed to therapeutic psychology work, and forensic psychologists take completely different approaches to their clients than therapeutic psychologists do. Some might even argue that the intersection between psychology and the law is more like a collision than a fusion.
The work that I am currently conducting is a case analysis of a Muslim immigrant who was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic. He lived on the streets and was arrested and jailed for trespassing. While in jail, he was given anti-psychotic medication for his mental illness. However, upon his release back into the streets, he discontinued taking the medication. He began to suffer visual and audio hallucinations and to believe that Nazi youth were coming to assassinate him. One night, as he was asleep on a park bench, he was, indeed, attacked by a gang of hoodlums. They beat him, kicked him and left him lying on the ground, but he was not seriously injured. After they left, the man searched until he found a pipe which he stashed in the shadows for his own protection.
The next morning, the man saw two young teenaged boys approaching from the park’s pathway. They were on their way to a music lesson.
Thinking they were the youths who had attacked him the night before, and believing they had returned to kill him, he sneaked up behind them and began to wield the pipe wildly. He struck the elder boy in the head knocking him to the ground before he began to repeatedly beat the younger brother. The elder brother was able to escape and seek assistance. When the police arrived, the man had bludgeoned the younger brother to death and was continuing to beat his lifeless body as he lay on the ground. The man went completely limp when he was apprehended by the police and did not resist arrest.
The man was evaluated, deemed incompetent to be tried and committed to a mental health care facility where he underwent pharmaceutical therapy for the paranoid schizophrenia. After 6 months of treatment, he was reevaluated and deemed competent to stand trial. He was tried and convicted of capital murder. It is my job to determine whether or not he qualifies for and should get the death penalty.
This brings up countless ethical issues with me. I am an avid opponent of the death penalty for many reasons. First, it is unfair. Ethnic minorities are more often convicted and sentenced to death for the same crimes when non-minorities receive lesser sentences. It costs more to execute a prisoner than to give one life in prison. Death of the criminal does not bring back the victim. There are just too many reasons to say, in full, why I oppose it on legal and ethical grounds. However, my personal opinions do not count in this instance. Only my professional ones do.
I have to consider what the prisoner needs, in terms of his rights being observed. I have to consider what the state needs, in terms of keeping the streets safe, and I have to consider what the court needs, in terms of arriving at a just solution. It is a lot to think about, and there are so many laws and legal loopholes and psychological issues and ethical standards to consider that it really makes my head swim!
I do not believe I will pursue a career in Forensic Psychology…..but this is an interesting class, nonetheless.
It can be very difficult to empathize with those people with whom you have no connection. Fortunately, most people are not mean, and in most cases, I do try to connect and empathize with others. Do you?
Here is an interesting talk about empathy.
Have you ever been in a situation where someone that was truly crazy, truly mean, was up to their typical evil because they falsely believe they have something over on you, and you just wanted to rub their nose in their own stupidity? Don’t. Just ignore them…..Even if you have information that would make them re-think their aggressive bullying.
When you find a big kettle of crazy, it really is best not to stir it. The crazies will beat that broth with a whisk themselves until it is frothy… so you don’t have to. The difference between the nut-jobs and yourself is that YOU (or, in this case, “I”) have self-control.
Failure to control oneself is just that….failure…..and who needs to be around hot-tempered, drama queen losers? Attempt to be cool, folks. Whether your definition of self-control involves stopping drinking or smoking or getting even with the person that keeps making an ass out of him or herself…… exercising self-control is the best answer. It can be difficult when the other person is a bully who slathers the Internet with stupid memes depicting a reality that only exists in his or her own mind. You can drop clues about the wrongness of it all until the cows come home, but they continue to gloat and believe lies….so just let them. When you feel a good retaliation coming on….even a DESERVED one, meditate! Meditation not only improves your emotional intelligence, it also trains the brain to become a self-control machine. Yes, meditation actually changes the chemical structure of the brain by flooding it with Dopamine, Seratonin and all the other “feel good” chemicals that are produced by the body. Simple techniques such as mindfulness, that requires as little as five minutes a day to focus on nothing more than your breathing and your senses, improves self-awareness and the brain’s ability to resist destructive impulses. Buddhist monks appear calm and in control for a reason!
Believe it or not, another way to control one’s self is to control what goes into the body. The brain burns heavily into one’s stores of glucose when attempting to exert self-control in those situations where you don’t really WANT to exercise self-control.
When some crazy has pissed you off so badly that you really, really want to flaunt your situation in front of his or her face, if your blood sugar is low, you are far more likely to succumb to destructive impulses….so eat healthy foods! Sugary foods rapidly spike sugar levels and leave one feeling drained and vulnerable shortly thereafter. Eating something that provides a slow burn, such as whole grain rice or beans, will give anyone a longer window of self-control.
Getting the ‘ol body moving for as little as 10 minutes at a time releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes one’s brain feel soothed and keeps the exerciser in control of his or her impulses. If you’re having trouble resisting the impulse to upload all kinds of incriminating evidence to your blog, or if you want to splash someone’s CRAZY name all over the Internet…. just keep on walking. You should have the impulse under control by the time you get back.
Desire has a strong tendency to ebb and flow like the tide. When the impulse you need to control is strong, waiting out this wave of desire is usually enough to keep yourself in control. The rule of thumb here is to wait at least 10 minutes before succumbing to temptation. You’ll often find that the great wave of desire is now little more than a ripple that you have the power to step right over.
The important thing to remember is you have to give these strategies the opportunity to work. This means recognizing the moments where you are struggling with self-control and, rather than giving in to impulse, taking a look at this advice and giving these tips a go before you give in. Exercise a little self-discipline. The crazies will take care of themselves. It takes time to increase your emotional intelligence, but the new habits you form with effort can last a lifetime.
I remember reading something online a couple of years ago. It was written by a redneck nitwit about one of my friends, and it referred to the friend as a “self-admitted feminist,” in a way that implied that the redneck was somehow “above” my friend….that being a feminist was a bad thing. I found myself wondering, “How could any woman logically NOT be a feminist and walk away with an ounce of self respect?” and I pondered this question for a long time before I concluded the answer in one word….ignorance. The redneck is ignorant. She doesn’t even understand what the term means.
The basic idea of Feminism revolves around the principle that just because human bodies are designed to perform certain procreative functions, biological elements need not dictate intellectual and social functions, capabilities, and rights.
Feminism also, by its nature, embraces the belief that all people are entitled to freedom and liberty within reason–including equal civil rights–and that discrimination should not be made based on gender, sexual orientation, skin color, ethnicity, religion, culture, or lifestyle.
Feminists–and all persons interested in civil equality and intellectuality–are dedicated to fighting the ignorance that says people are controlled by and limited to their biology.
1.the forming of a theory or conjecture without firm evidence.“there has been widespread speculation that he plans to (_________)“ fill in the blank.An interesting tidbit that we studied last term was the phenomenon of speculation and how that can lead to fabrication of untruths. I have watched this happen politically, and now I am watching it happen on a closer level..What constitutes “firm evidence”? Well, if you’re dealing with scientific evidence, the answer is simple. One needs simply to determine if an empirical study is valid and reliable by using systematic means to do so…step…by step…..but what about in real life interactions with other people? Where do you draw the line between mere opinion, speculation and educated opinion?.When a party that is directly involved in something, conveys information about a situation, this causes me to form an educated opinion about it… both because I have been directly informed, and because I have observed certain behaviors (and continue to observe them) myself. For instance, if my friend, Katy, came to me and confided certain events that were transpiring in her marriage, I would then have enough evidence to form an educated opinion about the situation. That isn’t speculation. It is an informed opinion. Plus, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine that two people that fight the majority of the time are in a relationship that sucks. Top that with spying, lying, cheating and public displays of insanity and well….It’s not speculation..
While it is true that some people do fabricate things from their imaginations, I don’t happen to be one of them . There is no need to fabricate when you are being given direct information about something by one of the parties involved. Right? I do not stand on the outside of people and wager guesses about them. That would be unfair and unkind. I form my opinions based on evidence. I don’t make things up. I exercise my educated opinion….or I keep my mouth shut..