Archive for November 8th, 2010
Learning new physical skills and movements (as in learning, say, a martial art or a new dance or Pilates) is difficult because at least some of us (one is typing at this moment) don’t have precise control of all muscles and so have to grope about internally to try to find how to do some movement or another. It’s like trying to lift one eyebrow (if you can’t do that): you can’t figure out how to control that particular muscle.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, one of the most right-wing courts in the country, sanctioned a former high school cheerleader because she brought a lawsuit claiming that she shouldn’t be required to cheer for her alleged rapist:
The former cheerleader and her family are appealing the ruling by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which includes an order to pay the school district’s legal fees on the grounds their suit was far-fetched and frivolous. [...]
H.S., then 16, attended a party in her hometown of Silsbee, Texas, in October 2008. She said she was dragged into a room, thrown onto the floor by several youths and raped by Rakheem Bolton, a star on the school’s football and basketball teams.
Bolton and a teammate were arrested two days later, but were allowed to return to school after a county grand jury declined to indict them. They were later indicted on sexual assault charges, but in the interim came the February 2009 incident on the basketball court.
H.S. joined in leading cheers for the Silsbee High team. But when Bolton went to the foul line, and the cheers included his name, she stepped back, folded her arms and sat down.
This decision is hardly the first time the right-wing Fifth Circuit has come under scrutiny for its harsh judgments. As the Wonk Room noted earlier this year, the overwhelming majority of Fifth Circuit judges are invested in the oil industry, and both of the judges who voted against reinstating a drilling moratorium during the Gulf oil disaster attended oil industry-funded junkets. In one case brought by Katrina victims against the energy industry, so many judges were required to recuse themselves that there weren’t enough judges left to hear an appeal.
Yet, even in a circuit known for its knee-jerk ideology, the cheerleader rape case was heard by an unusually radical panel of three judges. Judges Emilio Garza and Edith Clement were both on President George W. Bush’s “short list” for potential Supreme Court nominees, and Clement serves on the board of the leading organization providing industry-funded junkets for judges. The third judge, Priscilla Owen, took thousands of dollars worth of campaign contributions from Enron and then wrote a key opinion reducing Enron’s taxes by $15 million when she sat on the Texas Supreme Court. The panel did not include the court’s chief judge, Edith Jones, who has her own history of ignoring the pleas of women who are sexually harassed or assaulted.
Some weird, interesting, and beautiful behavior of the roots of polynomials with integer coefficients
Take a look, if you’re mathematically inclined.
Kate K. emailed a link to this post, commenting:
… A video with you from Newsy.com that I thought you might find interesting. It analyzes much of the recent coverage from multiple sources regarding the Republican opposition to this rail program and compiles it into one story: http://www.newsy.com/videos/new-republican-governors-to-derail-high-speed-projects/. It includes clips about Walker’s and Kasich’s pledge to kill the project and discusses how the cancellation of this project would affect progress and energy.
Introverts are great, IMO. (Full disclosure: I’m an introvert.) Here’s some info by Laurie Helgo in Psychology Today:
After ten years as a psychologist practicing psychodynamic psychotherapy, I reclined on the couch of my own analyst feeling burdened by my chosen work. After a day of seeing patients, I was drained. I had been trained to listen at many levels—words, emotions, unconscious disclosures—and I took all of that in and sorted it out in my mind. I was good at helping others discover and pursue what they wanted out of life. But at day’s end I had no resources left to do it for myself.
Then I heard myself say: "I don’t like being a therapist." Pause. "I never have." I loved the study of psychology. I didn’t love seeing patient after patient. I was perpetually overstimulated, busy decoding everything I took in. Plus, I wondered why I couldn’t tolerate the large caseloads my colleagues took on willingly.
Suddenly I felt free, loosed from expectations that never fit. And just as suddenly, I felt I could say no to the demands of others. I could even say no to being a therapist.
As a card-carrying introvert, I am one of the many people whose personality confers on them a preference for the inner world of their own mind rather than the outer world of sociability. Depleted by too much external stimulation, we thrive on reflection and solitude. Our psychic opposites, extraverts, prefer schmoozing and social life because such activities boost their mood. They get bored by too much solitude.
Over the past two decades, scientists have whittled down to five those clusters of cognitions, emotions, motivations, and behaviors that we mean by "personality" factors. Extraversion, and by inference introversion, is chief among them, along with neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness—psychology’s so-called Big Five. Although introverts and extraverts may seem like they come from different planets, introversion and extraversion exist on a continuous dimension that is normally distributed. There are a few extremely extraverted folk, and a few extreme introverts, while most of us share some extravert and some introvert traits.
Although there is no precise dividing line, there are plenty of introverts around. It’s just that perceptual biases lead us all to overestimate the number of extraverts among us (they are noisier and hog the spotlight). Often confused with shyness, introversion does not imply social reticence or discomfort. Rather than being averse to social engagement, introverts become overwhelmed by too much of it, which explains why the introvert is ready to leave a party after an hour and the extravert gains steam as the night goes on.
Scientists now know that, while introverts have no special advantage in intelligence, they do seem to process more information than others in any given situation. To digest it, they do best in quiet environments, interacting one on one. Further, their brains are less dependent on external stimuli and rewards to feel good.
As a result, introverts are not driven to seek big hits of positive emotional arousal—they’d rather find meaning than bliss—making them relatively immune to the search for happiness that permeates contemporary American culture. In fact, the cultural emphasis on happiness may actually threaten their mental health. As American life becomes increasingly competitive and aggressive, to say nothing of blindingly fast, the pressures to produce on demand, be a team player, and make snap decisions cut introverts off from their inner power source, leaving them stressed and depleted. Introverts today face one overarching challenge—not to feel like misfits in their own culture.
Introversion in Action
On the surface, introversion looks a lot like shyness. Both limit social interaction, but for differing reasons. The shy want desperately to connect but find socializing difficult, says Bernardo J. Carducci, professor of psychology and director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast. Introverts seek time alone because they want time alone. An introvert and a shy person might be standing against the wall at a party, but the introvert prefers to be there, while the shy individual feels she has no choice.
Introverts don’t necessarily hide. Beth Wheatley is very much in the public eye as director of public relations for The Nature Conservancy. Yet she scores squarely as an introvert on personality tests. She was led to her work by her love of nature. She runs daily, not just for the physical exercise but because running allows her time to think through the events of her day. She prefers talking with one person at a time. She usually opts out of after-work social events.
"My number-one strategy is to stay under the radar screen. I stand next to a wall and put an invisible barrier around me so that I’m not bombarded and can think about my next move," she confides.
It’s often possible to spot introverts by their conversational style. They’re the ones doing the listening. Extraverts are more likely to pepper people with questions. Introverts like to think before responding—many prefer to think out what they want to say in advance—and seek facts before expressing opinions. Extraverts are comfortable thinking as they speak. Introverts prefer slow-paced interactions that allow room for thought. Brainstorming does not work for them. Email does.
Introverts are collectors of thoughts, and solitude is where the collection is curated and rearranged to make sense of the present and future. Introverts can tolerate—and enjoy—projects that require long stretches of solitary activity. Extraverts often have to discipline themselves for bouts of solitary work, and then they prefer frequent social breaks.
While extraverts spend more time overall in social activities than introverts do, the two groups do not differ significantly on time spent with family members, romantic partners, or coworkers. Moreover, extraverts and introverts both report a mood boost from the company of others. For introverts, however, the boost may come at a cost. Researchers have found that introverts who act extraverted show slower reaction times on subsequent cognitive tests than those allowed to act introverted. Their cognitive fatigue testifies to the fact that "acting counter-dispositionally is depleting."
Too Fast, Too Loud, Too Much
Like individuals, cultures have different styles. America is a noisy culture, unlike, say, Finland, which values silence. Individualism, dominant in the U.S. and Germany, promotes the direct, fast-paced style of communication associated with extraversion. Collectivistic societies, such as those in East Asia, value privacy and restraint, qualities more characteristic of introverts.
According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test administered to two randomized national samples, introverts make up 50 percent of the U.S. population. The MBTI definition of introversion—a preference for solitude, reflection, internal exploration of ideas vs. active engagement and pursuit of rewards in the external/social world—correlates closely with the Big Five description. But the results still surprise; if every other person is an introvert, why doesn’t the cultural tone reflect that?
It’s not just that we overestimate the numbers of extraverts in our midst because they’re more salient. The bias of individuals is reinforced in the media, which emphasize the visual, the talkative, and the sound bite— immediacy over reflection.
"In verbal cultures, remaining silent presents a problem," report Anio Sallinen-Kuparinen, James McCroskey, and Virginia Richmond, who have studied communication styles in the U.S. and Finland. Perceptions of competence tend to be based on verbal behavior. An introvert who is silent in a group may actually be quite engaged—taking in what is said, thinking about it, waiting for a turn to speak—but will be seen in the U.S. as a poor communicator.
When psychologists Catherine Caldwell-Harris and Ayse Ayçiçegi compared U.S. and Turkish samples, they found . . .
The title says it all. List is found here.
The above guide is probably familiar. I follow it closely and will not even consider conventional strawberries. But now the same government that warns us that pesticides cause “birth defects, nerve damage, cancer, and other effects” is encouraging us to eat more pesticide-contaminated food. Kiera Butler reports for Mother Jones:
You know the Environmental Working Group‘s super-helpful list of the most-pesticide-laden fruits and veggies? Well, there’s a Big Ag lobby group called the Alliance for Food and Farming that’s trying to debunk it. And the USDA just gave the lobbyists $180,000 to aid their smear campaign, reports The Atlantic.
So exactly who’s behind the Alliance for Food and Farming? According to SourceWatch, its board of directors includes honchos from the California Strawberry Commission, the California Tomato Farmers, the Produce Marketing Association, and the California Association of Pest Control Advisors, among other industry groups. The AFF’s main argument: “Promotion of the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list actually makes the work of improving the diets of Americans more difficult because it scares consumers away from the affordable fruits and vegetables that they enjoy.”
Riiiight. Considering that the EPA freely admits that pesticides can cause “birth defects, nerve damage, cancer, and other effects,” it’s totally boneheaded to suggest that raising consumer awareness about pesticides is making Americans less healthy. What’s more, it’s not like the Environmental Working Group is suggesting you give up on produce entirely and stock your fridge with Mountain Dew instead. In fact, EWG explicitly states that the list isn’t meant to discourage people from eating their veggies. From the FAQ:
Do all these pesticides mean I shouldn’t eat fruits and vegetables?
No, eat your fruits and vegetables! The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Use EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to reduce your exposures as much as possible, but eating conventionally grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all.
The bottom line: The more you know about your food, the better. Period.