Later On

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Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

Fermented foods and fibre may lower stress levels – new study

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John Cryan, Vice President for Research & Innovation, University College Cork, writes in The Conversation:

When it comes to dealing with stress, we’re often told the best things we can do are exercise, make time for our favourite activities or try meditation or mindfulness.

But the kinds of foods we eat may also be an effective way of dealing with stress, according to research published by me and other members of APC Microbiome Ireland. Our latest study has shown that eating more fermented foods and fibre daily for just four weeks had a significant effect on lowering perceived stress levels.

Over the last decade, a growing body of research has shown that diet can have a huge impact on our mental health. In fact, a healthy diet may even reduce the risk of many common mental illnesses.

The mechanisms underpinning the effect of diet on mental health are still not fully understood. But one explanation for this link could be via the relationship between our brain and our microbiome (the trillions of bacteria that live in our gut). Known as the gut-brain axis, this allows the brain and gut to be in constant communication with each other, allowing essential body functions such as digestion and appetite to happen. It also means that the emotional and cognitive centres in our brain are closely connected to our gut.

While previous research has shown stress and behaviour are also linked to our microbiome, it has been unclear until now whether changing diet (and therefore our microbiome) could have a distinct effect on stress levels.

This is what our study set out to do. To test this, we recruited 45 healthy people with relatively low-fibre diets, aged 18–59 years. More than half were women. The participants were split into two groups and randomly assigned a diet to follow for the four-week duration of the study. . .

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Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2022 at 10:22 am

Highly Processed Foods ‘as Addictive’ as Tobacco

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Highly processed foods are detrimental to health, as has been demonstrated — but they are also highly addictive, which means they are lucrative: repeat customers are guaranteed. So it comes down to whether the economic structure of the society responds to health or to money. In the US, certainly, the driving motive of any company is purely profit, so for a corporation the choice is simple.

Becky McCall writes in Medscape:

Highly processed foods meet the same criteria as tobacco for addiction, and labeling them as such might benefit public health, according to a new US study that proposes a set of criteria to assess the addictive potential of some foods.

The research suggests that healthcare professionals are taking steps towards framing food addiction as a clinical entity in its own right; it currently lacks validated treatment protocols and recognition as a clinical diagnosis.

Meanwhile, other data, reported by researchers last week at the Diabetes Professional Care (DPC) 2022 conference in London, UK, also add support to the clinical recognition of food addiction.

Clinical psychologist Jen Unwin, PhD, from Southport, UK, showed that a 3-month online program of low carbohydrate diet together with psychoeducational support significantly reduced food addiction symptoms among a varied group of individuals, not all of whom were overweight or had obesity.

Unwin said her new data represent the first widescale clinical audit of its kind, other than a prior report of three patients with food addiction who were successfully treated with a ketogenic diet.

“Food addiction explains so much of what we see in clinical practice, where intelligent people understand what we tell them about the physiology associated with a low-carb diet, and they follow it for a while, but then they relapse,” said Unwin, explaining the difficulties faced by around 20% of her patients who are considered to have food addiction.

Meanwhile, the authors of the US study, led by Ashley N. Gearhardt, PhD, a psychologist from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, write that the ability of highly processed foods (HPFs) “to rapidly . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2022 at 6:27 am

This course takes a broad look at failure – and what we can all learn when it occurs

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Robert Kunzman, Professor of Curriculum Studies and Philosophy of Education, Indiana University, writes in The Conversation:

Unusual Courses is an occasional series from The Conversation U.S. highlighting unconventional approaches to teaching.

Title of course:

“Failure, and How We Can Learn from It”

What prompted the idea for the course?

When I was a high school teacher, I found plenty of joy and fulfillment in my work. But I also felt the sting of failure: from a student who remained disengaged throughout the semester, or even just from a lesson that went off the rails. Now I prepare aspiring K-12 teachers to navigate that messy reality themselves, and I’m struck by how tough it can be for them to develop the resilience necessary to work so hard and yet inevitably fall short of their goals.

So I began to wonder how other fields and professions might view failure. What resources do they draw upon? What common threads might exist that could help future teachers learn from failure more effectively?

What does the course explore?

We explore the role of failure in a wide range of fields, and how what counts as failure varies as well. A bridge collapsing is pretty clear, and maybe a business that goes bankrupt. But what about a team losing or a patient dying? We also consider what mechanisms and strategies these fields employ in responding to failure, and the ways in which they see failure as part of the learning and achievement process.

What’s a critical lesson from the course?

As the semester unfolds, students begin to recognize that . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

28 November 2022 at 8:35 pm

The gods of Silicon Valley are falling to earth. So are their warped visions for society

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Moya Lothian-McLean writes in the Guardian:

The new gods are running into a bit of trouble. From the soap opera playing out at Twitter HQ, the too-big-to-fail bankruptcies in the cryptocurrency space, to mass tech layoffs, the past month has seen successive headlines declaring a litany of woes facing the bullish tech boyos in Silicon Valley and beyond.

The minute-by-minute coverage of Elon Musk’s escapades and the global levels of interest in the FTX collapse both go well beyond what you’d expect from a business story. I’m willing to gamble a few Bitcoins that the popular fixation has little to do with any particular interest in successful software engineering; rather it is the personalities who inhabit these spaces, and the philosophies that propel them in their godlike ambition. What is their end goal, we wonder. What drives them, beyond the pursuit of growth? It is easy to assume that money is all that motivates the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Musk and Jeff Bezos. Except, when you start to examine the mindsets of these men, it’s clear that cash is far from the whole story.

The concept of “effective altruism” has had its day in court after FTX, the world’s second largest cryptocurrency exchange announced that, oops, it was mysteriously short of $8bn and would be filing for bankruptcy, post haste. As the dust – and fraud allegations – settle, the personal guiding principles of FTX’s millennial chief executive, Sam Bankman-Fried, have come to the fore. Bankman-Fried ostensibly was driven into crypto by an adherence to the “effective altruism” movement. Originally espousing giving as much targeted time and money to philanthropy as possible, EA has been morphed by its most prominent practitioners into getting very, very rich and then spending that money on projects that better the human race. This “earn-to-give” philosophy is dependent on data-driven analysis of what causes offer the best returns of “betterment”. It’s utilitarianism with a god complex.

Since Bankman-Fried’s spectacular fall from grace, it seems as if this doctrine may be doomed to the same downward spiral as its most famous disciple. It’s hard to argue that you possess the best instincts to improve the prospects of the human race when you can’t even keep your own affairs – or billions in customer funds – in order.

Then there was the allegation last week by the Insider journalist Julia Black that Musk, along with other billionaires, appear to be engaged in their own personal eugenics programme via a movement called “pronatalism”. Black writes that pronatalism – an ideology centred on having children to reverse falling birthrates in European countries, and prevent a predicted population collapse – is “taking hold in wealthy tech and venture-capitalist circles”, with the aid of hi-tech genetic screening.

Musk has championed pronatalist ideas publicly. Privately the Tesla co-founder is, in his own words, “doing my part”; he has 10 children known to the public, two of whom are twins he fathered with an AI expert who serves as an executive for his Neuralink company. But the ideas go beyond Musk and into the canyons of Silicon Valley; the world’s richest and most powerful people see it as their duty, Black claims, to “replicate themselves as many times as possible”.

Black’s subjects also namecheck effective altruism, longtermism (which prioritises the distant future over the concerns of today), and transhumanism (the evolution of humanity beyond current limitations via tech), as complementary philosophies. The concept of legacy is key to understanding our tech pioneers. As one interviewee tells Black,  . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2022 at 1:04 pm

Rebecca Solnit comments on class warfare in the US

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Rebecca Solnit comments in Facebook on that post. (And at the link you can see additional comments she made):

My friend Nancy posted this and I said Please Lord, just one movie in which city folk represent decency and sanity and country folk are wacked to hell and back (besides Cold Comfort Farm, which is great, but English and from the 1930s). To which I might add the old conceit in which the city represents decadence and the countryside wholesomeness has bedeviled the English-speaking world for several centuries and is now a fixture and a curse upon American politics, the right having convinced rural people that, first, they are the wholesome Real Americans and second that we city folk despise and hate them.

Hate them for their wholesome traditional ways, rather than maybe we don’t hate them or maybe we hate intolerance and racism and the repression that hides abuse of all kinds (and maybe not a few city people are refugees from those idyllic-looking rural places that want to kill queer people, unsubmissive women, immigrants, and dissenters). I will give it to Barbara Kingsolver’s new book Demon Copperfield, in that it portrays a lot of violence, cruelty, trapped ness, and addiction in rural America. Aunt June who went to Knoxville is maybe the strongest moral force in the book and the most cleareyed character. Thanks to Susan for reminding me that Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is another portrait of rural America as unwholesome, and so is Jane Smiley’s retelling of King Lear in A Thousand Acres. What other classics of the unwholesome countryside are there? I think Thomas Hardy straddles the divide, loving some things and recognizing the cruelty and repression of others.

I grew up in a suburban cul-de-sac, the last subdivision before the country, on the edge of dairy farms. Our street was a spur off a long street, and I and learned to ride (western, of course) at the end of the long street become dirt road dead-ending in a horse pasture. I’ve spent many of the best days of my life in rural and wild places, and I admire the skill and toughness of people who work the land and tend it, but it’s probably assumed that since I’m urban, left, and environmental I hate rural people. And it’s true that I grew up among middle-class white people who mocked and ridiculed Dolly Parton and country music and southern accents, but I haven’t heard that nastiness in a long while.

I got an essay out of it years ago, titled “One Nation Under Elvis”: “The story that racism belongs to poor people in the South is a little too easy, though. Just as not everybody up here, geographically and economically, is on the right side of the line, so not everyone down there is on the wrong side. But the story allows middle-class people to hate poor people in general while claiming to be on the side of truth, justice, and everything else good.” In other words, a vile class war pretends to be an anti-racist war. I’ve met rich urban/northern racists and poor southern/rural antiracists. Categories are leaky.

To all this I’ll add a few paragraphs from this great column from four years ago by Paul Waldman (but please note that just as far from all conservatives/MAGA nuts are rural, so not all rural people are conservatives/MAGA nuts). Waldman writes: In the endless search for the magic key that Democrats can use to unlock the hearts of white people who vote Republican, the hot new candidate is “respect.” If only they cast off their snooty liberal elitism and show respect to people who voted for Donald Trump, Democrats can win them over and take back Congress and the White House.

The assumption is that if Democrats simply choose to deploy this powerful tool of respect, then minds will be changed and votes will follow. This belief, widespread though it may be, is stunningly naive. It ignores decades of history and everything about our current political environment. There’s almost nothing more foolish Democrats could do than follow that advice.

Before we proceed, let me be clear about what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that the desire for respect isn’t real. As a voter says in “The Great Revolt,” a new book by conservative journalist Salena Zito and Republican operative Brad Todd, “One of the things I really don’t get about the Democratic Party or the news media is the lack of respect they give to people who work hard all of their lives to get themselves out of the hole.”

But the mistake is to ignore where the belief in Democratic disrespect actually comes from and to assume that Democrats have it in their power to banish it.

It doesn’t come from the policies advocated by the Democratic Party, and it doesn’t come from the things Democratic politicians say. Where does it come from? An entire industry that’s devoted to convincing white people that liberal elitists look down on them.

It’s more than an industry, actually; it’s an industry, plus a political movement. The right has a gigantic media apparatus that is devoted to convincing people that liberals disrespect them, plus a political party whose leaders all understand that that idea is key to their political project and so join in the chorus at every opportunity. https://www.washingtonpost.com/…/why-democrats-cant…/

[I’d also add that the Democrats reliably advocate for legislation–access to healthcare, education, social services, clean water, etc.– that would benefit anyone poor or struggling and most people who are rural (if not big farming and ranching interests), but this is often ignored by the mainstream media and the right just plies them with the red meat of ideological issues, with the help of conservative Christian churches obsessing about abortion, sexuality, “traditional families” aka patriarchal repression, and lately critical race theory, trans kids, and other us-vs.-them frames.]

p.s. Eric Michael Garcia, the author of this genius tweet, is the author of a book on autism titled We’re Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation. Link in comments. [Comments here – LG]

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2022 at 10:57 am

The Town That Went Feral

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In the New Republic Patrick Blanchfield reviews a brief history of an effort to put Libertarianism into practice in Grafton NH. (Like all previous attempts, it was an utter failure, and for the same reason: a reliance on mere logic, with no consideration given to experience — and as Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. observed, “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.”

The review begins:

In its public-education campaigns, the U.S. National Park Service stresses an important distinction: If you find yourself being attacked by a brown or grizzly bear, YES, DO PLAY DEAD. Spread your arms and legs and cling to the ground with all your might, facing downward; after a few attempts to flip you over (no one said this would be easy), the bear will, most likely, leave. By contrast, if you find yourself being attacked by a black bear, NO, DO NOT PLAY DEAD. You must either flee or, if that’s not an option, fight it off, curved claws and 700 psi-jaws and all.

But don’t worry—it almost never comes to this. As one park service PSA noted this summer, bears “usually just want to be left alone. Don’t we all?” In other words, if you encounter a black bear, try to look big, back slowly away, and trust in the creature’s inner libertarian. Unless, that is, the bear in question hails from certain wilds of western New Hampshire. Because, as Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling’s new book suggests, that unfortunate animal may have a far more aggressive disposition, and relate to libertarianism first and foremost as a flavor of human cuisine.

Hongoltz-Hetling is an accomplished journalist based in Vermont, a Pulitzer nominee and George Polk Award winner. A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (and Some Bears) sees him traversing rural New England as he reconstructs a remarkable, and remarkably strange, episode in recent history. This is the so-called Free Town Project, a venture wherein a group of libertarian activists attempted to take over a tiny New Hampshire town, Grafton, and transform it into a haven for libertarian ideals—part social experiment, part beacon to the faithful, Galt’s Gulch meets the New Jerusalem. These people had found one another largely over the internet, posting manifestos and engaging in utopian daydreaming on online message boards. While their various platforms and bugbears were inevitably idiosyncratic, certain beliefs united them: that the radical freedom of markets and the marketplace of ideas was an unalloyed good; that “statism” in the form of government interference (above all, taxes) was irredeemably bad. Left alone, they believed, free individuals would thrive and self-regulate, thanks to the sheer force of “logic,” “reason,” and efficiency. For inspirations, they drew upon precedents from fiction (Ayn Rand loomed large) as well as from real life, most notably a series of micro-nation projects ventured in the Pacific and Caribbean during the 1970s and 1980s.

None of those micro-nations, it should be observed, panned out, and things in New Hampshire don’t bode well either—especially when the humans collide with a newly brazen population of bears, themselves just “working to create their own utopia,” property lines and market logic be damned. The resulting narrative is simultaneously hilarious, poignant, and deeply unsettling. Sigmund Freud once described the value of civilization, with all its “discontents,” as a compromise product, the best that can be expected from mitigating human vulnerability to “indifferent nature” on one hand and our vulnerability to one another on the other. Hongoltz-Hetling presents, in microcosm, a case study in how a politics that fetishizes the pursuit of “freedom,” both individual and economic, is in fact a recipe for impoverishment and supercharged vulnerability on both fronts at once. In a United States wracked by virus, mounting climate change, and ruthless corporate pillaging and governmental deregulation, the lessons from one tiny New Hampshire town are stark indeed.


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“In a country known for fussy states with streaks of independence,” Hongoltz-Hetling observes, “New Hampshire is among the fussiest and the streakiest.” New Hampshire is, after all, the Live Free or Die state, imposing neither an income nor a sales tax, and boasting, among other things, the highest per capita rate of machine gun ownership. In the case of Grafton, the history of Living Free—so to speak—has deep roots. The town’s Colonial-era settlers started out by ignoring “centuries of traditional Abenaki law by purchasing land from founding father John Hancock and other speculators.” Next, they ran off Royalist law enforcement, come to collect lumber for the king, and soon discovered their most enduring pursuit: the avoidance of taxes. As early as 1777, Grafton’s citizens were asking their government to be spared taxes and, when they were not, just stopped paying them.

Nearly two and a half centuries later, Grafton has become something of a magnet for seekers and quirky types, from adherents of the Unification Church of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon to hippie burnouts and more. Particularly important for the story is one John Babiarz, a software designer with a Krusty the Klown laugh, who decamped from Big-Government-Friendly Connecticut in the 1990s to homestead in New Hampshire with his equally freedom-loving wife, Rosalie. Entering a sylvan world that was, Hongoltz-Hetling writes, “almost as if they had driven through a time warp and into New England’s revolutionary days, when freedom outweighed fealty and trees outnumbered taxes,” the two built a new life for themselves, with John eventually coming to head Grafton’s volunteer fire department (which he describes as a “mutual aid” venture) and running for governor on the libertarian ticket.

Although John’s bids for high office failed, his ambitions remained undimmed, and in 2004 he and Rosalie connected with . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2022 at 6:15 pm

Using guns to kill debate — and democracy

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The use of openly displayed firearms to intimidate and silence is particularly a problem in the US, which has more guns in civilian hands than it has civilians. Mike McIntire reports in the NY Times (no paywall):

Across the country, openly carrying a gun in public is no longer just an exercise in self-defense — increasingly it is a soapbox for elevating one’s voice and, just as often, quieting someone else’s.

This month, armed protesters appeared outside an elections center in Phoenix, hurling baseless accusations that the election for governor had been stolen from the Republican, Kari Lake. In October, Proud Boys with guns joined a rally in Nashville where conservative lawmakers spoke against transgender medical treatments for minors.

In June, armed demonstrations around the United States amounted to nearly one a day. A group led by a former Republican state legislator protested a gay pride event in a public park in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Men with guns interrupted a Juneteenth festival in Franklin, Tenn., handing out fliers claiming that white people were being replaced. Among the others were rallies in support of gun rights in Delaware and abortion rights in Georgia.

Whether at the local library, in a park or on Main Street, most of these incidents happen where Republicans have fought to expand the ability to bear arms in public, a movement bolstered by a recent Supreme Court ruling on the right to carry firearms outside the home. The loosening of limits has occurred as violent political rhetoric rises and the police in some places fear bloodshed among an armed populace on a hair trigger.

But the effects of more guns in public spaces have not been evenly felt. A partisan divide — with Democrats largely eschewing firearms and Republicans embracing them — has warped civic discourse. Deploying the Second Amendment in service of the First has become a way to buttress a policy argument, a sort of silent, if intimidating, bullhorn.

“It’s disappointing we’ve gotten to that state in our country,” said Kevin Thompson, executive director of the Museum of Science & History in Memphis, Tenn., where armed protesters led to the cancellation of an L.G.B.T.Q. event in September. “What I saw was a group of folks who did not want to engage in any sort of dialogue and just wanted to impose their belief.”

A New York Times analysis of more than 700 armed demonstrations found that, at about 77 percent of them, people openly carrying guns represented right-wing views, such as opposition to L.G.B.T.Q. rights and abortion access, hostility to racial justice rallies and support for former President Donald J. Trump’s lie of winning the 2020 election.

The records, from January 2020 to last week, were compiled by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, a nonprofit that tracks political violence around the world. The Times also interviewed witnesses to other, smaller-scale incidents not captured by the data, including encounters with armed people at indoor public meetings.

Anti-government militias and right-wing culture warriors like the Proud Boys attended a majority of the protests, the data showed. Violence broke out at more than 100 events and often involved fisticuffs with opposing groups, including left-wing activists such as antifa.

Republican politicians are generally more tolerant of openly armed supporters than are Democrats, who are more likely to be on the opposing side of people with guns, the records suggest. In July, for example, men wearing sidearms confronted Beto O’Rourke, then the Democratic candidate for Texas governor, at a campaign stop in Whitesboro and warned that he was “not welcome in this town.”

Republican officials or candidates appeared at 32 protests where they were on the same side as those with guns.  . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2022 at 4:01 pm

Frontline Work When Everyone Is Angry

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Christin Porath is professor of management at Georgetown University, a consultant who helps leading organizations create thriving workplaces, the author of Mastering Community: The Surprising Ways Coming Together Moves Us from Surviving to Thriving and Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace, and a coauthor of The Cost of Bad BehaviorShe has  an interesting article in Harvard Business Review:

Editor’s note: This article mentions threats of violence and sexual assault.

In October 2020 Dr. Adrienne Boissy, then the chief patient experience officer at Cleveland Clinic, had a big problem, and it wasn’t just Covid-19. Caregivers at the hospital, already stretched thin by the pandemic, were coming to her with alarming reports of abusive behavior from patients and visitors: mean comments, screaming tirades, even racist insults. “It’s never been so bad!” she told me.

I’ve studied incivility — defined as rudeness, disrespect, or insensitive behavior — in workplaces for more than 20 years, polling hundreds of thousands of people worldwide about their experiences. But after that conversation with Dr. Boissy, who is now the chief medical officer at Qualtrics and a neurologist at Cleveland Clinic, I wondered whether incivility is getting worse over time, particularly for frontline workers, who labor in person and often interact directly with customers and patients. These workers’ industries include health care, protective services (think police officers), retail, food production and processing, maintenance, agriculture, transportation (including airlines), hospitality, and education.

My research has found that reports of incivility are indeed on the rise — as evidenced not just by viral videos of airline passengers refusing to wear masks or café patrons hurling racial epithets but also by my recent survey that asked more than 2,000 people around the world how they have experienced rudeness lately. Even amid a global health crisis in which frontline workers were heralded as essential and heroic, these employees still became punching bags on whom weary, stressed-out, often irrational customers (and sometimes fellow employees) took out their anxieties and frustrations.

This kind of incivility leads to negative outcomes not only for the workers who experience it directly but also those who witness it — all of which harms businesses and society. In this article, we’ll explore those consequences and discuss how leaders can help to improve things.

Note that incivility takes many forms, from ignoring people to intentionally undermining them to mocking, teasing, and belittling them. For this article, it does not refer to physical aggression or violence, although incivility can spiral into aggressive behaviors.

Where We Are

Identifying and studying incivility can be difficult, because . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article the author lists various causes (e.g., stress), but I found this one particularly interesting:

Lack of self-awareness.

One of the biggest takeaways from my decades of research is that incivility usually arises from ignorance — not malice. People lack self-awareness. According to research by Tasha Eurich, an organizational psychologist and a collaborator of mine, a whopping 95% of people think they’re self-aware but only 10%–15% actually are. That means 80%–85% of people misunderstand how they’re perceived and how they affect others. We may have good intentions and work hard to be patient and tolerant, but our tones, nonverbal signals, or actions may come across differently to the people we interact with and those who witness the interactions.

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2022 at 12:22 pm

A Parasite Massively Improves A Wolf’s Chances Of Leading The Pack

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Rachell Funnel writes in IFLScience:

There’s a parasite at work among packs of grey wolves in America’s Yellowstone National Park, and bizarrely, the animals it infects have a far greater chance of leading their pack compared to wolves who have swerved infection. The culprit? Toxoplasma gondii – the parasite responsible for toxoplasmosis, a disease we can pick up from infected feces and undercooked meat.

T. gondii is a strange parasite, having been associated with risk-taking behaviors in human hosts as well as animals. Research has linked infection with the parasite to certain political views, and even suggested it can make you more attractive to others. Now, a study has found it could have unexpected benefits for wolves with big ambition, too.

The research looked at grey wolves (Canis lupus) living in Yellowstone, Wyoming, to see if or how infection with T. gondii influences wolf behavior. Armed with 26-years-worth of data and blood samples from 229 wolves, they were able to look for correlations between geography, behavior, and infection status.

Yellowstone is also home to cougars (Puma concolor) who are known to carry the parasite, and sure enough, wolves living in close proximity to pumas were more likely to be infected. Curiously, the analyses also showed that infection with the T. gondii parasite made the wolves much bolder. . .

Continue reading.

T. gondii also commonly infects housecats, and mice can get the parasite, which changes their behavior to be more foolhardy, thus making them easier prey for the cats.  More info here.

Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2022 at 11:53 am

The Spoon Theory to explain the experience of illness

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Christine Miserandino has a good analogy and explanation of what it’s like to suffer a chronic illness:

My best friend and I were in the diner, talking. As usual, it was very late and we were eating French fries with gravy. Like normal girls our age, we spent a lot of time in the diner while in college, and most of the time we spent talking about boys, music or trivial things, that seemed very important at the time. We never got serious about anything in particular and spent most of our time laughing.

As I went to take some of my medicine with a snack as I usually did, she watched me with an awkward kind of stare, instead of continuing the conversation. She then asked me out of the blue what it felt like to have Lupus and be sick. I was shocked not only because she asked the random question, but also because I assumed she knew all there was to know about Lupus. She came to doctors with me, she saw me walk with a cane, and throw up in the bathroom. She had seen me cry in pain, what else was there to know?

I started to ramble on about pills, and aches and pains, but she kept pursuing, and didn’t seem satisfied with my answers. I was a little surprised as being my roommate in college and friend for years; I thought she already knew the medical definition of Lupus. Then she looked at me with a face every sick person knows well, the face of pure curiosity about something no one healthy can truly understand. She asked what it felt like, not physically, but what it felt like to be me, to be sick.

As I tried to gain my composure, I glanced around the table for help or guidance, or at least stall for time to think. I was trying to find the right words. How do I answer a question I never was able to answer for myself? How do I explain every detail of every day being effected, and give the emotions a sick person goes through with clarity. I could have given up, cracked a joke like I usually do, and changed the subject, but I remember thinking if I don’t try to explain this, how could I ever expect her to understand. If I can’t explain this to my best friend, how could I explain my world to anyone else? I had to at least try.

At that moment, the spoon theory was born. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2022 at 9:56 am

Express gratitude – not because you will benefit from it, but others might

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Jennifer Cheavens, Associate Professor of Psychology, The Ohio State University, and David Cregg, Doctoral Candidate in Clinical Psychology, The Ohio State University, write in The Conversation:

The world is currently in the midst of a pandemic where the most useful thing many of us can do is stay at home and keep away from othersSchoolsrestaurantsoffice buildings and movie theaters are closed. Many people are feeling disoriented, disconnected and scared.

At this time of soaring infection ratesshortages of medical supplies and economic downturns, there are also examples of people looking for ways to express their gratitude to those on the front lines of fighting the epidemic. In many European countries, for example, people are expressing gratitude for the work of the medical staff by clapping from their balconies. Recently, this same practice has migrated to New York City.

As psychology researchers, we have been working to study the connection between gratitude and well-being.

Gratitude and well-being connection

In 2013, psychologists Robert Emmons and Robin Stern explained gratitude as both appreciating the good things in life and recognizing that they come from someone else.

There is a strong correlation between gratitude and well-being. Researchers have found that individuals who report feeling and expressing gratitude more report a greater level of positive emotions such as happiness, optimism and joy.

At the same time, they have a lower level of negative emotions such as anger, distress, depression and shame. They also report a higher level of life satisfaction.

Furthermore, grateful individuals report a greater sense of purpose in life, more forgiveness and better quality of relationships, and they even seem to sleep better.

In short, grateful individuals seem to have more of the ingredients needed to thrive and flourish.

There are several plausible explanations for the apparent connection between gratitude and well-being. It may be that gratitude serves as a positive lens through which to view the world.

For example, grateful individuals may be inclined to see the good in people and situations, which may result in a more compassionate and less critical view of others and themselves.

Grateful individuals may also be naturally prone to forming mutually supportive relationships. When someone expresses gratitude, the recipient is more likely to connect with that person and to invest in that relationship in the future.

Gratitude exercises have weak effects

However, there is one important caveat to this research. It shows that gratitude is correlated with well-being, but it does not prove that expressing gratitude actually improves well-being.

Psychologists have conducted a number of experiments to see if giving thanks leads to greater well-being. For example, . . .

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And also in The Conversation, Richard Gunderman, Chancellor’s Professor of Medicine, Liberal Arts, and Philanthropy, Indiana University, writes:

As a physician, I have helped to care for many patients and families whose lives have been turned upside down by serious illnesses and injuries. In the throes of such catastrophes, it can be difficult to find cause for anything but lament. Yet Thanksgiving presents us with an opportunity to develop one of the healthiest, most life-affirming and convivial of all habits – that of counting and rejoicing in our blessings.

Gratitude’s benefits

Research shows that grateful people tend to be healthy and happy. They exhibit lower levels of stress and depression, cope better with adversity and sleep better. They tend to be happier and more satisfied with life. Even their partners tend to be more content with their relationships.

Perhaps when we are more focused on the good things we enjoy in life, we have more to live for and tend to take better care of ourselves and each other.

When researchers asked people to reflect on the past week and write about things that either irritated them or about which they felt grateful, those tasked with recalling good things were more optimistic, felt better about their lives and actually visited their physicians less.

It is no surprise that receiving thanks makes people happier, but so does expressing gratitude. An experiment that asked participants to write and deliver thank-you notes found large increases in reported levels of happiness, a benefit that lasted for an entire month.

Philosophical roots

One of the greatest minds in Western history, the Greek philosopher Aristotle, argued that we become what we habitually do. By changing our habits, we can become more thankful human beings.

If we spend our days ruminating on all that has gone poorly and how dark the prospects for the future appear, we can think ourselves into misery and resentment.

But we can also mold ourselves into the kind of people who seek out, recognize and celebrate all that we have to be grateful for.

This is not to say that anyone should become a Pollyanna, ceaselessly reciting the mantra from Voltaire’s “Candide,” “All is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds.” There are injustices to be righted and wounds to be healed, and ignoring them would represent a lapse of moral responsibility.

But reasons to make the world a better place should never blind us to the many good things it already affords. How can we

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Written by Leisureguy

24 November 2022 at 6:54 pm

Musk’s Twitter Buy Makes No Sense – Unless It’s Part of Something Bigger

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Dave Troy writes in Byline Times:

Ever since Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, plunged the world into an endless stream of speculation and condemnation around his purchase of Twitter, the biggest unanswered question has been: why?

For many, his ultimate goals seem to be a mystery. As someone who has followed the company and its role in information warfare closely, I believe we need to use a different set of lenses to evaluate what’s happening.

First, it’s not a very attractive business, and it probably isn’t worth what Musk paid for it based on business metrics alone. He will struggle to service the debt payments associated with it, and he could try to improve profitability by slashing headcount and charging for services like Twitter Blue (which will provide a verified “checkmark” but may not include identity verification). That subscription feature may generate around $100 million a year if it has high uptake — nothing compared to the company’s $3.7bn in 2021 revenues.

It’s also important to realise that co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey endorsed Musk’s takeover bid. Why? Dorsey actually believes Twitter never should have been a company, but rather a foundational protocol on which a Twitter-like service could be built for the benefit of all — rather like the foundational Internet protocols that have enabled the web and email. Dorsey retained his shares in Musk’s Twitter; he said in April, “Elon is the singular solution I trust,” and he seems to be standing by that assessment.

Twitter cost Musk and his consortium of investors about $44 billion — denominated in United States dollars. That seems like quite a lot to pay. However, just as home mortgage payments get less expensive in real terms as time goes on, if you had a high degree of confidence that the value of a dollar would go down, perhaps dramatically, you might not care very much about price — especially if you thought your new asset could help you devalue the dollar.

Looking closer at the biggest investors (among them Musk, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz, Qatar, and Dorsey), all of them have an interest in challenging the US dollar. Musk and Dorsey are major Bitcoin fanatics, and believe it’s the future of money. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have expressed interest in displacing the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. It is a peculiar characteristic of the investor list that all of them are interested in displacing the dollar.

Of course, this strategy is also one favoured by Vladimir Putin. His disastrous war in Ukraine is about more than territorial gains — it’s also a challenge to the West and what he perceives as unreasonable Western hegemony. He intends to . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

24 November 2022 at 5:53 pm

Demographic Cleansing Of Ad Industry

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An interesting post in the Ad Contrarian:

A milestone in marketing stupidity has been reached.

According to a September report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor, a majority of consumer spending (51%) is now done by people over 50.

These people are the target for 10% of marketing activity.

On the other hand, marketers spend five times as much money marketing to millennials, the moronic obsession of every marketer on the planet, than any other group.

How can such obvious stupidity exist? The answer is in the unapologetic malpractice and bigotry of the marketing and advertising industries.

There is almost no one over 50 left in the advertising business. They have been the target of demographic cleansing — and eliminated from agencies.

The result is a generation of advertising people with enormous self-regard and no hint as to the true nature of “the consumer” they are all so sure they know everything about.

The ugly truth is . . .

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23 November 2022 at 4:59 pm

Why women aren’t from Venus, and men aren’t from Mars

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In Nature, Emily Cooke interviews Gina Rippon:

Early research into schizophrenia alerted neuroscientist Gina Rippon to what she now calls the myth of the gendered brain, a term she used in the title of her first book. By examining examples taken from brain–behaviour research during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, right up to contemporary studies, the book, published in 2019, investigates the desire to find biological explanations for gendered societal norms. Rippon argues that our brains are not fixed as male or female at birth, but are instead highly plastic, changing constantly throughout our lives and influenced by the gendered world in which we live.

The Gendered Brain: The New Neuroscience that Shatters the Myth of the Female Brain was written in part, she says, to address dubious research, or what is sometimes called neurotrash. Rippon first encountered it in the 2000s. At the time, she was working at the Aston Brain Centre, part of Aston University in Birmingham, UK. Shocked by the misuse of sex and gender reporting in neuroscience, she became set on changing the rhetoric. Rippon is now professor emeritus of cognitive neuroimaging at Aston University.

What is neurotrash?

It is what we’d generally call pseudoscience — bringing a kind of scientific legitimacy to an argument.

Early brain images were very seductive, with people thinking, ‘Brilliant, we can find the God spot,’ for instance. Images were hijacked by self-help gurus, relationship counsellors and even those espousing single-sex education. Just adding a picture of the brain in, say, book chapters on why boys and girls are different gave tremendous credibility. Also, the beginning of this century saw ‘neuro’ everything. Just put ‘neuro’ in front for that sexy science-y feel — for example, neuromarketing or neuroaesthetics.

The word neurotrash highlights misleading information: telling stories that might be partly true, sustaining stereotypes and feeding myth continuation, for example about the right brain and left brain. This is the idea that the brain is a ‘game of two halves’, when in fact the whole of your brain is working for you the whole of the time.

These stories were often well written and certainly more accessible than arcane journals. They also resonated with people’s experiences. We believed that men and women were different, and here were the scientists saying ‘you’re right, and this is why’.

How did your own research in the field take shape?

I began my career in the 1980s, and became interested in sex differences in the brain and how different regions could be better configured for various tasks — making me one of the people I subsequently criticized.

When setting up my own laboratory, I had a range of cognitive tests, such as verbal fluency tasks or visuospatial tasks, that would allegedly differentiate men from women reliably. However, over a period of 18 months I frustratingly didn’t find any differences, so became dispirited. The research made me realize that the whole right-brain, left-brain idea is based on very shaky evidence — possibly not something to hang my future research career on. So I stopped doing that sort of work and moved on, becoming involved in dyslexia research.

In 2006, shortly after I’d joined Aston, the engineer Julia King became the university’s first female vice-chancellor. She was interested in the under-representation of women in science, and wanted to know what researchers at Aston were doing that might be relevant to understanding this.

Aware that brain imaging was being used to talk publicly about neuroscience, I reviewed how the field pursued the belief in the male versus the female brain. Horrified by the discipline’s misuse, I wrote a review and started a public conversation.

At the 2010 British Science Festival, I gave a talk about the so-called differences between women’s and men’s brains, showing that, when you look at the data, they’re not that different after all. I was trying to dispel the stereotypical myths that men are ‘left-brained’ — logical, rational and good at spatial tasks — and women are ‘right-brained’ — emotional, nurturing and good at verbal tasks.

We’re not from Mars or Venus (to quote relationship counsellor John Gray’s 1992 book), we’re all from Earth! I assumed that people would thank me and just move on, but it caused an absolute furore and gave me early exposure to media backlash.

One favourite comment (now . . .

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22 November 2022 at 11:20 am

Source of the problem

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21 November 2022 at 4:48 pm

Amy Coney Barrett urged to step away from gay rights case because of faith affiliation

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The US Supreme Court has some serious problems, which it is working hard to avoid recognizing or doing anything about. Stephanie Kirchgaessner writes in the Guardian:

Former members of Amy Coney Barrett’s secretive faith group, the People of Praise, are calling on the US supreme court justice to recuse herself from an upcoming case involving gay rights, saying Barrett’s continued affiliation with the Christian group means she has participated in discriminatory policies against LGBTQ+ people.

The former members are part of a network of “survivors” of the controversial charismatic group who say Barrett’s “lifelong and continued” membership in the People of Praise make her too biased to fairly adjudicate an upcoming case that will decide whether private business owners have a right to decline services to potential clients based on their sexual orientation.

They point to Barrett’s former role on the board of Trinity Schools Inc, a private group of Christian schools that is affiliated with the People of Praise and, in effect, barred children of same-sex parents from attending the school.

A faculty guide published in 2015, the year Barrett joined the board, said “blatant sexual immorality” – which the guide said included “homosexual acts” – had “no place in the culture of Trinity Schools”. The discriminatory policies were in place before and after Barrett joined.

The schools’ attitude, the former People of Praise members said, reflect the Christian group’s staunchly anti-gay beliefs and adherence to traditional family values, including – they say – expelling or ostracizing members of the People of Praise “community” who came out as gay later in life or their gay children.

“I don’t believe that someone in her position, who is a member of this group, could put those biases aside, especially in a decision like the one coming up,” said Maura Sullivan, a 46-year-old who was raised in the People of Praise community in South Bend, Indiana. Sullivan identifies as bisexual and recalls coming out to her parents, who were members of the People of Praise, when she was 19.

“They decided that I wasn’t allowed to be around my sister, who was 13 at the time, without them around, because I could ‘influence’ her in bad ways. Stuff like that. So I had a tenuous relationship with my family,” she said. “To be cut off from my family was the ultimate loss of community.” Sullivan and her parents, who are no longer members of the faith group, have since repaired their relationship, she said.

Questions about the People of Praise’s attitude toward LGBTQ+ members and their families, and Trinity Schools’ policies, have resurfaced because the supreme court will hear oral arguments on 5 December in the case of 303 Creative LLC v Elenis.

It centers on a Christian website developer, Lori Smith, who has claimed an anti-discrimination law in Colorado has violated her right to free speech over same-sex marriage, which she says goes against her religious faith. Smith has said the Colorado law has forced her to “create messages that go against my deeply held beliefs” since she cannot legally turn away gay couples seeking her website services.

Barrett said in her confirmation hearing that her personal religious beliefs would not interfere with her abilities to be an unbiased judge. Conservatives have also lashed out against any suggestion that her affiliation with a Christian sect could compromise her independence.

But some former members of the faith group say . . .

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21 November 2022 at 4:04 pm

Narcissism and Fraudulence

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Anthony Eagan, a research fellow at the Santa Fe Institute, where he studies aesthetics and epistemology, has an interesting article (which includes a couple of videos) in Quillette that at certain points brought Elon Musk to mind:

The phrase “confidence man,” or “con man,” was coined on the morning of July 8th, 1849, in the “Police Intelligence” section of the New York Herald. A short article there, entitled “Arrest of the Confidence Man,” detailed the apprehension of a crook named William Thompson, whose swindle involved approaching well-to-do individuals and engaging them in friendly conversation. After developing some rapport, Thompson would ask: “Have you confidence enough in me to trust me with your watch until tomorrow?” As the Herald article has it, Thompson’s target, “at this novel request, supposing him to be some old acquaintance not at that moment recollected, allows him to take the watch, thus placing ‘confidence’ in the honesty of the stranger.”

Thompson was arrested when one of his former marks spotted him on the street and summoned a nearby police officer. After serving a sentence for larceny, Thompson fled Manhattan and reappeared in Albany, calling himself Samuel Willis, and resuming his confidence games. News of his exploits occasioned Herman Melville’s final novel, The Confidence Manwhich takes place on April Fool’s Day, 1857. The setting is a Mississippi riverboat called The Fidele, and the action centers on an extensive scammer who, under a variety of disguises and assumed identities, tries to fleece a whole spectrum of characters from American life. It seems that something more fundamental than money is at stake for the Confidence Man. The game is trust, a concept whose role is ambiguous: society cannot function without it, and yet it is the precondition for deception. Given this dilemma, one of Melville’s purposes is to show how the swindle is a relationship—that it takes two to tango—and that the greed and vanity of a swindler’s victim are like an invitation to dance. But above all else, Melville’s novel raises the question of what motivates the con artist aside from opportunism and the chance to make a few dollars. As the narrator puts it, “Was the man a trickster, it must be more for the love than the lucre. Two or three dirty dollars the motive to so many wiles?”

No doubt many con artists believe themselves justified in their deceit because of the hypocrisy and greed of their intended victims. Often an integral motivational element for con artists is hostility towards the corrupt structures of society, either because of the manner in which it excludes or neglects them, or because its power structures exploit and waste their potential with little reciprocal reward. If a loophole can be found, then why not exploit it in return? Resentment and contempt can be as catalyzing as greed, ambition, and intellectual pride. Clearly, when all of these are active within a single individual who sees an opportunity to fleece a society’s enthusiasts or adherents, no further justification is needed. For victimized minds, two wrongs make a right.

But such swindlers are of considerably less psychological interest than the even more pathological types who appear to bear no resentment towards those they wish to fleece—and who acquire no wealth from their deceptive activities. Whereas traditional confidence artists appear to play the game consciously, with a view to revenge, exposure, or wily one-upmanship, there is a category of deceiver whose imposture appears to be motivated by the will to deceive themselves more so than others. In such cases, self-resentment and self-loathing may be more dominant than a vengeful or Socratic social attitude.

One of the strangest examples of this more pathological type of con artist is Tania Head, the woman who claimed to have been in the Sky Lobby on the 76th floor of the South World Trade Center Tower when the second plane struck. Together with an actual 9/11 survivor named Gerry Bogacz, Tania Head formed the WTC Survivors Network, a sort of trauma-support system. Eventually, she squeezed Bogacz from the board and maneuvered herself to the position of president. She gave guided tours at ground zero, telling groups and even the media of her harrowing experience: how she was thrown across the room from the explosive impact; how she emerged from unconsciousness to find Welles Crowther, the famous man in the red bandana, patting out the fire scorching her arm; how she was carried to safety just before the second tower collapsed; how a fireman guided her under a truck to avoid the falling rubble; and how she slipped into a coma only to awaken five days later in a hospital bed. She also told of how her husband, Dave, had been killed when the first tower collapsed, making her a double-victim.

The documentary The Woman Who Wasn’t There chronicles Head’s rise to prominence in the world of 9/11 survivors and her fall from fraudulent grace. In many of the film’s interviews, we see her former friends and companions discussing how integral she had been in comforting them and helping them through the trauma, how compassionate she was, how strong and supportive and admirable. Over time, however, as Head grew more ruthless in her victimhood, her façade began to crack. Bogacz and others grew increasingly suspicious, and a series of

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Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2022 at 4:00 pm

Posted in Daily life, Psychology

Highly processed foods can be considered addictive substances based on established scientific criteria

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Ashley N. Gearhardt and Alexandra G. DiFeliceantonio have an interesting study at Wiley Online Library:

Abstract

Background

There is growing evidence that an addictive-eating phenotype may exist. There is significant debate regarding whether highly processed foods (HPFs; foods with refined carbohydrates and/or added fats) are addictive. The lack of scientifically grounded criteria to evaluate the addictive nature of HPFs has hindered the resolution of this debate.

Analysis

The most recent scientific debate regarding a substance’s addictive potential centered around tobacco. In 1988, the Surgeon General issued a report identifying tobacco products as addictive based on three primary scientific criteria: their ability to (1) cause highly controlled or compulsive use, (2) cause psychoactive (i.e. mood-altering) effects via their effect on the brain and (3) reinforce behavior. Scientific advances have now identified the ability of tobacco products to (4) trigger strong urges or craving as another important indicator of addictive potential. Here, we propose that these four criteria provide scientifically valid benchmarks that can be used to evaluate the addictiveness of HPFs. Then, we review the evidence regarding whether HPFs meet each criterion. Finally, we consider the implications of labeling HPFs as addictive.

Conclusion

Highly processed foods (HPFs) can meet the criteria to be labeled as addictive substances using the standards set for tobacco products. The addictive potential of HPFs may be a key factor contributing to the high public health costs associated with a food environment dominated by cheap, accessible and heavily marketed HPFs.

INTRODUCTION

There is evidence that an eating phenotype exists that reflects the hallmarks of addiction (e.g. loss of control over intake, intense cravings, inability to cut down and continued use despite negative consequences) [1]. Based on meta-analyses, approximately 14% of adults and 12% of children exhibit this addictive-like eating phenotype, commonly called food addiction [23]. Although some have questioned the utility of applying an addiction framework to food intake [47], food addiction is associated with mechanisms implicated in other addictive disorders (e.g. impulsivity, reward dysfunction and emotion dysregulation), as well as a lower quality of life and a poorer response to weight-loss treatments [189]. Controversy exists surrounding the role of the food in triggering this addictive-like eating phenotype. Some propose that it is the act of eating regardless of the type of food consumed that is addicting [10], or that while the type of food is important, it is impossible to classify food as addictive due to the complex nature of foods and the lack of a single addictive agent/compound [45]. Food is necessary for survival and a key evolutionary pressure that has shaped reward and motivation systems across species [1112]. Addictive drugs that deliver high doses of reinforcing substances through rapid delivery systems tap into these systems, potently activate them and can lead to maladaptive patterns of behavior [13]. Highly processed foods (HPFs) are evolutionarily novel products made possible through modern food technology that provide refined and rapidly delivered primary reinforcers, specifically calories in the form of refined carbohydrates and added fats [11416]. The debate that remains concerns whether a refined and optimized delivery system of calories can produce comparative effects to a refined and optimized delivery system of addictive drugs.

The ability to resolve the debate about whether certain foods are addictive is hindered by a lack of identified scientifically based criteria with which to evaluate the addictiveness of certain foods. In contrast, there is a general consensus around the criteria for identifying whether someone is exhibiting an addictive phenotype [17], which has allowed for clearer criteria to guide the investigation into whether certain individuals exhibit addictive-like eating [23]. There is no comparable standard for evaluating if a substance is addictive, which contributes to the conflicting explanations for why certain foods are (or are not) addictive [18].

To allow for progress on this debate, we propose a set of scientifically based criteria for the evaluation of whether certain foods are addictive. Specifically,  . . .

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19 November 2022 at 12:35 pm

The Psychopharmacology Of The FTX Crash

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Astral Codex Ten has an interesting post:

1: Was SBF Using A Medication That Can Cause Overspending And Compulsive Gambling As A Side Effect?

Probably yes, and maybe it could have had some small effect, but probably not as much as the people discussing it on Twitter think.

Milky Eggs reports a claim by an employee that Sam was on “a patch for designer stimulants that mainlined them into his blood to give him a constant buzz at all times”. This could be a hyperbolic description of Emsam, a patch form of the antidepressant/antiparkinsonian agent selegiline. The detectives at the @AutismCapital Twitter account found a photo of SBF, zoomed in on a scrap of paper on his desk, and recognized it as an Emsam wrapper.

Emsam is a brand of selegiline, a medication used since the 1960s to treat Parkinson’s disease. Selegiline is a MAOB inhibitor2. MAOB is an enzyme that breaks down dopamine3. If you inhibit it, you get more dopamine. So in a very broad sense, selegiline gives you more dopamine.4

Dopamine does many things in many brain systems. Here’s an oversimplified chart: . . .

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17 November 2022 at 8:47 pm

How to Argue

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More useful videos in this post on Open Culture.

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2022 at 5:04 pm

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