So here’s the news you might have seen with some flagrantly bizarre and inaccurate headline on HuffPo: the National Institute of Mental Health has withdrawn support from the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM), the manual used to diagnose mental illness, just before it was to come out with its fifth edition. (It came out Monday of this week.) NIMH withdrew support because they consider the DSM to not be valid. What does all this mean?
Let’s first talk about this DSM. Here’s how it got started, way back in 1952: a group of psychiatrists got together and talked about the things they saw in the patients they were treating. They noticed similarities, so they hashed it out and came up with diagnoses (and really, disorders), based on the symptoms they saw in their clients. Then they put them in a book. That book has changed significantly over time, but the criteria for mental illness continues to be based on the behaviors you see a person doing, and what they report to you.
I was a therapist for children for a few years, and because of this, how self-esteem develops in kids has always kinda fascinated me. Research has a hard time getting at the subject, but overall, it seems that the source of self-esteem shifts as you get older (it goes from how your parents feel about you, to how your friends feel about you, to how you feel about you), and that there are some variations by ethnicity- in cultures where parental acceptance is valued more, parents have more influence on a kid’s self-esteem. Some kids get knocked down their whole lives and still feel good about themselves, while other kids succeed and still can’t seem to accept their success- that catch-all term “resilience” being the most common explanation.
There’s an old Psych 101 fable used to describe the scientifically-important idea that “correlation does not mean causation”. That is to say, just because two things are related does not mean that one causes the other.
The fable is that studies have shown that ice cream sales and rapes are positively correlated, which means that as ice cream sales go up, the number of rapes go up. Ice cream sales go down, rape stats go down. Does this mean that somehow ice cream makes men into rapists? No, of course not. This means that both ice cream sales and rapes increase in the summertime, when it’s warm out and people stay outside later. Summer is the third variable that is actually the link between these two statistics.
Please keep this in mind when I tell you about the recent study done in “inner-city Boston” that found that
High-school students in inner-city Boston who consumed more than five cans of non-diet, fizzy soft drinks every week were between nine and 15-percent likelier to engage in an aggressive act compared with counterparts who drank less.
I just finished reading Mary Roach’s book Spook, where she investigates the holy shit out of everything related to ghost phenomena, and I’d like to introduce you to my favorite part of the book: infrasound. What is infrasound? Take it away, Wikipedia!
Infrasound is sound that is lower in frequency than 20 Hz (Hertz) or cycles per second, the “normal” limit of human hearing. Hearing becomes gradually less sensitive as frequency decreases, so for humans to perceive infrasound, the sound pressure must be sufficiently high. The ear is the primary organ for sensing infrasound, but at higher levels it is possible to feel infrasound vibrations in various parts of the body. Infrasound is characterized by an ability to cover long distances and get around obstacles with little dissapation.
Animals like whales, birds, alligators, and tigers are known to use infrasonic communication to warn each other of danger or alert each other to food, and for a time, our military was researching using infrasonic waves as a weapon. We only got as far as the Allies using infrasonic waves to locate weapon stashes during WWI.
So what does infrasound have to do with ghosts?
This researcher, who clearly wants to be famous, has put forth a proposal that happiness be defined as a psychiatric disorder called major affective disorder, pleasant type.
Yeah, he’s a fame-seeking, cynical shit.
His reasoning is sound: after reviewing the literature he says that he’s found that happiness is “statistically abnormal, consists of a discrete cluster of symptoms, is associated with a range of cognitive abnormalities, and probably reflects the abnormal functioning of the central nervous system.”
That word probably is a kicker though, because no quality scientific abstract should ever contain that word. Also, here’s the biggest problem with classifying it as a disorder- IT’S NOT DISRUPTIVE TO YOUR DAILY LIFE. That’s supposed to be the only reason we classify anything as a disorder, because it brings disorder to your life. Everyone gets down sometimes, but it’s only considered depression if it significantly impairs your life. How on earth does this guy propose that happiness impairs one’s life?
This is such a gloom-and-doom proposal that is sure to be quoted by FOX News and CNN and whoever else wants to drum up a story about how happiness is so rare it’s an illness, but listen to me: this is bullshit. Happiness isn’t a disorder, it isn’t a state we should work towards experiencing constantly, it’s just one of the many emotions of humans that can occur naturally, and if we pay attention to when it occurs, we can make it occur more often.
People’s personalities can vary in what their baselines are- some tend to be glum, some tend to be exciteable, some tend to be anxious, and some tend to be happy, and all of those personalities produce very satisfied people. Happiness isn’t the only way we experience peace and contentment, and by making it something as lofty as a disorder, you’re just dangling the carrot that much further away from people’s hearts.
Happiness is much smaller than people think, but once you’re in it, it feels enormous.
Thanks to The Daily What for bringing me something I didn’t even realize I wanted: pictures of tiny pies being hurled at insects.
This was an interesting post about how movie stars may be internalizing movie scripts more than the rest of us. Movie scripts in this post are not actual scripts, but rather the prescribed ways of behaving that we get from every romcom on earth. You know, like how if you hate a guy, it means you’ll end up with him (every Katherine Hiegl movie), or how every woman needs to be “rescued” from their asshole boyfriend by the nice guy waiting in the wings (Wedding Crashers, Leap Year). But I digress. This is about Ms. Jolie.
Russian Love Videos- when can we get them here in America? (For Lemondrop)
UFOs over Manhattan? Don’t worry folks, we can still be cynical about it!
Big Top Cookie, for when baby cookies will not do. (for Lemondrop)
And you thought American TV was exploitative? Here’s a Japanese game show where the object is apparently to convince small children that zombies are attacking and they are the only ones who can stop it. What they didn’t count on in this clip is one little boy going to town on the zombie’s head, terrified and doing his best to protect his brother and sister.
I caught McRib Fever for Lemondrop. Note: I did not actually eat a McRib.
Because I am tired of all these blog top ten lists but unable to fight anymore, here’s the 7 most awesome numbers between 1 and 10!
I couldn’t stop freaking out over Abed’s background storyline, so TV.com let me write about it. Thanks!
Scientists are suggesting that cancer is essentially manmade. It’s not that it didn’t exist before, but it was incredibly rare. We did this, with pollution and shitty diets. Ouch.
I wrote about a Twilight-themed class they’re teaching at California State University.
This blonde haired, blue eyed girl was runner up for Miss India New Zealand. People are furious. Also, there’s a Miss India New Zealand competition.
There’s a new Twitter in town! TechCrunch sums up what you need to know about it.
I talk about Madonna and meat dresses and Lady Gaga and the problem with kids these days at Lemondrop.
Here’s a great mini-documentary about Threadless, badass Chicago tshirt company that has become huge in the last four years.
Brilliant brilliant brilliant- a collection of “sorry I haven’t posted in a while” posts from random blogs.
Ant Death Spiral isn’t the name of a band you should already know. It’s real, and it’s terrifying.
This guy was vegan and vehement until he read Meat: a Benign Extravagance. Now he says “I no longer believe that the only ethical response is to stop eating meat.” Read why. (thanks to Kevin Slaughter)
The charm just oozes out of Alie and Georgia- watch their show Drinks with Alie and Georgia, and read my scintillating interview with them next week when it comes out!
Tim Gunn on Taylor Momsen: “You know young lady, there are hundreds of thousands of girls who are just as attractive and even smarter than you.” Daaaaaaayum.
Old School plus Gran Torino? Produced by Ryan Reynolds? I think I’m on board.
In her former life, Emily “Gynomite” Gordon was a couples and family therapist licensed in 2 1/2 states. In this life, she’s a freelance fighter of your emotional woes with Ask Gynomite. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org- all emails stay confidential. Today, Gynomite takes on figuring out what you want in bed.
I keep reading all this stuff in women’s magazines about how you tell the guy you’re sleeping with what gets you hot, but after dating a guy who really wanted to know that information, I realized that I don’t really know what turns me on. How do you figure that kind of stuff out? I’ve just been doing the regular stuff so far, and it all seems fine, but I don’t have a thing that I’m really into.
What a brave and honest question. It’s true, so much focus is placed on how we look (is your hair properly tousled? how is your o-face? what’s going on with your boobs right now?) or on making sure we’re turning on the person we’re with, that we forget that sex is a thing for us enjoy too. I could soapbox on this for a while, but women are often too focused on being sexy rather than being sexual, and it’s a shame. It makes the whole thing a bit empty and soulless. But enough of that, let’s focus on you.
“…researchers taught a robot how to recognize when a situation warrants the use of deception, then programed it to behave appropriately.”
That’s right. Scientists at Georgia Tech have been playing hide-and-go-seek with robots, and teaching them to intentionally make it look like they’ve hidden in one area (by knocking down things) while they actually go and hide in another area.
They think that this technology will be useful in helping battlefield robots hide from enemies, or for rescue robots to help keep people calm and cooperative in emergency situations. They promise it won’t be used often, just a tool in the robot arsenal.
But I’m more worried about the day they decide we don’t need to know about their masterplans.