Welcome to the archived web site of
Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. Psychologist (1950-2013)
California License No. PSY 10092
Specializing in Presence-Centered Therapy
balancing mind and heart, body and spirit

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Timely Psychological Topics, Major Findings, Development, Learning & Death

 Fascinating Specific Psychological Topics, including Behavioral Economics and Suicide Bombers | Major Research Findings From Psychology, Social Psychology & Cognitive Psychology | Development, Learning, Birth Control / STD's / AIDS, Aging, Attractiveness and Death

Trust Within and Without

Intuition: Article "Intuition: What Science Says (So Far) about How and Why Intuition Works" by Paul Bernstein, Ph.D.—Intuition or knowing what we do not think we know and in fact do know is fascinating. This article defines intuition as "the appearance in the mind of accurate information about the external world, which can be shown to have come not through the five senses, nor through a rearrangement of stored memory contents." This article among others provides transparency into this realm. David G. Myers, Professor of Psychology at Hope College, has several articles looking at the power and perils of relying on intuition. Helen Fisher writes on women's intuition, another article speculates on where it is located and another notes that men are equally capable of being intuitive.

Listening to Your Inner Voice: In Kings 2 in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) there is a passage that speaks of "the still small voice" (also translated as "the gentle whisper") and is understood to be the immanent Divine speaking within everyone of us. This inner voice is sometimes called intuition, the Holy Spirit, inner voice, inner guidance, "guardian angel", muse or inspiration. There are mystical literatures that say that before harm our Source always warns us. Refuse to listen to your inner voice at your extreme harm and hazard.

Trust is strongly linked to Wellbeing: A February 2011 research article showed that trust and wellbeing are tightly linked, specifically those who feel themselves to be living in a trustworthy environment have much higher levels of subjective wellbeing. Explore the research findings regarding interpersonal trust.

Please see Dr. Friedman's articles on trust:
TRUST Is A Key To Well Being—Four Research Findings
TRUST—Practical Maps and Strategies To Wisely Invest Your Trust:
     Who is Trustworthy And Who Is Untrustworthy?

Useful News impacting Well-being

Sitting All Day—the Sedentary life—is unhealthy! According to an April 2011 edition of NPR (National Public Radio), even with regular exercise, it might not be enough to counteract the effects of too much sitting. An excerpt: "Specifically...men who reported more than 23 hours a week of sedentary activity had a 64 percent greater risk of dying from heart disease than those who reported less than 11 hours a week of sedentary activity. And many of these men routinely exercised..." Time to get up and get active!

The Value of Crying: Articles and research point to crying as a valuable emotional release; better for many, worse for some—A December 2008 article described research that found that crying is often beneficial and these benefits may depend on the traits of the crier, their social support system, and whether the crier has ongoing psychological challenges like anxiety and depression. One study analyzed over 3,000 reports of recent crying episodes and the majority of respondents reported mood benefits after crying with significant variation in mood benefits. There were mixed reports of emotion after shedding tears, with one-third reporting feeling better after crying and one-tenth reported feeling significantly worse. A February 2009 article in the New York Times looks at the value of crying and what research shows. The experience of crying shows wide variability from person to person with some being more likely than others to find catharsis. One study cited found that crying with just one other person present was significantly more likely to produce a cathartic effect than doing so in front of a larger group. An excerpt: "Now, some researchers say that the common psychological wisdom about crying—crying as a healthy catharsis—is incomplete and misleading. Having a “good cry” can and usually does allow people to recover some mental balance after a loss. But not always and not for everyone..." Psychological research has solidly confirmed that women are more likely to shed tears more easily and more frequently than men. A September 2009 study found empirical evidence that tears have emotional benefits and can make interpersonal relationships stronger.

Psychological research using computer analysis of three decades of hit songs showed a statistically significant trend toward narcissism and hostility in popular music, according to an April 2011 New York Times article.

Thrill Seekers are driven by a seeming inability to control the release of Dopamine, have more Dopamine in their brains, and show a lack of Dopamine receptors: Researchers have demonstrated that the thrill-seeking hunger for stimulation is greater among people who possess more of the gratification hormone dopamine in the brain and more areas in the brain where dopamine was active. People who have a naturally high levels of dopamine, such as thrill seekers, have the propensity to become addicted to certain drugs according to other research. Studies also show that thrill-seekers as a group are more crime-prone than their risk-avoiding peers. Some researchers suspect that the urge to do exciting things linked to the neurotransmitter dopamine may be hard-wired into the genes/heredity. Some researchers speculate that motivation could play an important role in the placebo response. Specifically, the personality traits that predicted placebo response are also linked to a brain chemical dopamine involved in valuing rewards.

Inability to shake regrets affects physical health over the lifespan, March 2011 research results show—Who you compare yourself with—social comparison—can make a big difference in your physical health. This study showed that people felt physically worse when they compared themselves to people who are better off, and people also experienced fewer cold symptoms and felt physically better when looking towards others who are worse off.

Ain't That Peculiar!

Smell and Taste Challenges: The subjective experiences of smell and taste make for some interesting experiences for some. An April 2011 New York Times article describes the work of neurologist Dr. Ronald DeVere, a neurologist in Austin, Texas, as he explores what he calls smell and taste disorders, most of which are under recognized challenges. Apparently certain illnesses can have the effect of losing a large percentage of one's ability to smell, while other illnesses such as a cold or sinus infection can temporarily disrupt normal smell and taste. Importantly, smell disorders can be dangerous for those who cannot detect the odor of smoke, burning, spoiled food, natural gas or other noxious aromas. Limited treatments and how to stay safe are offered. Fascinating.

For music to touch us emotionally it must first tickle our neurons, according to an April 2011 New York Times article that summarizes research on what makes music emotionally expressive.

The Cartography of Bigotry—The ongoing "Mapping Stereotypes" project renames the countries of Europe and gerrymanders the borders according to the skewed lens through which one country sees the continent. So see the image of "Europe According to USA" or "Europe According to France." Its a hoot, mildly offensive, problematic, and remarkably revealing of current attitudes. [Mature Topics]

Videos: Don't Talk to Cops, Part 1 and 2: In Part 1 Mr. James Duane, a professor at Regent Law School and a former defense attorney, tells you why you should never agree to be interviewed by the police. In Part 2 an experienced police officer tells you why you should never agree to be interviewed by the police. A word to the wise!!

Tricks lawyers play during depositions and in courts: Download the article "Deposition Tricks: The Dirty Dozen" by Neil JOel Dilloff that looks at a dozen strategies in the deposition trade, some that actually enhance the search for truth in a court. To wet your appetite, consider two of these: 1) "The Big Pause" in which the examining lawyer pauses for several seconds after the witness answers a question and stares at the deponent; 2) "You Must Be An Idiot" in which the examiner aims to have the witness feel foolish if a question is asked to which the witness does not know the answer. At the link below, simply click "One-Click Download" to receive the entire article. Additional links give examples of other "tricks" lawyers employ in court which can be most useful to enhance your awareness. Many of these strategies are highly manipulative, intimidating and outright bullying. Consider the aphorism, "A tactic revealed is a tactic defused," that happened to pop out of my mouth during a session one day.

The "Perception of Anger" has a bright side—It motivates others: Anger is a most difficult emotion in terms of whether to describe it as positive or negative. Traditionally anger has been frightening for most people and is associated with violence, ugly scenes and unpredictable and destructive behaviors. Recent research released in December 2010 makes the case that while anger sometimes has negative effects, the brain may perceive anger as positive information and the "perception of anger" (and not necessarily feeling anger yourself) can sometimes motivate you to do things that you like.

Blind perceive touch faster than sighted: Late October 2010 neuroscience / behavioral research showed that congenitally blind people are faster to perceive a tap on the fingertip than are sighted people. Also, among the blind people tested, those who perceived most quickly were the swiftest braille readers.

Healthy Denial (and the far more popular Unhealthy Denial)—Denial is being looked at differently in recent years. The ability to look away, while it can be possibly destructive, can also be centrally important to forming and nourishing relationships. Denial is being looked at by social scientists along a broader spectrum running from "benign inattention to passive acknowledgment to full-blown, willful blindness", according to a November 2007 New York Times research article. Most denial that is extended in time, that is, avoiding or being unwilling to fess up to the truth of "what is" that lasts a long time, is dysfunctional, non-constructive and unhealthy in not facing and addressing the challenges life presents. There also is "healthy denial" that is an ego defense that is normal, protective and can be healthy. This type of temporary denial points to situations in which no one has any control and it would be too overwhelming for you to face at this juncture in life. Healthy denial can be a protective defense in the face of unbearable news, like a terminal illness or loss of a close loved one. It is healthy to acknowledge such situations, such as when facing a loss of any significant kind when they arise, and even be in some denial until it can be thoroughly seen and digested for exactly what it is. Illustrations include going through the grieving process in mourning the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, physical capacity, physical or psychological health, monetary loss, loss of a house or loss of friendship. Other situations that exemplify healthy denial is when you are about to have the mask of anesthesia go over your face in beginning a medical operation, when you see that a car run-in is inevitable, and when you honestly have no other choice than to gracefully capitulate over some matter. The situation still remains to face and make peace with later when you are able.

Entrainment is a phenomenon of resonance, a synchronization of two or more rhythmic cycles in Physics, that may have remarkable impact on our lives for good or ill: This universal tendency First observed in the 17th century, entrainment is a universal tendency for two oscillating bodies to lock into phase so they vibrate in harmony. While working on the design of the pendulum clock in 1656, Dutch scientist Christian Huygens found that if he placed two unsynchronized clocks side by side on a wall, they would slowly synchronize to each other. While a clock is a simple example of a system responding to entrainment, the same rules apply to more complex systems like our brain. There is over 70 years of scientific and empirical research along with anecdotal evidence supporting brainwave entrainment and it appears to have a vast potential for use with a broad variety of life challenges, including ADD and learning disorders, PMS, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, depression and hypertension to name a few. Entrainment can help understand many different physical and psychological phenomena, including partying behavior, mirror neurons, emotional contagion, infants who synchronize bodily movements with their caretakers, and intense collective celebrations. Circadian rhythm, a name given to the "internal body clock" that regulates the approximately 24-hour cycle of biological processes in animals and plants, can be disrupted (no longer in entrainment) by shift work, pregnancy, time zone changes (jet lag), being out of sleep phase, medications, changes in routine. Circadian rhythm disorder can result.

Behavioral Economics / Affective Forecasting / Loss Avoidance / Investments

Affective Forecasting / Behavioral Economics / Loss Avoidance / Endowment Effect / Negativity Bias: Research is showing that we are terrible at predicting how we will feel in the future. Affective forecasting can help the understanding of procrastination. The accuracy of your affective forecasting / prediction can be powerfully influenced by what is being termed "presentism," that is, taking your current affective state of expressed feelings as an accurate guage for how you will feel tomorrow. Such predictions often can be wildly off given a positive intentional bias in the current feeling state you are in. Read about the futile pursuit of happiness as a case in point. Psychologist (and Nobel laureate in economics) Daniel Kahneman of Princeton has taken the lead in studying a specific type of emotional and behavioral prediction called "Behavioral Economics." "Prospect theory," developed by researchers Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, allows one to describe how people make choices in situations where they have to decide between alternatives that involve risk. Two key findings are "Loss Aversion" or people's tendency to strongly prefer (by two times) avoiding losses to acquiring gains, along with the "Endowment Effect" or people often demanding much more to give up an object than they would be willing to pay to acquire it. Watch a slide show on these two findings by Russell James III, J.D., Ph.D. at the University of Georgia. Harvard professor of Psychology Daniel Gilbert explores these issues in his book Stumbling on Happiness (2007). Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, Ph.D. in his recent book Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom (2009) describes "the negativity bias" of our brains, minds and memories, concluding that "negative trumps positive" and cites research showing "it's easy to acquire feelings of learned helplessness from a few failures, but hard to undo those feelings, even with many successes", "bad information about a person carries more weight than good information" and "in relationships, it typically takes about five positive interactions to overcome the effects of a single negative one" (page 41). He asserts, "...your brain preferentially scans for, registers, stores, recalls, and reacts to unpleasant experiences; as we've said, it's like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones. Consequently, even when positive experiences outnumber negative ones, the pile of negative implicit memories naturally grows faster." (page 68). His remedy is to foster uplifting, affirmative, positive experiences or "taking in the good" and have them become a permanent part of your life. A 11/6/2009 New York Times article offers a recent real-life example concerning the psychology of buying an extended warranty. A list of cognitive biases, including decision-making and behavioral biases, biases in probability and belief, social biases, memory errors, and common theoretical causes of some cognitive biases, is remarkably revealing and can help better understand and temper each pattern of deviation in judgment. A July 2010 New York Times article reviews the contributions and limitations of behavioral economics. Recommended

Laws of Investing: Warren Buffet's once said, "Price is what you pay. Value is what you get." The "sage of Omaha" famously proposed two rules for wise investing: Rule No. 1: Never lose money; Rule No. 2: Never forget rule No. 1. Now consider James Montier's Seven Immutable Laws of Investing.

What Makes for a Suicide Bomber?

What sets off suicide bombers?—Political scientists Robert Pape and James Feldman studied 30 years of suicide attacks worldwide and came to the inescapable conclusion, published in March 2011 that it is not religious extremism that is the main driver behind suicide bombings; rather it is foreign occupation that motivates explosive martyrdom.

Suicide bombers and organizers of suicide attacks show very different psychological personality characteristics: July 2010 research findings based on psychological interviewing of 15 would-be suicide bombers who failed to blow themselves up showed that suicide bombers were surprisingly not psychotic. Instead two-thirds of suicide bombers were dependent-avoidant, that is people who had a hard time saying no to authority figures, more open to be manipulated, more likely to cooperate in carrying out tasks against their own judgement, and greatly influenced by public opinions. Approximately one-third of suicide bombers were impulsive and emotionally unstable, that is, more likely to volunteer yet less likely to see it through given their enthusiasm will not last. Organizers of suicide attacks surprisingly were not psychopathic. Rather they were manipulative, much more intelligent and older than the bombers, had some university education, very pragmatic, and believed they were doing it for their nation, it was the right thing to do, and expressed no moral doubts about it. Some of the bombers apparently entered into a state of dissociation, that is cognitively tuned out as a primitive defense, which shut them off to disturbing thoughts. What is remarkable is that this data was collected in the first place and that the results offer such an revealing, surprising and credible portrait of both suicide bombers and the organizers of suicide attacks. Also peruse the interesting comments following the article.

Politics of Everything

Research shows high "disgust sensitivity," or a tendency to react strongly to things you think are gross, can predict political conservatism.

Actual research article

Also peruse the October 2010 New York Times article "All Politics Is Olfactory."

Political Orientation are Correlated with Brain Structure in Young Adults, according to an April 2011 research results: An excerpt: "We found that greater liberalism was associated with increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, whereas greater conservatism was associated with increased volume of the right amygdala." the research did not determine whether these regions play a causal role in the formation of political attitudes. According to Wikipedia, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) "...appears to play a role in a wide variety of autonomic functions, such as regulating blood pressure and heart rate, as well as rational cognitive functions, such as reward anticipation, decision-making, empathy and emotion", while the same source states the amygdala is "Shown in research to perform a primary role in the processing and memory of emotional reactions..." and "...has a substantial role in mental states, and is related to many psychological disorders." Another research-based site called "Brainethics" describes the anygdala as both the fear center and the pleasure center. An excerpt: "Right amygdala stimulations induced aversive responses, in particular fear and sadness. In contrast, left hemisphere stimulation induced either positive (happiness) or negative emotions (fear, anxiety, sadness)."

Social Psychologist consider Psychologists' bias for Liberals and against Conservatives: A February 2011 New York Times article noted how social psychologist Jonathan Haidt estimated that liberals make up 80 percent of a gathering of the 1,000 psychologists attending a recent conference of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology and called for a new affirmative-action goal of a membership that's 10 percent conservative by 2020. When he asked for centrists and libertarians, he noted fewer than three dozen hands and when asked for conservatives, he found a total of three. Excerpts: "This is a statistically impossible lack of diversity," Dr. Haidt concluded, noting polls showing that 40 percent of Americans are conservative and 20 percent are liberal." and "The politics of the professoriate has been studied by the economists Christopher Cardiff and Daniel Klein and the sociologists Neil Gross and Solon Simmons. They've independently found that Democrats typically outnumber Republicans at elite universities by at least six to one among the general faculty, and by higher ratios in the humanities and social sciences. In a 2007 study of both elite and non-elite universities, Dr. Gross and Dr. Simmons reported that nearly 80 percent of psychology professors are Democrats, outnumbering Republicans by nearly 12 to 1."

Fascinating Specific Psychological Topics, including Behavioral Economics and Suicide Bombers | Major Research Findings From Psychology, Social Psychology & Cognitive Psychology | Development, Learning, Birth Control / STD's / AIDS, Aging, Attractiveness and Death

Powerful Psychological Research Findings

"Regression to the Mean" means the statistical phenomenon of 'averaging out': In statistics this phenomenon occurs when a variable is extreme on its first measurement, it will tend to be closer to the average on the second measurement, and if it is extreme on a second measurement, it will tend to be have been closer to the average on the first measurement. This concept of regression to the mean comes from genetics and was popularized by Sir Francis Galton during the late 19th century. He observed that extreme characteristics such as height in parents are not passed on totally to their offspring and did studies of this. His understanding of regression differs from that of modern statisticians given that he saw it as simply an inheritance of characteristics from ancestors that are not expressed in parents and not as it is currently understood as a general statistical phenomenon. On the Wikipedia link below, psychologist Daniel Kahneman, winner of the 2002 Nobel prize in economics, points out that regression to the mean might help explain why rebukes can seem to improve performance while praise seems to backfire. Even the rock group the Beatles had some poorer recording outings on their stellar journey, sports stars have off days, weeks and seasons, and the finest in every profession have off-times. Near the end of his life, the opera great Pavarotti sang an off note or two.

Ambivalence (having conflicting feelings about a situation calling for decision-making)—High ambivalence may be useful in some situations, and low ambivalence in others, researchers say: It turns out the inability to make a decision affects people's path in life, from jobs to relationships to political voting. Black-and-white thinkers tend to be quicker at making decisions than highly ambivalent people, although if they get mired in one point of view and can't see others, black-and-white thinking may prompt conflict with others or unhealthy thoughts or behaviors. Ambivalent people tend to systematically evaluate all sides of an argument before coning to a decision and scrutinize carefully the evidence presented, make pro and con lists, and reject overly simplified information. These abilities may make them better to empathize with others' point of view, have healthier coping strategies, and may be more creative in considering different ideas. However, in the workplace, employees who are highly ambivalent about their jobs are more erratic in job performance. People waffling over a decision may benefit from paring down the number of details they are weighing and instead select one or a few important values to use in basing their decision according to Richard Boyatzis, a professor in organizational behavior, psychology and cognitive science at Case Western Reserve University. While black-and-white thinkers in a significant relationship tend to focus only on some qualities that are important to them, while ambivalent individuals in a relationship can't seem to put the negative out of their mind and may worry about being hurt or abandoned, even in wonderful moments with their partner. Thus such shades-of-gray people tend to have trouble in their relationships by tending to stay in relationships longer, even abusive one, and experience more fighting along with being more likely to get divorced. Overall, a certain degree of ambivalence can be a sign of maturity. An excerpt from the article: "Overall, thinking in shades of gray is a sign of maturity, enabling people to see the world as it really is. It's a "coming to grips with the complexity of the world," says Jeff Larsen, a psychology professor who studies ambivalence at Texas Tech University in Lubbock."

Learned Helplessness: Learned helplessness is a technical term in animal psychology and related to human psychology coined by American psychologist Martin Selegman meaning a condition of an animal or human being in which it has learned to behave helplessly, even when the opportunity to help itself is restored for it to help itself by avoiding an unpleasant or harmful circumstance to which it has been subjected. In other words, a condition when one gives up and acts in a helpless manner given the apparent belief that the organism has no control over the consequences or contingencies. Learned helplessness theory is the view that clinical depression and related psychological challenges result from the perceived absence of control over the outcome of a situation.

When Humor humiliates—Gelotophobes are unable to distinguish ridicule from playful teasing and have a debilitating fear of being laughed at: This unrealistic fear of laughter experienced as humiliating may help understand those who make defeating survival decisions in the face of normal childhood teasing. Research findings are most revealing.

Racial bias clouds ability to feel others' pain research shows: May 2010 research found that empathy or feeling with another is diminished when people (black or white) who hold racial biases see that pain is being inflicted on those of another race. While people continue to respond with empathy when pain is inflicted on people who don't fit into any preconceived racial category, empathy appears to be blocked when prejudice is present.

Female minorities more affected by Racism than Sexism, July 2011 research shows: According to lead author and doctoral student Jessica Remedios, "...the women assigned to contemplate racism were more likely than those assigned to contemplate sexism to believe that they had been rejected by others because of 'something about them' or because of 'who they are.'"

Major Finding from Social Psychology

The "Just World Phenomenon" plus new findings: Research released in December 2010 showed that blaming the victim and finding meaning in tragedy are two sides of the same coin with blame being reserved for victims who meaningfully contributed to their own misfortune or when a victim's suffering goes on and on and it is impossible to see any good in it at all, while those who somehow used the tragedy to help others (e.g. Christopher Reeves' horse jumping fall in which he broke his neck and was paralyzed below the neck and his work as an advocate of paralysis research) are lauded and admired for their tireless commitment to a positive cause: The "Just World Phenomenon," first theorized by social psychologist Melvin J. Lerner, is a finding in the field of psychology that describes the tendency for people to want to believe that the world is fundamentally just. So when they witnesses an otherwise inexplicable injustice they will rationalize it by searching for things that the victim might have done to deserve it, which deflects their anxiety, preserves their belief in the world as a just place, and ends up blaming victims for things that objectively wee not their fault. Some might say that the Just-World Hypothesis is one type of defensive attribution error in the service of helping people feel safer. A similar way to understand this pattern is the need to protect one's own sense of invulnerability, such as the belief that rape only happens to those who deserve or provoke the assault. This is a way to feel safer. When the potential victim is able to avoid the behaviors of past victims, then they themselves will remain feeling safe and feel far less vulnerable. A link below explores how the Just-World phenomenon can be used by politicians and political parties to make their case. An excerpt from the Rich Sones, Ph.D. interview linked below: "Classic cartoon: A large fish prepares to devour a midsize fish, declaring, ?The world is just.? The midsize fish, on the verge of being eaten, readies to gobble a little fish, saying, ?There is some justice in the world.? It's the doomed little fish with no prospect of getting a meal that thinks, ?There is no justice in the world.? Sones references author David G. Myers in Psychology: Ninth Edition with this cartoon epitomizing the just-world phenomenon in which kids are commonly taught that good is rewarded, those who fail have done something to being on their poor results and people receive what they deserve.

Six Degrees of Separation: It's a small small small small world after all, given research showing that to contact anyone on the planet you need only six other contacts!—Six degrees of separation (AKA, the "small world problem" and the "Human Web") refers to the idea that everyone is on average approximately six steps away from any other person on Earth, so that a chain of, "a friend of a friend" statements can be made, on average, to connect any two people in six steps or fewer. A famous article by Sociologist Stanley Milgram experimentally investigated the "small world problem." The effect has received corroboration from other researchers and informal experiments in the media. There is also a contrary perspective offered by Judith Kleinfeld, a psychology professor at the University of alaska at Fairbanks, to consider. She found that Milgram's original data at Yale had a completion rate of just 5 percent with his second study reporting only 29 percent, which throws into jeopardy the accuracy of his findings. Again, decide for yourself.

The Zeigarnik Effect—The value of completing everything everywhere with everyone: The Zeigarnik Effect is the tendency to experience intrusive thoughts about an object that was once pursued and left incomplete. Soviet psychologist Buma Zeigarnik first studied the phenomenon in the late 1920's and early 1930's after her professor, Gestalt psychologist Kurt Lewin, noticed that a waiter had better recollections of still unpaid orders. In other words, we tend to remember what we do not complete, especially if the person is ego-involved in the task to some extent and has a genuine level of aspiration in the interrupted task. This phenomenon first uncovered as a part of research in Gestalt Psychology has solid evidence in its support. Consultants worth their salt regularly use this effect in their work to make a positive splash with their employers.

Also see Dr. Friedman's article "The Zeigarnik Effect and Completing Everything":

Social traps" is a phenomenon in Social Psychology that describes a situation in which an individual or group of individuals act or operating for short-term gains or reinforcement, but had a tendency to over-exploit a resource that in the long run leads to a loss for the group as a whole and to society—See the original article named "Social Traps" by John Platt in the August 1973 issue of the American Psychologist. Illustrations include the destruction of the rainforest by agriculture and logging interests, the overgrazing of cattle in the Sahelian and Sahara Deserts, overfishing, energy brownout and blackout power outages during periods of extreme temperatures, and the near-extinction of the American Bald eagle and the American bison.

Original article on "Social Traps" by John Platt

Herd Mentality—The power of persuasion for the good: The book Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World (2011) by Tina Rosenberg, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, forwards the thesis that peer pressure, contrary to the popular notion that it leads to no good in regard to drugs, drinking, casual sex and so on, can also be a positive force to enact "the social cure" in which organizations and officials use the power of group dynamics to vastly help individuals improve their lives and just possibly the world. She unabashedly looks at what one can do to mobilize the social network, that is, friends and acquaintances, in order to effect positive change. A provocative and intriguing idea you can sample below!

Being Sane in Insane Places & "Institutionalization" occurring in Psychiatric Hospitals: The power of environment trumping disposition—This famous experiment used "healthy associates" or "pseudopatients" who briefly simulated auditory hallucinations in an attempt to gain admission to 12 different psychiatric hospitals in five different states in various locations in the U.S. All were admitted and diagnosed with psychiatric disorders. After admission, the psuedopatients acted normally, told the staff they felt fine and had not experienced any more hallucinations. Hospital staff did not detect a single pseudopatient and believed that all were exhibiting symptoms of an ongoing mental illness, with several being confined for months. All were forced to admit to having a mental illness and agree to take antipsychotic drugs as a condition of their release. Staff at a psychiatric hospital were asked to detect non-existent "fake" patients. No fake patients were sent, yet staff falsely identified large numbers of ordinary patients as impostors. The study concluded that these results illustrated the dangers of dehumanization and labeling in psychiatric institutions, and "It is clear we cannot distinguish the sane from the insane in psychiatric hospitals." Sociologist Erving Goffman wrote eloquently in his book Asylums (1961) in making a sociological examination of the social situation of mental patients in a psychiatric hospital, particularly describing "institutionalization" and how this process socializes people into the role of a good patient, someone 'dull, harmless and inconspicuous', which in turn reinforces ideas of chronicity in severe mental illness.

Original Article:

Impact of the Mere Exposure Effect or the Familiarity Principle: This psychological phenomenon and cognitive bias describes how people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they have been exposed and are familiar with them. Research shows that this moderate strength effect is robust and reliable. It is a key principle used in all forms of advertising. A word to the wise.

Self-deceit, self-deception and the ease of being bamboozled, flummoxed and hornswoggled: Several articles address how apparently easy we human beings fall into self-deceit, self-deception and are easily bamboozled, including a December 2009 Op-Ed column by writer Frank Rich of The New York Times. Deception in psychological research continues to be controversial. Cognitive traps rooted either in the analyst's organizational culture or the analyst's own personality are common in the field of intelligence analysis. Consider this phenomenon as a human blind spot, cognitive bias and susceptibility that takes many forms, including superstition/magic, propaganda, being a "true believer", "magical thinking," "groupthink" and "wishful thinking." All of these patterns along with developing critical thinking skills are worth being fully aware of to protect ourselves from ourselves.

"You Are Not So Smart: A Celebration of Self Delusion—which is quite smart and savvy. M. Lamar Keene coined the expression "True-believer syndrome" to describe an apparent cognitive disorder characterized by believing in the reality of paranormal or supernatural events after one has been presented overwhelming evidence that the event was fraudulently staged. He sees the type of self-deception as impervious to logic to shatter a faith based on a lie.

The classic book The True Believer (1951) by Eric Hoffer describes the psychological sources of fanaticism and the nature of mass movements.

Gaslighting or the Gaslight Effect is an insidious form of relational aggression, emotional abuse and manipulation: Ever get the feeling someone is aiming to drive you "crazy"? Sometimes it's true. Read an excerpt from The Gaslight Effect (2007) by licensed psychoanalyst Robin Stern, Ph.D. Learn how to spot it and protect yourself.

Sexism, Chauvinism and Sexual Harassment: Benevolent and Malevolent Sexism—Men Don't Recognize 'Benevolent' Sexism, according to a June 2011 research study: An excerpt: "Researchers found that after recording the sexist incidents they observed, women were more likely to deem the behavior less acceptable. Men, on the other hand, continued to endorse sexist behavior even after becoming more conscious of it. But when asked to empathize with the female targets of specific sexist incidents, male participants were less likely to sanction blatant sexism." Other links look at this entire arena, including misandry and misogny, that is, hatred of males and females respectively.

Cognitive and Implicit Biases

Implicit Bias (or Hidden Bias or Unconscious Bias): Social psychologist John Dovidio, Ph.D. says, "Implicit biases are beliefs (stereotypes) and feelings (prejudice) that are activated without intent, control, and often conscious awareness. These are habits of mind that develop through cultural as well as personal associations. Whereas most people no longer consciously endorse stereotypes and prejudice, the majority of people still harbor implicit biases."

Proposed scientific concepts that would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit: New York Times Op-Ed writer David Brooks in March 2011 writes on the suggestions of 164 thinkers at the Edge Conference. Review suggestions including path dependence, the Einstelung Effect, the Focusing Illusion, Supervenience, the Fundamental Attribution Error and Emergence. Peruse all the 164 candidates being offered by the attendees. Fascinating! What would you nominate?

Fascinating Specific Psychological Topics, including Behavioral Economics and Suicide Bombers | Major Research Findings From Psychology, Social Psychology & Cognitive Psychology | Development, Learning, Birth Control / STD's / AIDS, Aging, Attractiveness and Death

Birth Control / Sex Education / STD's / AIDS

Birth control / Sex Education / Sexually Transmitted Diseases / HIV Positive & AIDS: What does the scientific data show about the effectiveness of the various forms of contraception / birth control?—Since these subjects are no longer taught in the great majority of countries and states, including California, at the present time and severely limits teenagers and others from finding factual, reliable and unbiased information, here are the best resources that fit that vision. Especially noteworthy is Scarleteen: Sex Ed For the Real World that was suggested to me by a high-level teacher concerned that youth have an accessible resource for receiving such information and hip enough to be cool. Natural birth control methods (sometimes called Fertility Awareness and Natural Family Planning or NFP), such as ovulation method, the sympto-theramal method and basal body temperature charting, are well worth investigation for those who are able to live on a high level of self-responsibility. Website Lifescript investigates the top 5 birth control methods by looking at how each works, reliability, the good, the bad, how it's for and how to get it, as of January 2011. The top 5 birth control methods they assert are the pill, the the sponge, the IUD, Implanon (the hormone-based drug implant is a single flexible, plastic rod inserted in the upper arm), and the Emergency Contraception (Plan B: a one-step backup method for preventing pregnancy when taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex or contraceptive failure that requires women to take two doses 12 hours apart).

Effectiveness of various birth control methods is a huge concern. The family doctor link below provides the failure rate for different birth control methods when used correctly, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, BirthControl Guide (also available in a PDF linked below). Surprisingly for instance, using a male condom alone still had a 11 percent failure rate (that is, this approach produced 11 pregnancies per 100 women per year), although Planned Parenthood puts using a male condom in the 15-25 per hundred category Wikipedia, TeensHealth, Women to Women, and Sex, etc. also weights in on this key topic of interest. Planned Parenthood also provides a chart comparing effectiveness of birth control methods in a link below. No method of birth control available today offers 100 percent protection against sexually transmitted diseases or STDs, except abstinence. STDs are often asymptomatic, meaning there may not be any signs or symptoms. Being aware of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and testing as HIV positive and the risks of AIDS are important to stay highly informed. Forwarned with solid information (and identifying your options) is forearmed since how else could anyone make a wise, informed choice. Disclaimer: The following links are in no way aimed to encourage irresponsible or promiscuous sexual behavior. [Mature Topics]

Natural Birth Control Methods

Effectiveness of Various Birth Control Methods 

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), testing for HIV positive and the risks of AIDS

Pre-Natal & Peri-Natal Psychology, Babies & Learning

Pre-natal (before birth) and peri-natal (during and just after birth) psychology provides a fascinating glimpse into our earliest times of life. Blighted twin syndrome / Phantom twin syndrome: There are many issues that have their roots in the very earliest experiences in being alive. One phenomenon is the "blighted twin syndrome" or "phantom twin syndrome" which describes that an estimated 70 percent of all twins conceived do not reach term, with the surviving twin possibly experiencing the loss and retaining this in cellular memory. Psychotherapist Barbara R. Findeisen, MFT, a leading writer and leader in pre-natal and peri-natal psychology, describes this occurrence among others in a fine 2005 paper published in the lead journal of the field and entitled "Prenatal and Perinatal Losses" and in another link is also interviewed. Author Annie Murphy Paul's book Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives (2010) is the subject of a New York Times book review and podcast, along with a cover article in Time magazine. New York Times Op-Ed columnist Nicholas D.Kristof writes about a building body of empirical evidence for how following genes and environment, our uterine environment appears to be the third factor that shape our lives.

Moral Development: The moral life of babies—What do they tell us about the roots of right and wrong? Evidence is collecting that suggests that humans possess a rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life. For example, human babies seem to have an empathetic response, that is, they seem to want to assuage the pain of others once they have enough physical competence (starting at about age 1). Further, toddlers seem to have an altruistic response in tending to spontaneously help in giving their time and energy to help a stranger accomplish a difficult task, even without encouragement, prompting or reward. In another experiment, babies preferred good guys who acted nicely over the bad guy, however the punisher was preferred when the bad guy was punishing bad behavior. Several recent articles pain a fascinating picture. Links to emotional and cognitive development of babies are also provided.

State Specific Learning (along with State Dependent Memory and Cue-Dependent Forgetting): State Specific Learning a theory that what is learned in one state of mind, condition, or context (e.g., under the influence of a certain drug, while listening to a certain type of music, being in a certain place, etcetera) is best recalled/retrieved and remembered in the same or similar state of mind, condition, or context. A beautiful illustration of state specific learning, specifically in being able to access the experience of a writer, is reading the popular book The Power of Now (1999) by Eckhart Tolle. When you read it like any other book, it's interesting and hardly life-transformative. Take the time to get fully present and then read a few paragraphs or a page or two at a time in presence, and it's a completely different book. From all reports the author was not writing a book, but rather inside of an experience of presence. His talks were recorded, transcribed and then put into piles of subjects that went together. To fully receive Eckart's experience, it behooves the reader to be in the same or similar state that the author was in when it was spoken and later transcribed. This theory has been applied in education, sports psychology, motor development and research on memory and how drug states affect memory. Related to this theory is "cue-dependent forgetting" or retrieval failure, that is, the inability to recall a memory due to missing cues or stimuli that were present at the time the memory was encoded. Neurobiologist and author Candice Pert wrote Molecules of Emotion (1997) in which she suggested the hypothesis that since emotions are accompanied by hormones that act on the same receptors that the body's natural opiates of endorphins, enkephalins, dynorphins and others do, possibly we can put a scientific basis under the notion that it is easier to remember things when you're in the same emotional state as when they happened. Pert also made a very strong if not definitive case that feeling/mood/emotional states do have hormonal/biochemical correlates that impact our body's functioning in terms of disease and health that is congruent with mind-body theories.

Aging and Attractiveness

The Western society tyranny of being "pretty" for the female of the species: What does research and experience say about "being pretty," especially for the female of the species. Being attractive and unattractive are both linked with job discrimination research shows. One study cited found that "...attractive women are discriminated against when applying for "masculine" jobs in finance, engineering and R&D." One link below summarizes: "Research suggests that 12% to 16% of workers believe they've been subject to prejudice based on their looks, about the same number (or greater) than those claiming discrimination based on race, gender, age or religious beliefs. Some 60% of overweight women and 40% of overweight men believe they've been discriminated against because of their weight. And a host of studies show that less attractive people are penalized during the job application process. "Economists have attempted to quantify the 'beauty bump,' or the 'plainness penalty,' in a variety of occupations," Rhode says. One such study focusing on the legal profession found an appearance-based difference in pay of as much as 14%."

Video: youtube.com/watch?v=M6wJl37N9C0

Naomi Wold addresses the aging myth twenty years after writing the seminal The Beauty Myth (1991) and found a greater emphasis upon fitness, health and accomplishment in terms of female attractiveness as women enter mid-life along. She found less physical competition with other women and greater self-care / self-appreciation expressing itself in "loving yourself, valuing your unique body and looking after it accordingly." Wolf reports on a 2004 international study that 17 percent of women felt more trapped than ever by the ideals of attractiveness with 53 percent having good days and bad days, while the remaining 30 percent are described as "change agents" who wisely define beauty for themselves.

Regrets, Grieving, Dying and Death

Grieving: Lovely things to say and do in supporting another in the grieving process (and what is unhelpful!)—Consider what is helpful to say and do (and what not to say and do) in the face of loss, including the loss of a child or baby. A classic book and wonderful, simple resource is How to Survive the Loss of a Love [Revised Edition] (1993) written by Peter McWilliams, Harold H. Bloomfield and Melba Colgrove, a poet, a psychiatrist and a psychologist. Most recommended.

Inability to shake regrets affects physical health over the lifespan, March 2011 research results show—Who you compare yourself with—social comparison—can make a big difference in your physical health. This study showed that people felt physically worse when they compared themselves to people who are better off, and people also experienced fewer cold symptoms and felt physically better when looking towards others who are worse off.

Living with death and dying with grace, kindness and compassion—The work of Stephen and Ondrea Levine: Stephen and Ondrea Levine, counselors and meditation teachers over decades working with people facing death and dying, are in the process of learning to bring the same openness to their own lives given she is living with leukemia and lupus and he lives with a neurological degenerative condition. Their experiential "Conscious Living / Conscious Dying" workshops are a meditative investigation of what it means to be fully alive, cultivating the qualities which heal the mind and heart, exploring the nature of what it is that dies. He is the author of the influential books Who Dies? (1989), Healing Into Life and Death (1989), A Gradual Awakening (1989), A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last (1998), and, with his wife Ondrea, Embracing the Beloved (1996). Read several interviews with them on their work, how they are coping with the process of living with a chronic illness, the process of a year to live, and true intimacy in a marriage, a healing meditation for pain as well as their home site. Recommended.

Hospice in the U.S.—Interestingly, hospice is considered to have originated in the 11th century when the Crusaders permitted the incurably ill into centers dedicated for treatment of the sick, and it was originally conceived as "a house of rest and entertainment" not only "for pilgrims, travelers, or stranger" but also "for the destitute or sick." This is quite unlike its modern concept of offering palliative care, comfort and acceptance as people approached death while emphasizing the individual's choice and without using any extreme medical interventions to prolong life.


George Demont Otis     Carmel Moonlight

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