Monday, May 2, 2016

Underground DSM-IV Oppositional Treatment Design

Published ten years ago.  slightly less true now, but still pretty good.

Oppositional treatment design is remarkably accurate in an acute psychiatric setting. If you want to sleep, we want you to get up. If you want to be up, we want you to sleep. If you want meds, you probably shouldn’t have them, but if you don’t want them they are likely to be exactly what you need. If you want to leave, we make you stay. If you want to stay, we make you leave. If you’re blaming yourself, you should stop that. If you’re blaming others, you should start blaming yourself. It’s not as stupid or mean as it sounds. People usually come to the hospital because of a particular point of contention with the usual flow of life. That inability or refusal to change is usually the central difficulty getting along in the world.

Different Holocaust Up Close

Visitors to Auschwitz and other Holocaust memorials are often moved to tears by the shoes, or other homely items of the victims. Perhaps because of advance preparation, such things don’t move me as much. What has tightened my throat and brought tears to my eyes are the things which took me by surprise: At the Museum of Terror in Budapest, the focus was on the persecution that was absorbed by Hungarians in general by the Germans and the Soviets. In most exhibits, the Jews were neither excluded nor singled out. But in one film, a man was speaking about the horrors taking place in his neighborhood, to his friends and own family and suddenly bursts into tears “Why did they have to do that to the Jews? They took them away and killed them.” The word “Jews” was not an abstraction to this man. The word conjured up memories of actual individuals he had known and cared about.

Speaking with an elderly man in Romania, I asked where the synagogue had been. He couldn’t remember exactly, only that it had been on a side street. He remembered that a few Jews had come back after the war, but sold the synagogue because there were not enough of them. They left for parts unknown. It was bad for everyone, he thought. People wondered whether their families would be taken and killed. More of the Jews were killed, he believed. This struck me as a little distant and unsympathetic. In the West, we regard the Holocaust as one of the pivotal events of the 20th C, debating whether anything can be compared to it. We can afford to do that because we have some distance. To those up close, there is plenty to compare it to: the death of your own wife or son at the same hands. Seeing through this gentile's eyes made the Jewish loss suddenly larger, not smaller. I had now more fully understood the fear and loss of losing a tenth of one’s family to cruel men. From there I could better understand the loss of nine-tenths, which had been unreal before that.

When reading about the Ukrainian soldiers who were given the duty of executing many Jews -- how it was considered a bad job, a difficult job, a draining job, I held the soldiers’ difficulty of no account. They were victimizing, not victims. But in one account a man who had killed several hundred had a sudden apprehension of the next victim, a child, as a real human being, and it shattered him. Reading the story made the single child real for me as well. One death is a tragedy. A thousand deaths is a statistic

Underground DSM-IV (Not) Going to Rehab

Published ten years ago.  Still valid.

It is not a good sign for someone to use the words "whatever it takes," when describing their readiness to stop using. You would think that is precisely the attitude you would want a user to take, but somehow that particular phrase is a red flag. It will be replaced in 24-48 hours by some hedging about how this rehab thing is going to play out in practical reality.

There is the Goldilocks version of this growing avoidance: That rehab is too far. That rehab is too near. No rehab is just right.

For 80"s rockers, there is the Meatloaf version: "I would do anything for rehab," said with firmness and intensity on Monday morning. "But I won't do that," said Tuesday afternoon. It would be one thing if these were people who were suspicious whether rehab does much good, as I am. But this is from the rehab-immersed culture, with spouses, siblings, and friends all familiar with the various advantages and disadvantages of each program.

Believe it or not, wearing clothing with a beer logo on it to your rehab interview is often interpreted by others as an indication that you're not serious. Imagine that.

If someone claims to be clean but has a positive blood or urine sample, multiply the amount they eventually acknowledge using times six to get a more accurate picture.

Ask specifically about marijuana, as many users pretend that's not really a drug.

Heavy drinkers tend not to wear their seat belts when sober, but might wear them when drunk. I don't fully understand this, but there may be some balance of risk involved. Notice that other people's risk does not factor into the equation.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Reflections on the Second Commandment

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

This has nothing to do with swearing, dammit. (I just threw that last in for effect.) Bad language is hardly ever mentioned in the rest of the Bible, so why would people think that God would make it #2 on the Big Chart and then forget about it? Even making promises with oaths -- the other swearing -- gets very little play, Old Testament or New.

False prophecy, now, that subject comes up a lot, with many variations played on the Carillon of Scripture (that metaphor didn't work out as well as I'd hoped). And that, my friends, is what is referred to as taking the Lord's name in vain is here. It means no forging God's signature under your own ideas. It means being very cautious and considered about making any claims that what you teach is The Gospel, or The Authentic Gospel.

Teaching is of course not only allowed, but encouraged. Check up on the penalties for false teaching before you start blathering, however. Liberal Christians rightly criticize conservatives for stepping way over the line in making claims about what God does and doesn't want in law and politics. Then they do the same thing themselves -- and worse, because they will often get together and put a denominational stamp on it. They just claim to speak for God in more elegant terms -- which is what God really wants, right?

Anyway, everyone just cut it out, y' hear me?

Punchline As Stereotype

A psychologist friend told me this joke today. I had heard variations on it, but he tells jokes well and I didn't interrupt him.
A guy walks into a bar and sees a robot bartender. He asks for a drink and watches as the robot creates it beautifully and precisely. The robot hands over the drink. "What's your IQ?" he asks. The man answers, perhaps exaggerating for reasons of ego, 145.
"I read something interesting about string theory recently..." began the robot, and they had a pleasant conversation for a quarter hour, the customer pleased, but barely keeping up. Amazing, he thought. How do they do that?

The man decides to go back and test this again. He orders a drink, watches the robot bartender's meticulous preparation, and receives the drink as the robot asks "What's your IQ?" 100, the man answers, and enters into a very interesting conversation about NASCAR.

The blogger steps aside to note: hmm. Not unkind, but a stereotype is in play here.

The man decides to entertain himself further, and repeats his bar adventures for a third night. The robot again skillfully makes a drink and asks "What's your IQ?"

55, the man answers, and the robot bartender says...

Fill in your stereotype here, eh? The joke has been set up to illustrate that someone is stoopid. The entire joke, in fact, depends on a stereotype. Whatever words one puts in the robot's mouth, the joke has been set up so that it only works if both the speaker and hearer agree on the stereotype. I first read the joke criticizing Georgians -- How 'bout them Dawgs? You can pick on whoever you like with this. It's really not particularly funny. It derives its humor entirely from the stereotype.

By putting in a cute inversion, it can be made funnier. In the mouth of a black comedian, for example, the punchline "Aint those niggers stupid?" has a wry twist to it. You can get that extra twist by having the IQ 55 victims think someone else is stupid. My psychologist friend, BTW, used the line "So, you planning to vote for Bush again?" It's funny only if you share the stereotype. And I could use it for my own purposes as well, with a simple statement written in Norwegian, or anything emblematic of Vermonters, or a particular school of psychology or linguistics, or some prominent liberal. But it's only really funny if you can add in that turning of the tables.

Boy, is Bush ignorant or what?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Education and Environment

I have decided I have been projecting in trying to understand the resistance many people have to the high-heritability, low environmental influence on adult abilities. I will set forth our story, but I want to read what others think.

I don't think Tracy and I had more than an informal consensus when we married of how much of children's intelligence, determination, reading skill, charm ( hundred other abilities) is due to genetics .  I think we would have acknowledged that there was some. Yet it was an era when all psychology, psychology, anthropology, and educational theory insisted that environment was nearly everything, and we absorbed the lessons of our times.  Our behavior right from the outset illustrates our belief that environmental factors are enormous and critical.  We started teaching Sunday School and taking in foster children within a few months of marriage; she was reliably The Book Aunt right out of the gate. We read to Jonathan the first day he was born, and did not miss many days even when he was well into school. Family devotions, expressions of affection, arts, history, science were creatively attacked year upon year.  It spilled out to our friends' children and we eventually adopted a few.  We stopped at every historical marker and chatted about it afterward; we went to medieval events in costume, with instruction on the way there and the way back.  As the twig is bent...

We were pretty much nuts, but mostly joyfully so and it mostly (not always) worked, for our family and those we were in contact with. We embraced and tried to put into play all the child-raising knowledge we could get our hands on: critical periods and the other Montessori tropes; learning styles; careful expositions of how one taught repentance and forgiveness; multisensory instruction; something pretty close to a homeschooling curriculum on top of sending them to private Christian schools; preserving independent learning and autodidacticism. Even as I began learning in the 1980's how much is hardwired, there was significant inertia for...well, we've still got Kyle, who is 20, and we still discuss exactly how we are going to present certain ideas, undermine others, and create an environment for him to learn his next life lessons.

From this all of you can make some good guesses why I would resist that idea that this was mostly extraneous effort.  I am also deeply moved by the unfairness of a world where a great deal of child's outcome is ranged even before she is born.  I believe that mild alterations in environment can create large differences, in that you might grow up in Michigan instead of New Mexico, or marry a woman who develops a terrible illness, or hear a particular preacher on a particular day.  And differences might of course lead to diverse outcomes. Yet I am also aware that you might be a shy chemical engineer with a worrisome attraction to children but no expression of that no matter where you ended up living, and end you life with one of ten very similar biographies. (There does seem to be a nonenvironmental, likely random element that may explain as much as 50% of the variance on some traits. That's a little different.)

Twice over at Maggie's in the past day or so there has been discussion of women in math and science, and the usefulness of pre-K.  Greg Cochran has just yesterday gone over some of the standard data about group differences, with specific references to famous academics who seem unable to absorb even the simplest parts of it. There is this persistence, a stubbornness, in clinging to the idea that so many pathologies are fixable if we just make the proper changes in the environment.  I have mostly assumed that I understand this reluctance to accept genetic explanations, because I read my own feelings into it.  Yet my feelings may not be at all representative.

We accept that height is largely heritable, but weight...not so much. We see that a musical knack and sometimes genius seems to be "just there," and not teachable, yet we still focus on the 10,000 hours of hard work as the key. For schools especially, liberals and conservatives have visions of how things should be organised, and we get very upset about the cultural discussions.

Yet, why? There is this idea that we just don't want to believe, no matter the evicence.

Those who have some insight into how abilities and education are viewed in other countries, especially non-Anglospheric, non NW European countries are encouraged to weigh in on that as well.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Ooh, those wascally wacists! I'm going to get my Wacist Ewadicator!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Palin And AntiPalin

On all political, and even many nonpolitical sites, the name Sarah Palin sends a percentage of commenters into tribal mode, whether pro or con.

There is one significant sameness and one significant difference between the two camps.

The sameness is the lack of content, mere sloganeering. She's got that frontier spirit! She's a Real American! Or.. She's Stupid! She's an attention whore! This persists not only in the face of opposition trying to make substantive points, but even in response to allies making substantive points. I have seen people give fairly lengthy comments in praise of Gov. Palin, expressing only some doubt about her electability or the worry that she may be a wee bit too much in people's faces to effectively lead were she ever elected - and these seemingly reasonable folks were savaged by their own, accusing them of being leftist concern trolls who were trying to undermine Palin's candidacy with Democratic talking points disguised as legitimate worries. That's fairly insane.

And on the other side, I have read criticisms of Palin that pointed directly to her actions as governor or her comments since coming on the national scene (I mean actual comments, not the false quotes and out-of-context remarks) only to be greeted with replies like So why don't you just say she's a stupid bitch, which everyone knows is true, and stop boring us with this crap? It is apparently not enough to be critical, one must be vicious. Not enough to merely approve, one must be sold out for her with no doubting.

I view most group behavior through a tribal lens, pointing out that 95% of human action is explained by tribal allegiance, with the finer-sounding rationales a mere cover for more primitive reactions. (Yeah, and I'm talkin' about you, bucko.) On the Palin issue I don't need to bother to detect the subtler clues of the words chosen and not chosen, the ironies of positions reversing when the situation is the same but the principals inverted, or following the chain of self-interest back to discover that Group A invariably comes down on the side that provides them with the most money/security/prestige/power. Despite their book-length and even library-length arguments that nononoooo, it's really a better idea for everyone. (And you are immediately thinking how true, how true, about those others, but for us, okay, maybe a little, but really, in our case it's the ideas). With our current state of division, we don't have disguised, self-deceiving tribalism, but tribalism worn proudly.

Palin is a proxy for a host of other beliefs. How you feel about her seems for some folks to sum up about how you feel about oh, everything else. It is a tribal signaling, proclaiming I am really, really a member of this tribe. My self-image and reason for living is tied up in this. That I hate/love Sarah Palin so much says something important about me. Abortion has long been a proxy for a whole set of beliefs. As a practical matter, abortion law is not going to change much. Even a gigantic push from either side will only move the dial a little. Yet that little move will be invested with enormous significance, as one side or the other feels that they have A) Captured important cultural territory, or B) Stopped those other evil bastards from capturing important cultural territory. I thought Chuck Colson was a wuss for the prolife side years ago when he said that the energy should be devoted to changing the cultural beliefs, not the laws at this point, but I now believe he is right.

And now the difference between the two tribes. Among the AntiPalins, the mere mention of her name, in whatever context, sets them off. Heck, I've got a son living in Alaska, and if I merely mention the state's name people feel obliged to go into an AntiPalin rant, or at least drop in some declarative, brook-no-disagreement sneer. In fact, snide remarks about her get dropped in, apropos of nothing whatsoever, like some verbal tic that has to express itself, however randomly, four or five times a day. The ProPalins at least wait until you've expressed some opinion before going off. I'm not fully ready to grant the ProPalins too much advantage for civility, however. It may be anger that is the trigger, so an offhand mention of Sarah (or Alaska), activating only a neutral or positive set of neurons, doesn't trigger a reaction.

BTW, if your thought at this point is See, that's what I've been saying. She's just too polarising a figure, you're not off that hook. You are exempt from being considered one of these knuckleheads, but your attitude is feeding into them, giving them cultural and conversational space. Stop it.

In either event, some of us are beginning to find our allies as annoying as our opponents.