Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lack of Social Mobility in America. Think Again.

Differences Between Men and Women

3/30/14. From Dr. Mardy.
"The difference between men and women is that, if a woman has to choose
between catching a fly ball and saving an infant's life, she will choose to
save the infant's life without even considering if there are men on base."

          Dave Barry

"A good cigar is as great a comfort to a man as a good cry to a woman."

Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

"In the sex-war thoughtlessness is the weapon of the male,
vindictiveness of the female."

          Cyril Connolly

"Men and women belong to different species,
and communication between them is a science still in its infancy."

          Bill Cosby

"Here's how men think.
Sex, work -- and those are reversible, depending on age --
sex, work, food, sports, and lastly, begrudgingly, relationships.
And here's how women think.
Relationships, relationships, relationships,
work, sex, shopping, weight, food."

          Carrie Fisher

"Men are motivated and empowered when they feel needed....
Women are motivated and empowered when they feel cherished."

          John Gray

"The first symptom of true love is a young man is timidity,
in a young woman, boldness."

          Victor Hugo

"Women speak because they wish to speak, whereas
a man speaks only when driven to speech by something outside himself --
like, for instance, he can't find any clean socks."

          Jean Kerr

"A man falls in love through his eyes, a woman through her imagination,
and then they both speak of it as an affair of 'the heart'."

          Helen Rowland

"Women might be able to fake orgasms.
But men can fake whole relationships."

          Sharon Stone

"How men hate waiting while their wives shop for clothes and trinkets;
how women hate waiting, often for much of their lives,
while their husbands shop for fame and glory."

          Thomas Szasz

"A man's face is his autobiography.
A woman's face is her work of fiction."

          Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Misunderstandings about ADHD: Eyes Wide Shut


Michigan Psychological Association Newsletter

Winter 2014


Notes of a Psychology Watcher


Steven J. Ceresnie, Ph.D.


Misunderstandings about ADHD:  Eyes Wide Shut


Book Review:  Hinshaw, Stephen P., and Scheffler, Richard M. The ADHD Explosion. Myths, Medication, Money, and Today’s Push for Performance.  New York:  Oxford University Press, 2014.


Myths about ADHD persist. Too many people continue to believe it’s a cop out, an unvalidated condition related to society’s penchant for overmedicalizing defiance or a convenient label intended to cover over social problems. These myths destroy any hope of providing systematic educational, behavioral, and medical care for the youth, families, and adults who desperately need help. Medications are still viewed suspiciously for behavioral and psychiatric conditions, a position unfortunately fostered by the ease of getting an ADHD diagnosis and securing pills for performance enhancement in too many quarters of society – and by overreliance on medication as the only treatment worth pursuing. To deal with ADHD better than we do now, we must alter our attitudes as well as our educational and healthcare practices (Hinshaw & Scheffler, page 168).


            This book, written by Stephen P. Hinshaw, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and Richard M. Scheffler, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Health Economics and Public Policy in the School of Public Health and the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, could not have come at better time.


            For the past two years, the media --- the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal --- have been awash with articles attacking the validity of ADHD, and slamming the medication treatment for this serious psychiatric disorder. The following are some headlines of these stories:


“Ritalin Gone Wrong.” Sroufe, L. Alan. The New York Times, January 28, 2012.


“Risky Rise of the Good-Grade Pill.”  Schwarz, Alan. The New York Times, June 9, 2012.


 “Drowned in a Stream of Prescriptions.” Schwarz, Alan. The New York Times, February 2, 2013.


“A Nation of Kids on Speed.” Cohen, Pieter. Rasmussen, Nicholas. The Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2013.


            Now these exposes about ADHD are nothing new. Some of these reports are critically examined in “The ADHD Explosion,” with some surprising results.    


Scientologists, where their founder L. Ron Hubbard lectures us about the between-lives period, when thetans are transported to Venus to have their memories erased, have waged a 40 year war against Ritalin – and against psychology and psychiatry, along with sympathetic mental health clinicians through the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a Los-Angeles based nonprofit organization formed by the church in 1969 to investigate mental health abuses. Scientologists have used their considerable fortune to sue drug companies and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, among others. When Scientologists announce their legal challenges to protect children, the media shines a bright light on these efforts. When all the lawsuits are dropped because of no merit, not a word their dismissals reach the public. (1)


            Hinshaw and Scheffler’s book has four fundamental messages:

  1. Although often ridiculed, ADHD represents a genuine medical condition that robs people of major life chances. Its economic consequences are huge, totaling hundreds of billions of dollars annually in terms of special education services, juvenile justice and substance abuse costs, plus low work productivity and employment lapses in adults.
  2. Only diligent and thorough assessment can distinguish ADHD from other mental health conditions, chaotic home environments, or the aftereffects of maltreatment. Yet, ADHD is too often diagnosed in extremely cursory fashion. This lack of careful evaluation, fueling both overdiagnosis and underdiagnosis contributes to a national crisis.
  3. ADHD medications are effective in reducing the condition’s core symptoms, at least in the short run, but the most genuine gains are achieved by combining medication with skill-building approaches.
    4. Rates of ADHD and medication treatment vary dramatically across states (and, for treatment,         across the world), related to family and cultural values, health care systems, medical         portrayals  and advertisements, and, in particular, variations in school policies linked to demands for achievement and performance.


The authors list ten major goals for improving the science and practice related to ADHD in the future. Each of these goals roughly corresponds to a chapter in the book:

  1. Ensure that ADHD is recognized as both biological and cultural and contextual in nature.
  2. Demand that ADHD be diagnosed carefully by professionals who know their business.
  3. Ensure that ADHD be treated by clinicians (and paraprofessionals) who are versed in evidence-based interventions.
  4. Set realistic national quotas for stimulants, balancing the need for prescriptions for legitimate cases of ADHD with the reality of ever-greater diversion of the medications for neuro-enhancement or pleasure.
  5. Alter educational practices to promote more individualized approaches.
  6. Facilitate partnered systems of cure, and coordinated payment mechanisms, across insurers, schools, and employers.
  7. Convey a different set of media images about ADHD, emphasizing the reality of daily struggles and triumphs.
  8. Encourage information exchange across scientists and clinicians internationally.
  9. Continue to recognize that ADHD exists well beyond white, middle-class boys, revealing itself across gender, race and ethnicity, and the age span.

(10)Recognize that fostering human potential, reducing stigma and enhancing economic   productivity go hand in hand.

            This book provides a corrective emotional and cognitive experience through an even-handed discussion about the controversies surrounding ADHD. The authors make clear what is known about ADHD, and distill the complexities about the personal and social costs of people who suffer with the chronic and pervasive problems of ADHD.


  1. Wright, Lawrence. Going Clear. Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.    

A Neglected Genius

3/18/14. If reason is a slave to passion, how should we fashion our life?

The Science of Older and Wiser

3/18/14. We should be so lucky --- and whatever else it takes to be wise in old age.

Friday, March 7, 2014

What Scientific Idea is Ready for Retirement?

Get This Book on ADHD

3/7/14. "The ADHD Explosion. Myths, Medication, Money, and Today's Push for Performance." The authors are Stephen P. Hinshaw, psychologist, and Richard M. Scheffler, health economist.

There is so much nonsense written about ADHD, it is refreshing to hear from experts who are sensitive and knowledgeable.

Children are Tough

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Monday, February 17, 2014

Have your opinions regarding human nature changed over the years?


Yes. My current view is that human nature is deeply woven with contradictions, conflicts, and discontents. Genetics and environments are equally important contributions to understanding human nature. The proper use of reason is to recognize reason's limitations. Reason is the "rider" holding the reins on the "elephant" of unconscious desires and values. Understanding human nature springs from the mystery of the generation of consciousness, the basic experience of humans on which our social and personal relationships rest. We do not understand how consciousness is produced, nor do we understand its full potential. There is little science that applies to our understanding of human nature. So our understanding of human nature takes the form of stories, religions, ideologies, and beliefs.

Steven J. Ceresnie, Ph.D.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Medication: The smart-pill oversell

2/13/14. The war on treatment for ADHD continues. After 50 years of intensive study, some claim we are finding out that medication for ADHD is not effective.

To believe that medication for ADHD cures all ills is unrealistic.

Medication adjusts a patient's steering wheel and brakes, and cleans off her windshield (I am from Motown). Medication does not instill purpose, meaning, or values to determine where the patient wants to drive to, or even whether she wants to get into the car.

Treating ADHD is never as simple as just giving somebody medicine.!/menu/main/topColumns/topLeftColumn/pdf/506146a.pdf

Monday, February 10, 2014

On Woody Allen and Echoes from the Past

2/10/14. WSJ writer Dorothy Rabinowitz draws on her extensive knowledge about false accusations of child sexual abuse and applies this knowledge to Woody Allen.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Book Review: "American Psychosis"

1/29/14. Sally Satel reviews E. Fuller Torrey's book "American Psychosis."   Since the 1960's, political liberals and conservatives have contributed to the deinstitutionalization of psychiatric patients. Some liberal ideologues have helped the severe mentally ill kill and die with their rights intact. Some conservative ideologues, authors of such classics "The Myth of Mental Illness" have defunded hospitals treatment.

Some liberal ideologues were too optimistic about the benefits of community mental health treatments.

Some conservative ideologues were too pessimistic about the benefits of inpatient mental health treatments.

Many liberals and conservatives remain skeptical that severe mental illness is a disease.

Until we have biological tests of such mental maladies, the horror will continue.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Description of a Self-Centered Professor

1/24/14. A wise, experienced oral surgeon described one of his self-centered professors:

"He always had to be the bride at every wedding, the corpse at every funeral, and the child at every christening "

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

On Christopher Peterson, Ph.D. and Positive Psychology


MPA Newsletter December 2013


Notes of a Psychology Watcher


Steven J. Ceresnie, Ph.D.

To Teach is to Learn Twice:


A few years after I began teaching, it occurred to me that being a teacher - not being a student - provides the best education. "To teach is to learn twice," wrote Joubert, in a simple-sounding maxim that could have several different meanings. It could mean that one first learns when getting up the material one is about to teach and then tests and relearns it in the actual teaching. It could mean that being a teacher offers one a fine chance of a second draft of one's inevitable inadequate initial education. It could mean that learning, like certain kinds of love, is better the second time around. It could mean that we are not ready for education, at any rate of the kind that leads to wisdom, until we are sixty, or seventy, or beyond. I favor this last interpretation, for it accounts for the strange feeling that I have had every year of my adult life, which is that only twelve months ago I was really quite stupid.


--- Joseph Epstein


Teaching and Learning Positive Psychology:  Other People Matter


          In 2006, the MPA Program Committee invited Dr. Christopher Peterson (1950 – 2012) to talk at Madonna University on the emerging field of Positive Psychology. Dr. Peterson (1950 – 2012), was the Arthur F. Thurnau professor of psychology and former chair of the clinical psychology at University of Michigan. Dr. Peterson was well-known for his psychological research in health and optimism, learned helplessness, and in the classification and measurement of human strengths and abilities. He won the 2010 Golden Apple Award – the most prestigious teaching award at the University of Michigan.


          Back to 2006 at Madonna University, when Dr. Peterson walked up to the podium to give his lecture at the MPA conference, he said, “I have heard of Madonna --- but I didn’t know she had a college.”


          Dr. Peterson’s wit, humanity and wisdom runs through his teaching, research, and writings.


          To get some sense of Dr. Peterson’s values, scientific sense, and virtues, I recommend you turn to two of his elegant books:


  • Peterson, Christopher. A Primer in Positive Psychology. New York:  Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Peterson, Christopher. Pursuing the Good Life. 100 Reflections on Positive Psychology. New York:  Oxford University Press, 2013.
              Chris dedicates A Primer in Positive Psychology to his parents “with love and gratitude…who taught me to love learning, to work hard, and to get along with others.”
    His book starts to fill in the periodic table of elements that makes up the science of positive psychology under the following chapter headings:

  • Pleasure and Positive Experience
  • Happiness
  • Positive Thinking
  • Character Strengths
  • Values
  • Interests, Abilities, and Accomplishments
  • Wellness
  • Positive Interpersonal Relationships
  • Enabling Institutions
  • The Future of Positive Psychology
    Each chapter provides guidelines from research findings about how to live when you are alive --- deepening our sense of pleasure, engagement, and meaning. 
              Since 2008, Chris has written a blog titled “The Good Life,” for the Psychology Today Web site, discussing the elements of what makes life worth living. Chris writes that his readers have told him they like blogs that have research findings, are terse, sprinkled with a bit of humor, and offer practical implications about pursuing the good life. The 100 reflections are taken from Chris’ Psychology Today blog, revised and updated for this book.
              There are eleven broad categories of reflections:
    Part I:           Positive Psychology and the Good Life
    Part II:          Positive Emotions and Experiences
    Part III:         Positive Traits and Talents
    Part IV:        Positive Relationships
    Part V:         Enabling Institutions:  Families
    Part VI:        Enabling Institutions:  Workplaces
    Part VII:        Enabling Institutions:  Schools
    Part VIII:       Enabling Institutions:  Sports
    Part IX:        Enabling Institutions:  Geographical Places
    Part X:         Rants
    Part XI:        Pursuing the Good Life
              In the first reflection, Dr. Peterson lists what we have learned in recent years about the psychological good life (I quote):

  • Most people are happy.
  • Happiness is a cause of good things in life and not simply along for the happy ride.
  • People who are satisfied with life eventually have even more reason to be satisfied, because happiness leads to desirable outcomes at school and work, to fulfilling social relationships, and even to good health and long life.
  • Most people are resilient.
  • Happiness, strengths of character, and good social relationships are buffers against the damaging effects of disappointments and setbacks.
  • Crisis reveals character.
  • Other people matter mightily if we want to understand what makes life most worth living.
  • Religion matters.
  • Work matters as well if it engages the worker and provides meaning and purpose.
  • Money makes an ever-diminishing contribution to well-being, but money can buy happiness if it is spent on other people.
  • As a route to a satisfying life, eudemonia trumps hedonism.
  • The ‘heart’ matters more than the ‘head.’ Schools explicitly teach critical thinking; they should also teach unconditional caring.
  • Good days have common features:  feeling autonomous, competent, and connected to others.
  • The good life can be taught.
    In another reflection, Chris asks the question:  “Is positive psychology bullshit?” (I meet people who ask the same question but leave out “positive”). To answer, he quotes from Harry Frankfort’s (2005) essay “On Bullshit.”  Frankfort defines bullshit not as a lie but as an indifference to truth. Because Positive Psychology is based on research published in peer-reviewed journals, this scientific focus exempts it from the BS category.  Chris is quick to point out we should all develop a BS detector for anyone who promises the secret to happiness or bliss in six easy steps.
              The following are some of reflection titles, quotes, and delightful digressions, aimed to lift our spirits:

  • What Do You Think About in the Shower?
  • Who Most Enjoys the Small Things in Life?
    • “I’d like to live as a poor man with lots of money.”
      --- Pablo Picasso

  • Fast Food and Impatience
  • There Are No Saints
    • “There are two kinds of people in the world, those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don’t.”
                                    --- Robert Benchley 

  • Resilience
    • “Inside the ring or out, ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.”
                          --- Muhammad Ali
  • Other People Matter
    • “I say that in every positive psychology lecture I give and every positive psychology workshop I conduct. It sounds like a bumper sticker slogan, but it is actually a good summary of what positive psychology research has should about the good life broadly construed. It is in the company of others that we often experience pleasure and certainly how we best savor its aftermath.”
                                    --- Christopher Peterson
      Frankfurt, H.G. On bullshit. Princeton NJ:  Princeton University Press, 2005.
      Peterson, Christopher. A Primer in Positive Psychology. New York:  Oxford University Press, 2006.
      Peterson, Christopher. Pursuing the Good Life. 100 Reflections on Positive Psychology. New York:  Oxford University Press, 2013        

Monday, December 30, 2013