Tuesday, December 25, 2012



192 responses from psychologists, psychiatrists, mathematicians, physicists, biologists, writers, entrepreneurs, anthropologists, economists, and more.

1 of the 192:
Johnstone Family Professor, Department of Psychology; Harvard University; Author, The Better Angles of Our Nature

Evolutionary Genetics Explains The Conflicts of Human Social Life
Complex life­ is a product of natural selection, which is driven by competition among replicators. The outcome depends on which replicators best mobilize the energy and materials necessary to copy themselves, and on how rapidly they can make copies which can replicate in turn. The first aspect of the competition may be called survival, metabolism, or somatic effort; the second replication or reproductive effort. Life at every scale, from RNA and DNA to whole organisms, implements features that execute—and constantly trade off­—these two functions.

Among life's tradeoffs is whether to allocate resources (energy, food, risk, time) to pumping out as many offspring as possible and letting them fend for themselves, or to eking out fewer descendants and enhancing the chances of survival and reproduction of each one. The continuum represents the degree of parental investment expended by an organism.

Since parental investment is finite, investing organisms face a second tradeoff, between investing resources in a given offspring and conserving those resources to invest in its existing or potential siblings.

Because of the essential difference between the sexes—females produce fewer but more expensive gametes—the females of most species invest more in offspring than the males, whose investment is often close to zero. Mammalian females in particular have opted for massive investment, starting with internal gestation and lactation. In some species, including Homo sapiens, the males may invest, too, though less than the females.

Natural selection favors the allocation of resources not just from parents to offspring but among genetic kin such as siblings and cousins. Just as a gene that encourages a parent to invest in offspring will be favoring a copy of itself that sits inside those offspring, so a gene that encourage an organism to invest in a brother or cousin will, some proportion of the time, be helping a copy of itself, and will be selected in proportion to the benefits conferred, the costs incurred, and the degree of genetic relatedness.

I've just reviewed the fundamental features of life on earth (and possibly life everywhere), with the barest mention of contingent facts about our own species: only that we're mammals with male parental investment. I'll add a second: that we're a brainy species that deals with life's conundrums not just with fixed adaptations selected over evolutionary time, but with facultative adaptations (cognition, language, socialization) that we deploy in our lifetimes and whose products we share via culture.

From these deep principles about the nature of the evolutionary process, one can deduce a vast amount about the social life of our species. (Credit where it's due: William Hamilton, George Williams, Robert Trivers, Donald Symons, Richard Alexander, Martin Daly, Margo Wilson.)

• Conflict is a part of the human condition. Notwithstanding religious myths of Eden, romantic images of noble savages, utopian dreams of perfect harmony, and gluey metaphors like attachment, bonding, and cohesion, human life is never free of friction. All societies have some degree of differential prestige and status, inequality of power and wealth, punishment, sexual regulations, sexual jealousy, hostility to other groups, and conflict within the group, including violence, rape, and homicide. Our cognitive and moral obsessions track these conflicts. There are a small number of plots in the world's fiction, and are defined by adversaries (often murderous), by tragedies of kinship or love, or both. In the real world, our life stories are largely stories of conflict: the hurts, guilts, and rivalries inflicted by friends, relatives, and competitors.
• The main refuge from this conflict is the family—collections of individuals with an evolutionary interest in one another's flourishing. Thus we find that traditional societies are organized around kinship, and that political leaders, from great emperors to tinpot tyrants, seek to transfer power to their offspring. Extreme forms of altruism, such as donating an organ or making a risky loan, are typically offered to relatives, as are bequests of wealth after death—a major cause of economic inequality. Nepotism constantly threatens social institutions such as religions, governments, and businesses that compete with the instinctive bonds of family.
• Even families are not perfect havens from conflict, because the solidarity from shared genes must contend with competition over parental investment. Parents have to apportion their investment across all their children, born and unborn, with every offspring equally valuable (all else being equal). But while an offspring has an interest in its siblings' welfare, since it shares half its genes with each full sib, it shares all of its genes with itself, so it has a disproportionate interest in its own welfare. The implicit conflict plays itself out throughout the lifespan: in postpartum depression, infanticide, cuteness, weaning, brattiness, tantrums, sibling rivalry, and struggles over inheritance.
• Sex is not entirely a pastime of mutual pleasure between consenting adults. That is because the different minimal parental investment of men and women translates into differences in their ultimate evolutionary interests. Men but not women can multiply their reproductive output with multiple partners. Men are more vulnerable than women to infidelity. Women are more vulnerable than men to desertion. Sex therefore takes place in the shadow of exploitation, illegitimacy, jealousy, spousal abuse, cuckoldry, desertion, harassment, and rape.
• Love is not all you need, and does not make the world go round. Marriage does offer the couple the theoretical possibility of a perfect overlap of genetic interest, and hence an opportunity for the bliss that we associate with romantic love, because their genetic fates are bound together in the same package, namely their children. Unfortunately those interests can diverge because of infidelity, stepchildren, in-laws, or age differences­­—which are, not coincidentally, major sources of marital strife.

None of this implies that people are robots controlled by their genes, that complex traits are determined by single genes, that people may be morally excused for fighting, raping, or philandering, that people try to have as many babies as possible, or that people are impervious to influences from their culture (to take some of the common misunderstandings of evolutionary explanations). What it does mean is that a large number of recurring forms of human conflict fall out of a small number of features of the process that made life possible.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Multiple Victim Shootings, Bombings, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handgun Laws: Contrasting Private and Public Law Enforcement

12/20/12. This is a widely quoted study by William M. Landes and John R. Lott Jr. The results are disburting to gun control advocates.


Few events obtain the same instant worldwide news coverage as multiple victim public shootings. These crimes allow us to study the alternative methods used to kill a large number of people (e.g., shootings versus bombings), marginal deterrence and the severity of the crime, substitutability of penalties, private versus public methods of deterrence and incapacitation, and whether attacks produce copycats. Yet, economists have not studied this phenomenon. Our results are surprising and dramatic. While arrest or conviction rates and the death penalty reduce normal murder rates, our results find that the only policy factor to influence multiple victim public shootings is the passage of concealed handgun laws. We explain why public shootings are more sensitive than other violent crimes to concealed handguns, why the laws reduce both the number of shootings as well as their severity, and why other penalties like executions have differential deterrent effects depending upon the type of murder.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Potential Killers We Let Loose

12/19/12. Our mental health system is broken.

There are many good reasons to improve gun control in the United States, including the obscene firepower available in many weapons. But better gun control will do little to prevent many mass killings, such as occurred last week in Newtown, Conn. Even if you ban guns completely, there are many alternative weapons available for use by untreated severely mentally ill persons who are so inclined.

Knives, for example. On the same day Adam Lanza killed 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Min Yingjun stabbed 22 children at an elementary school in central China. Similar assaults using knives killed about 20 and wounded more than 50 children in China last year. Almost all the attacks were carried out by severely mentally ill men. So maybe we should ban knives.
What about cars? In 1999 Steven Abrams, diagnosed with schizophrenia, drove his car onto a school playground in California, killing two young children. He had been hospitalized for psychiatric problems and had talked of killing children. Also in California, Marie West, diagnosed with bipolar disorder and with 19 previous hospitalizations, intentionally ran over an elderly man in 2000. The following year David Attias, diagnosed with bipolar disorder and previously hospitalized, drove his car onto a sidewalk in the Golden State, killing four and injuring nine. He then got out of his car and said he was an "angel of death." Perhaps we should ban cars as well.

The heart of this problem is not the availability of weapons but the abundance of individuals with severe mental disorders who are not being treated.

Severe mental disorders are defined by the National Advisory Mental Health Council as including schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, autism and the severe forms of major depression, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 7.7 million Americans currently qualify for the first three diagnoses, with 3.5 million of them receiving no treatment at any given time.

Among this 3.5 million, approximately 10%, or 350,000 individuals, become societal problems because of their untreated severe mental illness. According to federal statistics or academic studies, they comprise one-third of the homeless population and one-fifth of the inmates of jails and prisons, and they are responsible for at least 10% of all homicides in the U.S.

Mass killings by individuals with severe mental illness are one tragic symptom of a much larger problem. Over the past half-century, the availability of public psychiatric beds in the U.S. has decreased to 43,000 from 559,000, even as the population has increased. When individuals with severe mental illnesses are hospitalized at all, they are not kept long enough to become stabilized because of the bed shortage. Many are eventually incarcerated for petty crimes or worse.

A 2010 survey by the Treatment Advocacy Center reported that there are over three times more severely mentally ill individuals in jails and prisons than in hospitals. The problem is further exacerbated by state commitment laws that impede the hospitalization of those who resist treatment.
At this time, Adam Lanza's psychiatric diagnosis is not publicly known. Published accounts suggest that he fits into the autism spectrum, and it is known that a small number of such individuals become violent as adults. Such individuals require medications to control their behavior.

While it isn't yet known whether Lanza was being treated, it is known that Connecticut is among the worst states to seek such treatment. It has among the weakest involuntary treatment laws and is one of only six states that doesn't have a law permitting court-ordered "assisted outpatient treatment." In study after study, AOT has been shown to decrease re-hospitalizations, incarcerations and, most importantly, episodes of violence among severely mentally ill individuals.

Would we have fewer mass killings in the U.S. if we made sure that individuals with severe mental illnesses were receiving treatment? Examining the other 10 largest mass killings suggests that the answer is yes.

Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 at Virginia Tech; Howard Unruh, who killed 13 in Camden, N.J.; and Jiverly Wong, who killed 13 in Binghamton, N.Y., all had untreated schizophrenia. James Holmes, who killed 12 in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater almost certainly was severely mentally ill, but clinical information has not yet been released. George Hennard, who killed 23 in a Killeen, Texas, cafeteria, had definite paranoid thinking. Patrick Sherill, who killed 14 in an Edmond, Okla., post office, was known as "crazy Pat" by his neighbors but never formally diagnosed.

By contrast, little or no evidence of severe mental illness exists for Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who killed 13 at a high school in Littleton, Colo.; James Huberty, who killed 21 at a McDonald'sMCD -0.81% in San Ysidro, Calif.; and U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who killed 13 at the Fort Hood military base in Texas. Yet Charles Whitman, who killed 14 in Austin, Texas, was found at autopsy to have a tumor in the part of the brain that controls aggression.

It is now clearly established that people with severe mental illnesses who are being treated are no more dangerous than the general population. But some with severe illnesses who are not being treated are more dangerous. Therefore, if we ensure treatment for those who are known to be potentially dangerous, we may not eliminate mass killings but we would reduce them significantly. And perhaps if we had already done so, 20 small children in Newtown, Conn., might be alive today awaiting Christmas.

Dr. Torrey is the founder and Ms. Fuller is executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center in Arlington, Va.

A version of this article appeared December 18, 2012, on page A19 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: The Potential Killers We Let Loose.



The Individuals in the World Are Getting Wider

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Newtown --- A Path Forward

12/18/12. Wall Street Journal writer Peggy Noonan gets to the heart of what we should do after the killings in Newton. No easy answers.


Book Review: "Far From the Tree"

12/18/12. Psychiatrist Paul McHugh reviews Andrew Solomon's "Far From the Tree."

Dr. McHugh:

"...Children 'wanting' transgender treatment are responding not to pressure from a 'needful' identity, as Mr. Solomon implies, but to their thought that they can better resolve psychosocial problems by living in the other sex. They are, in this regard, like anorexic girls and require parental—and sometimes professional—redirection to avoid developmental confusions and struggles. The long-term follow-up of "reassigned" transsexuals reveals high risks for misery and suicidal behavior..."


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Battle at the Kitchen Table

12/10/12. Every night, millions of parents sit around their kitchen tables helping their kids do their homework. For some kids, one hour of homework turns into four hours of misery, frustration, arguing, tears, and turmoil.

Many of these youngsters suffer from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder -ADHD --- undiagnosed and labeled by other names such as lazy, stupid, stubborn, or defiant.

When a child suffers, the whole family hurts. There is so much concern about the over-diagnosis of ADHD  and other childhood maladies, but in truth, most kids with ADHD or other psychiatric disorders never get the proper diagnosis and treatments.

The Psychiatric "Bible": Controversy and the DSM-V

12/10/12. The 5th revision of the psychiatric diagnostic manual will be released in the Spring of 2013.

The growing number of psychiatric maladies in this edition consist of symptom lists or ingredients for each disorder --- except we have no idea what the recipes or biological etiologies are for any mental illness.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Book Review: Camille Paglia

12/9/12. The political left despises her and the political right is not sure where she stands --- my kind of writer.

James Panero:

"When Camille Paglia published Sexual Personae, her 1990 study of “Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson,” she became an unexpected combatant in the cultural wars. . ."


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Demand Curves


30 ways your spending habits change with age.


Fiscal Cliff Notes

12/4/12. Thomas Sowell reminds us how far we have fallen --- and that reality is not optional.


Part II:


Thomas Sowell:  

"...What both the statistical tables in the "Economic Report of the President" and the graphs in Investor's Business Daily show is that (1) tax revenues went up— not down— after tax rates were cut during the Bush administration, and (2) the budget deficit declined, year after year, after the cut in tax rates that have been blamed by Obama for increasing the deficit..."

APA Monitor: Interview with Professor Jerome Kagan and My Letter to the Editor


The Plight of the Alpha Female

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Book Review: Triumphs of Experience


Psychiatrist George E. Vaillant charts the findings of the Harvard Longitudinal Study.


'Two babies are born on the same day at the same hospital," begins a joke by the deadpan comic Steven Wright. After gazing at each other across their cribs for a few hours, they get whisked away by their respective families, never to see each other again for the next 90 years. Then, by a strange twist of fate, they find themselves lying on their deathbeds next to each other in that same hospital. One of them turns to the other and asks: "So—what'd you think?"

In the late 1930s and early '40s, 268 Harvard undergraduates—all men, as Harvard wasn't coed at the time—were recruited for a long-term psychological study. Interviewing them regularly over the coming decades, Harvard scientists aimed to pinpoint the personal attributes that most reliably predict a successful life: that is, a life of superior achievement and income, good physical and mental health, and happy marital and parental relationships. The Harvard Grant Study, as it is called—its original funder was chain-store magnate William T. Grant—has churned out findings ever since."


Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Teenage Brain

10/28/12. Abigail Baird, Ph.D. and actress Lisa Kudrow discuss the teenage brain at a recent Vassar alumni event.


The Benefits of Practice


"...Practice lets us execute a task while using less and less active brain processing. It makes things automatic. When performers master one aspect of their work, they free their minds to think about another aspect. This may be why many of us have our most creative thoughts while driving or brushing our teeth. Rote learning and conceptual thinking often feed synergistically on each other, freeing our brain capacity for those tasks that require the maximum amount of attention and creativity..."


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Hidden College Crises

10/24/12. The unintended side-effects of affirmative action --- a hidden problem in plain sight. When your temperament does not match your business --- life looks bleak.

"...years of 'happy talk' about the educational value of diversity have obscured a terrible fact:  If you place students who are less academically prepared in classes where most of the students are more academically prepared, the gap will be punishing and possibly humiliating to the less prepared students..."


Friday, October 5, 2012

Book Review: Systematic Psychiatric Evaluation

10/5/12. My book review on Amazon.

Pespectives of Psychiatry --- Don't Leave Home Without Them September 21, 2012

Format:Paperback|Amazon Verified Purchase

If you are a mental health clinician - or a consumer - and you want to understand psychiatric disorders --- buy this book.

This book is based on the pioneering work "Perspectives of Psychiatry," by Paul R. McHugh, M.D. and Phillip R. Slavney, M.D. who inject conceptual clarity and the ingredients to understand how life alters minds in a field rife with beliefs, myths, opinions, cultural fads, and cockamamy theories. The core idea of the "Perspectives" is that one single method cannot explain all psychiatric conditions.

Margaret S. Chisolm, M.D. and Constantine G. Lyketsos, M.D. present "A Step-by-Step Guide to Applying 'The Perspectives of Psychiatry." In other words, these authors offer guiding receipes to understand individuals - not using checklists -- but by applying a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation and treatment recommendations from each of the four perspectives: how life can be altered by what a patient HAS (diseases such as schizophrenia), what a patient IS (dimensions that vary along personality traits and intelligence), what a patient DOES (behaviors such as drug addiction), and what a patient ENCOUNTERS (life-story such as grief).

Drs. Chisolm and Lyketsos discuss the concepts behind the "Perspectives" approach, and then present nine case histories, discussing evaluation, differential diagnosis and treatment strategies through the lens of each of the four perspectives.

I have applied this approach for many years in my psychology practice to the benefit of my patients, myself, and my students. I eagerly await the next volume of these guidelines that focuses on understanding the psychiatric disorders of children and adolescents.

Do yourself a favor and learn the ideas in this book --- mental health is a well-known area with much disagreement about what is known well. This book will do much to reduce the muddle-headed and simple-minded approaches to understanding the mind --- replacing this fuzziness with conceptual clarity, comprehensive understandings, and ideas to improve mental health treatments.

Steven J. Ceresnie, Ph.D.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

"The Great Partnership." A Guide for the Perplexed

9/22/12. The Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, Lord Jonathan Sacks, examines the relationships between science, religion, and the search for meaning.


Why IQ Scores are Rising

How to Stop Hospitals from Killing Us

9/22/12. A surgeon with five simple ways to make health care safer.


In Plain View. How Child Molesters Get Away With It.

9/22/12. Malcom Gladwell:

"A 2001 book, “Identifying Child Molesters,” the psychologist Carla van Dam tells the story of a young Canadian elementary-school teacher she calls Jeffrey Clay. Clay taught physical education. He was well liked by his students, and often he asked boys in his class to stay after school, to do homework and help him with chores. One day, just before winter break, three of the boys made a confession to their parents. Mr. Clay had touched them under their pants.

The parents went to the principal. He confronted Clay, who denied everything. The principal knew Clay and was convinced by him. In his mind, what it boiled down to, van Dam writes, “is some wild imaginations and the three boys being really close.”

The parents were at a loss. Mr. Clay was beloved. He had started a popular gym club at the school. He was married and was a role model to the boys. He would come to their after-school games. Could he really have abused them? Perhaps he was just overly physical in the way that young men often are. He had a habit, for example, of grabbing boys in the hallway and pulling them toward him, placing his arms over their shoulders and chest. At the gym club, he would pick boys up and turn them upside down, holding them by the legs. Lots of people—especially gym teachers—like to engage in a little horseplay with young boys. It wasn’t until the allegations about Clay emerged that it occurred to anyone to wonder whether he might have been trying to look down the boys’ shorts..."



Women with ADHD -- Gender Bias with Serious Psychiatric Consequences


Psychologist Stephen Hinshaw published a scientific study of woman growing with ADHD. The results may surprise you.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Muslims, Mormons, and Liberals


Bret Stephens:

"...The "Book of Mormon"—a performance of which Hillary Clinton attended last year, without registering a complaint—comes to mind as the administration falls over itself denouncing "Innocence of Muslims." This is a film that may or may not exist; whose makers are likely not who they say they are; whose actors claim to have known neither the plot nor purpose of the film; and which has never been seen by any member of the public except as a video clip on the Internet.

No matter. The film, the administration says, is "hateful and offensive" (Susan Rice), "reprehensible and disgusting" (Jay Carney) and, in a twist, "disgusting and reprehensible" (Hillary Clinton). Mr. Carney, the White House spokesman, also lays sole blame on the film for inciting the riots that have swept the Muslim world and claimed the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three of his staff in Libya..."


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Psychiatrist Looks at Terrorism


Paul McHugh, M.D.:

"IN THE WAKE of September 11, what can a psychiatrist contribute to America's defense? Nothing, of course, to defend the nation from bombs, but something perhaps to defend it against confusion--and here America certainly needs help.

At the University of Pennsylvania, the provost called several neuroscientists together to consider whether the terrorists should be viewed as bad or mad: evildoers or sufferers from an exculpating mental disease. The group reached no conclusion, but one participant thought "brain images" might give the answer.

Editorialists argued about whether the atrocities should be considered acts of war or crimes. The blame-America-first group wanted the events called crimes and proposed prosecutions at the Hague. Some even opposed military retaliation, concerned that it would kill innocent people, produce martyrs, and generate recruits to the terrorist cause, along with endless war.

One distinguished Boston psychiatrist, speaking to anchorman Peter Jennings on ABC, explained the emotional distress of Americans as castration anxiety provoked by seeing the destruction of these two "phallic symbols" on the tip of Manhattan and suggested more psychoanalytic insight for us all.."


The Brass Standard


If President Obama is re-elected will he complain about the economic mess he was left with?

In this article Thomas Sowell recounts history of the economy many want to go back to ---- President Clinton's 1990's when there was a housing boom, banks were coerced to lower  qualifications to obtain a mortgage, and lots of people stopped making their house payments.


The Benefits of Psychotherapy


Sam Goldstein, Ph.D.:

"At some point in our cultural history, the relationship of one person helping another evolved to a point at which one person was officially designated as a helper. Helpers developed particular expertise, whether it be in fixing a broken wagon wheel, tracking game, healing illness, offering spiritual or emotional guidance. In the latter case the mental health helper was likely an individual particularly blessed or gifted in his or her ability to assist others through trying times. Reliable research demonstrates that psychotherapy, or the guidance offered by mental health professionals, is neither unproven nor a luxury, but in fact a viable, empirically supported intervention..."


Friday, September 14, 2012

How Childhood Neglect Stunts the Brain

9/14/12. While doing my dissertation on child abuse,  I witnessed the horrible affects of violence on infants and children, but I was startled to learn of the much more prevalent condition of childhood neglect.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dr. Thomas Szasz RIP

9/12/12. Anti-psychiatrist, psychiatrist Thomas Szasz was the author of the provocative "Myth of Mental Illness," a libertarian manifesto for the mentally ill.

Someone once said about Dr. Szasz, "If mental illness is a myth, then it is a myth with a genetic component."


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Football's Head Games: The Concussion Question


Joseph Epstein:

"A snake has been let loose in the autumn Saturday and Sunday afternoon Edens of those couch potatoes among us who love to watch football.
I heard Charles Barkley, interviewed at Wimbledon, remark that now that the word is out about the frequency of concussions in football more young black athletes will begin playing tennis, golf, and other sports where the life-shortening element isn’t so serious. Is this, I wonder, true? I have no notion, though, contra Sir Charles, the number of African Americans currently playing major league baseball, last I had heard, had dropped from 33 percent to roughly 8 percent.
The concussion question reminds me that boxing—one of the great sports of my boyhood in the 1940s and early ’50s—is, if my interest in it is any measure, moribund. Every so often, channel surfing on HBO or on one of the ESPN channels, I come across a prize fight and pause. The spectacle on view is generally two Hispanic-surnamed guys, heavily tattooed, in garish shorts, flailing away at each other under sad and swollen faces. Truth is, I feel a little unclean watching it; it feels, more precisely, like viewing pornography, something one shouldn’t be doing..."


The Economics of Providing Psychotherapy


Susan G. Lazar, M.D.:
Anchor for JumpAnchor for Jlazar.png
"Mental illness is the leading cause of global disability, accounting for one-third of disability worldwide, according to 2008 data from the World Health Organization. In the United States, costs of mental illness are 7 percent of total health care expenditures, with the indirect costs substantially higher at 2 percent of U.S. GDP. Over a lifetime, 50 percent of the population will suffer from at least one psychiatric disorder, and each year, nearly 30 percent of adults have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder. Of patients treated, only 32.7 percent receive minimally adequate treatment, the greatest likelihood of receiving it being highest in the mental health service sector and lowest in the general medical sector, which treats the majority of psychiatric patients. Most U.S. psychiatric patients remain untreated or poorly treated..."


Friday, August 31, 2012

Managing Mental Health at Work

8/31/12. The is the best time in human history to get help for mental misery --- but the stigma of getting help to mend minds still lingers.



8/30/12. University of Michigan positive psychologist Christopher Peterson discusses the role of quoting catchphrases in everyday life.

Do you have a favorite catchphrase you use? 

"What we have here is a failure to communicate."

"Make my day." 

"She's a Druish Princess."


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Tale of Mental Illness - from the Inside

8/28/12. Elyn Saks, Professor of Law, talks about growing up with schizophrenia.


Neil Armstrong RIP

8/28/12. Charles Murray provides insight into a great American.


Hail to Rolling Luggage

8/28/12. Christopher Peterson, Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan:

"I recently took an AMTRAK train from Ann Arbor to Chicago for a weekend visit with my parents. Because I would be gone for just a few days, I decided to take a duffel bag rather than my rolling luggage. I regretted this decision very quickly when I parked my car several blocks away from the train station. In addition to a few changes of clothing, I brought with me several hardcover books and my laptop computer. I came close to dislocating my shoulder as I schlepped my duffel bag down the sidewalk..."


Professor Peterson's book on Positive Psychology is a gem.

Tricks from the Elderly to Stop Worrying

10 Steps to a Better Relationship

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cheescake Factory Medicine

8/27/12. Americans who are pro-choice when it comes to abortion somehow have not figured out that Obamacare is not pro-choice when it comes to consumer choice and medical care.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Imagining Ted Bundy


Imagining Ted Bundy

A psychologist ponders what Ted might have said
Ted Bundy once aspired to become the governor of Washington State. People who thought they knew him believed he could do it. However, his secret life as a serial killer knocked him off course. He called his fatal urge his “entity.”
Bundy was one of the country’s most notorious serial killers. Just before his execution in 1989, he confessed to killing at least 30 young women. Educated and charming, he used every trick he could think of to persuade law enforcement to save him from Florida’s electric chair. None worked.
Dr. Al Carlisle evaluated Bundy after his first arrest in 1975, before anyone realized the enormity of his criminal career. A psychologist at the Utah State Prison, Carlisle was asked to do an evaluation for the court. “I spent about twenty hours with Bundy on the psychological assessment,” he told me for a chapter in my book The Mind of a Murderer. He came away with valuable material..."


Saturday, August 25, 2012

How That Yawn Gets Passed Along


Carol Tavris:

"I confess that I started reading Robert Provine's book about the "curious behavior" of its title—yawning, laughing, hiccupping, tearing up, sneezing, vomiting, tickling, itching, farting and belching—with a sigh: "It's come to this? All the big topics of love, war, sex, and money are taken, and we're reduced to a book about belching?" But within eight pages I was smitten. In this charmingly written and profoundly informative book, Mr. Provine gives us what he calls "sidewalk" neuroscience, a "scientific approach to everyday behavior based on simple observations and demonstrations that readers, even advanced grade-schoolers, can use to confirm, challenge, or extend the reported findings..."


Friday, August 24, 2012

That Someone in Your Head


David Eagleman:

"Take a close look at yourself in the mirror. Beneath your dashing good looks churns a hidden universe of networked machinery. The machinery includes a sophisticated scaffolding of interlocking bones, a netting of sinewy muscles, a good deal of specialized fluid, and a collaboration of internal organs chugging away in darkness to keep you alive. A sheet of high-tech self-healing sensory material that we call skin seamlessly covers your machinery in a pleasing package.

And then there’s your brain. Three pounds of the most complex material we’ve discovered in the universe. This is the mission control center that drives the whole operation, gathering dispatches through small portals in the armored bunker of the skull.

Your brain is built of cells called neurons and glia—hundreds of billions of them. Each one of these cells is as complicated as a city. And each one contains the entire human genome and traffics billions of molecules in intricate economies. Each cell sends electrical pulses to other cells, up to hundreds of times per second. If you represented each of these trillions and trillions of pulses in your brain by a single photon of light, the combined output would be blinding..."


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Delayed Development - 20 Somethings Blame the Brain


Melinda Beck:

"...Recent research into how the brain develops suggests that people are better equipped to make major life decisions in their late 20s than earlier in the decade. The brain, once thought to be fully grown after puberty, is still evolving into its adult shape well into a person's third decade, pruning away unused connections and strengthening those that remain, scientists say..."


Joseph Epstein: The Comic Stylings of Joe Biden

Backing the NYPD - By Accident


Heather Mac Donald:

"A recent column by New York Times reporter Ginia Bellafante inadvertently tells the truth about the public-safety desires of the poor—and thereby undermines the Times’s relentless crusade against the New York Police Department. The main thrust of Bellafante’s article is an attack on New York City for “inadequately . . . rank[ing] the needs of the poor” in its budget priorities. Her evidence is the allegedly slow pace with which the New York City Housing Authority has installed security cameras in its housing projects and the “mere” $51 million that it has allocated for doing so. That sum, Bellafante contends, compares poorly with the cameras now “commonplace to see . . . affixed to office buildings and expensive co-ops” (those cameras are privately funded, but who’s counting), with the “hundreds of millions of dollars for the development of lush tourist-luring green spaces like Brooklyn Bridge Park and Governors Island” which the city is planning, and with a proposed $20 million to assist with Carnegie Hall’s renovation..."


Wednesday, August 8, 2012



Heather McDonald:

"...And so the Departments of Education and Justice have launched a campaign against disproportionate minority discipline rates, which show up in virtually every school district with significant numbers of black and Hispanic students. The possibility that students’ behavior, not educators’ racism, drives those rates lies outside the Obama administration’s conceptual universe. But the country will pay a high price for the feds’ blindness, as the cascade of red tape and lawsuits emanating from Washington will depress student achievement and enrich advocates and attorneys for years to come.

This past March, Duncan released some newly gathered national discipline data. The “undeniable truth,” he said, was that the “everyday educational experience for many students of color violates the principle of equity.” The massive media coverage of Duncan’s report trumpeted the discipline disparity—blacks were three and a half times more likely to get suspended or expelled than their white peers—as convincing evidence of widespread discrimination. (The fact that white boys were over two times as likely to be suspended as Asian and Pacific Islander boys was discreetly ignored, though it would seem to imply antiwhite bias as well.)

The Department of Education has launched investigations of at least five school systems because of their disparate black-white discipline rates. The Department of Justice has already put the Barnwell, South Carolina, school district under a costly consent decree, complete with a pricey outside consultant, and is seeking similar control of other districts. The theory behind this school discipline push is what Obama officials and civil rights advocates call the “school-to-prison pipeline.” According to this conceit, harsh discipline practices—above all, suspensions—strip minority students of classroom time, causing them to learn less, drop out of school, and eventually land in prison..."

Can You Fake a Mental Illness?


"...Today, less than 1 percent of felony defendants raise an insanity defense, and a tiny fraction of those succeed. Yet in a state like Colorado, where proving insanity can avert a death sentence, the temptation to appear mentally ill must be strong. And so modern forensic psychologists, just like their forebears, watch for malingering with a sharp clinical eye. They determine whether the symptoms match those of well-studied pathologies and whether the signs remain consistent over time. They also can apply a battery of tests that essentially fake-out the faker..."


Monday, August 6, 2012

Why David Brooks can look forward to old age

Can Hospitals Be More Like Restaurant Chains?

8/6/12. Atul Gawande, M.D. in the New Yorker:

"...I’d come from the hospital that day. In medicine, too, we are trying to deliver a range of services to millions of people at a reasonable cost and with a consistent level of quality. Unlike the Cheesecake Factory, we haven’t figured out how. Our costs are soaring, the service is typically mediocre, and the quality is unreliable. Every clinician has his or her own way of doing things, and the rates of failure and complication (not to mention the costs) for a given service routinely vary by a factor of two or three, even within the same hospital..."

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Living With Voices


T. M. Luhrmann:

"Modern American psychiatry treats auditory hallucinations as the leading symptom of serious psychotic disorder, of which the most severe form is schizophrenia. When the German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin first distinguished dementia praecox, as he called it, from manic-depressive disorder in 1893, back when Freud was drafting the Interpretation of Dreams, he argued that schizophrenia could be recognized by its persistent, deteriorating course. These days, schizophrenia is often imagined as the quintessential brain disease, an expression of underlying organic vulnerability perhaps exacerbated by environmental stress, but as real and as obdurate as kidney failure. The new post-psychoanalytic psychiatric science that emerged in this country in the 1980s argued that mental illnesses were physical illnesses. Many Americans and most psychiatrists took away from this science a sense that serious mental illnesses were brain dysfunctions and that the best hope for their treatment lay in the aggressive new drugs that patients often hated but that sometimes held symptoms at bay.

The book that defined the era was called The Broken Brain (1984) by Nancy Andreasen, later editor of the American Journal of Psychiatry, member of the National Academy, and recipient of the National Medal of Science. Her leading example was schizophrenia, recognized by its characteristic combination of hallucinations (usually auditory), delusions, and deterioration in work or social life.
The commonsense understanding that accompanied this wisdom was that nonpharmacological treatments for schizophrenia were useless.

But recently a new grassroots movement has emerged. It argues that if patients learn to address their voices directly and appropriately, as if each voice had intention and agency, the voices will become less hostile and eventually go away. From the perspective of modern psychiatry, this assertion is radical, even dangerous. But it is being taken seriously by an increasing number of patients and psychiatrists..."


Decoding the Science of Sleep

My World With Louis Armstrong


Charles L. Black, Jr.IN the middle of May 1955, at the Savoy Ballroom on Lenox Avenue

in Harlem, a philanthropic organization in the black community gave

a reception in honor of the thirty or so lawyers who had worked on

the case of
Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court decision

that declared school segregation unlawful and thus began the end of the

old Southern racist regime. I, by the grace of somebody or something, was

there. Thurgood lined us all up in front of the orchestra to receive the applause

of the whole crowd, Margaret Truman, Averell Harriman, everybody.

I turned and looked, a little wistfully, at the trumpet-player in the orchestra,

a young black; “I wonder,” I thought, “whether I wouldn’t rather

have been honored in the Savoy Ballroom for trumpet-playing?” Then I

heard Thurgood, moving down the line, “... Charlie Duncan. And next

over there is Charlie Black, a white man from Texas, who’s been with us all

the way.”


Saturday, July 28, 2012

If Obama Loses the Election Here's Why

7/28/12. Dr. Drew Westen, Professor of Psychology consults with Democratic politicians. Professor Westen outlines why Obama may lose --- and what he should do to win.


Aurora Beyond Us

7/28/12. Retired British prison psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple says the killings at the Colorado movie theater defy explanation.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Why Capitalism has an Image Problem


Charles Murray:

"Mitt Romney's résumé at Bain should be a slam dunk. He has been a successful capitalist, and capitalism is the best thing that has ever happened to the material condition of the human race. From the dawn of history until the 18th century, every society in the world was impoverished, with only the thinnest film of wealth on top. Then came capitalism and the Industrial Revolution. Everywhere that capitalism subsequently took hold, national wealth began to increase and poverty began to fall. Everywhere that capitalism didn't take hold, people remained impoverished. Everywhere that capitalism has been rejected since then, poverty has increased...

...But in today's political climate, updating the case for capitalism requires a restatement of old truths in ways that Americans from across the political spectrum can accept. Here is my best effort:
The U.S. was created to foster human flourishing. The means to that end was the exercise of liberty in the pursuit of happiness. Capitalism is the economic expression of liberty. The pursuit of happiness, with happiness defined in the classic sense of justified and lasting satisfaction with life as a whole, depends on economic liberty every bit as much as it depends on other kinds of freedom.

Lasting and justified satisfaction with life as a whole" is produced by a relatively small set of important achievements that we can rightly attribute to our own actions. Arthur Brooks, my colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, has usefully labeled such achievements "earned success." Earned success can arise from a successful marriage, children raised well, a valued place as a member of a community, or devotion to a faith. Earned success also arises from achievement in the economic realm, which is where capitalism comes in.

Earning a living for yourself and your family through your own efforts is the most elemental form of earned success. Successfully starting a business, no matter how small, is an act of creating something out of nothing that carries satisfactions far beyond those of the money it brings in. Finding work that not only pays the bills but that you enjoy is a crucially important resource for earned success.

Making a living, starting a business and finding work that you enjoy all depend on freedom to act in the economic realm. What government can do to help is establish the rule of law so that informed and voluntary trades can take place. More formally, government can vigorously enforce laws against the use of force, fraud and criminal collusion, and use tort law to hold people liable for harm they cause others..."


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Missing the Point of the Aurora Killings

7/25/12.  Mona Charen:

"...For years, mental health authorities assured us that the mentally ill were no more dangerous than the average person. That's true of most, but not all. As Dr. E. Fuller Torrey documents in his essential book, "The Insanity Offense," rates of violence among the untreated mentally ill are significantly higher than among the general population and are also much higher than among those receiving medication. Between 5 and 10 percent of the untreated seriously mentally ill will commit violent crimes in any given year, accounting for at least 5 percent of homicides in the United States (a huge percentage in a nation of more than 300 million). For rampage crimes, such as the Aurora attack, the percentage of mentally ill perpetrators is much greater, as high as 50 percent.

Since the 1960s, when deinstitutionalization became intellectually fashionable and fiscally alluring to states looking to save money, the mentally ill have been dumped onto the streets. Today 95 percent of the in-patient beds that were available for psychiatric patients in 1955 are gone. The Treatment Advocacy Center explains that, "The consequences of the severe shortage of public psychiatric beds include increased homelessness; the incarceration of mentally ill individuals in jails and prisons; emergency rooms being overrun with patients waiting for a psychiatric bed; and an increase in violent behavior, including homicides, in communities across the nation." Imagine if we treated the mentally retarded this way.

In many cases of mental illness, a belief that one is not in need of treatment is part of the sickness. Yet most studies show that the majority of those who are medicated against their wishes retroactively approve and believe it should be done again if necessary. In New York, 62 percent reported that being ordered by a court into treatment was a good thing for them..."


Should We Make Tougher Gun Control Laws?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?

7/24/12. This is a classic article written by Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick.

Open-minded politicians could learn something from Professor Nozick.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Book Review: Why Does the World Exist?

7/21/12. Jeremy Bernstein reviews Jim Holt's book.

Jeremy Bernstein:

"...Mr. Holt cheerily refuses to heed interlocutors in his book who tell him his quest for a final answer is misdirected. But here is a story: A hedge fund manager, who has made all the money that he will ever need, reads Mr. Holt's book and decides to search for the meaning of the universe. He discovers a Buddhist monk who lives in a cave in the Himalayas and almost never speaks but, when he does, speaks only the highest wisdom. Our man undertakes a dangerous trek to ask the monk his question: "What is the secret of the cosmos?" The monk goes into a trance and comes out with a single sentence. "He says," the translator reports, "that the cosmos is like a bowl of cherries." Our man is outraged, so angry he even shakes the monk. "How can he possibly say that the cosmos is like a bowl of cherries?" The translator asks, and after a few minutes translates the monk's reply. "He says maybe the cosmos is not like a bowl of cherries."


Interview with Jim Holt in the NYT:


When Bad Theories Happen to Good Scientists

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

How Important Are Fathers in Child Development?

7/11/12. Kyle Pruett, M.D., child psychiatrist:

"How central are fathers to childhood development?

It depends on whom you ask. If you ask the child they would say, absolutely essential. You ask a mother, she'll say, if he does it the right way he's really important. If you ask the father he's likely to say, I'm not sure but I think probably pretty important. If you ask the experts, the answer will depend on how much they know about families and child development. I don't mean to be elusive in my answer.

It is a pretty well-accepted fact that we have not supported paternal engagement to the extent that would be helpful to our children. We're getting better at it now. We've come to understand that fathers don’t mother and mothers don’t father. Fathers can't really be replaced, in full, especially by somebody who doesn't feel like a father. We're beginning to understand that to the extent that dads are positively involved, the children's and the mothers’ lives are better..."


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Book Review: "Why Does the World Exist?"

7/10/12. Kathryn Schulz reviews Jim Holt's book on why there is something rather than nothing. I enjoyed Jim Holt's book on humor:  "Stop Me If You've Heard This:  A History and Philosophy of Jokes."


"...Mind, matter, abstract ideas: Where does all this stuff come from? Why is the universe characterized by such abundance and complexity? Why does it exist at all? How did it come into being? Could there have been something else instead? Could there have been nothing else—that is, nothingness—instead? Is the human mind capable of resolving these matters? Can anyone do justice to all this in a 279-page book?..."

Monday, July 2, 2012

Monday Quotation


"The next time some academics tell you how important diversity is, ask how many Republicans there are in the sociology department."

Thomas Sowell (1930 -    )

Saturday, June 23, 2012

People Matter


Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, by Robert Zubrin (Encounter, 328 pp., $25.95)

"A ruling idea of the last two centuries has been materialism: the notion, as arch-materialist Daniel Dennett asserts, that “there is only one sort of stuff, namely matter—the physical stuff of physics, chemistry, and physiology—and the mind is somehow nothing but a physical phenomenon.” One consequence of this belief has been the rise of antihumanism—the stripping from people of their transcendent value and a reduction of them to mere things in the world to be studied, understood, reshaped—and ultimately controlled..."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Judith S. Wallerstein, Ph.D. RIP

6/21/12. I had the pleasure of talking with Dr. Wallerstein about 25 years ago when she spoke about her longitudinal research on the effects of divorce on children at an all-day conference for the Michigan Psychological Association.