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human nature


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I’ve been largely AWOL from gchat and facebook this past week, which is atypical for my internet-addicted ass.

This weekend, I got a few text messages from my usual buddies wondering what I was up to and if I was okay.

I am not okay and don’t have any advice for them to give me, but It was nice to know that people notice when I’m not around. (Just for the record, I’m only a little bit of a creep and/or weirdo.)

I’d also like to note that I’m happy to see webcomics lightening up serious topics and getting more exposure and understanding for mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

And to my depressed internet, buddies out there, also hibernating for the winter:  Surround yourself with friends (if you’re up to it) and love yourself.

Categories: human nature Tags: comic, depressed, depression, friends, help, loneliness, robot hugs, webcomic

[This post is a spin-off from my Cosmo Claims Men “Lack” 12 Ablities post.]

Everyone seems to has a personal anecdote about the topic.  Are women more, less, or equally as dirty when compared with men?

There’s tons of messy girls out there for demonstration. I’m one of them. Clothes all over my floor. Smell test if I’ve only worn an outfit once. Desk drawers open with the contents sprawled about on the table. My friend’s mom has a “messy room equilibrium” theory where each person has their own messy quotient before they’ll start cleaning, and I think mine is pretty high.

I’m messy. But I’m not gross. I think this is an important distinction in the debate.

The layer of fecal coliforms that I scrapped off the inside of my boyfriend’s toilet does not exist in mine. (Baby, in all your last-minute toilet scrubbings before I show up, you’ve forgotten to really get under the inside rim.) In college, I had to harass the boys on our coed floor to cover their meat with aluminum foil so it didn’t funk up our fridge.

In organic chem class, my regular partner was sick. I was paired with two other boys for the lab. When prepping, they dumped the test tubes in semi-soapy water and then pulled them out to dry. “Don’t you want to scrub those on the inside first?” I asked. “No, it’s good enough.” We finished first before all the other girls, but also got contamination-caused false positives in the lab results.

False positives, hah, I’m not even trying with the dirty puns. Anyway, those are my stories that form my prejudices about cleanliness.

Let’s looks at the science:


The study that Cosmo quotes found that researchers discovered that men had 10 to 20 percent more bacteria in their workspaces than women.  Reasons the researchers hypothesized were that men were known from previous studies to wash their hands less, and they simply have a larger surface area on their bodies to shed germs off.Oh wait, here’s an infographic that says womens’ desks “have 3.5 times more bacteria.” Which one is right?

Well, an older study from 2007 that found that more women stored food in their desks than men, and that’s why there was more bacteria in the desks and on the keyboards. You know what? It doesn’t matter. I don’t even want to analyze the methodologies of the studies. We need bacteria anyway to build up immunity against more serious pathogens

You swab different people at different companies, and you’re going to find different results. It’s not a study that reproducible in a meaningful way. Just wash your hands when you scratch your ass or somebody else’s ass and you’ll be fine.

Despite the people that tend to pop on the TLC shows, men reportedly have slightly higher tendencies to become hoarders than women.

“Hoarding” is going to pop up under its own category in the DSM-V revision, but in my opinion, it’s just a different behavioral manifestation of OCD.  OCD, of course, can go the other way with obsessive cleanliness. It’s hard to find gender stats on that particular behavior, but I’m sure there’s plenty of men on that side of spectrum as well. The Aviator, anyone?

Children are just the incubi and succubi of viral plague. With parental tendencies to overuse Amoxicillin and Tamiflu on little Jimmy and Jane for every sniffle and then not finish the 10-14 day course (I’ve see this happen all the time in my line of work), it’s a recipe for breeding newly mutated forms of upper respiratory infection. Which the kids will pass around with the ball at recess and then bring home to mom and dad.

I’m still pretty sure women are still statistically the primary caregivers, so they are the next in line for exposure to the grossness. Even so, this is a cultural thing, not an innate tendency for sickness.

Personal Hygiene
This is one a clear win for the women in terms of bathing, washing clothes/sheets more often, and general fastidiousness to personal grooming.

Cleanliness and perceptions of cleanliness can vary so much by occupation, upbringing, and culture. Even from an evolutionary perspective of division of labor, it’s not like men never had to clean (weapons and temporary camp sites).

“Women are cleaner than men” is a reasonable argument. But like every argument that marginalizes the outliers and sets the stage for norms that divide the sexes, there’s no need to claim it makes them the better sex.

Categories: human nature, Social commentary Tags: bacteria, battle of the sexes, clean, cleanliness, gender differences, hygiene, personal grooming

The New Yorker, “Why Smart People Are Stupid”:

Self-awareness was not particularly useful: as the scientists note, “people who were aware of their own biases were not better able to overcome them.” This finding wouldn’t surprise Kahneman, who admits in “Thinking, Fast and Slow” that his decades of groundbreaking research have failed to significantly improve his own mental performance. “My intuitive thinking is just as prone to overconfidence, extreme predictions, and the planning fallacy”—a tendency to underestimate how long it will take to complete a task—“as it was before I made a study of these issues,” he writes.

Ahh, that’s unnerving. I would like to think that being aware of my own cognitive bias makes me able to recognize it in different but similar situations.

The classic example:  A bat and ball cost a dollar and ten cents. The bat costs a dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? Apparently, most people say 10 cents automatically.

I would like to think that because I have practiced conceptualizing it as 2x+ 1.00 = 1.10, x=0.05, it will make me more self-aware when encountering different but similar math word problems. Does this study suggest that would not be the case?

I dunno. I’m not sure what they mean by more “cognitively sophisticated” or how exactly they determine bias. I want to continue my “reading and criticizing primary sources” kick today, but I am very poor and the study .pdf costs $12.

The fine denizens of the Internet who have read the study, however, are criticizing The New Yorker article for overstating things. They’re saying that the smarter people only overestimated their own ability to overcome bias. This is a different kind of bias than performing poorly on the tests, and the association was weak anyway. With such a grandiose title like “Why Smart People are Stupid,” this accusation of blowing things out of proportion isn’t surprising.

Categories: human nature, Knowledge has vagina dentata so don’t you fuck with it Tags: cognition, cognitive bias, Jonah Lehrer, psychology, smart people, The New Yorker, Why Smart People are Stupid

Oh hey, a PubMed article with the full text available.

It is proposed that happiness be classified as a psychiatric disorder and be included in future editions of the major diagnostic manuals under the new name: major affective disorder, pleasant type. In a review of the relevant literature it is shown that happiness is statistically abnormal, consists of a discrete cluster of symptoms, is associated with a range of cognitive abnormalities, and probably reflects the abnormal functioning of the central nervous system. One possible objection to this proposal remains–that happiness is not negatively valued. However, this objection is dismissed as scientifically irrelevant.

This was published in a 1992 Journal of Medical Ethics.  It was obviously never taken up on by the overlords of the DSM-IV, published in 2000.  The guy who wrote it is a Professor of Clinical Psychology in the UK with a specialization in the psychotic aspects of mental illness.


So the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is scheduled for a republication (fifth edition) in May 2013, and there’s been a fair amount of media controversy about some of the changes, mostly around lower standards for addiction disorders.

I skimmed over the Proposed Changes part of the website that the APA set up for the new edition and didn’t find anything egregious. Etiology of a disorder doesn’t matter much beyond understanding how to fix it.  But how behaviors are treated by society do matter. (In my relativist opinion, psychologists know nothing about feelings, except for their own.  They only know behavior.*)

By changing a medical text of authority, I have a feeling it will lower stigma and help erase the false emotional/physical dichotomy model of symptoms that people, including mental health professionals, seem to acknowledge as a gauge for importance during treatment.  And these results would, uncontroversially, be a good thing.

*I’m using “know” here in a sort of vague, philosophical context.  I mean, we’re never going to have a better scale for pain, emotional or physical, beyond a subjective “Pick a number 1-10.”

Categories: human nature, Knowledge has vagina dentata so don’t you fuck with it Tags: addiction, APA, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM 5, DSM-IV, happiness, mental disorder, psychiatry, psychology

Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” –Hemingway, died 1961 by self-inflicted shotgun wound.

When I first started writing this, I tackled it much like self-help books tackle depression, common sense.  “Are you sleeping enough, eating well, and balancing your work and recreational life in a personally and spiritually fulfilling manner?  If not, identify the problems and take logical steps to fix them.”

After a paragraph in, I realized that this method was full of shit.  Because chances are, if you’re depressed and on WordPress reading this article, you’re just as intelligent and self-aware as I am.  And logic-based psychotherapy just didn’t fly with me, because the problem wasn’t in my thought patterns (I like my thought patterns);  it was how I processed emotion with these thought patterns.

I’m still a pessimistic realist. I still have the fundamental personal problems that precipitated my most recent bout of severe depression.

But I’m happy now.

I got there was by following the route that best suited me.  These were what I identify as my three (not so simple) steps out of depression:

  1. Get meds
  2. Get friends
  3. Get laid (love)

For some people, 12 step programs are the way to go.  It’s not for me.   I’m not down with the Judeo-Christian undertones and way the members of AA and such victimize themselves to abstract concepts that help them psychologically absolve responsibility for what are arguably self-induced problems.

Let me elaborate in a cut what constituted my three-step process.  I can only hope that it provides a helpful template for others. Read more…

Categories: Autobiographical Stories, How To, human nature Tags: 12 step programs, antidepressants, cognitive-behavioral therapy, depression, don’t let the bastards bring you down, Hemingway, intelligence, major depressive disorder, Melancholia, overcoming depression, Prozac, psychotheraphy, SSRIs, suicide

Interesting.  Basically what he’s saying is that intellectuals–those who rocked the Critical Reading portion of the SATs but not necessarily Math–are arrogant fucks who believe that they deserve income proportional to their intellectual value.  At a young age they are conditioned by their school enviornment to accept a certain standard of psychosocial norms that do not mimic the rewards system of the real world.

From a skeptic of both extremes of anarchocapitalism and a centrally planned economy, I have to say that the author’s argument is extremely intellectually specious.

Yes, we are arrogant fucks.  But I’ve also always found a certain kind of arrogance in using the pronoun “we” in formal writing, as if the author assumes that the reader agrees.

I think the writer forgot that intellectuals have a tendency to hate capitalism because it’s a cannibalistic system which has a tendency to bring out the gaping orifices in personal moral values.

Let’s watch the monkey dance:

Categories: human nature, Politics or: the art of looking for trouble Tags: arrogant fucks, capitalism, intellectuals, The CATO institute, ze frank

What’s with all these naked men being tasered?  Where are all the naked ladies?

The only major difference between this story and the first one was that this guy was on a ledge and DIED.  Normally, nudity and tasing would go under “things that amuse me,”  but I’m not that cruel.   I just leave it as commentary on “human nature,” in this case, the immutable stupidity of pigs.

Categories: human nature Tags: nudity, police brutality, taser, tasered