How facts backfire – The Boston Globe. Great article on the effects of facts on beliefs. Well worth the read.
There’s a “news story on Gizmodo today”:http://gizmodo.com/343186/teen-strangles-father-with-gamepad-cable about a teen gamer who tried to strangle his father with a cord from a gaming controller. Apparently, the father had repeatedly told the boy to turn off the console and finally ended up going into the boy’s room and pulling the power cord, causing the boy to lose all his progress. The kid was so outraged that he proceeded to try strangling his father. Craziness.
Now, I know that as a kid, I often felt angry whenever my parents told me I needed to get off my Nintendo and either A) do my chores, or B) go outside for awhile, ((It might have been a different story had the Nintendo offered a way to save games so that all your progress wasn’t lost every time you quit.)) but I never felt compelled to attempt murder. And even now it’s frustrating to lose game progress to a power outage, disc failure, and console hiccup – but ultimately it’s not the end of the world, and certainly not something worth resorting to violence over.
This story is not, of course, about video games being responsible for violence. It _is_, however, an example of the evolution of cultural norms that place such a high level of value on entertainment that they make foreign ideas like personal control, restraint, and responsibility. Y’know, video games are a luxury, not an essential. If they’re the catalyst for behavioral problems in kids, the wisest thing a parent can do is take the games away until the child (or teen) has learned enough responsibility and self-control to be able to handle them without flying off at the handle. I mean, you can’t tell me that, in this case, this incident was the first time the parents had ever seen a behavioral outburst like this.
A “friend of mine”:http://jtf02.wordpress.com has started blogging. In his “first entry”:http://jtf02.wordpress.com/2007/08/31/church-and-psychology/, he shares his thoughts on the Church and psychology and the current tension between the two.
bq. For years the Church has tended to deny that psychological problems really exist. Some have openly stated that psychological problems do not exist, only sin exists and that what some would call psychological is actually sin. Others would claim that sin does exist but that psychological problems also exist apart from sin and at times with sin.
Go give a read, and better still, leave a comment and add to the discussion.
Ok, this bugs the tar out of me, especially since I’ve seen a _lot_ of writers, both for books and for TV, who get this wrong. Schizophrenia is _NOT_ the same thing as multiple personalities. Schizophrenia involves delusions and hallucinations, among other things (see _A Beautiful Mind_ for a flick that actually gets it right). Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder before the DSM-IV revision) is what is _actually_ multiple, or split, personalities. It’s a common misconception that the two mental disorders are one and the same. Stephen King got it wrong in _The Dark Tower_ series (and should, in my opinion, have fixed it in Book 5, given the timespan between it and Book 4), and the writers of _Stargate SG-1_ got it wrong in a couple of episodes, just to name two examples. There have been plenty of others I’ve seen lately, too.
Get it right, people!
(Aren’t writers supposed to do research on these things?)
I do these things very seldom, and I share the results even less frequently, and I don’t do Tarot cards at all, but the result from this little survey was dead-on for my personality. Occasionally, one of these things actually works out. Now, to do a statistical study to test reliability and validity. ((Yes, I’m just kidding.))
You are The Hermit
Prudence, Caution, Deliberation.
The Hermit points to all things hidden, such as knowledge and inspiration,hidden enemies. The illumination is from within, and retirement from participation in current events.
The Hermit is a card of introspection, analysis and, well, virginity. You do not desire to socialize; the card indicates, instead, a desire for peace and solitude. You prefer to take the time to think, organize, ruminate, take stock. There may be feelings of frustration and discontent but these feelings eventually lead to enlightenment, illumination, clarity.
The Hermit represents a wise, inspirational person, friend, teacher, therapist. This a person who can shine a light on things that were previously mysterious and confusing.
What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.
Technology really is coming a long way. I’ve recently started tuning in to Gizmodo in my Google Reader ((I had Engadget there for a while, as well, but the two tech news services cover pretty much exactly the same news and the redundancy was annoying me.)) and have, as such, been keeping abreast with a lot of the latest and greatest in the tech industry. This article highlights a very lifelike robot that has the ability to interact with real people and track them visually. It’s a stunning bit of technology that indicates that something along the lines of androids may not be as far into the distant future as we think. The video is pretty neat to watch. For something powered by batteries and software, Jules waxes quite the philosopher.
From a psychological and social standpoint, I kind of thought that the behaviors of the people interacting with him were a bit disturbing. It could be it was all scripted for the sake of the video, but they certainly sounded genuine enough. It was just kind of weird seeing real, live people interacting with a non-living object as though it were actually sentient. Strange. It certainly calls up some interesting questions should such robots ever actually be created.
I’d love to know more about the project and get an idea of the scope of the software that makes Jules work. The level of programming involved in making that thing look and act so authentically is staggering. I may have to find time later to go check out the website and read up a bit. I’d be curious to hear your comments on Jules.
The human eye makes millions of individual observations a day. The vast majority of these are ignored by the conscious brain, but far more of these observations than we realize are recorded into long-term memory. The thing of it is, we don’t usually realize it. It’s not quite photographic memory – most of us simply can’t recall all these details on demand. But they reside in our minds, nevertheless, allowing us to notice, for instance, when something in a familiar landscape has changed, even if we can’t quite put our finger on what. This is the mind drawing on the stored details relevant to this setting and context and providing us with a comparison that our conscious minds must then endeavor to sort through to determine the differences in our environment. Sometimes, this process can mean life or death.
In my case this morning, it was nothing half so dramatic or critical. It was more a subtle niggling that something about my walk across campus on my way to my office was different. ((The lack of students – all of which are on Spring Break this week – was *not* what my mind was trying to draw my attention to.)) What took me so long was that the change was truly slight – it was the observation that all of the trees now have little buds growing on them, a further sign that spring’s arrival is imminent. It was a delightful observation to make, even if it _did_ take a while for my brain to catch up with my mind. ((And if *that* doesn’t make your head hurt, nothing will.))
How do you greatly amplify your daily hit count? Create and release a WordPress theme and then tell Weblog Tools Collection about it. Already at this point in the day, my numbers are up four times higher than normal. It’s pretty cool.
And I have to admit that it was really weird to see the first blog sporting the Sacred Icon theme. At first I thought someone had hacked Penitent Tangential and was mucking about. Took me a second to remember I was looking at a different site. ((How’s _that_ for visual associations?))
I’ve just quite a bit of material to write about, all of it stacking up in the queue. Most of it right now has to do with theology and philosophy and the like, some of it has to do with writing, and some to do with gaming. All of it requires a clear head to mull over and think through coherently enough to formulate something worthwhile from the rabble, and so I’ve pushed it off for a few days now. My heart may be into writing, but my mind simply can’t keep up right now.
To give you a little idea of what I have on the table right now, here’s a list of entries I’m hoping to draft in the somewhat near future:
* A response to statements that the Bible may not actually be inerrant
* A response to the charge that C.S. Lewis himself may not have considered the Bible to be inerrant
* Musings on the use (or lack thereof) of classical logic in today’s culture
* The disappearance of antithetical logic
* The social nuances of avid bloggers
* An objection to bookstores that are beginning to place science fiction and fantasy novels in separate categories
* A little blurb on eschatology
* Video games in politics – again
* Storytelling in video games – just how important is it?
* The relationship and similarities of statistics and psychology
I’ll even give you folks a choice – which of the above topics sounds most interesting to you? What would you like me to write about first?
I will periodically remark on a commercial I’ve seen or heard with a comment like, “That was really stupid. That company ought to fire whoever wrote that commercial.” My wife will then give me this knowing smile and say, “But do you remember what company the commercial is _for_?” When I say that I do, she then says, “Well, then, that guy _doesn’t_ get fired. He’s done his job.” And I am chagrined to find that I see her point.
For a while Taco Bell ran a series of commercials that I thought were pretty lame. More recently, Subway has been running their “Subway Dinner Theatre” commercials, which I find so obnoxious I have to turn the radio down or change TV channels just so I don’t have to put up with them. Geiko’s commercials, which are usually extraordinarily funny, have also gone the way of unfunny lately, and now “PS3 has a new commercial”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJaGScKpZuU&mode=related&search= that is just strange, bizarre, and quite disturbing.
Have the marketing people done their jobs? Do I remember these brands, even long after I’ve seen the commercials? The answer to both questions is ‘yes, I do.’ And it’s strange – but logical – that I would remember _these_ commercials, the ones that annoy me more than entertain me, better than the ones that make me laugh. For whatever reason the human psyche tends to remember negative reactions better than it does positive ones. It is the ‘bad’ experiences we remember best, possibly because we often spend more ranting and raving about how annoyed or irked we are. So, in that sense the marketing guy has done his job and done it well.
On the other hand, though, perhaps he has not done his job so well. For people like me, who miss the humor in some of these commercials – like the Subway ads, which are obviously supposed to be humorous to a certain (male) demographic – or, like the PS3 ads, find them disturbing enough to avoid watching them a second time, the reaction is to avoid buying _anything_ from these companies. Why reward a grain of sand for falling into one’s eye, after all? I don’t have any idea how widespread this reaction is among the general populace. Perhaps most people simply disregard their annoyances and give their patronage to these companies, anyway. Perhaps brand loyalty overcomes weird, strange, and obnoxious commercials. I know I certainly haven’t done much, if any, business with any of the companies cited above. Could be I’m all wet on this.
There are certainly a lot of factors involved here, requiring anyone studying this aspect of psychology to develop a complex and comprehensive experiment to measure the effects of advertising. Obviously, it must work, else these companies wouldn’t waste their millions on them. Subway, for instance, has been running these dinner theatre ads for months now, and Geiko’s last few commercials have likewise, in my opinion, been duds. Could be I’ve just lost my sense of humor.