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Everything posted by PhDwannabe

  1. Ringer already said so, and nobody really acknowledged it, so I'll just add my own comment to the pile: this is not how the nervous system is organized.
  2. Depending on what you mean by this--it's a pretty vague statement--at least 7 billion pieces of empirical evidence would seem to suggest that you, uhh, can, actually. I have never, ever come across a scientific text which defines "cells" as a "unit" of "consciousness." Certainly consciousness is a phenomenon that seems to be produced by physical brains which are made up of cells (I'm trying my best to avoid sticky philosophy of mind issues here, though I can't even say that without asserting some kind of generally physicalist position), but that doesn't in any clear sense make cells themselves a "unit" of consciousness. Combustion often occurs when some carbon source is given access to heat and oxygen. Would it make sense to say that "carbon is a unit of combustion?" No. Ehhh, we kind of do, actually. Though nobody who knows something about it would put it that way. Our findings don't take the form of articles called "How Intelligence Works." No, you don't. No, you don't.
  3. "Advice" in any meaningful sense is difficult to give blindly. Without knowing anything but the fact that your friend was just diagnosed with BPD, any advice given is going to be pretty bland and neutral. With regard to information, though, I generally regard the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies as one of the more reputable sources for decent fact sheets for nonspecialists. If the OP has a higher level of knowledge or interest than what you'd see here or on some Wikipedia page, I can probably scare up something more advanced for you. Let me know. Or, if you have specific questions about the diagnosis, you can go ahead and ask those too. And ccdan is not really interested in any kind of productive discussion, so he's best dealt with by being ignored. Just go on with the business of the thread and let him shout.
  4. By god, ccdan, your relentless (and always on-topic) trolling has finally shown me the light. I've just quit my doctoral program and am packing my belongings into my car as we speak.
  5. Really? Tell that to the people to whom I argue that parts of eugenics aren't a terrible idea, and that infanticide is not a moral wrong. I'd advise you to be careful when you read motivations into peoples' commentary; you'll be wrong more often than is comfortable. The point, Dekan, is not that organisms do not change along meaningful dimensions, or that we are not able to compare them to one another on any number of meaningful dimensions. All of that is true. The cheetah sprints faster than we do. Great apes tend to have more powerful grip strength. Birds of prey, superior visual acuity. These are demonstrable facts. The point is that evolution is not teleological. Since there is no designer guiding it--and indeed, nobody standing outside of it to "watch" it from an objective, detached perspective--you cannot in any clear sense say that it is "advancing," or "progressing." You might say that certain traits are increasing in refinement--over the course of evolution, for instance, eyes have changed from tiny photoreceptive spots to extremely complex organs able to wonderfully sense light intensity, motion, wavelength, along with the associated perceptual machinery necessary to finely adjust muscular movements in response to visual stimuli. But to call this "progress" is problematic--the idea of progress itself connotes a greater proximity to a goal or end--whether something distinct and concrete or something more Platonic--as if "evolution" was this thing trying to produce a good eye. It isn't. There's nothing, indeed, "good" about any eye at all. It's only usefully adaptive, and indeed, it's only usefully adaptive under certain environmental contingencies. Think an advanced eye is useful to troglobitic creatures? No, it's a waste of energy and resources, which is why selection pressures rapidly do away with them. Nor is there anything "good" about the sorts of things that distinguish h. sapiens from other primates, mammals, or animals. There are certainly stark differences, particularly in linguistic expression, tool use, and abstract problem-solving abilities. Despite exciting findings which suggest that these sorts of characteristics are not exclusive to our species, our abilities in these areas are certainly separated from even our close biological cousins by several orders of magnitude. If you thought that I was denying this, you weren't paying attention to what I was saying. But the idea that the superiority of certain characteristics makes us, in general, superior, is silly. What objective authority has chosen the correct metric of evaluation? Why are we not using grip strength, where we might crown the chimpanzee the pinnacle of the evolutionary climb towards grip-strength greatness? The whole point is that all of these characteristics are simply adaptations to environments, and that it doesn't make sense to use any of them as a standard to judge other creatures' "superiority" in the Great Chain of Being. So, no, we don't have Was there some sort of contest I didn't know about? Look, Dekan, it's extremely advanced, as brains go, in the sorts of characteristics I just described, among several others. That is different than calling it the "best." It's just really well-adapted to the niche the species is trying to fill. You can't meaningfully use characteristics which might be used to assess superiority within a species to assess superiority between species. The brains of other creatures work fine for the niches they're trying to fill. Jellyfish are rather good at being jellyfish; cockroaches are rather good at being cockroaches. I'm making a point about the philosophical bankruptcy of teleological descriptions of living organisms, and you seem to be assuming that I'm some hand-wringing idiot who doesn't see any reason why we shouldn't appoint a reticulated collared lizard to the supreme court in the name of equality. Go to your local college campus. Read your posts aloud to whatever bio professor you find with his door open. When he stops snickering, let him explain to you why that particular viewpoint has been snickered at for many decades; perhaps he'll explain it better than I can. Now, can the OP come back and talk about furries yet? Edit: Stealing the idea from Ringer below me, this is also the last post I'll make on this because it's so far off-topic, though to be honest, I'm not sure if there ever was a topic.
  6. Can you show us these experiments? Can you show us the data and describe the design and controls? Has this been published? Is your hypothesis based on any existing established science, and is your experimental paradigm established by previous work or did you make it up? We're talking about something empirical. How is anyone to supply a meaningful "opinion" if we can't see your findings and evaluate them in light of your design?
  7. How has this confused post which is probably about making a documentary about furries turned into this gigantic clusterf*** this quickly? Is this sarcasm? Seriously, this is a joke, right? Evolution is nondirectional--nothing is "on top" of anything else. I'm not going to really go any further explaining that, because I have to think that everyone understands that--and commensurately I have to think this is sarcasm--in order to sleep tonight.
  8. That strikes me as a problematic way of looking at things. What human behaviors, exactly, are animalistic? We're animals. We, as well as all of our behaviors and tools, are part of nature. The quest for some sort of essential quality to separate Man from Beast is a hallmark of Victorian science and anything that smacks of it is often quite rightly giggled at now--you can't delineate a set of "animal" behaviors that humans supposedly engage in without simply making a bunch of largely arbitrary value judgements about what we do that you believe is more or less "evolved." Unless you're just talking about people who dress up like sexed-up cats and unicorns. In which case, just come out and say you're making a documentary about furries.
  9. I have ethical and professional mandates not to "diagnose at a distance," so that's a discussion I'm out of, and would furthermore encourage others to refrain from out of general good taste.
  10. The use of the word "insane" is really not the most helpful here, since, given your elaboration of your questions, it goes a little ways towards conflating two different concepts: when is a person mentally ill, and when is a person psychotic? The question of how to define mental illness invites all sorts of armchair philosophizing, usually about how all of those damned doctors just want to label everyone with a disease. This argument usually has kind of a quasi-libertarian, anti-authoritarian tone to it, and often gets political--people have a sense that the Man is keeping the people down with his disease labels (c.f. Szasz, Thomas). Sometimes people have a sort of fundamental discomfort with the idea of being labeled (to which I usually say, sorry dude, to think is to categorize. You can be described--imperfectly, but usefully--categorically along abut a million different domains. Get used to it.) I find this sort of argument pretty profoundly irritating, as I think it throws the mental health baby out with the admittedly irritating drug company nonsense bathwater. Do some people have a vested interest in perhaps increasing the number of individuals who might be diagnosable with a mental illness? Yes. Drug companies do. Does that make it some enormous conspiracy, and does that make mental illness a myth? No. It just makes some of the edges of some of the categories, and in particular, the way they're often "diagnosed" in practice, if you can even call it that, problematic. These issues are really complex and nuanced. They don't lend themselves to rhetorical sledgehammers. So, getting to your question--or, what I see as the first half of it--what makes someone mentally ill? Again, tough as hell to answer, but I can give you the three D's: deviance, distress, and danger. Essentially: is this behavior really abnormal, given the context? Does it really subjectively bother the person? Is there a risk of harm? There's no exacting formula here; we can think of all sorts of marginal cases. Suppose we meet a guy who shows a lot of really depressive behavior--laying around in his bedroom, not bathing or sleeping or eating normally--and in addition, he expresses suicidal thoughts and plans, but for some reason, he claims not to be bothered by any of this. Two D's but not the other. Mentally ill? Yeah, he probably still is. These three constructs themselves are dimensional, not categorical. There isn't a bright line. Now, what makes someone psychotic? It's a little easier here, but still not perfect. Psychoticism is really all about a disruption of normal cognition or perception that isn't better-explained by other things. (This is why hallucinations experienced just before sleep onset, or while under the influence of drugs, "don't count" for the diagnostic criteria.) So, does the guy you describe above believe bizarre things that are contrary to the commonsense ways that we're aware the universe works? For instance, does he think that people might die if he doesn't dress up in his clown outfit every day? Or does he have perceptual experiences unusual to normal humans in a normal state: is he hearing things, seeing things that aren't there? If he's not exhibiting these symptoms, well, he's really not psychotic. That doesn't mean that he isn't really weird. Again, these criteria are not perfectly specified. How weird does a belief have to be in order to qualify as delusional, for instance? The belief that a man in a robe actually turns bread into flesh every Sunday morning might seem to be pretty odd--and indeed, it might have as much force of reason behind it as any tinfoil-hat fantasy--but it's rendered less weird by the fact that billions of people think so. It might be an unsatisfying way to define it--and again, this says nothing about its veracity--but that belief isn't delusional largely because plenty of nondelusional people hold it. The lines are brighter here than the three D's, but it can still take a skilled clinician to puzzle out some of the more marginal cases. Your guy's not insane. Needs a shrink, though.
  11. I'm not sure of the Atlantean connection. Could it be that Herod's Temple has something to do with Atlantis, which Plato made up 400 years earlier? It makes sense. Although I am still wondering what this has to do with earth science. Come to think of it, thought, we are talking about rocks. Earth science does have something to do with rocks. Again, it's all beginning to make sense now.
  12. The origins (maybe not the original ones, but those substantially responsible for its enduring popularity) come from old reports associated with a still-widely used self-report personality measure, the MMPI (or Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory). The MMPI was developed in a time in which factor analysis (a new statistical technique which could pull out factorial patterns in large chunks of data) was thought to hold great promise in showing us the fundamental sub-units of big constructs like intelligence, personality, and psychopathology. The MMPI was almost completely empirically derived--you ask your validation sample a billion questions, see which ones are endorsed positively by the people who are nutty in particular ways, ergo, those questions come to denote particular kinds of nuts. So, it's not theory-driven, per se. You could ask "I always think desk chairs don't lean back far enough" and find that it's almost always endorsed positively by really anxious people. You might have no idea what this really has to do with anxiety, but the data are the data, so this item becomes part of an anxiety scale. This is actually one of the cool things about the measure: it often has relatively low face-validity (the person can't always tell what this question is really measuring, so it's theoretically tougher to fake things.) Through this process (it's a bit more complicated, but these are the basics) they generated ten clinical scales corresponding to many of the large issues psychiatry was facing at the time--they've retained some of their old-timey psych names, much to our current amusement. When people take the measure, we plot all of their scale scores on a chart and look for elevations. Their pattern of elevations is expressed by naming the two or three most elevated scales in order, like this: "the patient has a 2-0-6 profile," which would correspond to elevations on the Depression, Introversion, and Paranoia scales. The idea was that we could do all sorts of big studies and establish what patterns of scale elevation corresponded exactly to certain conditions--we'd have a big body of data we could use to find out what Mr. 2-0-6 was like, and how his condition would progress, etc. We still have the results of many of these efforts (we call them "cookbooks.") So, bottom line, much of this has not panned out exactly as planned. That's another discussion in itself, but to get (finally) to your question: there's a response pattern--a quite famous one--known as a "4-9," corresponding to elevations on the Psychopathic Deviate and Hypomania scales. We're talking here about somebody who's somewhat agitated or easily excitable, and who doesn't have a lot of respect for society's usual rules. Essentially, we're talking about people with what we'd now usually diagnose as Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD). The old story goes that there are two populations you find a lot of 4-9s in: incarcerated criminals, and police academy graduates. Look, I have no idea if this is even true. This scale has been around for so long, it's gone around and around, and you're likely to find a study that supports, and a study that does not support, any given relationship you can think of between a code type and a behavior or population difference of some kind. A cursory google doesn't give me much on the matter, my area of psych expertise is decidedly not personality assessment, and this also happens to be the area of empirical literature I really least like poking around in, so I'm ducking out of that job. But I can tell you that the 4-9/criminals/cops story has been going around forever, and whether it is based in any fact or isn't, it's a large part of the foundation for the rumor you've heard.
  13. Leto: I'm certain that your loyal band of Fish Speakers shall not, with their pheromones, sway you from your Golden Path. In all seriousness, the evidence for human pheromonal communication is currently mixed. There are a few examples which seem more likely than others. The most methodologically advanced evidence does seem to point towards the possibility of menstrual synchrony in groups of women, after a few decades of research that seemed to go either way. There's also evidence that we have some sense of potential mates' genetic differences. One well-known study showed that women were more attracted to men they'd never met (yet smelled items of clothing from) whose major histocompatibility complexes (a big immune marker) were most different from their own. This would seem to help achieve the lofty evolutionary goal of getting together genetically different partners to create hybrid-vigorous offspring. Finally, males' sperm counts do go notably up when their partners are absent (make sure you've got lots of little guys ready in case she's been with another man). At least some of this may be pheromonally mediated, since the effect appears to be mitigated if the males regularly smell clothing articles during her absence. So, is it "plausible" that living with a bunch of females might have some effect on you through pheromonal means? Yes, it's plausible. But the effects of pheromones--which, let me be clear, are as-yet not well-understood--do not appear to be so crude as "living around a bunch of girls kinda turns you into a girl." Rather, they seem to be centered around specific, subtle evolutionary goals. Although my own ignorance is by no means an argument in itself, I fail to imagine how your reproductive fitness would be served by your body responding to the presence of females by decreasing the presence or influence of masculinizing hormones. I'm furthermore not aware of an empirical research on the topic which would suggest as much. Interestingly, the non-developmental influence (that is, immediate influence in adults, which doesn't have to do with effects on growth in a gross anatomical sense) of testosterone is not what people thing, anyway. Testosterone has enormous effects during critical periods like puberty and during fetal development, and large amounts of it can certainly masculinize a grown female in some ways (e.g., it'll put hair on her, enlarge the clitoris, etc., but it's not going to grow a penis and testicles). However, what we think of as testosterone's behavioral effects have often be found to be fairly mythical. Meta-analytic studies do not find strong associations, for instance, between high testosterone levels and aggression in males, for instance. Bottom line, the hormonal-pheromonal effects of your current environment are, if present at all, completely blown out of the water by social factors.
  14. Psychology can't separate the wheat from the chaff? As I assume you're aware, Marat, the psychiatrists handle the DSM. Do psychologists serve on the committees? Yeah. But because of biomedical power and piss-poor advocacy on the part of our professional organizations, we're largely along for the ride on that thing. You won't find a lot of psychologists defending the biomedical, "atheoretical" disease-model of the DSM. That's a universe that we grudgingly exist in so we can get paid.
  15. Can you define "constant" in this context in any kind of rigorous way? What exactly needs to be "constant" in order to conduct experiments? Suppose I give two groups of people adrenaline shots without their explicit knowledge of what's in the shot. (Naturally, my shot-giver assistant doesn't know either.) Suppose I then expose one of those groups to a room full of confederates who also claim to have received the shot, and seem to be acting somewhat agitated. The other group sits in a room full of confederates who seem to be quite giddy. Then I observe behavioral and physiological data, as well as collect self-report data, from the subjects. Of course, I'll also be doing all this same thing to two other groups of people who've received saline shots. I wonder if the results--mean group differences, let's say, between certain reliably coded behavioral indices, or subjects' reports of emotionality--might tell me anything about the way human beings perceive emotional experiences? Can you tell me why this double-blind, placebo-controlled design isn't an experiment? I wonder if the 200 people rejected yearly from the average doctoral program--or the 10-ish who get in--have anything to say about that? Being part of the latter group, I imagine I could think of a few choice words.
  16. It seems like this would be such a straightforward double-blind controlled experiment...
  17. Glad to hear that helped, Katie. As a caveat--if this wasn't already clear--things like this can be symptoms of anything. Of course, anything can sort of be a symptom of anything. To jump to the most serious ones, is there a chance that the onset of night terror experiences signifies a tumor or neurological dysfunction? Yes. Is that quite startlingly unlikely? Also yes. It goes without saying that nobody can give real medical advice over here. If your friend is himself concerned, of course he should go in to his primary care doc for a checkup. In the absence of any other symptoms, however, they'd very likely tell him the same thing we told you. I don't mean to re-freak you after de-freaking you, because there's no reason to be freaked; just making sure we do the due diligence here.
  18. Yup, very likely a night terror. I'll add that there's typically nothing to be concerned about. The appearance and content of the terror can seem really frightening to an observer, but it's not usually regarded as reliably indicative of any sort of psychological distress (as nightmares can sometimes be). It's a bit more common in younger boys--early to middle childhood is when you see most of them, with remittance by puberty--but can happen at any stage of the lifespan. Adults who have them will usually have a history of parasomnias, like hypnagogic hallucination, hypnopompic paralysis, somnambuilism, or other sorts of things. However, they can also sometimes be pretty random (when they're random like that, they're most often associated with environmental factors like mild alcohol or drug intoxication, sleep deprivation, physical illnesses, or even changes in sleeping arrangements). If it's part of a pattern of sleep difficulties, he might want to go get checked out. But really, that's time only worthily spent if he's got some serious problems with sleeping well. Bottom line, though: don't freak him out about it, and don't freak out yourself. It is far less concerning than it looks like.
  19. Both really are true. The sort of resistance to many of the common fecal-oral route crowd illnesses like dysentary you'd find in the average Roman were likely far beyond what most of us have. (Although, compared to us, their immune systems may not have been as impressive in terms of resistance to things like influenza viruses, which thrive especially in cramped indoor quarters with low air exchange and low UV levels. A Mediterranean climate and a lot more time spent outside will do that.) Nonetheless, the bugs were in more or less pandemic equilibrium with their human targets, so they were doing fine also. Lots of people died during especially bad outbreaks of these sorts of things, particularly when bad climactic conditions favored their flourishing, or food shortages weakened the population. And of course, as is commonly known, diseases of all kinds were the primary killers of soldiers up until the modern age--lots of Roman military records contain sad, long lists of the number of soldiers lost to the "black flux" or "red flux" or fluxes with any number of other evocative colors. Of course, the Romans did famously do something about it. Rome, like Washington DC, was a world capital famously built on a festering, malarial swamp. One of their first tasks was to drain it and establish healthier local living conditions. The original big sewers ("cloaca maxima," literally "big sewer" in Latin) was originally a drain for the landscape, and the system evolved to ever-more-efficiently carry away human effluent into the Tiber. Additionally, their supremely designed aqueducts established the most important protection you can possibly have against most of these diseases: not drinking from where you're crapping. Compared to that terrible level of danger--which millions or billions in the world 2000 years later still don't have adequate protection against--the justifiably awful-sounding sponge on a stick represents a much lower level of risk of disease.
  20. Unfortunately, I don't have any books to recommend to you. Although it's a real and interesting--albeit nonmagical--phenomenon with some (possibly) minor clinical use, hypnosis is an area that has always seen its most enthusiastic reception in the quack community. Nearly any book you'll see on it is written by somebody extolling its great power and unassailable virtues.
  21. Do you have any information about this anecdote which might independently verify it? People are often willing to embarrass themselves if you ask them nicely. Subjects in "control groups" asked to merely simulate the behavior of hypnotized people will readily display these sorts of things. That's not evidence for a hypnotic state that overrides an individual's free will, or even for a hypnotic state at all. Marat's characterization: Represents a good summary of the current best understanding of the phenomenon. This can be--and has been--demonstrated empirically in a number of ways. Sorry, chaseman, your statement, Is not really a fair representation of the state of knowledge about hypnosis. The knowledge is substantially there. It supports Marat's response to you.
  22. Parental influences on child development are not inoculations. At the least, though, you've provided a fantastic example of the perils of arguments from analogy. Any why are all those idiots wasting their time looking for the Higgs boson? Which also reminds me, I met a guy once who was an expert in a particular genus of grasshoppers, which is ridiculous, since there are so many other types of insects he's neglecting to include in his research. I could go so far as to call him prejudiced. You could have a point. War and famine are bad, but the horrible things I do to my experimental subjects--making them fill out all kinds of onerous surveys, for instance--are probably much, much worse.
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