In 1973, Dr. Zimbardo, well-known psychologist from Stanford, but together the Stanford Prison Experiment.

He had heard about the brutality of prison guards in American prisons.  He seems to have wondered about whether the brutality of the guards came from their personalities, or from the social structure of the system. Read more on …

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Christmas may have provided a break in the mourning for some in Newtown, CT.  That’s good.  Too much mourning is not a good thing.

crying eyesBut the first thing that bothered me about the Reuters article was their description of Newtown as “mostly Christian.”  I am not a terribly ardent Zionist, but I will admit I was proud of the Israeli response to the tragedy.

My heart goes out to those of any other minority religions, for I do not know who or how they are, or if their international communities have reached out to them in any way.  America is neither Christian nor homogeneous.  Failure to live up to the “freedom of worship” part of the Franklin D. Roosevelt and Normal Rockwell Four Freedoms is just another way we have failed, as a nation, to live up to expectations.

My heart goes out to anyone who has not felt support from the religious

Read more on Newtown, CT and the American Tradition of School Shootings…

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Most people tend to eat what they have around. The marketing of food is a science — marketing anything is a science. You can bet that a lot of thought has gone into how and where you spend your dollars anytime and anyplace.

Lady holding a grocery listFrom dresses to movies, they know what we want and why we want it, probably more than we do. So the thing to do is to be aware of the wiles of the people who are — make no mistake about it — motivated by pulling the money out of our purses and NOT by getting anything nutritious into our bodies.

“Knowledge is the antidote to fear.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

But it could also be the antidote to buying food neither you nor your body needs, and endorsing a system that can be getting you to buy some expensive but nutritionally not-what-you-have-in-mind stuff.

Read more on BEWARE: Supermarket Psychology…

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I never professed to understand French politics as more than an observer.  It was one part of the French civilization that seemed a bit overwhelming.  I remember being told there were over fifty political parties.  It seemed as if getting anything done required an amazing amount of compromise. I was impressed by the fact they had elections on Sundays.  How delightful to have an election day when nobody had to work, let alone request an excuse from the same.  No little “I voted” stickers. I remember thinking we never could have pulled off Sunday elections in the states.  Certainly not in the Boston area, where I grew up.  Home of blue laws, those strange laws that said things like you could not dance in certain places on Sunday, the day of the Lord, so people in bars in certain localities where such laws persisted would park their bottoms on bar stools and tap their feet in all manner of ways, so that no church could define such activities as dancing.

People told me I would have troubles in France because it was a “Catholic” country.  I do not think any trouble I can remember came from the few people who actually attended church regularly. But back to politics.  The parties were grouped into “left,” “right,” and “center.”  The left included the commies, whom I had to reassure that even though I was an American I did not hate them.  I found “rightists” fearing change as obsessively as any conservative (read “ultra-republican” American ever could. Read more on Psychology of Politics (and Politicians)…

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He was 35 and tall and thin, with beige hair and a rare grin he claimed only I could elicit.  He enjoyed seeing me. He always came with a knapsack, because he didn’t really trust the other people in the residence where he lived.  He probably had reason to feel that way, for things had been stolen from him before.  Things like medications.  He reported these things to the pharmacy involved.  Both they and I believed him.  After all, these things happen.  He had not abused anything known to us.  Besides, medications are frequently stolen.

The diagnosis was schizophrenia, that too-often debilitating disease that hits at least about 1% of the population and that is still generally considered manageable but incurable.  He was actually doing pretty well, living in a residence and “stable” after countless hospitalizations.  I asked him about his plans for the future.  He told me he had been attending information sessions about an interesting course at a local college.  Now I knew that local colleges, this one in particular, were famous for providing “practical” education.  I had even heard of a bachelor’s degree in auto body work. He told me he wanted to learn to make guns.  I tried not to appear nervous here, but I was impressed that he could read my emotions well enough to tell I was worried.

“Don’t worry, Dr. G.  I am not going to hurt anybody and I don’t want to kill myself.  You must worry a lot about that because you ask me every time.” Good — he was smart about that.  But what could happen if his medicines were stolen before I could replace them?  In his distant past, he had some real troubles with “false beliefs,” worrying that criminals were out to get him.  What if he believed that, and tried to shoot someone?  I could not ask him that, I knew he would tell me it would never happen – but I knew it could.  “I really like hunting animals.  Little ones, not bears or anything.  Squirrels, but that was a long time ago.  There are lots of squirrels and things like that around here.”  He went on.  He was exhibiting more insight and understanding than I had ever heard from him.

“I like the insides of the gun and how it works and I want to learn how to make them.  I did like the feeling of shooting a little animal, because it meant I was smarter than he was.”

Read more on Schizophrenics and Guns…

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Query: Why won’t Santa’s elves work now that Santa has lowered wages and they have hastened the assembly line and there are no cookie breaks?

Answer: They all have low elf-esteem.

No I don’t know the origin of the above joke.  I don’t even know about low elf-esteem, as Santa must be referring his (psychologically) non-functional elves to someone that takes his insurance.

Low Self-EsteemI do know that the knowledge of “low self-esteem” as a problem has entered the language and the culture with an enthusiasm and vengeance reserved only for high-frequency psychobabble which has been divorced so completely from its academically-derived meaning that it was possible for me not long ago, when walking dangerously close to a Starbucks, to overhear two people saying it was the cause of their woes.

Our friends at Wikipedia define it as a term used by psychologists, an enduring aspect of personality encompassing beliefs, emotions and behavior.

Read more on Low Self-Esteem — Not Worth Much As A Diagnosis…

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