Learning

Effectively preventing PTSD (with dogs)

It is estimated that the number of people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is greater than the number of people who live in Texas, costing the government (the taxpayer) literally billions.

Many solutions have been proposed, mostly looking how to cure an individual of it once an individual has it. Far less frequent are solutions that look at keeping individuals from developing PTSD in the first place. This is where we are going to focus.

One way to avoid PTSD is to avoid getting into wars, but this seems unfeasible for our government. :p Another way is to lower the number of instances of individuals who develop PTSD after experiencing the horrors of war. For instance, research is beginning to examine the efficacy of distracting trauma victims, which keeps them from remembering the events and developing PTSD. But the President’s Council on Bioethics decided that changing people’s memories is ethically unsound and other solutions need to be found.

And this is where dogs come in. Kind, loving, sweet dogs. All one needs to do is a simple youtube or google search for ‘dog soldier reunite’ for evidence of this special bond. If we can better incorporate dogs into the armed forces, they can provide the distraction and positive affect needed to keep soldiers from consolidating those traumatic memories without the need of medications.

Now, dogs are already used for a variety of tasks, for instance to sniff out landmines and find people, but these dogs can also provide an important source of strength and love for soldiers as they are far from home, especially after they have witnessed something traumatic.

It is actually relatively simple. Dogs, especially shelter dogs, can be transported, raised, and maintained on base, part of whose job it is to play with soldiers and cheer them up (like the children in the hospitals). To distract them and make them smile, especially just after returning from traumatic situations.

In this way, soldiers are prevented from forming memories about the terrible things that happen in war (again, let’s not get into wars in the first place! 😀 ). This solution  can stem the tide of PTSD while avoiding the ethically unsound of biologically changing the way an individual’s brain works AND helping shelter dogs not be put down (just ship them off to war instead!).

But really, it seems to be good on both ends. Also, as soldiers develop relationships with these dogs, the dogs are likely to find good homes after they have served their tour of duty (perhaps soldiers will even help pay for the dogs?).

Obviously, research would have to be done concerning how effective the program is, but if it could prevent even 10% of soldiers from contracting PTSD it would save the government and taxpayers millions, as PTSD is currently estimated to cost society 42.3 Billion each year

 

What do you think? is it feasible? I need some business people to go over it. 

 

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On nudging the nudgers.

Nudge. :p

Science and Psychology are being used more and more the design ‘nudges’ which influence people’s decisions for their own or the group’s good . Unfortunately, the work of these scientists is oftentimes underutilized because the policy makers, for whatever reason, do not act on it. These people can be the CEO’s of companies, teachers in classrooms, or our elected officials in the official government.

The key then, is to understand what factors motivate these individuals (the decision makers), and nudge them into doing the right thing. For instance, efficacy (thinking that the intervention will actually work) is one of the strongest predictors of engaging with the desired behavior (someone who thinks they can quit smoking, can).

Are the same things that guide individuals guiding policy makers? If policy makers feel like it will work (they have our data, afterall), will it? If so, why are our messages, based upon empirical science and published in reputable journals, not enough? Work can be done (has probably been done) to examine what motivates the decisions of leaders, and this work should be utilized to inform our correspondence with them for success.

Basically, scientists who focus on desiring to nudge the public into better decisions also need to focus on making sure that the interventions are implemented. Work gathering knowledge about how leaders make decisions could be useful in filling this need.

The best and most empirically founded nudges are worthless if they are not implemented, let’s make sure they get implemented.

What is your favorite nudge?  Also, do you have any good pictures of nudges? They are difficult to find. 😦

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Why are all the female pronouns longer than the male equivalent?

So, basically, pronouns for individual males are shorter than for females.

Male is shorter than female.

He is shorter than She.

Man is shorter than Woman.

Guy is shorter than Girl.

So basically, all of the female pronouns are simply add ons to the male version. Interestingly, this is not the case when it comes to family relations where female names are shorter than the male counterparts (like wife and husband, or brother and sister; same with aunt and uncle; niece and nephew as well). It’s not perfect thought grandpa and grandma are equal.

But when it comes to families, they are either equal or even shorter for females (e.g., aunt uncle, niece nephew).

Is this a subtle way to assert gender differences? Specifically male dominance outside of the family, while females are more powerful within the family?

It is the case that more powerful, more useful, words are generally shorter..

wikipedia

These, the most common, and powerful words in our vocabulary are also among the shortest.

Would females, and males, do better to rename the genders with neutral, equally long, pronouns?

It seems like a good opportunity to redefine what it means to be male and female. Should they sound feminine and masculine, or no? On the one hand, there ARE differences between males and females and that is legitimate and ok and even good (we can’t all be as risky as men, but as also can’t all be as moderate as women). On the other hand, it reinforces those differences that are there and that could be detrimental to change. Perhaps it is best to create completely new pronouns?

There have been pushes to use zir and ze as gender neutral pronouns, but it seems good for males to have their own and for females to have their own as well. Perhaps hap and hep? Quahm and Quoum? Ying and Yang?

I don’t know what the new words should be (let’s discuss it in the comments), but it seems that everyone could benefit from switching things up..

Females could get rid of the aspects of being female that they don’t like, and males can as well (because there are downsides of being a male as well). Importantly, if there were such things as gender neutral pronouns, it could be used in all contracts, and it could be ensured that they, the zir (the human) gets paid the same.

Changing the words would also serve as a direct way for individuals to pick up feminist/ equalist ideals and display their beliefs through the use of these new, more modern, more equal, pronouns. It is a solid, decisive step forward, a break from the tradition.

There is no reason a concentrated effort could not change the way we use a word, look at Frindle! 😀

What do you think the new terms should be? Or do you think we even need new terms? Let us know below. 😀

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Reconsidering the term ‘Patriarchy’

The term ‘Patriarchy’ subtly grants men status, implicitly lowers women’s position, and blames men for the problems of the world. It seems to me that all of these things are working against the true movement that is feminism.

This is not how the world works..

The term patriarchy subtly suggests that the traditional man’s contributions to society are worth more than female’s, when this is not even true.

There is no ultimate reason that selling your soul to the corporate world should be seen as more status worthy than staying at home and watching your children grow. Indeed, the only reason that the culture is (or was) that way is because we all, males and females included, agree that is the case.

Women are half of society, and women grant men status just as much as men grant men status. Again, there is no ultimately best way to be a human, and being a middle manager and working at the desk is in no way ultimately better than staying at home, teaching the kids and tending the gardens. Perhaps it will be better for feminism, if, instead of trying to make up an imaginary gap in status (a gap that only exists because we agree it does), we properly recognize and value the role that women (did) play in society. Raising children and maintaining the household is no easy (or unimportant!) task.

 The term ‘patriarchy’ also subtly blames (modern) men for the problems of the world.

Modern men are not to blame for the things they inherit from society in the same way that women are not to blame for the things that they inherit from society (for good or bad). Most people agree that there are negative aspects about being a female, but there are also problems associated with being male (like, on average, men having shorter lives). We are working together to change these aspects of traditional society, assuming we actually want things to be more equal.

Our modern system (termed ‘patriarchy’ by ‘feminism’) is the result of tradition and ultimately, biology. We are animals and in every ‘split’ species that I know of, one of the two ‘sexes’ has to produce the next generation. While the specifics of how this difference has resulted in modern culture are current questions in Biology, Anthropology, and History, there is little doubt that this birthing and breastfeeding function played a role in women tending the house before technology. This very likely played a large part in creating the situation we are in (men put out of the house to ‘earn a living’, made power structures for men, earnings grew, technology grew, freeing women to work, in part).

Importantly, none of this is the fault of modern man and it is important for ‘feminism’ to recognize that men and women are working together to change the culture for future generations. Nobody is saying that the way it was, was right (what is ‘right?’), we are simply saying that it will be more productive for the adoption of feminist ideals to work with men rather than demonizing them by blaming them for the way history has played out.

Tradition, tradition is the enemy. History and Biology. Not men, and especially not modern men.

How can we fix these problems? / How changing things would help feminism.

A good start would be to begin calling something else, like ‘traditional gender norms’. This will achieve three things: stop implicitly giving males the status, stop implicitly putting women below men, and stop the idea that modern man is something to fight against. Truly, the best outcomes for all will come when males and females work together, rather than against one another.

‘Patriarchy is not men, patriarchy is a system both women and men participate.’ – Ashley Judd

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Small business owners: What makes a Google or Facebook? Guiding action.

What differentiates tech companies like Google, Facebook, Youtube, Snapchat, and Twitter from Yahoo, Bing, Myspace, Foursquare, Vimeo, Dailymotion?

Each of the first set is associated with a specific action while the second group are not.

One can Google something, but not Yahoo or Bing it (one can say Yahoo when they find what they are looking for but..). One can Facebook or You Tube, but cannot Myspace, Foursquare, Vimeo, or Dailymotion (again, I can go to Myspace, but cannot Myspace). The same thing goes for Tweet tweeting, SnapChatting, Instragramming, Tumbling, or Stumbling or upon something, examples are literally everywhere.

A facebooking female.

 The same logic also works for songs.

What makes the YMCA, Gangham Style, the Macarena, the Electric slide, or the Cupid Shuffle so popular? They all have dances (they all guide movement). 

Using movement and specific postures to increase memory is not only implicitly used in marketing (I’ve never heard of anything saying this), but also religious and political movements that have specific movements associated with them (e.g., praying, signing the cross, hand on heart, goose-stepping).

Even language, generally speaking,  is little more than combinations of very specific muscle movements (speaking or writing), which mean something only because we all agree they do (we learn they mean things). Read more about what makes humans capable of complex language here.

What does this mean for a startup, or anyone who will put a name onto an idea or meme? 

Give it a name which Clearly guides action or can be made into an action. Google was not an action until Google (or the people using Google) made it one, nor was Facebooking or Tweeting. If you are a smart and ambitious business owner,

Also, this idea should totally be utilized for things like: the Humanist movement, Science, Open Science, Peace, and pretty much every charity ever. No reason to let only businesses use the best tools. :p

Do you know of any other examples of this? Any other domains where this effect occurs? Do you think it doesn’t exist? Let’s talk about it below. 😀

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Watch this dog perfectly demonstrate a basic psychological phenomenon.

This is what happens when you try to keep a being from doing something they want to do, the moment you cannot know about it, they do it. That is what most of the major religions have an all knowing, ever present, god that judges only at the end of everything; to keep you from having any fun here on Earth! 😀

But, keeping this in mind, we can try to influence the situation such that the other (in this case the dog) doesn’t want to do the undesirable act in the first place (perhaps here, the dog can be allowed on the bed, but without acting wild, or both animals off the bed).

This is the same general principal as the War on Drugs, the War on Terrorism, Speeding tickets, and most other failed behavioral change initiatives. Did you know Al Queda has grown 10x since we started hunting them?

Better to allow the belief, if people can be so silly as to believe or do such a thing (look at what crack does to people, you want to do that?). Or to show the individuals that there is a better way of life without doing the asocial thing.

Small changes (Nudges) make big differences for everyday decisions and cost millions less in time and energy. Lets look for little ways we can make big differences (like that kid who suggested using Garamond instead of Times New Roman to save millions in paper).

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Also, the contempt on the cats face. And watch how it reacts when the dog tries to push it off the bed to have it all himself, then the head shaking to relieve the tension from the cat not playing along.   :p 😀

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The Naked Ape

This was one of the hottest books of the 60’s supposedly responsible for the hunter gatherer dichotomy. There are certainly some statements in the book, which he brings out right in the front, as you will see in this, the introduction to the book, and the book cover, which is designed to piss people off. :p

Without further ado, let’s get to it.

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Introduction to The Naked Ape

Desmond Morris (1967).

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Evolution

There are one hundred and ninety-three living species of monkeys and apes. One hundred and ninety-two of them are covered with hair. The exception is a naked ape self-named Homo sapiens. This unusual and highly successful species spends a great deal of time examining his higher motives and an equal amount of time studiously ignoring his fundamental ones. He is proud that he has the biggest brain of all the primates, but attempts to conceal the fact that he also has the biggest penis, preferring to accord  this honour falsely to the mighty gorilla. He is an intensely vocal, acutely exploratory, over-crowded ape, and it is high time we examined his basic behaviour.

I am a zoologist and the naked ape is an animal. He is therefore fair game for my pen and I refuse to avoid him any longer simply because some of his behaviour patterns are rather complex and impressive. My excuse is that, in becoming so erudite, Homo sapiens has remained a naked ape nevertheless; in acquiring lofty new motives, he has lost none of the early old ones. This is frequently a cause of some embarrassment to him, but his old impulses have been with him for millions of years, his new ones only a few thousand at the most-and there is no hope of quickly shrugging off the accumulated genetic legacy of his whole evolutionary past. He would be a far less worried and more fulfilled animal if only he would face up to this fact. Perhaps this is where the zoologist can help.

One of the strangest features of previous studies of naked-ape behaviour is that they have nearly always avoided the obvious. The earlier anthropologists rushed off to all kinds of unlikely corners of the world in order to unravel the basic truth about our nature scattering to remote cultural backwaters so atypical and unsuccessful that they are nearly extinct. They then returned with startling facts about the bizarre mating customs, strange kinship systems, or weird ritual procedures of these tribes, and used this material as though it were of central importance to the behaviour of our species as a whole. The work done by these investigators was, of course, extremely interesting and most valuable in showing us what can happen when a group of naked apes becomes side-tracked into a cultural blind alley. It revealed just how far from the normal our behaviour patterns can stray without a complete social collapse. What it did not tell us was anything about the typical behaviour of typical naked apes. This can only be done by examining the common behaviour patterns that are shared by all the ordinary, successful members of the major cultures-the mainstream specimens who together represent the vast majority. Biologically, this is the only sound approach. Against this, the old-style anthropologist would have argued that his technologically simple tribal groups are nearer the heart of the matter than the members of advanced civilisations. I submit that this is not so. The simple tribal groups that are living today are not primitive, they are stultified. Truly primitive tribes have not existed for thousands of years.

The naked ape is essentially an exploratory species and any society that has failed to advance has in some sense failed, `gone wrong’. Something has happened to it to hold it back, something that is working against the natural tendencies of the species to explore and investigate the world around it. The characteristics that the earlier anthropologists studied in these tribes may well be the very features that have interfered with the progress of the groups concerned. It is therefore dangerous to use this information as the basis for any general scheme of our behaviour as a species.

Psychiatrists and psycho-analysts, by contrast, have stayed nearer home and have concentrated on clinical studies of mainstream specimens. Much of their earlier material, although not suffering from the weakness of the anthropological information, also has an unfortunate bias. The individuals on which they have based their pronouncements are, despite their mainstream background, inevitably aberrant or failed specimens in some respect. If they were healthy, successful and therefore typical individuals, they would not have had to seek psychiatric aid and would not have contributed to the psychiatrists’ store of information. Again, I do not wish to belittle the value of this research. It has given us an immensely important insight into the way in which our behaviour patterns can break down. I simply feel that in attempting to discuss the fundamental biological nature of our species as a whole, it is unwise to place too great an emphasis on the earlier anthropological and psychiatric findings.

(I should add that the situation in anthropology and psychiatry is changing rapidly.) Many modern research workers in these fields are recognising the limitations of the earlier investigations and are turning more and more studies of typical, healthy individuals. As one investigator expressed it recently: `We have put the cart before the horse. We have tackled the abnormals and we are only now beginning, a little late in the day, to concentrate on the normals.)  The approach I propose to use in this book draws its material from three main sources: (i) the information about our past as unearthed by palaeontologists and based on the fossil and other remains of our ancient ancestors; (2) the information available from the animal behaviour studies of the comparative ethologists, based on detailed observations of a wide range of animal species, especially our closest living relatives, the monkeys and apes; and (3) the information that can be assembled by simple, direct observation of the most basic and widely shared behaviour patterns of the successful mainstream specimens from the major contemporary cultures of the naked ape itself.

Because of the size of the task, it will be necessary to oversimplify in some manner. The way I shall do this is largely to ignore the detailed ramifications of technology and verbalisation, and concentrate instead on those aspects of our lives that have obvious counterparts in other species: such activities as feeding, grooming, sleeping, fighting, mating and care of the young. When faced with these fundamental problems, how does the naked ape react? How do his reactions compare with those of other monkeys and apes? In which particular respect is he unique, and how do his oddities relate to his special evolutionary story?

In dealing with these problems I realize that I shall run the risk of offending a number of people. There are some who will prefer not to contemplate their animal selves. They may consider that I have degraded our species by discussing it in crude animal terms. I can only assure them that this is not my intention. There are others who will resent any zoological invasion of their specialist arena. But I believe that this approach can be of great value and that, whatever its shortcomings, it will throw new (and in some ways unexpected) light on the complex nature of our extraordinary species.

-Desmond Morris

Using sex to sell science

This is a figure in one of the papers in Nature magazine.

Now , is it just me or does the bottom part look like a 60’s female superhero costume?

Even the bit in the middle looks sort of vagina like, if you ask me. Those are definitely breasts and the bottom of a bikini, no?


Is this intentional? Is this commendable?

The article has been cited over 1900 times according to Gscholar.. Did these subtle sex images add in any way? Making it more appealing, or memorable for instance?

It is difficult for me to believe that this is the only way that this pathway or area could have been pictured. Even if the brains went on the bottom, or if they pictured it from the other direction.

Whether it is intentional or incidental is unknown, one thing is for sure though, I will also include subtle sex imagery in my papers..

20 minutes a week, for a year

If you play 20 minutes of piano once a week, in a year you will be excellent, I promise. If you do anything for 20 minutes a week, you will be excellent.

 

You don’t necessarily have to play any songs, just figure out the notes and how they fit together, and then rhythms and fun things. Build constantly. Play around.

I don’t know one full song on the piano, but I can definitely make music and sometimes work in the main melodies of pieces, if you know what I mean. It’s good enough to spice up a party or impress a girl.

So many people are unwilling to try, because they are afraid of looking stupid. When you are willing to fail in front of others, it frees you to try new things, which allows you to build skill as you are constantly trying new (because your not afraid of failing).