Category : Psychology

Do not Take yourself Too Seriously Department–Virtual Reality Church!

Posted in America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Church of England) Guidance for gender transition services published

New guidance for parishes planning services to help transgender people mark their transition has been published by the Church of England.

The pastoral guidance, which will be incorporated into Common Worship*, encourages clergy to be “creative and sensitive” in using liturgy to enable people to mark a major transition in their lives.

It formally commends the incorporation of the existing rite for the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith into services which mark gender transition.

It details how elements including water and oil can be incorporated into the service and, crucially, makes clear that trans people should be addressed publicly by their chosen name.

As part of the service they could also be presented with gifts, such as a Bible inscribed in their chosen name, or a certificate.

It is important, the guidance adds, that the occasion should have a distinct “celebratory character”.

Read it all and make sure to follow the link and read the full text of the guidance itself.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology

(1st Things) Helen Andrews-Shame Storm

After a lifetime of impeccably correct opinions, Ian Buruma found himself on the wrong side of the liberal consensus in September 2018, when he was forced to resign as editor of the New York Review of Books for having commissioned a piece called “Reflections from a Hashtag” from the disgraced Canadian broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi. One does not get to be editor of the NYRB without having filament-like sensitivity to the boundaries of acceptable opinion. Buruma’s virtuosic handling in 2007 of the controversy over his New York Times Magazine profile of Tariq Ramadan, in which he wrote indulgently of his subject’s radical Islamic views—and scathingly of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s secularist opposition to them—was a model of politically correct equipoise. If Buruma was caught flat-footed this time, it must be the times that have changed.

Unlike Leon Wieseltier, Lorin Stein, ­Garrison Keillor, John Hockenberry, Ryan Lizza, Glenn Thrush, or any of the other editors and journalists who have lost their jobs in the last twelve months due to the movement known as #MeToo, Buruma was not accused of any sexual misconduct. His crime was to give space in his magazine to a man who had been accused (but not, in any of four court cases, convicted) of sexual harassment and non-consensual roughness during sex. Buruma told Slate in an interview five days before his resignation, “I think nobody has quite figured out what should happen in cases like his, where you have been legally acquitted but you are still judged as undesirable in public opinion, and how far that should go, how long that should last.”

Too true, as Buruma found out to his cost. No one has yet figured out what rules should govern the new frontiers of public shaming that the Internet has opened. New rules are obviously required. Shame is now both global and permanent, to a degree ­unprecedented in human history. No more moving to the next town to escape your bad name. However far you go and however long you wait, your disgrace is only ever a Google search away. Getting a humiliating story into the papers used to require convincing an editor to run it, which meant passing their standards of newsworthiness and corroborating evidence. Those gatekeepers are now gone. Most attempts so far to devise new rules have taken ideology as their starting point: Shaming is okay as long as it’s directed at men by women, the powerless against the powerful. But that doesn’t address what to do afterward, if someone is found to have been wrongfully shamed, or when someone rightfully shamed wants to put his life back together.

In the essay that got Buruma fired, Ghomeshi claims to have been a pioneer in online shaming. “There are lots of guys more hated than me now. But I was the guy everyone hated first.” Actually, a better candidate for original victim is Justine Sacco, the PR executive who tweeted to her 170 Twitter followers before getting on a plane to Cape Town, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” It was during the Christmas holidays when news is always slow, so a Gawker post about the tweet quickly went viral. People around the world were soon enjoying the suspense of knowing Sacco was on a plane with no Internet access and no way to know that she had become an object of global ridicule. That was in December 2013, almost a year before the Ghomeshi story broke.

And before that, in the Precambrian era of online shaming, there was me….

The more online shame cycles you observe, the more obvious the pattern becomes: Everyone comes up with a principled-sounding pretext that serves as a barrier against admitting to themselves that, in fact, all they have really done is joined a mob. Once that barrier is erected, all rules of decency go out the window, but the pretext is almost always a lie.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

One Nigerian’s path of Perseverance to the NFL

The Carolina Panthers defensive end had a “long and hard” road to the NFL. Born in Nigeria, he was trafficked as a child and left on the streets of London. After picking up football just four years ago, he made an impressive NFL debut with the Panthers.

Watch it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Nigeria, Psychology, Sports

(MB) David Zahl–The De-sexing Of The American Teenager

In a nutshell, despite the fact that our culture has never been more open about and encouraging of sexual expression–almost to a compulsory extent–American teenagers and young adults are having considerably less sex than they used to. From 1991 to 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that the percentage of high-school students who’d had intercourse dropped from 54 to 40 percent. Meanwhile, the U.S. teen pregnancy rate plummeted to a third of its modern high. Wowza.

As someone who’s spent the better part of 20 years working with teenagers and college students, I’ve seen too much damage to see these developments as anything but a net positive. And that’s independent of any theological or even personal parenting concerns. (Just watch Mid90s). And yet, as Julian reports, the decline signals something troubling as well, not only a corresponding rise in anxiety and loneliness but a de-prioritizing–or forced retreat from–intimacy and love itself, with all the unhappiness that accompanies otherforms of disembodiment. What gives? Julian asked around:

Over the course of my research, I was told the sex recession might be a consequence of the hookup culture, of crushing economic pressures, of surging anxiety rates, of psychological frailty, of widespread antidepressant use, of streaming television, of environmental estrogens leaked by plastics, of dropping testosterone levels, of digital porn, of dating apps, of option paralysis, of helicopter parents, of careerism, of smartphones, of the news cycle, of information overload generally, of sleep deprivation, of obesity. Name a modern blight, and someone, somewhere, is ready to blame it for messing with the modern libido.

Sounds about right to me, though I might underline the porn aspect and add schizophrenic attitudes about sex itself to the list. And who knows how much of a chicken-vs-egg dimension there is here–probably quite a bit. But one thing all of the researchers she consults do agree on is that the decline in physical intimacy has to do with a decrease in romantic relationships among teenagers. That is, despite the (largely unfounded) alarmism about hookup culture and dating apps, the real issue is that young people no longer couple off in the same way. The less relationships, the less sex. To wit, I for one was unaware that the highest reported rate of teen pregnancy occurred in 1957, when anxiety over the WWII-induced male shortage led to an increase in serious teenage relationships. Compare that with today:

In 1995, the large longitudinal study known as “Add Health” found that 66 percent of 17-year-old men and 74 percent of 17-year-old women had experienced “a special romantic relationship” in the past 18 months. In 2014, when the Pew Research Center asked 17-year-olds whether they had “ever dated, hooked up with or otherwise had a romantic relationship with another person”—seemingly a broader category than the earlier one—only 46 percent said yes.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Psychology, Sexuality, Sociology, Teens / Youth

(Aeon) Christian Jarrett–The bad news on human nature, in 10 findings from psychology

We are blinkered and dogmatic. If people were rational and open-minded, then the straightforward way to correct someone’s false beliefs would be to present them with some relevant facts. However a classic study from 1979 showed the futility of this approach – participants who believed strongly for or against the death penalty completely ignored facts that undermined their position, actually doubling-down on their initial view. This seems to occur in part because we see opposing facts as undermining our sense of identity. It doesn’t help that many of us are overconfident about how much we understand things and that, when we believe our opinions are superior to others, this deters us from seeking out further relevant knowledge.

We would rather electrocute ourselves than spend time in our own thoughts. This was demonstrated in a controversial 2014 study in which 67 per cent of male participants and 25 per cent of female participants opted to give themselves unpleasant electric shocks rather than spend 15 minutes in peaceful contemplation.

We are vain and overconfident. Our irrationality and dogmatism might not be so bad were they married to some humility and self-insight, but most of us walk about with inflated views of our abilities and qualities, such as our driving skills, intelligence and attractiveness – a phenomenon that’s been dubbed the Lake Wobegon Effect after the fictional town where ‘all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average’. Ironically, the least skilled among us are the most prone to overconfidence (the so-called Dunning-Kruger effect). This vain self-enhancement seems to be most extreme and irrational in the case of our morality, such as in how principled and fair we think we are. In fact, even jailed criminals think they are kinder, more trustworthy and honest than the average member of the public.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Psychology

(Arda) David Briggs–Faithful man walking: Science finds multiple benefits of religion for justice system

Several studies of religion and mental health have shown religious beliefs and practices and positive relationships with a divine being can be powerful resources helping people cope with major challenges such as illness and unemployment.

More recent research also suggests faith may help individuals deal with intense, lasting anger.

Scholars in the developing field of religion and criminal justice are finding evidence that suggests practical ways faith may turn lives around even in the depths of prison.

One of those new findings: Organized religion matters.

A study of 571 prisoners in Oregon found those who identified as religious and spiritual were less likely to reoffend in the 13 years after an initial 2004 survey than spiritual but not religious inmates. More frequent service attendance and the greater likelihood of spending time in private thought and prayer partially explained the differences.

The results highlight the importance of ensuring support for persons in prison in the process of making meaning, in addition to supporting the work of prisonchaplains and religious volunteers,” researchers reported in the Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Prison/Prison Ministry, Psychology, Religion & Culture

(KQED) Changing How Educators See Negative Experiences in the Classroom

After class was over, we sat down to discuss my observations. The first thing she said was, “Oh no, what a horrible day. I am so exhausted. Sorry you had to watch that.” I was flabbergasted because I didn’t really think it was that bad at all. “Jane, I was actually about to tell you what a wonderful class you have.” She was shocked. “Really? What do you mean? Carl and Joey were constantly bickering and bothering the other students. It was really getting on my nerves.” I told her that I thought their behavior was pretty normal for that age and that I noticed so many wonderful learning moments that their disruptions seemed minor. I also explained the negative attribution bias.

She was astonished to learn that she had focused so much on the few challenging students that she had missed out on celebrating the many joyful learning moments that had occurred. I offered a practice to help her change this habit. “Each day, after your class is over, write down all the good things that happened that day. You can even include your students in this process by putting up a paper on the wall and inviting everyone to write good things that happen each day. At the end of the day, look at the list with the class and review them.”

She took to this suggestion with relish and created a whole bulletin board devoted to this activity. At the top she put “GOOD THINGS HAPPEN” in large, colorful letters. Students were invited to write and draw about good things that happened on small pieces of paper that were posted each day. To her surprise, the first day there were 15 good things posted and more than half of them had been written by the students. Furthermore, Carl and Joey got excited about this activity and wanted to be part of making good things happen. Jane realized that this was an opportunity for encouraging their pro-social behavior. She began catching them when they were doing the right thing, rather than being constantly alert to their tendencies to get in trouble. Reinforcing their positive behavior with recognition made a big difference, and soon they were as engaged as the rest of her students….

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Education, Psychology

([London] Times) Men and women really do think differently, say scientists

The much-maligned but longstanding idea that women enjoy discussing their emotions while men are mostly excited by cars may be true after all.

Scientists conducting the world’s largest study of sex differences in the brain found men were more likely to prefer “things” and “systems”, while women were more interested in people and emotions. Men were almost twice as likely as women to be “systems-orientated” rather than empathetic and vice versa.

Scientists at Cambridge University surveyed more than 650,000 people and said that their results confirmed two theories: first, the empathising- systemising theory of sex differences, which predicts that, at the population level, men will be more excited by coding, for instance, while women will be more attuned to feelings; second, the extreme male brain theory, which predicts that the brains of autistic people are more “masculine” than is typical for their sex, in that they are more systems-focused.

The twin theories, from the Cambridge scientist Simon Baron-Cohen, are controversial and have previously been described as “neurosexism”.

Read it all (subscription required).

Posted in Men, Psychology, Women

(The Cut) Lie About Yourself Enough and Even You’ll Believe It

On a recent, truly excellent episode of the podcast Heavyweight, host Jonathan Goldstein attempted to solve a mysterious memory belonging to his friend Rob (Corddry, a comedian). Rob believed that, as a child, he broke his arm at camp. Rob’s family — his mother, father, sister, and brother — have no recollection of such an injury. At all. In fact, they vehemently deny it, insisting that the only Corddry sibling to suffer a broken arm was Rob’s older brother. Rob is certain, but so is his family. So who’s right? I won’t spoil it for you (it’s really a must-listen), but facts aside, there is another big question at hand: can a person come to believe their own often-repeated mythology, even when it’s patently untrue?

According to a study published in the journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology last week, the answer is a resounding, discomfiting yes. In an experiment, the study’s author, Danielle Polage, an associate professor of psychology at Central Washington University, provided her college student subjects with a list of events they may have experienced in childhood, asking them to rate them on their certainty that those events did (or did not) happen. Then, pretending not to know which of those items were untrue, Polage asked the subjects to read a scripted biography made up of half true and half untrue events, but to act as though all the events were true. The subjects were told that the experiment was meant to test their ability to lie, and were thus directed to add feasible color and detail to the false events to create a fuller story.

After they finished lying to her, Polage asked the students to again rate their certainty that each of these events had or had not happened. Fascinatingly (and a little creepily), subjects showed a statistically significant change in their beliefs, indicating that they became less sure that untrue events hadn’t happened to them after saying that they had. Conversely, when subjects were later asked to deny events that had happened to them, they became less sure that those events did take place.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology

(BBC) Dutchman, 69, brings lawsuit to lower his age 20 years

A Dutch “positivity trainer” has launched a legal battle to change his age and boost his dating prospects.

Emile Ratelband, 69, wants to shift his birthday from 11 March 1949 to 11 March 1969, comparing the change to identifying as being transgender.

“We live in a time when you can change your name and change your gender. Why can’t I decide my own age?” he said.

A local court in the eastern city of Arnhem is expected to rule on the case within four weeks….

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology, The Netherlands

(CC) Carol Howard Merritt–Internet addiction

Techies build social media platforms so that we will become addicted to them. Social media money comes from advertisers who need proof of an audience. To get as many eyeballs as possible, techies studied the brain science surrounding addiction in other areas of our lives. Humans get addicted to alcohol, drugs, and gambling because they give us happiness. These chemicals or experiences of winning create dopamine which translates into a euphoria in us.

But happiness is not enough to keep humans addicted. We need light and shadow. There also has to be risk, a challenge, and a fight. Addiction is as much about the negative as it is about the positive.

Think about it. When a gambler wins, he wants to win more, which is completely understandable. But why would he go back when he’s losing? That defies logic.

It’s because he doesn’t want to leave the table a loser, he wants to make it right. He wants to win back his money. So, both the winning and losing draw him into the addiction.

The same thing happens to us during an argument on social media. We want to make things right, to say the right thing to persuade the other, or to dominate them in order to win. We don’t want to walk away a loser, so we become hooked.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(CH) The Anguish and Agonies of Charles Spurgeon

Spurgeon’s friends and even casual acquaintances remarked on his hearty laughter. His humor also found expression in his sermons and writings, for which he was sometimes criticized. Spurgeon responded that if his critics only knew how much humor he suppressed, they would keep silent.

At the same time, Spurgeon’s life was saturated with suffering. We know about his sufferings intimately owing to his frequent and candid descriptions of them.

What torments did Spurgeon suffer? How did he reconcile his painful experiences with his view of a gracious God?

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Preaching / Homiletics, Psychology

(IFS) Laurie DeRose–Cohabitation, Churning, and Children’s Diverging Destinies

I’m teaching a course at Georgetown this semester called “Family Diversity in America.” This week, my students are writing a short paper where they have to explain either how low incomes contribute to disadvantageous family situations, or how disadvantageous family situations contribute to low incomes. Heather Rackin and Christina Gibson-Davis would easily have gotten an “A” on my assignment because their recent study in the  Journal of Marriage and Family highlights one of the mechanisms through which today’s family patterns result in greater economic difficulties: cohabitation. Rackin and Gibson-Davis explain how the rise in cohabitation has disadvantaged children of lower and moderately-educated mothers more than children whose mothers have a college degree.

The authors use a term to describe a large volume of relationship turnovers that is fairly common in the academic literature: “churning,” which means lots of entrances and exits. I first learned of the term in the context of investments: an investment advisor who encourages you to change your market positions frequently can be suspected of wanting to benefit from churning, that is, in financial terms, to profit from the transaction fees themselves. While children certainly benefit from relationship transitions that remove them from abuse or lift them out of poverty, the evidence shows that kids who experience relationship churning typically pay a price (e.g., academic, economic, psychological, behavioral). Kids are not a party that pockets transaction fees.

What has happened over time in the U.S. is that disadvantaged kids have come to experience more relationship transitions and their associated costs. This is what we call diverging destinies: when socioeconomically disadvantaged kids are more likely to have experiences that impoverish—they started out behind richer kids, and their destinies diverged further because their family transitions tended to cost them, while richer kids were more likely to benefit from stability. If you were assigned the paper for my class, you would have to decide whether to write about how lower-income families face many barriers to stable marriage or how breaking up and re-forming families has costs of its own (e.g., lost economies of scale from break-ups or gained stress from forming complex families).

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology

(IV) Bethany Horvath–Living with Depression

I love the movie Silver Linings Playbook. Not because of the love story. Not because of Robert De Niro or Bradley Cooper or Jennifer Lawrence. Not because of the awesome dance moves.

I love the movie because of its honest portrayal of mental illness and the message that you can still live life if you have a mental illness. I love how Pat’s parents learn to suffer through it with him, loving him along the way—which isn’t easy.

I know, because I’ve been living with depression for the past 13 years.

Before experiencing depression myself, I never understood how or why someone would want to live life in a constant state of sadness, with thoughts of harming themself and no hope in sight in the world. Then I found out that no one wants to live life that way. It’s something beyond their control. Something that doesn’t make sense to them and that they don’t want to have present in their life.

I was diagnosed with depression as a freshman in college after already experiencing some difficult events in my life. I didn’t understand who I was, why I was thinking the way I was, or why everyone was out to get me.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Psychology