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The development of critical-thinking skills is a fundamental goal of educators, who have tried to devise various ways of assessing critical thinking in their students. Below is one of my attempts .

A cat using its advanced critical thinking skills

A cat using its advanced critical thinking skills

Brief Test of Critical Thinking

1. When your gasoline guage is past Empty, and you are five miles from the nearest gas station, your best option is to:

a. press the accelerator to the floor so that you can get to the gas station before you run out of gas.
b. let some air out of the front tires, put the car in neutral, and coast to the gas station.
c. place a piece of duct tape over the guage so that the engine won’t know that there’s no more gas.

2. You’ve just ridden your bike two miles to a liquor store and are now at the drive-thru window buying a gallon jug of снаряда рвоту vodka. After the clerk hands you the jug, you discover that you don’t have the $2.50 it will take to buy it. It would be best to:

a. break out your beer bong, funnel the vodka, and then pedal as fast as possible until you pass out.
b. settle for the two-liter Bag-O-Bourbon for 99¢ (plus tax), which is on sale until Sunday.
c. a and/or b

3. It’s ten minutes before your college-algebra final is scheduled to begin. You haven’t been to class in weeks, flunked the other tests because you couldn’t remember what X stood for, and have never been able to count past G. Which of the following should you do?

a. Show the teacher your grandmother’s obituary from last year and tell him that you’re really late for the wake.
b. Take the final anyways. Who knows? Maybe you’ll ‘ace’ it!! Hey, anything’s possible, right? Ya’ just gotta think positive!!
c. Tell the teacher that he never returned your last two tests but that you know that you “did really good on ’em” …
d. And that he also incorrectly entered 9% for your score on the first test instead of the 99% that you really got …

4. Critical thinking is:

a. good.
b. bad.
c. crunchy.

5. If you’re making crank phone calls, would it make sense to cover the caller ID so that the person answering the phone doesn’t know who you are?

a. yes
b. only on the weekends
c. Did I already include “yes”? I did? OK, thanks.
d. no

Scoring:

Add up the number of items you either answered or thought about answering or would have answered if you could read, add the number of pints in a meter, multiply by Planck’s Constant (no, not that Planck, the other one), and divide by your age when you were 10.

Did you get a number? No? Good!

This baby received a perfect score.

This baby received a perfect score.

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Boing Boing‘s Cory Doctorow reported on a spurious correlation of nearly 1.0 between autism and organic-food sales discovered by Jasonp55 on Skeptic Reddit.

This inspired me to look for other extremely high (albeit spurious) correlations with autism. I discovered a correlation of 0.994 between college costs (tuition + fees) and autism rates between the years 1999 and 2007, inclusive.

In the article that I’m certain to get published in Science, my main conclusion will be this: if we want to slash autism rates, we’ll need to drastically reduce college costs by returning educational funding to the levels of previous decades.

Here’s a graph of the cumulative percentages of the two variables that shows clearly their close association.

College-Autism

You may contact me at drjeffryricker@gmail.com

Data Sources
1. Office of Special Education Programs, Data Analysis System (DANS), OMB# 1820-0043: “Children with Disabilities Receiving Special Education Under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act”
Table 1-11. Number of children and students served under IDEA, Part B, in the U.S. and outlying areas by age group, year, and disability category: Fall 1999 through fall 2008 (Age Group 6-21)
http://archive-org.com/page/2071756/2013-05-12/https://www.ideadata.org/TABLES32ND/AR_1-11.htm
2. National Center for Education Statistics: Digest of Education Statistics 2010 Tables and Figures
Table 345. Average undergraduate tuition and fees and room and board rates charged for full-time students in degree-granting institutions, by type and control of institution: 1964-65 through 2009-10
http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d10/tables/dt10_345.asp

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Yesterday, I posted a piece in which I argued that scientific researchers must be inveterate skeptics and empiricists in their day-to-day work. In this post, I propose a new mental disorder for inclusion in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. People lacking these essential scientific attitudes (i.e., skepticism and empiricism) may be suffering from this disorder. In fact, if the following ads from long ago make you wonder if such products now may be possible given advances in science and technology, you probably will meet the criteria for Credulous Personality Disorder.

The criteria for Credulous Personality Disorder were written several years ago, so this piece may need some updating; but the message is the same.

———————————————————————————————–

301.99 Credulous Personality Disorder

(formerly Pseudoneurotic Gullibility)

Proposal Submitted By Jeffry Ricker, Ph.D.
to the DSM-V Working Group

Diagnostic Features

The essential feature of Credulous Personality Disorder is a pattern of pervasive and excessive gullibility that causes the individual to accept without question claims unsupported by any credible evidence (including but not limited to claims involving health and health-related products, unconscious motivations, advertised products and services, extraterrestrial beings, get-rich-quick schemes, psychotherapeutic interventions, and/or the supernatural). This pattern begins by early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts.

Individuals with Credulous Personality Disorder have a marked tendency to be easily convinced by evidence of poor quality, or even by no evidence at all, as long as the knowledge claim fits easily into the individual’s irrational worldview and is made by a person of authority (e.g., a guest on an all-night radio call-in show; a self-confident telemarketer with a British accent; a celebrity interviewee on The Tonight Show or a reporter for an entertainment magazine; a “therapist” appearing on a daytime talk show; an actor playing a doctor in a television commercial; an author of a book promoted by Oprah Winfrey; a “being” who claims to be from another planet or another dimension who channels through their next-door neighbor; anyone claiming to speak with the dead, nonverbal animals, or omniscient entities from another plane of existence).

The credulity of individuals with Credulous Personality Disorder seems to be driven most commonly by their desire for personal transformation, future well-being, or continued existence after death. In fact, people with this disorder typically dismiss claims supported by evidence of high quality whenever these claims contradict their hopes or cherished beliefs. This often causes them to spend large sums of money acquiring the latest product or service that seems to offer them hope and solace. Furthermore, much of their day is consumed with learning about and/or acquiring such products and services. In severe cases, the loss of jobs and close relationships or the experiencing of serious injury and even death result from the consequences of their rejection of well-supported claims (e.g., a person with malignant melanoma avoids the established medical treatment for this disorder and subjects him- or herself to a practitioner of Reiki).

Individuals with Credulous Personality Disorder tend to be trusting, friendly, and caring unless one of their core beliefs is subjected to critical analysis, at which point they often become defensive, indignant, and angry, although they may feign extreme concern for the happiness and well-being of the person questioning the belief (e.g., they may offer to pray for the skeptic). They often can be found in the self-help sections of bookstores discussing the latest works of Deepak Chopra or Andrew Weil. They typically express a compulsive stream of optimistic statements and aphorisms (e.g., frequently stating that they “cannot afford a negative thought”) and constantly discuss the newest miracle cure, diet fad, financial scheme, etc., that they believe will bring them life-long happiness and/or eternal bliss. These individuals often accumulate large amounts of debt because of their compulsive buying of items that offer the promise of health, financial success, self-transformation, etc.

Individuals with Credulous Personality Disorder often promote “alternative ways of knowing” that involve speculation, visialization, intuition, and shamanic journeys. They are easily convinced by subjective observations consistent with their beliefs and are highly suspicious of quantifiable measurements unless the latter seem to support their beliefs, at which point the evidence will be used in debates with skeptics long after it has been shown to be unreplicable and/or fraudulently obtained. Individuals suffering from this disorder may become psychologically distressed or physically ill when hearing the name of a prominent skeptic (e.g., someone who believes that he has been abducted by alien beings and anally probed passes out whenever Carl Sagan is mentioned; or a practitioner of therapeutic touch develops catalepsy and catatonic stupor whenever someone brings up the study by Emily Rosa and colleagues).

People with Credulous Personality Disorder may become so preoccupied with their credulous belief system that they seem unable to hear or remember the arguments of those with an opposing view. In fact, they often attribute statements to the skeptic that bear no relation to what he or she actually said. It is as if their minds become temporarily inactive whenever an opposing set of beliefs is described. Even when sufferers make an attempt to listen carefully to the views of skeptic, they may dissociate at critical points in the discussion (dissociative amnesia is a common comorbid disorder, although there is some evidence that this disorder itself is the product of extreme credulousness on the part of clinicians and clients).

Associated Features and Disorders

Individuals with Credulous Personality Disorder often experience extreme dysphoria because of their desperate and constant attempts to achieve total happiness, health, and self-fulfillment — attempts that always result in eventual disappointment. The dysphoria lifts temporarily when they find a new scheme for achieving these same goals. People with Credulous Personality Disorder often are diagnosed with comorbid Anxiety Disorders, Dissociative Disorders, Somatization Disorder, Major Depression, Dysthymic Disorder, Substance-Related Disorders, Disorders of Impulse Control, as well as other Personality Disorders, especially Dependent Personality Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and several other personality disorders still under development (see future editions of this manual).

The likelihood of developing Credulous Personality Disorder is increased if the individual, during childhood, ever celebrated a major holiday in which mythical figures were said to deliver presents or candy to good girls and boys, heard an “urban myth” while sitting around a campfire on a cold and moonless night, attended a religious service, was tempted by advertisements for X-ray glasses, had close relatives who voted for Richard Nixon, watched professional wrestling, bought “sea monkeys,” attended a public school focused on raising students’ self-esteem, bought tickets to a concert performed by a “teen idol,” had a parent who subscribed to Reader’s Digest or TV Guide, thought that the “Fonz” was cool, cried for days after watching Old Yeller, bought cereal in order to obtain the prize inside, watched television more than five minutes per day, or ever ordered anything advertised in the back of a comic book.

Specific Culture, Age, and Gender Features

The prevalence of Credulous Personality Disorder does not seem to be associated with any specific cultural, age-related, or gender-related factors.

Nevertheless, the specific symptoms exhibited do seem to be influenced to some extent by these factors. With respect to culture, the symptoms of Credulous Personality Disorder reflect the beliefs common in the culture in which the person was raised (e.g., Americans are more likely to believe that they will become rich if they cash in their life savings and buy thousands of Powerball tickets). In addition, the specific symptoms change with age. For example, children are more likely to believe that, if they step on a crack, they will break their mother’s back whereas adults are more likely to believe that, if they take megadoses of Vitamin C, they will never again suffer from a cold. Lastly, there seem to be some gender differences in symptomatology, especially when the beliefs involve sexual behaviors. For example, men are more likely to believe that, if they honk their horn and hoot loudly from their car window at an attractive female, she will probably sleep with them. Women are more likely to believe that, if they sleep with a man, he probably will marry them.

Prevalence

The lifetime prevalence of Credulous Personality Disorder has been reported to be between 0.1% and 99.9% in the general population, but it is not known whether such reports can be trusted since there is evidence to suggest that a large number of these studies were performed by researchers suffering from the disorder. At present, it seems safe to say that the disorder is very common in the general population (perhaps approaching 100%). The severity of the symptoms, however, differ dramatically across individuals. It seems that the disorder is very common in both in-patient psychiatric settings and out-patient mental-health clinics, but it rarely represents the presenting disorder. Many clinicians also suffer from Credulous Personality Disorder, which makes diagnosis and treatment of the disorder very difficult. These clinicians not only tend to believe the overly credulous pronouncements of their clients, they also are much more likely to believe that untested or falsified treatment modalities actually work (such as eye-movement-desensitization-and-reprocessing therapy, or any therapy in which repressed motivations or dissociated memories induced by trauma are used as explanations of problematic behavior).

Course

In almost all cases, Credulous Personality Disorder has a chronic course. Few remissions of symptoms have been observed in people who are fully or partially conscious. In the few cases of recovery that have been reported, there is reason to suspect that the reporting clinicians were suffering from the disorder and, thus, the accuracy of their reports can be questioned. The symptoms tend to become more severe when the individual is experiencing mild to severe stressors, and even when no stressors are being experienced at all. The symptoms also tend to become more severe after the individual has had experiences designed to encourage a lack of skepticism (e.g., after watching television infomercials, after listening to an audiotape of any lecture by Anthony Robbins, or while attending a talk at a local Unitarian church, especially if that talk is related to Jungian psychotherapy). The symptoms remit completely only during coma or upon death.

Familial Pattern

There is some evidence for an increased prevalence of Credulous Personality Disorder in the first-, second-, third-, fourth-, and nth-degree relatives of probands with the disorder.

Differential Diagnosis

Credulous Personality Disorder is not easily distinguished from Schizophrenia, Schizophreniform Disorder, Schizoaffective Disorder, or any other psychotic disorder in which delusional thinking is prominent. In fact, in many cases, people with Credulous Personality Disorder report hallucinatory experiences consistent with their beliefs (e.g., seeing the faces of supernatural entities in taco shells or stained toilet-seat covers). Their speech often suggests the existence of formal thought disorder, especially when trying to justify their beliefs to skeptics. At this time, there is no general consensus regarding the distinguishing characteristics of Credulous Personality Disorder with respect to Psychotic Disorders. Most clinicians agree that there is a great deal of overlap between the symptoms of Credulous Personality Disorder and Delusional Disorder. In fact, some believe that the two disorders exist on a continuum of severity, but are not certain which disorder is the more severe.

You may contact me at drjeffryricker@gmail.com

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I’ve been giving it a lot of thought lately, and I’m starting to think that maybe I’m not the best person for me. I’m beginning to realize that I don’t bring out the best in myself, and that probably I stay with myself mostly out of habit. No, that’s not it. It’s like an addiction: you know that it’s really going to be bad for you over the long-term but that, just for this moment in time, you’re going to give in to the cravings; knowing deep down that it won’t be just for this moment–that it won’t stop until you’re dry-heaving in the back of an old station wagon with faux wood paneling, hating yourself for allowing yourself into your life and letting it happen all over again.

01

So then you go cold-turkey for a while, promising yourself that it’s never going to happen ever again: that you’re never going to be you again. But the cravings are there–those God-damned cravings–and they build and build until it gets so bad that you eventually end up right back where you started: getting together with yourself, “just for tonight,” and starting that roller-coaster ride all over again. Doing it again and again until you can’t stand the sight of yourself in the mirror anymore. And the crazy thing is that you know … YOU KNOW! … just before you open that door and invite yourself back into your own life, how it’s all going to end: the same way it’s ended a 1000 times before. But you open that damned door anyway!

My relationship with myself has always been a wild, up-and-down roller-coaster ride. Sometimes it’s really great: I’m a lot of fun to be with, I’m feelin’ really close to myself–the bond is there and it’s really strong. It’s no effort at all to be with myself, to get along, and just to feel comfortable being me with myself–no judgments and no expectations. Hell, at those times, I feel such a strong connection with myself that I even find myself finishing my own sentences; and just, you know, really, really understanding where I’m coming from. At those times, I feel as if I’ve known myself my whole life–like I’ve grown up with myself, sleeping in the same crib, playing with the same friends, going to the same schools, even lusting after the same people … you know, experiencing everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, together. It’s such a high to feel this way–to be understood so well by yourself. Nothing’s hard, nothing’s difficult. And, at those times, I just couldn’t imagine ever being without myself.

But then it starts. I do something a little stupid and get annoyed with myself. It’s just a minor thing, a little irritation; but I feel hurt and betrayed anyway, and just so very upset that I could treat myself that way, after all I’ve been through with myself! I know that I’m over-reacting at those times but I can’t help it! After the great times, it’s such a shock to see myself treating myself this way. So, I start to distance myself, more and more, until eventually It turns into a big fight, and I refuse to even think to myself for a few days.

02

But of course, that doesn’t continue for long. Eventually I start to think again. And, over all the years I’ve been together with myself, my life has become so intertwined with my life that it seems impossible to even imagine living apart from myself. When I think those thoughts, it seems just too damned difficult to take that final step and break it off for good! You know, I really hate to admit it but, at those times, I feel like I’m nothing without myself and that I’ll never be anything unless I’m always in my life. (God, it was so hard to write that sentence, and it’s even harder to reread it now. Give me a minute, will you?)

It’s my own fault that I think this way, I know. I’ve let myself believe what I tell myself is true. When I believe that something is true, I can’t bring myself to disagree with myself, or at least to question whether or not it’s possibly, just possibly, not true. It’s like I have this mysterious power over myself–a power that I can’t describe but that I’ve never been able to resist. I know that none of what I’m thinking–you know, that “I can’t survive unless I’m in my life,” that “I’ll die if I leave myself,” all that crap that I’ve been telling myself for years–I know that none of it is true! But, just when I’m at a place where I can begin to question it, all of a sudden I’m there, and all my rational thinking flies out the window. I tell myself that I’m crazy, that it IS true that I can’t live without myself, and I’m stuck again!

Hell, it makes me disgusted with myself just to admit it, but I find that I can’t even go to the bathroom without myself!! Now how sick of a relationship is that??? So, I pretend like none of the bad stuff ever happened, that I’m really a great guy, that everything is going to turn out all right, that I never really meant to hurt myself that way. In short, I forgive myself despite the years of betrayals and all the hurt I’ve caused myself.

You know what’s nuts? Underneath it all, when all is said and done, I KNOW that I’m just using myself, that all I’m doing is using myself to get my own needs met. But I let it happen anyway. Why? Well, because … because it’s just so easy to say “yes” to myself. I’m completely, utterly, under my own control, it seems. I have absolutely no boundaries with myself! I just come waltzing right back into my life as though nothing’s happened! I hate myself for loving myself so much, because I know that it’s not a real love–a healthy love!! It’s a toxic, sick, disgusting “love”–a love where I let myself use myself to satisfy my own needs.

And when I let myself back into my life, I know that it’s all going to start and end just like it has so many times before; and that it will do so again, and again, and …. well you know. You’ve been there, too.

But I think that I’m finally through with it! Today, no matter what I did in the past, I’m going to take charge of my own life and never let me back into my life again! EVER!! I know that I’m bad for myself, that I keep myself down, that I’ll never grow as a person as long as I keep letting myself back into my own life. So, I’ve decided that, starting from this point on, I’m making this unbreakable commitment to myself. I’m telling everyone I know so that I will never go back on it.

I will never, ever again allow myself to be me!!

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