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Dr. Rakefet Ackerman: Assistant Professor, Psychology, Technion: Israel Institute of Technology

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2013/10/15

1. What academic positions have you held?  What academic positions do you currently hold?  What is your expertise?

During my Ph.D. studies, I taught Cognitive Psychology in the Open University of Israel and Human Memory in the University of Haifa.  During my post-doc, I did not teach.  At present, I am a faculty member at the Technion—Israel Institute of Technology.  This university is focused on science and engineering, and does not have typical social-science departments.  My position is in the Faculty of Industrial Engineering & Management, which is a highly heterogeneous faculty including engineers, mathematicians, computer science researchers, finance researchers, etc. and psychologists.  The group of psychologists includes three domains: marketing, organizational psychologists, and cognitive psychologists.  I am in this latter category.  At the undergraduate level I teach human-factors engineering, which combines my backgrounds as a system analyst in the software industry and cognitive psychology.  For graduate students I give metacognition class, which is my domain of expertise.

Metacognition is a set of cognitive processes that accompany each cognitive task we perform.  For example, when a student studies, beyond the transfer of information from the information source (e.g., a book, computer, or auditory source) into memory, the learning process involves regulation of the memorizing and comprehension processes.  The student asks herself how well she knows each particular paragraph and decides whether to move on or to restudy it.  In other words, during studying, she assesses her progress, and decides whether her progress is adequate or another learning strategy would better be applied.   Alternatively, seeking help is desirable.  Finally, she may consider taking a break or decide that the acquired knowledge is satisfactory for achieving her goals.  Similar processes take place with facing a test. Prior to answering each question, the student considers the question’s difficulty.  Whether a point exists in searching her memory for relevant knowledge or she knows too little about the solicited information. After providing an answer, she considers if the answer is good enough or more work is needed. Such knowledge assessments and regulatory decisions are metacognitive processes that take place in large variety of contexts, beyond learning. For example, when a doctor considers a diagnosis, she should consider whether she knows enough about the phenomenon or should seek more information, whether she needs additional blood tests for assuring her hypothesized diagnosis, and whether she is confident enough about appropriate medication.  Similar processes take place in every profession.  Take a daily example,  when baking a cake, you ask yourself whether you remember all the ingredients and procedures or better consult the cookbook.

The assessment of our knowledge, progress, or success, is called “Monitoring”, and the decisions we take in light of this monitoring are called “Control” or regulatory decisions.  The metacognitive research domain focuses on exposing factors and conditions that affect our monitoring differently than our actual performance – these discrepancies suggest that the monitoring processes are not always reliable.  Furthermore, we better acknowledge situations where monitoring is particularly biased and others in which it is more reliable.  This is important because people cannot know their actual knowledge or expected success without external feedback.  Thus, they take actions in light of their subjective monitoring.  If the monitoring output is biased, it is expected to mislead the regulatory decisions.  For example, if the student is overconfident about her knowledge and assesses her knowledge to be adequate she would cease studying even though her knowledge is too low to achieve her goals.  In one of our studies (Ackerman, Leiser, & Shpigelman, 2013), we found that undergraduate students who studied explanations how to solve very challenging problems were misled by non-informative illustrations incorporated in the explanations.  They assessed their understanding to be higher for the illustrated explanations than for the plain explanations, although their actual performance was in fact lower.  Their subjective assessment of comprehension was above 90% while their actual success rate was below 40%.  This means they exaggerated their assessment of comprehension in about 60%.  For the plain explanation versions, they exaggerated “only” in 30%.  In another line of research, we showed that studying texts from the computer screen results in larger overconfidence and lower test scores than studying the same texts on paper (Ackerman & Goldsmith, 2011; Ackerman & Lauterman, 2012).  In the examples above, such overconfidence may have clear undesirable outcomes like inadequate medical diagnosis or a messed-up cake.  Underconfidence is not desirable as well, as it may lead people to invest too much effort in a particular item while the time could have better be used to study other materials, or for going out with friends…

2. What was your original dream?  If it changed, how did it change?  Furthermore, what changed it? Where did you acquire your education?

In the high school, I studied in a program, which elaborated on computer science.  When I joined the Israeli army, as all Israeli boys and girls, I took part in a software development program, which involved two-year studies and four more years of service in a software development unit.  I started as a team member, and later on worked as a system analyst and led a software-development team.  As part of this program, we could start our Bachelor Degree in the university.  I saw my future in software development, but the degree had to include an additional course.  I was interested in psychology, and finally graduated in a combined degree: computer science and psychology.  After this, I worked for software companies and led international teams with up to 20 people.  I worked with systems that involved large databases and faced challenges that involved management of large amounts of data.  After more than 10 years in this industry, I arrived at a new point in my thinking.  I thought the software industry should be informed by cognitive science. The human memory system manages large amount of data with great efficiency. Thus, I thought that insights from its great data processing capabilities may inform the software industry.  At that point in time, I was already a mother to three young daughters, which made studying a new world, not an easy decision  Nevertheless, I decided that two years of M.A. studies might allow me to bring a fresh point of view to the software world.

As part of my search for studying about the management of the human memory system, I encountered the domain of Metacognition, and the lab in the University of Haifa, Israel, where leading researchers of this domain work.  Dr. Morris Goldsmith became the supervisor for my M.A. thesis.  As well, Dr. Asher Koriat, head of the lab, was a collaborator on another research project.  During graduate studies, I felt astonished by intriguing research questions studied in this domain and rigorous research methods employed to address these questions.  As a result, this two-year program was converted into a direct Ph.D. course. I realized that there was no way back to the industry for me.  I got caught in the research world.

The metacognitive research domain evolved as part of memory research.  This domain, called meta-memory, involves monitoring and decision control involved in memorization of word lists and answering knowledge questions by retrieving information from memory.  I am attracted to more complex cognitive tasks, such as reading comprehension and problem solving.  I learned more about these complex tasks from my post-doc supervisor, Dr. David Leiser, at the Ben-Gurion University, Israel.  Now, I see metacognition as ubiquitous, but hidden behind the scene, in every task people perform.  My mission is to contribute to the scientific understanding of the metacognitive processes involved in performing complex cognitive tasks and lay the grounds for developing methods for improving their quality.

3. What kinds of research have you conducted up to the present?  If you currently conduct research, what form does it take?

Mainly, my studies are performed in my lab, but some occur in classrooms or over the Internet.  The lab includes eight computer stations in a small room.  The tasks involve learning, question answering, or problem solving.  In all tasks, immediately after performing each task, e.g. solving a problem, the participant indicates how confident she is, on a scale of 0% to 100%, that her solution is correct, and then she moves on to the next item.  I measure accuracy of the response, confidence, and response time.  All my studies are experimental, which means that we manipulate a variable or two.  In the example above, we manipulated the presence of the illustrations in the texts.  This was manipulated within participants.  This means that each participant studied half the texts with illustrations and half without them.  Each text had a version with illustrations and a plain version.  The assignment of texts with and without illustrations was random for each participant for ruling out effects of particular texts and/or illustrations on the results.  In the media experiments, we manipulated the media for studying between participants – half the participants performed the entire task – learning, predicting their success at the test, and test taking – on the same media, either screen or paper.  This was done to avoid attracting participants’ attention to the media, which may contaminate the results.  In other studies, we compare working with and without time pressure, or manipulate motivation for success by assigning higher point value to some items than for others.

4. If you had infinite funding and full academic freedom, what would you research? 

As stated earlier, I see my mission in spreading the word regarding the proneness of the subjective assessments of knowledge to numerous misleading factors in all aspects of life.  The problem in this domain is that the research progresses slowly – we must be very careful and make sure that our studies are rigorous in order to draw reliable conclusions.  The study domain is still young, and we know little about the processes involved in performing complex tasks.  For example, what are the metacognitive processes involved in engineering work of designing a new machine?  Therefore, I need many collaborators and graduate students to share my ambitious to understand better the biasing factors and think together about ways to overcome these biases.  Up-to-date technologies, like virtual reality, eye tracking, fMRI, can contribute to this avenue.  My dream is to see educational systems and professional development programs incorporate in every activity acknowledgement in the potential metacognitive biases and the necessity to minimize these biases for effective performance of tasks.

5. What controversial topics exist in your domain? 

Examples of controversial issues in metacognition are:

  1. Is the metacognitive monitoring and regulation of cognitive efforts conscious or unconscious?
  2. Does the metacognitive monitoring only drive behavior, in a top-down fashion, or also informed by the behavior after it was done, in a bottom-up fashion?
  3. Is there a central monitoring mechanism with common characteristics for all cognitive tasks, or are there differences between the metacognitive processes that take place in the various tasks?

6. How would you describe your philosophical framework? 

A combination of focus and openness is my secret.  I realize, of course, that this sounds like an oxymoron.  As mentioned above, I see metacognition everywhere and keep analyzing the world from this point of view.  This is the focus side.  The openness side is that I see myself as a collector and integrator of ideas more than as an inventor.  I keep listening to people, seniors, and juniors.  In particular, I learn a lot from discussions with students.  I enjoy greatly their fresh minds and the original links they make between topics they study or from their personal life experience.  This attitude brought me to major leaps in my research programs.  One of my studies evolved from a private conversation with a junior (at the time) colleague who asked an intriguing “what if” question regarding the study I presented to him.  Another study evolved while I was standing in a traffic jam, and watched how people get into the junction and sometimes take risks just because they are tired of waiting for the junction to clear.  A collaborative study with Dr. Daniel Bernstein, from Kwantlen Polytechnic University, evolved from a short discussion during a coffee break in a conference.  Yet another example is a study in which our plan failed, but my graduate student suggested a new way of looking into the results we already collected.  This was then developed into a new study which provided us with highly interesting insights.  From a more general perspective, failures often provide opportunities to learn something new.  One of my papers in a leading journal (Thompson et al., 2013) was evolved from a failure in replicating a well-known finding.  The graduate student who her very first study was failed was so disappointed that she almost left the program.  However, we then considered an explanation for the failure, with the help of Dr. Valerie Thompson from Saskatoon and together came up with beautiful findings and a theoretical contribution.

7. What advice do you have for young Psychology students?

I think that the previous answer, regarding the combination of focus and openness tells the main story.  Most students do not know their focus yet.  Therefore, openness is the main thing, while it is clearly relevant for those who know their focus as well.  I suggest benefiting from the university period much beyond the studies per se.  Go to talks of guest speakers, go to other faculties if something there attracts your interest, interact with researchers from various disciplines, consider interesting questions, and search for answers.  For those who consider research as their future direction, get involved in research as early and as much as possible.  At the beginning, take part in experiments as a participant, and later on as a research assistant.  Take courses that involve developing research proposals and conduction of pilot studies.  This is the only way to understand this world and examine whether it attracts you.

8. Who most influenced you?  Can you recommend any seminal books/articles?

The papers that influenced me the most were writings by Tom Nelson, Louis Narens, Janet Metcalfe, Robert Bjork, John Dunlosky, Keith Thiede, Valerie Thompson, and Asher Koriat.  I recommend a recent review paper and a friendly book that summarize the domain nicely and point to its applied relevance.

Bjork, R. A., Dunlosky, J., & Kornell, N. (2013). Self-Regulated Learning: Beliefs, techniques, and illusions. Annual Review of Psychology, 64, 417-444.

Dunlosky, J., & Metcalfe, J. (2009). Metacognition. Los Angeles: Sage Publications, Inc.

9. Where do you see Cognitive Psychology going?

I hope to see the cognitive psychology go beyond artificial tasks that can be generated only in the lab, into real-life tasks with larger variety than studied up until now.  This requires sophistication and development of research methods that support it without compromising on rigorous research methods.

References

Ackerman, R., & Goldsmith, M. (2011). Metacognitive regulation of text learning: On screen versus on paper. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 17(1),18-32.

Ackerman, R., & Lauterman, T. (2012). Taking reading comprehension exams on screen or on paper? A metacognitive analysis of learning texts under time pressure. Computers in Human Behavior, 28, 1816-1828.

Ackerman, R., Leiser, D., & Shpigelman, M. (2013). Is comprehension of problem solutions resistant to misleading heuristic cues? Acta Psychologica, 143(1), 105-112.

Thompson, V., Prowse Turner, J., Pennycook, G., Ball, L., Brack, H., Ophir, Y., & Ackerman, R. (2013).  The role of answer fluency and perceptual fluency as metacognitive cues for initiating analytic thinking. Cognition, 128, 237-251.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Gira Bhatt: Principal Investigator and Project Director, AT-CURA

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2013/10/01

1. What academic positions have you held? What academic positions do you currently hold?

My professional academic career began at the University of Mumbai, India. Briefly, I worked as a clinical psychologist at a children’s hospital. Later, I was a lecturer at an undergraduate institution affiliated with the University of Mumbai.  After completing my Ph.D. at Simon Fraser University, BC, Canada, I taught at Camosun College and University of Victoria, BC, Canada.
At present, I am a faculty member in the Psychology department of Kwantlen Polytechnic University, BC, Canada.  As well, I am the Principal Investigator and Project Director for Canadian government funded Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) project. CURA is a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional, multi-partnership project involving four academic institutions, seven researchers, and eleven community agencies.
Additionally, I am actively involved as the board member and the secretary of the International Relations Committee of the Canadian Psychological Association.

2. In brief, how was your youth? How did you come to this point? 

I was born and raised in Mumbai, India. My family tradition was guided by strong commitment to scholarship and spiritual pursuits. My father was a journalist, poet, writer, and later a Yoga teacher in retirement. My mother was gentle, but strong, and kept the family life stable and happy. I had strong extended family ties.  I recall being surrounded by numerous cousins and visiting relatives, which provided for many happy times. I loved school.  From a young age, I wanted to be an academic.

When I turned 16, I began questioning some of the traditions of life in India. I became an “atheist” much to the despair of my relatives, and surprise of my friends. However, my father provided me with a long list of books on philosophy and religions for study. The turning point was the study and practice of Yoga for over 8 years. Although practice of Yoga had been part of my family tradition, I needed to examine the philosophy of it, which appealed to my rational mind.  The secular roots of Yoga provided a strong ground I was seeking to keep my mind balanced and a perspective that went beyond the immediate.

Yoga and Psychology are intertwined. Therefore, it was natural to veer in the direction of Psychology.

3. When did Psychology interest you?

Actually, my entry into Psychology was accidental. As an undergraduate student in Mumbai, India, I wanted to major in English Literature because I loved the works of classic writers and poets including Shakespeare, Jane Austin, Bronte sisters, and others. However, my English department informed me that it did not have enough students to offer the major. On this basis, they advised me to sit in any class for the first two weeks, and wait for more students to come forward to declare English Literature as their major.  Of course, I was disappointed and a bit worried.

Anyway, I decided to go to a class. My friends told me about a hugely popular class taught by a popular professor. I always remember that class. There were 150 students in the classroom, no microphone, and the old professor was sitting in his chair talking very gently to a very captive audience. It was an Introductory Psychology class! There was no turning away from there! Two weeks later the English department approached me, much too late…

4. Where did you acquire your education?

I completed my Bachelor’s degree with honors in psychology and Master’s in Clinical psychology at the University of Mumbai. I then came to Canada and earned my second Master’s degree and Ph.D. in Social psychology. Yes, I switched from clinical to experimental field of psychology as I wanted to pursue basic research rather than practice in the field of psychological illnesses.

5. What kinds of research have you conducted up to the present?

I have three concurrent research tracks. One is focused  on Cross-Cultural Psychology examining the issue of self, identity, and acculturation. Second pertains to  Applied Social Psychology working with a network of academic scholars and community agencies targeting prevention of youth violence and gang involvement. Third is an overarching philosophical and historical examination of psychological knowledge.

6. If you currently conduct research, what form does it take?

Having worked within community-involved research for the last five years, I have decided to work only on collaborative research projects with community input, academic rigor, and a set of clear application-to-life goals.

7. You have conducted practical and applied research through AT-CURA along with researchers from your university as well as Simon Fraser University, University of Victoria, and Langara College.  What is AT-CURA? What is the purpose of AT-CURA?  Why do you consider unifying ‘community partners and academic experts’ through a common vision important?

Acting-Together: Community-University Research Alliance (AT-CURA) is a five-year long project (2009-2014) funded through Canadian government’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). The goal of this $1 million project is to identify protective factors that may prevent youth from violence and criminal gang involvement. Importantly, unlike most traditional academic projects, academic research is but 1/3rd of the project. The other two major arms of the project are; ongoing training/education of all involved in the project including youth, and continual knowledge dissemination using both academic and popular media.

SSHRC’s mandate for CURA projects is that academic researchers must work alongside community partners at every step of the project from day one until the conclusion of the project.  I wholeheartedly embrace this ideal.

As an academic researcher, I had remained rather painfully aware of the two solitudes created by the academic and the community.  Academics, especially social scientists, have carved out an ivory tower, which they parachute out of from time to time into an outside community to “collect data”. Next step is to remove any trace of the individual identity of the data contributor.  This “coded data” is taken back to the ivory tower where these data pieces are examined, analysed, chopped up, decorated with charts and tables to be served on the platter of research journals, conference presentations and books – that only a handful may actually read, understand, or find relevant. Although, there is great value in “knowledge for the sake of knowledge”, creation of academic knowledge accessible only to the academic elite is unfair and meaningless. On the other side of things, the community relies on ‘common-sense wisdom’ and works on the “application” side of knowledge without the support of the evidence-based research.

The divide between the academic and the community must be bridged, such that the context is created for the cross-fertilization of knowledge. Academic rigor and community wisdom, when amalgamated, allows for meaningful contributions by the individual and collective to create a better world.

8. If you had infinite funding and full academic freedom, what would you research? 

My research goal will be to move closer to the ideal possible world where groups of people from diverse cultures, nations, religions, traditions, and political ideologies live harmoniously. Yes, understating the dynamics of intergroup relations are important, especially as we are a ‘Global Village’ with increasing movements of millions of people across continents.  This expands with the world coming together and becoming connected through rapidly advancing e-technology. This is our future. Our next-door neighbors will be “different”.  Yet, they will be part of our shared world. If my research can make a small, humble contribution in helping build harmonious human connections, I would consider my life blessed.

9. Since you began studying Psychology, what do you consider the controversial topics? How do you examine the controversial topics?

As a social psychologist living in Canada, controversial topics to me are inter-cultural relations. Traversing the fine line between the freedom to practice one’s cultural traditions while integrating into mainstream life in Canada.  It can be a challenge. Some issues such as newcomers to Canada wearing head covers (Hijab, Turbans), face covers (Niqab), body covers (Burqa), and following tradition-specific gender norms are controversial. As well, “racial profiling” is problematic.
There is no one correct way to examine these topics. However, it is my understanding that top- down imposition of “laws” make for a greater divide and discontent within the society; whereas allowing everyone an opportunity to shape laws and policies create good will and receptivity to them. Therefore, my inclination would be to involve members of the groups who might be the targets of the controversy, the policy makers, and expert researchers to work collaboratively to come up with a win-win situation.

10. How would you describe your early philosophical framework? Did it change? If so, how did it change?

As noted earlier, growing up in India, cultural and spiritual traditions dictated my world view. My cultural value’s foundation has remained strong within me. As such I believed, and continue to believe in the inherent goodness of people, and that being able to help one and all without expecting rewards and recognition is a duty (“Dharma”), and that maintaining a larger perspective on life protects one from stresses of the here & now, and keeps one humble.

These basic values have not changed. Rather personal experiences strengthened my belief in the importance of human connections and making decisions based on the larger perspective on life.

11. What advice do you have for young Psychology students?

Make career decisions wisely. Once a goal is established, give your best to every task, no matter how small, how trivial. Never be a minimalist but go beyond what is required. Learn to be a team player.

12. Who most influenced you? Can you recommend any seminal books/articles?

From my Eastern roots, I would consider Patanjali, an ancient scholar from India’s sacred tradition as the one who influenced me deeply. His seminal work “Yoga Sutras”, a compilation of Sanskrit hymns, provides a rational and secular philosophy of human nature.

From the standpoint of my Western academic life, I would pick William James as my ideal. James- the great thinker, James- the wise scholar, James – the amazing writer is an enduring source of inspiration to me. His book “Principles of Psychology”, especially the chapter on the self and consciousness is probably the best psychological discourse I have ever come across.

13. What do you hope to achieve in the near and far future with AT-CURA?

AT-CURA research findings are gradually being disseminated and it is rewarding to see these being embraced by law enforcement agencies, policy makers, and service providers.  My vision for AT-CURA is to continue the good work that the project has initiated and inspired. Our academic-community collaboration is very strong today, and work needs to continue to keep it well-nurtured so it can keep growing stronger and larger. I envision that it will have a sustained existence at KPU so researchers and community partners maintain their ties and collaborate on evidence-based programs that will help our youth make right choices in life and keep our community healthy and thriving.

14. Where do you see Psychology going?

Psychology as a discipline has very unique historical foundations, and its rapid growth since the early 20th century has been non-linear and multidirectional. In light of this, concerns exist about the field “splitting” into too many branches. Psychology as a unitary discipline might be lost in future altogether. I am not sure if there is any trend to allow speculation about the disciplinary direction. I see one  constant though.  Given that human behavior remains dependent on its contexts – physical, social, cultural, political – which constantly keep changing, the discipline of psychology will never go out of business- although it may take on different garbs and labels.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Neda Kerimi: Post-Doctoral Fellow, Psychology, Harvard University

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2013/09/18

1. What positions have you held? What position do you currently hold?

I actually studied and worked in IT, as programmer and also IT-manager, for a number of years However, I loved psychology too much so I decided to do a PhD in psychology. Since my PhD graduation in 2011, I have been project manager in Uppsala for a project relating to numeracy and now a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard investigating the impact technology has on our decisions and cognition.

2. In brief, how was your youth? How did you come to this point? 

I was always interested in knowledge and had a curious nature. I was undecided between IT and Psychology so I eventually studied both. Even though my training in Psychology is more extensive, I am still a computer-geek at heart, which works for me since I am interested in how technology is changing our cognition.

3. When did Psychology interest you?

I think I have always been interested in psychology. People interest and puzzle me and I love talking and hearing people’s stories so it just came naturally I guess.

4. Where did you acquire your education?

I actually got my MA in Informatics first and worked a few years in IT. Meanwhile I studied psychology at Stockholm University, Sweden, where I eventually got my PhD.

5. What kinds of research have you conducted up to the present?

I have been involved in many projects with the denominator Judgment and Decision Making. For instance how Medical Doctor’s make decisions, how voting systems impact preferences, how students choose study strategy, how information is processed and distorted in consumer situations, why we procrastinate and so on.  With the years, I have more and more become interested in social psychology and HCI.

6. If you currently conduct research, what form does it take?

Being an experimental psychologist, experiments are very important to me. I often look for ideas in the real world but follow it up or investigate it in experimental settings. I think triangulating and replication is important in research so I usually try to mix different methods to study a phenomena.

7. Since you began studying psychology, what do you consider the controversial topics? How do you examine the controversial topics?

My field, Judgment and Decision making, have a few controversial topics. The one that has always interested me is whether we should rely on our gut feelings or sleep on it before making decisions. Research has consistently shown that sleeping on it is better, with a few exceptions. However, I have myself not studied this topic, mostly because I am satisfied with the answers that current research has given us regarding that topic.

8. What form of multi-/inter-disciplinary research does Psychology most need in the near future?  What form of research does Psychology need in the far future?

I can only talk about cognitive and social psychology, as these are the areas I have knowledge in. Both areas are actually doing a very good interdisciplinary job.  For instance, many psychologists collaborate with economists and computer scientists to study financial behaviour or how technology is affecting us.

9. If you had infinite funding, full academic freedom, and zero ethical bounds, what would you research? 

I would probably still do what I do, which is studying humans. But I suppose I would have more research assistants so that I could focus more on research instead. Also, not have to spend a lot of time on writing grant proposals would probably make it easier to actually do research.

10. What advice do you have for undergraduate and graduate students? For Psychology students, what do you recommend?

Well, I can only give advice about academia. 1) If you are planning to have a career in academia, make sure that you choose a topic that you love. Academia is a tough world (but fun) where positive feedback comes seldom so what drives you have to be your passion for the topic. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is that you choose topic, or any career for that matter, based on passion and not prestige, money, and power (the last three mentioned comes naturally if you do what you are passionate about). 2) Another advice would be to network, but with those whose work you love and want to learn from. Learning from others has been the most valuable knowledge I have gathered. And start early, solid networks takes time to build. 3. Focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses. We all have weaknesses and focusing on only them will hinder you. Besides, everyone have strengths that others don’t so use that to your advantage.

11. Who most influenced you? Can you recommend any books/articles?

This is so hard because so many people have. But those who have influenced me has been people whom, despite their accomplishments and fame, are so humble and genuine. I once emailed this extremely famous professor that I wanted to meet him. I really didn’t except this person to answer. But I even got a meeting. That inspired me immensely.

12. You co-run a blog called ‘:InDecision:’. Why did you create the blog? How do you run it? Where do you see it going?        

I have always been involved in curriculum activities such as being involved in research societies because I find it so rewarding and important. At the same time, I have always felt that there is a lack of forum for early career researchers, especially in my field, to network. In addition, not everyone have the same opportunities to meet other researchers and exchange ideas. So Elina, the other girl I am running the blog with, decided to create such forum. We knew that there would be interest in such blog (we thought that surely, we are not the only ones in need of such a network).  However, we did not expect it to be as well received as it was. Because of the positive feedback we received, we got more inspired and motivated to take the blog further. We actually spend a great deal of our free time on the blog but we get so much satisfaction by knowing that we are making a change in the research field. It should be added that the blog had not been possible without the help of our contributors.  We have many exciting projects planned and we are getting more and more visibility for every day so I am excited about the future of the blog.

13. Where do you see Psychology going?

I am probably biased but I think psychology is one of the most important fields and should be taught in every programs (that and statistics). Today, everything that in one way or another involves humans draws conclusions from psychology. I would not be surprised if every company or state will have psychologists in their team.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Sally Satel, M.D.: Lecturer, Yale University & Resident Scholar, AEI

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2013/09/04

1. What is your current position?

I am a Resident Scholar at American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Staff Psychiatrist in a Methadone Clinic in Washington, D.C. I am also a lecturer at Yale University School of Medicine.

2. What positions have you held in your academic career?

I was an assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University from 1988 to 1993. From 1993 to 1994, I was a Robert Wood Johnson Policy Fellow with the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee.

3. What have been your major areas of research?

I have written in academic journals on topics in psychiatry and medicine, and have published articles on cultural aspects of medicine and science in numerous magazines and journals. I am author of Drug Treatment: The Case for Coercion (AEI Press, 1999) and P.C., M.D.: How Political Correctness Is Corrupting Medicine (Basic Books, 2001). I am co-author of One Nation under Therapy (St. Martin’s Press, 2005), co-author of The Health Disparity Myth (AEI Press, 2006), editor of When Altruism Isn’t Enough – The Case for Compensating Kidney Donors (AEI Press, 2009) and, most recently, co-author of Brainwashed – The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience (Basic Books, 2013)

4. What is your most recent research?

My new book has focused on the extent to which brain science, and brain imaging in particular, can explain human behavior. For example, what can a “lit” brain region tell us about an individual’s thoughts and feelings?

There is enormous practical importance for the use of fMRIs and brain science. However, non-experts are at risk of being seduced into believing that brain science, and brain imaging in particular, can unlock the secrets of human nature. Media outlets tend to purvey information about studies of the brain in uncritical ways, which foster misimpressions of brain science’s capabilities to reveal the working of the mind.

5. You published a new book called Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience with Dr. Scott O. Lilienfield. What is the core argument of your new co-authored book?

My co-author, psychologist Dr. Scott Lilienfeld, and I talk about “losing the mind in the age of brain science.” We mean that brain-based levels of explanation are regarded as the most authentic and valued way of explaining human behavior. Sometimes this is the proper way to go (when we want to uncover the workings of the brain for clinical purposes or to achieve new insight about the mechanisms of memory, learning, emotion, and so on). Understanding people in the context of their lives — their desires, intentions, attitudes, feelings, and so on — requires that we ask them, not their brains.

To clarify, all subjective experience, from a frisson of excitement to the ache of longing, corresponds to physical events in the brain. Scientists have made great strides in reducing the organizational complexity of the brain from the intact organ to its constituent neurons, the proteins they contain, genes, and so on. Just as one obtains differing perspectives on the layout of a sprawling city while ascending in a skyscraper’s glass elevator, we can gather different insights into human behavior at different levels of analysis.

With this template, we can see how human thought and action unfold at a number of explanatory levels, working upward from the most basic elements. A major point we make in Brainwashed is that problems arise when we ascribe too much importance to the brain-based explanations and not enough to psychological or social ones.

6. You have argued against politically correct medicine. How do you define this form of medicine? How is it detrimental to the discipline? In turn, how does it corrupt Public Policy decision-making?

I refer you to my book P.C., M.D.: How Political Correctness is Corrupting Medicine.

In short, the book exposes ways in which the teaching of medicine and public health, and also its practice, is distorted by political agendas surrounding the issue of victimization – in particular, the notion that poor health of minority populations (e.g., ethnic minorities, severely mentally ill people, women) is due to social oppression. In P.C., M.D. and The Health Disparities Myth (Click for full text), for example, I show that despite insistent claims that racially biased doctors are a cause of poor minority health, there are no data to support this.

Politicized medicine (which is different than PC medicine) can come from both directions: left and the right. For example, pro-life advocates exaggerate the extent to which abortion leads to depression and misrepresent aspects of the stem cell debate.

7. Whom do you consider your biggest influences? Could you recommend any seminal or important books/articles by them?

I greatly admire James Q. Wilson and had the honor to know him through AEI, where he was the Chairman of the Academic Advisory Council. In his 1993 book, The Moral Sense, Wilson was impatient with moral relativism, especially the idea that man was primarily a product of his culture. He argued that a moral sense was part of our basic nature, rooted in evolutionary biology.  However, he took issue with the over-correction to cultural determinism borne by rigid biological explanations of human behavior.

I am a fan of psychologists Steven Pinker (Blank Slate) and Timothy D. Wilson (Strangers to Ourselves).

8. What do you consider the most important point(s) in the cross-section(s) between Health Science and Public Policy?

Disability Reform and Mental Health Treatment are among the most important to me. In the case of Disability Reform, constructive ways exist to use incentives for guiding people back to the workforce or some kind of productivity. Unfortunately the system of disability entitlements, Social Security and veteran’s benefits, do not make good use of incentives to counteract the kind of learned invalidism that comes with chronic dependence upon disability payments. As for Mental Health Treatments, there are enlightened programs in use (though not widespread enough) to ensure that the most ill patients follow treatment recommendations and stay safe while living in the community. These programs entail a kind of civil commitment called ‘Assisted Outpatient Treatment’ and they require some strength of will on the part of policymakers to both enact and then enforce. For an effective example from the New York Times, click title: Program Compelling Outpatient Treatment for Mental Illness is Working

Additionally, organ shortage interests me. Today, 118,000 people await a kidney, liver, lung, or heart. Eighteen of them will die tomorrow because they could not survive the wait for a donated organ. Current law (1984 National Organ Transplant Act) demands that organs are given as “gifts,” an act of selfless generosity. A beautiful sentiment, yes; but for those without a willing loved one to donate or years to wait on an ever-growing list, altruism can be a lethal prescription. (Full disclosure: in 2006, I got a kidney from a friend. If not for her, I would have spent many miserable years on dialysis.)

The only solution is more organs. We need a regulated system in which compensation is provided by a third party (government, a charity, or insurance) to well-informed, healthy donors. Rewards such as contributions to retirement funds, tax breaks, loan repayments, tuition vouchers for children, and so on, would not attract people who might otherwise rush to donate on the promise of a large sum of instant cash in their pockets.

With private buying kept unlawful, available organs would be distributed not to the highest bidder, but to the next needy person according to a transparent algorithm. For organs that come only from deceased donors, such as hearts, or those that are less often given by loved ones, like livers and lungs, a pilot trial of government-paid or charity-financed funerals makes sense.

I went into detail here because I feel passionate about changing the law that makes it a felony for anyone to give something of value to a potential donor.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Diana Sanchez: Associate Professor of Psychology, Rutgers University

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2013/08/28

1. What positions have you held in Academe?

After receiving my PhD in 2005 from the University of Michigan, I accepted a tenure-track position in the Psychology Department at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ.  I have been there ever since. I am currently an Associate Professor of Social Psychology.

2. In brief, how was your youth? How did you come to this point? 

My youth was a bit challenging. My mother died of cancer when I was 17 and my father died of a stroke when I was 21. In some ways, academia saved me because it became my home when there was no home to return to. 

3. When did Psychology interest you?

As an adolescent, I remember wanting to become a supermodel or a psychologist. I quickly became disenchanted with the idea of modeling and the unrealistic body ideals for women in the industry. No doubt my stint in modeling inspired some of my work on the danger of unrealistic body image ideals.

My true passion for psychology began as a teenager. I found myself playing the role of psychologist for my friends and family, which drew me into my present career path.

4. Where did you acquire your education?

After growing up in a small town in Cresskill, NJ, I attended Bard College on the Excellence and Equal Cost Scholarship (essentially a scholarship that allows you to pay state college prices for a private school education if you graduate in the top 10% of your high school class). At the time, Bard College was a very liberal environment full of tree-hugging liberals and high school outcasts. It suited me well. At Bard, I began conducting social psychological research with Dr. Tracie Stewart, which led me to graduate school in a joint social psychology and PhD program at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

5. What kinds of research have you conducted up to the present?

I have two lines of research. The first involves examining how sexism and the social construction of gender influence interpersonal relationship. For example, I have tackled questions such as, “How do gender role prescriptions influence sexual satisfaction?” “What are the interpersonal costs and benefits of confronting sexism” and “When do gender roles restrict men and women’s freedom to be themselves in relationships?” The second line of research involves identifying the impact of biracial identities on race, intergroup relationships, and social categorization processes. This work focuses on how racial ambiguity challenges prejudice and rigid social cognition.   The core question here is “What impact does the growing biracial population have on how we think about race and the relationships between racial groups?”

6. If you currently conduct research, what form does it take?

Currently, I examine the social conditions under which racial ambiguity influences racial attitudes after interpersonal interactions. I have also begun some promising work at the intersections of gender and race to better understand the experience of women of color and the health consequences of combined gender and race-based discrimination.

7. Since you began studying psychology, what do you consider the controversial topics? How do you examine the controversial topics?

Any research that challenges the wisdom of conforming to gender norms could be considered controversial in the eyes of the public because many are resistant to scientific studies that demonstrate costs of what some consider the way men and women should behave. Because my work explores the potential costs of restrictive gender roles, I sometimes receive some resistance.

In the field of psychology, I also find it controversial to study sexuality because many do not consider sexuality research a science worthy of study despite the obvious importance of sex to virtually all aspects of psychology. As a result, not many social psychologists study sexuality but I see too much importance in sexuality research to ignore this importance facet of interpersonal connections.

At first, studying biracial identity was controversial topic because many did not consider biracial identity to be a legitimate identity.  The resistance to biracial identities came from both conservative and liberal circles. In some parts of the country, there was (and continues to be) a strong backlash against interracial marriages and much early research seemed influenced by conservative racial politics. For example in the 1950s, biracial individuals were described as psychologically disturbed and criminally-minded. Even after some of these ideas were discarded, others resisted biracial identities because they felt that biracial individuals could diminish the power of minority political movements by reducing the population counts of minority populations. Others accused biracial people of trying to escape their minority identity and pass as White. So, there was a public sensitivity around biracial identity, which was only recently overcome by the large, outspoken biracial community who demanded that biracial identity be recognized as a real identity. So, studying biracial identity no longer seems controversial though there is still some backlash from racially prejudiced groups who do not approve of racial mixing.

8. How would you describe your early philosophical framework? Did it change? If so, how did it change?

Do what you love and you will live a fulfilling life. This is the philosophy that led me to my career. As for a philosophical framework for my research, I suppose one could say that I adopt a self-determination approach. That is, I think that we have two core motivations that explain a great deal about behavior—the desire to belong and connect with others and the desire to feel autonomous, free, and authentic. I still believe these are cross-culturally important motivations that can help explain social behavior.

9. If you had infinite resources and full academic freedom, what would you research?

If I had infinite resources and full academic freedom, I would utilize more international samples, purchase biomedical equipment to study the interface of the physiological body and the mind, and conduct more longitudinal studies to ascertain long-term psychological consequences. If I had infinite resources that I could use for non-research purposes, I would create programs to improve the diversity of psychology programs at the graduate and faculty levels.

10. What advice do you have for undergraduate and graduate students? For Psychology students, what do you recommend?

If you are passionate about your topic of study, work will not feel like “work”. So, pick ideas that will sustain your passion. For those who strive to join PhD programs, get involved with publishable research early in your career. Moreover, I highly recommend getting closely involved in different areas of psychology because I strongly believe that the most exciting innovations to come will be those that bridge across areas of psychology.

11. Who most influenced you?Can you recommend any books/articles?

There are several mentors who influenced my thinking and advised me along my career path (Tracie L. Stewart, Jennifer Crocker, Margaret Shih, Laurie Rudman, Abigail Stewart, James Jackson). Of course, there were also those scholars whom I have never had a chance to talk to in person but whose work has and continues to inspire me (Alice Eagly, Anne Peplau, Susan Fiske, Claude Steele, Jennifer Richeson, M. Lynne Cooper, Edward Deci, Richard Ryan). And of course, there are the intellectual pioneers of the social psychology of identity, prejudice, and stigma (Henry Tajfel, Gordon Allport, Erving Goffman) whose work laid the foundation for the research that I conduct today. Perhaps, I would recommend that people start with Gordon Allport’s Nature of Prejudice and Goffman’s book on Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity.

12. Where do you see Psychology going?

I can only answer the question of where I would like to see Psychology go. I hope that Psychology continues to bridge with other disciplines so that scientific discovery can reach its full potential. I hope that we continue to explore the links between the mind and the body.  I hope that we become an even more open science so that our work is more widely distributed and we can educate the public. Also, I believe a standard of open science (e.g., data sharing) can also prevent fraudulent science. 

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Hawa Abdi, M.D.: Physician & Human Rights Activist, Hawa Abdi Foundation

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2013/08/17

1. Where did you grow up?  What was youth like for you?  What effect do you feel this had on your career path?

I grew up in the Mogadishu area, where my mother and father lived. Growing up, I saw that in my society people were respecting and loving each other. Parents were educating their children to work hard, respect their elders and also to respect other children. It affected me in that I viewed society as sincere, and I felt that way myself and I was trusting of others. But, in this world today, I have come across many people who are cheating their way through life. However, because of my youth, I always believe that everyone has some good in them. That is why I always want to help even in the most difficult times.

2. Where did you acquire your education?

I studied medicine in the Soviet Union, in Kiev. When I returned to Somalia, I studied law at the University of Mogadishu.

3. Did you have a childhood hero?

My childhood hero was my grandmother, the mother of my mother. She was a wise, calm, strong, and intelligent woman. She was a natural philosopher. When I read the books of renowned philosophers today, I can find the same words that my grandmother used to tell me.

She always advised me to work hard, because after working hard, you can rest. She also said to me, “sitting is empty, but working is plenty.” When I was a young girl, she would wake me up at 4am everyday before the sun was even up. We would together pray, exercise, do chores, and prepare breakfast for the family. She taught me how to farm, how to take care of the animals. By going the extra mile and not limiting your work, you will find joy and good in life.

She also taught me to be forgiving and fair to everyone you meet. If you cheat or inflict harm onto other people, you yourself will become lost in this world. But, if you are fair and honest, you will succeed. I have kept with her words my entire life, and I am happy.

4. What was your original dream?  If it changed, how did it change?  Furthermore, what changed it?

When I was a child, I only wanted to satisfy my parents and make them happy. At that time, life was difficult and it was hard to get enough food for everyone in the family. But even as there were no jobs, it was raining plenty every season. People were farming, animals were eating grass, and in that way people were living. It was hard, but there was more honesty and happiness.

Then, when after my mother died, I had a dream to become a doctor. My mother died from delivery complications, and I was very sad. She was suffering right before me, but I could not do anything to support her. I felt a very deep pain. At that time many children like me also lost their mothers. So I wanted to help future generations and children to avoid the pain I felt. That was when I had the dream to become a doctor.

5. What have been your major areas of work? 

While I work in healthcare, I also do work in education, agriculture, and law. Throughout my life, I have been working to fight poverty and malnutrition in Somalia. This includes doing very simple things like going to fishing and giving the children fish, which is full of protein. I founded a primary school on my land to educate the children. As a lawyer, I can understand what is wrong and what is right, and each person’s obligations in society. Every citizen has rights, and each citizen has to defend their own rights while completing their obligations to the government, society, family and children.

6. What is your most recent work?

Most recently, my Foundation has built a new library and science lab at the Waqaf-Diblawe Primary School with the help of the Global Enrichment Foundation. We have some English children books in the library, which were brought to Somalia when President Bush visited our camp in 1992. We are looking to obtain more books, start reading classes with the students, and build a reading culture in our community. We still need to get more tools for the science lab as well so that the children can learn both from the books and from the hand.

7. If you had unlimited funding and unrestricted freedom, what research/work would you pursue?

If I had unlimited funding and unrestricted freedom, I want to educate the 25,000 students who have grown up in my camp. I believe education is the key to everything. After their education, I want to create jobs for the students.

8. Not many individuals know of the situation in Somalia, and the work you do to improve the conditions there, you founded the Hawa Abdi Foundation.  It has served to help those most needing assistance in Somalia.  For the readers, what is the function of the Foundation?  What kind of work does it do?

The Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation works to give everyone equal rights and justice. During the civil war, times were very difficult and Somalis had to flee from constant violence. They found refuge on my land, where I provided healthcare, education, and food security to all Somalis regardless of gender, religion, clan, political affiliation. I treat everyone equally and I believe that everyone should be able to access their basic rights.

Today, we continue to do the same work in healthcare, education, and agriculture. We have the Dr. Hawa Abdi General Hospital and Training Centre, which is the only place of free healthcare in a 33-km radius. We have the Waqaf-Diblawe Primary School and a Women’s Education Centre to educate women and children. Also, I am cultivating my 400-hectare farmland to strengthen food security in the region.

Even as the war has ended now, there is still a lot of work to do in Somalia to help people rebuild their lives. We continue to receive up to 40 families a day looking for a safe place to live. We need to continue to give them access to basic rights and opportunities for jobs. That is what we do at the Foundation now.

9. Related to the previous question, what is the core message of the the Hawa Abdi Foundation.  What can people in society do to help with your foundation’s work?

The core message of my Foundation is that everyone must have equal rights and justice. The people who have come under my care learn that it is important to be honest and friendly to all people. Whereas people are fighting because of clan divisions outside my camp, when they enter my camp, I tell them they cannot identify by clan. If they do, they cannot stay.

As I am fighting illiteracy, poverty, and disease, I will be happy if people in the society can help me in this. I want to educate and create jobs in fishing, farming, animal rearing, business, and healthcare. Some students of mine are now studying medicine, some are in Sweden, Turkey, Germany, Mogadishu – they all want to become doctors because they admire the profession. About ten of them will finish in the coming six years. This is the kind of future I see in Somalia.

But this takes time, and Somalia right now still needs help and capital to take-off. People in society can help through contributing the human and financial resources needed to train two generations lost to war.

10. You have received numerous awards for your work.  Recently, you earned a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize and won the BET Social Humanitarian Award.  What do nominations and awards like these mean to you?

I am very happy and grateful towards those who have given me these awards. It gives me the strength and self-confidence to continue to work. Sometimes it can get difficult, where it seems like everything and the world is working against me. In the Somali community, it is more difficult for recognition because people are busy, there is war going on and many people are doing destructive work rather than constructive work. That is why I get a lot of awards outside my country. When I receive an award, my spirit becomes alive again, and I can continue to do my job. I am grateful that I am still working and I still have my hope. I thank those people.

11. How would you describe your philosophical frameworks inside and outside of medicine?  How have your philosophical frameworks evolved?

In my life, I always believe in equality, justice, and honesty. If you are honest and committed, you will not lose anything. There are challenges, but that is the will of the God. I find this in the Italian proverb, l’uomo propone ma dio dispone, which says that if God doesn’t allow it to be successful, it will never be.

12. Whom do you consider your biggest influences?  Could you recommend any seminal or important books/articles by them?

Hilary Clinton has always given me the strength to work. When I met her and she said that I am doing the right thing, I felt that someone knows me and understands what I am doing. Socrates also has influenced me. He has said that if you want to know what it is to be a human being, you have to know yourself first. What you need, they need. What you hate, they hate. I believe that human being is one. Their needs are one and the world is one. I suggest that the world work together. If something bad happens in one corner of the world, it will spread to other corners. Things like war, disease, hunger. But if we collaborate, we can try to achieve justice, peace, and happiness. The human being is one and we have to defend each other collectively, regardless of colour and differences.

13. What do you consider the most important point(s) about your life’s work? 

The most important points about my life’s work is to save a human being and care for a human being. Caring for a human being is a difficult task, you have to educate, train, and advise them. While their needs are the same, their characters differ. You have to learn to care and guide them according to their character. Some can be nervous and aggressive, while another may be patient. But even if someone has a bad character, we cannot just discard them. I have found that everyone has something good inside of them. We just need to learn to approach them in different ways.

14. What do you see as the future of the Hawa Abdi Foundation and similar humanitarian organizations aimed at helping people?

I see DHAF will be a place of pride in the future. It is something that is built by Somalis for Somalis, educating and training our people. If we continue to be honest and committed in our work, the Foundation will be like a kingdom to be continued for generations and generations.

There are many other humanitarian organizations, international ones like the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC). They have continued to operate for many years because they are committed. They make immediate decisions, knowing their purpose is to care for the human being, give life and hope. In Somalia, there are many local NGOs but many lack capital to provide for the people. They have to depend on larger and international ones.

I believe that DHAF will become sustainable and generate income from our economic work at our farm. But it will need some help to take off. After more fully developing our agriculture capacity, I believe it will become sustainable.

15. Finally, your most recent book Keeping Hope Alive: One Woman: 90,000 Lives Changed outlines a major theme in your life, perseverance.  How important is perseverance for changing the world for the better?

Perseverance is very important. We have come from the medieval times to many new inventions and advancement in medicines that better the lives of everyone in the world. As mentioned before, the world is one and we cannot separate. In order to change the world for the better, we must first learn to love and respect one another, then we can work towards peace, then finally, unity in the world.

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To support the Hawa Abdi Foundation’s ongoing work you can visit www.dhaf.org/donate/

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License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Zoe Dennison: Head of Psychology, University of the Fraser Valley

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2013/08/03

1. What positions have you held?  What positions do you currently hold?

Currently, I am the head of the psychology department at University of the Fraser Valley (UFV).  For many years, I was the chair of the academic appeals process and also for a few years the manager of the online campus.  In academe, I have been a faculty member, a sessional instructor, a graduate student, and an undergraduate student.

2. How was your youth?  How did you come to this point in your academics? 

That’s a hard question to answer. My ‘youth’ was quite varied, good and bad, often weird and woolly….certainly I had no plan to become a professor!

When I was in high school, I skipped out as much as I could. My parents didn’t think much of the school system, so they were always willing to write me whatever notes were required. In my immediate family, reading and thinking were important but going to school or following the ‘rules’ were not. However, my father always said I should go to university.  His description of what university would be like was quite romantic as it turned out.   Few people in my family went to university or college, so my aunties looked at me with great suspicion when I did finally go.

After high school, I got a job in a bank. All the staff were women, many who had been there for 30 years or more, but all the managers were men (it was the ‘80s).  After I’d worked for a few months, I looked around and thought, “I can’t do this for thirty years, it’ll kill me.”  I quit my job, travelled a bit, and eventually applied to the University of Victoria. Again, no real plan, but I had some friends there and I was too timid to go where I knew nobody. I’d moved many times before that, so when I got to Victoria, I looked around and thought, “Yea, I could stay here for a year.”

I decided to take a Computer Science major. It was quite different then compared to computers today. There were no ‘personal’ computers, we all worked on individual terminals that accessed a very large computer called the ‘mainframe’. We learned programming languages like Pascal, and usually first year students got the midnight shift down in the basement. I lasted about a year and a half.  I used to ask a lot of questions in class, for example, ‘what are the programs for?’, ‘how will people be able to use them’, ‘can we make computers easier to use?’ The instructors and my fellow students came to hate my interruptions and questions, and I felt like the target of the Orwellian ‘2 minute hate’.  Of course, I wasn’t too fond of those folks either, so it seemed like a good idea to move on.

Now I had ruled out banking, waitressing, and computer science. I was taking a number of other courses, so I decided to interview my professors about their professions.  Dr. Frank Spellacy, who taught brain and behaviour, was helpful and interesting (and he and his wife took me to lunch). The study of the brain fascinated me, so I decided to try psychology. I was behind a bit, so I had to take a lot of psychology courses at once (I never did take introductory psychology). I caught up and entered the honours program, mostly because the honours seminar was led one of my favourite professors, Dr. Gordon Hobson. In turn, he found me an excellent advisor, Dr. Otfried Spreen, in clinical neuropsychology. I had no idea how lucky I was.

A few months into my honours, Dr. Hobson asked me, “You’re applying to grad school, right?” “Sure I am”, I replied, and then had to ask around to find out what ‘grad school’ was. I was convinced none of the schools would take me, so I applied to quite a few across Canada. Pretty much all of them accepted me, I got an NSERC scholarship, and decided on UWO, again with no well thought out planning and because of some bad advice!

Frankly, I was just doing what was interesting at the time and taking opportunities as they arose. I was certainly a poor student in my first two years of university, skipping any classes I found boring and spending most of my evenings dancing at blues clubs. I recognize papers written the day before the due date easily, as I wrote many papers that way myself. I have a firsthand appreciation for the possibility that students who are doing badly in classes simply have more interesting things they prefer to do and, most importantly, that it could change. Over the years, I’ve seen more than one student who has done just that, turned things around to find something they love, and watching those students graduate and go on is particularly thrilling to me.

3. How did you gain interest in psychology?  Where did you acquire your education?

My father (influenced by Hemingway and Postman) used to encourage my brother and me to develop a ‘Bullshit Detector’. Psychology is built around exactly that kind of tool, which I realized once I started taking research methods and statistics courses. I felt right at home.

4. What kinds of research have you conducted up to the present?

My main graduate research at UWO was studying learning and plasticity in rats with a model not used much now called ‘kindling’ (it is still used a bit as a model for epilepsy). I also did some research on anti-epileptic drugs that block excitatory amino acid receptors and also on neural grafting.  At Mount Allison University, I worked on studying memory using a water maze.

My animal research ended when I moved back to B.C. to work at the University College of the Fraser Valley in 1993. The focus at UCFV (now UFV) was on teaching, so I had little time to do research.

A few years ago I took a short sabbatical to work on changing first year psychology instruction to increase success in some groups of first year students such as mature students, students from applied areas such as social work, and First Nations students. I used what I learned in developing my own teaching of introductory psychology and in creating a peer tutor program.

My current interests are in the area of the psychology of music, specifically health related outcomes for hand drumming and singing. However, I have not made much progress since I became department head and further work will likely have to wait until I am finished!

5. If you currently conduct research, what form does it take?

Not much right now, being head of psychology uses all my available neurons.

6. Since you began studying psychology, what do you consider the controversial topics?  How do you examine the controversial topics?

What do you mean by controversial?…

7. …Self-Defined controversy in your field…

Psychology is by its nature controversial.

Any subfield of psychology challenges what ‘everybody knows’, from research methods (“Correlation is not causation”) to memory to development to social psychology and so on.

If you learn to think using the tools of psychology, you will be often on the other side of marketing in all its forms, including governments, newspapers, parents, teachers…

There are many classic studies, which we go through in introductory psychology, that illustrate this point over and over.

8. …In hindsight, do they seem controversial?

My guess is that at the time, they knew they were doing something controversial, challenging ‘what everybody knows’.

9. How would you describe your philosophical frameworks inside and outside of Psychology? 

Well, that ‘Bullshit Detector’ has come in handy.

I wouldn’t say I have a specific philosophical framework anymore, but I do believe in personal responsibility and in fair processes.

10. How have your philosophical frameworks evolved?

My parents raised us as Objectivists, which is based on the writing of Ayn Rand.   I sometimes call myself a ‘Recovered Objectivist’.  If you look at the basic principles of reasoning in Objectivism, critical thinking and personal responsibility stand out, and I have retained those. I also retain a preference for minimal government. However, I do also believe in collective actions, like taxes to pay for education and health care, which would have me thrown out of the Objectivist meeting. If they had meetings…

Until I moved to the Fraser Valley, I didn’t realize how significant being raised without religion was to my philosophy and reasoning abilities. Now that I live amongst many folks raised with religious points of view, it is strange to have to declare myself an ‘atheist’, as other places I lived that was the dominant perspective.

11. If you had unlimited funding and unrestricted freedom, what would you enjoy researching?

I don’t want unrestricted freedom to research any question, it’s a nasty idea!  Ethics boards sometimes seem a bit overly restrictive but as acting ethically isn’t intuitive, you need others to look at your ideas and question your methods. Ethics are foundational to psychology research.

12. For students looking for fame, fortune, and/or utility (personal and/or social), what advice do you have for undergraduate and graduate students in Psychology?

Tolerate ambiguity.

13. Whom do you consider your biggest influences?  Could you recommend any seminal or important books/articles by them?

In my early years, I was influenced by Ayn Rand, Isaac Asimov and Oscar Wilde. At grad school, I was influenced by Doreen Kimura.  Her approach to thinking about function and brain structures was exceptionally instructive to me.  She made a number of important observations about the quality of the data and what could be drawn from it given the limitations of the methodology of that time.

Case Vanderwolf was also a greatly influential professor in grad school.  If you asked Case a question about neurophysiology or brain and behaviour, his answer was usually, “Hmmm, I don’t know.”  Then he’d pause, and then tell you all the relevant research that had been done, and how it was done, and he’d demonstrate how you went about thinking about the question, and what kind of questions still needed to be asked. After this, he’d still conclude, “I don’t know”.

I recommend to all my assessment students that they read Paul Meehl’s ‘Why I don’t attend case conferences’It’s fairly old and somewhat acerbic, but it’s a good example that you can be trained in psychology and cognitive biases, but still fail to employ them.  It’s a cautionary tale, useful reading.

I also recommend Janet Shibley Hyde’s ‘The Gender Similarities Hypotheses’ and Deborah Cameron’s ‘The Myth of Mars and Venus’, both are excellent demonstrations of critical thinking.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Athene Donald: Experimental Physicist, University of Cambridge

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2013/06/28

1. What is your current position at the University of Cambridge?

Professor of Experimental Physics. I am also the University’s Gender Equality Champion and a Deputy Vice Chancellor (mainly an honorary title which permits me to confer degrees)

2. Where did you grow up?  What was youth like for you?  What effect do you feel this had on your career path?

I was born in London. Neither of my parents had been to University, although my Grandfather had, and there was always an expectation that I would. I attended a single sex school which, probably unusually for a girls’ school of its day, had an excellent Physics teacher, something I am sure was very significant.

I had an older sister and we all lived with my maternal grandparents. My parents’ marriage broke up when I was 10 so I lived in a household of 4 women and 1 man (my grandfather).  I think the most significant thing was the fact that I was always surrounded by books and with this expectation that if I wanted to go to university that I should. It was just taken for granted, particularly since I did well at school.

I was jumped up a year at school. My birthday is in May and during my secondary schooling (which is normally from 11-18) I was nearly 2 years younger than the oldest child in my year. I am sure this was significant as I didn’t fit in well with my ‘contemporaries’, probably because during adolescent such a big age gap can make a big difference. Probably this encouraged me to keep my head down and work hard, because I wasn’t going to fit in anyhow.

No one in my family were particularly interested in science, nor was it a subject I remember being discussed in a serious way. I did get taken to the Science Museum (in London) but I didn’t really connect that with my lessons at school or with any idea of a future career.

The hobbies I had were ornithology – which perhaps reflects an interest in ‘systematising’ but again, it was just what I did for fun and I didn’t connect it with anything I did at school – and music. There was a lot of music during my growing-up and as a teenager I was very involved both with singing in choirs and playing in orchestras. I played the viola and, since not many children do play this instrument, I had lots of opportunities to play with seriously musical peers. It was a major source of relaxation and also a way for me to socialise with other girls – both older and younger – given the trouble I had with fitting in with my ordinary classmates.

2. Where did you acquire your education?  How did you come to the University of Cambridge?

My mother says I declared at 7 I was going to go to Cambridge University to read maths. This is probably an apocryphal story, but I think somehow I always fixed on the idea of going to Cambridge. It was where my grandfather had been after all (he read Classics there before the 1st World War), so there must have been some sense of connection. I first had Physics lessons when about 13 and seem to have known almost at once that this was what I wanted to study.

Cambridge University back then was overwhelmingly male, as none of the colleges was yet mixed. I am not sure I really thought very hard about that. One had to do a special entrance exam. I was very badly prepared for this as my school had been participating in a pilot course of study in Physics, with only about 7 schools pursuing this exam at A level. So I knew little of what others knew but lots of other stuff, particularly ‘modern’ physics. As well as an entrance exam for Cambridge, the colleges interviewed prospective students. Probably then I came across as much stronger for exactly the same reasons: I knew stuff they weren’t expecting interviewees to know. For whatever reason I was accepted by 2 colleges (there were only 3 that admitted women), and I chose to go to Girton, the college I had always had set my mind on.

3. Was Physics always ‘in the cards’ for you?  Were you mathematically precocious in childhood and adolescence? 

I always was highly competent at maths, but I don’t think I was precocious in the sense that I didn’t pursue it beyond the classroom in any way that I remember. I just got on with it. But physics was just something that clicked with me. I did then start reading around the subject, certainly by the time I was 16 or so, but I had no clear idea of what it might mean as the start of a career. In my day, and in my school, I got no careers advice and I simply didn’t think seriously about life beyond university. All I knew was that I wanted to study physics at university; it just seemed the logical thing to do.

4. Did you have a childhood hero?

No, I don’t think I thought in those terms at all. I had neither heroes nor heroines. Nor did I really think of gender as an issue either. I am sure that was in large part because I just didn’t really know any teenage boys – other than beyond the orchestra I played in and we simply got on with our music. When I met a bunch just before I started at university who asked me what I was going to study, their reaction for the first time told me it was odd for a girl to want to do physics. I don’t think, having been at an all-girls school, that had really crossed my mind before. There was no one to discourage me.

5. What was your original dream?  If it changed, how did it change?

I also didn’t have a dream. I didn’t look ahead. If I thought about the future I just assumed that I would marry, perhaps a few years after college, and have a family. There was no expectation of a career as such. Having a career in academia was just something that happened; I never looked more than a year or two ahead. I was probably well into my 20s before I even started thinking about this. By then I was married (I got married to a mathematician during my PhD – and we’re still married!) and the complications of trying to sort out two lives to the satisfaction of both reared their heads. It is never easy.

6. What have been your major areas of research? 

My field of research has constantly evolved. That is how I like it. I started off studying metals, using electron microscopy to study their internal structure. The technique of electron microscopy has remained a constant during my research career. After my first, and very unsuccessful postdoc in the USA (Cornell University) I switched to apply electron microscopy to plastics. It wasn’t till that point, after 5 years of research, that I really fell in love with it. I had an incredibly productive 2 further years in the USA and then returned to Cambridge. Over the years I have moved from the study of largely synthetic polymers to naturally occurring biopolymers including those relevant to food. I researched the internal structure of starch granules for many years, during that time building up collaborations both with industry and with plant geneticists. Then I moved on to study protein aggregation, a subject relevant both to food and to those studying many neurodegenerative diseases. I have continued to do electron microscopy, developing a technique which allows one to study samples without the dehydration usually necessary; this approach is known as environmental scanning electron microscopy and we did a lot of development work on it, analysing how to interpret images and seeing just how far we could push the technique.  We also applied it to a wide variety of biological samples from bacteria to plants. This move into biological problems was also reflected in a modest research activity in cellular biophysics.

Overall the sorts of physics I do can be summed up as soft matter physics moving into biological physics. When I started working on starch, physicists doing this sort of work were regarded as very unusual. Now it is much more main-stream physics.

7. What is your most recent research?

As I say, I have moved systematically towards biological problems. The work we do on protein aggregation has implications for various neurodegenerative diseases, although I am always very careful to spell out we won’t be curing any diseases ourselves, we simply hope to provide some basic underpinning knowledge. But, as a physicist, I try to look for generalities of behaviour, particularly since we are interested in what happens when biological control is lost. In our case we typically use heat to study the response when proteins are denatured, which of course is totally non-physiological, but in the diseases of old age proteins also lose their native structures due to loss of biological control, so the parallels are fairly close.

8. If you had unlimited funding and unrestricted freedom, what research would you conduct?

I would like to be able to get much closer to biology and work in truly interdisciplinary teams on the subjects of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases.

9. There exist many cases of silence, even denigration, about the lack of women in science, especially young women.  In fact, a case of speculation comes to mind on the part of an ex-President of Harvard – no less, Dr. Larry Summers, about innate average differences between men and women potentially explaining the difference of the sexes’ scientific prominence.  To me, it seems silence on debating these issues exacerbates the problem.  Given your involvement in advocacy for women in science, does silence exacerbate the problem?  What things need doing?  What message backed by data needs more advertising?

In the UK at least I don’t think silence is the issue any longer. I think many leaders appreciate the problems and are actively trying to overcome the under-representation and the lack of voice some women feel. Within UK universities we have a benchmarking scheme, the Athena Swan awards, for STEM departments which are very effective at making universities and individual departments look at both their statistics and practices, and come up with appropriate action plans. Indeed, some funders make such awards a condition. This has really changed the climate. However, there is no doubt there are still pockets of resistance, the unconsciously held views that all of us hold which stereotype people (and not just women in science) in all kinds of ways without stepping back and being objective.

We do need statistics, but we also need to recognize how much social conditioning affects every child from birth. I get fed up with being told that the statistics ‘prove’ girls don’t want to do physics, when we cannot tell much more than that boys and girls are encouraged to do different things as children, are treated differently and cultural messages are different.

10. In line with the previous question, what can people in society, without the influence of the Academy, do to help bring a new generation of women into science?

Avoid stereotyping any individual, boy or girl. Make sure that they appreciate any field is wide open to them. Encourage girls to explore their world – be it putting new washers into taps or climbing trees. Let them be brave and not be put off by being ‘nice’ or pretty. Give them solid aspirations and not just aiming at domestic virtues.

11. As an addendum to the previous two questions, can you describe the Matilda Effect to our readers?

The Matilda effect describes how women’s contributions to research are systematically undervalued and under-described. One specific example would correspond to the role Rosalind Franklin played in the discovery of the double helical structure of DNA, with Jim Watson never giving her contributions the credit they deserved. More generally, women working as part of a team may find that their names aren’t mentioned and their deeds can be attributed to others. Even when women are quite senior and leading teams you find comments being made implying such collaboration is a weakness not a strength, as it would be for a man.

12. How would you describe your philosophical frameworks inside and outside of Experimental Physics?  How have your philosophical frameworks evolved?

I don’t think in these terms! What I do know is that I enjoy constantly exploring new areas, evolving from one area of research to another. A lot of the work I do is interdisciplinary. To succeed at such work one needs to be prepared to put the time into learning the language of someone else’s discipline, at least sufficiently far that you can explore the shared problem together. This can be challenging, but ultimately it is very rewarding. I am not the kind or person who likes to know everything about a small area, I prefer to take a more broad brush approach, look for connections between different areas and forge new connections. This means all the work I’ve done forms a sort of connected web, even though there may appear to be many different threads.

13. For students looking for fame, fortune, and/or utility (personal and/or social), what advice do you have for undergraduate and graduate students in Experimental Physics?

Work out what it is that you enjoy about physics. Is it simply the ability to problem solve, or getting stuck into some experimental technique or another? What motivates you – curiosity, solving some specific problem or contributing to a team effort? There can be so many reasons for pursuing physics and you have to work out what it is that you particularly enjoy. If you are seeking a fortune, then you will probably either want to do something more entrepreneurial or quantitative (eg in the financial sector), but if it is simply that you are curiosity-driven, there are many directions to head in. Physics is often described as a ‘difficult’ subject. If you are struggling it may simply be that your motivation isn’t high enough and you should choose some other path that excites you more.

14. Many assume a need for a genius level-intellect or above-average levels of mathematical facility (even in childhood) to think of a career in science.  How much of this seems true?  How much of this assumption seems like a myth?

You undoubtedly need to be competent at maths, but genius level is an overstatement for many parts of the field. I think it is probably more the case you need to be very logical in how you approach problems, able to think things through by breaking down a tough challenge into its component parts. You also need to be able to think in abstract terms. Physics isn’t just a case of memory work; you need to be able to understand underlying mechanisms and be able to see how to apply the mathematics and models you have learned in one situation to another, perhaps less familiar one.

15. Whom do you consider your biggest influences?  Could you recommend any seminal or important books/articles by them?

Having a teacher at my school who was on top of the subject and able to answer my questions without anxiety was a great start. At university, having a ‘director of studies’ who was very supportive when I was struggling and encouraged me not to give up was also crucial. After I’d moved into research my supervisor at Cornell (Professor Ed Kramer, now of UCSB) and my head of department after I’d returned to Cambridge (Sir Sam Edwards) were also great influences on me, inspirational in the way they tackled their own research. They believed in me, believed I could follow a research career and gave me many opportunities early on that enabled me to lay down a firm foundation for my subsequent research. Finally the Nobel Prize winner Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, who was a friend of Sir Sam’s and whom I met fairly often in Cambridge, also was immensely supportive and inspirational. De Gennes wrote a number of books, of which ‘Scaling Concepts in Polymer Physics’ was probably the most important for me, even though at the time I found it very hard to understand!

16. What do you consider the most important point(s) about your line of research and work?

My research has moved from being fairly traditional for a physicist, working on  conventional synthetic polymers, to working on natural materials such as starch and proteins. Initially some of my colleagues were very critical of me working on such materials, thinking they were far too messily complex to be able to do physics on them. But I persisted, applying standard physical tools and approaches to them. Ultimately I think others understood better that this was perfectly good physics. However, now much of my time is focused on issues around gender and I read a lot of sociology papers. This work is obviously not research-based. Some of it is experiential and it seems that, because I have a successful academic pedigree, people are more willing to listen to what I have to say. There are still many issues for women in science, so I am keen to use my voice to encourage others to think about their local practices and possibly prejudices.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Azra Raza, M.D.: Professor and Director of MDS Center, at Columbia University

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2013/06/18

1. What is your current position?

My position is Professor of Medicine and Director of Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) Center at Columbia University.

2. What positions have you held in your academic career?

I earned the appointment of Full Professor at Rush University in Chicago (Age 39).  Subsequently, the University of Chicago appointed me the Charles Arthur Weaver Professor of Cancer Research. The Department of Medicine created a Division of Myeloid Diseases, where I was first Director. I moved in 2004 to the University of Massachusetts as Director of Hematology and Oncology.  They gave me the Gladys Smith Martin Chair in Oncology. I have been in New York since 2007.  Presently, I direct the MDS Center at Columbia University.

3. Where did you grow up?  How do you think this influenced your career direction?

I grew up in Pakistan.  This greatly influenced my career and life.  Post-graduate work in Science was non-existent. I entered medical school as a tangential way of becoming involved in Molecular Biology. However, once I began seeing patients, I knew that I would never give that up.  This led me to the idea of doing translational research. When I felt ready to graduate medical school, it had become abundantly clear to me, even after those three years of clinical work, that if I stayed back in Pakistan, I would not be practicing translational research, but would have no choice other than to become an activist. The conditions under which an impoverished population faces disease are such that one has few other options. I felt that way. Here, I came to understand my primary duty – sincerity to my passion: Science.  In a way, I took to heart the advice of Polonius to Laertes:

“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

(Shakespeare, HAMLET, Act I, Scene III).

4. Where did you acquire your education?

Pakistan.

5. What was your original dream?

I became obsessed with ants at a very young age, maybe 4 years old. I used to lie for hours and watch them zip in and out of their little holes in long hot summer afternoons in Karachi and imagine their lives. I constructed imaginary homes for them and social lives complete with romance and all. As I grew and read about biology, I obsessed over Darwin and Freud. In fact, I obtained the first position in my pre-medical examination by scoring high during the viva part of the test, when I engaged the external examiners in a heated debate over Darwinian versus Lamarckian theories of evolution and showing why I was a die hard Darwinian at the ripe old age of 16. If I had grown up in the West, I feel confident I would be a scientist, and not a physician, but I had no way of following my dreams there.  Medical School was the only option to study Biology.  So I went to Medical School.

6. What have been your major areas of research?

I have focused extremely on studying the biology and pathology of myeloid malignancies since the start of my career, even before I started my Residency. This happened because I had come to the US soon after graduation from Medical School and had six months before the start of my Fellowship.  I started working at Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RCPI) in Buffalo New York, where I started working with Acute Myeloid Leukemia patients. On completion of my Residency, I returned to RPCI for my Fellowship and stayed on as a faculty member for another 6 years. During this period, I had an experience with a patient who had acute myeloid leukemia (AML) which had evolved from a prior MDS or a pre-leukemia.  This made me interested in MDS. As a Fellow and young Faculty member, I defined the Cell Cycle Kinetics of Myeloid Leukemia cells in vivo in both MDS and AML by developing a novel technique of studying cellular proliferation directly in patients. These studies led to a startling revelation that the low blood counts in MDS patients were not because of bone marrow failure. Rather paradoxically, the marrow was in a hyper-proliferative state. This led to the logical examination of rate of cell death and we were able to resolve the paradox by showing that the majority of hematopoietic cells in the marrow were undergoing a suicidal self-destruction by apoptosis. Further, this cell death appeared mediated by pro-inflammatory cytokines, especially tumor necrosis factor (TNF). Next, we treated MDS patients with the anti-TNF drug thalidomide, which produced complete responses in 20% patients. Thus, over a course of 10 years, we were able to develop biologic insights into the disease that translated into a novel treatment strategy.

7. What is your most recent research?

I remain completely focused on understanding the Etiology and Biology of MDS and now use the latest genomic technology to interrogate the pathology of these diseases. With the enabling technology, this whole field has become extremely productive and exciting. We are using exome sequencing, RNA Sequence and global methylation studies to carefully study large numbers of patients to identify new drug targets in MDS cells, and hopefully develop novel non-toxic therapies for these malignant diseases of the elderly.

8. If you had unlimited funding and unrestricted freedom, what research would you conduct?

My commitment is to therapy driven research.  How can basic molecular research improve the outcome for my patients? I feel strongly that many effective drugs already exist to treat common cancers, but we do not know how to use them intelligently. Instead of tailoring therapy for individual patients, we blindly treat many with the same drug with the result that 20-30% patients respond.  Usually, we do not know the responders.

The goal would be to match the right drug to the right patient.  A goal for which we need detailed cellular signalling and molecular information. Basic concept: it seems that while multiple signalling pathways that start proliferation in normal cells, cancer cells become addicted to a particular pathway. These pathways of addiction differ between patients. It is critical to identify which pathway a particular patient’s cells are addicted to and then devise ways of interrupting it. If I had unrestricted funding, I would start a dedicated program to perform detailed genomic and methylation studies described above on every patient at diagnosis. Hopefully, this would eventually help identify the vital signalling pathways in individual patients. With this information available, the elegant concept of Synthetic Lethality can be applied where drugs or natural compounds are identified that can interrupt the particular pathway to which the cell is addicted and cause it to stop proliferating. So my dream research revolves around individualized targeted translational research. I would like to give one example here. In a recent patient, we identified a mutation that leads to over activity of the b-catenin pathway of proliferation. I was planning to treat the patient with a monoclonal antibody against TGFb, which is in trial at the MDS Center. However, it turns out that one of the checks on the b-catenin pathway is TGFb. In other words, if I had not performed whole exome sequencing on the genome, I would have treated the patient with an agent that would likely have worsened the disease by allowing the b-catenin to run amok with no checks at all. This information alone, which is the direct result of using genomics is probably life saving for the patient. In addition, we found that one possible way of interrupting the b-catenin may come from using small molecules that interrupt this pathway.  Several of them being in trials in humans already, and also that Vitamin A (all trans-retinoic acid or ATRA) could do the same. In short, we saved the patient from getting a potentially harmful agent.  Additionally, we may have found a perfect treatment for individualized therapy, which is a vitamin! This is my dream research if I have all the resources at my disposal.

As a second dream project requiring unlimited resources, I want to describe the Virome or viral make up of every MDS patient. The goal is to identify all endogenous and exogenous viruses that have become part of each patient’s genome and see whether any of these could have the label of causative. After all, cats regularly get MDS.  In their case, the disease is because of the Feline Leukemia Virus. Practically every cat is infected with this virus, but only a handful get MDS.  There must be
other co-factors involved in MDS causation. Defining the Virome would help all of this research.

9. What is your philosophical foundation? How did it change over time?

Humanism dictates the foundation of my philosophy.  However, the practice and ultimate goals have undergone subtle changes over time. In my formative years, I felt more interest in dedicating myself to grander themes. For example, believing that the thinking and work of a few can change the lives of millions (penicillin is a prime example), I became consumed with a desire to find the cause and cure of cancer. Whether I would ultimately achieve it or not, at least I was ready to dedicate my life to the pursuit of this goal. With age, and one hopes, some level of maturity, the issues for me have transformed to more immediate and individual goals. Human conduct is connected by a series of incidents where one act is the result of another. This necessitated a philosophy that requires a dynamic accounting of one’s knowledge, desires, and deeds, and then to harness these in the service of humanity with humility and forbearance. In other words, instead of the grand designs of curing cancer for many, each individual patient has acquired a special place in my life and caring for their every physical, emotional, and psychosocial need has become far more important. This by no means indicates that my obsession to find the cure for cancer has lessened, but it means my focus shifted from many to one, from cancer patients to Mrs. X, Y, or Z. It is similar to Salman Rushdie saying in Midnight’s Children: “To understand one human, one has to swallow the world.”  For me, the road to understanding and treating the disease is through grasping individual variations at the clinical level and caring for each patient as a special case. Of all the philosophical ideologies, humanism remains mine, but with an altered vision over time about how best to conduct myself in a manner that would be faithful to its basic principles.

10. What do you consider the controversial topics in your field? How do you examine the controversial topics? What do some in opposition to you argue?  How do you respond?

In the current atmosphere of cancer research, researchers study the evolution of a cancer cell rather than its etiology. In at least a subset of patients, I have hypothesized for about two decades that MDS may begin as a viral disease. I committed a form of professional suicide by presenting very early work related to this hypothesis at an MDS Foundation meeting held 19 years ago in Prague. They have not invited me back to that meeting in the last two decades. I learnt a tremendous amount from this experience. For one thing, I became more self-critical and stringent in examining our own data. For another, I started collaboration with the top virologists in the country (Drs. Robert Gallo, Don Ganem, and Joe DeRisi). Finally, it made me more committed to finding the proof for my hypothesis.  In that, instead of throwing up my arms in frustration, by persisting in our search for a virus, we are taking full advantage of next generation sequencing to identify non-human elements in the human genome and re-construct viruses from these pieces. The technology has reached a point where we are poised to unravel possible new retroviral sequences from the RNA Sequence data we have generated.  This will still be only half the battle. The important study will be to prove the etiologic relationship of the pathogen to the MDS under study. This is where all the controversy creeps in again because the pathogens are often known organisms and no one is ready to believe they are the agency for causing the malignancy. Remember that to prove that helicobacter pylori was the cause of gastric ulcers, Barry Marshall had to swallow the pathogen and nurse ulcers in his own stomach before anyone would believe him! (Eventually, he got the Nobel Prize). Now we know that this bacterium is the cause of many stomach cancers. So, in my opinion, the etiologic studies remain extremely controversial and many a career has been sacrificed on the altar of virologic basis of malignancy. I nearly lost my career, but have been able to survive – thankfully.  I continue my studies in the area, always trying for that moment:

“Chance will strike a prepared mind”

11. What advice do you have for young MDs?

A life without work is a life without worth, and this work should be done for the good of mankind as well as for one’s own good. Last year, I was fortunate to win the Hope Award for Cancer Research and in my acceptance speech; I gave advice to my 18 year old daughter which I wish to quote for the young MDs:

“At the risk of being a spendthrift of my own celebrity, I want to address my teenage daughter who is a sophomore at Columbia University and like her parents, plans on a career in science and medicine. You might be wondering why I have to use the 3 minutes allotted to me to do so in this room…well, as Nora Ephron once said, “When your children are teenagers, it’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.” Actually, it is for two reasons…first because she is a captive audience and second because of the presence of all of you in this room and what this moment means and how indelibly what I say today may be etched on her brain. Sheherzad, as a result of several decades of experience and observation, I have narrowed down the formula for personal success to three cardinal rules: find your passion, find a mentor and then give it everything you’ve got.  However, there is a different kind of success, one which many in this room epitomize. As living beings, we know that death will come inevitably, but thankfully, we do not know the hour of our death. What goes through the hearts and minds of souls who have received a diagnosis of cancer and hear the footsteps of death approaching closer every day? Theirs are the heroic stories of hardiness, ingenuity and resourcefulness. Some of us have the privilege of witnessing on a daily basis, the remarkable dignity with which they face their ongoing ordeals. You have decided to join the ranks of these privileged caregivers. As a little girl from age 3 to 8 years, you have already witnessed your father go through a losing battle with cancer. When faced with such human suffering, your qualifications, your CV or your degrees do not help. What helps is your heart, your sensitivity to feel the pain of others. On this special day, realize that you are fortunate to be in a room full of such compassionate and deeply committed individuals, realize that you will not need magic or miracles to help your patients but you will need serious scientific research and deep sensitivity to their anguish and suffering. Today, I use the honour bestowed upon me through this award to urge you to pledge that even as you will strive for excellence and follow the three rules to guarantee success in your personal life, you will never forget the dues you owe to the patients you will be caring for very soon.”

12. Whom do you consider your biggest influences? Could you recommend any seminal or important books/articles by them?

As far as my personal life is concerned, I am a reader of classics where the themes are grand, the language is noble, and the message is startlingly fresh for all times. When my husband Harvey Preisler died after a five year long battle with cancer, the way I dealt with the loss was to read (and re-read in most cases) the 100 Great Books of the Western Literary Tradition starting with Euripides and Aeschylus and working my way to Rushdie and Morrison. In this, my biggest influences have been the great authors. I feel deeply moved by poetry.  My favorite poets are Shakespeare, Dante, Milton and Ghalib. I come from an oral tradition and committing poetry to memory was a given for as long as I can remember. Currently, I am memorizing the entire 33rd canto from Dante’s Paradiso during my morning runs. I feel profoundly affected by the thinking of these poets and have translated and interpreted (with my co-author Sara Goodyear) Ghalib’s Urdu poetry for our English speakers in a book, Ghalib: Epistemologies of Elegance. Among the American writers, the books of fiction I admire most are Melville’s Moby Dick and Morrison’s Beloved. Among the Europeans, it would have to be Cervantes’s Don Quixote and Dostoyevsky’s The Brother Karamazov.   Finally, in non-fiction, my two favorite books are both autobiographies called The Confessions written 1000 years apart by Augustine and by Rousseau.

As far as my professional life is concerned, the biggest influence comes from patients.  In particular, I had an encounter starting me on the path to dedicate my life to MDS, when I was barely 30. Here is a short accounting of that episode:

I had just finished my Fellowship in Medical Oncology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York. A beautiful, young 32 years old woman was admitted with a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The story she gave was rather peculiar. She had become pregnant almost two years before this admission with twins. During the pregnancy, she developed a fetish to smell gasoline. Most days of those nine months, she would go to the corner gas station, buy a dime’s worth of gasoline and smell it all day.  At the end of nine months, she delivered a healthy set of twin daughters, but six months later, she was found to have low blood counts.  Over time, a diagnosis of MDS was made. This was probably in some part at least, related to the toxic exposure she had experienced from smelling gasoline. In any case, there was no treatment for MDS at the time, and she only received supportive care with blood transfusions. Six months later, the disease progressed to AML and that is when she came to see us at Roswell Park.

We gave her high dose induction chemotherapy, to which she responded well and after a rather stormy course, entered a complete remission six weeks later. How sweet it was to see her going home with her lovely daughters at the end of this therapy! We then gave her three courses of standard consolidation therapy.  She did well. During these repeated hospitalizations, and interim outpatient clinic visits, we became very close to each other. During each encounter, we talked to our hearts’ content, and JC shared many of her personal anxieties with me.  I learned to appreciate the challenges of a schizophrenic life torn between fighting a potentially lethal illness at the ripe age of 32 while pretending to be a normal mother to 3-year old girls. At times, it felt heart breaking.  At other times, the sheer force of her courage and sublimity of human spirit was brought home with incredibly graphic detail.

Courage takes many forms. There is physical courage, there is moral courage. Then there is still a higher type of courage; the courage to brave pain, to live with it, to never let others know of it and to still find joy in life; to wake up in the morning with an enthusiasm for the day ahead.

After stopping the final round of chemotherapy, JC returned to her normal life.  She got caught with the daily routine of raising 3-year old twin daughters. Unfortunately, after a year and a half of remission, her leukemia relapsed, and this time around, none of our therapeutic approaches seemed to make much of a difference to her resistant leukemia. She developed a fungal infection of the lungs too. We were not able to give her any chemotherapy for fear of making the fungus spread faster. At this time, she made a wish to be admitted to the Hospital for her terminal illness as she did not want her daughters to be frightened unnecessarily. With a heavy heart, I took her in. It was instructive and astonishing to watch her face almost certain death with such unparalleled grace and equanimity. I noticed on my daily rounds was that she would be writing furiously. Finally, I mustered enough courage to ask her one day, “JC, what are you writing?” The answer she gave me changed my life forever. She said, “I am writing letters that I want my twin daughters to open on their birthdays. I have reached their twelfth. Keep me alive till I reach their twenty-first”.

Alas, we could not keep her alive for the few days she had asked for. I went home that day.  I told my husband that I should study MDSs because this stage precedes the development of acute leukemia in a number of patients. Maybe, I could have saved JC, if I had treated her at the MDS stage of her disease. My idea was that the molecular and genetic lesions in frankly leukemic cell are too complicated. Perhaps, it would be better to start studying the biology of these cells at an earlier stage of the disease, say as in JC’s case when it was still MDS. If we follow the course of the disease and study serial samples, it may become possible to identify the sequence of events that convert a normal cell into a leukemic one. Another advantage of studying MDS would be that if we could effectively treat the patient at this earlier stage of the disease, then the patient would never evolve into the potentially lethal acute leukemic phase. Finally, I felt that at the MDS stage, the drugs required for treatment may not be as toxic as those needed for the acute leukemia stage. For all these reasons, back in 1984, I decided to dedicate myself to the study and treatment of MDS along with my continuing research in acute leukemias.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Cory Pedersen: Psychology Instructor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2013/06/10

1. Where did you acquire your education?

At the undergraduate level, at the University of Calgary.  At the graduate level, at the University of British Columbia, from where I earned a Masters and Ph.D. degree in Developmental Psychology.

2. What originally interested you in psychology?  In particular, what interested you about human sexuality?

Well, I acquired my degree from the department of educational psychology and special education. I applied there because I particularly wanted to work with one of the faculty, Dr. Kim Schonert-Reichl.  She was doing research in socio-emotional learning and competence, and how it relates to things like psychopathology and peer relationships.  That’s what I was initially interested in.  In particular, I wanted to study those variables as they related to mental illness and various childhood mental disorders, and I especially wanted to work with Kim.  However, well into my academic career, after many years teaching adolescent development, it came to my attention that textbook coverage of sexual development was lacking in many respects, and outright wrong (I hypothesized), in others.  So I developed my first lab at Kwantlen (tentatively called a “Development Lab”) and conducted two large scale studies on sexual development among adolescents.  From there, I developed an entire human sexuality course and changed the focus of my research to human sexuality.

3. What topics have you researched in your career?

As a graduate student, I was in two different research labs at UBC.  One was the Socioemotional Development Lab run by Kim.  We investigated things like moral reasoning, moral development, peer relationships, bullying, conduct disorder, empathy, and pro-social moral reasoning..  My masters work came out of that lab.  The other lab I worked in was the Self-Regulated Learning Lab, which involved work on the self-regulated learning components of learning disabilities among children and adults. Kids and adults with learning disabilities tend to lack self-regulated learning.  They tend to be unaware of their own learning difficulties.  We developed some self-regulated learning strategies to help them monitor their own cognition, and their own learning styles. I was in that lab, and we did a number of studies in the local schools.

For my Doctoral Dissertation, I looked at children’s conceptions of mental illness, ‘how do children come to understand mental illness in their peers?’  They do see it – unfortunately.  How do they understand its cause, its prognosis, its severity?  How do they perceive these individuals in terms of friendship quality? Whether they would be good friends or bad friends, whether they would like them or not.  And since leaving graduate school, and coming to Kwantlen, I have done several studies; most recently on human sexuality among adolescents and emerging adults. Things like the developmental progression of sexual events in life of adolescents and emerging adults.  What do they do in their developmental progression?  In other words, what they do first, what do they do next, and so on, and whether these series of events predict their level of promiscuity and level of unusual sexual activities.  I also did another study on the predictors – I do a lot of regression research – of infidelity as measured by the big five personality variables.

4. What areas are you currently researching?

I have a couple of things on the go.  Right now in my human sexuality lab we are looking at changes to current trends in exotic dance.  We have two directions in which we are going.  If you look at the popular media, you have lately seen a lot of exotic dance put out there as normative behavior.  A person can take pole dancing classes.  A person can learn how to lap dance, provide a lap dance.  Popular culture is trending towards putting lap dancing and pole dancing out as a good means for aerobic exercise.  Some researchers have coined the term `stripper chic`, which is the new culture of empowerment for exotic dancers.  Given that, we hypothesize that there has been a shift. Traditionally, exotic dance has been stigmatized in the literature.  Much literature has come out of the field of sociology, which results in a tendency towards female liberalism.  Female exotic dancers have been viewed largely as victims.  But we have a different take on that.  While admittedly many exotic dancers have been victimized, we are putting forth the argument that exotic dancing can actually be sexually liberating.  That exotic dancers are earning legitimate capital gain.  They are providing a legitimate service, and with the general trend toward what is called `stripper chic, it may be changing not just societal views, but the views among exotic dancers too.  The view of their own stigma; that their personal identity is viewed more positively.  Also, we are going to look at predictors (regression is my thing!) of things like psychopathology, self-esteem, and standard measures of restrictive or permissive sexuality.  We hypothesize that there will be no difference between the average population – Kwantlen students – and exotic dancers.

The other study that we are looking at is the enmeshment of gender identity with sexual orientation.  There is considerable anecdote, even research, that people confuse sexual orientation with gender identity.  For instance, there is a perception that if someone is gay, this person must not be gender normed; the perception that gay men are feminine and that lesbian women are masculine.  We plan to tease this enmeshment apart by having participants evaluate the degree to which they think a gay person would be suitable for a job description that is exceptionally masculine or feminine.  Of course, we think gay men will be viewed as less competent and that lesbian women will be viewed as more competent in a traditionally masculine job and visa versa.

5. What epistemologies, methodologies, and tools do you use for your research?

Almost all of my research is cross-sectional.  I have not conducted any longitudinal designs, as many trained in developmental psychology do.  Most of my research is quasi-experimental in nature that does not involve any manipulation of variables for the most part, but only to examine variables as they exist in cross-sections of the population.  Two exceptions to this general trend; the study recently done in my lab on the confounding of gender and sexual orientation, and work with my honours student on sexual paraphilia.  These were both experimental designs.

6. With your expertise, what do you consider the most controversial findings in psychology?  What do you consider some of the implications of these findings?

Well, I cannot speak to the whole field, of course.  However, if I were to speak generally I would look back at my introductory psychology classes and cover a broad range of topics.  Generally, I would say, probably, in issues to this day of consciousness.  How to know what consciousness is?  How to measure it?  These are still problematic for psychologists and philosophers.  I would say, in my particular field, some of the big issues are things like causes of sexual orientation, and at a deeper level whether we should be even asking such questions.  Such questions are biased, as we do not ask about the causes of heterosexual orientation.  Being straight is presumed status quo.  I would say, in my field, this area counts as one of the biggest of controversy.

There is also controversy around certain sexual disorders.  In particular, hyper-sexuality and gender identity disorder as disorder.  Both of these are in considerable debate as to whether they should be included or not in the DSM.  I do not believe that either of those should be included, personally, from the research that I have read.  I think they simply represent variations in human sexuality, which is exceptionally varied.  I have difficulty reconciling many sexual disorders in the DSM, because they suggest there is a normative amount of desire; that there is a normative amount and that anything more or less than that is pathological.  I consider human behavior much too varied, especially human sexual behaviour, to say, “Oh, this is the appropriate amount of sex, and any more than this, or less than this, is pathological.”  I have some difficulty with that.

In the developmental field, again there is controversy relating to the DSM, particularly, what constitutes developmental psychopathology?  What is considered appropriate behavior for children?  Determining whether a children’s behavior is pathological hinges on the adult’s perception of the behavior, and so it is the parents or teachers that go to a psychologist or physician and say, “My child is ill.”  The child rarely goes into the doctor and says, “I think there’s something wrong with me.” You don’t see that, right?  There are disorders in the DSM for children that are debatable.  Take for example, a new one that was under consideration, I think it was to be called temper-tantrum reaction disorder or something like that, being proposed for the DSM-5.  It is based on parent’s reports of children having unreasonable and excessive temper tantrums; in other words, more than the norm!  I am not suggesting that there are no mental illnesses among kids.  I simply mean that the DSM has expanded to the point where much “normative” behaviour is designated pathological if the parameters are not exactly right.  I think those are the biggest debates in the field of psychology that are of most interest to me.

7. If you restructure, or at least reframe, the study of sexuality, how would you do it?

Well, that is a tough question.  I think this links somewhat to my earlier comments about pathology.  I am teaching human sexuality now.  The last several chapters are about things wrong in sexuality.  Commercial sex, prostitution, exotic dance are wrong.  Selling sex is wrong.  Then, there are the sections of sexual dysfunction, like hyper-sexuality and hypo-sexuality, and how these are ‘disorder’.  And then next week it is paraphilia; exhibitionism, fetishism, BDSM, etc.  And it is all so structured like, “Wow, look how wacky everyone is…”  Even the chapter on gender identity that I did last week was all about why would people want to transition from male to female? What is with these people? Look how these people are different?  The science is set around pointing out what is presumed to be “normal”.  Some textbooks are grey because they call these topics ‘sexual variations,’ but the implication is the same; that there is something somewhat wrong about it all.  I do not like that.  I do not teach my class that way.  I am very liberal in my class encourage tolerance of these differences.  There is nothing wrong with these differences.  So, I would re-structure our science in how we pathologize everything, make everything seem like it is abnormal.  I do not like that.  While I appreciate that there IS pathology, I often believe much of the stress and stigma associated with pathology comes from the fact that we pathologize!

8. If you had unlimited funding, what would you research?

Unlimited funding? If I had unlimited funding, I would get two different pieces of equipment.  One, I would get a penile plethysmograph, which measures tumescence of the genital organs for males.  Two, I would get a vaginal photoplethysmograph, which is a measure of vasocongestion.  They are both measures of physiological arousal.  In sexuality research, the field is burdened by the social-desirability bias.  People are going to say what they believe other people want to hear.  Take for example the standard question, this is just an example, but take the standard question, “How many sexual partners have you had?”  Men tend to overestimate their number of sexual partners and women tend to underestimate their number of sexual partners.  The truth is somewhere in between.  It is hard to measure things like sexual arousal based on self-report.  And that is all the kind of data that I have been primarily working with; questionnaires, self-reports, survey data.  If I had unlimited funding, I would buy those pieces of equipment and hidden camera equipment to conduct observational research in labs.

If I had unlimited funds, I would also want an fMRI machine.  It would be amazing to see what happens in the brain during orgasm.  Is it diffuse or localized?  I would put technology on my side if I had unlimited funding.  Although I have asked the university for a vaginal photoplethysmograph and a penile plethysmograph, there is so far no such luck in getting this equipment.

9. When you entered academia, you likely had a certain philosophical framework for understanding the world.  How have your philosophical views changed over time to the present?

Well, there is no single salient point, right.  I mean, as a professor, the only thing I want my students to take away from my class is – if you forget everything about theories, facts, and numbers – the most important thing that every student should take away is how to think critically – how to be a critical consumer of information.  That is the most relevant thing in psychology.  The knowledge we have about the brain, its desire to explain cause and to do that via making connections that are probably superfluous, they are not real – and I want students to be critical consumers of information because psychological information is everywhere.  It is in the news, on the radio, on the television.  If you cannot be a critical consumer of information, you are in trouble. Not everyone has a critical thinking style, which is why I consider it extremely important for people to be critical consumers.

10. What advice would you give to undergraduate psychology students aiming for a work, career, and general interest in psychology?

Good grades are important, but they will only get you so far.   If you want a career in psychology, you need more than an undergraduate degree.  That is my advice.  Grades will help you get into graduate school, absolutely.  But, back to my regression models, there are many predictors of success in graduate school.  Grades are only one path – grades will put you into the competitive pool of graduate school.  Yet, you will have more chances of getting into graduate school with strong letters of reference.  Grades will provide your letter writer with something solid to comment on about you.  However, that is where it stops.  My advice for people in psychology is A) apply to graduate school and B) get in good with faculty.  Join a committee. Join their lab.  Participate in research.  Do something in some way to make yourself known to them because that is the only way they will be able to write you a letter of reference that says something besides, “This is a good student in class and they have a good grade point average.”  That is all that most professors could say with only grades to recommend you.  Letters of reference go a long, long way.

11. Who have been the biggest influences on you?  What books or articles characterize their viewpoint well?

God, I do not even know.  This is a tough one.  I do not even know, honestly.  I would put my supervisor Dr. Kim Schonert-Reichl right up there.  She is exceptionally well-published and a fabulous speaker.  And she knows how to conduct research.  She really taught me how to be a researcher and a critical thinker.  I remember once that she told me about a study she was designing.  She had developed a program evaluation for a well-known socioemotional development program called “Roots of Empathy”.  The initial results were promising.  Data suggested that kids exposed to the program had less classroom problem behavior, participated less in bullying, and displayed greater social competence and prosocial behavior.    I remember Kim saying to me one day, “Look, the data indicates that bullying is decreasing and social competence is increasing.  This is fabulous, but so flawed.”  I wasn’t sure what she meant.  She said, “Well, the bullying behaviors are decreasing and the social competencies are increasing, but compared to what?  How do we know whether the behavior of all kids becomes better as the year progresses?”  Now, it seems obvious.  There was no control group!  No baseline!  Kim incorporated a control group into her subsequent evaluations of the program.  It seems so obvious, but you have to be a sharp researcher to be able to recognize that flaw.  That is critical thinking.  That is just one of the many intelligent things that Kim has said since I have known her.  She is just a solid researcher and really knows her stuff.  She is well published and just recently made full professor.  I feel like she has influenced many of my ways of doing and thinking about things.  Even outside of being her student, when I first designed the human sexuality course – and I had not been her student for years, though we speak regularly – I told her about it and she suggested that I include some statement in my course outline about the topics discussed in the course bringing up difficult issues for some people.  She is always thinking ahead.  She said, “You may want to tell people that if they have difficulty with the material than they should be referred to see someone.”  She is very thoughtful.  She is always trying to help me be more thoughtful that way too.  Some of the fundamentals of conducting research with kids she has introduced to me.  Some basic stuff – this is how to treat your participants.  This is how you ensure your participants are going to be willing to participate in your study.  That the participants understand anonymity and confidentiality, and that they understand their contribution and why it is important.  That is what I do with all of my studies now.  That is how I relay the importance of my studies to all of my participants.  I think she has been profoundly impactful on the way I conduct research, as well as how I run my class.  She always made her classes relevant; she always brought the material around, emphasized how should we be studying this particular topic.  Why we should be studying this particular topic.  She took it away from the theoretical and brought it down into the relevant, the practical applications.  And thanks to her, I have always tried to be that way too.  That is my style with my own students.  Even the way I write articles have been influenced by her writing style, the way that I mark papers, the way I make suggestions in comments These are just some examples of someone who has been immensely influential.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Aislinn Hunter, PhD (In-Progress): Instructor of Creative Writing at Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2013/06/05

1. What positions have you held?  What position do you currently hold?

I am currently a faculty member in the Creative Writing department at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, but I tend to teach part-time (in one semester) so that I can write more than four months a year. This has allowed me to take on writer-in-residence positions at other universities (Memorial University in St. John’s Newfoundland, Lancaster University in England, and Macquarie University in Australia) and to do freelance or contract work that interests me. It’s also afforded me time to undertake a PhD. Before coming to Kwantlen I taught creative writing as a sessional instructor at The University of Victoria and before that I worked on a contract-basis as a broadcaster and producer at CBC Radio and as a researcher at the National Film Board of Canada.

2. In brief, how was your youth? How did you come to this point in your academics? 

My family was above middle-class economically but I didn’t grow up in what I’d now call a ‘culturally rich’ environment. (My friend’s parents owned an art gallery and they used to wake their kids up by blaring classical music – I remember feeling completely envious of their arty world.) My mom, who was a nurse, took a few university classes in psychology and sociology when I was growing up and her excitement and what she brought home from those classes helped cultivate my enthusiasm for learning. When I was old enough to express my leanings she enrolled me in dance classes and supported my interest in theatre. I was an inconsistent high school student (A’s in the arts, D’s in maths and sciences) but an amazing day-dreamer. At sixteen I dropped out of high school (where I was miserable) and at seventeen I moved on my own to Dublin, Ireland and got a job in a pub. A few crucial years followed: in them I had the freedom to discover what excited me – for example, I remember being obsessed with the material residue of the past which seemed to be everywhere in Ireland. At twenty-one I was accepted at the University of Victoria as a ‘mature’ student and I fell in love with art history and creative writing. In second year I unexpectedly received a small bursary, the Patti Barker Award for Writing, and it was a life-changing moment – I’d never been recognized for excellence before. I think that award gave me a new way to identify who I was and what I could do. An MFA in Creative Writing followed and then three book publications and then an MSc in Writing and Cultural Politics, and now I’m almost through my PhD in English Literature at Edinburgh. I’ve received a lot of encouragement in the form of academic awards along the way and I’ve worked hard. Still I think any success I’ve had has a lot to do with that old adage: do what you love and the rest will follow.

3. How did you gain interest in Creative Writing?  Where did you acquire your education?

I was involved in theatre until I was 18 or so and had always been a bit of a scribbler, but I didn’t formally arrive at writing until I took an introductory creative writing class at The University of Victoria when I was twenty-one. That year Patrick Lane walked into the classroom, opened a book, read a poem by Gwendolyn MacEwan and made me, in one fell swoop, want to be a poet; made me want to know something the way a poet knows it, and to be able to say that back to others in the same way that MacEwan did. Patrick was around fifty then and a Governor General Award-winning poet with, I believe, a high school education. Still, in one year he taught me more than any other writer or professor about writing and about what it might mean to be a writer in the world. My soon-to-be-husband was like that too: a kind of Renaissance man with no formal post-secondary education, but incredibly, incredibly intelligent. He taught me, mostly by example, how to be a critical thinker. Any success I’ve had in my formal education (an MFA at The University of British Columbia and an MSc at The University of Edinburgh) owes something to these two men and the wonderful mentors inside and outside academia who have followed them.

4. You have written five books.  What form has your creative expression taken over time?

I work in a variety of genres so generally the topic or the material dictates the form – something will generally ‘feel’ like content for a poem or for an essay or fodder for something more involved like a novel. I am obsessed by the past (as both a construct and as a site of historical events) and by how we engage with it (and it with us) and so that is always at the centre of my creative, and I suppose, my academic work.

5. Most recently, you have worked on your PhD at the University of Edinburgh. What is the basis of it?

I’m looking at resonance and beloved objects in Victorian culture, and asking why certain objects appear again and again in Victorian writers’ museum collections. It’s ‘thing theory’ so to speak (I’m asserting that certain ‘things’ are more fit for the task of acting as remembrancers than others) with a narrative through-line in that I am also looking at how, in life-writing and literature, we tend to describe the way an object presences the absent beloved for us. It’s quite a fascinating topic and intersects with some of the themes in my new novel.

6. Since you began in writing, what do you consider the controversial books or poems?  Why do you consider them controversial?

I had to think a lot about this question because I don’t think I’m considered controversial at all (in relation to my work in the Canadian literary landscape). I am quite an earnest writer, a meliorist, and that effects, I suppose, how much I’m willing to discombobulate or challenge the reader. That said I think that there’s a slightly controversial position hovering thematically under a lot of my work (academic and literary) – ideas around how we humans presume too much agency for ourselves when things and events are actively shaping us all the time. I’m also interested in extended mind theory and in how we cognize the world through limiting ontologies (i.e. the depth ontology in Western culture where we forefront the concept of the ‘inner being’). The most deliberately provocative work I’ve done has been in the essay form. I wrote a piece on why writers shouldn’t do reviews for The Quill and Quire (an unpopular position) and a piece on the impossibility of competition amongst poets for Arc Magazine.

7. How do you describe your philosophical understanding of the art of Creative Writing? 

I once said to a second-year creative writing class at The University of Victoria that “to be a writer one needs to procure wisdom, knowledge or wonder.” I said it wanting to be challenged but no one so much as raised an eyebrow or a hand.

8. How has it changed?

Well, given that I sort of believed what I said to that class a decade ago (though I remain open to revision) I’d have to say that my understanding of what is required of a writer or ‘writing’ hasn’t changed: I believe you need something of use to say, or an ability to create a sense of wonder in another, and craft in order to do so in a way that locates and dislocates the reader simultaneously, adds to what they had when they entered into the conversation with your work. But the literary landscape has changed significantly in the last few years, in part because what’s valued drives the market. Information is highly valued now (the kind of ‘information’ that’s arguably different from wisdom or knowledge) as is escapism, and so there’s a commerce in that; digestibility matters too, and that means that what gets written and what sells, what is ‘successful’ changes. I still tend to differentiate between classes of literature which is probably an old-fashioned thing to do in the age of the blog-turned-film-turned-novel.

9. What advice do you have for undergraduate and graduate students in Creative Writing?

Fail, fail better. Take risks. Remember that rejection makes you stronger.

10. Whom do you consider your biggest influences?  Could you recommend any seminal or important books/poems by them?

I think the first time I felt as a reader that I was in the hands of a master writer was reading the Irish writer Dermot Healy. He’s widely considered a writer’s writer because you can marvel at his craft even as you’re set adrift in his narrative or poetic worlds. I especially love A Goat’s Song which is a novel and What The Hammer (poems) but all of his work has taught me something, and he innovates every time when a lot of writers would be content to repeat their successes. Anne Carson, Jan Zwicky and Carolyn Forché (all poets) make me think ‘why bother’ – they’ve already said so much so perfectly – but they also inspire me to keep at it. Alice Munro inspires me on numerous levels. It’s not that I want to write like her but I am in awe of her craft and her tenacity. She makes me aspire to be a better writer, to try to be great at it.

11. What poem has most influenced you?

TS Eliot’s Four Quartets. I don’t actually have an academic’s handling of it, but it sends me off in a new direction with every reading and I think his thinking about time in it is perfectly complex: ‘Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future, / And time future contained in time past…’. It’s directly influenced a lot of my work.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Carla MacLean: Psychology Instructor, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2013/05/14

1. What positions have you held in Academe?  What position do you currently hold?

I am currently a faculty member at Kwantlen Polytechnic Universtiy (KPU). My past positions include typical graduate student work like research and teaching assistantships and also lecturer positions at both the University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University. My position immediately prior to starting at KPU was as a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada post-doctoral research fellow at Simon Fraser University.

2. How did you come to this point in your academics? 

I arrived at this point in my career by serendipity. It would have been convenient if I always knew what I wanted to do and I simply executed my plan – that is not how my career evolved.  Rather, I followed my interests, kept an open mind, and talked with people (all sorts). That process gave me a realistic understanding of what different career paths looked like and it also opened doors for me. My good luck led me to my career as a psychology faculty member.

3. How did you gain interest in psychology?  Where did you acquire your education?

I asked a lot of “whys’ and “hows” growing up and being an inherently social person it was very natural for me to apply that curiosity to people. Although I pursued a number of interests in my undergraduate schooling, at a certain point psychology felt more right than the other subjects I was studying. Once I selected psychology I never looked back.

My university education began at the University of Victoria, then to Saint Mary’s University in Halifax to acquire a MSc. in Industrial/Organizational psychology, and then back to the University of Victoria for my Ph.D. in experimental psychology. My education was not as continuous as my brief description above would suggest. I took opportunities during these years to work, travel and ultimately cultivate experiences and a sense of self outside of the institutions I was studying in.

4. What kinds of research have you conducted up to the present? If you currently conduct research, what form does it take?

I enjoy research. My past and present research merges the areas of forensic and occupational health psychology. Although my interests are diverse, the core of my research pursuits is the understanding of how: (i) people assess one another and (ii) we might reduce bias and/or maintain accuracy in people’s assessments of situations, information, and individuals. I typically pursue these core interests in the applied areas of eyewitness memory and investigator decision making to an adverse event (industrial incident or forensic).

Historically my research on investigator decision making has explored ways to minimize confirmation bias in industrial investigation. People who investigate industrial events are typically foremen, supervisors or health and safety professionals of the organization in which the accident occurred. The contextual knowledge that comes with familiarity with the work environment can result in biased decision making as investigators may seek information that supports their preconceived notions. The eyewitness to an industrial or criminal event is equally as important a member of the investigative dyad as the investigator. Hundreds of studies tell us that eyewitness memory is fragile, malleable, and susceptible to forgetting, even in optimal conditions. I study factors that may lead to inaccurate witness recall post-event and/or factors that can help maintain the quality and quantity of a witness’s information. In collaboration with others, I have researched: the effects of witness fatigue and misinformation, access to memory of a central instance of a repeated event, post-event information on investigator and witness identification evaluations, and psychologically-based incident report forms.

5. Since you began studying psychology, what do you consider the controversial topics? How do you examine the controversial topics?

There are many areas of controversy in psychology but the areas that directly relate to my research are: how we as researchers try to ensure we are drawing reliable and valid findings from our studies, the role of personal responsibility (i.e., human error) in event causation, and the influence of post-event suggestions on memory (my co-contributor to this In-sight issue, Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, is likely a better candidate to tackle the implications of this last topic).

To address the first issue in the above list, because I am aware of the possibility of spurious results I take small steps to try to minimize error in my reporting of results, e.g., replicate when I can, use large sample sizes when possible, show restraint when talking about the implications of my findings. The other controversial area that I mention above is the role of personal responsibility in event causation. People’s views regarding human error can fall on a continuum from “the event was caused by a rogue employee who made an inappropriate decision” all the way to “there is no such thing as human error, all inappropriate worker action is a result of latent failures within the system.” A great deal of time has been spent discussing the most productive viewpoint to enhance safety. This controversy touches my research because the view of human behaviour taken by the investigating officer/organization may have implications regarding how information is sought and interpreted during an investigation, as well as, what the organization will do with the investigative findings.

Last, one area that I do not study but I follow closely is deception detection. This is a fascinating area that has evolved rapidly over the last few years. Researchers are pursuing different features of deception such as emotion and cognitive load to try and generate effective tools to enhance detection e.g., asking for the narrative in reverse order, asking about unanticipated features of the event, the strategic use of evidence or the emotion based microexpression research. This is a fun area of study that is always interesting to read about.

6. If you had unlimited funding and unrestricted freedom, what would you enjoy researching?

Well if there was really no constraints (and we could ensure no consequences for the people participating) I would move my research into a more externally valid framework. That is, I would expose people to high stakes situations and manipulate their physiological and psychological state to see how these factors affect their recall and decision making. It is hard to find research done in high resolution environments but a fairly recent collaboration of note is Loftus’s and Morgan III who used military recruits in survival school as their participants.

7. For students looking for fame, fortune, and/or utility (personal and/or social), what advice do you have for undergraduate and graduate students in Psychology?

I am hesitant to answer this question as I have neither fame nor fortune and my utility is likely up for debate (just kidding). My personal experience has taught me a few general principles that worked well for me: first, do your homework so you have a good understanding of the scope of what it is you are considering, second, talk with people and find out the pros and cons of any given situation/position, third, be open to feedback – it is rarely intended to insult rather it is usually offered as a means to help you grow, and last, get hands on experience when you can. If you have a career in mind, talk to people who hire for that job and find out exactly what they require as this will enable you to target your education and experiences more effectively.

8. Whom do you consider your biggest influences? Could you recommend any seminal or important books/articles by them?

The people who influenced me the most were the people I worked directly with during my graduate training, Dr.’s Elizabeth Brimacombe, Stephen Lindsay, Don Read, and Veronica Stinson. Each one of these academics modeled a unique approach to study, research, and networking and from each relationship I took valuable lessons. On a purely scholarly note I would say that the most influential author for me over the years has been Daniel Kahneman. His work encouraged me to think in depth about how we synthesize information and this ultimately helped me script my dissertation research. I hear Kahneman’s recent book, “Thinking Fast and Slow,” is very enjoyable and accessible reading (which I look forward to getting to when my busy first year of teaching is behind me!). The other authors I watch with interest tend to be more applied researchers, to name just a few, Elizabeth Loftus, Saul Kassin, Christian Meissner, Dan Ariely, Itiel Dror, Garry Wells, and Aldert Vrij.

9. You may consider many areas of Psychology important for academics and non-academics.  Even so, whether one or many points, what do you consider the most important point(s) of Psychology as a discipline?

Humans are a marvel – we habituate but then adapt with lightning speed.  We are frugal with our allocation of resources yet act with close to optimal performance with little (or no) executive effort. In psychology we recognize that the complex nature of people cannot be studied using only one perspective, we use a biopsychosocial approach and this is our strength. This multifaceted approach not only broadens our understanding of human behaviour from within psychology but facilitates collaboration with researchers from other disciplines (e.g., medicine, cultural anthropology). Being open to fresh perspectives and approaches may ultimately provide us with new and exciting understandings into human behaviour.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Elizabeth Loftus: Distinguished Professor of Social Ecology, and Professor of Law, and Cognitive Science at the University of California, Irvine

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2013/04/22

1. What is your current position at the University of California, Irvine?

My title is Distinguished Professor.  My main appointments are in a couple departments.  One is Psychology and Social Behaviour.  Another is Criminology, Law, and Society.  Then, I am also Professor of Law.

2. Where did you grow up?  What was youth like for you?  What effect do you feel this had on your career path?

I grew up in Los Angeles, not very far from UCLA.

I would say it was peppered with tragedies.  My mother drowned when I was 14 and my brothers were 12 and 9.  A few years later, our house burned down, and we had to live somewhere else while it was being rebuilt.  Through all of this, I managed to keep studying and got into college.

Well, I feel a little like it contributed to my workaholic ways.  You know, just keep working, working, working, and feeling a sense of accomplishment.  Then, distract yourself from painful thoughts.  Since I do not do psychotherapy that is just an armchair self-analysis.

3. Where did you acquire your education?

I went to college at UCLA.  UCLA was close by to where I lived.  UCLA was probably not the greatest idea since I lived about a half-mile away, and I ended up living at home.  I graduated from UCLA and then ended up going to Stanford for Graduate School.  I got my PhD in Psychology from Stanford.

4. What was your original dream?

At some point because I had a double major in mathematics and psychology, I thought I might teach mathematics.  Something like high school or junior high, but that is not what I ended up doing.  I don’t know if I had a dream.  I just kept on with school, until I had a PhD and became an assistant professor.

5. How did you gain an interest in Mathematical Psychology?In Chapter 3 of Do Justice and Let the Sky Fall, Dr. Geoffrey Loftus recounts your hemming skirts and keeping familial correspondence up to date during your Graduate School training at Stanford.  When did you realize Experimental Psychology was the new dream for you?

I did that because I was bored with mathematical psychology.  I later happily discovered memory, ha!  It’s what ultimately I would get a little more passionate about.  I ended up going to Graduate School in mathematical psychology because I thought that combining my two majors in what would be a perfect field.  I was not in the end taken by it.  I did other things while listening to, in one ear, the talks, or presentations that were being made.

6. You have published 22 books and over 500 articles.  You continue to publish new research on an ongoing basis.  What have been your major areas of research?

Well, most generally it is human memory.  More specifically, I studied eyewitness testimony for a long time.  I studied people’s memory for crime and accidents, and other complex events that tend to be legally relevant.  Even within that area, I studied how memories can change as a result of new information that we are exposed to.  I did hundreds of experiments studying everything you would want to know about memory distortion in that kind of context.  In the 1990s, when I started to get interested in what would be called ‘The Memory Wars,’ the debate about psychotherapy and whether some subset of psychotherapists were using highly suggestive procedures that were getting patients to create entirely false memories.  I, with my collaborators and students, established a paradigm for studying the development of what we would later call, in a paper with Bernstein, Rich False Memories.  Not just changing a detail here and there in memory, but actually applying people with suggestions so that they would develop these complete false memories.

7. Your research did not have immediate acceptance among professionals.  In fact, it attracted much anger, which spilt over to you.  In particular, what research set the controversy?  What became the controversy?  How did this come to a resolution?

I would take us back to around 1990, when I was confronted with an opportunity to consult on my very first repressed memory case.  A case where someone was claiming repressed memory.  It was a murder case where a man named George Franklin was being prosecuted for murdering a little girl twenty years earlier.  The only evidence against him was the claim of his adult daughter that she had witnessed the murder when she was 8 years old and had repressed the memory for 20 years, and now the memory was back.  It was in the context of that case that I began to scour the literature of what was the evidence for this kind of repression.  She was claiming that she had repressed her memory of the murder.  That she had repressed her memory for years of sexual abuse that the father had supposedly perpetrated on her.   I could really find no credible scientific support for the idea that memory works this way.  That you could take years of brutalization, banish it into the unconscious, and be completely unaware of it by some process that is beyond ordinary forgetting – and that you could remember these experiences completely accurately later on.  And so I began to ask, “Well, if these memories aren’t real, (If there is no credible support for the idea that memory works this way) where could these memories have come from?”  I began to dig through literature, and examples, ultimately court cases, and would discover that some of these memories were being created by highly suggestive psychotherapy procedures.  When I began to speak out about this issue, then people began to get mad, and for those who got mad, this was something for whom repression was one of their treasured beliefs.  The repressed memory therapists and the patients they influenced.

Early in my interest in memory distortion, I was thinking about legal cases.  In fact, my earliest experiments were designed to map onto what happens when a witness sees an accident or a crime, and then is later exposed to some newer information about that experience, e.g. talks to other witnesses, is questioned in a leading or suggestive fashion, or sees media coverage about an event, my research modeled after that real-world situation.

Some things have happened in the law.  In the eyewitness cases, because of many, many psychologists’ work, some jurisdictions have revised the way they handle eyewitness evidence in a case.  Some courts have suggested that, and recognized the scientific work by devising new legal standards for handling eyewitness evidence.  That’s been a change, and a fairly recent change.  And then in the repressed memory cases, I think some jurisdictions have recognized now that this whole claim of massive repression is highly controversial at best.  Some courts have ruled that it is too controversial for the cases to go forward.  You know, one day we may prove that repression exists.  It has not been proven.  It is my opinion that we should not be throwing people in prison based on an unproven theory.

8. Subsequently, you took the role of expert witness in a number of important, controversial, and intriguing court cases.  What are some of the court cases?  Can you describe some of the more memorable moments with individuals involved in them?

Many of these cases involve people no one has ever heard of, of course, I have worked, and consulted, on some famous cases involving people like Michael Jackson, Martha Stewart, and Scooter Libby – a politician in the United States.  I think some of the more memorable ones are people looked at accused of crimes convicted based on somebody’s memory when these people are either definitely innocent or probably innocent.

I think a memorable one was a man named Steve Titus, who was charged with rape based on the testimony of an eyewitness who somehow in the course of being interviewed went from not being particularly certain to being completely certain it was Steve.  Steve Titus was convicted.  Ultimately, he was able to get a journalist to show that another man committed these crimes.  So Titus was freed, but he was very, very bitter.  He had lost his job.  He lost his fiancé.  He lost his reputation.  He lost his savings.  He filed a lawsuit against the police and just as that case was about to go to trial, he woke up one morning and doubled over in pain and died of a stress related heart attack at 35.  That is one of the saddest cases I have ever encountered.

If you want to write about one up in Canada, you might write about the teacher Michael Kliman, who, based on claims of repressed memory, had to go through three trials up in Vancouver before he was freed.  I would bet my house the man is innocent.

9. What is your most recent research?

I started a line of work with Dan Bernstein and a couple of Graduate Students.  We were looking at the repercussions of having a false memory.  If I plant a false memory in your mind, does it have consequences?  Does it affect your later thoughts, or intentions, or behaviours?

We started by trying to convince people they had gotten sick as children by eating certain foods. We succeeded in persuading people that they got sick eating hard-boiled eggs and dill pickles, and we did it with a fattening food, namely strawberry ice cream.  Then, we showed that it could effect, not only what people thought they wanted to eat when they went to a party, but what they actually ate when you put food in front of them.  Bernstein has gone on with some other collaborators to do further experiments on how it effects eating behavior.  Most recently we have published a paper with collaborators showing these kind of suggestive manipulations work not just with food, but also can work with alcohol.  We can plant false memories that you got sick drinking vodka and you don’t want to drink vodka as much.

That’s one line of continuing work.

For instance, in Asparagus: A Love Story, we described a study that showed that you could plant not only a getting sick memory that people then want to avoid.  You could also plant a warm, fuzzy memory for a healthy food, and then people want to eat it more.

10. If you had unlimited funding and unrestricted freedom, what research would you conduct?

I am not sure if I want to conduct it, but with unlimited funding and no worry about ethics, ha!  You could maybe do the kind of experiment to explore whether massive repression really occurs or it doesn’t.  Where you could be able to expose people to prolonged brutalization, and really get a chance to study them thoroughly, but ethical concerns would prohibit that kind of study.

11. Currently, you are on the executive council for the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal – or CSI for short.  What role do you play on the executive council?  What is the core message of CSI?

I am a fellow of the CSI.  Periodically, I give talks at various conferences that the organization holds or I might write something for the Skeptical Inquirer.  But I am so busy with so many organizations that I don’t play a large role in the executive council.  I mean, other people may have been providing more input to what to bring to the conferences or activities that the organization might engage in, but I am on so many committees and boards that I am spread a little too thin to spend too much time at one.

It’s an organization of people that are pro-science, against pseudo-science and flimflam.  Trying to expose efforts to manipulate people into believing or thinking things that might be dangerous, harmful, or untrue.

12. Since you began studying psychology, what do you consider the controversial topics in Psychology? How do you examine the controversial topics in Psychology?

That is a big question, and I do not get into all of them.  I’ve got my own little area in memory and memory distortion.  I know a lot about the science of memory and lay beliefs about memory.  I sort of tend to focus my efforts there.  There are many controversial areas that one could look at, but you are going to have to find a different expert to talk about some of the other ones.  A related one to the one I care about is using facilitated communication with autistic kids.  There is controversy about vaccinations.  I don’t think it is particularly controversial.  There is controversy about the human contribution to climate change.  I don’t think there is much of a controversy.  You can find a few people out of the mainstream.

13. How would you describe your philosophical frameworks inside and outside of Psychology? How have your philosophical frameworks evolved?

I would say one of the things, and this is one of the great things about training in psychology, even if you do not go on to teach psychology or even to be a psychologist in your professional life.  It teaches you a way of thinking.  It teaches you to be thinking about, “What is the evidence for any claim that somebody might try to fob off on you?”  We know not just how to ask, what is the evidence?  But really, what exactly is the evidence?  What kind of study was done?  Was it an experimental study?  Where you and say something about causation.  It is it just correlational?  Was there a control group?  How well was it done?  Is the sample size sufficient?  What were the statistical results?  We know how to think about evidence.  That is one of the gifts that experimental psychology, the study of psychology, research methods in psychology, has given to people who have taken the time to expose themselves to it.

14. For students looking for fame, fortune, and/or utility (personal and/or social), what advice do you have for undergraduate and graduate students in Psychology?

It certainly helps if you can find some research to get involved in.  As an undergraduate or graduate student, find some interesting research to get involved in.  If you can feel a little passion about it, it can keep your motivation up to keep working hard.  I think it is very helpful for students to try to work with faculty members, where you are working on something the faculty member is interested in, and hopefully with a faculty member is generous about publications with students. Having scientific research under your belt can open doors for you.  It can get you into Graduate School.  It opens doors to jobs. It can open doors to advancement in your field.   Anything that you can do to beef up that aspect of your experience is bound to be helpful.

Once you get that under your belt, you might want to get something in a magazine or a journal.

15. You have earned numerous awards, but the AAAS award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility seems most relevant to me.  In your acceptance speech you state, “We live in perilous times for science…and in order for scientists to preserve their freedoms they have a responsibility…to bring our science to the public arena and to speak out as forcefully as we can against even the most cherished beliefs that reflect unsubstantiated myths.”  I quote this in an interview with Dr. Daniel Bernstein and ask, “How important do you see criticizing ‘unsubstantiated myths’ in ‘perilous times’ for Science?”  He says, “I think that this is excellent advice. Science has a responsibility to “give back” to the communities and cultures that invest in it. Scientists can and should correct myths whenever the opportunity arises.”  Can you expand on this idea of scientific responsibility to society?

You know, I think he put it beautifully.  Not everyone has to do everything, I think collectively we can all contribute to giving back to the society that supported the scientific work.  Some people are going to be good at getting the experiments done and published in journals, and they’re uncomfortable speaking to the press or speaking in the context of legal cases.  Other people are comfortable doing that.  Some people are not comfortable writing for lay audiences.  They only want to write for concise scientific journals.  Collectively, I think there is something of a responsibility in an ideal world for people to want to give back.

16. Whom do you consider your biggest influences? Could you recommend any seminal or important books/articles by them?

Back in Graduate School, I had a professor that I did some research with on semantic memory that really taught me how to be an experimental psychologist.  To be able to design a study with him, conduct and gather the data, analyze the data, and write up a publication.  That was a great benefit for me.  That collaboration was with a social psychologist named Jonathan Freedman.  That was an important influence in terms of turning me into an independent experimental psychologist.  I would say, in terms of people that I have never met whose work has probably set the stage for the tradition in which I work, Bartlett from England who was famous for his work on reconstructive memory.  I see my work in the tradition of reconstructive memory.  He was an important forefather.

If people want to read about memory distortion, I think they may want to read something more recent.  I have a book by Brainerd and Reyna.  It is rather advanced, but it is called The Science of False Memory.  It is sort of everything you would ever want to know about false memories up to 2005 or whenever that book was published.    For your readers, if they wanted something easy and fun for reading, I would recommend The Memory Doctor in Slate.com written by Will Saletan.  That will give you a small slice of memory research.  If you want more, you could probably read The Science of False Memory.

17. What do you consider the most important point(s) of Psychology as a discipline?  In particular, what do you consider the most important point about cognitive psychology?

I do not think I want to go there.  (Laughs)  There are just too many.  I have just been focused on the study of memory.  I think the study memory distortion is an important area because of its practical and theoretical implications.  I think some recent work in a completely different area has to do with learning and memory, in a classroom or an educational setting.  The work that shows that if you test people, they learn better than if you just ask them to study again.  All these findings on testing effects are interesting and we will see more work in that area.

This of course has many people interested in memory and neuroscience, and brain imaging.  It is not something I do, unless I am collaborating with someone who does, but we will see where that will lead.  It is certainly the subject of a lot of current research.

18. Three years ago, I informally asked Dr. Anthony Greenwald, “Where do you see Psychology going?”  He said the frontier lies in cognitive psychology and neuroscience.  However, a first generation of researchers, like the first round of soldiers marching out of the trenches, will fall – making all the necessary mistakes.  After that point, the next generation of researchers will have learned from those mistakes to make deep progress.  In the same stream of thought three years later, “Where do you see Psychology going?”

That is interesting because he has been quite successful with the implicit association test and all kinds of ramifications in uses of it, but he does not seem to be going in a neuroscience direction.  However, he is a smart guy, whose speculation I would invest in.

People are enamored with this neuroimaging stuff.  I do see a lot more research.  I was about to say progress, but I do not know yet.  The neuroscience of cognitive psychology, there has been a lot of discussion in our interdisciplinary teams, people seem to be enamored with the idea that if you bring together people from all different types of perspectives and fields, then you can come together to tackle problems.  Will we see more of that – more funding of those type of enterprises?  More research, more publications, involving these large interdisciplinary teams.  It is a speculation, but it is an educated one given how enamored people seem to be of this notion.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Louise Meilleur: Graduate Student, Ohio State University

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2013/02/08

1.      How did you gain interest in psychology? To date, where have you acquired education?

I was first interested in Psychology in high school, but I knew that I wasn’t interested in counselling as a profession and, like many, I didn’t really realize that Psychology involved much more than counselling.  In 2004, I looked for a career change. I decided to attend an information session on the Bachelor of Applied Arts in Psychology and the whole world of applied and experimental psychology was opened up to me.  I could see how I could pursue Psychology, but also leverage my experience working with technology.  Before that, I felt held back by the idea of “starting from scratch”, but when I realized that I could build off of my past experiences, rather than leave them behind altogether, returning to school to pursue a BA didn’t seem quite so over whelming.

I received my Associate of Arts and my Bachelor of Applied Arts (Hons) from Kwantlen Polytechnic University.  I am currently working towards a PhD at Ohio State University.  I will receive my MA in Psychology in December 2012.  I’m also working on a Master’s of Public Health in Health Behavior and Health Promotion which I’ll receive in May of 2013.  If things continue as planned, I should be finished my PhD in May of 2015.

While I was still working I also completed a couple of programs that helped to further my telecommunications career. I received a certificate in Telecommunications Management from Vancouver Community College and a Data Network Administration certificate from Langara College.

2.      What did you pursue prior to your interest in Psychology?

I spent 12 years working in telecommunications.  I started in a Call Center, providing bilingual (French/English) customer service for long distance customers.  From there, I started night school to move ahead and ended in management positions at companies like Bell Canada, Telus, and Best Buy Canada.

3.      What kind of research did you pursue as an undergraduate student?

I worked in Dr. Bernstein’s Lab for two and a half years studying various aspects of social cognition.  The B.A.A. at Kwantlen allows you to experience a lot of hands-on research.  I was able to pursue projects in many different domains, which helped to refine my interest and led to my honours project – studying the effects of perceptual fluency on risk perceptions.  More broadly, I became interested in how our judgments and decisions, and subsequently our behavior, are influenced not just by pertinent information, but erroneous sources that “rationally” should not affect our behavior.

4.      What have you specialized in at Ohio State University?  What do you currently research as a graduate student?

Officially, my specialty is Quantitative Psychology but my focus is in Judgment and Decision Making, which is grouped together with Quantitative Psychology at Ohio State University.  What that means is that my required coursework is mostly in stats, while I pursue my own interests/research.  I’m in the CAIDe (Cognitive and Affective Influences on Decision making) working with Ellen Peters.  My main interest is in Medical Decision Making and I have been studying how we can manipulate attention to improve health decisions.  One of the ways to measure attention is through eye movements.  Therefore, much of my data is collected using eye tracking equipment.

5.      Since you began studying psychology, what controversial topics seem pertinent to you?  How do you examine the controversial topic?

To be honest, I am not terribly concerned with controversial topics.  I am much more interested in the application of psychology to improve people’s lives.  For example, how can we change the way that information is presented so that it actually changes behavior?  In my area of research, the biggest controversy that I perceive is the ability to use what we learn to impact people’s behavior, specifically their health related behaviors.  The question is, “where do you draw the line between libertarianism (free choice) and paternalism (influencing people to do what you think is best)?”  We want to construct an environment that leads to people making the best choice, but who decides what is the best option?  As a scientist, my interest is predominantly in how I can affect behavior, but I also need to consider the ethics of using my knowledge in a way that might impede free choice, as well as consider any unintended consequences of any intervention I might construct.

6.      How would you describe your philosophical framework for understanding psychology?

In general, I am a pragmatist.  I am open to using any reliable methodology that allows me to answer the questions I want to ask.  I ask questions with a pragmatic nature.  In that, they have a clear application with the intention to improve or “fix” a real life problem.

7.      If you had sufficient funding for any topic of research, what would you like to research?

I am in the enviable position to have the necessary resources available to conduct the research most interesting to me at this time.  Later on in my career, I hope to apply my training in psychology and public health to conduct research in order to develop public policies and programs that can successfully improve people’s health.  We focus so much of our attention on disease, but the major causes of death and disease are due to health related behaviors (e.g., tobacco use, over eating).  I would like to continue to research ways to help people improve their negative and positive health behaviors.

8.      What advice do you have for undergraduate students intending to pursue graduate-level studies and research?

The most important thing is start early.  Get involved in as much research as possible, go to as many conferences, and if possible present.  Start studying for the GRE early; it took me at least 100 hours of preparation.  There are dozens of reference books that will tell you what you need to do to get into grad school.  Read them because they are mostly correct.  The thing that cannot be stressed enough is the importance of selecting an advisor.  This is true in undergrad for your honours thesis, but it is critical for graduate school.  In a sense, I was lucky when applying to graduate schools; I did not have a clear understanding which schools were good, bad, or average – particularly the American schools.  Specifically, I focused on finding people I was interested in working with rather than schools I wanted to go to.  I contacted all of the people I wanted to work with via email, phone, and in person where possible.  When it comes to the selection process, as much as they are interviewing you, you need to interview them to make sure you can work with them for the next five plus years.  Regardless of how great a program, student, or advisor is, if the fit is not right, everyone loses.  Even at Ohio State, where the competition to get in is fierce and the faculty are amazing, I have peers who are stagnating, partially due to mismatch with their advisor and, as a result, a number of them have left the program.  I am lucky in that my advisor and I have very similar interests and we work well together. It has made all the difference in my research productivity.

One final note, if you do choose to go to grad school you need to prepare yourself for a big change in perspective.  Overnight you go from being one of the top students to being decidedly average, and if you don’t feel stupid on a regular basis, you’re probably doing something wrong and aren’t being challenged sufficiently. It gets better, but there will always be someone who is smarter, progressing faster and publishing more than you. You’ll need to make sure you don’t compare yourself to others and focus on challenging yourself based on your own goals (and those of your advisor).

9.      What individuals have influenced your thinking the most?

Except for the obvious choices of my advisors, I think I am too green to name someone who has influenced my thinking most with respect to psychology.  I will have to get back to you on that.  I will say that I have been enormously influenced by various mentors and teachers throughout my life.  When I think of the trajectory my life has taken, and try to pinpoint a single thing that has enabled me to pursue my goals, what is most salient to me is the impact that my second grade learning assistance teacher had while helping me to improve my reading skills.  I

was told, in no uncertain terms, that I was not allowed to use the phrase “I can’t” ever again, followed by frequent reinforcement over the span of a year.  Looking back through the lens of my psychology training, I am certain that banning “I can’t” at such an early age had a much greater effect than simply changing my vocabulary. Asking the question “how do I,” rather than immediately saying “I can’t,” led to small successes that grew over time and helped me to develop a strong sense of personal agency, that has impacted every aspect of my life including how I approach my education and research.

10.  If you have any books to recommend for people, what would you recommend as seminal/influential/required reading?

For a general overview of judgment and decision-making, the Blackwell handbook is quite good.  It is a collection of chapters written by leading experts in various topics within judgment and decision-making.

The Blackwell Handbook of Judgment and Decision Making.  Eds Derek Koehler & Nigel Harvey, 2007

Heuristics and Biases is another collection of papers by various researchers, but it focuses on intuitive judgments, which is to particular interest to me.

Heuristics and Biases, The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment. Eds Gilovich, Griffin & Kahneman, 2002

A couple of more commercial books that deal with intuitive decision making that I really enjoyed:

Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking.  Malcolm Gladwell 2007

Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness.  Thayler & Sunstein 2009

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Kevin Hamilton: Instructor, Psychology, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2012/12/09

What positions have you held with Kwantlen? What work have you performed here?

I have been a faculty member with Kwantlen’s department of Psychology for approximately 15 years, teaching and conducting applied research in an area known as Human Factor’s Psychology. During that time I have been involved in a number of department and institutional initiatives.

A little over 10 years ago I headed a committee responsible for developing the first applied academic degree, namely the Bachelor of Applied Arts in Psychology (BAA).  This degree focused on workplace psychology, community service, research methods, and data analysis.  The BAA was designed to provide employability skills including those necessary for further graduate training.  Later I headed a committee that initiated Kwantlen’s Office of Research and Scholarship and our current Institutional Research Ethics Board (IRB).  From 2008 to 2011, I served as Department Chair for Psychology, during which time our first formal program review and strategic plan were completed.  Currently I serve on Kwantlen’s IRB and on the Senate Task Force for Academic Rank and Advancement.

How did you gain interest in Psychology? Where have you acquired your education?

I became seriously interested in Psychology while completing a Masters Degree in Environmental Studies at York University in Toronto.  Prior to studying at York I completed an Honours BA at the university of Prince Edward Island with a double major in Philosophy and English. In secondary school I was enrolled in a pre-engineering program.

At York, I studied with Dr. Daniel Cappon, a physician who investigated human behaviour and health in the context of the built environment, architectural design and building interiors.  While completing this degree, I was a teaching assistant for a professor in the Psychology department, who conducted Human Factors research, and was later introduced to Dr. Barry Fowler a Psychologist who worked in this same area with the School of Exercise and Sports Science.  Dr. Fowler specialized in extreme environments and human performance.  My doctoral work with him examined cognitive impairment associated with deep sea diving – inert nitrogen narcosis.  My comprehensive area focused on biological rhythms and shiftwork. As part of my doctoral studies, I was employed as a research assistant  and helped manage some of Dr. Fowler’s research contracts with Defence Canada.

Following my Ph.D., I was awarded a Post Doctoral Research Fellowship, funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council (NSERC). In this capacity, I became further involved with Defence Canada for 2 years studying spatial disorientation effects associated with pilots training on flight simulators.

Where have you gone to work prior to joining Kwantlen.

In 1989, following my Post Doc, I began work as a Defence Scientist at the Defence and Civil Institute of Environmental Medicine (DCIEM) in Toronto.  DCIEM is a Human Factors Lab and in this position I was engaged in a number of projects concerned with the performance of military personnel in a variety of extreme and unusual operational environments.  Here, I developed considerable expertise in Environmental and Human Factors Psychology.

After approximately 7 years I left Defence Canada and moved to Vancouver to take a job with Hughes Aircraft as a Human Engineer, helping to redesign Canada’s air traffic control systems.  The project was called the Canadian Automated Air Traffic Control System (CATS) and focused largely on workstation and computer interface design and large scale evaluations.  As CATS neared completion, I was hired by BC Research Inc. (BCRI) as a Senior Ergonomist.  At BCRI I was involved with several Coast Guard and US Army projects, again focused on performance in extreme operational settings.  In 1997, I moved to Kwantlen to help teach in what was to become a new Applied Psychology Program.

What kinds of research have you conducted up to the present?  If you currently conduct research, what form does it take?

In addition to the work I’ve already described, I have had a number of Honours students at Kwantlen and have supervised their theses in areas including Post Traumatic Stress in firefighters; computer interface evaluation with online learning; GPS integration in aircraft cockpits, and, most recently, hazard recognition training with coastal tree fallers – the most at risk profession in North America for accidents and fatalities.  Currently I am helping WorkSafeBC looking at the use of 3D degraded imagery in hazard recognition training.

Since you began studying psychology, what controversial issues seem pertinent to you?

Working in applied research, I have seen several instances of people’s and organization’s agendas getting intertwined with how information is collected and reported.  I learned that ‘politics and science’ can frequently become intertwined.  As a researcher, I firmly believe that we need to be very cautious of such influences and that we should strive to be as objective as possible, regardless of research outcomes.  In my view, the best approach is to let the science speak for itself.

How would you describe your philosophical framework for understanding psychology?  Have your philosophical frameworks changed over time to the present?

I suppose I would say that I try my best to strive for a philosophical perspective that is broad, all inclusive, and as objective ‘as possible’.  Human Factors research utilizes a systems approach in trying to understand the complex relationships between human beings, their behaviour, the tools they use and the environmental contexts in which they work and live.  These relationships are the result of a multitude of variables interacting.  Identifying relevant variables, their relative contributions to system output, and how they coexist dynamically, I believe is the key to really beginning to understand how things work.  However, developing this kind of perspective is ongoing and rooted in accepting that we must continuously change how we look at things.  Science in itself is but one system of comprehension, founded on assumptions which have their own logic and reality.  I am intrigued when modern physicists argue that what we used to consider inarguable realities, such as time and causation, may in fact be mere mental constructs – lenses through which we view the world and ourselves in it.  That James Lovelock, the reputed NASA scientist, in his mid-nineties decided we need to re-think everything and consider earth is one living organism is indicative of the value of fostering ever changing and broader perspectives. The universe and understanding what’s in it and how it works may be out of reach for mere human cognitive capacity.  But the privilege of being able to contemplate such matters is a gift beyond compare.  Perhaps the Taoists had it right when they said that as soon as you begin to use language to differentiate thought, real comprehension becomes impossible.  In answering your last question – “have your philosophical frameworks changed over time” – absolutely – and I am excited by the prospect that they will continue to do so!

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Daniel Bernstein: Psychology Instructor, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2012/11/10

1.      What positions have you held at Kwantlen?  What work have you performed here?

I have been an instructor of Psychology since 2005, when I began working at Kwantlen.  In addition, I have sat on various departmental and university-wide committees while at Kwantlen.

2.    Where have you worked prior to Kwantlen?

After I graduated from Simon Fraser University with my Ph.D., I was a Postdoc from 2001 to 2004 at the University of Washington.  I started working at Kwantlen in 2005, and for the first year at Kwantlen, I was a visiting assistant professor at the University of Washington,

3.      How did you gain interest in Psychology?  Where did you acquire your education?

I was always interested in Psychology.  I was the go-to person when I was young for friends’ troubles.  I was always the mediator for relationships going askew because I never managed to have lasting romantic relationships of my own.  When I was young, I took a real interest in the Clinical aspects of Psychology, the areas that tend to be of most interest to people.  Later, I started taking an interest in the non-Clinical aspects of Psychology.

My undergraduate degree was from the University of California Berkeley.  Following this, I did a Master’s degree at Brock University in Ontario.  Then, I did my PhD at Simon Fraser University, and finished a Postdoc at the University of Washington.  That is all of my Post-Secondary education.

4.      What kinds of research have you conducted up to the present?  If you currently conduct research, what form does it take?

That would take a long time to answer.  I will give you very broad-brush strokes.  I started doing work in sleep and dreams as an undergraduate student.  I continued that work as a Masters student.  I did my undergraduate and master’s work on sleep and dreams.  While a Masters Student, I became interested in the cognitive effects of mild traumatic head injury.  I continued that work when I started my Ph.D., but that was not the subject matter of my PhD.  My Ph.D. work was on memory.  More specifically, I studied how people make mistakes when thinking about the past.  During my post-doc, I studied cognitive biases – or how people err in their cognition.  I continue to pursue this work now.

5.     Other institutions in Canada host more research-activities.  Where would you like to see research move forward in Kwantlen?

I would like to see Kwantlen embrace a research culture without being bogged down with the treadmill mentality of chasing publications for tenure, and that is a fine balance to strike because it is hard to get people interested in research if that is not part of their job.  I would like to see Kwantlen develop more of a research culture by offering and attending research talks and colloquia.  Exposure to research will stimulate discussion about research.  Currently, most conversations at Kwantlen center on teaching.  This makes sense, after all, because Kwantlen is primarily a teaching institution.

6.      Since you began studying Psychology, what controversial topics seem pertinent to you?  How do you examine the controversial topics?

I think the first controversial topic that I really sank my teeth into was mild traumatic brain injury, which came from my own experience of skiing into a tree while a senior in High School.  I had other head knocks growing up playing sports.  I was just very interested in how these experiences affect someone’s cognition over the long term.  The prevailing wisdom in 1993 was that people recover almost entirely from these head knocks within a short period, typically within 3 months.  I did not believe that.  I also did not believe that researchers were using the right tasks to elicit long-term cognitive deficits associated with mild head injury.  Therefore, I took a controversial stance and argued, along with others, that these injuries possibly never resolved completely.  I thought that if you smack your head hard enough that you have to stop what you are doing because you are dizzy, disoriented, or unconscious, you will have subtle residual deficits for the rest of your life.  It does not mean everybody will have these deficits after a mild head injury.  Instead, it means that when compared to individuals who have not bonked their heads, those who have sustained mild head injuries, will perform worse on highly demanding cognitive tasks years after the injuries.  I think the tide is changing, and more people are open to this possibility.

When I was an undergraduate student, I studied dreams too, which was controversial by its very nature.  While working on my post-doc much later, I got interested in False Memory.  A highly controversial topic.  I worked on this topic with Elizabeth Loftus, who served as a kind of lightning rod in this controversy.  Beth showed me how to navigate controversy.  In addition, while doing my Postdoc, I got interested in doing Hindsight Bias and Theory of Mind.  Theory of Mind is the understanding that other minds are different from one’s.  The prevailing wisdom in the developmental psychological field is that by the age of four and a half or five, children develop a theory of mind.  It is as if a ‘light bulb’ goes on inside the child’s head.  You not only understand that other minds are different from your own but that other people can hold mistaken beliefs about the world.  Once you have this mature theory of mind, it is not something that extinguishes.  But the acquisition of theory of mind is regarded by many as all or none – you have it or you do not.  Very few things in psychology or in the world at large are all or none.  With the exception of neurons, which either fire or do not fire, I can’t think of other examples of all-or-none constructs.  I remember that in graduate school I was taking a seminar course on neuroscience.  One of my colleagues in the program was doing his presentation on gender differences in the brain.  He had racked his own brain for hours in preparation for his presentation and he had come into the presentation without any sleep.  He came to class dishevelled the morning of his presentation.  He said something to the following effect: “It occurred to me a few hours ago.  The problem with this field is that gender is not discrete.  It is continuous.  It is not a categorical variable.  Moreover, the reason that this field is so fucked up is that people refuse to appreciate the nuances of continuity.  Instead, they want to slot you into this gender or that gender.  Then, they look for differences in the brain.  Well guess what folks, these differences are very difficult to detect on a consistent basis.”  This was a deep insight.  As I said, with respect to Theory of Mind, most people believe that it is categorical, you have it or you don’t.  I am trying to show that it is not categorical.  This is a controversial topic in a controversial field.

7.      If you had sufficient funding for any topic, what would you research?

Exactly what I am studying now: Hindsight Bias, Theory of Mind, and False Memories.

8.      Many assume scientists and social scientists to have ‘Eureka’ moments, where they discover some fundamental process about nature in an instant.  Yet, the truth of research comes from the rarely heard story of the scientist or social scientist assiduously working for years in the laboratory, and finding clues to fundamental processes in nature.  How do you conduct research?  What do you consider your methodology for coming to new ideas, developing research hypotheses based off them, and designing experiments and requisite materials for said ideas?

I do not know.  I do not think that I am very organized about it.  I pursue questions that are interesting to me.  Sometimes I wonder if I am interested in too many questions. Something will occur to me and I think it is a good question.  I talk to colleagues, and they sometimes agree that it is a good question. Sometimes, they disagree and tell me that it is not a good question.  If I think that a question is worth pursuing with an experiment or set of experiments, then I will set out to design the simplest experiment(s) to answer that question.  Very few questions can be answered with a single experiment.  I start with an experiment that can answer part of the question.  As I delve more deeply into the question, I realize that I am signing onto years of experiments to answer the question more fully.  I speak here only for myself.  Many questions I choose to ask will not have ready answers, and I know that they will take years to answer.  I probably choose hard questions intentionally.  Who wants to answer easy questions?  I find that boring.  In fact, in research, I do not think I have answered fully any question I have asked.  However, I am not alone.  I do not think Psychology fully answers the questions it asks.  Psychology is too variable.  It is too multifaceted, and it is too fraught with interactions.  We try to simplify things as much as possible so that we can do our experiments and talk about the nature of behaviour as if we understand it.  Moreover, the busiest we ever seem to get in an experiment is a 3-way interaction.  Really, folks?  We are studying human nature and behaviour after all.  Thus, it is unlikely that we will derive a satisfactory explanation from a 2-way interaction or a 3-way interaction.  Our answers will probably require a 100-way interaction.  We are years away from answering even the most fundamental questions regarding human behaviour precisely because those answers require extremely complex interactions.  Perhaps we ask hard questions in Psychology because we do not want to answer those questions quickly.  We want a good set of questions that we can pursue long into the future.

9.      For students looking for fame, fortune, and/or utility (personal and/or social), what advice do you have for undergraduate and graduate students in Psychology?

As much as possible and widely.  Do not be afraid to ask difficult questions.  Do not be discouraged by people’s attempts to tell you that you are wrong.  In the end, it is not so much about who is right or wrong, but about sticking to your guns and pursuing your questions, being open to criticism and feedback, valuing criticism and feedback, incorporating it into your pursuit, and adjusting your pursuit accordingly.  That said, I remember reading an article some years ago in the APA monitor, the magazine of the American Psychological Association.  The person who wrote it was a long-time cognitive psychologist.  He had supervised some of the most influential cognitive psychologists working today.  His advice was that it is just as important to have a good question that you can pursue for a long time, but that it is also important to be able to give up if the question is intractable.  If you are pursuing a question that does not seem to be yielding at all, then it is time adjust your question, potentially ditch it and find a new question that does yield.

10.  Whom do you consider your biggest intellectual influences?  Could you recommend any seminal or important books by them?

Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.  I took a course as an undergraduate with George Lakoff, who is a modern Whorfian and a linguist.  Lakoff believes that our language and metaphor dictate the way we think rather than vice versa.  This idea turns cognition on its head.  It is not so much the way we think that dictates the way we speak, but the way we speak that dictates the way we think.  The course was on metaphor, and the course was pivotal in shaping my interests.  This course taught me to ask big questions, and to embrace controversy.  In this class, we read “Metaphors We Live by”, Lakoff and Mark Johnson.  Great book.  Also as an undergraduate, I read Freud’s Interpretations of Dreams in my second year, when I took a directed study with my undergraduate supervisor Arnie Leiman.  More than Freud, Arnie Leiman sparked my intellectual curiosity. Leiman was incredibly well read and once told me that, “When you cease to be well-informed, you become an asshole.”  He was describing academia and beyond.  If you want to be a responsible academic or world citizen, you should be well informed.  This reminds me of Bob Dylan’s great line in a Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall, “I’ll know my song well before I start singing.” Other intellectual influences? During my PhD, I worked with two really smart people: Vito Modigliani and Bruce Whittlesea.  During my post-doctoral work, I had the great fortune of working with Elizabeth Loftus, whose “Eyewitness Testimony” profoundly shaped the way we interview witnesses and view their testimony in legal cases.  In addition, during my post-doc, I worked with Geoff Loftus and Andy Meltzoff who have both had huge impacts on psychology and my intellectual development. Other great academic works: Vygotsky’s Language and Thought and Mind in Society. Works of Fiction: Brothers Karamazov by Fyodr Dostoevsky.  I once read or heard, but have not verified that Freud called Dostoevsky the greatest Psychologist.  I think writers of fiction have a finger on the pulse of human nature and human behavior, and psychologists often overlook this fact.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Patricia Coburn: Graduate Student, Simon Fraser University

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2012/11/03

1. Where did you acquire your undergraduate education? Where do you conduct your graduate studies?

I graduated with a BA Honours in Psychology from Kwantlen Polytechnic University. I recently began my Masters in the Forensic Psychology Program.

2. Where did you work prior to researching in Psychology?

I had various jobs. I was a farmer, a sign-maker: my most recent job was at a Casino.

3. You worked in a cognition lab with Dr. Daniel Bernstein. How did you become part of his lab?

There were two reasons. Mainly, I was interested in going to graduate school, but I felt unsure of how to get there. As well, I received good advice from the current Chair of Psychology at Kwantlen, Dr. Wayne Podrouzek. He suggested if I wanted to go to graduate school, I should acquire some research experience. I had taken memory with Danny and really learned a lot while enjoying the experience. I thought he was a friendly and approachable person.

4. How would you describe your experience working in a Psychology Lab? What positive and negative parts come with managing a lab?

I would describe the experience almost entirely positive: necessary to go to graduate school, and probably a big component of my education. I have recently realized that a lot of my education that is relevant did not come from the classroom alone, even though I really enjoyed my classes, learned a lot, and appreciated the instructors. However, there comes a point where you are so proficient at learning material in a textbook that you need a new experience, such as a lab setting with all concomitant experience. It brought me out of my comfort zone. It gave me all of the skills that I needed for graduate school. I can only recommend it for anyone wanting to go to graduate school specifically in Psychology. Additionally, I think it prepares people for graduate school in general because of the workload. Managing a lab of 12 people really took a large amount of time: scheduling the studies, trying to get rooms for the studies, keeping track of everyone for their studies, overseeing data entry, ethics applications, and contacts with people in the research office. Even though, it was challenging and time-consuming at times, it probably, in terms of graduate school, was the most valuable experience I had at the undergraduate level.

5. What kinds of research have you conducted up to the present? For your graduate studies, what research do you conduct?

Up until I graduated from Kwantlen, my research mainly focused on perspective taking, different cognitive biases, theory of mind, theory of mind deficits, individual differences in perspective taking, and a lifespan approach to theory of mind. As well, I did a bunch of hindsight bias research with Danny and worked on one of his false memory studies. I acquired a fairly well rounded experience, in terms of research, but most of it looked at perspective taking. My research now looks at perceptions of child witness credibility. In particular, I look at how adolescents are perceived in legal settings. I try to incorporate what I learned at the undergraduate level. I look at the way certain biases and stereotypes influence decisions, when people are dealing with children and adolescents. Although, my undergraduate research has influenced or transferred to some degree I have taken a slightly different path.

6. With your expertise, what topic(s) seem most controversial to you? How do you examine these topic(s)?

Maybe not controversial, but in my area because Judges do not like to talk about the way their decisions are determined and jurors are prohibited from talking about the deliberation process, my research is limited. It could be considered controversial because it is different from the American system. Jurors are allowed to discuss the process, making the system more transparent in a sense. Although, I understand the reasons for why jurors are prohibited from discussing the deliberation process in Canada, it makes my research difficult. I end up having to do many mock juror designs, which could be criticized. Many people might question the ecological validity of that type of research. However, I use university participants, as many of us do. I try to argue that certain cognitive processes are inherent to all human beings. So, we can look at university participants and how they make a decision in a certain area, or if presented with a certain scenario. Some of that will transfer to a juror or even a judge. I believe that judges are better trained than the average person is, but some of these biases will be inherent to the fact that they are human.

7. How would you describe the evolution of your philosophical framework?

My philosophical framework, I would say that my philosophical framework has evolved even since I entered graduate school. I am still a strong believer in things that can be measured empirically. I subscribe to the empirical model, especially that model of acquiring knowledge. Taking Law courses and looking at the operation of the legal system, I have begun to understand certain questions cannot be understood in the lab. I am beginning to gain a broad perspective on how to best answer questions in different areas. I have acquired a better appreciation for other approaches to knowledge. I have gained some practical experience in court and feel there are some questions we simply do not have the answers for, and we cannot necessarily find them using measurement and experimental design. From this, I have gained an appreciation for people that simply spend a great deal of time thinking and debating the hard questions.

There are certain things where we never know what ground truth is. However, even though I have an appreciation for debate or discourse that attempts to get at questions that do not, or appear to not, have an answer, it does not mean we cannot move closer to the truth through replication and good methodology. We can move towards the direction where we become more confident with those results. Of course, we have to be open to the fact that we could have been wrong. Having good methodology and replicating studies will increase our confidence in those questions that seem difficult to answer. Sometimes it is really more of a philosophical question such as “What is a natural human right? What are human rights?” these sorts of question can only be debated and not measured, as far as I am concerned. However, so many questions can be measured. It is about getting the right study, asking the right questions, gathering the information and bit by bit we get closer to learning the answers.

8. If you had sufficient funding, what would you most enjoy researching?

I am notoriously bad for being interested in too many areas. If I had unlimited amount of funds, I would probably, staying in my own area, travel to different countries and observe different legal systems. I would talk to jurors that I am allowed to talk to, and do decision-making research. I would compare the different country’s legal systems, and their different approaches. These are important questions. I consider how we treat people in the legal system from the time they are arrested to the time they are acquitted or convicted says a lot about our society as a whole, and looking even to our most direct neighbours there is a good deal of difference. It is evident in the standard of living and the quality of life for the citizens. I would love to do a kind of thing that’s international – it seems somewhat idealistic, but you have given me unlimited funding – I would like to do an international comparison of different legal procedures and look at which ones seem to have the best outcomes, and the least consequences. I think the treatment in some countries in some areas less than humane and there is a lot of room for improvement, just through the legal system, e.g. through prosecution, conviction, acquittal, wrongful convictions, how people are dealt with in the community, how people are released and rehabilitated in the community.

9. For students looking for fame, fortune, and/or utility (personal and/or social), what advice do you have for undergraduate students aiming for jobs/careers in Psychology?

For students looking for fame, write a good ‘catchy’ book, because you will not become famous doing the hard-core science: being an experimental psychologist. Some do, but much of your hard work and time will be spent in front of a computer. I do not think it is about being famous. One of the things I have learned over the past couple years is a lot of my time is spent writing…alone- writing for myself and not really for other people. It is something you do because you are simply motivated. You will not have that constant positive reinforcement, especially those looking to become famous.  If you are lucky, I think you can become a successful psychologist. Yet, I truly think those who become famous are rare. I suspect for the most part an academic career, in experimental psychology, means spending a number of hours in solitude in your room, office, or lab with your own ideas…But there will always be time for fun……..at conferences.

10. Whom do you consider your biggest influences? Could you recommend any seminal or important books by them?

I tend not to have famous people as influences. I tend to look up to people who I have contact with on a regular basis. Those are the people that I consider my role models. Obviously, my current supervisor. I think she is a great fit for me. I have a great deal of respect for her. She is a very hard worker. She knows a lot about the area and is very dedicated. She is someone I consider a role model and has a lot of influence in my current life. Of course, Dr. Danny Bernstein is perhaps the most influential in my undergraduate career. He pushed me to work harder than I ever imagined. If it were not for him, I would not even know what I could do. In addition, he helped me become a better writer, which is a difficult skill to improve on once you begin to get A’s on all of your papers. Working with him really improved my skills. I am grateful to the entire Psychology department because it is a good set of instructors. I find, probably across my lifetime and especially in my time at Kwantlen and SFU, teachers have had the greatest influence. So, I can only recommend two books because I do not really read many books, unless they are assigned to me: the Road and the Count of Monte Cristo. Although, if you are like me, and kind of a crier, then you might not want to read the Road. The only famous person that has really influenced me is Camus. I do not even really know why, but I think his viewpoints or writings during World War II are moving. If I was to pick a famous person, it would be Camus, and the book would be the Plague or perhaps the Outsider – not the Outsiders – but the Outsider. I did not read the French version of either, and I will admit to that, but the Plague would probably be my favourite.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Nicole Pernat: Graduate Student, Simon Fraser University

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2012/10/28

1. Why did you start studying psychology? Where have you acquired your education?

I took an intro course in first year and loved it.  I received my BA (Honours) Psychology from Kwantlen, with a minor in philosophy, and ended up getting a certificate in language studies (4 courses of German) after I graduated.

2. You published a paper with Dr. Elizabeth Loftus & Dr. Daniel Bernstein in 2011 entitled The False Memory Diet: False Memories Alter Food Preferences. What did you find in this research?

This particular publication gathered work that had already been done—largely by Danny (Bernstein et al., 2005), professor Loftus, Dr. Alan Scoboria (U. of Windsor), Geraerts (et al., 2008), and Laney (et al., 2008).  The general theme was applying false memories to food experiences.  Loftus’ famous work on false memories found that people’s memories for events, including videos, could be manipulated by wording.  For example, subjects watched a video of a car accident and were asked to rate how fast the car was going.  When the questions used loaded words such as “smashed” rather than “hit,” subject gave higher speed ratings.  Memories can clearly be altered.

Entire memories can even be fabricated.  The thesis of the book chapter was that implanting entirely false memories could change people’s food preferences and eating behaviour.  Through various experiments, the aforementioned authors discovered that people can develop false memories about foods, such as getting sick from a particular food (e.g., egg salad sandwich), or liking the food as a child (e.g., asparagus).  People are more likely to develop false memories for uncommonly eaten foods, such as ice-cream, and less likely to develop them for common foods, such as cookies.  This makes evolutionary sense; humans are wildly omnivorous—we can eat almost anything, meaning we often encountered novel foods and needed to learn quickly if that food was poisonous.  Thus, we can more easily develop aversion to novel food.  In contrast, it is difficult to convince us that familiar foods that we have eaten for years suddenly turned poisonous and made us sick.

There are some commonly eaten foods, however, which are amenable to false memories.  These are foods that contain naturally more “disgusting” (easily spoiled, or smell rotten) components, such as yogurt (dairy spoils) and eggs (which naturally smell of sulphur).  This also makes sense in evolutionary terms.  Although, pickles are also among that list, which is a bit mystifying.

Most interestingly, and to the point, they found that with false memories came corresponding attitudinal and behavioural changes.  In one study, half the subjects developed the belief that they loved asparagus when they first tried it.  A week later, the experimenters emailed the subject asking them to come into the lab, and pick what foods they wanted to eat; they ranked a list of sandwiches and vegetables by what they preferred.  Thirty-four percent of the subjects in the Love Asparagus group indicated that they wanted asparagus.  This suggests that false food memories influence preferences and behaviour.  In another study, subjects were told that they got sick from egg salad as a child.  Thirty-five percent falsely believed that this happened.  Different types of sandwiches were offered at a later session, including egg salad.  There was also a follow-up four months later, disguised as an unrelated taste-test.  Participants were told that the food was going to be thrown out and that they could eat as much as they wanted. Those who erroneously believed they got sick from egg salad were less likely than others to eat egg sandwiches, both shortly after and four months after receiving false feedback.  They also gave lower appearance and flavour ratings to egg.

I was not involved in the original experiments.  My part was on researching applications for other health issues and disease.  This focused on the “false memory diet,” suggested and coined by Danny and Loftus. It’s highly controversial idea, suggesting the implantation of false memories in order to manipulate diet choices.  Nevertheless, it could be useful for neo-phobia (fear of trying new foods, which often results in restricted vegetable and fruit intake) and obesity.  Ideally, the false memory diet would help people eat more healthy foods and fewer unhealthy ones—including alcohol.

Unfortunately, an average of merely 23% of subjects developed false food memories.  So even if a false memory diet were to catch on, it would have a small market.  Moreover, it’s unclear exactly who would benefit in the first place.  Then there are obvious ethical concerns.  First, you’re implanting fabricated memories.  Second, a false memory diet could exacerbate eating disorders.  That said, just as how the same medication brand may be good for one but harmful to another, false memory diets could still be helpful for some people.

Relevant references:

Bernstein DM, Laney C, Morris EK, Loftus EF. Soc Cognition. 2005a;23:11–34.

Bernstein DM, Laney C, Morris EK, Loftus EF. P Natl Acad Sci USA. 2005b;102:13724–31.

Bernstein DM, Godfrey R, Loftus EF. In: Markman KD, Klein WMP, Suhr JA, editors. The handbook of imagination

and mental simulation. New York: Psychology Press; 2009. p. 89–112.

Geraerts E, Bernstein DM, Merckelbach H, Linders C, Raymaekers L, Loftus EF. Psychol Sci. 2008;19:749–753.

Laney C, Morris EK, Bernstein DM, Wakefeld BM, Loftus EF. Exp Psychol. 2008a;55:291–300.

Laney C, Kaasa S, Morris EK, Berkowitz SR, Bernstein DM, Loftus EF. Psychol Res. 2008b;72:362–75.

Laney C, Bowman-Fowler N, Nelson KJ, Bernstein DM, Loftus EF. Acta Psychol. 2008c;129:190–7.

Scoboria A, Mazzoni G, Kirsch I, Relyea M. Appl Cognit Psychol. 2004;18:791–807.

Scoboria A, Mazznoi G, Jarry J. Acta Psychol. 2008;128:304–9

3. You entered an emerging field co-founded by Dr. Patricia Churchland called ‘Neurophilosophy’. Can you describe the field?

Neurophilosophy is the study of consciousness in philosophy that draws heavily on (cognitive) neuroscience and related sciences.  My supervisor, Dr. Kathleen Akins, gives an excellent detailed description on her website:

“‘Neurophilosophy’ is an interdisciplinary field at the intersection of philosophy and the neurosciences. In neurophilosophy, we attempt to understand how various traditional, long-standing problems about the nature of the mind and the world can be resolved (or at least nudged towards resolution) by current findings within the neurosciences. In this group, we use current research within neurophysiology, neuropsychology, neurethology and psychophysics in order to understand the nature of perception, cognition, consciousness, the emotions and mental representation in general.”

http://www.sfu.ca/~kathleea/

(Please excuse the lack of APA style citation for the sake of ease).

I understand that ideally, there would be a 2-way dialogue between the disciplines—neuroscience informs philosophy, and philosophy can help guide neuroscience through testable hypotheses.  Though I do not know how often, philosophers actually affect contemporary psychological sciences.

Neurophilosophy can be confused with philosophy of neuroscience, but they are distinct. The latter belongs to philosophy of science, and studies the foundations of neuroscience and its methods (see Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [SEP]).  SEP gives the following examples; philosophy of neuroscience might ask about different conceptions of representation and how they are employed in neuroscience.  In contrast, neurophilosophy might examine how neurological disorders affect our view of a unified self.

4. Why did you choose it for graduate studies?

Because it is sexy.  I wanted to get at the root of consciousness—specifically the neural correlates– and felt as though cognitive and perceptual psychology mostly tap around the periphery.  I wanted to get at the heart, and figured that it would be either cognitive neuroscience or philosophy that would get me there.

Anyhow, I emailed Dr. Christoff Koch (Biology department, but famous for his work on the neural correlates of consciousness with Dr. Francis Crick) for advice on what was required to get into CalTech program.  He was very amiable and responded soon after, advising a strong background in math, physics, chemistry, and/or bio.  At least a minor in one of them would be preferable.  Bummer.  I was at the time, willing to go back and get the requisite background, but my lack of quantitative aptitude would continue to be a hindrance (I did well in psychological stats, but struggled horribly with calculus).  I didn’t feel like I would thrive in the hard sciences environment.  That’s certainly not to say that philosophers don’t make good quantitative people!  Often it’s quite the opposite—for example, many physics undergrads with a thirst for the nature of reality (metaphysics) end up in philosophy.  This comes from a professor of mine, Dr. Holly Anderson, who has a BA in physics.

Aside from the quant conundrum, I still loved philosophy.  A previous PHIL professor, Dr. Colin Ruloff, finally helped convince me that philosophy was a sweet route.  He had been telling me for years that I should go into philosophy, but I kept saying, “No, I like philosophy, but I want to do Psychology.  I want the empirical side of things.”  Well, in neurophilosophy, you get both.  Colin pointed out that Dennett and Churchland (both prominent neurophilosophers) visit neuro labs and talk to the scientists.  That sounded good to me.  I mulled everything over and decided that I would go philosophy.

5. What topic(s) seem unsettled and controversial in neurophilosophy? If any, how do you analyze the topic(s)?

Take your pick.  The nature of representations, unity of self, colour vision, inverted spectrum, sensory modalities, perception of time, emotions, social cognition… Neurophilosophy is still a toddler—a really smart toddler, mind you.  It’s an open field out there. (Ha, stupid pun.)

Analyzing the topics is a challenge, at least for someone who’s not used to coming at a problem from two different disciplines.  Take the following illustration: I am taking this fall (2012), appropriately called “Neurophilosophy.”  For our projects, we pick a topic that traverses both philosophy of mind and neuroscience (surprise!).  We look at the literature in both fields, and then synthesize them.  So there are two components in neurophilosophy; analyzing the issue from both sides, and then synthesizing the sides.  I do not know if it is all like this, but looking at some other pieces of neurophilosophy (e.g., the Churchlands, Akins), it seems to be a similar sort of process.  I would recommend the piece, “What is it like to be boring and myopic?” where Kathleen describes in detail a bats echolocation system and surmises that through bat physiology and neuroscience we can indeed know what it’s like for a bat to be a bat (Akins, 1993).

6. You probably had philosophical assumptions prior to entering university.  How have your philosophical views changed over time to the present?

I would say so.  I now realize that philosophers can (and often do) object to assumptions that I’ve carried over from psychology.  For example, I thought that it was a pretty easy answer as to whether there are moral truths; namely, “no, there aren’t any.”  After all, morality evolved.  If it evolved, then it’s superfluous to posit moral truths that exist objectively and independently of moral/social creatures.  Now I realize, after working on the third version of a final paper for a meta-ethics class, that this question is not so easy to answer.  There are many smart people arguing for moral realism, and they can make quite convincing cases.  I was questioning my view (as I should be).  Now, my view on morality is basically the same as it was (I don’t think there are moral truths), but it took more reasoning than I expected.  In sum, I am slowly learning that sometimes what seems most obvious actually takes a good solid argument to establish.

In addition, I thought that science could answer every question, though now I am not so sure.  Science can’t tell us what we should do; it only describes how things are.  Science doesn’t tell us exactly what an explanation is, or how much you must explain for an adequate explanation.  For example, if a 4-year-old asks, “Why does that thing float?” Their parent could answer “because it’s a boat and boats float.”  In other words, for a child, learning that something belongs to a category with a particular property is sufficient for an explanation.  Obviously, the same is not true for a physicist.  They probably want a detailed causal story.  But are laws sufficient?  They seem rather empty, merely describing rules.  And what exactly is causation?  Is it a mechanism with consistent, identifiable parts?  Is it what you get when you intervening on variables to control them?  Again, it comes down to defining what exactly an explanation is.  That is where philosophy comes in.

Lastly, I used to assume that the scientific method was independent of philosophy, thank you very much.  Now I’ve changed my mind.  The “artful” component of experimental design seems to be a philosophical exercise, for example.  It’s the juice that gets the scientific method up and running.  Or consider that when we construct operational definitions, we’re stipulating them.  We’re picking out things in the world and identifying them.  For example, perhaps “happiness” is X amount of endorphins or being paid more than $60 K a year.  Of course we draw on past empirical work to help us along, but how and why we choose particular operational definitions, I argue, are at least partly philosophical.  Reason marries science and philosophy.

In short, my previous assumption that science was all and Everything Forever has been overturned.  Philosophy, it seems, helps us address questions that science, strictly speaking, cannot—what we should do, what explanations are, or how to design an experiment.

7. What advice do you have for undergraduate students in psychology intending to pursue graduate-level study?

Take time to figure out what you really want to do.  Talk to many people in different disciplines, professors and students included; when you are prospecting potential supervisors, ask their students what their relationship with the prof is like, because your supervisor is someone you are going to be in close contact with for 2-7 years.  Apply for a Tri-Council Scholarship.  The process is a… challenge, but it’s rad if you get it.  (Food!)

Ask yourself if you willing to spend another 2-9 years getting a degree, that might not get you the job you want?  Also, if you don’t like travelling, academia probably isn’t the place for you; if you pursue academic work, you’ll go wherever the schools are and wherever the job is.  Psychology and philosophy are overflowing with masters and doctorates, and there are very few jobs out there.  For example, if you get a PhD from one of the top 50 philosophy programs, you might have a 25% chance of actually getting a career as a philosopher.  And don’t expect the career to happen right away.  Many have to wait a number of years before they get an untenured job as a sessional, with no health benefits and unstable work.  It’s a damn tough market.  That said; if your dream is to be a psychologist or philosopher, do not give up on it quite yet.  Even though it’s tough to get into, there is still a job market.  I hear it is slightly better for psychology.

Of course, you should read Scott Jacobsen’s blog.

8. Who influenced your intellectual development the most? Have they written any noteworthy books/articles that characterize their views well?

At the risk of sounding cliché, my professors at Kwantlen played important roles.  Certain profs stand out clearly; in Intro Psychology I brought up some sketchy “evidence” from a book for some weird claim about consciousness; Jocelyn Lymburner asked to see the book’s references.  That has stuck in my mind for eight years now.  Wayne Podrouzek also punched some of the dumb out of me.  He pushed me to really think about morality, consciousness, pseudo science, and personal issues.  I used to think I had substantially different sensations and perceptions than others–Rick LeGrand challenged my interpretation, suggesting that perhaps I pay attention to those things more, and that because I share the human physiology, it’s likely that others (can) have similar experiences.  Danny Bernstein drilled better writing skills into me (any errors I’ve made here are thanks to my neglecting his advice).  I’m convinced that the 15 rounds of editing on one manuscript gave me my wicked score on the GRE’s analytic writing section.  Overall, the most valuable thing that I got out of my degree was a radical shift in how I look at the world.  I used to have unsubstantiated “New-Age” beliefs (ghosts, psychic powers, etc.). Now I have the training to scrutinize such claims and realize that either there is no evidence, or “evidence” from studies that usually had shitty methodology.  It took most of my degree (and the professors) to get there, and the rest to hone my skills.

Outside of Kwantlen, I’ve been particular touched by the “4 horsemen,” Dan Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens.  These four to me are paragons of critical thinking applied to religious dogma (find them on YouTube to see what I mean. I recommend Harris’ (audio) books “End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation.”  Harris’ succinct, eloquent style is ear-candy; I recommend Harris’ (audio) books “End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation”  His book, presumptuously entitled “Consciousness Explained,” is an eye-opening read for anyone interested in blind sight, split-brain phenomenon, illusions of time, 1st person science of consciousness, and I host of other related issues.

On the topic of colour vision and its pervasive use in philosophical thought-experiments, Kathleen Akins has moved me.  She and Dr. Martin Hahn (SFU) are currently coming out with a tome on colour vision.  Colour is not the basic property philosophers and others often think it is; chromatic information (hue / wavelength, brightness, and saturation) are each processed for multiple different functions, such as motion detection, object identification, and distinguishing surface properties from atmospheric ones (e.g., looking at obnoxious blue pants in a yellow-lit store looks different than under sunlight, but we compare the pants to colours of other objects to figure out what the colour of the pants actually are).

On a totally different vein, my interest in physics have led me to David Bohm’s “The Implicate Order,” where he discusses a notion based on quantum mechanics that events, not objects, are basic units of reality.  In the first third of the book, he even suggests a verb-based language to reflect this—a rather philosophical endeavour for a physicist!  He later argues that the universe is something like a hologram, with information about the whole existing in every part.

Of course, no dilettante of physics would be complete without Stephen Hawking, the god of black holes.  His book “A Brief History of Time” is a pleasant-to-read, comprehensive overview of physics, starting with some of its philosophical roots (Aristotle), and discussing the evolution of physics, including, of course, our theoretical knowledge of black holes.  I fell in love with those mysterious things in grade four, and owe much of the satisfaction—and sparking—of my curiosity to Hawking.  Could black holes really lead to other universes?  Is that where half of my socks have gone?

Coming back to Earth, dish-washing has become a mental adventure; the dishes feel solid, but are actually mostly empty space interlaced with collapsing probabilities—or something to that effect. (Thank you string theorist Brian Greene, for your description of quantum mechanics).  When you are exposed to these ideas, you look at your environment and think, Holy shit, this is awesome.  And then you wonder how a physical thing like your brain could produce all these fantastic experiences.  And then you pursue something like neurophilosophy.

How has physics for lay people influenced my intellectual development?  (1) By giving me mental stimulation, satisfying and provoking my curiosity in the nature of reality, and (2) by showing me that this is the value of science brought to the public.  I think that science has a duty to share its findings with the public, and these authors have demonstrably (and admirably) fulfilled that duty.  I think the same is true of all academic disciplines; access to what the Ivory Tower is finding can enhance the life quality of the (interested) public.  At least, it did for me.  And considering the public funds our work, it’s important to give information back to them.  In this way, every academic author of books (that I have read) for the common person has affected me.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Sven van de Wetering: Instructor, Psychology, University of the Fraser Valley

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2012/10/02

1. Where did you acquire your education?

I did my education all over.  I went to grade school at various schools in Powell River, Greater Vancouver, and Calgary, including three alternative schools: the Oxford House of Knowledge (an extremely unpretentious place that happened to be on Oxford Street), the Ideal School (which didn’t quite live up to its name but was a big step up from conventional schools), and, in Calgary, the Alternative High School.

I received a B.Sc. in biology at UBC in 1983.  Then, after some years of drift, I went back to school in 1988 and studied psychology at Concordia University in Montreal (though I spent a visiting year at Albert Ludwigs Universität in Freiburg, Germany), got my B.A. in psychology in 1992, then spent the next ten years doing my graduate work at SFU.

2. Why did you pursue that field of study? How did psychology interest to you?

I originally intended to be a clinician.  I was working in a home for the mentally handicapped in 1988, and was quite burned out, but thought the work was important and wanted to pursue it at a higher level.  I thought clinical psychology was the field for me.  Of course, that didn’t quite work out.

3. What topics have you researched in your career? 

I have researched only a restricted range of topics in my empirical research career.  As an undergraduate, I was looking at belief in the paranormal.  As a masters student I tried to develop a relatively nonreactive measure of prejudice, then as a doctoral student, I stayed in the area of prejudice, but tried to study whether people use gossip as a technique to incite prejudice in others.  Once I started teaching full time, I could only do one project a year, but have looked at things like beliefs about the nature of evil, predictors of people’s car purchase decisions (this was in an environmental context), a couple of studies on system justification theory.  My last several studies have had a very striking tendency to produce null results.

4. What areas are you currently researching?

If I can ever get it up and running, I hope to conduct a study on the relationship between narcissism and political attitudes.  It’ll be a correlational study, and I’ll probably toss in a whole bunch of variables in the hopes of finding something.

5. How do you engage in research?  What methodologies do you employ?

My methodology tends to be very straightforward, either simple correlational studies or experimental studies with just one or two variables manipulated.  Most of the time this is done using simple paper-and-pencil measures, but sometimes I’ll do something a little fancier in an attempt to assess implicit cognition.

6. Within the field of psychology, what do you consider the most controversial topics?  How do you examine the debates pertaining to these topics?

If one takes “controversial” to mean that everyone has a very strong opinion about the issue, and the opinions aren’t all the same, I would have to say that number one is still the status of psychoanalysis.  A determined minority of psychologists still considers Freud half a step below God, a majority seem to think of him as some deluded anti-empirical megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur and no data, and not many psychologists sit on the fence about this.  I may be one of them, though.  The number of issues on which Freud may have been right is slowly growing in my mind, and I’m not quite as ready to dismiss him as I once was.  To be honest, I barely examine this issue at all, though.  Just in a few isolated moments I think “Hey!  Freud may’ve been right about that!”

Another debate of the same ilk concerns the status of evolutionary thinking in psychology.  Relatively few academic psychologists actually deny that human evolution has occurred.  The issue is more whether the fact of our having evolved actually furnishes significant insights into current human psychology.  This is a thorny issue that I do have to deal with on a fairly regular basis, and I must confess that my strategy here is to read the arguments on both sides, and then come to an informed decision based largely on intuition.

The most troubling argument I have heard goes something like this: “Evolutionary psychology promotes patriarchy.”  I don’t think it does; at least, there are a number of feminist evolutionary psychologists out there, one of whom I know personally.  Furthermore, having taught evolutionary psychology, I’ve gotten the impression that there is almost no other point of view so very good at making a lot of typical male dominance behaviours look completely ridiculous.  Nevertheless, I must admit that, when I go to evolutionary psychology conferences, I do get the impression that the typical evolutionary psychologist is somewhat to the political right of the typical non-evolutionary psychologist.

What disturbs me about the argument though, is the idea that an idea should be suppressed if it has negative consequences, even if it happens to be true.  I feel ambivalent about this idea, but tend to think that suppressing potentially true ideas is, if not always wrong, at least almost always wrong.  The quest for truth is what got me into academic life in the first place, and I find the idea that we should hide the truth distasteful and potentially destructive.

A third controversy that doesn’t so much play out within psychology but instead between psychologists and other fields in the humanities and social sciences is whether there is such a thing as human nature at all.  Most psychologists who are not behaviourists will answer this in the affirmative, but some learning theorists and many anthropologists and sociologists will contend that human behaviour is almost infinitely plastic, and that those who seek to find an enduring core to human nature will find nothing but sand.  Given the large number of cross-cultural universals we have found that also seem to be thoroughly anchored in individual human development, I find the idea of an infinitely plastic human nature odd and contrary to all evidence I am aware of.  This is not a dispute I spend a lot of time on; I’ve never yet heard a decent argument from the infinite plasticity camp, and so I consider it a big waste of time.

Please note that I am note contending that there is no plasticity; clearly there is.  Learning takes place, cultures differ, and the brain rewires itself under certain circumstances.  My objection is only to the idea that these processes are so all-encompassing that there is no longer an unchanging core that is resistant to these processes.

7. What do you consider the conventional epistemological framework in psychology?

This is of course hard to summarize in a few words, since we teach whole courses on epistemology to our undergraduates (though we call them “research methods” and “statistics”), and then make our graduate students study more epistemology.  So it’s a complicated topic.

Despite this complexity, I may be able to point to a few basic assumptions.  First, we tend to assume that there is no great mystery about what people do, only about why they do it.  Hence, relatively little energy goes into purely descriptive work, whereas a tremendous amount goes into elucidating the causes of those simple, taken-for-granted behaviours.  Thus, we may say that the goal of psychology is to attempt to explain human behaviour in terms of chains, or more likely webs, of cause and effect linkages.

A second mainstream assumption, one not shared by many environmental psychologists, is that these causes have the potential to be isolated from each other.  That is, although all competent psychologists (and many incompetent ones as well) are aware that in many everyday situations a large number of causes may be operating at the same time, that it is nevertheless a viable analytical strategy to assume that this complex causal web can be usefully broken up into a number of simple, measurable causes, each of which can be experimented upon or otherwise examined individually.

A third mainstream assumption is that psychological propensities are relatively stable entities that do not change from time to time and place to place.  You can see this if you look at the verb tenses in an APA-style article.  The description of what was done in the experiment is written in the past tense, indicating (very properly) that the experiment was conducted in the past.  The interpretation of the results, however, is written in the simple present indicating that the particular results obtained in the past was a particular manifestation of a broad, general, enduring core of human propensities.  Please note that I endorsed the idea of an enduring human nature a few paragraphs back, so I don’t necessarily think this assumption is wrong (though I do think many psychologists’ lists of enduring human propensities are too long, and that a lot of psychological findings are the product of ephemeral culturally and historically situated propensities).

8. If you could restructure the epistemological foundation of psychology, how would you do it?  Furthermore, how would you reframe the approach to that foundation?

I think the approach described above has some huge successes to its credit, so I certainly don’t want to see it scrapped or seriously revamped.  What I would like to see is greater pluralism in epistemology, a recognition that we don’t really know what that psychological knowledge is, and that we should therefore be tolerant of a fairly wide range of epistemological approaches.

There’s a great section near the end of Kurt Danziger’s Constructing the Subject where Danziger points out that two basic classes of factors go into any psychological finding.  One, of course, is the “real” world telling us how it works.  The other is social factors (what some people might call artifacts) derived from the way the investigative situation has been set up and interpreted.  Looking at any given psychological investigation or even any given psychological research program, it’s not clear how much, if any, of the core finding is “true” rather than a product of the investigative situation.  However, if a bunch of people with very different epistemologies that have led them to set up very different investigative situations and interpret them using very different concepts and processes of reasoning nevertheless investigate the same approximate issue and come to the same basic conclusions, then it seems likely that the social factors largely cancel each other out and that that agreed-upon finding is derived from some fairly fundamental feature of the way the world works.

I always thought that this was a cool idea, but it only works if psychology comprises a wide variety of vibrant research programs based on a variety of very different epistemological foundations.  A second prerequisite for this to work is that there have to be psychologists willing to look at work from all these different paradigms without to much prejudice to the effect that psychologists working in such-and-such a tradition are not “real” psychologists.

9. If you had unlimited funding, what would you research?

I’m not sure unlimited funding would change the general topics of my research all that much, but it would make the scope of the research projects much greater, and if the funding included course releases, I might also do more than one project a year.

My number one area of interest is summarized by the title of a paper I presented 11 years ago, “If everyone’s an environmentalist, why are SUVs selling so well?”  There is a big disconnect between people’s stated concern for environmental issues and what they actually do, and I would love to explore that a little more.  The question of discrepancies between attitudes and behaviours has been around since at least the 1930s and LaPiere, but in this applied context, there’s a lot more still to learn.

The other area I would love to research a little more is the study of trust, cynicism, and political participation.  One of the most frightening trends I’ve seen lately is for young people to disengage from politics more or less completely, to the point where many people (not just the young) know nothing about what the politicians are up to in their name, and then either don’t vote or vote from a position of near total ignorance.  The more widespread this becomes, the less politicians are held to account, with the result that the lying, corrupt scumbag politicians who turn people off politics in the first place find it easier to rise to the top without even having to pretend to be decent human beings.  A better understanding of why this is happening would be a great thing.

10. What do you consider the most salient point for people to understand about psychology in light of your background, research, and current perspective?

I’m not sure there is a salient core truth about psychology that I can impart.  Psychology is a sprawling multi-tentacle monster with no obvious centre and very few widely shared premises.  As I indicated above, I consider this a good thing, and maybe would even like to see it become more like this.

After saying that, I have to admit that pluralism makes me a little uncomfortable.  I went into psychology thinking that there were a relatively small number of core truths about human nature.  That those truths were discoverable, and that psychology either had found or would soon find the way to get at those truths.  The truth about human nature would lead to a technology of human nature, which would make the solution of a large number of problems with psychological roots a much more straightforward matter than it currently is.  I find it much harder to believe in this now, for two reasons.  First, I seriously doubt that psychology is on track to discover many such truths.  Second, to the extent that we do have a technology of human behavior, the people who use it are not concerned citizens trying to solve human problems, but rather rich people trying to get richer and powerful people trying to get more powerful.  For example, advertisers use a technology of behaviour to induce people to buy goods they don’t need with money they don’t have, which is all right, I guess.  However, in the process the advertisers incidentally persuade many people that buying things is the primary route to happiness.  We have data suggesting that this is an astonishingly pernicious belief to hold.

11. As you observe academics pursue their careers in search of fame, fortune, and/or utility (personal and/or societal), what course do you recommend for amateur academics? If you perceive pitfalls or benefits in particular reasons for and types of an academic career, can you bring some of these to the fore?

There are a bunch of different people who fall under the heading of amateur academics, and I think different things will bring them utility.

First, there are those who are in the academic world more or less by accident, perhaps even against their will.  They`re living at home, and their parents will kick them out unless they either get a job or go to school.  So they go to school.  Or they`re on their own, but the economy`s bad, so they get student loans and study for a while.

I have a lot of sympathy for people in this situation.  I have ‘been there, done that’.  As an instructor, I often don`t like having people like this in my class, because their palpable boredom drags down the rest of the class, but I usually manage to avoid blaming them for it.  I do have advice for such people: pretend you care.  It`s not as good as really caring, of course, but it`s better than simmering in ennui and resentment for four years.

A second group, unfortunately much smaller, is motivated primarily by curiosity.  These people don`t need advice.  They`re in the right place, their appetite for new information will be satisfied as in almost no other environment, and all they have to do is follow their natural proclivities in order to succeed.

A third group, overlapping with the second, is the glory seekers.  They hope to make a name for themselves by making some sort of big discovery, etc.  My advice here is more complicated.  First, if you`re part of this group, you`d better also be part of the second group, or you`re not going to make it.  The process of discovery is so demanding of time and energy that if you don`t enjoy the actual process, you`re not going to get anywhere.  Second, I`ve discovered that freedom is overrated.

Let me explain that remark.  I`ve discovered that in graduate school, there are two sorts of academic supervisors.  One type has a highly active research program on the go, with lots of graduate students and research assistants working on various components of that program.  When the new graduate student comes, their range of freedom is severely limited: do they want to plug into this part of the program or that part?  The second type of supervisor, for one reason or another, does not have a program of research which the student can plug into.  They therefore give the student a great degree of freedom to do what they want.  This has the advantage that the student can pursue their true interests, but also the disadvantage that the student gets relatively little guidance, and endlessly seems to be reinventing the wheel.  This is a lot of fun for students in the second group, the highly curious, but a bit of a handicap for students in the third group, the glory-seekers, because productivity is likely to be low throughout graduate school and may remain low in their academic career.

12. Who have been the biggest intellectual influences on you? 

When looking back on who has exerted the biggest influence on my thinking, it`s remarkable how few are psychologists.  My move into social psychology in the early 1990s was inspired by Shelley Taylor, but the longer I stay in the field, the less I actually draw on her ideas.  The two books I have read in the last 10 years that have influenced me the most have been Jared Diamond`s Collapse and Robert Putnam`s Making Democracy Work.  I`ve traditionally been a big fan of Wittgenstein, though that influence is also waning.  Probably the single psychologist who has changed my thinking the most in the last little while is Philip Tetlock with his Expert Political Judgment, which really revitalized my uneasy endorsement of pluralism.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Betty Rideout: Instructor, Psychology, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2012/09/22

1.      Where did you acquire your education? How did you become interested in Psychology?

My first two years were completed at Kwantlen, back when Kwantlen first separated from Douglas college and was a series of trailers on 140th street.  I was a mature student (relatively speaking) and wanted a way out of the boring job I was in.  From Kwantlen I went onto UBC to complete my BA in Psychology (was tied for the governor’s general award at Kwantlen, GPA), but lost the award to another student because a few of my courses I had completed were taken at Cap College.  At UBC I went on to complete an MA in Counselling Psychology, and I recently completed a PhD through an interdisciplinary faculty in education, the Centre for Cross Faculty Inquiry, which was a more sensible choice for me than a PhD in Counselling Psychology since my research interests had long since strayed from psychotherapy.  My advisor though was the same advisor for my Phd as was for my MA, from Counselling Psychology.

2.      What topics have you researched in your career?

My Master’s degree looked at the influence of divorce on adolescents – this was in the 1980’s and there actually wasn’t a lot of research at the time on that topic.

3.      You recently earned your PhD.  What did you research?  How do the results extend into larger society?

My research looked at how young adults who describe themselves as spiritual but not religious, assess and critically reflect upon their spiritual beliefs.  The research questions were twofold: what were young adults’ beliefs, and secondly, how did they critically reflect upon them.  The second research question utilized King and Kitchener’s reflective judgment model to interpret and assess participants’ beliefs.

How do the results extend into the larger society?  We found that participants scored at about the norm for their age and education level, but having said that, were alarmed at how participants’ beliefs seemed tentative and were not grounded into their personal philosophies.  Hanan Alexander (2002) points out that “today’s spiritual seekers experience their moral intuitions as fragmented and ungrounded” (p. x) and comments that part of a spiritual exploration is asking big questions, meaning of life  questions, the type of questions that typically include pondering the nature of goodness.  These sorts of questions, and the answers we decide for ourselves, seem particularly relevant for young adults since one’s idea of the nature of goodness can guide both their career and relationship choices.  It’s possible then that the kind of spiritual seeking that appears to be so common these days, without some type of intellectual support, inquiry, etc. may be one piece that contributes to the higher rate of depression and anxiety that we see in young adults today.  There’s no doubt that institutional religion is no longer a source of undisputed guidance and meaning, more and more people tend to pick and choose their favourite religious pieces, but how effectively can we integrate those pieces into a larger personal philosophy that coheres, has integrity and can provide an authentic source of guidance for ourselves?

4.      Other than the social domain, where would you like to take your research?

Well, I suppose the main thrust of my research is that I hope individuals will entertain the idea that one’s epistemological stance bears examination, and that the ideas and personal philosophies we hold outside of the academic world warrant just as much critical examination as the topics we prepare for in an examination.  Maybe even more, because, if spiritual beliefs tend to include a notion of what is goodness, then this is a foundational belief that can only benefit from close scrutiny in order to make that belief a lived experience.

5.      What do you consider the most controversial research in psychology? How do you examine this research?

In Psychology, hmm – I think actually I’d point to work in Philosophy and its influence on Psychology as a more significant source of controversy, particularly the work by post-modern theorists such as Foucault and Derrida.  They’re changing the nature of language and core social concepts – and that’s powerfully influential.  Foucault argued that the Social Sciences were the most influential academic area because it is the Social Sciences that produce and institute our cultural ideals, for better or for worse.

6.      How have your philosophical views changed over time – in and out of psychology?

I’ve changed from a simple naïve realist to someone who is much more open to ontological possibilities I never would have considered in my thirties.  I remain convinced that the method of science is the most powerful epistemological tool available to us, but wonder whether this method may evolve as well, and sometimes ponder whether there are possible realities that the human mind simply has yet to evolve the capacity to comprehend.

I’m also interested in Jonathan Haidt’s (2012) research – who points out that Psychology has solidly been influenced by a rationalist perspective from the time of Plato on – there is a direct line of influence to Piaget and Kohlberg.  He argues that so much of human processing is non-rational – and we rationalists overlook this at our peril.  My research falls squarely into a rationalist perspective; King and Kitchener were influenced by William Perry, who was influenced by Kohlberg, who was influenced by Piaget.  There are researchers who propose a personal epistemology that is more embodied, intuitive, and perhaps I’ve overlooked the importance of this given my rationalist bias.

7.      What advice would you give to undergraduate and graduate students aiming for a career in psychology?

Consider what your specific goal is, and if it includes working as a psychotherapist, make sure that you have had lots of opportunities to work in that kind of capacity before you commit.  Not everyone is ideally suited to working with other people’s painful experiences, and psychological change is a slow process, successes are measured out in teaspoons.

8.      What books, article, and/or people have most influenced your intellectual development?

I quite admire Jonathan Haidt – his book The Righteous Mind (2012) is a timely read given the polarization politically that is so dominant these days.

I admire Charles Taylor’s scholarship and ability to integrate diverse perspectives: A Secular Age (2007) and Sources of the Self (1989).

Foucault’s Madness and Civilization

Richard Rorty and Gianni Vattimo: The Future of Religion, argue a kind of post-modern update of religion, their ideas were brand new for me.

I still like Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents

9.      What do you consider the take-home message of your research?

Know thyself?  Perhaps not in the true Platonic tradition, but at least Jungian, and while we are blessed to live in multicultural times where the internet exposes us to lots of different perspectives, whatever ideals we choose we need to make our own, and that’s best achieved through the hard work of critical inquiry as well ensuring that our beliefs also become our lived experience.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Wayne Podrouzek: Psychology, Chair, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2012/08/07

1. What is your current position in the Psychology Faculty?

I’m currently full time faculty and chair of the department.

2. Where did you acquire your education?  What did you pursue in your studies?

I did my undergrad work in Nova Scotia at Mount St. Vincent U, although there is (was) an interuniversity agreement there where many courses can be taken at Dalhousie, Saint Mary’s, or the Mount and simply count at the other universities, so I took many courses at the other schools.  At Dal and SMU I did quite a bit of philosophy and religious studies, some bio at Dal, some behavioural stuff at SMU, etc.  It’s actually quite a good system.  All the universities are within about a ½ hour drive of each other, offer diverse courses, and there are a minimum of administrative obstacles.

I got edjamacated ‘cause I was working with children and teenagers with the equivalent of the Ministry of Children and Families and the Provincial Attorney General (with teens who had been incarcerated) in Alberta and realized that to have more influence I would need some university education (I had obtained a diploma).  Mt. St. Vincent had one of Canada’s only two programs for working with children (Bachelor of Child Studies – BCS) and so I sent back there to pick up that credential.

3. What originally interested you in Psychology?  If your interest evolved, how did your interest change over time to the present?

As part of the BCS, we were required to complete a substantial number of bio and psych courses, and I became interested in psychology, subtype developmental psychology, specifically child language development.  I completed my BCS, then did a BSc Honours in Psych (minors in Math/Stats and Biology), and started a Masters in Education (I picked this up in my last year of my Honours as extra courses) and completed all the coursework but not the project.  I was subsequently awarded an NSERC, and some other money, and was accepted into the MA at Simon Fraser, so abandoned my MEd to come out here.  I kind of wish I had finished the MEd now – but I really just didn’t see the necessity at the time.  Because of its emphasis on counselling and testing I could have used it to become registered in BC – it would have opened some doors.  Can’t y’all just seem me as a therapist?  Hmmm, that’s scary.

At any rate, I originally went to SFU because it was supposed to get some equipment to do acoustical analyses of language (which at the time was about a $60K piece of equipment called a Sonograph, and today you can do the same thing with an A-D board that costs less than $100), and I had done my Honours Project on “An acoustical analysis of pre-lexical child utterances in pragmatically constrained contexts” (or something like that and wanted to continue that work.) However, the equipment fell through, so I switch to perception.  I did my MA thesis in perception on the question of the order of visual processing (what do you process first, the global scene and then analyze for the bits, or the bits first and then synthesize them into the whole scene: the Global-Local question).

I began my PhD in perception, but then met Dr. Bruce Whittlesea, and became interested in memory theory, so I switched to that area and completed my PhD in his lab.  I did my dissertation on Repetition Blindness in Rapid Serial Visual Presentation Lists (an examination of the phenomenon that you tend not to see repetitions of words in quickly presented word lists).

Since my PhD I have become interested in how the blind spot gets filled in, subjective contours, retrieval induced forgetting, and for a brief time, the science underlying neuropsych testing.

4. Since your time as an undergraduate student, what are the major changes in the curriculum?  What has changed regarding the conventional ideas?

Wow, that’s a hard one – so much has happened in so many areas.  When I started as an undergrad (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth with people), the areas then are usually considered the “core” areas now.  These included methods, stats, measurement theory, bio, social, developmental, cognitive, and behavioural in the experimental areas, and testing, abnormal, and therapy in the clinical areas.  We had rat labs in intro – every student got two rats and we ran experiments on the rats and wrote the experiments up in the lab books (something like doing chem labs.  Then we got to kill them).  Consciousness was not discussed – that was akin to studying magic.  Evolutionary Psych did not exist (although its precursor, sociobiology did).  Although Kuhn had published his controversial book “The structure of scientific revolutions”, his ideas were discussed but, I think, not taken to heart by most scientists.  Later, with other philosophers of science (e.g., Feyerabend, Lakoff), publishing works that in some ways augmented his, our assumptions and views of even methodologies changed.  Of course, change your assumptions, change your methods, and you change your field.  Things loosened up considerably.  Areas of enquiry and the acceptable methods and what could count as reasonable data become much more encompassing, and thus new areas of psychology emerged.  We certainly didn’t have courses on sex, for example, or prejudice, cultural, gender (other than straight up sex differences, other aspects of that field would have been taught in “Women’s Studies”), and the list goes ever on.

When I attended university there were upper level specialty courses in Psycholinguistics (Chomsky) – a brilliant, complex theory of language (particularly, syntax and transformations, and semantics), Piaget and Vygotsky, behaviour, modification (applied behavior analysis), parallel and distributed processing, and other things that are now of historical interest, but at the time were all the rage.

5. Many students graduating with a Psychology degree will not pursue careers in Psychology.  What are your thoughts on this?

That’s great – I think society needs people who have broad understanding of the principles of psychology in a wide variety of positions.  Psychologists tend to be quite well trained in methodology and stats, and this certainly enhances their ability to think about things methodological – certainly one of the pillars of good critical thinking.

Perhaps some of those folks with a good educational underpinning in critical thinking could go into politics?  That would be awesome.  It would be good to have some folks in government who can actually think.

Psychology interfaces well with Law: Again, the methodological and thinking skills can be brought to bear.

6. Kwantlen is attempting to expand that research on campus.  What are the current attempts to expand research on campus?  What is the progress of those attempts?

I know there is a real push to expand research at Kwantlen.  Outside of Psych I’m afraid I’m not very knowledgeable about what’s going on.  However, in the psych department we have many faculty who have active research programs, within Kwantlen and in collaborating with other universities and agencies.  Several have international reputations.  Given the level of funding, and our workload in teaching and service, I am pretty impressed at the level of research many of faculty in psych are managing.

7. If Kwantlen provided incentives via funding (grants), would you be interested in conducting research at Kwantlen?

Grants might be nice – along with time release for doing research.  However, in my case, a lot of what I need is tech support.  Many of the kinds of experiments I want to do require substantial expertise in programming and integrating output from different technologies.  I haven’t done any programming in over 20 years now, and everything has changed (and what I did then was on MAC), and I don’t really have the inclination to take a year or two to learn to do it well.  I have quite a few (I think) fairly good ideas for studies, but without substantial tech support, I’m afraid, I won’t be the one to be doing them.

And, I’m getting a tad long in the tooth to retool for a substantial research career.  It would likely take me 1-2 years to get up to speed in a new area, and that pretty much puts me at retirement age.  So, I just like doing what I think is interesting “stuff|” with like-minded students, at a very pedestrian pace.

8. To you, what are the most controversial areas of Psychology?  Why do you (and your colleagues) consider them controversial?  What are your personal views on them?

Lol – that’s a good one.  I certainly won’t speak for my colleagues because I often play in the sandbox pretty much by myself.

Put 6 psychologists in a room and have them discuss any topic and you’ll get at least 7 positions.  Except for perhaps bio, some descriptive developmental, low end sensation (which is pretty much bio), some social, and some behavioural, most areas of psych are pretty controversial, although there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of controversy – we just choose to ignore the difficulties and bung on ahead.  And, for the most part, it doesn’t matter too much – we live in our little bubbles and every once in a while something we do becomes useful, and the rest of the time it doesn’t matter too much and it’s an excellent theoretical and intellectual exercise.  Even in things like method and stats, there are different opinions on what is appropriate and why and how things should be interpreted, and so on.  Don’t get me wrong, I think that in the long run what we do will become incredibly important, when we get to a certain point and it becomes integrated.  All of it contributes to that corpus of knowledge, and even if wrong is very important.  We learn most, I think, when we find we are wrong in interesting ways – and that really does entail controversy.

Where I get my knickers in a twist is when what we do has real implications for real people, and we are less than totally rigorous.  I remember the “repressed memory” debacle, in which folks were sent to jail on the basis of testimony by psychologists.  It turned out to be, what word am I looking for here, ah right, “crap”, and it ruined people’s lives.  That has now turned from the repressed/false memory debate into the “dissociative identity disorder” debate.  That is pretty controversial (at least in some circles).

And how about the “facilitated communication” debacle (there was, perhaps is still, even an Institute for Facilitated Communication at Syracuse, NY) – again, folks lives were ruined.  Now, as before, psychologists fixed that through continued study (although not before being hired by a lawyer to see if it “really” worked), but much damage had been done.  But that was a few years ago, and we tend to forget our past errors.

Another area that doesn’t seem to get much controversy, but perhaps should, is the use of certain measure of psychopathy.  They are, as I understand it, being used outside of the parameters in which they were developed, and people’s lives are being profoundly affected by them.  One girl (17 I think) was declared a Dangerous Offender and put in prison indefinitely based on misdemeanour crimes and her score on “the” checklist and the testimony of some “psychologist” or other.  This was subsequently overturned in the Supreme Court of Canada, but again, damage had been done.  What I find controversial is, where was the psychological community in expressing outrage over this travesty?  Let me guess, the same as we usually hear from the Department of Foreign Affairs, “working quietly behind the scenes”.

The problem with Psychology is the same problem we have with Medicine and biochemistry, just worse.  Very few people understand it, and it is complicated stuff (which is why I don’t understand why most folks think psych is some kind of a bird discipline that anyone and his dog could do).  Psychologists are human, they want to have their moment in the sun, and money, and they say stuff and people believe it – without trying to critically evaluate it, and often in the absence of the ability to critically evaluate it.  Sometimes it makes no difference.  Whether memory is a series of stages or structures or is a set of differentially instantiable processes based on some form of information harmonic in the current circumstance is a very interesting question but is not likely to affect too many folks’ lives in the immediate future.  So if people ignore the debate and believe one thing or the other makes little difference.  However, the same cannot be said for so many other areas.

So, I guess that I think that much of psych is controversial.  But that’s not a bad thing – it’s just that we should acknowledge that much of it is controversial not take ourselves too seriously.  We are young, some 130 years old.  Much of Physics is controversial as well – is the speed of light the limit of particle movement in the universe outside of the movement of the universe itself?  (Although this result seems to be the result of a loose cable connection).  Are there bosons?  We speak of mass and gravity, but what the hell are they?  Do causes always precede effects?  What is the nature of time?  Lots of debates = controversy.  That is the stuff of science.

9. What do you consider the prevailing philosophical foundation of Psychology?  If you differ, what is your personal philosophical framework?

Wow – you know how to pick your questions.

First, I don’t think there is ONE philosophical foundation in psychology any more.  We are all linked by our methodologies – but even those are much more diverse than before.  Not too many years ago, anything that remotely smelled like qualitative methodology was looked at askance by most experimental psychologists.  Now, in our own department, we find there are several faculty using these methods, and the rest of us still associate with them, if begrudgingly… (Ok, joke).

Some years ago most of us would likely have identified as some variant of positivist, but now I suspect that, again, it’s much more diverse, and many might identify as cognitive relativists.  I don’t even know how many of us would identify as ontological objectivists (philosophical realists) anymore.  Actually, this is an interesting question, and I could see an honours project in some variant of this issue.

So, if we’re looking for the kinds of underpinning that really links us altogether I guess (hope) it would be some lip service to the general tenets of “science” and empiricism (although I have to wonder, when in our ethics – provided to us by the tricouncil guidelines, developed by “scientists” – we are to ensure the “spiritual” safety of our subjects – whatever that is: I just want some variant of quasi-objective measure of “spiritual well-being”).  Perhaps there are more Cartesian Dualists out there than I would have thought.  (Still the issue of measurement, though).  There is no specific set of methods on which we all agree, no set of criteria to which we hold ourselves – but perhaps a Wittgensteinian language-game understanding of the word “science” is broadly descriptive, and perhaps good enough.

10. To you, who are the most influential Psychologists?  Why are they the most influential to you?

I wish I were better read in psychology so I could better answer this question.  I have great admiration for Skinner.  I think he got the short end of the stick in evaluation of his debate with Chomsky (who I think is likely one of the brightest puppies to walk, crawl, or slither on the earth today – although I have always disagreed with virtually all of his psychology – considered “state of the art” when I was going to university: psycholinguistics, the pre-eminence of syntax, the existence of a language acquisition device, etc.).  I think that Skinner’s contribution to psychology has been undervalued, and that much of his work may well reincarnate later in our history.  I really liked the “tightness” of Skinner’s work: methodologically sounds, often insightful while being atheoretic, clever.  I think he was a bit of an idealist and I don’t think his idea of Walden 2 would ever fly, but an interesting idea.  I got an appreciation of Skinner’s work when I studied under one of his grads, Ron vanHouten.

I was also quite influenced by Vygotsky’s work “Thought and Language.”  In particular he has helped shape my understanding of the relationships between thought, language, semiotics, and pragmatics, in a developmental context.

Of course, there are many psychologists in my own areas that have influenced my thinking.  My advisor, Bruce Whittlesea, is certainly one of these.  You cannot work closely with someone for a few years without walking away influenced.  There are also big names – Tulving, Jacoby, etc. I tend to think about human processing in “Transfer Appropriate Processing” terms (a la, Bransford, Franks, Morris, & Stein).  However, someone who is not so well known, Paul Kolers (Procedures of Mind, Mechanisms of Mind) has most influenced me in terms of thinking about theories of the types of processing that occur in mind.  And Gibson’s notion of affordances always haunts my thought when I bend it to thought and action.

A number of philosophers; Carnap (logical positivism), Quine (ontological relativism and the underdetermination of theories), Popper (falsificationism), Nagel (philosophy of science, antireductionism re consciousness), Putnam (excellent discourses on reductionism and functionalism), and other philosophers of science (such as Russell) have probably had more influence on my thought about the nature of theories (in particular, cognitive theories) than psychologists.  It’s kind of the difference between methods and substantive areas.  The method is paramount; the understanding of the substantive area follows from the understanding of the method.

So, the short answer is: gee, I don’t know.  It’s all pretty much a swirl.

11. Finally, many Psychology students are interested to know, do you know anyone famous within Psychology?

I’ve met several, and spoken with them, but I would not say that I “know” them.  We would not even count as acquaintances, although quite a few are nice and say “hi” to me at conferences.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Grieving, Metaphor and the Enlightenment

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): HawkeyeAssociates.Ca

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2021/06/26

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson is a Registered Doctoral Psychologist with expertise in Counselling Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Human Resource Development. He earned qualifications in Social Work too. Duly note, he has five postsecondary degrees, of which 3 are undergraduate level. His research interests include memes as applied to self-knowledge, the evolution of religion and spirituality, the aboriginal self’s structure, residential school syndrome, prior learning recognition and assessment, and the treatment of attention deficit disorder and suicide ideation. In addition, he works in anxiety and trauma, addictions, and psycho-educational assessment, and relationship, family, and group counselling.

Here we talk about the web of life.Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You characterize life as a web. New weaves added while others removed or changed in the web of life. To a more general point, why does psychological writing rely so heavily on metaphor? Does this reflect, in a way, the amount known while the huge amount not known about the human mind’s dynamics while also the importance of immediate conveyance in meaning in spite of it? Do psychotherapy and counselling amount to controlled-environment, systematic rituals for clients with therapists?Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: Metaphor is a kind of mental scaffolding that allows us to explore new concepts using more established, well understood ones. Metaphor predominates in psychology because it is a new science playing catch-up. We might blame Rene Descartes and his Faustian bargain with the Roman Catholic Church for this. Cartesian dualism held that the natural world could be understood by science and reason, but the mind or soul could only be understood from divine revelation. This dualism likely contributed to Descartes avoiding the censorship and imprisonment faced by his contemporary, Galileo, but the notion that the study of mind was beyond the ken of science set back psychology by about 200 years.In the newspaper column you cited I said each of us builds a mental structure of significant others that supports our self definition as a person. This structure can be compared to a spider’s web with each foundational thread representing a significant other. When a foundational person dies, our mental web collapses and we must re-weave it in accordance with this new reality. Such a metaphor is useful in understanding the purpose and task of grieving, but it is not as useful in understanding who we are in other contexts. In mapping the self more recently (Robertson, 2016Robertson and McFadden, 2018), I have shown that who we are is more than the relationships we have established. I have also shown how complexes of memes that initially exist outside our selves can appropriate our resources after becoming attached (mind viruswoke virus). Metaphor helps us to understanding new phenomena by scaffolding new information on concepts that are already understood, but we need to be cognizant of the probability that the new phenomena also differ from the metaphoric concept in some ways. While mind viruses are like physical viruses in that they can only propagate from inside a host, as non-physical agents they avoid the limitations of proximity required by their natural world cousins.With respect to your second question, I hope that psychologists do not descend to prescribing set piece rituals. While I believe that we as human beings benefit from ritual, and we may suggest clients consider enacting a meaningful ritual in a given situation, it would be unethical to prescribe any specific ritual. Grieving, in this example, is not the ritual; it is the culturally mandated practices associated with grieving that are ritualized. Psychologists need to be able to transcend such practices. For example, I have helped individuals who have been unable, for psychological reasons, to attend funerals of loved one by assisting them to identify individualized alternatives. Our project is to transcend both ritual and culture where necessary for the well-being of the individual by helping our clients choose from menus of new possibilities.Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. Robertson.

References

Robertson, L. H. (2016). Self-Mapping in Counselling: Using Memetic Maps to Enhance Client Reflectivity and Therapeutic Efficacy. Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy, 50(3), 332-347.Robertson, L. H. (2017). The infected self: Revisiting the metaphor of the mind virus. Theory & Psychology, 27(3): 354-368.Robertson, L.H., & McFadden, R.C. (2018). Graphing the Self: An Application of Graph Theory to Memetic Self-mapping in Psycotherapy. International and Multidisciplinary Journal of Social Sciences, 7(1), 34-58. doi: 10.17583/rimcis.2018.3078Citation: Robertson, L. H. (2021). Year of the virus: Understanding the contagion effects of wokism. In-sight, 26(B). Retrieved from https://in-sightjournal.com/2021/02/22/wokism/

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

The Connection between the Self-esteem Movement and a coming Dark Age

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): HawkeyeAssociates.Ca

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2021/06/04

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson is a Registered Doctoral Psychologist with expertise in Counselling Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Human Resource Development. He earned qualifications in Social Work too. Duly note, he has five postsecondary degrees, of which 3 are undergraduate level. His research interests include memes as applied to self-knowledge, the evolution of religion and spirituality, the aboriginal self’s structure, residential school syndrome, prior learning recognition and assessment, and the treatment of attention deficit disorder and suicide ideation. In addition, he works in anxiety and trauma, addictions, and psycho-educational assessment, and relationship, family, and group counselling.

Here we talk about self-esteem, psychology, old articles, and socio-psychological phenomena.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: We have commented briefly on “The Age of Psychology,” “Epidemic of Low Self-Esteem,” “Crazy Making in Our Communities,” “schizophrenia,” “From Lloydminster to Lenningrad,” and religious fundamentalism. It has been a small bit since the commentary. What are some developments on the views there for you?

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: You certainly delved into my personal ancient history for this question, Scott. “The Age of Psychology” was the first column I wrote prior to the millennium for the now defunct newspaper The Northerner. My intent was to show how pervasive applied psychology is in our lives, for both good and ill. I do not think that has fundamentally changed in the intervening decades. You have actually linked six articles I wrote from that era, and I am guessing that you see them connected in some way. I think they all relate to how we interpret the world, creating and maintaining our worldviews.

My views on the “epidemic” of self-esteem have become more nuanced since I wrote that article. While low self-esteem continues to be an issue often confronted by counselling psychologists, and I continue to recommend that parents find the good and positive in their children, the “epidemic” label has led people to become afraid of giving balanced and constructive feedback. This has resulted in a disconnect between subjective and objective reality. For example, U.S. students typically score higher on measures of mathematical self-concept as compared to Chinese students but the Chinese students score higher on measures of mathematical achievement. The result is that many U.S. Americans do not know what they do not know, but they think they are doing just fine – not cognisant that they are being outclassed by the Chinese.

In North America we have witnessed grade inflation to maintain student self-esteem. In an example of this, I case-conferenced with a teacher to discuss reading problems with his adult upgrading class in a northern community college. “But they all have marks in language arts above 80%,” I said. “I know,” he replied, “I helped them get good marks by reading the questions to them and by helping them with their answers”

The teacher said that about a third of his students were functionally illiterate, and he wanted to know what he could do to help them. I suggested he could begin by giving honest feedback. Students need to know their strengths and weaknesses so that they can dedicate their efforts to overcoming those weaknesses. This unfortunate teacher sensed that for these students it was already too late – that they did not have the skills to handle such constructive feedback.

The flip-side of the over-zealous application of the self-esteem movement is mental fragility. Students have been taught that they can be whatever they want to be, but the self that is then created is fragile. Sooner or later reality impinges on illusions. We now have the word “micro-aggression” to describe and defend against that experience. When someone, usually inadvertently, says or does something to challenge a fragile worldview, the fragile self at the core is taught to feel the experience as a micro-aggression. Lashing out with defensive anger and hatred, they demand apologies, community censorship, even firings. If these demands are met they feel vindicated with their fragile selves affirmed.

The other four articles you referenced, Scott, all have to do with how people create and enforce dysfunctional realities. “Crazy making” describes a woman who, after being convinced by an abusive family and community that she was crazy, began displaying symptoms of schizophrenia. “Schizophrenia” describes a common reverse process – people who actually suffer from the disease refusing to take their medication because they believe that they no longer have the condition. “Lloydminster to Leningrad” describes the ways two racists, separated by distance and time, held on to their anti-Semitic beliefs in the face of evidence. “Fundamentalism” describes how a religious congregation attempted to shut down La Ronge’s only bookstore for carrying the wrong kind of books.

As a society we made considerable progress in combating racism, supporting people with mental health problems, and in promoting free speech and the diversity of ideas. I fear a new dark age where society is being re-racialized through identity politics, gaslighting is occurring at a societal scale to challenge our ability to think objectively, and authors and academics are being “de-platformed” so their ideas cannot be heard.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Religious denial of self and the repression of male emotions

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): HawkeyeAssociates.Ca

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2020/04/16

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson is a Registered Doctoral Psychologist with expertise in Counselling Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Human Resource Development. He earned qualifications in Social Work too. Duly note, he has five postsecondary degrees, of which 3 are undergraduate level. His research interests include memes as applied to self-knowledge, the evolution of religion and spirituality, the aboriginal self’s structure, residential school syndrome, prior learning recognition and assessment, and the treatment of attention deficit disorder and suicide ideation. In addition, he works in anxiety and trauma, addictions, and psycho-educational assessment, and relationship, family, and group counselling.

Our guest today is Teela Robertson, M.C., who earned a B.A. in Psychology from MacEwan University and an M.C. in Counselling Psychology from Athabasca University. She has been a Board Member of the Center to End All Sexual Exploitation (CEASE), and a Transitional Support Worker through the E4C Youth Housing Program. Now, she is a Registered Provisional Psychologist with a non-profit community agency.

Here we talk about religion and individuality, innervation of beliefs into professional practice, empowerment, and more.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Lloyd, in “Ask Dr. Robertson (and Teela) 14 — Adlered with Eclecticism: A Confidence of Riches,” you stated, “There is a tension between psychology and religion that is often not recognized and is even less often addressed, and that tension stems from conflicting worldviews.” How does religion undermine “client individuality, empowerment, and self-actualization”?

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: In my new book The Evolved Self that will be coming out September 15, I discuss how the “modern self” capable of individual volitional planning is a cultural artefact that evolved prior to the “Axial Age” when most of the great religions of the world came into being. I make the argument that religion was effectively a way to keep the individualism inherent in having a self in check, to keep the collectivism of humans as social animals paramount. Traditionally, Christians have been taught that the self is wicked and must be denied. Buddhists proclaim that the self is the source of all suffering and they proclaim a doctrine of “no-self.” Confucian teaching subjugates the self to the family and tradition. The word “Islam” means “submission” or “surrender.” Although, it came later in mankind’s cultural evolution; its roots are in traditional Judaism. In each case, the self is something to be given up in favour of a reality defined by the dogma and leaders of the religion. This places those leaders in the role of defining the will of the collectivity.

Contrary to Foucault’s teaching, the self did not come in to being with the European Enlightenment. What the Enlightenment did was proclaim that the notion of objective reality that could be discerned by the individual was a good thing, instead of fearing the individual self, the Enlightenment embraced it. This led to an outpouring of ideas and objective inquiry, and the scientific revolution it spawned is still on-going today.

Psychology came late to the scientific revolution, in part because it was actively repressed by religions, more so than other fields of objective inquiry. All psychotherapies start from the premise of the client as an individual with unique experiences, interpretations and social relations. The client is then empowered to make changes to themselves in keeping with those experiences, interpretations and social relationships. The very act of empowerment supports the ability of the person as an individual to make such decisions. Positive Psychologists, in particular, have come under criticism for undermining collective societies. What do they do that is so undermining? They ask the client what is meaningful for him or herself and they ask what would make them happy.

Jacobsen: Teela, you said, “When the beliefs of the psychologist and client do not align, we not only have to be aware of where our biases come in, but also the limits to our knowledge about the client’s belief system.” What is an example of this innervation of the beliefs and biases of the counselling psychologist in practice? A hypothetical case extrapolation from practical experience would suffice, too.

Teela Robertson, M.C.: An example of this might be a similar situation to what my dad described in our last interview where a therapist has taken a course on a culture, let’s say North American Aboriginal people, and believes they now have good understanding and make assumptions based on what they have learned. Engaging in this type of practice negates the individuality of lived experiences as well as aspects unique to each community. To further this example, let’s say the therapist is an atheist and the client is a devout practicing Christian, the therapist has a role to try and be aware of any assumptions they hold about the client’s culture and beliefs and differences between them and the client. In this case, a therapist rejecting a client’s use of prayer or church simply due to a belief. It is a fable and ineffective would not be helpful if it would damage the rapport built with the client. On a cultural front, a therapist assuming an Aboriginal client should turn to traditional healing, or connect with elders without knowing how that client feels about and connects with their own culture could be damaging. I have found in practice it is best to ask clients what things mean to them and to hear about their practices before inserting assumptions and interpretations.

Jacobsen: Teela, why does Canadian culture teach men to refuse showing ‘weak’ emotions, including the aforementioned sadness or anxiety, or even to name the feelings?

Teela Robertson, M.C.: The societal failure to teach men it is acceptable and normal to have and express the full range of emotions seems to come from times past. It can be demonstrated in statements many, even women, have heard growing up such as “stop crying”, “man up”, “I’ll give you something to cry about”. These statements are all telling children it is not acceptable to feel and express their emotions. In turn, children may come to believe it is wrong for them to cry. That to be a man they need to be tough and that means not crying. Instead, anger becomes a more acceptable emotion to show and those deeper emotions come out looking like anger. I don’t know that I have a good answer to why this has been taught.

Jacobsen: Lloyd, what is the impact of Male Stigma, as preliminarily researched by you, on the full expressive range of the emotions of men?

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: One of the common experiences of men in my stigma study was that when they attempted to express their negative emotions about how they were abused by the justice system, child welfare agencies, employers and even neighbours who assumed men are perpetrators and women are victims. They were told by feminists, both male and female, to “man up” or “be a man.” The message is clear. Men are asked to share their emotions, with the suggestion that they are unwell if they don’t, but they can only share those emotions which are acceptable to the prevailing ideology. This put them in a double bind — they were blamed for not sharing their emotions and they were blamed when they did.

Jacobsen: Lloyd, following from the last query, how are young and old, men and women, and so on, culpable for this prevention of the full flourishing of men’s emotional lives in Canadian society?

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: The repression of emotions in men is very old indeed. Male circumcision was practiced by numerous ancient societies as a rite of passage. Boys had to bear the pain without crying to become a man. The practice also taught the new men submission to the collectivity in a way that made them good warriors. Curiously, we still do not commonly refer to the practice of circumcision as “male genital mutilation.”

In a different interview, I talked about my experiences as a youth growing up in the industrial town of Lloydminster. I talked about how men knowingly kept jobs that they knew were dangerous to their health and well-being because they needed to support their families. Even today men predominate in jobs that are dangerous, unhealthy or involve a lot of travel. And if they get paid more for working in these jobs, then there is talk about a “gender wage gap.” Men are expected to take these jobs without complaint and, apparently, to not be paid extra for the privilege. Yes, we as a society are still just as culpable for repressing male emotions as we always have been. The problem with that repression is that it sometimes comes out anyway, as anger.

Jacobsen: Teela, following from the previous question, how does this impact the emotional, social, and even, potentially, intellectual growth of men in Canada?

Teela Robertson, M.C.: It seems to me many people, not only men, end up struggling to show and communicate emotions whether theirs or someone else’s. This can be damaging in relationships where one might feel they should not express emotions, and that their feelings are not being heard or validated. If we do not know how to express our emotions, we may instead be fighting them and trying to keep them down. We may also feel uncomfortable with others’ emotions and end up sending a message that they cannot express emotions to us, which in turn hurts emotional closeness in relationships. Rather than simply disappearing the negative emotion may fester and each seemingly small pain adds to the point the emotion boils over and can not be hidden. This can be dangerous depending how the emotion erupts, for instance, it could be in the form of physical violence, or a verbal assault.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. Robertson and Teela.

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: You’re welcome Scott. My pleasure.

Teela Robertson, M.C.: You are welcome.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

How to Protect Yourself by Knowing the Psychology of Advertising

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): HawkeyeAssociates.Ca

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/12/25

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson is a Registered Doctoral Psychologist with expertise in Counselling Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Human Resource Development. He earned qualifications in Social Work too. Duly note, he has five postsecondary degrees, of which 3 are undergraduate level. His research interests include memes as applied to self-knowledge, the evolution of religion and spirituality, the aboriginal self’s structure, residential school syndrome, prior learning recognition and assessment, and the treatment of attention deficit disorder and suicide ideation. In addition, he works in anxiety and trauma, addictions, and psycho-educational assessment, and relationship, family, and group counselling.

Here we talk about advertising and marketing.

*Listing of previous sessions with links at the end of the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You spoke on advertising and marketing deluging our consciousnesses throughout or modern lives. How can education and individual initiative, and conscientious, protect against some of these negative forces?

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: If you think that advertising is about announcing new products, then you are vulnerable. Advertising is rarely about announcing a new product, and even when it is, it is about pushing your buttons to buy that product. We think we are freely choosing a product or service, but as I have argued previously free will is largely an illusion (see: Free Will), and can only be exercised in a limited way by having objective knowledge of relevant conditions. If we are primed to buy, vote or otherwise interact by unconscious triggering, then we are not exercising free will.

A recent television ad reveals how this works. The ad begins with the upbeat rock tempo of Barracuda, a song about a sexually aggressive woman who trolls men. With this music in the background two young men offer, “Shopping while hungry… is a dangerous game.” We then see a short, plump and wide eyed woman drinking a brown liquid from a bottle while frantically pushing a shopping cart down a grocery aisle. We then see several actors including one who is rubbing her pregnant belly soulfully repeating the phrase, “Shop like a mother.” We don’t know whether the woman who was drinking chocolate milk while shopping is a mother, a barracuda or both. But here I am exhibiting the uniquely human trait of finding relationships where none exist. We are given four disjointed memes without a defined storyline. If any one of those memes (classic rock from a women’s band, men referencing shopping as “a dangerous game,” anxious shopper, or motherhood) connect our subconscious with the supermarket in question, then we will think of that store when the trigger meme presents (For a discussion of this mechanism see: Mind Virus). Unlike this example, most advertisements have some sort of narrative, but the narrative is not the part of the ad that programs you to buy, shop, or act in a way intended by the advertiser. It is the memes imbedded in the ad that are the activating agents.

You may think that when that expensive $2.5 million T.V. ad comes on during an all important football game, you ignore it and go to the fridge for a beer. What brand of beer? I am old enough to remember when European beers outsold U.S. beers which were commonly compared to dishwater in Canadian pubs. But after an extensive long-term multimedia campaign that including identification with Canada’s national game (hockey), one of those foreign brands has become dominant in the Canadian market. More money is spent producing television advertising than is spent on the programs that attract you to the T.V., because it works on targeted consumers. Psychologists have become mental technicians using sophisticated eye-tracking and brain wave experiments as well as surveys and focus groups to help the corporate elite push your buttons. They are using your dreams, desires and subconscious triggers to sell you stuff that you otherwise might not want.

Sometimes they use fear. We are all familiar with negative political advertising. A rival is painted as having a “secret agenda” or as having a questionable past. The same technique may be used in marketing. One European carmaker, promoting its reputation for safety, weakened the structure in a selection of competitor’s vehicles while reinforcing their own beyond production standards to produce an ad where rollovers produced disproportionate damage in North American vehicles. Safety fears would then drive customers to their brand.

Negative advertising has also been applied to the sale of foods. The phrase “health food” is used to imply that competing products are not healthy. One “health food” chain actually developed an aerosol spray which they used daily in their stores to mimic the smell of 19th-century grocery stores with the implied assumption people used to eat healthier. The so-called health food industry became a victim of its own success. The established chains began selling the same products with lower overhead, but the emphasis on negative advertising remained. Goods are now often promoted on the basis of what they do not contain instead of what they do contain. Going “gluten free” or “lactose free” is a necessity for people who are allergic to those products but of little import on most of us; and, the alternatives are often more expensive with less nutritional value. For example, while almonds have been shown to have similar nutritional value to milk, less than 2% of “almond milk” is actually almonds. The product is essentially coloured water.

Advertisers do not always succeed. A company selling shaving products recently ran a series of ads degrading masculinity as “toxic.” While the ad won favour with a particular political lobby, it offended a large percentage of the constituency that buys most of their products. Sales plummeted, and the company replaced the offending advertisements with ones that celebrated masculinity demonstrating that consumers have the capacity to defy advertisers.

You asked how we may avoid the negative effects of advertising, Scott. We need to do more than simply not buy a product when we are offended. Simply turning off the remote is insufficient because it only results in advertisers increasing their saturation through multiple mediums. The amount of advertising space on television has more than doubled in the last 35 years, and on U.S. channels you can be deluged with 12 minutes of advertising in a 30-minute slot. You may have noticed they also turn up the volume to ensure that if you don’t see the ad you will at least hear it. Ads appear on shopping carts, parking meters and even electronically triggered above urinals. The cartoons that used to introduce movies were replaced by advertising long ago. My internet provider asked me if I wanted to stop seeing an ad, and when I hit the “yes” button, it then asked me why. And my computer was frozen until I answered the question! The cost of all this advertising is built into the price you pay for the product.

One way to protect yourself from advertisers is to avoid buying heavily advertised products. A more sophisticated variation of this strategy is to know your triggers and refuse to buy from advertisers who push those buttons. For example, the majority of males are attracted to women. If this is one of your buttons, refuse to buy from an advertiser who pushes it. Many feminists miss, but most men know that the attractive woman with the .7 waist to hip ratio selling overpriced consumer products is not selling sex but status. By noticing men with high-status women are, in fact determining the status level of men. Men who lack status, such as the 90% in prisons who are men, the 80% who are homeless, the 75% who commit suicide, and the 50% who are victims of domestic violence are invisible to most women. The promise of the advertisers pushing this button is that if you purchase this overpriced product, you will demonstrate status. I know of one of the federal political leaders has two Rolex watches. Even one Rolex is an excessive display of wealth similar, in kind, to a peacock displaying his feathers to the peahen. Both men and women have sex and status buttons but they also have the power to ignore advertiser’s attempts to push them.

The ultimate answer is to research each competing product comparing quality and price. For example, we could research the nutritional value of a variety of foods and match these foods against our own nutritional needs. We then may add additional factors such as taste and price in making a decision. Unfortunately, we do not have the time to sufficiently research every product we buy. We are forced to rely on heuristics.

Some people simply buy the cheapest. While this is often this a good policy, you could be sacrificing quality. You could also be sacrificing your long-term interest. U.S. “transnationals” are famous for undercutting local companies only to jack up prices when the competition is gone. This not only hurts consumers but leads to a loss of jobs and often to a reduced tax base.

We become creatures of habit almost by necessity. We buy the same brands until we have reason to change that decision. If this is your profile, then compare shopping with others from time to time, looking for alternative opinions to research. Knowing that we become largely creatures of habit, advertisers target children. Soft drink companies vie for the school market. The Pepsi-Cola company has “donated” sports equipment, and Coca-Cola has “donated” scoreboards in exchange for the right to have vending machines in the school. Like the early Indian reserves that were designated “Anglican” or “Catholic”, educational institutions may be designated “Pepsi” or “Coke” but not both. Fast-food chains and pharmaceuticals offer to go “in partnership” with schools in supplying textbooks, computer equipment and curricula. Sweden has banned all advertising aimed at young children because of the long term habituation.

Your free will may be exercised if you become a knowledgeable shopper. This means ignoring advertising and forming your own ideas about quality. Do the research on selected shopping habits from time to time. Avoid impulse buying. Throw away coupons unless they are something you already wanted. Know whether the product is local or foreign. Read consumer reports. Be careful about buying heavily advertised products. Approach all advertising skeptically.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. Robertson, again.

Robertson: You are most welcome Scott.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

How Religious and Cultural Background Can Affect Therapy

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): HawkeyeAssociates.Ca

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/11/04

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson is a Registered Doctoral Psychologist with expertise in Counselling Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Human Resource Development. He earned qualifications in Social Work too. Duly note, he has five postsecondary degrees, of which 3 are undergraduate level. His research interests include memes as applied to self-knowledge, the evolution of religion and spirituality, the aboriginal self’s structure, residential school syndrome, prior learning recognition and assessment, and the treatment of attention deficit disorder and suicide ideation. In addition, he works in anxiety and trauma, addictions, and psycho-educational assessment, and relationship, family, and group counselling.

Our guest today is Teela Robertson, M.C., who earned a B.A. in Psychology from MacEwan University and an M.C. in Counselling Psychology from Athabasca University. She has been a Board Member of the Center to End All Sexual Exploitation (CEASE), and a Transitional Support Worker through the E4C Youth Housing Program. Now, she is a Registered Provisional Psychologist with a non-profit community agency.

Here we talk about religious and non-religious background in the context of counselling, a culture of one, secular and faith-based approaches, and men and women in counselling/being counselled.

*Listing of previous sessions with links at the end of the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What are the risks of personal religious or non-religious background influencing the professional work of a counselling psychologist while in session with a client — in general terms?

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: I attended a cousin’s wedding during the 1980s officiated by an Evangelical Christian minister. As part of the ceremony, the minister advised the happy couple that disagreements were part of marriage, and that if they had problems that they cannot resolve they should go see a pastor, a church elder, or a trusted family member. He advised them to never see a psychologist. There is a tension between psychology and religion that is often not recognized and is even less often addressed, and that tension stems from conflicting worldviews. I make no apologies for expressing a worldview of client individuality, empowerment, and self-actualization. The imposition of my worldview beyond this fundamental understanding would be unethical.

Our worldview is a kind of map of our understandings and expectations that, in turn, colours and even distorts our perceptions of reality. Our worldview begins with our childhood experiences and our interpretations of those experiences. Psychology is premised on the view that humans are volitional individuals capable of discerning reality acting in the social interest, and as I have argued, psychology is largely about teaching those skills to our clients (see: free will). Religion is premised on the view that humans are not up to this task, and that we need external direction on questions such as good and evil, ultimate meaning, and transcendence. Religion is inherently directive, and while psychology is not always non-directive, client empowerment is its core objective. Psychotherapists must bracket other aspects of our worldviews that might interfere with client self-actualization. There are obvious limits to this approach. For example, it would be unethical for me to help a sociopath become more successful in systematically harming other people. Instead I should offer to help the client overcome whatever pathology presents with the hope of self-actualization within a socially useful frame. This places me in the role of the expert with respect to diagnoses.

Teela Robertson, M.C.: One’s cultural background influences their perceptions and meaning making of situations. This includes faith, ethnicity, local culture, family culture, and so on. Psychologists are not immune to the effects of how our personal perspective influences our perceptions of clients, the trick is to ensure we are self-aware and able to monitor when it is our beliefs coming through versus the clients. Ideally we work with a client based on their cultural background and beliefs regardless of how this fits with our personal beliefs. This is not always an easy task. When the beliefs of the psychologist and client do not align, we not only have to be aware of where our biases come in, but also the limits to our knowledge about the client’s belief system. So to answer your question, the main risk I see is that the psychologist may start to impose their own beliefs upon the client.

Jacobsen: Dr. Robertson, you work with each client as a culture of one. How does this approach respect clients with unique versions of common and uncommon personal issues? Teela, in conversations with your father, how does one incorporate secular and faith-based approaches to suit the preferences and background of clientele in counselling sessions?

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: My “culture of one” approach assumes the uniqueness of each individual. By understanding individualized inner motivations, we will often find that behaviour that otherwise presents as abnormal is really a logical attempt to satisfy basic needs. Therapy then consists of brainstorming with the client alternative ways to meet these needs.

It may be that the client most at-risk for culturally inappropriate counselling has a therapist who is a member of the same racial, cultural, or religious group. The risk here lies in the therapist assuming an understanding of the client’s personal culture. If that happens, the client will likely feel compelled to “go along with” the therapist’s assumptions for fear of being labelled a deficient member. The second biggest risk might be for clients of culturally sensitive counsellors who have taken a workshop on the culture of the client. Let me use the example of a hypothetical non-aboriginal therapist counselling a person with ancestry that is indigenous to Canada.

Such a therapist will likely have learned about sweat lodges, a ceremony indigenous to most aboriginal cultures in northern North America. The sweat lodge ceremony may be used to connect to a transcendent power, heal certain ailments, or bond with fellow community members. Asking an aboriginal client whether they attend sweat lodges might be off-putting to those aboriginal people who view such ceremonies to be witch craft. Such people might be particularly sensitive to such a question because some Aboriginal Spiritualists have referred to them as “apples” for not following their traditions. Asking a woman if she attends sweats might be an insult if she is from a more traditional community that practises male only sweats. It is better to understand the personal culture of the individual before exploring behavioural alternatives, and it is safer to come from a perspective of “not knowing” where the client is considered to be the expert on him or herself.

Teela Robertson, M.C.: Whether one is religious or not I try to match the counselling tools to the client’s needs and beliefs, I believe my dad does the same. One way we have discussed incorporating faith into counselling is through the tools they already have that they find helpful, a common one is prayer. I think the trick is to ensure that the client is using tools in a healthy way. For instance, if a client were to tell me that they pray to God to take away all their negative emotions, we will need to modify the expectation that they can stop feeling any negative emotion and engage in psycho-education about emotion. Something like prayer can be quite healing in providing people with a sense of hope that positive change can happen.

Jacobsen: Speaking of differences in background, in general, do men and women require different counselling methodologies based on different needs? If so, how, and why?

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: There are statistically significant differences between men and women for a number of behaviours, but the range is such that you cannot predict the values, attitudes, and behaviours of any one individual based on their sex or gender. Again, I would recommend that each client’s personal culture be explored without presuppositions. Following exploration of the client’s worldview and agreement of presenting issues, I like to offer the client a range of possible interventions drawn from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Adlerian Psychotherapy, and Narrative methods, and then have the client co-construct a treatment plan.

Teela Robertson, M.C.: In my opinion the differences in approach I take lie more with personality. I find a greater proportion of my male clients than female clients have been taught not to show “weak” emotions such as sadness, and anxiety, instead they may show these as anger or a lack of emotion. To combat this I often find I spend more time with males working on the basics of learning to identify and name emotions, as well as creating a supportive relationship where it is safe for them to share these emotions with me. I commonly explore how they learned about emotions and what they were taught about how to deal with them, as well as how they were treated when they showed emotions. As a whole I don’t find a great deal of difference between treating men and women.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. Robertson and Teela.

Teela Robertson, M.C.: Thank you.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Soviet Psychology, Christian Counselling, Feminist Psychotherapy and Professional Ethics 

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): HawkeyeAssociates.Ca

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/09/17

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson is a Registered Doctoral Psychologist with expertise in Counselling Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Human Resource Development. He earned qualifications in Social Work too. Duly note, he has five postsecondary degrees, which is a lot, of which 3 are undergraduate level. His research interests include memes as applied to self-knowledge, the evolution of religion and spirituality, the aboriginal self’s structure, residential school syndrome, prior learning recognition and assessment, and the treatment of attention deficit disorder and suicide ideation. In addition, he works in anxiety and trauma, addictions, and psycho-educational assessment, and relationship, family, and group counselling.

Here we talk about counselling and ethics.

*Listing of previous sessions with links at the end of the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You give insight into counselling in the fact that, in general, advice is not given, as in counsellors do not tell clients what they should or should not do.

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: That is correct, Scott. As explained previously in this series, I practise in Adlerian tradition where advice giving is anathema, and this view comes from a humanistic view that we, as a species, are defined by our ability to reason in an objective, volitional and internally consistent way. I made the argument that psychology, as a profession, seeks to teach people to reach this human potential in their individual lives (see: Free Will). While the advice giver is usually well-meaning, advice giving puts the receiver in a dependent position. In its most extreme form, advice giving reduces the receiver to an automaton waiting for direction. The advise that is given is necessarily from the perspective of the one who is giving it, not from the perspective of the receiver.

Often counselling and psychotherapy are considered to be synonyms, but Adlerians make a distinction: counselling is essentially joint problem solving done with clients who have intact selves while psychotherapy involves the reconstruction of part of the self (for a discussion of reconstructing the self see: Self-mapping). In either case the psychologist acts as a kind of consultant who has expertise in change while the client is recognized in having expertise in understanding himself. The counselling session becomes the collaboration of two experts.

I think the notion that counselling is advice giving comes from outside the profession, but is popular enough that some psychologists accept that definition. But they then typically view themselves as psychotherapists. As I said, the professional ideal is to promote individual volition, and this typically involves constructing alternatives with the client mapping pros and cons and deciding on a plan.

Jacobsen: What is a way in which counsellors violate professional ethics and codes of conduct here? How have things gone wrong in the past? What examples speak to this in the history of counselling?

Dr. Robertson: Were the therapist to impose his views on a client, that would be unethical. We need to understand that the client is in a vulnerable position, and that is why they are seeking counselling or psychotherapy. A therapist with the best of intentions may think that the answer is obvious, but unless the client arrives at that conclusion by considering his or her alternatives, priorities, goals and worldview then the imposition of a “solution” that appears right to the therapist does nothing to build the client’s capacities as an independent volitional individual. I think this is a standard understanding of most historic schools of psychotherapy, but there are exceptions.

Soviet psychology of the 20th century provides an example of systemic unethical diagnosis. Soviet psychologists viewed the communist man (inclusive of women) to be more collectivistic and altruistic than others. It seemed to them self-evident that the mentally healthy person, if given the opportunity, would want to participate in such a society. Those who did not agree with this worldview and were in conflict with the authorities were deemed to suffer from what was termed “sluggish schizophrenia.”

When an ideology or religion is used to modify terms like “psychology,” “counselling” or “psychotherapy,” I become wary. For example, how does “Christian Counselling” differ from counselling? Christian counsellors I have talked to define their religion as having certain superior attributes with respect to love and spiritual fulfillment. But a secular counsellor, on finding that a client believed in prayer, for example, might invite the client to pray as part of his or her therapeutic plan. A difference might be that if the prayer does not work to the client’s satisfaction, the secular counsellor might be more willing to explore other alternatives while the Christian counsellor might be more prone engage in self-limiting platitudes such as, “Maybe God does not want this for you.” Counsellors employed by Catholic Family Services are routinely required to sign a statement stating they will respect the Church’s beliefs regarding “the sanctity of life.” This is regularly interpreted to mean that counsellors in their employ may not explore the option of abortion with pregnant clients, and if a client chooses that option, she will do so without the support of her counsellor or therapist. Counsellors from a variety of Christian denominations actively discourage people who are non-heterosexual. A particularly unethical practice is encapsulated in the oxymoron “Conversion Therapy.” Conversion implies a template outside of the individual to which the individual converts. It is, therefore, the opposite of therapy where the client defines his own template. Overall, Christian counselling does not add to the professional practice but is subtractive, limiting the options permitted clients.

The notion of limiting psychology’s ability to increase to individual choice and volition is pervasive. Feminist Psychotherapists argue for equality between the sexes, but most psychotherapists already embraced this ideal long before there was Feminist Psychotherapy; indeed, Alfred Adler introduced the idea to the Viennese psychological circle founded by Sigmund Freud in 1911. The purpose of Feminist Psychotherapy has not been to develop new therapeutic techniques since the methods typically used, such as journaling, re-framing, assertiveness training were all initially developed by other schools of psychotherapy. We are left, therefore with an ideological reason for its existence, as one feminist writer of textbooks noted (Corey, 2001) “A goal of feminist therapy is to replace patriarchal ‘objective truth’, with feminist consciousness…” In this formulation, objective reality is deemed to be patriarchal, and since most schools of psychotherapy assume that there is an objective reality to which the client may reference (Narrative Therapy being an exception), then those schools are, by this definition, patriarchal. In a decision that reminds us of the Soviet diagnosis of “sluggish schizophrenia,” the American Psychological Association has decided to recognize a category called “toxic masculinity.” In a move that reminds us of Conversion Therapy, the Canadian government has decided to fund feminist organizations and therapists to convert toxic men into… something else. I have demonstrated that male stigmatization exists (see: Stigma), and my fear is that a purpose of this conversion therapy will be to have men internalize this stigma whith the long term effect of further eroding their mental health.

Scott, you asked me about professional codes of ethics. Codes of ethics are written by those with the power to do so. Conversion Therapy as practiced by some Christian groups has been ruled unethical. The feminist version has not. I believe that freedom of conscience involves a duty to conduct oneself to a higher ethic, and in my case that ethic involves supporting individual volitional empowerment. Individual volition operates within the constraint that there is a reality outside ourselves and if we stray too far from that reality we will harm ourselves and others. We cannot gain empowerment by feeding a delusion.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. Robertson, again.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Victim Culture and Personal Empowerment

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): HawkeyeAssociates.Ca

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/09/19

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson is a Registered Doctoral Psychologist with expertise in Counselling Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Human Resource Development. He earned qualifications in Social Work too. Duly note, he has five postsecondary degrees, which is a lot, of which 3 are undergraduate level. His research interests include memes as applied to self-knowledge, the evolution of religion and spirituality, the aboriginal self’s structure, residential school syndrome, prior learning recognition and assessment, and the treatment of attention deficit disorder and suicide ideation. In addition, he works in anxiety and trauma, addictions, and psycho-educational assessment, and relationship, family, and group counselling.

Here we talk about personal responsibility, victim culture, and more.

*Listing of previous sessions with links at the end of the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You comment on a couple of cases of personal responsibility and, more particularly, personal fault passed onto others or systems & institutions. How can institutional systems and legacies completely disempower parts of new generations of peoples?

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: As I re-read the commentary I wrote nearly twenty years ago, it seems, sadly, to be even more relevant today. At the time I viewed the legal cases from lawsuit happy U.S. America, as bizarre and slightly humorous anomalies. For example, the thief who got trapped in a garage and subsisted on Pepsi and dog food until the home owner came back from holidays, and then had the nerve to sue for unlawful confinement, had to be one of a kind. So I thought. But it is like a mental virus that has grown and evolved into something quite dangerous.

My original conclusion was that if we blame others then we are basically saying they have power over us and we are mere victims. About a dozen years after I wrote that an indigenous man murdered his wife and kidnapped his stepdaughter in my home community. After the man was apprehended, his sister told the press that her brother was the real victim because he had gone to an Indian residential school. My point is that yes, bad things have happened in the past, but that is not an excuse bad behaviour in the present. We have the power to choose how we will respond, and from that realization comes our own empowerment. We may not be able to control what others do, but we can always choose how we will react. And we can react with dignity in a way that makes the world a better place. Unfortunately, there are psychological reasons, and sometimes money, to be made from playing the role of disempowered victim, and this has contributed to the rise of a victim culture in Canada.

Jacobsen: Please explain what you mean by “victim culture.”

Robertson: Certainly, Scott. I operate from a humanist perspective that accords every individual worth and dignity by virtue of being human with the implication that people should conduct themselves accordingly. But if your self-identity is moulded around being a victim, you are proclaiming that power rests with the perceived victimizers. The victim then attempts to persuade people with even more power to punish the victimizers and redress the wrongs, often through financial compensation. But this comes at great cost to the individual. Let me give you the example of marriages. I have found marriage counselling to become more challenging over the past thirty years despite the fact that I have become more skilled with experience. Half the battle in marriage counselling is communication and developing the ability to understand the other’s perceptions with empathy. Increasingly I find that one or both partners have developed narratives of being a victim. And when they are presented with an alternative perception they simply repeat their own victim narrative verbatim, only more loudly. And when this does not work they declare themselves to have “not been heard,” and this further increases their sense of victimization. A couple of years ago I published some research on secular weddings and I found that people are as likely to have been legally married at least once by the time they reach my age, as they were 50 years ago, but at any given time over half the adult population is single. There is a reason for that.

We have evolved to the point where people’s primary identity is as a member of a victim group who have been considered historically wronged. Academics have even coined the word “transectionality” to describe people who are simultaneously members of multiple victim groups thereby attaining a higher ranking in the world of victimology. This is not to say that some of the victimization isn’t real. Even white males can point to accurate examples of victimization. But if our primary identity is based on something negative as opposed to something positive, then we pay a heavy psychological price.

You asked about the role of institutions. Ultimately, victim culture leads people to become helpless victims waiting for the state, or others, to make things right. Whole classes of victim groups have emerged with status accorded to ascribed degree of victimhood. Some politicians are only too happy to gain votes by acknowledging various groups sense of victimization and even apologizing for it. They may even pay compensation. But in the end this only reinforces dependency and disempowerment. Which suits the politicians because then they can go after the same votes, in the same way, time and again.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. Robertson, again.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Christmas and Satanic cults in northern Saskatchewan

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): HawkeyeAssociates.Ca

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/08/13

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson is a Registered Doctoral Psychologist with expertise in Counselling Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Human Resource Development. He earned qualifications in Social Work too. Duly note, he has five postsecondary degrees, which is a lot, of which 3 are undergraduate level. His research interests include memes as applied to self-knowledge, the evolution of religion and spirituality, the aboriginal self’s structure, residential school syndrome, prior learning recognition and assessment, and the treatment of attention deficit disorder and suicide ideation. In addition, he works in anxiety and trauma, addictions, and psycho-educational assessment, and relationship, family, and group counselling.

Here we talk about the youth and attraction to Satanism, Christmas, pagans, Christianity, the Devil, gossip, and more.

*Listing of previous sessions with links at the end of the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You have commented on the ways in which gossip can even move to the point of Satanic cults and the like. You have remarked on Satanic beliefs among youth and the reasons for the attraction of it.

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: I wrote the first column a couple of years after a child was murdered in La Ronge, Saskatchewan by two older children, age 14 and 8. The murderers believed that if they drank the rendered fat of a virgin they would gain the power to fly. The victim had been dead for a couple of days before his family realized he was missing and reported his disappearance to the police. Nonetheless, the story was circulated that the police would have acted more quickly if the victim were “white.” Then the story was circulated that a Satanic cult was operating in the community and the perpetrators had been “possessed.” Fingers were pointed at adult individuals who were seen to be potential cultists.

Several years later, I was asked to do workshops on Satanic cults in two communities of the Peter Ballantyne Cree to the east of La Ronge. Some youth had murdered several cats and smeared the blood in a local church. Soon after, Satanic symbols were found scrawled on walls in a second community. The RCMP, at the time, had a special unit to deal with cults and that unit was brought in. The Department of Indian Affair funded cult experts to come in. I had a chance to talk to some of the youth involved. In a nutshell, they were angry with their parents and the adults in their communities and this was seen as a way of giving expression to their anger. But to this day, you will find adults believing that some mysterious cult had entered their community and possessed the minds of their youth.

I would like to update an account I gave in the second article linked to your question, Scott. The account given, that Satanism is a mutated form of early paganism involving pagan survivors of Christian persecution, was an accepted narrative within anthropology. But I now believe that the vast majority of women and men who were burnt at the stake during the 16th and 17th century European witch-hunts were, in fact, Christians who had no connection to either pagan or Satanic beliefs. A kind of malignant gossip mutated and spread inciting fear and the need for drastic action engulfing, in some cases, whole communities. You can read my recent work on mind viruses here: Viruses.

The “Scott Boyes” mentioned in the first article was the editor of The Northerner that originally published this series. He had final say on whether my teasing him about hypothetical gossip would be seen by the readers.

Jacobsen: Your writing on Christmas and its history is of interest here too. Is there a common system of belief around oppositions? In that, those leaving Christianity may be more attracted to inverted belief systems, where negative valence beliefs become positive in the newer worldview, e.g., the interest in the archetype of evil in Christianity in the Devil seen as representative of the highest good. Is this particularly the case among the young?

Robertson: That certainly was the case with respect the Peter Ballantyne youth. Their parents were all Christian as were the authorities against which they rebelled. Although there is no evidence that the Church of Satan was involved in their activities, having looked at their website, I believe that church represents an inversion of Christianity as well. To be clear, if Christians are seen to do evil, as they did with the Indian Residential Schools for example, then that which the Christians fear must be good. Of course, the logic does not necessarily follow.

There is no evidence that the boys who murdered and ate the flesh of the young virgin were operating from any inverted belief system. The Christianity of their parents simply made magical or supernatural thinking acceptable, so their actions must be seen within the same paradigm that allowed for the burning of the witches. Immoral superstitious actions done out of fear or opportunism have the same result to the victim. The antidote for such viral thinking is a healthy dose of rational and scientific thought. I think that critical thinking should be taught at all levels in our educational systems and that no topics should be exempted from rational inquiry.

By the way, in my seven years of writing for The Northerner, there were only two articles they refused to print. One of them was this article on the history of Christmas. I was told it would offend some Christians. The other was an article critical of Toshiba.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. Robertson, again.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Connecting racism and cults through fascism

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): HawkeyeAssociates.Ca

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/07/21

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson is a Registered Doctoral Psychologist with expertise in Counselling Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Human Resource Development. He earned qualifications in Social Work too. Duly note, he has five postsecondary degrees, which is a lot, of which 3 are undergraduate level. His research interests include memes as applied to self-knowledge, the evolution of religion and spirituality, the aboriginal self’s structure, residential school syndrome, prior learning recognition and assessment, and the treatment of attention deficit disorder and suicide ideation. In addition, he works in anxiety and trauma, addictions, and psycho-educational assessment, and relationship, family, and group counselling.

Here we talk about racism, white supremacy, power dynamics, sense of unworthiness, cults, dealing with racism and cults, and more.

*Listing of previous sessions with links at the end of the interview.*

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: A serious social disorder remains racism. A sense of superiority based on a non-biological, but still sociological and fictitious, category with real-world consequences. For example, you wrote on white supremacist forms of racism.

One correlation or driver is the power dynamics of racism. The power differential, presumed or perceived, may create fertile grounds for the sense of unworthiness described in the writing on cults, too.

What seems like cultural means by which to deal with racism and cults, as a set or separately? What tools of the psychological trade can be useful here?

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: I was hopeful, when I wrote the first article you cited, that racism was in decline. The idea that racial categories were arbitrarily defined was gaining acceptance, laws against racism were being enforced by human rights tribunals, fewer people were spouting racist ideas, and those that were would often be publically challenged. That trend line has been changing. Just this last week a law professor at Penn State in the U.S. said that her country would be better off if it restricted immigration to “whites.” A teaching assistant from the same university said she always asks black females students questions first. From there she ranked a series of minorities based on her estimate of “deserving” ending with white males whom she said she called on only if there is nobody left.

If I was to guess the psychological mechanism prompting the law professor’s racist statement would involve fear — fear that cultural values she holds dear are disappearing. The driving emotion of the teaching assistant’s racism is probably anger. She has a sense of social justice based on real or imagined historical wrongs, and she is intent on using her power to right those wrongs and punish those she sees as evil or in some way responsible. Historically it is not uncommon for the racist to describe the victims of racism as evil.

The law professor may be afraid that the underlying values of her civilization, having built the richest, best-educated and most tolerant civilizations known to mankind according to Steven Pinker, are being challenged in a way that will eradicate those advances. The teaching assistant, also driven by feelings, believes that the whites who have tended to dominate the economic pyramid in that civilization need to be replaced. The two are united in believing that there exists a pendulum with the teaching assistant believing that the pendulum should swing to favour those who have been historically disadvantaged. Those who wish to set the pendulum exactly in the middle like to set quotas for university entrance and various occupations based on population estimates, but the setting of such quotas reward tokenism or place-holding over ability and initiative thereby reinforcing the law professor’s concerns. The only way to eliminate racism is to get rid of the pendulum.

The pendulum is the concept of race, and as I pointed out in my initiating article, race is an illusion. All physical characteristics tend to blend into various population groups and no one set of characteristics is common to any. Anthropologists in the 1970s and 80s tried. By comparing blood type, skin colour, head shape and other physical characteristics they came up with three major races: Negroid, Caucasoid and Mongoloid. But even these categorizations are not discrete. Let me give you an example. In Canada, Jagmeet Singh likes to say he is the first visible minority member to lead a major political party. But his ancestry is Indo-European — he’s a Caucasian. He could still be a member of a visible minority if we define “white” more narrowly than Caucasian — and that is exactly what happens. Racial categories are defined by political expediency with people who would formerly have identified as “white” now claiming aboriginal, Hispanic and black status for the benefits accorded those categories through the quota system. We can remove the pendulum through colour-blindness. One of the participants in my doctoral research refused to identify as Metis because she did not live “Metis culture.” (see: Aboriginal Self). She did not identify as “white” either and when reporting to the census takers she would attempt to list her ethnicity as “Canadian.” What if, in any event, this woman was discriminated against because of her ascribed race? I would propose that laws against discrimination on the basis of race or any other fantasy categories continue.

Jacobsen: Okay, what is the connection between cults and racism, if any?

Robertson: In its original meaning “cult” meant a system of religious veneration directed toward an individual or saint, but in its modern form it connotes a form of mind control. “Mind” as used in this sense is the product of a self that is structured to incorporate elements of individuality, volition, constancy and logically consistent thought. David Martel Johnson, after studying pre-Homeric Greek and Egyptian cultures concluded they did have minds. I think his judgement is a little harsh, but they certainly did not have minds that functioned to differentiate the objective and subjective as we commonly value. Cultists operate by convincing their following to give up their sense of reason, and to trust the leader. Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger masterfully deconstructed science and reason as flawed, but he was not a relativist. He taught that one who was “Dasein” could determine ultimate truths and, of course, he and the Fuhrer were Dasein. Of concern, Heidegger may be considered the modern founder of postmodernism.

Cultish societies are xenophobic, and this antipathy for the outsider can easily lead to racism. Tribal societies, as existed in all of our pasts, were notoriously xenophobic, so this may be a tendency built into us. One of my concerns is that identity politics may be leading toward a kind of tribalism that involves the demonization of the outsider. The antidote for cultism, tribalism and attendant racism is to help people construct healthy selves that are capable of “minding” that Martell describes. I have argued that the project of psychology is to teach people to exercise free will as is possible with a complete and healthy self (see: Culturally evolved self).

Related to this, I would suggest the terms “western medicine” and “western science” are racist. What is referred to by these terms is a method of streamlining our reasoning processes that occurred as a result of the European Enlightenment, so from a historical sense the use of these terms is defensible. How it is used; however, is to imply that there are “alternate ways of knowing” that are more effective or more appropriate for non-European peoples. It is Heidegger all over again, and it is used to discourage non-European peoples from exercising their individual reason in favour of some collectivist or groupist template. It thus puts those people in a cognitive disadvantage.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. Robertson, again.

Robertson: It was my pleasure, Scott.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Connecting Humanism and Good Mental Health

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): HawkeyeAssociates.Ca

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/06/26

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson is a Registered Doctoral Psychologist with expertise in Counselling Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Human Resource Development. He earned qualifications in Social Work too. Duly note, he has five postsecondary degrees, of which 3 are undergraduate level. His research interests include memes as applied to self-knowledge, the evolution of religion and spirituality, the aboriginal self’s structure, residential school syndrome, prior learning recognition and assessment, and the treatment of attention deficit disorder and suicide ideation. In addition, he works in anxiety and trauma, addictions, and psycho-educational assessment, and relationship, family, and group counselling.

Here we talk about psychology, low self-esteem, crazy, and more.

*Listing of previous sessions with links at the end of the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: In “The Age of Psychology,” you describe, in brief, the ways in which psychology is utilized in the modern world. The “Epidemic of Low Self-Esteem” described how this age of psychology can be used for the positive.

“Crazy Making in Our Communities” talks about the ways in which individuals can go wrong, act strangely, or malfunction depending on the frame, as in the case of schizophrenia.

“From Lloydminster to Lenningrad” spoke to the manifestations of the social illness of racism reflected in certain psychologies, which seems to reflect religious fundamentalism.

If we look to treat extreme mental or social illnesses, how can the age of psychology, moving forward, help with their treatment — either reduction or even eventual elimination?

Humanist Canada Vice-President Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: Scott, you honour me by referencing articles I wrote for the now defunct weekly newspaper, The Northerner, 20 years ago. The main theme of The Age of Psychology seems to be even more apropos today. As a heuristic, if you read something, don’t learn anything new, but feel angry, chances are someone has been pushing your psychological buttons to get you to do something. My views on self-esteem have broadened substantially since I wrote Epidemic. I continue to recommend that parents spend considerably more time finding what is good and positive about their children than the negative; however, I believe that the self-esteem movement has gone too far producing people who overestimate their abilities while feeling entitled to the benefits that come with greater achievement. Studies comparing U.S. American and Japanese high school students, for example, have found that the U.S. students have higher self-esteem as related to their abilities in mathematics but their math achievement is substantially lower. Yes, we need to praise people, particularly for effort, but they also need to be grounded in reality. I am sorry, but we cannot all be whatever we want to be, we each have limitations, and in any case it requires work to accomplish that which is worthwhile. Our reluctance to give negative feedback has resulted in people with fragile egos who cannot handle criticism and have learned to treat negative feedback as “traumatizing.”

I was fascinated in the Lloydminster to Leningrad article to observe two people separated by 50 years and 7,000 kilometres who held identical racist views about Jews. Efforts to have them question their biases with facts just led to a series of rationalizations, often based on conspiracy theories, to explain away those facts. Those mechanisms are also used by the religious fundamentalists described in the article of that name. In his book The Deadly Doctrine Canadian psychologist and humanist Wendell Watters described religion as a kind of mental illness and in this he is in the company of Sigmund Freud who viewed religion as a kind of mass hysteria.

All of this speaks to my favourite article you referenced, Crazy Making. What is “crazy?” It is not being in touch with reality. The antidote is to teach reality testing skills based on natural rather than supernatural explanations using the rational and scientific skills honed in the Enlightenment. These skills need to be coupled with the belief that one can always choose courses of action that will make one’s future better instead of worse. This is the positive in self-esteem. But Crazy Making goes beyond this simple analysis. Communities, even societies, “make crazy” selected people they choose to demonize. The people could be Jews, Muslims, right-wingers, left-wingers, men or any other identifiable group viewed as “toxic” in some way. The 1960s rock band Jethro Tull, in their song Aqualung, sang of demonizing the homeless as a way of making the majority feel good about themselves. As a humanist, I don’t believe in demons. I believe people are essentially good and I agree with something Jordan Peterson said that we should approach every encounter with the attitude that here is a human being who knows something I do not yet know. I think that if we hold our own beliefs to be tentative dependent on further evidence, and that the people holding contrary believes are, nonetheless, good in their intentions, that we will have done a lot to improve mental health in the world.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. Robertson, again.

Robertson: Thank you for this opportunity to go down memory lane, Scott. I hope my reflections will help others to also reflect, each in their own way. The ability to reflect is in effect, the ability to reprogram ourselves, and that is a key part of what it means to be human.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

The Stigmatization of Men and Social Work

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): HawkeyeAssociates.Ca

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/05/14

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson is a Registered Doctoral Psychologist with expertise in Counselling Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Human Resource Development. He earned qualifications in Social Work too. Duly note, he has five postsecondary degrees, of which 3 are undergraduate level. His research interests include memes as applied to self-knowledge, the evolution of religion and spirituality, the aboriginal self’s structure, residential school syndrome, prior learning recognition and assessment, and the treatment of attention deficit disorder and suicide ideation. In addition, he works in anxiety and trauma, addictions, and psycho-educational assessment, and relationship, family, and group counselling.

Here we talk about male stigma in social work and more.

*Listing of previous sessions with links at the end of the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You wrote an article, recently, which is associated with Humanist Canada. What was the research question around male stigma? What was the tentative conclusion from the article published in Humanist Perspectives?

Humanist Canada Vice-President Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: Scott, you always tend to, and I shouldn’t overgeneralize and I’ve heard you do this before, but you tend to ask big questions that take a long time to answer.

The first part of the answer to my question is that the definition of “stigma” has to be clear. It is not the same thing as “discrimination.” Certainly, where stigma occurs, you expect discrimination to follow, but you can have discrimination without stigma.

Stigma, in the definition that I am using, is the imputation of a character defect, which when believed renders members a targeted group to be unfit, not also for interactions but, for particular social interactions.

I was looking for examples of stigma that fit that definition in the population. So, using that definition, I wanted to know when gendered stigmatization occurs. That was the research question.

To do that, I had to examine the experiences of a group of men. I had a sample of 16 men who agreed to partake of in-depth interviews on their experiences. I matched those experiences to the definition of stigma.

The conclusion was that stigma does occur. Now, given the restrictions of the research method, I am not able to say how prevalent that stigma is in society. That can be answered by future research.

Jacobsen: If we’re looking at those 16 men, what are some highlights from their self-reports?

Robertson: The two takeaways, the 16 men had some overlap. Some men experienced two forms of stigmatization. One was stigmatization with respect to role as parents. Men are less responsible, less able, or less reliable to be good parents and more of a threat, therefore, to children and women in general.

The other form of stigma, which was related to that. It is more about the threat rather than the ability level. Certain jobs, men had to prove that they were not a danger to functional success in those jobs.

One of the jobs being social work.

Jacobsen: How is this reflected in the numbers of men entering those professions in history as well as the present day?

Robertson: Overwhelmingly, in social work, men are underrepresented. Some of this underrepresentation can be traced to stigma. In my study, for example, I found that two men who were in the social work profession were judged to be in the first case not able because men don’t relate as well, and don’t communicate as well.

(Ed. Robertson interviewed two social workers, two social work students, and three social work clients totalling 7 individuals or almost half of the sample in the study, who all experienced or reported stigma from members of the profession.)

Therefore, this man had difficulties and was treated differently than if he had been female in the same position. As I said, discrimination, itself, is not by itself the same thing as stigma.

But if it is believed that because of men as a class have a particular characteristic that can be stigmatic, in the second case, a man graduated from social work. In his first job, and in his first job as a matter of fact, he was given the responsibility for assessing a woman, a single parent, and the women complained to his supervisor that he reminded her of an abusive uncle or an abusive family member in other words.

The supervisor asked as a claim of sexual harassment and was unwilling to interview the woman earlier for fear of furthering her trauma. As, not the male but the, female members of this persons team in social work who he had just started to work with, whether they felt comfortable with him given that he had been accused of sexual harassment, he lost his job.

I don’t believe a woman who some man said, “Well, she reminds me of an abusive aunt.” I don’t believe that woman may have been treated the same way with those suppositions. That is, supposition of being dangerous. Now, this is a complete surprise.

I didn’t, at any point, in the survey ask whether a particular profession was possibly had stigmatic views against men. I, certainly, did not single out social work. But it kept coming up. Remember, these are 16 men.

Two of them were students. In one case, the man in class argued against what was being presented; that domestic violence was a male event perpetrated by women. He brought forward evidence in terms of research that showed that domestic violence as 50–50. Most of the research that I have seen is 50–50.

It can be initiated by males or females in the domestic situation. He provided an argument. He defended his position. By the end of the conversation, he was compared to mass murderer Marc Lepine.

There is a suggestion here that because of a man disagrees with the stats being used; therefore, he is, now, like a mass murderer. It may be hard to understand the leap. But we can understand what happens, subsequently. He was drummed out of the profession.

He was kicked out of school. He was later won on a settlement because it was unjust, clearly. Why would this happen? Is it that only women can challenge such statistics on domestic violence without getting a reaction of this sort?

Noting only 16 men in the study, 3 of them were in events, where they were in custody battles with their ex-spouses. In each case, a bias was evident. I’ll give you one example. This example is, actually, from your province of British Columbia.

The male, in this case, bought a house close to the school, where his children went, because he wanted them to be comfortable going to school. He wanted to make this transition as easy as possible for the kids, because he knew a divorce is difficult on the children.

The social worker, in this case, said to him; that he was wasting his money. Because, in her opinion, the woman gets the children pretty much all the time. That can be an example of discrimination and not necessarily stigma.

But then, the same social worker about a month later after the woman in question had ignored an order with regard to visitation rights and the man complained. The social worker says, “Well, you are the man. In my opinion, I have to go with the lesser of two evils.”

There you have evidence of a stigmatic attitude. This kind of things happened over and over in the study. There was surprise that one profession should be mentioned so often in such a small sample.

Jacobsen: Even though, we have preliminary findings on some male stigma in social work in particular. What would be further directions of research deeper into the subject matter of social work male stigma or into male stigma in other domains of work?

Robertson: This method used in this study established that the conditions satisfying the definition of stigma exist as applied men. Quantitative methods are needed to establish how prevalent this stigma is found in Canadian society.

It was significant that nearly half the men in this sample recounted examples of stigma in their experiences as workers, students and clients of the social work profession; however, this does not prove that the profession as a whole is rife with this stigmatization.

The stigma could be limited to time or place or to, for example, men of a particular personality type. A study aimed specifically at the social work profession is needed answer these questions. It would then be possible to replicate such a study on other domains of work.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. Robertson.

Robertson: Okay!

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Practicing Psychology Intergenerationally

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): HawkeyeAssociates.Ca

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/04/02

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson is a Registered Doctoral Psychologist with expertise in Counselling Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Human Resource Development. He earned qualifications in Social Work too. Duly note, he has five postsecondary degrees, of which 3 are undergraduate level. His research interests include memes as applied to self-knowledge, the evolution of religion and spirituality, the aboriginal self’s structure, residential school syndrome, prior learning recognition and assessment, and the treatment of attention deficit disorder and suicide ideation. In addition, he works in anxiety and trauma, addictions, and psycho-educational assessment, and relationship, family, and group counselling.

Our guest today is Teela Robertson, M.C., who earned a B.A. in Psychology from MacEwan University and an M.C. in Counselling Psychology from Athabasca University. She has been a Board Member of the Center to End All Sexual Exploitation (CEASE), and a Transitional Support Worker through the E4C Youth Housing Program. Now, she is a Registered Provisional Psychologist with a non-profit community agency.

Here we talk about generational differences in educational training, and private practice counselling psychology work in comparison to non-profit community work.

*Listing of previous sessions with links at the end of the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Let’s start some of this within the context of a generational difference, for one, Lloyd and Teela, you come from different generations of counselling psychology. For two, you are a father and a daughter. You’re family. Any points to make at the outset here?

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: Issues such as those involving gender diversity, transsexuality, changing male roles and multiple lifetime careers were, I think, normative markers for Teela’s generation, and I consult with her regularly to avoid a feeling of being “stuck in the past.” I have talked before in this series about treating every client as a culture of one and the process of exploring each person’s unique culture has saved me from a lot of grief; however it is good to know what the client is talking about. I consult with Teela regularly about new and changing perspectives, and newer communication patters by which those perspectives are transmitted. I think I bring a historical perspective to the table.

Teela Robertson, M.C.: Given my dad raised me, I was influenced by his Adlerian approach, specifically regarding beliefs about human nature such as people are unique given their context, goal oriented, and capable of change. In my training I found myself automatically ascribing to an Adlerian framework which was pointed out by a professor early in my Masters. It was no surprise, but of course we typically try to differentiate from our parents. I agree my generation and particularly my personal experiences offered a different perspective for me to draw on when consulting with my dad. On the other side, my dad’s range of professional experience and expertise is a platform for me to draw on as I continue to learn and develop my professional self.

Jacobsen: Another difference, though not necessarily or, at least, fully based on generations, is the private practice versus not for profit professional lives in the latter-2010s. Lloyd, you work through Hawkeye Associates, i.e., a private practice. Teela, you work with a not for profit agency.

Lloyd, how does private practice possibly provide more in-depth and intimate experiences with clients or patients in comparison to not for profit agencies? Teela, does a not for profit potentially give a more consistent and narrow range of possible issues and concerns of patients compared to a private practice clientele?

Lloyd: Although I have maintained a private practice under a registered business name since 1985, I have also worked for the provincial government, indigenous band governments, school boards and a community college. I have experience as a psychologist in each of those settings. While the private practise route allows the practitioner more flexibility in controlling his or her schedule, it also has some drawbacks. For example, if the client is a “no-show” normally the practitioner does not get paid for that missing hour; Further, most private practice work is funded through various plans each of which has their own limitations. For example, one Employee and Family Assistance Provider limits paid sessions to three every calendar year. Successful therapy usually takes longer than three sessions. Of course, there may also be limitations when employed as a psychologist by an agency. For example, the provincial mental health program had a policy that therapists were not to do marriage counselling or ability assessments. School boards often did not like their psychologists doing mental health work. In private practice, I could do it all.

Teela Robertson, M.C.: Working in a community agency with accessible services that includes a sliding scale we see a wide range of client issues and concerns. Often this means clients who might otherwise only receive 3–5 sessions through insurance or employee assistance programs can continue therapy at a reduced rate. I am typically able to see my clients until we agree services are no longer required. Being in an agency there are some practice expectations to follow, however, at least in the agency I work there is a large amount of flexibility in terms of working with clients in our own style as opposed to having to conform to a specific modality or approach. What is somewhat unique although not exclusively, is that the agency I work for is faith-based and encourages us to take into consideration the client’s cultural and spiritual beliefs to the extent we are competent to and the client wants us to. This is an area I believe my dad and I practice very similarly. In that we may intentionally included a client’s cultural or spiritual practices as a strength they can draw on, something they may already be doing that they find helpful, prayer is a common example. Often times it is helpful to help clients consciously identify what it is they are already doing to get through tough times and do those things more intentionally, as long as they are productive for them.

Lloyd: There is research demonstrating that prayer can be effective in treating certain conditions such as depression and anxiety. But when you break down the results of that research you find that prayer involving a request that a deity give them something or do something to change their circumstance is not very effective. The prayer that is effective is non-demanding and contemplative, something like the notion of mindfulness. But often that is not sufficient. Psychotherapy is a value added process focusing on client empowerment and self-change. Using myself as an example, I was raised in a very religious family. Being a nervous sort, I found a quiet prayer to myself before each exam calmed me down and gave me the confidence to do my best. And it worked! I graduated from high school with a B average. Then I went to university and eventually decided I had the ability to do better by establishing my learning goals and sticking to a plan to reach those goals. In the process, I no longer needed the prayer to calm me down because I was now confident in my knowledge and ability. Since then, with one exception in my masters program, I have had straight As. Adler said we all have within an innate drive he called “striving for perfection.” The client who has stopped striving is discouraged. Our job, in part, is to help the client see that he or she has the capability to make a meaningful difference and to develop a plan to be the difference he has already decided is meaningful. As Teela said, that decision needs to be grounded in whatever cultural norms with which the client has chosen to self-identify.

Jacobsen: Lloyd and Teela, from educational experiences at the time of graduate training, what techniques were emphasized as core and then others as more secondary, even experimental — to provide a sense of the development of the discipline of counselling psychology over time?

Lloyd: In my masters program, it was emphasized that a psychotherapist had to pick one so-called “theory” of practise and learn it well. Eclectic practitioners were viewed as muddled and slightly irresponsible. In fact, these were not theories at all but competing schools of practise that regularly, and shamelessly, appropriated techniques from each other. Most psychologists today describe themselves as eclectic, and this has allowed for an evolving disciplinary paradigm that I described in my article on free will. This paradigm will, I think, allow for the development of psychology as a science, and has already allowed practitioners to refine their craft using best practices from a variety of schools.

Teela Robertson, M.C.: In my program Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Solution-Focused Therapy (SFT) were the popular choices. I believe this is due to the evidence backing CBT as well as the clear tools in each approach to help clients in very few sessions, this can be less intimidating for novice therapists. Another popular approach is mindfulness based techniques, I often draw on mindful techniques. Similarly to my dad’s experience I was told to pick a theory I most closely prescribe to as many still hold a negative view of eclecticism as an approach but acknowledge most therapists draw on tools from multiple theories. I am technically eclectic, although an Adlerian approach allows for this in terms of drawing on various techniques helpful for the client.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. Robertson and Teela.

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: You are very welcome.

Teela Robertson, M.C.: Thank you for having me.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

The difference between Counselling and Therapy

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): HawkeyeAssociates.Ca

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/03/19

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson is a Registered Doctoral Psychologist with expertise in Counselling Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Human Resource Development. He earned qualifications in Social Work too.

His research interests include memes as applied to self-knowledge, the evolution of religion and spirituality, the Aboriginal self’s structure, residential school syndrome, prior learning recognition and assessment, and the treatment of attention deficit disorder and suicide ideation.

In addition, he works in anxiety and trauma, addictions, and psycho-educational assessment, and relationship, family, and group counseling. Please see Ask Dr. Robertson 1 — Counselling and PsychologyAsk Dr. Robertson 2 — PsychotherapyAsk Dr. Robertson 3 — Social and Psychological Sciences Gone WrongAsk Dr. Robertson 4 — Just You and Me, One-on-One Counselling, and Ask Dr. Robertson 5 — Self-Actualization, Boys, and Young Males: Solution:Problem::Hammer:Nail as these are the previous sessions in this educational series. Here we talk about memes, the self, and Aboriginal or Indigenous issues.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Let’s start with memes and the self in relation to the Aboriginal self this session, please. The self is a cognitive structure and, thus, in part, a cultural construct. It also links to memes.

A meme is described as “an elemental unit of culture that exhibits referent, connotative, affective and behavioural properties. Connotation and affect were assumed to be the source of the attractive and repellent “forces” identified by Dawkins.

In addition, the self exists as non-static.[1] This view of the self as a dynamic whole within an environment is reflected in the eco-maps idea and cultural construction.[2] You have described one caveat of the self-stability as important as our selves evolving through time, or the dynamism of the self, too.

Also, the self, as it has evolved, is a reflective project. As noted, there can be consistency in the memeplexes, and so the average self across selves, e.g., consistency in volition in spite of cultural repression in the case of Maomao. In a way, the self remains not entirely a cultural construct in this resistance to cultural repression.

You explain the modern self as follows, “The modern self may be understood as a self-referencing cognitive feedback loop having qualities of volition, distinctness, continuance, productivity, intimacy, social interest, and emotion.”

The self, as a referent point, simply seems non-trivial as a point of contact here. Adler stated the self is core in worldview. Obviously, this links worldview to culture, the cultural construction of the self, the average self across selves, the dynamic self evolving through time, and, ultimately, the reflection in the structure and dynamics of the brain and so the mind.

Thus, these diverse points of contact centered on the self may be a means by which to help patients, as some work shown by you.

What other contexts provide explanation of the self and memes as further background — ignoring for the moment other work by Blackmore and others on technology and “memes”?

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: Thank you for that intricate summary of my work in this area Scott. I am not going to accept your suggestion that we ignore Blackmore for the moment, because I think that she offers a good starting point to understanding my contribution to self studies. Briefly, she viewed the self to be an illusion created by complexes of memes infesting human bodies turning us into “meme machines.” Given that the self is not a material thing, but an entity consisting of units of culture that describes a relationship with one material human body, hers is not, at first glance, an unreasonable metaphor. But we cannot be the corporeal body Blackmore assumes us to be because such bodies, by themselves, lack self-awareness or consciousness, and we have both. In the alternative, we might be the memeplexes so visualized, but that leads to the image of ethereal bodies waiting to infest some unsuspecting dumb brute in a kind of non-theistic dualism. From whence did such ethereal bodies come? The answer, of course, is that the memeplexi had to come from the bodies to begin with, which means there could be no infestation, no take over, no dualism between the two. Our bodies and our minds co-evolved and the distinctions we make between the two are simplifications that may benefit our analysis in some ways but cannot completely or holistically describe the phenomena.

When did the first self emerge? Well, I could say when the first ape-like creature recognized his reflection in a pool of water, but an argument could be made for millions of years earlier — when the first organism recoiled when penetrated by a foreign object. Of course, neither the ape nor the organism had a self we would recognize as such. The evolution of the self was aided by the invention of language that allowed for increasingly sophisticated conceptualizations, and equally important, a process whereby phonemes can be recombined to create new meanings — a process that is mimicked in the process of recombining memes in new and novel ways. The modern self with elements of uniqueness, volition, stability over time, and self descriptors related to productivity, intimacy and social interest, is one such recombination that proved to be such value that it was preserved in culture and taught to succeeding generations of children. This modern self occurred as recently as 3,000 years ago, but had such survival value that it spread to all cultures.

When I use the term “modern self” it should not be confused with “modernity” which is said to have occurred with the European Enlightenment. Foucault mistook the ideology of individualism that flowed from the Enlightenment with self-construction in declaring the self to be a European invention. Let me explain. To engage in volitional cognitive planning each person must first situate themselves within a situational and temporal frame. Even when engaged in group planning, each individual must so situate themselves in determining their contribution to the group effort. The Europeans did not invent this. While the potential benefits to societies containing individuals who can perform forward planning are obvious, the individualism inherent in defining oneself to be unique, continuous and volitional are potentially disruptive. I have argued that the rise of the great world religions was an effort to keep the individualism inherent in the modern self in check. Confucians sublimated the self to the family and tradition. Buddhists declared the self to be an illusion. Christians instructed the devout to give up their selves. Hindus controlled self-expression through an elaborate caste system. One of the accomplishments of the Enlightenment was to reverse the moral imperative. The individualism inherent in the self was now seen as a good and the enforced collectivism restricting the freedoms of the self, especially with regard to freedom of thought, was deemed to be oppressive. It is with this background early psychologists like Adler were able to declare the self to be central to a unique worldview.

Jacobsen: This can relate to Aboriginal peoples too, especially in the forced attempts at construction of new selves for the Aboriginal peoples in Canada with the sanction of both the churches — in general — and the government of Canada.

You stated, “The botched church-directed attempt to re-make the selves of aboriginal children led to the distinctive symptoms of Residential School Syndrome even in individuals who were not sexually or physically abused at school. Since the self both creates and is created by the surrounding culture…”

That links to the individual and cultural construction of the self in an Aboriginal mistreatment context. However, nuances exist here. The history remains gray rather than black and white — so to speak. In “The Residential School Experience: Syndrome or Historic Trauma,” you state, “…the residential school experience traumatized a generation of children without the necessary pre-condition that each one experienced physical or sexual abuse.”

Robertson: If I can interject here, I was engaging in literary hyperbole in the last quote you correctly attributed to me. Not every residential school was the same during all periods in which they existed, and not every child who attended an Indian Residential School was traumatized. I have worked with a number of adults who report good experiences at such schools. Having said that, there are numerous examples of physical and sexual abuse, but that is not the whole story. The point I was making here is that the system itself was potentially traumatizing without the necessity of introducing those “life and death” causal factors necessary for a traditional diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

All trauma can be viewed as damaging to the self of the individual who experiences it. In the case of Residential School Syndrome, children were removed from their families and their communities for extended periods of time. The churches wanted to minimize familial influence that might negate their sacred mission to proselytize. Isolated individuals have difficulty maintaining their sense of self. In the residential school environment students would not have typically received such reinforcement for their self, except possibly from their peers. From the staff, these students were treated like different persons from who they were in their communities and this was in an environment where they were disempowered. The new self was often grafted on to the old self but often without a good fit, or in some cases, the old self was discarded entirely. If we were only talking about physical or sexual assault then a diagnosis of PTSD would be sufficient to understand the condition. Considerations of self expand the range of recognized triggering events and expands the range of symptoms. It also introduces the possibility of intergenerational transmission.

Jacobsen: Also, you noted the possibility, as when Waldram reviewed the work of Manson (a study of U.S. high school students) and 8 other studies, of low rates of exhibited PTSD in Aboriginal peoples — because they simply have low rates of PTSD. In other words, it’s not everyone.

That is to say, there is a difference between the Aboriginal sub-populations who have and have not gone through Residential Schools, and differentials between individuals and people groups who went through the Residential School system. (All this skipping over issues of blood quantum and status, as described.)

Robertson: The mixing of “blood quantum” and culture invariably leads to racism, but for this discussion, we do not need to go there. At the time that I wrote the article to which you refer, the research on PTSD in aboriginal populations consistently showed lower rates of PTSD despite a higher proportion of potentially traumatizing incidents with survivors of residential schools in Canada being an exception. Since Waldram’s work, Brave Heart, who popularized the notion of “Historic Trauma,” has argued that PTSD in indigenous American populations is much higher than had been diagnosed, but this argument is based on the idea that high rates of alcoholism, domestic violence and crime are evidence of trauma. In my opinion, there are other possible reasons for such destructive activities.

Jacobsen: For example, there will be differences in the efficacy of methodologies between, for example, the Cree and the Blackfeet. It can be the same with different methodologies for men and women too.

As we discussed in the last session on pornography and video games and young men, described in the case of international students who were middle eastern men, you explain, “In the new, unmonitored environment, their post-secondary studies suffered because they spent several hours per day gaming and viewing pornographic websites.”

This may need a different intervention than with women who may be less likely to have these problems and different issues, if they do have them, manifesting with them, too.

One practical therapeutic example included a woman. You researched the construction of the map of the self, where the map of the self may help youth with the serious issue of suicidal ideation, as in the case of “Suzie,” alongside CBT and EMDR.[3]

However, males may respond in different ways. Therefore, different cultural groups and sexes & genders may require different methodologies. How can the ideas of memes and the self incorporate into different therapeutic methodologies for different Aboriginal peoples — and for Aboriginal men and women?

Robertson: There is an assumption in your question that different methodologies are appropriate for different classes of people. I treat each client as a culture of one with that culture identified through exploration. Once the client’s personal culture is understood, or in the process of developing that understanding, we co-construct treatment plans based on the uniqueness that is inherent. When we talk about differences between the sexes, or between racial and ethnic groups, these differences are merely averages and cannot describe any one person within the group. Any attempt to define people by their membership to an ascribed identity ends up being oppressive. People must define themselves.

Jacobsen: Further on the issues of men and women, and Aboriginal peoples, you have explained, in part, how this church (and state) imposition impacts the ways in which PTSD-like or PTSD symptomatology can be passed through the generations. You have described some of the atrocious outcomes:

The churches’ plan to pay for school maintenance costs through the labour of the students was unsuccessful, and this resulted in cutbacks to diet and health care. A 1941 study found that half the children who entered residential schools prior to that date did not survive to adulthood.

This relates to the cultural construction of the self passed through peoples with the trauma generated and delivered socioculturally down the generations. Also, as you note, ideological stances, such as some feminisms, may impute selves into men as a category, causing real-life havoc and lifelong damage.

This may become an issue or concern, or a reality, for many Indigenous peoples within the bounded geography of Canada, as they may be imputed, by the wider non-Aboriginal culture, with certain selves with damage to healthy senses of self. The aforementioned trauma, obviously, can impact the sense of self.

As noted in counselling services, the ethnicity and sexual orientation of the counsellor can influence who shows up, where, in a North American context, similar “ethnicity appeared to be more important to Amerindian than to Caucasian students…”

Dealing with aforementioned points of contact at the outset, for those Indigenous youth, or even older, affected with PTSD or PTSD symptomatology, could the storytelling and metaphors, e.g., the medicine wheel, help in the discovery of the newer healthier self, especially if done through an Amerindian counsellor as an example?

Robertson: My concern is not so much that people who are not aboriginal to North America would impute damaged selves to those who are, but that aboriginal people make the imputation to themselves. For example, when Waldram first suggested we consider that lower rates of PTSD have been diagnosed among Amerindian populations because they actually have lower rates of PTSD, there was a huge outcry, not from the non-indigenous populations, but from indigenous academics. These academics and others in the indigenous community believed that Waldram was minimizing the effects of colonialism, but this interpretation was a misreading of his work. His actually said that we should explore resiliency factors in aboriginal cultures that lead to a greater ability of members of those communities to cope with potentially traumatizing events, and I agree. We need to explore community strengths instead of focusing exclusively on weaknesses or past wrongs. Indeed, a focus on weakness can be damaging irrespective of the money and resources thrown at that weakness. Let me give an example.

Supposing there is a terrible death in a community and the grieving family invites me to help them with the grieving process. I let them know I will be right over. While they are assembled in the front room waiting for me, Aunt Mary arrives with a cake. We can all recognize that Aunt Mary is not there to show off her baking. She is there to provide comfort and support to the grieving family. Now, supposing instead of inviting Aunt Mary in, the family tell her they are waiting for this expert on grieving to arrive, and they ask her to come back later. What Aunt Mary has learned is that her approach, what she has to offer, is not good enough. She is less likely to offer her coping skills in the future and less likely to pass her skills on. One of the co-constructed community activities that we developed to combat high rates of youth suicide in Stanley Mission during the 1990s was to have elders teach the wilderness survival skills. These camps proved to be very popular with the males and therapeutic. When we asked the elders why they had not taught these skills to their grandchildren previously they replied that in this modern age they didn’t think anyone would be interested.

The storytelling tradition runs deep in cultures indigenous to the Americas, and indeed, one of the ways we make sense of the world is to tell stories to ourselves. Usually, in these stories, we are either the protagonist or the story is told from our perspective. The first task is to gain an understanding of the meaning of the metaphors and images embedded in the story. Then I look for evidence of the protagonist overcoming great difficulty. If the self that is in evidence from these narratives does not evidence the ability to overcome obstacles, then that is an area of self-definition that needs to be addressed. Over time, the self-narrative will change to include empowered self-volition, and with that change the individual can assess their circumstance from new perspectives.

The medicine wheel concept offers the promise of understanding complex situations; however, the medicine wheel as is popularly used falls short of that ideal. If you believe that the medicine wheel is always divided into four and that the primary constituents of that fourplex include physical, mental, emotional and spiritual then you have moved it from being a useful construct for understanding complexity to a simplistic dogma. In any case that medicine wheel is not particularly traditional. For one thing, there is no word for mental in the Algonquian family of languages, nor in any other indigenous language as far as I know. In Cree a word meaning “He is crazy” is usually used much to the chagrin of mental health workers. Second mental disorders are usually inabilities to modulate, control or act on emotions so “mental” necessarily includes both cognitive and emotional functioning. Finally, and most tellingly, the wheel is not indigenous to Amerindian cultures. There has been a lot of cultural appropriation going on in the construction of the modern medicine wheel. There are hundreds of ancient stone circles stretching across the length of the Great Plains of North America that are too big or too intricate to be tepee rings, the stones that hold the flaps of a tepee down and are left when a camp moves. These ancient circles were divided in many ways and not always from the center like spokes in a wheel. Following that older tradition, I invite clients to construct their own personal medicine wheel using whatever symbolism that fits with their history and worldview.

Jacobsen: Herein, we have a deeper question about the necessity of the categories of the Aboriginal self and non-Aboriginal self, or, rather, the selves. The important part seems the development of a functional self in the first place.

As you noted, cultures evolve. Or, more quotable, “As culture is the collective expression of the people who constitute it, cultural evolution is tied to self-change.” Static assumptions do no one good here, described earlier; either at the individual or the collective levels.

Some examples of this include Indigenous Christianity exemplified by Dr. Terry LeBlanc, Dr. Raymond Aldred, the late Rev. Richard Twiss, and others. Cultures collide and third ones arise. You posed the question, “How many non-aboriginal memes can be incorporated into a self before it ceases to be aboriginal?”

Looking into the future, the First Nations cultures will remain. The Second Nations or settler-colonialist cultures will stay. Simultaneously, a third set of cultures will emerge from this history. What might be the next manifestation of a third culture?

Robertson: During the 1960s Anishinaabe Duke Redbird used to say that the truck is a very important part of Amerindian culture. “How do I know that?” he would rhetorically ask, only to answer “Because whenever I visit a reserve anywhere in Canada, there are old half tons and plenty of reserve mechanics who know how to keep them running.” I would add that the trucks are a lot newer these days.

It is not so much that Amerindian or First Nations cultures will remain as that they will continually be co-constructed and reconstituted by the members that identify with those cultures. Those reconstructions will inevitably involve cultural appropriation. The concept of nation as applied to Amerindian peoples in Canada is one such appropriation. The idea of the nation began with Joan of Arc who rallied people who spoke various dialects of French to oppose the British. Although French forces eventually repelled the British, the idea that the French were a nation that owed each other and the nation allegiance did not take root until the French Revolution and was exploited by Napoleon to almost conquer all of Europe. Arguably, however, the first nation occurred earlier in the form of the Dutch Republic. The Anishinaabe could be a nation if they defined themselves as such, and if they did they would organize something like an Anishinaabe national council. Irrespective of issues of sovereignty and self-government, a band that may consist of two or three extended families, is not the same thing as a nation so when the term “First Nation” is used at that level it represents a misappropriation. It seems that the term “First Nations” represents a conflation of “first peoples,” but even here we have waves of migration so that the descendents of the Clovis peoples would be arguably the first, the Dene the second and the Inuit the third.

Given the historical record your use of the term “Second Nations” is confusing. You may be referring to the formation of Canada led by John A. Macdonald. He attempted to form a nation out of British North America but in his attempt to assimilate French and English speakers into that nation he was extending the definition of the term. In any event, the experiment did not work as planned. Beginning with Rene Leveque, the Quebecois defined themselves as their own nation but English speaking Canadians have never defined themselves as an English speaking nation. All of this prompted Justin Trudeau to describe Canada as a post-national formulation in a New York Times interview. In Trudeau’s opinion, the Canadian nation no longer exists.

You asked about the emergence of a third culture, but that has already happened and is continuing to happen. Canadian culture has been evolving from a “mosaic” pattern distinctive from the U.S. American “melting pot.” It is descended from the fur trade and the mercantile system that distinguished British North America heavily influenced by geography, climate, and cultures that were indigenous to the land. It is also a culture that is descended from the European Enlightenment as well as its Christian traditions. It will continue to evolve as a negotiation between its peoples.

Jacobsen: As you imply, the objective world matters, as objective truth provides the basis for empirical models for comprehension of the natural world. However, the work with Indigenous or Aboriginal peoples with PTSD symptomatology can become a difficulty.

As you explained, “The scientific method developed as a way of reducing subjectivity in our quest for the objectively real. Rational thought is anathema to thought systems that propagate through non-rational means.”

How can healthy concepts of self and, with them, reliance on approximations of objective truth derive a basis for a third culture — secular and religious — more constructive and positive than destructive and negative of relations between the First Nations and Second Nations — so to speak — or the settler-colonialists and, in fact, a basis for different and innovative forms of treatments oriented with the context and conceptualizations of memes the self?

Robertson: First I would like to explain that I am not a post-modernist. I had a professor who said science is just a “white male way of knowing.” I countered that if this was true then accounts of colonialism are just a “Politicized Indian way of knowing.” For the very same reasons why I believe there exists an objective reality outside ourselves, I believe the holocaust and the colonization of the Americas occurs irrespective of the race, gender or ethnic membership of the speaker. “His truth” or “her truth” is always trumped by “the truth.” It is our challenge to find what is true, and that is the mission of science.

Instinctively, we know this is true. Clients with very low self-esteem don’t change just because the therapist tells them they are worthy and capable. They change only when they see sufficient evidence that counters their low self-evaluation. It is not that they are afraid to believe in themselves, it is that they are afraid to believe in themselves falsely. They take a theory as to who they are and they keep to that theory until it is overwhelmed by evidence to the contrary. They are scientists.

Evidence that is based on blaming others is self-defeating because the act of blaming transfers one’s personal power to those who are blamed. A problem with victim culture is that it depends on redress from the more powerful with the result that it breeds perpetual dependency. PTSD is characterized by a disempowered self surrounded by a worldview that is hostile to the individual and unpredictable. The anecdote for both those with PTSD and those immersed in victim culture is to define oneself as capable of contributing to a secure future within a world that is mostly, but not always, supportive and predictable. The positive self-esteem that results is then a result of one’s own efforts within a social interest context.

Blaming or demeaning others is a cheap and ultimately ineffective way of building self-esteem. Let’s deconstruct your use of the term “settler-colonialist.” The 19th century Cree, after they defeated the Dene in most of what is now northern Saskatchewan, settled in the now vacated land building family trap lines and ultimately forming communities. Since they came from what is now northern Manitoba and settled in a land to which they had not previously occupied, they were settlers. But after a generation or two, their descendants could no longer be viewed as settlers because they were born in and were part of the land that was once Dene. The term “settler” only applies to the generation that settled. The notion that white people will always be settlers because of their race is, I think, racist. I am reminded of a political conversation I had with a group of people at the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College back in the early 1980s. At one point a Cree woman who refused to acknowledge that she also had European genes loudly stated, “I wish all the whites went back to where they came from, and you Metis should go half way back.” We all laughed. In those days we were not so sensitive to humour. But when you think about it, the idea that the Metis should drown in the North Atlantic is a racist idea, but at the time we knew she didn’t really mean that. The fact is, the whites aren’t going anywhere. Calling them “settlers” only breeds a perpetual sense of self-defeating disempowering victimization.

I notice that when the words aboriginal and settler are used in the same sentence, the word “aboriginal” is usually capitalized while the word “settler” is never capitalized. This is rather curious because both words are descriptive adjectives. Why would adjectives describing one people be treated differently than adjectives describing another? Now, in fact, in English adjectives that end in “al” are never capitalized, but in Canada we have recently ignored that convention. Perhaps we believe that by capitalizing the word aboriginal we will build the self-esteem of people who are aboriginal to this land. I think there are more meaningful ways of building self-esteem. As a person with such ancestry, I don’t need to capitalize a self-referencing adjective to build my self-esteem.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. Robertson, again.

[1] It is referenced in other research by Dr. Robertson, “…this understanding explains how the syndrome may be transferred intergenerationally. That being said, it would be a mistake to assume that all who went to residential school suffer from the associated syndrome or that therapeutic self-reconstruction can be done by PLAR facilitators.”

[2] Interestingly, as a small point, the self can have implications for how one views the need for weddings too. Dr. Robertson states, “It is postulated that marriage ceremonies have persisted among the non-religious due to needs to authenticate or recognize transitional changes to the self, but these needs have been met through ad hoc strategies as opposed to a uniform demand for humanist services.”

[3] Ignoring the prior learning assessment, though intriguing, as this does not suit the needs of the educational series here, the work with Dianne Conrad repeats the other interesting points about the need for integration into the models, of the practitioner of “self-development,” of a dynamism in other words.

Some interesting commentary, “The literature of higher education and adult learning has long recognised the value of providing adults with not only cognitive and workplace skills but also with tools for development in the affective — social and emotional — domains of learning.”

Some more intriguing commentary, “…the practice of recognising prior learning, as a means of credentialing and a form of validation, must be rigorously and ethically administered to ensure appropriate recognition of real achievement.” How does one keep the accurate conception of self mapped to the notion of the “self”?

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Self Actualization of Boys and Young Men

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): HawkeyeAssociates.Ca

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/02/11

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson is a Registered Doctoral Psychologist with expertise in Counselling Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Human Resource Development. He earned qualifications in Social Work too.

His research interests include memes as applied to self-knowledge, the evolution of religion and spirituality, the Aboriginal self’s structure, residential school syndrome, prior learning recognition and assessment, and the treatment of attention deficit disorder and suicide ideation.

In addition, he works in anxiety and trauma, addictions, and psycho-educational assessment, and relationship, family, and group counseling. Please see Ask Dr. Robertson 1 — Counselling and PsychologyAsk Dr. Robertson 2 — PsychotherapyAsk Dr. Robertson 3 — Social and Psychological Sciences Gone Wrong, and Ask Dr. Robertson 4 — Just You and Me, One-on-One Counselling, as these are the previous sessions in this educational series. Here we talk about self-actualization.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Famously, so famous, in fact, as to become a common phrase indicative of common sense wisdom — which, as one may joke about ‘common sense,’ may be uncommon sometimes and other times not-so-wise, the late Abraham Maslow, American Psychologist, remarked on the existence of problems and tools to solve them:

I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.

Dr. Philip Zimbardo, Professor Emeritus at Stanford University, and others — including Dr. Warren Farrell, who speaks in a pace and tone so as not to offend even the fly on the wall, for content reasons, obviously — continue to focus on some overlooked issues for males, young males and boys in particular; where as a collective, interrelated culture, these become issues for us, too. Maslow constructed the hierarchy of needs in the 1943 paper entitled A Theory of Human Motivation.

Zimbardo, who specializes in the psychology of evil (Stanford Prison Experiment in experiment and Abu Ghraib in reality, though this experiment came under more critical scrutiny, recently) and time perspective (e.g., living, mentally speaking, in the past, the present, or future), spoke on young men and boys since the early 2010s right into the present.

In particular, Zimbardo spoke on the failure of some boys and young men in multiple domains of life, where mainstream cultures — multinationally speaking — demand certain levels of performance and expect achievement of specific milestones by culturally affirmed ages for social approval. If not, then cue the epithets and societal reproval.

It is not an all-or-nothing evaluation, but it is a change in the ratio of the boys and young men succeeding compared to previous generations on average — and, especially, in contrast to the wonderful rise of girls and women. It becomes a dual-facet phenomenon of decline for boys and young men and incline for girls and young women with higher-order analysis implications, in time and in persistence of culture in bounded geography. Zimbardo reflected on the failures, by his estimation, as indicative of a hijacking or hacking of the hierarchy of needs by pornography, video games, and fatherlessness/(male-)mentorlessness — in part.

That is to say, with the self-fulfillment and psychological needs removed from the hierarchy of needs or ignored by the boys and young men, this left, at least, pornography, video games, and mentorlessness as central pillars in the decline of self-actualization and psychological needs, in boys and young men.

In the end, Zimbardo argues the result becomes a context in which young men and boys find themselves fulfilled as purely safety-and-physiological-needs-based beings, while also creating, in his research and assertions, i.e., not formally accepted by the academic psychological community in the DSM-5, “arousal addictions”: a psychological mode of a move towards pleasure and drift, or shift, away from pain in every life dynamic with a consistent need for novelty, which is an addiction for similar hyperstimuli with perpetual novelty, e.g., pornography and video games, as opposed to the same hyperstimuli, e.g., cocaine and gambling.

Of course, as a side remark, Dr. Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D., American Psychologist and Physician, describes endocrine disruptors and educational system changes as additional factors in this.

No planning, no contingencies, no notions of the future, no orientation towards larger life goals, and little or no incentive to move out of this hedonistic, presentist mental state. Did Maslow predict this psychological orientation of young men and boys? If so, how? Did anyone (else)?

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: Your pre-amble certainly covers a lot of ground, Scott! The short answer as to whether Maslow predicted the current psychological orientation of young men and boys is “no.” He was interested in individual as opposed to collective psychological development. On the other hand, his hierarchy of needs may be applied to such developments.

There is a lot of evidence that males in modern Euro-American cultures are not doing well. Males, on average, die younger. Male unemployment is increasing with large numbers of younger males considered virtually unemployable, yet 97% of workplace deaths are men. Seventy percent of graduates in Canadian universities are women. Male suicide rates are four times that of women. Men are more likely to suffer from addictions, be incarcerated and be victims of violent crime. Eighty percent of homeless are men. Things have gotten worse for men since ex-feminist Warren Farrell wrote his book two and a half decades ago. From a Maslow hierarchy of needs perspective, things have not been going well, and part of that can be attributed to the influence of feminism.

Sax, whom you also referenced, in a brilliant analysis of kindergarten curricula in the United States, said that the curricula had been changed in preceding decades to conform to girl’s normative development. Specifically, he said that kindergartens had come to emphasize verbal skills which developmentally favour girls at that age. Had kindergartens emphasized spatial skills then boys would have been favoured. The result of this gynocentric curricula is that boys are more likely to experience frustration in their early schools, like school less, and more frequently experience failure. If female normative development and behaviour is set as normative across society, then boys and men will be disadvantaged. But that is only part of the story.

Using qualitative methods, I was able to demonstrate that a diverse sample of Canadian men have experienced harsh stigma as a result of their sex. Stigma is the imputation of characteristics to a class of people that renders them unfit for certain social roles. The men were viewed as a threat to others or irresponsible with respect to family responsibilities simply because they were men. As a result, they were judged as unfit, or less fit, in their roles as parents or as employees in specific occupations despite a lack of evidence of any wrongdoing. We see this stigma in society with notions of “toxic masculinity” where guilt does not have to be proven, it is assumed. Thus, even when men overcome disadvantages built into education, they remain at a disadvantage. The alienation of fathers from their families, in large part because of stigma, compounds the problem because boys, raised by single parent mothers, are less likely to have effective role models matching their gender and they are more likely to experience addictions, incarceration and suicide.

So, as Zimbardo has argued, many young men are dropping out. They are not competing for careers. They are not establishing families. They are not contributing meaningfully to society. They are occupying themselves with short term gratification. Maslow argued that until self-esteem needs are met, people are more preoccupied with meeting those needs than pursuing self-actualization. If a group of people are disadvantaged in education and suffer stigma for being a member of their group, it could be expected that in accepting the dominant society’s normative view, they suffer low genderized self-esteem. Zimbardo’s famous prison experiment showed definitively that people tend to become the roles societies set for them. The scary implication of this is that many of these young men could become the “toxic masculine” stereotype feminists have set for them. But I think there is another way of looking at this.

About three decades before Maslow built his famous pyramid, Alfred Adler said that all humans are born with a “striving for perfection” which is similar to Maslow’s idea of self-actualization. Those who give up this striving are people who are discouraged and this describes those young men who are dropping out. We need to combat society’s message to boys that they are both bad and failures and we need to reintroduce the striving for goodness.

Robertson’s article on Male Stigma can be found at: https://www.hawkeyeassociates.ca/images/pdf/academic/Male_Stigma.pdf

Jacobsen: Following from the previous question, what therapeutic methods, in a professional setting — group and one-on-one, work with the young men and boys, who, by standard cultural expectations, continue to fail at, probably, increasing rates?

Robertson: In 2012 I attended a workshop on how to counsel men at a Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association annual convention. The presenters were both women one of whom asked, with wide eyed innocence, how many of the attendees, who were overwhelmingly women, had actually counselled a man. Fewer than half the workshop participants raised their hands. The workshop then proceeded with a review of statistics on how few men seek psychotherapy, how men experience depression and suicide ideation less but nonetheless commit suicide at higher rates, and how men sublimate their mental health needs through alcohol, anger, and violence. The prescription of the presenters was that men need to learn how to admit their failings and seek help; they need to be in touch with their feelings more and make themselves “vulnerable” by discussing those feelings; and they need to find allies and build support systems. In short, they need to become more like women.

The suggestions of these female facilitators are not totally wrong. Many men benefit from honing these skills; but I would argue that many women would benefit from learning skills in which men tend to more easily excel. The problem with the paradigm that was presented at this workshop is exactly the problem Sax found with gynocentric kindergarten curricula — it sets up female developmental experience as normative to which both sexes should aspire.

The dominant themes in psychotherapy have always been gyno-normative, even when most of the practitioners were male. For example, Freud’s patients were all female (and rich females at that), and it was on his experience with them that he based his theories. It is probably no coincidence that the psychoanalysis he developed consists of symbolism, dream interpretation, random thoughts, free associations and fantasies in a process that can take years. In contrast, the male approach is to define a problem and solve it. Sometimes this involves setting aside one’s emotions so that rational processes are better able to take charge. My experience with men is that they do not want to be in therapy for a long time. Albert Ellis’ Rational Emotive Therapy makes sense for many men although women may equally benefit from this approach.

I don’t mean to recapitulate John Grey’s Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus thesis. A non-sexist psychotherapy will treat each person as a culture of one with the therapist setting out to learn that culture; however, we need to recognize that there are certain tendencies that may be culturally or genetically driven. Sexist psychotherapy occurs when the normative experience of one sex is set as the norm for both. For example, the presenters at the “How to Counsel Men” workshop I just cited were mystified as to how it was that men were far more likely to commit suicide than women but were far less likely to suffer from depression. It did not occur to them that the American Psychological Association defines depression using the female normative experience. Male symptoms that differ from the female expression are not recognized, and I submit this is one reason why men are under diagnosed with this condition.

It is not at all clear that men’s mental health needs will receive serious attention any time soon. The APA Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Men and Boys released last year, attempts to link traditional masculinity to racism, ageism, sexism, classism, and heterosexism, and this, we are told, results in “personal restriction, devaluation, or violation of others or self.” The unsubstantiated suggestion is made that men commit higher levels of intimate partner violence and are estranged from their children because they lack the will or ability to have positive involvement in healthy family relationships. Psychologists are cautioned about believing their male clients who protest their innocence because, in the words of the APA, “Male privilege tends to be invisible to men.”

I think we should consider the possibility that men do not seek counselling or therapy because they do not see counsellors and therapists as sympathetic to their experiences and the APA guidelines fail to dispel this perception. This should not be seen as an indictment against all therapists. Jordan Peterson’s “Twelve Steps” are based on practices that are common to Rational Emotive and Cognitive Behavioural therapies, and he expressed surprise that his approach has been overwhelmingly endorsed by young men because those approaches are gender neutral. I think his experience demonstrates that men are willing to seek help for their mental health issues if the helpers are seen to be sympathetic to their lived experience.

My advice to men who are interested in psychotherapy is to interview a number of psychotherapists before settling on one. Ensure that the therapist you choose is sympathetic to your needs and has an approach with which you feel comfortable. I think most therapists would feel comfortable answering such questions, and if they do not, you do not want to use the services of that therapist.

Jacobsen: Recalling a remark by Sax, he noted, after the age of 30, no reliable intervention — inasmuch as his research and professional practice work are concerned — for the aforementioned failure, in terms of steerage back onto the high seas of normal cultural life. He states, according to recent research on the architecture of the brain, an adult female is aged 22 and an adult male is aged 30.

Robertson: Neuropsychology is not my field; however this sounds like an old idea that girls mature faster than boys. I will rely on Susan Harter on this who did a meta-analysis and concluded that the frontal lobes normally complete their development around age 25 for both sexes. She published this in her 2012 book, and there may be subsequent research of which I am not aware. On the other hand, Sax is on solid ground in contending that there are inherited sex-linked differences with respect to personalities, drives and certain aptitudes although it should be remembered that when discussing such differences we are talking about averages and that knowing a person’s sex will not reliably tell us anything about any individual person’s personality or aptitudes. In any case, we are not born with a blank slate as Steven Pinker classically articulated in his book of that name, and on that point I think Sax is on very solid ground scientifically.

The 1950s and 60s popular notion that girls mature faster than boys was grounded in a number of observations that included girls verbal and social development, and the fact that young women were often ready to settle down and raise a family by their late teens. Young men, on the other hand, were often more interested in things than people and would rather explore and experiment than settle down and raise a family. The related conclusions regarding maturity was again grounded in a gynonormative perspective. We now know that different lifestyles and experiences can affect the brain’s structure such that male curiosity, if allowed expression, will result in a strengthening of relevant parts of the brain. Neo-natal scarcity can also lead to phenotypical gene expression that may be adaptive in a world of grinding poverty but are maladaptive in the modern context. Sax may have been thinking of this research in putting limits on when profitable interventions may be undertaken. Recent research has debunked the idea that the brain loses all plasticity by age 30, and in any case, I have helped many adults past middle age to lead satisfying lives after having had a career of dysfunctionality.

Jacobsen: Looking at the last two questions, if we look at the short, medium, and long term futures of men and, thus, in part, societies, what will be the outcomes for those who begin to succeed, and those who continue to fail, by the standard cultural expectations in Canada? What will be the outcomes for the Canadian culture if the trends lean towards further failure or further success — as defined before? For example, Sax reflects on the work by Professor David D. Gilmore, Professor of Anthropology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, with the likely dissipation and replacement, as an assessment and not a judgment of Gilmore, of secular English-speaking culture in North America, and, in fact, elsewhere, because of the lack of strong bonds across generations and the current cultures with young men and boys on one failure, and girls and young women on another standard success, trajectory, where these sub-cultures in larger Canadian society will not reproduce themselves for a variety of reasons and, therefore, will undergo steady replacement by other sub-cultures enacting the behavioral, communal, familial, and mating patterns indicative of those who have endured in previous generations for millennia, e.g., the Navajo, the Chinese, the Jewish, and so on.

Robertson: Again, there is a lot packed into your question. I would predict that some men will continue to succeed and they will assume the position of alpha males. I predict that large numbers of men will continue to fail, in part due to societal structures that lead to this result, and in part due to their own state of personal anomy flowing from a breakdown in the intergenerational transmission of values. I would argue, however, that reproduction below replacement levels is occurring worldwide and cannot be attributed solely or even primarily to events unique to Euro-American cultures but seem to be correlated with higher levels of educational opportunity available to women that allow for alternate avenues to self-actualization besides the mother archetype. I don’t think a low birth rate is necessarily a bad thing, but I am concerned about male roles in this new culture.

With the words “alpha male” my mind went immediately to the Canadian prime minister who may or may not be prototypical. Alpha males operate by different rules than are available to ordinary males. Feminists in Trudeau’s cabinet like Chrystia Freeland and Jane Philpott gave Mr. Trudeau a pass on substantiated allegations of a past sexual assault while applauding the expulsion from the Liberal caucus backbench members who faced unproven allegations of sexual assault. This would be an example of how rules between classes of men differ in the new society. The problems men who are not alpha face are either invisible or ignored. Even though three times as many male aboriginal men are missing or murdered as compared to aboriginal women, a Canadian inquiry into the problem excluded consideration of the men. When the government announced that Syrian refugees would be admitted, single males were specifically excluded from refugee status. When foreign aid increases were announced, agencies receiving the aid had to agree that none of it would go to men. I do not think the majority of men can expect much consideration from such feminized alpha males.

One problem faced by the majority of men is we do not normally confide in and support other men. I have been part of that problem. In 1969 I marched with Women’s Liberation to protest the “Saskatoon Club.” This was a club for well-to-do men in the city of Saskatoon. Men got to relax, play pool, discuss business and politics, and enter into mentoring relationships without the perceived distraction of women. We succeeded in opening it up to women. About three years later a succession of women rose at a meeting of Women’s Liberation to state that there were women present who felt intimidated by the presence of men. They politely asked the men present, who numbered about a quarter of the group, to leave, and we did so without protest. The result is that there was no net gain in inter-sex cooperation. The difference involved a shifting of gender specific networking and mentoring capacity. Ordinary men to this day remain largely unorganized.

The lack positive male self-identity can be traced to an intergenerational fail in the transmission of values. This fail began long before the advent of feminism. With the Industrial revolution men were forced to work in factories for 12 to 16 hours per day six days per week. Men became absentee parents whose contribution to the family was largely as a “good provider.” Mothers raised their children but necessarily gave them a woman’s perspective. This division of labour became a cultural norm, maintained long after working hours were reduced. Most men still measured their self-worth by their ability to be that good provider for their families differing to women in matters of child-rearing. But now, if men work hard and achieve financial success they are told that they are the recipients of unearned male privilege. Some men are saying, “Why bother?” I think the appeal of people like Peterson is that he has given them a reason to bother that transcends current ideological constraints, and that reason has to do with the development of personal integrity. In a sense, he is reaching out intergenerationally, filling a need in building positive male identities, as I also hope to do in this interview. Thank you for the opportunity.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. Robertson, once more.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Rapport and Transference in Counselling

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): HawkeyeAssociates.Ca

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/01/28

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson is a Registered Doctoral Psychologist with expertise in Counselling Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Human Resource Development. He earned qualifications in Social Work too.

His research interests include memes as applied to self-knowledge, the evolution of religion and spirituality, the Aboriginal self’s structure, residential school syndrome, prior learning recognition and assessment, and the treatment of attention deficit disorder and suicide ideation.

In addition, he works in anxiety and trauma, addictions, and psycho-educational assessment, and relationship, family, and group counseling. Here we talk about the clientele.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: When working with clients or patients one-on-one, how do you build rapport and trust with them? I imagine, on a one-on-one basis, difficulty in working with them without rapport or, especially, trust.

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: Numerous studies have found that client-counsellor rapport accounts for up to 50% of the variance in therapeutic outcomes, and this has led some psychologists to conclude that the methodological school of psychology one practises is not important. What the data actually shows is that without rapport the client is less likely to experience positive outcomes regardless of methods used, but that still allows for the possibility that some practices are more efficacious than others for particular issues.

Probably the easiest way to build rapport is to identify commonalities between therapist and client. This could include gender, race, ethnicity, religion, social status, and so on. Once the client has revealed the problem or issue that has brought him or her to therapy, the therapist may share that he has faced a similar issue, and this too has the effect of establishing rapport, but there are risks associated with this approach.

The first such danger is that it can undermine the therapeutic process. As discussed in an earlier conversation, psychotherapy is predicated on the notion that each of us is a unique self-determining individuals. By over emphasizing our external commonalities, we run the risk of denying that self-empowering process. The clearest example I can think of occurred when I was Director of Mental Health for Northern Saskatchewan. Concerned with the lack of effectiveness of its alcohol and drug addiction program, the province brought its addiction program under the authority of the mental health program. I discovered that addictions workers had been hired, not on the basis of their competence in psychotherapy, but on the basis of their status as “recovered” alcoholics. These workers had maintained sobriety for years, and they thought they could use their own experience as a template for others. They gave advice based on their own experiences and they thought they were doing therapy. Such an approach denies the individual experiences and cognitions of the client.

A second danger of establishing rapport through the development of a common identity is that it could confirm a dysfunctional worldview. Psychotherapy is about change. If a man comes to me having been abused by women, and I reveal to him that I also have been abused by women, then we could commiserate and blame while avoiding dealing with the changes the man will need to make to have healthy transsexual relationships. Similarly, Feminist Psychotherapy adds an ideological perspective to the field and that perspective could keep female clients from undergoing beneficial self-change.

I am not discounting using therapist and client commonalities in building rapport, I am just cognisant of some of the risks that need to be monitored while taking such an approach. There is another way of building the therapeutic alliance. Adler viewed the client or patient as an expert in himself and therapy as a collaboration between two experts. Another way of picturing this approach is to view the therapist as a kind of consultant. The client identifies the issues he or she wishes to tackle, and I offer alternative therapies the client may use to reach agreed upon goals. We then co-construct a treatment plan. Treatment then is in part experimentation to see which approaches are most effective in this situation given the unique attributes the client possesses. In the process, the client learns self-monitoring and self-assessment skills that can be applicable in other situations.

Jacobsen: What are you bearing in mind in this working environment, in one-on-one counseling? How do you gauge individual needs and project possible timelines of the patients?

Robertson: In most cases, the client comes to me with an issue or issues on which they wish to work. We don’t necessarily stay with the same issue. In one example, the client came to me with the complaint that she was too sensitive to criticism. Following a couple of sessions, it became apparent that she was the recipient of emotional abuse, so this shifted the strategies we used. In another case, the client came to me with problems maintaining attention, but it became apparent that the reason she had difficulty focussing was depression. Such changes in focus involve a re-negotiation of treatment planning. I like to project a certain number of sessions in which to incorporate a treatment plan with the idea that at the end of those sessions we, that is the client and I, evaluate the achievements obtained. This could result in terminating our sessions, continuing with the present treatment plan, or negotiating a new plan.

Jacobsen: How do you work to prevent the possible transference of trauma to the counsellor or reactivity of the counselor, in case they or you may have had prior similar negative life experiences? For example, a male counselor who witnessed abuse of one parent by another in youth, and then hears a recounting of a client’s experience with this. This may work them up.

Robertson: Hopefully the counsellor has dealt with his or her related traumas before they attempt to help someone who has had a similar traumatic experience. If the counsellor has not successfully dealt with that trauma then he or she should not accept such clients. On the other hand, if the counsellor has successfully dealt with a similar event, that counsellor may be able to offer unique helpful insights. The person who experiences a trauma is not necessarily forever wounded by it.

The issue of transference was first noted by Freud who viewed the client or patient’s attribution of emotions and motivations to the therapist as an opportunity to generate positive insight. I think what you might be concerned with is the issue of countertransference where the therapist takes on the emotions of the client. The counsellor or therapist has a special relationship with the client involving a kind of intimacy. Karl Rogers called this therapeutic stance unconditional positive regard. Alfred Adler said you have to get into the client’s skin to see the world through his eyes. The danger here is that the therapist may so identify with the client that he takes on aspects of their worldview and trauma. This, of course, does not do anyone any good. The therapist is conducting a cognitive exercise in monitoring the client’s cognitions, emotions and behaviour. By maintaining this cognitive distance from the client’s emotions and behaviour, the therapist is actually modelling those skills the client will need to gain control of problematic emotionally laden behaviours. Some people equate cognitive distance as a lack of empathy, but this is a misunderstanding of the concept. The therapist practising cognitive distancing is empathetic enough to understand that the client, to gain control of his or her emotions and behaviours, must be able to sufficiently objectify them to understand them and thereby gain control.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. Robertson.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Interview: Science gone wrong, misapplied psychology and Indian Residential Schools

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): HawkeyeAssociates.Ca

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/01/14

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson is a Registered Doctoral Psychologist with expertise in Counselling Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Human Resource Development. He earned qualifications in Social Work too.

His research interests include memes as applied to self-knowledge, the evolution of religion and spirituality, the Aboriginal self’s structure, residential school syndrome, prior learning recognition and assessment, and the treatment of attention deficit disorder and suicide ideation.

In addition, he works in anxiety and trauma, addictions, and psycho-educational assessment, and relationship, family, and group counseling. Here we talk about different notions of empirical and ethical wrongness (and rightness) in science in general and then in psychological and social sciences in particular.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: When do social and psychological sciences go wrong? In that, the hidden premises of the field poison the research questions asked and skew the findings in response to the questions.

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: The first part of your question, Scott, is “when do sciences go wrong?” The answer, of course, is “all the time.” Science is, at its core, careful observation. It is always possible that our observations are imperfect, or that our interpretations of well-observed phenomena are mistaken. Therefore, scientists will always acknowledge that their knowledge claims are provisional, dependent on further evidence. This is why, in modern science, replication and peer review are so important in identifying any biases that may have affected interpretations placed on research.

You may have been referring to Thomas Kuhn with respect to the second part of your question on hidden premises. Kuhn said that for a discipline to become a science it had to be united by a paradigm which he defined as a body of intertwined theoretical and methodological belief. In 1970 he declared psychology to be a proto-science because it lacked such a unifying paradigm. A quarter of a century later Pat Duffy Hutcheon examined three possible paradigmic formulations in psychology — the psychoanalysis of Freud, the developmentalism of Piaget, and the classical behaviourism of Skinner — and she found all had failed to establish themselves as the dominant paradigm in psychology for various reasons. I believe that since then a fourth paradigm has implicitly taken root in the field and that is the subject of the final chapter in a book I am writing about the evolution of the self. That paradigm is based on our self-definition as a species that includes our selves as discreet, relatively stable, volitional, reflective and rational beings. At this time results within the field of psychotherapy are overwhelmingly interpreted from this cognitivist paradigm. Consistently obtained scientific results that cannot be understood within this paradigm would force a scientific revolution replacing this paradigm with another more inclusive one. I suppose you could say the research and interpretations of findings are “poisoned” by the assumptions built into the more primitive paradigm. The classical example of this would be the pre-Copernican notion that Earth was the center of the universe. Using this paradigm, the planets exhibited complicated orbits around Earth, sometime speeding up or slowing down, performing strange loops and so on until the paradigm shifted placing our sun in the center of the solar system. I have argued that an emerging paradigm in psychology includes a self-definition of us as a species as volitional and capable of rational choice (see: https://www.hawkeyeassociates.ca/images/pdf/academic/Free_Will.pdf). It has been argued that such a view favours the construct of individualism and “poisons” the individuals so-counselled against collectivism. I do not happen to share that view. But that is an academic debate.

I do not believe the general public perceives the self-correcting tentativeness built into science. Instead of viewing science as a method for obtaining knowledge, they often view it as a belief system like a religion or an ideology. Religions and ideologies encourage this misunderstanding because they identify Truth, with a capital T, as authoritative and absolute. If scientific evidence runs counter to what they take as authoritatively true, then science is seen as a defective belief system that has “gone wrong.” An example of this would be the attack on the theory of evolution by people who want to believe Earth is only 6,000 years old. A second example would be people who believe environmental scientists are part of a great conspiracy to fake evidence related to global warming. A third example would be people who wish to think that evidence debunking notions that our minds are a “blank slate” when we are born are part of a patriarchal backlash. In an interview with the late Carl Sagan, the Dalai Lama said that if science proved reincarnation was impossible, then Buddhism would have to change. We need to carry something of that understanding into all our belief systems or we end up becoming the mindless servant of those belief systems.

Jacobsen: If we look at some aspects of interests for you, and if we look at some long and dark periods in Canadian history for some demographics within Canada, have social and psychological sciences been utilized in such a way to impact Indigenous communities disproportionately negatively? If so, how so?

Robertson: When I was Director of Health and Social Development for the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations during the 1980s, many chiefs repeated the refrain that they had been “studied to death.” They were, of course, not claiming that they had been physically harmed. They were claiming that there had been numerous studies and they had not seen any positive results. In some cases, studies were conducted but the results were not communicated back to the communities in question. I believe that knowledge should be “open access” and shared between all stakeholders.

The question as to how psychological knowledge has been utilized is, of course, a different question. While I was Director of Health and Social Development, a band education authority in a reserve in northern Saskatchewan hired a psychometrician from Edmonton to assess the intelligence of their elementary students. Sixty percent of the students were labelled mentally handicapped. My master’s thesis is on cultural bias in intelligence testing, and I know the reserve community in question and I can tell you that the psychometrician must not have followed test protocol with respect to testing children whose second language is English and who come from cultural traditions do not favour speeded, timed tests. At first, the band education committee was happy with these results as they received considerable extra funding for special needs children. But this was, in my opinion, a false economy with a negative impact. You see, educational programming for mentally handicapped is quite different from what was needed. When I was Director of Life Skills for the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College during its early years, we educated students from often remote communities in those habits of mind and organizational skills that were needed for academic success. The program added an extra year to the student’s university education, but it was incredibly successful. Teaching students cross-cultural skills for academic success in a modern industrial society is better than teaching independent living skills aimed at the mentally challenged in such cases.

Jacobsen: Using the same sciences but asking better research questions with the greater good of society and individuals in mind, what may alleviate some of the impacts of phenomena including residential school syndrome?

Robertson: A good research question is one that when answered extends our knowledge in some way. Accumulated knowledge may then be used to bring improvements to society but that is beyond the purview of scientists in their role as scientists. I am suspicious of power-brokers limiting research based on some notion of the “greater good.” For example, a former prime minister limited research into climate change presumably because he and his party felt this was in the greater good. Decisions by authorities on what constitutes the greater good are often ideologically based. That being said, research into ways to alleviate human suffering interests me, and as you have alluded, residential school syndrome has been one of my interests.

As a kid who stayed with the families of friends on reserve in the 60s, I knew something about the dark history of Indian residential schools. So, I was surprised when chiefs in Saskatchewan commissioned me, along with my colleague Perry Redman, to do research into keeping one of these schools open after they had been closed elsewhere in the country. Later, I was hired as a school psychologist with a specialty in youth suicide prevention at a different Indian Residential School that was kept open under an Amerindian administration. About a decade after that I was commissioned by Indian Child and Family Services in Lac La Ronge to assess the students at one of the last remaining residential schools in the country. Then, at the turn of the millennium, I accepted a contract with the Aboriginal Healing Foundation to provide psychological support to various projects aimed at alleviating the effects of residential schools in northern Saskatchewan. I have published articles on residential school syndrome and the related concept of historic trauma.

Residential school syndrome is a form of post traumatic stress disorder that affects a minority of people who attended residential schools and is characterized by symptoms like extreme rage, lack of emotional connection with one has children, and aggressive alcohol and drug abuse in addition to those symptoms that are normally associated with PTSD. I have found a combination of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy coupled with aspects of Narrative Therapy that draws on the tradition of aboriginal storytelling as a way of meaning making to be effective. Treatment needs to be individualized. Some clients have benefited from learning and practicing aboriginal traditions, but others have a different worldview. In one of my articles I describe how the elders in one community found attempts by their band health administration to introduce Aboriginal Spirituality to be oppressive (see: https://www.hawkeyeassociates.ca/images/pdf/academic/ColonizationStanley.pdf)

A concern I have is the tendency of some to essentialize and universalize experience. One woman approached me worried that she might be “in denial.” She had good memories of her residential school experience and was leading a happy and productive life, but the negative media reports about these schools had led her to question her remembered experiences. Not all residential schools were the same and not all students at such schools suffered or witnessed abuse. Even worse, in my opinion, is the concept of historic trauma, where a whole race of people is said to suffer from a psychological condition irrespective of when, where and under what conditions colonization occurred. In my mind, undo psychologising is destructive of peoples’ mental health.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. Robertson.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Interview: Freud, Jung, and the Purpose of Psychotherapy

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): HawkeyeAssociates.Ca

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/12/27

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson is a Registered Doctoral Psychologist with expertise in Counselling Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Human Resource Development. He earned qualifications in Social Work too.

His research interests include memes as applied to self-knowledge, the evolution of religion and spirituality, the Aboriginal self’s structure, residential school syndrome, prior learning recognition and assessment, and the treatment of attention deficit disorder and suicide ideation.

In addition, he works in anxiety and trauma, addictions, and psycho-educational assessment, and relationship, family, and group counseling. Here we talk about psychotherapy.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: In a previous interview in two parts for The Voice Magazine, we covered some material on a course taught during the time at Athabasca University for you, which is the largest online university in Canada. You brought forward some analysis of psychotherapy and prominent figures in it. What is psychotherapy?

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: As you mentioned, I touched on this in our last interview Scott. Psychotherapy is a process of effecting change in an individual who voluntarily enters a therapeutic relationship as a client or patient. The change is psychological in that it is intended to impact positively on the client’s cognitive and emotional functioning. The therapist acts as a facilitator of such change in keeping with the client’s goals. There is a consensus across the schools of psychotherapy that the therapeutic process is not advice giving. To give advice is to presume that the advice-giver knows the client better than the client does. To give advice is disempowering because, if the advice works, it leaves the client dependent on the advice-giver the next time there is a problem. Rather, the practice of psychotherapy involves the development of the individual to be a competent volitional actor with a sense of personal worth and constancy within a social milieu.

This definition, while sounding elegant, is not complete. Some schools of psychology are quite strict in proscribing advise giving. Others might allow advise giving where the client has an intact self and the focus of the intervention is problem-solving. In such cases, the therapist is not doing psychotherapy, but may be viewed as doing counselling. Still other schools conflate the terms psychotherapy and counselling. This latter view is not completely without theoretical merit as any change in behaviour that brings a feeling of success is likely to affect the psyche in some way.

Jacobsen: Following from the prior question, what did the major well-known figures, Freud and Jung, get wrong and right in their work?

Robertson: Both Freud and Jung drew attention to phylogenetic factors that contribute to the development of the psyche. By suggesting that archetypes are encoded, instinctive, preconfigured patterns of action, Jung was, in effect, taking a deterministic stance. Similarly, in Freud’s tripartite division the poor ego is left frantically balancing the instinctual drives of the id with the dictatorial culturally determined superego. Although I am not a determinist, I count the recognition of genetic and environmental constraints as an important contribution. I think Freud’s greatest contribution is that he popularized the idea that psychology is a science. Another of Freud’s contributions was that he brought the study of human sexuality out of the constraints imposed by Victorian morality by making it central to his theories. This is connected to something that Freud, in my opinion, got wrong and that is the notion of “penis envy.” As Alfred Adler noted in reply, if women were envious of men during the beginning of the twentieth century when this conversation occurred, it was more likely due to inequality in social relations than the fact that they are born without a penis.

Jung’s conceptualization of archetypes from which we create meaning has application to cultural and self studies, but he dabbled in mysticism and his notion that there exists a collective unconscious has bolstered the beliefs of some religionists. This can have dangerous consequences. For example, his speculations on the collective unconscious of the so-called “Aryan race” and the notion that they are somehow “rooted to the land” while the Jews are a “rootless people” played to the rise of Nazism. His comment that the psychology of Freud and Adler were okay for the Jews but his psychology is for the German “Volk” could be viewed as either religious or racial bigotry.

Jacobsen: Following from the first query once more, who were the figures of similar note as Freud and Jung but, unfortunately, not brought into the light of public consciousness as much as the aforementioned?

Robertson: I think Alfred Adler has not received sufficient recognition. For example, Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, leaders of Humanist Psychotherapy, failed to credit Adler as offering a precursor for some of their ideas such as self-actualization and client centred therapy. Adler included the former term in what he called “striving for perfection” and anticipated client centred therapy by declaring that the patient or client was expert in his or her self with psychotherapy defined as a collaboration between experts.

Adler also had a foot in the Behaviourist camp. His “homework assignments” were a method of shaping and reinforcing behaviour. But the classical behaviourist might have been put off by Adler’s support for the idea that mankind has consciousness and the power of choice. In this way Adler anticipated Cognitive-Behaviourism. The founder of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, Albert Ellis, did credit Adler’s influence in the development of his school of practise. By suggesting to clients that they consider revising their worldviews, Adler was anticipating those modern psychotherapists who view humans as meaning makers.

Today we have a plethora of schools of psychological practice with the founders of each emphasizing some feature or technique that makes their school distinctive. I argued in https://www.hawkeyeassociates.ca/images/pdf/academic/Free_Will.pdf that these schools are united by a theory of human potentiality and that the project of psychotherapy is to teach people to reach the potential implied by that theory. I think Adler tapped into this vision of what it means to be human over a century ago and he addressed it holistically.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. Robertson.

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In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

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© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Interview: Psychology and Psychotherapy

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): HawkeyeAssociates.Ca

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/12/14

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson is a Registered Doctoral Psychologist with expertise in Counselling Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Human Resource Development. He earned qualifications in Social Work too.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Ask A Genius 596: Down-‘Lifting’ Forces

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen and Rick Rosner

Publication (Outlet/Website): Ask A Genius

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2021/07/04

[Beginning of recorded material]

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Yeah. So what are the down lifting forces?

Rick Rosner: All right. So, we ended the last session on uplifting people in the future with me bitching about Rupert Murdoch. The deal is that, well, there are a couple of things. One is to some extent, you make the planet safe for yourself by uplifting the planet. That you don’t want to have such huge gaps among people that get a huge population that’s pissed off and will try to destroy you. Now some people will – some of the hyper rich, a lot of them, I think – work to insulate themselves from the angry masses. But I think most people have some inclination to want to uplift out of fairness and out of having a world that’s not miserable and chaotic. At the same time, everybody has their limits to uplift. The same way people have different limits to how far they’re willing to go to recycle.

Most people now believe that climate change is happening and want to do stuff within reason to slow it down. But everybody has a different idea of what is within reasonable expectation. So similarly, everybody has their idea of what might and will happen in the future as things happen. Everyone will have their idea of what’s reasonable and what isn’t going to uplift the world. It’s expensive to uplift. And it’s even more expensive when you have active forces that are down lifting people, the forces that keep people dumb. And that leads to the question of why would somebody want to keep people dumb? And in America, at least, it’s very much tied to money that the Republican Party has become the slaves of their rich donors, their hyper rich donors.

And the Koch brothers and people who are worth hundreds of millions and billions of dollars. And who don’t want to pay taxes, who don’t want to pay for stuff like infrastructure, who have so much money that they feel that they can buy their own services and they don’t want to pay for anybody else’s services. So, for 20 years and more, the Republican Party has been working against stuff for the public good: schools, infrastructure, and health care. If you’re rich and can afford to pay for it yourself, you don’t want to pay for anybody else’s shit. And not wanting to pay for schools, I mean, the majority of people are in favor of things like schools and libraries and decent roads.

And it’s to the benefit of rich Republican donors to have a very angry, mobilized base that thinks that roads and schools are socialism because it serves the purposes of the money driving the Republican Party to keep people down lifting and stupid in this way. There are also some doctrinaire stuff that keeping people worked up about abortion. But again, most of it goes back to feeding people’s prejudices and ignorance and stupidity to get what you want if you have the money to pay for it. And given the way politics works in the U.S. has been for the past 50 years and more, the Democrats have suffered for wanting to play fair, for thinking they have more popular and better ideas and thus don’t have to engage in the same kind of branding and often dishonesty that the Republicans engage in.

And the Democrats suffer from this. This naivete or laziness or confidence in their own goodness and confidence that normal political systems working normally will lead to the triumph of goodness and to the triumph of popular things, things that most people want being voted, coming to pass via legislation. And increasingly, lately, that’s not true because the Republicans play dirty. And a question for the near future is whether Democrats will play dirty too? It’s something that I’m writing about in my novel, where the main character plays dirty when that character finds it reasonable to do so. All right.

[End of recorded material]

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In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Ask A Genius 595: A Book Cometh By Way of Thought

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen and Rick Rosner

Publication (Outlet/Website): Ask A Genius

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2021/07/04

[Beginning of recorded material]

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Okay, so, what are you thinking along the lines of, on the one hand just giving up on humanity versus trying to uplift or bring people into kind of this science fiction in near future that is likely on the…

Rick Rosner: So, I’m writing this novel set in the near future. And the main character in the novel is part of a large tech enterprise. And is in the middle of changes that are going on with regard to just stuff that is in the middle of the ongoing tech revolution. And if writing about this, the near future and about this character, I have to think about what will happen to, well, humanity in the near future as well as in the medium future. And there’s been a theme or a trend in science fiction for a long time, at least as far back as H.G. Wells, The Time Machine.

Jacobsen: Which is a great movie and book.

Rosner: Several pretty good movies. It tries to present the very far future. A future, I don’t know hundred thousand years from now, and then I think we get a peek at the future many millions of years from now. But the more fleshed out version of the far future is, maybe a couple of hundred thousand years from now, when humanity has split into Eloi and Morlocks. And Eloi are like fairies. They’re very physically fragile. They live on the surface. They flit around. They’re not good at stuff. They’re just like kind of cute little fairy creatures. And then the Morlocks live underground. I haven’t read this in a gazillion years. And they do all the work, maintaining whatever technology remains. And they come to the surface, I think, and capture and eat Eloi.

So anyway, you’ve got the trolls underground and you got the little fairies above ground. And that’s a very early, I don’t know what, 1910, 1920 version of humanity bifurcating into two different forms, two different species. And then more recently in the Trump era, you’ve got books like Neil Stevenson’s Fall and books by Cory Doctorow, like Charles Stross and Doctorow wrote Rapture of the Nerds, probably more than 20 years ago. Now that has America having been split into Jesus land and then, like technologically advanced areas, it kind of takes you on a tour of the various fragments of America.

And kind of the theme in some of these books is that some segments of humanity might be beyond help, beyond saving. That the vast majority of the people in the fallen lands or Jesus land are turning into savages and are being left behind. Mostly as a matter of their own doing as they fall for propaganda that sells them deranged versions of the world that they form their own insular populations. And it’s tough to get out of there and join the rest of the world. And the rest of the world doesn’t really want to deal with these insular populations because they’re insane and dangerous and violent and dumb. So it’s an issue in my book too, and I haven’t come up with any, I don’t think deeper insight than some of these other people have come up with.

But it’s hard to tell whether to what extent the current malaise, Jimmy Carter gave a speech about the national malaise back in 1977, 1978. And it was among the reasons he didn’t get reelected because he gave a fairly pessimistic speech. He says, we need to get our shit together. We need to address the challenges of today. And we need to drive smaller cars. We need to save energy. And then Reagan came along and said, its morning in America and everything’s great. And SUVs originated under Reagan. These big ass vehicles. And people like that better than Carter, Carter’s national malaise. But anyway, our current malaise with Republicans being a deranged political party and trying to pass, attempted to pass 400 laws, individual states to suppress voting.

And by voter suppression, we mean people who would vote Democratic, black people, non-rich people. But it’s hard to tell whether the current malaise is more of a blip or whether it’s an ongoing trend and whether the insanity of a quarter of the U.S. adult population is a temporary aberration or just an ongoing thing that’s going to continue to be a problem and even more of a problem as the potential for a technological gap grows. I mean, given some of the technology that is coming, you don’t have to be a dumb redneck to be fearful and intimidated. So I guess my money would be on the technological gap, the intellectual gap. That all these gaps are going to be persistent and troublesome.

So I mean in the 14th century, the gaps among people, I mean, they were significant. On the one hand, you could be a king or a queen. On the other hand, you could be somebody who lives in a mud hut. But they were nowhere, but still everybody was like medicine didn’t work in the 14th century. There was no air conditioning. There were no cars, no telephones. There was not a lot of stuff. So the gap between the richest and the poorest. I mean it was significant. But it left many areas of life still basically equal. Everybody died like crazy because medicine didn’t work. But in the year 2050, the potential for some people having great medicine that extends their lives almost indefinitely and other people dying even younger on average than they do now because they’re stuck in relative poverty and relative ignorance.

I just saw a statistic today that of the one third of Americans who haven’t yet been vaccinated, 74 percent say they will not get vaccinated. So what three quarters of one third is like one quarter of Americans are vaccine resistant, which for the first time I think ever the average life expectancy in America has declined for several years in a row. I think its setting records, the declining lifespans and whatever. But like, the decline in life expectancy is not evenly distributed among Americans. It falls on the poor, the dumb, the despairing. It’s not just COVID that kills a shitload of people. I think opioid overdoses, I think, has over the past 12 years killed half a million Americans.

So anyway, the potential for greater and greater divides among different populations, I don’t think that’s going away. And people in the future who have the power to decide how much resources, how many resources are going to be devoted to bringing people along to uplifting people will, as they are now, be forced to triage or will prefer to triage. Various organizations and individuals and governments will be making decisions in the future about how hard to push to bring the dumbest, the poorest, the most belligerent, the most insane of us to try to get them out of their dumb propagandized funk.

Except there is the addendum. Rupert Murdoch, the guy who created Fox News. And it seems like it’s been around forever, but I think it’s only been around for about twenty-five years. Rupert Murdoch is ninety. And you could make the case that he’s done more damage to humanity than any other living person. Maybe any other person ever, given the number of people he’s impacting. He also happens to be married to Mick Jagger’s ex-wife, Jerry Hall, which is insane. She’s a former supermodel. And this old evil fuck he’s married to. He’s ninety and he’s still out there, still pushing Fox News to do more damage. All right, the end.

[End of recorded material]

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Atheist Refugees Doubly Vulnerable

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

The refugees in Germany can be atheists, apart from the image of Muslims and other non-Christian religions coming into the country. These are atheist asylum seekers fleeing persecution; sometimes, simply for their lack of belief in the dominant mythology of the culture in which they were born.

As reported by DW, “Mahmudul Haque Munshi’s name was on a hit list in Bangladesh. After five of his friends and associates were murdered, the authorities warned the blogger: ‘There’s nothing more we can do for you.’ Munshi had to leave the country in 2015.”
Oftentimes, these refugees or asylum seekers will have to travel through several nations simply to find some destination of safety. Some have seen what is labeled a “Global Hit List” of some listing, formal or informal, of the nonbelievers or those who left their faith that need to be killed.

Some names include people of Bengali descent and who are refugees. Many refugees fear being killed not by a God but simply by other refugees or others who feel personal resentment and need for retribution for individuals who leave religion, often common within the Islamic faith.
If someone leaves the faith, or publicly speaks out against some of the theocratic intents of some of the faiths, this becomes the basis for the reactionary violence against people simply for not adhering to the dominant faiths of the culture.

One refugee organization is devoted to the plight of the non-religious and is titled the Atheist Refugee Relief organization. It has helped 37 nonreligious refugees since November 2017 and continues to do important work for them.

Dittmar Steiner of Atheist Refugee Relief stated, “Conservative Muslims criticize women who go around without headscarves… We are actually dealing with assaults, exclusion, threats and violence.”

A 31-one-year-old, Worood Zuhair, stated this as a common experience for herself, who is a biologist from Karbala, Iraq. She is under police protection and continues to receive death threats because of the lack of personal religious belief.

These prices are often paid with lost time in life or in blood for the nonbelievers or the non-religious around the world. The refugees among them will be far more vulnerable to the attacks against them that are not beholden to others within the community.

As reported, “The physical and mental abuse has left Zuhair deeply traumatized. “When your own father gives your soul to Azrael, the angel of death, that is enormously painful,” she told DW. “He did it so often. I couldn’t take it anymore.”

Now, Zuhair speaks about the multitude of abuses against women refugees, including those who need asylum because of their religious criticism and work for the rights of women where she “supports the (OWFI) Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq.”
For too many women refugees and women atheists, this poor treatment and abuse is common. Islamists are one such group who wish to punish individuals who criticize or leave the faith.

But it can go even deeper than this, as noted about Munshi, “Munshi attracted the wrath of Islamists when he founded the Shahbag movement in his home country in 2013. The movement called for the punishment of those responsible for war crimes committed when Bangladesh fought for its independence against Pakistan in 1971. Roughly three million people died during that war.”

In this, we can see moral acts of courage being socially punished with the threat of retribution permitted by culture. With a prominent blog and network, Munshi garnered about half of a million followers. There were mass protests in the streets with subsequent death threats.

The main struggle for these atheist refugees is for freedom from religion. The ability to live apart from the enforcers of religion and the cultural enforcement of religion on them. But these refugees live a life on the run while fleeing in a manner of speaking.

Atheists aren’t the majority of refugees and are not the vast majority of the world’s population, but atheists are a struggling group within the global and refugee population based on fear and stigma by the religious and motivated by ignorance and hatred to create problems for them around the world.

The report states, “According to a statement by the country’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), origin from a particular country or a particular reason for fleeing, such as religious affiliation or atheism, does not automatically lead to a protection status.’”
Thus, atheism can become a specified indication of a person’s need on their sprint in life. Steiner stated, “The number of people affected is increasing… A year ago it was two to three requests a week — now it is between seven and nine a day.”

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Turkish Atheism on the Rise

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

There has been a continuous growth in the number of non-religious people in the Turkey, which, by some reckonings, has been quite dramatic via the increase in the number of atheists within the theocratic state known for working via the state to keep evolution out of the classrooms

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to have a theocratic politics with the ongoing encouragement of Islam to the Turkish people. But, at the same time, we see this rise in the number of atheists within the country. Those for whom religion simply doesn’t take or didn’t take.

As reported, “According to a recent survey by the pollster Konda, a growing number of Turks identify as atheists. Konda reports that the number of nonbelievers tripled in the past 10 years. It also found that the share of Turks who say they adhere to Islam dropped from 55 percent to 51 percent.”

The official directorate of religious affairs in Turkey, Diyanet, declared in 2014 that 99% of the Turkish public identifies as Muslim. However, with recent survey data from Konda, this has created heated debated within the country.

Ahmet Balyemez, a 36-year-old computer scientist, stated, “There is religious coercion in Turkey… People ask themselves: Is this the true Islam?… When we look at the politics of our decision-makers, we can see they are trying to emulate the first era of Islam. So, what we are seeing right now is primordial Islam… Fasting and praying were the most normal things for me.”

Cemil Kilic, a theologian, considers both statistics correct. In that, 99% of Turks identify as Muslim but only identify as such from a cultural and a sociological perspective. Kilic, here, is making a distinction between cultural Muslims, as in cultural Christians, and spiritual Muslims.

The theologian Cemil Kilic believes that both figures are correct. Though 99 percent of Turks are Muslim, he said, many only practice the faith in a cultural and sociological sense. They are cultural, rather than spiritual, Muslims.

Kilic stated, “The majority of Muslims in Turkey are like the Umayyads, who ruled in the seventh century… The prayers contained in the Koran reject injustice. But the Umayyads regarded daily prayer as a form of showing deference towards the sultan, the state and the powers that be… Regular prayers have become a way to signal obedience toward the political leadership… And prayers in mosques increasingly reflect the political worldview of those in power.”

Kilic explained how the lack of a formal religion, in this case Islam, does not negate a moral compass of the individual, as he states that some atheists are even more ethical and conscientious than a great number of Muslims.

One of the facts floating around this issue of Islam and atheism on the rise within Turkey is that fact that President Erdogan has been in power for about 16 years, as prime minister until 2014 and then president onwards into the present.

Kilic argued the state admixture with religion is part of the problem and the atheists may, in fact, be more consistent in their beliefs than the Muslims at times. Ateizm Dernegi, the central organization for atheists in Turkey, has, through its leader, Selin Ozhoken, stated that the desire by Erdogan to produce devout Muslims has, in fact, failed miserably in a number of ways.

Dernegi explained, “Religious sects and communities have discredited themselves… We have always said that the state should not be ruled by religious communities, as this leads to people questioning their faith and becoming humanist atheists.”

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In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

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© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Canadian Atheists Win Discrimination Case

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

In a recent discrimination case, the atheists won it, which was in British Columbia, Canada.

The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal awarded $12,000 to the based on a daughter of a couple being “kicked out” of Bowen Island Montessori School (BIMS). It was labelled discrimination by the BC Human Rights Tribunal because the school, as stated by the BC Human Rights Tribunal, “…treated them differently from every other parent at the school, and sought to suppress their expression of concerns about the nature of the curriculum that were grounded in their race, ancestry and religious beliefs.”

That is to say, discrimination for lack of belief in the prevailing mythology. The parents are Gary Mangel and Mai Yasué. The child was enrolled in 2014 and Mangel sat on the board of directors. Then the school wanted to know the way in which to celebrate the holiday time properly.

One person recommended “clay elf ornaments.” But Mangel rejected this idea, as this, to him, promoted a Christian holiday. One asked if a Hanukkah activity may be better. But Mangel rejected this too.

But Mangel was rather rude in the email correspondence:

I don’t think it’s appropriate to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other religious/political event at preschool (including Remembrance Day). [My child] is three years old… [and] cannot consent to being involved in decorating military wreaths or Christmas trees or lighting Hanukkah candles. Having the kids do these things seems inappropriate, given their absolute inability to understand the religious and political symbolism associated with those acts. As Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion) has written, there is no such thing as a Muslim, Jewish, or Christian, etc… baby/toddler/child. They are simply too young to be making these sorts of decisions.

Other board members argued the important of a “cosmic education” through the inclusion of different religious imagery included into the school, as this was important to the philosophy of the Montessori folks at the school.

Mangel stated that there should “atheist Christmas ornaments.” Things escalated from there, more explicit details can be gleaned from the link. Mangel wanted none of the celebrations while the board want as many as possible or, at a minimum, the major traditions to be represented.

No one changed their minds and there was something like a “reality TV show,” according to Mehta.

Things really came to a head when “Mr. Mangel responded, ‘I’ll sue them too’ and then began doing the Nazi salute and marching around while he sung a different version of O Canada in which he substituted his own lyrics.”

The arguments continued over the holidays. Then the school wanted the atheists to sign a contract that stated that “Multiculturalism, including the observation of a wide variety of celebrations is important to us.”

The atheists refused to sign it. Then the school took this as a basis to not re-enroll the daughter of the atheist parents. The atheists being belligerent was not the legal complaint but, rather, the response to the signing, i.e., the refusal to sign it.

BC Human Rights Tribunal member, Barbara Koenkiewicz, stated, “I find nothing in the evidence that could justify the refusal to register [the child] unless Dr. Yasué and Mr. Mangel essentially agreed that they would be significantly limited in their ability to raise issues about the cultural aspects of the BIMS program.”

The school was ordered to pay $5,000 per parent and $2,000 for the child/daughter.

Link to the source material:

https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2018/12/13/atheists-win-discrimination-case-against-bc-school-that-kicked-out-their-child/

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In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

1200-Page Dossier on “Actively Gay” Priests and Seminarians

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

Newsweek reported on a massive dossier, at 1,200 pages, listing several priests and seminarians who are labelled as “actively gay” in Italy alone.

This was sent to the Vatican via the archdiocese of Naples. Francesco Mangicapra created the document. He is a gay male escort and did not like the hypocrisy of the priests and decided to do something about it.

He said, “The aim is not to hurt the people mentioned, but to help them understand that their double life, however seemingly convenient, is not useful to them or to all the people for whom they should be a guide and an example to follow.”

Now, an Italian Cardinal and the Archbishop of Naples, Crescenzio Sepe, stated that none of the named priests are currently stationed in Naples. Note, this does not deny the veracity of the claims in the large dossier.

Now, this is simply adding to the pile of accusations against members of the Catholic hierarchs around the world but, this time, focused on Italy in particular.

As reported, “Last month, an Italian court issued a 14-month suspended sentence to a Vatican tribunal judge for sexual molestation and possessing child pornography. Monsignor Pietro Amenta, a judge on the Rota (a court that hears mostly family cases), was arrested last March for publicly fondling an 18-year-old man in Rome.”

With the examination of the computer, the authorities found pornographic images of the young on the person computer. Then there was a plea bargain accepted by Paloma Garcia Ovejero, Vice Director of the Vatican Press Office. In an email from the Catholic News Service, it stated that he had “resigned as the prelate auditor of the Roman Rota.”

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Global “Convinced Atheism” Increased by 80% in 12 Years

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

The atheist community has been seeing an unprecedented rise in its international notoriety and respect by the wider public, but with this increase in visibility and dignity for the minority community within the non-religious international movements has been the backlash. Regardless, atheists are on the rise globally with differences depending on the nation or the region in consideration.

Big Think reported on the increases in the atheist population, especially in authoritarian China and in Europe in general. There was a survey of 60,000 or more people on 68 nations around the world with comparison from a 2005 survey.

The survey data gathering and analysis was done through the reliable and respected WIN/Gallup group. The number of people who identified as having no religion in 2005 was marked at 77%; whereas, for the survey done recently – in 2017, the number was 62%. A significant decrease, while not a majority, of 15%.

For the members of the atheist community with an interest in the ways in which atheist has continued to garner popularizers, famous speakers, best-selling books, and packed-house debates and dialogues, one is through the global transformation of the religious identification landscape.

For the in-depth analysis of the research, or the deeper reportage on it, please see the link associated with the survey rundown done by Big Think. But the big takeaway from the news reportage is the level of atheism, by which the survey states as “convinced atheism,” is most prominent is China – a huge number of the global population of atheists harboured there – and in Europe with most of the top 20 being in North America.

When looking at the breakdown of the 15% over the approximately 12-year-period, we can see noteworthy increase from 5%, in 2005, to 9%, in 2017, for the global convinced atheist population. That is to report, there has been an extraordinary increase of 80% for the convinced atheist population around the world in only about a dozen years.

The main factors argued for are age, education, and income: more of each means less religion; less of each means more religion. There is a direct negative correlation for these factors.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Newfound Irreligiosity Around the World

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

The basic premise within the atheist community or more generally the formal non-religious community throughout the world remains the increase in the number of religious in the global view and the increase in the non-religious in select regions or nations.

In the research done by WIN/Gallup and reported on by Big Think, the number of the self-identified religious is 62% of people – as found when asked if they consider themselves religious people. They surveyed 60000 people across 68 nations. In 2005, the number was 77%.

This represents, in the scale of dozens of countries, a massive ground shift in the perspective of the religious and the non-religious, and the ways in which the international public perceives the categories for self-identification.

This says the overall number of people identifying as religious has been on a precipitous decline since the start of the 21st century. The number of atheists embed within the set of formal non-religious. In other words, the 15% drop in the religious indicates a concomitant rise in the formal non-religious but only a smaller portion of the 15% rise in the formal non-religious as atheists.

The formal non-religious can be brights, atheists, humanists, secular humanists, agnostics, and so on.

As described in the article, “In 2005, just 5% of those surveyed in 2005 considered themselves ‘convinced atheists’ – the remaining 18% were non-religious or ‘don’t knows’. In 2017, the fish-nor-fowl brigade had grown to 30%. ‘Convinced atheists’ had increased as well, but only to 9%.”

It indicates stellar increase in the number of convinced atheists by 80%, from 5% of the total to 9% of it. The opinion in the reportage continued to opine on the beliefs of the non-religious who may see parts of religion as reliable and valuable in some way.

“People may believe in aspects of religion even if they don’t consider themselves religious (and vice versa). As other results from the survey show, a higher percentage than those who say they’re religious believe in a soul (74%) and God (71%). Inversely, a lower percentage believe in things that many theologians would say are essential to religion, such as heaven (56%), hell (49%) and life after death (54%),” the article explained.

The third property was the aspects of a belief in the Architect of the Cosmos, or lack thereof, and the non-direct association with materialistic belief, and so, potentially, a non-belief in a supernaturalist or metanaturalist soul embedded with the person’s body.

Many external factors influence the degree to which an individual considers themselves religious. If someone has a higher income, if someone is older, and if someone is more educated, then this person will more likely be less religious; if the opposite factors, then the more religious.

Geography factors into the belief in God as well. Although, some countries have older populations, more educated populations, and richer populations, which, obviously, may associate with the aforementioned factors.

“For cultural, social and/or political reasons, some countries have a much higher degree of atheism. Europe is a regional hotbed, but even here, direct neighbours may be at great variance,” the article stated, “The most godless country in the world, however, is China. According to the survey, fully 67% of respondents in China considered themselves ‘convinced atheists’ – more than double the percentage in the world’s second-most atheistic country, Japan (29%).”

East Asia remains a major center of atheism, in fact “convinced atheism.” However, the other 18 of the 20 major convinced atheist nations emerge in Europe. Slovenia has 28%. Italy has 8%. Outside of Europe and East Asia, Australia has 13%. Canada has 10%. One African outlier is the Democratic Republic of the Congo at 8%.

Interestingly, 4% of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s population identifies at convinced atheist. (More detailed statistics with images are provided in the link at the preface to the article.) If you look at some of the more in-depth analyses provided in the presentation by Big Think, you will be surprised to note some of the Arab majority states and the level non-religious identifying citizens, even in purportedly highly Muslim countries.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dialogue with Claire Klingenberg: President, European Council of Skeptic Organizations

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

Claire has a background in law and psychology, and is currently working on her degree in Religious Studies. She has been involved in the skeptic movement since 2013 as co-organizer of the Czech Paranormal Challenge. Since then, she has consulted on various projects, where woo & belief meets science. Claire has spoken at multiple science&skepticism conferences and events. She also organized the European Skeptics Congress 2017, and both years of the Czech March for Science.

Her current activities include chairing the European Council of Skeptical Organisations, running the “Don’t Be Fooled” project (which provides free critical thinking seminars to interested high schools), contributing to the Czech Religious Studies journal Dingir, as well as to their online news in religion website. In her free time, Claire visits various religious movements to understand better what draws people to certain beliefs.

Claire lives in Prague, Czech Republic, with her partner, and dog.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: When it comes to the demographic or sociological analysis movement more broadly or the New Atheist movement for narrowly, I notice one trend. Others notice this trend as well.

That being the greater number of white men compared to most other demographics in the atheist and New Atheist movements. What seems like the source of the disproportionate amount of white men and men in general in the atheist and New Atheist movements?

Claire Klingenberg: I think it stems from history. Men were, white men were, prevalent in the sciences, in high positions, in professor jobs, in everything. This is continuing that. There are more women getting engaged in these issues.

It is going to take some time to change. Having time to do activism that advocates for the change of the bigger picture, and does not precisely deal with the here and now, is a luxury. Both the atheist and skeptic movement do deal with the here and now, but in a much broader sense, which makes them a luxury item. Unfortunately, as we see the demographics in the US, people of color are not always in the socioeconomic position to be able to afford this kind of luxury.

So, we have to work on making our movement more accessible to various different socioeconomic demographics.

Jacobsen: Other than SES or socio-economic status. What other variables seem to play into this split in the community, where far more men than women?

Klingenberg: Seeing your own people in the movement. Historically, the skeptic movement was created by the demographic of older white men. I can imagine some people do not feel welcome when they do not see some of their own within that group.

Fortunately, within the Czech Republic, one of the founders was a woman. She opened the door for us. I can understand why some cannot feel like they can bond with someone seemingly wholly different or that they will not be understood by anyone.

Jacobsen: I like the last note as well. It notes the logical implication. If you did the vice versa, you would find other communities heavily dominated by women or the African-American community in America.

If you look at much of the Christian community represented by comedic people like Steve Harvey and others, you find largely a base of African-Americans. Also, within the atheist movement, you have Thomas Paine, Voltaire, and more modern New Atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens… These are white men.

It is having the SES to have a theme to get out of the community and think about these things. But it seems like a dual-based problem, “I am in community. I am comfortable with this.”

So, it is an unfortunate fact. Human beings are tribal and connect with each other on base measures of “identity,” if I can use that term, of skin tone.

Klingenberg: The skin tone does define the circumstances in which you live and which influence you. Because of that, you may feel “How can these people understand what I am going through?”, and especially the feeling “How can these people have the same goals as I do?” This logic or thinking could be another barrier.

Jacobsen: In some commentary that some may give, I notice an underlying tone. That tone being, “People of particular groups should belong in a certain category, should act in such a way.”

The common trope is the white guy breakdancing [Laughing]. It doesn’t look good. Similar thing in a more serious context, an African-American woman must be religious, must be Baptist, and heavily involved in the community.

That is a stereotype that gets played en masse. If someone doesn’t behave as expected based on their ethnic heritage, or their national status as well, they may be coerced or pegged into behaving in one way.

Neil deGrasse Tyson talked about his deep passion for astrophysics and astronomy. Even though he had that, he felt pushed with the undertone of coercion to sports activities. “I am in sprinting, and running, and other things,” rather than astrophysics and astronomy. 

He notes that he was lucky. He met Carl Sagan. That continued to stoke the fire. That passion pushed through the attempts at coercion away from what he really a) had the ability to do and b) the passion to pursue, which was astrophysics. 

It can even be good will and good intentions that exacerbate societal splits along belief lines and eventual outcome lines.

Klingenberg: Last month, I was at a talk by Anna Grodzka. She is a Polish trans woman. She founded a supporting organization for trans people in Poland. She had this beautiful quote, “We live in a world haunted by stereotypes, which do not reflect reality but impose upon us.” 

I think that it is a beautiful way to summarize all of this. People have these stereotypes in their head, which many times do not come close to even reflecting reality. However, we are forced to live and fight with them on a daily basis.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Claire.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

The New Mythologist and the New Atheist: A Neuroscientist and a Psychologist Dialogue on Truth

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

According to Psychology Today, a practicing Canadian psychologist and an American neuroscientist discussed religious claims to truth.

The psychologist is Jordan Peterson. The neuroscientist is Sam Harris. It has been an ongoing debate with the New Atheists dominating in the 2000s. They were ascendant and debating the prominent Christian philosophers and theologians.

The 2010s see a different debate happening with many of the prominent New Atheists aging or deceased. The current debate between the two were about religion and true speech with a connection to myths and then also the world of rationality and science.

As reported, “What makes the debate so mercurial is that Peterson himself does not believe in traditional Christian claims such as the resurrection. Rather, he sees religious belief as a Darwinian adaptation that remains mostly unconscious.”

The orientation of Peterson is the potential for a spiritual reality with the truths from the religious myths. That is, human psychology and societal structures can be illuminated through the mythologies of times past.

One evolutionary biologist, Bret Weinstein, moderated some dialogues in Vancouver and Dublin. Then there was one with Douglas Murray as well. Harris and Peterson looked into the roots of religion and the ways in which this relates to truth.

“One illuminating way of thinking about religious belief, evoked in their second debate, involves a loaded gun. If we are taught to treat all guns as loaded, the argument goes, we will be safer in the long run,” the article explained, “Whether or not it is true that a particular gun is loaded or not does not matter—so long as we treat every gun as if it is loaded, we will be more likely to survive. A society that believes that every gun is loaded, then, is more likely to survive than a society which does not.”

Harris spoke the literal truth and the metaphorical truth. The latter as having utility within the world of fiction. Then these metaphorical truths can be more helpful than literal truth in some cases. The thought is that the society built on the assertion of human beings being built in the image of the creator of the universe is better for having a basic purpose.

Peterson argued for the utility of the Biblical stories within the framework of Darwinian evolution. That these stories must have survival significance.

“In his lectures and writings, Peterson describes the story of Cain and Abel as a warning against envy and resentment, and the Tower of Babel as a call for caution against centralized, totalizing systems. These stories, he argues, are ‘metaphorically true,’ even if they are literally false,” the article stated.

Harris pointed to some of the religious narratives containing some moral data. However, they can be useless too. Because these assume gods or a God. It becomes a “misapprehension of the causal structure of the cosmos.”

Peterson’s concern comes in the form of a secular ethic coming from preceding ethics; if we lose those preceding ones, then we lose ethical systems now. We need to know their origins. He directed attention to human and animal sacrifice. The idea is give something up now for later. He argues for this as the discovery of the future.

Harris argued for the utility of the narratives but without the belief in revelation or the supernatural in essence.

“Here, the debate reached a kind of impasse. Peterson insisted that because so much of our thinking is unconscious, and stories are our way of describing the behaviors that emerge from that unconscious processing, our old religious stories might have far more to teach us about ourselves than we can rationally discern on our own,” the article stated.

Harris argued this was an evasion on the part of Peterson. However, for the three discussions, the main conversation focused on the nature of the truth. Peterson, apparently, echoed the arguments of one Christian philosopher, Alvin Plantinga.

That the adaptively evolved faculties should be judged on the ability for greater survival of the organism. Harris views this as a stretch. That even, in one thought experiment, if humans died off as a species; our fundamental scientific and rational discoveries would still be true.

Peterson stated that if we die based on some ideas then, maybe, those ideas are not true.

The article concluded, “At the end of the debates, the fundamental question of religion and the human mind remains unsettled. But that doesn’t take the joy out of watching two scientists tear out the foundations of truth, morality and culture beneath their feet and try to put them back together again.”

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Sin by Wifi

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

According to Laughing in Disbelief, one atheist is bringing his own brand of atheism to the world of stand-up comedy.

There is a clip called The Lock In. In it, there is a discussion around the subject matter of atheism and God, and the connection with the youth world and dating arena for the young people. It is part of a larger special called Bad Comedy For Bad People.

In the synopsis of the special, it describes Jensen began a Twitter account for his daughter. It garnered an international audience: @MaxTheTiger. He did not expect international audience. One usually does not even expect a national audience with a Twitter account for a daughter, or for themselves for that matter.

As reported, “Then again, he probably never pictured having the “death talk” with li’l MaxTheNecromancer as his small, ardent atheist tried to Lazarus a froglet. And even that one wasn’t as odd as learning a thing or two from the comprehensive “sex talk” his wife and several organic, fair trade bananas laid on their nephew.”

With the latest release through Stand Up! Records, he talks about the ethics around homelessness and incarceration. The complexities around veganism and teenage depression. Then he slides into a monologue on the Civil Rights Movement and the music around it.

This then moves into speaking to the gay marriage and the issues of aging with hope for a “better, kinder, future.”

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Bad Comedy for Bad People” with Keith Lowell Jensen

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

According to Laughing in Disbelief, one atheist is bringing his own brand of atheism to the world of stand-up comedy.

There is a clip called The Lock In. In it, there is a discussion around the subject matter of atheism and God, and the connection with the youth world and dating arena for the young people. It is part of a larger special called Bad Comedy For Bad People.

In the synopsis of the special, it describes Jensen began a Twitter account for his daughter. It garnered an international audience: @MaxTheTiger. He did not expect international audience. One usually does not even expect a national audience with a Twitter account for a daughter, or for themselves for that matter.

As reported, “Then again, he probably never pictured having the “death talk” with li’l MaxTheNecromancer as his small, ardent atheist tried to Lazarus a froglet. And even that one wasn’t as odd as learning a thing or two from the comprehensive “sex talk” his wife and several organic, fair trade bananas laid on their nephew.”

With the latest release through Stand Up! Records, he talks about the ethics around homelessness and incarceration. The complexities around veganism and teenage depression. Then he slides into a monologue on the Civil Rights Movement and the music around it.

This then moves into speaking to the gay marriage and the issues of aging with hope for a “better, kinder, future.”

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Atheists Faking Muslim Identity for Safety in Indonesia

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

According to Friendly Atheist, many atheists in Indonesia fear for their lives and so live under fake Muslim identities.

Indonesia has the largest population of Muslims in the world. The number of Muslims in standard statistics may be misleading because of the fear of reprisal from the community, the family, and even the state. If someone is in fear for their livelihood, then they may simply work to fit into the pack.

As reported, “Living a double life isn’t all that uncommon in Indonesia, where atheists live in fear of being sent to jail (or worse) thanks to fundamentalist religious groups. AFP profiled one of these atheists, identified only as “Luna Atmowijoyo,” about her de-conversion from Islam years ago.”

Atmowijoyo lives with her parents. But still, she wears an Islamic headscarf to simply fit into the family and so the community, and to avoid the backlash, potentially and likely, of her father. She was told to not have friendships with non-Muslims.

She is 30-years-old and still finds a lot of the simple things bother her. Atmowijoyo stated, “Like I couldn’t say Merry Christmas or Happy Waisak to people of other religions,” where other problems involved the treatment of homosexual males and females as in some way dysfunctional/abnormal.

The juxtaposition of the Quran and science were also problems. Then the idea entered her brain, that God may not exist. The reportage notes the Abrahamic faiths’ marginalization of the sexual orientation and gender identity minority communities.

It continued, “But for most of us, going public with that idea will lead to a loss of family or friends. It’s not a death sentence. In Indonesia, atheists who speak out about their beliefs risk their lives and freedom.”

The law of the land in Indonesia does not help, either. It has some purported stipulations about the freedom of expression. However, the freedom expression of speaking about a lack of a belief in God or gods becomes something that places an individual at risk of arrest of killing by the authorities.

The six religions recognized by Indonesia are Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and others. However, with over 90% of the population believing in Islam, the criticism of religion and a religious Theity, including the Islamic one especially, becomes potentially grounds for public and legal punishment.

It may even be a greater risk for a woman. In 2018, one student was charged for a Facebook post that made a comparison between Allah and some Greek gods, while also stating the Lord of the Rings is comparable in reality to the Quran.

Alexander Aan received 30 months in jail in 2012 for the posting of explicit material of the Prophet Mohammed while also declaring himself – Aan – an atheist. The government will not acknowledge any hypocrisy between allowing someone to be an atheist but only keeping it to themselves, under potential punishment with the force of law.

Abdurrahman Mas’ud, head of the research and development agency at the Ministry of Religion, explained, “Once somebody disseminates that idea, or the concept of atheism, that will be problematic.”

The article concluded:

Blasphemy laws are always going to be blasphemy laws. Nobody is falling for this “atheism is legal” nonsense, and there’s a good reason some atheists are hiding their lack of faith from everyone in Indonesia. Without reforming the culture and the laws — with the help of believers who truly believe in free speech — nothing will get better in this area.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

On a Bishop and Waning Catholicism Due to Lack of Interest in Religion

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

According to Rome Reports, Cardinal Antonio Marto argued that the main issue for the religious is the actual lack of interest in religion. It was a short news article on the story of the cardinal and bishop, and his perspective on the waning interest in religion now.

Marto was the one who welcomed Pope Francis to Fatima – his city – in 2017 and the then-pope Benedict XVI in 2006. Coming from a family of deep faith, Marto knows the Roman Catholic religion and theology, and cultural and social life.

Marto was ordained as a priest with a doctorate in Theology with Benedict appointing him the bishop of Fatima, of the city. He was reluctant to take the position; however, the pope, at the time, wanted Marto to be the bishop.

As reported, “Fatima receives thousands of people from all continents every year. For this reason, it’s interesting to get his opinion about what should be the Church’s priority.” Marto is concerned about the state of the Church. This is someone with authority, education, and influence within the Roman Catholic Church from a Catholic news source.

“At this moment, the priority is to bring God to the hearts of men and women, and men and women to the heart of God, and this is part of the message of Fatima,” Marto opined, “This is because we live in a time of religious indifference. Our greatest enemy is not militant atheism but religious indifference. This indifference is fought with the joyful and convinced testimony of faithful Christians.”

The decline in the global interest in religion – though continued growth in the numbers – remains a concern for the individuals within the Roman Catholic Church including the hierarchs such as Marto.

The article concluded, “It’s this issue he hopes to continue working on as cardinal and theological bishop of Fatima one who finds rests by walking in the mountains or spending time with his family and friends.”

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Firefighters Face Religious Discrimination Too

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

According to Friendly Atheist, there can even be discrimination around religion against particular members of the community who are beloved: firefighters.

The reportage states, “In 2016, atheist Jeffrey Queen filed an unbelievable lawsuit against the city of Bowling Green (Kentucky) based on what he witnessed while working for the fire department. The lawsuit only came after his complaints were ignored, some by Deputy Chief Dustin Rockrohr (also named in the lawsuit), and he was formally discharged.”

The claims are extensive within the lawsuit. Some of them including the referring to non-Christians as pagans. The asking of the person in question on the job if they would like to join the church. Another stating that he should “get right with Jesus.”

Others included that atheists should burn or that a colleague would be damned if they would atheists and feels glad that “none of those fuckers work here.” The man, Queen, was forced into participation in a Bible study at the fire station. Then after coming out as an atheist, the Captain, Eric Smith, and one other firefighter stated that they would, therefore, burn down his house.

He was called a faggot almost every day, or queer. He is straight and married, for the record. His colleagues would not touch gay people because of their potential for having AIDS – “probably had…” Then there was a statement that if a homosexual works there then they would make sure he dies in a fire; also, they stated that they would chop his feet off.

One man did not get help with chest pain after hearing he was gay. Some firefighters refused to help out. Then African-Americans were referred as “hoodrats” and “thugs” and even the n-word. As reported, “He witnessed members of the Fire Department refer to Muslims as ‘towelheads,’ ‘jihadis,’ ‘ali-babas,’ and ‘sand n—–.’ He heard those same people say of Muslims, ‘we need to ship them all back where they came from’ and ‘let the bombs torch them, they are going to hell anyway.’”

Queen took an absence from work due to the harassment. He resigned due to the hostility in the work environment. No one would have known about these instances without the whistleblowing of Queen. He went public and suffered as a result of it, professionally and personally.

“Since that lawsuit was filed, though, the city and Rockrohr have tried to get the courts to throw it out. They don’t dispute what Queen witnessed,” the article explained, “Instead, they claim ‘that jokes, pranks, and teasing are all part of the fraternal environment at the Fire Department that Queen enjoyed and participated in.’”

However, Queen did not enjoy it. He hated it. The fire department is claiming the harassment on the basis of atheism was not a possibility because they did not know, at the time, that he was a closeted atheist in the fire department.

However, Queen states that the statement about the burning down of his house due to his atheism as a result of the colleagues in the fire department finding out about his atheism.

The article continues, “On Friday, however, a judge ruled that there was more than enough reason for this case to move forward. There’s plenty of information regarding religious discrimination and retaliation that a jury would have to sort out, the judge said, and the reasons for dismissing the case are absurd.”

It resulted in a 14-page ruling on Friday issues by the U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley that the allegation of a hostile work environment based on religion and claims of retaliation could proceed reasonably to a proper trial.

In a 14-page ruling issued Friday, U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley allowed the allegation of hostile work environment based on religion and claims of retaliation to proceed to trial.

McKindley stated, “A reasonable jury could find that the harassment and threats were in retaliation for his complaints regarding the workplace… According to Queen, his work environment got so bad that he had to take a medical leave of absence and eventually forced him to resign.”

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Richard Dawkins likes Cathedral Bells

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

According to The Atlantic, Dr. Richard Dawkins spoke on a cultural taste for the bells of cathedrals and a distaste for the calls of ‘Allahu Akhbar.’

Dawkins tweeted an image of himself in Winchester, England on a Sunny day.

Richard Dawkins is at it again.

The famous atheist and bestselling author of The God Delusion tweeted on Monday a picture of himself sitting on a park bench and enjoying a sunny day in Winchester, England. For many people, this moment might have been a chance to just kick back and relax. But apparently not for Dawkins.

“Listening to the lovely bells of Winchester, one of our great mediaeval cathedrals,” he tweeted to his nearly 3 million followers. “So much nicer than the aggressive-sounding ‘Allahu Akhbar.’ Or is that just my cultural upbringing?”

Yes, actually, it is, replied thousands of people. Many flat-out accused him of racism, xenophobia, bigotry, or Islamophobia. News outlets from The Independent to Newsweek reported on the public outrage. Even by Dawkinsian standards of provocation, this latest statement felt to many like a shock.

In fact, however, it’s pretty common for native English speakers to perceive Arabic sounds as “aggressive.” So much so that American accent reduction coaches make money off Arabic-speakers by warning them that their native language “may cause [them] to sound harsh or aggressive.” Another adjective often applied to the language is “guttural.” Many people characterize German in the same way.

Sociolinguists, who study the ways people’s cultural beliefs affect their beliefs about various languages, say this is no coincidence.

“A lot of times people’s negative or positive attitudes about a particular group get transferred onto the language,” explained Christopher Lucas, a professor of Arabic linguistics at SOAS in London. “They start to believe that it’s just the linguistic content of the language that is the bearer of those features that they experience as negative or positive, when that is almost never the case in actuality. … Sounds are just sounds. They don’t have any objective content that you can map onto specific emotional states.”

That’s not to say the perception of sound is entirely socially constructed. “There is some non-arbitrary link between sounds and the meanings people associate with them,” said Morgan Sonderegger, an associate professor of linguistics at McGill University. For instance, he said, it’s pretty well established that words with higher-sounding vowels tend to denote smaller objects, while words with lower-sounding vowels tend to denote bigger things; this is true cross-culturally. He cited a 2016 study that examined words from nearly two-thirds of the world’s languages and found that people everywhere often associate certain sounds with certain meanings. And an earlier cross-cultural experiment found that when people are shown a curvy shape and a jagged shape, and are asked which one is a bouba and which one is a kiki, they overwhelmingly associate the curvy shape with bouba and the jagged one with kiki. Sonderegger noted, however, that although human beings do seem to have some built-in associations, even these are just “raw materials that can be overwritten by cultural biases.”

The linguist Vineeta Chand argues that there’s actually nothing inherent in the sounds of a language that make it more or less enticing. Instead, people tend to find a foreign language attractive when the group it’s associated with enjoys economic or sociocultural prestige—think of the popularity of French as “romantic.” And the linguist Guy Deutscher argues that people tend to find sounds or sound combinations grating when they appear rarely or not at all their own native language—like the consonant cluster lbstv in selbstverständlich, which is German for obvious.

Lucas added that he believes Dawkins’s “vague soup of negative ideas [about Islam] is bleeding into his transcription.” The author’s tweet refers to “Allahu Akhbar,” but the proper transliteration would be Akbar, because this Arabic word contains no kh sound (as opposed to, say, the word sheikh). “He’s transcribing it as if it’s a kh, and for people who are native speakers of a language that lacks a kh sound—like most dialects of English—that is very often felt to be a harsh, ugly sound. People here in the U.K., when you ask them what’s your opinion about German, will say ‘Oh, it’s ugly! You’ve got all these kh, kh, kh sounds.’ But there are many other languages with these sounds, like Dutch. And no one in my experience says that Dutch is ugly.”

Dawkins posted a new status on Twitter on Wednesday, after a barrage of intense media attention: “The call to prayer can be hauntingly beautiful, especially if the muezzin has a musical voice. My point is that ‘Allahu Akhbar’ is anything but beautiful when it is heard just before a suicide bomb goes off. That is when Islam is tragically hijacked by violence.”

The tweet, which seemed meant to defuse criticism from the left, reinforces the linguists’ point: The words sound “aggressive” to Dawkins, not because of some inherent acoustic harshness, because he associates them with suicide bombers.

Earlier this year, Dawkins made headlines for giving away free copies of The God Delusion to Muslims after discovering that millions of copies had been illegally downloaded in Arabic translation in Muslim-majority countries. Yet for the atheist provocateur, taking issue with the Arabic language seems to be something of a pattern. He did it in 20132014, and 2015. His 2014 tweet is especially striking for its similarity to this week’s remarks: “I’ve read that Arabic is the most beautiful language,” Dawkins wrote then. “I questioned that aesthetically & was bizarrely accused of racism. So I deleted it.”

But Dawkins keeps repeating himself. And many of his followers seem content with that: His “Allahu Akbar” tweet collected more than 16,000 likes.

“The people who get away with simplistic ideas about languages are people who don’t speak them and haven’t lived the experience of those languages being used to express love and anger and hilarity and sadness,” Lucas said. “If you’ve been exposed to a language a lot, that pretty much guarantees you’re not going to have simplistic ideas about it.”

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Supreme Court of Canada Supports LGBTQ

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

According to Mondaq, there was a Supreme Court of Canada decision on June 15 2018 relevant to LGBTQ rights.

There was a landmark decision on the Canadian limits for their institutional religious freedoms. It amounted to the law school wanted by an Evangelical Christian University in Langley, British Columbia being rejected on legal grounds.

As reported, “The decisions concerned regulator rejections of a law school which required that students sign a covenant prohibiting any form of sexual activity outside of a marriage between a man and a woman.”

Two cases – Law Society of British Columbia v Trinity Western University and Trinity Western University v Law Society of Upper Canada – had the Supreme Court of Canada find both the Ontario and British law societies’ legal decisions to not accredit the law school came from a balanced place.

The law societies made the decision to not accredit the law school for Trinity Western University (TWU). The decision was said to have made a balance between the Law Societies’ mandates and religious freedom.

It continued, “TWU is a private post-secondary institution that provides education in an evangelical Christian environment. While LGBTQ students are not prohibited from attending TWU, all students are required to sign a covenant that prohibits any form of sexual activity outside of a marriage between a man and a woman.”

This limits students. With the covenant, the Law Societies made a vote. The vote determined a proper denial of the accreditation of the law school proposed by TWU. With extensive deliberations, it was decided that TWU was discriminatory against LGBTQ people.

“On judicial review, Ontario’s Divisional Court held that the Law Society of Ontario had properly exercised its statutory mandate to act in the public interest in refusing to grant accreditation to TWU’s proposed law school because its mandatory covenant was discriminatory,” the reportage stated.

The denial of the accreditation, apparently, violated the Section 2(a) religious right found in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court was found to have made a proportionate and balanced decision on the equality rights and the Law Society of Ontario’s public interest mandate.

“In contrast, the British Columbia Court of Appeal reversed the Law Society of British Columbia’s decision not to approve TWU’s proposed law school. The court instead found that the decision’s effect on TWU’s religious rights was severe compared to the minimal impact on Law Society of British Columbia’s statutory public interest objectives,” the article said.

The appeal was then made to the SCC. The SCC made a staggering 7-2 decision to deny accreditation to the TWU law school. Most of the SCC found that the Law Societies violated the communal religious freedom of TWU.

However, with the Charter right invoked for the legal societies’ decision, the SCC used a decision-making framework from some previous decisions. It was the Dore/Loyola framework. It was meant for the balance of the Charter rights and the statutory objectives.

Reportage continued, “The Supreme Court held that the Law Societies had balanced competing interests reasonably and proportionately. As with many administrative decisions, the decision under review did not need to be correct; it was only required to fall within a range of possible reasonable outcomes.”

Two sides were present. The SCC ratiocinated that the religious rights of the TWU community were not limited based on the mandatory covenant because of this not being a requirement of the Christian environment.

The other was that the statutory public interest mandate is to prevent harm to LGBTQ students of law. It means a diverse bar with equal access and opportunities. The decision highlighted the balance between public interest and religious rights.

“In a minority concurring decision, Justice Rowe found that TWU’s religious rights had not been engaged by the Law Societies’ decisions. He argued that while religious rights protected individuals and faith communities’ beliefs and practices,” the article explained, “it did not protect their attempts to impose adherence to others who do not share their beliefs.[9] With no Charter right balanced against the Law Societies’ public interest mandate, the decision to deny TWU accreditation was entirely reasonable.”

There was another minority decision happening concomitantly. The Chief Justice McLachlin stated that the Dore/Loyola framework shall be applied. It was commentary from McLachlin on the freedom of association and the freedom of expression.

“She ultimately agreed, however, that the decision of the Law Societies was reasonable as they had a heightened duty to maintain equality and avoid condoning discrimination,” the article stated, “In dissent, Justice Côté and Justice Brown argued that the Law Societies’ statutory mandates did not include the governance of law schools.”

There was further commentary by Justice Côté and Justice Brown about the mandatory covenant not being discriminatory. Their argument was that the covenant did not target LGBTQ people in particular and, therefore, this did not comprise any form of standard discrimination.

It, on the implications, continued to state, “The decision serves as a high-profile example of judicial review of administrative decisions engaging Charter rights. The Supreme Court declined to depart from the Dore/Loyola framework, despite criticism in some circles.”

The SCC made balance with the statutory objectives and the religious rights within the context of the Dore/Loyola framework. The decision may show SCC deference to the statutory mandates of administrative bodies.

“The impact of these decisions extends beyond adjudging the quality of various legal tests. The number of interveners (23) across religious and human rights spectra illustrate how personally important these decisions were to groups across Canada,” the article concluded, “As noted above, the Supreme Court focused on interests of diversity and equal access to the legal profession in reaching its conclusions. Many will view these decisions favourably as a continuation of the use of the Charter to advance the rights of LGBTQ Canadian citizens.”

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

#ChurchToo and Sexual Harassment Training

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

The #MeToo movements around the world are now impacting the Christian church more broadly with the hashtag #ChurchToo.

A training event for the prevention of sexual misconduct was scheduled to educate church staff about healthy boundaries. This event was arranged by the Mennonite Churches of Eastern Canada (MCEC) and conducted in Kitchener, Ontario by Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune where representatives of 10 denominations of Christianity attended the training in order to begin dealing with the sexual harassment happening within their own ranks. This endeavor is linked to the #ChurchToo movement — which branches off of the #MeToo era which began by exposing predatory male behavior and sexual harassment in enclaves like Hollywood and the mainstream media — and is now spreading throughout the rest of society.

Church Leadership Minister for the MCEC, Marilyn Rudy-Froese, stated, “It’s all over in our society. It’s not just happening in the movie industry, and it’s not just happening in the Catholic Church… It’s the work we all need to be doing: we need to be shifting our culture to be attentive to the voices and stories of victims.”

Fortune founded the FaithTrust Institute in the Seattle area where she was a young United Church minister circa 1979. She wants survivors of sexual misconduct to come forward with their narratives of abuse.

“It’s harder — it’s not impossible but it’s harder — for institutions to ignore anymore,” she said. “That’s always been a challenge in addressing this issue, is they really don’t want to know and their knee-jerk reaction tends to be wrong in terms of institutional self-interest,” Fortune stated.

Rather than be one of the ones who have been ignoring the problem either passively or systematically, Fortune wants to help these Christian organizations move head first into dealing with the problem. She advises them not to fear looking bad to the community.

Fortune emphasizes the need to prevent sexual misconduct within the church in the first place by developing healthy boundaries — especially for sexual predators who “don’t care about education”— to put policies in place so that abusers can be identified, investigated and appropriately punished. The training will focus on both preventing sexual misconduct and also to deal with predators who somehow slip through the cracks.

It’s not about the fear of looking bad, but about the social, and the church’s need to deal swiftly with criminals. Fortune noted the importance of those investigating to be transparent with congregants so the victims feel free to come forward.

Rev. Darren Roorda, Canadian Ministries Director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, stated, “People in various levels of the church — women especially — are much more comfortable to say, ‘I have an issue with fill-in-the-blank,’ or ‘my history includes some difficulty or challenge or persecution’… People are much more apt to identify themselves. That comfort level is really, really healthy and good. We’re glad about that.”

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Religion as Showing Off

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

According to Psychology Today, there is an argument to be made that religion is about showing off.

The article states that altruistic acts in some forms have been hard for scientists to explain. These speculations become especially true in the instances of the kinds of self-sacrifice that make humanity seem heroic in some manner.

The people who give to others without a thought for any other hand-back to themselves. This seems at odds with the evolutionary point of view. There is a theory called Costly Signaling Theory. It tries to make some sense of the extreme forms of altruisms.

As reported, “The term Handicap Principle has often been used as a synonym for ‘Costly Signaling Theory.’ This reflects the origins of the theory in research on animal communication. Some animals ‘handicap’ themselves with extremely costly biological features that only individuals in excellent condition can afford to maintain.”

The examples given are the plumage of a peacock or the antlers of an elk. They are handicaps, very materially expensive. The theory proposes that the honest signals of oneself via handicaps can be hard to fake but that this can then have some long-term benefits for us. 

It continued, “Costly signaling is very much about truth in advertising. A ‘low-quality’ signaler who attempts to fake a high-quality signal will deplete whatever resources that he may have available, leaving the signaler in such a vulnerable position that the strategy will prove to be counterproductive. “

But if someone is a high-quality signaler, this individual has the resources to burn this signalling. It becomes adaptively beneficially in comparison to the costs of the signalling. The big example is public magnanimity.

Those who are willing to give a lot. It provides the individual a sense of social status among their peers. The argument from Costly Signaling Theory would be that the display shows the person to be of a higher social status than the others, which means the display may not be entirely selfless.

There is anthropological evidence that individuals who have a history of being magnanimous are rewarded by others when times get tough, and laboratory studies by psychologists have also demonstrated that charitable donations and other acts of kindness are most likely to take place when the behaviors are easily observed and recognized by others,” the article explained.

Many researchers view the conspicuous displays as potential advertisement of personality traits to potential mates. Some research confirmed males display altruism in front of attractive members of the opposite sex. Women did not do the same thing.

The article stated and asked, “It’s no secret that young men are notorious for engaging in foolish, risky behavior. How could this predilection for recklessness have evolved in young men?”

Attention is directed to some of the early human societies, where adulthood comes from a man’s standing in front of the social group. This could not masculinity reset through leaving one group and joining another one.

“For this reason, high-risk competition between young males provided an opportunity for ‘showing off’ the abilities needed to acquire resources, exhibit strength, and to meet challenges to one’s status. Consequently, heroic or even recklessly daredevil behavior was rewarded with status and respect—assuming, of course, that the young man survived the ordeal,” the article said.

One anthropologist, Kristen Hawkes, founded the Show-Off Hypothesis. It is the idea well-replicated within the hunter-gatherer societies research. The men use the risky hunting strategies in order to garner the greater sexual access to the women of the world.

It is costly and a form of heroism in the sexual selection arena. Many experts in the evolutionary psychology field see apparent true heroism as giving advantage to some individuals. The heroism in war time is one example of this.

More can be seen in the signaling in the capitalistic societies with the wasteful spending of resources not essential to the survival or even for comfort of the individual ridding themselves of the resources in costly displays, signaling.

The article described, “A series of seven studies, confirmed that wearing brand label clothing does indeed increase perceptions of a person’s wealth and status, and that this perception leads to all sorts of advantages.”

Individuals who wear the expensive brands will get more compliance in requests and will get better jobs with higher salaries. They get better outcome in some social scenarios and can be more successful in the solicitation of donations from others. People buy expensive environmentally friendly products to see of higher status in the eyes of others. This then leads to ideas about religion and social status, and costly signaling.

“Religion has long been thought of as a social mechanism for enforcing cooperation within cultural groups. One of the ways in which it may successfully accomplish this is by using religious commitment as a costly signaling device,” the article said, “All religions have rituals, taboos, and other requirements that can be very costly in terms of time, money, or effort. Fasting, tithing, frequent and lengthy prayer and/or religious services, and dietary requirements that are difficult to follow require a good deal of commitment.”

That is, the commitment to religion is a signal to the efforts and values of the group. These become hard to fake within the group. Because the people within or the members of the group want to see you as a worthwhile and contributing member of the group. Analysis of communal societies apparently show this to be true, especially for those to have survived a long time. There are costly memberships with religion as one big cost.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

License Plate Blasphemy

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

According to Friendly Atheist, there is an effort ongoing to prevent the mockery of religion by a Kentucky man.

In 2016, the head of the Kentucky Division of Motor Vehicles rejected atheist Ben Hart‘s request for a license plate. It stated, “IM GOD.” He had this plate while living in Ohio. No problem, he lived in Ohio for 12 years. There was no issue there for the same license plate.

But then the Kentucky DMV told Hart that the plate was “obscene and vulgar.” Then this changed, “Not in good taste.” He then made a formal response in a lawsuit. He argued that this was a violation of his freedom of speech.

“…the DMV’s actions were a violation of his free speech. What Kentucky wanted was silly, he argued, because they allow you to buy an “In God We Trust” license plate template. How is that okay while taking a position on God on the plate itself is illegal?” The article stated, “The lawsuit is still working its way through the courts. Earlier this year, the judge rejected the state’s request to toss out the lawsuit. This case will be decided on its merits. We await the judge’s decision.”

Then some intriguing events took place. The DMV is going through all license plates now, or appears to have done so, to tell all those with a previously approved religious message that they are no longer allowed to have them.

This may amount to a tactic for the courts, so that the individuals who are trying to prosecute him can say that they are not simply being bigoted and singling out Hart for his atheism. One Susi Burton has “PRAY4” for her license plate. She had it for 8 years. Now, she is furious.

“… she was stunned the other day — no make that “horrified” — to get a letter from the State Transportation Cabinet telling her that she had 20 days to return her license plate to the Fayette County Clerk’s office or the state would cancel her 2016 Lexus’ registration,” the article explained.

She found this a serious hassle and annoyance. The state law is against license plates that target particular religions. However, the double standard is applied and obvious to Burton.

As the report stated, “Burton said she’s offended by the thought of a plate that says “IM GOD,” but that doesn’t mean the northern Kentucky man shouldn’t have it. That lady gets it. What’s really ironic in all this is that Burton is demanding Kentucky be more accommodating of her religious views.”

The article continues in more depth on the issues of the beliefs of the governor and then Kim Davis. Then also, those who are pushing back against them, but those are direct but peripheral issues to this particular license plate blasphemy news.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Firefighters Face Religious Discrimination Too

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

According to Friendly Atheist, there can even be discrimination around religion against particular members of the community who are normally beloved: firefighters.

The report states, “In 2016, atheist Jeffrey Queen filed an unbelievable lawsuit against the city of Bowling Green (Kentucky) based on what he witnessed while working for the fire department. The lawsuit only came after his complaints were ignored, some by Deputy Chief Dustin Rockrohr (also named in the lawsuit), and he was formally discharged.”

The claims are extensive within the lawsuit. Some of them included the referring to non-Christians as pagans. The asking of the person in question on the job if they would like to join the church. Another stating that he should “get right with Jesus.”

Others included that atheists should burn or that a colleague would be damned if they would be atheists and feels glad that “none of those fuckers work here.” The man, Queen, was forced into participation in a Bible study at the fire station. Then after coming out as an atheist, the Captain, Eric Smith, and one other firefighter stated that they would, therefore, burn down his house.

He was called a faggot almost every day, or queer. He is straight and married, for the record. His colleagues would not touch gay people because of their potential for having AIDS – “probably had…” Then there was a statement that if a homosexual works there then they would make sure he dies in a fire; also, they stated that they would chop his feet off.

One man did not get help with chest pain after hearing he was gay. Some firefighters refused to help out. Then African-Americans were referred as “hoodrats” and “thugs” and even the n-word. As reported, “He witnessed members of the Fire Department refer to Muslims as ‘towelheads,’ ‘jihadis,’ ‘ali-babas,’ and ‘sand n—–.’ He heard those same people say of Muslims, ‘we need to ship them all back where they came from’ and ‘let the bombs torch them, they are going to hell anyway.’”

Queen took an absence from work due to the harassment. He resigned due to the hostility in the work environment. No one would have known about these instances without the Queen’s whistleblowing. He went public and suffered as a result of it, professionally and personally.

“Since that lawsuit was filed, though, the city and Rockrohr have tried to get the courts to throw it out. They don’t dispute what Queen witnessed,” the article explained, “Instead, they claim ‘that jokes, pranks, and teasing are all part of the fraternal environment at the Fire Department that Queen enjoyed and participated in.’”

However, Queen did not enjoy it; he hated it. The fire department is claiming the harassment on the basis of atheism was not a possibility because they did not know, at the time, that he was a closeted atheist in the fire department.

However, Queen states that the statement about the burning down of his house due to his atheism as a result of the colleagues in the fire department finding out about his atheism.

The article continues, “On Friday, however, a judge ruled that there was more than enough reason for this case to move forward. There’s plenty of information regarding religious discrimination and retaliation that a jury would have to sort out, the judge said, and the reasons for dismissing the case are absurd.”

It resulted in a 14-page ruling on Friday issues by the U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley that the allegation of a hostile work environment based on religion and claims of retaliation could proceed reasonably to a proper trial.

In a 14-page ruling issued Friday, U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley allowed the allegation of hostile work environment based on religion and claims of retaliation to proceed to trial.

McKinley stated, “A reasonable jury could find that the harassment and threats were in retaliation for his complaints regarding the workplace…. According to Queen, his work environment got so bad that he had to take a medical leave of absence and eventually forced him to resign.”

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

The Decline of Canadian Nuns

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

According to The Globe and Mail, the numbers of the most faithful Christians in the forms of nuns is on the decline in Canada.

The news report spoke of several decades of decline in the numbers entering and staying in the convent. Some monasteries, as noted, go back as many as four centuries in Quebec. One is the Ursuline Monastery in Quebec City.

One woman, Andrée Leclerc, stated, “We know we are going off there to die…. This was my home, where I lived, I slept and I prayed. My whole life is here.”

There has been a massive decline taking place over decades in the numbers of the faithful of the Roman Catholic Church in Quebec. The nuns would run the provincial schools and the hospitals. But those are going away.

The number of Catholic nuns peaked at 47,000 in Quebec in 1961 and now sits at fewer than 6,000. The majority of the extant nuns are in their ninth decade. The numbers, at face value, may not tell the entire story of the religious community.

If one looks at the 76% of Roman Catholic population numbers, and if one then looks at the level of those practising in a serious way, most are not practising in a serious way. It is a secular province and, overall, country and culture.

As reported, “With little new blood, Catholic religious orders are shrinking. The last novice joined the Ursulines in the mid-1990s. Only 215 nuns remain in the order across Quebec today, down from more than 900 in the mid-sixties.”

The origins of monasteries such as this one began as far back as a voyage from France in 1639. It truly is a remarkably long history for the religious institutions of the world, but it is also a story coming to an end or a transformation on many fronts.

“They set up a school that has become the oldest institution of learning for girls in North America. Centuries on, the École des Ursulines’ interior courtyard still rings out with the shouts of uniformed schoolgirls (boys were admitted in 2010 and a secular board took over four years later, a nod to changing times),” the article stated.

One nun, Sister Suzanna Pineau, was a boarder at Ursulines at the age of 8. She is now 82. She said, “We don’t wear makeup or jewellery. We’re not in the latest fashions.” She made some remarks about the Muslim veil, pointing to the 300 years of veils by nuns while no one said anything.

“There are difficulties in all walks of life…. I committed myself to the Lord, like others commit themselves to a marriage or to working for a company,” Pineau opined.

Their average age in the monastery is 87. It is an ancient collective of women who themselves are well into their elderly years. With the decline of religion in Canada, and in Quebec in particular, we are seeing the decreased prominence of once powerful institutional forces including the nuns in monasteries.

The nuns will be entering a modern facility in the fall with a forced downsizing to the Soeurs servantes du Saint-Coeur de Marie. In September, these nuns will make their last trip from the monastery to then begin a downsized life in another one.

Sister Andrée opined, “I’ll miss the soul of this place…. The idea of living differently brings tears to my eyes. It’s physical. It’s psychological. My entire being is affected. When I was a teenager I left my family home in the Charlevoix. Leaving here is harder.”

This becomes the trace of religiosity with the increased secularization of the province and, indeed, the nation of Canada. There are real people behind these declines, who have their hearts in these institutions.

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In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

On a Bishop and Waning Catholicism Due to Lack of Interest in Religion

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

According to Rome Reports, Cardinal Antonio Marto argued that the main issue for the religious is the actual lack of interest in religion. It was a short news article on the story of the cardinal and bishop, and his perspective on the waning interest in religion now.

Marto was the one who welcomed Pope Francis to Fatima – his city – in 2017 and the then-pope Benedict XVI in 2006. Coming from a family of deep faith, Marto knows the Roman Catholic religion and theology, and cultural and social life.

Marto was ordained as a priest with a doctorate in Theology with Benedict appointing him the bishop of Fatima, of the city. He was reluctant to take the position; however, the pope, at the time, wanted Marto to be the bishop.

As reported, “Fatima receives thousands of people from all continents every year. For this reason, it’s interesting to get his opinion about what should be the Church’s priority.” Marto is concerned about the state of the Church. This is someone with authority, education, and influence within the Roman Catholic Church from a Catholic news source.

“At this moment, the priority is to bring God to the hearts of men and women, and men and women to the heart of God, and this is part of the message of Fatima,” Marto opined, “This is because we live in a time of religious indifference. Our greatest enemy is not militant atheism but religious indifference. This indifference is fought with the joyful and convinced testimony of faithful Christians.”

The decline in the global interest in religion – though continued growth in the numbers – remains a concern for the individuals within the Roman Catholic Church including the hierarchs such as Marto.

The article concluded, “It’s this issue he hopes to continue working on as cardinal and theological bishop of Fatima one who finds rests by walking in the mountains or spending time with his family and friends.”

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In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Two Canadian Mormon Men Under House Arrest for Polygamy

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

In Cranbrook, British Columbia, two men took many wives, some as young as 15.

The two men will not serve any time in jail based on the decision of the B.C. Supreme Court judge. They were given conditional sentences. The two men were Winston Blackmore, 61, and James Oler, 54. They are part of a breakaway Mormon sect.

These became of the first Canadian cases of polygamous arrest in over a century. The judge was Justice Sheri Ann Donegan. She sentenced the Blackmore to 6 months and Oler to 3 months. The men are serving house arrest with the exceptions for work and other necessary errands and medical emergencies.

Blackmore will serve 150 hours in community service work. Oler will do 75 hours.

Donegan stated, “Determining a proportionate sentence is a delicate task … Sentences that are too lenient and sentences that are too harsh can undermine public confidence in the administration of justice.”

Blackmore’s relatives cried and embraced with the announced sentence.

“The court heard Blackmore married his first wife, ex-Bountiful member Jane Blackmore, in 1975 and went on to marry 24 more women in so-called celestial marriages. Nine wives were under the age of 18, and four were 15 at the time they were married, Donegan noted in her decision,” the article reported.

Oler had five wives, one as young as 15 with another turning 17 at the time of the marriages to Oler. Blackmore and Oler were raised in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It is a tradition of some sects of the Mormon church to practice “plural marriage.” Men marry lots of women.

There was a schism in 2002, which led to the rival factions growing into what is known as the community of Bountiful in the south east of British Columbia.

Oler had five wives, Donegan said. One was 15, and another had just turned 17 at the time of their marriages. Oler got excommunicated from the church in 2012. He lives in Alberta now. Blackmore lives in the original community.

The judge described both men as hard working and law abiding citizens. But they practice polygamy due to their deeply held religious convictions.
Donegan stated, “He’s made it clear that no sentence will deter him from practising his faith. … The concept of remorse is foreign to him in this context because … he cannot feel remorseful for his family.”

One reference case confirmed the illegality of polygamy in Canada in 2011 but Blackmore continued to practice it. Blackmore failed to heed the fair notice in the reference case. Donegan has no doubt that Blackmore was practising polygamy based on fundamentalist beliefs inculcated at a very, very young age. Therefore, Blackmore feels no remorse for any of the victims or for any harm caused via his offense.

Donegan stated, “He does not feel any remorse for his offense because he feels he did not know any other way of life and sees no harm or victims in his offense.”

The maximum prison sentence for polygamy is five years based on the Criminal Code. Only two other convictions have occurred in the history of Canadian law. Those happened in 1899 and 1906. They did not set a precedent.

Blair Suffredine, the lawyer for Blackmore, said, “It’s a light at the end of the tunnel… He’s had 25 years of government coming after him for something he wasn’t sure was a crime and he felt it was only because of his religious beliefs that he was doing it.”

This sentence, hopefully, sends a moderate to strong message to the members of the bountiful British Columbia community about practicing polygamy and how this may result in jail sentences.

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In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Patriarch Kirill in Concern About Disappearance of Christian Communities

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

Christian religious leaders gathered in Russia over concerns of a purported spiritual and moral crisis.

The Moscow Patriarch Kirill (secular name: Vladimir M. Gundjaev) sent some congratulations to the World Council of Churches (WCC) for 70 years of establishment since the original August 23rd, 1948 gathering after WWII. The WCC gained the Russian Orthodox Church, part of the Eastern Orthodox Church and subservient to Putin.

The article stated, “Addressing the WCC secretary, the Norwegian Lutheran theologian Olav Fykse Tveit, and the entire Central Committee, the Russian Patriarch recalled that the Council is ‘a major international organization and unique platform for dialogue between Christians of various confessions. For the years of its work, the World Council of Churches has done much to develop inter-confessional dialogue, to promote justice in society and peace among nations.’”

Kirill recalled how this was important to the Christian community because it provided the opportunity for joint efforts to work in international relations. Typically, this will translate into Christian churches working globally to undermine secularism or gain political power.

It continued, “The message also thanks the WCC ‘for the solidarity that our brothers and sister shared with us in the desire to overcome the restrictions of religious freedom as a consequence of the state policy formed by the ideology of militant atheism.’”

The phrase “militant atheism” insofar as I know started with the TED Talk presentation by the distinguished science educator and zoologist Dr. Richard Dawkins. Apparently, Kirill was known to speak on the ecclesiastical propaganda used to conceal religious persecution. That raises all sorts of questions about Kirill’s time as a young “Soviet” bishop in the Nairobi assembly in 1975. He denied religious persecutions in the USSR at the time.
“However, the head of the Russian Church does not indulge in the re-evocation of those difficult times, but turns instead to future prospects, where the patriarchate of Moscow has every intention of being a leading player,” the reported explained.

Kirill argues that the purported problems for religion back in the days of the USSR are no different than the alleged problems for religion today. That is, the asserted existence of spiritual and moral crises that are deviations of the Christian faith’s values and traditions.

Kirill argues the world is on the brink of a global war. He continued to state that there is a threat of Christian communities in the region. Apparently, that created the foundation for the meeting of the Roman Catholic Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill to meet in Havana during 2016.

“The other reason for the rapprochement, in conclusion of Kirill’s message, is the gratitude to the WCC ‘for the firm position expressed by the Secretary General in his appeal to the state authorities of Ukraine, in defence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church,’” the article said in its concluding parts.

The meeting seemed as if an attempt to prevent the dissolution of the Christian church religiosity levels seen in the region and then casting people shedding religion as persecution and discrimination against the church. Christian leaders seem on the defensive.

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In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Noura Hussein Hammad Escapes Death Penalty

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

A court in Sudan overturned the prior death sentence of a teenager named Noura Hussein Hammad.

Hammad murdered her husband. The claimed reason for the murder has a background. Hammad was forced into a child marriage and then underwent marital rape in Sudan. When the husband tried to rape her again, she killed him.

The article stated, “Her legal team told CNN on Tuesday that Hussein, now 19, has been given a five-year jail term for killing the 35-year-old man. The court ordered her family to pay 337,000 Sudanese pounds ($18,700 or €15,970) in “blood money” to the man’s family.”

The lawyers for Hammad want to appeal the jail term and payment of Hammad, even though she was not killed. She was given the prison sentence and blood money fine. According to Hammad, her family forced the marriage on her at age 15.

She did finish school. Then there was a public wedding three years later. The husband wanted to consummate the marriage. However, she refused his sexual advances. At that point, several of his family members held her down as he raped her.

He raped her again one day later. She went to her family for help, but her family turned her over to the police. She was forced to live with the man. She did not eat or leave her room for the first days of being with him.

Hammad said, “On the ninth day his relatives came, his uncle told me to go to the bedroom. I said no so he dragged me by my arm into the bedroom and his cousin slapped me. All of them tore at my clothing. His uncle held me down by my legs and each of the other two held down my arms. He stripped and had me while I wept and screamed. Finally, they left the room. I was bleeding, I slept naked.”

The following day, Hammad recounts, was when he grabbed her, threw her on the bed, and attempted to climb on top of her. She fought back. She found a knife under the pillow. He cut her hand and bit on her shoulder.

The court overturned the decision based on the acceptance of Hammad’s recall of the events. One key point of the narrative was finding the knife under the pillow prior to the stabbing. It was not from the kitchen.

The case has garnered the attention of the international world with an enormous number of petitions from around the world calling for Hammad’s case to be dropped. The legal marriage age in Sudan is 10. Marital rape is not seen as a crime.

Amnesty International called Hammad’s case a need for a call for change in Sudan.

“While the quashing of this death sentence is hugely welcome news, it must now lead to a legal review to ensure that Noura Hussein is the last person to go through this ordeal,” said Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, “Noura Hussein was the victim of a brutal attack by her husband and five years’ imprisonment for acting in self-defense is a disproportionate punishment … The Sudanese authorities must take this opportunity to start reforming the laws around child marriage, forced marriage and marital rape, so that victims are not the ones who are penalized.”

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In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Bizarre Purported Punishment from God Because of Abortions

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Atheist Republic (News)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): n.d.

According to Dead State, there was a bizarre claim by Rick Wiles about a “brown invasion” as a punishment from God for abortions in America.
Rick Wiles, a well-known fundamentalist conservative Christian radio host and conspiracy theorist, took on a stance associated in the report with Christian-styled anti-abortion/pro-life position tied to white nationalism.

Wiles runs the show called TruNews, where he holds forth on his fundamentalist and conspiracy theorist ideas. In one short reported-on segment, he spoke on what he characterized as a “brown invasion” from Latin America.

This, he surmised, was a punishment of white people for the sin of abortion. He stated that this was a soil soaked in babies’ blood and so the soil is making a cry for some form of justice.

Wiles opined, “Four thousand babies killed every day, their guts, their intestines, their brains, their blood flushed down the toilet in the baby butcher shops … [it] goes into the sewer system, carried in the sewer pipes under the city streets, into the sewage system. Our country is soaked in blood and the soil is crying out for justice.”

He argued that there needs to be repentance based on these assertions. Otherwise, another people, presumably not white people, will take the land. He is known as an End Times conspiracy theorist who is pro-Trumpism.

He originally considered the people to take over the United States of America would be the Chinese or the Russians. However, he changed his mind. The purported “invasion” comes from those who are from Central America. They are the source of God’s punishment.

“It just hit me in the past week … We’ve already been invaded. We’re already being pushed off the land. It’s already happened … The judgment has been underway for years and we didn’t see it,” Wiles stated, “God is bringing another people in to America and pushing the white Europeans off the land … We have a brown invasion that has come in … This is the land vomiting the people out.”

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.