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Fri, 04 Dec 2020
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


The need to belong, not facts, is what draws people to Black Lives Matter

black lives matter blm march
People often think of peer pressure as something teenagers experience. In fact, peer pressure is just as prevalent among adults. It's the reason ideas spread like wildfire. People jump on board with what everyone else is doing or thinking for one simple reason: They want to belong.

Have you ever wondered how Adolf Hitler managed to convince so many people to commit evil acts? Or how cult leaders such as Charles Manson or David Koresh could get so many people to do what they told them to do and to believe what they told them to believe? The need to belong is just that fierce and strong, particularly for vulnerable folks who feel lonely or misunderstood.

It's happening right now with the Black Lives Matter movement. It's not about the fact that black lives matter, with which no sane person would disagree. A simple search of their own website will tell you its goals: to "disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure" and to "foster a queer‐affirming network."

Comment: See also:

Black Cat

Narcissists, psychopaths, and manipulators are more likely to engage in 'virtuous victim signaling' - study

Virtue signaling
© Stefan Boness/Ipon/SIPA/Newscom
New study links virtue signaling to "Dark Triad" traits. Being accused of "virtue signaling" might sound nice to the uninitiated, but spend much time on social media and you know that it's actually an accusation of insincerity. Virtue signalers are, essentially, phonies and showoffs — folks who adopt opinions and postures solely to garner praise and sympathy or whose good deeds are tainted by their need for everyone to see just how good they are. Combined with a culture that says only victimhood confers a right to comment on certain issues, it's a big factor in online pile-ons and one that certainly contributes to social media platforms being such a bummer sometimes.

So: Here's some fun new research looking at "the consequences and predictors of emitting signals of victimhood and virtue," published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The paper — from University of British Columbia researchers Ekin Ok, Yi Qian, Brendan Strejcek, and Karl Aquino — details multiple studies the authors conducted on the subject.

Their conclusion? Psychopathic, manipulative, and narcissistic people are more frequent signalers of "virtuous victimhood."

Comment: Dr. Stanton Samenow also writes about this in different terms in "Inside the Criminal Mind". The criminal minded create a persona or image that basically protects their ability to manipulate others. A predator who preys on the elderly might go out of his way to help his elderly neighbor cross the street. One who targets children may also be found teaching kids, and so on. Several of the principle features of the criminal mind are claiming victimhood and seeing themselves as essentially good, but underlying all this is an indulged drive to have power and control over others.


How does aging shape our narrative identity?

woman half old
© Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc/KJN
It's not just our flesh and bones that change as we get older.

In 2010, Dan McAdams wrote a biography about George W. Bush analyzing the former American president using the tools of personality psychology. It was, in his own words, a flop. "I probably had three readers," McAdams laughs. But an editor from The Atlantic happened to read it, and asked McAdams to write a similar piece analyzing Donald Trump. It was a hit, attracting 3.5 million readers.

"So something good came out of it," McAdams tells me. He used the case in class. And, he explains, he has always been interested in politics anyways. "I'm kind of a political junkie going back into the '60s. That's my autobiographical reasoning."

Autobiographical reasoning gets far more sophisticated as you age.

By autobiographical reasoning, McAdams means finding and attaching meaning using your own life history. It's how he has come to interpret the time he spent writing his book, and it's part of how all of us build our broader narrative identity — the story of who we are and where we're going. In his work as a professor of psychology at Northwestern University. McAdams has thought deeply about how we build that identity and how it changes with age.

Comment: Self-reflection, as long as it is as honest as can be, is a useful tool to guide and redefine oneself. As many have learned, we do not always see ourselves as others do. If we pay attention to our own details and experiences with a critical eye for faults and options to improve, our narrative in later years should be an accurate version of our personal journey - its meaning intrinsic.


Discovering the link between gender identity and peer contagion

The following is excerpted, with permission, from Abigail Shrier's newly published book, Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, Regnery Publishing (June 30, 2020) 276 pages.

In 2016, Lisa Littman, ob-gyn turned public health researcher, and mother of two, was scrolling through social media when she noticed a statistical peculiarity: Several adolescents, most of them girls, from her small town in Rhode Island had come out as transgender — all from within the same friend group. "With the first two announcements, I thought, 'Wow, that's great,'" Dr. Littman said, a light New Jersey accent tweaking her vowels. Then came announcements three, four, five, and six.

Dr. Littman knew almost nothing about gender dysphoria — her research interests had been confined to reproductive health: abortion stigma and contraception. But she knew enough to recognize that the numbers were much higher than prevalence data would have predicted. "I studied epidemiology... and when you see numbers that greatly exceed your expectations, it's worth it to look at what might be causing it. Maybe it's a difference of how you're counting. It could be a lot of things. But you know, those were high numbers."

In fact, they turned out to be unprecedented. In America and across the Western world, adolescents were reporting a sudden spike in gender dysphoria — the medical condition associated with the social designation "transgender." Between 2016 and 2017, the number of gender surgeries for natal females in the United States quadrupled, with biological women suddenly accounting for — as we have seen — 70 percent of all gender surgeries. In 2018, the UK reported a 4,400 percent rise over the previous decade in teenage girls seeking gender treatments. In Canada, Sweden, Finland, and the UK, clinicians and gender therapists began reporting a sudden and dramatic shift in the demographics of those presenting with gender dysphoria — from predominately preschool-aged boys to predominately adolescent girls.


How addressing so-called 'unconscious bias' and 'unwitting racism' could be the first step to brainwashing

black white people
© Getty Images / fizkes
The idea that all white people are unconsciously racist and need training to correct this has gained momentum. But doesn't this colonisation of thought processes take us into dangerous territory?

These days we are told that, unless you can prove otherwise, you are presumed to be a racist. This is why Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer announced that he was going to introduce unconscious bias training for all the officials in his party.

And just to demonstrate that he meant business, Starmer declared, "I'm going to lead from the top on this and do that training first." No doubt Harry and Meghan - otherwise known as the Prince and Princess of Sussex - would approve of Starmer's actions. Not long ago, the royal couple gave a little sermon about the need to uncover your unconscious bias to a carefully selected 'discussion group'.

Meghan explained that your upbringing can shape your unconscious bias and that this is where "racism... lies and thrives." Harry added that "once you start to realize that there is bias there, then you need to acknowledge it, you need to do the work to become more aware". Harry concluded his lecture with a word of hope: "Unconscious bias must be acknowledged without blame to create a better world for all of you."

Undertaking 'unconscious bias training' has become a therapy of salvation widely promoted by leading members of the Anglo-American establishment. At dinner tables, members of the elite now exchange pleasantries about how they managed to get trained out of their bias.

SOTT Logo Radio

MindMatters: Interview with James Carpenter: First Sight, Psi, and Consciousness

james carpenter
What is the nature of psi? How does it relate to consciousness? Today on MindMatters we interview Dr. Jim Carpenter about his "first sight" theory, the subject of his revolutionary book by the same name. Carpenter's theory not only accounts for all the experimental data relating to psi; it also integrates current psychological research and a wider understanding of consciousness as a whole. Psi is not an anomaly or a special ability - it is fundamental to mind itself.

Dr. Jim Carpenter is both a clinical psychologist and a research parapsychologist. He is a Diplomate in Clinical Psychology, ABPP, and a Fellow in the American Academy of Clinical Psychology He formerly taught at the University of North Caroline in the departments of psychology and psychiatry. He has been active in the governance of several professional organizations, and carries on an active private practice.

Dr. Carpenter has published widely in psychology and parapsychology, with many research articles, book chapters and more popularly oriented pieces. For many years he has provided pro bono clinical consultation for persons who seek help with unpleasant experiences that they think of as psychic. His most substantial parapsychological contribution is a book developing a theory of psi, called First Sight: ESP and Parapsychology in Everyday Life (firstsightbook.com), published by Rowman & Littlefield. A more recent book contains a chapter summarizing some central ideas in the theory, along with another chapter placing the theory in the context of the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead: Rethinking Consciousness: Extraordinary Challenges for Contemporary Science, edited by Buchanan and Aanstoos. His current research involves the prediction of the implicit contribution of psi information to the formation of ordinary preference judgments, using theoretically specified variables, thus shedding some light on how psi participates as "first sight" in everyday experience that people are not experiencing as "psychic.

Running Time: 01:41:52

Download: MP3 — 93.3 MB

SOTT Logo Radio

MindMatters: Try Not To Lie: The Value Of Honesty With The Self And Others

unpleasant truths
As the old adage goes, "The truth shall set you free." But if that's true then why do we quite often have such a difficult time of being honest with ourselves? And just as importantly, why do we struggle so much in being honest with others? Programmed or wired to deny that we have personal shortcomings - or fearing the consequences of honest communication about others' failings - we quite often opt for the easy out, keeping things to ourselves and attempting to avoid the potential pain and discord that may come of telling it like it is. Like a festering wound, the lies we tell ourselves and accept from others infects the very quality and well being of our selves and the lives of those around us.

On this week's MindMatters we discuss why one should have less fear of truthful communication - and a greater willingness to be honest. While there is always a risk of hurt, the uncertainty of misunderstanding, and the discomfort of vulnerability - what is easily overlooked is the greater meaning, understanding, and intimacy that may be added to one's life and relationships - if we were only more honest (assuming the people around you share this value). At at time in human existence when we are struggling to make sense of complex and rapidly occurring world-changing events, how can we achieve a semblance of true understanding when, at square one, we are dishonest with ourselves and the souls immediately surrounding us?

Running Time: 01:04:02

Download: MP3 — 61.3 MB

Mr. Potato

Internet trolls: The motivations of malcontents

Internet troll
© Alexander Pavlov/Shutterstock

Disruption is reinforcing to trolls

Internet trolling can be thought of as a deliberate behaviour to produce conflict or distress, or both, by posting material that is discourteous, provocative, inflammatory, or intimidating. The prevalence of trolling behaviour is hard to estimate, but at least 1% of social media users have experienced this personally over the last year. This figure can be as high as 70%, depending on the study consulted, and the methods used to collect these data.

Trolling used to be conceptualised as an activity in which an individual was engaged, being targeted from one person usually to another; however, increasingly we are seeing a rise in what might be termed "societal trolling" — disruptive tactics targeted from one group to another, often in a political context.

The questions that arise are: Why is trolling done? Are the motivations the same in individual and societal trolling? Are there similarities between online trolling and mass-disruptive actions conducted in the real world?

Comment: See also:

Blue Pill

Does Not Complying With Social Distancing Rules Mean You're a Psychopath? The Answer is Obvious

cough sneeze
© Shutterstock
Here's another junk psychology paper to add to the heap. It follows a trend common in academia, but especially in the field of psychology. That trend is to come up with some dull and patently obvious hypothesis that anyone's grandmother would already know to be true, design a "scientific study" to demonstrate it, then claim victory when your prediction is supported. You know the drill, something along the lines of "new study shows people don't like it much when they're punched in the face", "...99% children choose cake over boiled vegetables every time", "...loud noises startle babies".

Not only are such studies idiotic to begin with; pop science blogs then either misrepresent the actual studies or hype the results in headlines way out of proportion. The result is a populace dumber than it was to begin with, despite the best intentions of "science educators" - otherwise known as mama's and papa's boys who just repeat in a dumbed-down form what they are told by actual scientists - who are themselves mama's and papa's boys with little actual insight or creativity.

PsyPost has a writeup of the paper in question under the title: Psychopathic traits linked to non-compliance with social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic. Let's take a look.


Turns out brain scans aren't as useful as scientists thought

brain scans
© Annchen Knodt
Brain scans showing MRI mapping for 3 tasks across 2 different days. Warm colors show the consistency of activation levels across a group of people. Cool colors represent how poorly unique patterns of activity can be reliably measured.
Hundreds of published studies over the last decade have claimed it's possible to predict an individual's patterns of thoughts and feelings by scanning their brain in an MRI machine as they perform some mental tasks.

But a new analysis by some of the researchers who have done the most work in this area finds that those measurements are highly suspect when it comes to drawing conclusions about any individual person's brain.

Watching the brain through a functional MRI machine (fMRI) is still great for finding the general brain structures involved in a given task across a group of people, said Ahmad Hariri, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University who led the reanalysis.

"Scanning 50 people is going to accurately reveal what parts of the brain, on average, are more active during a mental task, like counting or remembering names," Hariri said

Functional MRI measures blood flow as a proxy for brain activity. It shows where blood is being sent in the brain, presumably because neurons in that area are more active during a mental task.

The problem is that the level of activity for any given person probably won't be the same twice, and a measure that changes every time it is collected cannot be applied to predict anyone's future mental health or behavior.