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This would be sad either way, but

Monday, August 28th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — it seems particularly sad to “left-leaning” me ]
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I don’t really fit left or right, but as a near-“non” where it comes to violence, I’m particularly saddened by this:

**

Given my quasi-Mennonite sympathies, and even thought it may be irrational in the final analysis, I’d be less saddened if the “sides” were reversed…

Source:

  • WaPo, Black-clad antifa members attack peaceful right-wing demonstrators in Berkeley
  • Mind-blowing first paragraph, academic paper

    Saturday, August 5th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — this motive for terror in Mumbai totally blindsided me ]
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    Young Ajmal Kasab, from the village of Faridkot in the Punjab, in Mumbai, now deceased

    **

    Consider this:

    Strapped to a gurney and visibly shaken by the bloodied bodies of his fellow terrorists strewn about, Mohammed Jamal Amir Kasab, aged twenty-one, begged his police interrogators to turn off their cameras. They refused, and Kasab’s recorded confession provided the world with a glimpse into the individual motivations of the young men behind the four days of attacks in Mumbai, India. Kasab explained that he “joined the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba only for money.”1 His was not solely an individual decision, however, and the money he earned from participating in the attacks was not intended to be discretionary income. According to Kasab, his father had urged him to join so that Kasab and his siblings could afford to marry.2 Kasab recounted that his father had told him that his participation would mean that the family would no longer be poor and that they would be able to pay the costs required to finalize a marriage contract. One of the police officers, seemingly ignoring Kasab’s response, pressed, “So you came here for jihad? Is that right?” Crying, Kasab asked, “What jihad?” Lashkar-e-Taiba deposited the promised money in his father’s account after the successful attack; for his participation, Kasab was hanged in 2012 by the Indian government. Whether his siblings were subsequently able to contract marriages as a result of the funds provided by Lashkar-e-Taiba remains unknown.

    The paper, by Valerie M. Hudson and Hilary Matfess, is published by MIT Press in International Security, Volume 42 Issue 1, Summer 2017, p.7-40 under the title, In Plain Sight: The Neglected Linkage between Brideprice and Violent Conflict.

    How little we know, how little we suspect, how diverse the world is, how varied the motives at play, even in matters that we study and feel we’ve grasped.

    **

    The paragraph above stands as a fitting anecdotal confirmation of Will McCants:

    The disappoint stems from the desire to attribute the jihadist phenomenon to a single cause rather than to several causes that work in tandem to produce it. To my mind, the most salient are these: a religious heritage that lauds fighting abroad to establish states and to protect one’s fellow Muslims; ultraconservative religious ideas and networks exploited by militant recruiters; peer pressure (if you know someone involved, you’re more likely to get involved); fear of religious persecution; poor governance (not type of government); youth unemployment or underemployment in large cities; and civil war. All of these factors are more at play in the Arab world now than at any other time in recent memory, which is fueling a jihadist resurgence around the world.

    If anyone elevates one of those factors above the others to diagnose the problem, you can be certain the resulting prescription will not work. It may even backfire, leading to more jihadist recruitment, not less.

    Scaramucci on symmetry

    Thursday, July 27th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — & compare the symmetry of projection ]
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    White House (new) communications director on symmetrical loyalty. At about the 4.25 mark:

    Scaramucci on Trump:

    He’s a remarkably loyal guy. The loyalty, though, has to be symmetrical. And good loyalty is always symmetrical, you don’t want asymmetrical loyalty.

    File that under “on the importance of form”.

    **

    Symmetry as projection:

    Matching Scaramucci‘s symmetry of loyalty is James Fallows‘ symmetry of projection. From an ongoing discussion with readers at The Atlantic:

    I argue that “projection,” in the psychological sense, is the default explanation for anything Donald Trump says or does.

    Projection means deflecting any criticism (or half-conscious awareness) of flaws in yourself by accusing someone else of exactly those flaws. Is Trump’s most immediately obvious trait his narcissistic and completely ungoverned temperament? (Answer: yes.) By the logic of projection, it thus makes perfect sense that he would brag that he has “the greatest temperament” and judgment, and criticize the always-under-control Hillary Clinton for hers.

    One of Fallows’ follwers notes the connection between projection as parallelism and projection as self-reference (ie, our old frined the ouroboros):

    In simple terms, one might say his [Trump’s] mind is empty of any thoughts that are not self-referential. And so self-projection is simply a consequence of this vacuity.

    There’s more in Peter Beinart‘s article, The Projection President, subtitled Months into his tenure, Trump still responds to controversies by lobbing the same charges at his opponents — and see also Katy Waldman‘s piece, We the Victims, subtitled Trump’s Paris accord speech projected his own psychological issues all over the American people..

    Matryoshka Trump

    Thursday, July 20th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — NYorker invokes the nested dolls archetype — not kind to Trump ]
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    You already know that I sit up and take special notice when certain forms (symmetries, helices, ouroboroi, etc) show up — because forms are a particularly powerful way in which the mind orders its world, or because the world teaches the mind that it is ordered in formal ways, take your pick — well, one of those forms is the nested form called Matryoshka, which I’ve discussed before:

  • Nesting Buddhas and insubstantiality
  • ISIS goes Matryoshka
  • **

    Imagine, then, my interest to read today’s New Yorker post, Valley of the Russian Dolls: A Hollow, Repetitive Form Proves Perfect for Trump.

    **

    I invite you to read the article yourself to learn about Halina Danchenko. who sells Matryoshka dolls. Shoppers are asked not to open the dolls on display in her stone themselves — however “If you want to see what’s inside the leader of the free world, Danchenko will open him for you.”

    The article is witty, if you share her perspective:

    Trump, who is as matronly as a big bullying man can be, already has the de-facto physique of a nesting doll (and something very like the shellac)

    The dolls are witty too, or should I say catty? Read about the two Trump sets that the article describes in detail..

    **

    If you think Trump is father to a host of lies, as the NYT does, why then this article will amuse you, and conversely, if you see him as a straight-shooting man of truth, not so much.

    The writer, Kathryn Schulz, is clearly in the first category:

    Never has a President seemed so entirely hollow as Trump, so intellectually and morally vacant. Nor has any Administration, so early in its tenure, concealed such a lengthy series of deceptions, or grown so bizarrely, fatally fractal: its lawyers have lawyers, its scandals have sub-scandals, its lies have little lie-lets. It’s easy to imagine, given this prevailing opacity and the incompetence of those nominally in charge, that there is another Trump Russian doll out there, this one filled up with actual Russians.

    And her conclusion:

    That might or might not prove to be the truth about what’s going on inside Donald Trump politically. What’s going on psychologically is a different story. All of us are largely hidden from one another, our most important attributes by definition invisible: minds, hearts, psyches, consciences, souls. Even for ourselves, we can access these aspects only through sustained introspection, a habit anathema to Trump; other people, meanwhile, reveal their innermost selves to us chiefly through their actions. On that evidence, the most accurate Trump doll is the one made of Donalds all the way down: utterly full of himself, in all other ways utterly empty.

    Question time — eye contact?

    Friday, March 31st, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — i’d like to know more around a fly-by comment re Rex Tillerson — autism, Japanese tantrism, Medusa — any takers? ]
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    The allegation is that State Department employees, some of them, were instructed not to make eye contact with new State boss Rex Tillerson. That’s from WaPo:

    Most of his interactions are with an insular circle of political aides who are new to the State Department. Many career diplomats say they still have not met him, and some have been instructed not to speak to him directly — or even make eye contact.

    **

    Gaze is a fascinating business.

    When I came back to the UK after living in the US for a couple of decades, my mother was appalled by my tendency to look her in the eye when speaking to her. She told me that you should look away from the person you are addressing, to avoid shaming them by closely observing their reactions to what you’re saying, but should then watch them while they (with eyes averted from you) responded, so as to catch the nuances of their response. Your interlocutor thus gains precious moments in which to modify the immediacy of their response to the suitable response of their choosing. This, I imagine, incoudes but may not be limited to the very rapid, easily missed facial responses knoan as microexpressions.

    I by contrast like the direct gaze, and think of it as a sign of authenticity or perhaps earnestness.

    **

    Investgations of those on the autism spectrum (somewhere, at some time, likely recently and in a specific population) reveals ASD subjects “shifted their gaze away from a speaker earlier than the control groups.”

    Eye contact, or lack of it, can have enormously strong affective implications, as we see in this example taken from Sophocles‘ Antigone:

    The stage ‘etiquette’ of Attic tragedy calls for actors/characters visually to acknowledge one another or the Chorus before establishing verbal contact. The title character of Sophocles’ Antigone flouts this custom to interesting effect by keeping her gaze lowered to the ground after the guard, having caught her in the forbidden act of burying her brother, leads her back into the playing space. The Chorus of Theban elders obliquely acknowledge Antigone’s presence at 376, expres sin their consternation at the sight of ‘this supernatural portent’. They address her directly as child of Oedipus at 379–80. But Antigone remains unresponsive, reacting neither to the Chorus nor to the guard’s announcement a few lines later that ‘this is the one who did the deed’ (384). Instead she keeps her gaze fixed on the ground and stands silently by for over 65 lines, while the guard explains to Creon and the Chorus how she was captured. Readers of Sophocles’ play become aware of Antigone’s earthbound gaze only retrospectively at 441, where Creon addresses her with a brusque ‘Hey you, the one bowing your head to the ground …’

    The three sacred treasurs of Japan are presented to the Emperor during the Japanese equivalent of coronation — during a tantric ceremonial in which the Emperor is united with his Sun Goddess and originating ancestor, Amaterasu Omikami — see:

  • Robert S. Ellwood, The Feast of Kingship: Accession Ceremonies in Ancient Japan
  • D. C. Holtom, Japanese Enthronement Ceremonies: With an Account of the Imperial Regalia
  • And famously, Medusa must not be looked upon directly, lest one be turned into stone. It transpires that Medusa was once a beauty indeed to be gazed upon. In the words of Dryden‘s Ovid:

    Medusa once had charms; to gain her love
    A rival crowd of envious lovers strove.
    They, who have seen her, own, they ne’er did trace
    More moving features in a sweeter face.
    Yet above all, her length of hair, they own,
    In golden ringlets wav’d, and graceful shone.
    Her Neptune saw, and with such beauties fir’d,
    Resolv’d to compass, what his soul desir’d.
    In chaste Minerva’s fane, he, lustful, stay’d,
    And seiz’d, and rifled the young, blushing maid.

    Athena’s gaze at this scene, and turning away of that gaze, is the topic of Ovid’s next lines:

    The bashful Goddess turn’d her eyes away,
    Nor durst such bold impurity survey;
    But on the ravish’d virgin vengeance takes,
    Her shining hair is chang’d to hissing snakes.
    These in her Aegis Pallas joys to bear,
    The hissing snakes her foes more sure ensnare,
    Than they did lovers once, when shining hair.

    And thus Medusa becomes the famous face which cannot be directly gazed upon in peril of being turned to stone:

    That horrid head, which stiffens into stone
    Those impious men who, daring death, look on.

    so that:

    Two hundred, by Medusa’s head were ston’d.

    Medusa is killed only when Perseus observes her reflected in his polished shield:

    But as he journey’d, pensive he survey’d,
    What wasteful havock dire Medusa made.
    Here, stood still breathing statues, men before;
    There, rampant lions seem’d in stone to roar.
    Nor did he, yet affrighted, quit the field,
    But in the mirror of his polish’d shield
    Reflected saw Medusa slumbers take,
    And not one serpent by good chance awake.
    Then backward an unerring blow he sped,
    And from her body lop’d at once her head.
    The gore prolifick prov’d; with sudden force
    Sprung Pegasus, and wing’d his airy course.

    One wonders how much irony there is in that phrase, “not one serpent by good chance awake” — chance, or fate?

    **

    I don’t have direct access to the World Encyclopedia of Lowered Eyes and Direct Gazes, but there’s clearly plenty to read in social anthropology, depth psychology on the topic —

  • Scientific American, Eye Contact Can Be Overwhelming
  • Psychology Today, The Secrets of Eye Contact, Revealed
  • Jane Lydon, Eye Contact: Photographing Indigenous Australians
  • — and so forth

    So I’ve titled this post Question time, hoping Zp readers will chime in with significant readeings that explore the reasons Tillerson may have requested no eye-contact — if in fact he did.

    Because this whole post, and a flurry of activity on the web, hinges on a very short phrase in that WaPo piece:

    some [diplomats] have been instructed not to speak to him directly — or even make eye contact

    which presumably falls within the category RUMINT unoess otherwise corroborated by named and trustworthy sources.

    Eye contact — any suggestions?


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