The term ‘analysis paralysis‘ refers to over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation, so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome. A decision can be treated as over-complicated, with too many detailed options, so that a choice is never made, rather than try something and change if a major problem arises. A person might be seeking the optimal or ‘perfect’ solution upfront, and fear making any decision which could lead to erroneous results, when on the way to a better solution.
In Aesop’s Fables’ ‘The Fox and the Cat,’ the fox has ‘hundreds of ways of escaping’ while the cat has ‘only one.’ When they heard the hounds approaching, the cat scampered up a tree while ‘the Fox in his confusion was caught up by the hounds.’ The fable ends with the moral, ‘Better one safe way than a hundred on which you cannot reckon.’
A lucid dream is any dream in which one is aware that one is dreaming. The term was coined by the Dutch psychiatrist and writer Frederik van Eeden (1860–1932). In a lucid dream, the dreamer may be able to exert some degree of control over their participation within the dream or be able to manipulate their imaginary experiences in the dream environment. Lucid dreams can be realistic and vivid. It is shown that there are higher amounts of beta waves (normally associated with waking consciousness) experienced by lucid dreamers, hence there is an increased amount of activity in the parietal lobes making lucid dreaming a conscious process. The first book to recognize the scientific potential of lucid dreams was Celia Green’s 1968 study ‘Lucid Dreams.’ Green analyzed the main characteristics of such dreams, reviewing previously published literature on the subject and incorporating new data from subjects of her own. She concluded that lucid dreams were a category of experience quite distinct from ordinary dreams, and predicted that they would turn out to be associated with rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep). Green was also the first to link lucid dreams to the phenomenon of false awakenings (a convincing dream about awakening from sleep).
Philosopher Norman Malcolm’s 1959 text ‘Dreaming’ had argued against the possibility of checking the accuracy of dream reports. However, the realization that eye movements performed in dreams may affect the dreamer’s physical eyes provided a way to prove that actions agreed upon during waking life could be recalled and performed once lucid in a dream. The first evidence of this type was produced in the late 1970s by British parapsychologist Keith Hearne. A volunteer named Alan Worsley used eye movements to signal the onset of lucidity, which were recorded by a polysomnograph machine. Hearne’s results were not widely distributed. The first peer-reviewed article was published some years later by Stephen LaBerge at Stanford University, who had independently developed a similar technique as part of his doctoral dissertation. During the 1980s, further scientific evidence to confirm the existence of lucid dreaming was produced as lucid dreamers were able to demonstrate to researchers that they were consciously aware of being in a dream state (again, primarily using eye movement signals). Additionally, techniques were developed that have been experimentally proven to enhance the likelihood of achieving this state.
Henny Penny, also known as ‘Chicken Licken’ or ‘Chicken Little,’ is a folk tale with a moral in the form of a cumulative tale about a chicken who believes the world is coming to an end. The phrase ‘The sky is falling!’ features prominently in the story, and has passed into the English language as a common idiom indicating a hysterical or mistaken belief that disaster is imminent. The story is listed in the Aarne–Thompson tale type index (a listing designed to help folklorists identify recurring plot patterns in the narrative structures of traditional folktales) as type 20C, which includes international examples of folktales that make light of paranoia and mass hysteria.
There are several Western versions of the story, of which the best-known concerns a chick that believes the sky is falling when an acorn falls on its head. The chick decides to tell the King and on its journey meets other animals (mostly other fowl) which join it in the quest. After this point, there are many endings. In the most familiar, a fox invites them to its lair and there eats them all. Alternatively, the last one, usually ‘Cocky Lockey,’ survives long enough to warn the chick, who escapes. In others all are rescued and finally speak to the King. In most retellings, the animals have rhyming names. The moral to be drawn changes, depending on the version. Where there is a ‘happy ending,’ the moral is not to be a ‘Chicken’ but to have courage. In other versions where the birds are eaten by the fox, the fable is interpreted as a warning not to believe everything you are told.
Positive psychology is a recent branch of psychology whose purpose was summed up in 1998 by psychologists Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: ‘We believe that a psychology of positive human functioning will arise, which achieves a scientific understanding and effective interventions to build thriving individuals, families, and communities.’ Positive psychologists seek ‘to find and nurture genius and talent’, and ‘to make normal life more fulfilling,’ not simply to treat mental illness. The field is intended to complement, not to replace traditional psychology. It does not seek to deny the importance of studying how things go wrong, but rather to emphasize the importance of using the scientific method to determine how things go right. This field brings attention to the possibility that focusing only on the disorder itself would result in a partial concept of the patient’s condition.
Conversion disorder is where patients suffer apparently neurological symptoms, such as numbness, blindness, paralysis, or fits, but without a neurological cause. It is thought that these problems arise in response to difficulties in the patient’s life, and conversion is considered a psychiatric disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders fourth edition (DSM-IV). Formerly known as ‘hysteria’ (unmanageable emotional excesses), the disorder has arguably been known for millennia, though it came to greatest prominence at the end of the 19th century, when the neurologists Jean-Martin Charcot and Sigmund Freud and psychiatrist Pierre Janet focused their studies on the subject. Before Freud’s studies on hysteria, people who suffered from physical disabilities that were not caused by any physical impairments, known as hysterical patients, were believed to be malingering (faking illness), suffering from weak nerves, or just suffering from meaningless disturbances. The term ‘conversion’ has its origins in Freud’s doctrine that anxiety is ‘converted’ into physical symptoms.
Though previously thought to have vanished from the west in the 20th century, some research has suggested it is as common as ever. The DSM-IV classifies conversion disorder as a somatoform disorder (characterized by symptoms suggesting a physical disorder but for which there are no demonstrable organic findings or known physiological mechanisms); while the the tenth revision of the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) classifies it as a dissociative disorder (disruptions or breakdowns of memory, awareness, identity and/or perception). A 2007 review stated that conversion disorder and dissociative disorders are statistically associated, share features such as a history of abuse and high suggestibility, and likely have common underlying causes. It recommended that DSM should follow ICD-10 and reclassify conversion disorder from a somatoform disorder to a dissociative disorder.
Mass psychogenic [sahy-kuh-jen-ik] illness (MPI) is ‘the rapid spread of illness signs and symptoms affecting members of a cohesive group, originating from a nervous system disturbance involving excitation, loss or alteration of function, whereby physical complaints that are exhibited unconsciously have no corresponding organic etiology [cause].’ MPI is distinct from other collective delusions, but included under the blanket term mass hysteria, because MPI causes symptoms of disease, though there is no organic cause. There is a clear preponderance of female victims. The DSM-IV does not have specific diagnosis for this condition but the text describing conversion disorder (where patients suffer apparently neurological symptoms, such as numbness, blindness, paralysis, or fits, but without a neurological cause) states that ‘In ‘epidemic hysteria,’ shared symptoms develop in a circumscribed group of people following ‘exposure’ to a common precipitant.’
‘Mass hysteria is to date a poorly understood condition. Little certainty exists regarding its etiology’ Besides the difficulties common to all research involving the social sciences, including a lack of opportunity for controlled experiments, Mass Sociogenic Illness presents special difficulties to researchers in this field. According to Timothy Jones of the Tennessee Department of Public Health, MPI ‘can be difficult to differentiate from bioterrorism, rapidly spreading infection or acute toxic exposure.’ These troubles result from the residual diagnosis of MPI. Singer, of the Uniformed Schools of Medicine, puts the problems with such a diagnosis thus: ‘[y]ou find a group of people getting sick, you investigate, you measure everything you can measure . . . and when you still can’t find any physical reason, you say ‘well, there’s nothing else here, so let’s call it a case of MPI.’ There is a lack of logic in an argument that proceeds: ‘There isn’t anything, so it must be MPI.’ It precludes the notion that an organic factor could have been overlooked. Nevertheless, running an extensive number of tests extends the probability of false positives.
Information pollution is the contamination of information supply with irrelevant, redundant, unsolicited and low-value information. The spread of useless and undesirable information can have a detrimental effect on human activities. It is considered one of the adverse effects of the information revolution. Pollution is a large problem and is growing rapidly in e-mail, instant messaging (IM), and RSS feeds. The term acquired particular relevance in 2003 when Jakob Nielsen, a leading web usability expert, published a number of articles discussing the topic. However, as early as 1971 researchers were expressing doubts about the negative effects of having to recover ‘valuable nodules from a slurry of garbage in which it is a randomly dispersed minor component.’
People use information in order to make decisions and adapt to circumstances. Yet, cognitive studies have demonstrated that there is only so much information human beings can process before the quality of their decisions begins to deteriorate. The excess of information is commonly known as information overload and it can lead to decision paralysis, where the person is unable to make a judgment as they cannot see what is relevant anymore. Although technology has clearly exacerbated the problem, it is not the only cause of information pollution. Anything that distracts our attention from the essential facts that we need to perform a task or make a decision could be considered an information pollutant.
A defense mechanism is the coping technique individuals unconsciously use to protect themselves from getting hurt in unpleasant situations (e.g. conflicts, unhappiness). Without defense mechanism, people may suffer from psychological and mental illness. In Freudian psychoanalytic theory, defense mechanisms are unconscious, psychological strategies brought into play by various entities to cope with reality and to maintain self-image. Healthy persons normally use different defenses throughout life. An ego defense mechanism becomes pathological only when its persistent use leads to maladaptive behavior such that the physical and/or mental health of the individual is adversely affected. The purpose of ego defense mechanisms is to protect the mind/self/ego from anxiety and/or social sanctions and/or to provide a refuge from a situation with which one cannot currently cope.
Defense mechanisms are more accurately referred to as ego defence mechanisms, and can thus be categorized as occurring when the id impulses are in conflict with each other, when the id impulses conflict with super-ego values and beliefs, and when an external threat is posed to the ego. The term ‘defense mechanism’ is often thought to refer to a definitive singular term for personality traits which arise due to loss or traumatic experiences, but more accurately refers to several types of reactions which were identified during and after Sigmund Freud’s daughter Anna’s time. Defense mechanisms are sometimes confused with coping strategies. One resource used to evaluate these mechanisms is the ‘Defense Style Questionnaire.’
Competitive eating is a sport in which participants compete against each other to consume large quantities of food in a short time period. Contests are typically less than 15 minutes in length, with the person consuming the most food being declared the winner. Competitive eating is most popular in the United States and Japan, where organized professional eating contests often offer $10,000 or more in prize money. Competitive eaters are sometimes known as ‘gurgitators,’ a word used by those close to the sport and an assumed opposite of regurgitation.
The chief criticism of competitive eating is the message the gluttonous sport sends in an age of rising obesity levels among Americans and the example it sets for today’s youth. Others contend that competitive eating is an example of Western gluttony at a time when others around the world are starving. Gastroparesis, also known as stomach paralysis, is also a concern among those who routinely stretch their stomachs beyond capacity. The condition may lead to the stomach’s inability to contract and lose its ability to empty itself.
Somniloquy [som-nil-o-kwee] or sleep-talking is a parasomnia (sleep disorder) that refers to talking aloud in one’s sleep. It can be quite loud, ranging from simple sounds to long speeches, and can occur many times during sleep. Listeners may or may not be able to understand what the person is saying. Sleep-talking usually occurs during transitory arousals from NREM sleep, which is when the body does not move smoothly from one stage in NREM sleep to another, and they become partially aroused from sleep. Further it can also occur during REM sleep at which time it represents a motor breakthrough (see sleep paralysis) of dream speech, words spoken in a dream are spoken out loud.
Sleep-talking is very common and is reported in 50% of young children, with most of them outgrowing it by puberty, although it may persist into adulthood (about 4% of adults are reported to talk in their sleep). It appears to run in families. Sleep-talking can be associated with fever. Sleep-talking by itself is harmless; however, it can wake up others and cause them consternation—especially when misinterpreted as conscious speech by an observer. If the sleep-talking is dramatic, emotional, or profane it may be a sign of another sleep disorder. Sleep-talking can be monitored by a partner or by using an audio recording device; devices which remain idle until detecting a sound wave are ideal for this purpose. Polysomnography (sleep recording) shows episodes of sleep talking that can occur in any stage of sleep.
Hypnagogia [hip-nuh-gah-jee-uh] is a term coined by French physician Alfred Maury in the 19th century for the transitional state between wakefulness and sleep (i.e. the onset of sleep). It is characterized by dreamlike auditory, visual, or tactile sensations. Sometimes the word hypnagogia is used in a restricted sense to refer to the onset of sleep, and contrasted with hypnopompia, Frederic Myers’s term for waking up. The hypnagogic state can provide insight into a problem, the best known example being August Kekulé’s realization that the structure of benzene was a closed ring after dozing in front of a fire and seeing atoms forming into snakes, one of who grabbed its tail in its mouth.
Exploding head syndrome is a parasomnia condition (sleep disorder) that causes the sufferer occasionally to experience a tremendously loud noise as originating from within his or her own head, usually described as the sound of an explosion, roar, gunshot, loud voices or screams, a ringing noise, or the sound of electrical arcing (buzzing). This noise usually occurs within an hour or two of falling asleep, but is not necessarily the result of a dream and can happen while awake as well. While the sound is perceived as extremely loud, it is usually not accompanied by pain. In some cases an instant flash of what is perceived as video ‘static’ is reported.
Attacks appear to change in number over time, with several attacks occurring in a space of days or weeks followed by months of remission. Sufferers often feel a sense of fear and anxiety after an attack, accompanied by elevated heart rate. Attacks are also often accompanied by perceived flashes of light (when perceived on their own, known as a ‘visual sleep start’) or difficulty in breathing. The condition is also known as ‘auditory sleep starts.’ It is not thought to be dangerous, although it is sometimes distressing to experience. Sufferers may experience an inability to vocalize any sound, or mild forms of sleep paralysis during an attack.
An out-of-body experience (OBE) is an experience that typically involves a sensation of floating outside of one’s body and, in some cases, perceiving one’s physical body from a place outside one’s body (autoscopy). The term was introduced in 1943 by G.N.M Tyrrell in his book ‘Apparitions,’ and adopted as a bias-free alternative to belief-centric labels such as ‘astral projection,’ ‘soul travel,’ or ‘spirit walking.’ Though the term usefully distances researchers from scientifically problematic concepts such as the soul, scientists still know little about the phenomenon. Some researchers believe they have managed to recreate OBE in a laboratory setup by stimulating a part in the human brain. One in ten people has an out-of-body experience once, or more commonly, several times in their life. OBEs are often part of the near-death experience. Those who have experienced OBEs sometimes claim to have observed details which were unknown to them beforehand.
In some cases the phenomenon appears to occur spontaneously; in others it is associated with a physical or mental trauma, dehydration, sensory deprivation, sensory overload, use of psychedelic drugs, dissociative drugs, or a dream-like state. Many techniques aiming to induce the experience deliberately have been developed, for example visualization while in a relaxed, meditative state. Recent studies have shown that experiences somewhat similar to OBEs can be induced by electrical brain stimulation (particularly the temporoparietal junction). Some of those who experience OBEs claimed to have willed themselves out of their bodies, while others report having found themselves being pulled from their bodies (usually preceded by a feeling of paralysis). In other accounts, the feeling of being outside the body was suddenly realized after the fact, and the experiencers saw their own bodies almost by accident.
The cherimoya [cher-uh-moi-uh] is a species of Annona (also known as a sugar-apple) native to the Andean-highland valleys of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina. The fruit is oval, often slightly oblate, with a smooth or slightly tuberculated skin. The fruit flesh is white and creamy, and has numerous dark brown seeds embedded in it. Mark Twain called the cherimoya ‘the most delicious fruit known to men.’
The Moche culture of Peru had a fascination with agriculture and represented fruits and vegetables in their art. Cherimoyas were often depicted in their ceramics. The name originates from the Quechua word chirimuya, which means ‘cold seeds,’ because the plant grows at high altitudes. The tree thrives throughout the tropics at altitudes of 1,300 to 2,600 m (4,300 to 8,500 ft). Though sensitive to frost, it must have periods of cool temperatures or the tree will gradually go dormant. The indigenous inhabitants of the Andes say that although the cherimoya cannot stand snow, it does like to see it in the distance.
In decision making and psychology, decision fatigue refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual, after a long session of decision making. It is now understood as one of the causes of irrational trade-offs in decision making. For instance, judges have been shown to make poorer decisions later in the day. Decision fatigue can not only results in fast and careless decisions, but even in decision paralysis where no decision is made at all. In the formal approach to decision quality management, specific techniques have been devised to help managers cope with decision fatigue.
Trade-offs, where either of two choices have positive and negative elements, are an advanced and energy consuming form of decision making. A person who is mentally depleted becomes reluctant to make trade-offs, or makes very poor choices. Jonathan Levav at Stanford University designed experiments showing how decision fatigue can leave a person vulnerable to sales and marketing strategies designed to time the sale.