Archive for July, 2015

July 31, 2015

Double Bind

Gregory Bateson by Savina Hopkins


A double bind is an emotionally distressing dilemma in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, and one message negates the other. This creates a situation in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other (and vice versa), so that the person will automatically be wrong regardless of response. The double bind occurs when the person cannot confront the inherent dilemma, and therefore can neither resolve it nor opt out of the situation.

The classic example given of a negative double bind is of a mother telling her child that she loves him or her, while at the same time turning away in disgust (the words are socially acceptable; the body language is in conflict with it). The child doesn’t know how to respond to the conflict between the words and the body language and, because the child is dependent on the mother for basic needs, he or she is in a quandary. Small children have difficulty articulating contradictions verbally and can neither ignore them nor leave the relationship.

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July 30, 2015

Battered Person Syndrome

Cycle of Abuse

learned helplessness

Battered person syndrome is a physical and psychological condition of a person who has suffered (usually persistent) emotional, physical, or sexual abuse from another person. The condition is the basis for the battered spouse defense that has been used in cases of spouses who have killed their abusers. The condition was first researched extensively by American psychologist Lenore E. Walker, founder of the Domestic Violence Institute, who used psychologist Martin Seligman’s ‘learned helplessness’ theory to explain why abused spouses stayed in destructive relationships.

The syndrome develops in response to a three-stage cycle found in domestic violence situations. First, tension builds in the relationship. Second, the abusive partner releases tension via misconduct while blaming the victim for having caused the event. Third, the abusive partner makes gestures of contrition, but does not find solutions to avoid another phase of tension building and release so the cycle repeats. The repetition of the cycle despite the abuser’s attempts to ‘make nice’ results in the abused partner feeling at fault for not preventing recurrences. However, since the victim is not at fault and the violence is internally driven by the abuser’s need to control, this self-blame results in feelings of helplessness rather than empowerment.

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July 29, 2015


People Pleaser

Codependent No More

Enabling is a term with a double meaning in psychotherapy and mental health. As a positive term, it is similar to empowerment, and describes patterns of interaction which allow individuals or groups to develop and grow. In a negative sense, it can describe dysfunctional behavior approaches that are intended to help resolve a specific problem but in fact may perpetuate or exacerbate the problem.

A common theme of enabling in this latter sense is that third parties take responsibility or blame, or make accommodations for a person’s harmful conduct (often with the best of intentions, or from fear or insecurity which inhibits action). The practical effect is that the person himself or herself does not have to do so, and is shielded from awareness of the harm it may do, and the need or pressure to change. Enabling in this sense is a major environmental cause of addiction.

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July 22, 2015

Fan Service

Love Dodecahedron

Fan service is a term originating from anime and manga fandom for material in a series which is intentionally added to please the audience (i.e. ‘giving the people what they want’). Fan service usually refers to ‘gratuitous titillation,’ but can also refer to intertextual references to other series and other ‘indulgent’ inclusions.

Long shots of robots in mecha shows, nudity, violent episode-long fight scenes, and emphasis on ‘shipping’ (the desire by fans for two people, either real-life celebrities or fictional characters, to be in a relationship, romantic or otherwise) can all be considered fan service as they are specifically aimed at pleasing the fans of any given show. Meta-references are intended to be seen and understood by the fans, as a way for creators to acknowledge and engage the more knowledgeable members of the fanbase.

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July 16, 2015

User Error

it crowd

A user error is an error made by the human user of a complex system, usually a computer system, in interacting with it. Related terms such as PEBCAK (Problem Exists Between Chair And Keyboard), ID-10T error (idiot error), and other similar phrases are also used as slang in technical circles with derogatory meaning. A highly popularized example of this is a user mistaking their CD-ROM tray for a cup holder, or a user looking for the ‘any key.’

This usage implies a lack of computer savvy, asserting that problems arising when using a device are the fault of the user. Critics of the term argue that the problems are caused instead by a device that doesn’t take into account human limitations and is thus designed in a way that induces errors.

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July 15, 2015


audience analysis


Perspective-taking is the process by which an individual views a situation from another’s point-of-view. It can occur visually in that one changes their physical location to see things as someone else does, or cognitively in that one mentally simulates the point-of-view of another’s cognitive state. For instance, one can visualize the viewpoint of a taller individual (physical state) or reflect upon another’s point-of-view on a particular concept (cognitive state).

In other words, perspective-taking is the process of temporarily suspending one’s own point-of-view in an attempt to view a situation as someone else might. This process does not necessitate any form of affinity, compassion, or emotional identification with the other (i.e. empathy). Therefore, as an other-oriented activity, perspective-taking can be used to gain an understanding of a given physical state and/or situation after which a determination of appropriate action can be selected (e.g., empathy).

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July 13, 2015

The Truth Machine

Snowden by Laurent Cilluffo

The Truth Machine‘ is a 1996 science fiction novel by James L. Halperin about an infallible lie detector. Soon, every citizen must pass a thorough test under a Truth Machine to get a job or receive any sort of license. Eventually, people begin wearing them all the time, thus eliminating dishonesty in all parts of human interaction, including most crime, terrorism and a great deal of general social problems.

The novel focuses on the life story of the machine’s inventor, Pete Armstrong, a child prodigy whose life has been defined by the tragic murder of his younger brother, Leonard, by an ex-convict who was believed to be capable of committing violent crimes again, but who could not be incarcerated on mere suspicions. Armstrong claimed that as long as it was employed universally (and not just by government officials), the ‘truth machine’ could revolutionize humanity and take it to that next evolutionary step. However, the protagonist places a back door in the device, allowing him to avoid detection when he repeats fragments of Walt Whitman’s poem ‘O Captain! My Captain!’ in his mind.


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July 12, 2015


Spreading activation

Priming is an implicit memory effect in which exposure to one stimulus influences the response to another stimulus. Studies show that people are faster in deciding that a string of letters is a word when it follows an associatively or semantically related word. For example, ‘nurse’ is recognized more quickly following ‘doctor’ than ‘bread.’ As another example, if the original concept is ‘red’ and the word ‘vehicles’ is primed, people are much more likely to say ‘fire engine’ instead of something unrelated to vehicles, such as ‘cherries.’ If instead ‘fruits’ was primed, they would likely name ‘cherries.’

Priming can also be visual, rather than semantic; if people see an incomplete sketch they are unable to identify and they are shown more of the sketch until they recognize the picture, later they will identify the sketch at an earlier stage than was possible for them the first time. The effects of priming can be very salient and long lasting, even more so than simple recognition memory. Unconscious priming can affect word choice long after the primes have been consciously forgotten. Priming works best when the two stimuli are in the same modality. For example visual priming works best with visual cues and verbal priming works best with verbal cues. But priming also occurs between modalities.

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July 9, 2015

Explanatory Style

Self-Attribution by Carl Richards

Pessimist by Jim Benton

Explanatory style is a psychological attribute that indicates how people explain to themselves why they experience a particular event, either positive or negative. There are three main components: Personal (internal vs. external), Permanent (stable vs. unstable), and Pervasive (global vs. local/specific).

‘Personalization’ refers to how one explains the cause of an event. People experiencing events may see themselves as the cause; that is, they have internalized the cause for the event (e.g. ‘I always forget to make that turn,’ as opposed to, ‘That turn can sure sneak up on you’). ‘Permanenence’ describes how one explains the extent of the cause. People may see a situation as unchangeable (e.g., ‘I always lose my keys’ or ‘I never forget a face’). ‘Pervasiveness’ measures how one explains the extent of the effects. People may see a situation as affecting all aspects of life (e.g., ‘I can’t do anything right’ or ‘Everything I touch seems to turn to gold’).

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