I have taught this experiment in college. Turns out it what was not Milgram claimed:
I have taught this experiment in college. Turns out it what was not Milgram claimed:
Disturbed sleep has emerged as a candidate risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, multiple studies link poor sleep to cognitive impairment and decline, and more recent studies link sleep disturbance to biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease, study authors wrote. Researchers showed that shorter sleep duration and poorer sleep quality were associated with greater beta-amyloid buildup as shown on positron emission tomography (PET) scans. They noted another study had linked poorer sleep and reports of frequent napping with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) measures of beta-amyloid deposition. The authors said that numerous studies have linked sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) to poor cognitive outcomes, and more recent studies have tied SDB to Alzheimer’s disease.
The correlation does not explain the relationship. The article addresses the possible meanings of the observation.
“There is a cultural question here, which is how much depression should people have to live with when we have these treatments that give so many a better quality of life,” Dr. Kramer said. “I don’t think that’s a question that should be decided in advance.”
Antidepressants are not harmless; they commonly cause emotional numbing, sexual problems like a lack of desire or erectile dysfunction and weight gain. Long-term users report in interviews a creeping unease that is hard to measure: Daily pill-popping leaves them doubting their own resilience, they say.
“We’ve come to a place, at least in the West, where it seems every other person is depressed and on medication,” said Edward Shorter, a historian of psychiatry at the University of Toronto. “You do have to wonder what that says about our culture.”
Whether or not free will exists — or whether such a distinction is meaningful — will remain a point of contention among priests and philosophers. What matters to neuroscientists is the interpretation, or perception, of free will. And for the first time, scientists have identified its cognitive origins.
Actually, they found the part of the brain that processes our perception of having the ability to decide to control our movement. This is interesting, but tells us nothing about whether human beings have agency or whether that agency is merely a sense of agency coupled to a biochemical determinism in the physical body.
Global antidepressant use is soaring. Stories such as Barber’s make a compelling case that the drugs can be helpful. Yet it seems barely a month goes by without them being dismissed in the media as “happy pills” that get people “hooked” or turn them into zombies. Experts, meanwhile, disagree over whether the drugs genuinely have the biochemical effects claimed for them and debate rages about side effects, withdrawal symptoms and the possibility of addiction. So what should we believe – and who, if anyone, should be taking these pills?
And, if this is a matter of debate about experts, even an article by some other expert telling us this is the right way to understand the experts is problematic. I may be more willing to agree to the assessment of an expert who holds the position I favor, but how do I really evaluate the claims? This is particularly true when the evidence is a matter beyond any individual’s experience. My experience of one particular patient is not indicative of the experience of 10,000 patients.
I once was discussing this issue with a very well credentialed psychiatrist with decades of experience at a world renowned institution. He said, “We give people with depression anti-depressants, sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. We don’t know why.”
I know it seems self evident that interesting material would be more persuasive, but someone went out an proved that point:
P. Karen Murphy and Patricia A. Alexander, “Persuasion as a Dynamic, Multidimensional Process: an Investigation of Individual and Intraindividual Differences,” American Educational Research Journal 41, no. 2 (Summer 2004): 337-63.
Definition of Persausion:
We speak of persuasion as an interactive process through which a given message alters an individual’s perspective by changing the knowledge, beliefs, or interest that underlie that perspective (Miller, 1980). Further a persuasive text is any message “structured to counter the current beliefs of a typical reader as well as to present new ones” by capitalizing on a reader’s existing knowledge and beliefs (Chambliss & Garner, 1996, p. 294). By defining persuasion and a persuasive text in this manner, we avoid casting this critical process in “all or nothing” terms (e.g., Hovland, Janis & Kelley, 1953). That is, we allow for incremental change that does not necessarily result in a radical or complete transformation in understanding or attitude. We also understand persuasion to be a mechanism for encouraging individuals to examine a concept or subject more closely or rom a different perspective. Such a process involves examining evidence that supports or refutes claims and critically weighing arguments (Toulmin, 1958). So defined, persuasion is neither inherently good nor evil, but a catalyst for thinking analytically about messages encountered by individuals (Alexander, Fives, Buehl & Mulhern, 2002; Hynd, 2001).
Petty and Cacioppo (19860, among the most influential persuasion researchers, portray the interplay of credibility, emotions, and arguments as the keys to change.
Peripheral and Central Route Processing:
According to Petty and Cacioppo’s (1986) Elaboration Likelihood Model, individuals process persuasive messages through two distinct routes: peripheral and central. Individuals who do not attend reflectively or critically to the persuasive arguments presented, but are captivated by the emotions of the situation or the character of the speaker, ravel the peripheral route. In contrast, individuals who weigh the argument thoughtfully and logically, are personally motivated, and cognitively able to attend to the message follow the central route. Although attitudinal change is expected from both paths, those who travel the central route are apt to experience deeper and more permanent effects than those who follow the more peripheral path to persuasion.
A more able reader is more likely to be persuaded:
Moreover, it has been determined that individual’s ability to process a given message increases the likelihood that the message will prove persuasive. Consequently, those with greater comprehension skills are more apt to process the content of a persuasive message at a deeper level than those who comprehension skills are marginal or weak (Dole & Sinatra, 1998). Similarly, there is evidence that individuals who are more capable of retrieving relevant beliefs, whether in concert or in opposition to the author, are more likely to process the arguments presented, consequently are more likely to be persuaded (Wood & Kallgren, 1998).
Interesting material is more likely to persuade:
When readers are unable to grasp the meaning or perceive its relevance, they are unlikely to be persuaded.
As mentioned previously, features of texts such as their interestingness, comprehensibility, and credibility have been shown to play a significant role in the persuasion process (e.g., Allen, 1991; Dole & Sinatra, 1998).
We found that compelling articles, presented to readers in an unmodified state, performed well as catalysts for persuasion. As a result of reading these persuasive magazine articles, participants’ knowledge and interests grew and their beliefs became more like the beliefs advocated by the authors in the texts.
Where the reader already has substantial knowledge, he is harder to persuade:
Second, we found that there was an inverse relationship between what individuals believe they know about a topic and the degree of agreement with the author they report after reading. In effect, it may be that too much topic-specific knowledge can be an impediment to change in beliefs.
(Working on a book on persuasion — and how to avoid being manipulated — so I’ll be posting research notes here and there):
Quick summary: The more you know on a subject, the harder you are to persuade. Even a personal with “low bias” (you don’t care much) can become more resistant to persuasion if they are given time and encouraged to consider the matter seriously before they hear the argument.
Also it explains the nature of “peripheral” and “central route” persuasion:
Greg J. Neiymeyer et al., “Changing Personal Beliefs: Effects of Forewarning, Argument Quality, Prior Basis and Personal Exploration,” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 10, no. 1 (1991): 1-20.
The basic tenant of ELM [Elaboration Likelihood Model] is that attitudes sometimes changes as a function of thoughtful consideration of relevant arguments and sometimes as a result of inferences based on the association of a position with various positive or negative cues (e.g., counselor credibility). According to the model, if the individual is motivated and able to do so, he or she will actively process and elaborate the persuasive appeal, relating to preexisting cognitive schemas and generating issue-relevant beliefs in support of, or opposed to, the advocated position. According to this orientation, persuasion should occur if the individual’s self-generated “cognitive responses” (i.e., thoughts) are predominately favorable, whereas resistance to persuasion should occur if they are primarily unfavorable (Ciadini, Petty & Cacioppo, 1981). In either event, the persuasion is said to have occurred thorugh the central route since it is through careful and diligent processing of the argument’s perceived merits that the individual forms his or her attitude.
In contrast, when individuals are either unmotiviated or are unable to scrutinize the message, their likelihood of actively processing and elaborating it is correspondingly reduced. In this case they may minimize cognitive effort by appealing instead to environmental cues associated with the message (e.g, the source credibility) to determine their attitudes. This peripheral route to persuasion should be more heaviliy utilized when the individual is distracted from listening to the message or relatively uninterested in its content. The fact that attitude change resulting from peripheral processing is less enduring and less predictive of actual behavioral change than what occurs through central route processing …..
The more you know about a subject, the harder you are to persuade:
On the other hand, those individuals with relatively few available thoughts in support of their position are mores susceptible to persuasion.
Researchers have long recognized that “one of the most important variables affecting information processing activity is the extent to which a person has an organized structure of knowledge (schema) concerning an issue” (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986, p. 165). In the case of high bias, individuals have well-articulated networks of preexisting proattitudinal attitudes, and it is precisely under these conditions that we would expect robust counterarguing and effective resistance to persuasion (cf., Ross, Lepper & Hubbard, 1975; Taylor & Fiske, 1984). This finding therefore supports the general conclusion that, “the more issue-relevant knowledge people have, the more they tend to be able to counterargue communications opposing their initial positions and to cognitively bolster (proargue) congruent messages” (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986, p. 165).
They discovered that a low-bias person (someone with little concern) became more difficult to persuade when they forewarned about the argument that would be made & were given some time to consider the argument for themselves: which the researchers called “self-exploration”. The researchers were studying what would made someone coming into counseling more willing to change. A step in counseling could be ask the counselee to articulate their existing understanding and reasoning. If change is sought, this might make things more difficult, “The effects of reviewing and articulating self-relevant attitudes may be to render them more resistant to subsequent change.” P. 19
Many researchers have created false memories in normal individuals; what is more, many of these subjects are certain that the memories are real. In one well-known study, Loftus and her colleague Jacqueline Pickrell gave subjects written accounts of four events, three of which they had actually experienced. The fourth story was fiction; it centered on the subject being lost in a mall or another public place when he or she was between four and six years old. A relative provided realistic details for the false story, such as a description of the mall at which the subject’s parents shopped. After reading each story, subjects were asked to write down what else they remembered about the incident or to indicate that they did not remember it at all. Remarkably about one third of the subjects reported partially or fully remembering the false event. In two follow-up interviews, 25 percent still claimed that they remembered the untrue story, a figure consistent with the findings of similar studies.
What then can help guarantee a good memory? Notice that events which are traumatic are questionable. Notice that distant, vague events are questionable. Compare that to events which take place over a period of time, events which are witnessed by multiple persons, events subject to objective independent corroboration. And with the case of the Scripture, Jesus speaks of receiving supernatural assistance of the Spirit. John 14:26
the consistent finding of the role of the destructive inner voice in suicide. This voice drives suicidal tendencies, deceptively convincing people that it is better to end their lives than to find an alternate solution to their suffering
For many, understanding there is an innate voice that wishes for death and destruction can help to separate, and thereby distance, one from these thoughts. Distance from the thoughts helps one disown them and take away their power. You are not your thoughts. Once these thoughts are recognized, they can be challenged, minimized, and disregarded. Healthier thoughts can be put in their place.
This observation is actually much older than these psychologists realize. First, Richard Sibbes in “The Soul’s Conflict With Itself”, writing of depression, explains:
Whence we may further observe, that we are prone to cast down ourselves, we are accessory to our own trouble, and weave the web of our own sorrow, and hamper ourselves in the cords of our own twining. God neither loves nor wills that we should be too much cast down. We see our Saviour Christ, how careful he was that his disciples should not be troubled, and therefore he labours to prevent that trouble which might arise by his suffering and departure from them, by a heavenly sermon; ‘Let not your hearts be troubled,’ &c., John 14:1. He was troubled himself that we should not be troubled. The ground, therefore, of our disquiet is chiefly from ourselves, though Satan will have a hand in it. We see many, like sullen birds in a cage, beat themselves to death. This casting down of ourselves is not from humility, but from pride; we must have our will, or God shall not have a good look from us, but as pettish and peevish children, we hang our heads in our bosom, because our wills are crossed.
And as for speaking to ourselves about such things, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, taking his cue from Sibbes, formulates the answer thus:
The main art in the manner of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, you have to preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul, “Why art thou cast down?” — what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: “Hope thou in God” — instead of muttering in this depressed unhappy way. And you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: “I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God.”
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, “General Consideration”
(Chapter 8, God, Revelation and Authority. Btw, these short takes on his essays cannot begin to cover the density and wealth of thought in Henry. They really must be read, but) Theologian Millard Erickson once said, “I love Carl Henry’s work. It’s extremely important. I hope someday that it is translated into English!”
Secular Man and Ultimate Concerns
There is a Woody Allen joke, “If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit, in my name, at a Swiss bank account.” But what sort of evidence would show that God exists. No matter how power an agent were to display itself, would that ever be proof of God? If something as powerful as the aliens in a thousand movies were to appear about a large city, would that prove God? What if the agent were as dazzling as the sun?
In this essay, Henry argues that the radical secularism – which the is the default “intelligent” position of the age – itself bears witness to God. It is an answer to the question, “If God is real, then why don’t I see Him?” To answer this question, Henry speaks of “cognitive levels of experience”. The reason why God is not obvious is because He is not being sought in the right place and the right way. (This is an interesting sort of presuppositionalist argument.)
Western secularism has made naturalism, a radical empiricism to be the entire basis for rational discourse and understanding. This radical naturalism entails a number of related entailments:
A correlative implication of this theory of the comprehensive contingency, total transiency, and radical relativity of all reality and experience is the absolute autonomy of man. Man alone remains, self-sufficient and autonomous, to rescue the cosmos from absurdity and worthlessness. No divine sovereign places human life under unchanging commands, no divine revelation tells man what is true and trustworthy, no divine book stipulates what is permanently right and wrong. External reality supplies no transcosmic supports for human security. A clean break is required with all transcendent, heteronomous absolutes as alien and arbitrary.
Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999), 139. The universe – and us – are contingent, transient, relative – and somehow also autonomous. It is an odd sort of agency, because it is grounded in absolutely nothing.
This autonomous agent, contingent and existent only for a whisper of time, seems strangely to be completely unable to believe this true. For instance, if we are truly meaningless, then what is the basis and what is the point seeking for “meaning” and security. Then why do we do what we do? “Modern man actually has a much wider range of experience than the naturalistic credo acknowledges.” (145)
This simply does not work.
And when we move beyond just our desire to be meaningful, we run into other problems.
For example, how do we explain any moral fact? Why is murder wrong? It certainly and without question is evil. But why? Because we don’t like it? There is no naturalistic explanation. But what if someone were to make the adaptive argument: not murdering was necessary for the survival of the species and those camps which held to the no-murder position survived better than others. That merely proves it is more adaptive, but not that it is truly right or wrong. Moral facts are just feelings about things, not truths. If one were merely able to overcome the feeling, there would be no morality at all.
Here is where makes the argument for God. God is “inescapably an aspect of everyday experience” (149). God is there and cannot be gainsaid or avoided. The fact of God is built into our consciousness; a “primordial ontological awareness of God as the ultimate given.”
If this is so, then why do we deny its truth:
The reality of God as depicted in his revelation best explains why secular man refuses to order his life exclusively by the naturalistic world life view, while the fact of sin best explains why he refuses to order his life exclusively by the truth and will of God. (148)
He makes an interesting observation which deserves further consideration. The conflict inherent in humanity as a result of a conflict with a sovereign God creates psychological damage within the human being, which we attempt to manage by various psychological and psychiatric methods. (149)
Our very existence, our concern for meaning and morality, our refusal to take our own and other life as utterly meaningless (which is precisely what secular naturalism teaches), is constant undeniable evidence of God. Sin makes hypocrites of Christians; God makes hypocrites of secularists:
Not only his secret alternatives to meaninglessness, but also his distressing anxieties concerning personal worth, imply presuppositions that touch upon man’s responsible relationship to his Maker. The ongoing revelation of God and remnants of the imago Dei in man supply the continuing conditions of man’s humanity. The ineradicable convictions we harbor about the character of reality and the way we frame the fundamental questions of our lives reflect, however unwittingly, a response to God’s revelational confrontation of his creatures. The universal disclosure of God penetrates deeply into all man’s confidences and doubts. God is the Eternal with whom unrenewed man, in all his experiences, has a vagabond relationship. Evidence of God’s reality and power and truth and goodness is ongoingly refracted into the course of man’s daily life. (151)
In short, the espoused secularity of the modern world cannot account for itself. Even the bare attempt to “explain” the world in terms of secular naturalism is itself a contradiction of that naturalism.