All posts filed under: Psychology

What Explains the Resistance to Evolutionary Psychology?

A recent study conducted by evolutionary psychologists, David Buss and William von Hippel, has found empirical support for the claim that evolutionary psychology is a controversial field among social psychologists.1 Their study titled, “Psychological Barriers to Evolutionary Psychology: Ideological Bias and Coalitional Adaptations,” posed questions to social psychologists to assess their political orientation and their attitudes towards evolutionary psychology, specifically, the extent to which evolutionary theory applies to humans. The responses of the social psychologists to the question of whether Darwinian evolution applies to human minds were highly variable despite being in near unanimous agreement that Darwinian evolution is not only true, but also applies to physical human traits. Further questions revealed that their discomfort with the notion of evolved minds was neither due to religious beliefs nor to beliefs in human specialness, but were due to their varying opinions on “hot button variables” in evolutionary psychology. These included topics such as genetic tendencies for violence, universal standards of beauty, and psychological sex differences. In other words, evolutionary theory becomes contentious when it veers away …

What Doesn’t Kill Us Brings Us Together

The Danish existentialist Søren Kierkegaard once suggested that the appeal of the human experience resided not in comfort and complacency but in struggle and self-discovery. And indeed, human history is defined by a cycle of calamity and collective growth. Though crops may fail, settlements may flood, and diseases may spread, humans reconsolidate and rebuild. Science and technology have softened the sting of manmade and natural disasters. But such advancements have reduced the impact of key social stressors. They have curtailed flashpoint events which bring us together. One consequence of this is outrage culture.  In the absence of legitimate calamities, we create artificial ones. We argue that evolved psychological adaptations dictate this need for a shared sense of difficulty. Outrage culture is simply the calamitization of the mundane. It is a process by which group solidarity can be lazily achieved by combatting non-existent crises. Whether it’s an actor fabricating a hate crime, journalists inflating the menace of a boy in a hat, or academics creating blacklists, our outrage satisfies a deep desire to unite in overcoming …

On the Eve of the Great Psychedelic Debate

Trippy “Medicine” Listening to some of the opponents of medical marijuana over the last few years, one could be forgiven for thinking that they have never heard of a psychoactive substance being used in medicine before. These people might be surprised to learn that in England the doctor can send you home with a prescription for pain called diamorphine, a fancy word for heroin. They might be equally surprised to learn that the anti-obesity prescription Desoxyn is nothing more than methamphetamine in a pill, or that the popular ADHD medication Adderall is very similar to methamphetamine chemically and physiologically. If you’ve had throat, dental or nose surgery there’s a chance the anesthetist used cocaine to numb your senses as it restricts the flow of blood more than any other local anesthetic (the cocaine alkaloid is extracted from coca leaves for medical use and the leftover de-cocainized extract sent to Coca Cola for flavoring). You won’t hear it put this way. No doctor says to the cancer patient, “I suggest you use smack from here on …

Time to Stop Using Suicide For Political Point-Scoring

The writer and influential feminist Chidera Eggerue caused outrage recently when she callously dismissed the problem of male suicide. In response to a question she had received from an audience member about why “some men have it so hard,” Eggerue wrote in a series of tweets that she didn’t “have time to think about the reasons why the system you created at my expense to benefit you is now choking you. If men are committing suicide because they can’t cry, how’s it my concern?” Eggerue later apologized for her comments, but not before her tweets had gone viral and triggered a predictable backlash, including from some feminists. The Guardian’s Zoe Williams described Eggerue’s attitude towards men as “anti-feminist, anti-humanist, anti-intimacy, anti-everything I care about.” This uproar is part of a larger conversation about the gendered nature of suicide. It is well known that men are more likely to die by suicide than women are. The exact figures vary from country to country, but worldwide the suicide rate for men is almost twice as high as …

Gender’s Journey from Sex to Psychology: A Brief History

There’s no relief from our current cultural conversation on transgender rights. Its implications touch all of us, and the media coverage is relentless. Here at Quillette alone, you may read about the long-term consequences of transitioning for children, the political costs of deadnaming, Twitter’s policies on “hateful conduct” (including tweeting things like “men aren’t women”), the controversy surrounding trans women competing in female sports events, and the widening chasm between trans-inclusive feminists and trans-exclusive “radical” feminists. Surrounded by this whirlwind, I thought it would be useful to provide a historical meta-survey on the issue, tracing the debate back to its origins, so that we all might be better positioned to digest the next news cycle. Below, you’ll find a brief history of our culture’s “gender” talk: its origins, its philosophical evolution, and its current controversies. Gender as we’ve come to understand it, I will argue, is an idea so shot through with murky confusion. We will soon have to replace it with something more intellectually durable, or abandon it altogether. * * * Once upon …

Lessons From a Recovering Identity Warrior

In 1988, my family fled Iran to seek political asylum in Canada. I was 5 years old. When we arrived, we did what all desperate immigrants from war-torn countries do: We found our ethnic enclave and surrounded ourselves in it as much as possible to help ease the transition. During these years, I thought I was the default, the norm. That is to say, I thought I was white. Almost all of my friends were Iranian. We ate the same food, pronounced each other’s names correctly, and our parents spoke the same language at home. I never had to deal with any racial tensions at all. All of the other ethnic groups at school—the Tamils, Latinos and Jamaicans—did the same. Everything fit. My ethnic identity wasn’t something I thought much about. That was until we moved from the multicultural milieu of Scarborough (a suburb of Toronto) to Burnaby, British Columbia, when I was 11 years old. My new school featured only one other set of Iranian siblings amidst a sea of white and Chinese kids. …

We Need Guidelines for Working with Men, but Not the APA Guidelines

Men are more likely than women to kill themselves, but less likely to seek therapy. Research suggests part of the problem is that our general model for psychological therapy is more suited to women than men. Therefore we urgently need to develop ways of doing therapy that are more suited to men. The APA recently released guidelines on therapy for men and boys, which were heavily criticised. The new guidance, critics argued, owes more to ideology than science. However, one of the APA guidelines makes perfect sense. Guideline nine recommends that psychologists should strive to build and promote gender-sensitive psychological services. In a survey of responses to the APA advice published in Quillette, psychiatrist Sally Satel commented that: “’Gender-sensitive’ psychological practice … is questionable because it encourages clinicians to assume … that gender is a cause or a major determinant of the patient’s troubles.” In the context of the APA guidelines, I can see why she said this. But being gender-sensitive is not per se a bad thing, so let’s not throw the baby out …

Twelve Scholars Respond to the APA’s Guidance for Treating Men and Boys

Introduction — John P. Wright, Ph.D. John Paul Wright is a professor of criminal justice at the University of Cincinnati. He has published widely on the causes and correlates of human violence. His current work examines how ideology affects scholarship. Follow him on Twitter @cjprofman. Thirteen years in the making, the American Psychological Association (APA) released the newly drafted “Guidelines for Psychological Practice for Boys and Men.” Backed by 40 years of science, the APA claims, the guidelines boldly pronounce that “traditional masculinity” is the cause and consequence of men’s mental health concerns. Masculine stoicism, the APA tells us, prevents men from seeking treatment when in need, while beliefs rooted in “masculine ideology” perpetuate men’s worst behaviors—including sexual harassment and rape. Masculine ideology, itself a byproduct of the “patriarchy,” benefits men and simultaneously victimizes them, the guidelines explain. Thus, the APA committee advises therapists that men need to become allies to feminism. “Change men,” an author of the report stated, “and we can change the world.” But if the reaction to the APA’s guidelines is …