Archive for January, 2018

Going on Hiatus

January 19, 2018

But there are well over one thousand posts so there is plenty to read.

Here are some search terms for some particularly interesting blogs

growth mindset
cognitive reserve
Myth (be sure to capitalize the M)

It is recommended that you also visit the following websites:

http://joinaforce4good.org/learn

and

https://centerhealthyminds.org

There are many interesting videos on this site, but they can be difficult to find. So persist.

And HM shall return.

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Effortless Thinking: The God Shaped Hole in Your Brain

January 18, 2018

The title of this post is identical to the title of an article by Graham Lawton in the series of articles in the 16 December 2017 Issue of the New Scientist titled “EFFORTLESS THINKING: Why some ideas come naturally to us—and why they’re usually wrong.”

Lawton writes, “If God designed the human brain, he (or she) did a lousy job. Dogged by glitches and biases, requiring routine shutdown for maintenance for 8 hours a day, highly susceptible to serious malfunction, a product recall would seem to be in order. But in one respect at least, God played a blinder: our brains are almost perfectly designed to believe in God(s).

Lawton’s article is seriously flawed as he conflates God with religion. He notes that conflict, misogyny, prejudice, and terrorism all happen in the name of religion. This is true, but religions are human creations. HM finds that most criticisms of God are actually criticisms of religion. The God shaped hole in the brain that he rather thoroughly documents can be real.

Pascal made a very effective argument to believe in God called Pascal’s Wager.
The argument is put into the context of cost benefit analysis. Suppose one does not believe in God, and God exists. This could be extremely costly.

However, suppose one does believe in God, but God does not exist. This part of Pascal’s Wager is unique to HM, or so he likes to think. Then, so what? One would be dead and would never know of the mistaken belief. But during that person’s life, he had the comfort of believing in another existence.

Religions are not required for someone to believe in God. Indeed, there are many reasons to avoid them. One can develop a personal relationship with God via prayer and meditation. After all, as Mr. Lawton wrote, there is already a hole in our brains for it.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Effortless Thinking: The Fake News That Takes us All In

January 17, 2018

The title of this post is identical to the title of an article by Kate Douglas in the series of articles in the 16 December 2017 Issue of the New Scientist titled “EFFORTLESS THINKING: Why some ideas come naturally to us—and why they’re usually wrong.”

Confabulation is common in dementia when people fabricate stories to fill gaps in memory. It is also possible to demonstrate confabulation in the laboratory. Researchers asked research participants to pick the favorite of two images, and then surreptitiously swapped it for the other before asking the participant why she liked it best. Researchers found that people often launched into a justification of why they chose the image they had actually spurned.

Michael Gazzaniga, who pioneered confabulation research in the 1960s dubbed the part of the brain that creates such narratives “the interpreter.” He argues that this interpreter is behind our unified sense of self. The interpreter integrates information from different parts of the brain. It rationalizes decisions we make based on subconscious processing that is not accessible to our conscious mind. Kahneman calls this processing System 1 processing. And it fills in the gaps when the information coming from the outside world doesn’t fit with our expectations. The interpreter creates narratives that help us make sense of our world.

It is clear that we have evolved a “drive for sense-making.” We derive pleasure from joining the dots between disparate information to create simple stories that explain our complex world. So we find it difficult to accept information that doesn’t fit into our world view. Ms. Douglas writes, “It can lead to fantastic confabulations too: religion, for example, may be the result of trying to make sense of a bunch of cognitive glitches. No wonder we are so susceptible to conspiracy theories and fake news.”

We should be aware of the tendency concocting stories as System 1 processes that need to be checked with Kahneman’s effortful System 2 processes. If one cannot readily reject or acknowledge the information, one should adopt an agnostic stance and make no decision unless more information becomes available.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Effortless Thinking: It Pays to Resist Revenge’s Sweet Taste

January 16, 2018

The title of this post is identical to the title of an article by Graham Lawton in the series of articles in the 16 December 2017 Issue of the New Scientist titled “EFFORTLESS THINKING: Why some ideas come naturally to us—and why they’re usually wrong.”

According to popular wisdom, revenge is a dish best served cold. When we get a hunger for it, we feel satisfied once we’ve had our fill.

We could see why if we take a good look at what’s going on in our brain. According to criminologist Manuel Eisner of the University of Cambridge, brain scanning reveals the neural pathways of the revenge process. An initial humiliation fires up the brain’s emotional centers, the amygdalae and hypothalamus. They inform the anterior insular cortex, which evaluates whether we have been treated unfairly. If it has, the prefrontal cortex steps in to plan and execute retaliation. Finally, the brain’s pleasure center, the nucleus accumbens, swings into action to judge whether the revenge is satisfactory.

Revenge appears to be a universal human trait and the list of wrongs that need to be avenged are common across societies. It includes homicide, physical injury, theft, sexual aggression, adultery and repetitional damage to oneself, loved ones, or members of one’s tribe.

Unfortunately, it is easy to get revenge wrong. Too little and you reveal that you are worth exploiting. Too much and you risk starting a tit-for-tat cycle of revenge. Since we often make such misjudgments, it is likely why we have evolved an instinct for forgiveness too. Evolutionary psychologists see this as part of the same cognitive tool, to minimize any fallout from revenge. Once it is enacted mutual forgiveness follows, and the relationship is reset, for the time being at least.

See the healthy memory blog post, “Revenge, Sweet, but Not Heathy” for some helpful ideas on patching up relationships.

Effortless Thinking: Adapting Our Need to Feel Part of a Gang

January 15, 2018

The title of this post is identical to the title of an article by Graham Lawton in the series of articles in the 16 December 2017 Issue of the New Scientist titled “EFFORTLESS THINKING: Why some ideas come naturally to us—and why they’re usually wrong.”

Tribalism is a deep-rooted evolutionary instinct. For thousands of years, our ancestors lived in small nomadic bands of mostly related individuals in frequent conflict—and occasional alliance—with neighbors over scarce resources. Tribes made up of individuals prepared to fight for a common good had a competitive edge over those that weren’t, so tribalism was selected for by evolution. We are one species, but we instinctively and effortlessly identify with smaller groups.

Research has shown that tribalism and the hostility it engenders are easy to induce. More than 60 years ago, Muzafur Sharif at the University of Oklahoma took 22 adolescent boys to Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma. This was a psychology experiment although it had all the trappings of a traditional summer camp. The boys had been divided into two groups, each unaware of the other’s existence. They were given cooperative tasks to perform, quickly bonded and developed hierarchies and cultural norms. Towards the end of the week, the experimenters engineered a fleeting encounter between the groups. Even though the boys had been chosen for their similarities, hostilities flared. The camp descended into a sort of tribal warfare, with derogatory insults, land grabs, nocturnal raids, flag burning and, eventually, a mass brawl. Hostilities only ended when the experiment introduced a common enemy in the form of fictitious vandals.

There have been many experiments showing that the flimsiest and most transient badges can trigger people to divide themselves into “us” and “them”—even the color of randomly assigned T-shirts will suffice.

Tribalism can be good or bad. It can be a useful motivating force; rivalry between scientific teams working on the same problem, for example. It also underlies some deeply unedifying behaviors to include racism, xenophobia, and homophobia. Nevertheless. there is hope that boundaries between “us” and “them” are fluid. This needs to be recognized and fluidity encouraged where indicated.

Effortless Thinking: We’re All Suckers for a Celebrity

January 14, 2018

The title of this post is identical to the title of an article by Graham Lawton in the series of articles in the 16 December 2017 Issue of the New Scientist titled “EFFORTLESS THINKING: Why some ideas come naturally to us—and why they’re usually wrong.”

According to the article’s author, there is a prestige bias. He writes, “According to biologists, this prestige bias is an evolved feature of human cognition that goes back to the time when our ancestors were nomads living in small bands.” We are social learners, meaning that we copy the behavior of other people rather than figuring out everything from scratch. People who copy successful individuals can acquire useful, survival-enhancing skills. Doing so required sustained and close contact with the skilled. Psychologist Francisco Gil-White says the best way to do this is to “kiss up.” Pay them complements, do them favors, sing their virtues and exempt them from certain social obligations. Those of our ancestors who kissed up to talented individuals advanced their own interests, making them more likely to survive and reproduce. Unfortunately, evolution has favored sycophants.

Unfortunately, this can backfire in the modern world. Today we don’t just judge the prestige of people we encounter directly, but also those whom we only know vicariously. We follow our natural tendency to watch others and conform. If certain people are routinely fawned over, we assume that they are skilled and prestigious individuals who would be wise to kiss up to ourselves.

Lawton writes, “Prestige exerts such a strong pull on the human mind that the construction and perpetuation of hierarchies is hard to resist. In lab experiments people find it easier to understand social situations where there is a clear pecking order, and express preferences for hierarchies, even if they are at the wrong end of them. “

Lawton advises that we should be more discerning about whom we place at the top. If we base prestige on skill and genuine achievement, then those we kiss up to won’t be the only ones to benefit. This is especially true as many of the prestigious rich and famous provide very poor role models. So special care is needed in selecting proper role models.

Effortless Thinking: Why Stereotyping is an Evolutionary Trap

January 13, 2018

The title of this post is identical to the title of an article by Kate Douglas in the series of articles in the 16 December 2017 Issue of the New Scientist titled “EFFORTLESS THINKING: Why some ideas come naturally to us—and why they’re usually wrong.”
Ms. Douglas writes,”We are born to judge others by how they look: our brains are hardwired with a specific face-processing area.” Even shortly after birth, babies would rather look at a human face than anything else. In their first year, they become more discerning; they are more likely to crawl towards friendly looking faces than those who look a bit shifty. When we reach adulthood we are snap-judgement specialists who jump to conclusions about a person’s character and status after seeing their face for just a tenth of a second. Unfortunately, we shun considered assessments of others in favor of simple shortcuts. For example, we judge a baby-faced individual as more trustworthy, and associate a chiseled jaw with dominance.

Although all this is unfair, it does make good evolutionary sense. Our species is ultra-social, so being able to assess quickly whether someone is friend or foe and whether they have the power to help or hurt us is important survival information. Psychologist Alexander Todorov points out that there is a problem as more often than not our first impressions are wrong. He suggests that the reason is that poor feedback and the fact that we meet many more strangers than our prehistoric ancestor, both likely play a part.

Another problem is that we don’t just stereotype faces one at a time. We are just as quick to categorize groups of people, and then discriminate against them as a result. Research by Susan Fiske and her colleagues has shown that a group stereotypes are also based on levels or trustworthiness and status. They label them “warmth” and “competence.” The researchers have plotted these two categories on a two-by-two grid, each quarter of which is associated with a particular emotion: pity, disgust, pride, or envy.

In the top quadrant are what they term High status competitors. The examples they provide are Jews, rich people and professionals. These people tend to trigger feelings of envy.

In the bottom quadrant are what they term Low status non-competitors. The examples they provide are housewives, elderly people, and those who are disabled. These people tend to trigger feelings of pity.

In the left quadrant are what they term Low status competitors. The examples they provide are welfare recipients, homeless people and immigrants. These people trigger tend to feelings of disgust.

In the right quadrant are what they term High status non-competitors. The examples they provide are our in-group and close allies. These people tend to trigger feelings of pride.

So we tend to dehumanize groups we judge to be lacking in warmth, and react violently to those with high status. Fisk says, “Historically, many genocides have been directed towards groups that fall into the envy quadrant.” Even our relatively positive reactions have downsides: we may pity those of low status, but react by patronizing them, and the pride we feel towards our own group can spill over into nepotism.

Even if we consciously reject stereotypes, the culture we live in does not, and experiments suggest that we are likely to share its biases. Research has shown that even people who show no overt signs of racism can still subconsciously dehumanize black people. Go to http://www.understandingprejudice.org/iat/

Ms. Douglas concludes with this advice: “The best way to escape this evolutionary trap is to really get to know people from outside your echo chamber. Working together on a joint project is ideal because relying on someone forces you to look beyond simplistic first impressions. And don’t trust social stereotypes—even your own national stereotype. The evidence suggest that we are not even accurate when it comes to judging ourselves.” HM puts extra emphasis on that last point.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Effortless Thinking: Beware the Voice of Your Inner Child

January 12, 2018

The title of this post is identical to the title of an article by Graham Lawton in the series of articles in the 16 December 2017 Issue of the New Scientist titled “EFFORTLESS THINKING: Why some ideas come naturally to us—and why they’re usually wrong.” The article begins, “The wind is alive, heat flows and the sun moves across the sky—childish intuitions shape our world, and can skew views on things like climate change.”
By the time children enter school, they have filled their minds with utter nonsense about how the world works. The job of science education is to unlearn these “folk theories” and replace them with evidence-based ones. Lawton writes, “For most people, it doesn’t work, and even for those who go on to become scientists, it is only partially successful. No wonder the world is so full of nonsense.”

Folk theories have been documented across all domains of science. In biology, children often conflate life with movement, seeing the sun and wind as alive, but trees and mushrooms as not being alive. They also see purpose everywhere: birds are “for” flying, rocks are for animals to scratch themselves on, and rain falls so flowers can drink. In physics, children conclude that heat is a substance that flows from one place to another, that the sun moves across the sky, and so on. For most everyday purposes, these ideas are serviceable, but they aren’t true.

Children cling to these folk theories even when they grow up. And when they encounter difficult concepts, they cling even harder. Many intuitively see evolution as a purposeful force that strives to endow animals and plants with the traits they need to survive. These folk theories do get knocked back as we move through education, but they never go away. Psychologist Andrew Schulman says, “They can be suppressed by a more scientific world view, but cannot be eradicated altogether. Intuition can be overridden but not overwritten.”

Shulman’s group revealed this resilience by presenting people with a variety of statements about the natural world and asking them to say which were true and which false. Some were designed to be intuitively true but scientifically false, such as “fire is composed of matter”; others were intuitively false but scientifically true, such as “air is composed of matter”. People who got the correct answer still took significantly longer to process intuitively false but scientifically true statements. This was true even in the case of those who had been scientists for decades.

Similar results come from brain scans. When people watch videos that are consistent with the laws of physics but intuitively wrong—such as light and heavy objects falling at the same rate—the error-detecting parts of their brains light up, suggesting that they are struggling to reconcile two competing beliefs. The error-detecting parts of their brains lighting up are evidence for System 2 processes checking and correcting System 1 processes. The persistence of folk theory is revealed in people with Alzheimer’s disease too. Tests of their science knowledge show that they often revert to folk theories as their higher executive functions decline. These higher executive functions that decline are System 2 processes. Earlier healthy memory blog posts have suggested that the infrequent use of System 2 processing might have led to their cognitive decline.

The article concludes, “The upshot is that scientific thinking is hard-won and easily lost, and that persuading most people of the validity of things like evolution, climate change, and vaccination will always be an uphill struggle.”

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Effortless thinking: Why Life is More than a Zero-sum game

January 11, 2018

The title of this post is identical to the title of an article by Graham Lawton in the series of articles in the 16 December 2017 Issue of the New Scientist titled “EFFORTLESS THINKING: Why some ideas come naturally to us—and why they’re usually wrong.”

In a classic zero-sum situation, resources are finite and your loss is my gain. Lawton writes, “Many situations in life follow this pattern—but not all. Unfortunately, this subtlety tends to pass us by. At best, seeing competition where none exists can blind us to opportunity. At worse, it has very unpleasant consequences.”

Dan Meegan, a neuroscientist at the University of Guelph in Canada says, “Zero-sum thinking was an evolutionary adaptation to to a time when we lived in small bands of hunter-gatherers. Under those circumstances, resources such as food and mates were finite and often scarce, so more for one person meant less for another.” However, today, things can be different. System 2 processes need to be invoked to assess whether or not something is a zero-sum game.

A good example is international trade. Treaties between nations are usually designed to be win-win: the more trade that happens, the more resources there are for everybody. The basis for this is “comparative advantage,” whereby trade benefits even less productive countries provided they concentrate their efforts of the good they are most efficient at producing (this is complicated. Google “comparative advantage example” for an explanation). Still the bias persists. People find it hard to believe that a trading “win’ for a foreign partner doesn’t lead to a loss for them. This is one reason why free trade is politically unpopular among people it would benefit. Donald Trump is one of the people who can’t understand why a win for a foreign partner is not a loss for the United States. These trade deals are quite complicated. It takes many experts from each side examining the deal to see if it advantageous to them. Moreover, there will be disagreements even among the experts. But eventually a consensus is achieved by both sides and a trade agreement is reached. Trump has no use for experts, as it just “knows.” So he tends to break trade agreements that were beneficial to both sides. In doing so he injures both the United States and its trading partners, in effect damaging world trade.

Another problem is the misperception that discrimination is a zero-sum game. As early as 2011, during President Obama’s first term, there were signs that many white Americans perceived growing “anti-white prejudice” despite overwhelming evidence that whites still enjoyed privileged access to jobs, education, and justice. Research indicated that this was at least party based on the misperception that discrimination is a zero-sum game—that less of it against minorities necessarily means more against white people. This misperception played a large part in the disaster of the election of Donald Trump. The article concludes, “With so much riding on it, just being aware of zero-sum thinking could go a long way to improving social relations.”

What the article doesn’t mention is the desire of people to perceive themselves as being better than other people. Unfortunately, many people regard this desire as a God-given right. Even when objectively their group is better off than other groups, they regard the improvement of other groups as a threat to them. Here System 2 processing needs to be invoked to reject this perception as bigotry and to appreciate the good in the improvement in other groups.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Effortless thinking: Thoughtlessly thoughtless

January 10, 2018

The Cover Issue of the 16 December 2017 Issue of the New Scientist is titled “EFFORTLESS THINKING: Why some ideas come naturally to us—and why they’re usually wrong.” This issue features many articles on effortless thinking and its costs. The lead article in this issue was written by Graham Lawton and has the same title at this post. Lawton writes, “You might even argue that our predilection for fake news, conspiracy theories and common sense politics suggest we are less inclined to think than ever. Our mental lassitude is particularly shocking given that we pride ourselves on being “Homo sapiens,” the thinking ape. How did it come to this?”

Lawton continues, “The truth is, we are simply doing what people have always done. The human brain has been honed by millions of years of evolution—and it is extraordinary, However, thinking is costly in terms of time and energy, so our ancestors evolved a whole range of cognitive shortcuts. These helped them survive and thrive in a hazardous world.”

Lawton continues, but does not mention Daniel Kahneman’s Two Process Theory of Cognition.  This theory was expanded upon in Kahneman’s best selling book, “Thinking Fast and Slow.”  System 1 is fast and is called intuition.  System 1 needs to be fast so we can process language and make the fast decisions we need to make everyday.  System 1 is also the seat of our emotions.  System 2 is called reasoning and corresponds loosely to what we mean by thinking.  System 2 requires mental effort and our attentional processes.

The cognitive shortcuts Lawton mentions are essentially System1 processes. They are fast, efficient, and do not make attentional demands. And they work. Consequently, humankind existed in a fairly primitive state for a very long time. System 2 processes are supposed to monitor System 1 processes for errors. Cultural advances occur when System 2 processes are invoked result in better thinking and better ideas. Unfortunately, civilizations have tended to abandon System 2 processing with resulting declines. The formulation of science provided new System 2 processes that are responsible for the advanced age we live in. Unfortunately, not all enjoy this new age, and there is a regression to System 1 processing that is causing disruptions in advanced societies. Hostility is being expressed towards knowledgeable individuals, who are regarded as elites, and uncomfortable facts are regarded as fake news.

These System 1 processes that come to us almost effortlessly can get us into a lot of trouble. Lawton writes, “The first step to avoiding these pitfalls is to identify them. To that end, we bring you the “New Scientist” guide to sloppy thinking…”

This guide is a fairly extensive sequence of articles that will be addressed in the following healthy memory blog posts.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Effortless Thinking: Why We’re All Born to be Status Quo Fans

January 9, 2018

The title of this post is identical to the title of an article by Graham Lawton in the series of articles in the 16 December 2017 Issue of the New Scientist titled “EFFORTLESS THINKING: Why some ideas come naturally to us—and why they’re usually wrong.”

The article begins, “There are no right answers in the world of politics—but whether we’re drunk or just pressed for time, the less we think, the further to the right our answers are.”

When researchers in the US loitered outside a bar in New England about their political views, they found that the drunker the customer, the more right wing their leanings. This wasn’t because right-wing people drink more, or get pissed more easily. Wherever people stood on the political spectrum when sober, alcohol shifted their views to the right.

The researchers, led by Scott Eidelman at the University of Arkansas, point out that alcohol strips away reasoning to reveal the default state of the mind. This is why they chatted with drunks: they were using drunkenness to test the hypothesis that low-effort, automatic thought promotes political conservatism.

The researchers also found that they could push people to the right by distracting them, putting them under time pressure, or simply telling them not to think too hard. However, participants who were asked to deliberate more deeply shifted their political thinking to the left. Similar effects have been seen with the three core components of conservative ideology: preference for the status quo, acceptance of hierarchy, and belief in personal responsibility. The researchers say that all three come naturally to the human mind. We think that way without trying, without even noticing. In contrast, more liberal views require effortful deliberation.

Our political views are shaped by many factors, including personality, upbringing, and education. As early as the 1950s, however, psychologists probing the appeal of fascism found that right-wing ideology was associated with dislike of ambiguity and cognitive complexity. The relationship between IQ and political leanings is complex. Broadly speaking, people with lower-than-average IQs tend to be lefties. This is likely due to economic self-interest. People of moderately above-average intelligence lean right for the same reason. But the top 20% swing left again, although highly intelligent people are also over-represented in the libertarian camp.

Nevertheless, dislike of—or lack of training in—analytical thinking is strongly associated with preference for the status quo. Conversely, people who are politically liberal tend to think more analytically than their conservative peers, and having studied science is strongly associated with progressive views.

The author concludes, “Whether you think our intuitive conservatism is good or bad probably depends on your personal politics, With around 85% of the world population’s largely untrained uncritical thinking, preference for the status quo is the clear winner. Nevertheless, progressive change does usually happen eventually.”

HM reminds readers of Kahneman’s System 1 System 2 distinction. System 1 is intuitive and occurs easily without cognitive effort. System 2, which involves reasoning and thinking requires cognitive resources and is effortful. Since System 2 involves cognitive effort, people who do not use System 2 can be called cognitive misers.

The problem of getting people to think critically has become much larger given the rapid changes in society and technology. Many are overwhelmed and take comfort in the old ways of thinking and doing things. Unfortunately, both society and technology are rapidly changing, and these changes need to be adapted with critical thinking.

Perhaps the most egregious example of this problem was the election of Donald Trump. Here is an individual who sees no need to think or to consult with experts because he already “knows” everything. But it is clear that he does not know how government is supposed to work and finds the Constitution to be an annoyance. It appears that his supporters are gradually recognizing his failures. But they have been obvious from the start for people using their System 2 processes. The many lies and contradictions make it obvious that he cannot be believed or trusted. So the problem is an overwhelming number of cognitive misers and a shortfall in System 2 processors.

At least one earlier healthymemory blog post predicted that people who voted for Trump will have a higher incidence of Alzheimer’s, than people who engaged in System 2
processing.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Proposed Solution

January 8, 2018

Drs. Nanette Gartrell and Dee Mosbacher have composed The Twenty-Fifth Amendment Solution. The Twenty-Fifth Amendment provides for the removal of a president when the president should no longer safely perform presidential duties.

*Under Section 4 of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Congress should immediately constitute an independent, non-partisan panel of mental health and medical experts to evaluate Mr. Trump’s capability to fulfill the responsibilities of the presidency.

*The panel should consist of three neuropsychiatrists (one clinical, one academic, and one military), one clinical psychologist, one neurologist and two internists).

*Panel members should be nominated by the nonpartisan, nongovernmental National Academy of Medicine. (Abrams 1999)

*The experts should serve six-year terms, with a provision that one member per year be rotated off and replaced.(Abrams 1999)

*Congress should enact legislation to authorize this panel to perform comprehensive mental health and medical evaluations of the president and vice-president on an annual basis. This legislation should require the panel to evaluate all future presidential and vice-presidential candidates. The panel should also be empowered to conduct emergency evaluations should there be an acute change in the mental or physical health of the president or vice-president.

*The evaluations should be strictly confidential unless the panel determines that the mental health or medical condition of the president or vice president renders her/him incapable of fulfilling the duties of office.

If the decision was made that the President was incapable of continuing on as President, then the Vice-President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

The individuals cited above should take such action immediately, so that this panel could be formed and an evaluation completed. The nuclear arsenal rests in the hands of a president who shows symptoms of serious mental instability. This is an urgent matter of national security. We call on our elected officials to heed the warning of thousands of mental health professional who have requested an independent, impartial neuropsychiatric evaluation of Mr. Trump. The world as we know it could cease to exist with a 3:00 a.m. nuclear tweet.

Reference

Abrams, Herbert L. 1999. Can the Twenty-Fifth Amendment Deal with a Disabled President? Preventing Future White House Cover-Ups. Presidential Studies Quarterly 29: 115-33.

Additional Worries About Trump

January 7, 2018

This post is taken largely from the article by Philip Zimbardo and Rosemary Sword titled “Unbridled and Extreme Present Hedonism” in “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President” edited by Bandy Lee, M.D., M. Div.

Trump’s unbridled and extreme present hedonism should already be obvious to all. And the analyses by Zimbardo and Sword have many similarities with the other mental health experts. This post will hit some of the additional points made in this chapter. Zimbardo and Sword write, “ In presenting our case that Donald Trump is mentally unfit to be president of the United States, we would be remiss if we did not consider one more factor: the possibility of a neurological disorder such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.” Donald Trump’s father, Fred, suffered from dementia believed to be Alzheimer’s disease (a definitive diagnosis requires an autopsy for Alzheimer’s). They compared videos of Trump and others from the 1980s, 1990’s, and early 2000s to current videos. They found (a significant reduction in the use of essential words; an increase in the use of adjectives such as very, huge, and tremendous; and incomplete run-on sentences that don’t make sense and that could indicate a loss of train of thought or memory) are conspicuously apparent. This observation is not unique to Zimbardo and Sword.

HM has heard this from different individuals who have a longstanding knowledge of Trump. Joe Scarborough is one of these individuals. Moreover, Scarborough thinks that Trump has gotten dramatically worse since he was inaugurated. Scarborough said, “During the campaign, he would do things that were offensive to us [that energized his base], but that’s not like hitting your hand with a hammer. What he’s doing now is not in his self-interest. Then you start saying how well is he (Scarborough points to his own head] when he’s doing things that any sane rational person would know would hurt him politically?

For a long time, perhaps too long, psychiatrists employed the Goldwater rule to justify why they were avoiding commentary on Trump. The Goldwater rule has precluded psychiatrists from commenting on individuals whom they had not personally analyzed. This was done because of comments some psychiatrists had made about Barry Goldwater during his run for president. As he was a reserve general officer in the Air Force and had made such statement as “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,” some psychiatrists were concerned.

What is not as well know is the Tarasoff doctrine. This was formulated with the principles of Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California 17 Cal. 3d 425 (1976). According to this doctrine “it is the responsibility of mental health professionals to warn the citizens of the United States and the people of the world of the potentially devastating effects of such an extreme present-hedonistic world leader, one with enormous power at his disposal. On the whole, the mental health professionals have failed in their duty to warn, in a timely manner, not only the public but also governmental officials about the dangers of President Donald Trump. Articles and interviews intent on cautioning the masses prior to the election fell on deaf ears, perhaps in part because the media did not afford the concerned mental health professionals appropriate coverage, perhaps because some citizens discount the value of mental health and have thrown a thick blanket of stigma over the profession, or perhaps we as mental health professionals did not stand united. Whatever the reason, it’s not too late to follow through.”

During the election, many thought, or hoped, that Trump was crazy like a fox, that he was a genius who knew how to manipulate crowds, but once in office, he would morph into a competent president. Well, that has not happened, and the prognosis is that matters will get even worse.

Delusional Disorder

January 6, 2018

This post is largely based on a chapter by Michael J. Tansey, Ph.D. titled “Why ‘Crazy Lie a Fox’ versus ‘Crazy like a Crazy’ Really Matters.” That chapter is in “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President” edited by Bandy Lee, M.D., M. Div.

Delusional Disorder is a “stealth” disorder because such individuals can seem perfectly normal, logical, high functioning, and even charming so long as the delusion itself is not challenged. Delusional disorder is described as “one of the less common psychotic disorders in which patients have delusions that differ from the classical symptoms of schizophrenia. Psychosis is defined as “a condition in which there is profound loss of contact with external reality.” Although in schizophrenia the disconnection tends to be highly visible and all-encompassing, the delusional disorder is neither bizarre or readily apparent to the outside observer:

*Delusions are beliefs that exist despite indisputable, factual evidence to the contrary.
*Delusions are held with absolute certainty, despite their falsity and impossibility.
*Delusions can have a variety of themes, including grandeur and persecution.
*Delusions are not of the bizarre variety but, rather, seem like ordinary figures of speech except that each world is meant literally:e.g., “I alone am the chosen one invincible, extraordinary beyond words, the very best of the best in every way.”
*Delusional people tend to be extremely thin-skinned and humorless, especially regarding their own delusions.
*Delusions are central to the person’s existence, and questioning them elicits a jolting and visceral reaction.
*Delusional disorder is chronic, even lifelong, and tends to worsen in adulthood, middle age, and beyond.
*Words and actions are consistent and logical if the basic premise of the delusion is accepted as reality.: “Because I am superior to all, it follows that I would never apologize because I am never wrong.”
*General logical reasoning and behavior are unaffected unless they are very specifically related to the delusion.
*The person has a heightened sense of self-reference (“It’s always all about me”), and trivial events assume outsize importance when they contradict (“Your are a con man, and not a great businessman”) or, conversely support the delusional belief “These adoring crowds recognize that I am extraordinary beyond measure.”), making trivial events, whether positive or negative, hard to let go of and move past (“Have I mentioned my greatest electoral landslide?”).

Dr. Tansey uses delusional disorder to make sense of Trump’s CIA address (CNN videos, 2017), which contain three staggering statements that lead us to think “He can’t possibly mean that. In the tenth minute he declared he was “a thousand % behind” the CIA. Moreover, he blamed the “fake media” for fostering the belief that he had been critical of the CIA. His own statements document that he was extremely critical of the CIA.

Later in the speech he described his disappointment that, as he began his inaugural address, it was raining, but then he claimed, with a finger to the sky, “God looked down and said, “We’re not going to let it rain on your speech.” He then insisted that the rain stopped immediately and it became “really sunny” before it poured right after he left.” The video taken of Inauguration Day clearly shows that the drizzle started as Trump began to speak, and that it never got sunny. It never subsequently poured. Dr. Tansey asks whether Trump believed every word he was saying? If the answer is yes, this would be compelling evidence of underlying delusional disorder leaking through the veneer of normality.

The third statement was his insistence that the inaugural ground were packed “all the way to Washington Monument.” Despite his consistent badgering of the Park Service, aerial shots clearly showed that the audience was thousands fewer than Obama’s in 2009, and did not come even close to the Washington Monument.

Note the role the polygraph plays here. If it fails to detect lies, when Trump is clearly lying, this is physiological evidence of delusional disorder.

Perhaps what is most frightening about Trump, is the admiration he has repeatedly and openly expressed admiration for Kim Jong-un, Bashar al-Assad, Saddam Hussein, and especially Vladimir Putin. Dr. Tansey concludes there is considerable evidence to suggest that absolute tyranny is Donald Trump’s ultimate desire.

Sociopathy

January 5, 2018

The title of this post is the same as the title of a chapter by Lance Dodge, M.D. in “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President” edited by Bandy Lee, M.D., M. Div.

The chapter begins, “‘Crazy like a fox or just crazy?’ This question has surrounded Donald Trump since his campaign for president. The question is whether a person who is repetitively immoral—who cons others, lies, cheats and manipulates to get what he wants, doesn’t care whom he hurts as long as he is gratifying himself—whether such a person’s indifference to the feelings of others for personal gain is just being clever: crazy like a fox. Or are these actions a sign of something much more serious? Could they be expressions of significant mental derangement?”

Dr. Dodge’s answer is an emphatic “Yes.” He goes on to explain the psychological condition called sociopath and why it is such a severe disturbance. The word “sociopathy” is sometimes used interchangeably with “psychopathy,” though some have defined the words a bit differently. Sociopathy is also a major aspect of the term, “malignant narcissism” which is brought synonymous with the official (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual or DSM) psychiatric diagnostic term, “antisocial personality disorder.” All refer to a disturbance in an individual’s entire emotional makeup (hence the term “personality” disorder in the DSM).

Children must develop ways to manage emotional distress: anxiety, confusion, disappointment, loss, fear, all while they are growing in their capacity to think, and sorting out what is real and what is their imagination. Most of us develop systems to do this, to tolerate and control our emotions, understand and empathize with the people around us, and tell the difference between reality and wishes or fears. But this does not happen to people with early, primitive emotional problems seen in sociopathy. They do not tolerate disappointments; instead, they fly into rages and claim that their upsetting reality isn’t real. They make up an alternative reality and insist that it is true. This is a delusion. When it is told to others, it is basically a lie. Successful sociopaths might not look very “crazy.” This capacity to lose touch with reality shows up when they are stressed by criticism or disappointment. When they are less stressed,they explain their loss of reality with rationalizations or more lies.

Here are some signs and symptoms of sociopathy:

Lack of Empathy for Others; Lack of Remorse; Lying and Cheating
Trump’s mocking of the disability of a handicapped reporter, sexually assaulting women, a history of cheating people he’s hired by not paying them what he owes, creating the now forced-to-disband Trump University. Readers should be able to provide more examples.

Loss of Reality
Trump’s alternative facts. His claim that President Obama is not an American and that he wiretapped Trump’s building. That his loss in the vote total in the general election was caused by illegal aliens. That he had the largest inauguration crown in history. Readers are encouraged to provide their own examples.

Rage Reaction and Impulsivity
The firing of the FBI Director James Comey after hearing his testimony before Congress. Launched more than 50 missiles within 72 hours of seeing a disturbing news. Issued illegal executive orders. Again, feel free to list your own examples.

Dr. Dodge concludes, “Mr. Trump’s sociopathic characteristics are undeniable. They create a profound danger for America’s democracy and safety. Over time these characteristics will only become worse, either because Mr. Trump will succeed in gaining more power and more grandiosity with less grasp on reality, or because he will engender more criticism producing more paranoia, more lies, and more enraged destruction.

Pathological Narcissism and Politics

January 4, 2018

The title of this post is identical to the title of a chapter in “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President” edited by Bandy Lee, M.D., M. Div.

The subtitle to this chapter is A Lethal Mix. The author is Craig Malkin, Ph.D. He writes, Pathological narcissism begins when people become so addicted to feeling special that, just like with any drug, they’ll do anything to get their “high,” including lie, steal cheat, betray and even hurt those closest to them.”

Dr. Malkin says that at the heart of pathological narcissism, or narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is that he calls Triple E:

*Entitlement, acting as if the world and other people owe them and should bend to their will.
*Exploitation, using the people around them to make themselves feel special, no matter what the emotional or even physical cost to others (battering away at their self-esteem)
*Empathy-impairment, neglecting and ignoring the needs and feelings of others, even of those closest to them because it is their own need to feel special that matters.

Exploitation and entitlement are linked to almost every troubling behavior pathological narcissists demonstrate: aggression when their ego is threatened, infidelity, vindictiveness, extreme envy, boasting, name-dropping, denial of any problems of wrongdoing—even workplace sabotage..

Dr. Malkin notes that as people become more addicted to feeling special, they grow ever more dangerous. Here pathological narcissism often blends with psychopathy, a pattern of remorseless lies and manipulation.

Unlike NPD, psychopathy is marked not by impaired or blocked empathy but a complete absence of it. Moreover, some neuroimaging evidence suggests that psychopaths do not experience emotions the same was non-psychopaths do. The emotions centers of their brains simply fail to light up when they confess shameful events such as cheating on a spouse or punching a friend. Nor do the emotion centers of the bran respond when they see pictures of people in pain or suffering anguish.

NPD and psychopathy together form a pattern of behavior called malignant narcissism. This is not a diagnosis but a term coined by psychoanalyst Erich Fromm and elaborated on by personality disorder expert, Otto Klineberg, to describe people so driven by feeling special that they essentially see other people as pawns in their game of kill or be killed, either metaphorically or literally. Kim Jong-un, Hitler, and Vladimir Putin all fall into the category of malignant narcissist.

Donald J. Trump, Alleged Incapacitated Person

January 3, 2018

The title of this post is the title of a chapter in “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President” edited by Bandy Lee, M.D., M. Div. The subtitle of this chapter is “Mental Incapacity, the Electoral College, and the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, and the author is a lawyer James A. Herb, Esq. He wrote that “Donald J. Trump became an ‘alleged incapacitated person’ on October 4, 2016 when I filed a petition to determine his mental incapacity in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.’” He claimed legal standing to commence such a proceeding as an adult and a resident of Florida, and based on the fact that Trump’s apparent lack of mental capacity to function could impact me and possibly the whole world, in addition to him.

The day before the election, the court dismissed his incapacity proceeding. After Election Day (and before the date for the Electoral College to meet and vote), he asked that the court reconsider its decision, arguing that the issue of whether Trump was mentally incapacitated was not moot, given that the president is selected by members of the Electoral College, and not by a direct of the electorate, so perhaps the Electoral College could save us.

He argued that it was the original intent of the Framers of the Constitution, as explained in Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist No. 68, March 12, 1788, that the electors were to provide wisdom and judgment (beyond that held by the general public). Clearly, they had not done so. Here was an erratic behaving individual who knew little he needed to know to be President. Moreover, the popular vote was 3 million votes for someone who had been both a Senator and the Secretary of State. If they had done what should have been expected of them, they would have made Hillary Clinton President. By failing to do so, they left the health of the United States in the hands of someone who not only put the United States at risk, but also the other citizens of the world.

But the court did not change its holding. Still there was hope. The Twenty-Fifth Amendment. Herb filed a second petition on 30 January 2017 after his first tend days in office. In these first ten days, Trump had espoused at least two delusional beliefs. One was the size of the crown at his inauguration. The other was than Secretary Clinton had won the popular vote only because between three million an five million illegal votes had been cast.

During his first ten days Trump issued executive orders that demonstrated his mental inability to comprehend the following: what is and is not legal (the immigration ban); what he can and cannot do without getting funding approval from Congress (building a border wall with Mexico) and what is and is not in the best interest of our country’s security (Steve Bannon is in, and certain Cabinet-level officers are out). He alienated Mexico; alienated nations across the world with his immigration ban; displayed an inability to vet issues and actions with appropriate parts of the U.S. government before taking action; and displayed a total inability to anticipate (or even consider) the impact of his statements and actions.

His petition asserted that in order for him to continue as president, he needed the mental capacity to:
*separate fact from fiction;
*think through an issue or matter before speaking or taking action;
*be able and willing to learn about issues;
*apply coherent decision making to fact;
*communicate coherently
*be consistent (without facilitating or “flip-flopping) with statements he makes;
*comprehend likely results from saying certain things or taking certain actions;
*differentiate between acceptable decisions and horrendous decisions;
*be willing to understand, protect, and defend the U.S. Constitution, including its provisions that related to the functioning of he executive branch and the rights of citizens under the Bill of Rights.
*keep himself from committing high crimes and misdemeanors as the term appears in the U.S. Constitution, Art.II, Sec.4, regarding impeachment;
*deal reasonably and effectively with other people.
*understand basic democratic principles, including; the importance of a free and fair election (and the importance of not claiming it is “rigged” before it has occurred); the undemocratic nature of intending to jail his election rival; and the danger of propounding, multiple conspiracy theories against him; and
*be stable (i.e., not having mental instability) in his thoughts and speech.

He asserted that the statements of Trump support a determination that he suffers from narcissistic personality disorder, which would make him incapable of continuing as president, and that he:

*had a grandiose sense of self-importance;
*is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, and brilliance;
*believe that he is special and unique;
*requires excessive admiration;
*has a sense of entitlement (has unreasonable expectation of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his expectations);
*is interpersonally exploitative (takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends).
*lacks empathy. being unwilling or unable to recognize or identify with the feelings or needs of others; and
*shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

He also asserted that the statements of Trump support a determination that he suffers from histrionic personality disorder, which would make him mentally incapable of continuing as president, and that he:

*has had interactions with others that are often characterized by inappropriate sexually seductive or provocative behavior;
*displays rapidly shifting and shallow expressions of emotions;
*has a style of speech the is excessively impressionistic and lacking in detail;
*shows self-dramatization, theatrically, and exaggerated expression of emotion; and
*is suggestible (easily influenced by others or circumstances).

There is no point in going into the details of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, as it would require heavy Republican participation. However, what is difficult to understand is why there is not heavy Republican participation. Trump is no Republican. Reagan must be thrashing about on his grave.

Republicans have been noted for two strong themes:
one is not to conciliate the Soviet Union or Russia
the other is an aversion to budget deficits.
but
Trump idolizes Putin and everything Russian. The various investigations are indicating how deep this relationship actually goes.
The new tax bill will create gargantuan deficits.

One questions how long the Republican Party will survive.

THE DANGEROUS CASE OF DONALD TRUMP

January 2, 2018

The title of this post is identical to the title of an important book. The subtitle of this book is “27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President”. The editor of the book is Bandy Lee, M.D., M.Div. She was the organizer of the Yale “Duty to Warn” Conference. This conference was organized as a result of the worries, concerns, and yes, even fears, that mental health professionals have about Donald Trump serving as President of the United States. The following excerpts are from the Prologue of the book:
“Assessing dangerousness is different from making a diagnosis: it is dependent on the situation, not the person. Signs of likely dangerousness due to mental disorder can become apparent without a full diagnostic interview and can be detected from a distance and one is expected to err, if at all, on the side of safety when the risk of interaction is too great.”

“Only in an emergency should a physician breach the trust of confidentiality and intervene without consent, and only in an emergency should a physician break Goldwater rule. We believe that such an emergency now exists.”

The Goldwater rule was passed by the American Psychiatric Association during the election between Barry Goldwater and Lyndon B. Johnson, it said that psychiatrists should not comment on an individual unless they had personally examined the individual.

A sampling of some the chapters from the book are being summarized so the general warning from the book can be understood.

Perhaps the most comprehensive chapter was not written by a medical professional, but by a lawyer James A. Herb, Esq. the title of his chapter is “DONALD J. TRUMP, ALLEGED INCAPACITATED PERSON.” He writes, “Donald J. Trump became an ‘alleged incapacitated person’ on October 4, 2016 when I filed a petition to determine his mental incapacity in Palm Beach County Circuit Court. I claim legal standing to commence such a proceeding as an adult and a resident of Florida, and based on the fact that Trump’s apparent lack of mental capacity to function could impact me and possibly the whole world, in addition to him.”

Not surprisingly the day before the election the court dismissed his incapacity proceeding. After Election Day (and before the date for the Electoral College to meet and vote, he asked the court to reconsider its decision, arguing that the issue of whether Trump was mentally incapacitated was not moot, given the the president is selected by members of the Electoral College.) So perhaps the Electoral College could save us. He provides an explanation that the Electoral College was created to preclude an unqualified candidate such as Trump from becoming President. Obviously the court did not change its holding.

He still held out hope that the Twenty-fifth Amendment would save us. He filed a second petition on 30 January 2017 after Trump’s first ten days in office. In these first ten days Trump had espoused at least two delusional beliefs. One was the size of the crowd at his inauguration. The other was that Secretary Clinton had won the popular vote only because between 3 million and 5 million illegal votes had been cast.

Read for yourself in the next healthy memory blog post his justification for his filings to see if he did have a compelling and comprehensive justification for Trump not being President.

The next post is titled “Pathological Narcissism and Politics” by Craig Maikin, Ph.D. Pathological narcissism is the most common diagnosis given Trump.

Then the next post is titled “Sociopathy by Lance Dodge, M.D.

The following post is titled “Delusional Disorder by Michael J. Tansey, Ph.D . For what it’s worth, and noting that HM is not a clinician, HM agrees with this diagnosis. People suffering from a delusional disorder actually believe their lies. A test for this disorder involves using a polygraph while the person is lying. People with a delusional disorder will not register a lie on the polygraph.

The post titled “Additional Worries About Trump” is taken largely from an article by Philip Zimbardo and Rosemary Sword titled “Unbridled and Extreme Present Hedonism.”
One of the additional worries is that Trump’s mental status is on a noticeable decline. There is no justification for thinking he will improve. The likelihood is that his condition will degenerate.

Do not be concerned about differences in diagnoses. The exact diagnosis is not important. Moreover, mental illness does not necessarily incapacitate a president. Previous presidents have suffered mental problems. The issue is whether the president presents a risk to the nation. Here there is only strong agreement among the authors.

The final post is titled “A Proposed Solution.” This solution calls for a panel. The panel would consists of three neuropsychiatrists (one clinical, one academic, and one military), one clinical psychologist, one neurologist and two interns.  Both the current President and Vice-President would be examined. These examinations would be continued to be done on an annual basis. Should the panel find that the examinee was putting the country at risk, he should be removed under the Twenty-Fifth Amendment.