Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Mezmer's Dictionary of Bad Psychology

One of my favorite books of all time is Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary, so I was very happy to come across a similar satiric dictionary: Mezmer Dictionary of Bad psychology. Some examples...

Brain: Congealed pudding like structure located inside a bony shell that swivels on a vertebrate stand, and is covered by a rubbery like skin. Brains are hooked up to olfactory, gustatory, auditory, and visual knobs, which are ironically attractive to other brains, rather than the brain itself. Generally, we use only 10% of our brains, and often we don't use them at all, and relegate thinking to our stomach, glands, or our diddler.

Consciousness: A thing in itself, or besides itself, the sum of all qualia, or perhaps a channel on the Matrix. Consciousness can be raised, lowered, embodied, or if it means to, float out of this room. It is everywhere, perhaps nowhere, but most certainly is here with you, reading this dumb definition, and is well, self-conscious about it.

Evolutionary Psychology: A branch of psychology, unwittingly inspired by Charles Darwin and Rudyard Kipling, that describes how we behave through made up stores that guess why we had to behave. In this case, the stories are about what traits our ancestors had to evolve 250,000 years ago to survive. At that time, Mother Nature or evolution was especially demanding, and selected those behavioral traits that permitted survival, much like a mom selects out table manners in her kids. Since all the evidence of this selection process has been washed away in the sands of time, this provides a wonderful opportunity for psychologists to act like trial lawyers, and fabricate evidence and design in tightly spinning plots that would do Agatha Christie proud. Evolutionary psychologists provide 'just so' stories to explain everything about human behavor, and all without the troublesome need to assemble proof. Thus, according to EP, we can run fast because our ancestors had to escape cave bears, got smart because they had to know where the cave bears were, and got sexy because they could rescue cave babes from the cave bears.

Freud, Sigmund: (1856-1939) Viennese physician who saw the mind as partitioned into metaphorical forces or agents (id, ego, superego) that were untestable, unprovable, and were of no more practical value than a belief in Casper the friendly ghost. By eschewing the strictures of scientific proof and reveling in absurd metaphor, Freudianism became a source of inspiration for bad psychology and bad literature that continues to this day.

SSSM: or Standard Social Science Model, represents a metaphorical model of the mind that holds that the mind is a blank slate that is engraved solely by environmental or experience. Depending upon who you quote, this doctrine is believed by nearly everybody in the social sciences (as evolutionary psychologists would tell you) or close to nobody (as everybody else would tell you). The SSSM is useful for polarizing debate and groups of people in the mold of us vs. them, liberals vs. conservatives, and now evolutionary psychologists vs. the social science establishment, and has removed debate from the Socratic discourse of old to the block headed rancor of present day talk radio and TV

(Hat tip: Mind Hacks).

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