Sunday, April 20, 2014

Theme: Psychology

  • Around 1905 or 1906, Sigmund Freud wrote an essay, unpublished in his lifetime, called “Psychopathic Characters on the Stage.” The essay addressed the question of what we, as spectators, get out of watching people go crazy. Freud’s theory was that we’re fascinated by crazy characters because they help us express our own repressed impulses. Drama, of course, can’t express our fantasies too literally; when that happens, we call it pornography and walk out of the theatre.Read more
  • Not everyone is interested in children, but it is hard to find a person disinterested in their own childhood. Identity is so shaped by those first years of life and the relationships into which people finds themselves happily (or unhappily) born. What it is to be human is a story that not only begins with what is it to be an infant, but also a story where childhood continues to shape adult life long after it has ended.Read more
  • Many and many a reader has asked that. When the story first came out, in the New England Magazine about 1891, a Boston physician made protest in The Transcript. Such a story ought not to be written, he said; it was enough to drive anyone mad to read it.Read more
  • “Don’t look back something might be gaining on you,” said Satchel Paige, a legendary baseball pitcher in the 1930s and 40s who couldn’t pitch in the major leagues because he was black. After Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, Paige became the oldest rookie to play in the major leagues. Read more
  • In the opening sequence of Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-1987), a disheveled man wanders the streets of New York, carrying a sign warning of the end of the world. He steps through puddles on the sidewalk, while a blood-stained smiley face pin lies in the street. Read more
  • In this essay I try to categorize the range of artistic options that filmmakers currently have at hand to evoke bodily disgust. Or, to reframe this approach in a slightly different manner: If we examine the variety of disgusting scenes at the movies, how can we usefully distinguish them? My aim is to provide a number of brushstrokes for a broader panoramic picture of disgust. I consider this essay a first step toward a poetics of cinematic disgust. Read more
  • In the 1450s there lived a boy whose favorite pastime it was to roam the hills of Tuscany. He would dwell in vineyards and olive groves that offered up an assortment of brightly plumed birds, peeping insects, and fragrant plants for contemplation. On his lengthier peregrinations, he developed a fascination for majestic waterfalls, caves and rocky promontories. Read more
  • Are you paying attention to this? William James, the oft-called father of modern psychology, famously said that everyone knows what attention is, so if you are reading this sentence right now then not only are you paying attention to it, but you should know that that is exactly what you’re doing.Read more
  • Steven Pinker shows how the mind turns the finite building blocks of language into infinite meaningsRead more
  • Developmental issues in general have, for obvious reasons, been much on my mind lately. It strikes me, as it struck Alison Gopnik thus causing the book the philosophical baby to be written, as strange that the importance of the development of certain capabilities, such as morality, belief-acquisition, language, understanding of objects and other persons, has not been seriously attended to in the theories of those things. Surely, a proper understanding of any domain needs to involve an understanding of how we come to know about it. The cognitive operations that the adult mind is capable of didn’t start out that way, and part of solving the mysteries of cognition is to investigate how it got that way. As Gopnik pointed out in her earlier book the scientist in the crib, babies learn in the way science proceed: by testing hypotheses, revising previous concepts and explanations to fit with the facts, and by thinking up new experiments. We start out with very little, but not nothing, and then we build on that. People generally start out the same – babies everywhere can learn whatever language, but at some point, when we’ve found what sorts of sounds typically occur in communication, we start to interpret, and eventually to ignore small vocal nuances in favor of more effective and more charitable interpretation within the language we thus acquire. Read more
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