Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘psychology

Your irascible kid will be ordered to get psychiatric treatments; (Mar. 9, 2010)

            Any single behavior of yours has now a psychological label attached to it.  An irascible kid is diagnosed “humor deregulation with dysphory”; an eccentric adolescent is treated for “syndrome of psychotic risk”; and if you are into much sex activities then you are labeled “hypersexual troubled person”

            A few expert psychiatrists of the American Psychiatry Association (APA) have been efficaciously working for a decade on categorizing and revisiting the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).  The proposed revisions are published on the APA site www.dsm5.org are opened for comments till April 20, 2010.  The definitive version DSM-V is due on May 2013. Comments, validation studies, complementary evaluations, and the vote of the administration council of APA will deliver the final acceptance decision of this version.

            Mental illnesses are intrinsically related to family and community supports, health structures, and mental customs in treatments; all these factors are irrelevant to multinational pharmaceutical companies with interest to globalize definitions of psychiatric syndromes and treatments.

            Based on globalize diagnostics and criteria, individuals will be considered suffering from mental troubles, prescribed standardized psychotrops, and health insurance coverage encouraged.  The president of APA, Alan Schatzberg, said “The DSM may have incidences on the way individuals perceive others and perceive themselves. It influences the nature of research and their methodologies.  There are repercussions in justices, industries, and public health.”

            There is no doubt that millions of people will be taking pills that were not necessary in many societies in the first place; they will suffer secondary effects that are more dangerous and harmful than the original ailments. Worse, the revised DSM-V will be imposed globally to include all societies as the definitive Psychiatric Bible. APA will enjoy hegemony in that troubled field.

            For example, a “depressed” Nigerian would say he has burning in the head; a Chinese would say he has pain in the shoulders or stomach; a Salvadorian would claim to have sensation of intense corporal heat.  Ethan Watters published “Crazy like Us: The globalization of the American Psyche”. There is a terrifying global tendency to de-humanizing people by imposing unified cultural outlooks.

            Western, more specifically US, repertory of mental symptoms and treatments is trying to homogenize it globally, as if there are no specificities to various societies differing vastly from Western concepts of mental illness.  Since it is Western States that are contributing mostly to natural disasters and catastrophes, then the US medical teams have disseminated their diagnostics related to post-traumatic ailments.

            Multinational pharmaceutical industries are heavily lobbying to redefining mental symptoms so that they sell medical pills that DSM might be recommending, especially allowing public health institutions and health insurance to cover the mental disorders expenses.

Cognitive mechanisms; (Dec. 26, 2009)

Before venturing into this uncharted territory let me state that there is a “real universe” that each one perceives differently: if this real world didn’t exist then there would be nothing to perceive. The real world cares less about the notions of time and space. No matter how we rationalize about the real world our system of comprehension is strictly linked to our brain/senses systems of perceptions. The way animals perceive the universe is different than our perception.  All we can offer are bundles of hypotheses that can never be demonstrated or confirmed even empirically. The best we can do is to extend the hypothesis that our perceived universe correlates (qualitative coherent resemblance) with the real universe. The notions of time, space, and causality are within our perceived universe.  Each individual has his own “coherent universe” that is as valid as any other perception. What rational logic and empirical experiments have discovered in “laws of nature” apply only to our perceived universe; mainly to what is conveniently labeled the category of grown up “normal people” who do not suffer major brain disturbances or defects.

Man uses symbols such as language, alphabets, mathematical forms, and musical symbols to record their cognitive performances. Brain uses “binary code” of impressions and intervals of non impressions to register a codified impression.  Most probably, the brain creates all kinds of cells and chemicals to categorize, store, classify, and retrieve various impressions; the rational is that since no matter how fast an impression is it stands to reason that the trillions and trillions of impressions would saturate the intervals between sensations in no time.

We are born with 25% of the total number of synapses that grown up will form.  Neurons have mechanisms of transferring from one section of the brain to other parts when frequent focused cognitive processes are needed. A child can perceive one event following another one but it has no further meaning but simple observation.  A child is not surprised with magic outcomes; what is out of the normal for a grown up is as valid a phenomenon as another to him (elephant can fly). We know that vision and auditory sensations pass through several filters (processed data) before being perceived by the brain.  The senses of smell and taste circumvent filters and are sensed by the limbic (primeval brain) before passing this data to cognition.

The brain attaches markers or attributes to impressions that it receives.  Four markers that I call exogenous markers attach to impressions as they are “registered” or perceived in the brain coming from the outside world through our senses.  At least four other markers, I label “endogenous markers” are attached to internal cognitive processing and are attached to information when re-structuring or re-configurations are performed during the dream periods: massive computations are needed to stored data before they are transformed to other ready useful data before endogenous markers are attributed to them for registering in other memory banks. There are markers that I call “reverse-exogenous” and are attached to information meant to be exported from the brain to the outside world. They are mainly of two kinds: body language information (such as head, hand, shoulder, or eye movements) and the recorded types on external means such as writing, painting, sculpting, singing, playing instruments, or performing art work.

The first exogenous marker directs impressions from the senses in their order of successions. The child recognizes that this event followed the other one within a short period of occurrence. His brain can “implicitly” store the two events are following in succession in a qualitative order (for example the duration of the succession is shorter or longer than the other succession). I label this marker as “Time recognizer” in the qualitative meaning of sensations.

The second marker registers and then stores an impression as a spatial configuration. At this stage, the child is able to recognize the concept of space but in a qualitative order; for example, this object is closer or further from the other object. I call this marker “space recognizer”.

The third marker is the ability to delimit a space when focusing on a collection of objects. Without this ability to first limit the range of observation (or sensing in general) it would be hard to register parts and bits of impressions within a first cut of a “coherent universe”. I label this marker “spatial delimiter”

The fourth marker attaches “strength” or “weight” of occurrence as the impression is recognized in the database.  The child cannot count but the brain is already using this marker for incoming information. In a sense, the brain is assembling events and objects in special “frequency of occurrence” database during dream periods and the information are retrieved in qualitative order of strength of sensations in frequency.  I call this attribute “count marker”.

The fifth marker is an endogenous attributes: this marker is attached within the internal export/import of information in the brain. This attribute is a kind of “correlation” quantity that indicates same/different trends of behavior of events or objects.  In a sense, this marker will internally sort out data as “analogous” or contrary collections along a time scale. People have tendency to associate correlation with cause and effect relation but it is not. A correlation quantity can be positive (two variables have the same behavioral trend in a system) or negative quantity (diverging trends). With the emergence of the 5th marker the brain has grown a quantitative threshold in synapses and neurons to starting massive computations on impressions stored in the large original database or what is called “long-term memory”.

The sixth marker is kind of a “probability quantity” that permits the brain to order objects according to “plausible” invariant properties in space (for example objects or figures are similar according to a particular property, including symmetrical transformations). I label this the “invariant marker” and it re-structures collections of objects and shapes in structures such as hereditary, hierarchical, network, or circular.

The seventh marker I call the “association attribute”. Methods of deduction, inductions, and other logical manipulations are within these kinds of data types.  They are mostly generated from rhetorical associations such as analogies, metaphors, antonyms, and other categories of associations. No intuition or creative ideas are outside the boundary of prior recognition of the brain.  Constant focus and work on a concept generate complex processing during the dream stage. The conscious mind recaptures sequences from the dream state and most of the time unconsciously. What knowledge does is decoding in formal systems the basic processes of the brain and then re-ordering what seems as chaotic firing in brain cells.  Symbols were created to facilitate rules writing for precise rationalization.

The eighth marker I call the “design marker”; it recognizes interactions among variables and interacts with reverse exogenous markers since a flow with outside perceptions is required for comprehension. Simple perceived relationships between two events or variables are usually trivial and mostly wrong; for example thunder follows lightning and thus wrongly interpreted as lightning generates thunder.  Simple interactions are of the existential kind as in the Pavlov reactions where existential rewards, such as food, are involved in order to generate the desired reactions. The Pavlov reaction laws apply to man too. Interactions among more than two variables are complex for interpretations in the mind and require plenty of training and exercises.  Designing experiments is a very complex cognitive task and not amenable to intuition: it requires learning and training to appreciating the various cause and effects among the variables.

The first kinds of “reverse exogenous” markers can be readily witnessed in animals such as in body language of head, hand, shoulder, or eye movements; otherwise Pavlov experiments could not be conducted if animals didn’t react with any external signs. In general, rational thinking retrieves data from specialized databases “cognitive working memory” of already processed data and saved for pragmatic utility. Working memories are developed once data find outlets to the external world for recording; thus, pure thinking without attempting to record ideas degrades the cognitive processes with sterile internal transfer without new empirical information to compute in.

An important reverse-exogenous marker is sitting still, concentrating, emptying our mind of external sensations, and relaxing the mind of conscious efforts of perceiving the knowledge “matter” in order to experience the “cosmic universe”.

This article was not meant to analyze emotions or value moral systems.  It is very probable that the previously described markers are valid for the moral value systems with less computation applied to the data transferred to the “moral working memory”. I believe that more other sophisticated computations are performed than done to emotional data since a system is constructed for frequent “refreshing” with age and experiences.

I conjecture that emotions are generated from the vast original database and the endogenous correlation marker is the main computation method: the reason is that emotions are related to complex and almost infinite interactions with people and community; thus, the brain prefers not to consume time and resources on complex computations that involve many thousands of variables interacting simultaneously. Thus, an emotional reaction in the waking period is not necessarily “rational” but of the quick and dirty resolutions kinds. In the dream sessions, emotionally loaded impressions are barely processed because they are hidden deep in the vast original database structure and are not refreshed frequently to be exposed to the waking conscious cognitive processes; thus, they flare up within the emotional reaction packages.

Note: The brain is a flexible organic matter that can be trained and developed by frequent “refreshing” of interactions with the outside world of sensations. Maybe animals lack the reverse exogenous markers to record their cognitive capabilities; more likely, it is because their cognitive working memory is shriveled that animals didn’t grow the appropriate limbs for recording sensations: evolution didn’t endow them with external performing limbs for writing, sculpting, painting, or doing music. The fact that chimps were trained to externalize cognition as valid as 5 years old capabilities suggest that attaching artificial limbs to chimps, cats, or dogs that are compatible with human tools will demonstrate that chimps can give far better cognitive performance than expected.

This is a first draft to get the project going. I appreciate developed comments and references.

Everyone has his rhetoric style; (Nov. 22, 2009)

 

Let us consider the mechanism of rhetoric in delivering speeches. You have the square of fundamental values such as shared values, analyzed reality, wished utopia, and fiction of reality; these values intervene in most speeches and are focused on intermittently.  The top left corner represents the “subjective” shared values (SV) by a community and expressed by empathic “every one of us; or we, the working people; or we the citizens of this great nation.”

The bottom left corner represents the analyzed reality (AR) or the attempt to giving objective statements for facts and statistical results of data from surveys and other community research experiments. For example, replying to his question (Why are we in so much pain to preparing for our future?” Sarkozy answers “Because we have to account for the principles of a politics that encircled us in contradictions that are no longer sustainable”. Another example is generated from the extreme right opponent Jean-Marie Le Pen “This system, beast with two faces, with strange and worrisome names, the Gang of Four”.

The top right corner represents the wished utopia (WU) for transforming a community such as what the community should strive and act for; for example “another world; passion for equitability; simple and honest; the real name of the Republic of France is togetherness; or America strong.”

Then, the fourth corner on bottom right represents the imagined fiction of reality (FR) which usually brings forth historical figures or extracts texts from classical literature of the nation; for example “French, prompt at detesting your history, hear the voice of Jaures.  It is the nation that synthesized patriotism and universality”.

 

When we speak we start by focusing on a value that is dear to us or we think is dear to the audience and the speech converges in the directions of any one of the other three corners. For example, the socialist candidate to France Presidency, Segolene Royal, usually starts her speeches in (SV) by maintaining the illusion of intimate communication with her voters “You have told me, I am hearing you”, or “I want it because you want it”. Royal then shift to the (WU) “I believe in the expert capacity of the citizens.  I am convinced that each one of us is better placed than anyone else to know and express his problems and his hopes” and “I want a democratic revolution founded on the collective intelligence of the citizens. Politics has to change.” After establishing the (WU), Royal tries to focus on the (AR) “I wanted that the citizens speak again so that I may carry their voices. This is the best way to talking right and mostly to acting right”

Another example is President Nicolas Sarkozy’s rhetoric style. Again Sarkozy starts from (SV) “We do not become President by hazard.  It is a choice for a life and a long struggle. For me, France is not a hazard, it is a will. It is the will of various people to living together and sharing common values.”  Then Sarkozy reverts to (AR) “Why the French have no longer the urge to live together? My answer is: because there are a few citizens who believe that nothing is possible for them. I feel the force, energy, and wish to propose another vision of France. I refuse to find answers in ideology”.

 

Suppose now that you are debating or in negotiation then consider the “semiotic square” that was conceived by Algirdas Jullen Greimas.  For example, in the framework of the law we conduct our behavior according to two sets of opposing poles such as (Required or Prohibited) and (Allowed or Optional). The negotiations are thus conducted between contradictory poles of either (Required or Optional) and (Allowed or Prohibited). The “semiotic square” is used extensively in analyzing political discussions in order to comprehend how meanings in discourse are constructed. There is another method that might supplement the “semiotic square” with valuable intelligence such as generating statistics on most used key words (lexicometry).

The “semiotic square” is almost identical to the square of fundamental values.  For example, we have the two opposite sets of values (Subjective Shared Values or Utopia) and (Analyzed Reality or Imagined Fiction).  In general, the directions of the speech access the contradictory poles (Shared Values and Imagined Reality) or (Utopia and Analyzed Reality) but there are occasional movements from Shared value to Analyzed reality.  It seems that movements from Utopia toward Imagined Reality or vice versa are rarely used mainly because the speaker will feel totally disconnected with his audience who is mostly down to earth: he wants answers based on some subjective or objective sense of reality.

 

Note: The topic was generated from the French monthly “Sciences Humaines”.  The last paragraph is my synthesis of rhetoric mechanism.

What Blend of Goddesses are you? Answer (part 2); (Oct. 31. 2009)

Note:  wordpress version transformed my A B C D E F in some sets of questions into 1 2 3 4 5 6; re-transform the numbers into chracters when using the scoring table.

The Jungian psychologists, the Woolger couple (Roger & Jennifer Barker), wrote that each female harbors qualities of six goddesses in certain ratios; the goddesses of power (Hera), civilization or Wisdom (Athena), eros or sexuality (Aphrodite), underworld or mystic (Persephone), nature or the wild (Artemis), and motherhood (Demeter). The mixture of qualities can be determined by answering sets of questions; thus, a female can be represented in categories of ratios on a goddess wheel.

The following sets of questions are from “The Goddess within: A guide to the eternal myths that shape women’s lives”. The scores represent your blend of Goddesses. The questions can be answered by the female and the male partner of how he rates his companion.  My personal suggestion is that a woman should rate the questions three times: once as a person before childbirth or marriage, the second time as a mother and a third time as what could be the trend when she retires to enjoy her own life, independent of family responsibilities. It is important that the individual refrains from the temptation of scoring before finishing the three times rating in order not to allow any biases of previous scores.

The rating scales are -1 (not true), 1, 2, and 3 (strongly applies).

Set One: Appearance

  1. Since I don’t go out a lot, clothes and makeup are not important to me.
  2. I much prefer to be dressed in jeans and comfortable shirts.
  3. My appearance is rather unconventional.
  4. I like to be conservatively well dressed and use makeup sparingly.
  5. I love to make myself up and be attractive.
  6. Well dressed and made up gives me confidence to go out into the world.

Set Two: My Body

  1. I tend not to think about my body.
  2. My body feels best when I’m fit and active.
  3. I like my body to be touched by those I love.
  4. I’m often Not in my body at all.
  5. I find it embarrassing to talk about my body.
  6. I love being pregnant/ I look forward to being pregnant.

Set Three: House and Home

  1. I prefer my home to be elegant and impressive.
  2. I prefer the city; an apartment is fine.
  3. My home must be warm and have room for everyone.
  4. I need privacy and space for what I like to do.
  5. Wherever I live it must be comfortable and beautiful.
  6. I prefer living in the country or close to parks and open spaces.

Set Four: Eating and food

  1. I eat carefully to keep my body healthy.
  2. I like to dine in romantic restaurants.
  3. I like to eat out a lot and be able to talk.
  4. I enjoy cooking for others.
  5. Mealtimes are important family occasions.
  6. Eating is Not terribly important to me.

Set Five: Childhood

  1. I had lots of secret games and imaginary worlds.
  2. I always ran all the games with my friends.
  3. I mostly loved to play with dolls.
  4. I always had my nose in a book as I got older.
  5. I loved to be outdoors.
  6. I loved changing clothes and playing dress-up.

Set Six: Men

A. I want a man who will always excite me sexually.

B. I want a man to spoil me and protect me.

C. I like a man who is independent and gives a lot of space.

D. I need a man who will challenge me mentally.

E. I need a man to understand my inner world.

F. I want a man whose position in the world I can be proud of.

Set Seven: Love and marriage

  1. Marriage only works when there is a higher spiritual connection.
  2. Marriage is the foundation of society.
  3. Without love my marriage is empty.
  4. Love and marriage are fine, so long as I have plenty of freedom.
  5. Love alone is not enough; marriage safeguards my children.
  6. My marriage has sometimes to be sacrificed for my work.

Set Eight: Sexuality

  1. It’s hard to let go fully during sex.
  2. The right man turns me on very easily.
  3. It takes me a while to get into my body.
  4. I love to give sexually as much as to receive.
  5. I am a bit shy but I can be very wild.
  6. Sex can be ecstatic; almost mystical for me.

Set Nine: Children

  1. I’m happiest when doing things outdoors with my children.
  2. My children are the greatest fulfillment of my life.
  3. I expect my children to be a great credit to me.
  4. I choose Not to have children to pursue my career.
  5. I love my kids, but love life equally.
  6. I love my children and always want to know what they feel and think.

Set Ten: Pastimes

  1. Metaphysics, tarot reading, astrology, dream journal, rituals…
  2. Collecting jewelry, art objects, fashion, music, theater.
  3. Sports, athletics, jogging, camping, sailing…
  4. Community involvement, social clubs, volunteer groups, local church…
  5. Political campaigning, minority group support, museums, lecture series, reading.
  6. Cooking, gardening, tending plants, needlework, weaving.

Set Eleven: Parties

  1. I usually go into political or intellectual discussions.
  2. I’ll often be drawn to people with problems.
  3. I prefer being the hostess at my own party.
  4. I can’t help sizing up the sexiest men in the room.
  5. I like to make sure that people have a good time.
  6. Parties make me restless; I prefer Not to go to many parties.

Set Twelve: Friends

  1. Most my friends have children the same age as mine.
  2. I choose carefully my friends; they are very important to me.
  3. I enjoy my ideas and projects with both my male and female friends.
  4. I tend to have magical friendships.
  5. My friends are mostly the wives of my husband’s friends.
  6. My men friends are mostly more important than the females ones.

Set Thirteen: Books

A. Cookbooks, craft, child care books.

B. Nonfiction, biographies, coffee table, travel, illustrated history.

C. New Age books, psychology, metaphysics, channeled, and I Ching.

D. Sports, fitness, yoga manuals, animal and wildlife books, how-to books.

E. Art books, popular biographies, novels, romances, poetry.

F. Politics, sociology, feminist, recent intellectual, avant-garde literature.

Set Fourteen:

  1. I try to stay informed on world’s affairs.
  2. Politics only interest me for the intrigues behind the scenes.
  3. I know more about the world from my dreams than from newspapers.
  4. I rarely care what’s going on in the world.
  5. It’s mostly a man’s world; I leave them to it.
  6. It’s important for me to play an active role in the community.

Now add up the scores using this table:

Athena  Aphrodite      Persephone      Artemis           Demeter          Hera

1=F_      1=E_             1=C_               1=B_               1=A_               1=D_

2=A_     2=C_             2=D_               2=B_               2=F_                2=E_

3=B_     3=E_             3=D_               3=F_                3=C_               3=A_

4=C_     4=B_             4=F_                4=A_               4=D_               4=E_

5=D_     5=F_              5=A_               5=E_               5=C_               5=B_

6=D_     6=A_             6=E_               6=C_               6=B_               6=F_

7=F_      7=C_             7=A_               7=D_               7=E_               7=B_

8=C_     8=B_             8=F_                8=E_               8=D_               8=A_

9=D_     9=E_             9=F_                9=A_               9=B_               9=C_

10=E_ 10=B_             10=A_             10=C_             10=F_              10=D_

11=A_ 11=D_             11=B_             11=F_              11=E_             11=C_

12=C_ 12=F_              12=D_             12=B_             12=A_             12=C_

13=F_  13=E_             13=C_             13=D_             13=A_             13=B_

14=A_ 14=B_             14=C_             14=D_             14=E_             14=F_ 

Total and then insert corresponding numbers in a circle around the Goddess Wheel.

Note: If you are not married or have no child the authors suggest that you imagine the situation.  I suggest you be impartial: a score of 1 or 2 should be sufficient unless you already are an activist and thinks that you know exactly what you feel.  For the set on books, my suggestion is to score on the genre of books that you love most or you never touches.

Article #29, December 1st, 2005

“How objective and scientific are research?”

Would you please give me a minute to set the foundations first? Friend, allow me just a side explanation on experimentation.  Psychologists, sociologists and marketing graduates are trained to apply various experimentation methods and not just cause and effects designs.  There are many statistical packages oriented to providing dimensions and models to the set of data dumped into the experiment so that a preliminary understanding of the system behavior is comprehended qualitatively.

Every applied science has gone through many qualitative models or schemas, using various qualitative methods, before attempting to quantify their models. However, many chairmen of engineering departments, especially those who have no understanding of the disciple of Human Factors or were never exposed to designing experiments, have a conception that this field is mostly qualitative in nature and would ask me to concentrate in my courses on the quantitative aspects such as the environmental factors of lighting, noise, heat and any topic that requires computation or has well defined physics equations.

We have three concepts in the title: objectivity, scientific and research that are related in people’s mind as connoting the same concept.  However, the opposite meanings for these concepts are hard to come by without philosophical divergences or assumptions.  If we define science as a set of historical paradigms, a set of concepts, truths, facts and methods that most of them keep changing as new technologies and new methodologies enlarge the boundaries of knowledge then you might be more inclined to discuss notions with a freer mind.

Could subjectivity be accepted as the opposite of objectivity without agreeing on a number of axioms and assumptions that are not tenable in many cases?  Any agreement in the meanings of objectivity in scientific research procedures and results are basically consensual among the professionals in a discipline, for a period, until the advent of a new paradigm that changes the meaning or orientation of the previous consensus among the professionals.

Could opinions, personal experiences, recalled facts or events not be accepted in the domain of research even if they could be found in written documents but not thoroughly investigated by a researcher?  So what if you refer to an accredited research article and then it turned out that the article was fraught with errors, misleading facts with borderline results and untenable interpretations?  Would the research be thrown in the dust bin as unscientific or non objective and thus not worth further investigations?

Research in Physics, Chemistry and engineering deal with objects and are related to studying the behavior of the physical nature; these kind of research can arrive to well establish mathematical models because the factors are countable, could be well controlled in experimental settings and the variability in errors are connected to the technology of the measuring instruments once the procedure is well defined and established according to experimental standards.  It is when research has to deal with the variability in the human nature such as in psychology, psychometric, sociology, marketing, business management and econometrics that the notions of objectivity, research and science become complex and confusing.

The main problem is to boldly discriminate among research and admit that not every research is necessarily scientific or objective and that a research has an intrinsic value if the investigator is candid about the purpose and nature of his research.  We need to admit that every research is subjective in nature because it is the responsibility of the investigator to select his topic, his intentions, his structured theory, references, fund providers, the hypotheses, the design, the methodology, the sample size, the populations, the data collection techniques, the statistical package, emphasis on either error type I or error type II, the interpretation of results and so on. 

By admitting prior subjective environment to a research endeavor then we can proffer the qualitative term of objectivity to the research only and only when the investigators provide full rationales to every subjective choices in the research process.

Every step in the research process is a variation on an accepted paradigm at one point in the history of science and the mixing of paradigms with no conscious realization of the mixing process should set a warning alarm on the validity of the research and the many pitfalls it is running through.  

Acknowledging the role of subjectivity in the methodology, the data and its interpretation could open the way for more accurate and flexible judgments as to the extent of objectivity and scientific tendencies of the research.

“So, you want systems to fit people?” February 21, 2005

 “So far, it sounds that Human Factors in engineering is a vast field of knowledge and it could have many applications.”  You are absolutely right, the profession is multidisciplinary.

Let us consider the problems that an excellent human factors designer has to cope with when he has to incorporate the human dimensions into his design and the body of knowledge he has to learn and incorporate in his practice:

First, there are no design drawings for people as traditional engineers are familiar with because the structure of human organisms is approximately delineated and the mechanisms are imperfectly understood.

Second, people vastly differ in anthropometric dimensions, cognitive abilities, sensory capabilities, motor abilities, personalities, and attitudes; thus the challenge of variability is different from physics where phenomena behave in countable fashions and can be accounted for in design.

Third, people change with time; they change in dimensions, abilities and skills as well as from moment to moment attributable to boredom, fatigue, lapse of attention, interactions among people and with the environment.

Fourth, the world is constantly changing and systems are changing accordingly; thus interfaces for designing jobs, operations and environment have to be revisited frequently.

Fifth, contrary to the perception of people regarding the other traditional engineering fields, when we deal with human capabilities, limitations and behavior everyone feels is an expert on the basis of common sense acquired from living and specific experiences and we tend to generalize our feelings to all kinds of human behaviors. For examples, we think that we have convictions concerning the effects of sleep, dreams, age, and fatigue; we believe that we are rather good judges of people’s motives, we have explanations for people’s good memories and abilities, and we have strong positions on the relative influence of nature and nurture in shaping people’s behavior.  Consequently, the expertise of human factors professionals are not viewed as based on science.

To be a competent ergonomics expert you need to take courses in many departments like Psychology, Physiology, Neurology, Marketing, Economy, Business, Management, and of course engineering.

You need to learn applied statistics, system’s modeling (mathematical and prototyping), the design of experiments, writing and validating questionnaires, collecting data on human performance, analyzing and interpreting data on the interactions of human with systems.

You need updating you knowledge continuously with all kinds of systems’ deficiencies that often hurt people in their daily lives, and learn the newer laws that govern the safety and health of the employees in their workplace. 

All the above courses and disciplines that you are urged to take or to be conversant with have the well being of targeted end users in mind.  To be an expert well qualified designer you need to assimilate the physical and cognitive abilities of end users and what they are capable of doing best; you need to discover their limitations as well so that you may reduce errors and foreseeable misuses of any product or interface that you have the responsibility to design. 

You need to fit the product or interface to the users and avoid lengthy training or useless stretching of the human body in order to permit the users to efficiently manipulate your design.  An excellent designer has to know the advantages and limitations of the five senses and how to facilitate the interaction with systems under minimal stress, errors committed, and health complications generated from prolonged usage and repetitive movements of parts of the body.

I am glad, my newly found friend, that you are attentively listening to my lucubration.

I would like it better if you ask me questions that prove to me that you are enthusiastic.

Could you enumerate a few incidents in your life that validate the importance of this field of study?

“Well, suppose that I enroll in that all encompassing specialty, are there any esoteric and malignant courses that are impressed upon me?”

Unfortunately, as any university major and engineering included, many of the courses are discovered to be utterly useless once you find a job.

However, you have to bear the cross for 4 years in order to be awarded a miserly diploma. This diploma, strong with a string of grade of “A’s” will open the horizon for a new life, a life of a different set of worries and unhappiness.

I can tell you for sure that it is not how interesting are the courses but the discipline that you acquired in the process. 

You need to start enjoying reading, every day for at least 5 hours, taking good care for the details in collecting data or measuring anything, learning to write everyday, meticulously and stubbornly, not missing a single course or session, giving your full concentration during class, taking notes and then reading your notes afterwards, coordinating the activities of your study groups, being a leader and a catalyst for all your class associates.

You need to waking up full of zest and partying hard after a good week of work and study, staying away, like the plague, from those exorbitantly expensive restaurants and dancing bars because they are the haven of all those boring, mindless and useless people who are dependent completely on their parents.

Well, you will hear, frequently, that securing a University diploma is a testing ground for your endurance to accepting all kinds of nonsense.  It is.

Most importantly, it is testing the endurance of your folks who are paying dearly for that nonsense.

Dreaming has a Memory of its own (March 2, 2009)

 

            I dream a lot and when I make an effort I can sometimes recall the feeling and emotions of the reel.  I realized that dreaming has a memory of its own.  Very often, as a dream unfolds I have the impression that a section in the story has been shown before.  It is as if the administrator of the dream part of memory has a library of DVDs, a department specifically reserved of what have been dreamt of.

            As I dream I know right away that I have seen and felt that story and there is nothing I can do to stop it or ask the librarian to change it to another DVD.  The only time that I might pre-empt the movie is when I reach the part that affect my survival such as a very dangerous moment; then, frequently I force myself to wake up and put an end to the nightmarish DVD.

            There are DVDs where I am running around in search of a toilet but find none that are clean; it is so disgusting that I learned to put an end to the malevolent reel and get up and piss.  I am so repulsed that I don’t dare go back to sleep right away.

            I wonder if those in coma are subjected to the same set of DVDs and that when their eyelids flutter or they have jerky movements then they are trying to react to a very nasty section of their dreams.  The worst part would be if the dream part of memory has been partially damaged and the comatose patient has to suffer a limited choice of lousy and frightening DVDs that keep being loaded ad infinitum.

            I would not mind to be shown lovely DVDs in my dream that I like to see as often as possible.  The problem is that the memory library for dreams is awfully biased toward horror movies, mostly very disgusting.  May be the best way to shelve off, for a long time, a bad recurring dream is to write it down.  It would be a nice experiment to edit the bad sections, in the written exercise, and add sections that you would like the administrator of dream memory to edit for you and have a more enjoyable version.

            There must be an interface section between the “real” memory and the dream memory.  The dream memory needs refresher impressions of sensorial feedback in order to edit versions of stored DVDs.  I guess rational knowledge is also transmitted.  For example, I had this piece of intelligence in my dream that fish have no complex memory; that for survival purposes they have a dual switch of ON/OFF like eat do not eat.  If this binary memory is detracted and stuck to one setting then the fish will keep eating till it blow or starve to death. Now, I would like to know if what my dream has offered as a hypothesis is true scientifically.

            I also would like to know if dream memory organizes in the same manner as real memory.  If it is true, then scientists have an alternative method for taking advantage of the dream memory to uncover the mystery of memory saving and retrieval.

Compensation: An Experimental mind

 

I recall my advisor telling me once in frustration “At your age I was professor and had raised a family”.  He had two grown up sons and a daughter who just got married.  I didn’t need this reminder to comprehend my desperate situation: I am just plainly stubborn with no imaginations on earning money.  These long years in a PhD program in the specialty of Human Factors, at the age 35 to 41, should be considered a waste of time for any career-minded student but they were valuable for my mind. My exposure to the methods and vocabulary of five other different fields of study in psychology, business, marketing, economics, and education permit me to think that I acquired an experimental mind, a mind that not many could claim to explicitly have.  I was exposed to various experimental designs, not necessarily cause and effects designs, and inevitably to different statistical results and interpretations.  I witnessed graduates focusing on the technicality of terms and so many “point statistics” that basically means nothing, and a fortiori meant nothing in the minds of the graduates but their experimental minds were lacking in comprehension.  The end result is millions of graduates publishing papers not valid scientifically and unable to interpret results.   

When someone asks “how” (the mechanical process or procedure) it is tacitly understood that he comprehend the why and what of the subject matter or the system; that he knows all the factors and variables that may affect the outcome of a system, including the human element within the system.  Maybe a practicing or a professional knows his particular system, (he should though implicitly most of the times, as engineers learn), but the fundamental question remains “has he acquired the generalized method and rationality to investigating systems outside his discipline?” 

I know what I am talking about but the difficulty is to express and disseminate the problem.  I have taught engineers who had no understanding for discriminating among variables such as dependent, independent, or controlling variables; you think that they implicitly know how to differentiate among the variables; wrong, they don’t. Even after three sessions coupled with examples they were still in the dark and still wondering what is all the fuss about. You think that they can interpret graphs, extract wealth of information and comprehend pages of written materials from one meaningful graph, they generally cannot.  I can testify that 30% of my engineer classes could not read; another 30% could not understand what they read.  It was a pleasure to educate a couple of good minds.  I have written several articles on that subject in my category “Professional articles” for further detailed clarification.

Worst, undergraduates are almost never exposed to research papers.  Most Master’s graduates barely comprehend or interpret correctly research papers.  Graduates join the “work force” of the rational minds practically illiterate; they cannot resume any continuation learning programs for a simple reason: they are illiterate in reading and comprehending research papers.

 

My contention is this.  If you acquired an experimental mind then you should be eligible to comprehend any field of study by reading the research papers in the field.  The major contraption devised my professions to discriminate among one another is a flimsy mask targeted in changing the technical terms and vocabulary; a secret ritual inherited from ancient times to creating castes of literates. Other than that, the experimental methodology is fundamentally the same.  When you acquire an experimental mind then all disciplines are one course away; you need to learn the slang, a new language that sound familiar, but with terms that have different meanings and connotations.  The ultimate goal of teaching is for every university graduating mind to be trained to comprehend research papers of other disciplines.

May I refer the reader to my current article “Rationality Fraud: Can our leading minds pass Socrates’ dialogue test?”

“Never” is the name of my homeland (October 14, 2008)

 

Do you know of political refugees who have no hope of returning to their homeland?  Do you know of members of professional diplomats who are frequently transferred all around the World’s Capitals?  Have you ever asked your folks “when shall we go home?” and the reply is “Never!”?

Amelia Nothomb grew up in Japan till the age of six. Her father was a Belgian diplomat. Amelia loved green, flowery and well provisioned Japan of the seventies.  Her Japanese nurse adored her.  When her father was transferred to China it was the period of the Gang of Four after the death of Mao Tse Tong. This Gang made it a policy to burn all the cultural manuscripts and heritage of China before the revolution; famine was endemic.  Amelia was terribly nostalgic for Japan; she asked her dad “when shall we return home?” Her dad answered “Never”!  Little Amelia reflected that her homeland is named “Never”.  The inhabitants of Never have no hopes; their language is Nostalgia; their currency is idle time; their Capital is called Slow Death. The inhabitants of Never are incapable of erecting a house but they worship any kinds of stones; they substitute stone homes with monuments of love, friendship and writings. The citizens of Never learn from childhood that life is in constant decadence, dismemberment and dispossession. They know by the age of three what 63-year old citizens of other homelands can start to conceive. The citizens of Never are a happy lot because any bit of grace dives them in a state of drunkenness.

I am Lebanese by nationality but I was not born in Lebanon.  I was born in Africa and lived there till the age of six before I suffered a near death illness. I spent my childhood in a boarding school; my folks used to visit every two summers.  These rare summers were hectic: my parents did their best to convince me that they were my mother and dad. I used to flee to my home at the boarding school and my parents retrieved me from there. Later, I made vast USA my home for over 20 years of my adulthood and never visited Lebanon due to the war and lack of money. 

Lebanon is the most beautiful land on Earth; in this tiny and compact State you find all the varieties of natural beauty except deserts. I figure that if you lived in a gloomy country, darkening weather, constantly raining or snowing or if you lived in an arid country where fresh flowing water is inexistent and the sun is constantly blinding and burning then your nostalgia for your country is the more acute and everlasting.  For countries of extreme weather conditions all the varieties of natural beauty on earth are just curiosities but never feel home.  The citizens of Lebanon enjoy unbridled liberty, an adjective that describes the financial capitalist freedom to embezzle.  This freedom in Lebanon is characteristic of a non-government or administration; you are totally free to live and die; totally free to demonstrate and criticize since there are no ears to listen to your complaints or act upon them.  Lebanon, the land of water and no potable water reaching the houses; no public electricity; you have got to rely on private providers for all your essential utilities; for quick results you need middlemen for all public service transactions. When Lebanon obtained its “independence” in 1943, forest covered 35% of its superficies; it is now 12%.  Every year many terrible man initiated wild fires eat whole mountain slops: why cut down tree and make coal? Just go there and collect ready-made coal free of charge. The successive governments never found it a wise idea to purchase a single airplane to put down these recurring fires; heck, we have no forest rangers department.

The Lebanese, in this Never land, subconsciously prefer chaos to order; they are not serious about changing their caste system. The Never land “citizens” are great magicians; they want you to believe that the variety of their castes (over 19 castes) is proof of their cultural heritage and their sense of openness but they never communicate with one another; they can be as remote as the Moon in human interrelation; before the audio-visual technologies a few castes were believed to have tails and a few other corns.

The “Neverland” indigenes can convince the World that Lebanon is the Switzerland of the Middle East; they won the first prize in acting all the dramatic roles; the immigrants are trained to exhibit to you long faces and even cry to express nostalgia but they are expert fakers.  This magical Neverland shifts from a glitzy environment to a very conservative climate of women wearing black robes from head to toe within a ten-kilometer drive.  You move from disgusting display of luxury in one location to utter poverty in the blink of an eye within a hundred meter radius. The Capital of Neverland is ranked second after Anver in Belgium as the zaniest, funniest, varied, and modern location for tourists and offering the best culinary choices; the rankers never troubled to investigate if the its indigenes can afford the pleasures displayed in their Capital. The capital Slow Death was re-transformed and re-built to attract the petrodollars visitors and main owners of its high rises and luxurious Hotels.   

            The soul of Neverland is endemically melancholic but its people learned to show off happiness and contentment.  Maybe ancient Lebanon enjoyed the healthy and frugal life style in its mountain villages but that was decades ago. A person has to cater for his soul; it is his responsibility to discover his own set of Truths.  The name of my homeland could be “Never”!

Normalcy in Randomness (October 29, 2008)

 

Many mathematicians and scientists earned Nobel Prizes for researching the phenomena of randomness and chaos in the universe and the extremely rare events located on the tails of the Bell Curve shaped graph for the probability for the occurrence of events.  A Lebanese/American thinker from Amyoun (Lebanon), Naseem Taleb, had published last year “Black swan theory” that predicted the crash of Wall Street. Since the Middle Age nobody believed that a swan could be but white in color until a black one was discovered in Australia in the 17th century.  Professor in Epistemology or the study of knowledge sciences Taleb wrote also “Fooled by randomness” and he participated in the elaboration of “complex financial derivatives”, this evil source of the current financial crisis, when he worked for a Wall Street company a while ago. 

Professor Taleb realized a year ago that a crash of large magnitude was to happen on account that the fundamentals of financial analysis of experts are outdated: the experts rely in their analysis on the most probable occurrences and do not examine the alarming cases of rare events that have the possibility of happening.  One of the first sign that a major problem might take place is when Bernarki was appointed to head the Federal Reserve Board for the retiring Greenspan. Taleb knew that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the largest property lenders that cover over 45% in the Real Estate business were in deep financial difficulties.  In fact, the US government by nationalizing these two companies own over 75% of the USA lands.  There are evidences that rich sovereign funds of powerful States have pressured the US government to rescue these two companies and a few others because China had invested 400 billions in USA properties, Japan 300 billions, Russia 200 billions, and South Korea and Taiwan over 40 billions each.  There is no doubt that the extended theocratic Saudi family (over 5,000 members) has invested in the trillions but it acts discreetly in total conformity with the US government policies.

 

The study of randomness can be taken up in mathematics, physical sciences, or socio-psychological attitudes and behavior.  For example, the Japanese society comprehends and admits crazy people in its companies and enterprises: this authoritarian society with strictly controlled morals at work, at schools, and in families has a high rate of males cracking down and losing it.  The women who are encouraged to commit suicide to preserving their “honor” leave that sort of honor to the males; women are more controlled than men but they manage not to reach the act of committing suicide because society does not expect much of them for promotion or eccentricity.

In societies that focus on the behaviors of average “normal” people rather than the “crazy” and eccentric individuals, such as in the USA, it is the norm to fire the “crazies” instantly and then relegate them to asylums for a very short time and then set them free on the streets to lead a homeless life.

 

We know in human behavior that individuals with extreme characters attract toward one another and those who resemble in characters dislike one another although they tend to conglomerate, maybe by animal instinct.  My idea is to reverse the Bell Curve so that the tails would converge and the Bell portions would balloon away.  The difficulty is to selecting the axes of references that might be most appropriate to describe these functions (for example what Y and X axis could be measuring).


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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