Category Archives: Human behavior

And now for something completely different. . .


Lenin’s Tomb, the most famous monument of the Soviet era is one that can’t be explained in terms of orthodox Marxism.

After all, a philosophy that rejects life after death has no need of carefully embalmed corpses.

But there it is, a architectural anomaly next to the Kremlin Wall, housing a carefully preserved by a process that remains a state secret in the post-Soviet era.

What, then, is it all about?

Historian J. Arch Getty offers his own sometimes humorous take in the UCLA Academic Senate’s 119th Faculty Research Lecture.

Getty is a professor affiliated with UCLA’s International Institute’s Center for European and Russian Studies, and has served as a research fellow at the Russian State Humanities University in Moscow and as a senior visiting scholar at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

He has written several books on Soviet era, and is currently writing a text on the history on the treatment of the dead in Russian history.

From University of California Television:

Dead Man Talking: Lenin’s Body and Russian Politics

Program notes:

Arch Getty explores the intriguing details surrounding Lenin’s body, which was embalmed shortly after his death in 1924 and has been on public display ever since in a mausoleum on Moscow’s Red Square. Getty is a Distinguished Professor in the UCLA Department of History.

Chart of the day: Digital dating rapidly rising


From a new report [PDF] from the Pew Research Center:

BLOG Digidates

Map of the day: The sometimes crowded skies


From Views of the World, the blog of Benjamin Hennig, Senior Research Fellow in the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford [click on the image to enlarge, and larger version of the map with more information is here]:

The map distorts the land area by the number of flights that pass a certain space which leads to these ‘ploughing patterns’ over some areas where are airplanes basically just passing by, such as in the western part of Australia where planes simply fly over on their way to the most populated southeast of the country. The colours in the map relate to the Worldmapper colour scheme.

The map distorts the land area by the number of flights that pass a certain space which leads to these ‘ploughing patterns’ over some areas where are airplanes basically just passing by, such as in the western part of Australia where planes simply fly over on their way to the most populated southeast of the country. The colours in the map relate to the Worldmapper colour scheme.

Native American drinking stereotype busted


Another myth debunked.

From the University of Arizona Newsroom:

In contrast to enduring stories about extraordinarily high rates of alcohol abuse among Native Americans, University of Arizona researchers have found that Native Americans’ binge and heavy drinking rates actually match those of whites. The groups differed regarding abstinence: Native Americans were more likely to abstain from alcohol use.

The UA study, published online Monday in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, was conducted by James K. Cunningham, lead author, a U.S. Fulbright scholar and social epidemiologist with the UA Department of Family and Community Medicine and the UA Native American Research and Training Center; Teshia A. Solomon (Choctaw), director of the Native American Research and Training Center; and Dr. Myra Muramoto, head of Family and Community Medicine.

The researchers analyzed data from a survey of more than 4,000 Native Americans and 170,000 whites between 2009 and 2013. The survey, called the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, was administered by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The UA study also used another nationally representative survey, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System administered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to measure how often Native Americans and whites engaged in excessive drinking in the past month. Again, findings for the two groups were comparable.

BLOG Drinx

About 17 percent of both Native Americans and whites were found to be binge drinkers, and about 8 percent of both groups were heavy drinkers. Binge drinking was defined as five or more drinks on one to four days in the past month. Heavy drinking was five or more drinks on five or more days in the past month. Sixty percent of Native Americans reported no alcohol use in the past month, compared to 43 percent of whites.

“Of course, debunking a stereotype doesn’t mean that alcohol problems don’t exist,” Cunningham said. “All major U.S. racial and ethnic groups face problems due to alcohol abuse, and alcohol use within those groups can vary with geographic location, age and gender.

“But falsely stereotyping a group regarding alcohol can have its own unique consequences. For example, some employers might be reluctant to hire individuals from a group that has been stereotyped regarding alcohol. Patients from such a group, possibly wanting to avoid embarrassment, may be reluctant to discuss alcohol-related problems with their doctors.”

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENLARGE

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENLARGE

Solomon noted that comparable rates of alcohol use do not necessarily result in comparable rates of alcohol-related health problems. “Native Americans as a group have less access to medical care, safe housing and quality food, which can amplify health problems connected to alcohol,” she said.

“Negative stereotyping of groups of people who have less access to health care creates even more health disparities,” Muramoto said. “Based on a false negative stereotype, some health care providers may inaccurately attribute a presenting health problem to alcohol use and fail to appropriately diagnose and treat the problem.”

The researchers feel that their study could impact beliefs about Native Americans’ alcohol use.

“It’s our hope that the media — movies, television, newspapers, radio, Internet — will represent Native American alcohol use more accurately,” Cunningham said. “It’s time to let the myths about elevated drinking fade away.”

A summary of the report, “Alcohol use among Native Americans compared to whites: Examining the veracity of the ‘Native American elevated alcohol consumption’ belief,” can be accessed here. [For the full article, another damn paywall, $35.95, to be exact — esnl]

The very, very creepy Ted Cruz’s weekend adventure


The weekend in question was 6-7 November, and the occasion was a hatefest called the National Religious Liberties Conference in Des Moines.

BLOG Theocons

But the liberties in question at the conference included the liberty to conduct a gay holocaust.

From Katherine Stewart, writing in the 16 November edition of the  New York Times [emphasis added]:

Earlier this month, in Des Moines, the prominent home-schooling advocate and pastor Kevin Swanson again called for the punishment of homosexuality by death. To be clear, he added that the time for eliminating America’s gay population was “not yet” at hand. We must wait for the nation to embrace the one true religion, he suggested, and gay people must be allowed to repent and convert.

Mr. Swanson proposed this at the National Religious Liberties Conference, an event he organized. Featured speakers included three Republican contenders for the presidency: the former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Mr. Huckabee later pleaded ignorance. Yet a quick web search will turn up Mr. Swanson’s references to the demonic power of “the homosexual Borg,” the unmitigated evil of Harry Potter and the Disney character Princess Elsa’s lesbian agenda.

Mr. Cruz apparently felt little need to make excuses. He was accompanying another of the featured speakers at the conference: his father, Rafael Cruz — a politically connected pastor who told a 2013 Family Leadership Summit that same-sex marriage was a government plot to destroy the family.

Yep, Ted’s pappy was right there, spouting his own brand of venomous bile, the kind that was meat and potatoes to his young son as he grew up.

Rachel Maddow brought the conclave to a broader audience in a trualy remarkable video from RightWingWatch.org. From MSNBC:

GOP Hopefuls Speak At Anti-Gay Conference

Program notes:

Rachel Maddow shows that while Democrats were participating in a candidates forum, Republicans Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal and Ted Cruz were guests at “religious freedom” event led by a pastor who preaches that homosexuality should be punished with death.

For more on the extreme beliefs of conference organizer Kevin Swanson, see this catalog of horrors from Right Wing Watch.

And from the New York Daily News, here’s one example:

“America, repent of your rebellion against God!” he yelled in his hysterical speech.

“America, repent of stumbling the little ones! America, repent of ‘Harry Potter’! America, repent of ‘How to Train Your Dragon!’

“America, repent that Dumbledore emerged as a homosexual mentor for Harry Potter, that Hiccup’s mentor in ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ emerged as a homosexual himself in order that history might repeat itself one more time.”

And what if your kid turns out to be gay [or is seduced by Satan into turning gay, which the good reverend seems to think is how it’s done]?

The good pastor has a suggestion:

“There are families, we’re talking Christian families, pastors’ families, elders’ families from good, godly churches whose sons are rebelling, hanging out with homosexuals and getting married and the parents are invited. What would you do if that was the case? Here is what I would do: sackcloth and ashes at the entrance to the church and I’d sit in cow manure and I’d spread it all over my body. That is what I would do and I’m not kidding, I’m not laughing.”

And from Jeff Rouner of the Houston Press comes this observation:

I was watching The Rachel Maddow Show the other day. . .when I heard a sentence that cannot possible have ever been uttered by human lips before in history: “Don’t you dare carve happy faces on open, pussy sores.”

So how did the candidates respond? Here’s the headline from a piece on the rant from the Des Moines Register:

Candidates won’t call out host citing death for gays

Of course they won’t. Cruz and Jindal are no doubt in agreement with the pastor’s pronouncements, though we’re not so sure about the Huck-ster.

Now consider this: Just substitute Jew for gay, and nothing the preacher says wouldn’t have fit right in the speeches of a certain Munich beer hall orator back in the 1920s.

And he has the imprimatur of a possible nominee for President of the United States.

Quote of the day: The very, very creepy Ted Cruz


And a physician is concerned.

From Richard E. Cytowic M.D., Clinical Associate Professor of Neurology at George Washington University Medical Center, writing in Psychology Today [where esnl once served as an associate editor]:

I have rarely, if ever, seen a conventional smile from Senator Cruz. In a natural smile the corners of the mouth go up; these muscles we can control voluntarily as well. But muscles circling the eyes are involuntary only; they make the eyes narrow, forming crow’s feet at the outside corners. Even the Mona Lisa’s smile shows this. The eyes give away one’s game and let us tell forged from genuine smiles. Grandma may have told you to put on a happy face, but you can’t if it isn’t heartfelt.

No matter the emotional coloring of Senator Cruz’s outward rhetoric, his mouth typically tightens into the same straight line. If it deviates from this, the corners of his mouth bend down, not upwards. The outside of his eyebrows bend down, too, when he emotes, something so atypical that it disturbs me. Typically a person’s eyebrows arch up, as does the corrugator muscle that furrow the forehead. What is such a downturned face signaling?

Downturned expressions usually signal disagreeableness or disgust. But I honestly don’t know because such an expression is rare in the context of public presentations that are meant to win people over. He may well be unaware that the message of his body language is incongruent with his words.

And then there is that open “O” of the Senator’s mouth that photos capture over and over. I don’t know what to make of it. But he makes it when he overtly emotes—shows us as well as tells us that he is determined, irritated, or above it all—whereas speakers who are angry, indignant, or rhetorically displeased push their mouth forward in a pout. He doesn’t. Google “Ted Cruz smiling,” and judge for yourself. For the record I am not a Democrat. I’m at a loss to verbalize what unsettles me so when I watch the freshman senator. But it leaves me cold.

Sleep deprivation, tasers lead to false confessions?


Two new studies cast doubt on police-obtained confessions of criminal suspects, the first in case of those deprived of sleep before or during the interrogation process, and the second in the case of those who have been subjected to taser shocks.

First, from the  Michigan State University newsroom:

Sleep deprivation linked to false confessions

Sleep-deprived people are much more likely to sign false confessions than rested individuals, according to a groundbreaking study that has important implications for police interrogation practices.

The odds of signing a false confession were 4.5 times higher for participants who had been awake for 24 hours than for those who had slept eight hours the night before.

Led by Kimberly M. Fenn, associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University, the study is published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This is the first direct evidence that sleep deprivation increases the likelihood that a person will falsely confess to wrongdoing that never occurred,” said Fenn. “It’s a crucial first step toward understanding the role of sleep deprivation in false confessions and, in turn, raises complex questions about the use of sleep deprivation in the interrogation of innocent and guilty suspects.”

False confessions in the United States are thought to account for 15 percent-25 percent of wrongful convictions. And past research has indicated that the interrogation of unrested, possibly sleep-deprived suspects is commonplace.

For the study, conducted in Fenn’s Sleep and Learning Lab, 88 participants completed various computer activities and a cognitive test during several laboratory sessions over a weeklong period. Participants were given several warnings not to hit the “escape” key because “this could cause the computer to lose valuable data.” Participants were monitored during the tasks.

On the final day of the experiment, half of the participants slept for eight hours while the other half stayed awake overnight. The next morning before leaving the lab, each participant was shown a statement summarizing his or her activities and falsely alleging the participant had pressed the escape key. Participants were asked to sign the statement, check a box confirming its accuracy and sign their name.

The results were striking: 50 percent of sleep-deprived participants signed the false confession, while only 18 percent of rested participants signed it.

Further, sleep deprivation had a significant effect on participants who scored lower on the Cognitive Reflection Test, which is related to intelligence. Those participants were much more likely to sign the false confession.

To protect against the harmful effects of false confessions, Fenn and her co-authors recommend interrogations be videotaped, giving judges, attorneys and jurors added insight into a suspect’s psychological state.

Suspects also can be given a quick and easy test to determine sleepiness prior to an interrogation. Participants in the MSU-led study were given the publicly available Stanford Sleepiness Scale; those who indicated a higher level of sleepiness were significantly more likely to sign the false confession.

“A false admission of wrongdoing can have disastrous consequences in a legal system already fraught with miscarriages of justice,” the authors conclude. “We are hopeful that our study is the first of many to uncover the sleep-related factors that influence processes related to false confession.”

Fenn’s co-authors are Steven Frenda of the New School for Social Research, Shari Berkowitz of California State University, Dominguez Hills; and Elizabeth Loftus of the University of California, Irvine.

The second comes from the Drexel University newsroom:

Taser Shock Disrupts Brain Function, Has Implications for Police Interrogations

More than two million citizens have been Tased by police as Taser stun guns have become one of the preferred less-lethal weapons by police departments across the United States during the past decade. But what does that 50,000-volt shock do to a person’s brain?

Despite widespread adoption by law enforcement – stun guns are now used in 17,000 police departments – little is known about exactly how the shocks affect individuals’ cognitive functioning, or, more specifically, how receiving an electric shock from a Taser might affect the ability of a suspect to understand and waive their Miranda rights.

New research from a first-of-its-kind human study by Drexel University and Arizona State University reveals that the burst of electricity from a stun gun can impair a person’s ability to remember and process information. In a randomized control trial, participants were subjected to Taser shocks and tested for cognitive impairment. Some showed short-term declines in cognitive functioning comparable to dementia, raising serious questions about the ability of police suspects to understand their rights at the point of arrest.

Read the rest, after the jump. . .

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