How the Mind Counteracts Offensive Ideas

People react to ideas they find offensive by reasserting familiar structures of meaning.

The human mind is always searching for meaning in the world. It’s one of the reasons we love stories so much: they give meaning to what might otherwise be random events.

From stories emerge characters, context, hopes and dreams, morals even. Using simple structures, stories can communicate complex ideas about the author’s view of the world and how it works, often without the reader’s knowledge.

And when stories embody values in which we don’t believe, we tend to reject them. But, according to a new study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, it goes further than just rejection, psychologically we push back against the challenge, reasserting our own familiar structures of meaning.

In their research Proulx et al. (2010) used two stories that illustrate divergent views of the world to explore how people react to offensive ideas.

The Tortoise and the Hare

The first story was Aesop’s fable The Tortoise and the Hare. I’m sure you know it (if not, it’s here) so I’ll cut straight to one of its morals: if you keep plugging away at something, like the tortoise, you’ll eventually get there, even if you’re obviously outmatched by those around you.

Another interpretation is that the hare loses the race because he is overconfident. Either way, both the hare and tortoise get what they deserve based on how they behave. This is the way we like to think the world works: if you put in the effort, you’ll get the reward. If not, you won’t. The lazy, overconfident hare always loses, right?

An Imperial Message

Quite a different moral comes from the second piece the researchers used: a (very) short story by Franz Kafka called ‘An Imperial Message’. In this story a herald, sent out by the Emperor, is trying to deliver an important message to you. But although he is strong and determined, no matter how hard he tries, he will never deliver it (you can read the full story here).

Contrary to Aesop’s fable, Kafka is reminding us that effort, diligence and enthusiasm are often not rewarded. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if we do or say the right things, we won’t get what we want.

In many ways Kafka’s story is just as true as Aesop’s fable, but it is a much less palatable truth. Aesop’s fable seems to make sense to us while Kafka’s story doesn’t, it feels empty and absurd. Consequently we’d much rather hold on to Aesop’s fable than we would Kafka’s depressing tale.

Unconsciously threatening

These two stories were used by Proulx et al. to test how people reacted firstly to a safe, reassuring story and, secondly, to a story that contains a threat to most people’s view of the world. They thought that in response to Kafka’s story people would be unconsciously motivated to reaffirm the things in which they do believe. In their first experiment the researchers used measures of participant’s cultural identity to test this affirmation.

Twenty-six participants were given Aesop’s advert for hard work and another 26 were given Kafka’s more pessimistic tale. As predicted participants who read Kafka’s story perceived it as a threat to the way they viewed the world. They reacted to this threat by affirming their cultural identities more strongly than those who had read Aesop’s fable, which didn’t challenge their world-view.

In other words the participants in this study were pushing back against Kafka’s story by reaffirming their cultural identity.

Absurd comedy

In two more studies Proulx et al. addressed a couple of criticisms of their first study: that participants might have found Kafka’s story (1) too unfair and (2) too unfamiliar. So, in a second study they used a description of a Monty Python sketch which participants weren’t told was supposed to be a joke. In the third study they used Magritte’s famous absurdist painting of a bowler-hatted gentleman with a big green apple in front of his face.

The idea of using absurdist stimuli like Monty Python and the Magritte painting is that, like Kafka’s short story, they challenge our settled perceptions of the world.

The research backed up this idea. Both Python and Magritte produced the same counter-reaction in people, leading them to restate values in which they believed. Similar but non-absurd stimuli didn’t have the same effect.

Instead of using cultural identity, though, the researchers measured notions of justice and need for structure. Participants reacted to the meaning threat implicit in Python by handing out a larger notional punishment to a lawbreaker. Here the threat of the absurd caused participants to re-affirm their belief in justice.

In the third study participants reacted to the meaning threat of the Magritte painting by expressing a greater need for structure. They were suddenly craving meaning; something, anything that makes sense, instead of this bowler-hatted man with an apple in front of his face.

Absurd truth

What this research underlines is that we push back against threats to our world-views by reasserting structures of meaning with which we are comfortable.

The researchers measured cultural identities, ideas of justice and a generalized yearning for meaning, but they probably would have found the same results in many other areas, such as politics, religion or any other strongly held set of beliefs.

When there’s a challenge to our established world-view, whether from the absurd, the unexpected, the unpalatable, the confusing or the unknown, we experience a psychological force pushing back, trying to re-assert the things we feel are safe, comfortable and familiar. That’s a shame because stories like Kafka’s contain truths we’d do well to heed.

This article was originally published at: PsyBlog http://www.spring.org.uk/

Prescription Drug Use on the Rise in U.S.

Prescription Drug AbuseStudy Shows About 48% of Americans Take at Least 1 Prescription Drug

Prescription drug use in the U.S. has been rising steadily in the past decade and the trend shows no signs of slowing, the CDC says in a new report.

The study, published in the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief No. 42, says the percentage of Americans who took at least one prescription drug rose from 43.5% in 1999-2000 to 48.3% in the 2007-2008 period.

The use of two or more drugs increased from 25.4% to 31.2% over the same decade, and the use of five or more prescription medications jumped from 6.3% to 10.7%.

The report also says that in the 2007-2008 period:

  • One of every five children and nine out of 10 older Americans reported using at least one prescription drug in the month prior to being surveyed.
  • 22.4% of kids up to age 11 used at least one prescription drug.
  • 29.9% of young people 12-19 used at least one prescription drug.
  • 48.3% of people between 20 and 59 used at least one prescription medication.
  • 88.4% of Americans age 60 and over used at least one prescription drug, more than 76% used two or more prescription drugs in the past month, and 37% used five or more.

People without health insurance or a regular place to go for medical problems had less prescription drug use compared to those with such benefits.

Age and Gender Are Key

The report notes that prescription drug use increased with age, that women were more likely to use such medications than men, 53.3% to 43.2%, and the non-Hispanic white population had the highest prescription drug use at 54.3%, compared to 42% of black non-Hispanics and 33.9% of Mexican-Americans.

The CDC also says that:

  • People with a regular place for health care were 2.7 times as likely to have used prescription drugs in the past month compared to those without the benefit.
  • People with health insurance were about twice as likely to have used at least one prescription medication in the past month as those without health insurance.
  • People with prescription drug benefits in their health insurance plans were 22% more likely to use prescription medications than those who did not have that benefit.

Most Common Prescribed Drugs

According to the 2007-2008 data, the most commonly used drugs were:

  • Bronchodilators for children up to age 11.
  • Central nervous system stimulants for youths 12-19.
  • Antidepressants for people 20-59.
  • Cholesterol lowering drugs for adults 60 and older.
  • Among kids under age 6, penicillin antibiotics were the most frequently use prescription drugs.

The report says diuretics and beta-blockers were commonly used in adults and older Americans, with such medications used most often to treat heart problems and high blood pressure.

Article originally reported on WebMd:
http://www.webmd.com/news/20100902/prescription-drug-use-on-the-rise-in-the-u-s?src=RSS_PUBLIC

SOURCE:
National Center for Health Statistics: “NCHS Data Brief No. 42, September 2010.”

Italian Youths Who Drink With Meals Are Less Often Adult Problem-Drinkers

Underage Drinking
Underage Drinking

Italian youths whose parents allowed them to have alcohol with meals while they were growing up are less likely to develop harmful drinking patterns in the future, according to a new study led by a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher.

In a paper published in the journal Addiction, Research and Theory,a research team led by Lee Strunin, PhD, a professor of community health sciences at BUSPH, detailed their study of the drinking patterns and histories of 160 Italian adolescents and young adults who identified themselves as regular or heavy drinkers. The authors concluded that the introduction of a moderate amount of alcohol in a family setting could prevent young people from binge drinking and nurture healthier drinking behaviors.

“Young people allowed alcohol with meals when growing up were more likely to never drink 5 [or more drinks] or get drunk,” the authors wrote. If they did drink more heavily, it was typically at a “later age than participants who weren’t allowed alcohol in a family setting.”

The researchers interviewed two groups of young people in the Italian regions of Abruzzo and Umbria. One consisted of 80 young adults aged 25-30; the second consisted of 80 adolescents, 16 to18 years old. “We were fortunate to be able to have such a large study sample to interview to help us understand this phenomenon,” said Strunin.

Although the results focused on Italy, Strunin said they could be applied to different countries and could “assist in the design of policies to reduce alcohol problems and harmful behavior among young people.”

Other reports have also suggested that alcohol introduced in a family setting may reduce alcohol-related risk behavior among young people, according to Strunin. Part of the reason, she said, could be that when alcohol is allowed, it is in a context in which there is openness about drinking, and moderate drinking with meals is considered normal.

“Youths in these cultures learn to drink more responsibly than their U.S. counterparts because drinking is culturally normative, exposure occurs at a younger age, and alcohol is part of the fabric of family mores,” said the report.

It is important to note, the authors wrote, that the study focused on youths and young adults who drank wine during a meal with their family. “In talking about drinking in the family, we are talking about meal drinking, not sitting down with your child watching the football or baseball game with a six-pack,” Strunin said. “The wine drinking is part of the meal.

In addition to Strunin, co-authors of the study are: Kirstin Lindeman of BUSPH; Enrico Tempesta and Simona Anav of Osservatorio Permanente sui Giovani e l’Alcool, Rome, Italy; and Pierluigi Ascani and Luza Parisi of Format Research, Rome, Italy.

Funding for this study came from a grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Story originally published at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100819112224.htm

New CEU Courses – Eating Disorders, Suicide Prevention, Alcohol Screening

Due to the number of requests we’ve received to add shorter courses you will see we’ve added 2 small 1 CEU hour courses and 1-2 CEU Hour course. Please Note: NBCC does not recognize courses that are below 2 CEU hours, therefore these courses will not apply towards NBCC credit. See our FAQ topic below the list of courses on ‘What is the difference between NBCC and Standard CEU hours?’

Next month we will be adding a new category to our list – Grief & Loss – which will feature courses written by a new addition to our team, Gabriel Constans. Gabriel has a Ph.D. in Death Education. Keep a look out for next month’s newsletter for more information.


Eating Disorders Update
Standard CEU Hours: 1   CEU Cost: $3.00
NBCC CEU Hours: NA        CEU Cost: NA

This short pamphlet discusses eating disorders as treatable diseases and covers topics such as: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge-Eating Disorder, FDA Warnings on Anti-Depressants, Effects on Male Populations and advances in treatment.
Facebook Twitter Digg

Meeting the Suicidal Person
Standard CEU Hours: 1   CEU Cost: $3.00
NBCC CEU Hours: NA        CEU Cost: NA

This paper discusses appropriate clinical attitudes and practices of clinicians when meeting with suicidal patients. Also discussed is the patient-oriented approach to suicide prevention.
Facebook Twitter Digg

Alcohol Screening & Brief Interventions for Public Health Practitioners
Standard CEU Hours: 2   CEU Cost: $6.00
NBCC CEU Hours: 2        CEU Cost: $6.00

Screening and Brief Intervention:
1.
is designed for use by service providers who do not specialize in addiction treatment
2. uses motivational approaches based on how ready the person is to change behavior
3. gives feedback and suggestions respectfully in the form of useful information, without judgment or accusations
4. has been shown by research to be effective in reducing alcohol use and alcohol-related adverse consequences, including injury
Facebook Twitter Digg

Relapse Prevention in Older Adults
Standard CEU Hours: 16   CEU Cost: $48.00
NBCC CEU Hours: 16        CEU Cost: $48.00

This manual presents a relapse-prevention approach that uses the cognitive–behavioral and self-management intervention (CB/SM) in a counselor-led group treatment setting to help older adults overcome substance use disorders. It is for counselors and other treatment providers working with older adults who have substance use disorders. (For simplicity, “counselor” refers to any staff member who uses the manual for its intended purpose, and “CB/SM” refers to the specific forms and combination of cognitive–behavioral and self-management treatment approaches described in this manual for use with older adult clients.)
Facebook Twitter Digg


Your Frequently Asked Questions Answered

What is the difference between NBCC vs. Standard CEU Hours?
NBCC stands for the National Board of Certified Counselors. NBCC has a different set of standards on how their approved providers are to determine the number of hours awarded for courses taken by their licensees – thus the separation of course hours into 2 categories: Standard vs. NBCC.

While many state licensing boards approve our courses for license renewal based upon our pre-approved status with NBCC, this does not necessarily mean a participant will use NBCC hours. NBCC stated hours are for those individuals that hold a credential issued by NBCC, such as the NCC (National Certified Counselor), and will be submitting their certificates directly to NBCC for renewal. If a participant holds multiple licenses and credentials – of which one is issued by NBCC – then NBCC hours will take precedence.

The vast majority of our participants will take the ‘Standard’ CEU hours. If your board approves our courses due to our NBCC status you may take either ‘standard’ or ‘nbcc’ ceu hours. Only those participants with credentials issued by NBCC are mandated to take the NBCC hours.

Become a Part of Our Rapidly Growing Online Social Community!

Like Us on Facebook