Friday, July 31, 2015

How We Know What Isn't So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life---Reviewed

Author Thomas Gilovich finely crafted a well-written an entertaining read; focusing on the common errors human beings make when trying to comprehend the world around them, and form opinions. Humans try to make order out of chaos, even when there is no order; we filter what we hear according to our own biases. This distorts our perception of reality as systematic errors. As you read more Gilovich continues to sets up topics about ESP “Psychics?” and Homeopathy “alternative medicines” all in a very readable way with reasonable but not scientific studies for each topic. He then proceeds to present examples of just a few erroneous beliefs and their consequences. The obvious con to this book however is that there are no reputable studies presented; so personal opinion can lead you to agree or disagree when reading about the case studies. Despite this Gilovich presents the reader with great information that can be applied broadly to our personal realities and biases, formed from remembering and reinterpreting a mindful of selective evidence. 

After this read you may choose to make discrete life changes as I have. Personally when I gamble I will now keep my whit’s about me and not allow my mind to be misdirected by random events such as the "clustering illusion" that leads many to believe in the hot hand or spot at the blackjack table. Gilovich’s book made me personally more aware of how the mind applies bias and compounds error through our active imaginations creating theories almost automatically for why there should be order. Because of this I am personally more careful when drawing conclusions based on apparent sequence, and so should you be. Correlation is not causation!!! Take a look at the figures presented by Tyler on this site:

Buck v. Bell and the Pseudo-Science of Eugenics


 Eugenics as a whole, is a large realm, in which a blog post, wouldn't even begin to scratch the surface. I decided to pull out one story that i connected with, which explains how deep rooted the pseudo-science of Eugenics was in America in the 19th and  the beginning of the 20th century. A quick history about Eugenics just for a better understanding of the story. The idea of Eugenics has been around as long as we could tell, but the term eugenics came about through sir Francis Galton. He took Darwin's theory of evolution which was meant to be for plants and animal species and applied it to humans. The official definition of Eugenics is "the study of or belief in the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a human population, especially by such means as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits (negative eugenics) or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits (positive eugenics)"

The story of Buck v. Bell is one of many at the time, when America was at war with immigration and racism, trying to produce a master race. Yes, America was responsible for the thoughts placed in Hitlers head. In the case of Buck v. Bell, which took place in Virginia, Carrie Buck was a pregnant 17 year old, daughter of Emma Buck an inmate at the Lynchburg colony for epileptics and feebleminded. Emma was rumored to have been a prostitute. unable to care for Carrie, Emma put Carrie into foster care at the age of 4. Carrie was adopted and went to school up to 6th grade. She did chores around the house, kept up with other children in her grade, and was considered a "very good" student. After she was done with school (6th grade was about as far as most poor Virginians got), she continued to live at home, helped out, went to church, etc. in the summer of 1923 her adopted family's the Dobbs' nephew, who was staying with them, raped Carrie. When it was apparent that Carrie was pregnant the family had her committed saying things like "she was peculiar since birth" and "she has always appeared feeble-minded". Carrie fit the description of what the government claimed was feebleminded. she was poor, her mother was incarcerated, and she was pregnant. After she gave birth to a daughter, the state decided it was in the best interest of society to have her sterilized, so she can no longer reproduce, and bring forth children into this world that will be like her, "feebleminded". 
 Before this all transpired, eugenicists and the like wanted to see if sterilization was a constitutional option, so when they heard of Carrie Buck, they decided to take it to trial. Using pseudo-scientific claims that were then considered scientific, they claimed due to her heredity, and being taken from a bad environment and placed into a good environment, that she could not change, therefore her children would be defective. the case ran from 1924 to 1927 when she was finally sterilized.  

Back then eugenics was a cure all. Positive and negative eugenics were the only options which were always intertwined. What makes Buck v. Bell stand out is this was the case that allowed states to perform forced sterilizations. forced sterilizations, on the belief that you were a strain on society, without any scientific proof other than the blood that runs through your veins. Furthermore, Americans believed it to be so because of the language and the conviction of eugenicists around the world. It was a witch hunt to find someone or something to blame for societies woes. If you were disabled, unfit, black, or native american, you were considered a problem to society, not because of an opinion but because eugenicist found a way to make it sound scientific. The research stage was through heredity, so they would go as far back as they could, and if one person was found to have any of those traits, you were then classified as such. This goes to show, although pseudo-science can be identifiable, it can be a dangerous weapon for the uneducated. The fact that all you need is some conviction and results that support your claim, is scary. As for Carries child, it was a girl, who Carrie named Vivian. She died of infection at the age of 8. She was an honor student.   

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Was the Patient ready To Go?

My husband works throughout the area and has seen a lot of different and sometimes odd things.  One account that still plays on his mind occurred over 10 years ago.
            To set the scene, he was called to a smaller house for a report of an unconscious person.  The caller was the grandchild of the patient who arrived home from school and was not able to wake the patient.  The local fire department arrived first and was in a small back room performing CPR on the patient.  Upon hearing the condition of the patient they carried him to the living room, which was much larger and better to assess and treat the patient. 
Their assessment revealed that the patient was most likely in cardiac arrest for an extended period of time.  My husband and his partner discussed the options of continuing treatment of the patient which involved providing advanced life support or ceasing all efforts.  The decision was made to continue CPR because they did not know how long the patient was without a pulse.  Immediately after the decision was announced to the EMTs and fire fighters a radio on the opposite side of the room turned on.  He does not recall what the title of the song was but he distinctly recalls that it was a gospel type song speaking of “being gone”.
The radio was an older radio.  There was no remote control or anyone near it to turn it on.  Everyone in the room gave pause, looked at each other and tried to come up with a reasonable explanation of what had just happened.  Unable to come up with a simple answer, they removed the patient from his house and brought him to the hospital.   Despite the best efforts by the responders and in the ER the patient had passed away.  To this day my husband can’t help but think that the patient had attempted weigh his opinion about being taken to the hospital.  (The patient was making the radio come on and trying to express he had already gone.)

( a first hand experience by a paramedic first responder)

Essential Oils help a nurse through her day

           Aromatherapy is something that I have made part of my daily routine while preparing for work and something that I believe helps keep me centered and relaxed. Working as a nurse in the Emergency Department things go from zero to insanity in no time.  As part of my preparation I dab some patchouli essential oil on my wrists and leave for work.   
In the book Scientific Perspectives on Pseudoscience and the Paranormal by Timothy Lawson I came across an article; What’s That I Smell?  The Claims of Aromatherapy by Lynn McCutcheon.   The author makes the argument that other factors come in to play enhancing or adding to the effect that is experienced with aromatherapy.  One example is of taking a bath using essential oils.  Is it the warmth of the bath water, the scent of the lavender or the combination that is relaxing to you?  As a nurse I can relate to this concept since we involve all of the senses to help our patients relax and be at peace. 
A concept that some hospitals are adopting is the use of scents throughout their hospitals.  As a way of helping patients and their visiting friends or family to feel more comfortable they use aromatherapy in the halls and in the units.  This is also a perk for all of those working since they can share in the aroma. 

Maybe its not just our nose bringing in the aroma that we are exposed to but our mind taking us on a little trip to a place that we find relaxing that we associate with that aroma.  As for how it works for me?  When things are getting hectic while at work, I never really go on that trip but I become more relaxed and center to face the mayhem that awaits. 

(image from the website)

More of just a flare up of your disease than the weather causing pain...

As recently as the 2 weeks ago, I was talking with my mother and the pain she was having as a result of her rheumatoid arthritis.  While telling my husband about her discomforts he mentioned how recently a cold front had come through and that is most likely the cause of her increased pain.  Then as I was reading through Scientific Perspectives on Pseudoscience and the Paranormal I found a study conducted by Donald Redelmeir and Amos Tversky titled On the Belief that Arthritis Pain Is Related to the Weather.
            This article presents an interesting perspective called illusory correlations.   That is the idea that people associate conditions or events to conditions that exist.  Changes in arthritis pain are a perfect example, one that dates back to very early medicine.  More recent medical research show that scientifically there is no association between the weather conditions and changes in the levels of pain or inflammation that a person might have. 

            The study that was conducted by Donald Redelmeir and Amos Tversky back up the idea that people believe their arthritis is affected by the weather.  This has lead me to somewhat believe that the discomforts and inflammation that my mother experiences is more attributed to having a bad day with arthritis and not necessarily what the barometer or thermometer are saying.
           I am still not convinced fully that the weather does not affect arthritic pain as I stated above how I am not fully convinced that the weather does not play a part. But at this time I am going to research more into this and document on my own her flare ups and the weather, for my own research, as I have heard other people correlate their pain with the weather.  
                                       Kelly Smith

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Feng Shui

     Feng Shui is a system of aesthetics used in architecture and interior design to enhance the flow of “chi” throughout the room or building. Chi or “energy flow” is thought to flow through everything and positive chi can bring good fortune and a general sense of well-being. Designers who utilize feng shui often claim they can detect metaphysical properties and advise how to achieve the optimal flow of “energy”.

     Unfortunately most of this “science” involves guesswork and some common sense, like make sure there’s an easy path to walk through the room. One of the biggest concerns with feng shui is that different practitioners typically give conflicting advice. Saying that different schools of thought can lead to different results sometimes defends this. Another big concern is that there is no evidence to support the existence of “chi” or that designing a home one way can affect a persons’ health. 
     I found this list from the book: Little Book of Wrong Shui: How to Drastically ImproveYour Life by Basically Moving Stuff Around – Honest that I thought was comical in regards to most feng shui books.

* To encourage conversation always have one fewer chair than there are guests at a dinner party.
* A chipped plate is very bad Wrong Shui. But a plate of chips is very good.
* Always remember that in the journey of life two wrongs don't make a right, but three rights make a left.
* Store food in your fridge alphabetically.
* In any conversation, the gaps between the words the other person speaks allows negative energies to slip through and reach you. To avoid this danger endeavor to fill these gaps with low, atonal humming.
* Attract visitors to your home by placing stereo, video, and computer equipment where they can be seen from the road.
* If your neighbor has a satellite dish pointing in your direction, this focuses harmful "secret arrows" onto your home. Wait till night, then take the dish down.

Multiple Pesonalities Disorder Sybil Post # 3

When the subject of mental health arises many people shy away from this topic, based on lack of knowledge, embarrassment and preconceived ideas of this medical condition.  One must be aware that mental health treatment was not always, as it is today, with crises centers, hot lines and the availability of chemical intervention and the increased knowledge and research that has been implemented in the treatment of this disease process.  When reviewing the video “Sybil” (1976) this documented Multiple personality  disorder (MPD)occurred at a time when there was very limited knowledge and confirmed research on this subject.  The means that were used to obtained data based on today’s standards were inhuman and barbaric.  The one clear aspect of this research was that the Dr. Wilbur chose to have her research published by a journalist not in a scientific journal and there was no peer review completed on her research to confirm the accuracy of the data recovered.  This diagnosis of Multiple Personality Disorder prompted the American Psychiatric Association to recognize the disease process; Insurance billing codes were created for reimbursement for the treatment provided to patients. The reported cases of MPD  jumped from 300 to 1000 cases after the release of the book and movie Sybil.  Also government funding was allocated to help with mental illness ( see below ) .The information in this  case was never truly confirmed, but the parties involved verbally state that the facts shared are true and factual.  As time progresses further research was completed and the diagnosis of MPD was changed and is now called Dissociative Identity Disorder.


Mental Health America convened the National Leadership Conference on Action for Mental Health, in which 100 national voluntary organizations participated.  (1962)
Congress passed the “Community Mental Health Centers Act” (CMHC) authorizing construction grants for community mental health centers.  Mental Health America played a key role in having this legislation enacted and signed by President Kennedy. (1963)
Community Mental Health Centers Act calls for deinstitutionalization and increased community services. (1963)
Mental Health America successfully advocated for inclusion of mandated mental heath services in Medicare. (1966)
Mental Health America advocated for renewal of the CMHC Act and for increased appropriations.  (1969)

Mental Health America produced and distributed the film Only Human, which aired on more than 150 television stations, to improve public understanding of mental illness and public acceptance of persons with mental illnesses. (1971)
President Nixon impounded funds appropriated for the National Institute of Mental Health.  Mental Health America was instrumental in reversing the decision. (1972)
Acting on a lawsuit in which Mental Health America participated, a federal judge ordered the release of $52 million in impounded funds voted by Congress for community mental health centers.  (1973)
The U.S. Civil Service Commission acceded to Mental Health America’s demand that a “Have you ever been mentally Ill?” question be removed from federal government employment forms.  (1974)
President Carter established the President’s Commission on Mental Health, the first comprehensive survey of mental healthcare since the 1950s.  Many Mental Health America volunteers were named to the Commission and its task forces. (1977)