Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Morbid Jealousy - blinded by emotion


Many see jealousy as a normal and even desirable emotion. Not being jealous is viewed by many as a problem or a sign that your partner doesn't care enough. But there are times when jealousy can become unhealthy for the person experiencing it and for those involved. 

Morbid Jealousy, Delusional Jealousy or Othello’s Syndrome describe the same psychiatric condition and a person suffering from this will have strong beliefs that their partner is being unfaithful despite having little or no evidence to support their claims. It is often described in detail as a range of irrational thoughts and emotions, together with associated unacceptable or extreme behavior, in which the dominant theme is a preoccupation with a partner’s sexual unfaithfulness based on unfounded evidence. (Source)  

Also, there are other abnormal behavior patterns linked to this delusion such as stalking, verbal or physical abuse, emotional abuse, etc. Although this condition will be presented more as a diagnosis, it is more of a symptom linked to other psychiatric conditions as it was rarely diagnosed as a pure condition.  

The aspects that distinguish normal jealousy from obsessional jealousy:

- the person who is jealous spends a lot of time concerning about their partner’s unfaithfulness and  find it difficult to concentrate on something else.

- limiting the partner’s freedom and checking the partner’s behavior impairs the relationship (controlling behaviors such as monitoring movements, inquiring about relationships with different people when there is clearly no romantic interest, refusing to allow the partner to have time by themselves or with their friends) There is also a need of control in other aspects such as spending money, dressing in a certain way or even stalking the person (following them to work or school to gather evidence for their infidelity).

- since this type of jealousy is delusional the partner will not understand the situation even if they are given strong evidence. They will see signs of unfaithfulness in almost any interaction or behavior.

- intimidation may be a common way for the partner to gain control. Threatening to end the relationship, to hurt you or your loved ones, or even to destroy your property are strong signs of Morbid Jealousy or Borderline Personality Disorder.

People suffering from Paranoid Personality Disorder may also suffer from Morbid Jealousy as the essential feature of Paranoid Personality Disorder is a pattern of pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others such as their motives as interpreted as malevolent. The pattern begins by early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts. (DSM IV TR) Actually some of the diagnostic criteria (3 out of 7) for Paranoid Personality Disorder can be linked to Morbid Jealousy:

- suspects, without sufficient basis, that the others are exploiting, harming, or deceiving him or her;

- preoccupied with unjustified doubts about the loyalty or trustworthiness of friends or associates;

- has recurrent suspicion, without justification, regarding fidelity of spouse or sexual partner.

The same applies to Borderline Personality Disorder as it may also be a predisposing condition for morbid jealousy. Some of the aspects involved in Borderline Personality Disorder and Morbid Jealousy are:

- feelings of unworthiness

- anxiety about rejection and abandonment

- perception of unfaithfulness in partner

- affective instability and anger

- primitive defense mechanisms such as projection or unacceptable impulses

Delusional Disorder – Jealous Type is the definition of Morbid Jealousy in DSM. The presence of one or more non-bizarre delusions that persist at least 1 month would be sufficient for diagnostic. Psychosocial functioning varies as some people suffering from DD-JT might be unimpaired by their condition. However, when psychosocial functioning is impaired, this is a result of the person’s delusional beliefs. For example, they might avoid going out with their partner from fear that their partner might be attracted to somebody else.

According to DSM IV TR, the person suffering from DD-JT usually confronts the spouse or lover and attempts to intervene in the imagined infidelity by restricting the spouse’s autonomy, secretly following them, investigating the imagined lover, or even attacking the spouse.

There are different theories concerning Morbid Jealousy. Freud believed that extreme jealousy was linked to latent homosexuality, Klein believed that it emerged from the rivalry between son and father. Others have claimed that the level of competiveness is important as the person uses projective mechanisms and identification with their rival.

Some worrying aspects of this condition are self harm or violence. For the other partner involved in there is high risk of isolation, a loss of identity, or developing a mental disorder such as anxiety and depression.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Jan Svankmajer - Surreal Animation

A few years ago I watched Alice, but not the classic story we are all accustomed with. The Alice I watched was kind of dark and it somewhat reminded me of my own childhood curiosity. My grandmother’s old house was fascinating for me. Her old furniture and drawers that contained the most bizarre combinations were like another world that needed to be explored. I would spend hours searching house, looking at old photographs, smelling the old perfume bottles, and reading old magazines she had around. When I first saw this movie it remembered me of the distinctive smell that old furniture and old books had. I love that smell and I love this old movie.

Jan Svankmajer not only directed Alice but it also managed to bring surrealism at a whole new level. His art and movies might not appeal to the general public but he definitely manages to impress with his creative and dark works mostly using the stop motion technique.  He influenced a lot of other artists like Brothers Quay or Tim Burton.

Some of his famous works are: Little Otik, Faus, and Lunacy. If you’re not curious yet, the next videos will make you search for some more: 


This one may be offensive to some, as it shows nudity.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

5 Christmas Traditions Meant to Traumatize Children

Christmas is a wonderful time of overindulging, overdrinking, and eventually ending up in the E.R. with alcohol induced psychosis. But there is also the spending time with your family part, while sharing the same stories over and over again until you want to lock yourself in the basement and cling to your childhood blanket while rocking back and forth and quietly sobbing Why, why, why? . Also, let’s not forget having to play the” I’m so successful card in front of your relatives” while your mother proudly looks at you. Well, at least this is how it happens where I’m from and I enjoy doing it while getting my bad cholesterol high enough to convince my heart is time for it to commit suicide. But other countries like to celebrate Christmas in their own unique way…

Uncle Alberto, would you pass the salt please?

1 – Eating With Your Dead Relatives

In Portugal, Christmas is celebrated just like in any other country, with fun, lots of food, and lots of drinking. Oh, they also invite their dead relatives to dinner. Imagine being a child during Christmas meal and asking your mom why she put extra places at the table. “- Honey, these are the extra seats for our dead relatives”. Oh, I’m sorry, do you find that disturbing? It seems that eating at the same table with the souls of the dead will bring you a great harvest next year.

2- Tió de Nadal (Christmas Log)

We only want the soul of your first born.
It seems that there is a popular tradition in Catalan communities involving a…log. People have to take care of the log before Christmas day; also, the log is called called Caga tió, which translates in something like “shit log”. Some people even draw a face on it, a smiley face to make things creepier than a photograph of broken vintage dolls. The anthropomorphic log is fed every night and covered with a blanket to be warm because you wouldn’t want it to get angry. But this doesn’t happen because people care about the log, no! People are actually feeding the log so that it would be prepared to defecate on Christmas Day. Yes, the log is supposed to produce a gift. Oh, but it gets weirder. On Christmas day the family gathers around the log and starts singing:

"Caga tió,
caga torró,
avellanes i mató,
si no cagues bé
et daré un cop de bastó.
caga tió!"
…which means(honestly!):
Shit log,
shit turrón,
hazelnuts and cottage cheese,
if you don't shit well,
I'll hit you with a stick,
shit log!

One member of the family will then have to, uhm, retrieve the gift produced by the log.
Now imagine being a kid and entering your living room on Christmas day to witness your family gathered in a Satanic ritual manner, hitting a piece of wood with sticks while commanding it to defecate. Because singing carols and exchanging gifts is definitely lame.

3 – Mummers Visit 

Mummers - RPGs are for losers.  Source
The members of small communities would disguise themselves and travel from house to house at Christmas. This tradition can be traced back at least to the Middle Ages. They usually symbolize a battle between good and evil. Mummers usually are disguised and they either wear masks or have their face painted with black. Now I won’t discriminate here, there are different rituals like this in probably every country. But for a person who doesn’t have this type of tradition in their country this is as random and bizarre as an encounter with Galactic Crab Man. In Romania, we have The Goat which is basically the same thing. A bunch of people go from house to house dressed in goats. In that video those kids are just groping that goat, but hey, it’s tradition. I remember being a kid, I got a little traumatized when I first saw this and I found it hard to understand why everybody was letting that dragon looking monster inside my house. Was I about to be sacrificed to that abomination? Well, later I learned it was just for good luck.

This is how nightmares are born.

What’s worse than people disguised in scary costumes and abstract looking goats? A dead horse. Actually, only the skull, which makes it even weirder if you think about it. This is very similar to The Goat tradition as people go from house to house for good luck. So, after hearing a knock in the cold Christmas night, you will open your door to what it can only be described as a resurrected puppet from a nightmarish show meant to please Satan..and according to that picture, some guy from the realm of dwarfs and magic mushrooms. 

5 – Krampus 

When you thought Christmas couldn't get any better.

Ah Krampus, I saved the best for last. In Germanic tradition people don’t bother disguising themselves as luck bringing animals. No, they prefer taking the form of child eating demons named Krampus. He is Santa’s private bodyguard and follows him while he delivers presents; the legend says that Krampus will kidnap and bring children to his cave where he will devour them if they are naughty and don’t listen to their parents. Young men roam the streets in December dressed as Krampus and scaring children with chains and eerie sounding bells. Now that's an enjoyable way to spend your holidays. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

7 Random Facts (Episode 5)

1 - The official beverage in Ohio is tomato juice. It seems that Ohio did a lot of work to popularizing tomatoes in the late 1800s and they even wanted to declare it the official state fruit.

2- BMW was actually an aircraft engine manufacturing company but after being forced to cease production by the terms of Versailles Armistice Treaty, the company shifted to producing motorcycles in 1923. Automobiles production began in 1928-29 with the first car named Dixi. 

3- Upper and lower case letters are named like that because of their positioning which was either on the top or lower case of the printing press which used movable type. The individual type blocks used in hand typesetting were stored in wooden or metal drawers known as cases.  

4- According to this study laughing lowers levels of stress and strengthens immune system. Now I will tickle myself every morning.  

5 – There is a common misconception regarding the digestion of chewing gum. People will either tell you that it will stick to your stomach or they will tell you that it takes a lot to digest. It doesn’t so it will pass through your digestive system as any other type of food.

6- The first movie to ever show a kiss on camera was actually called The Kiss and it was a re-enactment of the kiss between May Irwin and John Rice from the final scene of a stage musical called The widow Jones. This happened in 1896 so you can imagine how scandalized everybody was after seeing it. Here is the movie

7- Gabby Gingras is a girl who doesn’t feel pain. Although most of us would be jealous of her, this is actually a very life threatening condition.  Because she is unable to feel pain she cannot protect herself from harmful situations. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How Ferrari Influenced The World Of Supercars

Ferrari is a name that most people will recognize and also associate with red colored cars, but their style, legacy and history goes way beyond a simple color. Everybody knows that Enzo Ferrari only made production cars to help fund the Scuderia, the racing division. While these production cars quickly became known for their extravagant style and extreme road performance, Enzo saw his customers with certain disgust because he felt that they were buying his cars for the glamour of owning a Ferrari and not for the performance. To make things a bit more interesting, some true competition was needed and what better name to compete against than Lamborghini?
This is a Lamborghini tractor. Fancy, eh?

The only problem is that in the 50s, Lamborghini wasn’t exactly making some of the most incredible cars but was known as the largest agricultural equipment manufacturer, meaning mostly tractors. Despite this fact, he did have a passion for beautiful cars and he could afford quite a nice collection, some of which were made by Ferrari. The problem is that his wife kept burning the clutch on one of them, so Lamborghini took it upon himself to find and fit a better clutch on the expensive supercar. After doing this, he went to Ferrari and told him that he found a solution to their problem, Enzo’s response wasn’t very welcoming and he actually refused to take advice from a “tractor manufacturer”. Furious, Lamborghini decided to start making road cars with only one goal in mind, to create a grand touring car that would rival any Ferrari. The first models rolled off the line in the mid 60s and were quickly recognized for their performance, power and comfort and when the Miura was introduced in 1966, everything changed and a mid-engine design became the standard.
This is considered one of the most beautiful cars. 
Lamborghini Miura
By the mid 60s, Ford had arranged to buy Ferrari but at the very last moment, Ferrari decided not to. After going home disappointed, Ford decided to show Ferrari how it is done and so they created the GT40 which ended Ferrari’s dominance at the 24 Hour Le Mans endurance race in 1966 and again in 1967, and again in 1968 and also in 1969.

When Enzo died, in 1988, the value of every car rose as did sales and the last car the commissioned, the F40 remains one of the most shocking cars to look at and one of the most unpleasant ones to drive.
Now, we have the Ferrari 458, a masterpiece in every way and if we think about the fact that 85% of Ferrari is owned by Fiat, things are going pretty well for the prancing horse.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

3 Famous Games From 1981 (II)

If you liked my article about the greatest games form 1980, you will surely love these cute games from 1981. Yeah, they probably seem like terrible games for somebody playing Skyrim, but let’s not forget the history of PC games and how this amazing fantasy world started.  The game industry became better and better over the years, so you will love to see how games have changed from one year to another. 1981 was a good year, not as prolific as 1980, but still had some important games. Here are some of the most popular:

1 - Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness

This is the first game from the series of RPGs called Ultima. It was a major hit and definitely the start of a new era in RPGs. Basically you were a hero set to save the world from an evil wizard (yes, not very original).

How do you play it ?
Well it doesn’t have the best setting in the world, but we’re ok with that as long as the story made sense. But the story is also a little bit weird when you think about the fact that one merchant was selling aircars and space shuttles. Anyway, who are we to judge a fantasy medieval science fiction game? So you find yourself in the world of Sosaria, trying to kill the Mondain, the evil sorcerer who is about to destroy the world. You can explore, fight with monsters and beasts, buy different things from the market, etc.

How do you win?
Well, the object of the game is to destroy the gem that keeps Mondain immortal. But before you do that, you will have to search for a time machine that will allow you to go back in time and kill the evil sorcerer.

Why was it so popular?
What was amazing about this game was the fact that the character was very customizable (for that time) and you got to choose your class (however, this was not a new thing, it also happened in the game Rogue from 1980) .

Can I still play it?
I found a few downloadable versions on the internet but didn’t manage to make them work. Here’s an online version and a YouTube video to give you an idea about how the game looked if you are not in the mood to play.

2 - Ms. Pac-Man

Yes, weird name because her name is Man, but at least they made a game for girls too. You are probably wondering why I’m adding this game to the best 1981 games. Well, it looks exactly like Pac-Man but what made it different was the fact that it addressed a female audience.

How do you play it?
Well, it’s basically the same as Pac-Man the original game: you eat dots, get points, eat ghosts, advance to the next level. However, there were a few changes such as different mazes and different changing colors. The ghosts movement pattern changes and players can no longer use the same strategy they used with the original Pac-Man. There are also different sound effects and music.

How do you win?
You eat all the dots and advance to the next level until you reach level 255. Unfortunately, 256th level seems to be unplayable.

Why was it so popular?
Ms. Pac-Man was part of Pac-Man and the programmers released it as an improved Pac-Man and it was also featured in an animated series as the wife of Mr. Pac-Man.

Can I still play it?

3 - Castle Wolfenstein

Castle Wolfenstein was a great game that marked the beginning of a new era in first-person shooters. The game is set in WWII so you get to be a part of history.  

How do you play it ?
The game begins with you getting a gun and some bullets from your dead cellmate and start killing the guards. You will have to explore the castle, impersonate Nazi soldiers, attack guards with grenades or guns, eat, drink wine, etc.

How do you win?
The object of the game is to find Top Secret plans and escape alive.

Why was it so popular?
It was pretty unique for its time. You got to steal Nazi clothes and impersonate soldiers or you could just threaten them to give you all they had. It also had an achievement system which gave you a military rank.

Can I still play it?
You can play it here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

5 Famous Video Games From 1980 (I)

There is something fascinating about old games, especially those from the 80s, when programmers needed to focus more on the storyline to keep the player interested, rather than cool graphics and effects. Those games were beautifully crafted and despite being extremely frustrating sometimes, they were fun to play. For all of you who feel a bit nostalgic, here are the best games from 1980.


Who doesn’t remember Pac Man? Even if you haven’t played this game, you definitely know it. It was released in May 22 in Japan. The dot eating man will definitely remain a pop culture icon of the 1980s.

How do you play it ?
You control Pac-Man and your mission is to eat all the dots from the screen. When the dots are eaten, you advance to the next level. But you will need to be careful about the enemies that come to get you. If they touch Pac-Man, he loses one life. Pac-Man will also be able to eat his enemy if he manages to eat the power pellets which are the bigger dots on the sides.

How do you win?
The game never ends and as long as you keep one life you can play it forever, but there are different bugs that might interfere with this and some say that it restarts at level 1 after level 255th.
Why was it so popular?
Well, first of all it managed to influence a lot of games and introduced the video game industry to power-ups (items that give you power for an amount of time), cut-scenes that featured comical sketches with Pac-Man, and it was also the first type of stealth game (a form of game where the player avoids enemies instead of fighting them).

Interesting fact: when Google changed their homepage into a Pac-Man game, companies across the world experienced slight drops of productivity. Some companies even went as far as banning the Google homepages from their employers’ computers. Apparently, Pac-Man homepage cost companies world-wide about 120 million dollars. 

Can I still play it?
Of course you can, here’s a flash version of the game, I had to pause writing this article for a long time when I discovered this website. 

2-The Prisoner

Early Apple users are probably accustomed with this adventure game. While not so amazing on the graphic side, The Prisoner was definitely something unique with its exciting storyline and pretty hard challenges.

How do you play it?
You control an intelligence agent who has resigned his job; he finds himself abducted and left on an island. Everything and everybody in this game will try to convince the player to reveal a 3 digit number that signifies the reasons for his resign. Once the player reveals the number, the game ends. The object of the game is to escape the prison by exploring different areas and avoiding to be persuaded to reveal the numbers.  

How do you win?
Although the game can take a lot of time because of the vast number of locations to be explored, only a few would actually offer clues on how to escape.  
Why was it so popular?
It was popular because it was a pretty complex adventure game that took a lot of hours and wit to finish. A lot of gaming magazines at the time considered it to be one of the best games due to its unique challenges.
Interesting fact: one of the methods the game uses to make the player give their 3 digit number is by showing an error that resembles a game crash very commonly see in Apple computers. The users would probably investigated the error and while trying to correct it they might have used the command List ###, where ### were numbers. If the user used the numbers given by the game, the game ended.

Can I still play it?
Sure you can, I wasn’t able to figure out how to start it but I managed to play the second one. Apparently the second Prisoner has the same story, only better graphics.


The Rogue computer game was a dungeon crawling video game and an early fantasy role-playing game. Rogue introduced players to dungeon games and influenced a lot of RPGs to come such as Diablo.

How do you play it?
The player explores a number of (unfortunately unmapped) dungeons and fights with monstars.

How do you win?
The goal is to find the Amulet of Yendor at the lowest level and then ascend to the surface.

Why was it so popular?
If you are an RPG fan, you probably realize why this game was so popular and influential; if not, let me put it this way: without Rogue the RPG world of dungeons and caves would have been very different. It also introduced turn based combat in an RPG game, which was very new at that time. It was improved in time and it managed to grow to include all types of features such as potions, scrolls, different types of weapons, etc.

Can I still play it?
Sure you can, here is a link to an online version. I was killed by a snake after 10 seconds of playing.  

4-Zork I

Zork I was pretty special since it was an interactive fiction game and started a trilogy that managed to become famous world-wide.  I loved this game when I was young, it really helped me improve my English and it was almost like an interactive book.
At the beginning, there was a simple introduction:
You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.
There is a small mailbox here.
After this, the game started.

How do you play it?
You typed commands: look at the mailbox, open mailbox, take leaflet, read leaflet, etc. You are an adventurer who will have to explore this wonderful and fascinating world.

How do you win?
The object of the game is to collect treasures that need to be installed on a trophy case. To do this, the player will have to solve several puzzles.

Why was it so popular?
It was the beginning of adventure games, text based games which were both educational and fun.
Interesting fact: this game can be played in the game (gameception?) Call of Duty: Black Ops by accessing an old computer.
Can I still play it?
Of course you can, here it is

5-Space Panic 

Space Panic was an arcade game about, well, space and killing aliens. It is supposed to have been influenced by Heiankyo Alien and it is known as the first platform game. 

How do you play it?
The player is seen from the side as he is trying to kill aliens by digging holes and luring the aliens inside.

How do you win?
You will have to survive a lot of levels that become almost impossible to the end. Did I mention your oxygen during the game is limited?

Why was it so popular?
Well, it was easy to play and fun. Also, the game allowed two players, which was pretty cool for that time.

Can I still play it?
I couldn’t find online sources to play it, but here’s a youtube video of it.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Agoraphobia - A (Very) Short Overview

Agoraphobia is an unmotivated fear regarding open spaces such as markets, bridges, streets and even big tunnels. It also may include a fear of being in a crowd, a gathering and even being inside a bus and other situations that involve public transport. According to DSM IV TR (p.429)agoraphobia is anxiety about, or avoidance of, places or situations from which escape might be difficult (or embarrassing) or in which help may not be available in the event of having a panic attack or panic-like symptoms. 

The person suffering from agoraphobia experiences a fear so extreme they cannot go in public places, remaining isolated in their own home. In rare cases, the person will also experience high anxiety when left alone at home if they are used with somebody permanently with them. Panic attacks are the most common symptoms and the person will have them whenever they feel insecure.  Other symptoms are high blood pressure, sweating, nausea, chocking, chest pains, shortness of breath, fear of being out of control, fear of dying, trembling, etc.
Agoraphobia usually occurs after 20+ years and it seems to affect more women than men.

-SSRIs and SNRIs
-cognitive behavioral therapy (10-20 visits):   
  • Learning to gain control over the feelings
  • Recognizing and replace panic-causing thoughts
  • Stress management
  • Relaxation techniques

-gradual exposure
  • Desensitization
  • Exposure therapy

Also, remember, if you suffer from panic disorder, an early treatment will prevent agoraphobia. 

Further reading and sources:  
Anxiety disorders, Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV-TR (4th ed.,) p. 429

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Schizophreniform disorder - A (Very) Short Overview

Schizophreniform disorder  is a mental disorder characterized by a transitory psychotic episode. The most common symptoms are: delusions, hallucinations, catatonic behavior, social withdrawal, and disorganized speech. Other symptoms may include: lack of energy, poor hygiene, apathy, etc. These are all very similar to schizophrenia, but they will disappear spontaneously after 1-2 months (but less than 6 months).

V. Magnan described this disorder in the 19th century as one with an unexpected debut, unsystematic symptoms, and delirium prone to mystical and persecutory themes, aprosexia, and spatiotemporal confusion.

The prevalence of schizophreniform disorder is distributed among sexes equally, but the peak onset will be between ages of 18-24 years in men and 24-35 years in women.

If the symptoms persist beyond 6 months we no longer face a schizophreniform disorder diagnosis, but one of schizophrenia. There is also a significant risk associated with schizophreniform patients, especially if they go into a depression after their psychotic episodes. This is where psychotherapy may help patients understand their psychotic episodes and it is likely to improve the prognosis and recovery as patients are less prone to experience relapse.

I. Barrelet published a statistical prognosis regarding this disorder in 1986 showing the following evolution:  1 out of 7 cases are actually signs of schizophrenia,  1 out of 4 cases was the sign of bipolar disorder psychosis, and in 1 out of 10 cases it was an acute symptom of bipolar disorder. However, despite this statistic, prognosis is usually optimistic. A relapse is influenced by physical health, use of substances and alcohol, family history, environment, and other episodes. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Post apocalyptic novels, logical fallacies, and eating disorders

I haven't done one of these in a while. There are so many links I wanted to show you, I probably forgot most of them. Let's start with this blog. This is so great, it's actually an online post-apocalyptic novel. Check it out, I know I loved it.

This is obviously hilarious because is from Cracked. Another interesting article from Cracked is this one about logical fallacies and how we are wrong most of the time.  Also,check out this link with a new study about autism and this one about a new therapy that might help children with autism say their first words.  This other one is about new evidence about earliest humans in Europe. If you are not sure of your path in life, read this article about signs that you might be giving up your dreams.

This article about the role of family in the treatment of eating disorders is fascinating. Here's John Carlton's website, he's only the BEST COPYWRITER IN THE WORLD.

Today I learned about Impostor Syndrome:

Impostor syndrome describes a situation where someone feels like an imposter or fraud because they think that their accomplishments are nowhere near as good as those of the people around them. Usually, their accomplishments are just as good, and the person is being needlessly insecure. 

I'll leave you guys with this nice song:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Misconceptions in Psychology: Left/Right Hemisphere Dominance

You probably heard people saying to you that you use your left or right brain more; movies, books, and even school, they all promote this idea. Unfortunately, this isn’t a true indicator of how you think. Thinking is actually more complex and there are more than one types of thinking implied in one process of though, despite it being analytic or creative.

This lateralization of our brain is a theory based on a very simplistic understanding of how our brain works. The whole idea started being popular after Gazzaniga and Sperry’s tests on people with epilepsy. They severed patients' corpus callosum, obtaining what was known as split brain. In tests, patients used their hemispheres independently. However, this cannot be generalized to all people, especially people who don’t suffer from epilepsy or had their corpus callosum severed. But there was a lot of fuss in the media about the discovery and soon a lot of self help books started promoting the idea that we use just one brain side. 

Seminars that would help people enhance a certain part of the brain started being really popular and everybody continued believing this erroneous theory that our brain is divided into a mathematical/deductive/logical part and another one which is creative/visual/imaginative. Next time you hear such pop-psychology in an academic environment you should point out that it might not be the best approach on how the brain works. 

Don't get me wrong though, there are differences when it comes to both hemispheres, but the similarities are much more pronounced.

PS: I want to apologize that I haven't been able to answer all the comments and comment on other blog lately.  I hope I will have more time to resume my favorite activity pretty soon. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Micro Introduction to Epistemology

Epistemology is narrowly defined in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as the study of knowledge and justified belief. It is a branch of philosophy that actually studies the nature, objectives, origins and methods of scientific knowledge. The questions it asks are: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What is the source and structure of knowledge and what are its limits? The name of this field comes from episteme, which means knowledge, and logos, which means study or theory. According to epistemology, knowledge is true belief, but don’t think at the term “belief” as how we use it in our natural language. One must also not consider a belief born from logical fallacies as knowledge. So, epistemology studies how belief becomes knowledge, considering that knowledge equals truth (epistemology considers that false propositions cannot be known).


Types of knowledge

The word knowledge can be used in various ways, but the distinction that should be made clear here is the fact that philosophers use this word in a factive sense. However, even the factive usages of knowledge are many and need to be distinguished. Some philosophers believe that there is a clear distinction between “knowing that”, “knowing how”(knowing how to drive a car), and the acquaintance knowledge(this could also be called familiarity); but epistemology is mostly interested in the first type.

As we can see, epistemology focuses on knowledge. However, its main focus is the knowledge of propositions such as S knows that P, where S is the subject who has knowledge and p is the proposition that is known. Epistemology then asks: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for S to know that P? As I mentioned earlier, there are certain conditions: knowledge requires truth and it also requires belief. But S believing p, for example, could just be a manner of luck, so knowledge also needs justification. This analysis has been shown to be incomplete and it requires another element called reliability. This is called the Gettier Problem, but I will not go any further with that for the moment.

If we sink deeper into this problem we can also distinguish different types of prepositional knowledge. Based on the source of the knowledge, people can have a priori knowledge which is non empirical, meaning that it is independent of any experience and can be obtained with the use of reason. Another type of knowledge is empirical or a posteriori knowledge which can only be obtained by certain senses, experience and the use of reason. Epistemology addresses all kinds of knowledge with different standards and methods for a priori and a posteriori. There are different conceptions here:  rationalists believe that all knowledge is grounded on reason, while empiricists believe that all knowledge is based on experience. Another distinction is made when we address collective or individual knowledge. The field of social epistemology studies how collectives of individuals acquire knowledge. Social epistemology studies knowledge in a social context, how human knowledge becomes a collective achievement. For some, social epistemology should retain the same mission as classical epistemology, but others believe that it should be a successor discipline that must replace traditional epistemology.

Sources of Knowledge

In general epistemology knowledge is gained through direct analysis, formalized logical analysis, critical and historical analysis, and experiments. The study of scientific knowledge is made through inductive means and it leads to generalization regarding the process of scientific knowledge and a critical analysis.

The sources of knowledge are perception, introspection, memory, reason, and testimony.

Perception includes the five senses. There should be a distinction made if we actually perceive X or it seems to us that X. In the latter, also called an experience of perceptual seeming, X is false because experience is fallible.

Introspection allows us to know our own mental state. So it is less prone to error since it can be really difficult for me to seem that I might have a certain inner state. So, there is no difference between appearance and reality when it comes to introspection, giving it a special status and making it infallible (even a source of certainty, according to some).

Memory is fallible because it cannot be precise. Something could seem to be a part of our memory, so we could be wrong. Epistemology’s problem with memory is deciding whether it is a source of knowledge about the past. The sad truth is that all we know resides in memory and its reliability is problematic.

This is actually an a priory type of knowledge. Epistemology has some questions prepared for it too: does it exist? Some skeptics deny apriority and believe that everything is empirical. If it is possible, then how does it manifest itself and to what extent? For example, some empiricists argued that a priori knowledge is somehow inferior since it is limited to the realm of the analytic and not about the world. There is also the issue of necessary or contingent truths, but more on that, hopefully, when we will have time to analyze things thoroughly (I promised this is going to be extremely short).

Testimony doesn’t have its own cognitive faculty and the knowledge aquired through testimony is actually coming to know that p on the basis of someone’s saying that p. Epistemology asks why is testimony a soruce of knowledge? Well, it only is when it comes from a reliable source. But how do we decide what is reliable or not when we cannot gain knowledge on that? If we don’t know the grade or reliability of a person that person doesn’t put us in a position of knowing something. (Read this about testimony if you are interested in knowing more, I promise it’s interesting )

I will stop now and just say that there are fascinating subjects in epistemology like: evolutionary epistemology (I think you will see more on this since it’s a current obsession of mine), religious epistemology, moral epistemology, meta-epistemology, etc. I will try to write more on this subject, hopefully on more particular areas. 

Sources and further reading:

Monday, October 31, 2011

7 Historical Halloween Facts

1 – Halloween dates back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, approximately 2000 years ago. This day symbolized the end of warm weather and the beginning of winter, which was also associated with human death. It seems that in the night of October 31 ghosts returned on earth and they would cause damage. Celtics actually set places at the table for their dead relatives to celebrate this day.

2 – There are several superstitions on Halloween: avoid crossing paths with black cats, walking under ladders, avoid breaking mirrors, and stepping on cracks in the road. Their origins are probably from the Middle Ages.

3 – There are other traditions besides trick-or-treat, and a lot of the rituals on Halloween were focused on divination and seeing the future. It was a popular practice to try to see your future husband in the mirror on Halloween through different rituals and plan whether you are getting married in the next year. For example, in 18 century a matchmaking cook buried a ring in her mashed potatoes while hoping it would bring true love to the person who found it.

4 – In Scotland, fortune-tellers advised young women to name hazelnuts for each of their suitors and then toss them into the fireplace. The nut that burned to ashes represented the name of the future husband. Different stories show an opposite meaning, the nut that burned to ashes symbolized a love that won’t survive. Other rituals included women drinking certain concoctions that would lead them to dream their husband on Halloween night.

5 – In Ireland and Scotland people made versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving faces into turnips or potatoes. They placed them to windows or near doors hoping that they would scare away Singy Jack and other spirits.

6 – Soul cakes are served on Halloween and they represent the soul of the person that will be freed from Purgatory. This tradition has been around since the Middle Ages. The cakes are usually filled with nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, raisins, and currants and marked with a cross. They are combined with wine as an offering for the dead, traditionally on All Saints Day.

7 – A game played on Halloween in the 1900s was one involving walnut shells; people wrote fortunes in milk on white paper which was placed in walnut shells after drying. When the shell was warmed, the milk turned brown and the writing appeared. Another game involved symbols being cut out of paper and placed on a platter; then somebody entered a dark room and had to put their hand on a piece of ice then lay it on the platter. The fortune (paper symbols) of the person would stick on their hand.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Elizabeth Bathory - The Bloody Countess

Countess Elizabeth Bathory (Báthory Erzsébet) is renowned for her atrocious crimes and has been a famous character in pop culture. However, many debate whether she was indeed a serial killer or not. 

She was born in 1560 and was engaged to Ferenc Nádasdy at age 11. Unlike most women from that time, she was highly educated and spoke four languages. Her husband trusted her with managing the estate and business while he was leading the Hungarian troops at war with the Ottomans. They both had control over a wide land and they were the most powerful union in Hungary. Unfortunately, with her husband missing for battle, she gained interest in occultism and alchemy.

A lot of her sadistic behavior has been explained by the fact that she might have been mentally ill since she was young, due to inbreeding. Also, her husband was not very far from being as cruel as her and it seems that he “educated” her in his favorite ways of punishing servants. Some tales say that they were both involved in the occult art and participated in different satanic rituals, others say that her husband had no idea of his wife’s “hobbies”. However, one thing is certain: in those times torture and punishment were common, so people even considered cruelty to be a virtue.

While her husband was away she seemed to engage in sexual activities that were seen as perverse at the time, such as: adultery, bisexuality, masochism, and sadism. But the real atrocities started when the count died in battle, leaving Elizabeth and her children alone with his mother. First she got rid of her mother-in-law. Then, she started by torturing her servant girls along with accomplices such as Helena Jo, Dorothea Szentes, and Johannes Ujvary. Her torture methods included: beating her maidservants with barbed lash and heavy cudgel, dragging them naked in the snow and dousing them with cold water until they froze to death, and putting pins underneath their fingernails, armpits and genitals; she also bathed in the young girls’ blood, made different surgeries on her victims, starved them to death, bit their flesh, and sexually abused them. 

Her accomplices testified and described certain tortures. Ficzko was very graphic about a specific torture:
“They tied the hands and arms very tightly with Viennese cord, they were beaten to death until the whole body was black as charcoal and their skin was rent and torn. One girl suffered more than two hundred blows before dying. Dorko [another accomplice and procurer] cut their fingers one by one with shears and then slit the veins with scissors.”

Ilona Joo admitted that she applied red-hot pokers in the mouth or nose of girls, stabbed them with needles and torn open their flesh with sharp pincers. She also enjoyed cutting the skin between her victim’s fingers.

A servant refused to testify against Elizabeth and her eyes were poked and her breast cut before she was executed by burning at stake.

Bathing in young girls’ blood might be just a legend. Apparently she discovered this when she slapped a young servant and when the girl’s blood touched her skin she thought it made her skin look young again. With this idea in her head, the countess started taking numerous blood baths that were supposed to reverse her aging process.  

Her downfall began with Erszi Majorova, the successor accomplice of Darvula (who died in 1609) who advised her to start killing noble people. Although the deaths of peasants were overlooked, too many nobles dying was catching people’s attention and soon the Lutheran minister Istvan Magyari complained about her publicly. She was kept under strict house arrest because she was noble and any scandal would have disgraced the noble family that ruled Transylvania at that time.  The exact number of killed girls is unknown but it has been speculated that it could be as high as 650. Some say that the number of victims was approximately 32 while others even argue that she was a victim of conspiracy (which could be a valid argument since it would be explained by Hungarian history at the time).

On 30 December 1610 she was arrested along with four of her servants. As I mentioned earlier, she was put to house arrest but her servants were not noble so they didn’t received the same treatment. Three of them Dorota Semtész, Ilona Jó, and János Újváry were tortured and executed. Katarína Benická was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Although many historians believe that bathing in blood is just a legend made to impress an audience, the story of Elizabeth Bathory still influences culture today and has inspired countless fictional characters. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

7 Random Facts - Episode 4 (special edition)

Today we have a special 7 Random Facts article because it’s Halloween Month, so everything will be...about death.

1- In one of the first stages of embalming the mouth is closed by suturing with a needle and ligature, using a wire or an adhesive. This practice is called setting the features and it is meant to keep the mouth from opening and making a more relaxed face by shaving, closing the eyes, etc.

2- Strychnine is probably the most terrible poison in the world. It is very easy to get poisoned with strychnine by inhalation, swallowing or absorbtion through eyes or mouth. It has some of the most dramatic and painful symptoms of all the toxic reactions; the worst part about it is the fact that the person remains lucid until the end. There are a few things that happen after strychnine poisoning:

- severe nausea, followed by vomiting because of its bitter taste

- because the poison is a neurotoxin, it primarily affects the motor nerves in the spinal cord which control muscle contraction. This is why convulsions affect the muscles and they begin to last longer and longer. Death occurs due to asphyxia because respiration is affected by muscle spasm.

3- Alexander Hamilton, a Scottish aristocrat wanted to be mummified after his death and he bought an Egyptian Sarcophagus. Unfortunately, after his death it seemed that there was a difference of height between the Duke and the person who was initially supposed to occupy the sarcophagus. His legs were cut off at the knees so that he could fit in the sarcophagus.

4- Did you know about the blood eagle? It was a gruesome Viking method for murder. While the victim was still alive, their ribs would be cut and opened up then the lungs were removed. The ribs of the victim were opened so that they would resemble blood-stained wings. Of course, salt was sprinkled on the wounds because the pain was not enough it seems.

5- Indian Professor Syed Abdul Gafoor kept his dead mother preserved in a glass case for 20 years, until he died.

6- The French murderer Marquise de Brinvilliers was force-fed 9 liters of water before being beheaded. She was also burn at the stake.

7- Philosopher Pliny the Elder wanted so much to see Vesuvius erupting that he actually died because of it. He ended up being killed by the volcano’s poisonous gases.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sexual Innovations, Protesters, Social Media, and Lots of Free Books

There are very few things I discovered this week. It was a crazy week and I wanted to put creepy things in my discoveries since it's Halloween Month, but I don't have enough horror discoveries.

This week we have 5 Sexual Innovations From People In Your History Text Books  and Three Types of Protesters Hurting Their Own Cause  from
This article about social media is really cool, especially for those of us who want to know more about its role in marketing. Another article is this one about writing  which definitely helps us bloggers. If you want free books you can get some from Project Gutenberg, I found a lot of philosophy books there and most classics can be found too. It's an amazing database. Here's another great article from Big Think on how the brain appreciates art.
I also found this blog, a great resource for copywriters who need to improve their work. For those of you who know the case of Sybil, apparently it was a big fraud. We don't know it for sure but it was a little bit too  unbelievable. I will make a future post about this case, since I find it fascinating. Anyway, I will leave you guys with my newest song obsession:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The legend of Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary is a very popular ghost legend from the English folklore. She appears in the mirror (sometimes on Halloween) when her name is called three times in a dark room, often as a test of bravery among young people. There are many variations to this: she may appear when her name is chanted one or three times, when the participant spins around, when they rub their eyes, or chanting her name while holding a lit candle. In other versions the person who wants to summon her must say “Bloody Mary, I killed your baby”. Apparently, if she appears she kills the people who called her, often in violent ways, or she just haunts them for the rest of their life. Other versions of the legend include a ritual where people are able to talk to deceased persons, see their future life or their future spouses.  

She is believed to be the spirit of a mother whose baby was stolen from her, making her mad and leading to her suicide. The history behind this legend is difficult to figure out as it is mostly a mix of other legends and tales. Another tale regarding Bloody Mary refers to a witch who lived over 100 years ago and was practicing black magic. She was executed and she haunts whoever calls her name. There is even a gruesome variation of the legend involving a woman who had a fatal accident and was horrible mutilated.

Other sources point out that it refers to Queen Mary I herself or involve a child murderer. There are a few speculations regarding Queen Mary’s miscarriages and some say they were induced while others believe she went mad because she lost so many pregnancies. She also had the nickname Bloody Mary due to the fact that she executed so many people for religious reasons. Other legends seem to point to Elizabeth Bathory, a queen who supposedly bathed in virgin’s blood to make herself look younger.

Some historians believe that the Bloody Mary ritual is similar to other rituals used in different cultures that mark the beginning of puberty in females. This is also supported by the fact that this is a game played by girls during sleepovers. There was an article written about this by Alan Dundes who believes that the ritual serves an important purpose of providing young women with an outlet for the fear and anxiety they feel related to body changes during pubescence. Such a ritual would develop as a method for children to cope with the scary changes in their lives.

There are different elements to this legend that point out to early myths and superstitions.
Mirrors are one of the most common objects used in divination and there are a lot of rituals involving girls using a candle in front of a mirror in order to see their future. There are also traditions that involve people covering the mirrors when a person dies to avoid the spirit from being trapped in the house. Other extremely common magic rituals include turning in circles and repeated incantations.

Whether the legend is true or not, there’s only one way to know.  

Monday, October 10, 2011

7 Dark Amazing Artists

Since this is Halloween month my posts will be concerned more with the horror side of things. I love art and I loved writing about it in the past, so I figured out I would share some of the most talented dark artists I know.  

1 - F. A. Carrión  is an artist from Houston, Texas. His art is haunting, macabre and beautiful. If you like his art you can see more on his personal page and his Facebook page

This one is definitely my favorite. 

2 - Amarilli is an artist born in Milan, who currently lives in beautiful Tuscan countryside. She works for an interior decoration company and on her own art projects. She has been interested in the artistic side from childhood and her art is inspired from folklore mythology and magic. If you like her work check out her Facebook page, her personal website and her twitter account.

3 – Rachel Graves is an artist from Portland, Oregon. She describes her art as being inspired by nightmares that have in the past amused her. I hope you agree with me that she created beautiful nightmares indeed. You can find more about her and her art on Facebook and on her blog.

4 – Amy Kollar Anderson is an incredible artist from Dayton, Ohio. According to her Deviantart page her favorite activities are painting and hanging out with her husband. She describes her art as “Pop Surreal images with a focus on narrative and color”. You can see more of her vibrant art on her Facebook page, twitter account  and her personal page

5- Mirko Sevic is an artist born on 24th of April, 1954 in Velika Kladusa. His art is inspired from events that took place before and during the war, which had a great impact on him. On his website he states that his art is trying send the message that people lost what has separated humanity from animosity. 

6- Uno Moranes has amazing, fascinating and weird tone to his work and what's even more amazing is the fact that he makes Pixel Art. I couldn’t find much information on him but you can see his beautiful artworks on his personal page, Livejournal blog, and Tumblr blog

7- Thomas Joseph Yagodinski is a horror artist that gets inspiration from stories and experiences of the paranormal kind and his fascination with the occult and witchcraft. You can see more of his work here and on his personal website