Over the past few days, I’ve begun to notice something about myself. When I watch movies or TV shows, I find myself drawn to the characters who display honesty and transparency. They are often my favourite characters. Locke (in the first half of the series) from Lost. Abed from Community. Gale (in his minor role) in Breaking Bad. Kenneth from 30 Rock. Peter and Hiro from Heroes. These people are not all perfect characters, nor are they always the brightest. But there is some charming simplicity in their actions that draws me toward them. In real life, my closest friends are also ones that display this honesty. I find myself drawn to these people because of the value that I place on honesty.
Obviously, there is nothing taboo about valuing honesty. As the old adage says, “Honesty is the best policy.” But I am drawn to a type of honesty that goes beyond simply not telling lies. It has its roots in something more integral to the self. It is not quite “authenticity”, for that implies being one’s “true self,” whatever that means. The honesty I look for has more to do with a simple sincerity of heart: a degree of integrity. It involves defining one’s purposes and making them plain to everyone. It involves finding one’s identities and being true to them. It is akin to the existentialists’ idea of “good faith,” living a life without self-deception.Continue Reading
With the recent shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the news media have every day brought us yet more information. More stories. More pictures. More heartache. The stories of children huddled in closets and teachers reassuring and protecting them, of victims’ families finding themselves facing a Christmas of mourning rather than joy, of gifts unopened and family gatherings missing their youngest member…it is all heart-wrenching. I don’t often find myself overwhelmed with emotion, but reading these stories has left me with tears in my eyes almost every morning. The lives of children, brimming with potential waiting to be unleashed, have been cut short. And as the families of these little victims weep, the world weeps with them.Continue Reading
What is the “self”? Such a question has had a multitude of answers from philosophers and psychologists throughout history. Although there is an immediate understanding of what I refer to when I say “I”, upon reflection that clarity vanishes. Do I refer to my physical body? That changes over the course of my life as my cells are replaced one by one. (If I have my arm amputated, am I still the same person?) Is it my consciousness? Then I am conceivably a different person when asleep or drunk then when awake or sober. Is it my memories and experiences? Psychology has demonstrated that recalled memories are largely a reconstruction of the brain rather than a true recollection. And what happens if I get amnesia or Alzheimer’s?
All these questions make it difficult to truly pin down what the self entails. We have some sense of continuity over time, but that continuity can be easily broken. So I’d like to take some time to examine, from a psychological perspective, just what it means to have a “self” and to have a sense of self-identity. In the process, I’d like to advance a theory of the self that suggests that at least some of the continuity we experience is illusory. Instead of being a coherent structure, the self is constantly being assembled and reassembled by our minds. So with that said, hang on to your hats, and let’s begin.Continue Reading
One of the skills that I believe is important to teach in schools is the ability to develop and apply moral values to everyday life. In the past, this sort of thing was done by integrating religion into school. Children would be taught Christian moral values and principles, and they learned to apply them. Once schools became more secularized, this religious moral education was removed. And don’t get me wrong—I believe that is a good thing. However, no system of moral values was put in its place. Instead of embracing the moral values of secular society, schools opted toward a “no-values” approach that removed as much value-judgment as possible. The emphasis shifted to facts and analysis of facts instead of values and value judgments.Continue Reading
We live in dollhouses / We put on doll clothes / And comb our doll hair / We are plastic // We are little boys and girls / Playing house, tea for two / We act out grown-up roles / Though we are already grownContinue Reading
Over the past year, psychology as a field, and in particular social psychology, has come under scrutiny after several notable cases of scientific fraud. The most notable was Diederik Stapel, who outright fabricated data for at least 30 publications. A couple other cases of data manipulation and fraud have just surfaced recently, leading to further resignations of researchers in the field. Amidst these news stories, some have asked the question, “Is psychology trustworthy? Is it even a science at all?”
Of course, these are not new questions for psychology to deal with. Making the case for psychology as a science has been a continual process over the years, and psychology to some extent still suffers from the impression that has remained from the psychoanalytic tradition of Freud. The psychoanalysts loved to sit people on couches and talk about dreams and repressed childhood memories and so on. But we’re past Freud. Honest.
However, given the recent scrutiny, I thought it appropriate to take the time to address the question again and argue that yes, psychology is indeed a science. I come from the perspective of a graduate student in social psychology—traditionally the most “suspect” of the areas in psychology—and as such, most of my experience and examples come from that area. I approach this question from the “if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck” approach (see, I’m using the scientific method already!). I would like to argue that psychology operates very similarly to other fields of science that are not in dispute—the so-called “hard sciences”. So let me outline just a few of the ways in which psychology parallels these fields.Continue Reading
Sometimes I get asked why I am a feminist. Male feminists can be somewhat of a rare breed, and it can be confusing to some people why I go beyond “gender equality” to argue in favour of feminism. Feminism is largely about gender equality, but it goes beyond it to focus specifically on women’s issues (generally revolving around issues regarding reproduction, but also others like violence against women). So why am I, a man, concerned with women’s issues?
The answer is at once simple and complex: autonomy.Continue Reading