Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Science: it's complicated

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  • Sacha,

    People with depression might make better leaders in times of crisis. reports the Wall St Journal.

    How, then, might the leadership of these extraordinary men have been enhanced by mental illness?

    An obvious place to start is with depression, which has been shown to encourage traits of both realism and empathy (though not necessarily in the same individual at the same time).

    "Normal" nondepressed persons have what psychologists call "positive illusion"—that is, they possess a mildly high self-regard, a slightly inflated sense of how much they control the world around them.

    Mildly depressed people, by contrast, tend to see the world more clearly, more as it is.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Creon Upton,

    That's an interesting viewpoint Creon - but when does osteoarthritic pain become
    anything other than pain? I dont know anyone of mature years who believes pain is *totally avoidable* (I realise that is not what you said) but when pain - mental or physical- is omnipresent, I rather think it does have an effect on our brain. For some people, taking an SSRI obviates an even worse pain - that of severe clinical depression.
    Believe you me (yeah, anecdata) as a dysthymic, I know what I endure is nothing like the severe clinical depression others of my whanau have endured.

    I dont know why some of the SSRIs work - I only know for some of my family, they do - and it seems to me -yes, to be basically physiological rather than cultural in any way.

    I'm a writer, not a medical scientist, but I am very sure that are a huge number of physical factors that affect our brains (well yeah, obvious obvious!) including
    pain endorphins. Cheers-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    A lot of depression in modern society is, as we know [citation needed] is the feeling of inadequacy many people feel as a response to the ideal consumer, go getting "wealth" creator. We live in a time where financial value is directly tied to socialtal value, you have to "Improve" you have to be "Better". Growth is King.
    On the last day of the last Century I looked back at what we, as a civilisation, had achieved, the first half looked pretty amazing if you ask me, culminating it he ideals of the Sixties, or was that the beginning of the downfall?
    If the USA had become stuck in the Fifties, would that have been a bad thing for the rest of the world, or indeed them?
    I could propose a new paradigm, Nothing. The less you do, the less you can harm.
    Surely, there must be a time when you can sit back and enjoy what we have done, reflect on the bad stuff and not do it again. Do we need growth?
    If we all learned to maintain what we have. The world would be a better place.

    <afterthought>
    So. If music be the food of love, plagiarise. (pre-empting a new copyright thread)
    ;-)

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4941 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    the first half looked pretty amazing

    those world wars, Depression (financial) and so on were just delightful

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2122 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    He's not going back far enough.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    A lot of depression in modern society is, as we know [citation needed] is the feeling of inadequacy many people feel as a response to the ideal consumer, go getting “wealth” creator. We live in a time where financial value is directly tied to socialtal value, you have to “Improve” you have to be “Better”. Growth is King.

    "Citation needed" indeed - I've heard variations of this argument before, and I don't really buy it. I am pretty intimately familiar with the effects mental illness of various sorts - depression, anxiety disorders etc. - has had on family members (I seem to have dodged the bullet myself) and while I don't doubt that one's society and environment have a major impact on the effects and expression of such disorders, I see no reason to believe that they are the causes. History is full of accounts of people prone to "melancholia", or taking their own lives due to thwarted love etc., and it's hard to read such stories without seeing evidence of symptoms we see in friends and loved ones with depression (in a similar vein, possession by demons is a meme that goes back to Biblical times and beyond, and persists to the present day in some communities; and descriptions of it tend to look a lot like Schizophrenia or related disorders). It seems dubious to me that the pressure to conform to modern societal expectations is really any greater then that of older forms of conformance, to religious, customary or familial norms - people just seem predisposed to make up arbitrary rules and expectations, and enforce them with disapproval, censure and ostracism.

    That said, I think there has been great benefit in the Enlightenment idea that we can analyze, understand and possibly "treat" mental illness, not just clinically or pharmaceutically, but as much with understanding and love. This has to be better than whacking people with Bibles.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • Susannah Shepherd, in reply to James Butler,

    “Citation needed” indeed – I’ve heard variations of this argument before, and I don’t really buy it.

    Argh, I have seen similar research cited but can't remember where - perhaps in Oliver James' book "Affluenza"? From memory, the study/ies looked at depression rates in a particular ethnic group spread across many different countries, and found that the rate varied wildly between countries and was far higher in Westernised or consumer societies. So while there was a 'base' rate of depression, it did appear that some societies were more depression-inducing than others.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2008 • 57 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to James Butler,

    while I don’t doubt that one’s society and environment have a major impact on the effects and expression of such disorders, I see no reason to believe that they are the causes. History is full of accounts of people prone to “melancholia”,

    Ah yes, Nature V Nurture, 50/50 they say, but every little helps.

    those world wars, Depression (financial) and so on were just delightful

    All part of growing up, like spots and broken hearts but in Global terms.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4941 posts Report Reply

  • Creon Upton, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    I’m curious where this suspicion about ‘truth’ comes from?

    Hey Rob, I think it's the connection with the "grand truth" thing that you mention. I mean, saying something is "true" is fine - a nice, gentle adjective. But "the truth", what with that definite article and all, comes out seeming so pompous.

    And a true piece of data is confined to that particular moment. The problem with truth when it seems universal is that a whole lot of convenient, subsidiary "truths" can be derived from it. But when we start deriving truths, we need to bring into the picture all the other truths impacting on however the context is changing.

    I can't speak for people you've spoken to, but basically that's my problem: when a truth becomes the starting point for a whole lot of ill-conceived derivative assumptions masked as true.

    I don't know enough philosophy to go into the more abstruse arguments.

    But of course there is also the simple old possibility for truth to be lost in translation:

    there’s a stool in the middle of the kitchen floor

    Really?

    Christchurch • Since Aug 2007 • 68 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Susannah Shepherd,

    A quick Google™ suggests that "Affluenza" may well be worth reading, so I shall reserve judgment for the time being. But I'm immediately suspicious of a study which goes looking for something which is defined at least partially in reference to a particular set of cultural norms, and finds that - gasp! - it is more prevalent in the culture which defined it.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • Creon Upton, in reply to Islander,

    when pain – mental or physical- is omnipresent, I rather think it does have an effect on our brain

    Absolutely, Islander. And I really can't imagine anything worse. It's how torture works, after all.

    And for a materialist, the mind/body dichotomy is seriously problematic anyway. But personally, at the fringes of my imagination, I can conceive of the possibility of experiencing my place in the world in a way that would make the slings and arrows seem less painful, less personal, less malevolent.

    Cheers.

    Christchurch • Since Aug 2007 • 68 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Creon Upton,

    there’s a stool in the middle of the kitchen floor
    Really?

    There is a difference between a solid argument and just going through the motions.
    You have to sit somewhere within the vicinity of the fence, whether on a stool or not.

    We are told that doing nothing is a sin and that killing is wrong.
    We are told that international War is bad and private enterprise is good.
    But almost every concept exploited by private enterprise has been a product of military research. I could say that the exception of this rule is the internet, which was born out of the wish for scientists to share information.
    According to a certain Government Minister, file sharing is a crime.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4941 posts Report Reply

  • Susannah Shepherd, in reply to James Butler,

    A quick Google™ suggests that "Affluenza" may well be worth reading, so I shall reserve judgment for the time being.

    Yes, it is worth reading and reflecting on - and I say that as someone who disagreed with quite big chunks of it. What interested me about the study I am trying to recall the details of was that it looked at Asian countries of differing wealth and consumerism levels - so that the effect of cultural norms you describe was (partially) controlled for.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2008 • 57 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    the internet, which was born out of

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arpanet

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Sacha,

    Damn you and your Wiki foo and your pendanticallity.
    Teh Interwebz Which, in turn led to... ie out of which was born...

    "The World-Wide Web was developed to be a pool of human knowledge, and human culture, which would allow collaborators in remote sites to share their ideas and all aspects of a common project."

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4941 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Susannah Shepherd,

    A quick Google™ suggests that "Affluenza" may well be worth reading,

    You may also like...

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4941 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    a product of military research. I could say that the exception of this rule is

    not quite :)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    And a true piece of data is confined to that particular moment.

    there’s a stool in the middle of the kitchen floor

    Really?

    Not any more. I moved it. With my bare hands :)

    experiencing my place in the world in a way that would make the slings and arrows seem less painful, less personal, less malevolent.

    Watching Kevin what-sit on TV tonight, 'slumming it' in India- he was amazed at how happy most people there people seemed. NZ and the "western nations" maybe not so much? I wonder if part of that's to do with continual close contact with communities/people- lots of them. Something most NZers might find very wearing, at least for the first decade or so.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 1582 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Creon Upton,

    Bearing in mind that rather a large amount of wine has been drunk tonight, Creon is right, science ultimately for it's own self. That it also creates things that we all find valuable and useful is remarkable, however it is also unpredictable. What is predictable (always) is that really good science is worthwhile. Sadly it seems hard to trust in that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3434 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    Watching Kevin what-sit on TV tonight,

    I am forever tortured by that man's existence.
    Try designing a house after your partner has discovered this property porn star.
    AND... My ability to have any influence over interior design has been extinctified by "The Chairwoman"
    [link removed by executive order]

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4941 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    That it also creates things that we all find valuable and useful is remarkable,

    Alan Turing probably, found Butterflies aestheticly pleasing.
    Not that there is anything wrong with that
    But it is interesting in the fact that "Normality" is considered mean (the expected value of a random variable) which is, in fact, what we consider to be normal, scientificiacllyish.
    A bit like politics, where the meaning is hidden by the power of X.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4941 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Creon Upton,

    stand easy...

    there’s a stool in the middle of the kitchen floor
    Really?

    ...an oft noted by-product
    of people talking
    "out of their arse"....
    ;- )

    but seriously, a stool is a fine example
    spineless, armless and useless with only two legs

    There are two settings for reality
    balance and imbalance

    balance can be achieved through harmony
    stance and delicate counterweighting

    imbalance has a much wider catchment
    and a spectrum from wrong footed
    to cellular dissolution
    it's a Big Country...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5092 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    And, tying a few comments together, the style of Kevin McCloud with the stools we all must endure sometimes ;)

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6320 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    but it seems to me that there’s a big big cultural factor to depression

    Also in asthma I understand, which you would think is a physiological problem.

    Cheers to Bart for all his posts in this thread which I've just read through tonight. Interesting and convincing about a number of things.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6217 posts Report Reply

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