Search This Blog

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mezmer's Dictionary of Bad Psychology

The philosopher Voltaire said that if folks just bothered to define their terms, there would not be any need to argue. Unlike definitions of aardvarks, armchairs, and arks that have clear and distinct meanings, meaning for psychologists goes far beyond simple meaning to what you really mean. Unfortunately, this desire to get under the surface appearance of things makes standard dictionary definitions of matters psychological somewhat useless, since everybody in the field has their own separate notions of how to redefine the psychological wheel.

Hence, in order to clarify the deep and dumb meanings of psychology, I, Dr. Mezmer offer my Dictionary of Bad Psychology. My definitions will be prejudiced, mean spirited, inaccurate, and downright wicked. But hey, at least they're not in French!

To see these definitions in action, take a look at my new e-book on the psychology of the internet: 


Abduction: Doctrine derived from formal logic that the best explanation derives from untestable guesses rather than testable guesses (i.e. deduction) or simple observation (i.e. induction), thus resulting in an abdication of the need to think. For example, in the 15th century, the limited information about how the solar system worked resulted in explanations derived from what that information implied, and the resulting Ptolemaic or earth centered explanation was good enough, thus permitting other hypotheses to be dismissed and their authors burned alive. Similarly, present day evolutionary psychologists use abductive reasoning to hold that the mind is composed of cognitive modules (see phrenology), thus permitting other hypotheses to be dismissed and their authors figuratively burned alive (see Steven Jay Gould).

Abstract: Summary or condensed version of a study that provides a Cliff-Notes version for researchers who haven't the time and for audiences who haven't a clue.

A therapy for stress that stimulates the same points as acupuncture, but without feeling needled. According to Dr. Theopolis Goodyear of the Acupressure Institute, stress is a hydraulic process that can cause one to figuratively explode if one can’t find the little input valve that can let out all the hot air. By pressing down on the right bodily points, one can reduce this pressure to acceptable levels. Dr. Goodyear recommends that stress pressure should be checked at least once a month, since unchecked stress can wear you down, and may be vented improperly and prematurely wear out your welcome with other people.

The three major pressure points are:

The Third Eye : Look down (you’ll know him when you see him)

Mystic Mounds: (come in different cup sizes)

Heavenly Buns: glutinous maximus

Bring firm steady pressure on each point for three minutes. The pressure should cause a mild warm sensation, but take care that the feeling not turn sensational. This is particularly the case when all three pressure points are activated simultaneously, and may be delicately called ‘making babies’.

Addiction: When the pleasure of anticipation outweighs the logical value of the object you are anticipating, thus making you pursue it even though further consumption of that object will get you sick, fat, broke, or otherwise brain dead. Thus, looking forward to one beer (or bag of chips, cigarette, spin on a roulette wheel, etc.) is not addiction, but looking forward to a tenth beer is; conquering Italy (particularly if you are Napoleon) is not an addiction, but conquering Russia is; playing a video game for an hour is not addiction, but continuously playing it for twelve hours is; and looking at one picture of Britney Spears is not an addiction, but relentlessly searching for all her pictures is. (Also see dopamine)

ADHD: Neurological disorder discovered by drug companies, who recognized that the need for rough and tumble play by pre-adolescents represents in fact a horrible disease that is coincidentally treatable by their concoctions. Successfully treated ADHD sufferers (i.e., 12 year old boys) can reenter society as self-satisfied drones who will sit idly with remote control in hand and thus be prepared to enter the adult world. (see Simpson, Homer)

Affective Neuroscience: A branch of psychology that holds that no psychological processes can be understood without first rooting them to an organic brain and the bio-chemical or 'affective' processes that initiate and sustain behavior. In other words, 'it's the brain, stupid!' Affective neuroscience contrasts with other more popular and brain-less psychological perspectives such as humanistic, behavioristic, and evolutionary psychology, which attribute behavior to the power of metaphor (e.g. will power, stimulus-response, mental modules). However, since affective neuroscience requires real laboratories and detailed and testable analyses, it is much less influential than the far easier and untestable arm chair theorizing (see Steven Pinker, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) which has driven the 'exceptional' progress of psychology to this date (and all that without mentioning pesky brains!)

Altruism: Unselfish behaviors that benefit others (e.g. helping an old lady cross the street) that are emotionally in your best interest but not logically so. Contrasts with selfish behavior (e.g. running over old lady) that is logically in your best interest but not emotionally so, and sociopathic behavior (e.g. parking on old lady) that is logically in your best interest and occurs when we can't be bothered.

Amazing Randi: Stage magician, sceptic, and intellectual gadfly. who has demonstrated the sleight of hand, both literal and metaphorical, that sustains goofball beliefs in scientific frauds such as hypnosis, meditation, and the paranormal. Unfortunately, by demonstrating that the amazing is rather ordinary, Randi's cachet became an oxymoron, or contradiction in terms, much like other oxymorons bestowed on public figures such as Freud/scientist, Pinker/psychologist, Dr. Phil/expert, and Csikszentmihalyi/pronouncible.

Anal Retentive Personality: Overly meticulous character traits due to a fixation on toilet training. Anal retentiveness is common among bad psychologists who write meticulous and constipated tomes in psychology without recognizing that they are full of sh*t. ( See Dr. Phil, M. Csikszentmihalyi, S. Pinker.)

Anal Stage: Freud's second stage of psychosexual development, where the primary sexual focus is on the elimination or holding onto feces. The anal stage is divided into four parts: anal retentive (keeping the shit in), anal expulsive (getting the shit out), anal expulsive (putting up with shit), and anal repulsive (cutting the shit). As a theory of behavior, is a synonym with banal.

ANOVA: A nova is an exploding star, or in psychological parlance, denotes research results that are at variance with or explode your own theory.


Barnum Affect: Individual acceptance of vague and generalized versions of personality as an accurate reflection of their own personality. An affect used to effect by circus (P.T. Barnum), psychological (Dr. Phil), and advertising ringmasters.

Behaviorism: A psychological movement, now extinct, that is built on the premise that you are what you do, and you do because of what you have done. Replaced by humanistic psychology (you are what you feel), cognitive science (you are what you think), Dr. Atkins (you are what you eat) and modern advertising (you are what we say).

Berridge, Kent : Affective neuroscientist, learning theorist, and best psychologist (though he would doesn't know it) and behaviorist (though he would deny it) writing today (although scarcely anyone reads him), and inspiration to a certain satirical web site author (though he would wince if he knew it).

Between Group Design: Describes statistical comparison of two or more different groups of subjects that are subject to different experiences or treatments. Between group designs are used when one doesn't have the time, interest, or means to arrive at true explanations for behavior. Thus one learns that Pepsi is preferred over Coke, that folks who drink coffee/eat garlic/drink wine/suck prunes may live long/have less cancer/grow more hair, or maybe not, and all without having to explain why. Between group designs are favored over within group designs because you can prove anything you want (after all, its statistics, isn't it?), and be used to produce conclusions that can fit into neat sound bites on your nightly news.

Bi-Polar Disorder: An extreme elevation in mood due to extreme elevation in latitude. Common among arctic explorers.

Biological Alarm Clock
A biological alarm system that tell us when to eat, when to sleep, and when to make babies. For women, oftentimes the biological clock goes awry, and begins to signal all sorts of jarring behaviors.that seem at least to the man of the house to be most untimely. This biological alarm clock jolts a woman into action, or more likely, into prodding a man into actions at the wrong time. A woman's biological alarm clock is often out of sync with her husband's own biological clock, which naturally runs much slower. The man compensates by resetting his own clock to give himself more time. Unfortunately, women have no capability to reset their own clocks. This results in their ringing just in time to tell their husband to vacuum the floor as he settles back to relax from a hard day at the office, or to mow the law or bath the kid just as the big game comes on TV. All too often the wife gets all wound up just as the husband starts to unwind. Unfortunately, the only way to set back your wife's clock is with a blunt object to the head. However, this is not recommended since it would set her back in time permanently, and force you to do time, as in jail.

Bisexuality: The sexual affinity of a person for anybody. Bisexuality can be a very favorable trait because it doubles the number of your prospective dates.

Blank Slate: The concept that the mind and behavior is completely malleable by experience, and is not influenced by instinctive or nativistic causes. Of course no one really believes this, but like weapons of mass destruction, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny, it does get your agenda going, whether is be launching invasions, giving presents, getting Easter eggs, or laying philosophical eggs. (see SSSM, evolutionary psychology)

Blind Study: A study designed without the subject's knowledge of the anticipated results or nature of the study. The subjects are said to be 'blind' the anticipated results. However, when individuals are blind to the true results of a study, and end up buying into medications and procedures that don't work, this is called being blind sided.

Blocking: The concept derived from Pavlovian conditioning that associations or learning attributed to a stimulus will not occur if those associations are redundant or superfluous. For example, a lab animal may learn that a red light signals food. If a green light follows and just as reliably predicts food, the animal will not learn to associate green with the food, since prior learning 'blocks' the association. Blocking should not be confused with blockheadedness, which is characterized by an inability to learn new and better explanations to an event once the first explanation is fixed in your mind. (see Csikszentmihalyi, Pinker)

Bonding Instinct
As social creatures, people need other people. However this bonding instinct is displayed differently depending upon your sex. For women, bonding is sort of like a bee hive sewing circle, where women bond together to attend to the eggs (of the breakfast variety), feed the brood, and buzz endlessly about what color to paint the bedroom. In contrast, men resist such bee like behavior, and prefer a higher calling that is dynamic, competitive, and aggressive. In other words, men bond all right, but like fire ants. Men have a very strong bonding instinct, but it is elicited by events that are abstract and rare. Men will not talk long about wall paper colors or floral designs, but will chat endlessly about colorful and meaningful contexts that reflect, in a man's eye, important things. Thus, to guys, bonding means dynamic pairings like Batman and Robin, Jackson and Lee, or Montana and Rice, and where you fight the bad guys, evil northern invaders, or for the home field advantage. Of course, in a safe and secure world, there are far fewer opportunities for men to bond together to defend civilization as we know it. So guys hang out alone, out of touch and out of mind until brought together for the next big cause, war, or football season.

To get an idea of how important bonding is to men, look at art. Male bonding is everywhere in art. Just look at all those civil war paintings, Rembrandt portaits, and Renaissance sculptures. One will note immediately that they are full of guys doing important and meaningful things together like debating philosophy, fighting wars, or pondering the meaning of life. In contrast, female bonding doesn't occur in art, which represents the fair sex mainly in paintings that picture them in idle and sedentary pursuits. Thus, your typical museum painting includes such staples as a girl on a swing, reclining on a couch, or emerging from a clamshell, all in various stages of dress and undress of course. So what type of bonding is preferable? The answer perhaps lies to each to his or her tastes. and tastest to his or her genes. Yet, if art was our arbiter and guide, the question could perhaps be phrased like this: what picture would you rather have on your mantlepiece: Hamlet pondering poor Yorick or Martha Stewart pondering floral arrangements?

Borderline Personality Disorder: A collection of personal characteristics that place the sufferer in the borderline between a living breathing human being and an inanimate object, like a floor lamp. The syndrome is common among accountants, security guards, and your spouse's friends.

Brain: Congealed pudding like structure located inside a bony shell that swivels on a vertebrate stand, and is covered by a rubbery like skin. Brains are hooked up to olfactory, gustatory, auditory, and visual knobs, which are ironically attractive to other brains, rather than the brain itself. Generally, we use only 10% of our brains, and often we don't use them at all, and relegate thinking to our stomach, glands, or our diddler.

Broca's Aphasia: An aphasia associated with damage to Broca's brain, reflected in an impairment in producing understandable speech. Also known as W. C. Field's Polydipsia, G. Bush's Amnesia, and Dr. Phil's Dementia


Catharsis: Purging an emotion due to its excessive display. Catharsis is underscored by other hydraulic metaphors that describe 'pent-up' emotions 'building up' and then 'passed' in a sustained outburst like a sort of malicious gas. Catharsis is particularly useful to justify wifely outbursts at errant husbands as well as being an active ingredient in bad psychological advice.

Cleaning Threshold: Originally thought up by the psychologist Paul Chump, for which he was awarded the 1989 Nobel Prize in psychology, the cleaning threshold is embodied by the well known motto: a man works from sun to sun, and that's enough. Men, according to Chump, are stronger than dirt, and they demonstrate their prowess by refusing to be cowed by dust bunnies the size of jackrabbits, and leaning towers of dirty dishes that would make its counterpart in Pisa look straight. This is a sign of strength, although women in their weakness refuse to admit it. Whereas women would be inclined to vacuum the entire house upon noticing a stray hair, men appreciate the natural order of things, and will only be sparked into action when the dust on the TV screen totally obscures the game, and when there is only one clean fork or plate left to be had. The much higher cleaning threshold in men frees up a lot of time that could be better spent writing that great novel, becoming a titan of industry, or sleeping on the couch.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A therapy that involves cognition and behavior, and requires therapeutic diagnostics, analysis, and lots of follow up visits to the therapist (think $$$$). In its generic and much cheaper form, cognitive behavioral therapy is used by parents and other caregivers (coaches, bosses, spouses), and consists of a good talking to followed up by a whack on the head. (see psychotherapy)

Cognitive Science: A branch of psychology that aims to figuratively find out how minds work without literally having to figure out how minds work. Not to be confused with 2nd generation cognitive science, which aims to literally figure out how minds work without figuring. See also George Lakoff.

2nd Generation Cognitive Science: Coined by the linguist George Lakoff. In contrast to to 1st generation cognitive science, holds that behavior occurs primarily due to the influence of sensori-motor areas of the body, or 'embodiment'. That means that your day to day decisions are more likely to be due to that day old burrito you ate this morning than any purely thinking processes going on in your noggin, which come to think of it makes sense.

Cognitive Dissonance: Similar to an oxymoron (a contradiction in terms, such as military intelligence, must see TV, congressional ethics, and social science), cognitive dissonance represents conflicting perceptions, ideas, or cognitions that together don't make sense. Examples are psychology/science, psychotherapy/cure, obesity/disease, and Dr. Phil/expert. Cognitive dissonance often causes tension that is released by rationalization, ridicule, turning the dial, or writing satirical web sites.

Confusopoly: Coined by the distinguished psychologist and cartoonist Scott Adams (Dilbert), refers to a monopoly of knowledge that is enforced (i.e., kept away from the little people) by making it as confusing as possible, thus insuring the status and fee structure of the priesthood of those in the know, such as accountants, lawyers, and psychologists. Examples of confusopolistic scriptures are tax law, cell phone plans, and psychology journal articles.

Consciousness: A thing in itself, or besides itself, the sum of all qualia, or perhaps a channel on the Matrix. Consciousness can be raised, lowered, embodied, or if it means to, float out of this room. It is everywhere, perhaps nowhere, but most certainly is here with you, reading this dumb definition, and is well, self-conscious about it.

Conversion Reaction: A disorder wherein an individual experiences a loss of reasoning ability due to a conversion to a political party, religion, or diet plan.

Coolidge Effect: The American president Calvin Coolidge, a man of few words and less personality, was touring a chicken farm with his wife one-day. The foreman noted the sexual prowess of his prize rooster. "Did you know," he said, "that a rooster can provide his services all day without stop?" "Ah," said Mrs. Coolidge, "You must tell that to my husband." Her taciturn husband turned to the foreman. "And with the same partner?" "Oh no," said the foreman, "always with different chickens." To which Coolidge replied, "You must tell that to my wife. Thus was coined the infamous 'Coolidge Effect", which in short means that when it comes to sex, men are bird brains.

CRAP Principle: Acronym for four well regarded stress reduction principles: Catharsis, Relaxation, Analysis, and Pretend, or CRAP. A common belief is that these simple CRAP principles will lead to stress free peace of mind.

For example, let’s say that you are taking that Alaskan Cruise you’ve always wanted. You feel a slight shudder, and next thing you know you and about 2000 other people are milling around in life jackets. In trying times like this, just remember these CRAP principles. First, try Catharsis. Purge your negative emotions with a good cry, or vent your rage by throwing a few people into the ocean as they queue up for a lifeboat. Then try a little Relaxation. Picture yourself floating in the Pacific, with the soft undulating waves and assorted debris and ice floes bobbing hypnotically in the background. Those soothing cold waters are excellent for those muscles that are sure to be sore after you flail about in the ocean for a few minutes. Of course, a little Analysis will demonstrate how meaningless your fears are, since modern cruise ships are pretty well unsinkable, have more than enough lifeboats, and can surely swerve in time to miss that iceberg you see just ahead. Besides, even if you are dumped into the icy waters, you will likely be retrieved and stored in a big freezer, and thanks to modern science, will be thawed out in the 24th century, when you’ll get a complimentary cruise ticket to the icy satellite of Jupiter, the moon IO. Finally, as you dangle over the railing as the stern slowly descends into the waters, you can play let’s Pretend. Looking to the stars, you can imagine that Superman is on his way after hearing your distress call, or that Orca the whale will hear your whistles, and carry you to shore. Besides, if the worst happens, its not all that bad, since in the afterlife, all of the dead people on the ship will welcome you with warm applause, and a real swell cocktail party afterwards. As you sink slowly into the water, just be remember these four principles, and you’ll surely realize that these stress principles are nothing but a bunch of crap.

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihalyi: (1872- ) Unpronounceable humanistic psychologist and discoverer of the 'flow experience'. Csikszentmihalyi has written widely on self, consciousness, flow, and evolution in books such as the 'The Divided Self', 'The Flowing Consciousness of Self', the 'Evolving Self', and 'Consciousness and Flow, by Myself'. By using these four words ad nauseum in his writing, Csikszentmihalyi achieved a new level of tautological brilliance, and affirmed once again the important of meaningless metaphor in cutting edge psychological writing.


Darwin, Charles: (1809-1882) British naturalist and creator of the theory of evolution. Unfortunately, Darwin did not anticipate how the metaphors of evolution would be used to create philosophical movements that compare bizarrely to natural philosophy, like a paint by numbers picture to the Sistine Ceiling. Thus evolution was applied like a crude wash of paint to 20th century politics (Nazism, Communism, Capitalism) and 21st century psychology (evolutionary psychology). With the political metaphors of Darwinism, it took more than a century (and untold death and destruction) for folks to recognize that they were nonsense. As evolutionary psychology becomes more and more employed to justify why people can't help being unthinking morons, we can expect history to repeat.

Dawkins, Richard: (1941- ) Biologist and Darwinian grinch, who introduced to evolutionary biology a metaphorical reductionism that made genes 'selfish', ideas 'contagious' (see memes), and God into a blind and mindless watchmaker, thus imbuing evolution with a selfish and meme-spiritedness it hasn't had since the olden days of social darwinism, and making the meaning of evolution as inspiring as death and taxes.

Deduction: The art of making wild and ridiculous guesses that are subject to falsification, and then acting in a wholly contrary way by trying to prove yourself wrong, and inviting others to do the same. Deductive method is also called science, and has been practiced by eccentric oddballs like Galileo, Darwin, Einstein, and Pasteur. (see induction, Karl Popper)

Defense Mechanism: In Freudian psychology, represents mechanisms such as denial, repression, and sublimation that defend the ego from attack. However, if it's another ego you're attacking, these same mechanisms are renamed as stubbornness, selfishness, and stupidity. Finally if you are observing two egos battling it out, this is called a presidential election campaign, or if applied to your in-laws, domestic bliss.

Dennett, Daniel (1865- ): Philosopher and Darwinian fundamentalist who claims that just about everything can be explained by the metaphors of natural selection. So natural selection selects for genes (physical traits) and memes (ideas), but also for blue jeans, teens, and has beens, thus giving a Darwinian explanation for fashion trends, reality TV, our present political and intellectual leadership, and shop worn ideas like this.

Depression: Lack of affect and motivation due to endogenous (i.e. genetic) and exogenous (i.e. environmental) causes. Often caused by the unwise realization that we will be overtaken by death and taxes, that our race is doomed to extinction, and that the sun will explode, pulverizing us into ashes that will in turn be sucked into a black hole. Luckily, this feeling can be cured by the wise realization that Thursday is bowling night.

Dissociation: A separation from the self, often resulting in a dissociative identity disorder. In mild forms this is experienced when we are driving long distance and lose time or find ourselves day dreaming longer than usual. More severe forms occur when dreaming while driving long distance, ending up in an afterlife identity disorder.

Dodo Hypothesis: In Lewis Caroll's 'Alice in Wonderland', a dodo led Alice and other creatures in a merry race around an island. Stopping abruptly, the dodo declared Alice and all the runners winners, as he said, "all must have prizes." This dodo hypothesis of every entrant a winner applies exquisitely to the numerous schools of psychology whose members run around in conceptual circles, secure in the knowledge that they deserve prizes, when in their fractious and useless confusion, they are merely dodos.

Dopamine: Neurochemical or 'master molecule of addiction' that controls or modulates the activity or 'firing' of arrays of brain cells, thus directing and 'fixing' attention by making attention either consciously or non-consciously have affective value or feel good. Since 99% of our time is spent waiting or anticipating things, dopamine is nature's way of giving us a lollipop to sooth and reinforce the wait. Dopamine may also be called the master molecule of metaphor, since people are wont to assign any number of distinctive transcendent (e.g. higher consciousness, flow or peak experiences) or not so transcendent (e.g. cocaine high, mania) states to what amounts to a simple neuro-chemical fluctuation.

Drive: A need state energized by stimulus deprivation (no food), stimulus apprehension (thinking about male or female protuberances), or dread (forgetting one's anniversary) that gets you going, but doesn't tell you where. When coupled with cognition, ignites something called behavior (e.g., raiding the refrigerator, flirting, making excuses to wife), and when defined as combined becomes undefined, such as consciousness, free will, and 'about last night'.

Dr. Phil: (1946-2006) Greatest psychologist that ever was, and an inspiration for an entire nation to shape up, get in ship shape, or otherwise ship out. Author of the '10 life laws', the '15 life strategies', and 'how to earn millions without having to serve 10 to life'. Dr. Phil has revolutionized the intellectual landscape of American as curricula changed nationwide from philosophy to PHIL-osophy. Dr. Phil was a graduate of the Academy of Lagado, and winner of several Ponzi awards, the Salieri Prize, the Oprah Legion of Honor, and of late was spiritual adviser to the Republican party. Tragically, Dr. Phil's life came to an abrupt end when in a household accident, he tripped and was crushed by his own ego.

DSM: A taxonomical compendium of mental diseases, syndromes, and traits that are wierd or harmful enough to merit a psychologist's caring intervention. DSM is often confused with the DSM (Dimwitted Syndrome Manual), which represents a list of permutations of the metaphors which when strung together suggest nonexistent diseases, syndromes, and traits that are wierd and harmful enough to merit a psychologist's caring intervention. Depending upon your point of view (caregiver, patient, health care insurer, or sceptical web site writer), both manuals are completely interchangable.


Ego: Metaphorical little "I' (not to be confused with metaphorical little guy, or homunculus) who sits between impulsive (id) and straitlaced (super-ego) characters, and ends up as 'Mr. Personality', an ego centric title to say the least. Egos are also known as 'self', 'consciousness', 'being', and French people.

Emotional Intelligence: A type of intelligence, common among angry housewives, who combine emotions and intelligence as they berate their unemotional and witless husbands for not listening, not taking out the garbage, etc. Emotional intelligence quotients of EQ's are also commonly handed out to ninnies who score low on IQ tests, thus making more than enough intelligence to go around.

Empiricism: Philosophical doctrine that all we know comes from our senses. Unfortunately, we can make sense of what we sense only by combining our senses with representations from other senses, thus making knowledge into seeming non-sense. In other words, because we don't think literally but metaphorically, meaning is often confused and communication doubly so. Take consciousness for example. It can be raised, lowered, expanded, out of body, embodied, charged, discharged or zoom out of this world. It's still one thing for all of us, but different things for any of us, due of course to language, not reality. As for reality, that remains an empirical question, yet it will remain undefinable, as there are no words that can describe it.

Episodic Memory: The uncanny ability to remember selected TV episodes in months or years past.

Epistemology: The branch of philosophy that aims to figure out how you know what you know, and if you can know it in the first place, or if everything is just a bad dream conjured up by the Matrix. Know what I mean? Epistemologies range from the Socratic (I know nothing) to the Popperian (all I know is what you can show), to the Humpty-Dumptian (what you know is what I say so). For example, modern day scientists follow a Popperian epistemology, whereas psychologists incline to the Humpty-Dumpty way of knowing it all.

Evolutionary Psychology: A branch of psychology, unwittingly inspired by Charles Darwin and Rudyard Kipling, that describes how we behave through made up stores that guess why we had to behave. In this case, the stories are about what traits our ancestors had to evolve 250,000 years ago to survive. At that time, Mother Nature or evolution was especially demanding, and selected those behavioral traits that permitted survival, much like a mom selects out table manners in her kids. Since all the evidence of this selection process has been washed away in the sands of time, this provides a wonderful opportunity for psychologists to act like trial lawyers, and fabricate evidence and design in tightly spinning plots that would do Agatha Christie proud. Evolutionary psychologists provide 'just so' stories to explain everything about human behavor, and all without the troublesome need to assemble proof. Thus, according to EP, we can run fast because our ancestors had to escape cave bears, got smart because they had to know where the cave bears were, and got sexy because they could rescue cave babes from the cave bears.

Existential Anxiety: Refers to anxiety about finding one's place in the world, in line, or trying to find where one placed one's car keys.

Extinction: Gradual cessation of activity due to removal of essential ingredient. Thus, fire is extinguished because of a lack of air, dinosaurs became extinguished because of lack of food, and behavior is extinguished because of a lack of reinforcement. Extinction represents an enlightened approach to behavioral control, where instead of whacking a misbehaving child/adult/dog, you simply ignore the behavior and allow it to extinguish for want of attention or reinforcement. But as one suffers the wait for behavior to extinguish, a related behavioral control technique comes to mind, namely the Chinese water torture.

Extrinsic Motivation: Motivation that comes from without, such as money, titles, honors, trophies, and a date with Mary Jane. Extrinsic motivation has been found to destroy intrinsic motivation, hence the present movement to eliminate extrinsic motivation from schools, hospitals, and government, making them the efficient dynamos full of self-motivators that we know today.


Fixation: Psychological disorder, common among housewives, that forces them to incessantly drive their spouses to fix sinks, roofs, fences, and other assorted objects.

Fixed Interval Schedule: The fixed interval schedule or FI schedule of reinforcement defers reinforcement until behavior occurs after the passage of a fixed interval of time. The FI schedule was originally studied by the psychologist B. F. Skinner using laboratory animals, and he discovered that the critters would hang around until the last minute before responding. The FI was later used to gain critical insight as to why we procrastinate, pay taxes at the last minute, and never seem to want to take out the garbage until our spouse lowers the boom.

Flooding: a behavioral technique used to treat phobias (e.g., fear of spiders) when we are flooded with the object of our fear (buckets of spiders) until the fear disappears. Contrasts with fading procedures when the object of our fear is introduced gradually (one teensy spider at a time), and generally preferred avoidance procedures when we eliminate (shoe on spider) the fearful object once and for all.

Folk Psychology: Heuristic rules or rules of thumb for understanding human behavior, derived and used by us 'folk'. Also known as common sense, it is simple, easy to understand, practical, and allows us to get by from day to day. Not to be confused with academic psychology, which for the most part is unsimple, hard to understand, impractical, and allows academic types to get by from day to day.

Flow Experience: Discovered by the psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, who defined it as flowing experience where the self reaches undreamed levels of consciousness and an evolved level of self-hood. It can also mean a high level of attentive arousal during touch and go situations (e.g. rock climbing, auto racing) where you'll likely lose your head along with your self and your consciousness if you don't pay attention.

Free Will: The innate ability to make a decision 'freely' or without a cause. Besides being an oxymoron (free will means a causeless cause), free will is commonly used as a rationalization to give up finding a cause for behavior, thus limiting behavior modification techniques to indifference (see social darwinism), blame, ridicule, corporal or capital punishment, and eternal damnation.

Freud, Sigmund: (1856-1939) Viennese physician who saw the mind as partitioned into metaphorical forces or agents (id, ego, superego) that were untestable, unprovable, and were of no more practical value than a belief in Casper the friendly ghost. By eschewing the strictures of scientific proof and reveling in absurd metaphor, Freudianism became a source of inspiration for bad psychology and bad literature that continues to this day.

Functionalism: The principle that form follows function (as in evolutionary psychology) rather than function following form (as in learning theory, affective neuroscience), thus arriving at principles that are formal but not functional, and psychological principles that are true to form, dysfunctional. (see. S. Pinker)


Gamers Block: Oftentimes, no matter how much we try in life, we can't seem to make it to the next level. So, we take time out from our daily frustrations to play a video game, only to find out that as you waste time playing the game, you find you are wasting time learning how to play it well. This is particularly galling when the clue to reaching the next level is in hindsight oh so obvious. Gamer's block is particularly harmful to those who take pride in their ability to loaf productively. This it is particulary prevalent among office workers, bureaucrats, and writers of satirical web sites.

Gene: A little microscopic guy who lives to reproduce (after all, it's in his DNA, although he is often divided about it), and protects himself by constructing a large molecular shell (or body) that has a mind of its own, and redecorates the place with strange ideas. (see

General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS): The body's generalized attempt to defend itself against flatulence.

Gladiator Therapy: A natural form of therapy where you visualize decapitating, eviscerating, and chopping up in bits people who irritate you. As an exercise in Gladiator Therapy in action, pick a motion picture where you have a hero persecuted by some evil folks, and who triumphs or at least dies heroically in the end. We'll use naturally the movie Gladiator as a case in point, although films like Rambo, the Terminator, and the Wizard of Oz may also be used. The film opens up with a real swell battle scene where you and people you like (e.g. your bowling league, U.S. Marines, Florida State football team) are up against some awful barbarian hordes (e.g. your irritating in-laws, North Koreans, Internal Revenue Service, University of Miami football team.) You and your pals of course kill them all in a bloody battle, but you are betrayed by a usurper to the throne, who takes your easy chair, your corner office, or your bank account. As he thinks he's got you down for the count, you retort thusly: " I am the follower of: George Bush, FSU sports, almighty God, almighty dollar, etc. You have killed my family, taxed me, bored me, etc. and in this life or the next I WILL HAVE MY VENGEANCE!"Then you kill him, assassinate his character or something like that. Of course you probably won't do these things, but for now it sure feels good that you can cinematically portray the comeuppance of your enemies! Just take one movie a day and a little bit of positive play acting, and soon you'll be emoting with satisfaction as you portray your enemies being chopped to bits, obliterated by cannon fire, or having bad hair days. Thus your bad emotions will be purged, and you will be able to whistle while you work, and happily skip and saunter through your day, oblivious to any care in the world!

Gould, Steven Jay: (1941-2002) Distinguished ethologist, evolutionary biologist, and man of letters. Gould believed that natural science ultimately was informed by multiple or 'plural' empirical traditions, and that accident and contingency has a much a hand in making us what we are than a monomaniacal reliance on the metaphors of natural selection. Sensible stuff of course unless you have a lucrative 'revolution' to run. Thus Gould was excoriated, excommunicated, and in their dreams burned alive by Darwinian fundamentalists such as Daniel Dennett, Steven Pinker, and Tooby-Cosmides who felt that at least that had true religion if not truely good writing skills.


Hard Wired: Tiny little, yet hard wires that causes us to like sex, be afraid of spiders, and prefer vanilla ice cream. Hard wires are an essential ingredient for our behavior that dispenses with the need for hard thinking.

Heirarchy of Needs: A core principle of Maslow's theory of motivation, which presents the revolutionary claim that when it comes to needs, first things first, or always drive with your horse before your cart. Thus we must achieve lower needs (food, shelter, safety) before we can achieve higher needs, such as belonging, self-esteem, or self-actualization. Thus, before you can bond with your bowling league buddies (belonging needs) and win that coveted trophy (self-actualization), it is useful to first not be a homeless, starving vagrant.

Heterosexuality: The sexual affinity of individuals for members of the opposite sex. To the uneducated, heterosexuality has unfortunately been confused with homosexuality and bisexuality. This has been particularly true for the Southern Baptists, who have mounted several campaigns to keep heterosexuals out of the nation's public schools.

Hippocampus: Large, lumbering brain organelle shaped like a hippo that is camped out in the middle of the brain, and is responsible for memory storage to the ventral pachedermus (responsible for long term memory) and the dorsal whatchumacallus (which tends to forget). (see also brain, neurotransmitter,
limbic system, neuron)

Homosexuality: The sexual affinity of individuals for members of the same sex. Homosexuality is a particularly difficult trait to possess, since it invariably leads to much arguing over who is to pick up the check on dinner dates.

Homunculus: A metaphorical little man (or little woman) who resides in your cranial noggin and pulls the levers for your behavior. Also called self, ego, muse, conscience, and Jiminy Cricket. Homunculi are usually quite reasonable, and can be influenced by your spouse, psychotherapist, preacher, and tiny little angels and devils that stand on each of your shoulders, dispensing advice. Homunculi are generally rejected by behaviorists, but hey, they're extinct anyways!

Humpty-Dumpty: Patron saint of psychologists and all around good egg. Humpty devised the
epistemological ground rules of psychology, namely that things are the way things are because that's the way I say things are. That psychology and Humpty are not cracked up to what they say has been proven to be literally true, no yolk!

Humanistic Psychology: Branch of psychology that distinguishes humans from every other creature through the invention of murky metaphors that are exclusively applied to human behavior. Thus metaphors like higher consciousness, self-hood, self-actualization and intrinsic motivation are uniquely applied to humans because we can say so, thus reaffirming the eternal truth that saying is believing.

Hypnosis: Unique but obscure brain state hypothesized to explain dumb, unusual, and unlikely behaviors that occur subsequently to motivational instructions, yet disappear when the behavior is smart, commonplace, and expected. Thus when people act like obedient, compliant buffoons for a stage magician, they are hypnotized, but when they behave the same way on 'reality' TV shows to become the 'bachelor' 'survivor', or 'apprentice', they are wily and smart contestants.

Hysterical Blindness: An inherited genetic trait, common among individuals of French descent, that leads to hysteria and blindness when confronted with imminent threats, like oncoming trucks. For inbred populations such as the French, this has resulted in collective hysterical blindness to invading Roman legions, marauding English knights, evil Nazis, Balkan and Iraqi despots, and American TV.


Idiot Savant: An individual who exclusively focuses on the mastery of one aspect of performance (e.g. doing math, playing the piano), to the exclusion of all other skills, both technical and interpersonal. Known in less severe cases as nerd savants. Idiot Savants are to be distinguished from those folks who focus on all aspects of performance and are masters of none, but think they are savants one way or another. They are known as 'that bunch of idiots' or more formally as religious fundamentalists or Republicans.

Incest: An aversion to any sexual activity imagined or otherwise with closely related kin. Incest derives as a spandrel from the learned inattention or habit we develop when sexually immature that makes kinfolk unattractive along with homework, yardwork, and broccoli, thus proving the adage that familiarity breeds contempt.

Induction: The non art of making conclusions, but only when all the facts are in; or making hypotheses, but only if no facts can ever be found; or making untestable conclusions from non-facts. Induction is common in the fields of accounting and psychology, and inductive methods like audit and opinion polls are critical for these disciplines, and are necessary for accountants and psychologists to secure gainful and infinite employment and publication until our sun explodes. (see also deduction, Steven Pinker)

Intrinsic Motivation: Motivation that comes from within, as opposed to extrinsic motivation, which comes without. Humanistic psychologists stress the importance of developing intrinsic motivation early in life, so that as adults we can be self-motivated without the need to have to earn a living.

Ironic Science: Coined by the science writer John Horgan, represents the axioms and artifacts of scientific theories that will take a million or more years to prove correct, if you're lucky. Ironic science is particularly attractive to science fiction writers and psychologists, since the former can postulate alien civilizations, ice ages, and galactic empires, and the latter all sorts of weird and scarcely provable human instincts without being held accountable for their proof in their lifetimes.

Kim chee Therapy is the 5,000 year old Korean art of pickled cabbage. Once ingested the kim chee flows throughout the body generating a high level of stress relieving RPM’s, with only moderate methane by products. The kim chee force is quite powerful, and needs to be vented periodically to maximizes its stress relieving properties. Just bend your knees to a squat position while keeping your upper body straight. Observe your breathing for a few seconds, and feel the surge of calm as the released kim chee vapors envelope you. Of course, when you do this make sure you are away from any co-workers, friends, or heat sources.

Kipling, Rudyard: (1865-1936) English writer and unwitting inspiration for evolutionary psychology. In his 'just so' stories Kipling described how the leopard got its spots, the tiger its tail, and the elephant its trunk in terms that were fanciful, unprovable, and quite logical, if of course you didn't think about it too much. Similarly, evolutionary psychologists have emulated Kipling, but unfortunately without the charm, wit, or tongue fully in cheek. Thus, in books like Steven Pinker's 'How the Mind Works' and E. O. Wilson's 'So-so Biology', we learn how the human got his brain, his sex drive, and his need to cheat on his income taxes. And its all quite sensible, providing of course you don't think too much.


Lamarckian Evolution: Early concept of evolution developed by the French naturalist Jean Baptiste Lamarck that claimed that the acquired characteristics developed from practice became heritable characteristics. Thus a giraffe, by continuing to stretch his neck will pass down to its offspring an increase stretching ability and the long neck that goes with it. Similarly, evolutionary psychologists stretch the truth by creating concepts like 'memes' (ideas that spread and multiply through use) that themselves act like Lamarckian replicators, with the academics who pose these explanations ending up looking stretched themselves, like Pinocchio's nose.

Learning Curve: Gradual accelerating mastery or learning of a task as measured by a sloping curve. For tasks that are acquired rapidly (e.g. finding the salad bar, learning a video game), the learning curve is replaced by the learning parabola, and for subjects that cannot be mastered no matter the experience (understanding tax law, cell phone plans, your spouse), the learning curve is replaced by the learning sink hole.

Learning Theory: Theoretical orientation in psychology that studies how experience influences behavior. Learning theories ae classified by the origination of their primary data: thus behaviorism is based on ethological data, analytical psychology is based on patient interviews, evolutionary psychology is based on teleological principles, and pop psychology (e.g. Dr. Phil) is derived from talk show audiences.

Learned Helplessness: A term coined by the psychologist Martin Seligman, who noted that animals that are restrained from escaping a noxious stimulus will learn to be helpless, and will remain inert even if the noxious stimulus is repeated when restraints are removed. Learned helplessness is a common tendency in humans, as they learn to be helpless towards things they cannot escape, such as death, taxes, traffic noise, whining kids, and psychobabble.

Level Confusion: To logically confuse or conflate two different metaphorical levels of description, thus coining new phrases at the cost of new confusion. For example, selfish genes, psychic energy, conscious organisms, or propositions like water equals two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen, and one part 'wetness' tie together high and low level concepts into strange loops that make for untestable and unpractical thinking, but at least make metaphorical pictures that seem to be correct, even though they are as tangible as the cheshire cat.

Limbic System: Brain system the size of a peach pit that exists deep in the center of our cerebral noggin, and regulates primary emotional and drive states (curiosity, hunger, thirst). To psychologists other than the neuropsychological sort, the limbic system is replaced by the 'limbo' system, a foggy metaphorical brain compartment that is physically neither here nor there, but is a lot easier to conceptualize (e.g. massive modularity, homunculus, free will), yet ends up doing the same thing even though it's a bogus and ad hoc fabrication.

Logic: A systematic method of coming to the wrong conclusion with confidence. (see logical positivism)

Logical Positivism: Philosophical position that if you are logical, you are positively correct, and if you are positive, it must be logical. Problem is, humans are rather illogical creatures who are often positive but not very logical. This is demonstrated logically and positively through the common experience of husbands who suffer through wifely tirades over housework, budgets, etc. that are positively illogical, or if they are logical, are not very positive. Get my logic?


Massive Modularity: a defining principle of evolutionary psychology that holds that behavioral traits (e.g. incest aversion, altruism, watching reality TV) derive from metaphorical mental modules that hypothetically developed due to evolutionary pressures experiences by our caveman ancestors. Thus, by following the sacrosanct formula of bad psychology, or (metaphorical cartoon X guesswork) = reality, the principle permits evolutionary psychologists to equate literary soundbites with true science from the comfort of their armchairs, and avoid the onerous intellectual heavy lifting that true scientific proof requires. (see phrenology, Steven Pinker)

Meditation: The practice of focusing on a simple stimulus or precept while sitting alone, quietly. This results in a higher state of consciousness, greater creativity, elevated resistance to disease, and a state of equanimity or bliss. Meditation is best practiced in conjunction with spiritual or psychological teachings that are available in a seminar near you. An alternative explanation for meditation is that it represents nothing more than a state of relaxation due to the 'incidental' fact that one is sitting alone, quietly, and thinking of next to nothing, and thus costs next to nothing. One of these explanations is right, and the other is useful to make a lot of money. Guess which one is which, and is the most popular.

Medulla Oblongata: Oblong brain organelle, located in the brain stem (just above the brain root), and connected to the posterior singulate, anterior pepperoni, cerealbellum, 'neo'-cortex, and the Matrix. The medulla controls heartbeat, blood pressure, indigestion, and procrastination.

Meme: The idea that since ideas reproduce metaphorically like genes, that they must reproduce actually like genes. Thus because ideas spread like the plague, tunes are infectious, and advertising phrases are catchy, this must mean that ideas are selected by the same evolutionary processes that make for feet, eyeballs, and a tendency to accept nonsense such as this. (see evolutionary psychology)

Metaphor: To describe an event by imputing to it a property it does not have but would be neat if it did. Metaphors are particularly useful to psychologists, who can get extra mileage out of metaphorically embellishing the same plain Jane observations. Thus consciousness is 'raised', emotions are 'released', and behavior is due to metaphorical memes, genes, impulses, willpower, and little people (or selfs) that live within the brain and pull all sorts of levers (see homunculus). Metaphors can also be used for succinct and accurate descriptions such as Dr. Phil 'sucks' and evolutionary psychology is 'bullshit', but such usage is unfortunately less common.

Mindfulness A mindless stress reduction technique. Heighten your awareness by concentrating on an object. Consider a No.2 pencil. Look at it and admire its long shaft and soft conical tip. Feel it’s long, hard firmness as you thrust it in your hand. Caress the soft nub of the eraser against the folds of your skin. Very, very soon, you will either feel a surge of calm or other surges which will head you towards the bathroom.

MMPI: Or Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, is an list of 527 questions (I like flowers, I need a hug) used to inventory the abundant personality traits of Minnesotans. Not to be confused with the MsMPI, or Mississippi Multiphasic Personality Inventory, which is a series of 12 questions (I like beer, Naps are good) that cover the personality traits that are essential for the rest of us.

Music Therapy: A therapy that uses music to slow heartbeat, or in the case of heavy metal rock music, stops heartbeat. Music also increases mesomorphins, a pre-archaic chemical that primed our ancient ancestors (hairy two inch shrews.) to freeze and play dead upon spotting a velociraptor. Best bets for some soothing tunes are: Airing out my G-String, by J.S. Bach, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (tr: I’m inclined to knock music) by W. A. Mozart, the adagio from Beethovens’s Erotic Symphony, the tranquil and uplifting final movement from Tchaikovsky’s Pathetic Symphony, and the slow languid tones of Johann Tacobel’s Canon for unaccompanied tuba.

Multiple Personality Disorder: Mental disorder manifested in abrupt shifts in personality style. Individuals afflicted with this disorder respond well to occupational therapy that allows them to display multiple personalities and still fit into the fabric of society, thus thinning the population of mental institutions and filling the ranks of politicians and lawyers.


Nativism: The idea that aspects of mind or behavior are innately or instinctively structured. In psychology, nativism rose to prominence as a cop-out explanation for ornery behavior that psychologists couldn't figure out or control. Examples of nativistic behavior are food washing by raccoons, imprinting by birds, and our interest in TV 'reality' shows. Later 'evolved' into evolutionary psychology.

Nesting Impulse: Since the first toad like creatures crawled on land countless eons ago, nest building has evolved along with the ever greater intellectual sophistication of species. From the primitive mud holes of our amphibian ancestors to the posh condos of Manhattan cliff dwellers, humans have developed nesting standards to meet their ever expanding brains. Well, except perhaps for men, who if left alone would feel perfectly at home in a mud hole, as long as it was wired for cable of course. Our earlier mammalian ancestors adorned their nests with twigs, leaves, and brightly covered rocks. This impulse continues with us to this day, as women are instinctively drawn to lining their homes with bric-a-brac that would do a pack rat proud.

Neuron: A brain cell, and the constituent part of our brains. Billions of neurons occupy our cranial noggin, yet almost all are strangely superfluous, since we can act (and often do) as if we have only one.

Neurotransmitter: neurochemical emitted between the junction or synapse between neurons causing bioelectrical impulses to travel between neurons and increase synaptic efficiency (connectivity), and as an emergent property, comprises thinking. For cognitive and evolutionary psychologists, the bio is removed from the electrical, and the electrical metaphor is used, making the brain into a computer, neurons into circuitry, and neurotransmitters into the stuff that powers a light bulb, which metaphorically came on for the dim bulb psychologists who came up with the idea.

Oprah Moment: The point when after listening to the whining of your fat, stupid, loser friend, you give him or her a hug. When useless verbiage is added, this is called psychotherapy.

Oral Stage: Following the granting of tenure stage, the oral stage is a developmental stage of logorrea that occurs among academics, who being too full of themselves, spew forth half digest ideas and theories that slip up an unaware public, and later have to be cleaned up by more sober critics who know a steaming pile when they see it. Often, sufferers of the oral phase are not aware of the mess they are causing, and are sometimes called 'leading intellectuals' by audiences that cannot differentiate shit from shinola (see Steven Pinker, Dr. Phil)


Panksepp, Jaak: (1943-2039) Distinguished psychologist, ethologist, affective neuroscientist, and greatest intellectual troublemaker since Galileo. Successively criticizing analytical psychologists, evolutionary psychologists, and behaviorists for leaving the brain out of their equations for behavior, Panksepp was later forced to recant his heretical views by the APA on the Oprah show, and spent the rest of his remaining years locked in an ivory tower on some Bowling Green. Was later vindicated in 2397 by a consortium of super-intelligent toaster-ovens, but by that time mankind had evolved back to sponges.

Parapsychology: The study of extraordinary behavior (ESP, telekinesis), and how it is determined by strange psychic forces and impulses that cannot be explained by any science known to man. Not to be confused with psychology, which is the study of ordinary behavior (procrastination, voting republican), and how it is determined by strange psychic forces and impulses that cannot be explained by any science known to man.

Passive Dependent Personality: A personality trait that leads to passivity and dependency towards a dominant figure such as a wife or boss. Groups of people who display this trait are also called slaves, and if they exist on a distant continent are called outsourced workers.

Pavlov, Ivan: (1949-1936) Renowned physiologist, psychologist, winner of the Nobel Prize, and creator of a unique data language and experimental methodology called Pavlovian conditioning that is used commonly and fruitfully by experimental psychologists to this day in the study of learning. For the rest of us, which unfortunately includes many academic psychologists, Pavlov is the nutty professor who showed us how to condition salivation to ringing bells, inspired a behavioristic psychology that aspires to take over the world, and created procedures used by Madison Avenue to sell cars and Coca-Cola.

PC Time Travel: Not quite a syndrome really, but is is nonetheless amazing that you can sit down to play a few minutes of the computer game 'Quake', and next thing you know twenty years have passed, and you're being rudely distracted by a wrecker ball crashing through your window. This effect, unkown to the world until Rip Van Winkle discovered it while bowling in the 18th century, represents an exciting new way to travel in time without all that constant waiting.

To experience PC Time travel, just fire up that latest hyper addictive video game and soon all time and space will collapse into a blur, and you will wake up to new worlds and new wonders. Unfortunately, as you travel through time, you get older too. But at least you won't have much of a lost past to be nostalgic about, except perhaps some sweet reminiscences of Pac-Man games.

Penis Envy: In psychoanalytic thought, the desire of girls to possess a penis and therefore have the power that being a male represents. Nowadays, the penis is much deflated in value by girls, and has been replaced by credit cards, a college education, and the vote.

Phenomenology: The study of the logic of conscious or phenomenal events. However, since metaphorical (e.g. consciousness, flow experience) descriptions are used as a proxy for how people really feel, phenomenology becomes rather un-phenomenal, since naming things is not equivalent to being things, leaving 'being' just as inexplicable as ever. (see

Phrenology: 19th century belief that mental characteristics were physically engraved in the brain, and were signified by bumps on the head. Replaced in the late 20th century by evolutionary psychology, which held that mental characteristics are physically engraved in the brain because our ancestors literally had to suffer bumps on the head (and evolve the wits to avoid them).

Pinker, Steven: (1954- ) Psycholinguist, evolutionary psychologist, and master of the modern intellectual nonsense book. Following the traditions of Dr. Seuss and Dr. Phil in creating wondrous imaginary worlds for simple folk, Pinker has written big, fat, and wordy books based on equally imaginary premises for the faux intellectual in all of us. Of note in his substantial corpus of works are 'How the Mind Works', in which he provides an imaginary account of the mind without mentioning once the brain; 'The Blank Slate', an intriguing rebuttal of the imaginary controversy about whether people are indeed blank slates with nary an instinct in their heads; and 'Phrenology: the Mind's New Old Science', in which our author finds distinct mental modules for hope, fear, stamp collecting, tidiness, and Britney Spears addiction residing in our cranial noggin.

Placebo Effect: A perceived relief from illness, bad moods, and income taxes due to useless nostrums or placebos like sugar pills, psychotherapy, and presidential state of the union speeches.

Pop Psychology: Pop or popular psychology refers to books, programs, or seminars that allow one to rebuild or refashion one's personality through following simple rules, and to do so as easily as following the instructions to install a ceiling fan. Pop psychology techniques are usually organized in easy to follow manuals. Thus, if one learns the ten life laws, aquires the twelve habits, and follows the ten commandments, one will live happier, be more effective, and get to heaven to boot. Unfortunately, like installing a ceiling fan, the instructions are hard to follow, a few bolts are missing, and the thing invariably crashes on your head. But of course, that's your fault anyways, but is remedied by buying more books, attending more seminars, and perhaps spending a stint in purgatory. (see Dr. Phil)

Popper, Karl (1902-1994) Distinguished philosopher of science and spoil sport. Popper asserted that you cannot have scientific principles unless they can be subject to disproof or test, and that the spirit of science is to make wild and unfounded conjectures, and to challenge them unmercifully. This Socratic spirit of informed self-doubt is thankfully not needed in psychology, where every year we get new books full of untestable conclusions that purport to explain it all, without a doubt. (see Steven Pinker)

Positive Psychology: Founded by the psychologist Martin Seligman, represents a consortium of psychologists that investigates, catalogs, and promotes the signature virtues, strengths, and skills that when developed lead to sustained happiness. These attributes can represent any number of things, from knot tying, swimming, and camping to helping little old ladies cross the street. The positive psychology movement thus has proven that you don't need Socratic self doubt for happiness, but the sunny disposition and upbeat philosophy of the Boy Scouts, which of course the movement copies to a T, and of course fits the needs of busy men and women who don't have time to stop and think.

Projective Test: Psychological test that measures verbal responses to nonsense words, funny shapes, and silly syllogisms, and is used to gain insight into unconscious motives and deep psychological truths. Examples of projective tests are the Rorschach test, Thematic Apperception Test, and psychology journal articles.

Prozac: Magic elixir in tablet form that cures all mental illness, and is normally prescribed when the placebo effect of psychotherapy is ineffective, and when the psychotherapist hasn't a clue, which is usually the case.

Psychology: The science of mind that may or may not involve science or mind, may or may not involve behavior, may or may not be theoretical, empirical, ethological, or logical, and may or may not be simplistic, incomprehensible, or downright obvious. Psychology, by being all definitions for all people, is an all encompassing discipline that gives us clues to our behavior and keeps us clueless about behavior at the same time.

Psychobabble: Psychological advice or analysis that is incomprehensible, unpronounceable, follows no discernable logic, has no obvious purpose, yet is crucial to the delusional advance of psychology. Psychobabble is a critical source of inspiration for psychology journal articles and fee income for psychotherapists everywhere. (see Dr. Phil, confusopoly)

Psychology Journal: Publication medium used by psychologists to share their pearls of wisdom, research, commentary, and analysis with the world, and at the same time avoid debate, obfuscate the issues, and keep it all under wraps by making it available only on the third floor stacks of your local inaccessible college library.

Psychotherapy: A therapy consisting of talk that is usually applied once a week by a psychotherapist who hardly knows you, and will charge you $125 an hour for advice that your mother or best friend (who know you a lot better) would dispense for free.


Qualia: A core aspect of consciousness, such as sensation, or a sum of sensations that can be described by metaphors (stabbing pain, deep depression, flowing experience) that seem to describe, but just can't represent it, but merely how something else is like it. Qualia are at root tautological concepts, which is a roundabout way of describing it.


Reductionism: The philosophical position that holds that the fine grain or molecular details of a phenomenon provide an exclusive rather than an integral part of its explanation. Reductionism gives primacy to complex explanations that are unleavened by common sense metaphors, or in other words, the devil is in the details because the details are all that count. For example, a reductionist explanation of a head cold uses molecular biochemical and microbiological terms, but ignores integrating the metaphors of viruses and germs with the metaphors that describe how people feel (not to be confused with the conflation of different metaphors, or level confusion). Unfortunately, a fear of reductionism is used as an alibi for not learning how things work, thus arriving at models of the mind that ignore reductionistic metaphors and replace them with irreducible metaphors (e.g. consciousness, will power, flow states) that represent another reductionism, of the absurdum type. (see humanistic psychology, behaviorism, evolutionary psychology)

Reinforcement: The metaphorical, symbolic, or actual point where behavior is strengthened, altered, or otherwise changed. A reinforcer can be many things. It can be an object as large as a house, or objectified in a subtle change of feeling. It can be displayed as a change in observable behavior, or a change in the likelihood of behavior yet to come. It can be an event that 'pulls' behavior from us, like a Pavlovian reflex; it can be an event that 'pushs' and is glued to behavior like a Skinnerian positive reinforcer; or it can be a mere wisp of a thought evidenced in a simple change of mind. In short, like the Cheshire cat, it is here, but never here, a tease perhaps that's needed to get us about in Neverland. It is something everyone knows and no one knows. Indeed, if this author knew for sure, he would write it here, and find the revelation no doubt very reinforcing indeed.

Relaxation Response: The concept that your muscles, which are doing nothing (i.e., relaxed) are doing something. That is, a non-response is a response. As an oxymoron, or contradiction in terms, the relaxation response represents a wickedly good approximation of unknown knowledge that has been affirmed by the silent applause of millions. In other words, if you get one oxymoron going why don't you string along more (like the ones in parenthesis)? The concept of relaxation is simple. Sit around and do and think of nothing, and your muscles will relax. There's no magic here, since if your muscles don't need to do anything, they won't. However, if you start reciting a nonsense word, odds are you'll still be relaxed, but now you can attribute those good feelings to the magical powers of mumbling in silence. Herbert Benson, the cardiologist who 'discovered' this nonsense, discovered also that the principle of the relaxation response is just the ticket to coining money big time in seminars and books. So even though the relaxation response is no different than sitting quietly, there's money in the extra mumbling tacked on. Hence the relaxation response will be with us for quite some time to come.

Releasers: The hard wired systems in our brains that prime us to respond to simple patterns of information that are as profound as the wet dream of a housefly. Consider a cantaloupe. Seeing a cantaloupe in the store will only evoke the simple response: "Yup, that's a fruit!" But put two cantaloupes under the cuffs of your pants, and you will look like you have some horrid skin disease. Place them in your back pants pockets, and you will look like a Wal-Mart shopper, and gender willing, put them up your blouse and you become Miss January for JUGGS magazine.

This fun with fruit exercise illuminates the stark fact that our brains have not evolved much past that of bumblebees. A bee sees a flower, it smells good, and then it makes a bee line for it. Similarly, a guy sees a pretty girl and wants to make a bee line for her, and a girl spots a sale and wants to be in line to buy. Luckily, society has long noted that these bee-brained activities are detrimental to that of our collective hive mind which we call civilization. Thus, it has invented things like morality and credit card limits to keep our impulses in line. The fact that mating, buying or other behavior is released by near insubtantial bits of information shows that much of our behavior is really insectoid in origin. Thus giving us a new cop out meaning to the old melodic refrain that didn't go somwhat like this: birds do it, bees do it, the insects in the trees do it, let's all do it, let's misbehave!

Repetitive Sex Disorder: A breakdown in connective tissue of reproductive bodily joints due to repetitive use. Most common among office workers who surf X rated web sites. Untreated, it often leads to ball joint disorder, not to mention worn out digits.

Retardation: Neurological impairment that effects ability to behaviorally cope with day to day demands of the world. Retardation is graduated in severity from mild to severe, and replaces 19th century nomenclature that denoted retardation with terms such as idiot, imbecile, and moron. These terms are now reserved for politicians and errant spouses.


Schema: A cognitive structure utilized to make sense of the world.When a psychologist tries to sell it to you, this is called a scheme.

Schizophrenia: Brain disorder, genetic in origin, that results in hallucinations, paranoia, and self destructive behavior. In earlier years, was cured by connecting your brain to two nine volt batteries, toxic drugs, and a steady diet of Ron Howard movies. Now, sufferers have an option of more humane treatments including modern anti-psychotic drugs, psychotherapy, support groups of like minded sufferers such as Republican party caucuses, and Dr. Phil's Nine Step 'Schizophrenia is a Choice' cure.

Scientific Method: Research strategy by which a person identifies a problem, creates hypotheses, develops predictions, and tests them through the collection and analysis of data. Normally followed by the groveling method, where one vainly tries to convince one's peers to recognize the problem and one's hypothesis, prediction, and tests.(see Galileo).

Scoring: A colloquial term used for those less gifted men who play sexual games and face an inner compulsion to score sexual points. A typical gamesman lives to make successful passes, move down to the end zone, and then put one through the uprights. Lately though, many women have wised up to this conniving, and with better defenses of their zones, have thrown most gamesmen for big losses, and no score at all.

Self-depreciation: To devalue oneself, one's body or part of it. Usually instigated by an appreciation of TV shows, video games, and doughnuts.

Self Determination Theory: Also called SDT (not to be confused with STP, which works with cars), SDT is a special brain additive bestowed by evolution that separates humans from all other life forms, and gives extra intrinsic energy or motivation (also called free will) so that we can be obnoxious, lazy, make stupid choices, and be totally oblivious to the consequences. Also called 'I'm determined to do it myself theory', and when applied to social groups, 'American foreign policy'.

Self Esteem: A New Age remedy for psychological ills that governments should mandate, schools should bestow, and parents should provide to each person, regardless of whether they have talent, intelligence, or wit. Replaces old world remedies such as 'school of hard knocks' and common sense.

Selfish Gene: As invented by the selfish ego of the biologist Richard Dawkins, represents a genetic structure (let's call him Gene) who will not share his DNA with anybody, thus insuring that he will merrily and selfishly reproduce just himself. Dawkins followed up on the Selfish Gene with a whole series of anthropomorphic constructions such as the Hungry Tummy, Horney Hooter, Itchy Foot, and Bob the Wagging Tongue.

Seligman, Martin EP: (1941- ) Experimental psychologist and leader of the 'positive psychology' movement that regards happiness as the result of the cultivation of signature human virtues, strengths, and skills. Not to be confused with a much more popular happiness movement that equates happiness with self delusion, stupidity, selfishness, and credit card signatures, or also known as modern advertising.

Sex: A biological drive which leads us to take curious delight in body curvature, skin texture, and hair color, and leads to the culmination of unaesthetic biological acts that are ironically very pleasurable.

Skinner, B. F.: (1904-1990) Famous behaviorist who studied the behavior of mice and pigeons in 'Skinner' boxes (similar to today's cubicle) where they had to work for a living. Armed with the stunning knowledge that behavior is guided by rewards or reinforcers, Skinner fled from the laboratory to spread this common sense gospel. Unfortunately, since the language of Skinnerian behaviorism was no more uplifting or original than a repair manual for a 1954 Volkswagen, Skinnerian behaviorism fell into disrepute with those who needed feel good metaphors to spice up dull common sense (see humanistic psychology). Later, Skinner behaviorism became confused with behaviorism in general, experimental psychology, and ethology, and the lot of them because disreputed by those who wouldn't look up the distinction, which meant darn near everybody.

Social Darwinism: An application of the metaphor of natural selection to society, or 'Mother Nature knows better', thus providing the rationale to ignore social problems, since evolution will sort it out soon enough in a million years or so. Social Darwinism is often used to justify social policies that ignore budget deficits, sectarian and religious strife, and environmental degradation, since they will all work themselves out, give or take a million years.

Social Disease: Illness caused by sexual transmission of an infectious agent such as a virus (AIDS, herpes), or bacillus (gonorrhea). Also refers to those essentially psychological problems (e.g. depression, alcoholism) in which individual responsibility is comfortably deferred. Finally, if Madison Avenue is to be believed, a social disease is any trait that 'really' makes you into a social leper, such as bad breath, body odor, dandruff, or wrinkles.

Social Media: interactive communications media where people meet but never meet, have a million friends but no friends, make time but have no time, and have privacy and yet no privacy at all. All in all, social media represents a social regress called progress.  

Sociobiology: An obscure term that means a synthesis of sociology and biology, yet was changed in the 1990's to evolutionary psychology when the term was recognized to denote neither. Later, in the 2000's evolutionary psychology was renamed Dr. Pinker's Just So Stories when it was recognized in turn that evolutionary psychology was neither evolutionary nor psychological. (see Kipling, Rudyard)

Socrates: Ancient Greek philosopher who believed that self doubt is healthy, constant inquiry is the way to knowledge, that a life unquestioned is a life unlived, and was poisoned by his society for his troubles. Socrates' philosophy has been superceded by modern psychology, which believes that self confidence is healthy, constant inquiry is paranoia, and a life without too many questions fits the ideal world of 'Martha Stewart's Living', where the ivy is the only thing poisonous.

Solipsism: In philosophy, the concept that only I exist, and that everything else is an illusion, and should not be regarded seriously. Solipsism is a common belief of four year old children (only I exist) and academic psychologists (only my ideas exist) and people who take the blue pill (only the Matrix exists). Of course, this is true because I say so, to myself at least.

Spandrel: The unintended consequences or byproduct of a function or thing. For example, we have a computer at work to crunch numbers, but the unintended consequences or spandrels are trolling the web, playing games, sending emails, etc. Unexpected results in animal husbandry also results in spandrels (see cocker spandrel). Similarly, having a large computational part of our cranial noggin (i.e. neocortex) permits us to plan ahead to predict where food is and avoid predators, but it also lets us become aware of our own mortality, our susceptibility to illness, and our need for advice, thus giving rise to the spandrels of religion, health insurance, and lawyers. (see also incest)

SSSM: or Standard Social Science Model, represents a metaphorical model of the mind that holds that the mind is a blank slate that is engraved solely by environmental or experience. Depending upon who you quote, this doctrine is believed by nearly everybody in the social sciences (as evolutionary psychologists would tell you) or close to nobody (as everybody else would tell you). The SSSM is useful for polarizing debate and groups of people in the mold of us vs. them, liberals vs. conservatives, and now evolutionary psychologists vs. the social science establishment, and has removed debate from the Socratic discourse of old to the block headed rancor of present day talk radio and TV. .

Statistics: Branch of mathematics used to predict how we generally behave without the need to discover how we specifically behave. Statistics can be used to justify any conclusion you want, from the virtue of eating your broccoli to the reality of UFO's. In psychology, statistics is used to give that special veneer of intellectual sophistication and cryptic buzz to the otherwise plain results of simple questionnaires, thus assuring a steady supply of journal articles and tenured psychology professors.

Stimulus-Response: Stimulus-response, or S-R, represents a direct mapping or cause-effect link between a stimulus event and an overt or covert response. Useful for descriptions of simple creatures and the simple-minded behavior of mollusks, jelly fish, dogs, and teenage girls.

Stress: Instinctive reaction comprised of muscles tensing, adrenaline percolating, and blood rushing from head to foot in preparation for fighting or flighting. Stress is a hardwired response that evolved from our caveman days when we had to constantly run from hungry dinos and sabertooth tigers. And if you buy into this explanation, then something else is rushing from head to foot, namely your common sense.

Stressodontics Stress tends to settle in certain places in our bodies, sort of like an emotional cellulite. The jaw is a likely place which stress ends up, and can cause a rather biblical degree of gritting and gnashing of teeth. Eventually this can give you that gummy bear smile that you found so endearing in your drooling great-grandfather. To prevent this, Dr. Emmit Lockjaw of the Danish College of Stressodontics recommends a dandy stress de-locator. Simply press your index fingertips on your jaw joint, clench your teeth, inhale deeply, and as you breathe out say "Why am I doing this useless exercise!?" Repeat a few times until you notice that your stress has moved to a new place, namely to your clenched fist that you are waving in the air as you recognize how stupid you were to have been conned into trying this dumb procedure.

Sympathetic Nervous System: Part of the autonomic nervous system that controls emotional responses to news of home foreclosures, forest fires, and kittens stuck in trees.


Thematic Apperception Test (TAT): A subjective personality test where ambiguous pictures are shown to an individual who is asked to clarify their meaning. Not to be confused with the Thematic Imperception Test (TIT), where clear pictures are shown to an individual, who proceeds to make them ambiguous. These tests are used interchangeably by married couples, who conflict interminably about the meaning about such clear or ambiguous pictures such as unmade beds, dirty dishes, etc. This interchangeability is also known as TIT for TAT.

T-Maze: A maze, shaped like a T, used to make mice take repeated wrong turns before they got to the cheese. T-mazes were later employed by the grocery industry to misdirect customers to the automotive section of the store, when all they really wanted was to get to the dairy aisle to get their cheese.

Teleology: An ascription of purpose or design to natural or behavioral acts that extends beyond their primary or immediate function. For example, a heart functions to circulate blood, but its teleological purpose is to keep us in circulation so that we can go to work, pay taxes, watch TV, propogate our genes, etc. Teleology is a defining characteristic of intellectual disciplines that are recognized as unscientific or should be, like religion, astrology, evolutionary psychology, and retirement planning.

Tolman, C. Edward: (1886-1959) Behavioristic psychologist who recognized that you can be a behaviorist without having to accept the stimulus-response data languages (i.e. semi-secret code words) of Pavlovian and Skinnerian behaviorism. To Tolman, higher order or 'molar' concepts like information or expectancy better described behavior, and could be throughly empirical if they strictly referred to behavior. His ideas strongly influenced the functional behaviorism of Robert Bolles and the present day bio-behaviorism of Kent Berridge. To Tolman behaviorists should be open minded, modest, undogmatic, and self critical; a position guaranteeing exactly no notoriety, hence the obsurity of his position (as well as his successors) which has held to this day.

Tooby & Cosmides: Famous traveling intellectual magic act that in their day awed audiences with amazing flights of logic, materializing facts out of thin air, and showing how unprovable guesswork can be called science even it's one step away from utter balderdash. The dynamic duo later founded a magic school for wannabe intellectuals, which is known today as the school of evolutionary psychology.

Visualisation: Stress relief procedure developed by Millard Funkstein M. D., the author of ‘Healing Delusions’. The procedure consists of close your eyes, taking three long slow breaths and visualize yourself loping through a meadow with a clutch of daffodils, kneeling by a babbling brook, or walking along a beach. Presumably, your stress will fade away, and you will be immersed in a healing calm. A word of caution though. If you meet along the way long dead relatives, then you’re far beyond being relaxed! You’re dead! Dr. Funkstein thus recommends that unless you want to be permanently relaxed, don’t try this technique while you’re driving a car or using power tools.


Within Group Design: A type of experimental design where one looks at changes in behavior across treatments. For example, a rat may press a bar for food in one series, and on the next series get shocked, and return to 'food' and 'shock' treatments. The experimenter would thus note how the rat would persevere over treatments. Within group designs can also be applied to groups of subjects. For example, in one series, Germans may invade France, and in the next series American would invade Germany, with both 'invade' and 'counter-invade' scenarios repeating. Only time and Nato however prevented this clever experiment from repeating ad infinitum (see between group design)


Yoga: The science of stretching to feel better. Trademarked 3,000 years ago by some Indian gurus, which is a stretch.


Versailles said...

That was funny, thank you for this article.


Regarding this procedure from your website (radical relaxation) :

1. Sit in a quiet place and progressively relax your muscles until you are completely relaxed.

2. For the next few hours, eliminate, postpone, or avoid ALL distractions, large or small. (e.g. checking email, chatting with friends, reading the newspaper, making personal phone calls, watching TV, etc.)

That's it.


But you could be sitted and be bothered/tortured by the fact that you do not allow yourself to do something you'd rather be doing ? I mean, this procedure does not really impact the chaos that goes on in your brain, does it ?

versailles said...

Maybe that's why during meditation you direct your attention to something ( breathing,...). And you thus relax AND your brain is focused. But what do I know ? I don't even meditate.

kassady said...

I already left a comment here before I'm not sure what happened to it but I take ap psych and listening to some of my teachers lectures in class I sit there wondering why someone would think of some of these words or concepts. I think this site was funny and although it "disses" psychology in a way it is very amussing. I would much rather talk to a friend then pay a bunch of money on a stranger.