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Open Thread April 8 - April 14 2014

Another consideration: earworms. I find getting a song stuck in my head to be somewhat aversive.

Edgar Allan Poe puts it this way:

It is quite a common thing to be thus annoyed with the ringing in our ears, or rather in our memories, of the burthen of some ordinary song, or some unimpressive snatches from an opera. Nor will we be the less tormented if the song in itself be good, or the opera air meritorious.

Open thread, 24-30 March 2014

Here's a sampling of the best in my RSS reader:

gwern posts on google+ and Kaj Sotala posts interesting stuff on Facebook. I also subscribe to a number of journal's table of contents via this site to keep up with research and some stuff on arxiv.

Open Thread February 25 - March 3

Forty-five individuals (22 couples and 1 widowed person) living in arranged marriages in India completed questionnaires measuring marital satisfaction and wellness. The data were compared with existing data on individuals in the United States living in marriages of choice. Differences were found in importance of marital characteristics, but no differences in satisfaction were found. Differences were also found in 9 of 19 wellness scales between the 2 groups. Implications for further research are considered.


Results from the analyses revealed that arranged marrieds were significantly higher in marital satisfaction than were the love marrieds or companionate marrieds.


Unexpectedly, no differences were found between participants in arranged and love-based marriages; high ratings of love, satisfaction, and commitment were observed in both marriage types. The overall affective experiences of partners in arranged and love marriages appear to be similar, at least among Indian adults living in contemporary U.S. society.


A contrary finding:

Multiple regression analyses indicate that wives in Chengdu love matches are more satisfied with their marital relationships than their counterparts in arranged marriages, regardless of the length of the marriage, and that this difference cannot be attributed to the influence of other background factors that differentiate these two types of women.


Methods for treating depression

While I agree that depressives should try CBT, I've begun to think some of the enthusiasm is misplaced, especially when contrasted with the scrutiny antidepressants receive. Yvain has written about this before:

The AJP article above is interesting because as far as I know it’s the largest study ever to compare Freudian and cognitive-behavioral therapies. It examined both psychodynamic therapy (a streamlined, shorter-term version of Freudian psychoanalysis) and cognitive behavioral therapy on 341 depressed patients. It found – using a statistic called noninferiority which I don’t entirely understand – that CBT was no better than psychoanalysis. In fact, although the study wasn’t designed to demonstrate this, just by eyeballing it looks like psychoanalysis did nonsignificantly better. The journal’s editorial does a good job putting the result in context.

This follows on the heels of several other studies and meta-analyses finding no significant difference between the two therapies, including, another in depression, yet another in depression, still another in depression, one in generalized anxiety disorder and one in general. This study by meta-analysis celebrity John Ioannidis also seems to incidentally find no difference between psychodynamics and CBT, although that wasn’t quite what it was intended to study and it’s probably underpowered to detect a difference.

In the vein of non-risky interventions, you might also want to add a section on meditation, expressing gratitude (not sure of the citation -- maybe here? -- but I recall the best possible selves intervention mentioned in the paper being ineffective among the depressed), and expressive writing generally.

Open Thread for February 11 - 17

Awesome, thanks so much!

Happy to help!

If you were to recommend one of these resources to begin with, which would it be?

I like both Project Euler and 99 Haskell problems a lot. They're great for building success spirals.

Open Thread for February 11 - 17
Useful Personality Tests

If the statement that the test says that you are a normal human like everybody else triggers you, that has meaning.

I wouldn't read too much into such a reaction. It seems to be a fairly common thing, resulting in the creation of a uniqueness-seeking scale in psychology. There is some support for a "need for uniqueness" as a human universal, with a review here.

From my notes on the Handbook of Positive Psychology:

As predicted, the students who were told that they were mod- erately similar to other respondents reported more positive moods than did those students who were told that they were either highly sim- ilar or highly dissimilar to other respondents. (page 415)

The establishment of a sense of uniqueness is emotionally satisfying to individuals. Moreover, it is necessary for our psychological welfare. (page 423)

And here's some just-for-fun trivia:

Specifically, evidence of a higher than usual need for uniqueness has been found among (a) women with unusual first names (Zweigenhaft, 1981); (b) women whose nearest sibling is male rather than female (Chrenka, 1983); (c) students who are firstborn or only children versus latter born (Fromkin, Williams, & Dipboye, 1973); and (d) children of interfaith marriages (Grossman, 1990). (page 416)

Open Thread for February 3 - 10

It sounds like you're saying that my aversion to failing at something else is irrational. Would you mind pointing out the error in my reasoning? (This sort of exchange is basically cognitive behavioral therapy, btw.)

Many of the things that you have said are characteristic of the sort of disordered thinking that goes hand-in-hand with depression. The book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy covers some of them. You may want to try reading it (if you have not already) so that you will be able to recognize thoughts typical among the depressed. (I find some measure of comfort from realizing that certain thoughts are depressive delusions and will pass with changes in mood.)

As a concrete example, you said:

I'm just not smart or hard-working enough to do anything more interesting than pushing paper (my current job).

These are basically the harshest reasons one could give for failing at something. They are innate and permanent. An equally valid frame would be to think that some outside circumstance was responsible (bad economy, say) or that you had not yet mastered the right skill set.

Humans can drive cars

It seems to me that we're less interested in perfect programs and more interested in programs that are good enough, and there are plenty of those, e.g. some cryptographic software, the mars rover and the Apollo systems, life-critical systems generally, telecom stuff. Of course, there are many notable failures, too.

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