May 2011


Before the mid-20th century, typologies of love were works of philosophy, ethics, introspection, and intuition. In the 1980s, Robert Sternberg produced a typology of love psychometrically, meaning he asked people about their experiences and used factor analysis to determine which experiences tended to co-occur. He came up with a three-factor model of love: intimacy, passion, and commitment. Intimacy is stuff like warmth, closeness, and bondedness. Passion is stuff like romance, physical attraction, and sex. Commitment is the decisions involved in maintaining love over time. By combining those factors, he came up with the following typology:

Relationship Type Intimacy Passion Commitment
Nonlove Low Low Low
Liking High Low Low
Infatuation Low High Low
Empty Love Low Low High
Romantic Love High High Low
Companionate Love High Low High
Fatuous Love Low High High
Consummate Love High High High

Here’s a typical triangular image of the system:

I heard a segment recently on NPR about gas prices and it reminded me of the link between driving speed and gas mileage. According to the story, driving over 60 miles per hour is equivalent to paying $.25 more per gallon for each five miles an hour faster. So if you paid$4.00 for a gallon of gas, but burn it at 65 miles an hour, it’s like having paid $4.25. Seventy miles an hour makes it $4.50, etc.

It seems funny that it’s very easy to imagine Americans complaining about the price of gas, but very difficult to imagine them driving the slightest bit slower in order to save that same money. In fact, I can easily imagine an American burning a 70-mile-per-hour gallon of gas to go out of their way to save $.25 cents per gallon at the pump. (It could be a good economic decision to do so, I suppose, depending on how many gallons of gas you need to buy, and how much your time is worth, but it still seems funny.)

If I remember my physics correctly, I think the loss of efficiency is actually not that linear, that a 75-mile-per-hour gallon probably costs significantly more than the $4.75 that NPR’s equation predicts. It has to do with the amount of force each particle of air hits the front of our car with–it’s the same principle we (if we are from the desert) use to remember to drive slowly or stop during a sandstorm, to save our windshields from getting sandblasted. Any physicists in the audience care to explain the mechanics of it?

In his excellent lecture “Climate Change Recalculated,” engineer Saul Griffith tells about how he gave an intern this incredibly boring job: Drive his wife’s Honda Insight in 100 mile stretches around a runway at constant speeds, twelve 5-mile-per-hour increments from 20 to 75 miles per hour. Seventy-five miles per hour was the worst, obviously, at about 40 miles per gallon, and the most efficient speed, at about 85 miles per gallon, was 30 miles per hour.

That’s pretty slow, but three times as fast as the average driving speed for large urban areas, he points out. I’ve been thinking about making my next trip to Portland at 30 miles an hour, to see how little gas I can use to get there. It’ll take 4 hours to get there, so I’d better bring some good company.

It’s funny to find myself giving a presentation about getting a date, as I’ve asked exactly one person for a date and was rejected. I agreed to help with a presentation in my Sex Therapy class about clients who are lonely and want to date. This is my rough (but roughly accurate) outline for my part of the presentation, about what the research says:

Things to Know About Loneliness

It’s common. 10-25% of people are significantly lonely. Adolescents and young adults are the loneliest groups.

There are two kinds: Social and emotional—a lack of a sense of social integration, and the absence of an attachment figure. Most research is about social loneliness, and the two can get confounded. Our clients may mistake one for the other.

It is bad for us. Both social integration and attachment figures are human needs. It significantly increases morbidity and mortality, probably mediated by stress and also possibly by metabolic syndrome. Predicts 25-30% of suicidal behavior. Loneliness is a key vulnerability in sexual offending.

Things to Know About Dating

Lots of people are single. Maybe close to half.

Rejection hurts. Physically. Seriously. It may actually help to take a Tylenol. Normalize the pain and the fear of pain.

There is a lot of research and it may be good to know, for psychoed purposes:

Awareness. To get a date, other people must be aware of you. Are your clients making others aware of them? The general rule here is to stand out from the crowd in some way that does not violate social norms. Standing out in a negative way will not help.

Attraction.

Physical attractiveness is a big deal. Sorry, it just is. If it is an issue, consider a conversation with clients about grooming. Beyond that, blame the media and move on to the points below.

Appropriateness. Again, violating social norms generally will turn people off. There is also a lot of research on stuff like age, social/economic status, and race/ethnicity acting as “appropriateness” filters for affiliation, but I’m not sure how helpful that will be for clients.

Familiarity. People will like you more just because they know you. As long as you didn’t make an initial negative impression, becoming a regular will help you.

Similarity. Opposites attract is wrong. People like people who are like them. This is a good plug for meeting people at special-interest events. (Bars are an exception. Very few real relationships start in bars.)

Responsiveness. We like people who seem interested in us. Eye contact, questions, turning towards bids for attention. Check your clients for an exaggerated sense of putting themselves out there.

Approach/Affiliation. If you want someone to approach you and choose you, you need to be accessible and receptive. These are much like the awareness, familiarity, and responsiveness principles, above.

I have to admit, I felt slightly excited as the moment of Harold Camping’s prophesied Judgment Day approached. Partly it was the anxiety for all of these sincere folks finding themselves so colossally wrong, like “Oh, that is going to hurt.” Partly, though, I think the excitement was from an younger part of myself that gravitated toward myth-based thinking. I did attend a couple of Christian churches off and on with my family growing up, but I don’t think that was it. My parents were never into the wrath-of-God kind of religion, and we never went to those kinds of churches. In fact, the first theological statement I can remember from my parents was when my mom told me, at 7 or 8, that heaven and hell were not places, but states of mind.

So I don’t think it was religion. I think it was the hundreds of fantasy novels I read as an adolescent. I loved those fantasy novels! I loved the romantic, adventurous, magical universes they created. And in a fantasy novel, the prophecy is always true. I can’t think of one exception. Only the heroes believe it, and it’s always true.

I think the part of me that loves those fantasy novels wondered if maybe Harold Camping was right, and we actually live in a much simpler and more cruel world than my adult self has constructed from the modern and post-modern myths called science and philosophy. It makes me wonder if my past adult focus on doomsday scenarios, like nuclear holocaust and human population explosion, or my current fascination with type-2 climate change is fueled by that same part of me.

I always ask my six-year-old friend Akira if he has the stuff he needs to go swimming, plus a couple of joke items for fun. Today:

Me: Got your goggles?
Akira: Yep.
Me: Got your swimsuit?
Akira: Wearing it!
Me: Got the money?
Akira: Yep [waves it]
Me: Got your butt?
Akira: [Nods solemnly and points]
Me: [Noticing he has nail polish on] Got your nail polish?
Akira: Yes! And earlier today I had paint all over me, and my face was all white!
Me: Oh, were you doing some miming?
Akira: [Serious] No, I can’t do any miming. I don’t have an invisible wall.

Like so many of the cool things I come across, I saw this at All Confirmation Bias, All the Time:

It got me into a search for cool slow-motion videos on YouTube. This is from the show Time Warp:

This one’s an ad, but disgusting:

This one is gross, too. I thought it was fake at first. It is making me think twice about learning to karate chop bricks:

OK, one last gross one. I’d think twice here, too, but I have never had any desire to get a tattoo:

And the collection couldn’t be complete without footage of things getting shot by bullets. My favorite is the watermelon:

PTSD was recognized in the early 1970s and formalized in 1980, largely the result of work by and with US veterans of the war in Vietnam. Many people who think about these things consider this recognition to be a turning point in psychological diagnosis. In fact, one way of thinking about psychological diagnosis is that most of what we now call Mental Disorders are basically variants of PTSD–the ways that different people respond to different traumas. If the committee working on version V of the DSM were to humor us, they might rename the tome The North American and European Catalog of Post-Traumatic Stress Behavior Patterns Plus a Few Other Human Difficulties.

Here’s a fuzzy map from the wikipedia article, showing PTSD rates. The darker the red, the more PTSD, and the lighter the yellow, the less:

Here are the criteria, word for word, from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV-TR, pages 467 and 468:

Diagnostic criteria for 309.81 Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

A. The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following were present:

(1) the person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others

(2) the person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror. Note: In children, this may be expressed instead by disorganized or agitated behavior

B. The traumatic event is persistently reexperienced in one (or more) of the following ways:

(1) recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions. Note: In young children, repetitive play may occur in which themes or aspects of the trauma are expressed.

(2) recurrent distressing dreams of the event. Note: In children, there may be frightening dreams without recognizable content.

(3) acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those that occur on awakening or when intoxicated). Note: In young children, trauma-specific reenactment may occur.

(4) intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event

(5) physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event

C. Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as indicated by three (or More ) of the following:

(1) efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma

(2) efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma

(3) inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma

(4) markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities

(5) feeling of detachment or estrangement from others

(6) restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings)

(7) sense of a foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span)

D. Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before trauma), as indicated by two (or more) of the following:

(1) difficulty falling or staying asleep

(2) irritability or outbursts of anger

(3) difficulty concentrating

(4) hypervigilance

(5) exaggerated startle response

E. Duration of the disturbance (symptoms in Criteria B, C, and D) is more than 1 month.

F. The distrubance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Specify if:

Acute: if duration of symptoms is less than 3 months

Chronic: if duration of symptoms is 3 months or more

Specify if:

With Delayed Onset: if onset of symptoms is at least 6 months after the stressor

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