honors project


Add new knowledge to the field of social psychology with my honors thesis: Yes, I did this, though it was not the knowledge that I was hoping to bring forth. I uncovered some information about how and when people think about power—being under someone else’s control versus controlling yourself versus controlling others. See the discussion section of my honors thesis for a thorough explanation.

Break my habit of scratching and picking my skin: No, I did not do this. I managed to stop for a couple months, using a cognitive-behavioral intervention, but it did not stick.

Celibacy: Yes, by my definition I was strictly celibate all year. Now, making this resolution might have made it sound like not having sex was a lifestyle change, but it wasn’t. I don’t go around having sex with people I meet and never have. I just tend to think about sex a lot, and that’s why I decided to be intentional about my normal, celibate lifestyle. I had hoped to get some specific insights out of it, which I’m sorry to say I did not get. I’d hoped that being celibate would take sex out of my mental conversation, kind of like how I stop fixating on sugar when I go off sugar. I hoped, too, that changing my mental conversation in this way would show me my own, unconscious sexism in a clear way; how might I treat women differently if there is no chance or intention of having sex? Maybe I would get to see what it was like to think of women as fellow human beings, and no more. In fact, I thought about sex significantly more while I was celibate. My celibacy acted as a trigger: Being around women reminded me that I was celibate, which reminded me of sex. Oh well.

On the other hand, I do think that being celibate was a valuable experience, just not in the ways I was expecting. I would recommend it to any single person. I don’t feel at liberty to go into those details right now, though. Ask me about it some time.

Dance every day, working on 1) musicality 2) vocabulary 3) style: Well… I danced nearly every day, and I did improve my musicality, vocabulary, and style significantly. But I did not work on those three elements as consciously or rigorously as I’d intended. I just danced a lot and got better. That said, I’m happy with my level of dancing. I can almost always have fun on the dance floor these days, and that’s satisfying.

Finish bachelor’s degree: Yep. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and graduated with honors.

Get accepted into a couples and family therapy graduate program: Yes, I got accepted to the CFT masters program at the University of Oregon—a great program, very competitive and highly regarded.

Maintain this blog: Yes, some months better than others. I love it.

Meditate every day: This I did not do. I meditated about two out of three days, on average.

Produce a record with David Waingarten: Nope. He made a movie instead of a record.

Record an EP with my band, Abandon Ship: No. We do have all the songs written, though. They just need arrangements. Coming, coming…

See healthcare provider each month until all body concerns are resolved: Yes, I did this but while it felt good to look for help, I failed to resolve any of the symptoms I was having when I wrote this goal. And I’ve added two more… but at least I spent a lot of money. I feel even more cynical about the ability of health care providers.

Set up a slick system of musical collaboration over the internet and use it regularly: No. I’m still on the verge, but I failed to get my studio up and running after my move. This is the failure I’m most sad about. I was really wanting to have my system set up by the time I started grad school, so I could just record and email a demo whenever I got an inspiration, without hassling with gear. Now I’m super busy and there are several hours of work between me and easy recording.

Shift my schedule three hours earlier for at least one term: In bed by 11 pm: Nope. I did shift my schedule two hours earlier, on average, and I did get to bed by 11 for about one term, but not in a row, which was my intention. I like the earlier schedule, though, and I’m on track for in-bed-by-11 this term so far.

Sing out every day: I did not sing every day. I sang more, but not every day. When I did sing, I sang out, like I meant it, and I think my voice has improved in some ways. So many things to do every day!

Take African dance classes: Yes. I took two or three classes and loved them. But they made my back hurt and I haven’t gone since last November. I ended up taking ballet classes instead.

Write at least one song per month: No, I did not do this. I barely wrote any music. It makes me sad. I don’t like it.

I count 7 yeses, 8 nos, 1 clear kind-of. Not too bad. And 4 of the nos weren’t complete failures. Overall I’m pleased with what I accomplished this year

Advertisements

I just posted the last two papers of my undergraduate career: my honors thesis, “Differentiating the Effects of Social and Personal Power,” and my research project for Psycholinguistics, “The Relationship between Clarity of Enunciation and Idea Density.” They are under ‘writing,’ which is under ‘out’ in my sidebar.

I don’t recommend reading them unless you are a researching these topics (in which case, I do recommend reading them). If you’re not used to scholarly writing, just read the abstracts–the first paragraphs. They tell you everything you need to know. It’s kind of funny that I just worked really hard for over a year on something that almost no one will be interested in reading. It was an astounding amount of work, comparable to making a record, from songwriting and rehearsing to mastering. And a lot more work than some records. This was not a punk record.

Well, since I just said not to read it after I’ve been posting about it for months, I guess I should at least summarize it. Here we go:

Social power is power over other people. Any kind of power. There is a lot of research on what having social power does to you, and it’s mostly bad: more stereotyping, less perspective taking, seeing others as a means to your ends etc. It’s the kind of stuff that might keep powerful people in power. Reading this stuff is pretty alarming for a feminist like me. It’s way more complicated than that, of course, but you’re getting the super short version here.

Personal power is power over yourself. There hasn’t been much research on its effects, just enough to suggest that it’s what people really want when they are struggling for power over each other, the real goal is self-governance.

I tried to test whether personal power has similar or different effects on perspective taking than social power. I was not able to do that, for complicated reasons. I was, however, able to find evidence that people consider personal power a broader category than social power. That is, you can sink to greater depths and rise to higher heights of personal power than you can social power. Second, I found that without a salient reminder of personal power, people did not make a distinction between social and personal power. That’s pretty interesting, because if people are out there trying to claw their way up the hierarchy, it may just be because they haven’t made the distinction between what they probably really want–personal power–and what they are working for–social power.

That may seem intuitive and like “why would you want to spend a year finding evidence for something so obvious?” but for a scientist, coming across something that seems obvious that hasn’t been tested is a gold mine. All kinds of obvious things have turned out to not be true. That’s one cool thing about psychology–it’s a baby science, so those unlooked-at areas are all over the place. There is only one other scientist that I’m aware of that’s looking into this subject too, Marius Van Dijke, in the Netherlands. Luckily, he’s got resources and will likely have much more traction on it than I could as an undergrad with one year to work and a $100 budget.

Next Friday, sometime after 5 pm, I will have a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from the University of Oregon. I’m going to walk and have a cap and gown and everything–I just borrowed the costume from a friend. I was supposed to buy a green braid for $12 too, because I’m graduating with honors, but it seemed like a scam. A lot of what comes up around graduation have seemed like scams. You can spend thousands of dollars on costumes and invitations and rings and memberships in various societies, not to mention airfare, lodging, and party supplies for friends and relatives coming from around the country. I have to admit to being a bit cynical about the whole thing. I only decided a couple weeks ago that I was going to walk. I went to the ceremony for the psych department last year and was not moved by it. Plus, I’m a little disappointed in how little you have to know to graduate from college. You can learn a lot, if you set your mind to it, but you don’t have to. I doubt you could graduate without being able to read, write and do some math, but I know for certain that you don’t have to do any of them well.

But I changed my mind. First, I was nominated to speak at the ceremony. I didn’t get the gig, but it seemed possible for a while, and I thought it would be a great challenge to come up with something good to say, and deliver it effectively. That would make the ceremony meaningful for me, and it would be weird to speak but not walk. And then when I started thinking about it I liked the idea more and more. Doing my honors thesis in the last year I’ve made several friends in my graduating class. We’ve been through the wringer together and supported each other and I feel really warmly towards them. I’ve also gotten to know some of the faculty and grad students in the department. And I have a bunch of good friends in Springfield and Eugene now, from dancing and music and Not Back to School Camp. It would be great to see them all in one place. I sent an email invitation to everyone nearby who I have an address for. I have no idea who will show up, I’m looking forward to seeing whoever does. (If you live in the area but did not get the email, I’m sorry. I may not have your address. Please come!)

Then there’s the importance of graduating itself. That I’m not so sure about. I love going to school. I love learning. I’m chronically curious. My getting a BS is about as momentous as skiing a lot is to someone who loves to ski. A couple of my friends who are graduating with me will be the first people in their families ever to graduate from college, and I can see that that makes a difference. My family has graduate degrees within a few generations on both sides, and everyone I’ve met in my family could easily have gotten a graduate degree if they’d been interested. They just haven’t been interested. Can I feel pride about this? I’m not sure. I think I’m going to give it a try. I have made the most of it. I have truly applied myself, learned a mountain of information, learned how to conduct scientific research, made myself into a much better reader and writer and more rigorous and open-minded thinker. I’ve also gotten myself into a graduate program in which I intend to become a strong and resourceful ally for couples and families. That is stuff to be proud about.

Inspired by my brother Damian and by the book My Year of Living Biblically, I’ve been taking a weekly sabbath this term. I am not religious but the idea of a day in which I was not allowed to work fascinated me. It seemed like a good way to take care of myself. It has been great. It is a radical lifestyle change for me, almost shocking. I have four rules for the day:

1. No school or business related work at all.

2. No fretting.

3. No counting, timing, or keeping track of anything.

4. No planning.

It’s a work in progress. Some grey areas I’m wondering about are reading and writing. So far I haven’t been doing them, except some brainstorming… which can verge on planning, now that I think of it… well, that’s why it’s a work in progress. The key elements are that it is restful and rejuvenating, and that I only do things for the pleasure of doing them, not for some future result.

I almost called this post “My Fledgeling, Faltering Sabbath,” because after three good weeks, I worked straight through last weekend, ten hour days, just like old times, and it’s looking like I’ll do the same this weekend. I have a draft of my thesis due on Tuesday (actually it was due tomorrow, but I renegotiated) and I will need at least every coherent hour until then to pull that off. I wonder if I can get back on track. Often I find that I only stick with things as long as I have a “no exceptions” rule. “Trying to do such and such a little more” is rarely effective. And I don’t have a religious community to keep me on the straight and narrow. Hmm. It seems like breaking my sabbath to worry about my breaking my sabbath.

I am a few weeks past halfway through my 38th year, conveniently marked by my brother Damian’s birthday, and the start of my spring term. Here’s an update on how my intentions for the year are coming along.

1. Add new knowledge to the field of social psychology: I have just finished (I hope) crunching numbers for my honors thesis, and I can say that I have helped produce some new evidence, at least. It is not as sexy as I had hoped, but I have learned a whole lot about the process of psychology research, and that is the main point, as my advisor keeps reminding me.

2. Break my habit of scratching and picking my skin, including biting my lip: I have made some progress here, using a technique Reanna told me about: snapping myself with a hair band around my wrist whenever I had the urge to touch myself. My success varies clearly with my stress level. It requires mindfulness. Another insight/confusion: picking and lip biting, I can tell, are pure stress responses, but the scratching I think is more than that. I seem to be an itchier than normal person. A dermatologist told me that it was the “notoriously harsh” hand-made soap I have been using. I accepted that explanation until I realized on my ride home that he had been wrong. I only use soap on a few key areas. By his reasoning my armpits should be itchier than most of me, and they are not. Any ideas?

3. Celibacy: This has been no problem. I have not been tested, however; no one that I am aware of has wanted to have sex with me. When I first told Grace about this one, she said, “You are going to learn a lot from doing that, but you know, now that you are committed, you will immediately meet someone who will make it very challenging.” Well, not yet.

4. Dance every day, working on 1) musicality 2) vocabulary 3) style: This is going pretty well, though some days my dancing is just a token, so I could say I did. I had a big breakthrough in musicality on my fast dancing at Seattle Balboa Festival in February. The choreography I have been working on with Karly has been helping my working vocabulary. And the main reason I decided to take ballet is to improve my poise and lines. It is easy for me to get into an I-could-be-doing-so-much-more/better state. There is a guy who started in the same beginning class that I did in Eugene who really dove in and is now a rock-star dancer in Portland, winning national competitions. But I still give myself a thumbs up on this one.

5. Finish bachelor’s degree: Yes. I am on track to graduate with honors on June 13, 2009.

6. Get accepted into a couples and family therapy graduate program: Yes. I start in the University of Oregon’s CFT masters program on September 29 (happy birthday to me!), 2009. I’m very excited.

7. Maintain this blog: I have a lot more ideas for posts than actual posts, but I am pretty happy with NME so far. It has been a consistent source of inspiration for me. I get about 20 clicks a day, on average, which seems pretty respectable. The lowest I go is three (two of which are my ever-hopeful-for-a-post Mom, I just discovered), and my peak was 62 on March 31, the day after I posted the guide to my sidebar. I wonder who you all are.

8. Meditate every day: Yes. Sometimes just a few minutes, but yes.

9. Produce a record with David Waingarten: This is not going to happen this year, which I’m sad about. I love this guy’s voice and songwriting. He also makes movies, though, and that’s what he did with his time and money this year. The movie looks good, though. Here’s a preview: This Is Now

10. Record an EP with my band, Abandon Ship: This project is not on schedule, partly because of #12, below, and partly because of how much work an honors thesis is, on top of an internship and classes. I am working on it , but it will almost certainly not be done by my birthday.

11. See healthcare provider each month until all my body concerns are resolved: Yes, I have been doing this. I’ve seen a dermatologist, an orthopedist, a urologist, and two chiropractors. I’m disappointed with the results, so far. I seem to be collecting concerns faster than I am resolving them. Hmm… That makes it seem like I am on my last legs. I am quite healthy, overall, actually.

12. Set up a slick system of musical collaboration over the internet and use it regularly: This has come together much slower than I anticipated, but I have every reason to believe I will be up and running by early May. I can hardly wait.

13. Shift my schedule three hours earlier for at least one term: In bed by 11 pm: I’m very happy with this one, so far. I have not pulled it off perfectly for a term straight—my dance schedule conflicts somewhat with it—but I’d say 90% of the time I’m in bed by 11:30, at least, and that means I’m waking up naturally before my alarm 90% of the time. I love it!

14. Sing out every day: I have not been doing this as I had hoped. I am still inspired to sing out like my friend Zen Zenith, but I have not been working on it with any regularity.

15. Take African dance classes: Yes, I have taken two classes from master dancer Alseny Yansane, and they were awesome. Unfortunately, I have been having this low back pain that has kept me from dancing with that extreme athleticism. When my back stops hurting, I will go back.

16. Write at least one song per month: Nope. I have not written even one complete song. Ouch.

17. Make at least one of each item in Maya’s cookbook: Yummm. I have made four of 19 recipes: Fluffy Whole Wheat Pancakes, Super Hero Granola, Corn Chowder, and Maya’s Tomato soup. They were all excellent except I burned the granola.

I see that my last post was about a dance event, which makes it look like all I’m doing is dancing. I am doing a fair amount of dancing, but what I’m mostly doing is school-related: my internship at Stepping Stone, statistics for my honors thesis, and studying trigonometry. It’s the last week of my term, and I’m busy. I’ve got some more thoughtful posts in the works, but only short and hopefully sweet ones for now.

I just got back from the Portland Lindy Exchange–at 3 am this morning. Three nights of dancing. I had  so much fun. I don’t think I can effectively express what is so fun about it right now but I can tell you about another couple compliments that I really liked.

There was a lot of fast music–northwest dancers like fast music. I do, too. I’ve been doing a lot of Balboa, which works well for fast music, and I’ve gotten comfortable with fast tempos, and able to lead musical dances. At the last dance, about 24 hours ago now, I was dancing with a great Portland dancer named Desha, and in the middle of the dance, she said, “Nathen, I love how relaxed you are! So many leads start to feel rushed when the music gets fast, like they are struggling to keep up.” I really liked to hear that. I feel relaxed! Woohoo!

On Friday, a young woman I didn’t recognize asked me to dance. She was good and we had a fun time. Afterwards she thanked me and said that last year she had come to this exchange after having been dancing for only a month, barely knowing how to do it, and her favorite dance had been with me–that I was the guy who had made her feel like she was doing a good job and that she was fun to dance with. I liked that, too. It reminded me a little of when someone I taught to swim joined the swim team, partly because of my enthusiasm for her talent, and a few years later was an all-star swimmer.

This has been my busiest term of school ever. I’ve got two very challenging classes, Social Psychology and Applied Data Analysis, my honors thesis, and a ten hour a week internship at Stepping Stone, a residential treatment center for adjudicated teenage boys. On top of that, I’m taking the GRE (Graduate Record Exam–a really hard test, like the SAT for getting into graduate schools) during finals week. That’s on the same day as my last final. That’s the point in my story where my classmates’ eyes bug a little. “OK, that’s crazy.”

This is too busy. I don’t like it. I like being in heavy intellectual training. I like being in this kind of shape; I can read and understand a journal article in a couple hours, for example. I enjoy being this productive, too, but I’ve gotten stressed out. About halfway through the term I started skimping on my non-intellectual stuff, to keep on top. My meditation practice is getting the squeeze–I’m rarely sitting for more than 15 minutes a day and often it’s just a token few minutes. That’s when I feel how strong my mind is going the most–when I’m sitting to meditate or lying down to sleep, this clear, powerful thinking, like a force, pushing up to the front of my head, driving my awareness and dominating my experience. I am getting enough sleep, at least. I’ve been strict with myself on that and it makes a big difference. My exercise has been getting the squeeze, though. All I do is bike, and I like biking but I also like to run, lift weights, and swim. I just can’t do them as part of my commute. I ride for transportation 30-90 minutes a day. I bike between classes. Sometimes it feels like all I do with my body is bike, sit, and sleep. Not very much walking, even.  I dance, too, probably four hours a week on average. That’s gotten some squeeze, but not too much. My songwriting and music playing has gotten the squeeze. My emotional support has gotten the squeeze. I’m down to maybe one co-counseling session a week and no phone time with friends. I’m lucky to live with good friends, so I still get supportive conversations. I get almost no physical affection, though. I can’t blame that on my term–I’m just far away from my most affectionate friends and family. Danielle, Maya, Jeannie, Mom, I miss you! I miss the rest of you too. I want to be in your lives more. I want to know how you are and what you’re doing.

But not for a couple more weeks. After this post, I’m putting my head down, business only, until the term is over. I’ll start posting again in mid-December. Have a great Thanksgiving and end of fall!

Here are some photographs of my calendar I took when I first conceived of this post, a few weeks ago. They are the first six weeks of my term. I’m a little nostalgic about how much more balanced I felt in those days. (Look at all that blue, red and pink!) Here’s what you’re looking at: I kept track of what I did, as I did it. Anything that I did for at least 15 minutes at a time made it on here. (My week calendars do not look like this ahead of time–they have only firm commitments and deadlines in them, GTD-style.) The columns are days, Sunday to Saturday, from about 8 am to about 11 pm. The purple is school stuff, like classes and studying. The blue is personal stuff, like cooking, eating, cleaning, and talking with friends. Green is office work, blogging, working in the elections office, teaching dance classes or lessons. Orange is dancing. Red is meditation and co-counseling. Pink is exercise. Yellow is Suntop stuff–chores, meetings, and outings.

Week 1

Week 1

Week 2

Week 2

Week 3

Week 3

Week 4

Week 4

Week 5

Week 5

Week 6

Week 6

Next Page »