Oct 02

Recent Headlines You May Have Missed

Recent headlines in mental health you may have missed. Click on headline links for full scoops.

I. Want to Live Longer? Find Your Ikigai. Hector Garcia, The Guardian

“Ikigai can be translated as ‘a reason for being’ – the thing that gets you out of bed each morning. Finding your ikigai is felt to be crucial to longevity and a life full of meaning. The people of Japan keep doing what they love, what they are good at, and what the world needs even after they have left the office for the last time.”

II. Relationship Problems? Try Getting More Sleep. Tara Parker-Pope, New York Times

One more reason to work on improving your sleep.

An excerpt: “’When people have slept less, it’s a little like looking at the world through dark glasses,’ said Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, a longtime relationship scientist and director of the Ohio State Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research. ‘Their moods are poorer. We’re grumpier. Lack of sleep hurts the relationship’.”

III. AI can tell Republicans from Democrats – but can you? Take our quiz. Adam Gabbatt and Sam Morris, The Guardian

Researchers say artificial intelligence will soon be able to detect a person’s political allegiance – just by looking at photos of their face.

We’ve put together a quiz to see if you can beat the algorithms and work out, from someone’s face, their political allegiance. We’ve chosen 15 pictures of city councillors from Bristol, Connecticut and San Diego – eight Democrats, seven Republicans. Can you figure out which is which?

IV. Gaydar Goes AI and Populism Comes to Science. Robert D. Mather, PhD, Psychology Today

An upcoming study entitled “Deep Neural Networks Are More Accurate than Humans at Detecting Sexual Orientation from Facial Images,” authored by Yilun Wang and Michal Kosinski, has raised a great deal of controversy…

The main findings of their series of studies was that the computer program could correctly classify between gay and heterosexual men at a higher rate of accuracy than humans could, and that key indicators were facial morphology, expression, and grooming styles…

V. How often do you lie? Personality quiz. Ben Ambridge, The Guardian

Do you ever lie? No? Liar! Even if we tend to avoid black lies, most of us tell white lies, either the altruistic or Pareto kind (the former are good for the hearer, the latter are good for both the liar and the hearer). But who lies most, and what type of lies do they tell? There’s only one way to find out. Answer these simple questions.

1) Are you male or female?
2) How much formal education do you have? (a) High school/GCSEs only (b) A levels or equivalent (c) university degree.
3) How old are you? (a) under 30 (b) 31-60 or (c) 61+

Read the article for the findings relevant to your responses.

VI. Teddy Blanks and Ray from ‘Girls’ made a film series about psychotherapy. Tyler Woods, Technical.ly

“Shrink,” the series of brief videos that includes Sarah Silverman, Natasha Lyonne, Lena Dunham, and others offering therapy testimonials, can be seen here.

May 29

Gaydar and Conversion Therapy: How They Relate to Each Other

How is gaydar related to conversion therapy, a practice that is deemed ineffective and/or malpractice?

Recent News About Reparative or Conversion Therapy

I. Psychiatrist Robert Spitzer, often known as the “father of modern psychiatry,” and who has just turned 80, has apologized to the gay community for conclusions he drew over 10 years ago from a notably flawed study about reparative therapy.

As stated by David DiSalvo in Forbes: “Spitzer’s mission to clean the slate is commendable, but the effects of his work have been coursing through the homosexual community like acid since it made headlines a decade ago. His study was seized upon by anti-homosexual activists and therapists who held up Spitzer’s paper as proof that they could ‘cure’ patients of their sexual orientation.”

John M. Becker at Truth Wins Out, a group “fighting anti-gay lies and the ex-gay myth,” posted the following: “Dr. Spitzer’s apology to the victims of ‘pray away the gay’ therapy and the greater LGBT community marks a watershed moment in the fight against the ‘ex-gay’ myth. We commend him for it, because not only will it solidify his legacy as a respected doctor and significant historical figure, but it will help to greatly hasten the day when the scourge that is reparative therapy is eradicated forever and LGBT people can live openly, honestly, and true to themselves.”

II. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently released an official condemnation of reparative therapy practices.

III. A British Christian therapist, Lesley Pilkington, just lost her legal appeal regarding her use of conversion therapy to make a gay man straight. From the plaintiff, an undercover journalist:

History was made this week. For the first time, a therapist was found guilty of malpractice after trying to ‘treat’ a client for their homosexuality – to turn them straight…

This involved the sinister (suggesting I was sexually abused as a child, and praying to God to bring repressed memories to the surface) the dangerous (opining that God heals HIV, and homosexuality is a mental illness) and the ludicrous (advising me to take up rugby).

IV. The state of California is currently weighing in on a bill that could prevent therapists from trying to convert gay youth.

V. The Southern Poverty Law Center is taking on the case of a young Oregon man whose psychiatrist tried to make him not be gay. The Center “plans to take the same action in other states as part of a national campaign to stop therapists from trying to make gay people straight.”

The Only Reasonable Conclusion About the Connection Between Gaydar Science and Reparative Therapy

Although all of the above newsworthy events are exciting and big, the idea that reparative therapy is bogus should be old news by now. I mean, most of us could have told you a long time ago that reparative therapy hasn’t worked on those who’ve tried it—all it takes is a quick look at their post-conversion faces…or fingers…or hair whorls…or…or….or………

May 28

Gaydar: The Science As It Relates to Conversion Therapy

Studies in the Field of “Gaydar” 

Several years ago gay writer David France had an article in New York Magazine about the “science of gaydar,” noting that it has tackled “everything from handedness to finger length ratio, voice pitch, hair whorl, fingerprint & penis size.” It’s a lengthy piece that poses the question, If sexual orientation is biological, are the traits that make people seem gay innate, too?

At the same time, it doesn’t escape him, though, that too much focus on such matters may either contribute to the practice of pathologizing gayness or lead to the misuse of information, as when some go in the direction of wanting gayness to be prevented.

And, by the way, where are all the studies about spotting the straight people and figuring out how did they get that way anyway?

Nevertheless, France’s article is interesting and thought-provoking. Here he is in 2007, talking with Stephen Colbert about gaydar:


Beyond France’s Article: More Recent Gaydar Studies

A psychological study of “The Roles of Featural and Configural Face Processing in Snap Judgments of Sexual Orientation”—a prominent element of gaydar, though it’s unlikely you’ve been calling it that—concludes that a quick look at people’s faces draws accurate responses more than half the time.

So easy (with kind of iffy odds) even a monkey could do it.

Another college-based study examined facial symmetry and concluded: “Self-identified heterosexuals had facial features that were slightly more symmetrical than homosexuals. And the more likely raters perceived someone as heterosexual, the more symmetrical that person’s features were.”

Of course. Being straight equals symmetrical—everyone knows that.

Elsewhere I’ve seen both that women may be better at spotting gay men when ovulating and that most people may have a “scent-based ability to assess sexual orientation.”

Saves straight women so much heartache when choosing reproductive partners.

And very recently we’ve also had “research” by Jimmy Kimmel, who simply asked his audience to watch clips of random people on the street and quickly ascertain whether these people had ever had “a gay experience”. UPDATE, May 19, 2013: The video has been changed to “private” on YouTube.

Tomorrow, updates on conversion (reparative) therapy and how this all relates to gaydar science…