“Not everything worth saying is worth saying oneself” Sam Harris


Mental Health Matters – Criminal Personalities

  • ” Up to 50 percent of inmates are thought to have some diagnosable psychiatric disorder…..
  • a significant percentage of those thought to be primarily sociopathic often have an extensive history of trauma and a subsequent onset of post-traumatic stress disorder.   The trauma is especially common in African-American males, who are heavily overrepresented in prison systems.
  • A large group of prisoners also have the expected alcohol and substance abuse disorders, which are often at the root of their criminal behavior and subsequent imprisonment.
  • ADHD is overrepresented in prisoners, and is frequently seen in the core symptom of impulsivity. Another ADHD symptom-poor concentration at work and school-often contributes to subsequent crime.
  • Some schizophrenic inmates don’t seem to mind staying in prison. One such patient said to me: “Doc, I like it here. I hope I don’t have to leave. I wouldn’t mind coming back if I do. I have a place to stay, three squares, and medical care.” Finding adequate community mental health resources for inmates who complete their sentences is perhaps our greatest challenge in planning discharges.
  • Some of the most difficult prisoners to treat are those with Adult ADHD, since the best ADHD medication has very limited availability due to its potential for abuse.   Some have suggested that separate housing units be developed for such inmates.”

Important Distinction

  • Understanding — comes down to knowing a phenomenon subjectively by intuiting its essence.   In contrast…
  • Explanation — designates a more objective way of knowing, based on empirical study, which attempts to disclose the cause of a phenomenon.

Oh oh – Time Ain’t Real.


Some recent studies have challenged the theory that the brain represents time with an internal “clock” that emits neural ticks (the “pacemaker-accumulator” model) and suggest that the brain represents time in a spatially distributed way, by detecting the activation of different neural populations. Although we perceive events as occurring in the past, present, or future, these concepts may just be part of a psychological frame in which we experience material changes in space.”

“The point of view which considers time to be a physical entity in which material changes occur is here replaced with a more convenient view of time being merely the numerical order of material change.  This view corresponds better to the physical world and has more explanatory power in describing immediate physical phenomena: gravity, electrostatic interaction, information transfer by EPR experiment are physical phenomena carried directly by the space in which physical phenomena occur.”

Numerical order is not equivalent to temporal order, i.e., the number 1 does not exist before the number 2 in time, only numerically. Continue reading

Introspection Without Value?


“Introspection is thus of limited use to gain self-knowledge, at least directly. Some forms of introspection are beneficial by helping people construct a coherent personal narrative, even if they do not provide a direct pipeline to unconscious processes.”

SELF-KNOWLEDGE: Its Limits, Value, and Potential for Improvement Timothy D. Wilson and Elizabeth W. Dunn University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22904-4400; email: tdw@virginia.edu, edunn@post.harvard.edu

We Do Not Know Our Own Minds


We know surprisingly little about our own personalities, attitudes and even self-esteem.  When people’s personalities are measured implicitly, i.e. by seeing what they do, rather than what they say they do, the correlations are sometimes quite low.

Just like in personality, people’s conscious and unconscious attitudes also diverge.

We sometimes lie about our attitudes to make ourselves look better, but this is more than that. This difference between our conscious and unconscious attitudes occurs on subjects where we couldn’t possibly be trying to make ourselves look better.  Rather we seem to have unconscious attitudes that consciously we know little about.

Once again we say we think one thing, but we act in a way that suggests we believe something different.

Perhaps this is the oddest one of all. Surely we know how high our own self-esteem is? 

Well, psychologists have used sneaky methods of measuring self-esteem indirectly and then compared them with what we explicitly say.  They’ve found only very weak connections between the two.  Amazingly some studies find no connection at all.

It seems almost unbelievable that we aren’t aware of how high our own self-esteem is, but there it is.   It’s another serious gap between what we think we know about ourselves and what we actually know.”

full article

Life Is Comprehended in 3 Second Intervals


“These findings fall in line with a whole slew of research from humans and animals showing that somewhere between 2-5 seconds is the longest window of what we can perceive as an independent event – a moment. Anything longer, or separated by a longer window, is perceived by us as a seperate occurence – close in time, but distinct.”

When we know something is coming, our autonomic system prepares us about 3 seconds ahead of time, which makes sense because that’s about how long our vagal nervous system takes to alter our heart rate and breathing. The cool thing about this study is that it extends our knowledge about this time-window to social interactions and not simply to individual experiences. Apparently, our own moment-clock affects the way we interact with others (ever have one of those really long awkward hugs?)

We also heard that speed daters, make their decisions in 3 seconds — unconsciously.