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Archive for the ‘psychology’ Category

The gay male and his genes benefit society

Posted by bert5 on 22 August 2017

What’s good for society in having gay males around?

Some discussions have centered around the fact that gay uncles take care of nieces and nephews since a gay uncle is less likely to have kids of his own. But that’s still somewhat self interested in that helping nieces and nephews helps his own genes at 1/4 match per child.

How about more generally?

I think gay males and their genes are a glue actually. Gay males generally like other males and spending time with them. Everyone knows the many male anti-social behaviors such as being hyper competitive, wanting to beat others to a pulp to gain power, and other Machiavellian and criminal behaviors. I think gay males and related genes help even straight males to see beauty in other males, to be attracted to the well spoken and charming ones, and to be more willing to cooperate rather than beat each other down.

Seen in this way, gay genes might just be a civilizing influence — the building block of male friendships and camaraderie.

Posted in evolution, gay, psychology, science -ish | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Short guys: are they nicer? are they gayer?

Posted by bert5 on 17 May 2015

I have always found that short straight guys are at least superficially nicer than tall ones. There are exceptions of course. Why might that be? They’re smaller and so they tend to need friends to avoid being punching bags. Also, they don’t stand out to women. Women are big on height, so short straight guys need their friends’ help to find a woman. So by default a short straight guy tends to be pretty friendly. Are they genuinely nicer as a close friend? I’m not so sure (maybe not after they’re married).

What about short gay guys? They’re probably nicer than your average gay guy, but not as nice a short straight guys. Why? Because short gay guys aren’t after women. They’re after gay men. Gay men don’t care about your height so much, just that you look good.

Okay, do gay guys tend to be shorter than straight guys? I think statistically it may be true, but the effect is very small. Maybe a quarter or eighth of an inch? The only reason it could be true is that gay guys tend to be statistically more likely to be younger brothers of older brothers. Younger brothers are slightly shorter on average perhaps because their mother is older when they have them.

Posted in gay, lgbt, psychology, science -ish | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Is being gay a choice?

Posted by bert5 on 29 March 2015

Short answer: no. Long answer: depends on what you mean by ‘being gay’ and ‘choice’.

Many people experience sexual orientation as fixed. Meaning, for as long as they remember they were always sexually attracted either one sex or the other. I count myself in that group. Among these people, those having fixed same-sex attraction, I would assert that being gay is not a choice in a similar (maybe not exactly same) way that someone can say they are attracted to: danger, public speaking, durian, and heights. There are not perfect analogies, but there are things that one likes that are basically immutable. What made you that way? Who knows? (I suspect genetics and biology.)

Sure, in the end, the brain can hide these desires or lack of them. If you dislike public speaking, you can force yourself to make a speech and hide your stage fright, but it may come at a severe cost to yourself in terms of your sanity and your health. As I mentioned it is not quite a perfect analogy, but some may call this hiding of desires or lack of desire a kind of ‘choice’. I.e. you can chose to act on your dislike of public speaking or not. But I argue this is not really a voluntary choice that people mean when they ask the question: “is being gay a choice?”.

What about bisexuals? Aren’t they constantly expressing a voluntary choice? Actually I think if we follow the above framework, the answer is no. Bisexuals are attracted for certain people for the attributes that are not tied to appearance as male or female. At least, it is not of paramount importance to them (or the attraction of the two sexes are equally powerful and thus neutralized). Nevertheless, I believe they experience this sexual attraction without significant voluntary control. I.e. being bisexual is not a choice.

But are we missing an important point? Why does the element of voluntary choice come into play into discussions of whether it is fair to denigrate gays, bisexuals and lesbians? If it was entirely voluntary and I ‘decided’ to like/be attracted/have sex with men, why shouldn’t that be allowed? Why should I be discriminated against for that?

Posted in gay, lgbt, psychology | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Is there an ulterior motive behind so-called ‘Pro-life’ position?

Posted by bert5 on 9 July 2014

‘Pro-life’/anti-contraception male: a woman should not be able to goal-tend my ‘score’.

Notice how close this is to the legitimate rape male: forceably impregnating a woman should be ‘legal’ and she should carry that baby to term even though I probably won’t claim paternity unless I’m forced to. It’s nice to have offspring without responsibility, just like in the prehistoric times. (But such males forget in prehistoric times the woman could abandon/kill her offspring too if her new boyfriend didn’t do it first.)


Posted in Politics, psychology, religion | Leave a Comment »

Why guns?

Posted by bert5 on 28 December 2013

An awesome weapon for the powerless and disaffected.

People like to hide behind the fact that the constitution allowed for guns in order to defend the country against invaders or the British.

But really I was pondering why anyone really would like to have guns so readily available to themselves and everyone else. It is rather a dangerous weapon.

I think in fact the gun is the great equalizer that it is held in such esteem among Americans. Maybe you were not a good student. Didn’t go to college. Or perhaps you did and were just mediocre. And even now you don’t have a good job. But everyone thinks they deserve better. Everyone thinks they are above average. Among human nature’s biggest regrets is foreclosing options. And so, I’m guessing, here’s the thinking: Let’s leave the ‘nuclear’ option available to me. I might just be crazy enough at some point to take that option, and if I do, surely I might do the right and deadly thing and be a hero working against “the man” and the forces persecuting me!

Posted in Politics, psychology | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Suicide as protest

Posted by bert5 on 30 April 2012

It doesn’t seem like teenage suicide is ever classified as a protest. It is rather generally classified as giving up on a terrible life of being bullied daily. On the other hand, those who self-immolate (monks in Tibet are most obvious case) are most definitely protesting an unjust life and conditions.

Now I’m thinking a lot of people who commit suicide expect to meet their maker, meaning they are more or less believers. If they thought it was truly the end (as atheists do), they might think a little harder about taking this step. In this light, I rather think most suicides are meant as a protest. It’s a way to hurt those that survive for their indifference and inability to help and protest against those that made their lives unbearable. Maybe even a protest against God and a way to confront the being ultimately responsible for evil in the world.

I think unfortunately that this teenage suicide as a form of protest is never really seen this way in our society. We only think that getting people help who need it would make a difference, but if it is indeed a form of protest, it will take quite a bit more doing for such suicides to end. When I think about the well meaning “It gets better” campaign, I wonder if it makes any difference at all, because these suicide as protest is all about the here and now and how terrible and unfair life is at that moment. (Still, I do not blame people for trying to do what they can.)

Of course, teenage suicides may not be protesting at all. They may just want to escape a bad, demoralizing, hellish situation. And if they believe in heaven, they may feel they will be rewarded with going there.

Posted in gay, psychology | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Give a child approval, and he will learn to like himself

Posted by bert5 on 7 October 2011

I happened past a small sign placed in the front of an architectural firm downtown, and it had a list of about ten statements along these lines like: Give a child criticism, and he will be a cynic.  They alternated being positive and negative and then I came to the one which is the title of this post: “Give a child approval, and he will learn to like himself”.

The reason I highlight this one is because I think it’s likely often true.  And it hit upon a topic which has been recently on my mind again about bullying and suicide.  A child needs encouragement and approval.  I worry about gay teens which get little or no approval.  Perhaps I am pointing my finger in the wrong direction, but parents could be lukewarm in their support about their child being gay.  If they are badly informed about innateness of homosexuality, they may secretly hope that bullying the kid receives in school would change their child.  They may provide conditional love.  We’ll only love you if you change to be ‘normal’.

Sometimes when parents point fingers elsewhere, I wonder about whether the parents did all they could.  Obviously if they had unlimited resources, they could move to another place where being a gay teen is better accepted.  But obviously this kind of remedy is only available to the most committed and wealthy of parents.  Still, being supportive parents should be able to do a lot to help shield a child from bullying and suicide.

Posted in gay, psychology | Leave a Comment »

Bullying of gay teens

Posted by bert5 on 24 September 2011

One of the conundrums of gay teen suicide is the dynamic of how bullying leads to suicide.  A recent NYTimes op-ed doesn’t seem to enlighten us too much on the issue.

I call it a conundrum because on the face of it, it seems the ultimate case of doing what your opponent wants.  If a bully calls you a f*g and says you should die, why would you help him?

I think it might be that, surprise — a little like in domestic violence cases — the victim actually likes the bully.  Crazy, right?  From what we hear in the news, this isn’t made terribly evident.  Take a related case, though not the same in base criminality: the killing of Lawrence King by a classmate.  In this case, King probably liked his classmate killer, and maybe at least in the beginning hoped his killer was gay, too.  And when it was clear the killer classmate was straight, perhaps King switched to dressing like a girl.

But okay back to suicide.  I think committing suicide due to bullying means that actually you care a lot about the bully’s opinion.  If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t give suicide a second thought.  In the vast majority of cases, the bully perpetrator and victim are male.  And in almost all cases the victim is gay and the bully is straight, so what comes to mind, is that probably the victim somehow liked the bully and wished the bully would return the affection.  When the bully inevitably rejects the victim with anti-gay slurs of course, this hurts a lot.  Why doesn’t the victim, leave off after this?  Reminder, we’re talking about teenage crushes here, and so it might be some sort of lingering and immature obsession by the victim with the bully.  And when the bully increases the intensity of his rejection and his bullying, the victim perhaps remains in an emotionally aroused psychological state (no, not the other kind of aroused state).  Once in this state, it is possible to do crazy things, and there you have it.

Perhaps it is here that the bully sees his power and uses it to wicked ends.  The bully sees that the victim likes him and wants to make him happy and is willing to do anything.  His orders are for the victim to make himself scarce, so scarce that the bully never has to see him again.

Summary: There is of course the obvious ego destructive feelings of people saying you are worthless, etc, etc.  But this would only have an effect if you believed them, and you would more likely believe them if you really liked them or admire them.

Diagnosis made, but how to prevent it?  Reject the bully in your life!

## Some are saying that bullying rarely causes suicide.

Posted in gay, journal, psychology | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

What the average American says to themselves? “I’m so rich, I’m just like those billionaires who don’t pay no federal income taxes”

Posted by bert5 on 19 July 2011

I’ve always wondered about the Republican argument that people don’t want taxes raised on the rich.  They say that this is because they (Americans?) are aspirational and always thinking about when they might be that rich.  Let me try to follow that reasoning…

$40,000/yr might sound to some like a lot of money.  When the President Obama says he won’t raise taxes on people making less than $250,000 , I gotta think that people in the $40,000 range must say to themselves, in a thought of pure ego preservation: “Hey, I’m not far away from that tax hike.  I mean I’m not good at math, but with a few raises I’ll reach that income level and then, I’d be really upset about all those taxes I would be paying.”

Nevermind that $250,000 is one massive 525% raise away affecting these folks.  If they were to get a consistent 5% raise every year, they’d be 38 years away from hitting that tax hike (with inflation adjustments, probably even longer, at 2% inflation, it’s something like 62 years), and these people would probably be 10-20 years past their retirement age by then.

But let’s set the record straight to the rationalizers: if you aren’t paying federal income taxes, you are some of this country’s working middle class, just slightly above the poor.  You aren’t rich.  Depending on where you live, you might be barely getting by.

Is this another case of psychology where people don’t want to foreclose future options if they can avoid it?  In this case, the future option is to be making a ton of money without paying taxes on it.  There must be a way to combat this nonsense. Maybe we should generate some pride and attention around this idea:  If you make $250,000 a year, you are helping make it so that people making $40,000 can continue to pay no federal income taxes, and make it so that the paltry $40,000 sum is actually a living wage!  Be proud of paying your taxes, and helping out the old $40,000/yr you.


[Aug 2012] Now, I think there is a better explanation from this NYTimes Opinion piece.  Just like the lottery, people love to imagine themselves as rich.  And while they’re at it, why not really imagine what it would be like.  So: “Well, I’d really hate to be taxed, I think.”  Nevermind, that it’s pretty close to impossible to get to the level of wealth where such a thing would be a serious concern especially if one is only earning the average income in the US.  No one likes to imagine oneself as poor (and ignorant), not too much fun in that, though actually I found it an interesting experiment.

Posted in economics, Politics, psychology | Leave a Comment »

Gunman, no such thing as gunwoman

Posted by bert5 on 9 June 2011

In a way it’s not a surprise that the word ‘gunwoman’ doesn’t exist. But still, I guess it’s incredibly rare for a woman to fire a gun.

Posted in journal, psychology | Leave a Comment »

Robert Putnam @Stanford: American Grace

Posted by bert5 on 16 November 2010

[Author’s note: has labeled my blog as reactionary.  I had to look it up, but reactionary means conservative.  Sorry folks, this is a radically liberal blog.]

I found Putnam’s book ‘Bowling Alone’ fascinating, so I was fairly enthusiastic to hear Putnam talk at Stanford about his new book ‘American Grace’ even though it has to do with religion, and I’m an atheist.  He seemed to talk liberally about the contents of most of his book in his roughly 90 minute talk which was interspersed at times with anecdotes and self-deprecating humor.

Putnam shows a graph which shows that Americans are quite religious, far more than any other developed country and slightly more religious even than Iranians!  He then described how the sexual revolution earthquake of the early 60’s resulted in a reaction by some (older) Americans into a stronger embrace of more extreme (evangelical) Christianity.  He says this stampede to ‘family values’ actually caused another aftershock of younger folks into being non-believers in reaction to what they saw was promotion of extreme conservative beliefs and invasion of the political sphere by the ‘religious right’.   Both of these effects have conspired to empty much of the mainline Protestant churches.  The resulting polarization might predict religious war.  However, as I had heard him state earlier in an interview (I think it was on PBS Newshour) and again in today’s talk, surprisingly Americans are tolerant of other religions and non-believers/atheists.  As evidence of this more than 50% of very religious people believe that persons from another religion or even non-believers could go to Heaven (despite this being quite contrary to almost every strict religious teaching)!  He says this is probably precisely because of the religious diversity in the US.  Americans are highly likely to have a friend or even to have married someone from another religion (or non- religion).  Once again demonstrating the principle that it’s difficult to demonize people you know.

One very surprising finding is that in America the group people view most positively out of all religions or non-believers is Jews.  Jews have something like a >80% approval rating, just besting Catholics.  (I think we should not let it be said that Jews are an oppressed minority, at least in America.)  Non-believers are at slightly above 50% approval, actually above Mormons which are below 50%.  Buddhists and Muslims are also in the 40’s below Mormons.  (I think opinions on Hindus were not requested.)  He was not terribly troubled about what appeared to be anti-Muslim sentiment because the Buddhists and Mormons had been lumped in roughly together with them.  He said it was essentially fear of the unknown.  People did not have a Buddhist, Muslim or Mormon friend.

Virtually as a side comment, Putnam mentions that people become more religious as they get married and have children (carrying on a religious/cultural tradition?) and puzzlingly around the age of 60 they also are increasingly religious.  I immediately thought of Heaven as a reason at the same time Putnam then mentions he hypothesized that people might be attempting to: ‘cover the bases’.

Linking back to Bowling Alone, Putnam then states that actually the number of friends you have from church predicts the amount of volunteerism, donations of money and time, and community involvement regardless of the type of religion it is.  This is in a way a measurement of the public good of religion (which I guess is not the source of all evil after all).  He then posed the question: what’s special about the ‘church’ friends that makes this happen, saying that he didn’t know the answer.  In the Q&A, no one really addressed it, but I think the obvious answer (which he probably would have thought of, too) would be that if you go to church and you believe you want to get into Heaven, you are supposed to be doing good deeds.  I.e. good people do good deeds, and besides you want to get the word out that in your religion, people are actually trying to get to Heaven and doing good things, it’s like peer pressure, advertising and competition all wrapped together.  Anyway, that was my guess.  Will there ever be a secular organization to do good like churches?  I believe there could be as soon as they stop being distracted by the assault by the religious on the separation of church and state (a principle which I think is all important to atheists).  Atheists, secular humanists motivation in such a group may be to prove that people can be moral (have compassion, show kindness, etc) despite not believing in religion.

The Stanford Daily coverage.

Posted in opinion, Politics, psychology, religion, science -ish | Leave a Comment »

Populism: negative naming, sound bites, and story telling

Posted by bert5 on 4 November 2010

I am amazed at how the Republican machine has been able to fairly consistently add a negative tint to the health care law by calling it ‘Obamacare’, even though if you examine what the legislation does, it actually is very beneficial to the general population and even the economy/deficit.  (The only real losers might be the health insurance companies.)

I wonder how and if the Democrats could counterattack with a consistent messaging against the Republicans.  “The Republican strategy-of-no leads to ‘No care’.” (Surely, paid consultants can come up with something snappier.)  Despite all their smarts, I think the Dems don’t have a good slime generation machine or even a smart sound bite strategy to counter the Republicans.  In addition, this President in particular is eloquent, but in long-hand.  People don’t have that much time to invest in watching him.  I think he needs to shorten, shorthand, simplify, and over-simplify.  They need to hire some Madison Avenue people to do some branding and marketing.

Posted in opinion, Politics, psychology | Leave a Comment »