Friday, June 30, 2006

Morning Prayer

Today I led my co-workers in Morning Prayer a la the Brotherhood Prayer Book.
I've posted the audio here. I did edit out a few comments between sections. Note that I really screwed up tone VIII for Benedictus (part 4). I'm not certain if I did the Lection correctly either. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Blog Personality

I've often heard people respond to criticisms of their blogging with the idea that "you think you may know me, but you don't really know me." I just read an article that seems to indicate that we can know a great deal about people based on their online work. Perhaps not their heart and soul, but at least a great deal about the fundamental personality dimensions that shape their behavior.

Vazire & Gosling (2004) e-Perceptions: Personality Impressions Based on Personal Websites. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol 87 (123-132)

These researchers had people rate the personality of individuals whose web page they had reviewed. They compared these ratings with the page owners' self-reported personality. They then compared the accuracy of these ratings to previous research that looked at how accurately someone's personality could be judged based on seeing a picture of their bedroom or office.

The theory behind the study is that people make "identity claims" on their web pages, symbolic statements about who they are and what they are like. A good example of this would be page buttons and links. Everything from format to buttons to graphics are attempts to give others an impression of who you are. In the case of an office, the books on your shelf, the pictures on your walls, etc. all are intentional expressions of your personality.

The other kind of information that is able to be gleaned is called "behavioral residue." These are unintentional disclosures about yourself. In previous research, rating photos of bedrooms and offices, this included pizza boxes, gym socks, etc. Stuff laying around that gives you an idea of what the person does on a daily basis. The authors of the article said that this is pretty rare on a web page. I contend that on a blog, it is not at all rare. Behavioral residue includes spelling and grammar errors (or scrupulosity), speed at which a comment acknowledged, tone of responses, frequency of link updating, and other things that give you a clue as to what the author is really like. The study used static web pages rather than blogs, which I think are probably better indicators of personality as they include dynamic interactions between people.

So, here's a brief experiment. Follow this link and answer 10 quick questions about this blog. I will then do a post summarizing the results and talking about what the 5 factors of personality are.

By the way, this does relate to work. Anymore, it is entirely acceptable to have a web resume or an online portfolio (especially for the techies among us). Further, these five personality dimensions are very work relevant, and I'll explain that later. So, we could be saying a lot more about ourselves on a web resume than we think we are saying. It would make sense to consciously tailor your online presence to convey what you want about yourself, rather than accidentally revealing things that are not in your best interest.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Where I'll await the resurrection

My mother-in-law apparently bought several plots in a local cemetary for her family and the families of her two daughters. It's fairly surreal to know where you might await the resurrection at less than 30 years old.

Sacred Heart of Jesus

Today is the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus on the Roman calendar. This is completely incomprehensible to me. Any thoughts?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Premarital education

Interesting report here.
31% lower chance of divorce for those who went to some sort of premarital education. So, of course, I pulled the original article:

Stanley, S. M., Amato, P. R., Johnson, C. A., & Markman, H. J. (2006). Premarital education, marital quality, and marital stability: Findings from a large, random household survey. Journal of Family Psychology, 20, 117-126.

Having a religious wedding was related to having premarital education, as noted in the brief report. Divorce was related to cohabitation prior to the wedding, and negatively related to having a religious ceremony and also negatively related to having had marriage education. Having children was very strongly related to a lower divorce risk.

The "third variable" problem was handled pretty well by these authors. It could be that something else causes both divorce and the likelihood of attending marriage education. My first thought is that those who are more committed to making their marriage work are more likely to attend a marriage workshop. Also, they didn't measure such things as whether the individual had parents who divorced. They used a statistical method called biprobit analysis to reduce the likelihood that other variables influenced the correlation, but as we all know, correlation does not imply causation (however the lack of correlation certainly implies the no causal relationship exists). Most compelling for me was the finding that the longer the education (in hours) the more it prevented divorce. It looks like a "dose response" effect. However, it could be that those who are really committed to making it work sign up for longer workshops.

My own marital education included talking to a priest, doing "Pre-Cana" counseling with a parish couple and attending a retreat sponsored by the Diocese. Lots of "exercises" and very little education about marriage.

By the way, how would a Roman Catholic answer the question, "Have you ever been divorced" if they had received an annulment? I understand that a civil divorce must still happen, but if called out of the blue by someone asking whether you got married in a church, would that set some people up to say "no" to the divorce question?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Holy Spirit drives a black SUV

Driving to a job interview today, I saw a car with the license plate “1 SPIRIT” and a bumper sticker that said simply, “I Am.” Either the Holy Spirit drives a black Toyota, or someone ought to watch their use of the Divine Name (John 18:6.)

Monday, June 12, 2006


Solarblogger asks of my last post:

So what do people in your circles, or what do you, think of Antonio D'Amasio's thesis in Descartes' Error? That emotion is the underpinning of rationality, especially in practical decision making?

This is a very interesting applied psychology question at present. The current "gold standard" treatment for depression (among other disorders) is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which teaches people how to interrupt "negative self-talk" or thoughts that you characteristically repeat to yourself which give rise to negative emotions. We have known for a while now, however, that emotion happens more quickly than do thoughts from a processing standpoint. So:

See a bear -> feel fear -> think "oh crap"

This is simply a function of how the brain is wired. It just takes longer for information to get to the frontal lobe to be processed more completely. I have a good example from real life. I was driving down a hill at dusk and a white bird flew perpendicular to the road, about horizon level. Because I was driving down a hill and the becuase the bird was flying very fast, my brain interpreted the object as something MASSIVE and I experienced startle/fear/panic. Then my consciousness caught up and I figured out what it was - just as I was stepping on the brake. Most psychological problems are not this simple though, unless we are talking about a phobia (fear of spiders). Most psychological problems are a complex amalgam of emotions, cognitions and memories.
I have not read D'Amasio's book, but my instict is that he oversimplifies to make the case that emotions 'underpin' cognition. I think that there is definitely a synthesis of emotion and cognition that drive behavior. For example, there are people who lack emotional intelligence (the ability to use emotional information) sometimes make mistakes that don't seem to have anything to do with emotions. It seems that our "gut" feeling is at times related to deep processing that we can't exactly put our finger on rationally, but that is instructive. People who have deficits in emotional processing can have very poor judgement while possessing remarkably high intelligence. However, our emotions can also lead us astray - as evidenced in this paper which shows that emotions can lead us to disadvantageous behavior in certain situations, such as investing (link is full text PDF).
All this is to say that emotions and cognitions are both very valuable in processing information. This is an important caveat for those who pride themselves on their rationality and say that feelings should be eschewed when making decisions: unless you are brain damaged, your 'rational' decisions will always be flavored with emotion. Psychology claims that complete objectivity is an illusion. You must do things to check this if you are to make a truly rational decision - you ought to actively seek alternatives, you ought to state beliefs such that they are able to be falsified, you ought to use statistics to make decisions, etc. On the other hand, it would be foolish to try to rely solely on emotions, as they don't provide enough information and are easily manipulated (through music for example). Reason is only the devil's whore in relation to our salvation, after all.

I invite my colleague, Theophilia to offer her thoughts on this topic as well.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


I had to open a new box of tissues in my office yesterday. I was taking perverse pleasure in the fact that I was still on my first box of tissues since I began my internship. Other clinicians make their clients cry a great deal and thus need a box every week or so. I was taking some pride in being the anti-therapist, helping clients as a counselor without making them cry. I do think that I could be significantly more “emotional” with clients, because emotion often overrides cognition or at least greatly motivates behavior. Emotion is thought to be more “primitive” – i.e. animals use emotion to direct behavior without having higher-order processing abilities. It is thought that working with emotions can change behavior by changing the reflexive responses (emotions) that are triggered with everyday stimuli and stresses.


Oh, and the reason I didn’t make my goal of a single tissue year – I have hay fever.


Saturday, June 03, 2006

Pascal's Wager

Dan at Necessary Roughness comments on this modification of Pascal's Wager: “I would rather live my life as if there is a God, and die to find out there isn’t, than live my life as if there isn't, and die to find out there is.”

In the comments I entertain a different line of thinking, which is probably balderdash but could be amusing.

If I’m a Christian and the Muslims are right, I still get to go to a form of heaven as a Person of the Book. If I’m a Christian and the Hindus are right, I get another chance. If I’m a Christian and the Mormons are right, I get to go to heaven, but I don’t get all the cool stuff (like planets over which to rule). Christianity (historically understood) is a very exclusive religion. Only Christians get to go to heaven. Given the above, it seems that it would be a safe bet to be a Christian. But what kind? This line of thinking could lead one to the most exclusive and fundamentalist forms of Christianity (narrow is the gate after all). You could argue that God will forgive you for being more strict on yourself than he requires, but not the reverse. So then, get to cutting off your hands and plucking out your eyes. Fundamentalism demands a high price, but they give back control to the believer - if I’m morally pure, I will please God. Christian orthodoxy is absolutely the most exclusive of all - only Christ is worthy - the rest of us ride on his coat-tails.

So, who wants to nominate me for the Antibreviary?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Divine Cooperative Program

Just got my e-newsletter from the Chrisitian Association for Psychological Studies. It included this Devotional Thought for the month.

From The Biblical Basis of Christian Counseling for People Helpers by Gary R. Collins, (2001) p. 234-235.

“Every counselor knows about word association tests in which people hear a word and are invited to respond with the first thought that comes to mind. When we hear “salt”, most of us respond with “pepper” (or maybe with “light” if we are familiar with Matthew 5:13-14). But how do you think most people would respond to the word holy? The Bible speaks often about our holy God and about holiness, but today the term arouses pictures of dour, joyless, irrelevant unattractive, “holier-than-thou” religion.

Holiness, however, is at the essence of Christian spirituality. The Israelites were instructed to be holy, because God is holy (Leviticus 11:45). Jesus expressed a similar idea when He instructed His followers to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:47)…These ideals cannot be attained fully in this life, but the serious biblical call to a devout and holy life is at the core of Christian spirituality… The call to holiness is difficult to apply in day-to-day living. Some of our counselees, like some of us, try repeatedly to be “good Christians,” but the failure rate is high and the resulting frustrations are common. Others may try a “let go and let God” approach…also leading to failure and disappointment. In contrast the Bible presents what might be called a “divine cooperative program” in which we take responsibility for becoming more Christlike and we trust continually ! that God will work within us to bring change.

Divine cooperative program? I'd prefer to drown myself (in the waters of my baptism).

Open fire in the comments box.