Category Archives: psychology

brimming with possibility

Much of modern media seems like background noise
An endless drone of marketing static. Selling me burgers, cars, movies
One catchy jingle mingles with another. I can’t tell the difference anymore.
I often feel media saturated, my brain soaked through with an incoherence of thoughts, images, sounds, pleas, intentions, subversions and inversions.
The words and images like an old friend, warm and inviting.
But they’re just passing by
& All I hear is static.
They’ve oversold.


I had a strange thought this morning brought about by reading Sebastian Faulk’s excellent book “Human Traces”. The book deals with the early days of phsychotherapy or “mad doctoring” as it was affectionately known. Anyway, while reading I realised that most people suffer episodic but extreme delusions while watching movies and reading books. (the many ironies of this are not lost on me) It’s the basis upon which the thriller genre is based. For example take the movie the 6th Sense. Even if you guess the twist before it’s revealed you’ll still have an epiphanical moment where you realise that you’re mental picture of what you were watching is incorrect. At the end of the movie the director reveals how he has coyly sneaked references to the truth under your mental radar so that the truth is just as plausible and perhaps even more consistent than the alternative conceptualisation that most viewers have. Well, here’s the thing. Your brain has been duped by skill but what if you simply couldn’t perceive the falsehood of a pseudo-consistent view because you had a mental blind spot (lacuna) to a particular issue or experience brought about by anything from psychological to somatic trauma. We all experience this to greater or lesser degrees. Phobias prevent us from engaging with the reality of a situation as our experience is not consistent with objective reality or the objective reality of others. Some people fear flying, some spiders, some rats, some Mondays. There’s nothing that distorts the world view like living! Phobias can appear mad to others and perfectly sound to the sufferers. How fine the line is between these and more serious delusions is a matter of conjecture.

Fun with puzzles

Today is R’s birthday. Happy bday R & thanks for everything!
However, this particular factum has nothing to do with the remainder of this blog post. A few days ago I was busy typing away at an interesting computer problem using python (thanks brian) when I clicked the button at the wrong time and ended up in the middle of one of those online IQ test things. I did the test while continuing to work on my little computer programme and got a nice high mark. I don’t know about anyone else in computing but there are more challenges than braincells out there so I needed an ego boost, as usual 🙂
Then I got sent a report about my mark and I realised that I hadn’t actually gotten anything wrong, I’d just been taking my time, which I knew anyway. So just to prove to myself that these things are a gross simplification of the multi-faceted thing we circularly perceive as intelligence I resat a subtley different test and duly improved my score to something ridiculous (170+). Everyone’s cogs are grooved, worn and turn in a different manner, especially those whose cogs are always turning. Therefore it’s nonsense to put any kind of store in such a result except to acknowledge that they point towards a situational intelligence that, when taken within in its proper context, correctly predict that the person will perform well at certain intelligence tests on a certain day of the week. As useful as that, wow!Jayz, I need to invent auto-punctuation. Seriously though, a highly intelligent and witty colleague once remarked that many of the PhD’s she’d met “couldn’t find their arse with a map”. The cult of the IQ is extremely damaging in moderns society as we’ve had studies which are both revisionist and reductionist in their attempts to attribute high IQ scores on famous thinkers througout history. Thus retrofitting IQ to achievement. An example is Catherine Cox’s 1926 publication on 300 emminent thinkers throughout history. The secondary research might be meticulous but the rationale is flawed. This book and others such as the Bell Curve and “IQ and the Wealth of Nations” have arguably contributed to a complete misunderstanding of what intelligence is, how it manifests itself and more importantly, the possible intellectual differences between different racial groups and cultures. Even a cursory examination of most so-called intelligence tests reveal a marked bias towards the kind of mathematical/verbal questions that are affected by the level of schooling attained. It’s no surprise that if your socio-economic group doesn’t enable you to pursue academic success, you won’t score well on a test which directly and indirectly measures it.
Anyways, this got me thinking about a fairer test of intelligence beyond the semi-conscious ingrained insights of a engineer to a spatial/verbal/logical problem. I couldn’t think of any which just goes to show that these tests are rubbish 🙂
Failing that, here’s a fascinating puzzle that was created by an esteemed german physicist with even dafter hair than me. Followers of sudoku (cheers richard) which actually closely resembles the classic sudoku hard puzzle in that it’s best solved (in my opinion anyways) by viewing the solution space as a matrix. This is a complex way of saying, imagine the houses and their occupants and write down what you know about each under the relevant headings til a solution is reached. Like the Sudoku puzzle you have to make a number of logical inferences based on positions/duplications/etc.

There are 5 houses in 5 different colors
In each house lives a person with a different nationality
These 5 owners drink a certain type of beverage, smoke a certain brand of cigar, and keep a certain pet No owners have the same pet, smoke the same brand of cigar or drink the same drink.
Here’s the question: Who owns the fish?
1. The Brit lives in a red house
2. The Swede keeps dogs as pets
3. The Dane drinks tea
4. The green house is on the left of the white house
5. The green house owner drinks coffee
6. The person who smokes Pall Mall rears birds
7. The owner of the yellow house smokes Dunhill
8. The man living in the house right in the middle drinks milk
9. The Norwegian lives in the first house
10. The man who smokes Blend lives next door to the one who keeps cats.
11. The man who keeps horses lives next door to the man who smokes Dunhill
12. The owner who smokes Blue Master drinks beer
13. The German smokes Prince
14. The Norwegian lives next to the blue house
15. The man who smokes Blend has a neighbor who drinks water
With these 15 clues the problem is solvable.