Wednesday Reads: The Mini-Series Begins

2b8e24848f17b8ec4a7397174aa12d0cGood Morning

Well, since Dak is off flying the friendly skies (lets hope her TSA agent buys her a drink first) and Boston Boomer is babysitting her nephews all day, you will be stuck with me for the duration.


(Ah, should I say the next few posts at least…)

So……let the series of posts begin…

The little girl born in captivity to Amanda Berry is named Jocelyn, and according to ABC news, she seems to be doing okay. They have released a picture of her from the night of her escape that shows her face, and she is smiling.  Cleveland Girl Born in Captivity ‘Smiling,’ Eating Popsicles – ABC News


The little girl, named Jocelyn, ate popsicles in the hospital room in which she and her mother were examined after all four females were takes to Metro Medical Center, said Cleveland Police Deputy Chief Ed Tomba.

“She looks great, happy, healthy and ate a popsicle last night,” Tomba said of the little girl, who may have been born and raised in the very house in which her mother was a captive.

“Seeing her mother smile made her smile,” Tomba said.

FBI Special Agent Vicki Anderson told ABC News that Jocelyn is missing a front tooth and that Berry had been schooling her daughter in the home.

Police said the women knew each other in the home, and while in the hospital asked to visit one another. It was DeJesus who proudly showed off to investigators a drawing the little girl had made.

CNN has full coverage here: Charges expected Wednesday in missing women case –

But if you have 7 plus minutes to spare, please click here to see Anderson Cooper’s interview with the amazing Charles Ramsey…this man is a treasure.

Did you know that in the academic world there is a boycott of Israel? Yeah it is creating a stink over in Europe: Stephen Hawking joins academic boycott of Israel

Stephen Hawking

A statement published with Stephen Hawking’s approval said his withdrawal was based on advice from academic contacts in Palestine. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

Professor Stephen Hawking is backing the academic boycott of Israel by pulling out of a conference hosted by Israeli president Shimon Peres in Jerusalem as a protest at Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Hawking, 71, the world-renowned theoretical physicist and former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, had accepted an invitation to headline the fifth annual president’s conference, Facing Tomorrow, in June, which features major international personalities, attracts thousands of participants and this year will celebrate Peres’s 90th birthday.

Hawking is in very poor health, but last week he wrote a brief letter to the Israeli president to say he had changed his mind. He has not announced his decision publicly, but a statement published by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine with Hawking’s approval described it as “his independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there”.

Hawking’s decision marks another victory in the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions targeting Israeli academic institutions.

This started with The Teachers Union in Ireland, followed by the United States members of the Association for Asian American Studies. Take a look at that Guardian article to read more about it. If it was mention here on the blog earlier, I may have missed it…but perhaps it was lost in the shuffle of all the breaking news of late.

Meanwhile, in Italy: Deaths as Genoa ship hits control tower

At least six people have died and four are missing after a container ship crashed into a control tower in the Italian port of Genoa, officials say.

The Jolly Nero smashed into the 50m (164ft) concrete and glass tower late at night, reducing it to rubble.

Three of those who died are believed to have been trapped inside a lift as the tower collapsed.

Rescue workers have been searching in the rubble for survivors while divers scoured the water around the dock.

The accident occurred at about 23:00 on Tuesday night (21:00 GMT), when a shift change was taking place in the control tower and about 13 people were thought to be inside.

Rubble of the control tower in Genoa port, 8 May 2013All that remained of the tower on Wednesday was rubble.

One report I saw says they believe the total to be nine dead, but that is not confirmed.
Finally, this article about the origin of language should be very interesting to many of you: English May Have Retained Words From an Ice Age Language

Map showing approximate regions where languages from the seven Eurasiatic language families are now spoken. Image: Pagel et al./PNAS

If you’ve ever cringed when your parents said “groovy,” you’ll know that spoken language can have a brief shelf life. But frequently used words can persist for generations, even millennia, and similar sounds and meanings often turn up in very different languages. The existence of these shared words, or cognates, has led some linguists to suggest that seemingly unrelated language families can be traced back to a common ancestor. Now, a new statistical approach suggests that peoples from Alaska to Europe may share a linguistic forebear dating as far back as the end of the Ice Age, about 15,000 years ago.

I’ve just given you the first paragraph of that article, you need to go read the entire thing at the Wired link and see just how important and ancient the word Mother really is….

That should get things rolling today, see y’all later…comments down below.

Language Matters

If you are a woman, you have probably noticed that the English language has an abundance of derogatory, hateful, nasty, defamatory and downright ugly words to describe women and their anatomy. Where men are concerned, the English language really doesn’t have comparable terms for the male of the species. Take a moment and think about it. How many can you come up with?

Language is just another area in which women are treated unequally. Language has long been important to me. Many years ago, when I was deeply involved in the animal rights movement, I spoke at one of our meetings about colloquialisms we use on a daily basis  They are so much a part of our language that we use them without even thinking about them. Some examples include:

· More than one way to skin a cat

· Like shooting fish in a barrel

· You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear

· Like a rat in a trap

· A wolf in sheep’s clothing

· Kill two birds with one stone

My suggestion, at the time, was to substitute BROCCOLI for the non-human animal species named in the phrase. When used, it gets people’s attention, pointing out to them the inherent cruelty of the common phrase. Guess I was ahead of my time, in light of the recent discussions about the Affordable Care Act. Now I’m starting to feel bad for broccoli.

And, of course, it’s common when making derogatory comments about people, they are compared to animals in a negative way. Some of the name calling includes:

· Pig
· Dog
· Cow
· Horse’s ass
· Snake
· Harpy
· Rat
· Worm
· Hare-brained

For me, instead of defaming the person, whose acts or actions are deplorable, it demeans the very character of the animal. Personally, I think calling someone a “human” is a more accurate and defamatory epithet. That’s because, for me, we humans have more offensive characters than do any other species of animal.

So, now that you’ve had some time to ponder the inequality of our language, how is your list coming along? Has it become clear yet that both women and non-human animals are most often the ones for whom negatively descriptive words are used?  Have you come up with a list of insulting words and phrases for men?  Those most often used include calling a man a girl, a douche bag, a sissy or a pussy. Doesn’t that seem to imply that being female is negative, instead of calling into question negative male characteristics or behavior? Instead of attacking bad or negative male characteristics and behaviors, these words attack the female. Even when a man is called a dick, is that really negative? After all, isn’t his penis a man’s most prized and protected possession? Isn’t that generally something he’s proud of and proud to possess?

My point is, think before you speak. Consider the meaning and, if you still insist on name-calling, then consider using more appropriate words or phrases. Use ones that go more to the point to characterize the behavior you find offensive. Words have power, so use them appropriately. Here are my suggestions when a male steps over the line:

· Dick-less
· Little man
· Suffering from shrunken balls syndrome
· He’s a real hand job
· Eunuch
· Castrado
· Suffers from vagina envy
· Limp dick
· Testosterone poisoning
· Suffering from penis separation anxiety

Then there is my personal favorite, one that I’ve used for years:

The bigger the gun, the smaller the dick.

Feel free to share your suggestions in the comments section.

Annals of Psychology: Research on Group Differences in the Crime Narratives of Psychopathic Murderers

Gary and Judith Ridgeway

Thanks to Delphyne for sending me a link to this article about a study of the crime narratives of psychopaths. Unfortunately, since the journal article was just published in September, I haven’t been able to read the whole thing yet. It’s a study of speech patterns and word usage in the crime narratives of 14 psychopathic killers, compared to 38 murderers who were not categorized as psychopaths, carried out by Jeffrey T. Hancock of Cornell University and Michael T. Woodworth and Stephen Porter of the University of British Columbia.

Please forgive a brief personal digression here. I have been interested in narrative analysis since I took an introductory course in research methods about 16 years ago. My professor in that course was one of the leaders in the study of children’s narratives and narrative development. I was amazed that someone could be a psychologist and study stories, and my imagination was immediately captured by the idea. As an undergraduate, under supervision from this professor, I analyzed the writings of novelist Jack Kerouac, and found a fascinating pattern in his work. In every book he wrote, Kerouac recreated a traumatic scene from his childhood in many different guises.

Kerouac’s 9-year-old brother Gerard, whom he adored, had died when Jack was only four. Shortly before Gerard died, Jack had knocked over a structure that Gerard was building with his erector set, and Gerard had gotten very angry and yelled at Jack to go away. That was the last interaction that Jack remembered with Gerard before he died. From a child’s point of view it seemed that these two events–knocking over the structure and getting yelled at and Gerard’s death were linked. Young Jack felt that his bad behavior had caused Gerard’s death. This was extremely traumatic for a young child, and the scene became a part of Kerouac’s vision of the world and his interpretation of interpersonal experiences. Such traumatic repetition is not unusual in creative works. It happens with writers, painters, and musicians. Freud called it sublimation.

In graduate school, I interviewed children for a study of narrative and personality. I later wrote my dissertation on children’s use of a specific aspect of narrative structure called “evaluation.” Evaluation refers to any parts of the narrative that are not necessary to straightforwardly convey “what happened.” When someone adds emotion or description to a story or uses words like “very,” “really,” or “a lot” to add emphasis, that is evaluation–the narrator adds personal reactions to the events in the story.

The narrative form is inherent to the way humans think. Narrative is the basis for autobiographical memories, and it very likely reflects aspects of personality. In my opinion, personality is likely to be correlated with individual differences in the use evaluation in stories.

The study by Hancock and colleagues that I mentioned above was based on computerized textual analysis of personal crime narratives–basically personal stories like the ones I have studied in both children and adults. Here is a summary of the results (emphasis added):

The words of psychopathic murderers match their personalities, which reflect selfishness, detachment from their crimes and emotional flatness, says Jeff Hancock, of Cornell University, and colleagues Michael Woodworth and Stephen Porter at the University of British Columbia….

Hancock and his colleagues analyzed stories told by the murderers and compared them with 38 convicted murderers who were not diagnosed as psychopathic. Each subject was asked to describe his crime in detail. Their stories were taped, transcribed and subjected to computer analysis.

Psychopaths used more conjunctions like because, since or so that, implying that the crime had to be done to obtain a particular goal. They used twice as many words relating to physical needs, such as food, sex or money, while non-psychopaths used more words about social needs, including family, religion and spirituality.

Unveiling their predatory nature in their own description, the psychopaths often included details of what they had to eat on the day of their crime.

Psychopaths were more likely to use the past tense, suggesting a detachment from their crimes, say the researchers. They tended to be less fluent in their speech, using more ums and uhs. The exact reason for this is not clear, but the researchers speculate that the psychopath is trying harder to make a positive impression, needing to use more mental effort to frame the story.

The primary purpose of this study was to demonstrate that the language patters could be identified using automated software rather than human coders. According to Hancock, his findings provide support for previous studies of the language of psychopaths. I can’t wait to get my hands on the full article so I can look at his sources. I hope the paper includes an explanation of the coding system and examples of narratives.

Based on the brief descriptions of the study that I’ve seen so far, the differences that were found between the narratives of psychopathic and non-psychopathic murderers could mostly be classified as differences in the use of narrative evaluation, which I described above. Evaluation includes causal words and emotion words. I assume that the researchers programmed the software to count causal and emotional words and phrases as well as words and phrases that referred to social needs–also examples of evaluation.

The differences in fluency could also be classified as differences in narrative structure. Differences in narrative structure, including evaluation,  have been found in comparisons of children from different cultures and comparisons of children with developmental disorders such as ADHD, autism, and Williams syndrome.

Of course there are many limitations to this study. The authors suggest that their findings could be used to identify psychopaths, but I’d think it could only be used to distinguish between groups–not to diagnose individuals.

Whenever a story on research results is published in the media, people start to generalize the results in all sorts of inappropriate ways. For example, just because someone uses a lot of “uhs,” and “ums” in their speech, doesn’t make him or her a psychopath. I’d be really concerned if police departments tried to use the automated language analysis software to evaluate criminals.

I found some quotes from Gary Ridgeway’s confessions on-line. Ridgeway (pictured at the top of this post) is also known as the Green River killer. He has so far confessed to murdering nearly 50 women.  I believe his confessions are even posted on You Tube. Here are some examples of his descriptions of his crimes. Keep in mind that a narrative is defined as two statements about the past that are temporally related.

Question: “How did you kill her?”
Ridgway: “I choked her, with my arm. One or two I choked with a towel.”

He doesn’t express any emotion toward the victims other than his own hatred and rage.

“All the women I killed them ’cause I wanted and it was hate, hated them,” he said….”They were just pieces of trash to me. They were garbage,” he said.

When he talked about his own motivations, he included information about his emotions.

“I had control when I killed the women. I got my rage out for the time,” he said. “I did cry, yes I did, and that was the good part of me. I cried, but I still killed them and didn’t care anything about them.”

So Ridgeway’s “emotional flatness” was expressed in relation to his victims, but he describes himself as experiencing strong emotions. His problem is not understanding that other people also experience the same kinds of emotions. His lack of empathy allowed him to treat his victims as objects rather than feeling human beings.

If I were doing a follow-up to Hancock’s study, I would try to find a larger sample of psychopaths, including both males and females. I would specifically at expressions of emotion and note whether the words referred to the narrator or to other people. Since psychopaths are deficient in empathy, I would expect to find that they express more emotion in their narratives when talking about their own feelings than in references to the feelings of other people.