Saturday, March 29, 2014

Side Effects

The early autumn afternoon makes for the perfect time for films and hot drinks. I wondered how I might have missed Side Effects. It was released almost a year ago.

Side Effects is a psychological thriller directed by Steven Soderbergh and co-produced by real-life forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Sasha Bardey. Isn’t interesting how the stories elicited through the everyday practice of Psychiatry makes for a life much much stranger fiction.

The stories we hear behind closed doors; the experience of transference and counter-transference; the complex dynamics driving thoughts, feelings and behaviors in individuals and systems. The popularity of these films helps us escape, perhaps our own personal Psychiatry, and into the world of others – lives bared open by the voyeurism only Hollywood can ply open.

The relationship between psychiatrists and their patients, the law as well as the pharmaceuticals that connect the dots is intriguing.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Time paradoxon

For the great part of this past summer I’ve been talking and writing about what we have come to understand of time. Not so much about the passage of time, or our perception of time but rather, the more lofty notions, space-time. We know for example time slows at higher speeds of the reference frame relative to another. This (time dilation) is explained in special relativity theory. But what of the psychology of time? We have all, at one time to another; acknowledged how quickly time seems to be breezing by. Time seems to pass by quicker as we grow older. Time flies when we’re having fun, where did this year go, etc.

Time paradoxon is relevant for understanding our perception of time. It seems, according to Bruss and Ruschendorf of Universite Libre de Bruxelles and Universitat at Freiburg that while time periods which are filled with interesting activities pass by quickly, these periods are felt in retrospection as having taken longer than less eventful periods. Hence, in retrospective, the feeling of time duration is in general different from its perception at the time of the very same period. One convincing explanation of this is that human beings remember, first of all, major events of their life. Periods of these major events are memorized in a particular way and leave an accessible track on the human mind. Moreover, the meaning of a major event changes naturally in time. A first event of a certain type has a greater chance to be felt as major than similar events later on in life. Therefore a month in childhood or adolescence is usually felt much longer than a month in adult age. The feeling of time is thinned out in a quite natural way. On the whole the phenomenon seems almost unavoidable. Taking these arguments together gives additional support to the idea that important or new events and their pattern of occurrence in life play a dominant role for the individual perception of time.

Monday, March 10, 2014

It’s tough to prove gender bias.

It’s tough to prove gender bias.
A man is selected for hire over a woman; fewer women reach tenure track positions; there’s a gender gap in publications. Bias may be suspected in some cases, but the difficulty in using outcomes to prove it is that the differences could be due to many potential factors.

In a groundbreaking study published in PNAS last week by Corinne Moss-Racusin and colleagues, that is exactly what was done.

                            Fig 1.   General competence                                 Fig 2.   Suggest salary

A 2012 research study from Yale had scientists presented with application materials from a student applying for a lab manager position and who intended to go on to graduate school. Half the scientists were given the application with a male name attached, and half were given the exact same application with a female name attached. Results found that the “female” applicants were rated significantly lower than the “males” in competence, hireability, and whether the scientist would be willing to mentor the student (Fig 1.)

The scientists also offered lower starting salaries to the “female” applicants: $26,507.94 compared to $30,238.10 (Fig 2.)