Saturday, September 22, 2007

Sex and the Blind Date: A Case Of Intolerance of Ambiguity

Do you ever read some of the social science studies and wonder, "how the heck would these "findings" hold up in real life---you know outside of the researcher's narrow world of college students and college campuses?" I was wondering about this issue as I caught part of the show Blind Date yesterday. If you have never watched this show, it has host Roger Lodge narrating a couple's date as they meet, go out and then discuss their impressions of the person they were fixed up with. Clips of the date are shown and snarky "Therapist Joe" has pop-up commentary throughout the date as to what the people are supposedly thinking and/or feeling as they go through the (usually) awkward moments of gettting to know each other.

On the show I saw, a pretty 25-year-old woman--didn't catch her name--is going out with 22-year old "rocker" Uzi (I only remembered his name because it was so unusual) who is covered in tattoos and has long hair. The young woman is very much into goth, music and superficiality. She hangs on Uzi's every word, not because she is interested in him as a person, but because she likes musicians. When Uzi asks what kind of man she is looking for, she states, "someone who has long hair, plays in a band, and wears cool combat boots, like you." Uzi quickly picks up on the woman's lack of interest in a "real" relationship and concludes that the woman is just trying to get him into the sack which leaves him feeling that she is not listening to him as a person but rather, sees him as a representation of what she is looking for--a cool rocker guy who she can play groupie with. Uzi is not interested.

Okay, so now you have the set-up for a real-life ambiguous situation--Uzi looks the part of a wild rocker who likes to party and screw but he is not into groupies and is looking for someone who is interested in a traditional relationship such as marriage and family--in other words, there is a contradiction between the way he looks and what he thinks and feels about sex, relationships and love. Studies coming out of psychology imply that liberals have a "flexibility" in their thinking and a tolerance for ambiguity while conservatives are rigid in their thinking and intolerant of ambiguity. What the heck is meant in these studies by "tolerance of ambiguity?" Well, according to Wikipedia (take it with a grain of salt, it's Wikipedia but this definition looks sound):

Ambiguity tolerance is the ability to perceive ambiguities (contradictory issues which may be difficult to understand) in social and cultural behaviors as well as information with equivocal (several) meanings in a neutral and open way.

Intolerance of Ambiguity is described as

a tendency to perceive or interpret information marked by vague, incomplete, fragmented, multiple, probable, unstructured, uncertain, inconsistent, contrary, contradictory, or unclear meanings as actual or potential sources of psychological discomfort or threat.

So here is Uzi, a contradiction in terms who looks one way and thinks and acts another-so one would now expect Therapist Joe--who from reading his commentary and the tilt of the show, one would expect to be a liberal--to be able to resolve the contradiction and show some flexibility of thought, right? Wrong. You would think that someone tolerant would say, "good for him that he dislikes superficiality or that he wants someone to like him for himself, etc." Therapist Joe's way of handling Uzi's contradiction? Make fun of him for being a (gasp!) Republican! Uzi has never said he was a Republican or conservative, yet Therapist Joe pops up snarky comments about Uzi's lack of interest in having sex with the goth chick by stating that he "must be a Republican" and then showing Uzi driving down the road with a characterature of a Donald Rumsfeld look-a-like with a scary leer taking his place at the wheel.

Talk about intolerance of ambiguity, lack of openness and a lack of flexibility in thought, Therapist Joe has it in spades. For all he knows, Uzi is apolitical and is just a sweet guy. Perhaps Therapist Joe is psychologically threatened that Uzi is looking for a committment and a person who actually likes him--he should just be looking for cheap sex, shouldn't he--afterall, he looks the part of a liberal rocker? Therapist Joe quickly resolves the conflict by pointing out that Uzi must be a conservative or he is just looking for an excuse to bash Republicans in general. Either way, I hardly see evidence of tolerance of ambiguity here.

Look, I know the elections are coming up in a year and the liberal media wants to get started early bashing Republicans in any way they can, but this seemed to be a bit of a stretch. What will we see next, people being stereotyped on Jeopardy as rigid homophobic Republicans if they answer "who is the current President?" to the question, "Bush." Start watching for this type of "tolerance" for others' points of view in the liberal media as the election gets closer; my guess is that as their psychological discomfort grows and the threat of the Democrats losing becomes a possibility, much of the "tolerant" MSM will throw tolerance of ambiguity right out the window. Their worldview will be as rigid as the one that they portray conservatives to be: inflexible, intolerant, closed to new experiences and fearful that the whole country might not believe as they do. As goes Blind Date, so goes This Week? I think you can count on it.


Friday, September 21, 2007

The Graying of Kindergarten

I read Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes yesterday and while I disagree with much of what author Marc Penn (chief advisor to Hillary Clinton's campaign) has to say--like the Republican Party is losing membership, its identity and is ripe for a breakup--haven't Democrats been saying that for the last 20 years? (yawn)--there is some good data that is worth contemplating. The book is divided into a number of chapters that identify microtrends in "religion, leisure, politics and family life that are changing the way we live." The trend that caught my eye was in a chapter entitled, "Smart Child Left Behind: Kindergarten Hold-Backs in America."

Penn points out that the big trend in education today is "holding kids back." And the odd thing is, the smarter the child is, the more likely they are to be held back.

It's called "red-shirting," after the practice of keeping college athletes out a year while they grow bigger. A U.S. Department of Education report issued in 2005 suggested that nearly 10 percent of American students in kindergartern were actually eligible to have enrolled the year before.

Who's doing this? The typical red-shirt child is a boy, with white, well-educated parents. So well educated that they know how good it feels to be at the top of their class--and they want that for their children, even if their children are currently smaller, less advanced, less developed, or less capable than their peers. So--ever the problem-solvers--they sign them up for peers who are one year younger.

Schools have also gotten in on the act and do what Penn refers to as pink--shirting:

In the past twenty-five years--in reaction to bold new standards in the 1980's that aimed to make American's elementary schools more rigorous--nearly every state in the union rolled back it's kindergarten cut-off date from December to about September, effectively edging the younger 5-year-olds right into next year's class...

The Chicago Tribune has called it "the graying of kindergarten."

Whereas virtually nobody used to be 6 in kindergarten, now a serious chunk of children are, including nearly 1 in 5 boys.

My question is, is holding a smart boy out of school for a year really good for boys? People say that boys mature slower than girls so maybe it's a good thing but I'm not so sure. As Penn points out, "most studies of red-shirted students have concluded that they do no better than their younger classmates in the long term, and that any short-term gains disappear by third grade."

Think about it, a smart boy is sitting in class, a year older and wiser than his peers and graduates at 19 year old. His life and adulthood is put on hold another year and he is in high school at an age where he can vote, marry and join the military. Perhaps in the short run, it might be helpful but it could also be contributing to why so many boys--especically smart ones--don't like school. The curriculum is already dumbed down and now you are a year behind. After this experience, it's no wonder that many smart young men have decided to skip college.


Ask Dr. Helen

My latest "Ask Dr. Helen" column is up at PJM:

Actress Sally Field made headlines with her Emmy Awards acceptance speech by claiming that there wouldn’t be any more wars “if mothers ruled the world.” PJM advice columnist Dr. Helen Smith offers her opinion on the likelihood of world peace if moms were in charge.

Read the column and let me know if you think we'd really have world peace if moms ruled the world.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Homeschooling Carnival: Autism

The Homeschooling Carnival is up and focuses on Autism:

In choosing a theme for this weeks carnival, I had originally planned on doing something with fall or apples or Johnny Appleseed. But after keeping my grandchildren for the weekend, I decided to go with the theme of Autism. This could be a very long post.

If you have a child with Autism, this week's carnival is definitely worth looking at for some helpful suggestions and ideas.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Take a tour of the Psych bloggers over at GM's Corner.
Glenn Sacks has an interesting column on the Mary Winkler custody case. Take a look.

Podcast with Laura Ingraham

laurabio1.jpgRadio host Laura Ingraham joins us today to talk about her new book, Power to the People. Ms. Ingraham discusses why people stereotype big families, why getting involved in local politics is important and her thoughts on the 2008 elections. And don't miss the heated discussion about whether or not porn is destroying the culture.

You can listen to the show directly -- no downloading needed -- by going here and taking advantage of the gray Flash player. Or you can download the file directly by clicking right here and listen at your leisure. As always, there's a free subscription available via iTunes -- you can't beat free!

This podcast is brought to you by Volvo Automobiles. Music is by Doktor Frank's band, the Mr. T Experience.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Carnival of the Insanities is up at Dr. Sanity's place.


The Starter Husband

An article on MSN entitled "The Starter Husband" caught my eye this morning, mostly because the caption addressed to women seemed so ridiculously misandric: "You'd never buy a car without test-driving it first right? So why settle into a lifelong marriage before trying one on for size?"

The article, as one can gather from the title, is about women who marry in their 20's for practice and see nothing wrong with taking a guy out for a test-drive and dumping him off at the curb once the sheen wears off--here are some highlights from the article:

Andi takes a throaty slug of her second raspberry martini, picks at her fish taco, then sits back in her chair. "I think marriage is the new dating and having kids is the new marriage," she proclaims loudly, as yet another woman dining with her partner turns to stare. "It's true. I wouldn't have married him if I didn't think I could get out of it...."

Of course, our generation can afford to chuck the Cinderella story when the glass slipper doesn't fit. While our grandmothers were forced to remain shackled to unhappy unions for monetary reasons, most women today have the financial wherewithal to cry uncle and bolt whenever we get uncomfortable.

For some, a starter husband is like a starter home — a semi-commitment where you're willing to do some of the surface work, like painting the walls, but not the heavy lifting, like gutting the whole foundation; he's just not a long-term investment. Others compare a starter husband to a first job, where you learn some skills and polish your resume before going after the position you really want....

It's easy to write these women off as callous or self-absorbed. And yet on some level, they just might be pioneers [my emphasis]: Why stay put in an empty shell of a marriage — an arrangement on paper only — instead of calling it what it is? "This generation is reinventing marriage," says Paul.

I thought pioneers were supposed to be brave people who ventured out to discover new things and make the world a better place, not cowards who are too afraid to say "no" to a marriage that they don't want just to "have a gorgeous party, and make my parents really, really happy" as one woman put it.

A man is not a car and anyone who compares a human being to an object this way has more issues than I care to discuss in a blog post. I realize these self-centered articles and books such as The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony are fun to write and really make women feel "empowered" to act in the same manner as the sexist men of yesteryear who spoke of women like chattels. But in reality, women who use men for starter husbands are the opposite of empowered--they are the archetype of the weak female: afraid to say no, afraid of independence and afraid to be unmarried in their 20's. Yeah, the "you go girl" movement has really done a lot for these women--and reinventing marriage in this way is not empowerment of a new sort, it is just a new twist on an old theme, leaving a lover with a broken heart.