I remember the very first time I met the Future. I was six years old, and he made his presence known to me when he approached me to ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And I told him, “A princess.” And then I changed my answer to, “An archaeologist.” But now, I’m for sure, very certain the answer to that question is, “A doctor.” I was an indecisive mess back then. But that’s how the Future and I connected. Back in the day, he was wild, unkempt, recalcitrant. At times he was dimmer than usual, more depressing than usual, and sometimes, I lost my grasp on what he looked like… what I remembered him to look like. Throughout the years the Future has inspired me to do bigger, better, and greater things… he’s like my best friend, and I can never imagine life without him.
Now enter You, yes, You! The beautiful, intelligent, hopeful bride. You’ve worked so hard to be right here where you are today. When I first met you, you’ve been in the education system for a good thirteen years, and, if you ask me, you rightfully deserve your M-R-S degree, if you get what I’m saying. You have taken hold of the Future and shaped him into the biggest and best version of himself for you that I have ever seen. You’ve transformed him into someone bright, promising, and golden. You are so very different from anyone the Future has ever laid his eyes on, as, when he first met you, he was smitten by your iridescence, your grit, your confidence.
We’re all gathered here today to celebrate the consolidation of You and your dear Future. I remember the first time the Future met you, and then he approached you, just as he did to me, asking what /you/ wanted to be when you grew up. You replied, “Happy”, an answer so peculiar, so whimsical that the Future just couldn’t help but fall in love with you. So, here you are, joined hand in hand as you, the bride, fulfill the very promises and goals you’ve made towards your Future, while in return your Future, the groom, grants you your deepest wish of happiness.
And don’t get me wrong, not all days will be glowing with perfection as the Future still has that bit of spontaneity in him that you can just never quite get rid of. And there will be some days where you just want to quit everything, to stop trying to please your beloved husband… to drop him and run away from his powerful grasp. And should you ever go through those times, I urge you to take a deep breath and reconsider. For the Future is yours, and you have the true power to control your relationship with him, not vice versa. You indeed wear the pants in the relationship.
And after you’ve utilized your alpha dominance trousers and belittled dear Mr. Future into conceding his grip on you, you shall then guilt him into taking you out to dinner. There, you will then find what you were yearning for. A medium-rare steak. Which basically equates to your desire for happiness. And your sweet significant other, dear Mr. Future, would pay the bill with the riches he’s gained from your goals and promises, making him the wealthiest man in the world… and the luckiest man as well.
And so I end my speech with an anecdote… a brief conversation I’ve had with your dear Future. I turned the tables on him, asked him what /he/ wanted to be when he grew up.
And he replied, quite simply, “Yours.”
A toast to the beautiful bride and groom, to you and your Future.
As history has progressed, mankind has had to develop factors that contributed specifically to the functionality of their society. One of the most prominent factors has been the addition of laws which set boundaries for the civilization as a whole. However, when laws are broken there must be some reinforcement that emphasizes the authority of these rules. In the American society, the correctional system is the basis in which individuals are supposed to be “enrolled” in, thus helping them reform their ways and become better contributors to humanity.
However, in this day and age, the American correctional system has become privatized to relieve the pressure on citizen tax dollars. Due to this, the correctional system has been reduced to punishment, isolation and almost indentured servitude instead of the reformation that was originally intended. In addition, when individuals are sent to prison they are left with the reduced ability to be able to receive a legal job. This matter has left a significant amount of minorities, immigrants and otherwise socially handicapped people unemployed, on welfare, and usually ending right back into prison. As a descendant of immigrants and a minority whose lived in areas with a high population of former inmates, this subject is daunting especially to myself. When I consider all of the good people that made mistakes, were forced into situations based on their circumstances or people who were just trying to survive, I can’t imagine how their experiences in prison have not only tainted their perspective on humanity but have also tainted their futures. When a portion of our population has been subjected to this dehumanizing treatment and left with limited options in their progression the question now becomes, to what extent does our present correctional system affect a person’s ability to successfully function in society?
For the sake of this examination, the definition of success will be limited to “maintaining the necessary income to live above the poverty line, while remaining in good legal standing, as well as having the opportunity to advance in life”. While this definition may seem simplistic, difficulties meeting this goal can arise for even the most educated and able individuals. Thus when persons of a social status that are already less likely to successfully go through the system, their results are drastically different. In all actuality, the American correctional system inhibits the progression of an individual’s functionality in society due to the fact that not only is the person in question now limited in their possible economic advance but also in their social standing and experiences. In order to examine the validity of my thesis, I will analyze statistics provided by the American government in regards to the demographics of those who have been previously incarcerated. In addition to this, I will break down personal accounts from people who have been in prison as well as those who haven’t to compare the social experiences of both groups. By doing this I will be able to correlate the evidence that our government has gathered to the events that people have encountered.
In order to discuss how the prison system has deviated from its original intentions, it is imperative that I give background on the origins of said system. Before the 18th century there wasn’t a well-defined prison system, instead, people who were accused of committing crimes would be held in crude dungeons and held in torturous restraints. However, these areas weren’t for long-term holding, these caverns were set aside for temporary holding until the accused would be either acquitted of their crime or found guilty. During the colonial times in America, a guilty verdict could be punished by ranges of castigation. From public humiliation to branding, to lashings and hangings. However, it was very rare for a person to be held as a form of punishment. Nevertheless, as time progressed these methods of penalization became seen as barbaric and in the 1800’s a new form of criminal “reformation” was introduced. A grander reflection of our implementation of solitary confinement, the prisoners of the 1800’s were sent to factories where they silently reflected on their sins. Communication with other prisoners was strictly forbidden and being caught in the action would result in additional punishment. This method of rehabilitation was favored because not only was it responsible for the breakdown of an individual’s spirit, it would give way to mental illnesses that incapacitated the criminal. Furthermore, inmates were subject to strenuous labor without pay or concern for their safety. During this time, obedience and hard work were the markers of criminal rehabilitation although during this time reformation of the prison system had begun in Pennsylvania which would influence the impending 1900’s.
Two of the major pioneers in the improvement of the correctional system during this time were Dorothea Dix and Enoch C. Wines. Dorothea Dix strove for the refinement of the way mentally ill people were treated in prison. This eventually led to the separation of the mentally ill into asylums where they could be educated and receive treatment. Enoch Wines focused on the betterment of the correctional system for all; Wine’s conclusion that the current prison methods were actually severely ineffective led to the implementation of new policies regarding sanitary conditions, women’s participation and education in prison. As the progressive era emerged these two reformers were given greater consideration and eventually the 1900’s became the era of prison restoration. Progressives shifted their focus from hard punishment and social isolation to psychological methods of rehabilitation. During this time prisoners were sentenced to indefinite sentences and were released when they could prove that had been purged of the criminal tendencies. This method would lead to our contemporary version of probation and parole. With this major revolution, the correctional system was set to rehabilitate its inmates and lead to the betterment of society’s “deviants”.
However, during the late 20th century American encountered a “prison boom”, a massive increase in the prison population (Porter, Lauren). This explosion in the number of people under the guide of the correctional system was due to the expansion of the American law enforcement agencies. Prison sentences for minor crimes were being increased and new laws were instituted leading to an increase of things considered illegal. Eventually, the state budgets allocated to prison growth were drained and politicians were floundering for a way to make good on their promises to crack down on crime. In order to supplement this growing population, the US prison system began to privatize their jails to exclusive third-parties. The first third-party company to profitize the prison system was the Corrections Corporation of America. This method of prison expansion has been a major source of controversy due to the fact that these corporations run at least 10% of America’s prison for profit (Pauly, Madison). In essence, the issue lies with the fact that when a company is running for profit, the end goal is money, whereas the end goal of the correctional system should be correction of society’s deviants. In all actuality, these groups aren’t focused on educating or reforming our criminals, instead, they stand to gain monetary awards when the prison population is increased.
Now with a foundation established on the previous ineffectiveness of the correctional system and a brief summary on the history of America’s most controversial prison system, I can examine the effects our contemporary system has on the individuals within it. Now the validity of my conclusion is based on my ability to prove that the correctional system hinders two factors that contribute to an individual’s ability to succeed in society: the economic and social advancement of an individual. The economic aspects that contribute to a person success in America include employment and financial stability. The social factors that contribute to a person’s success include location and education. In order to defend my thesis, I will argue that our current correctional system 1) causes former inmates to lose job opportunities, 2)lowers the average income of former inmates, 3)contributes to the likelihood of former prisoners staying in a bad environment, and 4) lowers the chances of a former prisoner being educated.
To begin with, I’d like to review the statistical data on employment after prison. As of 2008, the percent of former inmates that was unable to meet income through employment was 70% (Vischer, Christy), the methods of income varied over means such as governmental assistance, assistance from friends and family as well as informal work coming in at the top 3.
As the prison population grew and political tension in America rose during the election of Obama, the number of post-inmates unemployed increased to 75% in 2013, after Obama’s re-election (Gramlich, John). As stated by a director of Columbia Law School’s department of Prisoners and Families clinic, “You can almost look at incarceration as a contagious disease,” Genty said. “Once somebody has that taint, they are just looked at differently. It’s not even at the rational level.” This bias can be found in various media, including news outlets, and it is only worsening the stigmas associated with former inmates. For instance, on a popular show named “Everybody Hates Chris” one character is often shown to be stealing and eventually being detained and sent to jail. Even though this character has been previously incarcerated, he maintains his socially deviant behavior, which induces the thought that he isn’t capable of rehabilitation. In other instances, such as on “Boyz n the Hood”, former convicts are stereotyped as being violent, stubborn and overall malicious. Despite 59% of convictions being nonviolent, this image of former inmates is portrayed in pop culture and employers fear ‘dangerous felons’ ruining their business reputations (Neyfakh, Leon). Despite most media being fictional, many people are conditioned to understand society- and specific factions- by what they see on television.
In this case, employers see that this individual has repeatedly gone through the correctional system and yet continues their crimes, which makes an employer not want to hire them. In reality, news outlets also perpetrate these thoughts. When someone is suspected of committing a crime one of the first things the media will examine is their criminal history. To employers this seems correlative, a former inmate or convict is suspected of committing another wrongdoing, thus they will continue to commit more crimes (Vega, Tanzana). A former inmate even says that “[he felt] his job applications were going into a “black hole.” This is due to the fact that more in today’s society, jobs are beginning to evaluate the criminal history of prospective employees. In more cases than some, employers aren’t even looking at what the crime was, instead, simply having a conviction makes you a less likely candidate.
When defining success, I used the poverty line as a marker of indication. To be precise in my analysis, the poverty line- as determined by the Federal Government- is $12,060 for an individual (healthcare.gov). It can be assumed based on the analysis of post-incarceration employment rates that former prisoners have a lower average income. A mean decrease of 11% was found between the annual income of post-incarcerated individuals as opposed to their income before incarceration (Freudenberg, Nicholas). However, many other circumstances influence the low income of former inmates. To begin with, many convicts are released early but have to pay monthly fees for parole or probation. On the average, convicts are paying $30-$80 a month, not including court fees or the costs of drug testing and driving for parole check-ups (Schou, Solvej). When individuals aren’t able to pay their parole costs, they are subject to several different consequences. The most frequent “alternatives” are community service and revocation of license until payment can be made. Yet, since the majority of inmates were in poverty before they were convicted, it is likely they will be even more impoverished and lack the resources, such as a car or work, to meet their alternatives.
In addition, like our current correctional facility, probation is also being privatized. Due to this privatization, the focus becomes less on rehabilitation and more on increasing revenue. Revenue that is generated by the recidivism, the relapse of committing crimes, of former inmates. However, this is simply the surface of how probation plays a role in lowering the income of convicts. It is human nature to become concerned with the power and control that one possesses over the environment and in the relationship between probation officer and parolee, the results aren’t exclusive. On an episode of Law and Order: SVU, the interactions between several probation officers and their parolees are dramatized. Probation officers are seen being threatening, aggressive and extorting money from former convicts with threats of falsifying parole violations. However, in real life, cases of probational system corruption are beginning to crop up more frequently. Especially in well-populated cities, where criminal activities occur more, probational misconduct is rampant and has severe consequences for convicts trying to make a new life for themselves. For instance, in the city of Nashville, 2015 was the year many parolees lost their cars, gave up their disability checks, or even foreclosed on their homes(Schou, Solvej). These individuals found themselves being threatened with excessive jail time or increased probation fees if they couldn’t pay their probation officer. In conducting an interview with an individual recently released from prison, Mark* shared his concerns of the correctional system in regards to probation. “Paying probation fees may seem like small costs for your freedom but I have a kid. Providing for a baby and yourself, the pressure is high, man. I’ve thought of selling dope a thousand times since I’ve been out. If I can’t pay probation, I’m back in jail anyway.” (personal communication, 2017). This was one of the most emotional accounts, on my behalf, that I received because Mark is only 19. To consider the fact that someone so young is already entrapped in the vicious cycle of crime is daunting. The system of probation is supposed to be a transition between prison and society, yet, it seems to be an increasingly cyclical route of recidivism and less income.
“Section 8 isn’t available to anyone who has a criminal record. Whether or not you serve jail time, you are immediately evicted from your apartment and there aren’t many other places you can go,” said an individual who had her housing assistance revoked. The options left are expensive and require extensive application fees and security deposits. Thus, even if the individual was able to maintain their finances, money would be spent primarily on housing. Many convicts will then find themselves regressing into criminal acts due to lack of support from their community. Due to the lack of community resources, these areas run rampant with criminals and, in the underground world, there is always room for another drug dealer or gang member. Thus, when inmates are released there is an immediate pressure to recede into their old lives, in addition to defensive measures, but also in order to provide for themselves.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. – Nelson Mandela.
This quote has increased in validity since the speaker first said it. As the United States continues to grow and innovate, education becomes more and more a separation between poverty and stability, success and failure. Many inmates, depending on the severity of their crime, have access to a high school education within prison walls. However, education isn’t limited to the simplicity of a high school diploma. Instead many employers look towards college degrees as a symbol of reputability and intelligence. Yet, a very few have access to degree-granting courses and those that do are at risk of losing them due to the high cost of these programs. This is despite the fact that by offering college courses, some correctional facilities have seen their recidivism rate drop by 16% (Westervilt, Eric). Inmates have been determined as being 42% more likely not to recede back to prison. Withholding economical reasons, a college education benefits society as a whole by increasing the rehabilitation factor of prison. Unfortunately, many prisons don’t offer these initiatives and instead, post-prison educational pursuits are harder due to various factors. The most significant reason is that former convicts lack access to basic educational programs. In a growing society of immigration, most urban cities provide little to no formal language assistance. In addition, many convicts simply aren’t afforded the time as they are required to see probation officers frequently as well as trying to actually provide for themselves.
As inmates are released from our correctional facility they are promptly thrust back into an environment that encourages their misconduct. Areas that have high incarceration rates hosts large ghettos that breed malicious intent. For instance, the Miami Dade prison population is the 8th largest in the country with its gang population being the 7th largest in America (Munzenrieder, Kyle.). Even though an inmate may have rehabilitated, crime affiliation follows and this individual may become associated with their criminal history. This can lead to gang members, drug dealers or other offenders preemptively striking in order to maintain criminal hierarchies. In many cases, previous inmates will regress into their criminal activities in order to have protection. Rather than continuing the rehabilitation process, former inmates are cornered into a fight or flight response without the ability to escape. Moreover, in many cases, those who have been previously incarcerated also have family and friends that take part in illegal activities. “I had to give up many of the boys I’ve been down with forever. I just knew that they were going to bring me back to a place I couldn’t be in.” Mark stated. Losing these connections can leave former inmates vulnerable and without the support system they’ve had for years. In addition to the retaliation from other offenders, released inmates have to worry about racial and criminal profiling. Due to over 60% of the prison population being minorities, most noticeably Blacks and Hispanics, a level of racial profiling is obvious (Hagler, Jamal). However, racially profiling released inmates leads to police officers checking criminal databases, in turn, increasing harassment. Being associated with a criminal record gives police an excuse to pursue individuals simply for having a record. In areas with heavy crime, law enforcement is more present and more likely to assume criminal records of the inhabitants. Moreover, when considering their low budgets, these heavily populated cities also lack the necessary resources to integrate former convicts. Coupled with the lack of employment, many of these offenders will take to criminal activities in order to maintain homes and child care.
In the case of economic endeavours and advancement opportunities, post-secondary education is on the brink of becoming a requirement. Statistics show that those who have a college degree are more than 14% likely to have a job that is career oriented vs a job to “simply get by”(pewsocialtrends.org). Having a college degree puts a former inmate at an advantage against the 66% of America that has no degree, increasing their chances of retaining a career (pewsocialtrends.org). Thus, without education, the majority of former inmates would never have the opportunity to advance. In addition, higher education also contributes to disparities in income between those have had their high school diploma and those who have a college degree. The median annual income difference between a high school graduate and a degree holder is $17,500( pewsocialtrends.org). When comparing this to the previous generations median annual income difference of $15,780, there is a gap of $1,720. This contributes to fact that education has not only grown more essential in order to maintain a career but also to remain above the poverty level in our current economy. When considering the likely chances of a former inmate having a lower income, education becomes a necessary tool to prevent recidivism and increase a former inmates chance of success.
As racial and economic divisions deepen, prison has become a place of punishment doubling as an income generator for private companies. The original purpose of reformation has been deformed into simply sheltering what society refuses to fix. Despite the overwhelming evidence of inefficiency, politicians, private companies and upper-class individuals believe that the correctional system provides opportunities for inmates that they would have never otherwise receive. Granted that many inmates are released gaining a high school diploma in the process, their costs from prisons such as probation and court fees, is likely to offset the advantage of a diploma. In addition, many supporters of our current correctional system emphasize the fact that prison shouldn’t be a reward but instead a consequence. However, this prompts the question of to what extent is prison a negative consequence? In many cases, inmates arrive in jail or prison for non-violent offences and yet when they are released, their crimes are usually more heinous and weigh more on society. In effect, society is punished for its failure to correctly reform the prisoner.
However, the most significant claim of those who support our correctional system is that society is no longer forced to deal with those who have deviated from our norms. Yet, this line of thinking results in a chain of animosity, poverty and increased segregation. As families are broken and children grow in poverty, our youth will see crime as an outlet for rebellion or simply a means of getting by. This becomes a vicious cycle, rarely broken and demonstrated mostly by the minorities in our prisons thus increasing stigmatisms associated with various races. In the end, our correctional system has been outdated for decades and currently is undermining efforts of humanitarians and those who seek to release others from poverty. By reforming the issues analysed in my essay, with a focus on education, our correctional system would begin to change for the better.
Despite including what would be most important in answering my question, I realised that there were several directions I could have taken in the meaning of function. My analysis focused more on economic success rather than mental growth which would also affect an individual’s ability to succeed in life. Understanding the extent of influence prison has on the psychological state on an inmate would allow me to determine if many of the results of prison were from fractured mental states or from reasons entailed in my essay. However, based on my analysis of data and my evaluation of interviews with former inmates, prison has a high negative association with inhibiting the success of those previously incarcerated.
“Raw” as in, “I wrote this in twenty minutes”. No edits. Nothing.
This brings up a topic I briefly touched on in one of my other articles, A Growing Standard: Student Apathy, in which I introduced the “exhausted professional”, someone that works solely for the tokens that come with it. I once had this view, and this is an elaboration on it, and how I’ve overcome.
Sheepishly, I tell her, “I don’t even know if I want to go to college.” It’s something I kept bottled in for a while. And it was like someone shook that bottle a thousand times over, and the carbonation was just dying to be released.
I was dying to be released.
She looked at me with shock, disappointment, frustration, that her straight-A, top-of-the-class daughter would even utter those words. But I was just as confused as her in that moment. Like I had been for years.
I remember in my freshman year when I first told her my interest in writing. She told me, “Don’t major in that, that’d just be a waste.” Those words resonated with me for the rest of my high school career to the point that I tried to detach myself from writing.I started to write things that didn’t matter. Like writing didn’t matter.
It came to the point where I didn’t like writing anymore, it was just something I was pretty good at.
There was always turmoil in my mind. I would spend countless hours looking up “Ten most in-demand jobs”, “Jobs that make the most money”, “Best paying jobs of 2017”, hoping that maybe I’ll see a career that’ll spark my interest. But unfortunately, it was always an ineffective task that just left me more confused.
And any spark that I may have had quickly died out.
“I’m thinking about being an immigration lawyer.”
“I’ll just be an anesthesiologist.”
“It’d be cool to be a civil engineer.”
And it surely would be, for someone else. But just looking at the restrictive, professional nature of these jobs absolutely scares me. I wouldn’t be able to take being just another face in the workforce, I’d explode. I’m too fragile, and I’d hate to be the cause of my own unhappiness.
I’d wish to have a job in which I’m my own boss. A job where I don’t have to answer to anyone. A job in which I can make money whenever I want.
But how far-fetched that would be. I could understand my mother’s confusion. I always did well in school for the sole purpose of getting scholarship money for college. But the subjects I was learning were so monotonous, and it led me to become apathetic towards learning. If only it were up to her, I would have a job as a computer analyst/engineer/some other smart-sounding occupation.
It doesn’t help that my dad wants in on the action. He tries to tell me what to do from where he is, as if he could even tell if I’m obeying him or not.
I’m used to people trying to control my life. I’d consider it a facet of it, second nature.
But I want control of my life now. I don’t want to detonate or explode. I just want to be comfortable. I’m satisfied with the person I am, I just wish other people were. That they’d see that I’m not just my grades or my leadership positions. That I’m a person deserving satisfaction and not living a life of drudgery as a passionless workaholic, working for a check.
My mom responded by saying, “You can do what you want, Adri, but I don’t want you to give up on all of this because of me. I hope I didn’t make you this way.”
I didn’t want to tell her that I felt like it was her fault, because I know she cared about me. She just didn’t want me to struggle trying to pursue an unrealistic job. But that’s up for me to decide, no one else.
According to the “State of the American Workplace” Gallup poll of 2016, 51 percent of Americans “feel no real connection to their work.”
Another 16 percent resent their jobs.
Just something to keep in mind, I suppose. I know I have.
an organism that lives in or on another organism (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the host’s expense
a person who habitually relies on or exploits others and gives nothing in return
There are many family dynamics and each family is unique. There are no perfect families and no way to make any family perfect. However, though all families will have some problems, there are some that harbor toxic, nigh-unshakable parasites — the ones with the most power in the family: the parents.
The first thing to note about all of these conditions is the parents’ inability to care about their child past their own wishes. In all of these scenarios, the parents wish to be taken care of or be paid attention to. If the parent(s), someone who should be giving unconditional love, is unable to or unwilling to give this care or love, then not only do the children suffer but the spouse may also be affected, if they are not also a parasitic parent. Let’s look at a couple of conditions that may cause this undesirable toxic relationship not only between parent and child but also between spouses. Today, I will be breaching the sacred pedestal of parenthood, and especially, the immunity of mothers.
As a side note, I want to say that I have experience with my mother in regards to having a narcissistic parent. In her case, she was a covert narcissist and although I always knew there was something not quite right about the things she was doing and saying, I didn’t have a name for it until a few years ago. I am glad that I am still young and that I was luckily out of her influence during some of my critical periods as a child (I lived with my grandparents as a young child before coming back to America to start kindergarten).
1. Munchausen Syndrome
Munchhausen syndrome is often confused with hypochondria. Munchausen syndrome is different in that the “victim” knows that they are not actually sick but they purposefully fake symptoms or even create symptoms to get the care and attention that they want through self-harm or self-sabotage. Hypochondria, on the other hand, is the compulsive thought that you are sick with something. In that case, there is no ulterior motive besides just believing that you’re sick.
Munchausen isn’t as directly physically harmful as its by Proxy variant but it is nonetheless emotionally and mentally draining and depending on the age of the one giving the care, financially draining too.
When a parent is so swept up in their own imagined aches and pains, they have no time left for their child. In fact, their child is going to be their most devoted caretaker. Their need to be looked after and fawned over at all times exceeds any of their ability to care about their child. They will constantly demand attention and complain about being dizzy or nauseous or having a headache. If not paid attention to enough by their child, the parent may complain that the child was ungrateful or wants the parent to suffer and die. The main goal of the parent is emotional manipulation of the child and to tie the child to them so that they can get an automatic lifetime supply of attention and care.
Usually, Munchausen and Munchausen by Proxy syndrome are caused by the parent’s own emotional problems. They may come from a dysfunctional family background themselves. Perhaps they grew up in a family environment where they only receive attention and love through being sick (this is especially prevalent if a parent had Munchausen by Proxy syndrome which we will talk about in a bit). They may feel threatened by the possibility of abandonment or neglect. Whatever the case is, though, if they don’t admit to having this condition, then there isn’t going to be any way to treat it.
The difference between this condition and the Munchausen Syndrome is in who is “sick”. A proxy is something that is substituted for something else. In cases where parents have Munchausen by Proxy syndrome, they fake or create sickness in their child rather than themselves.
With Munchausen by Proxy, the child’s health is compromised in order for the parent to receive the sympathy they want. When the child is sick, the parent might say something along the lines of, “I’m so worried. I don’t know what to do if ____ doesn’t get better. I haven’t been eating or sleeping properly for the past __ weeks!” to which other people would say something like, “I’m so sorry. I really hope ____ gets better soon. You’re a great mother/father. This must be so hard on you. ___ is lucky to have such a caring, devoted mother/father.”
Of course, this condition, like with Munchausen syndrome is hard to properly diagnose, especially if you’re just an observer but one of the tell-tale signs is if the child’s symptoms get better when the parent is separated from them and then dramatically gets worse when the parent reunites with them.
The children of such parents may grow up to have Munchausen syndrome because they felt that the only way to get attention and care is to be sick, which is a behavior that is learned from their parents. Since a parent with Munchausen by Proxy syndrome only sees their child as a way to get sympathy, if the child isn’t sick or refuses to pretend to be sick, then the parent won’t get what they want and they will actually get upset with the child. Thus, the child learns that the only way to get the care that they need is to be sick and of course, this wreaks havoc with a child’s development, both physically and emotionally… that is, if they survive out of infancy. In many cases of Munchausen by Proxy, if the child is an infant and there have been cases where the child was killed in the process of the parent trying to get the emotional fix that they need.
This condition can be found in both mothers and fathers but since mothers are usually the parent that has the most impact on child-rearing, there are more instances of mothers having this condition than fathers. This condition, on the whole, is rare but when it does happen, like with the case of Marybeth Tinning (see here), the public banish it as an abnormality and they like to think that the guilty parent was a psychopath or some such. The thing is, these are people who normally don’t have homicidal tendencies. These are the parents that just care more about themselves than about their children.
Here’s a short clip of a couple rare instances where this condition has been caught on film:
Usually, when we want to change someone else and have been met with a brick wall or an otherwise unsympathetic ear, we resort to nagging which not only turns off the other person more but also gives them a sense that they are being falsely accused or wrongly punished. This video helps explain the results of nagging and how we can overcome it to be more effective at persuasion.
Shoutout to The School of Life. They are an awesome channel and they make some pretty profound videos so if you like the video above, maybe consider checking them out!
Side Note: I know that Outlet has been dormant over the last week or so, but we have a couple of articles in the works and it’s just that all of us have college things coming up so please bear with us. Thanks so much for your patience and we promise to make the wait worthwhile. We also have a couple of new potential writers so look forward to seeing them sometime in the coming months!!
Today, we’re going to be talking about biases our brains have when processing information. This is important to know about because of the political and social environment we’re currently in. We have to know why some people think the way they do and how they manage to maintain irrational beliefs despite overwhelming evidence that their beliefs run contrary to facts. In fact, these logical shortcomings are so prevalent that even scientific professionals have to guard against them. However, when ordinary people fall victim to them, it’s much harder for us to self-diagnose and control for these subconscious biases and it often ends up in misunderstanding and misinformation. I tell you, our subconcious’s fear of cognitive dissonance is something to be feared (and rightly so).
However, it is not only an individual’s fault for falling into the trap but what we’re being exposed to in the media, in the social circles we’re part of and what authority figures tell us to think can also perpetuate these widening ripples of falsehood.
1. Confirmation Bias
In science, when they conduct experiments, researchers try not to let their own predictions on the outcome of the experiment affect the actual outcome of said experiment. When you seek out information that specifically confirms your own beliefs and pass over or completely ignore information that goes against your beliefs, that bias is called confirmation bias.This clip from a CH video explains this quite well and it also helps explain the vaccine = autism mindset some people have nowadays.
For researchers, they attempt to avoid this bias by either developing an objective way of measuring results or by performing blind or double-blind studies where the participants of experiments and the researchers that are directly observing the results of an experiment don’t know what sort of result is expected and therefore doesn’t skew the actual results of the experiment.
Then, there have been researchers who knowingly skewed the results of an experiment to confirm a result beneficial to their agenda. For example, back when obesity first showed its advance on modern society in the form of heart disease, a theretofore uncommon condition, people were trying to find something to blame. Fat became the victim while the sugar industry got a free pass. When people found out, a man by the name of Ancel Keys got most of the blame.
Here’s a (slightly biased) video about the whole incident…
…. and a more objective review of the whole affair outlined here from a fellow denizen of WordPress:
Ancel Keys did not drop any countries from the Seven Countries Study. His most famous graph—the first one up above—is from a different paper he presented at a World Health Organization (WHO) conference in 1955. The Seven Countries Study didn’t even launch until 1958, and entailed much more than just plopping numbers into a pretty curve. (That said, the Seven Countries Study had plenty of problems too; some are mentioned on this site.)
Contrary to popular belief, the cherry-picked graph didn’t convince everyone that fat was evil. In fact, Keys was pretty much ridiculed for the weakness of his fat/heart disease theory by other scientists at the WHO meeting, and whenever his graph was cited in medical journals later on, it was usually paired with some criticism. Although Keys’ work definitely shaped our current beliefs about fat, this graph didn’t exactly take the world by storm. (More on this later.)
When all 22 countries were analyzed, the association between fat and heart disease did not go away. It actually remained statistically significant (meaning it probably wasn’t due to chance). And to make matters worse, the paper frequently cited as a “rebuttal” to Keys shows pretty clearly that animal protein had an even stronger association with heart disease than total fat did. The China Study was right all along! Time to go vegan, you guys. (Just kidding. But this part is the most interesting of all, and we’ll examine it in excruciating depth in a moment.)
Although some of his saga has been misconstrued, Keys was still far from perfect—and his eventual role in demonizing saturated fats (while glorifying polyunsaturated fats) has led us down an unfortunate road.
Click here to see the whole article. (Kudos to the author for such thorough research.)
The fact that Keys’ own bias could have gotten in the way of objective research is something that everyone can learn from and avoid. So just be careful to know the whole story when looking at an issue or an event and don’t surround yourself with only sources or people who agree with you.
Here’s a good source to learn more about this bias.
2. False Consensus Effect
You know a person who is clearly wrong but is so sure that they’re right that they assume that everyone else thinks they’re right too? This is called the false consensus effect. This is especially crucial if you’re in a position of power. A person with decision-making powers over other people may make decisions for other people and assume that their subordinates (or constituents, for that matter) agree with them. This makes people less likely to actually seek out the opinion of others and it also leads them to create a bubble of “yes” people around them, furthering the delusion.
The false consensus effect is also tied to another logical fallacy which we will expand on next…
3. Availability Heuristic
This is our brain’s tendency to look for information that is easiest to get. This is why news and other media outlets aren’t the most reliable sources when it comes to forming conclusions about the world. Since what the news covers is limited and focuses on certain stories by nature, what we do hear about will seem bigger and more prevalent than the stories that we don’t hear about. For example, shark attacks are often sensationalised and when it does happen, the news outlets report on it. However, as the popular comparison goes, more people die from incidents relating to vending machines than shark attacks (see here for far more likelier ways you’ll die). But people are still more paranoid about being attacked by sharks than dying from vending machines. This is because there is more information and instances available to draw upon since you were more exposed to it.
This is especially important when it comes to making decisions and other social phenomena like mass hysteria. This is also why propaganda works. When given lots of examples to hate and fear the Japanese and the Chinese (each at different times in US history), the public ate it up and adopted the hate with posters like this:
And this was before television became popular. So… you can imagine the impact of television now.
Then, to tie it back to the false consensus effect, when people make a conclusion based only on information they’re exposed to and are unaware of any other information, then it lends itself to false confidence in their beliefs and when they expouse* these beliefs to a group of people who are less sure, this belief then spreads into the misinformation epidemic we face today.
*This Experimental Design was a project for an AP Psych class so it’s not representative of what a real experimental design looks like. This design also ties into a previous article on the site that goes over tbe subject of the study a little less formally. This design was based off of said article, actually. Click here to see the original article.
Section I: Proposal
There is a widespread myth that humans use only ten percent of their brains and how it implies that we have a lot of untapped potential. While the myth has been scientifically proven to be false, the fact that the brain usually isn’t usually functioning in its highest capacity might be true. There are concerns regarding the impacts of external factors on the brain’s performance in certain activities, like temperature. In order to test if there are effects on the brain in different temperatures and what the potential outcomes are, we are researching this topic and conducting this experiment to see if adult individuals placed into different temperatures will yield significantly different test performances.
Section II: Background Research
The human brain accounts for 25% of the body’s total glucose utilization and 20% of its oxygen consumption. While using these biological fuels for its cognitive processes, the brain also generates a lot of heat. However, to the fragile neurons in the brain, any significant deviance of the temperature from the baseline would cause incomparable damage. We also know that the brain has a maximum temperature limit, but its minimum temperature limit is not yet defined, meaning that the brain ails under high heat while it is more resistant under cooler temperatures. These points are supported in the naturalistic observational study conducted by Kiyatkin, E. A. (2010), where it stated, “Brain cells are exceptionally sensitive to heat, with some irreversible damage starting to occur at ~40°C, only about 3°C above normal baseline, and progressing exponentially with slight increases above these levels.”
While our brains are liable to overhead, we have also evolved ways to maintain the temperature. In “The Rationale for Human Selective Brain Cooling”, the authors B.A. Harris and P.J.D. Andrews (1970, p. 738) listed three ways in which humans have adapted to help maintain our brain’s temperature, “[the] cooling of venous blood by the skin which in turn cools the arterial (carotid) blood supply to the brain; cooling by heat loss through the skull; and cooling by heat loss from the upper airways.” With so many adaptations designed to cool the brain, then it is evident that keeping the brain’s temperature as close to the baseline temperature as possible is crucial to our survival. It also means that because of the amount of heat being exchanged at the level of the skin from the brain, then the room temperature of a location will affect the brain temperature of everyone present. Harris, B.A. et tal.’s paper was based on anatomical study and it also goes on to say that, “as the brains of early humans grew in size, their emissary veins developed in tandem, which supports the radiator theory that as humans evolved and developed bigger brains they must have developed an increased venous cooling capacity.” What that means is that by using existing data about our evolutionary history, it has been concluded that as our brains evolved to become more complex and more adept at higher-level thinking, as evolving bigger brains means the development of the limbic and the mammalian brain and therefore the development of higher-level thinking, our species developed more sophisticated cooling systems in tandem. In other words, as our brains began developing higher-level cognitive abilities and our brains began using up more energy and generating more heat from those abilities, we needed more effective and complicated cooling systems to keep up the level of thinking we were doing, therefore demonstrating the importance of the temperature of our brains in our level of cognitive ability.
There was an experiment done by Haider, B. et tal. (2010) that concluded that there were inhibitory neurons in our brain that stopped the brain from consciously processing information that is deemed irrelevant in an effort to save energy. In other words, because the brain is trying to conserve energy and limit heat output, it is also cutting back on what sensory information it is processing and committing to memory. This means that most of what we see and hear etc through our five senses and most of our more fleeting thoughts are lost before we are even aware of them. If the brain were to be in a cooler environment, then perhaps it won’t need to cut back on its processing power as much and our cognitive ability will grow as more information will be consciously available to us.
These studies all support the fact that the brain does, in fact, benefit from lower temperatures to offset the amount of heat it generates. While these studies don’t strictly show that cognitive ability is linked to temperature, it provides a strong foundation in which we will base our study on in proving the relationship between a cooler room temperature and higher cognitive ability.
Our study will be an experiment where we will administer creativity tests that test the participants’ cognitive creativity in the form of spontaneous drawings with nudges in the form of abstract shapes or lines. We will also administer cognitive tests similar in nature to CogAT to test cognitive ability in pattern recognition and spatial awareness as well as other high-level mental processes. The participants would be tested first in a room-temperature room to establish their baseline score before being tested again in their experimental rooms with varying temperatures. Our conclusions will be drawn from the difference in the participants’ scores from each individual’s first round of testing to the second, therefore their improvement or decline in test performance would be calculated in relation to each individual’s original score. By doing this, we hope to see if the temperature of a room affects cognitive ability.
Section III: Experimental Design
Our hypothesis is that if an adult is placed in a room with a cool temperature at sixty-three degrees Fahrenheit, they will have a higher level of cognitive ability and perform better on cognitive tests and creativity tests compared to their control data in a room-temperature room at seventy-three degrees Fahrenheit. However, if an adult is placed in a room with a hotter temperature at eighty-three Fahrenheit, they will have a lower level of cognitive ability than when they were in the room-temperature room and will perform more poorly compared to their control data as the participants who were tested the second time around in the cool room. The colder room, in turn, would lead to a boost in each of the experimental group’s scores on the test more than the hot room in comparison to their score when the participants were all in a room-temperature room.
In our experiment, the independent variable is the temperature of the rooms that each participant goes into to take the test (either the sixty-three degree cool, the seventy-three degree room temperature or the eighty-three degree warm room), while the dependent variable is the test results of the randomly selected adults. The independent variable would be the room temperature and the dependent variable will be the difference between the test scores of each participant’s control score and their experimental score. (improvement, no change, or decrease in scores).
To make sure that the data collected from the experiment was really dependent on room temperature and was not up to chance, we have to have a control group that will test both times in a room-temperature room (seventy-three degrees Fahrenheit).
To control for confounding variables, around several day’s time will be given to adjust for potential jet lag after the randomly selected adults travel from various locations in America to the place where the experiment will be conducted. The participant’s overall level of health, with factors like sleep, diet or stress level, will be monitored and kept with little to no variation between the two testing periods. Besides the room temperature, every other aspect about the rooms will be the same for every room so that distracting posters, noise, or other such things will not be present to affect concentration when the participants switch rooms. The participants are also all going to wear the same clothes in both rounds of testing to ensure that their body temperature is consistently being affected by the temperature of the room. The participants will take their first test and their second test at the same time of day so that the impact of different cognitive levels at different times of day for each participant will be nullified. The participants will also be provided with adequate water for both rounds of testing so that another important factor of brain functionality, hydration, is being controlled for. Different tests will be administered in each round of testing so that participants do not get the chance to be more familiar with the test in the second round. The difficulty of the two tests being administered for both rounds of testing will be maintained to ensure that the scores aren’t affected by an easier or harder test in the second round. Of course, we will make sure that participants aren’t affected by other participants by testing each of them separately. There is a time limit of one hour for the cognitive tests and the tests will be made so that it can reasonably be completed in this time. This is so that everyone has the same time limit and it will be made clear to participants that they are under such a limitation. The time limit for the creativity tests would be thirty minutes so that their creative ideas have to have some amount of real spontaneous creativity rather than let the participants ruminate on what they could draw. The time limit would also curtail the body’s ability to become acclimated to the rooms’ temperatures and would therefore render the difference in room temperature null. To ensure that all participants start off at about the same body temperature, all participants would be required to stay in a room-temperature room for thirty minutes before testing. There will also be small reward for participating in the study to ensure participants’ continuing levels of motivation.
This will be a single blind study, in which the participants will not know why they are being tested or what the variables the scientists are testing are, they will only be aware that they will take the tests right before testing begins. We will also control for experimenter bias by ensuring that multiple scientists facilitate the experiment in order to be sure that no one scientist manipulates the experiment to procure the hypothesized results or interprets the results wrongly simply to prove the hypothesis correct. We will conduct the experiment with participants selected randomly from around the United States in order for the results to be representative of American adults. The random sample will include participants who live in different states and they are going to be gathered together for the test. There will be thirty participants in total with fifteen being male and fifteen being female. For the two experimental groups (hot and cold) and the control group, the participants will be randomly selected to be in any of the three groups. In the experimental round, there will be five males and five females who will test under each of the room temperature conditions to ensure fair representation of genders, all randomly selected, of course.
Section IV: Ethical Concerns and Practical Applications
There are five key components for an experiment to be considered ethical. First informed consent is need from every participant of the experiment, meaning that they are given enough information about the experiment to understand the risks but not enough that it would significantly affect the outcome of the study. If the possible participant is under eighteen years old, then parent permission is needed. Voluntary withdrawal is another key component; the participant should have the right to stop participating in the experiment if they desire to. The third thing that those conducting an experiment should do is protect all participants from emotional or physical harm. Fourth is confidentiality, identities must not be revealed. The last component is debriefing; the experiment should be fully explained to the participant after it is over.
Any scientist or other individual/group must follow this guideline in order to conduct an ethical experiment. The experiment that we would conduct does conform to all the APA ethical guidelines. The thirty participants in the study would all be informed of the objective of the study and decide to give consent. It would be made known before the experiment started that they can withdraw at any moment. Neither will any of the participants be physically or emotionally harmed; they would be given the task to complete a creative and a cognitive ability test in different temperature rooms. The identities of the thirty participants would not be revealed at any given time, and they would be fully debriefed when the experiment is complete.
If completed, this study would benefit the human race. This experiment could provide insight into ways that employers and educator could use to enhance cognitive ability, improving the education that children in schools receive and the productivity of the workplace. If it is proved that temperature affects cognitive ability or at what temperature the brain functions at the best then it would enrich the human race. It could lead to further knowledge of the brain and change the temperatures in school buildings, work environments, public establishments, etc. so that the individuals spending time in these locations work and perform at their maximum potential.
Harris, B. A., & Andrews, P. J. (1970, January 01). The Rationale for Human Selective
Another name to something that was previously just an observed behavior! In this case, the tendency of people to not give up even after it has been shown that further effort will not change the outcome. The continued effort might even be detrimental to yourself in some significant way too which makes this behavior all the more baffling and illogical. Well, the name for it is the sunk cost effect and here’s the article on it and an excerpt:
“Ah, the Concorde; the joint development program of the British and French governments that pushed ahead even when the economic benefits of the project were no longer possible. It was designed to be a passenger aircraft capable of supersonic flight but its lasting legacy resides mostly in game theory, where it has been adopted as a description of irrational behavior – the Concorde fallacy. More generally, the process behind the fallacy is known as the sunk cost effect.”
So everyone knows about the myth that people only use about 10% of their brain at one time, right? They made a movie about it, Lucy. In any case, while that is clearly a myth and has been resoundingly proven to be untrue, the fact that our brains may not be functioning at full capacity is true.
Let’s break it down. Your brain, in this very specific comparison, can be likened to a CPU. When it’s working really hard at doing calculations and executing commands based on those calculations, it uses more energy and thus generates more heat. Just like a CPU, it is sensitive to overheating, the brain way more so than a CPU, and so it needs a way to vent this heat. Obviously, this is harder to do with an organic, fragile brain than a CPU in a tower. So that’s where the limitations come in.
There isn’t any direct way to vent heat in the brain; the cooler blood comes in through the neck to the base of the brain before going to the rest of the brain. However, the places where our most complex thinking takes place (as in, logical processes and abstract thought as well as language and problem-solving skills) are relatively far away from the base of the brain and by the time the blood travels to those places, it has already heated up a considerable amount. This limits the body’s capacity to cool its central control unit which is why there is a unique adaptation that exists to help combat this.
They are valveless veins which means that, given the right signal, the blood flow in those veins can reverse directions. This means that if your brain is in need of emergency cooling, then these veins would become arteries and bring in blood from near the surface of your skin to your brain. However, this doesn’t entirely solve the problem either. The brain accounts for 25% of the body’s total glucose utilization and 20% of oxygen consumption but it dies completely if it deviates 3-4 degrees Celsius from the baseline temperature.
Even with the modern adaptations humans have evolved to cope with this excessive heat generation in such a delicate and closed environment, the brain has to be really picky on what it spends energy on which is why humans possess so many logical shortcomings especially considering the fact that our brains’ computing power is far and beyond supercomputers today (this remains to be debated once quantum computers are more widely established). This claim is based on the raw processing power and the complexity of brain activity. While in a CPU or a motherboard, there are only so many connections but in a brain, literally a hundred billion neurons can be fired in any number of combinations and be able to connect to each other without having to specifically pass through other points first. Thus, the brain is the best at parallel processing, something that computers are naturally not very good at.
The brain’s pickiness is why there are so many blind spots in how our brains interpret information; it takes shortcuts when possible to cut back on energy consumption and this causes said logical shortcomings. I’m sure most of you have heard of one example or another when talking about optical illusions or the availability heuristic or things like source amnesia etc.
So we come back full circle. My point in explaining all of this is to just pose a hypothesis. If the brain is limited to such a capacity when in a restricted environment, then wouldn’t it make sense that a more effective cooling system would be able to increase the brain’s processing capabilities tenfold, maybe hundredfold? This is going into the realm of science fiction with images like this:
Brains in a jar, connected to electrodes extending in all directions and suspended in a liquid. It is strange to think about since humans are bodily creatures– we identify with our self and our ego very strongly and our physical bodies are a very integral part to self-identity. So what would it feel like to be a creature of only thought? In any case, this article was just to provoke discussion and while I know that this concept is very unlikely, it is nonetheless very appealing and the possibility of it is very attractive not only in discovering the brain’s full capacity but also what it could do and the implications of immortality of self and thought as well as a way to achieve things we never thought possible. I’ll leave it at that.
This is Lieutenant and I’ll talk to you next time.
For a more practical application of this concept, click here to see an experiment designed to test this concept.