SocraticGadfly: 7/17/05 - 7/24/05

July 21, 2005

Psychological profile tests? Through a mirror, darkly, at best

Here’s my two cents of caution, introspection and insight on psychological profile tests, including this blogosphere-memetic one in which I participated.

First, including for people such as Majikthise who normally come off as scientifically and philosophically skeptically-minded, let me say that I take such tests with a grain of salt. Perhaps they don’t invoke the number of psychologically-based versions of fallacious reasoning as, say, astrology, but I think they certainly involve a fair amount of projection.

I especially take the Five-Factor test that is part of the meme, the IPIP-NEO, with a bigger grain of salt after taking it.

This test offers both short and long versions. The long version is theoretically more in-depth, but, as its name would imply, can take twice as long or so to complete.

I took the short form first, then the long one.

Perhaps influenced by some sort of psychological priming, my long test scores differed greatly in some areas. For instance, my very low short-test score in the main factor area of Agreeableness was three times higher on the long test. (Short-test scores are the ones on my blog.) Yet, I did that while scoring a tad lower on cooperation and modesty. Why? My altruism subfactor was much higher and my morality subfactor six times higher. I believe that alone should cast a pretty harsh skeptical light on such tests.

I was also twice as neurotic on the short test, yet slightly more open to new experiences.

Having been primed by the short test, I was even more introspective on the long test, but didn’t have my short-test scores memorized, nor was I, consciously at least, trying to improve low grades in areas that might be deemed socially undesirable.

So, remember, such tests are mirrors, but as Paul said in I Corinthians 13, “We see but a dim reflection (Greek ainigma) in a mirror.”

For my money, the only way to really get accurate heterophenomenal (thanks, Dan Dennett) understanding of the accuracy of these tests is for them to be administered by neuroscientists who conduct fMRIs on the test-takers during the tests.

Forty-four Democrats sink civil liberties

Forty-four House Democrats voted yes on renewing the Patriot Act July 21. And those 44 made the difference between it being renewed or being killed, barring some toned-down version.

As Yahoo reports:

The House reauthorized the act by 257-171. In the Republican-controlled chamber, 44 Democrats supported the bill while 14 Republicans opposed it.

If every Democrat voting had opposed the issue while the 14 Republicans in opposition had all held on, it would have failed by a 215-213 margin.

Those 44? That's more than 20 percent of House Democrats.

Yet another reason to vote Green.

And here’s another:

“Republicans also added a new provision to apply the federal death penalty for terrorist offenses that resulted in death and another establishing a new crime of narco-terrorism to punish people using drug profits to aid terrorism. These offenders will now face 20-year minimum prison sentences.”

Great. Democrats aid and abet the pseudo-war on drugs.

Oh, but we get this sop:

”House Republicans agreed last week that this clause -- perhaps the most contentious -- and another allowing so-called roving wiretaps, which permits the government to eavesdrop on suspects as they switch from phone to phone, would be renewed for only 10 years instead of being made permanent.”

Well, lucky us. Fortunately the Senate is only extending those provisions for four years in its version of the bill.

John Conyers, wake up on Patriot Act!

Rep. John Conyers says: “I know of nobody who wants to kill the Patriot Act.”

Really, John? Maybe you’re not so liberal, or so attuned to true progressive dislike for this — or the dislike of some civil libertarian-minded conservatives such as former Congressmen Dick Armey and Bob Barr — as you should be.

Maybe it’s time you wake up and smell the roses.

July 19, 2005

A psychological peek at who I am and why I blog

Overview: This post is a community experiment with two broad purposes. The first is to create publicly accessible data about bloggers' personalities, which may have sociological value in addition to being just plain fun. The second is to track the propagation of this meme through blogspace. Full details and explanation can be found on the original posting:

Instructions (to join in the experiment):

1) Take the IPIP-NEO personality test and the Political Compass quiz, if you have not done so already.

2) Copy to the clipboard that section of this post that is between the double lines, and paste it into your blog editor. (Blogger users may wish to use 'compose' mode to preserve formatting and hyperlinks. Otherwise, be sure to add hyperlinks as necessary.)

3) Replace the answers in the "survey" section below with your own.

4) Add your blog information to the "track list", in the form: "Linked title - URL - optional GUID".

5) Any additional comments should go outside of the double lines, including the (optional) nomination of bloggers you wish to pass this experimental meme on to.

6) Post it to your blog!

Survey:Age: 41

Gender: Male

Location: Lancaster (suburban Dallas), Texas, United States, Earth

Religion: None

Occupation: Newspaper editor

Began blogging June 2004

Political Compass resultsLeft/Right: -6.25Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.13

IPIP-NEO results

EXTRAVERSION: 23 - Friendliness 13 Gregariousness 6 Assertiveness 40 Activity Level 47 Excitement-Seeking 51 Cheerfulness 46

AGREEABLENESS: 11 - Trust 10 Morality 7 Altruism 3 Co-operation 64 Modesty 29 Sympathy 47

CONSCIENTIOUSNESS: 46 - Self-Efficacy 46 Orderliness 39 Dutifulness 42 Achievement-Striving 67 Self-Discipline 60 Cautiousness 35

NEUROTICISM: 43 - Anxiety 52 Anger 8 Depression 60 Self-Consciousness 79 Immoderation 19 Vulnerability 62

OPENNESS TO EXPERIENCE: 65 - Imagination 53 Artistic Interests 94 Emotionality 0 Adventurousness 23 Intellect 91 Liberalism 83

Track List:1.

Philosophy, et cetera - - pixnaps97a22. (add your entry here)

July 17, 2005

Military divorces: Blame Army pay incentives, dysfunctional family-of-origin stories of soldiers, not just the war itself

The L.A. Times recently posted a great in-depth story about the toll Iraq and Afghanistan deployments take on military marriages.

While the article pulls at the heartstrings and such stress- and separation-induced divorces are indeed a tragedy, let’s note a few things:

Spc. Jason Garcia, 23, believed that his on-again, off-again relationship with the mother of his then-2-year-old son was on again; he had given her his ATM card as a gesture of commitment.

Hell, if you were non-military and here at home, that’s not the smartest thing in the world. Don’t blame an overseas deployment for that.

Soldiers tend to enlist young and marry young: 1 percent of civilians under 20 is married, compared with about 14 percent of military members in the same age group, said Shelley M. MacDermid, co-director of the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University.
“These early young marriages are not a great recipe for marital longevity,” MacDermid said. “Research on divorce shows that. Add to that the anxiety associated with a dangerous job, and it doesn't bode well.”

We could blame the Army for not providing more premarital counseling. But the real Army blame is, in essence, playing soldiers more to get married:

Whether by accident or design, the Army encourages its soldiers to marry. The best housing goes to families, leaving single soldiers to share the barracks. Wages are higher for active-duty soldiers with dependents, and higher still for those sent overseas, when the pay is tax-free. Hazardous-duty and family-separation supplements can amount to several hundred dollars a month.

No shit? If I got a bonus of 10 percent of my salary to get married, I might be looking harder, too. Or if I knew a quickie boyfriend or girlfriend got that much bonus, plus another 10 percent or whatever, tax-free, for going overseas, I might even turn into a gold digger pretty fast.

And the Army, rather than providing counseling, is enabling these unprepared marriages.

“Some think they’re going to see the world, and they end up here,” said Justice of the Peace Garland K. Potvin, who has performed hundreds of Army marriages. With $30 and a military waiver of the legal waiting period, that can be accomplished in about half an hour.

So, I can act on the decision of a lifetime in half an hour and get a 10 percent bonus to do it. Shit.

Meanwhile, it appears many Army marrieds or their spouses don’t have the best understanding of marriage as an emotional commitment and a chance for development.

Kristina Cox lasted all of two months in Killeen after her husband left for duty. She packed up and went back to her mother in Oklahoma to have her baby. She declined to be interviewed, but her divorce attorney, Arthur South, described their 12-year marriage as another casualty of the war.
“She’s finding out that she doesn't need him,” said South, who has handled his share of military divorces. "That’s what happens. The gals get married, they are kind of young, and all of a sudden the husband is gone for months. They find out they can write checks, mow the lawn.

There are a lot of situations, marriage and otherwise, where you find you don’t need people at one time, and you do again later. But, that overlooks the ultimate issue, that a modern marriage is supposed to be about wanting someone, not just needing them. But, as the article details, in many cases, multigeneration dysfunctional living and thinking is rolling down the line.

Finally, if you have ever been to Fort Hood, you know that it epitomizes the stereotypical military town in spades. If you haven’t been there, and don’t know that, I’m telling you now. The story makes that clear, and one could easily infer that, sooner or later, a fair amount of these marriages would have imploded or exploded in a peacetime Army. As the JP stats hint, the rise in quickie marriages, funded by Army enticements, is largely to blame for the rise in divorce rates from Army peacetime levels.

So, let’s be realistic. Let’s blame the Army’s lack of more marital and premarital counseling being in place in peacetime. Let’s question the pay bumps for getting married. Let’s note that the Times left out information on the increase in marriage rates.

Above all, let’s remember that individual people are making individual decisions for which they must ultimately be responsible.