There was a time where psychology didn’t align with our modern day common sense.
A time where almost any affection transferred from parent to child through physical touch was considered ‘coddling’.
There was a genuine fear that if you comforted a child during a time where they hadn’t ‘earned’ positive enforcement, you would be taking an active and sinister role in weakening the child’s psychological state.
Of course, this science has now been widely debunked.
But we wouldn’t be there without the brilliant and horrifying work of Harry Harlow.
After personally building his own laboratory, Harlow conducted an array of studies which revolved around the isolation and maternal deprivation of rhesus monkeys.
From a modern perspective, these studies almost seem like a barbaric way to prove a simple truth. But at the time, they were highly contested by the scientific community. Freud’s theory on attachment was widespread at the time.
Psychologists genuinely didn’t believe that children needed love, and Harlow proved otherwise. Albeit at the tragic expense of a group of rhesus monkeys.
As is often the case, what’s legal and what’s ethical varies greatly in many aspects of media operations.
Imagine you’re lying on the beach, minding your own business and soaking up some sun, when out of a bush pops Kyle Sandilands. Imagine that he then pulls out a camera with a zoom lens and starts taking close up shots of your crotch. There is absolutely nothing you could do about this unless he decided to publish any of the shots.
However, if you went home and posted an angry message like this to twitter, Kyle would have grounds to sue you for defamation.
Because twitter is a public forum, those eight words are technically considered ‘published’. If Kyle can prove that my tweet has caused, or is currently causing him repetitional damage, I am liable for the cost of those damages.
That is, unless I can prove that my statement is true.
(Which in this case – who knows?)
The moral of the story is to be mindful of what you say online, especially about other people. If you’re going to say something that someone else isn’t going to like, make sure you verify your facts first.
We associate the quantity of choice a person has available to them with the amount of freedom that person possess.
Freedom is good. Therefore, we assume that choice must also be good – and to an extent, it is. However, there’s a turning point at which our freedom to choose from a growing list of options no longer increases our level of happiness. In fact, over saturation of choice can actually diminish our happiness.
In the early 2000s, a scientist name Barry Schwartz popularised this idea with a challenge western society’s obsession with generating freedom through an ever increasing number of options.
After conducting multiple studies, he wrote a book called The Paradox of Choice which argued that while abundance of choice provides some short term satisfaction in the moment (and keeps us coming back for more), the more options a person has available to them, the less likely they are to be satisfied with the result of their choice.
To demonstrate, imagine that you have to choose between two restaurants. You have no way to look at the menus, but you know that the first restaurant features a menu with four main courses, while the second has sixteen main courses on theirs.
Which restaurant are you more likely to try?
Statistically, you’d probably go with the second, and there’s a lot of sense in this; if there’s four times as many main dishes at the second restaurant, there’s a better chance that they’ll have a meal perfectly suited to your taste.
At first glance, it makes logical sense to give yourself as many options as possible. We are hardwired not to limit ourselves, even when it comes to something as basic as dinner.
But when we take a closer look, Schwartz’s paradox of choice comes into play.
He discovered that in circumstances where people had to decide between an outlet with more choice versus an outlet with less, it was true that those who opted for more choice, the ones who went to the second restaurant and scoured over the ingredients in all sixteen dishes before finally making a decision, reported being more satisfied with their choice than those who limited their options and made a quick dinner selection. But only by a tiny margin.
What’s fascinating is that while the group who went to the first restaurant didn’t think about the choice again, when asked about their decision after the fact (once the meal was over) those who went to the second restaurant started to second guess the choice they made. Their satisfaction, despite being mildy higher at the time of consumption, took a hit once they started to consider all the options they opted not to choose.
As our options increase, so do our expectations that we’ll be able find the perfect option.
The more options we have to forgo when making a choice, the higher the possibility that we’ll make the wrong one.
More choice does not equate to more happiness because choice itself is a double edged sword.
When we are constantly saturated with choice, it’s not uncommon to experience choice paralysis. A sensation which often results in no choice being made at all.
While sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, we have a lot more control over the choices we present ourselves with than we feel like we do.
I was just going about my business when out of nowhere my sister de-railed my day with a horrible little nugget of wisdom from the zoo – which I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since.
Let’s have a quick chat about the largest lizard on earth.
They smell with their tongues, can swim between islands, possess venom which thins the blood of their prey and can reproduce asexually, laying 15-30 eggs at a time.
Pretty cool, right?
What would you say if I told you that baby Komodo dragons made up approximately 10% of an adult Komodo’s diet?
If you’ve got 30 babies, what else are you going to do with them?
These little Komodo dragons spend the early stages of their lives in the treetops – purely for the fact that mature Komodos can’t climb up and eat them.
When they do eventually muster the bravery to explore the ground, it’s common for baby Komodo dragons to cover themselves in the faeces of adults to avoid being cannibalised.
I repeat; baby Komodos coat themselves in their parent’s crap so that their parents don’t eat them…
Facts like this often leave me awestruck by how far removed we are from the savage realities of the natural world.
Humans are weird, but nature certainly has our number.
While definitely the most disturbing, this isn’t even the nastiest aspect of a Komodo’s eating habits.
If you’ve never seen footage of a Komodo hunting its prey, allow me to paint you a picture.
Hot tip: Don’t youtube this. It’s flat-out brutal and you’ll probably wind up on whatever animal cruelty watch-list I’m nowon.
If a Komodo wanted to eat you it would storm up, take a bite, then casually follow you around until you’d lost so much blood that you couldn’t defend yourself. Once you looked delirious enough, it’d commence eating you alive. Bones and all.
Next time you’re having a rough day, try putting yourself in the shoes of a baby Komodo; dripping in your mother’s crap, trying desperately to scale a tree as the creature who brought you into the world snaps hungrily behind you, charging at you with all her might and evey intention of eating you whole.
If the baby Komodo can find a way, we probably can too.
I have at times been perplexed by the amount of sneezing I do at seemingly random intervals, deducing that I probably just have allergies to something.
During a meeting today, I needed to walk from one building to another. It was a gorgeous sunny day in Fremantle, and as we approached the second building, I couldn’t help but let out three muffled but aggressive sneezes.
“Sorry about that!” I said, embarrassed. “I think I must be allergic to one of the trees or something around here, it gets me all the time.”
The woman I was meeting with didn’t miss a beat before responding, “No, it’s probably the sun.”
Apparently, this is an actual thing.
The Photic Sneeze Reflex is a legitimate medical condition which causes people to sneeze when exposed to a variety of stimuli, including looking at bright lights.
Strangely, the earliest know record of the Photic Sneeze Reflex lives in the writings of Aristotle.
‘Why is it that one sneezes more after one has looked at the sun? Is it because the sun engenders heat and so causes movement, just as does tickling the nose with a feather? For both have the same effect; by setting up movement they cause heat and create breath more quickly from the moisture; and it is the escape of this breath which causes sneezing.’
Aristotle thought that the sun might cause nose sweat, which could tickle the inside of the nose enough to illicit a sneeze. While the logic checks out, this isn’t actually how it works.
Scientist’s best guess at the moment is that the sneeze reaction has something to do with the overstimulation of the trigeminal nerve,
This nerve is the connection point for three other nerve branches including; the ophthalmic branch, which can be stimulated by rapid changes in light conditions; and the maxillary branch, which when stimulated, can cause sneezing.
The running theory is that when the opthalmic branch is overstimulated, it can cause other branches of the trigeminal nerve to become irritated.
A 2010 study discovered that if you’re amongst the 18-35% of people who report sneezing at the sun, you almost definitely have a very specific and seemingly pointless inheritable genetic mutation.
For those of us with the mutation, the irritation passed on to our maxillary nerve from overstimulation of the ophthalmic nerve through bright light changes is just enough to send us over the edge and into a small fit of sneezes.
The condition is harmless unless you’re a brain surgeon, but one hell of a nuisance nonetheless.
You can test whether you’re affected quite easily. Just walk outside and look at the sun for a while (not directly, obviously). If after thirty seconds or so you wind up achoo-ing your head off, welcome to the Photic Sneeze Reflex Club. You’ll receive your card in the mail.
Martin McDonagh’s debut film, In Bruges(2008) remains one of my all time favourites.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched it. But every time I do, I discover another brilliant spec of writing that I hadn’t noticed before – there isn’t a wasted line, and every moment has relevance outside of the scene it takes place in.
If you think you found something inconsequential… Watch it again. The film is that tight.
Some of the jokes haven’t aged well, there’s a lot of swearing (in typical Irish fashion) and the plot is dark, but McDonagh’s uncanny ability to generate and string together tension results in the kind of sharp, dark, hysterical character driven drama which has become a staple of his work.
The thing I didn’t know until today (which has brought McDonagh back to the forefront of my mind) is that the Irish writer is also responsible for one of my favourite plays; The Lieutenant Of Inishmore(2001).
Learning this was a penny-drop moment for me. Finally, I think I understand why these films resonate with me so deeply; I fell in love with with the stories McDonagh tells for the same reason that I fell in love with theatre.
I adore stories where complex characters navigate tragic circumstances in the imperfect ways that humans do.
Dramatic theatre has an easier time with this, because its nature implies a restraint that modern cinema simply doesn’t have to worry about.
There aren’t any Michael Bay explosion sequences at the theatre.
Instead, playwrights rely on their characters to generate tension, set stakes scenes and drive plot.
McDonagh is an expert at crafting morally ambiguous characters and smashing them together to create tragedy, and it pleases me to no end that he’s able to translate this skill to the screen – the resulting chaos is so much fun to watch.
All of the works listed tackle horridly dark subject matter in a way which doesn’t shy away or undermine the severity of the tragedies, but still finds the humour in them.
Black comedy is at its best when it allows us to consider the most challenging aspects of the human condition in the most human way we know how, seamlessly blending tragedy and comedy to incite catharsis.
He knows exactly when to let the audience sit in a tragic moment, and when to loose the tension in a scene through a well written joke. Funny moments aren’t tacked on to scenes for cheap release, they are embedded deeply within those scenes.
When our lives become too much, we generally respond by laughing or crying.