Daily Archives: April 10, 2009

Obama and the Science of Change

In a Time magazine article that will be officially released on Monday, How Obama is Using the Science of Change, Michael Grunwald describes how the Obama campaign and now the Obama Administration is taking advantage of the principles of Behavioral Economics.  Obama used these discoveries to help himself get elected, and now elected, he plans to use them to help our citizens change.  Yes, Xam Cinborg, Obama is adept at getting the sheeple to act like better sheep – you’d better watch out – your guns are next.

At the end of the grueling campaign the Consortium of Behavioral Scientists, a secret advisory group to Obama, suggested that Obama repeat the line “A record turnout is expected”.  This strategy was chosen because a very powerful motivator for people is the suggestion that “everyone is doing it.”

As the Time article reports, “President Obama is still relying on behavioral science.  But now his Administration is using it to try to transform the country.  Because when you know what makes people tick, it is a lot easier to help them change.”

Behavioral Economics is the next generation of Economics and replaces the Neoclassical Economic school championed by the likes of Alan Greenspan.  The Neoclassical school maintained that the economy works best when we get government out of the way and let self-interested rational actors (us) do our business.  A nice sounding bunch of platitudes, but there have been many  social psychology experiments which demonstrate how irrational we actors in reality are.  Behavioral Economics recognizes these irrationalities and takes them into account when encouraging positive change.

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Filed under Economics, Media, Obama, Political Reform, Psychology Ramblings..., Republicans, Research, The Economy, The Environment, Universal Healthcre

PTSD: An Interaction of Combat Stress and Hippocampal Volume

Animal studies demonstrated that repeated and prolonged stress for an animal can produce damage to the hippocampus.  The hippocampus is an area of the brain that has been implicated in declarative memory for humans.  Declarative memory include memories that were created from  our school learning as an example,  and those personal memories such as what our 12th birthday was like.

Given the intriguing findings about the effects of extreme stress on  the hippocampus in animals, MRI researchers looked into the structural aspects of the hippocampus in humans who suffered chronic unremitting forms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  They found that those persons who had been diagnosed with PTSD had smaller hippocampal volume.  Given these findings, 2 questions  remained:  was smaller hippocampal volume a neurotoxic effect of combat stress, or 2) was smaller hypocampal volume a pre-existing condition that rendered the person vulnerable to PTSD?

To address this question, Mark Gilbertson, of the Dept of Psychiatry at Harvard University, and colleagues obtained a sample of monozygotic (or identical) twins who were discordant for combat duty  (one twin had been in combat, the other had not).

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Filed under Healthcare, Psychological Disorders, Psychology Ramblings..., Research, WAR

04/10/09 Public Square


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Filed under The Public Square