Category Archives: Popular Culture
In a previous blog I examined Stendhal Syndrome where some people when exposed to the concentrated works of art, experience a wide range of symptoms including physical and emotional anxiety (rapid heart rate and intense dizziness, that often results in panic attacks and/or fainting), feelings of confusion and disorientation, nausea, dissociative episodes, temporary amnesia, paranoia, and – in extreme cases – hallucinations and temporary ‘madness’. While researching that article, I also came across another condition that would appear to be related to Stendhal Syndrome, namely ‘Rubens Syndrome’ based on a report published in 2000 by the Roman Institute of Psychology (RIOP).
The RIOP reported that 20% of people had engaged in an “erotic adventure” inside an art museum, and the findings were taken from a national Italian survey of 2000 people. Other places where the respondents said they had “erotic adventures” included beaches (43%), trains (22%), and nightclubs (18%). The report’s authors christened this state of emotional sexual arousal as ‘Rubens Syndrome’ named after the Flemish Old Master who painted many sensuous nudes throughout his career.
The researchers claim that the Rubens Syndrome is “a spontaneous response to the beauty of art and that those who are afflicted by it do not enter a museum with sex specifically on their minds”. The report also claims that art admirers are more predisposed towards erotic suggestion and that mythological sexual scenarios are more psychologically engaging than abstract art. Although I don’t doubt that for most people abstract art is less engaging on a psychological level, I know of no empirical research demonstrating that art lovers are more predisposed towards erotic suggestion (although it wouldn’t surprise me if they were).
I have been unable to track down a copy of the report and as far as I can ascertain, the results of the study have not been published in a peer-reviewed academic journal (therefore I have no idea as to how robust the data are, how the data were collected, and how representative the data were of typical visitors to art museums). The study also claimed that Greek sculptures and works by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) were more likely to lead to sex than artworks by Paulo Veronese (1528-1588) or Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1698-1770). The psychologists also compiled a list of the best Italian art museums based on their “ability to awaken Eros”, the Greek god of love.
(If you are really interested, the best seven art museums for erotic stimulation were the Palazzo Doria [Genoa], Pinacoteca di Brera [Milan], Gallery of Modern Art [Turin], Accademia [Florence], Villa Panza [Varese], Guggenheim [Venice], and Capodimonte Museum [Naples]. The psychologist Dr. Massimo Cicogna was asked why these particular art museums were the most erotically stimulating and his response was that the ideal art museum is “one that is not too busy, so it allows for the easy observation of the other visitors”).
It would appear that the main difference between Stendahl Syndrome and Ruben Syndrome is that Stendhal Syndrome provokes strong negative and (arguably) passive emotional reactions whereas Rubens Syndrome provokes strong positive and active emotional reactions that some people feel they have to act upon. Following the publication of the study, one of the daily Italian newspapers Il Gazzettino reported:
“Who would ever have said that the corridors of the Accademia Museum in Florence were more erotically charged than the atmosphere in a discotheque? That Botticelli’s Primavera instigates hard-core thoughts and actions, and that the rooms of the Guggenheim Museum in Venice are more stimulating than Viagra?”
According to Professor Willy Pasini (University of Milan, Italy): “Cultural seduction has existed since antiquity. Art has always activated an intensely erotic mechanism – otherwise what sort of art would it be?” Italian sexologist Serenella Salomoni was also interviewed by the Italian press about Rubens Syndrome and claimed it was more commonplace among non-Italian tourists than locals. Her reasoning was based on her claim that “Italians are expressive and less repressed by nature. For a more emotionally contained foreigner, it may take a beautiful painting to provoke strong, sexual feelings”.
Furthermore, according to politician, art critic, and self-confessed lothario Vittorio Sgarbi:
“To visit a museum, it is necessary to be able to love. Eroticism and the love of art, then, are perfectly compatible and interchangeable. Plus, it’s evident that someone who goes to a museum has considerable time available. At the end of the visit, there is a residue of amorous stimulation”.
In an online essay in a 2003 issue of the online magazine Frieze about both Stendhal Syndrome and Rubens’ Syndrome, Melinda Guy argued that both syndromes raise interesting questions about artists’ intentions and their audience’s response, and said: “Perhaps we could use these pathologies to determine cultural value: surely the work that provokes the most Stendhalian (or Rubensian) reactions is truly the most significant?”
As there is no empirical or clinical evidence confirming or denying the existence of Rubens’ Syndrome, I’ll leave you with the thoughts of psychologist Bruce Melnick who in a short article for the Institute for the Psychological Study of the Arts made these observations:
“There is also something in the museum setting, apart from what is actually being shown, that conduces to erotic adventure. The people you see in a museum have at least one interest in common with you…They have come to the museum, like you, for some kind of sensual stimulation…And above and beyond these specifics is the general awareness that museums are places, set apart from the normal world, where we go specifically for purposes of aesthetic contemplation, where, therefore, the usual social rules do not quite apply. This awareness in itself probably fosters erotic fantasy and contact…To oversimplify a bit, we go to museums to look and fantasize. It’s not surprising that some of that should carry over from the pictures on the walls to the people standing in front of them”.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Guy, M. (2003). The shock of the old. Frieze (Volume 72). Located at: http://www.frieze.com/issue/article/the_shock_of_the_old/
Magherini, G. (1989). La Sindrome di Stendhahl. Firenze: Ponte Alle Grazie.
Melnick, B. (2001). PSYART archives: Rubens’ Syndrome. August 4. Located at: http://www.lists.ufl.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0108A&L=PSYART&P=1863
PervScan (2003). Rubens’ Syndrome. August 2. Located at: http://pervscan.com/2003/08/02/rubens-syndrome/
Squires, N. (2010). Scientists investigate Stendhal Syndrome – fainting caused by great art. Daily Telegraph, July 28. Located at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/7914746/Scientists-investigate-Stendhal-Syndrome-fainting-caused-by-great-art.html#
Turner, J. (2001). Museum visitors in Italy list the works most likely to inspire an “erotic adventure”. ARTnews, January 10. Located at: http://www.artnews.com/2001/10/01/pickup-artists/
“Sixty-four million people do it at least once a week. Nabokov wrote about it. Bill Clinton even did it in the White House” (Marc Romano, 2005).
I’m sure many of you reading this opening quote will think that it refers to sexual infidelity but it doesn’t. I was also deliberately obtuse in the title of today’s blog to throw you off the scent of what today’s blog is about. Well, to put some of you out of your misery, the topic under the microscope today is crossword puzzles. For those who don’t know, a cruciverbalist is an enthusiast of word games (especially of crosswords). According to Michael Quinion in his excellent World Wide Words website:
“[The word ‘cruciverbalist’] seems to have appeared in English about 1980 (the first reference I can find is to the Compleat Cruciverbalist of 1981 by Stan Kurzban and Mel Rosen, subtitled ‘how to solve, compose and sell crossword puzzles for fun and profit’). However, Stan Kurzban tells me that Mel Rosen had encountered the word some years earlier in the title of a directory of crossword puzzle notables that was not widely circulated. Whatever its origin, cruciverbalist has spread into the wider language as a result of their efforts to the extent that it now appears in some larger recent US dictionaries. The word is a modern mock-Latin invention, being a translation back into Latin of the English crossword (using Latin crucis, cross, as in words like cruciform, plus verbum, word, as in verbose or verbatim).There is also cruciverbalism, for the art of crossword compilation or crossword fandom generally, but that is much rarer”.
The opening quote comes from Marc Romano’s 2005 book The Crossword Obsession: The History and Lore of the World’s Most Popular Pastime who asserted that: “the crossword puzzle has arguably been our national obsession since its birth almost a century ago”. Seeing the word ‘obsessive’ was enough to make me think it was a topic worthy of consideration of writing a blog about it (especially when reading the accompanying blurb for Romano’s book):
“Saying this is a book about puzzles is to tell only half the story. It is also an explanation into what crosswords tell us about ourselves – about the world we live in, the cultures that nurture us, and the different ways we think and learn. If you’re a puzzler, Crossworld will enthrall you. If you have no idea why your spouse send so much time filling letters into little white squares, Crossworld will tell you – and with luck, save your marriage”.
On a personal note, I ought to declare a vested self-interest in that I been doing cryptic crosswords since I was taught to do them by my father in my mid-teens. In the early 1990s until the late 1990s I did (or rather attempted) The Guardian’s cryptic crossword almost every day (the birth of my daughter put a stop to daily crosswords and what little spare time I had outside of my job). On the way to a conference in Bristol in 1998, I had a race on the train with one of my departmental colleagues (Bob Rotheram) as to who could complete that day’s Guardian crossword first. I even got a letter in The Guardian (November 26, 2002) about a crossword puzzle set by my favourite crossword setter (John Galbraith Graham, better known under his crossword compiling pseudonym ‘Araucaria’). Many of the clues in the prize crossword I had just completed related to an anagram of the word ‘presbyterians’. The letter I had published said:
“I don’t know what is worse. The fact that some clues in the prize crossword related to Britney Spears and her hit singles, or the sad fact that I knew the answers to them all!”
The fact that ‘presbyterians’ is an anagram of singer ‘Britney Spears’ I found amazing (although my favourite anagram in one of Araucaria’s crosswords was ‘synthetic cream’ being an anagram of the football team ‘Manchester City’). I am also a huge fan of crossword homophones (words that are pronounced the same but are completely different in definition and meaning) and on which most forms of punning are based. This includes many of my blog titles such as my articles on body dysmorphic disorder (‘Flaw management’), biting fetishes (‘Bit sighs’), pandrogyny (‘A gender setting’), and gambling spending (‘Stake and chips’), as well as my blogs on the psychology of revulsion (‘Disgust discussed’), Exploding Head Syndrome (‘A noise that annoys’) and Jerusalem Syndrome (‘Wholly holy’). I love crosswords so much that I even have an all-time favourite clue (“Late opening” [seven letters]; Answer: AUTOPSY). Total genius!
Doing crosswords appears to be a very popular hobby. According to Dean Olsher in his 2009 book, From Square One: A Meditation, with Digressions, on Crosswords, about 50 million American people do crosswords. Olsher says that for some, crosswords are a pastime and for others it is a form of escapism (suggesting that crosswords may produce psychological feelings and motivations associated with addictive behaviours). Olsher noted that some people like the film director Alfred Hitchcock “didn’t get” crosswords. Hitchcock told film actor, director and screenwriter Francois Truffaut that:
“I don’t really approve of whodunits because they’re rather like a jigsaw or crossword puzzle. No emotion. You simply wait to found out who committed the murder”
Olsher claims Hitchcock fell prey to a common false dichotomy that thinking and feeling are an either/or proposition. Olsher claims they are inextricable, and that cerebral and emotional satisfaction are not at odds with each other. For Olsher, crosswords can be an exhilarating experience and akin to seated meditation. However, he also notes that doing crosswords (based on his own personal experience) could be an addiction:
“It is more honest, though, to think of crosswords as a habit, like smoking. It’s just something to do, every day, because it’s there. When finished with a puzzle, I don’t pump my fists in triumph or congratulate myself for my perseverance. I solve crosswords because they bring on a feeling of emptiness, and paradoxically, that feeling seems to fill a hole deep inside. It’s not a release, it’s not a flushing out, although both those terms grasp at some aspect of it. Norman Mailer said that for him, solving the crossword every day was like combing his brain. This simile is strong because it has nothing to do with usual mental fitness. It’s not about intelligence or holding onto memory. Crosswords bring about a focused state of mind, the elusive ‘flow state’. Then there are days when I decide that this is all an elaborate self-deception. That the puzzle is indeed an escape mechanism. The crossword addiction is not a metaphor but a destructive literal truth”
I was surprised to find there has been quite a lot of academic research on the benefits of doing crosswords (although very little on whether doing crosswords can be obsessive and/or addictive). However, the psychologist Dr. Howard Rachlin does mention in a number of his writings on addiction that there are many activities that could be described as ‘positive addictions’ including “listening to classical music, collecting stamps, exercise, reading novels, doing crossword puzzles”. Dr. Rachlin also noted in a paper published in a 2002 issue of the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS):
“Patterns of behavior may be maintained without extrinsic rewards. For example, on a relatively small scale, activities such as solving jigsaw or crossword puzzles are valuable in themselves. People, like me, who like to do crossword puzzles, find value in the whole act of doing the puzzle. When I sit down on a Sunday morning to do the puzzle I am not beginning a laborious act that will be rewarded only when it is completed. Yet, despite the lack of extrinsic and intrinsic reward for putting in that last particular letter, completing the puzzle is, for me, a necessary part of its value. Like listening to symphonies, the pattern is valuable only as a whole. Extrinsic rewards may initially put together the elements of these patterns but the patterns, once formed, are maintained by their intrinsic value. The cost of breaking the pattern is the loss of this value – even that of the parts already performed”.
However, Rachlin is not without his critics. In responses to the BBS paper, Dr. Stephen Kaplan and Dr. Raymond De Young claimed that Rachlin’s interpretation of intrinsic motivation as arising from a string of habits was far from convincing. More specifically, they noted that the “fascination with crossword and jigsaw puzzles seems far more likely to be an expression of the human inclination to solve problems, a tendency humans share with nonhuman primates”. Another response to the BBS paper by Dr. Thomas R. Zentall claimed that the concept of intrinsic reinforcement is needed to explain the variety of behaviour that has no extrinsic material or social reward, such as crossword puzzle solving. He argues that:
“Intrinsic reinforcers are difficult to assess. They are what [are] left once you have ruled out extrinsic reinforcers, and in the case of humans, typically we assess them by means of verbal behavior (e.g., ‘I just like doing it’). But this sort of definition can easily become circular, especially when we are talking about behavioral patterns that are themselves not clearly defined. One can hypothesize that extrinsic reinforcers become internalized, but that does not explain, it only describes”.
Doing crosswords may even be of psychological and practical benefit. For instance, Dr. Mike Murphy and Dr. Roisin Cunningham published a paper last year in the Irish Journal of Psychology claiming that: “a crossword a day improves verbal fluency”. More specifically they examined ‘semantic verbal fluency’ (SVF) an important contributor to general communication ability. In their study, 34 final year students completed a daily crossword for one month and compared this to a control group of 40 students who did not do any crosswords. Their results indicated that the crossword group experienced greater improvement in SVF than the control group. They concluded that doing simple crosswords may be a relatively straightforward way improving SVF among students who are about to enter the job market and need good transferable skills.
Dr. Graham Pluck and Dr. Helen Johnson writing in a 2011 issue of Education Science and Psychology claim that stimulating curiosity (with activities such as crosswords) can enhance learning. They drew on the work of Dr. Ludwig Lowenstein who noted that many features of human behaviour appear counter-productive on the surface but are not. For instance:
“Lowenstein discusses the interest that many people have in completing puzzles such as crosswords, or why soap operas end on cliff-hangers. According to the theory, the information gaps that people are exposed to act to motivate them to obtain the missing information, either by persevering to complete the puzzle or tuning in to watch the next episode of the soap opera”.
Another study led by Dr. Joshua Jackson and published in a 2012 issue of the journal Psychology and Aging claimed doing crosswords could change some aspects of personality among old-aged people. More specifically, they examined whether an intervention aimed to increase cognitive ability in older adults (i.e., doing crossword and Sudoko puzzles) affected the personality trait of openness to experience (i.e., being imaginative and intellectually oriented). In their study, old-aged adults completed a 4-month program in inductive reasoning training that included weekly crossword and Sudoku puzzles. They were then assessed continually over the following 30 weeks. Their findings showed that those who did crossword and Sudoko puzzles increased their openness scores compared to the control group. The authors claimed that this study is one of the very first to demonstrate that personality traits can change through non-psychopharmocological interventions.
Although there are a number of people online who have confessed as to being ‘crossword addicts’, (including the US rock singer and record producer Todd Rundgren in a June 2013 interview with Uncut magazine), I have yet to find any empirical evidence that it is negatively detrimental in people’s lives. For most, even those who describe themselves as ‘crossword obsessives’, it is a behaviour that adds to and enhances their lives.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Amende, C. (2001). The Crossword Obsession: The History and Lore of the World’s Most Popular Pastime. New York: Berkeley.
Davis, T.M., Shepherd, B. & Zwiefelhofer, T. (2009). Reviewing for exams: Do crossword puzzles help in the success of student learning? Journal of Effective Teaching, 9, 4-10.
Jackson, J.J., Hill, P.L., Payne, B.R., Roberts, B.W., & Stine-Morrow, E.A. L. (2012). Can an old dog learn (and want to experience) new tricks? Cognitive training increases openness to experience in older adults. Psychology and Aging, 27, 286-292.
Kaplan, S. & De Young, R. (2002). Toward a better understanding of prosocial behavior: The role of evolution and directed attention Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 25, 263-264.
Murphy, M. & Cunningham, R.K. (2102). A crossword a day improves verbal fluency: A report of an intervention study. Irish Journal of Psychology, 133, 193-198.
Olsher, D. (2009). From Square One: A Meditation, with Digressions, on Crosswords. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Pluck, G. & Johnson, H. (2011). Stimulating curiosity to enhance learning. Education Science and Psychology, 2(19), 24-31.
Rachlin, H. (2002). Altruism and selfishness. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 25, 239-250.
Rachlin, H. (2003). Economic concepts in the behavioural study of addiction. In R.E. Vuchinich & N. Heather (Eds.), Choice, Behavioural Economics and Addiction. (pp.129-149). Oxford, UK: Pergamon Press.
Romano, M. (2005). Crossworld: One Man’s Journey into America’s Crossword Obsession. Blackpool: Broadway.
Underwood, G., Deihim, C. & Batt, V. (1994). Expert performance in solving word puzzles: From retrieval cues to crossword clues. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 8, 531-548.
Zentall, T.R. (2002). A potentially testable mechanism to account for altruistic behavior Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 25, 282.
I’m sure many of you reading this have received bogus e-mails notifying them they have won a lottery. The majority of these scams are either the ‘Dutch Lottery’, ‘Spanish Lottery’ and ‘Canadian Lottery’ schemes (although there are many others). The theme is always the same and they appear to make a lot of money for those that instigate the scam. According to press reports a few years ago, the Canadian Lottery scam netted over $5 billion from US victims and was making around £500,000 a month in the UK. Typically, a person receives an e-mail saying that they have won a lottery and they need to reply to claim their winnings. If the person replies, they will then receive emails and/or phone calls that move the person on to the next phase of the fraud. The person will be told that they need to pay a fee – which can be variable – to cover transfer and administration costs (sometimes termed an ‘unlocking fee’). Sometimes the fraudsters ask for a person’s bank details so that they can deposit the winnings. When this happens, the fraudsters can also steal money directly from a person’s account. The obvious reason why such e-mails are fraudulent is that the person has not bought a lottery ticket. However, frausdsters have started to use slightly different tactics. Below is an extract from an e-mail that I received in my inbox:
“We are pleased to inform you of the result of the Lottery Winners International programs held on the 14th of January. You have therefore been approved a sum pay out of US $500,000. CONGRATULATIONS!!! Due to mix up of some numbers and names, we ask that you keep your winning information very confidential until your claim has been processed and your prize/money remitted to you. This is part of our security protocol to avoid double claiming and unwarranted abuse of this program by some participants. All participants were selected through a computer ballot system drawn from over 200,000,000 company and 300,000,000 individual email addresses and names from all over the world”
Here, the person appears to have had their e-mail address randomly selected into a prize draw (rather than having to have bought a ticket). To claim the prize, recipients of the e-mail are again asked to pay an administration fee. One of the more worrying aspects is that those people who have responded to these types of schemes and frauds before will find themselves named on “mooch” and “sucker” lists that are sold by specialist brokers to the fraudsters. If a person has been duped once, they will almost certainly be targeted again.
Frauds rely on gullibility of the victim and the credibility of the criminal engaging in the fraudulent activity. On the Internet, this might perhaps translate into having very state-of-the-art webpage forgeries on the Internet with credible and trustworthy sounding materials/products. One of the most common fraudulent practices is when unscrupulous individuals steal materials from legitimate online gambling sites. Whole website designs can be stolen including the graphics and general design. Others may just use accreditation logos from legitimate accreditation organizations such as GamCare or the Internet Gambling Commission. Such people rely on the fact that many gamblers have made the decision to gamble even before logging on. The urge and desire to gamble can help overcome a person’s ability to think rationally and/or their instinctive mistrust of the Internet. Fake sites have to look safe, reputable, and trustworthy. To avoid spending money on website design and development, the fraudsters simply steal existing designs. Some fake sites even go as far as making identical copies of winners’ pages and testimonial pages of legitimate sites. This reinforces the idea that the site has hundreds of happy and satisfied customers. Only those who are intimately familiar with the “host” or original site would notice such a fraud.
Many online gambling sites offer incentives to get the gambler to play on their site. These include legitimate schemes such as VIP membership, loyalty schemes, and various types of deposit bonuses (i.e., the gamblers get a cash bonus if they register with the site). One of the legal (but highly exploitative) ploys to get people to gamble, are those sites which require excessive play (or to have gambled a pre-set amount of money) before the cash bonus is awarded. However, there are some ‘bonus’ practices that go beyond exploitation and are clearly fraudulent. One of the simplest, and most effective of the bonus scams is targeted at players that have been banned from a casino. Since online casinos are always in need of known paying customers, this works by drawing in banned gamblers who have moved on to other sites. The gamblers receive an e-mail offering them a cash bonus if they deposit money into their existing account. However, after the gambler has deposited the money, they do not get their bonus. The online casinos tell the player they are not eligible to receive a bonus because they were banned. Gamblers then tend to play their deposit anyway – which is exactly what the operators were hoping for. Furthermore, some online casinos cite ‘bonus abuse’ as the reason for not paying winnings, knowing there is no governing body that can act against them.
Another unscrupulous tactic is where online gambling sites that have conned a gambler once, do it again (a “two-for-one” scam). If a gambler has signed up to a particular online casino that takes all their money and then disappears, there is little a gambler can do. Quite often, months after being ripped off, a gambler may start to get e-mails from a new gambling site set up by the fraudsters who conned the gambler in the first place (although the gambler is unlikely to know it is the same organisation). They know where to reach the gambler because of the registration form that the gambler initially filled out to join the now disbanded online casino. The fraudsters will e-mail compelling offers, rewards packages, and CD software (basically anything to get the gambler back). The fraudsters then do exactly the same again. Another variation of the ‘twofer’ scam is when gambling operators invite their former scammed customers (by using the information the gambler provided before at a previous site) under the ruse of ‘bonuses’ telling the gamblers how sympathetic they are about them being scammed, and offering a bonus if they play on their website instead.
There appears to be one major reason why gambling is such a growth area for fraud. This is the fact that many gamblers themselves want to get a huge reward from a small outlay (just as the fraudsters do). As long as there are people who are prepared to risk money on chance events, there will be those out there who will want to fraudulently take their money from them. To date, there is almost no empirical data on any of these criminal practices and it is hard to assess the extent to how widespread any of these fraudulent online gambling practices are. There is clearly a need to examine this area empirically and for research to be initiated in this emerging area of criminological concern.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Griffiths, M.D. (2003). Dot cons: Exploitation and Fraud on the Internet (Part 2). The Criminal Lawyer, 134, 3-5.
Griffiths, M.D. (2003). Exploitation and fraud on the Internet: Some common practices, The Criminal Lawyer, 132, 5-7.
Griffiths, M.D. (2004). Hi-tech gambling scams. The Criminal Lawyer, 140, 4-5.
Griffiths, M.D. (2008). Online trust and Internet gambling. World Online Gambling Law Report, 8(4), 14-16.
Griffiths, M.D. (2010). Crime and gambling: A brief overview of gambling fraud on the Internet. Internet Journal of Criminology. Located at: http://www.internetjournalofcriminology.com/Griffiths_%20Gambling_Fraud_Jan_2010.pdf
Griffiths, M.D. & Wood, R.T.A. (2008). Gambling loyalty schemes: Treading a fine line? Casino and Gaming International, 4(2), 105-108.
McMullan, J. & Rege, A. (2007). Cyberextortion at online gambling sites: Criminal organization and legal challenges. Gaming Law Review, 11, 648-665.
Whitty, M. & Joinson, A. (2009). Truth, Lies and Trust on The Internet. Hove: Routledge.
I apologize in advance for the rather frivolous nature of today’s blog but the topic I am going to briefly talk about comes under the banner of ‘extreme’ behaviour. Back in the early 2000s, I would be the first to admit that I was a bit of a ‘rent-a-quote’ when it came to national newspaper interviews here in the UK. It was when Dr. Rachel Bromnick (a psychologist at Lincoln University) wrote into the Guardian newspaper with this letter under the headline ‘The Prolific Professor’ that I realised I needed to start being a little more selective with who I gave interviews with:
“I was interested to read Professor Mark Griffiths’ confession [in the August 10, 2002 edition of The Guardian] that he was a collector (I knew he was a psychologist). I wonder if he hoards his own cuttings? If so, he must have a house full of paper to add to his stamps, postcards, books etc, because whenever I read a paper, magazine or journal, there he is. For those who wish to add to their Professor Griffiths cutting collection, he was also to be found quoted on the same day in the main section of the Guardian (Labour’s big gamble on casino debts, page 3)”.
The reason I mention this because I recently came across a newspaper article that I had written for my local newspaper (the Nottingham Evening Post, now re-named to the shorter Nottingham Post) that in all honesty I don’t even recall writing. At the time, I was constantly being asked by the British media about reality television shows (particularly about the new Big Brother programme), because at the time I was doing research into the psychology of fame with Dr. Adam Joinson).
One of the television shows that was aired back in 2001 on Channel 5 was a bizarre show called Touch the Truck which I would define as an ‘physical endurance game show’ that was part of the channel’s reality television programming. If you have no idea what I am talking about (and I guess most of you won’t as the series was never re-commissioned in the UK), the Wikipedia entry says:
“Touch the Truck was a British Channel 5 endurance gameshow which aired in 2001. It was hosted by Dale Winton and involved a group of 20 contestants holding onto a truck with the last person left touching the truck winning it. The show was filmed at the Lakeside Shopping Centre, Thurrock, Essex. Jerry Middleton, 39, from Winchester, Hampshire, was the winner who managed to stay awake touching the vehicle for 81 hours 43 minutes and 31 seconds…The format was devised by Glenn Barden and Dave Hills and is owned by Vashca. It has been subsequently licensed to the Philippines, Indonesia, Portugal and Turkey”.
The show only ran for five episodes and the format of the show was arguably based on an annual competition that is held in the US, and was turned into a 1990s film (Hands on a Hardbody). I also saw a similar ‘touch the car’ competition on a recent repeat (2005) episode of the wonderful US comedy My Name Is Earl (check out Episode 10, Season 1: White Lie Christmas). The Wikipedia entry on the film said that:
“Hands on a Hard Body: The Documentary is a 1997 film directed by S.R. Bindler documenting an endurance competition that took place in Longview, Texas. The yearly competition pits twenty-four contestants against each other to see who can keep their hand on a pickup truck for the longest amount of time. Whoever endures the longest without leaning on the truck or squatting wins the truck. Five minute breaks are issued every hour and fifteen minute breaks every six hours. The documentary follows the 1995 competition which lasted for seventy-seven continuous hours”.
When the show hit the airwaves on March 11 (2001), I remember doing various radio interviews and being asked about the psychological motivations of the contestants taking part, and about the psychological effects of the participants as the competition progressed. I honestly can’t recall what I said to the broadcast media but (as I said earlier) I came across an article that I wrote for the Nottingham Evening Post about the show. I’m a little embarrassed at re-reading what I wrote but here are some of the things I said. Obviously my thoughts were for my local paper and not an academic paper:
“What a bizarre piece of television but what compelling television…It’s an endurance test and people want to almost share the agonies and the miseries that people go through. In a way, you live vicariously through them. It’s emotional and sometimes draining to watch them. As long as there is medical supervision, there is no problem in what they are doing…People aren’t bonkers for doing it, they want to win [the car], they want to win a big prize. It might be equivalent to a year’s salary, so it’s quite an incentive. The only thing I would say is that you would need training to do it. All of us may think it’s easy, but it’s not…People were hallucinating, and an Albanian-born man started speaking in Albanian, even though he didn’t realise it. Daydreams, headaches, these are all known side effects. On the Channel 5 show there was a woman who was so tired, she was forgetting to breathe and her blood pressure was dropping, so you do need medical people on hand who can stop you if necessary. It’s a person’s own choice if they want to do something like this. Hopefully no-one is going to have long-term damage from this. Certainly no long-term psychological harm. It seems that [Channel 5] has chosen people who are used to standing for long periods. Personally, I couldn’t do it for more than an hour”.
The show only lasted one series on British television (presumably because the viewing figures were not as good as the channel expected). Over at the UK Game Shows website, the overview of the show said:
“Touch the Truck is a typical attempt by people who don’t normally commission [or] make game shows to do a game show. Such people think that game shows should be all about (a) tacky sets and lighting, (b) fabulous prizes, (c) cheesy catchphrases by the bucket-load, (d) real ‘characters’ as contestants. With the prospect of truckers, tonnes of throbbing metal and 20 members of the public who can’t run away, they’ve been able to wheel in Dale Winton, the consummate professional, to try and generate mass hysteria…The programme is more like a documentary on the effects of trying to stay awake as long as possible. People going mad is quite interesting, although there wasn’t as much of that as perhaps the producers were hoping for…Ultimately, the concept lost all credibility on day 2 when the favourite was pulled out of the competition against his own will for ‘medical reasons’ whereas he looked and sounded perfectly fine”.
My own vague recollection was that the show was compelling to watch (I was going to say it was ‘car crash TV’ but it didn’t seem like a good analogy to use), but maybe it was because I knew I was going to be asked to make comments on it by the media.
Griffiths, M.D. (2001). Driving test not a mini marathon: A psychologist’s view. Nottingham Evening Post, March 22, p.19.
UK Game Shows (2013). Touch the Truck. Located at: http://www.ukgameshows.com/ukgs/Touch_the_Truck
Wikipedia (2013). Hands on a Hardbody. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hands_on_a_Hardbody
Wikipedia (2013). Touch the truck. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Touch_the_Truck
“A dreaded sunny day/So let’s go where we’re happy
And I meet you at the cemetry gates/Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side
A dreaded sunny day/So let’s go where we’re wanted
And I meet you at the cemetry gates/Keats and Yeats are on your side
But you lose /’Cause weird lover Wilde is on mine”
I’m sure some of you reading this will have immediately spotted these deliberately misspelled lyrics by Morrissey are from the song ‘Cemetry Gates’ on arguably The Smiths’ best album The Queen Is Dead. I’m a massive fan of The Smiths (almost to the point of obsession) and have a bulging collection of books, magazines, vinyl, and CDs. They would be one of my specialist subjects should I ever appear on BBC television programme Mastermind. Anyway, I’ve started today’s blog with these lyrics because in his youth, one of Morrissey’s self-confessed hobbies was to visit the cemeteries in Manchester with his lifelong friend Linder Sterling (artist and singer with the band Ludus, and sleeve designer of the single ‘Orgasm Addict’ by the Buzzcocks).
Anyway, this rambling introduction is by way of introducing the topic of coimetromania (aka koimetromania) and coimetrophilia (aka koimetrophilia). Coimetromania (according to the English Word Information website) is defined as (i) an abnormal attraction to and desire to visit cemeteries, (ii) a compulsion to examine the various graves and other burial aspects of cemeteries, and/or (iii) in some situations in psychiatry, someone who has a morbid attraction to graves and cemeteries. The name comes from the Greek word ‘koimeterion’ which roughly translates to “sleeping-room, burial-place; grave, grave yard; final resting place”.
If you’ve read any of the biographies of The Smiths and Morrissey (by Johnny Rogan, Simon Goddard and Tony Fletcher), all of them make reference to the cemetery walks by Morrissey and Sterling, and Morrissey appears to have had a morbid fascination with gravestones and cemeteries (at least in his early 20s), so much so that he penned one of his most (in)famous songs about them. This appears to be a close cousin of the sexual paraphilia coimetrophilia that the English Word Information website defines as (i) a special fondness and interest in cemeteries or graveyards; especially, in collecting epitaphs that are written on the tombstones, and/or (ii) a fascination with seeing gravestones and sarcophagi (plural of sarcophagus). The Centre for Sexual Pleasure and Health (an organization that provides adults with a safe, space to learn medically accurate, sex positive information about sexual pleasure, health, and advocacy issues) also has a small entry on coimetrophilia:
“Love getting it on in spooky places? Think graveyards are pretty sweet? Perhaps you get turned on by things that are dead, but not actually to things are dead. Not to be confused with necrophilia, coimetrophilia is the love of cemeteries. Aside from there being a lot of history in cemeteries, some are downright beautiful. Throughout history cemeteries have been spiritual places, and that might help!”
Given that coimetrophilia doesn’t make an appearance in either Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices or Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices suggests that if such a sexual paraphilia exists, it is incredibly rare. It would also seem to be related to placophilia (which I briefly mentioned in a previous blog on non-researched sexual paraphilias). Placophilia is where individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from tombstones (which does make it into Dr. Aggrawal’s book but not Brenda Love’s encyclopedia). As I mentioned in a previous blog, after finding out what placophobia was, the musician and author Julian Cope claimed he must be a placophile on a post at his Head Heritage website (although my guess is that his love for tombstones is not sexual).
Literature on coimetrophilia (and placophilia) is almost non-existent and there had certainly been no academic or clinical research on the topic. Given that coimetrophilia is yet another word that was derived from the opposite phobia (i.e., coimetrophobia, a morbid fear of cemeteries and graveyards), it could well be that coimetrophilia is a hypothetical paraphilia rather than a real one. My online search for articles on coimetrophilia threw up only one article on the Are We There Yet?? website entitled ‘I’m a coimetrophiliac – who knew?’ However, none of this first person account was sexually based but just someone (called Linda) talking about their love and fascination of graveyards and tombstones”
“So there we have it, I’m a Coimetrophiliac and now that I know that I guess it’s easy to understand why I go to so many cemeteries and take pictures! And here all these years I thought I was just slightly morbid or something! Truth be told, there are some absolutely gorgeous cemeteries with wonderful tributes to loved ones who have passed on as well as some cemeteries with a lot of interesting history in them so who wouldn’t find them fascinating?”
In a previous blog on human fascination with death, I wrote about Luis Squarisi a Brazilian man who claimed he was ‘addicted to funerals’. Many newspaper stories claimed that Squarisi (who was 42-years old at the time) had attended every funeral in his hometown of Batatais for more than 20 years. The story also claimed that in order to attend every funeral, Squarisi had given up his job to “feed his addiction to funerals”. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I don’t consider Mr. Squarisi’s activity an addiction at all (although the habitual daily ringing of the hospitals and funeral parlour combined with the giving up of his job might potentially be indicators for some types of addiction or compulsion), but from the little I have read about him, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s now developed coimetromania.
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Fletcher, T. (2013). A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of the Smiths. London: William Heinemann.
Goddard, S. (2009). Mozipedia: The Encyclopedia of Morrissey and The Smiths. London: Ebury Press.
Goddard, S. (2004). The Smiths: Songs That Saved Your Life (Revised & Expanded Edition). Reynolds & Hearn Ltd
Rogan, J. (1992). Morrissey and Marr: The Severed Alliance. London: Omnibus.
To date, there has been a lack of agreement among researchers as to the precise name and definition of video game addiction (both online and offline). However, there is a general consensus that excessive gaming can lead to a wide range of physical and psychological problems, and therefore necessary to explore the nature and the scale of the phenomenon. In doing so, it is important to use psychometrically validated measurement tools. Unfortunately, there is lack of these in the literature so far. Along with some colleagues (led by Dr. Daniel King), we recently published a paper examining all the instruments that have been used to assess problematic video gaming in the journal Clinical Psychology Review.
Our paper noted that pathological video-gaming, or its proposed DSM-V classification of “Internet Use Disorder”, is of increasing interest to scholars and practitioners in allied health disciplines. Our systematic review was designed to evaluate the standards in pathological video-gaming instrumentation and guidelines for sound psychometric assessment. We assessed a total of 63 quantitative studies, including eighteen instruments (representing 58,415 participants). Our findings indicated that the instruments were generally characterized as inconsistent. The strengths of available measures included: (i) short length and ease of scoring, (ii) excellent internal consistency and convergent validity, and (iii) potentially adequate data for development of standardized norms for adolescent populations. However, the key limitations included: (a) inconsistent coverage of core addiction indicators, (b) varying cut-off scores to indicate clinical status, (c) a lack of a temporal dimension, (d) untested or inconsistent dimensionality, and (e) inadequate data on predictive validity and inter-rater reliability. An emerging consensus suggested that pathological video-gaming is commonly defined by (1) withdrawal, (2) loss of control, and (3) conflict.
Most of the tools in current use have been modified from other questionnaires without their reliability and validity being tested. This includes those based on internet addiction (e.g., Kimberley Young’s Internet Addiction Test), pathological gambling (using the DSM–IV criteria), or behavioural addictions. An additional problem is that many of the measures focus exclusively on Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) users. In order to cover the whole range of online gamers, I recently helped co-develop an empirically based questionnaire consisting of 18 items called the Problematic Online Gaming Questionnaire (POGQ) that we published in the journal PLoS ONE.
In a recent 2011 study, some of my Hungarian colleagues (led by Dr. Koronczai) claimed in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking that a suitable measure should fit the following six criteria. It should have: (i) comprehensiveness (i.e., examining more, possibly all, aspects of problematic online gaming); (ii) brevity (in order to assess the more impulsive population as well and to facilitate incorporation into time-limited surveys); (iii) reliability and validity for different methods of data collection (e.g., online, paper-and-pencil self-rating, face-to-face); (iv) reliability and validity for different age groups (e.g., adolescents and adults); (v) cross-cultural reliability and validity; (vi) been validated on clinical samples. The measure should also serve as a basis for defining cutoff scores for dependence.
The POGQ is a short comprehensive measure and therefore fits to the first two requirements. It was also found to be a psychometrically adequate measure in a large convenience sample of adult online gamers. However, there is great need for a measure that is also suitable for survey type research in an offline data collection setting, and is reliable and valid for adolescents. Therefore, we modified the original POGQ to a 12-item version and applied it to an offline adolescent sample using pen-and-pencil data collection method (and published the findings in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking). This way both the third and the fourth points of the six criteria above were fulfilled.
The aim of or most recent study was twofold. The first goal was to explore the psychometric properties of the POGQ on a nationally representative adolescent sample as until recently it had only been used on adult gamer samples. The second goal was to assess the prevalence of problematic online gaming in a nationwide adolescent sample, as there have been only two nationally representative studies carried out on adolescents in the US and Germany.
The results of or study showed that the 12-item POGQ-SF had appropriate psychometric properties according to the statistical analysis performed on a nationally representative sample of adolescents. The analysis showed that 8.2% of gamers (4.6% of the whole sample) belonged to the at-risk group. We also found an additional 13.3% of adolescents (23.9% of gamers) showed symptoms of problematic online gaming above the average. Gamers belonging to the at-risk class were more likely to be male, more likely to play for five or more hours a day, have lower grade point average, have lower self-esteem, and higher depression score than gamers belonging to the other two classes. All these results are in line with findings of other studies confirming the validity of the measurement tool.
Despite the robustness of the study, an important limitation was that it was only carried out among Hungarian adolescents. For generalizability it must be applied and psychometrically tested on cross-cultural samples as well (see the aforementioned Criterion 5). It is also a future goal to confirm the POGQ on clinical samples (Criterion 6). This would allow all the six criteria requirements presented in the introduction to be met. The current POGQ is both short (Criterion 2) and comprehensive (Criterion 1), and assesses problematic online gaming in different age groups (Criterion 4) with different data collection methods (Criterion 3). We hope that the POGQ will facilitate future research and will serve as an adequate tool for assessing problematic online gaming.
Demetrovics, Z., Urbán, R., Nagygyörgy, K., Farkas, J., Griffiths, M.D., Pápay, O. & Oláh, A. (2012). The development of the Problematic Online Gaming Questionnaire (POGQ). PLoS ONE, 7(5): e36417. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036417.
Gentile, D. (2009). Pathological video-game use among youth ages 8 to 18: A national study. Psychological Science, 20, 594-602.
Gentile, D.A., Choo, H., Liau, A., et al. (2011). Pathological video game use among youths: A two-year longitudinal study. Pediatrics, 127, E319-E329.
King, D.L., Haagsma, M.C., Delfabbro, P.H.,Gradisar, M.S., Griffiths, M.D. (2013). Toward a consensus definition of pathological video-gaming: A systematic review of psychometric assessment tools. Clinical Psychology Review, 33, 331-342.
Koronczai, B., Urban, R., Kokonyei, G., et al. (2011). Confirmation of the three-factor model of problematic internet use on off-line adolescent and adult samples. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 14, 657–664.
Kuss, D.J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2012). Online gaming addiction in children and adolescents: A review of empirical reearch. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 1, 3-22.
Pápay, O., Urbán, R., Griffiths, M.D., Nagygyörgy, K., Farkas, J. Kökönyei, G., Felvinczi, K., Oláh, A., Elekes, Z., Demetrovics, Z. (2013). Psychometric properties of the Problematic Online Gaming Questionnaire Short-Form (POGQ-SF) and prevalence of problematic online gaming in a national sample of adolescents. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, doi:10.1089/cyber.2012.0484.
Rehbein, F., Kleimann, M, & Mossle, T. (2010). Prevalence and risk factors of video game dependency in adolescence: results of a German nationwide survey. CyberPsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 13, 269–277.
For as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated with the eccentric Salvador Dali and his art. Luckily, I have managed to see many of his original paintings at art galleries all around the world. I’ve even had a few articles published about him. Dali was the last and most famous exponent of surrealism, an art form that reached its peak in the 1920s and 1930s, and was the forum where he displayed his originality, uniqueness and individuality. One measure of his greatness was that he influenced so many people in so many ways (e.g., through art, film, opera, ballet, fashion, design, etc.). Dali himself was influenced by psychology – particularly psychoanalysis – and Dali to some extent has had (and could still have) an influence upon present day psychology.
Dali was born on May 11, 1904 in the Spanish town of Figueras. After the death of his mother in 1921, Dali moved to Madrid where he studied at the Principal Academy of Fine Arts. It was there that his artistic brilliance and eccentricity began to appear. In 1929, three events occurred which had a significant impact upon Dali’s life. Firstly, he met his future Russian wife (Gala) who was at the time married to the Surrealist poet Paul Éluard. Secondly, he was welcomed into the Surrealist movement by André Breton after impressing him with a film he had made with surrealist filmmaker Louis Buñuel (the now notorious Un Chien Andalou). Finally, it was the year that Dali’s father – outraged by an irreverent Surrealistic boast – placed a curse on Dali that he would die poor and alone. Dali took the curse seriously, consulted the tarot cards daily and noticeably changed his attitude towards money.
As his reputation increased, reports began to appear that he was slowly turning mad. Dali suffered from many phobias including the fear of grasshoppers, telephones and the physical touch of other human beings. He was sexually confused and it was highly unlikely that with Gala he overcame his aversion to sexual contact. Sexual failure was symbolised as impotence in many of his most famous paintings that depicted limp watches, melted cheeses and sagging flesh. It is interesting to note that (according to Anthony Storr) Sigmund Freud believed that the sublimation of an unsatisfied libido produced great works of art through the discharging of infantile sexuality into non-instinctual forms. It has been suggested that if Dali not conquered his phobias on canvas he would have ended up in a lunatic asylum.
In 1948, Dali was expelled (by Breton) from the Surrealist movement for his anti-Lenin, pro-Hitler stance (Dali had declared Hitler’s personality a surrealist object), and for his increasingly materialistic lifestyle stemming from his father’s curse. As The Independent’s obituary on Dali noted, he was “fully aware of the Freudian unconscious identification of money and excrement (and) would have regarded being filthy rich as a necessary component of Dalinean identity”.
A number of authors have noted that Sigmund Freud was a major inspiration to Dali, especially his book The Interpretation of Dreams. This was described by Dali as “one of the capital discoveries of my life”. To surrealists like Dali, dreams were superior facts, thus surrealism applied Freud’s theories to art. In his pre-1940 paintings, Dali’s hysteria and hallucinations produced surreal dreamlike imagery, subverting the viewer’s sense of reality in a series of bizarre psychosexual landscapes. Shortly before Freud’s death, Dali was introduced to him by the writer Stefan Zweig and even made a sketch of Freud there and then at their one-and-only meeting. The next day, Freud wrote to Zweig and said:
“I really owe you thanks for bringing yesterday’s visitor. For until now I have been inclined to regard the surrealists, who have apparently adopted me as their patron saint, as complete fools…That Spaniard, with his candid fanatical eyes and his undeniable technical mastery, has changed my estimate. It would indeed be very interesting to investigate analytically how he came to create that picture”.
This particular meeting was dramatised in Terry Johnson’s play Hysteria about the life of Freud. Jacques Lacan, the French psychoanalyst who attempted to link psychoanalysis and linguistics, was also an influence on Dali. In turn, it also transpired that Lacan was greatly influenced by the surrealist movement and even wrote articles for their magazine Minotaure. It is clear that Lacan’s eccentricity, his talent for abuse and his anti-establishment attitude owed much to the surrealists. The one area of mutual interest for both Dali and Lacan was that of paranoia. In the creation of his paintings, Dali used what he termed the “paranoid critical method” and described by Dali as “the interpretation of delirium”. Other more verbose descriptions of this concept (outlined in many of Dali’s obituaries immediately after his death) have described it as “a spontaneous method of irrational knowledge based on critical and systematic objectification of delirious associations and interpretations”, the use of “the most academic and traditional of painting techniques to illustate the most way out of human imaginings”, or simply “looking at one thing and seeing another”.
Dali’s influence on psychology is much less talked about yet it is these potential influences that (for me at least) make him one of my heroes. His most direct contribution has been in the field of perception where his paintings have been used in psychology undergraduate textbooks to demonstrate figure-ground illusions (Slave Market with Disappearing Bust of Voltaire, 1940), perceptual reconstruction (Metamorphosis of Narcissus, 1934) and surrealistic images (The Persistence of Time, 1933). In many of his early paintings, Dali used what he called “tricks of fooling” to invoke “sublime hierarchies of thought”.
On a more individual level, Dali would make an excellent case study of someone with an outrageous and eccentric personality. It could be argued that Dali’s paintings said more about Dali than any personality test ever could. He has also been described as the “embarrassing genius”. The word ‘genius’ is often used synonymously with ‘high intelligence’. However, this may not be the case with Dali. It is through people like Dali that psychology’s understanding and limited concept of (academic) intelligence could be broadened.
Finally, Dali’s eccentricity can teach psychology about advertising, publicity, and self-promotion (something that some of my peers say that I am no stranger to). Many commentators have followed surrealism from the transformation of the artists revolt to standard television material. As The Independent obituary pointed out:
“There can be no doubt that Dali willingly collaborated with commercialism in compromising his gift by repetitive exploitation of the more luridly sensational products of the imagination”.
His stuntmanship and exhibitionism have assured him fame and has thus been labelled the ‘Old Master of Hype’. Dali’s gift of ‘reaching the masses’ with apparently little effort could be studied and utilized by various campaigners – especially those who need to get their message across to a wider audience. As Dali (and others like John Lennon) constantly demonstrated, like talent, a carefully calculated stunt can make a little go a long way. It is this coupled with his influence across so many different disciplines that made Dali such a pervasive and heroic type figure, not only for me but for many others as well.
Benvenuto, B. & Kennedy, R. (1986). The Works of Jacques Lacan: An Introduction. London: Free Association Books.
The Economist (1989). Headstones for a revolution. January 18, p.94.
Fallon, B. (1989). Surrealist stuntman, the Old Master of hype. Irish Times, January 24, p.10
Fuller, P. (1989). Dali’s vain glory. Sunday Telegraph (7 Days Magazine), January 29, p.6.
Gascoyne, D. (1989). Salvador Dali: Obituary. The Independent, January 24, p.11.
Griffiths, M.D. (1989). Salvador Dali and psychology. BPS History and Philosophy Newsletter, 9, 14-17.
Griffiths, M.D. (1994). Heroes: Salvador Dali. The Psychologist: Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, 7, 240.
Hughes, R. (1989). The embarrassing genius. Time, February 6, p.42.
Jones, E. (1953). The Life and Works of Sigmund Freud. London : Penguin.
McGirk, T. (1989a). Salvador Dali: Obituary. The Independent, January 24, p.11.
McGirk, T. (1989b). Dali – A life shadowed by a father’s curse. Irish Times, January 24, p.10.
Storr, A. (1989). Freud. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
“One in ten people say they are addicted to their smartphone, a poll has revealed. And more owners than ever are seeking expert help. The US study of 2,000 college students found ten per cent claimed to have a full-blown addiction to the gadgets. Eighty-five per cent constantly checked theirs for the time, while three-quarters slept beside it. Meanwhile counsellor Peter Smith reported a ten per cent increase in Brits seeking help for smartphone addiction at his clinic in Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset. He said: ‘Smartphone users feel they’ve got more control to communicate with whoever they want, whenever they want. But ironically, it’s that sense of control that creates the anxiety. It’s made younger people more reliant on maintaining those contacts – which can create issues from bullying, to being marginalised and excluded. People lose track of time, becoming socially isolated and before they know it, can’t stop. Not having your phone raises your heart rate and signs of panic. These symptoms are almost identical to alcoholism or addiction to gambling, food or drugs” (The Sun, March 21, 2013)
The news report above appeared in The Sun newspaper last week, and as part of that article I was asked to devise a 10-item ‘smartphone addiction test’ for Sun readers which I did (and can be found at the end of today’s blog). As regular readers of my blog will be aware, I have been studying ‘technological addictions’ for over two decades and I coined the term ‘technological addictions’ in a paper I wrote back in 1995. Although I have published a lot of papers on various technological addictions (e.g., slot machine addiction, video game addiction, internet addiction, etc.), I have only ever published one study on mobile phone addiction (with some of my research colleagues in Ramon Llull University, Barcelona, Spain).
Our study was published last year in the Anales de Psicologia, and comprised 1,879 students from Catalonian educational institutions (322 students of Ramon Llull University, and 1,557 secondary school students). We surveyed the students using the 10-item ‘Questionnaire on Cell Phone Related Experiences’ (Cuestionario de Experiencias Relacionadas con el Movil [CERM]), a psychometric instrument developed by Dr. Marta Beranuy and her colleagues in 2009. The CERM examines two areas of cell phone use conflicts and communicative/emotional use.
Our study reported that frequent problems with cell phone use were reported by 2.8 % of the participants. Problematic use was greatest in the youngest age groups. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most used applications were text-messaging and making calls. We carried out a regression analysis and found that the types of cell phone use that contributed the most to problematic use were text-messaging and playing games, whereas making calls contributed the least. Our results suggest that very few young people have problems with cell phones, in contrast with the findings of previous studies in Spain that reported pathological cell phone rates of 7.9%-10.4%. Our results suggested that females have some difficulties with phone use. Other researchers have also reported that females use cell phones more than males, and perceive their use as more problematic than. We also noted in our paper that cell phones are becoming more varied in their use and new applications such as the playing of games appears to be more attractive to males.
Traditionally, the use of cell phones has been for communication and as such, the risk of problematic use was minimal. However, this risk of problematic use and/or addiction could be potentially higher for smartphones that include applications that promote the altering of user identity (e.g., gaming, social networking, etc.).
We also argued that some people may confuse habitual use of such technology as an addictive behaviour (when in reality it may not be). For instance, some people may consider themselves cell phone addicts because they never go out of the house without their cell phone, do not turn their cell phone off at night, are always expecting calls from family members or friends, and/or over-utilise cell phones in their work and/or social life. There is also the importance of economic and/or life costs. The crucial difference between some forms of cell phone use and pathological cell phone use is that some applications involve a financial cost. If a person is using the application more and is spending more money, there may be negative consequences as a result of not being able to afford the activity (e.g., negative economic, job-related, and/or family consequences). High expenditure may also be indicative of cell phone addiction but the phone bills of adolescents are often paid for by parents, therefore the financial problems may not impact on the users themselves.
It is very difficult to determine at what point cell phone use becomes an addiction. The cautiousness of researchers suggests that we are not yet in a position to confirm the existence of a serious and persistent psychopathological addictive disorder related to cell phone addiction on the basis of population survey data alone. This cautiousness is aided and supported by other factors including: (a) the absence of any clinical demand in accordance with the percentages of problematic users identified by these investigations, (b) the fact that the psychometric instruments used could be measuring ‘concern’ or ‘preoccupation’ rather than ‘addiction, (c) the normalisation of behaviour and/or absence of any concern as users grow older; and (d) the importance of distinguishing between excessive use and addictive use.
All researchers agree in the necessity of longitudinal studies in order to check if perception of the problematic use of cell phones still exists over time. Many university students on the basis of self-report claim to have been ‘addicted’ to texting/instant messaging during some period of their adolescence. Our research suggests they are simply describing a period of their development with strong needs of social ties rather than a true addiction. If any of you reading this really want to know if you may have a problem with your smartphone, then you can take this test I devised. If you answer ‘yes’ to six or more of these statements, it may be indicative of a problematic and/or addictive use of your smartphone.
(1) “My smartphone is the most important thing in my life”
(2) “Conflicts have arisen between me and my family and/or my partner about the amount of time I spend on my smartphone”
(3) “My smartphone use often gets in the way of other important things I should be doing (working, education, etc.)”
(4) “I spend more time on my smartphone than almost any other activity”
(5) “I use my smartphone as a way of changing my mood”
(6) “Over time I have increased the amount of time I spend on my smartphone during the day”
(7) “If I am unable to use my smartphone I feel moody and irritable”
(8) “I often have strong urges to use my smartphone”
(9) “If I cut down the amount of time I spend on my smartphone, and then start using it again, I always end up spending as much time on my smartphone as I did before”.
(10) “I have lied to other people about how much I use my smartphone”
Just remember that excessive use does not necessarily mean addiction, and the difference between a healthy enthusiasm and addiction is that healthy enthusiasms add to life, and addictions take away from them.
Beranuy, M., Oberst, U., Carbonell, X., & Chamarro, A. (2009). Problematic Internet and mobile phone use and clinical symptoms in college students: The role of emotional intelligence. Computers in Human Behavior, 25, 1182–1187.
Carbonell, X., Chamarro, A., Beranuy, M., Griffiths, M.D. Obert, U., Cladellas, R. & Talarn, A. (2012). Problematic Internet and cell phone use in Spanish teenagers and young students. Anales de Psicologia, 28, 789-796.
Carbonell, X., Guardiola, E., Beranuy, M., & Belles, A. (2009). A bibliometric analysis of the scientific literature on Internet, video games, and cell phone addiction. Journal of Medical Library Association, 97(2), 102-107.
Beranuy, M., Chamarro, A., Graner, C., & Carbonell, X. (2009). Validacion de dos escalas breves para evaluar la adiccion a Internet y el abuso de movil. Psicothema, 21, 480-485.
Griffiths, M.D. (1995). Technological addictions. Clinical Psychology Forum, 76, 14-19.
Griffiths, M.D. (1996). Behavioural addictions: An issue for everybody? Journal of Workplace Learning, 8(3), 19-25.
Griffiths, M.D. (2005). A ‘components’ model of addiction within a biopsychosocial framework. Journal of Substance Use, 10, 191-197.
Larkin, M., Wood, R.T.A. & Griffiths, M.D. (2006). Towards addiction as relationship. Addiction Research and Theory, 14, 207-215.
For the last week or so, the snowy weather has been the main topic of conversation on the lips of most people who live in the UK. This doesn’t surprise me at all as most people now accept that weather can affect mood state, and for some people can lead to extreme depression in the form of Seasonal Affective Disorder. There also seems to be some evidence that weather can affect people’s sex lives. Being too hot or too cold is likely to lessen the desire to engage in sexual behaviour. Most academic research appears to indicate that sex drives are higher in spring and summer. One of the reasons given for this is that during spring and summer, there is more sun, and that a particular hormone – Melanocyte Stimulating Hormone (MSH) – stimulates sex, particularly in women.
A number of studies have also indicated that during the spring and summer months, the body produces more seretonin (the so-called ‘feel good neurotransmitter’) because of increased luminosity of sunlight. During the winter months as the amount of sunlight decreases, the body produces more melatonin, and this appears to inhibit sex drives. However, there is wide individual variation and the weather and subsequent hormone stimulation differs highly from one person to the next. As an online article by Shiv Joshi confirms:
“Sunlight has a direct effect on the brain’s serotonin production, according to researchers at the Human Neurotransmitter Laboratory and Alfred and Baker Medical Unit, Baker Heart Research Institute, Australia. Our serotonin levels increase with increase in luminosity. And how does that matter? Among other things, serotonin also regulates arousal, says Ray Sahelian, MD, author of Mind Boosters…Not just serotonin, but sunlight affects many other hormones in our body as well, some of which are associated with mood and pleasure feelings, according to professor Carmen Fusco, an instructor in pharmacology. It decreases melatonin, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine and increases cortisol, serotonin, GABA, and dopamine. The summer heat is good for your sex life too. It works on your muscles, by relaxing them and intensifies sensations of the skin. Further, the heat slows us down. This helps us get in touch with our more subdued sensual side, according to psychologist Stella Resnick, PhD, author of The Pleasure Zone”.
Another online article by Emily Herbert notes that the spring and summer months may reduce sex drives in some people – particularly those who suffer Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder and get the ‘summer blues’ (as opposed to the stereotypical ‘winter blues’). She notes that:
“Though rare, Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder is when warmer temperatures make a person feel cooped up instead of carefree. Characterized by anxiety, decreased appetite, insomnia, and irritability, the condition is triggered by longer days and too much heat and/or light. Those who experience Reverse SAD report feeling attacked by the sun and tend to go into Twilight mode – avoiding sunlight at all costs, taking frequent cold showers, and scampering from one air-conditioned environment to the next”
It’s also worth noting that the human body’s own morphine-like chemicals (i.e., endorphins) are also released in certain non-sexual pleasurable activities such as alternating hot saunas with cold plunges. It has been noted by sexologists that is possible that a proper sexual context helps make a potentially painful situation into an erotic one. Regular readers of my blog will know that I take an academic interest in all things sexually paraphilic, and I’ve tried to look at the links (if any) between the weather and sexual parapilias and fetishes. To be honest, this whole blog was initiated by the following online admission of a sexual attraction to rain on the Is It Normal? website:
“I wouldn’t really know if this is considered a fetish or not, but rain really turns me on. The cloudy weather or late night rain makes me really horny. I can be in my room all alone and bored and just the fact that it’s raining really excites me. It’s not to go outside and have sex while rain is pouring on you. It’s to have sex while it rains. This thought is really sexy to me, and I really want to try it. I’ve been told this is a fetish, but I don’t see it that way”
This snippet reminded me of the dark side of rain fetishism as it brought to mind the case of Lam Kor-wan, the so-called ‘Hong Kong Butcher’ (also known as the ‘Rainy Night Butcher’). The case can be found in Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2011 book Necrophilia: Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects. Kor-wan (born in 1955) was brought to trial in 1983 and is Hong Kong’s most notorious necrophile who always attacked his victims during inclement weather. As Dr. Aggrawal reported:
“In 1982, at the age of 27, while working as a taxi driver, [Kor-wan] is known to have abducted and killed at least four women. After killing, he would have sex with their dead bodies, often taking videos of his necrophilic acts. He would then mutilate their bodies and keep their sexual organs in Tupperware containers in his bedroom. For this idiosyncrasy, he was also known as The Jars Murderer. The rest of the bodies were disposed of via his taxi in the New Territories and on Hong Kong Island. As he would often attack his victims during inclement weather, he was also known as The Rainy Night Butcher”.
In the 1965 book The Golden Age of Erotica, Bernhardt J. Hurwood also made a passing reference to the influence of the weather on sexual paraphilia. He wrote that in the Middle Ages, people’s masochistic desires found a sexual outlet via flagellation (which he claimed was the behaviour’s “natural home”). According to Hurwood, “perhaps it was the cold climate which originally aroused in Englishmen a desire for whipping. Nowhere in the world do we find such a deep affection for the rod”.
In his earlier 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, Dr. Aggrawal was quoted as saying that “like allergies, sexual arousal may occur from anything under the sun including the sun”. In fact, Aggrawal’s book arguably contains the most references to weather fetishes (although nothing on their incidence, prevalence, or etiology). This includes fetishes and paraphilias in relation to sexual arousal to sunny weather (actirasty), sexual arousal from the cold or winter (cheimaphilia), sexual arousal from snow (chionophilia), sexual arousal from thunderstorms (brontophilia), sexual arousal from thunder and lightning (keraunophilia), sexual arousal from fog (nebulophilia), sexual arousal from rain and being rained upon (ombrophilia and pluviophilia), and love of thunder (tonitrophilia).
Whether (or should that be ‘weather’?) these sexual paraphilias genuinely exist is up for debate (I haven’t been able to locate a single academic or clinical case study relating to a single one of those listed by Dr. Aggrawal). However, weather conditions have been shown to affect mood state and ‘normal’ sexual behaviour, so there is no reason to think that on occasions, it may lead to abnormality.
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Aggrawal A. (2011). Necrophilia: Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Amanad, V. (2012). Does Weather affect your Sex Drive? Only My Health, June 29. http://www.onlymyhealth.com/does-weather-affect-your-sex-drive-1340990772
Herbert, E. (2009). Sex: Weather-driven desire? Elle, July 28. Located at: http://www.elle.com/life-love/sex-relationships/sex-tips-women
Hurwood, B.J. (1965). The Golden Age of Erotica. Los Angeles, CA: Sherbourne Press.
Joshi, S. (2010). Summer and intimacy: Felling hot, hot, hot. Complete Wellbeing, May 11. Located at: http://completewellbeing.com/article/feeling-hot-hot-hot/