Category Archives: Psychology

Cynical psychology: The psychology of hoaxing

Earlier this week, I appeared on BBC radio talking about the psychology of hoaxing after someone had made hoax calls to the police about a bomb being on Nottingham school premises. I have to admit that I’m no expert on the psychology of hoaxing but I’ve always had a personal interest in hoaxes especially those in science (such a the Piltdown Man ‘missing link’ hoax), cryptozoology (such as Bigfoot, the Abominable Snowman, the Loch Ness Monster), parapsychology (alien abductions, flying saucers, etc.), art hoaxes (such as the Nat Tate scandal, a fake biography written by William Boyd and given credence by US writer Gore Vidal, Picasso’s biographer John Richardson, and David Bowie), and literary hoaxes (such as the German magazine Stern publishing Hitler’s diaries before they realised they were fake).

I also grew up in the late 1970s and 1980s enjoying television shows like Candid Camera and Game For A Laugh where hoaxing was the shows’ main ingredient in the name of entertainment. This has carried on into today’s light entertainment strand such as the hoaxes with celebrities on Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. I’m not claiming that such shows make hoaxing socially acceptable or socially condoned but they probably help in softening individuals’ attitudes towards hoaxing.

The radio show I was interviewed on wanted to know about why people hoax and the underlying psychology of a hoaxer. Before looking at any articles on what motivates a hoaxer I made a list of all the reasons I could think of what might cause people to hoax. My preliminary list included hoaxing (i) for amusement purposes, (ii) out of boredom, (iii) as an act of revenge, (iv) as a way to gain fame and/or notoriety in some way, (iv) to gain attention, such as faking illness [Munchausen’s Syndrome], (v) to demonstrate cleverness (or a perception of cleverness) to others around them, (vi) to disrupt the status quo (including terrorist and non-terrorist activity), and for political causes (such as claiming to be a victim of a racist hate crime).

After this (and in preparation for my radio interview) I went on Google Scholar and was surprised how little research had been done on the psychology of hoaxes (although there is plenty of research on more general areas such as the psychology of deception). One online article on hoaxes gave a different list of reasons as to why individuals would carry out hoaxes that was very different from my own speculations. The five reasons listed were to: (i) draw attention to their fraudulent skills, (ii) gain financial benefits through their deceit, (iii) “put their bait out and see who falls victim or target specific individuals to vilify or discredit, especially those who pose a threat (paranoia)”, (iv) feed people’s secret prejudices and beliefs, and (v) fool people “because it’s fun”.

Although there are many similar definitions as to what constitutes a hoax, I decided to use the Wikipedia definition as the basis for this article as it was more detailed than others that I read:

“A hoax is a deliberately fabricated falsehood made to masquerade as truth. It is distinguishable from errors in observation or judgment, or rumors, urban legends, pseudosciences, or April Fool’s Day events that are passed along in good faith by believers or as jokes”.

In his cunningly (or should that be ‘punningly’) titled recent book Hoax Springs Eternal: The Psychology of Cognitive Deception, the psychologist Peter Hancock highlighted six steps that characterise a truly successful hoax:

  • “Identify a constituency – a person or group of people who, for reasons such as piety or patriotism, or greed, will truly care about your creation.
  • Identify a particular dream which will make your hoax appeal to your constituency.
  • Create an appealing but ‘under-specified’ hoax, with ambiguities.
  • Have your creation discovered.
  • Find at least one champion who will actively support your hoax.
  • Make people care, either positively or negatively – the ambiguities encourage interest and debate.”

In a short (but interesting) online presentation, Chris Jones noted that hoaxers exploit human psychology in order to persuade us to do foolish things. More specifically, Jones asserted that hoaxes prey upon a number of human traits including good will, naivety, greed, fear and anxiety, and a deference to authority (such as your doctor, lawyer, your bank, etc.). This is supported by the computer hacker Kevin Mitnick who in his 2002 book The Art of Deception claims that human beings are the biggest threat to security and that human emotions such as willingness to help others, personal gain, trust, fear of getting reprimanded, and conformity are the primary reasons social engineering techniques (which include hoaxes) can be so successful.

In an article in The Independent, Rose Shepherd interviewed a police inspector (Glen Chalk) and a psychologist (Dr. Glenn Wilson) about individuals’ motives for hoaxes concerning information about crimes that had been committed. Chalk noted:

“People have various motives…Some people might be overly helpful. They could have some information, and then embellish it. Others might be outright malicious…[These] are probably fantasists, anxious to help or to associate themselves with events…A lot of callers are attention-seekers”.

Dr. Wilson added that hoax callers enjoy “a sense of potency” and:

“They may be people who feel they make no impact on the world, and this is one way they can do that, rather as fire-setters start fires then stand back to admire their handiwork. They see people running around and think `I did that!’ For people who feel they have no power, it is the capacity to influence events. There may be an element of exhibitionism, of getting into the public eye. For the time on the phone, at least, everybody is terribly interested in what they’ve got to say. Anonymity spoils things, but they might deliberately then get caught, and might even become famous as a result, in a rather lesser way than those who kill a celebrity: they get fame in a very backhanded way. [Not all nuisance callers are knowing hoaxers: some probably, genuinely believe they have something to offer]. I suppose they may think they are being helpful…perhaps telling police where a body might be found. They might really think they are psychic. They’re not trying to be obstructive; they just want to get in on the act.”

The article also made reference to one of the most notorious hoax calls of all time, the infamous “Jack” who pretended to by the Yorkshire Ripper and ended up subverting the police hunt for the real female serial killer. Although many believed that “Jack” should have been pursued, Inspector Chalk concluded that there was “not a lot of point in prosecuting the sad fantasists”.

The Wikipedia entry on hoaxes provided an interesting ‘typology’ of hoaxes that could certainly be used in further academic research. The list included:

  • Socially appropriate hoaxes (with April Fools’ Day being the most noteworthy example)
  • Religious hoaxes (such as Maria Monk’s 1836 best-selling book Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, or, The Hidden Secrets of a Nun’s Life in a Convent Exposed that claimed there was systematic sexual abuse of nuns by Catholic priests and that the priests murdered the resulting babies).
  • Anthropological hoaxes (such as the fossilized skull and jaw remains of the Piltdown Man collected in 1912 and exposed as a forgery in 1953 as the lower jawbone of an orangutan with the skull of modern man).
  • Hoaxes as scare tactics (such as those that appeal to individuals’ subjectively rational belief that the expected cost of not believing the hoax outweighs the expected cost of believing the hoax).
  • Academic hoaxes (such as when Polish psychologist Tomasz Witkowski published a fake article in the psychology journal Charaktery)
  • Sting operation’ hoaxes that are used by law enforcement to catch criminals.
  • Art hoaxes such as art done by chimpanzees and elephants that fooled many art critics.
  • Internet hoaxes (such as the online videos claiming that iPods could be charged up with an onion and Gatorade).
  • Computer virus hoaxes

Dr. Ross Anderson notes in his 2008 book Security Engineering that frauds and hoaxes have always happened, but that the Internet makes some hoaxes easier, “and lets others be repackaged in ways that may bypass our existing controls (be they personal intuitions, company procedures or even laws)”.

As a self-confessed music obsessive, my all-time favourite hoax was music magazine Rolling Stone’s 1969 invention of the debut album by the Masked Marauders, a ‘supergroup’ featuring Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger. As a 2014 article in Mental Floss recalled:

“Due to legal issues with their respective labels, the stars’ names wouldn’t appear on the album cover, but the review extolled the virtues of Dylan’s new ‘deep bass voice’ and the record’s 18-minute cover songs…The writer earnestly concluded, ‘It can truly be said that this album is more than a way of life; it is life.’ For anyone paying attention, the absurd details added up to a clear hoax. The man behind the gag, editor Greil Marcus, was fed up with the supergroup trend and figured that if he peppered his piece with enough fabrication, readers would pick up on the joke. They didn’t. After reading the review, fans were desperate to get their hands on the Masked Marauders album. Rather than fess up, Marcus dug in his heels and took his prank to the next level. He recruited an obscure San Francisco band to record a spoof album, then scored a distribution deal with Warner Bros. After a little radio promotion, the Masked Marauders’ self-titled debut sold 100,000 copies. For its part, Warner Bros. decided to let fans in on the joke after they bought the album. Each sleeve included the Rolling Stone review along with liner notes that read, ‘In a world of sham, the Masked Marauders, bless their hearts, are the genuine article’.”

It all goes to show that people will believe what they want to believe. I probably would have fallen for this hoax as well but I was only three years old at the time.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Anderson, R. (2008). Security engineering (2nd edition). Chichester: Wiley.

Caterson, S. (2010). Towards a general theory of hoaxes [online]. Quadrant, 54, 70-74.

Daly, K. C. (2000). Internet hoaxes: Public regulation and private remedies. Located at: http://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/8965617/Daly,_Karen.html?sequence=2

Dunn, H. B., & Allen, C. A. (2005, March). Rumors, urban legends and Internet hoaxes. In Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Association of Collegiate Marketing Educators (p. 85)

Edward, G. (2010). Profiling hoaxers: The psychology of fame. Bigfoot Lunch Club, January 27. Located at: http://www.bigfootlunchclub.com/2010/01/profiling-hoaxers-psychology-of-fame.html

Hancock, Peter (2015). Hoax Springs Eternal: The Psychology of Cognitive Deception. (pp.182-195). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Heyd, T. (2008). Email hoaxes: form, function, genre ecology (Vol. 174). John Benjamins Publishing

Hobart, M. (2013). My best friend’s brother’s cousin new this guy who…: Hoaxes, legends, warnings, and fisher’s narrative paradigm. Communication Teacher, 27(2), 90-93.

Hyman, R. (1989). The psychology of deception. Annual Review of Psychology, 40(1), 133-154.

Mitnick, K.D. (2002). The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security. Indianapolis: Wiley.

Podhradsky, A., D’Ovidio, R., Engebretson, P., & Casey, C. (2013). Xbox 360 hoaxes, social engineering, and gamertag exploits. In System Sciences (HICSS), 2013 46th Hawaii International Conference (pp. 3239-3250). IEEE.

Raymond, A. K. (2014). The 14 greatest hoaxes of all time. Mental Floss, March 31. Located at: http://mentalfloss.com/article/49674/14-greatest-hoaxes-all-time

Shepherd, R. (1996). It starts with a hoax…It ends with havoc. The Independent, July 31. Located at: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/it-starts-with-a-hoax-it-ends-in-havoc-1307603.html

The cycle of love: Another look at objectum sexuality

In previous blogs I have examined (a) whether in some individuals excessive cycling can be addictive, and (b) some individuals who have sexual relationships with inanimate objects – so-called objectum sexuality, that also appears to have various sub-types such as mechanophilia (individuals who derive sexual pleasure from computers, cars, robots or androids, domestic appliances, etc.) and robot fetishism (individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal arising from humanoid or non-humanoid robots). Today’s blog is arguably an intersection of these previous blogs takes a look at one individual that I was made aware of when I was interviewed about him for the television series Forbidden (broadcast on the Discovery Channel). The case involves Dutchmen Kees van Voorst (KVV) has “a special love for bikes”. He claims to be in love and have sexual relationships with thirty bicycles.

Compared with other objectum sexuals, KVV is not unique. For instance, in previous blogs I recounted the cases of American man Edward Smith who has who has had sex with over a 1000 cars, and the British man Robert Stewart who ended up in court after being caught having sex with a bicycle. I also made reference to a paper published in 2000 by Dr. Steven Thompson in the journal Technology and Culture. Thompson argued that some types of cycles (i.e., motorcycles) are often portrayed as sexualized fetish objects by their owners.

The television documentary about KVV films him in his hometown of Lunteren. The story shows not only how much KVV loves riding bicycles but also shows how much he is romantically and sexually in love with bicycles. He appears ecstatic as he rides his favourite bicycles. He introduces the documentary makers to each bicycle by name. The production notes for the television programme highlighted that:

“His favourite [bicycle] is Aunt Ann who he sleeps with at night. He shows us how he dotes on them daily, oiling their chains, pumping up their tyres and polishing their shafts. He reads bike magazines as if they were adult magazines, Kees really does love bikes. In the film we follow Kees as he introduces a new member to his bike family. But his house is so packed full already, he’ll have to sell one of his bikes to make room for the new member, an emotional moment. He still doesn’t know which bike will go. Once he’s decided, he’ll say goodbye and then sell his bike to a local person who has answered an ad in the local paper…We’ll see him walk through gigantic bike parking lots with literally thousands of bikes – he’ll say hello to them as he walks past. He’ll then enter a massive bike store and be weak at the knees with the sexy selection of bike babes hanging from the ceiling. He’ll then choose his new love and take her home to meet her new family. After introducing the new bike to her new bike brothers and cycling sisters – the moment of truth, the first ride on the new bike – how will they get on? Will she be as good a ride as she looks? Will he take her off road straight away or build up to it? The film will end with Kees and his feelings about his new bike”.

There is little doubt that KVV is one of the world’s few genuine objectum sexuals. KVV wasn’t aware that his sexual love of bicycles had a name but confirmed that the scientific description of the condition matched his own feelings and experiences (i.e., strong feelings of love, commitment and attraction to inanimate items). He was quoted in the documentary as saying “I see my love as the same as men and women but with bikes…I tried to love women but they just don’t love me back like a bike can”. Of the 30 bicycles KVV owns, eight of them have names and his true love is a bicycle he named ‘Aunt Ann’. He currently cycles around 10,000 kilometres a year on his various bicycles. His “special desire” for bicycles began when he was 12 years old.

“His neighbour was visiting with her bike and [KVV] was fixated on it, he pleaded with her to be able to borrow the bike but she wouldn’t let him. He was heart broken. But it wasn’t till he was 16 [years old] that he had his first real love. it was then that he really could grasp that his love for bikes went far beyond what could be considered normal – but for [KVV] this is exactly what it was, absolutely normal. He did try to have relationships with women, he has had two so far in his life but both failed miserably”.

To KVV, ‘Aunt Ann’ is “his everything”. This particular bicycle sleeps in his bedroom, gets kissed good night, and is the bicycle that KVV wants to take with him to his grave. KVV claims that he cannot imagine a life without his beloved bicycles. The sensation of riding them is unlike anything else he has experienced. He says:

“When I am on one of my bikes and I’m thinking only about that bike, that is when I feel real love”.

KVV’s appearance in the Forbidden documentary isn’t the first television programme that he has appeared in. A local Dutch programme profiled KVV and his bicycle love after which he gained a level of notoriety that did not endear him to the Dutch public. Local residents claim he has brought shame to his hometown of Lunteren. Outside of his bicycles, KVV has only one human friend who didn’t want to be filmed in the documentary. The only other human that KVV has any kind of regular contact with is a local photographer who takes photos of KVV with his bicycle lovers.

As I noted in my previous blog on OS, it is only recently that academics have started to carry out research. In a 2010 issue of the Internet Journal of Human Sexuality, Dr. Amy Marsh described what she claims is the first ever research study conducted on a group of 40 ‘objectophiles’. On US television, Marsh revealed that she supported OS as a legitimate sexual orientation and said that her research doesn’t appear to indicate childhood trauma being a factor in the development of the condition. KVV’s story highlights that while rare, objectum sexuality (OS) exists and that some human beings can (and do) have loving sexual relationships with inanimate objects.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Browne, R.B. (1982). Objects of Special Devotion: Fetishism in Popular Culture. Popular Press.

Ceilán, C. (2008). Weirdly Beloved: Tales of Strange Bedfellows, Odd Couplings, and Love Gone Bad. The Lyons Press.

De Silva, P. & Pernet, A. (1992). Pollution in ‘Metroland’: An unusual paraphilia in a shy young man. Sexual and Marital Therapy, 7, 301-306.

Marsh, A. (2010). Love among the objectum sexuals. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, 13, March 1. Located at: http://www.ejhs.org/volume13/ObjSexuals.htm

Nelson, S. (2012). Fetish spotlight: Mechanophilia. Located at: http://www.thehoneybunnys.com/fetish-spotlight-mechanophilia/

Schlessinger (2003). Mechaphilia: Sexual Attraction to Machines. Please Press.

Thompson, S.L. (2000). The arts of the motorcycle: Biology, culture, and aesthetics in technological choice. Technology and Culture, 41, 99-115.

Wikipedia (2012). Mechanophilia. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechanophilia

Playing the field: Another look at Internet Gaming Disorder

Research into online addictions has grown considerably over the last two decades and much of it has concentrated on problematic gaming, particularly MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games). In the latest (fifth) edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013), Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) (also commonly referred in the literature as problematic gaming and gaming addiction) was included in Section 3 (‘Emerging Measures and Models’) as a promising area that needed future research before being included in the main section of future editions of the DSM.

The DSM-5 proposed nine criteria for IGD (of which five or more need to be endorsed over the period of 12 months and result in clinically significant impairment to be diagnosed as experiencing IGD). More specifically the criteria include (1) preoccupation with games; (2) withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away; (3) the need to spend increasing amounts of time engaged in gaming, (4) unsuccessful attempts to control participation in gaming; (5) loss of interest in hobbies and entertainment as a result of, and with the exception of, gaming; (6) continued excessive use of games despite knowledge of psychosocial problems; (7) deception of family members, therapists, or others regarding the amount of gaming; (8) use of gaming to escape or relieve a negative mood;  and (9) loss of a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of participation in games.

There is no agreement on the prevalence of IGD as the vast majority of studies have surveyed non-representative self-selected samples using over 20 different screening instruments. A review of problematic gaming prevalence studies that I published with Orsi Király, Halley Pontes, and Zsolt Demetrovics (in the 2015 book Mental Health in the Digital Age: Grave Dangers, Great Promise) reported a large variation in the prevalence rates (from 0.2% up to 34%). However, we noted that there were many factors that could have accounted for the wide variation in prevalence rates including the type of gaming examined (i.e., some studies just examined online gaming, whereas others examined console gaming or a mixture of both), sample size, participants’ age range, participant type (i.e., some surveyed the general population while others assessed gamers only), and instruments used to assess gaming.

There have been a handful of studies that have reported the prevalence of IGD using nationally representative samples. The prevalence rates reported were 8.5% of American youth aged 8–18 years, 1.2% of German adolescents aged 13-18 years, 5.5% among Dutch adolescents aged 13-20, and 5.4% among Dutch adults, 4.3% of Hungarian adolescents aged 15-16 years, 1.4% of Norwegian gamers, and 1.6% of European youth from seven countries aged 14-17 years.

There are now over 20 different screening instruments including a number of new ones specifically incorporating the IGD criteria (including a number that I have co-developed with Halley Pontes). The multiplicity of problematic gaming screens remains a key challenge in the field and partially reflects the lack of consensus in terms of the assessment of the phenomenon. A comprehensive 2013 review that I published with Daniel King and others in Clinical Psychology Review examined the criteria of 18 problematic gaming screens. The 18 screens had been utilized in 63 quantitative studies (N=58,415 participants). The main weaknesses identified were (i) inconsistency of core addiction indicators across studies, (ii) a general lack of any temporal dimension, (iii) inconsistent cutoff scores relating to clinical status, (iv) poor and/or inadequate inter-rater reliability and predictive validity, and (v) inconsistent and/or untested dimensionality. We also questioned the appropriateness of certain screens for certain settings, because those used in clinical practice may require a different emphasis than those used in epidemiological, experimental, or neurobiological research settings.

Research into IGD is needed from clinical, epidemiological, and neurobiological aspects of IGD. There has been an increasing number of neurobiological studies on IGD and a 2014 meta-analysis by Dr. Y. Meng and colleagues in Addiction Biology of 10 neuroimaging studies investigating the functional brain response to cognitive tasks from IGD using quantitative effect size signed differential mapping meta-analytic methods. found reliable clusters of abnormal activation in IGD within the regions comprising the bilateral medial frontal gyrus/cingulate gyrus, the left middle temporal gyrus and fusiform gyrus when compared to healthy controls. The same review also found that greater amounts of time spent per week playing was associated with hyper-activity in the left medial frontal gyrus and the right cingulate gyrus. Despite the useful findings reported, one of the major limitations of this meta-analysis was that 90% of the studies reviewed were conducted in Asian countries or regions, which might be problematic since prevalence rates of IGD in these populations are usually inflated compared to prevalence rates reported in Western countries. Furthermore, a systematic review of neuroimaging studies examining Internet addiction (IA) and IGD by Daria Kuss and myself in the journal Brain Sciences concluded that:

“These studies provide compelling evidence for the similarities between different types of addictions, notably substance-related addictions and Internet and gaming addiction, on a variety of levels. On the molecular level, Internet addiction is characterized by an overall reward deficiency that entails decreased dopaminergic activity. On the level of neural circuitry, Internet and gaming addiction lead to neuroadaptation and structural changes that occur as a consequence of prolonged increased activity in brain areas associated with addiction. On a behavioral level, Internet and gaming addicts appear to be constricted with regards to their cognitive functioning in various domains”

Over the last decade, a number of studies have investigated the association between IGD (and its derivatives) and various personality and comorbidity factors. Our recent review in the book Mental Health in the Digital Age: Grave Dangers, Great Promise summarized the research examining the relationship between personality traits and IGD. Empirical studies have shown IGD to be associated with (i) neuroticism, (ii) aggression and hostility, (iii) avoidant and schizoid tendencies, loneliness and introversion, (iv) social inhibition, (v) boredom inclination, (vi) sensation-seeking, (vii) diminished agreeableness, (viii) diminished self-control and narcissistic personality traits, (ix) low self-esteem, (x) state and trait anxiety, and (xi) low emotional intelligence. However, we noted that it was difficult to assess the aetiological significance of such associations because these personality factors are not unique to problematic gaming. Our review also reported that IGD had been associated with various comorbid disorders, including (i) attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, (ii) symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, depression, and social phobia, and (iii) various psychosomatic symptoms.

According to a 2013 editorial in the journal Addiction, Nancy Petry and Charles O’Brien (2013), IGD will not be included as a separate mental disorder in future editions of the DSM until the (i) defining features of IGD have been identified, (ii) reliability and validity of specific IGD criteria have been obtained cross-culturally, (iii) prevalence rates have been determined in representative epidemiological samples across the world, and (iv) aetiology and associated biological features have been evaluated.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Please note: Additional input from Daria Kuss and Halley Pontes

Further reading

Gentile, D. (2009). Pathological video-game use among youth ages 8–18: A national study. Psychological Science, 20(5), 594-602. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02340.x

Griffiths, M.D., Van Rooij, A., Kardefelt-Winther, D., Starcevic, V., Király, O…Demetrovics, Z. (2016). Working towards an international consensus on criteria for assessing Internet Gaming Disorder: A critical commentary on Petry et al (2014). Addiction, 111, 167-175.

Griffiths, M. D., King, D. L., & Demetrovics, Z. (2014). DSM-5 Internet Gaming Disorder needs a unified approach to assessment. Neuropsychiatry, 4(1), 1-4. doi: 10.2217/npy.13.82

Griffiths, M. D., Király, O., Pontes, H. M., & Demetrovics, Z. (2015). An overview of problematic gaming. In E. Aboujaoude & V. Starcevic (Eds.), Mental Health in the Digital Age: Grave Dangers, Great Promise (pp. 27-45). Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi: 10.1093/med/9780199380183.003.0002

Griffiths, M. D., & Pontes, H. M. (2014). Internet Addiction Disorder and Internet Gaming Disorder are not the same. Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy, 5(4), e124. doi: 10.4172/2155-6105.1000e124

Griffiths, M. D., & Szabo, A. (2014). Is excessive online usage a function of medium or activity? An empirical pilot study. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 3(1), 74-77. doi: 10.1556/JBA.2.2013.016

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(3), 331-342. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2013.01.002

Király, O., Griffiths, M. D., & Demetrovics, Z. (2015). Internet Gaming Disorder and the DSM-5: Conceptualization, debates, and controversies. Current Addiction Reports, 2(3), 254-262. doi: 10.1007/s40429-015-0066-7

Király, O., Griffiths, M. D., Urbán, R., Farkas, J., Kökönyei, G., Elekes, Z., Tamás, D., & Demetrovics, Z. (2014). Problematic internet use and problematic online gaming are not the same: Findings from a large nationally representative adolescent sample. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 17(12), 749-754. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2014.0475

Király, O., Sleczka, P., Pontes, H. M., Urbán, R., Griffiths, M. D., & Demetrovics, Z. (2016). Validation of the ten-item Internet Gaming Disorder Test (IGDT-10) and evaluation of the nine DSM-5 Internet Gaming Disorder criteria. Addictive Behaviors. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2015.11.005

Kuss, D. J., & Griffiths, M. D. (2015). Internet addiction in psychotherapy. London: Palgrave.

Kuss, D. J., & Griffiths, M. D. (2012). Internet and gaming addiction: A systematic literature review of neuroimaging studies. Brain Sciences, 2(3), 347-374. doi: 10.3390/brainsci2030347

Kuss, D. J., Griffiths, M. D., Karila, L., & Billieux, J. (2014). Internet addiction: A systematic review of epidemiological research for the last decade. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 20(25), 4026-4052. doi: 10.2174/13816128113199990617

Lemmens, J. S., Valkenburg, P. M., & Gentile, D.A. (2015). The Internet Gaming Disorder Scale. Psychological Assessment, 27(2), 567-582. doi: 10.1037/pas0000062

Meng, Y., Deng, W., Wang, H., Guo, W., & Li, T. (2014). The prefrontal dysfunction in individuals with Internet Gaming Disorder: A meta-analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging studies. Addiction Biology, 20(4), 799-808. doi: 10.1111/adb.12154

Müller, K. W., Janikian, M., Dreier, M., Wölfling, K., Beutel, M. E., Tzavara, C., Richardson, C., & Tsitsika, A. (2015). Regular gaming behavior and internet gaming disorder in European adolescents: results from a cross-national representative survey of prevalence, predictors, and psychopathological correlates. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 24(5), 565-574. doi: 10.1007/s00787-014-0611-2

Petry, N. M., & O’Brien, C. P. (2013). Internet gaming disorder and the DSM-5. Addiction 108(7), 1186–1187. doi: 10.1111/add.12162

Pontes, H. M., & Griffiths, M. D. (2015). New concepts, old known issues: The DSM-5 and Internet Gaming Disorder and its assessment. In J. Bishop (Ed.), Psychological and Social Implications Surrounding Internet and Gaming Addiction (pp. 16-30). Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference. doi: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8595-6.ch002

Pontes, H. & Griffiths, M.D. (2015). Measuring DSM-5 Internet Gaming Disorder: Development and validation of a short psychometric scale. Computers in Human Behavior, 45, 137-143. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2014.12.006

Pontes, H. M., Szabo, A., & Griffiths, M. D. (2015). The impact of Internet-based specific activities on the perceptions of Internet Addiction, Quality of Life, and excessive usage: A cross-sectional study. Addictive Behaviors Reports, 1, 19-25. doi: 10.1016/j.abrep.2015.03.002

Pontes, H., Király, O. Demetrovics, Z., & Griffiths, M. D. (2014). The conceptualisation and measurement of DSM-5 Internet Gaming Disorder: The development of the IGD-20 Test. PLoS ONE, 9(10): e110137. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0110137.

Pontes, H. M., Kuss, D. J., & Griffiths, M. D. (2015). Clinical psychology of Internet addiction: a review of its conceptualization, prevalence, neuronal processes, and implications for treatment. Neuroscience and Neuroeconomics, 4, 11-23. doi: 10.2147/NAN.S60982

Rehbein, F., Kliem, S., Baier, D., Mößle, T., & Petry, N. M. (2015). Prevalence of Internet Gaming Disorder in German adolescents: Diagnostic contribution of the nine DSM-5 criteria in a state-wide representative sample. Addiction, 110(5), 842–851. doi: 10.1111/add.12849

Thomas, N., & Martin, F. (2010). Video-arcade game, computer game and Internet activities of Australian students: Participation habits and prevalence of addiction. Australian Journal of Psychology. 62(2), 59-66. doi: 10.1080/00049530902748283

van Rooij, A. J., Schoenmakers, T. M., & van de Mheen, D. (2015). Clinical validation of the C-VAT 2.0 assessment tool for gaming disorder: A sensitivity analysis of the proposed DSM-5 criteria and the clinical characteristics of young patients with ‘video game addiction’. Addictive Behaviors. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2015.10.018

Wittek, C. T., Finserås, T. R., Pallesen, S., Mentzoni, R. A., Hanss, D., Griffiths, M. D., & Molde, H. (2015). Prevalence and predictors of video game addiction: A study based on a national representative sample of gamers. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 1-15. doi: 10.1007/s11469-015-9592-8

Young, K.S. (1999). Internet addiction: Symptoms, evaluation and treatment. Innovations in clinical practice: A source book, (Vol. 17; pp. 19-31). Sarasota, FL: Professional Resource Press.

All around the lobe: A brief look at ear fetishes

“I’m obsessed with guys with tiny ears. They turn me on. Isn’t that weird? When I’m dating someone, I always think, ‘Could I marry this person?’ And, ‘What would my kids look like?’ ” (Quote from reality television star Kim Kardashian)

Regular readers of my blog will be aware that I have covered a very wide range of different bodily fetishes but never the ear. Most of the body parts I have examined are arguably devoid of any sexual sensitivity and would not be described as erogenous zones but the earlobe is not one of those non-sensitive areas because it contains many nerve endings. As Wikipedia notes:

“An erogenous zone is an area of the human body that has heightened sensitivity, the stimulation of which may result in the production of sexual fantasies, sexual arousal and orgasm. People have erogenous zones all over their bodies, but which areas are more sensitive than others vary. Some may resent stimulation that others find arousing. The stimulation of these areas can produce gentle, mild or intense arousal. Some people find whispering or breathing softly in the ear to be pleasurable and relaxing, as well as licking, biting, caressing and/or kissing it especially the area of and behind the earlobe”.

Dr. Lou Paget, sex educator and author of The Big O: How to Have Them, Give Them, and Keep Them Coming notes that one of the most stimulating spots on the female body is “the pyramid from the front and back of the shoulder blades, up to the apex of the ear lobe. It’s a fabulous area to play with, second only to a woman’s mouth in terms of getting her motor running”. 

As far as I am aware, there has never been any research on ear fetishism and the only remotely scholarly thing I learned from researching into this topic is that ‘gynotikolobomassophilia’ refers to sexual pleasure from nibbling on a woman’s earlobe (as noted in Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices). At least four websites list this as a bona fide sexual activity according to the One Look webpage although other definitions include slight variations such as a proclivity for nibbling on women’s earlobes” and “a love of biting female’s earlobes”.

Although there are earlobe fetish videos on YouTube, and dedicated ear fetish channels (including ear cleaning, ear twisting, ear pulling, ears of Japanese women played with by various items), I went in search of first-person accounts of ear fetishes on the internet and located quite a lot and of a number of different varieties. I also located first-person accounts from the partners of individuals with alleged ear fetishes (and not always consensual). My own research suggests there are at least four different types of ear fetishism: (i) general ear fetishes (including arousal related to the size of ears, protruding ears, and actions performed on the ears such as licking, smelling, rubbing, and massaging them), (ii) earlobe fetishes, (iii) pierced ear fetishes, and (iv) earlobe gauge fetishes. In the rest of this blog, I provide some examples of what I found online:

  1. First-person accounts of general ear fetishes
  • Extract 1.1: “I have a bit of a fetish for ears – I love kissing, nibbling and touching them during foreplay and sex! Is this odd and how common is it?”.
  • Extract 1.2: “So I have an ear fetish for big ears. My problem is that it’s only towards people of the same sex. I don’t understand why it is but really wish it was towards the opposite sex since it makes me feel really weird. As if an ear fetish isn’t already enough weird. I do like it though if my ears are touched but same deal, with it only being with the same sex…I am adopted so I don’t know if that plays a role in it. Though I highly doubt it…I am aware its weird. I’ve just been trying to change it”.
  • Extract 1.3: “If a guy has a nice face with sticking out ears, its like BOOM. Does anyone else have an ear fetish?”
  • Extract 1.4: Is it odd to have an ear fetish?…I like seriously just love ears…I just like rubbing them nibbling them, stuff like that…Is that weird?”
  • Extract 1.5: I have a strange fetish for ears. I like to hold ears and feel it, smell it, licking nibbling it. I cannot sleep at night without imagining a girl’s ears be it thin or fat ears”.
  • Extract 1.6: I’m not sure if this is common, but I’ve got a bit of an ear fetish. Nothing like an obsession, but I think it’s really cute when a girl has long, straight hair and the tips of her ears stick out a little through it. I don’t think it has anything to do with elves…I mean, I don’t really like that pointy look”.
  1. Partner’s accounts of possible ear fetishes
  • Extract 2.1: “My boyfriend and I were just messing around and I started kissing/sucking his ear lobe and he freaked out! He told me to keep going so I sucked on it and licked behind his ear and sucked on the skin around it. He told me afterwards that no one has ever done that to him before and he really liked it…Does he have an ear fetish or something?”
  • Extract 2.2: “So my boyfriend loves my ears, he loves how they’re big. He also loves to pull, kiss, sniff, massage, lick them. And at first it was creepy. But then I started to like it. But is it okay for him to be ear fetish?”
  • Extract 2.3: “So, I’ve only made out with this guy once, last night…But at one point he moved to my ear and basically made out with the inside of it until I squirmed and pretended it tickled…but really…I was grossed out by it. Obviously he has some sort of ear fetish. But what I want to know is… why? What exactly turns the guy on about this?…When he returned to kissing my mouth I could literally taste my own earwax…it was pretty disturbing. And I was embarrassed cause I felt like I had dirty ears or something…What about this turns a guy on and how is he not grossed out by earwax taste?”
  • Extract 2.4: Ear fetish?My current beau and I have a very passionate sex life, no complaints. Except one. He likes to lick the inside of my ears, pretty vigorously, when we are in bed. I have never experienced this before. Does this turn most guys on? I don’t know how to tell him without hurting his feelings. But this can’t go on for much longer”.
  • Extract 2.5: “What the heck is an ear fetish? There is this person at work that touches everyone’s ears, but subtly. I’ve noticed that he walks around from time to time and runs the palm of his hand or fingers through someone’s ear. I have big ears so I’ve been getting targeted a good deal lately”
  1. First-person accounts of pierced ear fetishes
  • Extract 3.1: When growing up, earrings weren’t widely worn. According to mom, only ‘bad girls and gypsies’ wore earrings. Pierced ears were rare – usually our ‘local characters’. From [being] a toddler…I ENJOYED examining women’s ears. Pierced, and I’d almost faint…I had no idea how that hole was made. And somehow, I came up with the idea that it was for pleasure that they did it. (I only know that at a really young age it aroused me). I dream of earrings and having my ears pierced – of feeling that weight pulling on my ear lobes and dangles swaying into my neck. When pierced ears became common in the 1960s, it drove me even wilder. Women’s earrings and especially pierced ears”
  • Extract 3.2: [I’ve been] fascinated with pierced ears and earrings as far back as I can remember. I have no idea where this fascination came from as no one in my family or in the small village where we lived had pierced ears when I was a young boy. The only time I actually saw women with pierced ears was when we went to a nearby town to do our shopping. In those days women with pierced ears were often considered ‘cheap’ and ‘trashy.’ Fast forward to the 1950s when pierced ears were just starting to become more common. Many parents would not allow their daughters to get their ears pierced, so the earring manufacturers responded with screw on earrings that made their ears look like they were pierced. I bought two pairs [of these] earrings for myself, but wore them only in the privacy of my bedroom as boys wearing earrings [was] completely unheard of. The tighter you screwed the earrings on your ears, the more your ears looked like they were actually pierced…One night I fell asleep with earrings screwed tightly on my ears. I took them off the next morning as soon as I woke up and was fascinated by the marks they left on my ears. I went to school wondering and worrying about what people would say when they saw the marks that made my ears look like they were pierced…the whole experience made me more fascinated with pierced ears than ever before. When the girl who became my wife and I were seriously dating I asked her to have her ears pierced which she did for me. She knew I was fascinated with pierced ears and earrings and shortly after we were married she suggested I fulfill my fantasy and have my ears pierced. Men with pierced ears were still virtually unknown and neither of us was brave enough to ask a jeweler or a doctor to pierce my ears, so she pierced them for me using the ice cube and needle technique that was popular back then. That was a very exciting and emotional day for me. I knew that from that day forward whether I was wearing earrings or not I would always have those little holes in my ears proclaiming my feminine persona…I continued to cover my holes with makeup for several years until men with pierced ears became more common…Now that I am retired I wear earrings most all the time…In the days before the Internet I thought I was the only man who had a fetish for pierced ears and earrings, but now with [online forums] such as this I find there are a good number of men who enjoy wearing earrings”.
  • Extract 3.3: I’m a woman and I love earrings in my ears. I easily get aroused if my earrings are [on] and someone is tugging on my ears. I thought I was the only person in the world to have this fetish. Yes I said fetish because that’s what mine is I can actually have an orgasm by pulling lightly and or tugging on my own ears. I realized I can get aroused when I was going through puberty at the age of 12…Now I’m 40 now…I also love to play with people’s ears and pull their earrings too! I can actually make myself climax by playing with my ears as long as earrings are in them…I love the way it makes me tingle. I climax all day long just by tugging on my ears… ummmmm, what a feeling”.
  • Extract 3.4: “The fascination or obsession with earrings and especially the holes required to wear them is rare but not at all unheard of! I had the obsession from a very early age…I’ve been chatting a handful of different people [and] shared opinions on the subject…We’re all freakishly similar in the way we’re fascinated or obsessed with the subject. Of course everyone I met who felt like this were guys… I don’t think any women…developed any kind of obsession about this because they don’t have to…They can just go and have their ears pierced and wear all the ear jewelry they like and nobody will find it strange”.
  1. First-person accounts of earlobe fetishes
  • Extract 4.1: I have an earlobe fetish…I have a fetish for big earlobes. Is it normal or weird?…It excites me to much. I like big earlobes and to see [them in] slow motion [on] video”
  • Extract 4.2: “I have very strong ear fetish for my wife of 6 months, she has the most beautiful ear lobes and ears…delicate, soft and very pretty ear holes…I initiated ear play with her by first few months by kissing, licking and sucking on her soft ear lobes, and found that she liked them and would start to moan…she had some wax [in her ears] and the taste I cannot describe in words but found very likable. This experience for both of us was very exciting. I got very hard on and she became very wet. I am glad that she found the experience an enjoyable one”.
  • Extract 4.3: “I think I may have an ear lobe fetish. I always notice girls [with] short hair or hair in a ponytail immediately.  It just occurred to me that I have been this way for a long time. Fetish or just a quirk?”
  • Extract 4.4: Ears: my strange fixation. Yep! Ears. So I have an ear fetish…I refuse to let my ear fetish embarrass me…To be honest, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t notice ears…I guess I should clarify that I never intentionally went around playing with random peoples ears. If I felt your ears, I knew you really well…maybe a close friend or two, having to endure me during movies and such, absent mindedly reaching over and starting to flick their ears. I tried to tell them it was all in affection. I have never really convinced them of that…I have no clue what it is about ears that attracts me so. Big, little, sticky-out, large lobed, no lobed, soft curly baby ears (especially those), pointy looking ears, normal ears, unusual ears. I notice them all”.
  1. First-person accounts of ear lobe gauge fetishes
  • Extract 5.1: “[I’ve got a] earlobe fetish. Specifically with the ones the wear gauges. This is why people stretch the holes so big”.
  • Extract 5.2: Does anyone ever have ear lobe sex? Like if your partner had big gauges in their ears. Would you put your penis in?”
  • Extract 5.3: “So my boyfriend always says to me ‘why don’t I ever suck on his earlobe…this seems so weird to me…I mean we do stuff so it’s not like I’m being prude but I don’t really know what he means”.

Obviously I have no idea whether all of these confessions and stories are truthful (although I have no reason to suspect not), and I have no idea how representative these accounts are. However, taken as a whole, a number of tentative conclusions can be made. Firstly, there is a wide variety as to what the arousing factor is and can be concerned with either the shape or size of the ear, a particular part of the ear, and/or something that adorns the ear. Secondly, some of the fetishes may be subtypes of other fetishes (e.g., piercing fetishes) rather than being a true body part fetish. Thirdly, most of the fetishes appear to involve heterosexuals (although one account did mention being aroused by ears from someone of the same sex) and can be experienced by both men and women. Finally, there appear to be other by-products of sexual ear play that may also be arousing (e.g., the taste of earwax).

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Arthur, C. (1997). The truth about love: It’s all just lust and earlobes. The Independent, February 16. Located at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/the-truth-about-love-its-all-just-lust-and-earlobes-1278832.html

Paget, L. (2002). The Big O: How to Have Them, Give Them, and Keep Them Coming. Piatkus.

Wikipedia (2015). Erogenous zone. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erogenous_zone

Bought in the act: How prevalent is compulsive buying?

Although shopping is a necessity in modern life, it is also a leisure activity and a form of entertainment with a rewarding value for some people. However, as I have noted in a number of my previous blogs, when taken to the extreme, shopping (or buying) can be a harmful and destructive activity for a minority of individuals. The consequences of compulsive buying behaviour (CBB) are often underestimated.

For instance, CBB can result in (i) large debts, (ii) inability to meet payments, (iii) criticism from partners, friends and acquaintances, (iv) legal and financial consequences, (v) criminal legal problems, and (vi) guilt. Furthermore, individuals with CBB often describe an increasing level of urge or anxiety that can only be alleviated and lead to a sense of completion when a purchase is made. Research has demonstrated that compulsive buying is a frequent disorder in a small minority of shopping mall visitors and is associated with important and robust indicators of psychopathology such as psychiatric distress, borderline personality disorder, and substance abuse. Compared to non-compulsive buyers, compulsive buyers are over twice as likely to abuse substances, have any mood or anxiety disorder, and three times more likely to develop eating disorder than non-compulsive buyers. However, most of these findings are based on a small number of studies, all of which have sampling limitations.

Despite many studies highlighting the severe negative consequences that compulsive buying can lead to, the latest (fifth) edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) did not include compulsive buying disorder due to insufficient research in the field. Therefore, individuals with the condition are classified within the residual category of “Unspecified disruptive, impulse-control, and conduct disorders”. Diagnostic criteria elsewhere include (i) maladaptive preoccupation with buying or shopping, or maladaptive buying or shopping impulses; (ii) generation of marked distress by the buying preoccupations, impulses or behaviours, which are time consuming, significantly interfere with social or occupational functioning or result in financial problems; and (iii) lack of restriction of the excessive buying or shopping behaviour to periods of hypomania or mania.

The age of onset for CBB appears to be in the late teens or early twenties, although some studies have reported a later mean age of 30 years. There is also a lack of consensus relating to gender differences. Most clinical studies report that women are much more likely to become compulsive buyers than men, but not all surveys have found significant differences in buying tendencies between men and women. Cultural mechanisms have been proposed to recognize the fact that CBB mainly occurs among individuals living in developed countries. Elements reported as being necessary for the development of CBB include the presence of a market-based economy, the availability of a wide variety of goods, disposable income, and significant leisure time. For these reasons, most working in the area agree that CBB is unlikely to occur in poorly developed countries, except among the wealthy elite.

Given this background, Aniko Maraz, Zsolt Demetrovics and I recently carried out a meta-analytic review that was published in the journal Addiction using all the empirical data concerning the prevalence of compulsive buying in non-clinical populations. We attempted to estimate a pooled prevalence of compulsive buying behaviour (CBB) in different populations across the world where studies have been carried out. We also examined the effect of age, gender, geographical location of the study.

Our initial literature search identified 638 publications. We then excluded case studies (n=23), reviews or theoretical works (n=192), studies involving data from clinical samples (n=244), qualitative studies (n=26), studies that used a compulsive buying scale to determine shopping severity but didn’t report a prevalence rate (n=73), studies written in a foreign language (n=15), dissertations and conference abstracts (n=7), studies written in a foreign language (n=15), small studies with a sample size of below 145 participants (n=16), and studies involving adolescents (n=2). This left 40 studies that met the inclusion criteria for the review. We then extracted sample mean age, proportion of females (in %), the study’s geographical location, and the screening instrument used to assess CBB, and the reported prevalence estimate of CBB.

The 40 relevant studies identified reported 49 different prevalence rate estimates for 32,333 participants. We then divided the data into four sub-samples: adult representative, adult non-representative, university student and shopping-specific. The mean prevalence of compulsive buying was 4.9% in adult representative samples [10,102 participants], 12.3% in adult non-representative samples [3,929 participants], 8.3% in university student samples [14,947 participants] and 16.2% in shopping-specific samples [4,686 participants]. Unsurprisingly, the highest prevalence rates were among shopping-specific samples.

We noted that the heterogeneity in prevalence rates of CBB may be because of the lack of consensus regarding the definition of compulsive buying. Studies used different measures to assess CBB, each having a different conceptual background. Most definitions include cognitive-affective indicators as well as maladaptive behavioural consequences when defining the disorder (e.g., debts). The screening instruments used across studies differed in indicators of financial consequences (e.g., credit card use, debts, loan etc.) and are subject to differences according to countries, sub-cultures and/or age groups.

Another problem we identified was that measures used to assess CBB didn’t explicitly distinguish current and lifetime assessment of CBB. Prevalence rates assessed with an instrument that assessed lifetime prevalence report 1.6 times higher rates on average than those that assessed current prevalence. We also observed that non-representative samples (e.g., adults, university students, shoppers) tended to recruit younger participants who were more likely to be female than representative studies. However, we also noted that the mean age of the sample and the proportion of males and females did not have a reliable effect on the prevalence estimates.

Being of a younger age was predictive of CBB according to individual study results and also according to the regression analysis that we carried out in the representative samples. However, it remains open as to whether compulsive buying tendency decreases with age or this difference reflects generational differences. If the latter was the case, then the prevalence of compulsive buying behaviour is expected to increase in the future. We also found some evidence for increasing rates of CBB in Germany and in Spain, but longitudinal studies are needed to clarify this.

In relation to data collection, estimates from the United States (18 out of 49) were over-represented compared to countries other than the USA, although there was no difference in the reported estimates between the U.S. and non-U.S. countries. However, it is difficult to draw reliable conclusions regarding the cultural variance of CBB given that adult representative estimates are only available from the USA, Spain, Germany and Hungary.

The fact that compulsive buying behaviour is a relatively common disorder with severe consequences for a minority of individuals should not be overlooked. It appears that approximately one in 20 individuals suffer from CBB at some point in their lives and that being young and female are associated with a higher risk of CBB. High heterogeneity is likely to be the result of methodological variability within studies, such as assessment screens with different time frames and conceptual background. We concluded that future studies should therefore think carefully about how to conceptualise the disorder and to clearly separate out current versus lifetime prevalence in the samples used.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Please note : This article was co-written with Aniko Maraz and Zsolt Demetrovics (Institute of Psychology, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary)

Further reading

Alemis, M. C., & Yap, K. (2013). The role of negative urgency impulsivity and financial management practices in compulsive buying. Australian Journal of Psychology, 65(4), 224-231.

Andreassen, C.S., Griffiths, M.D., Pallesen, S., Bilder, R.M., Torsheim, T. Aboujaoude, E.N. (2015). The Bergen Shopping Addiction Scale: Reliability and validity of a brief screening test. Frontiers in Psychology, 6:1374. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01374.

Basu, B., Basu, S., & Basu, J. (2011). Compulsive buying: an overlooked entity. Journal of the Indian Medical Association, 109(8), 582-585.

Black, D.W., Shaw, M., McCormick, B., Bayless, J.D., Allena, J. (2012). Neuropsychological performance, impulsivity, ADHD symptoms, and novelty seeking in compulsive buying disorder. Psychiatry Research, 200, 581–587.

Black, D. W. (2007). A review of compulsive buying disorder. World Psychiatry, 6, 14-18.

Davenport, K., Houston, J.E., Griffiths, M.D. (2012). Excessive eating and compulsive buying behaviours in women: An empirical pilot study examining reward sensitivity, anxiety, impulsivity, self-esteem and social desirability. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 10, 474–489.

Dittmar, H., Long, K. & Bond, R. (2007). When a better self is only a button click away: Associations between materialistic values, emotional and identity-related buying motives, and compulsive buying tendency online. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 26, 334-361.

Duroy, D., Gorse, P., & Lejoyeux, M. (2014). Characteristics of online compulsive buying in Parisian students. Addictive Behaviors, 39, 1827-1830.

Frost, R.A., Tolin, D.F., Steketee, G., Fitch, K.E., Selbo-Bruns, A. (2009). Excessive acquisition in hoarding, Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 23, 632-639.

Guo, Z., Cai, Y. (2011). Exploring the antecedents of compulsive buying tendency among adolescents in China and Thailand: A consumer socialization perspective. African Journal of Business Management, 5(24), 10198-10209.

Harvanko, A., Lust, K., Odlaug, B. L., Schreiber, L., Derbyshire, K., Christenson, G., & Grant, J. E. (2013). Prevalence and characteristics of compulsive buying in college students. Psychiatry Research, 210(3), 1079-1085.

Jung, J., & Yi, S. (2013). Assessment of heterogeneity of compulsive buyers based on affective antecedents of buying lapses. Addiction Research and Theory, 22, 37-48.

Koran, L.M., Faber, R.J., Aboujaoude, M.A., Large, M.D., Serpe, R.T. (2006). Estimated prevalence of compulsive buying behavior in the United States. American Journal of Psychiatry, 163, 1806-1812.

Kukar-Kinney, M., Ridgway, N. M., & Monroe, K. B. (2012). The role of price in the behavior and purchase decisions of compulsive buyers. Journal of Retailing, 88(1), 63-71.

Lejoyeux, M., Weinstein, A. (2010). Compulsive buying. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 36 (5), 248–253.

Maraz, A., Griffiths, M. D., Demetrovics, Z. (2015). The prevalence of compulsive buying in nonclinical populations: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Addiction, doi:10.1111/add.13223.

Mikołajczak-Degrauwe, K., & Brengman, M. (2014). The influence of advertising on compulsive buying – The role of persuasion knowledge. Journal of Behavioral Addictions3(1), 65–73.

Mueller, A., Mitchell, J. E., Peterson, L. A., Faber, R. J., Steffen, K. J., Crosby, R. D., & Claes, L. (2011). Depression, materialism, and excessive Internet use in relation to compulsive buying. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 52(4), 420-424.

Tommasi, M., & Busonera, A. (2012). Validation of three compulsive buying scales on an Italian sample 1. Psychological Reports, 111(3), 831-844.

Weinstein, A., Maraz, A., Griffiths, M.D., Lejoyeaux, M. & Demetrovics, Z. (in press). Shopping addiction and compulsive buying: Features and characteristics of addiction. In V. Preedy (Ed.), The Neuropathology Of Drug Addictions And Substance Misuse. London: Academic Press.

Musical flares: Bowie, The Beatles, psychology, songs, and addiction

It’s been only two weeks since David Bowie’s untimely death and the Bowie obsessive in me is still finding it difficult to accept. I have never been more upset by the death of someone that I didn’t know personally. The only other celebrity death that left me with such an empty feeling was that of John Lennon back in December 1980. I was only 14 years old but I remember waking up to the news on that Tuesday morning (December 9, the morning after he had been shot in New York by Mark David Chapman). I went to school that day with a feeling I had never experienced before and I got it again two weeks ago when Bowie (co-incidentally) died in New York.

Bowie and The Beatles (and Lennon in particular) are arguably the two biggest musical influences on my life. With my interest in addictive behaviours, Bowie and Lennon are just two of the many celebrities that have succumbed to substance abuse and addiction over the years (and was a topic I covered in a previous blog – ‘Excess in success: Are celebrities more prone to addiction?’). Thankfully, neither of their addictions was that long-lasting, and neither of them wrote that many songs about their drug-fuelled experiences (although Lennon’s ‘Cold Turkey’ about his heroin addiction is a notable exception).

Lennon was arguably one of Bowie’s musical heroes although Bowie’s 1973 covers LP Pin-Ups was notable for the absence of Beatle covers. By 1973, Bowie had covered songs by The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Pink Floyd, The Pretty Things, and The Who on vinyl but never The Beatles. Having said that, two Beatle songs did play a small part in his concerts between 1972 and 1974. Most notably, The Beatles very first British single ‘Love Me Do’ was often played as a medley with ‘The Jean Genie’. (On the 1990 Sound and Vision Tour, a snippet of ‘A Hard Day’s Night‘ was also sometimes incorporated into ‘The Jean Genie’. He also sang a snippet of ‘With A Little Help From My Friends‘ in the encore of his final concert in 1978). Bowie also occasionally covered ‘This Boy’ (the b-side of ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, their fifth British hit single in his concerts) as part of the early ‘Ziggy Stardust’ shows. (I’m probably one of the few people in the world that has this song on bootleg). Speaking of bootlegs, the Chameleon Chronicles CD featured a cover of the 1967 single ‘Penny Lane‘ allegedly by Bowie along with The Monkees song ‘A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You’ (written by Neil Diamond). Although these songs sound like 1960s Bowie, they were actually from a 1967 LP (Hits ’67) and sung by session singer (Tony Steven). Nicholas Pegg (in his great book The Complete David Bowie) also noted that Bowie’s late 1960s group Feathers included ‘Strawberry Fields Forever‘ in their live set and that Bowie performed ‘When I’m Sixty-Four‘ in his 1968 live cabaret show after his own song ‘When I’m Five‘).

It was in 1975 that Bowie worked with Lennon musically, and Lennon appeared on two songs of Bowie’s 1975 LP Young Americans (although Bowie gave Lennon a name check in his 1971 song ‘Life On Mars‘ – “Now the workers have struck for fame/’Cause Lennon’s on sale again”). The most well-known was ‘Fame’ (one of my own personal favoutrites) which went to No.1 in the US chart (but only No.17 here in the UK) and had a Bowie co-writing credit with Lennon (along with Bowie’s guitarist Carlos Alomar). Lennon was apparently reluctant to be acknowledged as co-writer but Bowie insisted (probably just to say he had a ‘Bowie/Lennon’ song in his canon and maybe because he was a little starstruck). The song should arguably include other co-writers as the riff was based on the song ‘Foot Stompin’’ (also covered by Bowie) by the doo-wop band The Flares (sometime referred to as The Flairs). Lennon also played on a version of The Beatles’ song ‘Across The Universe’ but was arguably the weakest song on the LP. It’s also worth mentioning that the title track also included a line – and tune –  from The Beatles ‘A Day In The Life‘ (“I heard the news today, oh boy”). Bowie and Lennon were also photographed together at the 1975 US Grammy Awards (where Bowie presented the award for the best ‘rhythm and blues’ performance by a female vocalist Aretha Franklin). This was around the height of Bowie’s cocaine addiction and he subsequently went in to say that he has no recollection of being there at all. In the same year, Bowie also appeared on singer Cher‘s US television show and sang a medley of songs that included ‘Young Americans‘ and The Beatles ‘Day Tripper‘.

Like millions of people around the world (including myself), Lennon’s death in 1980 hit Bowie hard. Not only had he lost a good friend, but he began to think of his own mortality and how easy it would be for a crazed fan to kill him in some kind of copycat assassination. At the time, Bowie was receiving rave reviews for his portrayal of Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man on Broadway. (I’ve always been interested in The Elephant Man as I may even be a distant relation as my grandmother was a Merrick). He soon stepped down from the role and went into ‘semi-retirement’ before re-emerging in 1983 with his biggest selling single and album Let’s Dance.

Since Lennon’s death, Bowie has covered three Lennon solo tracks (‘Imagine’, ‘Mother’, and ‘Working Class Hero’). He sang ‘Imagine’ at a concert in Hong Kong (December 8, 1983) three years to the day since Lennon had been shot (a soundboard recording of which appears on a number of different Bowie bootlegs). In 1989, Bowie recorded the first of two Lennon songs taken from Lennon’s most psychologically inspired album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970) written while undergoing primal therapy (see my previous blog for an overview on primal therapy in music). The first was ‘Working Class Hero’ for the 1989 ill-fated album Tin Machine (often voted one of Bowie’s worst cover versions by fans). The second track he recorded was ‘Mother’ (in 1998) for a John Lennon tribute album that Lennon’s widow (Yoko Ono) was putting together. Unfortunately, the album was never released but in 2006 it was leaked on the internet and has now appeared on many Bowie bootlegs. Although Bowie and Lennon never collaborated musically again, they remained close friends until Lennon’s death.

As far as I am aware, the only other Beatle-related song that Bowie has ever recorded was ‘Try Some, Buy Some’ that appeared on George Harrison’s 1973 LP Living In The Material World. Bowie covered the song for his 2003 album Reality, and although this was recorded not long after Harrison’s death from throat cancer, Bowie claimed that he thought it was Ronnie Spector’s song (ex-lead singer of The Ronettes), as she was the first artist to record in 1971. It was also claimed by German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (26 January 2013) that Bowie’s 2001 song from Heathen, ‘Everyone Says ‘Hi’’ was a tribute to Harrison but I have yet to see this conformed by anyone within the Bowie camp. Harrison met Bowie in Memphis during his 1974 Dark Horse tour. In a 1974 interview to a New York radio station, Harrison said:

“I just met David Bowie [during the Dark Horse Tour]…David Bowie, these were my very words, and I hope he wasn’t offended by it because all I really meant was what I said. I pulled his hat up from over his eyes and said: ‘Hi, man, how are you, nice to meet you,’ pulled his hat up and said, you know, ‘Do you mind if I have a look at you, to see what you are because I’ve only ever seen those dopey pictures of you.’ I mean, every picture I’ve ever seen of David Bowie, or Elton John, they just look stupid to me…I want to see, you know, who the person is”.

It wasn’t until 1974 that Bowie and Lennon first met each other at a Hollywood party hosted by actress Elizabeth Taylor. Lennon was with his girlfriend May Pang at the time (during his 18-month separation from Yoko). According to Pang, Bowie and Lennon “hit it off instantly” and kept in touch. When John went back to Yoko, Pang remained friends with Bowie and eventually married Tony Visconti, Bowie’s long-time record producer.

One of the more interesting articles on the relationship between Bowie and The Beatles was by Peter Doggett – author of books on both artists. In a 2011 blog he noted:

“I was struck during the research of [my book ‘The Man Who Sold The World’] by the influence that the Beatles had on Bowie’s work in the 70s. Some of that influence is obvious – the McCartney-inspired piano styling of ‘Oh! You Pretty Things‘, for example. As early as 1965, in an obscure song entitled ‘That’s Where My Heart Is’, Bowie sounded as if he was learning how to write songs by listening to [The Beatles second 1963 album] ‘With The Beatles’…in the book I talk about the apparent Fab Four influence on ‘Blackout‘ from the ‘Heroes‘ LP. But the single most dramatic role played by the Beatles in Bowie’s 70s work was exerted by John Lennon’s ‘Plastic Ono Band’ album. You can hear a touch of Lennon in the way Bowie sings ‘Space Oddity’ in 1969; some Beatles-inspired backing vocals on ‘Star’ from the Ziggy Stardust album; and, of course, yer actual Lennon voice and guitar on Bowie’s cover of ‘Across The Universe’ and his hit single ‘Fame’. All of which made me wish that Bowie had made a whole album (1980’s Scary Monsters, perhaps) in similar vein. So I was intrigued to learn from Bowie fan Martyn Mitchell that guitarist Adrian Belew recalled working on a whole set of Plastic Ono Band-inspired tracks with Bowie around this period, but that Bowie never completed or issued them. Perhaps he was hoping that he might persuade Lennon himself to join him in the studio – until fate, and a madman, intervened”.

Following Bowie’s death, the remaining Beatles (Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr) both played tribute to Bowie’s genius. Ringo (who appeared in the Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars movie filmed in 1973 and released 1983) tweeted a short message, while McCartney’s message was a little more heartfelt:

“Very sad news to wake up to on this raining morning. David was a great star and I treasure the moments we had together. His music played a very strong part in British musical history and I’m proud to think of the huge influence he has had on people all around the world. I send my deepest sympathies to his family and will always remember the great laughs we had through the years. His star will shine in the sky forever”.

As far as I am aware, Bowie only met McCartney a few times in his life most notably at the July 1973 premiere of the James Bond film Live and Let Die (with McCartney writing the theme song), and at the Live Aid concert in 1985 (where Bowie was on of the backing singers as McCartney performed ‘Let It Be’). Yoko movingly described Bowie as a “father figure” to their son Sean Lennon following Lennon’s death:

“John and David respected each other. They were well matched in intellect and talent. As John and I had very few friends, we felt David was as close as family. After John died, David was always there for Sean and me. When Sean was at boarding school in Switzerland, David would pick him up and take him on trips to museums and let Sean hang out at his recording studio in Geneva. For Sean, this is losing another father figure. It will be hard for him, I know. But we have some sweet memories which will stay with us forever”.

It could perhaps be argued that Bowie and Lennon were cut from the same psychosocial cloth. They both had middle class backgrounds and had many of the same musical heroes (Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Elvis Presley being the most salient – Bowie sharing Presley’s birthday on January 8). They were both interested in the arts more generally and they were both singers, songwriters, artists, and writers (to a greater or lesser extent). Although Lennon rarely engaged in acting, he always appeared at ease in front of the camera. They both knew how to use the media for their own artistic advantage. In short, there’s a lot that psychologists can learn from both of them.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Buckley, D. (2005). Strange Fascination: David Bowie – The Definitive Story. London: Virgin Books.

Doggett, P. (2009). The Art and Music of John Lennon. London: Omnibus Press.

Doggett, P. (2012). The Man Who Sold The World: David Bowie and the 1970s. London: Vintage.

Goddard, S. (2015). Ziggyology. London: Ebury Press.

Leigh, W. (2014). Bowie: The Biography. London: Gallery.

Pegg, N. (2011). The Complete David Bowie. London: Titan Books.

Seabrook, T.J. (2008). Bowie In Berlin: A New Career In A New Town. London: Jawbone.

Spitz, M. (2009). Bowie: A Biography. Crown Archetype.

Trynka, P. (2011). Starman: David Bowie – The Definitive Biography. London: Little Brown & Company.

Handy crafts: A brief look at fingernail fetishes

The one thing about sexual fetishes that always amazes me is how specific some people’s sexual likes and interests are. One such fetish is fingernail fetish. According to Dr. Ellen McCallum’s book Object Lessons: How to Do Things With Fetishism, this fetish is a specific sub-type of hand fetishism (as other sub-types include finger fetishism and palm fetishism or include non-sexual specific actions done by the hands such as washing up or drying the dishes). According to the Wikipedia entry on hand fetishism, “this fetish may manifest itself as a desire to experience physical interaction, or as a source of sexual fantasy”. A quick look online suggests that the fetish exists as there are various dedicated websites catering for all sexual fingernail needs such as the Fingernail Fetish website (“a collection of soft-core image galleries and video catering to 
those with a long-nail fetish”) and the one run by the Pinterest website.

Fingernail fetishes are certainly referenced by leading academics and clinicians in the sexology field although most of the references to it point out its existence but give little information with respect to incidence, prevalence, or etiological development. For instance, the Austrian psychologist Dr. Wilhelm Stekel in his 1952 book Sexual Aberrations: The Phenomena of Fetishism in Relation to Sex noted:

“The true fetish lover dispenses with a sexual partner and gratifies himself with a symbol. This symbol can be represented by a piece of clothing, a part of the partner’s body (pubic hair, nails braid or pigtail) or any object used by the other person”.

Similarly, Dr. Martin Kafka in one of his many papers in the Archives of Sexual Behavior on sexual fetishism also made reference to the fetishization of fingernails without giving any detail:

“Fetishes tend to be articles of clothing, such as female undergarments, shoes and boots, or, more rarely, parts of the body such as hair or nails. Technically, hair and nails are body products but they are also ‘’non-living objects’ consistent with the DSM-III definition of fetishism. Feet, hands, or other typically non-sexualized parts of the body are not ‘non-living objects,’ however, and there was no diagnostic entity offered in DSM- III to account for persons whose fetishism-like clinical disorder was delimited by an exclusive focus on non-sexual body parts, such as hands or feet…As was noted in DSM-III, body products, such as hair or fingernails, can become obligatory fetish objects”.

Having carried out an extensive literature search on academic databases, the only case of fingernail fetishism that I was able to locate was a 1972 paper in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, by Dr. Austin McSweeny who successfully treated a young male fingernail fetishist using hypnosis. I also came across a 2001 Spanish paper written by Dr. Jaime Tabares that the title translated as “Fetish perversion: From pathological mourning to alienating manic identification” and published in Revista de Psicoanalisis de la Asociacion Psicoanalitica de Madrid. The paper discussed the case of a 24-year Spanish male and the role of depression, paranoid anxiety, and pathological mourning in the development of masculine perversion and fetishism. The only reason I mention this paper is that the author mentioned that one of the fetishes (along with his masochistic fantasies) was for painted nails.

Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices) reported a truly bizarre case involving necrophilia and fingernails. Citing from a 1963 book by Dr. R. Masters and Dr. A. Lea (Perverse Crimes in History: Evolving Concepts of Sadism, Lust-Murder, and Necrophilia – From Ancient to Modern Times.), Aggrawal briefly described the case of a man who derived his sexual gratification from eating the nail trimmings of corpses. I have no idea if this would count as a genuine case of fingernail fetishism, but it’s certainly a case of someone who was gained sexual gratification from fingernails (albeit from dead people).

In a previous blog on fetishism, I wrote at length about a study led by Dr G. Scorolli (University of Bologna, Italy) on the relative prevalence of different fetishes using online fetish form data. It was estimated (very conservatively in the authors’ opinion), that their sample size comprised at least 5000 fetishists (but was likely to be a lot more). They devised a scheme whereby a person’s sexual preference could be assigned to one or more of three particular categories (fetishes for particular body parts, fetishes for particular objects, and/or fetishes for different behaviours. Scorrolli and colleagues said: “these were further subdivided to describe, in broad terms preferences for (the examples in parentheses come from our data)” and one of these specifically gave the example of fingernails (in this case, a sexual fetish for the biting of fingernails):

  • A part or feature of the body (e.g., feet or overweight individuals), including body modifications (e.g., tattoos).
  • An object usually experienced in association with the body (e.g., shoes or headphones).
  • An object not usually associated with the body (e.g., dirty dishes, candles).
  • An event involving only inanimate objects (they found no examples).
  • A person’s own behavior (e.g., biting fingernails).
  • A behavior of other persons (e.g., smoking or fighting).
  • A behavior or situation requiring an interaction with others (e.g., domination or humiliation role play).

They reported that some of the sites featured references to nail fetishes comprising a total of 669 group members. This accounted for less than 1% of all fetish site members. I would also add that having read the paper and examined some of the sites given, I’m not convinced that all of these were fingernail fetishists as some of the fetish websites found (like ‘Bed of Nails’) may be sadomasochistic sites where the sexual focus is nails that are hammered rather than nails on the hand.

In my research for this article, I also came across lots of self-confessed fingernail fetishists. Here are a few examples:

  • Extract 1: “I am trying to get out more and understand why my fetish for long nails is big for me. Well it all started when I was 5 years old as a little kid. I was getting babysit by my cousin’s girlfriend and well you know she had nice long natural nails about 1 inch, inch and half, and she always was filing them, round and a little pointy too, and painting them. I used to watch and get hypnotized by that. So one day she was watching her soap operas…I decided to get up and change the channel…She warned me if I changed the channel again, I would know what her long nails are for. So she came to me I ran and hid, after I came back in the living room she surprised me from behind with one of the hardest pinches I ever experienced in my entire life… I almost felt paralysed by that pain, and after that she scratched me, hard enough to cry and it hurt. But a few days after that she tried to scratch me again when she came, and all of a sudden I was getting aroused, so she said ‘I wont hurt you this time, but I would love to be able to scratch you if you let me’. So I let her, and she started very slowly and increased the pressure as time went by, it was getting to be a new experience for me, We had set little rules and boundaries to stick by too. So she would only scratch till I got red, and if I bled…I agreed to that [be]cause she loved to scratch hard and be rough, so she had to see a little blood to be satisfied I guess. [Now] you now know how my long nails fetish got started and was born” (JayG).
  • Extract 2: I definitely became aware of my fetish around 5 or 6 [years old] when I started to become aroused and curious to what the nails must feel like on my skin…A few years later it became more weird when I started to have scratching fantasies before going to sleep giving me my first wave of self-induced erections. Nobody who doesn’t have a fetish like this gets turned on like that at such a young age. It must be highly abnormal. But we ARE freaks of nature I guess” (Saba).
  • Extract 3: “My nail fascination also began when I was quite young, but I most certainly was not physically sexually arousable at the age of 5 [years] by the sight or feel of nails. …Those early encounters I sometimes catch myself re-writing my own history with respect to the arousal part, because it’s hard to imagine myself not being physically aroused by nails, but in reality, I wasn’t, not physically. Nails didn’t do ‘that’ to me until I properly began puberty. What I felt at 5 was the excitement of the danger that nails posed (girls of 5 used their nails as weapons, I had no inkling they could also be instruments of pleasure), and certainly a heightened awareness of the differences between the genders. Even before I knew girls had different genitalia, I recognised they were meant to have long nails and we were not” (Scott).
  • Extract 4: I was around 5 or 6 (years old] is when I got fascinated by girls and women’s nails. This was way back about 55 years ago. I don’t remember seeing [long] nails…until I was 12 or 13. But if a girl had nails, she usually had them as a means of protecting herself. And hard pinching was the preferred technique. And some of the girls were very effective. I remember one girl whose nails weren’t that long, but were filed to a point. Another girl stopped cutting her nails when she was 12. I only saw her once after that time, but most of her nails must have been around 1/2 inch long, and she knew how to use them and she had a real mean streak. I guess there has always been something fascinating about a girl who might be smaller and weaker than any of the boys, but could put real fear into them. Also the thought always occurred that if the young girls could cause so much pain with their relatively short nails, what could an adult woman with much longer nails do to someone?” (MJ2)
  • Extract 5: “I’ve got something with me that started out fun, but has turned into a problem. I’ve got a fetish for long nails. They turn me on so much. First when I was younger it was fun, I’d look at pics every now and then and get off to them. Now it’s turned into a 3 o 4 times a day thing. It’s really annoying. I feel like I’m in bondage to this. My goal is to quit masturbating all together cause I feel as though it’s holding me back spiritually. But everywhere I look I see long nails on women and I get so turned on. I’m having a hard time battling this” (SececaRD)

These are just a few of the many I have come across. There are a number of similarities in the first four extracts (which may be because they all come from the same online forum. The fetish appears to have begun in early childhood, and appears to have developed through associative pairing (i.e., classical conditioning). What’s more, there appears to be a sexually masochistic tendency among those who have the fetish. The final extract comes from a different person who unlike the other fetishists wants to eradicate his fetish. Most fingernail fetishist accounts that I read were happy living with their preferred fetish. This is certainly an area where the amount of clinical and academic research is limited and I can’t see further papers being published except from a treatment perspective should such a fetishist want to eliminate their sexual desire for fingernails.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Kafka, M. (2010). The DSM diagnostic criteria for fetishism. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 357-362.

Masters, R.E.L & Lea A.E.E. (1963). Perverse Crimes in History: Evolving Concepts of Sadism, Lust-Murder, and Necrophilia – From Ancient to Modern Times. New York: The Julian Press.

McCallum. E.L. (1998.) Object Lessons: How to Do Things With Fetishism. New York: State University of New York Press.

McSweeny, A.J. (1972). Fetishism: Report of a case treated with hypnosis. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 15, 139-143.

Scorolli, C., Ghirlanda, S., Enquist, M., Zattoni, S. & Jannini, E.A. (2007). Relative prevalence of different fetishes. International Journal of Impotence Research, 19, 432-437.

Stekel, W. (1952). Sexual Aberrations: The Phenomena of Fetishism in Relation to Sex (Vol. 1) (Trans., S. Parker). New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation.

Tabares, J. (2001). La perversion fetichista: Del duelo patologico a la identification maniaca alienante. Revista de Psicoanalisis de la Asociacion Psicoanalitica de Madrid, 36, 55-78.

Wikipedia (2102). Hand fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hand_fetishism

Tech it or leave it: Excessive email use and how to curb it

If there is a single behaviour in my life that borders on the pathological, it is the urge I feel to log on and check my emails. When I have no email access (such as when I am on a plane or am on holiday staying at a foreign beachside villa with no Wi-Fi) I function perfectly well but as soon as I know there is a Wi-Fi connection, the first thing I typically do is check my emails. It’s like an itch that I have to scratch. Given that the vast majority of my emails are work-related I don’t necessarily see this as problematic (as I love my work) but it does admittedly facilitate my workaholic tendencies. The psychology and psychosocial impact of email use is also an area that I have published a few articles and book chapters on (see ‘Further reading’ below).

The reason I mention all this is that earlier this month, many of the British newspapers featured a story about how turning off automatic emails helps reduce stress levels. The survey study of just under 2,000 individuals was carried out by psychologists at the Future Work Centre (FWC) and examined the impact of ‘email pressure’ on individuals’ work-life balance. The report noted that there were “2.5 billion email users worldwide, and adults spent an average of over an hour of each day on emails, according to Radicati and Ofcom”. The FWC’s main findings (which I have taken verbatim from the report) highlighted:

  • A strong relationship between using ‘push’ email and perceived email pressure. This means that people who automatically receive email on their devices were more likely to report higher perceived email pressure.
  • People who leave their email on all day were much more likely to report perceived email pressure.
  • Checking email earlier in the morning or later at night is associated with higher levels of perceived email pressure.
  • Managers experience significantly higher levels of perceived email pressure when compared to non-managers.
  • Higher email pressure was associated with more examples of work negatively impacting home life and home life negatively impacting performance at work.
  • Perceived email pressure is significantly higher in people with caring responsibilities. This finding is probably less of a surprise, as the work-life balance research literature is full of examples citing the challenges facing carers when it comes to navigating the boundaries between work and home. Interestingly, our data didn’t reveal any significant differences between people with different caring responsibilities. It seems that just having these responsibilities is associated with significantly higher email pressure.
  • Personality appears to moderate the relationship between perceived email pressure and work-life balance. People who rate their own ability and sense of control over their environment lower find that work interferes more with their home life, and vice versa.

Clearly the benefits of email outweigh the disadvantages but as the FWC report noted, emails are a “double-edged sword” in that that they are clearly a useful communication tool but can be a source of stress. The report concluded that:

“[The results of the study] link perceptions of email pressure to actual work-life balance outcomes, not just perceptions of work-life balance. But that’s not the end of the story. Whilst we’ve identified the external factors that affect our perceived email pressure and explored the relationship between perceived email pressure and work-life balance, there’s another variable we should consider in order to increase our understanding of an individual’s experience of email – personality…Personality moderates the relationship between perceived email pressure and all work-life balance outcomes. It shows that people with low core self-evaluation experience more interference, both positive and negative, between their work and home lives – i.e. they are more sensitive to how the two domains – work and home – affect each other. This could be due to how people with low core self-evaluation make sense of their world. People with high core self-evaluation don’t see these things as happening to them – they can take control and set boundaries”.

The report also provided some tips to combat email stress many of which can be found in other articles examining the topic. For instance, back in 2004, I published my own set of tips in the British Medical Journal (not that I follow my own advice based on what I said in the opening paragraph of this article). However, I’ll end this blog with my (hopefully) common-sense and practical advice:

  • Set retrieval limits: Limit email retrieval to a few times per day (say when you first get in, lunchtime, and/or just before you leave work). You will spend less time both reading and responding to each email than if you had read them when they individually came in.
  • Turn off instant messaging system: There is a tendency to look at emails straight away if the instant messaging system is turned on. This is only helpful when you are expecting a message.
  • Get a good spam filter: There is nothing worse than an inbox full of junk mail so invest in a good filter system.
  • Use your ‘auto delete’ button: If there are constant junk emails that you get most days then use the ‘auto delete’ button to avoid them appearing in your inbox.
  • Develop a good filing system: The setting up of a good email filing system is paramount in keeping on top of your emails. This is no different to the desktop management system on your computer. You can put unread messages into appropriate folders to read at a later time and reducing the size of your inbox. A good filing system also aids in retrieving important emails at a later date.
  • Reply and file: Once you have replied to an email either delete it immediately or file it away in a separate email folder.
  • Use your ‘out of office’ assistant facility: This will help reduce the repeated emails from the same people asking “Did you get my earlier email?” Once people know you are unavailable for a given time period they may not send the email in the first place.
  • Print out hard copies of really important e-mails: There is always a chance that emails can get lost or accidentally deleted. If it is really important, print a hard copy straight away and file it.
  • Be selective in who you respond to: When responding to an email sent to a group, don’t necessarily reply to all the group. This will cut down on the number of potential replies.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Byron, K. (2008). Carrying too heavy a load? The communication and miscommunication of emotion by email. Academy of Management Review, 33, 309-327.

Future Work Centre (2015). You’ve got mail: Research Report 2015. London: Future Work Centre. Located at: http://www.futureworkcentre.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/FWC-Youve-got-mail-research-report.pdf

Giumetti, G.W., Hatfield, A.L., Scisco, J. L., Schroeder,
A.N., Muth, E.R., & Kowalski, R. M. (2013).
What a rude email! Examining the differential effects of incivility versus support on mood, energy, engagement, and performance in an online context. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 18, 297-309.

Griffiths, M.D. (1995). Hey! Wait, just a minute, Mister Postman: The joy of e-mail. The Psychologist: Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, 8, 373.

Griffiths, M.D. (2004). Tips on…Managing your e-mails. British Medical Journal Careers, 329, 240.

Griffiths, M.D. & Dennis, F. (2000). How to beat techno-stress. Independent on Sunday (Reality section), May 7, p.22.

Sutton, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2003). Emails with unintended criminal consequences. The Criminal Lawyer, 130, 6-8.

Sutton, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2004). Emails with unintended consequences: New lessons for policy and practice in work, public office and private life. In P. Hills (Ed.). As Others See Us: Selected Essays In Human Communication (pp. 160-182). Dereham: Peter Francis Publishers.

Ng, K. (2016). Turn off automatic email updates to ease stress, psychologists advise. The Independent, January 5. Located at: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/turn-off-automatic-email-updates-to-ease-stress-psychologists-advise-a6794826.html

Radicati, S. & Levenstein, J. (2014). Email Statistics Report, 2014-2018. Located at: http://www.radicati.com/?p=10644

“Turn and face the strange”: A personal goodbye to David Bowie

“There is a well known cliché that you should never meet your heroes but if David Bowie or Paul McCartney fancy coming round to my house for dinner I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be lost for words”.

This was the last sentence I wrote in my blog on the psychology of being starstruck less than a month ago. I, like millions of others, was deeply shocked to learn of Bowie’s death from liver cancer earlier this week (January 10) two days after his 69th birthday.

I first remember hearing David Bowie on a 1975 edition of Top of the Pop(when the re-release of ‘Space Oddity’ reached No.1 in the British singles chart). Although I heard the occasional Bowie song over the next few years (‘Golden Years’, ‘Sound and Vision’ and ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ being some of the songs I taped off the radio during the weekly chart rundown) it wasn’t until ‘Ashes To Ashes’ reached the UK No. 1 spot in the week of my 14th birthday (late August 1980) that I became a Bowie convert.

I still vividly remember buying my first Bowie album – a vinyl copy of his first greatest hits LP (Changesonebowie) on the same day that I bought the third album by The Police (Zenyatta Mondatta) and the latest issue of Smash Hits (that had Gary Numan on the cover with a free yellow flexidisc of the track ‘My Face’ by John Foxx). It was Saturday October 4th, 1980. Ever since that day I’ve been collecting David Bowie music and now have every single song that he has ever commercially released along with hundreds of bootlegs of unreleased songs and live recordings.

My collection of Bowie books is ever growing and I have dozens of Bowie DVDs (both his music and films in which he has appeared). In short, I’m a hardcore fan – and always will be. Like many other fans, I’ve spent all this week listening to his final studio LP (Blackstar) and poring over the lyrics knowing that he wrote all these songs knowing that he had terminal cancer. The first line of ‘Lazarus’ appears particularly poignant in this regard (Look up here, I’m in heaven/I’ve got scars that can’t be seen/I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen/Everybody knows me now/Look up here, man, I’m in danger/I’ve got nothing left to lose”).

Anyone who’s been a regular reader of my blog will know that when I get a chance to mention how important he has been in my life, I do so (and do so in writing). I mentioned him in my articles on the psychology of musical preferences, on the psychology of a record-collecting completist, on record collecting as an addiction, and on the psychology of pandrogyny. I’ve also mentioned him (somewhat predictably) in my articles on the psychology of Iggy Pop, and the psychology of Lou Reed (two more of my musical heroes).

I’ve also been sneaking the titles of his songs into the titles of my blog articles ever since I started my blog including ‘Space Oddity’ (in my article on exophilia), ‘Holy Holy’ (in my article on Jerusalem Syndrome), ‘Ashes To Ashes’ (in my article on ‘cremainlining‘), ‘Under Pressure’ (in my article on inflatable rubber suit fetishism), and ‘Changes’ (in my article on transformation fetishes).

When I started writing this article I did wonder whether to do ‘the psychology of David Bowie’ but there is so much that I could potentially write about that it would take more than a 1000-word blog to do any justice to one of the most psychologically fascinating personalities of the last 50 years (Strange Fascination by David Buckley being one of the many good biographies written about him).

Trying to get at the underlying psychology of someone that changed personas (‘the chameleon of pop’) so many times during his career is a thankless task. However, his desire for fame started early and he was determined to do it any way he could whether it was by being a musician, a singer, an actor, a mime artist, an artist, or an entrepreneur (arguably he has been them all at one time or another). Being behind a mask or creating a persona (or “alternative egos” as Bowie called them) was something that got Bowie to where he wanted to be and I’m sure that with each new character he became, the personality grew out of it.

As an academic that studies addiction for a living, Bowie would be a perfect case study. Arguably it could be argued that he went from one addiction to another throughout his life, and based on what I have read in biographies a case could be made for Bowie being addicted (at one time or another) from cocaine and nicotine through to sex, work, and the Internet.

Bowie also had a personal interest in mental health and various mental disorders ran through his family (most notably his half-brother Terry Burns who was diagnosed as a schizophrenic and committed suicide in January 1985 by jumping in front of a moving train. A number of his aunts were also prone to clinical depression and schizophrenia). Bowie first tackled his “sad [mental] inheritance” in ‘All The Madmen’ (on his 1971 The Man Who Sold The World LP) and was arguably at his most candid on the 1993 hit single ‘Jump They Say’ that dealt with is brother’s mental illness and suicide.

Like John Lennon, I’ve always found Bowie’s views on almost anything of interest and he was clearly well read and articulate. He described himself as spiritual and recent stories over the last few days have claimed he almost became a Buddhist monk. Whether that’s true is debatable but he was certainly interested in Buddhism and its tenets. Now that I am carrying out research into mindfulness with two friends and colleagues who are also Buddhist monks (Edo Shonin and William Van Gordon), I have begun to read more on the topic. One of the things that Buddhism claims is that identity isn’t fixed and nowhere is that more true than in the case of David Bowie. Perhaps the chorus one of his greatest songs – ‘Changes’ from his 1971 Hunky Dory LP says it all:

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes/Turn and face the strange/Ch-ch-changes/Don’t want to be a richer man/Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes/Turn and face the strange/Ch-ch-changes/Just gonna have to be a different man/Time may change me/But I can’t trace time”

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK 

Further reading

Buckley, D. (2005). Strange Fascination: David Bowie – The Definitive Story. London: Virgin Books.

Cann, K. (2010). Any Day Now: David Bowie The London Years (1947-1974). Adelita.

Goddard, S. (2015). Ziggyology. London: Ebury Press.

Hewitt, P. (2013). David Bowie Album By Album. London: Carlton Books Ltd.

Leigh, W. (2014). Bowie: The Biography. London: Gallery.

Pegg, N. (2011). The Complete David Bowie. London: Titan Books.

Seabrook, T.J. (2008). Bowie In Berlin: A New Career In A New Town. London: Jawbone.

Spitz, M. (2009). Bowie: A Biography. Crown Archetype.

Trynka, P. (2011). Starman: David Bowie – The Definitive Biography. London: Little Brown & Company.

All you need is glove: A brief look at hand wear fetishism

“My 13-year-old son, a well-behaved, sweet boy, already has what I perceive as a strange fetish. He loves and is fascinated by latex gloves. When he was little, he would stop in front of the rubber glove display at the supermarket and just stare at the packages of dishwashing gloves. He wanted me to buy them for him, but he would never tell me why. Now that he’s older, he goes online to medical supply Web sites and ‘shops’ for rubber gloves. Recently, I found out he had been visiting glove fetish Web sites with pornographic glove pictures. I installed content filtering software to block him from being exposed to such images. He was horribly embarrassed and guilty, and he promised to give up gloves forever. Apparently, it’s not so easy. He still asks me to buy latex gloves for him when we go to the drug store, and he keeps piles of them around his room. He worries that he might not be able to find a girlfriend or wife who will be interested in sharing his glove love. Should I try to stop him, or should I just chalk it up to a personality quirk and worry no longer?” (Letter sent by a mother to the Dear Prudence website).

In a previous blog I examined clothing fetishes (also known as garment fetishes). Clothing fetishes revolve around, or fixate upon either specific types of clothing (lingerie, fishnet stockings, etc.), specific fabrics (leather, rubber, fur, wool, etc.), or specific styles (restrictive, skin-tight, baggy, etc.). According to Dr. Martin Weinberg and colleagues in the Journal of Sex Research, common clothing fetishes include shoes, stockings, diapers, gloves, underwear, and bras. The clothes fetishist is fixated on the specific type of clothing and is an exclusive or recurrent stimulus for sexual arousal and gratification.

A number of academic articles and papers claim that glove fetishes are commonplace. However, in a study led by Dr C. Scorolli on the relative prevalence of different fetishes using online fetish forum data, no data were reported relating to glove fetishism. Their analysis included a breakdown of sexual preferences for objects associated with the body including clothing. Excluding footwear – which is associated more specifically with podophilia (i.e., foot fetishism) – the results of the study showed that the most fetishized items of clothing were underwear (12%; 10,046 fetishists), whole body wear such as coats, uniforms (9%, 9434 fetishists), upper body wear such as jackets, waistcoats (9%, 9226 fetishists), and head and neckwear such as hats, ties (3%, 2357 fetishists). From this particular study, the authors concluded that the most common clothing fetishes are footwear, underwear (including swimwear), and uniforms – but nothing related to gloves (in fact there was nothing related to any kind of hand fetishism whatsoever.

My own anecdotal research into glove fetishes suggests that the fetish exists and that it has a higher profile and more online forums on the Internet than many other fetishes that I have examined in my blog. There are many dedicated websites that cater for glove fetishes such as the World Wide Glove Fetish Association, Glove Mansion, Fetish Glove, and the Leather Gloves Fetish Facebook page. There are also commercial sites that sell dedicated glove fetish videos (such as Clips 4 Sale), as well as online sites such as The Experience Project that feature individuals recounting their personal experiences of glove fetishism. I also noted the fetishist use of gloves in a previous blog I wrote on Nazi fetishism based on some research carried out by David Lopez and Ellis Godard on the subculture of erotic evil (and published in a 2013 issue of Popular Culture Review).

As noted by Dr Joel Milner, Dr Cynthia Dopke, and Dr Julie Crouch in a 2008 review of ‘paraphilias not otherwise specified’ in the book Sexual deviance: Theory, Assessment, and Treatment, clothing fetishes (including glove fetishism) are ‘classic’ fetishes in that the focus of sexual arousal derives from “nonliving objects (e.g., shoes, underwear, skirts, gloves)”. More specifically (and according to the Wikipedia entry):

“Glove fetishism is a sexual fetishism where an individual is sexually stimulated, often to the point of obsession, by another person or oneself wearing gloves on their hands. In some cases, the fetish is enhanced by the material of the glove (e. g., leather, cotton, latex, PVC, satin or nylon). Often, the actions of a gloved hand are as arousing as the glove itself, because the glove provides a second skin, or in other words a fetishistic surrogate for the wearer’s own skin. Medical gloves and rubber gloves provide not only a safer sex environment, but also give a latex glove fetishist great pleasure. Subtle movements by the gloved fingers or the hand as a whole can provide the individual with a great visual stimulus and ultimately sexual arousal. The act of putting gloves on, or slipping them off the hands, can also be a source of glove fetish fantasy. Smell is also a factor when it comes to latex, rubber, and leather gloves”.

As with clothing fetishes more generally, glove fetishists usually have very specific preferences in relation to the exact focus of sexual arousal. During my own research for this article, I reached the conclusion that most glove fetishists comprised those that liked latex gloves (‘medical glove fetishism’), rubber gloves and/or leather gloves. However, this is a gross simplification. For instance, medical gloves are made from thin latex and come in many different types. Gloves are heavily referenced within BDSM practices such as ‘vampire gloves’ that have sharp little spikes on the fingers and palms of the glove. According to BDSM devotees, the gloves can be dragged down the skin of another person to create a tingling sensation or pressed into the skin for a sharp pain. The Wikipedia entry on glove fetishism also notes:

“Personal preference ranges from color, smell, size, textured, smooth, powdered, or un-powdered. Fetishists are proud of their collection of medical gloves, as well as rubber gloves. Household rubber gloves tend to be more thick, longer, and are mostly used for cleaning purposes. Some glove fetishists prefer certain lengths, for example the long opera-style or short cuff length. Some also like them as a part of an outfit, such as a nurse, policewoman or French maid uniform. Some who are of a sexually submissive nature are stimulated by their dominant partner’s wearing and use of gloves. Dominant partners may likewise prefer that their submissives wear gloves. As with all fetishes however, there need not be a BDSM connection to an affinity for gloves”.

As you might expect there has been almost nothing academically published that has specifically looked at glove fetishism. A 2001 paper by Peter Stallybrass and Ann Jones entitled ‘Fetishizing the Glove in Renaissance Europe’ was published in Critical Inquiry but (unfortunately) did not include anything about the sexualization of gloves. Two case studies have also been published but both in foreign languages (French and Japanese). In 1969, Dr. J. Guillemin published a paper on glove fetishism in La Semaine des Hopitaux: Therapeutique (but I have been unable to get hold of a copy). In 2004, M. Noguchi and S. Kato reported the case of a 22-year old male glove fetishist in the Japanese journal Seishin Shinkeigaku Zasshi (and briefly recounted in Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices). According to Aggrawal’s description, the man became fixated on gloves after watching a television programme in which the heroine in the show conquered her enemies while wearing gloves. Following this, the watching of pornographic films allowed the man to attach strong sexual significance to gloves when he was in his late teens. The paper also noted that he had assaulted women as many as four times in order to steal their gloves. There has been little theorizing and little detail on or about the sexual appeal of gloves. The Wikipedia entry made some speculative comments:

“Apart from their appearance, some individuals prefer to use [gloves] on oneself or others as a form of sexual stimulation. The ones most commonly used for this are made of leather, latex (such as those doctors or nurses use for examination), while others prefer the household rubber glove. The appeal behind the household glove may be due to the colours they come in but also offering what the latex examination gloves cannot; household gloves are thicker, some more than others depending on what their use is. Many enjoy erotic spanking with gloves donned. It offers a different feeling and sound to the ‘spankee’, which can be a large part of the fetish”.

Despite the numerous glove fetish websites, there appears to be very little research in the area (probably because like many non-normative sexual behaviours, there are few problems that arise between consenting adults). I doubt whether glove fetishism on its own will ever generate much empirical study but as with many of the sexual fetishes I have written about, I am more than happy to be proved wrong.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Guillemin J. (1969). [The fetishism of gloves in the last Bourbons] [Article in French]. La Semaine des Hopitaux: Therapeutique, 45(52), 3411-3414.

Lopez, D. A., Godard, E. Nazi (2013). Uniform fetish and role-playing: A subculture of erotic evil.  Popular Culture Review, 24(1), 69-78.

Milner, J.S., & Dopke, C.A., & Crouch, J.L. (2008). Paraphilia not otherwise specified: Psychopathology and theory. In D. R. Laws & W. O’Donohue (Eds.), Sexual deviance: Theory, Assessment, and Treatment (2nd ed., pp. 384-428). New York: Guilford.

Nation Master (2005). Glove fetishism. Located at: http://www.statemaster.com/encyclopedia/Glove-fetishism

Noguchi, M. & Kato, S. (2004). [A case of Williams syndrome who exhibited fetishism] [Article in Japanese]. 
Seishin Shinkeigaku Zasshi, 106(10), 1232-1241.

Scorolli, C., Ghirlanda, S., Enquist, M., Zattoni, S. & Jannini, E.A. (2007). Relative prevalence of different fetishes. International Journal of Impotence Research, 19, 432-437.

Stallybrass, P., & Jones, A. R. (2001). Fetishizing the glove in Renaissance Europe. Critical Inquiry, 28, 114-132.

Weinberg, M.S., Williams, C.J., & Calhan, C. (1995). “If the shoe fits…” Exploring male homosexual foot fetishism. Journal of Sex Research, 32, 17–27.

Wikipedia (2015). Glove fetishism. Located at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glove_fetishism

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