Ktismatics

7 December 2008

Emotional Contagion

Filed under: Psychology, Reflections — ktismatics @ 7:54 pm

Thanks to Anne for calling my attention to this study, which presents evidence supporting the commonly held belief that happiness is contagious. Apparently the happiness contagion is more virulent among non-intimate members of one’s social network — neighbors and acquaintances, though curiously not coworkers. I was struck by this observation from political scientist Robert Fowler, one of the co-investigators:

For a long time, we measured the health of a country by looking at its gross domestic product. But our work shows that whether a friend’s friend is happy has more influence than a US$5,000 raise.

Presumably this remark is meant to reassure less affluent readers — and less affluent nations — that money can’t buy you happiness. However, the implication is that money and happiness are positively correlated. How much is a friend’s friend’s happiness worth? $5,500? $6,000? Or is it the other way around — people who make more money also have happier friends and associates? The researchers re-evaluated data gathered in the Framingham Heart Study ,a massive project that’s been following the same individuals for decades. Though the write-ups describe the results as causative — your neighbor’s happiness makes you happier as well — I’m pretty sure that the findings were derived from cross-sectional samples; i.e., measurements of happiness captured at a particular moment in time. If so, then all one can legitimately infer is that happy people tend to congregate together. And also that people with happy friends make more money than people with unhappy friends. By implication from Fowler’s remark, happiness and money go together. So what we see are networks of happy, affluent people hanging around together. The researchers also found that unhappiness doesn’t cluster as tightly — by implication, then, less affluent, less happy people find themselves more socially isolated. Of course I haven’t read a detailed description of this study so maybe I’m just being pessimistic.

Anyhow, yesterday at the grocery store checkout line I enjoyed one of those happy encounters with a distant member of my social network. The guy scanning my groceries noticed that I’d bought a bottle of peach-flavored iced tea. This is good stuff, he noted: it comes from Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania is the bottled tea capital of America. I had no idea. I also had no idea that people from Schuylkill County PA have the highest per-capita alcohol consumption in the USA. I wondered whether they mixed their booze with the iced tea. And so on, passing the time with idle chatter. I left the store on a happy note that actually persisted for maybe the next hour and, though I can’t be sure, I suspect that I spread my good cheer to my wife and daughter.

In contrast, the day after the presidential elections, also at the grocery checkout, I had an unhappy encounter with a fellow shopper. I was heading for the shortest line with my shopping cart when I noticed a woman, sans groceries, standing at the end of line. You’re kidding, I said to her. No, she said: my husband is on his way with the cart. And you’re saving a place? Yes, and our cart is REALLY full. But you can’t do that, I objected. The woman disagreed: where does it say that you have to have a cart to stand in line? It’s just not courteous, I countered. In fact, I said to the checkout lady, I’d like to register a complaint about this woman. You’re kidding, the woman blocking my way said. No I’m not. Oh bugger off, she said to me; get a life. Go fuck yourself, I replied. And here comes the husband with the full grocery cart. You can’t talk that way to my wife; you’re bullying a woman. Oh please, I said, she’s the one who told me to bugger off. So the husband and I stood there toe to toe yelling at each other. I’m going to call the police, he said; go ahead, said I. Somebody who works at the store intervened: please guys, take it easy. Meanwhile the checkout line had emptied out and the checker started scanning this pushy couple’s groceries. My line had now cleared as well (it was the principle of the thing for me, not so much the time I would save), so I too was getting processed. The delay was minimal, but I’d have to say that the unhappiness I acquired from this encounter lasted just about as long as my happy encounter from yesterday, and was just as contagious.

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46 Comments »

  1. Don’t be so p.c. Anybody who says ‘get a life’ and you can’t get arrested should be informed of their low-classness.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 7 December 2008 @ 8:24 pm

  2. Yes, this was a pretty lame insult even for a King Soopers. I found myself actually looking forward to the police arriving at the scene, even though I knew it wouldn’t happen — just thought it would add the right touch of the absurd. That trip to the store had gone quite well up until then too. I recall standing with a few other shoppers at the free frozen pizza sample stand. The woman cooking the pizza was a bit apologetic about the delay. That’s okay, I said; today is a new day in America, I’m happy to wait — this was the day after Obama got elected. The sample pizza slice was tasty enough for me actually to buy a pizza, which turned out to be almost as good as I remembered when we baked it for lunch the other day.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 7 December 2008 @ 8:45 pm

  3. The problem with police is it never has anything good in it, preordained gracelessness is all there is. Love it that you said it was a new day in America. I knew a guy from Denver that lived in this building, and his daughter sent him a Father’s Day card that was addressed DAD, but even though it had the address correct, I’d never seen anything like that. It’s probably better than life in a Fritz Lang movie like mine is. I mean, I know it is, even though I love this. But it can’t be good, however poetic. That’s why I never wish for the police in, although I do find the police more interesting as an institution than I do psychoanalysis, of course…

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 7 December 2008 @ 9:53 pm

  4. “life in a Fritz Lang movie”

    That’s a disturbing image, but I’ll resist the urge to psychoanalyze it and contemplate its dark aesthetic instead.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 8 December 2008 @ 5:09 am

  5. Larval Subjects also linked to this study about emotional contagion. Here are some further observations on it which I put up there:

    The “happiness infection” was apparently more virulently transmitted among strangers and neighbors than between spouses. Though I’m not sure I’d have predicted it, I can see why this might be: interpersonal history and mutual expectations get in the way of emotional flow. It also turns out that happiness didn’t flow through the network of co-workers — maybe it reflects the alienation of late-modern capitalism. Unhappiness wasn’t as infective as happiness: the correlation was there, but smaller in magnitude. The researchers speculated that happiness brings people together whereas unhappiness separates them. This speculation is enhanced by the researchers’ finding that those individuals positioned at the centers of social networks seemed to benefit most from the infectious spread of happiness while remaining relatively unaffected by unhappiness intruding from the periphery of the network. Other researchers have demonstrated that these network effects are often halved when controlled statistically for the usual sociodemographic covariates: sex, age, race, education, maternal education, family income. I don’t know whether the results of the happiness study have been subjected to these sorts of covariate analysis.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 8 December 2008 @ 8:08 am

  6. I can’t say that happiness is something I care to be set aside and be analyzed, whether in Roger’s endless essays, none of which I read to the end. We all know ‘romantic love’ which we have ideas about, is not something which was always practised, but it grew out of some natural issue. ‘Happiness’ is too large a matter to reduce to periods of history or statistics about affluence and poverty. In this post, I was only interested in your personal details, not observations about ‘reasons for happiness’, which amount to more robotization and mechanization in an area which doesn’t need it. It is thoroughly ridiculous to make a ‘happiness study’, because it is too non-specific a quantity to turn into a lab experiment. Although I’d venture to guess that the desire to turn happiness into a manageable phenomenon is surely a symptom of unhappiness, fossilization and dessication. It is ridiculous.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 8 December 2008 @ 10:13 am

  7. Even if I thought such thoroughly inhuman approaches were worthwhile, I’d at least observe that happiness and unhappiness ‘bring people together’ equally. One of the most absurd aspects of the ‘study’ is that elements of happiness are favoured over those of unhappiness when it’s not a matter of favouring. You can take a look at the welfare department or emergency room if you want to find some unhappy people brought together. Likewise, Park Avenue X-ray types as in Tom Wolfe are affluent and think they are happy having achieved big apartments and youthful Botox figures, so ‘one’s thinking one is happy’ is just as much a part of such spurious studies–we all know that starved socialites who have hairstyles 30 years younger than is appropriate are imagining happiness more than ‘having it’, or do we? We don’t KNOW anything about happiness, and to talk about it as such reeks of Stalinism or Hitlerism.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 8 December 2008 @ 10:18 am

  8. I don’t play the measurement and statistics game any more, though I do occasionally read a study like this with a sort of technical nostalgia. I think I mentioned that I used to design questionnaires and analyze data for a living. Happiness/depression inventories are pretty popular, no different fundamentally from measuring anything else. From a theory standpoint there’s no reason to assert that a happiness questionnaire accurately represents the subjective experience. It’s necessary only that the measure provides useful information about the phenomenon, with usefulness defined by the purpose of the study in question; e.g., demonstrating that people who use some pharma’s antidepressant say that they feel better. The main reason I cut-and-pasted my evaluative content back Larval Subjects was that I invested the time and knew Sinthome would have no use for it, being perhaps as anti-measurement as you but for different reasons. And you’ll note that I wrote up the study only as backdrop for my little illustrative memoir, which also interested me more than did the study.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 8 December 2008 @ 10:25 am

  9. … which isn’t to say I’m totally disinterested in this sort of work, otherwise I’d never have indulged in it myself. The reported asymmetry of happy versus unhappy contagion — I’d need to see more details of the study to ascertain whether the researchers might have been overinterpreting their data. One possibility: many people are reluctant to communicate their unhappiness in a culture where happiness is almost a bankable commodity in interpersonal exchange. I find that when I’m feeling unhappy I tend to withdraw into myself whereas when I’m happy I’m more gregarious.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 8 December 2008 @ 10:33 am

  10. demonstrating that people who use some pharma’s antidepressant say that they feel better

    Yes, but they’re happy now that they’re not clinically depressed, with the unhappiness that that entails. ‘Depression’ can mean at least 2 primary things, serious depression, or just unhappiness within a generally happy structure, or relatively so. Having short periods of depression does not mean that one is essentially unhappy. If this lifts regularly, one is not ‘a depressive.’ One might be any number of things that go along with have different tones and shades of mood.

    It is natural to withdraw into oneself when one feels less ebullient, if you’re capable of working out the problems that way better. It’s not nearly always important to show your unhappiness, even allowing for the societal injunction against it–because after a point, nobody is willing to help you with your problems short of major compensation. You’re on your own with some of them, no matter how much someone else cares.

    Yes, I agree these kinds of surveys are ‘pretty popular’, and very much along the lines of ‘what’s your fave 5?’ You can measure depression by measuring types of it, but happiness is not measurable in the same way. It could perhaps be measured in the form of ‘absence of depression.’ But happiness as a topic of discussion, especially as Roger has tried to do a long series on it, is very Marxist in terms of trying to circumscribe what cannot be circumscribed. Marxism for the individual is all about accepting circumscription for the general welfare, and it’s getting nowhere. Even the Big 3 are not going to be allowed to repeat Lehman’s failure, so Zizek is going to have to go out of business. And I hope all of his minions lose their jobs without recourse to the Unemployment Office

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 8 December 2008 @ 10:47 am

  11. Theorists, aesthetes, and theologians have at least one thing in common: disdain for empiricism. Maybe a second thing: disdain for business. Sometimes I feel like delving into these forbidden realms and exposing the readership to their repulsive allure.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 8 December 2008 @ 11:09 am

  12. How do you derive this disdain for empiricism from what I said about happiness not being something that would fall into the domain of empiricism? Most things do. I’m obviously known as an aesthere, but I don’t disdain empiricism the way theorists do. In fact, it is theorists who like to pervert empiricism and apply to things that don’t belong to it, making themselves seem ‘sensible’ and ‘rational’, when they are anything but. It’s just that happiness does NOT have anything to do with empirical judgments. Economic bailouts do–and theorists, as for example CR on ads without products, doesn’t like it that the PRIMARY focus of the new plans for Detroit bailout is not fuel-efficiency, etc. As if it should be, for chrissake. He says it comes down to ‘jobs and shareholders’, as if it shouldn’t be that right now, for chrissake. Of COURSE, the loss of 3 million or so more jobs after the jobs reports means that some kind of thing has to be whipped together this week in order to avoid another decision af fucked-up as deciding to let Lehman Bros. fail.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 8 December 2008 @ 11:22 am

  13. Another way of saying it is that depression is NOT the opposite of happiness. Depression includes absence of happiness, but happiness does not include absence of depression in the same sense. Unhappiness is also not the same thing as depression, or rather it isn’t always. When one’s old father dies, one is unhappy and sad, even if it’s a natural thing and he ‘hadn’t suffered a lengthy slowdown’, etc. Certain old-fart bloggers (not you, lol) don’t think there is anything sad about death if it happened in a pre-approved way (almost like those offers for car loans you get in the mail). This is crap. Death is sad when it occurs, there is an absence. This isn’t exactly the same as depression, but it is not happiness either. This is just one example.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 8 December 2008 @ 11:26 am

  14. Yes, we’re in fundamental agreement here. The happiness questions I’m sure tap into self-reported cheerfulness, enthusiasm, energy, etc. and the questionnaire developers have subjected the questions to statistical analyses demonstrating that the items hang together. A depression inventory would be built around a different set of constructs: feeling low, anhedonia, difficulty sleeping, etc. Any number of devices can be constructed.

    Your empiricism is linked directly to politics, an admirable tonic against excessive hyperstition which as I understand it consists of creating realities rather than understanding them. I think it’s also worthwhile pointing out to those aesthetes who hold their noses at such things that the musical scale was the first invented graphing technology. The vertical axis is pitch; the horizontal, time. Very clever, I think deriving from France in the 13th century or so. Classical musicians are empirically based to the extent that they actually play the notes written on the page. Of course mechanical reproduction isn’t all there is to it, but the technicianship must also be impeccable as well as the interpretive art. This of course is more your field than mine. Acting as well: there’s the script, and there’s the interpretation.

    I believe that many theorists use empiricism the way theologians do: as hand-picked demonstrable “proofs” of ideas they have no intention of modifying based on the evidence.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 8 December 2008 @ 11:54 am

  15. Dr Sinthome deleted a joke I concocted yesterday, so I found it opportune to publish it here

    How many balding cognitive psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb?
    -Not that many, but the trouble is they’re all sitting on the female side of the sexuation graph.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 8 December 2008 @ 12:03 pm

  16. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/JL09Dj02.html

    Here’s Nick Land just one week after that excellent column on Chinese pianists and Mozart. It is of an unbelievable badness, and this is because he is preaching a morality he never followed when it was inconvenient. He was a wholehearted sci-fi type supporter of everything Rumsfeld and Cheney did in Iraq, and favoured everything capitalist in the most extreme sense–until conditions changed. He himself used to advertise William Gibson’s atrocious fiction, and adores Lovecraft, along with Robin and the rest of the k-punk people. The economic meltdown thing, in any case, is coming under so much more capable hands that THE POPULACE ITSELF has already changed behaviour, in a way unlike anything I’ve seen since the onslaught of AIDS, when sexual behaviour was hugely modified and on a large scale (that’s had periods, as now, when this has not been adhered to very rigorously), and he seems to be unaware of the fact that the Chinese are suffering as a result of all this too. He does not really understand America at all, has spent little time here, but the attraction was always to the blood-and-bones tnings of was slaughter, all of which he hyperstitionally placed under a general WWIV scenario. That’s all Gone with the Wind now that the Bushies have been thrown out (he was a big McCain supporter.) This, though, was always the pattern, and why one isn’t disappointed in him. It’s all rhetoric, though, even though the writing is so smart-sounding it’s hard to see it for awhile. He calls ‘Americans giving up on life’ not having enough babies. Also has said to me that ‘babies is happiness.’ They are part of happiness, but there we have another miserablist spending time defining happiness because he cannot live it. So, if you read this particular column (and I hope you will, we should discuss it even though I’m in the partially wrong thread–but it has partly to do with happiness and now even using the word ‘life’ as a limited category just like happiness as we discussed earlier), you’ll see that, rough as the economic situation is, he is about 3 weeks behind: It does not appear that we are going to experience the full brunt of what we imagined a few weeks ago. People are regaining their sense because Obama finally forced himself into the presidency when the etiquette of how to do this cannot have been easy to assess. Maybe Barbra kissing Bush last night helped (i’m sure it was enough for dubya.) But you see in this article an attempt to repudiate a country he formerly adored (as recently as a year ago) because it has not lived up to his expectations: These were expectations that the ruling elite would make things ‘happy’ by ruining the country even more than they already did. Now that they didn’t, he almost sounds as if Americans deserve Socialism or something, since they aren’t savers like the Chinese. And all sorts of things are thrown into this madhouse of a mulligan stew, at least that’s my impression. I’ll be interested to know yours. You don’t have to be careful about ‘not talking about blawgers’, in this case. Nick’s often mad, but he’s professional, and extremely brutal himself, which is why I’ve always gotten along with him; he’s used to people backing down. He seems to write as a ‘man of situations’, without wanting it to show. And in a rare case, as with the Mozart, he pulls it off all the way, but doesn’t think that kind of thing is ‘the important thing’ most of the time. Just a year ago, he wrote about how all the best cultural objects were ‘pulp’, including Shakespeare as pulp. His writing resembles Dejan’s and my new friend at CPC, Richard Pascal, except it’s not as poetic and flexible.

    dejan, as a zizekian, you can expect sinthome to behave just as the others, who have become radical stalinists in the last week, it seems, since a mediocre writer like Kirsch seems quite capable of demoting Zizek to Private First Class.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 8 December 2008 @ 12:38 pm

  17. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/08/business/08luxury.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=bulgari&st=cse

    This alone proves how ostentatious consumption has been not only radically, but remarkably quickly, pulled back. I first noticed things in regard to art auctions as much as 6 weeks ago, then the firing of the 65-year-old Parisian schmuck from NYCOpera, who wanted them to risk their very existence for his ‘exquisite beauty.’ The fact that luxury spending is being pulled back in this era would not mean that the recession was really going to match early-30s levels, but rather that people have quickly caught on–again, because they didn’t when Lehman occurred–pretty quickly as to some of what has to be done. Now, Tom Friedman telling people to ‘go spend’ doesn’t mean anything, because individuals would only ruin themselves by doing that in a vacuum climate. They should actually spend some, but less, for minimizing damage in most cases. Otherwise, many of the cases were already in terrible shape before any of this. But right now, things are not as dark as they were 2 weeks ago, and the stock market is obviously responding to the fact that something is being hammered out for this afternoon.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 8 December 2008 @ 12:45 pm

  18. That last I put in, because luxury spending is usually not something that enters into any of this kind of thing. It has this time, and Nick seems not to have seen the significance of this. In terms of actual ability to consume and spend, the super-rich still are able to do it; the panic mood itself is what has stopped them. This mood was spread by the media and there are plenty of articles about using the financial crisis as a sensational story right now, there was a good one I haven’t finished yesterday in the NYT. Once I read this, the situation seemed ‘back to normal’ in a certain sense of perception, although not that economic phenomena will not plummet in many ways. But the Panic Mode that was sold by the media (because there really was panic at several points, but they milked it after those) wouldn’t have seemed ‘sensational’ in the usual sense; it has no sex, etc., unless you write the human interest piece about the hookers around the stock exchange (I saw some of these back in October.)

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 8 December 2008 @ 12:49 pm

  19. And just to make sure I emphasize, that’s for not reinstating the Parody Center on your blawgroll, namely.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 8 December 2008 @ 12:49 pm

  20. I tried, really I did, to follow “Spengler’s” logic but found it repeatedly slip-sliding away. I wonder if he’s trying out some new Leo Straussian code for rousing the masses to corrective action enabling the elite to continue reveling in childless debauchery. I wonder if he knows any more about the involutions of the Fed and the Treasury than we’ve been able to figure out — I doubt it. My recollection wasn’t that Milton Friedman wanted every bank to issue its own money, but rather to return control of money issuance to the Federal government. If banks ran out of real US money then they’d have to issue their own promissory notes, which is maybe what Spengler is getting at, but he’s none too clear in his explanations. He seems to vacillate between opposing poles: the market has been too free and not free enough. I agree with him on the piano playing ethos from the other article, though even there he seemed to argue that it’s the discipline of the high Western culture that’s valuable, being directly fungible for money and power. Similar arguments could be made for having everyone enroll their children in a paramilitary organization or catechism run by strict nuns. The discussion of Mozart’s subtle musical jokes was very good.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 8 December 2008 @ 1:46 pm

  21. Really? Sinthome deleted this joke? I guess he had to put his foot down somewhere. I’m surprised he let my comment about attaching electrodes stand. I actually lol-ed at your joke, though I’d have to study the sexuation triptych in far greater detail to derive full jouissance from it. All’s I know is that the feminine side is more immanent and doesn’t require having a vagina. So I guess that’s IN YOUR FACE! Muahaha!

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    Comment by ktismatics — 8 December 2008 @ 1:50 pm

  22. I just looked at the “Possibly related posts: (automatically generated” inserted by WordPress between the bottom of this post and the comments. The first one listed, entitled “In the houses always people and people,” is a Ktismatics post from 2 years ago related to the happiness/unhappiness issue. Though steeped in the trademark Ktismatic melancholia it’s not a bad meditation, incorporating Tolstoy, a brief excerpt from my first novel, and a musical dream narrative.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 8 December 2008 @ 2:42 pm

  23. for rousing the masses to corrective action enabling the elite to continue reveling in childless debauchery.

    That’s good, and probably exactly right.

    Neocons know how not to do anything but talk out loud about their meanness (of course, in addition to doing it.

    So explain to me ‘Leo Strassian’ for dummies, please, and as it would apply here. I’ve been harassed recently not only but my ‘exquisite empirical insistence’ but by my distinguised visits to Leo Strauss haunts. Does the ghost of Leo Strauss hover over most of what you’ve read of Spengler? It’s clear my ‘Richard Pascal’ is very familiar with all the Hyperstionists and definitely with me for some time, but his primary distinction in terms of identity is his refusal of identity, and desire for intimacy that specifically excludes all intimacy (by that, I mean even blog intimacy–except that we were able to go beyond the virtual on the virtual as well, which may be better than anything; in this last alternative, he’s poetic and valuable, but with a crack habit as he claims to possess (if he really has one) you never know what you’re getting.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 8 December 2008 @ 2:52 pm

  24. Just looked up Leo Strauss in wiki, didn’t read all of it, but it refers to neoconservatism–uh, he’s one of the fathers of it. So despite saying ‘the craving makes me confused’, the Straussian reference was meant to refer to Hyperstition. The Richard Pascal troll was either one of the Hyperstition regulars under an assumed moniker, or is someone who knows them. Holes all over the place in his story–would sound mostly like Robin if he weren’t so basically stuffy, but could be others who have closet homosexuality in which I become a natural obscure object of desire–better writing than Robin’s, but he’s the only one I can imagine spending that much time on it and being that chameleonlike; although Nick himself is just as much a chameleon, of course, and that’s where Robin learned it.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 8 December 2008 @ 3:18 pm

  25. Leo Strauss I know only from secondary sources. He taught at U. of Chicago, the incubator for the brightest and most influential neocons. While he did write, his influence on disciples was of a more direct and personal nature. He provided a theoretical rationale underpinning conspiracy, arguing that at times it’s good for the state for the elite to lie to the public. He said that Plato and Socrates, in order to avoid persecution by the politicians, coded their speeches and texts, embedding within the straightforward reading a secret gnosis interpretable only by the cognoscenti. Philosophers are smart but powerless. The only way for the philosophers to wield power is through subterfuge: pull the strings on the politicians and the wealthy, who in turn manipulate the populace, in order to achieve the philosophers’ hidden agenda. So in neocon world, the theorists come up with their own schemes to dominate the world, then look for manipulable politicians who can achieve popular support through false premises. Thus you get Cheney and company as the neocon brain trust, manipulating Bush and fellow stooges to support their schemes for world dominance by trotting out rationales that the masses would support; e.g., WMDs, manufactured economic crises. So I’m reading Spengler’s pitch for the morality of having more children as a nascent neocon scheme to trick workers/consumers into reproducing themselves so the ever-less-populous elite can continue to live lives of extravagance.

    The Richard Pascal interlude was odd, diverting, perplexing, at least from here in the cheap seats.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 8 December 2008 @ 3:22 pm

  26. Thanks, John, but that’s illuminating, I’d say. What’s also interesting is that his neocon heroes in the U.S. have all altered their views vis-a-vis neoconism expressed as such in the wake of the recent cataclysmic events, which would include Republican defeat which was close to total, but 1 or 2 senators short. So he could be marking time, or thinking so, because he hasn’t fully realized what has happened here, since you can’t feel this equally everywhere (I know this, because except for personal portfolios, and one’s own mortgage foreclosures anywhere, you DO feel it more here than elsewhere, which it took me a couple of months to fully grasp).

    Of course, in your definition, Richard Pascal is himself very Straussian, and immediately brought up Spengler. The cryptic nature of his remarks as pointed out by Dejan and your completion of the puzzle by filling out the Strauss part that he surely needed to hide once imparted, is all borne out in his writing. But I found it beautiful writing, with an enormous range of expression–violent as ‘Dark Kock’, and then lying and then sincere, and finally resigned to a surprisingly intelligent realization of what we had arrived at–in that there was no way to escape back into outmoded (if only by a few days) styles. This was primarily of interest because the desire to make them negative was absent in an ultimate sense. That’s why I knew it wasn’t one of the Arpegians, who cannot stand even the slightest sense of peace or reconciliation. But ‘Robert’ was careful not to give away anything more definite than that, although he was clearly very romantic by nature, and wishes he could be more so. On the other hand, even with the cryptic nature, the work was always attentive and sensitive to another INDIVIDUAL, even after I’d been chastised for overdoing this individuality as far back as a week ago–and this is much more a mark of what the nice form of neocon/Straussian would at least have as a positive quality that would separate them from all of the Marxists. I hope he comes back, of course. I liked him.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 8 December 2008 @ 3:41 pm

  27. I got some of that last post’s first paragraph mixed up. Someone in China who loves William Kristol, the famous NYT neocon, cannot feel the new sensation as well as Kristol can, is what I meant. I then segued into the way the financial crisis feels in America, and particularly New York, as compared to how it would elsewhere, as China (where they wouldn’t). Part of it is as you say, though, and part maybe a desire to also identify with the ‘saving Chinese’, because Spengler clearly feels that purely by NOT SUCCEEDING they have let him down. His whole WWIV scenarios of Middle Eastern endless was were clearly entertaining him. I’m attracted to extremes, of course, too, but his go into a kind of ‘bipolar version’, which doesn’t mean I have any idea that he might be bipolar personally. Anyway, that’s all about my badly written first paragraph. As a British neocon who sympathized with American neocons as long as they held sway, he has shown yet another example of his colorful chameleonlike personality. Because he used to pitch the concept of ‘Anglosphere’ endlessly, till finally saying that the ‘sinosphere’ would do just as well for him if that was the going ‘dogma’, as it were. Here in this new column, we have him going on about how religion and all sorts of non-economic matters are what ‘now count’, or something akin to that, and they are also those non-empirical things that don’t ‘now count’, in that they ‘always count’ or they ‘never count’. But to just change these ‘human nature’ according to what the ruling regime is is not very convincing. The best part of him is attracted to beautiful things, but something happened, and that probably goes back to the bad reception his Bataille book got, or even some of the ideas themselves that would attract one to Bataille, and also he had an old author-girlfriend who is, I think still active, who was very involved and wrote a book on creative work using drugs. I had it out once and didn’t open it, and by now I know it to already by passe. People are grief-stricken in various ways, I seem to be picking up, not least of all myself. As to your melancholia, that’s a good example of sadness and happiness elements together. I knew a musician who joked that the French suffered ‘permanent melancholy’, but that itself was code for the ease with which the French USE melancholy, enjoying it as a realistic and legitimate way of being, rather than resisting it. My experience of most Americans is that they have a horror of melancholy, and this is, I’m sure, because it is one of the balances between horror and euphoria–in short, it has practical uses, and Americans are not psychologically practical, and are much more prone to think melancholy is a thing of luxurious indulgence. Hence, even Martha Graham’s most joyous works, like Appalachian Spring, are thoroughly pervaded with melancholy and joy at the same time. This combination is nearly impossible to master, and she has done it better than anyone who comes to mind, except perhaps Debussy.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 8 December 2008 @ 4:01 pm

  28. at least from here in the cheap seats.

    Really I wish you would for once take the expensive seat at dr. Sinthome’s and assert yourself as his cognitivist nightmare. Your performance was excruciatingly lame, if I was dr. Sinthome I wouldn’t even bother to respond.

    Speaking of the narcissistic cat, I did some parody research on him through Colin College’s archives and he strikes me as a sincere dumbhead, which I’ve always been sort of impartial to. He’s one of those people who would sincerely work for a non-governmental organization thinking that he’s helping refugees instead of servicing international Capital. Which is fine; we need less cynics in these harsh times. I don’t think his infatuation with dr. Zizek is quite as bad as in upscale New York, but he is still collecting references for his CV and his groveling, in this sense, is understandable.

    Having looked more carefully at Richard’s work, I found it really good. I thought for a minute it could have been Dominique Fox, who even as he may not be showing it does have the ability to switch between layers of performance, but then I remembered Dominique doesn’t love any one of us enough. The discourse of this jester indicates a deep passion for the Parody Center’s work, which I find flattering.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 9 December 2008 @ 5:59 am

  29. Then of course it could be Heath Ledger speaking from the Beyond!!!

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    Comment by parodycenter — 9 December 2008 @ 6:00 am

  30. Kretinomatic is leading in the worst blawg category.

    The Qlipoth Toilets 8% (1 votes)
    feedback bar
    Le Colonel Chabert 25% (3 votes)
    feedback bar
    Kretinomatic 33% (4 votes)
    feedback bar
    Lieutenant Dr Jodianne Fossey 17% (2 votes)
    feedback bar
    Dot Palin 8% (1 votes)
    feedback bar
    Other: 8% (1 votes)
    feedback bar

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    Comment by parodycenter — 9 December 2008 @ 6:04 am

  31. Dejan, I had thought of Dominic briefly, but dismissed it, except that that sudden ‘pimp my edition’ was pretty Oxfordian. But Fox has not the resonance of long durations nor the talent for fury. I think it’s down to one of the Hyperstitionists, someone I know already or don’t, but he’s very familiar with Hyperstition, and it’s impossible that it’s one of the Arpegians, as I’ve explained. Dominic is also very intolerant, which would make the flexibility–perhaps the most extraordinary thing about ‘Richard’s’ writing, impossible. But we need him because he is equally valuable in parody and poetics. But he puts great stock in anonymity and has kept most of it thus far.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 9 December 2008 @ 8:50 am

  32. In any case, Dejan, let’s take the CPC discussions back over there, because it irritates John, I mean, esp. the blawg award statistics are not what his Enquiring Readers Want to Know…

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 9 December 2008 @ 9:05 am

  33. “if I was dr. Sinthome I wouldn’t even bother to respond.”

    And he didn’t, which in the preface to my observations I acknowledged was his prerogative if the empirical nuances didn’t grab him. Evidently they did not, nor apparently did they grab anyone else who comments at Larval Subjects. In my earlier exchange with Sinthome he gave me a mini-lecture about how it’s impossible to measure things like meaning and pain, hence I figured he had little interest in talking about the empirical findings from this study of happiness. Still it was somewhat surprising when, in his next post, Sinthome illustrated a theoretical point via a study that purports to measure something he believes can’t be measured. I was curious about the pattern of findings, so I contributed my introductory observations to the LS thread and then brought them back here as well.

    Like Sinthome, Jonquille observed that it’s not possible to measure happiness. My reply was roughly that it’s possible to measure something ABOUT happiness that might have practical value in answering certain kinds of questions. In this regard measurement isn’t that different from natural language: one would hope that words like “happiness” and “pain,” while not accurately representing the things in themselves, do enable people to communicate something about their subjective experiences of the thing. I elaborated on this similarity between language and empiricism in 2 or 3 posts fairly recently. As I read Lacan he might entirely disavow the connection between words and the things to which they refer, inasmuch as the Symbolic order of language comes into play only after one is castrated from the Real where the things themselves live.

    So PC, do you have any interpretations, Lacanian or otherwise, about any of the results I highlighted in my comment 3, or anything else from the study for that matter?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 9 December 2008 @ 9:11 am

  34. Though I’m not planning to vote, PC, I admire both your technological empiricism and your exuberant undermining of the method, whereby individual voters can stuff the ballot boxes again and again. I’m pretty sure the People’s Choice awards work on this principle too, maybe also the Grammys. Even baseball all-star voting has abandoned demonstrable excellence as judged by the players’ peers for mass vote-stuffing popularity. At least for the Academy Awards it’s still a one-vote-per-member affair.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 9 December 2008 @ 9:19 am

  35. At least for the Academy Awards it’s still a one-vote-per-member affair.

    Which means no more than the other way, giving that there’s nothing but politics and arm-twisting involved just like in the Senate.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 9 December 2008 @ 9:51 am

  36. well Clysmatics the famous psychoanalytic criticism of any cognitivist or behavioral research would be that it falls into the trap of language: in trying to operationalize these abstract variables, imagining some kind of ”pure” or ”objective” language, it becomes the victim of those ruling structures or ideologies who use this language to install a certain agenda, as in the case of neoliberal definitions of happiness as good adjustment to working conditions. so while thinking itself objective, the research is spoken as it were by the neoliberal ideology *or in my ex-country, the socialist ideology.
    i do certainly think since even animals have signals of happiness (a cat’s purring) you could probably isolate some of those in humans as well, but since humans operate with symbols, where the connection between the thing and its representation isn’t as clear-cut as in the case of a signal, i would always doubt the validity of such research except maybe as a supporting tool.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 9 December 2008 @ 9:52 am

  37. and i’m not surprised jonquille, as a poetesse, understands this intuitively, because the whole point in fact is in metaphor and metonymy, the two symbolic abilities that animals do not possess, despite numerous attempts at contrary claims and experimental evidence.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 9 December 2008 @ 9:54 am

  38. clysmatics my vision of the cognitive science, having first caused me enormous irritation in school, is that it needs to be seen precisely as one possible language construct among many others, and then and only then can it be productive. because without the awareness of this, with blind faith in ”objectivity”, it is always susceptible to abuse. i also learned that no single production of the human spirit, be it witchcraft or astrology, is to be dismissed a priori. so i am sure the cognitivism has a function in this world, it’s just that i find it very difficult to observe it independently of the psychoanalysis. a constructive mutual support of these two modalities would be the way to go, so this is why i told you i see it as within the realm of possibility that you reform the CBT with psychoanalysis and in this way create some kind of usable therapy for your local american conditions.

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    Comment by parody center — 9 December 2008 @ 12:03 pm

  39. “create some kind of usable therapy for your local american conditions.”

    This is it, PC. It’s why I keep oscillating back and forth between empiricism and Lacanian analysis, along with a more “ktismatic” orientation whereby individuals create something interesting out of their pathologies and symptoms; i.e., the “sinthome.” This was the focus of Dr. Sinthome’s latest discussion about whether Lacan learned something from Deleuze & Guattari, moving beyond or through the hole in the self as if it was a portal to some other realm of being.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 9 December 2008 @ 12:08 pm

  40. having just seen a swedish film, completely unrelated to all these debates, taking the ”queer” path with its suggestion that instead of the conventional oedipal narrative you’d encounter in a teen vampire movie, the characters will move on through a portal (siberian train) on to a new form of gender and otherwise relation, i would say this is certainly the zeitgeist and this is the path you should follow, although i still don’t know where your doubting comes from since the project seems more-or-less formatted and formulated all it takes is execution, in some financially viable form. just GET FACKING GOING Clysmatics, life is too short for doubting.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 9 December 2008 @ 3:49 pm

  41. Yes Dad.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 9 December 2008 @ 4:32 pm

  42. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/08/business/media/08carr.html?_r=1&8dpc

    I don’t know if this was where any of you found the happiness survey, but it’s mentioned in this article which I just got around to reading, and it is excellent. It is related to networked emotions, and really is one, since media-driven. Sorry if this was what had already started the discussion, I hadn’t had time to follow it.

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    Comment by jonquille de camembert — 9 December 2008 @ 7:13 pm

  43. Fowler, cited toward the end of this article, is one of the co-authors of the study I link to at the top of the post.

    Here’s this.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 10 December 2008 @ 1:09 pm

  44. Fowler, cited toward the end of this article, is one of the co-authors of the study I link to at the top of the post.

    My God, that’s what I SAID. This added to the ‘networked emotions’ because media-driven ones about the financial crisis are more the specific kind of thing that can be measured than general and differently defined BIG words like ‘happiness.’ I put the article here because it gives an example of emotions specifically caused by events, instead of weak generalizations like ‘happy people who are affluent are happier and more social than unhappy poor people who are or aren’t social.’

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    Comment by South'n — 10 December 2008 @ 1:42 pm

  45. You’re right, sorry: I misread and thought you were asking if it was the same study. There’s no question that viral buoyancy and panic move the market. It’s curiously paradoxical when “market analysts” try to interpret and anticipate the movements of contagious financial emotion as a basis for rendering rational investment decisions.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 10 December 2008 @ 1:52 pm

  46. Yes, and in this case, the media is demonstrated to really have power, and to be using it most irresponsibly. Because I’ve been affected more by their manipulation than I knew, so that just this single page about it has already helped me a lot personally. There’s all the seriousness that goes with this recession, but the media actually exercises real power in it.

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    Comment by South'n — 10 December 2008 @ 1:56 pm


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