Psychological problem with glasses and hats on head?

Psychological problem with glasses and hats on head?

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I knew a kid who, when they was little, they would have attacks when a relative removed their glasses. She would sometimes do it on purpose in front of them and they would have emotional outbursts just by the fact that she removed her glasses (eyeglasses). As far as anyone knows, no family member explained why the child would have this issue and had no idea why the kid would behave this way but never took him to get help I don't think… I remember because it was a girl I was dating's brother, about fifteen or so years ago. What was strange was that, when anyone else wore glasses, the child would not care when they removed them; just that one girl; their cousin.

The relationship between them and the cousin was normal with every other respect, but the kid had some kind of psychological/panic attacks when she removed her glasses.

They never claimed to traumatize the kid or anything but they went berserk when she removed her glasses and would cry, scream and have some sort of psychological problems. And from what I remember, the kid would always wear a hat around her as well or would have attacks as well if seen without a hat around her, but nothing was wrong with his head and would show it to anyone else beside this cousin.

Is there any possible way to know why something like this would happen in a kid around 6-9 years old? I am just curious and don't know if this question is fit for this site, but I thought I'd ask it here.

Some other info I can remember about the kid can be answerer if necessary.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are those that are characterized by excessive and persistent fear, worry, anxiety and related behavioral disturbances.   Fear involves an emotional response to a threat, whether that threat is real or perceived. Anxiety involves the anticipation that a future threat may arise. Types of anxiety disorders include:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

This disorder is marked by excessive worry about everyday events. While some stress and worry are a normal and even common part of life, GAD involves worry that is so excessive that it interferes with a person's well-being and functioning.


This condition is characterized by a pronounced fear a wide range of public places. People who experience this disorder often fear that they will suffer a panic attack in a setting where escape might be difficult.

Because of this fear, those with agoraphobia often avoid situations that might trigger an anxiety attack. In some cases, this avoidance behavior can reach a point where the individual is unable to even leave their own home.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder is a fairly common psychological disorder that involves an irrational fear of being watched or judged. The anxiety caused by this disorder can have a major impact on an individual's life and make it difficult to function at school, work, and other social settings.

Specific Phobias

These phobias involve an extreme fear of a specific object or situation in the environment. Some examples of common specific phobias include the fear of spiders, fear of heights, or fear of snakes.

The four main types of specific phobias involve natural events (thunder, lightening, tornadoes), medical (medical procedures, dental procedures, medical equipment), animals (dogs, snakes, bugs), and situational (small spaces, leaving home, driving). When confronted by a phobic object or situation, people may experience nausea, trembling, rapid heart rate, and even a fear of dying.

Panic Disorder

This psychiatric disorder is characterized by panic attacks that often seem to strike out of the blue and for no reason at all. Because of this, people with panic disorder often experience anxiety and preoccupation over the possibility of having another panic attack.

People may begin to avoid situations and settings where attacks have occurred in the past or where they might occur in the future. This can create significant impairments in many areas of everyday life and make it difficult to carry out normal routines.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

This condition is a type of anxiety disorder involving an excessive amount of fear or anxiety related to being separated from attachment figures. People are often familiar with the idea of separation anxiety as it relates to young children's fear of being apart from their parents, but older children and adults can experience it as well.

When symptoms become so severe that they interfere with normal functioning, the individual may be diagnosed with separation anxiety disorder. Symptoms involve an extreme fear of being away from the caregiver or attachment figure. The person suffering these symptoms may avoid moving away from home, going to school, or getting married in order to remain in close proximity to the attachment figure.

In one survey published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, it was estimated that as many as 18 percent of American adults suffer from at least one anxiety disorder.

A New Twist on a Classic Puzzle

Take a minute to think about it … Do you have the answer? Many people respond by saying that the ball must cost 10 cents. Is this the answer that you came up with? Although this response intuitively springs to mind, it is incorrect. If the ball cost 10 cents and the bat costs $1.00 more than the ball, then the bat would cost $1.10 for a grand total of $1.20. The correct answer to this problem is that the ball costs 5 cents and the bat costs — at a dollar more — $1.05 for a grand total of $1.10.

So why do so many people answer incorrectly? The answer is that people often substitute difficult problems with simpler ones in order to quickly solve them. In this case, people seem to unconsciously substitute the “more than” statement in the problem (the bat costs $1.00 more than the ball) with an absolute statement (the bat costs $1.00). This makes the math easier to work with if a ball and bat together cost $1.10 and the bat costs $1.00, then the ball must cost 10 cents.

Time and again research using the bat-and-ball problem has shown that that this intuitive process leads people astray. But are intuitions always detrimental to problem solving? In a 2014 Journal of Cognitive Psychology article, Université de Toulouse researcher Bastien Trémolière and Université Paris-Descartes researcher Wim De Neys sought to answer this question.

Trémolière and De Neys point out that the intuitively generated response to the bat-and-ball problem (that the ball costs 10 cents) is neither highly believable nor highly unbelievable. It is not unreasonable to think — especially for someone who isn’t an expert in baseball — that such a ball could cost 10 cents. They wondered how a person might respond if a similar problem cued an intuitive — but unbelievable — response. What would happen if the intuitive response contradicted other intuitions such as past knowledge about the cost of an item?

To find out, the researchers had participants answer a classic or a modified bat-and-ball-type problem. In the classic problem, participants were asked the following question:

“A Rolls-Royce and a Ferrari together cost $190,000. The Rolls-Royce costs $100,000 more than the Ferrari. How much does the Ferrari cost?”

In the modified version of the problem, participants were asked the following question:

“A Ferrari and a Ford together cost $190,000. The Ferrari costs $100,000 more than the Ford. How much does the Ford cost?”

As in the original bat-and-ball problem, people often will try to make the problem seem easier by unconsciously removing the “more than” wording in the problem, leading them to read the problem as saying either “The Rolls Royce costs $100,000” or “the Ferrari costs $100,000.”

The intuitive but incorrect answer is that the less expensive car (either the Ferrari or the Ford, depending on the problem) costs $90,000 however, in the modified version of the problem this answer (that the Ford costs $90,000) conflicts with people’s prior knowledge about Ford cars: The idea of a Ford being that expensive is not believable. This conflict is not present in the classic problem, as the thought of a Ferrari costing $90,000 would seem reasonable to most people.

The researchers found that significantly more people correctly answered the modified version of the problem than the classic version of the problem. The authors posited that when intuitive answers conflict with other intuitions, such as those based on past knowledge, people are more likely to engage in more deliberate and reflective reasoning leading to a higher likelihood that they will answer the problem correctly.


Trémolière, B., & De Neys, W. (2014). When intuitions are helpful: Prior beliefs can support reasoning in the bat-and-ball problem. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 26, 486–490.


Phrenologists believe that the human mind has a set of various mental faculties, each one represented in a different area of the brain. For example, the faculty of "philoprogenitiveness", from the Greek for "love of offspring", was located centrally at the back of the head (see illustration of the chart from Webster's Academic Dictionary).

These areas were said to be proportional to a person's propensities. The importance of an organ was derived from relative size compared to other organs. It was believed that the cranial skull—like a glove on the hand—accommodates to the different sizes of these areas of the brain, so that a person's capacity for a given personality trait could be determined simply by measuring the area of the skull that overlies the corresponding area of the brain.

Phrenology, which focuses on personality and character, is distinct from craniometry, which is the study of skull size, weight and shape, and physiognomy, the study of facial features.

Phrenology is a process that involves observing and/or feeling the skull to determine an individual's psychological attributes. Franz Joseph Gall believed that the brain was made up of 27 individual organs that determined personality, the first 19 of these 'organs' he believed to exist in other animal species. Phrenologists would run their fingertips and palms over the skulls of their patients to feel for enlargements or indentations. [19] The phrenologist would often take measurements with a tape measure of the overall head size and more rarely employ a craniometer, a special version of a caliper. In general, instruments to measure sizes of cranium continued to be used after the mainstream phrenology had ended. The phrenologists put emphasis on using drawings of individuals with particular traits, to determine the character of the person and thus many phrenology books show pictures of subjects. From absolute and relative sizes of the skull the phrenologist would assess the character and temperament of the patient.

Gall's list of the "brain organs" was specific. An enlarged organ meant that the patient used that particular "organ" extensively. The number – and more detailed meanings – of organs were added later by other phrenologists. The 27 areas varied in function, from sense of color, to religiosity, to being combative or destructive. Each of the 27 "brain organs" was located under a specific area of the skull. As a phrenologist felt the skull, he would use his knowledge of the shapes of heads and organ positions to determine the overall natural strengths and weaknesses of an individual. Phrenologists believed the head revealed natural tendencies but not absolute limitations or strengths of character. The first phrenological chart gave the names of the organs described by Gall it was a single sheet, and sold for a cent. Later charts were more expansive. [20]

Among the first to identify the brain as the major controlling center for the body were Hippocrates and his followers, inaugurating a major change in thinking from Egyptian, biblical and early Greek views, which based bodily primacy of control on the heart. [21] This belief was supported by the Greek physician Galen, who concluded that mental activity occurred in the brain rather than the heart, contending that the brain, a cold, moist organ formed of sperm, was the seat of the animal soul—one of three "souls" found in the body, each associated with a principal organ. [22]

The Swiss pastor Johann Kaspar Lavater (1741–1801) introduced the idea that physiognomy related to the specific character traits of individuals, rather than general types, in his Physiognomische Fragmente, published between 1775 and 1778. [23] His work was translated into English and published in 1832 as The Pocket Lavater, or, The Science of Physiognomy. [24] He believed that thoughts of the mind and passions of the soul were connected with an individual's external frame.

Of the forehead, When the forehead is perfectly perpendicular, from the hair to the eyebrows, it denotes an utter deficiency of understanding. (p. 24)

In 1796 the German physician Franz Joseph Gall (1758–1828) began lecturing on organology: the isolation of mental faculties [25] and later cranioscopy which involved reading the skull's shape as it pertained to the individual. It was Gall's collaborator Johann Gaspar Spurzheim who would popularize the term "phrenology". [25] [26]

In 1809 Gall began writing his principal [27] work, The Anatomy and Physiology of the Nervous System in General, and of the Brain in Particular, with Observations upon the possibility of ascertaining the several Intellectual and Moral Dispositions of Man and Animal, by the configuration of their Heads. It was not published until 1819. In the introduction to this main work, Gall makes the following statement in regard to his doctrinal principles, which comprise the intellectual basis of phrenology: [28]

  • The Brain is the organ of the mind
  • The brain is not a homogenous unity, but an aggregate of mental organs with specific functions
  • The cerebral organs are topographically localized
  • Other things being equal, the relative size of any particular mental organ is indicative of the power or strength of that organ
  • Since the skull ossifies over the brain during infant development, external craniological means could be used to diagnose the internal states of the mental characters

Through careful observation and extensive experimentation, Gall believed he had established a relationship between aspects of character, called faculties, with precise organs in the brain.

Johann Spurzheim was Gall's most important collaborator. He worked as Gall's anatomist until 1813 when for unknown reasons they had a permanent falling out. [25] Publishing under his own name Spurzheim successfully disseminated phrenology throughout the United Kingdom during his lecture tours through 1814 and 1815 [29] and the United States in 1832 where he would eventually die. [30]

Gall was more concerned with creating a physical science, so it was through Spurzheim that phrenology was first spread throughout Europe and America. [25] Phrenology, while not universally accepted, was hardly a fringe phenomenon of the era. George Combe would become the chief promoter of phrenology throughout the English-speaking world after he viewed a brain dissection by Spurzheim, convincing him of phrenology's merits.

The popularization of phrenology in the middle and working classes was due in part to the idea that scientific knowledge was important and an indication of sophistication and modernity. [31] Cheap and plentiful pamphlets, as well as the growing popularity of scientific lectures as entertainment, also helped spread phrenology to the masses. Combe created a system of philosophy of the human mind [32] that became popular with the masses because of its simplified principles and wide range of social applications that were in harmony with the liberal Victorian world view. [29] George Combe's book On the Constitution of Man and its Relationship to External Objects sold over 200,000 copies through nine editions. [33] Combe also devoted a large portion of his book to reconciling religion and phrenology, which had long been a sticking point. Another reason for its popularity was that phrenology balanced between free will and determinism. [34] A person's inherent faculties were clear, and no faculty was viewed as evil, though the abuse of a faculty was. Phrenology allowed for self-improvement and upward mobility, while providing fodder for attacks on aristocratic privilege. [34] [35] Phrenology also had wide appeal because of its being a reformist philosophy not a radical one. [36] Phrenology was not limited to the common people, and both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert invited George Combe to read the heads of their children. [37]

The American brothers Lorenzo Niles Fowler (1811–1896) and Orson Squire Fowler (1809–1887) were leading phrenologists of their time. Orson, together with associates Samuel Robert Wells and Nelson Sizer, ran the phrenological business and publishing house Fowlers & Wells in New York City. Meanwhile, Lorenzo spent much of his life in England where he initiated the famous phrenological publishing house, L.N Fowler & Co., and gained considerable fame with his phrenology head (a china head showing the phrenological faculties), which has become a symbol of the discipline. [38] Orson Fowler was known for his octagonal house.

Phrenology came about at a time when scientific procedures and standards for acceptable evidence were still being codified. [39] In the context of Victorian society, phrenology was a respectable scientific theory. The Phrenological Society of Edinburgh founded by George and Andrew Combe was an example of the credibility of phrenology at the time, and included a number of extremely influential social reformers and intellectuals, including the publisher Robert Chambers, the astronomer John Pringle Nichol, the evolutionary environmentalist Hewett Cottrell Watson, and asylum reformer William A.F. Browne. In 1826, out of the 120 members of the Edinburgh society an estimated one third were from a medical background. [40] By the 1840s there were more than 28 phrenological societies in London with over 1000 members. [33] Another important scholar was Luigi Ferrarese, the leading Italian phrenologist. [41] He advocated that governments should embrace phrenology as a scientific means of conquering many social ills, and his Memorie Riguardanti La Dottrina Frenologica (1836), is considered "one of the fundamental 19th century works in the field". [41]

Traditionally the mind had been studied through introspection. Phrenology provided an attractive, biological alternative that attempted to unite all mental phenomena using consistent biological terminology. [42] Gall's approach prepared the way for studying the mind that would lead to the downfall of his own theories. [43] Phrenology contributed to development of physical anthropology, forensic medicine, knowledge of the nervous system and brain anatomy as well as contributing to applied psychology. [44]

John Elliotson was a brilliant but erratic heart specialist who became a phrenologist in the 1840s. He was also a mesmerist and combined the two into something he called phrenomesmerism or phrenomagnatism. [40] Changing behaviour through mesmerism eventually won out in Elliotson's hospital, putting phrenology in a subordinate role. [39] Others amalgamated phrenology and mesmerism as well, such as the practical phrenologists Collyer and Joseph R. Buchanan. The benefits of combining mesmerism and phrenology was that the trance the patient was placed in was supposed to allow for the manipulation of his/her penchants and qualities. [40] For example, if the organ of self-esteem was touched, the subject would take on a haughty expression. [45]

Phrenology was mostly discredited as a scientific theory by the 1840s. This was due only in part to a growing amount of evidence against phrenology. [40] Phrenologists had never been able to agree on the most basic mental organ numbers, going from 27 to over 40, [47] [48] and had difficulty locating the mental organs. Phrenologists relied on cranioscopic readings of the skull to find organ locations. [49] Jean Pierre Flourens' experiments on the brains of pigeons indicated that the loss of parts of the brain either caused no loss of function, or the loss of a completely different function than what had been attributed to it by phrenology. Flourens' experiment, while not perfect, seemed to indicate that Gall's supposed organs were imaginary. [43] [50] Scientists had also become disillusioned with phrenology since its exploitation with the middle and working classes by entrepreneurs. The popularization had resulted in the simplification of phrenology and mixing in it of principles of physiognomy, which had from the start been rejected by Gall as an indicator of personality. [51] Phrenology from its inception was tainted by accusations of promoting materialism and atheism, and being destructive of morality. These were all factors which led to the downfall of phrenology. [49] [52] Recent studies, using modern day technology like Magnetic Resonance Imaging have further disproven phrenology claims. [53]

During the early 20th century, a revival of interest in phrenology occurred, partly because of studies of evolution, criminology and anthropology (as pursued by Cesare Lombroso). The most famous British phrenologist of the 20th century was the London psychiatrist Bernard Hollander (1864–1934). His main works, The Mental Function of the Brain (1901) and Scientific Phrenology (1902), are an appraisal of Gall's teachings. Hollander introduced a quantitative approach to the phrenological diagnosis, defining a method for measuring the skull, and comparing the measurements with statistical averages. [54]

In Belgium, Paul Bouts (1900–1999) began studying phrenology from a pedagogical background, using the phrenological analysis to define an individual pedagogy. Combining phrenology with typology and graphology, he coined a global approach known as psychognomy.

Bouts, a Roman Catholic priest, became the main promoter of renewed 20th-century interest in phrenology and psychognomy in Belgium. He was also active in Brazil and Canada, where he founded institutes for characterology. His works Psychognomie and Les Grandioses Destinées individuelle et humaine dans la lumière de la Caractérologie et de l'Evolution cérébro-cranienne are considered standard works in the field. In the latter work, which examines the subject of paleoanthropology, Bouts developed a teleological and orthogenetical view on a perfecting evolution, from the paleo-encephalical skull shapes of prehistoric man, which he considered still prevalent in criminals and savages, towards a higher form of mankind, thus perpetuating phrenology's problematic racializing of the human frame. Bouts died on March 7, 1999. His work has been continued by the Dutch foundation PPP (Per Pulchritudinem in Pulchritudine), operated by Anette Müller, one of Bouts' students.

During the 1930s Belgian colonial authorities in Rwanda used phrenology to explain the so-called superiority of Tutsis over Hutus. [55]

Racism Edit

Some Europeans looking for a scientific basis for their personal racism found phrenology attractive as justification for European superiority over other "lesser" races. By comparing skulls of different ethnic groups it supposedly allowed for ranking of races from least to most evolved. Broussais, a disciple of Gall, proclaimed that the Caucasians were the "most beautiful" while peoples like the Australian Aboriginal and Maori would never become civilized since they had no cerebral organ for producing great artists. [56] Few phrenologists argued against the emancipation of the slaves. Instead they argued that through education and interbreeding the lesser peoples could improve. [57] Another argument was that the natural inequality of people could be used to situate them in the most appropriate place in society.

Gender Stereotyping Edit

Gender stereotyping was also common with phrenology. Women whose heads were generally larger in the back with lower foreheads were thought to have underdeveloped organs necessary for success in the arts and sciences while having larger mental organs relating to the care of children and religion. [58] While phrenologists did not contend the existence of talented women, this minority did not provide justification for citizenship or participation in politics. [59]

Education Edit

One of the considered practical applications of phrenology was education. Due to the nature of phrenology people were naturally considered unequal, as very few people would have a naturally perfect balance between organs. Thus education would play an important role in creating a balance through rigorous exercise of beneficial organs while repressing baser ones. One of the best examples of this is Félix Voisin who for approximately ten years ran a reform school in Issy for the express purpose of correction of the mind of children who had suffered some hardship. Voisin focused on four categories of children for his reform school: [60]

  • Slow learners
  • Spoiled, neglected, or harshly treated children
  • Willful, disorderly children
  • Children at high risk of inheriting mental disorders

Criminology Edit

Phrenology was one of the first to bring about the idea of rehabilitation of criminals instead of vindictive punishments that would not stop criminals, only with the reorganizing a disorganized brain would bring about change. [61] Voisin believed along with others the accuracy of phrenology in diagnosing criminal tendencies. Diagnosis could point to the type of offender, the insane, an idiot or brute, and by knowing this an appropriate course of action could be taken. [60] A strict system of reward and punishment, hard work and religious instruction, was thought to be able to correct those who had been abandoned and neglected with little education and moral ground works. Those who were considered mentally challenged could be put to work and housed collectively while only criminals of intellect and vicious intent needed to be confined and isolated. [62] Phrenology also advocated variable prison sentences, the idea being that those who were only defective in education and lacking in morals would soon be released while those who were mentally deficient could be watched and the truly abhorrent criminals would never be released. [36] [63] [64] For other patients phrenology could help redirect impulses, one homicidal individual became a butcher to control his impulses, while another became a military chaplain so he could witness killings. [65] Phrenology also provided reformist arguments for the lunatic asylums of the Victorian era. John Conolly, a physician interested in psychological aspects of disease, used phrenology on his patients in an attempt to use it as a diagnostic tool. While the success of this approach is debatable, Conolly, through phrenology, introduced a more humane way of dealing with the mentally ill. [39]

Psychiatry Edit

In psychiatry, phrenology was proposed as a viable model in order to the disciplinary field. The South Italian psychiatrist Biagio Miraglia proposed a new classification of mental illness based on brain functions as they were described by Gall. In Miraglia's view, madness is consequent to dysfunctions of the cerebral organs: "The organs of the brain that may become ill in isolation or in complex get their activities infected through energy, or depression, or inertia or deficiency. So the madness can take the appearance of these three characteristic forms i.e. for enhanced activity, or for depressed activity, or for inertia or deficiency of brain activities". [66]

Psychology Edit

In the Victorian era, phrenology as a psychology was taken seriously and permeated the literature and novels of the day. Many prominent public figures. such as the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher (a college classmate and initial partner of Orson Fowler) promoted phrenology actively as a source of psychological insight and self-knowledge. [67] Especially in Britain and the US, people visited phrenologists to have their heads analysed. After such an examination, clients received a written delineation of their character or a standardized chart with their score, combined with advice on how to improve themselves. [68] People also consulted phrenologists for advice in matters such as hiring personnel or finding suitable marriage partners. [69] [70] As such, phrenology as a brain science waned but developed into the popular psychology of the 19th century.

Britain Edit

Phrenology was introduced at a time when the old theological and philosophical understanding of the mind was being questioned and no longer seemed adequate in a society that was experiencing rapid social and demographic changes. [71] Phrenology became one of the most popular movements of the Victorian Era. In part phrenology's success was due to George Combe tailoring phrenology for the middle class. Combe's book On the Constitution of Man and its Relationship to External Objects was one of the most popular of the time, selling over two hundred thousand copies in a ten-year period. Phrenology's success was also partly because it was introduced at a time when scientific lectures were becoming a form of middle-class entertainment, exposing a large demographic of people to phrenological ideas who would not have heard them otherwise. [72] As a result of the changing of the times, along with new avenues for exposure and its multifaceted appeal, phrenology flourished in popular culture [73] although it was discredited as scientific theory by 1840.

France Edit

While still not a fringe movement, there was not popular widespread support of phrenology in France. This was not only due to strong opposition to phrenology by French scholars but also once again accusations of promoting atheism, materialism and radical religious views. Politics in France also played a role in preventing rapid spread of phrenology. [74] In Britain phrenology had provided another tool to be used for situating demographic changes the difference was there was less fear of revolutionary upheaval in Britain compared with France. Given that most French supporters of phrenology were liberal, left-wing or socialist, it was an objective of the social elite of France, who held a restrained vision of social change, that phrenology remain on the fringes. Another objection was that phrenology seemed to provide a built in excuse for criminal behaviour, since in its original form it was essentially deterministic in nature. [74]

Ireland Edit

Phrenology arrived in Ireland in 1815, through Spurzheim. [75] While Ireland largely mirrored British trends, with scientific lectures and demonstrations becoming a popular pastime of the age, by 1815 phrenology had already been ridiculed in some circles priming the audiences to its skeptical claims. [76] Because of this the general public valued it more for its comic relief than anything else however, it did find an audience in the rational dissenters who found it an attractive alternative to explain human motivations without the attached superstitions of religion. [77] The supporters of phrenology in Ireland were relegated to scientific subcultures because the Irish scholars neglected marginal movements like phrenology, denying it scientific support in Ireland. [31] In 1830 George Combe came to Ireland, his self-promotion barely winning out against his lack of medical expertise, still only drawing lukewarm crowds. This was due to not only the Vatican's decree that phrenology was subversive of religion and morality but also that, based on phrenology, the "Irish Catholics were sui generis a flawed and degenerate breed". [78] Because of the lack of scientific support, along with religious and prejudicial reasons, phrenology never found a wide audience in Ireland.

United States Edit

The first publication in the United States in support of phrenology was published by Dr. John Bell, who reissued Combe's essays with an introductory discourse, in 1822. [79] The following year, Dr. John G. Wells of Bowdoin College "commenced an annual exposition, and recommendation of its doctrines, to his class". [79] In 1834, Dr. John D. Godman, professor of anatomy at Rutgers Medical College, emphatically defended phrenology when he wrote: [80]

It is, however, allowable to take as a principle, that there will be a relation betwixt vigour of intellect and perfection of form and that, therefore, history will direct us to the original and chief family of mankind. We therefore ask, which are the nations that have excelled and figured in history, not only as conquerors, but as forwarding, by their improvements in arts and sciences, the progress of human knowledge?

Phrenological teachings had become a widespread popular movement by 1834, when Combe came to lecture in the United States. [81] Sensing commercial possibilities men like the Fowlers became phrenologists and sought additional ways to bring phrenology to the masses. [82] Though a popular movement, the intellectual elite of the United States found phrenology attractive because it provided a biological explanation of mental processes based on observation, yet it was not accepted uncritically. Some intellectuals accepted organology while questioning cranioscopy. [83] Gradually the popular success of phrenology undermined its scientific merits in the United States and elsewhere, along with its materialistic underpinnings, fostering radical religious views. There was increasing evidence to refute phrenological claims, and by the 1840s it had largely lost its credibility. [69] In the United States, especially in the South, phrenology faced an additional obstacle in the antislavery movement. While phrenologists usually claimed the superiority of the European race, they were often sympathetic to liberal causes including the antislavery movement this sowed skepticism about phrenology among those who were pro-slavery. [84] The rise and surge in popularity in mesmerism, phrenomesmerism, also had a hand in the loss of interest in phrenology among intellectuals and the general public. [45] [85]

Examples of Fixations

There are multiple ways the three fixations mentioned above may manifest in different individuals.

Oral Fixations

The oral stage tends to occur between birth and around 18 months old, during which time the oral (feeding) needs of the child are either met, overstimulated, or unmet. For example, Freud might suggest that if a child has issues during the weaning process, they might develop an oral fixation.

Freud may also suggest that nail-biting, smoking, gum-chewing, and excessive drinking are signs of an oral fixation. This would indicate that the individual did not resolve the primary conflicts during the earliest stage of psychosexual development, the oral stage.

Anal Fixations

The second stage of psychosexual development is known as the anal stage because it is primarily focused on controlling bowel movements. Fixations at this point in development can lead to what Freud called anal-retentive and anal-expulsive personalities.

  • Anal-retentive individuals: This group may have experienced overly strict and harsh potty training as children and may grow to be overly obsessed with orderliness and tidiness.
  • Anal-expulsive individuals: On the other hand, anal-expulsive individuals may have experienced very lax potty training, resulting in them being very messy and disorganized as adults.

In either case, both types of fixations result from not properly resolving the critical conflict that takes place during this stage of development.

Phallic Fixations

The phallic stage of development is primarily focused on identifying with the same-sex parent. Freud suggested that fixations at this point could lead to adult personalities that are overly vain, exhibitionistic, and sexually aggressive.

At this stage, boys may develop what Freud referred to as an Oedipus complex. Girls may develop an analogous issue known as an Electra complex. If not resolved, these complexes may linger and continue to affect behavior into adulthood.

Why and how normal people go mad

The real cause of 'mad' behavior is often overlooked by patients and therapists.

November 2002, Vol 33, No. 10

Just about any ordinary person can slip into madness, believes APA President Philip G. Zimbardo, PhD. In fact, all it may take to trigger the process is a special kind of blow to one's self-image to push someone over the edge of sanity.

"My colleagues and I have demonstrated that situational forces. can generate surprisingly powerful contributions to make good people behave in bad ways," he said to a standing-room-only crowd in his presentation, "Why and how normal people go mad," at APA's 2002 Annual Convention in Chicago.

The basis for his ideas is his discontinuity theory, which posits that when people perceive a violation in some domain of functioning vital to their sense of self-esteem, they will search for ways to explain or rationalize the experience. An A-student who suddenly gets poor grades, for example, may develop sexual or eating problems, or exhibit violent fantasies--symptoms that could warrant a clinical diagnosis of psychopathology. But, according to Zimbardo's theory, many people who exhibit symptoms of "madness" are "reasoning with insufficient data or rigidly defending the wrong theory," he said. As Zimbardo pointed out to attendees, Voltaire said, "What is madness? To have erroneous perceptions and to reason correctly from them."

Sometimes, Zimbardo said, the source of a person's discontinuity can be physical but mistakenly attributed to a psychological disorder. "Think of this," he said. "You're going deaf but aren't really aware of it. You walk into a room full of friends and you see their mouths moving, but you don't hear them. You ask, 'Why are you whispering?' and they say 'We're not whispering.' You say, 'Why are you lying?' and then you end up in a confrontation and people think, 'Gee, this guy is really crazy.'" That process can produce paranoid delusions, he noted.

But many people deemed "crazy" might not be crazy after all, he said. A 1989 study (Koran, Archives of General Psychiatry) of 500 patients in several California state mental hospitals showed a large percentage had physical diseases that could cause or exacerbate a mental disorder--yet they were not detected by professionals.

Could some of these patients' psychological disturbances have been explained by medical problems and thus "cured"? Zimbardo asked. And why is the real root of what seems to be pathological behavior undetected or ignored?

So too, prevailing societal biases may mask the root cause of "mad" behavior. Take for example the "witches" in Salem, Mass., who shared a diet based on rye grain, which in wet, cold climates like that of 1692, grew a fungus that produced a natural hallucinogen, like LSD. The girls probably weren't mad, just suffering from microbiological food poisoning. Society offered witchcraft as a readily available explanation for these discontinuities, Zimbardo pointed out.

Recent research

Zimbardo and his colleagues at Stanford University tested his theory on normal, healthy, hypnotized college students. In their study, the researchers generated a discontinuity--they induced sudden increases in heart rate and respiration that created unexplained arousal characterized by feelings such as anxiety, anger, nervousness or restlessness--in these student volunteers. The volunteers were then guided to incorrectly attribute the cause of their problem through potential cognitive, environmental or social explanations for the discontinuity, as suggested by the researchers. In effect, they duped the students into believing the wrong reasons for their discontinuity.

Zimbardo predicted that when the volunteers were unable to come up with acceptable explanations or social comparisons for their arousal, their inability to deal with it would eventually lead to predictable symptoms of psychopathology. He was right. When volunteers incorrectly blamed situational or environmental factors for their arousal, they began to exhibit phobic behaviors. When students were led to wrongly believe that the source of their anxiety was physical, they began to show signs of hypochondria or somatoform disorders. And attributing such discontinuities to social causes created paranoid symptoms.

Similarly, in earlier research he and colleagues have done, Zimbardo noted, hypnotically induced unexplained deafness in volunteers generated experimental paranoia. Like the volunteers themselves, therapists involved as raters in the experiments who were asked to determine the cause for the volunteers' symptoms mistakenly attributed the behaviors to varying clinical conditions.

"The seeds of madness," said Zimbardo, "can be planted in anyone's backyard." But "mad" behavior may not necessarily be the product of "some 'premorbid' personality disorder," he noted. Psychologists would do well to consider physical, situational and societal influences--and the timing of these influences--in their work with patients.

"Madness is the sufferer's unintentional disruption of society's norms, of reasonable and normal actions," he said.


A Resolution in the U.S. House is Inspired by an APA Presidential Initiative on Poverty

In honor of work of APA President Rosie Phillips Davis, PhD, and her commitment to addressing deep poverty, APA worked with congressional offices to introduce H.Res. 763, a House resolution "Expressing Support for the Development of a National Strategic Plan to End Deep Poverty" on Thursday, Dec. 12. The resolution was introduced by Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) and was co-sponsored by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Rep. Eleanor Homes Norton (D-D.C.), Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) and Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Pa.).

APA Comments on Changes to Nutrition Programs

On Sept. 23, APA submitted comments (PDF, 656KB) to a proposed rule issued by Food and Nutrition Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on revising the categorical eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The proposed rule would constrict broad-based categorical eligibility (BBCE), which, in its current form, has allowed over 40 states/jurisdictions to both streamline the application process and expand eligibility for SNAP benefits to more low-income households. Should the proposed rule be implemented the USDA by its own estimate admits that 9.0% of households currently participating in SNAP would lose eligibility and 3.1 million people would no longer receive SNAP benefits. APA highlighted psychological research demonstrating that SNAP provides both short- and long-term health benefits, including reduced food insecurity, improved overall health, and decreased psychological stress to oppose the proposed rule.

APA Decries Proposed Rule That Would Lead to Immigrant Homelessness

On May 20, 2019, APA responded to a harmful proposed rule (PDF, 148KB) that would prohibit “mixed status” families from living in public and other subsidized housing, meaning that families who have any members who are ineligible for housing aid due to their immigration status would lose their support. Families would be presented with an impossible choice: either stay together as a family or separate so that eligible family members could still receive aid. 108,000 people, including 55,000 children, could be displaced. APA argued that either choice — family separation or potential homelessness — could be psychologically devastating, leading to immense stress, trauma, and other harms to mental and physical health.

APA Argues Against SNAP Cuts

On March 13, APA submitted regulatory comments (PDF, 119KB) to the Food and Nutrition Service opposing their proposal to make it more difficult for states to receive waivers of the time limit restricting how long people can receive food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) without working. The comments highlight the benefits of SNAP, including reduced food insecurity, improved health, decreased psychological distress and reduced healthcare expenditures, and go on to highlight psychological research that shows why harsh work requirements don’t work. APA supports efforts to help low-income Americans find employment but making people hungrier won’t help them find work faster.

APA Submits Regulatory Comments Highlighting Harms of Proposed Public Charge Rule

APA submitted comments (PDF, 141KB) to the Department of Homeland Security opposing a proposed rule that aims to reconfigure how the government evaluates whether a would-be immigrant is likely to become a “public charge,” that is, to depend on the government for their subsistence. The proposed rule would expand the list of factors, including federal programs, that may be considered in a public charge determination, which would dramatically decrease the number of low-income immigrants to the U.S. and curtail the ability of immigrants to access public benefits like Medicaid or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. APA highlighted the rule’s potentially harmful impact on the physical and mental health of immigrants and other vulnerable populations, its facilitation of prejudicial attitudes, and the public health threat it poses to the general population.

APA Comments on Imposition of Work Requirements

On Aug. 21, APA sent a letter (PDF, 116KB) to the Office of Management and Budget, commenting on the federal government’s widespread imposition of work requirements on low-income people who rely on safety net programs. APA noted that work requirements are not likely to increase long-term employment conversely, they may actually increase poverty levels as low-income people lose benefits. APA highlighted psychological science showing that all individuals have limited mental capacity. When one does not have enough money, food, time, or any other important human need, this scarcity limits one’s ability to pay attention to anything but the most pressing tasks. Unemployed and low-income people are likely to suffer from these effects, making job-seeking harder. Hence, rather than harsh incentives, unemployed beneficiaries seeking jobs need support in addressing barriers to employment — for instance, by providing increased assistance with child care, transportation or job training.

APA Supports Homeless Children and Youth Act

On Aug. 21, APA submitted a letter (PDF, 205KB) of support to the Senate and House sponsors of the bipartisan Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2017 (S. 611, H.R. 1511) (HCYA). APA highlighted that families with children comprise a major, and the fastest growing, segment of the homeless population. Homelessness is especially harmful to children, as experiences such as frequent moves, family split-ups, and crowded accommodation negatively affect development. HCYA, which would align the McKinney-Vento Act with definitions used to verify eligibility for other federal assistance programs, is vitally needed.

APA sent an April 13, 2018, letter (PDF, 170KB) to House leadership joining with advocacy partners to argue against the Farm Bill, which would have made harmful cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). If enacted, the Farm Bill would have imposed harsh new work and reporting requirements on millions of SNAP recipients. Those who could comply with these requirements would lose benefits for up to 36 months. Up to two million people would have seen their benefits reduced or eliminated over the next 10 years, likely pushing them further into poverty. APA also sent an action alert to the Federal Action Network and signed several coalition letters.

Update: APA sent an Aug. 21, 2018, letter (PDF, 192KB) to Senate and House Chairs and Ranking Members of the Committees on Agriculture, prior to the Farm Bill being negotiated in conference committee. APA reiterated opposition to harmful provisions in the House bill, and supported Senate provisions including an increase in pilot funding to test promising approaches to connecting SNAP Employment and Training participants to the workforce.

APA Opposes Work Requirements

APA sent a letter (PDF, 414KB) to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, arguing against work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries. APA responded to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service’s recent guidance encouraging states to experiment with work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries. APA cautioned that this new policy will hurt unemployed people in fundamental ways that counter the government’s obligation to provide a safety net for our most vulnerable citizens, highlighting disproportionate effects on vulnerable communities such as disabled Americans and those with substance use disorders. The letter highlights that unemployed people need support to encourage employment – for example childcare, transportation, or job seeking – not punishment. And finally, APA emphasized that while decent, dignified work brings health benefits, interventions which force people off benefits or into ill-fitting jobs may cause harm.

Update : APA has also submitted comments opposing Kentucky's (PDF, 150 KB) and Alabama's (PDF, 316KB) requests to CMS to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients.

APA Informs Social Security Administration on Improving Outcomes for Youth with Disabilities

The American Psychological Association’s Office on Disability Issues in Psychology and Public Interest Government Relations Office submitted written comments (PDF, 302KB) to the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) request for information on improving adult economic outcomes for youth with disabilities receiving Supplemental Security Income. Despite federal initiatives to improve access to employment among individuals with disabilities, researchers have found that people with disabilities are far less likely to be employed than their counterparts without disabilities. APA’s comments called on the SSA to provide additional technical assistance to service providers and increased interagency collaboration through cooperative agreements and memorandums of understandings.

APA Supports the Raise the Wage Act

APA sent an Aug. 4, 2017, letter (PDF, 219KB) to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) thanking him for the introduction of S. 1242, the Raise the Wage Act, which would increase the earnings of our nation’s lowest wage workers, thereby improving the well-being of low-income families.

The letter notes that higher wages help individuals rise out of poverty both by increasing their access to food, healthcare and education, and by removing the cognitive burdens associated with scarcity of resources.

Smoking Ban for Public Housing Should Be Paired With Smoking Cessation Programs

APA sent a June 14, 2017, letter (PDF, 150KB) to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson supporting a 2016 HUD policy banning smoking in government-owned public housing. The letter also asked that HUD take steps to ensure that the rule does not adversely impact HUD participants through threatening eviction without providing support with smoking cessation.

APA Holds Congressional Briefing on Family Homelessness

Coalition Supports Federal Assistance for Homeless Families

APA joined with coalition partners to support the Homeless Children and Youth Act (S. 611/H.R. 1511), which would make it easier for communities to help homeless children, youth and families. The legislation would give communities the flexibility to use federal funding to meet local needs, and help ensure that those most in need of assistance receive it. It would also align the definition of homelessness used by the Department of Housing and Urban Development with that used by other federal agencies and programs, and encourage better data collection and transparency in order to advance our knowledge of homeless children, youth and families.

With Partners, APA Supports Policies That Alleviate Burdens on Low-Income Families

APA joined with coalition partners to sign two letters broadly supporting policies to benefit low-income communities. The first letter (PDF, 641KB) urges the president and members of Congress to protect and assist low-income and vulnerable people and invest in broadly shared economic growth and jobs. The second letter (PDF, 691KB) encourages the president and members of Congress to ensure a strong and effective national nutrition safety net for vulnerable low-income individuals and families.

Also in March, APA signed onto a letter (PDF, 112KB) asking Congress for $6.36 billion for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), in the FY 2018 Agriculture Appropriations bill. APA has long supported WIC, an evidence-based program that has been instrumental in improving at-risk women and children’s health, growth and development for 43 years. This level of funding would: Ensure that no eligible applicants are turned away maintain current and anticipated WIC participation levels ensure adequate funding for nutrition education, breastfeeding support, referral services and administration respond adequately to forecasts of food cost inflation provide funds to maintain clinic staffing and assure competitive salaries.

Psychologists Inform Congressional Staff on the Psychological Effects of Poverty

On Dec. 2, 2016, APA hosted a congressional briefing in conjunction with U.S. Rep Barbara Lee, D-Calif., on "The Psychology of Poverty: How Scarce Resources Affect Our Behaviors and Decisions, and What We Can Do About It." Speakers included Eldar Shafir, PhD, David Yokum, PhD, and Chye-Ching Huang, LLM.

The briefing covered why poverty can be so difficult to escape. We know that structural barriers impede mobility in addition, research shows that insufficient resources have detrimental psychological effects. With less money, people must plan how to stretch their dollars as far as possible and decide which essential items they cannot afford. Preoccupation with so many difficult decisions can affect thoughts and emotions, which can make it harder to meet the challenges of day-to-day life.

Outbursts of Explosive Rage: What Causes Them and How Can They Be Prevented?

Michael Richards' recent meltdown in a West Hollywood comedy club and Mel Gibson's tirade during a DUI arrest has many people wondering: What causes sudden attacks of rage like these and how can we protect ourselves from losing control?

A study released by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) released this summer may hold a clue to preventing anger attacks such as the one exhibited by Richards. The study reported that as many as 7.3 percent of American adults — 11.5 million to 16 million people — may be affected by intermittent explosive disorder, or IED, which they defined as multiple outbursts grossly out of proportion to the situation.

Those afflicted by IED may lose control and break objects, or attack or threaten to harm others. This disorder may also be the cause of some forms of road rage, temper outbursts and even spousal abuse.

Psychology Today notes that individuals affected by IED might describe their episodes as "spells" or "attacks," but points out that some clinicians believe that IED is only a symptom of other diagnoses and not in fact a disorder on its own.

Mental disorders are much more common than you might have expected.

According to the NIMH, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada for ages 15 to 44, and more than one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year.

Was Richards' outburst caused simply by too much stress? Was there a mental health component to his tirade? Only a complete medical and psychiatric evaluation will tell for sure. To get more insight on this, we interviewed Dr. Diego Coira, chairman of psychiatry at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.

Here are his responses to some of our questions:

What are some of the psychological factors that would make people like Michael Richards lose control?

There are biological, psychological and social factors that influence behavior such as rage. Biological factors such as temperament play a role in human behavior. Some individuals are genetically predisposed to have aggressive tendencies. This aggressive behavior is usually channeled in socially acceptable ways. For example, people may take risks in stock investments, become racecar drivers or football players. Some of the psychological factors that affect human behavior are the result of early attachment to parental figures and the resolution of conflict early in life. For example, an individual that was exposed to violence in childhood will be more prone in stressful situations to go into a rage. Social factors are also important. There are consequences for one's behavior and usually an individual will control their anger before they become enraged. For an individual to lose control and go into a rage, usually there is a combination of temperament, learned behavior and a high level of stress and frustration.

What are the dangers of rage?

Rage is dangerous because as a person loses control, he can say things that he normally would suppress and even become violent. A moment of losing control can change one's life forever. You can lose your job, your relationships, or can wind up in jail. The consequences for the individual can also be financial loss and psychological injury. The consequences for the victim are usually worse and can include long-lasting psychological scars and/or physical trauma. If an individual has an episode of rage, he should seek psychological help. If this problem is not addressed with professional assistance, it may develop into a pattern of self-destruction.

When people have an emotional meltdown they tend to say many inappropriate things — Yet after the fact many reflect that it is not who they really are? Truth or fiction?

Some people will not like the consequences of their behavior and for that reason will try to retract their actions by offering an apology. But, in fact, the behavior actually reflects who they really are and are expressing feelings that are usually suppressed. Others will sincerely regret what was said or done and will carry the guilt for some time. In both cases, the individual's life will be changed after an episode of rage. Some people will learn and change their behavior others will continue with their behavior especially if the consequences are benign. For those that have multiple episodes of rage, it will be more difficult to explain that they did not mean what was said or done.

What a Messy Room Says About You

Emily is a fact checker, editor, and writer who has expertise in psychology content.

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

Do you ever dream of living in the perfectly clean and organized rooms of a home decor catalog? Or would you rather spend your time in a room cluttered with objects, souvenirs, books, art, and items that make up your daily life?

For some people, a tidy room can be soothing, an orderly retreat in an often disorderly world. For others, such rooms can be sterile, bland, and uninspiring. Some people feel anxious in a cluttered room, while others feel their most creative amid the chaos.

Organization is big business these days. From books to seminars to organizational systems, everyone seems to want to find some way to perfectly arrange every aspect of their lives.

Messiness has long been viewed as something of a character flaw or a sign of laziness. Cleanliness and organization are presented as the ideal—both a sign of and path to success. But what about those that are a little bit messier or more cluttered? What does a messy room say about you?


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