Saturday, December 1, 2007

L/C Mental Health

This posting relates to our previous discussions of the limitations of polls and our L-mind C-mind dichotomy. The following, from Gallup indicates a linear relationship between self-reported mental health and party affilliation.

According to Gallup, "Fifty-eight percent of Republicans report having excellent mental health, compared to 43% of independents and 38% of Democrats. This relationship between party identification and reports of excellent mental health persists even within categories of income, age, gender, church attendance, and education."

The following chart shows that even low-income Republicans report better mental health than Democrats with similar incomes. As expected, Democrats with higher incomes report 17% better mental health than Democrats with lower incomes, but high-income Republicans report 19% better mental health than high-income Democrats and 36% bettter mental health than low-income Democrats!

Of course, Democrats and Republicans do not exactly map to L-mind and C-mind, but that is at least an approximation.

Some portion of the population will not participate in polls and others will tell the pollsters what they think they want to hear or what will make the pollster think more highly of them - or they may lie outright. Thus, despite the best efforts of the pollsters, the results may or may not represent the actual opinions of the total population.

Never-the-less, poll results may be the best information available for certain things. Also, the high visibility of polls indicates that media audiences tend to pay attention to them.

On the other hand, since the differences are so strong (20% difference between Republicans and Democrats) there is a good chance the conclusions are true. Therefore all you L-minds, if you adopt some C-mind attitudes, your mental health may actually improve (or, at least, you may think it has improved! :^)

Ira Glickstein

(feeling mentally healthy)


Howard Pattee said...

Ira, I’m surprised that your critical view of polls completely missed what’s wrong with the conclusion of this one. Gallup’s conclusion misstates what the poll actually asked. It equates “self-perception of mental health” with “mental health” which we know is often wrong. “Show me a sane man, and I will cure him for you.” (Carl Jung). The obvious possibility is that Republicans’ self-perception is more egocentric or simply in denial of problems, and that Democrats’ self-perception is more self-aware and sensitive to problems. Also, Liberals may have higher standards for mental health than Conservatives. Another poll should accompany this one, asking what Democrats think of Republican’s mental health, and conversely. “Whenever two people meet, there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees him, and each man as he really is.” (William James)

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.” (Bertrand Russell)

Ira Glickstein said...

Of course I agree with Howard! In my first paragraph I said the Gallup poll "indicates a linear relationship between self-reported mental health and party affilliation."

Self-perception is sometimes totally wrong. I remember when tape recorders and then video recorders were first available to me and how disappointed I was at how I sounded and how I looked!

Now, I am usually quite pleased. Other people I know are often disappointed how they look - even people who are younger than me and better looking. In fact, it seems especially good-looking people are most critical when it comes to judging photos of themselves!

The point of the Gallup poll was SELF-perception of one's OWN mental health (whatever that might mean to that particular person).

The fact that more affluent people, regardless of party ID, self-rate their mental health higher than those less affluent indicates:

1) Better mental health generally leads to better finances (by reducing mental distractions to smart, hard work) -or-

2) Better finances tend to improve mental health (by removing stress, etc.) -or-

3) Better finances leads one to judge one's own mental health better (higher self-confidence, etc.), -or-

4) Some combination of the above!

Substitute "being a Republican ..." and the logic of the statement remains.

As for Howard's question about how we may rate each other's mental health, I think the evidence is that Republicans would generally rate Democrats higher than Democrats would rate Republicans. Do you disagree? ("It takes one to know one!")

In my original posting, I said poll respondents may lie or bend what they say to pollsters. I also said: "[if you change your political views] your mental health may actually improve (or, at least, you may think it has improved! :^)"

Like many other things, if you think you are good-looking or think you are smart or think you will win or think you are mentally healthy, that will generally help you achieve those things.

One of my favorite songs:

Ya can't roller skate in a buffalo herd ... But you can be happy if you've a mind to ...

Ya can't take a shower in a parakeet cage ... But you can be happy if you've a mind to ...

All ya gotta do is put your mind to it
Knuckle down, buckle down, do it, do it, do it

Well, ya can't go a-swimmin' in a baseball pool ...

Ya can't change film with a kid on your back ...

Ya can't drive around with a tiger in your car ...

Ya can't go fishin' in a watermelon patch ...

But you can be happy if you've a mind to ...

Actually, I'm feeling quite happy right now! (Having just returned from snow tubing down a nearby hill with my ten-year-old triplet granddaughters here in snowy Andover, MA. First deep snow I've experienced in five years. And, I don't have to drive in it - all the driving is being done by our daughter and son-in-law.)

Ira Glickstein

Howard Pattee said...

I agree with Ira that with many feelings “if you’ve a mind to” it works. “Fake it till you make it.” But there is a problem with reality. Having a mind to be right about nature’s laws seldom works.
I think this Gallup poll is very significant. Because of its independence from many variables it implies a real difference between the minds of conservatives and liberals, which we are trying to examine. I am going to use it as the topic of our weekly discussion group meeting tomorrow. I’ll report on the meeting later.

Howard Pattee said...

I used the Gallup poll on self-perception of mental health as the topic of our weekly discussion group. What a great subject! It really got people going. The statistical experts agreed that the poll shows a very significant difference between Republicans and Democrats because it holds up over so many variables. Since the question was not about politics, we felt that it indicates a real difference between C-minds and L-minds. The question was, what is the underlying reason for the difference?
We also agreed that the value-laden, very subjective concept of “mental health” was so ambiguous that the strong significance of the poll reflected a much deeper L/C difference. The poll might as well have asked, “Do you consider yourself a moral person?” Nobody, even the conservatives, would accept that C-minds are actually” healthier” than L-minds, whatever that means.
Our most reasonable explanation was that the underlying difference was the conservative’s tendency to see things as black or white, while the liberals often see more gray areas. C-minds tend see behavior as right or wrong and are suspect of L-minded situational ethics. C-minds tend to dichotomize problems. L-minds like to elaborate all the alternatives.
As a consequence, when you ask, “Are you mentally healthy?” or, “Are you moral?” the conservative will tend first to think of the opposite “mentally ill” or “immoral” and will see the only answer as, “Yes” without hesitation. On the other hand, the L-mind will tend to worry about the all the alternative forms of mental health and mental illness, and end up hedging the answer.
How does that explanation sound?

Ira Glickstein said...

Howard, thanks so much for using this L/C Topic for your Discussion Group and for reporting the results!

I think it is amazing that the L/C Topic series was initiated by Joel when he was in Michigan, the particular L/C Topic on "mental health" was posted by me while visiting Andover, MA, and commented on and discussed by Howard and his group in Williamstown. MA. Other Blog members and lurkers are reading it from The Villages, FL and who knows how many other places around the US and perhaps the globe! And some of us do not believe in "miracles"!

"What hath God wrought?" asked Samuel Morse in one of his first messages via his newly-invented telegraph, May 24, 1844. In the intervening 173 years, much of it during our lifetimes, that telegraph has become the Internet where any of us can type something and, a second later, anyone in the world can read it!

I like and agree with the conclusions of your group. This Gallup poll is clearly statistically significant at a high level of confidence based on the large differences between Republicans and Democrats (and the intermediate views of Independents). If you follow the link to the Gallup website, you see the data for the other factors (income, age, gender, church attendance, and education), as well as the statistical variance and corellations. In this case the poll has definitely measured something real.

No one has challenged the equating of C-mind with Republicans and L-mind with Demnocrats. It is certainly not an exact match, but I guess it is pretty good. Therefore, I think we are justified in translating the results to L/C differences.

I agree with your group's conclusion that the "... L-mind will tend to worry about the all the alternative forms of mental health and mental illness, and end up hedging the answer."

You also say: "...C-minds tend to dichotomize problems." Of course that brought to mind Howard's former Binghamton University colleague (and one of my favorite grad school professors) Prof. Walter Lowen who had absolute proof there were only TWO types of people.

The two types according to Lowen?

1) Those who think there are two types of people, and

2) Those who don't.

I hope some other members of your Discussion Group are also tuned in to this Blog on their own PCs. Of course, they are welcome to post Comments and Author Topics. Send an email to me, if you have any problems posting to the Blog or if you want to become an Authorized Author!

Ira Glickstein

Howard Pattee said...

I think there is a kind of logical self-reference situation here. Joel’s quest is to discover the difference between L and C minds. This is a dichotomy. That suggests Joel is a C-mind, but that requires that L-minds exist. Walter Lowen is an example. He believed in the Jungian-based Briggs-Meyers personality assessment that has 16 categories (Walter refined it to 64). That would suggest he (and Jung) were strong L-minds. But Walter then requires that C-minds exist, those who believe there are two types of people. This logical symmetry shows that L and C minds are both necessary and complementary.
I like Don Knuth’s dichotomy: “There are 10 types of people, those who use binary and those who don’t.”

Ira Glickstein said...

Howard, Right! There is an inescapable symmetry between L- and C-minds that make them necessary as they complement each other (sometimes in not so complimentary ways :^)

I love the dichotomy you attribute to Don Knuth: “There are 10 types of people, those who use binary and those who don’t.” (For Blog readers not up on binary, "10" in base 2 has a value of two, not ten.) I was not familiar with Knuth and Googled him. He seems like quite a character, even for Stanford U. He pays $2.56 to the first person who finds an error in any of his books because 256 is a binary dollar, and, though he was a pioneer using email in 1975, he gave it up in 1999 and has been a happy man since!

Ira Glickstein

PS: Sad news - In Googling Walter Lowen to spell his name correctly I learned he passed away last year at the age of 84.

Ira Glickstein said...

Steve has given me permission to post the following Comment he had on the L/C Mental Health thread:

Steve wrote:

Ira, Thanks for sharing your observations on the origins of Chanukah and Christmas. I'm sure atheists, agnostics, deists, and secular humanists have celebrations too. "Saturnalia" would be one of them. Could it be that Democrats and Independents have poorer mental health than Republicans because hawkish faith-based Bush Junior has been driving us crazy for almost seven years? Blog on. Steve

I (Ira) Replied:

Thanks Steve! The whole point of the Bush administration is to drive folks like you crazy. Of course, based on the poll results, you guys admit it is a very short drive. (That aspect, a short drive, is the essence of the Bush energy saving program. And, you thought Bush was not an environmentalist! :^) Keep on Lurking at the Blog (and Comment or Author a new Topic if you'd like). Love to Kathryn from Ira (and Vi)

joel said...

I think you folks are onto something really interesting. I agree with you that L-minds have the APPEARANCE of seeing things in shades of gray and C-minds give the IMPRESSION of seeing things in black and white. Now we need to apply the second step in the L/C Mind analysis process. Remember that neither mind can trust its impression of the other, therefore we need to remove any pejorative terms or language bias. Speaking of shades of gray versus black and white implies a clearer and more nuanced appreciation of the situation. By my arbitrary rules this cannot be the correct view. Neither can the C-mind impression that L-minds unnecessarily complicate a problem in order to talk it to death be right. We must instead find terms to describe the situation which correspond to real mathematical and engineering barriers to solution. Perhaps the three-body-problem is a good model for this type of barrier.

Newton's laws seemed to say everything there was to say about the nature of planetary motion. The trouble was that the differential equations that resulted were only solvable for interations between two bodies. The French mathematician Henri Poincaré demonstrated that the three body problem could not be solved in closed form. Today, we "solve" such problems using computer approximations, but the answers are never exactly correct and may even be wildly in error for small perturbations in the initial conditions (the butterfly effect).

Can we look at L-Mind and C-Mind approaches in terms of two different methods of approximation arising from a need to precisely solve insolvable problems? One technique we might use is to pare away the non-essentials of a problem until the remaining "bare bones" problem becomes solvable. The skeletonized version of the problem has a simple and precise solution. The solution is perfect, except that the skeleton may be a poor approximation of reality. We get away with this all the time in science and engineering as long as the second-order terms we have dropped are truly negligible in the context of what we are trying to accomplish. Another method that is equally valid (or should I say equally invalid) is to leave in all the gray details and apply a superposition technique. Superposition neglects the interactions (or non-linearity) between many elements of the problem and solves the problem in small chunks. (In other words, approximates a many-bodied problem by a collection of two-body problems.) Although more elements of a complex problem are taken into account, one is likely to end up with unintended consequences, because of neglected interactions.

So, I suggest to you that L-Minds are superpositioners and C-Minds are skeletonizers. Perhaps there are better words, but at least these convey the fact that both are making approximations that produce fallibility.

Howard Pattee said...

Here is another L/C hypothesis. Psychologists distinguish two modes for brains to acquire useful information: learning from successes and learning from failures. Since C-minds preserve and transmit mostly successful policies they might be expected to learn mostly from successes. L-minds, on the other hand, mostly try untested policies and therefore must learn mostly from trial and error.

If this is the case, then there may be a genetic basis for this difference between L and C minds. I just read about a gene in humans that modulates awareness of errors. Roughly summarizing the results of a recent experiment, there is a gene that controls dopamine receptors, and the more receptors the more sensitivity to error.
[Science 318, 1642-1645, 2007. T. A. Klein, et al. “Genetically determined differences in learning from errors.”]

I find this result consistent with the Gallup poll that shows (mostly C-minded) Republicans more certain of their mental health and presumably more certain (or stubborn) about their beliefs than (mostly L-minded) Democrats. I am defining certainty here as simply low sensitivity to error, to discrepancies, or to cognitive dissonance in one’s beliefs. Low error sensitivity would explain C-mind’s acceptance of coarse dichotomies, like healthy vs. sick, right vs. wrong.
Note: I am not arguing that coarse models should be avoided. What Joel called a “skeletal” C-rule subject to errors or approximations often works best. For example, “Thou shalt not kill,” and Newton’s laws are both valuable approximate rules that in some situations are wrong.