Showing posts with label Psychology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Psychology. Show all posts

Monday, March 1, 2021

Learning a New Word: Apophenia

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

No need to be bothered by this five-syllable word because what it describes is interesting, and even useful. I wondered if there was a term for hearing sounds that do not exist where psychosis is not involved. Yes there is.

Our brains were designed to make sense out of patterns. There are two ways we try to make sense out of nothing, one of which is musical ear syndrome.
Credit: Freeimages
Before I get to the audio part, pareidolia seems to be more widely known. This is where people think they see things that are not actually there, such as gazing at passing clouds and seeing a dinosaur chasing a car. Pareidolia happens a great deal in the "true ghost" videos where an evil face is seen in a mirror or against a dark background. I was able to see Charles Darwin's profile in a tree, people saw a woman on Mars, and so on. It is probably worth noting that when watching the scary video collections, the viewer is prepped by the verbal cues of the narrator, and by expecting to see something creepy.

The audio version is apophenia (brief definition and pronunciation here), which is also called musical ear syndrome. Centuries ago, I was using a clock radio tuned into a talk station. Several times I woke up hearing the sounds but realized the alarm had not gone off. More recently, I was hearing distant talking or even music. In these and other instances, there was nothing I was able to discern. A common factor was white noise, including fans and an air purifier. Switch those off, and I heard nothing.

In all of this, the brain tries to make sense of auditory and visual stimuli. (I reckon that our Creator built that into our biological software to help us live our lives and even to solve problems.) When scanning this extremely interesting article, I read where people have experiences that match my own. If y'all are hearing things mixed in with other sounds, but they stop when things are quiet, that's normal. Hearing voices clearly when alone and all is quiet, well, that's an entirely different matter.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Seeing What We Expect

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

A few days ago, I was reminded of something I learned about proofreading. Serious publications do not have authors proofread their own work because they see what they expect. People have a tendency to "fill in the blanks" when information is missing so they can make sense of a situation, and this applies to proofreading. If you must do your own, try not to do it on the same day. Fast readers are more prone to making mistakes.

People see what they expect, especially when proofreading. One misplaced letter had humorous results that the computer caught but human minds missed.
Credit: RGBStock / gabriel
The human mind can fool itself, but not computers. Those things are extremely literal, and just one piece of misplaced code can have unpleasant results, as I have seen when tampering with the HTML on these here sites of mine. 

Since my paying job is data entry, I can listen to the audio of videos and use text-to-speech so I can listen to articles, books, and so on. Someone fouled up in an article, and one letter made the difference. I have little doubt that I would have caught the error that escaped the author and the site's proofreader(s), but the computer caught it.

The article mentioned an owner's manual. However, it was spelled with just one wrong letter: manuel. So I heard a name that is common among Spanish, Portuguese, German, and other folks. Owner's Manuel. Frankly (mind if I call you Frank?) he's on my bad side. Owner's Manuel is never around when I need him, so I have to get the owner's manual or go online to learn how to make something happen.

By the way, I often discuss context, and this is another simple example. The context is part of the reason author and proofreaders see what they expect and not catch the one letter that didn't belong. If the word had been capitalized, that is likely to have caught someone's attention so the incorrect word could be corrected. Also, the word by itself is unhelpful. Manual. Are we talking about your vehicle's transmission or the book you consult? Maybe Manuel knows.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Inner Survival Alarms

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

We all have various reactions to different kinds of alarms, whether conditioned, learned, or provided by the Master Engineer. Some reactions may be a combination of inner and learned, such as reaching for a gun or freezing in place at hearing a growl in the dark. When the smoke alarm goes off, we take some kind of action. Sirens from emergency vehicles prompt us to locate the sources and get out of the way. We several built-in alarms.


Last night could have been my last night. The Master Engineer has given us inner survival alarms, one of which prompted me to stay alive.
Credit: Morguefile / Stuart Whitmore
Something goes bang, you look in the direction of the sound. Hearing a strange noise at night can wake many people up so they can check it out or call the police. One time, I sat upright in bed because I had stopped breathing and disremembered to continue, but that passed. Smelling smoke, with or without an audible alarm, can get you moving. Taking hold of a hot pan sends a very fast message in your system to let go in a hurry. 

Animals have inner alarms too, of course. Sometimes I worry that Basement Cat will smother herself in her fur because of an awkward sleeping position, but her breathing warning will kick in. 

I had something different happen that set off an inner alarm.

This is a tricky situation as far as wording is concerned, trying to strike a balance between including relevant information and omitting details that would be unpleasant. I also don't want to sound overly dramatic, but what happened could have made me ring down the curtain and join the choir invisible.

Last night (Tuesday the 18th) was a vexation. Something went on with my stomach that hasn't happened for a long time, and my night episode may have been the worst. Feeling a bit queasy at bed time, I took a couple of antacids before hitting the hay. Suddenly, I was awake and choking, having vomited in my sleep (sorry, can't find a better way to put it). There wasn't much, but I had inhaled it. That inner alert mechanism had me waking up and standing almost instantly, and I went into the bathroom to cough and gag. I had to do some very slow, controlled inhalations so I could cough out the stuff. The whole situation lasted a spell until it was under control and I was breathing again. Sure, I'm ready to go to be with Jesus, but who wants to die that way?

I've had acid reflux incidents at night before and thought this was possibly the most severe episode. However, my wife had some bad stomach feelings Tuesday night as well. Both of us had some, uh, symptoms that lasted into this morning, so we think there was something wrong with supper. It's been almost 24 hours, and I'm still not quite right, plus exhaustion from having my sleep interrupted and being unable to get comfortable while propped up. I regretted leaving the workplace early but it was necessary. (Having a good reputation for attendance helps, they know I'm not being cavalier about going home sick.) Near-exhaustion and stomach problems are an unpleasant combination, plain and simple.

Although my demise was possible, I don't think it was likely. But I thank God that he not only gave me (and us) those inner survival alarms, he has granted me more time in life to continue serving him.


Monday, July 9, 2018

Breaking News: C.H. Spurgeon did not Compose Sacred Writ

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

Research indicates, science shows (when someone uses one or both of those phrases, you know something is guaranteed to be a fact) that the English Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon did not write any portion of the Bible. In addition, books of his sermons cannot legitimately be considered as sacred writ.


Some people act like Charles H. Spurgeon wrote sacred text. We must compare his teachings, and that of others, with Scripture.

Someone may object, "I don't cotton to your insinuation that Spurgeon fans think that his writings are infallible!" Well, I did get your attention, didn't I? Now let this child 'spain hisself. I'm choosing Rev. Spurgeon as my first example because so many people admire him. Yes, the "Prince of Preachers" had some good things to say. Yes, professing Christians know that he didn't get a revelation brought by an angel on golden plates that is to be a third testament to the Bible. No, I do not dislike him. In fact, many people that I admire use his material. Right, Phil, Todd, Dr. Mac, Dr. James, and others?

I'm going to use something that falls into my area of study: long ages. Spurgeon rejected evolution [1 search for key word evolution], but embraced the concept that the earth is millions or billions of years old (because science says), and had some convoluted theology [2 search for key word III, the Roman numeral three]. I believe that in his day as well as now, pastors and theologians do not give a great deal of thought to how long ages and death before sin are damaging to the gospel message. This may have been the case with Charles. (Spurgeon, not Charles the Bearded Buddha of Evolution.) Apparently, his views on these subjects were not his focus, so quotes on them seem to be scarce.

People will appeal to authority as well as popularity; since many people admire Spurgeon, when his name is invoked, evangelical Christians tend to pay attention. Someone who is popular is used as "one of ours", for their views such as these sidewinders in the Old Earth camp who demonize biblical creationists [3], [4]. They use the name of Spurgeon in their efforts to bolster their compromising views. In addition, Spurgeon admirers may take his views of an old earth as authoritative, and not investigate the wealth of exegetical material for a young earth that exists today.

You look unconvinced. I have some other folks to mention, but with less detail.
  • Clive Staples (Jack) Lewis. Theistic evolutionists and old earthers think Lewis supports their views, but he actually opposed evolution [5]. Jack was a good apologist for the existence of God and refuted atheism, but he had some serious flaws in his theology.
  • Dr. William Lane Craig is devastating to atheism, but ridicules biblical creationists [6] and holds to the odd belief of Molinism [7].
  • Dr. Greg Bahnsen was also devastating to atheism and taught presuppositional apologetics. However, his views on Christian Reconstruction [7] are rejected by many other Christians. 
  • John Calvin had some involvements that are controversial, such as his dealing with Michael Servitus [8]. Someone tried to get me to reject Calvinism because of things Calvin said and did. No, I will accept or reject his teachings based on the Bible, not because of real or alleged character flaws. I heard an apologist who is a Calvinist take a call on his radio show and was challenged with a quote from John Calvin. He said that Calvin was wrong about that point. The caller was amazed that a Calvinist didn't accept everything Calvin said. I mentally applauded the apologist.
  • Martin Luther developed some unpleasant opinions about Jews later in life [9]. That is not a reason to espouse similar views about them, nor is it a valid reason to reject the entirety of his teachings.
Some folks seem to think that if Rev. Dr. Pastor Influential made a pronouncement, it must be right. That'll be the day! Spurgeon was wrong on both science and theology about the age of the earth. So is William Lane Craig. Both put man-made interpretations of science in the magisterial position above the Word of God. Similarly, we cannot accept biblical creation science because Ken Ham, Dr. Jonathan Sarfati, David Coppedge or others say so. Whatever the subject, check your Bible and do some meaningful exegesis, old son.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Humor Fail

My joke in another post would have failed, so here is why

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

Way back yonder, before Roku and other streaming devices, before we had the evil known as cable television, I saw an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show called "Father of the Week". It aired in 1962, so I appreciated it in syndicated reruns. Maybe I did see it on cable after all.



Rob (his character) was giving a talk to the kids about being a comedy writer. When he stumbled, the kids laughed. He pointed out that people laugh because they are surprised; something is unexpected. The old slapstick pie-in-the-face routine lost its charm long ago because it was used so much, but can be funny when it has an unexpected twist. Surprise is lost when jokes have to be explained, and they're usually not as funny.

My humor has been called "dry", and I see that this definition says that it is based on word play with a straight or "deadpan" expression. Well, some of my humor influences use plays on words. I like ambiguity in humor, but the word surely was ruined for me by the movie Airplane! Many of you will get it.

That's a problem with humor: someone will make a joke and people will not get it because of their frame of reference. This frame of reference often comes from knowledge and experience. Someone could make a joke about the recent royal wedding, and I probably wouldn't know enough about the subject to find it amusing. I could tell the same person a joke about geology and get a blank stare for my effort.

So, I had written a post on dark matter. Then I wanted to put in a joke, but it had problems. Since it would probably only be amusing to about five people, I will tell you why it fails.

First, it is based on American history and culture. There is a very old ruling that is often called the "one drop rule". That is, if someone has any trace of sub-Sahara ancestry (your white great grandfather married a black woman), then you are considered black. This is used for racism. In reality, there are ethnic groups, but not "races", as God made us all "one blood".

Second, the joke is in an article on theoretical astrophysics — at least, a portion that I kind of understand. Dark matter has never been proven to exist, only inferred by neglecting other possible explanations for what is observed.

Now for the joke fail, because I chose to lay out the background information in the last two paragraphs. Ready? The galaxy does not have enough dark matter to please secular scientists. But if it has a drop of dark matter, then the entire galaxy is dark, isn't it? Well, I hope the other parts of this article were a bit amusing and interesting.