yes! a bunny stream of conch

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Posts tagged psychology

4 posts tagged psychology | Confidence Dressing: How Clothing Affects the Mind by Katherine Bernard

Be sure to check out my brilliant cousin Katherine Bernard’s article on enclothed cognition at!  She interviewed me (and my academic advisor, J. Timothy Cannon, Ph.D.) about the psychological underpinnings and social neuroscience at play when we choose what we wear and how the garments alter various self-perceived attributes—which can in turn impact our attitude, performance and behavior.  

In preliminary findings from a study published on the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology’s website, subjects who donned white coats that they thought belonged to doctors performed better on tests than those who wore street clothes, or those who thought the coats were associated with artists. Their heightened focus was evident only when subjects actually put on the coat in question (not merely when they were in the same room). It’s no secret that assembling an outfit is like selecting social armor, and that what we wear has power over others (if there weren’t truth to the cliché “lady in red,” designers wouldn’t be making so many scarlet dresses), but this study shows if you have a strong cultural association with a garment, wearing it can affect your cognitive processes… To explore this theory, Vogue asked several women—in careers ranging from art to e-commerce to politics—what pieces in their closets helped them bring their A-game to work… Model and psychology student Julia Frakes always gravitates toward Prada for interviews, and has a go-to brand for test taking: “I wore Marni when I took my Wechsler exam [designed to measure adult intelligence]. I swear Marni increases one’s self-perceived intelligence levels.” Suffice it to say, Frakes scored a high performance IQ. So, tell the skeptics: Your closet isn’t frivolous, it contains a myriad of channels to heightened performance, a selection of gateways to the best versions of yourself. As Jonathan Lethem said in his novel You Don’t Love Me Yet: “You can’t be deep without a surface.”

Sidenote: Last Saturday, Katherine and I ventured to New York Adorned and were pierced (conch/helix details here) by the gentle maestro J. Colby Smith (in Vogue, here).  Also, bangs happened.

Intelligent Design | The Weekender, Pennsylvania

It was such a pleasure to be interviewed in my hometown (well, on the phone) by the brilliant and delightful Stephanie DeBalko for The Weekender, Northeastern Pennsylvania’s arts and entertainment weekly newspaper.  

I cannot even begin to relate how heartening it is to bear witness to Scranton’s cultural renaissance.  Moreover, I am tremendously grateful for the opportunity to juggle my work in New York with volunteering (including with the Organizing for America Pennsylvania campaign, APSSC, CSA Executive Committee, USPB N&V, and College Democrats), county civic initiatives, and academic studies out of the city.  Thanks, world!

More on my hometown here: Backyard Bill | Julia Frakes 

Vanity Fair | "Cary in the Sky with Diamonds" — Before Timothy Leary and the Beatles, LSD was largely unknown and unregulated. But in the 1950s, as many as 100 Hollywood luminaries—Cary Grant and Esther Williams among them—began taking the drug as part of psychotherapy. By Cari Beauchamp and Judy Balaban

Fifty years after its demonization in the eyes of the American public, LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is experiencing its own “flashback” of sorts: a grand resurgence in the laboratories of Harvard and the University of California at San Francisco, by dint of the Food and Drug Administration’s permission to experiment with LSD once more.  Judy Balaban (daughter of longtime Paramount Pictures president Barney Balaban and a member of the tightknit Hollywood establishment of the comparatively constrained 1950s entertainment industry) and Cari Beauchamp’s Vanity Fair profile “Cary in the Sky with Diamonds” recounts how the uncharted and theretofore unregulated usage of LSD in midcentury psychotherapy sessions at the Psychiatric Institute of Beverly Hills united approximately one hundred of Hollywood’s most luminary denizens by deeply transforming the lives of their glamorous patients “behind the scenes” and without the scrutiny of the traditional (and then largely LSD-incognizant) American public.

Long before the Beatles and Jefferson Airplane took to the radiowaves in praise of psychedelic drugs and college students’ practically obligatory reading of Carlos Castaneda, nobody in Hollywood nor among the prevailing Eisenhower-era conservative tenor of the 1950s was aware of LSD.  Consequently, in a generation when appearances were generally accepted as reality, it was exceptionally uncharacteristic that such an established set of Hollywood elite ingested the drug as an adjunct to their psychotherapy, in consideration of the fact that stars spent a bulk of their time on and off film sets assuring that their lives “looked correct” to their traditional fan base and compliant media. When Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann synthesized LSD in 1938 while experimenting with fungus in pursuit of a central nervous system stimulant, Sandoz laboratories were lax in their distribution of LSD in their eager search for potentially profitable implementations.  By the mid-1950s, the C.I.A., U.S. Army, Britain’s M.I.6 and the Canadian government all pounced on experimenting with its prospects as a truth serum or possible method of chemical warfare—and secretly tested prisoners and military members to gauge its capacities as such.  Sandoz lent supplies to practitioners of assorted fields (and of various echelons of legitimacy) and soon derelicts, terminal cancer patients, veterans’ hospitals’ residents and college students all acted as guinea pigs in the psychiatric profession’s quest to cure alcoholism, schizophrenia and shell shock (now known as PTSD); in fact, between 1950-1965, nearly 40,000 individuals worldwide were tested or “treated” with Hofmann’s discovery.  When Sandoz received a request for an LSD supply from Los Angeles psychiatrist Oscar Janiger in the mid-1950s to dispense to his patients (whose experiences he would then relay back to the laboratories), he was briskly sent a stock without further inquiry.  Janiger partnered with Dr. Sidney Cohen to broaden his “creativity” study through U.C.L.A. within the cultural elite—exposing many acclaimed writers, painters, musicians (such as André Previn) and authors (of note, Aldous Huxley and Anaïs Nin) to its properties—including Time publisher Henry Luce, who was so impressed that his magazine ran several enthusiastic articles in the late 1950s heaping praise on Sandoz’s “’spotless’” labs, “’meticulous’” scientists and the notion of LSD as “’an invaluable weapon to psychiatrists.’”

Subsequent to radiologist Mortimer Hartman’s five years of Freudian analysis, a simple medicinal dose of LSD accorded his unconscious with the tools necessary to burst to the fore and in turn dissolved his ego “on the spot.”  Hartman then joined forces with psychiatrist Arthur Chandler and opened the Psychiatric Institute of Beverly Hills—which secured LSD from Sandoz, under the auspices of conducting a five-year study of LSD as a catalyst in the treatment of the most well-known Hollywood celebrities (whom they privately deemed to be “the world’s most glamorous neurotics”).  In stark contrast to most universities and hospitals where students and volunteers were paid for their readiness to test LSD, Hartman and Chandler inversed the practice: Cary Grant was amongst a suite of debonair Hollywood actors, actresses, agents, producers, and industry luminaries who partook in LSD-induced psychiatric therapy, costing them $100 per session.  Nonetheless few participants were open about their drug therapy to friends who weren’t also visiting the Psychiatric Institute; aside from a small handful of scientific journals and said mentions in Time magazine, the public at large was unaware of LSD and its visceral effects. 

In such traditional magazines as Good Housekeeping and Look, the tide soon turned when Cary Grant—who had meticulously transformed into the leading-man persona of “Cary Grant” by educating himself about clothes, art, and etiquette (and in due course, cultivating an indefinable affability idolized by men and women alike) into a façade leagues apart from his upbringing as Archie Leach, a poverty-stricken and abused boy of Bristol, England (where his father, who had a family on the side, institutionalized his mother unbeknownst to his young son)—spoke publicly of his first treatments with Dr. Hartman at age 55 and sang the praises of LSD’s effectiveness in therapy settings.  Grant revealed how LSD helped him rid his ego of hypocrisies and work through childhood events and relationships with his parents and former wives without the dull monotony of years of analysis: affording him of what Look described as a “’second youth’” while concurrently subjecting himself to a “courageous” psychiatric experiment with what would, in Look’s view, no doubt become a vital tool in psychotherapy.

Prior to coming across this Vanity Fair piece last year, I had given credence to the prevailing perception that LSD had not come to the fore until the cultural revolution of the experimental and rebellious youth of the 1960s.  I was entirely unaware that during Hollywood’s Golden Age in the traditionalist 1950s, when luminaries were placed atop perfect god-like pedestals in the public’s eye—without the “reality-based” tabloid reports rampant in our day and age—many celebrities actually bought into their stardom and lost touch with the underlying ethos devised throughout their formative years (a phenomenon no doubt still commonplace); however they had successfully utilized LSD in supervised therapeutic settings to break through their inflated egos and tap into the subconscious roots of their problems, often by re-experiencing traumatic events from a different point of view or gaining insight into the interconnectedness of the world with which they had lost touch.  In spite of the revelatory insight reaped from their sessions, eventually many of Hollywood’s elite discontinued their treatments when the doctors themselves began conducting their clients’ sessions while also on a trip—thereby squandering the legitimacy of their original medical intent, practicing methodology, and earlier breakthroughs.  In 1962, the FDA stipulated that Hartman and Chandler hand over their records and soon thereafter confiscated the Psychiatric Institute of Beverly Hills’ LSD supply.  National legislation criminalized its possession in 1968, and in the ensuing years many of LSD’s earliest Hollywood adherents resented Timothy Leary’s promulgated campaign to “’turn on, tune in, drop out’” and the backlash that it precipitated against a compound that many Hollywood living legends (not to mention members of the scientific community) maintain to this day as a valuable apparatus into the subconscious.  It will be fascinating to ascertain the various LSD-based applications that the Harvard and U.C. San Francisco laboratories utilize with the FDA’s go-ahead in the years to come.