Daryl Ilbury

Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

“Very good show. Not a dry seat in the house”

In Eish!, Science, Scoundrels on June 3, 2013 at 2:11 pm
Betty, Mildred and Gloria were mildly impressed

What the grandmothers of today’s ‘Beliebers’ were doing in the 60s

In January 2012, stories made the news in the US about 15 teenage girls in a school in upstate New York who were all displaying symptoms similar to Taurette’s Syndrome – a condition marked by involuntary spasms, tics, seizures and vocal outbursts. It’s a rare condition in one person, so in a group you’d think it highly unlikely. Think again.

See if you can spot the link: In 2002 10 teenage girls in a small rural high school in North Carolina started fainting and having seizures. The school buildings were inspected but nothing was found to explain what happened. In the beginning of 2007, 600 teenage girls in a Catholic boarding school in Mexico started collapsing, displaying signs of fever, and claiming feelings of nausea. Tests could find no physical cause.

But wait, as the saying goes, there’s more: Later that same year, at least eight teenage girls in a high school in Virginia in the US started displaying twitching symptoms. Again, no physical cause was found. In 2008 in Tanzania, about 20 teenage schoolgirls started fainting in class, while others who witnessed the event, ran around the school screaming and crying; and in 2010 two all-girls high schools in Brunei reported incidents of students fainting and acting deliriously.

So what’s the link? Yes, you spotted it: ‘teenage girls’. It’s something that has baffled, and fascinated, psychiatrists. Yes, that’s right – psychiatrists; because without any physical cause – such as food poisoning, a gas leak, or some other form of contamination – all these symptoms are psychological in nature. So psychologists have a term for it. It’s called ‘conversion disorder’, and it’s characterised by displays of physical disorders such as blindness, numbness, paralysis and disruptions to speech patterns; but without any associated physical or neurological cause.

The term ‘conversion’ applies because it is believed the physical symptoms are a conversion of deep psychological problems such as intense stress. It’s important to note that sufferers of conversion disorder are not making up the symptoms – they really do exist.

Conversion disorder is quite rare, but not as rare as its occurrence on a mass scale – something called mass psychogenic hysteria. However, rare though they may be, there is something that is common amongst all of these events: they generally occur only amongst teenage girls.

No-one seems to have a definitive explanation for it. The Mayo Clinic, a US-based not-for-profit research group that specialises in difficult cases and advanced medical investigation, concludes that teenage girls are indeed more prone to conversion disorder, but has no answer as to why it can happen to large groups of teenage girls, and all at the same time.

I have a suggestion: Teenage boys are like border collies – they are easily distracted by a bouncing ball, and as such can convert any teenage issues into something physical. It’s called sport. Teenage girls, on the other hand, are less inclined to play sport. Without the liberty of such physical distractions they tend to focus on themselves and each other, and so any teenage angst that they have simply takes hold in their minds, simmering and festering until it’s released in a burst of emotional – and associated physical – disparity.

Furthermore girls mature emotionally much quicker than boys – it’s one of the reasons why boys don’t understand girls, and girls complain that boys just don’t ‘get’ them. So, in the absence of the successful communication of their emotions with boys, they are more likely to develop an emotional “collective” amongst themselves.

Well, that’s my informed opinion.

There is, unfortunately, a nasty little twist to all of this: although the cause behind conversion disorder or mass psychogenic hysteria may not be known to psychiatrists, it’s power is celebrated by those sinister manipulators of human behaviour: marketing executives. And you need no better example than Justin Bieber, that poor young Canadian boy who showed a not-altogether-rare talent for singing, but was then seized upon by music and marketing executives, commoditised, and thrust before a wall of wailing, highly volatile, hysterical, teenage girls, that scream through his concerts without hearing a word of his singing.

Of course such outbursts of teenage girl hysteria towards popular music performers are nothing new. It’s why the Beatles stopped performing live – they literally couldn’t hear themselves sing, and they thought it ridiculous to perform if the audience weren’t even listening.

But to get a clearer image of the intensity of the mass psychogenic hysteria displayed by teenage girls, perhaps the final word should go to Keith Richards, who, in his book ‘Life’ tells of such a screaming concert in the early days of the Rolling Stones. At the end of the concert, the janitor who had been cleaning up afterwards, approached him and said, “Very good show. Not a dry seat in the house”.

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The psychology of hating refs

In Eish! on October 16, 2011 at 4:23 pm

"...an' wiz zees liddel red cad..."

Alain Rolland, the rugby ref who sent Welsh captain Sam Warburton off the field in their semi-final match against France, has become the subject of just a teensy-weensy smattering of anger from the Welsh fans. Some of them were heard saying something about where they’d love to shove a leek.

The Mail Online, forever searching for boogeymen beneath the bedclothes, suggested that because he has some French lineage (his father is French), he was subliminally supporting France. But then that’s the Daily Mail…

But there’s another reason why so much Welsh vitriol has been poured upon Mr Rolland…it makes the Welsh feel better.

Here’s a simple explanation of the psychology of blame.