Comment on “Morning Faces Therapy For Bipolar Disorder”

In yesterday’s post, a friend of mine with bipolar disorder told how he used my faces/mood discovery. It allowed him “to enjoy life and relate to others in ways that I never could my entire life,” he wrote. Partly because it allows him to stop taking the usual meds prescribed for bipolar disorder, which have awful side effects.

What do I think about this?

To begin with the obvious, I am very happy that something I discovered has helped someone else. Practically all science has no obvious use. (A tiny fraction is eventually helpful.) In experimental psychology, my field, I can’t think of a single finding that’s helped many people. Because of this background, managing to help someone via science seems like a fairy tale. It’s too soon to say the story has a happy ending — it isn’t over — but it is beginning to have a happy ending.

Thank heaven for blogs. Something like my faces/mood discovery is difficult to publicize, yet without accumulation of evidence it will go nowhere. It wouldn’t be easy to publish in a psychiatric or psychotherapeutic journal  because I’m not a psychiatrist or psychotherapist. Even if published, the chances of interesting psychiatrists and psychotherapists are low because it doesn’t involve a treatment you can make money from (gatekeeper syndrome). It should greatly interest persons with bipolar disorder but they are not the typical readers of the scientific literature on mood disorders. However, like all sufferers, they search the Internet.

In my internal calculus, the story provides what I think of as industrial strength” evidence. Industrial-strength evidence  is evidence that something works in practice, not just in the lab. In a laboratory setting, which to some extent includes me studying myself, you try to keep things constant. You want to reduce noise. Noise reduction makes signals clearer. An effect you can see easily in a lab experiment, however, may be too small to matter outside the lab, where more powerful forces push people around. Whether your lab experiment — in which you have managed to control Force X — has practical value depends on the size of Force X relative to other forces at work outside the lab. An example is the theory behind the Shangri-La Diet. Does that theory tell us anything useful about why people are fat? Does it explain the obesity epidemic, for example? I knew the theory had plenty of truth because it had led me to several new ways of losing weight and had helped me lose considerable weight and keep it off forever. But that was far from showing (a) it was the only thing that controls weight or even (b) one of the big things. Lab experiments can’t do that. It’s been claimed that obesity is due to a virus. Experiments support the idea. Yet the idea is irrelevant to everyday life, I’m sure. No one has written How to Lie With Laboratory Science but it could be written. The only way to find out if a “true” idea explains enough of reality to be useful is to use that idea in real-world situations. Which is what my friend did.

But that isn’t the biggest thing. The biggest thing, from my point of view, is that what my friend has done helps keep this idea alive. When it comes to ideas, grow or die. My friend’s story keeps the idea alive by expanding it. It gives it a new and personal dimension. It isn’t just about mood measurements, it’s about living a reasonable life. I’ve given talks about this idea, but this story makes it much easier to talk about to a general audience.





9 Replies to “Comment on “Morning Faces Therapy For Bipolar Disorder””

  1. May I suggest the following:

    You need to look at faces, right?

    So here’s how you accomplish that.

    And this ties in with something Tim Ferriss talks about… how when he’s writing late at night, he avoids depression by having his favorite movie on silent loop in the background.

    I find motion to be too distracting. So I don’t do movies.

    But I have a wide computer screen… so I have some extra screen real estate.

    So in the morning, I wake up and read all my interesting RSS stuff and simultaneously play a random slideshow of softcore porn hotties. If faces are good, the rest of the body is even better, right?

    Seriously though, it’s a little weird to just look at faces but very natural to look at naked women, who incidentally have faces with expressions on them. And once you realize that the faces in particular are beneficial, you start paying more attention to the subtleties of the facial expressions, which heightens the enjoyment and the positive effect.

    And this is something you can leave on all day, for a steady mood boost instead of just a morning thing. Why not? A favorite comes up and you involuntarily smile. Now that’s solid evidence of mood lift.

    Anyway, to build your collection I recommend stumbleupon’s adult section and I use geeqie for the slideshow but I’m on linux, I’m sure someone can recommend a lightweight windows slideshow viewer.

  2. Seth,

    You wrote:

    “In experimental psychology, my field, I can’t think of a single finding that’s helped many people.”

    “Industrial-strength evidence is evidence that something works in practice, not just in the lab.”

    A couple of months ago I commented on another post of yours that the logic of subject sampling applied equally to task sampling and that in order for the results of experiments to generalize outside the lab and outside the sample it was necessary to sample tasks and environmental conditions just as we sample subjects.

    Your reply was that the history of experimental psychology demonstrated that such sampling was unnecessary. I chose not to reply at the time because it was apparent that we have a different understanding of the history of experimental psychology. It is my understanding that the history of experimental psychology is one of failure to discover much of anything that stands up over time and is of any benefit to anyone.

    Since you say part of that above, maybe you would be willing to toss out examples where the (poor) design of psychological experiments over the last sixty or seventy years has lead to robust, generalizable results.

    1. “It is my understanding that the history of experimental psychology is one of failure to discover much of anything that stands up over time.” My field of experimental psychology is animal learning. In that field, the phenomena of reward learning and Pavlovian conditioning have been repeated thousands of times in countless laboratories. Those two discoveries stand up fine. And they come from experiments that I’m sure you’d describe as poorly designed. There is no sampling of subjects, much less tasks and environments.

      Is this research “of any benefit to anyone”? Well, the theory behind the Shangri-La Diet is firmly based on Pavlovian conditioning experiments. Without those experiments, no theory — as you can see from what happens when people who don’t understand Pavlovian conditioning theorize about weight control. In any case, the Shangri-La Diet has helped many people lose weight. Such as me.

      The theory behind SLD is not based on any one finding — it is based on many findings put together.

  3. I’m not joking. I find it remarkably effective in mitigating the depressive effects of long hours at the computer. Otherwise my mood drops below the point where I can sustain productive work.

    You do have to make a conscious effort to focus on the facial expressions. Perhaps that’s why less than life-size facial photos didn’t work.

    While I appreciate the insight on the importance of the morning exposure, and have started using that to good effect, I also enjoy benefits all day long. Perhaps the naked women increase engagement incentives, whereas faces alone lose their appeal.

  4. By focusing on the facial expressions, I mean two things
    1. Reading the micro-expressions
    2. Engaging or mirroring her state with your own emotions

    In other words, using her face as a window into her soul, at the moment captured on the photograph.

    This activates the emotional and social aspects of the brain for a split second, then allowing you to return to your more logical work-mode feeling refreshed. Facial recognition and engagement seem to be a key part of that area of the brain.

    And of course, I enjoy the “moment” created on an erotic level as well. Which intensifies its emotional vividness.

  5. Regarding sampling tasks, environments etc.

    I am against these procedures that make experiments impossible and very costly.

    The main thing experimentalists need to learn is to do *valid* experiemnts (i.e. Avoid enything that biases results etc.). But then proceed to do as much ezperiments as possible in as cheap costs (time energy money) as possible.

    The present science goes the opposite. Many useless rules for “correct protocol” making things costly and very limited. Then also forgetting the essential critical thinking about validity, confounding parameters etc. Making results costly AND useless

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