January 29, 2008

Ah Ha--Just What I Thought!

[By Crabby]

So apparently some Australian researchers took a look at how people search the web for health information. And guess what they found?

People pretty much just pay attention to stuff that confirms what they already believe.

As one of the researchers said: "Even if people read the right material, they are stubborn to changing their views. This means that providing people with the right information on its own may not be enough."

Gosh, what a surprise.

I recognize this "I'm going to believe what I want to believe" tendency in myself, obviously. But I do at least know it's a fault, not a virtue. As much as I spout off my opinions, I am at least kind of aware they're opinions, and I try to take other points of view into consideration. Sometimes, I even change my mind!

So this study got me to thinking about the idea psychological maturity. Because I think the ability to get past your own biases and take in new information has something to do with that. So we'll leave the dull topic of "health information on the web" far behind as I go out on a limb and invent my own Simplistic Psychological Dichotomy!

Unfortunately, personality traits do not come in convenient black and white categories. But it's much more fun to pretend they do instead of dealing with a big messy continuum. So for the sake of discussion, we're going to divide the world up into two kinds of people: the Screaming Baby-Heads, and Wishy-Washy Grown-Ups.

Who are the Screaming Baby-Heads? Well, their whole lives are like the Australian study. They only take in information they want to take in. They just haven't achieved the ego-strength to separate their own desires, biases, emotions, and fantasies from reality. A "reality" apart from their own self-interest is too threatening and just not very much fun, so it can't exist.

The Wishy-Washy Grown-Ups, while not immune from Baby-Headedness in certain circumstances, have at least learned that they filter "reality" through their own perception. These people acknowledge, at least in theory, that they are not always right about everything. They know that even if they really want something to be true, sometimes it isn't. When evidence changes or new perspectives emerge, they may even (gasp) change their minds. These people are not, obviously, allowed to head up corporations or run our governments or even be listened to much anymore because they "flip-flop" and they're not decisive, strong, and steadfast like people who never question themselves. They're boring when they speak because they're always saying things like "possibly" and "I could be wrong" and "on the other hand."

I have a strong suspicion that most regular readers of Cranky Fitness spend the majority of their time being Wishy Washy Grown Ups, which is why I love you all. Even a brief perusal of the comments section reveals curiosity, open-mindedness, respect for others' points of view, and self-deprecating humor, all, in my opinion, hallmarks of emotionally mature adults. So what if that attitude may not get you elected or chosen to star in any reality tv shows? I still say, hooray for WWGU's!

(And actually, not all Screaming Baby-Heads are obnoxious over-confident assholes. There are different kinds of baby-headedness. Some SBH's can freely admit to mistakes, and can actually be really nice to people with whom they don't agree. But, like the obnoxious variety, these babyheads are incapable of believing that their own emotions and desires are not reality. These people fall for the same sociopathic boyfriends over and over, max out their credit cards for luxuries and expect no consequences, and keep believing those ads for miracle diets that will allow them to lose 50 lbs a month while eating all they want.)

So, assuming most of you are WWGU's and know all about the joys and disappointments of boring every-day fact-based reality, here's a brief guide to the life on the other side.

What's good about being a Screaming Baby-Head? Plenty! Check it out:
  • Life is simple.
  • All the people you like are good people.
  • Coincidentally, all the people you don't like are bad people.
  • You are the center of the universe.
  • Your religion is 100% right and everyone else is screwed, but that's okay because they must deserve it for some reason.
  • Your chances of buying a winning lotto ticket are much higher than anyone else's.
  • Even though bad things may happen, they will probably go away soon and are never your fault.
  • If you are angry at someone, they must have done something very bad to make you angry. Conveniently enough, your emotions are always a perfect mirror of reality. This means you never need to apologize for anything!
  • If you are attracted to someone, it's because they're perfect.
  • If you are no longer attracted to someone who seemed perfect, this is because they are evil and they tricked you. This makes it easy to move on with no regrets.
  • Whatever you desire, you deserve.
  • You don't have to worry about how your actions affect others, because you never do anything wrong.
  • Tomorrow is always going to be way better than today, because you're special!
  • Because TV networks, box-office hits, and political campaigns are totally tapped into the SBH market, there's always something good to watch and someone great to vote for!
Pretty nice, huh? If you're a Wishy-Washy Grown Up grappling with a subtle, complicated, conflicted reality, being a Screaming Baby-Head can start to look pretty darn attractive.

So what's bad about being a Screaming Baby-Head?
  • Oddly enough, considering you're such a special person, you don't catch as many breaks as other people. For example, you may get fired for no reason at all!
  • Again, strangely, since you're incredibly likable, many people are not nice to you and even people who don't deserve you as a friend don't even try very hard to get to know you.
  • People who start off "good people" can instantly turn evil.
  • Most mystifying of all: so many things keep turning out differently than they should! Where is that happy marriage, that fit healthy body, that rewarding career, that fortune in the bank you deserve? What the hell is up with that?
Someone is obviously responsible for the frustrations of the SBH's. Obviously, it's not their fault... must be some Evil Conspiracy by a bunch of those Wishy-Washy Grown Ups?

Of course I have plenty of babyheadedness of my own to deal with, as I assume we all do... but do any of you know any real Babyheads out there? Or is the whole notion sort of, well, Babyheaded?


  1. "A stupid man's report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand."

    Author : Bertrand Russell

    I love this one!
    Dr. J

    PS: Bertrand uses the term "man" as such was the custom of his times, and I wanted to quote him accurately.

  2. So, are all politicians Baby-headed?

  3. I think I'll come back as a Screaming Baby-Head in my next life.
    It seems like it's more fun and less thinking.

  4. Sadly, I'm pretty sure my BF qualifies as a babyhead.

    I love him, but he drives me crazy! :)

  5. Dr. J--good choice not to misquote Bertrand Russell!

    And Bag-Lady: nah, only the ones that get elected (at least in the U.S. ) And some of them may be faking baby-headedness just to get votes.

    Sorry leah, I don't think there's much hope of you being a babyhead next time around.

  6. Sarah, oh dear!

    Maybe he's still maturing... I'm sure you're a good influence.

  7. I love your comment on "flip-floppers!" It's what I've been pondering myself for quite some time.

    Don't we WANT leadership that is capable of taking in new information and giving it careful consideration, even if it points to a different conclusion than the old data?

    Don't we WANT a leader who is willing to say, "You know, the earth really isn't flat, blacks and women aren't inferior subspecies, and radium isn't a healthy tonic ingredient!"

    Damn flip-floppers.

    [gigantic eyeroll]

  8. Don't you know what they call an honest politician?

    Unfortunately, it's LOSER!
    Dr. J

  9. Hooray for the Wishy-Washy Grownups!

    And thank you, Crabby for giving those Screaming Baby Heads a name. From now on whenever I see a grown person behaving with less maturity than my oldest grandchild (age 5) I will call them a Screaming Baby Head. When I say it out loud it sounds like a real smack. (I've already been practicing!)


  10. What a great post, Crabby! My mother is almost 70 years old and is STILL a Screaming Baby-Head. Your 'list' was perfect. The insistence of the SBH's that everyone and everything is (and should) always be black and white is tiring - and often impossible to counter, because they aren't interested in having actual discussions, just talking and having their opinions validated and reflected back to them.

  11. I have a friend who's a Screaming Baby-Headed Randroid. He recently moved to England and now I keep in touch with him via IRC, where he annoys the crap out of me. He actually seems decent in PERSON, you know?

    But on the interwebs, he exasperates everyone with his complete inability to LET THINGS GO. I had to ban him from using my IRC bot because he would just sit in chat and trigger it over and over and over even though people were trying to chat. He refuses to accept that in IRC, the law of the land is that a chat is like a living room in someone's private house, see? And the person whose house it is has the authority and, in fact, every right to kick you the fuck out if you piss them off.

    But this friend is a Randroid, meaning he follows the teachings of Ayn Rand. Those teachings being that you should ONLY admit strictly objective facts into any of your moral decisions, and that anyone who fails to do this is a big fat poopy-head, and, generally, a bad person.

    Which all means that this friend is the kind of person who would pull this kind of shit:

    Him: *punches you on the arm*

    You: Stop that!

    Him: Okay. *pokes you on the arm*

    You: Stop that!!

    Him: Okay. *hits you on the shoulder*

    You: What the fuck is wrong with you? STOP IT!!!

    Him: But just last week you allowed me to pick lint off of your sleeve. I fail to see the difference between touching your arm then and touching your arm now. Furthermore, you have been completely irrational and arbitrary in your reactions to me touching your arm. Whether you allow it or scold me seems entirely dependent on your own personal whims and not objective reality. I demand that you tell me exactly when I am and am not allowed to touch your arm in perfectly objective terms.

    You: I've had enough of this. *leaves the room*

    Him: Clearly, she was being completely irrational and not obeying the rules of objectivism at all. I do not understand why she reacted so negatively to me innocently touching her arm. What do you all think?

    Others: Dude. Get a life.

    Him: Nevertheless, I am objectively right. She should have qualified when I am and am not allowed to touch her arm because I can't possibly know. She should have listed which days of the week I am and am not allowed to touch her arm and which parts of her arm she would rather I didn't touch so that I could be aware of this. She is obviously being completely irrational and capricious...

    Others: *have all left the room in exasperation*

    Sorry to write a novel, but Jesus fucking Christ. >.<

    *points at random other people* You say stuff now.

  12. Screaming Baby-Heads! I love it! I do believe I have met a few of those.

    I'm more the wishy-washy type. I have never thought that was a positive thing, but I believe you've changed my mind! ;)

  13. before I even wrote what you read about Wishy Washy Grownups and then politics I was planning on making a crack about them not being allowed in the government. Damn! You beat me to it!

    I think I'm a form Baby Head turned Wishy Washy. When I younger I was very much my way or the high way, and I've worked really hard on becoming more open minded and flexible with my opinions. I think I've changed. I hope I've changed!

  14. I think I have grown out of SBH into a well rounded Wishy-Washy Grown-Up. Of course the Bag Lady may have something different to say about that, but oh well.
    So, does this mean I may not have "Use it or lose it"? ;)

  15. Ha! I was totally patting myself on the back all through this post, "Oh yeah, I'm totally a WWGU. Those silly SBH's, Good thing I'm so much better than them..."


  16. So I read this article, and one of my sorority sisters came to mind. Stacey demands that in addition to sober monitors (whose job it is to make sure everyone gets home safely at the end of a party), "stacey monitors" also are present. The job of these stacey monitors is to make sure that stacey does not suffer the consequences of her actions. For example, they will try to pull her away from a creepy guy.

    This girl has also never had an actual boyfriend, and acts like it's because there are no nice guys attending my college.

  17. I married one years back, but what did that say about me??? Maybe because my family is full of them??!

    I think now that I'm finally growing up for real, I'm more a Wishy Washy WUSSY Grownup, most battles aren't worth fighting, and I'm thinking when I DO think they are worth the effort, it's because I'm being a STUPID Screaming Baby Head.

    Does that make me more of a WWG????

    "Randroid" = scary crazy making!!!

  18. My Screaming Babyheadedness seems to coincide with PMS. I'm entitled to two days a month, right? Sorry if that's TMI. My grandmother totally is one, but she gets away with it because she is 83. She recently quit her volunteer job at the library "because of all the old people that come in there" and annoy her. :) Awesome post!!


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