Category Archives: Psychology

How People Become Homosexual: Research Review

This short post is far from comprehensive and is based on much more research than is cited in it. I wrote it in February 2014 at the behest of a friend working in Kampala for the U.S. government.

The controversy regarding the “anti-gay law” in Uganda has turned to the issue of how people become homosexual. As an anthropologist, I’ve studied and taught about gender and sexuality at the university level in the United States, which has positioned me to explain what the research on this complex topic shows.

A homosexual orientation develops after conception and either during pregnancy (which is most likely) or in early childhood. One piece of evidence for this statement is that, despite numerous social influences encouraging a heterosexual orientation, homosexuals typically report feeling homosexual from their earliest memory.[1] That is, there is no moment of conversion.

There is biological evidence that homosexuality develops early, too. Research suggests that there are multiple ways that a fetus or infant can develop into someone who will have a lifelong homosexual orientation. Continue reading


Cuba: Insanity, stupidity, and refusing to learn

U.S. Interests Section in Havana, apparently

The opposition to normalizing relations with Cuba reminds me that many people don’t know crazy from stupid. Here’s crazy:

“I used to think I was Jesus.”

Sitting in a cafe in Bisbee, Arizona, I once overheard a solitary man announce this, out of the blue, to a man sitting at a nearby table. Notice he said, “used to.” After being thrown in jail, he found out the truth. He figured a god could walk through walls if he wanted, so he tried to escape the Jesus way. In this he failed. Continue reading

The instant I saw a godless world

The way I remember the moment, it must have been within a year of 1971, making me 7-9 years old. My family was riding along the freeway across Knoxville, Tennessee, where we lived. My brother and I were in the backseat, and my parents were up front. My brother was two years older and thus hardwired into the very center of grooviness, or so it seemed to me. My parents, at best, were dongles hanging from hippiedom.

Those were the days of the generation gap, which meant that it was our duty as cadres of the ongoing youth revolution to question everything openly. Continue reading

Social marketing

What is social marketing?

Social marketing is using the techniques of marketing to change behaviors – influencing people to change their practices rather than simply to buy products. It has been used to help people quit smoking, use different light bulbs, and study more effectively. It could help people choose less-polluting transportation here in Jakarta.

When to use social marketing?

„If motivating people to change is:

  • Easy or unimportant, then education might be appropriate – for example, providing information about train schedules or the location of bicycle lanes works for people who already are committed to these forms of transportation. But generally (and sadly) education is less effective than marketing or force. Continue reading

Were Cro-Magnons smarter than us?

As an article from the Daily Mail points out, early Homo sapiens had bigger brains than we do. Cro-Magnons, living in Europe perhaps as early as 45,000 years ago, had 10 percent more brain than the average human today. (Neanderthals had bigger brains, too, but, unlike those of Cro-Magnons, theirs grew in a differently shaped skull.)

So does this mean that Cro-Magnons and other big-brained earlier humans were smarter than us? Not necessarily, but it also doesn’t mean that they weren’t smarter. Continue reading

Baseline helps humans, like macaques, hook up

A study of rhesus macaques indicates that males can tell when females are ovulating but that many can do so only with females they know. Basically, females’ faces change “luminance” when they’re fertile. But males are better at perceiving this change when they know what the female looks like at other times. One of the researchers told the New York Times, “I don’t think these things have been studied in humans.” Au contraire.

Indeed, this study reminds me of research that I performed years ago among salsa dancers at a club in Tucson. No, I didn’t study how ovulation influenced their moves. But I did come to similar conclusion: Dancers couldn’t accurately tell whether their partners were flirting with them – or disrespecting them – unless they had a baseline for comparison. Continue reading

Cell phones, mirror neurons, and driving

Recent research has suggested that driving while conversing on a cell phone is more dangerous than doing so while speaking with passengers. The researchers suggest that passengers, by paying attention to conditions on the road, help drivers to pay attention at critical moments, thus mitigating the distractions that conversations cause. This seems reasonable. I would like to suggest an additional reason that phone conversations are distracting: humans’ ability and tendency to imagine the world through others’ eyes.

Continue reading