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Earl D. Bland, PsyD

Earl Bland is a clinical psychologist, Professor of Psychology and Chair of the MNU Behavioral Sciences Department.

Understanding the Other

Posted by on in Behavioral Sciences

photo  Haiti 

I was challenged recently about the power of the other to reorient one’s perspective and thinking.  The top left picture you see is from a recent vacation cruise my family and I enjoyed as a celebration of my daughter’s high school graduation.  It was a grand trip with lots of food and sun.  The second picture is a stock news photo of the tent cities that still exist in Haiti.  The devastating earthquake of 2010 displaced 25% of the population and over 350,000 people still live in makeshift housing.  The dissonance I so acutely experienced during this particular trip is that both photos are taken in Haiti.  The one on the left is from a sanitized outcropping of the Haitian shoreline acquired by Royal Caribbean Cruise lines as a stop over for its massive seafaring hotels.  The picture on the right is representative of the view many thousands of Haitians experience each day. 

The Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor (2011) began a recent essay with the following words:  “The great challenge of this century, both for politics and for social science, is that of understanding the other.”  He goes on to suggest that there are two ways of knowing.  The first knows an object – like knowing the dimensions of a table, or the solution to an algebraic equation.  This preferred scientific mode of operating involves knowing something to the point that I may gain full intellectual control - so that it can’t “talk back.”  To a large extent my discipline, psychology, has attempted this mode of knowing as it seeks to understand the behavior and mental processes of humans.  It would take too long to outline the less than satisfactory outcomes this mode of operating has produced in the human sciences, suffice to say that the modern scientific project has significant limits when attempting to understand the experience I had in Haiti.  Yes Festinger’s theory of dissonance is an apt description, but it does little to highlight the complex cultural, psychological and religious factors swirling in my mind

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Beasts of the Wild

Posted by on in Behavioral Sciences

Every once in a while you watch a movie that you think to yourself, I did not have a “good time,” but I would not trade the experience. Beasts of the Southern Wild was just such a film.  Although it made its appearance only briefly in the main movie houses it has been showing at some art houses on a more prolonged bases.  I saw the film a few weeks ago, but the images and emotions of this film still linger and are resonating in my head today. Briefly, the film follows the experiences of a young girl and her father who live in coastal Louisiana as they deal with the onslaught and aftereffects of a hurricane.  From a psychological perspective I found it a delightful invitation to join the subjective experience of a young girl (Hushpuppy) as she traverses the chaos and fracture of her precarious world.  Not only is this world rife with fantasy and vivid characters; her own processing, embedded deeply within her shivery external contexts, is displayed with artful elegance and raw immediacy.  Disconnected and abrupt, without preoccupation to an overarching moral narrative, viewers are drawn into the fragility of personal experience, socioeconomic status, and geography.  It is an emotionally evocative film that does not let one rest even when the credits role. 

The subtext of clashing cultures is also fascinating and brings to mind the admonition of Al Dueck and Kevin Reimer (2009) in their book A Peaceable Psychology.  In this book Dueck & Reimer warn about the implicit assumptions of psychological models that are based on western democratic liberalism.  Although effective in most of the western world, these implicit value assumptions are often based on the eschewal of thick cultural contexts in favor of thin scientific hegemonic solutions.  Dueck & Reimer's caution is that these unreflected assumptions may do violence to the least the last and the lost of our society.  Not only does the film deconstruct current models of helping and institutionalized care, it blatantly highlights the disjunction between those who see themselves as part of an established sociopolitical economic structures tasked with helping the less fortunate and the actual less fortunate, who's suspicion and resistance reflects deep psychological and cultural experiences that are not easily amenable to irresistible benevolence.  This film is an imaginative social and human science case study: Two thumbs way up or 5 popcorn bags (depending on your rating scale).

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A Defense of Women: Ashley Judd's Withering Media Critique

Posted by on in Behavioral Sciences

Ashley Judd is not a person that I typically look to for insight into the psychological and social world of gender relations and self-presentation.  However, her recent post in the Daily Beast, while reactionary to unfounded and speculative criticism, is nonetheless a bravely articulate cultural critique that is refreshingly nuanced and poignant.  For those unfamiliar with the precipitating events, recently Ms. Judd was the subject of media scrutiny and criticism regarding photos that were taken in which her face appeared somewhat “puffy” (I frankly couldn’t tell you what exactly is meant by puffy – but apparently its not a good thing).  The trigger to Ms. Judd’s reaction seems predicated by the baseless conclusions drawn by multiple media outlets that her “puffiness” must be a sign that she has had plastic surgery or other facial “work”  (she was actually receiving steroid treatments for a recent illness). Ms. Judd’s response is not only to criticize the misogynistic and voyeuristic nature of our current media, but also to point out how both men and women operate to objectify and belittle women in countless ways both consciously and unconsciously. In the accompanying NBC interview she actually describes the painful results of being humiliated and excoriated by media and how this relates to stories of all women (got to love anyone who can work the word excoriate into an interview). It is not often that actors/public figures call out the very medium from which they derive their livelihood – kudos to Ms. Judd!  Read Ms. Judd’s post at the Daily Beast.

Tagged in: Gender Media Psychology
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It’s Not Over Yet: Changes to the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) Are Here

Posted by on in Behavioral Sciences

Although you thought or maybe hoped that the ACT/SAT was the last standardized test you would have to take in your scholastic career, you may be wrong.   If you have graduated or are currently in college and plan on getting an advanced degree you are probably aware that many graduate schools have an entrance exam requirement. For most majors in psychology, sociology or criminal justice that test would be the Graduate Record Exam or the GRE.  Other versions are more discipline specific such as the LSAT for law school, the GMAT for business, and the MCAT for medical school.  While the GRE general test has been a graduate school admissions hoop for many years, recent changes to the exam attempt to update the format and make it more relevant to the increased rigor of graduate school.

If you have not researched the GRE here are a few things you may want to be prepared for:

Length:  The new GRE will take a bit longer to complete: about 3 hours and 45 minutes.  Most people take it in its computer-generated format where you will be able to skip over questions and come back to them later, as well as edit your answers. 

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About This Blog

OhBehave is the outreach blog of the MNU Behavioral Sciences Department. In matters related to Psychology, Sociology, and Criminal Justice you will find information and updates geared to keep students and professionals abreast of the latest research, professional developments, and important trends in each field. As we seek a life of purpose, the material presented in this blog is meant to enhance and deepen our understanding of people and our world so that we may intentionally reflect the grace and peace of our creator.