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What Does Your Desktop Say?

13 Mar

deskyopinkblot

           I’m always changing the desktop wallpaper on our computer at home. I just got rid of the Valentine Day’s hearts for February and replaced them with a couple of Irish Dancers for March and St. Patrick’s Day. The boy dancer looks a bit goofy, so I will probably change it again— I’m thinking a leprechaun or shamrock. Over the holidays I had a slide show of Thanksgiving and then Christmas pictures set up in the screen saver , which irritated my wife Diane. When the grandchildren come to visit, I usually put up something like images of SpongeBob Squarepants or Disney princesses.

On my work computer I have our company logo on the home screen. My daughter and her husband have a slide show of pictures of their children constantly playing on the computer in their kitchen. For a lot of people these screens have become our personal art galleries.  A few years ago a British study of the psychological meaning of computer desktops was commissioned by Microsoft. Psychologist Donna Dawson reviewed a sample of office workers’ desktops seeking factors which reflect personality traits. She said “….desktops are our personal space and as such provide a fairly accurate personality description of an individual.”

According to eMarketer, the average American spends over 5 hours a day looking at screens. BioniX a company that makes software that helps people customized their computers, quotes a customer who says, ““One of the things I love about getting a new phone or computer is not just the things I can do with it, but the fact that I can personalize it and make it my own. I like my technology to reflect who I am, what I’m into, my opinions and beliefs.” The website also says that such customization helps people “feel at home” with their device and implies that no one would ever “dream of using the factory settings” for their desktops.

BioniX also says that getting a new device is much like buying a new home. The first thing you want to do is to redecorate it and make it your own. Since we spend so much time with our screens they say, “the choice of the image that greets us every time we fire up our laptop is an important one”. Brian McGannon, a columnist from postgradproblems.com says, “Maybe you’re a minimalist who likes to keep it simple, or maybe you’re the flashy type who has a beautiful cityscape with lightning flashing in the background. Either way, that desktop background can provide a deep look into your personality.”

Many people consciously choose images that are a source of inspiration. These pictures may be spiritual or religious in nature. Personal beliefs may also be expressed through political and historical images or quotations. Calming images that evoke relaxation or pleasant reveries are often seen on work desktops used to reduce the ill effects of on-the-job stressors.  Desktop visuals may also serve as reminders for goals we want to achieved or resolutions we wish to keep. Additionally the number and organization of icons on your desktop also may have psychological significance.  Along with Dawson and McGannon, writers Jeff Wysaski from pleated-jeans.com and Sophie Daste from Sparklife have offered their take on the different kinds of desktops people use. These along with some interpretations stemming from the content analysis of common symbols are presented for several desktop themes below.

1. Windows/MAC Default: Use of factory loaded defaults is generally associated with older users who may not be very tech savvy regarding how to personalizes the device. They also imply a lack of artistic temperament, being overly simplistic and old fashioned. It may also point to depression and a lack of energy or perhaps contempt for modern technology. You also may just be “stuck using your dad’s old laptop.” On a MAC it suggests someone who is easily pleased, unimaginative, and perhaps uses the use computer sparingly and only bought a MAC because of its association with youth.
2. Plain Blue Wallpaper: This simple, but often used, wallpaper suggests that the user possesses the technical skills to personalized the computer. This ability, however, is overpowered by a defensive and guarded unwillingness to disclose very much. Overall it suggests someone who likes to keep their personal life private.
3. Cute Animals: In all likelihood this user is an animal lover, compassionate, optimistic, imaginative, charitable and very possibly a little girl. These images suggest some degree of distancing of the self from others. Cartoon animals represent one step further away from reality.
4. Sports Photos or Logos: This wallpaper is associated with personality characteristics such as team/city/college loyalty, adventurousness, hero worshipping, and possibly beer drinking. It also suggests aggressiveness, competitiveness, extroversion, and a high energy level. Unless of course unless it’s the Green Bay Packers, then it’s okay.
5. Nature: These images are often used by people value travel and tend to be dreamers. They are commonly associated with people who lack windows in their workspace and need a vacation.
6. TV/Movie Characters or Scenes: People who use these backgrounds tend to be homebodies and loyal Netflix users. They may be imaginative and have an active fantasy life. This type of screen may overlap with the Celebrity Crush desktop, which is generally harmless unless you are over 15 years of age, when stalking becomes a viable possibility.
7. Personal Photos: These users tend to be family-orientated, as they are often they are people with children.. They may also reflect travel or hobbies. Subcategories include photos of: (A) You and your significant other, which reveals romantic tendencies, but also exhibitionism, since it invites personal conversations; (B) you accepting an award . Such self-portraits strongly indicate narcissism — folks with big egos who revel in past triumphs. This category reminds me of a guy that Diane once worked for, who didn’t have any pictures of his family around his office, but instead had many pictures of himself; and (C) college days: these indicate a desire to return to the good old days where there was less pressure and responsibility. Unless you just got out of college last week, authorities agree that it might be time to move on.
8. Inspirational Quotes: These are used by people who are overly conventional, easily influenced, and generally happy with their lives, although they may feel pangs of ambition at times.
9. Cluttered Icons on Desktop : When a desktop has icons strewn across the screen it suggests the owner is disorganized and tends to easily lose focus. Research reveals such people are e likely to be male, liberal, have higher education, be career-oriented, and are math whizs.
10. Highly Organized Icons: People with very tidy desktops are likely to be younger, non-urban, tech savvy, and place personal life ahead of work. When the icons are arranged symmetrically its suggests obsessive-compulsive features. If can also indicate they value balance and that they have the ability to keep a cool head, even in thorny situations.
11. Several Rows of Desktop Icons: This type of a desktop arrangement reflects a strong need to feel in control and prepared for every contingency. At the same time it indicates underlying anxiety, insecurity, and internal disorganization.
12. Seasons of the Year: Seasonal images are most often used by elementary school teachers who are constantly decorating bulletin boards and, of course, talented writers.

Originally published in the Southern Indiana News Tribune

Psychoanalyzing your Christmas Cards

8 Nov

 

 

Did you do the Christmas card thing this year or did you just e-mail “Happy Holidays” to everyone in your address book? Maybe it’s technology or just the times, but people don’t seem, to take Christmas card giving as seriously as in the past. Banishing someone from your Christmas card list was the ultimate in social rejection. Lists were carefully saved and even passed down from generation to generation. Ironically most of the cards I get now come from companies wanting my business.

Over the last several years, the number of Christmas cards sent by Americans has declined, probably due to communication technology and increased social isolation. Some of the personal touch remains, however, as a number of people include messages, or their annual Christmas letter, in their cards, bragging about their latest family triumphs in order to get one up you. Last night Diane wouldn’t open the card from her cousin before dinner because she said she did want to ruin her appetite.

Christmas cards began in London in 1843, the same year Charles Dickinson’s “Christmas Carol” was written. This current holiday season the Greeting Card Association estimates just over two billion greeting cards will be sent.

Christmas cards do have some appealing features. They connect us to others, help us put our emotions into words, and provide a tangible keepsake to preserve memories. Most of us feel inspired to reciprocate if we receive a card.

In one of the few scientific studies of holiday cards, Karen Fingerman and Patricia Griffiths from Pennsylvania State University found that people who received many cards believe that a large number of people are thinking about them and feel less lonely. Also people reported having a significant emotional reaction to about one-third of the cards they received, sort of like Diane. Younger adults view cards as a way to establish new social ties, while older adults see them as a link to their personal pasts.

Dr. David Holmes, a psychologist from England’s Manchester University says the choice of a specific Christmas card inevitably gives away an awful lot about the personality of the sender. Psychologists just love to interpret things-inkblots, dreams made up stories, drawings, and also any decision you make (or don’t make). It’s sort of an occupational hazard and analyzing your Christmas cards may be going a bit too far.

Anyway, Dr. Holmes says people who find it difficult to express their feelings often hide their timidity behind the humor of a comic card. Introverted people are drawn to cards that picture Christmas trees, especially those that are devoid of baubles or presents. Winterscapes are sure signs of loners, as are cool colors such as silver, white and blue. Holmes also suggests people who value tradition; tend to send the same sort of cards their parents sent. They often prefer Victorian or cozy fireplace scenes that evoke the past.

Snowman lovers tend to be very sincere softies with keen intellects, while penguin fanciers demonstrate taste, style, sophistication and a good sense of humor.

Even card shape may be meaningful. Square cards suggest practicality, while tall, slim cards suggest concern with style and an artistic flair. People who send round cards are the most unconventional, often in a chaotic sort of way.

I am not convinced about this, but below are some of my interpretative guidelines that I thought might help you this holiday season as you look at you cards.

• CANDLE: Suggests warms feelings, but a tall candle can be interpreted as being a show off.

• DOVES: Unconsciously thinking about chocolate when they bought the card.

• ELF: Suggests small but highly industrious features, sort of like Switzerland.

• FROSTY THE SNOWMAN: Drove by Wendy’s before choosing the card.

• GEESE: Possible goosaholic. Do their front steps have plaster geese dressed up in red capes?

• GINGERBREAD MAN: Suggest fear of being “consumed” by others, tendency to avoid situations by running away as fast as you can.

• GOLD: May have attention problem and is attracted by shiny objects.

• MUSICAL CARDS: This is the sort of person who would buy your kid a drum- significant latent hostility.

• NUTCRACKER: The scary teeth and military uniform add up to oral aggression in my book.

• CHRISTMAS PRESENTS: Generous, but maybe be a bit materialistic. The actual meaning may depend on the choice of wrapping paper, but let’s not get into that.

• SANTA: Jolly, but some possible paranoia (“He knows if you have been bad or good”). “Making a list and checking it twice” also suggests possible obsessive-compulsive issues.

• TOY SOLDIER: These are adorable, cute and smiley characters that are packing heat –denial of aggressive impulses.

• STARS: Stars are distant, aloof, impersonal, and grandiose- sort like our cat.

• STOCKING: Suggests some fetish possibilities that are best not discussed.

• TEDDY BEAR: The Teddy bear is the international symbol for cuteness. On the positive side, if some person sent you this card, maybe they think you are cute.

• WREATH: With no beginning or end, the wreath suggests a well-rounded personality.

How do your friends and family stack up? Is someone lonely or in need of cheering up? Do you want to cheer someone up? Maybe you should consider sending a last minute penguin.

(Based on an article  appearing originally  in the  the New Albany Tribune)

 

Doodle All the Day Long

16 Sep

                                                                                                                                                     

  At a   business meeting the other day, my attention began to wander as I sat there doodling. I don’t know if it was the topic, or all the antihistamines I was taking, but the meeting room gradually melted away and there I was in a boat with a refreshing breeze in my face. I heard my name in the distance, and suddenly I was yanked back, as if a bungee cord was attached to the boat. Evidently I was being asked to make some sort of decision. Everyone was looking at me so earnestly that I was too embarrassed to admit that I had no idea what they were talking about. My notes were no help. They were the minutes from the last meeting with all of the “o’s” and “e’s” filled in and some poorly drawn palm trees in the margin. Hoping that I hadn’t been asked to past the bowl of pretzels, I said that I would have to consider the issue and get back to everyone. They all nodded and seemed satisfied.

                 Daydreaming and doodling are closely related phenomena. Doodling, which has been found in early Mesopotamian clay tablets, has been called the world’s most common and ignored art form. Anthropologists once theorized that certain strange stone-age cave paintings must have been created by early humans, while under the influence of indigenous drugs or possibly primitive music. However, one researcher examined the classroom doodles of college students and found artistic elements identical to the Paleolithic productions. This should come as no surprise to any parent of a college student. Doodling is technically the spontaneous production of drawings or markings, when one’s mind is preoccupied with something else. Doodling most often takes place in meetings, classrooms, while on the phone, and on napkins in restaurants. English psychologist Jackie Andrade from the University of Plymouth found that doodling actually improves memory and attention on certain tasks. People who doodled while listening to a dull phone message remembered 29% more than people who did not doodle. Everyone in England, however, isn’t convinced of its benefits, as a convicted rapist was released from prison when it was discovered that a juror was doodling sketches of the judge during the trial. The case has been appealed on the grounds that the juror was not paying enough attention to the evidence.

               When our brains lacks sufficient stimulation, they may manufacture their own content, like doodles and daydreams. For many people doodling provides just enough activity during boring tasks to prevent escape into full-fledged daydreams. Because doodling is largely unconscious, many believe it can provide insight into personality functioning. After the 2005 World Economic Forum, a reporter was snooping around the seat occupied by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and found papers with elaborate doodles of triangles, rectangles, circles, and words in boxes. The reporter had these drawings analyzed by a graphologist and newspapers throughout Britain gleefully reported that the doodles revealed that Blair was “struggling to concentrate” and “not a natural leader”. One journalist went so far as to call the prime minister “a closet vicar with a death wish”. But Blair had the last laugh when it was revealed that the doodles were actually made by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who had inadvertently left them at Blair’s seat. David Greenberg a professor of history at Rutgers recently published a book on presidential doodles, showing that even the father of our country wasn’t above decorating his notebook with checkerboard designs. And the tradition continues today. A doodle by Barrack Obama recently sold for $2,500 on e-Bay.

                  Like the Rorschach test, there is little agreement about the specific meaning of doodles. For example, some authorities believe crosshatching and repeated patterns suggest a methodical approach to tasks, while others see it as an indicator of obsessive compulsive behavior. A house with smoke coming from the chimney means a welcoming fire for some experts, while for others it may signify sexual problems. While doodling represents a minor retreat from reality, daydreams are fully developed visual fantasies experienced while we’re awake. Research by University of Minnesota psychology professor, Eric Klinger, revealed that most daydreams are actually about ordinary events. They help remind us of everyday tasks. Less than 5% of daydreams involved sexual thoughts and violent daydreams are quite uncommon. Klinger’s research showed that over 75% of people with “boring jobs”, such as lifeguards and truck drivers, frequently use daydreams to ease the tedium of their workday. Daydreaming has often been judged as a non-productive pastime.

                    When I was growing up some psychologists even cautioned parents that persistent daydreaming could lead to a break with reality and even psychosis. But daydreaming has also been associated with major creative break-throughs in many disciplines. For example, in 1862, German chemist Friedrich Kekulé discovered the ring shape of the benzene molecule in a daydream about a snake seizing its own tail. Walt Disney was well know for his frequent day dreaming and even today the Disney Corporation recognizes outstanding young people with its “Dreamers and Doers Awards”. Star athletes have long employed visualization as an effective training technique. For many practicing in imagination is as good or even better than real life and visualization is essentially the same state of mind as daydreaming. Of course day dreaming can be detrimental when a task demands our full attention. A Wisconsin survey found that daydreaming was second only to fatigue as the cause of auto accidents.

                     I once found that doodling can also be hazardous. I had just started a job and my new boss was briefing me about the employees I supervised. As he gave me the rundown, I idly doodled on the back of a stack of papers. He cautioned me about one of the women, describing her as “not a team player”. Later that day I met with all the employees and passed out a memo about supervision times. It went very well, but an hour later I got a phone call from the woman my boss warned me about. She demanded to know what the doodles on the back of her memo meant. She said she recognized palm trees, but she wanted to know why her name was written in what looked to be a traffic caution sign and why it was next to a box that contained the underlined words “Not a team player?”

 

Valentine’s Day Special As a Dreamboat, I’m Sunk

6 Jan

             In his book Everything and a Kite, comedian  Ray Romano relates  that sometimes in the morning,  his wife  yells at him for his behavior in one of her  dreams.  He says, “That’s when you know you’re a true married couple: when you have to apologize for  what you did in her dream.”  I was surprised to  read this, I had  thought that perhaps I was the only one who had to account for his bad behavior in other people’s dreams.

             You see, Bad-Terry, as I call him, is really bad news. This highly  inconsiderate lout, is like having an evil twin who keeps popping up, getting you into big trouble.  He is my nocturnal Mr. Hyde who goes out, commits horrendous acts  and leaves poor innocent Dr. Jekyll  holding the bag in the morning.

                 I have protested  that  I shouldn’t  have to be accountable for my behavior  in someone else’s  dreams. After all I didn’t  write the script. If I misbehaved in my own dreams, well,  that might  be different. Of course,  no one would know about that,  unless I was careless or foolish enough to tell them. I think I  have a hard enough time being responsible for  my own conscious  behavior,  let alone someone else’s  unconscious thoughts.

                The average  person spends about six years of their life  dreaming. This works out to be about two hours a night, so my chances of getting in trouble, if dream time is included,  increases by a minimum of 8% .  As always,  Diane has an airtight counter argument. She says that dreams reflect the current emotional state of the dreamer  and that if  I  hadn’t  actually done  something to  evoke such feelings,  then she never would have had the dream in the first place. This of course is one of the reasons one should never get involved with women who have an advanced  degree in psychology. It is also probably why Ray Romano says that  in the war of the sexes, women have  nuclear armaments, while men have a sharp stick as their secret weapon.       

                   Unfortunately all the current scientific  research seems to support  Diane’s case. Modern theories  suggest  that dreams  express  unconscious conflicts and wishes,  help us cope with uncomfortable emotions,  and  perhaps  consolidate  memories.   The millions of connections between nerves cells, which are the   physical basis for our minds,  are  constantly changing in our brains.  Dreaming is when   these connections are  most loosely made,  which make  dreams appear  nonsensical  to our conscious minds. 

                  Studies have shown that people who experience   trauma have  dreams that reflect the same strong emotions. Imagery in their dreams is more  frequent, vivid, and intense. When people’s  emotions are mixed up,  their  dreams  tend to be more complicated.  So a major function of dreams may be to  help us incorporate experiences into our  memory, without experiencing  intense  emotional discomfort.

                 Dreams seem to be  necessary for good mental health, even if  the mechanism by which they are produced is not completely  understood. It is known that if people are deprived of dreams,  their  thinking  deteriorates and they become irritable and irrational. Sophisticated new brain imaging techniques hold the promise of cracking the riddle of dreams in the near future.   

                        I wonder if men  ever have dreams  about their wives misbehaving.  Somehow I doubt  it.  This is  probably due to a gender differences in dreams, although Diane  might argue that it only proves that women are better.  Unfortunately after being a psychotherapist for  many years,  I would have to agree that,  with all due respect to my gender, when compared with most women, most men are pretty loathesome—  sorry guys but it is  best to just own up to this and move on. 

                     Richard Wilkerson,  director of DreamGate, the Internet  Dream Education Center, says gender  differences in dreams begin at an early age. Girl’s dreams contain  more females and  familiar  people. They are often concerned with personal appearance and have more references to food in them.  Ironically one of the authorities on food references in dreams is a fellow named Walter Hamburger.

                       As you might expect girl’s dreams are  also more colorful and emotional.  In adulthood they   emphasize  the  indoors, family,  and home, and frequently include bodies of water, such as pools, lakes, and ponds. 

                       Men’s dreams  have more men in them,  and often contain  themes of conflict and competition. Outdoor settings are typical along with references to  weapons, tools, and autos.  Men also report more sexual dreams,  which should come as a big surprise.

                         Women’s dreams are definitely friendlier. About 25% of men’s dreams   involve  aggression,  while this is true for only about 4% of  women’s dreams,  where  any aggression is much more likely to be verbal than physical.

                            I have thought about telling Diane that Dream-Diane  had been mean to me in one of my dreams, but it’s never happened and even if it did,  I am convinced that Miss Perfect would  just laugh at me  in disbelief.  

                    Historically  people have long sought to divine the  meaning of their  dreams.  Are they just meaningless by-products of   neurotransmitters fizzling out in our brains? Or are they filled with  unconscious meanings that beg for  our attention.       

               In a Redbook Magazine article a few years ago, writer  Priscilla Grant, who might want to start minding her own business,  says that  “a recurrent negative dream about your husband could be  a “red-flag” that shouldn’t be ignored. She also says that  dreams can bring couples closer together and improve relationships. So maybe  it is important to not be so defensive or  quick to deny the constructive feedback that dreams can  provide.    That Ray Romano certainly has a lot to learn about women. 

Originally published in the New Albany Tribune

Can displays of Christmas decorations actually hurt people psychologically?

30 Nov

Can Christmas decorations actually hurt people’s psychologically?  Can  they damage self-esteem, depress mood or engender  feelings of alienation and exclusion?  Check out this link for the answer: http://tinyurl.com/26bwtpa

What Does Your Halloween Costume Say about You?

27 Oct

 

Check out Dr. Stawar’s  Column on Decoding the halloween costume.

http://newsandtribune.com/columns/x1416244513/STAWAR-Decoding-the-Halloween-costume

Thanksgiving as seen from Academia II: A Psychoanalytic Viewpoint

18 Nov

Wallendorf and Arnould say that Thanksgiving Day has a number of close symbolic links to infancy. Historically it’s associated with the beginning or infancy of the nation. They say: “Thanksgiving allows each participant to return to the contentment and security of an infant wearing comfortable clothing who falls asleep after being well fed. Sitting in relative silence, each participant is fed plain soft food by a nurturing woman and then is taken outside for a walk.” According to Wallendorf and Arnould, in American’s calendar of rituals, Thanksgiving is the equivalent of Sigmund Freud’s oral stage of development. As such it comes before the retentive conflict of Christmas and the sexually charged New Year’s Eve. The connection to infancy is also seen in the way people dress. Generally people wear soft fabrics such as jeans and sweaters, fleece sweat suits, and sneakers. Elasticized waistbands and other comfortable clothing features are common. Wallendorf and Arnould say our typical Thanksgiving wardrobes “recall the contemporary one-piece, all-purpose infant garment, sometimes known as “Dr. Dentons”. This is clothing that can move from meal time to play time to naptime without a change.” Besides the centerpiece turkey, there are many soft foods served at Thanksgiving (mashed potatoes, stuffing, yams, etc,) . Many people smoosh their food together at this meal. While this may symbolize family togetherness, it also converts food into the consistency that infants consume. I’m not sure I really believe all of this psychoanalytic stuff, but it certainly is something to think about.