Media in Denial

The science-driven view.
Today’s New York Times, in the Science section, runs a rah rah story about the latest research on denial. The piece notes some interesting ideas being related to denial, most interestingly, forgiveness. The new research-informed definition of denial stretches the meaning almost to breaking, a common fate of psychological terms:

In this emerging view, social scientists see denial on a broader spectrum — from benign inattention to passive acknowledgment to full-blown, willful blindness — on the part of couples, social groups and organizations, as well as individuals.

In the past denial had been thought to be a non-willful blindness, but in this new research-driven definition “passive acknowledgment” is considered to be a key facet. The research offers us such surprising findings as: We are willing to overlook small violations of trust from friends, but not from strangers. Or, that a series of research studies revealed, steady yourself, people often idealize their partners.

The humor-driven view.
This reminds me of Ian Frazier’s essay in the New Yorker some years back, titled “Researchers Say”:

According to a study just released by scientists at Duke University, life is too hard. Although their findings mainly concern life as experienced by human beings, the study also applies to other animate forms, the scientists claim. Years of tests, experiments, and complex computer simulations now provide solid statistical evidence in support of old folk sayings that described life as “a vale of sorrows,” “a woeful trial,” “a kick in the teeth,” “not worth living,” and so on. Like much common wisdom, these sayings turn out to contain more than a little truth.

This New Yorker essay, which appears in the December 9, 2002 issue, says volumes more than breathless reports on the latest research findings. It’s well worth reading, here. Or, you can settle for the Times’ story, here.

Kalea Chapman, Psy.D.





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Clinical Psychologist practicing in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.

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