Monday, February 12, 2007


As a senior project in the final semester on the campus of a local university, I was assigned a project in the course called Statistical Mathematical Manipulations of Research in the Social Sciences 1492 section 2. I decided to do a study in folk psychology. This scholarly work was inspired by a country lady who, in the words of my son, "Has got it goin' on." We were discussing a mailing list for our church and she said, "I believe you ought to send Mr. and Mizriz (that's how you say Mrs. in country) Kindagood our newsletter. They attend the Primitive Church of the Immaculate American Flag."

I said, "Oooweee, we ought to steal them away from that outfit."

She said, "Naw, leave `em there, she's kinda loopy."

"Loopy," I thought, "That sure sounds better than; 'a little neurotic' or 'I fear she suffers from a personality disorder.'" I like it. As one who has been accused of being 'kinda loopy,' I appreciate the implications. I also appreciate the advice to leave the lady a content member of the PCIAF.

The very next day I went to see my professor. He said that the first thing I need to do is to form a null hypothesis. With that you can assume that you are wrong and set out to prove it. The technique confounds your critics because they are afraid to disagree just in case you are right, which is certainly wrong. Now that I was totally confused and thankful for the opportunity to explore abstract academic thought and perish before I publish something really bad, I began thinking of ways to be empirically inverted. Not a difficult task after something like 14 courses in the Social Sciences and an elective or two in Art. After much contemplation and research I formulated my hypothesis. Here it is:
It is not true that folk psychology has more descriptive terms for various mental disorders than real shrink shop stuff.
Like it? It may not be true, but then again it may be, depending on what academia nut reads it. It certainly is dull if not null.

Dr. Hellenist was buried in the valleys of his stacks of research papers like some archeologist in an ancient European trash mound when I arrived with my hypothesis. "Hey Doc," I hollered into the heap. "It's Ken. I've got my hypothesis done; you wanna see it?" A hand poked between two stacks of paper and I caught a glimpse of one eye peering over a Ben Franklin-like lens. I placed my work in the hand and said, "Don't lose it in there, Doc." He muttered something about grading papers and that I should come back later.

I did just that and saw him kicking papers back into his office from the hall. There were little beads of sweat on his forehead and he looked harried.
"Hi Doc, ya look at my hypothesis?"

"Oh, yeah, go ahead with your paper."
He forced his office door shut and tore his yellowed office hours schedule with his shoulder. He finished ripping it off, crammed it under the door and walked off without a word. I stood there until he turned the corner at the end of the hall and then looked at his office door. Taped to the battered wood was a poster that read "Publish or Perish, the Stuff of Which Real Teachers Are Made." Under the headline was a picture of some 1950's coeds with cats eye glasses in a convertible driven by a jock with a flattop hair cut. The message under the picture read, "Study Statistics at Iconphuzed U."

The next step was to create a survey, distribute it, recover it from trash cans all over campus, tally the responses, figure out who the standard deviants were who responded and pack all of those figures into a computer. I clicked the final figures out, hit "ENTER" and sipped a cup of coffee as the machine blinked a contemplative green light at me. My computer is one of the "old X Tees" and not one of the "New OH ESS TWO's," as the computer gurus say. I think it means that mine is older than six months and 30 nano-seconds slower at bite mastication or something. The new models have more megs to hertz, bigger and harder drives and floppier small ones. I can't always tell if we are talking about computers, transmission parts or bra sizes. It gets worse when you start discussing monitors. RGB, VGA, VCR, CD ROM. EM EYE SEA, KAY EE WHY, EMO, U, ESS, EEEEEEEEEEE.

Finally after an eternal minute and seven seconds (long enough to drive a real computer person to chewing his nails in frustration) I got my results.
We distributed 500 surveys to randomly selected campus punkers, rappers, Greeks, geeks and grungies. We got an excellent return; about 25. (I say,"about," because we had to tape one of the trash can recoveries back together and it wasn't all there) There were three groups of respondents. The largest group were the standard deviants who really took this study seriously and who all volunteered for labratory experiments if there were drugs involved. The next largest group of respondents were those who got help filling out the survey in the writing lab and then used the survey to wipe the dip sticks of their Harleys. The third were a few peppy freshmen who were initially impressed with being a part of a university study, but had an intellectual growth spurt after completing it. I saw one of those students get up from a bench, look around, saunter by a trash can and slip it in. She then hurried away when the swinging flap on the can squealed like a jail house snitch.

Anyway, the rest of the survey was really interesting. 89% of the respondents believed that folk-psych terms for mental disorders more accurately described the condition than the real terms, while 39% of those students didn't know what the real words were. Of all the respondents, only 22% knew what their race was and 5% of those thought it was the "Winston Cup."

But, enough of demographics. The meat of the survey came in section 3 where the respondents were asked to contribute their own folk-psych terms for mental disorders. The following is a partial list of the terms contributed by students.

Of all the respondents, 22% suggested, "His elevator doesn't go all the way to the top," and "She's about two bricks short of a load." Only 1.697% suggested, "One french fry short of a happy meal." Nearly 99% of the students surveyed used the old stand-by, "The lights are on but nobodies home," and "You ain' right, chu know dat?" One or two respondents from Eastern Tennessee offered, "About one daid `possum short of a country road." Four of the students were from, "up north" and stated that they could not complete the survey because they spoke "Proper English, and just could not understand this southern dialect." (They were all given tuition refunds, urban renewal grants to get out of town and went back to New Jersey. The entire campus rejoiced for three days)

A complete analysis of this study and list of folk -psych phrases will be published shortly in hard cover by IGOTCHOREBUCKS & SONS, Fantasyland Drive. Orlando, FLA. They are a respected publisher of doctoral thesis, masters thesis and other feces. Their motto is, "If you got a pile; Our market is fer-tile."

The day I turned my paper in, Dr. Hellinist was discovered dead in his office. They say that his office environment was polluted and he succumbed to a chronic case of white-lung thought to be caused by breathing particles of correction fluid in high concentrations. University officials denied OSHA claims that they were aware of the hazard and began requiring eraser training in freshman orientation.

The department chair was so impressed with my study that he invited me to sign a paper stating that I would never take another course there again in exchange for an A. I kinda figured school was too easy anyway. I took the A.


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