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Comment Another study? (Score 2) 132

I don't remember exactly, and maybe someone will remember and have a link handy, but I think there was a recent study (in the past few years) that suggested that mild forms of synaesthesia might be extremely common, and in fact simply part of how human intelligence works.

I think the suggestion was that there are various ways that we connect sense information naturally, and unavoidably. Red is hot. Blue is cold. Red tastes like cherries and green like sour apple. Odd numbers might seem sharp to you, while evens seem rounded. Someone yelling angrily at a certain pitch might conjure the feeling of running your hand the wrong way on a cheese grater. You might feel a tactile sense of pain when hearing finger nails on a chalkboard.

Now someone is going to come forward and point out that many of these things might just be learned associations, which is true. I think the argument was that the ability to make these associations, as well as the ability to form and understand metaphors like "His voice was like rubbing your hand the wrong way on a cheese grater," implies that your brain is already capable of tying different kinds of sensory information together. Visual information can have a sound. Sounds can have colors. Colors can have tastes. What we call "synaesthesia" may just be an amplified version of this very common phenomenon.

Comment Re:Leave. (Score 1) 432

I don't know about law in any of the US, but in the UK: a private letter is considered to be "published", for libel purposes, the moment it is opened (by someone other than the party being libelled, or someone acting as their agent and with their express permission to open it)

Yes. It is roughly the same in the U.S. See HERE, in the section headed "Publication".

Comment Re:Leave. (Score 1) 432

With the intent to cause damage. Look it up. They damaged party has to prove intent. Which is why there are almost never successful; libel or slander cases in the US.

This is not true. At least in most states, intent to harm is not required.

What IS usually required is to show that the accused knew, or reasonably should have known, that the statement was false.

That is not quite the same thing.

Comment Re:This. Libel need not be public, but must be unt (Score 1) 432

It's amazing to me how many people don't get the difference between stating an opinion and stating something as fact. I am thinking of a certain Slashdot frequenter who fits that profile.

There is a great deal of legal precedent in that regard. For example, calling someone "an ass" or similar is pretty definitely an opinion, even if it's stated as though it were fact: "You're an ass."

In college law classes there is a rather famous case study from, I think, the 17th century.

A guest at an inn told the innkeeper: "My horse can pisse better ale than you serve here."

The innkeeper sued the customer for slander. The judge ruled: "The accused did not slander the innkeeper. He complimented his horse."

So, while there are lines as to what is acceptable speech and what is not, it pays to be cognizant of where those lines are. And many people have no clue.

Comment Re:And the next food craze starts (Score 1) 176

Honestly, I don't have enough real insight into the research, publishing, and review process to agree or disagree with you about their share of the blame. I would say this, though: Part of the job of reporters is to research the topic they're reporting on and vet their sources. If we assume that the universities and researchers are misrepresenting their results on a regular basis, then reporters should start refusing to air stories about these "discoveries", or at least report them with a tone of skepticism.

It'd be like if the political reporters were simply repeating the politicians' press releases, without even a superficial check to verify that the information in the press release isn't inaccurate propaganda. Unfortunately, that's actually something that a lot of reporters seem to do. They just take whatever story some business or political group is pushing, interpret it uncritically, and then publish it with a sensational slant that will be pleasing to their viewers/readers.

Comment Re:And the next food craze starts (Score 5, Insightful) 176

You're right that we keep getting contradictory information, but the problem often isn't that the studies are bad in themselves, it's that the reporting on the study is bad.

One group does a study that shows a correlation between diet and "brain shrinkage". That's all. One study finds some kind of statistical correlation. Further study is needed. First, the study should be replicated before really trusting the results. Someone would also have to hypothesize what the causal link is, and then study that, because (sorry, I know it has become a cliche, but...) correlation does not equal causation.

But ok, let's assume for the sake of argument that it's determined that the exact diet described here as the "Mediterranean diet" prevents "brain shrinkage". Ok. Now what? What is "brain shrinkage"? Is brain shrinkage bad? What are the negative effects of it? Are their positive effects of brain shrinkage? Oh, and are there other negative effects of the Mediterranean diet that outweigh the benefits of preventing brain shrinkage?

Nobody really knows. I'm sure an expert could provide some information in response to their answers, but they won't have a complete answer.

But reporters don't necessarily understand all of that, and in any case, that kind of nuanced and intelligent reporting won't sell ad time on CNN. You know what will grab people's attention? The headline, "Drinking olive oil will make you smarter!" So that's what they report, and suddenly the common wisdom is that we should all be guzzling a gallon of olive oil per day.

And then a few years later, there will be another study where there's some correlation between olive oil and an increased risk of some particular rare form of cancer. There will be all the same uncertainties and complications of interpreting the results of the study, but reporters won't report on the complications. There will just be a headline, "Olive oil causes cancer!" Now everyone decides we're supposed to cut olive oil our of our diets.

Science may eventually find that the studies themselves were flawed, or the results were misinterpreted, or the correlation was just a statistical anomaly. Or we may eventually find that there is a correlation, but the causal link is something unexpected. Maybe people who cook with olive oil are less likely to eat butter, and butter causes brain shrinkage. Or, it's possible, just possible, that olive oil does in fact help to prevent brain shrinkage as well as increase the risk of a rare form of cancer, but that it does each of these things to such a minor degree that it's not worth considering when choosing what to eat.

It's also true that some studies are bad. Unfortunately, we don't put much priority on repeating studies to confirm results. However, the far bigger problem is that most of our news outlets suck. Even the respectable ones like the BBC and New York Times are just awful. Honestly, I'm not sure how to improve them, because another big piece of the problem is that *we, the audience*, suck. We insist on clicking on clickbait, watching tabloid junk, and superstitiously believing whatever our chosen news outlet reports.

Comment Re:Depends on what you mean by "gaslighting" (Score 1) 432

Yeah, I came in here to comment because I'm not sure this is gaslighting. It seems the behavior would be better described as "scrutinizing" or "micromanaging", or perhaps just "fucking with".

For example, cancelling someone else's appointment at the last minute is not "gaslighting". If you somehow hacked into someone's email account and occasionally deleted reminders from their calendar, specifically so that they would miss appointments and think they'd forgotten to put it on their calendar, *that* would be gaslighting. Telling a coworker that their code sucks is not gaslighting. Covertly adding typos to their working code, without leaving any record of the edit, so that it mysterious stops working and the author believes they just had a bunch of typos-- that would be gaslighting.

Gaslighting is all about messing with someone in such a way that they don't know you're doing it, and instead feel like they're the one who is making mistakes, forgetting things, misplacing things, etc. The intention is to make them doubt their own abilities and sanity. What was described in the summary doesn't sound like gaslighting.

Comment Re:Leave. (Score 4, Informative) 432

This is quite incorrect. I would say dangerously incorrect. At least in most of the U.S.

In general, actionable defamation (of which libel and slander are particular examples) only requires that you express untrue, damaging things to someone other than the party you are referring to. There is NO specific requirement that it be public.

And "damage" is used loosely here. Damage could mean damage to their career, or damage to their public reputation, or even just damage to a single friend's opinion of them.

If you wrote untrue, damaging things in a document to your HR department, that could definitely be considered libel, and would likely be actionable. Specific cases vary, but again in general.

Of course, truth is (again in general... most U.S. states) an absolute defense. So if what you wrote is true and you can demonstrate that it is, by a preponderance of evidence, then you're probably safe. But you'd better have that evidence.

In addition, most corporations have as part of their employment conditions that you can't sue the company or other employees as a result of negative opinions expressed as part of "official" company communications, such as an employee review or exit interview.

Again in the U.S., that is simply not true. "Most" corporations do NOT have such a clause in their contract, and there is a very strong push to stop that practice in those states where it is still allowed. Because in some states such clauses are specifically prohibited by law, and the list of those states is growing.

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