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Pslop Pshychology
I’ve said it before, the great thing about being the grumpy conservative is that there’s never a shortage of things to gripe about. Take this weekend, for instance. I checked out a book from the library called “I Know What You’re Thinking.” It purported to be a handbook for identifying personality types based on vocal, visual, and behavioral clues.

Now, as an engineer, I love that categorizing stuff. In the engineering world, if it can’t be put into a matrix, it doesn’t exist. Try to sell an engineer a steel called Strength-O-Max and you’re going to have a tough time. Tell him it can be categorized like a 4130 allow with low nickel content and he’ll order a truckload. So, when I checked out this book I expected a logical two- or three-dimensional continuum of traits that could be used as a broad basis for analyzing personalities.

As it turns out, the personality types were dipwad, schmuck, lowlife, weasel, cheapskate, abuser . . . you get the picture.

Listed with all the categories were helpful visual, vocal, and audio clues that alerted you to that personality type. For example, if people talk slow, they are weak. If they talk fast they are overbearing. If they use their hands they are insincere. If they don’t use their hands, they have something to hide.

I’m wondering if this gal that wrote the book isn’t related to a friend of mine. This friend viewed people the same way the good doctor did, with a much simplified scheme. If asked what he thought of this girl or that girl he could be counted on to say “Oh, Sowansoh? She’s a B----.” If he were asked about a guy, he would say “He’s an A------.” (1)

The book was full of fascinating case studies where friends had come to this good lady wanting her to review men for potential relationships. Typically, they would meet for dinner and the good doctor would observe the prospective relationshipee. Then when he excused himself to go to the bathroom she would tell her friend that based on her observation the man was a) abusive, b) insensitive, c) cheap or d) a practitioner of poor hygiene. The girl would get upset and when the boyfriend returned they would stomp out of the restaurant in a huff. Exactly one week later, the good doctor would always get a phone call from her friend, who between sobs would say “Oh, you were right! He turned out to be just exactly what you said he was. How ever did you know?”

In her very expensive book the good doctor was kind enough to reveal her secrets. She explained that she could look at photos of couples on magazine covers and divine their feelings. Now, you’re not going to believe this, but she was able to discern that the attraction between Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson was mostly physical. I’m stunned. Who says prophets are no longer among us?

My favorite line from the book was ‘Whenever I see someone with their jaw thrust out, I ask them, “Which one of your parents do you hate and why?” ‘ Pardon me while I dry my eyes and apply ointment to my slapped-upon knees.

Given that it is an ill wind that blows no good, I was able to glean some useful information out of the book. The lady says that people telegraph by their conversation what they are. They can’t hide it; in the tone or word usage or some other cue, their true nature will be revealed. I wonder if the good lady realizes the irony of her revelation. 

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess this lady isn’t married.

My best guess is that the printer didn’t have room on the cover for the full title-“I Know What You’re Thinking: This Lady Got Her PhD Over the Internet.”

I add this to books in the category of “Books that just plain don’t deliver.”

Other books in this category include a fascinating tome titled Never Be Lied to Again. The title of this book should have been “Never Buy a Useless Book Again.” The author has done a fascinating study on how to tell if someone is lying. Here is a summary of his findings. “If someone is talking fast, he is lying. If someone is talking slow, he is lying. If someone is using his hands, he is lying. If someone is hiding his hands, he is lying. If someone looks up and to the left while he talks, he is lying. If someone looks down and to the right while he talks, he is lying.” There. I saved you fourteen dollars. If everyone that reads this column sends me a dollar, I will have only lost 12 dollars on the book.

Another book in the same category is Why People Believe Weird Things. My Proposed Title: Why People Buy Worthless Books with Compelling Titles. I really expected this to be an insightful read into the workings of twisted minds that buy into bloodless surgery, Amway, and internet hoaxes. If ever there were a subject that merited a thorough and insightful going over, it would be weird things that people believe. What the book covers instead is one paragraph on the nature of science vs. mysticism, with the remainder of the book being equally divided into these two categories: Why people who don’t believe we descended from tadpoles are stupid, and why the 6 idiots on the entire planet who deny the holocaust are stupid.

Okay, I didn’t want to have to do it, but I guess if I want to read a decent book on pop psychology, I’m going to have to write it myself. Now, what did I do with the URL for that company who could give me a PhD over the internet . . . ?


Frank Leany


(1) Completely tangentially, that’s the method I use to remember how threads are designated. Female threads are “B” as in ½-13UNC-2B and males are A as in ¼-20UNC-2A.

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