Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

If Psychologists Diagnosed the Cavemen

ABC has a new weekly series in its Fall 2007 schedule, Cavemen, which is about a group of Neanderthals who "struggle with prejudice on a daily basis... in 2007 Atlanta." The series is based on the cavemen characters featured in commercials by the GEICO insurance company. In one of those commercials, a caveman tries, without much success, to explain to an unsympathetic psychologist how much prejudice he faces in his everyday life.

I don't know if the TV series has any plans to include psychologists in its episodes; but if it does, here's what I'm guessing might happen, based on my observations of the behavior of certain psychologists in recent years.

First, someone will notice that the cavemen have several characteristic differences in speech and behavior. They have unusual posture and body language. Although they can speak English, they sometimes prefer to communicate with one another by grunts and gestures. They also have peculiar hobbies, such as carving stone figures and painting on cave walls. And if there are no cavewomen around, they have a really hard time getting girlfriends.

Starting from the assumption that any noticeable behavioral differences must be symptoms of a mental disorder, the psychs will carefully study and document every unusual trait in the speech and behavior of the cavemen that they can find. It won't be long before they develop a new diagnostic category, Caveman Disorder, which they'll describe as a tragic abnormality that causes significant impairment in social and communicative functioning.

There's a bit of a problem with this diagnostic category, however. Some Neanderthals appear to be quite successful in school and in the workplace, and some have found nice compatible cavewomen and are living in suburbia with a houseful of happy cavekids. How to explain that? Well... that's easy enough for the psychs. Just define "caveman" so that anyone who doesn't have significant problems in his life is not really a caveman, no matter how much he looks like one. Then convince successful Neanderthal parents that, although they may be normal, their children are suffering from Caveman Disorder (as shown by the bullying they endure in school, etc.) and must be treated at great expense.

In a few years, after all of the cultural differences of the cavemen have been redefined as hideous symptoms to be eradicated, no Neanderthal will dare to behave like one in public, which will make it easy to convince society that the world is plagued by a dreadful new epidemic and that there were no cavemen in previous generations. Politicians and nonprofit groups will declare war on Caveman Disorder and will allocate huge amounts of money to genetic research to prevent the entire caveman spectrum.

It's a good thing for the cavemen that they're just TV characters.

(Note: this post is not intended to express any opinion on the Neanderthal hypothesis.)



  • Gotta love that mental illness industry. Can you say "manufactured consent"?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:58 PM  

  • Fred Flintstone maybe next.....

    By Blogger kristina, at 9:59 PM  

  • We think along similar lines, ABFH



    By Blogger Chasmatazz, at 3:31 AM  

  • Come on now, ABFH...what would happen to the Psychology industry if they didn't have a "hook" to find vulnerable consumers?

    GREAT POST! I have been thinking exactly along those lines lately, wondering how long it will take for the DSMV to catalog the entire spectrum of the human condition!

    By Blogger Usethebrains Godgiveyou, at 8:14 AM  

  • hmmm I knew that there would eventually be a reason why we shouldn't have TIVO and not be able to skip the advertisements!

    By Blogger Maddy, at 11:37 AM  

  • If we were to observe Neanderthals, I think they would really be so different that from a psyachitric point of view they could be considered disordered.

    Such an exercise is not so much in the realm of fantasy anymore when people are speaking about cloning humans, extinct species and so on.

    Neanderthals were probably "superior" (in cogntive science terms) in several areas and "inferior" in others. Their cranial volume was actually larger than that of modern humans.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:17 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E., at 1:17 AM  

  • Too many nights not sleeping on account of strep throat... I bollocksed up the post :S

    There are many ways in which I should be well pissed off at this article. And I am.

    But not for ABFH's treatment of a serious issue.

    Rather I'm pissed off because that is how many psychologists view things: there is a serious amount of bias in the observations made in the clinical paradigm that... well, in educational psychology, we at least attempt to avoid the sorts of biases found in clinical psychology by using grounded theory methodology as opposed to positivistic methodologies (essentially, building theories instead of testing them).

    By Blogger David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E., at 1:20 AM  

  • "If Psychologists Diagnosed the Cavemen" ?????...

    If you know any of these Psychologists personally, could you send them to my house? I live with 4 "cavemen". They put cave art on the walls and carvings and everything!

    What is normal anyway?
    After I took my required Psychology course in college, I changed my major to Sociology.

    By Blogger A Bishops Wife, at 6:31 PM  

  • "After I took my required Psychology course in college, I changed my major to Sociology."

    When I saw the methodological differences between clinical and educational psychology, I dropped the clinical ambition I had and went for education: it seemed to be a much more useful and fruitful way of working... dealing with people on their own terms, and diagnosing problem situations rather than problem people.

    By Blogger David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E., at 9:20 PM  

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