FIRST-WORLD PROBLEMS
What a fantastic article by Jennifer Crocker and Jessica J. Carnevale, “Self-Esteem Can Be an Ego Trap.” I am always interested in new insights into self-esteem. As a youth worker for many years, I believe it is a major area to explore. Sometimes I work with people who do not grasp the alternatives to their mind-set. I reflect with them about what we find essential that other people survive without: closure, explanation, certainty, hope, and so on. In Third World countries, people live without any certainty of food, money, medicine or even much future. Yet they do not all commit suicide. It is Westerners, with our certainty of income, food and shelter, who have problems with low self-esteem, depression and suicide. Why? Well, there is a fascinating opportunity for research!

Richard Waddy
Usher, Australia


EVIDENCE-BASED LEARNING
I appreciated your straightforward findings regarding how we learn in “Psychologists Identify the Best Ways to Study,” by John Dunlosky, Katherine A. Rawson, Elizabeth J. Marsh, Mitchell J. Nathan and Daniel T. Willingham. During my 20-year career in preparing new teachers, I have seen the reshaping of education policies to essentially reject many proved learning strategies as “old-fashioned.”

Given the more popular goal of meeting every child's unique learning style, teacher education (and therefore student learning) has been sidetracked with trendy approaches to learning, such as multiple intelligences, multicultural education, investigative learning, and so on. Although I am no champion of the onslaught of state and national testing, the benefit of rigorous standards and measurable results of learning has brought renewed interest in “doing what works.” Thank you for a nudge in the right direction.

Barbara Dautrich
American International College Springfield, Mass.


HEARING VOICES
I read Eleanor Longden's article, “How to Live with Voice Hearing,” with interest. I have lived with hallucinations and delusions for 18 years—also following a trauma at a university—but followed the different path that she suggested. I never told friends or family or sought medical help. About six years after the hallucinations started, I learned through a colleague who conducted research in acceptance and commitment therapy that I may have been doing the right thing, by accident, all along. By following a mindful and accepting approach to my unusual cognitions, I have learned to live in harmony with my hallucinations and delusions. In fact, rather than labeling them as such, I prefer to think of them as “odd thoughts,” and I do not act on them. I followed a career in academic psychology and secured positions at good universities, and I have even been promoted.

You can learn to live with odd thoughts; there are alternatives to stepping onto the psychiatry “hamster wheel.

Name withheld
via e-mail

Although I am deeply impressed and moved by Longden's story and ideas, I cannot totally agree with her conclusion that “people who are diagnosed … with schizophrenia are not victims of chemical imbalance or genetic mutation.” Her observations, while supported with some research, seem largely anecdotal, and there is a range of neuroscience research that continues to find connections between the physical properties of the brain and all forms of mental illness. As someone who has unfortunately been involved with numerous close relatives (a daughter, a brother and a wife who were given this diagnosis) and having worked in state psychiatric wards and witnessed seriously ill schizophrenics firsthand, I am convinced there is organic impairment of some kind responsible for this very painful disease. My relatives' schizophrenia, like that of the Alzheimer's patients I have witnessed, progressed in stops and starts regardless of medication or therapies. Most psychiatrists and therapists are sadly ineffective. I think that whatever works for each patient, regardless of theories and points of view, is the key to success. Causes, theories and hypotheses are a necessary basis for research, but so far I have not seen any of them produce long-lasting results.

Bill Bauer
Wailea, Hawaii

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GLOBAL WARMING HOAX?
Regarding “Why People Believe in Conspiracy Theories,” by Sander van der Linden: Do you editors realize that you have been pranked? The article is almost completely geared to “proving” that global warming skeptics are conspiracy theorists. Regarding conspiracy theories, the author says: “A likely function of this cognitive bias is to help people make sense of the world by offering simple explanations for complex events.” It seems to me that blaming humans for global warming is a simple explanation for a complex event.

J. R. Kennedy
Largo, Fla.

The only real hoax here is that van der Linden is throwing global warming skeptics under the bus with conspiracy theorists who believe that nasa faked the moon landing, the government holds aliens hostage in Area 51, and the Boston Marathon bombings were an inside job. No one really questions climate change. It is natural to have ice ages and periods of global warming as part of the earth's history.

The real question in many people's minds, which van der Linden completely ignores, is the percentage of current global warming that is caused by humans. As a biologist, I suspect that the actual value is less than 10 percent of the total. Consider the endemic influences of phenomena such as volcanoes, wildfires and natural gas emissions from the earth. And how do you explain away the melting of ice caps on Mars and other planets if nobody lives there?

It is necessary that we continue to have discussions about remedies for cleaner air and water and conservation of our precious lands. But to include climate change skepticism under the umbrella of a conspiracy theory is misguided if not malevolent.

Jeff S. Wyles
Oroville, Calif.

VAN DER LINDEN REPLIES: My article seems to have caused a fair amount of upheaval. The critical responses I have received can largely be categorized into two camps: those who feel that the article labels every conspiracy theorist as mentally ill and those who feel that it is unfair to group skepticism toward global warming with other “crazy” conspiracy theories such as aliens and Area 51.

With regard to the first criticism I would like to clarify that the article refers to scientific evidence that suggests that conspiracy ideation has been associated with paranoia and schizotypy. The intention of the article is by no means to label every skeptic as mentally ill.

In response to the second point, the most authoritative international scientific investigation into global warming has recently concluded with 95 percent certainty that human-caused global warming is happening. In addition, numerous studies that have surveyed the state of scientific agreement on the issue report that more than 97 percent of independent climate scientists agree that human-caused climate change is a reality. In the face of this overwhelming evidence, is denying global warming really that different from believing that the government is hiding aliens in Area 51? I will let the reader decide.

ERRATA
In “Hallucinogens Could Ease Existential Terror,” by Erica Rex [May/June 2013], LSD discoverer Albert Hofmann's name is misspelled. In “Fertile Women Have a Heightened Sense of Smell,” by Tori Rodriguez [Head Lines, September/October 2013], Jessica McNeil is incorrectly listed as a co-author of a study in the journal Hormones and Behavior. McNeil is actually a co-author of the study in Physiology and Behavior.