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Some Christmas-themed psychological "research"

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  • Some Christmas-themed psychological "research"

    It's over as the lead item in the science news as Red Orbit:

    One of the most iconic lines of Christmas is “Bah, humbug!” uttered by Ebenezer Scrooge, the famous miser in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

    A new study on life changing experiences from Brigham Young University has given Dickens high marks for his portrayal of Scrooge’s rapid switch from curmudgeon to saint.

    BYU psychology professor Sam Hardy and former graduate student Jon Skalski performed an in-depth study of 14 participants who have experienced profound, sudden and lasting life changes. The researchers say that Scrooge, though fictional, would be a perfect fit for their study. ...
    Bah Humbug! Are You A Scrooge Looking For That Life Changing Moment? - Science News - redOrbit

    Actually, I wonder if modern people sometimes miss aspects of Scrooge. Look what's said here:

    Though Scrooge was wealthy in material goods and money, he was poor in relationships, having suffered many traumatic losses in his life. ...
    Yeah, OK, he's got "money" ... but he doesn't use it even for his own enjoyment. As for "material goods" ? ...

    Did these scientists actually look at the text with any care before publishing?

    Up Scrooge went, not caring a button for that. Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it. But before he shut his heavy door, he walked through his rooms to see that all was right. He had just enough recollection of the face to desire to do that.

    Sitting-room, bedroom, lumber-room. All as they should be. Nobody under the table, nobody under the sofa; a small fire in the grate; spoon and basin ready; and the little saucepan of gruel (Scrooge had a cold in his head) upon the hob. Nobody under the bed; nobody in the closet; nobody in his dressing-gown, which was hanging up in a suspicious attitude against the wall. Lumber-room as usual. Old fire-guard, old shoes, two fish-baskets, washing-stand on three legs, and a poker.

    Quite satisfied, he closed his door, and locked himself in; double-locked himself in, which was not his custom. Thus secured against surprise, he took off his cravat; put on his dressing-gown and slippers, and his nightcap; and sat down before the fire to take his gruel.

    It was a very low fire indeed; nothing on such a bitter night. He was obliged to sit close to it, and brood over it, before he could extract the least sensation of warmth from such a handful of fuel. ...
    A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

    He's wealthy but he doesn't use his wealth -- not even for his own enjoyment.

    I've heard people on quiz-shows offer "greed" as a synonym for "avarice". Hmmm ... a synonym for "gluttony" perhaps. Traditionally, the right synonym would have been "covetise".

    Dickens returns again and again to the figure of the miser. There's an extended meditation on miserliness in his last completed novel -- Our Mutual Friend. And, of course, he's drawing on an established tradition of representations of avarice (look at Mammon in the Faerie Queene, for example).

    I don't know that we tend to get misers nowadays. I suppose that earlier societies did. Looking at the traditional depictions what seems to be driving them is not "greed" but fear. However, much money they accumulate they always seem to think they might end up in the workhouse. And this is why they bury their money, and dress in rags, and eat gruel.

    I think this was shocking to earlier, and more religious, ages like Spenser's (or even Dickens's) because -- aside from the immediate problems it causes -- it implies a lack of trust in God. (Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?)

    I wonder whether people (in the developed world) nowadays experience fear around the thought of getting the necessaries of life. I'm not convinced many do.

    But if anyone's curious as to the latest research on Scrooge this, apparently, is it:

    Bah Humbug! Are You A Scrooge Looking For That Life Changing Moment? - Science News - redOrbit

    And here, just for the hell of it, is the link to an audio version of A Christmas Carol that's both cheap and read pretty well: