Perfectionists, Especially Doctors, Architects, And Lawyers, Are At Higher Risk Of Suicide

While you may pride yourself on being a perfect cook as well as aperfect teacher, a psychologist might see your need to be the very best at everything you do as a major handicap. In fact, perfectionists are often so unhappy and hopeless, they sometimes develop eating disorders, and, in the most drastic of cases, they may become suicidal.

Now, a new study from York University delves deeper into the connection between perfectionism and self-harm and finds this personality trait to be a bigger risk factor when it comes to self-destruction than previously thought. “Perfectionism contributes to lethal suicide behaviors,” the authors noted in their published research.


Are you a perfectionist?

Perfectionists set excessively high personal standards for themselves and then harshly evaluate their performance based on these benchmarks. Often, perfectionists believe it’s their parents, bosses, or spouses who expect them to be perfect. Sometimes, they impose their high standards on everyone else and so develop unrealistic expectations of other people. Others tend to see perfectionists as harsh and unforgiving — rigid and unkind people — though the truth on the inside is they are vulnerable people who lack resilience. In short, perfectionism is not a very attractive personality trait and should be seen as pitiable in that it is strongly related to self-harm. If you suspect you might fit into this category, thisonline test, will tell you if you’re in the ballpark.

For the current study, York University Psychology Professor Dr. Gordon Flett and his co-authors studied the most recent data concerning suicide and perfectionist tendencies and highlighted their concerns. They begin by noting how physicians, lawyers, and architects, whose occupations emphasize precision, are at a higher risk for perfectionism-related suicide. In fact, suicidal thoughts may often be linked to external pressures. In fact, they created a concept, socially prescribed perfectionism, to describe someone who is exposed, through work or through friends, to relentless demands to be perfect. The authors believe socially prescribed perfectionism is linked to hopelessness and suicide.

“We summarize data showing consistent links between perfectionism and hopelessness,” said Flett, adding, “[Perfectionists] also tend to experience hopelessness, psychological pain, life stress, overgeneralization, and a form of emotional perfectionism that restricts the willingness to disclose suicidal urges and intentions.”

This means a perfectionist’s need for a flawless self-presentation in the world combined with a need to conceal any pain or shortcomings may lead to a suicide that occurs without warning. And, as one might expect, perfectionists don’t just attempt suicide willy nilly, they often come up with thorough and precise plans to destroy themselves.

More than 800,000 people commit suicide every year while many more attempt their final end. According to the World Health Organization, it was the second leading cause of death among people between the ages of 15 and 29 globally during 2012. In the United States during 2009, the most recent statistical year, suicide accounted for 36,891 deaths and so ranked as the tenth leading cause of death among people older than 10. If we are to believe Flett and his co-authors, many of these unhappy people may have felt driven to it by the demands of perfectionism.

Source: Flett FL, Hewitt PL, Heisel MJ. The destructiveness of perfectionism revisited: Implications for the assessment of suicide risk and the prevention of suicide. Review of General Psychology. 2014.

Eye Reflections in Photos Could Help Solve Crimes

Eyes are supposed to be windows to the soul — but they make even better mirrors. And what they reflect will astonish you.

Researchers studying the incredible level of detail in modern digital photographs were able to pick out the tiny reflections of faces hidden in the eyes of the subject. By zooming in on the subject’s eyes in high-resolution, passport-style photographs, they were able to pick out the faces and accurately identify them.

“The pupil of the eye is like a black mirror,” said Rob Jenkins, of the Department of Psychology at the University of York. “To enhance the image, you have to zoom in and adjust the contrast. A face image that is recovered from a reflection in the subject’s eye is about 30,000 times smaller than the subject’s face.”

Working with Christie Kerr, of the School of Psychology, University of Glasgow, Jenkins recovered the images of bystanders that were as small as 27 pixels across (1 megapixel is about a million pixels). Yet when presented to panelists in a face-matching task, observers were able to match the diminutive faces 71 percent of the time. When the faces were familiar ones, people recognized identity correctly 84 percent of the time.

“Our findings thus highlight the remarkable robustness of human face recognition, as well as the untapped potential of high-resolution photography,” Jenkins said.

The pictures were taken with a high-end, 39-megapixel Hasselblad camera, snapped while the onlookers were close to the subject and the room well lit. But with smartphones that pack increasingly better digital sensors, even ordinary photos may soon capture a similar level of detail.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 has a 41-megapixel camera, for example; AT&T sells the phone for just $199.99.

The researchers say that in crimes in which the victims are photographed, such as hostage taking or child sex abuse, reflections in the eyes of the photographic subject could help to identify perpetrators.

Images of people retrieved from cameras seized as evidence during criminal investigations may be used to piece together networks of associates or to link individuals to particular locations.

Weird Ancient Black Hole Has Extra Suck.

Astronomers observing distant quasars have discovered something puzzling about a very rare class of these enigmatic objects — some appear to be sucking material inwards at relativistic speeds, whereas the vast majority of quasars do exactly the opposite.

Quasars dominated the early Cosmos, generating vast quantities of radiation that can be observed today right at the edge of our observable Universe. Consisting of an active supermassive black hole and a searing disk of plasma in the cores of young galaxies, the vast majority of quasars eject material from their energetic environments at high speed.

This may sound counter-intuitive; black holes consume matter after all, they don’t eject it. But in a quasar’s hot accretion disk — composed of a superheated soup of blended stars, gas and dust that strayed too close to the supermassive black hole’s gravitational wrath — the intense radiation blasts the surrounding material away from the black hole. Although some material inevitably gets fed from the accretion disk into the black hole, vast quantities are ejected at up to a significant fraction of the speed of light.

However, by taking a Doppler speed check of the motion of gas around known quasars, a team of researchers analyzing data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III) have discovered a very rare subset of quasars that don’t fit the norm.

“The gas in this new type of quasar is moving in two directions: some is moving toward Earth but most of it is moving at high velocities away from us, possibly toward the quasar’s black hole,” said Niel Brandt, study co-author and Distinguished Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State University. “Just as you can use the Doppler shift for sound to tell if an airplane is moving away from you or toward you, we used the Doppler shift for light to tell whether the gas in these quasars is moving away from Earth or toward these distant black holes, which have a mass from millions to billions of times that of the sun.”

“Matter falling into black holes may not sound surprising,” added team leader Patrick Hall of York University in Toronto, “but what we found is, in fact, quite mysterious and was not predicted by current theories.

“The gas in the disc must eventually fall into the black hole to power the quasar, but what is often seen instead is gas blown away from the black hole by the heat and light of the quasar, heading toward us at velocities up to 20 percent of the speed of light,” he said. “If the gas is falling into the black hole, then we don’t understand why it’s so rare to see infalling gas. There’s nothing else unusual about these quasars. If gas can be seen falling into them, why not in other quasars?”

So how rare are these objects? 1-in-10,000 rare. Of the tens of thousands of quasars known, only 17 such objects have been discovered so far.

For now, the researchers are baffled as to why these few distant supermassive black holes, which have masses millions to billions of times of the mass of our sun, appear to have more suck than the rest of their quasar cousins. Their work has been published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (doi: 10.1093/mnras/stt1012).

One explanation, says Hall, is that in actuality, the majority of gas is being ejected from the quasar, but it is moving in a peculiar fashion. Perhaps gas is rapidly orbiting around the black hole’s superheated accretion disk, sometimes traveling toward, sometimes away from us, but the Doppler measurements appear to show a bias toward the gas that is moving away. This may give the impression that the gas is being sucked into the black hole, when, in fact, it’s being ejected.

Regardless, these are strange objects that don’t appear to fit with current quasar theory, something astrophysicists will have to work on for a while yet.