Every week in psychology land, someone, somewhere, uncovers something interesting about the human condition. That said, though, there’s a reliable stream of research that we can file under ludicrous.
Like this French study — from the Benny Hill school of psychology, I’d wager — that measured the relationship between the bust size of female hitchhikers and the likelihood of them getting a lift. The bigger the bust, the more lifts they were offered by male motorists. Researchers found there was no change in pick-up rate by female motorists.
Slightly more sensible, but only just, is a paper, also written by a Frenchman, soon to appear in the Journal Of Psychiatry Research. Entitled ‘Is Anakin Skywalker suffering from borderline personality disorder?’, it’s not even been published yet but it’s already making more noise on the internet than a stadium full of vuvuzelas.
For those of you who don’t know, Anakin Skywalker grew up to be Darth Vader, only one of the worst baddies in film history. After giving Anakin a thorough assessment (ie watching Attack Of The Clones and Revenge Of The Sith), a psychiatrist at Toulouse University Hospital has identified in him six of the nine criteria that define borderline personality disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
The criteria include:
Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment;
Unstable self-image or sense of self;
Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (spending, drinking or binge eating, for example);
Chronic feelings of emptiness; and
Difficulty controlling anger.
‘I believe that psychotherapy would have helped Anakin and might have prevented him from turning to the dark side,’ adds the author Eric Bui. ‘Using the dark side of the Force could be considered as similar to drug use: it feels really good when you use it, it alters your consciousness and you know you shouldn’t do it.’
But why stop at Darth Vader? What about evil wizard Saruman in Lord Of The Rings? Don Corleone in The Godfather? Dr No in James Bond? Even Pete Campbell or Don Draper in Mad Men? Surely this is a whole new area of psychology just waiting to be explored. If you’re reading this, Eric Biu, please get yourself a load of box sets and watch them, DSM manual in hand. We need a diagnosis for all our favourite bad guys.