Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

The Decade in Review

Psychology-related developments

Pixabay, Public Domain
Source: Pixabay, Public Domain

The 2010s have brought major psychology-related developments regarding: singlehood, sexual fluidity, assisted suicide, religion, mind-altering drugs, men and women, genetics, and President Trump.

Singlehood. Marriage is declining, singlehood, even with children, increasing. Some like Psychology Today blogger Bella DePaolo champion singlehood, pointing to its considerable freedoms. Critics often focus on the notion that children are better off with two parents, although I’d rather my child be with a loving single parent than with a fighting couple.

Sexual fluidity. Especially in academic circles, sexual binarism (There are men and women, homosexuals and heterosexuals) is often deemed reductionistic. That view holds that people are on a fluid continuum between male and female, hetero- and homosexual. In addition, sexual orientation can also be fluid over the lifespan.

Religiosity replaced by atheism and “spiritual, not religious.” As science advances, it becomes ever more difficult to believe in an omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent deity. This decade certainly saw evidence of that trend. The fastest growing religion in the U.S. is no religion, indeed, CNN reports that more people now adhere to no religion than to Catholicism or Evangelical Protestantism.

Assisted suicide. More states are allowing people to decide when to end their life. Religious forces have pressured legislators to place strong restrictions on people’s ability to do so, but the trend is toward giving people that most personal of freedoms.

Ascendance of women, decline of men. Fueled by feminist and #MeToo efforts, this decade was marked by female empowerment, even children wearing pussy hats and reading such books as Mother F*cking Girl Power.

These titles are aimed at adults:

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness (Amazon rank 100)

BadAss Affirmations: The Wit and Wisdom of Wild Women

F*ck All Y'all: One Minute a Day of Gratitude and Sass: A Daily Gratitude Journal for Badass Women Who Take No Shit

if the genders were reversed, it's hard to imagine Amazon selling such titles. A slogan like the “Future is Male” might well be censored by Google, Facebook, Twitter, and major media outlets. Yet the female empowerment message indeed is distilled in Hillary Clinton’s battle cry, “The Future is Female." And it's influential: A Google search today on that term yielded 1,770,000 results.

Conversely, men are in decline. Today, college grads are 60% female, 40% male, and projections suggest no improvement in the future. Men commit suicide at at least three times the rate of women. Men suffer the ultimate deficit: They die five years younger; There are more than four widows for every widower. Yet a review of PubMed, which indexes 3,000 medical journals, finds that the overwhelming majority of gender-specific research and outreach has for decades now been for women. This chart summarizes the situation. Plus, society’s mind-molders—schools, colleges, and media—disproportionately portray men as doofuses, unethical, predators, or all of the above. The anti-male bias even extends to young children. All ten of the ten top box office children’s animated movies have spunky female heroes besting inferior white males. If media portrayals matter as is widely asserted, if I had a son, I’d worry. My wish for the 2020s is merit-based treatment of the sexes.

Increased recreational use of mind-altering drugs. Defying the scientists’ warnings and the post-legalization increases in lung and cardiovascular disease, car accidents, overdoses, hospitalizations, and child use, the past decade has seen accelerated hurtling to broader legalization. Our supposedly caring government seems to be opting for tax dollars over our health.

Conversely, and in a sense, ironically, the government is cracking down on opioid use. Yes, that yields the benefit of reducing unnecessary addiction but often makes it more difficult for people whose pain desperately requires an opioid. My best friend is at the end of his life in horrific pain and although he is a brilliant, highly verbal man, he’s having a hard time getting doctors to prescribe opioids. They cite the government crackdown.

My wish for the 2020s is that marijuana will be available only by prescription so MDs can prescribe it when it is a treatment of choice for medical conditions such as pain or nausea. But marijuana shouldn't be available for recreational use. Limiting it to medical prescription would likely yield the same benefit as Prohibition did: In Prohibition's first few years, alcohol consumption dropped by 2/3 and by 1/3 in its later years, resulting in countless saved lives. When Prohibition was lifted, alcohol consumption rose to its pre-Prohibition level.

Behavioral genetics

Perhaps the decade’s most important yet little-reported psychology-related development has been research demonstrating that that many of our behaviors and attitudes are significantly (of course, not completely), under genetic control. Examples:

Self-control

Political orientation

Sexual orientation

Intelligence

Behavioral flexibility

Schizophrenia

Autism

Even quality of marriage

In parallel, there has been progress in identifying the gene clusters associated with some of the above, plus improvement in gene editing. Collectively, this suggests that the 2020s will bring the promise and peril of prospective parents being better able to ensure their child starts life without undue genetic impediments and perhaps even, if society deems acceptable, enhancement, for example, of intelligence and altruism. It could well be that the coming decades will see an intelligence and an altruism “pill” available on a purely voluntary basis to all. To help avoid an exacerbation of the gap between society’s Haves and Have-Nots, it should, like most medical treatments, be provided free to the poor, a part of MediCal and other such programs.

Donald Trump

When Trump got elected, many in the public and in the media were emotional. Some people even said they were planning to move to Canada. The Left called such reactions a rational response to a person unfit to be president. The Right called it “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” Emotions have remained high. I have friends, highly educated, otherwise mild-mannered, who said they hope Trump dies. Two have said that if they had the chance, they’d kill him. One said, “I’d kill him in the slowest, most painful way I could.” My hope is that the 2020s will give way, on both sides, to more reason and less fury.

It’s been a psychologically rich decade. The 2020s promises to be at least as rich.

I read this aloud on YouTube.

advertisement