Letter from the Chair

From the desk of the Chair
Dept of Psych, Sociology, Anthropology, and Dendrology
Mississippi A&M
Rareback, MS

Dear Mr. Thomas:

Please accept my apologies for not getting back to you sooner. Our department recently received a $950,000 government grant to determine whether farmers whose farms are foreclosed undergo a period of career re-evaluation; and I have been doing field research in Honolulu.

I am sorry within reasonable bounds that some of your friends were upset by their low scores on The Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College Test of Intelligence, Personality, and Sexual Desirability, and I hope I will not sound callous when I say that, as a psychologist, I am but little interested in people’s feelings. However, I am extremely interested in the reputation of myself and my department, and I take their suggestion that the test lacked credibility with the same gravity that I take death threats to my seven children.

They must surely be aware that Mississippi A&M is an acknowledged leader in psychological research throughout the tri-county area, especially among dairymen. And as you doubtlessly know, our 1958 study, Drawbacks of Breeding Roosters for Monogamy, won wide acclaim among the 1,200 readers of Coxcomb County Poultry Tracks, and I have no doubt but what we have been praised from time to time elsewhere as well.

I can, however, do what psychologists do best, which is to offer your friends an implausibly positive interpretation to an irredeemably bad situation. To whit: the maximum test score was, as you will recall, 100, and some of your friends made as low as 30. They can interpret this in either of two ways. The neurotic way is to feel badly that they scored piss-poor in all three areas covered by the examination (intelligence, personality, and sexual desirability). The healthy alternative is to console themselves with the thought that they just might have scored extremely high in one category and piss-poor in the other two (the questions not being identified as to category). It is a case of whether the glass is all empty or merely two-thirds empty.

For example, of the three categories covered, your friends might decide that only one is of any great importance in their lives. Let’s say, for sake of illustration, that a given friend has little use for intelligence and personality, but holds sexual desirability in high esteem. He could, as well as not, imagine that he scored 100 in that category and zero in the other two. Of course, he could not know with certainty that this (or any other category) was the category he excelled in, but what would be the harm of imagining it?

It is not inconceivable that the simple belief that he is a sexual magnet might increase his desirability to members of the opposite sex (or the same sex—or even another domesticated species, as is sometimes the case in farm country). This is what we psychologists call the placebo effect, although in this instance it might better qualify as the libido effect.

The only other way in which your friends might find consolation is in the knowledge that their poor showing will be of little if any importance after they have passed from this life. On the other hand, if we really are reincarnated, and what we are in this life determines our status in the next life, they could be in big trouble. Fortunately, I can offer a positive interpretation for this scenario as well, but you will first need to contact my office with your insurance information.

Stu D. Prunus, L.P.N.