On Wednesday, USA Today ran a report about a US Naval College researcher’s conclusion that “movement pattern analysis” indicated that Vladimir Putin has Asperger’s. The fabulous Pete Etchells, over at the Guardian, shows why we should wonder not only about this idea, but, yet again, about how the Pentagon spends its money.
I’ve not seen the original study, but the contents reported in the news bear similarities to a 2005 patent from Connors. You can see the patent for yourself here. The swamp-like prose makes for difficult reading, but the basic idea goes like this: first, get a video of the person in question. Next, strip out the audio, and ‘examine’ the video to establish ‘a baseline pattern’ of the speaker’s movements. In case you’re wondering, here’s the definition of baseline:
Baseline style is composed of: The universal— what gets passed down through evolution, and, the individual—the scaffolding of what gets stamped through our families, our culture, and social factors such as gender, class, social convention, region, etc. … It is the hardwired DNA of your communicative expression. It is composed of both “quantity,” the mass of self (the posture, body parts, the subsystems) and “quality,” the glue or dynamic energetic organization of weight and how that integrates it all together in expression.
Good, that’s cleared that up then. So once you’ve established this baseline, you examine the video again – this time with the audio back in – and decode “said person’s emotional, cognitive and performance processes”. Finally, you need to get hold of other videos of the speaker, to see whether the patterns you’ve established crop up repeatedly. This isn’t an analysis method specifically designed to test for Asperger’s syndrome – much the opposite, in fact. It’s so generic as to be meaningless.
You can’t make this stuff up. Or maybe you can. Get the rest at The “Putin has Asperger’s” story highlights the stupidity of psychological diagnosis from a distance.
Photo courtesy WikiMedia, creative commons license.