Morning Musically-Minded, Medically-Minded, Masticators!
(Today’s post is sponsored by the letter “M”)
Over the past 600+ episodes, The Simpsons has taken us on an amazing journey involving music, science, and food to name a few concepts.
And what better way to start your week, then by discussing some of these concepts Monday morning?
So let’s get started this week by discussing a focal point of the climax of the fourth episode of The Simpsons, aversion therapy.
In the fourth episode of The Simpsons, There’s No Disgrace Like Home (Season 01, Episode 04), Homer is embarrassed by his family at the Power Plant picnic at Mr. Burns’ mansion. Homer than decides to take his family to Dr. Marvin Monroe’s Family Therapy Center. When the family fails to respond to a few conventional therapies, Dr. Monroe suggests aversion therapy in the form of shock therapy:
Marge: “Bart, how could you shock your little sister?”
Bart: “My finger slipped.”
Lisa: “So did mine!”
Marge: “Bart, Lisa, stop that!”
Smithers: “Oh boy, someone’s really gobbling up the juice, sir.”
Mr. Burns: “Excellent, excellent! Perhaps this energy conservation fad is as dead as the dodo.”
Aversion therapy is a type of behavioural therapy that involves repeating pairing an unwanted behavior with a discomfort. This form of behavioural therapy, or conditioning, is intended to cause the patient to associate the unwanted behaviour with unpleasant sensations with the intention of quelling the unwanted behavior.
Common examples of aversion therapies include placing unpleasant-tasting substances on the fingernails to discourage nail-biting, pairing the use of an emetic such as disulfiram with the experience of alcohol, or pairing umwanted behaviour with electric shocks of mild to higher intensities.
Aversion therapy dates back to the first century, when Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder attempted to heal alcoholism in Rome by putting putrid spiders in alcohol abusers’ drinking glasses.
Gaius Plinius Secundus, aka Pliny the Elder (23 AD to 79 AD)
There are four major criticisms of aversion therapy. First, there are ethical concerns surrounding the discomfort/unpleasant sensations patients are subjected to. Secondly, while many therapists do report positive outcomes, relapse rates are quite high post-therapy. Thirdly, there is a lack of rigorous scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of aversion therapy. Fourthly, anxiety, depression, and suicide have been linked to some cases of aversion therapy.
Aversion therapy has a dark history too, and was even at the time of the airing of this episode of The Simpsons, used to “treat” homosexuality when homosexuality was thought to be a mental illness. The use of aversion therapy to “treat” homosexuality was declared dangerous by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1994.
Now that we know a little bit more about aversion therapy, be sure to come back next week when we continue our Monday morning musings with the next episode of The Simpsons.
What’s your favourite Simpsons therapy reference/image/scene? Have you ever been shocked or shocked someone? Would putrid spiders in your alcohol lead you to cut down or quit drinking? Sound off in the comments below. You know we love hearing from you.