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Questions for Close Reading Essay Sample

Questions for Close Reading Pages
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1. The thesis is clearly stated in the first sentence of paragraph 4: “We believe in Type A—a triumph for a notion with no particular scientific validity.” Prior to paragraph 4, Gleick illustrates the cultural pervasiveness of the Type A category and traces its identification to Friedman and Rosenman’s studies; these studies attempted to link heart disease to a set of personality traits clustered around the “theme of impatience” (paragraph 2). Following the statement of his thesis, Gleick challenges the scientific validity of Type A, while observing its compelling cultural relevance. He concludes the essay in paragraph 12 by reiterating the thesis; he says that linking the Type A phenomenon to cardiac problems “made for poor medical research,” but “it stands nonetheless as a triumph of social criticism.”

2. Friedman and Rosenman’s study, “Association of Specific Overt Behavior Pattern with Blood and Cardiovascular Findings,” looked at connections between heart disease (including high blood pressure) and Type A behaviors. Gleick gives several reasons why the study was “obvious and false” and “a wildly flawed piece of research” (5). First, only a small number of people were studied. Group A consisted of only 83 people. Second, the subjects were all men. Third, the research subjects were not chosen at random. Instead, Friedman and Rosenman selected subjects who shared similar professional and personal characteristics. They were generally “white-collar male employees of large businesses” (5) who exhibited stressed behavior, who smoked, and who were overweight. Fourth, rather than acknowledging these shared characteristics and the possibility that they might be associated with heart disease, Friedman and Rosenman instead claimed that the Type A personality—rather than the subjects’ unhealthy behaviors—was responsible for Group A’s medical problems. Gleick also cites the researchers’ amorphous definition of Type B as evidence of their flawed understanding of Type A.

3. “The notion of Type A has expanded, shifted, and flexed to suit the varying needs of different researchers,” writes Gleick in paragraph 7. He calls Type A a “grab-bag” of traits; researchers pick and choose those characteristics that reinforce their predetermined conclusions. Such researchers, each with a definite agenda, jump on the Type A bandwagon, producing sometimes alarming, sometimes ludicrous, but usually problematic results. For instance, researcher V. A. Price associated hypervigilance with the Type A personality. And researcher Cynthia Perry applied her interest in the study of daydreams to the Type A phenomenon and was able to conclude that Type A’s daydream less often than other people. Similarly, National Institutes of Health researchers looking at the effects of petlessness on particular groups connected the incidence of heart disease in Type A people with the condition of petlessness. Further, researchers interested in the behavior of children—even babies—have extended the reach of the phenomenon to include this group: babies who cry more are Type A (7).

Gleick concludes that even before they begin their studies, these researchers already have in mind how Type A will be tied into their findings, and they manipulate the studies “until they find some correlation, somewhere. ..” (8). He concludes: “The categorizations are too variable and the prophecies too self-fulfilling” (9).

4. Gleick demonstrates that the Type B personality has been “defined not by the personality traits its members possess but by the traits they lack” (10). He remarks somewhat disparagingly that Friedman and Rosenman were able to find only eighty men—municipal clerks and embalmers— “in all San Francisco” who, unlike Type A sufferers, did not feel that they were under any time 122

constraints (10). The researchers labeled these men as having the Type B personality. Gleick implies that this identification by default of a small, nonrepresentative sample is further evidence of the researchers’ unscientific practices. As the “shadowy opposites” of Type A’s, Type B’s, according to Gleick, “do notwear out their fingers punching the elevator button. They do not allow a slow car in the fast lane to drive their hearts to fatal distraction; in fact, they are at the wheel of the slow car” (10). In essence, Gleick implies that scientists’ vague, amorphous definition of Type B reinforces the dubious scientific validity of Type A.

5. coinage(1): an invented word or phrase harrying (2): harassing, annoying canonical (2): authoritative, officially approved circuitously (2): indirectly sanctimoniously(4): hypocritically righteous overt (5): open, observable, not hidden incipient (5): beginning to exist or appear sedentary(6): inactive hypervigilance (7): excessive watchfulness correlation (8): mutual relation of two or more things strident (9): loud, harsh, grating, or shrill staccato (9): disjointed, abrupt foil (10): opposite totem(12): venerated emblem or symbol

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