Friday, October 22, 2021

Something About Misokinesia and Fidgeting

Saint Fidgeta

Twist and shout.

I spotted a few emails in the inbox about a month ago touting a study of misokinesia, the "hatred of movements", all tied to a recently-published scientific study:
According to new UBC research, approximately one-third of the population suffer from the psychological phenomenon, which is defined by a strong negative emotional response to the sight of someone else's small and repetitive movements.

"This study is the first of its kind on misokinesia," says lead author Sumeet Jaswal, a PhD student in UBC's department of psychology. "Surprisingly, scientific research on the topic has been lacking." For the study, the researchers conducted three separate experiments, which involved a total of 4,100 participants. They asked participants to self-report whether they have sensitivities to seeing people fidget as well as assessed the emotional and social impacts of the phenomenon.

The researchers found that one-third of the participants felt sensitivities when they see others fidget.

"These participants were negatively impacted emotionally and experience reactions such as anger, anxiety or frustration," says the study's senior author Dr. Todd Handy, a UBC psychology professor. "They were also negatively impacted socially and report difficulty and reduced enjoyment in social situations, work and learning environments. Some even pursue fewer social activities because of the condition."

The researchers are hoping to examine this more closely in their future research as well as whether find out if there's a genetic component to the sensitivity.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the nervous wriggling or twitching motion known as fidgeting was first attested as a verb in the 1670s. It is not an uncommon ailment, especially for a child – especially a child sitting through a long-winded sermon or scripture lesson in a church who has something far more exciting on their mind. One can picture a young John Bellairs fidgeting in the pew of Saint Mary's Catholic Church in Marshall as a way to get through the Mass, Latin prayers, and whatever it was Father George Higgens talked about from behind the altar. One hardly outgrows the ailment as an adult, as Shimmer College faculty member Robert Hall noted shortly after Saint Fidgeta and Other Parodies (1966) was published:

"Those who know Mr. Bellairs are often aware of the spiritual presence of the saint as they see him fidgeting about.” ("Church scholar Hall on St. Fidgeta Question." Robert Hall. The Excalibur, November 7, 1966.) 

This leads to the character Saint Fidgeta, whose origins date back to somewhere between 1961 and 1963. Bellairs was living in Chicago and working on post-graduate work at the University of Chicago. During social events with friends Bellairs was elicited to share stories, with one about the patron saint of the frequently-encountered but seldom-praised sensation of twitching and moving. Saint Fidgeta was born.

After one such party in early 1963, Dale and Marilyn Fitschen discussed the story's popularity and suggested to Bellairs that he put the story down in writing and for possible publication. A skeptical yet intrigued Bellairs moved to Winona, Minnesota, later that year, while Marilyn kept up her doodling in Chicago. The drawings finally prompted Bellairs to commit the story to paper. Manuscripts were submitted to the Catholic literary journal, The Critic, and "Saint Fidgeta: Her Life and Amazing Times" was printed in the June-July 1965 issue. A year later Macmillan publishing company contacted the author with interest in publishing the story in book form. Bellairs complied and Saint Fidgeta and Other Parodies was published the following year.

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