Recent Articles

Introverts trying to be Extraverted: Difficult to Fake it Til You Make It

Introverts trying to be Extraverted: Difficult to Fake it Til You Make It

New research reported in Scientific American shows that Introverts will struggle to look extraverted in a hyper-extraverted environment:

Another line of research led by Rowan Jacques-Hamilton investigated the costs of sustained extraverted behavior in everyday life. I highlighted the word “sustained” because it turns out this is a really important caveat. Prior research had shown that no matter one’s placement on the extraversion-introversion continuum, those who more naturally acted extraverted were more likely to feel authentic in the moment. Consistent with that finding, Jacques-Hamilton and his colleagues found that asking participants to “act extraverted” for one week in everyday life had “wholly positive” benefits for positive emotions and reports of authenticity for the sample overall.

However, the important nuance is that more introverted people displayed weaker increases in positive emotions, experienced increased negative emotions and tiredness, and experienced decreased feelings of authenticity over the course of the experiment. This research highlights the costs of repeatedly acting out of character, and also the costs of being forced to act of character (the experimenters explicitly instructed the participants to act in a certain way).

This has deep implications for the well-being of introverts who live in cultures where extraversion is highly valued and emphasized as the ideal way of being. C. Ashley Fulmer and her colleagues investigated the relationship between extraversion and happiness and self-esteem across 7,000 people from 28 societies and found that the positive relationship between extraversion and happiness and self-esteem was much greater when a person’s level of extraversion matched the average level of extraversion of their society. This research suggests that person-environment fit matters quite a bit when looking at the relationship between introversion and well-being. The researchers proposed a “person-culture match hypothesis” that argues that culture can function as an important amplifier of the positive effect of personality on self-esteem and happiness.*

October 10, 2018 | By | Reply More
Things we cannot talk about with each other, including the benefits of capitalism

Things we cannot talk about with each other, including the benefits of capitalism

Joe Rogan and Steven Pinker discuss some reasons why we cannot talk with each other. The merits of capitalism being one example.

September 29, 2018 | By | Reply More
Coddled Children Grow up Self-Disruptive

Coddled Children Grow up Self-Disruptive

In The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, Attorney Greg Lukianoff (founder of FIRE) and moral psyhchologist Jonathan Haidt address America’s mushrooming inability to engage in productive civil discourse. Increasing numbers of people are claiming that they cannot cope with ideas that challenge their own world view. They sometimes claim that ideas that challenge their own ideas are “not safe.” In dozens of well-publicized cases, rather than work to counteract “bad” ideas with better ideas, they work to muzzle speaker by disrupting presentations or even running the purportedly offensive speakers off campus.

There is a related and growing problem. We cannot talk with each other at all regarding many many important issues. We shout each other down and use the heckler’s veto. These maladies are especially prominent on some American college campuses, but these problems are also rapidly spreading to the country at large, including corporate America.

Consider this 2016 example featuring the students of Yale having a “discussion” with Professor Nicholas Christakis:

You would never guess it from this video alone, but this mass-meltdown was triggered after child development specialist Erika Christakis (wife of Nicholas), sent this email to students. This incident at Yale is one of many illustrations offered by Haidt and Lukianoff as evidence of a disturbing trend.  Here’s another egregious example involving Dean Mary Spellman at Claremont McKenna College who was run out of her college after committing the sin of writing this email to a student.  More detail here. 

The authors offer this as the genesis of the overall problem:

In years past, administrators were motivated to create campus speech codes in order to curtail what they deemed to be racist or sexist speech. Increasingly, however, the rationale for speech codes and speaker disinvitations was becoming medicalized: Students claimed that certain kinds of speech—and even the content of some books and courses—interfered with their ability to function. They wanted protection from material that they believed could jeopardize their mental health by “triggering” them, or making them “feel unsafe.”

The solution offered by Lukianoff and Haidt is to take a moment to stop to recognize what they call the “Three Bad Ideas.”

September 19, 2018 | By | 1 Reply More
Waitress Reports: Families no longer having conversations over dinner

Waitress Reports: Families no longer having conversations over dinner

My daughters and I ate at a local diner tonight. Our waitress has been doing this work for 45 years, since she was 15. She said one of the striking changes in her business is how people no longer engage in conversations while eating. She estimated that 8 out of 10 groups of people barely talk. Instead, they are mostly looking at their phones while they eat at the restaurant. She is dismayed about this and said that she sees this in her own family; it is difficult to have conversation with her own children because they are glued to their phones.

Apparently, Phubbing is the new normal.

July 29, 2018 | By | Reply More
United States Interference with foreign elections

United States Interference with foreign elections

There is so very much hypocrisy in the air and on the ground these days! One type that is prominent is the claim that Russia has interfered with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. If true, that is obviously a bad thing. But as this article from Mint News indicates, it is a rare news article that reminds its consumers that the United States has a long history of interfering with the elections in other countries:

Despite that the U.S. has hypocritically exerted influence over foreign elections in all corners of the globe — in fact, it has arrogantly done so a whopping 81 times between 1946 and 2000, alone — with just one-third of those operations undertaken overtly.

Check out the article for the details.

July 24, 2018 | By | Reply More
Haidt on Anti-Fragility and the Safety Culture

Haidt on Anti-Fragility and the Safety Culture

n this lecture, Jonathan Haidt describes the new Manichean culture, where some groups of people are inherently good and other are inherently bad. Many of the “good” groups have found power in victimhood, demanding (and getting, especially at universities) protection from the authorities. This “safety culture” has proven to be debilitating, infantilizing the protected group. What they actually need is challenges and hurdles, which will make them stronger. People are anti-fragile. As shown with bones, immune systems and helicopter parenting, lack of insult weakens individuals.

Haidt argues that all of this dependence culture has the opposite effect than the one intended. The only group subjected to challenges and insults without no societal support are straight white men (11:00 min), which is much better preparation for holding a job than a lifetime of victimhood, dependence and safety culture.

July 24, 2018 | By | Reply More

Jonathan Haidt: Diversity can only thrive within a shared sense of identity.

The most perplexing question over the past decade is why the left and right talk past each other. When the one speaks, the other hears nonsense. Diversity is praised by one side and ridiculed by the other. In this presentation, Jonathan Haidt argues that diversity can only thrive within a shared sense of identity. What we have in the U.S. is the lack of a shared sense of identity. This presentation builds upon much of Haidt’s work (not elaborated upon in this talk) on the moral foundations.

July 23, 2018 | By | Reply More

A 2,500 Year Old Warning About Our President

Aesop had a tale that is quite apropos right now: The Frogs Desiring a King (a.k.a “King Log and King Stork”) is about a group clamoring for a strong handed leader, someone to declare moral rules and enforce them on the people. The Republicans (the party currently wanting to have government enforce ones personal morality, especially in the bedroom) chose Trump (as amoral an individual who ever took the proverbial throne) and somehow got him into power. Splash.

The Democrats, aghast at the dangerous ignorance and exemplary incompetence of this purported moral leader, strive to have him impeached; to oust this King Log. So who would be our King Stork?

Pence, a man who is neither uneducated nor incompetent. One who is actually a willing enforcer of a particular moral code, a one size fits all set of rules that most Americans don’t actually live by, but some few vocal ones want to enforce it on everyone. This, despite the constitutional prohibition about the government enforcing the moral codes of a particular religion, is why he had the second seat next to the regularly bankrupt (both morally and financially) head of state.

So, from frying pan into fire?

July 19, 2018 | By | Reply More
About Google Scientist James Damore

About Google Scientist James Damore

I know I’m late to the game on this Google incident, but this is such a good illustration about how we, as a society, are unable to talk and think about serious issues except through our ideological filters. Further, some questions that can be explored through science apparently should no longer be even raised.

First, a comment from a Gizmodo article by Melanie Ehrenkranz, who characterizes former Google Engineer James Damore as follows: “The man thinks women are inferior to men as engineers.” That is typical of a lot of how Damore has been treated on the Internet.

Now consider the basic facts about what Damore wrote at Google:

Calling the culture at Google an “ideological echo chamber”, the memo says that while discrimination exists, it is extreme to ascribe all disparities to oppression, and it is authoritarian to try to correct disparities through reverse discrimination. Instead, it argues that male/female disparities can be partly explained by biological differences. According to research he cited, those differences include women generally having a stronger interest in people rather than things, and tending to be more social, artistic, and prone to neuroticism (a higher-order personality trait). Damore’s memorandum also suggests ways to adapt the tech workplace to those differences to increase women’s representation and comfort, without resorting to discrimination.

Damore has given detailed interviews about what happened at Google and why he wrote his comments. That includes this interview with Joe Rogan:

July 15, 2018 | By | Reply More