Category: Psychology Cognition

Eric Barker sums up how to be happy all the time

| May 26, 2015 | Reply

Eric Barker distills LOTS of good advice, providing ample links for more details. I have taken much of what he has provided in his blog, Barking Up the Wrong Tree, and practiced it. This is not hyperbole – I have found his information/advice to be among the most useful I have encountered anywhere.

His latest post is titled, “4 Rituals To Keep You Happy All The Time,” and I’m a believer (though I’m not actually happy ALL the time!). Here’s how he sums things up:

  • Write down three good things that happened to you that day before you go to bed.
  • Imagine something meaningful to you never happened. Then appreciate how lucky you are to have it.
  • Think about something bad that happened to you — and how it made you feel lucky to have gotten past it and how you have grown.
  • Do a gratitude visit. Write a letter of gratitude to someone who has done something for you and read it out loud to them in person.

Enjoy!   Literally.

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A Fun Way to be More Successful

| April 26, 2015 | Reply

Eric Barker shows the research: worker bees are not the most successful workers, and it’s because they are focusing only on the work while ignoring their social needs and becoming unhappy in the process.

Barker recommends this excellent TED talk by Shawn Achor:

Another helpful post is Barker on getting organized/happy.

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Eric Barker tethers happiness and better use of attention

| March 22, 2015 | Reply

How do happy people stay happy? Eric Barker reports on an important technique: By deploying attention in more effective ways.

Your happiness is determined by how you allocate your attention. What you attend to drives your behavior and it determines your happiness. Attention is the glue that holds your life together… The scarcity of attentional resources means that you must consider how you can make and facilitate better decisions about what to pay attention to and in what ways. If you are not as happy as you could be, then you must be misallocating your attention… So changing behavior and enhancing happiness is as much about withdrawing attention from the negative as it is about attending to the positive.

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The power of hugs.

| March 18, 2015 | Reply

As reported in Scientific American:

“New research out of Carnegie Mellon indicates that feeling connected to others, especially through physical touch, protects us from stress-induced sickness. This research adds to a large amount of evidence for the positive influence of social support on health.”

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Don’t attempt to become more beautiful.

| March 18, 2015 | Reply

Don’t attempt to become more beautiful, because it will backfire and make you anxious. This especially happens to women according to a new study. This is contrary to what happens when you aspire to become more intelligence.

Researchers at Oklahoma State University found that women with malleable beliefs about beauty—for instance, believing they could become more beautiful with effort—had a higher risk for appearance-related anxiety and were more likely to base their self-worth on their looks, as compared with those who have fixed beauty beliefs. They were also more likely to express interest in cosmetic surgery. The effects were not found among men.

Whether a malleable belief is beneficial or not may depend on how realistic the pursuit is. Beauty ideals typically presented in media images—young, thin and photoshopped to be flawless—are unattainable for most women.

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Republicans: Motivated by Fear

| March 11, 2015 | 4 Replies

Randa Morris of Addicting Information examines the root of modern right wing ideology:

We know that conservatives respond strongly to negative stimuli. We know that they are motivated by fear, or what researchers describe as ‘perceived threats’. We know that conservatives are often deeply insecure. Hibbings research also suggests that conservatives view themselves as part of a small group, and that they perceive those outside of the group as a threat to the well being of the group itself. That knowledge goes a long way toward explaining conservatives attitudes toward immigration as well as their hatred of minorities, non Christians and others who fall outside of their elite circle. Going one step further, it seems that there is a belief that everyone outside of the group is a threat to the group itself.

One thing we still don’t know is whether conservatives are born with these tendencies or whether they learn them throughout life. Is it nature or nurture? One thing is for sure, those at the top of the right wing food chain know very well how to exploit their base through fear and negativity. The extreme right wing operates very much like a religious cult. The main job of the cult leaders is to keep the members fearful and distrusting of everyone outside of the group, thus ensuring that they can continue to control the message.

I tend to believe that the right wing media is the cause of the underlying psychology that researchers observe in conservative personalities. Logically speaking, how many people would be afraid of absurd conspiracy theories like Agenda 21 or Obamacare death panels or FEMA camps, if the right wing media didn’t disseminate so many lies? The same goes for just about any of things that conservatives fear, from immigrant children to any form of sane gun control, the conservative media keeps these people afraid at all times.

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High ceilings and abstract thinking

| March 5, 2015 | Reply

I’m now living in house with 10 foot ceilings, almost two feet taller than the ceilings in my previous house. I now read that these new tall ceilings might affect the way I think.

Across several experiments, the researchers found evidence that high ceilings seemed to put test participants in a mindset of freedom, creativity, and abstraction, whereas the lower ceilings prompting more confined thinking.

In one test, for instance, participants in the 10-foot room completed anagrams about freedom (with words such as “liberated” or “unlimited”) significantly faster than participants in the eight-foot room did. But when the anagrams were related to concepts of constraint, with words like “bound or “restricted,” the situation played out in reverse. Now the test participants with 10-foot ceilings finished the puzzles slower than those in the eight-foot rooms did.

Another experiment asked participants to identify commonalities among a list of 10 different sports. Those in the high-ceiling group came up with more of these themes, and had their themes judged more abstract in nature, compared with participants in the low-ceiling group. Meyers-Levy and Zhu suspect this outcome emerged from the psychological freedom that comes with taller ceilings—a mindset that might also enhance creative thinking.

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We’re from the government. Trust us.

| March 1, 2015 | 1 Reply

If I may make a gross over-characterization. Both people on the left and right trust the government, but in different respects. People on the right trust law enforcement and the military. People on the left trust government-run social programs. Both are victims (as we all are) of confirmation bias.

Here is a sad story of gross malfeasance by the CIA, and attempts to make the information public. The whistleblower in this case, Jeffrey Sterling could be facing a stiff sentence for allegedly revealing that the CIA handed (to Iran) valuable information regarding the construction of a nuclear bomb to Iran.

Also discussed is the equally sad story of reporter James Risen spending substantial time in prison for protecting his sources.

In light of this frustrating set of revelations, the question arises: How are citizens supposed to know what their government is up to? Barack Obama has continued and even increased crack-downs on whistle-blowers and surveillance on members of the press. How are citizens supposed to stay informed. What is the means to rope in irresponsible law-enforcement? Given this event and these trends, the “answer” is that citizens should simply trust their government.

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Steven Pinker’s cognitive science quiz

| February 24, 2015 | Reply

How well can you answer these ten questions about cognitive science posed by Steven Pinker?

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