RSSCategory: Psychology Cognition

Optimism: A secret weapon for You.

September 19, 2017 | By | Reply More

I am enjoying many of the blog posts of Mr. Money Mustache. Today I read his paean to optimism, titled: “The Practical Benefits of Outrageous Optimism.” He describes optimism as a “secret weapon” that you can and should employ every day. He is not channelling Pollyanna, but making his argument based on solid science.

But what good is fictional asset like an Optimism Gun when we’re trying to accomplish things here in the real world? The answer is a Hell of a lot of good, because in this world full of humans, almost all of our “reality” is created in our own heads . . . There are several psychological principles at work that make all this work on a practical level. What follows are excerpts of the reasons you need to be optimistic, but I would optimistically recommend that you would enjoy his entire post.

  • Humans are automatically drawn to Leaders: . . . If you dare to express optimism about anything, you’re stepping onto a little soapbox, and it gets attention.
    People want it to be true: If you’ve become a small-time leader and you deliver the Good Word, people will naturally want to keep listening, because you help them feel good about things too. 
  • Optimism tricks you into trying more things. . . .
  • You are forced not to focus on things you can’t control: One of the most useful lessons of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” is that you never worry about stuff you cannot control. You just work on the things you can. . . .
  • Acknowledge and Bow Down to the Placebo Effect: When it comes to health and well-being, the mind controls the body way more than rational people like to admit. . . .
  • I enjoy hacking this fact to control my own health. I have a permanent belief that I am unusually healthy, and that this condition will persist forever. [O]ptimism is limiting the release of the human stress hormone Cortisol, which tends to destroy health. The less you worry about health, the healthier you become.
  • Optimism is rare, and deadly when combined with competence: If you’re a smart guy or gal at your workplace, the other smart people are expecting you to be pessimistic, just like them. . . . You can slip in [optimistic] ideas . . .Your coworkers will be fooled into thinking that they really can do those things, which they wouldn’t have otherwise tried.
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Getting upset about the right things.

September 2, 2017 | By | Reply More

Here’s a post by Darrell Lackey, a pastor challenging Christians to get save their energy and frustration for the right kinds of things. He begins the post with this statement that Tony Campolo has been known to use when addressing Christian audiences:

I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact I just said “shit” than you are that 30,000 kids died last night.

There is some good food for thought for all of us in this post, whether or not we are religious (I am not).  For example, many of us often get much more upset about the minor irritations of our own local lives than the enormous suffering and stark injustices over the next hill or the next continent. For instance, our own country has been bombing many countries in the Middle East for many years.  We’ve been bombing Afghanistan since 2001, and according to reliable sources, we have been killing many innocent civilians in a “war” regarding which we are utterly unable to articulate any meaningful objective or metric of success. Therefore, that “war” goes on, largely unchallenged and unnoticed, our news media almost never mentioning that we are even at war.  Out of sight, out of mind for most of us.

If we want to be morally cohesive, we need to use unceasing effort to make certain we are focused on the things that matter.  That is often not easy to do.  Trying to stay focused on important things in a sustained way wears us down.  It’s not easy to be moral.  It’s much easier to complain about that the microwave burned the popcorn.

To live moral lives, we need to stay focused on important things, and focus is another word for attention, a psychological resource that humans have in short supply.  Attention is like a spotlight.  When we look at a thing, we often exclude attending to most other things.  that’s how we are wired; we are almost the opposite of omniscient, even though we want to believe that we are generally aware of most things that are important.

Because attention is so limited, our attentional decisions and habits (maybe we should call this our “attentional hygiene”) gives us great power to define our “world.”  Whether it’s conscious or unconscious, we are capable of manipulating what we pay attention to, and whatever we choose to ignore simply doesn’t exist for us; if we are not paying  attention to something, it holds no moral sway over us because our attentional choices turn it into nothing at all. Most of us aren’t at all bothered by world starvation most of the time because  we are not thinking about that horrific problem.  Further, human animals are capable of not paying attention to things that are right in front of us.  This is especially true when we are emotionally motivated to not see.   See no evil and hear no evil functionally means that there is no evil.

I have long been fascinated by this confluence of attention and morality and, in fact wrote a detailed paper on it, drawing from many domains of cognitive science:  Decision Making, the Failure of Principles, and the Seduction of Attention.”  Feel free to take a look, if you find this general topic compelling.

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Walking while texting bloopers video has a serious ending

July 17, 2017 | By | 2 Replies More

Blooper video turned PSA:

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George Lakoff: Two Fundamental Principals of Conservatives

July 2, 2017 | By | 4 Replies More

Why do conservatives tolerate Donald Trump? Why do Trump voters tolerate Trump when it means that they will be hurt by GOP legislation regarding health care and many other things?

George Lakoff argues “Voters don’t vote their self-interest. They vote their values.” He sets out two largely unspoken principals that guide conservatives:

1. In the Strict Father Family, father knows best. He decides right and wrong. It is the father’s moral duty to punish his children painfully when they disobey.

Harsh punishment is necessary to ensure that they will obey him (do what is right) and not just do what feels good. Through physical discipline they are supposed to become disciplined, internally strong, and able to prosper in the external world.

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The cost of interruptions

April 23, 2017 | By | Reply More

When I’m trying to write, I really get frustrated with interruptions. That’s why I try to write at times when interruptions will be limited, and I turn off my phone and close my email while I write.

Today I discovered that the effects of interruptions have been measured. This stunning conclusion is complements of Gloria Mark, Professor in the Department of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine:

How long does it take people to get back on task? We found about 82 percent of all interrupted work is resumed on the same day. But here’s the bad news — it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task.

The article offers that not all interruptions are the same, and in fact, some interruptions are beneficial. However, the author of this article echoes my own general frustration:

Are we becoming more superficial thinkers? I argue that when people are switching contexts every 10 and half minutes they can’t possibly be thinking deeply. There’s no way people can achieve flow. When I write a research article, it takes me a couple of hours before I can even begin to think creatively. If I was switching every 10 and half minutes, there’s just no way I’d be able to think deeply about what I’m doing. This is really bad for innovation. When you’re on the treadmill like this, it’s just not possible to achieve flow.

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Americans Need Less Self-Esteem

March 26, 2017 | By | Reply More

From Eric Barker’s blog:

“Research shows self-esteem doesn’t cause all those good things. It’s just a side effect of healthy behavior. So artificially boosting it doesn’t work.”

From Kristin Neff’s Book Self-Compassion:

In one influential review of the self-esteem literature, it was concluded that high self-esteem actually did not improve academic achievement or job performance or leadership skills or prevent children from smoking, drinking, or taking drugs. If anything, high self-esteem appears to be the consequence rather than the cause of healthy behaviors.

What does raising self-esteem do? It probably increases narcissism. So what do we need instead of self-esteem? Self-compassion. Stop lying to yourself that you’re so awesome. Instead, focus on forgiving yourself when you’re not. In my upcoming book I talk about why self-compassion beats self-esteem.

So why does compassion succeed where self-esteem fails? Because self-esteem is always either delusional or contingent, neither of which lead to good things. To always feel like you’re awesome you need to either divorce yourself from reality or be on a treadmill of constantly proving your value. At some point you won’t measure up, which then craters your self-esteem. Not to mention relentlessly proving yourself is exhausting and unsettling. Self-compassion lets you see the facts and accept that you’re not perfect. As famed psychologist Albert Ellis once said, “Self-esteem is the greatest sickness known to man or woman because it’s conditional.” People with self-compassion don’t feel the need to constantly prove themselves, and research shows they are less likely to feel like a “loser.”

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More about Narcissists in the Age of Trump

February 25, 2017 | By | Reply More

I stumbled across this detailed article on twenty techniques used by Narcissists (and other malfunctioning types of people) in personal relationships — or is it an article about Donald Trump? The full title: “20 Diversion Tactics Highly Manipulative Narcissists, Sociopaths And Psychopaths Use To Silence You.”

The bottom line caveat: “If you think you’re going to have a thoughtful discussion with someone who is toxic, be prepared for epic mindfuckery rather than conversational mindfulness.” In short, conversations are often attacks that only look like conversations.

In the hands of a malignant narcissist or sociopath, your differing opinions, legitimate emotions and lived experiences get translated into character flaws and evidence of your irrationality.

Narcissism is the main focus of the article, however, and Narcissists tend to be . . . well … narcissistic:

Narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths and otherwise toxic people do this because they wish to divert attention back to themselves and how you’re going to please them. If there is anything outside of them that may threaten their control over your life, they seek to destroy it. They need to be the center of attention at all times. In the idealization phase, you were once the center of a narcissist’s world – now the narcissist becomes the center of yours.

Narcissists are also naturally pathologically envious and don’t want anything to come in between them and their influence over you. Your happiness represents everything they feel they cannot have in their emotionally shallow lives. After all, if you learn that you can get validation, respect and love from other sources besides the toxic person, what’s to keep you from leaving them?

Chapters include Gaslighting, Projection, “Moving the goalposts,” “Changing the Subject,” Threats (including covert threats), Aggressive Jabs Disguised as Jokes and Shaming.

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Wabi-Sabi and many other emotions not well known by name

February 17, 2017 | By | Reply More

Are there emotions other than the commonly discussed ones? This article by BBC presents many others. Most of them have names in other languages, and I did not recognize any of these names. I did, however, recognize many of the feelings described in the article. Hence, the title of the article, “The Untranslatable Emotions,” doesn’t quite work for me, because I do recognize many of these emotions. Here are a few examples presented, and there are many others I enjoyed reading about in the article:

Natsukashii (Japanese) – a nostalgic longing for the past, with happiness for the fond memory, yet sadness that it is no longer

Wabi-sabi (Japanese) – a “dark, desolate sublimity” centred on transience and imperfection in beauty

Saudade (Portuguese) – a melancholic longing or nostalgia for a person, place or thing that is far away either spatially or in time – a vague, dreaming wistfulness for phenomena that may not even exist

Sehnsucht (German) – “life-longings”, an intense desire for alternative states and realisations of life, even if they are unattainable

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Who are you? Strangers can get a good idea based on a few dozen of your Facebook “likes.”

February 6, 2017 | By | Reply More

Psychologist Michal Kosinski developed a method to size up who a person based on their FB activity.

If you would like to get a small taste for what companies can do with Big Data, follow this link to Kosinski’s own website (found in the above article). I did this, and I was impressed. Based on 60 of your FB “likes,” a company can get a impressive read on who you are.

This is not just a parlor trick. This type of analytics can swing a tight presidential election.

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