RSSCategory: Psychology Cognition

Stories about humans

November 23, 2013 | By | Reply More

I highly recommend this TED talk by Brandon Stanton, creator of Humans of New York. He contrasts his own work with the stories we often see on the television “news.” What we see on television are stories carefully filtered to show conflict, sex, violence and danger. It’s not a bad thing, per se, to view such stories, but it is a bad thing to accept these stories as representative of the way the world is.

I find Humans of New York to be a calming counterbalance to the stories usually presented by the “news.”

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Niceness as a Machiavellian business strategy

November 22, 2013 | By | Reply More

Beware those nice people out in the business world. Although they are often taken advantage of, they can band together to create jauggernaut business operations. The following comment was written by David Sloan Wilson and Jonathan Haidt, and it appeared in Forbes:

Many people implicitly think that niceness is a virtue for the rest of life, but when it comes to playing business hardball, only the selfish survive. The message of Grant’s book is that this isn’t true, and he gives us both scientific evidence and entertaining profiles for understanding why. Grant divides people into three behavioral categories: givers, matchers, and takers. As their names imply, givers are sweeties who unstintingly share their time and talent, seemingly for the sheer pleasure of it. Matchers calibrate their giving to their taking, and takers take whatever they can get. Who does best playing business hardball? It turns out that the givers do best and worst. When they succumb to the depredations of takers, they become doormats and chumps. But when they manage to work with other givers, they produce spectacular wealth and share the collective benefits. In other words, the costs and benefits of prosociality in the business world are no different than for the rest of life.

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About mentally strong people

November 21, 2013 | By | Reply More

Forbes has an article on mentally strong people. Here are the headings of what mentally strong people avoid:

1. Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves.
2. Give Away Their Power.
3. Shy Away from Change.
4. Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control.
5. Worry About Pleasing Others.
6. Fear Taking Calculated Risks.
7. Dwell on the Past.
8. Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over.
9. Resent Other People’s Success.
10. Give Up After Failure.
11. Fear Alone Time.
12. Feel the World Owes Them Anything.
13. Expect Immediate Results.

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Choice of religion as a Hobson’s Choice

November 21, 2013 | By | Reply More

This article at Paleolibrarian makes the argument that religion is a classic Hobson’s Choice.

If you are unfamiliar with Hobson’s choice it is essentially the option of no options. It is the illusion of fair and free choice set within only one possible outcome. So if you’re offered just one option and you’re told you can take it or leave it, is that really a choice?

How many religions have urged that they would encourage you to engage in free thinking, as long as you come up with the right conclusions? Stir in threats of ostracizing those who come up with the wrong conclusion combined with the fear of hell, and many a believer has been convinced to draw the curve before plotting the data. All of this is compliments of the confirmation bias, the cognitive bias that causes us to seek evidence that leads us where we want to go and blinds us to conflicting evidence. Thus, many people “choose” religion after asphyxiating their own thought process. But it feels as though one is thinking freely all the way to the preordained conclusion that embracing one’s religion–usually the religion one was taught as a child–is logical.

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Summary of Terror Management Theory

November 18, 2013 | By | Reply More

I’ve often written about Terror Management Theory (TMT). Recently I found this well-written illustrated review of many TMT principles.

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Robert Sapolsky discusses the alleged uniqueness of humans

November 18, 2013 | By | Reply More

Excellent lecture by Robert Sapolsky. Scientists used to think that humans were unique in many ways when compared to other animals. The number of ways in which we are truly unique is dwindling, however, and that dwindling number is the focus of Sapolsky’s talk. There is at least one way in which we are unique, and that is our ability to entertain a contradiction. Sapolsky, speaking to a graduating class, challenges them to take on this contradiction: They are highly educated and thus privileged human animals who are educated to such an extent that they realize that it is virtually impossible for one person to make a difference in the world. The more clear this becomes that it is impossible to make the world better, “the more you must.”

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Elizabeth Loftus discusses false memories at TED.

November 13, 2013 | By | Reply More

Excellent TED lecture by memory researcher Elizabeth Loftus:

Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus studies memories. More precisely, she studies false memories, when people either remember things that didn’t happen or remember them differently from the way they really were. It’s more common than you might think, and Loftus shares some startling stories and statistics, and raises some important ethical questions we should all remember to consider.

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Tea Party Logic

October 7, 2013 | By | 2 Replies More
Tea Party Logic

I agree with this Salon article that it is counterproductive to write off the Tea Party as irrational. It is much more productive to work harder to understand the Tea Party’s thought process. Here’s an excerpt:

While each of the Newest Right’s proposals and policies might be defended by libertarians or conservatives on other grounds, the package as a whole—from privatizing Social Security and Medicare to disenfranchising likely Democratic voters to opposing voting rights and citizenship for illegal immigrants to chopping federal programs into 50 state programs that can be controlled by right-wing state legislatures—represents a coherent and rational strategy for maximizing the relative power of provincial white elites at a time when their numbers are in decline and history has turned against them. They are not ignoramuses, any more than Jacksonian, Confederate and Dixiecrat elites were idiots. They know what they want and they have a plan to get it—which may be more than can be said for their opponents.

In Jonathan Haidt’s most recent book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, he makes a compelling argument that all of our become blinded when we get caught upon in tribal politics. His suggestion is that we need to work hard to unplug from the moral matrix in order to better understand the “other.” It’s a tall order in these times of great hostility and crisis, but I believe that Haidt is correct, that it is the only way out of this mess.

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The properly divided brain

September 29, 2013 | By | 2 Replies More

Psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist agrees that the brain is divided, but not at all in the way that is it is commonly thought. This is one of those quick-draw RSA Animate illustrated videos, deeply thought-provoking and also entertaining.

Here’s a transcript of McGilchrist’s lecture on the divided brain.

So you have, essentially, two kinds of attention, one that narrows a thing down as much as possible to a certainty so that you can pick it up and get it and sort it out. This is very useful for manipulating the world. It’s not good for understanding the world. For understanding the world you need what I would call a relational attention in which you don’t see yourself as somehow disconnected from everything around but realize how interconnected you are with it and need to be aware of all of it.

[More . . . ]

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