EppsNet Archive: Psychology

How People Learn to Become Resilient

[Developmental psychologist Emmy Werner] found that several elements predicted resilience. Some elements had to do with luck: a resilient child might have a strong bond with a supportive caregiver, parent, teacher, or other mentor-like figure. But another, quite large set of elements was psychological, and had to do with how the children responded to the environment. From a young age, resilient children tended to “meet the world on their own terms.” They were autonomous and independent, would seek out new experiences, and had a “positive social orientation.” “Though not especially gifted, these children used whatever skills they had effectively,” Werner wrote. Perhaps most importantly, the resilient children had what psychologists call an “internal locus of control”: they believed that they, and not their circumstances, affected their achievements. The resilient children saw themselves as the orchestrators of their own fates. In fact, on a scale that measured locus of control, they… Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: Mindset by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.

Carol Dweck’s research is part of a tradition in psychology that shows the power of people’s beliefs. These may be beliefs that we’re aware of or unaware of but they strongly affect what we want and whether we succeed in getting it. This tradition also shows how changing people’s beliefs can have profound effects. Dweck’s insight into fixed mindset (bad) vs. growth mindset (good) is powerful but there’s really not enough to it to sustain a book-length exposition without a lot of repetition and illustrational anecdotes, the problem with which is 1) they tend to be overly simple tales of triumph and failure with clearly identified causes; and 2) they ignore the inevitability of regression. For example, two of the people Dweck identifies as exemplars of the growth mindset are Tiger Woods and Alex Rodriguez. Mindset was published in 2006, after which Woods’s career imploded in the wake of extramarital… Read more →

25 Concepts to Facilitate Judicious Use of Psychiatric Drugs

I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night . . . I also took a Colgate University class on medicating for mental health and judicious use of psychiatric drugs. A psychiatric medication is only one useful tool among a collection of useful tools. Remember to also consider non-drug options for therapy. The benefits of psychiatric medications are always accompanied by risk. Become familiar with the potential risk of your medication. Be alert to potential risks that might be intolerable to you. Establishing a diagnosis is a difficult and imperfect task, but it establishes the starting point for determining which treatments are appropriate. Engage your physician or a psychologist in a dialogue regarding the structure of your treatment program. Be an active participant in establishing the structure of that program. Having confidence that your treatment program will… Read more →

Teaching Computer Science: Combating Procrastination

Students had a project due last week and I got a lot of messages and emails asking for help. Of course, when we handed out the assignment two months ago, we advised students not to wait till the last minute to work on it. Teachers and parents saying “Don’t wait till the last minute” is just an understood part of the process. It’s something that gets said but it’s background noise. A couple of alternatives occur to me: Reverse psychology. Say “My advice is to start as late as possible. Try to do two months of work in the last week, or better yet, the last night.” This seems too easy to see through and therefore unlikely to work. Hand out the 20-page spec and tell the students that it’s due tomorrow. WHAT!? YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS! NOBODY COULD DO THIS IN ONE DAY! “You’re right. It’s actually due in… Read more →

Big Fishes in Small Ponds

A colleague and I are discussing an article about too many kids quitting science because they don’t think they’re smart, in which Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford, says, among other things: Being a good parent has become synonymous with giving out ability praise. Parents still think this is the greatest gift they can give to their children, and as a child gets more and more insecure, they give more and more of it. And, by the way, a lot of employers and coaches have said, “My employees cannot get through the day without accolades and validation.” Even professional coaches have said they cannot give feedback without these people feeling that they’ve crushed them. We’ve created several generations now of very fragile individuals because they’ve been praised and hyped. And feel that anything but praise is devastating. My colleague mentions Malcolm Gladwell‘s book David and Goliath, in which Gladwell claims… Read more →

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

The notion that we have limited access to the workings of our minds is difficult to accept because, naturally, it is alien to our experience but it is true: You know far less about yourself than you feel you do.   A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.   It is the consistency of information that matters for a good story, not its completeness. Indeed, you will often find that knowing little makes it easier to fit everything you know into a coherent pattern.   The exaggerated faith in small samples is only one example of a more general illusion — we pay more attention to the content of messages than to information about their reliability, and as a result end up with a view of the world around us that is simpler and more coherent than… Read more →

Why “We” Believed Jackie’s Rape Story

Embed from Getty Images That’s the title (minus the quotation marks) of an article on politico.com regarding Rolling Stone‘s retraction of a story about a gang rape at the University of Virginia. The article is written by a female student at that university. “We” believed the story for the same reason Rolling Stone didn’t fact check it: because when you know little, it’s easier to fit everything you do know into a simple story about the world, e.g., “white men are rapists.” Also because people can maintain an unshakable faith in any proposition, however absurd, when they’re sustained by a community of like-minded believers. On the flip side, a different group of people can now use the incident to confirm their simple story about the world, e.g., “women are liars.” Personally I find labeling and smearing people based on genetic traits ugly and offensive no matter whose agenda is being… Read more →

The Hedgehog and the Fox

Hedgehogs “know one big thing” and have a theory about the world: they account for particular events within a coherent framework, bristle with impatience toward those who don’t see things their way, and are confident in their forecasts. They are also especially reluctant to admit error. For hedgehogs, a failed prediction is almost always “off only on timing” or “very nearly right.” They are opinionated and clear, which is exactly what television producers love to see on programs. Two hedgehogs on different sides of an issue, each attacking the idiotic ideas of the adversary, make for a good show. Foxes, by contrast, are complex thinkers. They don’t believe that one big thing drives the march of history . . . Instead the foxes recognize that reality emerges from the interactions of many different agents and forces, including blind luck, often producing large and unpredictable outcomes. . . . They are… Read more →

I Was Never More Hated Than When I Tried to Be Honest

I was never more hated than when I tried to be honest. Or when, even as just now I’ve tried to articulate exactly what I felt to be the truth. No one was satisfied — not even I. On the other hand, I’ve never been more loved and appreciated than when I tried to “justify” and affirm someone’s mistaken beliefs; or when I’ve tried to give my friends the incorrect, absurd answers they wished to hear. In my presence they could talk and agree with themselves, the world was nailed down, and they loved it. — Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man Read more →

On the Evaluation of One-Sided Evidence

We examine predictions and judgments of confidence based on one-sided evidence. Some subjects saw arguments for only one side of a legal dispute while other subjects (called ‘jurors’) saw arguments for both sides. Subjects predicted the number of jurors who favored the plaintiff in each case. Subjects who saw only one side made predictions that were biased in favor of that side. Furthermore, they were more confident but generally less accurate than subjects who saw both sides. The results indicate that people do not compensate sufficiently for missing information even when it is painfully obvious that the information available to them is incomplete. — Lyle A. Brenner, Derek J. Koehler and Amos Tversky, “On the Evaluation of One-sided Evidence” (emphasis added) Read more →

See You in Hell: The Fritz Pollard Edition

[See You in Hell is a feature by our guest blogger, Satan — PE] The head of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which monitors diversity in the NFL, expects the league to institute a rule where players would be penalized 15 yards for using the N-word on the field. — NFL expected to penalize players for using racial slurs in games – ESPN The N-word. Let’s see . . . the N-word is “National,” the F-word is “Football” and the L-word is “League.” Wait — what?! I’m now being informed that the N-word in this case is “nigger.” That’s what the Fritz Pollard Alliance wants to penalize. OK, that’s a great idea, Fritz Pollard Alliance, and by “great” I mean “bullshit.” Has anyone at the Fritz Pollard Alliance read the Harry Potter books? In the Harry Potter books, Voldemort is known as He Who Must Not Be Named. He’s so powerful… Read more →

The ‘Why’ Technique

The usual purpose of ‘why’ is to elicit information. One wants to be comforted with some explanation which one can accept and be satisfied with. The lateral use of why is quite opposite. The intention is to create discomfort with any explanation. By refusing to be comforted with an explanation one tries to look at things in a different way and so increases the possibility of restructuring a pattern. — Edward de Bono, Lateral Thinking Read more →

Challenge Assumptions

General agreement about an assumption is no guarantee that it is correct. It is historical continuity that maintains most assumptions – not a repeated assessment of their validity. — Edward de Bono, Lateral Thinking Read more →

EppsNet Book Reviews: The Big Short by Michael Lewis

I worked in the information technology department of a mortgage bank in the run-up to the 2007 implosion of the subprime mortgage market . . . Given that it was fairly evident at the time that complicated financial instruments were being dreamed up for the sole purpose of lending money to people who could never repay it, it’s remarkable that very few people foresaw the catastrophe and that even fewer actually had the nerve to bet on it to happen. Long story short, the major rating agencies — Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s — were incompetent in their rating of subprime mortgage bonds, giving investment-grade and, in some cases, triple-A ratings to high-risk instruments. A lot of people took the ratings — which implied that subprime mortgage derivatives were no riskier than U.S. Treasury bonds — at face value and acted accordingly. But there were also some interesting psychological factors in play, not… Read more →

Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure you are not just surrounded by assholes. — William Gibson

Online Porn May Make You Forget

Pornographic Picture Processing Interferes with Working Memory Performance — Journal of Sex Research, 2012 Nov 20 Researchers at the University of Duisburg-Essen found that looking at internet porn has a negative effect on working memory. Wait a second . . . did I already post this link? Read more →

Rough Layouts Sell the Idea Better Than Polished Ones

This was written by an ad man but I can see it applying to other endeavors, like designing a software interface: If you show a client a highly polished computer layout, he will probably reject it. There is either too much to worry about or not enough to worry about. They are equally bad. It is a fait accompli. There is nothing for him to do. It’s not his work, it’s your work. He doesn’t feel involved. If he doesn’t like the face of the girl in your rendering, or the style of the trousers on the man on the right, or the choice of the car he’s driving, he’s going to reject it. He won’t see the big idea. He will look at the girl’s face and think, ‘I don’t like her, this doesn’t feel right.’ It is very difficult for him to imagine anything else if what you… Read more →

Politicians Making Things Happen

Now, if we want people to do certain things and if we are indifferent as to why they do them, then no affective appeals need be excluded. Some political candidates want us to vote for them regardless of our reasons for doing so. Therefore, if we hate the rich, they will snarl at the rich for us; if we dislike strikers, they will snarl at the strikers; if we like clambakes, they will throw clambakes; if the majority of us like hillbilly music, they may say nothing about the problems of government, but travel among their constituencies with hillbilly bands. — S.I. Hayakawa, Language in Thought and Action Read more →

Accurate Self-Perceptions Considered Harmful

Consider a survey of nearly one million high school seniors. When asked to judge their ability to get along with others, 100 percent rated themselves as at least average, 60 percent rated themselves in the top 10 percent, and 25 percent considered themselves in the top 1 percent. And when asked about their leadership skills, only 2 percent assessed themselves as below average. Teachers aren’t any more realistic: 94 percent of college professors say they do above-average work. — Leonard Mlodinow, Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior The human brain is a better lawyer than scientist. A scientific brain would form hypotheses, test them against the evidence and reject the ones that don’t pass. The lawyer brain starts with a conclusion that it wants to be true, formulates supporting arguments and discounts evidence to the contrary. Studies show that people with the most accurate self-perceptions tend to be… Read more →

If You Tolerate It, You Insist On It

Whenever you perceive that a virtue is missing or that a vice is present, you either tolerate the situation or try to change it. If you cannot “fix” it, you can at least withdraw your participation. The problem with tolerating the absence of virtue or the existence of vice is that this choice summons them into your life. You might tell yourself stories about the problem you perceive and your tolerance of it: That’s just the way it is in the real world. Others will not listen even-handedly to your perceptions and advice. It’s not your place to say truthful but difficult things. The problem lies in another department. You are not reading the situation correctly. You may not be able to discern beauty from ugliness or efficiency from waste, and your ignorance will be exposed. You’ll be rejected or ridiculed. You will look dumb if you ask for help… Read more →

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