Pragma Synesi – interesting bits

Compendium of interesting bits I come across, with an occasional IMHO

5 ways to give to charity without even trying

Five ways to benefit charities without costing you a dime.

5 ways to give to charity without even trying


February 28, 2018 Posted by | lifehack | , | Leave a comment

Play game – fight fake news

Build your resistance to disinformation by playing the game Bad News, created by a team of experts.  Here is a review of it.

February 23, 2018 Posted by | fun, information, politics | , , | Leave a comment

How to Stop Being a Control Freak

Even though I didn’t think I was a control freak, this article was very helpful in both me coming to realize that I just might have a bit of control freak in me, and, most importantly, how I can deal with it.

How to Stop Being a Control Freak

The desire for control is a form of perfectionism, and we can alleviate it by learning to embrace uncertainty.


February 22, 2018 Posted by | behaviour, psychology | , | Leave a comment

Why we love tyrants

I’ve always wondered how some leaders can sway people to do things rational thought would exclude, for example how Hitler managed to convince ordinary Germans that Jews must be exterminated.  Would I fall for such a message?  Have I?

The article below looks at the psychology used in these type of speeches. It seems to boil down to three steps:

  1.  We are mightily suffering:  _____________,
  2.  and that is the fault of ____________, who is our enemy.
  3.  The magic solution to this is ___________.

It’s scary how something this simple can work so well.  And it’s even scarier how it is being used today.

Why we love tyrants

Psychoanalysis explains how authoritarians energise the hatred, self-pity and delusion while promising heaven on Earth

David Livingstone Smith | aeon | 


February 16, 2018 Posted by | behaviour, history, psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

How to Motivate Yourself to Exercise

Good advice from Time Magazine. Might be worth getting the author’s book (Fitter Faster: The Smart Way to Get in Shape in Just Minutes a Day, by Robert J. Davis and Brad Kolowich, Jr.) to get into more details.

7 Simple Ways to Motivate Yourself to Exercise

By ROBERT J. DAVIS | January 19, 2018

Continue reading


February 8, 2018 Posted by | behaviour, fitness, health | , | Leave a comment

Swearing to reduce pain

It’s already well known that swearing reduces the amount of pain you feel, but so far we did not know why.  It turns out it has to do with aggression, hence playing a shoot’em-up video game works just as well. If you want to read more about how that works, check out Emma Byrne’s book  Swearing Is Good for You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language.

You can find an illuminating excerpt here:

The Science of Why Swearing Physically Reduces Pain

Emma Byrne | 01.24.18 | Wired



January 28, 2018 Posted by | behaviour, brain, emotions, health | , , , , | Leave a comment

Does Depression Have an Evolutionary Purpose?

Interesting point of view: depression is a cry for help, just like the loud chirping of a hungry baby bird.  Worth reading if you, or someone you know, has battled depression or suicidal tendencies.

Does Depression Have an Evolutionary Purpose?

Some psychologists believe suicide and depression can be strategic.

Matthew Hutson | Feb 9, 2017 | Nautilus

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January 28, 2018 Posted by | behaviour, evolutionary psychology, psychology | , | Leave a comment

I can haz all ur votes

“…wealth of information creates a poverty of attention…”

— Herbert Simon, a noted economist, 1971

Start by checking out the chart in the middle of the article below, depicting increasing U.S. political polarization.  Then read the article to see how the internet led us there.

It’s a huge problem that is getting worse.

Once considered a boon to democracy, social media have started to look like its nemesis

An economy based on attention is easily gamed

Nov 4th 2017 |The Economist



January 27, 2018 Posted by | information, news, politics, sociology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why People Can’t Agree on Basic Facts

If there is an emotion involved in acquiring a belief, there is a much lower chance of changing it, even if it is a false belief.  And the excitement of getting a new social media  message seems to be a perfect way to cement information, true or not.  Think about it — do you have false beliefs that cannot be corrected by data?

Neuroscientist Tali Sharot has been investigating what determines whether someone can be persuaded by an argument. You can read about it in her book, The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others, or check out this article for a taste of what you can do to avoid getting stuck with false beliefs:

Why People Can’t Agree on Basic Facts

By TALI SHAROT | September 19, 2017 | Time magazine

Continue reading


January 20, 2018 Posted by | behaviour, brain, decision making, emotions, neuroscience | , , | Leave a comment

Pedestrian attacks self-driving car

In a world of self-driving cars that are practically perfect at avoiding harm to pedestrians, I can see people walking all over the road without looking, slowing traffic and causing damage to cars without a care.  Swerve into a wall in order to avoid hitting a pedestrian stepping off the sidewalk without looking? Can they identify the pedestrian to make him pay for the damage before he disappears?  Will we be compelled to buy pedestrian insurance in order to walk on the streets?  We’re not quite there yet, but this incident is a start.  Something to think about.

Pedestrian attacks self-driving car in the Mission

Nobody was hurt, except our civic dignity

January 19, 2018 Posted by | behaviour | , , , | Leave a comment