Pragma Synesi – interesting bits

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

How Trump screws with your mind

Emily Dreyfuss, Wired magazine editor, has a couple of illuminating articles on how President Trump screws with your mind for his own benefit. He’s not the only one to do so, so it’s in your interest to find out how and what to do about it.

The Cognitive Bias President Trump Understands Better Than You

Want to Make a Lie Seem True? Say It Again. And Again. And Again

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February 18, 2017 Posted by | behaviour, brain, decision making, politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to disagree (according to science)

Good, to the point advice.

How to Politely Disagree, According to Science

Michelle Kinder | Jan 27, 2017 | Time magazine

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February 7, 2017 Posted by | behaviour, psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wanna go to luck school?

It looks like “luck” is more of a frame of mind.  And luck school actually helped unlucky people:

How to Be Lucky

It pays to imagine your life is on a winning streak.

By Chelsea Wald | January 26, 2017 | Nautilus

“Luck is believing you’re lucky.”
—Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

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February 5, 2017 Posted by | behaviour, psychology | , , | Leave a comment

Is beauty a measure of effort?

I read an article called the The makeover trap, and one of its quotes,

“What is valorised in makeover culture is not the finished look but the willingness to undertake the neverending process of beautification”

got me to wondering why we would spend so much of our limited resources (time, effort and money) to look good in general.

It’s well known that like the peacock’ oversized tail, many in the animal kingdom have elaborate courtship rituals and/or have fancy features to prove the superiority of their genes, essentially advertising “I can survive and thrive and even have extra energy for unnecessary (and sometimes even hindering) features/actions”.  Is it the same instinct in humans, trying to demonstrate their superiority by proving that they can succeed in life AND have the extra resources to keep themselves looking beautiful?  Many aspects of what we find beautiful is directly related to how much effort it takes, from a well-toned body (daily workouts) to hairstyle, make-up, home furnishings, etc.. Even in fashion, clothes that look like a lot of effort went into creating, are often considered more beautiful.

How much of your time and resources is spent on looking good?  Would you be happier if you could spend even more resources?

 

January 28, 2017 Posted by | anthropology, behaviour, evolutionary psychology | | Leave a comment

Women can navigate better on testosterone

There is an evolutionary explanation.

Women can navigate better when given testosterone, study finds

Wait… what?

Peter Dockrill |11 DEC 2015 | Science Alert
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December 30, 2016 Posted by | behaviour, brain, evolutionary psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Addiction seen as a habit

An interesting perspective on addiction.  Has a very good section on explaining the science of habit-formation. A long read, but if you ever struggled with addiction, depression, anxiety or just a bad habit, it’s worth reading it just to see it from a different point of view.

The addiction habit

Addiction changes the brain but it’s not a disease that can be cured with medicine. In fact, it’s learned – like a habit

Marc Lewis | 14 December, 2016 | aeon

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December 30, 2016 Posted by | behaviour, brain, psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

I predict (myself), therefore I am

A fascinating view of consciousness. Worth the effort to read all the way to the end.

The Hard Problem of Consciousness

It looks like scientists and philosophers might have made consciousness far more mysterious than it needs to be

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December 14, 2016 Posted by | behaviour, brain, neuroscience, philosophy | | Leave a comment

No anger when the boat is empty

I came across this zen parable about anger:

If a man is crossing a river
And an empty boat collides with his own skiff,
Even though he be a bad-tempered man
He will not become very angry.
But if he sees a man in the boat,
He will shout at him to steer clear.
If the shout is not heard, he will shout again,
And yet again, and begin cursing.
And all because there is somebody in the boat.
Yet if the boat were empty.
He would not be shouting, and not angry.

The Empty Boat by Chuang Tzu (excerpt)

It made me think about why we even have an emotion we call anger on the first place, evolutionarily speaking, and why we don’t get angry at an empty boat.  It’s probably an incentive to ensure you will not get hurt again, physically or mentally (I’d consider threats to your social status a form of mental pain).

For example, if you get cut off in traffic (or a boat hits your skiff), you’d get angry because it’s an automatic assumption that someone is deliberately trying reduce your social status by putting himself to be more important than you.  Anger would incentivize you for revenge or confrontation to ensure that the person will never do that again to you.  In a tribal society, such revenge/confrontation would likely work to guarantee a better future for you as you will be dealing with the person responsible on a daily basis.  But in our society, where we are dealing with people that we may never see again, it has the exact opposite effect: your actions of chasing the car that cut you off could put you at risk of an accident, physical harm and even jail.  The person responsible is someone whom you will probably never see again so cannot possibly hurt you again, whether you got angry or not.  So rationally speaking, your actions and anger would be wasted and would reduce your quality of life (you could have been doing something you enjoyed instead).

It would make sense then to think of other cars in traffic (or any people you will likely never see again) as empty boats — just automatons doing things for themselves, without giving you a thought.  Don’t be self-destructive — save yourself the costs of getting angry when it has no positive effects for you.

(Not everyone would stay calm at an empty boat. There are people who would try to find a scapegoat no matter what, and get angry at whoever was responsible for not tying up the empty boat on the first place. Anger in overdrive? Is it possible it will eventually be classified as a psychological condition?)

 

 

 

 

December 5, 2016 Posted by | behaviour, evolutionary psychology, psychology | , , | Leave a comment

Your social class determines how you look at others

Upper class folks spend less time looking faces of random strangers, which could be the reason they have less empathy.  Details in article below:

Social attitudes to faces

Not worth a second glance

Oct 15th 2016| The Economist Oct 15th 2016

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November 14, 2016 Posted by | behaviour, psychology | , , | Leave a comment

How you vote depends on how you perceive honesty

What does honesty mean to you?

  1. An honest person will say what they think and believe
  2. An honest person will say factually accurate things

If you picked 1, you will probably vote Trump; 2, Clinton. The article below from ClearerThinking.org explains.

A major difference between Clinton and Trump voters: how they perceive honesty

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November 3, 2016 Posted by | behaviour, politics, psychology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment