Pragma Synesi – interesting bits

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

Why Gloom Trumps Glad

Michael Shermer’s article makes several excellent points to remember at election time.

For one, we react to the bad news more than the good, because

“… in our evolutionary past there was an asymmetry of payoffs in which the fitness cost of overreacting to a threat was less than the fitness cost of underreacting. The world was more dangerous in our evolutionary past, so it paid to be risk-averse and highly sensitive to threats, and if things were good, then the status quo was worth maintaining…”

And politicians’ messages boil down to

““once upon a time things were bad, and now they’re good thanks to our party” or “once upon a time things were good, but now they’re bad thanks to the other party.””

Worth a read.

Why Gloom Trumps Glad

Michael Shermer | November 2016

November 2, 2016 Posted by | behaviour, evolutionary psychology, politics, psychology, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Conservatism and cognitive ability are negatively correlated

From the journal Intelligence, Volume 37, Issue 3, May-June 2009, Pages 294-304:

Conservatism and cognitive ability are negatively correlated

Lazar Stankov

Available online 3 February 2009.


Conservatism and cognitive ability are negatively correlated. The evidence is based on 1254 community college students and 1600 foreign students seeking entry to United States’ universities. At the individual level of analysis, conservatism scores correlate negatively with SAT, Vocabulary, and Analogy test scores. At the national level of analysis, conservatism scores correlate negatively with measures of education (e.g., gross enrollment at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels) and performance on mathematics and reading assessments from the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) project. They also correlate with components of the Failed States Index and several other measures of economic and political development of nations. Conservatism scores have higher correlations with economic and political measures than estimated IQ scores.

June 18, 2009 Posted by | philosophy, politics, sociology, Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment

Four chunks at a time

It seems the human brain can handle at most 4 different things at a time.  From 2005 July Discover magazine:

Juggling Info

Surgeons, air traffic controllers, waitresses, and bus drivers—or anyone in a high-stress job—take in a steady flow of information that needs to be processed on the spot. But how much is too much? Cognitive scientists in Australia have concluded that humans can juggle four “chunks” of information at any given instant. After that, they become confused. Their next move is no more reasoned than flipping a coin.

Continue reading

April 27, 2009 Posted by | behaviour, brain, decision making, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Hello world!

I visit my 96-year old grandmother on the weekends in the nursing home.  Her mind was sharp until about 5 years ago — now she has trouble finding her words.  Not sure whether it’s Alzheimer’s or dementia, at this stage in her life it makes no difference.

I often wonder whether my mind will stay sharp as long as hers has, since I always had occasional trouble finding my words, especially when distracted or tired — a constant source of amusement for my family.  Not particularly surprising, as I have little practice expressing myself: I am an introvert and a listener, and rarely communicate at length.  But I did notice that when I joined a mailing list and started expressing my ideas more often, that I improved — much in writing, and even a bit orally.

So this blog is a way for me to practice expressing myself.  I plan to contribute something on the days I am not overly busy — wonder how long that will last…

June 6, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment