Monkey Trap

Preconceptions can blind us from doing things in better ways. Sometimes expertise gets in the way. Buddhists push against this situation by seeking “beginner’s mind.” Over-devotion to the possibility of specific rewards can trap us in precarious situations. Poker players call it being “pot-committed.” All are forms of cognitive biases, but perhaps labelling it as “mental rigidity” is a more immediate and helpful way to think about all of this.

Stay loose. Let go. There are other bananas.

Frank Chimero

Bird Brains

Netflix warns against Bird Box challenge as dangerous trend goes viral:

Netflix has warned fans against participating in a potentially dangerous online challenge that’s inspired by its recent original horror film Bird Box.

The challenge takes the core concept of Bird Box — wearing a blindfold at all times while wandering around outside — and applies it to a certain period of time. Some people, like YouTube creator Morgan Adams, have tried to go about their daily lives for 24 hours while blindfolded, while others have attempted the challenge for a shorter period.

Netflix’s social media team called out the challenge on Twitter, asking people to not hurt themselves while performing the act.

Seems I already have contenders for my 2019 Darwinism Awards.

Yay humans!

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whipping people into a state of anger

At The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf breaks down British journalist Cathy Newman’s interview with Jordan Peterson:

Actually, one of the most important things this interview illustrates—one reason it is worth noting at length—is how Newman repeatedly poses as if she is holding a controversialist accountable, when in fact, for the duration of the interview, it is she that is “stirring things up” and “whipping people into a state of anger.”

At every turn, she is the one who takes her subject’s words and makes them seem more extreme, or more hostile to women, or more shocking in their implications than Peterson’s remarks themselves support. Almost all of the most inflammatory views that were aired in the interview are ascribed by Newman to Peterson, who then disputes that she has accurately characterized his words.

If you haven’t seen the interview do yourself a favor and check it out. I love the interview because it’s a great example of an interviewee not accepting the drama television personalities like Newman love to engage in.

Newman misquotes Peterson and tries to create arguments were none exist but Peterson corrects every one of her misquotes during the interview. Good for him.

A Lifetime of Deception

Wesley Morris, writing for The Times, Cliff Huxtable Was Bill Cosby’s Sickest Joke:

If a sexual predator wanted to come up with a smoke screen for his ghastly conquests, he couldn’t do better than Cliff Huxtable.

Cliff was affable, patient, wise, and where Mrs. Huxtable (Phylicia Rashad) was concerned, justly deferential. His wit was quick, his sweaters roomy and kaleidoscopic. He could be romantic. Cliff should have been the envy of any father ever to appear on a sitcom. He was vertiginously dadly. Cliff is the reason for the cognitive dissonance we’ve been experiencing for the last three or four years. He seemed inseparable from the man who portrayed him.

Bill Cosby was good at his job. That sums up why the guilty verdict Thursday is depressing — depressing not for its shock but for the work the verdict now requires me to do. The discarding and condemning and reconsidering — of the shows, the albums, the movies. But I don’t need to watch them anymore. It’s too late. I’ve seen them. I’ve absorbed them. I’ve lived them. I’m a black man, so I am them.

I was originally going to say this is such a sad fall from grace, but that’s not correct. Bill Cosby didn’t have an amazing career and then screw up at the end of it, this was a lifetime of deception.

Categories:

Crime, Pyschology

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Japanese Rent-A-Friends

In Japan, you can pay an actor to impersonate your relative, spouse, coworker, or any kind of acquaintance:

Morin: When you’re working, is it purely acting, or do the feelings ever become real?

Yuichi: It’s a business. I’m not going to be her father for 24 hours. It’s a set time. When I am acting with her, I don’t really feel that I love her, but when the session is over and I have to go, I do feel a little sad. The kids cry sometimes. They say, “Why do you have to leave?” In those instances, I feel very sorry that I’m faking it—very guilty. There are times, when I’m done with the work and I come back home, where I sit and watch TV. I find myself wondering, “Is this, now, the real me, or the actor?”

Morin: How do you answer that question?

Yuichi: I don’t think I have an answer. The person that used to be me—is he me now? I know that it’s common for actors to feel that way. If you’re a really good actor—if you’re in it all the time—it feels very unsettling.

The Japanese continue to operate on a completely different level than the rest of the planet.

See Also: Making Friends Over 30

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Reading Aloud to Yourself

The production effect is the memory advantage of saying words aloud over simply reading them silently. It has been hypothesised that this advantage stems from production featuring distinctive information that stands out at study relative to reading silently. MacLeod (2011) (I said, you said: The production effect gets personal. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 18, 1197–1202. doi:10.3758/s13423-011-0168-8) found superior memory for reading aloud oneself vs. hearing another person read aloud, which suggests that motor information (speaking), self-referential information (i.e., “I said it”), or both contribute to the production effect. In the present experiment, we dissociated the influence on memory of these two components by including a study condition in which participants heard themselves read words aloud (recorded earlier) – a first for production effect research – along with the more typical study conditions of reading aloud, hearing someone else speak, and reading silently. There was a gradient of memory across these four conditions, with hearing oneself lying between speaking and hearing someone else speak. These results imply that oral production is beneficial because it entails two distinctive components: a motor (speech) act and a unique, self-referential auditory input.

—Noah D. Forrin & Colin M. MacLeod, Memory (via Wired)

Categories:

Education, Pyschology

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“reality and fantasy weirdly and dangerously blurred and commingled”

Back in September The Atlantic published a fascinating long-form article that I just got around to reading.

It’s titled, ‘How America Lost Its Mind‘, and it was adapted by a book written by Kurt Anderson:

America was created by true believers and passionate dreamers, and by hucksters and their suckers, which made America successful—but also by a people uniquely susceptible to fantasy, as epitomized by everything from Salem’s hunting witches to Joseph Smith’s creating Mormonism, from P. T. Barnum to speaking in tongues, from Hollywood to Scientology to conspiracy theories, from Walt Disney to Billy Graham to Ronald Reagan to Oprah Winfrey to Trump. In other words: Mix epic individualism with extreme religion; mix show business with everything else; let all that ferment for a few centuries; then run it through the anything-goes ’60s and the internet age. The result is the America we inhabit today, with reality and fantasy weirdly and dangerously blurred and commingled.

Then comes the Internet:

And there was also the internet, which eventually would have mooted the Fairness Doctrine anyhow. In 1994, the first modern spam message was sent, visible to everyone on Usenet: global alert for all: jesus is coming soon. Over the next year or two, the masses learned of the World Wide Web. The tinder had been gathered and stacked since the ’60s, and now the match was lit and thrown. After the ’60s and ’70s happened as they happened, the internet may have broken America’s dynamic balance between rational thinking and magical thinking for good.

And then we get to Trump:

Donald Trump is a grifter driven by resentment of the establishment. He doesn’t like experts, because they interfere with his right as an American to believe or pretend that fictions are facts, to feel the truth. He sees conspiracies everywhere. He exploited the myths of white racial victimhood. His case of what I call Kids R Us syndrome—spoiled, impulsive, moody, a 71-year-old brat—is acute.

Who knew we’d have to be so vigilant in our fight for truth and facts in 2017.

Making Friends Over 30

Over at The New York Times Alex Williams explores why it’s so hard to make friends over 30:

As people approach midlife, the days of youthful exploration, when life felt like one big blind date, are fading. Schedules compress, priorities change and people often become pickier in what they want in their friends.

No matter how many friends you make, a sense of fatalism can creep in: the period for making B.F.F.’s, the way you did in your teens or early 20s, is pretty much over. It’s time to resign yourself to situational friends: K.O.F.’s (kind of friends) — for now.

But often, people realize how much they have neglected to restock their pool of friends only when they encounter a big life event, like a move, say, or a divorce.

I’m keenly aware of this problem as a 40-year-old dude.

My wife is initially surprised how dismissive I am of the boyfriends and husbands of her friends and co-workers. Then I explain to her that if the guy in question is cool, I’ll make a few concerted efforts at reaching out to them (grab a drink, hit a concert, meet my other friends) but I’m usually met either with radio silence or reasons they can’t hang out. At this point I write them off.

If I run into them again I’ll usually replace my previously genuine conversating with vapid smalltalk. If they’re not making an effort, why should I?

Don’t Complain. Make.

Samantha Irby on complaining:

Complaining is like spreading lotion on dry skin, and 2017 has been the ashiest year in recent memory. There is more than ever to complain about and also more reason than ever to believe your complaints might actually do something.

Resist the urge to unload your economic anxieties on the dry cleaner and instead make a video about it or write one of those long statuses everyone is just going to scroll past anyway. Then, when you’re all wrung out, when you feel that you don’t have a single complaint left, dredge up a few more and call your member of Congress. That way you can at least try to turn your seething rage into affordable health care.

Fucking A.

I am so fucking sick of hearing people complain. In my office, by my unofficial count, the people I work with spend 99% of their time complaining about something (I’m confident I’d find the same percentage in every workplace).

But it’s not just people at work, it’s everyone. I’ve unfollowed people on Twitter and cut back on how frequently I use the service because, as Irby points out, “2017 has been the ashiest year in recent memory.”

A few years ago I made a quote by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem my mantra: The best way to complain is to make things.

We don’t all have the luxury of being a paid to complain like Bill Burr, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have the power within you to transform a complaint into something else.

You might be saying to yourself, “But Mike, you’re complaining right now,” and you’d be wrong. This is a blog post built from complaints that were floating around in my brain. It might not be a music, or a New Yorker cartoon, but it’s no longer a complaint.

You actively sought out my silly little website and chose to read this blog post.

Categories:

Pyschology

“the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings”

Your Brain on Fiction:

The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated. Keith Oatley, an emeritus professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto (and a published novelist), has proposed that reading produces a vivid simulation of reality, one that “runs on minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers.” Fiction — with its redolent details, imaginative metaphors and attentive descriptions of people and their actions — offers an especially rich replica. Indeed, in one respect novels go beyond simulating reality to give readers an experience unavailable off the page: the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings.

I love reading but over years I haven’t been doing a great job at keeping my brain muscles in shape with books, so last year I started making concerted efforts to change that.

So far this year I’ve read 20 books and I use Goodreads to review and keep track of them all.

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Age and Creativity

Alison Gopnik and Tom Griffiths on age and creativity:

Why does creativity generally tend to decline as we age? One reason may be that as we grow older, we know more. That’s mostly an advantage, of course. But it also may lead us to ignore evidence that contradicts what we already think. We become too set in our ways to change.

Relatedly, the explanation may have to do with a tension between two kinds of thinking: what computer scientists call exploration and exploitation. When we face a new problem, we adults usually exploit the knowledge about the world we have acquired so far. We try to quickly find a pretty good solution that is close to the solutions we already have. On the other hand, exploration — trying something new — may lead us to a more unusual idea, a less obvious solution, a new piece of knowledge. But it may also mean that we waste time considering crazy possibilities that will never work, something both preschoolers and teenagers have been known to do.

Note to self: more exploring what I don’t know, less exploiting what I do know.

Categories:

Pyschology

Floyd’s Submissive Body Language

I’m fascinated by all the events that have thus far led up to the Conor McGregor v. Floyd Mayweather fight happening this weekend. I’ll also say up front I’m a Conor McGregor fan. He has been discounted before most of his fights, only to prove the naysayers wrong and beat his opponents. The obvious exception to this was his first fight with Nate Diaz where he lost to a brutal rear naked choke.

I like Conor because he talks the talk in a big way, but he walks the walk too. But back to talking the talk. A lot of people like to write off the trash-talking and mind games as “just words” and “trivial”, but the truth is Conor is proving himself to be a master at getting inside his apponents’ heads and breaking them before the fight has even started.

The other night when I was binge-watching Conor McGregor videos on Youtube, as I’ve been doing for the last few months, I came across a great series breaking down the behavioral psychology and body language between Conor and Floyd Mayweather during their promotional world tour last month.

The videos are by ‘Alpaca Thesaurus’ and narrated by Courvoisier the Goddamn Newt (wtf, I know).

My favorite video thus far breaks down the Toronto leg of the tour, where Floyd displays submissive posturing at least 5 times on stage in front of Conor.

Does all the submission body language Floyd exhibits mean he’s going to lose the fight on Saturday? Absolutely not, but once you see all the ‘tells’ and unconscious gestures Courvoisier points out you can’t unsee them and they are real.

We tend to forget below all the higher cognitive functions and logic we humans are primal, tribal, and emotional animals.