Archive for July, 2016

A Longstanding Heated Debate That Can Be Easily Resolved

July 29, 2016

One of the most notable findings in the original “Freakonomics” is how the authors related the legalization of abortion in the 1970s to the increase in crime that did not happen that had been anticipated for the 1990s.  Their theory was that a rise in abortion meant that fewer unwanted children were growing up in the sort of difficult circumstances that increase the likelihood of criminality.  Here you should read or reread the healthy memory blog post “Turning on Genes in the Brain.”  It notes that the single best predictor for the healthy growth of a baby is to ask its mother, “Did you want this child?”  Research has documented what happens to children whose mother answered “No” to this question.  The short answer is a troubled childhood followed by a troubled adulthood (Read the blog  for justification for this statement), with adverse consequences to society.

You should also read or reread the healthy memory blog “Domains of Knowledge.”  There are many domains of knowledge, but two especially that should be kept distinct:  science and religion.  Historically, religion has tried to stand in the way of science; fortunately, it failed, or our existence today would be quite primitive.   Even today there are religious people who interfere with the accurate teaching of science, with the implication of policies based on science,  and with the conducting of important research.

Biological life is essentially irrelevant to religion.  Souls are what is important.

Imagine someone is being questioned by God or one of his subordinates as he tries to enter heaven and argues that he is entitled to enter because he is pro-life.  God might well be insulted and ask, “Don’t you think I’m a loving and merciful God?  Do you think I advocate a policy that not only makes the child’s life miserable, but also does myriad damages to society?.  Or do you think I am a vengeful God and want to punish someone who did not follow my commandments even though that punishment would have many adverse effects?  Or do you think that I am incompetent and am incapable of saving the soul when physical life is destroyed?

HM would not have this problem as he is pro-quality life.  There might be other obstacles to prevent him from entering heaven, but he would get a pass on the abortion question.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

How to Persuade People Who Do Not Want to Be Persuaded?

July 28, 2016

The title of this post is identical to a chapter in “Think Like a Freak” by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubnar.   They begin the chapter by asking us to understand that this will be a difficult task.  One problem is that logic and fact are no match for ideology.   However, they do not address why it is difficult to persuade people who do not want to be persuaded.  I think Kahneman’s two process view of cognition provides the best basic for understanding the difficulty.  Remember that System 1, intuition, is fast, emotional, and our default mode for processing.  System 2, called reasoning, is slow and effortful.  So when we try to persuade people who do not want to be persuaded, their System 1 processing effectively filters out our message as being nonsensical.  This is why debates are rarely useful.  The two parties are effectively talking past each other given the protection provided by their System 1 processes.

The only helpful information, besides not insulting the party we are trying to win over, is that stories provide an effective means of communication.  Unfortunately, they are not necessarily a means of persuading someone who does not want to be persuaded.  Persuading someone who does not want to be persuaded requires the invocation of their System 2 processes. If a story does this, then it just might work.

They key to persuasion is to find a point of agreement, this breaks down System 1 defenses, and to  build from the point once System 2 processes are activated.  Sometimes this can be done by introducing a new perspective from which the topic can be considered.  This can invoke System 2 processes which can bring the argument into the framework of the individual being persuaded.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Upside of Quitting

July 27, 2016

The title of this post is identical to a chapter in “Think Like a Freak” by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubnar.  Given the many posts that this blog has devoted to “GRIT,” it is obligatory to pay some time to the benefits of quitting.  The posts on “GRIT” did offer some cautions on choosing passions, on compromising on passion, and of indicating the plausibility of searching out new passions.

The “Think Like a Freak” authors offer three biases against quitting.  The first is a lifetime of being told that quitting is a sign of failure.  The second is the notion of sunk costs.  It is tempting to believe that once we’ve invested time, money, and sweat equity into a project, it seems counterproductive to quit.  However, continuing this activity can result in additional costs without any guarantee of success.  Perhaps the best example of the sunk cost fallacy is the War in Viet Nam.  However, noble the original motivation, more and more resources were put into it, and lives lost without a good result.  In the end, no victory was achieved.  Losses and lives could have been saved the earlier the United States withdrew from Viet Nam.

The third force that keeps us from quitting is a tendency to focus on concrete costs and pay too little attention to opportunity costs.   For every moment and dollar spent on the effort could have been better spent on a an effort with more potential.  The authors note that for every ten Freakonomics research projects they take up, roughy nine are abandoned within a month.  Although they do not say so, it is possible that had they not abandoned these projects it is unlikely that they would have enough successful material to fill three books.

The authors do offer a methodology to help decide if quitting is appropriate.  It is called a “premortem” by the psychologist Gary Klein.  It is common for institutions to conduct a postmortem on failed projects, with they hope that they can learn exactly what killed the project.  This risk can be mitigated can be avoided by doing a premortem as a preventive measure.  This involves thinking of all the factors that could lead to failure of the effort.  Then assess the likelihood of these factors occurring, as well as how these factors are dependent on each other.  That is what needs to occur before other factors can succeed?  This task involves subjective probabilities.  One can do both optimistic and pessimistic projections.  It is your overall subjective assessment as to whether to proceed.  This procedure does not guarantee success, but it should be helpful in identifying points of failure and provide some estimate regarding the likelihood of success.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What Are the Three Hardest Words in the English Language?

July 26, 2016

According to the authors of “Think Like a Freak” they are “I don’t know.”  People have opinions about virtually everything.  There is a saying, cleaned up here, opinions are like anal sphinchters, everyone has one.   Experts have opinions, but they are frequently not correct (enter “Tetlock” into the search block to learn more).  What’s even worse, is that we are rarely reluctant to make predictions about the future, and the physicist Niels Bohr liked to say, “Prediction is very difficult, especially it its about he future.”

A good post to read or reread here is  “Understanding Beliefs.”  We do not know the world directly.  On the basis of our experience with the world, we develop models of the world.  As the result of experience and learning, we need to revise and refine these models.  All our beliefs should be probabilistic and should be revised as the result of new learning and experience.

This is the primary problem with ideologues and ideologies.  They bias information processing, hindering the development and refinement of our knowledge of the world.  This is problematic because our knowledge is always imperfect.

Strictly speaking, we should never say, “I know,” or “I believe” if what we know or believe can be changed.  It is better to say, “To the best of my knowledge,” or “my thinking leads me to believe.”

Most importantly, we should never be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”  We live in a complicated and dynamically changing world where we can be familiar with only a small part of it.  Even in HM’s field of cognitive psychology, there is simply too much to understand, and if he says, “I don’t know,”  it is a reasonable response, one
which he is not only entitled to say, but one which he is obligated to say.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Think Like a Freak

July 24, 2016

The title of this post is the title of a book by ”Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubnar.  The subtitle is “The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain.”  The beginning chapter offers the following two  sentences, “The modern world demands that we all think a bit more productively, more creatively, more rationally, that we think from a different angle, with a different set of muscles, with a different set of expectations, that we think with neither fear nor favor, with neither blind optimism nor sour skepticism.  That we think like—ahem-a Freak.

Their first two books, “Freakonomics,” and “Superfreakpnomics” were animated by the follow set of ideas:
Incentives are the cornerstones of modern life.
Knowing what to measure, and how to measure it, can make a complicated world less so.
The conventional wisdom is often wrong.
Correlation does not equal causality.

They also warn us about letting our biases color our view of the world.  “A growing body of research suggests that even the smartest people tend to seek out evidence that confirms what they already think, rather than new information that would give them a more robust view of reality.”   HM would like to inset here that one of the major sources of biases are from ideologies.  Ideologies are dangerous as are the ideologues who promulgate them.

They also warn us about running with the herd.  “Even on the most important issues of the day, we often adopt the views of our friends.”

The authors also note, “Another barrier to thinking like a Freak is that most people are too busy to rethink the way we think—or to even spend much time thinking at all.”  To underscore this point they quote George Bernard Shaw, a world-class writer and a foundered of the London School of Economics who wrote, “Few people think more than two or three times a year.”  He reportedly said, “I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week.”

HM would like to cast these statements in terms of Kanheman’s  Two System view of cognition.  System 1 is fast, automatic, and emotional.  System 2 requires mental effort and can be thought of as thinking.  Clearly Shaw was speaking about serious and prolonged System 2 processing.

There will be several more posts base on “Think Like a Freak,” but there is much more to be found by reading the book.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

July 22, 2016

HM had an embarrassing experience when his friend, a physicist, asked him about the Dunning-Kruger effect and he had to express ignorance.  HM was embarrassed because this effect is in the same field in which HM’s interests lay.  After learning about the effect, the relevance of the effect to the current phenomena known as Trump became evident.

There are two parts to the Dunning-Kruger effect.  The first refers to the cognitive bias in which relatively unskilled persons suffer illusory superiority.  The second part refers to a cognitive bias for highly skilled individuals to underestimate the relative competence of unskilled individuals and assume that tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others.

HM will address the second part first.  A fundamental difficulty HM has in teaching is to overestimate what students do and can understand.  HM is not implying that these students are stupid, although this might be the simplest explanation.  However, it is the teacher’s responsibility to teach to the level of what the student can understand.  As a result of repeated experience with students of a certain level, the teacher can and should identify the appropriate level to teach and proceed accordingly.

Dunning and Kruger were not the first to recognize this effect.  Confucius said, “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”  Bertrand Russell said, “One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.”  This statement reminds HM of the phrase, “Ignorance is bliss.”  Charles Darwin wrote, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”  Shakespearean “As You Like It”  wrote “The Foole doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a Foole.”

Trump followers appear to be extremely confident in Trump.  How anyone can be confident in Trump given the content of the previous Healthymemory blog posts is completely baffling to HM.  But then, HM is assuming that Trump followers have knowledge that they don’t have.

It would be interesting to have discussion groups with Trump devotees.  The objective of these discussions would not be to try to persuade them to change their opinion, but rather to discuss how the different branches of government work, the role of the Constitution and the Supreme Court.  There would also be discussion regarding the economy, foreign trade, and the subtleties and intricacies of international relations.
I think the results of these discussion group would be extremely depressing.  But they would also be informative.

Palatable, informational presentations might actually urge these followers to think and to invoke their System 2 processes.  Arguing directly regarding the potential disaster Trump could cause the county will not work because people will become defensive.  However, for those who can actually be induced to think might change their minds on their own.

There is some evidence that the Dunning Kruger Effect might be specific to western cultures.  A number of studies using East Asian participants suggest that different social forces are at play in difference cultures.  East Asians tend to underestimate their abilities and see underachievement as a chance to improve themselves and to get along with others.  If only this attitude could be fostered in our culture.

Another Western culture showing the Dunning-Kruger Effect is Great Britain’s Brexit vote.  The Prime Minister assumed that a reasoned discussion of the benefits from remaining in the EU versus the costs in leaving the EU would result in a vote to remain, but just the opposite occurred.  One problem was that a reasoned discussion did not take place.  Rather it became a rowdy political contest in which lies and misrepresentation were made.  HM needs to bring Kahneman’s two process view of cognition into this discussion.  Remember that System 1, intuition, is fast, emotional, and our default mode for processing.  System 2, called reasoning, is slow and effortful.  It became clear that remain arguments had the flavor of System 2 processing.  They were well-reasoned and thought out and supported by data.  Unfortunately, exit arguments smack primarily of System 1 processes that were largely emotional.   They wanted to be British and they wanted to prevent immigration.

For more on the Dunning-Kruger effect and for more specific references see the Wikipedia.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Trick or Tweet or Both? How Social Media is Messing Up Politics

July 20, 2016

The title of this post is identical to the title of an article in the Technology section of the July 16-22, 2016 issue of the New Scientist.  Donald Trump has given fact checkers plenty to do over the past eight months.  According to Eugene Kiely  at FactCheck.org  Donald Trump has made an inordinate number of false claims.  PolitFact.com looked into 158 claims made by Trump since the start of his campaign and found that  four out of five were at best “mostly false.”

Unfortunately, roughly six in ten US adults get their news primarily from social media, so the issue of accuracy  is even more important.  Psychologist Julia Shaw says, “One of the things that give social media  potency to impact political views is the immediacy of it.  You might even get an opinion before the information, which can color people’s judgment.”

Should the comics be regarded as social media?  Regardless, Garry Trudea in the strip “Doonesbury”  has noted how often Trump surpasses everyone on the planet.
These are direct quotes from Trump.
“NO ONE is more conservative than me!”
“NO ONE  is stronger on the second amendment than me.”
“NO ONE respect women more than me!”
‘NO ONE reads the Bible more than me.”
“There’s NOBODY more Pro-Israel than I am!”
“There’s NOBODY that’s done so much for equality as I have!”
“There’s NOBODY who feels more strongly about women’s health issues!”
“NOBODY knows more about taxes than me, maybe in the history of the world!”
“I have studied the Iran deal in great detail, greater by far than anyone else!”
“NOBODY’S ever been more successful than me!”
“NOBODY knows banking better than I do!”
“NOBODY knows more about debt than I do!”
“NOBODY’S bigger or better at the military than I am!”
“I’m the least RACIST person you’ll ever meet!”
“NOBODY knows the system better than me!”
“NOBODY knows politicians better than me!”
“NOBODY builds better walls than me!”
“NOBODY knows more about trade than me!”
“There’s NOBODY more against Obamacare than me!”

The following are positions for which Trump has said that he is both for and against:
Taxing the rich
Raising minimum wage
Nuclear proliferation
Abortion choice
Abortion punishment
Ordering torture
Troops to fight ISIS
Assault weapons ban
Background checks
Guns in classrooms
Legalizing drugs
Ethanol subsidies
Privatization of SS
Defaulting on debt
Invasion of Iraq
Releasing tax returns
Total Muslim ban
Self-funded campaign
Debating Sanders
Iran Deal
Accepting Syrian Refugees

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Donald Trump is Bending Reality to Get Into the American Psyche

July 18, 2016

The title of this post is identical to the title of an article in the Comment section of the July 16-22, 2016 issue of the New Scientist.  The article asks the question ”How is is possible that a self-absorbed, egoistical billionaire who criticizes Muslims, Mexicans and women could win more primary votes than any Republican candidate in history?

The answer is that reality does not matter to Trump, who sees himself as more powerful than the facts, nor does it matter to those attracted to his claims.  Yale philosopher Jason Stanley  says that figures such as Trump ruthlessly prey on public fears to reconstruct reality to pander to them.

Psychologist Bryant Welch notes that many people feel beleaguered trying to keep pace with change places ever greater demands on the brain, and this combines with worried about immigration, the economy, unemployment, terrorism, climate change and security.  Anxiety makes crowds turn to a power fun commander.   Unfortunately, the more this happens, the weaker and less capable people become.  Welch makes the comparison to a heroin addict craving larger and larger doses to get the same high.  Welch says, “People are mainlining the Trump drug, a cocktail or absolute certainty, strong opinion, and talk of control.”  Trump demonizes his opponents saying that they are not just wrong, but idiots.  This demonization triggers a primal response, both calming fears and awakening tribal instincts.

Being unhampered by facts and expert evidence, Trump promises:  “don’t worry about climate change, it’s not happening; don’t worry about terrorism, we can stop it with force; don’t worry about jobs, we can build a wall to protect yours; don’t fret abut the economy, we can just rip up free-trade deals.”  These versions of reality are mentally more comfortable than dealing with uncertainty and anxiety.  Trump does not bother with persuading; rather he manipulates fear.

The article concludes as follows:  “After the fireworks, the big question will be; will fear, insults, and hate win the White House?”

Previous healthymemory blog posts have used Kahneman’s Two Process theory of cognition, where System 1 is fast, emotional, and System 2 is slow, methodical and requires mental effort.  The vernacular term for System 2 is thinking.  For democracies to survive, thinking is essential.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

July 16, 2016

This post is an attempt to address the question raised in the immediately preceding post, “If Antidepressants Don’t Work Well, Why Are They So Popular?”  The current post is based upon an article titled “Is Mindfulness the Future of Therapy?” by Barry Boyce in the August 2016 issue of Mindful magazine.

Before proceeding further, here are some facts.  16 million adults are affected by depression.  In 2014, nearly 16 million adults aged 18 or older in the US had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.  According to the World health Organization depression is the leading cause of disability for women of all ages.

There have been previous posts on mindfulness and on cognitive behavioral therapy,  MIndfulnesss-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a combination of the two.. The therapy provides insight as well as skills to use this insight.  An overly simplistic view is that people are taught how to think their way out of depression.  To learn more about MBCT  go to mbct.com.  The goal is to have effective online therapies

Currently, there is a shortage of trained MBCT therapists, but resources are available and many of the resources can be found at mbct.com.  Psychologists suffer from the western bias in education.  In previous posts I’ve discussed problems stemming from the western bias in education, which ignores wisdom from in east.  When I was a graduate student, a big research question was whether we could control our own autonomic nervous systems (heart rate, for example).  When I pointed out that there were Buddhists who could do this par excellence, I was told that they were using some sort of trick.  Well the trick was  meditation, and the powerful effects of meditation have only been appreciated recently, largely as a result of interaction with the Dalai Lama.

So, unfortunately, in spite of its popular press, there are many psychologists who do not appreciate its possibilities.  And even among those psychologists who do appreciate its possibilities, many do not practice mindfulness themselves.  The situation is a bit analogous to when it was officially recognized that smoking contributes to lung cancer.   Doctors, who were smoking, had to tell their patients to stop.

HM is fairly confident that psychologists will increasingly come on board to the mindfulness wagon and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy will become more widespread.

So the answer to the question “If Antidepressants Don’t Work Well, Why Are They So Popular?”  is that there is a current shortage of resources to provide MBCT.  However, even if these resources become plentiful, there will still be people resorting to antidepressants because a pill, even if it is ineffective, provides a quick answer.  The situation is a tad analogous to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (enter this into the healthy memory search blog to find the post), which continues to be used in spite of its ineffectiveness.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

If Antidepressants Don’t Work Well, Why are They so Popular?

July 15, 2016

The title of this blog post is identical to the title of a piece of the Insight  section in the June 18 20016 Issue of the New Scientist.  Several previous healthy memory blog posts have questioned  the value of antidepressants (enter “antidepressants” into the search block of the healthy memory blog).  The New Scientist piece begins, “Another week, another study casting doubt on antidepressants.  This one says that for children and for teenagers with major depression, 13 or the 14 drugs analyzed don’t work.”  The article also notes that previous research for adults using the Prozac class of antidepressants , which involve selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors is no better than a placebo, at least for people with mild or moderate depression.  The article does not that some other research finds that these drugs do word for adults with major depression.

Although antidepressants can be life-savers for those with severe depression, they are being dished out too easily for people with everyday sadness.  Although UK guidelines say that talking therapies should be the first option for people with mild depression, it can take over a year to get seen.  So family doctors not being aware of the benefits of meditation and mindfulness, take the easy option and prescribe antidepressants.

Many patients do feel that their antidepressants are helpful, but it is likely the result of a strong placebo effect.

The article also mentions the chemical imbalance myth, which is promoted by the manufacturers.  They argue for the feel good effects of serotonin.  Although the drugs do boost serotonin, there is no proof  that low levels cause depression.  Although there are many theories, what triggers depression is unknown.

Unfortunately, antidepressants do have downsides that include withdrawal symptoms, loss of sex drive and weight gain.  What is worse is that they trigger violent or suicidal thoughts in some people.

The article neglects to discuss meditation and mindfulness, techniques that can readily be taught with no side effects.  Moreover, they can be highly effective.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

More On Flynn and the Flynn Effect

July 13, 2016

The Flynn Effect has been discussed on previous healthy memory blog posts.  The Flynn effect refers to the gain in IQs over time.  IQs seem to have risen about 3 points per decade since about 1930. Gains have been larger for fluid than for crystallized intelligence. A wide range of reasons for this increase have been offered to include nutrition, schooling, urbanization, technology, television, the preschool home environment, and so forth.  Originally Flynn did not endorse any of these causes and questioned whether gains in intelligence were real.

From what healthy memory read in “GRIT,” it appears that Flynn has modified his views.    Digging through the raw scores of IQ tests taken over the years, he found that the improvement on some tests were much bigger than others.  The IQ tests had climbed most sharply for scores assessing abstract reasoning.  For example young children today might answer the question, “Dogs and rabbits:  How are they alike? by noting that  both are alive, or that they’re both animals.  These answers would only earn a half credit.  If the child noted that they’re both mammals, she would be awarded a full credit for that insight.  In contrast, young children a century ago might look at you quizzically and note, “dogs have rabbits.”  That response would earn zero points.  So Flynn believes that we are getting better and better at abstract reasoning.

To explain why this improvement might be occurring he told a story about basketball and television.  Flynn played basketball and remembers the game changing even within a few years.  Once television became a fixture in homes and the telecasting of basketball games on television, more kids started playing the game, trying to emulate what they were seeing on television.  The kids started trying left-handed layups, crossover dribbles, graceful hook shots, and other skills that were routine for the star players on TV.  By getting better each kid inadvertently enriched the learning environment for the kids being played against.  One thing that makes a player better at basketballs playing with players who are just a little more skilled.

Flynn calls this virtuous cycle of skill improvement the social multiplier effect, and he used the same logic to explain generational changes in abstract reasoning.  Over the past century more and more of our jobs and daily lives asks to think analytically, logically.  We goto school longer, and in school, we’re asked more and more, to reason rater than to rely on rote memorization.  These effects are multiplied socially, because each of us enriches the environment of all of us.

Where’s the Passion?

July 11, 2016

(10th Post on GRIT)

The two ingredients of GRIT are perseverance and passion.  Absent passion, there can be no GRIT.  So how can passion be fostered?  Dr. Duckworth does offer suggestions  on how parents can offer opportunities from which passion can result.  To return to the writings of the founder of American Psychology, William James from the “Energies of Men.”  “Compared with what we ought be, we are only half awake.  Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked.  We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.”James continued, “Of course there are limits.  The trees don’t grow into the sky.  But these boundaries of where we will eventually stop improving are simply irrelevant for the vast majority of us:  “The plain fact remains that men the world over possess amounts of resource, which only ver exceptional individuals push to their extreme of use.”

HM knows very few people with passion.  His experience teaching in college was that although he had passion, he was quite unable to pass on his passion to students.  Students were taking the class to fulfill requirements to enter a good job and a middle class lifestyle.  Questions regarding the class rarely went beyond, “Are all the tests multiple choice?  Will a paper or a project be required?  Occasionally  students with a genuine intellectual interest would come along and these students were enjoyed and highly prized.    A friend of mine during graduate school, and this was before PCs, could not stand visiting his relatives because they did not have a dictionary.  He used one several times every day and was incredulous that people could live without one,

But this lack of passion goes considerably beyond the frustrations of HM’s students.  Serious problems of substance abuse among middle class youth stem from a lack of not just passion, but also of even the slightest interest in a panoply of interesting subjects and projects to pursue.  So their default mode is to follow their peers into substance abuse, which is not only a problem for the individual, but for the population at large.

It is important to distinguish between people who are intelligent and people with intellectual interests.  HM knows many people who, although they are highly intelligent, have virtually no intellectual interests.  Intellectual interests involve ideas.  Many intelligent people only use their brains for subjects of immediate interest to them.  Sports are usually included here because we enjoy vicarious pleasure when our teams win.  Moreover, sports are frequently they only topic for conversation as religion and politics are usually not safe.  Unless people have the same beliefs, people talk past each other and this talk often becomes violent.  But these talks rarely go beyond beliefs.  Rarely are data discussed, or the way that different countries deal with the same issue.

A colleague of mine, who is a college graduate, was entranced with a TV program that showed how different products were produced.  However, when I tried to speak with him about medical issues confronting the country, he drew a complaint blank.  He did not know that medical costs were the highest in the United States among all countries, with relatively poor results.  As a citizen he should have had some knowledge about this topic.

But topics are most frequently based on beliefs, beliefs that were learned growing up and reinforced by interacting with people of the same beliefs.  So none of these people need to think.  Unfortunately, democracies need people who think, rather than believe.  Ideologies and principles can be the bane of democracies.  Topics need to be discussed using data and logic, with the exclusion of the statement, “I believe.”

Unfortunately, thinking is painful, and not only intellectuals, but also citizens need to think.  To use Kahneman’s terms, thinking involves System 2 processes and requires mental effort.  However, cruising along with only System 1 processes and one’s beliefs is much easier.

As you should know, HM is big on growth mindsets.  We need to grow our minds, which will be beneficial to our brains.  Grit can assist in this. Look around for your passion.  When you think you’ve found one, try to stick with it and persevere.  Don’t abandon your effort once you encounter difficulty.  Try to work your way through it.  However, should your  passion wane, look for another.  Even if you become a chronic passion pursuer, keep trying.  From HM’s  perspective, the goal is to train our minds to benefit our brains.  It is better to have a little knowledge about many topics than to know virtually nothing about any topic

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Compromises in Pursuing Passion

July 10, 2016

(9th Post on GRIT)

Healthy memory (HM) has had a longstanding passion in human memory and cognition that began in high school.  He earned a Bachelor’s degree with Distinction in Psychology from Ohio State University and a Master’s Degree and a Ph.D in Psychology from the University of Utah.  Past blogs have indicated his frustration when psychologists were debating whether humans could control their autonomic nervous systems.  HM argued that Buddhist monks and priests were able to do this, so why was this an open question?  He was informed that some trick was employed by these Buddhists, and that this had to be proven within the constraints of an experimental laboratory.  As college students could not be trained to control their autonomic nervous systems in the limited hours of training on the tasks, the conclusion was that it could not be done.  The “trick” that these Buddhists were using was thousands of hours of meditation.  Had HM tried to enlist my passion in insisting on studying this problem, he would have been forced out of graduate school.  In graduate school the student needs to seek out an advisor with compatible interests and propose and work on a project agreed to by the advisor and committees for Master’s Degrees and Doctoral Dissertations.

Faculty positions were difficulty to find, particularly faculty positions at research universities where research could be pursued.  HM was unable to find one.  He could have looked for a postdoctoral research position, but postdocs can sometimes become migratory labor for scholars with no tenure track positions ever materializing.  If someone is fortunate enough to become an assistant professor with a track to earning tenure, one then has about six years to produce enough published research to earn tenor and be promoted to an associate professor.

HM found a  civil service job with the Army Research Institute (ARI) foe the social and behavioral sciences.  Here the work was related to his passion, but had to, appropriately enough, address the needs of the U.S. Army.  While at ARI HM later found new hires who had not achieved tenure and had been forced to leave their colleges or universities.  So by going directly into ARI, HM had several years seniority over these new hires.  ARI was staffed by both government and contractor psychologists.  The contractor psychologists were managed by government psychologists.  The commander of ARI was a full colonel along with his staff officers.

HM left ARI and became a contractor working for defense and intelligence agencies.  The work here was close to, but not directly on, his passion.  The research is in the general area of applied experimental and engineering psychology.  This is Division 21 in the American Psychological Association and HM was honored to serve as president of this division.  HM has also done a substantial amount of work in statistics and experimental design.

One of the advantages of this work was that HM had the privilege of working with brilliant individuals in other disciplines, something that was highly unlikely to happen in academe.  HM encountered individuals like himself, who were not able to fully exercise their passions.  This is a serious problem that is unrecognized.  There is an amazing amount of intellectual capital that is wasted or misused.  I have a colleague who is a Ph.D. physicist with a specialty in subatomic physics.  He is one of the most brilliant individuals HM has had the privilege to meet.  He had become part of a highly educated migratory work force moving from post doc to post doc.  When he decided that the research he was doing had come to a dead end, it was questionable whether he could get a post doc in a different area.  In any case, he had become tired of migratory work and decided to become a contractor like myself.  He has amazing talents not just in physics, but also in mathematics and computer science, but he is still frustrated in finding projects that fully use his considerable talents.

Why this intellectual talent is wasted is an interesting question that should be addressed.  Problems stem from bureaucratic structures that are slow, ponderous, and work from the top down so that the brains at the bottom of the organization, and that is where the brains are typically found, have no input.

Another problem involves managers who do not have the background to understand the skills of the personnel they are managing.  Typically these are conscientious people who work hard.  Unfortunately the government, and much too much of private industry, believe that management is a general skill that transfers to any endeavor.  This is mistaken.  To manage properly, the manager must understand what skills he is managing.  There are other skills that managers need to know to effectively manage.  In the last place HM worked, managers needed to have a basic understanding of statistics and experimental design to manage many of the projects for which they were responsible.  Unfortunately, this was not recognized by the government, and they were given responsibility for projects without the skills needed to manage them.  Worse yet, they were unaware that they needed these skills.  HM could have briefed statistical nonsense to these managers and they would have never been the wiser.  HM recommended that he accompany them to meetings where statistics were going to be presented, but his offers were declined.  And these statistical decisions involved important projects.

HM retired.   Fortunately, his jobs paid well, he had good 401K plans, and he saved and invested wisely.  Consequently, he is now in a position to pursue his passions.  This blog is just one of those manifestations.  Some books and speaking engagements are anticipated for the future.  Basically he has been able to award himself the personal equivalent of MacArthur “genius” fellowships.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Is a Passion Worth Pursuing?

July 9, 2016

(8th Post on GRIT)

Dr. Duckworth does not address the question raised in this post, is a passion worth pursuing?  But this is an important question.  The costs involved in pursuing a passion include the time taken from the rest of our lives.   These costs are considerable, so there are practical issues in choosing passions.  If the passion provides both personal and financial rewards, then there is little, if any problem.  If the passion involves a scholarly, altruistic, or artistic pursuit, although these do provide value to the community, financial rewards might be iffy.  Passions that benefit society are commendable, but people still need to satisfy their financial needs.

The United States is a country in which sports are highly valued.  This becomes particularly evident in an Olympic year.  There are several Olympic sports that provide handsome financial rewards for athletes who succeed in them.  However, most Olympic sports do not offer handsome financial rewards.  No specific sports will be mentioned so that no one will be offended.  We shall see video clips of individuals showing how hard they work at their respective sport, and these film clips are highly laudatory.  In many cases, the sport is all time consuming.  HM often wonders, why is this individual making this investment?  How can it be justified?  If the effort is being made to win a Gold Medal, the prospects of success are extremely small.  HM also read that bronze medal (3rd place) finishers feel better than do silver medal (2d place) finishers.  The reason being is that silver medal winners feel that they lost the Gold medal, whereas Bronze Medal finishers are happy that they won a medal.  This is something to be happy about  as only an extremely small percentage of Olympic participants win any medal.  Of course, the spirit of the Olympics is to participate and do one’s best.  However, it seems like these ideals of the Olympics are largely forgotten.

HM would like to hear from readers from other countries regarding the priority placed on sports.  HM frequently walks past baseball fields and sees very small children dressed in uniforms playing baseball.  Unfortunately, the level of performance is quite low.  Informal games and drills might be better for these children than uniforms and competition.  Not all the children appear to be enthusiastic, which makes HM wonder if these children are being forced to participate.

Passions are important.  They greatly enhance lives.  But there are also high costs in pursuing passions, so they should be chosen carefully.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Power of Passion

July 8, 2016

(7th Post on GRIT)

In her book “GRIT:  The Power of Passion and Perseverance” Dr. Duckworth notes that “Follow Your Passion” is a common theme for commencements.  And throughout her book there are many examples of individuals who did follow their passion, persevered and were eminently successful.  She contrasts this with the usual advice given to students that they should look for a job with a good salary and prestige.  Should the two objectives come together such that an individual’s  passion was in an area offering both power and prestige, the problem is mitigated, but there still is the problem should the individual fail in the endeavor.  The argument can always be made that had the individual persevered longer, success would have been achieved.  Whether this is true remains unknown and can only be resolved by the death of the person.  Another post will be devoted to practical issues involved in following one’s passion.

Personally, HM has a problem with the term GRIT.  In Dr. Duckworth’s use of the term, passion provides the motivation to persevere.  My question is what what about tasks that require us to persevere, but for which we have no passion. Unfortunately, there are tasks we need to do that are unpleasant to do.  These are the tasks HM would say require grit.  Grit has connotations of grinding one’s teeth.   She has defined a useful psychological construct and named it Grit.  So Grit it is  and Grit it shall remain.  Still a term is required for which perseverance is needed, but which are annoying or painful to perform.

Dr. Duckworth does note that in a 2014 Gallup poll, more than two-thirds of adults said they were not engaged at work, a good portion of whom were “actively disengaged.”  In a survey of 141 nations, Gallup found that every country but Canada has even higher numbers of “not engaged” and “actively disengaged” workers than the United States.  Worldwide, only 13 % of adults call themselves “engaged.  I find these numbers difficult to reconcile with the percentile breakdown of Grit ratings provided by individuals.  Of course, it is possible, and let us hope it is likely, that many indulge their passions in their pastimes and hobbies.  But there will be another healthy memory blog post on an apparent paucity of passion.

Nevertheless, the Grit of which Dr. Duckworth writes so admiringly, and even more importantly, effectively pursued, is a goal that should be most beneficial to individual fulfillment and healthy memories.  There are issues with avenues for success, which result in productivity losses, which shall also be addressed in a subsequent post.

Nevertheless the many successful examples are both inspirational and informative, which certainly justifies reading the book.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Cultures of GRIT

July 7, 2016

(6th Post on GRIT)

Pete Carroll is literally the poster boy for Mindfulness in that he’s been on the cover of Mindful magazine.  And the chapter, A Culture of GRIT begins with Pete Carroll.  So here is what Pete Carroll has to say about GRIT.

“I will tell you that we’re looking for great competitors.  That’s really where it starts.  And that’s the guys who really have grit.  The mindset that they’re always going to succeed, that they’ve got something to prove.  They’re resilient, they’re not going not going to let setbacks hold them back.  They not going to be deterred, you know by challenges and hurdles and things…It’s that attitude—we refer to it as grit”

HM’s initial response, is that whether GRIT is appropriate depends upon an organization.  A team, where people actually try out for the team is a good candidate.  And there are organizations like West Point, where the value of GRIT is quite evident.  However, GRIT is not appropriate  for all organizations and cultures.  And there are likely size constraints that are yet to be defined.  One can always look for GRIT when hiring, but there probably are other factors to consider as well.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

GRIT Parenting

July 7, 2016

(5th Post on GRIT)

Dr. Duckworth provides two examples of effective GRIT parenting.  One example is of authoritarian parents.  The other example is 180 degrees opposite to authoritarian parenting.  She shows how both parenting styles can foster GRIT.  Key to both styles of parenting is that the parents are believing and supportive.  Absent loving and supportive parents, all bets are off.

Regarding perseverance and passion, perseverance is the easier of the two to develop.  Parents should not let children quit.  There should always be an agreed upon period that the child will stick at the activity.  And this can be done in both authoritarian and open parenting styles.  However, the open parenting style cannot be so open that the child can quit at any time.

The more difficult component is passion.  Passion cannot be forced, it must be found.  So the child should be encouraged to look for potential interests.  And when a candidate interest is found, some requirement for perseverance should be established.  It is quite possible that no passion will be found.  There will a healthy memory post lamenting the fact that few people seem to have genuine passions besides perhaps their families.  But that might be good enough.

Although Dr. Duckworth does not specifically make this point, HM feels compelled to make the point.  A failure to induce some level of passion or some level of interest in a topic or skill, increases the risk that the child will fall prey to substance abuse.  They will be bored, fall in with some other bored friends, and self-medicate.  This is disastrous.  Although parents are typically concerned about the friends of their child, they should also be concerned if the child has no passion or serious interests.  This void motivates them to seek out others like themselves, which can lead to substance abuse.  However, should there be a passion or interest that the child’ is pursuing, then the child is likely to have friends with the same interests or passion.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Directed Practice, Flow, and Continuous Improvement

July 7, 2016

(4th Post on GRIT)

These concepts have been covered in prior healthy memory blog post, but they are being reiterated here as Dr. Duckworth regards them as central to GRIT

Directed practice comes from the research of Ericsson who has documented that it is not just the amount of practice that is done, but more importantly the nature of that practice.  Experts become experts by focusing their practice on their weaknesses.  Dr. Duckworth provides interesting descriptions of the directed practice employed by successful swimmers.  They focus on minute aspects of the task such as the shaping of their hands and fingers.  Virtually no  part of the body that influences the passage of the body through water is neglected.

Flow refers to the state an expert is in during peak performance.  Flow was identified by Mihaly Csikszenmihali.  In the flow state everything runs smoothly and one looses a sense of time.  One can regard flow as something that can be achieved in certain types of performance after many hours of directed practice

Finally, there is “Kaizen” which is Japanese for resisting the plateau of arrested development.  It’s literal translation is “continuous improvement,” sometimes referred to as continuous process improvement.  Dr. Duckworth writes “After interviewing dozens and dozens of grit pardons, I can tell you that they all exude Kaizen.  There are no exceptions.”

Growth Mindsets and Grit

July 6, 2016

(3rd Post on GRIT)

The mention of Growth Mindsets is fairly frequent in healthy memory blog posts.  And having a Growth Mindset is touted as being key to a healthy memory.  So to appreciate how much Grit and Growth Mindsets have in common, statements that undermine growth mindsets and grit will be compared with statements that promote growth mindsets and grit.  When speaking with children teammates, friends or anyone about whom you care, make sure to use statements that promote Growth Mindsets and Grit

In the following comparisons the first statement undermines Growth Mindsets and Grit, whereas the second statement promotes Growth Mindsets and Grit.

“You’re  a natural!  I love that.” versus “You’re a learner I love that.”

“Well, at least you tried!”   versus    “That didn’t work.  Let’s talk about how you                                   approached it and what might work better.”

“Great job!  you’re so talented”  versus    “Great job!  What’s one thing that could have                             been even better?”

“This is hard.  Don’t feel bad if you can’t do it”  versus “This is hard.  Don’t feel bad if                                        you can[t do it yet.”

“Maybe this just isn’t your strength.  Don’t worry—you have other things to contribute”

vs.

“I have high standards.  I’m holding you to them because I know we can reach them together.”

The first statements in eacb comparison are examples of fixed mindsets.

So Growth Mindsets and Grit and excellent concepts.  How do they differ?  Grit adds passion.  Although passion is important, it entails additional considerations that should be become evident in subsequent posts.  However, Growth Mindsets are always commendable.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The GRIT Scale

July 5, 2016

(2nd Post on GRIT)

The GRIT scale consists of  the following ten items:

1.New ideas and projects sometimes distract from me.
2. Setbacks don’t discourage me.  I don’t give up easily.
3.  I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one.
4. I am a hard worker.
5, I have difficulty maintaining my focus on projects that take more than a few months to complete.
6. I finish whatever I begin.
7. My interests change from year to year.
8. I am diligent.  I never give up.
9. I have been obsessed with a certain idea or project for a short time but later lost interest.
10. I have overcome setbacks to conquer an important challenge.

The rating scale runs
Not all like me        5 on odd items    1 on even items

Not much like me        4 on odd items    2 on even items

Somewhat like me        3 on all items

Mostly like me        2 on odd items    4 on even items

Very much like me        1 on odd items    1 on even items

Just ask yourself how you compare—not just to your coworkers, friends, or family—but to most people.

The GRIT scale is calculated by adding up all the points and dividing by 10.
The scale has two components:  passion and perseverance.
For the passion score, add up the points for the odd-numbed items and divide by 5.
For the perseverance score, add up the points for the even numbered items and divide by 5

Here is the percentile break out by GRIT score

Percentile    GRIT Score
10%        2.2
20%        3.0
30%        3.3
40%        3.5
50%        3.8
60%        3.9
70%        4.1
80%        4.3
90%        4.5
95%        4.7
99%        4.9

Dr. Duckworth provides her GRIT score at 4.6.  Her perseverance score was 5.0 and her passion score was only 4.2.  She writes that it is a consistent pattern that perseverance is rated higher then passion.  A later healthy memory blog post will lament the paucity of passion.  HM believes that it is lower than scales indicate.  I would like to see follow up questions on passion added to the questionnaire.

Even though HM is basing many posts on Dr. Duckworth’s book, there is no way that this blog can do the book justice.  So HM’s strong recommendation is to read this book.

GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

July 4, 2016

GRIT is a significant book written by Angela Duckworth.  There is a previous post on Angela Duckworth’s presentation at the 27th Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science.  There will be a series of posts based on her book.  Angela’s father had been telling her that she was no genius from the time when she was quite young.  Her IQ was not high enough for her to be placed in gifted and talented classes.  Yet she did manage to attend Harvard and earn a degree in neurobiology.   She then earned a Marshall Scholarship that allowed her to attend Oxford and earn a Master’s degree.  They she worked at the high priced consultant firm, Mckinsey.  She left her highly paid job at Mckinsey to pursue her true love, which was teaching.  To understand more about teaching and how people learn and succeed she attended the University of Pennsylvania and earned a Ph.D in psychology from an outstanding psychology faculty.

In 2013 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, better known as the genius award.  Then she was able to show her father that she was indeed a genius.  Her research had convinced her that what we eventually accomplish depend more on our passion and perseverance than on our innate talent.   This should remind healthy memory blog readers of Carol Dweck and her book “Mindset” and of the importance of having a “growth” mindset.  .

Dr. Duckworth notes that her insights are not new, but rather have been forgotten.
Darwin wrote, “I have always maintained that, excepting for fools, men did not differ much in intellect, only in zeal and hard work.”  Darwin was certainly intelligent, but insights did not come to him in lightning flashes.  He was a plodder.  Darwin wrote in his autobiography, “I have no great quickness of apprehension that is so remarkable in some clever men.  My power to follow a long and  purely abstract train of thought is very limited.  So poor in one sense is my memory that I have never been able to remember for more than a few days a single date or a line of poetry,”

Darwin also wrote, “I think  I am superior to the common run of men in noticing things which easily escape attention, and in observing them carefully.  My industry has been nearly as great as it could have ben in the observation and collection of facts.  What is far more important, my love of nature science has been steady and ardent.”  One biographer describes Darwin as someone who kept thinking about the same questions long after others would move on to different—and no doubt—easier problems.

The founder of American psychology, William James,  published an article in the Journal Science titled, “The Energies of Men.”  “Compared with what we ought be, we are only half awake.  Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked.  We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.”  James continued, “Of course there are limits.  The trees don’t grow into the sky.  But these boundaries of where we will eventually stop improving are simply irrelevant for the vast majority of us:  “The plain fact remains that men the world over possess amounts of resource, which only very exceptional individuals push to their extreme of use.”
Three of the McKinsey firm’ partners published a report called “The War for Talent.”  Talent was defined as the sum of a persons intrinsics gifts.  According to “The War for Talent”, the companies that excel are those that aggressively promote the most talented employees while just as aggressively culling the least talented.  In such companies huge disparities in salary are not only justified, but desirable, because a competitive winner-take-all environment encourages the most talented to stick around and the least talented to find alternative employment.

The journalist who’s done the most in-depth research on McKinsey to date, Duff McDonald,  has suggested that this particular business philosophy would be more aptly titled “The War on Common Sense.”He pointed out that the companies highlighted in the original McKinsey report as exemplars of their doctrine didn’t do so well in the years after the report was published.

Macomb Gladwell has also criticized “The War for Talent.”  Enron epitomized the McKinsey philosophy.  The performance review system  for Enron  consisted of grading employees annually and summarily firing the bottom 15%, regardless of their absolute level of performance.  And everyone should know of the disaster that befell Enron.

Dr. Duckworth asks the question what is the downside of television shows like “America’s Got Talent,” “The X Factor”, and “Child Genius”?  She asks why shouldn’t we separate children as young as seven or eight into two groups:  those with few children who are “gifted and talented” and the  many, many more who aren’t?  What harm is their, really,  in a talent show being names a “talent show”?

To which she answers, “In my view, the biggest reason a preoccupation with talent can be harmful is simple:  By shining our spotlight on talent, we risk leaving everything else in the shadows.  We inadvertently send the message that the other factors—including grit— don’t matter as much as they really do.”

In other words, Dr. Duckworth thinks that as much as talent counts, effort counts twice.

Labels Do Not Imply Understanding

July 2, 2016

For too many people labels do imply understanding.   As HM tried to argue in the immediately preceding post, MBTI indicators do not imply understanding, but unfortunately they do imply understanding to too many people.  A much older example are the signs of the Zodiac.   Both they and astrology have thrived.  Nancy Reagan is said to have brought an astrologer into the White House.  At best, a label provides an entry to understanding.  Consider the shooter in the Orlando case.  Many would probably be satisfied with the label that he was crazy.  However, today there is a meaningful distinction between being a gunman who is crazy, and being a gunman who is a militant Islamist.  Usually being a militant Islamist implies that the individual belongs to and was directed by a militant organization.  However, the Orlando gunman was apparently a lone wolf, in that he was not attached with any particular group.  Indeed, some of the groups to which he pledged allegiance were diametrically opposed to each other, so his pledges of allegiance were contradictory.  He was also upset and conflicted by his sexual orientations.  Had he accepted them, this would not have been a problem, but as he regarded them as being in conflict with his religious beliefs, it became a very large problem. Plus, he had been bullied as a child.   At the bottom of all this, he was an extremely angry individual who acted out with violence.   Out of this hodgepodge of problems lay and enormous reservoir of anger and a propensity to act violently.  One can conclude that he was crazy, but that would not imply any understanding of all of the dimensions of his craziness.

As was alluded to above, even saying that someone is a militant Islamist does not imply much understanding.  One needs to know what kind of violent Islamist and is the individual acting under orders from any particular group.  Even then, one wants to know why the individual belongs to this group.  There are several narratives, which provide further understanding.as to why the individual is doing what he is doing.  But one seeks a deeper understanding.  It seems reasonable to believe that if our understanding was thorough enough, defenses could be developed that would reduce or eliminate recruitments, and perhaps even convert radicals away from their radicalism.

HM has become convinced of the need to incorporate mindfulness in all K through 12 curricula, along with psychology courses reflecting the current state of psychological knowledge.  Mindfulness training would provide a basis for students to have a more accurate understanding of themselves.  They would also learn how to understand others and how to interact with them effectively.  Basically what is needed is what the Dalai Lama calls secular ethics.  The current educational system is largely medieval, and unfortunately many adults remain stuck in medieval beliefs.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.