Psychology

This is all psychological content.

Introduction to the Omnipsychology

The omnipsychology is essentially that part of our mind that we share with all types of life. This is more than one might originally think, and indeed most of our mind is the same (e.g., we have to breathe, eat); the differences are in how we make meaning, which also often results from the physical structure of our bodies.

In essence, it is the similarities of the mind that all beings that are alive have in common. For instance, that they take in some sensory information. There is no live being in the world that does not take in some sensory information – even at the cellular level. There is no live being without some sort of meaning making mechanisms, a memory, or even a goal.

One can easily look on you tube (see this blog post) that the virus flees from the white blood cell. This implies vision, and knowledge that the thing it ‘sees’ is a ‘danger’. It knows and it decides to move away from the being. One can break this down to pure conditioning or evolutionary selection or etc, but the basic processes occur. One could even, if they want to get serious with it, suggest that the being became afraid, to the extent that it saw a frightening stimuli.

There are many of these aspects and over the next months I will write more about them.

 

Its all for my coming book, Mind and Meaning. Stay Tuned. 😀 Love ya.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Demonstration That Such Can Occur. Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment

There has been Very much discussion in the last week about the study, and suggestions that because the participants were somehow encouraged or suggested to act in some particular way, that the study is no longer interesting or informative.

As I see it, this is a mistake.

The study is both interesting and informative, because it shows that with a couple of days and some appearance of authority people will do things they know are wrong to people they know are innocent.

That in its self is ridiculous and crazy informative and definitely worth talking about. And probably thinking more about how to avoid.

But instead there have even been suggestions that because the participants were coached the study is no longer pure, A similar criticism is leveled at Milgram’s pretend shock experiments. Yes, the study probably cannot say anything fundamental about human nature, or maybe it does. But the study is informative and interesting in any case, because such a situation can be created within even a week. Probably faster if one really trained in it.

This has serious implications for.. everything. Pretty much every leader follower relationship in the world. Teams, businesses, labs, cults, and the military. People with even pretend power (such as a research assistant or lab PI) can make people do things they might not otherwise do (e.g., Questionable Research Practices, beating people). Maybe it doesn’t hold so well because they were paid very well, but I am not sure.

 

tldr; the study shows that such a situation can be created even quite easily, and I don’t think this changes depending on coaching or what.

 

Evolution in action – super resistant bacteria

 

A Neat little video about how bacteria evolve, but also want to point out how they are basically creating super mutant bacteria in like 11 days, yes?

 

Also watch from about 1:19, where it is the shortest route from the original mutation to the first one who breaks into the 10 and 100 times antibotic. and notice how the ones who first broke really into the 1000 times all stuck together really well.

 

Defining Cognitive Conflict

Conflicts are meaning or expectation violations. These occur when you believe something about the world (broadly construed) and the world tells you that you are potentially wrong or lacking. This is a discomfort, potentially driven by the uncertainty of the outcomes. Uncertainty is bad for life because it is risk, which can mean danger or even potential death.

Expectation violations, or conflicts between yourself and the world, are primarily negative, but can also be positive. An expectation violation is the reason for every disagreement that has ever happened including all of the wars ever. What is a war except two (groups of) people had different understandings of the world and they have decided that the best way to decide who is right is to fight it out. Conflict is also when you are positively surprised, at, for instance doing better than you thought you would on a test or an individual doing something unexpectedly nice for you.

Conflicts can be about huge things like religion or politics, or they can be about small things like our favorite types of soda or music. But the largest and most important topics also elicit the most negative discussion; they are important aspects of how we think about the world. A link between importance of the topic and negativity is supported by situations where people actively avoid discussing religion and politics because they do not want to create conflict.

Most generally speaking, the reason we talk about things is because we disagree about them. More explicitly, if everyone agrees about something, we generally do not discuss it (e.g., the earth is round and goes around the sun). But note that 200 or 300 years ago, when there was much less consensus about these faces, they were much more discussed.

Conflicts are also when you realize that you don’t (or might not) know something, like that the earth is actually flat. This is like getting an answer wrong in class, or being confronted with a task that the individual does not know how to do (e.g., run a statistical model they know nothing about).

The key is that we rely upon meaning in order to move productively through the world (to meet our goals). This necessitates not only useful knowledge, but confidence in that knowledge. (did you see the ‘not’ and ‘but’, it is a lack, one needs both, conflict! :).

When the world tells us that the way we think about the world might be incorrect or incomplete, we don’t like this and it leads to certain predictable responses. If someone told you that Germany actually sucks, it would make it somewhat angry or unsettled somehow. How you react to this depends upon a myriad of things, but that there is a reaction is undoubted, I believe.

Notice that this conflict for you is not the same for everybody, the person who says Germany sucks probably believes it (otherwise why say it?). This is why we go to war. Or your god, or your values or perceived purpose in life, is not good enough. This is where disagreements come from.

The only way that the world changes is through conflict, every bit of change at the aggregate level can only happen at the individual level, by individuals talking and conflicting.

There are linguistic markers of this conflict. Read again this passage and circle the words that indicate conflict. Not, But. First sentence second paragraph the but represents the difficulty and different natures of conflict

Let’s pretend we all agree priming old doesn’t make people walk slower, now what?

The last years there has been an inordinate amount of attention and resources dedicated to examining whether subtly priming people with old concepts can make them walk slower (nocitationneeded). It has gone on for years and taken pages and pages of our limited journal blog and feed space.

Yesterday, I was talking with Brent Donnellan and Uli Schimmack in the Psychological Methods Discussion Group and they suggested that it is important to determine whether old primes make people walk slower. (also look at the way that Donnellan entered his comment with only 1 sentence and then came back later and finished the comment after Uli and I were done talking; this is something I will have to watch out for in the future, especially as the time nuances get lost later)

Anyways, rather than again having some empty argument about replicability, regurgitating all the same old party lines, I simply agreed with them that making people think about old either doesn’t, or only in some contexts, make them walk slower. I’m ok with saying that and I think you should be too (there are at least a few failed replications, so it doesn’t ALWAYS work, even if it does).

Then the question is.. now what?

So we said that, but what did we gain? very little in my opinion.

There are almost no contexts in which this old-slow link matters, I mean, when does it matter whether this link exists or not? Never! 😀 The point of the experiment (as also said by Bargh, Chen, and Burrows) is to say something about how our thoughts and behaviors depend upon factors such as what is salient in our mind at the time.

And this I would say is fairly well established, from the exogenous emotions literature, to stereotype threat, to the IAT, all depend some sort of stimuli priming a certain behavior (which, in the case of the IAT then makes it harder for them to do the opposite).

What would it mean for (Social) Priming Theory to throw out this experiment/ paradigm?

..almost nothing as far as I can tell.

Even the original Doyen et al (2012) failure to replicate says nothing about the theory for which Bargh et al utilize the study to provide evidence for. The whole discussion is about how poor the methods are and how we need to do better. Saying the methods can be better is something I am totally ok with, and I would even suggest that this may be why it is presented in a chapter, rather than in its own paper.

The idea they are suggesting stands with or without this paper. Or does it? This is what I would like to ask and this is the point of the blog post. I see little value in endlessly debating the (un)reality of the ability for old primes to make people walk slower, unless it says something for the theory, but it doesn’t (as far as I can tell).

What part of the theory is at risk here?

What makes this study matter? So far as I can see, it says nothing novel and has relatively little value, theoretically speaking (and even those decrying the study have said little about its theoretical implications). Hold it up as an example of bad methods, that is fine with me, but we are not forwarding ourselves by saying that this effect does not replicate or exist (as far as I can tell). It has no implications (or please point them out!).

Let us define which aspect of the theory (of which this is just an example) is vulnerable and then examine the literature to see if the notion is supported elsewhere. My guess is that it will be.

  • Would we say it calls into question that unconscious stimuli can affect our later behavior? that seems..

    Would it actually matter at all? it doesn’t seem like it.

    far. Certainly I would not feel comfortable saying that there are no examples where stimuli we don’t ‘consciously’ experience change our behaviors. What about nudges, or the IAT, these are essentially demonstrations of a stimuli making a certain response more likely (which also makes it harder to do the opposite, in the case of the IAT).

  • Is it that the stimuli is social? It does not seem absurd to say that our behavior can be unconsciously changed by the people that we (expect to) interact with. After all, I suspect that (at least sometimes) you change the clothes that you will wear based upon who you expect to interact with throughout that day. Even the IAT is social and about prejudices.
  • Is it that the people are not actually there? Neither is santa or ghosts, but they change some people’s behavior! 😀

Once we know which part of the theory behind the potentially false study is being questioned, we will be on our way to making real progress in determining whether there is truth there or not.

Until then, let’s just agree to do better in the future, and we can even pretend that the prime is false, because it will have no substantial effects upon the broader theory (of which this study is only an example).

In sum

I am not so much interested as Brent or Uli in determining whether old primes make people walk slower. To me, this is not an important question, unless it says something about the theory, but nobody seems to be arguing that (social) priming doesn’t exist. So I wonder how much it actually matters. 😀 Maybe instead we should move on to something more interesting, like how we can use science to improve science or understanding why many of the female pronouns are longer than the male pronouns (except in the family setting). 

me priming you to like this post, or does it not work?! we’ll never know if we keep up like this.

Males as spouse abusers: a stereotype?

The other day I saw a female colleague of mine with a black eye and the first thing I thought was that her boyfriend probably hit her. And then I realized how prejudicial I was being. Is there a difference between thinking her boyfriend probably hit her and hearing that a car has been stolen and automatically thinking it was probably a black person? no.jpg Maybe males are the leading cause of female black eyes (?), and maybe black people are the group most common to steal a car (?), but does that make it ok to assume? No, it does not (or does it? Tell us in the comments!).

woman 2

#StupidityProvokesMe

Whether you think stereotyping is ok or not, I know that if someone assumed that my dad hit my mom, I would want to hit them. #StupidityProvokesMe What does it mean when people assume that sort of thing, even deep down? That they think negatively of that person. They think that person is the type of person who would hit their significant other. 

These sorts of (negative) stereotypes placed on both sexes (e.g., males are too aggressive, females are too passive) are exactly the types of things that need to end if the sexes are to be truly equal. The movement that is underway is (or should be) about alleviating both genders from the harmful stereotypes that surround them.

How violent protests start: Learning from the Buffalo

Here we will examine the common processes that lead to violent processes across contexts and situations. Notice how it takes only one leader and a few followers, to get the many buffalo to attack the lions that are eating their friend. The same goes for human protests and movements.

In one of the most famous videos of wild life battles of all time (the Battle at Kruger; 25 million views), you can clearly see the group dynamic of leader and herd at play. Once the lead lion moves, they all do.

Once they get the buffalo out of the water, then you can see the lead buffalo lead the others and then see him go back against the lions. Once the others are there, the original leader steps back, and allows the other to take to initiative.

Soon enough, the whole group of normally timid buffalo are chasing the small group of lions. Then notice the young male at the end, standing up to them like he is tough. :p

This is the same basic process as how human movements and revolutions are made. We follow each other, we set the example for each other.

Having courage allows others to have courage, and makes it more likely for them to engage in their own positive action.

You can see similar developments, where one individual stands up and leads, then other people step up and start to protest themselves. You can also hear a sociologist talking about it  in a different way though. 😦

Above you see the classic TED example of how to start a dance movement.

Below you series of clips where protests turn violent. Note that it is one individual who take the first step, and then others follow. These are general principles which apply in all situations. 

Lead. Be a first follower. you ARE an example for others, and it is important you lead in the right ways (whatever that means for you). If you don’t believe that the buffalo should have attacked, you must lead the other way.

 

Maybe you have a better example of a protest turning violent? I had difficulty finding a great example for humans as they are so chopped up by the news corps.

Extremism and Osama Bin Laden: The Mother Ewe

His face: Do I really have to explain this again?

This will be part of a series on different sorts of extremists (e.g., Osama Bin Laden, Galileo Galilei, Martin Luther King Jr.) and on what they had in common: a belief that what they were doing is ‘For the greater good’. 

We will keep out the morals of it and just look scientifically. Below we see the video of Osama Bin Laden explaining the 9/11 attack shortly after it was carried out. More generally, Google Image search him and find a picture where he looks angry and post it as a comment, because I would appreciate it.

Here we see the crucial passage from the video, which begins about 1:15 into the video:

“And what could the poor mother do when she saw her son being torn into pieces between the teeth of the wolf? But in the passion of motherhood, she butted the wolf.

Of course the wolf was not affected at all and it shouted out, “look at this terrorist!” So these parrots joined in, repeating what the wolf said and saying, “yes, we comemn the ewe’s butt against the wolf.”

Where have you been when the wolf ate the son of this sheep? So these blessed and successful strikes are bit in reaction to what happened in our lands – in Palestine, and in Iraq, and in other places.”

Ok, obviously, Osama should not have done what he did. But he did it thinking that he was doing right, and how do we know he was not? His God says so, and our God says no; except that when our God was his God’s age (about 500 years old) our God was saying to do these things (the crusades).

The key to take away is not that he is right, or that we are right, but that there are consistent and reliable patterns to extremists (i.e., that they feel what they are doing is right and ‘for the greater good’).

This has implications for the way that we deal with extremists, as pushing bombs and fighting them is what led to 9/11 in the first place (according to Osama, and that is all that matters. 

Hint for that earlier challenge: it is basically impossible to find a picture of Osama where he looks angry or upset. Just sad. :p

What do you all think about Osama Bin Laden or other extremists? Tell us below! 😀

My favorite page of Nietzsche – Flies in the Marketplace

If you read any Nietzsche, this is the piece to read. 🙂 Definitely one of my favorites.

He was a genius and WAYYY ahead of his time.

 

Nietzsche the Thinker

The Flies in the Market-Place

Flee, my friend, into your solitude! I see you deafened with the noise of the great men, and stung all over with the stings of the little ones. Forest and rock know how to be silent with you. Be like the tree which you love, the broad-branched one — silently and attentively it overhangs the sea.

Where solitude ends, there begins the market-place; and where the market-place begins, there begins also the noise of the great actors, and the buzzing of the poison-flies. In the world even the best things are worthless without those who make a side-show of them: these showmen, the people call great men.

Little do the people understand what is great — that is to say, the creator. But they have a taste for all showmen and actors of great things. Around the creators of new values revolves the world: — invisibly it revolves. But around the actors revolve the people and the glory: such is the course of things. The actor has spirit, but little conscience of the spirit. He always believes in that with which he most strongly inspires belief — in himself!

Tomorrow he has a new belief, and the day after, one still newer. Like the people, he has quick perceptions and fickle moods. To defeat — that means for him: to prove. To drive to frenzy — that means for him: to convince. And blood is to him the best of all arguments. A truth which glides only into refined ears, he calls falsehood and nothing.

He believes only in gods that make a big noise in the world! Full of clattering fools is the market-place, — and the people glory in their great men! These are for them the masters of the hour. But the hour presses them; so they press you. And also from you they want Yes or No. Alas! would you set your chair between Pro and Con?

Do not be jealous of those unyielding and impatient men, you lover of truth! Never yet did truth cling to the arm of the unyielding. On account of those abrupt ones, return into your security: only in the market-place is one assailed by Yes? or No?

Slow is the experience of all deep fountains: long have they to wait until they know what has fallen into their depths. Far away from the market-place and from fame happens all that is great: far away from the market-place and from fame have always dwelt the creators of new values.

Flee, my friend, into your solitude: I see you stung all over by the poisonous flies. Flee to where a rough, strong breeze blows! Flee into your solitude! you have lived too closely to the small and the pitiful. Flee from their invisible vengeance! For you they have nothing but vengeance. No longer raise your arm against them! They are innumerable, and it is not your job to be a flyswatter.

Innumerable are the small and pitiful ones; and rain-drops and weeds have been the ruin of many a proud structure.You are not stone; but already have you become hollow from many drops. You will yet break and burst from the many drops.

I see you exhausted by poisonous flies; I see you bleeding and torn at a hundred spots; and your pride refuses even to be angry. They would have blood from you in all innocence; blood is what bloodless souls crave — and therefore they sting in all Innocence. But you, profound one, you suffer too profoundly even from small wounds; and before you have healed, the same poison-worm crawls over your hand.

You are too proud to kill these gluttons. But take care lest it be your fate to suffer all their poisonous injustice! They buzz around you also with their praise: obtrusiveness is their praise. They want to be close to your skin and your blood.

They flatter you, as one flatters a God or devil; they whimper before you, as before a God or devil; What does it come to! They are flatterers and whimperers, and nothing more. Often, also, do they show themselves to you as friendly ones. But that has always been the prudence of cowards. Yes! cowards are wise! They think much about you with their petty souls — you are always suspect to them! Whatever is much thought about is at last thought suspicious.

They punish you for all your virtues. They pardon you entirely — for your errors. Because you are gentle and of honest character, you say: “Guiltless are they for their small existence.” But their petty souls think: “Guilty is every great existence.” Even when you are gentle towards them, they still feel themselves despised by you; and they repay your beneficence with secret maleficence. Your silent pride is always counter to their taste; they rejoice if once you are humble enough to be vain. What we recognize in a man, we also irritate in him. Therefore be on your guard against the small ones!

In your presence they feel themselves small, and their baseness gleams and glows against you in invisible vengeance. You did not see how often they became silent when you approached them, and how their energy left them like the smoke of a waning fire? Yes, my friend, you are the bad conscience of your neighbors, for they are unworthy of you. Therefore they hate you, and would rather suck your blood. Your neighbors will always be poisonous flies; what is great in you — that itself must make them more poisonous, and always more fly-like. Flee, my friend, into your solitude — and there, where a rough strong breeze blows. It is not your job to be a flyswatter.

Thus spoke Zarathustra.

What do you think? what is your favorite Nietzsche (or other bit of philosophy)?

The essentials of Bertalanffy’s General Systems Theory.

Here I relate what I perceive to be the most important points of Bertalanffy’s General Systems Theory, a copy of which I was given by a professor in the department when he moved to a smaller office and had to purge his bookshelves. Most generally, the idea behind General System Theory is that there are (or at least appear to be) mathematical rules which are stable and can be applied across many levels of organization (e.g., cell, organism, society).

For instance, the second law of thermodynamics (diffusion) makes reasonably accurate predictions of both people and animals in space and the diffusion of ideas throughout a population. The similarities between different levels (e.g., cellular, organismic, societal) are called isomorphisms, and the entirety of the theory is an attempt to combine different fields of science into a more coherent whole. Throughout Bertalanffy’s own intellectual development, he reports noticing the striking similarities (which are now common knowledge, this was published in 1968) between differential fields such as Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and other fields like Psychology, Sociology, and Economics.

The essense is that many of the ideas in these fields rely upon similar mathematical underpinnings. General Systems Theory is then an attempt to apply mathematics across fields like Chemistry, Biology, Psychology, and Sociology in order to create a more unified science.

An example of this sort of thinking is the, ‘law of natural growth’ which is basically a mathematical statement about exponential growth. This law can be applied, at the same time, to the growth of capital through compound interest, the growth of baceria, the growth of peoples and ideas, and even the growth of scientific theories. Conversely, the same law in reverse can be applied to radioactive decay, the decomposition of some chemicals, the destruction of bacteria by poisin, loss of weight through hunger in multicellular organisms and the of decrease of populations.

The law of exponential growth, which can be utilized to explain diverse phenomenon.

This is but one example, others deal with competition, for instance within the individual in the weight of their organs or their percieved value of ideas. Eithin sociology, this equation is generally referred to as Pareto’s law, which describes the distribution of income relative to the overall growth of the system. Competition between individuals in all aspects of life, and even competition between species can be described using this general formulation.

The essential of systems theory, many levels of organization, building upon eachother, across which similar mathematical models can be utilized for explanation.

The essential of systems theory, many levels of organization, building upon eachother, across which similar mathematical models can be utilized for explanation.

The final major concept we will cover here is that of unity, or those cases where the total is more than the sum of its parts. Specifically, it is a process of specialization that allows this. The more complex the system, the less replaceable each part becomes as each piece becomes less general in its function. Thus, the stomach cannot be replaced with an extra lung. This is the cell, with its individual parts, the organism of many cells, the group of many organisms. This levels thinking is the real value in General Systems Theory and has led to a greater integration between the different sciences. As Bertalanffy said, “Modern science is characterized by its ever-increasing specialization, necessitated by the enormous amount of data, the complexity of techniques and of theoretical structures within every field. Thus science is split into innumerable disciplines continually generating new subdisciplines. In consequence, the physicist, the biologist, the psychologist and the social scientist are, so to speak, encapusulated in their private universes, and it is difficult to get word from one cocoon to the other…”

The key to General Systems Theory is to look across fields to examine the isomorphisms, how they are similar, in order to arrive at a more cogent understanding of reality.

This has been a brief introduction to the essentials of systems theory, leave your comment below and suggest the next theory to be summarized. 🙂