Tag Archives: cognitive psychology

Accounting for Antipathy

“I think that is the ultimate insensitivity, anyone looking at that with any common sense would say, ‘What in the world would we be doing, you know, fostering some type of system that allows this to happen.’ Everybody knows America’s built on the rights of free expression, the rights to practice your faith, but come on.”

Eric Cantor, R-Va, said this recently. This is my favorite bald, asshat quote of the year–so far. It’s palinesque in its appeal to (some version of) commonsense, and it’s not at all over-the-top, given the waves of grotesque rhetoric the Cordoba House project has evoked. Cantor’s opinion here doesn’t amuse me because it is of the tinfoil type. (There’s plenty of that of course, much of it subsisting on the belief President Obama is a Manchurian candidate and, maybe, the world’s most un-Muslim-like Muslim.) No, what I enjoy about this quote is how it encapsulates the falling away of a whole string of conservative pieties: First Amendment, for suckers; Local governance-fuhgetaboutit; God-centeredness-who needs it?While, out of nowhere, Cantor here seems to embrace political correctness–got to have it, and got to have it rotate around being sensitive.

This last play in favor of sensitivity captures, evidently, a new Republican move to embrace sensitivity! Who would have thunk it? But, sure, “being sensitive” should probably trump the Constitution if one is willing to flip flop on what used to be a longstanding, thorough-going principle of personal responsibility. (I chose this one, from among several delicious choices.) Isn’t the ideologically driven advice from Republicans almost always along the lines of: ‘suck it up!’ ‘take care of yourself’ ‘obey the Constitution and our Christian foundations’ etc.? Until now.

Another impressive feature of the Republican embrace of, this time, religious bigotry, is how sanctimonious Cantor, Gingrich, Palin, are about the composition of necessary exceptions to the First Amendment. So: ‘We’re tolerant, we’re pro-Constitution, but, let’s face it.’ I had thought the Constitution was more hallowed than the site of the 9-11 attack.

I’m sure I’ll know it when it happens: when any of these self-identified bright lights attach an argument favorable to the First Amendment to their politically-correct call for sensitivity about the sensitivities of religious bigots and their reactions to a project that has zero to do with Jihadi aspirations.

Meanwhile, Jeff Merkley, D-OR, framed the ‘cognitive’ issue, and other facts, succinctly:

“I appreciate the depth of emotions at play, but respectfully suggest that the presence of a mosque is only inappropriate near ground zero if we unfairly associate Muslim Americans with the atrocities of the foreign al-Qaida terrorists who attacked our nation. Such an association is a profound error. Muslim Americans are our fellow citizens, not our enemies. Muslim Americans were among the victims who died at the World Trade Center in the 9/11 attacks. Muslim American first responders risked their lives to save their fellow citizens that day. Many of our Muslim neighbors, including thousands of Oregon citizens, serve our country in war zones abroad and our communities at home with dedication and distinction.”

These facts of the matter go in one hand and the clear imperative of the 1st Amendment go in the other hand. Yet, this doesn’t settle the matter in a lot of people’s minds. Why this is so is of great interest to me. Opposition to the Cordoba project’s site location is not singular at all. It’s not simply only due to ignorance, or only due to practiced agendas, or only due to some politicized version of common sense.

Opponents’ antipathy surely can be understood in terms of psychology, yet, at the same time, understanding the nature of internalized distrust, false attribution, and, confirmation bias–to pick one constellation of behavioral features–doesn’t completely resolve that which constitutes behavioral explanations for upwelling of fear, anger, and, strong dislike, (ie.antipathy.)

The opposition is wide spread and encompasses a wide variety of people, and this surely includes persons who are highly educated, well-traveled, and, intelligent. The group of opponents also would have to include the opposite of this characterization, and, as well, include persons who believe all religions except for their own are members of a satanic opposition.

No simple explanation covers the entire group. But, Cantor’s prescriptive “come on” is simple. And, from this, it is apparent that a system of laws stands against very intense socially affective constructions. From my perspective, none of this yields to just supposing strong feelings based in counterfactual, socially-reinforced interpretations explains the, for example, commonsensical appeal to sensitivity, and fright about the strict ramifications of the 1st Amendment. Although, antipathy certainly isn’t, nor could it be, linked to opponents working through the salient facts. Those facts are also: simple.

But, the intense upwelling of affect, posed as it is by Cantor to literally trump the 1st Amendment, stands with all sorts of other propositions; propositions held by large groups of people with enthusiasm. Such enthusiasms do earn an account at least for reasons having to do with collective aspirations, which if realized, would subvert, if not overturn, all sorts of protective, often lawful, norms.

What and why and how people come to believe stuff has been one of the handful of my central interests for almost forty years. There is nothing surprising about the range of beliefs found at the extreme end of the continuum of antipathy about Muslims, and, similarly, about gays, Darwin, Democrats, elites, capitalists, banks and bankers, Dick Cheney, on and on.

In noting this, generally, it is optimal for people to internalize and be able to cope with factual, thus realistic, fears, sorrows and anger. Nevertheless, (I suggest,) a lot of energy and instinctual (or primary,) process potential attends to the status of our closely held beliefs–in the context of our each apprehending our various realistic and unrealistic interpretations of that which threatens those same beliefs. Antipathy may generally express primal fears oriented to not only having an Islamic cultural center set two blocks from where 9-11 unfolded, but also oriented to the very ideas that other believers, be they Muslims, metrosexuals, Harvard grads, Mexican laborers, progressive Democrats, (etc.,) have set themselves a bit too close to the home of belief–the self; and too close to: me and my own.

For me this antipathy spirals around the ‘low ordering’ of belief; about which I will riff in an ensuing post.

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Grey Area of Motivation, Alas

Looking through old drafts, I came across a long essay on motivation. The essay was the result of a research project I did several years ago. You don’t get to see it; it’s moment has passed. Nevertheless, motivation fascinates me as a subject matter. It’s complex, reaches into conundrums of meta-psychology, and remains a mildly controversial subject as a matter of research. As for the latter, motivation has long been one of the most written-about subjects in industrial and management psychology.

When I did my research, itself based in a partial literature review, I was drawn to the fundamental challenge for researchers studying a human phenomena where the dividing line between internal and external seems to go through linked developments: first is the external task–including the environment; second is the responsive internal activity; third is the responsive, now altered, externality–including the environment; fourth is the end result for the primary agent.

Asks the question: what is the status of the agent’s intentionality (each ‘step’ of the way?) Motivation begs some questions about attribution too.

Here’s another schema I discovered (somewhere!) that could be used to ontologically evaluate the answer to the question.

At the time of my original study, what I was gripped by was the difficulty of sorting out the nature of extrinsic motivation if the simple conception of intrinsic motivation was abandoned. This came up because this simple conception–defined as the agent being motivated to do a task for nothing more than the internal reward provided by doing the task–is sometimes abandoned when motivational theories are reconfigured to be the foundation of, for example, managerial practice. Then there are practices, many of which are informally derived and normative, which aren’t informed by anything more than ‘folk psychological’ sensemaking and hunches.

I found the following illustrative diagram.

In a reflexive, phenomenological exercise, I identified what for me are the ecological features of my being intrinsically motivated.

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Individualism and the FollowerArk

Sometimes, while channel surfing, my attention latches onto one of the religious channels. I call it ‘doing research.’ Well, it is a guilty pleasure–watching theocrats. (See Frank Schaeffer: Spaceship Jesus Will Come and Whisk Us Away for a good take.) Glenn Beck provides another guilty pleasure, although I depend on Crooks and Liars and MediaMatters to pluck the ripest insanity out of a sea of lunacy.

Beck is a masterful architect, but of what, I’m not sure. He’s not really a polemicist or propagandist in the sense that both those dispositions usually presume coherency. His basic argument is structured as a sort of daft hermeneutics, connecting dots, but doing so incoherently across domains. It all ends up, usually, in the same place: a cabal of Marxist elitists are planning to take over the country and “control every aspect of your life.”

The aspect that evokes cognitive dissonance is Beck’s appeal to freedom from control, while offering at the same time, an analysis that could only be practically powerful were persons to accept it uncritically ‘en mass.’ For Beck, America is free when there is a monotheism of individuality, and if you’re so individuated as to disagree, well then, you’re helping to destroy the country.

Jon Stewart breaks down Beck’s hermeneutics.

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What would be the nature and inherent cognitive complexity of someone who would buy Beck’s binary paranoia, who would follow his connected dots to their satisfying conclusion: slaughter or ark? Decades ago I wondered the same thing about who possibly could find Ayn Rand’s insipid version of logical rationality reasonable.*

Jason Richwine, unintentionally unleashing silliness in The American, the Journal of the American Enterprise Institute, Are Liberals Smarter Than Conservatives?, ponders anecdotal counter-factuals, while missing the point of Lazar Stankov’s research, Conservatives and Cognitive Ability. Heck, Richwine misses the point even though it’s pointed to in the paper’s title.

Richwine does mention that conservatism isn’t defined deeply enough in Stankov’s research. I’d love to see a factor analysis of policy-oriented beliefs meshed with a meta-analysis of several orders of cognitive complexity and personality constructs. For example, is there a correlation across the range of the former beliefs with binary attitudes? How does ideological certainty correlate with tendencies having to do with reducing complexity, anxiety, and dissonance? I don’t think Richwine read the paper though, because Stankov’s work is not primarily concerned with ‘smarts’, and is, in fact, focused on a very complex meta-analysis, very close to my intuition about what I’d like to see.

In our work, conservatism is captured by a score — usually a factor score — obtained from several scales that were not developed specifically for the measurement of conservatism. Thus, it incorporates measures of Personality (Big Five from IPIP), Social Attitudes (Saucier, 2000; Stankov & Kneževi?, 2005), Values (Schwartz & Bardi, 2001), and Social Norms (GLOBE; House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman, & Gupta, 2004) — a total of 43 different subscale scores.Nevertheless, ouranalyses show the presence of a factor of Conservatism that has loadings from subscales from all these domains and captures many constructs that are included in the nomological net of Jost et al. (2003) and Wilson (1973). This factor is expected to correlate with cognitive ability for reasons outlined above. What are the other factors that emerge from the analysis of 43 subscales? Are they also expected to correlate with cognitive ability? Stankov (2007) found three domain-related factors. They are quite different from the Conservatism factor in that they show very little overlap between the domains.

These are:

• Personality/Social Attitudes. This is usually a bipolar factor contrasting Personality traits on the negative side and Social Attitudes on the positive side. Loadings of Personality traits on this factor are typically lower than loadings from the Social Attitudes measures. In some of our analyses, this factor splits into a separate Personality factor representing “good” evaluative processes (or perhaps social desirability) and a Social Attitudes factor representing anti- or amoral attitudes towards social objects (Stankov & Kneževi?, 2005). • Values. See Method section for the interpretation of this factor.

• Social Norms. Several Social Norms scales from GLOBE study (House et al., 2004) load on this factor. In this paper I report the analyses based on a smaller (22) number of variables that correspond quite closely to the solution obtained with the full set of 43 measures. Smaller number of variables is employed in order to carry out simultaneous (i.e., multilevel) structural equation modelling of individual- and country-level data that has not been reported in the past.

There is no empirical evidence or theoretical arguments in the literature that suggest a relationship between cognitive ability and Values or Social Norms.2 Thus, it is reasonable to assume that these two constructs do not correlate with cognitive measures. The situation is different with the Personality/ Social Attitudes dimension. Jost (2006) reports that Conscientiousness (positively) and Openness to Experience (negatively) correlate with Democrat/Republican voting preferences of the states within the U.S., interpreted as reflections of liberal/conservative tendencies. Openness to Experience is also known to correlate about .30 with measures of intelligence (Stankov, 2005; Stankov and Lee, 2008). The other side of this bipolar factor, Social Attitudes, captured by Toughness, Maliciousness, and Betaism (i.e., non-PC motives for behavior), have qualities reminiscent of Dogmatism and Authoritarian personalities that are often seen as components of conservatism (see Jost et al., 2003). Since in our work they define a factor that is separate from conservatism, it is reasonable to assume that there is a separation between thuggish and rough Social Attitudes trait and Conservative syndrome that captures not only social attitudes but also Values, Social Norms, and Personality traits. These rough social attitudes are also likely to be related to cognitive ability—they often reflect difficulties or disinclination to make fine-grained analysis of a problematic situation (see Wilson, 1973).

Snap! Maybe the article was so complex it caused Richwine anxiety? I wonder what Glenn Beck would think?

*John Galt’s Monologue

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Affectual Politics

Glenn Beck: “I really like our Constitution, I’d like to see it enacted. Let’s fix it and get back to where our founding fathers are.”

Loony, yet, “crazy ass sh*t, but. But, more than a few people do agree with Beck. This is so even if such people couldn’t tell you anything intelligent about what the founding fathers actually thought; what they contested among themselves; and what were their various radically liberal principles.

Here’s a conjecture (of mine) about ideology and history. There is no extant or past example of a form of governance for which it could be demonstrated that it’s procedures of governance wholly and absolutely are realized solely as a matter of adherence to ideological principles. This is falsifiable if it can be shown that there exists or has existed a form of governance for which, in its application of its principles, every instance was/is entirely consistent with principle.

Let’s imagine there are people who are committed to some set of principles in the following, narrow way:

Our endeavor is to instantiate a set of principles. We believe this for two reasons. First, because this set of principles is the best of all possible set of principles. Second, that the principles are best, is verified by the fact that their truth is the most reasonable truth upon which any possible set of principles could be based.

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Our political climate in the U.S. is very interesting in this year, unfolding now, after the election of Mr. Obama. Several developments have taken me by surprise. Obama surprised me by not partnering his financial system bailout policies with policies aimed to help right the economy of main street from the bottom up. It was also surprising that he didn’t articulate in concrete, instrumental, terms what kind of reform he would endorse, and insist upon, to end the depredations of the speculation-driven shadow economy.

Then, he moved to reform health care and laid it in the laps of his congressional majorities.

In light of these developments, I’m not in any way surprised that people have been stirred to reactionary and (called by me,) restorative activism. Nor was it surprising that they oriented their dissent positively around their patriotism, and, negatively, around their primal fear that the government is posed to strip from him or her so-called freedoms.

I’ll let Missy, writing on her blog at TCUNation, the Social Network for Conservatives, explain:

But the worst part? It allows the federal gov’t to be in charge of every aspect of your life. Every decision you make on a daily basis can be linked to “healthcare.” You drive an SUV? You’re contributing to pollution & that increases asthma…..you need to pay more! Since we have direct access to all of your accounts we know you own a 4-wheeler. That’s dangerous………you need to pay more! We see that you eat at McD’s twice a week. That’s bad for you……you need to pay more! YOU OWN A GUN??? THAT’S DANGEROUS! YOU NEED TO PAY ALOT MORE!!

These liberal fanatics will most DEFINITELY use the federal gov’ts financial stake in your everyday lifestyle choices to CONTROL THEM. Your decisions will no longer be your own, they will be decisions that will be for the “collective good.” And they will be MANDATED & CONTROLLED by the gov’t. And in order to “nudge” you into compliance with their ideology of how you should live your life, they will simply put a financial burden on you if you choose differently.

The paranoia surprised me. How does one square paranoia with a normative conservative ethos that holds its funding principles to be both first, and, last, and to be foundational, and also holds these principles are the only possible enlightened goal granted by reasoning through the problem of governance? Where does paranoia fit in? Is it possible that such foundational principles are, in fact, extremely fragile?

I don’t think so. President Obama has offered a mild liberalism. The bank bailout was extraordinary, yet a Republican would have had to have done the same thing. (Creative destruction is a notion one can practically hold only when the bombs aren’t falling on your own head.) All such bailouts tend to occupy uncertain spots in any ideology. A bailout is above all expedient and unhooked from conventional, ideological morality. They’re grotesque too.

So far Obama’s maneuvering hasn’t been much like anything we associate, historically, with truly radical presidents; especially those with very novel views of the Constitution—such as Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, Reagan, and Bush II. Nevertheless, the ideological principles survive, and this suggests underlying principles, aren’t at all fragile. This includes freedom given to be a result of, contingent upon, application of, ideological principles.

So why is paranoia evoked?

My tentative view is: affect is consequential in the current ‘social psychological framed’ ecology. Forged in the magical bake shop of projective identification, specific affect-laden estimations are on offer. So: a messianic leader is scapegoated so as to be the cause of knowing (i.e. unconsciously feeling,) that what is possessed, “freedom,” is to be stolen by the conspiratorial Other, (i.e. an alter.) This inflated threat is to be met and defeated by, ironically enough, the collective personal power of freedom-loving individualists. It’s worth noting that in some quarters, this evil goat is assumed to have super powers, or, alternately, is assumed to be the servant of hidden masters.

Putting the participation mystique aside–may Levi-Strauss rest in peace–what are the embedded chain-of-being regimes supposed in a clash between the red-in-blood red-tending-to-blue meme, and, the blue-tending-to-orange meme. These, given by Grave’s Spiral Dynamics, and, given by me in my deployment of a shadow dynamics* supposing the red shadow of blue conservatism’s ‘traditionalistic’ paternal chain of being comes to clash with the neoliberal paternal chain-of-being of Orange. Pre-modern, the red shadow of blue, collides here with the post-modern orientation toward technocratic problem-solving.

(Or, the atavistic self and identity, is felt to be threatened by the spectral, post-modern selves and identities. Perhaps, were one to dig into the narratives, one would find at their core a clash between the production of certainty and productions of uncertainty.)

Among many curious aspects of this clash, is the gravity given to an emotionalized, largely unconscious, sense of freedom. (I’ve written about this before.) What is it about a notional freedom that one can be dispossessed of, versus, other less vulnerable notions about freedom? Isn’t it interesting that the conservative concept of freedom-under-constraint, a necessary consequence of the pessimistic view of human nature, is subsumed in the shuffle through the emotionally-charged libertarian bake shop!

Then there is the conspiratorial tenor of magical narratives. Of course, it’s long-standing that the government is anthropomorphized to be a kind of beast, capable of devouring freedom. In this respect the conspiracy mongering of Ron Paul, or Michelle Bachman, comes to be of a piece with the extreme supernaturalized conspiracy advocates, David Ickes, Alex Jones, and Michael Tsarion. In turn, the current extremes are merely the contemporary waves of olden conspiracy theories. And, heck, why not share some air time with the truly deluded?

“they’ve been positioning…” they, theY, thEY, THEY!

*I have yet to go into this in detail. However, roughly, my proposal is that the vertical scale of Spiral Dynamic is configurable as a dynamic, oppositional scale. This is able to depict how higher and lower memes serve as descriptive categories, and schema, for shadow dynamics. For example, by such a dynamic scale, the shadow dynamics for the Blue Meme are discoverable as aspects of Red (below) and Orange (above). In my novel (or idiosyncratic,) view, the shadow dynamics then tend to fall (or regress,) toward the lower, more archaic order, while this unconscious propensity is galvanized by fear of the upward pull toward the newer, more complex order.

My notion here supposes that a concept of Blue freedom, will come to be defended at the lower, unconscious level of Red. Similarly, this defense is waged against a super-charged (by way of ‘social cognitized’ projection,) ‘controlling’ Orange. Grant this phenomenology, and the result is that fear of bureaucracy regresses to fear of collective control, control formulated to the scale conspiracy; “conspiracy” being the shadow concretization of Orange—in its worst form.

This is consistent—well, at least it is to me—with the mental procedures via which contested, soft conceptions–such as freedom–are reduced, reified and objectified. Then the reified conception’s opposite, in this case anti-freedom, is realized and nailed to the alter. Thus, a collective complex is constellated.

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Gray Swans?

One way to while-away the time during my short commute, and, errands, is to listen to unabridged audiobooks. If the experience proves worthwhile as a moment of learning, I’m next compelled to work against my learning style (aural-kinesthetic) and read the verbal-visual edition, so-to-speak.

Now I’m driving through Nassim Nicholas Taleb‘s The Black Swan. It provides a gripping journey for a Jamesian fallibilist such as myself. Also, Taleb’s so-called skeptical empiricism circles around my own current central concern that is also strongly skeptical about, as Taleb terms it, narrativity.  The interesting difference is I’m looking at ubiquitous hidden chance events, (in ordinary human development,) whereas Taleb deals with rare hidden chance eventsin large-scale domains. I too am similarly fascinated by how linear narratives clothe non-linear events as a matter of post-hoc rationalization, but, again the domain I’m interested in is different than those of Taleb.

There is a funny moment in the book where Taleb blows off a causal assertion about this domain I’m interested in. I’ll return to this after I finish the book.

As a collector of dichotomies, the following is of great interest. Via Nassim Nicholas Taleb, purloined from his notes page at the web site for his book Fooled By Randomness. (Excellent review of The Black Swan by Dan Hill @cityofsound)

116- Fooled by Rationalism; Lecturing Birds How to Fly [From Tinkering]

The greatest problem in knowledge is the “lecturing birds how to fly” effect.

Let us call it the error of rationalism. In Fat Tony’s language, it would be what makes us the suckers of all suckers. Consider two types of knowledge. The first type is not exactly “knowledge”; its ambiguous character prevents us from calling it exactly knowledge. It a way of doing thing that we cannot really express in clear language, but that we do nevertheless, and do well. The second type is more like what we call “knowledge”; it is what you acquire in school, can get grades for, can codify, what can be explainable, academizable, rationalizable, formalizable, theoretizable, codifiable, Sovietizable, bureaucratizable, Harvardifiable, provable, etc.

To make things simple, just look at the second type of knowledge as something so stripped of ambiguity that an autistic person (a high functioning autistic person, that is) can easily understand it.

The error of rationalism is, simply, overestimating the role and necessity of the second type, the academic knowledge, in human affairs. It is a severe error because not only much of our knowledge is not explainable, academizable, rationalizable, formalizable, theoretizable, codifiable, Sovietizable, bureaucratizable, Harvardifiable, etc., but, further, that such knowledge plays such a minor life that it is not even funny.
We are very likely to believe that skills and ideas that we actually acquired by doing, or that came naturally to us (as we already knew by our innate biological instinct) came from books, ideas, and reasoning. We get blinded by it; there may even be something in our brains that makes us suckers for the point. Let us see how.





Know how

Know what

Fat Tony wisdom, Aristotelian phronesis

Aristotelian logic

Implicit , Tacit


Nondemonstrative knowledge

Demonstrative knowledge



Experiential knowledge

Epistemic base


Propositional knowledge




Directed research


Targeted activity







Tinkering, stochastic tinkering

Directed search

Epilogism (Menodotus of Nicomedia and the school of empirical medicine)

Inductive knowledge

Historia a sensate cognitio

Causative historiography



Austrian economics

Neoclassical economics

Bottom up libertarianism

Central Planner

Spirit of the Law

Letter of the Law



Brooklyn, Amioun

Cambridge, MA, and UK

Accident, trial and error






Ecological uncertainty, not tractable in textbook

Ludic probability, statistics textbooks



Parallel processing

Serial processing


On-model, model based

Side effect of a drug

National Institute of Health




My intentionally idiosyncratic interpretation of Taleb’s usage of the term ludic, is: it names the error found when people believe that their management of known simple fixed probabilities is identical to management of complex dynamic uncertainty. The latter is, of course, impossible to actually manage.

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Where There?

I’m mostly in the camp (in meta-psychology,) of Jerry Fodor, Although, broadly speaking of my own prejudices, whether the subject is folk psychology, theory of mind, or experimental philosophy, I’m also old-fashioned, so William James is evoked whenever I’m digging on the strange epistemological conundrums, problems which don’t dissuade anybody from anything in any practical, everyday, useful, “Jamesian” sense.

Anyway, Mr. Fodor reviews Michael Type, Consciousness Revisited, in the current TLS, under the title, It Ain’t In the Head. (article likely not available forever at this link)

Here’s Fodor’s attractive opening paragraph.

Philosophy, you understand, is a very pharmacopoeia of cures that are worse than the corresponding diseases. This started a long while ago; perhaps with Plato’s suggestion that, although there is a problem about how so many different things can all be chairs, philosophy can fix it: there is only one chair that is really a chair, the Chair on which no one can sit; the One Chair that is in Heaven. This kind of philosophical overkill, having once got started, has never stopped. Thus Descartes: the way to explain how your mind causes your body to move is to say that the pineal gland performs a miracle each time it does. Or Berkeley: the way to avoid scepticism about perceptual beliefs is to say that chairs, tables and everything else are made of ideas. Or Wittgenstein and Ryle: the solution of the epistemological problem about how anybody can know whether anybody else is in pain is that (other people’s) pains reduce to their pain behaviours, there being, by assumption, no epistemological problem about recognizing them. Or take Carnap and Ayer: the way to understand the semantics of “electron” and other such “theoretical terms” is to hold that electrons are “logical constructions” out of the pointer readings of experimental instruments. Or take Frege: given that Venus and the Morning Star are the very same thing, there’s this worry about how John can believe that he sees Venus while not believing that he sees the Morning Star. One avoids the worry by saying that, though the two expressions refer to the same thing in sentences like “John saw Venus” (the Morning Star), they do not refer to the same thing in sentences like “John believes (thinks/knows) that he saw Venus” and “John believes (thinks/knows) that he saw the Morning Star”.

Good read. link

Where is this moving? Hmmm, see movement there? where?

If you can intentionally stop the ‘movement,’ reflect upon where the ‘what’ of such stopping, or upon ‘what is the there’ of such stopping. Oh, and let me know what you come up with—there’s no right answer.

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Practice Makes Perfect

Roger told the interviewer, ‘he did practice just such a shot, but it never was successful’ (in practice.) Then, he termed it a perfect shot.

Practice: imperfect, imperfect, imperfect, imperfect, imperfect. . .

For real: perfect!

There is something curious about an instance of psychological economy exemplified here in an investment of time during which all the trials fail. Then, when it counts: success.

Of course, one qualification of the example is familiar to many: it’s fun to practice a technique which has as its goal, in effect, doing the impossible. It’s intrinsically rewarding.

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A Programming Problem

In today’s New York Times, in the magazine, Paul Krugman asks, How Did Economists Get It So Wrong? In the article he recounts how it happened that the world’s finest experts in macroeconomics were unable to adapt their models and, in doing so, develop better models able to predict the housing market implosion.

In my earlier post, the Second Order position vis a vis belief was explored. There are many ways to describe a Second Order belief. One way says: such a belief is a knee jerk reaction. Another option says: such a belief automatically follows from a specific predisposition. Enter an internalized model of any kind into the fundamentals of a predisposition, then where there is Second Order belief derived from the model, it follows inevitably from the model.

In other words, the model, in effect, programs the belief. Idealized programs very often generate idealized, absolute beliefs about the model.


But the self-described New Keynesian economists weren’t immune to the charms of rational individuals and perfect markets. They tried to keep their deviations from neoclassical orthodoxy as limited as possible.
But there was something else going on: a general belief that bubbles just don’t happen. What’s striking, when you reread Greenspan’s assurances, is that they weren’t based on evidence — they were based on the a priori assertion that there simply can’t be a bubble in housing.
In short, the belief in efficient financial markets blinded many if not most economists to the emergence of the biggest financial bubble in history.

What would you say about a model purported to model macroeconomic actuality, where total belief in the model itself causes the model user to be blinded to particular actualities? What would you say about the nature of total belief in any blinded model. Apparently, best and brightest economic experts can come to be irrationally exhuberant about their own models.
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Weather Report

Continuing from the earlier post What the Wind Blows, presenting a schema of Four Orders given as a phenomenological device. (This device captures the diversification of awareness about one’s own behavior–it ranges from the unconscious yet singularly aware First Order, to the conscious and singularly aware Second Order, to the conscious and aware-with-choice Third Order, to the conscious and aware-with-reasons-for-choosing Fourth Order.)

This general scheme may be extended to also frame a view of belief about any person’s relationships to the world. And this is extended to, specifically, belief as awareness about the objects (and objectification,) given by social aspects of the world.

 First order – Singular; no articulated belief; (not applicable)

Second Order – Singular; “This is what I believe!”

Third Order – Multiple; “This is what I believe, but, from other perspectives, what I believe looks different.”

Fourth Order – Multiple; This is what I believe, but I understand why I believe this–rather than some other thing. And, so, I can also see how I might come to believe this some other thing.

Note: the more diverse, the more ambivalent; the more diverse, the more available are possible choices of what to believe. Ambivalence, divergences, searching for other possible perspectives, (etc.) may work together to, in a sense, “de-certify” the absolute, non-ambivalent, convergent, certainties.

Strong Second Order features are found in the current political discourse. It tends toward singular testaments of certainty. Roughly, First and Second Order positions do not obtain the cognitive complexity inherent in Third and Fourth Orders. Second Order beliefs (or positions,) seem, in effect, programmed, and seem to converge on the program.

Someone protests,

“They are trying to steal my liberties, and, my country from me!”

In this statement of protest there are three objects: they, liberties and country. The latter two are possessed as such by the subject. Nevertheless this possession is subject to being nullified by “they.”

Consider, if you can, what it would feel like inside to possess liberty and country, and, in feeling this, also feel the deprivation were one dispossessed of same. Consider also what it would feel like to have a much looser, less associated, relationship with objects such as these.

Contemplate what are the implications of the objects discoverable as features of the belief of the sign carrier above. Do this just from considering what are the possible implications given by the photograph.

What I find gripping is to consider the object relations found in Second Order belief. This is to suggest how the combination of certainty and splitting work to support single-minded beliefs.

Conspiracy. Almost all conspiracy-mindedness reflects reduction to a singular perspective, certainty, and, require casting split-off parts, in effect, ‘away’ from the highly charged core certainties. 

Second Order belief may be very bad at evaluating evidence. Birthers, young earth and intelligent design creationists, 9-11 conspiratoids, each showcase how bad they are at this, but, at the same time, each are–in different ways–obsessed with evidence too. In this, the splitting dynamic is obvious.

Face-to-face with Second Order belief provides an opportunity to drill down and learn if there exists any fragile level of depressive ambivalence. At such a level, anchoring of the ‘First Order” belief may be tenuous because the belief is no longer rooted in the unequivocal solid ground of certainty. However, often this level is not accessible.

I find people’s fears to be poignant. It’s ironic when people’s fears are characterized as being irrational, when such a characterization itself is Second Order–comes from a singular evaluation rather than any possible alternative. A person’s belief that the governmental ‘object’ will dispossess he or she of their ‘liberty’ object is rational at the level of what is true for the particular object relations. It’s as if liberty can be stripped away. Thus, this prospect of dispossession feels frightening.

In this respect, the move to a more cognitive complex order is poignant, as is the First and Second Order fearfulness also poignant.

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Political question of the day: who is more experienced?

Questioning the efficacy of experience begs the questions: “what is meant by experience; what are the relations of experience to capability; what–for you–are the optimal benefits of experience?”

My informal surveys reveal that most people have never thought in any sophisticated way about the nature and benefits of experience. In fact, most people adhere to quaint (and false) hydraulic notions about experience. A hydraulic notion posits that experience literally inputs capability, thus more experience provides for more capability.

It is worth noting that the question, ‘what are the optimal benefits of experience’ will tend to evoke responses about performative quality. In other words, if experience is considered to be primary to development, then the goals of experience are performance, capability and future capable performance.

If you read this and sense that ‘optimal experience’ must play a part, rather than ‘any old experience,’ then you are on the way to putting experience in its proper relation to capability.

From the perspective of my own folk psychological prejudices, were someone to ask me what the nature of experience is with respect to anticipating the capability of a candidate, I would begin my answer with this:

A person’s robust, or not, navigation through life events will allow for the development of capabilities. Those capabilities will combine abilities of perception and construal, knowledge, rehearsed adaptive responses, affectual factors, features of cognitive complexity, heuristical routines, novel routines. Also impressed upon performative behavior will be tacit, subconcious, and implicit factors.

There is nothing about experience alone that provides for specific developmental impacts. If it’s not experience alone, how might we describe the certain kind of experiences which impact the development of capability and the performance effectiveness? I’m implying here that capabilities are developed by complex processes that are not generated by experience by itself.

I’ll mention two broad categories of experience. First is intentional pedagogic or andragogic learning. Their fruits would construct and support knowledge and other capable features. I’m deferring from a richer conception. I’ll set this aside but acknowledge that one point of experience is to learn by using experience to learn.

The second, among many forms of experience, is doing a task under a high cognitive load. Alternately, this is described as performing a task for which a requisite demand is a cognitively complex demand. The task is hard because its cognitive demands are challenging. Here’s a technical description: a cognitive system’s intention within a problem space must construct productive responses so as to obtain a solution and meet the implicit goal of the problem space. To understand how to generate a solution is, broadly speaking, the developmental goal of this type of experience.

Here’s a description from Raab and Gigerenzer, (2003: Intelligence As Smart Heuristics)

Intelligence is thought of as an assembly of “factors,” either one (g), a few, or many. This tool-driven metaphor (factor analysis) has its limits because it does not describe how cognition translates into behavior. We propose a new view of intelligence that provides the missing link in terms of heuristics. Human intelligence, in our view, is modeled by an adaptive toolbox that contains building blocks for heuristics to direct search for information, to stop search, and to make a decision. Smart search rules describe how people find the few relevant pieces of information, in memory or in the outside world. Stopping rules describe a primary function of cognition, to ignore or discard irrelevant information. Decision rules translate the information searched in memory or in the outside world into behavior, such as what profession to choose or what products to buy. The adaptive toolbox embodies an ecological, not logical, view of rational behavior. The building blocks can be recombined to form new heuristics, which are rational to the degree that they are adapted to the structure of environments in which they are employed.

Framed by social psychology and concerned with interpersonal knowledge, here’s Burleson and Caplan (1998: Cognitive Complexity)

Research comparing experts and novices on a variety of information processing tasks has found that experts are better able to: (a) develop detailed, discriminating representations of phenomena (e.g., Lurigio & Carroll, 1985), (b) recall information from memory quickly (e.g., Smith, Adams, & Schorr, 1978), (c) organize schema-consistent information quickly (e.g,. Pryor & Merluzzi, 1985), (d) notice, recall, and use schema-inconsistent information (e.g., Bargh & Thein, 1985; Borgida & DeBono, 1989), and (e) resolve apparent discrepancies between schema-consistent and schema-inconsistent information (e.g., Fiske, Kinder, & Larter, 1983). These expert-novice differences correspond closely to contrasts distinguishing those who are more and less cognitively complex. For example, compared to those having less complex systems, persons with complex systems of interpersonal constructs: (a) form more detailed and organized impressions of others (e.g., Delia et al., 1974), (b) are better able to remember impressions of others (e.g., B. O’Keefe, Delia, & O’Keefe, 1977), (c) are better able to resolve inconsistencies in information about others (e.g., Press, Crockett, & Delia, 1975), (d) learn complex social information quickly (e.g., Delia & Crockett, 1973), and (e) use multiple dimensions of judgment in making social evaluations (e.g., Shepherd & Trank, 1992). These results suggest that interpersonal cognitive complexity is properly viewed as indexing individual differences in social information processing capacity.

Finally, distinctions between second order ‘I shall do what I do’ and third order ‘how shall I determine what I shall do?’ speak to the increase in complexity between automatic or habitual performance-in-response-to-a-task, and, fitting a rehearsed range of responses drawn from a repertoire or a novel, (ie. experimental,) response to a task; this developed through active experimentation.

It’s this very last element that is unlikely to be revealed in an elicitation, (framed by folk psychology and evoked as phenomenological answer,) of what are crucial performative, solution-oriented capabilities.

Politics. Experimental capability may not be a component of policy given by ‘experience.’. For example, even though the results of the supply side experiment are in, and its distinctive risk management features are well known, we might then do well to discount a claim to economic experience based in the wish to do such an experiment once again. (After all, the overt hypotheses have been falsified.) So, it is perhaps time to do other kinds of cognitively complex (so-to-speak) economic experiments.

This points in the direction of capability, not mere experience; capable policy trumps ‘experienced’ policy. I don’t want to know who is superior in experience, I want to know who is superior in capability, and, who won’t do failed experiments again.

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A voter’s behavior at the polling place reduces to a decision. Hold that idea.

This is analogous to a shopper’s behavior. How much time does a shopper spend in deciding what tomato in a pile of tomatoes will provide the biggest payoff in return for their investment of “selection” time? Why is it that a given shopper will select several candidate tomatoes And then from this selection decide on a single tomato?

We enter, here, into the realm of behavioral economics. Although it must be true that in a given display of tomatoes one tomato (presumably) is objectively and certainly the best tomato, in fact, given a maximum amount of time to make the choice, a shopper will instead opt to deploy a practiced heuristic so as to dramatically cut their time investment. The shopper does this while, at the same time, they expect this lesser time is the appropriate time to invest toward realizing the ‘great tomato’ payoff. Spending more time is not worth it.

Take this thought problem: you pull fifty people off the street and line them up in front of a display of tomatoes and a display of apples. You then give each an opportunity to select one tomato or apple. Most people will invest very little time in deciding whether they go for a tomato or an apple. Their pick between the two will turn out to simply be a matter of their foregone preference. Given the choice between the two, each person will go for what they already prefer and then employ their favored rule of thumb.

However, for some it will be a hard choice between the two. They will be ambivalent to some degree. The considerable differences between tomato and apple in such cases are not instrumentally decisive differences. In this group, some might ask to check out both before they commit to one or the other.

Returning to voter behavior, what would you guess is the situation given voters who cannot decide between the tomato of Obama and the apple of McCain?

I’d like to offer several hypotheses about this group.

1. Having no strong foregone preference, most members of this group are likely not to spend a lot of time making their decision.

2. Some members of this group approach their decision not as if it is between a tomato and an apple, but rather is between two examples more similar than different.

Is it likely that persons who are willing to spend a lot of time investigating differences between options, nevertheless also more disposed toward a foregone preference?

If 15% of a national electorate are undecided, and this group is given as the portion of the electorate upon which the election will turn, is it then the case that elections turn upon persons who will invest the least amount of time in deciding between two candidates?

Consider what might be involved in a voter’s having to decide between Obama and McCain. Since the policy positions between the two are mostly stark, what other features of the candidates would blur those difference and reinforce a voter’s ambivalence?

There are cases for which substantial policy differences are not instrumentally decisive. If someone can’t decide between Obama and McCain, it is very likely that their ambivalence vectors around something other than policy differentials.

(I spend a lot of time researching various data in the political realm. However, as far as my voting behavior goes, where I feel my time is worth investing in deciding who among the democratic apples is the apple of my eye, it is for me a foregone conclusion that I will vote for a democrat. I rush to the apple display! I will also spend a lot of time researching, as a matter of opposition intelligence, the opposing republican. And, I would suppose that my total time invested puts me in a marginal group, investment-wise; say in the group of people who spend 5+ hours a week investigating political information. One mitigating behavioral factor suggested by this is that the extra time invested after I’ve made my decision does not increase the possibility of a greater return. From this it could be suggested that a much greater ratio of return is gained by the person who invests almost no time in making their decision. However, keep in mind this low time cost is also attachable to a low expectation of return, and so there is the extreme represented by most non-voters, no time cost-expectation of zero return.)

[See: Libertarian Paternalism Is Not An Oxymoron Cass R. Sunstein; Richard H. Thaler

Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness
by Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein

review of above: Economics: Which Way for Obama? By John Cassidy; NY Review of Books; June 8, 2008]

Darnit! On the other hand, voting behavior may be largely driven by effects due to implicit (unconscious) processes. In which case, the time sunk by undecided voters may be commensurate with what is necessary to efficiently confirm their bias. If so, such voter’s ambivalence could be termed pseudo-ambivalence.

“Undecided” Voters’ Minds Already Made Up, Study Says

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Hillary Clinton: “Experience not only counts, it is all that counts.”

Mrs. Clinton’s rhetoric here makes no account of an interesting division among Democrats. Barack Obama enjoys a substantial edge in that better educated, more affluent Democrats support him over Mrs. Clinton. How to account for this edge among people who are much more likely to understand what are the actual features of experience? After all, the term ‘experience’ points in the direction of a rubric, in the direction of a means for assessing what counts as experience. Obviously, experience itself is constituted by other features. Experience matters and it’s how to count it up that matters much more than any store of experience.

Reflect on what is meant when someone is characterized as having experience. This characterization is against the notion of inexperience. First, experience means that someone has been through various situations. Second, it means they have been through those situations with awareness. Third, it means this awareness has engendered learning. Learning about: what to do; what information is needed; which resources are possibly worthwhile; what are possible options for responding–in effect what are the possible solutions to a problem posed by a situation.

Taking experience as being the central aspect of developing awareness and problem-solving capability in going through problem-posing situations we come to the idea that the ability to analyze, interpret, hypothesize, synthesize, respond supports experience rather than an amorphous ‘experience’ being the support of arrays of capability.

Far from representing a kind of gas tank full of just situations, Experience is the praxis via which awareness and capability is deployed. It is a term of process rather than a mere term of storage!

Looked at this way, (looked at as the term for how situations are cognized,) then it becomes clear how it comes about that greatly experienced persons screw up. Sometimes the word stupid describes the screw up neatly. It was stupid of the Nazi General Staff to invade Russia without anticipating an adequate support infrastructure. History offers a legion of examples of the purportedly wise and experienced tending to repeat mistakes made in previous situations, or, tending to use old operations to resolve new problems. (*comment on Hillary Clinton’s Iraq judgment inside the fold.)

Unfortunately, the appeal to experience doesn’t break apart until you consider what are the details of the structure of experience. We don’t need to know what is the foundation of our airliner’s pilots’ experience to understand that we wish those pilots to be experienced. This said, we also don’t want to know of any difference whatsoever between a pilot with decades of experience and the rookie pilot who is commanding the 767 for the first time. Yet this is just another way of exemplifying the idea that it is the capabilities evoked via experience which make all the difference.

It cannot be, then, that, experience is ‘all.’

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Albert Ellis has passed away at 93.

Where the Freudians maintained that a painstaking exploration of childhood experience was critical to understanding neurosis and curing it, Dr. Ellis believed in short-term therapy that called on patients to focus on what was happening in their lives at the moment and to take immediate action to change their behavior. “Neurosis,” he said, was “just a high-class word for whining.”

The cognitive therapies, for which Ellis stands as one of the key originators, mostly buried the quaint psychodynamic therapies of the early 19th century. Ellis discovered that the ‘subject’ is capable of being objectively pragmatic about their problems and for an array of problems this insight caused a seachange. Just as important, his therapeutic methods were demonstrated to be effective in well-defined applications; which is more than one can say about the odd methods of Freud, Jung, et al. Ellis’s work is one of the cornerstones of short-term therapy, and, elaborated phenomenologically, his theories enrich interesting perspectives on cognitive complexity, social cognition, and folk psychology.

Ellis was a great influence on my own exploration of pragmatic adult learning.

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Human beings have a tendency to ‘live in their heads’. This phrase covers several facts. First, men have a tendency to overtheorize. Some things are ruined by too much thinking on them, things which are essentially matters of experience. What is more, almost anything can be source of immediate experience, and so almost anything is vulnerable to ruination by too much theorizing. The second fact is this. Such theorizing usually presents itself phenomenologically as internal verbalization, and the internal verbalization often insinuates itself between ourselves and the thing experienced. This is how the thinking interrupts experience and how it leaves us with only our verbalizations. This leads to the third fact: when our theoretical internal verbalization is interposed between ourselves and external things, the object of our awareness becomes ourselves. It is we who are doing the theorizing, and to be aware of the theoretical verbalizing is to be aware of ourselves. This state of mind is undesirable, for it is a commonplace that our happiest moments come when we are not conscious of ourselves, and that most forms of consciousness of self are baneful. It is hard to say why this is so; perhaps the resources of a self are much more limited than the resources of the world, so only an object-directed consciousness can satisfy the human appetite for variety.

The disadvantageousness of this state leaves us with a problem: how can a man with a propensity for injecting his theorizing between himself and the world be coaxed out of doing this? I would suggest that this is the problem the Zen master is addressing, and the koan is his answer. One technique is out; ironically, the very technique I’ve been using. It does no good to mount an argument about the disadvantages of living in one’s head. This would be one more theory, one more verbal construction for the unenlightened to interpose between himself and the world. The activity has got to be halted, and what the Zen masters realized is that it can’t be halted by arguing, however subtly and cogently, that it has got to be halted.

The point of the koan, then, is to halt living in one’s head by presenting inescapably candidate objects for immediate experience. The objects are presented in contexts normally reserved for verbal theorizing, since the abrupt shift of context makes them perspicuous. Thus, when the student

is lost in a cloud of metaphysics surrounding the One, the master turns his attention to a robe. He turns the student’s attention: he doesn’t say “Your attention would be better spent on a robe, for by seeking fulfillment in speculation you are like a dog chasing its tail in the hope of nourishment.” This is an interesting argument, and the odds are the student would pursue it. The Master shows without saying the advantages of experience. He could in fact do this by adverting to a river or a fox; he could clout the student. Anything would do – that is what is insightful about Cheng’s principle of ontic substitutability.

It supports this view of koans that Professor Cheng himself sometimes hints at Zen’s emphasis on immediate experience without developing the implications of his hints. He says in a footnote that the principle of ‘contextual demonstration’, closely allied to ontic substitutability, could also be called the principle of experiential reconstruction “as it is intended to indicate the fact that after ontological reduction reality will be experienced in whatever way it happens to be experienced” (102). This latter, I have argued, is nearly the central point of the koan. How “reality will be experienced in whatever way it happens to be experienced” follows upon ontic reduction is something Cheng does not tell us. I suspect the cited passage reflects Cheng’s awareness that the ‘principle of experiential reconstruction’ has a much more central place in Zen Buddhism and the institution of the koan than he is in a position to allow, and he tries to make it follow from the principle he has construed as the point of the koan. But it will not follow, so far as I can see, and this suggests that Cheng has erred in his extraction of principles from the koan.

Comments on the Paradoxicality of Zen Koans
By Michael E. Levin
The Journal of Chinese Philosophy
V. 3 (1976)
pp. 281-290

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(Baxter & Dindla; 1987, 1990)

1. changing the external environment
2. communication
3. metacommunication
4. suppress metacommunication*
5. antisocial strategies; coercion
6. prosocial strategies**
7. ceremonies
8. spontaneity
9. togetherness
10. seeking, allowing autonomy
11. seeking outside help
12. other.***

From a nifty chapter, Relational Maintenance, in Close Relationships, Noller, Feeny, et al. Psychology Press, 2006.

This list has been slightly edited by yours truly.

* joined two terms for clarity
** note-prosocial strategies encompasses recognition, praise, positive estimation, and numerous other intentional categories of positive affectuality
*** Never saw this admission before in such a list!

With the caveat that the map isn’t the territory, and that all such factorizations are reductive, and that in being so they aren’t very descriptive of the actual synthesis found in praxis, this list has, for me, exceptional standalone value.

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Politics have been offloaded to: Diggeracity. The following remains because it’s about social psychology.

Elections interest me mostly because they’re where the rubbery cognitive complexities hit the pavement. Voter behavior is intriguing. There are no competing social actions at the scale of elections. One way or the other everybody’s individual world view, meaning scheme, folk psychology, folk sociology, personal philosophy, idiosyncratic heuristics, and their version of rationality and/or emotionality are, for a moment, extruded from the sensibility so as to converge on a mark or a touch of the screen.

What are the various reasons voters vote the way they do?

It is a fascinating subject because there are so many different kinds of answers reported to researchers. Anybody who thinks there is a general class of answers into which fall the reports of a rational calculation of policy factors and conclusions, and that this class predominates in voter decision making, would be wrong. It’s much much more complicated and, at times, counter-intuitive than the reduction to a rational calculation of interest could encompass.

One of the consequences of this is that the variety of decision making regimes cannot generally be framed by the most common folk sociological scheme, ideology. This is to say the decision making rarely conforms to the instrumental propositions given by an ideological scheme. Most people are more pragmatic than ideological schemes warrant. (For example, most people haven’t thought about whether they are optimistic or pessimistic abut human nature. Or:they haven’t thought about whether knowing their right place in a natural order is important.) So, their decision making isn’t usually a case of referring to what an idealized conservative or liberal does or would do.

This is commonsense. Vote deciding is context-sensitive and deciders will be ‘plastic,’ flexible, oft able to diverge away from inflexible assumptions and converge upon the assumptions which fund their self-interest. This self-interest might only implicate the sense, for example, that the favored candidate is the ‘one I’d like to share a beer with.’ This same voter might report to a researcher, “I’m a Republican.” He or she might elaborate a rationale for voting for the Republican, this rationale might fit well with an ideological scheme, but, if the actual reason was a hunch about sharing a beer, it’s easy to see both the null role of ideology, and, the research challenge the eliciting of after-the-fact reasons supposes.

Whereas some people employ a lot of (their) cognitive complexity to decide, others do not. (Each of us carries different toolboxes, so-to-speak.) Yet, at the same time, ideological schemes exist in a “pre-psychological” domain in modern cognitive terms, so, their categorical and classification and constructive schemes do not correlate with actual cognitive constructive schemes, schemes which are instrumental and behavioral; behavioral in the general sense: having to do with an intentional act. Ideological schemes over-generalize and their implicit generalizations do not match with behavioral schemes. Well, they weren’t intended to, but, constantly, we are subject to the false assumption that holds they are one in the same, that ideology is, constructively, found at the core of decision making.

Voters are largely pragmatists and most aren’t concerned with what is either ideologically ‘true’ or subjectively ‘true’ for someone else.

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Mark Schenk, writing at Anecdote | If you can’t measure it…

I recently heard a presentation that mentioned the truism ‘if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it. It reminded me of how uncomfortable I have always been with this statement and the way it gets touted like a mantra in some organisations. If we view the functions of management as ‘plan, organise, lead, control, direct’, then both ‘measuring and managing’ appear to be more appropriate in an ordered world where cause and effect are knowable. For complex situations, where cause and effect cannot be predicted with acccuracy, the concepts of measure and manage aren’t sufficient to be successful. Measure and manage also don’t make any allowance for emergence and tend to overlook any unintended consequences. Fortunately I think many more people recite this truism than really believe it.

I prefer to view the function of management as ‘creating the conditions that enable people to be successful’. I also much prefer the concept expressed by Albert Einstein: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts”.

Nor is the count the thing counted. In the best case and presumptively, business degreed managers had to slog through math coursework framed by an explanation of what is the difference between metrics and the phenomena measured, and, crucially, what metrics cannot measure. There’s another crucial step just beyond this which would be to explain how because something can’t be measured accurately (or at all,) doesn’t mitigate its phenomenal effects.

You can test this by asking any manager how the metrics implicate the operations of the thing measured, and, how those operations hang together systematically to describe measurable differentials and contingencies unfolded over time. Note there is in an old fashioned sense a kind of newtonian hydraulics implicit under the numbers.

The key point is that there exist other differentiated and contingent phenomena which are also implicit in the (so-called) system and these are not accurately quantifiable. Which is to say there is, necessarily, a kind of uncertainty principal at work in systematic metrical extrapolations and systematic qualitative descriptions because only some of the effects in a system can be, in effect, computed and qualitatively apprehended.

It follows from this that any rigorous system-awareness would also necessarily acknowledge the cognitive bias made effective through any and all sensemaking which is overly reductive, overly deterministic, overly blind to this uncertainty factor.

This open up to something very interesting. Suppose, then, that there are tacit workarounds to this problem of fuzziness. Those workarounds would instantiate various ad hoc heurisms and I would tentatively submit those heuristic features are not easily measured.

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From NESTA FutureLab, a long report, Literature review in creativity, new technologies and learning, Avril M. Loveless, School of Education, University of Brighton about the technological support of Creativity. No short paper can do justice to a field as expansive as creativity, but its cognitive/constructive-oriented overview is excellent. (I highly recommend the small link to the Acrobat version.) The NESTA FutureLab site map gives you an idea about the group’s advanced commitments and research.

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“Yes, it’s a physical atrophying of the whole sensory system.”

I don’t know if the research Joseph Chilton Pearce refers to in this interview at the always mind-bending Rat Haus has been satisfactorily verified.

But, I have long wondered about the differentials in cognitive abilities that became evident to me during the period when part of my job was to interview entry level retail clerks. It was, to say the least, very depressing to comprehend what a high school diploma was evidence for. Present company excepted!

Waking Up to the Holographic Heart. Starting over with Education
Joseph Chilton Pearce (1998) courtesy ratical.org

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Dana Gaynor’s The Journal of Psychospiritual Transformation has some fairly ‘hard’ minded articles about its subject matter. For example, on the contents page of vol.1 you’ll find an article by Charles Tart, “An Emergent Interactionist Understanding of Human Consciousness”. It exemplifies this qualification. On Tart’s site is the best itemization of credible parapsychology resources.

Andrew Cohen’s What Is Enlightenment magazine is good. It’s a bit beleaguered by single-mindedness. (My bias: you can’t praise the mysterium tremendum and also praise only one implied form of ultimate higher consciousness. Creative, ‘messy‘ awareness often gets tossed out in reductive, logos-centric framings of consciousness.)

Hard-mindedness, (a pun if you know what the hard problem is,) is one of the key thrusts of David Chalmer’s web compendium of papers and research on consciousness, the philosophy of psychology, mind, and neuroscience. He’s an editor of the very worthy virtual journal, Psyche.

The Science and Consciousness Review -obviously- is enthusiastically all over the map and includes what old hippy explorers would term research into the doors of perception.

Stephen Jones is behind The Brain Project, another site melding neuroscience and research into consciousness. There is an inviting section of multimedia presentations here.

Did I mention parapsychology earlier? Why yes! What about altered states of consciousness? Two fine resources: Rhea White’s Exceptional Human Experience site, and, TASTE:the archive of scientist’s transcendent experiences, I highly recommend.

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