Tag Archives: psychology

Missed-Understood and the Web of Hypotheses

This video counts as keeper in my quest for laser-focused riffs on adult development lasting less than ten minutes.

The one qualification I would offer about managing conversations is: be aware of what happens if you idealize the structural and intentional features of a conversation. It seems to me all deep conversations come to be managed in their real time trajectory. From my perspective, discernment and shaping of conversational intentions (of any party to the conversation,) may engage third order repertoires. This seems to me to be part of the system and meta-system of conversational communication. It’s okay.

On the other hand, this may also be rationalizing on my part!

“Not-knowing refers to the belief that one person cannot pre-know another person or his or her situation or what is best for them. It refers to the intent and manner with which the coach thinks about and introduces his or her believed knowledge and expertise (what they think they might know). Knowledge and expertise (e.g., whether from research, experience, or theory) are tentatively offered as food for thought and dialogue and remain open to challenge and change.”Harlene Anderson, h/t C.Visser

Harlene Anderson bio from Taos Institute.

Harlene Anderson, Ph.D., is founding member of the Houston Galveston Institute, the Taos Institute, and Access Success. She is recognized internationally as being at the leading edge of postmodern collaborative practices as a thinker, consultant, coach, and educator. She takes her tools — her insights, her curiosity, her engaging conversational style, her leadership skills and her keen interest — to help professionals turn theory into new and often surprising possibilities for their clients, students, and organizations. She embodies her own belief in learning as a lifelong process — inviting, encouraging and challenging people to be inquisitive, creative, authentic, and open to the ever-present possibilities for newness in others — and in themselves.

reflection

Harlene Anderson and Dr. Harold A. Goolishian developed collaborative therapy as a postmodern approach to creative and solution-based communication. A core component of postmodern collaborative therapy is that the relationship between therapist and client is one of equals; the therapist is not in a position of authority over the client. Instead, therapy is viewed as a partnership that allows the therapist and client to combine their expertise. There is a strong emphasis on becoming comfortable with uncertainty, including the therapist’s own uncertainty. The therapist avoids the use of jargon, and makes notes readily available to the client. Clients are encouraged to actively participate in the process by providing feedback on the process itself, for example, and loved ones in the client’s life are not stigmatized or viewed as harmful. Instead, they too are invited to participate in the therapeutic process.

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The McGurk Effect

Communications Cache | Videos


On my own behalf, I did hear the utterance correctly.

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Typological Shifting

ENTP

I recently did a short version free MBTI. It showed by Feeling function slipping into Thinking by 1%. In addition, my Extroversion was barely captured–so it would seem. However, I am an extroverted feeling type.

The tendency to separate the opposites as much as possible and to strive for singleness of meaning is absolutely necessary for clarity of consciousness, since discrimination is of its essence. But when the separation is carried so far that the complementary opposite is lost sight of, and the blackness of the whiteness, the evil of the good, the depth of the heights, and so on, is no longer seen, the result is one-sidedness, which is then compensated from the unconscious without our help. C.G. Jung Mysterium Coniunctionis (1955). CW 14: 470

The closeness of the E/I and F/T in my typology (close to) paradoxically reflects much greater differentiation of their functions in my psyche. For me the transformation from ENFP to, in actuality, something like XNXP is hard won.

Bonus:

BigFive-July2014

My short version Big Five never changes much; I’ve been more agreeable and less introverted at times. I wish it captured realistic/unrealistic and, in doing so, could gain-say deeper neuroticism.

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The Primacy of Experience

The body of research undertaken to date is compatible with the position that the “feeling of authorship” is a conscious sensation that is, in principle, no different from the feeling of seeing the color red or smelling a rose. What are its neuronal correlates? What are the functional and neuroanatomical links between the brain centers that initiate action and those networks that generate the feeling of authorship? Would such a neuronal mechanism, if understood, resolve the apparent conflict between the hypothesis that the universe is causally closed and a psychological sense of freedom (“I am the author of my own actions”)? To what extent might bottom-up accounts of causation for such actions within the brain and nervous system be modified by top-down influences, for instance, expectations? How can higher levels of integration and personal volition—the subject’s beliefs, hopes, purposes, and desires—be said to initiate action? And, more generally, how might physicalist frameworks for top-down causation be conceptualized in the first place?

Furthermore: How can convictions about the possibility for self-actualization be squared with ideas of ‘causal closure’? Are such philosophical or scientific ideas based on compelling interpretations of the implications of physical science? Were there to be no such thing as actual libertarian free will, can there be actual, philosophically coherent, moral responsibility? Can non-reductive physicalism, affirming both the reality of the mind and the thesis that every physical event has a physical cause, break the logjam philosophically and possibly point towards fruitful new research agendas in neuroscience? How does contemporary philosophical theology engage with this area of inquiry in the neurosciences and in the philosophy of mind? What is the status and shape of active contemporary debates in philosophical theology that pertain to questions of volition and causation? Top Down Coordination and Volition – Templeton.org

Evan Thompson

embodied-Mindbetween-ourselves
Cornerstones

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Empiricism

My thesis is that if we start with the supposition that there is only one primal stuff or material in the world, a stuff of which everything is composed, and if we call that stuff pure experience, then knowing can easily be explained as a particular sort of relation towards one another into which portions of pure experience may enter. The relation itself is a part of pure experience; one of its terms becomes the subject or bearer of the knowledge, the knower, the other becomes the object known. This will need much explanation before it can be understood. The best way to get it understood is to contrast it with the alternative view; and for that we may take the recentest alternative, that in which the evaporation of the definite soul-substance has proceeded as far as it can go without being yet complete. If neo-Kantism has expelled earlier forms of dualism, we shall have expelled all forms if we are able to expel neo-Kantism in its turn. William James from What Is Consciousness?

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Master and Emissary

Iain McGilchrist

The last two paragraphs from Iain McGilchrist’s Introduction [pdf] to his book The Master and the Emissary

There is a story in Nietzsche that goes something like this. There was once a
wise spiritual master, who was the ruler of a small but prosperous domain, and
who was known for his sel?ess devotion to his people. As his people ?ourished
and grew in number, the bounds of this small domain spread; and with it the need
to trust implicitly the emissaries he sent to ensure the safety of its ever more
distant parts. It was not just that it was impossible for him personally to order all
that needed to be dealt with: as he wisely saw, he needed to keep his distance from,
and remain ignorant of, such concerns. And so he nurtured and trained carefully
his emissaries, in order that they could be trusted. Eventually, however, his
cleverest and most ambitious vizier, the one he most trusted to do his work, began
to see himself as the master, and used his position to advance his own wealth and
in?uence. He saw his master’s temperance and forbearance as weakness, not
wisdom, and on his missions on the master’s behalf, adopted his mantle as his
own – the emissary became contemptuous of his master. And so it came about
that the master was usurped, the people were duped, the domain became a
tyranny; and eventually it collapsed in ruins.

The meaning of this story is as old as humanity, and resonates far from the
sphere of political history. I believe, in fact, that it helps us understand something
taking place inside ourselves, inside our very brains, and played out in the cultural
history of the West, particularly over the last 500 years or so. Why I believe so
forms the subject of this book. I hold that, like the Master and his emissary in the
story, though the cerebral hemispheres should co-operate, they have for some
time been in a state of con?ict. The subsequent battles between them are recorded
in the history of philosophy, and played out in the seismic shifts that characterise
the history of Western culture. At present the domain – our civilisation – ?nds
itself in the hands of the vizier, who, however gifted, is effectively an ambitious
regional bureaucrat with his own interests at heart. Meanwhile the Master, the one
whose wisdom gave the people peace and security, is led away in chains. The
Master is betrayed by his emissary.

(SC) My associate Kenneth Warren brought McGilchrist’s work to my attention. One of the first so-called turns a new publicized model goes through is for it to be stripped down and reattached to the folk estimations (or constructs,) which emerge when a representation of domain-specific research is loosed into the public source. Put differently: the representational concepts transform into hypotheses, and then people deploy these possible explanations in new, and untested areas and experiences.

This ad hoc meta-abduction pulls experiences and situations and potential matches and mappings back toward the explanation; and explanation held by human awareness. This entanglement could describe aspects of a social complex. It’s important to comprehend that it is first embodied, next emboldened, then reembodied; and that there is a parallel biosemiotic operation. A sense given by this view is that the transformation of domain-dependent concepts into something else altogether–where the concepts are made to visit new domains–is more complicated than the transforms caused by concepts being metaphoric or analogues.

A practical possibility, then, is that, for example, an ecological space such as a room or building, may be designed with the model in the designer’s mind.

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Context in Two Shakes

Korzybski-837

Korzybski-838

Korzybski-839

For many, the most significant dimension of affordance theory is its grounding in first principles of Darwinian ecology: an organism and its environs are reciprocally shaped; perceptual features are adaptively molded in response to specific environmental features; both simple and complex organisms exhibit patterns of response to stimuli that are demonstrably innate. [James J.] Gibson’s work is among the first efforts to operationalize these general principles. He argued that the adaptive value of environmental objects and events are directly perceived (Kazdin, 2000). An affordance, Gibson reasoned, is defined by a pairing of an organism (and by extension, its potential or realized behavior) with specific environmental features, embedded in a particular situation or context.

Gibson’s “Affordances”: Evolution of a Pivotal Concept
Harold S. Jenkins
University of Central Oklahoma (pdf)

web site: Journal of Scientific PSychology

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Karen Horney I

1. The Neurotic Need for Affection and Approval

This needs include the desires to be liked, to please other people, and meet the expectations of others. People with this type of need are extremely sensitive to rejection and criticism and fear the anger or hostility of others.

2. The Neurotic Need for a Partner Who Will Take Over One’s Life

These involve the need to be centered on a partner. People with this need suffer extreme fear of being abandoned by their partner. Oftentimes, these individuals place an exaggerated importance on love and believe that having a partner will resolve all of life’s troubles.

3. The Neurotic Need to Restrict One’s Life Within Narrow Borders

Individuals with this need prefer to remain inconspicuous and unnoticed. They are undemanding and content with little. They avoid wishing for material things, often making their own needs secondary and undervaluing their own talents and abilities.

4. The Neurotic Need for Power

Individuals with this need seek power for its own sake. They usually praise strength, despise weakness, and will exploit or dominate other people. These people fear personal limitations, helplessness, and uncontrollable situations.

5. The Neurotic Need to Exploit Others

These individuals view others in terms of what can be gained through association with them. People with this need generally pride themselves in their ability to exploit other people and are often focused on manipulating others to obtain desired objectives, including such things as ideas, power, money, or sex.

6. The Neurotic Need for Prestige

Individuals with a need for prestige value themselves in terms of public recognition and acclaim. Material possessions, personality characteristics, professional accomplishments, and loved ones are evaluated based upon prestige value. These individuals often fear public embarrassment and loss of social status.

7. The Neurotic Need for Personal Admiration

Individuals with a neurotic need for personal admiration are narcissistic and have an exaggerated self-perception. They want to be admired based on this imagined self-view, not upon how they really are.

8. The Neurotic Need for Personal Achievement

According to Horney, people push themselves to achieve greater and greater things as a result of basic insecurity. These individuals fear failure and feel a constant need to accomplish more than other people and to top even their own earlier successes.

9. The Neurotic Need for Self-Sufficiency and Independence

These individuals exhibit a “loner” mentality, distancing themselves from others in order to avoid being tied down or dependent upon other people.

10. The Neurotic Need for Perfection and Unassailability

These individuals constantly strive for complete infallibility. A common feature of this neurotic need is searching for personal flaws in order to quickly change or cover up these perceived imperfections.

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Basking In Assessment

MBTI-Prayers

Ha ha. I’m XNFP, yet I’m extroverted in the main.

BIG-FIVE-SEPT-13

It seems to me that there are environmental factors in extroversion/introversion; which is to suggest a degree of isolation may pull a person toward the introspective pole. A short version of the Big Five may be taken online.

EI-Style

Tried this knock-off from HRDPress. This result seems accurate except, as it is with the capture provided by type/style assessments, the frozen perspective has the potential to induce an interpretive attribution error. Well, it can’t do so with me because I know better! My main gripe with the field of assessment, and it’s a field I’m in, is that assessment results and interpretations many times are plugged into coaching (etc.,) contexts in which ‘folk psychological’ misconceptions may rule.

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Notes on synchronicity and creativity, friendship, sustainability, and, an amplification of parts multiplying the whole; plus Elvis

The Transcendent Function SCalhoun, 2012, The Transcendent Function
The process of coming to terms with the unconscious is a true labor, a work which involves both action and suffering. It has been named the “transcendent function” because it represents a function based on real and “imaginary” or rational and irrational, data, thus bridging the yawning gulf between conscious and unconscious. It is a natural process, a manifestation of the energy that springs from the tension of opposites, and it consists in a series of fantasy occurrences which appear spontaneously in dreams and visions. The natural process by which the opposites are united came to serve me as the model and basis for a method consisting essentially in this: everything that happens at the behest of nature, unconsciously and spontaneously, is deliberately summoned forth and integrated into our conscious mind and its outlook. Failure in many cases is due precisely to the fact that they lacked the mental and spiritual equipment to master the events taking place in them. (C.G. Jung; The Synthetic Or Constructive Method, Two Essays In Analytical Psychology, p.80)
In addition to inherent duality of Universe There is also and always An inherent threefoldedness and fourfoldedness Of initial consciousness And of all experience. For in addition to (1) action, (2) reaction, (3) resultant, There is always (4) the a priori environment, Within which the event occurs, i.e., the at-first-nothingness around us Of the child graduated from the womb, Within which seeming nothingness (fourthness) The inherently threefold Local event took place. R. Buckminster Fuller, Intuition, 1972, p. 14 Holly The Green Woman Wandering Through Friendship Many years ago, my three closest male friends were named Bob, Bob, and Chris. I met each of them in Middlebury Vermont sometime around 1976, after I had arrived in Middlebury to work the music desk at The Vermont Book Shop. As it happened, only one of the ‘Bobs’ was still living in the area when I departed in 1991. That is important because the bonds forged with the three men had everything to do with our mutual proximity, and, eventually, this proximity was attenuated and so became diminished. As it turns out, over twenty years later, I know how to contact two of the three, yet I’ve lost touch with all three. One of the Bobs, about whom I will tell of momentarily, I didn’t stay connected with right from the moment he left Middlebury in the late-eighties. (Yeah, I should google him!) It was with Bob P. that I first enjoined a discussion about the nature of friendship. After all, we were friends. I forget how it came up and I forget what it was that we discussed, but I do remember having the discussion and also remember our agreeing on two elements: to be known by another is to, then, do the work of knowing one other.
For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and reinvention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other. Paulo Freire
Another consequential incident happened in 1992. I became friends with my boss, Patrick, and tis dovetailed in an absolutely synchronistic way with me working through unconscious images and the suggestions of Marion Woodman in her book The Pregnant Virgin. This book, for me personally, is the most profound book on masculine psychology. Paradoxically, its subject matter is feminine psychology, and yet its treatment of male friendship literally rapped me a little bit awake, like a Zen master might have done. From that moment I became a close student of the nature of friendship. I made an experiential inquiry into my own friendships. Because it is my own mature nature to make a study of human phenomena as a participant and observer, eventually I organize my tentative comprehensions and modest understandings into my provisional knowledge of same–whichever subject is in my sight. So, it next becomes possible for me to know, and, articulate, my personal phenomenology and practice of friendship, and these are entangled in what amounts to an aesthetic of friendship. By the way, I don’t lay any of this on my close friends, unless our collaboration in friendship happens to step back into this so-called “meta” viewpoint, stepping back at such a point into a dialog about that which comprises our different viewpoints (or aesthetic,) on the practice of friendship. This hasn’t happened betwixt my friends and me, and, paradoxically, I’m sharing this with anybody who happens upon this published description; including friends. Friendship and a Colorful Symbol One time it happened is when I explained to my close friend Holly that ‘to be a close friend of mine means for me to have entered the most close in circle of friendship and intimacy.’ Inner Circle Obviously this kind of differentiation is not uncommon–when you reflect upon your relationships. She and I discussed what this differently meant for us, being in relationships which could be qualified in terms of closeness and whether or not someone was, in both effect and practice, in our inner circle. In noting this particular approach, a crucial point to understand is that feeling my way through a human phenomena like this is part and parcel of what I do just in being who I am to be. This point of fact goes along with two elemental aspects that qualify, for me, a friend being in my inner circle: one, such a person has put in the necessary time; two, such a person has mutually submitted to the actuality of each of us being who we happen to be. The essence of marriage is friendship. The secret of life is friendship. The core of love is being a friend.  
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How Creativity Works

Okay, this presents a slim-downed version of a version of how creativity works.

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Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic Motivation

This cartoon gets at the essence of intrinsic motivation–when this kind of motivation is considered to be a simple phenomena, rather than a feature of Edward Deci and Richard Ryan’s deep self-determination theory.

The following earlier cartoon, lead the way to the post The Grey Area of Motivation in which I offer some intuitions about intrinsic motivation.

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The Spark of the Opposites II.

Carl Jung

How to hold the tension of the opposites?

Following from the everyday experience of conflict, or dissonance, or intense ambivalence, Carl Jung doesn’t treat experiential matters like this often. The basic reason is a little bit below the surface of this typical statement from Aion,

“Most people do not have sufficient range of consciousness to become aware of the opposites inherent in human nature. The tensions they generate remain for the most part unconscious, but can appear in dreams.”

With this statement, we’re no longer in the realm of the everyday sundry betwixt and betweens.

The core opposition in Analytic Psychcology is consciousness/unconsciousness. To ask ‘how to hold the tension of opposites’ strikes me as a modern request for a “self-helpful” instrumental technique, as against the energetic, (what for me is a libido or hydraulic,) model given in the classical version, and in Jung’s understanding, of the psyche. In this latter model, the problem is extant in an energized intrapsychic field of energy. This field is the territorial locus for the complex compression given in the intrapsychic confrontation between the known, nascent self-knowledge, and, the unknowable.

Although Dr. Jung does not use the term tension of the opposites much, and does not offer any ‘self-help’ on the ‘how,’ there are several detailed treatments scattered in his writings.

First, Two Essays In Analytic Psychology, (CW 7; 4th ed. 1966) is much about the opposites.

This example clearly shows that it does not lie in our power to transfer “disposable” energy at will to a rationally chosen ob­ject. The same is true in general of the apparently disposable energy which is disengaged when we have destroyed its unser­viceable forms through the corrosive of reductive analysis. This energy, as we have said, can at best be applied voluntarily for only a short time. But in most cases it refuses to seize hold, for any length of time, of the possibilities rationally presented to it. Psychic energy is a very fastidious thing which insists on fulfil­ment of its own conditions. However much energy may be present, we cannot make it serviceable until we have succeeded in finding the right gradient.

This question of the gradient is an eminently practical problem which crops up in most analyses. For instance, when in a favourable case the disposable energy, the so-called libido, does seize hold of a rational object, we think we have brought about the transformation through conscious exertion of the will. But in that we are deluded, because even the most strenuous exer­tions would not have sufficed had there not been present at the same time a gradient in that direction. How important the gra­dient is can be seen in cases when, despite the most desperate exertions, and despite the fact that the object chosen or the form desired impresses everybody with its reasonableness, the trans­formation still refuses to take place, and all that happens is a new repression.

It has become abundantly clear to me that life can flow forward only along the path of the gradient. But there is no energy unless there is a tension of opposites; hence it is necessary to discover the opposite to the attitude of the conscious mind. It is interesting to see how this compensation by opposites also plays its part in the historical theories of neurosis: Freud’s theory es­poused Eros, Adler’s the will to power. Logically, the opposite of love is hate, and of Eros, Phobos (fear); but psychologically it is the will to power. Where love reigns, there is no will to power; and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking. The one is but the shadow of the other: the man who adopts the standpoint of Eros finds his compensatory opposite in the will to power, and that of the man who puts the accent on power is Eros. Seen from the one-sided point of view of the conscious attitude, the shadow is an inferior component of the personality and is consequently repressed through intensive resistance. But the re­pressed content must be made conscious so as to produce a ten­sion of opposites, without which no forward movement is possible. The conscious mind is on top, the shadow underneath, and just as high always longs for low and hot for cold, so all consciousness, perhaps without being aware of it, seeks its un­conscious opposite, lacking which it is doomed to stagnation, congestion, and ossification. Life is born only of the spark of opposites. (L76-78)

The tension of the opposites, in being sparked, is unbidden. In the classical view, it is not subject to the ‘how’ given by our modern self-help view. Thus, to be in the psychological problem so sparked is to be in a situation for which a fruitful appeal may be made to an analytic relationship–through which the working creatively or waiting creatively through the (variously) phantasy/symbolic/dream/actively imagined material, is the means of holding material energized in the ineluctable terms of this gradient.

The problem of opposites, as an inherent principle of hu­man nature, forms a further stage in our process of realization. As a rule it is one of the problems of maturity. The practical treatment of a patient will hardly ever begin with this problem, especially not in the case of young people. The neuroses of the young generally come from a collision between the forces of re­ality and an inadequate, infantile attitude, which from the causal point of view is characterized by an abnormal dependence on the real or imaginary parents, and from the teleological point of view by unrealizable fictions, plans, and aspirations.

Elsewhere Jung states “the opposites condition each other.” The youthful conditioning movement (or energetics, libido,) settles out the persona, distills the egoic first person, and, next may confront the repression of the Shadow.

Here the reductive methods of Freud and Adler are entirely in place. But there are many neuroses which either appear only at maturity or else deteriorate to such a degree that the patients become incapable of work. Naturally one can point out in these cases that an unusual dependence on the parents existed even in youth, and that all kinds of infantile illusions were present; but all that did not prevent them from taking up a profession, from practicing it successfully, from keeping up a marriage of sorts until that moment in riper years when the previous attitude suddenly failed. In such cases it is of little help to make them conscious of their childhood fantasies, dependence on the parents, etc., although this is a necessary part of the procedure and often has a not unfavourable result. But the real therapy only begins when the patient sees that it is no longer father and mother who are standing in his way, but himself-i.e., an unconscious part of his personality which carries on the role of father and mother. Even this realization, helpful as it is, is still negative; it simply says, “I realize that it is not father and mother who are against me, but I myself.” But who is it/in him that is against him? What is this mysterious part of his personality that hides under the father and mother-imagos, making him believe for years that the cause of his trouble must somehow have got into him from outside? This part is the counterpart of his conscious attitude, and it will leave him no peace and will continue to plague him until it has been accepted.

Acceptance.

What youth found and must find outside, the man of life’s afternoon must find within himself. Here we face new problems which often cause the doctor no light headache.

The transition from morning to afternoon means a revaluation of the earlier values. There comes the urgent need to appreciate the value of the opposite of our former ideals, to per­ceive the error in our former convictions, to recognize the un­truth in our former truth, and to feel how much antagonism and even hatred lay in what, until now, had passed for love. Not a few of those who are drawn into the conflict of opposites jettison everything that had previously seemed to them good and worth striving for; they try to live in complete opposition to their for­mer ego. Changes of profession, divorces, religious convulsions, apostasies of every description, are the symptoms of this swing over to the opposite. The snag about a radical conversion into one’s opposite is that one’s former life suffers repression and thus produces just as unbalanced a state as existed before, when the counterparts of the conscious virtues and values were still repressed and unconscious. Just as before, perhaps, neurotic dis­orders arose because the opposing fantasies were unconscious, so now other disorders arise through the repression of former idols. It is of course a fundamental mistake to imagine that when we see the non-value in a value or the untruth in a truth, the value or the truth ceases to exist. It has only become relative. Every­thing human is relative, because everything rests on an inner polarity; for everything is a phenomenon of energy. Energy nec­essarily depends on a pre-existing polarity, without which there could be no energy. There must always be high and low, hot and cold, ete., so that the equilibrating process–which is energy–can take place. Therefore the tendency to deny all previous val­ues in favour of their opposites is just as much of an exaggera­tion as the earlier one-sidedness. And in so far as it is a question of rejecting universally accepted and indubitable values, the re­sult is a fatal loss. One who acts in this way empties himself out with his values, as Nietzsche has already said. (214-215)

Acceptance and recognition, and, in that order. Again, there is not in the classic perspective any explicit ‘self-help’ advice. Holding is how, and this may mean allowing for the problem to stay, for it to be sticky and to be stuck to it. The underlying energetic circumstance demands the ego with its charge, or libido, to appropriate more than enough consciousness to enter into relation/relatedness with the charged opposite, accept, recognize, and, equilibrate at a higher key.

Because the classic and ensuing revisions of the model of the psyche of Analytic Psychology is problematic in light of modern psychology, in backing away in the direction of common situations of psychological conflict, be these the stuckedness given by conflicts of emotion, cognition, aspiration, it is easy enough for me, grounded in models of adult learning, to comprehend the similarity to how change comes about in experiential learning, where the phase of resolution describes our effectiveness in either adapting our self to the circumstance, or, altering the external circumstance to our self.

***

Numerous teaching stories, the koan, and aphorisms that drill right to the tense middle. My favorite is an aphorism of Rumi.

What is essential is not important,
what is important is not essential.

There is no way to penetrate this aphorism’s value without feeling and experiencing the tension between essential and important.

When Shams, Rumi’s mentor and beloved, was killed, for Rumi, Shams was gone only in one respect. In the working through the opposite between lover and disappeared beloved, his mature mystic outlook was evoked; love in this case growing despite the profoundly frustrating loss of the beloved’s incarnate being. (And, so Rumi’s mysticism offers a yoga of the opposites, of loss and recognition.)

My own experience is that holding the tensions is an everyday opportunity. Anytime we sacrifice our weak or strong preference, we’re “there” holding for a moment the tension of the opposites. Sometimes it can be helpful to understand what the experience is like by working back from the one-sided beginning or ending. The answer, nevertheless, is given by feeling through the experience–or at least this is my suggestion here.

Putting acceptance before recognition is a subtle insight. This means that the first move in the direction of both greater consciousness and toward distant resolution is to accept the intense frustration, and do this for the sake of being able to then accept the weak formations one may apprehend at the very start. Later, when something like clarity is born in a process of creative working/waiting through the tension of the opposites, the hint of resolution comes to become persistent enough to recognize, and, this recognition comes to comprise a foundation for a new attitude.

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The Spark of the Opposites I.

Holding the Spark of the Opposites

(First part of two; reworked from an response offered to Jung-Fire, an email discussion group mostly about Analytic Psychology and Carl Jung. These two parts are in response to the question, how do you hold the tension of the opposites?)

Your question is interesting to me because it points in the direction of a practical answer. After all, we know what it is to hold and experience tension. There are common experiences for which a person finds themselves between or betwixt two competing poles. There are also common ways to describe the genre of such situations.

For example, one wants something but can’t have it. One has a problem or challenge but doesn’t really want to meet it. One prefers an easy route and also knows the route is necessarily not easy.

What is meant by experiencing the opposites? A practical answer is rooted in the experiential, and by reflection on experience.

Holding the opposites is a common experience of being human. Yet, those experiences are mostly different than the experience implied by holding the tension of the opposites given in a situation of individuation; individuation being a conspecific of development in the framework of Analytic Psychology.

Let’s consider this first part to be concerned with the normal, common kinds of experiences.

There are many examples and the several I’ll pose address the question indirectly by implicitly asking what does the experience feel like? The “how” is an answer given by thoroughly sensing what the experience feels like.

Say, you’re driving and somebody else on the road makes an idiotic move, and you find yourself being angry. I might in fact mutter ‘you idiot!’ yet, after all, I’m driving, capable of such moves myself, and, my emotional reaction soon enough passes. There: in the middle, and this would be different from the one-sidedness of speeding up and coming next to the other driver and glaring or, umm, raising a digit in protest.

What does it feel like, for example, to estimate almost instantly, the pressures surrounding bursting through the end of the yellow light?

Another basic form of holding opposites is anytime we find our self having to do something we don’t want to do, but, going “through” our objection to then do it.

A ripe example of this is being on either the delivering or receiving end of a romantic break-up. Being on the receiving end is ripest of all because quite often the severing of attachment leaves one in the predicament–again in the middle as it were–between desiring to remain attached and, often suddenly, having this desire absolutely frustrated. This can be very concrete: wanting versus abruptly this desire no longer being able to be fulfilled.

What is this experience?

In reflecting upon what the experience of this kind of tension is, there are several basic descriptive categories. So, our report about our experience could note the experience feels like being pulled in two seemingly mutually exclusive directions. We might then be able to describe what the emotional or affective content of this experience is; we can name its features. Similarly, we can describe cognitively dissonant, or ideational, conflict. Such conflicts are inflected or otherwise weighted by energetic emotions.

Being in the middle is an energetic situation or position.

The psychological problem evoked by this being in the middle, and this middle having come upon us, constitutes resistance of some sort.

There can be resistance to fate, or denial of the actual situation. One can be in the middle–between the fate we’d prefer, and the fate we’re delivered to. The former fate in effect being the movie we’d like to sit through, the latter being the movie we can’t escape.

Asking again, what does this experience feel like? As we develop clues, and better, about this, we come to understand the various processes which take the general form: equilibrium/disruption/tensile conflict/resolution/equilibrium.

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Folk You Psychology

Paul-ChurchlandPhilosopher Paul Churchland

How to put this, ummm, lightly, and not glom too much of your time? I am challenged to do this. I need to defer from providing way too much context. This is hard because, although the subject matter is straight forward, attached to this is a bunch of strange and impossible to resolve problems. I guess I won’t go “there.”

I can put it simply. Let’s configure an experiment. You get to assemble a team of psychological experts. You tell them that they will have made available to them a research subject, and, they will be able to each make their own expert inquiry into this subject. This will take place at the entry way to a grocery store. What you deliver as this expert group’s charge is this: find out what you need to know to predict what the subject will do in the first five minutes after he or she is released to go shopping in the grocery store.

The team’s goal is to make predictions. Your goal is to assemble the right team, hoping then that they end up making dependable predictions. Assume (correctly) that you will need to vet candidates for this team by gathering information about potential candidates, and, this effort itself echoes the lesser charge. In other words, your own effort is itself directed to approximately predict that your team will be good predictors.

The central problem given by the field of psychology, as far as I’m concerned, is the awesome difficulty posed by the problem of predicting what an average, and on average, normal subject, will do, literally, next. If this experiment was actually rolled out, one of its fascinating aspects would be revealed by analyzing the data gathering implicit in the various different approaches used to predict this single subject’s possible next actions, after they are released to fulfill or dash the predictions. I intuiting by this suggestion the difficulty supposed by aiming the inquiry into the subject at: some layer, level, part of their human system.

There could be two basic classes of inquiry, first the psychological, and, second, everything else. The obvious question a certain kind of inquiry might deploy would be: what are you going to do next; and next; and next? Are such questions dropped in the class of psychology? If you tell me so, I would ask you, “How so?”

Okay. I make two broadly brushed distinctions when I am pursuing my learning and investigation of, what’s termed, folk psychology. Call the first a kind of terrain. Within its boundaries are all practical undisciplined, non-technical, manifestations of cognition, mind, informal theorizing, (etc.) that are innocent of Folk Psychology “proper.” This used to be termed everyday psychology, yet the differentiation I’m focusing on is rooted to wondering about how the folk psychologize when the folk don’t know anything at all about the technical, model-ordinated, problems incurred by supposing that there are difficulties in making assumptions about how one’s own mind works, and, how other person’s minds work.

One thinks about their own mind’s workings, and that of others, and the signal quality of this is: this is not really problematic.

Why it is, or why it should be, lands in the terrain of Folk Psychology Proper. The actuality of ‘psychology’ in the first terrain is that close to 100% of humanity spends 100% of its mindful time in it. This time is taken up with predictions, estimations, and every sort of seemingly reasonable act of surmising what is to happen next, most of it predicated on–in the scheme of such things–gathering hardly any, or at least, paltry amounts of positive information. Yet, and this is not surprising, all this time is mostly ‘navigationally’ effective. Think about it; we don’t give much of a second thought to the vast taken-for-granted conceptions we use, basically, automatically in figuring out out intentions or the intentions of others. And, somewhat surprising, a team of psychological experts does not provide a very sturdy purchase upon any plane of dependable prediction with respect to the normal, conventional “case” subject and their next activity.

This could be compared to the controversies inherent within Folk Psychology Proper. For my own part, the latter terrain is deliciously paradoxical, ponderable and imponderable all at once. Is cognition produced by operational formulations of representations and propositions (and other stuff!) or is it more like this:

The basic idea is that the brain represents the world by means of very high-dimensional activation vectors, that is, by a pattern of activation levels across a very large population of neurons. And the brain performs computations on those representations by effecting various complex vector-to-vector transformations from one neural population to another. This happens when an activation vector from one neural population is projected through a large matrix of synaptic connections to produce a new activation vector across a second population of nonlinear neurons. Mathematically, the process is an instance of multiplying a vector by a matrix and pushing the result through a nonlinear filter. This process is iterable through any number of successive neural populations and, with appropriate adjustment of the myriad synaptic weights that constitute the “coefficients” of these vast matrices, such an arrangement can compute, at least approximately, any computable function whatsoever. Such neural networks have been shown to be “universal approximators” (Hornik, Stinchcombe, and White 1989).

Such networks can also learn to approximate any desired function, from repeated presentation of its instances, by means of various auto­matic learning procedures that adjust the synaptic weights in response to various pressures induced by the specific input-output examples pre­sented to the network (Rumelhart, Hinton, and Williams 1986a, 1986b; Sejnowski, Kienker, and Hinton 1986; Hinton 1989). Trained networks are fast, functionally persistent, tolerant of input degradation, sensitive to diffuse similarities, and they display complex learned prototypes.

This was Paul Churchland, writing sometime–guessing–in the early nineteen nineties.

The lead-in paragraphs:

The real motive behind eliminative materialism is the worry that the “propositional” kinematics and “logical” dynamics of folk psychology constitute a radically false account of the cognitive activity of humans, and of the higher animals generally. The worry is that our folk con­ception of how cognitive creatures represent the world (by propositional attitudes) and perform computations over those representations (by drawing sundry forms of inference from one to another) is a thorough­ going misrepresentation of what really takes place inside us. The worry about propositional attitudes, in short, is not that they are too much like (the legitimately functional) tables and chairs, but that they are too much like (the avowedly nonexistent) phlogiston, caloric fluid, and the four principles of medieval alchemy.

These latter categories were eliminated from our serious ontology because of the many explanatory and predictive failures of the theories that embedded them, and because those theories were superseded in the relevant domains by more successful theories whose taxonomies bore no systematic explanatory or reductive relation to the taxonomies of their more feeble predecessors. In sum, eliminative materialism is not moti­vated by some fastidious metaphysical principle about common natures, but by some robustly factual and entirely corrigible assumptions about the failings of current folk psychology and the expected character of future cognitive theories. On the explanatory and predictive failings of folk psychology, enough has been said elsewhere (P. M. Churchland 1981). Let me here address very briefly the positive side of the issue: the case for a novel kinematics, dynamics, and semantics for cognitive activity. Though Putnam does not explicitly rule out this possibility, his book does not take it very seriously. At one point he describes it as “only a gleam in Churchland’s eye” (p. 110).

Definitely, I have a foot in the eliminativist terrain. I’m confidant that the talk is different than the walk. Ahh, but the other foot! I doubt the physical apparatus allows for walking the walk. I am not yet able to understand how the common talk could end being ‘faux’ like phlogiston. Nor can I yet comprehend the kind of grain that would come to the fore and allow one to predict that the subject’s next vector-to-vector translation is indubitably heading the subject toward the rack of tomatoes.

And, that we would have by then conjured a language to best frame a matching prediction seems to me not likely to be as robust as the language we use to make good and bad predictions.

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Reduced Bateson Set I. Set Up; Meta-heuristics

Bateson-Mead-Bajoeng-Gedé

Gregory Bateson & Margaret Mead, Bajoeng-Gedé, Indonesia; photograph by Walter Spies

Sometime ago, yet late in my scatter shot intellectual development, I realized five problems fascinated me in psychology. One is the problem of how our brain instantiates and substantiates consciousness. Two is how it came to be that the equivalent of a William James doesn’t arrive much earlier so as to shift proto-psychology forward at an earlier stage in history. This problem wonders about the relationship between culture and contemporaneous psychological categories. The third problem, related to the second problem, is coded (for me) as the problem of introspection. The fourth problem is coded too, as the bundle of problems given by folk psychology at the level of meta-psychology; ie. philosophy of psychology.

And, finally, the fifth problem, very much related to the fourth problem, is the problem of: everyday behavior joined with how psychology’s different disciplines approach everyday behavior as its object of research. I am especially intrigued by how behaviors are named despite those same names being unnecessary to persons behaving in the way the name denotes.

I will seek to explain what I call The Reduced Bateson Set in a series of posts. The Reduced Bateson Set names a framework I utilize. Meanwhile, from an authoritative source:

For the moment, the set-up for this was evoked by my trying to figure out how to describe what is The Reduced Bateson Set. I was moved to look up the definition of heuristic–or rather a definition–in a standard reference book, because I thought this might be the best descriptive term. If so, I could simply say The Reduced Bateson Set is a heuristic I have come to use and favor.

I didn’t think the term was strikingly adequate, inasmuch as I had a deviant definition of heuristic in mind.

According to the now prevailing definition, heuristics are rather parsimonious and effortless, but often fallible and logically inadequate, ways of problem solving and information processing. A heuristic provides a simplifying routine or “rule of thumb” that leads to approximate solutions to many everyday problems. However, since the heuristic does not reflect a deeper understanding of the problem structure, it may lead to serious fallacies and shortcomings under certain conditions. Thus, in contrast to the positive connotations of the original term, the modern notion of cognitive heuristics has attained the negative quality of a mental shortcut that frees the individual of the necessity to process information completely and systematically. Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social Psychology

Okay, my definition turns out to be a bit too innovative! But at least it doesn’t imply a ridiculous optimal “problem solving.”

More precisely to the point here, is how rapidly I landed in a Batesonian moment. Unfolded in the encyclopedia entry is a long treatment of the term, yet, it’s not describing much about what I wish to also describe. And, the problem could be that it could not describe even what it seeks to describe–in a deep sense able to capture something very very common.

What is this something? It is that some large portion, possibly a majority portion, of human behavior is “heuristical.” Which is to suggest: it is likely a majority of human problem solving, leaarning, discovery, etc., everyday, (every darn day,) processes information incompletely and not systematically. Also, a corollary to this is: some large portion of human problem solving cannot access both a totality of pertinent information, or, have been the subject of a complete processing within, I suppose, a formal requirement for complete and systematic processing.

Wikipedia’s entry is not robust, but it is more satisfying.

Heuristic (pronounced /hj??r?st?k/) or heuristics (from the Greek “???????” for “find” or “discover”) refers to experience-based techniques for problem solving, learning, and discovery. Heuristic methods are used to come to an optimal solution as rapidly as possible. Part of this method is using a “rule of thumb”, an educated guess, an intuitive judgment, or common sense. A heuristic is a general way of solving a problem.

Except I will quarrel with it too. I don’t know the correct term for that which is a precise and focused heuristic way of solving particular everyday problems. Yet, I do understand the ‘human everyday’ presents a series of opportunities to problem solve, learn, and discover. Figuring out what you’re going wear is a particular problem, and a problem I’d suppose is solved in precise and focused ways.

(Perhaps a differentiation made among general, and, ‘problem-particular,’ methods is unnecessary.)

Among, (what I will term Batesonian,) distinctions found in definitions is this hot one. First, to develop a correct definition is itself a problem to be solved. Could it be demonstrated that any given normative (or authoritative) definition was created, subject to heuristics? Here of course I’m speaking of an example, the definition of heuristic. A second Batesonian distinction is implicit in speaking of the possible heuristics behind the term heuristic.

Here’s a doable experiment. Collect five of the foremost social psychologists together and have them each write out their definition of the term, heuristic. Assume there is a sound method for scoring to what degree the five definitions match up. For my argument here, let’s assume the result of this experiment shows a very high degree of matching.

The five world class experts are then asked to do the following: “How do you know your definition is the correct definition?” Score the answer.

Let’s do this same experiment and add the following parameter. Before either primary question is addressed, each group member is asked the following: “How many pages will you need to answer the question, How do you define heuristic?” Allow no limit in length for their written answers.

Hypotheses are to be entertained. I won’t offer these, yet I will suppose the results of this experiment will
demonstrate considerable disagreement on question number two, How do you know your definition is the correct definition, and this disagreement increases the longer any answer is to either question. So, the most disagreement would be found between the longest answers.

There’s a problem incurred by my supposing the answers could be scored. How would we score different points of emphasis? Those points could not be scored as only disagreements. Still, our scoring would have to resolve this problem in reckoning with matching points of emphasis and divergent points of emphasis.

My hunch that there would be found disagreement is, obviously, completely a matter of a decidedly intuitive and heuristic approach to thinking about the problem of defining a normative term. What I’m thinking about here is the human system able to develop useful definitions about its own features. The experiment might well defeat my hunch. But, what if the experiment proved the underlying hypotheses?

What then could be suggested by the results of this experiment about hypothesized deviations from agreement? What also could be suggested about how the problem of expert definition is approached by experts? Do these experts employ heuristics as an effective, or not effective, means?

Consider a countervailing–with respect to my hunch–supposition. That: in a description, where detail increases, deviations are reduced. (Speaking of building houses: we can all agree on the sharp nail and the straight board.) This suggests that as descriptions penetrate ‘down’ to more elemental levels of order in a system, deviations between descriptions are reduced.

My hunch asserts the opposite is possibly the experimental result. So: as experts expert in the same system propose descriptions of this system, as the level of detail increases in their descriptions, their descriptions will tend to diverge.

Again, a countervailing supposition might be rooted in the same idea given in the Blackwell encyclopedia: to define a system correctly, and so free the definition from any reliance on heuristic means, this definition must result from a complete and systematic process that reflects deep understanding. However, even if this is true as a matter of commonsense, it is also true that this brings with it the same problem. When we think about the means via which we could shape and amplify convergence, we’re still confronted with this move also opening up to the opportunity for divergence. Surely if you asked five experts in the same field how to promote greater agreement about the field’s conceptual fundamentals, in most fields their answers to this “how” question would prove to be very divergent.

When I walk this back to everyday circumstances in which terms/names/concepts and their concomitant definitions are facts of innersubjective assumption rather than innersubjective negotiation, I’d be even more confident that a similar experiment would verify my hunch.

Actually, I informally test this hunch all the time. The main paradox I’ve discovered in doing this is that people speak about shared concepts, (and these concepts implicate shared systems,) without really caring about whether they share the same definitions for these shared concepts. They likely do not share the same definitions! That this underlying disagreement hardly comes to matter is a fascinating element of ‘folk psychological’ behavior and of what could be called intersubjective heuristics.

Consider the beneficial efficiency gained from being able to talk about systems all the while disagreement about basic stuff is underfoot. Whenever I hear the word socialism in our contemporary political discourse, I’m reminded of this paradox of effectiveness.


The Reduced Bateson Set is a heuristic of the kind that are structured and demonstrably pragmatic. The Reduced Bateson Set is my private naming of a pragmatic structure for working through the experience of observing and participating in, learning, inquiry, and dialog. This structure is useful in other interactive circumstances. I’ve named it so because it is my appropriation of stuff reduced from the partial set of Bateson’s ideas I know.

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Palinyuga

The following clip contains a lot of material, if you are fascinated by the conjunction of personality and communication.

Here’s the transcript.

Palin: like how? What’s up?

Kathleen: You swore on your precious Bible that you would uphold the interests of this state, and then when cash was waved in front of your face, you quit.

Palin: OH, you WANTED me to be your governor! I’m honored! Thank you!

Kathleen: I wanted you to honor your responsibilities. That is what I wanted. I wanted you to be part of the political process instead of becoming a celebrity so that you could (inaudible). And if that’s the best you could do, then good for you. If that’s the best you could do.

Palin: Here’s the deal. Here’s the deal. (inaudible) That’s what I’m out there fightin’ for Americans to be able to have a Constitution protected so that we can have free speech…And ALSO there…

Kathleen: In what way are you fighting for that?

Palin: Oh my goodness!

Kathleen: In what way?

Palin: To elect candidates who understand the Constitution, to protect our military interests so that we can keep on fightin’ for our constitution that will protect some of the freedoms that evidently are important to you too.

Kathleen: By using your celebrity status, certainly not by political status.

Palin Daughter: How is she a celebrity? That’s my question.

Palin: I’m honored! No, she thinks I’m a celebrity!

Palin Daughter: That’s funny that you think she is.

Kathleen: Well, you’re certainly not representing the state of Alaska any longer…even though…

Palin Daughter: She’s representing United States?

Kathleen: Yes, I know. You belong to America now, and that suits me just fine. Yeah.

Palin: What do you do here?

Kathleen: I’m a teacher

Palin: Oh. (Eye roll and protracted grimace)

Palin Daughter: Oh.

Kathleen: I also have a few other jobs. I’m married to a commercial fisherman. And so I fish.

Palin: Oh that’s cool. So am I! I married to-we probably have a lot in common!

Kathleen: Yeah. You know, I think that we do.

Palin: Hi! (waves to camera) Are we on video?

Kathleen: Too bad. I’m more of a still camera girl myself. (inaudible) I am, I am…I will tell you I’m very pleased to meet you.

Palin: I’m honored to meet you, I really am. And, no we both agree on the freedom of speech and the-

Kathleen: Yes we do.

Palin: you know – the protection of that. So, um, no I and, you know… best of everything to you too and Yeah.

Kathleen: Thank you for coming over.

Palin: Well, okay. It’s nice to meet you anyway.

There’s much of interest here. Palin seems confident her affability will allow her to transmit a jumble of ideas to her audience, a school teacher from Alaska.

I highlighted one chunk of her phraseology because it evoked for me thoughts about what it must be like to, in effect, be Mrs. Palin having her onrush of thoughts and then instantly delivering them. There’s something roundly unmediated–in the psychological sense–going on in her.

People have said to me Palin is a cynical character. I would suggest she’s not the least bit cynical. It seems she believes her own bullshit and she also truly believes there is a common sense she is called to “front.” This common sense is wholly foundational for her–which is to suggest it trumps everything. She may feel very sorry for all those who have lost their common sense.

Yet, at the same time, Palin lives in her own world and, crucially, doesn’t experience it as anything besides its simply being the real world. From this position, she’s running her strategy on this women: befriend her and deliver the transmission, and, her job is done.

What kind of world is the transmission coming from? Borrowing from Heiddegger, this clip shows Palin coming from a pre-ontological position. In other words, her jumble of common sense is not the result of any second order choosing at all. I don’t understand Palin to give a whit about making choices and structuring her thoughts. The thoughts arise, and fall out! Her ‘cipheric’ transmission doesn’t, from the pre-ontological position, require any kind of advanced articulation, completeness, or complexity. In other words, her sense of what exists is just so, and not the result of actually trying to figure it, what’s real, out.

(If you asked Palin, “How do you mediate your thoughts?” I bet she’d ask you “what the heck you are you trying to ask me?”)

Another way to frame this is to sense she’s just being her instinctual (ID-driven,) self, just being who she is, and this unfolds with enthusiasm, even with some generosity. But, in observing this unfolding, it’s readily apparent she’s not deeply mediating herself, at all. She doesn’t think, ‘what did I just say?’

So, although it seems mildly crazed and naive (as a communication strategy,) my guess Palin simply feels she’s responding from the genuine moment, having fun, and, unlike the usual anxious idealogue striving to convince, her psychic investment doesn’t seem here to possess much anxiety.

She reminds me of a self-possessed 14 year old. When you meet a self-possessed 14 year old, usually this sort of unmediated and confident presentation is impressive. It’s out-sized too. However, thirty years later the same person issues the same kind of presentation and one thinks, ‘there’s a disconnect here.’

Much of Palin’s disconnect is concrete. She’s not of main street, is in no way a typical housewife, and, at the same time, her self-definition would have it be so. Her flux of identity and common sense is (to me) delightful and unremarkably odd.

I don’t think Palin is very attached to having to pull each and every person into her odd world. After all, as a screen for projection, she receives a ton of reinforcement. It’s not make-or-break for her. Still, a Katie Kouric or school teacher from Alaska seem to be, to Palin, somewhat alien creatures. Worth an attempt, but not worth much more! Palin doesn’t feel estranged from such creatures. She’s acting out being an emissary between tribes, as if this encounter is on a playground. As she mentioned after the encounter with Katie Couric, she had hoped they would have grounded the interview in their both being working mothers.

This was a telling reflection. Palin knows she gets it, and, seems to find it mildly weird others live in some other world where what she gets, isn’t obvious.

My sense is her internal response is along the lines of ‘Oh, well,’ ‘whatever.’ It’s not her problem people in this other world are strange, and I rather think she isn’t aggravated to any great degree that these same other people find her strange. Probably it’s much more aggravating to her that other people are wrong about the nature of the world.

Sarah Palin is, from the sweep of my speculations and biases, a very American type of psychological figure, the kind of type that understands their own self to be in a real world, where some others are in their own unreal world.

As a type, this type isn’t able to step back and see the real world as encompassing anything else besides a particular–to draw down to Palin’s point of focus and enthusiasm–common sense.

This is a mistake of consciousness, yet I find it to be a delicious aspect of our cultural moment.



A Grand Unified Theory of Palinisms
, Jakob Weisberg, Slate

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The Acid Test


Click for the large version and please come back…

Rummaging through old computer files, I came upon a series of slides about the Fundamental Attribution Error. Here’s the definition from the The Psychology Wiki.

In attribution theory, the fundamental attribution error (sometimes referred to as the actor-observer bias, correspondence bias or overattribution effect) is the tendency for people to over-emphasize dispositional, or personality-based, explanations for behaviors observed in others while under-emphasizing the role and power of situational influences on the same behavior.

When I created the slides a decade or so ago, my aim was to roll into a presentation of experiential learning theory some takings from cognitive psychology’s conceptions about cognitive bias. Whereas today I’m just going to fry the ‘FAT’ fish a bit.

My opinion is the Fundamental Attribution Error is an error so common as to suggest we’re wired to make it. It may even be advantageous to sometimes make it. Certainly, and much to my quiet amusement, I’ve observed its being made in ‘professional’ contexts over and over again. This is why I term it the acid test, especially as a validation of how much that social psychology 101 class sank in! I’m no longer amazed to observe the error being made, or even intentionally deployed, or otherwise witnessing various attributive terms being decontextualized and misused.

This happens whenever a description about a person, for example about a personality style or type, is assumed to portray an unqualified assessment of their disposition. Many times these kinds of attributions ‘globalize’ situational, or modular, behaviors. All sorts of attributions are errantly globalized and attached to stereotypes. Global attributions attached to, for example, some person identifying as a liberal or conservative, are not usually traits. Closer-to-home, I’ve identified something like qualities of my own situational dispositions using several assessment tools, yet, I’m not always being intuitive; learning via my primary ‘audiostyle;’ trying to influence others using my sociableness; or always being a cheery optimist.

At the same time, as I view human phenomena on a broader scale, (oh, and dig into the literature,) the FAT is itself a heuristic, thus is a short cut means to attribute a feature to another’s personality, and seems to work then as firstly a generalization subject to later refinement. This refinement would narrow the appropriate circumstance for making a correct attribution. In suggesting this, I am also mindful of the complexity of procedures for attribution and construal in the domain of ‘applied’ folk psychology. With respect to attribution–making attributions–those procedures don’t strike me as fitting very comfortably under the rubrics given by either simulation or theory-theory. …for what it’s worth.

My other abiding position on all this has to do with how attribution errors mix in with sensemaking of one’s own life-world. This is a complicated subject, so the matrix serves to prime a way of looking at this problem. To get at this, you can ask your self what assumptions do you make about everybody, what do you attribute to everybody?.

Although I haven’t beta tested the tool yet, it seems this would be a good question to fund an experiential exercise via which the learner comes to experience–reflect upon–their own process for answering this question. In any really determined effort to address the question, it turns out to be a very probing inquiry.

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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.

(more…)

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Gladwell Upsets Pinker

The reasoning in “Outliers,” which consists of cherry-picked anecdotes, post-hoc sophistry and false dichotomies, had me gnawing on my Kindle. -Stephen Pinker, Malcolm Gladwell, Eccentric Detective

Stephen Pinkers ripped Malcolm Gladwell in a November 7 review of Gladwells new book in the New York Times Sunday book review. Gladwell deserves a few rips; for me he’s the king of presenting half arguments as whole one. Outliers is a laughably bad presentation of social science research wrapped around a silly premise. Post-hoc sophistry captures Gladwell’s aesthetic.

Yet, Gladwell is a fine writer. And, he manages to give Pinker some hard whacks over the subject, raised by Gladwell, of NFL quarterbacks.

Gladwell: In one of my essays, I wrote that the position a quarterback is taken in the college draft is not a reliable indicator of his performance as a professional. That was based on the work of the academic economists David Berri and Rob Simmons, who, in a paper published in The Journal of Productivity Analysis, analyze 40 years of National Football League data. Their conclusion was that the relation between aggregate quarterback performance and draft position was weak. Further, when they looked at per-play performance — in other words, when they adjusted for the fact that highly drafted quarterbacks are more likely to play more downs — they found that quarterbacks taken in positions 11 through 90 in the draft actually slightly outplay those more highly paid and lauded players taken in the draft’s top 10 positions. I found this analysis fascinating. Pinker did not. This quarterback argument, he wrote, “is simply not true.”

I wondered about the basis of Pinker’s conclusion, so I e-mailed him, asking if he could tell me where to find the scientific data that would set me straight. He very graciously wrote me back. He had three sources, he said. The first was Steve Sailer. Sailer, for the uninitiated, is a California blogger with a market research background who is perhaps best known for his belief that black people are intellectually inferior to white people. Sailer’s “proof” of the connection between draft position and performance is, I’m sure Pinker would agree, crude: his key variable is how many times a player has been named to the Pro Bowl. Pinker’s second source was a blog post, based on four years of data, written by someone who runs a pre- employment testing company, who also failed to appreciate — as far as I can tell (the key part of the blog post is only a paragraph long) — the distinction between aggregate and per-play performance. Pinker’s third source was an article in The Columbia Journalism Review, prompted by my essay, that made an argument partly based on a link to a blog called Niners Nation.

Pinker: Gladwell is right, of course, to privilege peer-reviewed articles over blogs. But sports is a topic in which any academic must answer to an army of statistics-savvy amateurs, and in this instance, I judged, the bloggers were correct. They noted, among other things, that Berri and Simmons weakened their “weak correlation” (Gladwell described it in the New Yorker essay reprinted in “What the Dog Saw” as “no connection”) by omitting the lower-drafted quarterbacks who, unsurprisingly, turned out not to merit many plays. In any case, the relevance to teacher selection (the focus of the essay) remains tenuous.

Pinker does face plant in New York Times? Yessiree!

“in this instance, I judged, the bloggers were correct”

Wow, Pinker appeals to his own authority in lieu of responding to the merits of Gladwell’s cited sources?


Maureen Tkacik, writing in The Nation, gives Gladwell and his critics, a real going-over.

But in examining Gladwell’s success concurrently with his prescriptions for achievement, even his harshest reviewers damned themselves with faint criticism. When Michiko Kakutani dismissed Outliers for employing the patented Gladwell “shake-and-bake” recipe “in such a clumsy manner that it italicizes the weaknesses of his methodology,” she still granted him a coherent method; when The Economist embraced the book’s “engaging” and “intriguing” case studies while wryly enclosing the overarching “big idea” in quotation marks, it overlooked Gladwell’s refusal to engage meaningfully with the world of ideas at all. Gladwell For Dummies

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