Tag Archives: social psychology

Cultural Cognition (4 Square Matrix)

Cultural Cognition


The bottom scale, moves right in increasing awareness of global warming risk.

I collect matrices in the form of what I term a 4 Square. The above schema is a good one both for its content and for its use of the form. It was purloined from Twitter user, @cult_cognition, tweeing for Cultural Cognition Net at Yale Law School.


Jonathan Haidt Explains Our Contentious Culture from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.

I’ve been blogging about the 4 Square since May 2007  All such posts are tagged 4 square matrix

Here, once again, is the 4 Square closest to my heart–just because I invented it.

DrPuck's problem matrix

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Aiming For the Mat

Ants Win

If the resistance to change depends partly on the value which the group standard has for the individual, the resistance to change should diminish if one diminishes the strength of the value of the group standard or changes the level perceived by the individual as having social value.

This second point is one of the reasons for the effectiveness of “group carried” changes’ resulting from procedures which approach the individuals as part of face-to-face groups. Perhaps one might expect single individuals to be more pliable than groups of like-minded individuals. However, experience in leadership training, in changing of food habits, work production, criminality, alcoholism, prejudices, [calling balls and strikes,] all indicate that it is usual easier to change individuals formed into a group than to change any one of them separately. Kurt Lewin

Free Play Softball league Poster

. . see you there!

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Reduced Bateson Set I. Set Up; Meta-heuristics


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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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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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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Seeing Red



1 in 4 Americans censoring thoughts under Obama

Confidence in constitutional liberties plunges further still
Posted: March 27, 2010
11:50 pm Eastern
By Bob Unruh
© 2010 WorldNetDaily 
Editor’s note: This is another in a series of monthly “Freedom Index” polls conducted exclusively for WND by the public opinion research and media consulting company Wenzel Strategies. 
Nearly one American in four routinely censors his or her own thoughts “much” or “always” under President Obama’s administration, and those who believe their personal liberties have plunged since inauguration day have grown significantly from 49 percent to more than 55 percent in just one month. 

This month, of course, was when Democrats rammed through a bill that essentially nationalizes health care, creating new requirements for consumers to purchase a government-chosen plan or face penalties. 
The WND Freedom Index poll from Wenzel Strategies shows even one in 10 Democrats – whose party controls both the White House and Congress – believes there’s been a big decrease in freedoms. 

“Largely on the negative reaction by men to the actions of Obama and Democrats in Washington, the Freedom Index has dipped again to its near all-time low, sitting at 46.7 on a 100-point scale,” said Fritz Wenzel in his analysis of the results. 
“Simply put, Americans are growing by the month more pessimistic about their freedoms and their fear that government is trying to take them away.” 
He continued, “In the 10 months since the inauguration of the WorldNetDaily.com Freedom Index, it has dropped nearly 11 points on the 100-point scale, and has dropped from a decidedly positive position last spring to a decidedly negative position today.” 

The WND/Wenzel Poll was conducted by telephone from March 22-24 using an automated telephone technology calling a random sampling of listed telephone numbers nationwide. The survey included 30 questions and carries a 95 percent confidence interval. It included 792 likely voters. It carries a margin of error of 3.46 percentage points.

Man, talk about priming a poll result!

This raises lots of questions aside from those about polling methodology.

Do you suppose some people would report feeling really free and thoroughly liberated irrespective of anything the U.S. government has done, say in the last 37 years since such a person first voted at 18?

How would one account for this, account for a person impervious to the tug of that which denies one their freedoms?

How would the internalized sense of one’s being free to some degree be indexed? I’m reminded there was no cogent psychology Locke could utilize. (Romantic!) notions about property and happiness, be they of Hayek or Nozick, cross over into what reasonable domain of psychology? You couldn’t go there with those fellows if you wanted to!

For example, Libertarian thought leader David Boaz:

Libertarians believe that there is a natural harmony of interests among peaceful, productive people in a just society. One person’s individual plans — which may involve getting a job, starting a business, buying a house, and so on — may conflict with the plans of others, so the market makes many of us change our plans. But we all prosper from the operation of the free market, and there are no necessary conflicts between farmers and merchants, manufacturers and importers. Only when government begins to hand out rewards on the basis of political pressure do we find ourselves involved in group conflict, pushed to organize and contend with other groups for a piece of political power. (Libertarianism: A Primer)

The leap from ‘no necessary’ to ‘only when’ hammers home the naivete. The absence of socio-psychological understanding is, obviously, implicit.

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Filed under philosophy, social psychology, organizational development, sociology

Transformative Anthropology – Strategic Serendipity

After a little “mind wringing” I’ve decided to refashion the coinage, Chance Strategic Contingency, into:


My thinking about terminology, having passed through the former term, has come, next, through the keep it simple stupid phase, and arrived at Strategic Serendipity.

Strategic Serendipity: in the context of individual human development, a chance event that comes to completely alter the course of a person’s development. Among the many kinds of change such an event impacts, the common kinds result in changes in: key relationships; career; location; interests.

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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.

News for social, fiscal & national security conservatives who believe in God, family & country. We seek to uphold the rights of citizens under the U.S. Constitution, traditional family values, Republican principles / ideals, transparent & limited government, free markets, liberty & individual freedom. The ARRA News Service is an outreach of the Arkansas Republican Assembly. However, all content approval rests with the ARRA Editor. While numerous positions are reported, our beliefs & principles remain fixed. mission

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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Lunar Times

The shadow is not the whole of the unconscious personality. It represents unknown or little-known attributes and qualities of the ego-aspects that mostly belong to the personal sphere and that could just as well be con- scious. In some aspects, the shadow can also consist of collective factors that stem from a source outside the individual’s personal life. When an individual makes an attempt to see his shadow, he becomes aware of (and often ashamed of) those qualities and impulses he denies in himself but can plainly see in other people-such things as egotism, mental laziness, and sloppiness; unreal fantasies, schemes, and plots; carelessness and cowardice; inordinate love of money and possessions-in short, all the little sins about which he might previously have told himself: “That doesn’t matter; nobody will notice it, and in any case other people do it too.”

If you feel an overwhelming rage coming up in you when a friend reproaches you about a fault, you can be fair1y sure that at this point you will find a part of your shadow, of which you are unconscious. It is, of course, natural to become annoyed when others who are “no better” criticize you because of shadow faults.

Joseph Henderson, Jungian Analyst

There may come a point when the lay observer lurches back from being enthralled by the amazing conspiracy freak-a-thon. He asks himself: ‘What is so compelling–to you–about the garden variety magical participation you’re chewing up (your) valuable time voyeuristically looking upon?”

The main thing for me is that a robust socio-psycho-historical snapshot has to have enough depth of field in it to capture the background where the shadow of regressive dynamics comes into resolution. As phenomenologist, this interests me. So, looking into such a picture, an embarrassment of super loopy psycho-dynamic riches is revealed. Ummm, wordplay intended.

Did you know Orly Taitz is outside-looking in on the main birther action these days?
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The Greatest Conspiracy That Never Was

This video compilation, courtesy of TPM Media and Blip.tv, takes the cake. It’s fascinating, but not for its argument. Several things jump out. One, is the lawyer’s name, Gary Kreep two, is the golden hair of the moderator; three, is the pitch for $30.

More seriously, there is the crazed wish for an inversion of our country’s legal process. The idea is that the lack of evidence of law breaking nevertheless makes it incumbent on the President to prove his innocence of a crime–for which there is zero evidence of its having been committed.

Obviously, our legal system doesn’t work this way.

Still, the birther accusation is fit to the basic structure of a conspiracy theory. Advocates of the theory are sure they possess the truth. They’re also sure that most of those not in possession of it are complicit by way of apathy, ignorance, or willful participation. And, both the lack of evidence and falsification of (their) purported evidence are negated because those aspects are part of the conspiracy. These are the stock-in-trade elements of any conspiracy theory.

It’s interesting to ponder whether or not there has ever come about in history a conspiracy uncovered by a vocal minority in possession of truth, and truths about all those who deny the material facts of the conspiracy. Waging a good fight, this conspiratorial truth is eventually demonstrated by verification of the offered evidence, falsification of the counter evidence, falsification of the falsification. The dim evidence evolves to be dispositive and evolves to certify the original claim beyond any reasonable doubt, based in a preponderance of evidence.

Finally, there came to be the uncovering of the willfully complicit. Concerning the last feature, this means discovery of the organization and mechanics behind the willful complicity. This massive industrial complicity is implied in the birther theory, is paramount to the truthers, comes to a magical and esoteric turn in the long-standing ‘illuminatiarian’ global banking conspiracy theories.

Hmmm. No. There is no such historical example. Perhaps, the greatest conspiracies throughout world history nobody knows about, and they have not aroused any suspicion whatsoever.


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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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What the Wind Blows

Reflexive Orders of Awareness – A Schema

Some examples should suffice to unpack the notion of reflexive orders.

First Order awareness is automatic, and not directed. If you ever have driven a car and noted at some point that you ‘were on automatic,’ and then been amazed at this lack of consciousness about being a driver, you’re recalling what it feels like to be on automatic, in, as-it-were, First Order awareness. “I barely remember consciously driving to work today! I was thinking about something else, pre-occupied.”

Second Order awareness adds to this awareness of what you are doing. A good example is learning how to ride a bike, where–at the beginning–the new rider has to consciously turn against the tilt out of balance. This is conscious attention paid to what you are doing. This awareness has a very narrow focus. It’s not optional.

Third Order awareness adds to this additional modes for awareness. In the example of driving, this means what else you might do, be aware of, while driving. I term this choice heuristic to reflect how multiple modes are balanced by knowing their prior dynamic via experience. Acquired rules of thumb facilitate this balancing act. For example, some drivers figure out how to have cell phone conversations while driving, and balance attention to this with attention to driving.

Fourth Order awareness adds to this an ability to choose modes of awareness by virtue of having made a prior coherent differentiation of available modes and their effective differential application. The difference between Third/Fourth Order phases is a matter of degree, yet the hallmark of Fourth Order is this critical differentiation. This would acknowledge, for example, that driving while phoning incurs a probalistic downside.

Fourth Order awareness basically means: being able to match awareness with optimal requirements for effective deployment of awareness. And, do this from a coherent ensemble of choices for being aware. And, be able to explain what one does to both differentiate and select.

Finally, to complete this model, (or schema,) there are mediating and liminal phases between the orders. There is a good example of this. Emotional intelligence, itself a repertoire for meeting the goal requirements of an interpersonal interaction, exists at the beginning of conscious development of one’s own intelligent responsiveness. At the beginning it exists as a choice-heuristic. Later this develops into choice-differentiated; thus moves choice from being the result of a rule of thumb to being the result of very particular, and in some ways formal, differentiation of optimal choice. Such a choice is made from a coherent ensemble, i.e. repertoire.

Yet, this move is sometimes articulated in a fuzzy move between Third and Fourth Order. One feature is common to Fourth order awareness. It instantiates motivation to search out more effective and possibly optimal modes of awareness. In other words, there is a gain to be realized in expanding one’s ensemble of choices. So, one is not satisfied with only the repertoire of “rules of thumb.”

This can be further understood, when stretched between the entire First-to-Fourth range, as making the move from automatic, knee-jerk responses to responses forged from being able to make a conscious selection from a repertoire of possible responses. Given this sense, the move from Third Order to Fourth Order selection procedures reflects a substantial enhancement and individuation of critical consciousness.

Again, differentiation and individuation imply here the ability to explain why one choice is superior to some other choice.

We’ll move next, in a follow-up post, to examples and applications in both negative and positive terms, and we’ll use the current environment of political discourse to do so.

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Groups & the Development of Consciousness

My colleague and friend Robert has asked in a comment to Sustainability, Systems Awareness & Eros,

“However saying that, I don’t know if the “group” consciousness actually manages to effect a real conscious change in both individuals and in groups. Are these things of the moment?”

Let’s just speak of a simple hypothesis: that a group is possibly a medium for an individual to increase their awareness. There are, in this, several things we’ll need to test the hypothesis.

One, we’ll need a developmental framework that can support both the proof of the hypothesis and its falsification.

Two, given this framework, we’ll need to employ explicit criteria to make a determination about both how to test and next evaluate the results of the test. And, finally we’ll need to grapple and grip with how to interpret the evaluation.

There’s a crucial distinction I’d like to introduce. A hypothesis of this sort is concerned with the development of consciousness of an individual within a group due to the unique opportunities for this development a group may instantiate. Yet this potential for development is not proposed as a positive result of group consciousness, but, rather, is the result of people bringing their personal consciousness to the medium of a group. In noting this, all I suggesting is that consciousness is only a property of individuals; that it would be very hard to characterize what is meant by group consciousness in any normative sense.

As it has come about–in modern psychology–short of defining a framework, there are concrete terms for characterizing the development of consciousness in the medium of a group. For example, these are some of the developments afforded by groups: better teamwork, closer coordination, acceptance of and mitigation of narcissistic and infantile needs, enhanced problem analysis and problem solving, better skills for discernment and differentiation, support for withdrawal of projections, etc.. and on and on.

Also, groups make possible at times the submission of self-oriented egoic impulses to higher orders of awareness, including facilitating recognition and ownership of the shadow. So it is, to use one broad developmental mode, that an individual in a group may leverage the means for increasing their emotional intelligence.


I believe all sorts of artistic teams in music and dance and theatre brings lots of unique developmental potential into being. These provide excellent examples, but so do all sorts of other common groups. One such group would be–at their best–the formal or informal classroom.

Of course, my sense here presumes that consciousness itself is not a mountain to be climbed, but instead operationalizes real world capabilities. In short, to become more able at anything poses a developmental increase.

The only move toward spiritualization, would be to suppose that all such developmental increases are qualities of higher consciousness given a timeworn notion of spiritual development–when those better capabilities do no harm.

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Construal Vectors

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A sign-system such as a natural language is not an input-output system of encodings and decodings for the transmission of contents from one mind to another. Instead, it is a normative and conventional resource consisting of semiotically salient differentiation-types for producing, acting on and transforming situation conventions and the cognitive representations that people have of the situations in which these conventions operate. Paul J. Thibault

Hat tip to eldon, my Netdynam colleague, for hipping me to the book Brain, Mind and the Signifying Body, by the semiotician Paul J. Thibault. It fits into a funny reflexive picture, because I’m reading my friend Heward Wilkinson’s The Muse As Therapist, and, trying to pare away time to keep two different music-making projects percolating. Then Thibault pops into the frame. Really, Heward and Paul should get to know each other someway other than in my tiny mind!

Which is to say, it’s probably been years since I set up two wondrously knotty books by my night stand. (I don’t recommend trading off between Heidegger and Husserl as I once tried to do.) Oh, and to make this picture complete, Bra Ken, generously sent me the back issues of his literary chap House Organ. This does make dr.p’s head spin when I can’t decide what looking glass I’m going to pick up.

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Locus of Control Matrix (Original discussion on this blog: Slowing Down to Better Problem Solve.)

Group Entry Norming Matrix (Posted to the Netdynamics 2.0 group blog, Group Entry Schema.

My colleague, Eldon, and me enter into a dialog in the comments. This dialog points toward this:

Cognitive Construal Vectors

Anybody conversant with social psychology will note the conventions captured in this schema. The schema does not represent formalized theory-making. It simply depicts a way of looking at the conjunction of the egocentric/stereotypic conventions. (Hmmm, I shall coin a term, egotypic, less confusing to me than egocentric given the latter’s numerous meanings.)

I’ll be referring to and saying more about Netdynam 2.0. It is an offshoot of the Netdynamics email discussion list, of which I have been a spiky participant for 13+ years. If you’re interested in interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, or, oh yeah, post-disciplinary, wandering through the mashed fields of depth/social/group/personality psychology, and linguistics, and applied semiotics, and ecosemiosis, and, disruptive poetics, and the internet and Web 2.0, you can peruse the offerings, and, maybe give our tiny crew a pinch or two.

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Gordon Knox, director of the global initiatives project at Stanford University’s Humanities Lab could be considered an instigator of the “post-professional” meme as it applies to the commons and articulations of knowledge and experience on the internet.

article: If Corporations Could Paint (Forbes)

Over on our, (being the Netdynam email discussion group,) new group project blog, Netdynam 2.0, I’ve posted Knox’s video, Darwin, web 2.0 and the Role of the Amateur.

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A bit of synch yesterday: I’m listening to the audio book of Malcolm Galdwell’s Outliers and had reached the section in which the author digs underneath the tragic safety record of Korean Airlines for a spell of 10 years. His basic hypothesis is that cultural factors reinforced an overly deferential, hierarchical flight deck attitude. This in turn set up the potential for cascades of human error to impose fatal results on airliners.

One of Gladwell’s main points is concerned with behaviors on the flight deck which undermine real time judgment, communication between flight crew members, and, objectivity and interpretation of circumstances.

When I turned on the TV and happened upon the unfolding story of US Airways flight 1549, it became clear right away that the flight crew on the Airbus 320 were also outliers, having ditched a heavy airliner in the Hudson River without serious injuries.

At the same time I noted the gathering heroic interpretation of what was presumed to have happened in under four minutes between take-off and watery landing. The details of what actually happened will soon be known, but I’d like to highlight the role of flight engineer and co-pilot Jeff Skiles. I would be shocked to learn, especially after Gladwell’s account, that he didn’t play an equally saving role to that of the instantly legendary, pilot and air crew captain, Chesley Sully Sullenberger.

The work of Karl Weick, one of my main guys, comes to mind too. Sullenberger has a sideline company, Safety Reliability Methods, Inc. On the about page is this:

Safety Reliability Methods, Inc. (SRM) was created to apply the latest advances in safety and high performance and high reliability processes to organizations in a variety of fields.

Many of these advances have their genesis in the ultra-safe world of commercial aviation. Others have been developed as a result of studies of high-risk, high performance environments such as aircraft carrier flight deck operations and the energy industry.

When these techniques are applied on an organizational and individual basis, they create a robust, error-trapping system that significantly benefits the bottom line.

Weick invented the discipline of sensemaking in social psychology. One of his books is titled, Managing the Unexpected. I’ll look forward to Dr. Weick’s weighing in on the elegant case of flight 1549. A lot had to go right and the management of all the vectors of event, sense, decision, and response, no doubt, was a two person affair in the cockpit, and a collaboration elsewhere on the jet as it came to a rest south of East 40th street.

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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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