Archive for the ‘psychology’ Category

Repeat after me …

August 14th, 2012 No comments

Every now and then, I repeat what I hear on television as I hear it and try to keep up with the speaker. It’s the same kind of thing a UN translator would do, except I do it in the same language as the speaker. It’s kind of fun, and it might also be a good way of keeping that part of my brain working.

Just a thought.

What is normal?

February 14th, 2012 No comments

Did you guys know that “normal” is a statistical concept?

Generalizing past the technical statistical usage, it basically means “common”, or “usual”. Check it out. Sure, a dictionary  is a book of history, not law, but realizing that the term can exist without connotations of value (ew, you’re not normal!) can be quite liberating. For example, both ends of the IQ scale could be said to be “abnormal”, making both geniuses and (insert current low-IQ term here) “abnormal”.

But why do we give such positive value to the idea of “normal”? Social psychology provides a clue: one of the worst things that can happen to a person is to be shunned — by classmates, by work team, by members of the club, by the tribe. To be normal is to resemble the group — to be included. To be abnormal is to risk being shunned. Thus “normal” = “good”, in a social sense.

In the end, though, knowledge is power. If we become aware of the statistical meaning of “normal”, and the power of shunning, we may transcend them.

Just a thought.

Categories: a little clarity, psychology Tags:

Big day at the Globe

August 29th, 2011 No comments

A number of articles caught my eye in The Globe and Mail today:

Here’s a good piece by Sarah Hampson on the way people handle the last days of life. It’s neither schmaltzy nor grim.

This article on kids and boxing remind me of a friend of mine who practices Shotokan karate. Like many who practice (or dabble in, as is my case) martial arts, we wonder about the realism of it all: contact, no contact, headgear, no headgear …? In the case of my friend, head shots are winners in competitions, and although he won the competition, I have to wonder about the poor fellow he stunned with a solid head shot — with no padding, no headgear. In the end, the more I read about concussions, the more I realize how fragile we are.

Here’s a review of some post-workout drinks. We should keep in mind two things if we consider partaking: (1) the goal of business is to make money, and the world of the consume is filled with unnecessary products designed to make money, and (2) though a product may have a unique name and appear “indie”, it’s probably owned by a giant conglomerate such as Coke or Pepsico.

I’ve often found that a concept can be sharpened in the mind by studying its opposite as well. Here’s a little piece on The Six Habits of Highly Ineffective People. Better get off the computer ….

(No, the Globe doesn’t pay me to write this. I just get the paper. It’s not perfect, and it isn’t immune to the current tendency of the mainstream media to accept the way politicians and pundits frame the issues … but it’ll do for now.)

(Mental note: look up “article” in the Thesaurus.)

How to be a Hero

March 25th, 2011 No comments

In 1995, Psychology Today came up with a list of the characteristics of a hero. At the time, I found the article interesting, but I was in search of some inspiration. As usual. To that end, I thought I’d rephrase the characteristics in the imperative, to make them more of a set of affirmations. I printed up little cards with these imperatives, but only gave them to people who asked. Don’t want to be pushy, you know.

They’re rather lofty, but hey, aim for the stars and hit the moon.

  • Be courageous and strong
  • Be honest
  • Be kind, loving and generous
  • Use skill, expertise and intelligence
  • Take (reasonable) risks
  • Be charismatic

The risky part should be qualified, don’t you think? I wouldn’t advise anyone to risk harm to themselves or anyone else, but often we avoid risking damage to our self-image through embarrassment, for example. Naturally, there’s no need to be complete here, as a fine and honorable life can be lived through observance of only the first three of these. If the meaning of the list isn’t clear, do read the article.

By the way, this post came about because something popped into my head recently — another pearl of wisdom from Dr. Dave, who said “there can be no refinement without repetition”. Dave defined integrity as saying and doing the same thing. In other words, what you say and what you do match, they integrate, therefore you are integrated. You have integrity.

Hm. How about adding “thinking” to make it a trinity of enlightenment?


March 17th, 2011 No comments

I finally broke down and bought one of them newfangled iPad gadgets. Yes, make no mistake, it is a gadget, but I’ll have to admit, a rather useful one.

I had avoided one up until now because it wasn’t a computer. Sure, it probably has more processing power than anything that sent us to the moon, but it won’t run the apps i use to make a living, so to me, that diminishes its computer status. Also, I thought of it as just a big iPod, and a delivery mechanism for the stuff that really generates income for Apple: apps and tunes.

But … I finally broke down and bought one to show videos to clients in pitch situations where a laptop was too much and an iPod was too little. And it did that quite nicely, as long as we were all gathered around it.

So it’s a useful gadget. But then there are those app things. Basically, I’m finding that the iPad is a gadget, but it’s also a non-gadget. What does it really do on its own? Not much. It’s really a blank slate for the apps, which make up the useful part of the iPad. Sure, most of them look like incredible time-wasters (and we complain about having no time?), but there are two that are proving useful in my Psych class. The first one is called 3D brain (“braaaaiinnns!”) which shows a 3D model of the brain along with annotations and callouts for the weird little subcortical bits. It grossed out my Mom, but it’s useful in contrast to the textbook illustrations, which only show a sagittal (lengthwise cross-section) view of the brain. These views don’t show that there are two of a number of structures, on the left and right sides of the brain. Who knew?

The second app has proven most useful: a test of Psychological knowledge. It’s used to prep students in Britain for a PSY100-like test using questions, tips and flash cards. I ran through the tests before studying, then again after studying and was able to improve my score. They’re not 100% related to my course content, but they’re pretty close. I’d like to see more of these test apps, but once I get into higher-level courses, I don’t expect to see apps because of the more limited market compared to PSY 100.

Oh, yes … the headline. Well, I’ve recently gotten back on the Zhan Zhuang (standing meditation practice) wagon, so this thing helps me keep track of my practice through a “zen timer” app. The motivational part comes from a little statistic in the app that shows the number of consecutive days spent meditating. Not wanting to see it drop to zero, I keep going. So far so good, and my Zhan Zhuang is getting better as a result.

If you’re considering one of these iPad things, I recommend you see what kinds of apps are available that suit your needs — you may find a must-have app for you. But aside from that, it’s just a big iPod.

… for now, anyway.

Edit: Just to be clear, I own an iPod because I’m in graphics, and Apple’s Quicktime is important to my work. If it weren’t, I might consider another make of tablet — maybe one that supports Flash?

Categories: modern life, psychology Tags:

Longevity “R” us

March 8th, 2011 No comments

Loyal reader Paul alerted me to this article on one of our favorite subjects, this longevity thing. In a nutshell, it seems that it helps to be conscientious. Here’s how the study, The Longevity Project, defines it:

A conscientious person is responsible and organized and not very full of ego. They’re pragmatic and they think ahead.

The study has good credibility because it followed the same subjects from 1921 up to 1990, with some breaks in-between. Check it out.

Categories: psychology, secrets of youth Tags:

Happy mind, happy body

March 3rd, 2011 No comments

Here’s an article that says that positivity helps longevity.

I think this is the secret, simplistic though it may be: if we want to be healthy, we should take care of the body and take care of the mind as well. The dualists thought that the two were separate, which I interpret as seeing the mind as the driver and the body as the car, but now I hope we see that the two are intertwined — we are the driver and the car. Hey, if thoughts can lead to stress, pain and ulcers, then happiness and calmness can lead to health … and this has been found.

Mind and body. Body and mind.

But here’s the weird thing, on which I shall opine further in the future: we spend so much time trying to protect the self, we forget about protecting the mind, the brain and thus the body. Do chew on that, if you will.