Make your speech more colorful by using rhetorical devices with fanciful Greek names. How about a hèn dià dyoîn, or hendiadyoin, where you express a single concept with two words, joined by copulative conjunction? Your kith and kin will be impressed, particularly when you explain to them that a hendiadyoin is neither a pleonasm nor an oxymoron. One German hendiadyoin I like is "Furz and Feuerstein" (fart and firestone), which refers to miscellaneous or all kinds of things. A good English one is "pomp and circumstance" for "formal ceremony." If there is a hendiadyoin, or 'one through two,' then there should also be a hendiatriyoin, or 'one through three.' And there is. Believe it! Hook, line, and sinker.
July 2, 2013
My friend Fahim Siddiqui observes that "Possibility is what makes you gamble. Probability makes you lose."
As for me, I finally surrendered to peer pressure and became a nonconformist. Now I'm suffering from irritable brain syndrome.
The word of the day: Decumulation. There aren't as many cool words like that as there used to be.
Curious about spurious. In psychology and elsewhere we are told to be wary of spurious correlations. God forbid we might mistake them for the real thing. In Latin, a spurius is a bastard, an illegitimate child. But don't you love it just as much?
Elasticity. When advertisers tell us that we "can save even more" during "a limited time," aren't they saying that they are ripping us off at all other times? I suppose this is an example of what economists call price elasticity. And what does it mean when they say "if you call within the next 90 minutes, you get the discount"? For this to make sense, as my teenage daughter observes, the ad would have to be shown only once. Another example impressed itself on me at my local health food store. An item was labeled "$6.29 list price" and "$6.99 sale price." When I took the item to the cashier for light shedding, she scanned it and reported that it came up as "$7.34." Don't you miss the rational actor model?
April 25, 2013
April 18, 2013
Economists (not necessarily the same individuals) like to complain that people do not save enough for retirement, do not save enough for their kids' college education, and do not show enough "consumer confidence" (i.e., do not spend enough on or do not not borrow enough to spend on consumer goods). The aggregated message of economics is then that people don't make enough money. No wonder they call it the dismal science. It's rather like psychologists complaining that the average IQ is 100 instead of 120.
April 16, 2013
April 13, 2013
In an article in Psychological Science, Lewandowsky, Oberauer, & Gignac (2013) show that individuals who see the accumulation of scientific evidence for a human contribution to climate change as a hoax are also prone hold other conspiracy-related beliefs, such as the idea that the government/NASA faked the moon landing. Moreover, the tendency to endorse conspiracy theories is unrelated to uncritical support for an unregulated market economy, although the latter is also a predictor of rejection of science. I find these findings interesting and persuasive (see also a post of conspiracy theories and Krueger, 2010).
Krueger, J. I. (2010). Die “Grosse Verschwörungstheorie” aus psychologischer Sicht [The “Great Conspiracy Theory” from a psychological perspective]. Zeitschrift für Anomalistik, 10, 6-16.
Lewandowsky, S., Oberauer, K., & Gignac, G. E. (2013). NASA faked the Moon landing – Therefore, (climate) science is a hoax: An anatomy of the motivated rejection of science. Psychological Science. doi: 10.1177/0956797612457686
Wood, M. J., Douglas, K. M., & Sutton, R. M. (2012). Dead and alive: Beliefs in contradictiory conspiracy theories. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3, 767-773. doi: 10.1177/1948550611434786
"One sees what one wants to see. It is false, and that falsity is the foundation of art." ~ Degas
April 11, 2013
Self-evaluation maintenance (SEM) theory (Tesser, 1988) is a sophisticated theory in the area of self- and social judgment. In a review paper on self-enhancement, Sedikides & Gregg (2008) stated that “three factors are critical: one’s performance in a domain, the personal relevance of that domain, and one’s relationship to a target” (p. 106). SEM explains how it is that people, although they overall judge and treat those close to them more benevolently than those who are more distant, are also more likely to experience rivalries and engage in competitive maneuvering. Thus, when a domain is relevant to the ego, “comparison (or contrast) occurs, [and] a better performance from another individual prompts self-derogation (e.g., humiliation), whereas a worse performance from another individual prompts self-enhancement (e.g., triumph). [. . .] People have less favorable perceptions of targets’ performance in ego-relevant domains when those targets are close rather than distant (Tesser & Campbell, 1982). [. . .] To escape or forestall such negative feelings, people resort to several strategies including adjusting their perceptions of task relevance (Tesser & Paulhus, 1983); choosing friends who, despite being roughly matched in level and type of ability, are somewhat less able in ego-relevant domains and are somewhat more able in ego-irrelevant domains (Tesser, Campbell, & Smith, 1984); and acting so as to hinder close others’ performance in ego-relevant domains (Pemberton & Sedikides, 2001)” (p. 106).
Suppose Ego ranks 6 dimensions in terms of how important they are to him. Imagine that appreciating art is at the top with a rank of 6 and programming computers is at the bottom with a rank of one. Over a lifetime, Ego invests effort into the 6 domains in proportion to their personal importance. Unless Ego is living in a cruel universe, a positive correlation will emerge in how strongly Ego can perceive himself to be in a domain and how important that domain is. Let’s say the order of self-ranks is 4, 6, 5, 1, 2, 3 for the domains ranked from 6 to 1. The correlation between the self- and the importance rankings is .6. Ego’s friend Alter has different preferences. His excellence ranks are 5, 4, 2, 1, 3, 6, and they are perceived accurately by Ego. The correlation between Ego’s importance ranks and Alter’s ranks is virtually nil (-.03). Finally, there is a positive correlation between Ego and Alter (.31), indicating the type of similarity that should exist among friends.
If we average Ego’s self-ranks for three most important dimensions, we find that M = 5. The mean of the three ranks for Alter is 3.67. It appears that Ego is self-enhancing on the dimensions that matter to him. Now if we average his self-ranks for the remaining three (comparatively unimportant) dimensions, we find that M = 2. The corresponding mean for Alter is 3.33. It appears that Ego is self-effacing on dimensions he regards as irrelevant to him.
Notice that no motive to self-enhance or –efface was invoked, nor was it assumed that Ego engages in any direct comparisons with Alter. Surely, these things happen, but they are not necessary to explain some interesting patterns. Sometimes it is enough to do what you do best, ignore the rest, and you will look like someone who strategically seeks to dominate or wishes to submit.
Krueger, J. I., Freestone, D., & McInnis, M. L. (2013). Comparisons in research and reasoning: Toward an integrative theory of social induction. New Ideas in Psychology, 31, 73-86. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.newideapsych.2012.11.002
Sedikides, C., & Gregg, A. P. (2008). Self-enhancement: Food for thought. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3, 102-116. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-6916.2008.00068.x
My paper with Klaus Fiedler called Afterthoughts on precognition will come out later this year in Theory & Psychology. In it, we discuss some issues with Daryl Bem’s (JPSP, 2011) paper that claimed to demonstrate retroactive causation. I just wish our paper had come out before Bem’s.
Speaking from the heart sounds great. Speaking from the midbrain does not -- although it amounts to the same thing.
Eduction is bidirectional, and more so as the generational gap widens. My student Max (22) and I (55) both benefited today because I explained to him who Hermann Hesse was and he enlightened me on the wisdom of hackathons (see also).
Mindful of the great spiritual leaders of the past and present (J.C., D. L., C. G. J.), I have striven to love, embrace, and cherish all living things. Then I got a fungal infection (and a moth-eaten jacket).
April 4, 2013
My university, like others, agonizes over the promises and perils of online education. A trusted colleague claims that students prefer online courses over traditional (offline?) courses and there’s research that student opinion is a partially valid cue for educational quality (Greenwald, 1997). Case closed?
Perhaps the subject matter matters. Take statistics, for example (or anything else mathematical). Do we really need a professor writing equations on a blackboard (or showing powerpoint slides, which amounts to the same thing)? In a discipline that is staked on the acquisition of skills that are [a] clearly defined and [b] independent of human interaction, there seems to be no contest to the idea that online instruction is superior. In contrast, when the substance is enmeshed with human contact and interchange, the traditional format seems superior – unless of course, you claim that this very human contact can be had online. That’s where it gets interesting.
Suppose the substantive matter is rhetoric, the art of speaking persuasively. If by speaking persuasively we mean speaking in front of others, then yes, the traditional formal method would have to be superior, unless you argue that speaking face to face is itself an obsolete way of communicating.
In other fields of scholarship, there is room for opinion, dissent, and debate. If this debate is cast as being face to face in the so-called real world, then the instructional method may want to reflect that too, and privilege the traditional format. But again, one might argue that the criterion toward which we teach (formerly known as the real world) is itself becoming a reflection of instructional methods. If so, debates over values, interpretations, and perspectives will play out online, and so should the building of the skill needed to succeed.
It seems that the case for traditional instruction is lost. But only if we assume that the written word carries all the information that is transmitted in human communication. What about the richness of nonverbal behavior and the decoding thereof? This is not much of an argument because we have video-conferencing and video-messaging. Well, but those tools come without smell or touch. All right, but arguably, these senses should not matter in the game of communication. Of course, they do (Herz, 2007), but if we define them as irrelevant, we no longer need to worry about them.
The perceptive reader will have noticed that I am a traditionalist. I have been mocking online education, and mocking is the defense of those who lack a rational argument. So I give you an irrational argument, which, by definition, is flawed.
If the online format were so great, why is it that Springsteen still tours and that his fans love it? Why don’t they just download his tunes from iTunes? The flaw of this argument is painfully obvious (and yet I like it). When Springsteen tours, his screaming fans (mostly female) are in the thrall of a crowd mentality. They cannot (nor do they wish to) think straight (Le Bon, 1900). How can this lousy analogy possibly aid the case for traditional classroom instruction? I will let you wonder about that.
Herz, R. (2007). The scent of desire. New York: HarperCollins.
Greenwald, A. G. (1997). Validity and usefulness concerns of student ratings of instruction. American Psychologist, 52, 1182-1186.
Le Bon, G. (1990). La psychologie des foules. Paris: Alcan.