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Catharsis « You Are Not So Smart

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Thanks to Freud, catharsis theory and psychotherapy became part of psychology. Mental wellness, he reasoned, could be achieved by filtering away impurities in your mind through the siphon of a therapist.

He believed your psyche was poisoned by repressed fears and desires, unresolved arguments and unhealed wounds. The mind formed phobias and obsessions around these bits of mental detritus. You needed to rummage around in there, open up some windows and let some fresh air and sunlight in.

The hydraulic model of anger is just what it sounds like – anger builds up inside the mind until you let off some steam. If you don’t let off this steam, the boiler will burst. If you don’t vent the pressure, someone is going to get a beating.

He was wrong. Read more here: Catharsis « You Are Not So Smart.

Or buy this book.

Written by PoojanWagh

August 24th, 2010 at 8:24 am

Posted in Behavior

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Cognitive Dissonance Mashup: David Allen (GTD), Gary Marcus (Kluge), Martin Seligman (Authentic Happiness)

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I really like David Allen’s Getting Things Done. While he discusses long-term (50,000-foot) goals, he focuses on the near-term panic-causing stressors of an over-demanding life first. Someone who is just plain stressed out isn’t going to start thinking about their life vision. He clearly understands the needs of and stresses on the human brain. This (at least in my lay opinion) is the power of cognitive behavioral therapy as opposed to psychoanalysis: who cares about what happened years ago if you’re just nervous/sad/pissed about what is happening now.

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Written by PoojanWagh

June 17th, 2009 at 11:52 pm

Barack Obama is screwed | So is John McCain | But mostly the human mind

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Disclaimer: I don’t intend to proclaim or disseminate my political views in public. Instead, I vote in private. I believe that both Barack Obama and John McCain are worthy candidates of the Presidency. John McCain is a national hero; the outcome of the election won’t change that.

I am recording my rambling thoughts on the psychological effects on the election. Your constructive feedback, as always, is welcome. No flames, please.

I started reading Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind yesterday. While Gary Marcus was going through the lists of cognitive errors to which the human mind is prone, I couldn’t help thinking of the election. It seemed at first that pretty much every error would go in John McCain’s favor. Namely:

  1. Memory Priming: There have been some pre-election associations with the name “Barack Obama” and the characterizations “Muslim” and “terrorist”.
  2. Attachment to the familiar: “If it’s in place, it must be working.” Evolution seems to have preferred sticking with the status quo rather than accepting change. This is especially true in stressful times (think credit crisis). Curiously, McCain’s attempt to disassociate himself with Bush might not be the best strategy. Obama seems to be trying to leverage this association, but it might not be in his best interest. Indeed, I think most people associate Bush with a present national crisis, but there is a irrational human tendency to stick with precedence (regardless of its flaws).
  3. Minority effect: voters tend to vote for candidates in the “majority” demographic rather than “minorities”. This prejudice includes voters in the minority.

The one thing that might curb all these effects is that I think the Barack Obama campaign understands these phenomena. They’re not relying on a seemingly large lead in the polls to materialize on election day.

Further inspection reveals that McCain is also susceptible to similar errors:

  1. Memory Priming: By associating McCain with Bush (and therefore a sad state of national affairs), the Obama campaign is priming the voters’ memories. One could make the case that this association is valid. However, it is not necessary to correlate McCain’s and Bush’s votes to prove a correlation between the economic or political state of the country and McCain’s past votes.
  2. Minority effect: McCain’s age gets very little discussion as a minority segment. However, there is an association here that McCain will under-perform as a president due to his age. Note that I believe the actuarial risk that Palin might become a president to be a valid risk; whether Palin will be a good president is separate issue than whether McCain will be a good president.

There’s another problem that plagues supporters of either party (Conservative/Republican | Liberal/Democrat)–especially the most passionate: motivated reasoning. It is far easier to prove an idea that you already believe in, rather than to search for all the available material out there to disprove any idea. This consideration brings back memories of the 2000 election, when the votes were in dispute. I remember seeing pictures of Republicans and Democrats screaming at each other. Each side had convinced itself very passionately that it was right–no doubt by invoking some amount of motivated reasoning. It’s clear that each side thought if the other’s candidate won, the nation would immediately plummet into disrepair. Of course, that didn’t happen.

Instead, it took 8 years. Ha!

My point is that we should each beware of the heavy marketing that we are being fed as voters. We should each try to see the other points in any argument. Keep an open mind. Each of us should remember that we are all American…

Except Joe Biden: He’s a puppy-killing Communist, and Joe is not even his real first name.

By the way, the book is not particularly generous to George Bush.

Written by PoojanWagh

October 27th, 2008 at 2:51 pm