Although I did not make a substantial number of posts in 2012, the traffic to my site doubled. Throughout 2012 my blog had 35,819 hits from 31,960 unique visitors, accounting for over 46,720 page views. I had visitors from every state in the US and visits from people from 165 nations around the world. Visitors from the United States accounted for the vast majority of those hits, but the UK, Canada, India, and Australia also brought in large contingents.
This year the top ranked article was my 2011 post on Conspicuous Consumption and the Peacock’s Tail, which accounted for 50% more hits than this year’s number two ranked article (Brainwaves and Other Brain Measures – the number one post from last year). The piece on conspicuous consumption, is in my opinion, one of my all time most important pieces. It addresses our inherent drive to advance one’s social standing while actually going nowhere on the hedonic treadmill. It delves into the environmental costs of buying into the illusion of consumer materialism and its biological origins (the signaling instinct much like that of the Peacock). The Brainwave piece, also from 2011, compares and contrasts the different measures used to peer into the workings of the brain.
Of my posts published in 2012, only two made it to this year’s top ten list: five were from 2010 and three were published in 2011. Of those eight from previous years, five were also on the top ten list last year.
My 2012 review and discussion of the Broadway Musical Wicked topped the list of posts actually written in 2012, but it came in third overall this year relative to all other posts. This article explores the theme that “things are not as they seem.” I relate the story told in the show to the political and historical manipulation American citizens are subjected to, and it stirs up unpleasant and inconvenient realities that many would prefer remain unknown.
Great interest persists in my post entitled Nonmoral Nature: It is what it is. This review of Stephen Jay Gould’s most famous article received a number four ranking, down from a number two ranking over the last two years. I had also reviewed in 2010 a very popular New York Time’s article by Steven Pinker entitled The Moral Instinct. This article moved down two notches this year, ultimately ranking number five. My critical article on the Implicit Associations Test ranked number six this year, versus a number four ranking last year. My 2011 post Where Does Prejudice Come From? ranked number seven this year, down two spots from its ranking in 2011. One of my all time favorite posts from 2010, Emotion vs. Reason: And the Winner is? returned to the top ten list this year coming in eighth. In 2010 it ranked number ten, but it fell off the list last year. My Hedgehog versus the Fox mindset piece ranked number nine this year, compared to a number ten ranking last year. Finally, in the number ten slot this year, is my 2012 article Happiness as Measured by GDP: Really? This post was perhaps the most important post of the year.
So here is the Top Ten list for 2012.
- Conspicuous Consumption and the Peacock’s Tail (2011)
- Brainwaves and Other Brain Measures (2011)
- Wicked! Things are NOT as they Seem (2012)
- Non Moral Nature: It is what it is (2010)
- Moral Instinct (2010)
- IAT: Questions of Reliability and Validity (2010)
- Where Does Prejudice Come From? (2011)
- Emotion vs. Reason: And the Winner is? (2010)
- Are you a Hedgehog or a Fox? (2010)
- Happiness as Measured by GDP: Really? (2012)
Again this year, the top ten articles represent the foundational issues that have driven me in my quest to understand how people think. This cross section of my work is, in fact, a good starting point for those who are new to my blog. There are several other 2012 posts that ranked outside the top ten; regardless, I believe they are important. These other posts include:
This latter article, The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth, pertains to the microbiome, the collection of an estimated 100 trillion individual organisms thriving in and on your body that account for about three pounds of your total body weight (about the same weight as your brain). These little creatures play a huge role in your physical and mental well being and we are just beginning to understand the extent of their reach. Modern medicine in the future, will likely embrace the microbiome as a means of preventing and treating many illnesses (including treating some mental illnesses).
Although, not among the most popular articles this year, my pieces on the pernicious affects of poverty on child development from 2011 warrant ongoing attention. If we truly wish to halt the cycle of poverty, then we need to devote early and evidenced based intervention services for children and families living in poverty. As it turns out, poverty is a neurotoxin. Knowing the information in this series should motivate us, as a society, to truly evaluate our current political and economic policies.
The bottom line:
The human brain, no matter how remarkable, is flawed in two fundamental ways. First, the proclivities toward patternicity (pareidolia), hyperactive agency detection, and superstition, although once adaptive mechanisms, now lead to many errors of thought. Since the age of enlightenment, when human kind developed the scientific method, we have exponentially expanded our knowledge base regarding the workings of the world and the universe. These leaps of knowledge have rendered those error prone proclivities unessential for survival. Regardless, they have remained a dominant cognitive force. Although our intuition and rapid cognitions have sustained us, and in some ways still do, the subsequent everyday illusions impede us in important ways.
Secondly, we are prone to a multitude of cognitive biases that diminish and narrow our capacity to truly understand the world. Time after time I have written of the dangers of ideology with regard to its capacity to blindfold its disciples. Often those blindfolds are absolutely essential to sustain the ideology. And this is dangerous when truths and facts are denied or innocents are subjugated or brutalized. As I discussed in Spinoza’s Conjecture:
“We all look at the world through our personal lenses of experience. Our experiences shape our understanding of the world, and ultimately our understanding of [it], then filters what we take in. The end result is that we may reject or ignore new and important information simply because it does not conform to our previously held beliefs.
Because of these innate tendencies, we must make additional effort to step away from what we believe to be true in order to discover the truth.
Posted by Gerald Guild
, Erroneous Thinking
, Rational Thought
, Socioeconomic Status
| Tagged: Erroneous Thinking
, Intuitive Thinking
, Rational Thought
, Spinoza's Conjecture
Saying “I’m sorry” can be very difficult for some of us. We routinely make mistakes. As coined by Alexander Pope: “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” Within any interpersonal relationship there will be inadvertent missteps or even acts of anger that hurt those close to us. Its not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Forgiving is important, as Pope emphasizes: and it is also quite often a difficult thing to do. But the act of apologizing, it seems to me, can be even harder.
Obviously it necessitates swallowing one’s pride and accepting responsibility for one’s misdeeds. It also requires a departure from one’s unique view of the world and the adoption of another person’s perspective. Swallowing one’s pride is hard enough and perspective taking stirs the feelings of guilt. For these reasons alone, I believe that saying the two simple words “I’m sorry” is perhaps one of the bravest things a person can do.
There are other factors that contribute to the difficulty associated with an apology. Some view it as a tacit acknowledgement of one’s weakness. It does tend to elicit a personal feeling of vulnerability and perhaps pangs of subjugation, defeat, and loss of status. It can entwine and envelope one in a aura of incompetence and humility. No one likes such feelings: none of them elevate one’s sense of well being. The opposite is true: they instead elicit dysphoric feelings that essentially punish the inclination to apologize. Thus, many avoid, ignore, or steep themselves in denial. Pointing outward and blaming the other party for causing the problem strips one of responsibility and allows escape from the unpleasantness of having to apologize. It is the easy way out, and ultimately it tends to bankrupt a relationship.
I really like how Stephen Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, conceptualizes relationships. He analogizes relationships to a bank account. When you treat another person with dignity and respect, you make deposits in their emotional bank account. When you hurt someone, you essentially make a withdrawal. By virtue of being in a sustained relationship, you will, over time, make a series of deposits and withdrawals. When you hurt another person and then deny your responsibility for having done so, you compound the withdrawal. And too many withdrawals can drain that person’s emotional bank account. A drained account stirs contempt and lays the foundation for the end of that relationship. A genuine apology is typically a deposit and it can go a long way toward bringing the account back into balance. To be effective, it must be heartfelt, with an acknowledgment of the depth of harm done, and with full acceptance of responsibility. The results should help heal wounds and it may even strengthen the relationship. It is a gift, because it can make forgiveness easier for the injured party. Denial, on the other hand, deepens the wound and widens the gap.
Saying “I’m sorry” is supposed to be difficult. It is an act of contrition, whereby one bares the difficult weight of the misstep and takes responsibility for it. This courageous endeavor is essential for sustaining a loving and caring relationship. The world in general, and your relationships specifically, will be better if you endeavor to be brave enough to utter these simple words. Doing the right thing is ultimately way more important than being right (Ludwig, 2010). To err is human; to apologize, heroic.
Belkin, L., (2010). Why is it so Hard to Apologize Well? The New York Times
Lazare, A., (2004). Making Peace Through Apology. GreaterGood.berkley.edu
Ludwig, R., (2009). Why is it so Hard to Say “I’m Sorry?” NBC NEWS.com
Mumford & Sons (2010). Little Lion Man
O Leary, T. (2007). 5 Steps to an Effective Apology. Pick The Brain.com
What drives you crazy about your partner? Dirty dishes left piled in the sink. Several days worth of laundry strewn about the bedroom. The toilet paper roll is never replenished. She talks too much – he doesn’t talk enough. He’s always late – she’s a compulsive neat freak. These are a few of the common complaints that spouses have about their loved ones. It is well known that close intimate relationships can be very tough to sustain over time. There is something about living with someone for a long period of time that turns idiosyncratic quirks into incendiary peeves. Why is this?
I’ve recently finished reading Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Us by Joe Palca and Flora Lichtman. This fascinating read dives into a topic that has escaped much direct scientific scrutiny. This fact is amazing because “although everyone can tell you what’s annoying, few, if any, can explain why” (Palca & Lichtman, 2011). One of the topics that these authors explore is this issue of the bothersome habits of intimate partners. It’s exceedingly common – if your partner drives you crazy – you are not alone.
What is very curious is that often the very things that attracted you to your partner, are the things that, in the end, foster contempt. Palca and Lichtman explore the concept of Fatal Attraction coined by sociologist Diane Felmlee of UC – Davis. Felmlee has explored this concept for years and she has seen this tendency in couples all over the world. In the first stage of love (Romantic Love), we are drawn in, in part, by the cute little things, the person’s novel traits, that trigger affection. But, over time, those initially positive attractors often have an annoying flip side.
Why does something that attracted you to your partner get flipped into a detractor? Felmlee believes that this disillusionment occurs due to Social Exchange Theory where “extreme traits have [their] rewards, but they also have costs associated with them, especially when you are in a relationship.”
- If you were drawn to partner because he was nice and agreeable, he may later be seen as passive and prone to letting people walk all over him.
- If you were attracted to your partner because of her assertiveness, confidence, and self-directed demeanor, you may later find her to be stubborn and unreasonable.
- If you were swooned by his strong work ethic and motivation to be successful, you may later be disappointed because you now have an inattentive, inaccessible, workaholic.
- Someone who is a romantic, attentive, and caring suitor may later be viewed as a needy and clingy partner.
- The passionate may become the dramatic or explosive hot-head.
- The calm, cool, and collected becomes the aloof stoic.
- The laid back guy becomes the lazy slob.
- The exciting risk taker becomes the irresponsible adrenaline junkie.
- The gregarious life of the party becomes the clown who takes nothing seriously.
And so it goes. Repetition seems to be a crucial contributor notes Elaine Hatfield, a psychologist from the University of Hawaii. “The same thing keeps happening over and over again in a marriage” she notes. Michael Cunningham, a psychologist from the University of Louisville has come to refer to these annoying attributes as Social Allergens. The analogy with an allergen is played out in the dose effect. He notes that “small things don’t elicit much of a reaction at first” but that with repeated exposure over time, they “can lead to emotional explosions.” Palca and Lichtman note that:
People frequently describe their partners as both “the love of my life” and “one of the most annoying people I know.”
Elaine Hatfield also believes that these social allergens get amplified when there is an imbalance in equity within a relationship. Equity Theory, she notes, suggests that when there is an imbalance of power, commitment, or contribution in a relationship, these quirks take on a disproportionate amount of negative value. However, if there is balance in the relationship (equity), the annoyance value of a partner’s quirks is more easily tolerated. So, if your partner is a good contributor and there is a balance of power, you are less likely to be annoyed. If, on the other hand, your needs are left unmet, or you do the lion’s share of the work around the house, or you feel unappreciated or diminished by your spouse, there is likely to be more annoyance associated with his or her quirks.
It is also important to note that the nature of a relationship changes over time. During the initial passionate Romantic Love stage, the couple tends to be on their best behavior. Once commitment and comfort are attained, one’s truer attributes tend to come to the surface. There tends to be less effort to conceal one’s quirks and thus increased occurrences of these social allergens.
Over time, increased and accelerated exposure take their toll and if there are equity issues, it’s a recipe for disaster. So, what is one to do?
The first step is to think about the issues that get to you with regard to how the value of those attributes may have a positive side. We all have our strengths and our quirks – yes, you too have your annoying tendencies! Michael Cunningham suggests that you should try to be accepting of your partners quirks. These behaviors are a part of who the person is. He notes that “You’ve got to take this if you want all of the other good things.”
Own your feelings and explore them at a deeper level, particularly with regard to the equity issues in your relationship. Arthur Aaron, a psychology professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook urges couples to nurture their relationship. “Celebrate when something good happens to your partner” he notes. Attend to and accentuate the positive. He also suggests engaging in novel, challenging and exciting activities fairly often. “Anything you can do that will make your relationship better will tend to make your partner less annoying.” My suggestion is to think of a relationship as a garden that needs attention, maintenance, and nurturance. It’s impossible to rid the garden of all its weeds and pests. But the more attention and nurturance you provide, the more it will flourish. As Stephen Covey is fond of saying: “Love is a verb. Love the feeling is the fruit of love the verb.” So do loving things.