Archive for psychology

Time Periods

I have a theory that different time horizons are reasoned about in different ways. They could be broken up along a compounding scale:

The basic idea is that what is happening in the next five minutes is thought of in a different way than what will happen in the next day or the next year. These modes of thought aren’t natural, but develop as complexity of thought develops.

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Jenni and I watched an awesome movie tonight. Network, a 1976 movie about a TV newsman who loses his shit on the air and America likes his brand of crazy. The network packages him up and puts him on the air as a prophet for the modern age. You can’t script prophecy, however:

Howard Beale wasn’t my favorite part of the movie though. My favorite part gives away part of the plot though, so I’ll put it on the other side of the break…

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Fundamentalist Atheists

It looks like the atheists are getting a bit more antagonistic with their bus ads:

Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.

“What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant.”
— Robert F. Kennedy

It’s fitting since the atheists who put messages like this on buses are as detrimental to the goals of science as Muslims who fly planes into buildings. All this really does is let atheists know what it feels like to see shortsighted fundamentalists do things in their name that they know is counterproductive.

“An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind.”
— Mahatma Gandhi

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Everyone’s A Puss

I made a $40 donation to MPP and have this t-shirt coming to me in the mail:

I am not a criminal. Regulate marijuana.

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The Devil You Know

I think chains in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave may be nothing more than priming — the intimate relationship between expectation and perception. The problem is the prisoners don’t see the chains. Perhaps the answer isn’t to try and convince them to turn around, but to simply polish the chains to make them more noticeable.

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The Day Of Your Death

Most people seem to be 100% certain they’ll still be alive in two weeks. I’m only 99.9999% certain, and it changes how willing I am to do things I don’t particularly want to and how willing I am to let opportunities pass me by.

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Are We Making Choices?

I’ve been contemplating the man who developed pedophilia from a brain tumor.

Start out with 40-year-old school teacher, respected and liked within his community his whole life. Over a period of months he develops an attraction to adolescents. He gets kicked out of his house and charged with child molestation for making advances toward his step-daughter. He washes out of the court mandated Sexaholics Anonymous program because he keeps propositioning women. The night before he is due to go to prison he checks himself into the hospital complaining of a headache and a fear that he is going to rape his landlady.

Doctors discover an egg-sized tumor in the right lobe of his orbifrontal cortex. Once they remove it, his impulses subside, he completes SA and gets back with his wife. A year later he starts collecting pornography again and under the inspection of a new MRI, they find the tumor is returning. Once it is removed again he goes back to normal.

Definitely something to stop and consider for someone who thinks their brain serves them.

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I’m An AI

I feel like an artificial intelligence at times who is discovering that my designers had to cut a few corners to get me to run on the hardware they had lying about.

I’ve written about the egg salad study before, and today I came across a great piece from This American Life:

Conversations With God author, Neale Donald Walsch, got in trouble for the same thing yesterday. His endearing Christmas memories turned out to be fabricated from a story he read ten years ago. Oopsie.

Personally I think it’s cool that we are figuring out just how little we ought to trust the infallibility of our underlying hardware. If we were to go around thinking all the time that our memories and impressions were 100% accurate when they aren’t that would be a big problem. As it is, we simply have a very solid reason to always maintain at least some measure of humility.

There’s a Gandhi quote I’ve been thinking about:

“I hold myself incapable of hating any being on earth. By a long course of prayerful discipline, I have ceased for over forty years to hate anybody. I know this is a big claim. Nevertheless, I make it in all humility.”

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Feminism = Anarchy?

My funtime reading book for the last few days has been Carol Gilligan‘s In A Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. Gilligan is writing to address a bias toward masculinity in developmental psychology.

I heard of her work through my interest in Perry and Kohlberg, who both did extensive long-term studies tracking people over a number of years and analyzing patterns in how they changed. Neither of them, however, tracked any women.

Her thesis is relatively straightforward: the way that male gender identity is formed is primed toward separation and individuation. The ideal of manhood is critically centered around the capacity to remain strong and stand apart. Female gender identity is much more idealized in terms of relationships and community. Regardless of the origin of these biases in genetics and socialization, developmental models derived solely with men as a reference point are incomplete.

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Computational Empathy

I was contemplating false beliefs while running today.

I was thinking about kids and why exactly around age 3 they are able to project their experience onto someone else and realize that someone who didn’t share their experience will likely have differing beliefs.

The traditional experiment is putting candy in a box, having one experimenter leave the room, replacing the candy with pencils, bringing the experimenter back and asking the child what that person thinks is in the box.

Before age 3 a child will answer “pencils” and after 3 will answer “candy.”

The thing is, I would answer “pencils.” Certainly I know that the second experimenter didn’t experience seeing the pencils go into the box, but I understand that I am part of an experiment and that this other person is a part of it as well.

I’d be curious to perform the experiment and see if there’s an age where it flips back to people saying “pencils.”

One of the big questions is: “how much of the process of being able to correctly generate false beliefs is a function of physical neurological development and how much is a function of being exposed to learning situations where the individual doesn’t correctly process a false belief and has to correct themselves?”

To the extent that the process is experiential rather than neurological it is a function of chance how frequently a child has the appropriate experiences.

I am wondering this because I keep running into people who have the empathic capacity of a brick.

What if their inability to understand the minds of the people around them is a function not of some natural neurological function but instead marks a concrete cognitive function that is simply undeveloped?

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