Later On

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Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

Behind Enemy Lines, Ukrainians Tell Russians ‘You Are Never Safe’

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Andrew E. Kramer has an interesting report (gift link, no paywall) in the NY Times. The report begins:

They sneak down darkened alleys to set explosives. They identify Russian targets for Ukrainian artillery and long-range rockets provided by the United States. They blow up rail lines and assassinate officials they consider collaborators with the Russians.

Slipping back and forth across the front lines, the guerrilla fighters are known in Ukraine as partisans, and in recent weeks they have taken an ever more prominent role in the war, rattling Russian forces by helping deliver humiliating blows in occupied areas they thought were safe.

Increasingly, Ukraine is taking the fight against Russian forces into Russian-controlled areas, whether with elite military units, like the one credited on Tuesday with a huge explosion at a Russian ammunition depot in the occupied Crimean Peninsula, or an underground network of the guerrillas.

Last week, Ukrainian officials said, the partisans had a hand in a successful strike on a Russian air base, also in Crimea, which Moscow annexed eight years ago. It destroyed eight fighter jets.

“The goal is to show the occupiers that they are not at home, that they should not settle in, that they should not sleep comfortably,” said one guerrilla fighter, who spoke on condition that, for security reasons, he only be identified by his code name, Svarog, after a pagan Slavic god of fire.

In recent days the Ukrainian military made Svarog and several other of the operatives available for interviews in person or online, hoping to highlight the partisans’ widening threat to Russian forces and signal to Western donors that Ukraine is successfully rallying local resources in the war, now nearly six months old. A senior Ukrainian military official familiar with the program also described the workings of the resistance.

Their accounts of attacks could not be verified completely but aligned with reports in the Ukrainian media and with descriptions from Ukrainians who had recently fled Russian-occupied areas.

Svarog and I met over lemonade and cheese pastries at a Georgian restaurant in Zaporizhzhia, a city under Ukrainian control about 65 miles north of the occupied town of Melitopol.

He spoke with intimate knowledge of partisan activities, providing a rare glimpse into one of the most hidden aspects of the war.

The Ukrainian military began training partisans in the months before the invasion, as Russia massed troops near the borders. The effort has paid off in recent weeks as . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2022 at 2:19 pm

When Parents Tell Kids to ‘Work Hard,’ Do They Send the Wrong Message?

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Michael Blanding writes at the Harvard Business School:

It takes more than grit to succeed in a world rife with systemic inequity. So why don’t we tell children that? Research by Ashley Whillans and colleagues shows how honest talk about social barriers could empower kids to break them down.

“Work hard, and you’ll be successful.”

How often do we tell children that the key to success is putting forth effort? That advice might seem like admirable inspiration to encourage kids to work hard as they pursue their goals. However, new research in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology suggests that those messages may have an unintended consequence, making people believe that someone who isn’t succeeding isn’t bothering to try. And those perceptions can perpetuate inequality in society.

“How do all of these lessons about working hard potentially carry over to our beliefs about other people?” asks Ashley Whillans, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, who co-authored the study. “If you are learning that effort is the way to achieve success, and you see people who have less, you might assume they didn’t work hard enough—as opposed to recognizing the systems and institutions we know can stand in the way.”

Whillans explored these questions in a trio of studies of parents and children along with Antonya Gonzalez, assistant psychology professor at Western Washington University; and Lucia Macchia, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Public Policy.

The research is particularly relevant, they say, given that many early educators today are focusing on willpower, grit, and a “growth mindset,” teaching kids that intelligence can be grown like a muscle, and that it’s not inherited or predetermined.

“There is such an emphasis now with kids on effort and taking control of your own learning and abilities,” says Gonzalez. “But it’s not possible for everyone to overcome certain challenges.”

The belief that effort is the key to success could also influence people’s perceptions of workers in various jobs, particularly low-wage positions, the researchers say.

“This overemphasis on effort could lead people to believe that workers in low-wage jobs are not deserving of increased pay or better working conditions,” says Whillans, which is an idea that is consistent with some of her ongoing research with HBS doctoral student Elizabeth Johnson.

Studying luck, ability, or effort—with aliens

To test the effects of these messages, the researchers considered three possible explanations for why one person might be more successful than another. The cause might be situational, based on where a person grew up, the family they were born into, or the educational opportunities they had—in other words, luck. It might be individual, based on factors beyond a person’s control, such as raw intelligence or athletic skill—meaning ability. Or it might be individual but based on controllable factors, such as hard work or persistence—in other words, effort.

The researchers conducted an online survey of 200 Americans, presenting them with a fictional story about a planet with two alien species, Blarks and Orps, who differed in their amount of wealth, educational attainment, job status, or hierarchy. Parents were asked to imagine how they might explain a discrepancy in achievement between the two species to their children—attributing it to luck, ability, or effort. They chose to use these study details based on past research to make the study cleanly about inequality as opposed to pre-existing beliefs about certain groups in society.

More respondents, about 41 percent, chose to explain the species with lower achievement levels as . . .

Continue reading.

And see also “The Making of the Self-Made Man” in Current Affairs.

Written by Leisureguy

16 August 2022 at 7:43 pm

Finally! F.D.A. Clears Path for Hearing Aids to be Sold Over the Counter

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I have strong feelings about giving the public affordable access to hearing aids (excellent news in a NY Times article — and that’s a gift link, no paywall). My step-father worked as a carpenter and builder for most of his life, long before it was thought important to provide hearing protection around power tools (which are extremely loud and you work extremely close to them). As he aged, he became increasingly deaf. He did finally get hearing aids, but those early models were uncomfortable, and often he would not wear them, preferring to sit among us and just smile as we talked, isolated from the conversation.

Then it became clear (not so much to me as to my wife and others around me) that my own hearing had started to fail. I got a hearing test and indeed my hearing at higher frequencies was poor. I bought a pair of hearing aids at the eye-watering price of US$3500 for a pair. I was told that I would probably want to replace them in about five years, but I thought “Hah! Not likely!” Regardless of how nifty any new designs were, I would just stick with the ones I had.

As it turns out, it’s not so much “want” to replace them as “have to.” Hearing aids are worn on one’s head, behind the ear, means that it spends its days in a humid environment — and 1) it’s electronic, and 2) it has small openings (for microphone input, for one thing). As a result. over time, slow corrosion will take it down, and indeed just five years later one unit stopped working and the other was subpar. (Hearing aids worn inside the ear canal instead of behind the ear are in an even more humid environment and have an even shorter life.)

My new pair cost CA$5100, and this time (3 years ago) I spent an additional US$78 to get a hearing aid dryer — a small unit that plugs into the wall and has a chamber into which I put my opened hearing aids at night. The little unit gently warms the hearing aids, drying them out and slowing corrosion. The cost of hearing aids has been high enough that the dehumidifier will almost pay for itself if it extends hearing-aid life by just one month over five years — and if I get two more months of life, the device has more than paid for itself.

So less costly but still effective hearing aids (and, given competition beyond the five-company hearing-aid cabal, likely more effective) is of great personal interest.

But it goes beyond that. Millions of people who need hearing aids don’t even go to get tested because the cost of the devices is so high. And yet, as I noted a while back, uncorrected hearing loss “is associated with cognitive decline, depression, isolation and other health problems in older adults.”

There are few pairs of words that strike more terror into my heart than “cognitive decline.” When I was walking around with uncorrected hearing lost — and like my step-father, wearing a more or less constant smile of incomprehension and/or too frequently repeating “Huh? Say again?” — I was able to tolerate my hearing loss (though, I now realize, while being rather irksome company). When I learned that hearing problems cause cognitive decline, I was in an audiologist’s office in a New York minute.

I did turn out to have serious high-frequency hearing loss, so I bought a pair of hearing aids, and — wow! — the world seemed to go from black-and-white to color, from a flat surface to three-dimensional. It’s astonishing how hearing opens up one’s immediate access to the world around them, far beyond mere conversation. The sounds of the world make it real. I have that sense of entering a richer reality each morning when I put on my hearing aids: the world becomes alive around me. And The Wife reported that my cognition did seem better — I had very gradually become duller, but with the hearing aids, I was again snappy on the uptake and seemed more cognitively present.

As Matt Stoller pointed out, the hearing-aid cartel of five companies strongly fought the legislation to allow competition that would provide inexpensive hearing aids. (And Stoller found that his column caused “quite a shitstorm” in the industry.) But now the FDA has finally moved, after dragging its feet for years, and the picture should quickly change. I have been following this (see this scrollable list of previous posts), and I’m so pleased the day will have finally come (a couple of months from now) when good and affordable hearing aids hit the market.

Written by Leisureguy

16 August 2022 at 9:16 am

Your employer will be always watching: The Rise of the Worker Productivity Score

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Jodi Kantor and Arya Sundaram have a disheartening report (gift link, no paywall) in the NY Times. The article conveys the feeling of being a worker tracked by the corporation by providing surveillance feedback as you read the article.

The article begins:

A FEW YEARS AGO, Carol Kraemer, a longtime finance executive, took a new job. Her title, senior vice president, was impressive. The compensation was excellent: $200 an hour.

But her first paychecks seemed low. Her new employer, which used extensive monitoring software on its all-remote workers, paid them only for the minutes when the system detected active work. Worse, Ms. Kraemer noticed that the software did not come close to capturing her labor. Offline work — doing math problems on paper, reading printouts, thinking — didn’t register and required approval as “manual time.” In managing the organization’s finances, Ms. Kraemer oversaw more than a dozen people, but mentoring them didn’t always leave a digital impression. If she forgot to turn on her time tracker, she had to appeal to be paid at all.

“You’re supposed to be a trusted member of your team, but there was never any trust that you were working for the team,” she said.

Since the dawn of modern offices, workers have orchestrated their actions by watching the clock. Now, more and more, the clock is watching them.

IN LOWER-PAYING JOBS, the monitoring is already ubiquitous: not just at Amazon, where the second-by-second measurements became notorious, but also for Kroger cashiers, UPS drivers and millions of others. Eight of the 10 largest private U.S. employers track the productivity metrics of individual workers, many in real time, according to an examination by The New York Times.

Now digital productivity monitoring is also spreading among white-collar jobs and roles that require graduate degrees. Many employees, whether working remotely or in person, are subject to trackers, scores, “idle” buttons, or just quiet, constantly accumulating records. Pauses can lead to penalties, from lost pay to lost jobs.

Some radiologists see scoreboards showing their “inactivity” time and how their productivity stacks up against their colleagues’. At companies including J.P. Morgan, tracking how employees spend their days, from making phone calls to composing emails, has become routine practice. In Britain, Barclays Bank scrapped prodding messages to workers, like “Not enough time in the Zone yesterday,” after they caused an uproar. At UnitedHealth Group, low keyboard activity can affect compensation and sap bonuses. Public servants are tracked, too: In June, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority told engineers and other employees they could work remotely one day a week if they agreed to full-time productivity monitoring.

Architects, academic administrators, doctors, nursing home workers and lawyers described growing electronic surveillance over every minute of their workday. They echoed complaints that . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

The only way to combat this sort of surveillance is through the government — Congress can pass laws and regulations to restrict this sort of Orwellian nightmare. Read this interview with Zephyr Teachout. It begins:

Zephyr Teachout opens “The Boss Will See You Now,” her essay from the Review’s Summer Issue about the proliferation of surveillance at work, with an anecdote about working as a personal assistant to a wealthy writer. Teachout fondly remembers the cadre of three other full-time employees who worked alongside her, and their occasional lunches together spent gossiping and laughing. But, she cautions, “Our wages and raises were all unpredictable. Two of the staff relied on green cards. These circumstances, which had been the subject of so many conversations, suddenly became the source of insecurity. We gradually, then all at once, stopped having lunch together.” The paranoia Teachout identifies—the question of what employers know about their employees’ communications, and what they might do with it—is also, she elaborates, a method of alienating workers from one another.

Teachout is an attorney and organizer, a professor at Fordham Law School, and, as of January 2022, a special advisor and senior counsel for economic justice for the New York state attorney general’s office. This week I e-mailed her to ask about resisting surveillance regimes, enforcing labor law, and life on the stage.


.
Daniel Drake:
 I’m curious about the current legal status of surveillance at the workplace. You note that “nothing except for unionization or new laws would stop an employer from taking all the data it is gathering and…using them to more precisely adjust wages.” What kinds of protections, if any, do current laws offer employees, both against being surveilled in general and against the kind of capricious, tournament-style wage fixing you describe?

Zephyr Teachout: It’s a messy, weak, and unstable web of protections. At the state level, the common law tort of invasion of privacy usually doesn’t help, because courts typically find that employees have no reasonable expectation of privacy at work so long as the employer can give any semblance of a business justification for intrusion. A California court found that an employer using access to an e-mail account to investigate compensation claims clearly represented a privacy intrusion, but those wins are rare. Searches at any time are expected, and any use of work e-mail, phones, work social media, or other tools can be studied without permission. Some states have protections for public-sector workers. A handful of states forbid employers from demanding access to passwords, and others have placed limits on employers’ use of social media data. (While some states require consent before gathering some communications information, the typical power dynamic is such that employees will almost always agree.) There are no federal laws that meaningfully limit surveillance in the private sector, except that employers can’t spy on labor organizing activities.

What might effective enforcement of labor laws look like? Is union pressure a necessary component, or could the NLRB be pressured into pursuing companies that break the law?

Strong labor laws make it easier for workers to coordinate. Strong antimonopoly laws make it harder for capital to coordinate. We need better enforcement of both at every level, and we are starting to see that. I hope my essay shows that surveillance makes worker coordination and solidarity harder, and big data makes capital coordination easier, so the need for both pro-labor and antitrust laws is greater than ever before. At the same time, if we are going to have a public sphere, everybody has got to spy less, and that requires simple bans on data collection in many of the spheres we’ve allowed it to creep into. If we rely on consent-based models, the power dynamic won’t change—the power dynamic will lead to consent, and surveillance that has seemingly been ratified by the people being spied upon.

Something I appreciated about your essay was its emphasis on how worker solidarity is not just a useful tactic, but in fact one of the major pleasures (or consolations) of work. What do you think are the fundamental impediments to successful unionization drives and other methods of creating workplace solidarity? 

We are in a moment right now. Over two hundred Starbucks stores have  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 August 2022 at 1:30 pm

Climate change and drought

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Update: Loire River runs dry.

This morning I read an article in the Boston Globe on the effects on Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, from the drought there: people no water in their homes and businesses for a few days each week, with some not having had water for a month — and when the water does flow, the pressure can be too low to fill a tank to save water for future use. (The article might be behind a paywall. However, I was able to read it because the Globe just had a subscription offer of $1 for six months. It’s a very good paper, so I jumped at the opportunity to have it for six months, though I doubt I’ll renew at the full rate.)

From that article:

Faced with this situation, the government of Nuevo León announced that there would be water restrictions: Once a week we would not have water for a day. However, the cuts began to be more frequent.

Sometimes there is water only in the mornings, other times there is water all day, but sometimes two, three, four days can pass without water. This has been my experience, but there are people who have had to go up to a month without water in their homes. This has caused demonstrations where people have blocked avenues demanding water for their neighborhoods.

Most of the houses were not equipped with water tanks. People have purchased them, but sometimes it is hard to fill the tanks because there is not enough pressure or enough water on the days they have running water. So they have to buy water from water tankers to fill them because the government does not bring water to all the neighborhoods.

On days when there is water at home, we store it in buckets so we are prepared when there isn’t. We also buy bottles of water at the supermarket (in some stores you cannot buy more than a certain number of bottles).

When there is water, we take advantage of it to take a shower, wash dishes and clothes because we don’t know if there will be water in the following hours or days. We have to do everything we need to do with water because there is always the question of whether there will be any tomorrow. It is also important to mention that women are the ones who have carried out the most work during this situation because in most households in Mexico, women are in charge of the majority of the domestic labor and care activities. They have been forced to adjust their schedules and drop everything the minute they notice that water is available in order to perform those activities and collect water to store it for the rest of the day or the week.

One day, I posted on Facebook: “Has anyone around here had to call a water tanker? Do you have any situation in your home, neighborhood, or business that you consider to be more serious than the rest? Send me a message, please.”

I was surprised by the number of friends who answered. That afternoon I spent taking calls and messages. “I’ve been without water for a week”; “I had to move in with my parents who do have water”; “We have to pee in a single toilet, and wait until the end of the day to flush it because we can’t waste the little water we have”; “Everyone in my house had COVID-19, we had no water in the house, it was the worst week of our lives. I was sick, sweating and couldn’t wash my sheets.”

It is difficult to listen to these experiences and know that there are people who are having a worse time. I think of the houses where older adults or sick people live. It is also important to consider that not everybody has the means to buy water bottles, install a water tank system, or buy water from a water tanker.

The drought in Mexico is a bad sign for the American Southwest, already struggling with the drying up of the Colorado River, which affects agriculture and the lives of millions who dwell in cities in that region. Seven states are now working out what they will do when that water is no longer available.

And The Eldest point out an article in Sky News on how Europe is suffering the worst drought in 500 years. From the article:

The latest data from the European Drought Observatory (EDO) shows some 47% of the bloc’s territory under “warning” conditions, the second of three drought categories, during the 10 days leading to 30 July.

More worrying is the 17% of land that has moved into the most severe “alert” state, meaning not only is the soil drying out after low rain, but plants and crops are suffering too.

When water becomes scarce, not only are there food shortages (from crop failures and loss of livestock), but also people also must move away, so I expect there will be mass migrations from regions that lack water. That seems likely to lead to conflict.

The Great Famine in China under Mao resulted in millions dying (see this earlier post). The impact of climate change will almost certainly be worse.

It’s a great tragedy that humanity seems incapable of facing this on-coming crisis with constructive actions. (And “on-coming” is a bit of a misnomer: from the CO2 already added to the atmosphere, even if we discontinued today the use of all fossil fuels so that humans add no more CO2, conditions would still worsen for decades. The crisis has already happened; the effects will unfold over the coming decades.)

The best hope is a technology that would enable direct capture of CO2 from the atmosphere, and certainly people are working on that.

However, there are still a great many who deny that climate change is caused by human activity and who strongly resist any efforts to address climate change (because such efforts would be an admission that climate change is real)— the Republican party is a prime example. (I think in the case of Republicans, a stumbling block is that effectively addressing climate change requires large-scale group effort and almost certainly government leadership. That’s hard for Republicans to accept, since their philosophical outlook is that problems are solved through individual effort, heroic loners who require no help. In this view, help is for sissies. Republicans believe that problems should be addressed through competition, not cooperation. Libertarians take this attitude to an extreme, so that its failure is more immediately evident.)

Some states in the Southeast whose Atlantic coasts face ocean-level rise have passed laws to forbid the use of the words “climate change,” which seems a lot like magical thinking: “If we don’t say it aloud, it will not happen.” Examples: North Carolina and Miami (which already routinely sees sunny-day flooding). While such laws do show an effort to confront climate change, I do not see that that approach will be effective in addressing the problem, even in the relatively short term. It does, however, illustrate the first and most primitive psychological defense mechanism: denial.

Written by Leisureguy

15 August 2022 at 9:02 am

Insightful comment on China’s current economic crisis

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I commented on a video on China’s on-going economic crisis, and I received an illuminating reply.

Michael Ham

The real estate dealings reminded me very much of what happened in the US in 2008: the same sort of over-leveraged commitment to purchase second, third, fourth homes as “investments” because real estate prices could only go up, and thus the proliferation os sub-prime lending through collateralized debt instruments — see the movie “The Big Short.”

Tall Troll

No, it is much, much worse than that. At least the 2008 US mortgages were secured against properties that actually existed, and had people living in them. Most of the problems in 2008 stemmed from the securitisation and packaging of those mortgages, mixing high and low quality loans together, then assigning them value as if they were all high quality, and lack of clarity on who actually owned what. After it all got worked out, it turned out that on the whole, even the suspect packages were mostly profitable.

The Chinese situation is fundamentally different. A LOT of people have been sinking a LOT of money into real estate, because it is the only asset class that most Chinese either trust, or have access to, and far, far too many of the building that people own on paper just don’t exist, or would be better if they didn’t exist, because then whoever buys them wouldn’t have to pay to demolish the worthless structures occupying the land. When that all gets worked out, it’s going to turn out that a lot of people have lost everything. That includes the banks too, who are also suffering from other bad debt problems, and will be suffering even more so when the badly run industries that real estate was propping up go to the wall (the Chinese steel industry is in real trouble right now, because their main customers were, yes, the real estate developers. The Chinese steel industry was already suffering from overcapacity problems, and the collapse of domestic demand is going to ruin a lot of them, which will make things even worse for the banks that have been financing them).

So, you’re going to have an industry worth about ~30% of Chinas’ GDP collapsing, with knockon effects in several other major industrial sectors (steel, cement and furniture/decor, all also fairly large contributors to Chinas overall economy), with the resulting bad debts all hitting the banking sector which has other massive problems right now (decades of corruption and poor management/investment decisions catching up with them), massive destruction of savings coupled with what will probably turn out to be pretty big job losses, and they are just about to hit their demographic peak, so all of this will have to be dealt with by a shrinking, aging population. Oh, did I mention that the governments chip development fund has just started arresting and investigating it’s top officials and the CEOs of major chip manufacturers? They seem to have managed to have collectively pissed about $100bn down the drain, so yeah, they are all getting executed, but wouldn’t that $100bn have come in real handy right about now?

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2022 at 4:40 pm

Is Happiness Really a Choice?

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Phillip Chard writes in Shepherd Express, a Milwaukee alternative paper:

Happiness—what it is and how to achieve it—has been a hot topic in the mental health field for some time now. That’s good. When so-called positive psychology emerged a few decades ago, for every study focused on happiness, there were over a hundred examining psychopathology. My profession did a far better job of describing what makes us distressed and out of whack than how we can increase life satisfaction. What followed was a self-help industry bringing in $13 billion a year that pushes a plethora of methods for growing happiness. However, overall well-being in our population has declined precipitously rather than increased. What gives? Are we just too distracted or lazy to apply these methods, or do they simply not work?

Well, as usual, it’s complicated. Evidence from sociological studies suggests there is an unrecognized flaw in positive psychology’s recommended approach, one that leans too heavily on individual effort. The underlying premise is that happiness is a choice. If we embrace life in particular ways, practice good self-care and manage our attitude, then we can intentionally enhance our well-being and sense of personal fulfilment. To be sure, there is an element of truth here. There is research showing these kinds of efforts have the potential to move the happiness needle in the right direction, but not nearly as far as some positivity gurus claim.

What’s more, the data shows most of are heading in the wrong direction in this regard. Since 2004 and as measured pre-pandemic, the number of Americans who identify as optimistic (an attitude correlated with happiness) is down from 79% to under 50%. Meanwhile, the incidence of mental maladies has increased, with depression, anxiety and addictions topping the list. The pandemic has been no friend in this regard, as rates of these disorders across the population have soared by over a third.

Nature, Nurture, Both?

So, what determines how happy one is? Well, positive psychology often claims it’s about 50% genetics, 40% life choices (individual control) and only 10% circumstances. However, social psychologists assert otherwise, maintaining that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 August 2022 at 5:31 pm

An end-of-life doula’s advice on how to make the most of your time on earth

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Rachel Friedman in Vox has an interesting article on what a death doula can offer. She writes:

“I want a party in the woods with an all-night campfire. I’ll be off to the side in a sleeping bag, nice and cozy. There will be s’mores and cocktails. My friends can come and go, saying goodbye however they want, or just sitting quietly with me and holding my hand. Nobody should touch my feet, though. I hate having my feet touched. A playlist of my favorite songs should be on repeat. I’d like to die as the fire burns out at dawn. Lights out and lights out, you know?”

I’m on Zoom and a chaplain from Iowa is describing her ideal final hours of life. We’re training to become end-of-life doulas, and this morning’s assignment is to help each other talk through a final hours ritual. It’s one of many exercises designed to confront us with our own mortality, so we can leave our own feelings about death at the door before we step across someone else’s threshold to help with theirs.

End-of-life (EOL) doulas are at the opposite end of the life cycle spectrum from birth doulas. They provide non-clinical care (emotional, logistical, and physical) and help with planning; engage with life reviews and legacy work; and provide support for family and friends so caretakers can bring their best, rested selves to support their dying loved one.

I knew training to become a doula would change my relationship to death, but I didn’t anticipate how it would transform my day-to-day life. Like others, my smartphone use skyrocketed during the isolation of the pandemic. Even after those panic-inducing first months in NYC, I still found myself using my phone as a constant distraction — lurking on Instagram, clicking every New York Times alert, obsessively refreshing my email like it was a Vegas slot machine.

I didn’t become an end-of-life doula to fix my fragmented focus. I did it because Covid-19 made death suddenly feel very real and very present. But I found that a deep dive into death work profoundly clarified my priorities, and has helped me spend time in ways more aligned with those priorities thanks to the soul-shaking understanding that our time here is truly limited.

Here are three components of EOL doula training that have been useful in my never-ending quest to live a more present and focused life in this Age of Endless Distractions. Think of it as a looking-back-from-your-imagined-deathbed approach to living — which sounds morbid in theory but is empowering and enriching in reality.

Imagine you have three months to live

I’m not going to lie to you: This exercise isn’t going to feel great! Please do it only if you feel equipped to engage with feelings of grief and loss. I recommend having someone you trust read it to you, someone who also has the emotional bandwidth and who is not currently grieving. You’ll need a pen and paper. Choose a time when you’re not going to feel rushed and are in a comfortable space. Take some deep breaths. Settle in. Here we go.

Write down your five  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 August 2022 at 4:38 pm

Posted in Daily life, Psychology

100 Ways to Live to 100: A Definitive Guide to Longevity Fitness

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I have the food part pretty well in hand. Interesting list to browse. Tanner Garrity writes at Inside Hook:

At this point, we’re all familiar with the trope. A local news station visits a retirement home to celebrate Muriel’s 106th birthday. She’s deaf or blind or both or neither, sitting in a wheelchair in the “good spot” next to the TV set, and a reporter asks her her secret. You’ve lived through both World Wars?! How’d you do it? Then Muriel gets to flash a mischievous grin and tells us she smoked a pack a day for 50 years.

Interacting with centenarians in this way has long made them seem like circus oddities. It trivializes the concept of lifespan and longevity, reducing the science to a throw-your-hands-in-the-hair “Who the hell knows!” It reinforces the idea that our time on this planet isn’t necessarily under our control. If my dad had a stroke and his dad had a stroke then one’s probably coming for me too, right? If I make it to 80, or — god forbid — 90, I’ve just beaten the odds. Right?

Not exactly. Since the mid-1990s, in fact, following the infamous Danish twins study, researchers have understood longevity to be “only moderately heritable.” For a while, this spawned estimates that genetics accounted for somewhere between 20 and 30% of one’s longevity. More recently, scientists have concluded that the true heritability of human longevity at birth is closer to just 7%.

Where does that other 93% come from? Your lifestyle. Your decisions. Your everyday habits, big and small. It’s possible to put years on your life, to surge past both average life expectancy and your own expectations, by resolving to live a certain way. The crazy part? This doesn’t involve some complex Ponce de Leónian quest. You don’t even have to search far and wide for the answers.

Thanks to the efforts of vanguard sociologists, geneticists and historians, we know where the world’s largest concentration of centenarians live and how they spend their days. (They’re called Blue Zones, and the way people cook, move and even happy hour in them is truly revelatory.) We also know, courtesy of a renowned doctor with whom we spoke last year, that certain behaviors can decelerate cellular aging and push the human lifespan into hitherto uncharted territories, and also that we should probably stop eating hot dogs.

You might wonder: Why would I want to live longer? Doesn’t the end of life look drawn out, expensive and horrible? Why would I sign up for decades of suffering? Well, the latest wave of longevity research isn’t focused on living years for the sake of years. It’s concerned with quality years.

Think about it. More years to travel, to exercise, to spend time with your family and whatever new family comes along. An entire life of creativity and challenges to enjoy after retirement. And consider this: those who make it to 100 are no more likely to die at 108 years old than 103. Genetics do start to factor in a bit more once you get way up there in age (hence how the Muriels of the world make it to 106), but overall, your risk of dying from any of the usual diseases plateaus. Longevity wizards only really suffer in the last couple years of their lives.

Take note — this movement is going to happen, with or without you. With an assist from modern medical care, scientists project there will be 25 million centenarians scattered across the world by 2100. (There are currently just 573,000.) But you don’t need to wait for Benjamin Button patents from the big pharmaceuticals. You can start living in the name of longevity today.

Below, 100 ways to live to 100, broken down by how you optimize your lifespan through diet, fitness, good choices and some truly wild wild cards. Before diving in, understand that you can’t do all of them; some of them are likely even incompatible. But the idea is to cherrypick those that work for your life. Ultimately, if nothing else, know this: making the call right now to act in the name of longevity — whether your “right now” is 35 or 65 — won’t just add life to your ledger. It’ll enrich and lighten every year along the way.

DIETARY DECISIONS

1. Eat fresh ingredients grown nearby

The planet’s longest-living communities all have access to food from farms and orchards down the road — that’s to say, within a 10-mile radius of their homes. These ingredients aren’t treated with pesticides or pumped with preservatives; they’re their original nutrient-dense, fiber-rich selves. Sound expensive? So are late-life medical bills.

2. Eat a wide variety of vegetables

So you’ll eat carrots, beets and cucumbers and that’s it. Okay. But if you want to unlock your true longevity potential — and lower your risk of everything from cardiovascular disease to macular degeneration — you need to regularly cycle through the whole menu: cruciferous veggies, dark leafy greens, edible plant stems, roots and marrows.

3. Eat until 80% full

Hara hachi bu is a Japanese saying that translates to “Eat until you’re 80% full.” It’s an alien concept in America, where portion sizes are the biggest in the world and somehow getting larger. But finding your “slightly full” will directly reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease or stroke while giving your body more energy and less bloating in the short term.

4. Eat home-cooked family dinners

As the godfather of nouvelle cuisine, Chef Fernard Point, once famously said: “Butter! Give me butter! Always butter!” Restaurants want customers to leave happy, so they use lots of flavor — salt, sugar and fat. It all adds up. According to one study, eating out twice a day increases your chance of an early death by 95%. Cooking is your best bet.

5. Embrace complex carbohydrates

The bread aisle is a starting point for understanding the difference between foods rich in simple carbohydrates (Wonder Bread) and those rich in complex carbohydrates (100% whole-wheat breads). The latter, for instance, rocks a ton of fiber and fuels the body in a sustainable way. Seek out more complex carbs like brown rice, oats and barley.

6. Consider a plant-based diet

You don’t have to give up meat. But you should know that societies full of centenarians don’t eat very much of it. While meat dominates most American meals, it only appears in Blue Zone diets at a rate of five times a month, two ounces per serving. And when it does, it comes sourced from free-range animals that weren’t treated with hormones or antibiotics. . .

Continue reading.

Later in the list:

80. Pick up “forest bathing”

In Japan, shinrin-yoku refers to “forest bathing,” or the act of taking in nature using all of your senses. Recent studies show adults spend 93% of their time indoors, which takes a toll on mental health (“stir crazy” is scientific). But the exact opposite is true for spending time outdoors. A single forest “bath” decreases scores for depression, fatigue, anxiety.

81. Settle down near a body of water

Take a look at a map of the world’s Blue Zones. Each is concentrated along a coastline. Settling down by the sea — in a so-called “blue space” — has been linked to a 17% reduction in mortality rate. One study suggested that living within 250 meters of a seaside environment helps reduce stress levels, with the smell and sounds offering a “wonderful tonic.”

Written by Leisureguy

11 August 2022 at 7:15 pm

Popper was right about the link between certainty and extremism

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Thomas Costello, a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management,  studies the psychology of politics, focusing on ideology, authoritarianism, and radicalism. He writes in Psyche:

Political views are, fundamentally, opinions about the best ordering of society. To paint with the broadest of brushes, progressives are optimists, seeking to plant trees whose shade they may never stand under. Conservatives, by contrast, believe that moving too quickly risks breaking the fragile machinery of society – perhaps irrevocably so. In our view, both of these philosophical positions are logically coherent and, depending on one’s core values, defensible. We hope that this statement registers to most readers as uncontroversial. After all, most progressives can see that some risk accompanies any new, ambitious societal venture, while most conservatives can see that stagnation looms close behind excessive caution.

Regrettably, it is now apparent that reasonable, intellectually charitable discussions between progressives and conservatives are quite scarce in many places – leaving little room for compromise or legislative success. Many people hate those who disagree with them, perhaps seeing no possible route to the other side’s political conclusions other than moral aberrance or callous self-interest. Accompanying this vitriol and anomie, it would seem, is a widespread lack of scepticism toward one’s own political beliefs. Some people are not just confident, but absolutely, 100 per cent certain that their views about how to order society are optimal. For these people, extremism and animosity might seem to be the only logical route. The philosopher of science Karl Popper went so far as to argue that absolute certainty is the foundational component of totalitarianism: if one is sure that one’s political philosophy will lead to the best possible future for humankind, all manner of terrible acts become justifiable in service of the greater good.

We took inspiration from this line of thinking in a recent study of nearly 3,000 people across the United States. As political psychologists, our interests lie in mapping the ‘political mind’ – understanding the ways in which people think and feel about politics, what they want from politics, and how these cognitive, affective and motivational processes shape their behaviour. To get at the nexus between certainty and politics, we asked people a simple question: ‘On a scale of 0 per cent to 100 per cent, how certain are you that your political beliefs are correct?’

We found that 12 per cent of our sample reported being absolutely (100 per cent) certain about their political beliefs on this zero-to-100 scale. Who are these people who say they are absolutely certain? There were not substantial differences in certainty between liberals and conservatives overall, but there was a notable difference between people at the fringes of the political spectrum and everyone else. Absolute certainty was endorsed by 91 of 290 (or 31.4 per cent of) individuals who self-identified as ‘extremely Left-wing’ and by 54 of 133 (40.6 per cent of) individuals who self-identified as ‘extremely Right-wing’. By contrast, only 6.8 per cent of all the other participants reported being absolutely certain – which included participants with only slightly less polarised views (ie, self-identifying as ‘very Left-wing’ or ‘very Right-wing’).

People who identified as politically extreme here are not necessarily members of radical groups that regularly engage in political violence. They are extreme in a relative sense, as compared with norms in the US. Still, these respondents were about five times more likely than others to claim to be absolutely certain about their political views. Extremism and absolute certainty seem to resonate.

Technically speaking, one cannot (rationally) be absolutely certain that the Sun will rise tomorrow – just more than 99.9 per cent certain. Indeed, from a mathematical perspective, being absolutely certain implies that one will not update one’s beliefs whatsoever, even when shown evidence that challenges those beliefs. We can’t be sure that our participants had thought through the rational implications of their absolutism. But the possibility that these people would refuse to change their beliefs under any circumstances generally aligns with a suite of evidence linking ideological extremism to the degree to which people view their political attitudes as superior to others’ attitudes. This belief superiority can lead politically extreme people (on both the Right and Left) to be more intolerant, prejudiced and inflexible towards those who disagree with them.

One popular theory suggests that extremist ideologies – whether on the Left or Right end of the political spectrum – appeal to thinkers who tend to conceptualise the world in unambiguous, black-and-white terms. Indeed, growing evidence shows that ideological extremism is associated with low cognitive flexibility, meaning the ability to adapt to new, shifting or unexpected events and perspectives. What this suggests is that political extremism is related to the cognitive architecture of our brains.

Yet, another popular theory, known as the rigidity-of-the-Right hypothesis, argues that individuals who think of the world as uncontrollable and difficult to understand have a motivational need to adopt political ideologies that foster a sense of order and predictability. Because conservatism offers a sense of certainty by way of its support for current social norms and hierarchies, the theory suggests, Rightists are disproportionately more likely to be cognitively, ideologically and motivationally rigid.

We tested both of these possibilities with our data. The fact that both the ‘extremely Left-wing’ and ‘extremely Right-wing’ expressed absolute certainty about their political views at similar rates supports a link between extreme ideology in general and a black-and-white view of the world. But some of what we found was consistent with the rigidity-of-the-Right hypothesis. For one, when we assessed a characteristic known as dogmatism via a . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 August 2022 at 6:53 pm

When you don’t hear what your body is telling you

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Ijeoma Oluo has a very interesting post on her experience in being body-deaf (the way some people are tone-deaf). And the comments to the article are also interesting. For example, I had not known that body-deafness is common among those who suffer from ADHD. Olumo writes:

It starts with the world’s most boring mystery.

Last week, in the middle of the night, I found myself doubled over in unbearable pain. Again. It was radiating up my back and wrapping around my ribcage. I had fallen asleep feeling fine and then woke up in agony. The pain didn’t subside for hours. After the pain meds didn’t work, pacing the floor didn’t work, sedatives didn’t work – I started to panic. Then I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

This was the second time in about a week or so that I’d experienced this sort of attack. And it was a pain I had remembered cropping up every few weeks for many years. I try to avoid googling body ailments because I always come out of such internet sessions hyperventilating, convinced I’m dying of cancer (find me a google search for a body ailment that doesn’t end in cancer and I’ll name my next pet after you). But I was desperate, and I knew that if this was happening to me with such frequency then it must be happening to other people as well and surely at least one of these people has found a solution.

I remembered that I had eaten the same meal from the same restaurant that I had eaten at the last time this attack of back pain happened. So I wondered if maybe it was some sort of allergic reaction that somehow caused back pain. Starting with that premise was a smart move because a search for “can certain foods cause back pain” quickly turned up an option for back pain associated with stomach upset. My searches said that sometimes stomach pain is felt through the back, and often is associated with IBS.

I knew almost nothing about IBS but further searches had my symptoms line up quite neatly with IBS (type C). I’ve had at least 20 years of digestive issues that I’ve regularly either written off as just having a “weird body” or decided that people who poop more than once a week are the weird ones. That’s sort of beside the point though, because I still need to see a doctor for a more firm diagnosis.

So why am I writing this?

I’m writing this because as I finished eating breakfast this morning, my back started hurting again. My immediate thoughts were, “Oh did I sleep weird?” “Was my posture that bad last night when I was watching tv in bed?” But the ache in my back wasn’t a sharp pain, it was the radiating, throbbing pain I’d had just last week. I looked down at the remains of my breakfast: Coffee with oat milk creamer, a bagel with butter, cantaloupe with yogurt – the really good full fat with added cream kind.

I’m lactose intolerant. My mom, sister, and brother are as well. My two sons are. With the addition of a partner who is also lactose intolerant I have often marveled at how in this household I’m the only one who can seem to indulge in dairy (within reason) without paying much of a price outside of some gas. I’ve had to pick my kids up from school early because the milkshake they begged for the night before had kept them in the bathroom the first two periods of school the next day. When I was their age I too used to have horrible stomachaches after eating dairy that left me pretty incapacitated for hours. But over the years that had faded to an extent that really surprised me.

As I stared at my breakfast and felt the pain radiating up my back I realized that I was likely experiencing stomach pain. I closed my eyes and tried hard to concentrate on my body. The feeling of unease that was filling me. Was that anxiety, my old friend? Yes. But behind that it was….nausea? Yes, that might be what nausea is to me today.

It might seem weird to have to sit and concentrate to figure out if you feel nauseous or not but as I realized that I was probably experiencing nausea it all clicked into a long, familiar pattern in my relationship with my body, especially with my digestive system. It doesn’t exist.

The relationship, that is. Pretty sure my digestive system hasn’t gotten up and walked away (although if it did, I likely wouldn’t have noticed).

The first time I passed out due to low blood sugar was in the first grade. It was certainly not the last. Years of iron supplements, vitamins, doctor recommendations, nothing helped. By the time I hit high school I was swooning like I was a white maiden in a Jane Austen novel who had just been told that we could only afford 5 household servants due to our now “reduced circumstances”.

There was about a 10 year period of time between  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 August 2022 at 10:13 am

Part 3 of a 4-part story of a psychiatric residency

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Scott Alexander has an interesting essay posted on July 12, 2016:

I’m back at Our Lady Of An Undisclosed Location hospital now as a final-year resident. You wouldn’t think a year would make so much difference, but it does.

Identifying residents by their year is easy. The first-years walk around, deer-in-the-headlights look to them, impossible to confuse with anybody except maybe a patient having a panic attack. The middle-year residents are a little more confident. And then the final year residents, leading teams, putting out fires, taking attendings’ abuse in stride.

(True story – last week an attending yelled at me for not knowing some minor detail about uraemic encephalopathy. Later I couldn’t find the detail he’d mentioned, so I asked for a reference, and he said it had been discovered by one of his friends at the big university hospital where he used to work, but the friend had died before he could publish his findings. I think the attending realized as he was talking that it might have been unreasonable to expect me to know a fact whose discoverer took it to the grave with him, but he didn’t apologize.)

It’s only sort of a facade. 99% of things that happen in a hospital are the same things that happened yesterday and the day before, so if you hang around long enough you can learn what to do, or at least which consultant you can call to make it not your problem anymore. On the other hand, Actual Pathology is still a gigantic mystery. I’m not sure this ever changes. One in every X patients with symptoms won’t have any of the things that could possibly be causing those symptoms, won’t respond to any of the treatments that are supposed to cure those symptoms, and you’ll still have family members and hospital administrators demanding that you fix it right now (and in psychiatry, X is probably a single digit number). All you can do is keep up the facade, put your skill at taking attendings’ abuse in stride to good use, and start learning necromancy so you can summon the one big university hospital researcher who studied it but never got a chance to publish their findings.

II.

Two of the most important things I learned during my third year were “Tell me more” and “[awkward silence]”.

“Tell me more,” works for every situation. Part of the problem with psychotherapy is that you’re always expected to have something to say. As a last resort, that thing is “Tell me more”. It sounds like you’re interested. It sounds like you care. And if you’re very lucky, maybe the patient will actually tell you something more, as opposed to their usual plan to stonewall you and hide all possibly useful information.

I saw something on Tumblr the other day which, despite being about a 9-1-1 operator, perfectly sums up being a doctor too: . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the essay:

And then there’s [awkward silence]. I learned this one from the psychoanalysts. Nobody likes an awkward silence. If a patient tells you something, and you are awkwardly silent, then the patient will rush to fill the awkward silence with whatever they can think of, which will probably be whatever they were holding back the first time they started talking. You won’t believe how well this one works until you try it. Just stay silent long enough, and the other person will tell you everything. It’s better than waterboarding.

Written by Leisureguy

10 August 2022 at 12:26 pm

China’s Mortgage Crisis, including video of the simultaneous explosive demolition of multiple empty skyscrapers with unsold housing

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I posted a couple of other videos earlier on these crisis, videos from this month. This is an older video, from two weeks ago (28 July 2022), but I decided to post it because one doesn’t often see multiple skyscrapers being destroyed because the real estate company that built them couldn’t sell them.

Worth watching (as are the two earlier videos). Some scenes were censored by YouTube, and I presume that was done at the request of the Chinese government.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2022 at 9:58 pm

The Psychology of Killing

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Perhaps it’s an artefact of the algorithms of the streaming services I watch, but TV series involving murder seem to be amazingly easy to fine — not perhaps so common as grass, but maybe as common as roses. In fact, just last night I watched a movie based on a George V. Higgins novel, Cogan’s Trade (which was a sequel to his first novel, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, both eminently worth reading). The 2012 movie, Killing Them Softly, starred Brad Pitt, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta, and James Gandolfini, and it was a good watch. (It’s on Primevideo.com up here; apparently not available right now in the US.)

So what causes killing to be so common? FiveBooks.com has an interesting interview with Gwen Adshead, a forensic psychiatrist and psychotherapist who works in prisons and secure psychiatric hospital providing therapy to violence perpetrators who have mental health problems. In the course of the interview Dr. Adshead recommends five books, as the site name suggests. The interview begins:

Let’s start by looking at the topic you’ve chosen: the psychology of killing. How did you become interested in this area?

I’m a forensic psychiatrist and psychotherapist. A forensic psychiatrist is someone who specialises in the assessment and treatment of people who have offended while they were in some kind of abnormal mental state. There are two questions there: first, the legal question—does this abnormal state affect their legal responsibility?—and secondly, if the offender is mentally ill, do they need to be treated in secure hospital rather than go to prison?. That treatment will be designed to look not only at their mental health, but also their risk to the public.

Mental health problems are rarely a risk factor for crime generally, so a forensic psychiatrist won’t be dealing with people who are committing minor crimes, like shoplifting . We tend only to get involved in crimes of violence, and usually where that violence has been fatal. So most of my working life has involved assessing people who have committed serious acts of violence, or who are threatening to do so. For a long time I ran a therapy group for people who had killed a family member while they were mentally ill. I’ve also been involved in assessing mothers who have been abusive, or are considered at risk of abusing their children.

So this has been my bread and butter for about thirty years—an interest in the mental states that give rise to killing.

The obvious question, to me, is: if one commits murder, does that not indicate that, almost by definition, that the assailant is undergoing an abnormal mental state?

That question has always been of great significance, and one that humans have asked themselves for thousands of years. What is fascinating about humans is the many ways in which we do kill each other. We are one of the few animals that kill each other in different ways. Chimpanzees, for example, do have very serious fights, competitions over power, which can be fatal. And chimpanzee tribes can wage war on other chimpanzee tribes, killing in the process. But killing in the way that we kill appears to be pretty unique. Killing over territory is one thing, but we also kill over money, over politics and in the context of relationship disturbance; and that last context is quite unusual.

For as long as we have had recorded data about humans, we’ve written about the impact of murder. I don’t think there’s legislation in any culture in any age which hasn’t set aside some kind of law or ruling about how and when you can kill somebody, and what should happen to people who kill.

Take the Old Testament. There are rules in there about killing that are very specific. The Ten Commandments separate killing from murder, for example. Traditionally, in many cultures, if you killed somebody, you had to make restitution to their family. That didn’t always mean being killed yourself. Different countries and ethnic groups have had different rules, but all human societies have developed rules about killing, in what circumstances it might be legitimate to kill, and what punishments and sanctions there should be for the different kinds of killing.

The first thing to say about homicide is that it is not all the same. I think that’s one of the things I didn’t understand when I started out. Like anybody else, I thought that all killers must be really odd or mad. That if you killed once, you must be permanently in a homicidal state of mind. But once I began to spend time with people who had killed, I learned that killing is often highly contextual and arises from a specific set factors that are present at that time; which may never occur again. Someone who’s killed their wife in a jealous rage is not likely to be a threat to the general public; although they might be dangerous to future wives, of course.

So does that mean that everyone has the capacity for murder? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2022 at 3:10 pm

Prediction of China’s 9/11: “China’s ENTIRE economy will crash by September 11, 2022”

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That’s the prediction made in the video below: that China’s economy will collapse 34 days after August 7, 2022. Perhaps by coincidence, that date is 9/11/2022. I have marked my calendar. In the meantime, it’s an interesting report and worth watching.

Written by Leisureguy

8 August 2022 at 9:54 am

Advice to follow to become a narcissistic jerk

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I saw this on Facebook. I can see how this would have appealed strong to me when I was an adolescent:

You’ll learn, as you get older, that rules are made to be broken. Be bold enough to live life on your terms, and never, ever apologize for it. Go against the grain, refuse to conform, take the road less traveled instead of the well-beaten path. Laugh in the face of adversity, and leap before you look. Dance as though EVERYBODY is watching. March to the beat of your own drummer. And stubbornly refuse to fit in.    — Mandy Hale

TL;DR: Rules are for other people, not for me.

Mandy Hale is the author of The Single Woman. I’m not surprised.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2022 at 11:20 am

Posted in Daily life, Psychology

Teaching for learning in organizations

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I have always been a reader, and when I was working in various organizations over my career, I would (naturally) read books about organizations and how to work effectively in them.

Occasionally, I found a book that struck me as providing excellent guidance. Some of these are listed among the books I find myself repeatedly recommending — for example:

When I found a book that taught me a lot, then to ensure I fully absorbed the ideas, I would teach it. I’d offer to present the material to a few fellow employees. The session — one or two or even three hours — would be a presentation with slides, handouts, and worksheets.

Teaching the material of course deepened my own understanding, and I also gained the benefit of insights from participants’ comments and questions.

Generally after the first teaching session, I would improve and extend the teaching materials (slides, handouts, and worksheets) and then offer a session to another group. Word would get around, and I would end up doing the presentation several times, and in so doing fully absorb and internalize the ideas. (And in fact, I continue doing this — see my posts on Covey’s 7 habits, for example, or on my diet — writing and adding to those has helped me understand them better and has also (I hope) helped my readers.)

Back then, I used this tactic — teaching the essential ideas from a book whose content I wanted to master — fairly often. It was a good way to learn, it seemed to be helpful to others, and I could do it on my own initiative: no permission required. And, of course, it was in my interest for my fellow employees to become better (using the books listed) at making decisions, planning, and negotiating — and it was in their interest as well: a win-win situation.

These books worked especially well because each presents a well-defined process, which means that (a) you know what is to be done, and (b) you know where you are in the process: what is complete and what remains to be done. Other books — the books by Chris Argyris, for example — gave me useful insights but did not lend themselves so well to teaching in the short-session format that I used.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2022 at 10:20 am

We Make More Virtuous Choices When Using Pen and Paper

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Maferima Touré-Tillery and Lili Wang write in Harvard Business Review:

From ordering food to buying a new book to making a charitable donation, more and more decisions that used to be made on paper are now being made on digital devices like tablets, phones, and computers. And this trend toward digitalization has many advantages, in particular when it comes to efficiency and sustainability — but could it also be negatively influencing how we make decisions?

We conducted a series of studies with more than 2,500 participants across the U.S. and China to explore the impact of the medium you use to make a decision, with a particular focus on decisions with some sort of moral component, such as whether or not to make a donation to a charity, or whether to choose a healthy or unhealthy entrée at a restaurant. We asked the participants to make a variety of these sorts of choices using either a paper form or a digital tablet, and despite controlling for all other variables, we consistently found that people who used paper made more-virtuous decisions than those who used a digital device: For example, participants who read their options and made a selection on paper were significantly more likely to give money to charity, choose a healthy entrée, and opt for an educational book rather than something more entertaining.

When a Decision Feels More Real, We Act More Virtuously

Why might this be? Our research suggests that the key mechanism driving this effect is how “real” the decision feels. We asked participants in two of our studies to describe how real or tangible a decision felt, as well as the extent to which they perceived the decision as representing who they were as people, and they consistently indicated that making a choice on paper felt more real and representative than making the same decision on a digital device. Follow-up analyses confirmed that when a decision felt more real, participants were more likely to feel that it was representative of who they were as a person, ultimately making them more likely to go with the virtuous or responsible option.

Interestingly, we found that this effect does not occur when people are making a decision on behalf of someone else. In another experiment, we asked participants to choose an entrée either for themselves or for a friend, on paper and on a tablet. When choosing for themselves, participants were much more likely to select a healthy option on paper than on a tablet — but when choosing for a friend, the medium had no effect on their choice. This further supports the idea that people are more likely to select the virtuous option when it feels like the decision reflects who they are as a person, whereas when a decision isn’t related to themselves, the “realness” of the medium makes less of a difference.

To Encourage Virtuous Decision-Making, Consider Using Paper

It may seem like a minor detail, but our research shows that the medium with which your customers, employees, or community members make a decision can have a major impact on the choices they make. This has implications for marketers, policymakers, and anyone seeking to encourage any sort of virtuous behavior. For example, to encourage customers to choose healthier options, restaurants might consider opting for paper rather than digital menus. Similarly, parents and educators might opt to provide students with paper rather than online book order forms, to increase the chances that they’ll choose educational reading materials. Charities and political groups may also benefit from paper pledge forms and volunteer sign-up sheets, rather than relying on websites or apps to solicit support.

Indeed, the shift to remote and hybrid work has pushed many decisions that might once have been made exclusively on paper onto digital platforms. While our experiments looked at a very specific set of decisions made in controlled environments, it’s possible that similar effects may be at play when it comes to in-person versus virtual interactions. If a decision made over Zoom or via an online poll feels less real and thus less representative of who you are than an equivalent in-person interaction, it could have important ramifications for the virtual workplace (though there are no doubt many other factors that contribute to employees’ decision-making in a real-world work setting).

Of course, using paper is far from a guarantee of virtuous behavior — and it certainly doesn’t make sense in every context. It’s also important . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2022 at 8:40 am

Why Power Brings Out Your True Self

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Lord Acton took the view that power corrupts, but it seems rather to reveal the corruption already present in the person. Matthew Hutson wrote in Nautilus back in 2017:

At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Michelle Obama told the crowd, “Being president doesn’t change who you are. It reveals who you are.”

Growing up, Michelle said, she and Barack learned important lessons from their families about “dignity and decency” and “gratitude and humility.” “At the end of the day,” she said, “when it comes time to make that decision, as president, all you have to guide you are your values, and your vision, and the life experiences that make you who you are.”

Research in cognitive science reveals the former First Lady is right: Power exposes your true character. It releases inhibitions and sets your inner self free. If you’re a jerk when you gain power, you’ll become more of one. If you’re a mensch, you’ll get nicer. So if you happen to all of a sudden become president, or at least president of your lab or book club, what inner self will come out?

Psychologists generally define power as control over others, by providing or withholding resources, without social interference. Tapping your true nature, though, begins with feeling powerful. Getting the corner office boosts creativity and reduces conformity.

In a 2008 experiment, undergraduates were asked either to recall a time they had power over someone or to recall a time someone had power over them.1 Then they were asked to draw an alien creature. Some were shown an example creature that had wings. When feeling powerless, seeing a creature with wings increased the chance a student would add wings to his own creature, a demonstration of conformity. Those made to feel powerful, however, remained unaffected by the example, following their own creative urges.

Power also makes people more likely to act on their desires. In one experiment, those made to feel powerful were more likely to move or unplug an annoying fan blowing on them.2 When working with others, the powerful are also more likely to voice their opinions. In another experiment, students were paired for a joint task.3 The one assigned to be the leader of the pair typically expressed her true feelings and attitudes more than her subordinate did.

We are less deliberative and more persistent in pursuing our goals when we gain power. In one of a series of experiments, researchers asked students to recall having or lacking power, then asked how much time and information they would need to make various decisions, including which roommate to live with or which car to buy.4 Those who felt powerful said they’d need less time and information. In a second experiment, participants made to feel powerful spent more time trying to solve an impossible geometric puzzle. In a third, they were quicker to interrupt someone who disagreed with them.

Overall, power makes us feel authentic. In one study, participants recalled a time they had power or a time they lacked it.5 Then they rated their personality traits in three contexts:  . . .

Continue reading.

See previous post that lets us see the authentic nature of US Border Patrol agents.

Written by Leisureguy

4 August 2022 at 12:51 pm

Border Patrol Agents Are Trashing Sikh Asylum-Seekers’ Turbans

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John Washington reports in The Intercept:

Gurjodh Singh was leaning against a rusted vehicle barrier — planted like a giant jack in the sand — at the end of the line of migrants. It is late July, and about 400 people seeking asylum are waiting alongside a gap in the border fence as dawn breaks over the sky in southern Arizona.

Singh is 22, fleeing India for America, without any family, to seek political asylum. Slipping off the vehicle barrier, he joined a huddle of five other Indian men, all Sikhs from the state of Punjab. A Border Patrol agent told Singh he had to move to the back of the line because he didn’t have papers. The rest of the men recovered their IDs after being robbed on a grueling monthslong trek across the jungles of Panama, but Singh still has no ID.

As the minutes tick by, the sky brightens, and the temperature notches steadily upward, reaching above 110 degrees that day. The men are waiting for the agents to begin their processing and load them onto buses heading to a nearby Border Patrol station.

Word has begun circulating among those seeking asylum in the Yuma area: Border Patrol is forcing everyone to throw away all personal belongings, except for cellphones, wallets, and travel documents. Agents are demanding Sikh men remove their turbans and are dumping the sacred religious garb in the trash.

Bhupinder, an 18-year-old Sikh man wearing a purple turban, said, simply, “I can’t take it off.” An important expression of Sikh men’s faith is not cutting their hair, and covering their head with a turban.

The forced removal and confiscation of turbans violates Border Patrol policies that are meant to respect religious freedom. It also violates policies that require agents to track and return personal belongings.

On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona sent a letter to Border Patrol documenting dozens of cases of agents confiscating and discarding turbans, explaining the significance of the item, and how the actions “blatantly violate federal law,” Border Patrol policy, and protections of religious freedom.

A month earlier, a third Sikh man seeking asylum said Border Patrol ordered him to turn over his belongings — including two sacred symbols of his faith.

“They told me to take off my turban. I know a little English, and I said, ‘It’s my religion.’ But they insisted,” the man said, speaking through an interpreter in a July phone interview.

The man pleaded with the officers, who forced him to remove his turban and tossed it in a trash pile. He asked if he could at least keep his turban for when he was released from custody. They told him no. “I felt so bad,” he said.

The Border Patrol’s Yuma sector did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

In addition to keeping uncut hair, maintained in a head covering, Sikhs, according to their faith, carry a comb; wear a bracelet; wear custom cotton underwear; and carry a small, curved sword or knife.

Border Patrol agents also cut a ribbon that was holding up the third asylum-seeker’s traditional Sikh underwear. Since there is no elastic on them, he was unable to continue wearing them.

“They said it was to prevent suicide,” he said, “but you can use pajamas to commit suicide if you want to. You can use socks. This underwear is important to us.”

Violating Policy [and human rights – LG]

Despite complaints that Border Patrol agents are violating their own policies that say they must “safeguard” personal property not deemed to be contraband or dangerous and “should remain cognizant of an individual’s religious beliefs,” Yuma’s Border Patrol has confiscated at least 64 turbans this year, according to the ACLU of Arizona and the Phoenix Welcome Center. In just the last two months, the organizations have documented at least 50 such confiscations.

The turban confiscations have ramped up in recent months, said Maria Jose Pinzon, a program manager for Phoenix Welcome Center, which is run by the International Rescue Committee that offers a few nights of rest and humanitarian assistance to asylum-seekers.

Because the Welcome Center is only able to record self-reported cases, and many asylum-seekers are scared to register a complaint, Pinzon is confident the number is much higher.

In June, according to Pinzon, a Department of Homeland Security ombudsman visited the Phoenix Welcome Center, promising to address the issue with Border Patrol. Yet the confiscations continued, with at least 11 documented cases as of July 20. Homeland Security’s Office of the Immigration Detention Ombudsman did not respond to requests for comment.

There are currently no regulations that require Border Patrol to document and publicly report the number of people its agents removed turbans from in violation of their own policy. . .

Continue reading.

The only way to fix this, I fear, is to complete replace current US Border Patrol Personnel.

The following post provides some insight into what happens to Border Patrol agents to make them that way.

Written by Leisureguy

4 August 2022 at 12:51 pm

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