Applied Psychology

Applied Psychology


Empathy is a Solid Route to Moral Goodness

moral goodness March 6th, 2021

Empathy is the degree to which a person can place oneself in another’s shoes. Anyone can feel pain when someone steps on their toe, but what if you see someone else wincing in pain, grasping their own toe? The question is related to what you experience when you determine, perceptually, that someone else is suffering in some way. Empathy is a key driver of moral goodness, I believe. Another way to describe this phenomenon is, acting right is about empathizing with the other. What follows is my rationale.

Read More

Existentialism: Authenticity vs. ‘Bad Faith’

authenticity March 1st, 2021

In a prior post entitled “Existentialism, Humanism, Responsibility, and Freedom,” I examined meaning in life, Jean-Paul Sartre, existence, etc. In this blog, I would like to go a little further toward examining authenticity vs. the idea of “bad faith.” It will hopefully generate more light than it does heat as far as living one’s life with success, passion, deliberateness, and insight. As always, wisdom is about the highest goal, and happiness is not far behind. 

Read More

American Treasure: Helen Keller’s Values

Helen Keller February 3rd, 2021

In this day and age of political unrest, questionable media, and discrepant values, it is a breath of fresh air to read the beautiful words of optimism and understanding. I am referring to the wonderful woman and hero of girls and handicapped individuals everywhere, Helen Keller. She evolved from someone who truly knew hardship and adversity to one who successfully focused her time and energy into the worthy pursuits of growth, happiness, love, and compromise. She pushed her own (and society’s) boundaries and became someone great. Who was Helen, and what can we learn from her?

Read More

Political Extremism: The Authoritarian Voter

January 14th, 2021

Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tend to be the poster children of political extremism if you ask a partisan from the Right. You hear this repeatedly on Fox News — these are their main bogeymen/women. These hard-working patriots will be called frauds, hypocrites, radicals, Socialists (of the Communistic stripe, that is), traitors, and so on. I don’t want to make a defense of those on the far end of the political Left in this country, but I will in this blog highlight a dangerous style of thinking that is the garden of political extremism when paired with political power or demagoguery: the authoritarian mindset. 

Read More

Fake News in Trump’s America

fake news January 3rd, 2021

Throughout the country’s short existence, the most authoritarian Presidents have been, in order: John Adams, George Dubya Bush, Woodrow Wilson, Andrew Jackson, and Donald Trump. There are grumblings on the Right that Obama was somewhat abusive of his power, and I think that case can be made (certainly, journalists and Freedom of Information Act seekers were very disappointed in him). I intend this essay to be about the psychology underlying political beliefs, and the hot-button topic in this realm is, perhaps with a plethora of absurdity, uttered by Trump almost daily: the term fake news. Trump most likely coined the term fake news, and though he is but a con-man, truth, lies, and deception predate him – laying bare the idiocy of our whole politico-cultural system.

Read More

The Consolation of Reliable, Positive Values

positive values November 10th, 2020

Sigh. I entitled this blog what I did because I am having a difficult time of it at the moment. My dad did die this year. And Trump did ascend to power this year. But $hit has really been hitting the fan, as they say. Today, Matt Lauer and Garrison Keillor have been caught in the thorny bramble of bad behavior. I was also a bit shocked by Louis C. K., Senator Al Franken, and Representative John Conyers. I look around and institutions seem to be tarnishing, crumbling, under attack, and failing. It feels like we are more divided and that there are more dangers than I am comfortable with. In this blog, I will try to make sense of my angst, and use reliable, positive values as a consolation. 

Read More

Sometimes, You Can’t Square the Moral Circle

square the moral circle July 24th, 2020

Sometimes two family members, or friends, or members of the same social group can kind of “steer clear” of each other’s hot spots. Maybe agreeing to disagree works, or simply avoiding the topics in question (Thanksgiving dinner comes to mind!). However, certain issues are just too ineluctable to make peace with. This is why it has been said that “one shouldn’t talk religion or politics in polite company.” In this blog, I reflect on a couple instances when this was the case for me. Morality is hard to compromise about, and when you have two diametrically-opposed opinions about fundamental moral issues, it can be too difficult to successfully square the circle, as it were.

Read More

Magnanimity & Altruism: Saving 50 Jews from Death

magnanimity June 25th, 2020

Eleanor and Gilbert Kraus are very likely two of the greatest unsung heroes in American history – at least, in Jewish history. I watched a documentary about their courageous acts (in 1939), which amounted to nothing less than a full-throated display of magnanimity and altruism. Here is their story. I will also include a selection of quotations about magnanimity by noted Holocaust survivors, human rights activists, altruism researchers, and stalwart exemplars of virtue and honor such as Elie Wiesel, Nelson Mandela, Anne Frank, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Viktor Frankl. 

Read More

Wisdom: From Whence Does it Come?

Does wisdom come only form the mouths of babes? June 14th, 2020

Yikes! Controversial and possibly incendiary topic alert! It’s won’t be that bad. Here is the reason for the title: I published a book of quotations about values and wisdom in 2003. It must have had 1,000-1,500 quotes, just one after another, based on the value the quote represented (e.g., truth, justice, wisdom, passion, etc). No one had any problem with the Emersons, MLKs, John F. Ks, or Helen Kellers, but one person did not like my use of a quote by Hitler. He was Jewish, I imagine, and found the book unpalatable. He wrote me back with something along the lines of: “There is no way I could endorse a book that features a quote by Hitler.” So the questions arise: What is the purpose of wisdom? Could Hitler possibly have hit upon a vein of gold in his otherwise dank and unproductive mine of ideas? Was the professor wise, or foolish? How do we know when someone is imparting wisdom, or dropping a load of bull?

Read More

The Wise Favor Truth Over Conspiracy Theories

conspiracy theories May 21st, 2020

…unless of course there is a conspiracy afoot! That does happen from time to time, when all the stars are aligned. Usually, though, conspiracies fail or never even get off the ground. Isn’t it odd that the same government that the hardcore libertarians we have had in our midst since the inception of the Tea Party which is constantly facing budget cuts and which sees its best and brightest dismissed due to cronyism and corruption is also fully capable of hatching and executing a “deep-state-type” massive, successful conspiracy? We are to believe that the Federal government is at once a bunch of masterminds intent on crippling the decent government officials we duly elected with our awful, dark-money-driven campaign finance system—the “deep state”—capable of engaging in a very sophisticated feat of skullduggery, intrigue, and nefariousness, and yet we can’t even get masks to doctors? Kids go hungry. We can’t control the debt. Mexican immigrants are supposed to be our worst problem if you watch Fox News. I would say the U.S. government could more easily be accused of garden-variety, low-level corruption like Russia, or totally incompetent, like Venezuela, than this!  Nay, this just doesn’t add up. What is much likelier, logically and rationally, is that the people who see conspiracy and libertarian affronts and liberals run amok are suffering from bias, lack of objectivity, fantastic thinking, and group phenomena. They should turn off Fox or Facebook and read a book by Mark Twain or George Eliot, I say. Here are some thoughts.

Read More