psychology

psychology


The Winter of Our Discontent

Shakespeare May 9th, 2020

“Now is the winter of our discontent,” Shakespeare wrote nearly 500 years ago. Talk about something standing the test of time! Indeed, there are many quotes from his prescient plays and striking sonnets that still aptly describe human beings today. As I write, it is nearly April, 2020, and the world is caught in convulsions of the chaos created by coronavirus. The pandemic, like something Shakespeare would have taken inspiration from, highlights both the good and the bad, the wise and the foolish, the wonderful and the absurd. It shows everything about human beings, the human condition, and humanity’s aspirations — and failings. It is through this lens that I write a bit about what is evident all around us now, in the winter of our discontent.

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Partisan or True? Where Psychology Meets Politics

psychology February 5th, 2020

Citing a little inventory about politics, The Atlantic writer Olga Khazan states that “…the issues that most concern political liberals tend to fall under the category of ‘individualizing’ moral foundations, which have more to do with personal standards: care versus harm, and fairness versus cheating. Political conservatives, meanwhile, tend to be more concerned about group-focused ‘binding’ foundations: loyalty versus betrayal, authority versus subversion, and disgust versus purity.” She points out that, “Among the factors that shape such deep-seated political preferences, a prominent one is believed to be fundamental moral beliefs—how someone thinks a good society should function or a decent person should behave.” Khan goes on to point out, interestingly, that perhaps the causal direction should actually be reversed! That is, she is noting that perhaps it is not that certain Americans notice the obnoxious stuff coming out of Trump’s mouth and his pen and find it immoral and repugnant; rather, a certain subset of the population identify as liberals, are partisan and biased, and therefore they subjectively find Trump offensive. In this blog, I explore this complex and intriguing phenomenon.

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Only Fools Vote Against Their Best Interests

only fools vote against their best interests August 16th, 2019

“A new report reveals that almost all of the states where people earn the least are controlled by Republicans, while the states where people make the most money are almost exclusively led by Democratic politicians.” So writes Michael Harriot. This raises some interesting and haunting issues. In a nutshell, Republican voters who are poor are fools. Only fools vote against their best interests. It’s not by chance that this came about, though. The GOP is an abomination, and Trump is only the natural result of that. Here is my reasoning as to how this all happens. Functionalism and conflict theory are very helpful in understanding this gross phenomenon.

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Humanity’s Dark Side: Obedience to Authority

obedience to authority March 9th, 2019

There is a strain of experiments buoyed by theory that is in the category of social psychology – the branch of the study of human behavior that locates a human being in their social context. That is, people may have some individuality, some trait-like tendencies to think, feel, perceive, and act in a more or less typical way (i.e., based on their personality type). Social psychologists study how human beings function in relation to their environment. This essentially radical environmental approach doesn’t mimic the approach of Pavlov, Watson, and Skinner – dyed-in-the-wool environmentalists – because the attempt is not to change behavior, but to analyze and predict it. Read on for a brief summary, some elucidating quotations, and one of the most shocking experiments ever to come out of a major university.

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Intelligence Has Much To Do With Discrimination

intelligence December 14th, 2018

No, really. I don’t mean bias and social meanness. I am referring to the idea that intelligence has much to do with the ability to analyze correctly, to tease apart concepts, to question astutely, to distinguish two related concepts, and compare and contrast things. Your basic nightmare from English class back in high school 🙂

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Values Underlie Our Beliefs and Actions

November 23rd, 2018

Values underlie our beliefs and actions. This is clear whether the lens is focusing on person to person interactions or government to government relations. This is clear to us when we reflect on it, but often this fact is overlooked or obscured. We tend to more easily focus on content, on the surface-level issues and triggers that evoke powerful emotion, involve tribes and loyalties, and which are purposely stoked by those who have a dog in the fight – be they advertisers, social media giants, or government officials. This blog presents some examples of values underlying actions, and the GOP is held up as an example.

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Words of Wisdom from Confucius Through Today

words of wisdom July 25th, 2018

Stephen S. Hall wrote a wonderful tour of the halls of wisdom in his book Wisdom: From Philosophy to Neuroscience. As a fan of both philosophy and neuroscience, I found it quite readable. In it are hundreds of wonderful words of wisdom, hallmark ideas from Confucius on down to today, and interesting findings from psychologists who study the brain using the latest techniques such as PET scans. Blending ancient and old philosophy with modern science is a great angle, and in doing so we find pithy thoughts such as this one by venerated philosopher Immanuel Kant: “The narrow gate to wisdom lies in science.” As well, we can see from this insightful quote by Hall that modern psychological research is contributing to the age-old search for wisdom begun in earnest by Socrates and pursued to this day in philosophical circles:

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Existentialism: Authenticity vs. ‘Bad Faith’

authenticity May 3rd, 2018

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. 

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Ten of History’s Greatest Thinkers

greatest thinkers March 19th, 2018

Perhaps you know of the eminent historian, writer, and psychologist/philosopher/anthropologist all rolled into one, Will Durant. He died in the late twentieth century, but was truly a man of letters and a wonderful writer. I found a neat little book, compiled after his death by John Little. It is a compilation of his writings that involved rankings of merit. The first real chapter in the book is “The Ten Greatest Thinkers,” though the two men put greatest in quotation marks, as I suppose they should, since great is really a subjective term. My intention in this blog is to share which ten men (yes, they are all men) he thinks shine the brightest among history’s renowned philosophers and scientists, and include a quote of each.

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Fifty Nifty Insightful, Inspirational Quotes

inspirational quotes March 19th, 2018

Over the last 25 years, I have carefully collected a very diverse array of quotations – 30,000 as of this writing. With that kind of carefully-compiled database of quotes about values, wisdom, virtue, character, and self-growth, it is easy to pull together lists of quotes (and I make it just as easy for you to do the same!). This blog features fifty nifty motivational, inspirational quotes. They will help you to re-focus, appreciate your life, see things from a more philosophical perspective, and be a better person. One of the best motivational quotes through the centuries has been Gandhi’s, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” but I now present you with fifty additional inspirational quotes:

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