Saturday, June 30, 2012

Martin Seligman: Why is psychology good?

The Watson Selection Task (1977)

Who: Peter Watson

Testing: Logical ability

Result: Abysmal 

I first discovered the Watson Selection Test in a book about the short comings of human cognition. When I came upon this test, being the narcissist that I am, thought that I would surely do well. I failed. Here it is...

When I first attacked this I had a few thoughts. One was, how can I possibly be absolutely sure that all 4 cards are holding up the rule if I don't check all of them? But the directions say I can only flip two. So My next guess was to flip the D and the 5. I thought since the rule only effects these two, then these two are all I have to verify. Wrong. 

The correct answer is to check the D and the 2. Don't get it? You and I are in the same group as 90% of people who attempt this little game. Watson claims we are so bad at this because these letters and numbers are arbitrary and if we were given symbols that had more meaning to us, that we'd fair much better. 

The rule here is that you must be over 21 to have a Beer. So, imagine these 4 squares are people in a bar and you are the police. Which two do you have to check to make sure all are adhering the drinking age limit? 

This problem was much easier for me. If I was the officer I would check the square with the beer and the 17 year old. The person drinking a soda and the fool over 25 are of no concern to me.

Implications: Humans are horrible at arbitrary logic. Logic without real world meaning is an artificial creation and is one of the crowning achievements of the Western world. We are not good at it. This isn't nessicarly the problem, thinking we are great at it is what is. Humans, and Americans more so than anyone else thinks they are great at logically assessing the world. You can find examples of this in all facets of life, I won't provide a list.

If anything should be taken away from this study--it is to be humble. You will be wrong often. Learn. Be better. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Asch Conformity Experiment (1953)

One third of you would answer incorrectly as to which one of the lines on the right match the one on the left...given others before you give the wrong answer.

In 1953, Solomon Asch set out to see just how much people will conform. He would bring in someone like you, handsome, smart, and totally awesome. He would lead you to believe that the other 5 or 6 people in the room were just like you, only less handsome, smart, and awesome. He would lie. They all are actors.


Every single person to have ever lived, knows no more than you do. No one fucking knows about the afterlife. You know has much about the meaning and purpose of life than anyone who has ever lived. Take the path less followed. Be you. But...

Beware of conforming with non-conformist...

Robbers Cave Experiment (1954)

Social Identity Theory.

Definitionis the portion of an individual's self-concept derived from perceived membership in a relevant social group.

Laymen: We like people we think are apart of our group, and dislike people we see as 'others.'

"We've got to have rules and obey them. After all, we are not savages. We're English, and the English are the best at everything." -Lord of the Flies, Ch 2

More than 50 years ago, an experimenter, Dr. Sherif, set out to how the sociology of groups caused violence and if it could resolved. His experiment came to be known as 'The Robbers Cave Experiment,' due to the location of his study, which was near Robbers Cave, OK. 

22, 11 year old boys were split into two groups, randomly*. The two groups did not meet each other, and where taken to the camp via buses, in their separate groups. Upon arriving at the camp, the two groups were to begin activities that would cultivate inner group cohesion. That is to say, bonding. These bonding actives lasted 5 days, and was known as Phase 1.

Effects of Phase 1: 
  1. Self-imposed social hierarchy.  
  2. Became Territorial
  3. The two groups wanted to compete against each other.
  4. Labeled themselves; The Rattlers and The Eagles.

Once Phase 1 was complete, the researchers began Phase 2, which would last 4-6 days. In this phase, researchers set out to cause friction between the two groups. This was done by competitive games. The winning group would be given a trophy and pocket-knives (It was the 50's). 

Effects of Phase 2: 
  1. Groups become hostile (Food fights, name calling, one fist fight.)
  2. The Rattlers took on the Alpha role and was more hostile to the The Eagles than vise-versa
The focus of this experiment rested in the results of Phase 3, which was the intent to bring these two hostile groups together by exposing them to problems which required the collective's response and that could not be achieved by a single team. These problems involved a camp water shortage, acquiring a movie for the entire camp, and a few others. The result was, given problems that affected all, the two groups came together and by the end of the experiment were social and friendly.


  1. There were actually 3 experiments and the first to failed.
  2. No third group was not accounted for--the experimenters.
  3. THERE WERE NO WOMEN. They make up half the world population, and their have been recent studies showing that women are not as prone this ego driven conflict. (sadly, I can't kind the article at the moment, but as soon as I do, I'll edit this.)
  4. One could argue all the points that make psychology a 'soft-science,' but thats an understood flaw coming into psychological study. 

Analysis: Nations, races, sexes, religions; all fall prey to Social Identity Theory. However, we are all humans. We all depend on the world, Sun, and ultimately the Universe for survival. And like the kids had to come together to obtain water, we too have world wide problems that require our collective response. These challenges will not be met until we can obtain a world identity.

  1. The youth will be exposed to the world in a way previous generations were not, this begins and ends with the internet. It must remain free.
  2. Science must be funded. Scientists care more about truth than group barriers. We fund science, we will integrate the world further.
  3. Diversity is not bad. However, we should seek integrations to the point that allows us to solve world-wide problems, but seldom further than that.

Source 1
Source 2
Source 3

Friday, June 22, 2012

Day 1, Positive Psychology and TED talk.

This being my first post, I don't know what tone to take. I want to be serious and profound, but what would my audience want? Hell, I don't have an audience yet, to whether I am capable of being profound. So, what I'll do until I get feedback counter to, is talk as if I'm talking to myself. Well, maybe how I would talk to a peer I respected and was trying to convince.

Aside from not knowing how to start, I don't know where to start. There are thousands of psychological studies being performed in dozens on languages. The scope of this project is huge, but I think I can make it a life hobby.

So, lets start with happiness.

Apart from the epic charisma the presenter yields, he has some significant and serious points. The first problem he pokes fun at is the bedrock of all psychology. 


Statistics gives psychology credibility. Achor subtle points out how the human will to be published and to identify patterns can skew data. He also exposes the tendency of "The Cult of the Average."

Statiscs weeds out the exstrodanary and magnify the ordinary. 

Watch the video. You will be entertained. You may draw some new life lessons. The list at the end could help you transcend, founded in statically science (lol).