Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

Evaluating vs. Judging

Evaluation is a process. 







Judging is a decision which implies approval or disapproval.


As an analytical personality type, it’s been my experience that I’m frequently thought to be “judging” when, in fact, I’m “evaluating”.

When I attempt to explain that I’m simply in the process of information gathering to personality types who are from more of a “shoot-from-the-hip” orientation, they often become dismissive and agitated. They seem convinced that I’m judging them or a decision they’ve made in a negative way.

It can be quite frustrating.

What’s been your experience?



Thinking, Fast and Slow

My wife, who is much smarter than I am, began reading this book based on a friend’s recommendation. But she decided that it wasn’t her kind of book. So, after reading the book jacket blurb, I decided to get the audio book from our library.

It might have just been the narrator’s read but I found myself feeling offended by the author’s arrogance. The tone of his observations seemed to me very condescending to anyone who wasn’t on his intellectual plane.

Don’t get me wrong. Kahneman shares some fascinating insights about how we think and about the “heuristics” or shortcuts we use when making decisions. It’s just that I found myself feeling annoyed while listening.

Then, I read Michael Lewis’ Vanity Fair interview with Daniel Kahneman. It turns out that Kahneman, who is a Nobel Prize winning psychologist, is kind of a shy and humble guy.

So, here’s my recommendation. Before reading this book, Google Michael Lewis’ November, 2011 Vanity Fair article, “The King Of Human Error” and read that. Also, take the quiz which accompanies the article.

I suspect that then you’ll enjoy a much better experience with this book than, initially, I did.

Here Comes Trouble

Let me begin by stating my belief that, whether you’re having a conversation, writing a book, posting a blog, sending a Facebook message, tweeting, doing a radio show, podcasting, or making a movie, it’s all about story-telling.

A recent article in Miller-McCune magazine reports that, based on scientific research, psychologist Jonathan Haidt has determined the beliefs you and I hold are really more the result of our genes and environment rather than immutable truths. Having established that ideology isn’t based in rationality, Haidt and his colleagues have come up with a framework of 5 moral foundations. They are care/harm, which makes us sensitive to signs of suffering and need; fairness/cheating, which alerts us to those who might take advantage of us; loyalty/betrayal, which binds us as team players; authority/subversion, which prompts us to respect rank and status; and sanctity/degradation, which inspires a sense of purity, both literally (physical cleanliness) and symbolically. The conviction that abortion, euthanasia, or gay marriage is immoral arises from the sanctity impulse.

Haidt says that American liberals respond most strongly to the care/harm and fairness/cheating impulses and tend to dismiss the others whereas conservatives (and the majority of people in the rest of the world) take all 5 moral foundations into account. Another way of interpreting this information might be that liberals tend to be more optimistic and see the glass half-full while conservatives tend to be more pessimistic and see it as half-empty.

There’s little doubt that Michael Moore is more influenced by the care/harm and fairness/cheating factors than by the others described. He waves his symbolic “freak flag” proudly and merely mentioning Michael Moore’s name provokes viscerally negative reactions from political conservatives and many independents, too. He’s viewed as a caricature of an old, unwashed, left-wing hippie troublemaker.

So it will be easy for those who disagree with Moore’s politics to reject this book as irrelevant. I think that would be a mistake.

I was surprised by the humanity that emanates from this collection of stories. I listened to the audiobook , which Moore narrates himself, and was struck several times by the thought that those who despise this man might gain some useful insights from hearing his stories about growing up in working class Flint, MI, his staunchly Republican mother, his encounters with Bobby Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Harry Chapin, and John Lennon. And the life experiences which shaped Moore into the Quixotic documentary filmmaker that he is today.

You might laugh, you might cry, slam the book shut or shout at the dashboard, but you won’t be bored by the stories in HERE COMES TROUBLE.

The Social Animal by David Brooks

I expected this book to contain information about various sociological discoveries and David Brooks’ interpretations of what they mean. Instead, Brooks has written an allegory to create a story about his protagonists which represent coalesce and represent various research findings. We learn about factors which influence their development (and our own) from conception, through childhood, young adulthood, middle age, and old age.

For instance, regarding sexual attraction, men tend to prefer women who have a 0.7 waist-to-hip ratio. There’s also equivalent information about qualities which unconsciously attract women to men but I don’t recall off the top of my head what they are. However, I don’t believe it had anything to do with hand and foot size.

Brooks tells us that research shows infants at a very early stage of development can “taste” sweetness in the foods that their pregnant mothers are ingesting which can influence the child’s appetites after birth. There also appears to be some credence that an infant in the womb responds to music which its mother is listening to.

The research does appear to show that we are responding emotionally even when we believe that our responses are based on rational thought.
For instance, the qualities which appear to be most important in predicting our ability to achieve and succeed have to do with our ability to detect patterns, to be attuned to others so that we can learn from them, the ability to be taught, our ability to be open-minded, and our ability to objectively weigh the strengths of our beliefs against the strengths of the actual evidence for or against those beliefs.

During an episode described in The Social Animal, one of the characters experiences a sense of personal fulfillment. Brooks explains that research has discovered that when our personal vision of the world is fulfilled, we experience a surge of pleasure from the release of chemicals in our brains.
He told a story to Charlie Rose during an interview about how Mark Zuckerberg’s biggest complaint about, “The Social Network” was that the movie didn’t do a good job of conveying the sheer passion and joy experienced by a programmer who gets the code right. That observation seemed to reinfornce Joseph Campbell’s advice to “Follow your bliss”.

If you’re interested in how evolution has affected our reactions to our physical environment, how our emotions are created, how ethnic cultures impact our responses to stimuli, and how the aging process affects our physical and emotional development, you should find a lot of food for thought in this book.

I listened to the 16 hour audio book with my teenaged daughter as we drove around the Northeast visiting various schools on her pre-senior year summer college tour. She found it interesting, as well. I would have preferred that the audio version was read by David Brooks but Arthur Morey does a good job and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Here’s David Brooks’ TED Talk about The Social Animal