June 5, 2020

Masha Gessen's new book Surviving Autocracy on what may lie ahead after Trump's autocratic attempt

Russian-American journalist and author Masha Gessen, has written a new book called Surviving Autocracy in which she describes how the United States has dramatically changed under the presidency of Donald Trump. In this important book, she shows how Trump has undermined the media, the judiciary, the US Congress, cultural values and norms, and language itself, and how and all of these changes have become normalized. She argues that the key to recovery is not an attempt to return to normalcy but a focus on reinvention and social progress for all.

February 14, 2020

A Brief Introduction to the Progress-Focused Approach

Coert Visser (2020) 

This book introduces the progress-focused approach. This approach is a set of principles and techniques which help individuals and teams make achieved and desired meaningful progress visible and to get ideas about next steps forward. The progress-focused approach, originally inspired by some practical techniques from solution-focused brief therapy, now heavily relies on findings from scientific psychology. It is used by many coaches, trainers, managers, teachers and employees. 

June 3, 2019

22 Quotes from People, Power and Profits by Joseph Stiglitz

Nobel prize winner economist Joseph Stiglitz has written a new book called People, Power and Profits. In this book he describes how, since the mid-1970s has been dominated by a conservative ideology which, step-by-step has brought every increasing inequality and the undermining of democracy. In the book, Stiglitz explains what's wrong and what's needed and how to move forward.

November 26, 2017

Carol Dweck's new theory on the foundations of personality

Carol Dweck, founder of mindset theory, has written an ambitious new paper in Psychological Review. In this paper, she presents a new theory about how personality is formed and how both nature and nurture play a role in this. The interesting thing about this theory is that it both establishes connections between old and new theories within psychology and that is brings together separate psychological disciplines. Social psychologists have often been criticized for paying too little attention to theory building and for merely developing fragmentary knowledge. Dweck now comes up with a strong answer to these criticisms in the form of a broad theory which may turn out to explain a broad range of psychological phenomena. This type of theorizing is not only important for social scientists but also for practitioners for whom psychological knowledge is relevant (and who is really excluded from this group?). Good theory can help practitioners deal with problems in more informed, systematic and integrated ways. Below, I will explain what the theory is. Then, I will say a bit more about some of the main parts of the theory.

March 15, 2017

Democratic rights are like muscles: use them or lose them

Today the general elections are being held in the Netherlands. Here is why I will vote.

What is democracy? What are the essential features of a democracy and why are they important? What are the essential differences between democracies and non-democracies and why do these differences matter? How important are democratic rights and how important is it to use them? I answer these questions below.

March 10, 2017

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and goals

The terms intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are frequently used and are sometimes a source of confusion. Below, I try to share my understanding of these term as they are used in self-determination theory (SDT). First, I'll explain what the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is and  then what the terms intrinsic and extrinsic goals mean.

December 1, 2016

When is leadership legitimate?

Below I'll try to answer two questions which I have thought about for some time. First, I'll say some things about the value of democracy. Are democracies better than non-democracies? I'll show why I think the answer is yes. Second, I'll share my thoughts on when leadership of countries should be considered legitimate. I think that two basic requirements need to be met for that. After having explained this, I'll share my thoughts on the legitimacy of the leadership of the next president of the USA.

November 27, 2016

We should not fight science, democracy, and capitalism but the factors undermining them

Science, democracy, and capitalism, some treasured institutions of the world's most advanced societies, in terms of health, wealth, freedom, and equality, are being criticized more and more. I acknowledge that there are some severe problems surrounding these institutions but I think we should not see these institutions as the problem.

October 29, 2016

Interview with Keith Stanovich (2016)

The Rationality Quotient - Progress toward measuring rationality


By Coert Visser

https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/rationality-quotient
I first interviewed Keith Stanovich, Professor Emeritus of Applied Psychology and Human Development at the University of Toronto, in 2009. In that interview he explained the difference between intelligence and rationality and why rationality is very important. He also pointed out that IQ tests are incomplete measures of cognitive functioning because they do not measure rationality. Now, seven years later, I interview him about his new book, The Rationality Quotient, which he wrote together with his colleagues Richard West and Maggie Toplak, and which presents a prototype of a rational thinking test, the Comprehensive Assessment of Rational Thinking (CART).

July 6, 2016

Trump's words are a clear warning of what he intends to do: turn back civilization

Of the many things that can be held against Donald Trump (that very many things he says aren't true, his ruthless behavior in business, his many business failures, his unawareness of his own ignorance regarding policy matters, the fact that he's taking bragging to whole new levels, that he promises amazing things without explaining how he will achieve them, etc.) there is one thing that worries me most and that is his philosophy that fire should be fought with fire.

March 13, 2016

Trump's escalating rhetoric resembles the methods dictators use

In this post from 2012 I wrote that people may create fear in order to control other people. I explained that creating fear is an effective way of gaining people's attention, creating hyper-vigilance, suppressing their rationality, and legitimizing violence in order to fight the (supposed) threats and to enforce loyalty. People doing this set in motion a vicious cycle. In other words, a process of escalation seems to be inevitable. In order to keep their followers' fears sustained, and their rationality suppressed, they have to keep feeding them with new information about the (supposed) threat. By creating more fear they get more attention, suppress more people's rationality, legitimize greater violence and acquire greater control. These are the methods dictators use.

February 9, 2016

Saving capitalism (Robert Reich)

Some time ago I wrote about economist Richard Wolff's book Democracy at work. A cure for capitalism in which he argued that capitalism is inherently threatening to democracy and that a fundamental change is needed in the direction of Worker Self-Directed Enterprises (WSDEs) which would be an alternative to capitalism (read my explanation of this argument here).

While I found the book interesting, I wasn't convinced that capitalism should be replaced. Now, there is a book by another economist, also one who is very critical about current day capitalism and concerned for the protection of the democracy, Robert Reich. The book is called Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few and it argues not for the replacement of capitalism but for its rescue.

August 30, 2015

5 Dimensions of belief systems

Gerard Saucier of the university of Oregon has done research into belief systems of people. Belief systems are important because they guide people's behaviors and thereby influence their development and the circumstances in which they will find themselves. Saucier has created insight into what kind of belief systems there are. He did this using factor analysis. Through factor analysis it is possible to reduce a large number of variables to a more limited number of variables (factors; read more). Saucier found out that the degree to which people vary in their beliefs can be describes using the following 5 dimensions (Saucier, 2013).

May 25, 2015

5 Benefits of asking for help

Frequently, I have heard people say: "I'd rather not ask for help. I think I have to solve this myself." This way of this thinking surely has something admirable and sympathetic about it. Probably, people saying such things have a strong sense of responsibility. They think they should be able to solve their problem on their own without bothering other people. But I think it is good to be aware of another way of viewing asking for help. Asking for help can have many benefits, especially for yourself, but also for other people. Here are a few benefits of asking for help:

October 17, 2014

Strengthening your prefrontal cortex

In his book The Marshmallow Test, Walter Mischel describes how the capability of children and adults to exercise self-control has a big impact on their lives. Individuals who are capable of delaying gratification and resist temptations are better capable of focusing on achieving long-term goals. They fare better in many ways than individuals who are less able to exercise self-control. Two brain systems play an important role in succumbing to or retsisting temptations.

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