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September 22, 2016

Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future

The Swede Johan Norberg has written a book in which he describes how the world has made progress in many areas. The book, titled Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future, has ten chapters in which the following topics are treated: food, sanitation, life expectancy, poverty, violence, the environment, literacy, freedom, equality, and children's rights and perspectives.

In his treatment of these topics Norberg uses vivid examples and a lot of objective data. Even if you have read some things about the great progress in the world, you will probably still come across some informative new material in this book. The book is interesting although I have a point of criticism.

September 21, 2016

Deep work: learning faster and deeper, performing better

Teresa Amabile advocated, based on her research, for, at least on several days of the week, making time to focus and work undisturbed, at least for half an hour to an hour, on work that is most meaningful for you (see here). Cal Newport, professor of computer science and author of the book Deep work goes a step further. He argues that in nearly every profession a much better productivity and more satisfaction can be achieved by using an approach he calls deep work.

September 19, 2016

Making beliefs unfalsifiable

You would think that people only hold beliefs based on their veracity but that is not the case. Of course, people do have beliefs because they think they are true but there are also other reasons for holding beliefs. Those reasons have to do with various psychological and social goals we have. Some examples of this are: wanting to see the world as orderly, meaningful and secure, viewing one's own group as morally good, feeling that you belong to a group, and having influence or power over other people.

Having too few problems may not be good for you
One of the things which make psychology hard is that psychological topics are often full of paradoxes. One example of such a paradox can be found in having problems. If we define having a problem as finding yourself in an undesirable situation it seems obvious that, in general, it is not pleasant to have problems. If we leave it at this, everything is clear and simple. But reality is more surprising. Of course, having problems, in general, isn't pleasant. And being confronted with many problems can be stressful and overwhelm you. But having to few problems may also be not too great.

September 18, 2016

Two components of positive communication

Negativity in conversations can put a strain on relationships and can make cooperation harder. Negativity, such as criticism and blame, can make people defensive. While they are in a defensive state of mind, their ability for nuanced and creative thinking is temporarily reduced. Instead, they may try to justify their own behavior or launch a counterattack. Whenever people feel they are approached negatively their reflex is to respond negatively. Both the content of what they say and the way they are saying it is likely to become more negative.

September 17, 2016

How do we increase our resistance against falsehoods?

Often, it is not so easy to determine whether something is true or false. There are often multiple sides to issues and sometimes a great deal of knowledge is required to be able to come to a good judgment. Even experts can have radically different views on such issues. But it also often happens that the distinction between false and true can be unambiguously made.

September 12, 2016

The important difference between emotional well-being and satisfaction with life

The happiness which you experience in a situation differs from how positive you think about the situation afterwards. In the same way, there is an important difference between experiencing emotional well-being and life satisfaction. Psychologist Daniel Kahneman and economist Angis Deaton (photo) have formulated important insights about these topics which I will try to summarize below.

September 11, 2016

Should we make happiness the focus of our lives?

How important should we consider being happy? Should it be a general goal in our life to be happy? Or should it perhaps even be the ultimate goal we should have as a person? Must we see happiness as the main goal in many or all domains of our life, such as work and education? While happiness as a goal sounds quite important, perhaps we should not conclude too quickly that our life resolves or should revolve around happiness only. What happiness precisely is, how we achieve it, and to what extent we should focus on it, may harder to answer that you might think.

September 5, 2016

3 Ways in which psychology is trying to make progress

3 Manieren waarop de psychologie progressie probeert te boekenAs you may have read, there is much ado in psychology about the correctness of previously found research findings. While some scientists have responded somewhat defensively to this, others are seriously trying to improve the quality of psychological research. Here are three ways in which they try to do that.

September 2, 2016

Which types of goals when?

There are different types of goals. What are the differences and when doe which goals work best? In a new article, Latham & Seijts (2016) summarize the findings of goals-setting theory (GST; Locke & Latham, 1990; 2013), a well supported theory about how goals work. GST-research has shown that setting specific, challenging goals lead to higher performance than easy and abstract goals. The general rule is that higher goals lead to higher performance providing four conditions have been met: the individual is competent for the goals, has sufficient situational resources, is committed and receives objective feedback on goal progress.

August 27, 2016

Carol Dweck's theory tested and largely supported

Carol Dweck's mindset theory has now been fully tested by Smiley et a. (2016). To understand how they did this, I'll first try to summarize Dweck's theory (see picture below which is mine but was inspired by Smiley et al.'s paper).

What Dweck's theory predicts

August 26, 2016

Good is Stronger than Bad for Older People: The Age-Related Positivity Effect

Fifteen years ago, in a review article entitled Bad is stronger than good, Baumeister et al. (2001) documented research into the so-called negativity bias. The article cites research showing that negative events, emotions, and information impact us more strongly than positive ones do. They conclude their article by saying:
"In our review, we have found bad to be stronger than good in a disappointingly relentless pattern. We hope that this article may stimulate researchers to search for and identify exceptions; that is, spheres or circumstances in which good events outweigh bad ones. Given the large number of patterns in which bad outweighs good, however, any reversals are likely to remain as mere exceptions."

August 25, 2016

Positive fantasies may lead to depression

Positief fantaseren kan leiden tot depressieWhen we feel bad, it makes sense to search for things that may make us feel better, and rather sooner than later. But be careful. Some things which are practically sure to make us feel better in the short term may have detrimental effects in the longer term. One example might be the use of antidepressants. They might work in the short term but might have unpleasant side effects in the longer term. But there is another example which may be a little less obvious: fantasizing about something positive. The thought is logical: "When you feel down, fantasize about how your life might become wonderful. That will make you feel better!"

August 24, 2016

Even Einstein struggled!

Zelfs Einstein worstelde!The more high school students think that success in science depends on extraordinary talent the less they will be inclined to choose and persist at science and math courses. Researchers Lin-Siegler et al. (2016) developed a practical intervention to correct such beliefs: stories which make clear that even the most successful scientists had to face struggles and setbacks.

August 21, 2016

When is positive feedback more motivational and when negative feedback?

Constructive feedback, both negative and positive, can play an important role in goal achievement. Previous research by Koo and Fishbach (2008) demonstrated that feedback can signal two kinds of messages. The first type of message is about commitment: it can say something about whether your goals are valuable and whether you have a good change of achieving them. Individuals which are not strongly committed to a certain goal can become more motivated after receiving positive feedback (and less after receiving negative feedback). The second message is about progress: feedback can say something about whether you have put in enough effort and whether you have achieved enough progress. Strongly committed individuals tend to get more motivated by negative feedback and less motivated by positive feedback (see the figure on the right). By the way, with negative feedback I do not mean personal criticism or blame but constructive information about what is not going well yet and what could be better.

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