April 30, 2009

Careful with oversimplifications

"A number of oversimplifications and misunderstandings have crept into our beliefs about subjective well-being, and some of the myths are probably driven by our own values. We want friends to matter more than money, and we do not want to defend materialism. We also desire to simplify our findings for the public. The danger is that our oversimplifications will become accepted by researchers because they are repeated so frequently. As researchers we must be critical, and this includes a skeptical stance toward our own conclusions. We want to improve society by making our findings widely known, but we must take care not to be hasty in rushing to conclusions to meet the demand for media coverage."
~ Ed Diener, quote from The Science of Subjective Well-Being

4 comments:

  1. I think that in simplifying something, sometime you lose the context and with it some of the meaning of what you are saying.

    Sometimes what is said has a certain dose of metaphor in it. Losing this dose of metaphor by being taken too literary via simplification might actually give you a deformed monstrous idea.

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  2. Thanks Peter. So simplicity can be both powerful and perilous. How can we know we are simplifying in a useful way? Do you know?

    Coert

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  3. I don't know. But I guess some people are able to do it somehow.
    Take for example the following quotation by Thich Nhat Hanh: “Smile, breathe and go slowly.”
    I can speak at length about it tying it to research about effect of physiology on psychology; role of simple meditation (focusing on breath) on perception of reality and to research about savoring (the go slowly part) and its implication on the subjective perception of well-being.

    And yet, if you just smile more often, pay attention to your breathing and just slow enough to enjoy the things in life... you'll be OK.

    On a side note, I discovered recently, while taking a walk through Stockholm, that if you smile, you cannot walk with your head down. Putting a smile on your face forces you to look forward.

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  4. There is a difference between knowing what works and knowing why it works. Often people have found useful practices of which scientists need ages to figure out underlying mechanisms.

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