October 25, 2009

You've got to remain positive, madam!

There is a book out by Barbara Ehrenreich, called Bright-Sided: How the Relentless promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. While I do believe that a positive outlook on life is worthwhile, I sympathize with her criticism.

Once, I was talking with my grandmother, who was then 95 years old and who died a few years ago. She told me that she found getting older not always easy. For instance, she struggled with some physical discomforts and with doubts and feelings of guild with regard to religion. She had talked about her discomfort with her doctor who had said to her: "You have got to remain positive madam!" My grandmother told me how unpleasant she had found this. "Many people tell me to think positively. But it is very unpleasant when people say that. That won't make me feel any better. If anything, it makes things worse."

Like I said, I actually do believe in the value of positive thinking but trying to convince others to think positively I have not often seen to work. You run the risk of making them feel you don't take them seriously, like they are really exaggerating and should not make such a fuss of their problems. And apart from that, is not easy to think positively when instructed to. That would be like saying to an inhibited person: be spontaneous! My experience is that works better to take seriously what people tell you. When they say they have a problem, acknowledge that and try to help them find a way to cope with it and to take small steps forward if possible.

October 21, 2009

The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness

Perhaps you have heard of the website Sharpbrains? It is a website by Alvaro Fernandez and Elkhonon |Goldberg,dedicated to brain fitness and cognitive health.These two people have written a book called The Sharp Brains Guide to Brain Fitness: 18 Interviews with Scientists, Practical Advice, and Product Reviews, to Keep Your Brain Sharp. I am reading it now and I find it very interesing. I will probably write about it more soon but here is a brief description of the book in advance.
The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness is an invaluable guide that helps readers navigate growing brain research and identify the lifestyle factors and products that contribute to brain fitness. By gathering eighteen of the top scientists and offering insight, tools, and detailed descriptions of over twenty products, this text is an essential guide to the field of brain fitness, neuroplasticity and cognitive health. An accessible and thought-provoking read, this book also educates lifelong learners on emerging trends and forecasts of what the future will hold.

October 17, 2009

Some deliberations on the desirablility of rationality

Following up on the posts What Intelligence Tests Miss: IQ and rationality are largely independent and A Closer Look at Rationality here are some thoughts and questions about what the view presented in the posts might imply. Let me start by saying that I find the basic ideas presented in Keith Stanovich's book convincing, namely that: 1) Intelligence as measured by IQ tests and rationality are largely independent, which explains why intelligent people may behave and think irrationally, 2) IQ tests don't measure rationality and contrast between the strong focus on IQ testing and the very limited attention to measuring and teaching rational thinking is a bad thing, 3) rational thinking could be taught more and this would lead to social benefits. Here are some additional thoughts and questions on the desirability of raising rationality.

October 16, 2009

A Closer Look at Rationality

As I wrote about yesterday, Keith Stanovich explains in his new book What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought that IQ tests are incomplete measures of cognitive functioning. Although many laymen and psychologists seem to think IQ tests do measure rationality, they actually don’t. In fact, intelligence, as measure by IQ tests correlates only low to moderately with rational thinking skills. According to Stanovich, this explains why it is not strange to see intelligent people behave irrationally and hold false and unsupported beliefs. Some real world examples are: intelligent people who fall prey to Ponzi scheme swindlers like Bernie Madoff, a highly educated person who denies the evidence for evolution, a United States president who consults an astrologist, and so forth. Below, I will try to summarize how Stanovich explains rationality and lack of rationality.

October 15, 2009

How frequently are different solution-focused techniques used? (poll results)

Here are the results of a poll which asked the question "which solution-focused techniques have you already used?' In total 143 people took the poll. Hope you like the results (click to enlarge). If you are not familiar with any of the terms used you can search them on this site for an explanation (see the search window on the right).

October 14, 2009

What Intelligence Tests Miss: IQ and rationality are largely independent

I am now reading an interesting book titled What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought by Keith E. Stanovich. The book is about the fact that IQ tests are incomplete measures of cognitive functioning. There is, as studies have show, in fact only a low to medium correlation between rational thinking skills and IQ test performance. And because rational thinking skills and IQ are largely independent it is not surprising that intelligent people can easily behave irrationally and hold false and unsupported beliefs. Several things are really interesting about this book. One is the authors insight that we do not need to stretch to non-cognitive domains (to notions as emotional intelligence or social intelligence) to see the lacunae in IQ tests. Another is the very specific and research based analysis of the topic matter. The author presents an elegant and rather comprehensive model of cognitive functioning in which three types of major thinking processes and their interrelations are described: the autonomous mind, the algorithmic mind and the reflective mind.

October 12, 2009

When Brute Force Fails try a more focused approach to fight crime

In an article by Robert H. Frank in The New York Times I read about a new book about fighting crime by Mark Kleiman, professor of public policy and the University of California. The book is called When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment and its central claim is that authorities should not make punishments more severe but increase the odds that lawbreakers will be apprehended and punished quickly. The idea is not entirely new of course, but Kleinman's arguments are interesting. There is some reason to doubt about the effectiveness of increasing the severity of punishment.

October 11, 2009

Getting unstuck by reframing the problem into less dualistic terms

This post is about a simple idea which I have often seen work well. It is about how, in situations in which got stuck, can often get unstuck by reframing the situation or the problem. Often, in situations in which we find ourselves stuck we limit our options by framing our situation too narrowly, in dualistic terms.

For instance, I talked to a manager who was dissatisfied with something an employee had done. In the conversation he had about this topic with that employee he had ventilated his dissatisfaction and shown his irritation. The conversation did not go too well. The employee responded defensively and showed irritation too. He had even criticized the manager about his behavior. The manager asked what else he could have done, saying: "I am usually very appreciative but in this situation the employee performed unsatisfactorily, so there was no reason for appreciation. I needed to be firm!"

October 10, 2009

External demands and sanctions and non negotiable rules

Like I said in some previous posts, I am currently fascinated by the solution-focused approach to treating domestic violence offenders by practitioners John Sebold, Adriana Uken and researcher Mo Yee Lee. It is fascinating how an approach is very effective in which clients are not confronted or even expected to admit to their problems but instead only holds clients accountable for developing useful goals and building solutions to achieve those goals. And it is interesting how these clients, who are often not self-motivated to be re-educated are not pressured at all to join the program. Instead, it is emphasized to them that they are free to join or not.

Solution Focused assumptions about children

I have trained many solution-focused practitioners who specifically work with children so I thought it would be interesting to focus on that a bit. So, following up on my posts about assumptions of solution-focused practise here is a list of solution-focused assumption about children taken from the book Children's Solution Work by Insoo Kim Berg and Therese Steiner (2003). They add the following: "Making connections with even the most difficult child is possible when we allow the child time to choose a path for him- or herself. Working with children need not be a long-term, difficult task, and utilizing their innate and natural tendencies and building on these strenghts is easier, efficient and more effective thatn trying to fill the deficit. This optimistic belief (at times described as naïve and Pollyanna-ish) in every child's ability to have a better future, whe given the appropriate help in a timely manner, is what keeps us working hard and keeps us from giving up on any child." Here is the list of assumptions:

October 9, 2009

Serious about words

"People who use conversation to facilitate change should be as serious about words as musicians are about notes"
~Mo Yee Lee, John Sebold & Adriana Uken

This is a quote from the book Solution-Focused Treatment of Domestic Violence Offenders: Accountability for Change, one of the jewels of the solution-focused literature. The authors show step by step how the solution-focused approach can be used to facilitate positive change with domestic violence offenders. I hope to write more about the book soon.

October 5, 2009

Women, math, and stereotype threat

Also read: 5 Experiments that make you think

9 Solution-Focused Assumptions

Following up on yesterday's post, here is the list of assumptions as I put them down in my last book. As you see, it overlaps with the lists mentioned yesterday but like each of the other lists, this one differs in some details, too. Hope you'll like it. (Both the title and the assumptions are originally in Dutch but translated here into English).

Paths to Solutions-The Power of the Solution-Focused Approach - Coert Visser and Gwenda Schlundt Bodien (2008)
1.    Searching for causes of problems is not necessary. 
2.    The change begins with defining the desired situation. 
3.    Each case is unique. 
4.    Confronting is not necessary.
5.    The client wants to cooperate. 
6.    The client already has the solutions.
7.    There are always exceptions to the problem. 
8.    There is always already a beginning of the desired situation.
9.    Small steps forward will usually be enough. 

October 1, 2009

Review of Richard Dawkins´ The Greatest Show On Earth- The Evidence For Evolution

Richard Dawkins' book The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution is currently high on bestseller lists in many countries. The book removes what was the missing link in Dawkins' oeuvre because in all his others books he started from the assumption that evolution was true. In this one he presents evidence.

Let's walk through the book in some big steps. In Chapter 1, Dawkins introduces the word THEORUM as a replacement of the word 'theory' which in everyday use often just means hypothesis. The word 'theorum' (inspired by the word 'theorem' from mathematics) would do justice to the fact that evolution is massively supported by evidence and therefore by no means just a hypothesis. Chapter 2 describes how we can sculpt gene pools through artificial selection (for instance dog breeding), a practice which has been known to men, of course long, before Darwin came to the scene.

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