November 27, 2009

What's the deal with self esteem?

Many people in education have long believed that in order to improve performance of pupils at school you have to first make them feel good about themselves. The idea behind this was: it is easier to function well if you feel good about your self. Many educators, psychologists and parents have tried this. But does it work? Here is a long quote from a very interesting article by Albert Mohler:
"Since the 1969 publication of The Psychology of Self-Esteem, in which Nathaniel Branden opined that self-esteem was the single most important facet of a person, the belief that one must do whatever he can to achieve positive self-esteem has become a movement with broad societal effects. Anything potentially damaging to kids' self-esteem was axed. Competitions were frowned upon. Soccer coaches stopped counting goals and handed out trophies to everyone. Teachers threw out their red pencils. Criticism was replaced with ubiquitous, even undeserved, praise. In 2003 the Association for Psychological Science asked Dr. Roy Baumeister, then a leading proponent of self-esteem, to review this literature. His team concluded that self-esteem was polluted with flawed science. Only 200 of those 15,000 studies met their rigorous standards. After reviewing those 200 studies, Baumeister concluded that having high self-esteem didn't improve grades or career achievement. It didn't even reduce alcohol usage. And it especially did not lower violence of any sort. (Highly aggressive, violent people happen to think very highly of them selves, debunking the theory that people are aggressive to make up for low self-esteem.) At the time, Baumeister was quoted as saying that his findings were "the biggest disappointment of my career". Now he's on Dweck's side of the argument, and his work is going in a similar direction: He will soon publish an article showing that for college students on the verge of failing in class, esteem-building praise causes their grades to sink further. Baumeister has come to believe the continued appeal of self-esteem is largely tied to parents' pride in their children's achievements: It's so strong that "when they praise their kids, it's not that far from praising themselves."

November 26, 2009

The what and how of reframing

Insoo Kim Berg's book Family Based Services: A Solution-Based Approach (Norton Professional Books) (1994) explains the concept of reframing nicely: "Reframing is simply an alternate, usually a positive interpretation of troublesome behavior that gives a positive meaning to the client's interaction with those in her environment. It suggests a new and different way of behaving, freeing the client to alter behavior and making it possible to bring about changes while "saving face". As a result, the client sees her situation differently, and may even find solutions in ways that she did not expect." Then, she gives some examples (slightly altered by me):

Troublesome behavior
Reframed version
Laid back, relaxed, taking it easy
Assertive, action oriented
Action-oriented, has high standards
Allows room for others
Strong, unaware of his own strength
Concerned, trying to bring out the best in someone
Deep thinker, thoughtful

November 25, 2009

Cultivating our neuronal networks

"There is really no upper limit on learning since the neurons seem to be capable of growing new connections whenever they are used repeatedly. I think all of us need to develop the capacity to motivate ourselves. One way to do that is to search for meaningful contact points and bridges between what we want to learn and what we already know. When we do so, we cultivate our neuronal networks. [...] To ensure a safe learning environment, you have to make sure to accept all answers, and build on them. We should view students as plants and flowers that need careful cultivation: grow some areas, help reduce others."
~ James Zull, in The Sharp Brains Guide to Brain Fitness: 18 Interviews with Scientists, Practical Advice, and Product Reviews, to Keep Your Brain Sharp, p 17/18

November 23, 2009

Interview with Keith Stanovich

By Coert Visser

Dr. Keith Stanovich, Professor of Human Development and Applied Psychology of the University of Toronto, is a leading expert on the psychology of reading and on rationality. His latest book, What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought, shows that IQ tests are very incomplete measures of cognitive functioning. These tests fail to assess rational thinking styles and skills which are nevertheless crucial to real-world behavior. In this interview with Keith Stanovich he explains the difference between IQ and rationality and why rationality is so important. Also he shares his views on how rationality can be enhanced.

November 18, 2009

A description of you

I suspect that you, reader of this blog, will recognize yourself reasonably well in this description:
You have a great need for other people to like and admire you. You have a tendency to be critical of yourself. You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage. While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them. Your sexual adjustment has presented problems for you. Disciplined and self-controlled outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You pride yourself as an independent thinker and do not accept others' statements without satisfactory proof. You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic. Security is one of your major goals in life.
Read here why I think that.

November 17, 2009

The Thinktank That Created The Solution-Focused Approach - Interview with Eve Lipchik

By Coert Visser (2009)

Eve Lipchik was one of the original core members of the Brief Family Therapy Center in Milwaukee, which created solution-focused therapy in the beginning of the l980's. She worked at the BFTC until l988, when she cofounded ICF Consultants. She is the author of the book Beyond Techniques in Solution-Focused Therapy: Working with Emotions and the Therapeutic Relationship and numerous chapters and articles. In this interview she looks back on the time the solution-focused approach was developed and she shares her memories of the process of developing the approach and of the people involved. She tells about the essential shift the team made from gathering information about the problem to focusing on constructing solutions with clients. Also, she reflects on recent developments and she explains the importance of describing the approach as encompassing both philosophy and techniques. Finally, she tells about some of her current interests and activities.

Coert: Could you tell me about some of your memories of the early times of the Brief Family Therapy Center? How did you get involved with that and how did you experience that starting period?

November 16, 2009

Problem externalisation interventions

Externalizing  is a practice which was developed within narrative therapy (White, 1989). It is an intervention  that creates a perspective on reality in which the person has a relationship to the problem and in which the person is not the problem and the problem is not inside the person. In these latter cases, the problem is internalized. Internalizing problems creates a perspective in which people easily start to blame themselves and feel they have to take action against themselves.  Externalizing views problems as coming from outside the person – e.g. in relationships with others, with cultures, with institutions or with power relationships. Externalizing invites people to keep the problem outside the person 5 so that he does not have to fight himself. Here are some examples of internalizing questions and of externalizing questions:

November 13, 2009

The pragmatic effects of our interactions with clients

"Ultimately, doing our job well in the eye of the only important beholders (our clients, the only ones who can, ultimately, decide) seems to me to depend less on our adherence to "correct" models or approaches or philosophical stances, but much more to the nuts and bolts of the pragmatic effects of our interactions with them. If, after talking with us, they are influenced and persuaded through the course of the dialogue to change for the better (in their eyes), whether it be by what we thought, said, or suggested or by what they thought, said, or decided (or whether by what they or we thought that they or we said or heard, regardless of what was actually said or heard, assuming that could ever be reliably remembered or interpreted), then we have done our part of the job, whatever way we have done it."

November 11, 2009

Feeling grumpy good for you?

BBC reports this: In a bad mood? Don't worry - according to research, it's good for you.
An Australian psychology expert who has been studying emotions has found being grumpy makes us think more clearly.
In contrast to those annoying happy types, miserable people are better at decision-making and less gullible, his experiments showed.
While cheerfulness fosters creativity, gloominess breeds attentiveness and careful thinking, Professor Joe Forgas told Australian Science Magazine.

November 6, 2009

Listing what you don't want to change

"The shift from problem-focused Brief Family Therapy to SFT occurred in 1982, in a random manner. As I remember the incident, there were a number of core group members behind the mirror formulating an intervention message for a family that had come with their rebellious teenage daughter and was not reporting any progress by the end of the second or third session. This father and mother were only interested in reporting all the things their daughter continued to do wrong and diverted from any questions about exceptions. The daughter remained sullen. That day, one of us behind the mirror - and there are strong opinions about who it actually was-said, "Why don't we ask them to make a list of what they don't want to change for next time?" We all agreed, and were pleasantly surprised when the parents and the daugther came back with sizable lists of what they appreciated about each other. What was more surprising, however, were the positive changes all three family members reported. [...] this discovery shifted our attention to the interview as a locus of intervention."

November 1, 2009

Presupposing Agency and Responsibility

In their wonderful book Becoming Solution-Focused In Brief Therapy, John Walter and Jane Peller describe the usefulness of using questions to our clients which contain presuppositions which form invitations to clients to enter a different way of thinking. These questions reflect that we see them as capable, responsible people who want to and can make sensible decisions. Here is a dialogue from their book (page 160-162) which is a nice example of how that can be done. In the book the authors explain how many of questions presuppose agency and responsibility. I have removed those explanations. Can you spot how the questions presuppose agency and responsibility?

Disconfirming information

"The basic lesson of Bayesian analysis is that you can learn only from information that disconfirms some part of your current belief set.  But of course the natural tendency of the mind is to minimize cognitive dissonance by accepting confirming evidence and rejecting disconfirming evidence, and that tendency is emphasized when beliefs get to be badges of group membership."

~ Mark Kleiman

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