February 22, 2010

Income inequality is strongly related to health and social problems

Coert Visser, 2010


The Relationship between Equality and Thriving
Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, two English epidemiologists, have written The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, a provocative book on how high levels of inequality in societies is harmful for everyone within them. Their research shows that while economic policies in developed countries stress the importance of economic growth, economic growth is only an important determinant of the degree to which societies thrive up to a certain point. After a certain point the contribution of further economic growth begins to create only diminishing marginal returns: the relationship between economic growth and certain objectively measurable outcomes, like life expectancy, level off (see figure 1).

February 18, 2010

Some Solution-Focused Concepts

Anton Stellamans told me about a retreat on the solution-focused approach, he had with his colleagues in Malmö. facilitated by Harry Korman. In the session they micro-analyzed a videotaped solution-focused conversation. Anton mention that the following concepts were introduced by Harry during the session: repair sequences, calibrating, echoing, cognition-behavior-interaction-concept, not getting in the way of the thinking process of the client, leaving no footprints in the snow. I asked Anton to tell me a bit more about some of those concepts and the wrote down this explanation. I got his permission to share it here with you.
  • Repair sequence: At one point during the coaching interview I made a brief summary of what my client just said. But apparently this summary did not really grasp what he was thinking about. Harry Korman stopped the video right after that reaction of the client and correctly predicted a repair sequence: a sequence where coach and client try to repair the misunderstanding by reformulating, adding information, shaking heads, "ooh I sees" etc.

February 17, 2010

Voicing Conflict: Preferred Conflict Strategies Among Incremental and Entity Theorists

by Lara K. Kammrath and Carol Dweck

Abstract: The way individuals choose to handle their feelings during interpersonal conflicts has important consequences for relationship outcomes. In this article, the authors predict and find evidence that people's implicit theory of personality is an important predictor of conflict behavior following a relationship transgression. Incremental theorists, who believe personality can change and improve, were likely to voice their displeasure with others openly and constructively during conflicts. Entity theorists, who believe personality is fundamentally fixed, were less likely to voice their dissatisfactions directly. These patterns were observed in both a retrospective study of conflict in dating relationships (Study 1) and a prospective study of daily conflict experiences (Study 2). Study 2 revealed that the divergence between incremental and entity theorists was increasingly pronounced as conflicts increased in severity: the higher the stakes the stronger the effect. Read article.

February 16, 2010

The Smallest Solution Focused Particles

Bliss, E. V. & Bray, D. (2009) The Smallest Solution Focused Particles: Towards a Minimalist Definition of When Therapy is Solution Focused. Journal of Systemic Therapies, 28, (2) pp. 62–74.
This article addresses our difficulty with varying definitions of Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT). On the one hand it is defined by a minimalist philosophy of doing whatever works for the client and on the other hand it isdefined by use of key techniques such as the miracle question. We discuss whether or not the requirement for us to do what makes sense for each client may bring us into conflict with the technique-oriented definitions of SFBT. Read article.

February 12, 2010

The importance of making our human conversation open ended

"The only thing that guarantees that our human conversation is open ended is a willingness for us to have our believes about reality updated and revised by conversation. Because when the stakes are high we have a choice between conversation and violence, both at the level of individuals and at the level of societies. So my pitch for you is, really, that the end game for civilization is not political correctness and tolerating all manner of absurdity. It is reason and reasonableness and an openness to evidence." ~Sam Harris

February 10, 2010

Inequality associated with social and health problems but not with happiness?

Following up on my post of yesterday about The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger here are two publications by happiness researcher Ruut Veenhoven which suggest there is no relationship between income inequality and happiness:
I am not sure whether this is in disagreement with Wilkinson and Pickett's findings because they focused not per se on happiness but on health and social problems and found these are associated with income inequality. So if both Veenhoven's and Wilkinson and Pickett's findings are correct what explanation could there be for the paradox that income inequality is associated with many social and health problem but apparently less so with happiness?

February 9, 2010

Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger

There is an interesting new book called The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger. I think the book is interesting for anyone who's trying to understand determinants for human well-being and thriving. Psychologists have known for a long time that situational arrangements importantly affect many aspects of our mental functioning and this book is a great and evidence based example of how this applies on a societal level.
Here is a brief description of the book's content: "Wilkinson and Pickett make an eloquent case that the income gap between a nation's richest and poorest is the most powerful indicator of a functioning and healthy society. Amid the statistics that support their argument (increasing income disparity sees corresponding spikes in homicide, obesity, drug use, mental illness, anxiety, teenage pregnancies, high school dropouts—even incidents of playground bullying), the authors take an empathetic view of our ability to see beyond self-interest. While there are shades of Darwinism in the human hunt for status, there is evidence that the human brain—with its distinctively large neocortex—evolved the way it has because we were designed to be attentive to, depend on, and be depended on by others. Wilkinson and Pickett do not advocate one way or the other to close the equality gap. Government redistribution of wealth and market forces that create wealth can be equally effective, and the authors provide examples of both. How societies achieve equality, they argue, is less important than achieving it in the first place. Felicitous prose and fascinating findings make this essential reading."

Tight control or tolerance: which do you prefer?

Arie de Geus describes, in his book The Living Company (1997), how nothing is more important for a rose garden than how you prune the roses. The best way of pruning depends on the results you want to achieve. If you want the biggest and most glorious roses of the neighborhood you have to prune drastically. You have to cut each rose tree down to three stalks each. Each of those stalks can only keep only three rosebuds. Everything except these 9 rosebuds has to be cut down to get the maximum result: the biggest rose. This way of pruning is a strategy of little tolerance and tight control. You force the plant to make maximal use of the resources it has by forcing it to concentrate on its 'core business'. You can impress you neighbors that summer with the most spectacular rose. But if this turns out to be an unlucky year, you'll have late frost, end of April of in the beginning of May. This could create serious damage on the few remaining buds and could even cause the plant to die. In an unpredictable environment, pruning is risky and a strategy of high tolerance is wiser. You leave more stalks and more buds on each stalk. You may even keep buds which could only lead to very small roses. This way you are unlikely to get the biggest roses of the neighborhood but you'll increase your chances of getting roses each year. Furthermore, you'll stimulate a gradual renewal of the plant. By leaving younger and weaker stalks intact, you'll give them the chance to strengthen and to take over the role of the stronger stalks in later years. The tolerant strategy is less efficient and allows for weakness but has advantages in the long term.

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