April 30, 2016

Utopia for realists

Rutger Bregman is an interesting author to follow. A few years ago he wrote a book about the history of progress in which he described how views on progress have developed over time. In that book he concluded that every civilization needs a belief in progress and that in our time we need to revive that belief. In his new book, Utopia for realists, he builds on that view.

April 25, 2016

Coercion decreases the responsibility we feel for the consequences of our behavior

Stanley Milgram did some experiments in the '60s in which he had participants give electric shocks to other participants. The shocks weren't real but the participants did not know that and a surprising percentage of them agreed to deliver the shocks (read more). A new study by Casper et al. (2016) shows that the brain processes information about an action which people were coerced to do differently than a voluntary action. When people are coerced into an action electro-physiological recordings show they experience more distance between the behavior and the consequences of the behavior. They perceive a weaker link between their behavior and the consequences of that behavior. Due to this the person tends to feel less responsible for those consequences.

April 24, 2016

Experiencing immediate rewards predicts adherence to long term goals

Often the reason we pursue long term goals is that we find those goals valuable. For example, we may try to eat healthier or to exercise more because we want to age healthy. Another example: we study because we we want to have better career opportunities in our future. In four studies, Woolley and Fishbach (2016) show that the importance of these long term goals does not predict whether we will adhere to them but whether we experience immediate rewards from doing them.

April 16, 2016

Study: math achievement predicts intrinsic motivation but intrinsic motivation does not predict math achievement

There is a lot of interest in intrinsic motivation. We are intrinsically motivated when we are doing things that interest us and that we enjoy. These are activities for which we do not have to be encouraged. Encouraging or rewarding people for doing something for which they are already intrinsically motivated can even less that intrinsic motivation. What you find interesting, by the way, is not fixed. It can and will keep on developing. The reason is that when you are busy doing what you find interesting you will encounter new information and new questions which may renew and strengthen your curiosity and interest.

April 13, 2016

Autonomy support may stimulate feedback seeking

Getting good feedback is essential for learning new things. Giving good feedback is therefore an important skill (here and here are a few ideas about how you might do that).

Giving feedback can probably become easier when the person who's learning asks for feedback. A new study suggests that autonomy support by supervisor makes employees who are new in a job ask for feedback more.

April 12, 2016

Study: strength based intervention evokes a fixed mindset and undermines performance

A new study seems to confirm my worry about the strength based approach that it may evoke a fixed mindset and undermine performance and development.

The Effectiveness of a Malleable Mindset Intervention in an Introductory Psychology Course
Kathryn A. Becker-Blease (2015)

Abstract: Students who believe that their intelligence is able to grow over time (malleable/ growth mindset) perform better on measures of academic success than students who believe that intelligence is a fixed trait that cannot be changed (fixed mindset; Dweck, 2000). Previous research on the effectiveness of mindset interventions have demonstrated a causal connection between a malleable mindset and increases in end of term cumulative grade point average (Aronson, Fried, & Good, 2002) and performance on standardized math exams (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, & Dweck, 2007).

April 5, 2016

Where I disagree with Steven Weinberg

Writing down the title of this post feels awkward and even a bit scary. Who am I to disagree with Steven Weinberg? He is a paragon of rationality and intellectual accomplishment. He's won a Nobel prize in physics, he coined the phrase 'standard model' and he recently wrote a wonderful book on the history of science (read more). So he has lots of authority on matters of science whereas I have little if any. Yet, in determining truth, authority alone is not a valid argument. So I will point out where I think he is wrong.

April 3, 2016

How To Study

Guest post by Jamie Hale 

The effort required to form strong memory is often intense for students. Students often spend hours trying to master new information. Of course, methods to enhance memory are important for everyone, not just students. For example, when a friend recommends a new shoe store we want to remember the name of of it, or when going to the grocery it is important to remember the items we need to pick up. What are some strategies that can be used to strengthen memory?

April 2, 2016

Benevolent acts enhance well-being and energy

A new study shows that benevolent acts enhance well-being and energy, even without contact with the beneficiary.

Prosocial behavior increases well-being and vitality even without contact with the beneficiary: Causal and behavioral evidence (Martela & Ryan (2016)

Abstract: A number of studies have shown that prosocial behavior is associated with enhanced well-being, but most prior experimental studies have involved actual or potential face-to-face contact with the beneficiary. To establish that it is prosocial behavior itself, and not only an increased sense of social relatedness to the recipient that improves well-being, participants (n = 76) were invited to play a simple computer game, where half were made aware of a chance to have an anonymous prosocial impact through gameplay.

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