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Monday, September 30, 2013

Day 456: Mexican Wave of Lies

This post continues from my previous post - give it a look over if you haven't already.

Assuming that deception is an all-too-common aspect of social life, what are its effects? As you might guess, they are largely negative. First, recent findings (eg, Tyler, Feldman, & Reichart, 2006), indicate that when people find themselves on the receiving end of lies, they react with mistrust of, and disliking toward, the liar. In fact, the more lies a stranger tells, the more these people are disliked and the less they are trusted. Further, and perhaps of even greater interest, after being exposed to someone who has lied, most people are more willing to engage in such behaviours themselves. Evidence for such effects is provided be research conducted by Tyler, Feldman, and Reichert (2006).
These researchers gave participants in their studies information about another person - information indicating that this person had lied during a videotaped interview. (Participants watched the videotape, so they knew the stranger had lied.) Some lies involved exaggerations (eg, the liar said that he had been an honour student in high school when this was not true) and others involved minimizations (eg, the liar indicated that his academic record was worse than it really was). Moreover, they varied the frequency of lying, so that the liars engaged in deception only once or four times. When participants rated the liars, they gave lower scores for likeability and trustworthiness to the frequent liars and to the liars who had exaggerated rather than minimized their own achievements. This suggests that some lies are indeed worse than others. Now, here's the most disturbing finding of all. After these procedures, participants in the study had a brief conversation with another person (an assistant of the researchers). During this discussion, participants who had observed frequent lying on the videotape now showed greater tendencies to lie themselves than those who had observed only one or no lies at all. Together, these findings indicate that not only is lying ethically wrong, but it also undermines the quality of social relations perhaps because it tends to spread from one person to another. It seems possible that such effects contribute to the kind of scandals that rock large corporations from time to time. Lying by the top people in these companies encourages unethical behaviour by many others, sometimes with disastrous results. - Social Psychology (Twelfth Edition) by Robert A Baron, Nyla R Branscombe, & Donn Byrne

We do not think for ourselves. We are forever following the mob.

This is our nature, to copy what we see others doing. We want to fit in.

We want to be like other people. That way we increase the chances that we will be liked.

We may have morals and principles of our own that we think we should live by. But these morals and principles are subject to change as per our adaptable natures.

We are hardly ever even aware of what we're thinking and doing. We don't know why we feel the way we feel.

We think we know. We think we know ourselves.

We know nothing. We only follow.

We do not direct. We get caught up.

We act in contravention of our conscience. We do things which will never bring us pride.

We bring ourselves shame. Consciously and with awareness.

We actively choose to make choices that will bring harm to someone. Sometimes we don't care.

Mostly we choose to put those choices out of our minds. What we don't think about won't haunt us.

Right? Right.

How can we be honest? We don't know how.

How will we change the world if we don't dare to change ourselves - this apathetic tendency to follow the leader? Who will be a leader and demand integrity?

Does anyone even care. Hopefully.

Probably not.

I care.

Do you?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Day 455: The Nature of Human Nature

Shakespeare once wrote: "Though I am not naturally honest, I am so sometimes by chance." As usual, he was a keen observer of human behaviour because research findings indicate that most people tell one or more lies every day (DePaulo & Kashy, 1998). In fact, diary studies in which individuals describe their own behaviour indicate that people use deception in almost 20 percent of their social interactions, and experiments indicate that a majority of strangers lie to each other at least once during a brief first encounter (Feldman, Forrest, & Happ, 2002; Tyler & Feldman, 2004). Why do people lie? For many reasons: to avoid hurting others' feelings, to conceal their real feelings or reactions, to avoid punishment for misdeeds.In short, lying is an all-too-common part of social life. - Social Psychology (Twelfth Edition) by Robert A Baron, Nyla R Branscombe, & Donn Byrne

What does this excerpt tell us about "human nature"? We want to fit in - we want to be liked - for the most part, anyway.

Why else would we hide our true feelings and thoughts? Not wanting to hurt someone else's feelings amounts to the same thing: not wanting them to dislike us. The most honest people are usually judged quite harshly and do not fit in. We have become so used to being dishonest that honesty is something of a foreign concept, an unusual occurrence to which we are quite sensitive and likely to take personally.

We live in a house of cards, each card a perfectly constructed and placed half truth, omission or flat out lie. Too much honesty and our house would come crumbling down around us. Our functioning depends on us maintaining our murky worldviews and lack of curiosity about how things (really) work. We have developed all kinds of "professions" that validate our current worldviews: psychology, philosophy, economy. How much of what these professions claim to be true (or possible) would be agreed with if some other intelligent life were to be made aware of it? Not much I'd wager. A lot of what these professions profess is dependent on the continued dishonesty of humans. The only way any of us believe it is by being willing to not ask questions.

We don't like experiencing pain and other "negative" feelings. In fact, we will pretty much do anything to avoid negative experiences - we much prefer feelings of happiness and bliss. Going against the norm brings some seriously negative experiences to a person - at least if that person is in the habit of wanting to fit in and feel accepted and loved. If you go against the grain then you know that there is some unpleasantness coming your way: people tend to reject and punish that which challenges their happy lives of murky half-truth waters. We like to take the road of lead resistance in life - the road that will have the least hurt. Sometimes this requires dishonesty on our part, as well as a willingness to accept the dishonesty of others - live and let live - so that we can all remain happily dishonest together.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Day 454: In You I Trust

We spend much of our lives searching for answers. Sometimes we find something that feels good to believe in, and we place our trust in this belief. We find comfort in this belief. The belief gives us clarity. The belief tells us who we are and who we should be. The belief tells us how to live. The belief tells us which choices are the right ones. The belief takes responsibility for our lives. We place ourselves in the hands of our belief.

Sometimes we place our trust in another person. This person becomes our compass. This person tells us what is right and what is wrong. This person comforts us. This person protects us. This person gives us hope. This person lifts us up. This person makes us feel like we belong. This person inspires us to be more. This person becomes the center of our universe. This person is our idol. This person is everything we wish we were.

We start to believe that we cannot do anything, or change, without the help of our person/belief. We feel like we depend on this, and we like it. We like having something or someone that is on our side - that looks out for us. We like not having to make too much of an effort when making choices to determine if the choice we are making is really best. We like having something or someone to show us the way forward.

Leaders are definitely an exception within the human race. There are usually only a handful of leaders alive at any given time. Leaders use their charisma, public speaking, flair, intellect or plain old brilliance to become the directors of a people - to show people which way forward is best. Best for who is what the leader determines, for we seldom stop to consider who or what stands to benefit from our actions. We are just so glad to have found someone who makes us feel good, someone who has discovered and shown us something that makes us feel complete. For this experience we have been given we would go to the ends of the earth out of gratitude to our leader.

An interesting thing happens in between all of this is that we forget how to lead ourselves, we forget how to direct ourselves. We forget how to determine if our choices are truly what is best. We rely on the convenience of our convictions and lose our ability to use common sense. We lose our ability to think independently. We come to rely on our belief/person to provide us with all of the answers to all of our questions. Soon we do not know how to answer questions for ourselves anymore. Soon we forget how to test something for ourselves to challenge its validity and prove, one way or the other, that it is in fact something that will provide the best outcome.

We have regressed into pre-walking infancy - we refuse to get up and walk because we much rather enjoy being carried. It's an odd cycle that repeats - we deny our ability to stand on our own 2 feet and yet cry out and beg for the ability to have all the answers.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Day 453: Addicted to Pain

I had a strange experience/realisation this morning: I had the sniffles from cleaning my stable, what with all the dust floating around (we haven't had rain in over a month now) and my nose had that ticklish feeling, like it wants to sneeze - but doesn't. So I sniffled about for a while, but when it reached a point of super-irritation I got some tissue out of my jacket to blow my nose. Just after I blew my nose, that ticklish feeling went away and I was left feeling a pleasant release, a relief of being liberated from having a ticklish-sneezy-sniffles-nose. Then I stopped. I realised that what would be even better than this relief would have been to have not been sniffly at all in the first place, and then I actually had this kind of regret for stopping this feeling of relief inside myself. I chuckled at myself.

So in other words, we have these "negative" experiences throughout our lives, but when we compare them to the "positive" experiences, or when the "negative" experience stops, we feel a sense of release inside ourselves. It's almost like a high - like our stomachs fell lighter and a weight has been lifted from our shoulders. We like this feeling. We like it enough to continue participating in the positive-negative game without really being aware of what it is we're participating in.

A lot of the time, we are simply creating positive experiences by comparing how we feel when we are in the "negative" experience to how we feel when we are not in the "negative" experience - call it neutral. Because neutral feels so much better than negative when we compare the two, we turn it into a positive experience. And so, we create the polarity experience within ourselves of positive and negative simply because that is what we were taught to do and now, it feels like something is "missing" within us if we do not play on the see-saw of polarity energy - in other words, we are addicted.

We live in this constant state of comparison - comparing the good times with the bad, using it as a pick-me-up. Some people are addicted to feeling the lows of the bad times, preferring to wallow in depression by focusing on the negative experiences and comparing the positive experiences to those negative ones, always seeing the bad as a more powerful experience than the good.

Since we don't understand that existing in these up and down experiences is a form of energy generation - as opposed to being something that supports us in being able to live with clarity - we just keep on "feeding the beast", riding the waves of energy. We can't really comprehend being without it as it has become a fundamental part of our psyches. Obviously all of this makes it makes it quite difficult for us to consider that there is another way to live without the ups and downs, a way that doesn't involve using negative experiences just to create positive ones. It is possible to enjoy a moment without having to compare it in your mind to a bad moment. It is possible to breathe in all of life in every moment, without the drama of chasing bad feelings with good, or vice versa.

The moment after clearing one's sinuses with a sneeze or a tissue may be a moment to enjoy, but the moment we use that relief in a comparison to the sniffles is the moment we resume feeding the polarity energy beast. It also clouds our view of ourselves and our situation so that we miss important observations and realizations, because we are all-consumed by the energy waves rising up and crashing down.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Day 452: Pinocchio, Pinocchime

This continues from my last post, please read it for context.

Why are we willing to change our opinions when our self image is at stake? What is so important about the way we see ourselves that we cannot bear to see ourselves in any other way? As you see in the experiment mentioned in the extract from Social Psychology, we would rather (subconsciously) change our opinion/view of something in order to continue seeing ourselves as "honest". We would rather remember our experience of some event in a way that does not jeopardize our self perception - even if we did not actually experience it (the event) quite like that at the time.

The worst part of all this is: we do not realize that we are changing these little experiences of ours - essentially lying to ourselves - in order to appear to be honest to other people. Apparently we prefer to live in denial than be branded as a liar. Obviously the real problem is that we feel the need to lie at all, and then that we are not aware that we are lying.

Apparently the average person lies at least twice a day (Also from Social Psychology) - and those are only the lies that we are aware of. We lie when people ask us how we are, we lie to friends and family when they ask for our opinion on a personal matter, we lie to our employers, we lie to our employees and of all the lies we tell, we lie to ourselves the most. We lie to ourselves when we tell ourselves that we should be happy. We lie to ourselves when we tell ourselves we should be grateful. We lie to ourselves about what other people are probably thinking about us. We lie to ourselves when we assess how well we did a job/task. We lie to ourselves when we are planning said job/task. We lie to ourselves when we tell ourselves that we deserve to be happy. We lie to ourselves when we tell ourselves that what we see on the TV is what real life is actually like. We lie to ourselves when we are thinking about sex. We lie to ourselves when we are meeting a potential partner. Unfortunately we usually only experience the consequences of our dishonesty once the situation has moved far beyond the point where we can even recognise that we were lying in the first place.

Sometimes our beliefs form a part of who we see ourselves to be, such as religious beliefs. In these cases, we will flat out deny any kind of evidence that goes against what we believe and intensify our belief to the point of extremism. Take the first example from the extract in my previous post: For these people who believed that the world would end on a specific day, when the world didn't end they simply solidified their beliefs and found some answer that they wanted to hear - that their faith had saved the world. Add to that that their beliefs were justified, in their own minds, every time a new member joined their group due to the faulty logic of "if a lot of people believe it, it must be true."

If a lot of people believe in something implausible, it doesn't make it any more plausible - it only makes the people delusional.

Half of the time we don't even know why we feel the way we feel, or think the thoughts we think, or do the things we do. We could lie to ourselves and blame it on our nature - but in reality the cause is much more simple, and yet sinister at the same time: we were designed to live like blind men fumbling for something to hold on to, just to keep our balance. No one really knows why we are the way we are, 'cos if we knew we wouldn't be such blind fools.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Day 451: Cognitive Dissonance

This post continues from my previous posts starting here - please read for context.

Cognitive Dissonance:  An internal state that results when individuals notice inconsistency between two or more attitudes or between their attitudes and their behaviour.

The ideas reflected in cognitive dissonance theory first came to Leon Festinger as he read about a group in Chicago who were convinced that the end of the world was near, and in fact, a date was set for its demise. Festinger speculated about what would happen when the group's prophecy failed, and the world did not end on the specified date. According to cognitive dissonance theory, the group was faced with two dissonant cognitions: "we predicted the end of the world on a certain date" and "that date has undeniably passed, and the world has not ended." After disconfirmation of the prophecy, if cognitive dissonance theory was correct, the group members would not conclude their belief in the prophecy had been wrong, but instead they would seek to add followers to reaffirm the rightness of their beliefs. 
Festinger reasoned that adding followers to the group would provide a consonant cognition: Great numbers of faithful believers couldn't be wrong. As we say previously in the section on attitude certainty, adding numbers of believers is likely to heighten consensus, thereby increasing the perceived correctness of their attitudes toward the prophecy. When the date had passed, the group reported that the Earth had been spared because of their strong faith, and that they should begin an urgent search to add people to the group of  believers (Festinger, Riecken, & Schachter, 1956).
The first formal test of his theory of cognitive dissonance gave rise to a classic paper in Social Psychology (Festinger & Carlesmith, 1959) Participants in this experiment were first asked to engage in an extremely boring series of tasks - such as turning pegs in a board full of holes. After the task was over, the experimenter made an unusual request: He told participants that on e of the research assistants had not shown up that day and asked if they would please "fill in" by greeting the next participant and telling that person that the task to be performed would be an interesting one. Festinger told half of these participants that they would be paid twenty dollars if they would tell this fib to the waiting participant, and the other half were told that they would receive one dollar for doing so. After doing the favour of telling the person waiting the fib about the experiment, the participants were asked to report their own attitudes toward the boring task (ie, rate how interesting the tasks were). 
The participants who were paid 20 dollars rated the task as less interesting than participants who were paid one dollar.If you were rewarded more generously for praising the task, shouldn't you feel more positively about it? No! To understand why not, let's look at the psychological forces at play in this situation: Most people don't think of themselves as liars, but the participants had indeed been induced to lie to a peer. And, though they were lured into it, they nevertheless endured some discomfort over the conflict between two inconsistent cognitions. When you were paid twenty dollars, you would have had a justification for your lying but not if you were paid one dollar to tell that same fib. So, the problem is that, if given insufficient justification for you behaviour, a situation that was more true in the on-dollar condition (tha n the twenty-dollar condition) of the experiment, there is greater need to reduce your dissonance. In the one-dollar case, the money explanation for your behaviour is not convincing to yourself. 
What do people do to reduce their greater cognitive dissonance in the one-dollar condition? Easy. They change the cognition that is causing the problem. Because in this example, you can't change the lie you told (ie, deny your behaviour), you can decide it wasn't really a lie at all by "making" the boring task more interesting and reporting your attitude as being more positive in the one-dollar condition than in the twenty-dollar condition.- Social Psychology (Twelfth Edition) by Robert A Baron, Nyla R Branscombe, & Donn Byrne

My ramblings to follow in the next post...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Day 450: I Refuse to Listen to your Lies

This post continues from my previous posts starting here - please read for context.

Ignoring or screening out information incongruent with our current views is certainly one way of resisting persuasion. But growing evidence suggests that in addition to this kind of passive defense of our attitudes, we also use a more active strategy as well: We actively counterargue against views that are contrary to our own (eg, Eagly, Chen, Chaiken, & Shaw-Barnes, 1999). By doing so, it makes the opposing views more memorable than they would be otherwise, but it reduces their impact on our attitudes. 
Eagly, Kulesa, Brannon, Shaw, and Hutson-Comeaux (2000) identified students as either pro-choice or pro-life in their attitudes toward abortion. These students were then exposed to persuasive messages that were either consistent with their attitudes or were contrary to their views. After hearing the messages, participants reported their attitudes toward abortion, the strength of their attitudes, and listed all the arguments in the message they could recall (a measure of memory). In addition, they listed the thoughts they had while listening to the message; this provided information on the context to which they counterargued against the message when it was contrary to their own views.
As expected, the results indicated that the counterattitudinal message and the proattitudinal message were equally memorable. However participants reported thinking more systematically about the counterattitudinal message and reported having more oppositional thoughts about it - a clear sign that they were indeed counterarguing against the message. 
In contrast, they reported having more supportive thoughts in response to the proattitudinal message. Therefore one reason we are so good at resisting persuasion is that we not only ignore information that is inconsistent with our current views, but we also carefully process counterattitudinal input and argue actively against it. In a sense, we provide our own, strong defense against efforts to change our attitudes. In other words, exposure to arguments opposed to our attitudes can serve to strengthen the views we already hold, making us more resistant to subsequent efforts to change them. - Social Psychology (Twelfth Edition) by Robert A Baron, Nyla R Branscombe, & Donn Byrne

It is very difficult to speak to someone who refuses to consider any other possible view but their own. We can all say that we have met someone, or been in a situation, like this. Obviously this stubborn refusal to acknowledge that there is any other relevant aspect to ourselves and our views that we may not yet have considered, leads us to act in rather unusual ways.

When I say "act in unusual ways", I mean doing things like killing, torturing, abusing and generally being assholes to each other. This one simply point it the cause of a huge amount of pain and suffering in our world - just look at religious and political "extremists": they are so committed to their views that they are willing to inflict all kinds of pain, on themselves and on others, in an attempt to achieve the conformity of everyone else in the world.

Consider family arguments: how many people have experienced trying to deal with a family member who downright refuses to consider any view but their own - such a seemingly small thing can cause a lot of harm to a family unit.

At times we will even face a situation in which a person takes an iron-clad argument and quite simply rejects it, however illogically or delusionally this may be. This is a relatively extreme example - but it still serves to show how absolutely ridiculous we, the mighty human race, can be (and are, most of the time). We actively seek ways, it seems, to make our relations with other people as difficult and unpleasant as possible - in the end, making all our lives that much more difficult.

Unfortunately, we don't even realise that this is what we're doing most of the time.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Day 449: Tuning Devices in our Minds

This post continues from my previous posts starting here - please read for context.

Still another way in which we resist attempts at persuasion is through selective avoidance, which is a tendency  to direct our attention away from information that challenges our existing attitudes. Television viewing provides a clear illustration of the effects of selective avoidance. We do not simply sit in front of the television passively absorbing whatever the media decides to dish out. Instead, we channel surf, mute the commercials, tape our favourite programs, or simply cognitively tune out when confronted with information contrary to our views. The opposite effect occurs as well. When we encounter information that supports our views, we tend to give it our full attention. Such tendencies to ignore information that contradicts our attitudes, while actively attending to information consistent with them constitute two sides of what social psychologists term selective exposure. Such selectivity in what we make the focus of our attention helps ensure that many of our attitudes remain largely intact for long periods of time. - Social Psychology (Twelfth Edition) by Robert A Baron, Nyla R Branscombe, & Donn Byrne

We have our own tuning devices in our minds, tuning out what we don't want to process and tuning in on whatever will validate and empower our already pre-established views and opinions. It's really quite brilliant - what better way to ensure that we never question that which does not form part of our already present internal belief system?

This is why we do not actively initiate or participate in a change in the world: our tuning devices in our minds quite smoothly blocks all that out. If we are involved in some form of activism, our tuning devices keep us from questioning whether the activities we are participating in, which we believe to be activism that is changing the world, are actually an effective solution.

Some people use their tuning devices to remain in their safe and comfortable "happy zones" - they have a stable and decent income - enough to shelter them from the common problems afflicting those who are less fortunate.

Some people use their tuning devices to validate and support what they already believe to be true - blocking out all other possibilities so that they essentially are living in a protective bubble of their own beliefs, only ever seeing that which reinforces their beliefs.

Some people use their tuning devices to make themselves believe that they are good people who are making a difference in the world, when in reality their actions are insignificant and their plans to better the world are ill thought out and doomed to be a failure.

How do you use your tuning device? Do you push yourself to investigate all things fully and without bias so as to ensure a reliable and trustworthy outcome? Their are not many people who can honestly say that they do do this - our tuning devices work too well for such a thing to be a common occurrence. On the odd occasion that some piece of information does make it's way through our tuning device, we just so happen to have filters that will ensure that this information is perceived by us in such a way so as to not jeopardize our belief systems. This, my friends, is the sad truth.

Overcoming the filters and habits of our minds is no small feat, it takes practice in consciously seeking out that which we would not ordinarily seek out. Do you dare?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Day 448: I am my Own Person

This post continues from my previous posts starting here, please read for context.

Few of us like being told what to do, but in a sense that is precisely what advertisers and other would-be persuaders do. You have probably experienced another individual who increasingly pressures you to get you to change your attitude on some issue. In both of these instances, you are on the receiving end of threats to your freedom to decide for yourself. As a result, you may experience a growing level of annoyance and resentment. The final outcome: Not only do you resist their persuasion attempts, but you may also actually lean over backwards to adopt views opposite to those the would-be persuader wants you to adopt. Such behaviour is an example of what social psychologists call reactance - a negative reaction to efforts by others to reduce our freedom by getting us to believe or do what they want (Brehm, 1966). Research indicates that in such situations, we really do often change our attitudes and behaviour in the opposite direction from what we are being urged to believe or do. Indeed, when we are feeling reactance, strong arguments in favour of attitude change can increase opposition compared to moderate or weak arguments (Fuegen & Brehm, 2004). The existence of reactance is one reason why hard-sell attempts at persuasion often fail. When individuals perceive such appeals as direct threats to their personal freedom  (or their image of being an independent person), they are strongly motivated to resist. - Social Psychology (Twelfth Edition, by Robert A Baron, Nyla R Branscombe, & Donn Byrne) 

This is another interesting example of the dichotomy of man: if we can recognise that someone is trying to persuade us then we will become defensive and maybe even aggressive; but if we don't realise that we are being persuaded, well, what we don't know won't irritate us (but it probably will hurt us).

Just the attempt at persuading us is enough - if we are not handled in just the right way then we may notice what's happening and EXPLODE or something. In our explosion of indignation we usually fail to asses the information at hand in an objective - or even in any - way. We most often will completely dismiss the message because the messenger has peeved us. Some call that human nature, unavoidable. It may be very nearly in our natures, but we don't have to be at the beck and call of our irrational emotional outbursts - it's not like we are separate from our emotions and that they operate on a wholly autonomous and independent fashion.

Imagine your life without drama, without experiences in which you are suddenly overwhelmed by some emotion and become completely incapable of making sense of anything. Imagine being able to be with friends and family and not having to deal with psychotic emotional meltdowns over completely miniscule or blown-up issues.

As soon as we sense that someone is trying to "force themselves" onto us in some way, we react. We feel threatened, as if this person can somehow take away who we are with their insinuating smirk. Bastard. Who cares what this person's intention was - They dared to try to change ME - which is them implying that I am not good enough. We then decide to be bold and DEFY them to the end. We shall never soften our resolve to deny these creeps their way. This is what they deserve.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Day 447: Persuasion and Human Nature

This continues from my previous posts starting here - please read for context.

The first type of processing we can employ is known as systematic processing or the central route to persuasion, and it involves careful consideration of message content and the ideas it contains. Such processing requires effort, and it absorbs a great deal of our information-processing capacity. The second approach, known as heuristic processing or the peripheral route to persuasion, involves the use of simple rules of thumb or mental shortcuts, such as the belief that experts' statements can be trusted, or the idea that "if it makes me feel good, I'm in favour of it." This kind of processing requires less effort and allows us to react to persuasive messages in an automatic manner. It occurs in response to cues in the message or situation that evoke various mental shortcuts (eg, beautiful models evoke the "What's beautiful is good and worth listening to" heuristic). - Social Psychology (Twelfth Edition) by Robert A Baron, Nyla R Branscombe, & Donn Byrne

If we were to think about - and I mean really think about - some of the things that we automatically accept about life, then we may change our views. We are far too willing to trust that other people have our best interests at heart and far too eager to believe that we are innocent.

Alas, it is the dichotomy of human nature: that we are both innocent and guilty at the same time. In a way, we are born into this world as innocent - little creatures just being alive - with no purpose of our own, and, in a way, no wills of our own. We did not ask for life to be thrust upon us thus. We did not ask for parents that would essentially ruin us. We did not ask for a society that is fundamentally psychotic. So, what do we do, innocent little us's? We just try to fit in. We imitate and absorb what we see around us because the one thing that we do understand independently is that we are the same as everyone else, and so we would like to be like everyone else (For some of us, "everyone else" may only be a few people).

On the other hand, we see the world around us: we see people and animals living in conditions that we would never want to live in; we consciously lie on a regular basis, knowing full well that it is "wrong"; we do and say things to other people that we would not want done or said to us; we knowingly participate in an economic system that is based on exploitation and inequality; and we delude ourselves into thinking that the world, economy and society will just get better on their own and that we are absolutely not responsible, or maybe just a little bit (enough to buy grocery bags instead of plastic and use energy efficient lightbulbs).

It doesn't help that what we are taught is that (for example) beautiful things are always good (eg, angels are beautiful and they are good, princes and princesses are beautiful and they are good etc), or that an expert is someone who cannot be wrong regarding anything within their field of expertise.

So here we are, believing what we believe because we don't want to put in the effort to actually consider the validity of our beliefs. Well, that's what a bunch of "experts" say anyway. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Day 446: Screw you - I Drive a Prius

We have been told that we can make a difference, that it's the little things that count in decreasing pollution and the destruction of the atmosphere. We're told that we can save the rhinos, or the rainforest by buying some bags. We're told that food manufacturers have our best interests at heart. We are told many things. Tell us these things in just the right way and you've got us - hook, line and sinker. Make it sound good and pretty and we'll dive right in. Throw in a hint at achieving some form of righteousness and we're there. We like to feel good - especially about ourselves.

In a world where our economy is based on the manufacture and disposal of goods, we are told that what will "save the environment" is buying our own grocery bags to cut down on plastic use. Unfortunately, "they" fail to mention that plastic is used in countless different ways and for multiple reasons and purposes - for consumers to use less plastic in their grocery shopping is really irrelevant. Consider all the things you're actually buying: it's packed into tins and plastics, it's shipped around the country wrapped in plastic, it ends up in a plastic refuse bag - there's a whole process that goes on behind our day-to-day products that we simply choose to ignore.

Where does all of our trash go? Some cities dump their trash into landfills, others dump it in the ocean. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

We sit in our pretty homes with our neat lives, taking out the trash is just a  small part of our lives. We have to throw out quite a bit in a day - the packaging that our foods came in, the packaging that our gadgets and toys came in, our old toothbrushes, our old sponges, empty bottles, empty pet food containers/packets, paper and tissues, spam mail, newspapers and so much more. we fit all of our things into neat rubbish bags which we then deposit outside our homes for the rubbish fairy to collect. It is a magical thing, the rubbish is there one minute and gone the next. We like it this way, because rubbish is gross and smelly, and we would really rather not have it lying around the house.

Unfortunately, when we look at things in our lives, we do not see them for what they are, we see this pretty, neat picture that is a nicer version of reality. Alas, it is not reality. There is no magical rubbish fairy. Our trash ends up in the ocean, in the land - all around us really. There is no place we could put it where it wouldn't come back to haunt us - there is no magic trash box that has an unlimited capacity. Buying our own bags is not going to make any real impact on our situation - there is simply too much trash being produced from all aspects of our lifestyle. The idea that buying our own bags is somehow going to save us is just a feel-good scam - we get to think of ourselves as "good people" for having done our part to save the world. If we keep going at this rate we're going to be drowning in our own trash and toxic waste in a few short decades - no amount of grocery bags will change that.

So, to bring this little rant back to the title - the same goes for the mentality that driving a hybrid car absolves one of any further responsibility toward the earth and our fellow man is pointless - it does nothing to change anything except to boost one's ego. There is way too much waste and pollution being generated for something as meager as the emissions of a few cars to make a difference. Our lifestyle and mentality as a whole must change - the culture of buy, consume, throw away is not sustainable - time to wake up and smell the landfills, or they will soon be found in all of our back yards.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Day 445: Look on the Bright Side

This post continues from my previous posts starting at this one - please read for context.


Research findings (Broemer, 2004) suggest that health messages of various sorts can be more effective if they are framed in a positive manner (eg, how to attain good health) rather than in a negative manner (eg, risks and the undesirable consequences that can follow from a particular behaviour). For example, any health message can be framed positively as "do this and you will feel better." Negative framings for the same message might be: "if you don't do this you will shorten your life." The point is that the same health information can be framed either positively in terms of potential benefits of taking a particular action or in terms of the negative consequences that can ensue if you don't take that action. - Social Psychology (Twelfth Edition) by Robert A Baron, Nyla R Branscombe, & Donn Byrne

How does this make you feel: "Stop smoking or you're gonna DIE!"
Versus: "Just imagine how much money you could save if you stopped smoking."

How does this make you feel: "Get tested or you won't have peace of mind and could be spreading the virus."
Versus: "Just imagine the peace of mind you'd feel after getting tested."

How does this make you feel: "That person is no good for you, they're only going to make you regret it."
Versus: "You're too good for him/her, he/she doesn't deserve you."

How does this make you feel: "We're running out of time to change the world."
Versus: "You can make a difference, even the smallest bit counts."

How does this make you feel: "In order to stop the animal abuse taking place in our food industry we must change the way the entire industry is run so that it is not an industry anymore."
Versus: "If you become a vegan the animals will thank you - it'll be that many fewer animals being slaughtered for our consumption."

How does this make you feel: "We do not even know what an education is, we only know how to make more copies of slaves who will go out into the world and do what they're told."
Versus: "Our education system is ineffective - just wait until So-and-So takes over, he/she will get it back on track."

Some of these lines simply show how changing the words from being negative to positive changes how we will be more receptive to the message - even though the bottom line of the message is exactly the same. The other lines show more how we have the tendency to, when faced with some large task, are more likely to want to ignore it - but if we are encouraged to do only a little, we will feel good about ourselves while accomplishing nothing.

We have become very good at getting other people to do what we want them to - well some of us at least. Some few decades ago, psychologists and other researchers discovered all these nifty ways to get people to accept new ideas that might have been rejected, were they considered objectively; get people to do and buy things that have no real value; and keep people happy while they live in their illusory worlds which they don't really understand. It's pretty simple to keep us happy - especially when it's so easy to herd us like little sheepies.

Baaaah.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Day 444: Understanding Persuasion

This continues from my previous posts starting here - please read for context.

Early research efforts aimed at understanding persuasion involved the study of the following elements: Some source directs some type of message to some person or group of people (the audience). Following World War II, persuasion research conducted by Hovland, Janis, and Kelly (1953) focused on these key elements, asking: "Who says what to whom with what effect?" This approach yielded a number of important findings, with the following being the most consistently obtained.
  • Communicators who are credible - who seem to know what they are talking about or who are expert with respect to the topics or issues they are presenting - are more persuasive than those who are seen as lacking expertise. For instance, in a famous study on this topic, Hovland and Weiss (1951) asked participants to read communications dealing with various issues (eg, atomic submarines, the future of movie theaters - remember, this was back in 1950). The supposed source of these messages was varied so as to be high or low in credibility. For instance, for atomic submarines, a highly credible source was the famous scientist Robert J Oppenheimer, while the low credibility source was Pravda, the newspaper of the Communist party in the Soviet Union (notice how the credible source was an in-group source). Participants expressed their attitudes toward these issues a week before the experiment and then immediately after receiving the communications. Those who were told that the source of the messages they read was a highly credible in-group member showed significantly greater attitude change than those who thought the message was from the out-group, which lacked trustworthiness and credibility. Indeed, members of our own group are typically seen as more credible and therefore are likely to influence us more than those with whom we do not share a group membership and with whom we might even expect to disagree (Turner, 1991). Communicators can, though, lose their credibility and therefore their ability to persuade. One means by which credibility can be undermined is if you learn that a communicator has a personal stake (financial or otherwise) in persuading you to adopt a particular position. Consequentially, communicators are seen as most credible and, therefore, persuasive, when they are perceived as arguing against their self interest (Eagly, Chaiken, & Wood 1981).
  •  Communicators who are attractive in some way (eg physically) are more persuasive than communicators who are not attractive (Hovland & Weiss, 1951). This is one reason why advertisements often include attractive models. Frequently, advertisers are attempting to suggest to us that if we buy their product, we, too, will be perceived as attractive. Another way that communicators can be seen as attractive is via their perceived likeability (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993). We are more likely to be persuaded by a communicator we like than one we dislike. This is one reason why famous sports figures, such as Tiger Woods, musicians, such as Fergie or Beyonce Knowles, and even actors or models are selected as spokespersons for various products; we already like them so are more readily persuaded by them.
  • Messages that do not appear to be designed to change our attitudes are often more successful than those that seem to be designed to achieve this goal (Walster & Festinger, 1962). Indeed, a recent meta-analysis of the existing research on this issue has revealed that forewarning does typically lessen the extent to which attitude change occurs (Benoit, 1998). So, simply knowing that a sales pitch is coming your way undermines its persuasiveness.
  • One aspect of message content is whether those that contain emotional information, specifically fear appeals, which are messages that arouse fear in the recipient, are persuasive or not. For example, Janis and Feshbach (1953) gave people one of three messages about tooth decay that can result from not brushing one's teeth. They found that the message that induced mild fear resulted in the greatest subsequent tooth brushing. When the message is so fear arousing that people genuinely feel threatened, they are likely to react defensively and argue againtt the threat or else dismiss its applicability to themselves (Liberman & Chaiken, 1992; Taylor & Shepperd, 1998). - Social Psychology (Twelfth Edition), by Robert A Baron, Nyla R Branscombe, Donn Byrne

We judge/interpret/process a message by its messenger - not by its content. We seem to not be readily able to just look at the facts - there is all this bullshit that clouds our vision so that we end up acting out of some overwhelming urge and/or thought process. Some say we are rational creatures. I say most of us aren't - we're the absolute opposite. We do not see something for what it is - be it information, a person, a situation, whatever - we look at it through a mass of veils, these veils being all of our opinions, attitudes, views, beliefs, feelings, emotions, judgements, thoughts, interpretations, etc.

Obviously a few people discovered this interesting quirk in our "nature", and instead of bringing awareness to this point to improve on our understanding of ourselves, it was exploited for their gain. Now we all live at the mercy of all the images, feelings and thoughts that seem to just "come up" within us and "cause us to do/say/think things".

Friday, September 13, 2013

Day 443: It Must be Right if Everyone Believes it

This is a continuation from my previous posts starting here - please read for context.

Research has identified two important components of attitude certainty: attitude clarity, which is being clear about what one's attitude is, and attitude correctness, which is feeling one's attitude is the valid or the proper one to hold. Recent research by Petrocelli, Tormala, and Rucker (2007) provides evidence for the distinction between these two components of attitude certainty by showing how different factors affect them. 
Petrocelli and others (2007) first determined their participants felt negatively about a specific attitude issue: requiring students to  carry identification cards with them at all times. The to manipulate the perception of consensus concerning their attitude position, half of the participants were given feedback that most other students (89 percent) agreed with their attitude toward the identification card issue, while the other half were told that most other students disagreed (only 11 percent agreed) with them. Although attitude clarity was equivalent in both the high and low consensus conditions, perceived correctness was greater when consensus was high (the 89 percent condition) rather than low (only 11 percent). So, when we learn that others share our attitudes, it acts as justification for that attitude and thereby increases certainty. 
Clarity, the other component of attitude certainty, reflects a lack of ambivalence about an attitude issue. The more often you are asked to report on your attitude, the more it will facilitate clarity and thereby certainty. Attitude restatement appears to work by increasing our subjective sense that we really do know how we feel about an object or issue. When Petrocelli and others (2007) had their participants express their attitudes toward gun control either several times or only ones, attitude certainty differed. Those in the group that expressed their view more had greater certainty about their attitude toward gun control than those in the group that expressed their view once. - Social Psychology (Twelfth Edition), by Robert A Baron, Nyla R Branscombe, & Donn Byrne

"If everyone else is doing it then it must be OK." 

This is a common fallacy. Why else would this world be like this, a fragmented society living in compartmentalized mental facilities (the fantasies in our minds) and actively ignoring the plight of others?

If everyone is doing it then it must be right, right?

We follow along with all the absurd customs, traditions, norms and social views and values out of the false belief that because everyone else accepts the way these things are then they must be right.

Safety in numbers. At least we are part of the group when we follow the herd. If anyone challenges our beliefs then we can simply overwhelm them with our sheer numbers.We protect our own - except if they choose to believe or live differently to us, then they're out.

If it looks like a pig, sounds like a pig, but everyone is calling it a duck - then it's a duck - to say otherwise would mean social ostracism.

Unfortunately we are of the nature (apparent) that we will bully, tease, hurt, ignore, neglect and even kill those who dare to challenge us. We do not have the grace to hear, nor do we have the wisdom to be willing to test every thing ourselves. We prefer to live rigidly, within strictly defined rules and limits, refusing to acknowledge any possibilities other than those we believe to be true/relevant. We do not have the patience to take the time to really get to know another person, or understand their perspective. We have our opinions and we refuse to consider anything else.

Confidence comes from articulation - the better we are able to articulate our views, the more likely we are to be more committed to them. We get better at convincing ourselves of the validity of our views. If only we spent more time questioning our views and less time steamrolling anything that challenged our views.

This is why there are so many contradictory studies and results in the world. We have become so good at convincing ourselves that our opinions are the "correct" ones that we can almost prove they are. Unfortunately, there is a group of people who are trying equally hard to prove their own opinion(s) - and they're also managing to get "positive results".

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Day 442: My only Interest is in where I have a Vested Interest

This continues from my previous posts starting here - please read for context.

Let's consider first attitude extremity, which is the extent to which an individual feels strongly in one direction or the other, about an issue (Giner-Sorolla, 2001; Krosnick, 1988). One of the key determinants of this is what social psychologists term vested interest, which is the extent to which the attitude is relevant to the concerns of the individual who holds it. This typically amounts to whether the object or issue might have important consequences for this person. The results of many studies indicate that the greater such vested interest is, the stronger the impact of the attitude on behaviour is (Crano, 1995; Visser, Krosnick, & Simmons, 2003). For example, when students at a large university were telephoned and asked if they would participate in the campaign against increasing the legal age for drinking alcohol from eighteen to twenty-one, their responses depended on whether they would be affected by the policy change or not (Sivacek & Crano, 1982). Students who would be affected by this new law - those younger than twenty-one - have a stronger stake in this issue than those who would not be affected by the law because they were already twenty-one or would reach this age before the law took effect. Thus it was predicted that those in the first group - whose interests were at stake - would be much more likely to join a rally against the proposed policy change than those in the second group. This is exactly what happened: While more than 47 percent of those with high vested interest agreed to take part in the campaign, only 12 percent of those in the low vested interest group did so. 
Not only do people with a vested interest behave in a way that supports their cause, but they are also likely to elaborate on arguments that favour their position. By doing so, attitude-consistent thoughts come to mind when an issue is made known. For example, Haugtvedt and Wegener (1994) found that when participants were asked to consider a nuclear power plant being built in their own state (high personal relevance), they developed more counterarguments against the plan than when the power plant might be potentially built in a distant state (low personal relevance). Thus attitudes based on vested interest are more likely to be thought about carefully, be resistant to change, and be an accessible guide for behaviour. - Social Psychology (Twelfth Edition) by Robert A Baron, Nyla R Branscombe, & Donn Byrne

It all comes down to personal relevance.

Will we stop a nuclear power plant from being built near our homes? Sure. Will we try to stop the increasing of the legal age for alcohol consumption if we are under the new proposed age and like to drink? Sure. Will we try to stop vaccinations if our child had an adverse reaction? Sure. Will we try to stop a war if our child has been enlisted? Sure. Will we try to stop a railroad from being built close to our peaceful suburban home? Sure. Will we try to improve public education if we cannot afford to send our kids to private schools? Sure.

But...

Will we try to stop poverty if we are living comfortably? Ummm. Will we try to stop animal abuse if we don't have to listen to their death screams? Ummm. Will we try to stop some other place far away from us from building a nuclear power plant? Ummm. Will we try to stop a war in which our loved ones are not involved in? Ummm. Will we try to stop pollution (and therefore change our culture of consumerism) if we don't have to see the ocean filled with garbage? Ummm.

The funny thing is, that some of us simply don't care even when we do come face-to-face with some of the horrific things that happen in this world. We certainly don't care enough to change anything. The state of the world is a testament to exactly how much we care. Our compassion goes only so far - a heated debate, hand gestures, driving a Prius, bringing our own grocery bags - whatever - but ask us to address the cause of the problems by changing our lives and the way that we live? That is simply too much to ask.

What's even more funny is that we will all inevitably be affected by all of the terrible things in the world - but we live in the illusion that everything is OK because we're not so much affected by it right now. We all know inside ourselves that it is in our best (vested) interests to change our ways - we just like our ways too damn much to save even ourselves.

Maybe it has more to do with immediate rewards and convenience - changing the world will take a hell of a lot of work, we'd just rather not do that and live in what comfort we have now. If we cannot see the future coming then we don't have to think about it.

Why is it so impossible to conceive of a world in which everyone is happy and satisfied, where we have a vested interest in each other, as well as in ourselves?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Day 441: Blending in

This is a continuation from my previous posts starting here, please read for context.

Have you ever been worried about what others would think of you if you expressed your true attitude toward an issue? If so, you will understand the dilemma that Princeton University students experiences in a study conducted by Miller, Monin, and Prentice (2000). The private attitudes of those students toward heavy alcohol consumption were relatively negative. But they believed that other students' attitudes toward heavy alcohol consumption were more positive than their own (an instances of pluralistic ignorance, in which we erroneously believe others have different attitudes than ourselves). When these students we placed in a discussion about alcohol use with other students, they expressed greater comfort with campus drinking than they actually felt, and their beliefs about what others would think about them predicted their behaviour in the group discussion better than their actual attitudes.
Such constraints on revealing our private attitudes can occur even when we are with other people with whom we highly identify. For example, members of groups that either pro-choice or pro-life in their stance toward abortion have been studied (Robinson, Keltner, Ward, & Ross, 1995). In both groups, the participants were reluctant to publicly reveal the ambivalence they actually felt about their political position for fear that members of their group would see them as disloyal. Thus important forms of situational constraints of this sort can prevent attitudes from being expressed in overt behaviour (Fazio & Roskos-Ewoldsen, 1994; Olson & Maio, 2003). - Social Psychology ( Twelfth Edition) by Robert A Baron, Nyla R Branscombe, & Donn Byrne

I wonder why it is that we have this tendency to try to hide our personal feelings and preferences from other people when what we think and feel is not the same as what they think and feel. This dynamic obviously leads to a society in which no one is honest because everyone is trying to fit in. These days, TV and movies influence our social dynamics quite extensively. We will see something on TV and will think that that is how we're "supposed to" be - like seeing the scenario of someone being dishonest in order to fit in - especially for children. When we're older we like to think that TV and movies do not influence us, but that is simply not true - we use what we see as a guideline for "who we should be" - this is a well known fact, especially for big companies paying huge amounts of money for advertising.

What happens when society is based on dishonesty and the desire to fit in? People start doing a whole lot of crazy stuff they would otherwise not do. That begs the question: If so much of what we do in groups is not actually what we want to do, how much less extreme would the world be if we just had the courage to be honest with each other? We are all trying to put on the "right" face for the "right" occasion, in the belief that if we don't fit in then we will be shunned. That's some faulty logic. Unfortunately it's also quite accurate. It's accurate because everyone is living in the grip of fear, so much so that they will "toe the line" even if they don't really agree with it - so long as they are part of the "in-group".

That pretty much translates into "everything is just a fad and we are just trying to be fashionable". No one has the courage to "think outside the box" - because that means social suicide. This is one of the main mechanisms that keeps our world and system the way they are - we are simply too scared to do anything other than what everyone else is doing. We are too scared to say that this system is crap and that we are tired of constantly struggling for money. We are too scared to say that we're tired of being scared of some god. We are too scared to say that we are tired of being slaves to fashion. We are too scared to say that we think that what a lot of people do is simply abusive, disgusting and unacceptable. We are too scared to say that what is deemed as being "acceptable" by society is actually abusive and we would rather not accept it. We are too scared to say that some things just don't make any sense, like philosophy. We are too scared to speak our true views because we have developed the idea that there are "right" and "wrong" views, or "good" and "bad" views - and that somehow our view will end up being "proven wrong". We are too scared to speak up because we fear that other people are smarter than us and will just reveal our stupidity.

We are scared for a number of reasons - most of them irrational. We live in the grip of social fear, trying to act only according to what is deemed acceptable by a crooked, abusive and twisted society. What does that make us? Will we justify ourselves by saying that those were not our intentions, that even though we accepted and allowed abuse to take place, we didn't agree with it? Will this absolve us of responsibility?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Day 440: A Copy of a Copy of a Copy of a Copy...

This is continuing from my previous posts starting here - please read for context.

People often adjust their attitudes so as to hold views closer to those of others who they value and identify with - their reference groups. For example, Terry and Hogg (1996) found that the adoption of favourable attitudes toward wearing sunscreen depended on the extent to which the respondents identified with the group advocating this change. Thus, as a result of social comparison with others whom we value, new attitudes can be formed. Consider how this could affect the attitudes we form toward a new social group with whom you have personally had no contact. Imagine that you heard someone you like and respect expressing negative views about this group. Would this influence your attitudes? While it might be tempting to say "Absolutely not", research findings indicate otherwise. Hearing others whom we see as similar to ourselves state negative views about the group can lead us to adopt similar attitudes, without ever meeting any members of that group (eg, Maio, Esses, & Bell, 1994; Terry, Hogg, & Duck, 1999). In such cases, attitudes are being shaped by our own desire to be similar to people we like. Now imagine that you heard someone you dislike and see as dissimilar to yourself expressing negative views toward this group. In this case, you might indeed be unlikely to adopt this person's attitude position. People are not troubled by disagreement with people whom they categorize as different from themselves; in fact, they expect to hold different attitudes from them. It is, however, uncomfortable to differ on important attitudes from people whom we see as similar to ourselves and therefore with whom we expect to agree (Turner, 1991). - Social Psychology (Twelfth Edition) by Robert A Baron, Nylay R Branscombe, & Donn Byrne

As children are growing up they are taking in all of the information around them - they are learning what is socially acceptable by which groups, they are learning what kinds of foods are "good", they are learning what kind of values are given to which things (like education, fashion, animals, money, etc), and they are learning what value is given to the different life forms around them.

Obviously, when a child is young, he/she has a very strong bond with one or both parents - regardless of what the parent feels and shows toward the child. The child looks up at this role model with stars in their eyes, praising the ground the parent walks on. This means that the parent is the most important role model for a child's early formative years. Yes, the child will, in all likelihood, grow up hating their parents - but the foundation that the parent lays down in those early years is extremely difficult to dismantle and redesign.

Obviously this indicates a rather large problem in the area of parenting: parents are teaching their children how to be assholes - children copy their asshole parents and turn into assholes themselves (generally speaking).

Our entire social system is structured on the transferal of attitudes - people trying to be like the people they like and trying to not be like the people they don't like. Unfortunately, at the same time there is the dimension of influence coming in on a subconscious/unconscious level - where people are integrating all sorts of information into themselves without even knowing it, so that they end up being, at least in part, like the people they don't like as well.

And because there is no real integrity in our society, we have all kinds of whacked out people developing where they do crazy things - like shoot up toddlers and schools. In a way, they are not to blame - they had no control over the lives they were born into and all of this disturbing information that is floating around these days, as well as the fact that most people are never taught how to really be their own directors - they are just going along with all of this weird shit they see and hear. We are not taught how to look at the information and actions we come into contact with throughout our lives with clarity - we are simply overrun with it - it invades our senses and takes over our minds. We end up becoming puppets where you can pull this string to elicit that reaction.

Where is the line? At what point will we consider changing our society to stop all the whacky and abusive behaviours? At what point will we look at parents and require that they themselves are taught how to ensure that their children will not grow up to be crazy murderers?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Day 439: Monkey See, Monkey Do

This continues from my previous posts starting here, please read for context.

A third means by which attitudes are formed can operate even in the absence of direct rewards for acquiring or expressing those attitudes. This process is observational learning, and it occurs when individuals acquire attitudes or behaviours simply by observing others (Bandura, 1997). For example... many people have acquired attitudes toward (and learn how to judge) different types of dances from watching "Dancing with the Stars", and different musical styles from exposure to "American Idol." Just think about how much observational learning most of us are doing as we watch television. 
Why do people often adopt the attitudes that they hear others express or imitate the behaviours they observe in others? On answer involves the mechanism of social comparison - our tendency to compare ourselves with others to determine whether our view of social reality is correct or not (Festinger, 1954). That is, to the extent that our views agree with those of other people, we tend to conclude that our ideas and attitudes are accurate; after all, if others hold the same views, these views must be right. But are we equally likely to adopt all others' attitudes, or does it depend on our relationship to those others? - Social Psychology (Twelfth Edition) - by Robert A Baron, Nyla R Branscombe, & Donn Byrne 

What really gets me about Psychology, is that it does nothing to actually bring awareness to, or enlighten people about how completely screwed up our society is - instead, it is functioning within the wonky structure of our shady morals to form a part of the rotten foundation upon which this society is built. Psychologists claim to want to help people - they do not. Psychology only digs the hole of delusion deeper, offering all these bullshit reasons of why people should integrate into and be a "useful" and "productive" part of this twisted system.

So, as is noted within the extract from the social psychology book above, psychologists have recognised how social training takes place - how people will adapt themselves, whether consciously or subconsciously, to fit in with how they perceive their society to be. So, following from this, psychologists could easily and reasonably conclude that children growing up in homes without decent role models and only the TV and other "delinquent" children to guide their social development would almost certainly turn into people with under developed social skills (alcoholism, murder, rape, attacks, verbal abuse, teen pregnancy), under developed mental capacity (failed school, unable to qualify in gaining entrance to study further in a tertiary education setup, unable to find work that pays more than minimum wage - if they ever end up working at all), underdeveloped health awareness (higher rates of STD's such as HIV/AIDS, higher rates of illness/disease caused by malnutrition or incorrect nutrition such as diabetes) and an underdeveloped sense of respect for life (this does fall under the social skills category, but is a large enough subject to earn 2 mentions).

If psychologists are so easily able to detect outcomes such as these, then why do they do so very little to change these outcomes, or develop solutions? Every psychology textbook I have studied so far gives nothing as to potential solutions, it only deals with "coping" in the current system - how to survive it and maybe even achieve some sort of happiness despite this world being the way it is. What psychology texts do have in abundance are suppositions, theories, hypotheses and educated guesses.

Where do psychologists show their dedication to improving life on a large scale? Where do they show any real interest in overcoming the constrictive and abusive mindsets that have taken a hold of us all? Where do psychologists strive to develop a way that humans can be better: respect life, respect themselves, understand their own minds, ask good questions, demand real answers? Psychology only plays into the hand of the system, strengthening the hold it has over us. It can not be said to be a pursuit into the understanding of the human mind - it is a pursuit into the further enslavement and indoctrination of the human mind. It discovers only enough to enable it to be able to guide our thoughts and behaviours that much more effectively.

Consider how corporations develop advertisements: they consult with psychologists to find out how our minds work in regard to one particular product, so that they can design their advert to be that much more effective in getting us to buy it. That is the work that psychology is used for - that, and the justification of the current design of the world, where people are told how "natural" and "normal" it is for them to be selfish, self-absorbed gonads.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Day 438: I Live in Your Mind, I Control Who You Are

This is a continuation from my previous posts starting here, please read for context.

The effect on our attitudes of others as potential audiences can be both powerful and subtle. Consider a study conducted by Baldwin and Holmes (1987), in which they first asked women to think about either two of their friends on campus or two of their older relatives. They then exposed the women to sexually explicit stimuli as a pretext of a separate study. The attitudes the women formed about these stimuli related to the group of people they had previously been thinking about. The women who had been thinking of their friends had attitudes toward the sexual materials that were more positive than those of the women who had been thinking about older members of their family. Although the participants expressed their attitudes toward the sexual materials in private, the audience they had in mind when forming their attitudes had a substantial effect. -  Social Psychology (Twelfth Edition) by Robert A Baron, Nyla R Branscombe, & Donn Byrne

Who lives in your mind and influences you? Do you carry your parents with you? Or maybe a friend? what about a character from a TV show?

Are we even aware of the extent to which simple thoughts about other people can influence who we are in a moment? No. We do not make the connection between thought and deed. We live in the blind faith and ideology that we are completely autonomous, that we wholly determine every aspect of who we are in any given moment.

In effect, we have hundreds, if not more, policeman in our minds, guiding what we think, do and say in every moment, depending on which one (or more) has been"activated". If you read up on priming you will get a better idea of what I mean by saying that a construct/personality/design within us is activated/triggered by some form of stimulus.

How does this then translate to the average day of someone living in an average city, with and average job and average family? Every day we're bombarded with images, sounds and all sorts of stimuli, from radios, TV's, friends, family, malls, stores, adverts on buildings, posters, books, magazines - on and on the list goes. We are exposed to all of these different stimuli that are each designed to "trigger" or "activate" a particular response within us, to make us buy a product, or act in a certain way, or have certain beliefs, or speak in a certain way - whatever. We don't even realise that these stimuli are causing our behaviour and thoughts to change - how can we claim to know who we are?

How we delude ourselves into thinking that we are in charge, that we control our own lives, that our thoughts are our own. We have no idea how any part of this world functions - not even our own minds. We have no idea that we essentially have no free will. We have no idea that we are all thoroughly brainwashed. The system is very good at what it does, because we are completely unaware of its influence.

Who are you? Can you say with absolute clarity that you are not influenced by anything? Do you think that companies spend millions on advertising if it didn't work? 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Day 437: The Words we Speak Depend on Who may be Listening

This is a continuation from my previous posts starting here - please read for context.

One way that social psychologists assess the extent to which people's reported attitudes depend on the expected audiences is by varying who can be expected to learn of their attitude position. For example, people seeking membership in a fraternity or sorority (eg, pledges) express different attitudes about other fraternities and sororities depending on whether they believe their attitudes will remain private or will become known to the powerful members of their group who will be controlling their admittance (Noel, Wann, & Branscombe, 1995). When they believe that other members will learn of their responses, they express derogatory opinions of other fraternities or sororities; this communicates to decision makers of their desired organization that they belong with their group. Yet when they believe their responses will be private, they do not disparage other fraternities or sororities. Thus both the attitudes we form and the ones we express can depend on the responses given for holding them - rewards received in the past and those we expect to receive in the future. - Social Psychology (Twelfth Edition), by Robert A Baron, Nyla R Branscombe, & Donne Byrne

This is another testament to how we are designed to only respond to a reward-system. We will always act in order to receive the greatest reward, well, the greatest reward as far as we can work out anyway.

We'll suck up when it will benefit us, we'll bad-mouth when it will benefit us. We have no real "personality" of our own, because we are always changing ourselves to adapt to our situation - not even counting that we are simply the products of our environments.

Who are we really? What is our true nature like? Are we the kinder, more accepting version of ourselves that we express when we are not concerned about our image or potential rewards, or are we the more ambitious and vicious version of ourselves that comes out when we are trying to obtain some reward? I'd like to believe that we as humanity still have some kind of chance to improve the world, that would be nice, but in reality it is easy to see that we are much quicker to show aggression and meanness than we are willing to show how much we actually care about other people and this life.

Consider an ambitious person who has fought tooth and nail to get to the position they are in - now they have to do and say certain things and act in a certain way in order to maintain their image and therefore position, but outside of this position they are the complete opposite. How likely do you think it is that a person will give up their ambition in order to live in a way that is actually more congruent with who they are? Quite unlikely, unfortunately. What is more likely, is that this person will integrate this particular "personality" (the way they talk and act in order to maintain their position for which they worked so hard) into the rest of their lives and end up becoming completely this personality that was designed specifically by themselves to get and then keep a particular position.

We are who we choose to be in every moment. We are the words we choose to say. We are the thoughts we allow to exist within us. Obviously, this means that the nature of who we are has become fractured - we are not one complete being with one expression - we are many different personalities and expressions, picking and choosing which personality will suit our needs best in each moment. We are fickle and false, changing like the wind. How is it that no one wonders why it is that we all are this way? How can it be that no one has questioned why we teach our children not to stand firm within who they are? How can it be that no one has questioned our society functioning according to the principles of deceit? Why do we still encourage our children to deceive themselves? Where is our honesty with ourselves - we cannot even remember who we wanted to be, only who we think we have to be in order to survive..?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Day 436: Politicians are not People

This is a continuation from my posts starting with this one - please read for context.

As adults, we may be aware that different groups we belong to will reward (or punish) us for expressing support for a particular attitude position. We may even find ourselves expressing one view on a topic to one audience and another view to a different audience. Indeed, elections are sometimes won or lost on a candidate's success at delivering the right view to the right audience. But politicians (and ordinary people) who are perceived as shifting their responses to accommodate the views of different audiences may hurt themselves, if caught, by looking as though they are not taking a firm stand on anything. Fortunately for most of us, not only is it implausible that our every word might be replayed to another audience with a different view, but our potentially incompatible audiences tend to remain physically separated (Goffman, 1959). What this means is that we are less likely than politicians to be caught expressing different attitudes to different audiences. In your own life, consider the attitudes that your parents would appreciate versus those that your peers would reward. You may assure your parents that you will eat healthy food and limit your consumption of alcohol. Yet at school, you might join your friends in praising late night pizza binges and beer such that your parents would see your at-school attitudes as incompatible with the views you had only just expressed to them. - Social Psychology (Twelfth Edition), by Robert A Baron, Nyla R Branscombe, & Donn Byrne

Conformity. Fitting people's views. Acting within accepted norms. These are part of an interesting construct - the belief that the opinions of other people are more valuable than most things, like common sense. Because of our unwavering desire to conform to the norms, we have allowed this world to become one big, nonsensical set of norms.

"It's OK to deceive people, but only if they don't find out."

"It's less OK for a public figure to deceive, but only because he/she is more likely to be found out."

Practically everyone is Schizophrenic - or rather everyone has multiple personalities - all the different faces we put on for all the different situations we "find" ourselves in - as if we frequently black out and then just wake up in these "situations". It's no wonder that everyone is trying to "find themselves" - all our lives we are conforming and adapting to the situations we are in and the people we are with - we are not shown how to deal with this. Somehow, we figure out how to navigate the murky waters of our social reality, saying this for those people, doing that for those other people - we are all just programmed machines with automatic response mechanisms for all the different possible scenarios we may encounter.

We are so easily manipulated - all you need to do is know which words "activate" which responses for us, then you can make us happy, sad, excited, zealous, murderous - whatever - as easily as just pushing a button. Politicians know this - that is how they win their elections. They work out which words (buttons) will "activate" the most people, and then they stick those words into every public thing that they do.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Day 435: There is no Common Good

This is a sidetrack off of my psychology posts to touch on something that I was discussing earlier today.

Personal ambition is more important to a person than the common good. To each of us, the importance of our personal desires and needs far outweighs the importance of the wants and needs of the many. This bias has manifested itself into the design of our entire society.

There is no "common good".

There is no real effort from those in positions of power to produce outcomes that would be the most beneficial to the most beings - they only do what is beneficial for themselves. Consider big corporations: they claim to be the backbone of our economy, but their bottom line is profit - not the common good. Consider political office bearers: they claim to want to use their positions to improve the lives of many - but they end up doing the bare minimum, not addressing or discussing solutions to relevant issues, protecting themselves and those who pay their salaries (corporations), and putting their ambition in front of really making an effort to make a change. Consider lobbyists: the only ones who survive their business are the ones who work for the corporations, the others who address real issues and solutions are steamrolled. Consider governments: they claim to act only in the interests of the citizens of their country, yet they allow pollution, violence, starvation, inadequate housing, inadequate education - all because those people in the government are more interested in their own positions, their personal power, their personal wealth. Making substantial changes that would improve quality of life on a large scale would require the complete re-structuring of our society and system - there are simply too many powerful people and entities with too much to lose.

Corporations will never fund a movement that would make the minimum wage high enough to give people a decent life - it would diminish their own profit too much. Corporations will never fund a movement to clean up the planet and stop all future pollution - it would cost too much. Corporations will never change their structures and goals to be oriented toward doing only what is best for all beings - there would be no profit in that.

We ask ourselves the questions: What is money when it comes to life?

We have answered that question every time we justify a minimum wage that does not adequately sustain a decent lifestyle. We answer that question every time we justify or "forget about" people living in squalor. We answer that question every time a person suffers or dies because they could not afford decent healthcare. We answer that question every time we justify an education system that does not educate children. We answer this question every time we accept our corrupt and self-serving governments' existences.

What is money when it comes to life? - Everything.

What is life when it comes to money? - Nothing.

There is no common good. It is a fiction, a fantasy we use to make ourselves feel better.

There is only my own good and your own good. Everyone wants to profit, everyone wants to gain - but at what price?