Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Digital Dating and Divorce

You are three times more likely to divorce if you met online instead of face-to-face, according to researchers at Michigan State University. They also say online daters are nearly 30 percent more likely to break up in the first year. It might have to do with how each person first approaches the relationship. Nearly everyone who uses dating apps and websites immediately begins by looking for false information in their prospective partner’s profile. The researchers believe suspicion damages the relationship at an early stage. You'll find more details in the online journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Why things go wrong

Things don't go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so you can be all that you were intended to be. – Charles T. Jones

Black Swains

We have a natural tendency to look for instances that confirm our story and our vision of the world.

Seeing white swans does not confirm the nonexistence of black swans. There is an exception, however: I know what statement is wrong, but not necessarily what statement is correct. If I see a black swan I can certify that all swans are not white! If I see someone kill, then I can be practically certain that he is a criminal. If I don’t see him kill, I cannot be certain that he is innocent. The same applies to cancer detection: the finding of a single malignant tumor proves that you have cancer, but the absence of such a finding cannot allow you to say with certainty that you are cancer-free.

We can get closer to the truth by negative instances, not by verification.

Nissim Taleb
The Black Swain

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Beginning

There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning. – Louis L’Amour

Expecting More

The best teachers we encountered expect “more” from their students. Yet the nature of that “more” must be distinguished from expectations that may be “high” but meaningless, from the goals that are simply tied to the course rather than to the kind of thinking and acting expected of critical thinkers. That “more” is, in the hands of teachers who captivate and motivate students and help them reach unusually high levels of accomplishment, grounded in the highest intellectual artistic, or moral standards, and in the personal goals of the students.

We found that the best teachers usually have a strong faith in the ability of students to learn and in the power of a healthy challenge, but they also have an appreciation that excessive anxiety and tension can hinder thinking. Thus, while they help students to feel relaxed and to believe in their capacity to learn, they also foster a kind of disquietude, the feeling that stems from intellectual enthusiasm, curiosity, challenge, and suspense, and from the wonderful promises that they make about what students can achieve.

Ken Baine
What the Best College Teachers Do

Thursday, October 16, 2014

To make good decisions in a complex world

Psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer argues that much of our behaviour is based on deceptively sophisticated rules-of-thumb, or “heuristics”. A robot programmed to chase and catch a ball would need to compute a series of complex differential equations to track the ball’s trajectory. But baseball players do so by instinctively following simple rules: run in the right general direction, and adjust your speed to keep a constant angle between eye and ball.

To make good decisions in a complex world, Gigerenzer says, you have to be skilled at ignoring information. He found that a portfolio of stocks picked by people he interviewed in the street did better than those chosen by experts. The pedestrians were using the “recognition heuristic”: they picked companies they’d heard of, which was a better guide to future success than any analysis of price-earning ratios.

Ian Leslie writing in The Economist

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

When life buries you

There were two groups... those who didn't die and those who came back to life.
Ester Perel

Doubting the Outcome

Do you face the possibility of an adverse event? Don’t worry. Who knows, it may turn out to be good for you. Doubting the consequences of an outcome will allow you to remain imperturbable.

Nassim Taleb
The Black Swain

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

a Tale of Two Artists

The first of two artists said, "I have traveled the world over and I have seen a lot. But I have not found one person worth painting. I have found flaws in everyone and just can't bring myself to paint them."

The second artist disagreed, "I may not be a great artist; I have never been to Paris - or even New York. But among my unimportant friends living in my small rural town, I have not found anyone too insignificant to paint. There is always a better side. I may not be a great artist, but I enjoy my art."

Which is one is the true artist? The one who finds nothing worth painting? Or the one who brings a certain something to his craft enabling him to see a world of beauty others are blind to? In the same way, some people find no one worthy of their love, while others find everyone worthy.

Should I search for attractive people to paint, to love? Or should I look for the attractiveness of the soul within?

Monday, October 13, 2014


There are two brands of discontent: the brand that merely fosters greed and snarling and back-biting, and the brand that inspires greater and greater effort to reach the desired goal. What is your brand? - BC Forbes

The Beauty of Evil

Simone Weil said, “Nothing is so beautiful, nothing is so continually fresh and surprising, so full of sweet and perpetual ecstasy as the good; no desert is so dreary, monotonous, and boring as evil. But with fantasy it's the other way around. Fictional good is boring and flat, while fictional evil is varied, intriguing, attractive, and full of charm.”

The media strikingly bear out Simone Weil’s contention. In their offerings it’s almost invariably Eros rather than Agape that provides all the excitement. Success and celebrity rather than a broken and contrite heart that are made to seem desirable.

Good and evil, after all, constitute the essential theme of our mortal existence. In this sense, they may be compared to the positive and negative points which generates an electric current; transpose the points, and the current fails, the lights go out, darkness falls and all is confusion.

So it is with us. The transposition of good and evil in the world of fantasy created by the media leaves us with no sense of any moral order in the universe, and without this, no order whatsoever, social, political, economic or any other, is ultimately attainable.

Malcolm Muggeridge
(in a speech to the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in 1978)

Friday, October 10, 2014


There are an infinity of angles at which one falls. Only one at which one stands. - GK Chesterton

The Best Teachers

The best teachers... sometimes discard or place less emphasis on traditional goals in favor of the capacity to comprehend, to use evidence to draw conclusions, to raise important questions, and to understand one’s thinking. In most disciplines, that means they emphasize comprehension, reasoning, and brilliant insights over memory, order punctuality, or the spick-and-span.

Spelling, the size of margins or fonts, and the style of footnotes and bibliographies are trivial in comparison to the power to think on paper; conceptual understanding of chemistry is more important than remembering individual details; the capacity to think about one’s thinking - to ponder metacognitively – and to correct it in progress is far more worthy than remembering any name, date, or number.

The ability to understand the principles and concepts in thinking critically through a problem outranks any capacity to reach the correct answer on any particular question. These teachers want their students to learn to use a wide range of information, ideas, and concepts logically and consistently to draw meaningful conclusions. They help their students achieve those levels by providing meaningful directions and exemplary feedback that quietly yet forcefully couple lofty ideals with firm confidence in what students can do – without making any judgments of their worth as human beings. Most significant, they help students shift their focus from making the grade to thinking about personal goals of development.

Ken Bain
What the Best College Teachers Do

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Thinking and Unthinking

Unthinking is the ability to apply years of learning at the crucial moment by removing your thinking self from the equation. Its power is not confined to sport: actors and musicians know about it too, and are apt to say that their best work happens in a kind of trance. Thinking too much can kill not just physical performance but mental inspiration. Bob Dylan, wistfully recalling his youthful ability to write songs without even trying, described the making of “Like a Rolling Stone” as a “piece of vomit, 20 pages long”. It hasn’t stopped the song being voted the best of all time.

In less dramatic ways the same principle applies to all of us. A fundamental paradox of human psychology is that thinking can be bad for us. When we follow our own thoughts too closely, we can lose our bearings, as our inner chatter drowns out common sense. A study of shopping behaviour found that the less information people were given about a brand of jam, the better the choice they made. When offered details of ingredients, they got befuddled by their options and ended up choosing a jam they didn’t like.

If a rat is faced with a puzzle in which food is placed on its left 60% of the time and on the right 40% of the time, it will quickly deduce that the left side is more rewarding, and head there every time, thus achieving a 60% success rate. Young children adopt the same strategy. When Yale undergraduates play the game, they try to figure out some underlying pattern, and end up doing worse than the rat or the child. We really can be too clever for our own good.

Ian Leslie
writing in The Economist

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The growth opportunities

Take special (and more) time to carefully analyze the unexpected results (successes and failures); that's where the growth opportunities lie.