Saturday, May 23, 2009

* Sway: The irresistible pull of irrational behavior by Ori & Rom Brafman

The Brafman brothers have written a followup to the "Spider and Starfish" If you're interested in how irrational you can be, you should study the Dan Ariely tome, Predictably Irrational Otherwise this is book good for a short flight. 

High culture down under

At 7:51am during rush hour at Wash DC subway plaza, a man dressed in jeans wearing a baseball cap nonchalantly took out his $3.5M Stradavarius violin… Over the next 43 minutes, Joshua Bell, one of the world’s best violinists played one of the most challenging pieces ever composed for the violin… Of the 1097 people who walked by, hardly anyone stopped. One man listened for a few minutes, a couple of kids stared, and one women who happened to recognize the violinist, gaped in disbelief. P49


But is it really intelligent to pay more?

A group of students was told the intelligence enhancing affects of SoBe Adrenaline Rush beverage. The control group was given no beverage, and the other group was further divided into 2. One group was charged $2.89 for SoBe, and the other was told that the university got a good deal and it only cost $.89 for the SoBe. How did the 3 groups perform on an intelligence test? The $2.89 group performed slightly better than the control. But before we run out and buy SoBe because of its acuity enhancing powers, we should note that the $.89 group performed significantly worse than the control. Given that the exact same beverage was given to both SoBe groups, we can only conclude that it was the value the students attributed that made the difference in their test scores…When you get something at a discount, positive expectations don’t kick in. Once we attribute a value to something, its very difficult to view it in a different light. P56


Ask her this, "Does size really matter?", when it pertains to discounts of course

The price we pay for theater tickets affects our enjoyment as well. Those who paid full price attended significantly more shows than those who received either a $2 or $7 per show discount… Those who paid full price went to more shows because their investment was higher. But there was no difference in attendance levels between the 2 discount groups. You’d expect that the $7 discount group would skip more than the $2 discount group given the lower investment. The amount of discount didn’t matter – what swayed the attendees was the very fact that a discount was given. Regardless of the size of the discount, the patrons regarded the tickets and productions as inferior. P59


Why first dates and first interviews often can lead you astray

There’s only a small correlation between open ended ‘First date’ unstructured job interviews and job performance… First impressions can be totally wrong. Applicants put on their best show, managers put on their best show – and you don’t see the realities of the person in 30 minutes. P77

We know we're all doomed in the end, but we're still optimistic about our future 

College students and their friends/families were surveyed about their new romantic relationships. After a semester (6 months) had passed 61% were still in the relationship. A year later, only 48%...  Roommates and parents were far better than students at predicting a relationships longevity. Students assessments on the problems in their relationships however was right on the money. The students weren’t blind to the issues that were already putting strains on the relationships; they simply ignored them when it came time to make predictions of the future. They consistently overestimated the longevity. P79


Why do people still take this stuff? And why do doctors still prescibe it?

Examining 47 randomized placebo controlled short term efficacy trials for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) like Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, researchers concluded that SSRIs were no more clinically effective than placebos in making patients – either kids or adults – feel better… When comes to SSRIs and children, only 3 out of 16 showed a positive result. And of course there are serious side effects. P96

 Beauty is in the ear of the beholder

A group men was asked to speak to women without seeing them. The men were handed photos of the women, but the photos were not real. Some men were given beautiful photos… No surprise, the men evaluated the women with beautiful photos as sociable, humorous, and adept women, while the others were awkward, serious, socially inept. But the real experiment was a jury group that was only allowed to hear the women’s side of the conversation with the men without seeing the pictures. This group was able to come to the same conclusion with the voices alone. How did they do that? … Imagine if you were talking on the phone to someone you believed to be attractive. You’d be more engaged, listen more attentively, and be more immersed in the interaction. When the ‘beautiful’ women spoke to their mysterious strangers, without realizing it, they took on the character that the men expected them to have… They unconsciously picked up on the ‘beautiful’ opinion the men had of them and acted accordingly. In other words, being thought of as beautiful made the women think of themselves as beautiful and exhibit beauty in their conversations. P103


Why Russians love to lie to you if you're rich

In Russia, if people become very poor, they obviously will become a burden on society. If they became rich, it probably meant that they were up to no good: they were criminals or did things which endangered the community. This view is in direct opposition to Western attitudes towards wealth. So in Russia, on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, it is clear why Russian audiences tell contestants the wrong answer during a lifeline, while in the US the audience is right about 90% of the time. P123


What a great rule for the dinner table!

Supreme court justices have a conference rule: everyone speaks once before anyone speaks twice. P153


How to cut your losses

When we find ourselves unsure about whether to continue an approach, it’s useful to ask “If I were just arriving, were given a choice of either continuing the current project, or pass on it?” If the answer is pass, then chances are you’ve been swayed to stay on because of the hidden force of commitment. Making a clean break might feel uncomfortable, but it could be in our best interest. 

Friday, May 01, 2009

* Take Charge of Your Mind by John Selby

A short little book that can be condensed into a short little paragraph to obtain 95% of the benefit. How you say? Well it turns out that brain of yours is not able to multi-task very well at all. But this defect is really a feature if you know what do to with it. By focusing your mind on 2 sensory inputs at the same time, you can effectively overwhelm it – and block all other thoughts – including those that stress you out. And how do you focus on 2 sensory inputs. Easy, just focus on the air flowing in and out of your nose as you breath, and also focus on your stomach/chest moving in and out with each breath. That’s it! Amazing, now that you’ve found your chi or your chakra or whatever – just relax and live in the moment.


See videos on the meditative techniques:


Want to get promoted? Stop being angry at work

You have a wide variety of possible mind states, each one involving a particular combination of thoughts, perceptions, memories, and imaginings. Your angry mind states are generated when you fixate on a present conflict or dwell on an unresolved past conflict. This mind state makes your body respond with aggressive tensions as your heartbeat increases and your breathing tightens. If you want to shift out of this angry mood, what can you do? You must take charge of your thoughts, shift away the memories that are provoking the angry emotion, and turn your attention in more productive directions. Especially at work, staying stuck in such a negative mood is going to damage your success as well as your health. P45


Breath in, breath out

We’ve found that the most powerful action you can take to instantly shift your focus of attention into the present moment is to say to yourself “I feel the air flowing in and out of my nose”, and allow these words to turn your attention to exactly what you’ve pointed toward – your breathing. P49


Is that why I can't rub my head and pat my stomach at the same time?

This shift in mental focus dissolves worried and angry thoughts because, as cognitive science has demonstrated, we can’t focus on thoughts about the past and the future and at the same time experience two or more sensations in the body in the present moment. P50


Pay attention to your heart. No, not the one that pumps the blood.

Most people find that when they first tune in to the feelings in their hearts, there’s not much feeling there at all… It’s definitely wise to deal with whatever numb or negative feelings you find when you say “I’m aware of the feelings in my heart.” Cognitive studies have shown that just through the act of regularly pausing and turning your mind’s attention to your heart, you stimulate a sense of relaxation, expansion and warmth, and the inflow of good feelings into your heart. When you heart feels temporarily overwhelmed with angry or cold emotions, you encourage the inflow of positive feelings by recalling the love you feel for someone in your life. As you feel warmth, acceptance and love in your heart for that person, you’ll find that your breathing deepens and you come more alive in the present moment. P53


Cognitive research has shown that your mind will quite willingly respond and do what you tell it to do – but you must first state your intent and employ a carefully selected phase that will predictably provoke the desired inner response. P63


Thinking is not doing

You must say – not necessarily out load – but using the speech center and vocal chords to vocalize. Just thinking the words, will cause almost nothing to happen. Thinking happens in the mind, but speech requires the body. Your power of intent is greatly increased when you move from thinking to speaking. P65


Proof that we can’t multitask

Studies at the NIH have shown that you can’t continue with a logical stream of thought and at the same time focus your attention on two or more sensory experiences. P68


And that’s why music calms the beast inside us

Have you wondered why listening to music transports you outside your usual thoughts and feelings? When you focus on 2 or more harmonies in music, psychologically you are in effect short circuiting your chronic thought flows, entering a state where your thoughts are quiet. P68


What!?!?! You mean I wasted 10 years in an ashram giving up all of my worldly possessions for something I could have learned in 2 just weeks? Oh shit, I’m not supposed to be upset anymore. Breath in, breath out…

Traditional meditative quiet mind techniques often take 10 years to master rather than 2 weeks. But by focusing one’s attention on 2 different sensory inputs at the same time, you can quiet your thoughts immediately. P68


Your brain responds and reacts physically to one of two primary emotions: fear or peace. When you’re afraid, tension grips the muscles of your skull and neck. Conversely when you’re at peace, your scalp muscle relax and you feel a warm sensation envelop you. P89


Its either one or the other, but never both

The brain is wired in such a way that we can’t simultaneously be busy judging and feel compassion. They are incompatible. Furthermore, we can’t enjoy sensory pleasures until we take a break from judging. Judging also separates us from what we’re experiencing. When we judge, we hold back and don’t commit. Judgment after all is rooted in the fear function of the mind. We are apprehensive and suspect that something bad might happen if we arent’ constantly careful. So letting go of judgment is another way of letting go of anxiety. P110


It must be quiet before the storm

What we do know from brain scan research is that we tend to use a limited portion of our mind when deductively thinking, but when we become momentarily quiet and then have flashes of insight pop into our mind, a much large portion of the brain is being used, including the right brain. P146


What makes us wise

Wise individuals tend to be grounded in their own bodies, tuned into the present. They are less fearful, by having learned to release anxiety and worries. They are not judgmental, but feel compassion. They are open to receive new information and ideas. And they know how and when to act – and not to act. P164


The half full crowd has got it going on

There is strong evidence that optimistic people are more successful and healthier. Optimistic insurance agents in the top 25% of an optimistic psychology test sold twice as much as those in the bottom 25%, who were also twice as likely to resign… A Harvard study of 1300 men revealed that men who labeled themselves as optimistic had ½ the incidence of heart disease of those that didn’t. p236


Believe in yourself

Perceived self efficacy refers to the beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments. And research has shown that individuals who are high in self efficacy achieve higher levels of job satisfaction and performance. And high self efficacy is correlated to stress reduction. P240