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Problem Solving

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The Barnum Effect

Astrology, aura reading, fortune telling, cold calling, and some personality tests all exploit the Barnum Effect: Individuals believe that personality descriptions apply specifically to them but they don't consider that the descriptions actually applies to everyone.

The term was first coined in 1956 by psychologist Paul Meehl. He compared the vague personality descriptions used in some psychological tests to P.T. Barnum, a famous showman.

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Problem Solving

The Barnum effect is also called the Forer effect. Bertram Forer used a fake psychology test on his students then gave them supposedly individualised results a week later. He asked them to rate how well it applied to them. The students rated the accuracy of the statements at an average of 4.3 out of 5.

The problem was that Forer used various bits of copy he had found in a newsstand astrology book for the fake results and that all students received the exact same list of observations.

  • Personal analyses: You believe the analysis applies only to you, and you apply your own meaning to the statements. Instead, take a step back and first see if it could not apply to almost everyone else.
  • Perceived authority: You believe in the authority of the evaluator. Question the authority of the source.
  • Positive content: The analysis uses mostly positive traits. Pay attention to the balance between positive and negative statements.

When you know about these factors, it becomes easier to avoid falling prey to the Barnum Effect.

Describing Morality

Morality is a set of standards that help people to live cooperatively in groups. Morality is not fixed. What is acceptable in one culture might not be admissible in another culture.

Sometimes, acting in a moral manner means individuals must sacrifice their short-term interests to benefit society. Individuals who don't do this may be considered immoral.

  • Freud's morality and the superego: Sigmund Freud suggested people developed morally when they set aside their selfish needs for the values of important socialising agents (e.g. parents)
  • Piaget's theory of moral development: Jean Piaget theorised that moral development unfolds over certain stages as children learn to adopt moral behaviours for their own sake.
  • B.F. Skinner's behavioural theory focused on the power of external forces, such as praise and the desire for positive attention.
  • Lawrence Kohlberg's moral reasoning consisted of six stages of moral development.

Morals usually shift over time, for example, pre-marital sex was once viewed as wrong, but many now find this acceptable. In some regions, cultures and religions, contraception is considered immoral, while other people consider contraception moral.

There are seven universal morals: be brave, be fair, defer to authority, help your group, love your family, return favours, and respect others' property.

Some people believe morality is personal, while ethics refer to the standards of a community.

Both laws and morals regulate behaviour in a community. Both have firm foundations in the idea that everyone should have autonomy and have respect for others. Some argue that laws and morality are independent, while others believe they are interdependent.

The brain is obsessed with unfinished tasks

When we have unfinished tasks, we think about them continuously. But the moment they are completed, we forget about them. If we have unread email, we constantly wonder what it says. But once it has been dealt with, we often cannot recall the details of it.

The name for this phenomena is called the Zeigarnik effect and named after Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik.

Once our brain receives information, it temporarily stores sensory memory (sight, hearing, smells, taste, and touch). If we pay attention to the information, it moves to our short-term memories.

If the task is incomplete, our brains can't let it go until it's done. That is why TV dramas use cliffhangers to end episodes.

  • Reduce your tendency to procrastinate. If you have a task you've been avoiding, begin with the smallest thing to be done. The desire to close the loop will help you take small steps to get it done.
  • Get people to take note of what you're saying. Try using ellipses instead of a full stop in your headline so that your reader will feel like "there's more to this."
  • Memorize more information. Break your information up into parts. Or spread your learning over several days.
  • Remember difficult names. Learn one part of the name, then come back to the second part when your done memorizing the first.
The Future of Work

As more and more jobs are eliminated due to technology, we need to keep reinventing ourselves and stay in a permanent state of transition, to be relevant in the future.

The Art of Re-inventing ourselves has 3 key factors:

  • Thinking "different"
  • Working with varied partners
  • Using Technology for creativity and for the pursuit of happiness
The Big Challenge

In a fast-changing world, everyone needs to live in a “permanent state of transition” or “reinvention.”

We need to continuously adapt ourselves to unlock the opportunities and meet the challenges of our new technology-driven world.

Thinking Different

The ability to recognize what has changed, accept that new reality and then adapt to it is the essence of “thinking different.”

A worldwide Digital Transformation has changed a lot of elements of our lives, including life expectancy, skill-set requirements, and new kinds of economies. Thinking different is a must-have approach to see new possibilities in the world of tomorrow.

Working with Varied Partners

Teaming up with different, less than obvious partners, forming new and unlikely bonds, developing new ways of collaboration and finding uncharted and unknown ways of branching out is a definitive way of staying relevant and creative.

Use Technology To Be Creative And Happy

Technology should ultimately be an enabler to enhance our personal lives in a better way.

Technology is best used when it complements us and enriches our lives in a positive way. We should be more happy, more creative and have spare time to spend doing what we love.

Bad Advice From Professional Advisors

There are advisors for everything: fashion, investment, career, relationship, nutrition and spirituality, all with best intentions. And professional advisors commit an unintended mistake of being too cautious with their clients choices, and are significantly more risk-averse due to many factors.

To off-set accountability, or because of not being in the best interests of the client (due to factors such as envy), many advisors give more weightage to the negative aspects, rather than focusing on the potential benefits.

  • If a professional advisor is too risk-averse, due to being liable for potential loss, the advisee suffers from a lack of good advice.
  • If the advisor is too close to the advisee, things get personal and both parties try to compromise on the risky decisions so that the social bond is not strained or broken, leading to long-term opportunity costs.

These psychological factors contribute to conflicted and substandard advice from the professional advisors.

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