Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Endowment Effect - Stuff Matters

No matter what it is - a new shirt, a car or even a house - in that moment when an object becomes your property, it undergoes a transformation.
He loved the smell of Christmas in mid-July

Because you chose it and you associate it with yourself, its value is immediately increased (Morewedge et al., 2009). If someone offers to buy it from you, the chances are you want to charge much more than they are prepared to pay. The standard psychological explanation is that people are reluctant to relinquish the goods they own simply because they associate those goods with themselves and not because they expect relinquishing them to be especially painful. 
This is a cognitive bias called the endowment effect. It's the reason that some people have attics, garages and storage spaces full of shit they cannot bear to get rid of. Once you own something, you tend to set its financial value way higher than other people do.
When tested experimentally the endowment effect can be surprisingly strong. One study found that owners of tickets for a basketball match overvalued them by a factor of 14 (Carmon and Ariely, 2000). In other words people wanted 14 times more than others were prepared to pay.
The endowment effect is particularly strong for things that are very personal and easy to associate with the self, like a piece of jewellery from your partner. Similarly we also tend to overvalue things we've had for a long time. Sometimes, of course, the sentimental value of things is justified; but more often than not people hold on to old possessions for no good reason. So if you're surrounded by rubbish, ask yourself: do I really need all this, or is it the endowment effect?
At the end of the day it's just stuff.
''Ours is a culture and a time immensely rich in trash as it is in treasures''  
                                                                                                                   ~ Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Hunger - The sauce for sharpness.

Research at the National Institute of Ageing in Baltimore, Maryland has examined the idea that sporadic bouts of hunger actually cause new neurons to grow.
In a 2003 mouse study overseen by Mark Mattson, head of the National Institute on Aging's neuroscience laboratory, mice that fasted regularly were healthier than mice subjected to continuous calorie restriction; they had lower levels of insulin and glucose in their blood, for example, which signified increased sensitivity to insulin and a reduced risk of diabetes.
Sunday was 'treat' day
Recently Mattson and other researchers have championed the idea that intermittent fasting probably lowers the risks of degenerative brain diseases in later life. Mattson and his colleagues have shown that periodic fasting protects neurons against various kinds of damaging stress, at least in rodents. One of his earliest studies revealed that alternate-day feeding made the rats' brains resistant to toxins that induce cellular damage akin to the kind cells endure as they age.

In follow-up rodent studies, he found that intermittent fasting protects against stroke damage, suppresses motor deficits in a mouse model of Parkinson's disease and slows cognitive decline in mice genetically engineered to mimic the symptoms of Alzheimer's.

A decidedly slender man, Mattson has long skipped breakfast and lunch except on weekends. ''It makes me more productive,'' he says. The 55-year-old researcher, who has a Ph.D. in biology but not a medical degree, has written or co-authored more than 700 articles.
If you think about this in evolutionary terms, if your hungry, you will better increase your cognitive ability because that will give you a survival advantage - if you can remember the locations of where the food is.
It seems fasting stresses your brain matter the way exercising stresses your muscles, thus ''hunger actually makes you sharper'' (Mosley, 2012). However, while this may be true in mice, human trials would need to be done to see if it is true in us.
''An empty stomach is not a good political adviser'' ~ Albert Einstein

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Neurotic Society

Who ever said rap music was all about the Bitches, Hoes and Cristal? Lauryn Hill's new track goes deep.

Freud never relied on notes during analysis...
but he sure liked those Benjamins
Sick psycho psychology
In desperate need of psychiatry
Exorcisms, sobriety
Forcing Social lobotomies
People stuck in dichotomies
Pseudo sicko anxieties
Serial criminals dressed in variety
Social transvestism
Subliminal dressed up as piety
Transference projections
Like Cartesian images
Robbing innocence
Stealing inheritance
Quiet victims with no defence
Betrayed over dollars and cents
Maladjusted and ignorant
Maladdiction and dissonance
Too much addiction no consciousness
Don't trust it
The cosmology's busted, broken
It returns to the dust
It stinks of corruption
Oppression, deceit
Abuse in repeat
This Neurotic, Godless society.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Tomorrows Success comes from Today's Practice

What makes an expert?

With the Open in Muirfield about to begin, no doubt it will create the usual ripple of golfers hitting the driving ranges and courses in the attempts of tweaking their game. Most people probably wonder how much effort it takes to become a professional golfer, or even just a scratch player at that.
Is it genetics or 'innate' talent? Does it derive from general intelligence? Does practice play a role? Well a vital aspect that marks a real expert is that of deliberate practice (Ericsson & Lehmann, 1996). This practice is usually goal directed, requires real cognitive effort and is highly structured. Further, it also requires motivation, continual self-evaluation, and retention of control (Rossano, 2003). Sounds like a bundle of fun...

Experts are not better problem solvers in general, but simply in their own domain. Their knowledge is more extensive and they are better organised. Their performances are more fluent, accurate and automatic than those performances of a novice. Williams (2001) remarked that experts in sports do not have faster reaction times or superior visual abilities, but instead appear to have all round better strategies to the sport they are involved in. For example, in sports like tennis, an expert player does not tend to look at the ball but instead uses cues to anticipate movement (Bradford, 2000).
Skill acquisition for experts involves a conversion of knowledge from the declarative (the acquisition of relevant factual knowledge) into the procedural. This results in automaticity for the expert which frees up working memory. Novices tend to focus too much on positive feedback (''good job''), because hearing they're doing well helps them stay committed. However, experts tend to focus on negative feedback (''You’re doing that incorrectly'') because they're interested in progress. Automaticity is also supported by Smith and Chamberlin's research in 1992. They showed that a cognitively demanding task interfered a lot with a novice footballer but not with the experts greater automaticity of skill.

Moran (2005) delineated the five main differences that separate an expert from a novice;

1)Experts have more domain specific knowledge.

2)Experts spend more time in the initial stages of a problem.

3)Experts have a better representation of meaningful patterns.

4)Experts have better memory for their domain.

5)Experts automatic processes allow for greater speed and efficiency.

Another often quoted idea a lot of people may buy into is the 'Ten year rule'. First identified by the psychologist John Hayes in 1989 and soon endorsed by other psychologists, the rule states that a person must persevere with learning and practising a craft or discipline for about 10 years before he or she can make a breakthrough.

Hayes studied the role of the preparation stage in creative production. He examined career development in several fields requiring creative thinking such as musical composition, painting, and poetry. He found that even the most 'talented' individuals required many years of preparation before they reached master-level performance in their work.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell discussed that people who rose  above the rest and achieved incredible success in their respective endeavours all have one thing in common: they spent at least 10,000 hours learning and internalizing and perfecting their crafts (approximately 10 years) of deliberate practice. This translates as slightly more than three hours of practice daily for ten years (Salmela, 1998). The 10,000-hour theory was originally formulated by Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, professor of psychology at Florida State University (1993). But deliberate practice is a specifically defined term. It involves goal setting, responsive feedback, and endless drills to improve skills with an eye on mastery. It is not ''just showing up'' and beating a few ball down a fairway. And, plain and simple, it’s not fun.  

Does talent (nature) + 10,000 hours of work (nurture) = Success? Or what about just 10,000 hours of work equalling success? Both methods don't really guarantee anything. If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster! So the idea of the 10,000-hour rule sounds a little ridiculous. It does an injustice to those who are naturally gifted. But it also does a tremendous disservice to the naturally ungifted. It also raises hopes to an unrealistic level. All the hard work in the world won’t overcome a brain-based deficit or the fact that the best wood in your golf bag has, and always will be, your pencil.
Many people don’t like the 10k rule because they think it encourages early specialisation which encourages drop out later. If I decided to put in 10,000 hours of deliberate practice in golf, it may get me to being ''really good'' but not ''golfing genius''. But talking about how "you either got it or don't" is a good way to dissuade people from trying, or at least only trying a little and giving up, having come to the conclusion that they don't have the innate talent. 
The bottom line is, I think people know that true geniuses are few and far between and that the bell curve means that most of us are going to be "average" at most things. But that doesn't mean that without some hard work you cannot get to "satisfyingly above average". And frankly there's nothing wrong with that!

The Dalai Lama once remarked, ''No matter what activity or practice we are pursuing, there isn't anything that isn't made easier through constant familiarity and training. Through training, we can change; we can transform ourselves'' (1998). Ok, he may have been talking about Buddhism but it holds the same weight in all walks of life.

Support for the 10-year rule may be found in the expertise (or eminence) hypothesis presented by Piirto (2004), that ''every field and domain of knowledge in which creativity can be demonstrated has novice levels, apprenticeship levels, expert levels, and special jargons''.

According to Chase and Simon (1973b), no one can become an international chess master without devoting themselves to at least one decade of intensive practice to develop ''chess playing excellence''.

The 10-year rule is also bolstered by the work of Csikszentmihalyi (1996), specifically regarding the 'incubation' phase of creativity. He argues that it is impossible ''for a person who has not mastered a domain or been involved in a field'' to take full advantage of the incubation phase. He implies that a certain amount of the patterns, knowledge and rules of a field like physics must be 'internalized' before deeper incubation can occur or creative, scientific breakthroughs be made. In other words, a discoverer must be familiar with a discipline for deeper creative solutions to emerge. But hey, I'm familiar with golf! Where the hell is my moment of clarity?

''Knowledge is not skill. Knowledge plus ten thousand times is skill'' (Shinichi Suzuki, inventor of the international Suzuki method of music education).

It’s obvious that 10,000 hours or any amount of BAD practice will get you nowhere. The crux to understanding the value of the 10,000 hour research is this: During 10,000 hours of ORDINARY practice you will probably achieve enough DEEP PRACTICE to reach mastery. 10,000 is just a typical number of hours it takes to get enough HIGH QUALITY practice. If you were to work at high quality, deep practice continually, the number would probably be a lot less, maybe as low as 1000 hours.
Here's an example of one person who is putting the 10k theory to the test. It's a pretty interesting journey this man is taking.  10,000 hours of practice (6 hours a day, 6 days a week for 6 years) starting from the hole backwards, working his way to become a "professional" golfer.   Obviously to all of us this is an absolute dream, as he mentions many times on his site, but just the experiment part of it is pretty impressive too. 

''Just taaaaap it in''
Dan McLaughlin, a 30-year-old professional photographer from Oregon, decided to put the theory to the test, and committed himself to 10,000 hours of mastering golf — to the point of hoping to become a PGA golf champ. McLaughlin, who never picked up a golf club in his life, calls his endeavour ''The Dan Plan.'' Check it out here

Noteworthy to mention is that he never says 'I think I'll be a PGA tour pro after 10,000 hours'. Dan remarked, ''I want to test the 10,000 theory and see where it takes me. I chose golf because I had zero experience, so it seemed like the perfect test.''

The delusion that 10,000 hours of practice is the only thing that is different between us and those teeing up at Muirfield or anywhere, bothers a lot of people. Many people may do something for 10,000 hours, such as driving a car over the course of a lifetime, but never get anywhere near expert level, such as Formula One. Most will probably plateau and some may even get worse.
So, again, how long would it take to reach the 10,000-hour threshold? If you were to spend an average of 40 hours a week working on a chosen pursuit, that's at least 2,000 hours a year. So it would take about five years to become 'a leader in the field'. For those that start their pursuit as children have a head start and an advantage - plenty of time to get those 10,000 hours in.  So McLaughlin’s experiment could be instructive, and hopeful for many, as he started his pursuit a little later in life. I for one will be interested in seeing how he progresses.
What have you done today that has taken you one step closer to your goal? Is it really a goal or is it just a dream?
''Practice makes the master'' ~ Patrick Rotfuss, The Name of the Wind

Monday, July 01, 2013


This refers to a neologism given to a purported recent discovery about the cognitive processes behind reading written text. The word does not refer to any actual medical condition related to hypoglycaemia. The word appears to be a portmanteau of "typo", as in typographical error, and "hypoglycaemia". It is an urban legend/Internet meme that appears to have an element of truth to it.
The legend, propagated by email and message boards, purportedly demonstrates that readers can understand the meaning of words in a sentence even when the interior letters of each word are scrambled. As long as all the necessary letters are present, and the first and last letters remain the same, readers appear to have little trouble reading the text.
Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
''Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.''Søren Kierkegaard