TED Talk: Who are you, really? The puzzle of personality

What makes you, you? Psychologists like to talk about our traits, or defined characteristics that make us who we are. But Brian Little is more interested in moments when we transcend those traits — sometimes because our culture demands it of us, and sometimes because we demand it of ourselves. Join Little as he dissects the surprising differences between introverts and extroverts and explains why your personality may be more malleable than you think.

The Big Five personality test is well regarded in psychology compared to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Little spends quite a bit of time on the trait present in both: Extraversion and Introversion.

My favorite quote: “Introverts prefer contextually complex, contingent, weasel-word sentences. More or less. As it were. Not to put too fine a point on it… like that.”

If the above does not work, then try Who are you, really? The puzzle of personality

TED Talk: Beware neuro-bunk

In reading a recent article about the issue with #MeToo (a viral campaign where women posted about their experience with sexual harassment or abuse), I also read the Nature article by Dr. Molly Crockett Moral outrage in the digital age. It also led me to watch the below fascinating TED Talk.

If the above fails to load, then try Beware neuro-bunk. A guide to all the articles mentioned in the talk.

TED Talk: The surprising habits of original thinkers

I loved Adam Grant’s book, Originals. The below video is essentially the TL;DR version.

How do creative people come up with great ideas? Organizational psychologist Adam Grant studies “originals”: thinkers who dream up new ideas and take action to put them into the world. In this talk, learn three unexpected habits of originals — including embracing failure. “The greatest originals are the ones who fail the most, because they’re the ones who try the most,” Grant says. “You need a lot of bad ideas in order to get a few good ones.”

If the above video does not work, then try The surprising habits of original thinkers.

Balance Theory

Found it especially weird that podcasts advertising Zip Recruiter tend to talk about how they found people to work for them without using Zip Recruiter. We are supposed to believe that even though they did not use it, we should not leave it to chance to find a good employee like they did.

These bothered me for months until I heard it again while reading about Heider’s Balance Theory. (It came up in a discussion with a friend earlier today.) The idea of it is Person likes Other person but has neutral or negative impression of X. This imbalance creates a cognitive dissonance which is resolved by creating a favorable view of X. Person disliking Other person could create a negative view of X. Essentially celebrity endorsements exploit this function of our brains.

Basically, Zip Recruiter paid Malcolm Gladwell to talk about this product on Revisionist History in order to create a cognitive dissonance where I would get a favorable view of their product. Me (Person) liking Malcolm Gladwell (Other) should create a favorable impression of Zip Recruiter (X).

This effect can backfire. If I dislike Zip Recruiter more than I like Gladwell, then I might come to dislike him because of this.

Intellectual humility

Adam Grant pointed to How ‘Intellectual Humility’ Can Make You a Better Person which I found intriguing.

We all have a tendency to overestimate how much we know — which, in turn, means that we often cling stubbornly to our beliefs while tuning out opinions different from our own. We generally believe we’re better or more correct than everyone else, or at least better than most people — a psychological quirk that’s as true for politics and religion as it is for things like fashion and lifestyles. And in a time when it seems like we’re all more convinced than ever of our own rightness, social scientists have begun to look more closely at an antidote: a concept called intellectual humility… which has to do with understanding the limits of one’s knowledge. It’s a state of openness to new ideas, a willingness to be receptive to new sources of evidence, and it comes with significant benefits: People with intellectual humility are both better learners and better able to engage in civil discourse. Google’s VP in charge of hiring, Laszlo Bock, has claimed it as one of the top qualities he looks for in a candidate: Without intellectual humility, he has said, “you are unable to learn.”

I wonder how my wanting to explain things tied in with my Imposter Syndrome derails the above overestimations. There is a thing in the back of my head looking to find fault in myself. So in going to explain something and realizing my weaknesses, my confirmation bias is to think, “Of course, I don’t understand it as well as I ought.”

Let Me Explain; Let Me Sum Up

There is a great quote from The Princess Bride

Westley: Who are you? Are we enemies? Why am I on this wall? Where is Buttercup?
Inigo Montoya: Let me explain.
[pause]
Inigo Montoya: No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Buttercup is marry Humperdinck in little less than half an hour. So all we have to do is get in, break up the wedding, steal the princess, make our escape… after I kill Count Rugen.

It is what I thought of while reading Mike Caufield’s The Power of Explaining to Others.

I like discussions about things because in talking about it, I have to…

  1. Judge how much the other person knows.
  2. Judge how much I know.
  3. Figure out the best way to provide additional value.

In going through this, I figure out that what I know is usually less than I originally thought. Which makes me more curious, so I will seek more information. Many of my times getting lost down the rabbit hole of the Internet is trying to clean up the holes of my understanding from some recent conversation. There is an obsession to better know things, so I found it interesting that my habit of explaining books, articles, or whatever is on my mind ties to well into countering false information.

The conclusion to Gotcha Jerks Part II

Not long ago, it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling for a very conservative coworker to call me the only liberal he knows that he can discuss things. We disagree, but we respect each other enough to discuss things. I am not hurt by our disagreements. And as much as he tries to act radical, I suspect a lot of it is poker bluff acting.

My motivation in talking with him is in part understanding what I do and do not know. He provides a perspective I normally probably would not see. He uses keywords I can search for to find more about those views. And… He is not seeking to convince me (nor I him) to the “right” side. We just talk to explain what we know to better understand. So, I hope in explaining to me, he is getting the same benefit I am.

 

Tinkering

Another Rands In Repose gem.

Tinkering is a deceptively high-value activity. You don’t usually allocate much time to tinkering because the obvious value of tinkering is low. You don’t start tinkering with a goal in mind; you start with pure curiosity. I’ve heard about this thing, but I’ve never used it. How does this thing work? I’ve always wanted to know about more about X. Downtime is an easy time to tinker. Nothing is pressing, so these acts of mental wandering are acceptable.

This is how things get done. This is my life.

I think Dopamine is related to why I tinker. There is a definite expectation to getting something out of it. And that is all the motivation I need.

The dopamine from the ventral tegmental area… usually sends dopamine into the brain when animals (including people) expect or receive a reward. That reward might be a delicious slice of pizza or a favorite song. This dopamine release tells the brain that whatever it just experienced is worth getting more of. And that helps animals (including people) change their behaviors in ways that will help them attain more of the rewarding item or experience.

My reward is learning something about a gadget. Similar to how reading rewards me with learning about science, history, motivations, or behavior.

 

Gotcha Jerks Part II

If you have not read Gotcha Jerks, then please do first. I recently ran across The “Other Side” Is Not Dumb which goes further. Here is my favorite quote from it.

Sharing links that mock a caricature of the Other Side isn’t signaling that we’re somehow more informed. It signals that we’d rather be smug assholes than consider alternative views. It signals that we’d much rather show our friends that we’re like them, than try to understand those who are not.

It makes a great point that part of what makes discussion politics on social media problematic is the false-consensus bias where we assume people we like should always think the same way we do because they are awesome like we are. Liking the posts of Facebook friends who state things with which we agree or defriending / unfollowing people who disagree, leads to the algorithms creating an environment for ourselves where the information coming to us drives the FCB into overdrive. If we are only seeing the stuff where we agree, then we are blind to other positions out there. Going even a leap further to knocking down Straw Men certainly alienates the Other Side. They will defriend / unfollow us which leads to the same result.

I reluctantly have culled people over their behavior during the election season. I also did not expect things to get better November 9th. In my mind, this animosity has been ever increasing since 1998, so I saw no reason for it to end. Both candidates held unfavorable numbers by majorities of likely voters, so  whoever won would cause butthurt.

Family Feud is a game show where people try to guess the common answers to a poll question. If people had no FCB, then the game would be completely pointless. People would provide fairly accurate responses leading to people only uncommonly getting answers wrong. Instead, from what I have seen of the show, it seems hard for contestants in general.

Advice from The “Other Side” Is Not Dumb to consider:

A dare for the next time you’re in discussion with someone you disagree with: Don’t try to “win.” Don’t try to “convince” anyone of your viewpoint. Don’t score points by mocking them to your peers. Instead try to “lose.” Hear them out. Ask them to convince you and mean it. No one is going to tell your environmentalist friends that you merely asked follow up questions after your brother made his pro-fracking case.

Not long ago, it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling for a very conservative coworker to call me the only liberal he knows that he can discuss things. We disagree, but we respect each other enough to discuss things. I am not hurt by our disagreements. And as much as he tries to act radical, I suspect a lot of it is poker bluff acting.

Further reading:

Peril of Good Intentions

Defeated in college

I ran across a friend’s Facebook post about parenting and related a description of a college psychology professor’s eugenics lecture. The reply was that eliminating the genes of less intelligent people seems like it could help improve society. This seeming promise is why it has been tried many times. Before the Holocaust shifted to genocide, it dabbled in eugenics and mimicked United States eugenics programs.

But, let’s assume that a eugenics program stayed away from genocide. I still have issues with this…

Why a specific person is intelligent or not tends to be not so clear cut as good or bad genes. Psychologists tend to be pretty sure that most of intelligence comes from genes. I personally think genes provide recipes for brain cells and a layout of those cells. The brain cells still have to be grown and connections established in the brain. Exposure to various experiences in the raising of the child help achieve the potential provided by the brains. If a person both has good genes and was raised in such a way to maximize their potential, then I think a person ought to become the person we want them to be. Are we at a point where almost all children can are provided the experiences to reach this potential? Not even close. I think people who think we reasonably are at this point feel that eugenics or genetic modification are the ways to push beyond our plateau. I would prefer we fix the environment before we start punishing people for lack of socioeconomic resources or programs to help.

Biases cloud our conclusions in situations where we are not usually aware. It was thought the reason orchestras were almost all male because they were better performers. They shifted to a better mix of genders after the practice of blind auditions became common. Why? Because there are biases which affect opinions assessments beneath our ability to tell. We see similar issues when it comes to intelligence assessment and especially jobs in skilled fields. IQ tests have fought hard to get better at not being WEIRD. Anonymous names on papers change the grades students get and which conference submissions are accepted. Some of meritocracies could be doing much better.

When people think they are objective and unbiased then they don’t monitor and scrutinize their own behavior. They just assume that they are right and that their assessments are accurate. Yet, studies repeatedly show that stereotypes of all kinds (gender, ethnicity, age, disability etc.) are filters through which we evaluate others, often in ways that advantage dominant groups and disadvantage lower-status groups.

The eugenics movements were confident the physically & mentally unfit, materially poor, and atheists needed to controlled. People of color just happened to commonly be identified as meeting their criteria. I will be skeptical of any similar movement to be truly objective because even though they truly intend to be, the prior ones thought they were too. Hindsight shows they were not.

Of course, the abomination that I am was the reasoning for why my parents were not allowed to marry in my home state. It was deemed bad for the Caucasian race to allow mixing with inferior races. That probably fuels my own bias against this kind of thing.

Crowdsourcing Bias Identification

Zittrain’s set of tweets was interesting reading.

Lots more on it: best1, 2, 3.

There is an interesting plug-in called Media Bias/Fact Check which will help show how a news site skews. Before you rush off to use it, you should like I did review their methodology to ensure you can reasonably trust it.

My one issue with it is a crowdsourcing component where each site they review has a PollDaddy widget. PollDaddy like any other similar thing tries to prevent multiple voting, but that security relies on cookies, so if I wanted to skew the poll and say make Snopes appear extreme right, it is not all that difficult to vote, delete the cookie, vote, delete, etc. A possible example is MBFC marks Palmer Report as “left center” while the poll shows Extreme Left=76, Left=36, Left Center=44, Least Biased=26, Extreme Right=2. There appears to be some disagreement between those polled and the reviewers. The polls are not pulled into the plug-in database and instead used by humans to review whether they should revisit a prior determination. So MBFC cannot be directly manipulated through the polls.

Back around 2003 spam was really, really bad. Work had not yet devised an anti-spam solution, so I turned to an interesting client plug-in where users marked messages as spam. If enough users marked a message as spam, then the sender was blacklisted and anything from them sent to a junk folder. The dark side to this model? Some people interpreted “spam” as any email they did not want to receive. Several email lists or legitimate advertisers with easy and functional unsubscribe tools were blacklisted. It was easier for people to hit spam than do the right thing.

The wisdom of crowds has very narrow applications.

But a look at recent cases and new research suggests that open-innovation models succeed only when carefully designed for a particular task and when the incentives are tailored to attract the most effective collaborators.

So I appreciate that MBFC has a firewall between the crowdsourcing and their reviews. But, that also means their method is very, very labor intensive. Sites will be very slow to be added.

Facebook is talking about removing fake news. Some are calling for them to so something like MBFC and help users understand what they are reading. Back in May they removed their editors who were in charge of doing essentially the MBFC of thing of reviewing and ensuring what ended up in Trending was good material and writing summaries. These editors were accused of bias. When Facebook replaced them, fake news immediately started showing up in Trending. Removing fake news could help, but how they go about it could be interesting. Their editor debacle could push them in the algorithm route, but their algorithm debacle could push them back toward editors. Maybe some mix of the two?