Saw a Facebook post claiming “… a renowned psychologist believes that…” which made me curious. Such a psychologist ought to have thousands of academic journal citations. So, I looked up the name on Google Scholar and saw one to five. The most highly cited stuff was about metaphysical stuff that psychologists refute.

Roy F. Baumeister is what I would call a renowned psychologist. His motivation article has over 13,000 citations. His ego-depletion, which is where I know him, has almost 4,000. People know about his work and cite his in their own. That is renowned.

The thing that prompted this is clickbait pseudoscience bullshit. Calling the creator renowned is Appeal to Authority so probably quite effective.

TED Talk: Demise of Guys

For a few weeks The Demise of Guys by Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan has occupied a corner of my attention. It started when a friend posted about the Reddit AMA: I am a published psychologist, author of the Stanford Prison Experiment, expert witness during the Abu Ghraib trials. AMA starting June 7th at 12PM (ET). I even bought the Kindle ebook and read it in a couple days.

The idea is according to the site (linked above):

We took an inter­est in this topic because we noticed an alarm­ing trend: in record num­bers, guys seem to be flam­ing out aca­dem­i­cally, wip­ing out socially with girls, and as they mature fail­ing sex­u­ally with women.

This seems to describe me. I was lucky to graduate high school and college mostly by exploiting loopholes. I have never had a girlfriend. I was in my late 20s when I started dating. Even then I am not often very excited about it.

The alleged causes in the video were video games, online activity, and porn. By my calculations I have played around 20,000 hours of video games, twice the level of concern. My time online easily exceeds 40,000 hours. (That is only assuming 50 hours a week * 50 weeks a year since 1996. That 50 hours a week average seems low to me.) The book focused on the video games and porn.

In Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life, Steven Johnson made an interesting point that receptors for dopamine, a reward for almost accomplishing something, and oxytocin, a reward for social connections and establishing trust, occupy close areas. Activities like playing video games can activate dopamine, but doing so while alone ignores the oxytocin and too much of it is bad for the brain. Physical contact, just like the rhesus monkey choosing between the cloth fake mother and wire+milk, is good for us.

Playing video games were just one of many later activities adopted to escape being around others. If anything, then video games were an avenue that made me more social not less. It gave me something to talk to with other guys. That avoiding girls by being with guys is supposedly the problem. I also might go to their house or them come to mine to play. Without it, I probably would have been more alone. Reading, LEGOs, soccer, exploring the woods, and even biking were all activities whereby I achieved getting away from other people. Really, spending significant time away from other people was always a goal of mine.

I would like to see a debate between Susan Cain of Quiet and Philip Zimbardo.

If the below video does not work, then try Philip Zimbardo: The demise of guys?

The origins of pleasure

Why do we like an original painting better than a forgery? Psychologist Paul Bloom argues that human beings are essentialists — that our beliefs about the history of an object change how we experience it, not simply as an illusion, but as a deep feature of what pleasure (and pain) is.

One interesting thing is the same wine from a more expensive bottle improves the taste. In college, my first experiment was looking at which soft drink people liked best: Coke, Pepsi, or Sam’s Choice. In a lot of cases, people would say they thought the drink was either Coke or Pepsi and so it was the one they liked best. In many of those cases it was actually Sam’s Choice. None stated they liked the cheap Sam’s Choice best. So I can buy the perceived expensiveness of something does help me like it better.