Categories
Notes Psychology

How Does the Mind Work? (The Top Books in Cognitive Science)

Cognitive Science: An Introduction to the Science of the Mind – José Luis Bermúdez – 2010

A text that introduces Cognitive Science, with examples, illustrations, applications, cutting-edge research, and new developments. Explores the achievements cognitive scientists have made and the challenges in the future.

Acts of Meaning – Jerome Bruner – 1990

A critique of where Cognitive Psychology is today and its inherent limits.

Cognition and Reality – Ulric Neisser – 1976

An introduction to perception and schema, useful for designing syllabi. Overview of cognitive science.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: And Other Clinical Tales – Oliver Sacks -1985

An empathetic and illuminating treatise of the behaviors of people with brain abnormalities.

Proust Was a Neuroscientist – Jonah Lehrer – 2007

Lehrer was a lab technician in a neuroscience lab, he discovered that the great artists in history had insights into the human brain long before scientists did.

Mind as Machine: A History of Cognitive Science Two-Volume Set – Margaret A. Boden – 2006

A history of cognitive science from one of its eminent practitioners.

In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind – Eric R. Kandel – 2006

Nobel Prize winner Kandel intertwines cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and molecular biology with his own quest to understand memory.

Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy – Evan Thompson – 2014

The latest neuroscience research on sleep, dreaming, and meditation is combined with Indian and Western philosophy of mind. Gives insight into the the self and its relation to the brain.

How the Mind Works – Steven Pinker – 1997

The reasons why the mind has evolved to make decisions in the way it does.

The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature – Steven Pinker – 2007

How language explains human nature, behavior, emotions, and relationships.

Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid – Douglas R. Hofstadter – 1979

An exploration of ideas at the heart of cognitive science: meaning, reduction, recursion.

The Wisdom Paradox: How Your Mind Can Grow Stronger as Your Brain Grows Older – Elkhonon Goldberg – 2005

Evidence that shows that although the brain diminishes in some tasks as it ages, it gains in wisdom.

The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers – Daniel L. Schacter – 2001

The instances of what we know as memory failure – absent-mindedness, transience, blocking, misattribution, suggestibility, bias, and persistence – are not signs of malfunction, but suggests that these mistakes are indications that memory is functioning as designed.

Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain – Maryanne Wolf – 2007

The brain is continually evolving. And it evolves with a changing environment. Writing reduced the need for memory thousands of years ago, but the modern proliferation of information and the requirements of digital culture may short-circuit some of written language’s unique contributions – with potentially profound implications for our future.

Categories
Notes Psychology

The Narcissistic Personality of Our Time

Narcissus spent hours staring at his reflection until he turned into a flower, or so the Greek myth goes. Today, we think of narcissus as the man who is too interested in how they look, are entitled, admire themselves too much, lack empathy, and have an excessive need for admiration.

This leads to the irrefutable conclusion that each person is somewhat of a narcissist. Freud wrote a famous paper on the subject, “On Narcissism: An Introduction.”

According to Freud, the ego develops during infancy at the oral stage of the psychosexual development. At this point, the child thinks he is the center of the universe, and for good reason – his mother fulfils every need he has.

But as he gets older, he notices that not everything goes his way, so his self-centeredness recedes. Freud noticed this and concluded that each person has some level of narcissism that is important for normal psychological development. After early childhood, our total self-love begins to decrease, and our love for others takes its place.

There are two types of narcissism, and they relate to libidinal energy. The child’s libidinal energy is directed inside the newly developed ego – this is called ego-libido. During this time, ego-instincts (need for self-preservation) and sex-instincts (need to preserve the species) are inseparable. This self-love is called Primary Narcissism and is what Freud considered necessary for a healthy psyche.

But with time, the ego becomes filled with libidinal energy, which it has been receiving since childhood, so it looks for outside objects to direct all this energy. That is when sex-instincts separate from ego-instincts. So now, the individual’s energy is both directed towards his ego (autoerotism) and towards other objects (or object-libido).

Inevitably, object-love is not reciprocated, and this results in a trauma that prevents more libidinal energy from flowing outward. The individual regresses to a childlike state, where all libidinal energy flows back towards the ego.

Then the individual is consumed in neurotic self-love. This was called Secondary Narcissism by Freud, and it may lead to Paraphrenia (combination of megalomania and paranoid delusions).

When people direct love to others, they diminish the amount of energy available for themselves. If this love is not returned, they will think of the world as unworthy of their love. So they might become self-absorbed, and delusional.

The Culture of Narcissism

If you want to get a good idea of what the human condition is like, you should not turn to psychology, you should turn to art. The great novelists of the past including Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, Proust, and Flaubert were used as reliable experts on human psychology, without any personal biases. They faithfully represented what they saw as the nature of man in its rawest form. they did not have a personal bias in advancing a school they created (Freud). In the 1960’s, authors like Tom Wolfe have been celebrated for this reason.

But in our current age, who is telling the human story? One crude source is the virtual world.

In 2020, the revenue from PC and mobile gaming combined was about 114 billion dollars. The highest paid design jobs in the world include video game design. The game GTA 5, which was released in 2013, would go on to net $6 billion and sell over 135 million copies.

What is obvious about the game immediately is its highly materialistic depiction of society, specifically San Andreas (which is a pseudonym for “California”).

The purpose of the game is to build your capital as fast as you can so that you can enjoy all the perks that money can offer, including rare cars, private jets, businesses, shares in businesses, strippers, therapy sessions, and even New Age healing services. Michael, one of the main character’s daughter, dreams of becoming famous on the hit TV show “Fame or Shame” and on the radio, there are amusing shows and commercials that talk about self-improvement, health, spiritual healing, and of course, for comedic effect, the people espousing this advice are erratic and unstable. I use this example because if San Andreas was compared with the modern world’s sensibilities and cultural trends, it would not be outrageously inaccurate. But this cultural development is not recent.

Christopher Lasch was a historian who wrote The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations in 1979. Before giving an overview of the book, I will state a truism. Each society is governed by the events that preceded it. And I do not mean “governed” in a trivial way – the most pervasive thoughts, hopes, perspectives, attitudes, values are all included in this definition.

Lasch argues that World War II and the rise of consumer culture that followed it gave rise to a narcissistic personality culture. Previously, the life of an individual was not up to them to choose to do as they please. It was not about “living like there was no tomorrow” but about continuing the role that has been played by those who came before them. The individual occupied a point in a long line, not a point in empty space. The modern world has substituted family for modern corporations, and religion for therapy. The individual today no longer depends on lasting personal relationships, a commitment to traditional values, but lives like nothing ever existed before him, and nothing will exist after him.

The Marivaudian being is, according to Poulet, a pastless futureless man, born anew at every instant. The instants are points which organize themselves into a line, but what is important is the instant, not the line. The Marivaudian being has in a sense no history. Nothing follows from what has gone before. He is constantly surprised. He cannot predict his own reaction to events. He is constantly being overtaken by events. A condition of breathlessness and dazzlement surrounds him.

Donald Barthelme

This fragile self-concept was a descendant of the “youth culture” in the 1960’s which abhorred aging, and admired fame and celebrity. It is interesting that at the time, the motion picture industry and then the television presented to the world a new “desire” which birthed the worship of celebrity. Half a century later, after shows like American Idol captured global attention, we have morphed into a society where even celebrity has become accessible to all. The child growing up today has multiple ways of becoming famous, without having to experience the world in any significant or meaningful way.

Social media has offered itself as an outlet for everyone to become a celebrity. The cost of all this is personal privacy – a small price to pay for attaining godlike status. Much can be said about the human drive towards status. It is silly to trivialize these modern developments as if they were accidental by products of technological advancement. Human biology tells us about the importance of hierarchies – we are chimps that are constantly sizing each other up. That is why gossip is so prevalent. One theory is that it may have the adaptive quality of weeding out the bad apples.

And gossip can be important for social mobility. The person who knows about the social valuation of different members of society knows who they should associate with and who they should avoid. And all this maneuvering has direct implications towards the subjective experience of life. Those that occupy lower-status positions feel disenfranchised and abandoned. And that is where Lasch is most relevant. Society is losing its meaning-making mechanisms, its communities that have historically come to the rescue of the disenfranchised individual. Whereas in the past, the person who was not famous or successful could at least find meaning in going to church or getting married – the modern individual has none of these outlets because they do not believe in continuity. In GTA 5, the writers captured this perfectly when the protagonist’s daughter enters the most popular show in the fictional world, “Fame or Shame” and rather than try to discourage his daughter from pursuing such a vain career path, he helps her chase her dream, at all costs. The implication is that freedom is the highest value, not honor or dignity.

This is not to say that the alternative was better. When in the past, men and women had to belong to conservative organizations that impelled them to give up almost all their personal freedom in exchange for a dignified life as part of a larger community, one cannot help but feel claustrophobic not nostalgic.

The point is that a tradeoff has been made. There is an ugly side to freedom, and instead of seeing it for what it is, we romanticize it, which perpetuates the problems that result from it. It is the same with any kind of zealot, whether capitalism, technophilism, scientism, fundamentalism or extremism. By associating one value (growth, novelty, progress, tradition, ideology) with the “good” – the zealot is blind to the negative repercussions of their enthusiasm.

The critique of Lasch is not towards isolated behaviors that aim to better oneself, but the belief that the combination of multiple autophile behaviors will be an adequate substitute for traditional communities and social contracts that asked the individual to direct their libidinal energy outwards, away from the ego. When this was done in the past, it grounded people and gave them a sense of humility. Today’s self-centered society believes that it is the community that owes them something. And unwittingly, the modern narcissist worships new forms of religion. In the modern world, as Harari points out, it is not so much the cult leaders or religious leaders that are worshipped, but the technologists in Silicon Valley that are promising the next big breakthrough that will be the cure of all cures.

In the end, people must worship something. The self is a poor candidate, since too much self-love can lead to megalomania and delusional ideas – Secondary Narcissism. Self-love does not perform the function of a drug, it does not give people a sense of security. So when people turn their attention on something else to worship, or perhaps someone else, they are in a way, protecting themselves from psychological harm. They are blocking energy from flowing towards the self, they are standing in the way of their own narcissism.

The unfortunate truth is that human beings cannot choose to worship nothing and have a healthy sense of self. At least that is the suggestion behind Freud’s theory of narcissism. And the problem that no choice of worship is without its problems. In the culture of the therapeutic, the problem is propagated as more people become convinced that the cure to their problems is self-understanding, they debilitate themselves.

Psychology makes the claim that you should understand yourself, or in ancient philosophy speak, “know thyself” – yet no psychologist has not admitted to the complexity of the self, its dynamism, and elusiveness. This is a clear double-blind. And it is pernicious not when people who can genuinely benefit from therapy receive it, but when it convinces everyone that they are in need of therapy.

The History of Madness

One of the features of this new world that we occupy is that each individual is somehow broken. If they are not being as “effective” as they can be, or capable of “relating to others” well enough, or buying into social fictions willingly, then they are “sick.” The reality is that they are not docile enough to be considered normal.

In the West there are many therapists who handle these problems professionally. And they take a fat fee for their services. In other parts of the world, therapy isn’t even an idea that people entertain. But slowly, thanks to globalization, all nations are beginning to embrace therapy. You would think that the countries that have the most therapists would have the highest percentage of psychologically “healthy” people, but no. These “civilized” parts of the world recommends that everyone solve their emotional and spiritual problems with drugs. The U.S is ranked number 6 worldwide in terms of opioid abuse.

How to resolve this paradox?

An answer can be found in reading The Myth of Mental Illness, the first point Szasz makes is that psychological diseases keep changing over time. Szasz recalled that not long ago, there were less than 20 psychological illnesses – then, during his lifetime there were hundreds. It is not that change itself is indicative of foul play – without change, there is no evolution or advancement, but the point is that we have not really discovered new illnesses, as much as we have re-categorized old behaviors. The role of the therapist is essentially to socialize the individual into the normal functions of society.

What is more pathological? That a person goes through moments in their lives where they are sad, or that they cannot stand to live a moment in which they are not sad.

In Madness of Civilization, Foucault details the history of madness.

There was a time when the mad were mobile, where they interacted with society, and people heard them speak. There was a time when it was those who knew too much that went mad – Don Quixote went mad because of too much reading, so his priest burnt a selection of his books to cure him. There was a time when to be mad meant to be unproductive, thus the vagabonds, the idle, and the youth who had squandered the family fortune were labelled as mad. There was a time when the remedies to curing the mad was in throwing cold water at them. But confinement was the most popular tool.

Madness was recognized as non-reason, or the negation of reason – that is, non-being – insofar as it is cut off from external stimuli. In fact, doctors prescribed travel and ocean waves to restore movement, and thus the correct flow of thoughts in the mind. To cure madness, by language, for example, was to follow the madman in their illusion, or to force them to come out of their condition out of necessity (the need to work and survive).

Eventually, the mad were no longer allowed to be mobile and were locked up in prisons to make sure they were productive and not just a drag on society, they were forced to work. Ironically, this had the effect of displacing “normal” people in society from jobs, and then those people were labelled as “mad” and the cycle continued.

Then in the 19th century, it was only the unproductive mad people that were considered “mad” – this marked the beginning of the asylum.

They were forced to work so that they did not violate one of God’s commandments. The work was a way to fix their soul, and consequently, absolve them of guilt. But that was not the only rationale – there was an idea, that work was a way to cure man from his suffering. When man escapes the law of labor that nature imposes on him, he seeks into a world of anti-nature, and artifice, and his madness becomes only one manifestation of such a world. In describing how he succeeded, by industrious activity in being cured, Bernadin de-Saint Pierre said:

It was to Jean-Jacques Rousseau that I owed my return to health. I had read, in his immortal writings, among other natural truths, that man is made to work, not to meditate. Until that time I had exercised my soul and rested my body; I changed my ways; I exercised my body and rested my soul. I gave up most books; I turned my eyes to the works of nature, which addressed all my senses in a language that neither time nor nations can corrupt. p.104

Madness and Civilization Foucault

The next stage, psychiatry, is when the analyst takes the role of the priest. The patient, or the madman, confesses to them their sins. In a sense, the madman is like a child while the analyst/therapist is the adult. Merely by virtue of rationality vs non-rationality, the therapist had the upper hand and did not need to use any physical force.

That was Foucault’s contention against Freud, that one did not need to archive mountains of data on a patient to analyze them. it was sufficient to merely be the rational person in the room, and in that sense, you could hold up a mirror to the madman or the patient, and they would be able to see the errors in their thinking for themselves. This is in contrast to Jung, who preferred not to maintain this hierarchical relationship.

There are two points that are important. One, the very definition of madness is dubious, not only because it keeps changing with time to reclassify old modes of behavior, but because there are political and financial incentives to convince people that they are dysfunctional. Second, the therapist has merely filled the void that was previously occupied by the priest.

Autoeroticism

Plagued by anxiety, depression, vague discontents, a sense of inner emptiness, the “psychological man” of the twentieth century seeks neither individual self-aggrandizement nor spiritual transcendence but peace of mind, under conditions that increasingly militate against it. Therapists, not priests or popular preachers of self-help or models of success like the captains of industry, become his principal allies in the struggle for composure; he turns to them in the hope of achieving the modern equivalent of salvation, “mental health.”

The Culture of Narcissism, Lasch

People are more likely today to turn to therapy if they want to solve their romantic or marriage problems, their sense of anxiety about the world, or how to construct meaning in their lives. Whereas the answer used to be to submit oneself to a cause that is far greater than they are, the psychotherapist suggests that the answer can only be found in the individual himself.

But when confronted with this realization, the individual is perplexed, because on the one hand, he is told to be self-sufficient, and on the other hand, he is told that his “self” is neither to be trusted, nor is it real. In plain language, the therapist wants to sell him the idea that he can only find salvation in a fragmented and illusory self, that is completely isolated from the rest of history (the double-blind).

That is why the conservative psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, got something right when he opted to preserve tradition in some way, and offered his patients a more fulfilling answer that connected them with their ancestry. Instead of thing of the self as fragmented, the Self was, in fact, connected deeply with the past. And archetypal symbols that exist in the unconscious of each person were proof of this continuous identity.

Deconstruction of Meaning

Even when therapists speak of the need for “meaning” and “love,” they define love and meaning simply as the fulfillment of the patient’s emotional requirements. It hardly occurs to them—nor is there any reason why it should, given the nature of the therapeutic enterprise—to encourage the subject to subordinate his needs and interests to those of others, to someone or some cause or tradition outside himself.

The Culture of Narcissism, Lasch

In fact, that is what Alfred Adler tried to do with individual psychology. He disregarded the unconscious. He eliminated the cop-out that one’s behavior is determined by hidden forces that are much more powerful than his conscious desires, whether good or bad. The problem was not that the individual has been repressing his past, but that he was avoiding what he had to do in the present.

The Deconstruction of the Deconstruction

For Girard, what Freud sees as narcissistic is simply coquettish behavior. In other words, Girard agree with Freud’s observation, but disagreed with his interpretation. For example, when a beautiful woman displays a lack of attention to others, and cares too much about her own looks, she is signaling to the others, “I value myself” and this signals to others that she is worthy of being valued – according to Girard. Whereas Freud thought this was a sign of secondary narcissism.

So, Girard’s mimetic theory, which says simply that human desires are completely dominated by emulating the desires of others, would contradict the theory of Lasch or Freud about the root of narcissism itself, but it accomplishes the same end goal. Girard’s conclusion is that mimetic desire is the root of all evil, indeed, it is the devil himself. And to avoid the dangers of mimetic desire, we must carefully choose our mimetic models.

The root of narcissism according to Freud, and Lasch, who is influenced by Freud, is that individuals develop Secondary Narcissism. Since the individual does not direct their libidinal energy towards a greater cause or a religion and have been disappointed by others who have not reciprocated their libidinal energy, they retreat into the self, and since this self is by nature unconsolidated, variable, and elusive – the individual is forced to use myriad methods of enforcing their self-esteem, through therapy or therapeutic substitutes. A Rieff explained in The Triumph of the Therapeutic – by doing so, psychological man (the man who has accepted Freud’s mission of refusing the imposition of culture norms and becomes a self-analyst) becomes alienated from his life tasks and the real problems of living.

Whether or not you choose to believe Freud or Lasch or Girard or Jung or Adler, what is unquestionably true is some level of self-delusion on the part of the individual. We either delude ourselves into believing that what we value are our authentic desires, if Girard is right, or we delude ourselves with false motivations (Oedipal Complex, Narcissism of others) if Freud is right, or we delude ourselves with avoiding necessary action if Adler is right, or we delude ourselves into thinking that we are isolated from our past, or we do not have darker impulses (a shadow), if Jung is right.

Each thinker is convinced that a delusion is taking place. And the individual is not only assaulted by an endless array of options to choose from, but an endless number of deconstructions to choose from (as a result of the endless options).

Perhaps the age of narcissism coincides with the age of “nothing is what it seems.” When it becomes impossible to trust one’s perceptions of the world, it becomes safer to trust only one’s own reality. At least that must be real. The modern fascination with meditation and Stoicism cannot be because they are ancient, but because they are logical antidotes to an illusory and unpredictable reality.

Categories
Notes Psychology

How Does The Brain Work? (The Top Books in Neuroscience)

Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are – Joseph E. LeDoux – 2002

How does the memory function? What is the synaptic basis of mental illness and drug addiction? What is the mechanism of self-awareness?

Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts – Stanislas Dehaene– 2014

How does our brain generate a conscious thought? And why does so much of our knowledge remain unconscious? 

The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity – Norman Doidge – 2015

How does the brain heal itself?

The Mind and the Brain – Jeffrey M. Schwartz, Sharon Begley – 2001

Conventional science has long held the position that ‘the mind’ is merely an illusion, a side effect of electrochemical activity in the physical brain. Schwartz is a researcher in brain dysfunction who argues exactly the opposite: that the mind has a life of its own.

Anxious: Using the Brain to Understand and Treat Fear and Anxiety – Joseph E. LeDoux – 2015

Fear and anxiety are not innate states waiting to be unleashed from the brain, but experiences that we assemble cognitively. Treatment of these problems must address both their conscious manifestations and underlying non-conscious processes. While knowledge about how the brain works will help us discover new drugs, LeDoux argues that the greatest breakthroughs may come from using brain research to help reshape psychotherapy.

Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind – V.S. Ramachandran – 1998

What do neurological disorders tell us about who we are, how we construct our body image, why we laugh or become depressed, why we may believe in God, how we make decisions, deceive ourselves and dream, perhaps even why we’re so clever at philosophy, music and art

A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness: From Impostor Poodles to Purple Numbers – V.S. Ramachandran – 2003

Investigations into how amputees feel pain in phantom limbs, how synesthetes see color in numbers and flavors in sounds, and the relationship between seeing and believing – and what all this tells us about consciousness and the self.

Mapping the Mind – Rita Carter – 1998

What is the way the brain receives information from the outside world, and how this information is categorized, stored and retrieved? Contains many great graphical illustrations.

The Mimetic Brain – Michel Oughourlian – 2016

Michel Oughourlian shows how Girard’s Mimetic Theory can be combined with neuroscience to shed light on the discovery of mirror neurons in the brain. Re-evaluates contemporary psychiatry, and offers rivalry as a misunderstood driving force behind mental illness.  

Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life – Steven Johnson – 1999

How do we “read” other people? What is the neurochemistry behind love and sex? What does it mean that the brain is teeming with powerful chemicals closely related to recreational drugs? Why does music move us to tears? Where do breakthrough ideas come from?

Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions – Jaak Panksepp – 1998

A comprehensive summary of the fundamental neural sources of human and animal feelings, as well as a conceptual framework for studying emotional systems of the brain. 

The Brain that Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science – Norman Doidge – 2007

A set of stories about people who have regained or developed senses they either lost or never had.

The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life – Joseph E. LeDoux – 1998

What are the origins of human emotions? How do they exist as part of complex neural systems that evolved to enable us to survive?

Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain – António R. Damásio – 1994

Descartes’ “error” was the separation of mind and body – an artificial dichotomy between rationality and emotion. Damasio makes an excellent case on neurological grounds that rationality does not work without emotion.

The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness – António R. Damásio – 2000

How our consciousness developed out of the development of emotion

Emotions Revealed: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life – Paul Ekman – 2004

What are emotions? What are the 7 universal emotions, how to recognize them in others?

Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique – Michael S. Gazzaniga – 2008

How did social awareness and moral standards evolve? Should intelligence remain embodied? Do you need a physical body to develop human intelligence and consciousness? What does art tell us about the origin of human life, in an evolutionary adaptive sense? How does consciousness arise?

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain – Oliver Sacks – 2007

An investigation into the minds of people who have musical hallucinations, associate musical notes with colors or pictures, or suddenly discover after an accident, that they have gained or lost an aptitude for music.

Your Brain on Music – Daniel J. Levitin – 2006

Are our musical preferences shaped in utero? Is there a cutoff point for acquiring new tastes in music? What do PET scans and MRIs reveal about the brain’s response to music? Is musical pleasure different from other kinds of pleasure?

Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain – António R. Damásio – 2003

The difference between emotions and feelings. A personal investigation into the life of Spinoza.

Categories
Notes Psychology

Personality 1

To know yourself and to know others is useful because you will be better able to conduct yourself in the world. 

Without error, you don’t learn. But to learn, you have to undergo the painful experience of destroying previous conceptualizations of the world. Error is unpleasant but necessary. If you don’t err, and you get what you want, then your conceptual model of the world is working, and this is a psychologically satisfying experience. You are constantly trying to adapt your schema, so that reality meets your expectations. This process of testing your model for accuracy is how you learn, and it is how you act in the world. (A Piagetean idea). 

The course will contain the philosophical underpinnings of psychology and will touch on mythology and shamanism, before tackling the hard sciences. Peterson admits that his style is unorganized and chaotic, but this allows him to better engage with his students. When you read a book, it is better to close the book and recall what you remembered rather than go through the material again. The former activity improves recall, while the latter may merely improve recognition. Recall is much more useful. 

The world is made out of values. If you didn’t have any values, that is, if different potential behaviors didn’t carry with them different values for you, then there would be no reason to do anything. The prerequisite got any activity is a value system. 

Your personality is very complex. There is conflict between psychological thinkers when it comes to personality, but there is also agreement. It is important to note that this knowledge primarily consists of the work of western thinkers who’s primary presupposition is that the individual is someone who ought to know how to act independently in the world. 

Categories
Notes Psychology

The 7 Lessons of Jordan Peterson

Lesson 1: Deadwood

Lesson 2: Order and Chaos

Lesson 3: Don’t be Naive

Lesson 4: Intelligence is not Necessarily Wisdom

Lesson 5: You Don’t Lose Fear, You Become more Courageous

Lesson 6: You Must be Willing to be a Fool to be a Master

Lesson 7: Learn How to Negotiate with Yourself

Categories
Notes philosophy Psychology

“The Busiest People Harbor The Greatest Weariness” Meaning

The busiest people harbor the greatest weariness, their restlessness is weakness – they no longer have the capacity for waiting and idleness.”

Nietzsche

With Nietzsche, as with any great contrarian, we find quotes that point us towards a truth that is at once counter-intuitive and provocative. Of course, when asked to imagine what it would feel like to be depressed, one gets the image of inactivity and resignation. After-all, depression is only an anomaly because it results in behavior that runs counter to the normal pace of life.

But what about the person who never rests? Is their behavior not antithetical to the normal ebb and flow of life?

Our intuition tells us that the opposite of business is depression. So it is not a good idea to be completely idle, but on the mad extreme of activity, there exists a concealed depression.

The hyper-active person is, in a way, compensating for something that is dead within them, something that they have killed. Imagine, for example, the restless entrepreneur, who is constantly in a state of chasing after the next big thing. On the surface, this person is the model of success for anyone in society, as he has achieved, to the maximum, the ideal of the collective. He has accumulated enough money and power, and has made such a dent in the fate of civilization, that he is the closest thing to a god. I use this example, because it is an extreme case of the restless (and successful) individual, who would lack any of the typical symptoms or preconditions of someone who is depressed.

There is a book by Szasz, The Myth of Mental Illness, which makes the point that mental illness is nothing but problems in living. The mentally ill are merely those who cannot keep up with the pace and demands of society, and they are designated by some fashionable diagnosis that is contingent on historical context (mental disorders appear and disappear, depending on the age). Another book that discusses this idea at length is Foucault’s Madness and Civilization.

Taking into consideration these ideas, and granting that it may be that depression is merely a result of socioeconomic or interpersonal circumstance, we must conclude that the person who is highly active, and has no socioeconomic or interpersonal problems, cannot in any person’s eyes, exhibit the behavior or the appearance of someone who is depressed. If depression did not exist, then we would not expect to see it in the hyper-successful, and if it was, we would not expect to see it in the hyper-active (Yet there is a diagnosis that is called “bipolar depression” in which the person’s behavior is characterized by mania or depression, at different times).

But the successful serial entrepreneur, who obsessively searches for new opportunities to exploit, breathless and unceasing in his efforts, is avoiding a primary impulse, and that is to stop. The ceasing of activity is not necessarily the ending of a career, but it is more something that makes way for rethinking, doubt, reflection. If you refuse the impulse to stop, you may find yourself going on and on, with no end in sight, until some kind of catastrophe, social or personal, forces you to stop. Such was the experience for many after the Covid-19 pandemic.

“They intoxicate themselves with work so they won’t see how they really are.”

Aldous Huxley

In summary, the hyper-successful and hyper-active is, in theory, the furthest thing away from someone who can either be considered depressed (according to the psychoanalyst) or someone who merely feigns the invented idea of depression, according to the anti-psychoanalyst (Szasz-Foucault).

And yet, if Nietzsche is right, then such cases do exist. Those who seem to be joyful and exuberant, are beneath this exterior, depressed. This brings to mind the image of the clown in The Joker, as someone who tries to bring joy to children, and on the exterior is cheerful and amiable, but internally, is brimming with anger and resentment. The idea also is similar to Jung’s idea of the persona and the shadow, where the social mask that we wear in public, is usually in direct opposition with our internal state.

So what are we to make of all this? At the very least, weariness and business are not opposites. You can be busy, but mentally tired and depressed. This is definitely a possibility, but can this idea be of use in social relations?

A rule of thumb is to look for signs of overcompensation. That is where someone is acting too energetically, too joyfully, too enthusiastically, that there is something hidden. If someone is too quiet, they may have too much to say, or are possessed by too much of an urge to be socially accepted. If someone is too noisy and boisterous, they may harbor deep feelings of insecurity and reservation.

Where bad eyesight can no longer see the evil impulse as such, on account of its refinement,-there man sets up the kingdom of goodness ; and the feeling of having now gone over into the kingdom of goodness brings all those impulses (such as the feelings of security, of comfortableness, of benevolence) into simultaneous activity, which were threatened and confined by the evil impulses. Consequently, the duller the eye so much the further does goodness extend ! Hence the eternal cheerfulness of the populace and of children ! Hence the gloominess and grief (allied to the bad conscience) of great thinkers.

Nietzsche, The Gay Science 
Categories
Notes Psychology

27 Mental Models from Psychology and Behavioral Economics

27 Mental Models from Psychology and Behavioral Economics 1
Kahneman

Here is a list of twenty-seven alphabetized mental models from behavioral economics and psychology, briefly explained.


Availability Heuristic: Kahneman discovered that we tend to remember what is most salient and frequent. To have a truly comprehensive memory would be debilitating.

Anchoring: The human tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered (the “anchor”) when making decisions.

Bounded Rationality: People are limited by their knowledge, cognitive biases, and time. They are not optimizing their decisions, but satisficing. .

Boredom Syndrome: Most humans have the tendency to need to act, even when their actions are not needed. We also tend to offer solutions even when we do not have knowledge to solve the problem.

Choice Overload: Too many options lead to difficulty in decision-making.

Cognitive Dissonance: When people’s beliefs do not match up with their behaviors.

Commitment and Consistency Bias: People keep their prior commitments; they stay consistent with their prior selves. This is sometimes useful socially but can be foolish in the long run.

Confirmation Bias: People to choose to see information that affirms their beliefs.

Decoy Effect: People will change their preference between two options when presented with a third option.

Dunning-Kruger Effect: Ignorant or unskilled people believe they are more competent than they are.

Endowment Effect: When people own something, they irrationally overvalue it.

First-Conclusion Bias: Once we make our first conclusion about something, we stop thinking about it. Good for energy conservation but leads to errors.

Framing Effect: People react to a choice differently. depending on how it’s presented.

Fundamental Attribution Error: Over-ascribe behavior of others to their innate traits rather than circumstantial factors, leading us to misread how they will behave in the future.

Halo Effect: The impression we have of someone influences how we think about other aspects about them.  

Hedonic Adaptation: People return to their default level of happiness, despite major positive or negative events.

Hindsight Bias: When you know the outcome, it’s easy to fool yourself into believing that you knew it all along.

Licensing Effect: If you do something positive, you allow yourself an indulgence.

Loss Aversion: People prefer to avoid losing 100 dollars than gaining 100 dollars.

Social Proof: The more there are people who do something, the safer we feel doing it ourselves.

Survivorship Bias: Those that survive the past can write about it, but there are many untold stories. We undervalue luck and overvalue the few stories we have access to.

Over-justification Effect: When given a reward for an activity, the intrinsic pleasure gained from doing it decreases.

Partitioning: When a product is divided into smaller units, consumers face more decision points and consume less of it.

Pavlovian Association: Humans, like salivating dogs, feel negative and positive emotion towards intangible objects, with emotions coming from past associations, not direct causes.

Peak-End Rule: An experience is judged on how it was felt at its most intense point and at the end than on the average of every moment of experience.

Priming: A stimulus affects how a person behaves.  

Time Discounting: People value things now more than later, even if waiting brings more valuable.

Categories
Notes health

Section 4: Training (Bigger, Leaner, Stronger)

Lifting

The best ways to train are using dumbbell and barbell exercises, if you want to build bigger, stronger muscles. There are some machines that are good, such as the leg press or cable setup, but most are inferior to dumbbells and barbells.

The average guy needs to build a strong overall foundation of muscle and strength, and if you want to do that naturally, you must do a lot of heavy, compound weightlifting.

To achieve maximum overload and muscle stimulation, train one or two muscle groups per workout or per day.

For nearly all exercises, you will be working in the 4 to 6 rep range.

The workouts in this program will call for 9 to 12 heavy (or working) sets per workout.

Rest 3 to 4 minutes between sets.

Every 8 weeks choose between a deload week, or several days of rest.

When you hit 6 reps for one set, add weight for your next set. This is a simple and effective method of progression.

The rep timing should be 2-1-2 or 2-1-1. First part of rep, less than 2 seconds. 1 second pause, and then final part, 2 seconds.

When cutting, training heavy is very important, because you want to preserve muscle. To do this, you need to keep overloading the muscles.

Cardio

Cardio can help your body repair muscle damage quickly because it promotes blood flow.

Cardio is good for insulin sensitivity.

By keeping regular cardio all year, you can maintain your metabolic conditioning. and prevent system “shell shock” at the beginning of a cut.

There are muscle-related benefits of cardio, especially if the exercise is like the motions used in muscle building exercises, like cycling or rowing.

HIIT burns more fat in less time than steady state cardio and preserves muscular size and performance better.

Separate weightlifting from cardio sessions by at least a few hours if possible. If you can’t, do cardio last.

When bulking, do two 25-minute HIIT sessions a week. When cutting, do 3 to 5 25-minute HIIT sessions per week. When maintaining, do 3 sessions.

Exercises

The best exercises: the squat, deadlift, bench press, and military press.

Don’t do heavy half-reps, they strain your joints, tendons, and ligaments.

The Squat

With proper form, the squat does not cause injuries.

It is preferable not to squat on a Smith machine.

Don’t use a wide squatting stance unless you are powerlifting. Squat barefoot or with flat soled shoes.

The front squat is good for quadriceps, core, and puts less pressure on spine and knees.

The Bench Press

If you bench a lot of weight with poor form, it is easy to hurt your shoulders. Do it properly, and you can grow your chest and make it stronger, while keeping your shoulders safe.

Do not bounce the bar off your chest but lower it in a controlled manner. Let it touch your chest and drive it up. Finish your last rep before trying to rack the weight.

Do a lot of incline pressing to make sure your upper chest doesn’t fall behind your pec major.

As you narrow your grip on the bar, the triceps must do more work.

The Deadlift

The deadlift is the best full-body workout, it trains about every muscle group in the body.

The variations of this exercise include the sumo deadlift, the hex bar deadlift, and the RDL.

The Military Press

The best all-around shoulder exercise is the military press. It is a simple, easy movement that is safe.

The standing variation needs core and back strength.

Chest Training

Forget cable work, dumbbell flys, push-up variations and machines. Avoid decline pressing, it’s not worth it. Focus on incline pressing.

Rotate between dumbbell and barbell centric routines.

Back Training

Always start your back workouts with the deadlift. From there, move to wide-gripped pulling movement like barbell or T-bar row, front lat pulldown or wide-grip pull-up. Follow this with a more narrow gripped pulling movement like the one-arm-dumbbell row, close grip lat pulldown, and close-grip seated row.

Shoulder Training

Like chest, focus on heavy pressing. But also include side raises and something for the rear delts.

Leg Training

Start every leg workout with the back or front squat.

Next, focus on major muscle groups you can pair with the back squat, such as front squat, hack squat, leg press, or a lunge movement for the quadriceps.

Finish with Romanian deadlift or leg curl for hamstring centric work.

Like the abs, the calves recover from workouts more quickly than other muscle groups and can be trained more intensively.

Arm Training

Do one barbell and one dumbbell exercise per workout for the biceps. Ex: Barbel curl then hammer curl.

Start triceps training with something you can push weight on, like close-grip bench press or seated triceps press.

If you get intense forearm soreness with the arm workouts, reduce working set weight to 6-8 rep range and build your strength there for first couple of months.

Core Training

To get a six-pack, you need both low body fat levels and well-developed core muscles.

The squat and deadlift don’t involve the show muscles of the abdomen.

Like any other muscle they require progressive overload to grow and that can only be done by adding resistance to exercises.

Categories
Notes health

Section 3: Nutrition and Diet (Bigger, Leaner, Stronger)

Calories

Regardless of the source, 1 gram of protein contains 4 calories, 1 gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories as well, and 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories.

People often overestimate how many calories they burn each day, so they over-eat

To know how many calories you burn every day, you must get your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). Use the Katch McArdle formula first to determine BMR.

BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) = 370 + (21.6 * LBM)

LBM = Lean Body Mass. It is Kilograms for this calculation.

To calculate it, you subtract your body fat weight from your total body weight.

LBM = (1 – BF% expressed as decimal numeral) * total body weight

When you have calculated your BMR, you can then find your TDEE.

TDEE also depends on how much you exercise vigorously every week. (BMRx1.2 if you exercise 1-3 hours a week, BMRx1.5 if you exercise 4-6 hours a week, BMRx1.5 if you exercise for 6 or more hours a week).

Protein

You need to have a high protein diet to build muscle, and to keep it when losing weight. A low protein diet is good for nothing.

You should eat 1.3-1.8 grams of protein for every kg of body weight.

Protein from meat sources is particularly good for weightlifting, as eating meat increases testosterone levels and is more effective at building than vegetarian sources.

It is not impossible to get enough protein from food, but it is difficult. Supplements are required for this reason.

Water

Women should drink three quarters of a gallon per day, while men should drink just over a gallon.

Plastic bottled water has a higher contamination of chemicals than glass bottles.

Best thing is to get filtered water. Avoid tap water.

Vitamins and Minerals

 Your body needs a wide variety of vitamins and minerals to perform the
millions of physiological processes that keep you alive and well.

Ideally, we’d get all of the vitamins and minerals we need from the food
we eat, but this is hard.

The Institute of Medicine recommends 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day
as the adequate intake level for most adults and an upper limit of 2,300
milligrams per day. One teaspoon of table salt contains a whopping 2,300
milligrams of sodium.

Fiber

Fiber comes in two forms, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and slows down the movement of food through the digestive system. But it can increase fecal output by stimulating growth of healthy bacteria and fatty acids and is an important source of fuel for the colon.

Ex of soluble fiber: broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots.

Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and does increase stool weight. It hits the walls of intestines and causes damage, but this damage and the resulting repair and cellular regeneration are healthy processes.

Ex of insoluble fiber: Brown rice, beans, avocado.

Pre-Workout, Post-Workout

Eating protein before working out, and especially a quickly digested protein high in leucine like whey, can help you build more muscle over time. 30 to 40 grams of protein 30 minutes before training is recommended.

Eating carbohydrate before working out, and especially a quickly digested form, will improve your performance. 40 to 50 grams of carbs 30 minutes before training is recommended.

Eating dietary fat before working out provides no benefits.

The goals of post-workout nutrition are minimizing post-workout muscle breakdown and maximizing protein synthesis. And similar to pre-workout nutrition, you achieve these effects by eating protein and carbohydrate after training.

Better to eat carbs before than after workout.

It’s smart to have some protein before a cardio workout to counteract any
potential muscle loss. Post-workout protein or carbs would only be needed
if the cardio were particularly long and intense (longer than an hour).

Cutting, Bulking, Maintaining

Cutting is “fitness speak” for feeding your body less energy than it burns every day to maximize fat loss while minimizing muscle loss. Generally, you can’t build muscle when you’re cutting.

Bulking refers to feeding your body slightly more energy than it burns every day so as to maximize muscle growth. You also gain body fat while bulking.

Maintaining refers to feeding your body the energy it burns every day, which enables you to make slow muscle gains without the adding any fat.

The only people who can effectively (and naturally) build muscle and lose fat simultaneously are beginner who have a lot of fat, and people who used to be in great shape.

Cutting

When cutting, you want to lose between 0.5 and 1 pound per week.

If you have a lot of fat, this number goes up to 2 to 3 pounds for the first few weeks.

If your strength drops considerably, you’re probably undereating and need to increase your food intake.

Bulking

If you’re in the 10-12 percent body fat range and want to put on muscle quickly, you should bulk.

Bulking doesn’t mean eating whatever you want whenever you want. You can have a cheat meal once a week but keep it reasonable.

Maintenance

On average, you’ll gain around 0.5 pounds a week.

Categories
health

Section 2: Inner Game (Bigger, Leaner, Stronger)

A real willpower challenge isn’t a fleeting, “wouldn’t that be nice” thought that disappears as quickly as it came. It’s more like an all-consuming battle raging inside of you between good and evil, virtue and sin, and yin and yang, and you feel it physically.

There is a war that takes place within your brain. When you see a greasy cheeseburger, dopamine tells your mind to consume it now or to suffer the consequences. Your brain, at this point, is anticipating a spike in energy and insulin, so it lowers your blood sugar levels. This makes you crave the burger even more.

The role of dopamine isn’t to make you feel pleasure, but to spur you into action. But dopamine also releases stress that makes you feel anxious. That is why, the more you think about the reward, the more you want to get it now.

Your brain doesn’t care about the bigger picture, or the long run, or how you will feel in a month. It is interested in pursuing instances of pleasure and raising red flags.

Regular exercise reduces craving for both food and drugs, makes you more resistant to depression, and stress, increases heart rate variability, and optimizes brain function.

The moral of this section is that we can’t trust our feelings to guide our behavior. If we go around chasing “good feelings,” we’ll figure out many ways of not feeling bad about procrastinating, overeating, overspending, and other behaviors, and then we’ll wonder why we’re so broke, fat, lazy, and ignorant.

To stay committed to a training routine, and to get results, you need to learn how to observe cravings as they appear and wait for them to subside.

Nothing fails like success.

It is common to indulge when you feel you have eaten well or exercised. But be wary of this, as you may easily offset your progress, and will make your climb upwards much harder than it needs to be.