15 Jul

Wired – How Online Companies Get You to Share More and Spend More

You’re not stupid, but you can be fooled. For millennia, the best salespeople have known how to exploit the vulnerabilities of the human mind. In the burgeoning field of behavioral economics, we’ve begun to give precise names to the mental weaknesses that make us all susceptible to a well-crafted pitch. Drawing on the insights of psychology, behavioral economists have explained why we buy more stuff at $0.99 than at $1.00 (the “left-digit effect”), why we commit to gym memberships we’ll never use (“optimism bias”), and why we don’t return things we buy as often as we should (“post-purchase rationalization”). The giants of the web, from Amazon to Zynga, use similar tricks to keep us coming to their sites, playing their games, and buying their goods. In fact, that’s how they became giants in the first place. Here’s how they game us—and how, in some cases, we wind up gaming ourselves.

via Wired – How Online Companies Get You to Share More and Spend More. Always neat seeing psychology at play especially with companies that excel at it.

06 Mar

Seth’s Blog – The limits of evidence-based marketing

Of course, evidence isn’t the only marketing tactic that is effective. In fact, it’s often not the best tactic. What would change his mind, what would change the mind of many people resistant to evidence is a series of eager testimonials from other tribe members who have changed their minds. When people who are respected in a social or professional circle clearly and loudly proclaim that they’ve changed their minds, a ripple effect starts. First, peer pressure tries to repress these flip-flopping outliers. But if they persist in their new mindset, over time others may come along. Soon, the majority flips. It’s not easy or fast, but it happens.

That’s why it’s hard to find people who believe the earth is flat. That’s why political parties change their stripes now and then. It wasn’t that the majority reviewed the facts and made a shift. It’s because people they respected sold them on a new faith, a new opinion.

via Seth’s Blog – The limits of evidence-based marketing. I know this to be true, that evidence doesn’t tend to change people’s opinion on a subject, but darn it, evidence really should change people’s understanding of a subject.

06 Jan

UX Myths – Myth #29: People are rational

People don’t make purely rational decisions based on careful analysis of cost and expected utility, despite what classical economics taught us. Research findings confirm that our decisions are driven more by our emotions than logical and conscious thinking.

However, our irrationality is predictable. Good designers, therefore, can learn about human decision making and go beyond usability to create products that effectively influence our behavior.

via UX Myths – Myth #29: People are rational. The post is an awesome read and ends with a nice list of books to read to explore the subject further.

11 Apr

A Psychologist Steeped in Treatment of Sexually Active Priests – NYTimes.com

Leslie Lothstein has seen them all: priests sexually active with adult men, others with adult women, others with adolescents, others with children. By his own count, Dr. Lothstein, a psychologist at the Institute of Living, in Hartford, has treated about 300 Roman Catholic priests, not only those with sexual problems, but also those with alcoholism, depression and other mental illnesses.

via Beliefs – A Psychologist Steeped in Treatment of Sexually Active Priests – NYTimes.com. A short story about one of the very few secular therapists to treat Catholic priests.

27 Jan

Geek Behaviors Present During Conversations – Philip Guo

This article presents some common behaviors I've observed from my past few years of interactions with geeks, nerds, and other highly-smart technical people. For brevity, I will simply use the term “geek” throughout this article as a catch-all term for such people. I don't mean to pass any value judgments on people who exhibit such behaviors; these are simply my observations and personal theories for why these behaviors occur.

via Philip Guo – Geek behaviors present during conversations. I’m guilty of basically every thing mentioned in here.

03 Jan

Scientists say dolphins should be treated as ‘non-human persons’ – Times Online

Dolphins have long been recognised as among the most intelligent of animals but many researchers had placed them below chimps, which some studies have found can reach the intelligence levels of three-year-old children. Recently, however, a series of behavioural studies has suggested that dolphins, especially species such as the bottlenose, could be the brighter of the two. The studies show how dolphins have distinct personalities, a strong sense of self and can think about the future.

via Scientists say dolphins should be treated as ‘non-human persons’ – Times Online.

07 Jan

One isn’t Many and Many isn’t All

One of the arguments that I hear for why people express an -ism belief (racism, sexism, ageism, etc), is that they had this experience with this one person and you know that must be how everyone of that particular group is. I love this kind of reasoning it’s so illogical it’s almost funny and yet people do it all the time.

Venn Diagram: Subsets

Venn Diagram: Subsets

Mathematics will let you know that a subset is not always equal or the same as the larger set contained in it.

So why is that people assume that it is? Who knows, I suspect it has something to do with the same reason we are bad at assessing on an intuitive level risk.

Be that as it may, maybe it would be fair for people who make those sort of assumptions that a subset is the whole set to decide that white Americans are out to destroy America, or that Christians want to kill people and blow up buildings. Yet we don’t assume that because it just isn’t true.

So do you still think the one is the many and that many is all or is it possible that it just isn’t true?

13 May

The Rise of the Generalist

Recently Steve Rubel posted about What’s the Future Like for a “Renaissance Man” in a Connected World?. In this post he discuses how even though we would think that with the internet an individual could have broad knowledge about the world, instead people specialize in their particular area of expertise. He then says that he himself has instead shifted to being specialist rather than a broad spectrum of knowledge.

I find this puzzling, for several reasons. First off I have seen the internet both increase my knowledge in specific areas that I deeply value as well as increase my knowledge in areas that I may not be overly interested in. The internet brings to me a great variety of information that is mine to read and analyze and digest. Of course it probably helps that with the exception of few subjects (sports and farming) I am genuinely interested in just about everything. From all areas of scientific research, computing and technology of course, psychology, social sciences, medicine, politics, you name I have on some level a genuine interest in it.

I think one can genuinely specialize in a particular field, in my case programming with regards to Java, PHP and AJAX. But at the same time I can and do read up on a variety of information on a host of other fields and subject areas. Part of the reason I write this blog is to educate myself on a variety of subjects. Granted a lot of posts center around technology as to be excepted, yet I hope to talk about other things. Or take a look at the different links that I read around the web with my daily links posts. I’m reading from 200+ RSS feeds, with anywhere from 500 – 1,000 articles a day being read. You know what else, I love it. I love educating myself on something new, I love the idea that I can talk on a decently high enough level on just about any subject. True I may not be able to preform a DNA replication, but I know how it works and why it is important.

Specialization is not a bad thing, but what happens when all we have are specialist. Will people be able to be independent thinkers or hiring a specialist to do their thinking for them? What about managers as well, a boss has to be a generalist. A boss has to at least have some knowledge of everything that his/her employees do even if they don’t specialize in it to be able to make a decent decision.

The idea that people will always defer to the expert in a field is ridiculous, humans aren’t that intelligent and we have too much ego in ourselves. Far too many people do think that they now better than experts right now, look at Hillary Clinton, a very intelligent by all respects woman, who thinks economists shouldn’t tell her that suspending the 18 cent federal gas tax will do nothing to help the average consumer.

We need to be generalists to make decisions, specialization is good, but going too far is just as bad as knowing nothing.

Update: I forgot about Seth Godin’s blog post this morning about the same topic in which he argues we should be specialist rather than generalist.

19 Sep

Stereotypes: Will they ever go away?

An idea that has been discussed on and off again in my history class (History of Women in America) is what would happen if some how every living person on the face of the earth did not have any stereotypes about any other person. No racial, no religious, no gender and sexual, no stereotypes of any kind. Would the stereotypes reappear, would a different set of stereotypes come into play, or would stereotypes no longer exist. It is an interesting question and the focus of tonight’s post.

I personally feel that no matter what is taught by the government in schools or by parents in the household, that stereotypes will ever disappear. Here is why, stereotypes are created not just by what you explicitly learn, but also through what you implicitly learn. So, by the same measure that you learn that everyone is and should treated equally, you also see people all the time who are treated differently than how you treat people who are in your same social class, for example, in life. This is just one simple example that shows how even a liberal educated person has stereotypes in their person and will possibly never get rid of them.

However, we are discussing a situation (which is far from the realm of possible, though not that it isn’t desirable) where all stereotypes have been eliminated from society’s and humankind’s collective mind. First off let us recognize stereotypes for what they are. Stereotypes are not normally based on present conditions although there do exist stereotypes that are relatively new. Most stereotypes are from society’s past, they are result of one social group suppressing another social group. For this simple fact, I think that stereotypes stand a chance of being eliminated. The crux of the problem resides in the first generation of children to grow up in our fictional world. In a world without stereotypes, the question is, would the children create their own new stereotypes based on present conditions and actions? If they do not, you will quite possibly have a large portion of people transferring jobs and positions in society that are more traditionally (in our society) associated with another social group. For instance will more women become leaders in industry, will more whites preform lower income positions and will more minorities go off to college and become managers?

There are a lot of assumptions in this theory, this is the major flaw with it. Which is why I don’t know for certain which would happen. It could easily be argued that because the society is going to look the same as our society, the stereotypes will come back into play, because every facet of society is divided up into already pre-existing social groups. These social groups could and in all likely hood will cause stereotypes to come back into play into society. Here is why, the people you are most comfortable with are people who you work with, live with, and socialize with. When those people stay the same, but the stereotypes of other social groups is non-existent, why wouldn’t the stereotypes come right back into play. Everyday, you see an older white male is in charge of most companies, majority of day-laborers are Hispanic at the very least and sometimes though not always illegal immigrants, receptionists are generally female, a vast majority of people in prison are there based on drugs and are also African-American, many scientists and researchers you would hear about are Chinese or Asian, the call-center that you call for customer service consistently constitutes of Indians. It isn’t just that these statements and observations are stereotypes, but that they are true in our modern liberal democratic society. The question now becomes rather than will the social structure change, to can it change? Since there are still mechanisms in place that cause social groups to not be able to change their position in society, such as sheer economics of gaining a college degree to be able work at a different job other than manual labor or fast food.

I have been debating this question internally for a week or so and can not come to an effective conclusion on the question of could stereotypes disappear from society. Personally, when I started writing this post, I was of the opinion that they could disappear. I sat on the post for another week or so and changed my mind almost every day. After a week or so of thinking and debating, I feel that stereotypes will in all likely hood not disappear. They will be replaced by a different set of stereotypes that instead of being based upon historical context, will be found in the current culture and society of our imaginary world. Also the stereotypes will suffer just as hard of a time disappearing in this new society as in our present society because there are other reasons beyond just stereotypes that limit a social groups ability as a whole to change the status of their current conditions. Stereotypes do play a large role in the suppression of social groups and I do feel that with stereotypes gone, social groups will have a much better opportunity to be able to change their position in society. Stereotypes are something that I wish personally did not exist but I feel will always exist in society, no matter how much society wishes to get rid of them.