How to get your brain to read?

How to Get Your Mind to Read ((article by Daniel T. Willingham (@DTWillingham) is a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and the author, most recently, of “The Reading Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Understanding How the Mind Reads.” Republished from the New York Times

Photo: Credit Lilli Carré))
Americans are not good readers. Many blame the ubiquity of digital media. We’re too busy on Snapchat to read, or perhaps internet skimming has made us incapable of reading serious prose. But Americans’ trouble with reading predates digital technologies. The problem is not bad reading habits engendered by smartphones, but bad education habits engendered by a misunderstanding of how the mind reads.

Just how bad is our reading problem? The last National Assessment of Adult Literacy from 2003 is a bit dated, but it offers a picture of Americans’ ability to read in everyday situations: using an almanac to find a particular fact, for example, or explaining the meaning of a metaphor used in a story. Of those who finished high school but did not continue their education, 13 percent could not perform simple tasks like these. When things got more complex — in comparing two newspaper editorials with different interpretations of scientific evidence or examining a table to evaluate credit card offers — 95 percent failed.

There’s no reason to think things have gotten better. Scores for high school seniors on the National Assessment of Education Progress reading test haven’t improved in 30 years.

Many of these poor readers can sound out words from print, so in that sense, they can read. Yet they are functionally illiterate — they comprehend very little of what they can sound out. So what does comprehension require? Broad vocabulary, obviously. Equally important, but more subtle, is the role played by factual knowledge.

All prose has factual gaps that must be filled by the reader. Consider “I promised not to play with it, but Mom still wouldn’t let me bring my Rubik’s Cube to the library.” The author has omitted three facts vital to comprehension: you must be quiet in a library; Rubik’s Cubes make noise; kids don’t resist tempting toys very well. If you don’t know these facts, you might understand the literal meaning of the sentence, but you’ll miss why Mom forbade the toy in the library.

Knowledge also provides context. For example, the literal meaning of last year’s celebrated fake-news headline, “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President,” is unambiguous — no gap-filling is needed. But the sentence carries a different implication if you know anything about the public (and private) positions of the men involved, or you’re aware that no pope has ever endorsed a presidential candidate.

You might think, then, that authors should include all the information needed to understand what they write. Just tell us that libraries are quiet. But those details would make prose long and tedious for readers who already know the information. “Write for your audience” means, in part, gambling on what they know.

These examples help us understand why readers might decode well but score poorly on a test; they lack the knowledge the writer assumed in the audience. But if a text concerned a familiar topic, habitually poor readers ought to read like good readers.

In one experiment, third graders — some identified by a reading test as good readers, some as poor — were asked to read a passage about soccer. The poor readers who knew a lot about soccer were three times as likely to make accurate inferences about the passage as the good readers who didn’t know much about the game.

That implies that students who score well on reading tests are those with broad knowledge; they usually know at least a little about the topics of the passages on the test. One experiment tested 11th graders’ general knowledge with questions from science (“pneumonia affects which part of the body?”), history (“which American president resigned because of the Watergate scandal?”), as well as the arts, civics, geography, athletics and literature. Scores on this general knowledge test were highly associated with reading test scores.

Current education practices show that reading comprehension is misunderstood. It’s treated like a general skill that can be applied with equal success to all texts. Rather, comprehension is intimately intertwined with knowledge. That suggests three significant changes in schooling.

First, it points to decreasing the time spent on literacy instruction in early grades. Third-graders spend 56 percent of their time on literacy activities but 6 percent each on science and social studies. This disproportionate emphasis on literacy backfires in later grades, when children’s lack of subject matter knowledge impedes comprehension. Another positive step would be to use high-information texts in early elementary grades. Historically, they have been light in content.

Second, understanding the importance of knowledge to reading ought to make us think differently about year-end standardized tests. If a child has studied New Zealand, she ought to be good at reading and thinking about passages on New Zealand. Why test her reading with a passage about spiders, or the Titanic? If topics are random, the test weights knowledge learned outside the classroom — knowledge that wealthy children have greater opportunity to pick up.

Third, the systematic building of knowledge must be a priority in curriculum design. The Common Core Standards for reading specify nearly nothing by way of content that children are supposed to know — the document valorizes reading skills. State officials should go beyond the Common Core Standards by writing content-rich grade-level standards and supporting district personnel in writing curriculums to help students meet the standards. That’s what Massachusetts did in the 1990s to become the nation’s education leader. Louisiana has recently taken this approach, and early results are encouraging.

Don’t blame the internet, or smartphones, or fake news for Americans’ poor reading. Blame ignorance.

Turning the tide will require profound changes in how reading is taught, in standardized testing and in school curriculums. Underlying all these changes must be a better understanding of how the mind comprehends what it reads.

 

Read the original article: How to get your brain to read?

Conscious awareness… what is it really? And what does your vocabulary have to do with it?

We throw about big words, and we pretend that we know them. Even “scientists” just pretend. If they didn’t, they would be explaining, clarifying the words, but they don’t.

In the Starting Point Measurements the vocabulary number is what indicates this. I originally intended to call this clarity, but then I decided that if it refers to words, then maybe it can be instructive.

It hasn’t been.

So this article will be, mostly, about words.

Whenever we say conscious awareness, we are talking about words. No words, no conscious awareness.

Continue reading “Conscious awareness… what is it really? And what does your vocabulary have to do with it?”

Vibrational Review: Muse – the brain sensing headband… a meditation device, Ariel Garten and Jordan Peterson

The idea for the Muse came from Ariel Garten, personal vibration 120, a Canadian entrepreneur… curiously deserving a Wikipedia entry, while Dr. Joel Wallach hasn’t. Ugh.

Canada is home of the lowest vibration on the planet.

Why on earth would that be? I myself pondered that question for a long time… until this past weekend, where accidentally I stumbled onto another celebrity Canadian, psychologist Jordan Peterson, personal vibration 170, (( celebrity Canadian, psychologist Jordan Peterson, personal vibration 170 )) who is spewing a confusing mixture of uneducated / overeducated, philosophical / religious mishmash… so fast that my ears that are used to listening to audios at 125% speed, could barely keep up with him.

Canadians are pushing socialistic ideals. Lotsa shoulds! Also, it seems, they find comfort in religion. And being self-righteous about their hodge podge ideology. Continue reading “Vibrational Review: Muse – the brain sensing headband… a meditation device, Ariel Garten and Jordan Peterson”

It’s all about the memes. If you catch them, life may start working…

I have 2-3 conversations a day with my students, conversations that should be made public.

Here is one from today:

helpless-haplessHim: Wow. I realized on yesterday’s call that there are memes and voices when I am on the call and they are disturbing me to get things more than I am doing. Or disturbing me to look, think and not going to the head. These voices are fear based. “What if I say something wrong, what if I can’t do what she says etc.” It went better yesterday because I was conscious of them and could decide to just let them be noises and have my attention on what you were saying instead.

Me: yes. it is the biggest reason people don’t do well. good catch. thank you for sharing.

I have one meme still very alive… “It is too hard!” lol

and another one, a little bit less “It is hopeless!”

Continue reading “It’s all about the memes. If you catch them, life may start working…”

Fighting windmills? No time to do good stuff, let alone great stuff?

I just learned something terrible about myself. A lot of people hear me as if I were their father.

You see, in my family I was the dunce… meaning stupid. And even though I had straight A grades, and I was good at everything I tried, I remained stupid for my family.

How this works I don’t know. But this seems to be the dynamic: people make a decision about you, and then they never really look at you again.

You take it on, as the truth, and freeze into it. You allow it to guide you through life.

With me it was a little different, because I am defiant. I am not defiant to the person who speaks it, I am defiant to the saying. I am going to prove them wrong.

My brother, my older brother was the apple of my mother’s eye. He was smart, and good looking. And a boy. He had no challenge (as far as I can see it) because he didn’t look at life’s challenges as challenges… he didn’t study, and his grades were pitiful. Continue reading “Fighting windmills? No time to do good stuff, let alone great stuff?”

Want to be the one who is making the decisions in your life?

back-to-the-future-2This week has been a success for Life, and a disaster financially. Everyone was spending their money on turkey, I guess.

So I am going to announce some sales for this coming week. I’ll make them good… so you’ll buy.

Now, about the successes that lead me to a huge insight.

All that people do is guided by memes, and they think they decided to do it. And you think they decided to do it from the goodness of their heart, from the badness of their heart, whatever seem to be the case. But in fact they never decided anything… It is the memes that are doing the deciding.

This is a totally different way to look at people, at life, and at what’s happening.

You can use this to re-interpret your past.

My “Playground: it is never too late to have a happy childhood” was a program where we experimented with this, even though at the time there were no distinctions, like memes used in the work. I bet it would have been easier and faster.

Why? Because the moment you realize that no one ever says or does anything that is not coming from the memes, including your father, including you… it is easier to have compassion for the perpetrator, and it is easier to have compassion for yourself.

This is a revolutionary way to look at life, but judging from the results, this is a way that returns the power to you.

Now, did you EVER have the power in your life?

The answer won’t surprise you because it matches your experience.

No, you never had the power. Why? Because you never had your own thinking not modified, colored, or directed by the memes. Family, peers, caretakers, teachers, clergymen, doctors… you never did your own thinking.

They gave you your words in full sentences… memes.

These memes tell you what you can, what you can’t, what you should do.

These memes tell you how the world is. How to tell if someone is a friend or a foe. They tell you want to do, how to do it… like a straitjacket.

Here is a fantastic article on this topic… from the New Yorker Magazine. Both fascinating and horrifying seeing the memes in action.

The Root of All Cruelty?

Perpetrators of violence, we’re told, dehumanize their victims. The truth is worse.

By Paul Bloom

Violent acts are often motivated, rather than countermanded, by ethical norms.

A recent episode of the dystopian television series “Black Mirror” begins with a soldier hunting down and killing hideous humanoids called roaches. It’s a standard science-fiction scenario, man against monster, but there’s a twist: it turns out that the soldier and his cohort have brain implants that make them see the faces and bodies of their targets as monstrous, to hear their pleas for mercy as noxious squeaks. When our hero’s implant fails, he discovers that he isn’t a brave defender of the human race—he’s a murderer of innocent people, part of a campaign to exterminate members of a despised group akin to the Jews of Europe in the nineteen-forties.

The philosopher David Livingstone Smith, commenting on this episode on social media, wondered whether its writer had read his book “Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others” (St. Martin’s). It’s a thoughtful and exhaustive exploration of human cruelty, and the episode perfectly captures its core idea: that acts such as genocide happen when one fails to appreciate the humanity of others.

One focus of Smith’s book is the attitudes of slave owners; the seventeenth-century missionary Morgan Godwyn observed that they believed the Negroes, “though in their Figure they carry some resemblances of Manhood, yet are indeed no Men” but, rather, “Creatures destitute of Souls, to be ranked among Brute Beasts, and treated accordingly.” Then there’s the Holocaust. Like many Jews my age, I was raised with stories of gas chambers, gruesome medical experiments, and mass graves—an evil that was explained as arising from the Nazis’ failure to see their victims as human. In the words of the psychologist Herbert C. Kelman, “The inhibitions against murdering fellow human beings are generally so strong that the victims must be deprived of their human status if systematic killing is to proceed in a smooth and orderly fashion.” The Nazis used bureaucratic euphemisms such as “transfer” and “selection” to sanitize different forms of murder.

As the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss noted, “humankind ceases at the border of the tribe, of the linguistic group, even sometimes of the village.” Today, the phenomenon seems inescapable. Google your favorite despised human group—Jews, blacks, Arabs, gays, and so on—along with words like “vermin,” “roaches,” or “animals,” and it will all come spilling out. Some of this rhetoric is seen as inappropriate for mainstream discourse. But wait long enough and you’ll hear the word “animals” used even by respectable people, referring to terrorists, or to Israelis or Palestinians, or to undocumented immigrants, or to deporters of undocumented immigrants. Such rhetoric shows up in the speech of white supremacists—but also when the rest of us talk about white supremacists.

It’s not just a matter of words. At Auschwitz, the Nazis tattooed numbers on their prisoners’ arms. Throughout history, people have believed that it was acceptable to own humans, and there were explicit debates in which scholars and politicians mulled over whether certain groups (such as blacks and Native Americans) were “natural slaves.” Even in the past century, there were human zoos, where Africans were put in enclosures for Europeans to gawk at.

Early psychological research on dehumanization looked at what made the Nazis different from the rest of us. But psychologists now talk about the ubiquity of dehumanization. Nick Haslam, at the University of Melbourne, and Steve Loughnan, at the University of Edinburgh, provide a list of examples, including some painfully mundane ones: “Outraged members of the public call sex offenders animals. Psychopaths treat victims merely as means to their vicious ends. The poor are mocked as libidinous dolts. Passersby look through homeless people as if they were transparent obstacles. Dementia sufferers are represented in the media as shuffling zombies.”

The thesis that viewing others as objects or animals enables our very worst conduct would seem to explain a great deal. Yet there’s reason to think that it’s almost the opposite of the truth.

At some European soccer games, fans make monkey noises at African players and throw bananas at them. Describing Africans as monkeys is a common racist trope, and might seem like yet another example of dehumanization. But plainly these fans don’t really think the players are monkeys; the whole point of their behavior is to disorient and humiliate. To believe that such taunts are effective is to assume that their targets would be ashamed to be thought of that way—which implies that, at some level, you think of them as people after all.

Consider what happened after Hitler annexed Austria, in 1938. Timothy Snyder offers a haunting description in “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning”:

The next morning the “scrubbing parties” began. Members of the Austrian SA, working from lists, from personal knowledge, and from the knowledge of passersby, identified Jews and forced them to kneel and clean the streets with brushes. This was a ritual humiliation. Jews, often doctors and lawyers or other professionals, were suddenly on their knees performing menial labor in front of jeering crowds. Ernest P. remembered the spectacle of the “scrubbing parties” as “amusement for the Austrian population.” A journalist described “the fluffy Viennese blondes, fighting one another to get closer to the elevating spectacle of the ashen-faced Jewish surgeon on hands and knees before a half-dozen young hooligans with Swastika armlets and dog-whips.” Meanwhile, Jewish girls were sexually abused, and older Jewish men were forced to perform public physical exercise.

The Jews who were forced to scrub the streets—not to mention those subjected to far worse degradations—were not thought of as lacking human emotions. Indeed, if the Jews had been thought to be indifferent to their treatment, there would have been nothing to watch here; the crowd had gathered because it wanted to see them suffer. The logic of such brutality is the logic of metaphor: to assert a likeness between two different things holds power only in the light of that difference. The sadism of treating human beings like vermin lies precisely in the recognition that they are not.

What about violence more generally? Some evolutionary psychologists and economists explain assault, rape, and murder as rational actions, benefitting the perpetrator or the perpetrator’s genes. No doubt some violence—and a reputation for being willing and able to engage in violence—can serve a useful purpose, particularly in more brutal environments. On the other hand, much violent behavior can be seen as evidence of a loss of control. It’s Criminology 101 that many crimes are committed under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and that people who assault, rape, and murder show less impulse control in other aspects of their lives as well. In the heat of passion, the moral enormity of the violent action loses its purchase.

But “Virtuous Violence: Hurting and Killing to Create, Sustain, End, and Honor Social Relationships” (Cambridge), by the anthropologist Alan Fiske and the psychologist Tage Rai, argues that these standard accounts often have it backward. In many instances, violence is neither a cold-blooded solution to a problem nor a failure of inhibition; most of all, it doesn’t entail a blindness to moral considerations. On the contrary, morality is often a motivating force: “People are impelled to violence when they feel that to regulate certain social relationships, imposing suffering or death is necessary, natural, legitimate, desirable, condoned, admired, and ethically gratifying.” Obvious examples include suicide bombings, honor killings, and the torture of prisoners during war, but Fiske and Rai extend the list to gang fights and violence toward intimate partners. For Fiske and Rai, actions like these often reflect the desire to do the right thing, to exact just vengeance, or to teach someone a lesson. There’s a profound continuity between such acts and the punishments that—in the name of requital, deterrence, or discipline—the criminal-justice system lawfully imposes. Moral violence, whether reflected in legal sanctions, the killing of enemy soldiers in war, or punishing someone for an ethical transgression, is motivated by the recognition that its victim is a moral agent, someone fully human.

In the fiercely argued and timely study “Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny” (Oxford), the philosopher Kate Manne makes a consonant argument about sexual violence. “The idea of rapists as monsters exonerates by caricature,” she writes, urging us to recognize “the banality of misogyny,” the disturbing possibility that “people may know full well that those they treat in brutally degrading and inhuman ways are fellow human beings, underneath a more or less thin veneer of false consciousness.”

Manne is arguing against a weighty and well-established school of thought. Catharine A. MacKinnon has posed the question: “When will women be human?”

Continue reading on the New Yorker’s site

the cute is good memeFeeling Sorry for Tsarnaev

By Paul Bloom

May 16, 2013

In my article in the magazine this week, I made the case against empathy. Our capacity to put ourselves in the shoes of others—to feel their pain, to make their goals our own—might well be essential for intimate relationships. Nobody would deny that parents should feel empathy toward their children, or that romantic love requires the bond that empathy provides. But when we use empathy as a guide to policy, it often takes us in irrational and cruel directions.

This is particularly clear when we look at the criminal-justice system. People are understandably empathetic toward the victims of crime, particularly when they are young and vulnerable, when they are attractive, and when they share our race or ethnicity. It is far harder to empathize with those who are accused or convicted of these crimes. Rather, we want these individuals to suffer. Some would argue that this is a properly moral reaction, but this retributive impulse can motivate legal and policy decisions that many see as unjust, such as three-strikes laws, harsh mandatory sentences, and the mass incarceration of racial minorities.

Sometimes, though, empathy has a quite different effect. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is accused of setting bombs in Boston that killed three people, including an eight-year-old boy, and that maimed many others. He seems like the perfect villain. But in a blog post on Slate, Hanna Rosin writes about the warmth and compassion directed toward Tsarnaev by certain teen-age girls and, weirdly, by mothers: “In the past week and a half I have not been to a school pickup, birthday, book party, or dinner where one of my mom friends has not said some version of ‘I feel sorry for that poor kid.’ ”

Rosin explores different explanations for this reaction, suggesting that it stems from how Tsarnaev was initially described—“a hapless genial pothead being coerced into killing by his sadistic older brother.” But she later settles on an account which I believe is both unsettling and correct: “Dzhokhar is cute.” In a recent discussion with Robert Wright, the law professor and blogger Ann Althouse makes a similar point, commenting, sarcastically, on the media coverage: “Look at this Boston bombing. The pictures of those two brothers. Aren’t they cute?”

Psychologists have long observed the importance given to the face. The most striking demonstration I know of has to do with how competent one looks. The psychologist Alexander Todorov and his colleagues showed people black-and-white headshots of the winners and runner-ups in elections for various House and Senate races. After ensuring that their subjects were unfamiliar with the politicians, the psychologists simply asked: Who looks more competent? Over two thirds of the time, subjects selected the photo of the winning candidate.
Read the whole article on the New Yorker’s site

Read the original article: Want to be the one who is making the decisions in your life?

Want to be the one who is making the decisions in your life?

back-to-the-future-2This week has been a success for Life, and a disaster financially. Everyone was spending their money on turkey, I guess.

So I am going to announce some sales for this coming week. I’ll make them good… so you’ll buy.

Now, about the successes that lead me to a huge insight.

All that people do is guided by memes, and they think they decided to do it. And you think they decided to do it from the goodness of their heart, from the badness of their heart, whatever seem to be the case. But in fact they never decided anything… It is the memes that are doing the deciding.

This is a totally different way to look at people, at life, and at what’s happening.

You can use this to re-interpret your past.

My “Playground: it is never too late to have a happy childhood” was a program where we experimented with this, even though at the time there were no distinctions, like memes used in the work. I bet it would have been easier and faster.

Why? Because the moment you realize that no one ever says or does anything that is not coming from the memes, including your father, including you… it is easier to have compassion for the perpetrator, and it is easier to have compassion for yourself.

This is a revolutionary way to look at life, but judging from the results, this is a way that returns the power to you.

Now, did you EVER have the power in your life?

The answer won’t surprise you because it matches your experience.

No, you never had the power. Why? Because you never had your own thinking not modified, colored, or directed by the memes. Family, peers, caretakers, teachers, clergymen, doctors… you never did your own thinking.

They gave you your words in full sentences… memes.

These memes tell you what you can, what you can’t, what you should do.

These memes tell you how the world is. How to tell if someone is a friend or a foe. They tell you want to do, how to do it… like a straitjacket.

Here is a fantastic article on this topic… from the New Yorker Magazine. Both fascinating and horrifying seeing the memes in action.

The Root of All Cruelty?

Perpetrators of violence, we’re told, dehumanize their victims. The truth is worse.

By Paul Bloom

Violent acts are often motivated, rather than countermanded, by ethical norms.

A recent episode of the dystopian television series “Black Mirror” begins with a soldier hunting down and killing hideous humanoids called roaches. It’s a standard science-fiction scenario, man against monster, but there’s a twist: it turns out that the soldier and his cohort have brain implants that make them see the faces and bodies of their targets as monstrous, to hear their pleas for mercy as noxious squeaks. When our hero’s implant fails, he discovers that he isn’t a brave defender of the human race—he’s a murderer of innocent people, part of a campaign to exterminate members of a despised group akin to the Jews of Europe in the nineteen-forties.

The philosopher David Livingstone Smith, commenting on this episode on social media, wondered whether its writer had read his book “Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others” (St. Martin’s). It’s a thoughtful and exhaustive exploration of human cruelty, and the episode perfectly captures its core idea: that acts such as genocide happen when one fails to appreciate the humanity of others.

One focus of Smith’s book is the attitudes of slave owners; the seventeenth-century missionary Morgan Godwyn observed that they believed the Negroes, “though in their Figure they carry some resemblances of Manhood, yet are indeed no Men” but, rather, “Creatures destitute of Souls, to be ranked among Brute Beasts, and treated accordingly.” Then there’s the Holocaust. Like many Jews my age, I was raised with stories of gas chambers, gruesome medical experiments, and mass graves—an evil that was explained as arising from the Nazis’ failure to see their victims as human. In the words of the psychologist Herbert C. Kelman, “The inhibitions against murdering fellow human beings are generally so strong that the victims must be deprived of their human status if systematic killing is to proceed in a smooth and orderly fashion.” The Nazis used bureaucratic euphemisms such as “transfer” and “selection” to sanitize different forms of murder.

As the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss noted, “humankind ceases at the border of the tribe, of the linguistic group, even sometimes of the village.” Today, the phenomenon seems inescapable. Google your favorite despised human group—Jews, blacks, Arabs, gays, and so on—along with words like “vermin,” “roaches,” or “animals,” and it will all come spilling out. Some of this rhetoric is seen as inappropriate for mainstream discourse. But wait long enough and you’ll hear the word “animals” used even by respectable people, referring to terrorists, or to Israelis or Palestinians, or to undocumented immigrants, or to deporters of undocumented immigrants. Such rhetoric shows up in the speech of white supremacists—but also when the rest of us talk about white supremacists.

It’s not just a matter of words. At Auschwitz, the Nazis tattooed numbers on their prisoners’ arms. Throughout history, people have believed that it was acceptable to own humans, and there were explicit debates in which scholars and politicians mulled over whether certain groups (such as blacks and Native Americans) were “natural slaves.” Even in the past century, there were human zoos, where Africans were put in enclosures for Europeans to gawk at.

Early psychological research on dehumanization looked at what made the Nazis different from the rest of us. But psychologists now talk about the ubiquity of dehumanization. Nick Haslam, at the University of Melbourne, and Steve Loughnan, at the University of Edinburgh, provide a list of examples, including some painfully mundane ones: “Outraged members of the public call sex offenders animals. Psychopaths treat victims merely as means to their vicious ends. The poor are mocked as libidinous dolts. Passersby look through homeless people as if they were transparent obstacles. Dementia sufferers are represented in the media as shuffling zombies.”

The thesis that viewing others as objects or animals enables our very worst conduct would seem to explain a great deal. Yet there’s reason to think that it’s almost the opposite of the truth.

At some European soccer games, fans make monkey noises at African players and throw bananas at them. Describing Africans as monkeys is a common racist trope, and might seem like yet another example of dehumanization. But plainly these fans don’t really think the players are monkeys; the whole point of their behavior is to disorient and humiliate. To believe that such taunts are effective is to assume that their targets would be ashamed to be thought of that way—which implies that, at some level, you think of them as people after all.

Consider what happened after Hitler annexed Austria, in 1938. Timothy Snyder offers a haunting description in “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning”:

The next morning the “scrubbing parties” began. Members of the Austrian SA, working from lists, from personal knowledge, and from the knowledge of passersby, identified Jews and forced them to kneel and clean the streets with brushes. This was a ritual humiliation. Jews, often doctors and lawyers or other professionals, were suddenly on their knees performing menial labor in front of jeering crowds. Ernest P. remembered the spectacle of the “scrubbing parties” as “amusement for the Austrian population.” A journalist described “the fluffy Viennese blondes, fighting one another to get closer to the elevating spectacle of the ashen-faced Jewish surgeon on hands and knees before a half-dozen young hooligans with Swastika armlets and dog-whips.” Meanwhile, Jewish girls were sexually abused, and older Jewish men were forced to perform public physical exercise.

The Jews who were forced to scrub the streets—not to mention those subjected to far worse degradations—were not thought of as lacking human emotions. Indeed, if the Jews had been thought to be indifferent to their treatment, there would have been nothing to watch here; the crowd had gathered because it wanted to see them suffer. The logic of such brutality is the logic of metaphor: to assert a likeness between two different things holds power only in the light of that difference. The sadism of treating human beings like vermin lies precisely in the recognition that they are not.

What about violence more generally? Some evolutionary psychologists and economists explain assault, rape, and murder as rational actions, benefitting the perpetrator or the perpetrator’s genes. No doubt some violence—and a reputation for being willing and able to engage in violence—can serve a useful purpose, particularly in more brutal environments. On the other hand, much violent behavior can be seen as evidence of a loss of control. It’s Criminology 101 that many crimes are committed under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and that people who assault, rape, and murder show less impulse control in other aspects of their lives as well. In the heat of passion, the moral enormity of the violent action loses its purchase.

But “Virtuous Violence: Hurting and Killing to Create, Sustain, End, and Honor Social Relationships” (Cambridge), by the anthropologist Alan Fiske and the psychologist Tage Rai, argues that these standard accounts often have it backward. In many instances, violence is neither a cold-blooded solution to a problem nor a failure of inhibition; most of all, it doesn’t entail a blindness to moral considerations. On the contrary, morality is often a motivating force: “People are impelled to violence when they feel that to regulate certain social relationships, imposing suffering or death is necessary, natural, legitimate, desirable, condoned, admired, and ethically gratifying.” Obvious examples include suicide bombings, honor killings, and the torture of prisoners during war, but Fiske and Rai extend the list to gang fights and violence toward intimate partners. For Fiske and Rai, actions like these often reflect the desire to do the right thing, to exact just vengeance, or to teach someone a lesson. There’s a profound continuity between such acts and the punishments that—in the name of requital, deterrence, or discipline—the criminal-justice system lawfully imposes. Moral violence, whether reflected in legal sanctions, the killing of enemy soldiers in war, or punishing someone for an ethical transgression, is motivated by the recognition that its victim is a moral agent, someone fully human.

In the fiercely argued and timely study “Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny” (Oxford), the philosopher Kate Manne makes a consonant argument about sexual violence. “The idea of rapists as monsters exonerates by caricature,” she writes, urging us to recognize “the banality of misogyny,” the disturbing possibility that “people may know full well that those they treat in brutally degrading and inhuman ways are fellow human beings, underneath a more or less thin veneer of false consciousness.”

Manne is arguing against a weighty and well-established school of thought. Catharine A. MacKinnon has posed the question: “When will women be human?”

Continue reading on the New Yorker’s site

the cute is good memeFeeling Sorry for Tsarnaev

By Paul Bloom

May 16, 2013

In my article in the magazine this week, I made the case against empathy. Our capacity to put ourselves in the shoes of others—to feel their pain, to make their goals our own—might well be essential for intimate relationships. Nobody would deny that parents should feel empathy toward their children, or that romantic love requires the bond that empathy provides. But when we use empathy as a guide to policy, it often takes us in irrational and cruel directions.

This is particularly clear when we look at the criminal-justice system. People are understandably empathetic toward the victims of crime, particularly when they are young and vulnerable, when they are attractive, and when they share our race or ethnicity. It is far harder to empathize with those who are accused or convicted of these crimes. Rather, we want these individuals to suffer. Some would argue that this is a properly moral reaction, but this retributive impulse can motivate legal and policy decisions that many see as unjust, such as three-strikes laws, harsh mandatory sentences, and the mass incarceration of racial minorities.

Sometimes, though, empathy has a quite different effect. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is accused of setting bombs in Boston that killed three people, including an eight-year-old boy, and that maimed many others. He seems like the perfect villain. But in a blog post on Slate, Hanna Rosin writes about the warmth and compassion directed toward Tsarnaev by certain teen-age girls and, weirdly, by mothers: “In the past week and a half I have not been to a school pickup, birthday, book party, or dinner where one of my mom friends has not said some version of ‘I feel sorry for that poor kid.’ ”

Rosin explores different explanations for this reaction, suggesting that it stems from how Tsarnaev was initially described—“a hapless genial pothead being coerced into killing by his sadistic older brother.” But she later settles on an account which I believe is both unsettling and correct: “Dzhokhar is cute.” In a recent discussion with Robert Wright, the law professor and blogger Ann Althouse makes a similar point, commenting, sarcastically, on the media coverage: “Look at this Boston bombing. The pictures of those two brothers. Aren’t they cute?”

Psychologists have long observed the importance given to the face. The most striking demonstration I know of has to do with how competent one looks. The psychologist Alexander Todorov and his colleagues showed people black-and-white headshots of the winners and runner-ups in elections for various House and Senate races. After ensuring that their subjects were unfamiliar with the politicians, the psychologists simply asked: Who looks more competent? Over two thirds of the time, subjects selected the photo of the winning candidate.
Read the whole article on the New Yorker’s site

Read the original article: Want to be the one who is making the decisions in your life?

Why Most People Will Remain in Mediocrity

Most people will never become truly successful.

“It’s lonely at the top. 99% of people are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for ‘realistic’ goals, paradoxically making them the most competitive.”

-Tim Ferriss

Most people will never be truly successful.

The pull towards mediocrity is too strong. As David Schwartz once penned, “All around you is an environment that is trying to pull you down to Second-Class Street.”

Most people will never escape the pull.

Much of the thinking around us is small-minded. Most people are overly concerned with “beating the other guy,” usually through manipulation and politics. As a result, they’re left fighting for scraps with the other 99%.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

A life of your deepest dreams?—?100% financial independence, being your own boss, traveling the world with your family, whatever?—?is available, if you know where to start.

But most people will never turn away from the safety and security of the crowd to realize this.

“All of us, more than we recognize, are products of the thinking around us. And much of this thinking is small.” -David Schwartz

Most People Are Not Willing to Fail

“We can be truly successful only at things we are willing to fail at.” -Mark Manson

Most people hate failure. They run from it.

In their eyes, if they suck at something, it means they suck. Since their self-worth is tied directly to their performance, any failure is proof they aren’t good enough.

But this is exactly why they’ll stay in mediocrity. If they aren’t willing to fail, they aren’t able to learn from their mistakes. If they never learn, they’ll never grow and develop into something more.

“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really: Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, so go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success.”

-Thomas J. Watson

If you’re not willing to fail, you guarantee you’ll stay average-at-best.

If you want to grow into an extraordinary version of yourself, you must be willing to fail?—?a lot.

Failure brings humility. It develops your character. It helps you laugh at your mistakes and not take things so seriously. Like a plant placed from the shade into sunlight, your growth rate will accelerate 10x.

When I first started blogging, I was terrified of one thing in particular?—?negative feedback. I still remember to this day a comment from an early article that read, “This is the worst article I’ve ever read.” I was broken up about it for months.

After that, I made all my articles as vanilla and non-controversial as possible. Before I hit “publish,” I would ask myself: “No one could criticize this, right??”

I was terrified of failure and rejection. As a result, my writing stayed mediocre and average for years until I finally started to embrace the possibility of failure.

Benjamin Hardy put it this way: “Don’t seek praise, seek criticism.”

If you embrace the possibility of failure, you open yourself up to enormous success you’ve never seen before.

“If I fail more than you, I win.” -Seth Godin

Continue reading “Why Most People Will Remain in Mediocrity”

The art of being well, being unphased, and impervious… for real.

I had an interesting unintended experiment this afternoon.

I have a loud burr coffee grinding machine.

I was ready to make some coffee (I drink cold dripped coffee) and ground the coffee beans while I was doing something else.

I found out that I am much better ignoring memes than ignoring loud noises. I could not hear myself thinking. I was making mistakes… I pondered what I was doing…

This gave me an opportunity to put myself in your shoes. What it must be like to be living in the constant jarring noise of the memes…

Here is what I have seen so far: Continue reading “The art of being well, being unphased, and impervious… for real.”

Forget superbugs… worry about supermemes!

We live in a culture where we are supposed to live at others’ convenience. Where we are all supposed to dance to the same tune, march to the same drummer. Get excited about the weekend, even more excited about holidays. Want to be with our families, eat a big meal, and complain about indigestion afterwards. … Continue reading “Forget superbugs… worry about supermemes!”

Read more here:: https://www.yourvibration.com/39506/forget-superbugs-worry-supermemes/