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Carlos N.

Andreu - Dec/9/2011

Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choice

choice, noun. 1. the act of selecting or marking a decision when faced with two or more possibilities.

Barry Schwartz is a psychologist and author of a couple of books, including The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less. During his TED talk he shares thought-provoking information regarding the relationship between economics and psychology, offering interesting insights into modern life. He sets out to talk about one thing everyone assumes it's completely good: freedom of choice. He shows that more choice has not led us to feeling freer but in turn made us more paralyzed. Even more so, it has not made us happier but in turn more dissatisfied. He offers this eloquent anecdote: There used to be a time when he was younger when he would go out to buy a pair of jeans. There was only one pair of jeans to chose from, so he went in and bought that, they were good enough but not great. Recently he went to the mall to buy a new pair of jeans and he was bombarded with choice and after an hour of trying new pairs of pants he got out of the store with the best pair of pants he has ever worn. But, did that make him happier? No. He was dissatisfied because he accounts for the possibility that he may have gotten an even better pair of pants if he stayed longer or shopped in other stores too. He explains: imagined alternatives induces you to regret the decision you made, and this regret subtracts from the satisfaction you get out of the decision you made, even if it was a good decision. It also produces paralysis, with too many choices people end up not choosing anything.

I think this talk is very relevant to psychology because its a good example of why we should study psychology. What we call conventional wisdom or common sense may not always be correct. Just like when Latane and Darley proved what they call the Bystander Effect, before that Im sure almost everyone assumed if more people were present that chances of someone helping would be greater. But in turn the opposite of conventional wisdom is true, more people means less chances of someone helping because responsibility is distributed between everyone present. Similarly, more choices are not going to make you happier. Psychologists should continue to explore this and other myths to improve our quality of life. I was one of those persons that believed more choice was certainly always good, and I took away from the Barrys talk that I was very wrong. I recently applied this newfound knowledge to a presentation I gave at Tecnocaribe. My talk was about tools for educators and instead of bombarding them of thousands and thousands of tools I chose to focus my presentation on just 5 key-tools with: extremely clear examples, my experience with them and a detailed explanation of why they should use those tools. I think that increased the chance people might look at the resources I recommended.

Source: Tecnocaribe:

Richard Dawkins on our "queer" universe

queer, adjective. 1. strange; odd.

Richard Dawkins is a well known evolutionary biologist and author of many best selling books, including The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion. During his TED talk he makes a case for thinking the improbable by looking at how the human frame of reference limits our understanding of the universe. Dawkins illustrates with various examples and analogies that we humans live in a Middle World, where things are not too small or very fast. He explains that our brains have evolved to help us survive within the orders of magnitude of size and speed which our bodies operate at. We never evolved to navigate in the world in the world of atoms, hence it surprises us that things we consider solids are mostly made of empty space. This is easily illustrated by imagining the nucleus of an atom is a fly in the middle of a sports stadium and the next atom is another fly in the middle of an adjacent sports stadium. He eloquently compares how dogs use there superior sense of smell and bats use their amazing ability to travel during the night my bouncing sounds at nearby objects to see the world, like we humans use our eyes to detect differences in wave lengths. Finally, he makes a case that because we live in a very social environment our brain has evolved to see the world in a very specific way. For example, as scientists we may treat a child-murder in the same way we treat a faulty car or computer: this unit has a faulty component, it needs repairing. But, looking at people as complicated machines, like cars and computers, proves to be very inefficient in determining what a person is going to do next. We should in turn personify them, treating them as purposeful, goal-seeking agents with pleasures and pains, desires and intentions. At the end of his talk he leaves us with a question: are we limited to see the world from the box of our evolution, can we train ourselves and break out of that box or are there some things no being could even dream them?

This talk is very relevant to psychology because it emphasizes how important our environment, natural selection's driver, affects how we perceive the universe. It scratches the surface on how we interact with other people with the personification model. I gained significant knowledge from Dawkin's talk, specifically why people tend to personify things like our universe by creating Gods and Goddesses. I really enjoyed thinking about the question he asked at the end of his talk, my answer is simply that there's no way of knowing right now but we should continue to explore the universe using science.


Philip Zimbardo prescribes a healthy take on time

time, noun. 1. the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole. Philip Zimbardo is a well-known psychologist famous for the Stanford Prison Study. He is also the author of many psychology books and textbook for collage students, including The Lucifer Effect and The Time Paradox. During his TED talk he explains how happiness and success may be rooted in the way we orient towards the past, present and future. He suggests we calibrate our outlook on time as a first step to improving our lives. He explains that life is about all kinds of temptation and decisions (should I do this now or later?). He presents the audience a study where kids are told they could have a treat now or two treats later when the experimenter comes back. The ones that resisted temptation and waited for the experimenter to return, one third of kids, scored 250 points higher on the SAT (significant difference in IQ). Those kids were all future-focused. Zimbardo goes on and explains the optimal time profile is high past positive, moderately high on future and moderate on present hedonism. The psychologist said he was always future-oriented but later he added present-hedonism, I've added a focus on the past-positive, so, at 76 years old, I am more energetic than ever, more productive, and I'm happier than I have ever been. I strongly believe this talk is very relevant to psychology because it illustrates how analyzing people's perspectives towards time has the potential to make them happier and more productive. I try to learn a lot from psychology, beside the fact that's it's very interesting; I hope it helps me improve my relationship with other people and myself, thus making me happier. I learned from the talk that happiness and success might be linked to how we look at the past, present and future. It was extremely interesting and I'll try to apply the knowledge I gained by watching Zimbardos talk. Source:

Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation

motivation, noun. 1. the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way. Dan Pink is a career analyst and he was Al Gore's speechwriter. During his TED talk he examines the truth about really motivates us humans. He starts with what social scientists and psychologists know and most managers and big businesses don't: that traditional rewards are not always as effective as we think. He tells us about an experiment funded by United States Federal Research Bank that measured how incentives would improve performance. The study concluded that once you go above rudimentary cognitive skill rewards don't improve performance, as we would expect. He compares the business model for Microsoft Encarta, having paid a lot of money to skilled writers and while having well compensated managers overview the project it failed. At the same time wikipedia is one of the most popular websites in the world having millions of articles created by people that enjoy helping for free. The whole site is actually kept alive by donations to cover their servers and other costs. While Mr. Sigmund Freud believed we are motivated by aggressiveness and sexuality, I prefer to side with Dan Pink and the social scientists and psychologist that say we are motivated by a drive to excel at something and help others. While Im not discarding Freuds ideas, I believe this talk is very relevant to psychology because it illustrates interesting insights on what motivates us. It reminds me of Humanists Psychologists that believe in self-actualization, after Maslows basic and mental needs are fulfilled humans can achieve great things. This may be why some people (ie. Mark Shuttleworth) that have financial security and good health are able to create things like Ubuntu for free. Before I certainly believed throwing money at people will keep them motivated, but now I know better and projects like Wikipedia (vs MS Encarta) are proof enough.


Richard St. John's 8 secrets of success

success, noun. 1. the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

Richard St. John is a self described average guy that found doing what he loved. He shares in a couple of minutes the conclusion of seven years of research and over 500 interviews on success. He explains that eight key components that make someone successful: passion, work, focus, persist, ideas, good, push and serve. You need to be passionate about what you do and love what you do. Do it for love and money will follow. It's hard work and it will probably not be easy, but you should have fun doing what you like. There's not a magic formula for coming up with good ideas, you just have to: listen, observe, be curious, ask questions, solve problems and make connections. You must persist things like: failure, criticism, rejection and pressure. This is another talk that I think is very relevant to psychology, especially because it reminds me of Humanist Psychology, one of my favorite schools of thought within psychology. Instead of being victims of our environment like Behaviorist Psychologists like John B. Watson say, or being slaves to our past (and our mothers!) like Psychoanalysts like Freud would say or victims of our own erroneous thoughts like Cognitive Psychologists would explain, we chose to be great at something and we work hard to achieve that goal. I took a lot of things from this short TED Talk that I will try to apply to my daily life, for example that good ideas dont come by some magic formula, that you should expect to work hard and persist thinks like people criticizing you and rejecting your ideas. I passionately believe everyone should watch this TED Talk, especially young children to improve their chances of success and consequently happiness.