Category: One nagging thing

Norbert Schwarz: Incidental feelings

One nagging thing I don’t understand about myself is why I’m still fooled by incidental feelings. Some 25 years ago Jerry Clore and I studied how gloomy weather makes one’s whole life look bad — unless one becomes aware of the weather and attributes one’s gloomy mood to the gloomy sky, which eliminates the influence. You’d think I learned that lesson and now know how to deal with gloomy skies. I don’t, they still get me. The same is true for other subjective experiences, like the processing fluency resulting from print fonts – I still fall prey to their influence. Why does insight into how such influences work not help us notice them when they occur? What makes the immediate experience so powerful that I fail to apply my own theorizing until some blogger asks a question that brings it to mind?

Norbert Schwarz is Charles Horton Cooley Collegiate Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan and is among the most highly cited social psychologists alive today.


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Martin Seligman: Self-control

Some theorists, like my friend Roy Baumeister, believe that self-control is a general trait. My experience with weight-loss versus exercise belies this. I have weighed 95 kg for the last twenty years, and I have dieted a dozen times only to return to 95 kg each time, usually after losing about 5 kg. No self-control? Hardly. Eighteen months ago I took up walking, knowing that 10,000 steps per day halves cardiac risk for someone my age and with my profile of risk. I have walked an average of 14,000 steps per day ever since and my New Year’s resolution is 5,000,000 steps in 2009. I am well on track to my goal. So self-control is for me highly domain specific. For you?

Martin Seligman is Fox Leadership Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. He founded the field of positive psychology in 2000 and has published over 20 books and 200 articles on motivation and personality. In 2002 he was named among the 100 most influential psychologists of the twentieth century by the Review of General Psychology.


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Robert Sternberg: Career masochism

In psychology, you are rewarded (1) partly for the research you do, and (2) partly for (a) the topic on which you do the research and (b) the methods you use. The first point (1) is what you learn explicitly about throughout graduate school. The second point (2) you generally have to figure out for yourself as tacit knowledge. For example, suppose you want a good academic job. Then, with regard to (2), you should study something like (a) perception, attention, or memory using (b) fMRI methodology. You can be in lower (worse) percentiles of your cohort and you will still land a nice job. Suppose, though, that you study (a) intelligence, creativity, or wisdom using (b) individual-difference methodology. Good luck! So what I don’t understand is why I always choose both the less rewarded topics (2a) and methodologies (2b)! Am I a masochist or what?

Robert Sternberg is Dean of Tufts’ School of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Psychology, Adjunct Professor of Education, and Director of the PACE (Psychology of Abilities, Competencies and Expertise) Center. In 2002 he was listed among the 100 most influential psychologists of the twentieth century by the Review of General Psychology.


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Richard Wiseman: Wit

I have no idea why I occasionally think funny things. For example, the other day I was watching the film “District 9“, which is about an alien race known as “prawns”, and thought “I wonder if the alien in charge is called a king prawn?”. I would be the first to admit that it was not the world’s greatest joke, but still, where did that moderately amusing idea come from? And why are some people so skilled at creating funny stuff, whilst others wouldn’t recognise a proverbial custard pie, even if it hit them in the face? My guess is that the creation of comedy will remain a mystery for centuries, although at some point in the not too distant future, I suspect someone will carry out functional MRI scans of comedians creating jokes, and claim to have identified the part of the brain responsible for producing humour. Now, that will be funny.

Richard Wiseman is Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. A trained magician, Wiseman has won numerous awards for his communication of science and his most recent book is 59 Seconds.


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