Montag, 30. Januar 2017

"There is nothing more practical than a good theory"

H.J. Eysenck (1987):

"Lewin's statement about the usefulness of a good theory has become famous in psychology, and few would probably disagree with him. However, his statement is more honoured in the breach than the observance; there is little evidence in their actual work that most psychologists pay much attention to theory, and some explicitly disassociate themselves from the search for theory and adopt a Baconian or pre-Baconian, purely inductive approach. ..." 
"man is a biological organism on whose natural and instinctive equipment social rules of a very complex kind have been superimposed."

Samstag, 28. Januar 2017

According to Kelly McGonigal, willpower allows us to suppress immediate ("fight or flight") responses by enabling us to react to challenges with more adequate "pause and plan" responses.
"The frontal cortex makes you do the harder thing when it's the right thing to do."

Robert Sapolsky

Donnerstag, 26. Januar 2017

Biparental care among species of birds and species of mammals:

Rough estimation about the occurrence of biparental care among species of birds (~90%) and species of mammals (3-5%):

While biparental care is very common among birds, only a small percentage of mammalian species show this feature.

Human consciousness as a powerful tool for low-cost scenario testing:

I like the idea of Richard D. Alexander that (human) consciousness could be perceived as a powerful tool for low-cost scenario testing. For example, compared to writing in ones primary language, it usually takes more time to write in a foreign language. In particular, if one isn't truly habituated in talking that foreign language fluently. So, while constructing sentences in ones primary language is highly automatized, the construction of sentences in a secondary language can be interpreted much more easily as scenario building and scenario testing. Each sentence which we construct in that foreign language can be understood as a scenario which gets evaluated after construction. Sometimes there is a 'feeling' that something is wrong with the constructed sentence. The term 'feeling' in this context states, that in certain cases we cannot state explicitly what is wrong with that sentence. In a nutshell, our brain tests and evaluates constructed sentences on the basis of accumulated experiences with the foreign language. These experiences are 'densely packed' stored somewhere within our brains and most of them cannot be easily unzipped (i.e. experiences leave tracks in our brains, but in most cases we are not able to reconstruct the experienced events consciously). If the sentence fails the test it will get discarded and another sentence will get constructed. These conscious construction and evaluation cycles are quite time consuming, nevertheless they probably contribute heavily to human intelligence and creativity.

[Richard D. Alexander on scenario building: a, b]

Mittwoch, 25. Januar 2017

Hans Eysenck's Überlegungen bezüglich Extravertiertheit // Introvertiertheit (1958):

"der Extravertierte [ist] vor allem dadurch gekennzeichnet ...,  dass er das Handeln dem Denken vorzieht, während für den typischen Introvertierten das Denken eine wichtigere Rolle spielt als das Handeln. Der Akzent des Sozialisierungsprozesses liegt in erster Linie auf der Aktionshemmung; darauf, dass man auf aggressive oder sexuelle Aktivitäten dieser oder jener Art verzichtet. Folglich neigt der Introvertierte - der übersozialisierte Mensch, der seine Lektion allzugut gelernt hat - dazu, diese Regel zu verallgemeinern und auf das Handeln schlechthin zu beziehen, weshalb er sein Heil im Denken sucht. Umgekehrt zieht es der Extrovertierte, der sich seine Lektion des Sozialisierungsprozesses nicht gemerkt hat, vor, seine Impulse auf der Stelle durch Handeln zu befriedigen."

Hans Eysenck on Extraversion // Introversion (1958):

"Small wonder, then, that what characterizes the extravert most is to prefer action to thought, whereas to the typical introvert, thought is preferable to action. The stress of the socialization process is largely on the inhibition of action; the abandoning of aggressive or sexual activities of one kind or another. Consequently, the introvert - the over-socialized person, who has learnt his lesson too well - tends to generalize this rule to all activity and prefers to seek salvation in his own thinking. Conversely, the typical extravert, not having heeded the lesson of the socialization process, prefers the immediate satisfaction of his impulses through action."

[Source: Sense and Nonsense in Psychology]

Dienstag, 24. Januar 2017

"The commonsense descriptions are vague and couched in words rather than in numbers, and do not take account of many possible sources of error. Common-sense generalizations are vague, intuitive, and often contradictory. It is only necessary to compare the common-sense generalization 'objects tend to fall to the ground when left unsupported'  with the actual formula giving the behaviour of falling bodies as 1/2 gt² to realize the tremendous difference between common-sense concepts and explanations and scientific laws and formulae."

Hans J. Eysenck (1958)

[See also: Uses and Abuses of Psychology (1953)]

Eureka Moments: Professor Tim Clutton Brock

Lecture by Tim Clutton-Brock

Lecture by Tim Clutton-Brock (2013)

Samstag, 21. Januar 2017

Global distribution of cooperatively breeding and of socially monogamous mammals:

Global distribution of (a) cooperatively breeding and of (b) socially monogamous mammals. Cooperatively breeding mammals are rare, and not more than seven species can be found simultaneously in one area (a). Cooperative breeders tend to occur in areas that are more marginal, in contrast to most socially monogamous species in which parents receive no alloparental care which live around the equator (b).


Human Biological and Psychological Diversity

Human Biological and Psychological Diversity
Bo Winegard, Benjamin Winegard, Brian Boutwell (2017)


Many evolutionary psychologists have asserted that there is a panhuman nature, a species typical psychological structure that is invariant across human populations. Although many social scientists dispute the basic assumptions of evolutionary psychology, they seem widely to agree with this hypothesis. Psychological differences among human populations (demes, ethnic groups, races) are almost always attributed to cultural and sociological forces in the relevant literatures. However, there are strong reasons to suspect that the hypothesis of a panhuman nature is incorrect. Humans migrated out of Africa at least 50,000 years ago and occupied many different ecological and climatological niches. Because of this, they evolved slightly different anatomical and physiological traits. For example, Tibetans evolved various traits that help them cope with the rigors of altitude; similarly, the Inuit evolved various traits that help them cope with the challenges of a very cold environment. It is likely that humans also evolved slightly different psychological traits as a response to different selection pressures in different environments and niches. One possible example is the high intelligence of the Ashkenazi Jewish people. Frank discussions of such differences among human groups have provoked strong ethical concerns in the past. We understand those ethical concerns and believe that it is important to address them. However, we also believe that the benefits of discussing possible human population differences outweigh the costs.

Donnerstag, 19. Januar 2017

The 'hedonic treadmill':

"Why is it that the 'good things' in life seem to have less effect on long-term happiness than is generally thought? The answer seems to be that pleasant experiences increase our level of happiness a little less each time they occur. The chocolate addict who goes to work in a chocolate factory and is allowed to eat as many chocolates as he or she wants is in a paradise on earth ... at first. Then chocolate, and even the thought of chocolate, ceases to be pleasant. As far as the power of life's more pleasurable events to make us happy is concerned, there seems to be an inexorable law of diminishing returns operating.
Happiness depends, in part, on what has happened to us in the past. The ability of past experiences to color present experiences was emphasized by American psychologist Harry Helson. He argued that we all have an 'adaptation level', a point of neutrality corresponding to what we expect to happen, our expectations being based on our past experiences. If what happens is the same as our expectation or adaptation level, we feel neither happy nor unhappy. If what happens is better or worse than expected, then we feel happy or unhappy.
If Harry Helson is correct in his assumption, everyone who aspires for happiness is in rather a bind. A series of pleasant experiences will produce happiness but it will also raise our expectations to a higher level. As a consequence, it becomes increasingly difficult for new experiences to be better than expected. And so, in present happiness lie the seeds of future unhappiness. This depressing view of happiness has been called the 'hedonic treadmill' - on a treadmill, you cannot make any genuine progress no matter how fast you run. Since it is most unlikely that life will constantly prove better than expected, the searcher after happiness is caught in the hedonic treadmill.
One of the commonest ways in which increasing expectations or adaptation levels reduce happiness can be seen in the lives of those millions of people who become steadily better off as the years go by. Most of them do not really feel better off, and their increasing wealth does not usually make them happier. They expect an increasingly affluent lifestyle and their escalating expectations put a damper on their happiness.
In spite of the predictions of adaptation level theory, most people firmly believe that more money will make them much happier. When Joyce Brothers, the American television psychologist, asked viewers whether becoming 25 per cent better off financially would make them happier, nearly all of them claimed that it would. What are the facts? In essence, the evidence supports adaptation level theory. One major study which looked at big winners of the Illinois State Lottery, many of whom had won $1 million, found that these 'lucky' people did not feel any happier after their big win than they had before. Nor, it emerged, did they expect to feel any happier two years later. A comparison between these lottery winners and other people who had received sudden windfalls also failed to uncover any positive effect of wealth on personal happiness.These are striking findings. After all, American society is often regarded as the most materialistic on earth.
Adaptation level theory makes the even more surprising prediction that individuals who suffer from severe physical disabilities will gradually reduce their expectations and so become happy as everyone else. In other words, they will adjust to the adverse circumstances in which they find themselves. ...
Philip Brickman, an American psychologist at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, tested these ideas with accident victims who were either quadriplegic or paraplegic (paralyzed from the neck down or the waist down). Despite the huge limitations which paralysis imposed on their lives, these people still derived as much pleasure as the able-bodied from common activities such as talking with friends or watching television. More remarkably, they expected to be as happy as other people within two years. Since their accidents were relatively recent, their current level of happiness was somewhat lower than that of other people, but there was little evidence of misery or despair.
Richard Schulz and Susan Decker, at Pittsburgh and Portland University, assessed happiness levels in quadriplegics and paraplegics who has been paralyzed for approximately 20 years and found that their satisfaction with life was only marginally lower than that of the population at large. Those who had the benefit of strong social support of relatives and friends were just as happy as other people. As part of the process of changing expectations and adaptation, many of them said that their disablement had a positive side. It had made them more patient and tolerant, and more aware that brain is more important than brawn.
One of the most remarkable endorsements of adaptation level theory comes in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Russian novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn. The book is a portrait of life in a Siberian labour camp, a topic which Solzhenitsyn was well equipped to write about, having spent eight years in a number of different Siberian labour camps. Despite the horrors of his everyday life, the hero of the book, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, is not in the wretched state one might imagine. An inkling as to why this is so emerges when he considers the day in his life which has been described in the earlier part of the book: 'Shukhov went to sleep fully content. He'd had many strokes of luck that day: They hadn't put him in the cells; they hadn't sent the team to the settlement; he'd pinched a bowl of kasha at dinner; the team-leader had fixed the rates well; he'd built a wall and enjoyed doing it; he'd smuggled a bit of hacksaw-blade through; he'd earned something from Tsezar in the evening; he'd bought that tobacco. And he hadn't fallen ill. He'd got over it ... A day without a dark cloud. Almost a happy day.'
Shukov had adjusted his expectations downwards to suit the discomforts of the camp and was therefore not unhappy. His adjustment was so great that even things such as buying tobacco and not falling ill were enough to make the day a good one.
What can we do about the hedonic treadmill? Paradoxically, one way of increasing future happiness would be to reduce the adaptation level in the present by avoiding pleasurable activities. There are numerous examples of this approach among the world's religions, which regard temporary abstinence from pleasure as a valuable experience. Consider the Christian tradition of Lent, in which the 40 weekdays between Ash Wednesday and Easter Eve are given over to fasting and penitence. Another example is Ramdan, the ninth month of the Muslim Lunar calendar, during which devout Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset."

Mindwatching (1995)
H. & M. Eysenck

Mittwoch, 18. Januar 2017

"Tulving’s results clearly showed that tests are not simply a neutral assessment of what has been learned but also produce learning, perhaps as much learning as during a study trial. ..."

Arthur R. Jensen on Hans Eysenck:

"By far the most important person in my career, of course, was Hans Eysenck. I spent two years with him as a postdoc and another year on my first sabbatical leave from Berkeley. From his writings, I had great expectations of Eysenck when I went to England to work in his department, and they were more than fulfilled. Eysenck was a kind of genius, or at least a person of very unusual talents, and the only person of that unusual caliber that I have come across in the field of psychology. I have known a number of very capable and truly outstanding persons in psychology, and persons whose scientific contributions are on a par with, or may even exceed, Eysenck’s, but none who were what I would think of as some kind of phenomenon. I got perhaps as much as 90 percent of my attitudes about psychology and science from Eysenck. The three years I spent in his department have been a lasting source of inspiration. I dread to think where my own career might have gone had I never made the Eysenck connection. I think Eysenck was a great man and have written in detail about my impressions of him."

"Understanding that people are incorrigibly different from each other is the beginning of wisdom for the budding psychologist."

H. & M. Eysenck

Montag, 16. Januar 2017

Retrieval-Based Learning

Retrieval-Based Learning
Jeffrey D. Karpicke (2012)


Retrieval is the key process for understanding learning and for promoting learning, yet retrieval is not often granted the central role it deserves. Learning is typically identified with the encoding or construction of knowledge, and retrieval is considered merely the assessment of learning that occurred in a prior experience. The retrieval-based learning perspective outlined here is grounded in the fact that all expressions of knowledge involve retrieval and depend on the retrieval cues available in a given context. Further, every time a person retrieves knowledge, that knowledge is changed, because retrieving knowledge improves one’s ability to retrieve it again in the future. Practicing retrieval does not merely produce rote, transient learning; it produces meaningful, long-term learning. Yet retrieval practice is a tool many students lack metacognitive awareness of and do not use as often as they should. Active retrieval is an effective but undervalued strategy for promoting meaningful learning.

[See also: Book Chapter: Retrieval-Based Learning (2014)]

Memorieren am Schluss jeder freien Lernphase:

"Auf der Grundlage der Exzerpte und Auszüge kann und sollte der Lernende nach jeder Lernphase - also immer vor einer Pause - überprüfen, ob er die neu gelernten Begriffe und Zusammenhänge nennen und aktiv reproduzieren kann. Eins ist ebenso einleuchtend wie sicher: Was man bereits unmittelbar nach dem Lernen vergessen hat, ist später nicht verfügbar."

Autonomes Lernen
Klaus Weltner

Hospitalizations for eating disorders:

A lifetime of drinking:

[Source; Annie Britton et al - Figure 3 (2015)via Steve Stewart Williams]

Freitag, 6. Januar 2017

Gefühle und Verhaltensflexibilität:

"Wenn man fragt, warum irgendein organismisches Merkmal entstanden ist, muss man fragen: Was hat es den Besitzern genützt? Worin bestand der Überlebens- und Fortpflanzungsvorteil, den es ihnen verschafft hat? Denn nur, wenn es Vorteile verschaffte, konnte es sich durchsetzen und erhalten.
Im Vorteil ist zum Beispiel jenes Tier, das Gefahren besser meidet. Die Natur kann das Problem lösen, indem ihm evolutionär einprogrammiert wird, welche Reize es mit welchen Reaktionen beantworten muss. Ein so konstruiertes Tier hat etwas Automatenhaftes: Auf bestimmte Reize hin vollzieht es starre Handlungsfolgen. Überlegen ist ihm ein Tier, dass flexibler und dennoch zweckmäßig reagieren kann, weniger automatenhaft. Gefühlserlebnisse sind genau das: ein evolutionärer Schritt zur größeren Flexibilität des Verhaltens. Indem das Tier Gefahren nicht automatisch mit starren Handlungsmustern beantwortet, sondern sie fühlt, sie als Gefühl erlebt, als Furcht empfindet, fasst es eine große Zahl gefahrvoller Situationen zusammen: Es bildet sich eine Art emotionaler Begriff, lange vor jedem gedanklichen oder gar sprachlichen Begriff. >Angst<, die verspürte Angst, ist der emotionale Begriff für Gefahr; >Scham< ist der emotionale Begriff für den Verstoß gegen die bejahten Erwartungen des Mitmenschen, die verinnerlichten Normen; >Dankbarkeit< ist der emotionale Begriff für ein Verpflichtetsein. Um sich der Gefahr zu entziehen, kann das Tier, das >Angst< aufbringt, alle seine Mittel einsetzen und der jeweiligen Situation so gut es geht anpassen. Gefühle gestatten eine verstärkte Improvisation von Verhalten.
Der Vorteil der Gefühle und somit der Grund für ihre Entstehung - mit einem Wort: ihr Sinn - bestand also darin, dass sie die starre Verknüpfung von Reiz und Reaktion zu lockern erlaubten: Gefühle sind vorgedankliche Beurteilungen von Situationen (und Gedanken wie Sprache sind später vorwiegend damit beschäftigt, das Urteil der Gefühle zu wiederholen). Enthalten in diesem Urteil sind die gesamten Lebenserfahrungen der Vorfahren. Das Gefühlsurteil überlässt es dem Lebewesen, die Situation seinen Möglichkeiten entsprechend zu bewältigen. Gefühle sind erlebte, auf eine höhere, beweglichere, flexiblere Stufe gerückte Instinkte."

Die Vernunft der Gefühle
Dieter E. Zimmer (1984)