|This or That: The psychiatrist meets the therapist
||I should have known it was coming. My psychiatrist recommended me the therapist I’m working with which has been an amazing experience. I tend to tell more to my therapist then my psychiatrist which is stupid, and weird, cause one is prescribing my medication while the other one is… I’m...
|Growing Empathy: A Daily 30-Minute Gift That Can Rescue
||The amazing work of neuroscientists such as Marco Iacoboni reveals human beings are neurologically “wired for empathy” and — an innate moral nature. The same brain circuits are mobilized whether feeling one’s own pain and others’, and merely observing someone performing a certain action activates the same areas of the...
|5 Things I Say “No” To
||I just read a great article from Haley on The Tiny Twig on saying “no”. She’s a blogger and mom of three and busy, busy. In her article she shared that she can’t do it all – and that’s okay! I began to think seriously about what I say “no”...
|Why Happy People Often Seem Tone Deaf To Negative Emotions
It’s common to think that upbeat, outwardly happy people are better at empathizing than the rest of us, since they seem more eager to pursue relationships and “connect” with others in general. And if you were to ask a cheerful connector about his or her empathic prowess, they’d probably tell you that they’re confident in their ability to read people well.
The assumption makes sense, but is it really true? A new study investigated the claim and found that feeling positive doesn't make you any better at empathy than others, and in some ways it's a handicap.
The research team recruited a group of 121 adult participants and assessed their level of “trait positive affect” – meaning how happy they feel from day to day. They were then asked to tell the researchers how effective they are at empathizing with others. As predicted, those with a happier average mood reported feeling the most confident in their ability to empathize.
The participants were then asked to watch videos of people describing an autobiographical event (some negative, some positive), and to rate the level of negative or positive emotion they thought the speaker was feeling. The ratings were given as a “play by play”, rather than an overall impression, to make sure that the participants were trying to read the speakers’ emotions throughout the video.
Even though the upbeat study participants thought they’d do better on this task than others, the results didn’t back their confidence. Not only were they generally no better at reading the speakers’ emotions than less upbeat people in the study, they were actually worse at reading negative emotions.
The only area where happier people outperformed less upbeat people was in reading significantly positive shifts in emotions. In other words, they were better at identifying emotions similar to their own.
Another way to describe the study findings is that, despite their confidence, upbeat connectors are somewhat tone deaf to negative emotions, but more attuned to positives ones.
I corresponded with two of the study’s authors, Hillary Devlin and June Gruber, and asked them to comment on its implications.
DiSalvo: Based on this study's conclusions, is it fair to say that positive people tend to overestimate the positive signals in others' tones, and downplay the negative? What might account for this bias?
June Gruber: Happier people–those who experience more intense positive feelings–do appear to have a more fine-tuned emotional radar for positive emotional experiences in others. They track them more carefully in moment-to-moment observations of others. This emotional radar appears uniquely attuned to positive states, and less attuned to capturing shifts in negative emotions of others.
Hillary Devlin: We find happier participants exhibit an increased sensitivity when tuning in to the positive emotions of other happy individuals. We think this could be explained in part by prior work that finds when we experience positive emotion it tends to facilitate our ability to access and recall positive information more generally. This may help happier individuals to tap into the positive emotions of other happy individuals, but could at times disrupt their ability to “drop down” and accurately perceive the emotions of a person in high distress.
One takeaway from this study might be that empathy is in the eye of the beholder -- that we tend to rate our level of empathy in accordance with our more predominate emotional state. True?
June Gruber: One way to phrase the takeaway is that how accurate our ability to empathize with others is in the ‘heart’ of the beholder; that is, it is largely influenced by a person’s emotional dispositions, especially positive ones.
Hillary Devlin: We do feel this is an important takeaway of the study. Happier individuals tended to report that they were better at empathizing, and this applied both when the target in question was happy or sad. In fact, after completing the empathic accuracy task within our study, participants higher in trait positive emotion tended to believe that they had done a better job at taking the perspective of a highly-distressed target; however, in reality, they had actually done worse than other participants in accurately tracking this target’s emotion.
Overall, what’s your study telling us to keep in mind?
Hillary Devlin: Our work suggests that our self-reported beliefs about how empathic we are may not always accurately reflect actual empathic abilities. In the case of this study, trait positive emotionality [how happy we feel] appears to be one factor that can lead to a striking divergence between beliefs and abilities.
June Gruber: There appears to be a chasm between how positive feelings influence our belief and ability, or between subjective perceptions and objective performance in empathizing with the emotions of others around us.
The study was published in the online journal PLoS.ONE.
You can find David DiSalvo on Twitter @neuronarrative and at his website, daviddisalvo.org.
Feeling positive doesn't guarantee empathy no matter how good it feels.
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A new study finds that feeling positive doesn’t make you any better at empathy than others, and in some ways it’s a handicap.
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|Spike activity 30-01-2015
||Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: PLOS Neuroscience has an excellent interview on the strengths and limitations of fMRI. There’s an excellent profile of clinical psychologist Andrea Letamendi and her interest in comics and mental health in The Atlantic. The Wall Street Journal has an excellent piece on hikikomori – […]
|Why violent psychopaths don’t ‘get’ punishment
||The psychologist David Lykken once wrote that most violent crime could be prevented by cryogenically freezing all males aged 12 to 28. Although this option might be appealing at times for high school teachers and parents of teenage boys, it has some fairly obvious problems. For one thing, 28-year-old men might react violently, after thawing [...]The post Why violent psychopaths don’t ‘get’ punishment appeared first on PsyPost.
|Facebook shapes women’s body image – just not as you’d expect
||If you’re one of the world’s 1.3 billion regular Facebook users, you’ll know the feeling of being consumed by your news feed. If you don’t use Facebook, you need only get on a busy train or bus to see countless people browsing Facebook on their phones, inspecting photos of their “friends” enjoying themselves. Young women [...]The post Facebook shapes women’s body image – just not as you’d expect appeared first on PsyPost.
|How Can I Be More Assertive?
One of the biggest dilemmas for us Caretakers is our tendency to be passive. And we have a lot of beliefs that really reinforce that passivity, such as: Always be nice, don’t ever hurt anyone else’s feelings, let the other person have their way, make the other person happy, etc. In our personal relationships, most of us got the message that when we love someone we should always do what the other person wants. So the question isn’t how to learn assertion skills as much as it is: How do I get so I believe that I have the right to be assertive?
Manuel Smith, in his book When I Say No I Feel Guilty, really tuned into this basic issue. We will never actually USE assertion skills until we believe that we have a right to use them. So he outlined the ten beliefs that we need to have in place to be willing to actually use assertion skills in an interaction.
You have the right to judge your own behaviors, thoughts, and feelings and take responsibility for them. This means that only YOUR assessment of what you do, think and feel is truly accurate. Caretakers too often focus on what the BP/NP thinks, feels and does, and we give the BP/NP’s opinions more power than our own judgments. But only YOU know what you truly feel and mean. This also says that we have to take responsibility for our OWN behaviors, thoughts and feelings. That is, we have to believe in ourselves and acknowledge our REAL identity by saying: This is who I am, this is what I think and how I really feel. Only then are we truly authentic in life.
You have the right to give no reasons of justifications for your behavior. The BP/NP tries really hard to get you to justify WHY you think, feel or act as you do—mostly for the purpose of telling you why you are wrong. Having the right to NOT give a justification, gives you the power to stay out of these useless arguments.
You have the right to judge if you are responsible for other people’s problems. The BP/NP wants you to be responsible for their problems. Caretakers get pulled into trying and trying to solve the dramas that the BP/NP creates. But you have the right to CHOOSE if you want to get involved in solving the BP/NP’s problems. Loving someone does not demand that you solve all their problems. In fact, when you take over the responsibility for the BP/NP’s problems, you are just enabling them to go on acting irresponsibly.
You have the right to change your mind. Wow! What a concept. Just because you made a choice in the past, it does not mean that you have to keep making that choice now. The BP/NP hates their Caretaker to make any changes, but you don’t have to abide by their rules. Do you get caught up thinking that you once you make a choice, it can never be changed? Why?
You have the right to make mistakes and be responsible for them. This means you don’t have to be PERFECT. When you make a mistake, you are responsible to apologize and make amends, but you don’t have to feel guilty for the rest of your life. You also have the right to decide if your action was really a mistake or not. The BP/NP may not like what you are saying or doing, but that doesn’t mean it is a mistake or that you are wrong.
You have the right to say, “I don’t know.” The BP/NP likes to ask: “Why did you say that? Why did you do that? Why do you want to do that?” This assertion right says that you don’t have to explain, or even know, why you are choosing or feeling what you are. You can just say, “I don’t know.” Your life doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else. And that is OK.
You have the right to not worry about other people’s approval. This is a really hard thing to accomplish for Caretakers, but it is so very important. To be able to be who you are and live the life that you choose, you can’t spend all your time pleasing other people. Ask yourself: What is so difficult for me about not having everyone approve of what I do? Do you believe that you will never be loved if the other person doesn’t agree with every move you make?
You have the right to be illogical. Hey, the BP/NP is illogical much of the time, so why can’t you be illogical too? Just because something you feel or do doesn’t make sense to someone else, it doesn’t mean it isn’t right for you. We often don’t know why we have a feeling or yearn for something else in our lives, until we explore those feelings more deeply. The BP/NP typically wants answers NOW. This says you have the right to say and do what you want, and figure out why later.
You have the right to say, “I don’t understand”. People who are trying to manipulate you often try to trick you into agreeing with them by saying, “Of course you understand why I’m doing this/why I’m saying this.” Their goal is to get you to agree with them and not really analyze what is going on. Caretakers too often just “pretend” to understand so as not to get into an argument. You don’t have to argue, but you also don’t have to pretend you understand or agree with what the BP/NP is doing.
You have the right to say, “I don’t care.” There are thousands and thousands of things that you can’t do anything about, e.g. What people say about you, what people think about you, how other people choose to live their lives. Caretakers too often try to care about everything and everyone (except themselves of course). We spend sooooo much time “caring” about everyone else that we forget to care about ourselves. Remember, it is each person’s number one job in life to take care of themselves. Take care of yourself, and with the energy you have left over, you can then offer to care for others, but only if they want your help. Quit trying to care for people and situations that don’t want your help, or by their actions refuse your help. You don’t have to care about everything. There’s not enough time to do that anyway.
Getting yourself grounded with these ten rights will make a huge difference in where you put your energy and the results you get. Looking out for yourself isn’t selfish, it is responsible. And it doesn’t have to mean that you don’t care about others. But trying to solve the BP/NP’s problems and make them happy will never lead you to a happier or better life—because it can’t be done.
Assertion begins with the right attitude about your rights.
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Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist
Being assertive is easier when you have the right attitude.
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|A New Default Self
Why are you unhappy?
Because 99.9 percent
Of everything you think,
And of everything you do,
Is for yourself --
And there isn't one.
-- Wei Wu Wei
Wei Wu Wei is the pen name of Terence Gray, a 20th-century, Anglo-Irish author of pithy provocations aimed, like the one in the epigraph, at the prevailing notion of selfhood. By flatly denying the existence of self, he means to shock us into realizing that the self we take for granted does not stand up to scrutiny. Like Eastern sages and Western post-modernists, Wei Wu Wei outs the current default self as a vacuous fabrication.
The purpose of this essay is to describe the current default self and suggest a new one that can withstand the post-modern critique and incorporate the findings of brain science. And there's a bonus! Such a model of selfhood will turn out to be just what we need to keep our footing as the thinking machines we're designing come to rival the brains Nature gave us.
Though preoccupied with self, most of us give little or no thought to the nature of selfhood. What do we mean when we invoke the self-referential pronouns -- me, myself, and I?
Young children think of the self as the body. In adolescence, the sense of self shifts to the mind. With maturity, the mind monitors not only the outer world but itself, and we come to see our self as our "mind's mind," that is, as the interior observer who witnesses what's going on, offers a running commentary on how we're doing, and who consciously chooses when and how to interact with others.
To some, the witness feels like a little man in their head. It has even been billed as 'captain of the soul.' But sober reflection reveals that the witness is not calling the shots. The witness is simply one of many functions of the nervous system, one that tracks the rest.
The mind's signature function is the minting of serviceable identities, which, as Shakespeare famously noted, it's called upon to do throughout life. Since "All the world's a stage... and one man in his time plays many parts," we should never mistake a current identity for our "real" self.
To get a handle on the slippery self, It helps to think of brain tissue as hardware, and the ever-changing neural connections as software. Both computers and brains are vulnerable to flaws in their hardware and software, and both require an energy supply.
At present computers and brains work according to very different principles, but we should expect this difference to narrow. When computers work like brains, there is no reason to expect them not to do what brains do. And since the biological constraints on size and speed will be lifted in the "brains" we build, we'd better be prepared for them to perform as well as, or better than, ours do.
The first computers were free-standing machines. Later, we learned how to hook them up and the result was an enormous increase in computing power. A parallel shift in our notion of selfhood is called for. The current default self, subscribed to by most people most of the time, is a stand-alone model. The new default self, to be posited in this essay, is more like a computer network.
Most people speak as if they were separate, autonomous, independent beings, with minds and wills of their own. From early on, we're told to "stand on our own two feet," to "think for ourselves." Self-reliance and self-sufficiency are touted as virtues; dependency,a weakness. We put the "self-made" man or woman on a pedestal and teach the young to emulate these role models.
Call this stand-alone self the "Singular Self." Recognizing its limitations, the Singular Self is quick to ally with others, but not so quick to acknowledge -- let alone compensate -- them for their contributions.
The Singular Self is the current default self. It does not exist according to sages, scientists, and post-modern philosophers. But, better than flatly denying its existence, or exposing it as illusory, is to call it what it is: a useful lie.
The very name -- "self" -- is a misnomer. The term carries strong connotations of autonomy and individuality. It's as if it were chosen to mask our interdependence. The self does not stand alone. On the contrary, the autonomous self and individual agency are both illusory. Selves depend on input from other selves to take form and to do anything. Deprived of inputs from others, selves are stillborn. Contrary to the name we call it by, the self is anything but self-sufficient.
Selves are not only more inclusive, they are also more extensive than commonly believed. They extend beyond our own bodies and minds to include what we usually think of as other selves. The situation is analogous to memory. We think of our memories as located in our mind but when you drive to town, it's the road that holds the memory of the route, reminding you at every turn how to proceed.
So, too, is selfhood dispersed. Much of the information we require in order to function is stored outside our bodies and brains -- in other brains, books, maps, machines, objects, databases, the Internet, and the cloud. We're dependent on external inputs to accumulate enough excitation to reach the threshold of emission for specific behaviors.
As evidence accumulates that the "rugged individualism" of singular selfhood is a myth, and the profound interdependence of selves becomes apparent, our default self is gradually shifting from singular to plural. But until the co-dependent, co-creative nature of selfhood becomes obvious, a distinct term may come in handy. Call the emerging self the "Plural Self" (aka, the Superself.)
Sir Winston Churchill famously said, "In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies." The truth, long protected by the self-serving lie of the Singular Self, is the Plural Self.
Whereas the Singular Self downplays our mutual dependence, the Plural Self embraces interdependence. Whereas the Singular Self excludes, the Plural Self contains multitudes.The Singular Self prioritizes agency; the Plural Self, harmony.
The current ideological divide in politics stems from antithetical views of the self. Conservatives caution that a pluralistic notion of selfhood may inhibit individual agency, whereas Progressives argue that Singular Selfhood rationalizes an inequitable distribution of recognition and reward.
As ways are found to safeguard individual initiative from the inertia of more inclusive decision-making, the Plural Self will supplant the Singular Self as the new default self. With luck, this will happen in time to welcome intelligent machines into the club.
Ethics and Morality
Do you need a self to be happy?
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Somebodies and Nobodies
Do you need a self to be happy?
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|Looking for love? Are your chances better on or offline?
Internet dating and marriage has been around long enough that its success and failure rate is being studied. It’s also being compared to more traditional ways of finding love. According to a study led by University of Chicago professor and social psychologist John Cacioppo, more than a third of marriages in the U.S. now start with on-line encounters. Furthermore, among the 19,131 people who married between 2005 and 2012 and who participated in the study, there was a slightly lower likelihood of separation or divorce, and a slightly higher sense of satisfaction in the marriage when the relationship started online.
The results were slight, but scientifically significant, which means they cannot be explained as having happened by chance. But do they mean that you should finally take the plunge and complete – and post – that online dating profile that you’ve been avoiding for months or even years?
Another study says, “not so fast.” Aditi Paul, a social psychologist at the University of Michigan, writes that it actually depends on what you want from a relationship. According to data collected on 4002 adults, couples who met online were less likely to get married than couples who met offline.
So what does this mean about your search for romantic love?
There are some obvious advantages to online dating, including that it gives you a much wider range of possible partners, it provides a built-in filter for eliminating inappropriate or incompatible dates, and it allows for – perhaps even promotes – the development of emotional intimacy more quickly than any kind of “real world” encounter. The problem of emotional intimacy is a big one in the digital age, and there are many ways in which, as we all know, our phones, headsets and other electronics add to that problem (if you need an example, just think of all of the times you or a date have checked your phones or even quickly texted someone else while you are getting to know one another). Online communications can feel more intense, more spontaneous, and even safer. Like talking with a stranger sitting next to you on a long airline flight, you might feel freer sharing some of your more private and personal thoughts with someone online, someone who can’t see you and doesn’t have a good reason to judge you. And if they don’t like you after what you share, the stakes are lower than if you’ve actually met in person.
There are also some dangers in Internet relationships, especially those that remain online instead of moving into the real world. Nev Schulman, author of the book In Real Life: Love, Lies & Identity in the Digital Age and star of the movie Catfish emphasizes that you should not believe everything you read. People don’t always tell the truth about themselves online or on dating sites. But of course, this is true in off-line relationships as well. Obviously, it’s harder to lie about your age, weight or height when a person is looking straight at you, but there are, unfortunately, still people who will not tell you that little detail of a husband or wife at home, or who will fudge about what they really do for a living.
Harville Hendrix, who has written numerous books about relationships, says that we all put our best selves forward in the early stages of a relationship. It’s natural to do that, and it’s also natural to want to believe that this is who the other person really is. And it often is, at least to some extent. But it’s the best part of that person. It doesn’t include all of the warts and hairs and wrinkles in their personality. We only get to know that as time goes on. So whether you are meeting someone on or off-line, think of what you see in the initial stages of getting to know each other as the air-brushed version. You have to spend time with someone in person, in real life activities, and in the world you each live in in order to get a more complete picture.
On the other hand, all of the sites (and there are many of them, including some good ones posted by online dating services themselves) that talk about how to improve your chances of meeting the love of your life online say that it’s very important for you to be honest about yourself on your dating profile. And why not? You want to meet someone who will love you as you are, right? So why tell them that you’re something that you’re not? You’ll inevitably have to face their disappointment, which will end up making you feel badly about yourself – maybe even worse than before you started dating.
And then there’s the component of time. All of the authors and researchers I’ve been talking about in this post agree on one thing – it takes time to get to know someone, and it takes work to be in a relationship. Whether you meet your honey on- or off-line, what’s really important is getting to know each other, learning to trust one another, and finding ways to manage all of the feelings that go along with a relationship. These emotions are going to be both good and bad. In any healthy relationship, there needs to be room not just for love and desire, but also respect, empathy, common interests, kindness, and conflicts and anger.
Is it better to look for love online or offline?
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Off the Couch
Internet dating and marriage has been around long enough that its success and failure rate is being studied. It’s also being compared to more traditional ways of finding love. So what does the data tell us is the best way to find true and lasting love?
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|In the 21st Century, project management for parents
||I’ve just read an excellent book on the surprising anomaly of modern parenting called All Joy and No Fun. It’s by the writer Jennifer Senior who we’ve featured a few times on Mind Hacks for her insightful pieces on the social mind. In All Joy and No Fun she looks at how the modern model […]
|Simple Tips & Tweaks for Creating a Productive To-Do
||I love lists. And I make many of them. I make lists of my daily tasks. I make lists of the articles I need to write each month — both in a Word doc and in a separate notebook. I make lists in most of my blog posts. I make...
|Star Struck: Blinded by the Limelight
The streets around the courthouse are blocked off as the celebrity defendant arrives with his lawyers for his first court appearance. Within the circus environment surrounding the event are crowds of supporters holding signs and shouting words of encouragement. As a criminal trial attorney having worked as both a defense attorney and a prosecutor, I am always curious to know whether the scores of onlookers are aware of the crimes with which their favorite celebrity has been charged. Suprisingly, they often do not know . . . and do not care.
Whether displayed through the crowds at a Hollywood awards show, movie opening, or a “perp walk” parading a celebrity charged with a crime, public interest in the lives of the famous is a worldwide phenomena. Research corroborates the reality that society is fascinated with famous people. Unfortunately, this fascination can block the perception of negative information.
So before you roll out the red carpet, take steps to investigate whether the famous people you admire are as good as they look. Some are . . . but not all. You cannot tell by looking, because fame conceals faults—particularly in the limelight. Two of the most notorious types of show-stealers are politicians and celebrities.
Rocking the Vote
Some politicians roll into town like rock stars, complete with sunglasses, limousines, and an entourage. But beware of flash over substance. If you are impressed with the stump speech, ask yourself why. Would you be equally impressed reading a transcript of the remarks without the smooth oration and standing ovation?
And when examining the character behind the credentials of your favorite candidate, consider the pledge of allegiance—whether a politician fulfills his or her promises. Notice whether an elected official both talks the talk and walks the walk, and be wary of public figures with a history of failing to follow their mouth with their money.
Consider the same questions when mingling with prominent people in your community. These big fish in small ponds include everyone from city mayors and council members, to police chiefs and university presidents. How much do you know about the values and morals that will serve to secure their smooth-sounding platforms and promises?
A Byproduct of Fame: Celebrity Narcissism
A retired police officer-turned-chauffer friend of mine says that one big difference between driving a police car and driving a limousine is that his passengers rarely spit on him anymore. Yet some of the most notorious etiquette offenders are more likely to be in his limousine. Like tinted windows, VIP status can shield a celebrity´s true personality from public view.
While scores of famous people are beautiful both outside and inside, some are not. One risk of becoming famous is having celebrity status go to one´s head. The result is a condition referred to as celebrity narcissism.
People in positions of power, such as celebrities, sometimes suffer from what is known as acquired situational narcissism. Studies indicate that celebrities have a greater number of narcissistic traits than the public at large, with female celebrities exhibiting more narcissistc traits than male celebrities.
Who would you expect to exhibit the greatest number of narcissistic traits? The prize goes to reality TV personalities, followed by comedians, actors, and musicians. Within each subtype, Reality TV personalities scored highest on the traits of vanity and self-sufficiency, while comedians scored highest on exploitativeness, exhibitionism, and superiority, among other traits.
What is the explanation for these results? If you have ever watched any type of TV series covering the drama of high-society housewives, you might understand the observation that Reality TV star success is believed to stem from the initial appeal of a character´s narcissistic persona, which may have boosted their desirability in the casting process by producers and agents. The on the job success these TV personalities enjoy may stem from the entertaining drama they create by virtue of their narcissistic tendencies.
Like other societal trends, however, celebrity narcissism can be contagious—capable of being transmitted right through your television screen or smart phone. How? Research indicates that a portion of the viewing public might begin to accept and even glamorize self-indulgent behavior as normal, perceiving it as a lifestyle worthy of emulation. One study found that people who viewed narcissistic behavior on reality television programs display a higher level of narcissistic behavior themselves than people who viewed drama.
Behind the Spotlight
Unlike the bright house lights in a bar at closing time, the spotlight of fame does not accentuate flaws, it hides them. Many people mentally airbrush the already sanitized image that famous people project.
How do you know what your favorite movie star is really like? Examine how she uses the status and influence she has. Some public figures focus on philanthropy, altruistic pursuits, and promoting a healthy lifestyle. They donate money, volunteer at charitable events, pledge to protect the environment, and support societal causes.
Famous people also reveal their true colors through the way they approach public appearances. Some whip paparazzi into a frenzy by hitting the town with fellow superstars, while others endear themselves to fans through gracious behavior including posing for photos and signing autographs.
The bottom line is that with impressive, famous people, before getting too close to the flame, take steps to determine whether your favorite celebrities are as good as they look.
 S. Mark Young and Drew Pinsky, “Narcissism and Celebrity,” Journal of Research in Personality 40 (2006): 463–71 (463–464).
 Brittany Gentile, “Celebrity and Narcissism,” in The Handbook of Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Theoretical Approaches, Empirical Findings, and Treatments, eds. W. Keith Campbell and Joshua D. Miller (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2011), 403–09 (406).
 Young and Pinsky, “Narcissism and Celebrity,” 463–64. The authors caution that this research was designed to detect narcissistic traits, not narcissistic personality disorder. Young and Pinsky, “Narcissism and Celebrity,” 465.
 Young and Pinsky, “Narcissism and Celebrity,” 469.
 Young and Pinsky, “Narcissism and Celebrity,” 469.
 Young and Pinsky, “Narcissism and Celebrity,” 469.
 Young and Pinsky, “Narcissism and Celebrity,” 470.
 Young and Pinsky, “Narcissism and Celebrity,” 470.
 Gentile, “Celebrity and Narcissism,” 407.
 Gentile, “Celebrity and Narcissism,” 407–408 (citing Horton et al., 2010).
Law and Crime
Social Comparison Theory
The Fascination of Fame—Missing Red Flags on the Red Carpet
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Why Bad Looks Good
Before you roll out the red carpet, take steps to investigate whether the famous people you admire are as good as they look. Many are . . . many are not. You cannot tell by looking, because ironically, with celebrity status, the spotlight hides imperfections, rather than reveals them.
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|How to Support A Depressed Loved One
||When you see someone you love in pain, you might feel a lot of things. You’re likely to start with sympathy and concern but as you try (and fail) to help, it might turn to frustration. Or resentment, if you’re having to pick up the slack. Here are some thoughts...
|Where Were You When You Realized You Love Your
||It is something all single people have experienced. We are asked to answer some security questions to set up an account, only to find that a disproportionate number of those questions just assume that we are married. Amy Gutman, a facilitator of the OpEd Project, recently described an experience in...
|Easy Mental Trick Which You’ll Be Surprised To Learn Reduces Appetite
Reduce your appetite with this counter-intuitive mental trick.
Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is
"Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick"
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|Why Insecure People Make Such Bad Bosses
The comedy, Horrible Bosses, was a ridiculous parody of the extreme awkwardness and discomfort that employees can experience when their bosses are exploitative, incompetent, or capricious. In reality, people experience difficulties with their bosses for a variety of mundane reasons.
You, or your partner, may have a boss right now who’s making your life miserable perhaps by having overly high standards, making unrealistic demands, or communicating confusing messages about what’s wanted from you. The basic dynamic of employee- employer relationships contains the potential to create problems even in the best of circumstances. There's a power differential between employer and employee in which the employer clearly holds the upper hand. With the ability to hire or fire you, give you a raise or not, or create unpleasant work conditions, the boss is in control. Whether younger or older than you, senior or junior in experience, or more or less educated than you, the odds are always in favor of the person who's in charge.
Of the many reasons that bosses can be bad, feelings of insecurity on their part must surely stand out as one of the most crucial. An insecure person, in general, creates havoc in the lives of others, particularly if that individual has what’s called an insecure attachment style.
An attachment style is what psychologists call the “internal working model” that we have of relationships with the important people in our lives. In our very first days of life, we begin to form a primitive sense of whether or not the caregivers in our world will look out for our needs.
A caregiver who is a “safe haven” allows the child to feel cared for without feeling smothered. The child with this safe haven is most likely to become securely attached. A caregiver who neglects the child or is overly intrusive will cause the child to feel insecurely attached. Either the child becomes anxiously attached (constantly seeking reassurance) or avoidant (unwilling to trust anyone). Another possibility is that the individual becomes ambivalently attached, feeling the push and pull of connections with others.
These basics of attachment theory suggest how insecurely attached individuals make life difficult for their partners. An avoidant partner will resist closeness and intimacy, an anxiously attached one will constantly fear rejection and an ambivalent one will be unable to follow through on close commitments.
However, people express their attachment styles in a variety of contexts, not just their closest relationships. You don’t leave your personality at the door when you enter the workplace. The insecurely attached employee may fret constantly about the prospect of being fired, regardless of the reality of the situation (anxious) or may refuse to identify with the goals and values of the organization (avoidant). A securely attached employee will be productive, resilient, and relatively easy to manage. Not fearing harmful outcomes, securely attached workers can concentrate on the job rather than on the likelihood that the boss will fire or exploit them.
Just as employees bring their attachment styles to work, so do their bosses. A securely attached boss will have tend to be generally trusting and respectful of the needs that employees have to be treated well. Bosses who are insecurely attached will show a variety of poor management habits, either being cold and distant (avoidant) or overly intrusive (anxious).
Because attachment style contributes to an individual’s overall sense of self, insecurely attached bosses also have the potential to worry that their employees are better than they are. Jealously guarding their positions, these insecure bosses fret about being upstaged by someone new or made to look bad in front of their own boss. Concerned, too, that their employees might gang up on them, they try to exploit the petty arguments and jealousies that arise among those they supervise rather than build team support.
Having an insecure boss will make you an unhappier and, as a result, less productive worker. Texas Tech University Professor Amanda Hinojosa and collaborators (2014) examined the phenomenon of authentic leadership, a pattern of behavior that promotes positive qualities and ethical behavior in followers. The authentic leader is self-aware, has an internalized moral compass, can process information in a balanced manner, and shows transparency in relations with others.
Hinojosa and her colleagues propose a typology consisting of different combinations of attachment styles between leaders and followers (bosses and employees). Bosses and employees who are both securely attached have the greatest potential of developing an authentic relationship. They'll become the dynamic duo who enjoy each other's company, show respect toward each other, and come up with the best results for themselves and the
The combination with the least potential for authenticity is that of an insecure-ambivalent follower and insecure-avoidant leader. These polar opposites, as in a close relationship pair, bring out the worst in each other, and the relationship is called anti-authentic, accordingly.
The non-authentic relationship occurs when one partner is securely attached and the other is avoidant. As in a romantic relationship, you get the cold shoulder when you (the securely attached person) attempt to express your feelings openly and honestly. If it’s the boss who’s avoidant, the power differential becomes even more problematic than in a romantic relationship. The avoidant boss doesn’t want to hear what you think, leaving you to feel unappreciated for your efforts. You know that the boss controls what happens to you, but there's little you can do to change things.
Insecurely attached bosses may also communicate mixed messages to their employees, in what Hinojosa and her team call the pseudo-authentic style. You may feel that your boss cares about your opinions and reactions but then get shot down when you express them.
Finally, there can be a complete authenticity void if both the boss and employee have avoidant attachment styles. Neither makes a pretense about caring what the other one thinks. When they’re forced to share information, as at a staff meeting, neither trusts the other enough to take what they’re saying at face value. You think your boss has an ulterior motive, and your boss feels the same way about you.
Whether you have a boss or not, someone you know and care about probably does. Understanding the dynamics of the insecure boss can help you gain more confidence in your own abilities. Also, by realizing it’s a two-way street, and that both of your attachment styles matter, you can gain insight into your own contribution to problematic relationships at work. If you’re the insecure boss, and you see yourself in these attachment styles, knowing the impact of your leadership on your employees can allow you to work toward building relationships that are more productive and fulfilling.
Follow me on Twitter @swhitbo for daily updates on psychology,health, and aging. Feel free to join my Facebook group, "Fulfillment at Any Age," to discuss today's blog, or to ask further questions about this posting.
Copyright Susan Krauss Whitbourne 2015
Hinojosa, A. S., Davis McCauley, K., Randolph-Seng, B., & Gardner, W. L. (2014). Leader and follower attachment styles: Implications for authentic leader–follower relationships. The Leadership Quarterly, 25(3), 595-610.
Your job, and life, will be much less stressful if your boss feels secure
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Fulfillment at Any Age
A sense of security is beneficial for many reasons, but particularly so when other people depend on you. Horrible bosses can be horrible for many reasons, but being insecure is arguably one of the most important. Whether it’s your boss, or the boss of your lover or friend, understanding the effects of personal insecurity can give you important insights.
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|Psychology Around the Net: January 31, 2015
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|Mirror Seeks Mirroring
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|Student Evaluations: Fudging the "happy sheets"
Professors, lecturers and teachers now face course evaluation, which is taken very seriously. “Rate my Professor” is widely known and most course evaluations are on-line.
Some teaching institutions put these summarized evaluations on the web. It is soon possible to know the best and the worst lecturers in every subject as well as across the organization as a whole. The best are often sought out; the worst humiliated.
Trainers in organizations have long been exposed to the demands of the 'happy sheet'. Training manager and clients have little to go on to measure training effectiveness. It is simply very difficult to measure 'actual performance' or even 'learning achieved' by a before-and-after examination, so they scour the “happy sheets”, attentive to every hand-scribbled note and every change in the figures.
Consultants and trainers can be hired and fired on the basis of their happy sheet results and they know it. Many have learnt over the years various “tricks” they believe increases their chances of a more positive score.
Politicians and provosts, vice chancellors and vice presidents now all want proof of teaching effectiveness, of target hitting, of ever increasing value for money. They want proof that students are getting value-for-money.
These evaluations have at least the spurious appearance of scientific validity. They are after all client ratings. So they can show that Professor Brown is on the 69th percentile for "well prepared and organized" but only the 14th for "really made me think". Equally poor old Professor Green, a clear genius but who remains doggedly on the 8th percentile for "clear power-point slides" or "useful notes".
Most evaluations give means (or modes) but not always standard deviations which in this instance is a good metric of disagreement among raters. So what happens if rating is related to personality or intelligence: the idea that the same presenter is rated quite differently by extraverts or introverts?
There is therefore a new industry in improving course evaluation. Indeed it is more sensible and certainly efficient to put effort into improving teaching evaluations without actually improving the teaching. Various teachers have written about their personal experiences, sometimes with humour and sometimes bitterness. They have typically made the following observations and suggestions about how to get better scores.
1. Be male: Students expect females to be more supportive and helpful and if they are not they get punished. All students seem to be more critical of females, particularly around issues of availability and course stimulation. It seems easier if you are a man. But are things changing: indeed is it now the precise opposite?
2. Be well organized: Start and end on time, have enough hand-outs, check that the power-pointg works. Students get very annoyed with "forgetful, absent-minded professors". They notice if you are well organized. Many want the slides and a TED talk type video sent to them before or after the lecture. Fail to do this and you get really badly rated by tech-savvy young people.
3. Be a soft examiner: Lenient grading is a powerful correlate of marks for teacher/trainer effectiveness. Naturally, the really talented feel hard done by, but there are relatively few of them. Further, you can always defend your generous grades as reflective of your teaching skill: after all the evaluations support your position. So dish out the As liberally and go very light on C and D grades.
4. Have early evaluations. Don't wait until the end of the course, particularly if you know the students will be tested. The weak ones, it is said, will blame you for their inadequacies. Catch them early, before they think about any test of what they have learned. They mark you higher if they forget you mark them later.
5. Personally give out your happy sheets if you can or at least choose the time they are send electronically. Choose your best lecture with the most amusing of all your profundities and anecdotes. It helps if this lecture has a bit of emotional input and appeals to their heart-strings. Happy people give higher marks
6. "Explain" the purpose of the ratings. Be confident, be funny, relaxed, and positive. Point out, if you dare, that high scores keep your research going; your 5 small children alive; the whole department in jobs. In short get them “on-side”.
7. Teach smaller, selective groups. The smaller the group the more you can interact with individuals and charm them. They also tend to be more selective and selected. Beware the disorientated, disaffected and disturbed hiding in big groups. Of course, this is not always a matter of choice and some teachers and lecturers are forced to teach huge groups of many hundreds.
8. Mix and match you style and techniques. Go for gimmicks. Use the media; use new technology. Have videos, CD Roms, celebrity interviews. Get in visiting speakers, encourage the use of Twitter. The modern student isn't into "chalk-and-talk". They have been exposed to the joy of the web, and fast-moving images. The salience of a particular emotionally triggering video to end the course is neither here-nor-there. Show the best on or just before an annual appraisal.
9. Entertain. Students like you to be enthusiastic, expressive and entertaining. In one celebrated study an actor gave the lecture a place of distinguished professor. It had little content but it didn't matter. Entertainment is the key. Difficult, but not impossible to teach dry subjects like multivariate statistics amuzingly but it can be done. See all those academics who have very successful television series on what was once thought of as dreadfully dry topic.
10. Establish and fulfill expectations. Don't let students do a pre-course evaluations or expectations appraisal. Do it informally: find out the reputation of the course and the teacher and deliver what they expect. If encouraged to articulate hopes this may be far too high or unrealistic, but find out what students really want most.
11. Model and Echo Students' Beliefs and Agendas. Ascertain, echo, promote and adopt their views even if you profoundly disagree with them. Don’t take up positions that offend even if you believe with good evidence then to be true. They like you to be one of them and therefore identify with you.
12. Admit talented students only if you can: Set a high criteria for admittance. Often the less able have learned to blame the teacher for failure, brighter ones do not.
13. Evaluate everyone. In the teaching and training business there are always those who exclude themselves from evaluation on pretty bogus grounds. Insist everyone is included. This increases the distribution of the scores, particularly at the lower end so your score will improve relatively. Moreover, by insisting on a no-exceptions policy for evaluation, you can take the moral, politically correct position.
Is this all deeply cynical: poor teachers trying to find ways to cover-up their faults? Or is the bitter experiences of good teachers who see this evaluation as deeply flawed?
The moral some “old hands” say is simple. You don't have to be a clever, caring, empathic or dedicated person to get good teacher evaluations. Curiously, being deidicated, setting high standards and refusing to pander to students can be punished by poor evaluations. If evaluations drive the system, spend more effort on influencing them.
The harder question, of course, is if these “evaluations” are flawed, what is a better way of evaluating teachers and trainers?
Around 40 years ago Donald Kirkpatrick, an American business professor suggested that we need to answer four questions
1 Did participants like the program? That is their reaction to the teaching and training. This is the “happy sheet” method. He argued that these measurements are valuable for analysing positive and negative feedback on, or directly after, the program. But they cannot say how much a ¬participant has learnt or the skills they acquired. They are also very sensitive to many rating errors
2. Did participants learn the skills? This is trying to measure what they really learnt. To this skills or knowledge must be measured both before and after training. It is also important to measure observable behavior, not inferences about behavior. This is sometimes done by trainers
3. Did participants use the skills on the job? That is, did they really change their behavior when they got back on the job in the “real world”? This validation attempts to prove actual skill use. To ensure that on-the-job ¬improvements derive from training rather than from external factors, it is important to set up a control group of people within the organization who have not had the teaching and training.
4. Did the programme affect the bottom line? This answers the questions about the results of the training. This validation demands observable, quantifiable, tangible and verifiable facts that show specific profit or performance results. Although hard data are preferable, soft data can be used if they can be verified. If it is not possible to create a control group, one can compare results to an earlier period. For example, you might compare production rates for the October before and after training. But you must examine carefully all external factors that might affect performance.
The easier method is the “happy sheets” method which is why it is used so often, and why it has become the focus of so many including the “givers” and “receivers”; the “purchasers” and “providers” as well as the administrators of teaching and training.
Do trainers and teachers cynically try to influence how students rate them?
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A Sideways View
One way to see how good, or popular, a training or lecture course is, is to look at the evaluations of those who have been on the course. It is a form of customer satisfaction. These are becoming more important for the way courses are financed and therefore those who deliver them are eager to find ways to increase their positive ratings. What do the cynics suggest?
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