The Secret
#13
(04-Oct-2011, 07:54 AM)arvindiyer Wrote: Steven Novella reviews recent psychology studies and proposes a 'naturalistic explanation' for 'The Secret', along with important caveats.
http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index...s-or-dont/

In context of the following line from this article
Quote:The general principle seems to be – that it is better to be optimistic than pessimistic

Aren't we forgetting about a third option - indifference for the FUTURE result?
I have read tonnes of articles that talk about positive thinking and similar things but never understood how they really work. A more naturalistic/scientific attitude, I guess, should be to weigh cost and benefits and decide accordingly. And once a decision is taken, follow it. Where does "attitude towards future" really has to come in in this whole process?

To state this in more concrete terms, what does really hope mean? I think it is a term that is over-hyped just like faith or belief. Hope just means thinking that there is a possibility of getting what you want. This is a pretty straightforward statement that can be assessed easily with rational mind. Is there a possibility of success? If yes, continue with your efforts. If No? then fall to plan B.

I understand that there are a lot of emotional aspects of our brain and its very difficult to be rational when you are particularly feeling an emotion strongly, but all this can be easily circumvented with disciplining your brain. Think rationally when you can and take all the decisions. When you are in a emotional state, blindly adhere to the decisions that you had taken rationally. And this last part is very easily done if you are kind of indifferent to the result once set on a path. Once its decided that I want to lose weight, the easiest way to resist temptation is to not really think much about whether succumbing to this craving will really affect the end goal but be indifferent to it and adhere to the decision that you had taken earlier with proper deliberation i.e. to keep away from cravings.
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#14
(04-Oct-2011, 01:26 PM)Kanad Kanhere Wrote: Hope just means thinking that there is a possibility of getting what you want. This is a pretty straightforward statement that can be assessed easily with rational mind.

It is true that ready counterexamples maybe found to the linked article's claim that 'The general principle seems to be – that it is better to be optimistic than pessimistic.' While this description of optimism as generally suitable for all situations is an obvious oversimplification, the jury is still out on whether optimism maybe a useful and beneficial strategy (i) when means for a rational evaluation of potential outcomes is unavailable and yet there is no option to not act (ii) because it helps an agent go through losing battles with fewer avoidable adverse psychosomatic effects than when he/she would have been pessimistic (iii) because optimism might allow the agent to consider long-shot options and alternatives (which could with luck save the day) that would not have occurred to him/her at all in a pessimistic setting.

(04-Oct-2011, 01:26 PM)Kanad Kanhere Wrote: Think rationally when you can and take all the decisions. When you are in a emotional state, blindly adhere to the decisions that you had taken rationally.

This ideal of transcending the emotions and functionally entirely by reason, which has had a lot of intellectual appeal over the centuries, is being increasingly revealed as an untenable dichotomy (at least at a physiological level) by recent neuroscience studies. On a historical side-note, Freud had noted that what we consider our 'reasoned judgment' is only a 'post hoc rationalization' of actions undertaken for, well, 'other reasons' or rather, urges subterranean to reason. However, it is the pioneering experiments (read pages 139-140 here) of Antonio Damasion in the 1990s that show patients even with an intact frontal lobe (responsible for 'rational' executive functioning) are unable to display rational behavior when the connections to the frontal lobe from the limbic system (responsible for more 'primitive' emotional behaviors) are compromised. An important disambiguation to be made here is that the word 'emotion' is used according to the somatic marker hypothesis and treated as having an evolutionary function, rather than simply as a limitation to be transcended.




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#15
(04-Oct-2011, 09:48 PM)arvindiyer Wrote:
(04-Oct-2011, 01:26 PM)Kanad Kanhere Wrote: Hope just means thinking that there is a possibility of getting what you want. This is a pretty straightforward statement that can be assessed easily with rational mind.

It is true that ready counterexamples maybe found to the linked article's claim that 'The general principle seems to be – that it is better to be optimistic than pessimistic.' While this description of optimism as generally suitable for all situations is an obvious oversimplification, the jury is still out on whether optimism maybe a useful and beneficial strategy (i) when means for a rational evaluation of potential outcomes is unavailable and yet there is no option to not act (ii) because it helps an agent go through losing battles with fewer avoidable adverse psychosomatic effects than when he/she would have been pessimistic (iii) because optimism might allow the agent to consider long-shot options and alternatives (which could with luck save the day) that would not have occurred to him/her at all in a pessimistic setting.

(04-Oct-2011, 01:26 PM)Kanad Kanhere Wrote: Think rationally when you can and take all the decisions. When you are in a emotional state, blindly adhere to the decisions that you had taken rationally.

This ideal of transcending the emotions and functionally entirely by reason, which has had a lot of intellectual appeal over the centuries, is being increasingly revealed as an untenable dichotomy (at least at a physiological level) by recent neuroscience studies. On a historical side-note, Freud had noted that what we consider our 'reasoned judgment' is only a 'post hoc rationalization' of actions undertaken for, well, 'other reasons' or rather, urges subterranean to reason. However, it is the pioneering experiments (read pages 139-140 here) of Antonio Damasion in the 1990s that show patients even with an intact frontal lobe (responsible for 'rational' executive functioning) are unable to display rational behavior when the connections to the frontal lobe from the limbic system (responsible for more 'primitive' emotional behaviors) are compromised. An important disambiguation to be made here is that the word 'emotion' is used according to the somatic marker hypothesis and treated as having an evolutionary function, rather than simply as a limitation to be transcended.

Arvind, I totally agree that absolute rationality is very difficult or probably impossible to achieve. And I am definitely not suggesting attempts to transcend emotions. If situation is such that you feel despair, I am not suggesting to do away with despair. I am suggesting not to dwell on the outcome and evaluate your position under such circumstances. I maintain that the rational thinking should be done only when your brain is in a proper state to do it. When you are aware that you are brain is in a compromised position and its not a good time to think then the best option is to NOT THINK. Just act based on discipline that you have enforced on yourself during the rational thought process. Most emotions tend to overwhelm you when you start dwelling on the outcome and that is when you need emotions like "hope" to keep you going. But my take is don't dwell too much on the outcome especially when you are not in a position to think.
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#16
Here is a post on Channel N listing the problems which those of a scientific bent have with self-help books, in what can be thought of as a special application of Shermer's baloney detection kit.

http://blogs.psychcentral.com/channeln/2...od-or-bad/

According to the video, it is best to avoid self-help books if they...
1. Make outlandish claims (with no supporting evidence)
2. Depend on anecdotes and testimonials
3. Claim that 'everything happens for a reason'
4. Propose solutions that are too simplistic
5. Make unfalsifiable claims
6. Contain no references or citations
7. Make claims that are not measurable
8. Make statements with the potential for blaming the victim
9. Appeal to authority
10. Contain ordinary advice wrapped in flowery language
11. Have a salesman apperance
12. Misrepresent Psychology
13. Over-emphasize the role of your thoughts
14. Claim that positive thinking alone can cure serious mental illness

The video spells these out backed up with examples and is worth asking acquaintances who maybe self-help book enthusiasts to have a look.
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#17
(04-Oct-2011, 01:26 PM)Kanad Kanhere Wrote: I understand that there are a lot of emotional aspects of our brain and its very difficult to be rational when you are particularly feeling an emotion strongly, but all this can be easily circumvented with disciplining your brain. Think rationally when you can and take all the decisions. When you are in a emotional state, blindly adhere to the decisions that you had taken rationally. And this last part is very easily done if you are kind of indifferent to the result once set on a path. .

In this Scientific American article, Michael Shermer too concludes that not treating oneself as a 'favourite' in all the races one participates in, and in a sense, being indifferent to the results, is a better idea than remaining susceptible to pervasive optimistic bias. In his own words: ...reality must take precedence over willful optimism. Nature cannot be distorted.

In this video, neuroscientist Tali Sharot talks about a number of experimental findings about the optimistic bias:





An unedited audio version of the talk can be heard here.


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#18
This RSA Animate video Smile or Die puts forth arguments for valuing realism over optimism. It also touches upon the perilous nature of concepts like that of Secret.
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#19
(04-Oct-2011, 10:59 PM)Kanad Kanhere Wrote: I maintain that the rational thinking should be done only when your brain is in a proper state to do it. When you are aware that you are brain is in a compromised position and its not a good time to think then the best option is to NOT THINK. Just act based on discipline that you have enforced on yourself during the rational thought process.

It will be nice to do all the rational thinking when the brain is in an uncompromised state. But then wouldn't the original rational plan that you want to adhere to be easily overridden by the compromised brain. After all the brain is compromised now. You need some sort of a personal minder who prevents you from deviating from the original rational plan. Like say a workout partner who makes you stick to your weight loss plan.
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#20
(12-Mar-2013, 04:52 AM)Captain Mandrake Wrote: It will be nice to do all the rational thinking when the brain is in an uncompromised state. But then wouldn't the original rational plan that you want to adhere to be easily overridden by the compromised brain. After all the brain is compromised now. You need some sort of a personal minder who prevents you from deviating from the original rational plan. Like say a workout partner who makes you stick to your weight loss plan.

That is where I think discipline matters. But more importantly "not thinking" makes it more easy smile. The problem with thinking, when one is in a rationallly-compromised state, are the pseudo-rationalizations that we start involving in. If thinking is avoided, then less chance of digressing from the plan. Ofcourse buddy system further helps to be on track.
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