What a difference a word can make: How a single word can change your conversation


British psychologist Elizabeth Stokoe studies the patterns in talk that most of us don’t even notice. She explains how her research can be used to train people to interact more effectively.

People spend a good deal of time talking to one another, and in general we do it pretty well. We might feel excited, angry, embarrassed, or — if we’re lucky — loved, in the course of our daily conversations. So is there any benefit to thinking about a science of talk? Can we really gain anything from scientific analysis of something we “just do”?

I believe we can, and I’ve spent the last 20 years studying real talk from real people talking to each other in real time. And while the linguist Noam Chomsky once described conversation as a “disorderly phenomenon,” I can tell you that it’s no such thing. Conversation is highly systematic and organized … and it tells…

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Book Review: The Invisible Gorilla, by Christopher Chabris & Daniel Simons

via Daniel Simons

This book, subtitled And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us, concerns several everyday workings of our brains that can sometimes mislead us in dangerous ways, the cognitive illusions of attention, memory, confidence, knowledge, causation, potential, and finally tying all these together in a sort of meta-illusion, intuition itself.

Now what do I mean by illusions? Don’t these things actually exist? Well, they do, to a point, and they are beneficial up to a point, But the use of ‘illusion’ here means that these things are often not as they seem, despite being very real to a degree. We are often fooled as to their nature, and frequently ignore or dismiss their fallibility, sometimes making serious errors that can prove very costly — such as the failure of a thriving business enterprise resulting from (over)confident decisions or losing millions from hedge funds when seeing and acting on causal patterns (for example) in the stock market that don’t actually exist.

This book describes, using vivid examples of real world events where these illusions played a significant part, the ways they work, and most importantly, the ways we can use to mitigate them, their uses when they aren’t misbehaving, with copious references to the research backing up the findings of the book.

I found this useful, and doubly so for reading this having debunked several notions of my own that would have proved troublesome if I hadn’t been disabused of them. It really got me thinking about how my mind operates, and the ways all our brains work just by being what they are and doing what they do. And what to do about it. I think that this book is both educational and eye-opening, and if you don’t mind disabusing yourself of myths, however intuitive they may seem, then this book just might be for you.

Richard Wiseman: Interactive Personality Test

Check this out. More cool stuff by the Quirkologist. Note the words at the top of the placard…

The Mythical “Psychology of the Skeptics”

It is nothing short of amazing how many proponents of extraordinary claims, usually without qualifications to know what they are talking about, but sometimes even those who should know better, try to expound on the “psychology of the skeptics™” and get their attempts at reading minds so completely and utterly wrong. Nothing short of amazing. And nothing better than chance odds of getting it right.

First, skeptics are a pretty diverse bunch personality-wise, without a common theme or reason for thinking or feeling a given way, so there is simply no such thing as a single universal generalization of “the” personality type applicable to skeptics. That can apply to anyone as well, skeptics, believers, agnostics, and proponents alike

Second, a little look through any up-to-date psychology textbook or journal – yes, even those written by “damned fundamentalist reactionary skeptics” – will reveal a wealth of data pertaining to the psychology of belief, from total incredulity to complete acceptance, without a need for a special psychological profile for skeptics. In most psychology studies on the causes and mechanisms of belief, skeptics are already entered into the equation–otherwise there would be nothing to compare with the sometimes uncritical acceptance of such claims.

Most attempts by proponents so far to “understand” skeptics involve the use of logical fallacies, usually ad hominems (interesting that they should be the ones to scream “ad hominem!” as much as they do, but given the liberal use of those as well, but I digress…), straw man arguments, well-poisoning, the hasty generalization (using small, non-randomized, and non-representative samples of skeptics and applying their motivations and personalities to all of them) and to support this generalization, the use of selective and often out-of-context quotations to validate their conclusion.

These sloppy, unprofessional and ad hoc attempts at psychoanalysis of critics of extraordinary claims are just rationalizations made by proponents to justify dislike of those who offend them or shock “delicate sensitivities.”

Provisional lack of belief and refusal to believe are not the same. This is no arcane mystery, just basic psychology 101. When a lack of belief is confused with a refusal to accept for any reason, and ten reasons that skeptics must be deeply afraid of the claims they examine for not accepting them without strong evidence, one must also argue that skeptics are deeply frightened of dragons, unicorns, faeries, chupacabras, and flying pigs, as well.

For the record, I’m fascinated, not frightened, by the paranormal, by pseudoscience, by grand conspiracy theories, by science denialism, like a moth to a flame, though I look at it with a more critical eye than I did when I believed. Ever want to find out why and how a skeptic thinks the way they do?

Just ask one. How hard can that be?

(Last Update: 2019/2/8, Text corrected)