Tag-Archiv für » Psychologie «

Explaining the World with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Astrology, Constructivism, Science and (In)Definite Articles

Donnerstag, 12. Mai 2011 20:29

I fear this is the longest title in the history of my blog, which in a way suits its topic well. I just finished the biggest book I have ever read, actually a collection of books under the title „The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy“, by Douglas Adams. It comprises the original Guide and the other four books in the trilogy.

I bought it in Palo Alto before my real traveling started, and it has lasted me well into the second quarter of this year, of course as frequent visitors of my blog know with another big and some small readings in between.

Once again, my generally high esteem of artists‘ late work was reinforced — while the original book is funny, the later books are far better. I laughed my hardest reading the second last one, „So Long and Thanks for All the Fish“, and the last one, „Mostly Harmless“, apart from still being very funny, I found most insightful. That despite how I just read on Wikipedia the author himself describing this book as „bleak“, and saying he had a very bad year when he wrote it. I suppose that tells us something about the relationship between art and happiness…

Anyway, here are just some examples of important topics of life made understandable with the help of absurdity, Science-Fiction at its best.


Thema: English, Weltreise 2011 | Kommentare deaktiviert | Autor:

Golden Oldies and the present Dark Age of Social Sciences

Dienstag, 10. Mai 2011 18:03

Thanks to Matze, I finally ended up reading an article which I’m sure I had opened before but couldn’t remember anything from, I suppose it was a victim to one of my old laptop’s many out-of-battery shutdowns. It’s „Golden Oldies (Wonkish)“ by Paul Krugman, who I usually enjoy reading but find slightly too absorbed in contemporary economic policies. Not so this time, where he deals a blow to contemporary Economic Science that in most part applies to other social sciences as well, especially Psychology.


Thema: English | Kommentare deaktiviert | Autor:

Hunger and Choice in the Developing World

Mittwoch, 4. Mai 2011 16:58

After recently meeting a bunch of people who have to go without meals frequently, I was naturally very interested to read an article on reasons and solutions for world hunger, by two researchers from the „Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, or J-PAL“ at the MIT, which is an excerpt from a recent book they wrote.

After some more illustrative than enlightening back an forth on the „hunger-based poverty trap“ (poor people cannot eat enough to be strong enough to earn enough to eat enough) and examples of how poor people make choices that cause malnutrition themselves (spending money on tasty but little nutritious food or on non-food luxuries, mostly entertainment and drugs) they get to the point, and a quite interesting one. Here are some of the central ideas.


Thema: English, Weltreise 2011 | Kommentare deaktiviert | Autor:

Psychotherapy Research and the Placebo Effect

Dienstag, 22. März 2011 10:21

In his „Comments on the State of Psychotherapy Research (As I See It)“ David Orlinsky points to some old wounds in psychotherapy research (and in many ways research in psychology in general). I think it is worth re-reading every now and then while you are active in the field. Right now I discovered some stimulating words on the „Placebo Effect“, something I feel will be important to really understand and utilize in practice in the next decade. Unless we want to leave it to modern shamans of good and bad intentions.


Thema: English | Kommentare deaktiviert | Autor:

Meditation and the Paradoxical Nature of Aspiration

Freitag, 25. Februar 2011 12:30

I’m aware that I’ve chosen a quite big title for a small experience and thought I want to share, but it is one I keep coming back to, and which has right now been stimulated again by reading a book by Krishnamurti called Commentaries on Living (First Series). He writes about Humility, and virtues in general:


Thema: English | Kommentare deaktiviert | Autor:

A riddle — how is this possible?

Samstag, 13. November 2010 13:52

A little riddle, part of a ad-hoc social science study of mine :) The results and explanations will be posted here soon.

[wpsqt_page name=„doctor“]

Thema: English | Kommentare deaktiviert | Autor:

Sozialer Konstruktionismus in einer kapitalistischen Gesellschaft

Samstag, 13. November 2010 12:15

In einem spannenden Gespräch gestern Abend kam die Frage auf, ob konstruktivistische und konstruktionistische Erkenntnisphilosophien zur Aufrechterhaltung bestehender Ungleichheiten in Bezug auf materielle Ressourcen und Macht beitragen. Die Kritik ist naheliegend: Insofern als sie Zustände in der Welt „psychologisieren“ (es gibt keine „objektive“ Welt, es ist alles „in Deinem Kopf“) laufen sie Gefahr, den Ansatzpunkt zu verlieren, von dem aus sich gesellschaftliche Verhältnisse kritisieren ließen.

In dieser Falle sehe ich z.B. die an sich gute Idee einer „Positiven Psychologie“ gefangen, und nehme eine solche Individualisierung von gesellschaftlichen Problemen auch im Alltag oft war. Umso schöner, dass der soziale Konstruktionismus dafür (mit Wurzeln in Foucault) gute Antworten hat. Hier aus einem Artikel in einem Journal der Sozialen Arbeit:


Thema: Deutsch | Kommentare deaktiviert | Autor:

How Heritable is Intelligence?

Sonntag, 31. Oktober 2010 15:38

The good old Sarrazin debate taking place in my room this morning made me search for some scientific publications on the issue myself. I found one highly cited paper that seems to lay out the situation quite clearly:

Studies of correlations among twins or adoptees and their biological and adoptive parents typically yield large genetic effects and relatively smaller effects of family environment, whereas studies that compare the mean IQs of children rescued from poverty with the IQs of their parents or impoverished siblings often find large differences that are attributed to the environment (Turkheimer, 1991).

So what Sarrazin quotes in terms of high heritability is only half of the truth. How can these disparate findings be unified? Here is the hypothesis that was confirmed in the study:

One possible resolution of this paradox is that the effect of family environment on cognitive ability could be nonlinear (Jensen, 1981; Scarr, 1981). If differences between impoverished environments and adequate ones have large consequences for cognitive ability, but differences between adequate and enriched environments do not, one would expect amelioration of impoverished status to show a substantial effect, whereas correlational findings based on middle-class family members in typical twin and adoption studies would not.

In a way (as has been rightfully pointed out for the debate as a whole) this is just elaborating on what has been said on differences in IQ between groups before: A certain degree of heritability within a group says close to nothing about the genetic differences between groups. The quoted article just shows how this applies to socioeconomic groups as well es ethnic groups, which had been a central issue in the similar debate in the US some 15 years ago.

Which makes Sarrazins point (Germany is threatened by an increase in proportion of genetically less intelligent individuals due to different rates of reproduction between socio-economic groups) scientifically implausible on top of what it has been from the beginning: politically and morally tasteless and neglecting of the historic dimension and practical implications of trying to change the genetic composition of society.

Apart from that, I think it is useful to point out an old misunderstanding with the theory of evolution: One naively tends to conclude that evolution must favor intelligence, and that the „natural“ way of things should be for intelligent people to procreate more. This would make the (assumed) opposite direction of „evolutionary shift“ due to the way our society is structured „unnatural“ and imply that it is wrong (which is itself a moral-philosophic misunderstanding called the Naturalistic Fallacy). However, the fact that there still are genetically more and less intelligent (one should say: predisposed to developing intelligence) people around proves that „evolution“ has nothing against them. If one wanted to speculate wildly and freely one could say that „evolution likes them“ precisely for the fact that they procreate more… A remotely similar point has recently been made about sheep with stronger and weaker immune systems and, some years ago, about learning ability in fruit flies.

I have strayed from the topic, but I’m glad I had an opportunity to link to that sheep article in a useful way after all ;)

Thema: English | Kommentare deaktiviert | Autor:

Facebook als Soziologiecrashkurs

Sonntag, 17. Oktober 2010 20:30

Ich habe vor kurzem den gerade erschienen Film über die Entstehung von Facebook gesehen („The Social Network“) und war positiv überrascht. Ich fand, dass er weit über sein eigentliches Thema hinausging, indem er das Leben und Streben meiner Generation abbildet, besonders natürlich in ihrer US-amerikanischen Färbung. (Auch ein lesenswertes NYTimes-Review spricht ihm eine Empfehlung aus).

Entsprechend sensibilisiert fand ich einen anderen Artikel interessant, der beschreibt, wie unsere sozialen Beziehungen sich in Facebook abbilden, und vielleicht umgekehrt davon geprägt werden. Bisher wurde uns von Facebook ein recht egalitäres Verständnis von sozialen Beziehungen aufgezwungen:


Thema: Deutsch | Kommentare (1) | Autor:

Greg Mankiw on Taxing the Rich

Mittwoch, 13. Oktober 2010 16:48

I enjoy reading Greg Mankiw’s blog, because he does a pretty good job of explaining an opinion that I usually don’t share, thus always giving me something to think about …

He does the same in a recent article in the NYTimes, contributing on the debate whether the Bush tax cuts for the rich should be extended, or whether these taxes should even be increased, as Obama’s administration seems to be planning.

Mankiw argues that taken all taxes and deductions into account, taxation on money he would be earning to pass on to his children 30 years from now is about 90%. And while nonchalantly agreeing that he can bear that burden, he claims that his incentive to work is seriously impaired by that. Which we should care about, because his (and other high earners‘) work could be very valuable to all of us (like, only twisting his own example a little bit, writing articles propagating higher income for himself and his friends…).

Seriously, as usually, he has a point. I think my reply would centre around my assumption that especially high earning people are doing something they like doing, for intrinsic reasons. Maybe I would point to research showing that Mankiw’s differing self-perception might be a result of the very theories he has been learning and teaching (e.g. this or this), thus not being representative of the population of rich people in general. He does point to research showing that rich people respond particularly strongly to incentives, but what I read there seems to be rather contradicting that claim (at least in the sense that he is implying — responding by working more or less):

For lower income groups, labor income accounts for most of their income. Since labor income tax is withheld, the only way to manipulate income is to work more, or less. For higher income groups, capital income is more important, and this is more readily manipulated for tax purposes through asset allocation decisions. The researchers show that taxpayers with itemized returns have particularly high elasticity.

Just some starting points for thoughts here :)

Thema: English | Kommentare (5) | Autor: