Power Structures and Gender Theory

Why does society look and function the way it does? What impact does industrialization and social development have on humans, on an individual and social level?

Testosterone is the hormone responsible for many male characteristics. It can be increased through physical activity, or any kind of assertive or dominating gestures or power postures.

Prolactin is an essential neurotransmitter responsible for learning. Stimulant medications such as Adderall affect the dopaminergic pathways that facilitate the release Prolactin, with concentrations naturally higher in females due to their production in the mammary glands.

“Highly elevated levels of prolactin decrease the levels of sex hormones — estrogen in women and testosterone in men.[6] The effects of mildly elevated levels of prolactin are much more variable, in women both substantial increase or decrease of estrogen levels may result.” -Wikipedia, Prolactin, Sept. 10, 2012

Does the passage above provide insight into why developed nations have lower birth rates than undeveloped nations?

“Prolactin levels may be checked as part of a sex hormone workup, as elevated prolactin secretion can suppress the secretion of FSH and GnRH, leading to hypogonadism, and sometimes causing erectile dysfunction in men.” -Wikipedia, Prolactin, Sept. 10, 2012

From an evolutionary perspective, I wonder if females contain more Prolactin because they evolved to mirror social information and other group behavior necessary for establishing communal norms. The process of mirroring is more passive, as it requires reflecting back information rather than asserting or creating totally new information apart from preexisting contexts.

Does the suppression of testosterone increase Prolactin and the ability to learn?

“During pregnancy, high circulating concentrations of estrogen increase prolactin levels by 10- to 20-fold. ” -Wikipedia, Prolactin, Sept. 10, 2012

Prolactin promotes neurogenesis in maternal and foetal brains.[10][11] -Wikipedia, Prolactin, Sept. 10, 2012

Does this explain why females are increasingly found to flourish in academic settings, such as academic institutions?

Does a society with ever growing and increasingly complex norms, conventions and collective practices produce more androgynous people? By emphasizing the kind of passive, non-engaging learning put forth in modern day formal education, are we effectively increasing the demand for those with greater Prolactin, or effeminacy, and decreasing the demand for testosterone , or assertive declarations?

Which hormone produces more individuality? Which facilitates greater creativity? Which facilitates greater conformity?

Do imposing social norms and other oppressive social structures increase Prolactin?

“High prolactin levels can also contribute to mental health issues.”  -Wikipedia, Prolactin, Sept. 10, 2012

Does this explain the higher level of mental health issues in developed or industrial societies? Or is it simply that these countries have developed a lexicon extensive enough to index a greater number of psychological phenomena?

In countries with more stringent social norms, do we find more androgyny? more homosexuality? more uniformity? I can’t help but think of the many stereotypes belonging to Asian cultures.

More thoughts later.

Modern Education: The Efficacy and Necessity of State Dependent Learning

For a long time I’ve had qualms with our modern education system. My biggest complaint is the impersonal, dry, rigid, and seemingly irrelevant approach to memorizing and reguritating information. I often argue, as many people do, that formal education isn’t practical, that if fails to instill true comprehension and understanding, to fully engage a students mind and passions. I had an epiphany today that shed light on what this means exactly.

When I take tests, it’s typically in a hollow classroom on stiff chairs and cold desks. My ability to recall information with proficiency depends on massive inundation with a text, repetition of words and concepts, until I’ve drilled them far enough in my skull so that when I see a question with a certain combination of words, my mind retrieves the appropriate associated content. But this is not learning, per say; it’s regurgitation. My body and mind exist in a single state, an “academic” or school state, where all the information goes in and comes out the same way.

On the other hand, I often find myself in a certain context, a specific situation or circumstance, and I’m able to recall and converse and argue and expand on information and knowledge that many would be hard pressed to guess was residing within me. The ability to perform these acrobatic feats of comprehensive cognition requires that I’m in a specific state of mind which is engaged with the moment, the situation at hand. In every new circumstance, with every new set of problems I encounter, my perspective, and therefore mind, shifts and I enter into a state of consciousness that is perfectly adapted to produce solutions due to previous experience in that state.

What it all comes down to is recognizing the importance, nay, the all encompassing relevance, of state dependent learning. This is where school fails.

The ability to critically think requires engaging different perspectives. But school doesn’t necessarily teach diferent perspectives. Sure, they may encourage studying abroad and joing extracurriculars and what not, but real learning takes place within a specific state produced by a specific context, and all knowledge is born out these contexts and the problems inherent within them.

What modern education needs to emphasize is state dependent learning. Teach philosophy by philosophizing, by asking questions, by creating dialog and conflict and then seek resolution through thoughtful discourse. Teach math by providing postulates and propositions, then a problem, and have them prove the problem. Teach economics by evaluating a real company. Teach communications by role playing a real problem or agenda with real unpredictable variables. Teach accounting by throwing a person into a company and having them learn by going through and asking questions.

The reason for experiential learning is that all knowledge is procedural and therefore state dependent.

When education learns how to provide an environment that effectively presents material in this fashion, students will thrive.

Thoughts on Society and Mental Disorders

What is mental disease? When we see someone who is mentally unwell, do we immediately recognize their dysfunction? Do they recognize their dysfunction? Do we appeal to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders?

I don’t believe in mental disease, per say. That may raise a lot of eyebrows, but I’m looking to transcend the conventional wisdom (in truth, wisdom is common knowledge that has grown uncommon, so the idea of conventional wisdom leaves me skeptical). I’d like to take a broader, grander view of things. I don’t believe in mental disease for the same reason I don’t believe in, say, God. Both are manufactured, their cause and effects, by society.

Let me elaborate.

Everything we know about anything we have inherited from nature and our social culture. I would argue that, given the social forces of cultural influence, as well as an absent relationship with nature, people know more about societal values, its fabricated and historical values, than the absolute values discovered within nature and in themselves.

All perceptions are biased. The loss of ego is the loss of values, the loss of perspective, the loss of an etiology that structures significance and meaning.

What is mental disease? I believe mental illness is manufactured by society: civilization is a disease. I’m not the first to propose such a caustic claim, just one to reemphasize the fact. Socrates, Diogenes, Rousseau, Nietzsche, Thoreau, Freud, and many many others pointed out civilization’s detrimental assault on man’s psyche.

I posit that mental illness arises due to the oppression of an individual’s self. The self, or perhaps you could say the ego, is the seat of consciousness that structures experience in a meaningful way. It regulates its point of view as the subjective in which the objective web of the world is woven around. In order to operate functionally and efficiently, the self needs to be strong and healthy. I would argue that the self develops as the world around it affirms its nature. In this way society, our family and peers, dictate who we are, they literally dictate who our self is through their perception of and reaction to what they believe they see us to be. Think Bourdieu’s habitus.

Mental illness is the result of an unhealthy self. It is a self that cannot effectively structure experience around its “self” in a meaningful way. It therefore cannot coin meaningful associations with the phenomenal objects constituting experience, whether these objects are other subjects (people) or simply “things” incorporated into our environment.

Man is a social creature. He has evolved to such a degree that relationships with other subjects are integral to his conscious life experience, and the propensity for these relationships has found a way to forge endless webs of relationships with experience itself. The conscious experience is simply not a conditioned response. It is a relationship with a reality embedded with a key feature, that of change. Hence the continual need to communicate with the external world in order to adjust and adapt.

I believe that mental illness is a byproduct of a societal forces being impressed on the self, our reflective consciousness, by undermining the personal experience of the self, by forcing it to contort to unnatural expectations and artificial values that are incongruent with our first hand experience.

Is mental illness genetic? I believe there are aspects of mental illness that are. But what is mental illness? A behavior that deviates from the norm? An unconventional disposition that leaves you feeling unusually more or less than your fellow man, to such a degree that is unnatural, or abnormal? Is it a disease to feel too much? or too little? Society would have us believe so.

Could it be that, without an integrating support system provided by institutions like family or community, society’s abstract value’s literally destroy the self, leaving us incapable of making sense of the world, leaving our mood to vacillate uncontrollably, and forcing the self to assign values to unusual features of experience?

We look at mental disease, observe it through imaging technology, through scans and sensors, and denote a marked difference for the “normal” control group (however, whatever that “normal” actually is is beyond me). So, yes, there is something going on here. But what is the disease? It is purely psychological, purely a phenomenal product of a mind that has grown maladapted to its world. What caused this maladaption? Is it genetic? I’m skeptical. Genome research is showing that while our genetics play a tremendous role in our development, it is our environment that expresses these genes as a means for our organism to adapt to environmental demands. So that while we might observe the manifestation of behaviors and locate a physiological origin, I would argue that this observation is simply an effect, a symptom, of external demands, of environmental stimuli or trauma.

When we find ourselves bleeding, we do not simply say that the body is the cause. We ask ourselves what caused the gash, and index some sharp object we may have encountered. In the same way, when we observe a set of unusual behaviors, we do not say the mind is the cause. We look for some proper cause, some first cause that preceded the manifestation of the psychological symptoms.

We do not need prescription drugs to alleviate our bizarre reactions to an even bizarrer culture. We need support and discourse, love and kindness. More importantly, we need recognition. We need a world that acknowledges the self for something more than it believes it is, more than it was told. This is where love comes in, the all important quality that instantiates the ultimate relation between man and his world.

Most mental illness occurs on the fringes of society. Celebrities are not immune, for they occupy a space that is so elevated above the common psyche, even they have trouble seeing their self at such altitudes. This incongruence yields a break down. The homeless? Did they develop their mental malaise before or after their predicament? Did they come from a loving, supportive home with healthy relationships that respected and valued one another for who they were? Or did they become maladapted after the fact?

The abused, the downtrodden, the castaways, the  people who come from broken families, that come from families with broken values: these are the people who experience “mental illness”. The people who cannot properly develop a self because they have no functional or loving relationships to reaffirm the worth of their self. As a result they cannot adequately integrate their subjective self with the objective world. It becomes a problematic endeavor, especially when challenge and obstacles arise. The lack of self produces a lack of will power, a lack of authenticity that asserts an individuated self.

The self is a disposition that orients the external world in a way that elicits a given response, a mood, that produces a consciousness that gives rise to thoughts.

Society has grown to its vast proportions due to a division of labor. Men are no longer reliant on the whole of their organism to achieve balance with their world, to sustain their life. They are required narrow physical or mental aptitudes that serve a circumscribed function within a greater organizational structure. The division of labor creates casts and forces man into those casts, requiring him to subjugate what other feelings, or thoughts, or talents, or skills, or passions he might possess. We are assigned a job and stamped with a title. Just like that we have grown inward. To define is to confine, and no other place will you fine both of these than in an ornate industrial system like the one we call home.

Those with mental illness, I am sure, developed in an environment that was oppressive, that dictated the value of a self that was less than the value they perceived themselves to possess. It is not simply being oppressive, for discipline is a form of oppression that encourages growth towards very specific ends. In the case of discipline, the individual believes in their value, in the possibility of attaining the end, and exists in an environment that expects or supports the achievement of that end.

The oppressive environments I’m referring to are those where relationships exist only to diminish your value, and perhaps elevate theirs at your expense. It is a form of judging that sentences you with a self valued next to nothing you can comprehend through personal experience. Perhaps this arises because the environment is abusive. Perhaps the environment refuses to acknowledge that person’s self, and therefore provides no context in which to integrate into.

I would argue that those people without a web of relationships with others that orient themselves around the subject as an appreciable aspect of their experience cannot create meaningful sense from their world. That is, their lack of significance within a web of relationships, within system of interpersonal references, leaves them dispossessed of a structured order of experience. In a word, they have no subjective self because they exists in a world that refuses to affirm it. Without a self, without a reflective consciousness that constitutes a subjective individual, there can be no relationship with the world. Every relationship begins with the subjective, ends with the objective. The more developed the subjective, the more relationships can be developed among and between the objective world, whether they are other beings or things.

Culture manufactures mental illness. When discussing mental illness, what matters is our values and the lack of authentic communication about things that matter. No where else in the world do you find the level of mental illness exhibited here in the US. Mental illness is due to a culture that capitalizes off of solving people’s problems, whether they are real or perceived. The only problems people have is relationship problems. “People” are not the problem. Their brains are not the problem. It is a world, a culture, a society, that has forgot how to engage in mutually beneficial relationships, meaningful relationships that are reciprocal, that engage each other with equal vested interest. Instead we have a society of exploitation, of one sided dialog, of oppression. This has lead to minds that do not possess a clear idea of what it means to have original feelings, or novel thoughts: authentic experience.

There is an absence of authenticity, of autonomy, because no one possesses an actual self. Their self has been imposed on them, sold to them, by culture, through the mass media, the proliferation of icons, the repetition of signs and symbols that impress and embed themselves into our psyche, our self; and all the responses accompanying that self are acquired from outside of itself, in the world, the same place that sold them the idea that they were an individual self.

Imagine the mind like a plant. Imagine that food was the soil, and that sunlight was our sensory stimulation. In order to grow, we need to find the most sunlight. Now imagine that above our plant a disk has been placed to block the sunshine. The plant would naturally grow out and around this disk. Imagine a cylinder has been placed around the plant on all sides, with only a small opening at the top. The plant could not grow out, so it would grow up until it pierces the hole, then grow out wide (perhaps this analogy resembles the saying: if you want to make the rules, you must first play by the rules).

My point is this: society is the shade, the disks, the blockades that shade the sunshine, the stimulation afforded to our minds. It imposes artificial restraints on our potential and capabilities, on our value and possibilities. As a result, the mind, just like the plant, may grow weak and whither, or develop in a erratic way, or be forced to grow in an unnatural way.

Perhaps this is simply survival of the fittest. Perhaps exploitation is a fundamental inescapable feature. But I insist that equality and collaboration yield the greatest, most universal perspective and utility. This has been demonstrated time and time again when people are seen as equal. But maybe the system of collaboration is imperfect and everyone cannot be included due to the size? I would say that this system should be trimmed, that any system that too large to accommodate equal individuals is inefficient and ineffective.

Or perhaps I’m being too creative with my criticisms.

The Genius of Wandering Minds

I just finished reading a study titled The Persistence of Thought which examined the relationship between a working memory (WM) and inattention, specifically the maintenance of task-unrelated thinking (TUT). The subjects of the study were given a standard test for working memory and performed a series of undemanding computer simulated tasks. People with higher WM scores reported more episodes of mind wandering in TUT. The study reported: “We found that individuals with higher WM capacity reported more TUT in undemanding tasks, which suggests that WM enables the maintenance of mind wandering.”

While correlation does not prove causation, I am left wondering whether increasing the working memory of individuals results in an increase of mind wandering. This would seem to be the case. Likewise, what role does task difficulty play? The article begins by saying that “tasks that tax WM have consistently been found to decrease mind wandering.” The study revealed that individual’s with greater working memory reported the task to be easier. Does increasing the task difficulty improve performance?

Past research has consistently revealed a strong link between working memory and intelligence.

I am curious how this relates to the phenomenon of ADHD, the protypical example of a wandering mind.

In the past cognitive testing attributed a deficient working memory with ADHD symptoms, leading them to believe that a poor working memory was the cause of distraction. Researchers have identified neurochemicals, specifically dopamine and norepinephrine, as a key feature of understanding ADHD symptoms, and that with the supplementation of dopamine enhancing drugs working memory improves and attention returns.

Perhaps the indication of reward dictates improved performance on attention-related tasks? Perhaps a greater challenge poses a greater reward, and thus better performance?

Is school too easy for individuals with ADHD? Too unstimulating and unchallenging? Is the environment of formal education unsuited for ADHD learning?

Research has found neural hyperactivity is associated with individuals diagnosed with ADHD, as well as a host of other mental disorders that have been historically attributed to creative genius. (See Neurology of ADHD Is there evidence for neural compensation in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder?Is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder a valid diagnosis in the presence of high IQ?)

Along these lines, I found this study particularly interesting: “Task-related changes in cerebral blood flow (rCBF) in the men without ADHD were more prominent in the frontal and temporal regions, but rCBF changes in men with ADHD were more widespread and primarily located in the occipital regions.” Researchers observed diffused cCBF in individuals with ADHD, rather than accute rCBF in those without.

The results showed that: “Men without ADHD demonstrated significant time-related rCBF increases in the anterior cingulate and medial frontal regions (Brodmann area 32/10) and decreases in the left middle frontal regions (Brodmann area 9). Men with ADHD showed significant time-related decreases in the left middle (Brodmann area 21) temporal lobe and increases in the right lenticulate, left parahippocampal gyrus (Brodmann area 35/36), and bilateral cerebellum.”

The anterior cingulate: It appears to play a role in a wide variety of autonomic functions, such as regulating blood pressure and heart rate, as well as rational cognitive functions, such as reward anticipation, decision-making, empathy and emotion.

The medial frontal regions (Brodmann area 32/10):  Dorsal region of anterior cingulate gyrus (Brodmann area 32) is associated with rational thought processes, most notably active during the Stroop task.  Rostral prefrontal cortex (approximating Brodmann area 10) has been shown repeatedly to have a role in the maintenance and realization of delayed intentions that are triggered by event cues (i.e., event-based prospective memory).

The left middle (Brodmann area 21) temporal lobe: a region believed to play a part in auditory processing and language

The right lenticulate (See Data)

The left parahippocampal gyrus (Brodmann area 35/36):  The perirhinal cortex (Brodmann area 35/36) receives highly-processed sensory information from all sensory regions, and is generally accepted to be an important region for memory. The perirhinal cortex is involved in both visual perception and memory; it facilitates the recognition and identification of environmental stimuli. Lesions to the perirhinal cortex in both monkeys and rats lead to the impairment of visual recognition memory, disrupting stimulus-stimulus associations and object-recognition abilities. The perirhinal cortex’s role in the formation and retrieval of stimulus-stimulus associations (and in virtue of its unique anatomical position in the medial temporal lobe) suggest that it is part of a larger semantic system that is crucial for endowing objects with meaning.

The bilateral cerebellum: the basic function of the cerebellum is not to initiate movements, or to decide which movements to execute, but rather to calibrate the detailed form of a movement.

What are the implications?

*

On another unrelated note, I found this study, titled Structural brain variation and general intelligence, very interesting as well. The “results underscore the distributed neural basis of intelligence and suggest a developmental course for volume–IQ relationships in adulthood.” As in, nurture over nature.

I’ve touched on these ideas many times before, specifically: Neural Hyperactivity: Genius and Deviant Psychology and Thoughts: Novelty, Education, Society, Theory

Education and Genius: Boredom and Learning

If you are having a conversation with someone and you find yourself struck with boredom, chances are it is not a failure on your part, not a result of your mere laziness. I would bet that the failure rests with the person your speaking to, your interlocutor. I’m under the opinion that there no boring ideas. Just boring people.

After all, we’re sensual creatures. We thrive on stimulation. Nearly all of communication is nonverbal (Knapp). Sight and sound comprise 94% of our sensory inputs, 84% and 11% respectively. The American educator Marva Collins said that “The essence of teaching is to make learning contagious, to have one idea spark another.” I couldn’t agree more. I believe that at the heart of this contagion is a resonating passion, an enthusiasm that generates a visceral reaction, a mutually shared connection with another person.

Regarding education, why do we find that the responsibility for learning and adequate understanding rests with the student? Assuming that students have a vested interest in gaining knowledge of the material, why would we dismiss them as merely lazy or unmotivated when they find it unbearably difficult to fight through boredom and apprehend a classroom lecture?

When a student enters a classroom prepared to learn new material, they begin without a context. Even when reading the text is a prerequisite to coming to class, there is still an absence of ultimate relevant context: why should a student be expected to understand the relevancy and relationships within the context being presented? They shouldn’t. But this is the prevailing attitude maintained by formal education.

The result of an attitude insisting that the better part of learning rests in the hands of the student rather than with the teacher is a system of education where disengaged teachers instruct and lecture to students who are discouraged to engage in critical, mutually beneficial dialog, but sit as semi-passive observers to be inculcated with remote, vague ideas devoid of a context that is immediately relevant to the schema they bring with them to the classroom.

What kind of thinking does this promote? I would bet that the direct manifest of this classroom emphasis produces analytic, auditory-sequential thinking. This type of thinking is rote, routine, automatic, and poor in relevant context necessary for robust comprehension. Outside of what meaning is directly issued by the dictated insistence of the educator, there is no meaning. As a result students know all the words to all the questions, but they fail to ever develop a comprehensive semantic web that poises all the questions, and therefore lack the capacity to critically inquire, to ask original questions, for themselves. The contrary of analytic, auditory-sequential thinking is nonsequential, visuo-spatial thinking characteristic of geometric visions of reality.

I recommend reading Two Ways of Knowing for a preliminary elaboration on the virtues of auditory-sequential learning (left brain hemisphere) versus visuo-spatial learning (right brain hemisphere). To briefly note, highly gifted individuals utilized visuo-spatial thinking, exhibiting greater brain activity in the right brain hemisphere. But allow me to continue this line of thought a little further down. (Also another interesting article on Temporary and Spatial Processing)

Wonder. This word encompasses the attitude of children— model geniuses in their own right. They are absorbed with curiosity, captured with wonder, and intensely interested in the prismatic, multifaceted world around them. Children learn at exponential rates, partly due to their physiological development, but even more importantly, due their excitement for discovering novel experiences and the process of knitting new understandings regarding how these experiences work.

But what happens to that childlike wonder? Where does it go in age? In the past psychologists speculated that the brain is programmed for critical periods of development that allows for exceedingly fast neural growth in childhood that eventually tapers off with age. They posited that brain plasticity and cognitive fluidity wanes as knowledge becomes more crystallized with age. Due to recent research dispelling notions that brain plasticity declines and ceases with the onset of adulthood, and due to my own experience with learning, I do not embrace this paradigm.

Instead I would like to introduce a paradigm that explains how sparkling wonder for the world fades as individuals become more enculturated, as their questions about the world are met with more of the same answers, the same flat predictable responses. The corollary? They grow more desensitized, their brain is starved of stimulation, and their minds slowly harden and calcify into a crystallized understanding of the same old  phenomenon they find themselves routinely bombarded with.

In effect, the loss of childlike wonder, the lack of curiosity for the world and all its treasured enthusiasms for understanding, is a result of mental oppression. Sounds harsh, right? While this may sound like an overt plot by big brother, I assure you it is not. Rather it is the natural progression of culture.

Allow me to digress momentarily and introduce my thoughts on the sociological philosophies of Bourdieu and Althusser.

Bourdieu discusses the phenomenal progression of enculturation that begins before we are born, beginning with a room and crib and name and clothes assigned to us by our parents. As we emerge from the womb and into this world with an open mind, tabula rasa, we adopt the world that has been carved out for us. Aside from the aforementioned articles, our parents may even have an idea of what kind of person we’ll be, what personality and character they believe we should possess, what religion we’ll practice, and maybe even what job they envision us to have one day, perhaps as a doctor, or lawyer, or entrepreneur.  As we grow older, we learn the various cultural conventions that should govern our behavior appropriately within the context of our given family practices, within school, within church, or within the public domain, such as how to think, how to speak, how to act. We are corrected whenever we venture outside the realms of customary convention, such as when we use foul language in certain public settings, and are reprimanded and corrected, otherwise censured.

This external censure slowly becomes adopted and internalized by individuals until they no longer need external ques for regulating inappropriate and appropriate behavior. In a sense, we learn to censure ourselves. We learn the act (or art) of self- censorship. The proper behaviors we adopt are cultural capital endemic to the social or cultural context in which we find ourselves most exposed to and influenced by.

Bourdieu describes this as the habitus, or the set of socially learned dispositions, skills and ways of acting that operate unconsciously without our awareness. When we do become aware of this habitus, it is often when we find ourselves in a foreign or unknown context that allows us to recognize the incongruencies in behavior, say when a well groomed wealthy elite finds herself at a barbecue in the deep south.

I apologize for the digression but the point I’m making is all important, so allow me to state it plainly: the education system of today fosters a habitus that discourages self-guided open-ended critical inquiry in favor of directed, closed, routine memorization. I am speaking in absolute abstracts, of course, but if you take time to draw parallels to your experiences with formal education I am sure your true conclusions will be the same as mine. The reason why this is the case falls with the aim of education: to produce a work force proficient at undertaking assigned orders, finding answers to given questions, and completing a set of tasks dolled out by superiors. If you look at the hierarchical structure of the classroom as a training ground for the hierarchical structure of the workplace, this doesn’t seem like such a preposterous explanation of education’s existing state.

The individuals proposing and influencing education policies, the wealthy elite, can only think in terms of their own self-guided interests. What benefit would it serve them to have a free thinking, critically minded, independently motivated work force? While I would argue that it would do our nation a great service in terms of creation, innovation, and invention, from an executive’s perspective I can’t see how that’s the most desirable employee. On the contrary, they want workers who work quietly and do the exact job they are given. More precisely: to passively accept what they are told and perform accordingly to expectations.

But in my opinion that’s an outdated paradigm organizational and labor systems. Societies are organisms, like cells or animals, where every part of the whole is as important and valuable as the next for operating at maximum efficiency and effectiveness. To deny the capacity to openly challenge and critically think about work processes is a form of self-sabotage. Fortunately there are organizations such as Google and 3M that employ the practice of critical and creative thought in their workplace.

But again, I digress. And allow me to clarify a point: I am not diminishing the role of intelligence in formal education and the work place either. In fact, it is the only facet or trait of an individual of any worth in contemporary education. What is intelligence? Does it differ from problem solving? Let’s explore these questions.

In the mainstream sense, intelligence is the ability to arrive at correct answers. Sounds good enough. In Greek, intelligence translates as intelligere which means to “select among” from inter meaning “among” and legere meaning “to gather”. More precisely, intelligence is a convergent style of reasoning that utilized deduction to arrive at conclusions. It is analytic and sequential. Does it differ from problem solving? Not if the problem is defined among a given set of premises or facts.

But what if a problem exists as open, without any apparent premises or facts with which to reason from? What if the questions are not given? This is where the utility of intelligence breaks down and an indication that some other important element necessary for problem solving begins gaining apparency.

Allow me to cite Leonardo de Vinci’s response when asked of the secret of his creative genius: saper vedere. In Latin this translates as “to know how to see.” From this brief phrase we can draw some tentative conclusions about what he might have meant, namely that creative genius, or rather problem solving, is the ability to formulate a novel perspective, an original point of view, that rearranges and reprioritizes the saliency and valuations of phenomenon, of facts, within the context of a given problem. This is where visuo-spatial thinking is paramount.

It would seem that the ability to gain the proper perspective necessary for solving open-ended problems rests with the ability to think divergently through a visuo-spatial context of thought. That is, to diversify and differentiate different modes of thought, perhaps through analogy or metaphor, in order to gain an alternative and, ideally, an original point of view.

So I must ask: What type of thinking does our contemporary formal education system encourage? One that deviates from the “norm”? One that tests various processes of reasoning through problems? One that explores alternative solutions to a given problem? Or how about the most striking question of all: Does contemporary education encourage independent thought or novel perspective in the classroom?

If I were to generalize all my experiences in education, and even defer to the data regarding increases in standardized testing, my answer to all these questions would be a resounding no.  Is more standardization, more conformity and uniform perspective the answer? No and no again.

What we need are better teachers who are more adequately equipped to facilitate open discussion and lead critical thinking. In addition, we could do away with rigid, inflexible curriculum’s and standardized tests, as well as the stifling behavioral expectations of structured class settings. We also need to toss out this notion that intelligence— the ability to utilize deductive reasoning to converge at correct answers from a set of given premises— is not the only measure of value, and that other critical thinking skills— such as those that produce an ability to transcend bias, create new perspective, and generate novel questions and original solutions— are being totally overlooked and underutilized.

Thoughts: Novelty, Education, Society, Theory

I could write for days on end with all that’s been on my mind. But I guess I’ll just dump some random thoughts circulating about at the moment. I apologize if my line of thought appears a bit erratic and nonlinear.

Recent research regarding the genetic basis for novelty seeking behaviors in honey bees parallels that of humans. ADHD is characterized as a novelty seeking behavior, one that thrives off of new stimulation, hence the title Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. These genes are hardwired to the benefit of the group to seek new enterprises, to explore and discover new directions for growth.

Society is a historical phenomenon, a developmental product of inherited traditions to preserve functional behavioral aspects for survival. Pure theory disregards the empirical element to any social science. The biggest culprit in perpetuating opaque theories in the social sciences is Economics.

I will state that pure theory of any kind breeds a certain phenomenon of necessity by reducing evolving organic elements into statical-atomistic parts, consequently quelling any perspective that accommodates for change. Theory requires assigned values in order to quantify and logically justify its conclusions. Indoctrination is the method that achieves this end.

So long as economics is a practical exercise whose applications deal with and affect the organism of society, it should have no business perpetuating pure theory over historical-empirical observations, which is science. Psuedo-science is pure theory. Recall the utility of metaphysical speculations rooted in pure machinations melded from minds rooted in supernatural causation, totally detached from the socio-material world. Perspective, or rather the amalgam of perspective, is paramount to achieving accurate explanations. Think on the process of peer review.

Necessity breeds slavery, i.e. denies man. The phonomenon of Necessity is a testament, not to its excellence, but its power [sic Ellul]. Necessity is convergent. Possibility is divergent, as is potentiality. Equilibrium is convergent. Evolution is divergent. Preservation is convergent. Adaptation is divergent.

A college degree, and contemporary formal education, is tantamount to receiving confirmation through the Christian church. I reject the value of indoctrination in both.

Have we witnessed a surge towards the value of divergent thinking or convergent? Does our education system reflect valuations of standardization or differentiation? Has standardized testing, formality, rigid class structure increased or decreased? What is our fate?

You cannot stand within and move without: escape bias by escaping context. Transcend perspective by losing it.

That I know myself to be a common man makes me uncommon. Recall the maxim of Thales: “Know thyself.” Recall the wisest tenant of Socrates: “As for me, all I know is that I know nothing, for when I don’t know what justice is, I’ll hardly know whether it is a kind of virtue or not, or whether a person who has it is happy or unhappy.”

Many know the words, few know the meaning. For that we can praise propaganda’s subversive process of inculcation perpetuated by the forceful effect of formal education: memorization, recitation, regurgitation, repeat. Where is Comprehension? Where is dialog? Propaganda ceases where dialog begins.

Economics is a social science. Society is a historical phenomenon. History is an empirical development. Why are we perpetuating pure theory over empirical practice? Let us cultivate the value of individual consciousness, each man’s theory of mind, and marry it with the prevailing practices to yield a praxis of reflection and action that prizes the individual’s contribution to the well being of the social context in which he is situated. To deny the value of a single perspective is to sabotage evolution’s law of accounting for every variable to render a more perfect adaptability.

Where you look determines what you see. Look farther, look wider, look deeper.

“Men must talk about themselves until they know themselves.” Journal reflections. Engage in dialogue. Objectify the subjective; discover its fruits and failings. Dialogue, so long as it is an honest portrayal of your current convictions, destroys propaganda, dispels ignorance, and produces a finer eye with which to feed the mind.

Recent science has reaffirmed the powers of LSD as a means of disrupting habits of thought. This bodes well for the prospect of freeing the mind of man, i.e. addiction, but poorly for a politik aiming to strengthen its control through conformity.

Mental diseases, as diagnosed by contemporary medical criteria, and most notably depression, bipolar, and anxiety, have been associated with great genius and leadership in every domain of society. Contrary to popular belief, recent science has discovered that depression is due to a hyper activity in the brain that leads to potential paralyzation of thought, hence the symptoms of rumination, chronic worry, listlessness and the like.

ADHD is also characterized by hyperactive brain activity. Individuals with ADHD are in upwards of 2.7 times more likely to simultaneously have depression (Other notable correlations include bipolar disorder, anxiety, and oppositional defiance disorder. See herehere, here, here, here, and here)

Individuals with mild depression, as opposed to those with major depression, are more skeptical and therefore rational than those without the diagnoses. (Listen to this presentation on Optimism Bias)

I posit that the same reason people retain a optimism bias, despite being confronted with contradictory facts, is the same reason people exist in a state of denial. (See here)

“[Michael Shermer’s] latest book, ‘The Believing Brain’, is a fascinating synthesis of 30 years of research on the subject. Shermer’s conclusion, about our belief-forming machinery, is disturbing. Most beliefs are not formed by carefully evaluating the evidence in favor or against a particular claim. Instead, they are snap decisions made for psychological, emotional and social reasons in the context of an environment created by family, friends, colleagues, culture and society at large. Only after the belief is formed, do people try to rationalize it and subconsciously seek out confirmatory evidence which, upon finding, reinforces the belief in a positive feedback loop.”

I can appreciate the evolutionary utility of bias as a means of maintaining inherited beliefs and preserving the status quo, but one needs to dwell on the implications of how this bias can be exploited, specifically by propaganda.

That leads me to another issue that I’ve been giving plenty of thought: the social construction of reality. What got me started thinking on this topic was my development economics course (which I despise due to the highfalutin exaggerations regarding its ability to actually explain economic development). The only piece of information I found valuable at all was the only piece of information it absolvedly claimed to be the single dictator for a society’s developmental economic success: institutions. This struck me as acutely profound, and odd since it was a mere footnote amongst an oceanic backdrop of theoretical constructions and descriptive statistics.

Since then I began to explore the weight of this idea that institutions are the sole determinate of economic development and success. I began asking myself ‘What are these institutions?’, ‘Why are they so important for economic development?’, ‘What makes one institution better than another?’, ‘How are these institutions created and sustained?’, and many others.

Because of this prick to my curiosity, and because of a massive paper I’m developing for a Macroeconomic policy class, I picked up my old History of Economic Thought book and reread about fifty percent of it, trying to uncover a scintilla of insight into what the history of economic thought may have said about this idea of institutions, and I was more than rewarded for these efforts. In addition to accruing a renewed interest in classical economists such as Smith, Malthus and Ricardo, my eyes were once again opened to the oft-misinterpreted and misaligned message of Marx, and futhermore I discovered just the veins of thought that satisfied by curiosities most exactly: Historical Economics and Institutional Economics. Wow.

Due to my interest in evolutionary economics and political economy I previously read books by Galbraith, Schumpeter, Marshall, Boulding and others but I was totally ignorant to the extent at which these involved socio-economics, specifically institutional economics. Moreover, meta-connections between economics, politics, sociology, psychology, anthropology, history, and evolution were made abundantly clear.

My philosophically minded interest in gaining traction in these seemingly disparately domains to gain a broader, fuller, and more comprehensive understanding of the world in which I am situated lead me to my original fascination with power, which I gratuitously thank Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and Thucydides for instilling within me. Specifically, power as the mechanism for all change: be it in the reality of the natural world or in the phenomenon of the conscious mind. The impetus of power occupies the seat governing change in every domain, from physics and math, to politics and business, and all the cultural manifestations in between, from science to religion. The force and intensity of power can be traced to both intentional and accidental confluences.

At the time I had this revelation in the power of institutions, I just so happened to be reading Veblen Thorstein’s The Theory of the Leisure Class. I picked up his book due to my growing fascination with domestic and current account imbalances (debt) and the wealth disparities they create. Thorstein Veblen just so happened to be not only an economist and sociologists, but one of the original proponents of institutional economics.

Other factors that influenced this fascination was my study of Greek civilization. Being a professed model for American Democracy, I felt compelled to investigate the various factors involved in the production of Greek culture. Greek religion appeared as a marvelous area of study due to my corrected ignorance of its role in shaping the nomos or conventions governing social affairs, rather than solely providing a metaphysical comfort like modern Christianity seeks to accomplish.

In addition, I coincidentally read Peter Berger’s The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion for a humanities class in Crisis and Creativity. This sealed the connection between the role of institutions in shaping mass culture and individual psychology.

From here I began studying sociology more intensely.

I’m nearly finished reading Berger and Luckmann’s seminal work, The Social Construction of Reality, on the formation of social knowledge, which they declare dictates our conception of reality more generally. It’s a fascinating read that I recommend everyone pick up. I don’t have time to elaborate on my revelations, insights and comments at the moment. Another time.

Berger’s reading elevated by insight into the mechanisms that create the social consciousness and the social knowledge that accompanies it. As a result of that reading I also began looking into the various apparatuses within society that perpetuate social knowledge. I purchased the book Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes by Ellul and this has further reinforced by understanding of the mechanisms driving social behavior.

An interesting, but not surprising, study reveals that “Large numbers of authors of DSM psychiatry ‘bible’ have ties to the drugs industry.” (See here) This reaffirms my conviction that psychiatry is a purely cultural phenomenon. And culture, as I have mentioned, is a product proportional to the authority and power bestowed by institutions within society. While the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is a large institution with vested authority, it is dwarfed in power by the profit motives of the Pharmaceutical industry.

And what dictates the extent of profit motives for big pharma? My thoughts turn immediately to the legal and political realm governed by lawmakers in congress as well as the upholders of that law in the judicial branch and the enforcers in the executive branch.

What motivates these political individuals? The preservation of their power or, at the very least and being most charitable, the preservation of the power of their ideas about the way things ought to be, specifically their values, which are at base purely subjective constructs that reflect a means of preserving their ego.

I could go on but I have other work to due.

Last thoughts. I’m looking forward to reading Thucydides’ The History of the Peloponnesian War as well as Althusser’s Philosophy, Lenin, and other essays. I need to finish reading Das Capital by Marx, something I began reading with great enthusiasm a month or two ago but got distracted with all these new insights.

Other author’s also on my reading list are Max Weber, Kahneman and Tversky, Mitchell Waldrop, Alfred Schutz, Karl Mannheim, Alfred Weber, Max Scheler, Colin Camerer, and Tacitus.

I’ll dump more thoughts later.

Intelligence: Novel Enterprise & Life Outcomes

Intelligence should be reconsidered. Adaptability should be the measure of value.

“….more intelligent individuals are more likely than less intelligent individuals to acquire and espouse evolutionarily novel preferences and values that did not exist in the ancestral environment and thus our ancestors did not have, but general intelligence has no effect on the acquisition and espousal of evolutionarily familiar preferences and values that existed in the ancestral environment.”     -Satoshi Kanazawa, The Hypothesis from The Scientific Fundamentalist: A Look at the Hard Truths About Human Nature

According to the Savanna Principle, The human brain has difficulty comprehending and dealing with entities and situations that did not exist in the ancestral environment. As a result, “more intelligent individuals should be better able to comprehend and deal with evolutionarily novel (but not evolutionarily familiar) entities and situations than less intelligent individuals.” According to The Hypothesis, the most intelligent among us should be most apt to engage in experience and adapt to entities that yield novel insight. To reiterate: this doesn’t mean they are best suited for dealing with the familiar entities that shaped them in past history, but that they are more capable of dealing with novel contemporary entities. That is, they are able to comprehend and deal with new challenges previously unpresented.

Fascinating really. Darwin said in one word or another:

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.

I believe intelligence should be reconsidered. Adaptability should be the central measure of value. Call it intelligence, but being able to respond to change should be the hallmark for mental progress.

I just read the article titled Why Intelligent People Use More Drugs posted in this series. Their conclusion:

People – scientists and civilians alike – often associate intelligence with positive life outcomes.  The fact that more intelligent individuals are more likely to consume alcohol, tobacco, and psychoactive drugs tampers this universally positive view of intelligence and intelligent individuals.  Intelligent people don’t always do the right thing, only the evolutionarily novel thing.

The safe bet isn’t always the best bet, which is why people of stellar intelligence take risks. They push boundaries and explore the unknown. They are curious and desire to understand the farthest frontiers of experience. In this way they are more prepared for the changes to come.

More thoughts later.

Science as Logic of Discovery: Examining Kuhn’s Critique of Popper

This essay will examine and critique Thomas Kuhn’s thesis in his article titled Logic of Discovery or Psychology of Research. To accomplish this I will summarize Kuhn’s thesis, identify key critical arguments made against Karl Popper, analyze these arguments, and critically evaluate the argument with supporting examples. Each of Kuhn’s arguments will be stated clearly and analyzed so that the evidence in favor for or against Kuhn’s claims becomes clear and distinct. I will then present an argument in favor of Kuhn’s criticism on Popper.

Continue reading “Science as Logic of Discovery: Examining Kuhn’s Critique of Popper”

Signs and Semantics

sign (n.) early 13c., “gesture or motion of the hand,” from O.Fr. signe “sign, mark, signature,” from L. signum “mark, token, indication, symbol,” from PIE base *sekw- “point out” (see ‘see’). Meaning “a mark or device having some special importance” is recorded from late 13c. Sense of “characteristic device attached to the front of an inn, shop, etc., to distinguish it from others” is first recorded mid-15c. Ousted native ‘token’.

There are a lot of fragmented thoughts swirling about my mind at the moment. I need to get them out in no particular order. Stream of consciousness:

I’ve been thinking a lot about people lately. People and social interaction. I’m surprised how many people aren’t aware of how their behavior affects the perceptions of other people. The world judges us. We judge the world. We have to. It’s a survival mechanism. First impressions go a long way, even if we train ourselves to be open, these impressions are a pretty reliable source to make evaluations.

Example: I see a guy whose clean-shaven, wearing a suit, nicely shined shoes. I can probably deduce he has a job that commands a level of respect. If I know he’s wearing a designer suit, wearing a Rolex and driving a luxury car, I don’t have to wonder if he’s a limo driver. He’s probably someone with money or important. In contrast, if you see a guy with a beard wearing a no name graphic T-shirt and tattered or dirty clothes, you’ll probably think he was a bum. Without any conversation you will form an opinion about that guy. If you are smart, you’ll wait till you have a conversation with him, but our first impressions are pretty reliable.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to communication recently. More specifically, the role of unspoken communication and appearance.

Communication is defined by the conveyance of signs, or symbols. What are signs? They are markers that convey meaning. Like a road sign. Like any sign. These signs themselves contain meaning. Gestures, symbols, noises: they all possess a normative levels of meaning. This meaning is conveyed to those who are familiar with the signs. The vast majority of signs are culturally rooted in language or social conventions. If you speak Chinese to me, I won’t be able to immediately interpret the meaning of the sign. It’ll be noise. If you speak English to me, I’ll immediately begin to interpret the meaning. Some signs traverse cultural divides, like facial gestures and body posture. The study and interpretation of these signs within a culture is called semiotic analysis.

semiotic: 1620s, of symptoms, from Gk. semeiotikos “significant,” also “observant of signs,” adj. form of semeiosis “indication,” from semeioun “to signal, to interpret a sign,” fromsema “sign.” Use in psychology dates to 1923.

When you become aware of how to leverage the meaning of these signs, through appearance and language, you learn how to leverage what meaning you convey to the world. A lot of people I talk to don’t give much thought to the signs they convey to the world. They are conditioned to think that because they don’t give it much thought, that it somehow doesn’t matter. I suppose this stems from a pervasive notion that being an individual and different is a good thing and valuable, and that everyone recognizes the value of their individualism. I don’t think this is the case.

Signs point to something. They yield significance. They categorize and elucidate meaning. Certain signs- like nice cars, classy wine, fine cheese, the New Yorker, a big house on a rolling lawn, a nice neighborhood, etc- indicate higher social status. Other signs- like cheap beer, cigarettes,  trailers homes, obesity, etc- indicate lower social status. There are countless other categories and subcategories in between. What makes someone a punk? Or Scene? Or Grunge? Or a Hipster? Or Goth? Preppy? A Jock? They all are classified by the signs they convey. The the language they use and the things they surround themselves with. How well we adopt the conventions and customs of a group dictates if or how quickly we are received by them. It seems intuitive, but it’s amazing how little thought people give to the messages they send to the world.

Language is a key component for breaking into a group. If you can adopt the conventions, cultural gestures, and standard definitions of their language, you will meet much less resistance, e.g. learn the linguistic nuances of their humor, how they use words to describe things, intonation, body language, and the like. Couple this with adopting their appearance and you’ll fit right in.

Context lays a big role in how these signs are interpreted. A road sign on the street conveys a much different meaning than a road sign hanging from the wall of someone’s room. On the street it adopts to the normative conventions of navigation that allow for safe driving. In a room it can be interpreted as a gesture of rebellion to the state or other social constructs.

I’ve spoken with quite a few friends about appearance. They insist that because they don’t think about what they wear, or don’t have any intention of representing a  message in their clothing, that they are absolved from the meaning that their style conveys. They think that just because they don’t explicitly endorse a style that they aren’t conveying meaning. This seems a bit shortsighted. The interpretation of signs is left to the interlocutor. Just because you intend to communicate the meaning of something does not mean that you have successfully communicated that intention to others who perceive you. Their semantic evaluations may differ quite a bit considering their experience with the signs you convey as a result of their social, economic, and cultural status, and even age.

Everything we do conveys meaning. Our senses are constantly working to process the sense data we receive and interpret possible meanings. This sense data works to interpret environmental markers that take on various visual, haptic, gustatory, olfactory, and auditory forms that give rise to signs. All the other senses require a certain proximity to be interpreted. Sight allows the interpretation of signs from a distance.

I’m inclined to believe that appearance plays a huge role social interaction and assimilation. Doesn’t matter if you are aware of it or not. We navigate our world by sight. Our vision is usually the first indicator of meaning. Our interpretation of that meaning dictates our response to that meaning.

Appearance commands our attention to cues. It primes our cognitions before we engage with a situation or a person. It prepares us for speech. If your goal is to seek respect and acceptance within a community it is necessary that you adopt the conventions and customs that certain signs represent.

As long as we interact with people, we are judged. Like it or not. The resistance to conform is just as much a statement, and a much more obvious statement, than the adoption of conventional norms.

Just because you don’t wear brand name clothing doesn’t mean you don’t convey meaning. To some it conveys low income. To others it may convey the statement that you are counter cultural, or just above it.

Society is stratified by class no matter how you cut it. Appearance often conveys a person’s class or position in society. It elucidates a person’s tastes and perferences, and those have significant meaning.

Gestures convey an internal state about a person. It is easy to notice a person who is shy simply by the way they stand, hesitate to engage in conversation, or their reluctance to make eye contact. The same goes for people who are sad or depressed. They retain a certain lethargy that pervades their actions: their figure is slouched, their eyes are ‘downcast’, they move slowly, their expression is drawn down. A happy person is energetic, they are ‘looking up’ both figuratively and literally. They are ready to engage the world. They have a smile that is ready to curl upwards at any moment. They world looks brighter and they see things with wonder and enthusiasm. Research here .

Posture is important. Power and authority is conveyed through standing erect, chest out, feet spread. Space is dominated, through gestures, eye contact, and even the volume and bold tone of their voice. They speak with decisiveness and deliberateness. Power and authority are conveyed through this confidence. Power and authority invade space, as if to say ‘I have a right to be here’. It does not hesitate. It infringes on and engages with as much space as possible.

Eye contact is an interesting extension of this power and authority. When men stare at each other they convey their power by occupying the space within their vision. This seems to challenge their power and authority in an intimidating way. Many people become reactive and confrontational as a result of this challenge. Perhaps this is why public speaking causes people to become so anxious. It challenges their power and authority, it causes them to question themselves and doubt. It’s like public eyes sap the power and authority of their words.

Posture conveys power and authority. If you want to appear sure of yourself, of the power and authority of your being, your posture must convey steadfastness, sturdiness, dominance. It must communicate a willingness to engage without hesitation. Walking with a purpose in your step, shaking hands with firmness, eye contact that looks at the core of a person, an erectness that elevates your stature, a stance that is squared and balanced.

Hygiene plays a role as well. We take care of the things we care about by ensuring their maintenance and cleanliness and repair. We must give ourselves the same respect.

Respect is attributive to value. We attribute respect to things we deem valuable and, more often than not, we attribute respect to things other’s deem valuable. People give us the same respect we give to ourselves. When we fail to respect ourselves, others will fail to respect us. We must respect ourselves if we wish to communicate our value to others.

It is difficult to respect things that have no or little value. If you  want others to respect you, you must respect yourself. This requires that you see yourself as valuable. You must love and appreciate that value, not in a narcissistic way, but a way that communicates a genuine respect and purpose. If you want someone to love you, you must love yourself. Cliche, yes, but nonetheless true.  You must be someone who is worth loving.

Just as our behavior conveys our internal states, it also shapes internal states. By assuming certain behaviors or postures, your psychology changes according to your physiological posture. If you smile, you can’t help but feel happy. Your brain literally generates endorphins as if it was happy. If you make yourself laugh, you can’t help but feel good. Your brain releases the happy neurotransmitters just as if you were laughing. If you stand up tall and straight, you will feel confident.  Same goes for less desirable states like depression. If you slouch, look at the ground, talk slow and in a low voice, you will literally become sadder, and your energy levels will seem to disappointed. Your body reactions to your physiological behaviors and positions. Research has continually confirmed this, as seen here and here.

The subconscious is a powerful mechanism. Our actions and reactions are primed and pre-load according to the our recent cogitations. There is a quote that illustrates this:

“When we change the way we look at the world, the world we look at changes.”

When we are thinking positive or optimistic thoughts, we are much more apt to interpret the world through the lens of those words. If we read a group of words like “ugly, foul, haggard, wicked, etc”, then look at photos of neutral scenes or people and report our emotional response, our reactions correlate with these words. We might take longer to assess a picture of something beautiful, or rate it less favorably than we would otherwise. The same works for positive thoughts. Surround yourself with only the most positive thoughts, people, or environmental cues and you will prime your brain to see things through that lens. Research supports this. Other research confirms this with how we interpret smells.

Not only do our ruminations and reflections prime these responses, but our environment shapes it quite a bit. The people and friends we surround ourselves’ with exposes our mind to their thoughts. These invasive thoughts shape our perception by priming our mind with their thoughts.

This is also the case with other environmental influences, like weather and landscape. Bright colors and warmth are associated with good feelings. Dark colors and cold are associated with negative feelings.  This is also confirmed with research.

So. The point of all my rambling was this: What message are you communicating? How are you being interpreted? You could make things much easier on yourself by adhering to certain customs and conventions. If you wanna make the rules, you have to first play and master the rules. If you don’t like certain customs, be a leader and change them. In order to do that, you first need to develop an affinity with people by submersing yourself in the signs of their conventions and customs. Do not overlook the details.

Also, I don’t mean be a conformist. I suppose this all needs more explaining.

Anyway. I’m done rambling.

Signs and Semantics: Social and Psychological

sign (n.) early 13c., “gesture or motion of the hand,” from O.Fr. signe “sign, mark, signature,” from L. signum “mark, token, indication, symbol,” from PIE base *sekw- “point out” (see ‘see’). Meaning “a mark or device having some special importance” is recorded from late 13c. Sense of “characteristic device attached to the front of an inn, shop, etc., to distinguish it from others” is first recorded mid-15c. Ousted native ‘token’.

There are a lot of fragmented thoughts swirling about my mind at the moment. I need to get them out in no particular order. Stream of consciousness:

I’ve been thinking a lot about people lately. People and social interaction. I’m surprised how many people aren’t aware of how their behavior affects the perceptions of other people. The world judges us. We judge the world. We have to. It’s a survival mechanism. First impressions go a long way, even if we train ourselves to be open, these impressions are a pretty reliable source to make evaluations.

Example: I see a guy whose clean-shaven, wearing a suit, nicely shined shoes. I can probably deduce he has a job that commands a level of respect. If I know he’s wearing a designer suit, wearing a Rolex and driving a luxury car, I don’t have to wonder if he’s a limo driver. He’s probably someone with money or important. In contrast, if you see a guy with a beard wearing a no name graphic T-shirt and tattered or dirty clothes, you’ll probably think he was a bum. Without any conversation you will form an opinion about that guy. If you are smart, you’ll wait till you have a conversation with him, but our first impressions are pretty reliable.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to communication recently. More specifically, the role of unspoken communication and appearance.

Communication is defined by the conveyance of signs, or symbols. What are signs? They are markers that convey meaning. Like a road sign. Like any sign. These signs themselves contain meaning. Gestures, symbols, noises: they all possess a normative levels of meaning. This meaning is conveyed to those who are familiar with the signs. The vast majority of signs are culturally rooted in language or social conventions. If you speak Chinese to me, I won’t be able to immediately interpret the meaning of the sign. It’ll be noise. If you speak English to me, I’ll immediately begin to interpret the meaning. Some signs traverse cultural divides, like facial gestures and body posture. The study and interpretation of these signs within a culture is called semiotic analysis.

semiotic: 1620s, of symptoms, from Gk. semeiotikos “significant,” also “observant of signs,” adj. form of semeiosis “indication,” from semeioun “to signal, to interpret a sign,” fromsema “sign.” Use in psychology dates to 1923.

When you become aware of how to leverage the meaning of these signs, through appearance and language, you learn how to leverage what meaning you convey to the world. A lot of people I talk to don’t give much thought to the signs they convey to the world. They are conditioned to think that because they don’t give it much thought, that it somehow doesn’t matter. I suppose this stems from a pervasive notion that being an individual and different is a good thing and valuable, and that everyone recognizes the value of their individualism. I don’t think this is the case.

Signs point to something. They yield significance. They categorize and elucidate meaning. Certain signs- like nice cars, classy wine, fine cheese, the New Yorker, a big house on a rolling lawn, a nice neighborhood, etc- indicate higher social status. Other signs- like cheap beer, cigarettes,  trailers homes, obesity, etc- indicate lower social status. There are countless other categories and subcategories in between. What makes someone a punk? Or Scene? Or Grunge? Or a Hipster? Or Goth? Preppy? A Jock? They all are classified by the signs they convey, the language they use, and the things they surround themselves with. How well we adopt the conventions and customs of a group dictates if or how quickly we are received by them. It seems intuitive, but it’s amazing how little thought people give to the messages they send to the world.

Language is a key component for breaking into a group. If you can adopt the conventions, cultural gestures, and standard definitions of their language, you will meet much less resistance, e.g. learn the linguistic nuances of their humor, how they use words to describe things, intonation, body language, and the like. Couple this with adopting their appearance and you’ll fit right in.

Context lays a big role in how these signs are interpreted. A road sign on the street conveys a much different meaning than a road sign hanging from the wall of someone’s room. On the street it adopts to the normative conventions of navigation that allow for safe driving. In a room it can be interpreted as a gesture of rebellion to the state or other social constructs.

I’ve spoken with quite a few friends about appearance. They insist that because they don’t think about what they wear, or don’t have any intention of representing a  message in their clothing, that they are absolved from the meaning that their style conveys. They think that just because they don’t explicitly endorse a style that they aren’t conveying meaning. This seems a bit shortsighted. The interpretation of signs is left to the interlocutor. Just because you intend to communicate the meaning of something does not mean that you have successfully communicated that intention to others who perceive you. Their semantic evaluations may differ quite a bit considering their experience with the signs you convey as a result of their social, economic, and cultural status, and even age.

Everything we do conveys meaning. Our senses are constantly working to process the sense data we receive and interpret possible meanings. This sense data works to interpret environmental markers that take on various visual, haptic, gustatory, olfactory, and auditory forms that give rise to signs. All the other senses require a certain proximity to be interpreted. Sight allows the interpretation of signs from a distance.

I’m inclined to believe that appearance plays a huge role social interaction and assimilation. Doesn’t matter if you are aware of it or not. We navigate our world by sight. Our vision is usually the first indicator of meaning. Our interpretation of that meaning dictates our response to that meaning.

Appearance commands our attention to cues. It primes our cognitions before we engage with a situation or a person. It prepares us for speech. If your goal is to seek respect and acceptance within a community it is necessary that you adopt the conventions and customs that certain signs represent.

As long as we interact with people, we are judged. Like it or not. The resistance to conform is just as much a statement, and a much more obvious statement, than the adoption of conventional norms.

Just because you don’t wear brand name clothing doesn’t mean you don’t convey meaning. To some it conveys low income. To others it may convey the statement that you are counter cultural, or just above it.

Society is stratified by class no matter how you cut it. Appearance often conveys a person’s class or position in society. It elucidates a person’s tastes and perferences, and those have significant meaning.

Gestures convey an internal state about a person. It is easy to notice a person who is shy simply by the way they stand, hesitate to engage in conversation, or their reluctance to make eye contact. The same goes for people who are sad or depressed. They retain a certain lethargy that pervades their actions: their figure is slouched, their eyes are ‘downcast’, they move slowly, their expression is drawn down. A happy person is energetic, they are ‘looking up’ both figuratively and literally. They are ready to engage the world. They have a smile that is ready to curl upwards at any moment. They world looks brighter and they see things with wonder and enthusiasm. Research here .

Posture is important. Power and authority is conveyed through standing erect, chest out, feet spread. Space is dominated, through gestures, eye contact, and even the volume and bold tone of their voice. They speak with decisiveness and deliberateness. Power and authority are conveyed through this confidence. Power and authority invade space, as if to say ‘I have a right to be here’. It does not hesitate. It infringes on and engages with as much space as possible.

Eye contact is an interesting extension of this power and authority. When men stare at each other they convey their power by occupying the space within their vision. This seems to challenge their power and authority in an intimidating way. Many people become reactive and confrontational as a result of this challenge. Perhaps this is why public speaking causes people to become so anxious. It challenges their power and authority, it causes them to question themselves and doubt. It’s like public eyes sap the power and authority of their words.

Posture conveys power and authority. If you want to appear sure of yourself, of the power and authority of your being, your posture must convey steadfastness, sturdiness, dominance. It must communicate a willingness to engage without hesitation. Walking with a purpose in your step, shaking hands with firmness, eye contact that looks at the core of someones being, an erectness that elevates your stature, a stance that is squared and balanced.

Hygiene plays a role as well. We take care of the things we care about by ensuring their maintenance and cleanliness and repair. We must give ourselves the same respect.

Respect is attributive to value. We attribute respect to things we deem valuable and, more often than not, we attribute respect to things other’s deem valuable. People give us the same respect we give to ourselves. When we fail to respect ourselves, others will fail to respect us. We must respect ourselves if we wish to communicate our value to others.

It is difficult to respect things that have no or little value. If you  want others to respect you, you must respect yourself. This requires that you see yourself as valuable. You must love and appreciate that value, not in a narcissistic way, but a way that communicates a genuine respect and purpose. If you want someone to love you, you must love yourself. Cliche, yes, but nonetheless true.  You must be someone who is worth loving.

Just as our behavior conveys our internal states, it also shapes internal states. By assuming certain behaviors or postures, your psychology changes according to your physiological posture. If you smile, you can’t help but feel happy. Your brain literally generates endorphins as if it was happy. If you make yourself laugh, you can’t help but feel good. Your brain releases the happy neurotransmitters just as if you were laughing. If you stand up tall and straight, you will feel confident.  Same goes for less desirable states like depression. If you slouch, look at the ground, talk slow and in a low voice, you will literally become sadder, and your energy levels will seem to disappointed. Your body reacts to your physiological behaviors and positions. Research has continually confirmed this, as seen here and here.

The subconscious is a powerful mechanism. Our actions and reactions are primed and pre-loaded according to the our recent impressions and cogitations. There is a quote that illustrates this:

“When we change the way we look at the world, the world we look at changes.”

When we are thinking positive or optimistic thoughts, we are much more apt to interpret the world through the lens of those words. If we read a group of words like “ugly, foul, haggard, wicked, etc”, then look at photos of neutral scenes or people and report our emotional response, our reactions correlate with these words. We might take longer to assess a picture of something beautiful, or rate it less favorably than we would otherwise. The same works for positive thoughts. Surround yourself with only the most positive thoughts, people, or environmental cues and you will prime your brain to see things through that lens. Research supports this. Other research confirms this with how we interpret smells.

Not only do our ruminations and reflections prime these responses, but our environment shapes it quite a bit. The people and friends we surround ourselves’ with exposes our mind to their thoughts. These invasive thoughts shape our perception by priming our mind with their thoughts.

This is also the case with other environmental influences, like weather and landscape. Bright colors and warmth are associated with good feelings. Dark colors and cold are associated with negative feelings.  This is also confirmed with research.

So. The point of all my rambling was this: What message are you communicating? How are you being interpreted? You could make things much easier on yourself by adhering to certain customs and conventions. If you wanna make the rules, you have to first play and master the rules. If you don’t like certain customs, be a leader and change them. In order to do that, you first need to develop an affinity with people by submersing yourself in the signs of their conventions and customs. Do not overlook the details.

Also, I don’t mean be a conformist. I suppose this all needs more explaining.

Anyway. I’m done rambling.

Doctored.

I visited the doctor this afternoon. The psychiatrist.

We met for roughly an hour.

He was a gentlemen in his early fifties with an opinionated air to him. Dr. Chris White I believe. Approachable and easygoing, but always ready with a response.

I sat down in his office and, for the first time really, I began to consider why I chose to make this appointment. The obvious answer was medication for my distractability… a crutch to aid my attention. But as I sat there, I realized that simply handing over some IQ tests and explaining that I thought I was a candidate for medication wasn’t going to convince him to write a script.

Since I’ve come from a long history of psychiatric therapy and evaluations, I began weighing my options: I could manipulate him and play the role I knew would satisfy his clinical diagnostics, or I could be straightforward, transparent and honest about my history. I decided in a split second decision to let him into my life.

This is not without risk, however. I am painfully aware of a psychiatric system that is inherently flawed. It approaches humans as simply a sac of DNA that secretes neurotransmitters that contribute to our personality and mood. I disown this philosophy. Obviously they are aware of environmental and nurture factors, but genetics take center stage when chemical therapy is sought as the solution. I also knew how dangerous it is when doctors label you with these mental disorders. The reasons might be far removed from the reality, but they hold the MD so they decide. Its actually scary when you lose your rights and the ability to advocate for yourself because they told you what and who you are.

Anyway… I decided that I was safe at this point in my life. I had gone years without any sort of depressive relapse… or any severe mental relapse for that matter. I continue to succeed and am mentally at peace with myself and the world that I create using my thoughts. (Attribution theory and explanatory style is my modus operandi).

So I began… the story of my life… told soo many times. Starting with first grade… mentioning the suicides, the thirteen moves, the six elementary schools, two middle schools, and three high schools… along with my stint in home school. I went over my psychiatric history with doctors and over all the diagnosis I was labeled, and the medications I was prescribed. I talked about the oppressive and destructive relationship I held with my parents growing up. Then we got into a little of my most recent history with my revelations about life… my turnaround. Then we proceeded to recap in detail all the events… mutilation, suicide pacts, overdoses, substance abuse, moves and transitions, etc.

After an hour all we got through till about my senior year than had to call it. He told me to set up an appt in two days… and to bring back additional ADD testing… and if I was up for it any of my past medical history and documentation(and I’m probably not… cause I’d rather not having too much of this crap on a file… insurance reasons etc).

The doctor was an uppity doctor. He definitely exuded an air that said “I’ve got it figured out”. Throughout my retelling he would interject with an explanation as to why something turned out that way… sometimes I corrected him with additional information and my own explanation and he would appear thoughtful and say ‘Interesting”… other times I just nodded and agreed…mostly to boost his ego and build an receptive relationship. I’ve heard so much of their explanations that I could practically be a psychologist.

The whole time I was telling this story I was trying to imagine what exactly he must be thinking. I mean, if you heard my story you would think that I was clinically insane. Based on my adolescent history, there is no logical reason why I made it out of all that with my mind and emotions still intact. He was asking me if I was bipolar, depressed, or suffered any of that stuff… I stolidly replied no. Not in the slightest. I could tell he wasn’t convinced… he was fighting to believe it.

He was like… “its important that we talk about all this so I can help you… so if you have another depressive relapse I can set you up with the right doctors and get you help.”[sic]

My reaction was like… um… that is the farthest thing I could ever imagine. No way could I go back to that place. He, of course, reminded me that those with depression have a 50% chance of relapse. Although I didn’t say it, I was thinking “… that is impossible. I choose my world… it does not choose me.”. In the end I had to agree with him… i mean… there is a statistical chance that my whole family is tortured and dies a horrible death, and I am forced to watch, and I have to bear that burden for the rest of my life…. and even then I still believe I’d make it out alive. Other than that, I am not a victim of circumstance, my world, my past, my feelings. I choose thoughts… and they make up my world.

Anyway… It was sorta funny. He was extremely fascinated with my whole story… often pondering after one of my responses to his questions and responding with “Let me be selfish for a moment… and when I say selfish, I say that as a joke really, but let me be selfish and ask you a question…” and he’d ask some question to satisfy he personal curiosity.

I won’t lie, the last doctor I saw about medication simply wrote me a script 15 minutes after I introduced myself and told her my academic history with ADD. Probably illegal, or unethical, but I was happy. Expedient drugging.

Dr. White told me at the outset that pretty rigorous ADD testing is done to protect the phenotype…. or people who have are legitimately disposed to ADD. I was fine with that.

Epic Blurb

I love swimming. Becoming totally engulfed in an essence. I love swimming in the ethereal feelings and thoughts kindled in my glowing imagination. I want to live fully. What do I think?

I cannot keep putting off responsibilities. Responsibilities like… homework, studying, keeping in touch with people, being happy. I have a responsibility to be happy ya know. No one else is responsible for my happiness. Its unique to me.

Is it good to avoid criticism? Should one look for it?

***

I visited cousin at Amherst College this weekend. Watched the football game. Beautiful campus. Small population of students but spacious none the least. Hung out with the football gang. All seemingly intelligent people. It’s odd to visit a wet campus. Alcohol prevails in every dorm and every hall. The smell of stale beer leads you to the next party. Filled with juvenile adolescents indulging in self destruction- pounding away at another helping of hoppy watered-down ethanol or some other distilled liquid pleasure. These people. Freedom is such a new quality. I remember the days when I was overwhelmed with freedom. It’s where the irresponsibility started and accountability faded away as I justified my actions with those of my peers. Sad really. My individualism was lost amongst the crowd. And for what? Acceptance is too cliche for an answer. I stripped and tossed my convictions without hesitating a moment. No contemplation. We don’t think that far ahead in our youth. We live in the now. We rarely take time to see into the distance future. If we did, we would see how our accumulated actions would be disserving and adjust accordingly.

Maybe its alright to pander to some of our fleeting youthful satisfactions. Its a slippery slope. The miligram experiment by social psychologist stanley milgram perfectly illustrates what happens when we undermine our convictions. We continue this trend until there are no limits to what we do. The line has been crossed, we are confused, we lose sight of right and wrong as we justify out previous slip.

Amherst was fun. I’m through with the binge atmosphere. I want social glee. I want to be surrounded with quality people who enjoy the finer things in life. Who rise above mindless impulses and short-lived thrills.

Education will not solve the worlds problems. The worlds problems are more than the tangible pressures we face. We face trials of the heart. When the man is right, his world will be right. How can education cause men to be more introspective with their intentions? Just because a man is sincere doesn’t mean he can’t be sincerely wrong. Is man the measure of all things? How far does this measure extend?

*****

I often wonder what would happen if I forfeit all the wisdom I’ve believed to have accumulated? What would happen to my world is I tossed my convictions and standards into the wind and remained wild, totally free from reason. Ha. As I say this I just think of how most post-modern liberals behave. I’m sure my behavior wouldn’t be that different.

*****

I need to write a paper. A LONG paper. A case study. On a company with a woman who’s got no work ethic. Who started a business strictly because she does not work well with authority. Who stated that shes alright with her businesses minimal growth because she reaps tax benefits and money from subsidies to small businesses. She is stealing our tax money becuase she refuses to work hard to earn more money for herself. Wow. This women is nice. She’s got some good ideas. She is clueless when it comes to investing herself into a vision and seeing that vision come alive. She instead settles for mediocrity. A business that’s providing barely enough to get by. She comes to work late. She fired every employee shes hired because of ‘personality conflicts’ but stated that she prefers an employee because that makes me come to work on time. People. I swear. How the hell do I even approach this study. I outlined a business plan proposal. When I write the paper I obviously want to write like this is going to a valuable company with vested stakeholders- instead, I think about how this women won’t heed a damn word and although my analysis of her basic production methods is legitimate- I find that all she needs is a good lesson on working hard and the principles of success. Being an economics paper I can’t very well write a philosophy discourse of strategies for success, but I’m EXTREMELY tempted. If there wasn’t a hefty grade attached I would write such a paper and throw it in her face. I’d also rattle off a few rants on why any social distribution of wealth is inherently flawed due to free loaders like her.

My God! People must misunderstand me all the time! When I talk of success- this doesn’t translate into financial gain! People probably think I’m so egocentric and highfalutin because they totally misinterpret success. Actually- they are totally ignorant to success in general so they are stigmatized to the notion!

SUCCESS!!!! What it means!!! Progressively realizing a worthy ideal!— And working towards it with every molecule and vibration in your being! Being excellent and exploring the unknown wellsprings of untapped potential! BEING THE BEST AT WHAT YOU DO! If you decide to do something- put your all into it! Enough???? “Aren’t I doing enough” you ask? Enough is only your best! Do not lie or deceive yourself. There is no such thing as failure. There is no such thing as try! There is Do. or Do not. Live. or live not. You choose.

I believe that all psychological illnesses stem from people not realizing their full potential. They sabotage themselves and what they think they can or cannot do! They become entrenched in limiting thoughts and habits and live their lives, like Thoreau said, ‘in quiet desperation’.

****

Some people feel that they lack motivation or intelligence or desire or skills. HA! HAHAH! I pity these people. I do. Continually focusing on what they lack instead of what they have at their disposal! How can one gain more by spending his time counting everything he hasn’t! All man needs to succeed he already possesses. The most valuable tool in his arsenal of achievement? Will. What is will? The ability to apply oneself to a decision. We all possess the ability to make a decision. Focus on that decision- never mind the details for they’ll take care of themselves- and you will watch live spring to life. Will! The more you exercise will the more you empower yourself! Have Dreams! Have vision! “Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is simply passing the time. Action with Vision is making a positive difference.” (Joel Barker)

*****

I want to help other people find their potential. They may ask- what is potential??? What does that mean??? It is everything you are not and you want to be.
I often get caught up thinking that I need to possess the answer in order to plant inspiration within people. How childish! How can I possess all the answers for each individual? Can I make up their mind? Can I pretend to know the depths of their soul and the curiosity of their spirit? No. What I must possess is hope and vision. All I need within myself is the ability to question. To challenge. To encourage people. People have the answers within themselves. They need to look. All I need to to ask the questions that cause people to look within themselves. There they will find the burning flame that starves for more to breath. When this flame catches a breath it will burn brighter and more passionately then they’ve ever known. It will illuminate them from within and their eyes will shine with wonder and awe. They will yearn for more and more and their enthusiasms will cause others to combust in a dazzling display of human achievement.

****

It’s odd. As I often do, I find myself caught in a paradox of conflicting ideology. On one hand- I hold people to the highest most exalted esteem, adorned and lauded for their precious nature. On the other? I find people utterly reviling, evil and carnal in nature. Lost and complacent with consuming the empty tales of hope. Listening fervently with open ears to the flowery but empty rhetoric that evil spews forth. Lies- deception and deceit. It pulls at the strings of their heart and beckons them to follow but leads no where. Are they sheep? They are defiant sheep. I cannot hate the ignorant. I myself am just as ignorant. I do- however- hate the lies. Those that lead others astray have gained my utmost contempt. Their words are like honey to the lips that poisons and incapacitates. These men lead nowhere.

****

I love life. I wish I would think less and act more. At the end of the day all that matters is what was actually accomplished. When my life is over- I won’t be able to celebrate the hours of cathartic reflection and quiet contemplation. I will have to show what my life produced. When the harvest is ready- one cannot make excuses for anything less than his best. This life we sow our best, till and prune and water and tend. When this life is over only the fruits of our labor will reveal our success.

***
I have to work. I have much to do. I have much to write about. No holding back.

****

Abridged Essay- Locus of control and Explanatory Style- Summary and Reflection

Locus of control is an expression of awareness regarding responsibility on a continuum ranging from internal or external. Internal Locus of control is the realized responsibility one has for causes of meaningful circumstances, whereas external locus of control is where the responsibility for circumstances is placed on external causes. Keeping yourself motivated is difficult when you maintain an external locus of control. You believe there is little you can do to bring you to where you want to be. An internal locus of control is accepting that factors for getting you to where you want to go are in your control. When you have an internal locus of control the responsibility you have to yourself for achievement is greater. When you believe your abilities, task difficulty, effort, and luck are internal, stable, controllable, and specific you no longer struggle with the idea that things are beyond your control or that you are flawed. You directly increase motivation by this empowering mentality.
Authors Schulmulsky and Gobbo conducted research with LD’s that pointed out a correlation between students with an internal locus of control and their explanatory style. While having an internal locus of control is the first step towards assuming responsibility and being open to progress towards achievement, the explanatory style in which they face circumstances in paramount in dictating their success. Research showed that LD’s tend to carry a more internal pessimistic explanatory style that directly relates to their diagnosis and their self efficacy. This causes them to view negative behavior or circumstances as something they are responsible for but out of their control, something global and stable. The internal optimistic explanatory style viewed negative behaviors or circumstances as a personal responsibility but view them as more unstable, controllable, and specifically caused. The study showed that an optimistic explanatory style correlated with higher levels of self esteem, self-image and self efficacy while an internal pessimistic explanatory style associated with depression, anxiety and hopelessness.
I scored high on the assessment towards an internal locus of control. This is no surprise as I am fully aware of the responsibility I have to making myself a success, something I attribute to no other. I’ve developed immensely throughout the years, and most recently experienced more life changing epiphanies than any other time in my life. In hindsight, I recognized the times I associated with a more external locus of control caused the most direct stunts on my personal development. As I matured and I developed an understanding of myself and my responsibilities, I leaned all the more toward an internal locus of control. The major turning point in my progression has been the change from that of a negative explanatory style to that of an optimistic explanatory style. I no longer care what the formal education system or diagnoses say about my abilities (or disabilities interpreted as lack of ability for a long time). I know what I want, and I have willed myself to put faith in shaping the life I expect to achieve through the appropriate time and energy allocated to factors within my circle of influence that would ensure success. No one will get me there but me, and no one can tell me what abilities I possess or don’t possess that will dictate whether or not I succeed, because I will do or learn whatever it takes.
In conclusion, there is nothing that will circumvent the resolve of a determined soul. I recognize my responsibility to search for solutions that would pave the road for success. A positive mentality or an optimistic explanatory style is the only suggestion I need to lean on as thoughts pass to and fro within my mind. Weeds of negative thought must be constantly groomed and constant attention to the positive qualities I’ve accumulated through persistent effort. The only factor that would hinder my success is the lack of a positive mental attitude (and to not grow, adapt, change, remain open to new ideas…you get my point). I would feel very disappointed knowing it’s a responsibility I have to myself to succeed and knowingly let any excuse of lack of ability or doubt in my expectations be the reason for failure.

Assimilated Summary of Locus of Control, Attribution Theory and Explanatory Style

Michael S. XXX
9-13-07
LOC Reflection

The locus of control is locality on a bilateral continuum that dictates the level of awareness one has regarding his/ her control over occurring circumstances. The two poles in reference are established as having an internal or external location of control to ones circumstances. In laymen’s terms, a scale to measure the responsibility one takes on in deciding how his behavior could directly affect the outcome of a situation(s). The locus of control offers a more measurable and spatially comprehensible method of looking into the behaviors that dictate the outcomes of specific situations for people on a habitual basis. When looking at the two extremes of locus, the external end of the spectrum is closely comparable to having a philosophy of determinism (or causality), where very little of your efforts can actually change the past or present circumstance. The external locus connotes a very irrational and powerless approach of explaining behaviors towards life and associates with persons of a very limited idea of personal responsibility. External locus is when direct casualty is placed on an outside event and outside of personal control. On the other extreme is internal locus. This refers to one who approaches circumstances with an acknowledged responsibility for shaping their future through constant thought to appropriate reactions and rational decisions that would lead to fulfilling one’s obligation to expectations. The extreme internal locus of control is most closely relatable to the philosophy of humanism, where faith in anything but self is denounced and determining one’s destiny is realized by embracing any and all responsibility they have for their actions to determine their future. The causality is placed on factors within the person as an explanation for what happens to them. The issue of motivation begins as one sees the significance in applying consistent effort to an expectation and succeeds. Only after realizing the power of responsibility one has over their life can one begin to orient towards an internal locus of control. This coincides directly with the explanatory style of learning where one sets expectations and fulfills them through discipline and acting upon the belief of competency. When one realizes that by simply assuming all responsibility for achieving, and recognizes the circle of influence he has over controllable factors, can he can effectively and efficiently tackle relative tasks that would allow of maximum growth towards expectations. Yet, these expectations can be positive or negative. The optimistic or pessimistic explanatory style is the determining factor that dictates success after an internal locus of control is realized and achieved.
There are many factors used to gauge an idea of effort involved in an undertaking. How we perceive these factors plays a huge role on the language we use to communicate and understand undertakings and expectations. Our communication and comprehension cognitive processes are developed and influenced continually throughout our lives by parental conditioning, habitual behavior reinforced by expectancy, sociological, cultural, or ethnic influences. What it comes down to is how you perceive situations. There is nothing that is too hard. There are factors that are out of your control, but it is up to you to recognize these factors so that you can allocate proper time and energy where needed to succeed. You have been half product of circumstance, half product of will until you reach an age of responsibility for the things you have control of. The more maturity, the more one recognizes ones ability to respond accordingly to their circumstances and succeed with their expectations.
In relation to task difficulty, what is simply being communicated is that certain time and energy will need to be allocated to accomplish the task. This is only to communicate so we can have a better understanding of the preparation we should take to approach the task. Many times we think task difficulty is something that one can actually fail to accomplish and never ever accomplish. (THAT IS CRAZY.) Excuse me. That kind of mentality is that of a pessimistic explanatory style. What we need to realize is that nothing is ever too difficult. This is done by adopting an optimistic explanatory style. We need to train ourselves to focus and persevere through discipline and consistent applied willpower to accomplish the task. As we approach the challenge we might not have the tools it takes to overcome the task. What this directly indicates is that we need to acquire the tools and knowledge to overcome it. It is a given opportunity to grow and to develop one’s abilities. No one has set abilities. We continually add by the constant application of principles and values that brought us previous success. Effort is relative as well. Effort is the time and energy needed to complete the task. If you don’t have the tools and don’t know how to use them then the task will seem difficult and the effort applied will be much. The way to work more efficiently and effectively is by getting into the habit of succeeding. When you succeed you reinforce what is necessary to acquire and articulate knowledge to achieve. There is life, but there is no luck. A roman philosopher quoted it best when he said “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” I believe that, and anyone with a positive internal locus of control would agree that you are fully responsible to prepare yourself for life and its opportunities and challenges- both of which can provide you with positive growth when proper preparation is obtained. When responsibility is realized, and you owe it to no one but yourself to succeed, than task difficulty, luck, ability, and effort are all pretty consistently stable and controllable.
The correlation existing between locus of control and explanatory style is that of the realized potential of the individual and the expectations they hold for themselves as they approach a task. AD/HD tendencies seem to associate a pessimistic explanatory style and internal locus of control for any failure in a particular task yet hold a very optimistic explanatory style and internal locus of control when successful in a task. LD/ADHD students used in research by Schulsky & Gobbo showed that using the attribution theory towards internal locus of self efficacy were able to elevate self-esteem, perceived control, perceived success, and academic emotions. The attribution retraining reinforces an increase in self-image leading to realized internal control and responsibility that allows for elevated measurable progress. When individuals act out these expectations and project the image of achieved success their performance matches up. These ADHD students tend to associate failures with lack of ability, an internal, stable, uncontrollable, global cause whereas students of a ‘control group’ associate failures with an internal, unstable, controllable, specific causality. The importance of an optimistic explanatory style is to boost self efficacy in order to achieve a view that failures are unstable, controllable, and specifically caused instead of something inherently flawed within them and beyond their control. ADHD students that hold this internal locus of control and use a pessimistic explanatory style tend to produce results of lacking self efficacy, leading to anxiousness and depression due to the thought that something is inherently wrong with them.
This summary shows that an internal locus of control is not necessarily a positive thing. Thinking that one is flawed is a devastating concept to live with and approach life with. The formal education system and diagnosis’s can actually be devastating disadvantages to students who have unique personalities and learn differently. They know they are capable beings, yet they begin to come to believe that they have something wrong with them and this negative internal attribution style affects the growth and competency within classrooms and undertakings in life.
I originally found this research abstract and it came off as psycho babble to illustrate very fundamental points about human achievement. I find after thorough reading and intense yearning for comprehension and understanding that it is enlightening and supportive to ideas that were currently held about my own abilities. It re-illustrated and colored new precepts I’ve acquired the past year about success and my abilities as I committed my time and energy to finding the secrets to success and achievement. Growing up I knew I was smarter than many of my peers. This was an internal attribution style I held for my abilities as a person separate from any other opinion. In the classroom my personality (medically called ADHD) conflicted with the rigid standards of the formal education system. This resulted in a gradual negative/pessimistic explanatory/attribution style that maimed my progress as a student in the classroom. (This next part blew my mind so bear with any tangents) Throughout my childhood I unknowingly relied on medication as a means to achieve. When I was on meds I did well, when I wasn’t it was obvious and my negative behavior was attributed to this. This research accurately identifies my previous perceptions of medication as an external stable specific uncontrollable cause. I was medicated from the first grade until seventh when it was decided that medication was more of a crutch than healthy assistance. When I was removed my ability to perform and produce positive desirable behaviors in the classroom was poor. In seventh grade my grades dropped and anxiety and depression set in. Severe external emotional factors such as parents with high positive expectations and hard disciplinary styles conflicted with my negative explanatory style that, try as I might, my efforts were not able to produce. This was compounded with the suicidal death of a best friend. Having a high internal locus of control I interpreted these factors in a negative attribution style which lead to depression, anxiety and a host of other usual behavioral inconsistencies. I was medicated for a variety of psychological diagnosis, but at the heart, using my hind-sight bias, I was only acting out my reinforced expectancies. I struggled with self efficacy and although I had high expectations for myself, the formal classroom stifled my ability to succeed and caused failures to be accepted as inevitable. Fortunately, I overcame any negative feelings of depression at the start of my senior year as I assumed an internal positive responsibility for the right to be happy and not live a depressing negative emotionally defeating life. I realized my circle of influence and placed external casualty on circumstances when needed.
In summary, this trend continued throughout high school until senior year when I ultimately confronted the way I really felt about my incompatibility with the education system and my belief that I was no good for it. I simply ceased all effort in the classrooms, leading to failure to graduate. I was alright with this. I let myself do it. I refused to struggle with things that were, at the time in my perceptions, out of my control. It was two years later, after failing high school, getting kicked out of my home, and after getting a taste of the real world and the basic responsibilities for survival did I change my internal explanatory style to a positive approach and took responsibility for my life fearlessly. This was a decision motivated by sheer will and the desire to directly change the expectations I had for myself. I saw how I was living, and I saw how I wanted to live. I refused to make excuses or call myself flawed. I was willing and capable and I saw that there were people far worse than me that tackled life and its challenges with huge success through persistence and determination. I made the decision to study every successful man, and read every book I could get my hands on written by the people who’ve experienced success in their endeavors first hand. I decided to learn from the best. I read libraries of books on personal development and auto-biographies of the greatest successes. Every book I read was backed by the intent to further my understanding of what it takes for achievement. Each book was reinforcement for desire of positive success and the belief that I can have whatever I want if I’m willing to get expend the proper time and energy. Two quotes resonate as inspirational fuel that reminds me of the obligation I have to myself and my ability for success: “”What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”-Emerson” and ““Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing in the world is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. -Calvin Coolidge””. Together they reminded me that I have a plan and I can be as unconventional as I want. No one can stop me and my desire for success. As long as that desire is there nothing can hinder my progress. “People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do.”-Lewis Cass. I decided to back up all desire with immediate action.
In conclusion, correlating and translating my personal philosophy in terms of the essay at hand, I will say that I have a relatively new sense of positive internal control over my direct responsibilities towards achievement and that my explanatory style has assumed an ever increasing optimistic perception towards my set expectations and goals for success. I still struggle with old habits of thinking that sometimes barrage my confidence. Although I have a relatively high internal locus of control, 80 according to the survey, I struggle with being positive. Positivity is the ONLY way to make progress. NEVER does progress come from negative thinking, and if it does, it is never realized. An internal locus of control is good when it is reinforced with a positive mentality or explanatory style but can be detrimental when reinforced with a negative mentality. Having an external locus of control puts you in no position for progress because responsibility is not realized. I’ve learned to cope best by disregarding those negative mentalities by submerging myself in inspiring text by those who have lived success and encouraged achievement on every possible level in their lives. As long as I have a worthy ideal and I know exactly where I want to be and exactly what that looks like, I can reinforce that valuable ideal with action that directly reinforces my direction and confidence.

Research References and Articles used in this essay include:
“Explanatory Style and College Students with ADHD” by Solvegi Shmulsky & Ken Gobbo (2007)

“Are You the Master of Your Fate” by Rotter, J.B.(1966) Generalized expectancies for internal vs. external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs, 80, 1-28

and Rebecca Matte’s Powerpoint presentation “Locus of Control, Attribution Theory and Explanatory Style” (2007)