Archive for the ‘Psychologist’ Category

Have you ever wondered why other people are so unreasonable and hard to convince?

October 25, 2007

“A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.” [Leon Festinger, et al., When Prophecy Fails (1956)]

Have you ever wondered why other people are so unreasonable and hard to convince? Why is it that they disregard hard facts that prove you’re right and they’re wrong? The fact is, we humans aren’t wired to think very rationally. That’s been confirmed recently by brain scans.

Psychological experiments have shown that humans tend to seek out even weak evidence to support their existing beliefs, and to ignore evidence that undercuts those beliefs. In the process, we apply stringent tests to evidence we don’t want to hear, while letting slide uncritically into our minds any information that suits our needs.

The Wisdom of Crowds by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson

Don’t confuse an explanation of causes with an acceptance of results

September 23, 2007

I started reading the book Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond.  The purpose of the book is to answer this question:

“Why did human development proceed at such different rates on different continents?”

For example, why did some places have iron and machines, while others were still using stone?

Before answering the question, he addresses this objection:

“If we succeed in explaining how some people came to dominate other people, may this not seem to justify the domination?”

His answer to the objection is profound:

“This objection rests on a common tendency to confuse an explanation of causes with a justification or acceptance of results.  What use one makes of a historical explanation is a question separate from the explanation itself.  Understanding is more often used to try to alter an outcome than to repeat or perpetuate it.  That’s why psychologists try to understand genocide, and why physicians try to understand the causes of human disease.  Those investigators do not seek to justify genocide or illness.  Instead, they seek to use their understanding of a chain of causes to interrupt the chain.”

Meet People Where They Are: Avoid Advice-Giver Power Hierarchies

September 14, 2007

Scenario: your friend is unhappy in his job.  You are assertive in your suggestions to him, you tell him: “You need to talk to your boss” or “I want you to interview for this new job.”

Psychologist Carl Rogers warns that this kind of expert advice-giving, though intended to help, actually has the opposite effect.  When confronted with an aggressive push, most people shut down and become even less likely to change.

Rogers practices a different approach.  Rather than suggesting ways for his client to change, he would acknowledge their experiece: “So, you’re unhappy with your job.  That must be difficult.”

Rogers assumes a peer relationship and listens intently.

As Rogers focused on listening and acknowledging his client’s experience, something amazing would happen.  The client would find his own solutions to the problem.  “You know, I don’t like being trapped.  I think I’ll look for a new job.”

When we give advice to someone, we automatically create a power hierarchy.  The advice-giver is superior to the reciepient.  In a decentralized organization this kind of hierarchy is detrimental.

— Extracted from The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom