Jill Bolte Taylor: My Stroke of Insight Reply

This is an incredibly moving talk from a woman who has dedicated her life to researching psychiatry and schizophrenia. One day she realized she was having a stroke — and instead of being devastated, she thought, “This is so cool! How many brain scientists have the opportunity to study their brain from the inside out?” Her talk details her experience of having a stroke, and the nirvana she found as a result.

Questions as Verbal Tools – What’s in YOUR Toolbox? Reply

By Chris Simmons

“Judge of a man by his questions rather than by his answers” (the French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher, Voltaire)

Whether questioning a child about a fight on the playground or persuading a work colleague to support your latest initiative, HOW you ask questions directly shapes the answer you receive. Questions are tools, and like any tool, designed for specific jobs.

For example, closed-ended questions should result in very brief and precise answers. A “Yes/No” inquiry is the simplest form of this style. Other viable closed-ended questions would include “what’s your name,” “when were you born?” and so forth. This means is often used to verify information. It is also effective in a hostile interview, such as a parent and teenager discussing a broken curfew. In this scenario, closed-ended questions can help set the framework for the discussion AND build momentum with the defensive party by getting them used to answering your questions. The downside of this device, however, is that it does not create/enhance rapport, nor will it calm down the other individual.

One common mistake to avoid is the two-part question, such as “Did you fly to New York or take the train?” By giving the respondent a choice, if he/she took either mode of transportation, they could correctly answer with a simple “Yes” or the more sarcastic, “Yes, I either flew or took the train to New York.” Ask a focused question – get an exact answer.

Like a carpenter building a room, closed-ended questions can set the boundaries of the discussion. You can then use open-ended questions to allow the other party to add narration to your inquiry (e.g., “Tell me what happened.”). By its very nature, this approach encourages him/her to respond. In doing so, they will add detail, context, and insights to the topic of discussion. Additionally, the other party will now tend to relax as they have a greater role in the conversation.

That said, you should always be wary of this classic “red flag” — anytime the other party answers your question with a question, you are about to be deceived. This is especially true when their response is simply a restatement of what you just asked. This trick, especially common among children, is simply a stall. Its sole purpose is to buy time so that he/she can come up with a better answer.

Psychology Today: Why Are Religious People (Generally) Less Intelligent? 3

Understanding the negative relationship between IQ and religiosity

By Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Ph.D.

Catching up on my Xmas readings, I dived into the recent meta-analysis on the negative correlation between IQ and religious beliefs, which, at least in my case, makes sense: I am highly religious but not very intelligent… or is it the other way around? [Sorry, I’m not smart enough to figure it out].

The paper has very few methodological weaknesses, but as we know correlation does not mean causation – though correlations do have causes.

The key question, then, is why religious people are generally less intelligent. And the authors did not shy away from the answer, offering three compelling explanations:

(1) Intelligent people are generally more analytical and data-driven; formal religions are the antithesis: they are empirically fluffy and their claims are often in direct contradiction with scientific evidence, unless they are interpreted metaphorically – but maybe intelligent people are not that keen on metaphor. Another way of putting it is that people with a high IQ are more likely to have faith in science, which isn’t religion’s best friends (yes, yes, I do know about Einstein’s quotes).

(2) Intelligent people are less likely to conform, and, in most societies, religiosity is closer to the norm than atheism is. Although this interpretation is based on extrapolation, it still makes sense: first, in most societies the number of religious people outnumbers the number of atheists or agnostics people; and second, higher-IQ people tend to be less gullible.

(3) Intelligence and religiosity are “functionally equivalent”, which means that they fulfil the same psychological role. Although this intriguing argument contradicts points 1 and 2, it deserves serious consideration. Humans will always crave meaning. Religion – like science and logical reasoning – provides them with a comprehensive framework or system to make meaningful interpretations of the world. At times, religion and science are in conflict; but they can also act in concert, complementing each other to answer non-falsifiable and falsifiable questions, respectively. The authors conclude that some people satisfy their desire to find meaning via religion, whereas others do so via logical, analytical, or scientific reasoning – and IQ predicts whether you are in the former or latter group.

It is noteworthy that these three explanations assume that IQ influences religiosity rather than vice-versa, which seems plausible: IQ levels remain very stable after childhood, whereas religiosity levels keep fluctuating – childhood IQ predicts adult IQ, but childhood religiosity is a very poor predictor of adult religiosity.

However, the authors forget to consider an important possibility, which is that the relationship between IQ and religiosity could be caused by a third variable, namely personality. Indeed, Openness to Experience, a personality dimension that predicts an individual’s propensity to display higher levels of intellectual curiosity, aesthetic sensitivity, and be driven by counter-conformist and rebellious attitudes, is positively correlated with IQ, and, like IQ, stable from an early age. Furthermore, there is also ample evidence suggesting that higher Openness may cause IQ gains in adulthood because open individuals are more likely to invest time and resources acquiring expertise and knowledge.

By the same token, it is feasible to expect open individuals to be less interested in religion. Their hungry mind makes them gravitate towards scientific or factual explanations, and artistic sensations, rather then religious dogma. This would be in line with the positive association between Openness and tolerance for ambiguity – open people can handle complexity and ambivalence – and the negative link between Openness and need for closure – open people are less likely to see the world in black-or-white terms and are generally more comfortable with uncertainty. Since religion tends to eliminate ambiguity and uncertainty, its “utility” or psychological benefits should be greater for less than more open people, which would explain why religion appeals more to less intelligent individuals – who are generally less open. But what do the data say?

Although there are no meta-analytic studies on the joint or interactive effects of Openness and IQ on religiosity, there are plenty of studies examining the relationship between personality and religiosity. The first large-scale review reported that Openness is negatively correlated with religious fundamentalism and formal religious adherence, albeit weakly. However, Openness was positively correlated with spirituality and “mature religiosity”, e.g., emotionality, quest for meaning, and community, without strict adherence to formal religion. In the same study, religiosity was negatively related to Psychoticism – a trait that captures an individual’s typical levels of self-control, law-abidingness, and empathy. To make matters more complex, Psychoticism and Openness are positively correlated, so the relationship between personality and religiosity may not be straightforward.

It also seems plausible that different elements or facets of Openness to Experience are differentially related to religiosity and spirituality. For example, a study found that people’s emotional appreciation of religion was negatively related to the more rational or intellectual aspects of Openness, but positively related to artistic imagination and aesthetic sensitivity, two other facets of Openness. Furthermore, non-linear relationships between Openness and attitudes towards religion can also be expected. In particular, individuals with higher Openness may be generally more reticent to embrace formal religious beliefs – but, on the other hand, people who are extremely open would be more able to understand and tolerate individuals who hold such beliefs, even if they don’t share them. In that sense, hardcore atheism and agnosticism are as symptomatic of rigidity and narrow-mindedness as extreme religiosity, and highlight an inability to understand alternative Weltanschauungen or opposite systems of values. In any event, associations between IQ and religiosity are at least in part determined by personality traits and values. And let’s not forget that there are plenty of people who are both smart and religious – as well as many individuals who are agnostic and dim.

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Ph.D., is a Professor of Business Psychology at University College London and NYU.

Using Stories to Persuade Reply

By Chris Simmons

Storytelling influences another’s feelings or emotions by allowing a person to identify with a character in a similar situation. Even if the narrative is exaggerated or abstract, the listener understands that he/she is not the first person to have undergone a particular scenario. The storyline reassures him/her that the stress, anxiety, doubt, and other feelings they are experiencing are not unique – others in their situation have felt the same emotions. The teaching point is that others have shared the individual’s dilemma and undertaken a specific action(s) with demonstrable results. By using a story to deliver this lesson, the core truth is more easily remembered because of the listener’s emotional involvement.

In sum, a storyline is a highly effective communicative tool to gently guide the behavior of others. In addition to their inspirational role, stories can fulfill a very practical function – that is, to help get the truth from someone suspected of wrongful behavior. In this setting, the use of a parable can allow the guilty party to admit to an act and save face at the same time. However, the listener’s fear of a bad outcome requires the storyteller to have established solid rapport for the “confessional story” appeal to have any chance of success.

A Love That Transcends Death: Brenda Schmitz’s Christmas Wish Reply

In September 2011, Brenda Schmitz – a wife and mother of four – died from ovarian cancer. She learned of her “Stage 4” diagnosis in January.

Weeks before she died, however, she wrote a letter to a local radio station with a request for their “Christmas Wish” program. She then gave the letter to a close friend with instructions that it not be mailed until her widowed husband had fallen in love again. Recently, the radio station received Brenda’s letter – the above video tells the rest of the story.

NBC News: Afternoons Turn us Into Lying, Cheating, Lazy Jerks Reply

By Melissa Dahl, NBC News

Mornings are optimistic. The day is new, untouched. No one’s ruined anything yet. You head out the door, hopeful about what this day will bring, and what you’ll accomplish.

And then morning fades into afternoon. Nothing has gone the way you planned it. You get snappy, grumpy. Maybe you accidentally abandon the Excel spreadsheet you should be working on and wander over to laineygossip.com.

Mornings really are when we’re our most virtuous — and by the afternoon, exhausted by our earlier attempts at being angelic, we’re more likely to lie, cheat, or indulge in lazy behavior, new psychology research suggests.

“From the moment people wake up in the morning, daily life requires the exertion of self-control,” write the study authors, Maryan Kouchaki and Isaac Smith of Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. “In deciding what to eat for breakfast, where to go and why, or even what to say and to whom, people regulate and control their desires and impulses.

“Normal, unremarkable experiences associated with everyday living can deplete one’s capacity to resist moral temptations,” they write. “In other words, people are more likely to act ethically and to overcome temptation in the morning than later in the day.”

This new study, published this week in the journal Psychological Science, builds onto research that has suggested self-control is a finite resource. And by the afternoon, we’ve run out of it, the authors suggest.

To prove this, the researchers rounded up 62 undergrads, who signed up for either a morning session (between 8 a.m. and noon) or an afternoon session (between noon and 6 p.m.). The experiment design is a little weird, so stay with me: They showed the volunteers 100 squares that had been cut in half into two triangles. Each triangle was marked with a smattering of little dots. The participants were told to hit one button if there were more dots on the right side, and another button if there were more dots on the left. The catch: They were told they’d be paid more for hitting the button that signified there were more dots on the right side – even if they hadn’t answered honestly. And a third of the squares clearly had more dots on the left side, so it would be clear if people were cheating.

And people did cheat – especially in the afternoon session. Participants in the afternoon indicated more frequently that dots appeared on the right side than those in the morning sessions.

In another experiment, people were given the choice to read some brain food (The New York Review of Books) – or some lighter fare (People magazine). Nearly 60 percent of the volunteers in the afternoon sessions chose the People magazine – in the morning, just 40 percent of them chose People.

Translated into real life, the study suggests that we should realize this human weakness and organize our days accordingly. Difficult tasks that involve some sort of moral component should be done in the morning; leave the less complicated busy work for the afternoon, if possible, the authors suggest.

“Our message is simple yet important,” the authors write. “The morning morality effect has notable implications for individuals and organizations, and it suggests that morally relevant tasks should be deliberately ordered throughout the day.”

Emotional Intelligence Predicts Job Success: Do You Have It? Reply

The best salespeople and leaders have a high EQ. Daniel Goleman, the man who coined the term, pulls apart the aspects of emotional intelligence.

By Drake Bauer, fastcompany.com

Let’s say you work at a place that’s saturated with smarts. If all of your colleagues were always the brightest person in the room growing up, then what makes you stand out? Your emotional intelligence.

Consider cosmetics giant L’Oreal, which has started to factor emotional intelligence in their hiring process for salespeople. Those who were recruited for their high EQ outsold their peers by over $90,000. On top of that, the high-EQ employees had 63% less turnover than the typically selected sales folk. As this and other studies show, emotional intelligence predicts success for people and the companies they work for.

But EQ isn’t fixed: it can change over time. As University College London Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic (sic) notes on Harvard Business Review, your level of EQ is “firm, but not rigid.” While most EQ increases happen with age, you can train yourself to have a higher EQ, by being mindful of your mindfulness, more agile with emotions, or taking the dive into coaching.

Daniel Goleman, the psychologist who coined the term emotional intelligence, recently talked to the Huffington Post about the many characteristics of emotional intelligence. Lets go over a few here, so that we can know what to train in.

1. You’re curious about new people.

Do you ask a lot of questions when you meet someone? Do you actually listen to their answers? Then you might be a highly empathic person, someone attuned to the needs and feeling of others, and you may also mark high on openness to experience–a trait correlated with creativity.

2. You’re self-aware.

To be emotionally intelligent, Goleman says, you need to have confidence. To have confidence, you need to know your strengths and weaknesses. Then you work from that framework.

3. You know how to pay attention.

As Arianna Huffington told us, you can’t make connections if you’re distracted. Additionally, the ability to remain focused–and not carried away by texts and tweets–predicts not just the ability to form strong relationships and cultivate self-knowledge, Goleman says, but also your financial success.

“Your ability to concentrate on the work you’re doing, and to put off looking at that text or playing that video game until after you’re done,” he tells the Huffington Post. “How good you are at that in childhood turns out to be a stronger predictor of your financial success in adulthood than either your IQ or the wealth of the family you grew up in.”

4. You can say no.

If you have high emotional intelligence, Goleman says, you can avoid unhealthy habits and otherwise discipline yourself–which also allows for relationship-nourishing, success-engendering non-distraction.

5. You know precisely what’s pissing you off.

Folks with a high EQ acknowledge emotions as they come rather than repressing them or misattributing their causes. You could also call this emotional agility.

6. You trust your intuition.

There are neuroscientific reasons for trusting your gut: they’re markers for what to do next. Part of having a high EQ is learning when to trust them.

Drake Baer is a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covers work culture. He’s the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation, due out in February. Email him: dbaer at fastcompany.com.

10 Signs Your Man Is A Psychopath Reply

Written by Kiri Blakeley on CafeMom’s blog, The Stir.

Are you in a relationship with a psychopath? You might think that’s something you’d know right away by the red tint of evil in the person’s eyes, the swastika tat on the forehead, or the insistence on discussing serial killers over dinner. But nope! Psychopaths can be extremely charming and come across like Prince Charming at first. So unless you know the signs, you’d probably get sucked into the life of a psychopath and not know who he or she really was until you are completely sucker punched. Here are 10 signs you should look out for to quickly identify a psychopath.

1. Flattery like you’ve never heard before.

Psychopaths move extremely quickly. On the first date, he’ll probably tell you that you are stunningly beautiful, unbelievably intelligent, and uproariously witty. He will play into every fantasy and insecurity you have. If you think you’re fat, he will tell you how much he loves your body. If you think you’re shy, he will laugh at every lame attempt at a joke and tell you you should have been a comedian. This is called “love bombing.” It’s the idealization phase he gets you hooked on, and it’s the phase you will spend the next however-many months or years trying to get back once he abruptly shuts it off.

2. He is just like you.

Psychopaths will try to convince you that you are soul mates, just alike. He loves all the things you love and you have all of the same interests. If you had a tough childhood, he will say something like, “We both had it rough. That’s why we understand each other.” If there’s an obscure book you love, he will make sure he loves it too. What he’s doing is called “mirroring.” He has no real identity, so he sucks yours up and mirrors it back to you.

3. Pity plays.

Pay careful attention to what a psychopath says on the first few dates about his exes and other people in his life. Is his ex girlfriend crazy and stalking him? Did another girlfriend rob him blind? Is his mother controlling and horrible? Does he seem like he’s had a tough time with people, who always use and abandon him? Whatever he says about the other people in his life is pretty much exactly what he’ll be saying about you at some point, so listen carefully.

4. Illnesses and injuries.

Psychopaths absolutely love pity, so pay attention to how many illnesses and injuries he’s had. Did he miraculously beat cancer but it could come back at any minute? Does he break his foot on your second date and has to cancel? (But strangely is okay for the third date?) Did he lose his first wife in a car accident that left him with brain trauma (yet he talks fine and seems fine)? Try to check out his stories — call hospitals if you need to — but don’t be surprised if he has an excuse for why you can’t find any record of any of his traumas.

Continue with the 5th Sign, “Great Sex:” 10 Signs Your Man Is A Psychopath