Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Is Mind-Set Created by Self-Talk?

If our unconscious mind controls most of our behavior, can it be said that we truly have willpower? A recent article in the NYTimes, 11/27/2011 by two Stanford researchers refers to earlier research (mentioned at IWO,  http://intelligentwomenonly.blogspot.com/2011/09/no-negative-self-tallk-for-intelligent.html) and a subsequent book by Baumeister and Tierney that says "willpower is limited and depends on a continuous supply of the simple sugar glucose. When glucose is depleted, you fall prey to impulse shopping, affairs and cookies." It all seemed to me a good reason to eat M and Ms more frequently. I liked the simplicity of it all.

But of course, the more things change the more they stay the same. Latest research by Stanford psychologists, Walter and Dweck, says that people who believe that willpower is not limited, ate less junk food and procrastinated less than students who did not share that belief during final-exam week. They use the word mind-set to describe a psychological belief system. Notice that no one is mentioning negative, positive, or realistic thinking, but rather beliefs. However we know our beliefs by talking to ourselves. Don't we? I'll have to get their book because it sounds like it's going away from trendy and revealing neuro-imaging and more toward basic psychology.

Very powerful ending to the article as it moves into philosophical questions:
"At stake in this debate is not just a question about the  nature of willpower. It's also a question of what kind of people we want to be. Do we want to be a people who dismiss our weaknesses as unchangeable? When a student struggles in math, should we tell that student, "Don't worry, you're just not a math person"? Do we want him, to give up in the name of biology? Or do we want him to work harder in the spirit of what he wants to become?"

You know you'll be reading more about this. I'm wondering what's in it for us in everyday life? I'm pondering. Are you?
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Monday, November 28, 2011

Even More Researched Reasons for Women to Eliminate Negative Self-Talk

Gender differences in the experience of stress and coping with stress have been mentioned previously in this blog. A brief summary:

• Women experience more stress than men; meaning they say they feel stressed more often and more intensely than men.
•  Men's coping techniques, logical problem-solving and detachment, work more effectively than women's coping techniques of emotionality and avoidance.

Here's a link to a previous post about the topic.http://intelligentwomenonly.blogspot.com/2011/03/writers-gender-differences-and-stress.html

In the last 5 years, the neuroscientific research involving brain imagery adds a new dimension to what we know, or thought we knew. A study called, "Gender Difference in Neural Response to Psychological Stress" is one such study.

The article quotes findings of past studies:

• Men show higher physiological stress reactivity than women, which may be reflected in their increased aggressiveness and greater frequency of cardiovascular disease; also in their standard fight or flight response to stressors.

• Women benefit from the buffering effect of estrogen which perhaps accounts for their lower than men's physiological stress reactivity. Also they tend to use a "tend and befriend" coping approach rather than a flight or fight response.

• "It has been proposed that women are more likely to be negatively affected by interpersonal events than men — a tentative factor underlying the emergence of gender differences in depression." Exception: When a social rejection task was adopted as the stressor instead of  an achievement task, women seemed more physiologically reactive than men.

Another finding from the current study was that the lasting physiological stress response (lasting — compared to men) in females might reflect a greater degree of rewinding (melancholy thinking) or reflection on one's own emotional traits in females, consistent with the tendency for ruminative thinking in women. "A somewhat related cognitive style more common in women than men that increases the risk for depression is ruminative thinking — repetitively and passively focusing on symptoms of distress and their possible causes and consequences."

OK. Now we know for sure practically, realistically, common sensically, psychologically, physiologically, brain imagerally, neuroscientifically, that NST is harmful.

Women of the world UNITE! Dump it.
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Friday, November 25, 2011

I Inadvertantly Said No to Posting Today

The day after Thanksgiving is always like Saturday of a 3 day weekend for me — and maybe for many of you. Thinking that way is my reason for not posting today because it felt like Saturday, except it was Friday. I'll be back on Monday. In the groove. I had a delightful Thanksgiving without stress, family friction, or turkey traumas.
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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Decline of American Exceptionalism?

 A recent Op-ED by Charles M. Blow in the NY Times, titled "Decline of American Exceptionalism" opens with this paragraph.

"Is America exceptional among nations? Are we, as a country and a people and a culture, set apart and better than others? Are we, indeed, the “shining city upon a hill” that Ronald Reagan described? Are we “chosen by God and commissioned by history to be a model to the world” as George W. Bush said? 

This year for the first time Americans did not say yes."

The Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project found that 49% of people agree that " our people are not perfect, but our culture is superior." This is the lowest percentage since 2002, the first time the poll was taken.

A Time magazine survey found that 71% of Americans believe that our position in the world has been on the decline in the past few years.

NBC/Wall St. Journal survey found that most Americans believe that we are " at the start of a longer-term decline where the US is no longer the leading country in the world."

The author says, "We are settling into a dangerous national pessimism."

WOW! My attention was caught by the broad spectrum of research that supported the same basic perspective. I also saw the normal American pattern of big pendulum swings: from overly optimistic evaluations of the American way of life to overly pessimistic evaluations of the American way of life.

In either case action is required. When we're overly optimistic we still have to be planning how to sanely maintain the good life. When we're overly pessimistic, we also need to act in ways that may move us forward to sane rebuilding of the good life — even if that life is markedly different from the past good life. Problem-solving thinking comes next for me. What do I need to do to move to the middle ground of reality from pessimism? Thanksgiving will help I'm sure! How about you? Did this post motivate you or drag you down?


Here's the link if you want to read the whole article.
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Monday, November 21, 2011

Gender Differences Can Be Funny

Still sticking with humor is a comment from blog-reader Martha Lundin regarding the post about intuitive/logical thinking . Here's a link to a previous post on the topic. http://intelligentwomenonly.blogspot.com/2011/11/intuitive-versus-logical-problem.html

"I chuckled when I saw your list of steps for classical sequential, cyclical problem-solving for men. My husband did it for a problem that I had just the other day, and I literally watched him walk through the steps and waited for him to come back to me with a solution. Much easier to communicate with someone of the other gender if you know how they process information and solve problems. I'm not sure my husband has figured out how women solve problems because I know he finds my processes frustrating at times!"

Following my presentation on Intuitive vs. Logical Problem-Solving Thinking, man women commented that their husbands found their thinking "wacky", "crazy", "far out". They were delighted to have their process validated and even elevated, but they weren't so convinced that their husbands would be convinced. Yes, it's easier to accommodate similarity than difference!

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Are Men or Women Funnier? Who Says So Anyway?

An article in a psychology journal reported research that said men are perceived to be slightly funnier that women. The research involved joke-telling and putting captions on cartoons. The gender of the joke teller or cartoon captioner was not disclosed. Both male and female listener/responders saw men as funnier. A theory; men use humor as seduction of women. Like the peacock's beautiful tail, humor might turn on unfunny women? Women really value a sense of humor?

A second study found that it was mostly men who found men funnier, giving a big NO to the peacock theory. Men also used more sexual innuendo and profanity than women, not surprisingly. Both sexes tended to misattributed funny jokes and comments to men and unfunny ones to women.

Most telling for me was that women were much less confident about their abilities as humorists than men. Now that makes sense. Theory: women are perceived as less funny because while they're trying to be funny, their negative self-talk is convincing them that they aren't, can't be, and never will be? It's impossible to be funny without confidence. It's a big risk. Women are often over serious in their attempt to be taken seriously. Here's another reason that self-deprecating humor is rarely effective for women — unless you're a big shot and you want to shine off a bit of power.

Lots of h-m-m-m-ms? here.

In real life when a group of female friends go out for dinner, I bet they think other women are very funny ( and probably are in fact more confident) than those in a research study. Also true for men. But in a mixed group I would guess that men still see themselves as funnier, women still see themselves as not so funny. And women would see men as not so funny too, but probably wouldn't say so. The women would still be less confident of their abilities.

Generally in my experience, men don't get or appreciate a lot of women's humor — maybe because some of it is negative about men. Women generally get men's humor because it often lacks subtleties, but may not like it anyway,
 because they see it as aggressive or a put-down.

Most people really like a sense of humor in others and in themselves. It's definitely worth cultivating! What do you think about gender differences in humor? Here's a link to an earlier post about men/women and humor.
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Monday, November 14, 2011

Intuitive vs. Logical

After the Perry debate error and oops comment, my OOPS! has taken on a whole different nuance. I'll have to change my standard usage of that  term.

After today's all day  writers' workshop on editing, publishing, social media, and all the new stuff about blogs, e-books, and technology that I don't quite get, I'm overwhelmed and zonked. But it did generate an idea about my blog. I think I'll add a blog for writers or add a section of this blog for intelligentwomenwritersonly.com Maybe not. That url is a bit cumbersome.

Still on the problem-solving track today, I did an informal survey of writers at the conference. I asked 20 people, "Do you prefer an intuitive or logical approach to problem solving?" No one asked what I meant, although one person did ask for specific definitions, which I didn't provide. Fifteen out of twenty writers cited intuitive and five cited logical. Most of the participants were women. The brain imaging research that I have referred to previously said 59% of identified intuitive problem-solvers were women. Several of the women followed up with their identification of intuitive as their preferred method with comments such as, " My husband thinks I'm nutty," or " My husband is a lawyer so you can imagine what he thinks about my thinking!"

Here's another slightly off on a tangent thought before I get back to reality. Previous research which I've mentioned shows that problem-solving thinking is one of the best stress management techniques. I didn't think alot about that finding until I read the new research about intuitive problem-solving, a valid very different process than logical problem-solving. Checking back with the stress research, the problem-solving the researcher described was the logical type.  Is intuitive problem-solving also a stress reduction technique? But since the process is unconscious how does that work? What does it all mean? H-m-m-m?

I'll incubate it all and perhaps come up with some big insights. I'd love to hear some brilliant ideas from readers too!
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Friday, November 11, 2011

OOPS! A missed post.

Off to a writers conference at Stanford! Will tell you more about it next week!
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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Intuitive versus Logical Problem-Solving

OOPS! The link I had previously placed here took readers to the Dec. presenter's promo for OPEN MIC Science, not my promo for the November presentation on Problem-Solving Thinking — which went very well by the way. But the rest of the post is about some of the audience's comments.

Lots of interesting comments and questions from the intellectually curious audience.

• Do people always have a preferred method of problem-solving — either intuitive or logical?

 Generally speaking, the "resting" state of a brain is different depending on what is your preferred style of p-s as demonstrated by by EEG and functional MRI. However, having a preferred style doesn't imply that you can't use both successfully. You just have to practice to build  your "nonstandard" neural pathways.

For example. I'm easy and comfortable with the logical style and a rarely have AHA! moments characteristic of the intuitive style. If I want to get better at problem-solving and expand my capabilities, I need to purposefully (but effortlessly?!) incubate problems, allowing time for a prepared brain to activate a bunch of loose associations such as a book title, a visual memory, a fact, advice from my mother, words to a song. Then, while I'm still leaving the incubated problem all alone in my unconscious mind, the connections are made.  POP! I'm in the shower, or waking up, or walking in the woods by myself and the solution appears as if by magic. We'll see how that works.

It's all very funny in a way. I always thought logical problem-solving was the gold standard. Further reading and research has clearly demonstrated, at least right now, that intuitive problem-solving is taking top honors! A recent article about Steve Jobs talks about him as not smart, but instead a genius; labeled as such because of his intuitive approach to problem-solving. Zen Buddhism and meditation also receive credit for contribution to his intuitive approach and resulting genius.

Here's a link to a previous post on the topic. http://intelligentwomenonly.blogspot.com/2011/10/ramp-up-your-problem-solving-thinking.html

Thanks to those of you who went to the link and took the quick poll at Linked in. I'll report the results in about 10 days.
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Monday, November 7, 2011

New spin from Flourish, A Visionary New Understanding of Well-Being by Martin Seligman

As I mentioned in Nov. 4th post, Seligman is the "father" of positive psychology. His early book, Learned Optimism was an outstanding book which focused on getting rid of negative self-talk and learning to NOT be a pessimist. Why? Because optimists are healthier, live longer, are happier etc. Somehow the learned optimism concept morphed into a different concept and later book, Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment.

Now after decades of the overly positive thinking hype, Seligman has come up with new thinking, or perhaps a new spin on former thinking, that makes much more sense.

Here are some quotes/ideas put forth in the book:

Happiness (or Positive Emotion) is now one of five pillars of Well-Being along with Engagement, Relationship, Meaning, and Accomplishment. PERMA, is the acronym of the permanent building blocks for a life of profound fulfillment. With this concept Seligman moves away from the power of positive thinking, toward more realistic and well-respected, researched beliefs about what else is required for well being in addition to positive thinking and optimism. Whew!

I was surprised to see many negative references to Barbara Ehrenreich's 2009 book, Bright-Sided, which criticized the positive thinking cult. But, I guess turn about is fair play!?  They have extremely differing views on reality. Seligman sees reality as reflexive or nonreflexive, meaning influenced by perceptions and expectations and not influenced by perceptions and expectations. A stock price is a reflexive reflexive. A rejection of an offer of marriage is a nonreflexive reality. I didn't get it. Ehrenreich talks about cultivating realism as smart thinking and as an antidote to both overly negative or positive thinking. I liked her thoughts.

I'm not sure what the take-away would be for intelligent readers. The more I read, the more confusing the message, the greater the obfuscation about the purpose of the book. Maybe it'll be good news that you don't have to be happy all the time. That you can be occasionally grumpy or even pessimistic and tell everybody who criticizes you that they should read Flourish and understand that the old overly positive thinking thing is OUT, untrendy, even embarrassing.  Seligman, psychologist, professor at the U. of Pennsylvania, past president of the American Psychological Association even says on p. 13-14 of Flourish that there are three inadequacies in the old positive psychology/authentic happiness theory.

• Cheerful mood is overemphasized and demanded by the theory.
• Positive psychology is too tied to mood as a measure of life satisfaction.
• Life satisfaction is very different for different people. Not everyone connects cheeriness with happiness and life satisfaction.

No kidding? I'm feeling pretty grumpy about Flourish.
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Friday, November 4, 2011

Optimism and Pessimism

Long-time readers know that I'm a long-time critic of the overdone positive thinking movement. Barbara Ehrenreich's 2009 book Brightsided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America was a key factor in demonstrating that the positive Emperor was wearing no clothes. The Secret and it's silly sequel were so far out that a boomerang backlash had to happen.

Now Martin Seligman's (psychologist and "father" of positive psychology) new book Flourish, acknowledges that positive thinking isn't all it was jacked up to be.  Psychology Today produced a solid, well-written, even-handed article, "The Uses and Abuses of Optimism (And Pessimism). "Seligman is still an advocate of optimism. But he says it must be paired with 'reality testing' — conscientious checking on the results of our efforts — to make sure that overly positive expectations are not leading us astray."

We need as well to check on our negative self-talk to be sure that our overly negative criticism is not leading us astray.

Here's a sentence from the last paragraph of the article. "Optimism has its uses to be sure. But the goal to 'think positive' no matter the situation is unsupportable and counterproductive."

Here's the link to the whole article http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201110/optimism and a link to a previous post:http://www.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=5630711609871539058&postID=8148646727666242766
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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Collective Intelligence

Groups are generally much more efficient at solving problems than individuals.  Moreover, the performance of a group does not correlate well with the average I.Q. of the group or even with the I.Q.’s of the smartest members. BUT, studies from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon have found that "groups have a high collective intelligence when members of a group are good at reading each others’ emotions — when they take turns speaking, when the inputs from each member are managed fluidly, when they detect each others’ inclinations and strengths"

As most of us know from experience, the ideal conditions for high collective intelligence to exist and produce the wonderful results possible rarely are present. Creating and developing a well-functioning group is very difficult even when there's high motivation and trust to start.

Remember the social psychological model of group development? Form, storm, norm and conform? Many groups never get beyond the storming phase. I have been in few high-functioning groups I'm sad to say: even groups with social psychologists who understand the process well, but can't translate theory into practice. I'm all for group problem-solving for many reasons, but I prefer to do it on my own. It takes less time, generates less conflict, and produces good results much of the time.

I'd welcome an offer for a guest blogger to write a post about an experience with a well-functioning problem-solving group, or for any of the intelligent women — or men — to e-mail me with a story that I could then post about collective intelligence at work!

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