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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Saturday 12 January 2013

If You Are a Leader, Teacher, Manager or Parent, You'll Probably Enjoy This:

The best way to lead, always, is by example.

Train a Parent, Spare a Child

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Published: January 13, 2013
SOMEONE asked me recently what my New Year's resolution was as a parent. Without thinking, I said, "more creative bribing."
I find the issue of bribing children - or to be more precise, the giving of blunt, uncreative rewards for desired behavior ("If you just stop kicking that seat in front of you on the plane, I'll give you 10 minutes of iPad time"; "Clean your room this weekend, I'll give you 10 bucks"; "If you use good manners at Grandma's house, I'll let you have an extra brownie") - to be one of the more nagging challenges of being a parent.
On one hand, I've read a small library of articles that have laid out with undeniable persuasiveness evidence that giving children tangible rewards - from money to sweets to an extra hour before bedtime - not only doesn't work in the long term, it actually has a negative effect on them. As early as the 1960s, Edward Deci, then a psychology graduate student at Carnegie Mellon, showed that when external rewards are given, subjects "lose intrinsic interest for the activity." More recently, Daniel Pink, in his best-selling book "Drive," reviewed four decades of research and concluded that offering short-term incentives to elicit behavior is unreliable, ineffective and causes "considerable long-term damage." (The main downside: People perform the task merely to get the reward; when the reward is removed, they stop doing it.)
So I got it: bribing is bad. And yet I, my wife and nearly every other parent I know resorts to this tactic with appalling regularity. As one father said to me recently when we were discussing our approaches to parenthood: "My philosophy is simple: threats and bribes."
So what's a beleaguered parent to do? I reached out to some of the harshest critics of bribing for tips on making my resolution come true.
THE TALKING CURE Dr. Deci, now a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, said the biggest problem with tangible rewards is that they actually work, at least in the short run. "If you want somebody to do something, and if you have enough money, you can get them do it," he said. "Practically anyone, practically anything."
But with children, he pointed out, since you are trying to get them to do the behavior "more or less ongoingly for the rest of their lives," the technique will backfire unless you're prepared to offer the same reward every time. "You don't want them coming to you when they're grown," he said.
Dr. Deci recommends a three-step alternative. First, be clear about why what you're asking them do is important. Second, be interested in their point of view. "If it's something they hate doing, acknowledge that, tell them you understand it's not fun, yet the reason they need to do it is as follows," he said. Finally, communicate in a way that's not controlling. "Don't use words like 'should,' 'must' and 'have to,' " he said. "All of those things that convey to them you're a big person trying to push around a little person."
MAKE IT A GAME Alan Kazdin, the director of the Yale Parenting Center, said the problem with incentives is they focus too much attention on the desired result instead of the behavior that leads up to the result. "You can't throw rewards at behaviors that don't exist and get them," he said. "If someone says I will match your retirement fund if your perform a flamenco dance right now, my reaction is, 'Great, but it turns out I can't do that.' You have to develop the behavior very, very gradually."
For example, if you want your children to eat more vegetables, he said, instead offering them $10 to do so (a technique I once stooped to, I confess), he suggested turning the process into a game. First, take the pressure off by telling them they don't have to eat vegetables now but just keep them on their plate. "You tell them they're probably going to want to eat vegetables when they're older, because there's a nice little challenge in there," he said.
Then you offer a point to whomever can put the least amount of vegetables on their fork. The next day you have a competition for who can touch the fork to their tongue and you escalate from there. "The research is very clear," he said. "Choice is related to getting compliance in any behavior, but psychologists distinguish between real choice and the illusion of choice. Real choice doesn't make a difference; it's the feeling of choice."
SWITCH FROM IF-THEN REWARDS TO NOW-THAT Mr. Pink said the problem with bribing is not the rewards; it's the contingency, which is a form of control. "Human beings have only two reactions to control," he said. "They comply or they defy. I don't think most parents want compliant children, and I don't think they want defiant children. They want children who are active, engaged and motivated by deeper things."
He recommends replacing what he calls if-then rewards with now-that rewards, meaning the prize is giving spontaneously and after the fact. "Let's say your kid's room is a complete, utter mess, and you say, 'Fred, you really need to clean your room, or you're not going to be able to find anything,' " Mr. Pink said. "And maybe Fred does clean his room and really works hard at it. There's no harm in then saying, 'You did a great job. Let's go out for a milkshake.' "
Mr. Pink cautioned that after-the-fact rewards should be given sparingly, as they can quickly turn into an entitlement.
PRAISE IS REWARD ENOUGH If you do give rewards occasionally and unexpectedly, what type of rewards are best? Is there a preferred choice among money, treats or quality time? Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford, said while there is no empirical research to suggest a qualitative difference, she recommends having children pick the reward rather than the adult foisting it on them. "It feels more integral to the process and gives the child a sense of ownership."
Having said that, research clearly suggests that praise is usually a sufficient reward, she said. Dr. Dweck suggests parents make their praise specific, and focus on the process the child went through to achieve the behavior, not merely the behavior itself. "You could say, 'I really liked the way you waited patiently for me to finish my phone call, because you understood that phone call was important,' " she said. "Or, 'I really liked how you expressed gratitude to Grandma, just like you appreciate it when I thank you for doing something for me.' "
I was surprised and, frankly, relieved that all the experts I spoke with said it's O.K. to resort to old-fashioned, blunt rewards on occasion. If you simply must get that child on the plane or it will take off without you, or if you absolutely need that child to stop misbehaving so you can speak to the doctor, go ahead, bribe away. As Dr. Deci told me, "If you're under a lot of stress or in a bad place, then having a conversation at that moment is not going to work."
But, he emphasized, don't let the situation end there. "You need to sit down the next afternoon when everyone's calm, talk it through from both sides, then discuss ways so the behavior doesn't happen again," he said. "Always use the blow up as a learning moment the next day."
And that, in the end, may be the biggest lesson of all. While my New Year's resolution started out as a way to get better results from my children, the real person I needed to retrain was myself.
Bruce Feiler's latest book, "The Secrets of Happy Families," will be published in February. "This Life" appears monthly.

Friday 11 January 2013

An Excellent Point

To say "here's the thing" implies the person speaking (or writing) is bringing forth a universal answer that whoever's listening isn't privy to.  By suggesting the one thing an audience needs to know will follow, the speaker/writer is dictating.  It's much less effective than empowering your audience to be a participant in, not recipient of the conversation.
I am absolutely guilty of this; I write "here's the thing" when what I should be writing is "here's what I think."
Thank you for the lesson.

Tuesday 8 January 2013

16 peer-reviewed studies show liberals and conservatives physiologically different

In the 16 peer-reviewed scientific studies summarized below, researchers found that liberals and conservatives have different brain structures, different physiological responses to stimuli, and activate different neural mechanisms when confronted with similar situations. Each entry below references the source document and a PDF of each study has been included. The studies are arranged from most recent to oldest. We included all the peer-reviewed studies on this subject which we could find. If you know about others, please contact us with details.

1. Conservatives spend more time looking at unpleasant images, and liberals spend more time looking at pleasant images.
unpleasant and pleasant"We report evidence that individual-level variation in people's physiological and attentional responses to aversive and appetitive stimuli are correlated with broad political orientations. Specifically, we find that greater orientation to aversive stimuli tends to be associated with right-of-centre and greater orientation to appetitive (pleasing) stimuli with left-of-centre political inclinations."
Michael D. Dodd, PhD, Amanda Balzer, PhD, Carly Jacobs, MA, Michael Gruszczynski, MA, Kevin B. Smith, PhD, and John R. Hibbing, PhD, "The Left Rolls with the Good; The Right Confronts the Bad. Physiology and Cognition in Politics," Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Mar. 5, 2012

2. Reliance on quick, efficient, and "low effort" thought processes yields conservative ideologies, while effortful and deliberate reasoning yields liberal ideologies.
thought process"...[P]olitical conservatism is promoted when people rely on low-effort thinking. When effortful, deliberate responding is disrupted or disengaged, thought processes become quick and efficient; these conditions promote conservative ideology… low-effort thought might promote political conservatism because its concepts are easier to process, and processing fluency increases attitude endorsement.

Four studies support our assertion that low-effort thinking promotes political conservatism... Our findings suggest that conservative ways of thinking are basic, normal, and perhaps natural."
Scott Eidelman, PhD, Christian S. Crandall, PhD, Jeffrey A. Goodman, PhD, and John C. Blanchar, "Low-Effort Thought Promotes Political Conservatism," Society for Personality and Social Psychology, 2012

3. Conservatives react more strongly than liberals to disgusting images, such as a picture of someone eating worms.
This image of a man eating worms is similar to one that was shown to subjects in the study. Source: Kevin B. Smith, et al., 'Disgust Sensitivity and the Neurophysiology of Left-Right Political Orientations,', Oct. 19, 2011"People who believe they would be bothered by a range of hypothetical disgusting situations display an increased likelihood of displaying right-of-center rather than left-of-center political orientations… In this article, we demonstrate that individuals with marked involuntary physiological responses to disgusting images [measured by change in mean skin conductance], such as of a man eating a large mouthful of writhing worms, are more likely to self-identify as conservative and, especially, to oppose gay marriage than are individuals with more muted physiological responses to the same images."
Kevin B. Smith, PhD, Douglas Oxley, PhD, Matthew V. Hibbing, PhD, John R. Alford, PhD, and John R. Hibbing, PhD, "Disgust Sensitivity and the Neurophysiology of Left-Right Political Orientations," PLOS ONE, Oct. 19, 2011

4. Liberals have more tolerance to uncertainty (bigger anterior cingulate cortex), and conservatives have more sensitivity to fear (bigger right amygdala).
Source: Gary Leisman, et al., 'Intentionality and 'Free-Will' from a Neurodevelopmental Perspective,', June 27, 2012"In a large sample of young adults, we related self-reported political attitudes to gray matter volume using structural MRI [magnetic resonance imaging]. We found that greater liberalism was associated with increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, whereas greater conservatism was associated with increased volume of the right amygdala...
...[O]ur findings are consistent with the proposal that political orientation is associated with psychological processes for managing fear and uncertainty. The amygdala has many functions, including fear processing. Individuals with a larger amygdala are more sensitive to fear, which, taken together with our findings, might suggest the testable hypothesis that individuals with larger amagdala are more inclined to integrate conservative views into their belief systems... our finding of an association between anterior cingulate cortex [ACC] may be linked with tolerance to uncertainty. One of the functions of the anterior cingulate cortex is to monitor uncertainty and conflicts. Thus it is conceivable that individuals with a larger ACC have a higher capacity to tolerate uncertainty and conflicts, allowing them to accept more liberal views."
Ryota Kanai, PhD, Tom Feilden, Colin Firth, and Geraint Rees, PhD, "Political Orientations Are Correlated with Brain Structure in Young Adults," Current Biology, Apr. 7, 2011

5. Conservatives have stronger motivations than liberals to preserve purity and cleanliness.
clean and pure"...[R]eminders of physical purity influence specific moral judgments regarding behaviors in the sexual domain as well as broad political attitudes...

...[E]nvironmental reminders of physical cleanliness shifted participants’ attitudes toward the conservative end of the political spectrum and altered their specific attitudes toward various moral acts... When taken together, these two sets of results point to the possibility that political orientation may be, in some measure, shaped by the strength of an individual’s motivation to avoid physical contamination and that resulting vigilance for threats to purity may serve to reinforce a politically conservative stance toward the world."
Erik G. Helzer and David A. Pizarro, PhD, "Dirty Liberals! Reminders of Physical Cleanliness Influence Moral and Political Attitudes," Psychological Science, Mar. 18, 2011

6. Liberals follow the direction of eye movements better than conservatives.
Source: (accessed July 13, 2012)"In the present study, we examine whether gaze cue effects [the ability to follow the direction of another individual’s eye movements or gaze] are moderated by political temperament, given that those on the political right tend to be more supportive of individualism—and less likely to be influenced by others—than those on the left. We find standard gaze cuing effects across all subjects, but systematic differences in these effects by political temperament. Liberals exhibit a very large gaze cuing effect while conservatives show no such effect at various SOAs [stimulus onset asynchrony]...
Perhaps conservatives are less likely to trust others meaning that they are also less likely to trust a gaze cue..."
Michael D. Dodd, PhD, John R. Hibbing, PhD, and Kevin B. Smith, PhD, "The Politics of Attention: Gaze Cuing Effects Are Moderated by Political Temperament," Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, Jan. 2011

7. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to interpret faces as threatening and expressing dominant emotions, while Democrats show greater emotional distress and lower life satisfaction.
threatening faces"Independent sample t-tests revealed group differences in the averaged threat interpretation scores of the 10 facial stimuli. Republican sympathizers were more likely to interpret the faces as signaling a threatening expression as compared to Democrat sympathizers. Group differences were also found for dominance perceptions, whereby Republican sympathizers were more likely to perceive the faces as expressing dominant emotions than were Democrat sympathizers...

Collectively, when compared to Republican sympathizers, Democrat sympathizers showed greater psychological distress, more frequent histories of adverse life events such as interpersonal victimization experiences, fewer and less satisfying relationships, and lower perceptions of the trustworthiness of peers and intimate affiliates."
Jacob M. Vigil, PhD, "Political Leanings Vary with Facial Expression Processing and Psychosocial Functioning," Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 2010

8. Conservatives and liberals react similarly to positive incentives, but conservatives have greater sensitivity to negative stimuli.
"Our findings suggest that conservatives are sensitive to avoidance motivation [motivation through negative stimuli], which produces 'inhibition' responses manifested in greater rigidity... Based on the studies' findings, we would not expect differences between liberals and conservatives in responding to positive stimuli or incentives (i.e., approach cues), but we would expect greater inhibitory reactions by conservatives in response to negative, avoidant cues. Self-regulation appears to provide a useful perspective for understanding how one's political views may affect categorization processes and, more broadly, the association between political conservatism and rigidity."
Mindi S. Rock, PhD, and Ronnie Janoff-Bulman, PhD, "Where Do We Draw Our Lines? Politics, Rigidity, and the Role of Self-Regulation," Social Psychological and Personality Science, Jan. 2010

9. Conservatives have more activity in their dorsolateral prefrontal cortices, the part of the brain that activates for complex social evaluations.
"The conservatism dimension, which corresponds to the liberal-to-conservative criterion, was associated with activity in the right DLPFC [dorsolateral prefrontal cortex]... In this study, we speculate that activity in the DLPFC may reflect a role of this region in deliberative decision-making in complex social evaluations... The observation that this region was increasingly activated by conservative beliefs could be explained by claiming that conservative statements require more complex social judgments marked by greater cognitive dissonance between self-interest and sense of fairness...
[W]e showed that the representation of complex political beliefs relies on three fundamental dimensions, each reflected in distinctive patterns of neural activation: The degree of individualism of political beliefs was linearly associated with activation in the medial PFC [prefrontal cortex] and TPJ [temporoparietal junction], the degree of conservatism with activation in the DLPFC, and the degree of radicalism with activation in the ventral striatum and PC/P [posterior cingulate/precuneus]. Our findings support the interpretation that the political belief system depends on a set of social cognitive processes including those that enable a person to judge themselves and other people, make decisions in ambivalent social situations, and comprehend motivational and emotional states."
Giovanna Zamboni, MD, Marta Gozzi, PhD, Frank Krueger, PhD, Jean-René Duhamel, PhD, Angela Sirigu, PhD, and Jordan Grafman, PhD, "Individualism, Conservatism, and Radicalism As Criteria for Processing Political Beliefs: A Parametric fMRI Study," Social Neuroscience, Sep. 2009

10. Conservatism is focused on preventing negative outcomes, while liberalism is focused on advancing positive outcomes.
"Political liberalism and conservatism differ in provide versus protect orientations, specifically providing for group members' welfare (political Left) and protecting the group from harm (political Right). These reflect the fundamental psychological distinction between approach and avoidance motivation. Conservatism is avoidance based; it is focused on preventing negative outcomes (e.g., societal losses) and seeks to regulate society via inhibition (restraints) in the interests of social order. Liberalism is approach based; it is focused on advancing positive outcomes (e.g., societal gains) and seeks to regulate society via activation (interventions) in the interests of social justice."
Ronnie Janoff-Bulman, PhD, "To Provide or Protect: Motivational Bases of Political Liberalism and Conservatism," Psychological Inquiry: An International Journal for the Advancement of Psychological Theory, Aug. 2009

11. Genetics influence political attitudes during early adulthood and beyond.
genetic influence"The present research attempts to characterize how the transmission of political orientations develops over the life course... [G]enetic influences on political attitudes are absent prior to young adulthood. During childhood and adolescence, individual differences in political attitudes are accounted for by a variety of environmental influences... However, at the point of early adulthood (in the early 20s), for those who left their parental home, there is evidence of a sizeable genetic influence on political attitudes which remains stable throughout adult life."
Peter K. Hatemi, PhD, Carolyn L. Funk, PhD, Sarah E. Medland, PhD, Hermine M. Maes, PhD, Judy L. Silberg, PhD, Nicholas G. Martin, PhD, and Lindon J. Eaves, PhD, DSc, "Genetic and Environmental Transmission of Political Attitudes Over a Life Time," The Journal of Politics, July 21, 2009

12. Compared to liberals, conservatives are less open to new experiences and learn better from negative stimuli than positive stimuli.
reward and punishment"In this study, the relations among political ideology, exploratory behavior, and the formation of attitudes toward novel stimuli were explored. Participants played a computer game that required learning whether these stimuli produced positive or negative outcomes. Learning was dependent on participants’ decisions to sample novel stimuli... Political ideology correlated with exploration during the game, with conservatives sampling fewer targets than liberals. Moreover, more conservative individuals exhibited a stronger learning asymmetry, such that they learned negative stimuli better than positive... Relative to liberals, politically conservative individuals pursued a more avoidant strategy to the game…

The reluctance to explore that characterizes more politically conservative individuals may protect them from experiencing negative situations, for they are likely to restrict approach to known positives."
Natalie J. Shook, PhD, and Russell H. Fazio, PhD, "Political Ideology, Exploration of Novel Stimuli, and Attitude Formation," Experimental Social Psychology, Apr. 3, 2009

13. Conservatives tend to have a stronger reaction to threatening noises and images than liberals.
"In a group of 46 adult participants with strong political beliefs, individuals with measurably lower physical sensitivities to sudden noises and threatening visual images were more likely to support foreign aid, liberal immigration policies, pacifism, and gun control, whereas individuals displaying measurably higher physiological reactions to those same stimuli were more likely to favor defense spending, capital punishment, patriotism, and the Iraq War. Thus, the degree to which individuals are physiologically responsive to threat appears to indicate the degree to which they advocate policies that protect the existing social structure from both external (outgroup) and internal (norm-violator) threats."
Douglas R. Oxley, PhD, Kevin B. Smith, PhD, John R. Alford, PhD, Matthew V. Hibbing, PhD, Jennifer L. Miller, Mario Scalora, PhD, Peter K. Hatemi, PhD, and John R. Hibbing, PhD, "Political Attitudes Vary with Physiological Traits," Science, Sep. 19, 2008

14. Liberals are more open-minded and creative whereas conservatives are more orderly and better organized.
order and creativity"We obtained consistent and converging evidence that personality differences between liberals and conservatives are robust, replicable, and behaviorally significant, especially with respect to social (vs. economic) dimensions of ideology. In general, liberals are more open-minded, creative, curious, and novelty seeking, whereas conservatives are more orderly, conventional, and better organized... A special advantage of our final two studies is that they show personality differences between liberals and conservatives not only on self-report trait measures but also on unobtrusive, nonverbal measures of interaction style and behavioral residue.”
Dana R. Carney, PhD, John T. Jost, PhD, Samuel D. Gosling, PhD, and Jeff Potter, "The Secret Lives of Liberals and Conservatives: Personality Profiles, Interaction Styles, and the Things They Leave Behind," International Society of Political Psychology, Oct. 23, 2008

15. When faced with a conflict, liberals are more likely than conservatives to alter their habitual response when cues indicate it is necessary.
fish"Our results are consistent with the view that political orientation, in part, reflects individual differences in the functioning of a general mechanism related to cognitive control and self-regulation. Stronger conservatism (versus liberalism) was associated with less neurocognitive sensitivity to response conflicts. At the behavioral level, conservatives were also more likely to make errors of commission. Although a liberal orientation was associated with better performance on the response-inhibition task examined here, conservatives would presumably perform better on tasks in which a more fixed response style is optimal."
David M. Amodio, PhD, John T. Jost, PhD, Sarah L. Master, PhD, and Cindy M. Yee, PhD, "Neurocognitive Correlates of Liberalism and Conservatism," Nature Neuroscience, Sep. 9, 2007

16. Conservatives sleep more soundly and have more mundane dreams, while liberals sleep more restlessly and have a more bizarre, active dream life.
"Conservatives slept somewhat more soundly, with fewer remembered dreams. Liberals were more restless in their sleep and had a more active and varied dream life. In contrast to a previous study, liberals reported a somewhat greater proportion of bad dreams and nightmares. Consistent with earlier research, the dreams of conservatives were more mundane, whereas the dreams of liberals were more bizarre...

Conservative men sleep a bit longer, with better quality sleep; they recall the fewest dreams, but have the most lucid awareness. Liberal women have the worst quality sleep, recall the greatest number and variety of dreams, and have the most dream references to homosexuality."

Know Thyself: Warren Kinsella, Sun-tzu and Ender Wiggin

Warren Kinsella is an artist; he's got a keen eye for detail and knows how to build emotional resonance in his audience with whatever his message is.  He's a progressive; he knows that we can do a better job of empowering people to harness their maximum potential, resulting in a stronger society.  Kinsella's also got something of an empath in him; issues aren't just wedges for propping up platforms, he gets that there are real consequences for the people impacted by them.
More than anything, though, Kinsella has branded himself as a happy warrior, someone who loves a fight and doesn't mind getting his knuckles (or his opponent's face) bloody to win.  He willingly wades in to some of the the tougher battles facing society fully knowing he's going to take some hits along the way.  Politics does tend to be a blood sport; those who survive in the political arena in the long term tend to have some fight in 'em.  Over time, as the collaborators fall off, it's the fighters that remain - which might explain the state of politics today a bit.
Which is why I find the Sun-tzu comparison interesting.  Sun-tzu's name gets bounced around a lot, as does the quote mentioned above about knowing one's enemy and never losing.  This reflects only a fraction of Sun-tzu's thinking; like Machiavelli from a different time and a different place, Sun-tzu understood that conflict is resource-wasteful (wink wink Spring election) and impacts negatively on all participants.  The wise general creates the conditions for victory before a single shot is fired - therefore, no shot is required. 
The story for which Sun-tzu is most famous is when he was called to train the concubines of the Emperor.  In that contest, the enemy to be dominated was the Emperor himself.  He didn't win by vanquishing his enemy, but by altering the power dynamic so that he ended up on top.  This didn't require breaking the established rules of engagement, but rather by using them effectively and with a deep understanding of what made the Emperor tick.
Again, "destroy" is a concept that can be viewed in different ways.  To me, there are no endings - just rebirths in a never-ending cycle of slow progress.  One could be said that Paul was destroyed on the road to Damascus, but that was hardly the last anyone heard from him, was it?  The most effective use of resources isn't to eliminate an opponent, but rather to convert them.  As a man of faith, Kinsella will understand the principle of conversion, too.
While there is a rational division between the functions of the church and the function of the state, both religion and politics rely heavily on conversion as a tool for growth.  There's a tendency to start with the low-hanging fruit, at least in politics - look for those that have obvious common ground and try to woo them with charm, some policy nuggets or hearts-and-minds campaigns.  Not only is this an easier sell, but it requires less effort on the part of the seller, too.  Political alchemy (converting the staunchest of conservatives into progressives) is a tougher challenge requiring a greater dedication of self - but it is possible.
It has to start with the removal of all barriers to knowing the "enemy" in question - including self-imposed ones.
Kinsella suggests that Conservatives are good at “masking their intentions … it’s hard to pin them down; it’s hard to see who they truly are.  This could be messaging or it could be a held belief; either way, I would suggest it's not correct.  Conservatives, like all people, aren't entirely aware of what makes them tick.  The issue is less a matter of conservatives hiding an agenda from non-conservatives as it is subconscious motivations leading staunch conservatives in a particular direction.  Just as subconscious motivations move progressives in a certain direction, too.
Which leads us back to the opening quote - it's not enough to know your enemy; you need to know yourself as well.  the tough part of this equation is accepting that you don't really get your own motivations right now, which is kinda like the approach most religions take.

The corollary of this introspective process is that when you deconstruct your own consciousness, you scale back to the same building blocks of cognition that shape everyone's world view.  From this common centre-point, it's possible to reconstruct those shared foundation stones from the ground-up and figure out how they shape the thought processes of others.  No opponent is inscrutible if you're willing to dig down deep enough to a point of commonality.

To truly understand your enemy, well enough to beat them, you need to pull back the veils of your own bias.  It's through that process you find that there really is no other and that we really do all start from the same place. 
Which is when you realize the way forward isn't the illusion of isolation, but the acceptance that the whole is more than the sum of its parts.  To achieve great things, don't waste resources, including opponents - learn how to harness them.  When the whole works together, consciously, it can move mountains.
If you don't trust people,
you make them untrustworthy.

The Master doesn't talk, he acts.
When his work is done,
the people say, "Amazing:
we did it, all by ourselves!”

People like Warren Kinsella who have the willingness to know the other and who understand the tools of communication are ideally positioned to be leaders in bridging this gap and expanding the progressive tent. 

They just need to have faith that it's possible.

UPDATE: "If you corner desperate men, and if you give them no way out, they'll do everything they can to kill you."

Absolutely true - which is why you want to design a backdoor that allows desperate folk to back out gracefully and then commend them for doing so in the most respectful way possible.  This way, they get a win about of doing things your way.  They might even come to enjoy the accolades for doing so and want to do so again.

UPDATIER:   Some Liberals (and some New Democrats) have adopted the worst tendency of the Harper era: Never apologize, never admit a mistake, and attack every critic.  Even when they know the critics are right.

Can't disagree with that!

Monday 7 January 2013

Art, Cognition and Manipulating Perception

You can never go wrong visiting Cara Santa Maria's blog/twitter/etc.  You always pick up something interesting:

Neuroscience & Art: Margaret Livingstone Explains How Artists Take Advantage Of Human Visual Processing (VIDEO)

The Mona Lisa is arguably the most famous painting in the world. Have you ever wondered why? Leonardo Da Vinci was masterful at manipulating our own visual shortcomings to make us feel something beautiful, complicated, even unsettling. There's just something about her smile.
Dr. Margaret Livingstone, a visual neurophysiologist at Harvard, knows this all too well. I recently spoke with her about how our visual systems have evolved to process one of the inventions that sets us apart from non-human animals--art.
To learn more, watch the video above or click the link below. And don't forget to sound off by leaving a comment at the bottom of the page. Come on, talk nerdy to me!

CARA SANTA MARIA: Hi everyone. Cara Santa Maria here. The Mona Lisa's arguably the most famous painting in the world. Have you ever wondered why? Leonardo Da Vinci was masterful at manipulating our own visual shortcomings to make us feel something beautiful, complicated, even unsettling. There's just something about her smile. Dr. Margaret Livingstone, a visual neurophysiologist at Harvard, knows this all too well.
ML: Sometimes she looks quite cheerful and sometimes she looks enigmatic and not particularly cheerful. But I noticed, being a visual physiologist, that when I was looking at her eyes or looking at the background, she seemed to be smiling a lot. But when I looked right at her mouth, she seemed to stop. And if you go back and forth systematically, even with a reproduction, not even a particularly good one, but in the original at the Louvre, it’s creepy. Her expression changes depending on how far your gaze is, your center of gaze is, from her mouth.
CSM: Well guess what folks? The elusive Mona Lisa smile can be explained with cold, hard science!
ML: Your central vision is good at tiny detailed things, your peripheral vision isn’t bad it’s just different and it’s better at seeing big blurry things. And the Mona Lisa smile is all in the low spatial frequencies, that is it’s blurry. Leonardo used sfumato, which means he blurred it. So if you filter the Mona Lisa in such a way that you can see what she looked like in just your peripheral vision, she’s grinning from ear to ear, but if you look at it filtered with high spatial frequency pass, bandpass filter, you see that as if you could see her, her whole face with your central vision, which of course you can’t do, she isn’t smiling at all. So as you move your eyes around the painting, her expression changes. So that gives it a dynamic quality, which 500 years ago it was a pretty special thing. And it kind of gives her a coy quality, so you're looking at the background and she’s grinning and you try to catch her smiling and she stops.
CSM: Da Vinci was definitely ahead of his time. But what is it about art that's so special, as far as our brains are concerned? Apparently, not much.
ML: All you’ve got up there are neurons and all they do is fire or not fire. And the whole point of your visual system is to extract information about your environment and art is just part of your environment. It’s not, looking at art is not qualitatively different as far as the visual system is concerned as looking at anything.
CSM: The only real difference is that many artists like Da Vinci have figured out, if only intuitively, how to exploit human visual perception in their work. For example, we can see depth in a painting, even though it exists on a two-dimensional canvas.
ML: Your visual system uses a number of algorithms to compute distance and depth, it uses perspective, shading, relative motion so when you move things that are near more than things that are far away, stereopsis, which is the difference in the images in your two eyes. Your two eyes are just a couple of inches apart and so they get slightly different views of the world.
CSM: And here's a little trick:
ML: When you look at a flat painting, your stereo, if you have normal stereopsis, is telling you that the painting is flat. So the best way to make a painting look three dimensional is to close one eye. And some of our research has shown that many artists have poor stereopsis and that probably helps them to render monocular cues about depth in a flat image.
CSM: I know you're itching to try that out the next time you have a chance to see the Mona Lisa. She's such a tricky girl. I want to hear your thoughts! Reach out on Facebook, Twitter, or leave a comment on The Huffington Post. Come on, talk nerdy to me!
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Sunday 6 January 2013

(CFN) Is Tim Hudak Electable?

Tim Hudak does a hilarious stand-up routine.  He's as good as Rob Ford when it comes to ranting.
What Hudak is not, however, is someone with the right combination of skills, sensitivity, experience and listening ability to lead this province. 

Hudak has made it clear he’s looking for a fight. Good for him for finally shedding any attempt at sheep’s clothing – he’s going for broke with an aggressively conservative plan that, if enacted, would break the back of social services and foster a leaner, more Dickensian Ontario. Heaven help those who aren’t among the fittest because in a Hudak-governed Ontario, they wouldn’t be intended to survive. Knowing this is his last kick at the can, Hudak wants to go to the polls as quickly as possible and either get the chance to remake Ontario in this Darwinian image or go down trying. More than a few Conservatives are biding their time, counting on the latter to happen.
Politics, of course, is all about selection of the fittest through aggressive competition. As such, traditional wisdom suggests the only way for Liberals to keep Hudak from dismantling Ontario’s hard-won public services is for the Party to dig in its heels and get ready for a bare-knuckle fight against a navy Blue Machine. There’s already been some noise on the Liberal leadership campaign trail about the need to be fight-ready. Going on the offensive is a quick and easy course of action to take, but not necessarily the most resource-effective for the Party (nor necessarily in the best interests of Ontarians).
Andrea Horwath seems to have settled comfortably into her role of compromise-supporter; one can imagine Horwath finding her happy place in the Leader of the Opposition’s office, focused on creating opportunities for thoughtful pause rather than facing Ontario’s massive structural challenges directly. With that in mind, it’s not overly difficult to see a minority government situation working, if it weren’t for Tim Hudak’s inability to think outside his own box.
There’s some (far from universal) support in his caucus for a my-way-or-the-highway approach to the Legislature, though funny enough that’s the kind of thinking Hudak has criticized the outgoing McGuinty Government of having. Fortunately for the PCs (and Ontario) there are voices of reason within the PC Caucus, including the amazing Christine Elliot. While Elliot can get her dukes up with the best of them, at her core she is a woman dedicated to making the province work – which, of course, makes her a political threat to the Liberals and NDP, but a natural ally if the goal is not a partisan win but to fix Ontario’s structural problems.
Personally, I’d rather embrace a challenge that forces me to up my game rather than spend my resources on impeding an opponent. It’s only by running along one’s creative problem-solving edge that it keeps from becoming blunt. The enduring brand is the one that expands, not stagnates or worse, contracts. Growth and continuity are accomplished through adaptation – compromise, innovative solutions and the fostering of inclusive, equitable institutions. Adaptation in politics is a collaborative process, achieved by working with partners willing to participate on non-partisan objectives. The objective all Parties should be aiming for right now is moving Ontario forward by empowering Ontarians themselves. There are a number of common-ground issues out there that could form the basis of such a positive, proactive working relationship, proactive mental health being one of them.
True decentralization isn’t about amputating government services and throwing Ontario into the deep end of the pool, as Hudak would do, nor is it about government carrying every single Ontarian over troubled waters. We need to foster the stability people of diverse challenges need to keep their heads above water, then provide them with equitable opportunities and education that will empower them swim in whatever way works best for them. To use another analogy – don’t give a man a fish, nor sell a man a fish, but teach him how to fish. Through the process, you might even learn some new techniques yourself.
There are those in the opposition who get this – they’re the ones Liberals should be reaching out to. It’s a different way of doing politics, perhaps, but I’m pretty sure there’s consensus that the current system isn’t working as well as we need it to. If Ontario Liberals (not just the institutions or the MPPs and candidates, but every Ontarian that holds true to the values liberalism, at its best, represents) are serious about renewal for the Party and the province, they need to consider which of the candidates for Party Leader are best positioned to lead this kind of solution-based approach.
It doesn’t matter where we come from, as outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty has told us, but what we find along the way. That includes potential partners, wherever they themselves come from. The best hope for Ontario Liberals and for Ontario as a province is for the next Premier not to be someone spoiling for a fight, but someone willing to extend an olive branch to partners willing to move forward in a together-like fashion, including the Opposition. If Tim Hudak is unwilling or unable to work with the other Parties, too bad for him; I guarantee there are others in his caucus who are.