Tag Archives: Psychology

Nudge: Improving Decisions about Wealth, Health and Happiness by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

Summary
  1. Thaler and Sunstein discuss at length how choices are designed and how we can make better decisions – personal finance, health, relationships, the environment, retirement benefits, organ donations, etc.
Key Takeaways
  1. Nudge – anything which pushes people slightly in one direction or to make some decision through context and design. Any choice architecture which alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without restricting any options. Must be slight and easy to implement. Choice architecture and nudges are everywhere
  2. Choice architect – in charge of setting the context in which people make decisions
  3. Small changes and context can lead to big changes in people’s actions and behavior
  4. Libertarian paternalism – impose as low of a cost as possible while nudging people in positive ways. Not an oxymoron as this nudging can be done in such a way that it helps people make better choices without eliminating options
What I got out of it
  1. Designing choices in order to nudge people in positive directions can have amazing outcomes. Often it is not even difficult to implement, it simply requires awareness of our fallibility to these small changes in content and context. A fantastic read

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Poor Charlie’s Almanack by Charlie Munger and Peter Kaufman

A truly eye-opening book into the world and thought processes of Charlie Munger. He describes how and why he thinks the way he does, stresses the importance of learning the basics in the fundamental disciplines in order to avoid becoming “the man with a hammer who sees everything as a nail,” and how this has translated into the enormous success that is Berkshire Hathaway.
 

The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness by Elyn Saks

Summary
  1. Elyn Saks details her own journey through life with serious schizophrenia. She describes how she dealt with her delusions, therapy, progress and medication while trying to live and overcome this illness
Key Takeaways
  1. Schizophrenia is a brain disease. Not a split or multiple personality disorder as it is often perceived but shattered personality with disorganized thinking, hallucinations and delusions. Saks describes some of her experiences as “nightmares while awake.”
  2. “This experience is much harder to, and weirder, to describe than extreme fear or terror. Most people know what it is like to be seriously afraid. If they haven’t felt it themselves, they’ve at least seen a movie, or read a book or talked to a frightened friend – they can at least imagine it. But explaining what I’ve come to call “disorganization” is a different challenge altogether. Consciousness gradually loses its coherence. One’s center gives way. The center cannot hold. The “me” becomes a haze, and the solid center from which one experience reality breaks up like a bad radio signal. There is no longer a sturdy vantage point from which to look out, take things in, assess what’s happening. No core holds things together, providing the lens through which to see the world, to make judgments and comprehend risk. Random moments of time follow one another. Sights, sounds, thoughts and feelings don’t go together. No organizing principle takes successive moments in time and puts them together in a coherent way from which sense can be made. And it’s all taking place in slow motion.”
  3. “…not everything can be conquered with willpower. There are forces of nature and circumstances that are beyond our control, let alone our understanding, and to insist on victory in the face of this, to accept nothing less, is just asking for a soul-pummeling. The simple truth is, not every fight can be won
  4. At her worst, she would hardly speak and go days without eating – convinced she was an evil person and did not deserve to eat. “I’m not sick. I’m bad.” She thought beings in the sky were controlling her thoughts and that she has killed hundreds of thousands of people with her thoughts
  5. I found the depressing and self-deprecating talk difficult to read. I can’t even imagine living through it
  6. Describes what living with schizophrenia is like – “Now consider this: The regulator that funnels certain information to you and filters out other information suddenly shuts off. Immediately every sight, every sound, every smell coming at you carries equal weight; every thought, feeling, memory, and idea presents itself to you with an equally strong and demanding intensity. You’re receiving a dozen different messages in a dozen different media – phone, email, TV, CD player, friend knocking at the door, ideas inside your head – and you’re unable to choose which ones come to the front and are relegated to “later.” It’s the crowd at the Super Bowl, and they’re all yelling directly at you.”
  7. “My brain was the instrument of my success and my pride, but it also carried all the tools of my destruction.”
  8. Crazy people don’t make the news for living their lives successfully, you only hear about the horrible events. Be very mindful of how you react and deal with somebody who is brave enough to open themselves up and tell you about their issues
  9. She gives a good overview of the book in this great TED talk
What I got out of it
  1. I am so fortunate and so grateful that I don’t have to deal with a situation like Elyn Saks does – continuous and terrible thoughts/episodes that touch everyone around her and can derail lives. Humbling for sure and it makes you more mindful of taking a second to stop and think before doing/saying anything rash to anyone as you never know what somebody is experiencing or has gone through in the past.

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Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

Summary
  1. For years Cialdini studied which factors and techniques would induce people to say “yes” most of the time. He studied compliance professionals through participant observation and learned that six laws are used which correspond to human psychology. These laws are used (often maliciously) to get people to say “yes” without thinking.
Key Takeaways
  1. There are 6 weapons of influence – RCLASS
    1. Reciprocation
    2. Commitment and consistency
    3. Liking
    4. Authority
    5. Social Proof
    6. Scarcity
What I got out of it
  1. Fantastic book which explains the various influences which we can use (or can be used against us) to get others to agree. These influences can be used for good purposes or deceptively but they are designed to get past our rational brain and attack our automatic responses. Cialdini uses a great term, “click, whirr” to show when this automatic process is being used. Highly recommended

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I and Thou by Martin Buber

Summary

  1. Buber claims that there are two modes of engaging with the world – the mode of experience (gather data and analyze) and the mode of encounter (simply relate to the world around us). The first mode is that of science and reason and in it we treat what we experience as an object. Through encounter we relate to the world as a You, not as an object to be used, but as an other with whom we must relate.

Key Takeaways

  1. Book comprised of 3 parts:
    1. Examines the human condition by exploring the psychology of individual man –  man as two distinct ways of engaging the world, experience and encounter
    2. Examines human life on the societal level and claims that  modern society leaves man unfulfilled and alienated because it acknowledges only one of our modes for engaging the world.
    3. Examines religion and explains how to build a fulfilling, meaningful society by making proper use of the neglected second mode of engaging the world, and by using this mode to relate to God. Open yourself up to encounter– relation to You’s rather than experience of It
  2. After absolute encounter we realize that every single being is a You and come to feel affection for everyone and everything, and to have a sense of loving responsibility for the whole course of the world – divine revelation and salvation. Filled with loving responsibility, given the ability to say “You” to the world, man is no longer alienated, and does not worry about the meaninglessness of life.

What I got out of it

  1. A very challenging and difficult book to follow but one with a deep and meaningful message. Never use anybody or anything as a means to an end. Treat everything as a “You” and you’ll come to love and appreciate everything around you. By living this way you can attain salvation (peace of mind).

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

Robert Greene lays out 48 laws which will help you in you the mastery and conquest of your given field. He draws on historical examples of people who have observed or transgressed these laws as well as portions of fables and other short stories to help illustrate each law. A bit Machiavellian but better to be aware and not use than be taken advantage of due to ignorance

Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder by Nassim Taleb

Summary
 
  1. Taleb describes that something is antifragile when it gets better with chaos, disorder, and time whereas anything fragile hates volatility. Nature is the ultimate example of something antifragile as it can adapt and gets stronger with difficult times. Forecasts, predictions, and the desire to be too precise are all examples that cause fragility.

 

If you’d prefer to listen to this article, use the player below.

You can also find more of my articles in audio version at Listle

  Key Takeaways  

  1. Anything that has more upside than downside during random events has antifragility
  2. Suppressing randomness from antifragile things (ourselves are one of the most antifragile things) actually harms them and makes them weaker. The diet, our economy are antifragile but we have been making them weaker
  3. Fragility and antifragility can be measured but rare events cannot be predicted accurately
  4. Should focus on the fragility of things instead of the probability of something happening. Things lie on a scale of fragility (the triad – antifragile, robust and fragile)
  5. Moving towards simplicity and removing things makes things more antifragile than adding anything 
  6. Absence of challenge degrades the best people and firms. Mental and physical effort forces people into a higher gear
  7. Evolution one of the best examples of antifragility as it loves randomness and volatility and gets stronger from it. Natural things love randomness up to a point – if all life on earth wiped out the fittest will not survive to reproduce
  8. Central illusion in life – randomness is risky. Man made smoothing of randomness makes things more fragile. Daily variability helps strengthen a person or system 
  9. Extremely important to try to differentiate between true and manufactured stability
  10. Much more difficult to examine people who have been successful by procrastinating or non acting as it is not obvious or apparent as that is what caused their success
  11. Believes that in eliminating projections which are almost never right will make us and our economy more robust. What is not measurable and non predictable will remain that way. Let’s not kid ourselves and make us more exposed than we already are
  12. Turkey problem – mistaking what we don’t see for the nonexistent
  13. Exposure more important than knowledge. Do, rather than just learn
  14. Time is the worlds best debunker of fragility 
  15. Small occurrences and events effect us much less than a large event does. For example, a 10 lb thrown at your head would do more than 5x the damage of a 2 lb stone thrown at your head. That which is fragile is hurt much more by extreme events than by a succession of small ones
  16. Barbell – medium risks are still exposed to massive volatility. Better to be at either end (completely anti black swan or for black swan) than stuck in the middle. Don’t do things in the middle – pure action or pure reflection. Barbell method is the domestication not the elimination of risk
  17. You are antifragile when you have more to gain than lose from volatility – more upside than downside. First decrease your exposure to downside
  18. When have optionality, do not need to understand something perfectly and can make good decisions with less information. Can still limit downside and have upside. Having options helps us understand ourselves as we are forced to decide
  19. Tinkering and iterations are much more antifragile than blueprints and hard plans. This allows for more optionality and better decisions since will have better information
  20. When you find antifragile options, there are hidden benefits and therefore need to be right less often compared to linear payoffs to still wind up on top
  21. Avoiding mistakes and being a sucker is quickest way to become antifragile. We know much more of what is wrong than what is right (negative knowledge). Disconfirmation much more rigid than confirmation
  22. Robust decisions rarely require more than one good reason. The man with the most alibis is usually guilty. In addition, a man should be known for one great idea
  23. The longest surviving works are the most robust as time devours everything, the fragile first
  24. Longer term forecast are most prone to error and exponentially so compared to short term. Any reliance on predictions is fragile. Respect and consume the wisdom of our ancestors – philosophy, food, tools, etc.
  25. Perishable v nonperishable – for perishable, younger expected to live longer but for non the older can be expected to lived longer. Established tech more likely to outlive new tech
  26. There is logic in nature much deeper than we can often understand 
  27. Even if there is solid evidence (lose fat if limit carbs), People often don’t act until there are theories they believe. Should be the opposite, if solid evidence, should act regardless of theory as they change all the time
  28. Via negativa – Subtracting things not seasoned by nature reduces the chances of black swans while leaving one open to improvements. For example, eating less extends lives and avoiding new foods and sugars
  29. He argues against buying things with huge marketing budgets as most high quality things do not require it (eggs, meat, art, museums, etc .)

  What I got out of it  

  1. An thoroughly thought-provoking book which makes you very aware how fragile many systems and institutions truly are. The most powerful part of this book is understanding that this mental model can be integrated into every single part of your life – from diet to work to investing to relationships, etc. An absolute must read
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Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals by Robert Pirsig

Summary

  1. Phaedrus, from The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, returns and ponders life’s essential elements as he sails down the Hudson River.
Key Takeaways
  1. Quality is Morality. Quality is Value. They are the same thing. Quality doesn’t have to be defined. You understand it without definition, ahead of definition. Quality is a direct experience independent of and prior to intellectual abstractions. Quality is indivisible, undefinable and unknowable
  2. A thing does not create value, value creates a thing. Therefore, if something has no value it cannot exist 
  3. In Zen, Phaedrus divides between classic and romantic but here the first, and most important, division is into static and dynamic quality 
  4. Dynamic Quality – pre-intellectual cutting edge of reality, source of all things, completely simple and always new. It always comes as a surprise and the first time you are made aware of it, it weakens your static patterns so that all dynamic qualities around you shine through. You become obsessed with something, but normally only a little while because soon it turns static again (favorite song loses its appeal quickly)
  5. Static Quality – what we expect and is necessary to everyday life as it gives structure but when it becomes exclusive of dynamic, they are poor quality
    1. Both static and dynamic quality are necessary for life
  6. Beauty isn’t things trying to look like something else. Beauty is things just being what they are
  7. Nothing has quality as quality can’t be possessed. Quality dominates everything
  8. All life is a migration from static patterns of quality to dynamic quality
  9. Without static quality an organism cannot last. Without dynamic, it cannot grow 
  10. Everything in the world is an ethical activity, not just man’s actions. This binds science and ethics and caused Phaedrus incredible joy 
  11. Whatever is more dynamic, or at a higher level of evolution, is more moral 
  12. Morality hierarchy: dynamic — intellectual — social — biological — inanimate 
  13. “This Cartesian “me,” this autonomous little homunculus who sits behind our eyeballs looking through them in order to pass judgment on the affairs of the world, is just completely ridiculous. This self-appointed little editor of reality is just an impossible fiction that collapses the moment on examines it”
  14. Morality is that which enhances evolution 
  15. Trying to understand a member of another culture is impossible without taking into account differences in their values 
  16. MOQ resolves relationship between intellect and society, subject and object, mind and matter – objects are inorganic and biological, subjects are social and intellectual. they are parallel but not the same and can therefore exist without contradicting each other 
  17. Goes pretty in depth about insanity, his time in an insane asylum and how to resolve it (as he doesn’t believe in “curing” insanity). If there is only one person in the world, could he be insane? Insanity is always relative to others
    1. Sanity is not truth. Sanity is conformity to what is socially expected
  18. When a new fact comes to fruition that does not fit our patterns, we don’t throw out the pattern, we throw out the fact
  19. The only exit from suffering is to detach yourself from static patterns, to “kill” them
  20. Goes full circle and starts thinking about Native Americans again. Native Americans do not think in hierarchy (what type of good) but in quality (a good dog). When Native Americans say it they mean that good is the whole center of experience and that Dusenberry (a good man), was an incarnation of this center of life
    1. Primitive cultures only discuss about actual experiences. They don’t discuss virtue, good, evil, etc. They don’t talk about abstract ideas.
    2. Good is a noun. That was it. That was what Phaedrus had been looking for. Good as a noun rather than as an adjective is all MOQ is about. Take care of your goodness. If you had to reduce the whole MOQ to a single sentence, that would be it.
What I got out of it
  1. In my mind it doesn’t quite live up to Zen but it is an incredible book. It takes some interesting turns where some parts are so intellectual, especially Phaedrus’ inner dialogue, and the rest is almost stream of consciousness and superficial. Shows the divide or dichotomy in Phaedrus and all of us
Great interview with Robert Pirsig
More in-depth analysis of Lila

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Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ by Daniel Goleman

Summary
  1. Our rational and emotional brain shapes our personalities and our decisions. Emotional skills are often overlooked when compared to what is typically thought of as intelligence but is every bit as important. By combining the rational and emotional, we can improve our performance in every facet of life.
Key Takeaways
  1. Resisting impulse is the root of all self-control. This was stressed a dozen different ways and those who have better impulse control tend to be emotionally more stable, smarter, more successful…marshmallow test
  2. People who are optimistic see a failure as due to something that can be changed so that they can succeed next time around, while pessimists take the blame for failure, ascribing it to some lasting characteristic they are helpless to change.
  3. Coordination of moods is the essence of rapport
  4. Those who had a dependable web of intimacy showed no relationship whatsoever between high stress levels and death rates
  5. Fundamentals of EI (can be summed up with competency)
    1. Self-awareness – know what you are feeling and why
    2. Self-management (ability to motivate oneself/persistence)
    3. Social awareness
    4. Ability to manage relationships
  6. 5 key abilities of emotional intelligence
    1. Knowing one’s emotions – have a better sense of how they really feel about something
    2. Managing emotions
    3. Motivating oneself – delaying gratification and pushing off impulses
    4. Recognizing emotions in others
    5. Handling relationships – often simply handling other’s emotions
  7. XYZ method – When you did X, it made me feel Y, and I wish you did Z instead
  8. Cannot decide when we have our emotional outbreaks but can decide how long they last, a sign of emotional maturity
  9. Key to impulse control is knowing the difference between feelings and actions
What I got out of it
  1. Very interesting book which highlights the importance emotion plays in our everyday lives, our personalities, our decisions and our relationships. He makes great points but I found that he reiterated them so many times that it became redundant.

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