The Negativity Bias: For most people, the elephant sees too many things as bad and not enough as good. Lets imagine you were to design a fish. A live one. If you had to wire its brain to respond to opportunities and threats, which would be given greater preference; response to opportunities or threats? If the fish misses a few opportunities, it is OK, it would be able to try again. But if it failed to see a treat, it is history. It would not get another chance. End of line for its genes. Therefore, our responses to threats and unpleasantness are faster, stronger and harder to inhibit than responses to opportunities and pleasures. This is called the Negativity Bias. In marital interactions, It takes at least five good or constructive actions to make up for the damage done by one critical or destructive act. Human minds reacts to bad things more quickly, strongly and persistently than to equivalent good things. We find it difficult to see everything as good as our minds are wired to find and react to threats, violations, and setbacks. The Cortical Lottery : Our personality can be explained by nature & nurture. That is our genes and our environment. What do you think, which has a greater affect on us, our genes or our environment. It has been conclusively proved that nature has a much larger role to play. This was evidenced by studying identical twins (Identical & Fraternal Twins). So in a sense what we are today is because of the cortical lottery. We had no choice or control over what we inherited. We also inherit our state of Happiness. A person typical level of happiness is that person’s “affective style”. And your affective style reflects your preference for the approach system (where you approach an opportunity/situation) or the withdrawal system (where you withdraw from the situation). And this preference can be read in your brain, specially in the right and left frontal cortex. People showing more activity in the left cortex reported feeling more happiness in their daily lives and less fear, shame and anxiety than people showing higher activity in the right cortex. And this difference is even visible in infants. 10-month old babies with greater activity in the right cortex, tended to cry more when briefly separated from the mother. And this aspect of personality has been seen to extend into adulthood. Toddlers are more anxious about unknown situations, as teenagers they are likely to be fearful of meeting new people and as they grow up they find it difficult to loosen up. And because they lost out in the cortical lottery, throughout their life they would struggle to weaken the grip of the overactive withdrawal system.
Till now we have tried to understand our mind to increase our awareness about ourselves. We don’t live in isolation. We are part of various social groups, like our family, friends, workplace. Lets try to understand how our mind plays a role in how we interact with others in a social context. Can our understanding of the mind help us understand the dynamics of a group?
A pride of lions
A herd of elephants
A pack of dogs
A troop of monkeys
Laws of evolution talk about competition and survival of the fittest. Animals that live in large peaceful societies seem to violate these rules. Can you think of animals that live in large cooperative societies? Ants, bees, monkeys, elephants, humans. In each case, an inherent cooperation enhancing property existed. For all no-human species that feature was kin altruism (meaning; selflessness) Its obvious that animals will risk their lives for the safety of their own children. The only way to “win” at the game of evolution is to leave surviving copies of your genes. Your genes are not only in your children but also in your brother and sister’s children which has 25% of your genes, whereas your children hold 50 % of your genes. So in mathematical terms, for every child of yours that you save, you will save two of your nephews or nieces. This explains why all animals that live in large cooperative groups live in groups of close relatives. But as the family tree grows your interest in the far end of the tree also fades because they share very little of you genes. That is why such groups have at the maximum a hundred members. As an aside, this magic figure of hundred is relevant to us humans too. Most effective groups do not exceed 100-150. The most effective fighting unit in the army is a Company. And a company has about 120 soldiers. Here is where ancestors of termites, bees took kin altruism to another level. The thousands of bees in a hive are all siblings. A single queen produces all the children. So each is responsible for protecting the others. Scientists who study these species are truly amazed at their level of coopreation and self sacrifice. We humans also extend the reach of kin altruism to non relatives by assigning fictitious kinship names to non-relatives. Fathers friend becomes uncle. Friends wife becomes bhabhi. etc. Human mind finds kinship deeply appealing, but kin altruism can only take you that far. At some point you have to work with people who may be strangers and at best distant relatives.
Lets imagine your Christian neighbor gave you some sweets for Deepawali, What would you do on Christmas? You too would get them some sweets, right! So what are we really doing. It’s a strategy called tit for tat. In this strategy you are nice to the person in the first round of interaction, and then base your future interaction based on how that person reacted in the first round. Why do we do this? The tit for tat tactics allow us to move beyond kin altruism, It opens the possibility of forming cooperative relationships with strangers. In the animal kingdom, most interactions, other than close kin, are zero sum games. One animal’s gain is the other animal’s loss. But cooperation among non kin members can also be witnessed in the animal kingdom. Animals that hunt have a very unpredictable success rate. Some days they are very successful and could gain more than they require and on other days they may have to go without any success. Vampire bats regurgitate blood for bats who are not genetically connected in their colony who have not been successful during the night. These bats keep track of those bats who helped them earlier and return the favor. This is tit for tat strategy in the animal world. Now imagine there was this bat who would on various occasion go about begging blood from other successful bats. And the day he was successful in the hunt and the other bats who had helped him on earlier occasions come to him for some blood and he just puts his wing around his head over his head and pretend to be sleeping. How would these bats react? I am not sure about the bat, but in a similar situation humans would have royally sorted out this selfish bat. Why do we react differently based on the these two varied outcome of the tit for tat strategy? This is because Vengeance and Gratitude are two emotions that amplify and enforce tit for tat strategy . These emotions seem to have evolved because they are useful tools for individuals to create cooperative relationships, thereby reaping the gains from non-zero games. Species evolved this strategy because the benefits of generosity are increased because one gains friends. And conversely, cheaters loose out because they make more enemies. If I were to conduct an experiment, in which I gave you Rs 1000 in Rs 100 denominations and asked you to give it to another person in the experiment. You both never meet. But the other person knows you have Rs 1000 for this task. The other person has the option to either take the money or reject it. If the other person rejects it you too do not get the money. If I were to actually conduct this experiment with some subjects, what do you think people would have done? Most persons would try to maximize the position and the receiver would not mind even if he got Rs 100, right! No! More than half of the subjects gave away Rs 500. If the receiver received Rs 300 or less, he would reject it so that the other person also does not get anything. Gratitude and vengeance are important in creating our ultrasociality and both are required. If you have gratitude without vengefulness people would exploit you. And only vengeful people would alienate cooperative partners. In the earlier example about the bat, I mentioned about who was cheating. If a similar thing happened with humans what do you think would happen. For the first offence, we would gossip. That would ruin the other persons reputation. Gossip is the reason that humans became ultrasocial. That is also the reason we have such large heads. It accounts 2% of our body weight but accounts for 20% of our energy. Our brains are so large that we are born premature. Our brains have tripled from the common ancestor that we ashred with chimpanzees. So there must be a very good reason to this large size. Our brains grow larger to manage larger groups. Social animals are smart animals. These social animals spend enormous amount of time grooming each other. Chimps live in groups of 30, humans as hunter gatherer lived in societies of 150, in which each member can know the other by name or face. But as human groups grooming as an activity to build bonds within the group became inadequate. Can you guess what humans developed in place of grooming? Language evolved as the replacement for physical grooming. People use language to talk about other people. Because in the earlier society, what you knew was less important than who you knew. that was imporAnd evolved because it enabled gossip. How does this work? How often have you got a particular news and then the urge to tell your friend about it? You must have friends who may say that if they don’t share a particular information they feel as if their head will burst. Now what happen when you share a really juicy tit bit with your friend. His reciprocity reflex kicks in. Nexty time your friend gets hold of juicy tit bit, he would definitely share it with you. Gossip elicits gossip. And it enables us to keep track of everyone’s reputation without personally witnessing their good or bad deeds. Gossip to a great sense is overwhelmingly critical. It is primarily about the moral and social violations of others. So gossip has an important role to play, because it keep other people behavior in check. Now that you understand reciprocity as means to expand your relationship, do remember that relationships are sensitive to balance in the early stages, and a great way to ruin things is to either give away too much (you appear too desperate) or too little (you appear too cold). Relationships grow best by balanced give and take. Especially with gifts, favours, attention and self disclosure. Reciprocity is like an all purpose relationship tonic. Used properly, it strengthens and rejuvenates social ties. It works so well because the elephant is a natural mimic. If we like or respect someone with whom we interact, we unconsciously copy their mannerism. Have you noticed that? Why do we do that? It’s a social glue…a way of saying “We are one.”
So do you think the balancing act of gratitude and vengeance allows the system to work perfectly? Unfortunately no.
We spoke about the give and take principle that keeps a certain balance in a relationship. In the example about the vampire bats, lets go back to the bat who was only taking and not giving. Now if this bat were to create an impression that he almost never succeeds in the hunt or that he would go about making a show that we was actually sharing the blood with other bats, that would maybe change his position in the bat colony. In life too you do not react to what someone did, you react only to what you think the other person did. With this knowledge you become a master at impression management.. To persuade others that you are virtuous and trustworthy cooperator. What is the best way to create the impression that you are fair? By being fair…right. But life sometimes forces us to choose between appearance and reality. Lets understand this with the way of an experiment. This is an experiment on how unequal reward affect teamwork. Lets imagine that I break you up in pairs and then separate you in different rooms. You are both given the questions and right responses will get you a prize. Now I tell you that you that can decide who will get the prize. I will also inform your partner that the decision on who will get the prize was based on chance. You can decide whichever way you want to decide who gets the prize. I have also kept a coin in the room if you want to use it. Now an experiment of this sort was actually conducted. 50% of the subjects used the coin. Among those who did not use the coin, 90% of the subjects chose the prize for themselves. What do you think would have happened with the rest 50% who used the coin? Have you heard of probability? It should have been a 50-50 outcome. No…90% of subjects who used the coin chose the prize for themselves. So these people must have used the coin and then said, Heads I win Tails you loose. All the subjects were administered a questionnaire on morality a few weeks before. People who reported being most concerned about caring for others were more likely to use the coin. This tendency to value the appearance of morality over reality is called moral hypocrisy. The subjects who flipped the coin reported that they had made the decision in an ethical manner. The only intervention that had an effect on them was when they were told to be fair in explicit terms and also when a mirror was placed in front of them when they were flipping the coin. When people were forced to think about fairness and could see themselves cheating, they stopped cheating. This experiment goes on to show that most people they are good people and that their actions are motivated by good reasons. Curing hypocrisy is very difficult because we don’t believe we have a problem. So we have this problem, what do we do about it? Like the example that we studied in the previous session about the brother and sister getting married. Your elephant’s interest is represented by the rider-the lawyer. To catch this lawyer you must observe him. You could ask your lawyer for advise, which course of action is most suitable. So the lawyer would look at all the case laws and rules and advise you what can be done and what can’t. But what we generally do is called the “makes sense” stopping rule. We take a position, look for evidence that supports it and if we find some evidence, enough so that our position makes sense, we stop thinking. So for eg. If some told you that drinking alcohol is bad for health. I drink and don’t want to stop, so I take a position that drinking is not bad for health, then look at evidence like the one which says that two drinks are actually good for the heart. This makes sense with my position, so I stop thinking any further on this issue. But actually the study may have been conducted in a cold country where this finding may be relevant and not in a tropical country like ours. You try to look virtuous and trustworthy to get the benefits of cooperation. But so is everyone doing so. So you try to be careful that other do not get more than they deserve. Os our social life is is game of social comparison. We must compare ourselves with others and our actions with their actions. And we must some how spin those comparisons in our favour. You could do so by either inflating your claim or by disparaging the claims of others. We are fairly accurate in our perception of others. It is our self perception that is distorted. Because we look our selves in rose tinted mirror. I will try to explain this with an experiment. Lets imagine I give you $5 dollar for participating in an experiment and ask you how much of this you will donate & how much will other donate, if suppose there was a charitable organization that came immediately after the study. Subjects said they would donate $2.5 and others $1.8. When an actual study was done the average was $1.5. Now this experiment was extended to another group and they were asked the same question and they gave almost the same answer. They were then informed that in the previous study the average was $1.5. Now would they like to change their estimates. So what do you think the subjects did? They changed their estimate for others to $1.5 but kept their own estimate to $2.5. We judge others by their behavior, but we think that we have some special information about ourselves, by which we explain away our selfish acts and cling to the illusion that we are better than others. This is more evident when there is ambiguity. So during a performance appraisal meeting, if your project in-charge said that you are not a good team player, you would immediately responsd how he has made that judgement. The project in-charge may state that you do not review other team members documents. You would then retort back if anyone comes to you for help you always help them. In this case what you would do is, define team player based on your strength area and then look for evidence that you the strenght. And when you find the evidence, you use the makes sense stopping rule. You stop thinking and revel in your self-esteem. Such biases make people feel that they deserve more than they do, thereby setting the stage for endless disputes with other people who feel equally over-entitled. So If I were to ask all the team members in a team how much they have contributed for completion of a project, the total would work out to 200-300%. So in a team such self serving biases create mutual resentment among team members. So we have all these problems, what do we do? You could look at the world from your opponent's point of view. For a change let your rider be the lawyer for your opponent’s elephant. Think of recent conflict that you had with someone you care. Then try to find one thing in that interaction where your behavior was not exemplary. When you first do that your inner lawyer will immediately start blaming others for this behavior of yours. Try not to listen to this lawyer. Be firm in your objective to find at least one thing that you did wrong. At first this process will be painful, but then you will feel a sense of contentment. Contentment at taking responsibility of your own behavior. From a position of I am always right and the other person is always wrong, you move to a position of I am mostly right and the other person is mostly wrong. The instance you see some contribution you made to the conflict, your anger subsides, maybe just a bit. But enough for you to see the merit in the other side’s position. Now from this position if you go to the other person and say, “I should not have done said that, and I can see why you felt angry”. By the power of reciprocity the othe person would say.,”I agree I was upset because you said that, but I too should not have responsded the way I did”. Reciprocity amplified by self serving biases drove you apart when you both were accusing each other. You can turn the process around and use reciprocity to end the conflict. You could also use meditation to calm your mind and observe your self serving biases.
What is the one thing that most us are seeking in our existence? What is it that we are all seeking in life? The ultimate goal…Happiness What do you understand by happiness? What is happiness to you? How do you feel when you are happy? What makes you happy?
The Progress Principle Whenever animals do something that advances their evolutionary interest, their brain releases a chemical called dopamine-a pleasure neurotransmitter. For the animals food & sex trigger the release of dopamine, giving pleasure and this pleasure serves as a reinforce that motivates later effort to find food and sex. For humans the situation is more complex. We win in the game of life by achieving high status, friends, assets, wife, children, reputation etc. So we have many more goals than animals, so we should be getting more doses of dopamine whenever we achieve a goal.. Right. No! Its not so simple. This dopamine is released when the goal is achieved within seconds after the behavior, not hours or days. For example a dog is trained to fetch a ball if he is given something to eat within few seconds of it retrieving the ball, not by giving it after say half an hour. The elephant learns best whenever pleasure follows immediately after the behavior. Psychologist have noticed two positive affects. Pre-goal attainment positive affect: the pleasurable feeling you get as you make progress towards a goal Post-goal attainment positive affect: arises when you have achieved something you want. You experience this latter feeling as contentment. With reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex when the goal is achieved. This indicates that when it comes to goal attainment, it is really the journey that counts, not the destination. Most of the pleasure will be along the way. The end would be like the relief you get at the end of a hike when you remove your heavy backpack. Most of us think that we will find some special euphoria at the end of the task and when we do actually work hard and achieve the goal, we are disappointed at the lack of euphoria. This is called the Progress Principal; Pleasure comes from making progress towards the goal than from achieving them.
The Adaptation Principle There was survey done to find out was the best thing and the worst thing that can happen to a person. For the best thing, most people said that would be if they won a large lottery and for the worst thing, they said if they were paralyzed neck down. This may like two extreme positions in a person’s life. But the gap is not so large as you may imagine. We greatly overestimate the intensity and duration of our emotional reactions. The person who won the lottery may buy a new house, car and all the other luxuries that money can buy. So the contrast from his former life is going to give him pleasure, but with a few months he would get used to the new life and the pleasure would reduce. Our brain is extraordinarily sensitive to changes in the condition, but not sensitive to absolute levels . At the other extreme, the person who became paralyzed neck down would find a huge happiness loss upfront. He feels his life has come to an end. But, after say 6 months, like the person who won a lottery, this person would adapt to his new situation. And then start to set some modest goals for himself. With therapy, he soon makes slow and steady progress. And each step gives him the pleasure of progress principle. This is adaptation principle at work. People’s judgment about their present state are based on whether it is better or worse than the state to which they have become accustomed . I would also like to add here that your average level of happiness is determined by your genes. When you combine this bit of information with the adaptation principle, we come to a startling possibility; In the long run it does not matter what happen to you, good or bad, you will always return to your happiness set point. ie your brains default level of happiness . Based on this knowledge, we can conclude that we are all struck on a treadmill. No matter how hard we work, accumulate all the riches, gain fame, marry the most beautiful lady or the most handsome man, we are still stuck at the same spot.
The Happiness Formula I explained about the happiness set point. It is like a thermostat set at 25 degrees or 35 degrees. Actually because of the variability of the genes and its relationship with environmental conditions, this is not so much a set point but more a range. So you could either be a low end of this point or high end depending on external factors. The external factors are of two types, The first factor is conditions of your life, where you live, your sex, age, marital status, wealth etc. The conditions are generally constant over time and these are things that you soon adapt to. The second factor is Voluntary Activity, which are things that you choose to do, like meditation, exercise, learning a new skill, vacation etc. Because voluntary activities take effort and attention, they do not disappear from your attention. Therefore, it offers much greater promise for increasing happiness while avoiding the adaptation principle. So psychologist came up with a happiness formula which is H=S+C+V So what are the voluntary activities that you take up. Before that, lets figure out why are we here? What is the purpose for which human beings were placed on earth? Any ideas? There can basically be two answers to this question. It was God’s will, he had certain reasons for creating life on earth. Those who don’t believe in God, there is specific reason, we are the result of an interaction between matter and energy in a primordial soup many millions of years ago. You can take your pick which one you agree with.
Now that you know vague idea why you are here, you may also like to ask yourself, how I should live life or what I should do to have a happy, fulfilling and meaningful life? To understand that lets see what Aristotle had to say on this issue. He used the metaphor that people are like archers, they need a clear target at which to aim. Without a traget or goal we are like animals. Lets take the example of an elephant which live in herds. In the herd, one goes about doing what everyone else is doing. Human mind has a rider, And the rider wants to know where everyone is going and why. You must have noticed some people live lives full of commitment and meaning, but others feel that there are empty and pointless. Lets find out the reasons for this difference. People are like plants. You must have noticed that as long as the palnt is not completely dead it can be brought back to life. You can’t fix the plant like you could a computer that crashed. But you could provide the right conditions to the plant. And what are the right conditions for the plant. Water, sunlight and nourishment. Provide this and the plant will these and wait. It will do the rest. If we use the same context for humans then the right conditions are possible through voluntary activity. This provides sun, soil and water for your well being. Major part of voluntary activities is having and pursuing the right goals.
All of us have a basic drive to make things happen. You can see the joy infants obtain when they make things happen. Maybe when then ring a bell or shake the rattle to make some sound or when they push a toy car and sees it moving. At the other end of the spectrum you can see how people who have a very active life say in a Govt service and then they retire and how that sedentary lifestyle affects their well being. Psychologists referred to this as Effectance motive, and is defined as the need to develop competence through interacting and controlling one’s environment . The effect motive helps explain the progress principle. We get more pleasure from making progress towards our goal than we do in achieving it. This pursuit of the right goals give meaning to our lives and a sense of happiness. So what are right kind of activities in V. Not all action will work. For example chasing wealth and fame will fail. In an experiment conducted by a psychologist, he gave pagers to the subjects which went off many times during the day. Each time the pager went off the subject had to write what he was doing and comment how much he is enjoying it. A study of over thousand subjects indicated two type of pleasures one is physical pleasure. At meal times people indicated most pleasure. People really like to eat and in the company of others. The other activity that was more pleasure than eating was…the state of total immersion in a task that is challenging yet closely matched to one’s abilities. In this activity the elephant and the rider are in perfect harmony. The elephant is doing most of the work, running smoothly through the forest, while the rider is completely absorbed in looking out for problems and opportunities. These two aspects can be defined as pleasure and gartification. Pleasures have clear sensory and emotional component, such as eating, music, cool breeze. Gratifications are activities that engage you fully and and draw on your strengths. Voluntary activities is largely arranging your day and your environment to increase both plaesure and gratifications. So intersperse your day in listening to music that you like, eating with friends/ family. The danger in overdoing the plaesure bit. The elephant has a tendency to overindulge. The rider needs to encourage it to get up and move on to the other activity. Pleasure feels good in the moment but sensual memories fade quickly. Gratifications often come from accomplishing something, learning something or improving something. Gratifications challenge us, and make us extend ourselves. In this state, hard work becomes effortless. We want to keep exerting ouselves, honing our skills and using our strengths. The key to finding your own gratifications is to know your own strength. And you can explore your strength only if you improve your self awareness. You also need try different things… right!
Self Awareness Part 2
Self Awareness - Part II
Understanding Your Mind <ul><li>Negativity Bias : </li></ul><ul><li>The Cortical Lottery : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Personality: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Characteristic patterns </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>of thoughts, feelings and </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>behavior that make a </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>person unique </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Affective Style </li></ul></ul>
<ul><li>Understanding our Social Lives </li></ul>
Your Partner You Do Not Squeal Squeal Squeal Do Not Squeal The Prisoner’s Dilemma (-4, -4) (0, -5) (5, 0) (-2, -2)
Understanding our social lives <ul><li>Reciprocity: </li></ul><ul><li> (Reciprocal Action or Relation) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Vengeance/Gratitude </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gossip – Language </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Balance in early stages </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>of relationship (gifts, favours, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>attention, self disclosure) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>All purpose relationship tonic </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social glue….”We are one” </li></ul></ul>
<ul><li>Zigong asked: “Is there any single word that would guide one’s entire life?” </li></ul><ul><li>The master said: “Should it not be reciprocity ? What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.” – Analects of Confucius </li></ul>
Understanding our social lives <ul><li>The Fault of Others </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Impression Management </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Self Serving Biases </li></ul></ul>
The Pursuit of Happiness <ul><li>The Progress Principle </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Pre-goal attainment positive affect </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Post-goal attainment positive affect </li></ul></ul>
The Pursuit of Happiness <ul><li>The Adaptation Principle </li></ul>
The Pursuit of Happiness <ul><li>The Happiness Formula: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>H = S+C+V </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>H = H appiness </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>S = S et point </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>C = C onditions of your life </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>V = V oluntary activities </li></ul></ul></ul>
The Pursuit of Happiness <ul><li>V in the happiness formula </li></ul><ul><ul><li>People are like Archers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>People are like Plants </li></ul></ul>
The Pursuit of Happiness <ul><li>V in the happiness formula </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Effectance motive: the need to develop competence through interacting and controlling one’s environment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pursuit of the right goals give meaning to our lives and a sense of happiness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Two kind of enjoyments: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Physical pleasure </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Gratification </li></ul></ul></ul>
What would you do from hereon to have a happy, fulfilling and meaningful life?