Weekly choice: on religion, debate, motivation and psychos

Ask Ariely!

Dear Dan,

Why are there so many religions, all of which suggest that God is on their side and holds the same values that they do?

—M.

religions

One answer comes from a 2009 study by Nick Epley and some of his colleagues from the University of Chicago, which asked religious Americans to state their positions on abortion, the death punishment and the war in Iraq. (This study is described in Dr. Epley’s recent book, “Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want.”) Participants were then asked to predict the opinions of a few well-known individuals (such as Bill Gates), President Bush, the “average American,” and—and uniquely to this study—God on these issues.

Interestingly, the respondents were rather objective about predicting the opinions held by their fellow humans, but they tended to believe that God had similar opinions to their own. Conservatives believed God was very conservative; liberal believers were certain that God was more lenient.

To find out why we can view God so flexibly, a follow-up experiment asked another group of participants to take the position on the death penalty diametrically opposed to their own and argue this viewpoint in front of a camera. A large body of research on cognitive dissonance has shown that people who are forced to argue for an opinion opposite to their actual one feel so uncomfortable with the conflict that they’re likely to change their original opinion. After giving their on-camera speech, participants were again asked to express the views on these hot-button issues of the study’s famous individuals, President Bush, the “average American” and God.

The results? After expressing the opinion opposite their original one, individuals became more moderate. Those who disliked the death penalty became less opposed, and those who were for it became less so. But there was no such shift in participants’ predictions of the opinions of the well-known individuals, President Bush or the “average American.” And what about their predictions about God’s views? Participants tended to attribute the same position as their own new, more moderate viewpoint to God.

God, apparently, is something of a clean slate on which we can more easily project whatever we wish. We subscribe to the religious group that supports our beliefs, and then interpret Scripture in a way that supports our opinions. So if there is a God, I believe—no, I’m sure—that that (s)he thinks the way I do.

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Dishonesty Debate with Dan Ariely, Paul Bloom & Peter Singer

Cross-Coursera Dishonesty Debate brought together moral philosopher Peter Singer of Princeton, behavioral psychologist Paul Bloom of Yale, and behavioral economist Dan Ariely of Duke, to engage in a debate on dishonesty, morality, and ethics. It is a thoroughly informative and accessible synthesis of their respective fields.

debate

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Lga2mp5OqQ

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Ted’s Best Of The Week! Tony Robbins: Why we do what we do?

In this older 2006 talk, Tony Robbins discusses the “invisible forces” that motivate everyone’s actions — and high-fives Al Gore in the front row.

AnthonyTonyRobbins (born February 29, 1960) is an American life coach, self-help author and motivational speaker. He became well known through his infomercials and self-help books, Unlimited Power and Awaken the Giant Within. Robbins writes about subjects such as health and energy, overcoming fears, building wealth, persuasive communication, and enhancing relationships. Robbins began his career learning from many different motivational speakers, and promoted seminars for his personal mentor, Jim Rohn. He is deeply influenced by neuro-linguistic programming.

“When do people really start to live? When they face death.”

http://www.ted.com/talks/tony_robbins_asks_why_we_do_what_we_do#

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Person Of The Week! Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis!

FreudSigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, was a physiologist, medical doctor, psychologist and influential thinker of the early twentieth century. He was born in Freiberg, which is now known as the Czech Republic, on May 6, 1856. Freud’s innovative treatment of human actions, dreams, and indeed of cultural artifacts as invariably possessing implicit symbolic significance has proven to be extraordinarily fruitful, and has had massive implications for a wide variety of fields including psychology, anthropology, semiotics, and artistic creativity and appreciation. Freud developed psychoanalysis, a method through which an analyst unpacks unconscious conflicts based on the free associations, dreams and fantasies of the patient. His theories on child sexuality, libido and the ego, among other topics, were some of the most influential academic concepts of the 20th century.

Freud’s self-analysis, which forms the core of his masterpiece The Interpretation of Dreams, originated in the emotional crisis which he suffered on the death of his father and the series of dreams to which this gave rise. This analysis revealed to him that the love and admiration which he had felt for his father were mixed with very contrasting feelings of shame and hate (such a mixed attitude he termed ‘ambivalence’).

Instead of treating the behavior of the neurotic as being causally inexplicable—which had been the prevailing approach for centuries—Freud insisted, on the contrary, on treating it as behavior for which it is meaningful to seek an explanation by searching for causes in terms of the mental states of the individual concerned. Hence the significance which he attributed to slips of the tongue or pen, obsessive behavior and dreams—all these, he held, are determined by hidden causes in the person’s mind, and so they reveal in covert form what would otherwise not be known at all.

Freud’s account of the sexual genesis and nature of neuroses led him naturally to develop a clinical treatment for treating such disorders. The aim of the method may be stated simply in general terms–to re-establish a harmonious relationship between the three elements (Id, Ego and Super-ego) which constitute the mind by excavating and resolving unconscious repressed conflicts. When a hysterical patient was encouraged to talk freely about the earliest occurrences of her symptoms and fantasies, the symptoms began to abate, and were eliminated entirely when she was induced to remember the initial trauma which occasioned them. Turning away from his early attempts to explore the unconscious through hypnosis, Freud further developed this “talking cure,” acting on the assumption that the repressed conflicts were buried in the deepest recesses of the unconscious mind.

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