Behavior Economics

Are emotions an obstacle for happiness?

Posted on Updated on

Well, while reading the title one would surely notice the oxymoron or irony of it. Of course happiness is an emotion, and if we eliminate emotions we´ll have no way of knowing if we are happy, certainly not to the usually aspired degree of Happiness. This is some of the contradiction people confront while thinking about rationality and emotions. I mean, if the Aristotelian Eudaimonia is the reason for our actions, then emotions should be the most relevant reason for our actions. This last deduction might frighten any reasonable being because we all know how irrational and terrifying, as well as surprising, emotions can be.

assumptions-rational-choice-theoryThe intuitive manner we live upon can be an obstacle and here is probably where emotions can be somewhat problematic. Today, thousands of empirical and statistical experiments reveal, throughout the world, and with overwhelming conclusions, that in most situations we have no idea what we are doing. For example, we now know beyond any doubt that we are thinking in a heuristic, bias way about everything around us, while believing we are actually being far from bias about anything at all. Fear, love, hate, anxiety, nervousness, so many emotions that dictate the way we think, act, and even how our bodies react to diseases or affect our decision-making abilities. Depressed people cannot manage to estimate clearly success, reasons for different activities. Put a nasty odor in a room and see how people turn to vote more conservative and become less open to change. We, as brainy animals, see and like to share patterns everywhere. We witness them when we think about someone and then see them in the street, when we think we are having a “lucky hand” (usually when we like to taste success) and in countless other occasions.

emotions-shutterstock_134876816-617x416

On the other hand, who did not feel sorry of acting the way he or she did while being angry (at their partner, parent or even colleagues)? Which one of us don’t aspire to be able to always make the better choice, in business, in love, and all the way to the supermarket? We all saw and loved the movie Life of Pi, right? With so many examples of how it is nicer to simply let our emotions dictate the world around us and not dry calculation and science. But is it really true? Anyway, does ‘true’ really matter?

star-trek-spock1So many of us toy in our head with the idea of being more rational, calculated, pragmatic, but then, remembering Mr. Spock from Star Trek, we dismiss it with horror. Luckily, today, more and more scientific fields are getting together to show a harmonious existence between those two is possible and even very relevant. These new visions about life teach us not to dichotomize or generalize but to know, to understand and eventually to apply it in our lives.

Rationality through emotions! Although it might sound weird to some, it makes perfect sense. Actually, it is both rationality through emotions and vice versa, emotions through rationality. We hear quite a lot about rationality being robotic, mechanic, cold and emotions as warm, individualizing, communal. That is a common mistake for the simple reason that any person with the minor intelligence will never discard the existence of feelings in a person, even the most rational there is. Hence, the simple reality is that it´s irrational not taking emotions into account.

In the next clip there is a co-founder of an interesting center that is dedicated to those questions and more.

Here she speaks about Planning Fallacy:

From the same Center, here´s a checklist of Rationality: http://rationality.org/checklist/ and a recommended reading: http://rationality.org/reading/. Enjoy!

How empiric investigation can cause pain

Posted on Updated on

Who would have imagined that studying 17th century philology can cause one to lose considerable amount of money? Apparently, the relationship between one and the other is all about the perspective you are looking from. Philology, to remind those of you who don´t use this word on a daily basis (such as everyone before beginning actually studying it), is the study of textual expression of practically any sort. While the most common application of it is in Literature, one can certainly be engaged in a philological research on mathematic treaties, on city planning and of course on Politics and Economy.

Quentin_Massys_moneylender and wife
Quentin Massys, Moneylender and wife

The difficulties begin when an investigator is too absorbed in her research, then, some changes in her life are unavoidable. My friend’s investigation entails different reflections on political theory and economics from both pragmatically and philosophical (the latter from mainly a moral-philosophy perspective). As an inspired investigator, she as well, wanted to experience some of the understanding (or lack) of the issues that occupied her days and began being more mobilize in different areas. Hence, she confided in her banker her curiosities et viola, her first investment in the stock market. Little did she know, this will exhaust her, causing sleepless nights and anxiously staring at the computer screen watching every minute and each movement of the undulation of the market’s points. She thought that after few texts she already understood the essence of a transaction, a visible exchange and the commercial movements, at least until she had entered the beast. Consumed by fluctuating human emotions in an unimaginable speed between the joy of winning, despair of uncertainty, depression of losing and the long, arduous seconds between one update and another.

crisisToday, on the threshold of a new recession, she sees her banker on a daily basis. She already got used to the smell of lack of morning shower, just as she tried earnestly not to be bothered by the amount of scalps accumulated on his shoulders. She told me once how she knows with all her senses and intuition that this person should be the last person anyone should listen to an advice from. However, an unknown, incredible force, prevented her from backing down. Is it the fear of judge oneself as a looser? Is it a gambling addiction? Or maybe simply the adrenaline mixed with the thought of being linked to the writers she is working on? Surely, there are many reasons, some coherent and understandable while others are mysterious and hollow.

Angelo_Bronzino_Alegoria del amor detalleThe living mind that is called The Stock Market has a life of its own. It is responding to the panic from one hand and euphoric emotions from the other. There is no way to predict where the next point will be. With Trispectivism it is quickly observed how the result of the stock market is, in fact, the sum of millions of individuals interacting at different levels while at the same time its idiosyncratic existence is as one magnanimous entity (a more elaborate post about Economy viewed by Trispectivism in the near future).

In his work, Confusión de Confusiones (1668), José Penso de la Vega concluded in a conversation between a philosopher, a merchant and a broker, how the stock market is an indissoluble knot that no sword can cut. There is nothing else to do but buy and sell in the dark, do little, be armed with patience, and if you lose, pay the difference and prolong the game, constantly following opinions, if a new detail doesn´t appear suddenly.

Cover, Confusión de confusiones
Cover, Confusión de confusiones

Patience, -she said in the end,- patience…! – while in her eyes the sound of the falling hard-earned silver coins hitting the floor with the pronunciation of her every syllable Pa tience.

Weekly Choice: on multitasking, hobbies and amour

Posted on

The 3 Costs of Multitasking

We all switch between tasks, and we do so often.

“How much time do you think you lose when you engage in task switching?  Like many of our daily challenges, here too there are three different factors to consider.

MultitaskingThe first factor to consider is the direct time that we spend on our secondary task.  For example, imagine that you’re busy working on some complex description of a problem, and you hit a particularly challenging point.  You are stuck in a slight mental block, unable to make any real progress for a few minutes. So you think to yourself, “Let me take a quick five minute break and use this time to catch up on email.” Twenty minutes later, you are still responding to email, feeling that familiar unjustified satisfaction we all feel when we managed to clear some of that email backlog in our inbox.  Ten minutes later, you are finally back to working on your complex task, and if you bothered to look at your clock, you would realize that the last thirty minutes were a direct cost of the switch.

(…) This belief in “switching helps” is the reason that many people switch so often. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to be the case.  Most likely, once you are back, for the next ten minutes or so, your engagement with your complex task is only partial, and you are not yet fully back into it.  The reality is that even when you are back working on your main task — for a while longer — you keep on paying a low-productivity-price for your task switching.”

http://danariely.com/2014/04/07/the-3-costs-of-multitasking/

.

Inspirational Video Of The Week! Tolerance.

Family is Family. Parents are Parents. Love is Love.

 

.

The Positive Effect of Creative Hobbies on Performance at Work

Why photography, cooking or other creative hobbies might help you get on at work.

“People who have a creative hobby outside work may find it boosts their work performance, according to a new study by organisational psychologists. The study looked at the indirect effect of creative hobbies like photography, needlework or cooking on work performance (Eschleman et al., 2014). The study found that creative hobbies may help employees recover from the demands of their job. People in the study talked passionately about their activities outside of work. The study’s lead author, Kevin Eschleman, said: “They usually describe it as lush, as a deep experience that provides a lot of things for them. But they also talk about this idea of self-expression and an opportunity to really discover something about themselves, and that isn’t always captured with the current recovery experience models.”

hobbies

In the study, two groups of people were asked about their creative activities outside work and also how creative they were at work. The results from both samples showed that those who had a creative hobby were more likely to feel a sense of relaxation outside work and to feel greater control and a sense of mastery (…) and were more likely to help others and to be more creative in the performance of their job. Large organizations, such as Zappos Inc., incorporate employee artwork into office decorations. Other similar activities commonly found in organizations include food cook-offs, cross-discipline education opportunities, and costume contests during holidays. A more cost-effective and less intrusive approach for organization is to inform employees that creative activity may help them recover from the workplace.” (Eschleman et al., 2014)”

http://www.spring.org.uk/2014/04/the-positive-effect-of-creative-hobbies-on-performance-at-work.php

.

TED’s Best Of The Week! Why people believe weird things, by Michael Shermer

“Why do people see the Virgin Mary on a cheese sandwich or hear demonic lyrics in “Stairway to Heaven”? Using video and music, skeptic Michael Shermer shows how we convince ourselves to believe — and overlook the facts.”

http://www.ted.com/talks/michael_shermer_on_believing_strange_things?embed=true#t-11058

“Science is not a thing. It’s a verb. It’s a way of thinking about things. It’s a way of looking for natural explanations for all phenomena.”

.

Poet Of The Week! Jacques Prévert!

PrévertJacques Prévert, (born1900, Neuilly-sur-Seine, Fr.—died 1977, Omonville-la-Petite), French poet who composed ballads of social hope and sentimental love; he also ranked among the foremost of screenwriters, especially during the 1930s and ’40s. Jacques Prévert was born in a lower middle class family. He made fun of the obsessions and conformity of this social class during his entire life and participated actively in the surrealist movement. He was a member of the Rue du Château group along with Raymond Queneau and Marcel Duchamp. His poems are often about life in Paris and life after the Second World War. The peak of Prévert’s career came immediately after World War II. In 1945, the same year that Les Enfants du paradis was released, he published his collected poems, Paroles. The book sold more than 500,000 copies, almost unheard of for a book of poems in France. “Prévert spoke particularly to the French youth immediately after the War, especially to those who grew up during the Occupation and felt totally estranged from Church and State,” wrote Lawrence Ferlinghetti in the introduction to the 1990 edition of Paroles, which he translated into English in 1958.

Prévert’s poems were collected and published in his books: Paroles (Words) (1946), Spectacle (1951), La Pluie et le beau temps (Rain and Good Weather) (1955), Histoires (Stories) (1963), Fatras (1971) and Choses et autres (Things and Others) (1973). Prévert produced several art collages during the late 1950s and early 1960s. “They were surreal, comic and beautiful, scathingly anti-church, anti-corporation, anti-hypocrisy,” Merriam wrote in the New Republic. They were exhibited in Paris in 1957 and in Antibes in southern France in 1963. He continued to publish books, including Histoires et d’autres histoires (Stories and Other Stories) in 1963 and Choses et autres (Things and Other Things) in 1972.

After a long illness, Prévert died on April 11, 1977, at his home in Omonville-La-Petite, in Normandy, France. That day, Carné (as quoted in the New York Times) called him “the one and only poet of French cinema,” whose “humor and poetry succeeded in raising the banal to the summit of art” and whose style reflected “the soul of the people.” Prévert wanted to be remembered as a people’s poet. A few years before his death, in an interview quoted in Harriet Zinnes’s introduction to her book Blood and Feathers, Prévert said, “I was popular even before being fashionable. That’s how it was. What gave me pleasure was having readers. They are the greatest literary critics. These are the people who know the best literature, those who love it, not the connoisseurs.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1p4gMD5mw8

Pour toi mon amour

Weekly choice: on memory, bank accounts, space kids and a Klimtkiss

Posted on Updated on

A Better Way to Cope With Persistent Bad Memories

New technique holds promise for those experiencing disturbing emotional flashbacks

“A better way to deal with recurring negative memories is to focus on the context and not the emotion, according to a new study published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (Denkova et al., 2014). For example, if you were thinking about a funeral you attended, you might focus on what you were wearing or who was there, instead of how you were feeling at the time.

Dolcos explained:

keys“Sometimes we dwell on how sad, embarrassed, or hurt we felt during an event, and that makes us feel worse and worse. This is what happens in clinical depression — ruminating on the negative aspects of a memory. But we found that instead of thinking about your emotions during a negative memory, looking away from the worst emotions and thinking about the context, like a friend who was there, what the weather was like, or anything else non-emotional that was part of the memory, will rather effortlessly take your mind away from the unwanted emotions associated with that memory. Once you immerse yourself in other details, your mind will wander to something else entirely, and you won’t be focused on the negative emotions as much.”

We don’t yet know if this strategy will work in the long-term, which is very important for those suffering from depression, but it’s easy to do and unlikely to cause any harm.

http://www.spring.org.uk/2014/04/a-better-way-to-cope-with-persistent-bad-memories.php

.

Inspirational video of the week!

Can you see the beauty around you?

In the increasingly popular video that has started to spread social networks, BuzzFeed has asked a group of blind men and women to describe how they perceive beauty.

.

Ask Ariely!

Dear Dan,

I recently got married, and my wife and I have been debating the topic of bank accounts. She’d like to combine them, because she wants to know how much is coming in and going out. I think separate accounts would be simpler for taxes, personal spending and budgeting. What’s your take?

-J.

The fact that you’re wondering whether to follow your preferences or your wife’s tells me that you are either a slow learner or very recently married (sorry, my Jewish heritage would not let me pass up that opportunity). But to the point: I think you should have a joint account.

First, there’s no question that in reality your accounts are joint in the sense that anything one of you does has an effect on your mutual financial future. For example, if one of you starts buying expensive cars from your individual account, there’s going to be less money for both of you to spend later on vacations, medical bills and so on.

More important, by getting married you have created a social contract of the form: “I will take care of you, and you will take care of me.” Adding a layer of financial negotiations to this intricate relationship can easily backfire. Think about what would happen if there was “my money” and “your money”? Would you start splitting the bill in restaurants? What if one of you has an extra glass of wine? And what if your wife ran out of “her money”? Would you tell her that if she does the dishes and takes the garbage out for a week, you would give her some of “your money”?

The problem is that once money becomes intertwined with deep relationships, they can start looking a bit more like prostitution than like love, romance and long-term caring. Separate bank accounts do have some advantages, but having them could put unnecessary stress on your relationship—and your relationship is much more important than managing your money efficiently.

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052970203846804578103194032776674

.

Ted’s Best Of The Week! Will our kids be a different species, by  Juan Enríquez

robot_evolutionThroughout human evolution, multiple versions of humans co-existed. Could we be mid-upgrade now? At TEDxSummit, Juan Enriquez sweeps across time and space to bring us to the present moment — and shows how technology is revealing evidence that suggests rapid evolution may be under way.

“I think we’re going to move from a Homo sapiens into a Homo evolutis: a hominid that takes direct and deliberate control over the evolution of his species, her species and other species.”

http://www.ted.com/talks/juan_enriquez_will_our_kids_be_a_different_species

.

Artist Of The Week, Gustav Klimt!

gustav-klimt-photoGustav Klimt was born on 14 July 1862. He was the second of seven children of a lower-middle-class family, living in the Viennese suburb of Baumgarten.  He began developing his talent as an artist at the age of fourteen, after he entered the University of Plastic Arts in Vienna (graduating at the age of twenty).

Gustav Klimt was always reluctant to talk about himself, referring questioners to his works instead. From his paintings, the viewer “should seek to recognize what I am and what I want.” he said repeatedly. Despite his success he remained unsure of himself in social settings. He habitually wore a blue painter’s smock, his hair was tousled, and he spoke the dialect of his humble origins.

Gustav Klimt’s style is highly ornamental. The Art Nouveau movement favored organic lines and contours. Klimt used a lot of gold and silver colors in his art work – certainly an heritage from his father’s profession as a gold and silver engraver.

He creates various pieces, which include:Danae, and The Kiss, which are extremely erotic and exotic in nature. They depict the differences in sexuality between men and women, and the pieces he creates during this time, although symbolic, are very literal in many of the figures, and depiction of the human form. Up until about 1914, many of the pieces that he created, took on this sexual under pining, and were not widely accepted, in part due to their graphic nature, and in part because of the time period that he lived in and worked in.

The Kiss, 1907-1908
The Kiss, 1907-1908

His works of art were a scandal at his time because of the display of nudity and the subtle sexuality and eroticism. His best known painting The Kiss, was first exhibited in 1908. As everything coming out of Klimt’s hands, it was highly controversial and admired at the same time.

After three decades of intensive work, numerous triumphs, and fierce hostility from his critics, Gustav Klimt died on 6 February 1918 after suffering a stroke, being fifty-five years old. He is buried in Vienna’s Hietzing Cemetery.

The Tree of Life, 1909
The Tree of Life, 1909

Click here for a documentary on his life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaGH-BczrVA