Samstag, 5. August 2017

Studying through Active Recall

The lifestyle-design community

Why Skills Trump Passion
Cal Newport (2012)

"The more I studied examples of control, the more I encountered people who had made ... mistakes. Jane’s story, for example, is just one of many from the growing lifestyle-design community. This movement argues that you don’t have to live life by other people’s rules. It encourages its followers to design their own path through life—preferably one that’s exciting and enjoyable to live. It’s easy to find examples of this philosophy in action, because many of its disciples blog about their exploits.

At a high level, of course, there’s nothing wrong with this philosophy. The author Timothy Ferriss, who coined the term “lifestyle design,” is a fantastic example of the good things this approach to life can generate (Ferriss has more than enough career capital to back up his adventurous existence). But if you spend time browsing the blogs of lesser-known lifestyle designers, you’ll begin to notice the same red flags again and again: A distressingly large fraction of these contrarians, like Jane, skipped over the part where they build a stable means to support their unconventional lifestyle. They assume that generating the courage to pursue control is what matters, while everything else is just a detail that is easily worked out.

One such blogger I found, to give another example from among many, quit his job at the age of twenty-five, explaining, “I was fed up with living a ‘normal’ conventional life, working 9–5 for the man [and] having no time and little money to pursue my true passions… so I’ve embarked on a crusade to show you and the rest of the world how an average Joe… can build a business from scratch to support a life devoted to living ‘The Dream.’ ” The “business” he referenced, as is the case with many lifestyle designers, was his blog about being a lifestyle designer. In other words, his only product was his enthusiasm about not having a “normal” life. It doesn’t take an economist to point out there’s not much real value lurking there. Or, put into our terminology, enthusiasm alone is not rare and valuable and is therefore not worth much in terms of career capital. This lifestyle designer was investing in a valuable trait but didn’t have the means to pay for it.

Not surprisingly, things soon turned bleak on this fellow’s blog. After three months of posting several times a week about how to fund an unconventional life through blogging—even though he wasn’t making any money himself from his own site—some frustration crept into his writing. In one post, he says, with evident exasperation, “What I noticed is that [readers] come and go. I’ve put in the hard yards, writing quality posts and finding awesome people… but alas many of [you] just come and go. This is as annoying as trying to fill up a bucket with water that has a bunch of holes in it.” He then goes on to detail his ten-point plan for building a more stable audience. The plan includes steps such as “#2. Bring the ENERGY” and “#4. Shower Your Readers with Appreciation,” but the list still excludes the most important step of all: giving readers content they’re willing to pay for. A few weeks later, the posts on the blog stopped. By the time I found it, there hadn’t been a single new post in over four months.

This story provides another clear example of the first control trap: If you embrace control without capital, you’re likely to end up like Jane, Lisa, or our poor frustrated lifestyle designer—enjoying all the autonomy you can handle but unable to afford your next meal. This first trap, however, turns out to be only half of the story of why control can be a tricky trait to acquire. ...[E]ven after you have the capital required to acquire real control, things remain difficult, as it’s exactly at this point that people begin to recognize your value and start pushing back to keep you entrenched in a less autonomous path."

[Also see: Scott Adams on Passion]

Dienstag, 11. Juli 2017

Brain volume and intelligence: The moderating role of intelligence measurement quality

Brain volume and intelligence: The moderating role of intelligence measurement quality
Gilles E. Gignac, Timothy C. Bates (2017)


Correlation between brain volume and IQ in healthy adults is r ≈ .40.
The importance of correcting correlations for range restriction is demonstrated.
Intelligence measurement quality was a moderator of the brain volume/IQ effect.
Fair, good, and excellent measures of IQ yielded correlations of .23, .32, and .39.
p-Curve analysis indicated the significant results in the area likely not due to p-hacking.


A substantial amount of empirical research has estimated the association between brain volume and intelligence. The most recent meta-analysis (Pietschnig, Penke, Wicherts, Zeiler, & Voracek, 2015) reported a correlation of .24 between brain volume and intelligence – notably lower than previous meta-analytic estimates. This headline meta-analytic result was based on a mixture of samples (healthy and clinical) and sample correlations not corrected for range restriction. Additionally, the role of IQ assessment quality was not considered. Finally, evidential value of the literature was not formally evaluated. Based on the results of our meta-analysis of the Pietschnig et al.'s sample data, the corrected correlation between brain volume and intelligence in healthy adult samples was r = .31 (k = 32; N = 1758). Furthermore, the quality of intelligence measurement was found to moderate the effect between brain volume and intelligence (b = .08, p = .028). Investigations that used ‘fair’, ‘good’, and ‘excellent’ measures of intelligence yielded corrected brain volume and intelligence correlations of .23 (k = 9; N = 547), .32 (k = 10; N = 646), and .39 (k = 13; N = 565), respectively. The Henmi/Copas adjusted confidence intervals, the p-uniform results, and the p-curve results failed to suggest evidence of publication bias and/or p-hacking. The results were interpreted to suggest that the association between in vivo brain volume and intelligence is arguably best characterised as r ≈ .40. Researchers are encouraged to consider intelligence measurement quality in future meta-analyses, based on the guidelines provided in this investigation.

Sonntag, 9. Juli 2017

>In English, the words "explore" and "exploit" come loaded with completely opposite connotations. But to a computer scientist, these words have much more specific and neutral meanings. Simply put, exploration is gathering information, and exploitation is using the information you have to get a known good result.<

B. Christian & T. Griffiths

[Also see ...]

Creativity and Genius:

"Creativity and genius are unrelated to g except that a person’s level of g acts as a threshold variable below which socially significant forms of creativity are highly improbable. This g threshold is probably at least one standard deviation above the mean level of g in the general population. Besides the traits that Galton thought necessary for “ eminence” (viz., high ability, zeal, and persist­ence), genius implies outstanding creativity as well. Though such exceptional creativity is conspicuously lacking in the vast majority of people who have a high IQ, it is probably impossible to find any creative geniuses with low IQs. In other words, high ability is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the emergence of socially significant creativity. Genius itself should not be confused with merely high IQ, which is what we generally mean by the term “ gifted” (which also applies to special talents, such as music and art). True creativity involves more than just high ability. It is still uncertain what this is ..."

The g factor (1998)
Arthur R. Jensen 

Why are there so many explanations for primate brain evolution?

Why are there so many explanations for primate brain evolution?
R. I. M. Dunbar, Susanne Shultz (2017)


The question as to why primates have evolved unusually large brains has received much attention, with many alternative proposals all supported by evidence. We review the main hypotheses, the assumptions they make and the evidence for and against them. Taking as our starting point the fact that every hypothesis has sound empirical evidence to support it, we argue that the hypotheses are best interpreted in terms of a framework of evolutionary causes (selection factors), consequences (evolutionary windows of opportunity) and constraints (usually physiological limitations requiring resolution if large brains are to evolve). Explanations for brain evolution in birds and mammals generally, and primates in particular, have to be seen against the backdrop of the challenges involved with the evolution of coordinated, cohesive, bonded social groups that require novel social behaviours for their resolution, together with the specialized cognition and neural substrates that underpin this. A crucial, but frequently overlooked, issue is that fact that the evolution of large brains required energetic, physiological and time budget constraints to be overcome. In some cases, this was reflected in the evolution of ‘smart foraging’ and technical intelligence, but in many cases required the evolution of behavioural competences (such as coalition formation) that required novel cognitive skills. These may all have been supported by a domain-general form of cognition that can be used in many different contexts.
"If you memorize a thousand jokes, that doesn't make you a person with a sense of humor. Sense of humor is more subtle. A good sense of humor is about timing, the ability to say the funny thing at the right time and to the right people."

"While most humor research concerns jokes (with distinct “set-up lines” and “punch lines”), only about 10% to 15% of laughter in natural social contexts occurs in response to classically-structured jokes that would seem funny when repeated out of context (Provine, 2000). Rather, most laughter occurs in response to short utterances or nonverbal micro-performances during informal conversation. These might seem funny in the immediate social context, but would often seem fairly mundane or stupid if repeated later."


Samstag, 8. Juli 2017

"Thinking about Death and Pain Makes People Funnier"

"is it possible that the greatest comedians of all time are the ones that have the most painful thoughts [?]"

"Perhaps humor is rooted in tragedy, pain and struggle in ways we cannot imagine or fully understand yet."

Gil Greengross

Arthur Jensen on Mental Productivity:


A startling corollary of the multiplicative model of exceptional achievement is best stated in the form of a general law. This is Price’s Law, which says that if K persons have made a total of N countable contributions in a particular field, then N/2 of the contributions will be attributable to sqrt(K) (Price, 1963). Hence, as the total number of workers (K) in a discipline increases, the ratio sqrt(K) / K shrinks, increasing the elitism of the major contributors. This law, like any other, only holds true within certain limits. But within fairly homogeneous disciplines, Price’s Law seems to hold up quite well for indices of productivity — for example, in math, the empirical sciences, musical composition, and the frequency of performance of musical works. Moreover, there is a high rankorder relationship between sheer productivity and various indices of the importance of a contributor’s work, such as the frequency and half-life of scientific citations, and the frequency of performance and staying power of musical compositions in the concert repertoire. (Consider such contrasting famous contemporaries as Mozart and Salieri; Beethoven and Hummel; and Wagner and Meyerbeer.) 

If productivity and importance could be suitably scaled, however, I would imagine that the correlation between them would show a scatter-diagram of the “twisted pear” variety (Fisher, 1959). That is, high productivity and triviality are more frequently associated than low productivity and high importance. As a rule, the greatest creative geniuses in every field are astoundingly prolific, although, without exception, they have also produced their share of trivia. (Consider Beethoven’s King Stephen Overture and Wagner’s “United States Centennial March,” to say nothing of his ten published volumes of largely trivial prose writings — all incredible contrasts to these composers’ greatest works.) But such seemingly unnecessary trivia from such geniuses is probably the inevitable effluvia of the mental energy without which their greatest works would not have come into being. On the other hand, high productivity is probably much more common than great importance, and high productivity per se is no guarantee of the importance of what is produced. The “twisted pear” relationship suggests that high productivity is a necessary but not sufficient condition for making contributions of importance in any field. The importance factor, however, depends on creativity—certainly an elusive attribute. 

What might be the basis of individual differences in productivity? The word motivation immediately comes to mind, but it explains little and also seems too intentional and self-willed to fill the bill. When one reads about famous creative geniuses one finds that, although they may occasionally have to force themselves to work, they cannot will themselves to be obsessed by the subject of their work. Their obsessive-compulsive mental activity in a particular sphere is virtually beyond conscious control. I can recall three amusing examples of this, and they all involve dinner parties. Isaac Newton went down to the cellar to fetch some wine for his guests and, while filling a flagon, wrote a mathematical equation with his finger on the dust of the wine keg. After quite a long time had passed, his guests began to worry that he might have had an accident, and they went down to the cellar. There was Newton, engrossed in his mathematical formulas, having completely forgotten that he was hosting a dinner party. 

My second example involves Richard Wagner. Wagner, while his guests assembled for dinner, suddenly took leave of them and dashed upstairs. Alarmed that something was wrong, his wife rushed to his room. Wagner exclaimed, “I’m doing it!”—their agreed signal that she was not to disturb him under any circumstances because some new musical idea was flooding his brain and would have to work itself out before he could be sociable again. He had a phenomenal memory for musical ideas that spontaneously surfaced, and could postpone writing them down until it was convenient, a tedious task he referred to not as composing but as merely “copying” the music in his mind’s ear. 

Then there is the story of Arturo Toscanini hosting a dinner party at which he was inexplicably morose and taciturn, just as he had been all that day and the day before. Suddenly he got up from the dinner table and hurried to his study; he returned after several minutes beaming joyfully and holding up the score of Brahms’s First Symphony (which he was rehearsing that week for the NBC Symphony broadcast the following Sunday). Pointing to a passage in the first movement that had never pleased him in past performances, he exclaimed that it had suddenly dawned on him precisely what Brahms had intended at this troublesome point. In this passage, which never sounds “clean” when played exactly as written, Toscanini slightly altered the score to clarify the orchestral texture. He always insisted that his alterations were only the composer’s true intention. But few would complain about his “delusions”; as Puccini once remarked, “Toscanini doesn’t play my music as I wrote it, but as I dreamed it.”

Mental Energy

Productivity implies actual production or objective achievement. For the psychological basis of intellectual productivity in the broadest sense, we need a construct that could be labeled mental energy. This term should not be confused with Spearman’s g (for general intelligence). Spearman’s theory of psychometric g as “mental energy” is a failed hypothesis and has been supplanted by better explanations of g based on the concept of neural efficiency (Jensen, 1993). The energy construct I have in mind refers to something quite different from cognitive ability. It is more akin to cortical arousal or activation, as if by a stimulant drug, but in this case an endogenous stimulant. Precisely what it consists of is unknown, but it might well involve brain and body chemistry. 

One clue was suggested by Havelock Ellis (1904) in A Study of British Genius. Ellis noted a much higher than average rate of gout in the eminent subjects of his study; gout is associated with high levels of uric acid in the blood. So later investigators began looking for behavioral correlates of serum urate level (SUL), and there are now dozens of studies on this topic (reviewed in Jensen & Sinha, 1993). They show that SUL is only slightly correlated with IQ, but is more highly correlated with achievement and productivity. For instance, among high school students there is a relation between scholastic achievement and SUL, even controlling for IQ (Kasl, Brooks, & Rodgers, 1970). The “overachievers” had higher SUL ratings, on average. Another study found a correlation o f +.37 between SUL ratings and the publication rates of university professors (Mueller & French, 1974). Why should there be such a relationship? The most plausible explanation seems to be that the molecular structure of uric acid is nearly the same as that of caffeine, and therefore it acts as a brain stimulant. Its more or less constant presence in the brain, although affecting measured ability only slightly, considerably heightens cortical arousal and increases mental activity. There are probably a number of other endogenous stimulants and reinforcers of productive behavior (such as the endorphins) whose synergistic effects are the basis of what is here called mental energy. I suggest that this energy, combined with very high g or an exceptional talent, results in high intellectual or artistic productivity. Include trait psychoticism with its creative component in this synergistic mixture and you have the essential makings o f genius. To summarize: Genius = High Ability X High Productivity X High Creativity.

Humor: Differences Between Interest Indicator and Sexual Selection Models

1. Function: According to the sexual selection perspective, humor primarily serves a showing-off function; according to the interest indicator model, humor is used to communicate relationship interest. Thus, whereas sexual selection suggests that humor causes attraction to occur, interest indication predicts that humor initiation and perceptions of humor are driven by attraction. Consistent with the interest indicator model, the same exact joke can be perceived as highly funny or unamusing depending on who tells the joke. 

2. Differentiation from general conversation: Because a good-genes model emphasizes the conveying of intelligence, it does not necessarily differentiate between humor and general, intelligent conversation (i.e., both should be able to highlight cognitive skills). In contrast, the interest indicator model points to the specific function of humor to communicate interest. That is, although saying something creative or intelligent might be a way of showing off to a potential mate, saying something humorous should specifically convey relationship interest.

3. Direction of discourse: Research adopting a sexual selection perspective has emphasized the importance of men initiating humor and women responding (e.g., Bressler et al., 2006). In contrast, an interest indicator model emphasizes that any individual who is interested in a relationship should be more likely to initiate and respond positively to humor. 

4. Scope: Whereas sexual selection theory states that humor evolved in the courtship domain and thus emphasizes humor’s function in mate choice, the interest indicator model applies equally to humor’s function across all social domains. That is, just as people use and desire humor not only in courtship, but across all types of social relationships and across the different stages of those relationships, the interest indicator account provides an underlying framework for how humor functions across diverse social relationships.

Sexual Selection & Humor:


Freitag, 7. Juli 2017

Imperfect Information and Divorce

A Treatise on the Family
Gary S. Becker (1981)

"If participants in marriage markets have complete information about all prospects, divorce would be a fully anticipated response to a demand for variety in mates or to life-cycle changes in traits. Most divorces would then occur after many years of marriage, because traits change gradually. The facts, however, suggest the opposite: about 40 percent of all divorces (and annulments) occur prior to the fifth year of marriage, and separation usually precedes divorce by a year or more (U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1979).

If, however, participants had highly imperfect information, most divorces would occur early in marriage by virtue of the fact that information about traits increases rapidly after marriage. Several years of marriage is usually a far more effective source of information on love and many other traits than all the proxies available prior to marriage. I suggest that marriages fail early primarily because of imperfect information in marriage markets and the accumulation of better information during marriage. This suggestion is supported by the fact that unexpected changes in earnings and health do raise the probability of divorce (BLM,5 1977).

Women who divorced early in their marriage report that "difficult" spouses and value conflicts were major sources of their discontent, presumably because these traits are much better assessed after a few years of marriage. Personality conflict, sexual incompatibility, and similar traits should be less important sources of later than of earlier divorces; little additional information about these traits is acquired after a few years of marriage. On the other hand, some information, including information about other women and about earnings potential, is acquired more slowly and should be more important in later divorces. Indeed, another woman and/or financial conflict are frequently cited by women divorcing after ten years of marriage (Goode, 1956, pp. 128-129).

The major sources of discontent and divorce are not necessarily the major determinants of marital well-being. Education, age, physical appearance, and other easily assessed traits are not major sources of discontent because not much more is learned about them after marriage. Just as the emphasis on easily assessed traits in marriage markets does not imply that these traits contribute more to marital well-being than other traits, neither does the opposite emphasis on difficult-to-assess traits in "divorce markets" imply that those contribute more.

The more rapid accumulation of information during the first few years of marriage implies that divorce is more likely early in marriage than later. Divorce rates are highest during the first few years of marriage and decline steeply after four or five years, although the explanation is partly that those most prone to divorce tend to drop out early from the cohort of married persons (see Heckman, 1981, on the effects of heterogeneity).

Divorce is less likely later in the marriage for the additional reason that capital accumulates and becomes more valuable if a marriage stays intact ("marital-specific" capital). Children are the prime example, especially young children, although learning about the idiosyncrasies of one's spouse is also important (Heimer and Stinchcombe, 1979). Divorce is much less likely when there are children, especially young children-not only in the United States and other rich countries (Goode, 1963, pp. 85, 364; BLM, 1977), but also in primitive societies (Saunders and Thomson, 1979).

The accumulation of marital-specific capital is, in turn, discouraged by the prospect of divorce because, by definition, such capital is less valuable after a divorce. Presumably, trial or consensual marriages produce fewer children than legal marriages at least partly because the former are less durable (see the evidence in Kogut, 1972, on consensual and legal marriages in Brazil). Persons who marry outside their race or religion are far more likely to divorce than are others with similar measurable characteristics. Therefore, we can readily understand why marriages between persons of different races or religions have significantly fewer children even when intact marriages are compared (see the evidence for the United States in BLM, 1977), and why marriages between Indians of different castes have fewer children than marriages within a caste (Das, 1978).

Expectations about divorce are partly self-fulfilling because a higher expected probability of divorce reduces investments in specific capital and thereby raises the actual probability. For example, consensual and trial marriages are less stable than legal marriages, and marriages between persons of different religions or races are less stable than those within a religion or race, partly because mixed marriages have fewer children. At the same time, as indicated, mixed marriages have fewer children partly because they are expected to be less stable.

Specific investment and imperfect information can explain why homosexual unions are much less stable than heterosexual marriages (Saghir and Robins, 1973, pp. 56-58,226-227). Homosexual unions do not result in children, and generally they have a less extensive division of'labor and less marital-specific capital than heterosexual marriages. Moreover, the opprobrium attached to homosexuality has raised the cost of search to homosexuals and thereby has reduced the information available to them. Furthermore, homosexual unions, like trial marriages, can dissolve without legal adversary proceedings, alimony, or child support payments.

Women have usually married earlier than men partly because the maturation and independence of men has been delayed by greater investments in their human capital. Since investments in men and women have become more equal over time as the demand for children has decreased (see Chapter 3), men and women now marry for the first time at rather similar ages. For example, the difference in the United States between the median age at first marriage of men and women declined from four years in 1900 to about two and a half years in 1970 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1971c).

Yet divorced women have remarried more slowly than divorced men even when divorced at young ages. They almost always receive custody of children, a factor that discourages remarriage. For the same reason, women with illegitimate children marry for the first time more slowly than women without children (Berkov and Sklar, 1976).

Young children raise the cost of searching for another mate and significantly reduce the net resources of divorced women (Weitzman and Dixon, 1979). Possibly for these reasons they raise the probability that remarriage will fail, even though children born during the remarriage lower this probability (BLM, 1977). It is noteworthy that illegitimate children and other pregnancies prior to first marriage also raise the probability of marital failure (Christensen and Meissner, 1953; Berkov and Sklar, 1976) Divorced women might well remarry earlier than divorced men, just as single women without children marry earlier than single men, if divorced women did not receive custody of children. Indeed, perhaps 45 percent of divorced women would have remarried within the first two years of their divorce if they did not have custody, which is double their actual percentage (22) and considerably higher than the percentage for men (31). This estimate assumes that women without custody marry as rapidly as women without children. It is based on a regression equation that relates whether a woman remarries within a specified period of time to several variables, including number of children (BLM, 1977)."
"It turns out to be a lot easier to build a perfect chess player than a poker whiz. Chess is a perfect information game: if you look at a chessboard, you know the exact state of the game from both players’ perspectives. And the rules of the game are not affected by chance, like the drawing of a card.

But in poker, an imperfect information game, there are many unknown variables ..."

R for Data Science

Garrett Grolemund & Hadley Wickham

Samstag, 1. Juli 2017

The exploration/exploitation trade-off:

"It is fairly intuitive that never exploring is no way of live. But it's also worth mentioning that never exploiting can be every bit as bad."

The exploration-exploitation trade-off:

"The exploration-exploitation trade-off is a fundamental dilemma whenever you learn about the world by trying things out. The dilemma is between choosing what you know and getting something close to what you expect (‘exploitation’) and choosing something you aren’t sure about and possibly learning more (‘exploration’). ..."

Mittwoch, 28. Juni 2017

Selbstkontrolle und Ablenkung:

Selbstkontrolle dürfte in erheblichem Ausmaß auf der Fähigkeit basieren, von einem akuten Handlungsimpuls "wegdenken" zu können:


"four-year-olds can be brilliantly imaginative about distracting themselves, turning their toes into piano keyboards, singing little songs, exploring their nasal orifices."

Ed. note:

"Mischel’s book draws on the marshmallow studies to explore how adults can master the same cognitive skills that kids use to distract themselves from the treat, when they encounter challenges in everyday life, from quitting smoking to overcoming a difficult breakup."

Donnerstag, 22. Juni 2017


"impulsivity, broadly defined as action without foresight"

"... behavior characterized by little or no forethought, reflection, or consideration of the consequences"

"the construct of impulsivity includes at least two independent components: first, acting without an appropriate amount of deliberation, which may or may not be functional; and second, choosing short-term gains over long-term ones."

"To the extent that language has universal properties, it probably owes them more to the common nature of experience than to language itself. We all live in similar spatiotemporal worlds, inhabited by things, people, and various artifacts of our own making ..."

Michael C. Corballis
"Literal talk, loose talk and metaphorical talk are often seen as different in kind. We want to argue that they differ not in kind but only in degree of looseness, and that they are understood in essentially the same way."

D. Sperber & D. Wilson
"Language is in many respects an extension of theory of mind, a way of reading and influencing the minds of others. One of its critical features is that it is underdetermined, and we can make sense of what others say only if we are on the same mental wavelength ..."

Michael C. Corballis

Amotz Zahavi verstorben

Ein Beitrag von Ingo Bading zu Zahavis "Handicap-Theorie".

Gifts in Skinner Boxes

Dienstag, 20. Juni 2017

Rekursion, Sprachfähigkeit und episodisches Vorstellen

Eine kurze Notiz:

Michael C. Corballis führt als Schlüsselmerkmal des menschlichen Denkens die Fähigkeit zur Rekursion an: ... Diverse Sprachen ermöglichen es uns, Aussagen beliebiger Länge zu formen. (Indem in Grundaussagen zusätzliche Aussagen eingefügt werden.) ... Im Rahmen des episodischen Vorstellens sind Episoden mit einer beliebig großen Anzahl von Unterepisoden denkbar. ...

[Sofern man bei Tieren Sprachfähigkeit feststellte - beispielsweise bei Schimpansen, denen man die Zeichensprache beibrachte - war doch die Anzahl der Elemente, die eine Aussage beinhalten konnte, sehr beschränkt. Die Fähigkeit, sich Episoden mit Unterepisoden ausmalen zu können, ist für die menschliche Planungsfähigkeit von immenser Bedeutung.]

Montag, 19. Juni 2017

Mitdenken bei Vorträgen:

Als Mitdenken bei Vorträgen dürfte gewöhnlich kaum mehr (aber auch kaum weniger) als ein stilles Mitsprechen und Kommentieren des Vorgetragenen bezeichnet werden.

Samstag, 17. Juni 2017

Schreiben als ein rekursiver Prozess:

Sofern man den Schreibvorgang als einen rekursiven Prozess auffasst, liegt folgende Behauptung nahe: ein Absatz, ein Artikel, ein Buch, sind jeweils einzelne Aussagen, in die, per Rekursion, weitere Aussagen eingeschoben wurden.

"Blurt it out!"

"Many of the students who arrive at very competitive universities pride themselves in not making mistakes—after all, that’s how they’ve come so much farther than their classmates, or so they have been led to believe. I often find that I have to encourage them to cultivate the habit of making mistakes, the best learning opportunities of all. They get “writer’s block” and waste hours forlornly wandering back and forth on the starting line. “Blurt it out!” I urge them. Then they have something on the page to work with."

Daniel C. Dennett
"Regret is basically a sorrow over a past alternative that was available to us, but that we missed."

"I have never met a woman who regretted having children. She surely exists, but not in my experience. I have met, however, older people who lament never having kids..."

Donnerstag, 15. Juni 2017

Mögliche Ursachen niedriger Geburtenraten:

Als ein Konzept zur Erklärung niedriger Geburtenraten werden "Opportunitätskosten" angeführt:

"Indem Betreuung und Erziehung von Kindern mit einem Verzicht auf materielle Güter, persönliche Aktivitäten, Einkommen und Karrierechancen 'erkauft' werden, erweisen sich 'Opportunitätskosten' offensichtlich als Schlüsselbegriff für das Verständnis gegenwärtiger Fertilitätsabnahme."

Die Alterung der Gesellschaft (2004)
Schimany Peter

"Von der Größe und Art des biographischen Universums werden die biographischen Handlungsalternativen und -optionen des Individuums entscheidend beeinflusst. Dabei hat die empirische Lebenslaufforschung gezeigt, dass die Wahrscheinlichkeit einer langfristigen Festlegung im Lebenslauf durch eine Kindergeburt umso geringer ist, je größer die Zahl der Lebenslaufoptionen ist, die aufgrund dieser Festlegung aus dem biographischen Universum ausscheiden würden. Die ausgeschiedenen Lebenslaufoptionen werden als biographische Opportunitätskosten von Kindern bezeichnet."

Strategische Optionen der Familien- und Migrationspolitik in Deutschland und Europa
Herwig Birg (2003)

Mittwoch, 14. Juni 2017

David M. Buss on Mating Opportunity Costs

Edge - 2017

Mating Opportunity Costs (by David M. Buss)

The concept of opportunity costs—the loss of potential gains from alternatives not chosen when a mutually exclusive choice must be made—is one of the most important concepts in the field of economics. But the concept is not well appreciated in the field of psychology. 

One reason for its absence is the sheer difficulty of calculating opportunity costs that occur in metrics other than money. Consider mate choice. Choosing one long-term mate means forgoing the benefits of choosing an available and interested alternative. But how are non-monetary benefits calculated psychologically? 

The complexities are multiple. The benefit-bestowing qualities of passed-over mates are many in number and disparate in nature. And there are inevitable tradeoffs among competing and incommensurate alternatives. Sometimes the choice is between a humorless mate with excellent future job prospects and a fun-loving mate destined for a low-status occupation; or between an attractive mate who carries the costs of incessant attention from others versus a mate who garners little external attention but with whom you have less sexual chemistry. Another intangible quality also factors into the equation—the degree to which competing alternatives appreciate your unique assets, which renders you more irreplaceably valuable to one than the other. 

Uncertainty of assessment surrounds each benefit-conferring quality. It is difficult to determine how emotionally stable someone is without sustained observation through times bad and good—events experienced with a chosen mate but unknown with a foregone alternative. Another complication centers on infidelity and breakups. There is no guarantee that you will receive the benefits of a chosen mate over the long run. Mates higher in desirability are more likely to defect. Whereas less desirable mates are sure bets, more desirable partners represent tempting gambles. How do these mating opportunity costs enter into the complex calculus of mating decisions? 

Despite the difficulties involved in computing non-monetary opportunity costs, probabilistic cues to their recurrent reality over evolutionary time must have forged a psychology designed to assess them, however approximate these computations may be. Although mating decisions provide clear illustrations, the psychology of opportunity costs is more pervasive. Humans surely have evolved a complex multifaceted psychology of opportunity costs, since every behavioral decision at every moment precludes potential benefits from alternative courses of action.

Many of these are trivial—sipping a cappuccino precludes downing a latte. But some are profound and produce post-decision regret, such as missed sexual opportunities or lamenting a true love that got away. The penalties of incorrectly calculating mating opportunity costs can last a lifetime.

Folk Psychology:

"Folk psychology is 'what everyone knows' about their minds and the minds of others: people can feel pain or be hungry or thirsty and know the difference, they can remember events from their past, anticipate lots of things, see what is in front of their open eyes, hear what is said within earshot, deceive and be deceived, know where they are, recognize others, and so forth. The confidence with which we make these assumptions is breathtaking, given how little we know about what is actually going on inside the heads of these people (to say nothing of other animals). So sure are we about all this that it takes some strenuous distancing even to notice that we’re doing it."

Daniel C. Dennett

Sonntag, 11. Juni 2017

The Disgust Response in Human Mating:

"Sexual attraction and arousal fulfill important functions in mating decisions: They motivate courtship, copulation, and pair bonding with individuals of high sexual value. The absence of attraction and arousal could thus potentially perform the function of steering individuals away from mates of low sexual value. However, the absence of sexual arousal would not prevent that individual from being sexually pursued by other people who possess their own reproductive agendas. To reject and avoid unwanted sexual advances and behaviors another response is required. Emotions such as fear and anger are not well suited to avoiding potentially costly mates. Fear can lead to immobilization or rapid flight (Öhman & Mineka, 2001) the former of which likely does not impede sexual pursuit, and the latter of which is metabolically costly and often unnecessary (e.g., if social allies and kin can prevent another’s sexual interest from progressing to sexual aggression). Similarly, anger often acts as an “approach” emotion (Carver & HarmonJones, 2009), and associated aggression can lead to costly counteraggression (Sell et al., 2009). 
We suggest that the phylogenetically ancient (Curtis, 2007; Zhang et al., 2005) pathogen disgust was a felicitous system to co-opt to perform the function of avoiding biologically costly mates."


"The lack of a constant state of sexual disgust toward poor mates reflects the costs associated with avoiding individuals who are otherwise valuable social partners. Although constant motivations to avoid poor mates would certainly decrease the probability of reproducing with them, it would also cripple some beneficial social relationships."
"sex entails significant opportunity costs."

"males and females have different opportunity costs on average"


Samstag, 10. Juni 2017

The Recursive Mind:

"[I] argue that [recursion] is the primary characteristic that distinguishes the human mind from that of other animals. It underlies our ability not only to reflect upon our own minds, but also to simulate the minds of others. It allows us to travel mentally in time, inserting consciousness of the past or future into present consciousness."

The Recursive Mind
Michael C. Corballis


"recursive constructions need not involve the embedding of the same constituents, but may contain constituents of the same kind—a process sometimes known as 'self-similar embedding.' "

"recursion does give rise to the concept of infinity, itself perhaps limited to the human imagination."

"After all, only humans have acquired the ability to count indefinitely, and to understand the nature of infinite series, whereas other species can at best merely estimate quantity, and are accurate only up to some small finite number."

"The appealing aspect of recursion is precisely that it can in principle extend indefinitely to create thoughts (and sentences) of whatever complexity is required."

"The slow development of a complex mathematical proof, for example, may require subtheorems within subtheorems."

"interpretation of a sentence may require the understanding of phrases embedded in phrases"

"an internal understanding of a stream of thought may require the segmentation of episodes within episodes."

Donnerstag, 8. Juni 2017


Einen möglichen Bewusstseinszustand von morgen; einen Bewusstseinszustand von gestern; einen Bewusstseinszustand des Mitmenschen; - in das gegenwärtige Bewusstsein einfügen ...

[... eine Art Bewusstsein im Bewusstsein]

[Die Kunst, einen Gedanken mit anderen Gedanken zu füttern; in einen Gedanken andere Gedanken einzuspeisen.]

Mittwoch, 7. Juni 2017

Wäre der Mensch nicht fähig, nach Misserfolgen ein gewisses Maß an Niedergeschlagenheit zu empfinden, wäre er kaum in der Lage, aus Misserfolgen zu lernen.
Jordan Peterson vergleicht die Lüge mit einer Art innerem Gewächs, das, wenn es einmal im menschlichen Bewusstsein etabliert ist, nur schwer aus diesem wieder entfernt werden kann.

[Beim Lügen verhält es sich ähnlich wie beim Rauchen: Am besten man beginnt nicht damit. Einem habituierten Lügner kostet es ähnlich viel Willenskraft, nicht zu lügen, wie es einem habituierten Raucher Willenskraft kostet, nicht zu rauchen.]

Freitag, 2. Juni 2017

Jordan Peterson on Shame:

"if you do something stupid and destructive, to yourself or to yourself and the broader social community, you should feel shame and you should pay attention to it and you should learn from it ..."

"For most of Western history, ... to call someone shameless was a tremendous insult. It meant that they didn't have enough sense to be appalled by their own pathology."

Mittwoch, 31. Mai 2017

Neil C. Warren on intellectual similarity as a matchmaker and intellectual dissimilarity as a deal breaker:

"Interestingly, there is no clinical or empirical evidence proving that two people will fare better in marriage if they are extremely smart. Nor is there evidence that a couple will do poorly in marriage if they are "not so bright." What does matter immensely is that the partners possess intellectual levels that are near the same. If one partner has a high intelligence quotient and the other partner's IQ is substantially lower, the couple are likely to be miserable together, regardless of how many other good traits they may have.
My own mom and dad fell victim to the disparity in intelligence levels. ... Amazingly, they remained married for seventy years! But for seventy years, they experienced the consequences of being mismatched intellectually. They seldom talked to each other beyond the obligatory "How was your day?" type of questions. They had difficulty discussing the important events of the day, or even the deeper tenets of the religious faith they shared. Although they loved each other and were irrevocably committed to each other, their conversations were limited to mundane, everyday things. This is fine if it's the level on which you and your partner want to communicate. But when you run much more deeply, and your partner is not able to go there with you, it can be a frustrating experience for both of you."

Neil C. Warren
founder of eHarmony

Montag, 29. Mai 2017

Es ist ein faszinierender Umstand, dass man, sobald man einen Menschen besser kennt, scheinbar automatisch von ihm abgefasste Texte mit dem für ihn eigentümlichen Stimmklang lesen kann.

Sonntag, 28. Mai 2017

Sonderstellung des Menschen:

Der Mensch zeigt als einziges Lebewesen Bedürfnis und Fähigkeit, ein umfangreiches sprachliches Wissen über diese Welt zu generieren.

William James on Genius:

"Genius, in truth, means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way."


Mit Rekursion assoziiert Michael C. Corballis nicht bloß die Fähigkeit, sich vorübergehend gedanklich vom "Hier und Jetzt" wegzubewegen, um sich frei durch Raum und Zeit zu bewegen, sondern ebenso das Vermögen, das vom Mitmenschen erlebte am eigenen Leib zu erleben: d.h. vorübergehend so die Welt zu erleben, wie sie der Mitmensch erlebt oder erlebte.


Recursive Mind
M. C. Corballis (2014)

Samstag, 27. Mai 2017

William James on Attention:

“Everyone knows what attention is. It is the taking possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought. Focalization, concentration, of consciousness are of its essence. It implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others, and is a condition which has a real opposite in the confused, dazed, scatter-brained state which in French is called distraction, and Zerstreutheit in German.”

The Principles of Psychology
William James (1890)


Wikipedia: Informationsüberflutung

[Siehe auch: Signal-Rausch-Verhältnis]

[Eine "Überflutung" mit Reizen hat voraussichtlich zur Folge, dass die Reize im Schnitt sehr ineffektiv verwertet werden. D.h. in einer Überfülle an bewusst registrierten Informationen ist es dem Menschen kaum mehr möglich, wirkungsvoll Unsicherheit bezüglich den Phänomenen der Um- und Innenwelt abzubauen // wirkungsvoll sich ein solides Wissen um Phänomene seiner Um- und Innenwelt zu erwerben.]

Freitag, 26. Mai 2017

Episodic Memories:

On the whole, my most vivid and colorful episodic memories are memories about personal conversations.
"That your experience largely depends on the material objects and mental subjects that you choose to pay attention to or ignore is not an imaginative notion ..."

Winifred Gallagher

William James on Alcohol and the Physical Sciences:

"The sway of alcohol over mankind is unquestionably due to its power to stimulate the mystical faculties of human nature, usually crushed to earth by the cold facts and dry criticisms of the sober hour. Sobriety diminishes, discriminates, and says no; drunkenness expands, unites, and says yes. It is in fact the great exciter of the Yes function in man."

"No fact in human nature is more characteristic than its willingness to live on a chance. ... The talk of believing by our volition seems, then, from one point of view, simply silly. From another point of view it is worse than silly, it is vile. When one turns to the magnificent edifice of the physical sciences, and sees how it was reared; what thousands of disinterested moral lives of men lie buried in its mere foundations; what patience and postponement, what choking down of preference, what submission to the icy laws of outer fact are wrought into its very stones and mortar; how absolutely impersonal it stands in its vast augustness, - then how besotted and contemptible seems every little sentimentalist who comes blowing his voluntary smoke-wreaths, and pretending to decide things from out of his private dream!"

"The evidence shows, in fact, that people spend more time thinking about the future than about the past."

Michael C. Corballis

Donnerstag, 25. Mai 2017

"We have a remarkable capacity to mentally relive past events, imagine future ones, and even invent fictitious ones. This mental escape from the present allows us to plan our futures, deliberate on the past, and find inspiration in imagined scenarios. ..."

A new book by Michael C. Corballis:

The Truth about Language: What It Is and Where It Came From
Michael C. Corballis (May, 2017)

Montag, 22. Mai 2017

Samstag, 20. Mai 2017

"Uncertainty-related anxiety appears to be maximized in situations where there are no clear frameworks for constraining action or perception."

Psychological Entropy
J. B. Hirsh et al. (2012)

Freitag, 19. Mai 2017

"there are two primary domains of uncertainty that must be contended with from a psychological perspective: uncertainty about perception and uncertainty about action."

Psychological Entropy
J. B. Hirsh et al. (2012)

On the size of sex differences in personality:

"When sex differences across multiple traits are combined using multivariate statistical methods, the global difference between the average profiles of men and women ranges between two and three standard deviations. This means that the personality distributions of males and females overlap by about 10%, which is close to the anatomical overlap between male and female faces (Del Giudice, 2013; Del Giudice et al., 2012). The comparison between faces and personality profiles is illuminating: while the sexes look fairly similar if one considers one anatomical feature at a time (e.g., the size of the eyes, the length of the nose), the difference becomes obvious as soon as one starts looking at whole faces of men and women."


Momente, Stunden und Tage, wo dem menschlichen Denken und Erleben vorübergehend nicht mehr die Erdenschwere anzuhaften scheint. Wo sich die Aufmerksamkeit entschieden auf pos. Möglichkeiten anstatt auf Gefahren, Notwendigkeiten und Problematiken richtet.
"The evolution of language—another defining adaptation of our species—permits the exchange and transmission of information on an unprecedented scale."

Marco Del Giudice

Donnerstag, 18. Mai 2017

"an improper or outdated or otherwise invalid attachment—such as the attachment to an inappropriate pattern of behavior or belief—turns the world into waste"

Jordan B. Peterson

Mittwoch, 17. Mai 2017

Romantic Love and Sexual Desire as Separate Relational Processes

Romantic Love and Sexual Desire in Close Relationships
Gian C. Gonzaga et al. (2006)

"Two schools of thought converge on the notion that romantic love and sexual desire are independent relational processes. Relationship researchers have long grappled with the question of how romantic love and sexual desire emerge and evolve over the course of intimate relationships (Aron & Aron, 1998; Hatfield, 1988; Hatfield & Rapson, 1993; Hatfield & Walster, 1978; S. S. Hendrick & Hendrick, 1992; R. J. Sternberg, 1986). Within this tradition, researchers differentiate between companionate love (or romantic love, in our terminology), which involves deep feelings of commitment, intimacy, and connection, and passionate love (or sexual desire, in our terminology), which involves powerful feelings of attraction, desire, passion, and infatuation (Diamond, 2003; Hatfield, 1988; Hatfield & Rapson, 1993; Reis & Shaver, 1988). Within this framework, romantic love fulfills a commitment role, sustaining long-term bonds by promoting intimacy, connection, and the formation of mutual long-term plans (e.g., Aron & Aron, 1998; Diamond, 2003; Dion & Dion, 1973; Ellis & Malamuth, 2000; Hatfield & Rapson, 1993; S. S. Hendrick & Hendrick, 1992; R. J. Sternberg, 1986). In line with this thesis, romantic love relates to an interest in being close to a partner (Aron & Aron, 1998; Hatfield, 1988; Hatfield & Walster, 1978) and encourages self-disclosure (Aron, Norman, Aron, McKenna, & Heyman, 2000; S. S. Hendrick, Hendrick, & Adler, 1988; Wieselquist, Rusbult, Foster, & Agnew, 1999). Moreover, the feeling of falling in love involves a rapid expansion of the self to include the partner (Aron & Aron, 1997), and perceptions of increasing love across the duration of a relationship predict later relationship continuation (Sprecher, 1999).
In contrast, sexual desire—and related feelings of passion and infatuation—fulfill an initiation role, motivating sexual interest, proximity seeking, and initial contact. By motivating proximity seeking, sexual desire promotes contact and allows commitment to grow (e.g., Hazan & Zeifman, 1994, 1999; Zeifman & Hazan, 1997). In line with this thesis, passion— or sexual desire—tends to peak early in a relationship (Aron & Aron, 1991; Berscheid, 1985; Regan, 1998; R. J. Sternberg, 1986), and behaviors motivated by sexual desire, such as sexual contact or certain kinds of touch, are less frequent in more established relationships (Sprecher & Regan, 1998).
Evolutionary and attachment-related accounts of relationships have similar claims about romantic love and sexual desire (e.g., Diamond, 2003; Fisher, 1998; Hazan & Shaver, 1987). Romantic love is thought to be part of a pair-bonding system, which keeps partners together in long-term relationships that are oriented toward raising vulnerable, dependent offspring to the age of viability (Buss, 1988, 1994; Buss & Schmitt, 1993; Fisher, 1998; Kenrick & Trost, 1997; Simpson, 1994). As a part of the mating system and with the primary goal of reproduction, sexual desire responds to cues of reproductive readiness, such as physical markers of fertility or status (Buss, 1994).
This evolutionary, attachment-related approach is best encapsulated in Diamond’s (2003, 2004) biobehavioral model of romantic love and sexual desire. Diamond argued that romantic love and sexual desire serve different functions, namely to promote pair bonding and sexual behavior, respectively. In support of these claims, Diamond reviewed evidence showing that the subjective experiences of romantic love and sexual desire are functionally independent: Individuals can feel romantic love but not sexual desire, or sexual desire but not romantic love, toward another person. Romantic love and sexual desire, Diamond claimed, also appear to be mediated by different physiological processes: oxytocin (OT) and endogenous opioids in the case of romantic love, and gonadal estrogens and androgens in the case of sexual desire. ..."

Montag, 15. Mai 2017

Ordnung und Information:

Eine geordnete Umwelt ist weniger informationshaltig als eine chaotische Umwelt:
Wenn jemand in einer ordentlichen Wohnung sagt, dass sich die Butter im Kühlschrank befindet, so hat diese Aussage einen geringen Informationsgehalt. Wir nehmen ja bereits im vorhinein an, dass sie sich im Kühlschrank oder gegebenfalls auf dem Esstisch findet.
Wenn wir in eine restlos ungeordnete Wohnung gehen, d.h. in eine Wohnung, auf deren Fläche sämtliche Gegenstände restlos chaotisch verteilt sind, so ist die Nachricht, dass sich die Butter unter dem Sofa, der Kopfpolster in der Küche, und der Heftklammerapparat im Badezimmer finden, hochgradig informativ.
Im zweiten Fall können wir nicht effektiv im vorhinein urteilen, an welchen Stellen der Wohnung wir Gegenstände mit hoher Wahrscheinlichkeit antreffen.

Sonntag, 14. Mai 2017

"Das Prinzip, das wir weiterhin kurz Redundanzprinzip nennen wollen, besagt folgendes: Der Mensch (und wohl auch jeder andere wahrnehmungs- und lernfähige Organismus) ist bestrebt, die objektive Information der Außenwelt auf verschiedene Weise subjektiv zu verringern. ... Redundanzprozesse haben dabei den Sinn, dem Menschen (bzw. dem Organismus) die Außenwelt so informationsarm zu machen, dass eine Orientierung und ein geordnetes Verhalten darin möglich wird."

Felix von Cube
"Als übergeordnetes Lebenskriterium erscheint bei allen Organismen ihre Fortpflanzungsfähigkeit. Alle übrigen Charakteristika sind entweder Voraussetzung oder Folge dieser einen zentralen Eigenschaft."

P. Sitte et al.

Samstag, 13. Mai 2017

Zweierlei Unsicherheiten:

Vereinfachend lassen sich die Unsicherheiten, mit denen der Mensch konfrontiert wird, in zwei Kategorien einteilen:

(A) in eine Unsicherheit bezüglich dem, was sich in der Vergangenheit erreignete; bezüglich dem, was sich künftig erreignen wird; darüber, welche Beziehungen zwischen diversen Ereignissen, Phänomenen oder Gegenständen bestehen; etc.

(B) in eine Unsicherheit darüber, wie wir uns in der Situation, in der wir uns befinden, zu verhalten haben

Die zweite Unsicherheit lässt sich nicht mehr als eine rein kognitive Unsicherheit bezeichnen, und bezieht sich bereits auf den Menschen als ein wollendes und handelndes Lebewesen.

Informationsgehalt von Vorträgen:

Es verhält sich keineswegs so, dass Personen bloß Vorträge als langweilig empfinden, die einen geringen Informationsgehalt aufweisen. Ähnlich häufig werden Vorträge als langweilig empfunden, die über einen sehr hohen,  für diverse Zuhörer zu hohen, Informationsgehalt verfügen.

Freitag, 12. Mai 2017


Unsicherheit kann bestehen:

(A) über dasjenige, was sich in der Vergangenheit erreignete
(B) darüber, was sich künftig erreignen wird
(C) über die Beziehungen der Objekte oder Phänomene zueinander

Denken im Sinne von Informationsverarbeitung zielt darauf ab, Unsicherheit zu reduzieren.

Dienstag, 9. Mai 2017


Intelligenz ermöglicht (A) Beziehungsgeflechte der eigenen Um- und Innenwelt aufzudecken, (B) Wissen um Zusammenhänge und Beziehungen schlussfolgernd zu verwerten.

Major findings on g’s impact on job performance

Utility of g 

(1) Higher levels of g lead to higher levels of performance in all jobs and along all dimensions of performance. The average correlation of mental tests with overall rated job performance is around 0.5 (corrected for statistical artifacts). 

(2) There is no ability threshold above which more g does not enhance performance. The effects of g are linear: successive increments in g lead to successive increments in job performance. 

(3) (a) The value of higher levels of g does not fade with longer experience on the job. Criterion validities remain high even among highly experienced workers, (b) That they sometimes even appear to rise with experience may be due to the confounding effect of the least experienced groups tending to be more variable in relative level of experience, which obscures the advantages of higher g. 

(4) g predicts job performance better in more complex jobs. Its (corrected) criterion validities range from about 0.2 in the simplest jobs to 0.8 in the most complex. 

(5) g predicts the core technical dimensions of performance better than it does the non-core “citizenship” dimension of performance. 

(6) Perhaps as a consequence, g predicts objectively measured performance (either job knowledge or job sample performance) better than it does subjectively measured performance (such as supervisor ratings). 

Utility of g relative to other “can do” components of performance 

(7) Specific mental abilities (such as spatial, mechanical or verbal ability) add very little, beyond g, to the prediction of job performance, g generally accounts for at least 85-95% of a full mental test 
battery’s (cross-validated) ability to predict performance in training or on the job. 

(8) Specific mental abilities (such as clerical ability) sometimes add usefully to prediction, net of g, but only in certain classes of jobs. They do not have general utility. 

(9) General psychomotor ability is often useful, but primarily in less complex work. Their predictive validities fall with complexity while those for g rise. 

Utility of g relative to the “will do” component of job performance 

(10) g predicts core performance much better than do “non-cognitive” (less g-loaded) traits, such as vocational interests and different personality traits. The latter add virtually nothing to the prediction of core performance, net of g. 

(11) g predicts most dimensions of non-core performance (such as personal discipline and soldier bearing) much less well than do “non-cognitive” traits of personality and temperament. When a performance dimension reflects both core and non-core performance (effort and leadership), g predicts to about the same modest degree as do non-cognitive (less g-loaded) traits. 

(12) Different non-cognitive traits appear to usefully supplement g in different jobs, just as specific abilities sometimes add to the prediction of performance in certain classes of jobs. Only one such non-cognitive trait appears to be as generalizable as g: the personality trait of conscientiousness/integrity. Its effect sizes for core performance are substantially smaller than g’s, however.

Utility of g relative to the job knowledge 

(13) g affects job performance primarily indirectly through its effect on job-specific knowledge. 

(14) g’s direct effects on job performance increase when jobs are less routinized, training is less complete, and workers retain more discretion. 

(15) Job-specific knowledge generally predicts job performance as well as does g among experienced workers. However, job knowledge is not generalizable (net of its g component), even among experienced workers. The value of job knowledge is highly job specific; g’s value is unrestricted. Utility of g relative to the “have done” (experience) component of job performance 

(16) Like job knowledge, the effect sizes of job-specific experience are sometimes high but they are not generalizable. 

(17) In fact, experience predicts performance less well as all workers become more experienced. In contrast, higher levels of g remain an asset regardless of length of experience. 

(18) Experience predicts job performance less well as job complexity rises, which is opposite the trend for g. Like general psychomotor ability, experience matters least where g matters most to individuals and their organizations.

Sonntag, 7. Mai 2017

Möglicherweise besteht ein Vorteil der episodischen Voraussicht gegenüber der abstrakt-sprachlichen Voraussicht darin, dass uns anschauliche Vorstellungen eine verhätnismäßig wirkungsvolle affektive Bewertung von Situationen ermöglichen.

Spezifisch menschliche Fähigkeiten:

(A) die verbesserte Fähigkeit anschaulich vorauszudenken
(B) die Fähigkeit abstrakt-sprachlich vorauszudenken
(C) die Fähigkeit zeitliche Fernziele zu fixieren und anzustreben

Freitag, 5. Mai 2017

Richard Alexander on Scenario Building:

"People in the arts are by definition the best storytellers among us. What they tell us is never superfluous, impractical, or trivial unless we, the audiences, allow it to be. We gain mightily from knowing how and when to listen, to whom to listen, and what to do with the experience afterward. For the arts are theater, and theater in all its guises represents the richest, most condensed, and most widely understood of all cultural contributions to our patterns of social scenario building through consciousness and foresight. These scenarios, which we build, review, and revise continually everyday of our lives, are obligate passports to social success, and perhaps the central evolved function of the human social brain. We use them to anticipate and manipulate the future - the ever more distant future in ever greater detail."

Evolutionary Selection and the Nature of Humanity
Darwinism and Philosophy (2008)
The Abilities of Man, Spearman quotes Strasheim:

"The great difference between the 'dull' and the 'bright' testees was that the former relied mainly upon reproduction, while the latter made use of eduction."

"We construct our idealized world, in fantasy, according to all the information we have at our disposal. We use what we know to build an image of what we could have and, therefore, of what we should do. But we compare our interpretation of the world as it unfolds in the present to the desired world, in imagination, not to mere expectation; we compare what we have (in interpretation) to what we want, rather than to what we merely think will be. Our goal setting, and consequent striving, is motivated: we chase what we desire, in our constant attempts to optimize our affective states. (Of course, we use our behavior to ensure that our dreams come true; that is healthy “adaptation.” But we still compare what is happening to what we want—to what we desire to be—not merely to what we cold-bloodedly expect.)"

Maps of Meaning
Jordan B. Peterson

Montag, 1. Mai 2017

Über menschliche Intelligenz:

Menschliche Organismen sind dazu fähig, bewusste Gedanken bzw. sprachliche Aussagen über Phänomene ihrer Um- und Innenwelt zu generieren. Von Mensch zu Mensch unterscheidet sich die Rate mit der solche Gedanken bzw. Aussagen generiert werden (in Einheiten pro Zeiteinheit), und die generelle Akkuratheit der generierten Gedanken bzw. Aussagen (d.h. in welchem Ausmaß diese tatsächliche Verhältnisse der Um- und Innenwelt widerspiegeln). Intelligenztests messen zwischenmenschliche Unterschiede in der Effektivität des Denkens.

Dienstag, 25. April 2017

"every item in the cognitive field, every constituent in whatever object (mental) is perceived or thought of, comes into being by a continuous emergence of utter obscurity up to some degree of clearness;"

Charles Spearman

Montag, 24. April 2017

On Learning:

I skimmed Barbara Oakley's book on Learning.

There are two points worth mentioning:

If you are ambitious to learn something new, in particular a subject that loads heavy on maths, it makes sense to create a learning plan; i.e. you should ask yourself, how many days or weeks you're able to invest in learning, and what time span per day is available. You should check after each day, if you invested the scheduled time frame. It is absolutely important to create a realistic plan. So, if you are not able to invest as many hours as planned, use that feedback to fix your plan, i.e. to create a more realistic plan. It makes sense to subdivide your learning effort in 25 min or 30 min intervals (use a timer), with several minutes for relaxation between these intervals. This should improve concentration.

Secondly, you only know something if it's really in your head. If you restrict your efforts to reading materials, perhaps an illusory feeling arises, that you have learned something new. But for learning it's absolutely essential that you are able to recall / to consciously reproduce and reconstruct the learned material. Unless you can explicitly talk about learned material, you haven't integrated the new information into your store of declarative knowledge.

Sonntag, 23. April 2017

"Thinking might in many cases be regarded as the abstracted form of exploration—as the capacity to investigate, without the necessity of direct motoric action. Abstract analysis (verbal and nonverbal) of the unexpected or novel plays a much greater role for humans than for animals - a role that generally takes primacy over action. It is only when this capacity fails partially or completely in humans—or when it plays a paradoxical role (amplifying the significance or potential danger of the unknown through definitive but “false” negative labeling)—that active exploration (or active avoidance), with its limitations and dangers, becomes necessary. Replacement of potentially dangerous exploratory action with increasingly flexible and abstracted thought means the possibility for growth of knowledge without direct exposure to danger, and constitutes one major advantage of the development of intelligence."

Maps of Meaning
Jordan B. Peterson

Samstag, 22. April 2017

On Exploration:

Maps of Meaning, Jordan B. Peterson (1999):

>The constant and universal presence of the incomprehensible in the world has elicited adaptive response from us and from all other creatures with highly developed nervous systems. We have evolved to operate successfully in a world eternally composed of the predictable, in paradoxical juxtaposition with the unpredictable. The combination of what we have explored and what we have still to evaluate actually comprises our environment, insofar as its nature can be broadly specified—and it is to that environment that our physiological structure has become matched. One set of the systems that comprise our brain and mind governs activity, when we are guided by our plans—when we are in the domain of the known. Another appears to operate when we face something unexpected— when we have entered the realm of the unknown.
The “limbic unit” generates the orienting reflex, among its other tasks. It is the orienting reflex, which manifests itself in emotion, thought and behavior, that is at the core of the fundamental human response to the novel or unknown. This reflex takes a biologically determined course, ancient in nature, primordial as hunger or thirst, basic as sexuality, extant similarly in the animal kingdom, far down the chain of organic being. The orienting reflex is the general instinctual reaction to the category of all occurrences which have not yet been categorized—is response to the unexpected, novel or unknown per se, and not to any discriminated aspect of experience, any specifically definable situation or thing. The orienting reflex is at the core of the process that generates (conditional) knowledge of sensory phenomena and motivational relevance or valence. Such knowledge is most fundamentally how to behave, and what to expect as a consequence, in a particular situation, defined by culturally modified external environmental circumstance and equally modified internal motivational state. It is also information about what is, from the objective perspective—is the record of that sensory experience occurring in the course of ongoing behavior.
The orienting reflex substitutes for particular learned responses when the incomprehensible suddenly makes its appearance. The occurrence of the unpredictable, the unknown, the source of fear and hope, creates a seizure of ongoing specifically goal-directed behavior. Emergence of the unexpected constitutes evidence for the incomplete nature of the story currently guiding such behavior; comprises evidence for error at the level of working description of current state, representation of desired future state or conception of the means to transform the former into the latter. Appearance of the unknown motivates curious, hopeful exploratory behavior, regulated by fear, as means to update the memory-predicated working model of reality (to update the known, so to speak, which is defined or familiar territory). The simultaneous production of two antithetical emotional states, such as hope and fear, means conflict, and the unexpected produces intrapsychic conflict like nothing else. The magnitude and potential intensity of this conflict cannot be appreciated under normal circumstances, because under normal circumstances—in defined territory—things are going according to plan. It is only when our goals have been destroyed that the true significance of the decontextualized object or experience is revealed—and such revelation makes itself known first in the form of fear. We are protected from such conflict—from subjugation to instinctive terror—by the historical compilation of adaptive information generated in the course of previous novelty-driven exploration. We are protected from unpredictability by our culturally determined beliefs, by the stories we share. These stories tell us how to presume and how to act to maintain the determinate, shared and restricted values that compose our familiar worlds.
The orienting reflex—the involuntary gravitation of attention to novelty—lays the groundwork for the emergence of (voluntarily controlled) exploratory behavior. Exploratory behavior allows for classification of the general and (a priori) motivationally significant unexpected into specified and determinate domains of motivational relevance. In the case of something with actual (post-investigation) significance, relevance means context-specific punishment or satisfaction, or their putatively “second-order” equivalents: threat or promise (as something threatening implies punishment, as something promising implies satisfaction). This is categorization, it should be noted, in accordance with implication for motor output, or behavior, rather than with regard to sensory (or, formalized, objective) property. We have generally presumed that the purpose of exploration is production of a picture of the objective qualities of the territory explored. This is evidently—but only partially—true. However, the reasons we produce such pictures (are motivated to produce such pictures) are not usually given sufficient consideration. Every explorable subterritory, so to speak, has its sensory aspect, but it is the emotional or motivational relevance of the new domain that is truly important. We need to know only that something is hard and glowing red as a means of keeping track of the fact that it is hot, and therefore dangerous—that it is punishing, if contacted. We need to know the feel and look of objects so that we can keep track of what can be eaten and what might eat us.
When we explore a new domain, we are mapping the motivational or affective significance of the things or situations that are characteristic of our goal-directed interactions within that domain, and we use the sensory information we encounter to identify what is important. It is the determination of specific meaning, or emotional significance, in previously unexplored territory—not identification of the objective features—that allows us to inhibit the novelty-induced terror and curiosity emergence of that territory otherwise automatically elicits. We feel comfortable somewhere new, once we have discovered that nothing exists there that will threaten or hurt us (more particularly, when we have adjusted our behavior and schemas of representation so that nothing there is likely to or able to threaten or hurt us). The consequence of exploration that allows for emotional regulation (that generates security, essentially) is not objective description, as the scientist might have it, but categorization of the implications of an unexpected occurrence for specification of means and ends. Such categorization is what an object “is,” from the perspective of archaic affect and subjective experience. The orienting reflex, and the exploratory behavior following its manifestation, also allows for the differentiation of the unknown into the familiar categories of objective reality. However, this ability is a late development, emerging only four hundred years ago, and cannot be considered basic to “thinking.” Specification of the collectively apprehensible sensory qualities of something—generally considered, in the modern world, as the essential aspect of the description of reality—merely serves as an aid to the more fundamental process of evaluation, determining the precise nature of relevant or potentially relevant phenomena. 
When things are going according to plan—that is, when our actions fulfill our desires—we feel secure, even happy. When nothing is going wrong, the cortical systems expressly responsible for the organization and implementation of goal-directed behavior remain firmly in control. When cortically generated plans and fantasies go up in smoke, however, this control vanishes. The comparatively ancient “limbic” hippocampal and amygdalic systems leap into action, modifying affect, interpretation and behavior. The hippocampus appears particularly specialized for comparing the (interpreted) reality of the present, as it manifests itself in the subjective sphere, with the fantasies of the ideal future constructed by the motor unit (acting in turn as the higher-order mediator—the king, so to speak—of all the specialized subsystems that compose the more fundamental or primary components of the brain). These desire-driven fantasies might be regarded as motivated hypotheses about the relative likelihood of events produced in the course of ongoing goal-directed activity. What you expect to happen—really, what you want to happen, at least in most situations—is a model you generate, using what you already know, in combination with what you are learning while you act. The hippocampal comparator constantly and “unconsciously” checks what is “actually” happening against what is supposed to happen. This means that the comparator contrasts the “unbearable present,” insofar as it is comprehended (because it is a model, too), against the ideal future, as it is imagined; means that it compares the interpreted outcome of active behavior with an image of the intended consequences of that behavior. Past experience—skill and representation of the outcome of skill (or memory, as it is applied)—governs behavior, until error is committed. When something occurs that is not intended—when the actual outcome, as interpreted, does not match the desired outcome, as posited—the hippocampus shifts mode and prepares to update cortical memory storage. Behavioral control shifts from the cortex to the limbic system—apparently, to the amygdala, which governs the provisional determination of the affective significance of unpredictable events, and has powerful output to centers of motor control. This shift of control allows the activation of structures governing orienting, heightened intensity of sensory processing and exploration.
The “higher” cortex controls behavior until the unknown emerges—until it makes a mistake in judgment, until memory no longer serves—until the activity it governs produces a mismatch between what is desired and what actually occurs. When such a mismatch occurs, appropriate affect (fear and curiosity) emerges. But how can situation-relevant emotion attach itself to what has by definition not yet been encountered? Traditionally, significance is attached to previously irrelevant things or situations as a consequence of learning, which is to say that things mean nothing until their meaning is learned. No learning has taken place, however, in the face of the unknown—yet emotion reveals itself, in the presence of error. It appears, therefore, that the kind of emotion that the unpredictable arouses is not learned—which is to say that the novel or unexpected comes preloaded with affect. Things are not irrelevant, as a matter of course. They are rendered irrelevant, as a consequence of (successful) exploratory behavior. When they are first encountered, however, they are meaningful. It is the amygdala, at bottom, that appears responsible for the (disinhibited) generation of this a priori meaning—terror and curiosity.
The amygdala appears to automatically respond to all things or situations, unless told not to. It is told not to—is functionally inhibited—when ongoing goal-directed behaviors produce the desired (intended) results. When an error occurs, however—indicating that current memory-guided motivated plans and goals are insufficient—the amygdala is released from inhibition and labels the unpredictable occurrence with meaning. Anything unknown is dangerous and promising, simultaneously: evokes anxiety, curiosity, excitement and hope automatically and prior to what we would normally regard as exploration or as (more context-specific) classification. The operations of the amygdala are responsible for ensuring that the unknown is regarded with respect, as the default decision. The amygdala says, in effect, “if you don’t know what it signifies, you’d better pay attention to it.” Attention constitutes the initial stage of exploratory behavior, motivated by amygdalic operation—composed of the interplay between anxiety, which impels caution in the face of novelty-threat, and hope, which compels approach to novelty-promise. Caution-regulated approach allows for the update of memory in the form of skill and representation. Exploration-updated memory inhibits the production of a priori affect. On familiar ground—in explored territory—we feel no fear (and comparatively little curiosity). 
The desired output of behavior (what should be) is initially posited; if the current strategy fails, the approach and exploration system is activated, although it remains under the governance of anxiety. The approach system (and its equivalent, in abstraction) generates (1) alternative sequences of behavior, whose goal is the production of a solution to the present dilemma; (2) alternative conceptualizations of the desired goal; or (3) re-evaluation of the motivational significance of the current state. This means (1) that a new strategy for attaining the desired goal might be invented, or (2) that a replacement goal, serving the same function, might be chosen; or (3) that the behavioral strategy might be abandoned, due to the cost of its implementation. In the latter case, the whole notion of what constitutes “reality,” at least with regard to the story or frame of reference currently in use, might have to be reconstructed. ...
Exploratory activity culminates normally in restriction, expansion, or transformation of the behavioral repertoire. In exceptional, non-normal circumstances—that is, when a major error has been committed—such activity culminates in revolution, in modification of the entire story guiding affective evaluation and behavioral programming. Such revolutionary modification means update of modeled reality, past, present and future, through incorporation of information generated during exploratory behavior. Successful exploration transforms the unknown into the expected, desired and predictable; establishes appropriate behavioral measures (and expectations of those measures) for next contact. Unsuccessful exploration, by contrast—avoidance or escape—leaves the novel object firmly entrenched in its initial, “natural,” anxiety-provoking category. This observation sets the stage for a fundamental realization: human beings do not learn to fear new objects or situations, or even really “learn” to fear something that previously appeared safe, when it manifests a dangerous property. Fear is the a priori position, the natural response to everything for which no structure of behavioral adaptation has been designed and inculcated. Fear is the innate reaction to everything that has not been rendered predictable, as a consequence of successful, creative exploratory behavior undertaken in its presence, at some time in the past. LeDoux states:

"It is well established that emotionally neutral stimuli can acquire the capacity to evoke striking emotional reaction following temporal pairing with an aversive event. Conditioning does not create new emotional responses but instead simply allows new stimuli to serve as triggers capable of activating existing, often hard-wired, species-specific emotional reactions. In the rat, for example, a pure tone previously paired with footshock evokes a conditioned fear reaction consisting of freezing behavior accompanied by a host of autonomic adjustments, including increases in arterial pressure and heart rate. Similar responses are expressed when laboratory rats are exposed to a cat for the first time, but following amygdala lesions such responses are no longer present, suggesting that the responses are genetically specified (since they appear when the rat sees a cat, a natural predator, for the first time) and involve the amygdala. The fact that electrical stimulation of the amygdala is capable of eliciting the similar response patterns further supports the notion that the responses are hard-wired."

Fear is not conditioned; security is unlearned, in the presence of particular things or contexts, as a consequence of violation of explicit or implicit presupposition. Classical behavioral psychology is wrong in the same manner our folk presumptions are wrong: fear is not secondary, not learned; security is secondary, learned. Everything not explored is tainted, a priori, with apprehension. Any thing or situation that undermines the foundations of the familiar and secure is therefore to be feared.
It is difficult for us to formulate a clear picture of the subjective effects of the systems that dominate our initial response to the truly unpredictable, because we strive with all our might to ensure that everything around us remains normal. Under “normal” conditions, therefore, these primordial systems never operate with their full force. It might be said, with a certain amount of justification, that we devote our entire lives to making sure that we never have to face anything unknown, in the revolutionary sense—at least not accidentally. Our success in doing so deludes us about the true nature, power and intensity of our potential emotional responses. As civilized people, we are secure. We can predict the behaviors of others (that is, if they share our stories); furthermore, we can control our environments well enough to ensure that our subjection to threat and punishment remains at a minimum. It is the cumulative consequences of our adaptive struggle—our cultures—which enable this prediction and control. The existence of our cultures, however, blinds us to the nature of our true (emotional) natures—at least to the range of that nature, and to the consequences of its emergence.
Experimental examinations of the orienting reflex have not shed much light on our true potential for emotional response, in the past, because they generally took place under exceptionally controlled circumstances. Subjects evaluated for their responses to “novelty” are generally presented with stimuli that are novel only in the most “normal” of manners. A tone, for example, which differs unpredictably from another tone (or which appears at a relatively unpredictable time) is still a tone, something experienced a thousand times before and something experienced in a lab, in a hospital or university, under the jurisdiction of trustworthy personnel devoted to minimizing the anxietyprovoking nature of the experimental procedure. The controlled circumstances of the experiment (which are, in fact, the implicit and therefore invisible theoretical presumptions of the experiment) have led us to minimize the importance of the orienting reflex, and to misunderstand the nature of its disappearance.
Orienting signifies “attention,” not terror, in the standard lab situation, and its gradual elimination with repeated stimulus presentation is regarded as “habituation”—as something boring, akin to automatic acclimation, adjustment or desensitization. Habituation is not a passive process, however, at least at higher cortical levels of processing. It just looks passive when observed under relatively trivial circumstances. It is in reality always the consequence of active exploration and subsequent modification of behavior, or interpretive schema. The (relatively) novel target laboratory tone, for example, is investigated for its underlying structure by the cortical systems involved in audition. These systems actively analyze the component elements of every sound. The subject is led to “expect” or predict one sort of sound and gets another. The unexpected other has indeterminate significance, in that particular context, and is therefore regarded as (comparatively) meaningful—threatening and promising. The unexpected tone is presented repeatedly. The exploratory subject notes that the repetitions signify nothing, in the context that defines the experimental situation (nothing punishing, satisfying, threatening or promising), and ceases to react. He has not merely “habituated” to the stimuli. He has mapped its context-dependent significance, which is zero. This process appears trivial because the experimental situation makes it so. In real life, it is anything but boring. 
Classical work conducted on animal “emotion” and motivation has taken place under circumstances reminiscent of the artificially constrained situations that define most work on human orienting. Animals, usually rats, are trained to be afraid—or to inhibit their behavior—in the presence of a neutral stimulus paired repeatedly with an “unconditioned” punishment [a stimulus whose motivational valence is negative, in the supposed absence of learning (or, at least, in the absence of interpretation)]. The rat is placed in the experimental environment and is allowed to familiarize himself with his surroundings. The neutral stimulus might be a light; the unconditioned stimulus, an electric shock. The light goes on; the floor of the rat’s cage is briefly electrified. This sequence occurs repeatedly. Soon the rat “freezes” as soon as the light appears. He has developed a “conditioned response,” manifesting behavioral inhibition (and fear, theoretically) to something that was previously neutral. Procedures of this sort effectively produce fear. The implicit contextual constraints or axioms of these procedures, however, lead researchers to draw odd conclusions about the nature of the “acquisition” of fear. 
Such experiments first imply that fear in a given situation is necessarily something learned. Second, they imply that fear exists as a consequence of exposure to punishment, and only because of that exposure. The problem with this interpretation is that the rat was inevitably afraid as soon as he was placed in the new experimental environment, even though nothing terrible had yet happened there. After he is allowed to explore, he calms down. It is only then that he is regarded as normal. The experimenter then jars the rat out of his acquired normalcy by presenting him with something unexpected and painful—the unconditioned stimulus, in conjunction with the neutral stimulus. He then “learns” to be afraid. Really what has happened is that the unexpected occurrence forces the rat to reattain the state he was in (or that same state, in an exaggerated manner) when he first entered the cage. The fact of the electric shock, in conjunction with the light, indicates to the rat (reminds the rat) that he is, once again, in unexplored territory. His fear, in unexplored territory, is just as normal as his complacency in environments that he has mapped and that hold no danger. We regard the calm rat as the real rat because we project our misinterpretations of our own habitual nature onto our experimental animals. It is as D.O.Hebb states:

"[The urbanity characterizing ourselves,]…the civilized, amiable, and admirable part of mankind, well brought up and not constantly in a state of fear…depends as much on our successfully avoiding disturbing stimulation as on a lowered sensitivity [to fear-producing stimuli]…. [T]he capacity for emotional breakdown may [well] be self-concealing, leading [animals and human beings] to find or create an environment in which the stimuli to excessive emotional response are at a minimum. So effective is our society in this regard that its members—especially the well-to-do and educated ones—may not even guess at some of their own potentialities. One usually thinks of education, in the broad sense, as producing a resourceful, emotionally stable adult, without respect to the environment in which these traits are to appear. To some extent this may be true. But education can be seen as being also the means of establishing a protective social environment in which emotional stability is possible. Perhaps it strengthens the individual against unreasonable fears and rages, but it certainly produces a uniformity of appearance and behavior which reduces the frequency with which the individual member of the society encounters the causes of such emotion. On this view, the susceptibility to emotional disturbance may not be decreased. It may in fact be increased. The protective cocoon of uniformity, in personal appearance, manners, and social activity generally, will make small deviations from custom appear increasingly strange and thus (if the general thesis is sound) increasingly intolerable. The inevitable small deviations from custom will bulk increasingly large, and the members of the society, finding themselves tolerating trivial deviations well, will continue to think of themselves as socially adaptable."

Our emotional regulation depends as much (or more) on the stability and predictability of the social environment (on the maintenance of our cultures) as on “interior” processes, classically related to the strength of the ego or the personality. Social order is a necessary precondition for psychological stability: it is primarily our companions and their actions (or inactions) that stabilize or destabilize our emotions.
A rat (a person) is a complacent creature in explored territory. When in unexplored territory, however, it is anything but calm. A rat moved from its home cage to a new and unknown environment—a new cage, for example—will first freeze (even though it has never been punished, in the new situation). If nothing terrible happens to it (nothing punishing, threatening or additionally unpredictable) it will begin to sniff, to look around, to move its head, to gather new information about the intrinsically frightening place it now inhabits. Gradually, it starts to move about. It will explore the whole cage with increasing confidence. It is mapping the new environment for affective valence. It wants to find out: is there anything here that will kill me? Anything here I can eat? Anyone else here—someone hostile or friendly? A potential mate? The rat is interested in determining whether the new place contains anything of determinate interest to a rat, and it explores, to the best of its capacity, to make that judgment. It is not primarily interested in the “objective” nature of the new circumstances—a rat cannot actually determine what is objective and what is merely “personal opinion.” Nor does it care. It just wants to know what it should do.
What happens if an animal encounters something truly unexpected—something that should just not be, according to its current frame of reference or system of belief? The answer to this question sheds substantial light on the nature of the orienting reflex, in its full manifestation. Modern experimental psychologists have begun to examine the response of animals to natural sources of mystery and threat. They allow the animals to set up their own environments, realistic environments, and then expose them to the kinds of surprising circumstances they might encounter in real life. The appearance of a predator in previously safe space (space previously explored, that is, and mapped as useful or irrelevant) constitutes one type of realistic surprise. Blanchard and colleagues describe the naturalistic behavior of rats, under such conditions:

"When a cat is presented to established mixed-sex groups of laboratory rats living in a visible burrow system, the behaviors of the subjects change dramatically, in many cases for 24 hours or more. The initial active defensive behavior, flight to the tunnel/chamber system, is followed by a period of immobility during which the rats make 22 kHz ultrasonic vocalizations, which apparently serve as alarm cries, at a high rate. As freezing breaks up, proxemic avoidance of the open area gradually gives way to a pattern of “risk assessment” of the area where the cat was encountered. Subjects poke their heads out of the tunnel openings to scan the open area where the cat was presented, for minutes or hours before emerging, and when they do emerge, their locomotory patterns are characterized by [behaviors that theoretically reduce their visibility and vulnerability to predators and by] very short “corner runs” into and out of the open area. These risk assessment activities appear to involve active gathering of information about the possible danger source, providing a basis for a gradual return to non-defensive behaviors. Active risk assessment is not seen during early post-cat exposure, when freezing and avoidance of the open area are the dominant behaviors, but rises to a peak about 7–10 hours later, and then gradually declines. Non-defensive behaviors such as eating, drinking and sexual and aggressive activity tend to be reduced over the same period."

The unexpected appearance of a predator where nothing but defined territory previously existed terrifies the rats—badly enough that they “scream” about it, persistently, for a long period of time. Once this initial terror abates—which occurs only if nothing else horrible or punishing happens—curiosity is disinhibited, and the rats return to the scene of the crime. The space “renovelized” by the fact of the cat has to be transformed once again into explored territory as a consequence of active modification of behavior (and representational schema), not by passive desensitization to the unexpected. The rats run across the territory “contaminated” by the presence of the cat, to find out if anything dangerous (to running rats) still lurks there. If the answer is “no,” then the space is defined, once again, as home territory (which is that place where commonplace behaviors produce desired ends). The rats transform the dangerous unknown into familiar territory as a consequence of voluntary exploration. In the absence of such exploration, terror reigns unchecked.
It is just as illuminating to consider the responses of rats to their kin, who constitute “explored territory,” in contrast to their attitude toward “strangers,” whose behavior is not predictable. Rats are highly social animals, perfectly capable of living with their familiar compatriots in peace. They do not like members of other kin groups, however; they will hunt them down and kill them. Accidental or purposeful intruders are dealt with in the same manner. Rats identify one another by smell. If an experimenter removes a well-loved rat from its familial surroundings, scrubs it down, provides it with a new odor, and returns it to its peers, it will be promptly dispatched by those who once loved it. The “new” rat constitutes “unexplored territory”; his presence is regarded as a threat (not unreasonably) to everything currently secure. Chimpanzees, perfectly capable of killing “foreign devils” (even those who were once familiar), act in much the same manner.<