Tag Archives: interesting

Underestimating Others’ Willingness to Help

We vastly under­es­tim­ate how likely people are to provide assist­ance when asked, in both social set­tings and when soli­cit­ing funds.

That’s the ver­dict com­ing from research con­duc­ted by asso­ci­ate pro­fess­or of organ­iz­a­tion­al beha­vi­or at the Stan­ford Gradu­ate School of Busi­ness, Frank Flynn. Flynn found that we under­es­tim­ate how much oth­ers are will­ing to provide in fin­an­cial assist­ance and the will­ing­ness of oth­ers to come to our assist­ance (by around 50%).

“People’s under­es­tim­a­tion of oth­ers’ will­ing­ness to com­ply is driv­en by their fail­ure to dia­gnose these feel­ings of social oblig­a­tion on the part of oth­ers.”

One study found that those ask­ing for help incor­rectly believed it was more likely they would receive help if they were indir­ect about it—communicating their request with a look, rather than a dir­ect ques­tion. In con­trast, people in the pos­i­tion of offer­ing assist­ance said they were much more likely to help if asked point blank. “That really puts the oblig­a­tion on them, and makes it very awk­ward for them to refuse.” […]

“Oth­er stud­ies we’ve con­duc­ted indic­ate that people over­es­tim­ate how likely it is that oth­ers will come to them for help,” Flynn con­tin­ues. “This means not only are people not ask­ing for help when in fact they could get it, but they’re not encour­aging oth­ers to come to them for help when in fact they’re will­ing to offer it. That tells us that the ‘open-door’ policy is basic­ally inef­fect­ive unless people are act­ively encour­aged to use it.”

Remem­ber, too: telling chil­dren not to talk to strangers isn’t the best advice.

For Continuous Learning and Generalisation

Stat­ing that our “real­ity is out of date” and coin­ing the term “meso­facts” for those pieces of know­ledge that pass us by unawares, Samuel Arbes­man shows why con­tinu­ous learn­ing and gen­er­al­isa­tion are advant­age­ous beha­viours–or at least that spe­cial­isa­tion to the degree that it is cur­rently encour­aged is out­dated.

Slow-chan­ging facts are what I term “meso­facts.” Meso­facts are the facts that change neither too quickly nor too slowly, that lie in this dif­fi­cult-to-com­pre­hend middle, or meso-, scale. Often, we learn these in school when young and hold onto them, even after they change. For example, if, as a baby boomer, you learned high school chem­istry in 1970, and then, as we all are apt to do, did not take care to brush up on your chem­istry peri­od­ic­ally, you would not real­ize that there are 12 new ele­ments in the Peri­od­ic Table. Over a tenth of the ele­ments have been dis­covered since you gradu­ated high school! While this might not affect your daily life, it is aston­ish­ing and a bit hum­bling. […]

Our schools are biased against meso­facts. The arc of our edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem is to be treated as little gen­er­al­ists when chil­dren, absorb­ing bits of know­ledge about everything from bio­logy to social stud­ies to geo­logy. But then, as we grow older, we are encour­aged to spe­cial­ize. This might have been use­ful in dec­ades past, but in our increas­ingly fast-paced and inter­dis­cip­lin­ary world, lack­ing an even approx­im­ate know­ledge of our sur­round­ings is unwise.

So what’s this I hear about Pluto?

How to Be Interesting

Rus­sell Dav­ies offers ten activ­it­ies that will lead to you being more inter­est­ing; includ­ing Start a blog, Keep a scrap­book, and Read. I believe you can sum them up into one piece of advice: Do some­thing.

Dav­ies com­piled the ten activities, believ­ing they will make a per­son more inter­est­ing, based on two assump­tions.  How­ever I believe the two assump­tions them­selves are the point that needs to be made:

The way to be inter­est­ing is to be inter­ested. You’ve got to find what’s inter­est­ing in everything, you’ve got to be good at noti­cing things, you’ve got to be good at listen­ing. If you find people (and things) inter­est­ing, they’ll find you inter­est­ing.

Inter­est­ing people are good at shar­ing. You can’t be inter­ested in someone who won’t tell you any­thing. Being good at shar­ing is not the same as talk­ing and talk­ing and talk­ing. It means you share your ideas, you let people play with them and you’re good at talk­ing about them without hav­ing to talk about your­self.

via Ben Cas­nocha

Seven Psychological Principles Con Artists Exploit

Inher­ent human vul­ner­ab­il­it­ies need to be taken into account when design­ing secur­ity systems/processes, sug­gests a study that looks at a dozen con­fid­ence tricks from the UK TV show The Real Hustle to determ­ine recur­ring beha­vi­our­al pat­terns con artists use to exploit vic­tims.

The study was a col­lab­or­a­tion between Frank Sta­jano of the Uni­ver­sity of Cam­bridge Com­puter Labor­at­ory and Paul Wilson, writer and pro­du­cer of the afore­men­tioned TV show (Wilson was an IT con­sult­ant for twelve years before mov­ing into enter­tain­ment).

The sev­en prin­ciples of human beha­viour that con artists exploit, accord­ing to the art­icle:

  • The dis­trac­tion prin­ciple: While you are dis­trac­ted by what retains your interest, hust­lers can do any­thing to you and you won’t notice.
  • The social com­pli­ance prin­ciple: Soci­ety trains people not to ques­tion author­ity. Hust­lers exploit this “sus­pen­sion of sus­pi­cious­ness” to make you do what they want.
  • The herd prin­ciple: Even sus­pi­cious marks will let their guard down when every­one next to them appears to share the same risks. Safety in num­bers? Not if they’re all con­spir­ing against you.
  • The dis­hon­esty prin­ciple: Any­thing illeg­al you do will be used against you by the fraud­ster, mak­ing it harder for you to seek help once you real­ize you’ve been had.
  • The decep­tion prin­ciple: Thing and people are not what they seem. Hust­lers know how to manip­u­late you to make you believe that they are.
  • The need and greed prin­ciple: Your needs and desires make you vul­ner­able. Once hust­lers know what you really want, they can eas­ily manip­u­late you.
  • The Time prin­ciple: When you are under time pres­sure to make an import­ant choice, you use a dif­fer­ent decision strategy. Hust­lers steer you towards a strategy involving less reas­on­ing.

via Schnei­er on Secur­ity

Language Incomprehensibility Flowchart (It’s All Greek To Me)

Lan­guage Log was asked;

When an Eng­lish speak­er doesn’t under­stand a word one says, it’s “Greek to me”. When a Hebrew speak­er encoun­ters this dif­fi­culty, it “sounds like Chinese”. […] Has there been a study of this phrase phe­nomen­on, relat­ing dif­fer­ent lan­guages on some kind of Dir­ec­ted Graph?

To answer the query, Mark Liber­man checks out Wikipedia’s ‘Greek to me’ entry (among oth­er sources) and pro­duces a rather eleg­ant dir­ec­ted graph depict­ing what lan­guages are ste­reo­typ­ic­ally incom­pre­hens­ible to oth­ers.

The accom­pa­ny­ing dis­cus­sion is also note­worthy. As one com­menter points out, the fact that the res­ult­ing dir­ec­ted graph is acyc­lic implies a sort of order­ing or hier­archy of lan­guage incom­pre­hens­ib­il­ity.

via Kot­tke