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Stating that our “reality is out of date” and coining the term “mesofacts” for those pieces of knowledge that pass us by unawares, Samuel Arbesman shows why continuous learning and generalisation are advantageous behaviours–or at least that specialisation to the degree that it is currently encouraged is outdated.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