Category Archives: Psychology

The Moral Identity of Homo Economicus – Ricardo Hausmann.

Two recent books indicate that a quiet revolution is challenging the foundations of the dismal science, promising radical changes in how we view many aspects of organizations, public policy, and even social life. As with the rise of behavioral economics, this revolution emanates from psychology.


CAMBRIDGE – Why do people vote, if doing so is costly and highly unlikely to affect the outcome? Why do people go above and beyond the call of duty at their jobs?

Two recent books – Identity Economics by Nobel laureate George Akerlof and Rachel Kranton and The Moral Economy by Sam Bowles – indicate that a quiet revolution is challenging the foundations of the dismal science, promising radical changes in how we view many aspects of organizations, public policy, and even social life. As with the rise of behavioral economics (which already includes six Nobel laureates among its leaders), this revolution emanates from psychology. But while behavioral economics relies on cognitive psychology, this one is rooted in moral psychology.

As with most revolutions, this one is not happening because, as Thomas Huxley surmised, a beautiful old theory has been killed by ugly new facts. The ugly facts have been apparent for a while, but people cannot abandon one mental framework unless another one can take its place: in the end, beautiful old theories are killed only by newer, more powerful theories.

For a long time, economic theory aspired to the elegance of Euclidean geometry, where all true statements can be derived from five apparently incontrovertible axioms, such as the notion that there is only one line that connects two points in space. In the nineteenth century, mathematicians explored the consequences of relaxing one of those axioms and discovered the geometries of curved spaces, where an infinite number of longitudinal lines can pass through the poles of a sphere.

The axioms underpinning traditional economics embody a view of human behavior known as homo economicus: we choose among the available options that which we want or prefer the most. But what makes us want or prefer something?

Economics has long assumed that whatever informs our preferences is exogenous to the issue at hand: de gustibus non est disputandum, as George Stigler and Gary Becker argued. But with a few reasonable assumptions, such as the idea that more is better than less, you can make many predictions about how people will behave.

The behavioral economics revolution questioned the idea that we are good at making these judgments. In the process, they subjected the assumptions underlying homo economicus to experimental tests and found them wanting. But this led at most to the idea of nudging people into better decisions, such as forcing them to opt out of rather than into better choices.

The new revolution may have been triggered by an uncomfortable finding of the old one. Consider the so-called ultimatum game, in which a player is given a sum of money, say, $100. He must offer a share of that money to a second player. If the latter accepts the offer, both get to keep the money. If not, they both get nothing.

Homo economicus would give $1 to the second player, who should accept the offer, because $1 is better than zero dollars. But people throughout the world tend to reject offers below $30. Why?

The new revolution assumes that when we make choices, we do not merely consider which of the available options we like the most. We are also asking ourselves what we ought to do.

In fact, according to moral psychology, our moral sentiments, on which Adam Smith wrote his other famous book, evolved to regulate behavior. We are the most cooperative species on earth because our feelings evolved to sustain cooperation, to put “us” before “me.” These feelings include guilt, shame, outrage, empathy, sympathy, dread, disgust, and a whole cocktail of other sentiments. We reject offers in the ultimatum game because we feel they are unfair.

Akerlof and Kranton propose a simple addition to the conventional economic model of human behavior. Besides the standard selfish elements that define our preferences, they argue that people see themselves as members of “social categories” with which they identify. Each of these social categories – for example, being a Christian, a father, a mason, a neighbor, or a sportsman – has an associated norm or ideal. And, because people derive satisfaction from behaving in accordance with the ideal, they behave not just to acquire, but also to become.

Bowles shows that we have distinct frameworks for analyzing situations. In particular, giving people monetary incentives may work in market-like situations. But, as a now-famous study of Haifa daycare centers showed, imposing fines on people who picked up their kids late actually had the opposite effect: if a fine is like a price, people may find that it is a price worth paying.

But without the fine, coming late constitutes impolite, rude, or disrespectful behavior toward the caregivers, which self-respecting people would avoid, even without fines. Unfortunately, this other-regarding view of behavior has been de-emphasized both in the corporate and the public domain. Instead, strategies have been derived from the view that all our behaviors are selfish, with the intellectual challenge being to design “incentive-compatible” mechanisms or contracts, an effort that has also been recognized with Nobel Prizes.

But, as George Price showed long ago, Darwinian evolution may have made us altruistic, at least toward people we perceive as members of the group we call “us.” The new revolution in economics may find a place for strategies based on affecting ideals and identities, not just taxes and subsidies. In the process, we may understand that we vote because that is what citizens ought to do, and we excel at our jobs because we strive for respect and self-realization, not just a raise.

If successful, the new revolution may lead to strategies that make us more responsive to our better angels. Economics and our view of human behavior need not be dismal. It may even become inspirational.


Ricardo Hausmann, a former minister of planning of Venezuela and former Chief Economist of the Inter-American Development Bank, is Director of the Center for International Development at Harvard University and a professor of economics at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Project Syndicate

Healing from Family Rifts – Mark Sichel. 

“That’s it. I’ve had it. I never want to see or hear from you again.” These words are terrible, whoever says them. But when they come from your mother, father, son, daughter, sister, brother, or spouse, or when you find yourself saying them yourself to a family member, you know, for the moment, what hell is like.

Angry banishments don’t come from nowhere. They usually erupt out of years of backed-up resentments, long-held grudges. They may follow intolerable mental, emotional or physical abuse.

But soon, however justified or inevitable the explosion may have seemed, however determinedly resigned you may have tried to be about a family cutoff, feelings almost always start to change.

However shaky your family’s bonds may have been to begin with, however little or much love you may have felt toward or from them over the years, the idea that those bonds have been eradicated almost always wreaks a terrible havoc.

Losing a mother or father or child or sibling as the result of family exile can be as traumatic as losing them to death. Sometimes a good deal more, because death, at least, is usually not seen as anyone’s “fault.” Whatever we may say that we feel or think or believe about our families, almost inevitably, deep down, we yearn for connection to them.

Dysfunctional doesn’t begin to say it. Almost every family rift causes deep shame and embarrassment.

Maybe you try to ignore it, tell yourself to “snap out of it” or otherwise white-knuckle yourself into pretending that all will be well if you can just hang on long enough, put your mind on something else. But even if you manage to put up a good show, inside it’s not working. I don’t have to tell you this. You wouldn’t have picked up this book if it were otherwise.

The most important “reconciliation” is the one you learn to make with yourself. All healing proceeds from that.

All traumas are more magnified and psychologically upsetting when human beings rather than nature cause them.

On two decades of evidence of the scores of my patients who’ve faced both kinds of trauma, the psychological “death” of a family cutoff clearly tends to remain torturous, and very much more emotionally damaging.

What compounds the problem: the terrible secrecy that usually attends family cutoffs, and the related fact that there is very little formal help offered to people who’ve undergone them. Many family members feel self-imposed pressure to go on as if their lives were still normal; thus, avenues for healing and recovery become even more elusive. After all, this trauma isn’t only of human design, it’s the design of members of your own family: the very people you thought loved you most in the world. That isn’t something you’re likely to broadcast, or even tell most of your best friends in private. However, you need to talk right now, and to recognize that the task of healing from your family rift will take a much greater effort than you probably have ever previously brought to emotional distress in your life. With the right attitude of self-compassion, and by employing tactics you will learn in this book, it is fortunately an effort immeasurably worth taking.

A necessary corollary to understanding that you’re dealing with trauma of a completely different order than you have probably faced before is understanding that this healing is going to take time. There are no quick fixes here: there couldn’t be, given our natural human aversion to ambiguity and uncertainty coupled with what are generally the lifelong roots of dysfunction that led to your family rift in the first place. In short, now’s the time to give yourself permission to go slow. You don’t have to fix or resolve anything today.

“Buried alive” is a good way of summing up the feeling of dissociation you often feel after the family rift. Being cut off from the family so often devolves into feeling cut off from something central in yourself.

“They couldn’t have hurt me more if they’d just aimed a gun at my heart and pulled the trigger. It’s like whatever world of family safety I thought I was in shattered. In a way, I feel like I was shot out of a gun, and landed somewhere, alone, terribly remote from anything I thought I knew.” Lori

You are not having a life-threatening emergency, as you might feel. You are more than likely suffering from acute stress disorder and the ability to feel hope in the midst of despair can be a long time coming.

“I feel like I’m dead. I wish I could cry or scream or something. But actually right now I don’t know what I feel. It’s like I’m wrapped up like a mummy against my feelings, like there’s some huge open wound that goes so deep and is so far gone with nerve damage that the patient doesn’t feel any pain. I’ve tried to break through this numbness with my old resolve to ‘act.’ After I couldn’t sleep last night, I decided, ridiculously, to get up early this morning and go running, thinking that it would clear my head. I could see, distantly, it was a beautiful morning, but I couldn’t feel it. As I ran, exhausted, sleepless, all I could do was replay that phone call in my head, going over every word of it, wondering what I might have said differently, scouring their invective for some clue about what had happened and why they had withdrawn their love for me so violently. I thought these things rather than felt them. Like some terrible compulsion, I went over and over and over it, and got nowhere. I swung wildly from thinking they were monsters to thinking I was a monster. Then I tried to make contact with my feelings for Oliver, but even that seemed so remote now. In the middle of the compulsive buzz in my head, I just couldn’t feel anything.

This buzz of words in my head, but no real feeling attached to them, it’s like hell. The buzz just wouldn’t let up. I tried to make how my parents had treated me square with who I thought, I guess hoped, they really were. That disjunction permeates everything in my life now, it’s like I’ve lost trust in anyone who says they love me. Even sometimes Oliver … It’s like there’s suddenly this whole new awful negative identity that has blocked everything in me I used to be so proud and happy about. When I tried to concentrate on work, it was all a blur. It’s as if I had been hacked to pieces, which had been scattered all around me, and I couldn’t imagine how to bring them all back, how to be whole again.” Jason

When the effects or memories of a trauma resurface, it’s often the psyche’s signal that the underlying wound they arise from needs to be dealt with in new ways. If we don’t tend to it, that wound can continue to toxify our reactions to life over many years to come.

In every stage of life we are challenged by new psychological tasks, and often, as we face and prepare for a major life event, whatever unresolved business we may have in our past lives rears up with particular and sometimes very disturbing force.

Landmark events typically kick up traumatic recall. The best watchword here is patience, respecting that our psyches not only often ingeniously protect themselves from too much pain at the time the trauma is inflicted, but wait for us to encounter more buried effects of that pain later, when we are strong enough to deal with it. However, when it comes up again, we really must deal with it, or its latent toxicity will continue to eat away at our lives.

What is known as the ego in psychoanalytic theory describes the area of the personality that powers our psyche, the part that tells us what to do and when to do it, the chief executive officer who operates and competes in the outer world. The strength of our ego is based on the sum power of our psychological muscle. Ego represents a group of functions that as a whole reflect overall psychological strength, the ability to exert our wills to get what we want.

In the aftermath of a family estrangement, we do not generally feel masterful or competent, which leads to an unsettling feeling of loss of control. We want solutions, and we want them now. The frustration of not being able to come to quick solutions is part of what fuels the obsessive ruminations, a feeling of being trapped in impotence that can become unbearable.

When we’re shocked, it takes us time to learn how to manage our feelings. When we can’t tolerate the strength of them, we become vulnerable not only to obsessive ruminations and thoughts, but also to intermittent stages of emotional turnoff, where (as when Jason reported the “buzz” of words in his head as well as his numbness) we don’t feel anything at all. It’s as if the psyche continually, repetitively goes over the same route of attack and retreat, again and again, despite the fact that such a swing offers no lasting solution or relief. Obsessive rumination, however, is particularly toxic. And while it’s important to acknowledge, as Jason did, that it’s a completely normal symptom in the context of a family cutoff, what, apart from tolerating it, can you do about it?

First, remember that you’re still at a stage of needing psychological first-aid. Think of yourself as in a hospital emergency room, the first task is to stop the bleeding and contain the wound. This means, of course, first acknowledging that you have a wound. But it quickly requires something else. You are already familiar with some of these resources. Recall the activities that you know from past experience will soothe you. This is the time to make the popcorn, draw the bubble bath, watch the movie, get the massage, play the game of tennis, read the novel that you know can offer at least a bit of respite. Call them psychological band-aids if you want, but if they work, use them now, as long as they don’t make the situation worse, which generally means, as long as they’re not self-destructive (such as alcohol, drugs, or overeating). Soothe yourself as you can. Think of it as spreading the blanket on the bed and fluffing up the pillow. This is preparation for the real work of acknowledgment, which is simply this: to talk until you’re blue in the face. A lot has built up inside you, and it all (or as much of it as you can tolerate) must come out.

Asked about what helps a person get over trauma, the vast majority of mental health professionals will agree that talking about it is by far the treatment of choice. But how can the talk be made productive, so that it’s not just a compulsive rehashing of “how could they?” or “why didn’t I?” Some of what you need to let out will be, in fact, the “how could they?” or “why didn’t I?” brands of reaction you’ll inevitably have. The point here isn’t to censor you, it’s to beckon you to release everything about your trauma that you’ve felt you must hold back. There are, as you’ll see in a moment, ways to encourage yourself to get beyond that blame-or-defense mode, but right now, it’s more important to focus on something else: whom you choose to let it all out to. However, a yes-man or yes-woman isn’t as helpful as someone who is equally caring but more dispassionate, even if all you want and need right now is someone to vent to.

Having a place to air even our worst worries and fears and confusions is unbelievably healing.


Healing from Family Rifts: Ten steps to finding peace after being cut off from a family member. 

by Mark Sichel

get it from Amazon

Say ‘NO’ to your child or they’ll struggle in school – Dr Amanda Gummer. 

Child psychologist Dr Amanda Gummer says children who are ‘helicoptered’ by their parents tend to play up at school to get attention. 

Working with a group of primary school teachers recently, letting off steam during the first weeks of the summer holidays, I listened, appalled, as they reeled off their latest nightmare classroom dealings.

But it wasn’t horror stories of pupils jumping on desks or hurling things around that shocked me most. Far worse was the attitude – and behaviour – of the parents. And not those at the less privileged end of the spectrum, either.

No, the wild, unruly children are increasingly likely to be the progeny of so-called “helicopter” parents – those who give intensive, one-on-one attention to their child and pander to their every whim, fuelling a “little emperor” syndrome.

They are ruthlessly ambitious for their child’s future – failing to realise how badly their mollycoddling is preparing them for the compromises of real life.

Don’t believe me? Then listen to this: “My child is a genius – his bad behaviour is an outlet because you don’t challenge him intellectually.” That was the astonishing response of more than one mother confronted by exasperated teachers.

While we’ve long known this hovering parenting style can create children unable to make decisions or exhibit independence, what’s less often discussed is how aggressive and difficult the children of helicopter parents – often middle-class, professional and, to their minds, devoted to their darlings – can be at school.

Why? These children struggle in the classroom because they cannot cope with not being number one. So they play up to try to get the attention they have been raised to believe ought to be all theirs.

Worse still, these otherwise respectable parents refuse to take responsibility for the child’s actions. Behavioural problems, no matter how shocking, are down to teachers.

Mum and Dad needn’t get their hands dirty.

As a child psychologist helping professionals better understand the psychology behind how kids learn, I’m no longer surprised to see teachers frustrated to tears by the disgraceful attitudes of some pupils – and their parents.

Thanks to teachers’ diligence, the majority of children eventually settle into a world where they are no longer the star in their own solar system. But a substantial minority struggle terribly, with catastrophic effects on learning and development.

Sound dramatic? Not when you look at the latest statistics from the Department of Education, which tell us that, last year in England alone, an astonishing 35 children a day were permanently excluded from school.

And these aren’t just unruly teens: just under a fifth of those expelled were at primary school; some were as young as four.

To my mind, this startling increase can, at least partly, be put down to the linking of two facts: among these children, a great many can’t even tie their own shoelaces or recognise when they need to put on their coat.

Simultaneously, a large portion – a third of the 1,145 expelled from primary school last year – get their marching orders after physically assaulting a teacher.

Imagine: little ones so helpless they need assistance to go to the loo and put on their shoes, yet who are utterly unafraid to biff their teacher on the nose.

Here we have children who are not being given the basic life skills to look after themselves throwing their weight around in the classroom and causing mayhem. It’s a toxic combination.

As worrying is the fact that these figures are going up. The number of primary school children expelled has more than doubled over a four-year period. Meanwhile, 6,685 children at state schools in England were permanently excluded in 2015/16, up from 5,795 the year before. It’s all too easy to hide lazy parenting behind claims that your child is a genius, or has unchannelled exuberance. Regardless, one fact remains: no matter how gifted your child, if they can’t concentrate and work alongside their peers, they aren’t going to get very far in the classroom, let alone in life.

Too many of these children have never heard the word ‘no’ levelled at them at home.

Their parents may well be time-poor – perhaps feeling guilty for working long hours – so are loath to play the bad guy. Maybe they’ve bought in a little too enthusiastically to increasingly child-centric attitudes. But the reality is many youngsters misbehaving in class are being brought up with little discipline or boundaries by doting parents. Small wonder they think nothing of defying the authority of other adults.

You might think such children are just plain naughty. But I don’t believe any child is born naughty. In my opinion, bad behaviour, such as the sort I’m talking about, comes from parents.

(To be clear, I’m not talking about children with diagnosable medical conditions that have a direct impact on behaviour and/or learning styles. Schools and parents need additional support to help these children thrive.)

But I often wonder whether helicopter parents realise how damaging their attentions are.

Yes, they may believe they are providing their child with the best start in life – but such an approach can cause a wealth of behaviour problems.

For example, when a child refuses to put on their coat, if their mum or dad carries it round all afternoon ‘just in case’, rather than letting their son or daughter get cold, the child never learns to take responsibility for their bad decision. The idea that someone else will always put things right takes hold in their mind.

And how can a child be expected to behave in the dinner hall when, at home, they’re allowed to get up and down from the table as they please, never finishing a meal? The only difference is, at school, their teacher won’t be there with a chocolate bar when they’re hungry mid-afternoon.

And if a child has always had a parent clearing dangers from their path, instead of letting them take the odd tumble, of course they’ll think it’s OK to run around a classroom. Yet when they trip over a chair, they’ll blame everyone but themselves for the fact they got hurt – because no one thought to move the chair in the first place.

When it’s all spelt out like this, we can start to see why so many employers are complaining that today’s young people – the so-called millennial generation, the first to emerge from an upbringing by helicopter parents – are more unemployable than ever.

Some over-indulged children display their struggle to cope without the attention they’re used to in a different way. They can become withdrawn when they start school, which negatively impacts on their learning and relationships with classmates – and this can be as damaging in the long-term as aggression and misbehaving.

Of course, everything these parents do comes from a place of love. As a mother of two teenagers, I know how tough being a modern parent is. Most of us really are simply doing our best.

But sometimes, a parent’s best efforts are just too much. However honourable their intentions, these overly devoted parents do their offspring no favours, depriving them of the chance to learn the kind of life skills their teachers aren’t paid to impart.

Children need rules, boundaries and opportunities to feel the cold, go hungry and fall down and hurt themselves, so they can learn from their mistakes. If they are deprived of those basic life experiences at home, it makes educating them a far greater challenge for their teachers than it ever need be.

NZ Herald

Pretty much just common sense really. 

Science Explains How The Beach Can Change Our Brains And Mental Health – Elizabeth. 

We are all too well acquainted with the sense of calmness and relaxation that proceeds after spending a day at the beach.

Taking time off to be near water, regardless whether it is a lake, the sea or an ocean, makes people blissful and tranquil. Doctors have noticed this sensation as early as the 18th century, and have started prescribing a visit to the beach as a cure for many illnesses.

The proximity of water, or more precisely the smell, the sound and the vast view influence our brain and make us feel restored and full of energy.

To really paint the picture, we can say that it actually brings the whole organism in a state of peace and harmony.

Curious Magazine

How To Hack Your Brain And Learn EVERYTHING You Want! – Curious Mind Magazine. 

Many people have a hard time remembering things. Students want to boost their memory to learn faster, adults want the same to be able to finish everything they need for the day. In short, we all want a better-working memory that will help us excel in life.

Before you go to the ways you can hack your brain to remember better, you first need to know what exactly memory is and how it is created.

There are two types of memory: short-term and long-term memory. The first is temporary and it usually serves to remember things you need to do in a particular moment, such as remembering a number you need to dial. However, the moment you dial the number, you kind of forget it (in most cases).

For this information to go into the long-term memory, it needs to be repeated, worked on, or put into the brain by using some tricks.

So, how can you hack into your brain to remember stuff more easily?

Why Empaths Act Strange Around Inauthentic People

Empathetic people are those with a heightened level of sensitivity and have a radar like no one else.They can absorb others’ feelings like a sponge as if they were their own. This is not something they choose, they are born with it.

However, although this may seem like a wonderful trait to have, it is also strenuous. Envision being able to put yourself in people’s shoes all the time. All.The.Time!

When empaths are around people who are fake, or inauthentic, they can feel it. Although the person may seem quite flattering on the outside, they are hiding something on the inside and empaths can feel it.

It is not that empaths are special people, or smarter than everyone else. However, they do have the outstanding ability to read body language better than anyone else does and this makes them understand the world and people around them a lot better.

Curious Magazine

Scientists Are Attempting to Unlock the Secret Potential of the Human Brain – Philip Perry. 

Sometimes, it occurs when a person suffers a nearly fatal accident or life-threatening situation. In others, they are born with a developmental disorder, such as autism. But a slim margin of each group develop remarkable capabilities, such as being able to picture advanced mathematical figures in one’s head, have perfect recall, or to draw whole cityscapes from memory alone. This is known as savant syndrome. Of course, it’s exceedingly rare. But how does it work? And do we all hide spectacular capabilities deep within our brain?

“I noticed the light bouncing off a car window in the form of an arc, and the concept came to life. It clicked for me-­because the circle I saw was subdivided by light rays, and I realized each ray was really a representation of pi.”

He’d acquired an exceedingly rare condition. Only about 70 people in the world so far have been identified with savant syndrome. There are two ways for it to occur, either through an injury that causes brain damage or through a disorder, such as autism.