College Success Skills

27 04 2008

My former colleague wrote this little piece elucidating some skills every college student should have for sloth-based success in college.

Saucy Pedantic Wretch: April 2008:

Every semester, most of us see a few students commit certain basic mistakes, heartbreaking errors that bespeak a sad lack of preparation for higher education. And preparation, as we all know, is one of the keys, perhaps the key, to success in college. Even if we covered the information outlined below in a college-skills course (and as far as I know, no school does), not all students take such a course in time to avert a disastrous first semester. So I propose that we add the following item to all syllabi so that all first-semester students have some essential college skills.

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Happiness Q & A with Daniel Gilbert

22 04 2008

We were discussing subjective well-being in class last week. The New York Times has a Q&A with a prominent psychologist in studying happiness.

Daniel Gilbert – Happiness Researcher – New York Times:


A. I’m not Dr. Phil.

We know that the best predictor of human happiness is human relationships and the amount of time that people spend with family and friends.

We know that it’s significantly more important than money and somewhat more important than health. That’s what the data shows. The interesting thing is that people will sacrifice social relationships to get other things that won’t make them as happy — money. That’s what I mean when I say people should do “wise shopping” for happiness.

Another thing we know from studies is that people tend to take more pleasure in experiences than in things. So if you have “x” amount of dollars to spend on a vacation or a good meal or movies, it will get you more happiness than a durable good or an object. One reason for this is that experiences tend to be shared with other people and objects usually aren’t.

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Memory and Social Psychology

13 04 2008

The New York Times has a short piece by Gary Marcus, author of a book on memory — Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind — which relates to social psychology and how our decisions are influenced by our memory systems.

Idea Lab – Memory – New York Times:

The dubious dynamics of memory leave us vulnerable to the predations of spin doctors (because a phrase like “death tax” automatically brings to mind a different set of associations than “estate tax”), the pitfalls of stereotyping (in which easily accessible memories wash out less common counterexamples) and what the psychologist Timothy Wilson calls “mental contamination.” To the extent that we frequently can’t separate relevant information from irrelevant information, memory is often the culprit.

Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind (Gary Marcus)

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Cookie Monster’s self-reflection

5 04 2008

Found via Mind Hacks:

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: Cookie Monster Searches Deep Within Himself and Asks: Is Me Really Monster?

Me know. Me have problem.

Me love cookies. Me tend to get out of control when me see cookies. Me know it not natural to react so strongly to cookies, but me have weakness. Me know me do wrong. Me know it isn’t normal. Me see disapproving looks. Me see stares. Me hurt inside.

When me get back to apartment, after cookie binge, me can’t stand looking in mirror—fur matted with chocolate-chip smears and infested with crumbs. Me try but me never able to wash all of them out. Me don’t think me is monster. Me just furry blue person who love cookies too much. Me no ask for it. Me just born that way.

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Stereotype Threat in Scientific American Mind

4 04 2008

Scientific American Mind has an article online about Stereotype Threat — the idea that we take on and act out the stereotypes we think others have of us.

How Stereotyping Yourself Contributes to Your Success (or Failure): Scientific American:

As it turns out, research shows that such performance failures cannot always be attributed simply to inherent lack of ability or incompetence. Although some have jumped to the highly controversial conclusion that differences in attainment reflect natural differences between groups, the roots of many handicaps actually lie in the stereotypes, or preconceptions, that others hold about the groups to which we belong. For instance, a woman who knows that women as a group are believed to do worse than men in math will, indeed, tend to perform less well on math tests as a result.

The same is true for any member of a group who is aware that his or her group is considered to be inferior to others in a given domain of performance—whether it is one that appears to tap intellectual and academic ability or one that is designed to establish athletic and sporting prowess.

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Good summary article of change blindness

1 04 2008

The NY Times has a brief, but decent, coverage of change blindness and the problems we have with processing lots of visual information at one time.

Change Blindness – Natalie Angier – New York Times:

Whether lured into attentiveness by a bottom-up or top-down mechanism, scientists said, the results of change blindness studies and other experiments strongly suggest that the visual system can focus on only one or very few objects at a time, and that anything lying outside a given moment’s cone of interest gets short shrift. The brain, it seems, is a master at filling gaps and making do, of compiling a cohesive portrait of reality based on a flickering view.

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