Flower child

Fleur enjoys picking the wildflowers along our walks in the neighborhood. Most are coming to an end of the season. So I don’t know how excited she will be for the walks.

We try to limit her picking to one so some remain for the bees and the next walk. And to limit her to wildflowers. Clover, daisies, and dandelions.

The love of picking also extends to blueberries.

Cargo shorts

Cargo shorts on a recent walk

Lately on walks Fleur insists on carrying stuff. I try to limit it. A few houses down she then wants to place the stuff in my pockets.

Good thing I wear cargo shorts. It makes it easier. Well, except when she decides she wants to run while I have a packet of pineapple chunks, a baby water bottle, and three rocks in one pocket with her water bottle in the other.

At times I wonder if this is about slowing me down. But, really, it is about freeing her hands so she can do stuff.

Repetition => Belief

The toddler and I often debate whether something is a whale or a shark. It makes people who know me well happy that I have a personality mini-me. Often, these descend into:

Fleur: shark
Me: whale
Fleur: shark!
Me: whale!
Fleur: shaaaaaaaark!
Me: whaaaaaaaale!

This got me thinking about persuasion and the effective use of repetition. We tend to overlook it because we think that simplistic things we know and understand are reasonable. And frankly, the only way it could be. They are facts. Objective. The way things are. However, repetition has a sneaky way of becoming things we know and establish in our heads as facts. This is the Illusory Truth Effect messing with us.

Water bearer

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I find myself carrying things for Fleur. Typically, it is her water bottle…

  • To where she is playing
  • With us outside to play
  • On a walk
  • After taking away her access to the sink
  • For a babydoll

Okay, the last one is fake water. But, still, it is important.

The spouse keeps well hydrated and Fleur seems to have the same need. So, we try to ensure she has enough. And, she tends to get cranky if we fail to keep up with it.

It also means there are a few bottles with fresh water around the house as we lose track of the one she was using and just fill a new one. Thankfully, we have plenty of them.

Years ago, I ran into a college friend with his wife and kids at brunch. I noticed one of the kids left their water bottle after they left so I ran to get it back to them. At the time, I assumed that surely that is like their one bottle. Nope, they had around dozen to cover both kids. So, being one down would not be catastrophic. Being a parent now, whenever I find myself frustrated with being able to find a water bottle, I check the sales and get another couple.

In adding the “hydration” tag to this post, I noticed the suggestion carbohydrates. This is perhaps the first time I noticed the root hydrate and connected them. Carbo- means Carbon. Hydrate means an Oxygen atom plus two Hydrogen atoms. So, carbohydrates, aka sugars, more literally are sooty-water. Lol!

Shortcuts: Rules (repost)

These are reposts of a series I did years ago on mental shortcuts.

After some debating with the toddler about whales vs sharks, I started down a thought experiment that Dunbar’s Number might not be about seeking justice and instead be about winning arguments.

(This post is part of a series. Intro > 1. Illusions > 2. Labeling > 3. Math > 4. Multitasking > 5. Rules)

adult american football athlete audience
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Rules exist to help reduce the friction of society so that we can more easily work with strangers. Without rules, we need to have potentially damaging interactions with individuals, establish a series of data points about them to decide what kind of person they are to know how to handle them in the future. Instead, we create laws, policies, and traditions to define how we interact with each other. This frees our brains from Dunbar’s Number such that we can have larger social groups over that about 150 person limit.

We also have an instinctive bias to when others break the rules. People who severely or habitually do so need to be punished. We will claim it to be that others see that society will not tolerate the behavior, but really it is so we feel better that a rule breaker did not get away with it this time.

I started thinking about this because I had a conversation with a coworker about an odd claim about a rule. One problem with rules is there are too many for any individual to understand them all. We have specializations, so experts in an area are expected to know the rules for that knowledge domain.

People are human and may inform us about things that are less true and more desires of the way things ought to be. Traditions can sometimes fall into the latter. Sometimes when properly challenged, traditions find their way into being codified as laws or policies so that people properly behave.

Hammurabi almost 4,000 years ago solved this misunderstanding about what the rules are by writing them down. It really is a good way to handle it. One can read the rules oneself to check to see if how it was explained is correct or missing an important distinction.

And then, there is intentional rule breaking. Do you drive faster than the speed limit? Read all the terms for using a website? Criminals are deemed people who break the rules intentionally. Most of us are breaking some rules several times a day. Some intentionally, some by ignorance. Some because we were set up for failure. Some because the likelihood of being caught and punished are so low the wasted effort at complying is not worth it.

(This post is part of a series. Intro > 1. Illusions > 2. Labeling > 3. Math > 4. Multitasking > 5. Rules)

Shortcuts: Multitasking (repost)

These are reposts of a series I did years ago on mental shortcuts.

(This post is part of a series. Intro > 1. Illusions > 2. Labeling > 3. Math > 4. Multitasking > 5. Rules)

Photo by Hassan OUAJBIR on Pexels.com

This one combines the worst of Illusions and Math. We trust our senses and inadequately assess risk.

We have limited capacities for attending to what happens around us. Two or more objects are not being held at the same time in memory. We switch between them. Once we have copied them from long term or permanent memory into working memory then short term, we can find those copies pretty quickly again. The more complicated the behavior and the more dissimilar the two or more tasks, the worse we multitask. By worse, I mean we are more prone to error and take longer time.

Given all the research and media coverage on how bad we are at multitasking and risks associated of texting and driving, I see people doing it daily. A law here allows police to write tickets to people who do it for the past few years. Texting is also pretty bad even on hands-free devices. Like other risky behaviors, these approaches are unlikely to stop humans from putting themselves in dangerous situations.

(This post is part of a series. Intro > 1. Illusions > 2. Labeling > 3. Math > 4. Multitasking > 5. Rules)

Shortcuts: Math (repost)

These are reposts of a series I did years ago on mental shortcuts.

(T(This post is part of a series. Intro > 1. Illusions > 2. Labeling > 3. Math > 4. Multitasking > 5. Rules)

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Behavioral economics fascinates me. Humans have amazing abilities to miscalculate risk with extreme confidence they accurately assessed it. These appear to be rules of thumb which work in certain situations, but really are not applicable to others yet most people do.

Part of the problem gauging risk, I think, comes from a lack of consequences in low risk situations. Switching from writing a script to answering an email and back while sitting at my desk is extremely low physical risk. Switching back-and-forth between driving and answering a text message can seem like no big deal when even 23x more likely to have an accident is still one in thousands. A lack of having an accident or close call while driving is seen as evidence of the ability to text and drive without a problem. (After all how risky is it operating a car of several hundred pounds?)

Following the causal chain of events presents us with problems. We sometimes pick the wrong causes. We then are more likely to pick that wrong cause over and over. Logic and science are tools invented to combat these problems. Testing the idea with large samples eliminate variation as a confound. Others testing with the same or slightly different experimental designs point out the relevant scope.

“Garbage in; garbage out” can also trip us. We poorly assess the reliability of inputs from illusions I discussed earlier, so the calculations based on garbage were never going to be good anyway.

Strangely enough slowing the process down and thinking about it from many different angles can even exacerbate the problem as we get mired in so much data or processes we cannot make a decision.

Technology helps us do the same calculating just faster. Some helps us validate the outputs. I look forward to technologies that help us identify the correct inputs. My big beef with predictive analytics is doubt the correct inputs are being identified, so the outputs might have lots of garbage. 

(This post is part of a series. Intro > 1. Illusions > 2. Labeling > 3. Math > 4. Multitasking > 5. Rules)

Daddy’s Little Helper

dad with kid dishwashing at kitchen

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The other day we went out to play. I grabbed a towel to dry off the slide, swings, and chairs. After watching me dry the slide and finding there was still some water, Fleur walked over to the towel, grabbed it, and dried the slide more. 

The blatant imitation had me tempted to roll around in the wet grass laughing. But, I was proud of the problem solving at play here. She totally assessed the problem, decided on the solution, and took care of it. It makes me excited and terrified for the future.

  1. She is developing the capability to do things we want her to all by herself.
  2. She is developing the capability to do things we don’t want her to all by herself.

Inside Perspective

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Fleur asks for walks now. In another part of the neighborhood, there is a puppy who runs along the fence. Fleur runs back and forth along the fence because the puppy chases. This is great for tiring out the toddler right before either lunch/naptime or dinner/bedtime.

The neighbor one day let us inside the fence. He had setup horseshoes which surprisingly works well played with social distancing. While he and I played, Fleur got to get chased by her puppy friend. And found that the inside perspective is very, very different.

The puppy is a biter. And outweighs the toddler. My wife had a handful keeping the puppy from knocking Fleur down & getting scared from the attention. She is generally fearless (danger doesn’t phase her), so she still wants to go see the puppy every day.

Chimes

Last summer we spent a week at the house of my aunt and uncle. They have three chiming clocks. A grandfather clock and two small ones.

We have something similar. Auditory reminders at 9, 10, 3, 4, 5, 6 that announce: Check diaper. This is essentially our chimes. I find I don’t really need a clock during this period.

We don’t need the automated system when we get up from sleeping and prepare for it at naptime and bedtime. It is the in between that we need brought to our attention. In the focused zone, it can be easy to assume the other parent is going to take care of it. The chime brings back to our attention that maybe we should. We have saved on diaper cream since setting these up as we are better at making sure to address the diaper before the acidic defecation causes a rash.

On the plus side, Fleur loves the announcements. She runs around repeating it. If I am in the middle of work, then her running around letting us know keeps it on the brain.

Reminders are my main way of remembering to do things. The strange thing to me is this working from home means I am on my phone less. So, I miss more of the ones through it.