Tangible

Itsy Bitsy Spider is a favorite Fleur song. Sitting on the porch after a rain, I thought it would be good to connect it to tangible things. Rain drops still fell. The yard was bright with sunshine. And at the end of the porch was a gutter, aka water spout.

I sang the the song and pointed to the drain and explained it was a water spout and sang the song again. She looked at me and the gutter and did the hand motions for the song. The excitement just grew about there being a spider specifically in the water spout attached to the house.

She had to tell Mom all about it. And brother.

When do we get to the part of language where we explain the use of metaphors and simile as explanation tools?

People!

Ms. Fleur’s Neighborhood:

We go on a walk every day in the neighborhood. Well, less so now that summer has arrived. The available time will get earlier and earlier every day that we can without needing to take a shower right after it.

Fleur has gotten to know the neighbors. We are all starved for social interaction. She gets excited to see people. Familiar neighbors or strangers, it doesn’t matter they are people.

She is human. (More so than me.) So as a social creature, she craves social interaction.

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.

Nerd

My father told me a story that sounds exactly like me.

My parents were called to have a parent teacher conference over my refusal to accept I was wrong. Apparently, the teacher had asked a question and the answer I gave was not the one in the textbook. However, I insisted that I had the right answer because I had read in a science magazine not long before about a new discovery.

Fleur’s science books

My father said he counseled me to not challenge the teacher in front of the other kids. Thinking back, I really never took that lesson to heart.

One of my favorite high school stories is in science bowl answering that Saturn had more moons than Jupiter. The teacher (the superintendent a couple years later) was excited I got it wrong. I argued Jupiter had sixteen. But a few more were discovered for Saturn bringing it up to 18. To this day we are still still finding moons for these planets and who has more flip flops. The question depends on current knowledge.

Thankfully, the student teacher was aware and came to my defense. I got the question right.

Fleur has lots of science books already. I already explain science concepts. We will do many experiments together. And, she will be kept current on the state of knowledge because I get excited when I learn about a new discovery.

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.

Mine

Fleur is well full on into the “Mine” stage. Some of the recent claims:

  • Our seats in the living room. She runs to the spot you normally take and claims it with “My seat.” (I swear it sounds more like “My sheet.”)
  • She scoops up your smartphone and runs to several feet away and declares. “My phone.”
  • Her beach / soccer / dodge / basket balls. She holds it toward you and lets you know, “My ball.”

The funniest thing to me is how she repeatedly declares it. Even when you reply with “your ball”, she still repeats it as though you are going to take it.

I think I need to take up more random objects whose names she does not often say and claim them. It seems like a good way to get her to say the word.

Flow

Flow happens when you do something that completely captures your attention. A lot of people would call this “being in the zone,” in other words: full absorption in something and complete happiness while you’re doing it.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

For me, this has always occurred while writing / editing, playing video games, or solving a computer problem. I also find it while driving, which is why I always enjoyed going places far away. A crutch I use is familiar music to drown out sounds that might distract me.

But, yeah, achieving the happiness of being in Flow is as worthy as the product that might be produced. I can say that I work in IT in part because I enjoy the feeling of being in Flow and having some skill in the work allows me opportunities for doing work that gets me there.

Working from the office has numerous distractions from flow because of emails, instant messages, people stopping by, phone calls. They all interrupt flow and it takes around 15 minutes to get back into it. People try to be respectful of others.

Working from home is worse:

Flow, unfortunately, is rare in family life. The father of flow research, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, told me so point-blank when I wrote my book. (All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood) When kids are small, their developing brains actually conspire against flow, because they’re wired to sweep in as much stimuli as possible, rather than to focus; even when they’re older, they’re still churning windmills of need.

Camp Is Canceled. Three More Months of Family Time. Help. Jennifer Senior. NY Times

The toddler needs what she needs RIGHT NOW! Some times it is funny. Like, there is an obsession with trucks, especially the garbage trucks. (One comes through the neighborhood every week day. She comes flying to a window to see it stop or pass by.) Other times she is just cranky and infecting the rest of us with it.

Shortcuts (Repost)

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

Photo by Jeremy Perkins on Pexels.com

We humans laud our superiority over the rest of the world. We even claim to be better than other humans. The chief attribute we compare is intelligence.

An interest of mine regarding Psychology in college was failures of the mind. Phineas Gage suffered a brain injury that drastically changed his behavior. That was really cool! Yet, that and other cases are relatively rare. More universally, the brain works much more nuanced than most people give credit. I think much of the problems of society tie back to how the brain works and maybe even societal attempts at glossing over the limitations.

Rather than one really long post, I am going to break these up into several. And much of this has been bumping around in my head for months, but I took a few hours to lay it all down.

  1. Illusions
  2. Labeling
  3. Math
  4. Multitasking
  5. Rules

For going on a decade, I have called these Cheating. Rather than taking in all the information, completely processing it, and strategically acting upon it, our brains selectively attend to a small portion, throws out even more, and acts upon incomplete information. Most of the time it works. Much of the time it doesn’t and we have no idea so we just think it works. Every once in a while we get burned by our brains not following the rules we expect them to follow. So to make this more palatable, I am going to try calling these Shortcuts.

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
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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)