Category Archives: Uncategorized

Entrepreneurial rollercoaster- am happy, have vision; am sad, will focus on task
There is a recent article by foo et al, that shows , using Experience Sampling method, that entrepreneurs, when in a negative mood (not necessarily sad, but including anger, irritability etc…sorry for misleading headline:-) are more likely to be focusing on the task at hand; while those same entrepreneurs , when they were in a happy or positive mood would be more likely to be spending efforts on tasks that are more future directed. They interpret their finding in terms of the affect-as-information theory, whereby a positive affect signals that everything is hunky-dory in the present and one can take chances and focus on the future instead; while a negative affect is an indication that things are not going well and one needs to focus on the tasks at hand.  To quote:

Our findings suggest that affect serves as a source of information for entrepreneurs. As argued in the affect-as-information theory, negative affect signals that things are not going well in the venture and may lead entrepreneurs to expend more effort on venture tasks requiring immediate attention. An unexpected finding was that negative affect also increased venture efforts beyond what is immediately required. Because negative affect signals that something is wrong in the venture situation, it could lead entrepreneurs to engage in precautionary behaviors to prevent future damage to the venture.

Positive affect signals that things are going well in the venture, and, using affect-as-information theory, one might expect the entrepreneur to reduce effort because all is well at the moment. In the present study of entrepreneurs, we argued that positive affect should increase venture efforts. It is precisely because positive affect signals that things are going well at the moment that the entrepreneur’s focus can shift to the future, and such focus motivates the entrepreneur to work harder because it promotes behaviors to achieve desired future outcomes (Karniol & Ross 1996). This argument was supported, because our findings showed that future temporal focus mediated the link between positive affect and venture efforts beyond what is immediately required (next-day lagged outcome). Although not hypothesized, positive affect was also found to increase effort on tasks immediately required, and a future temporal focus also mediated the link between positive affect and venture tasks immediately required (with a next-day lag). Striving toward desired future states involves bridging the present and the future (Karniol & Ross, 1996). When entrepreneurs focus on the future, they may not neglect the present, as knowledge of the present may be required to determine how one can reach the desired outcome. To become successful in their venture pursuits, entrepreneurs should be able to integrate the present and future time horizons (Bird & West, 1997). They must be able to make sense of the here and now and the what will be and establish a coherent link between them.

I , would , of course , not restrict myself to what the authors conclude but , as is my ilk, would like to extend the findings and relate to other stuff. For example, I have written earlier about the Promotion and Prevention focus and how promotion focus is related to happiness/mania; while preventive focus may be more related to sadness/depression. Although, not mutually exclusive, a new hypothesis could be that the affect was due to promotion and preventive focus, which itself was due to either the environment was risky or risk-free. The same risky or risk-free environment which led to the negative or positive mood also lead to focusing on the here-and-now or on the future. I’m also tempted to correlate this with some other articles I came across recently-namely one that found that future orientation leads to creativity, while if there is not enough psychological distance we tend to be not -so creative; Could it also be that that is why entrepreneurs long-term strategies and visions are creative; while their short term tactics and day to day handling of affairs is mundane; while we are on the subject of creativity and vagueness (either in distance or space or time or abstractness) another study found that being primed about or thinking about Love leads to creativity while being primed with Lust leads to better analytical ability; is analytical ability much different from focusing on here-and-now; while creativity more future oriented? All these have important implications on how you can use your affect to either focus on hand in an analytical manner or solve problems in future creatively and with vision. As a last afterthought, is that why Manics, who are extremely happy, have such grand visions of future and are so future directed and entrepreneurial in spirit?
Foo MD, Uy MA, & Baron RA (2009). How do feelings influence effort? An empirical study of entrepreneurs’ affect and venture effort. The Journal of applied psychology, 94 (4), 1086-94 PMID: 19594247

COPUS and the Year of Science 2009

Please find below the fold some information about COPUS and how it plans to celebrate the Year of Science 2009. As a blog partner I’ll be looking forward to ways in which I, and The Mouse Trap reader community,  could get involved in the YoS2009.

The Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science (COPUS) kicked off Year of Science 2009 (YoS2009) — a national, yearlong, grassroots celebration–this week in Boston at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. COPUS, which represents more than 500 organizations, is celebrating how science works, who scientists are, and why science matters. Ira Flatow, host of Science Friday, broadcast every week on National Public Radio, launched the week’s events with a plenary presentation encouraging scientists to get involved in communicating and sharing the excitement of science at every opportunity.

Flatow said: “If you don’t stand up for science, then no one else is going to do it. We as journalists and scientists have to figure out ways to share science in plain English whenever possible.” This call to action is what drives YoS2009: it is a call for scientists to step out of their laboratories and into the public eye.

COPUS participants—museums, federal agencies, K–12 schools, universities, scientific societies, and nonprofit and for-profit organizations from all 50 states and 13 countries—will host events in celebration of YoS2009. Regionally connected COPUS participants are bringing science to their local communities in innovative ways. Some of the activities taking place in different regions of the country are described below.


Charlie Crist of Florida was the first governor to issue a statewide proclamation of YoS2009. The proclamation will be formally presented in an event bringing together representatives from the Girl Scouts, local schools, the National Football League’s (NFL) Environmental Program, and Florida’s Division of Forestry, among many other diverse organizations, in a day of celebrating science through hands-on activities showcasing rich and diverse science resources.

Washington, DC

The nation’s capital will be the site of a week-long “Meet the Scientist” effort in which leading scientists will go to schools, community groups, and science festivals to share their science with the general public and explain how they know what they know about science.

Berkeley, California

The University of California (UC) Berkeley maintains the Web site Science@Cal ( to promote the depth and breadth of science on campus. The site highlights opportunities for the public to meet UC scientists at the East Bay Science Café. Also, scientists can teach people how they do their work by hosting Flat Stanley at their labs and institutions (

Seattle, Washington

At Northwest School, the annual Winterfest celebration will highlight YoS2009 themes with rocket launches, flaming chemistry demonstrations, mousetrap cars, a play based on the Fibonacci number series, Rube Goldberg machines, and more!


A special Web site ( will help the general public learn more about this yearlong, national event. The site will feature a different scientific theme each month, complemented by blogs from scientists and science communicators about those topics and their fields of expertise. Highlights from the dynamic YoS2009 Web site include the integration of components from the newly launched Understanding Science Web site (, Flat Stanley explorations of science, the opportunity to name a new species of jellyfish or adopt a species for the Encyclopedia of Life, and a contest to build the most scientific pizza.

All of these events and activities foster innovative new partnerships that will bring science and the public closer together locally, regionally, and nationally—all in a growing celebration of science!

Rita Colwell, former director of the National Science Foundation, states: “In this Year of Science 2009, scientists around the globe collectively are shining a spotlight on their work to highlight the achievements of modern science in the public square. This year provides a special opportunity to be optimistic and express hope for a better future. Through their passion and dedication, scientists and nonscientists alike are able to share in the thrill of scientific discovery.”

COPUS, which began with support from the National Science Foundation, has grown to be an inclusive grassroots endeavor spurring communication and collaboration in the scientific community while shining the spotlight on science in 2009. Still growing, the COPUS network of more than 500 organizations includes a broad range of participants from large federal agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency to local groups such as the Banana Slug String Band from Santa Cruz, California, and TalkingScience, a New York City nonprofit that is organizing a “Rock-it Science” concert in 2009. Major sponsors of the Year of Science 2009 include the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the University of California Museum of Paleontology, the Geological Society of America, and the National Science Teachers Association. To register as a participant or to learn more, visit

For more information about COPUS and the Year of Science 2009, please visit




About COPUS  
Support for COPUS planning workshops was provided by the National Science Foundation under grant nos. EAR-0606600, EAR-0628790, and EAR-0814048 to the University of California Museum of Paleontology. The cognizant fiduciary body for COPUS and the Year of Science 2009 project is the American Institute of Biological Sciences Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which is providing staffing support and IT and other resources. The Geological Society of America, the University of California Museum of Paleontology, and the National Science Teachers Association are also contributing funds for COPUS and Year of Science 2009.

Year of Science sponsorship opportunities are available now! For more information, contact Sheri Potter (

The facebook persuasion methods

There is a  recent article  on BBC that covers The Psychology Of Facebook course of professor B J Fogg a persuasion psychologist from Stanford. This is a bold attempt to teach psychology of persuasion by taking a real world of Facebook and its viral growth as well as the growth of applications on Facebook.

He says: “When Facebook came along I was one of the developers at the
launch and what struck me was how there was this new form of
persuasion. This mass interpersonal persuasion.”

Professor Fogg says the pivotal moment came when he watched an
application on the site go from “literally zero to more than a million
users in a week”.

“Where on earth could you get a million customers in a week? That was
when I said ‘I want to learn more about this’ and I thought the best
way was to teach a class and look at how persuasion happens.”

There is an interesting case study of why people upload their profile photos:

Today the focus is on the use of profile pictures, the photograph on the front page of every Facebook entry.

The discussion is lead by Psychology Senior Richard Barton, who
maintains Facebook’s high strike rate in this area has to do with the
default picture it puts up if you don’t post your own.

“Who wants a question mark in place of their face and what questions
does that raise about you? Like, why are you on Facebook? And so
basically Facebook sets up an environment where your friends do the
persuading to get you to post a picture.”

This is interesting. Others before Facebook have tried various measures for persuading users to reveal their true identities. A case in point is the tongue-in-cheek ‘anonymous coward’ that is displayed as your user name on slashdot if you do not sign in and give your real user name. I don’t know whether it was the question mark, or because I normally do not value anonymity, but I posted my photo on Facebook as soon as I joined.

BTW, for those of you who want to connect: here is my Facebook profile page and I’ll love to get connected with my readers. Also in case someone is interested my twitter id is sandygautam and you can also follow me there.


Terror Management, Death and Psychological Immune response

There is a new article in Time that reports on a new study that found that when people are confronted with existential anxiety provoked by thoughts of their imminent death, then instead of becoming sad, they paradoxically become happier, although the effect is subconscious.

Here’s one for the annals of counterintuitive findings: When asked to contemplate the occasion of their own demise, people become happier than usual, instead of sadder, according to a new study in the November issue of Psychological Science. Researchers say it’s a kind of psychological immune response — faced with thoughts of our own death, our brains automatically cope with the conscious feelings of distress by non consciously seeking out and triggering happy feelings, a mechanism that scientists theorize helps protect us from permanent depression or paralyzing despair.

It might explain the shift toward more positive emotions and thought processes as people age and approach death, and the preternaturally positive outlook that some terminally ill patients seem to muster.

There is a plenty of literature on Terror Management Theory that posits that when confronted with thoughts of our death (and the corresponding terror) we manage that terror by reaffirming our cultural identities and sense of self-esteem. The culture, and self esteem, presumably provides a meaning to our lives and as such are helpful in alleviating the terror of self death. The researcher, DeWall, was experimenting on TMT, when he came across this phenomenon, which has been dubbed as a psychological immune response. In the test, the affect , after mortality salience, was measured by having the students fill words that could either be filled as positive words or as neutral/ negative words. this is a good test of unconscious affect and they found that those exposed to mortality salience condition had unconscious positive affect.

About half of the students were asked to contemplate dying and being dead, and to write short essays describing what they imagined happening to them as they physically died. The other half of the group was asked to think and write about dental pain — decidedly unpleasant, but not quite as threatening. The researchers then set about evaluating the volunteers’ emotions: First, the students were given standard psychological questionnaires designed to measure explicit affect and mood. Then they were given assessments of nonconscious mood: in word tests, volunteers were asked to complete fragments such as jo_ or ang_ _ with letters of their choice. Some word stems were intended to prompt either neutral or emotionally positive responses, such as jog or joy; others could be filled in neutrally or negatively — angle versus angry. In a separate word test, students paired a target word such as mouth with its best match: cheek, which is similar in meaning, or smile, which is similar in positive emotional content.

Another important finding the team found was that in depression, the psychological immune system is dysfunctional. thus, depressive people may go in a downward spiral as they contemplate their inevitable death or other social/ personal threats to their self-esteem etc.

In his current research, DeWall is finding that other threats, such as that of social rejection, elicit a similar psychological immune response — except, intriguingly, in depressed people — and he thinks that it’s a mechanism that healthy people are probably employing constantly, as a way of fending off a lifetime of serious misfortunes: not just the looming specter of death, but also the fact that you’re not going to get that promotion, or that your spouse is cheating on you, or that your kid is on drugs. “It’s very difficult to keep people in bad moods, and I think this is one of the reasons why,” says DeWall. “Let’s say we didn’t have this. I think we would have a lot more difficulty coping with failure and threats and our own mortality. It would be difficult for us to find solutions. We would be thinking about how bad we were feeling all the time.”

The right brain/ left brain asymmetry debate

Over at the Health Information blog, they have just posted 5 articles (mostly form other sources on the net) regarding the left brain/ right brain asymmetry debate.

I, in particular, liked the article by Gazzaniga, in which he discusses amongst other things the confabulaory nature of left hemisphere ‘interpreter’ or ‘narrator’. Another article I liked was by John McCrone and focussed more on the global versus Local style of processing style differences amongst the two hemispheres. Head over and have a read. I myself have strong opinions about the asymmetry and specialization and would like to see gender differences too taken in account, as I believe Men and Women do use different processing styles and this may have to do with using the hemispheres differently.

Second Life of Craig J. Phillips

No, I am not talking about the computer game Second life! This post is regarding Mr. Craig J. Phillips, who suffered traumatic brain injury and not only survived, but thrived and currently maintains a blog. He recently contacted me via commenting on this blog and I would like to quote from that and encourage readers to visit his blog and discover with him his journey that was akin to a second life.

My name is Craig J. Phillips. I am a traumatic brain injury survivor and a master’s level rehabilitation counselor. I sustained an open skull fracture with right frontal lobe damage and remained in a coma for 3 weeks at the age of 10 in August of 1967. I underwent brain and skull surgery after waking from the coma. Follow-up cognitive and psychosocial testing revealed that I would not be able to succeed beyond high school. In 1967 Neurological Rehabilitation was not available to me, so I had to teach myself how to walk, talk, read, write and speak in complete sentences. I completed high school on time and went on to obtain both my undergraduate and graduate degrees. For an in depth view of my process please read my post,

Through out my lifetime I developed strategies to overcome many obstacles and in so doing I have achieved far beyond all reasonable expectations. On February 6, 2007 at the encouragement of a friend I created Second Chance to Live. Second Chance to Live, which is located at presents topics in such a way to encourage, motivate and empower the reader to live life on life’s terms. I believe our circumstances are not meant to keep us down, but to build us up. As a traumatic brain injury survivor, I speak from my experience, strength and hope. As a professional, I provide information to encourage, motivate and empower both disabled and non-disabled individuals to not give up on their process.

Please encourage your readers to visit Second Chance to Live at

Answer to the last week’s question

Well, the answer is (c) i.e emergence of strong reciprocity is consistent with the observed behavior in the ultimatum game. The evolution of strong reciprocity requires that some people be willing to inflict punishment on the cheaters/free-loafers , even at considerable cost to themselves. This is exactly what people are doing by refusing low offers which they see as an injustices/ unfairness and their behavior of refusing the small offer harms the perpetrator of injustice, even though at cost to themselves.

Swarm intelligence

The National Geographic has a fascinating article on swarm intelligence or the ability of colonies/herds of animals/ robots to exhibit greater intelligence and decision making abilities as a whole as compared to the relatively dumb intelligence exhibited at the individual level. While the article lists various ways in which the swarms solve problems, the one explanation that caught my eye was how ant colonies decide how many ants to send on a foraging trip the next day. To me an individual ant in a colony seemed like a neuron, which aggregates inputs from other neurons (the equivalent here is comes in contact with other ants- the early patrollers) and if the neuron gets a threshold amount of spikes in a close duration of time, then it fires (the equivalent here being if an ant comes in contact with many early forager ants , which are ‘fired’ or have the scent associated with foraging, then it decides to go out for foraging) . Read on for yourself and see if the analogy makes any sense.

Ants communicate by touch and smell. When one ant bumps into another, it sniffs with its antennae to find out if the other belongs to the same nest and where it has been working. (Ants that work outside the nest smell different from those that stay inside.) Before they leave the nest each day, foragers normally wait for early morning patrollers to return. As patrollers enter the nest, they touch antennae briefly with foragers.

“When a forager has contact with a patroller, it’s a stimulus for the forager to go out,” Gordon says. “But the forager needs several contacts no more than ten seconds apart before it will go out.”

To see how this works, Gordon and her collaborator Michael Greene of the University of Colorado at Denver captured patroller ants as they left a nest one morning. After waiting half an hour, they simulated the ants’ return by dropping glass beads into the nest entrance at regular intervals—some coated with patroller scent, some with maintenance worker scent, some with no scent. Only the beads coated with patroller scent stimulated foragers to leave the nest. Their conclusion: Foragers use the rate of their encounters with patrollers to tell if it’s safe to go out. (If you bump into patrollers at the right rate, it’s time to go foraging. If not, better wait. It might be too windy, or there might be a hungry lizard waiting out there.) Once the ants start foraging and bringing back food, other ants join the effort, depending on the rate at which they encounter returning foragers.

The idea of ants making a yes or no decision of going out on foraging, based on the inputs they receive from other ants (the contact with others who have returned from foraging) and also based on the rate of that contact, seems very much akin to how a neuron behaves. No wonder the colonies are able to solve complex problems. Now that we know that they use scents to identify different types of ants, maybe we can also look up any data that may suggest that the ants smell differently in different locations of the nest/colony. If that is so, then we can also have ants specialized to perform some special function based on where in space (relative to the colony), they are. This may be akin to different regions of the brain having different localized functions.

Hat Tip: Mind Hacks

Mouse Trap’s First Blogiversary

Due to some unavoidable business (I have to keep my day job to be able to blog to my heart’s pleasure) I have not been regular in writing posts and I apologize to the regular readers of the blog for the same.

This small post is just to commemorate the first blogiversay of The Mouse Trap. I hope yopu have enjoyed the journey so far and would continue patronising this blog.