4 Life Goals, 4 Selves

I have blogged previously about the 4 major goals of life: Happiness (H), Success (S), Meaning (M) and Morality/Virtue (V). Each goal is important in itself and a healthy human being constantly balances all four goals for optimal outcome.

Some people group all of these major goals of life under the umbrella term of happiness, differentiating between say Hedonic happiness (H) from Eudiamonic happiness (V). I recently came across an excellent article by Paul Wong about Positive Psychology 2.0 (PP2.0) in which he adds Prudential happiness (S) and Chaironic (M?) happiness to the mix. To quote:

2. Prudential Happiness

Feelings of satisfaction that come primarily from living a fully engaged life. It often includes the “flow” and the intrinsic joy of doing something one does best and enjoys doing. It refers to a person’s doing well in what she is good at and what delights him without moral considerations (Haybron, 2000). It represents the active pathway to happiness, because it fills one’s life with activities and content as an antidote to boredom and inner void, and it also provides satisfaction for a job well done.

From the above, its clear that Hedonic happiness goal is mostly about reducing negative emotions and increasing positive emotions (the P of PERMA) while Prudential happiness is about increasing engagement/ accomplishments (E/A of PERMA). Similarly, while Eudiamonic happiness is about building up virtue via say close relationships (R of PERMA), while Chaironic happiness goal may be to increase meaning (M of PERMA).

Different permutations and combinations are possible. Subjective well-being (SWB) for eg. is the result of H (happiness as measured by +ve emotions) and S (Success as measured by life satisfaction); Paul Wong extends the construct of eudiomnia to include both Meaning (M) and Virtue (V). H is an affective component of well-being while life satisfaction (correlated with S) is an evaluative component.

Now consider the multiple selves that we are made up of. One framework that I had elaborated earlier extended the experiencing self- remembering self distinction of Kahneman here.

There I had posited that behind the unitary self lies a materialistic self, an experiencing self, a remembering self and a prospective self. Today I want to modify that model a bit and posit that the four selves are:

  1. Experiencing Self: the self associated with momentary moment-by-moment fleeting emotions and feelings. If the moment to moment feelings are of positive valence then one would be happy as per this self’s perspective. Neurally this is anchored in the ‘like’ system anchored in the endogenous opioid system. This self would anchor the H (happiness) life goal. This is used for perceiving the present.
  2. Remembering Self: the self associated with retrospective evaluations of ones experiences and relying on say memory of event. Here Kahneman conflates it with the narrative self, but there are important differences. Despite the reconstructive nature of past, this self reconstructs what happened to the subject rather than what the subject did. If the event is interpreted as being positive (say goal has been achieved) feelings of success and contentment happen. Neurally this is anchored in ‘want’ dopamine system as posited by Berrdige. This retrospective memory drives our many decisions and makes us want what we may not like. This self would anchor the S (success ) life goal. This is used for reconstructing the past.
  3. Prospective /Agentic Self: the self associated with goals, virtues and character strengths. One strives forward in an agentic fashion based on anticipatory images of future. Agency and Communion as basic social motives are both important and part of this moral agency stance. While the experiencing self is a more-or-less passive recipient of experiences, and which basks in the positive experiences when they happen; the agentic self as an actor which has imbibed habits of acting morally so as to feel good by doing good. This self anchors the Virtue (V) goal. This is used for imagining future.
  4. Narrative Self: the self associated with fitting the earlier selves into a coherent, integrated narrative or story so that we have a unified experience. The self is created by weaving a narrative around perceived present, reconstructed past and imagined future. Meaning making is important here and this self anchors the Meaning (M) goal. This differs from remembering self in as much as it narrates or interprets the active elements – oneself as the hero of ones story. While the agentic self may make some (intuitive) moral choices , the interpretive/ narrative self justifies and rationalizes it. This is very much apparent in the case of split brain patients which led to left-brain interpreter findings.

So my basic premise is that these four types of self are behind the four major types of striving or goals. As an aside, the Happiness (affective), Success (evaluative), Virtue (moral) and Meaning (cohenrnce) also align well with pathos (emotions), logos (reason), ethos (conscience) and mythos (plot) respectively as used in ancient Greece to persuade people. Hope you are persuaded by the above model:-)

The Evolution of Cooperation: Thankfulness and Inspiration as Two Routes

Cooperation or Altruism or Prosociality is the tendency to help others, even at a cost to oneself. Naive conceptions of evolution, make us think that cooperation or altruism cannot evolve because the genes are selfish and only care about perpetuating themselves. However, the selfish gene view of evolution does not preclude organisms to become altruistic if for example they share genes ; one of the mechanisms for the same is kin selection.  

Another mechanism that can give rise to cooperation is direct reciprocal altruism. In colloquial language, it is akin to you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.  You help someone in their time of need and expect that the person will help you back in your time of need. Consider our hunter/ gatherer ancestors; if one of them made a big kill and shared with a con-specific, it becomes more likely that the peer will share with him when good fortune shines on the peer.

A necessary condition for reciprocal altruism to evolve is the ability to punish if someone doesn’t reciprocate or at least to not keep trusting that freeloader in future. Both punishment as well as not indulging with that person again or repaying a past benefactor, depends on the ability to remember the person whom who we have helped or who has helped us. This ability will typically involve remembering faces. Another ability that will come handy is the ability to gauge intentions- whether the person who helped did it on purpose or accidentally.

Yet another mechanism that gives rise to cooperation is indirect reciprocity. I help you and you help someone else. While in direct reciprocity, a pair or dyad helps each other over time or helps now with the hope/ expectation of a payoff in the future; in indirect reciprocity, one helps a stranger just because one has been helped by someone. Indirect reciprocity works by creating a culture of altruism, where helping becomes the norm and people accumulate reputations.

Now, direct reciprocity can work by encouraging feelings of gratitude in a beneficiary. These feelings of thankfulness and indebtedness towards the benefactor , act together to ensure that the person receiving favors, returns them.

Indirect reciprocity works similarly, by promoting feelings of elevation or inspiration in the general public who may be recipient or even just witnessing a virtuous act of kindness, morality etc. . Once such feelings are aroused, the person witnessing such acts become more likely to act prosocially.

The above may seem speculative, but there is solid evidence around the evolution of direct reciprocity as well as indirect reciprocity. and so too is there strong linkage between direct reciprocity and gratitude. The link between indirect reciprocity and elevation is also hinted.

For example, consider the following article by Sui et al that shows that trait gratitude and trait elevation have different neural correlates. From the abstract:

We demonstrated that trait gratitude was positively correlated with gray matter volume (GMV) in the left cerebellum extending to fusiform gyrus, and also the right middle occipital gyrus (MOG) extending to posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) and temporoparietal junction (TPJ), while trait elevation was negatively correlated with GMV in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. While controlling each other, all the regions still held significant, except the right MOG and pSTS/TPJ. The results indicate that there are distinct neuroanatomical correlates for proneness to gratitude and elevation, while the evidence is mixed that pSTS/TPJ may be the common correlates for them.

The authors discuss the implications of above: gratitude  is associated with more GMV in fusiform gyrus, an area important for remembering faces, and is thus the emotion associated with direct reciprocity where remembering faces is important. Also, both gratitude/ elevation are associated with  pSTS and TPJ, areas important for attributing and inferring intentions to others. Elevation further is negatively associated with GMV  in left DLPFC, a region that involves thinking in a utilitarian manner rather than in intuitive manner about moral issues. As per dual process theories of morality one can either take a intuitive, de-ontological stand where a moral act is moral because it is the right thing to do or a duty to uphold; or the second pathway consists of more deliberate, utilitarian reasoning whereby one looks at acting such that happiness/utility is maximized for maximum number of people. Trolley problems are famous examples of such utilitarian reasoning battling with moral intuitions. 

 To me the differential neural correlates of gratitude and elevation, as well their different manifestations at the emotion and behavioral level, strongly suggest that they are associated with different types of altruism- direct and indirect respectively.  

The Formula for Success and Happiness

Successful people are not necessarily happy and happy people are not necessarily successful.  There are always trade-offs involved in life and depending on our priorities, we may want to become better at being more successful or happier, or lead lives that are more moral or more meaningful. I’m not saying that you cant have it all, or that these things are necessarily opposed to each other, but it pays to be aware that these are four distinct major goals or ways of living a life and one needs to be more mindful of what goals one is aspiring for.

Though the four major goals of life are proposed to be Happiness, Success, Meaning and Morality , we will focus on the first two goals of Happiness and Success only today.

Success, at times is measured by how much you earn, or how wealthy you are. Some of this may be due to luck , some due to bases and some inherited and this sort of success will not interest us much here. The success I am talking about is doing good work in any domain- maybe path-breaking creative work that changes the domain itself. At a smaller scale it could be measured be measured by how effective you are at work or how productive your output is. The point I am trying to make is my definition of success does not necessarily mean being recognized for that success (by the field), but it is necessarily domain specific.

Lets take an example, a child who sings pretty well and may even be composing music at an early age is successful in the domain of music, though she might not be earning anything from it. To take another example Van Gogh who sold only one painting in his entire career was pretty successful as a painter though probably less so as a salesman!

So what fuels success? Some usual suspects are inborn talent, passion for the domain and sheer hard work. Long debates have raged over whether talent is overrated, or deliberate practice and 10,000 hours are unduly glorified, or whether grit , which consists of passion and perseverance for long term goals, has been unnecessarily and per-maturely hyped. Add to the mix concepts like rage to master, which some have mused is just the same as grit, but purportedly more under genetic garb; or growth mindset which in the first place enables people to work hard in face of difficulties, and you have a lot of candidate mechanisms vying for attention.

IMHO, the debate about which ingredients are needed to make a success recipe are now well established what people are squabbling about is what proportion of which ingredient is to be added and is  responsible for the final taste.

Taking recourse and inspiration form my ABCD model, I believe the formula for Success looks like:

Success= Talent (A, more innate) + Hard Work/ Deliberate Practice/ 10,000 hrs (B , under intentional control)  + Grit/ Rage to Master (D, motivational drive) + Growth Mindset ( C, a way of approaching mastery)

Now, remember that success is domain specific, so in some domains Talent may be the driving factor while in others Hard Work  or Grit or having a Growth Mindset may be much more important. In either case, for those who have set their primary goal as that of being successful, my advise would be to invest on all four components and stop worrying as to which is more important or what contributes what amount to the final successful outcome. Get passionate about something, hopefully some area in which you have some talent or ability,  put in 10,000 or more hours of hard work and believe that your abilities in the domain can grow with hard work.

After coming up with this simple formula for Success, I could see parallels with Happiness and how to achieve it. To recap , work by Sonja and her colleagues has shown that happiness is partly determined by genetics (set point), partly by circumstances and partly by intentional activities and mindset. Another fact to remember is that character strengths are considered one pillar of being happy in the eudiamonic sense.

Thus, Happiness or Flourishing can be attributed to use of character strengths (which are sort of stable and internal), or to use of positive interventions and positive habits (like writing 3 good things or doing 3 kind acts etc) or it ma   y be attributed to the drive to equanimity or remaining self regulated and resilient despite whatever is happening or it may be attributed to an abundance mindset where helping someone or sharing resources does not lead to zero sum outcomes, but leads to positive externalities.

Again, drawing parallel to the Success equation, this formula for Happiness becomes:

Happiness = Character Strengths ( A, more innate) + Good Habits/intentional activities/ positive interventions (B, under control) + Equanimity/ self-regulation/ emotional resilience (d, motivation for stability) + Abundance Mindset (C, way of approaching happiness)

Again, just like Talent in Success may refer to musical talent or sports talent or academic talent , Character strengths in Happiness formula may refer to any of the 24 VIA strengths. To be truly happy, one will need to find what strengths one has and maybe sharpen them using interventions and self regulation directed for development of that strength. However, while a lot of empirical work has been done with respect to the success formula teasing out the relative contributions, similar work needs to happen for Happiness formula too.

And of course, we have to find formulas for Meaning and Morality but that would be an occasion for a future post. Suffice to say that Benefit mindset will figure there.

Does knowing these formulas help you get greater clarity in your pursuit of success/ happiness?  Which one would you chose if you had to make a trade-off and why?

Love- in All its Glorious Forms

Love for a child, is not the same as love for a friend, which is not the same as love for a partner- we all instinctively realize this fact – yet we also admit that there must be something common in our interactions with these people that enables us to label that experience as love, and that relationship as one characterized by love.

Barabara Fredrickson, in her book Love 2.0, defines love as moment to moment connection, felt by two people, as a result of shared positive emotions and positive reciprocity. Being a moment -to-moment fleeting state, Love is conceived of as an emotion  – something that is temporally restricted and energizes certain action tendencies. Love of course can also be construed as a desire to care for and be cared for  – this definition will place Love as a motive. Alternately some people may act more lovingly and compassionately in their day to day interactions and may have high trait Love.

I believe states feed on traits which feed on motives and they are all correlated so we wont be much bothered about those distinctions, when we speak about Love in the following discussion.

One way to think about the various forms of love is to look at their evolutionary origins- if multiple related evolutionary problems were solved by relying on Love, then we can suspect that there would arise slightly different forms of Love too. Some of the interpersonal evolutionary problems that our ancestors had to solve were problems of affiliation (or knowing whom to trust and whom to help) , problems of mate selection (who to reproduce with for maximum reproductive fitness) and problems of mate retention (as humans form pair bonds to care for their offspring, how to best take care of a long term relationship). The giddy feeling of Love/ connection may have arisen to solve these problems.

Consider the problem of affiliation or building coalitions. In one of the earlier posts we saw that humans have a basic need for affiliation, which is of two types- affiliation related to fear of being rejected and affiliation driven by hope of acceptance and intimacy.  The former seems to be a direct result of the fine-tuning of attachment system-  every infant is born helpless and depends on caregivers to take care of her. If such care and nurturance is provided the infant become securely attached, else she may become insecurely attached. I either case these initial attachment relationships form a template for some later adult relationships.

Attachment system is based on a need for security and results in feelings of trust when the need is fulfilled. In adults too, whenever some threat looms, a person may turn towards an attachment figure which she trusts.

This system has evolved in collaboration with the caregiving system. There would be not much use of an attachment system, wherein an infant cried for help, if there was no inborn mechanism to make the mother or the primary caregiver responsive to such cries. This nurturance system is directed towards those vulnerable and requiring help and compassion.

There is a decent article [pdf] that shows that attachment/trust system and nurturance/love system are separate.

On the other hand when it comes to mate selection and mate retention, many people, including Ellen Berscheid have made a distinction, between passionate love and companionate love. While the former feeds off sexual desire / lust , the latter is more commitment driven and long term. For getting people successfully married and reproducing, both are necessary- passionate love makes them fall in love to marry in the first place and then companionate love kicks in. Please note that though the passionate and companionate love might have evolved in the context of mate selection/ retention and paid bonding, they are most likely coopted for other functions and applicable to other relationships too.

Thus, while we have lust driven passion, we also have liking driven milder friendship and companionship.

Overall, I concur with Ellen Berscheid that we have four love subtypes- she calls them attachment love, passionate love, nurturant love and companionate love. I’ll just like to summarize:

  1. Attachment Love: Driven by need for security, feelings of trust are important. The evolutionary function is to get needed care.
  2. Passionate Love: Driven by sexual desire, feelings of lust take center-stage. The evolutionary function is to find a suitable mate and pass ones genes off by mating. Robert Sternberg may have said this as passion corner of his triangle.
  3. Nurturant Love: Driven by intimacy needs, feelings of compassion are important. The evolutionary function is to take care of newborn vulnerable offspring. Robert Sternberg may have said this as intimacy corner of his triangle.
  4. Companionate Love: Driven by need for long term commitment, feelings of liking or friendship are important here. The evolutionary function is to ensure that one remains part of a long term pair bond. Robert Sternberg may have said this as commitment corner of his triangle.

Of course, all the complexities, and beauties,  of Love cannot be reduced to just four types, but this classification is the best classification that I am aware of and which makes a lot of things more easy to comprehend.

As always do comment, whether this classification makes sense,  and also what actions will you take to deepen connections armored with this knowledge?

Depression : Symptoms and Subtypes

Depression is one of the most common mental illness; as a matter of fact it has been said to be the common cold of mental disorders- almost everyone gets it one time or the other. ~57 million people, in India itself, are estimated to suffer from depression. However, depression thought currently diagnosed and classified as one entity,  is not a homogeneous illness in practice. There are different sub-types of depression.

But first lets recall the symptoms of depression. These I have drafted in ABCD terms for easy recall. Its also useful to think of symptoms as tings that are added to normal experience (the positive symptoms if you may) and things that are missing (the negative symptoms) – although this distinction is usually made in case of schizophrenia. Also important to remember is that at least 5 of the following symptoms need to be present for at least 2 weeks for a clinical diagnosis.

  1. Affective:  Presence of affect : Low mood or prolonged sadness is an affect that is present, and required for diagnosis of depression. The sad emotion is something that has been added.
  2. Affective : absence of affect: Typically one feels pleasure while doing small everyday activities like having a cup of coffee in the morning. A depressed person doe snot feel pleasure form such activities and suffers from Anhedonia – on the inability to experience pleasure. Here something has been taken away from the normal experience.
  3. Behavioral:  presence of behavior: Depression results in abnormalities in sleep, appetite and body weight. When excess sleep (hypersomnia) or excessive appetite or psychomotor agitation or weight gain appears that can be a symptom of depression.
  4. Behavioral:  absence of behavior: Depression results in abnormalities in sleep, appetite and body weight. When loss of sleep (insomnia ) or less appetite or psychomotor retardation or weight loss appears that can be a symptom of depression.
  5.  Cognitive: presence of thoughts/ beliefs: dysfunctional beliefs are present in depressed people including worthlessness and guilt. These thoughts do not make or dominate the normal thought repertoire of most people.
  6. Cognitive: absence of cognitive capacity: Depressed people are not able o think or concentrate; they are also indecisive. All these are cognitive capacities that are lacking or compromised as compared to normal folks.
  7. Drive: presence of motivation : Here I am tempted to put suicidal ideation and attempts: a drive to escape from life and end it. Something again not normally found in normal people, but a motivational force for the depressed person.
  8. Drive: absence of motivation: Anergia (loss of energy) and fatigue go here: one feels drained and unwilling and unable to do anything. Again normal people have decent amount of energy or drive  and this is somewhat deficient in the depressed person.

Now that we know what depression looks like, and how its diagnosed (above is as per DSM-5 criteria), what can we conjecture about the heterogeneous nature of depression?  One useful way to think about depression sub-types is to think of whether it is predominantly Affective in nature, or is it Behavioral or Cognitive or Motivational. Could this differentiate among meaningful sub-types?

For this it may make sense to refer to this paper [pdf] about which I blogged some time back. Please do read my blog or the original paper. The authors identified two dimensions of Anhedonia and Anxiety and identified four neural subtypes of depression. They replicated the four subtypes in Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) too which is closely related to depression.

It is instructive to note that in that paper, that Anhedonia axis is affect related while Anxiety axis is more cognitive.  To me the four subtypes appear as equivalent to whether the predominant symptoms are affective (subtype 3), or whether they are behavioral (subtype 1?) or cognitive (subtype 4?) or motivational (subtype 2).

Irrespective of what the underlying subtypes may refer to, its clear that depression is heterogeneous and the better we identify and start treating the subtypes differently the better it will be for those suffering from depression.

Psychological Haikus (#Psyckus)

5 months back, in a poetic mood, I had penned a few Psychological Haikus that explain or comment on the major research themes of some researchers in positive psychology and allied fields. I had hoped that the #Psycku trend would have picked up, with others pitching in, or at least I myself would have continued creating them, but alas that didn’t happen.

On 25th May, I penned the first Psycku:

 


This was a reference to the book ‘The Happiness Hypothesis’ by Haidt in which one claim that is made is that happiness lies in neither external circumstances, nor in trying to modify ones internal mindset, but in the subtle interaction of the two. I wholeheartedly recommend the book.

Although regular readers of The Mouse Trap, will be familiar with much of the context for each of the Psyckus , for the layman’s benefit, I am providing some context with each of the Psycku:

Smiling more often, check in that tear, is it 3:1? #Psycku #BarabaraFredrickson

The above is a friendly jibe at Barb’s work with Losada on the Positivity ratio: that is their assertion that you need 5 positive emotions for each negative emotions for flourishing in life.

Partly inherited, a small part your state in life, your happiness your responsibility? #psycku #SonjaLyubomirsky

Sonja has been at the forefront of research that claims that %0 % of happiness is under genetic control, 10 % due to external circumstances like your SES while the rest 40 % is under the control of your daily habits, activties, mindset etc.

I, me, myself, my happiness my mantra, Other people matter. period. #psycku #ChristopherPeterson

Chris Peterson is one of the founding fathers of positive psychology and co author of VIA system of classification of character strengths. One of his famous quotable quotes is ‘ other people matter.’

Hopeless and made helpless, that catastrophic failure, keep it small, cut it short. #Psycku #MartinSeligman

Martin Seligman is the other coauthor of VIA and the father of positive psychology. His early work focused on learned pessimism that he turned around to learned optimism research. In a nutshell, if you fail at something, don’t make it permanent , pervasive or personal.

I’m not so smart, so I don’t work hard, You haven’t learned to grow yet! #psycku #CarolDweck

Dweck is the force behind the growth mindset theory which says that those who have a fixed mindset think that putting in hard work reflects bad on them; those with growth mindset on the other hand belive that they havent accomplished something yet,but with hard work and right strategies, can achieve it in future.

The freedom to choose, to hone my skill, not carrots and sticks. #psycku #DeciandRyan #DanPink

Dan Pink in his book ‘Drive’ references the SDT by Deci and Ryan which says that intrinsic motivators liek autonomy, relatedness and competence are stronger drivers than money or fame etc.

Balancing right, exercising all my strength, hasn’t time stopped still? #psycku #MihalyCsikszentmihalyi

The above is a reference to the Flow sate wherein time may stop still, skill levels are balanced with challenge and one is performing at ones’s best.

The ghosts of West Point or Spelling Bee, they don’t let you rest, life more a marathon than sprint?   #psycku #AngelaDuckworth

Angela , the grit queen, has been obsessed with with the construct of grit, validating that it leads to success in as diverse environments as west point or spelling bees. The above is a friendly jibe where the sprint and marathon analogy is played with; I more align with the statement that life is a marathon, but made of smaller sprints.

Orchids or Dandelions, are you sure you’ve got that right, let all flowers bloom.  #psycku #ScottBarryKaufman

One area of Scott’s research and advocacy has focused has focused on the notion of personal intelligence, which grants each person a right and opportunity to flower in his unique way. The reference to Orchid and Dandelions is to another theory by Jay Blesky et al that says that some children are quite sensitive like the orchid and require extra care but also give the best outcomes.

Down in the trenches, and on the highest rung too, givers beat takers. #psycku #AdamGrant

Adam Grant’s book ‘Give and take’ is another one of my favorites. The main premise and conclusion of the book is that Givers not only are found at the bottom of the corporate hierarchy (because they get taken advantage of)  but are also found at the top. (aside: Adam Grant actually liked this tweet:-)

Will asking the right questions, be the philosopher’s stone, lead to a positive core? #psycku #DavidCooperrider

David is the co-creator of Appreciative Inquiry method of leading change in organizations. The basic premise is that the questions you ask are very powerful and that intervention starts the moment you start asking questions.  One of the stages in AI involves finding the positive core of strengths and qualities from shared stories and best practices.

Expertise won hard, oh the lure of genius, another 10,000 hrs? #psycku #AndersEricsoon

10,000 hours of practice has been popularized by Gladwell, but the actual research is by Ericsson who has written a book too on the same titled ‘Peak’. Also important to note that subsequent research has found that 10,000 hours for initial expertise and another 10,000 hours (on average) to reach a genius level.

Resisting that cookie, I become depleted and worn out, glucose- my savior? #Psycku #RoyBaumeister

Baumeister is at the forefront on research on willpower and one of his research track shows that when people resist temptations (like not eating a cookie), their willpower on other unrelated tasks may get depleted and this is actually due to shortage of glucose in brain and can be reversed by drinking glucose!

Poems give solace, my body could use some bread, oh the tyranny of needs! #psycku #AbrahamMaslow

Maslow had famously come up with his hierarchy of needs that says that you need to fulfill lower level needs like the need to feed yourself before you can aspire to fulfill higher needs like that of self actualization.  Thsi Psycku reminds me of a hindi movie song: Ek Bagal main Chand hoga, Ek bagal main rotiya !

Stripped out of your last, what no one can take, is your attitude to life. #psycku #ViktorFrankl

Victor Frankl wrote ‘Man’s search for meaning’ a book about his experience in Auschwitz, and how he worked on his logo therapy during Holocaust.

Lego toys get me money, dismantle them later, don’t shred my meaning. #psycku #DanAriely

Dan Ariely conducted this famous experiment where people made Lego toys that were either dismantled right in front of them (a meaningless sysiphian condition) or dismantled later and found that when the activity became meaningless people did not want to do it, even in exchange for money. In a related experiment people filled a sheet with answers and the answers were either acknowledged, ignored or actively destroyed (shredded) : again ignoring or shredding caused a dip in motivation.

Indomitable will, a singular goal, multiple pathways. #psycku #CharlesSnyder

Snyder’s Hope theory talks about Agency and Pathways to achieve a clearly defined Goal. Its a very powerful theory and I use it in my work with students.

Focus on strengths, reap exponential dividends,  Achilles my foot! #psycku #MarcusBuckingham

Marcus is one of the very strong proponent of strength based development; he does caution that you need to manage your weaknesses, but anyway!

Defenses lowered, hysterical misery vents, into common unhappiness. #psycku #SigmundFreud

Freud’s famous statement that we can only hope to convert hysterical misery to common happiness (I actually meant common unhappiness only, but maybe by Freudian slip, mistyped in the tweet)

Pine for the moon, or put the sixpence in pocket, let your goals reflect you. #psycku #KenSheldon

Self-concordance between goals , as emphasized by among others, Sheldon.

Basic needs thwarted, consumption on rise, are depression and anxiety our fate? #psycku #TimKasser

Tirade against Materialism by Kasser who has shown that such striving is assocuted with worse outocmes. This is something we all need to understand. Content of our goals matters too.

 

Freedom terrifies, can you live up to the task, Man giving birth to himself. #psycku #ErichFromm

Fromm, on how we escape from freedom and what the main task of a person is.

Should I live this absurd life, the philosophical question par excellence, asks Sisyphus happily. #psycku #AlbertCamus

Camus and the Myth of Sisyphus.His treatise on the only philosophical question worth asking: way should I not commit suicide.

Bombastic and loud, they hog all the light, I usher a quiet revolution. #psycku #SusanCain

Susan and her powerful quiet revolution. Her book extols the differences and strengths of introverts.

Fight and make up, but don’t show contempt, and live happily ever after. #Psycku #JonGottman

Gottman lab has done some phenomenal work on predicting divorce from witnessing small slices of interactions between couples; if you want  a happily married life, have 5 positive interactions to every negative interaction and don’t show contempt.

Measuring the ebb and flow of emotions, you are given a simple choice, would you live this life again? #Psycku #EdDiener

Satisfaction with Life survey as created by Ed has one of the item as whether a person would chose to live the same life again.  Ed Diener pioneered the science of measuring happiness which he segmented as having positive affect, lack of negative affect and satisfaction with life.

Money does buy happiness, spend on experiences not things, better spent on others. #psycku #DunnandNorton

Dunn and Norton have written a book called ‘Happy Money’ that lists various tips and tricks to become happier by using money wisely.

What did I give, What did I receive, feeling thankful for Naikan. #Psycku #RobertEmmons

Bob Emmons is known for his work on gratitude. Naikan is a Japanese thankfulness mediation.

I got my dream job! Oh! Not another relocation!! that’s neither active nor constructive. #psycku #ShellyGable

Shelly had done a lot of work on active constructive responding which says that we shoudl not tke for granted how we respond to good news from our partners but should be more conscious and appreciative.

More creative and kind, want the doctor to treat you right, take some candy with you. #Psycku #AliceIsen

Isen, in clever experiments has shown that happiness increases creativity. as well as kindness. In one experiment, just gifting a candy to doctor before the patient visit , increased diagnosis accuracy.

Lowly toilet cleaner, or custodian of health, ain’t I called to work? #psycku #AmyWrzesniewski

Amys’s work has showed that you can craft your work and derive meaning out of even ordinary work. Her distinctions between job orientation, career orientation and calling orientation to work are very powerful.

My earnings, my grades, my future, my dates, oh the forsaken Marshmallow! #Psycku #WalterMischel

Mischel’s famous marshmallow experiment showed that a lot of adult life outcome scan be predicted by whether and fir how long a child of 4 years of age resisted eating one marshmallow in the expectancy of getting two if he waited.

Take a copy of that Monet, The fine print says you cant return, you’re much happy for it!

Gilbert, who is famous for his book ‘Stumbling on happiness’ tells about experiments that show endowment effect,  that is when you own something , you value it more, and so you are more happier with having it instead of an equivalent item.

Six choices are fine, twenty-four too many, isn’t it a jam?

Sometime too many choices also lead to sub-optimal happiness. In a famous experiment conducted regarding taste sampling fo ether 6 jams or 24, 6 jams were correlated with better user experience and buying behavior.

Gather all the data you can, analyze carefully the pros and cons, but for happiness – just satisfice!

Barry Schwartz has written about the paradox of choice and how some of us are maximizers, trying to find the optimum solution or product,  while others satisfied and go with the first alternative that satisfies their requirements.

 

These are all the #Psyckus I had written then, but I promise to write more and I hope you will join me and be co-conspirators in this Pscyku movement!

The Four Needs Theory: Building on McClelland

McClelland had formulated a theory of three basic needs: Need for achievement, need for affiliation and need for power. He had related this to work context, though these needs are generally applicable. While the need for achievement is all about accomplishments, be it in comparison to other people,  or in comparison to one’s own standards,  need for affiliation is about relating with others and being a part of a group; while need for power is  the need to influence others or the group in a desire to make an impact.

In the last post we had seen that achievement goals/ needs can be bifurcated into Performance needs (looking good and comparing with others) and Mastery needs (getting better and comparing with oneself); both of which can be further bifurcated along approach/ avoidance lines. This post will build from there and include Affiliation and Power needs in the framework.

A survey of literature shows that Affiliation needs can also be bifurcated into two correlated factors: one factor is the need for intimacy and can be considered approach directed, in the sense we are motivated by the hope of achieving interpersonal closeness. The other may be be called need for affiliation-avoidance type, which is primarily motivated by a fear of rejection; you want to become a part of the group as you fear that if the group rejects you, you are no good – so you want to avoid being rejected by the group to maintain your self image and hence are motivated to seek contact. Taken together these needs for affiliation ensure cooperation in the group.

Affiliation needs have their root in childhood attachment. Securely attached people have a affiliation- approach need and seek intimacy. Insecurely attached seek affiliation from a fear of rejection.

Another survey of literature on power needs shows that Power needs are also of two types:  Personal power (where the focus is on personal strength and avoiding appearing weak) ans institutional power (where power is sought to make an impact).

To sum up, there are four primary needs or motives, each with two sub types:

  1.  Performance : need for results. Success orientation.  Breeds competition.  Corresponding SDT need – Autonomy.
    1. performance-avoidance: comparison with others (either just ahead of us, or miles ahead of us, the former case is of keeping with the Jonses, the latter case is to explain our inevitable failures) .
    2. performance- approach: comparison with others who are somewhat better than us, goal is of medium challenge.
  2. Mastery: need for self improvement. Happiness orientation. Breeds Excellence. Corresponding SDT need – mastery.
    1.   mastery-avoidance: comparison with an ought self guide (either insignificant ought discrepancy or a major gaping hole in ought self guide, the latter to justify the gap and our failure to bridge it)
    2. mastery- approach: comparison with an ideal self guide  – something within reach and inspiring.
  3. Affiliation: need for closeness and group membership: Morality orientation. Breeds cooperation. Corresponding SDT need – relatedness.
    1. affiliation- avoidance: fear of rejection instrumental here. One approaches either a very easily available person (dependent/ clingy) or a very distant person (avoidant)
    2. affiliation- approach: hope of acceptance is instrumental here. Ones target is someone who is decently difficult to  approach (securely attached)
  4.   Power: need for influence and impact: Meaning orientation. Breeds leadership. Corresponding need : Purpose.
    1. power- avoidance: fear of personal weakness drives this. One either seeks power over easily dominated person or over an indomitable person/ group.
    2. power- approach: drive to make an impact.  One seeks power over a group for the benefit of the group.

Of course, the above needs can be correlated to personality traits. In the last post we saw correlations iwth OCEAN for the Achievement needs. We will refer to the HEXACO model in this post:

Performance- avoidance: E (Emotionality)

Performance- approach: C (Conscientiousness)

Mastery – avoidance (eXtraversion)

Mastery – approach: (Openness)

Affiliation- avoidance ( Agreeableness)

Affiliation – approach ( Honesty-Humility)

I believe time has come to merge emotions and motives (needs) and fold them into a common theory of personality that is steeped in traits. I m hopeful of this approach. Hope you too concur.

Personality and Goals

Goals, that people strive for, make an important part of a person’s personality- be it the daily strivings or the personal projects. However, this post is not about goals at that level of personality.

Goals can be classified as approach goals or avoidance goals based on whether one wants to achieve a particular positive outcome or is more motivated by avoiding a particular negative outcome. They can also be classified as mastery or performance goals based on whether one wants to learn and master the area and satisfy ones internal standards or whether one wants to meet external standards and is driven by appearing smart and capable. The roots of these goals, and underlying motivations, lie in Carol Dweck’s theory of growth and fixed mindsets.

So basically combining the two concepts above, we have four combinations:  Mastery-approach where one is motivated to grow and inspired by a future vision of oneself; Mastery -avoidance where one is motivated to maintain functioning and the desire to not fail to live up to earlier performance or past image; Performance – approach where one wants to perform better than other people; and Performance- avoidance where one wants to avoid performing worse than others.

In addition to this, there is promotion and prevention regulatory focus theory of goals and motivation that posits that we all have either a promotion focus, whereby we want to move towards goals and are eager or prevention focus wherein we want to avoid outcomes and are vigilant. These regulatory focus are a result of the discrepancy between actual and ideal and ought selves. The self discrepancy theory by Higgins et al posits that each of us have a few guides guiding our behavior-  ideal self is the self that we aspire to (a future vision) while ought self is what we have internalized as our duties, obligations etc. While ideal selves are more congruent with promotion focus, ought self discrepancy reduction leads to prevention focus.

Some of you might be seeing where I am getting from here. We are moving here form goals to trait level. What I propose is that while Mastery-approach goals lead to and are congruent with Promotion focus (as traditionally defined by Higgins), Mastery -avoidance leads to and follows from Prevention focus; similarly Performance-approach goals are what are typically considered as Avoidance motivation in literature ( Elliot et al) and Performance-  avoidance goals as related to Avoidance motivation. Thus it makes sense to consider and be sensitive to four types of motivational trait constructs- Promotion focus, Prevention Focus, Approach motivation and Avoidance motivation and to see them as distinct from Goals per se.  This is akin to the state -trait distinction in case of affective terms.

One can also correlate these motivational dispositional terms to Self determination theory. Basically, it appears common sense that mastery -approach goals are quite intrinsically motivating;  mastery -avoidance goals probably more identified motivation, but still autonomous. When we move to Performance goals the motivation becomes more controlled. Performance -approach goals driven by introjected motivation while Performance- avoidance goals to extrinsic motivation.

So how do these four motivational traits stand in comparison to the other well known personality traits and constructs?   This is an empirical question to be settled and part of it has been settled in this paper [pdf] by Elliot and Thrash.

Basically Elliot et al using factor analysis, both EFA and CFA showed that personality constructs like Extraversion, positive emotionality and  BAS cluster together and are related to Mastery goals (they did not differentiate between mastery -approach and mastery -avoid); while Neuroticism, negative emotionality and BIS go together and are related to Performance-avoidance.  These latter 3 were also related to Performance approach goals, as were the former 3. The 2 underlying factors they theorized as depicting approach and avoidance motivation/ temperament.

I believe they would have got better and clearer results if they has used more constructs than just E/N and +ve emotioanlity, -ve emotionality, or BAS/BIS and also included C/E/A and constraint/disinhibition and FFFS too in the factor analysis and also split Mastery goals.

If so, I conjecture the following four factors:

  1.  Promotion focus: driven by ideal self discrepancy and mastery motivations comparing with oneself and one’s future version aspired to. When people work with this focus they experience positive emotionality, are open to experience and are motivated by intrinsic motives (SDT).
  2. Prevention focus: driven by ought self discrepancy and mastery motivations comparing onself to past performances by self and identified duties and obligations. The people with this focus experience positive emotionality, are Extraverted and the BAS drives their behavior.
  3. Approach Motivation: driven by external comparisons and performance motivations to achieve something.  High in Conscientiousness, experience constraint and are driven by BIS with introjected motivation.
  4. Avoidance Motivation: driven by external comparison to avoid bad outcomes. High in Neuroticism , experience negative emotionality and the FFFS drives behavior. They have extrinsic motivations.

This, of course, remains to be empirically proved.

Basic Needs: The Maslow-Erikson Mashup

There is some evidence that ontogeny parallels phylogeny as far as cognitive development is concerned. What this means is that the same stages or steps that a species has evolved through also recur when the embryo develops into a fully functioning adult. In other words, developmental stages and states follow the same sequence as evolutionary stages. This may be because the environment is structured in such a way that some stages can only make sense when preceding stages have been already encountered.

To illustrate, if pain was the first sensation that animals could first sense and feel; then probably it will be the first emotion that babies and infants can feel. Amusement if it comes later to pain in evolutionary history, then probably amusement only starts being felt by babies once they have already felt pain. Would that also make pain more primary or basic than amusement? I believe so.

Taking cue form that, it may be possible to go one stage further and claim that adult structure/ hierarchy of a  particular construct will follow the developmental stages or time-course. To continue with our example, if pain occurs earlier in babies than pleasure, then in adulthood, losses which are sensitive to pain will be more basic and drive our choices than gains which are sensitive to pleasure. We will first need to fulfill our need to avoid pain and then only be motivated by our desire for pleasure. The bad is stronger than the good.

To extend this analogy to personality, let us consider a developmental theory of personality- Erkison’s Psychsocial stage theory. As per it people go through various stages , right from infancy to old age, grappling with many developemental challenges and either coming out successful or failing to master the developmental challenge. At each stage one can discern some basic needs that when fulfilled lead to successful closure with regards to that stage.

To illustrate:

  1. Trust vs mistrust: at this stage if the need for security that the infant has is fulfilled, he ends up being trustful.
  2. Autonomy vs shame and doubt: at this stage its important to develop a sense of self worth and self esteem by being autonomous. If however his sense of self worth is questioned he ends up feeling shameful.
  3. Initiative vs guilt: at this stage its important to take care of need for play and creativity; if however the child’s playful actions  lead to harm or are condemned, then this may lead to guilt.
  4. Industry vs inferiority: at this stage its important for the child to ‘work’ and get respect/ approval of others thereof; failure to be productive leads to feelings of inferiority.
  5. Identity vs role confusion: at this stage its important to have a sense of coherence, especially about oneself and ones role; failure of which leads to role confusion.
  6. intimacy vs isolation: at this stage the need for loving and being loved has to be fulfilled, else you end up being isolated and lonely.
  7. Generativity vs stagnation: at this stage the need for self-actualization drives one to grow and reach one’s full potential in service to the world, failing which one remains stagnant.
  8. Ego integrity vs despair: at this stage, as you reflect on your life, you are driven by need for self-transcendence failing which you end up in despair.

Its easy to see how a hierarchy similar to Maslow’s can be derived from this. Leaving the physiological needs aside, at the bottom of hierarchy would be needs related to security, followed by needs for self-worth/esteem; then needs for play and creativity;  followed by needs for respect and achievement; followed by need for coherence; then need for love; then need for self-actualization and finally on top need for self-transcendence.

I think this is a proposition worth investigating and I am sure one will find a hierarchy of needs that is rooted in developmental stages and which themselves are rooted in evolutionary stages.

 

Academic Excellence Due to Efforts or Intelligence: Curious? Read on

There has been a long standing debate in intellectual circles: what leads to superior performance? Is it due to talent or intelligence or is it due to efforts and hard work? Reams of books have been written on the subject including some of my favorites:  ‘Talent is overrated’, ‘Outliers’ etc.

Applied to the classroom the question becomes why did Tom get an A or aced the JEE/GRE , was it because he is smarter that Harry or was it because he studied more and better? Answers to questions like these have profound implications for how children learn and grow-  believing that effort matters more (a growth mindset) will likely make them more persistent in face of failures while having a intelligence is all that matter mindset (a fixed mindset) will perhaps make them more self-conscious and helpless in the face of challenges just beyond their current capabilities.

Long time readers of this blog will know I am more sympathetic to the effort/ hard work/ grit / conscientiousness camp and there are good reasons for that. Consider your middle school classroom: perhaps the smartest / most intelligent student does come first in the class, while the most hard working student comes say second.  Now when you go to say college, then people with a minimum threshold of intelligence / smartness would be the ones who would make it to the college say due to winnowing due to SAT/JEE. Now in college, we can say that most students are already of high intelligence and this would not differentiate between their academic achievements. However, not all will be equally hard working/ conscientious . Those who are both intelligent and conscientious will have an advantage in college and will get higher academic achievement. This is not speculation, there have been studies demonstrating exactly that.

Consider again, the 10,000 hour rule of Anders Ericsson et al. What they found was that if you want to excel in any field you need to put in a minimum of average 10,000 hours of deliberate practice and to reach a genius level another 10,000 hours. Now what is clear is that for achieving well in any domain, say playing guitar, you do need to have some talent or ability in that area; but then you need to do riyaaaz or deliberate  practice to build your skills and if you really want to perform and be counted among the geniuses, perhaps at that level all will have the minimum talent required and you can differentiate yourself mostly by practicing hard and putting in superhuman efforts. Thus, effort is what will really differentiate you.

So is that all there is to superior performance: Talent x Deliberate Practice or more colloquially  Intelligence x Efforts.

When I teach grit and growth mindset to my students, I teach this equation by Angela that ‘effort counts twice’:

Talent x Effort = Skill

Skill x Efforts = Achievement

Today I think its time to modify the equation!!

Enter curiosity! This paper by Tomas Chamoro -Premuzic et al argues and makes a compelling case for adding a third element to the mix: curiosity measured as epistemic curiosity  or Typical Intellectual Engagement (TIE) or need for cognition or Openness to experience. They did a meta -analysis and found that

  1. Intelligence does predict Academic achievement; correlation as high as .35
  2. Efforts measured by Conscientiousness does predict academic achievement: correlation as high as 0.20
  3. Curiosity as measured by TIE does predict academic achievement: correlation as high as 0.20
  4. Intelligence , Curiosity and Efforts have independent effects on academic achievement; none of them mediates the other.
  5. TIE and Intelligence are correlated (remember Openness/ Intellect are aspects of a single trait)
  6. Conscientiousness and TIE are correlated ( general factor of personality?).
  7. Intelligence and Conscientiousness are uncorrelated.

Thus Curiosity is a welcome (and at equal footing)  addition to the (Academic) achievement equation.

I use VIA framework a lot so will try to reframe the equation using VIA strengths. I believe intelligence or talent is best reflected in Critical Thinking and  Creativity. Effort or hard work is best captured by Perseverance and  self control. Last but not the least comes Curiosity and Love of Learning.

Thus , combining the effort counts twice equations, my equation becomes:

(Creativity + Critical Thinking) x (Grit + Self-control) x (Curiosity + Love of Learning)  = Academic Achievement.

Yay! I love it. Hope more people focus on all the components that are needed for high achievement and Curiosity and love of learning to find their seat at the table. Scott Barry Kaufman has written so passionately about Curiosity and its underused role in schools here.

I was recently at the World Positive Education Accelerator (WPEA) AI summit and conference in Fort Wroth, US and a subgroup there had come up with a project requesting all participants to post about their equation. to thrive I hope you like my equation and it has some real impact on how students are guided towards higher achievement. I know that academic achievement is just one part of the equation for students to thrive- the bigger part of well-being and character strengths is also required for thriving/ flourishing, but yes given the current realities academic achievement *is* an important part of the equation!     #EquationToThrive