Your brain is quicker than you think. What’s wrong about that?
While I am all in favor of the studies showing the value of not overthinking a decision (because your brain knows better), I can’t subscribe to the “humans don’t have a free will” conclusion. The thesis that humans may don’t have a free will seems to engage people continiously to date. I am not a neuroscientist (although I studied Psychology for a time) and this might be a very stupid statement but I am going to make it anyway: whenever I read about the experiment which showed that our brain knows about 10 seconds before we consciously know what we are going to decide (and thus concluding that we don’t really have a free will), I think the subjects just thought that was the moment they claimed it was (when they chose to push a button). They just didn’t recall it correctly because it wasn’t conscious. The brain did (no surprise here, nothing “eerie” about it). Which is why I trust my gut (=brain) whenever making complex decisions after looking at the facts but I don’t trust anybody who thinks that his brain imaging technique and push-button experiments tell us anything about free will. Then again, I have a pretty good relationship with my brain since it’s me. But wait a minute – who is telling me all my thoughts? Uh, right.
Conformity (group pressure leads to actions against rational judgement) can do pretty spooky stuff, and if you think that today is any different than the fifties: find an elevator which has two doors, take some friends with you and do your own psychological experiment.
— Elevator Psychology and The London Underground (via feedly)
I just found this interesting bit on the PsyBlog: “Ask for help, but don’t ask for too much”. People notoriously underestimated how likely others were to help them by as much as 100%. The reasons are our difficulty to think like another person (egocentric bias) and the social pressure the other person is put under.
There are two very practical messages coming out of this research:
1. If you want help, just ask. People are much more likely to help than you think, especially if the request is relatively small. Most people take pleasure in helping others out from time-to-time.
2. Make it easy for others to say no. The other side of the coin is that most of us don’t realise just how hard it is to say no to a request for help. Other people feel much more pressure to say yes to our requests than we realise. If the help you need is likely to be burdensome then think about ways of making it easier to say no.
I’d like to add more interesting facts:
- other studies have shown that helping actually makes people feel better than being helped
- older adults helping others are healthier and live longer
In fact studies by the Institute for Social Research (ISR) from 2002 showed that older people reduce their risk of dying by nearly 60 % compared to peers who provide neither practical help nor emotional support to relatives, neighbors or friends.
Well – to me those studies suggest two things:
- If you’re young and clueless or just in a bad spot do ask for help. It’s not only that your problem will most likely be solved because others usually say yes, but at the same time you help another person to feel better and live longer
- you might learn something (from asking) that you, once you get older, can use to help others – extending your own lifetime and improving your health significantly.
What more could we ask for?
Nothing new, but a timeless compilation of important social studies, from the Halo Effect over the Standford Prison Experiment to Conformity. The blog author, a Psychologist from London, asks his readers at the end which study tought us the most about human nature. Obedience to Authority by Milgram leads with 23% as of today. If I look at my everyday life and at what people I know do most of the time, I’d vote for Cognitive Dissonance. There seems to be nothing better than to justify something stupid with a very good reason just to balance out your brain (because our brain hates to feel unbalanced). Here’s a recent example of how politicians use to do that. PsyBlog: Why We do Dumb or Irrational Things: 10 Brilliant Social Psychology Studies