Category Archives: Psychology

Multitasking Rots Your Brains

Playing online chess is like trying to get Wii Tennis to suffice for real tennis. You simply can’t digitally recreate the palpable exchange of energy with a live opponent in chess or tennis, as much as a shared physical space only seems a requisite for the sport and not the Eternal Game. (Give it time though… complete virtual reality sports with remote opponents will be quotidian soon enough.)

Beautiful female robot with computer mouseThe simulacra of social interactions that we enjoy online are stunting real relational and conversational skills.

I touched on this in Episode 25 of The Digital Dive Podcast (see 12-minute mark). We thrive off social interaction. Each transaction — from exchanging a greeting in an elevator to chatting at a coffee shop to flipping the bird in a fit of road rage, is a little rally, a serve, a distracted miss. The physiological feedback we get from connecting through technology (social media in particular) creates an addictive dopamine reward system in the brain.

We are bathing in these transactions, but they’re not happening in proximity to our bodies. So exactly what true energy are we processing? Tech addiction (i.e., checking habits) can cause a host of problems, including a loss of normal socialization skills. Something is lost when relational transactions occur primarily digitally. We’re breathing ether. I’ve tried to tweet a smell, it’s getting so bad.

Multitasking is Just Stuff

We should not assume that the quantity of available matches, so to speak, makes up for lost quality. You can’t multitask while playing chess or tennis. Finishing a live game satisfies a deep need for connection, competition, and stimulation. In play, we’re exchanging raw energy, we’re focused and mindful. You cannot be in positive psychology’s beloved zone (feeling flow) while watching TV, eating, texting, and Candy Crushing.

business man and woman multitasking acrobaticsSure, you can multitask continually throughout the day and imagine you are adequately returning simultaneous serves, nailing forehands, and setting up tidy gambits with your network, coworkers, clients, family, and friends as you tap and click, fire off emails, Facebook updates, texts, reblogs and Likes. But it’s fragmented. You aren’t focused. As Lester Burnham said, “This isn’t life, it’s just stuff!”  (- American Beauty)

Since I doubt many of us are willing to give up our technology, whenever possible, let’s return to the simple purity of focusing on just one task at a time. Read more books and fewer articles. The end game will be a disappointment otherwise.

Chess quiz – White to move and mate in 2 moves:

chess problem

Alain White, American Chess Bulletin, November-December 1941. Solution

Original chess move challenge posted 8/23/10, post updated 1/28/17

Why We Hate Skyler White

Do you think Skyler White is a total buzzkill on Breaking Bad? Do you full out hate Skyler?  “…Male characters don’t seem to inspire this kind of public venting and vitriol.” In an 8/23/13 op-ed for the New York Times, Anna Gunn, who portrays Walter White’s wife, discussed what’s behind the vocal public contempt for Skyler, which has blurred into “loathing” and even death threats against the actress. Skyler White – I Have a Character Issue – NYT

Breaking Bad - Walter and Skyler White staring at piles of money in storage lockerAnna Gunn’s op-ed explores why viewers are so quick to hate TV wives like Skyler, Carmela Soprano, and Betty Draper while their husbands, the protagonists, commit crimes against humanity, cheat, lie, manipulate, and endanger their families, but rarely inspire such “homicidal rage” toward the Don Draper/Walter White types or the actors who play them. Anna Gunn’s article made me rethink why I used to see her character as a killjoy, annoying, or a nag as she’s been pegged.

Gunn makes an excellent point by complimenting Vince Gilligan and the Breaking Bad writers for painting an ever-evolving Walter White as complex and likable “despite his moral failings.” And yes, there is “a natural tendency to empathize with and root for [a show’s protagonist].” Still, the fact that everyone so loves the “deeply flawed yet charismatic genius” that is Walter speaks to the highly skilled storytelling that has earned Breaking Bad titles like “best show ever.” Maybe the writers of these top dramas aren’t making the wives likable enough. Maybe it’s a learned, default cultural interpretation of wives as automatically antagonistic to our beloved, flawed male protagonists. Regardless, this is an important conversation because our society is consumed with and influenced by media now more than ever:

  • “American teenagers spend 31 hours a week watching TV, 17 hours a week listening to music, 3 hours a week watching movies, 4 hours a week reading magazines, 10 hours a week online. That’s 10 hours and 45 minutes of media consumption a day.
  • Women hold only 3% of clout positions in the mainstream media (telecommunications, entertainment, publishing and advertising).
  • 53% of 13 year old girls are unhappy with their bodies. That number increases to 78% by age 17.”

-statistics from Miss Representation with sources (2011-2012)

In the documentary Miss Representation (click to watch), filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom exposes disturbing realities about how women are portrayed by the media and “under-represented in positions of power and influence.” Newsom demonstrates the relationship between the lack of powerful women (characters or real ones) depicted by the media and entertainment industry and the lack of female leaders in politics, business, etc. In summary: “You can’t be what you can’t see.” -Marian Wright Edelman

Miss Representation Katie Couric media quote text

There are TV shows with strong, likable female leads, but nowhere near as many as those with male leads whose adoration by viewers exemplifies an obvious double standard given the wider range of character traits, flaws, age, and physical appearance in male leads. This is one reason I love shows like Lena Dunham’s Girls on HBO and Jenji Kohan’s Orange is the New Black on Netflix.

One aspect of Miss Representation that relates to television and marketing is the business of commercials. Essentially, brands want to advertise on content that mirrors their messaging. Marketing is about making consumers uncomfortable: if you instill in a consumer a sense of urgency that they need a product to make themselves better, happier, sexier, smarter, younger, prettier, richer, etc. then you’ve caught their attention. In general, TV shows are written to reflect their advertisers’ brand values and messaging so that they will keep advertising to an insecure consumer. Characters and storylines often perpetuate the beliefs that make viewers insecure, i.e., better consumers.

Media companies, networks, advertising conglomerates, and ad agencies are male-dominated financially, philosophically, and visually – pure numbers. While the Skyler White conversation has many variables, it’s important to keep the undeniable reality of our gendered media in mind when deciding whether you think Skyler hatred is a symptom of a larger cultural problem or is simply the result of storytelling in the modern age, where character-bashing is more public online.

Good follow-up reads:

  1. Laura Hudson’s Wired article posted after the 8/25/13 episode, Confessions: Breaking Bad Recap: Walter White Is An Abuser – Wired.com 8/26/13
  2. Hey, Anna Gunn: Not Everyone Hates Skyler White by Willa Paskin, 8/26/13

How to be Fascinating – Sally Hogshead

Think of a brand to which you are loyal, or better yet, for which you are an advocate.  Toilet paper, automobile make, shampoo, yogurt… etc.  Why are you fascinated by this brand’s advertising or image?

I just listened to Wayne Hurlbert’s Blog Business Success May 7, 2010 podcast, in which he interviewed Sally Hogshead. It only took about twenty minutes of listening for me to be not only fascinated by her work, but eager to share the revelations with others. Hogshead’s book, Fascinate, is based on three years of researching thousands of people to find out what makes a person or a brand fascinating. People who work in marketing will find her ideas useful because consumers have what Hogshead accurately pegs, “the attention span of a goldfish.”

The premise of the F Score Test is that you are fascinating, but how?  Hogshead has identified seven universal Triggers of fascination: sally hogshead with Fascinate book cover

  • Power- Why we focus on people and things that control us
  • Lust- Why we’re seduced by the anticipation of pleasure
  • Mystique- Why we are intrigued by unanswered questions
  • Prestige- Why we fixate on rank and respect
  • Alarm- Why we take action at the threat of negative consequences
  • Vice- Why we’re tempted by “forbidden fruit”
  • Trust- Why we’re loyal to reliable options

Note: Fascination is not synonymous with respect, popularity, reverence, or even liking.  Fascination is just about captivation and not being able to ignore the subject.  We each have a primary, secondary, and dormant trigger we project to the world everyday.

What fascinates Chris Brogan?

Hogshead gives corporate brand examples in her interview with Zane Safrit:

Brand: Godiva

Primary trigger: Lust

Godiva. We developed a drink called Chocolixier. There was a whole sensory experience that lets the consumer relate.

Apple does this as well. You are able to be a part of the brand. It is about an openness and availability. You create a space where people want to draw closer. Brands are incorporating more of the Lust trigger.

I took the test and so enjoyed reading my results… incredibly accurate. I recommend at least taking the free 28 question online test on her site. Very quick and so useful. The results identify how you fascinate others (when you do fascinate them) and what you might do to round out your fascinating self (I.e., activating your dormant trigger. Mine happens to be mystique- so I would do well to hold back some information now and again.)

About Hogshead: Sally’s work and insights have been profiled by The New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS and MSNBC. She’s been described by the press as “intrepid” and an “advertising mastermind…” And I love this: When not writing and speaking, Sally campaigns to bring back the ‘hogshead’ as a unit of popular measurement in the U.S.” (A hogshead is a barrel that holds 62 gallons.)

Cheating Husband Trend: My Theory

Lately, left and right we are hearing about yet another famous man/s infidelity. Politicans, athletes, celebrities… We are just inundated. It is sublimely depressing. Here’s a great blog post by Alanna Glicksman which sums up recent celeb betrayals. I’ll save space and skip over the politicos and the ballers: we’re all familiar.

Maybe monogamy is unnatural for humans.  Interesting Wendy Walsh momlogic article states that:

“Cheating husbands are not be a new trend. After all, we are a primate society with what anthropologists like to call “perceived monogamy.” Today 65% of marriages break up because of an extra-marital affair. Despite the sexual revolution and the reduction of the “double standard,” more men still cheat than women. Now science shows us why this gender imbalance has existed for thousands of years.

First, there could be a genetic link. Swedish researchers recently identified an “infidelity gene,” which is present in four of 10 men.”

(Another issue to discuss another day.) However, marriage is a contract and sadly, a failing institution. Evolutionary tendencies may be strong but we override them all the time, so that innate wandering eye/differential parental investment excuse does not stand. And funnily enough, this sacred institution is still one only available to straight people, most of whom can’t seem to stay married! Ain’t it grand. Anyway my beloved Tina Fey recently reacted with this SNL bit (NBC video will not embed).

It’s funny of course. But I have to wonder why women are still blaming other women. Tina starts by naming women politicians and astronauts, clearly lauding women’s progress. But she falls into the same pattern of our gender’s self-defeating style. As far as culpability, the mistress is irrelevant, frankly. Homewreckers are hated indeed, and great fodder for comedy. But one must ask, why don’t we talk about male homewreckers? The men with whom wives cheat on their husbands? Is it less common or less destructive? I beg this question, and please comment with your thoughts.

Bombshell McGee is too easy a target. I mean…:

Perhaps the actuality of rampant infidelity is too awful to make real jokes about. So the butt of the joke is the outrageous mistress, and we haven’t really mocked Jesse James at all. My theory: There is something comforting about mocking this counter culture Kat Von D lookalike, because it creates that warm fuzzy us-and-them dichotomy. And if we can only hold on to that, this infidelity thing is easier to swallow because something is still sacred about the status quo. If it’s Bombshell’s fault for being ridiculous, no one has to deal with the reality that “normal” or seemingly good husbands choose to have sex with reps for the alt lifestyle.  (Although, if Bombshell really is a Nazi chick, the tatted vegan hXc feminist baker/blogger/photographer thing doesn’t really apply here…)  Essentially, Bombshell was not under a contract (James was).

Related: Nike’s recent Tiger Woods ad is another piece to ponder. I’ve already tweeted about it but wanted to repost because I am still analyzing it. Frankly, the media offers no solace or sardonic humor that would artfully rebuke the deserving, truly culpable parties- the married infidels.  Can’t they do any better?  Or do they purposely write for an unintelligent audience (understandable since news is a business)?  For those who have not yet seen it: