Tag Archives: Psychology

The Organism’s Greater Good

Principle
When a group of self-interested individuals has selfish interest in seeing that instances of selfishness get punished. An individual displaying selfish behavior will be punished those whose self-interest is negatively affected by his selfish behavior.
Explanation
“Yet these phenomena are rare. What stops the mutiny? Why do segregation distorters, B chromosomes and cancer cells not succeed in winning the contest? Why does harmony generally prevail over selfishness? Because the organism, the coagulation, asserts its greater interest. But what is the organism? There is no such thing. It is merely the sum of the selfish parts;; and a group of units selected to be selfish cannot surely turn altruistic.
     The resolution of this paradox takes us back to the honey bees. Each worker bee has a selfish inter in producing drones; but each worker equally has a selfish interests that no other worker produce drones. For every self drone-producer there are thousands of bees with a selfish interest in preventing drone production. So a bee hive is not, as Shakespeare thought, a despotism, run from above. It is a democracy, in which the individual wishes of the many prevail over the egoism of each” (33, The Origins of Virtue)
Source
The Origins of Virtue by Matt Ridley

Division of Labor

Principle
When members of a group specialize at tasks that would be normally be pursued by each individual separately, the aggregate task output of the group specializing at tasks will be greater than the task output of a group that chose not to specialize at tasks.
Explanation
“Somebody not trained in pinking could probably only make one pin a day, and even when practised he would only be able to make twenty or so. Yet, dividing labour between pin-makers and non-pin-makers and by further dividing the task of pin manufacture between a number of specialist trades, we vastly increase the number of pins that can be made by each person. Ten people in a pin factory could and did, said Smith, produce 48,000 pins a day. To buy twenty pins from such a factor therefore costs only 1/240 of a man-day, whereas would have taken a purchaser a whole day at least to make them himself.
     The reasons for this advantage, said Smith, lay in three chief consequences of the division of labour. By specializing in pin-making, the pin-maker improves his dexterity at pin-making through practice; he also saves the time that would otherwise be spent switching from task to task; and it pays him to invent, buy or use specialized machinery that speeds up that task” (42, The Origins of Virtue)
Source
 
The Origins of Virtue by Matt Ridley

Productive Meditation

Term

Meditating on a singular problem while being engaged in physical activity

Explanation

“The goal of productive meditation is to take a period in which you’re occupied physically —but not mentally—walking, jogging, driving, showering—and focus your attention on a single well-defined professional problem. Depending on your profession, this problem might be outlining an article, writing a talk, making progress on a proof, or attempting to sharpen a business strategy” (170, Deep Work)

Source

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Zerrissenheit

Term

A condition in which an abundance of options inhibits an individual’s ability to make meaningful choices. A person whose happiness is negatively affected due to the lack of a coherent moral structure to their choices and actions.

Explanation

“The Germans have a word for this condition: Zerrissenheit– loosely, ‘falling-to-pieces-ness’. This is the loss of internal coherence that can come from living in a multitasking, pulled-in-a-hundred-directions existence. This is what Kierkegaard called ‘the dizziness of freedom.’ When the external constraints are loosened, when a person can do what he wants, when there are a thousand choices and distractions, then live can lose coherence and direction if there isn’t a strong internal structure”(218, The Road to Character)

Source

The Road to Character by David Brooks

Skinner’s Superstition Effect

Principle

When an animal is given a reinforcer at randomized time intervals and the reinforcer isn’t associated with any action within the animal’s control, the animal will sometimes begin to associate a particular behavior with the reinforcer despite the behavior being entirely unrelated to the delivery of the reinforcer.

This was first discover by B.F. Skinner when the pigeons he’d been feeding at randomized time intervals begin to develop superstitious behaviors had happened to associate with the delivery of food. The pigeons superstitions persisted despite their behavior having no actual impact on the automatic food delivery mechanism.

Source

‘Superstition in the pigeon’ (Wikipedia)