Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Book Report

General Overview

The Power of Habit explores the science behind habits.  The books outlines what habits are and how they rule our lives; from addictions to routine habits.  The author defines how to reinvigorate and intervene in your own life by identifying a habit and noting what the true outcome of a habit is.  Self volition is major contributor to breaking habits and volition  can be developed and toned.

Favorite Part

My favorite part of the book was the discussions on the corporations and the time and money they invest in researching and understanding habits.  I think Starbucks was my favorite story in how Starbucks influences employees and helps them develop their character as a person.  Starbucks uses many models to teach employees how to handle and react to varying situations.


There was an employee that was discussed who had a temper problem and grew up in a non structured environment. He dropped out of High School and no level of attention span. Starbucks' training program helped him develop into a better person and put him on the right track by training him to remain calm and be aware of situations. The employee went on to become a manager over time.


As my third and final post regarding Shackleton and his incredible voyage, I am going discuss an array of topics.  For starters, when I read the portion about Worsley and how depressed he was at the thought of him losing his diary; I finally realized how much danger they were actually in.  The fact that he was saddened by thought of no one knowing their story; or how close they came to survival forced me to actually analyze the perils of their journey.  I youtubed videos of the drake passage and it looks terrifying; and they did it in an open 22 foot boat.

On another note; I think the team was a bit short sighted; and do not think their voyage was that incredible.  For starters, the author notes in the beginning that Shackleton was aware that the Endurance was not the right kind of boat to handle ice.  So, he started out with the wrong equipment and tools; and if you have the wrong equipment and tools, you should not do the job.  In addition,  16 year old girls say, "I'm going on a date, if you do not hear from me by ___ time, call the police."  Could not Shackleton's crew have done something similar?  "If you do not hear form me in ___ months, send a search crew"  Their ice pack also followed along the cost of Antartica in the Weddell sea, couldn't they just jumped on land and continue their expedition?  I feel like there are a lot of holes here, especially when you look at the map of the path the Endurance traveled when trapped in ice.


Book Report - Walden Two

General Overview

            The story begins in the narrator’s college office being visited by a former student, Roger, and his friend, Steve, who have just returned from being deployed.  Roger mentions to his old professor, Professor Burris that he remembers him speaking of a Utopian society during one of his prior lectures and wonders if the actual society exists somewhere.  Burris reluctantly replies and says he will try to contact his old colleague Frazier who held the original idea.  Surprisingly, Frazier wrote back less than a week later inviting Professor Burris, Roger and his girlfriend, Steve and his girlfriend, as well as another colleague named Castle to his utopian society named Walden Two.  When they arrive at Walden Two, Frazier excitedly show them around for a week as his describe to them the unique characteristics of his utopian society.  These characteristics emphasize free will, sexually equality, self-sufficiency, happiness, freedom, and a unique educational model.  Decisions are made by a community council and members are asked to follow the Walden Code in order to lead a happy life.  As the week continues Castle is convinced the community is a scam while Burris remains cautious but open to the community and Steve and his girlfriend are convinced to become a part of the society themselves.
            Throughout the book, Castle and Frazier debate back and forth on the legitimacy of his society.  With the use of wit, scientific reasoning, and physical evidence, Frazier is able to defend the utopian society he worked so hard to build.  After being challenged all week Frazier gets Burris alone and frantically explains that the only part of Walden Two that interests him is the possibility of making a genuine science of human behavior.  Walden Two is Frazier’s laboratory for his research on behavioral engineering; he is able to manipulate his society’s behavior and goes so far as to compare himself to God.  After explaining this, it is time for the characters of the story to return back to their society.  However, once Burris returns to his university he seems to have a revelation on the genuine goodness that Walden Two has to offer him and decides to return and live the rest of his life there.  The end of the book reveals that his perspective of the society upon moving there did not take a negative turn and everything he was told lived up to his expectations. 

Favorite Part

            There is a quote only a quarter of the way into the book which really captured my interest:

                        “It’s fatal to forget the minority element – fatal to treat brawn
                        as if there were no brains, and perhaps more speedily fatal to                                                        treat brains as if there were no brawn (Skinner 51).”

Frazier said this line while describing why each member of the society is required to be well rounded in their daily work and why it is important not to solely focus on a person’s brains but to explore all aspects of a person.  He says treating all people equally in their work reduces the risk that people are socially ranked by physical and cognitive abilities while also promoting good health and sexually equality.  Everyone in the community is motivated by the same incentives; for each piece of daily work completed, the member receives a certain amount of mandatory weekly points.  In addition, as the difficulty of the task increases, the higher the reward become, which promotes the members to participate.  In today’s society people are either seen for the academic or their physical achievements in sports or other areas.  Walden Two offers a society that does not place a high value on either, but rather views both as qualities that all people possess, despite the level of their ability.  This way of viewing the world is an essential step in creating a society that has equal members.


            The concept of reinforcement is heavily valued in Frazier’s Walden Two society.  The society is ultimately a lab for Frazier’s research regarding behavioral engineering; through the years he has manipulated behavior through the use of incentives.  Frazier makes it very clear that he favors the effectiveness of positive incentives over the use of negative incentives.  Negative incentives are used to motivate a person to avoid a behavior while positive incentives are used to motivate a behavior.  Frazier uses different tactics for motivating and selecting the desired behavior of the people in his community.  Reinforcers are a behavioral consequence that promotes a certain behavior while punishers are behavioral consequences that decrease the frequency of a behavior.  He reinforces the behavior he finds favorable by offering positive incentives of labor points.  In contrast, he does not punish undesirable behavior through negative incentives but rather ignores it or refrains from using positive incentives.  He claims that negative incentives serve a short term effect while positive incentives motivate future behavior on a long term scale.  I find this relevant to my work at a daycare; for example, when I tell a child in the nap room that their nap toy will be taken if they continue to act up, they stop their negative behavior for a minute, but if I offer them a nap toy for consistent positive behavior they behave for the entire duration of nap.


            Although Walden Two does not believe in the use of propaganda, because it does not promote an authentic genuine interest, I created a list of commonly asked questions to persuade “outsiders” to become a new member of the community: 

Walden Two
Thank you for showing interest in our community!  To ensure you are comfortable in your decision to join our community the Board of Planners have prepared a list of commonly asked questions.

Commonly Asked Questions:

1.      Will my child receive an education at Walden Two?
·         Yes! Walden Two offers a free education to every child.  From birth, your child will be trained in behavioral techniques for controlling unwanted emotions such as jealously and resentment.  Our education system does not provide standard grades for achievement because every child develops at a different pace.  In addition, your child can choose to pursue any subject of his own individual interest, rather than being forced to learn something they find boring.

2.      How do I earn money at Walden Two?
·         No one has money at Walden Two!  We believe no one’s self-worth should be based on their economic status.  Rather, each member of our society is required to do four hours of labor per day in order to earn mandatory labor credits.  The choices for daily labor range from baking, working in the nursery, and working outside.

3.      What is the Walden Code?
·         The Walden Code is a set of guidelines each member agrees to follow.  If at any time you disagree with the code you are more than welcome to submit your complaint to the council.  For example, one rule is to openly admit when you are bored during a discussion with someone; this prevents a person from feeling self-conscious about being boring as well as prevents the listener from having to willingly act interested.  Another rule is not introducing yourself to people without an intent of having a meaningful conversation as well as never saying thank you to someone.  For a complete outline of the Walden Code please submit a request to the town council.

4.      Who is the Board of Planners?
·         The Board of Planners is a committee of people formed when Walden Two was coming to life.  The committee members consist of three males and three females.  Their term may not last longer than ten years.  Their responsibilities include overseeing the managers of each work station, creating policies, and overseeing the overall effectiveness of Walden Two.  However, these members are not ranked any higher in the community than me or you; they live amongst us and must participate in labor credits as well.

5.      What is there to do for fun?
·         Walden Two offers a plethora of activities for its residence.  Academic lectures, movies, as well as concerts are actively put on.  However, no one is forced to participate in anything they find boring.  On the contrary, every activity at Walden Two is voluntary to ensure that the participants have a genuine interest and value in the event they are attending.


            The American way of life that we are all accustomed to living has many social problems.  On a daily basis people are encountered with violence and sadness through endless access to news programs through television and internet as well as in their personal life.  Frazier’s idea of creating a small manageable experimental community does not sound very unappealing to me.  It is impossible to fix the issues in the world all at once, but beginning with a manageable size may prove to be effective.  Walden Two was written at the end of World War Two when the world had to rebuild after years of terror and warfare; this is not much different than what the world is experiencing today.  In the book, Frazier ultimately finds a way to condition his community members through the use of positive reinforcement.  This is an idea that, from personal experience, is not often used in the real world.  The book forces the reader to think deeply about how positive reinforcement could be used as a way to manipulate behavior.  In addition, it challenges you to deeply consider the corruption and values of our society and decide which values matter and which are not important.  From there it forces you to begin to theorize different ways to fix and eliminate this behavior.  The ability to look at life from a different viewpoint, as Frazier’s arguments in Walden Two force you to, allows you to be active in changing things you find unjust in society rather than mindlessly pointing them out. 

Book Report: The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely

General Overview

Dan Ariely discusses through his book how we, as human beings, are all liars and at different points in our lives, are also cheaters. He makes people look at themselves from within and ask the question, 'Can you still feel good about yourself if you radiate a little dishonesty?' It is almost to the point of testing the limits within your conscious. Ariely conducted research experiments to study the questions we have, like this one, about dishonesty as a whole. Not only does he look at dishonesty within yourself, but within major corporations, little acts people perform everyday, as well as looking at the preconceptions people are exposed to about the lying, cheating and not being truthful. Throughout the book, Ariely discusses why people look at dishonesty in certain situations as beneficial, and the simple reasons as to why they are able to get away with it. It is not the consequences people are thinking about most of the times, but the unconscious forces driven to perform these little acts. Do the benefits outweigh the potential punishments? The author gave us different forces that shape dishonesty and given explanations on how they effect our behaviors. All in all, the way in which people are able to trick themselves into maintaining their conscious and self-identity, despite all the dishonesty in their lives, is what is highly focused upon.

Favorite Part

The part of the book that intrigued me the most was the study on pathological liars. I know very very pathological liars in my life, but the ones I do encounter, I always wonder what goes on through their brains. Do they know that I know that they're lying? Do they care? Obviously not if they keep on doing it, or is it that they are unaware that they are? Questions like these have always pegged my mind when it comes to this topic. Ariely has experimented with pathological liars to show that our brain is made of gray matter, which is consisted of thinking and processing, as well as white matter which involves creativity. The overall finding was that liars have more white matter than gray matter. I am intrigued by this data because I wonder if it does in fact correlate between liars and the controls of the experiment. It is said that white matter is connected to creativity. the only thing I can think of is that liars' brains our wired to creatively cheat and lie, and they also have a difficult time in processing moral dilemmas which causes them to lie. As the lectures pointed put, self-control is not an issue of willpower, but an issue of conflicting outcomes. It may be that liars are not able to distinguish between outcomes an lack that self-control, so as a result, they panic and lie. I am very interested to see more experiments done on liars because I think we still have so much to learn.


A good portion of the lectures was based around rewards and reinforcers. It is the discussion around the question of what effects our behavior and what will increase or decrease the likelihood of doing that behavior again in the future? If something good happens because of a specific action, we are most likely going to do that again. the opposite happens if we are punished. It is the punishments, or the likelihood of punishments, that Ariely studies. He studies whether or not the benefits of completing an action such as cheating on a test will outweigh the potential punishments of being caught and reprimanded. People want to feel good about themselves and think they are honest people. If they can succeed in lying here and there, where they are rewarded with things such as a good grade on a test, than they can still see themselves as good people.



This link here will bring you to about a 30 minute lecture or talk, that Dan Ariely speaks about his book. If you are interested in learning more about the concepts of the book and about his psychological ideas about cheating and lying and dishonesty, this is a great video to watch. He explains in further detail about what he presented in his writing and research experiments. the picture below gives a general visual outline of Ariely's forces that shape dishonesty.



Everyone lies and everyone cheats. I believe that is true and if it is not true, than a person is simply perfect. Nobody is perfect in my eyes. I believe that this book has opened my eyes more to how people are able to live with themselves after they lie or cheat. Do people feel guilty about it? I think what is most interesting is those people who get caught cheating or lying and continue to do so. They feel no guilt or feel bad, and yet they still see themselves as good. Since everyone does it, does that make you a bad person? You are simply going along with everyone else. I think that is what is the most scary. In today's world, it is hard to distinguish between facts and lies. You may think you know a person, when they could be living on lies that you perceive as truths. The worst part may be is that when you are living a lie for such a long time, your brain will believe it is actually true as time progresses.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business

General Overview

The ability to understand the science and examination of a habit can be clearly identified in this interesting book known as the “Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business”.  This book allows the reader to understand what a habit is and how habits generally run our lives without an individual ever noticing.  The author, Charles Duhigg, explains that 40% of our daily routine is made up of habits that have been ingrained in our minds.  These habits cause our body to run on a process known as auto-piloting.  Furthermore, the author continues to discuss the reasons for our habits and how to carefully examine the habits cues and true rewards.  Once an individual is able to identify the real reward behind the habit, the author dives into methods of modifying the habit (routine) in order to achieve the reward more quickly without repeating the same “bad” habit and replacing it with a “better” one.  Lastly, the author provides numerous examples in his book discussing large corporations and the extensive research that they administer in understanding your personal habits as a consumer.  For instance, Target is mentioned as a large corporation that spends endless hours researching and estimating the period of life that one may be experiencing such as whether people have recently bought a home or are expecting a baby.  Overall, this book is filled with great scientific data in understanding the biological make-up of habit formation and great stories that apply the concepts discussed extensively by the author.

Favorite Part

The entire book was so vastly interesting, that it was difficult to chose just one part that was my absolute favorite.  However, one area of the book that I found to be extremely interesting was the back story involving Baptist Pastor Rick Warren and his journey in building one of the biggest churches in the world, known as Saddleback Church.  I have been a big fan of Rick Warren’s work in the ministry and even remember reading his book, “The Purpose Driven Life”, with my husband.  I found it interesting that the concepts that were associated in the “Power of Habit” were being utilized in Rick’s agenda of improving spiritual habits.  For example, due to large amount of people that were attending his church, Rick had no choice but to promote church leaders that would administer bible studies in their homes.  This was done for the reason of assisting Rick Warren in managing the church.  This modification of bible study in the homes of church leaders was indeed needed as it was reported that Pastor Warren suffered through stages of melancholy as a result of the stressors associated in running a mega church.  Furthermore, when Pastor Warren collected feedback of the bible studies, he discovered that many would spend more time focusing on gossip versus building spiritual habits that were aligned with Jesus Christ.  As a result, Pastor Warren implemented curriculums that would focus on habits that were considered Christ-like.  In addition, he included a signed agreement that incorporated three daily habits that every member would strive to accomplish continuously.   The three habits included moments towards reflection and prayer, tithing 10 percent of their income, and membership in a small group.  The idea of replacing past poor habits with these new habits allows the individual to be responsible for their spiritual habit, rather than Pastor Warren.  This part of the book allows me to connect the idea of reinforcement that was covered in our course.  Pastor Warren reinforced the congregation in maintaining stability in their faith by implementing the set curriculums in the bible study groups.  The curriculum allowed church members the ability to have their faith reinforced and to be motivated in becoming more Christ-like in their character every single day.  


As stated previously, the concept of reinforcement and motivation relate heavily on the story of Pastor Warren and his church members during bible study.  However, another part that I found very interesting and relevant to our course was the observation of how fresh fruits and vegetables are strategically placed at the beginning of a super market.  According to the author, individuals who placed the healthy food items in their cart first were more likely to purchase junk food items before they left the store.  This in a sense reminds me of the concept discussed in class known as Health Halos.  Perhaps, the healthy foods in the individual’s cart justifies the decision of purchasing junk food since there is a high chance of an underestimation of calorie intake due to the notion that all fruits and vegetables are perceived as healthy.  As we know, the concept of health halos are naturally ingrained in us to continue the habit of assuming, for example, that a plate with a side of broccoli automatically makes a food dish “healthy”.  It is important to examine our decisions and to modify our habits in order to prevent the mistake of being involved in health halos. 


I thought the following photo was creative and inspiring in accordance with the book.  If you are not a fan of “breaking bad” then this picture will not be as relevant.  However, I found this picture to be so true because the entire story of the hit show “Breaking Bad” is a Chemistry teacher desperately in need to break a bad habit that unfortunately, is unable to accomplish.  In addition, I have included a link of a video that includes Pastor Warren discussing the 5 habits of healthy people, which incorporate habit formations as discussed in the reviewed book “Power of Habit”.


The ability to understand your habits and modifying them after close examination is a beneficial tool.  This skill and knowledge allows an individual to take control of their life while producing positive real world results.  Although, many habits vary in severity of self-control, we are able to apply the concepts associated in this book to battle many of our “bad” habits.  One in particular, which would target a real-world issue, is the increased rate of obesity in our nation.  Applying the concepts of identifying our cues and rewards in regards to our eating will pinpoint the possibilities of why we truly overeat.  I truly believe that this book would help individuals that battle with over eating because it will allow the reader to gain a sense of self-realization and responsibility over their decisions.  I enjoyed this book and would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in comprehending the idea of habits and individuals interested in replacing old habits with newly positive habits.


One of my favorite clips that were provided in the lecture slide was the Ted Talk with Barry Schwartz. In this Ted Talk Barry Schwartz discusses his thoughts of maximizing the welfare of our citizens by maximizing individual freedom. He proposes that we should do this because freedom is essential to being human, and if people have freedom we will do things on our own to maximize our own welfare and no one has to decide on our behalf. He also discusses that the way to maximize freedom is to maximize choice. He goes on to talk about how if you add options to people’s choices that can’t help to increase the expectations of their choice, which will produce less satisfaction with the results, even when the results are positive. I personally am very indecisive and I do notice that when I am provided with many choices it makes the decision obviously harder to make. I often am not satisfied with my decision-making abilities once I’m provided with many options.