Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Dan Ariely explores the ins and outs of dishonesty in his book “The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty.” He explains what makes people likely to cheat or lie for personal gain through various social experiments and deducting from real-life experiences. Ariely emphasizes that when people can physically remove themselves farther from the act of cheating, they are more likely to commit the offense and peer pressure or justification can be a powerful factor that influences a person’s decision to cheat. This text is packed with diverse and creative examples and experiments to explain the author’s various findings that keep the reader intrigued.
    While there are several experiments that explain why people do cheat, my favorite subject covered by Ariely was how subliminally persuade people to cheat less. Ariely’s crew set up an experiment in which people would be tasked with solving mathematical matrices within a time limit. The testees would be rewarded with an amount of money based on how many matrices they solved. In the control group, it would be impossible to cheat. There were two experimental groups in which people would solve matrices, shred their paper, and then take money from an envelope based on the honor system. This of course, tempted them to cheat or lie about their score, since it would be easy to get away with taking more money than one earned. In one of these experimental groups, everyone was asked to recall as many of the Ten Commandments as they could. Members of this group cheated less than members of the other experimental group. Ariely writes, “It seemed that merely trying to recall moral standards was enough to improve moral behavior.” Essentially, the Ten Commandments exercise restored the testees’ moral compass to true north in a significant number of cases. Being reminded of right and wrong steered people away from cheating.
    The matrix exercise provides an excellent representation of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Members of the Ten Commandments group who opted to participate fairly did so due to the internal reward their choice yielded -- that reward being a feeling of moral righteousness. This intrinsic reward, combined with the small extrinsic reward of about two dollars, outweighed the sole extrinsic reward of the max winnings of ten dollars. The other group (the one who had the opportunity to cheat, but did not recall the Ten Commandments) was more enticed by the potential extrinsic reward of the ten dollars.
    After reading of the Ten Commandments effect, I decided to test its power at my workplace. I work at a park, where thousands of visitors come through every day. I bought ten rings that resembled engagement rings, wedding bands, and the like (but were actually not worth anything). Twice a day I would place a ring on a picnic bench; one in the morning, one in the afternoon. During the morning experiment, I would say nothing to any park visitors. In the afternoon, I would approach guests in the picnic area explaining that someone had lost something of value and if it were to be found, to please bring it to the park office. At the end of each morning and afternoon I would check if the ring had been taken. If it was in the office, it had obviously been returned. If it was gone without a trace, I would know someone had kept it. For five days I tested the “Ten Commandment Theory.” The ring was returned three out of five times in the morning. However, the ring was not found one morning, possibly due to a lack of activity in the park. Seventy-five percent of the time the ring was found in the morning, it was returned. The ring was returned five out of five times in the afternoon -- a one-hundred percent success rate. Now, I understand that this experiment was nowhere near perfectly executed, but it was still fun to see the experiment work to some extent.
“Shoplifters will be prosecuted,” read signs in some of today’s shopping centers. This may be a more threatening deterrent compared to methods discussed previously, but it may be on the right track to decreasing dishonest behavior in modern society. If a person can be reminded of the “moral true north” on a regular basis, dishonest acts may be reduced overall. Ariely claims that, later in a stressful day, we experience “ego depletion,” or the inability to resist dishonest or immoral behavior. The Ten Commandments effect may prove useful in situations such as these, whether verbal or written reminders of what is morally right. These moral reminders may help reduce stealing and encourage proper diets and general positive behavior.

Book Report: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business 

| General Overview |

The Power of Habit written by Charles Duhigg, explains in-depth about the ideology of habits. Charles Duhigg supports the ideology of habits through telling the various stories of individual personal life experiences, experimental studies, and successful business organizations. The book is broken up into three parts. Part one is The Habits of Individuals, part two is The Habits of Successful Organizations, and part three is The Habits of Societies. 

The Power of Habit stresses the importance of habits by explaining how they are created, maintained, changed, replaced, ignored and improved. Habits are with us daily and they help us survive as human beings. Your daily morning routine of checking your phone, getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, showering, and preparing for your first meal, are all habits. If you did not have habits, your life would be unorganized and in shambles. The author explains that habits are so essential, because it conserves our brain’s mental energy. For instance, once we get into the groove of continuously performing an act (a routine) when confronted with a specific cue to obtain a reward, our brain goes into an ‘auto pilot mode’ which means that the routine starts to become automatic whenever you are confronted with that cue. Habits allow our brains to rest from thinking and making decisions.  One may see how this can be a downfall, and that downfall is what we consider to be ‘bad habits.’ Habits are with us throughout our entire life, whether we are consciously or unconsciously aware of them. Habits can bring one the most success, but it can also be one’s weakness. Charles Duhigg does a fantastic job with opening up the reader’s mind on how to take control of their own habits. 

| Favorite Part |

My absolute favorite part of the book is in Part One, Chapter Three: The Golden Rule of Habit Change. In this section of the book, Charles Duhigg explains how one can change a habit. He discusses ‘The Golden Rule’ which means in order to change a habit, you must keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine. The Golden Rule has influenced treatments for alcoholism, obesity, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and other destructive behaviors. This is my favorite part of the book, because I have been struggling with my weight, poor diet and smoking habit for over a year now. At the beginning of each month, I always write down goals that require a lot of self-discipline, and I repeatedly tell myself how I am going to dedicate myself to those goals in order to get rid of my bad habits, but it never works. I may stick with it for about three days, but by the fourth day I give in. 

Once I read this section of the book, I had an epiphany, it was as if a light bulb turned on in my brain. In the book, Charles Duhigg explains how it is important to recognize the cue that brings on the habit and acknowledge the reward that it gives us in order to change the habit. For example, my cue would be stress, whenever I’m stressed, I smoke (routine) to relieve the stress, and my reward is the euphoria or relaxation that it gives me. Therefore, if I want to change my smoking habit, I have to find another routine that also gives me relaxation or relief whenever I’m feeling stressed, which can be meditation, art, self-pampering, or physical activity. Furthermore, Charles Duhigg states that implementing a new routine is not enough to change a habit, for a habit to stay changed, people must believe change is possible. 

| Related |

One of our Motivation course Lecture Slides, tilted, “Incentives” is related to the concept of a habit loop. In the book, Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg describes the habit loop as a three-step process in our brain. “First, there is cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use.  Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future” (Duhigg, 2014, p. 18). The concepts in a habit loop and incentives are much related, because an incentive is defined as anticipated external stimuli that motivate behavior to occur. Therefore, a cue could also be viewed as the anticipated external stimuli, and the behavior that is motivated to occur could be viewed as the routine. For example, anticipated external stimuli could be the stress you may always feel when an exam is approaching which motivates you to study in order to be prepared. In a habit loop, the stress would be the cue, the routine would be studying, and the reward would be receiving a good grade.  

| Creative |

A video of the author of the book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg, explaining how habits work and how to change them. 

| Extension | 

Before reading this book, I was in a very bad funk. As I explained earlier, I have been trying to get rid of a lot bad habits of mine for over a year now, but I could never seem to accomplish it. My bad habits provide me with instant satisfaction and immediate gratification, but in the long run it only makes me feel worse than before, and it ends up doing more bad than good.  I knew that in order to get rid of my bad habits, I would have to devote a lot of self-disciple and dedication, but no matter how much I wanted to, there were days when I just gave in. I could never figure out why until I read The Power of Habit. This book gave me so much insight to my underlying issues. It opened up my mind to concepts that I never considered before. Like myself, I believe that this book has the potential to help a lot of individuals who struggle with a range of issues, and not only bad habits. This book can help people cope with prevalent issues that we all experience like depression, anxiety, and stress. After reading this book, I feel much more motivated to dedicate myself to my goals. Since I am now aware of the habit loop, I know what cues to look out for that can trigger my bad habits, I will implement new and healthy routines, and I will believe that change is possible. 

Adderall Addiction

College students today are faced with many challenges to perform their best. The National Study on Drug Use and Health found that 3.4% of college students used a stimulant in the past month for non-medical reasons. I personally believe the number is much higher than that. The prevalence of stimulants around college campus is way too easy to come around. Students pop these pills like candy to focus and do their studies. Many students think this drug is safe to use because it was prescribed by a doctor to someone, so who could possibly become addicted? This is not the case. Adderall and many other ADHD medications like Vyvance and Focalin are very addicting. Long term abuse can lead to brain damage as the brain stops producing neurotransmitters necessary to control aggression and emotions, which in turn, can lead to depression. 

Finding a Place

In today's world, many people feel displaced. We look for groups and activities to fill needs and desire. Whether it be physiological or psychological, we become draw to certain lifestyles. The norms we create for our everyday life sometimes can be damaging to are character. Change can be different and scary, but sometimes it is for the better. Though you may feel indifferent or filled with anxiety, transitions our a part of existence. An example being jumping into a cold pool on a hot day, you may be hesitant, but you know that it will be refreshing. Having some kind of incentive will always help motivate. Once a person is pass the shock of the change, life can become stable and the person can continue to move on. Shown by Fechner's Law, the relationship between the utility and objective that the person holds, is shown to increase effort for completion of objective. Whether it is big or small, finding the sliver lining to help push on, it always a win. No win is too big or too small, to motivate someone to move on to the next challenges in life. Realizing that life is always changing can be hard, but through prioritizing and valuing goals, we can do it.
 Image result for finding a home             Image result for confused on where to go

Book Report: The Willpower Instinct

Willpower is define as the control exerted to do something or restrain impulses. In the book " The Willpower Instinct", written by Kelly McGonigal, it discuses the means and understanding of the many qualities to control and improve the quality of life and personal restrain. Dr. McGonigal is a professor at Stanford School of Medicine Health Improvement program and the purpose is too assist students in finding more control in their chaotic lives. She actually challenges the concepts of "Willpower", saying its hinders most people trying to amount the complexities of human understanding and emotions to a single term. This can cause much unneeded stress. Professor McGonigal then created the class "The Science of Willpower", this was meant to offer any and all, who had a desire to break old habits and manifest new ones in place. Whether it be too quite smoking, dieting, perhaps to exercise more, this book is a very written account of how to better your daily life and personal restrain.
My favorite and most reliable section in the book would have to be the "Pause and Plan" response. Kelly McGonigal talks about in the book of the primal instinct of " Fight or Flight". Now we don't have crazy predators for when this instinct was very helpful. Though nowadays it is causing us to make more rash and concerning choices. This conflicts the premise of "Pause and Plan". "Fight or Flight", can be triggered in stressful situations. While, "Pause and Plan" purpose is to slow down the heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing so in doing, causes the prefrontal cortex to activated and help with more self control of the mind and body. Rather then hyperventilating and panicking, you slow down your bodily functions and access the task at hand. This was important for me, because I was very impulsive growing up. I lacked the means to control my body's urges in times where I should have fully evaluated the ripple affect these split second choices had on my future. The response of "Pause and Plan", is to make sure your fully analyzing the situation, to prevent negative outcomes. Being calm, cool, and collective is what this response is all about.
In the book, "Endurance", written by Alfred Lansing, talks about Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew. The fortitude of these men trying to venture into unimaginable conditions, is crazy in itself. Every move made was a life saving decision. Ernest Shackleton, Frank Wild, Frank Worsley, and the other twenty-five men, had to be very calculating for their survival. The condition that surrounded them, our one of the worst climates in the world. The "Pause and Plan" method was very evident, for no decisions were made to hastily. Lives were at stack, but their is never a time to be more calm and rational then in these very moments.       
A short clip to highlight and simplify important parts of "The Willpower Instinct".

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Honest Truth About Dishonesty

The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, written by Dan Ariely, shows the constant internal struggle between the impulsive (or emotional) and the rational (or deliberative) parts of ourselves. When we lie, not only do we lie to others, but also to ourselves. Throughout this book, Ariely reveals our motivation behind cheating. The biggest factor associated with cheating is the psychological distance between you and cheating. This "distance" helps make it easier for you to accept the act of cheating. The most interesting thing about this book is that Ariely conducts many specific experiments throughout the book to support his claims on why people choose to cheat and how to keep ourselves honest. Unethical behavior affects all of us, whether we admit it or not.

Favorite Part:
My favorite part was Chapter 5. I like to refer to this chapter as the "Fake It Till You Make It" chapter. The reason why I found this chapter so hysterical was because it immediately made me think about my little sister. So many times she would come home crying to my mom about how she wanted some designer purse. After reading this book, of course I had to question her on this topic. Immediately she got offended when I said the word "fake" when asking about one of her purses. Her response was that she would never buy a fake purse because she would feel too guilty flaunting it around as a $1,000 purse. This concept started to make Ariely wonder about the relationship between what we wear and how we behave. Though wearing a genuine product does not increase our honesty, wearing a counterfeit product does increase our dishonesty.

This part also makes me think of our lecture slides about Cognitive Evolution Theory, or how a person evaluates reason for their behavior. Although buying counterfeit products is obviously dishonest, people justify their behavior by saying the name brand products are "too expensive." Ariely concluded that those with counterfeit products still carried them with the same confidence as those with the real products. This is because not only are they lying to those around them, but they have also tricked their minds into thinking they have the real product if they flaunt it like one. If it is so easy for them to lie about a purse, just imagine how easy it is for them to lie about other little things.
There is a specific part in Chapter 4 titled "Let Us Eat Cake." I immediately drew a connection to our lecture slides when this part brought up the story of Odysseus and the Sirens. The meaning behind the story was about self-control. Odysseus knew he would be tempted by the Sirens' song. Knowing that he wanted to get home to Penelope and knowing that the Sirens' song would make then men listen for days, he acted early when he had control. He had the self-control to prevent himself from even being tempted by filling his ears with wax to muffle the call. This story shows that we have two choice: to control our temptations or let our temptations control us.

This book has been a huge eye opener. We never realize just how much we lie on a daily basis. The most important aspect this book reveals is why we do what we do. The better understanding we have about why we participate in such unethical behavior, the better chance we have to be able to control it. Ariely admits from the beginning that everyone, from time to time, cheats. It is our duty to instill a moral compass in our future children, while also maintaining our own.

Book report: Why We Do What We Do

General Overview
            The book I chose to read was “Why We Do What We Do”, by Edward L. Deci. This book dives into the typical thoughts about motivation, and the author begins to explain how people are motivated to lead to success. According to Deci, there are two types of motivation and one will make the person more successful over the other. The main focus of the book is on autonomous motivation, which will make the person more successful. Autonomous motivation allows a person to feel like they are doing it for themselves which will lead to greater success. This book was a tough read because of all the psychological wording that could be confusing. It is full of information which will change anyone’s views on the correct way of motivation and what is more beneficial.

Favorite Part
            My favorite part of the book was chapter one. Deci begins to explain whether a person’s behavior is autonomous or forced by rewards they may be given. He breaks down the aspects of these actions, and explains how one may resent a life they are forced to do. I didn’t know about these two types of motivation which made this chapter especially interesting to learn about. The example he states in this chapter is a person dieting. He found people who are self-motivated have a better success story than those who are pressured by the environment. It was interesting to see this, because I do have to agree. People who have self-will to lose weight usually do it so much easier than those who a doctor may tell them to lose weight. This chapter gave a lot of insight which I really enjoyed.

            “Why We Do What We Do”, really related to a lot of the slides we went over in class. There were many things that was very similar. The main thing that I think correlates is the extrinsic and intrinsic incentives. One thing we know is that extrinsic incentives can play a negative effect on intrinsic motivation. There was one example in the book about a guy named Ryan who is going to a school to become a lawyer when he figures out his real love is with film. He doesn’t want to focus on being a lawyer anymore like his parents had forced, so they state if he doesn’t they will not pay his tuition anymore. This makes him go to school just for the reward of free tuition. He does find a way around this, but this is the way many people are treated and they lose that inner flame and desire to do something they love. This is people ruining their intrinsic motivation.

            Currently I am employed as a counselor at a special needs day camp. Many of these kids do not listen to daily tasks, which is when we try to either reward them if they do or punish them if they do not. By reading this book I have learned that this may not be the best option, and it may be easier if we let the class as a whole decided what activity they would like to do. We try to keep them on a daily schedule, but if we allowed some flexibility throughout the day, the participation and effort in the tasks may go up without a reward or punishment.

Image result for inner motivation 

Self-Control and Food - My Story

In 2013, I had a problem with eating too much almost every time food was available to me. I certainly am guilty of delay discounting; not considering the consequences of eating junk food until I was full, but rather choosing to indulge in sugary treats for instant gratification. Within about six months, I went from a lean 195 pounds, to a soft, pudgy 230. Bondage is mainly what I used to break myself of the spell. I scheduled time for the gym and set alarms for both bed time and time to wake up. More importantly, I took control of my diet. I rid my fridge and cabinets of junk food - stuff like poptarts and hot pockets - and researched what kind of food I should be eating. I completely cut carbohydrates (and in turn sugar as well) and dropped my fat intake while increasing my protein intake. Chicken was a staple in my diet, since it was one of the leaner, more affordable meats available to me. Instead of barbecue sauce, buffalo sauce, or ketchup, I flavored my chicken with jalapenos. Prior to eating them every week, I had little desire to eat the hot peppers. However, due to my new diet, I had developed a learned preference for them. In another six months, I had completely redefined my body composition, all because I stopped discounting the reward that would come at a later date.


Operant conditioning is one of the most effective ways of shaping desired behavior in people and animals. This is done by rewarding desired behavior and punishing poor behavior. Animals can be strongly influenced when rewarded with food or other biological necessities. Exploiting this trait is often used in dog training. This video by Positive Training demonstrates the power of operant conditioning when teaching a dog to fetch.

The Power of Habit

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

General Overview:
Habits are a part of everyone’s lives, and not everyone understands them completely. Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit,” helps us understand why habits exist, their reasoning, and how they can be changed. Throughout the book, it provides information, scientific discoveries, and real-life examples and routines, as well as their outcomes. The book is divided into three parts: the impact of habits on habits on one’s personal life, within society, and within organizations. It also contains information on techniques that can help us understand our habits better and how we can alter them.
Within the book, Duhigg explains and helps us understand habits. He explains that they work in three-step loops: cue, routine, and reward. He explains that the cue is what triggers you to do a habit. The routine is the behavior you engage in, following the cue. Finally, the reward is what you receive after completion of the routine. About 40% of the time, you do not realize you are completing habits – your body is in autopilot. In order for us to understand our habits and why we do what we do, we need to observe the cues and rewards. This being said, when and if we do, we can then change the routines making them easier to control.

Favorite Part:
            Personally, I really enjoyed the book as a whole, and would recommend it. It was an easy read, and made me think. That is something I truly appreciate. Although I enjoyed many parts of the book, and the narratives included within, there was one quote that stuck with me throughout. Charles Duhigg states, “The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do” (Duhigg, 2012). This quote made me realize that you have the power to change anything in your life, if you set your mind to it. No matter what happens, how many setbacks you may encounter, etc., you still have the power to change who you are, in order to become what you want to be. Duhigg also speaks on behalf of willpower and the habit behind it. Willpower is a form of self-control, either pushing you to do something, or pushing you to restrain impulses. Within the book, there is a chapter on Starbucks. It talks about the benefits of being an employee there, what the corporation has to offer, and so forth. It then talks about a troubled young man, who got hired to work in one of the stores. He grew up in a broken home, and faced personal struggles such as temper, self-discipline, etc. Starbucks provided training sessions, in which they provided tips and helpful information for particular situations. In the end, it bettered the young man’s self-control, temper, and taught him better ways of handling things. Dealing with a difficult customer can be triggering, but it takes a lot to stay in control and not lash out. This is a perfect example of willpower.

Relation to Class:
            As mentioned in the lecture slides, impulsivity, willpower, and self-control usually come hand-in-hand. Impulsivity is making decisions on impulse, or without any thought behind the decision. While self-control is not an issue of willpower, it is an issue of conflicting outcomes. Like I mentioned in the section labeled my favorite part, willpower is a form of self-control, either pushing you to do something, or pushing you to restrain impulses. Making impulsive decisions, maintaining self-control and self-management, and having a strong sense of willpower are all things dealt with on the daily. They are very important aspects of life, and sometimes people forget that.

            For this particular section, I found a few websites which can help:
            - : This website provides tips on how one can strengthen their willpower.

- : This website provides 10 simple exercises that will strengthen your willpower.

-This video is a ted talk called “The Science of Willpower: Kelly McGonigal.” She is a Stanford psychologist, and talks about the biggest myths of willpower and how rethinking self-control can help one reach goals and make difficult changes.

            I firmly believe this book has impacted my life tremendously. As a college student, I deal with the struggles of procrastination, being too lazy to eat right and workout, and not getting enough sleep. Things like that really affect my life and my ability to complete tasks to the best of my ability. But now knowing what I know about habits, and how they can be changed by simply changing the routine, I hope to put this in action. If I start from the beginning of the school year, and create healthy and efficient patterns in my life, I can and will see improvements not only within my academic work, but in my mental health. 

Book Report: Flow

                                      Image result for flow mihaly csikszentmihalyi

            In the book Flow wriiten by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, he explains what happiness is and how life can be more enjoyable. People instantly expect that money, beauty, health and power will make them happy. Csikszentmihalyi goes into great depth to show how this knowledge is wrong. The point of the book is to explore when people are most happy. Csikszentmihalyi studies experts like artists, athletes, musicians, and plenty of other people who spend time performing activities that they love. He studies these people to see exactly how and what it feels like to be happy doing something that they love to be doing – this is when Flow was created. He states in the book that flow is “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.” (Page 4) Csikszentmihalyi also explains how happiness is not something that just happens. You have to control your inner experiences to determine the quality of your own life. No matter how much money you have or how beautiful you are, you will always want more and never feel completely satisfied with what you have. You have to be able to control the anxiety and boredom in life to be able to achieve happiness.

Favorite Part:
            My favorite chapter in the book was chapter 5: The body in Flow. This is my favorite chapter because I got extremely interested in it and it was very easy to relate to. It is broken up into different sections that have to do with the body but my favorites were the joys of movement and sex as a flow Csikszentmihalyi points out that activities that have to do with movement of the body can be enjoyable by just performing it but people who participate in these types of activities gain happiness by setting new goals and achieving them. He also goes on to explain that sex is enjoyable and rewarding but can get boring feeling like a ritual or even becomes addicting. Especially within relationships, sex with the same person can become boring and typically feel like a chore. Csikszentmihalyi says that for this not to happen, the partners need to discover new things about themselves and about each other to spice things up. Sex can always be enjoyable if you are willing to take control of it by changing it and making it more complex. I agree with everything Csikszentmihalyi is saying within this chapter. I was a dancer for years and I always loved doing it but I was always the happiest when I achieved a goal that I put my heart and soul into. The same goes for the sex, I have had friends and even myself experience relationships getting boring and having to take the extra step to learn more about each other to make the sex and the relationship itself more enjoyable.

            The book relates to the class from the slides on incentives. On slide 42, there is a TED talk with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi himself going into greater depth about flow. In the beginning of the video, he discusses how he is from Europe and how he remembers how the grown-ups around him were still living happy lives even after losing their jobs and homes due to WW2. This just proves that everything he was saying in the book about how things you have in life do not cause happiness, it is how you look and think of life to be true. He also talks about how you have to start bringing everyday life into flow.

This book could help many people with anxiety and depression. Rather than teaching you techniques on how to handle the anxiety, depression, and whatever else like other books, this just simply tells you to have a different outlook on life and gives some examples on how to do so. In my experience, this book made me realize that I am not enjoying my life to the fullest. I am constantly working and worrying about money and taking extra classes to make sure I graduate within a reasonable time frame. I am rarely going out on vacation or to bars with friends, because I am scared of wasting money when I should not be. I should be going out and living my life especially since I do work and could just work to get the money back.  

 Here is an animated video about the book: