Putting together your summer reading list? You are in luck!
By popular demand, here's the first in a series curated from Hoggan's bookshelf.
Jim's been scouring far and wide to pull together insights from the smartest people he can find for his next book. This first collection is books we've enjoyed on our hunt to better understand the psychology of human decision-making.
Over the last few decades, the fields of social psychology and behavioural economics have turned conventional ideas about how we think on their head. From bizarre cognitive biases to irrational decision making, these mind bending reads have profound implications for strategic communications and public affairs.
Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman (2011)
"Daniel Kahneman, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his seminal work in psychology that challenged the rational model of judgment and decision making, is one of our most important thinkers. His ideas have had a profound and widely regarded impact on many fields—including economics, medicine, and politics—but until now, he has never brought together his many years of research and thinking in one book.
In the highly anticipated Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities—and also the faults and biases—of fast thinking, and reveals the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our thoughts and behavior. The impact of loss aversion and overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the challenges of properly framing risks at work and at home, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning the next vacation—each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems work together to shape our judgments and decisions.
Engaging the reader in a lively conversation about how we think, Kahneman reveals where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking. He offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both our business and our personal lives—and how we can use different techniques to guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble. Thinking, Fast and Slow will transform the way you think about thinking."
The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone—Especially Ourselves – Dan Ariely (2012)
"The New York Times bestselling author of Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality returns with thought-provoking work to challenge our preconceptions about dishonesty and urge us to take an honest look at ourselves.
Does the chance of getting caught affect how likely we are to cheat?
How do companies pave the way for dishonesty?
Does collaboration make us more honest or less so?
Does religion improve our honesty?
Most of us think of ourselves as honest, but, in fact, we all cheat. From Washington to Wall Street, the classroom to the workplace, unethical behavior is everywhere. None of us is immune, whether it's the white lie to head off trouble or padding our expense reports. In The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, award-winning, bestselling author Dan Ariely turns his unique insight and innovative research to the question of dishonesty.
Generally, we assume that cheating, like most other decisions, is based on a rational cost-benefit analysis. But Ariely argues, and then demonstrates, that it's actually the irrational forces that we don't take into account that often determine whether we behave ethically or not. For every Enron or political bribe, there are countless puffed rÉsumÉs, hidden commissions, and knockoff purses. In The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, Ariely shows why some things are easier to lie about; how getting caught matters less than we think; and how business practices pave the way for unethical behavior, both intentionally and unintentionally. Ariely explores how unethical behavior works in the personal, professional, and political worlds, and how it affects all of us, even as we think of ourselves as having high moral standards.
But all is not lost. Ariely also identifies what keeps us honest, pointing the way for achieving higher ethics in our everyday lives. With compelling personal and academic findings, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty will change the way we see ourselves, our actions, and others."
Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts – Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson (2007)
"Why do people dodge responsibility when things fall apart? Why the parade of public figures unable to own up when they screw up? Why the endless marital quarrels over who is right? Why can we see hypocrisy in others but not in ourselves? Are we all liars? Or do we really believe the stories we tell?
Renowned social psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson take a compelling look into how the brain is wired for self-justification. When we make mistakes, we must calm the cognitive dissonance that jars our feelings of self-worth. And so we create fictions that absolve us of responsibility, restoring our belief that we are smart, moral, and right—a belief that often keeps us on a course that is dumb, immoral, and wrong.Backed by years of research and delivered in lively, energetic prose, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) offers a fascinating explanation of self-deception—how it works, the harm it can cause, and how we can overcome it."
You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself – David McRaney
You believe you are a rational, logical being who sees the world as it really is, but journalist David McRaney is here to tell you that you're as deluded as the rest of us. But that's OK- delusions keep us sane. You Are Not So Smart is a celebration of self-delusion. It's like a psychology class, with all the boring parts taken out, and with no homework.
Based on the popular blog of the same name, You Are Not So Smart collects more than 46 of the lies we tell ourselves everyday, including:
Dunbar's Number – Humans evolved to live in bands of roughly 150 individuals, the brain cannot handle more than that number. If you have more than 150 Facebook friends, they are surely not all real friends.
Hindsight bias – When we learn something new, we reassure ourselves that we knew it all along.
Confirmation bias – Our brains resist new ideas, instead paying attention only to findings that reinforce our preconceived notions.
Brand loyalty – We reach for the same brand not because we trust its quality but because we want to reassure ourselves that we made a smart choice the last time we bought it.
Packed with interesting sidebars and quick guides on cognition and common fallacies, You Are Not So Smart is a fascinating synthesis of cutting-edge psychology research to turn our minds inside out.
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – Dan Pink (2009)
"Forget everything you thought you knew about how to motivate people–at work, at school, at home. It's wrong. As Daniel H. Pink explains in his new and paradigm-shattering book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, the secret to high performance and satisfaction in today's world is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.
Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does–and how that affects every aspect of our lives. He demonstrates that while the old-fashioned carrot-and-stick approach worked successfully in the 20th century, it's precisely the wrong way to motivate people for today's challenges. In Drive, he reveals the three elements of true motivation:
Autonomy- the desire to direct our own lives
Mastery- the urge to get better and better at something that matters
Purpose- the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves
Along the way, he takes us to companies that are enlisting new approaches to motivation and introduces us to the scientists and entrepreneurs who are pointing a bold way forward.
Drive is bursting with big ideas–the rare book that will change how you think and transform how you live."
The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science – Chris Mooney (2012)
"Bestselling author Chris Mooney uses cutting-edge research to explain the psychology behind why today’s Republicans reject reality—it's just part of who they are.
From climate change to evolution, the rejection of mainstream science among Republicans is growing, as is the denial of expert consensus on the economy, American history, foreign policy and much more. Why won't Republicans accept things that most experts agree on? Why are they constantly fighting against the facts?
Science writer Chris Mooney explores brain scans, polls, and psychology experiments to explain why conservatives today believe more wrong things; appear more likely than Democrats to oppose new ideas and less likely to change their beliefs in the face of new facts; and sometimes respond to compelling evidence by doubling down on their current beliefs."
Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation – Ed Deci & Richard Flaste (1996)
If you reward your children for doing their homework, they will usually respond by getting it done. But is this the most effective method of motivation? No, says psychologist Edward L. Deci, who challenges traditional thinking and shows that this method actually works against performance. The best way to motivate people—at school, at work, or at home—is to support their sense of autonomy. Explaining the reasons why a task is important and then allowing as much personal freedom as possible in carrying out the task will stimulate interest and commitment, and is a much more effective approach than the standard system of reward and punishment. We are all inherently interested in the world, argues Deci, so why not nurture that interest in each other? Instead of asking, "How can I motivate people?" we should be asking, "How can I create the conditions within which people will motivate themselves?"
This New York Times op-ed from moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt brilliantly unpacks the political narratives embedded in recent rhetoric from both Democrats and Republicans. Haidt warns that demonizing opponents stirs up tribal reactions that can stand in the way of real solutions.
Haidt's new book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, is now available in stores.
In a spirit of open collaboration, IDEO created their Patterns series to capture and share some of the common insights and exceptional success stories they see bubbling up across projects and out in the world. By tapping into collective intelligence, they have created a platform for "elevating insights to the level of cultural impact."
We've curated a couple of pieces that really got our creative juices flowing.
The first piece, Beyond Corporate Social Responsibility, takes a look at how CSR is evolving from 'bolt-on' to 'built-in' social responsibility by transforming businesses' relationships with the public.
The second, Small's Big Potential, offers some advice for the overwhelming task of tackling large-scale social challenges with limited resources. Their diagnosis? Embrace the tension and connect small to a bigger purpose to unlock huge potential.
"Our country is more politically polarized than ever. Is it possible to agree to disagree and still move on to solve our massive problems? Or are the blind leading the blind — over the cliff?"
Last month, social psychologist and author Jonathan Haidt sat down with Bill Moyer to talk about the psychological underpinnings of political polarization. Haidt deftly sketches out some fundamental differences between liberal and conservative mindsets, the problem with demonizing your adversaries and why it's wise to think twice before trumpeting our opinions.
In his Ted Talk, Haidt focuses on the moral roots of these partisan worldviews, outlining the different moral values of liberal and conservative ideologies. Haidt paints morality as a double-edged sword: it both binds us together and blinds us to our biases. "By understanding more about our moral roots, his hope is that we can learn to be civil and open-minded toward those whose morals don't match ours, but who are equally good and moral people on their own terms."
According to Wente, the impacts of climate change remain a future fantasy, unquantifiable by data collected through “insanely complicated” climate science. Her perspective is informed by the omission of facts, falsehoods, and fake experts. In a dance with smoke and mirrors she creates issues where none exist and ignores others that do.
There was a time when I couldn’t understand what motivated writers like Wente to stand so firmly against such clear and solid science. The psychology of “confirmation bias” has provided the answer for me.
Like all of us, Wente has her biases, and most of us, like her, like to have those biases confirmed. So we seek out the information that confirms what we already believe and disregard that information that might prove us wrong.
As a columnist, Wente presents the information which confirms her ideological beliefs as truths and facts to the readers of the Globe and Mail. She excels as a columnist in part because she mocks and jeers her detractors. This pleases the people who agree with her but makes her loathed by those who don’t. It provokes reaction on both sides and eliminates any possibility of civil conversation.
When it comes to climate change she suffers from an extreme case of motivated reasoning. She has to ignore the concerns and views of virtually all of the world’s scientific academies and rely on the views of oil industry-funded groups like the Fraser Institute as she scrounges for shreds of evidence to back up her contrary view of climate science.
In the fantastical future Wente claims climate scientists are inventing, “the seas will rise, the glaciers will melt, the hurricanes will blow, the forest fires will rage.”
But climate change and its consequences are not mere predictions. We live in a world that is already affected by rising global temperatures, with more frequent and more intense heat waves, more powerful hurricanes, increasing numbers of forest fires, floods and droughts. These changes are consistent with the climate data on which future predictions are built.
Wente admits to her lack of scientific credentials, but immediately attacks the world’s leading climate scientists. Their own lack of certainty about the earth’s changing climate and its causes, she implies, is clearly demonstrated by the “so-called Climategate affair.”
The private emails between the world’s top scientists were stolen, misquoted and published as a massive accusation that the science behind climate change has been fabricated.
Wente mentions that Climategate has been "widely dismissed," yet goes on to re-state the initial false claims made through the "affair." In this, she confirms research on “confirmation bias” that proves people who read false information continue to believe it even after it has been corrected, especially if the misinformation confirms their ideological perspectives.
Whether she is aware of it or not, Ms. Wente has become part of an “echo chamber” of misinformation created through Climategate. Following the original theft of the emails, right wing groups in the US including the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, and the Heritage Foundation – to name a few – made sure the scandal’s message (climate change science is a hoax) was repeated publicly as much as possible.
Happily duped into repeating and publishing proven falsehoods, Wente has not helped her readers gain any better understanding of “the Climategate affair”. A proper explanation of Climategate would include the facts about who funded it.
Looking for back-up on her false assertions on Climategate, Wente refers to economics professorRoss McKitrick. He agrees with her that Climategate proves climate science is phony, and thinks the IPCC should change its process entirely.
Surely, she knows that McKitrick is a fellow at the Fraser Institute (given $175,000 by Koch foundations between 2005 and 2008) and is affiliated with numerous other industry-funded think tanks. He is an open skeptic of climate science, and a perfect validator for Wente’s entrenched beliefs – and he has no credentials in atmospheric science whatsoever.
A recent study by Yale University law Professor Dan Kahan would suggest that Wente and McKitrick have a lot more in common than their view on climate change. Kahan surveyed more than 1,500 Americans and found that their cultural values had a far greater impact on their view of climate change than their level of scientific literacy. Most people who tended towards a view of the world that is hierarchical and individualistic were more skeptical of environmental risks including climate change than people whose outlook was communal and egalitarian.
Margaret Wente is only human, and is as susceptible to her own biases as anyone else. As a journalist, however, she needs to be held accountable for her errors and omissions. While misinformed vitriol may provoke reactions, and may even sell newspapers, the Globe and Mail and other newspapers should be held accountable for the accuracy of the material they choose to publish.
If misinformation is the new journalistic standard, then people will only absorb more media that re-enforces their own opinions, and the possibility for consensus on any issue will be lost.
Despair and anger are contributing to a feeling that people have no power to stop the destructive forces behind climate change, but the feeling can be reversed through personal hope and inner peace, an audience in Vancouver was told earlier this week by Buddhist monk, poet, peace and human rights activist, Thich Nhat Hanh.
In Vancouver for a week of teaching and lectures, Thich Nhat Hanh, sat down with Canada's David Suzuki, a world-renowned authority on sustainable ecology, to discuss the path forward to a more sustainable way of living.
Their conversation, based on the premise that it is well-known that humans are harming the earth, destroying its ecosystems and disrupting the climate, focused on how to bring about the change in human behavior that is needed to put the world on a path that will ensure a healthy planet for future generations.
Thich Nhat Hanh said we have to accept that our civilization can be destroyed, not by an outside force, but by ourselves, just as many civilizations before ours have been destroyed. If we allow despair to take over, we will lose the strength to do anything to protect and preserve our civilization. Personal hope and inner peace will help build the strength we need to become instruments to protect the environment.
The conversation was structured around the following questions:
1. I would like your reaction to this economic advice a Lehman Brothers banker, named Paul Mazer, gave American business in 1930 when the age of consumerism was beginning: "People need to be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old have been entirely consumed… Man's desires must overshadow his needs."
2. What gives you hope that we can bring about the collective awakening needed to restore health to the planet? Most of us know we are harming the earth, destroying its ecosystems and disrupting the climate. But we act as if it is not happening. How do we bring about the change in human behavior that is needed to put us on a path that will ensure a healthy planet for our children and grandchildren?
3. Oil industry groups over the past few decades have financed misinformation campaigns to cast doubt on climate science. Today 45 per cent of Americans mistakenly believe there is disagreement among climate scientists that global warming is even happening, this number is up 12 percent since 2008. The number climate scientists saying Climate Change isn't happening is actually closer to zero. It seems to be very easy to pull the wool over the eyes of the public, why are we so gullible? What do you think we can we do to change from deniers of the environmental problems we face to responsible stewards of the environment?
4. What responsibility does government have for solving these problems? How do we motivate government to do the right thing?
5. Social science research in Canada and the U.S. shows that public mistrust is at an all-time high. People believe Government and business say one thing and do another. They don't trust Government; they don't trust business and wonder about each other. This is particularly true when it comes to the environment. This mistrust has led to a kind of social paralysis where people believe their own actions won't make a difference. How do we overcome this mistrust?
"It is a law of human nature," David Brooks writes in his newest book The Social Animal, "that the more men you concentrate in one happy pack, the more each of them will come to resemble Donald Trump. They possess a sort of masculine photosynthesis to start with — the ability to turn sunlight into self-admiration. By the law of compound egotism, they create this self-reinforcing vortex of smugness, which brings out the most-pleased-with-themselves aspects of their own personalities."
What makes The Social Animal the most satisfying and important book I've read in a very long time is that Brooks so brilliantly and evocatively explains why we've gone so far off course in this country, attributing it not to bad policies but to human failings we haven't begun to recognize, much less acknowledge.
Brooks' core argument is that the vast majority of us have very little understanding of why we make the choices we do, and that we're influenced instead by peer pressure; impulsive and reactive emotions; a deep and bottomless need for admiration and status; overconfidence in the present; excessive worry about the future; the evolutionary instinct to avoid pain and move towards pleasure; and precious little capacity to delay gratification.
"The unconscious parts of the mind are most of the mind," Brooks writes. "[They have] a processing capacity 200,000 times greater than the conscious mind." Tragically, this interior domain remains largely terra incognita, a vast unexplored territory full of resources and potentials we haven't begun to tame or to tap.
Instead of drawing on our rational faculties to more deeply understand our interior impulses and motivations, we too often use our prefrontal cortex to rationalize, justify, minimize and explain away the unconsciously driven actions we've already taken. "A man hears what he wants to hear," Paul Simon sings in The Boxer, "and disregards the rest."
In short, we have an infinite capacity for self-deception. Or, as Brooks puts it, "People overestimate their ability to understand why they are making certain decisions. They make up stories to explain their own actions even when they have no clue about what is happening inside."
Worse yet, the most powerful among us have a tendency to bloviating certainty — swatting away doubt and choosing up sides precisely because not having answers feels so uncomfortable and potentially threatening. Opinions, in turn, become polarized and rigid. Just consider the current budget negotiations, marked as they are by a blatant disregard for logic and a perilous potential cost to the greater good.
What Brooks argues for, and embodies in his writing, is something he calls "epistemological modesty" — substituting humility for hubris. Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know. Modesty is warranted, Brooks argues, because there is so much of ourselves we don't and can't know. "People with this disposition believe that wisdom begins with an awareness of our own ignorance," he explains.
I've read Brooks' op-ed columns in The New York Times for years, but it was only with this book that I understood what sets him apart from his journalistic colleagues. It's his unwavering willingness to grapple with issues rather than simply pontificate about them; to embrace nuance, ambiguity and paradox rather than choosing up sides; and to be forever open to learning and to being changed by what he learns.
What Brooks lays out in The Social Animal is a path to a more meaningful life — one that balances action with introspection, confidence with restraint.
Describing the person who aspires to such a life, Brooks is transparently autobiographical when he writes, "He (tries) to remind himself of how little we know and can know, how much our own desire for power and to do good blinds us to our own limitations. He pays attention to the sensations that come up from below. He makes tentative generalizes and analyses … He continues to wander and absorb, letting the information marinate deep inside."
I also learned from reading this book why I can't possibly assess it objectively. Each of us, he argues, consciously and unconsciously seek out people in life whose values, opinions and sensibility most mirror our own. It's humbling to recognize that I delighted in his writing at least in part because it so persuasively and stylishly confirms much of my own world view. If you resonate with what I've written, it probably confirmed a lot of yours, too.
As those of you who read our blog regularly know, I am a friend of David Suzuki. In March, we hosted David’s 75th birthday at our home. The Board and CEO of the Suzuki Foundation gave David a small totem pole, carved by one of Canada’s most talented carvers Beau Dick.
At the party, Beau, who is Kwak waka’ wakw, and Chief Bob Joseph Senior conducted a naming ceremony for David. During the ceremony, Chief Bob Joseph spread the eagle down, a gesture of peace.
Beau said the totem pole is carved from a 2000 year old tree. The totem features a bear and an eagle. Beau explained that the bear is a symbol of the protector – the warrior spirit – which David personifies. The eagle, he explained, is a symbol of the role David has played watching over and protecting the environment.
The celebration and presentation of the totem pole was a moving experience for all of us who had come together to honour David. I hope you’ll enjoy watching as much as I did.
In his recent column, The Earth is Full, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman writes about the threats posed by soaring food and energy prices, record-setting floods and droughts, and other extreme weather disasters that displace real people and threaten diverse communities around the world.
Something occurred to me while I read Friedman’s June 7 piece – a theme among the questions – noting how it is that we refuse to panic even when it is so obvious that we’ve exacerbated these problems by assuming that limits to growth don’t apply to us. Friedman asks whether we’ll realize this fundamental error in a few years, and wonder what were we thinking? In his words, “How did we not panic when the evidence was so obvious that we’d crossed some growth/climate/natural resource/population redlines all at once?”
He refers to Australian author and environmentalist Paul Gilding who says the answer is rooted in denial. When humans are surrounded by problems so big that they require us to change everything about the way we think and see the world, denial is the natural human response, Gilding contends.
So it occurred to me that while denial may be natural, in this case it is also deeply immoral. Most of us would agree that knowingly harming others is wrong. Yet when we deny the problems of climate change and over-consumption, we not only harm ourselves – we harm those least able to deal with the consequences.
When we consume trees, fish, water and other resources faster than they can be sustainably replenished, it is very often the poor who suffer most from resource scarcity, scarred landscapes and the resulting increase in the prices of basic needs.
Climate science models suggest that as we in developed nations warm the Earth with our cars, ‘cheap’ fossil fuel energy and comfortable lifestyles, it is people who farm marginal lands in the world’s poorest regions who will suffer most from the extreme weather events that leave them with less water where they need it most and more water where they need it least. A degree or two of warming can completely alter the ability of farmers in certain areas to produce food for local populations.
Climate deniers – and the Darth Vader PR firms who assist their efforts to mislead the public – are essentially taking food out of the mouths of the people who can least afford to cope with global warming. It seems to me that this is deeply immoral, and constitutes a crime against these communities and all of humanity.
In my work as a public relations professional over the past quarter century, I have advised clients from a wide range of business interests to be honest and genuine in their communications. Straying from those tenets of basic morality leads people toward the temptation of denial.
As professional communicators, we need to encourage our clients to act honorably and distance ourselves from communications work that encourages denial.
Good communicators illuminate and inform. But anyone who uses their talents as a communicator to encourage public denial is cheating humanity. If we allow our financial interests to blind us to the unethical nature of dishonest communications, nobody wins in the long run. Not the client, not the public and not the PR profession.
DeSmogBlog was honored by TIME magazine as one of theThe Best Blogs of 2011. The list compiles the top 25 blogs from across the internet. DeSmogBlog.com is the only Canadian blog on the list.
TIME's yearly list includes the most relevant and innovative blogs on the Internet. This year's trendsetting blogs include the NY Times Economix, the Wall-Street Journal tech blog AllThingsD and the math-based dating website OkTrends, among others.
DeSmogBlog is the only blog with an environmental focus to make the list. TIME has previously recognized Huffington Post, Daily KOS, and Mashable on past Top Blog lists.
TIME reporter Bryan Walsh calls DeSmogBlog a "necessary corrective" and "the antidote" to the corporate smoke screen surrounding news coverage of climate change and energy issues.
According to Walsh, "A corporate smoke screen surrounds much of the coverage of climate-change and energy issues. Fossil-fuel companies have spent millions funding anti-global-warming think tanks, purposely creating a climate of doubt around the science. DeSmogBlog is the antidote to that obfuscation."
DeSmogBlog is celebrating its 5th anniversary of clearing the PR pollution that clouds climate science, and this nod by TIME is an honor for all the hard work of DeSmog's contributors over the years, especially their current line-up of writers and researchers whose investigations earned the award on this year's Top 25.
I want to thank you all for your loyalty and welcome new readers to the blog.