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Saturday, July 02, 2005

The lost mezmer

The Lost Mezmer

(fragments, half starts, and assorted nonsense I recently found in my attic)

I wish to thank all who did not read this book, since their negative comments would have put me in real funk. I am especially grateful to my wife, and my employer who bought into my excuse that my relentless typing at work was for some project of increasing sales. Thanks also to all those who didn’t have time to comment, since their opinions would have proven me a charlatan--- and would have forced me to take hostages.

6o Second Cures

The Most Important Psychological Problem Solved
The most important psychological problem, and indeed the most universal, is a trivial matter like a fear of heights, depression, or an inability to get it up, get it down, or just getting it. No, it is finding our glasses, magazines, and most importantly, the remote control where we last left them. Currently, it is estimated that people use up 120 hours a year looking for miscellaneous stuff that’s not where its supposed to be. Over our normal life span, this means that we spend over a year of our lives looking for our remote control and other stuff under couches, pillows, and flower pots.
Besides this constant irritation and sinful waste of time, the unsettling thought often occurs that the reason for this inexcusable forgetfulness is because of your sinful neglect, stupidity, or impending senility. Not quite the symptoms that will endear you to a long suffering spouse who daily witnesses you upend pillows and pots like a goat searching for roots.

When Isaac Newton was asked how he came up with the laws that governed the motions of the planet, he responded that he just thought about it ceaselessly. When Steven King was asked the secret of writing well, he responded that to write well you must write a lot. And of course, how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Well, practice, practice, and practice.
So what’s the secret about being creative? You simply obsess about it. All of the great genius’s from Aristotle to Mozart to Einstein became that way not just because they were intelligent, but because they were obsessed about the things they applied their intelligence to.

(a common sense version of the loopy definition above)
One of the interesting things about nature is that when it can be avoided, it does not keep reinventing the wheel. Although humans are separate species, the genius of nature is that it can find out new ways of employing and accentuating the physiological equipment that is basically the same across species. Thus making our brains a bit bigger and a little bit more specialized rather than being entirely remade is just about all it takes to make us intelligent and therefore human. For the problems and opportunities that this newfound intelligence brings, it can reuse parts and processes to meet the potential of intelligence. Thus ….

Library superhighway
In his book Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift’s hero Lemuel Gulliver found himself washed up and literally tied down on an island full of people only three inches tall. These Lilliputians had some quaint ideas to match their stature. One of these was their fervent belief that eggs should only be opened from the large end. Their neighbors, the Brobdinagians, were unbelievers in this and believed instead that their eggs should be opened from the small end. Subsequent cartoon and cinematic takes on Gulliver has made all this a very funny thing, and miss the satire entirely. Only fictional characters could be so foolish! That said, we go to church on Sunday, don’t eat meat on Friday, and believe that blood is wine, wine is blood, or whatever. And for those who think that Saturday is a better day to go to church, and that pork is not ‘the’ white meat, then they are misguided at best, and heretics at worst.
Of course, you don’t hang out with people who have such offbeat ideas.


Once upon a time, philosophy used to be easy because everybody talked to one another, or at least to everyone who could read and write.
And all of the people who had an interest lived in the same town, and as remarkably had such an interest to begin with. So they would gather around a rock and argue, with no fundamental principles, religious or otherwise, to impede the free flow of thought. Everything was on the table, and in an era when facts were few, the question was the thing. These were the good old days when guys like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle mixed it up.
Then things became complicated, and feelings got hurt, so different rocks were set aside for folks who had their own root belief’s that we undebatable. These were called ‘schools of thought’, which were
And if you didn’t accept these beliefs you were cast out of the group or off some cliff.

Journal of what I found out using my magnifying glass.
Journal of what I found our by looking out my window
Journal of what I found out by eavesdropping.

Are things really so much more complicated that we need all this verbiage?
Journals repeat themselves, have implication that only the author and God knows for sure.

These are other references that I just made up. They are important references, but like all important citations, you can’t find them and don’t have access to anyway, unless you pay $495 for a 4 issue subscription for each of these journals. But then of course you still have to get all those back issues, which are only $59.95 apiece.
Journals are really vanity publications --- like ‘A history of the Turnip’, and ‘Me and my Puppy.’

Mezmer, A. and R. Descartes The pineal gland pipe, expanding consciousness through intracranical 56kb tranducers

Consciousness is but the brains way of issuing a wake up call that there are problems out there!

A Tale of Table Manners
The rules were written quite literally in granite. Or at least that’s how they came down to Moses. Other prophets used the ancient equivalent of pen and paper to jot down God’s intentions. Of course, the idea is that since God keeps a constant eye on you, for God’s sake you’d better obey the rules, or beware the consequences.
When you think about it though, it all comes down essentially to a case of table manners. Whether you like or not, at a shared table somebody is always looking at you, and noting how you place your fork, use your napkin, and most importantly, whether you have your elbows on the table. Of course, in polite company, you will not be chided directly for your lack of table manners
And may be able to grab stuff out of turn ----
Keeps us in line are the virtual penalties ---
After dinner ---- like after life --- things will happen, you can have faith in that.
We are not speaking of theft, murder or coveting stuff like your neighbors wife, goods, or power tools, or you shouldn’t have, but rather the importance of good table manners!
Elbows on table is problem, but vanishes when we see others doing same, or imagine that others won’t mind or would actually approve.
Virtual disapproval will always exist unless it is not virtual anymore.
Morals are not set in the mind like concrete, but are dependent upon virtual recreations of the responses of other people.
Manners become mores when the consequences are greater.

If the walls could speak, why aren’t we empathetic with trees?
If a tree fell for you in the forest, would you hear it? Not to worry though, cause its bark is worse than its bite.
If people were zombies. Rotting people or just plain rotten people, unworthy of empathy or we are incapable of being empathetic.
Coming into the worlds, we are poised to wreck worlds. Blind and deaf to troubles we bring, if only the walls could speak, and we could hear.

Galileo’s Free Offer
Consider this free offer. It’s the year 2032, and you’ve been offered a quick peek through the Hubble 2 Space telescope at the star Alpha Centauri along with a visual glimpse of the planets that circled it and their orbiting moons. Let’s say also that you are a physicist, and you make your living from explaining the universe. So you turn the offer down flat, as your colleagues not only do that, but lobby to have you thrown into jail, or even shot.
Well, this was the experience, in similar form to Galileo Galilei
Immanence of God is replaced by cosmic mainspring
One explanation is like a falling domino – tumbles down to others.
Explanations are killing things -- -just plain uncomfortable, because they impact manners, and mores, and shake the moral foundations of civilization itself.
Copernicus had a better idea, keep the sun centered or heliocentric solar system as mere hypothesis, a mere possible explanation among many. That done, one can use the predictions borne of this hypothesis as he pleased.

Forces you to use other methods, and by implication, other languages.
charging less than the 50 cents peek that you’re charged at the Grand Canyon or other scenic spots. And what could be more scenic than the moons of Jupiter, particularly if you’ve never seen them, let alone Jupiter?
Facts kill theories, because to deny them is to deny that you see, and hear, and feel.
Without the telescope, then we would still be arguing the merits of tortise-centric or geo-centric worlds, crystal spheres, and gods on fiery chariots.
So you deny the facts by ignoring them, misinterpreting them, or dismissing the tools that you use to interpret them.
Closer you get to the primary senses, the harder it is to dismiss the tools.
  • time machine versus radio carbon dating.--- telescope vs. mathematics
One fact is worth a thousand metaphors.
Bad ideas have a simple comeuppance.
In Galileo’s own words.
"We will laugh at the extraordinary stupidity of the crowd, my Kepler. What do you say to the main philosophers of our school, who, with the stubbornness of vipers, never wanted to see the planets, the moon or the telescope although I offered them a thousand times to show them the planets and the moon. Really, as some have shut their ears, these have shut their eyes towards the light of truth. This is an awful thing, but it does not astonish me. This sort of person thinks that philosophy is a book like the Aeneid or Odyssey and that one has to search for truth in the world of nature, but in the comparisons of texts.
Carola Baumgardt, Johannes Kepler; Life and Letters, Philosophical Library, New York, 1951, p.86

How to write a Self-Help Book

  1. quote some scientific fact and then plug it in to the hydraulic syntax of wants and needs.
  2. Tell a story about Mr. X and his creative adventures
  3. Invent some new marvelous and revolutionary concept, like a new label for a can of beans.
  4. Buy a mail order degree, found a sham institute, good for those lecture, course and franchise fees.
  5. The cure all truism --- take a deep breath and : relax, be creative, be happy, be orgasmic, be rich, be duped.
6. Don’t refer to any empirical fact, but rather to other no different than when immersed in a good book, movie, etc. You just don’t know how special a state you’re in!!
7. be incomplete a picture of the universe as seen from my cardboard tube!!
8. appeal to the dumb metaphorical way people have always explained and failed to predict the world.

Bad psychology, detached rational faculty that you can change, like the proverbial TV dial
If motivational speeches truly worked, we wouldn’t have to be continually going back to the well.
Self help is good, we need a little delusion now and then as we go down with the ship – hope springs eternal, even though it’s a long shot. – and we are not entirely rational, so why not use it to our benefit e.g. lottery
It’s the expectation that its permanent, that it will effect real change. And that it substitutes for understanding the world as it really is.

Self help books in the bookstore, 350 books saying the same thing, and without references – but authors are world renowned, experts in their fields, book makes major discovery that great philosophers sort of missed.
Like positive psychology ---

1. Master of the obvious
-think positive thoughts
-remove self from situations
-improve skills
2. Make a list, check it twice, cause you want to know when you’re naughty and nice.

  1. Take poetic license to get you therapeutic license
  2. -it ain’t relaxation, its an undreamed of state of consciousness.
  3. Go off on tangents, takes your attention away from the banal and useless comment you just made. – quote study of bob and mary
  4. Take an isolated fact and then interview 50,000 people to prove it.—50000 muddled opinions can’t be wrong.
  5. Spice up book with quotations from ‘Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations’
8. Make yourself some masterful researcher, such as studied phenomenon for 40 years, multiple degrees and institutes spreading across the world. -- you become God like in reputation, so you can say stupid things, and people will walk into walls and off cliffs for you.
Haste makes waste Wolfgang Aesop
He who hesitates is lost. Friedrich Pietzche
Bad psychology: take a deep breath, think of flowers, make a list, have a positive thought and : be relax, become creative, be happy, be orgasmic, be rich , be duped.
Its not that memetics is wrong, but that the metaphor is somehow privileged, I can understand bodies in terms of cells or the emergent properties of cells
Creativity reflects some high quality of accomplishment, such as a great novel, work of art, piece of music, of scientific theorem. But of course what is high quality is entirely relative to the norms of culture and individual taste. Thus a Bach or a Shakespeare may be admired in one era, loathed in another, and generally ignored in all eras.
The world is like a gigantic VCR machine without the instructions. We can’t figure it out, which is ultimately the point.

We the core of creativity is the celebration of creation, not the creation itself. To celebrate is to listen, ponder, and admire. It is attention from others in its multivariate forms. But attention comes with expectations. To listen and to keep listening presumes a demand. --- but it is done in expectation of all that edification, enlightenment, and entertainment. --- and besides, ‘other people’ is a changing constant, a very relative norm.

The ‘artists’ of today have as much permanence as vaudeville performers.
Creativity is normative, but who makes the norms, are you playing for humans or gods?
Take a year in any given century, and all the creative things as measured by a later year, are not creative at all.
White hot flame of creativity diminishes with distance, until all but a miniscule of societies creations fades and vanishes.
Nearly all the works lauded by society are dead, uninteresting, uninspired.

Creativity is no more a trait than ‘goodness’ is.
Of course expanding the bounds of knowledge is a good thing, but that is exceedingly rare, and
Is a 20th century Mozart less creative than an 18th century one?
Who is to say what boundary has been pushed?

Creativity is no inner muse, it is not the genetic keepsake of a privileged few. It is rather the simple byproduct of cultures which prize competition in many aspects of life.

Nawlins Anthropic Principle

Everybody goes where there is good food, good parties, and plenty of error.

Yup, the world is recreated as New Orleans. Since it would take a quantum computer to figure out the circumstances where a world-class physicist would even be in New Orleans. 

So all life forms end up being reincarnated, reanimated, and reconstituted as some creative questing guy or gal who lives in New Orleans. (Somehow, I can’t see Frank Tipler disagreeing with me on this one.)

So there it is the Nawlins Anthropic Principle, and to paraphrase Shakespeare, we round our little lives not with a sleep, but with a NAP.

A Naive idea.

Good ideas allow you to sort out the facts of life. The simpler (and thus more obvious) they are and the more facts they enclose, the more indispensable they become. For example, if you are a physicist, the idea that we live in an immense universe full of stars and planets and cosmic particles encompasses the concepts behind astronomy, Newtonian mechanics, quantum physics, and cosmology. Similarly, the idea that biological variations are naturally selected encloses the principles that form the sub-sciences of genetics, zoology, microbiology, and paleontology.

Of course good ideas are also valued by what they exclude. Accept a universe full of starry objects, and you rule out astrology, divine hands, and the idea that the stars are lights embedded in crystal spheres. Accept an evolutionary view of biology, and you get rid of spontaneous generation, creationism, and a pantheon of intervening gods.

Good ideas have the virtue of being self evident or emergent from the facts as revealed by our senses, or in other words our naïve experience. But experience is not a fixed thing, and expands with the tools we use to observe the world. With a telescope, we can envision ourselves sailing past the rings of Saturn and witness the waltz of the planets, and with a time machine, we can visit with dinosaurs and trilobites, and trace the course of life on earth. When we use tools to expand our senses, our naïve experience expands too, and in a flash can dissolve the ‘wisdom’ of centuries. Galileo’s telescope did this, and resolved the debate between the rival Copernican (heliocentric or sun centered) and the long established Ptolemaic (geocentric or earth centered) theories of the solar system as soon as he turned his instrument to the skies. In a later era, Charles Darwin found that he didn’t have a time machine at hand to as easily demonstrate the truth of his own theory that only became ‘self evident’ through the exhaustive footprint of the fossil record and the mapping of the genetic processes that underlie all life.

Of course science is never wanting for arguments, but they are invariably settled not by a more persuasive logic or style, but rather by a clearer vision. After all, arguments take time and intelligence that most people can’t spare, but vision just requires a new set of lenses. We don’t argue the facts when we can ‘see’ the facts. If we don’t see them the temptation is irresistible to infer them, which we promptly do with intellectual abandon. This makes for endless arguments, with one inferred process championed over another, and no resolution ever at hand.

The early scientific revolutions in physics and biology came first not because their subject matters were easy, or because folks back then saw the light of the better explanations for the universe and the origins and processes of life. Rather, it was because the tools became available that allowed one to see the innards of creation. Without the invention of the telescope and microscope, there is no doubt that flat earth science would join creation ‘science’ as an elective in the nation’s schools, and your local witch doctor would lay as much claim to explaining your aches and pains as your family physician.

The Half-Revolution in Psychology

The scientific metaphors that we employ today extend from a pretty accurate picture of how the world generally is. This is particularly useful since if one had to continually argue whether the earth is round, that germs cause disease, or that genetic material is responsible for life, we would likely still be living in medieval villages. Of course philosophy would still thrive in a monastic sort of way, and the principles of the biological and physical sciences would be grist for scholastic debating clubs, where nothing ever would be settled. The summaries of all these debates would be dutifully entered in rolls of parchment that would be tucked away in monasteries for all the world to marvel at and promptly ignore.

Sounds strange? Although the physics and biology of Aristotle, the cosmology of the Bible, and the astrological imprint of the planets have been reduced to folklore by new and simpler ideas introduced by physics and biology, the philosophies and religions of the ancients still inform how we think about our own behavior. The same old metaphors about how the mind works drive popular and academic psychology to this day, which means we’re still debating Aristotle, the wisdom of the bible, and the accuracy of astrological charts. This is not entirely unexpected, since until recently we didn’t have the equivalent of a telescope or microscope that enabled us to peer into the actual workings of the mind. Even in the present, we must instead settle for academic debates that will postulate endless mental processes, engage in unresolvable arguments, and publish the proceeds of their unadmitted confusion in academic journals that will be ensconced in tomb like libraries, admired scarcely, and soon forgotten.

But what are these metaphors of the mind that have stayed with us since the beginning of the written word? It is that we are simply the products of our experience, and that our behavior as well as our happiness is denoted in the quest for objects, whether they are material or spiritual. These basic ideas, which also fall under the philosophical title ‘empiricism’, simply hold that our interests and values are infinitely malleable, and that we come into the world as a ‘tabula rasa’, or blank slate, perfectly open to whatever conditioning the world will throw at us.

Recently, this simple viewpoint has been challenged by an equally simple perspective that holds that humans are not blank slates, but are instinctively drawn to interpret and act upon information in certain ways. This ‘nativistic’ point of view is not new, but has gained special force through the extension of selectionistic or Darwinian principles to human behavior. The rise of evolutionary psychology takes a leaf off Darwin’s own book, and assumes that people do what they do because their behavior has some ultimate survival value. Coveting your neighbors wife, warring against a bordering village, or in general becoming a materialistic and selfish lout is a natural state of affairs, and we really can’t help it that our ‘selfish genes’ drive us to do mean and lousy things. After all, if it results in us making more babies, then it helps our genes (not to mention the lousy behavior) to survive. Religions, laws, and other social conventions simply seek to cap instinctive behaviors that would otherwise run riot if they did not exist. Of course, evolutionary psychology is as problematic as empiricism. We often act in ways that do anything but maximize the survival of our genes, and human acts of selflessness and kindness (as well as sheer recklessness) particularly confound the one track mind that evolutionary psychology would have us assume.

The end result is that evolutionary psychology cannot replace empiricism, but merely modifies it. We are still led by objectified events, whether our behavior was impelled by instinct or compelled by experience. But how much is due to nature or nurture is anybody’s guess, and everybody’s argument. Nativism represents a half revolution, and therefore no revolution at all. It as if Galileo looked out at the stars and found out that the planets did indeed rotate the sun, but only some of the time, or as if Pasteur found that germs caused disease, but that evil spirits could have a hand in it too. But most importantly, evolutionary biologists don’t employ the correct tools to look into the mind. That after all involved another discipline, and a body of research whose truly revolutionary import is only beginning to be known.

The Coming Revolution in Psychology

We have evolved to be sensitive to certain types of information, and to pursue the objects that denote or convey that information. So men chase women (and vice versa), the trophies and accolades that denote power, and a good place to eat. Simple enough, except that while we’re chasing a mate, a trophy, or a good steak, something has to keep you going until you reach your goal. Only two things can be responsible for us staying the course; namely we perceive current events, and we anticipate or model future ones. So if for example you have a date tonight with Mary Lou, your behavior is not only sustained by your current progress preparing for the date (e.g. buying flowers, making a restaurant reservation), but also by anticipation of all the alternatives that may happen when you get there. In other words, you prepare for the date more intently because you are ‘looking forward’ to it. These alternatives represent ‘problems’, albeit mostly of a good sort, but nonetheless engage your cognitive resources in modeling exactly what events may occur. Because of the uncertainty or discrepancies abounding in your ability to accurately predict what will occur, your mind will bound from one possibility to another. So you are excited, motivated, and happy, and all because you have ‘problems’.

Sometimes one set of problems is replaced by another, as when a friend tells you that Mary Lou is looking forward to the date, and has a crush on you. So you stay, excited, motivated, and happy, but this time you envision a somewhat different set of possibilities. And sometimes, another more difficult set of problems replaces these happy possibilities if the friend tells you instead that Mary Lou’s intentions are purely platonic, and that she is actually in love with your roommate Fred. Your problems now suddenly have no resolution, or lead to negative results, namely a good night handshake. Suddenly you become depressed, unmotivated, and unhappy.

So what does this obvious example tell us? In all circumstances, you will presumably carry through with the date. But your pleasure or pain does not hinge on the conversation, the quality of the food, or the ambience of the setting. Rather, it all depends upon expectations that may comprise possible events days and weeks past the date itself. If the only element that comprised motivation was the simple behavior of going on a dinner date, then you will be ‘motivated’ regardless of whether you feel happy or sad because of the occasion.

Motivation is not simply overt behavior, but consists of the covert responses that accompany our estimation of the possibilities of existence. But it is these responses that underlie our own ‘feelings’ of happiness or sadness, and our inclination to pursue similar behavior in the future. If motivation is made solely equivalent to the occurrence of overt behavior, then your date will motivate. But in common language, we don’t think of motivation in this way. Being motivated means being interested, excited, aroused. It is in other words, motivation equals the in common arouses our attention and our emotions.

Does not mechanically walk
But behavior is accompanied by
Motivation occurs when we estimate the possibilities of existence.
Objects do not motivate us, we are motivated instead by the problems we encounter that lead us to objects, and the problems those objects confer.
The brain evolved not as a device that enables us to fetch objects, and once it assures its reproduction, settles down in a sort of idle stasis. Rather, it is a problem solving device, a machine that continually models alternatives, appraises them, and chooses between them. Sometimes this choice involves a change in overt behavior, but more often it does not. But it cannot turn itself to idle once the problems have been resolved. On the contrary, it will signal that it needs new problems, and boredom becomes depression is new problems do not become forthcoming.
And the other stuff, bread and circuses
Maximize the problems, and you maximize happiness.
Just having the objects will not do, regardless of what ‘evolutionary’ benefit they may bestow.
These covert responses, which encompass the general term emotion, are elicited by subtle patterns of information
If the problems have important outcomes and are easily resolvable, we attend to them. The greater their importance and frequency, the higher will be our arousal.
If the problems have important outcomes and are not easily resolvable or are unresolvable, we will not attend to them. The
Forced to confront them, we become depressed.
(death and taxes)
If the problems are
Bias towards events that have problems.

The Method to my Madness

Take a walk to any bookstore and briefly visit the aisle marked science. The intelligent observer will note that most science books are written by men and women who are real scientists, and who spend the majority of their time doing experiments, writing complex articles in science journals, and endlessly debating their ideas with other scientists of like and not so like minds. Choose any branch of science, from geology to physics, and you will also see that scientists use a wide variety of methods, tools, and descriptive languages to come to their conclusions. Sometimes, these languages may carry very different subjective entailments, but a scientist may feel free to move between them as if each was valid in its own way.

Physics gives the best example of this. To understand the universe, scientists use telescopes, radio telescopes, spectrometers, etc. They analyze and sort their data in different ways, and use different theoretical languages to describe their findings that may be subjectively or metaphorically understood in different ways. Take the notion of time. In classical and Newtonian physics, time flows, is unchanging, and is the same for everybody, everywhere. In Einsteinian physics, time does not flow, and is relative to where you are and how fast you’re going. Finally, in Quantum physics, time does not exist, and each instant of your distant and immediate past represents you, but in a different universe!

That a physicist can tell you all these things with a straight face, and best of all convince you of it is the beauty of the scientific method, and

Psychology is does not share its methods or languages, does not debate because –any more than a frenchman can talk to englishman ---
And uses metaphorical ways of understanding that are unquestioned.
Because we have no way of mapping the mind as we have mapped the universe

Branding in Psychology

Some years back, a bunch of guys got together on one evening and stomped out a pattern in a wheat field using nothing more than some string (for measuring) and a few pieces of board (to press down all that wheat). From the air, the design looked otherworldly, and it thus became notorious and interesting because of all those otherworldly explanations (space aliens, psychic forces) that could account for it. No one paid much attention to the fact that a bunch of guys could do this with only a few impromptu hand tools. Rather, the space aliens got all the press, and continued to get the press even when the guys confessed to their prank. It goes to show that common sense is not where the hype and the money is, since after all sensible thinking is free and easy to all.
The point is that although a bunch of guys could easily have created crop circles, a bunch of space aliens could also have created crop circles. So unless those circles left a mark (e.g. a cotton tag saying ‘Kilroy was here’) that couldn’t have been the work of Mork from the planet Zork, the crop circle argument would revolve endlessly on the unlikely (to say the least) possibilities that it wasn’t due to a group of guys out on a lark.
The reason of course is simple. Occam’s razor, which accepts the simplest (albeit not simpleminded) solution as invariably the right one, doesn’t hold if you have razor blades to sell. Thus although a human cause is the most likely cause by far, common sense and common causes are not quite marketable things. If you are an academic type trying to make a name for yourself, space aliens are a better route to attention, funding, publication, and most importantly, tenure!
When we turn from bad science to bad social science, we find as well that bad psychology more often than not does not take the obvious explanation but rather the complicated one. Moreover, even if you can vouch for the obvious facts of behavior through simple prose or replicate them with simple procedures, your’re still going to find some nay sayer who adduces it all to obscure psychic, neural, or other mentalistic forces, and will ignore your objections to boot. But even if the facts were plain and evident to all, it can still be branded with a special name, and made to seem special and new.
In advertising terms, marketers have a word for it: ‘branding’. Branding is why you buy Bayer aspirin, Perrier spring water, and Exxon gas, even though you know the generic equivalents are just as good. Branding is also why you listen to stock market analysts and self-help gurus, even though you know that the advice you get is respectively no better that what you can get from a dartboard or your mother, and for that matter for free.
Branding is all over the place in psychology, and the true crime is that psychologists are loath to admit it. At least you can look on the label of ingredients or read Consumer Reports to know you’re being conned. Take psychotherapy for instance. Repeated studies have again and again demonstrated that a talking cure for the common problems of living is no more effective than the advice you can get from a relative or a trusted friend. Nonetheless, the myth is still propagated that psychologists possess some arcane wisdom that others don’t that can guide us through the travails of life.
Other examples include the postulation of unique mental ‘states’ from intrinsic motivation to ‘flow’ that have a separate detached existence in the human psyche, like some sort of ghost in the machine. This ‘mysterian’ trend in psychology exalts in the mystery of human behavior, and finds profit in making as much of it as mysterious as possible. Since we busy folk don’t have the time or inclination to investigate these mysterious forces to make sure they’re true or not (Scott Adams of ‘Dilbert’ fame had a word for those folks of easy intellectual virtue: induhviduals), we believe and buy into the glossy and ubiquitously marketed concepts that make common sense into something special, unique, and copyrighted!
A prime example of a mysterian concept in psychology is the concept of hypnosis. Given the right motivation, human beings can do a lot of things (like making themselves stiff like a board, hallucinate, babble in strange tongues) that seem pretty mysterious. The common idea was that you had to enter some semi-conscious state of ‘hypnosis’ before you could embark on these extra-behavioral hijinks. So a hypnotist would tell you that you are entering some type of trance state (as if anyone knew what a trance state was!). Dutifully, the next thing you know your eyes would get heavy, and before you know it you’ll wake up dangling from a chandelier. Of course, it would be something if you really had to fall into some sort of trance in order to be induced to do goofy and odd things. But the point is, you don’t. In a landmark analysis of the hypnosis concept the psychologist T. E. Barber (1974) demonstrated from over 500 separate studies that all of the behaviors generally attributed to hypnosis could be just as easily recreated if an individual was asked to perform those acts by a reliable, credible, and authoritative individual. In other words, you can do hypnotic things if you’re motivated to do hypnotic things. There was no need for a trance, a hypnotist, or even the mention of the word hypnosis! It didn’t help the hypnotism cause that no unique brain, somatic, or other metabolic state was ever found to parallel a motivation to do hypnotic acts. But that’s hardly unexpected given the fact that hypnotic acts were hypnotic because they were not of a special sort (like walking, dreaming, digesting), but were relative things that were merely odd in the mind of the beholder. The irony of all this is that many hypnotists admit these facts, yet nonetheless use the brand ‘hypnosis’ because, like Bayer aspirin, the label is what people are paying for.

Another commonly branded solution is the act of meditating and its branded variants: Transcendental Meditation, Yoga, the Relaxation response etc. Essentially, by concentrating on something real hard, like a nonsense word or your belly button, you will enter a special state of consciousness that’s characterized by a profound state of relaxation. Unfortunately, proponents of the practice never left it like that, and attributed any number of weird characteristics to the simple act of attending. Thus one could unlock creativity, eliminate character flaws, cure cancer, develop the ability to levitate, and even evolve to a higher state of consciousness by the act of mere focused concentration. There was a lot of money to be made by such hucksterism, and the sober scientific appraisals of what meditation really have been buried under the hype. In a systematic survey of the scientific literature on the phenomenon, the psychologist David Holmes (1985, 1987) found that (like hypnosis) there was no distinctive metabolic, neural, or other somatic characteristic of meditation beyond muscle relaxation. Furthermore, it wasn’t attention that brought on relaxation, but the simple act of resting that attended attention, or in other words doing nothing. In other words, attention had nothing to do with the effects of meditation, and the effects of meditation were nothing more than muscle relaxation.
Unfortunately for Holmes, as well as for Barber, there was no money to be made by saying that the Emperor had no clothes

The power of branding is an irrational influence that leads us to do costly and dumb things. In the struggle between common knowledge and marketing hype, we escape from it by coming up with better products that have entirely new formulas, and thus need new brands.
---- don’t fight brand with non brand, but with a new product and thus a better brand. For example, instead of pitting generic aspirin against Bayer in the vain hope of winning market or mind share, why not create a better concoction that isn’t aspirin, but that gets rid of headaches faster? This is what I call the Advil solution. – people flock to advil, forget what aspirin was all about, branding controversy solved!
--and aspirin becomes bare rather than Bayer aspirin again. --- now if the Advil solution does not require a special formula but instead represents a concoction that you can cook up yourself like an bowl of chicken soup.
– in psychology it’s a new procedure that requires a new brand or name.

An Advil Solution to Self Control

--- stress is the problem gets in our way clouds our thought, forces us to eat, drink, and inhale things we would otherwise do. --- without stress we would be mellow, reasonable, and maybe even happy.
Don’t need a trance state to get result
And there is no recordable brain state, from eeg to hormones either.
Branding --- you get attention, funding, and tenure by making something simple into unique, complicated, and imposing.
--- You can keep hawking about your generic cure, or you can develop – the solution to the misinformation about Bayer aspirin is not generic Aspirin, but Advil! --so if everyone takes Advil, who aspirin becomes generic again.
Enter the mysterians!

(opera libretto composed for my Russian Musician wife.)
La-La Land
Opera in the Buffa by
Valery-lana Spillkoffeeova Marr, famous Russian WOMAN composer
Liberetto by : Anton ‘Artful’ Mezmer

Cast of Characters
Bulemia –Vestio’s mother
Vestio—a bratty kid
Pistachio – a tasty nut
Barny – a purple dragon
Vega-6 -- a killer asteroid from outer space.
Act 1
Bulemia is current measuring Vestio’s bedroom to see if her Barny doll can fit. Unawares to her, a killer asteroid is approaching the earth that will end all life as we know it, and also this silly opera.
English Translation Something that sounds like Russian
Bulemia Aqua velva beelka bolshoi pravda

Vestio: La, La, La. La, La, La.
(Vestio eats nut)
Pistachio: crunch Crunchka
Vestio Barfka keelova

Killer Asteroid BOOM!

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