From the Heart No. 1: On Goals (Or, Great Expectations II: The Problems and the Pitfalls)

I’m going to do something a little different in this post, what I intend to be the first of many such occasional posts: rather than talk about science and connect lots of interesting facts and findings together, I’m going to speak from the heart and use anecdotal experience rather than empirical evidence to make my points. (Wow, and even in that disclaimer, I still sound like scientific fact man. So on with it already!) Continue reading


Great Expectations: The Fact and the Fiction (But Not the Fictional Novel, Sorry)

Thomas Edison. One of the world’s most recognized and renowned inventors. Also, supposedly, addled as a child. While tales of the incident have been exaggerated, as Snopes reports, as a boy, Edison had overheard a teacher describe him as “addled” and not worth keeping in school. Upon hearing of the incident, his mother (and apparently his greatest champion) angrily told off the teacher, telling him that her son had more brains than he did. Young Edison’s response was a resolved determination to “be worthy of her and show her that her confidence was not misplaced.”

That’s the power of positive expectations. Continue reading

Free Will: Is It Real Life? Is It Just Fantasy?

It’s been in the back of my mind to write this post for a while, but I had been putting it off. But as I was walking out of the gym the other day thinking about my class choreography, I realized how relevant this topic is to so many things, so it’s time for it. I was thinking about the strength training class I teach and how much I love the section where we work back (deadlifts, rows, flyes, etc.). It has become my favorite section of that class, in large part because I always play a Journey song. Then I began to realize how that has helped me—no, caused me—to enjoy Journey more (not that I didn’t enjoy them before, but I’ve been getting into them much more since I started teaching this format), and also how I really started to enjoy the back section more once I began to make a big deal about making it my thing to always use Journey. In short, I had profound yet mundane epiphany: did I choose to start liking back moves (or Journey) more? Or was this increased fondness somehow destined by my previous actions and decisions? Continue reading

Physical Fitness for Psychical Fitness: The Mental Benefits of Exercise

Age-related cognitive decline is pretty much inevitable, especially now that people are generally living longer. While this decline in fluid intelligence (e.g., reasoning abilities) is complemented by an increase in crystallized intelligence (e.g., factual knowledge) (see figure below), fluid intelligence helps us deal with many aspects of our daily lives (such as processing new information and solving problems), so it’s worth preventing its decline as much as possible. Thankfully, there are ways to do this. Continual learning and mental engagement (i.e., effortful mental engagement, not simple passive learning) is an excellent way to keep one’s mind sharp. But, perhaps one of the best ways is by doing something that also benefits us in other ways: exercise. Continue reading

Tiny yet Titanic: The Butterfly Effect in Psychological Well-Being

You’ve likely heard of the Butterfly Effect. It’s the notion that, because of how everything in the natural world is interconnected and deterministic (as some would like to argue), a butterfly’s flapping its wings in, say, Sydney, could ultimately result in a hurricane in, say, the Gulf of Mexico. Sure, that flap of its wings is an infinitesimally miniscule act on the grand scheme of the global climate; but, because of how those few atoms are shifted by the flap of a pair of wings, those atoms then shift other atoms, which shift other atoms, and so on and so forth, until just enough of the right atoms have been shifted in order to tip the meteorological conditions over then edge into producing a hurricane. Small act; big consequences. And rather negative ones at that. But who’s to say that the consequences couldn’t have been positive instead (e.g., preventing a hurricane)? And who says that such grand effects from small actions must be limited to the deterministic, natural world? In other words, can we get similarly great outcomes from small initial acts in the realms of the intangible and indeterministic (or at least less well understood so we don’t know how it’s deterministic), such as psychology, relationships, and the spiritual? Continue reading

Logic 101: A Primer in Logic (or, How to Be Logical in an Increasingly Illogical World)

It was a while ago now that I first read this Huffington Post article by C. Robert Gibson about the success of Governor Dayton’s economic policies, but I still remember how much the final paragraph incensed me. And it still does. But it’s not for reasons you might expect, i.e., economic or political beliefs/opinions. (Quite frankly, I don’t know enough about economics, nor do I follow politics/current events enough to have a strong opinion on this matter either way; so, for all I know, the facts are correct and the conclusions—save the conclusion in the last paragraph—are valid and accurate.) Rather, it’s for reasons of logical reasoning. There is an apparent critical failure of logic in that final conclusion, and I feel that such logical failings (the cynic in me says that some are intentionally faulty so as to be misleading) are becoming more and more prevalent nowadays. So I wanted to address this issue head on so that we can all be better prepared to not be misled by faulty logic, whether accidental or intentional. Continue reading

Easy Come, Easy Go: The Surprising Paradox of Task-Switching

What do pit orchestra and my dissertation have in common? Well, aside from the fact that I maybe read some relevant articles during the occasional rehearsal and/or show (or, more often the case, discovered that articles weren’t as relevant as I thought they might be), almost nothing…aside from one thing: task-switching. As a reed player, I have doubled for most of the shows I’ve done, meaning I play multiple instruments, usually in the clarinet and/or saxophone families, though I have done some flute (not my forte—not my piano either, for that matter). Though still playing music, when switching between instruments, I’m essentially switching between tasks (at least as psychologists would define task-switching), because I’m alternatingly applying different sets of rules (i.e., fingerings). When doing this, rules will inevitably be misapplied (i.e., I play the wrong fingering). Or at least it’s thus far been consistent for me. 😉 Continue reading