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Coert Visser "progressfocused" (Driebergen Netherlands)

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The Psychology of Rational Thought: What Intelligence Tests Miss
The Psychology of Rational Thought: What Intelligence Tests Miss
by Keith E. Stanovich
Edition: Hardcover

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A closer look at rationality, 16 May 2010
The book is about the fact that IQ tests are incomplete measures of cognitive functioning. There is, as studies have show, in fact only a low to medium correlation between rational thinking skills and IQ test performance. And because rational thinking skills and IQ are largely independent it is not surprising that intelligent people can easily behave irrationally and hold false and unsupported beliefs. Several things are really interesting about this book. One is the authors insight that we do not need to stretch to non-cognitive domains (to notions as emotional intelligence or social intelligence) to see the lacunae in IQ tests. Another is the very specific and research based analysis of the topic matter. The author presents an elegant and rather comprehensive model of cognitive functioning in which three types of major thinking processes and their interrelations are described: the autonomous mind, the algorithmic mind and the reflective mind.

The autonomous mind refers to rapidly executed, non-consciousness requiring mental processes which are often quick and dirty. The algorithmic mind refers to conscious efficient information processing and is linked to what is usually referred to as fluid intelligence. The reflective mind is linked to rational thinking dispositions and deals with questions such as which goals to choose and why, and what action to take given those goals. Conscious thinking can override unconscious thinking, which is a good thing given the quick and dirtiness of the autonomous mind. The algorithmic mind is required for executing this override and thus very important. But the reflective mind is the process which initiates such an override. People with high IQ may be quite capable of overriding false beliefs and erroneous judgments but it takes the rationality of the reflective mind to initiate such an override.

Although many laymen and psychologists seem to think IQ tests do measure rationality, they actually don't. In fact, intelligence, as measure by IQ tests correlates only low to moderately with rational thinking skills. According to Stanovich, this explains why it is not strange to see intelligent people behave irrationally and hold false and unsupported beliefs. Some real world examples are: intelligent people who fall prey to Ponzi scheme swindlers like Bernie Madoff, a highly educated person who denies the evidence for evolution, a United States president who consults an astrologist, and so forth. Below, I will try to summarize how Stanovich explains rationality and lack of rationality.
What is rationality? Cognitive scientists distinguish two basic forms: 1) instrumental rationality, behaving in such a way that you achieve what you want, and 2) epistemic rationality, taking care that your beliefs correspond with the actual structure of the world. Irrational thinking and behaving is associated with three things.

The first is an overreliance on the autonomous mind which subconsciously and automatically uses all kinds of heuristic to come to conclusions and solve problems. The autonomous mind is fast and very valuable but also very imprecise. It is prone to all kinds ofbiases. Thinking deliberately instead of letting the autonomous mind make judgments cost much more time and energy which is why it is temping no resist.

The second thing which is associated with irrationality is what is called a mindware gap. The term `mindware ` refers to the rules, knowledge, procedures, and strategies that a person has available for making judgments, decisions and solving problems. Lack of such knowledge, etc hinders rationality.

The third thing which is associated with irrationality is something called contaminated mindware, beliefs, rules, strategies, etc that are not grounded in evidence and that are not good for the one who holds them (the host) but which can still spread easily throughout a population. There are several reasons why they can spread easily: 1) they are often packaged in an appealing narrative which promises some kind of benefit to the host, 2) they sometimes ride on the back of other popular mindware which may be more valid by copying superficial characteristics from that mindware, 3) they contain self-replicating instructions (`send this mail on to 10 different people'), 4) they may have evaluation-disabling properties (for instance by claiming that evidence is not relevant or possible, by making belief which is unsupported by evidence into a virtue, by encouraging adherents to attack non-believers, etc). You might think that intelligence would guarantee a good protection against contaminated mindware but this turns out to be wrong. By making narratives complex, highly intelligent people can even become extra attracted to them. Further, studies have demonstrated that intelligent people may be more capable of creating `islands of false beliefs' or 'webs of falsity' by using their considerable computational power to rationalize their beliefs and to ward off the arguments of skeptics.
The last part of the book is devoted to a first attempt by the author to a taxonomy of rationality. Also he makes a plea for shifting the focus in society from intelligence alone to a more balanced attention for intelligence and rationality. He makes it clear that, while discussions about the mutability of intelligence are still going on, there is no doubt at all that rationality is something which can be learned. Also he points at the possibility to design rationality tests and to have institutions take structural measures in order to limit the damaging effects of irrationality.

A very interesting book which deserves to be read by many psychologists and educators.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 21, 2015 1:58 PM BST


The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution
The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution
by Richard Dawkins
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Missing link in Dawkins' work effectively removed, 1 Oct. 2009
Richard Dawkins' book The Greatest Show on Earth is currently high on bestseller lists in many countries. The book removes what was the missing link in Dawkins' oeuvre because in all his others books he started from the assumption that evolution was true. In this one he presents evidence. Let's walk through the book in some big steps.

In Chapter 1, Dawkins introduces the word THEORUM as a replacement of the word 'theory' which in everyday use often just means hypothesis. The word 'theorum' (inspired by the word 'theorem' from mathematics) would do justice to the fact that evolution is massively supported by evidence and therefore by no means just a hypothesis. Chapter 2 describes how we can sculpt gene pools through artificial selection (for instance dog breeding), a practice which has been known to men, of course long, before Darwin to the scene. Chapter 3 explains differences between artificial, sexual, and natural selection. Chapter 4 shows we know for SURE how old the earth is. It presents two of the three methods (tree rings and radioactive clocks). Chapter 5 shows examples of evolution we can see before our very eyes (for instance with bacteria and with guppies). It is also a powerful explanation of how the existence of evolution has been experimentally demonstrated through experiments. And experiments are of course an indispensible part of doing science because of their power to show causal relations. Chapter 6 and 7 are is about fossil evidence for evolution and it debunks some common misunderstandings, like the one that intermediate fossils are still missing which would prove that evolution would not be true. The chapter shows that not only intermediate fossils aren't missing, even if they would be missing that would not disprove evaluation at all. In fact, even without any fossil evidence, the evidence for evolution would be watertight. So fossil evidence serves to underline all the other evidence. Also, the fact that no fossil has ever been found in the 'wrong' time period (which would work to disprove evolution) further strengthens the case. Chapter 8 explains how embryology is a matter of self-assembly-processes all the way which goes against the idea that humans grow according to some kind of blueprint. Chapter 9 is about 'islands' or the powerful biogeographic evidence for evolution. Chapter 10 deals with tree of cousinship and molecular evidence (and molecular clocks). Chapter 11 shows how bodies aren't designed but gradually evolved and seem like imperfect patchworks. Chapter 12 is about evolutionary arms races and their apparent futility which is another reason why creationism is so very unlikely and illogical. Chapter 13 is one big reflection on the last poetic paragraph of Darwin's On the Origin of Species.

Reading the book, I came across many little details I did not know and also some more fundamental insights and facts that I was not fully aware of. While reading the book I thought how paradoxical it seems how people expressing some very uninformed and outdated opinions and views can actually play a very useful role. Perhaps were it not for them doing this and for the influence they surprisingly have, people like Dawkins would not take the trouble to keep on explaining scientific findings in such accessible ways. I am convinced that almost any part of this book can be rather easily understood by the majority of people and I am happy to see how many people are interested enough to actually buy it.


Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thri
Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thri
by Barbara Fredrickson
Edition: Hardcover

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Positivity is a wise choice, 8 May 2009
Barbara Frederickson, Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina, and a pioneer of positive psychology, specializes in research on positive emotions and human flourishing. She is best-known for her so-called broaden-and build theory of positive emotions.

This book describes in an accessible and captivating way what the research by her and her colleagues has taught her about what positivity is and what is does. In her explanation of what positivity is, she mentions ten forms of positivity: joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love. As to what positivity does, maybe it is best to start with six facts she mentions about positivity: 1) positivity feels good, 2) positivity changes how your mind works, 3) positivity transforms your future, 4) positivity puts the brakes on negativity, 5) positivity obeys a tipping point, 6) you can increase your positivity. A briefer way of describing what positivity amounts to is that it opens your mind and helps you get on a positive trajectory, an upward spiral. In other words: it makes you flourish. Flourishing is more than being happy. In Barbara Frederickson's words: "Flourishing goes beyond happiness, or satisfaction with life. True, people who flourish are happy. But that's not the half of it. Beyond feeling good, they're also doing good -adding value to the world. People who flourish are highly engaged with their families, work, and communities."

But that is not the whole story. The effects of positivity are not simple and linear. Rather, they are subtle and non-linear. Human flourishing works like a nonlinear dynamic system. In nonlinear systems, there are one or more tipping points at which the properties of the system can suddenly change dramatically. An example of such a non-linear system with a tipping point is how ice melts at zero degrees Celsius. Consultant and researcher Marcial Losada has helped Barbara Frederickson uncover a tipping point in the positivity ratio. The positivity ratio is the ratio of people's experiences of positive to negative emotions. Frederickson's and Losada's research show that there is a tipping point above which flourishing starts and below which it doesn't. This positivity ratio tipping point is 3-1. When there are three times or more as many positive experiences than negative ones, flourishing will start with all of its beneficial consequences. There also turns out to be a second tipping point, by the way, of 11-1, which is the upper bound of flourishing. Above this upper bound it seems that there is too much positivity. In other words, there will always remain a useful role for some negativity. Frederickson has found that most people have more positive than negative experiences but are below the 3-1 tipping point. Fortunately, there are many known ways to raise your positivity (many of them are described in the book) so that flourishing is attainable for anyone.

I can hardly say how impressed I am with this book. This book presents the best that positive psychology has to offer. The writing is very clear and pleasant. At the same time, everything that is being written is linked to scientific findings (which are mentioned explicitly). My suggestion is: do yourself a favor and buy yourself this book.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 17, 2013 4:42 PM BST


Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else
Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else
by Geoff Colvin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

95 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deliberate practice stretches you, 26 Nov. 2008
I intended to write a review of Malcolm Galdwell's book Outliers: The Story of Success but I came across this book and I was surprised to find I like this book more. The book not only debugs the talent myth, the believe that talent is a dominant factor in high achievement (which Gladwell has done too in several publications). It also operationalizes the concept of deliberate practice. This concept was introduced by Anders Ericsson, a leading researcher in the field of expertise development. Colvin explains that deliberate practice can be described by these five characteristics:

1. It's designed specifically to improve performance
2. It can be repeated a lot
3. Feedback on results is continously available
4. It's highly demanding mentally
5. It isn't much fun

Deliberate practice is hard and not particularly enjoyable because it means you are focusing on improving areas in your performance that are not satisfactory. Thus, it stretches you. If you'll be able to do deliberate practice, you'll benefit by becoming better. Especially if you'll be able to keep it up for extremely long periods of time. Much research has shown that top performance in a wide array of fields is always based on an extreme amount of deliberate practice. It is hard to find a top performer in any field that has not been working extremely hard to get there. What does 'extremely hard' mean? Well, researchers Herbert Simon and Allen Newel used to say that you need at least 10 years before reaching top performance. Now, researchers have refined their estimate, saying coming up with a figure of 10000 hours. An interesting thing about deliberate practice is that its effect is cumulative. You can compare it with a road you're traveling on. Any distance you have travelled on that road counts. So, if you have started at an early age, this will lead to an advantage over someone who started later.

The book is written by a journalist, not a scholar. And it is well written and the journalist has done a good job in doing his homework. It is full of relevant references to research. It deals with the subject matter in a nuanced and informative way. Overall, it is very convincing.

If I had a say, I'd change two things in the second edition of this book. First, I'd change one section in chapter 1 in which the author talks about the abundance of financial resources. It seems a bit odd to read about that now, when this major economic crisis is hitting us. Second, I'd mention the work by Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. The authors remarks in the last chapter refer so clealry to her body of research. In such a well documented book as this is, this is an omission. One last comment: I would have liked this title better for this book: DELIBERATE PRACTICE.

CONCLUSION: a terrific and thought provoking book. I am glad I have read this. It triggers many thoughts and invites you to take action.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 17, 2012 5:33 PM BST


The Cult of Statistical Significance: How the Standard Error Costs Us Jobs, Justice, and Lives (Economics, Cognition & Society)
The Cult of Statistical Significance: How the Standard Error Costs Us Jobs, Justice, and Lives (Economics, Cognition & Society)
by Stephen Thomas Ziliak
Edition: Paperback
Price: £26.95

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bring back effect sizes, 14 Mar. 2008
This book shows how many scientific disciplines rely way too much on the concept of statistical significance. I have read the book and I find it convincing. The authors show how the focus on statistical significance has taken away attention for 'real' significance. In other words: the focus on statistical significance often means that researchers fail to ask whether their findings matter. In statistics, a result is called statistically significant if it is unlikely to have occurred by chance. So testing for statistical significance is asking the question how likely it is that an effect exists. It does not answer at all how strong and important this effect is. And this latter question about the effect size is much more important from a scientific and a practical perspective. Statistical significance does not imply an effect is important, lack of statistical significance does not mean an effect is not important. Mind you the book is NOT a plea against quantitative research nor statistical analysis. On the contrary. It is a plea for doing it and doing it right by bringing back focus on effect sizes in social science.


Improving Academic Achievement: Impact of Psychological Factors on Education (Educational Psychology)
Improving Academic Achievement: Impact of Psychological Factors on Education (Educational Psychology)
by Joshua Aronson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £50.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Educators should read this, 3 Jan. 2008
Many people are concerned about the quality of education in their country. Therefore, keys to high quality eductation are of great importance. This book is the best source I know of to current research findings about how to improve eduction. The book contains chapters by top experts in the field like Robert Rosenthal, Carol Dweck, Timothy Wilson, Robert Sternberg, and Joshua Aronson, to name just a few. Both classic studies and cutting edge new research are covered. The quality of the writing is first class throughout the book. The theories and research findings are translated very practically. Very nice and useful is how each chapter is ended with answers to some questions by practitioners. I found nearly every chapter interesting but a few stood out, for instance chapter 4 by Deci and Ryan about intrinsic motivation, chapter 5 by Wilson et al. about attributional interventions, and chapter 15 by Cohen and Steele about cross-race mentoring. But the best two chapters to me are chapter 3 by Carol Dweck and chapter 14 by Joshua Aronson, who is also the editor of the book. I already know quite a bit about Carol Dweck's research but this chapter still grabbed my attention and made me enthusiastic. Joshua Aronson describes fascinating research about the role of stereotypes in academic performance. I was already rather familiar with this research but while reading the chapter I couldn't help thinking repeatedly: "This is unbelievable!" I am rather surprised that there is only a hard cover version of this book. Isn't this book a typical example of a book that should be read by as many educators as possible? Answer: yes! So, where is the paperback version?


Handbook of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy: Clinical Applications (The Haworth Handbook Series in Psychotherapy)
Handbook of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy: Clinical Applications (The Haworth Handbook Series in Psychotherapy)
by Thorana S Nelson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £70.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable contribution to the field, 30 Dec. 2007
This handbook of more than 400 pages contains contributions from established experts. The book opens with a Foundations section which introduces readers to the solution-focused approach. Assumptions, history and epistemology are described in this section. Section two describes Applications like couples therapy, depression, domestic violence offenders and applications in school settings. The rest of the book describes solution-focused training (section three) and some concluding chapters (section four). I think this book is a valuable contribution to the literature on the solution-focused approach because it describes the state of the art. It is not only interesting to people who are new to the field but also to experienced 'solutionists'. This book is -of course- aimed at an audience of therapists and not primarily intended for solution-focused practioners who apply it in a business context, like myself. But if you really want to know everything about SF, you can't miss this book, no matter in what context you use the approach. I especially liked chapters by Yvonne Dolan (tribute to Insoo Kim Berg), by Frank Thomas (about limitations and misuses) and most of all by Brian Cade (about the history of the solution-focused approach). This book shows how much alive the solution-focused approach still is.


What Were They Thinking?: Unconventional Wisdom About Management
What Were They Thinking?: Unconventional Wisdom About Management
by Jeffrey Pfeffer
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Challenge your beliefs on management and organization, 9 July 2007
Jeffrey Pfeffer is an exceptional management author, who has written twelve great books, among which The Knowing-Doing Gap, Hidden Value, The Human Equation, and Hard Facts. His new book, What Were They Thinking, is based on a series of columns Pfeffer wrote for the magazine Business 2.0. In it, he covers a wide range of topics, from people centered management strategies to creating effective workplaces, using power strategies, thiking differently about success, executive pay and corporate ethics. The great thing in all Pfeffers writing is that whatever he says is so well argued and facts-based. If you're familiar with his earlier books, you will surely recognize many of the points he's making in this book. At the same time, however, there is a certain freshness in this book, maybe due to the fact that it is based on columns. Another reason is there are new examples from the corporate world, and there are many new research references. Friend and colleague of Pfeffer, Bob Sutton, has said this about him: "And no matter how strongly you disagree with him, he has this annoying habit of basing his arguments on the best theory and evidence in peer-reviewed academic publications. Plus when he writes about an unstudied topic, his logic is often so compelling that refuting his arguments is extremely difficult." When reading this book (and practically anything else he has written) you'll find it easy to agree with Sutton: it is very hard to disagree with Pfeffer once you follow his reasoning and evidence. Some of the chapters I liked best in this book were: The courage to rise above, Dare to be different, More mister Nice guy, Curbing the Urge to Merge, In praise of organized labor, Stopping corporate misdeeds. A great book. I think every student of organizational effectiveness should read it.


More Than Miracles (Haworth Brief Therapy)
More Than Miracles (Haworth Brief Therapy)
by Steve de Shazer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £22.99

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From the inventors, 1 May 2007
This weekend, I found MORE THAN MIRACLES on my doormat. Sadly, two of the authors, Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg, who, together, were the main inventors of the solution-focused model, have recently died; Insoo a few months ago, Steve one and a half year ago. Those who knew them will be delighted that there is one more book which contains new material by them. The book explains the solution-focused model very clearly and is full of useful dialogues to which some interesting questions and comments are added. Actively reading and studying dialogues is one of the best ways to learn about the solution-focused approach. This book is is great for those who already know a bit about the approach and are eager to learn more (and who don't mind the fact that the examples are all therapy related). I think the book is great.


Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History (California World History Library)
Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History (California World History Library)
by David Christian
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly interesting, 10 Mar. 2007
David Christian had a great ambition with this book: to write the history of everything there has ever been. In other words, it describes not only human history but also natural history from the very first beginning. Of course, I had read this on the cover but I had not quite anticipated how elaborate and detailedly the author would describe the formation of the cosmos from the moment of the big bang. I had expected the book to go rather briefly through this part of history and to move on quickly to human history. But I was pleasantly surprised because this first part of the book turned out to be the most fascinating part, as far as I am concerned. The rest of the book is quite interesting too, I must add. The plan and ambition of this book are great, the way the author has worked them out, too. If you liked THE HUMAN WEB by JR McNeill and William H. McNeill, you may like MAPS OF TIME even more. If you admired A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME by Stephen Hawking, you may admire this book just as much.


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