scanning for patterns…

humans are pattern seeking creaturesNOTE: There is no pattern. I doodled.  It’s random.

Our brains don’t like chaos, we want to believe things are connected, not random.

brainResearching pattern seeking got me thinking about conspiracy theories…of which I am not immune.  I went down a rabbit hole after 911, wanting to make sense of the attack on our nation and all of the lives we lost.  I really thought I was finding all sorts of insider information.  I wasn’t.

Humans are pattern seeking creatures.  There’s so much interesting research on this subject.  Our brains are capable of gold medal worthy gymnastic moves to confirm our preconceptions. I know I like feeling that confirmation buzz. That heady feeling has a shadow side though.

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“A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.”      —Daniel Kahneman

This quote reminded me of when I hear a song I initially don’t like. If I hear it over and over, it begins to grow on me. Next it becomes familiar…I even begin to like it…hell, maybe even love it, playing it often. With repetition my brain will eagerly override my initial dislike and discernment. This is great when you’re making a conscious choice.

Not so great when the goal is manipulation or brand loyalty.

hate + repetition = acceptance

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“The premise of (most) conspiracy theories is inherently unscientific.”

“You should be skeptical of any theory that starts out with the exact same premise every time: Some malevolent and ill-intentioned individual, group, or organization is somehow out to get you.”

“It is not wrong to have a hypothesis. What is suspicious, however, is when that hypothesis never changes.”

“The interesting thing about conspiracy theories is that they start out with the need to confirm a particular premise (i.e., some evil actor must be responsible).

“…psychologists refer to it as a fundamental attribution error—the tendency to overestimate the actions of others as being (intentional) rather than simply the product of (random) situational circumstances.”         

Why Do People Believe in Conspiracy Theories?  by Sander van der Linden Ph.D. Psychology Today

Here’s an example of FUNDAMENTAL ATTRIBUTION ERROR:

My husband started the laundry SO obviously he thinks I’m lazy and not holding up my end of our shared household responsibilities.  OR…and far more likely, he needed some clothes washed and is just doing the laundry. 

laundry clip art

It’s so easy to make this error. I know I need to slow my brain down a lot more often before I jump to conclusions in many aspects of my life.

We inadvertently create mini conspiracy theories when we attribute people’s actions as personal and not situational in their nature. 

The trick is to learn when to take a moment to see if our attribution is actually accurate.

When I slow down my pattern-seeking brain, I feel more in control of the chaos around me. When I don’t, and I often don’t I feel far more anxious and uncertain.

RESOURCES

a short video about fundamental attribution error from the U of Texas

US National Library of Medicine/National Institute of Health on conspiracy theories

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman about slowing our thoughts down when making decisions and judgements.

anxious OR hopeful?

fear-or-hope-lillibridge-dakota-1966

Do you want extreme uneasiness of mind OR to cherish a desire with anticipation?  When I read these definitions out loud they prompted remarkably different feelings in me.

I was once was told that worrying is a prayer for something bad to happen.

If that’s true, than hope is a prayer for something good to happen, right?

—Author Edwin H. Friedman in “A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of a Quick Fix” wrote:

“…the climate of contemporary America has become so chronically anxious that our society has gone into emotional regression that is toxic to well-defined leadership.”

“…chronic anxiety that characterizes the emotional processes of contemporary American civilization influences our thoughts and our leaders toward safety and certainty rather than boldness and adventure.”

This book is a remarkable read about leadership in contemporary America—Business‚ Government, Coaching, Teaching, Clergy & Parenting.  The central idea is that any system requiring leadership with way too much anxiety becomes static, lacks innovation and is unable to seek out creative solutions.  In my heart I desire boldness and adventure over safety and certainty.  In my life I get racked with worry and anxiety, but I have a choice as to what I hold closer to my heart.  We always have a choice.

Holding onto our anxiety is easy right now, it’s being spoon fed to us 24 hours a day.

I have hope in the innovation of the next generation.  I have hope in science to spark cures for disease, find unique ways to educate our children, protect our climate and invent really cool new ways to do things.  I have hope that we can listen to each other.  I have hope that we don’t constantly fear those who are different than us.  I have hope that our better angels will emerge.

We actually do have a choice to make between being ANXIOUS or HOPEFUL.

My bet is on HOPE.  Without it, we’re screwed.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/151881.A_Failure_of_Nerve

I starting thinking about…

nonconformity-graphic

I read this line yesterday and it got me thinking about nonconformity.

“A culture that prizes traditional conformity, for example, may perceive specific kinds of individual rights and freedoms (e.g. freedom of speech) to pose a threat.”   Geographical Psychology, Exploring the Interaction of Environment and Behavior edited by Peter J. Rentfrow

There certainly is ease within organizations or families when conformity rules.  However, there also is a lack of creativity and innovation when we don’t have opposing viewpoints to challenge our long-held assumptions.

“A man must consider what a rich realm he abdicates
when he becomes a conformist.”   —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Similarity or perceived similarity creates PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY to speak our minds, knowing that people basically agree with you. The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson refers to the people in our lives who challenge us as “BEAUTIFUL ENEMIES”.   What an apt description, huh?  We need to be challenged to be stretched.  Keep your beautiful enemies close AND consult them often.

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How do we share our perspectives without making others wrong?

Perhaps the goal isn’t to change minds.

What if our goal was simply to be HEARD?

To be heard, we have to LISTEN. Really listen.

Now, if I can practice what I preach, my teenagers would tell you I have a lot of work to do.

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I have a very helpful one page pdf file titled Blocks To Listening.  It’s a real game changer for both our personal and professional lives.  I thought I was a decent communicator—I learned that I was way off the mark in so many ways.  E-mail me to request a copy.

The Town Neck Company

town neck black and white with image

Today I’m working on finalizing a design for The Town Neck Company. It’s a small business our kids have run the last few years. We helped them start it to bring attention our much loved rocky, cold, Cape Cod Bay (Massachusetts) barrier beach that’s at risk (and teach them a few things about business). There isn’t much sand left and the erosion from the last few years of devastating storms has caused a lot of damage and breaches. This week we found out that we didn’t get a grant for sand replacement that would’ve bought us some time. The whole town of Sandwich could flood if something isn’t done to nourish our barrier beach. We’ve worked with The Trustees of Sandwich Beaches. This organization has done so much to bring attention to TOWN NECK BEACH.

http://www.trusteesofsandwichbeaches.org/

This is a possibility for a canvas tote bag design that our 14 year old girls and their cousin will be selling this summer. I’m having a little trouble with the intricacy of the design and how the printer can work with the dotted nature of the illustration. It may end up looking nothing like this, but I wanted to share it because it’s what I’ve been spending the most creative energy on the most lately.

Here’s to design, beaches, advocacy, awareness and summer!

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