Logic & Reason – Argumentation Overview

Main Idea: Argumentation is the process of giving reasons for our claims. It combines concern for how messages influence people (rhetoric), sound logical reasoning (logic) and a process of discovering and testing knowledge through questions and answers (Dialectic).

What is Argumentation? 

When we talk about arguing, we aren’t talking about fighting or being contentious.  The technical definition of Arguing is simply reason giving.  Since so much in the world is uncertain, we make claims that we believe are true and would like others to accept as true.  We often argue about what we should value or how we should act which are inherently uncertain. Rationality is the ability to give reasons for our claims.  We usually give reasons for our claims that will appeal to the audience we are speaking to, but sometimes that audience is ourselves.

To engage in an argument, people need to have a common frame of reference or have relatively similar worldviews.  If people have drastically different worldview then reason giving is unlikely to influence either person.  Argumentation is the process through which people who have mutually exclusive positions seek to resolve the disagreement.  For a true argument to occur, each party tries to convince the other of their claims by giving reasons for those claims but each must remain open to influence from the other.  This takes courage, since remaining open to influence may mean you need to change your worldview or you may lose face by appearing “wrong” to the audience.

The field of Argumentation combines three things: Rhetoric, logic and dialectic.  Rhetoric is the study of how messages influence people, logic is the study of the form and structure of reasoning and dialectic is the process of discovering and testing knowledge through questions and answers. Argumentation is not supposed to be adversarial but cooperative as the goal of the dialectic is to take a thesis and an antithesis and through argumentation create a synthesis that is a better position than when each side began.

Formal and Informal Logic

There are two major forms of logical reasoning: deductive and inductive reasoning.

Deductive Reasoning: While most people think deductive reasoning means moving from general to specific, it actually means that a given conclusion follows naturally from a premise without any new information being added.  This means that deduction simply involves rearranging knowledge and does not tell us anything new.   It is analytic in that it need not be factual or refer to the external world.  With deductive reasoning, we can achieve certainty but at the cost of limited relevance to everyday life.

The syllogism is the basic model we use for deductive reasoning which involves having two premises and a conclusion. There are three common types of syllogisms that include:

  1. Categorical Syllogisms: These contain statements that relate categories to other categories and use all, some or none to define quantity.  For example, All politicians are compromisers, all compromisers are immoral. Therefore, all politicians are immoral.
  2. Conditional Syllogisms:  These take an “if-then” form in which the if is the antecedent and the then is the consequent. An argument is sound if it affirms the antecedent or denies the consequent.  It is unsound if it affirms the consequent or denies the antecedent.

a.)  You affirm the consequent when you assume that because the conclusion occurred your premise is true.  This is the failure to rule out alternative explanations and to hastily jump to a specific cause.

b.) You deny the antecedent when you assume that because the premise didn’t occur, the conclusion can’t happen either.  This is the failure to understand there may be multiple causes of an event.

3. Disjunctive Syllogisms:  These take an “either-or” format and involve accepting or rejecting an option and then drawing a conclusion about the other.

Inductive Reasoning: Inductive reason simply means that the conclusions we draw from a premise contain new information and therefore rely on probability and not certainty.  With inductive reasoning, we achieve relevance to everyday life by sacrificing certainty. Almost all of the reasoning we engage in is inductive  and involves moving from a known premise to an unknown conclusion by making inferential leaps.

Reasoning vs Rationalizing: Reasoning involves starting with a premise and then following it to its natural conclusion.   Rationalizing is the inverse of reasoning and involve starting with a conclusion and working backwards to determine a premise that justifies that conclusion. Humans rationalize a lot more than they reason.

The Basic Structure of an Argument

The basic structure of an individual argument consists of:

i.) A claim: that which you are asking the audience to accept as truth.
ii.) Evidence or reasons why the claim is true.
iii.) An inference linking the evidence to the claim, and
iv.) A warrant that justifies the inference.

While arguing is one way to resolve disputes we can also use empirical methods, submit to an authority, deduce answers from what we know or rely on personal judgment.  When we don’t argue we can simply deny, ignore or immediately assent to a claim.

There are four common types of claims that people make:

i.) Claim of Fact: These are descriptions that can be independently verified by others and may relate to the past, present or future.
ii.) Claim of Definition: These are claims concerning how something should be interpreted such as what category something should belong to. Definitions are not neutral and have certain connotations.
iii.) Claim of Value: These are claims of judgment, appraisal or evaluation. These are claims about how important something is either in absolute terms or relative to other things.
iv.) Claims of Policy: These are claims about how we should act or what should be done. Congress frequently argue about policy claims or what actions should be taken in response to significant issues.

Stages of Argumentation: Argumentation simply involves moving through the four levels of an argument. A claim is advanced and if it isn’t accepted then an argument begins. Next, the person making the claim has to produce evidence for it. If the evidence isn’t accepted the argument moves to examining the inference linking the evidence to the claim.  And then if that inference isn’t accepted the argument moves to the warrant linking the inference to the evidence.

The Complex Structure of an Argument

Most arguments are complex in that they involve multiple claims. There are three common complex structures of arguments:

i.) Series Structure: In this structure, each successive argument depends on the other arguments and all must be valid to support the resolution.  For example: The claim: “Beth will do well in school” may be supported by the following structure: People who do their homework consistently do well in school –>Beth does her homework consistently–>Therefore Beth will do well in school.

i.) Parallel (or multiple) structure: In this structure, each argument is independent of the others but each is strong enough to carry the resolution itself.  For example, Jack is ha good person.   He gives to the poor—>He sacrifices for his family—>He honors and obeys the law.

iii.) Convergent (or coordinative) structure: In this structure, each argument is independent and gives strength to the resolution but is not enough in itself to carry the resolution. For example, Jack is highly intelligent.   He does well in school–>He is a quick learner–>He retains what he learns.

Constructing a Case

A case is a set of arguments that are meant to support or oppose a resolution.  A resolution is a conclusion about a controversial issue.    A case has to appear to be reasonable and persuasive on its face which is the “prima facia” burden of proof that must be met in order for an argument to begin.  If a case sounds ridiculous at first glance then it is usually dismissed for failing to satisfy this standard.  If the case meets the prima facia standard then the respondent must give a rejoinder which is a response to the case. The burden of rejoinder is meant to keep the discussion going and to avoid repeating the same things over and over.

When constructing your case select the strongest arguments which are those arguments the audience is most likely to find persuasive and the arguments most relevant to your resolution.   Amplitude refers to the number and range of arguments you choose to employ.

“Topoi” is the term that refers to the common issues that result from each of the four claims referred to earlier.  These are the “places” that arguments tend to go when dealing with each type of claim.

i.) Resolutions of Fact Topoi: What is the criterion for assessing truth? Has the criterion been satisfied?
ii.) Resolutions of Definition Topoi: Is the interpretation relevant? Is it fair? How should we choose among different interpretations?
iii.) Resolutions of Value Topoi: Is the value truly as good or bad as alleged? Which among competing values should be preferred? Has the value been properly applied to the specific situation?
iv.) Resolutions of Policy Topoi: Is there a problem? Where is credit or blame due? Will the proposal solve the problem? Will the proposal be better than some alternative or the current policy?

Stasis or Main Dispute

A Stasis is the focal point of a dispute and is “the resting place between two opposing forces.”  To resolve an argument, the stasis must be resolved.  There are Four Categories of Stasis which we will now examine using the following example:  A person is accused of stealing a car.

i.) Stasis in conjecture concerns whether an act occurred. “I didn’t steal your car.”
ii.) Stasis in definition concerns what the act should be called. “I didn’t steal your car, I just borrowed it.”
iii.) Stasis in quality concerns whether the act is justified. “I stole your car to rush someone to the hospital.”
iv.) Stasis in place concerns whether the discussion is occurring in the proper forum. “If you think I stole your car, file a lawsuit and don’t accuse me here.”

Stasis is Progressive which means that each type of stasis concedes the one’s that occur before it. . For example, if you are arguing that stealing a car was justified (stasis in quality) then you are conceding the act occurred (you did take it) and that the definition is correct (you did steal it).   The one exception is stasis in place which may not concede the rest and is just a way of saying this isn’t the right place to argue.  You want to focus on the point of stasis closest to the beginning as possible so that you don’t concede what you don’t need to.

The following questions can help you identify the stasis in almost any argument:

i.) Ill – Is there a problem? (Conjecture)  Is the problem being defined correctly (Definition) & Is the problem great enough to warrant change (quality)
ii.) Blame – Who is to blame? (Conjecture) Is blame warranted or is this hindsight? (Definition) & Should we consider other circumstances? How culpable are they? (Quality)
iii.) Cure – What potential solutions exist? (Conjecture) Will the solutions work? (Definition) & How much of the problem will be solved (Quality)
iv.) Cost – What costs accompany the solution? (Conjecture) Are they real costs as opposed to the costs of doing nothing? (Definition)   Are the costs worth it? (Quality)

Attacking and Defending Arguments

Nuance: Nuance refers to subtle distinctions and differences in meaning. A nuanced argument is thus one that is qualified by subtle distinctions and differences.  Nuance is important because it insulates our argument from attacks. An argument that is too general is easily attacked while the more specific an argument is the harder it is to attack.

Qualifiers: A qualifier is a limit or condition on a claim. Good cases have lots of qualifiers and the best argument is the narrowest version of the claim you need for an effective argument.  For example, the statement “debt is evil” is a broad claim with very little nuance. It wouldn’t be hard  to point out instances in which this is not true such as emergencies, mortgages, investment capital etc… A nuanced version of this argument might be: “Unneeded consumer debt is frequently harmful.” There are several qualifiers in this argument that narrow the claim to make it easier to defend. You now don’t have to defend against some of the good uses of debt previously identified. (https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/the-art-of-debate.html)

The Burden of rejoinder is met through attacking the other person’s arguments and defending your own.  When you attack, you need to choose what you will focus on and what you will ignore.  You can attack the claim, evidence, inference, warrant or context of the entire argument.  There are 6 common forms of attack that include:

i.) Asking a question: You can ask questions about the argument but answers generally nullify these attacks.
ii.) Identify Internal Deficiencies: Show that the argument does not meet the burden of proof.
iii.) Identify inconsistencies: This can cast doubt on the sincerity of the arguer or the rigor of his thought process.
iv.) Labeling the opponent’s argument strategy can cast doubt on the sincerity of the individual to engage in critical reasoning and resolve the disagreement.
v.) Using a counterargument: You can deny the claim through a counter-argument, force the opponent to choose among mutually exclusive claims or you can define a point of stasis.
vi.) Re-contextualizing the argument: This involves putting the argument in a larger context to make it seem deficient.

Defending arguments usually involves doing one of the following five things. Be careful not to let the attack become the focus of the argument instead of your original claim.

i.) One can demonstrate that the attack is inapplicable to the case.
ii.) One can argue that the attack is of trivial consequence.
iii.) One can argue that the attack is inadequately established.
iv.) One can argue the attack is simply wrong.
v.) You can anticipate what attacks will be made against your arguments and you can address them in your original argument.

Refutation Strategies

i.) Reductio ad absurdum suggests that if the argument were accepted it would lead to ridiculous conclusions. (Ketchup is a vegetable could be an example as it leads to ridiculous conclusions like: “relish is a protein.”)
ii.) Turning the tables in an argument means you take the other persons claims and show how they actually support your argument. For example, If a person claims building more airports will reduce congestion and increase safety the other person responds: “If safety is your goal, increasing regulations will do that much better than more airports.”
iii.) Dilemmas: You can try and frame the opponents claim so that he must choose between two undesirable alternatives. For example, if the goal is to reduce the budget you could say you can only do so by cutting social security or the military both unattractive to lots of people.
iv.) Argument from residues: This occurs when you identify your opponents position by eliminating all other possibilities. Similar to the dilemma, you can list unattractive options and say you are only left with one option.
v.) Argument a fortiori suggests that what is true of the lesser is true of the greater, or vice versa.

Language and Style

Language is not neutral but is a strategic resource in the argument. For example, if you have copied someone’s work you could definite it as “fraud” or “careless” both of which have very different consequences. A Persuasive definition is a definition that associates something with either positive or negative connotations.  For example, the “death tax” is a persuasive definition for what is often called the “estate tax.”  How you define something determines who is involved in the debate.

Unclear Definitions: When definitions are unclear, many fallacies of meaning can result. However, using unclear definitions can be used to your advantage, to appeal to more people and give more flexibility.  Use operational definitions, metaphors and analogies or antonyms to help clarify definitions.

i.) Equivocation occurs when you use the same word to achieve different meanings in the same argument. Using “love” numerous times with slightly different meanings is an example.
ii.) Ambiguity occurs when we don’t know the intended meaning of a term with multiple meanings.
iii.) Amphiboly occurs when we don’t know the intended meaning of a phrase with multiple meanings.
iv.) Vagueness occurs when a term is used that does not have a clear meaning in the situation.
v.) Heaps and slippery slopes occur when imprecise boundaries are seen as not existing at all. Heaps happen when because we can’t identify the point of change we say there is no change (it’s hard to tell when exactly a person shifted to having grey hair). A slippery slope occurs when we say since it’s hard to tell when change will stop it will never stop.


The content in this section is a summary of the following course: https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/argumentation-the-study-of-effective-reasoning-2nd-edition.html

Logic & Reason – Evaluating Arguments

Evaluating Evidence

Evidence answers the question “How do you know that this is true?”  When evaluating evidence, consider the following questions:  Is this true 100% of the time?  Was there ever a time this wasn’t true?  How could this view be proven false?  Is there enough evidence to convict this thought in a court of law?

Since evidence is an important part of an argument, it is crucial to learn how to evaluate the evidence people give for their claims.  There are four major types of evidence:

i.) Examples (Anecdotes): These are specific experiences that support the claim. Anecdotes can elicit strong emotions but can never prove cause and effect and you can generate anecdotes for almost any claim.
ii.) Statistics: Statistics are generalized conclusions about certain populations of people, situations or events drawn through the scientific method.  They differ from anecdotes in that they have a large enough sample size that is selected randomly and in a controlled way.
iii.) Tangible objects: These are physical objects that act as proof. This includes documents, records and personal possessions.
iv.) Testimony: A testimony is a witness that something is true.  We rely on the testimony of experts in areas that are outside our scope of expertise.  You need to evaluate the credibility of a witness in terms of competence, trustworthiness, track record, consensus and good will.
v.) Social consensus: And the final type of evidence to consider is the opinion of society as a whole and includes shared values, assumptions and worldviews.  The test here is whether a critical audience of informed peers would accept our conclusions and the evidence we give for them or not.

After you have brainstormed and listed all the evidence that supports your belief, you would then move on and do the same thing with evidence that contradicts your belief.  This is usually the much more difficult as people tend to struggle with recognizing why their beliefs might not be true.

After brainstorming and listing all of the evidence that you can come up with you need to evaluate each piece of evidence and give it a rating on a scale from 1-10.   Consider the limitations of anecdotes, check for statistical data, examine tangible objects, evaluate the credibility of testimonies and compare your belief to social consensus.  Once each piece of evidence is evaluated, assign an overall score to each category.  As a general guide, each category of evidence can be worth 20% and the total of all categories will form the final grade.  A belief with strong evidence will be ranked from 7-10, ambiguous or moderate evidence will score between 5-6 and weak evidence will score between 0-4.  Here are some other guidelines to consider when evaluating evidence:

  1. Weak Evidence – This kind of evidence is subjective, few people would believe it and a judge would throw it out in court. This includes rumors, opinions, hearsay and speculation.
  2. Moderate Evidence – This kind of evidence is somewhat objective but there isn’t enough of it or it is ambiguous and could mean many other things. An example might be: “It happened before” or “Other people agreed with me.”
  3. Strong Evidence – This kind of evidence relies on the facts and avoidance speculation, narrative and interpretation. Few people would contest this kind of evidence and it would achieve broad social consensus.

Another model suggests that we can use evidence to either describe, evaluate or prescribe a particular response.

i.) Descriptive evidence involves simplifying complicated phenomena. It simply describes something to an audience.
ii.) Evaluative evidence involves assessing instead of describing solutions. A case study is an example of this kind of evidence.
iii.) Prescriptive evidence argues in favor of a certain course of action. Instead of describing or assessing it prescribes a particular response.

Evaluating Inferences

Just like we can evaluate claims and evidence, we can evaluate the inferences that link a evidence to a claim.  There are six common patters of inference that include:

i.) Inference From Example: This involves reasoning from parts to whole (generalizing) or whole to parts (Classifying).

a.) Generalization: We generalize when we say: “What is true of the parts is probably true of the whole.”   Statistical generalizations are evaluated in terms of sample size and representativeness. Anecdotal generalizations are evaluated in terms of the number and range of examples given, presence of counter-examples and representativeness.  We can make the fallacy of composition when we assume that what is true of the parts HAS to be true of the whole.

b.) Classification: Conversely we classify when we say “what is true of the whole must be true of the parts.”  The test for this is: “Does the member really belong in the general class or is this member an exception?” We can make the fallacy of division when we assume that what is true of the whole HAS to be true of the parts.

ii.) Inference from Analogy: This involves reasoning by making comparisons as we assume that like things should be treated alike. We can therefore compare something new to something we know and treat them the same. There are literal and figurative analogies:

a.) Literal Analogy: This involves making a direct comparison between objects ,events and situations in the same sphere of reality. The assumption is that because something worked in a similar situation, it should work here.  The judicial analogy is an argument that we should stick to past precedent when dealing with new situations. A super analogy occurs when we say that ‘because we acted this way in this lesser circumstance we must act this way in this greater circumstance.’
b.) Figurative Analogy: This involves comparing the relationships amongst things and not the things themselves as they are in different spheres of reality.  For example, cutting social security because we can’t afford it is like burning the barn down to kill the rats.  Both are examples of the cure being worst than the problem.   Analogies are tested to see if the essential similarities outweigh the differences and if the answer is no then a false analogy has been presented.

iii.) Inference from Sign: This involves recognizing and predicting correlations.  The assumption is that since one thing exists it usually predicts the other exists.  Infallible signs are rare as most signs are fallible and rely on probability instead of certainty.  For example, if you score well on tests it is assumed that you are smart.   We use this inference in three ways: inferring the unknown from the known (we know your test score, not your IQ),  predicting outcomes without explanations (studying correlates with higher test scores) and relying on the expertise of others (education is a sign one is informed).

a.) Tests: Evaluate how strong the correlation is? Are there countersigns that also exist that may signify something else? Does the sign also correlate with other outcomes?  Is the person assuming causation instead of correlation?

iv.) Cause: This involves inferring that one thing causes another.  A prediction involves reasoning that a cause will lead to an effect while an explanation involves trying to explain an effect by identifying a potential cause.  Causal inferences rely on probability and not certainty, since we can’t directly observe what happens.   There are three types of causes: A sufficient cause means a single factor can predict the outcomes.  A necessary cause means that the factor must be present for the outcome to occur.  A contributory cause means that a factor increases the probability of a cause but isn’t enough in itself.

a.) Tests: We use scientific experiments in which two things are alike in every way except one and then attribute differences in outcome to the difference we controlled for.  Quantitative approaches involve doing a regression analysis to determine how much of the variance is attributable to each variable.  We also userhetorical approaches to identify causes and providing arguments for why they should be considered causes.  Look for the post-hoc fallacy which involves: “Since y happened after x, x must have caused y.”  Look for other causes or other effects from the claimed cause.  Look for counteracting causes which reverse the effects of something.
b.) Three Criteria: Temporal Precedence (cause occurs first), Co-variation of cause and effect (when cause doesn’t occur, neither does the effect) and elimination of alternative explanations. Does the identified cause meet these three criteria?

v.) Commonplaces: This involves making inferences based on social knowledge our audience accepts as true.  The inference is that  because it is accepted as true by the audience, it’s okay to state it as true.

a.) Pragmatism vs Principle: Pragmatism involves making choices based on consequences and principle is making choices based on enduring principles.
b.) Quantity vs Quality: Quantity means we focus on the greatest good for the most people at the least cost.  Quality means we focus on achieving the best outcome for specific people in specific situations.

vi.) Form: Making inferences from what looks like deduction but it is not.  These include dilemmas, arguments from hypothesis and reasoning from comparisons.

a.) Dilemmas: A situation in which two unattractive choices are given as the only options.  Determine if this is afalse dilemma in that other options actually exist that aren’t being named.
b.) The argument from hypothesis: resembles the conditional syllogism (if-then) but actually isn’t. Testing your hypothesis and  getting the result isn’t enough to determine cause as you need to rule out alternative explanations.  This would be affirming the consequent which is a fallacy.
c.) The third common form is reasoning from comparisons which involves making imprecise comparisons such as: “Are you better off today than last year?” such things are hard to measure.

vii.) Hybrid Patterns: This involves reasoning by rules, values and dissociations.

a.) Reasoning with Rules: “If condition x occurs then y is required, permitted or forbidden.”  This involves use of the judicial analogy (past precedent) and classifying a current situation as fitting into a category of situations. The tests include: Do the facts of the case justify activating the rule? Have all aspects of the case been considered? Is the rule being misapplied? Is the rule consistent with past precedent? Is the rule realistic and appropriate?
b.) Reasoning with Values: Most arguments about values are about where in the hierarchy a value should be rather than whether something is inherently good or bad.  You can argue that one value subsumes another and allows accepting both.  You can argue that a value leads to better consequences or promotes even more important values to both sides.  You can also argue that one value is more supported by the experts.
c.) Reasoning with Dissociation’s: This means taking a single concept and dividing it into two concepts, one of which has more value.  You then suggest your position is associated with the greater value and your opponents with the lesser. You then associate it with a philosophical pair which may include appearance/reality, letter/spirit and opinion/truth.  Tests include: Are the two parts of the concept really distinct or are they the same? Is the philosophical pair correct in which part should be more valued? Does the dissociation really reframe the controversy?

Validity and Fallacies

A strong argument is one that would convince an audience exercising critical judgment. We should also ensure our arguments are valid in that they follow patterns that experience has shown lead to good results.  The following is a list of fallacies to avoid:

1.) For inferences from example, valid arguments avoid these fallacies:

a.) They avoid hasty generalizations.
b.)  They avoid unrepresentative samples.
c.)  They avoid the fallacy of composition.
d.) They avoid the fallacy of division.

2.) For inferences from analogy, an argument is valid if the similarities of the analogy outweigh the differences.

3.) For inferences from sign, valid arguments satisfy the following tests:

a.) The sign and the thing signified generally occur together.
b.) The sign does not appear by itself, without the thing signified.
c.) There are not obvious countersigns.
d.) The same sign does not herald opposite things.
e.) The relationship is not mere coincidence.
f.)  Sign is not confused with cause.

4.) For inferences from cause, valid arguments will avoid the following errors:

a.) They avoid confusing sign with cause.
b.)  They avoid failing to identify a common cause.
c.)  They avoid confusing temporality with causality.
d.)  They avoid confusing cause with effect.
e.) They do not ignore multiple causes or multiple effects.
f.) They do not ignore intervening or counteracting causes.

5.) Valid inferences from commonplaces will show that the commonplace applies to the situation at hand more than do any competing commonplaces.

6.) For inferences from form, valid arguments are those that recognize the conclusion is based on probability and not certainty.

Identifying Fallacies of Clarity
Many fallacies result from a deficiencies in clarity caused by the imprecision of language.

i.) Equivocation is using the same word to convey different meanings in the same argument.
ii.) Ambiguity results when we aren’t sure what specific meaning a term has.
iii.) Amphiboly results when we aren’t sure what specific meaning a phrase has.
iv.) Vagueness results when terms or phrases are used that do not have specific meanings.
v.) Heaps and slippery slopes result when boundary lines aren’t specified. With heaps you can’t tell when something has changed and with slippery slopes any change becomes a difference in kind. The Fallacy is that something can’t stop once it has started.
vi.) False Equivalence: Focusing on a few attributes between things and then pretending they are the same. For example, both cats and dugs are fluffy, so they are basically the same.
vii.) No True Scotsman: This is a form of circular reasoning and is illustrated with the following example: Someone says “All True Scotsmen are brave” but then an example of a cowardly Scotsman is pointed out and the person responds: “Then he is no true Scotsman.”

Identifying Errors of Vacuity
Errors of vacuity are empty arguments that do not provide sufficient proof for claims.

i.) Circular reasoning occurs when evidence for the claim is simply the claim in different language or the evidence presupposes the claim to be true.
ii.) Begging the question occurs when claims are made that depend upon other claims that have not yet been established as true. “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”
iii.) Red Herring: Sometimes claims are simply ignored and irrelevant material becomes the focus of an argument. The name comes from fox hunts, when red herrings would lead dogs off fox trails.
iv.) A non sequitur is an argument where there is no connection between the claim and the evidence given for it. The term means “it does not follow” and simply means there is no inference linking evidence to claim.
v.) A “straw man” occurs when an opponent changes your argument to make it weaker and attacks the “straw man” argument instead.
vi.) A self-sealing argument is one that cannot be proven false because opposing results will still confirm it. It is an unfalsifiable claim.

Identifying Fallacies of Relevance
These fallacies point to something that has nothing to do with the relationship between claim and evidence.

a.) Ad hominem arguments involve attacking the person rather than the argument the person is making.
b.) Appeals to authority are fallacious when the authority has no basis to claim expertise in a given area.
c.) Appeals to popularity (“bandwagon effect”) occur when a claims popularity is used as evidence in place of real evidence that would support the claim.
d.) Appeals to tradition occur when a claim is taken as true just because it’s what traditionally has been true.
e.) Appeals to ignorance occur when you assert that a claim that cannot be disproven must therefore be true.
f.) Appeals to inappropriate emotion occur when strong emotions are elicited that interfere with arguments.
g.) Threats can also be used in place of arguments to coerce agreement.
h.) Appeal to Consequences: Believing or disbelieving something based on whether you like the consequences or not. “I don’t want to live in a world where children starve to death so it can’t be true.”
i.) Poisoning the well: You don’t address the argument directly but try to associate it with something unpopular.
j.) Moving the Goal Posts: When you change the criteria for accepting a claim after the criteria are met to avoiding having to accept it. “I will believe your theory if it is replicated three times.” After the experiment is replicated three times the person may move the goal posts: “Five more replications and I will believe.”
k.) False dichotomy: Oversimplifying things by presenting a false dichotomy and ignoring grades in the middle or other options.  “You either agree with my policy or you are a racist.”

When Fallacies aren’t Fallacies
There are circumstances where many of these “fallacies” are actually appropriate arguments. For example, Ad Hominem attacks can be appropriate under certain circumstances:

a.) The bad character (or “abusive”) type of argument asserts that a person who makes a claim is untrustworthy.
b.) The circumstantial type asserts that the person making the claim does not act consistently with it.
c.) The bias type asserts that the person has a vested interest in a certain claim being true and therefore biased.
d.) My idea is sacrosanct: This argument states that an idea is too sacred and does not need to be defended.

There are also times where you can inappropriately accuse something of using a fallacious argument.

a.) The “fallacy fallacy:” This occurs when you believe that proving a certain argument is fallacious means what you are arguing for is false.  An argument for something can be invalid and yet that invalid thing can still e true.

b.) The Nominal-Fallacy Fallacy:  This occurs when you simply name a fallacy and believe it has invalidated an argument. For example an appeal to authority is sometimes valid and sometimes it isn’t yet you could always just say “appeal to authority” to try to shut someone down.

The best fallacies can do: Your argument instantiates a form which may or may not be an error; therefore it is in error!“ “Arguments can be fallacious and still valid. An argument is valid if it can get from point A to point B by any possible route; it is invalid only if one cannot rationally get from A to B at all.  If there is a valid route from A to B, it doesn’t matter whether there is an invalid route from A to B, or many, or an infinite number (which there are: there are always an infinite number of invalid routes from A to B you can propose).”

Source: https://lastedenblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/11/fallacies-arent-what-you-think-they-are-and-they-arent-very-useful/

Argument Settings

There are three main spheres within which arguments take place:

i.) The Personal Sphere: People argue through dialogue and are motivated to resolve personal disagreements relevant only to them. Only those involved evaluate each other’s arguments.
ii.) Technical Sphere: These arguments occur between experts in highly specific fields and their arguments are accessible by other experts.
iii.) The Public Sphere: These arguments occur over issues that affect everybody and ideally everybody would have access to these arguments.

Logic & Reason – Debate

What is a debate? 

Debates differ from arguments in that they are formal and structured and have the following key components:

i.) Debates involve equal opportunities for all participants to speak.
ii.) Alternating speeches: Each side gets equal time to present their case.
iii.) Agreement on the topic to be argued about.
iv.) A neutral third party who agrees to be a judge. The judge renders an RFD or reason for decision at the end of the debate declaring who won and why.

Debate is useful for the following reasons:

i.) Debate enhances brainstorming: Brainstorming without debate isn’t very effective. Debate allows for critical analysis of every idea.
ii.) Debate creates nuance. When ideas interact they refine each other to the point where we end up with best and most nuanced arguments.
iii.) Debate clarifies values: Debate helps us determine what should be valued while a simple pros and cons list does not. Debate helps us resolve competing values.

The proposition is the statement that each side develops that either affirms or denies something.  The proposition is simple and direct and does not suggest or advocate for a particular solution.  The debate centers around which proposition should be adopted.   The ideal proposition is deliberative (future based) and as nuanced as possible. Both sides should also agree to the point of stasis in advance.

The Process of Debate

Arguing for the Affirmative 

The affirmative side is the side arguing for and proposing change.  In a debate, anyone arguing for change has the burden of proof in establishing that there is a problem and that change is necessary. It does not fall to the opposing side to prove there isn’t a problem. The affirmative side has certain obligations it must fulfill.

i.) Demonstrate that their arguments are relevant to resolving the controversy: The affirmative must show that they can resolve the problem they have identified.  The other team can try to show the person is too off topic.
ii.) Indict the status quo: The affirmative also has the burden of showing how the status quo is problematic and inferior to change.  Anytime you change the status quo you are assuming risk. Thus, in business and in most areas of life, the status quo is always presumed to be the best option until proved otherwise.  If the affirmative fails in this then the negative doesn’t even need to respond.  You can indict the status quo by pointing out this is popular opinion that things aren’t working, by raising consciousness about why things aren’t working or by giving evidence that predicts things will get worse in the future if things aren’t changed now.
iii.) Offer a proposal to rectify the problems with the status quo: The affirmative must not only indict the status quo but must offer solutions to solving the problems identified.  The proposal must be relevant to solving the problem, must be feasible and must be within the power of the agent of the resolution to perform (must have authority to act).

Arguing for the Negative

The only role of the negative in a debate is to prove that the affirmative’s proposal is a bad idea.  They can point out the disadvantages, opportunity costs and unintended consequences of adopting change.  They can also list counter-proposals that they suggest would solve the problem better. They can also attack the unarticulated assumptions behind the case. They can even attack the idea that there is anything wrong with the status quo or the idea that the solution will even work (solvency).

Cross-examination is a question-answer session that happens during the debate. It is done to ensure each side comprehends each others arguments, allows for identifying holes in arguments and engages the audience.

Leading questions suggest the answer to the question in the question itself. A good leading question can force an opponent to agree with the argument and can help control the conversation in the way that you
want. They should be concise and lead to a concession from the opponent.  To respond to a leading question, refute the premise or ask to clarify and reframe the question.

Open-Ended questions can make the opponent get off track and contradict himself over time.

Persuasive Rebuttals: Rebuttals are used to transition from attack to assessing your opponents arguments. The three characteristics of a rebuttal are assessment, organization and emotional appeal.

i.) Assessment: Defend your premise and challenge your opponents attacks on your case.
ii.) Organization: Defend against attacks before the opponents claims.  Focus on near-term problems first, turn the tables if possible and address how much of the problem would really be solved.
iii.) Emotional Appeal: Talk about values and connect with the audience.

Reason for Decision: At the end of the debate the judge gives a clear explanation as to why one side won the debate.

Debate Tactics

Flipping the Warrant:  Deny the connection between evidence and claim, argue the proposal will make things worse and then argue the opposite of what the opponent argued.  For example, the claim carbon taxes will reduce emissions can be flipped in the follow way: 1.) Challenge the connection between carbon taxes and reduced emissions. 2.) Suggest the carbon tax will make emissions worse. 3.) Argue that governments should incentivize production to speed the transition to renewable energy.

Defending Against the Warrant: If an opponent tries to flip the warrant you will have re-establish the strength of the warrant by pointing to some evidence linking carbon taxes to reduced emissions. Then you have to give evidence that your proposal won’t make things worse (carbon taxes won’t lead to more emissions) and then argue that the opposite proposal of the government incentivizing production would be harmful.

Making Concessions: A concession involves sacrificing a claim in order to gain other advantages such as credibility or flexibility.  You can concede an argument to refocus the debate where you want orto move away from weaker arguments.

Line by Line Refutation: It is a general rule in debates that if you don’t’ address an opponent’s argument you are conceding it. Thus it is a form of concession to ignore an argument. Attacking arguments line by line prevent unwanted concessions.

Arguing from Abstraction: Arguing from abstraction is one way that you can debate with others without it being threatening. This means adding a level of abstraction to an argument to depersonalize it. Instead of saying you agree with something you can say: “What do you think about this argument.” This lets you demonstrate your knowledge of the controversy and the positions on each side without taking a position yourself.


The  information in this post is taken from the following course: https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/the-art-of-debate.html

Learning – Observational Learning

Observational Learning 

New behaviors are acquired through two major kinds of learning: observational learning and enactive learning. Observational learning involves observing and then copying the behavior of a model.  Enactive learning involves thinking about the consequences of our actions and then acting accordingly.

Observational Learning
While a lot of learning occurs through direct experience, people can also learn through observing others. Bandura said: “If knowledge could be acquired only through the effects of one’s own actions, the process of cognitive and social development would be greatly retarded, not to mention exceedingly tedious.” If we could only learn through direct experience, we could not benefit from the experience of others and our growth truly would be a lot slower.

Observation allows a person to learn something without having to actually perform a behavior. This happens all the time when people observe a model’s behavior either being rewarded or punished. Thus the person can learn what to avoid by seeing someone else be punished for it.

A model is a person who demonstrates a behavior for an observer. Modeling has 4 steps:

i.) Attention: The observer sees the model perform the activity. You have to pay attention to a model in order to learn from them.
ii.) Representation: The observer stores what was observed in memory. Translating what was observed to words allows repeated rehearsal in the mind
iii.) Behavioral Production: The observer then performs the behavior and
iv.) Motivation: The observer needs to be motivated to continue performing the behavior.

People are more likely to model the behavior of some people over others. Several factors contribute to the outcome that include:
1. The Characteristics of the model: People model high-status, competent and power people as opposed to low-status, incompetent and powerless ones. You are also more likely to pay attention to those you frequently see, who are attractive, popular and who do things you think are important.
2. The Characteristics of the Observer: Observers who lack status, skill or power are more likely to model others compared to observers who have status, skill and power. Children and novices model more than adults and experts do.
3. The Consequences of the Modeled Behavior: Behavior that produces clear and powerful consequences is more likely to be learned from. For example, if a behavior is only mildly rewarding it is less likely to be copied compared to behavior that results in clear and strong rewards.

Enactive Learning:
Humans are also able to learn by simply thinking about the consequences of a behavior. Consequences tell us what effects our actions are likely to have. Foresight is the ability to judge the likely effects of our actions and to therefore act accordingly. You don’t need to become cold before putting on a coat as you can use foresight to see that if you don’t put on a coat the consequence will be feeling cold during the winter.

Source: Info adapted from: Feist, J., & Feist, G. J. (2009). Theories of Personality (7th ed.) New York: McGraw-Hill

Predicting Behavior

We can predict which behaviors are likely in a situation by determining how likely that person believes that behavior will be reinforced and how valuable that reinforcement is to the person.
The Psychologists Rotter & Mischel developed a formula for predicting behavior. It consists of four different parts: Behavioral Potential, Expectancy, Reinforcement Value & Psychological Situation.

1. Behavior Potential: Behavior potential refers to the possibility that a particular behavior will occur at a given time and place. Several potentials exist of varying strengths in certain
situations. For example, if a person is walking down the street near a restaurant several potential behaviors are possible: ignoring the restaurant, stopping and eating etc…

2. Expectancy: This refers to a person’s expectation that a certain behavior will be rewarded. Learning history, distortions, expectations, fantasies and many other variables contribute to
our experiences.

A. Generalized expectancies refer to beliefs that certain behaviors are generally rewarded across time or contexts. For example, hard work might be rewarded at work, in school and in relationships.
B. Specific expectancies refer to beliefs that certain behaviors are only rewarded in specific contexts.
C. Total expectancy refers to a persons’ total expectancy of success and encompasses general and specific expectancies. The higher the total expectancy of success the more likely a person is to take action.

3. Reinforcement Value (RV) is the value a person puts on a particular reward when a range of other rewards are equally as likely to occur. For example, when you go to a vending machine each reward has the same chance of occurring so the one you pick is the one you find most rewarding in that situation.

A.  Internal vs. External reinforcement: Something is internally reinforcing if you personally find it rewarding while it is externally reinforcing if your society or culture places value on it.
B. Needs: A specific reward is more rewarding if you are in strong need of it. For example, if you are starving then you will value a sandwich more than if you just ate an hour ago.
C. Consequences: People value rewards according to whether they will lead to more or less rewards in the future. For example, cheating on your spouse might be initially rewarding but the long-term consequences will be a decrease in rewards over time.
D. Goals: People choose to pursuit goals that have the highest reinforcement value to them.

4. Psychological Situation: The final element of the equation is the interaction between a person and his environment called the “Psychological situation.” This just means that people put meaning on the situations they find themselves in.  If situations or environments alone caused behavior then everyone would act the same way in similar situations.
However, it is the personal meaning a person puts on the situation that determine behaviors.

Basic Prediction Formula
The behavior that is selected is determined by a calculation about which behaviors are likely to be rewarded and how strong those rewards are. The behavior that is most likely to be rewarded with the strongest reward will be selected.

BPx1,s1,ra=f (Ex1,ra,s1 + RV a, s1)

This formula is read: The potential for behavior x to occur in situation 1 in relation to reinforcement a is a function of the expectancy that behavior x will be followed by reinforcement a in situation 1 and the value of reinforcement a in situation 1.

Source: Info adapted from: Feist, J., & Feist, G. J. (2009). Theories of Personality (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill

Application of Operant Principles 

This knowledge could be useful for dealing with tantrums.  A mother who presents with “stress” for not knowing how to deal with her child’s tantrums can be educated on operant procedures as a therapeutic intervention.  An example of how a therapist might educate a parent is included below:

“Tantrums are often shaped by how a parent responds to them.  When a parent gives into a child’s demands to keep them quiet they are gaining short-term peace at the expense of long-term chaos.  The child learns that whining will be reinforced and the behavior is strengthened over time.  If the parent decides not to give in then the child will engage in something called “extinction burst” and the tantrum will get worse in the short-term.  This is because whenever behaviors that have been rewarded in the past cease being rewarded we respond by increasing the rate of frequency of those behaviors.  However, if the parent holds out and does not give in then the behavior will “extinguish” or cease to be a problem as it will no longer get the reward the child wants.”

Another clinical example will illustrate the importance of understanding these principles.  Many clients present with “superstitious” behaviors that are maladaptive because they are time-consuming and can interfere with functioning.  From a behavioral perspective, superstition results when a behavior coincidentally occurs before a reinforcer.  The person perceives an illusory correlation and believes the behavior caused the reinforcer.

For example, a client may believe that sending out positive energy for an hour every day will bring her husband back.  However, this behavior is both time-consuming and interferes with her functioning.  After probing for the genesis of this behavior, you may discover that this behavior was superstitiously reinforced because when she did it one day, her husband texted her.  However, the client has probably not considered that this was simply coincidence and that the subsequent ritual she developed was ineffective superstition.  Educating the client on these operant principles can help her gain control of her life again and can help her develop more adaptive ways to achieve her goals in life.

Learned Helplessness & Other Maladaptive Behaviors

Operant procedures can also help you understand maladaptive behaviors such as learned helplessness.  In a landmark study, one researcher performed an experiment where he exposed dogs to inescapable shocks.  After being exposed to these shocks long enough, the dogs became apathetic and ceased to work for reinforcers.  Even when a way to escape the shocks was provided the dogs did not even try to escape.  They had learned that they were “helpless” in the situation and this became a generalized conclusion about themselves.  In a similar experiment, dogs were taught how to escape and given opportunities to do so prior to the experiment.  These dogs did not learn to become helpless and were able to leave the cage.  Thus, depending on learning history, the dogs responded differently to the shocks.

Similarly, many people are put in negative situations that they cannot escape.  They generalize this learning to other contexts in life and conclude that they are generally “helpless.”  This explains why some people, when faced with difficult situations, are able to persevere and overcome while others just give up.  Those who give up, most likely have a learning history of associating effort with a lack of reward.  Understanding this learning history and creating new associations between effort and reward is crucial in re-establishing the client’s self-efficacy.

In summary, you can use operant procedures to extinguish a variety of maladaptive behaviors and to shape new adaptive behaviors.  The general principles are as follow:

i.) Identify Reinforcers of maladaptive behaviors: In order to understand why the problematic behavior is maintained, we need to figure out what exactly is reinforcing about the behavior.  What desirable consequence is this behavior leading to or what negative outcomes is this behavior protecting from?  Think of all of the “secondary gains” that this behavior might be gaining that are not immediately obvious.  For example, being sick can be rewarded through the secondary gain of increased attention.

ii.) Identify possible punishers of maladaptive behaviors: What consequences can be introduced that might decrease the strength of this behavior?  Either introduce aversive consequences or remove rewarding ones to decrease the strength of the behavior.

iii.) Identify adaptive ways to achieve reinforcers: Nature abhors a vacuum and it isn’t enough to simply punish maladaptive behaviors without having new ones to replace them.  After you have discovered why the maladaptive behavior is rewarding, brainstorm healthier ways for the person to gain those same rewards.

iv.) Reinforce new adaptive behaviors:  After the adaptive behaviors have been identified, develop a plan for reinforcing them while continuing to extinguish the old ones.  Remember, something is only reinforcing if it increases the strength of a behavior and punishing if it decreases the strength of a behavior.  What is rewarding or punishing to one person often is not to another.  You need to tailor your reinforcement plans to the idiosyncrasies of individual clients.

Source: Paul Chance, Learning and Behavior (2013) isbn=1285545966

Learning – Punishment

Principles of Operant Punishment

The law of effect says that the strength (frequency, durability) of a behavior depends on the consequences the behavior has had in the past. Thus, behavior is a function of its consequences.
Punishment is the procedure of providing consequences for a behavior that reduce the strength of that behavior. A procedure must have 3 characteristics to qualify as punishment.

A. First, a behavior must have a consequence.
B. Second, the behavior must decrease in strength (occur less often or be less intense).
C. Third, the increase in strength must be the result of the consequence.

There are two types of punishment procedures: Positive and Negative Punishment.

  1. Positive Punishment: This procedure involves introducing an aversive stimulus after an unwanted behavior that decreases the strength of a behavior.  Spanking would be an example of positive punishment as it involves introducing a painful stimulus in order to reduce unwanted behavior. In therapy, showing disapproval towards a piece of evidence the client raises may be an example of positive punishment. This is also know as “aversive training.”
  2. Negative Punishment:  This procedure involves removing a privilege or reward following an unwanted behavior. For example, a parent who takes away a child’s computer time would be using negative punishment. The intent is to change behavior by removing something desirable (Computer). This is also known as “penalty training.”

Like reinforcers, punishers can also be distinguished as either primary or secondary:

1. Primary punishers are those consequences that are naturally undesirable to people. They may include deprivation of physical comforts, under or over-stimulation or anything else that causes pain or discomfort.
2. Secondary punishers are consequences that rely on their association with primary punishers. Some examples would include expressing disappointment, frowning or financial penalties. These are seen as punishers because they predict eventually receiving primary reinforcers. Disappointment from your boss indicates job insecurity which indicates an inability to keep receiving primary reinforcers (food, shelter) into the future.

Guidelines for Using Punishers

Here are seven tips for more effectively using punishers to shape behavior:

1. Contingency: Like reinforcers, punishers are most effective when they reliably follow the behavior you are trying to eliminate. If the punishers are delivered in an inconsistent manner then they will be less effective in weakening behavior.

2. Contiguity: This refers to how much time passes between the behavior and the delivery of the punishment. The sooner the punisher is delivered the more effective it will be. If there is too long of a delay then the person may not associate the behavior with the punisher.

A. In one experiment results showed that immediate shocks suppressed lever pressing in rats very effectively. When shocks followed lever presses by 2 seconds, they were far less effective in suppressing the behaviour; a shock delayed by 30 seconds had even less value.
B. In another study reprimands were effective in suppressing forms of off-task behaviour in which the child interacted with another student, but only the immediate reprimands got results; delayed reprimands were useless.

3. Punisher Intensity: Very mild punishers have little effect. As a general rule, the stronger the punisher is the more powerful it will be in eliminating behavior.  In one study, the result was that the mildest shock had little effect, compared to a no-shock control group, but the strongest shock essentially brought lever pressing to a halt.

4. Punisher Inoculation: Not only are mild punishers ineffective, they can also serve to inoculate the person’s behavior against future punishment. It is as if the mild punisher trains the persons to persist in the behavior despite adverse consequences. You need to be careful not to start with mild punishers because they can cause a far greater level pf punishment to be needed than if you simply started with one intense enough to immediately suppress the behavior. Thus as a general rule, use single strong punishers as opposed to numerous small punishers to weaken behavior.

5. How is the Behavior being rewarded? Sometimes punishment will not work because the behavior is being rewarded in some other way. The strength of the rewards are therefore outweighing the consequences of punishment.  In one study, researchers used a noise to punish lever pressing in rats. When lever pressing was likely to produce food, rats pressed the lever even though doing so also caused a loud noise; when lever pressing didn’t “pay” so well, even a half-second tone reduced lever pressing.

6. Alternative Sources of Reinforcement: Whenever you punish a behavior, try and understand why it was rewarding in the first place and then generate other ways the person can get that reward. For example, if an employee is talking too much to coworkers and distracting them, try to provide alternative outlets where social rewards can be obtained, such as company social events.

7. Deprivation Level: The less deprived a person is the more effective punishment will be. For example, if a person is starving and their attempts to obtain food are punished they will most likely persist in trying to obtain food.

Problems with Punishment

Punishment can have beneficial side effects. In one study, researchers found that autistic kids who were shocked as part of their treatment became more sociable, cooperate, affectionate, smiled more and made more eye contact. It appeared that the punishers made the children happier. However, there are at least 7 problems with using punishment to change behavior.  These problems are:

1. Punishment is reinforcing: We can begin to enjoy delivering punishers because doing so rewards us with decreases in behaviors we don’t like. We should therefore be careful that we don’t overuse punishment as a behavior management tool.

2. Punishment works quickly: Punishing bad behavior is a lot easier than reinforcing good behavior so it can be tempting to overuse it. Punishment does not require the same amount of effort that shaping new behaviors does.

3. Punishment and over suppression: Punishment can also serve to permanently suppress a behavior, which may be undesirable. For example, you may wish to suppress certain behaviors only in certain contexts, but punishment can suppress the behavior across all contexts.

4. Escape: One of the most common responses to punishment is to try and escape it. We can do this in subtle ways like ceasing to pay attention to the punisher. Some people resort to cheating or lying to avoid punishers while others make excuses, cry or feign remorse to get out of punishment. Be careful that these negative behaviors aren’t being rewarded by escaping punishment.

5. Aggression: Some people, instead of trying to escape the punishment, attack the person giving out the punishment. Aggression is very likely if the person believes there’s no way to escape a harsh punishment. However, some people react with aggression towards other people as well. For example, studies show that when two animals live In a cage together and one is shocked the shocked animal will attack its neighbor. If there is no neighbor then the animal will attack objects instead. A natural response to punishment appears to be aggression.

6. Apathy: If the person calculates that neither escape nor attack are likely to be effective than they may just respond with apathy. Apathy is a general suppression of behavior which occurs when there is to many punishers in the environment. If punishment becomes too common, people in your organization may simply respond with apathy which will kill creativity, initiative and passion.  In one study, rats were given the chance to enter one of two tunnels but were punished if they entered a certain one. Interestingly, the rats didn’t respond by entering the tunnel without the shock but instead refused to enter any tunnel. The rat’s behavior had been generally suppressed.

7. Abuse: Too much reliance on punishment can morph into abuse. Be careful that punishers are not too frequent or intense and that they are proportionate to the crime.

8. Imitation of the Punisher: One final problem to consider is that those who are punished tend to mimic the behavior of the punisher. This means that they will seek out ways to punish other people just as a child may begin hitting others if he is spanked by his parents.

Alternatives to Punishment

While it isn’t possible or even desirable to eliminate all punishments, there are several alternatives to managing behavior that are worth consideration.

1. Response prevention: Instead of punishing people for engaging in unwanted behaviors, you can simply prevent those behaviors from occurring by eliminating opportunities in the environment. Look at your environment and restructure it in a way that prevents the behavior from occurring in the first place. For example, instead of punishing employees for talking too much, restructure the desk layout to make talking more difficult.

2. Eliminating Rewards: First, figure out why the problem behavior is rewarding and then try to eliminate those rewards. For example, if a problem employee finds attention from management rewarding, simply cease giving attention to the unwanted behaviors. Over time, the behavior will become “extinct” if the rewards are eliminated. However, this approach can take a lot longer to yield results than using stronger punishers.

3. Differential Reinforcement: Differential reinforcement involves using extinction methods in combination with reinforcement.

A. Differential reinforcement of low rate (DRL): This involves only giving rewards when a behavior is performed infrequently. This can be useful when you only want to reduce a behavior and not eliminate it.
B. Differential reinforcement of zero responding (DRO): Rewards are only given if the behavior isn’t performed for a set amount of time. This is useful for entirely eliminate behaviors.
C. Differential reinforcement of incompatible behaviour (DRI): This involves giving rewards for performing behaviors that are incompatible with unwanted behaviors. For example, if you want to eliminate anger, then give rewards when the person deliberately relaxes. You can’t be angry and relaxed at the same time.
D. Differential Reinforcement of Alternative Behaviour (DRA): This procedure involves identifying alternative ways for the person to get the rewards associated with the problem behavior and then rewarding the person when they use the alternative methods.
This method is considered very effective and is desirable because it focuses on strengthening healthy behaviors instead of suppressing unhealthy ones. However, if the person still gets rewarded for the unwanted behavior then this method may not be effective.

4. Non contingent Reinforcement (NCR): This procedure simply involves identifying the rewards for an unwanted behavior and then giving those rewards with no strings attached. The assumption is that since the person is getting the rewards on a regular basis, the unwanted behavior loses its function and becomes extinct.  Be careful of coincidental reinforcement which can cause superstitious behaviors. If a person was doing something when a reward came then that person might think that behavior caused the reward and try engaging in it in the future. This can be problematic if the behavior is not actually useful but becomes time consuming.

Extinguishing Bad Behavior

Extinction is the formal process of withholding the consequences that reinforce a behavior. It involves determining why a behavior is rewarding and then eliminating those rewards to eliminate the behavior. The assumption is that the behavior only exists because it is rewarded in some way, so eliminating the rewards should eliminate the motivation for the behavior.

However, when attempting to extinguish a bad behavior there are 6 typical responses that include the following:

1. Extinction Burst: Unfortunately, people tend to naturally resist when they see that their previously reliable behaviors are no longer producing rewards. This resistance and typical escalation in duration, frequency and intensity of the behavior is referred to as an “Extinction Burst.” This is because when you try to “extinguish” the behavior you typically see a “burst” in that behavior.  The long-term effect of withholding rewards is reliably a decrease in the problem behavior, however the short-term effects are typically an increase in that behavior. Rookie people managers (including parents) make the mistake of rewarding the extinction burst and thus end up shaping a more intense version of the problematic behavior to avoid the unpleasant short-term consequences. Be patient and the burst will subside.

2. Increased Variability of Behavior: When you withhold rewards, sometimes people respond by trying different variations of the previous behavior that worked. This can actually be used to your advantage if you are trying to shape a behavior. If you strategically withhold a reward, you may prompt a burst in creativity motivated by a desire to obtain the now withheld reward.

3. Increased Emotion: Withholding rewards will typically lead to the expression of more intense emotions, such as fear or anger.

4. Spontaneous Recovery: Even when a behavior has been extinguished through withholding rewards, it sometimes resurfaces in what is called “Spontaneous Recovery.” If the behavior is not rewarded then it will tend to go away quickly. However, if it is rewarded once again then the behavior will resurface.

5. Resurgence: When a behavior is extinguished, sometimes people revert to old behaviors that used to get them rewards. This is call resurgence or sometimes “regression” as it is said that a person regresses to behaviors that used to work, usually earlier in life. A temper tantrum from an adult might be an example, as the person regresses to what used to work when he was a child since other strategies seem to have failed. Another effect of extinction is the reappearance of previously reinforced behavior, a phenomenon called resurgence.

6. Extinction: Eventually, if rewards are continuously withheld, the behavior will cease to occur is said to have been “extinguished.”

Two other factors to consider are learning history and speed of extinction:

Learning History: Behaviors are harder to extinguish if they have a long history of being rewarded, the behavior doesn’t require much effort and if the reward was large.
Speed of Extinction: As a general rule, behavior is learned quickly but extinguished slowly. Don’t get frustrated if the behavior doesn’t stop immediately, especially if there is a long history of it being rewarded.

Learning – Giving Rewards

Principles of Operant Reinforcement 

The law of effect says that the strength (frequency, durability) of a behavior depends on the consequences the behavior has had in the past. Thus, behavior is a function of its consequences.

Reinforcement is the procedure of providing consequences for a behavior that increases or maintains the strength of that behavior. A procedure must have 3 characteristics to qualify as reinforcement.

A. First, a behavior must have a consequence.
B. Second, the behavior must increase in strength (occur more often or be more intense).
C. Third, the increase in strength must be the result of the consequence.

There are two types of reinforcement procedures: Positive and Negative Reinforcement.

  1. Positive Reinforcement:  This procedure involves following a behavior with a consequence that increases strength of the behavior.  Reward Training is a form of positive reinforcement. For example, using a token economy with children is a form of positive reinforcement. Delivering rewards when a client performs a desirable behavior will increase the strength of that behavior in the future.   This is also known as “reward training”
  2. Negative Reinforcement:  Negative is not synonymous with “bad” it simply means “the removal of something.” This procedure involves following a behavior with the removal of an aversive stimulus.  For example, a client who is on probation will have good behavior “negatively reinforced” by removing the undesirable restrictions on his life.  Another example may be when a mother let’s a child out of time out.  Time out is an aversive consequence and the removal of that consequence is desirable to the child. This is also known as “escape training.”

Reinforcers can also be distinguished as being either primary or secondary:

1. Primary reinforcers are those consequences that are naturally rewarding to people. They include food, water, sex or relief from heat and cold. They are powerful but few in number and in modern societies they probably play a limited role in human learning.
2. Secondary reinforcers are consequences that rely on their association with primary reinforcers. Some examples would include giving praise, smiling or money. These are seen as rewards because they predict eventually receiving primary reinforcers. Praise from your boss indicates job security which indicates an ability to keep receiving primary reinforcers (food, shelter) into the future.

Reward Schedules

Reward Schedules refer to how frequently and under what conditions rewards will be administered to shape behavior. There are several different schedules that you can follow, each with different pros and cons.

1. Continuous Rewards (CRF): This is the simplest schedule and simply involves giving a reward every time the desired behavior occurs. This schedule is useful for shaping brand new behaviors but is resource intensive.
2. Fixed Ratio (FR): This schedule involves giving the reward only after the behavior has occurred a fixed number of times. So instead of giving rewards every single time the behavior is performed you can give a reward every 5 times it is performed. Jobs that utilize a piecework model are using this schedule as pay is attached to how much is produced.
3. Variable Ratio (VR): This is the same as fixed ratio except you give rewards around doing a behavior an average number of times instead of a fixed number of times. For example, you could give the reward after doing the behavior 3 times, 4 times, 5 times or 6 times but over time the “average” number of behaviors required for reward would be 5.
4. Fixed Interval Schedules (FI): This schedule involves delivering rewards the first time the behavior has been performed after a set amount of time. For example, only allowing an employee to take a break after working for 4 hours would be a fixed interval schedule.
5. Variable Interval Schedule (VI): This is the same as fixed interval except you choose an average amount of time instead of a fixed exact number for delivering rewards.
6. Fixed Duration Schedule (FD): This involves only giving a reward for performing a certain behavior continuously over a period of time. Workers are paid only if they work for the set period of their shift, for example.
7. Variable Duration Schedule (VD): This is the same as fixed duration except you choose an average amount of time instead of a fixed duration.
8. Rewarding Low Rates of Behavior (DRL): This involves giving rewards only if a certain amount of time has passed since the last behavior was performed. This is useful if you don’t want to totally eliminate a behavior but you want to reduce it. For example, a child who asks “are we there yet?” might not get a response unless the last time she asked was an hour ago.
9. Rewarding High Rates of Behavior (DRH): This involves giving rewards only if a behavior was performed a certain number of times in a given time period. For example, you may only reward your son if he brushed his teeth 7 times over a 7 day period. Anything less would be insufficient to obtain the reward.
10. Non contingent Schedules: This simply involves giving rewards no matter what the person does. Giving your children food for the day without regards to how they behave would be following this schedule.
11. Extinction: This involves never giving the reward in an attempt to make the behavior become “extinct.” Stretching the Ratio: A useful strategy is to begin with a fixed ratio schedule and then slowly increase it over time. For example, you might give a bonus for every sales made but then over time you may increase the number of sales required to 5 and then later to 7 etc….

As a general rule, behavior that has been shaped using intermittent schedules are more resistant to extinction than those that use continuous rewards.  This is known as the “partial reinforcement effect.” 

Guidelines for Giving Rewards

Here are eight guidelines you can follow to improve your ability to give appropriate rewards.

1. Contingency: refers to how often the behavior is followed by the reward. In other words, the more the behavior is followed by the reward, the more effective that reward will be. If the employee performs the behavior but it is only rewarded some of the time, that reward won’t be as effective in shaping behavior.

2. Contiguity: This refers to how much time passes before the person receives the reward. In general, the more immediate the reward the more effective it will be.  One researcher spent an hour each day trying to shape disk pecking, but even after 40 days he was unsuccessful.  When he changed the delay from 10 seconds to only 1 second, he was able to shape disk pecking in about 15-20 minutes.

3. Reinforcer Characteristics: Multiple smaller rewards are usually more effective than single large ones. However, when everything else is equal, a larger reward will be more desirable than a smaller one. This shows diminishing returns, however, as benefits decrease as the size of the rewards decrease.

4. Task Characteristics: Some tasks are better shaped through classical conditioning, as opposed to operant conditioning. These include behaviors that depend on smooth muscles or glands. Operant procedures work better with behaviors that utilize skeletal muscles.

5. Deprivation Level: The more deprived a person feels of a certain reward, the more powerful that reward will be. For example, if someone is hungry then offering food as a reward will be enticing. If they are not hungry, food will be unlikely to motivate them.

6. Previous learning experiences: People show different learning histories or have come to associate certain behaviors with rewards or punishers. When a behavior has been associated with punishers in the past it will be more difficult to associate it with rewards in the present.

7. Competing contingencies: Sometimes behaviors are associated with multiple rewards and punishers. For example, an employee who shows disrespect to management may be punished with disapproval from his supervisors but rewarded with approval from his peers.  There may also be other competing behaviors that are more rewarding or punishing than the behavior you are trying to shape. For example, you may wish to shape punctuality in an employee by rewarding them for showing  up on time. However the employee may value the extra sleep obtained when being late over his employers approval. Thus, manager approval is competing with the primary reinforcer of extra sleep. Helping the employee figure out how to obtain the reinforcer (more sleep) in a more productive way may solve the problem.

8. The Premack Principle: The Premack principle suggests that rewarding activities can be used to reinforce less-rewarding activities. For example, if you know an employee enjoys customer service but does not enjoy stocking shelves, use time on customer service to reinforce shelf stocking. If you reverse the order, you have lost the leverage of the more enjoyable activity to motivate doing the less enjoyable activity.

Shaping & Chaining

Shaping is the reinforcement of successive approximations of a desired behavior. That means that you give rewards to people for doing things that are close enough to what you want them to do. Over time, the behavior must more closely resemble the target behavior to continue receiving rewards until only doing the exact behavior will yield the reward. For example, if you wanted to shape timely customer service then you would start by stating the end goal such as being able to serve each customer within 2 minutes of the initial interaction. At first, you would provide rewards if the employee could provide the service in 5 minutes but after a few weeks the employee may need to do the service in 4 minutes to get the reward. This would continue until the employee met the target goal of 2 minutes.

This approach can be contrasted with just giving an end goal and then stepping aside and expecting results. Shaping is a tool that can deliver outcomes that would never just spontaneously occur without any guidance.

While shaping can be used to deliberately shape behavior, behavior is frequently unintentionally shaped as well. For example, undesirable employee behavior can be unwittingly shaped by a mangers response to it. Imagine an employee who is frequently complaining about little things at work to a manger who usually gives in to the employee’s demands. However, one day the manager chooses not to give in so the employee responds by increasing the number of things he complains about until the manager gives in. Over time, this cycle may continue as the manager unwittingly
reinforces progressively more intense complaining from the employee until the employee has become completely toxic to a healthy work culture. It is important to understand that those who manage others are almost certainly shaping behaviors through subtle rewards or punishers that they may not even be aware of.

Here are 5 tips for effective shaping:

1. Good shapers reinforce small steps. Don’t put too large of a gap between each step that you will reward or the person will just give up.
2. The rewards that you provide should be immediately given once the approximated behavior is performed.
3. Provide small reinforcers for each step. Too large of rewards can distract from the end goal.
4. Reinforce the best approximation of the behavior the employee can do.
5. Back up if needed. You may need to return to an earlier approximation and perfect it before moving on.

While shaping refers to single behaviors, chaining refers to shaping multiple behaviors in what is called a behavior chain. Chaining is used to shape complex behaviors such as overall customer service competencies. For example, if you want to shape a complex chain of behavior, such as providing excellent customer service, you would start by explaining exactly what the desired behaviors are. In this case, we might say that excellent customer service representatives are kind, do things in a timely fashion and provide products that are defect free.

At first, a manager may provide praise for a new hire if 1 out of 3 of these elements are present. After the first week, the employee may need to do two of these behaviors to elicit the praise. After a month, the employee might need to perform all three behaviors adequately to receive any praise. And then finally, after a few months the employee will need to display excellence in all three behaviors to get praise from the manager.

Curiosity – Flow

Flow & Optimal Stimulation 

Curiosity is also related to a concept called “flow” which is sometimes called “being in the zone” and refers to a state of optimal arousal and challenge.   Optimal performances have four things in common: peak experiences, peak performances, flow and mental toughness.

i.) Peak experiences: A peak experience is an exemplary moment in time with a lasting positive effect on life afterwards. These often make the highlight reel. They are emotional in nature.

ii.) Peak performances: When a performance exceeds an individual’s usual quality.

iii.) Flow: Flow is an autotelic experience (it is enjoyable and intrinsically rewarding) and is the same thing as “being in the zone.”   Flow can occur in almost any activity but the key word is “active” as flow isn’t usually experienced when you are being passive. It is usually experienced when you are engaging in activities that you are good at but that are still challenging enough for you to remain interested in. Flow is the point where your challenges meet your skills. Many professionals including artists, athletes, musicians, financial traders etc…describe having regular “flow” experiences.

The absence of negative influences during performance and previous personal experience with flow facilitates more flow while losing rhythm disrupts flow. There are 9 elements of flow but not all nine are present in every flow state but 5‐6 are reported on average by most athletes.

1. Challenge‐Skills Balance: The task must be challenging and not too easy or difficult and must push your skills to the maximum.
2. Merging of Action and Awareness: The person is completely absorbed and involved in the task at hand so that performance feels automatic, natural and peaceful. There is no awareness of cognitive effort so it is fun and enjoyable.
3. Total Concentration and Focus: The person is completely concentrated on what he is doing.
4. Loss of Self Consciousness: All other worries and distractions fade from consciousness.
5. Transformation of Time: The person is not aware of the passage of time.
6. Autotelic Experience: The experience itself is rewarding and enjoyable.
7. Clear Goals: The person is engaged in a very meaningful activity for personal reasons.
8. Feedback: The person receives immediate feedback regarding progress towards goals that influences the flow state.
9. Sense of Control: There is a sense of empowerment and a belief that you work your way through any adversity that arises.

iv.) Mental Toughness: The psychological edge that enables you to be better and more consistent than your opponent in remaining determined, focused, confident and in control under pressure. When talent is equal, mental toughness determines the winner. Mental toughness includes being confident, utilizing motivation, dealing with adversity and failure, overcoming physical and emotional pain, managing anxiety and other emotions, staying focused and finding balance and perspective.

Optimal performance occurs when we are in a certain psychological state that looks like the following:  Feelings of high self‐confidence, expectations of success, being energized yet relaxed, feeling in control, being totally concentrated, having a keen focus on the present task, having positive attitudes and thoughts about performance and being strongly determined and committed.  Worst performances correlate with self‐doubt, poor concentration, distractions, being focused on outcomes and feeling over or under aroused.

Each person has a unique range of pleasant/unpleasant psychobiological states that facilitate or hinder performance called the individual zone of optimal functioning. Each emotion mobilizes and organizes energy in a certain way and the person needs to learn which emotions at which intensities lead to optimal outcomes.

In one of Csikszentmihalyi’s studies he studied teenagers who watched a lot of television and hung out at the mall (lowflow group) and compared them to tens who spent a lot of time on hobbies, sports and homework (high flow group). He found that the high flow teens scored higher on every measure of well-being except for one as they believed they were having less “fun” than the low-flow teens.

Psychologist Martin Seligman differentiates between easy pleasures and gratification. When we seek gratification we engage our strengths and talents in a challenging task that requires effort and becomes more pleasant the more we engage in them. Easy pleasures are simple things we soon take for granted and that don’t really challenge us. Structure and plan “flow” and “gratification” activities in order to enhance your well-being in life.

Sources: http://thisemotionallife.org/blogs/flow;              Authentic Happiness, by Martin E. P. Seligman.       The Psychology of Performance

Optimal Arousal

In the context of psychology, arousal refers to a state of physiological alertness and attentiveness. Emotions make us more or less aroused and can thus interfere with or facilitate our performance. Researchers have found that we perform at our peak when we experience a moderate level of alertness and attentiveness. If we are not aroused enough or if we are too aroused then our performance is harmed. It is difficult to perform during strong emotional states because they cause extreme arousal states.

The researchers Yerkes and Dodson discovered that the more difficult a task is, the lower is the optimal level of arousal. This is known as the Yerkes-Dodson law. If something is hard for you, try not to be too aroused when you are learning or performing that task. As the task gets easier, your optimal level of arousal will rise (how much you need to be stimulated to perform at your peak). However, if you get too aroused any activity will be harmed. There is an inhibitory mechanism in your brain-stem that actually paralyzes motor activity if you are too aroused (the “freeze” effect).

J. A. Easterbrook observed that as you get more aroused the range of items you are able to pay attention to narrows. This is known as the Easterbrook Hypothesis. As you get more aroused, you start ignoring peripheral things in your environment and focus only on key items. Your internal state thus affects your ability to respond to different types of environments.

i.) High Arousal to block out distractions: You can use this fact to help you perform better in in noisy environments. The more aroused you are the better you will be at blocking out peripheral distractions.
ii.) Low Arousal to widen perspective: The less aroused you are the more items you can pay attention to and make connections with. Calm yourself down if you need to do tasks that require paying attention to lots of things.

Arousal level can also help us understand why we prefer certain types of recreational behavior, art or philosophy over others. All of these “ludic behaviors” (no clear biological function) have the following properties:

i.) Novelty: Refers to how surprising or incongruous something is both of which involve violated expectations.
ii.) Uncertainty: The amount of information carried by a stimulus. More info is more interesting than less.
iii.) Conflict: Refers to the range of conflicting emotoinal responses a stimulus can evoke in a person.
iv.) Complexity: Refers to the number of distinguishable elements in a stimulus and level of similarity among them.

Activities or items that have more of these characteristics produce more arousal in people (they are “stimulating” and not boring). For example, a song that is new with lots of information that evokes a range of responses will be more stimulating than a simple and familiar song with low complexity. Humor often involves incongruities or unexpected twists. The comedian starts with a “setup” that makes you think he’s going one way and then violates those expectations with the “punch line.”  People tend to engage in activities or do things that produce the “optimal level of arousal” which is usually a medium level of arousal. Stimuli too far above or below are aversive and escaped or avoided.

Great Art, Music or Writing will possess all 4 characteristics listed above. It will contain surprises, lots of information to be discovered and will evoke a range of conflicting responses. It will
be complex without becoming confusing. Great art speaks to many people over time and can give different messages when repeatedly exposed to it. People keep finding new things in a great work. Great aesthetic works will have more information than can be analyzed and understood in a single viewing.

Those who are more experienced with a certain medium have more “refined tastes” meaning they are experienced enough to appreciate differences and it takes a more complex work to
stimulate arousal in them. This is why there is often such a disconnect between critics and consumers. Critics are usually very experienced with the medium they are evaluating so they are looking for much more complex, novel and uncertainty in the work than the average person viewing it would. In fact, if a critic does like a film it might be too “stimulating” for novices and they will actually be motivated to avoid it.

Experiments have confirmed many of the assumptions of arousal theory. Many experiments have shown that the most complex works are least liked upon first hearing or seeing them but that over time they become preferred. The opposite is true of simple works which are at first enjoyed and then quickly become the least liked works. That is because the simple works are at first moderately arousing but over time they are analyzed and become familiar and are no longer very arousing.

In other studies, experts and masters prefer works that are much higher in complexity than novices do. As you gain  more experience with something you will begin to prefer more complex versions of it. In contrast, if you are new to a certain type of music, film or other artistic work you will prefer simpler works that are not as arousing.

Source: Beck, RC (2004). Motivation: Theories and Principles (5th ed.)


Flow Worksheet

Identifying Flow Experiences

Curiosity – Overview

According to Psychologists Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson, curiosity refers to interest, novelty seeking and openness to experience. Curiosity is an intrinsic interest in one’s ongoing experience. Those who are curious prefer a variety of new experiences and challenges.  The scriptures teach us that we should be curious and seek after wisdom and knowledge.

In Proverbs 2: 3-5 we read: “Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2: 3-5)

In Proverbs, we also learn that wisdom is worth more than silver and gold.   Chapter 3: 13-14 teaches:“Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.” (Proverbs 3: 13-14)

In D&C 6:7 we are also taught to prioritize wisdom above riches.  It reads: “Seek not for riches but for wisdom, and behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich.” (D&C 6:7)

And finally, the author of Proverbs suggests that wisdom is power and that a single wise man is greater than a mighty city: “A wise man scaleth the city of the mighty, and casteth down the strength of the confidence thereof.” (Proverbs 21:22)

Modern revelation reaffirms this commandment to seek out knowledge.  In D&C 88: 118 we read: “Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118)

Expounding on this search for truth, President Gordon B. Hinckley taught: “Our search for truth must be limitless, that we are to learn “of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms.” (D&C 88:79)

Elder Uchtdorf said that seeking an education is a commandment of God.  He said: For members of the Church, education is not merely a good idea—it’s a commandment. We are to learn “of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf‐ Two Principles of any Economy)

However, the command to become educated means much more than seeking a formal education and then being content after graduation.  The Spirit of the Command is to become lifelong learners who are always seeking to improve and gain more wisdom.   Elder Robert D. Hales taught:  Past learning creates a valuable foundation of experience upon which to build, not a comfortable place to dwell for a lifetime.  As you stand atop any peak you have climbed, enjoy the moment of satisfaction in the present to look at the remarkable view and the progress you have made from the past. But then turn around to see what new peaks are now in sight and set a course to climb higher into the future. When you do this, the achievement of one goal set in the past will eventually pave the way to a higher goal of achievement in the future. As we contemplate the sacrifice and hard work that was required to achieve past goals, let us muster the confidence and determination needed to move on to greater heights.” (Robert D. Hales‐ The Journey of Lifelong learning)

Elder Hales further implores us to seek learning even in areas we don’t seem naturally good at.  He says: :Lifelong learners have the courage to overcome the fear of leaving the outer limits of their educational comfort zone and entering into the unknown and the unfamiliar. The scriptures say, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).Too often we dwell in the comfort of our educational strengths and avoid overcoming our educational weaknesses. Thus our greatest strengths can become our greatest weaknesses. We may dwell in the security of the past, unwilling to venture into the future because of the fear of ignorance or the lack of knowledge about a subject we desire to study or to research. We need the courage to take a long step of faith into a fearful darkness, not knowing how deep the educational cave is that we are about to enter.” (Robert D. Hales‐ The Journey of Lifelong learning)

And finally, Elder Holland teaches us that our education shouldn’t simply be concerned with technical skill or facts but should also be about learning virtue.  He said: “Our education should be concerned with truth and virtue. No, “full and fair intellectual inquiry” alone won’t do it. Academic instruction unmeasured and untempered by integrity, instruction unenlightened by the civilizing forces and moral obligations that go with the truth will simply produce ever more “highly skilled barbarians.” (Who we are and what God expects us to do‐ Jeffrey R. Holland)

Psychological Perspectives

According to Seligman & Peterson, Curiosity is a virtue because it is fulfilling in itself as finding out an answer or having a new experience is satisfying.  Curiosity is also morally valued as we praise children when they are curious and like those who find us interesting.  Schools are designed to help kids determine and pursue their interests.  People also usually find those who are curious more fun to interact with than boring people. The Opposite of curious would be: boring, disinterested or dull. Those who lack curiosity tend to get bored easily and are more anxious and depressed.

Research tends to show that curiosity seems stable across the lifespan as curious kids grow into curious adults.  Paragons of curiosity may be explorers and adventurers such as Columbus, Magellan and Edmund Hillary. Helen Keller may be an example of a curiosity prodigy as she was fascinated with the world around her due to her damaged senses.
Criteria 10 Institutions and Rituals:

Curiosity is sometimes linked with interest and used interchangeably. Everyone has some degree of curiosity but differ in terms of just how intensely curious they are and about what things.  It is also linked with novelty seeking which refers to a person’s propensity for seeking new and exciting experiences to achieve optimal arousal.

Curiosity includes novelty‐seeking (diversive curiosity) but is broader and also includes specific curiosity (increasing knowledge).  Specific curiosity refers to an individual’s propensity to want to investigate and increase knowledge about specific objects, events or problems to better understand and be challenged by them.

Curiosity is also similar to the big 5 personality trait of openness to experience. This trait involves being receptive to new experiences, feelings, ideas and values. It differs in that, curiosity is more about behavior while openness is about temperament or predisposition.

Curiosity is valuable because it increases our knowledge and competence.   An attraction to new things helps us survive because it increases our knowledge and allows us to expand our world, relationships and experiences. Curiosity helps you make sense of the world and develop a sense of competence in interacting with it.

We balance curiosity with anxiety in order to achieve optimal subjective stimulation.  When curiosity is stronger than anxiety the individual explores the environment. When anxiety is stronger the individual withdraws to reduce stimulation. Optimal stimulation occurs when we are engaged in a pleasant and challenging task with hints of mild anxiety. Curiosity leads us to seek information that will reduce feelings of uncertainty and help us achieve optimal stimulation. People differ in terms of their stimulation thresholds that determines how curious they are.

Curiosity also facilitates personal growth by causing people to seek after new and challenging experiences. Creating, sustaining and integrating curiosity experiences are at the heart
of personal growth. This process has 4 stages:

1. Attention and Energy: The person devotes their attention and energy to recognizing and pursuing novelty and challenge.
2. Exploration: The person then evaluates and explores the challenging activities.
3. Flow: The person becomes deeply absorbed in the challenge and experiences “flow” or subjective well‐being.
4. Integration: The person then integrates the experience into his/her worldview through accommodation or assimilation.

When people are bored they are motivated to find new challenging experiences to increase arousal. Boredom can lead to impulsive and destructive behaviors as “an idol mind is the devils playground.”   However, if one responds with a healthy curiosity it can turn into productivity and creativity. Curious people are able to enhance interest and sustain effort in meaningful but boring activities.

Source: Martin Seligman & Christopher Peterson – Handbook of Virtues


The research has confirmed that curiosity is correlated with many positive benefits. Curiosity is correlated with more positive emotions, creativity, preferring challenges, perceived control and less stress and boredom. Curiosity fuels emotions such as excitement, enjoyment, attentiveness, goal perseverance and it helps with decision making. It is also associated with intelligence, greater problem solving abilities, autonomy, self‐esteem and sense of well‐being.  Curiosity predicts more positive experiences with others and interpersonal closeness. Curious people find others more interesting and are more likely to ask questions that enhance intimacy.

Some research suggests that curiosity accounts for 10% of the variance in academic learning and performance and 36% of the variance in self‐selected career choices.  However, there may be a type of curiosity that predicts negative outcomes.  A subset of curiosity can be associated with impulsivity, violence, risky sexual acts and anger. High novelty seeking combined with low conscientiousness leads to short‐term gratification at the expense of long‐term health.

Source: Martin Seligman & Christopher Peterson – Handbook of Virtues

Developing Curiosity – The Behavioral Activation System

Curiosity appears to be linked with The Behavioral Activation System of the brain. Those with a more active BAS tend to be more curious and this predisposition is usually solidified by 21 months of age. Curiosity may be the mediating variable between the BAS and reward seeking behavior. It seems that curiosity remains stable throughout the lifespan.

The Brain has two different systems for responding to reward and punishment. This means people can have different sensitivities to reward and punishment based on brain differences. Depending upon which system is more sensitive, people either respond better to punishers or rewards.  These two systems are known as the Behavioral Inhibition System and the  Behavioral Activation System.

The Behavioral inhibition system becomes activated during times of punishment, boredom or other negative events. The goal of this system is to “inhibit” behavior or stop it so that the punisher can be avoided. This system increases arousal and leads to anxiety so that the person can attend to the threatening object or situation. This system is related to a sensitivity to punishment and to motivation to avoid aversive things. Those who have a highly reactive BIS have a heightened sensitivity to non-reward, punishment and new experiences which makes them avoid these types of situations. People highly sensitive to punishment experience it as more aversive than those who are more sensitive to rewards. These people learn better by avoiding punishers than by obtaining rewards. Anti-anxiety drugs (tranquilizers) work by facilitating the effects of GABA, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. The Behavioral inhibition system is thought to be located in a septa-hippocampal system (part of limbic system) in the brain.

The Behavioral activation system is related to pursuing and achieving goals and rewards. This system is activated when possible rewards are detected and it controls approach-related behaviors. This system is related to hope but it is also thought to be related to impulsivity. Those with a sensitive BAS are highly sensitive to reward and show more positive emotions related to receiving rewards. The BAS is believed to be related to catecholaminergic and dopaminergic pathways in the brain (neurotransmitters involved with positive emotions and rewards). These people learn better through achieving rewards than through experiencing punishers.

Only one of these systems can be activated at a time so people approach situations with only one of these systems activated. Which system is activated depends upon which cues are dominant (possible reward or possible punishment). Those with a highly sensitive BIS may develop anxiety disorders as this system becomes dominant in most situations.

There also appears to be a strong genetic link to curiosity.  High novelty seeking is also associated with the D4 dopamine receptor gene which is also a marker for ADHD. ADHD may be an extreme form of novelty seeking. Twin studies reveal that 43% of the variance in openness to experience is explained by genetics which is higher than any other of the big 5 traits.

Studies also show that if you acquire knowledge you will become more curious about the subject you were studying in an upward cycle. When you begin to feel a sense of mastery at a certain task you will be curious to discover even more about that task. We are curious about knowledge we believe is attainable (probability) and that will benefit us or is relevant to us in meaningful ways (Desirability).  When we gain knowledge and are aware of further knowledge gaps we become more curious.  When we learn principles in new ways we tend to be more curious (Such as learning physics while eating ice cream) and the more meaningful the material or task the more curious we will be about it.

Source: Beck, RC (2004). Motivation: Theories and Principles (5th ed.)

Creativity – Problem Solving

Creative Problem-Solving

Problem Solving involves defining the problem and then choosing an algorithm, heuristic or analogy approach to solving it.  Researchers have found that problem solving is best done in the situation where you learned to solve problems (situated cognition). That means that you may be good at doing math around your payroll but if you separate it from that context you may not perform as well.

A. Algorithm: An algorithm is a process that will always produce a solution but will most likely be inefficient in doing so. For example, an exhaustive search of all possible outcomes would produce a solution but would be inefficient at doing so.
B. Heuristic: A heuristic is a general rule that we use that is usually correct. Instead of exhausting all alternatives, heuristics focus only on strategies that usually work.

A.) Hill-Climbing Heuristic: This general strategy involves choosing the path with the steepest incline and then choosing the options that seem to lead most directly to your goal. Use this strategy if you don’t have very much information. This strategy encourages short-term goals and not long-term solutions.
B.) Means-Ends Heuristic: This strategy involves dividing the problem into sub problems and then deciding on end states for each sub problem. After deciding on the end state you have to devise the means for achieving those ends.
C.) Detours: Research shows that many people are reluctant to temporarily move away from the goal state, even if the correct solution involves a detour. Sometimes, you have to be willing to backtrack to solve a problem.

C. Analogy Approach: This strategy involves comparing a current problem to one that you have solved in the past and then adopting a similar solution in the present. This involves identifying problem isomorphs which are a set of problems that have the same underlying structure and solutions with different surface details. Good problem solvers pay more
attention to the structural features of a problem while novice problem solvers focus on the surface features.

Other factors that influence problem solving include:

  1. Learn from the Experts: Experts have more knowledge and thus have a deeper understanding of problems in their areas of expertise. They also use the means-end and analogy heuristics efficiently. They also monitor their problem solving process and are deliberate in evaluating and revising solutions.
  2. Mental Set: Novice problem solvers tend to use the same solutions they have in the past, even though easier methods might be available. This is when problem solving by analogy becomes overused as it interferes with creative new solutions. Be careful not to look at a problem from only one point of view.
  3. Functional Fixedness: Similar to the mental set, functional fixedness occurs when we fix objects with only one function that we are used to. For example, a coat hanger can be a good lock pick but many people don’t think of it because the function of the coat hanger is fixed in their minds.
  4. Incubation: take a break from something you’re stuck on and then come back to solve the problem. It’s not consistently helpful but may work by eliminating a mental set or functional fixedness a person has.

A 6 step process for solving problems might look like the following:

Step 1: Problem Orientation. Poor problem solvers  often see their problems and react to them differently than do other people. There are 3 major unhelpful ways of looking at problems:

1. I should avoid dealing with problems until I absolutely have to. The problem with this belief is that problems are often left avoided until it is too late. It usually is not the case
that the person could not solve the problem but simply that procrastination made it too late to deal with it.
2. Problems are abnormal and most people do not have them. This is simply not true as everybody has persistent, regular problems that demand solving.
3. Problems are a threat to my safety. This belief says that problems are inherently dangerous and that the good life involves a complete avoidance and elimination of problems.

Step 2: Improving Your Problem Orientation. After assessing your problem orientation by comparing your beliefs about problems to the beliefs listed above, you can experiment with taking a different view of problems.

1. Problems take time and effort to solve but I have the resources to solve them. Rather than avoiding problems, this belief accepts the reality of problems and acknowledges they take lots of time and effort to solve. At the same time, it is important to have enough faith that you will be able to solve the problem if you do your best.
2. Problems are normal and not person. Acknowledge that everybody has problems and even if people are good at presenting a problem-free life it is nothing more than an illusion. Your problems are most likely no more or less difficult than most other people have experienced at some point in their lives.
3. View problems as opportunities and challenges rather than as threats. Problems are an opportunity for you to learn, grow and stretch your capacities. Each problem you solve will improve your confidence and self-esteem while each problem you shy away from will lower your overall confidence and self-esteem. Life will shrink or expand depending upon whether you shy away from or boldly attempt to solve problems in your life.

Step 3: Problem Definition. Before solving a problem, you have to first define it. To improve your problem definition, ask yourself, who is involved? What happens that disturbs me? When does it occur?  For example: Which of the following is defined? “My boss is an insensitive person who hates me” or “My boss gives me too many files to work on and doesn’t realize how much work is involved.”

Step 4: Brainstorm Solutions. Solutions should be SMART Goals: Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timed. Generate as many solutions as possible no matter how “stupid” you think a solution is.  Decide on whether you are going to use an algorithm, heuristic or analogy approach to solving the problem.

Step 5: Decision Making. Do a cost/benefit analysis of the solutions. Ask yourself: “What is likely to happen if I try this?” What are the short‐term and long‐term consequences of this solution? What are the chances this will work? What are the implications for myself and others?  See the section on decision making for enhancing your capacity to make good decisions.

Step 6: Solution Implementation. Try out the solution and evaluate if it worked or not. If it didn’t work, this is a normal part of the problem solving process so don’t give up. Brainstorm reasons as to why the solution didn’t work and revise your strategy for solving it and repeat the process.

Source: Matlin, Margaret W. (2005). Cognition (6th ed.). United States of America: John Wiley & Sons.

Using Imagery to Solve Problems

Imagery is a cognitive skill that activates the same brain areas that activate during actual performance. Imagining yourself make an action mirrors the same neural pattern found during the actual execution of the movement.  We don’t always think with words. Many of our thoughts take the form of pictures and images such as imagining what’s going to happen at work tomorrow. Other words for imagery include: mental pictures, daydreams, fantasies, imagining and memory.  Images are just like words and can be translated back and forth from one to the other.

Imagery often occurs through a first or third person perspective:

1. First‐Person Perspective: Internal visual imagery involves seeing what you would see if you were actually performing the act.
2. Third‐Person Perspective: External visual imagery involves watching yourself perform an action from outside your own body. You can view your performance from multiple angles to process relevant details.

Kinesthetic Imagery involves more than just visualizing a task as there can be Kinesthetic (feeling) imagery as well. Kinesthetic imagery involves bringing to mind the physical sensations (muscle tension, heart rate) that you might feel during a performance. It also involves imagining your body positioning in space or imagining pain, fatigue and emotion.  You should engage all of your senses in imagery and not just your mind’s eye. MRI scans reveal that kinesthetic imagery results in greater activation motor‐processing brain structures compared to visual imagery
alone. The same neural activity that occurs when you see, hear and smell things occurs when you imagine seeing, hearing and smelling things.

There is a degree of neural overlap that occurs between imagery techniques and actually performing those techniques called “functional equivalence.” There appears to be similar responses in muscles as well in both imagery and performing tasks. For example, if you think about doing something that makes you anxious your body responds as if you were actually doing it.  In one study, greater muscle activity was observed when imagining lifting heavier weights compared to imagining lifting lighter weights.

In the Shackell and Standing study,  researchers wanted to see how using imagery techniques would affect physical strength.  They divided participants into three groups: those with no intervention, those who did physical training and those who did “mental” training.  Those who were put in the “mental training” group were asked to imagine using the hip flexor machine everyday while those in the physical training group were asked to use it every day.

The results of this study were that those who engaged in physical training increased performance by 36 pounds while those who did nothing did not increase at all. Those asked to train mentally increased their performance by 32 pounds, almost as much as actually physically training!!!

Researchers explain this outcome by noting that muscle contractions are caused by brain signals that arrive via the spinal cord. One way to increase strength is to increase the size and number of the muscle fibers which is what physical training does. Physical training makes muscles bigger by repairing fatigued muscles to make them bigger.  In contrast, mental training does not increase the size of muscle fibers but increases the strength of the signals sent from the brain to the muscles. This means a greater number of action potentials are sent from the brain increasing the
number of muscle fibers that respond leading to increased strength. Brain scans also show that the neural processing of imagined items is the same as real items. When you imagine moving
your arm the same part of the cortex is active as when you actually move your arm.

In another study, people rehabilitated faster when they imagined moving their limbs in ways they couldn’t due to injury.

Donald Hebb observed that when two neurons fire at the same time they become connected. However if a neuron is activated without the other neuron the connection is weakened. This is called Hebbian learning.  Hebb said: “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” When you engage in mental imagery, you are giving your neural networks more practice and opportunity for engaging in this Hebbian learning process.  When we learn to do something, the brain changes as neural connections are strengthened, new connections are added, and other connections are removed. This same process also occurs when you imagine doing something resulting in the same physical changes in the brain.  Combining physical practice with imagery yields the best performance results compared to either imagery or practice alone.

The PETTLEP Model attempts to maximize the neural overlap between your imagery and actual physical performance.

1. Physical: Instead of relaxing, move and rehearse the actual movements and be as physical as you possible can be. Get your body into position to perform, make the movements, wear the clothes and hold any equipment that you need.
2. Environment: The imagery should be practiced in an environment as close as possible to where the behavior will be performed. Mimic the environment as best you can.
3. Task: The task should be appropriate to the skill level and preferences of the performer and should be based on real skills and not unrealistic fantasies.
4. Timing: This refers to the speed of the image. Whenever possible, imagery should be done in real time and not slowed down or sped up.
5. Learning: The content of the imagery should be adapted over time as the person gets more skilled. Emotions and sensations should change as the person changes over time.
6. Emotion: The emotions felt during performance need to be recreated during the imagery task. Don’t relax before using imagery if you are not relaxed when performing.
7. Perspective: First person may be best when rehearsing attitudes, emotion and strategy and third person may be best when practicing form when executing a skill.

Other research-based pointers for effective imagery include:

1. Frequency: This should be practiced at least three times per week for at least 20 minutes for optimal outcomes. However, gains have been observed when practicing 3‐15 minutes as well.
2. Negative Imagery: Don’t use negative language when using imagery such as: “Don’t make a mistake here” but instead focus on what you want to do, not what you don’t want to do. Using negative imagery can actually result in a decrease in performance. Don’t be unrealistically positive but instead aim to be realistic.
3. Goal Focused: Avoid imagery without a goal as each imagery session should have a specific purpose. Focus on the image itself, the bodily response to the image and the personal meaning of the image. Don’t use generic imagery scripts but instead make personal scripts as this leads to increased performance.
4. Imagery Ideas: Many people practice focused attention, emotional control, enhanced strength or even physically healing from an injury.
5. Multi-modal Imagery: Mentally simulate the full sensory experience including touch, smell, sight and hearing.
6. The imagery should be precise. Try not to be vague in what you imagine.
7. Imagine succeeding when you perform the task. Imagine winning or being successful at what you do.

Source: The Psychology of Performance

Using Imagery to Solve Stressful Problems 

The Following techniques are some ways that you can use imagery to help you cope in stressful situations.

1. Induce an image around a less threatening situation. If you are daydreaming about how a stressful event might play out, try imagining it being less threatening than you think.
2. Following Images to Completion: When thinking in images, follow the story in your mind to completion. One of two outcomes occur: either the problem will be resolved and you will feel relief or the problem worsens to a catastrophe showing you what you are really fearing.
3. Jumping Ahead in Time: Imagine yourself at some time in the near future when stressful event is overcome and is over.
4. Coping in the Image: Imagine that you are coping with the difficult situation you are anticipating.
5. Changing the Image: Re-imagine the ending to a situation you are fearing. If you are picturing everyone laughing at you after a presentation, change that image to everyone showing you respect.
6. Reality-Testing the Image: You can translate the image to words and use standard challenging techniques.
7. Repeating the Image: Simply repeat your daydream over and over and notice if distress levels change.  Many people do an automatic reality check and the daydream becomes more realistic with each repetition.
8. Changing the Channel: Some people pretend their mind is a television and what’s playing in their mind is the channel they are currently watching. Imagine changing the channel from a distressing daydream to a more pleasant one such as spending time with family or thinking about a pleasant activity coming up. Picture the pleasant scene in as much detail as possible and practice switching back and forth between channels.
9. Distancing: Imagine yourself being outside of the problem and realize your problems are most likely time-limited.
10. Triumphant Narratives: Look at your current situation within the lens of a triumphant life story. All stories have temporary failures and setbacks otherwise they are boring. Interpret your current struggles within the greater context of your life story in which you are ultimately triumphant. Remember, most stories have three acts, and it isn’t until the last act that the hero is triumphant. Don’t end the story during the second act.

Source: Cognitive Therapy: Basics and Beyond by Judith Beck.

Creativity – Overview


According to Seligman & Peterson, creativity involves producing ideas or behaviors that are recognizably original and adaptive. To be adaptive the creation must make a positive contribution to that person’s life or to the lives of others.

Creativity was associated with the Divine throughout history and God is often called the “Creator” in major world religions. In Ancient Greece, creativity was attributed to the divine muses. There were muses for every major creative activity including poetry, music, astronomy, history etc…A muse was thought to provide a guiding spirit or source of inspiration to the creator. According to Roman mythology, everybody is born with a guardian spirit who protected the person’s identity and fate. This idea led to the belief that some people have individual talents or aptitudes that make them special and set them apart. Outstanding creativity was the gift of the gods or spirits, not a human act.

Creativity is considered a virtue because creating something intrinsically feels good and it is highly valued by society.  We often enjoy the creativity of others as recreation (movies, books, games, museums, music). Creativity inspires others and contributes to their well‐being. The Opposite of creativity is: dull, boring, insipid, monotonous, unimaginative, and uninspired.

People can definitely be arranged on a continuum of how creative they are. Big Creativity refers to creative works done by artists and scientists while everyday creativity refers to being clever or demonstrating ingenuity in accomplishing daily tasks.  Paragons of creativity might include: Albert Einstein, Madame Curie, Michelangelo, Bill Gates, Thomas Edison and Walt Disney while prodigies might include Mozart, Anne Frank, Ron Howard or Bobbie Fischer amongst others.  Most people lack originality and creativity is a relatively rare thing.

Another definition of creativity comes from Fredrik Haren who says that creativity is simply taking two formerly known things and combining them in a new way. The formula might look like: Idea= person (knowledge + information). This means creativity occurs when a person takes knowledge and information and combines them in new ways. We often emphasize learning knowledge and information but not learning how to combine different ideas to create new products or services.

There is no correlation between creative confidence and creativity. Those who believe they are creative are no more creative than those who don’t believe they are. For example, one creative person combined a sink and a urinal together to create a new product. The same water used for washing hands was used to flush the toilet saving time and resources.

Recognizing creativity can sometimes be hard.  Just because people can’t recognize a creative idea does not mean it isn’t creative. Fredrik gave the example of his creative idea which involved combining a notebook and a book for an “idea book.” It doesn’t sound impressive at first but the rationale behind this new combination led to great success.  The budget for management books is small (1 a year) and the average management book sells 3000 copies but the budget for stationary is much higher. The “idea book” was sold under stationary so he sold over 150,000
idea books in Sweden alone.  We shouldn’t laugh at ideas but we should listen first and ask: “Why do you think this is a good idea?”

The Anterior Superior Temporal Gyrus is the creativity area: In one study, 3/10 of a second before participants announced they had an insight this area of the brain was highly active. This is associated with integrating and finding connections between different pieces of information. The Parasympathetic Nervous System is also associated with complex cognition and creative problem solving. When we activate the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) we become less creative. Anxiety, Fear and anger seem to reduce our creativity.


Creativity has been linked with the following:

1. Relation to Intelligence: Just because you are intelligent does not mean you are creative. However, all creative people are at least above average intelligence.
2. Creative Disposition: Highly creative people tend to be independent, nonconformist, unconventional, have a wide range of interests, greater openness to new experiences and are risk takers.
3. Types of Creators: Scientific creators tend to be less independent, more conventional, less open and more intelligent than artistic creators. Artists tend to be more emotionally sensitive.
4. Psychopathology: Evidence does show that those who are creative tend to be higher in psychopathology.
5. The 10 Year Rule: According to this rule, no person can make creative contributions to a particular field until they have at least a decade of experience and mastery in that field.
6. Life Span: For most people, creativity peaks in the late 30’s and early 40’s and then gradually declines with age.

Enhancing & Inhibiting Creativity

The following factors are known to enhance creativity:

1. Environment: Environments that are supportive, reinforcing, open and informal foster creativity.
2. Task Variety: Creative people tend to work on several things at the same time and allow their ideas to incubate while working on other things. This increases the chance that unrelated networks of ideas will become connected and synthesized.
3. Brainstorming: This involves having people suggest ideas in an environment that is explicitly uncritical and having each person build off of and make connections with everyone else’s’ ideas.
4. Deferring Judgment: Do not judge the quality of your work when you are just starting to work on it. For example, if you are writing just write down whatever comes to mind and then you can worry about refinement later.
5. SCAMPER: Use acronyms like scamper to help stimulate creative thinking: Substitution, Combination, Adaptation, Modification, Putting to other Uses, Elimination and Rearrangement.
6. Incubation: After working on something, simply put that work aside for a while to let solutions incubate.
7. Beliefs: Recognize that it usually takes a lot of time (10 years for most) before you can begin to make truly genius contributions to a field.
8. Listen to Happy Music: In one study, people who listened to positive music were better at answering questions that required making associations than those who did not. A happy mood broadens your focus of attention and makes you more open to considering a wider range of diverse information. Happiness in general increases creativity.
9. Go for a walk: In one study those who went for a walk performed better on the alternative uses test than those who sat, stood or were pushed in a wheelchair. Walking improves creativity.
10. Engage the Senses: As you stimulate your senses with a wide variety of inputs your brain’s activation levels will vary as well. This means there is a higher chance you will notice connections between different things as it requires brain circuits to be active at the same time.
11. Avoid Precrastination: Try to avoid starting a task too soon just to get it done as this can lead to performance decrements. Some studies have shown that procrastinators sometimes have more creative solutions as they give themselves more time to think.
12. Avoid Procrastination: Do nothing at first, think about the problem and then don’t wait to the last minute to get it done.
13. Incubation Effect: Stop working and spend some time thinking in the middle of a problem or creative project. Studies have shown that when a group is given a break in the middle of a task and told to do something else they solve problems better than those not given a break. This break period lets the solution incubate allowing neuronal circuits to remain active but to continue searching for associations and possible solutions.
14. REM Sleep: Studies show that including sleep and dreaming in the incubation period leads to increased creativity.
15. 1 Percent Inspiration, 99 Percent Perspiration: The insights that we all recognize as being part of the creative process are really the end of the process and not the beginning. Creativity involves hard work and performing all of the above behaviors to increase the likelihood of making creative associations to solve problems.  In the end, creativity relies on diligent effort and problem solving and doesn’t just magically appear out of nowhere.

According to Fredrik Haren, creativity in organizations can be enhanced in the following ways:

1. Maintaining an Open Mind: Leaders can cultivate creativity in others. Don’t shut down new ideas immediately but instead be open to new ideas and do creative things yourself as a leader.
2. Model Creativity: The best way to inspire creativity in others is to be creative yourself. Try new ways of doing things, model creativity.
3. Recognize Change: Idea perception is the ability to see when the world changes. Most people think the world changed from using Books to EBooks but really the world went from books to Facebook. People aren’t reading eBooks like they used to read books as reading time is now filled with social media time. Sometimes we don’t actually notice how the world has changed.
4. Don’t Resist New Ways of Doing Things: Fredrik gave an example of swimming in a pool. Most people swim across a pool vertically because they think it is the longest but really swimming diagonally is longer. When his brother started swimming in a new way others resisted. Other people often resist new ways of doing things and can shut down creativity in others.
5. Creativity can be Spiritual: Creativity comes from the word create which is linked to the “Creator.” We are close to God when we are in the creative process and we should embrace creativity as a value.

The following factors are known to inhibit creativity:

1. Environment: When you are under time pressure, closely supervised or subjected to critical examination creativity suffers. Research suggests that it is actually easier to inhibit creativity than it is to facilitate it.
2. Groups: There are very specific conditions that make for creative groups. In the absence of these conditions, groups are usually less creative than if the group members worked alone.  The “brain-trust” developed at Pixar is a good example of creating conditions wherein groups can become creative.

At Pixar Animation, there is a group called the “Brain trust” that helps artists solve problems on their projects. The Brain-trust operates according to certain principles.  The Four Principles of the Brain Trust include:

1. Peer to Peer: The Brain-trust is a group of peers talking with one another and in the case of Pixar it is filmmakers talking to other filmmakers. This isn’t about a boss giving feedback to an employee.
2. No Power Structure: Within the group itself there is no power structure. Feedback from someone higher up in the hierarchy is no more important than anyone else’s feedback.
3. Vested Interest: Everyone that is involved has a vested interest in the success of the project. They therefore have a vested interest in being honest with feedback.
4. Good Feedback: The Brain-trust only works when team members know how to both give and receive good feedback.

Other guiding principles of the brain-trust are:

1. Attachment: Each group member should try not to get too attached to personal ideas. All are invested in solving the problem.
2. Failure Happens: Most of us believe that failure is a negative thing and means that we are not good enough. This creates a sense of danger in the workplace. Leaders must make it okay for employees to fail so that they can acknowledge and learn from those failures.
3. Candor: When people aren’t afraid to fail then a culture of candor can exists where everyone talks about deeper issues and real problem. When fear and embarrassment are gone, creativity flourishes.
4. Budgets: Budgets can enhance creativity by forcing the team to prioritize to get things done.
5. Time: It took Catmull’s team four hours to communicate these principles to the Disney Animation team but it took Disney four years to implement these values into their culture.
6. Storytelling: Storytelling creates bonds between people and is a way of educating and having a positive impact on the world.

Measuring Creativity 

Psychologists utilize some of the following tests to measure creativity:

1. The Consensual Assessment Technique: This involves having a group of experts evaluate your creative works to determine how creative you are.
2. The Life‐time Creativity Scales assess creative behavior by asking participants to self‐identify examples of their own creative achievements.
3. Remote Associations Test: Since creativity is associated with the ability to make connections and associations, tests have been developed that test one’s ability to make remote associations. https://www.remote‐associatestest.com/
4. Unusual Uses Test: This tests asks people to come up with as many different uses as they can for ordinary objects such as a toothpick or paperclip. The test can be scored according to fluency (how many uses you listed), flexibility (number of categories of uses) and originality (how rare your response were).
5. Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking: This is a common test given to young people to gauge creativity.
6. How Do You Think Scale: This test measures whether a person has the interests, values, energy, selfconfidence, humor, flexibility, playfulness, unconventionality, and openness associated with creativity.