Currently viewing the tag: "magical thinking"

Black and white hindsight

…there are three levels of hindsight bias that stack on top of each other, from basic memory processes up to higher-level inference and belief. The first level of hindsight bias, memory distortion, involves misremembering an earlier opinion or judgment (“I said it would happen”). The second level, inevitability, centers on our belief that the event was inevitable (“It had to happen”). And the third level, foreseeability, involves the belief that we personally could have foreseen the event (“I knew it would happen”).
The researchers argue that certain factors fuel our tendency toward hindsight bias. Research shows that we selectively recall information that confirms what we know to be true and we try to create a narrative that makes sense out of the information we have. When this narrative is easy to generate, we interpret that to mean that the outcome must have been foreseeable. Furthermore, research suggests that we have a need for closure that motivates us to see the world as orderly and predictable and to do whatever we can to promote a positive view of ourselves. –Science Daily

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a scene in which your protagonist displays hindsight bias. How does this affect the next thing he or she decides to do?

Journaling Prompt: How do you see yourself operating with hindsight bias?

Art Prompt: Hindsight Bias

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Inform your audience about hindsight bias and how it may be affecting their perspective.

Photo Credit: Tim J Keegan on Flickr


“My mother believed that her entire life would have somehow been different had she been given piano lessons as a girl.” -Daphne Kalotay, Calamity and Other Stories

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story, scene or poem based on the first line of the week.

Journaling Prompt: How do you wish your life was different?

Art Prompt: Piano Lesson

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Write about the damage of living in the past or thinking “what if?”

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks on Flickr

Hurricane Katrina

When we’re threatened we defend ourselves — and our systems. Before 9/11, for instance, President George W. Bush was sinking in the polls. But as soon as the planes hit the World Trade Center, the president’s approval ratings soared. So did support for Congress and the police. During Hurricane Katrina, America witnessed FEMA’s spectacular failure to rescue the hurricane’s victims. Yet many people blamed those victims for their fate rather than admitting the agency flunked and supporting ideas for fixing it. In times of crisis… we want to believe the system works. –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Write a scene about a character’s reaction to a crisis.

Journaling Prompt: Have you judged the victims of a crisis because you wanted to keep intact your belief that the system works?

Art Prompt: Disaster

Nonfiction / Speech Writing Prompt: Explain to your audience the natural response to crisis and formulate a model for a more constructive method of responding.

Photo Credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video on Flickr


“For a long time we’ve asked ourselves, ‘How come smart, rational people carry out short-term schemes that in the long-term undoubtedly are going to sink them?'” says author Ramy Elitzur, who holds the Edward J. Kernaghan Professorship in Financial Analysis and is an associate professor of accounting.

“The answer is — we’re not rational. We’re rational only in a limited sense.”

The study bases its findings on a model of the manager-owner relationship over time. The model is also noteworthy for combining principles of game theory — used to predict strategic behaviour — with the idea of bounded rationality — that our decisions are always made within the limits of available time, information, and the human capacity to analyze it. –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Write a story or scene about someone who carries out a scheme doomed to fail.

Journaling Prompt: Write about a time when you misjudged a situation.

Art Prompt: Scheming

Nonfiction / Speech Writing Prompt: Write about a scheme that suckered in a lot of people and what we can learn by studying it.

Photo Credit: Big C Harvey on Flickr

moral disengagement

“We often hear that people who feel envious of their colleagues try to bring them down by spreading negative rumours, withholding useful information, or secretly sabotaging their work,” says Prof. Aquino, who conducted the study with colleagues from the University of Minnesota, Clemson University in South Carolina and Georgia State University.

However, Aquino says envy is only the fuel for sabotage. “The match is not struck unless employees experience what psychologists call ‘moral disengagement’ — a way of thinking that allows people to rationalize or justify harming others.”

The researchers explain that moral disengagement is most likely to occur when an envious co-worker feels disconnected from others in the workplace. –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Write a character sketch for someone who is morally disengaged. What motivates his or her bad behavior?

Journaling Prompt: Write about an office gossip you have known.

Art Prompt: Morally disengaged

Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about moral disengagement and office sabotage. Give them resources to use if they find themselves in this situation.

Photo Credit: bareknuckleyellow on Flickr



That nice looking black car in the front is an Enzo Ferrari. It will run you a cool mil (American $) to walk off the lot with one. Take two; they’re small. Oh, and don’t forget to order a yacht while you’re here.

…you can’t outearn dumb spending. Just ask all the millionaire celebrities, professional athletes, and lottery winners who end up broke. Let me repeat for emphasis: You can’t outearn dumb spending. -Gregory Karp, The 1-2-3 Money Plan: The Three Most Important Steps to Saving and Spending Smart

Writing Prompt: Create a character sketch for your protagonist showing how he or she makes financial decisions.

Journaling Prompt: How do your emotions affect your spending habits?

Art Prompt: Luxury
Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Give your audience the basic information for setting up a budget in order to avoid emotional spending.

Photo Credit: Damian Morys Foto on Flickr

figurative spires inquire

Of course everyone agrees with me. I’m always right. Right?

We like to think that others agree with us. It’s called “social projection,” and it helps us validate our beliefs and ourselves. Psychologists have found that we tend to think people who are similar to us in one explicit way — say, religion or lifestyle — will act and believe as we do, and vote as we do. Meanwhile, we exaggerate differences between ourselves and those who are explicitly unlike us.

But what about people whose affiliation is unknown — who can’t easily be placed in either the “in-group” or the “out-group”? A new study finds that we think the silent are also our side. –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Write a scene between two characters who have just met. Include their internal monologue
about the assumptions they are making about the other person.

Journaling Prompt: Write about how you feel when you find out that someone who you thought agreed with you actually disagrees.

Art Prompt: Mind Reading

Photo Credit: DerrickT on Flickr


“Go big or go home.” “No risk, no gain.” Google quotations about the benefits of taking risks and you’ll find a boatload. But what’s the downside?

…overconfidence frequently brings rewards, as long as spoils of conflict are sufficiently large compared with the costs of competing for them. In contrast, people with unbiased, accurate perceptions usually fare worse.

The implications are that, over a long period of time the evolutionary principal of natural selection is likely to have favored a bias towards overconfidence. Therefore people with the mentality of someone like boxer Mohammad Ali would have left more descendents than those with the mindset of film maker Woody Allen.
The evolutionary model also showed that overconfidence becomes greatest in the face of high levels of uncertainty and risk. When we face unfamiliar enemies or new technologies, overconfidence becomes an even better strategy.

Dr Dominic Johnson, reader in Politics and International Relations at the University: ‘The model shows that overconfidence can plausibly evolve in wide range of environments, as well as the situations in which it will fail. The question now is how to channel human overconfidence so we can exploit its benefits while avoiding occasional disasters.’ –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Write a scene where the character takes a big risk with two different outcomes – one where the risk pays off and one where the risk leads to massive failure.

Journaling Prompt: Write about a time when you took a big risk.

Art Prompt: Overconfidence

Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell a humorous story of how overconfidence got you into trouble.

Photo Credit: John C Bullas BSc MSc PhD MCIHT MIAT on Flickr

cliff diving

Are your friends a bad influence on you? 

The rewards outweigh the risks — when you’re in a group, anyway. A new USC study explains why people take stupid chances when all of their friends are watching that they would never take by themselves. According to the study, the human brain places more value on winning in a social setting than it does on winning when you’re alone.

“These findings suggest that the brain is equipped with the ability to detect and encode social signals, make social signals salient, and then, use these signals to optimize future behavior,” Coricelli said.
As Coricelli explained, in private environments, losing can more easily be life-threatening. With no social support network in place, a bad gamble can spell doom.

In group environments, on the other hand, rewards tend to be winner-takes-all. Nowhere is this more clear than in sexual competition, where — to borrow a phrase from racing legend Dale Earnhardt, Sr. — second place is just first loser.

“Among animals, there are strong incentives for wanting to be at the top of the social ranking,” Coricelli said. “Animals in the dominant position use their status to secure privileged access to resources, such as food and mates.” –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Write a scene that demonstrates the subtle peer pressure of making decisions in a group.

Journaling Prompt: Write about a time that you made a risky decision that was influenced by the presence of a group of friends.

Art Prompt: Risky decisions

Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell a story about a time when you made a risky decision.

Photo Credit: Dana on Flickr


It’s human nature to look for meaning and significance in everything around us. Astrology and astronomy, for example, used to be combined into one field of scientific inquiry. Today, pure science has edged out astrology, but it is still interesting to look at how humans react to celestial events.

In 1811, still spoken of as “the year of the comet,” because of the wonderful vintage ascribed to the sky visitor, a comet shaped like a gigantic sword amazed the whole world, and, as it remained visible for seventeen months, was regarded by superstitious persons as a symbol of the fearful happenings of Napoleon’s Russian campaign. This comet, the extraordinary size of whose head, greatly exceeding that of the sun itself, has already been mentioned, was also remarkable for exhibiting so great a brilliancy without approaching even to the earth’s distance from the sun. -Garrett Putman Serviss, Curiosities of the Sky (free for your Kindle or Kindle software

Writing Prompt: Write about your character’s reaction to a major celestial event. Include his reaction to the reactions of those around him to that event.

Journaling Prompt: Write about what celestial events like comets mean to you.

Art Prompt: Comet

Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about how comets are discovered.

Photo Credit: chrs_snll on Flickr