Tag: Psychology

Anatomy of Deception and Self-Delusion: Walter Lippmann on Public Opinion, Our Slippery Grasp of Truth, and the Discipline of Apprehending Reality Clearly

“Truth always rests with the minority … because the minority is generally formed by those who really have an opinion, while the strength of a majority is illusory, formed by the gangs who have no opinion,” Kierkegaard wrote in his journal in the middle of the nineteenth century as he tussled with the eternal question […]

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Poet and Philosopher David Whyte on Love and Resisting the Tyranny of Relationship Labels

In the prelude to Figuring — a book at the heart of which are the complex, unclassifiable personal relationships animating and haunting historical figures whose public work has shaped our world — I lamented that we mistake our labels and models of things for the things themselves. Poet and philosopher David Whyte examines these distorting […]

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How to Rewire Your Broken Behavioral Patterns: Shakespeare’s Advice on Acquiring Better Habits

“Assume a virtue, if you have it not.” By Maria Popova “The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us,” Mary Oliver wrote in contemplating how habit gives shape to our inner lives. “Every smallest stroke of virtue or of vice leaves its never so little scar,” William James asserted a century earlier […]

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The Influence of Physical Causes Upon the Moral Faculty: How Founding Father Benjamin Rush Revolutionized Our Understanding of Mental Health

“It is now the most vitally important thing for all of us, however we may be concerned with our society, to try to arrive at a clear, cogent statement of our ills, so that we may begin to correct them,” the theologian Thomas Merton wrote to Rachel Carson in his letter of appreciation, commending her […]

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Visual Disturbances: what eye-tracking and 187 unlicensed clips reveal about change blindness and our perception of films

My most recent essay film, Visual Disturbances, premiered in the open access journal [in]Transition yesterday. This open access journal features peer reviewed academic video essays and showcases a wide variety of film and media analysis. Visual Disturbances uses some cutting-edge eye tracking visualizations to explore how film audiences both perceive and mis-perceive movies. […]

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Hermann Hesse on Solitude, the Value of Hardship, the Courage to Be Yourself, and How to Find Your Destiny

“No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life,” the young Nietzsche wrote as he contemplated what it takes to find oneself. Somehow, this man of stark contradiction, cycling between nihilistic despondency and electric buoyancy along the rim of madness, has managed to inspire some […]

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Confidence Through Criticism: A Lesson in Self-Esteem from Walt Whitman

“Re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul,” Walt Whitman (May 31, 1819–March 26, 1892) wrote in offering his timeless advice on living a vibrant and rewarding life in the preface to Leaves of Grass. When Whitman first published his masterpiece in 1855, […]

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Overcoming Stigma Associated with Mental Illness

Our society has come a long way in reducing the stigma around mental illness, but we still have a long way to go. Many misconceptions and stereotypes relating to mental illness still exist. So why does it matter? Stigma can impact people’s desire to seek treatment. Stigma can cause those […]

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The Best of Brain Pickings 2018

In 2018, the 12th year of Brain Pickings, I poured tremendous time, thought, love, and resources into this labor of love, which remains free and is made possible by patronage. If you found any joy and consolation here this year, please consider supporting it with a donation. And if you already donate, from the bottom […]

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New Study Shows Most Americans Are Lonely

If you are feeling lonely, you’re not alone. A recent study involving 340 San Diego County residents of various ages has found that loneliness is shockingly widespread.1 The study suggests that there is a 76% prevalence of moderate to severe loneliness in American society. This is a bombshell statistic. After […]

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The Nightmare of a False Accusation

You’re at a restaurant and your partner accuses you of being attracted to a man or woman sitting nearby. There has been distance in your relationship and your partner accuses you of having an affair. You’re late for a date and you’re accused of being irresponsible. Hearing such things, you’re […]

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Favorite Books of 2018

I treat my annual best-of reading lists as Old Year’s resolutions in reverse — unlike traditional resolutions, which frame aspirational priorities for the new year, they present a record of the reading that merited priority over the year past. In consequence, they are invariably subjective and incomplete — a shelf’s worth of books that I, […]

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The Eternal Return: Nietzsche’s Brilliant Thought Experiment Illustrating the Key to Existential Contentment

Chance and choice converge to make us who we are, and although we may mistake chance for choice, our choices are the cobblestones, hard and uneven, that pave our destiny. They are ultimately all we can answer for and point to in the architecture of our character. Joan Didion captured this with searing lucidity in […]

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The Art of Waiting: Reclaiming the Pleasures of Durational Being in an Instant Culture of Ceaseless Doing

“It is we who are passing when we say time passes,” the French philosopher Henri Bergson insisted a century ago, just before Einstein defeated him in the historic debate that revolutionized our understanding of time. “If our heart were large enough to love life in all its detail, we would see that every instant is […]

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Against Self-Righteousness: Anne Lamott on Forgiveness, Self-Forgiveness, and the Relationship Between Brokenness and Joy

Few things in life are more seductive than the artificial sweetness of being capital-R Right — of “winning the narrative,” as my friend Amanda likes to say. This delicious doom and glory of being Right — which is, of course, a matter of feeling rather than being it — tends to involve framing our emotional […]

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The Psychology of Code-Breaking: 100-Year-Old Insight from Cryptography Pioneers William and Elizebeth Friedman

“We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves. A pattern is a message,” the mathematician, philosopher, and cybernetics pioneer Norbert Wiener wrote in his landmark treatise on communication, control, and the morality of our machines. We are patterned messages, and we make and exchange patterned messages in order to describe, understand, and […]

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Against Common Sense: Vladimir Nabokov on the Wellspring of Wonder and Why the Belief in Goodness Is a Moral Obligation

“Once we leave those domains of human experience, there’s no reason to expect the laws of nature to continue to obey our expectations, since our expectations are dependent on a limited set of experiences,” Carl Sagan observed in considering how common sense blinds us to the reality of the universe. Perhaps worse yet — worse […]

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Incubation, Ideation, and the Art of Editing: Beethoven on Creativity

“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos,” Mary Shelley observed in contemplating how creativity works in her preface to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein. “It is strange the way ideas come when they are needed,” the physicist Freeman Dyson wrote nearly two centuries later […]

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How to Weigh Your Options and Decide Wisely: Benjamin Franklin’s Pioneering Pros and Cons Framework

When the 29-year-old Charles Darwin made his endearing list of the pros and cons of marriage, he was applying a now common decision-making technique pioneered half a century earlier by another revolutionary mind on the other side of the Atlantic: America’s polymathic Founding Father Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706–April 17, 1790). Not since the Stoics […]

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