Friday, March 25, 2011

Cognitive dissonance and 2012

Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and actions. Dissonance is also reduced by justifying, blaming, and denying. It is one of the most influential and extensively studied theories in social psychology.

Experience can clash with expectations, as, for example, with buyer's remorse following the purchase of an expensive item. In a state of dissonance, people may feel surprise, dread, guilt, anger, or embarrassment. People are biased to think of their choices as correct, despite any contrary evidence. This bias gives dissonance theory its predictive power, shedding light on otherwise puzzling irrational and destructive behavior.

A classical example of this idea (and the origin of the expression "sour grapes") is expressed in the fable The Fox and the Grapes by Aesop (ca. 620–564 BCE). In the story, a fox sees some high-hanging grapes and wishes to eat them. When the fox is unable to think of a way to reach them, he surmises that the grapes are probably not worth eating, as they must not be ripe or that they are sour. This example follows a pattern: one desires something, finds it unattainable, and reduces one's dissonance by criticizing it.
The Great Disappointment of 1844 is an example of cognitive dissonance in a religious context.
True-believer syndrome demonstrates carrying a post-cognitive-dissonance belief regardless of new information.
Mayan calendar and Gregorian Calendar

Is 2012 any different than 1618 or 2407 other than the fact we’re living through it? Remember 2000!

There has recently been still another revival of the talk about the end of the world. Once again newspaper articles are being written and public meetings held, both in America and in Great Britain, where more or less sensational statements are made to the effect that the end of the world is now due, and may be expected at any moment. Ever since the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 the prophets have been exceptionally busy in this direction, and on several occasions groups of people have actually sat up all night waiting for the end. ...
Lecture delivered by Emmet Fox at Victoria Hall, London, on September 6, 1933.

There is a simple test by which anyone can tell a true teacher from a false one.
It is this:
If he points you to his own personality; if he makes special claims for himself; if he says that he has received any special privileges from God that are not equally accessible to the whole human race anywhere; if he attempts in his own name or in that of an organization to establish under any pretense a monopoly of the truth about God, then, however imposing his credentials, however pleasing his personality may be, he is a false teacher, and you had better have nothing to do with him.

If, on the contrary, he tells you to look away from himself, to seek the Presence of God in your own heart, and to use books, lectures, and churches only as a means to that one end, then, however humble his efforts may be, however lacking his own demonstration may seem, he is nevertheless a true teacher and is giving you the Bread of Life.

You are what you really believe yourself to be. You experience what you really believe yourself to be. All there is to any phenomenon is our belief in it. There is no difference between the thing and the thought of the thing. We often hear it said thoughts are things, but the actual truth is that things are thoughts. From this it follows that when you “un-think” a thing it is disappears. The world you live in is the world of your own beliefs. You created it by thinking it, and you can destroy it at any moment by un-thinking it.

Again I would impress upon the reader not to forget the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind (usually called in medical books, the unconscious) is that part of your mentality of which you are not aware. You may be unaware that you have been holding a certain thought or a certain belief, and yet it may be in your subconscious, and if so it will affect your life, in spite of the fact that you did not consciously know of its existence. You probably picked it up in childhood.

Alter Your Life

Emmet Fox 1938

Sunday, March 20, 2011


"Total self-esteem requires total and unconditional acceptance of yourself.
You are a unique and worthy individual, regardless of your mistakes, defeats and failures, despite what others may think, say or feel about you or your behavior.
If you truly accept and love yourself, you won't have a driving need for attention and approval. Self-esteem is a genuine love of self.
Stop all adverse value judging of yourself.
Stop accepting the adverse value judgments of others.
Purge yourself of all condemnation, shame, blame, guilt and remorse."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The ideomotor effect

is a psychological phenomenon wherein a subject makes motions unconsciously. As in reflexive responses to pain, the body sometimes reacts reflexively to ideas alone without the person consciously deciding to take action. For instance, tears are produced by the body unconsciously in reaction to powerful emotions. Automatic writing, dowsing, facilitated communication, and Ouija boards have also been attributed to the effect of this phenomenon. Mystics have often attributed this motion to paranormal or supernatural force. Many subjects are unconvinced that their actions are originating solely from within themselves.
The term was first used in a scientific paper discussing the means through which the Ouija board produced its results by William Benjamin Carpenter in 1852. In the paper, Carpenter explained his theory that muscular movement can be independent of conscious desires or emotions.
Scientific tests by the English scientist Michael Faraday, the French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul, and the American psychologists William James and Ray Hyman have demonstrated that many phenomena attributed to spiritual or paranormal forces, or to mysterious "energies," are actually due to ideomotor action. Furthermore, these tests demonstrate that "honest, intelligent people can unconsciously engage in muscular activity that is consistent with their expectations”. They also show that suggestions that can guide behavior can be given by subtle clues.
Some practitioners claim they can use the ideomotor effect to communicate with a patient's unconsciousness using a system of physical signals (such as finger movements) for the unconscious mind to indicate "yes", "no" or "I'm not ready to know that consciously".
A simple experiment to demonstrate the Ideomotor effect is to allow a hand-held pendulum to hover over a sheet of paper. The paper has keywords such as YES, NO and MAYBE printed on it. Small movements in the hand, in response to questions, can cause the pendulum to move towards key words on the paper. This technique has been used for experiments in ESP, lie detection and ouija boards. The validity of these experiments has not been proven.
Michael Faraday, FRS (1791 – 1867) was an English chemist and physicist (or natural philosopher, in the terminology of the time) who contributed to the fields of electromagnetism and electrochemistry.

William James (1842 –1910) was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher who was trained as a medical doctor. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and on the philosophy of pragmatism. He was the brother of novelist Henry James and of diarist Alice James.

James defined true beliefs as those that prove useful to the believer. His pragmatic theory of truth was a synthesis of correspondence theory of truth and coherence theory of truth, with an added dimension. Truth is verifiable to the extent that thoughts and statements correspond with actual things, as well as the extent to which they "hang together," or cohere, as pieces of a puzzle might fit together; these are in turn verified by the observed results of the application of an idea to actual practice.

"Amaze your friends with your new found psychic powers!"

Ray Hyman (1928 - ) is a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon, and a noted critic of parapsychology.

While attending Boston University as a young man, he also worked as a magician and mentalist, impressing the head of his department (among others) with his palmistry. Hyman at one point believed that 'reading' the lines on a person's palm could provide insights into their nature, but later discovered that the person's reaction to the reading had little to do with the actual lines on the palm. This led to his interest in psychology. He obtained a doctorate in psychology from Johns Hopkins University in 1953,

Aside from scholarly publications and consultations concerning psychic research, one of his most popular articles is thirteen points to help you "amaze your friends with your new found psychic powers!", a guide to cold reading. The guide exploits what fascinated him in his academic research in cognitive psychology, that much deception is self-deception. He has investigated dowsing in the United States and wrote a book on the subject.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Quimby’s experiments in Mesmerism

A young lady, who was passing some time at my house during the past season, was sitting in the keeping room and I was in one of my chambers with my little daughter. I requested my daughter to go down into the keeping room and tell the young lady I wished her to give her attention to me for a few minutes, that I wished to perform some experiments upon her. I also requested my daughter to remain with her and see what they were. I then commenced the operation of my mind to paralyze one of her limbs. In a few minutes, her foot moved out and become entirely paralyzed. I then willed her to rise and walk and she immediately obeyed, saying to my daughter, "Your father desires me to walk and it is impossible for me to resist." I willed her to come to the chamber door, that I had something to say to her. She then asked my daughter "if her father did not speak." Upon her replying that he did not, she said "he did and wishes to tell me something." She came to my door and asked me if I did not speak to her. I replied that I did in my mind, but not with my voice. She could not believe that she did not hear my voice. These experiments were done in the evening and my wife being absent I told her that I should will her to ask my wife a question when she returned, but would not tell her what it should be. Wishing to see how far I could carry out this principle of operating upon her mind directly, I willed her to ask my wife if she had turned the cat out doors. In two hours from that time my wife came in and as she came up stairs, she enquired "if she had turned the cat out doors."

During my public exhibitions, I have practiced my subject, after the evening's exhibition is nearly closed, in similar experiments. I have left him and passed into another room and requested some one to tell me which of his arms to paralyze. Having directed me, he would return to my subject and request him to give his attention to me, that I was about to perform an experiment upon one of his limbs, arms or legs not allowing him to know which. Soon the arm, which I was requested to affect, would become paralyzed. Such experiments I have given to the public on many occasions. It is more difficult to influence the mind in the waking state than when mesmerized. Yet these experiments were done when he was awake.

My reader may enquire, whether such experiments are not all the influence of the imagination. We reply, that they are not imaginary, but real. The impressions received by the subject are real and not imaginary and the results are also real and not imaginary. The arm or foot does become paralyzed, and there is no imagination about it. If it were the result of an excited imagination the sequences could not be real. In the case of my subject, how could he know which arm I intended to operate upon? If he imagined, he could not produce the paralysis, and therefore no one can attribute it to imagination.

P. P. Quimby's Lecture Notes - Booklet 5

Sunday, March 13, 2011

De la baguette

Michel Eugène Chevreul (1786 – 1889) was a French chemist whose work with fatty acids led to early applications in the fields of art and science. He is credited with the discovery of margaric acid and designing an early form of soap made from animal fats and salt. He lived to 102 and was a pioneer in the field of gerontology.

Chevreul was a determined enemy of charlatanism in every form, and a complete sceptic as to the "scientific" psychical research or spiritualism which had begun in his time (see his De La baguette divinatoire, et des tables tournantes, 1864).

His research on the "magic pendulum", Dowsing rods and table-turning is revolutionary.

In his paper "De la baguette", Chevreul explained how human muscular reactions, totally involuntary and subconscious, are responsible for seemingly magical movements. In the end Chevreul discovered that once a person holding divining rods/magic pendulum became aware of the brain's reaction, the movements stopped and could not be willingly reproduced.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The adaptive unconscious

The adaptive unconscious is a set of mental processes influencing judgment and decision making, in a way that is inaccessible to introspective awareness. This conception of the unconscious mind has emerged in cognitive psychology, influenced by, but different from, other conceptions such as Sigmund Freud's.

The adaptive unconscious is distinguished from conscious processing in a number of ways, including being faster, effortless, more focused on the present, and less flexible.
Although research suggests that much of our preferences, attitudes and ideas come from the adaptive unconscious, subjects themselves do not realize this: they are "unaware of their own unawareness".

William Benjamin Carpenter MD CB FRS (1813 –1885) was an English physician, invertebrate zoologist and physiologist.
Carpenter's most famous work is the 1853 Use and Abuse of Alcoholic Liquors which was one of the first temperance books (Washingtonian Movement) to promote the fact that alcoholism is a disease.
Carpenter is considered as one of the founders of the modern theory of the adaptive unconscious. Together with William Hamilton and Thomas Laycock they provided the foundations on which adaptive unconscious is based today. They observed that the human perceptual system almost completely operates outside of conscious awareness. These same observations have been made by Hermann Helmholtz. Because these views were in conflict with the theories of Descartes, they were largely neglected, until the cognitive revolution of the 1950s. in 1874 Carpenter noticed that the more he studied the mechanism of thought, the more clear it became that it operates largely outside awareness. He noticed that the unconscious prejudices can be stronger than conscious thought and that they are more dangerous since they happen outside of conscious.

He also noticed that emotional reactions can occur outside of conscious until attention is drawn to them: "Our feelings towards persons and objects may undergo most important changes, without our being in the least degree aware, until we have our attention directed to our own mental state, of the alteration which has taken place in them."

He also asserted both the freedom of the will and the existence of the Ego.
Sir William Hamilton, 9th Baronet (1788 –1856) was a Scottish metaphysician.
By far his most important work was "Philosophy of the Unconditioned," the development of the principle that for the human finite mind there can be no knowledge of the Infinite. The basis of his argument is the thesis, "To think is to condition."
Hamilton laid down the principle that every object is known only in virtue of its relations to other objects. From this it follows limitless time, space, power and so forth are humanly speaking inconceivable. The fact, however, that all thought seems to demand the idea of the infinite or absolute provides a sphere for faith, which is thus the specific faculty of theology. It is a weakness characteristic of the human mind that it cannot conceive any phenomenon without a beginning: hence the conception of the causal relation, according to which every phenomenon has its cause in preceding phenomena, and its effect in subsequent phenomena. The causal concept is, therefore, only one of the ordinary necessary forms of the cognitive consciousness limited, as we have seen, by being confined to that which is relative or conditioned.
The transition from philosophy to theology, i.e. to the sphere of faith, is presented by Hamilton under the analogous relation between the mind and the body. As the mind is to the body, so is the unconditioned Absolute or God to the world of the conditioned. Consciousness, itself a conditioned phenomenon, must derive from or depend on some different thing prior to or behind material phenomena.

Thomas Laycock (1812-1876) was an English neurophysiologist who was a native of York. Laycock is remembered today for his concept concerning the reflex action of the brain, and from this standpoint he postulated that a reflex was an intelligent, but unconscious reaction to stimuli. He believed that although the brain was an organ of consciousness, it was still subject to the laws of reflex action, and in this regard was no different than other ganglia of the nervous system. Laycock also had a fundamental belief in the unity of nature, and saw nature as working through an unconsciously acting principle of organization.

Hidden Persuaders

A term used by Geoffrey Dean and Ivan Kelly (2003) to describe affective, perceptual, and cognitive biases or illusions that lead to erroneous beliefs.

"Technically these hidden persuaders can be described as ‘statistical artifacts and inferential biases’." Dean and Kelly argued that hidden persuaders explain why many astrologers continue to believe in the validity of astrology despite overwhelming evidence that astrology is bunk. Psychologist Terence Hines, who has explored many varieties of hidden persuaders, blames them for the continued use by psychologists of such instruments as the Rorschach test, despite overwhelming evidence that the test is invalid and useless: Psychologists continue to believe in the Rorschach for the same reasons that Tarot card readers believe in Tarot cards, that palm readers believe in palm reading, and that astrologers believe in astrology: the well-known cognitive illusions that foster false belief.

Hidden persuaders sometimes seem to affect people in proportion to their intelligence: the smarter one is the easier it is to develop false beliefs.

There are several reasons for this:
(1) the hidden persuaders affect everybody to some degree;
(2) the smarter one is the easier it is to see patterns, fit data to a hypothesis, and draw inferences;
(3) the smarter one is the easier it is to rationalize, i.e., explain away strong evidence contrary to one's belief; and
(4) smart people are often arrogant and incorrectly think that they cannot be deceived by others, the data, or themselves.

Hidden Persuaders (1957) is also the title of a book by Vance Packard. He chronicled the many methods, some pretty open and obvious, that advertisers use in their quest to manipulate the thoughts and actions of consumers. Packard attempted to expose corporate propaganda as a kind of mind control operation, especially in its use of subliminal messaging.

The 13 point guide to cold reading. 

Guide to Cold Reading
By Ray Hyman

1. Remember that the key ingredient of a successful character reading is confidence.
2. Make creative use of the latest statistical abstracts, polls and surveys.
3. Set the stage for your reading.
4. Gain the subject’s cooperation in advance.
5. Use a gimmick, such as Tarot cards, crystal ball, palm reading etc.
6. Have a list of stock phrases at the tip of your tongue.
7. Keep your eyes open!
8. Use the technique of fishing.
9. Learn to be a good listener.
10. Dramatise your reading.
11. Always give the impression that you know more than you are saying.
12. Don’t be afraid to flatter your subject at every opportunity.
13. Remember the Golden Rule — always tell the subject what he/she wants to hear!

Study them well, then amaze your friends with your new found psychic powers!