Sunday, April 25, 2010

Classical Conditioning

Here is a YouTube video about Pavlov's Classical Conditioning.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Rise of Narcissism

Narcissism --an inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity. Freud would have described it as erotic gratification derived from admiration of one's own physical or mental attributes, being a normal condition at the infantile level of personality development.

Recently it was reported that the level of clinical narcissism among college age students had doubled over the past 15 years to 34 percent! That is an incredibly high percentage but it has been confirmed across the country.

So, what does that mean and how could that happen? Well, in my mind it fits in beautifully with some of my earlier posts about the sense of entitlement that young adults display on a regular basis.

But I think I have an idea about one of the main reasons behind this incredible increase in narcissism...and the answer lies right here, on the web.

About 20 years ago when I was doing full time consulting I interviewed a woman who had just completed her masters degree. She was looking for a position in corporate training. At that time people starting out in that field were making an annual salary of around $30,000. During the interview I asked her what level of pay she was expecting in her first job and without pause she said, "At least $50,000!"  I had to do my best to keep from laughing out loud. As we talked further it was clear that she had obtained a false sense of worth while completing her graduate degree. Her professors told her how incredibly bright and marketable she was. But I knew she would learn the reality of the situation soon enough. At the time I was surprised at how out of touch she was with reality. But that is nothing compared to people today.

But today people are being mislead into a false sense of self-worth on a regular basis. And the internet is to blame to a large degree.

Think of it this way...the average college student believes that it is perfectly normal to report hourly to the world what he/she is doing. And they actually believe that the rest of the world truly cares! And it is not just college age people either...I have friends on my Facebook page who report such things as: heading to the store, driving my car, done with work for the week, home alone, just teed off the 8th hole, leaving the golf course now, etc. And they think that all their "friends" on Facebook really want to know all of that.

But think of all the other ways that we are given a false sense of self-worth on the internet...

--Five years ago a web page was a big deal. Today everyone has one.

--Before YouTube it was difficult to post a video on the internet, now it is so easy anyone can do it. So we can show everyone our lives in video. It seems like YouTube has been here forever, but it is only about five years old!

--In addition to Facebook there are blogs and Twitter. And I am sure it will not stop.

It wasn't long ago that instant messaging seemed amazing. Now we can share our lives minute by minute with the rest of the world...and that MUST prove that I am important...right?

Well, doesn't it?  Hello?

 The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of EntitlementDo you hear me out there???!!!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Fisherman's Lesson

One beautiful summer Saturday a man decided that he wanted to enjoy the sunshine and relax doing one of his favorite weekend activities, fishing. So, he got his little boat and his fishing gear prepared. On the way to his favorite little fishing lake he stopped at the convenience store that also sold bait. While he was there buying his night crawlers, he bought a lunch to take along and even got a little flask of whiskey to help relax him while fishing.

When he arrived at the boat launch it was the perfect day...75 degrees and sunny, with a mild breeze. His little seven horsepower motor puttered him out onto the lake and over to one of the areas where he preferred to fish. It was close to a swampy shoreline so there were no houses nearby. In addition to being one of his "lucky spots" for fishing, this part of the lake often had lots of birds and a few reptiles so that if the fishing wasn't good there was always something to watch.

He shut down the engine and threw out the anchor. This was his favorite lake because it was too small for skiing or tubing and there were no beaches on the lake, so it tended to be quiet. Not many people in the area even knew about this little lake. Today he felt extra lucky because he was the only one on the lake and that was just fine with him.

There was always something about being on the water with the sounds of nature that was naturally relaxing for him. But it turned out that it was not a great day for fishing. He got a few nibbles but they were few and far apart. Still it was nice to be out in the beautiful was good.

As the time passed he started to spend more of his time watching everything around him. First he watched the clouds and remembered being a kid and trying to find shapes of objects in the random cloud formations. It made him feel like a kid again to do the same thing now. But soon the clouds cleared and he thought to himself, "Even the clouds are not cooperating with me today!" But that was alright, this was a day to relax. He had even decided that if he did catch any fish he would most likely just throw them back...he was in a generous mood. So since the clouds had disappeared, he turned his attention to the ripples on the water caused by the breeze. There was something about moving water that was entrancing. He could watch it for hours. But after about ten minutes the wind died and the ripples died along with it.

So, he began to look along the shoreline to see if there were any animals to watch today. There were no birds. He could hear a few frogs croaking in the water, but that was about all. Then all of a sudden he saw a little splash over by some reeds in the water followed by a little movement toward his boat. There was something long and thin moving toward him. As it got closer he could see that it was a small water snake and it was holding something in its mouth...something that was wiggling a little! As it got even closer he could see a small frog being held in the snake's mouth...still alive…his four legs sticking straight out and wiggling! His immediate thought was to feel sorry for the little helpless frog...he thought to himself, "that poor frog, caught by that evil snake."

The snake kept moving closer to the boat. As it moved along side the boat he couldn't take it any longer. He quickly reached over the side of his boat and grabbed the snake right behind its head. He squeezed the snake slightly and as he did it released its grip on the frog enough for the man to take the frog out of the snake’s mouth. The frog was still alive and appeared to be unharmed. He held the little frog down near the water and it jumped out of his hand and swam away. As it swam out of sight the fisherman had a nice warm feeling of having done a good deed...he had saved the little frog's life. He was proud of what he had done.

After a few minutes he realized he still was holding the snake. He looked down at it and it looked up at him. For some reason, at that moment he realized that not only had he saved the frog, but he had most likely taken the snake's meal away from him. What right did he have to interfere with nature like that? He tried to think what he could do to make it up to the snake. He didn't have any frogs in the boat that was certain. As he looked over at his tackle box he saw his lunch and next to it was the flask of whiskey.

He made a decision...whiskey had always be good for him, so why not the snake? He reached over with one hand, opened the flask, picked it up and put a few drops of the whiskey in the snake’s mouth...and it didn't even flinch. He then put the snake over the side of the boat and gently set it in the water and let it swim away...and it headed right back toward the swampy area where it first had been.

At that point the fisherman thought to himself that this was possibly the perfect win-win situation...he had saved the frog's life AND the snake came out ok too! He sat back feeling proud of himself. He looked up and some clouds were back and he marveled at their beauty. This was indeed a great day! He closed his eyes and relaxed.

After a while he thought he heard a very soft sort of bumping sound on the side of the boat. He had no idea what that could be, so he leaned to look over the side of the boat. To his surprise there was the snake looking up at the fisherman with TWO frogs in his mouth!

The fisherman learned a valuable lesson that day: whatever behavior you reward you will get back two fold!