On Psychology

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The Carcer Principle

Let me tell you one of the most important lessons my favorite author ever taught me. In Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch, the main villain is a thief, murderer, and all-around bastard named Carcer. He’s the very picture of a psychopath—he has no conscious, feels no guilt, and doesn’t even understand the idea of right or wrong. He’s egotistical, volatile, constantly smiling, and he always has an extra knife. In a basically well-run city where the rule of law is kept, he...

Old to them

“Hi, how tall are you?” “Wow, so tall.” “Did you play basketball?” “You’re very tall.” Whenever I ventured into a tourist-heavy area in Shanghai or Beijing, I was bombarded by sales pitches. Equally inevitably, every one started with a comment about my height. Comments about my height don’t bother me; I love being tall. I’d also have thousands of short people out for my blood if I complained. But after the fifth time in fifteen minutes, how effective do you think that lead-in was?...

Completely unbiased

If you hear someone claim they’re completely unbiased or totally objective, they’re lying. Either to you or to themselves. No one is unbiased. We’re all biased. It’s called having a worldview, and it’s something every human has. We are predisposed to certain opinions based on natural inclination and personal experience. Of course, when most people say they’re objective they mean “I’m 98%+ objective”, because only the most deluded of souls would claim to be 100% unbiased, and even egomaniacs will allow for the possibility of them being wrong, though...

You have to sell free

Have you ever been given something for free, and saw it not as a gift, but a burden? Earlier my friend sent me a link to a video. An interesting one, as it turns out, but the link was sent out of the blue, without explanation, when I was busy. You get a coupon for a free meal, but you know you’ll have to go out of your way to the restaurant to redeem it. You’re given a birthday gift, but it’s...

Disorganized ≠ creative

Recently, one of my bosses referred to one of my colleagues, a salesmen, as creative, in comparison to me. What. This happened last week, and I’ve barely stopped drinking whiskey and slamming my head on every available surface since then. I don’t talk about my writing or blogging at work often, because frankly, I don’t care for most of my coworkers. The ones I like know about both, because I’m not ashamed of the things I love. But to be called less creative than...

I don’t want you to succeed

And I hate myself for that. We humans have a destructive tendency to view everything as a zero-sum game. We are so focused on the idea of winners and losers that it’s hard for us to imagine that everyone can win. It feels like, if you get yours, I won’t be able to get mine. It feels like there’s only so much of the pie to go around. This is wrong! This is terribly, destructively, unequivocally wrong in many aspects of life. Take immigration, which is...

Thinking about Looney Tunes

“Why, when I walk down the street, am I not being constantly bombarded by people remembering Looney Tunes?” –Patrick, Mind Reader I find that much of my day is spent thinking about shit that doesn’t matter. Idle worries, unimportant concerns, egocentric fantasizing that stays in my mind because it would be interesting to no one but me. I feel like my time would be better spent thinking about enjoyable things, like remembering Loony Tunes. If a mind reader walked past...

The safest risk

“Coraline [was] a huge risk. But these days in animation, the safest bet is to take a risk.” –Henry Selick Many people are risk averse. It’s one of humanity’s natural proclivities. It’s an offshoot of our loss aversion, where we put much greater weight on preserving what we have rather than acquiring more. $20 is not $20 – we value it differently depending on whether we already have it or not. The problem is that sometimes the safest bet is to take...

Useful lies

The human mind is a powerful thing. It’s so powerful it can make some things true simply by believing in them. The Placebo Effect is the most stark example. When given a treatment with absolutely no medical benefit whatsoever – a sugar pill, for instance – sometimes patients will either think they have or actually experience an improvement in their condition, simply because they believed the treatment might help. Taking action helps, even when the action itself has no clinical...

On writing fast, writing well

I’ve given myself three challenges since I started this blog, two of which I succeeded at, and one of which I failed. Today I realized another difference between them: while the first two were editing challenges, the latest one was a writing challenge. It was also the one I enjoyed the least, To me there’s a major difference between writing and editing. Writing is the fun part, where the artist in me gets to play around and do all the fun creative...