Thursday, 31 July 2008

What Happens To Your Blog Visitor Stats During Summer?

This is the second Summer I have been blogging and I get the sense that something seasonal might be going on with my visitor statistics. On average they tend to be lower than at any other times in the year.

I'm not sure what might be driving this. It might be akin to what we call the Silly Season and blogs like all forms of media hit a 'dry' patch during the Summer months.

Now that's an interesting thought because often I blog about events in the news, so if the news media are having trouble with inspirational ideas that would seem like an obvious connection.

Mind you I can't see how the people and events that make up the news consciously decided to take the foot off the gas in Summer, and just glancing at the BBC website there doesn't seem to be a problem with things to report. Today its headline is the gruesome story of child abuse on the island of Jersey, and there are a host of other news items.

Alternatively I was wondering if sub-consciously my mind is pre-conditioned after decades of routine to think 'yeah holidays!' and therefore my 'inspiration' and 'writing stamina' genes switch off for a while. It could of course be the 'heat' (disturbing really because that means globally warming equals lower and lower blog visitor stats)

There could, of course be absolutely nothing in it.
Most of the blog stats that are produced provide what Statistical Process Improvement experts call Run Charts i.e. they simply show the quantity of instances on a particular occasion. What they don't show are Control Charts that indicate what can be taken as 'normal variation' for a given system. This is worked out by applying standard deviation limits. What this means is that, peaks and troughs that I might have regarded as exceptional and attributable to some special factor e.g. great blog post, use of catchy title etc, are nothing of the sort! They are just what is to be expected. That said there will be exceptions and the Control Chart will highlight those.

So,in order to really focus on what blogging tactics and contexts really have an unusual impact we need to analyse our 'run stats' with 'control' stats. Anyone from Google Analytics reading this?

Monday, 28 July 2008

Maybe They Aren't So Cuil After All!

How Cuil Is This!

I just asked Google rival Cuil Cuil search for Googleto search for Google and it couldn't find anything! Not bad as they claim to be so much better than their former bosses!! They must be gullible if they think this a good way to give confidence in their search engine!

read more | digg story

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Is Gordon Brown The Alpha Squirrel Monkey?

image credit - The Daily Mail

Followers of British politics will be familiar with the serious problems Gordon Brown seems to be having. The man who had a fearsome reputation seems to be coming unstuck and yet he still persists in claiming to be 'the right man for the job' despite dis confirming evidence.

So how can this behaviour be explained?

An analogy can drawn with the Squirrel Monkey (Saimiri Sciureus)a small primate that lives in central and south America.

Squirrel Monkey life is governed by hierarchies that were studied in the 1970s by Professor D.Ploog who noticed a very interesting fact about their behaviour. He noted that the most senior (alpha) male only reacted to threats to his position when they were communicated by the second in line (beta) male and he ignored and disbelieved communication of threat from monkeys lower down the hierarchy!

Hierarchies are, of course, a fundamental aspect of most social organisation. Even the egalitarian notion of Kibbutz resorted after time to natural hierarchy. They reflect our need for independence whilst at the same time having a need to belong, our need to co-operate and compete, our need to control and delegate, our need to lead and to follow, and our need to split activities up and to collaborate.

As you know, Hierarchies can be functional and dysfunctional. When they are dysfunctional they are a source of frustration, anger and misdirected effort. An example would be when the higher ranks blame the lower ranks for failures. Some management writers such as Bob Garret note how the people who are at the top of hierarchies operate from a mind-set that says 'I've Made It', which is directly tied to the Squirrel Monkey habit of 'Not Listening'.

Check out The Fish Rots From The Head for more.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Radovan Karadzic : Has A Chicken Come Home To Roost?

image credit - Evstafiev via Wikipedia

Depending on who you are it is likely that as you read this post you will exhibit a reaction that is explained by Social Judgement Theory which explains how we almost instantaneously decide if we agree or disagree with a view point or proposal.

You will either be very pleased that Karadzic has been arrested, or as The BBC describe as someone is not at all pleased and the reason why:

"Heavily armed special forces were deployed around the war crimes court in Belgrade - apparently fearing a backlash from nationalists who consider Mr Karadzic a hero"

Regardless of 'ego involvment' a common observation must concern the gullibility of Doctor of Psychiatry Mr Karadzic. This evidence for gullibility seems to show Mr Karadzic operating 'as if' he was immune to the historical pattern that runs something like - people who are allegedly involved with War Crimes tend to get caught in the long run.

Has A Chicken Come Home To Roost?

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Why Are 18% Of UK Young People Bored?

According to recent research by the London School of Economics (LSE) 18% of young people in the UK do nothing except wander the streets living off their parents and or benefits.

Usually their behaviour is explained away as a 'nurture' problem, you know, something along the lines of "bless them, we need to support them by creating opportunities and educating them, or as a 'nature' problem, "these kids lack motivation what they need is a short sharp shock, preferably in the military"

The difference between these two approaches is a classic case of how underlying philosophy determines i) how the problem is characterised and ii) what solutions are regarded as valid.

You might know the 'light bulb' gag that captures what is going off here.

Q."How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?"

A."None"...the light bulb has to want to change!"

What neither of these approaches seem to take into consideration are alternative explanations about why these kids resist attempts to influence their behaviour. They also seem to presume a singular cause and effect.

Even a cursory look at the Social Influence literature will show that we are dealing with a complex combination of cognitive , social and environmental factors, which implies that the problem needs addressing in all these areas simultaneously.

Particularly interesting is the notion of Reactance the emotional response to an influence or persuasion attempt that is perceived to inhibit freedom of action and choice. In the case of 'the 18% they are experiencing an un-natural version of society. Un-natural in the sense that most of us know that participating in our society means that we have to learn to give up some of our independence (freedom and choice) in order to contribute to the peace and welfare of others and get along in a neighbourly way.

Because these youngsters experience a form of societal freedom that many of us do not, reactance to any and all initiatives should be expected. The nature approach will clearly interfere with their experience of 'freedom' and the nurture approach will fail too because it is offering social structures that are seen by the "18%" as thinly disguised initiatives to curb their independence, not as wonderful opportunities to a new sunny horizon of intellectual insight or vocational prestige.

So what are we left with? It is unlikely that overcoming the inertia will be done through appeals to higher ideals such as "its good to participate in society", "just think what it'll be like to earn a living". Offering a choice to these youngsters is misguided too because the deep roots of their attitude reach way down into their anti-societal version of 'freedom'. The change has to be imposed on them before there will any prospect of attitude change.

That means we have a) The Military - and they don't want to waste time and energy on low calibre recruits. Witness military unease with UK National Service in the 1950s. b) Education - aah that old liberal stalwart! - so we just fill our educational establishments with a load of light bulbs,or

c) my favoured option Social Service. No questions, no excuses, formalised, standard 8 hour working day, structured, minimum wage and long-term no 'release' date (most of aren't released form work until we retire note!)

This might mean the 18% will reduce to 1%...and that or course begs the question what do we do with them? I suggest we hurry along missions to the Moon and Mars!

Sunday, 13 July 2008

How Gullible Is Jacqui Smith on Knife Crime?

Does Jacqui Smith sincerely believe that visiting an accident and emergency ward to shock knife carriers into greater awareness of the consequences of their actions will work? Ask yourself...does seeing a picture like this stop you from committing knife crime or is it something else? People who carry knives exist in a dogmatic 'short term' and 'narcissistic' mindset. The only reaction you will get from these types is 'yeah? so what?' The mind-set problem is much more profound and much more resilient to change than she thinks.

This is a typical 'managerialist' reaction to convey (dare I say socially influence the public) into perceiving some degree of pro activeness on the part of the government. Very often though pro activeness is re activeness in disguise (Bob Garratt)

The value Meme of these people needs addressing and as my previous post explained, we are dealing with the vMeme of 'The King of Cats'. These people will only understand 'consequences' for themselves, they cannot relate to consequences for others!

What do you think?

Howard League study of 15-17 year old males in London.
Read more:
Knife Crime : The Mindset of 'The King of Cats'
Politicians Stick The Knife In - March 2009

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Knife Crime : The Mindset of 'The King of Cats'

"Part, fools! Put up your swords; you know not what you do." Shakespeare - Romeo and Juliet

One of the exasperating aspects of the apparent rise in UK Knife Crime is the gullibility of the protagonists. Gullibility in the sense of complete lack of understanding about the reach and term of the consequences of their actions.

The immaturity, ignorance, and socio-pathic attitude of the perpetrators seems to suggest that they see themselves as engaged in a perverse combination of Tag and King of the Castle

Unlike the school yard origination of these games, the knife wielding teenage 'players' use our streets as their playground. A playground that is devoid of mature adult influence and innocence, a playground where obsession with 'selfhood' and 'status' are believed to be essential statements of who you are. Using a knife to snuff out the light of one life to make your own appear brighter is the only option these individuals seem to see for 'being someone'

Tackling knife crime is a 'mind-set' challenge. How can we provide meaningful alternatives to teenagers who are dogmaticaly locked into believing their view is 'normal', acceptable, or simply the way it is?

Shakespeare saw the problem in Romeo and Juliet:

Benvolio. "I do but keep the peace: put up thy sword,
Or manage it to part these men with me."

Tybalt. "What, drawn, and talk of peace! I hate the word,
As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee:
Have at thee, coward!"

Benvolio attempts to socially influence the street argument between the Monatgues and the Capulets towards a non violent outcome. Benvolio represents people who are aware of the waste and consequences of violence. Tybalt is the personification of the frustrating mind-set held by the blade carrying teenagers walking the streets of the UK who don't understand the meaning of 'Life'


We only have one.

We don't have 'lives' like a computer game or a cat.

Taking a life affects your life

Taking a life affects the life of others

Life could mean 'Life'

Mercutio points this lack of care for the consequences by calling Tybalt the 'King of Cats', ironically pointing out that Tybalt might think he has 9 lives but, as we know, he only has one. Had Shakespeare written today would he have used something like 'King of Gears of War', or 'King of Call of Duty?'

Stopping Knife crime means changing the mind-set of the King of Cats

Please visit Knife for more information.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

The Landscape of Social Psychology

image credit

If you have more the typical 'soap opera' interest in social affairs, then the chances are that you will curious about aspects of Social Psychology.

A good jumping off point is Social Psychology Arena which is a great resource for books and journals ranging from general interest through to academic texts.

If this post has been successful in influencing your attitude and behaviour
in any way then that is probably down to principles that early Greeks associated with Rhetoric namely:

Ethos - (good character) - hopefully you feel that Gullibility has some integrity
Logos - (an effective message) - what's being said is of value to you
Pathos - (control of emotions) - the tone is balanced yet enthusiastic

Or perhaps some of Aristotle's (Pratkanis et al 2007) notions of scarcity, credibility and vividness apply. i.e the information being offered is not general knowledge, it is believable, it is captivating and creates images in your minds eye.

In particular I find the notion of Landscaping or pre-persuasion extremely fascinating. For example, the post previous to this one might be termed 'landscaping' as it was a way of preparing the audience for what is to come next.

It is interesting to note that in many 'organisational change programmes' the 'set-up' or landscaping is often underplayed or omitted, and frequently this condemns the change intervention to failure. Pratkanis defines landscaping as "structuring the situation in such a way that the target is likely to be receptive to a given course of action and respond in a desired manner" Unskilled people who have 'power' or 'believe' they have power will ignore landscaping and assume that their position or authority will enforce any change required.

It is also interesting to note how many skilled 'landscapers' there are though - magicians, politicians, con artists, adulterers, cult leaders, abusers etc etc.

Hmmm... perhaps I should set up the Capability Brown awards for examples of Excellent Social Influence Landscape Design.

Who would you nominate?

Monday, 7 July 2008

Ssssssocial Influence

I'm developing a new category called Social Influence to give more focus to aspects of applied social psychology and their connection to the phenomenon of Gullibility. The foundational studies of human behavior in this area have been around for some years with Le Bons 1895 work of The Crowd, through Sherif in 1935 and Social Judgement to Bob Cialdini in the 1980s and recently an academic journal specialising in this area called spookily Social Influence and first published in 2006 (see Social Influence

I'm presently reading The Science of Social Influence edited by Anthony R. Pratkanis - Psychology Press 2007. This is a fascinating collection of articles and provides a great overview of the area which Pratkanis says is "vast and thus can be daunting fro a new researcher"

So what's this topic all about? Well...Pratkanis gives a neat summary in chapter one when he says:

"Do you ever wonder why people do things? For example, why, all of a sudden, is everyone wearing the same purple shirt of the same hairstyle or using the same cool, groovy, or ist it spot jargon to describe what they like and agree with? How can a group of people watch someone else commit acts of violence and not intervene?...Why does a seemingly normal person give his or he money to a con criminal? What happens to get us to purchase things on the used car lot or the cosmetic counter or the infomercial? ...How does a small group (and sometimes just one person) come to change the behaviour and folkways of an entire community...And perhaps most importantly how can we resist unwanted and undesirable social influence attempts?

He goes to say on page 6 is that:

"One of the most important findings to come out of research on social influence is that situations are more powerful in controlling behaviour than we normally think (Ross Nisbett 1991) To account for this state of affairs, Lee Ross (1977) coined the term 'fundamental attribution error" for the tendency to over emphasise dispositional explanations for behaviours observed in others while under emphasising the role of power and situational influences.

So, with Mowgli in mind, Kaa couldn't have exerted influence outside of the jungle situation, where he could use his physical power over the weaker and vulnerable boy.

..."Social influence researchers tend to be wary of explanations that rely heavily on the dispositional causes such as -people conform because they are gullible" Pratkanis in his 2006 paper 'Why would anyone do or believe such as thing? A Social Influence Analysis." - in Sternberg, Roediger, Halpern - Critical Thinking In Psychology - Cambride University Press argues that there hasn't yet been the discovery of a gullibility or persuadeability factor in episodes of social influence... It merely names the thing without explaining it.

This, of course, is great news for the Gullibility never was our fault it seems! What do you think?

Friday, 4 July 2008

How About An Interdependence day?

Happy Independence Day to all our US readers!. Its amazing what can happen after a tea party isn't it! That's why I just drink coffee now.

Independence is a curious thing don't you think? It has to rely on some sense of 'sameness' and 'difference' that we hold, which begs the question at what level of analysis does 'independence' kick in.

It may surprise you to know that in 1945 The Vietnamese thought their position in relation to the French Empire was very similar to the Americans in 1776 (ironic that the first country to recognise the USA was France) and their declaration of independence was inspired by the American model.

In the final analysis we are all ultimately 'independent' of each other and Carl Jungs idea of individuation suggests that this is a prime driving force of every human being.

Curiously though, in today's globally connected world can any of us be truly independent? Maybe its a case of 'both and and' rather than 'either' - 'or'? Independent in the sense of 'free' to choose, 'free' to express, yet interdependent because 'not just anything goes' or 'one absolute way is right'. Everything we do as an independent human being affects the rest of the world. OK some effects may be a small as the flap of a butterflies wings, others are the cumulative effects of many individuals like global warming, and others still are the far reaching consequences of a single dramatic action (good or bad)

So...should we have an Interdependence Day too? Let me know! (Although its your right to choose of course)

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Dogmatism Eat Dogmatism : The Avoidance of Doubt

Regular readers of Gullibility will know that a key theme throughout its posts is the development of healthy skepticism and doubt.

Recently however I have been given pause to ponder on this matter because a close family member has decided to join the British Parachute Regiment

Naturally military service requires the following of orders and therefore the abdication of a certain degree of freedom of decision making (especially in the lower ranks) That said in order to cope with ambiguous and complex battlefield environments the Parachute Regiment motto ’Utrinque Paratus’ (‘Ready for Anything’). suggests at the same time the need to open minded and aware.

The dilemma I faced was whether it was sensible to begin a discussion about 'consequences', 'possibilities' and 'alternatives' and introduce an element of doubt into conversations with my family member. As comdeian and ex-para Billy Connolly sang, being in the Army is not just about 'sunshine and skis' there are very real personal and physical implications.

Surely though in a live military context this could be a dangerous luxury? At moments where life -saving instinctive reactions are needed lapsing into reflective introspection might not be the most effective course of action. Being certain of one's capability must be an asset.

It seems therefore that there are times and places in our lives where doubt should be avoided. The irony is that it seems western military dogmatism is necessary to defeat fundamentalist terrorist dogmatism...a sort of Dogmatism eat Dogmatism if you will.

What would you do if you were in my place? Would you raise your doubts?