Category Archives: Volition

“Free will” versus “free won’t”

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“I can resist anything but temptation.” – Oscar Wilde One of the best-known series of studies on human volition, or “free will,” was the “marshmallow test,” conducted by Walter Mischel in the 1960s. In one variant of this study, children would be placed alone in a room with one marshmallow and told that if they waited and chose not to eat… Read more »

Humpty Dumpty words: socialism and capitalism – part 1

I wrote in a post back in March about the concept of “Humpty Dumpty words,” a reference to Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, where Humpty Dumpty engages Alice (of Wonderland fame) in a “war of words” in which he gets to define the meanings. [1] This is what I see in the voluminous writing happening as we speak on… Read more »

Money is choice

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Several recent posts in this blog have been focused on the idea of human volition (or “choice,” or “free will”). [1] While there is more ground to cover on the biological foundations of this perception, we can say at this point that we all (including the most strict of “determinists” who philosophically deny that free will exists) live our lives… Read more »

The advertising funnel, probability, and you

Why do I keep getting these “Nigerian millionaire” emails? And why do I keep getting “phishing” emails purportedly from my bank? How did millions of Britons fall for categorically false messages on Brexit, and how did millions more Americans abandon their lifelong principles to vote for Trump? This is a story about a very old marketing concept, called the advertising… Read more »

Playing Yahtzee® with God

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Yesterday I had the opportunity to see the award-winning documentary Three Identical Strangers, about identical triplets who had been raised separately, only to meet for the first time when they were teenagers. The film first explores the question of why these three men were so similar but ends on asking why their lives turned out so differently. The classic “nature versus… Read more »

Believe because it is absurd?

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“Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia.” … “The past was alterable. The past never had been altered. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.” – George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four In a series of recent posts, I looked at the process of how a large percentage of… Read more »

Why be ethical?

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I once viewed the assertion that we should all aspire to be ethical was a no-brainer, a universally-held social norm. I don’t believe so anymore. The election of a demonstrably-unethical businessman as president of the United States in 2016, supported despite his very public immorality by the most visible conservative, self-described religious voices, put the final nail in that coffin…. Read more »

“Signaling” our way out of an ethical dilemma

I have asserted in earlier posts about “Why good people disagree” that the human inter-brain “moral conversation” is likely one of biochemical probability evaluation. It is the end result of hundreds of thousands of “moral evaluator” brain neurons, representing the “rules” parts of the brain, the “good ends” parts of the brain, the “empathy” parts of the brain and the… Read more »