Street Art by Joshua Santos Rivera aka Bikismo.

How do you persuade somebody of the facts?

by Tom Stafford
November 26th, 2017

Via Mind Hacks: "The first theory of confirmation bias is the most common. It’s the one you can detect in expressions like 'You just believe what you want to believe', or 'He would say that, wouldn’t he?' or when the someone is accused of seeing things a particular way because of who they are, what their job is or which friends they have. Let’s call this the motivational theory of confirmation bias. It has a clear prescription for correcting the bias: change people’s motivations and they’ll stop being biased.

The alternative theory of confirmation bias is more subtle. The bias doesn’t exist because we only believe what we want to believe, but instead because we fail to ask the correct questions about new information and our own beliefs. This is a less neat theory, because there could be one hundred reasons why we reason incorrectly – everything from limitations of memory to inherent faults of logic. One possibility is that we simply have a blindspot in our imagination for the ways the world could be different from how we first assume it is. Under this account the way to correct confirmation bias is to give people a strategy to adjust their thinking. We assume people are already motivated to find out the truth, they just need a better method. Let’s call this the cognition theory of confirmation bias.

Thirty years ago, Charles Lord and colleagues published a classic experiment which pitted these two methods against each other. Their study used a persuasion experiment which previously had shown a kind of confirmation bias they called biased assimilation. Here, participants were recruited who had strong pro- or anti-death penalty views and were presented with evidence that seemed to support the continuation or abolition of the death penalty. Obviously, depending on what you already believe, this evidence is either confirmatory or disconfirmatory. Their original finding showed that the nature of the evidence didn’t matter as much as what people started out believing. Confirmatory evidence strengthened people’s views, as you’d expect, but so did disconfirmatory evidence. That’s right, anti-death penalty people became more anti-death penalty when shown pro-death penalty evidence (and vice versa). A clear example of biased reasoning.

For their follow-up study, Lord and colleagues re-ran the biased assimilation experiment, but testing two types of instructions for assimilating evidence about the effectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent for murder. The motivational instructions told participants to be 'as objective and unbiased as possible', to consider themselves 'as a judge or juror asked to weigh all of the evidence in a fair and impartial manner'. The alternative, cognition-focused, instructions were silent on the desired outcome of the participants’ consideration, instead focusing only on the strategy to employ: 'Ask yourself at each step whether you would have made the same high or low evaluations had exactly the same study produced results on the other side of the issue.' So, for example, if presented with a piece of research that suggested the death penalty lowered murder rates, the participants were asked to analyse the study’s methodology and imagine the results pointed the opposite way.

They called this the consider the opposite strategy, and the results were striking. Instructed to be fair and impartial, participants showed the exact same biases when weighing the evidence as in the original experiment. Pro-death penalty participants thought the evidence supported the death penalty. Anti-death penalty participants thought it supported abolition. Wanting to make unbiased decisions wasn’t enough. The consider the opposite participants, on the other hand, completely overcame the biased assimilation effect – they weren’t driven to rate the studies which agreed with their preconceptions as better than the ones that disagreed, and didn’t become more extreme in their views regardless of which evidence they read.

The finding is good news for our faith in human nature. It isn’t that we don’t want to discover the truth, at least in the microcosm of reasoning tested in the experiment. All people needed was a strategy which helped them overcome the natural human short-sightedness to alternatives.

The moral for making better decisions is clear: wanting to be fair and objective alone isn’t enough. What’s needed are practical methods for correcting our limited reasoning – and a major limitation is our imagination for how else things might be. If we’re lucky, someone else will point out these alternatives, but if we’re on our own we can still take advantage of crutches for the mind like the “consider the opposite” strategy."

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Photo by Wojciech Kruczynski / The Epson International Pano Awards

It's real

Physicists find we’re not living in a computer simulation
November 21st, 2017

Via Cosmos Magazine: "The finding – an unexpectedly definite one – arose from the discovery of a novel link between gravitational anomalies and computational complexity.

In a paper published in the journal Science Advances, Zohar Ringel and Dmitry Kovrizhi show that constructing a computer simulation of a particular quantum phenomenon that occurs in metals is impossible – not just practically, but in principle. [...]

The researchers calculated that just storing information about a couple of hundred electrons would require a computer memory that would physically require more atoms than exist in the universe. [...]

And given the physically impossible amount of computer grunt needed to store information for just one member of this subset, fears that we might be unknowingly living in some vast version of The Matrix can now be put to rest.

There is a caveat to this conclusion: if our universe is a simulation, there is no reason that the laws of physics should apply outside it. In the words of Zohar Ringel, the lead author of the paper, 'Who knows what are the computing capabilities of whatever simulates us?' "

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Photo by Denis Cherim from his "Coincidence Project".

Strange-face Illusions

October 28th, 2017
During Interpersonal-Gazing and Personality Differences of Spirituality

Via National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Strange-face illusions are produced when two individuals gaze at each other in the eyes in low illumination for more than a few minutes. Usually, the members of the dyad perceive numinous apparitions, like the other's face deformations and perception of a stranger or a monster in place of the other, and feel a short lasting dissociation. In the present experiment, the influence of the spirituality personality trait on strength and number of strange-face illusions was investigated. Thirty participants were preliminarily tested for superstition (Paranormal Belief Scale, PBS) and spirituality (Spiritual Transcendence Scale, STS); then, they were randomly assigned to 15 dyads. Dyads performed the intersubjective gazing task for 10 minutes and, finally, strange-face illusions (measured through the Strange-Face Questionnaire, SFQ) were evaluated. The first finding was that SFQ was independent of PBS; hence, strange-face illusions during intersubjective gazing are authentically perceptual, hallucination-like phenomena, and not due to superstition. The second finding was that SFQ depended on the spiritual-universality scale of STS (a belief in the unitive nature of life; e.g., 'there is a higher plane of consciousness or spirituality that binds all people') and the two variables were negatively correlated. Thus, strange-face illusions, in particular monstrous apparitions, could potentially disrupt binding among human beings. Strange-face illusions can be considered as projections of the subject's unconscious into the other's face. In conclusion, intersubjective gazing at low illumination can be a tool for conscious integration of unconscious shadows of the Self in order to reach completeness of the Self."

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A wonderful game by David O'Reilly
October 4th, 2017

Everything is the latest work by David O'Reilly. It is simply mind-blowing. Play it or watch a Let's Play, but don't miss it. Via Wikipedia: "Throughout the game, quotes from philosopher Alan Watts are given to the player. [...]

OReilly described the game as 'about the things we see, their relationships, and their points of view. In this context, things are how we separate reality so we can understand it and talk about it with each other'. He also considered Everything to be a continuation of themes he had introduced in Mountain. Later, OReilly described his hope for players of the game: 'I want Everything to make people feel better about being alive. Not as an escape or distraction, or arbitrary frustration, but something you would leave and see the world in a new light.' Besides the ideas of Watts, OReilly said that Everything's approach and narrative includes Eastern philosophy, continental philosophy, and stoicism. [...]

An 11-minute trailer for Everything won the Jury Prize at the 2017 Vienna Independent Shorts film festival in May 2017; due to this, it is on the longlist for consideration for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 90th Academy Awards, making it the first video game to qualify for the Oscars."

One of the quotes by Alan Watts in the game: "Let's get this clear. If there is any such thing at all as intelligence and love and beauty, well you've found it in other people. In other words, it exists in us as human beings. And as I said, if it is there, in us, it is symptomatic of the scheme of things. We are as symptomatic of the scheme of things as the apples are symptomatic of the apple tree or the rose of the rose bush. The Earth is not a big rock infested with living organisms any more than your skeleton is bones infested with cells. The Earth is geological, yes, but this geological entity grows people, and our existence on the Earth is a symptom of this other system, and its balances, as much as the solar system in turn is a symptom of our galaxy, and our galaxy in its turn is a symptom of a whole company of other galaxies. Goodness only knows what that's in."

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Oil painting by Ken Flewellyn.

Feel the feeling

A new study reveals the best coping mechanisms for stressed kids and teens
August 6th, 2017

Via Quartz: "'In this new work, we found that when the subjects used adaptive strategies, like looking at a problem in a different way, engaging in problem solving or pursuing constructive communication, they were better able to manage the adverse effects of stress,' Compas says. 'Those who used maladaptive strategies like suppressing, avoiding, or denying their feelings, had higher levels of problems associated with stress.' [   ]

'Stress is the single most potent risk factor for mental health problems in children and adolescents, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress syndrome, eating disorders, and substance use,' Compas says. 'But the good news is the brain is malleable. Once positive coping skills are learned and put into practice, especially as a family, they can be used to manage stress for a lifetime.'"


God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and the Wisdom to know the difference.

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The UX in Motion Manifesto

Creating Usability with Motion

May 26th, 2017


Via Medium: "The following manifesto represents my answer to the question — 'As a UX or UI, designer, how do I know when and where to implement motion to support usability?' [...]


After over fifteen years studying motion in user interfaces, I have come to the conclusion that there are 12 specific opportunities to support usability in your UX projects using motion.


I call these opportunities The 12 Principles of UX in Motion, and they can be stacked and combined synergistically in a myriad of innovative ways.

I’ve broken the manifesto into 5 parts:

1. Addressing the topic of UI Animation — it’s not what you think

2. Realtime vs non-realtime interactions

3. Four ways that motion supports usability

4. Principles, Techniques, Properties and Values

5. The 12 Principles of UX in Motion"

[ Wunderkammer ]

The Future of Motion Design

Talk by Justin Cone @ FITC Toronto 2017

May 13th, 2017


Via YouTube: "Motion design (or motion graphics, if you prefer) sits at the busy intersection of graphic design, animation and filmmaking. Inextricably linked to technology, the discipline of motion design is constantly evolving, adapting to emerging media while pushing the boundaries of storytelling and communication.

Drawing on his 15 years as an enthusiast and professional working in the field of motion design, Justin Cone (founder of Motionographer), will gaze into his crystal ball and share his divinations with you. Expect practical, entertaining and possibly challenging insights. Also expect cats."


Thanks to Alexander Hanowski!

[ Wunderkammer ]

3 Simple Ways to Get More People to Respond to Your Emails

The right way to write emails to keep those responses coming

February 27th, 2017


Via Inc.: "Thankfully, the folks at Boomerang, a plug-in for scheduling emails, did a little study to see if the language people use to close their emails has any effect on the response rate. 'We looked at closings in over 350,000 email threads,' data scientist Brendan Greenley wrote on the Boomerang blog. 'And found that certain email closings deliver higher response rates.'


'Emails that closed with a variation of thank you got significantly more responses than emails ending with other popular closings,' Greenley writes. Here are the exact numbers: Emails that ended in Thanks in advance had a 65.7 percent response rate. Of emails that ended in Thanks, 63 percent got responses. The third most effective closing was Thank you with a 57.9 percent response rate. Across the board, Boomerang found that sign-offs that included some sort of expression of gratitude had a 36 percent relative increase in average response rate.


It's also worth exploring a couple of the lowest-performing sign-offs on the list. It turns out that ending your email in Regards or Best could be dooming your response potential. In the 350,000 email threads they examined, Boomerang found Best was the worst performer of them all.


Of course, the subject line, tone, length, and content of your emails matters too. You can't write a long-winded, confusing, and unkind email, then simply end with 'Thanks!' and expect a reply."

[ Wunderkammer ]

End of 2016

Celebrating ten life moments
31st December, 2016

Concert Matias Aguayo texted me an invitation to his Matias Aguayo & The Desdemonas concert at Gewölbe. I was kind of hesitant because of too much work... but it turned out to be the best concert for this year. Once again he reinvented himself. The crowd was around my age, and I am pretty sure we all flew in a kind of unheard, totally contemporary Joy-Division-ish nebula, and loved it.

Death Two of the musician who shaped my 20s died this year. Sometimes it snows in April is the anthem to the darkest hours of my twen love, but also to the rocket launch of some of the most amazing adventures I had in my life... yet. Outside is as bold as it gets using the mainstream media and music industry to show them the finger and feel self-confident in a creative, splendid, witty way. Cheers to everyone cottaging out there. Never bogart the J, my friend.

Encounter As an aging designer it is difficult to find something truly fresh or inspiring in design because I have seen so many ideas already. But David O'Reilly surprised me many, many times. That is why I am a huge fan. This year I met him in person at the Clash of Realities conference. My longtime comrade Björn Bartholdy introduced us. Thank you!

Film To see Toni Erdmann was a relieve on many levels. On one level I laughed so hard it really hurt – I was shaking, and released much stress at the same time. On another level it was a joy to finally see a good German movie. It has been years, or even decades?

Flashback Spend several days in Wuppertal this summer to visit my father at the hospital. Among other things I took a ride with my niece on the famous Schwebebahn. It has been three decades since I studied at the University of Wuppertal. The biggest impression this time were enormous road constructions which divide the whole city.

Master We have been talking for a couple of years but this year we finally nailed it, and the new Klang und Realität master program will start in April. It means a lot to me, and I am convinced that we created a contemporary piece of teaching. Thanks to Julian Rohrhuber!

Prodopa  Went to a quit-smoking-session at Cologne's university hospital. They promised a massive flow of Dopamine if we would quit. I did, and am still waiting for the Dopamine... Thank you Ulli Schumacher for believing in me!

Third eye It opened when I was in Berlin to celebrate the 80th birthday of my professor, Bazon Brock. I beefed it trying to cross a street... Spend the day in a hospital in the Kreuzberg neighborhood waiting for my stitches. Awesome new look. Thanks to Tristan Thönnissen for being a real friend!

Tribute My blud  Marcus Schmickler and I organized a week of concerts, and lectures to celebrate the 80th birthday of the great John Tilbury. It was simply mind-blowing, every minute of it. At the Cologne venue LOFT Tilbury played with Keith Rowe and Marcus Schmickler. The last 30 minutes of the concert were legendary. They played but they did not play, and the suspense almost killed the audience. In his last concert Tilbury played his Beatles adaptation for solo piano in the grand staircase of Museum Ludwig. We sat in the paradox of crying without being emotional.

Women of the world take over This year I supported three extraordinary women to become full professors. — Step by step, and we are not there yet. Consider Madonna's speech as Billboard Woman of the Year if you need more information.

So, here we are... And what is next?

[ Wunderkammer ]

The Fortifying Commons

by George Monbiot

December 17th, 2016


Via George Monbiot: "We were promised unending growth on a finite planet. We were told that a vastly unequal system would remove all differences. Social peace would be delivered by a system based on competition and envy. Democracy would be secured by the power of money. The contradictions were crashingly obvious. The whole package relied on magic.


Because none of it works, there is no normal to which to return. [...]


How do we respond to these crises? Raymond Williams said 'to be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing'. [...]


There are many points at which I could begin, but it seems to me that an obvious one is this. The market alone cannot meet our needs, nor can the state. Both, by rooting out attachment, help fuel the alienation, rage and anomie that breeds extremism. Over the past 200 years, one element has been conspicuously absent from the dominant ideologies, something that is neither market nor state: the commons.


A commons is an asset over which a community has shared and equal rights. This could, in principle, include land, water, minerals, knowledge, scientific research and software. But at the moment most of these assets have been enclosed: seized by either the state or private interests and treated as any other form of capital. Through this enclosure, we have been deprived of our common wealth. [...]


The restoration of the commons has great potential not only to distribute wealth but also to change society. As the writer David Bollier points out, a commons is not just a resource (land or trees or software) but also the community of people managing and protecting it. The members of the commons develop much deeper connections with each other and their assets than we do as passive consumers of corporate products.


Managing common resources means developing rules, values and traditions. It means, in some cases, re-embedding ourselves in the places in which we live. It means reshaping government to meet the needs of communities, not corporations. In other words, reviving the commons can act as a counterweight to the atomising, alienating forces now generating a thousand forms of toxic reaction."

[ Wunderkammer ]