Tag Archives: Context

Famous People Alive at the Same Time — Visualized!

One of the things that I’m passionate about when I compose new posts on here is offering some sort of new perspective or a fresh perspective. Naturally, these are my two most often used tags (perspective = 66, fresh perspective = 71). This means that, of the nearly 600 posts I’ve written, in 66 of them, one of the most apt words for describing the post is perspective. Similarly, for 71 of the posts, fresh perspective is one of the most apt phrases. Also:

The primary focus of this site is to provide readers with a new perspective. In the same vein as the “Blind Men and the Elephant,” it can be difficult to know when one is looking at the big picture or if one is simply looking at a ‘tusk’ or a ‘leg.’ Some of the topics include: psychology, business, technology, education, politics, philosophy, and even history.

In today’s post, let’s focus on that last word — history.

Within the last 6 months, I came across a post that made me think, “Yes — thank you for doing this!” The post is found on a website that is absolutely brilliant in its aim — Wait But Why. The title of the post — Horizontal History. A short excerpt:

Normally, we learn about history’s storylines in isolation. We might have a strong sense of the history of physics breakthroughs or the progression of western philosophical thought or the succession of French rulers—but we’re not as clear on how each of these storylines relate to each other. If you think of history like a tangle of vines growing upwards through time, studying one type of history at a time is like following the path of one particular vine while ignoring the other vines around it. It’s understanding history in a vertical sense.

And while vertical history has its merits, it doesn’t leave you with an especially complete picture of any one time. An econ buff in the year 2500 might know all about the Great Depression that happened in the early 20th century and the major recession that happened about 80 years later, but that same person might mistake the two world wars for happening in the 1800s or the 2200s if they’re a little hazy on the history of wars. So while an econ buff, that person would have a pretty poor understanding of what our modern times are all about. 

Likewise, I might know that Copernicus began writing his seminal work On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres in Poland in the early 1510s, but by learning that right around that same time in Italy, Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, I get a better picture of the times. By learning that it was right while both of these things were happening that Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon in England, the 1510s suddenly begins to take on a distinct personality. These three facts, when put together, allow me to see a more three-dimensional picture of the 1510s—it allows me to see the 1510s horizontally, like cutting out a complete segment of the vine tangle and examining it all together.

What an innovative way to look at history, right? If you take the time to head over to the post, you’ll see that the author has a number of helpful graphics. I’m hesitant to include any in this post because I want to make sure you take the time to patronize that website. Just to take a moment to describe some of the more important ones: on the left side, you’ll find the year and then to the right, the author has charted the births/deaths of plenty of famous people throughout history. In this way, you’re able to see when certain famous people were alive at the same time.

After the author has done that, they’ve pulled out a number of “smaller” versions of these bigger graphics to talk a bit about some examples. For instance, there’s here’s a quick example:

Every time I look at the lifespan diagram, a new interesting horizontal pops out to me. Here’s one more: People in the US associate the 1860s with Lincoln and the Civil War. But what we overlook is that the 1860s was one of history’s greatest literary decades. In the ten years between 1859 and 1869, Darwin published his world-changing On the Origin of Species (1859), Dickens published A Tale of Two Cities (1859) and Great Expectations (1861), Lewis Carroll published Alice in Wonderland (1865), Dostoyevsky published Crime and Punishment (1866), and Tolstoy capped things off with War and Peace (1869). These guys were all in their primes at the same time. So was Lincoln. . .

I’ve spent at least a couple of different occasions looking through this graphic trying to place who was alive together. One of the interesting things I found was that much of Johann Sebastian Bach (certainly one of my favourite composers) and Benjamin Franklin’s lifespan overlapped and that Adam Smith’s (economics) lifespan is almost wholly contained within Benjamin Franklin’s (save for two months at the end of Smith’s life). In the philosophy world at this time, John Locke died when Bach was a teenager, Voltaire’s life mostly overlaps with Bach’s, and Kant was in his 20’s when Bach died. Oh, let’s not forget that Isaac Newton was in his 40’s when Bach was born and lived for about another 40 more years. And since I’ve started with Bach, I might as well tell you that Pachelbel was born about 30 years before Bach and Vivaldi was born before Bach by about 20 years.

Why Humanistic Psychology is Still Relevant

The development of humanistic psychology began in the late 1950s and was ‘born‘ in the early 1960s. Given the time that humanistic psychology grew, there’s no doubt that it informed the civil rights movement. However, some say that humanistic psychology peaked in the 1970s. An article last year in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology argued that humanistic psychology is, in fact, more important in the 21st century than many had previously thought.

DeRobertis enumerates the ways in which, “numerous contemporary transformations in the field are directly attributable to humanistic currents of thought within psychology.” Among those ways:

  • Qualitative research subgroup within the APA
  • Humanistic neuroscience
  • Hermeneutic approach to cognition
  • Social constructivist movement in the psychology of education
  • Student enthusiasm in the classroom
  • Ecological perspectives in perception
  • Existential-phenomenological thought in developmental psychology
  • Positive psychology
  • Discussion of the feasibility of reconceptualizing psychological suffering
  • Shift to holistic and relational processes in psychotherapy
  • Emotion-focused therapy
  • Peace psychology

The author also argued that humanistic psychology is making waves in other areas of psychology, but that aren’t directly attributable to humanistic psychologists. Among those ways:

  • Changes in emotion and intelligence research
  • Shift away from ‘testing the null’ to ‘building a model’

Towards the end of the article, DeRobertis pointed out that “the second postulate of humanistic psychology, the fact that human beings have their being in a context, has seen the most widespread application across academic areas.” While I’d love to see the four other postulates have widespread application in addition to the above-mentioned postulate, it’s great that the one about context is proliferating in influence. Context is so important — I’ve written about it before, even in the context of psychological research.

Humanistic psychology certainly has applications outside of psychology, but it’s important for psychology writ large to take humanistic psychology seriously or, at a minimum, take its findings seriously. The positive effects that humanistic psychology has had on psychology and continues to have on psychology, are growing. For instance, I’d be interested to see a collaboration between humanistic psychology and international relations. Of course, the obvious place for humanistic psychology in international relations would be in the context of nation states negotiating, but what about in the context of how a nation state views itself and its citizens? That is, do world leaders look at their countries from a behavioral perspective or do world leaders look at their countries from an humanistic perspective? And if world leaders did look at themselves from a humanistic perspective, would that make them less likely to violate the sovereignty of another nation or start a war?

ResearchBlogging.orgDeRobertis, E. M. (2013). Humanistic Psychology: Alive in the 21st Century? Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 53 (4), 419-437 DOI: 10.1177/0022167812473369

When Was the Last Time You Took the Long View?

I really like psychology. I like it so much that even though I’ve already got a couple of degrees in it, I continue to learn/read about psychology. I also really like magic and illusions. There’s something about the mystique of believing that what you’re seeing is actually happening — even though you’re sure that it’s probably some sleight of hand. While some may think that magic and psychology aren’t related, they most certainly are. Just for fun, here’s an article from Psychology Today of 5 Amazing Psychology Magic Tricks.

Naturally, my interest in these subjects led to my desire to go see Now You See Me. As Jon Stewart said a couple of weeks ago, “Morgan Freeman’s in it, so it’s gotta be good.” I thought it was pretty good, but that’s probably more a result of the “life lesson” that I culled. Now, what I’m about to talk about may be perceived as a spoiler, but I’m not talking directly about the plot. I won’t mention any characters or anything specific about the movie (even though it would help with analogizing), but as I said, some may consider even what I’m going to talk about as a spoiler.

Can you think of one moment in your life where something changed? A moment to which, had you chose differently, your life would be completely altered? Maybe you think that if you’d gone to a different university your life would be very different. Or maybe you think that if you’d chose to take the job offer from company X instead of company Y. What about those smaller moments, the ones that don’t “seem” as powerful, can you think of any of those that might have had that same impact?

Watching this movie reminded me to take the “long view” on life. Not only when thinking about the ‘bigger’ life decisions, but also the smaller, day-to-day decisions. It’s truly impossible to know how what you’re deciding today will impact your life in 10 years. Impossible! One can speculate, yes, but that’s all — speculation. Even the best forecasters are terrible.

Of course, it’s probably not a good idea to always be taking the long view, but every once and awhile (monthly? weekly? daily?) it’s probably a good idea to check-in with that long view and see if you might be taking something too seriously. It’s really hard to know whether what’s happening to you in your life — right now — is a good thing. Maybe this time of hardship will make you appreciate  something that’s going to happen later. Maybe this time of hardship is teaching you about what it’s like to have hardship, so that when you no longer have this hardship, you’ll have more empathy for those that do. As I’ve said before in regards to thinking about whether something is good or bad — we’ll see…

The Marshmallow Study Revisited: Context Matters!

Have you heard of The Marshmallow Study? It’s a classic experiment in self-control. All kinds of longitudinal research was conducted on those who weren’t able to “control themselves” and wait for the second marshmallow. In fact, there was even a movie that adapted the crux of the marshmallow experiment and used it as part of the plot.

A little over a week ago, the University of Rochester published some research that ‘updates’ the marshmallow experiment. I have to say, I’m quite pleased with the findings. Previously, it was thought that the participant’s ability to control themselves from eating the marshmallow in front of them and hold out for the second marshmallow was an indication that the participant may be more likely to succeed in the future. With this updated addendum, if you will, it now seems that there is more to the experiment than simply self-control.

When juxtaposed, my interpretation of the results of the original experiment from 1972 and the one discussed in the video is, quite simply: context matters.