Tag Archives: New Zealand

How To Be a Better Person: Awe Yourself

Research published earlier this year seems to indicate that when we’re “awed,” we’re more likely to engage in prosocial or altrusitic behaviour. The researchers conducted five different studies:

Individuals higher in dispositional tendencies to experience awe exhibited more generosity in an economic game (Study 1). Experimentally inducing awe caused individuals to endorse more ethical decisions (Study 2), to be more generous to a stranger (Study 3), and to report more prosocial values (Study 4). A naturalistic induction of awe in which participants looked up at a grove of towering trees led to increased helpfulness, greater ethicality, and decreased entitlement (Study 5).

There’s so much to unpack in these findings. Experiencing awe can make us more generous, more ethical, more altruistic, more helpful, and less entitled. These findings have implications for a number of areas, not the least of which, is essentially, creating a roadmap for how to be a better person.

As someone who often trumpets the importance of perspective, I was pleased to read the following from the discussion section:

It would seem, as hypothesized, that awe leads to more prosocial tendencies by broadening the individual’s perspective to include entities vaster and more powerful than oneself and diminishing the salience of the individual self.

So, maybe instead of writing articles highlighting different perspectives, I should be writing fiction (or articles) that allow you to experience a sense of awe?

In thinking about the findings of this research, I’d be very interested to see how it plays out in the Prisoner’s Dilemma. I imagine that the results would probably still hold, but it’d be great to have confirmation of that. Furthermore, I’d be interested to see how economists would incorporate this into our understanding of the “rational actor.” If we’re experiencing awe and, as a result, becoming more prosocial, it would — theoretically — begin to wreak havoc on the idea that we’re acting rationally (as it takes a laboured interpretation of the rational actor to include prosocial behaviour).

Just for good measure, here’s a second picture that I hope allows you to feel a sense of awe.

ResearchBlogging.orgPiff PK, Dietze P, Feinberg M, Stancato DM, & Keltner D (2015). Awe, the small self, and prosocial behavior. Journal of personality and social psychology, 108 (6), 883-99 PMID: 25984788

How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk: What About Canada?

I’ve been clearing out some of the tweets that I’ve favourited over the last week or so and one of them was a fun dialect quiz from the New York Times Sunday Review. There are 25 questions that ask you the various ways you do (or do not) refer to certain things in the world around you. For instance, do you say y’all or youse or you guys (or something else) when referring to other people?

I found it relatively fun.

If you do decide to do it, though, I’d advise you to be careful in selecting an answer too quickly. There were a few questions where I clicked on one option and hit next and as the next question was loading, I noticed that there was actually an option for (none of these).

I realize that the New York Times is hosting this quiz, but I would have been interested to see where I stand in Canada. Maybe The Globe and Mail or the National Post can look into doing something similar?

I grew up in the Toronto area and have spent some time in British Columbia (and now Ottawa), but I’d be interested to see how I compare to other Canadians. Since I did grow up in Toronto, I wonder if that throws a wrench into my dialect. And, since I’ve lived in so many different places (California, Hawaii, New Zealand, Michigan, Virginia, etc.).

On the whole, it turns out that my dialect is closest to the people in Portland or Seattle. If I’m being honest, after undergraduate university, the west coast of the continent is where I’ve spent most of my adult life. I spent about a year in California and about a year in British Columbia (and about a year in Hawaii). The next closest would have been Virginia with 2 years.

Wanna Be More Productive? Kick Off Your Shoes

When I was an undergraduate, I was fortunate enough to be elected student body president. One of the perks to this position was that I had my own office. For a young twentysomething, this was pretty cool. As I had private office, I would often take off my shoes when I was working. It wasn’t that I had uncomfortable shoes, I just felt more comfortable when I wasn’t wearing them. Knowing that some people are uncomfortable with barefooted-ness, I kept a pair of moccasins close by that I could slip on when I went out into the main part of our office. Many of my colleagues teased me for taking off my shoes, but when I’d walk by the tables in the main office, I’d often see one or two people who’d also removed their shoes.

Since graduating, I’ve lived in a couple of places where barefooted-ness isn’t uncommon. For instance, in New Zealand, it’s not unusual to see people walking down the street or through the supermarket (!) barefoot. Even in the United States, albeit not the continental United States, it’s not abnormal to see people walking around barefoot in public. A couple of years ago, Jennifer Aniston was caught walking around in public without any shoes in Hawaii.

Walking around in public without any shoes is slightly different from walking around an office without any shoes. Many people walk around in public in their pajamas, but you most certainly wouldn’t head to the office in your pajamas — unless, of course, it’s national wear your pajamas to work day. But maybe shoelessness isn’t such a bad idea.

There was a biology professor in Virginia who shed his shoes in the classroom for a little while. The university allowed this while he was promoting his book, The Barefoot Book: 50 Great Reasons to Kick Off Your Shoes, but after a period of time, he was then required to put his shoes back on when he was in the classroom. The professor frequents restaurants without any shoes. ‘Isn’t this a health code violation?’ You might ask. As a matter of fact, it isn’t. The professor keeps a letter with him from the Virginia state health department attesting that it’s not. As you’d imagine, restaurant owners are none too pleased.

As the stereotype goes, professors can be a bit quirky, so you still might think nothing of this. What if I told you that the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (!) has admitted to walking around the office barefoot? This yearAs it turns out, a majority of people would be okay with this. According to a survey conducted last year by Adecco, a human resources consulting company, only 43% of people said they’d be offended if people took their shoes off in their workspace.

Can going barefoot actually make you more productive?

It’s no secret that stress is a major inhibitor when it comes to productivity. So, it follows that anything you can do to reduce stress in the workplace should help you be more productive.

Dr. Dieter Breithecker, who is currently the head of Germany’s Federal Institute for Posture and Mobilisation Support and a member of the International Ergonomics Association, says, “Putting the soles of your feet in contact with all the normal sensations helps to relieve internal tension and reduce stress. Shoes, on the other hand, prevent direct contact with the ground and so adversely affect the health of our feet, balance and posture.”

Not only could your shoes be inhibiting your productivity, but there’s a good chance that they might be affecting other aspects of your health like your posture.

It’s been quite a few years since I walked around barefoot in the office as the student body president. As the person ‘in charge,’ it was a little easier to get away with it and not upset too many people. In the years since, as long as I’ve had a private office, you could be sure that my feet were free, while my shoes remained tucked away in the corner. And for those times I needed to venture out of the office, I’d have to decide what the situation required. On some occasions, it’s important to be wearing formal shoes, but for those times it’s not, you’ll almost certainly catch me wearing a pair of Vibram FiveFingers Bormios.

Room for Innovation in Wind Energy Industry

I was driving down the 401 in Toronto and I noticed a wind turbine setback from the highway. As I looked at it, I remembered seeing it when I used to live in Toronto over 10 years ago. That’s a long time. On one of my first trips across the USA, I drove north through the California desert. As you’d expect, there were lots of wind turbines. When I traveled through New Zealand, there were lots of wind turbines there, too.

The extent of my knowledge (at this point) of wind energy is that the energy is captured through the use of a wind turbine. And because of the structure of the turbines, there are lots of folks who oppose wind turbines. There concerns are understandable and shouldn’t easily be dismissed. That being said, I think about the abundance of wind on the planet I think that there’s gotta be room for innovation in this industry, right?

If I had to choose, my guess is that solar energy is going to be what revolutionizes energy on our planet, but while we’re still trying to perfect energy storage (batteries just won’t cut it), I have a hunch that there’s something we can do about the wind energy industry. I don’t have a grand idea to propose in this post, but there are many inventions or discoveries that come from people who weren’t working inside that industry. My guess is that I don’t have many readers who work in the wind energy industry, so it might be people like you and I who come up with an idea that revolutionizes the wind energy industry.

The next time you get a few minutes, think about the abundance of wind on the planet and how we might capture and store that energy. It just might be a million dollar idea…

Five Years, Five Christmases: You Never Know Where You’ll Be…

As 2012 draws closer to its end, I find myself reflecting on the past. Not the distant past, but the recent past. In fact, with Christmas here today, I found myself reflecting on the last 5 Christmases and just how much things have changed for me over those 5 Christmases. Let’s journey back, shall we?


At Christmas in 2008, I was on reprieve between quarters of the first year of my PhD in clinical psychology (obviously, I didn’t continue with that route). For that Christmas, I left the balmy shores of San Francisco for a flight home to visit my family in Toronto and Detroit. It was a great time.


In 2009, I was in Victoria, British Columbia living on a floathome. My partner and I had just recently come back from New Zealand and decided to spend some time living in the floathome that we had for sale. For that Christmas, my partner and I accepted an invitation to have Christmas dinner with some of the folks living on the Wharf. This particular family had invited a bunch of folks over, so there were like 20+ people inside of this one floathome having Christmas dinner!


The Christmas of 2010 was one that I won’t soon forget, partly because I was just recently married, but probably more so because I spent it on one of the top 10 beaches in the world — on the island of Kauai (in Hawaii). My wife and I got up early on Christmas morning and we went down to Hanalei Bay. The exquisite backdrop of the mountains paired with the sound of the gentle waves kissing the shore… amazing.


In 2011, my wife and I drove up to visit our families in Ottawa/Toronto. If I recall correctly, we spent Christmas in Ottawa visiting with family and friends. It was a rocking good time and makes me consider Ottawa as a place that I might like to live.


And now, 2012. This year, my wife and I have decided to *stay* in Fairfax, VA. I wrote stay like that because it’s not as if we’ve lived in Fairfax for very long (only since August), but we have been in the DC area for over a year now, with me finishing up an MBA.


If you would have asked me in 2008 about any of the subsequent Christmases, I almost assuredly wouldn’t have been able to guess how any of them turned out. Victoria!? HAWAII!? FAIRFAX!!? Who knows where I’ll be for Christmas in 2013. Wherever I am, I hope I’m happy and surrounded by people that I love.

Enjoy the rest of your day!

Is it Time for More International Sports Events?

I’m that I haven’t written more about , but I’ve got a couple of posts (including this one) coming on the subject.

Having been born and raised in North America, the sports that are ‘native’ to me are very different from the sports that would be native to me had I been born and raised in a different part of the world. I grew up watching the (hockey) and (baseball). I played baseball all the way up to (and for part of) university. The weird thing to me is that when I visit places abroad, it’s not that these sports are foreign (or looked down upon), but that these sports aren’t played and revered in the same way that they are in North America.

For example, when I was for a few months, it was all about the (rugby). In fact, the country kind of “shuts down” when the All Blacks are playing. This doesn’t usually happen in North America. Well, maybe more accurately, it doesn’t usually happen in the US. I know that it definitely happens in Canada. Remember the in Vancouver? More specifically, remember the game? (22 million people of the 33 million living in Canada) watched Sidney Crosby score the overtime winner.

This whole post was sparked by a couple of ‘global’ sports events. The first, the . I happened to be in Munich on the day of the game (I’ve never seen so many uniformed and undercover police in one place!) From what I understand, the UEFA Champions League Final is like the Superbowl in the US, but only 5 times . More noteworthy for me is that the Champions League Final usually draws more viewers internationally. This is due, in part, to the teams that play in this league not all being from the same country. Nonetheless, when I’m watching a game like this, I feel like there’s more of a shared community. I can imagine people in Spain watching the game at the same time that people in Russia and Australia are watching the game. Of course, that may be the case with the Superbowl, but I don’t feel it as much.

The second sports event that helped spark this post was . Having an Italian lineage (my last name is STANGHINI), I feel a sense of connection to the country and by extension, the . I was really excited when they tied Spain during the group play and then a little worried when they tied Croatia. They went on to beat Ireland to advance to the knockout stage where they then beat England on PKs and handily defeated Germany setting up a rematch of their first game in the group play with Spain in the final. The game seemed close in the 1st half (even though Spain was up 2-0), but once , Spain dominated control of the ball.

Both of these events made me think more about sports on a global level. They made me think (and wish?) for more coverage and (excitement!) from North American countries of international sports events. Yes, baseball is fun and it’s great to see the Blue Jays play the Red Sox or the Yankees, but I really liked the when Cuba played the Dominican Republic or the USA played Japan. I really like it when there’s more of an international engagement. Yes, I enjoy a good Leafs game, especially if it’s against the Canadiens, but I get even more excited to watch a Canada-USA game or a Canada-Russia game. The one problem I can see with all of this is that North American countries are simply responding to their customers. That is, the customer wants to watch the NFL or the NHL, so that’s what gets put on the .

Although, there has been a decided shift to show more international sports events on TV. For instance, I notice that there is a lot more coverage of cricket on Rogers Sportsnet. Maybe North American countries are moving in this direction. Only time will tell.

New Zealand Grows No GMOs: Food & American Public Policy, Part 4

: Economics
: Campaign Finance & Elections
: Education

The US recently unveiled their new version of the and have called it: . I think this food plate is much better than the pyramid, but I won’t get into that in this post. I’ll talk about my opinion about “diets” in an upcoming post. In this post, I’ll be talking about food policy.

One of the main clues that there is something not completely right about the food policy in the US is some of the alarming documentaries. In 2004, there was . An alarming look at what it’s like to eat strictly a diet for 30 days, with little exercise (less than 2.5 miles of movement a day). At the time, McDonald’s did not have as many healthy choices as they have on the menu today, but as is pointed out in the film, salads can actually have more calories than the burgers (if cheese and dressing are added).

In 2005, there was . This was a difficult film for me to watch. It illustrates some of the unsightly practices of industries that use animals, but since this post is about food policy, I will direct you to the part of the film that explains the unnecessary harm that humans inflict upon animals for food production. While the film advocates veganism, I’m not suggesting you take up this practice, but after watching the movie, I’d be surprised if you didn’t at least consider it.

In 2008, there was . This is probably the most poignant movie with regard to food policy. This movie breaks down the unsustainable (both economically and environmentally) practices of food corporations like , , , and . If you eat meat (and don’t buy organic), there’s a good chance that it’s from one of these companies. Most effectively, the documentary explains that the reason food production has become what it is today, is due in large part to the boom of fast food in the 1950s. An increased demand  for food put pressure on companies to make more food — faster. And so this is what we have today.

One of the things that frightens me the most about the information found in documentaries like these have to do with (or any biological patent, for that matter). Companies like Monsanto, seeds in the lab and then patent the seed they’ve created. From there, they then sue (usually, successfully) farmers who use seeds that are similar to the ones that they’ve now patented. So, these farmers who know nothing of Monsanto and their created seed are going about their business doing what they do and are then, all of a sudden, told they have to stop using the seeds they use (because they are infringing on the patent rights of Monsanto).


I think there’s something wrong with food policy when a company that creates a seed can legally sue (and win) against a farmer who uses the original and natural seed. The seed that came from the environment. Doesn’t that seem a little strange to you?

Like in my previous posts in this series, I don’t think there needs to be any grandiose solution to fix the problem. While the problem may be widespread (as in the other posts), the solution needn’t be overly complicated. Of course, these simple solutions aren’t necessarily as easy to implement as they are to envision. With regard to food policy, a simple solution I see is to . It may sound a bit extreme and unfeasible, but is it really feasible to continue to ingest these scientifically engineered foods? Do we really think that there are nearly as many nutrients in lab-created food as there are in “naturally-occurring” food?

European Countries that Have Banned Genetically Modified Foods in at Least One Part of the Country

Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Macedonia, Malta, Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK: England, UK: Scotland, and UK: Wales. (As of September 2010: )

In all, there are nearly 40 countries on that list. The site where I got that information from also has a of Europe that are at least partially GMO-free.


Europe is often touted as being ahead of the North America when it comes to things like these, but how about New Zealand? From :

No genetically modified crops are grown commercially in New Zealand. No fresh fruit, vegetables or meat sold in New Zealand is genetically modified.

That’s right! No genetically modified food in New Zealand! It’s possible. It’s possible to have an entire country that does not produce food that has been genetically modified. Granted, New Zealand is smaller in terms of population than much of the rest of the world ( countries ranked by population based on country’s estimates and the UN), but this is still quite an accomplishment and dare I say, example, for the rest of the world. If New Zealand can do it, we can, too!