Tag Archives: Perception

Saving For Retirement — As Simple As Counting in Days

A few years ago, I wrote a post about the problems with saying “I’ll be ready in 5 minutes.” It turns out, there’s now research that — in a way — supports the point I was trying to make.

In this study, the researchers attempted to draw closer the connection between our present selves and our future selves. In particular, they looked at how manipulating the unit used to convey time (days, months, and years) can have an effect on that connection between our present selves and future selves. In plain language, consider the time between now and when you retire. It may be, what, 30, 20, 15, or 10 years away? For those of you closer to 25 years from retirement, that might sound like a long ways away (actually, it’s really not). Have you started saving for retirement? Oh, right, retirement savings, yeah, I’ll start next year.

That attitude right there, the attitude that our “future selves” are far away (when in actuality, they’re not), that’s what the researchers were targeting. From the researchers [Emphasis Added]:

We found that people say they will start saving four times sooner if told how many days rather than how many years they have until their child goes to college or until they want to retire. […] Considering one’s retirement or one’s child’s college education in days rather than years leads people to experience more connection between their present and future selves, which makes the identities linked to these future selves (e.g., “retiree”) feel more congruent with their current self. This reduces the extent that people discount future over current rewards. Less discounting means that saving for the future may feel less painful.

So, when we think about future events in a unit that is more relevant to us (days vs. years), we’re more likely to feel a connection to those future events and by extension, our future selves.

~

Let’s circle back to my post from a few years ago about 300 seconds:

As a way around this — sometimes — I like to use the term “300 seconds.” Why 300 seconds? Well, 300 seconds is the same amount of time as 5 minutes. (Weird, eh?) But it sounds different, doesn’t it? Similarly, if I’m going to need more than 5 minutes, say 10 minutes, I might say 600 seconds.

To piggyback this research, I’d be interested to see results of a study that looked at our perception of time in an even smaller unit of measurement. For things like retirement and college savings, years to days makes sense, but what about for something that’s going to be happening in less than 5 years or something that will be happening in a few months?

Let’s say we’re hosting a conference in 3 months and we need to get things in order for it. Three months isn’t that far away, but thinking about it in months might not give us the necessary urgency. What if we thought about it in weeks? Twelve. Days? 90. Hours? 2160. Minutes? 129,600.

Ok, so minutes is probably too finite a measurement for this analogy, but I think you get the point. Changing the unit of measurement certainly has an effect on our perspective of future events.

ResearchBlogging.orgLewis, N., & Oyserman, D. (2015). When Does the Future Begin? Time Metrics Matter, Connecting Present and Future Selves Psychological Science, 26 (6), 816-825 DOI: 10.1177/0956797615572231

It’s More Than Just Body Image, It’s How We Relate to the World

A couple of weeks ago, someone passed along an excellent video of a woman describing her experience with the pressures of body image. It’s an important video and I hope you take the time to watch it (whether you’re a female or a male). As I’ve talked about before, it’s important to understand just how the media is unintentionally reinforcing certain beliefs about the way we think, act, and feel, as a society.

There is one particular piece that’s not explicitly stated in the video that I wanted to highlight: the way of being in the world. Lily Myers talks about this sense that men were taught to “grow out” and women were taught to “grow in.” In a sense, it was okay for men to take up space and not okay for women to take up space. This is important and we should consider this in more contexts than body image. For instance, we often hear about how men are more likely to get promoted quicker or have better salaries. There are myriad reasons for this, but what if wrinkle to those debates are because women are taught to, from a very young age, that taking up space is ‘not okay.’

Of course, I’m not saying that women are actively being taught that their existence isn’t warranted, (though that’s the case in some parts of the world). It’s the subtleties that Myers speaks about in her video. This idea that she is watching her mother and understanding that ‘this is how I should behave, too.’

When I watch a video like this and hear the powerful message, I can’t help but hope that many people will see it. That many people will take this opinion in and consider that this is actually how someone else feels in the world. That this experience could be shared by many. If after watching this video, you’re wondering just how Lily Myers and our society came to be this way, I’d encourage you to check out Miss Representation, which came out a couple of years ago and, in February of 2014, The Mask You Live In

Here’s the text from the poem:

Across from me at the kitchen table, my mother smiles over red wine that she drinks out of a measuring glass.
She says she doesn’t deprive herself,
but I’ve learned to find nuance in every movement of her fork.
In every crinkle in her brow as she offers me the uneaten pieces on her plate.
I’ve realized she only eats dinner when I suggest it.
I wonder what she does when I’m not there to do so.

Maybe this is why my house feels bigger each time I return; it’s proportional.
As she shrinks the space around her seems increasingly vast.
She wanes while my father waxes. His stomach has grown round with wine, late nights, oysters, poetry. A new girlfriend who was overweight as a teenager, but my dad reports that now she’s “crazy about fruit.”

It was the same with his parents;
as my grandmother became frail and angular her husband swelled to red round cheeks, rotund stomach
and I wonder if my lineage is one of women shrinking
making space for the entrance of men into their lives
not knowing how to fill it back up once they leave.

I have been taught accommodation.
My brother never thinks before he speaks.
I have been taught to filter.
“How can anyone have a relationship to food?” He asks, laughing, as I eat the black bean soup I chose for its lack of carbs.
I want to tell say: we come from difference, Jonas,
you have been taught to grow out
I have been taught to grow in
you learned from our father how to emit, how to produce, to roll each thought off your tongue with confidence, you used to lose your voice every other week from shouting so much
I learned to absorb
I took lessons from our mother in creating space around myself
I learned to read the knots in her forehead while the guys went out for oysters
and I never meant to replicate her, but
spend enough time sitting across from someone and you pick up their habits

that’s why women in my family have been shrinking for decades.
We all learned it from each other, the way each generation taught the next how to knit
weaving silence in between the threads
which I can still feel as I walk through this ever-growing house,
skin itching,
picking up all the habits my mother has unwittingly dropped like bits of crumpled paper from her pocket on her countless trips from bedroom to kitchen to bedroom again,
Nights I hear her creep down to eat plain yogurt in the dark, a fugitive stealing calories to which she does not feel entitled.
Deciding how many bites is too many
How much space she deserves to occupy.

Watching the struggle I either mimic or hate her,
And I don’t want to do either anymore
but the burden of this house has followed me across the country
I asked five questions in genetics class today and all of them started with the word “sorry”.
I don’t know the requirements for the sociology major because I spent the entire meeting deciding whether or not I could have another piece of pizza
a circular obsession I never wanted but

inheritance is accidental
still staring at me with wine-stained lips from across the kitchen table.

 

Belief Matters More Than You Think

I came across an article in Scientific American last week that reminded me of a story of mine that I haven’t yet told. When I was a PhD candidate at Sofia University, one of the classes that we were required to take was aikido. I really enjoyed learning this martial art having had past experiences with taekwondo and karate — specifically, Gōjū-ryū. (In fact, I did some googling and even found the dojo where I spent a great deal of my youth!)

Anyway, while at Sofia University and learning  aikido, I remember one of the classes quite vividly. In this class, we were learning about the five elements, as they related to aikido. In particular, we were learning about earth. The Sensei (teacher) asked one of the smallest women in the class to come to the front and then he asked me to come to the front, too. He asked her to stand normally and then asked me to lift her off the ground from under her arms. I did it easily. Next, he asked her to imagine that she was the earth element — planting roots deep into the ground. After a few dozen seconds, he then asked me to try lifting her again (in the same way I lifted her before) — nothing. I bent my knees a bit more and put some more force behind my lift — nothing.

I was amazed.

It was quite clear from the first half of this exercise that I could lift her off of the ground, but when she was imagining that she was the earth element, I was — so it seems — helpless. I’ve written before about the importance that our words/thoughts can have on ourselves (and on each other!), but this is a tangible example of how someone’s beliefs are actually effecting reality in a very tangible way. Is there something you’re believing about yourself that may be limiting your ability to lift yourself off of the ground?

~

I realize that my story is anecdotal, so I thought I’d also include one of the many examples from the Scientific American article:

Psychologists Ulrich Weger and Stephen Loughnan recently asked two groups of people to answer questions. People in one group were told that before each question, the answer would be briefly flashed on their screens — too quickly to consciously perceive, but slow enough for their unconscious to take it in. The other group was told that the flashes simply signaled the next question. In fact, for both groups, a random string of letters, not the answers, was flashed. But, remarkably, the people who thought the answers were flashed did better on the test. Expecting to know the answers made people more likely to get the answers right.

~

Editor’s Note: As an aside, I’m in the process of moving from Washington, DC, to Ottawa, Canada (the Glebe!), so my posts may become a bit sparser over the next few weeks. I’ll still do my best, but if you don’t see anything for a couple of days, it’s probably because I’m busy with planning/arranging the move.

Do You Know Where Your Filters Are?

It’s been a couple of days since I last published a post. I’ll try to make sure that I have something published everyday for the next couple of days, but it is near the end of the semester and I have more exams (3) than I’m accustomed to.

I’ve had this link on my list of things to write about, so I thought I’d put something together really quickly this afternoon and clear it off the list. I’ve written before about the importance of cleaning off the list to allow for new ideas to come in.

The title of the post at the link I’ve had on my list to talk about is: “6 surprising facts about how we see the world.” I want to be encourage you to go and read the post on the other site because there are lots of good graphics/picture/videos that help to reinforce points. That being said, there are a two things that I’ll share.

Before sharing a couple of things, I do want to mention something I remember learning during my first Master’s (that’s reinforced in this link I’ll be talking about): we don’t see the world in the present. Pardon? That’s right. We don’t see the world as it’s happening — instead — we see it as it happened. That must sound a bit strange, but it makes sense after I add some more context to it. Think about how we see the world — through our eyes. When light enters our eyes, our lens focuses the light on the retina. The retina then carries signals of light to a somewhere in the brain by way of the optic nerve. While this happens fast, it still takes time. As a result, there is a delay (albeit a small one) between when light hits your retina and your brain processing what you see. Therefore, we don’t see the world in the present. Okay, now back to that link:

According to Dr. Mark Changizi, what is also common to trichromat primates is exposed facial skin (ie. faces not covered with fur). When the skin is exposed, these primates can communicate their emotional state based on the level of hemoglobin and oxygen in the blood. A green hue of the skin usually indicates sickness (low hemoglobin, oxygen), redindicates blushing or excitement (high hemoglobin, oxygen), blue – cold, lethargy(high hemoglobin concentration), and yellow – fear or bloodless (low hemoglobin concentration).

In other words, we see color not because color exists in the physical world but because color vision is useful for communication.

It never occurred to me (though, I never sat down to consider it) that seeing color was evolutionary. There’s a great picture of what we as (trichromats) vs. other mammals.

The other thing I wanted to share:

Now let’s go a step further. We’ll show how people’s need to find answers to the most important questions of life has less to do with some spiritual search for meaning and more with the fact that we evolved a mechanism which actively interprets the phenomena we experience. In other words, we form beliefs about ourselves and the world around us because these beliefs are useful for our survival.

So what exactly is this mechanism? Dr. Michael S. Gazzaniga, in his article The Interpreter Within: The Glue of Conscious Experience, explains:

The answer appears to be that we have a specialized left-hemisphere system that my colleagues and I call the “interpreter.” This Interpreter is a device (or system or mechanism) that seeks explanations for why events occur. The advantage of having such a system is obvious. By going beyond simply observing contiguous events to asking why they happened, a brain can cope with such events more effectively should they happen again.

Yet, the answers we seek do not have to be based in reality. They merely have to be consistent with our experiences and perception

Beliefs can be very powerful. They can cause us to war with each other or they can simply cause us to believe something that might not be based in fact. If you’ve never heard of Byron Katie or The Work and you’re interested in learning about some of the ‘filters’ you might use to see the world, I strongly urge you to check it out.