Applied Psychology

Applied Psychology


Virtues and Values in Challenging Relationships

virtues and values November 29th, 2018

The relationship and the difference between virtues and values is fairly intuitive: values are those things that we want and cherish, and virtues are those attributes in us that help propel us toward those things we value. In this blog, I will offer some opinions and insight into how we can use our unique virtues and values to negotiate our often-challenging social relationships in this era of partisanship, lack of shame, and everyone opining about everything, anywhere.

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Beliefs and Actions Involve Values

beliefs and actions involve values November 24th, 2018

Yesterday I wrote a blog with the headline “Values Underly Our Beliefs and Actions.” A friend got on my case about how it was very one-sided, partisan, myopic, and very unlikely to change anyone’s mind. That’s probably fair. I might be accused of having a terrible case of Trump Derangement Syndrome. Most good Americans who follow news probably do. In fact, I replied to my friend that there are probably very few “independents” out there in the sense that they haven’t decided what their political beliefs are or if they think Trump is a madman or a white knight. Folks who don’t get the threat that Trump poses to this country (and the planet, and the future of the planet) (or who think we all just need to chill for 2-6 years until he is done) in my opinion either misunderstand the threat or aren’t paying attention. However, I did realize that even though I couldn’t probably write a toned-down version of that very blog, I could write a similar blog that steers clear of politics. Ideally, I could make points that were agreed with by 90% of readers. Let’s see how I do.

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Values Underlie Our Beliefs and Actions

November 23rd, 2018

Values underlie our beliefs and actions. This is clear whether the lens is focusing on person to person interactions or government to government relations. This is clear to us when we reflect on it, but often this fact is overlooked or obscured. We tend to more easily focus on content, on the surface-level issues and triggers that evoke powerful emotion, involve tribes and loyalties, and which are purposely stoked by those who have a dog in the fight – be they advertisers, social media giants, or government officials. This blog presents some examples of values underlying actions, and the GOP is held up as an example.

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Is There Hope for Free Will and Moral Choices?

free will November 12th, 2018

One of the oldest questions in psychology, and in other fields such as philosophy, is whether humans have free will. That is, are we able to choose what we will do with our lives?” This is how psychologist Seth Schwartz begins his trenchant piece entitled, simply, “Do We Have Free Will?” This article, which originally appearred on PsychologyToday.com, is particularly relevant to the section of this blog called Applied Psychology. I am eager to present this piece here because this 10-minute read carefully captures the intriguing and vexing issue of free will vs. determinism when it comes to human actions – and, importantly, morality.

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Is the Fear of Death Rational and Appropriate?

fear of death November 5th, 2018

Epicurus (341-271 BCE) put forth an argument centuries ago that still retains much appeal and boasts some notable adherents (e.g., Rosenbaum, 1986). His thesis was that the actual occurrence of death (as distinguished from any possible afterlife or the act of dying) was not a bad thing, and thus the great anxiety our fear of death brings many people is unwarranted. He did admit that “being alive is generally good.” Epicurus believed that no post-mortem experience was likely, and that we never really know death because where we are, it isn’t, and where it is, we aren’t. It is appealing, but though it contains a meritorious theoretical/cognitive technique to stave off anxiety, I believe that Epicurus’ argument is somewhat shallow and incomplete, it doesn’t quite stand up to scrutiny.

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Magnanimity & Altruism: Saving 50 Jews from Death

magnanimity October 4th, 2018

Eleanor and Gilbert Kraus are very likely two of the greatest unsung heroes in American history – at least, in Jewish history. I watched a documentary about their courageous acts (in 1939), which amounted to nothing less than a full-throated display of magnanimity and altruism. Here is their story. I will also include a selection of quotations about magnanimity by noted Holocaust survivors, human rights activists, altruism researchers, and stalwart exemplars of virtue and honor such as Elie Wiesel, Nelson Mandela, Anne Frank, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Viktor Frankl. 

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Reason and Emotion: Integrating Passion and Intellect

reason and emotion September 9th, 2018

There is an interesting metaphor for living in the world: that we ride atop an elephant (our emotion, our instincts, and our desires) and that our rational mind is like the human who attempts to direct the elephant where one wants this beast to go. This blog is about the ability to integrate reason and emotion, and the positive effects it can have on creativity, habit formation (and habit-breaking), and living a fulfilling and happy life. And what does one need to cultivate in order to ensure that rational thinking enjoys the benefit of passion and emotions? As usual, the answer is: wisdom. The bulk of the following is really quotations about reason and emotion, as exemplified by this quote by the distinguished scientist, evolutionary biologist, and author, Edward O. Wilson: “Brain scientists have vindicated the evolutionary view of mind. They have established that passion is inseverably linked to reason. Emotion is not just a perturbation of reason but a vital part of it.”

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The Values and Virtues America Desperately Needs

the values and virtues America desperately needs September 2nd, 2018

America, if it were a person, would be experiencing anxiety, self-doubt, egocentrism, confusion, self-loathing, and narcissism. Life has never been easy or uniformly positive for all but the wealthy, and even then, the rich aren’t any happier than the other social classes. It’s true, there was what some consider to be a “golden era” as we came out of World War II. The wealthy and corporations paid a large share of the tax burden, had more in common with the other social classes (e.g., “the Commons” were more robust then), and jobs were well-paying and fairly secure. Despite the racial, gender and sexual orientation problems that plagued America then, it was a time of general prosperity, social mobility, and optimism. Something has gone awry to an increasingly dire degree; if America were a person it would be spending a lot of time in bars, occasionally getting into a fight while intoxicated, and dealing with a persistent cough. The values and virtues America desperately needs are the subjects of this blog. It entails social criticism, but I think America can look to its “better angels”, as Lincoln put it. We have to do it. 

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Thoughts On Living a Life of Value

a life of value August 31st, 2018

Especially in this midterm election year, the word “values” gets twisted to mean demonizing immigrants and non-whites, reducing a woman’s right to choose, or a very liberal interpretation of the Second Amendment.  You hear a lot about “fake news” and other signs of demagoguery. It’s all very dispiriting. And can priests be trusted?  Not if you live in Philly, they can’t! You also see rich pastors from megachurches selling their wares and scaring folks into giving until it hurts.  No, Values of the Wise (VOW) is deeper, more authentic, less crammed down your throat. Living a life of value is a goal within your reach and VOW can offer inspiration and an intellectual justification for finding wisdom and meaning in life. Maybe happiness and fulfillment to some degree, too!

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Finding Meaning and Living a Good Life

meaning August 29th, 2018

This is a guest blog written by Paul Wong, Ph.D. In it, he writes that “All the great humanitarians, such as Albert Schweitzer, Maya Angelou, Oskar Schindler and Mahatma Gandhi, devoted their lives to a noble mission. In contrast, those who pursue money, power and wealth can achieve only a shallow life at best; when they fail in their egotistic goals, they are more likely to become bitter, angry and depressed than those who failed in pursuing a life full of meaning.” Read more about how meaning contributes to a well-lived life – a life of value.

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