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Monday, October 1, 2012

October- Redirect

First Thoughts:  Excellent Book for those serious about research and how we learn!

Timothy Wilson a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and is a leading researcher in social psychology.

1.  Opening Thoughts

2.  Table of Contents

3.   Further Reviews and Summaries

4.  Quotes from My Reading

Opening Thoughts

My first contact with Timothy Wilson was in Gladwell’s book Blink.  He quoted from Wilson’s book Strangers to Ourselves.  I must confess I was interested in the mind and how it worked before reading his book.  I was hooked on understanding out the mind works after reading the book.  His latest work, Redirect did not disappoint.
What has clearly emerged in all of the research is the growing realization that the unconscious is a powerful player in directing our lives.  It has become apparent that our actions, day to day, are most often driven by a built in script developed from our lives interaction with the world around us.  While there might be exceptions due to illness and injury, basically we walk out this script in the decisions and actions we take.  While we might be able to write out some of our beliefs and values, they are more of a statement of desire than a statement of reality.  The script or narrative of my life is not a list of good and bad behaviors.  It is an on going narrative of how past experiences (including fantasies) have been woven together to guide my future actions.  So, if I have grown up in a neighborhood where people are rude and bullies rule then my unconscious script is designed to protect me by not trusting the people around me.  I am naturally suspicious and will not commit myself to others casually.  As a new Christian I learn that I am to do good to all people and to love them as I love myself.  The “idea” is in direct contrast to my “script” which says trust no one and be careful about who you love.  So how can you change your script?  That is one of two primary reasons Wilson wrote the book.
Wilson is on a bit of a crusade against social change programs that have not been proven through careful scientific experiments.  He convincingly points out that many of our “solutions” are intuitive and not proven.  He lists a number of these and you will be surprised.  Some of the most popular programs that are designed to change behavior just do not work.  Yet millions of dollars are poured into them simply because the “sound like they should work..” 
The other reason for the book is to show how a few small interventions in regard to our personal narrative can have major impact on future behavior.  Simply by sitting down and spending about 15 minutes a day for about four days writing about out life can impact most of our behavior.  Granted it is more than just writing, it is directed writing.  But the research has shown this to be far more powerful than some of the very costly interventions used today. 
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know and understand how to change lives! 

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 – Redirect: Small Edits, Lasting Changes
Chapter 2 – Testing, Testing: Does It Work?
Chapter 3 – Shaping Our Narratives: Increasing Personal Well-Being
Chapter 4 – Shaping Our Kids” Narratives: Becoming Better Parents
Chapter 5 – Just Say…Volunteers: Preventing Teenage Pregnancies
Chapter 6 – Scared Crooked: Reducing Teenage Vilence
Chapter 7 – Everybody’s Doing it: Or Are They?
Chapter 8 – Surely They Won’t Like Me – Or Will They?
Chapter 9 – It’s About Me, Not My Group: Closing the Achievement Gap
Chapter 10 – Sustained Change: Finding Solutions
Further Reviews and Summaries
Psychology Today – Interview with Timothy Wilson
Book Summary – A good summary/review of the book.

Quotes from My Reading

This technique (writing), pioneered by social psychologist James Pennebaker, has been tested in dozens of experiments in which people were randomly assigned to write about personal traumas or mundane topics such as what they did that day.
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The reasons why people do what they do are often mysterious, and we have to fill in the blanks. The interpretation we come up with matters, because it dictates how we feel and act ..
Our interpretations are rooted in personal narratives about ourselves, and these narratives aren’t always so positive, people have core narratives about relationships that are rooted in their early interactions with their primary caregivers, and these narratives act as filters, influencing interpretations of their adult relationships—sometimes in unhealthy ways.

But he had a more radical insight: not only do we need to view a problem through other people’s eyes, we can also change the way they view it with relatively simple interventions.

Since then, new generations of social psychologists have refined Lewin’s idea into an approach that I call story editing, which is a set of techniques designed to redirect people’s narratives about themselves and the social world in a way that leads to lasting changes in behavior.

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Thus far we have seen two forms of the story-editing approach: the writing exercise, in which people reinterpret a problem by writing about it, and story prompting, in which people are directed down a particular narrative path with the hope that it will bump them out of a self-defeating thinking pattern. 

If they act kindly toward others, they begin to see themselves as having kind dispositions, and the more they view themselves as kind, the more likely they are to help others—thereby strengthening their new narrative.

To summarize, the story-editing approach tries to change people’s personal interpretations of themselves and the social world in ways that make them happier and lead to more desirable behaviors.

Policy makers, self-help authors, and nonpsychologists of all stripes often rely on common sense to tell them what is right
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But common sense can lead us astray by not taking into account how the human mind really works—specifically, by failing to consider how small changes in people’s narratives can have a lasting impact on their behavior.

The problem is that these interventions failed to take into account a basic premise of the story-editing approach, namely, that in order to solve a problem; we have to view it through the eyes of the people involved and get them to redirect their narratives about it.

The first question to ask with any intervention is, what is it that we want to change? And how can we measure that change?

We are strangers to ourselves, the owners of highly sophisticated unconscious minds that hum along parallel to our conscious minds, interpreting the world and constructing narratives about our place in it. It is these unconscious narratives that social psychologists target.  
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Instead, we develop theories about the causes of our feelings, just as we develop theories about the causes of other people’s feelings.
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Once people have gone through a program designed to help them in some way, there is a tendency for them to misremember how well off they were before the program began, thereby overestimating the effects of the intervention.

One common approach is called a pre-post design, in which researchers compare people’s beliefs, attitudes, or behavior before an intervention to their beliefs, attitudes, or behavior after the intervention to see if any changes have occurred.

A better approach is to compare the people who received the intervention with a control group.
random assignment to condition.   “correlation does not equal causation”  Random assignment is the Great Equalizer.  In short, it takes a true experiment to settle the question of what causes what.

The premise is that people’s behavior emanates from their interpretations of the world and that these interpretations can often be redirected with relatively simple interventions.

CHAPTER 3 Shaping Our Narratives Increasing Personal Well-Being

If I were to give one piece of advice for how to be happier, it would be to carve out more time to spend with friends and loved ones, because, as we’ve seen, the best predictor of happiness is the quality of our social relationships.

What kinds of perspectives make us happy? Research reveals three key ingredients: meaning, hope, and purpose.

We have developed narratives that provide comforting answers. These are core narratives—worldviews that explain creation, the purpose of life, and what happens after we die, thereby helping us deal with the terror of gazing into the sky and seeing ourselves as insignificant specks.11

If people have fragmented religious beliefs that are not well integrated into their overall lives, and if these beliefs are not supported by their loved ones, they are no happier than anyone else.

It is thus critical to have core narratives about the basic questions of life.

The better we can understand and explain negative events such as relationship breakups, business failures, or medical problems, the faster we will recover from them.

This works best when two conditions are met: people gain some distance from the event, so that thinking about it doesn’t overwhelm them, and they analyze why the event occurred.

To recap, a critical element to our well-being is how well we understand what happens to us and why.

People who attribute negative events (such as failing a test) to things about themselves that are hard to change and that affect a broad spectrum of their lives experience learned helplessness, which puts them at risk for depression and poor health, gives them low expectations about the future, and makes them likely to give up easily on future tasks. People who attribute negative events to things that they can control and change, such as the time they spend studying for the next test, are less likely to be depressed, are less likely to have health problems, and are more likely to try harder when the going gets tough.

This questionnaire, called the Life Orientation Test (Revised), is the most commonly used measure of optimism.21

What really sets optimists apart is that they have better coping strategies in the face of adversity—they confront problems rather than avoid them, plan better for the future, focus on what they can control and change, and persist when they encounter obstacles instead of giving up.

But, as with happiness, there is room to maneuver—people can be trained to be more optimistic using story-editing techniques.

Here’s how it works: Think about your life in the future and write for twenty minutes, on four consecutive days, about how “everything has gone as well as it possibly could” and your life dreams have come true. (The exact instructions are at the end of this chapter, on page 73.)

Indeed, research shows that people who focus on the process of achieving a desired outcome are more likely to achieve it than those who simply think about the outcome itself.

The moral of all of this is what the social psychologist Mark Lepper calls the minimal sufficiency principle.

use the minimal sufficiency principle, whereby you dole out rewards and punishments that are strong enough to get your kids to do what you want them to do, but not so strong that the kids think the rewards and punishments are the reason for their behavior.

Label Your Kids’ Behavior Appropriately: Once your kids are behaving appropriately, it can help to provide them with a favorable label for those behaviors. “You sure are a safe driver,” you might say, or “Looks like you’re the kind of person who loves to read.”

Carol Dweck’s work shows, it is harmful to label your kids’ successes in ways that imply a fixed mindset (“You are such a talented athlete!”). Better to label them in ways that imply a growth mindset (“Your practice really paid off!”).

Foster Secure Attachment Models: In the last part of this chapter, we saw the importance of core attachment narratives. Beginning the moment your child is born, be attentive to his or her needs and respond consistently with appropriate love and care.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters program was evaluated with a scientifically sound study in the 1990s.

After eighteen months, the youths in the mentoring group were doing better academically, had better relationships with their parents, were less likely

First, the Nurse-Family Partnership Program attempts to increase mothers’ self-efficacy

The Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS) program targets young children in a classroom or preschool setting.

Multisystemic therapy (MST) targets teenagers who are at risk for being placed outside of the home.

Functional family therapy (FFT) also targets teens that have conduct disorders, but takes less time (a total of eight to twenty-six hours, depending on the severity

It has three phases: engagement and motivation, in which the leader builds trust with
behavior change, in which leaders try to improve parenting skills, family communication, connecting the family to community resources.

Thus, descriptive and injunctive norms are not always the same and it might help to convey information about both when trying to change people’s behavior.

One way that kids learn about what is cool is through television and movies, many of which, unfortunately, glamorize smoking and drinking. About 70 percent of movies made in the United States depict someone smoking, and it is often the sexy, affluent, glamorous stars who light up and appear to enjoy it (we don’t see their yellowing teeth or hear their hacking coughs).

The kids who saw the unedited version—with the smoking scenes—reported that smokers were cooler people and expressed more of an intention to smoke themselves than did the kids who saw the edited version.

In the 1960s, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson administered a test to all the students in an elementary school and gave the results to the teachers.

this is a family of techniques that share three assumptions: first, in order to change people’s behavior we have to see the world through their eyes.

Second, these interpretations are not always set in stone, and in fact can be redirected with just the right approach. Third, small changes in interpretations can have self-sustaining effects, leading to long-lasting changes in behavior.

but instead based them on theory-driven psychological research, much of it conducted in the laboratory.

The story-editing approach isn’t just about solving societal problems; it can be used by you and me in our daily lives to redirect our own narratives and those of our children.

a parent, be mindful not only of what your children do, but of the narratives they are developing about themselves, their relationships, and the world at large.

As your children grow older, follow the minimal sufficiency principle, whereby you use the smallest level of rewards and threats necessary to shape their behavior.

When your kids reach adolescence, keep in mind that their narratives will be shaped by their peers and the media.

Department of Education created a website called the What Works Clearinghouse, which reviews the research literature and provides educators with descriptions of programs that work ( 

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