Tag Archives: cognition

I (Heart) You, Babe

St. Valentine’s Day come round again, bringing with it the pure joy and sense of togetherness that is love.

It surely wouldn’t bring with it feelings of inadequacy, panic, anger, frustration, sexual frustration, crumpling under pressure, performance anxiety, fervent desire to be somewhere — anywhere — else. Surely.

Ha, don’t call it Shirley.

I’m not sure if it’s a difference between dudes and dudettes, but the men I know really have no special affection for Valentine’s Day. To us, it’s just a day where we used to get candy in school and (at least for me) that inadequate feeling when the only Valentines in your bag were the ones that got given out to everyone in the classroom.

Even when I ostensibly grew up, I never saw all that much reason to celebrate Valentine’s Day. I probably got it from my AlohaDoc, aka my dad.

I can’t remember how many times he told me the story of how, when he was a young dude himself, he used to break up with whoever his girlfriend was at the time right around the first of February. That way he didn’t have to go out and purchase a gift.

Women, on the other candy assortment, seem to love Valentine’s Day. I found this out during the first Valentine’s Day I spent with the lady who would become my wife, known to me then as She Who Must Be Having More Fun Than Anyone I’ve Ever Met Before.

We were about to swap presents when she said, “I love Valentine’s Day. It’s always been so special to me.”

At which point my heart crumbled to dust, sifted out my body and landed in a small, dry pile on the linoleum of her dad’s kitchen floor. Because, being an idiot, I’d managed to get her something remarkably unspecial. Heck, it was so unspecial, I can’t even remember what it was.

What I do remember is the look on her face, the sadness trying to hide behind a really bad poker face. I’ve learned since then. Valentine’s Day is a big deal.

Me? Still not so much. The way I see it, I would rather receive spontaneous recognition of someone’s love for me during the year than have one day where that display is mandated. I mean, is it really special when you’ve got to do it?

I’m not so sure about that.

Anyway, I don’t want to come off sounding all cynical and anti-love. I’m not. Well, not anti-love. I can’t help being cynical. I mean, after all, my eyes and ears do work and I pay attention to the world. How could I not be cynical?

But not cynical about love. Love is amazing. Love. Love will keep us together. It’s just Valentine’s Day I have a problem with.

That said, I still went out and got some very nice presents to hand over to my Sweetie. I’m not telling because she’ll probably read this before I have a chance to give them to her.

The hug’s going to be nice. As for anything else. . .

See you later, dudes.

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Put Off Until Tomorrow, And Then The Day After. . .

Procrastination is in every single aspect of our lives. We put off going to the dentist until we can’t stand the pain any more. We put off getting the car inspected until we get pulled over by the po po for an expired tag.

We put off spreading the quicklime in the shallow trench until we can barely go outside for the smell of decay. Or maybe that’s just me. Quite possibly.


David McRaney over at You Are Not So Smart recently put up a great post about procrastination and never once did he make a joke about how he’d been meaning to do it for a while now. He’s obviously a better man than me.

In going over some of the highlights, I talked about something called present bias. That’s the inability to understand that our desires will change over time. Think of it this way: You know you want to eat healthy, so you plan out your meals and decide that Thursday will be your vegetarian meal evening. However, when Thursday comes around, you find a couple of slices of cold pizza in the fridge and eat that instead of the healthy meal you had planned.

That’s present bias. It’s also why kids think they’ll have all the cool action figures when they grow up, because then they’ll have all the money they need to get the stuff they want.

McRaney: Procrastination is such a pervasive element of the human experience there are over 600 books for sale promising to snap you out of your bad habits, and this year alone 120 new books on the topic were published. Obviously this is a problem everyone admits to, so why is it so hard to defeat?

To explain, consider the power of marshmallows.

Walter Mischel conducted experiments at Stanford University throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s in which he and his researchers offered a bargain to children.

The kids sat at a table in front of a bell and some treats. They could pick a pretzel, a cookie or a giant marshmallow. They told the little boys and girls they could either eat the treat right away or wait a few minutes. If they waited, they would double their payoff and get two treats. If they couldn’t wait, they had to ring the bell after which the researcher would end the experiment.

Some made no attempt at self-control and just ate right away. Others stared intensely at the object of their desire until they gave in to temptation. Many writhed in agony, twisting their hands and feet while looking away. Some made silly noises.

In the end, a third couldn’t resist.

The important thing isn’t about what we learned about delayed gratification and the inability of most young dudes to even conceive of something like that. No, what’s important is what Mischel learned after. He followed the lives of his participants down through the years after the experiment and he learned something fascinating about metacognition.

Metacognition is thinking about thinking, or trying to understand why we think the thoughts we do, how we think and what it leads us to do.

The kids who immediately glommed onto the marshmallow were statistically more likely to have trouble in school, to be unable to sit still for lessons, to be behavioral issues, to have significantly lower SAT scores than the kids who were able to wait. And the kids who were able to wait? They were the ones who quickly developed strategies for not concentrating on that marshmallow. They watched the wall, their feet, anything but stare at that delicious marshmallow.

The kids who waited understood that the wait was torture for everyone, but they knew they’d think about the torture less if they didn’t see the marshmallow every single second. That’s metacognition.

In the struggle between should versus want, some people have figured out something crucial – want never goes away.

Procrastination is all about choosing want over should because you don’t have a plan for those times when you can expect to be tempted.

You are really bad at predicting your future mental states. In addition, you are terrible at choosing between now or later. Later is murky place where anything could go wrong.

Right now, you know you’ll start that report at 6 pm. I mean, you have to, right? It’s due tomorrow. There’s no way you’d be able to put it off past then. Until it’s 6 pm and you’ve got to make and eat dinner. Then something else comes up and it’s suddenly time for bed.

Later, that place you thought you had thoroughly mapped out in your now-brain, turns out to be a much more difficult-to-navigate place than you’d hoped.

There’s lots more at the link so you should really head on over there and take a read. McRaney has a really lovely way of taking difficult concepts and breaking them down into understandable bits. He’s good. Go make yourself smarter.

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Testing, Quick And Dirty

A frightening statistic: According to the latest research, between 30 and 50 percent of all people diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Disorder also have some kind of learning disability. That’s a whole lot of little dudes and dudettes with a whole lot of challenge.

It’s not everyone, though. And one of the problems with this pair of comorbid disorders is that it’s difficult to determine if it’s only one of them or both. We found that separating out the two of them was almost impossible until we had each of the little dudes tested specifically to determine if they had a learning disability.

But first, before we kicked in for the expensive tests, we ran the idea past our doctors, a couple of teachers and the like to see if they had any concerns of idea that it could be a learning disability.

Now, for those of you who are worrying about this with your little dudes or dudettes, ADDitude magazine has come up with a relatively easy-to-give quick-and-dirty diagnostic test for your kid.

LD is a neurologically based disorder that results in problems processing and using information. Different children have different patterns of learning strengths and weaknesses; there is no one profile that describes all children. With that caveat, the magazine then goes into a checklist of some symptoms that could indicate your child has an LD. The questions are divided up between preschool, elementary school, middle school and high school.

Some of the statements from elementary school, k-4: My child has problems with rapid letter recognition and with learning phonemes (individual units of sound).My child has trouble blending sounds and letters to sound out words or remembering familiar words by sight. 

As you can see, it’s an exceedingly basic checklist, but it does have some quite specific markers for which you should be on the lookout.

Of course, once you decide that there is reason to worry that your child has an LD, the question arises: What next?

Well, according to the article, the best thing for you to do then is to go back to your child’s teacher. Discuss your concerns with the teacher and, if the teacher agrees with you there is a concern, you both can go talk to the special ed teacher to request a formal evaluation. If you don’t want to go through the school, you also can take your child in for an education/psychological evaluation with an outside professional.

Either way, the best thing for you to do is make sure, by setting up a thorough, professional evaluation what issues your child has. Only by knowing these issues can you begin to address them in an academic setting.

Of course, this is only a possibility. Most times, it probably will end up that your child has been goofing off a bit much or something like that. Still, I can tell you from personal experience that, if your child does have an LD, bringing in caring classroom teachers and special education teachers is definitely the way to go.

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