March PsychNotes • The Non-Election Issue

March PsychNotesMy wife recently asked if I’d been following the presidential debates. I told her I hadn’t. Knowing that I’m usually well informed, she asked “don’t you want to know what’s going on?”

It was a fine and thoughtful question, to which I answered, “Now that you mention it… no. I really don’t.”

I already possess a philosophical foundation from which to vote in November. I can bone up on the specifics later. In the meantime, blissful ignorance makes me more pleasant to be around.

If these interminable election seasons seem like little more than an excuse for angry people to call each other names, then let this newsletter be your little break from the storm!

1) What to Focus On
In his 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon University, David Foster Wallace urged graduates to be careful what they pay attention to, and how they think about it. “Petty, frustrating crap… is exactly where the work of choosing comes in… if I don’t make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I’m gonna be pissed and miserable.” So feel free to ignore those political ads. (Video)

2) Morality Commonality
Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist who has a knack for finding the goodness and commonality in seemingly incompatible ideologies. His work should be required reading for anyone spoiling for a political debate. The old statistical truism still holds: we’re much more similar than different.

3) You Think We’re Divided?
If you think Left and Right are bad, try North and South. Suki Kim, from South Korea, spent six months teaching English to future leaders in North Korea. If she can find common ground with her exclusively male students, surely there’s hope for us. RIght? Please tell me I’m right. (Video)

4) When to Take a Stand, and When to Let It Go
So that brother-in-law from some far-distant point in the political realm is pushing your buttons, eh? Ash Beckham has some thoughts on when to put up your dukes and defend your ideas, and when to focus on the love. (Video)

5) How to Be an Effective Liar
Here are 18 attributes of highly effective liars, as gathered by a Dutch psychologist. Some attributes, like manipulativeness, seem obvious enough. Others, like information frugality and truth adherence, are less apparent. This handy little list somehow seems pertinent to upcoming months.

little-heartHere’s one more item I hope will brighten your day. This month I’m giving away two autographed copies of Is He Worth It? Autographed by whom, you ask? Well that’s the mystery, isn’t it. I hope you have a grand month! See you in April.