Yapping Yak


Tag Archives: psychology

Speaking of Chimpanzees

Frances De Waal TED Talk on morality among mammals.

Today is a gloomy rainy cold April day in Boston. Sunday. I have to study at school. Sad already. Actually, studying is not sad at all for a nerd like me, but studying a subject that is taught by a totally lunatic brainless phony academic is just excruciating. I guess the type of less evolved lawyer (who stayed on the tree)(which also explained his demeanor).  [chimpanzee shoutout #1]

But some tom yum soup, and a nice TED talk (which is becoming more and more rare) brightened up my day.

So Frances talked about a few experiments on mammals, illustrating them possessing some qualities that prompted behaviors that would be deemed “moral” in our human dictionary (which also is accompanied by some free loading activities, which kinda makes his arguments more convincing), such as monkeys showing anger when receiving less desirable treat and the one who actually receives nice treat refusing the treat (good sport!), monkey choosing token that give him and his partner food rather that the one only giving him the food (as long as the partner is behaving), and monkey helping others getting food when himself not wanting the food.

Then it comes to the best part of the talk:  he said wall street protesters are just like the angry monkey who gets cucumber rather than grape for a task performed. Fanatic monkeys!!!  [chimpanzee shoutout #2]

It is not only just fun to look at animals playing human. I really like the perspective (although have been under the influence of similar school of thoughts, it’s still nice to see real examples) supporting an holistic evolutionary theory. Also supporting my view that religion is only a phase in human history, a necessity to provide an explanation and a framework of human social morality, which would eventually be replaced as science advances. Religion captures, rather than dictates, what it means to be human. [atheist/agnostic redneck woo-hoo]

A conventional view towards world/life is structured; it gives order, conforming to our stability seeking instinct. The clear line drawn between human and animals is an example of that. Some things you ought to do as human, some things get frowned upon among humans, and some things are bad bad bad to do any humans.

But if we have a blurry line, and acknowledge the gradual nature of “morality”  – view it as a spectrum, or better, a more fluid concept – and acknowledge the biological and evolutionary root of morality/human social standards, naturally we would be insecure. We don’t like vagueness.

De Waal was trying to show us the gradualism and spectrum. Discard the grand structuralist theory!


So what were they saying about language dictating thoughts in 1984? I dunno. Haven’t read the book yet. But I guess it is far from being a scientific argument.



It’s time for TED

Am I a disciple of the cult of rationality? This is really circular reasoning and bothers me now.

But so funny though. I wish there were a karaoke version.

Oh Kathryn Schulz. She is still so breath-taking.

This link is found from Cheap Talk, A blog I followed diligently. The owner of the blog seems to be very interesting. Cult mind-set.

Also, TED wiki entry. Why is it a LLC?

Cat Person Pride

I never thought I would be a cat person. But things change, and I surprise myself daily (well not really). Just like I used to HATE taxation and swear quantitative things are not my thing (well, I have to admit that quantitative things still do not come to naturally, but hell they are sexy), now I am all about it.

I wonder how the switch happened. I mean in terms of dog v. cat person. I don’t think I changed; more like, I rediscovered myself.

This actually relates to a TED video I saw today, on how introverts are brainwashed and tend to pretend as extroverts. Interesting. (What kind of bias is this? Reaffirmation? Selection?)

Dog People vs Cat People

I was having coffee with a friend of mine who is a professor of psychology. As we chatted, he brought up the fact that he had broken off his relationship with a woman he had been seeing. “I’m a dog person and she’s a cat person, and they don’t mix well,” he explained. “We’re really like the animals that we love. Dogs have families and are grateful for what they get, while cats simply expect to be taken care of and show no evidence of thankfulness and loyalty.”

My friend’s comments seem to reflect a common perception, according to a study conducted at Ball State University. Pet owners were surveyed about their personalities and their pet ownership. In general, the results showed that people believe that their own personalities are similar to those of the pets they keep. Cat owners saw themselves as being more independent while dog owners described themselves as being friendly.

Virtually any discussion among pet owners is bound to reveal clearly that there are dog people and there are cat people. In some cases, the depth of feeling for their chosen species can be quite intense. However, according to an Associated Press/Petside.com poll, there are a lot more dog people out there; 74 percent of the test sample like dogs a lot, while only 41 percent like cats a lot.

It also seems that some people seem to be quite exclusive in their preferences, liking either dogs or cats and loathing the other species. Cats appear to be much easier to hate: 15 percent of the adults questioned said they disliked cats a lot while the number who said they disliked dogs a lot was only 2 percent.

There are sound reasons to suspect that the preference for dogs or cats reflects some underlying human personality differences. Certainly the relationship between cats and humans has always been quite different than the relationship between dogs and people. This reflects the behaviours that both species have kept from their heritage prior to domestication.

In the wild, cats are usually solitary hunters and often are active mostly at night. Juliet Clutton-Brock of the Natural History Museum in London calls the cat an “exploited captive” rather than a domesticated animal. Cats are the least tame of our household pets but are surprisingly successful for a species that retains so much of its wildness.

In contrast, wild canines are usually sociable pack animals that work in groups and are active between dawn and dusk. Our domestic dogs retain this need for social interaction to the degree that without a master and a family, a dog seems unhappy—almost lost.

Dogs will intrude on a person’s ongoing activities if they are feeling lonely and want some company or play. Cats, on the other hand, are often invisible during the day, seeming only to appear in the evening, especially if that is when they are fed. Cats will occasionally engage in social activities or play with people, but their interest is limited. Usually, after only a few minutes, cats will abandon the game and wander away. Dogs on the other hand, will often engage in play, like fetching a thrown ball, for hours at a time, and it is usually the human that quits the game first.

Recently, Sam Gosling, a psychologist at the University of Texas in Austin and his graduate student, Carson Sandy, conducted a web-based study in which 4,565 individuals were asked whether they were dog people, cat people, neither, or both. The same group was given a 44-item assessment that measured them on the so-called Big Five personality dimensions psychologists often use to study personalities.

Just on the basis of the nature of dogs being more sociable than cats, one might expect that the personalities of dog lovers would also reflect higher sociability. The results showed that dog people were generally about 15 percent more extroverted and 13 percent more agreeable, both of which dimensions are associated with social orientation. In addition, dog people were 11 percent more conscientious than cat people. “Conscientiousness” is a tendency to show self-discipline, to complete tasks, and aim for achievement. The trait shows a preference for planned rather than spontaneous behavior.

In comparison, cat people were generally about 12 percent more neurotic; however, they were also 11 percent more “open” than dog people. The openness trait involves a general appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, imagination, curiosity, and variety of experience. People high on openness are more likely to hold unconventional beliefs while people with low scores on openness (dog people) tend to have more conventional, traditional interests.

Gosling’s recent study seems to confirm the findings of research that I did for my book Why We Love The Dogs We Do (Free Press; 1998). I used a different personality measure, namely the Interpersonal Adjective Scale, because I was mainly interested in items reflecting social interactions and social tendencies. It gives scores on four scales; extroversion, dominance, trust, and warmth (which is close to “agreeableness” on Gosling’s measure).

My study involved 6,149 people, aged 16 to 94. I attempted to get as many dog owners as I could, so this group included 3,362 dog owners, but also, 1,223 people who only owned cats and 1,564 people that owned neither a cat nor a dog.

My results showed that people who owned only cats seemed to be somewhat different than dog owners or people who owned both dogs and cats in terms of their personalities. People who own both dogs and cats seem to be much like people who own only dogs. You should keep this in mind, since from here on, at least for the purposes of this discussion, when I mention a cat owner I mean someone who lives only with a cat, while, when I mention dog owners, I mean a person who owns a dog or both a dog and a cat.

According to my data, cat owners were one third more likely to live alone than dog owners and twice as likely to live in an apartment or flat. Being married, living in a house, and having children living in the home, are all factors that are more likely for dog owners than cat owners. A single woman was the most likely individual to have a cat. Of the people who grew up in a house with cats as pets, 47 percent were likely to have cats today, while only 11 percent of people whose childhood years were spent in a house with a dog have only a cat as a pet.

Turning to the personality profile of the person who owns only cats, we find a reasonable overlap with Gosling’s recent findings. To begin with, we find that people who own only cats tend to be relatively introverted (low on extroversion) and also reasonably cool (low in warmth or agreeableness) which is the pattern confirmed by Gosling’s more recent data.

Looking at the other two measures, we find that cat owners are relatively low in dominance. People who are high on dominance are generally described as being forceful, assertive, persistent, selfassured, and self-confident. They are the people who stand out in social gatherings as opposed to people who are low in dominance that come across as being more timid, bashful, shy, and unaggressive. The final dimension that I looked at was trust, and cat owners appear to be fairly trusting. People high on this dimension are often described as obliging, modest, straightforward, and “good sports.” People low on this dimension can be more suspicious and manipulative.

The general pattern that comes out of both studies is that dog owners are more social, interactive and accepting. One dog person’s explanation of this was: “You have to have a good sense of humor to successfully own dogs.” Contrast this to cat owners (remember this is people who prefer cats exclusively) who are more introverted, self-contained, and interact less socially. A psychologist who is also a dog owner suggested, “Maybe the reason that cat people tend to be more introverted and seem to prefer to be indoors is because they can’t walk their cat.”

Perhaps one of the most telling differences between dog and cat owners is illustrated in a single comparison. I asked people who own only cats, “If you had adequate living space and there were no objections from other people in your life, and someone gave you a puppy as a gift, would you keep it?” More than two thirds of the cat owners (68 percent) said that they would not accept a dog as a pet, while almost the same number of dog owners (70 percent), said that they would admit the cat into their household when asked the same question but about a kitten. This suggests that most people who own only a dog are potentially dog and cat owners, while most people who own only a cat are exclusively cat owners.

My friend sipped on his cup of coffee and continued to muse about the differences between dog people and cat people, and perhaps about his recently ended relationship.

“You know there is some research data that suggests that more cat people than dog people are atheists. You couldn’t tell this based on my experience, which is that cat people seem to worship their felines like the ancient Egyptians worshiped their pharaohs—as gods. We dog lovers just talk to our hounds like people.”

What Kills You and What Makes You Stronger

what didn’t kill you makes you stronger, and what made you stronger may eventually kill you.

– Yapping Yak

If I were to die in the next minute, I would be a very pessimistic and sorrow soul. Not because of the perpetual singlehood or unemployment. I have bigger things to worry about, including but not limited to:

Does man have a future?

I have been reading up on behavioral economics and cognitive bias. Daniel Kahneman and this boring dude called David DiSalvo (I don’t understand why this dude got 5 star reviews on Amazon. He makes me really start to think I should stop reading books by science journalists and whether I should quit trying to be one). Also there are ideas from my Financial Products Taxation class, the professor of which is a disciple of Nassim Taleb  (Kahneman cited Taleb in his book actually). I am still at the intro part of all the books (thanks Kindle!), so hopefully I will have some sort of clear idea when I finish the books (and correspondingly get a poor GPA due to lack of focus).

From DiSalvo I learned: 1) like all muscles or any organs, our brains tend to shift towards a “happy”/uncomfortable state. 2) the happy state may not produce good results.

(Reason why I dislike DiSalvo’s book is that it makes me feel like I am reading a term paper, a mediocre one (so far). It basically builds on the innovative ideas from Kahneman and throws in a bunch of “real-life” examples, many of which are cliche. A nice intro read I guess)

From Dahneman’s book I learned: we are all biased. The automatic fast actor System 1 in our brain is the default mode, which gives us essential surviving skills yet can make blunders, while System 2 needs to be activated and is lazy and slow to reaction, upon which we need to rely on to make careful decisions required by many complex tasks.

They say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Totally makes sense. From all the surviving struggles humans become beings that possess unparalleled capability to navigate through complex world and thrive in it; however, this surviving got so good, that it muffles the alternative. Supposedly during a certain period of time, this strong skill enabled us to prosper, but when the times come, calling for alternatives, we find it is so hard, biologically, to become “naturally” good in a different kind of scenarios.

So basically, what makes us stronger, may eventually kill us. Like how arrogant people would trip on small things, and the old Chinese saying “it is those who are swimming masters tend to drown”.

Is this bias predisposed? Can it be compensated, if not solved? Because, I really can’t muster enough interest to solve all the financial/tax stuff, if all we know is, damn we are gonna screw up again, even harder.

Hence the sorrow.

Whiskey and Cigar Aint For You, Babe

Being an only child, I grew up with myself, also 1)  a whole bunch of male cousins; 2) my grandparents. Buzz words: male; old.

I wonder whether this makes me more inclined to hang out with older dudes? This may sound SUPER sketchy, but being able to converse on big stuff, like economics, philosophy, and world, cynically, getting enlightened, over whiskey (gin and tonic for me) and cigar is just brilliant. I am not interested in sports, hopefully their testosterone level has gone down enough that they don’t care either, or they have just been so awesomely nerdy that they have never cared in their life. Young boys (which may actually be better) and older women and young women who possess whose unworldly qualities would DEFINITELY do too. Basically I just want some platonic and deep discussion with people that I look up to. Plato and Socrates would pat me on my back for having this aspiration.

It is really a product of social psychology, unfortunately. Stereotypes. Basically when I think of why I naturally buy this stupid stereotyping, I feel very unPC. Maybe our minds are still stuck in the down of women liberation, where women are still trying to break free, yet all higher space is dominated by male. Mentors are always male, and then we have protoges and protogees. You would think naturally when protogees grew up we would have mentress. Nope. What’s a mentress anyways? We are still living in an age where it is much easier for a woman to win a sexual harassment allegation against male boss than the other way around.

People, sexual harassment aint rape. We can talk about all the technicalities in a rape case and whether it’s possible for a man to get raped, but sexual harassment cases are different. We have an even playfield here. Well, only if women in power are sexy….

That will be my over-exposing-over-the-internet intro for today’s topic. Well, I don’t have much to say anymore….oh well.

So this interesting article showed on in my Corporette feeds today caught my eye. It is called Maybe It’s Not Just Dinner. It starts off by saying “It all boils down to sex”.

Oh how wonderful,buzz word, sex.Then the article goes on to make the following points (all references are in business context, such as “men” = “men in business”; and as usual, I exaggerate a lot; you are a fool if you think I am all serious)

  1. Men are very uptight these days. Try ask your male boss out for coffee and talk? Look into the mirror, don’t even think it’s possible unless you are, excuse my words, butt ugly. Easy to be misunderstood if you are at least decent looking. We are young, and we are cute.
  2. Men have some good reasons to be uptight, such as a) things happen; b) repercussions can be bad.
  3. Sex/money-power trade is still happening. Look left, look right, your male boss may slept with some subordinate, and your female boss may have been slept with (pardon my sexist language, we both benefit actually) to get where she is now.

I think we need to grow up, as a biological species. We like our romantic partners because 1) they are hot; 2) we like their personalities. And this is definitely over-simplifying things. Ideally your romantic partner is the optimized combination of all qualities you dig. So this colleague of opposite-gender, yah you are attracted to him/her, because he/she possesses some but not all qualities (including meeting at the right time) that you desire. so you dig them, but not as much.

I hope this is not difficult to understand. Emotions have layers, human relationships have layers. Acknowledge it, admit it. Of course, ideally humans would have standards too, but…ok this issue has layers. Basically, we would think it would be OK to just like someone as a friend/colleague, etc, right? In her previous post, It’s Just Dinner, Really, Chen clearly thought so. Forget about the shenanigans in Mad Men. That was 1965. But of course, who am i kidding. Not all souls are love-seeking souls. That’s why things do happen. Dirty nasty natural things. With layers of course.

Now everyone becomes suspects. But com’on, aren’t we all suspects in the world of love?  😛

Maybe the way to level the play field is: promote gay rights. Then we make more relationships suspicious. Then gossipers get tired.

But basically my idea of intellectual whiskey hours can be tossed out now.

Interesting Research On Fetish


I am tempted to make some race-related observations, but I shall refrain. But it is just a fun graph to look at.  I feel so blonde now; this may be why Asian women remain somewhat marginalized in traditionally conservative industries, where old boy clubs still prosper. We are too pretty to be taken seriously apparently. I feel the pain of being blonde.

It is from this post.  I need to do some intelligent reading. And I do not understand statistics well; but why the heck do black males rated everyone so low?

I Think Dating/Mating Is All About Timing Is the Most Commonly Bought Lie

I mean, seriously.

But maybe it’s meant to be like this. As it only contradicts the Hollywood idea, which may be false.

So? Conclusion-less.  Sometimes I wish I were a pompous ass.


From Sartoralist: Marc by Marc Jacobs Fall/Winter 2012

See here

So I think I have good sense of style. No tacky lace or unnecessary frills. I appreciate Baroque and Rococo (actually I love them) and I love Jazz Age.

My point being: I have good sense of style. And as a lawyer, naturally I have a good sense of judgment too. (duh)

So this is apparently what Marc by Marc Jacobs would woman to look like in 6 months

Ok, actually it will work well for me. I dress androgynously. So basically, woman need to have a masculine cover up, with a hint of femininity in the lower part, above the shoes.

Interesting. Are there any social psychological phenomenon reflected in this fashion trend? Maybe for once I will actually follow the fashion week or something.

Insecurity Is the Achilles’ Heel to Invincibility

(picture from the great Sanskrit epic, Mahabharata)

Confession: I have an Indian fetish. I paid for this song, which makes me feel indescribably nostalgic. But I have yet to see this movie. I am such a bad fetish. It’s interesting to see how a foreign culture and a foreign language (which I completely do not understand), can comfort me to such a great extent. It feels like a super-extended umbilical cord, clouded by layers and layers of fog.

Oh I don’t know. But this is not the point.

Professor P shared with us a (unofficial maybe) story  from the great Sanskrit epic, Mahabharata. We were talking about how realization is the Achilles’ heel to the U.S. taxation system, and apparently the idea of Achilles’ heel is just so common to all great cultures in the world that it’s a shared theme in mythology cross board. I mean, we all gotta have an invincible hero of some sort, as we all dream of being invincible, and the only logic way to make an “invincible” hero die, is to give him an Achilles’ heel.

I cite the links for future reference and entertainment purposes. I didn’t have the patience to read the long-winding saga at this ungodly hour. I somehow do not handle saga or myths stories well. They confuse me.

Anywho. So basically this warrior person, Drona (I think), is not a good person (according to Prof. P), and he is involved in this legendary Trojan-y war between two great forces. Warrior is a prince of some sort, and his mother is an incredibly pious woman, so pious that she blindfolded her throughout her marriage so that she can empathize and put herself in the same situation with her husband, the king. Some god was greatly touched and decided that she shall have the ability to render anything invincible upon gaze, but only the first gaze after she took off her blindfolds.

This king’s wife, queen person, didn’t like her son’s behavior, but still, she would like him to be safe. So, she told the son: go get naked, and come back. Her son, a grown man in his 30s, couldn’t make himself appear fully naked in front of his mother, thus he came out wearing a piece of loincloth. He then proclaims: mother, I am ready.

Mother took off blindfold, and gazed upon him: gasp, how come are you not NAKED?

So warrior is invincible except for the part covered under the loincloth. Of course he died, got hurt in the crucial part/thigh.

Great story. It stroke me as more interesting than the Greek version, as it seems to implicate some serious Oedipus-like complex here. Something in that line. I mean, mommy was helping you get invincible; quit being so INSECURE and hiding. A secure person wouldn’t feel disturbed by showing part of his body, which was born out of another part of his mother’s body, to his mother, not to mention it is a serious matter. Also, Indian culture is kinda interesting in many areas involving sexes. I am not educated enough to say anything about it. But I think they are just brilliant in picking out this as the vulnerable part. I mean, heels? Seriously? Definitely not as profound literary choice as genitals.

Maybe it suggests the corruptibility and fallibility of males and the tension between genders. The interest can never be aligned. Men fall because of their insecurity.

Well friend RG contributed significantly to the above preposterous talk. Today, we had an iceskating outing followed by lunch. Over steak fajitas, we decided that, actually, the Greek version wasn’t too shabby either.

Why did the Greek mother bathe her baby that way anyways? I mean, does ANY MOTHER lifted her child up at the heels, like lifting up a fish or chicken, and bathe him/her headfirst? Ok, maybe it is their ancient way of bathing, but woman, let your kid go! Full immersion!

So is this why Greek lost to Spartans, who allegedly kill weak babies from the outset? Further, is this why Greek are complaining about cutting their pensions? Is this why Greek didn’t like paying their taxes and made their country in such a horrible debt crisis?

And nobody shall take any preposterous talk seriously. I say a lot of things. If you buy it all, there is something wrong with you. Let’s not live with the loincloth. K?

And actually, I wish I were this witty. I am just a typewriter.