Cat Scratch Fever

Today we combine observational learning, cats, and the Motor City Madman, Ted Nugent, to enhance our persuasion knowledge and skill, both theoretical and practical. Begin with Professor Nugent’s musical disquisition (YouTube) under a visual demonstration of our target Other Guys.

Ted Cat Scratch Fever

Properly scratched you may now enter our lesson today of Observational Learning for Cats and its implications.

The point of entry for our consideration today is Modeling Theory which includes related concepts of observational learning; vicarious learning; imitation; Monkey See, Monkey Do; and Comparison (When Others Are Doing It, You Should, Too). While there are many various, diverse, and crucial nuances between these labels, they share one commonality:

Other Guys will watch Other Guys and learn something.

Certainly common sense confirms this Truth, but precisely how, who, when, what, and why this happens is what separates the sheep from the goats, or the mavens from the apprentices. Consider: Do other animals besides humans Model?

E.L. Thorndike, a godfather of Learning Theory, argued from his own careful testing with cats that felines did not engage in Modeling. In 1898 – read that again because it is 1898 and not 1998 – Thorndike published a series of experimental studies, on cat learning with a side note on observational learning. Thorndike’s cats were completely disinterested in Other Cats.

Move forward to 1944, nearly 50 years, and Herbert and Harsh take up the challenge. They recruit 15 cats for a series of experiments on observational learning. Herbert and Harsh break the ethics of experimental research and name the names of participants!

Red, Tiny, Spike, Madame X, Miss White, Big Gray, Mammy, Toughy, Babe, Blackie, Tip, Tige, and Sis.

Standing on Thorndike’s shoulders, Herbert and Harsh discover that their cats do learn from watching other cats! But, it’s nuanced, baby. Here’s the summary.

(1) On problems within their normal range of ability, cats benefit from observing the learning process of another cat.
(2) Observation of fifteen skilled performances is much less beneficial than observation of the learning process.
(3) The relative advantage of observation of the learning process, as compared to observation of skilled performances, is greater when more incorrect manipulations of the problem mechanism are possible.

Modeling does Change the Other Cats, but when the Other Cats watch the Model learn, not perform. If you want to learn how to play the guitar you don’t watch Ted Nugent in concert, but practicing scales!

Herbert, M. J.; Harsh, C. M. (1944). Observational learning by cats. Journal of Comparative Psychology, Vol 37(2), Apr 1944, 81-95.

doi: 10.1037/h0062414

Thorndike, E. L. (1898). Animal Intelligence: An Experimental Study of the Associative Processes in Animals (Psychological Review, Monograph Supplements, No. 8). New York: Macmillan.

P.S. Maslow, Cattell, Emily, Doug, Creamy, Roma, Nick, Newton, Rocket, Demon-Flynn, Ming, Turk, Suge, Zeus, and Izzy. So far. We typically have 3 or 4 at a time and I can observe what Herbert and Harsh observe about cats observing each other. They do learn when they have cat models. In the rare times when we have just one cat, that one is slower. It’s not that Other Cats provide more information, they provide Behavior That Survives.

P.P.S. Do cats, like people, also model from media? More Research!

Cats Media Modeling

Falling and Fallen with Nagel and the Mindless Universe

An interesting application of persuasion is not simply to Change Other Guys but to test for the presence or absence of science. Since I rulify that You Cannot Persuade a Falling Apple, anytime you see someone using Fallen Apples to argue about Falling Apples, you might reasonably question both that person and his science. Today, I wish to illustrate the tension and application of Falling versus Fallen Apples with the response to an essay from an academic philosopher, Thomas Nagel, about the Mindless Universe.

Nagel, currently a professor at NYU, considers in his new book, Mind And Cosmos, that physical science today in its attempt to be a theory of everything through Neo-Darwinism actually fails to provide convincing arguments in favor of the Mindless Universe: a physical world that has no mind, only matter.

But for a long time now, I have found the materialist account of how we and our fellow organisms came to exist hard to believe, including the standard version of how the evolutionary process works. . . But it seems to me that, as it is usually presented, the current orthodoxy about the cosmic order is the product of governing assumptions that are unsupported, and that it flies in the face of common sense.

Nagel possesses an earned doctorate, peer review publications, and a tenured position at research university, NYU. Under any reasonable definition of the concept, Nagel is a pretty smart fellow and good at thinking. He thinks the standard scientific orthodoxy about the origin of life flies in the face of common sense. He goes on.

I would like to defend the untutored reaction of incredulity to the reductionist neo-Darwinian account of the origin and evolution of life. It is prima facie highly implausible that life as we know it is the result of a sequence of physical accidents together with the mechanism of natural selection.

Nagel then develops arguments to support this line of thinking. And, you can read his book for those arguments. He’s a smart guy who likes to think and he’s thinking here about big questions and answers. Yet – and here’s where we get to the tension between Falling and Fallen Apples – Nagel is a stupendous idiot talking crazy talk and you shouldn’t read his stupid and dangerous book.

The response from scientists and most of his fellow philosophers, however, has ranged from deeply skeptical to scorching. Before publication the philosophers Brian Leiter and Michael Weisberg set the tone with a long demolition in The Nation, prompting the Harvard psychologist (and arch-Darwinian) Steven Pinker to dismiss the book on Twitter as “the shoddy reasoning of a once-great thinker.” More measured but no less critical reviews have followed, including assessments last month in The New York Review of Books and The London Review of Books. The Guardian named “Mind and Cosmos” the “most despised science book of 2012.” Even the more tolerant responses have tended to come with headlines like “Thomas Nagel Is Not Crazy.”

So, other people who have earned doctorates, peer review publication, tenure at research institutions, and other markers of being pretty smart guys, urge a digital cold shoulder to Nagel’s ideas. One worries . . .

“The book is going to have pernicious real-world effects,” said Mr. Leiter, a philosopher at the University of Chicago, who has frequently chided Mr. Nagel on his widely read blog. He added, “It’s going to be used as a weapon to do damage to the education of biology students.”

To which I’d suggest everyone think about my tension between Falling Apples and Fallen Apples. Nagel is making scientific arguments about basic science in physics and biology and psychology. He’s thinking about it. And the reading I’ve done of Nagel’s thesis in his opening chapter strikes me as a rational and thoughtful analysis of science. Nagel is certainly argumentative, but in the scientific sense of arguing about evidence and theory and not in the sense of trying to get on a screen somewhere and win talking points.

However, other scientists are responding to Nagel’s conversation about Falling Apples with what I would call Fallen Apples – persuasion. Leiter, certainly a pretty bright guy as a professor at UChicago, dismisses Nagel’s ideas because other people might do something with them that Leiter disapproves. Anytime anyone claiming to be scientific tries to kill an argument with worries about other people’s thoughts or actions is not doing science, but rather, persuasion.

The scientist in me finds nothing controversial in Nagel’s attempt. A purely materialist explanation of the universe – the Mindless Universe – is clearly not proven in the same fashion as, say, gravity. Just jump off your roof, right? But life as we know it, you and me and everyone else, is only the product of random events and natural selection? There is no roof that anyone can use to test that claim. Or stated another way, we’ve got a hypothesis, some theory, and some data. Let’s keep thinking about it.

For example, I am uncertain about confident scientists who assert the imminence of a Theory of Everything with a little bit of Neo-Darwinism. Hey, if somebody knows that, then why don’t they have a corner on the stock market? Hey, nail weather forecasts three days out. Hey, how about an electric car that works like a car? Certainly the NYSE, current weather, and electricity in motion are simpler than a Theory of Everything.

See the shadow of the Queen of Tomorrow in the anti-Nagel proponents. They know the Laws, baby. And Nagel is Lawfully wrong to write words that may serve as ammunition to despised Other Guys.

Who’s got the Falling Apples and who’s got the Fallen Apples? Follow the persuasion to find the science!

Apples Fallen and Falling

P.S. I’m still reading, but Nagel considers a teleological solution. Evolution with a goal . . . which sounds kinda like religion, but Nagle is an atheist and thinks Nature has plans. Wouldn’t you like to hear that argument?

Power and Persuasion and Art and Technology

New book technologies hide the most important element: Source or Receiver Orientation. Consider all the Big Data implications with the various e-readers devices and platforms.

In the past, publishers and authors had no way of knowing what happens when a reader sits down with a book. Does the reader quit after three pages, or finish it in a single sitting? Do most readers skip over the introduction, or read it closely, underlining passages and scrawling notes in the margins? Now, e-books are providing a glimpse into the story behind the sales figures, revealing not only how many people buy particular books, but how intensely they read them.

Realize the trick with the word, Reading. Reading can mean that Long Conversation in the Head you have with an author while Reading the book. Reading can also mean merely the physical act of turning pages. Don’t lose that distinction.

While writers and publishers have always wondered about readers, no one had a good idea about reader behavior other than did they buy the book. Now, with networked iGizmos, writers and publishers possess huge databases of reader behavior. Who buys. When do they start reading. How long do they take to finish. Who quits after ten pages, never to return. What happens when they finish.

You see the persuasion applications immediately. It’s about the Other Guy, Stupid, and now for the first time in the history of writing and publishing, we can learn a lot about the Other Guys. See all the potential ways you can now write to attract more readers.

Of course, this is a huge change in Orientation. Rather than Write to express yourself as so much writing was done in the past, you now write for the Other Guys. You write for the market rather than writing for the idea. Thus, creative writing becomes less about inventing new fiction or nonfiction literature and more about selling books the same way you can sell t-shirts.

Which stimulates an amendment to my Rule: Power Corrupts Persuasion, but Persuasion Corrupts Art!

Peitho Rules

Reinforcement, Modeling, and Comparison in Leviticus

Nadab Abihu Profane Fire

Then Aaron lifted his hand toward the people, blessed them, and came down from offering the sin offering, the burnt offering, and peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of meeting, and came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces . . . Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. Leviticus 9:22-24, 10:1-2

This event reveals three persuasion principles: Reinforcement, Modeling, and Comparison.

The reinforcement is obvious. Moses and Aaron perform a When-Do-Get that God wants. Nadab and Abihu perform a When-Do-Get that God does not want. God provides different consequences as specified in His Law. It’s simple and direct.

The modeling is more subtle. Nadab and Abihu are the sons of Aaron and the nephews of Moses. They have had a first hand view of God’s Law, the Covenant, and, the behavior of Moses and Aaron. They have been in a position to observe those models for a long time, but this event demonstrates that they were clearly not paying attention. Despite the fact that Nadab and Abihu have had extremely close and intense experience with God and have witnessed Moses and Aaron, they still failed to model correctly. As the eldest children in a family of powerful and famous men, perhaps Nadab and Abihu thought blood was thicker than faith.

Finally and most interesting is the undescribed, but certain, application of Comparison. Comparison is a simple process of looking at other people and comparing yourself to them. What happens to them can have a powerful impact on you, even if you haven’t tried out the behavior yourself. (Comparison is also sometimes called Vicarious Learning. You watch somebody else do something and even though you’ve never done it yourself, you learn a great deal just by watching – you learn vicariously through another’s experience.) Thus, everyone witnessed an extremely powerful, vivid, and intense scene that contrasted exactly the difference between living the Law and violating the Law. No one had to do what they saw the other do. The simple act of observing and comparing would be persuasive enough.

Green Salt

Trivial effect sizes exemplify the tension between Falling Apples and Fallen Apples. People calling themselves scientists trumpet infinitesimal impacts as a clarion call for Change when we know that there is no Count, there. Like with this foolish observational study that links the size of green space in a neighborhood with health and life satisfaction. The authors embarrass themselves with this Table of results (click to enlarge).

Green Life Satisfaction

What does this mean?

Our analyses suggest that individuals are happier when living in urban areas with greater amounts of green space. Compared with when they live in areas with less green space, they show significantly lower mental distress (as indexed by GHQ scores) and significantly higher well-being (as indexed by life-satisfaction ratings).

You could say that.

Or you could look at the column for the beta weights, that B column. A Small Windowpane for standardized regression beta weights would be at .10. The Table shows betas at .03 and -.02 for life satisfaction. Kids, that’s one-third to one-fifth of a Small Windowpane. In an observational design with all the rival explanations that arise when you don’t randomly assign Other Guys to controlled conditions! Gee. You find a 50.1/49.9 Windowpane and don’t think that maybe biased sampling or measurement error could account for an effect that small? Of course, not. It’s green space, you idiot.

Big deal. So what. Scientists lacking Falling Apples resort to Fallen Apples. Everybody does that.

Which leads to this.

NYT Salt Story

Once again a panel who actually Counts the Change rather than hypes the Change for publication, tenure, or grants arrives at a very different conclusion when looking at the data. Salt has about as much effect on your health (or life satisfaction) as, say, for example . . . green space in your neighborhood. In other words: Nada.

Yet, if you take the time to read the peer review literature on salt, you will find the same kind of Fairy Tales as with our Green Space science today. The effect size is trivial and invented from an observational design. It is a nice story and nothing else.

Mathew P. White, Ian Alcock, Benedict W. Wheeler, and Michael H. Depledge. (2013). Would You Be Happier Living in a Greener Urban Area? A Fixed-Effects Analysis of Panel Data Psychological Science, first published on April 23, 2013.


Apples on the Couch

My Rules regarding Apples, Falling versus Fallen, provide perhaps the most practical application of persuasion. Falling Apples, my metaphor for Science or Truth or the Absolute Eternal Everythingness or the Best We Can Hope For At This Time, contrast with Fallen Apples, my metaphor for persuasion or ambiguity, uncertainty, choice, volition or plain old Human Nature, create a test, a diagnostic, a stick for measuring and punishing claims people make.

Read today a great illustration of the Apples Dynamic with this Atlantic interview on the DSM-5, the classification bible of psychiatric illness, disorder, and . . . persuasion. Gary Greenberg, a psychiatrist and student of Apples stuns, slits, and guts the new Manual. First, Greenberg identifies the people making the persuasion Play with the DSM-5.

Who was involved in the creation of the DSM-5?
The American Psychiatric Association owns the DSM. They aren’t only responsible for it: they own it, sell it, and license it. The DSM is created by a group of committees. It’s a bureaucratic process. In place of scientific findings, the DSM uses expert consensus to determine what mental disorders exist and how you can recognize them. Disorders come into the book the same way a law becomes part of the book of statutes. People suggest it, discuss it, and vote on it.

So, guys pretend to follow the Falling Apples where they drop, but instead use Fallen Apples to make the Manual. Gee, why would scientists evade science for persuasion?

Can you talk about the intersection between psychiatry and psychology? How does the DSM relate to both fields?
Psychiatry’s in charge of the DSM. Psychologists and other mental health professionals use the DSM. But psychiatrists have the power and money. I’m critical of the mental health professions in general, including my own practice. But the APA has appropriated this business to themselves. They guard it jealousy, they protect it with ruthless tactics, and yes, they take a disproportionate amount of the heat for this thing, but it’s their baby. They make hundreds of millions of dollars off of this deal.

You can read the rest of this brief, but concise, interview for more of the scientific details, but know that it runs true to many Persuasion Blog posts on Apples, Falling versus Fallen. Good people only trying to make the world a better place with science find themselves using Fallen Apples all the while thinking they hold Falling Apples. Scientists fail to see their own persuasion human nature and their vulnerabilities to profit or prejudice. They then contort themselves into awkward scientific positions that would disappear if there was no profit or prejudice.

And, if you are beyond good and evil, you see the magnificent persuasion possibilities with the DSM-5. Create an app that makes it easier to bill insurance companies. Form a campaign with Hollywood celebrities to put a spotlight on the mental illness of Internet Use Disorder. Lobby the White House to get the DSM-5 as definitive in Health Care Reform. Invent a new ribbon as the icon for a research program on mapping the brain for disease. Shootfire. Think of all the t-shirts!

Please, spare the outrage. All the wasted money, time, and effort! This is just another persuasion consequence of peace and prosperity. This is what you get when people have too much time and money on their hands. All the Other Guys can afford the illusion. You’d be crazy not to charge Them for it!

Bolivian Banks on a Bubble

This pretty much gives it up.

Data being released for the first time by the government on Wednesday shows that hospitals charge Medicare wildly differing amounts — sometimes 10 to 20 times what Medicare typically reimburses — for the same procedure, raising questions about how hospitals determine prices and why they differ so widely.

Of course, “hospitals” do not make the charges. People who own hospitals make charges and those charges vary at differences that can politely be called Stupendous. You don’t need a statistician, accountant, or even an abacus to Count this Change. The same procedure for the same kind of problem with the same resources gets billed out at wildly different rates.

If you don’t see the persuasion potential in this Local, then you need to leave this page right now and go somewhere else because you lack the eye for opportunity. Other Guys will pay somewhere between a Lot and Almost Everything for the same thing. It just depends upon the Local, and I’d argue, the Box and Play you run with the bill. Physicians and hospital administrators can (and do!) earn more money for the same effort depending upon how they present the bill.

American health care is both a Bolivian Bank and a Bubble and with this post you can see another explanation for why that’s true. Other Guys in the form of payers whether as individuals, insurance companies, or governments are easy, ripe, and luscious when They literally do not Count the Change with medical bills. And, you see the inflating Bubble when everyone is wildly overpaying for a resource.

We’ve fallen into a system that allows the human nature of fear and hope to overwhelm reason and evidence. You fear pain, limitation, and death and hope that physicians can make you live forever young. You will never seriously Count the Change under that circumstance. And, why would physicians do anything other than count their change?

Health Bubble>

The Community Diet

Who’s making money on this?

For communities, joining together to fight flab is now as American as second helpings of apple pie. With great fanfare, the public is invited to “Cut the Waist,” and told “Let’s Move!” Citizens get excited about being part of something even larger than themselves—especially in the New Year, as they resolve to start anew by working off the holiday fat. Politically, governors and mayors find that exhorting voters to go on a diet is far easier on the stomach than, say, pushing a soda tax or junk-food ban.

As if losing weight or taxing soda pop makes any difference on any practical Change you can Count. We’ve done the drill on that math and know that only zealots find more life in less food or soda. Worse than, no one changes anyway. Boston set a million pound weight loss in a year. How’s that going?

. . . Nick Martin, spokesman for the Boston Public Health Commission, . . . is now doing some navel-gazing into why Bostonians have shed just 74,597 pounds with only a few months to go until the deadline.

This is so ridiculous that only politics makes it possible. No one with any sense would invest any personal resource on such a foolish endeavor. Which, again, is why I ask, who’s making money on this?

That’s where you will find the persuasion.

Quotaphor on Science and Faith and Persuasion

From Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie.

One Kashmiri morning in the early spring of 1915, my grandfather Aadam Aziz hit his nose against a frost-hardened tussock of earth while attempting to pray. Three drops of blood plopped out of his left nostril, hardened instantly in the brittle air and lay before his eyes on the prayer-mat, transformed into rubies. Lurching back until he knelt with his head once more upright, he found that the tears which had sprung to his eyes had solidified, too; and at that moment, as he brushed diamonds contemptuously from his lashes, he resolved never again to kiss earth for any god or man. This decision, however, made a hole in him, a vacancy in a vital inner chamber, leaving him vulnerable to women and history. Unaware of this at first, despite his recently completed medical training, he stood up, rolled the prayer-mat into a thick cheroot, and holding it under his right arm surveyed the valley through clear, diamond-free eyes.

Science without Faith is provocative?


Here. Have a Graham Cracker

People prefer other people like themselves, the similarity principle. When the Other Guy is like us, we like the Other Guy, trust the Other Guy, believe the Other Guy. Make the Other Guys similar to us and Uncle Norm becomes even stronger. Make the Other Guy similar to us and Ms. Reciprocity works better. Birds of a feather may not always flock together, but they sure prefer each other.

An interesting question to ask is when does this principle arise? We certainly see it in adults and older children, but does it begin earlier still?

So, consider now this new paper that looks at similarity in 9 and 14 month old humans. Researchers recruited babies (okay, the parents of the babies) for an experiment involving food preference, puppets, and puppet behavior. First, the researchers gave the babies who were sitting on a parent’s lap a food test, choosing between graham crackers and green beans. That test established the kid’s food preference (and yes most of the kids liked the graham crackers, but only about 60%).

Next, the kid watched a puppet show that portrayed two puppets playing with each other, one who liked the same food as the kid (similar) and the other who disliked the preferred food (dissimilar). The puppet show continued with additional puppets now appearing. It gets a bit complicated here in description.

The kid saw repeated performances of puppets that showed one of those puppets who was either similar or dissimilar to the kid in food choice. That puppet lost a ball at which point another puppet ran to the ball and either gave it back or took it away. We’ve now got a 2 X 2 experiment where the kid is exposed to a Similar or Dissimilar puppet being Helped or Harmed. After seeing the show, the kids were shown the Helper and Harmer puppet and the researchers waited to see which one the kid looked at and reached for as a marker of preference.

If we think about this design and the similarity principle, expectations arise. If similarity is operating, then certainly the kids should like the Helper puppet who returns the ball to the Similar puppet. And, if the similarity principle is really strong, the reverse should also be true: Kids should like the Harmer puppet who runs away with the ball from the Dissimilar puppet. And, in two experiments like this, that’s generally the result. Look at this bar chart.

Puppet Similarity Graph

Take a minute to orient. The y axis indicates the percentage of kids who reached for the puppet. The x axis ticks the various experimental condition for either the 9 or 14 month old kids. You should see the strong operation of the similarity principle. Kids looked at and reached for both ends of the principle. They liked the puppet who Helped the Similar puppet. They liked the puppet who Harmed the Dissimilar puppet (the enemy of my enemy is my friend!). And even at 9 months this effect held.

The researchers tested this in a second experiment that added a neutral puppet to the scene. The kids were then allowed to choose between the neutral puppet and either the Helper or Harmer. Those results were more complicated and showed an age effect. The 9 month old kids showed confused choosing as if they were uncertain of the neutral puppet, while the 14 month old kids showed the same results as Experiment 1.

Similarity starts early. Under simple conditions of strongly expressed similarity and helping, even 9 month old kids show the similarity principle and at both ends of that hydraulic. They like Helpers who aid a Similar other and they like Harmers who hurt a Dissimilar other. I’m particularly impressed with that negative finding where mere infants demonstrate the enemy of my enemy is my friend. That shows a wide range of application for the principle.

There is certainly an interplay of nature and nurture in this principle. Kids learn that similarity is a good thing and that when Other Guys are like them, positive consequences are more likely. But, this occurs at such a young age and at both ends of the similarity principle that it supports the idea of some kind of hard wiring in the brain. We probably begin life looking for similarity without knowing that’s what we’re doing and even before we understand the contingencies of reinforcement similarity brings.

Past that interesting theory argument, see the power of similarity in human nature. See the science behind our knowledge of that principle. See how easy it is to manipulate.

You might always want to carry around a fresh packet of graham crackers.

J. Kiley Hamlin, Neha Mahajan, Zoe Liberman, and Karen Wynn. (2013). Not Like Me = Bad: Infants Prefer Those Who Harm Dissimilar Others. Psychological Science, first published on March 4, 2013