Dec 292011

Source: Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy by Bill Clinton
Abstracted from pages 4-6

How do we ensure America’s economic, political, and security leadership in the more competitive, complex, fragmented, and fast-changing world of the 21st century? The 2010 election involved inflated rhetoric and ferocious but often inaccurate attacks that shed more heat than light. The attack proved to be very effective in the election, but I thought it was all wrong.

First, the meltdown happened because banks were overleveraged. In other words, there was not enough government oversight or restraint on excessive leverage.

Second, the meltdown did not become a full-scale depression because the government acted to save the financial system from collapse. Of course, the stimulus didn’t restore the economy to normal levels. It wasn’t designed to. You can’t fill a several-1,000,000,000,000-dollar hole in the economy with $800 billion. The stimulus was designed to put a floor under the collapse and begin the recovery.

Third, according to most economic studies, the stimulus, along with the rescue and restructuring of the auto industry, succeeded in keeping unemployment 1.5 to 2% lower than it would have been without it.

In other words, the crash occurred because there was too little government oversight of and virtually no restraint on risky loans without sufficient capital to back them up; the recession was prevented from becoming a depression because of a government infusion of cash to shore up the banking system; and the downturn hurt fewer people because of the stimulus, which is supplemented wages with a tax cut, saved public jobs, and created jobs through infrastructure projects and incentives to create private-sector jobs, especially in manufacturing.

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Feb 132010

Source: “Authentic Happiness,” Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., Chapter 5

Satisfaction with Life Scale

1 = Strongly disagree – 7 = Strongly agree

  • · In most ways, my life is close to my ideal.
  • · The conditions of my life are excellent.
  • · I am completely satisfied my life.
  • · So far, I have gotten the important things I want in life.
  • · If I could live my life over, I would change nothing.

30-35 Extremely satisfied, much above average
25-29 Very satisfied, above average
20-24 Somewhat satisfied, average for American adults
15-19 Slightly dissatisfied, a bit below average
10-14 Dissatisfied, clearly below average
5-9 Very dissatisfied, much below average

Emotions about the past

May include: contentment, serenity, pride, satisfaction—bitterness, anger

Determined by thoughts and assigned meaning

Freudian view: The content of thought is caused by emotion

Aaron Beck – The leading theorist of cognitive therapy: emotion is generated by cognition

The thinking/feeling connection

There is evidence for both thought driving feeling and for feeling driving thought

Dwelling in the past – does the past determine the future? (Generally no)

The more you believe that the past determines the future, the more passive you’ll be.

Charles Darwin believed that successful individuals contributed to species evolution through reproductive success.

Karl Marx believed that economic forces contributed to future developments.

Sigmund Freud believed that childhood experiences created later psychological characteristics

Effects of negative childhood events on adults

Effects of childhood on adulthood are probably overrated. The evidence is minor. Many studies did not control for genetic influences. This is the nature vs. nurture issue.

Cognitive therapy: Aaron (Tim) Beck invented cognitive therapy, a popular talk therapy for depression. It attempts to redirect negative talk about the past into positive thought about the present and future.

Venting anger: Venting has recently been considered authentic, honest, and healthy. It turns out that venting anger is not productive. Gratitude and savoring are, in fact, more healthful.

Feb 012010

Source: “Authentic Happiness,” Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., Chapter 5

Martin Seligman proposes a formula for happiness: H=S+C+V.

Enduring level of Happiness =
Set range + life Circumstances + factors under Voluntary control

H – Enduring level of Happiness

Enduring happiness is not the same as momentary happiness, which can spring from a wide range of positive, but transient events. Increasing these momentary pleasures have no enduring effect on enduring happiness.

In repeated studies of identical twins, fraternal twins, and adopted children, demonstrate that about half of all personality traits can be attributed to genetic inheritance. While some of these heritable traits are rather firmly fixed, some are remarkably malleable.

S – Set range

Traits which are inherited and more fixed establish a “set range” of what is normal or typical for each person. They define areas that may serve as barriers to increased happiness.

Lottery winners study

A study of major lottery winners found that most returned to their previous levels and styles of happiness within one year. On the other hand, the effect also works in reverse, with people usually recovering after adversity.

Quadriplegia study

Even people who become quadriplegics and experience a period of depression usually recover their more-positive mood within months.

Hedonic Treadmill

The concept of a hedonic treadmill describes people who, like lottery winners, begin to take good things for granted. They can begin seeking greater and greater stimulus events, trying to create the feel of an increased enduring happiness out of repeated transient experiences.

In contrast, severe tragedies such as death of loved ones and produce long-term decreases in happiness.

C – life Circumstances

Changed circumstances can sometimes contribute to enduring happiness.

Impacts of money, marriage, social life, negative emotion, health, education, climate, race, gender, religion.

Intractable poverty and other enduring negative circumstances can directly produce higher levels of unhappiness and depression. However, once a certain level of perceived basic needs are met, improving circumstances no longer reliably produce emotional satisfaction. Security is important to happiness; wealth is not.

Marital satisfaction is clearly related to happiness. However, unhappy people may be less likely to become married or stay married. Satisfying romantic and social relationships are also reliably related to reported happiness. It is still unclear that one causes the other.

The mere existence of unhappy situations and negative emotions does not intrinsically deny a person joy. Women tend to experience greater levels of emotion, both positive and negative, than men. Although they experience twice as much depression as men, they also experience more frequent and more intense positive emotions.

Younger people, evidently often report carefree and youthful “fun” as happiness. A close examination indicates that life satisfaction tends to increase with age while extremes of emotional intensity moderate.

Factors such as education, climate, race, and gender do not directly and reliably correlate with sustained happiness.

The exercise of religious faith, and the social support that it often provides, often removes adherents from certain negative life circumstances. This has a noticeable but not reliable protective effect on happiness. The element of increased hope maybe the most significant beneficial factor: increasing happiness and reducing despair.

Increasing Happiness: The Bottom Line

The most influential effects on long-term happiness include: living in a wealthy democracy; having a satisfying marriage; avoiding events that overtly produce negative emotions; developing a social network; embracing a hopeful spiritual path.

Disappointingly ineffective effects on long-term happiness include: materialistic pursuits beyond basic needs; immoderate pursuit of health; pursuit of advanced education; cosmetic surgery; geographic moves.

Jan 262010

Source: “Authentic Happiness,” Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., Chapter 3

In 2000, Barbara Fredrickson won the $100,000 Templeton Positive Psychology Prize. Her winning paper, “claims that positive emotions have a grand purpose into evolution. The bride and are abiding intellectual, physical, and social resources, building up reserves we can draw upon when a threat or opportunity presents itself.”

In one experiment, the subject is given gifts, amused, and exposed to positive words. The subject is more likely to respond creatively. In another experiment, the subject is asked to identify related words. The subject is more likely to respond quickly if they have been “jollied up.” In another experiment of four year olds, the happiness environment improved their ability to learn.

Earlier psychological experimenters such as C. S. Pierce, equated cheerfulness with a lack of trouble or lack cognitive capacity to acknowledge and address troubles. In another experiment, depressed people were “sadder but wiser” in their ability to judge their level of control.

Depressed vs. Happy Thinking Skills

There’s also experimental evidence that depressed people are more realistic and accurate judges of their abilities. Less-happy people have more accurate memories of both good and bad events; they are “evenhanded in assessing success and failure.”

All of this evidence might seem to make a case for the benefits of depression. However, Lisa Aspenwell demonstrated situations in which happy people had an edge over more-unhappy individuals in certain types of life situations. An integrated conclusion is: “a positive mood jolts us into an entirely different way of thinking from a negative mood.

Less happy people tend to be more skeptical and able to respond with critical thinking. Their benefit it is the ability to “focus on what is wrong and then eliminate it.”

It seems reasonable to conclude that happy people tend to rely on positive past experiences and maybe better act repeating their previous behavior. Less distracted by a defensive stance, they are better able to be creative, tolerant, constructed, generous, and defensive, and lateral.”

Building Physical Resources

Positive emotions promote play, which is important to creative processes such as the building of physical resources such as increased muscle and cardiovascular capacity. People with predominantly positive emotions can to enjoy better health and greater longevity.

Happiness is associated with increased productivity and worker income. (This may reflect their ability to interact better with others.)(one might ask if a less-happy affect facilitates concentration problem solving.)

In some experiments, happier people are better able to tolerate adversity such as holding their hands in ice water. Also, a happier general disposition makes it easier for people to overcome the effects of temporary fear or sadness.

Building Social Resources

Strong bonds of affection and attachment between people are facilitated by a positive disposition. They are better able to express their positive feelings and others are more likely to respond positively to them. The happiest of the happy are much more likely to have a “rich and fulfilling social life” and spend the least time alone. They are also more likely to display empathy and be altruistic.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line seems obvious: extroverts are more likely to form relationships outside of themselves, attracting friends. A happy disposition is of special benefit in win-win situations where creativity may win the day. It is about growth. The less-happy disposition is of special benefit in win-lose situations where grim determination may win the day. It is about slaying dragons.

Jan 152010

Source: “Authentic Happiness,” Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., Chapter 2


Martin Seligman was elected president of the American Psychological Association (APA) for 1998.

Veterans Administration Act of 1946

The Veterans Administration Act of 1946 was created for the practical purpose of helping returning veterans of World War II. This shifted the emphasis of the field from academic research on learning, behavior, and motivation toward more practical applications. At that time, “no mental illness was treatable. For not a single disorder did any treatment work better than no treatment at all.”


The National Institute Of Mental Health was created in 1947, and focused on the interests of its many psychiatrists, primarily psychiatric pathology. But

Learned helplessness

In 1968, Martin Seligman worked on “learned helplessness.” His findings “challenged the central axioms of my field.” He determined that learned helplessness closely resembled “unipolar depression” in both observable characteristics and brain chemistry.


Pessimists tend to believe that their problems are “permanent, pervasive, and personal. Pessimists are more likely to become depressed when they meet with problems. They perform more poorly at their jobs, have more health problems, and shorter lives.


Optimist tend to believe that their problems are “surmountable, articulate to a single problem, and resulting from temporary circumstances or other people.”

Nikki story

Martin Seligman tells the story of an important realization triggered by his five-year-old daughter, Nikki. While weeding in his garden, he yelled at Nikki for disturbing him. She responded: “Daddy, do you remember before my fifth birthday? From when I was three until when I was five, I was a whiner. I whined every day. On my fifth birthday, I decided I wasn’t going to whine anymore. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And if I can stop whining, you can stop being such a grouch.”

Jan 152010
Lecture 4 – Controlling the Brain with Light (Karl Deisseroth)

Karl Deisseroth is pioneering bold new treatments for depression and other psychiatric diseases. By sending pulses of light into the brain, Deisseroth can control neural activity with remarkable precision.

In this short talk, Deisseroth gives an thoughtful and awe-inspiring overview of his Stanford University lab’s groundbreaking research in "optogenetics".

Watch it on Academic Earth

Jan 112010

Source: “Pursuing Human Strengths,” Martin Bolt, Preface

The weakness of psychology, during its short history as a science, has been its primary focus on human weaknesses rather than on human strengths. That began to change dramatically when Martin Seligman was elected president of the American Psychological Association. Seligman leveraged his research on learned helplessness and hopelessness into a new focus on learned optimism and happiness.

A primary focus of positive psychology is on human strengths, a core set of virtues. The intent is to study, measure, and understand these strengths so that they can be purposefully developed, increasing both subjective and objective psychological well-being.

Responsibility – Both researchers and individuals have a responsibility to understand the factors that influence thinking and behavior, and to use this knowledge to increase the healthful development of individuals and societies. Responsibility is vital for the development of other strengths.

Love – Hereditary nature and environmental nurture both contribute to human development. Attachment styles, developed in early life, have a powerful impact on adult relationships.

Empathy – The ability to recognize and consider the feelings of others is a vital step in psychological development. Empathy is necessary for forgiveness and altruism.

Self-control – the ability to accept delayed gratification, instead of only immediate rewards, is also vital to psychological maturity. Purposeful achievement requires a persistent cycle of goal setting, reflection, and self regulation.

Wisdom – intelligence involves a great deal more than the ability to acquire rote knowledge. Wisdom is associated with reasoning ability and the productive application of knowledge in a complex social environment.

Commitment – our goals must have meaning and reflect a satisfying purpose if we are to pursue them with persistence. But there are important differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

Happiness – positive emotions such as happiness were required for salutogenesis. It is irresponsible for psychology to focus on pathology.

Self-respect – while self-esteem serves to artificially heighten a sense of entitlement, self-respect involves a realistic valuation of one’s potential within society.

Hope – learned optimism can be an effective therapy for the hopelessness of depression. Hopefulness helps us to sustain effort through difficult times. Community support is vital for individual and collective well-being.

Friendship – individual support is also effective in promoting personal and collective well-being. Shared responsibility also helps to sustain persistent effort to achieve goals.

Jan 032010
Lecture 18 – What Happens When Things Go Wrong: Mental Illness, Part I

Professor Susan Nolen-Hoeksema describes how modern clinical psychology both identifies and treats various mental disorders.

Particular focus is placed upon mood disorders such as bipolar disorder and depression, including current diagnostic criteria and current practices for treatment.

Watch it on Academic Earth

Lecture 19 – What Happens When Things Go Wrong: Mental Illness, Part II

This lecture continues to cover one of the most salient areas within the field of psychology known as psychopathology, or clinical psychology.

Following a discussion of the different ways of defining mental illness, Professor Bloom reviews several classes of clinical diagnoses including schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, dissociative disorders, and personality disorders.

The lecture concludes with a brief introduction to therapy.

Watch it on Academic Earth

Dec 222009

image Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist, co-founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom

“Hanson and Mendius successfully answer the question: How can you use your mind to strengthen positive brain states and ultimately change your life?

Arguing that our ancestors brains, flooded with adrenaline and cortisol, were wired for survival, the authors reveal how this neurological propensity for high arousal contributes to our present-day chronic illness, depression, and anxiety.

Using Buddhism s eightfold path as a model, they illustrate how meditation and relaxation can change our brain s natural tendencies. Pictures illustrate the brain s functions and practical meditation exercises are found throughout. The authors also discuss the importance of diet and nutritional supplements.

Arguing that our ancestors brains, flooded with adrenaline and cortisol, were wired for survival, the authors reveal how this neurological propensity for high arousal contributes to our present-day chronic illness, depression, and anxiety. Using Buddhism s eightfold path as a model, they illustrate how meditation and relaxation can change our brain s natural tendencies. Pictures illustrate the brain s functions and practical meditation exercises are found throughout. The authors also discuss the importance of diet and nutritional supplements. “

Shop at Amazon for:
Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom
by: Rick Hanson Ph.D.

“A wonderfully comprehensive book. The authors have made it easy to understand how our minds function and how to make changes so that we can live happier, fuller lives.” —Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness

“Solidly grounded in the latest neuroscientific research, and supported by a deep understanding of contemplative practice, this book is accessible, compelling, and profound—a crystallization of practical wisdom!" –Philip David Zelazo, Ph.D., Nancy M. and John E. Lindahl Professor, Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota

“This is simply the best book I have read on why and how we can shape our brains to be peaceful and happy. This is a book that will literally change your brain and your life.” —Jennifer Louden, author of The Woman’s Comfort Book and The Life Organizer



Brian Johnson of PhilosophersNotes has compiled an outstanding collection of quotations on topics of human potential, development, and performance. Use the links below to go to specific pages.  Then consider opening up your wallet and subscribing to his PDF and MP3 comments on important books.
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Effortless effort
Common opinion
Divine Within
Dream (aspirations)
Dreams (sleep)
Emotional Intelligence
Million Dollars
Self concept
Time Management