I was unexpectedly recruited for a racing team while I was out today. Their main sponsor is a coffee shop that’s probably on every corner in America; you know the one. I don’t know how proudly I’d be wearing their name (by that I mean not at all), but we’ll see next year when the season ramps up again.
“Creative ideas probably occur as part of a potentially dangerous mental process, when associations in the brain are flying freely during unconscious mental states — how thoughts must become momentarily disorganized prior to organizing. Such a process is very similar to that which occurs during psychotic states of mania, depression, or schizophrenia. In fact, the great Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler, who gave schizophrenia its name, described a “loosening of associations” as its most characteristic feature: “Of the thousands of associative threads that guide our thinking, this disease seems to interrupt, quite haphazardly, sometimes single threads, sometimes a whole group, and sometimes whole segments of them.”
After a little more than a month off the bike, my back feels like it belongs to a geriatric patient after today’s quick spin. However, I look forward to eating 2,000 calorie meals again with no fucks given. Bring on the pain.
“I love coffee. I sometimes get excited at night thinking of the coffee I’ll get to drink in the morning. Coffee is reason to wake up. There are other reasons, of course. But coffee is the incentive, at the very least.”—Annie Clark
“Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important—creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.”—Steve Jobson LSD
The drinking of oolong teas in Taiwan is simultaneously fetishized and informal. Frequently, when visiting someone’s home, you will be served tea in a quick and efficient manner from a tea set that contains a kettle for boiling water, a pot for brewing, a decanter pot, and small cups for drinking. A more formal version might also include special smelling cups into which tea is first poured and then emptied, leaving behind only the tea’s unique fragrance. There is a considerable expertise involved in knowing how to rinse the tea, how long each tea should be brewed, how many brewings can be had from a pot before the leaves must be changed.
The production of bubble milk tea couldn’t be more different. Milk tea in Taiwan is only rarely sold in a cafe with seats and tables. It is primarily sold on the street and served in paper cups sealed with an air-tight plastic seal. The sealing machines are a marvel of modernity that can seal hundreds of cups in an hour.
The straws are sharpened at one end so that you can puncture the seal without making a mess. This means that milk tea is not designed as a social drink like coffee or traditional Chinese teas (more about those in a bit), but is designed to give one a quick pick-me-up while working or shopping.
Why is it that people are willing to spend $20 on a bowl of pasta with sauce that they might actually be able to replicate pretty faithfully at home, yet they balk at the notion of a white-table cloth Thai restaurant, or a tacos that cost more than $3 each? Even in a city as “cosmopolitan” as New York, restaurant openings like Tamarind Tribeca (Indian) and Lotus of Siam (Thai) always seem to elicit this knee-jerk reaction from some diners who have decided that certain countries produce food that belongs in the “cheap eats” category—and it’s not allowed out. (Side note: How often do magazine lists of “cheap eats” double as rundowns of outer-borough ethnic foods?)
Yelp, Chowhound, and other restaurant sites are littered with comments like, “$5 for dumplings?? I’ll go to Flushing, thanks!” or “When I was backpacking in India this dish cost like five cents, only an idiot would pay that much!” Yet you never see complaints about the prices at Western restaurants framed in these terms, because it’s ingrained in people’s heads that these foods are somehow “worth” more. If we’re talking foie gras or chateaubriand, fair enough. But be real: You know damn well that rigatoni sorrentino is no more expensive to produce than a plate of duck laab, so to decry a pricey version as a ripoff is disingenuous. This question of perceived value is becoming increasingly troublesome as more non-native (read: white) chefs take on “ethnic” cuisines, and suddenly it’s okay to charge $14 for shu mai because hey, the chef is ELEVATING the cuisine.
How does the psychology of ownership differ between Western and Eastern cultures?
Many of us are nostalgic for original, authentic experiences and prepared to pay for them. For example, not so long ago vinyl records were ubiquitous but nowadays they are considered collectibles, with some attracting a high price. Even with the most mundane record, there is still a tangible tactile experience to possessing these items that iTunes cannot re-create. It’s not just collectors. Most of us prefer to own and derive great pleasure from original items - a theme explored in Paul Bloom’s highly entertaining 2011 TED talk, “The Nature of Pleasure”.
The psychology of possessions reveals that many of us imbue important items with an integral property or essence that defines their true identity. The origin of such thinking can be traced to Plato’s notion of form, but it still operates today as the intuition that significant things are irreplaceable, even by identical duplicates that are physically indistinguishable from the original.
The concept of essentialism also helps explain our pre-occupation with our own stuff. This is the idea that every object is imbued with unique defining characteristics. One essentialist perspective is that our possessions represent who we are, and are even imbued by us in some way. Clearly some objects are entirely pragmatic and functional but others form part of an “extended self” (Belk, 1988; pdf). It may be our car, our clothes or the records we collect. A manifestation of the extended self is the endowment effect (pdf) whereby individuals value their personal possessions more than identical objects owned by others. However, the endowment effect and the extended self are not culturally universal. For example, a recent study (pdf) of the Tanzanian Hazda hunter-gather tribe revealed that they do not show the endowment effect, possibly because they have so few personal possessions.
Others want to emulate their heroes or make a connection with them in some tangible material form by owning their personal possessions. Essentialism explains why memorabilia collectors are not always motivated by financial rewards but rather with a passion to establish a tactile connection with the previous owners they admire. One plausible mechanism aligned with essentialism is positive contamination (pdf) – the notion that coming into direct contact with an item, such as a piece of clothing, can transfer some the previous owner’s essence.
We have been researching authenticity and essentialism in our lab using a duplication scenario. It’s based on a conjuring trick that convinces pre-schoolers that we have a machine that can duplicate objects. In our first study (pdf), we showed that children with sentimental attachment to a teddy bear would not accept an apparent duplicate toy. They also thought that original cups and spoons owned by Queen Elizabeth II were more valuable than identical duplicates even though they reasoned that duplicated silver objects were physically equivalent to originals. In other words, they appreciated the additional value conferred to memorabilia by celebrity association.
In our most recent study conducted via the MTurk platform, we asked Western (mostly US) and Eastern (mostly Indian) adults to estimate the value of four types of collectible: a work of art, a celebrity sweater, a dinosaur bone and moon rock. We then told them about the machine that can create an identical duplicate and asked them to value the copy. In two studies of over 800 adults we found the same basic pattern. Overall, both cultures think originals are worth more than copies, but the two cultures diverge on the celebrity clothing. Unlike Westerners, the Eastern adults saw the duplicate as not significantly different from the original. These results support the hypothesis that individualistic cultures in the West place a greater value on objects associated with unique persons, which explains why the valuation of certain authentic items may vary cross-culturally.
It’s not that Eastern cultures like India do not have celebrities – they are fanatical about their Bollywood stars – but the desire to collect celebrity possessions may not be such a cultural tradition in collectivist societies. Eastern cultures also exhibit essentialist contagion in their rituals and concerns about moral contamination (the caste system being the notable example) but essentialist concerns are primarily heightened for negative contamination as opposed to positive transfer, which is what is believed to be operating in celebrity clothing.
It is not clear how the desire for authenticity and essentialism will change as cultural differences increasingly disappear in a digitizing world of accessible duplication and downloads, but I expect that desire for originality will always be at the core of human psychology as a component of self-identity. We are the only species that really seems to care about originals.
If you obsess over whether you are making the right decision, you are basically assuming that the universe will reward you for one thing and punish you for another.
The universe has no fixed agenda. Once you make any decision, it works around that decision. There is no right or wrong, only a series of possibilities that shift with each thought, feeling, and action that you experience.
“The problems of the mentally ill have challenged both society and physicians for centuries. In times past their odd behaviour often associated with insanity was interpreted as the result of demonic possession. It could also, sometimes, be a source of public amusement. To control their behaviour the insane were often manacled. This appalling state of affairs is well illustrated in this work by Goya (1746–1828). He was not the first or last to depict the institutionalized insane (for example, Hogarth’s Bethlem Hospital in 1735 and Chepik’s The Madhouse in 1987), but Goya’s work certainty evoked the suffering and torment of these individuals. Interestingly, Goya had been taken seriously ill in 1792 at the age of 47 with loss of balance, difficulty in walking, partial blindness and deafness. It has been suggested that this could have been a viral-induced Vogt–Koyanagi–Harada syndrome. Over the following months he gradually recovered but remained permanently deaf. This harrowing illness may well have had an influence on his later work. It is also quite possible he had a fear of insanity himself because two of his relatives (an aunt and uncle) were affected in this way.”—Alan E. H. Emery, Practical Neurology. June 2008
Eric Eberhardt is the creator of youarelistening.to, a fantastic experiment in ambient sound and visuals. Taking live streams from police scanners in various US cities, with a backdrop of eerie, Michael Mann-esque streams of neon-lit freeway traffic, and a randomly chosen soundtrack taken from Soundcloud, the site creates an instant and highly compelling dystopian vision.
“To listen to it is to be plugged into the pulse of the city; lost in fragments of someone else’s story. Urgency alternates with frustration and low-level routine; some incidents are reported while others are resolved; and jaywalking tickets are issued in the same breath as lives are lost.”
In psychiatric circles, schizophrenia is considered a serious mental illness that causes delusions, hallucinations, and social withdrawal. But in rap, schizophrenia means something else: a mode of defiance, a boast, or a threat. The term appears frequently when describing competition between rappers. In “Speak Ya Clout,” the duo Gang Starr rhymes that they are “schizophrenic with rhyme plus we’re well organized” as a way of warning that they are “stepping rugged and tough.”
Schizophrenia also enhances claims of competitive violence—in “16 on Death Row,” 2Pac famously warned that, “I’m kind of schizophrenic, I’m in this shit to win it.” Schizophrenia also helps rappers describe collective responses to racism or injustice. In the multi-artist hit “Everything,” Busta Rhymes calls for action by rapping, “Panic and schizophrenic, sylvy-Atlantic / Wrap up your face in ceramic, goddamit we controllin the planet.”…
Yet something much larger than mere sampling is at play in rap’s use of the terms schizophrenia and schizophrenic. Rap lyrics are the latest installments in a political debate that has evolved over the past century (at least) regarding the contested relationships between race, madness, violence, and civil rights… At stake is a series of existential and material questions about the causes, actions, and implications of sanity itself.
“We take off into the cosmos, ready for anything: for solitude, for hardship, for exhaustion, death. Modesty forbids us to say so, but there are times when we think pretty well of ourselves. And yet, if we examine it more closely, our enthusiasm turns out to be all a sham. We don’t want to conquer the cosmos, we simply want to extend the boundaries of Earth to the frontiers of the cosmos. For us, such and such a planet is as arid as the Sahara, another as frozen as the North Pole, yet another as lush as the Amazon basin. We are humanitarian and chivalrous; we don’t want to enslave other races, we simply want to bequeath them our values and take over their heritage in exchange. We think of ourselves as the Knights of the Holy Contact. This is another lie. We are only seeking Man. We have no need of other worlds. A single world, our own, suffices us; but we can’t accept it for what it is. We are searching for an ideal image of our own world: we go in quest of a planet, a civilization superior to our own but developed on the basis of a prototype of our primeval past. At the same time, there is something inside us which we don’t like to face up to, from which we try to protect ourselves, but which nevertheless remains, since we don’t leave Earth in a state of primal innocence. We arrive here as we are in reality, and when the page is turned and that reality is revealed to us - that part of our reality which we would prefer to pass over in silence - then we don’t like it anymore.”—Stanisław Lem, Solaris
Yohji Yamamoto is a man who needs little by way of introduction. He is a singular figure within the fashion landscape—known as much for his enigmatic charm as his unfailingly avant-garde collections. He first debuted in Paris in 1981—that would be 33 years ago—and he will return to the City of Lights later this month (September 26th) to unveil his most recent. If history repeats itself, which it has been known to do, it will be a scintillating show.
In honor of the upcoming event, we checked in with the famously private designer to hear his thoughts on the past, present, and future of his namesake collections.
What has stayed most constant throughout your work? Obviously, people have noticed that I am fond of using black. Black is the end of color. Wearing black is like saying, ‘I will not bother you, and please do not bother me.’ And sometimes, when I am making clothes, I concentrate too much on the patterns and fabrics that I forget to use colors.
Of all your collections, is there one that you remember as being the most fun to design? The most fun collection to design is the one I am doing now: Yohji Yamamoto FEMME 2015 Spring/Summer. I do not want to look back. If you look back, you cannot make progress. My best show will always be the next one. When a pattern-maker comes up with something beyond my imagination, I am surprised and feel excited. For the coming season, pattern-makers have kept surprising me.
How do you continue to be inspired, to push yourself and your craft over so many years? Cigarettes. Just kidding. At first, I studied hard and copied the creations of many great designers, such as Coco Chanel and Madeleine Vionnet. I copied over and over. One day, I just realized that people began calling me “master.” In my atelier, there are so many hard-working people. I need to be responsible because they are there, so I have pushed myself very hard over years. By reading books, experiencing different cultures, and learning from people around me, I get inspiration. Recently, I get inspiration when I am driving a car. Actually, if you continue doing one thing passionately, maybe at least five years, you will know.
How does Regulation complement your other collections? Regulation is very special because the brand concept is about uniform and military, which is not a common element in other collections. And it is unisex since many pieces can be worn by both men and women. Although Yohji Yamamoto is famous for oversized design, the size of Regulation, especially the men’s collection, is based on my size, which is a typical Asian size—smaller than European ones.
What were you most inspired by for Fall 2014? What about Spring 2015? You may already know that I worked with a very young artist called Yasuto Sasada for Fall 2014—on both the men’s and women’s collection. The common theme is ‘Fashion is Always Art.’ I asked Mr. Sasada to paint something sweet but dark at the same time. I like the contrast of being sweet and evil. If someone has both of these qualities, I will be very interested. The Yohji Yamamoto HOMME 2014 Fall/Winter fashion show was the very first time to present all prints on the runway. I felt excited to use those artist prints. And for the Spring/Summer 2015, I am inspired by the idea of ‘Culture Mix.’ I wanted to show interesting aspects of a cultural mix, creating a free world without government or authorities. By using exotic and ethnic prints and fabrics, as well as motifs from Asian and Middle Eastern countries, I wanted to combine different cultural lifestyles to create borderless yet elegant looks. For the 2015 Spring/Summer women’s collection, it is a secret.
Do you feel that you have accomplished what you set out to do when you started? Never.
What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? And the last thing you do before you go to bed at night? Saying good morning and good night to my dog Rin. She is an Akita dog and only two years old. Every day, I go walking with her for about one hour, no matter if it is raining or snowing. Rin brings me good luck. Since she started to live with me, many good things happened to me. Also, she inspires me lot. You may have seen her face on Yohji Yamamoto scarves and clothes. Now she has become more famous than I am!
What’s next? Let’s wait and see. You will know everything if you see Yohji Yamamoto FEMME 2015 Spring/Summer fashion show in Paris on September 26th.
Cognitive Warming: Brain Training For High Pressure Decision-Making
“Hot cognition” is the term psychologists use to describe decision-making under pressure, decision-making in the face of risk, decision-making when emotions play a heavy role. It is opposed to cold cognition, which is the pragmatic, logical, and—most importantly—emotionless variety.
But here’s the thing—because hot cognition is automatic, it is often subject to bias and thus prone to error. We’ve been making more and more of these errors lately and they’ve been sending shockwaves through our society and economy.
Used to be, in the languid days of the last century, people actually had time to make cold decisions. Governments and corporations had time to analyze and evaluate. But these days, with phrases like “unforeseen threats” “rapid iteration” and “lean and agile” ruling the roost, those once cold decisions have warmed up considerably.
What’s more, even those people who normally have to make hot decisions—presidents, CEO’s surgeons, soldiers, and police officers—are having to make more of them, in shorter time frames, and under greater stress. Meaning the heat is hotter than normal.
Even though we’re supposed to be in the age of Big Data—where human fallibility has been replaced by hard numbers and we can all sit back and let the cloud tell us what to do next, we’re not off the hook. Information doesn’t yet equal wisdom, and throwing a thousand variables into an equation doesn’t always bring us any closer to a right answer.
And our always online world isn’t helping. Ceaseless media exposure comes with a cost. A lot of the stuff we’re exposed to—specifically advertising and things that function like advertising (like clickbait headlines and blog titles)—are designed to turn down cold processes and turn up hot ones.
Meme-spreading, what we call “virality,” is what these impulse triggers look like in action—when a video goes viral it’s not because we rationally decide we absolutely have to know what that cute little kitty does next.
As Aaron Reid, chief scientist for Sentient Decision Science points out in a recent blog:
Catchy slogans, such as “Hungry? Grab a Snickers’,” Nike’s “Just Do It,” and Sprite’s “Obey Your Thirst,” tap into these visceral [hot] states and motivate immediate consumer behavior. As a result, consumers often fail to return to a cold-state, where the rational mind might be able carry greater weight on the decision.
Adding insult to injury, for most, the breakneck pace of modern living also means a lot less sleep. When events outpace abilities, we tend to sacrifice shut-eye. Unfortunately, when we’re tired, we’re also more emotional—meaning we’re prone to turning deliberately cold decisions into accidentally hot ones.
The point here is that all this heat isn’t helping. To truly thrive in today’s world, we need to roll back the tide of cognitive warming—we’ve got to learn to turn hot decisions back into cooler ones and not the other way around.
And there’s only one way to do that, to undo the fast-paced, information overloaded, sleep-deprived mayhem we’re now calling daily life—deliberate practice.
What’s the easiest way to practice? Well, one place to start is video games, especially, as new research shows, shoot ‘em up games. In a study out of the University of Minnesota, frequent players of first person shooter games (which are thick with hot decisions) learn—not surprisingly—how to make them better.
But there are limits to what we can achieve via XBOX. Until we have truly immersive VR, there’s a pretty sizable gap between the level of heat a gamer feels playing HALO and the level a CEO feels in the boardroom.
This is why, if you really want to learn to make hot decisions like cold ones, you might be best off getting out of the office and taking a weekend someplace wild.
For those of us who are craving a little more intensity and immediacy than the suburban grind offers, but who are understandably hesitant to actually risk life and limb, there’s no substitute for action and adventure sports as a hot cognition training ground.
Surfing, skiing, snowboarding, skydiving, rock climbing, kite surfing, etc, are all activities chock-a-block with hot decisions. When there’s real risk of physical harm, heat is built into the system., if you start over thinking any decision—which is what that extra heat often triggers—you block automated skills and, well, crash and burn.
Success in any of these sports means learning to make hot decisions in the moment as if we had had all day to consider them in advance.
Let me give you a concrete, albeit extreme, example. Click on this link and check out the first video—it’s snowboard legend Tom Burt riding Alaska’s Cordova Peak in 1997. Still considered one of the steepest and wildest descents in snowboarding history, the thing to pay attention to is the conversation that occurs before the riding starts. It’s literally a discussion between Burt and his camera crew about all the possible ways he can get killed on the way down. There are dozens and dozens and dozens—and all of them messy and hot.
But Burt survived because action sports like snowboarding are incredible real world hot decision-making training environments. He had decades training himself to turn on a dime, to shift his weight based on the feel of the snow under his feet, to dodge avalanches before they claimed him—all perfected long before he attempted that historic run on Cordova.
And it’s very hard, outside of the world of action and adventure sports or close-quarters combat, to get this kind of practice.
Consider this far less extreme example from Steven’s past weekend, which he spent downhill mountain biking at Angel Fire in the mountains of New Mexico. Trails at Angel Fire offer roughly 2000 vertical feet of descent and—as a very loose approximation—require about one decision per two feet, or about 1000 decisions per lap. Since an average day is about nine laps, then Steven made around 9000 decisions last Saturday. And, as downhill riding takes place at speeds between 20 and 40 mph on trails that are root and rock gnarled, jump packed, and tree-lined, every one of those decisions were hot.
In what other environment can you make 9000 dangerous decisions in a day? In the real world, there’s no easy way to get that much practice. In business? No chance. In entrepreneurship—considered the riskiest side of the business world—not happening.
Action and adventure sports provide an environment perfectly designed for risk rehearsal. All day long, you do nothing but take risks. Make hot decisions. Get immediate feedback about the quality of those hot decisions (make a bad one and you crash). And, eventually, learn to make those heated decisions like they were a whole lot cooler. And, as we know from the neuroscience of plasticity, those hot skills hardwire new neural networks that then cross disciplines—the better we get at making hot decisions coolly in an action sports environment, the better we get at making the in the boardroom.
Now, we are not saying that everyone should lock themselves in the basement with Grand Theft Auto or, like this author, wrap yourself head to toe in body armor and hurl yourself down mountainsides. But, we are saying, finding situations that offer a little risk and provide a lot of immediate feedback—that is feedback that tells you, unequivocally, whether you’re doing it right, right now—can actually let us cool down hot decisions.