Profiling Chomsky

Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

Is Noam Chomsky just another liberal whom uncritically inherited the left-leanings of his academic colleagues?  I doubt it as he has devoted his life to understanding the structure and origin of human language – in fact, he is the “father of linguistics” and founder of cognitive science – and is most likely well aware of his biases against power, authority and conformity.

Chomsky has a personality that emphasizes compassion, individuality and a resentment for control.  The negative experiences he has had with others serve to validate these attitudes.  His meekness – being easily pushed around – reinforces a need for subversion, and the fact that he often doesn’t meet our popular culture’s standards makes conformity unpleasant.

So knowing someone’s personality traits and past experiences will help us understand why they focus on things that others may find absurd.  We can’t deny how he sees the world, as that is called invalidation, but we can see if what he feels and thinks conforms to a wider reality.  And it turns out that it does because most liberals share the same attitudes.

Chomsky on Playing Fair

Noam Chomsky is a great orator if you get him and that means you must share his contempt towards unjustified power.  If you don’t and instead have unabashed exuberance and pride towards the United States, such that you wouldn’t ever criticize it, then you will hate him and call him an anarchistic, left-winged, socialist nut.

His writings and speeches – all shaped by his disdain for hegemony – are the epitome of diatribes but serve the purpose of reminding us that we too must look in the mirror.  And not only does Chomsky tell us that hypocrisy escapes no one, but he also provides us with deep social and economical analyses even if in a bitter package.

It is perplexing to me how so many conservatives are turned off by him because he connotes radical liberalism, yet he is arguably one of the greatest thinkers of our time.  But just because I value his critical thinking skills and astute ability to point out our moral failings, this does not mean I’m a raging socialist as I like my 65″ OLED Sony made possible by market-based principles.


Competition and Our Values

Chomsky’s message that power systems can and often times do exploit and subordinate by creating social hierarchies should be listened to (i).  And here below he comes across as a radical much like Jesus would have when advocating “turning the other cheek”.  Think about how foreign this must sound to staunch believers in free markets and the pursuit of self-interest to better all.

Milton Friedman’s interpretation of the success of market systems is historically wrong, and his faith in market systems to achieve desirable ends is grossly mistaken.

And I don’t accept his values either.  I don’t think the ability to succeed in a system of competition is much of a value to be admired. [3]

Despite the proverbial economic pie being a positive summed game when we gain wealth, this does not mean that disparities that competitive-based systems create, which are a feature of capitalism, do not have measurable effects yet to be clarified (ii).  And like or hate Chomsky’s values, he highlights certain aspects of our human nature quite well.


We Did Not Always Play Fair

What about the idea that most hegemonic economies, like the US and England before it, built their economies on the “backs of others” and didn’t attempt to follow the rules of laissez faire until they were powerful enough to risk it.  From protectionism to slaved labor, the US did not play fairly and has no right to boast about being a beacon of capitalism until after WWII.

Through massive state intervention, US was a pioneer in protectionism to protect the textile and steel industries from superior British technology and production while stealing technologies from them.

The US economy was built on vicious and murderous slaved labor.  The slaved labor camps in the South producing cotton would have impressed the nazis and was a violent intrusion in market systems.  [3]

We could even argue that the genocide of the indigenous population that came before us was a violation of free-market principles.  But those in power often do what they can get away with and always justified in the name of nationalism, economic interests and religion.

Cleaning the continent of its indigenous inhabitants is a serious interference of the state on economic systems since they had an economy.  The idea that economies developed from market systems is so grossly false that you can hardly even talk about it. [3]


Notes

i) Human social hierarchies are complex and wax and wane between agonic – dominance-based and uses the threat of force and aggression – and hedonic – affiliative-based on mutual benefit through positive displays – scenarios.

Just because macro economic principles claim that if we pursue our selfish interests that everyone will benefit, this does not mean that conflicts of interest don’t arise from everyone pursuing the same things – positions, high salaries, desirable mates and friends.

ii) The study of happiness and wellbeing is still in its infancy and there is much to say on how unconscious social comparisons tax our mind and body – by increasing cortisol circulation and down-regulating serotonin receptors – to create a lower mood and accommodate us to a lower rank.


References

[1] Boehm, Christopher. Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior . Harvard University

[2] Chomsky, Noam. Requiem for the American Dream . Seven Stories Press.

[3] Chomsky, Noam. YouTube one.  Youtube two.

[4] Deaton, Angus. The Great Escape. Princeton University Press.

[5] Marmot, Michael. The Status Syndrome . Henry Holt and Co..

[6] Quartz, Steven. Cool. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

[7] Wilkinson, Richard G. . The Inner Level. Penguin Publishing Group.

[8] Wilkinson, Richard. The Spirit Level. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Constructed Reality

Modern neuroscience is challenging innatism – think evolutionary psychology – with their findings on how our emotions work.  Bottom line is that our emotions are not hardwired (i) at least not in the sense we were sold.  The proponent of the theory, Lisa Feldman Barrett Phd, tells a lucid story in “How Emotions are Made” on how the mind constructs emotions minus the fingerprint (i) requirement.

I will explain here how motivated reasoning (v) corrupted the science of the day while the next post will look at how Dr. Barrett cleverly uses language to promote her theory but at the cost of misrepresenting others’.  It brings up the disturbing idea, at least for the strict innatists, that our realties are constructed purely by statistical reasoning and interoception and that our emotions are only valid in so much that there is a collective agreement.  

This is particularly important because it shows how researchers were motivated to reinterpret findings and even architect experiments to conform to their faith in innatism.  But judging by Dr. Barrett’s interest in constructionism, she too is motivated to reinterpret studies and prove the status quo – Plato, Steven Pinker, Charles Darwin (ii) and Paul Ekman – wrong but nevertheless shows a genuine passion to accurately characterize our emotional states.


Motivated for a Fingerprint

Darwin’s theory of evolution says that differences found within a species are not errors from the ideal-type but are necessary ingredients for natural selection to work.  So the ideal species is better seen as a statistical average (iii) where individual members of the species vary from this average in, sometimes, important ways.

This insight that an ideal-type doesn’t exist matters because our emotions are best viewed in the same way.  It was ignored, however, when the philosopher John Dewey, a Darwinist, reframed William James’ work on emotions to conform to the ideas of essentialism (iv).

Dewey’s misinterpretation of James is one of the great mistakes in modern psychology, forged by essentialism in the name of Darwin. [1]

The irony is that Darwin’s theory was arguing against essentialism since it was saying that there was no essence or ideal-type.  But Dewey’s motivations were philosophical and so labeled the essence a fingerprint since it was thought to be unique and exist in all of us.  But no fingerprint for an emotion has ever been found.


Architecting a Fingerprint

The idea that emotions have a fingerprint exists today as the classical theory of emotions.  But studies conducted to prove this were in a way architected [1].  In other words, they allowed their experimental method to be influenced by their philosophy (iv).  Let me explain how the study was contrived.

Researchers knew that at least seven emotions had fingerprints.  The experiments required that participants choose from a list of emotions when trying to guess the emotion conveyed.  This list was not random but handpicked and consequently improved the accuracy for guessing the correct emotion.

There were also opportunities for non-Westerners to learn the meaning of our stereotyped emotions before being given the list.  Moreover, the list itself was providing them with emotional concepts that acted as cues that experimenters didn’t take into account.  The researchers still succeeded, however, at replicating the studies with the faulty methodology and proved innateness.

But using more sophisticated techniques from neuroscience to measure our emotions shows that they are more like variations of a theme than fingerprints.  That is we construct emotions by using learned concepts and no one instance of an emotion is the same although a category of emotion, say anger, seems to converge to some average distribution.


Notes

i) The book takes innate in the most strict sense where each emotion must have a similar neurological pathway and be universally expressed and recognized across all cultures.  The word fingerprint is alluding to a predefined pathway that is expressed in everyone the same way.

ii) Darwin’s insight that there is no ideal species but rather a prototype instead would have helped innatists, but they relied on the book in which Darwin got it wrong, namely “Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals”.  He speculated that there were universal emotions but portrayed it in a way that betrays the anti-essentialism he was expressing in “On the Origin of Species”.

iii) A statistical average is not real but abstract.  We can think of the ideal species as being the statistical average, and the members of the ideal species as data points in an experiment that all vary from the ideal or average.

iv) Essentialism is a philosophical belief that any entity has a definable and finite set of properties that make it what it is but claims that it is science’s role to figure out what that is.  Staunchly holding to this belief, however, led to faulty experiments and conclusions.

v) Motivated reasoning is a confirmation bias.  And despite cognitive science labeling it is a ‘cognitive distortion’, it is a feature of the mind and is how it works.  Fortunately our motivated hypotheses are challenged by others if not trapped in the same dogma.


References

[1] Barrett, Lisa Feldman. How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain. HMH Books.

Brief Thoughts on: “That’s right.  Psychology isn’t science.”

My hunch that this opinion is common was finally clinched after reading a dated piece a microbiologist wrote for the LA Times whom claims: “That’s right.  Psychology isn’t science.”  

I will not, however, be critiquing the author’s article until the next post but will briefly discuss tactics and motivation.


My Take on “That’s right.”

When we embed emotion within our claims, as the above clearly does, then we are using rhetorical devices meant to persuade and thus give others reason for skepticism.  This does not of course preclude us from being correct, but it does tell others we are determined to win an argument.

This claim panders to the ego since the slanter (i) used for effect is the inflated variant of pride known as hubris.  Hubris shows when we self-aggrandize and pride shows when we achieve for its own sake.  So do we think the microbiologist will be fair when evaluating psychology against the five criteria if he is driven to impress and using motivated reasoning (ii)?

Underneath it all, however, there is most certainly contempt and this is the prime motivator as you need a strong catalyst to fuel a diatribe.  The secondary motivator is to impress and dazzle his audience which is reinforced by feelings of hubris upon reflecting how his finished product will come across to others (iv).

I could be wrong on intentions, but we still end up with a finite sample space (iii) on motivations: he is either motivated to impress and win or motivated to be objective and fair.  These two motivations aren’t compatible, so he can’t be both but could still be right regardless of motivation.


Notes:

i) A slanter is figurative speech meant to manipulate the reader by appealing to our emotions.

ii) Motivated reasoning is when we focus on what we want the conclusion to be and are not objective and fair with the evidence nor do we consider alternative explanations.

iii) The expanded sample space includes two more possibilities: motivated to impress and be fair and objective or motivated to win and be fair and be objective.  This is unlikely based on the content though.

iv) This is not meant to be a definitive and exhaustive list as it is just my first impressions.  Claiming to know someone’s intentions is a cognitive distortion labeled as “mind-reading”, and I don’t have that power.

Ranking on Psychology

Doubts towards Psychology

I have had doubts on personality psychology’s ability to define traits because of the difficulty in controlling for situational factors as well as, more recently, the methodologies that social psychology has been using, or not using, which has resulted in a replication crisis.  But to say it is pseudoscience is not only discouraging honest inquiry into a field that asks important questions about our nature but is also, quite frankly, interesting enough in its own right to write about.

I am reminded of the time I was schooled by someone on the field of medicine as being the “hard” science whereas psychology was the “soft” science if one at all.  The contemptuous tone and smug face made it all the more memorable which served to not just stoop my posture but also to taunt me.  I was hoping for rational discourse but instead provoked a reaction that I have no doubt seen before when challenging others, and I soon realized that I was engaging in tribal warfare guised as truth seeking.


Not Judging Just Saying

I am guilty too of using contempt as some of my posts have been described as “vitriolic” and “scornful”.  But I’m more careful now in how I present topics so that issues can be discussed without severing our prefrontal cortex.  To be clear, I am not judging those whom use contempt but instead am offering an analysis on the emotion of contempt.  I would like to understand it and assess if the benefits of its use – stoking our own egos and bolstering our tribe’s beliefs – outweigh the costs.

By discussing psychology’s progress towards understanding our emotions, part I, we will be able to say at the very least that the field attempts to be a science since it asks questions on how things work and accumulates a body of knowledge, and at the very most, part II, we can say it meets the five criteria often cited to qualify an endeavor as a science.  

Furthermore, the question should not be framed in terms of absolutes, as that only serves the victor when disparaging it, but rather to what degree does it adhere to these five criteria.

Stay tuned!

Effects of Self-Esteem Overstated

This post addresses number one from Facts that Impact Therapy.

1. global self-esteem is not a major predictor of anything with the exception of happiness [3]

Self-esteem is defined here as trait (global) self-esteem in the absence of aversive social experiences.  This is a specific type of self-esteem measured on the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSES) to detect the overall attitude that we have towards the self.

William James over a century ago said it best when he described this measurement as “a certain average tone of self-feeling which each one of us carries about with him, and which is independent of the objective reasons we may have for satisfaction and discontent” [12].


Effects of Global Self-Esteem Overstated

Although global self-esteem has been associated with a host of problems – delinquent behaviors, promiscuity, substance abuse, depression, hostility and life satisfaction [12] – that, for example, educators have attempted to artificially inflate to improve grades to no avail and that our culture seems obsessed with, the social psychologist Dr. Roy Baumeister correctly reminds us that these are just correlations.

Dr. Baumeister bases this on a survey conducted in 2001 of over 15,000 publicized studies on self-esteem, where only primary studies were chosen in order to see the original data.  The conclusion is most astounding, and I will quote below but in essence global self-esteem is not that important to much of anything but our overall happiness, which, of course, is significant in its own right [3].

With the exception of the link to happiness, most of the effects are weak to modest. Self-esteem (global) is thus not a major predictor or cause of almost anything (again, with the possible exception of happiness). [3]

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised with these findings since if you look at the questions from the RSES (see Figure 1), they don’t detect extremes in attitudes and feelings about the self, with the exception of numbers 3, 9 and 10.  To me it is obvious that it’s in the extremes of our ego states that we may exhibit detectable behaviors but not from measuring our biased, aggregated opinion towards ourselves.

This does not mean that other forms of self-esteem, say state or specific [21], can’t have a measurable effect on behaviors; for example, we can feel a state of inferiority after someone disparages us prompting retaliatory measures on our end, but this is state self-esteem.  State self-esteem along with self-esteem instability, which underlies the narcissistic trait, is tied to behaviors, but these are more difficult to measure [7, 8 , 13, 26].

Figure 1:  Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale – RSES

  1. I feel that I am a person of worth, at least on an equal plane with others.
  2. I feel that I have a number of good qualities..
  3. All in all, I am inclined to feel that I am a failure.
  4. I am able to do things as well as most other people.
  5. I feel I do not have much to be proud of.
  6. I take a positive attitude toward myself.
  7. On the whole, I am satisfied with myself.
  8. I wish I could have more respect for myself.
  9. I certainly feel useless at times.
  10. At times I think I am no good at all.

References

[1] Aron, Elaine.  Ranking and Linking, For Better and For Worse. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/attending-the-undervalued-self/201001/ranking-and-linking-better-and-worse

[2] Baumeister, Roy.  Advanced Social Psychology. Oxford University Press.

[3] Baumeister, Roy.  Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles?

[4] Brown, J. D., & Marshall, M. A. (2006). The three faces of self-esteem. In M. Kernis (Ed.), Self-esteem: Issues and answers (pp. 4-9). New York: Psychology Press.

[5] Caine, Susan.  NYT.  Shyness: Evolutionary Tactic?

[6] Crozier, Ray.  Shyness and Embarrassment. Perspectives from Social Psychology.  Cambridge University Press.

[7] De Ruiter, Naomi M. P.  Explaining the “How” of Self-Esteem Development: The Self-Organizing Self-Esteem Model.  Review of General Psychology.

[8] De Ruiter, Naomi M. P. Hindawi Complexity.  Self-Esteem as a Complex Dynamic System: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Microlevel Dynamics

[9] Gilbert, Paul. Subordination and Defeat: An Evolutionary Approach To Mood Disorders and Their Therapy.

[10] Harris, Judith Rich. The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do.

[11] Heatherton, Todd. development and evaluation of a scale for measuring state self-esteem.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

[12] Hoyle, Rick. Selfhood. Taylor and Francis.

[13] Jordon, Christian.  Self-esteem Instability. Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

[14] Knopik, Valerie.  Behavioral Genetics.  Worth Publishers.

[15]  Leary, Mark R. Interpersonal Rejection.

[16] Leary, Mark R.  Making Sense of Self-Esteem.  Current Directions in Psychological Science.

[17] Marsh, Herbert. What is the Nature of Self-Esteem: Unidimensional and Multidimensional Perspectives

[18] Nesse, Randolph M.. Good Reasons for Bad Feelings. Penguin Publishing Group.

[19] O’brien, Edward J. Global Self-Esteem Scales: Unidimensional or Multidimensional?  Research Article.

[20] Robins, Richard.  Measuring Global Self-Esteem: Construct Validation of a Single-Item Measure and the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale.  Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

[21] Rosenberg, Morris. Global Self-Esteem and Specific Self-Esteem: Different Concepts, Different Outcomes.  American Sociological Review.

[22] Self-Esteem Issues and Answers (p. 424). Taylor and Francis.

[23] Schmidt and Schulkin. Extreme Fear, Shyness, and Social Phobia (Series in Affective Science).

[24] Simpson, Jeffrey.  Evolutionary Social Psychology.  Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Publishers.

[25] Tafarodi, Romin W. Self-Liking and Self-competence as Dimensions to Self-Esteem: Initial Validation of a Measure. Journal of Personality Assessment.

[26] Tracy, Jessica.  The Self-Conscious Emotions. Guilford Publication.

[27] Waytz, Adam.  The Psychology of Social Status. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-psychology-of-social/

[28] Wong, Alexander E. Fractal Dynamics in Self-Evaluation Reveal Self-Concept Clarity.  Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences.

Low Self-Esteem Is Adaptive

This post addresses number two from Facts that Impact Therapy.

2.  low (global) self-esteem* is an innate survival strategy that does not need treatment [1, 5, 18]

* low self-esteem is defined here as trait self-esteem in the absence of aversive social experiences


Low self-esteem has been stigmatized and misunderstood, especially in a culture that glorifies narcissism, i.e., the pursuit of high self-esteem.  It has been suggested, however, that a considerable number of those classified as having low self-esteem are this way because of an innate temperament, such as the discovered trait of sensory-processing sensitivity by Dr. Elaine Aron [18].

In fact, one-fifth, and always in this ratio, of over one hundred species of animals, including humans, adapt a survival strategy of being observant before acting and often appear as shy or inhibited [5, 18].  The cause for low self-esteem is not that people choose to be negative and rank themselves low as those are the effects of an unconscious strategy to protect from worst case scenarios and from being challenged or criticized should they fall short of standards.

It’s a “lay low” and “play it safe” approach that is due to their temperament and is not learned.  Moreover, low self-esteem people don’t necessarily harbor feelings of dislike towards themselves as that is learned through negative social experiences and unfavorable social comparisons.  It only means that they readily describe themselves in disparaging terms when under the prospect of being judged by others since they are sensitive to the rankings of others.

These tendencies, which are automatic and unconscious, have the effect of saying that “I’m no threat” and make one submit and ingratiate more easily.  Whether or not low self-esteem people are at higher risk for depression and social anxiety, however, will be discussed in the next post.  Regardless, low self-esteem is better described as those that are “cautious and uncertain in order to reduce exposure of deficiencies” than as a “maladaptive coping strategy in the face of adversity” [3].


References

[1] Aron, Elaine.  Ranking and Linking, For Better and For Worse. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/attending-the-undervalued-self/201001/ranking-and-linking-better-and-worse

[2] Baumeister, Roy.  Advanced Social Psychology. Oxford University Press.

[3] Baumeister, Roy.  Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles?

[4] Brown, J. D., & Marshall, M. A. (2006). The three faces of self-esteem. In M. Kernis (Ed.), Self-esteem: Issues and answers (pp. 4-9). New York: Psychology Press.

[5] Caine, Susan.  NYT.  Shyness: Evolutionary Tactic?

[6] Crozier, Ray.  Shyness and Embarrassment. Perspectives from Social Psychology.  Cambridge University Press.

[7] Gilbert, Paul. Subordination and Defeat: An Evolutionary Approach To Mood Disorders and Their Therapy.

[8] Gilbert, Paul. Genes on the Couch.

[9] Harris, Judith Rich. The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do.

[10] Heatherton, Todd. development and evaluation of a scale for measuring state self-esteem.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

[11] Hoyle, Rick. Selfhood. Taylor and Francis.

[12] Knopik, Valerie.  Behavioral Genetics.  Worth Publishers.

[13]  Leary, Mark R. Interpersonal Rejection.

[14] Leary, Mark R. The Curse of the Self: Self-Awareness, Egotism, and the Quality of Human Life.

[15] Leary, Mark R.  Making Sense of Self-Esteem.  Current Directions in Psychological Science.

[16] Nesse, Randolph M.. Good Reasons for Bad Feelings. Penguin Publishing Group.

[17] Rosenberg, Morris. Global Self-Esteem and Specific Self-Esteem: Different Concepts, Different Outcomes.  American Sociological Review.

[18] Schmidt and Schulkin. Extreme Fear, Shyness, and Social Phobia (Series in Affective Science).

[19] Simpson, Jeffrey.  Evolutionary Social Psychology.  Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Publishers.

[20] Tracy, Jessica.  The Self-Conscious Emotions. Guilford Publication.

[21] Waytz, Adam.  The Psychology of Social Status. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-psychology-of-social/

[22] Wood, Joanne V.  Positive Self-Statements. Psychological Science.

 

Self-Esteem is About Others

Our state self-esteem is most sensitive to others’ evaluating us and is an in-the-moment measurement of how we experience the self [11, 12].  Global self-esteem, on the other hand, is how we evaluate ourselves along the dimensions of appearance, likability and capabilities, but when it is measured on tests, it only detects our average feelings towards ourselves [22].

These two aspects to self-esteem, however, are more similar than we may think.  Global self-esteem, for example, can also be shown to be “a person’s general sense that he or she is the sort of person who is valued and accepted by other people” [28].  In order to show this sleight of hand in point of view, I’ve constructed a simple argument and have followed up with explanations.

  • A system will point to its purpose by what it is most sensitive to,
  • and our self-esteem is most sensitive to how others’ evaluate us.
  • We also evaluate our own appearance, likability and capabilities.
  • It is these attributes and not others since they bestow value on to others.
  • Standards to assess our attributes are only ours’ when they fall short,
  • but when it is safe to measure, we use the standards of others.
  • So self-acceptance is not about us but about others.

The trick to understanding the thesis that the self-esteem system was designed to help with social acceptance is that self-acceptance is not what we think it is and just because people are more content when they are not worrying what others’ think of them, this is irrelevant to the design’s purpose.  An expert of the self-esteem system, Dr. Mark R. Leary, explains the theory quite well.

The theory is based on the assumption that human beings possess a pervasive drive to maintain significant inter personal relationships, a drive that evolved because early human beings who belonged to social groups were more likely to survive and re produce than those who did not (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). Given the disastrous implications of being ostracized in the ancestral environment in which human evolution occurred, early human beings may have developed a mechanism for monitoring the degree to which other people valued and accepted them. This psychological mechanism – the sociometer – continuously monitors the social environment for cues regarding the degree to which the individual is being accepted [28].


It Is Personal After All

If we were to look at the emotions that are involved in self-esteem, for example, shame or pride, we will conclude that they are all self-conscious emotions, that is they arise in the context of how we are being evaluated and perceived by others.  Research is quite clear in that we care a great deal what others’ think of us.  And this doesn’t make us superficial people with petty concerns since we need to know the extent to which others like or value us in order to increase our chances of belonging and fitting in.

Everyday observation and behavioral research confirm that people are, in fact, acutely attuned to how others perceive and evaluate them. Not only are they highly sensitive to indications of disinterest, disapproval, and disassociation, but they strategically adjust their behavior when they believe that others are not perceiving them in desirable ways.  [26]

Some, however, will argue that they aren’t ever concerned with what others’ think of them.  But this claim is self-refuting since the very fact that someone would say that gives it away that they in fact do care.  This is to persuade others that they are independent and strong, unlike those whom look for approval, which can unfortunately be seen as a sign of weakness.

Therapists seem to believe that we can shutoff these needs since the brain has “plasticity”.  This is false, dampen it, sure, but not shutoff.  They are forgetting about the daily deference and attention they receive from coworkers and patients by virtue of their professional demeanor and self-presentation, in which the mind unconsciously picks up to create feelings of safety, approval and belongingness [10, 26].


Design Points to its Purpose

But the most convincing clue is that any engineered system, even natural selection’s design, will result in a design such that what it is most sensitive to – others’ opinions – points to its purpose.  To help, a system is a feedback mechanism that takes in information, processes it based on decision-based rules in the mind and then outputs a behavior or emotion in order to reinforce or to discourage an outcome.

As an example, we get negative emotions (social-anxiety, hurt feelings and shame) when we are dismissed, ignored or criticized, and these negative feelings discourage us from pursuing relationships but also encourage self-enhancement strategies because we believe we are “not enough”.  On the other hand, we feel positive emotions (joy and pride) when we get approval, positive attention and respect, and these positive feelings reinforce the behavior. [26].

The decision-based rule – the brain’s selection of an output to send in response to the input – is understood to be a two step process: one is an automatic and unconscious appraisal of the social interaction as being either a threat or as safety-conferring to the self, and the other is a conscious and deliberate attempt to attribute the situation’s outcome to either internal (you) or external causes (them) [26, 40].


A Need to Bestow Value

Global self-esteem, which is about our self-worth and self-acceptance, is strongly correlated with our perceived physical appearance, likability, and competence [22].  We care about these qualities in particular not because of their own sake, as natural selection is not that wasteful, but because they have the potential to bestow positive value on to others.

But in order to bestow value we must attract others, and we do this through our appearances and capabilities.  The drive to want to attract and be valued is obvious when we express our needs to “have something to offer” and “to be included.”  This bestowed value is shown in the positive affect (feelings) we create in the minds of others, which if successful we are rewarded with an elated mood (state self-esteem) [16, 26].

But despite this desire to be accepted and to attract others – which ultimately pays off since we engage in mutually beneficial activities like mating, etc. – we also compete over these desirable attributes because they are in limited supply.  And so we compete for prestige as it is the social currency for acceptance and one measure of success in this struggle is the amount of attention and deference we can obtain, also known as our SAHP or our Social Attention Holding Potential [10].


Self-Acceptance as an Artifact

An aspect to self-esteem that seems to be at odds with this perspective is the idea of self-acceptance, but it turns out to be a cog in the wheel – an illusion to promote a grander agenda [39].  I don’t want to downplay its significance since self-satisfaction is linked to happiness [24, 32], but it is more of a process that varies depending on standards used rather than a decision.

We may have troubles with this idea since it’s thought that self-acceptance is something like nirvana.  And although it may show some independence to others’ opinions, this does not mean its purpose is exclusive to making us happy.  Because global self-esteem is prone to self-serving biases which may serve to inflate our worth to others not just ourselves [22, 39].

And the standards we use to evaluate our self-acceptance are not arbitrary since they are being measured against what we believe would have utility to others.  Experts incorrectly once believed that private self-evaluations were what determined self-esteem but even if our motives are intrinsic [1], the outcome is referenced against others’ standards, and we don’t stop making self-comparisons [14, 28].

The attributes on which people’s self-esteem is based are precisely the characteristics that determine the degree to which people are valued and accepted by others (Baumeister & Leary, 1995).  Specifically, high trait self-esteem is associated with believing that one possesses socially desirable attributes such as competence personal likability, and psychical attractiveness. [28]

In conclusion, even if it breaks down to that we are “living for others”, with the exception of us going easy on ourselves by changing the standards, it still in the end is about us as we experience positive affect (feelings) and mood when our attributes meet standards, and this has positive health consequences that we often take for granted [5, 26, 29, 30].


References

[1] Ackerman, Courtney.  Self-Determination Theory of Motivation: Why Intrinsic Motivation Matters

[2] Allen, M. David M.D.  The Cognitive Behavioral Mafia.  http://davidmallenmd.blogspot.com/2011/12/cognitive-behavioral-mafia.html

[3] Anderson, Thomson Jr. Depression’s Evolutionary Roots.  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=depressions-evolutionary.

[4] Aron, Elaine.  Ranking and Linking, For Better and For Worse. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/attending-the-undervalued-self/201001/ranking-and-linking-better-and-worse

[5] Banks, Amy. Wired to Connect. Penguin Publishing Group.

[6] Baumeister, Roy.  Advanced Social Psychology. Oxford University Press.

[7] Baumeister, Roy.  Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles?

[8] Brown, J. D., & Marshall, M. A. (2006). The three faces of self-esteem. In M. Kernis (Ed.), Self-esteem: Issues and answers (pp. 4-9). New York: Psychology Press.

[8.1] Caine, Susan.  NYT.  Shyness: Evolutionary Tactic?

[9] Caldwell, Benjamin E.. Saving Psychotherapy: How Therapists Can Bring the Talking Cure Back from the Brink.

[10] Crozier, Ray.  Shyness and Embarrassment. Perspectives from Social Psychology.  Cambridge University Press.

[11] De Ruiter, Naomi M. P.  Explaining the “How” of Self-Esteem Development: The Self-Organizing Self-Esteem Model.  Review of General Psychology.

[12] De Ruiter, Naomi M. P. Hindawi Complexity.  Self-Esteem as a Complex Dynamic System: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Microlevel Dynamics

[13] Douglas T. Kenrick, Vladas Griskevicius, Steven L. Neuberg, Mark Schaller. Renovating the Pramid of Needs: Contemporary Extensions Built Upon Ancienty Foundations. Perspect Psychol Sci.

[14] Garofalo, Giovanni. The Effects of Social Comparisons on Happiness in a Motivational Context.

[15] Gilbert, Paul. The Compassionate Mind (Compassion Focused Therapy) . Little, Brown Book Group.

[16] Gilbert, Paul. Subordination and Defeat: An Evolutionary Approach To Mood Disorders and Their Therapy.

[17] Gilbert, Paul. Genes on the Couch.

[18] George Lakoff. Philosophy In The Flesh.

[19] Griffioen, Brecht.  The Effect of EMDR and CBT on Low Self-esteem in a General Psychiatric Population: A Randomized Controlled Trial.

[20] Harris, Judith Rich. The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do.

[21] Heatherton, Todd. development and evaluation of a scale for measuring state self-esteem.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

[22] Hoyle, Rick. Selfhood. Taylor and Francis.

[23] Knopik, Valerie.  Behavioral Genetics.  Worth Publishers.

[23.1] Lancer, Darlene. Codependency vs. Interdependency.  psychcentral.com.

[24] Langer, Ellen; https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/199911/self-esteem-vs-self-respect

[25] Leahy, Robert L. Ph.D.  Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: Proven Effectiveness.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/anxiety-files/201111/cognitive-behavioral-therapy-proven-effectiveness

[26]  Leary, Mark R. Interpersonal Rejection.

[27] Leary, Mark R. The Curse of the Self: Self-Awareness, Egotism, and the Quality of Human Life.

[28] Leary, Mark R.  Making Sense of Self-Esteem.  Current Directions in Psychological Science.

[29] Levine, Amir. Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love. Penguin Publishing Group.

[30] Lieberman, Matthew D.. Social. Crown.

[31] Marmot, Michael. The Status Syndrome . Henry Holt and Co..

[32] Mindvalley.  This Is Why Self-Respect Is Crucial For Happiness; https://blog.mindvalley.com/self-respect-crucial-for-happiness/?utm_source=google

[33] Nesse, Randolph M.. Good Reasons for Bad Feelings. Penguin Publishing Group.

[34] Pinker, Steven. The Blank Slate. Penguin Publishing Group.

[35] Pinker, Steven. How the Mind Works. W. W. Norton & Company.

[36] Quartz, Steven. Cool. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

[37] Rosenberg, Morris. Global Self-Esteem and Specific Self-Esteem: Different Concepts, Different Outcomes.  American Sociological Review.

[38] Schmidt and Schulkin. Extreme Fear, Shyness, and Social Phobia (Series in Affective Science).

[39] Simpson, Jeffrey.  Evolutionary Social Psychology.  Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Publishers.

[40] Tracy, Jessica.  The Self-Conscious Emotions. Guilford Publication.

[41] Waytz, Adam.  The Psychology of Social Status. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-psychology-of-social/

[42] Wood, Joanne V.  Positive Self-Statements. Psychological Science.

[43] Wong, Alexander E. Fractal Dynamics in Self-Evaluation Reveal Self-Concept Clarity.  Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences.

Facts that Impact Therapy

This is an addendum to Therapists’ Inadequacies.

  1. global self-esteem is not a major predictor of anything with the exception of happiness (ii), [7]
  2. low (global) self-esteem is an innate survival strategy that does not need treatment (xiv), [4, 8.1, 38]
  3. low-mood or subordinated states are often conflated with low (global) self-esteem (xv), [16, 17]
  4. targeting self-efficacy to raise self-esteem before relational value needs are met is inexplicable (vii)
  5. self-esteem has three dimensions: self-acceptance, social-acceptance, status and rank
  6. self-acceptance shows independence from other dimensions yet evaluative criteria not arbitrary (v)
  7. social acceptance, status and rank are more important to our well-being (ii) than self-acceptance [16, 31]
  8. submissiveness, i.e., a readiness to submit or ingratiate is not a learned response but involuntary [16]
  9. telling a subordinate to use boundaries and practice assertiveness is hardly a strategy [16]
  10. depression and social anxiety are situational phenomena in which some are predisposed (xi), [16]
  11. codependency as a syndrome is over-treated and often times assumed rather than diagnosed (vi), [13.1, 29]
  12. as CBT is practiced today symptoms are treated but causes are rarely entertained (vi, viii), [2, 16]
  13. CBT can undermine the role of our intuition and may have unintended consequences (vi), [2, 16]

Notes

i) intrinsic worth, that is, humans possessing value by virtue of being human is just not reflected in our day to day experiences

ii) happiness is about fulfillment and satisfaction and wellbeing is about contentment but includes physiological health aspects

iii) global self-esteem is not state or specific self-esteem as it reflects the average feelings we have towards ourselves

iv) mood states are reflected in state self-esteem not global; global is a an aggregate and state is an instantaneous measurement

v) standards used to evaluate ourselves are not private because we imagine how our attributes come across to others

The attributes on which people’s self-esteem is based are precisely the characteristics that determine the degree to which people are valued and accepted by others (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). [28]

vi) sample size of n = 12 therapists and psychiatrists; claims are only for the treatment of depression and social anxiety

vii) it is a gross error to skip the interpersonal part to self-esteem in favor of self-efficacy as relational value needs come first [13]

viii) ones’ interpersonal status is primary; assessments on temperament, personality and attachment style to fine tune treatment

ix) as much disdain as many have towards evolutionary psychology, it provides a useful framework to view interpersonal problems

x) empirical support for the hierarchical arrangement of Maslow’s pyramid exists but self-actualizing is not a fundamental need [13]

xi) personality: neuroticism; temperament: inhibitedness; traits: high sensory-processing sensitivity, rejection sensitivity [38]

xii) dependency paradox says that once we belong and feel valued only then can we venture out with confidence and explorer [29]

xiii) we make self-comparisons to validate the outcome or process regardless if intrinsically or extrinsically motivated [14]

xiv) low self-esteem is defined here as trait self-esteem in its purest form in the absence of aversive social experiences

xv) low or subordinated states include negative automatic thoughts and schemas only in the presence of depressed affect; there is much empirical support for this view, see: (Haaga, Dyck, & Ernst, 1991; Hollon, DeRubeis, & Evans, 1987; Miranda & Persons, 1988; Miranda, Persons, & Byers, 1990; Segal & Ingram, 1994; Teasdale, 1983)


References

[1] Ackerman, Courtney.  Self-Determination Theory of Motivation: Why Intrinsic Motivation Matters

[2] Allen, M. David M.D.  The Cognitive Behavioral Mafia.  http://davidmallenmd.blogspot.com/2011/12/cognitive-behavioral-mafia.html

[3] Anderson, Thomson Jr. Depression’s Evolutionary Roots.  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=depressions-evolutionary.

[4] Aron, Elaine.  Ranking and Linking, For Better and For Worse. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/attending-the-undervalued-self/201001/ranking-and-linking-better-and-worse

[5] Banks, Amy. Wired to Connect. Penguin Publishing Group.

[6] Baumeister, Roy.  Advanced Social Psychology. Oxford University Press.

[7] Baumeister, Roy.  Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles?

[8] Brown, J. D., & Marshall, M. A. (2006). The three faces of self-esteem. In M. Kernis (Ed.), Self-esteem: Issues and answers (pp. 4-9). New York: Psychology Press.

[8.1] Caine, Susan.  NYT.  Shyness: Evolutionary Tactic?

[9] Caldwell, Benjamin E.. Saving Psychotherapy: How Therapists Can Bring the Talking Cure Back from the Brink.

[10] Crozier, Ray.  Shyness and Embarrassment. Perspectives from Social Psychology.  Cambridge University Press.

[11] De Ruiter, Naomi M. P.  Explaining the “How” of Self-Esteem Development: The Self-Organizing Self-Esteem Model.  Review of General Psychology.

[12] De Ruiter, Naomi M. P. Hindawi Complexity.  Self-Esteem as a Complex Dynamic System: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Microlevel Dynamics

[13] Douglas T. Kenrick, Vladas Griskevicius, Steven L. Neuberg, Mark Schaller. Renovating the Pramid of Needs: Contemporary Extensions Built Upon Ancienty Foundations. Perspect Psychol Sci.

[14] Garofalo, Giovanni. The Effects of Social Comparisons on Happiness in a Motivational Context.

[15] Gilbert, Paul. The Compassionate Mind (Compassion Focused Therapy) . Little, Brown Book Group.

[16] Gilbert, Paul. Subordination and Defeat: An Evolutionary Approach To Mood Disorders and Their Therapy.

[17] Gilbert, Paul. Genes on the Couch.

[18] George Lakoff. Philosophy In The Flesh.

[19] Griffioen, Brecht.  The Effect of EMDR and CBT on Low Self-esteem in a General Psychiatric Population: A Randomized Controlled Trial.

[20] Harris, Judith Rich. The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do.

[21] Heatherton, Todd. development and evaluation of a scale for measuring state self-esteem.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

[22] Hoyle, Rick. Selfhood. Taylor and Francis.

[23] Knopik, Valerie.  Behavioral Genetics.  Worth Publishers.

[23.1] Lancer, Darlene. Codependency vs. Interdependency.  psychcentral.com.

[24] Langer, Ellen; https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/199911/self-esteem-vs-self-respect

[25] Leahy, Robert L. Ph.D.  Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: Proven Effectiveness.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/anxiety-files/201111/cognitive-behavioral-therapy-proven-effectiveness

[26]  Leary, Mark R. Interpersonal Rejection.

[27] Leary, Mark R. The Curse of the Self: Self-Awareness, Egotism, and the Quality of Human Life.

[28] Leary, Mark R.  Making Sense of Self-Esteem.  Current Directions in Psychological Science.

[29] Levine, Amir. Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love. Penguin Publishing Group.

[30] Lieberman, Matthew D.. Social. Crown.

[31] Marmot, Michael. The Status Syndrome . Henry Holt and Co..

[32] Mindvalley.  This Is Why Self-Respect Is Crucial For Happiness; https://blog.mindvalley.com/self-respect-crucial-for-happiness/?utm_source=google

[33] Nesse, Randolph M.. Good Reasons for Bad Feelings. Penguin Publishing Group.

[34] Pinker, Steven. The Blank Slate. Penguin Publishing Group.

[35] Pinker, Steven. How the Mind Works. W. W. Norton & Company.

[36] Quartz, Steven. Cool. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

[37] Rosenberg, Morris. Global Self-Esteem and Specific Self-Esteem: Different Concepts, Different Outcomes.  American Sociological Review.

[38] Schmidt and Schulkin. Extreme Fear, Shyness, and Social Phobia (Series in Affective Science).

[39] Simpson, Jeffrey.  Evolutionary Social Psychology.  Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Publishers.

[40] Tracy, Jessica.  The Self-Conscious Emotions. Guilford Publication.

[41] Waytz, Adam.  The Psychology of Social Status. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-psychology-of-social/

[42] Wood, Joanne V.  Positive Self-Statements. Psychological Science.

[43] Wong, Alexander E. Fractal Dynamics in Self-Evaluation Reveal Self-Concept Clarity.  Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences.