Keep your New Years Resolutions secret

It’s a New Year and this is a nice chance to get back to the heart of what this blog is supposed to be about.

Firstly — the video by Greg (of Greg & Mitch, the Toronto-based couple who run ASAP Science) is about why telling other people what your New Year’s resolutions are makes you less likely to achieve them. It’s one of those counterintuitive discoveries in psychology that later makes sense when you look at the brain as a chemistry-based machine.

More to the point, where I sometimes just share random fun things, or people making fun of religion, the main focus here is supposed to be about the thinking that your brain does which is under the surface and that you have no conscious access to, are almost entirely unaware of and are merely the victim of its behavioural consequences.

Normally when we think about these kinds of questions; of what to do and how to behave well in the world; we use a kind of mushy thinking which is a blend of amateur philosophy, folk psychology, advice we were given by the latest motivational speaker and whatever our intuition suggests Jesus would do. The problem is there is no way inside that system of thinking to tell whether or not those decisions are correct. The ability to tell the difference between true statements and merely grammatically correct sentences is quite limited. That requires experimentation.

For this particular example with the new years resolutions (I won’t spoil the explanation, you have to watch) it’s impossible to imagine someone discovering this fact through introspection. For that you need to experiment on unsuspecting undergraduates.

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