Digital Gems

Digital Gems

How Too Many Boys Skew China’s Economy
How Too Many Boys Skew China’s Economy
The Chinese government’s fight to control housing prices and insulate the economy is bound up with some very fundamental human impulses—and decisions made decades ago.
How Too Many Boys Skew China’s Economy
The art and science of abstract thinking
The art and science of abstract thinking
What is something we only become capable of doing after age eleven, that helps us solve complex problems and write poetry, but needs to be yielded carefully? That’s abstract thinking, a powerful tool for creativity and innovation which anyone can learn how to use better. The difference between concrete and abstract thinking Concrete thinking is closely related to experiences that can be directly observed. It involves everyday, tangible facts and physical objects. On the other hand, abstract thinking is a higher-order reasoning skill. It deals with conceptual ideas, patterns, and theories. For instance, thinking about the Statue of Liberty is a concrete thought, but thinking about what it represents — the idea of liberty — is an abstract thought. Listing the names of everyone on the team who are working on a specific project is concrete thinking, but questioning whether this is the best team for the project is abstract thinking. Another way to put it is that concrete thinking asks how whereas abstract thinking asks why. In the words of researchers from Tel-Aviv University: “Focusing on the means required to achieve a specific goal ultimately entails transforming an abstract idea into a concrete action and thus primes a concretizing mindset; likewise, focusing on the purpose of an action primes an abstracting mindset.”  According to famous psychologist Jean Piaget, it is not until around eleven years old that children become able to think abstractly and to use metacognition. Before that age, we are only able to think logically about objects we can physically manipulate. Our ability to think abstractly keeps on expanding as we grow up, but most people take this ability for granted, and very few proactively practice their abstract reasoning skills. Three concrete ways to practice abstract thinking It is possible to improve your abstract reasoning skills. Reframe the question. Go from “how?” to “why?” in order to take a step-back and tap into your abstract reasoning skills. For example, if you feel stuck trying to write a blog post, ask yourself: why am I writing this, who is this for, what exactly am I trying to achieve? This higher-order approach may help you discover a fresh angle to tackle your project. Look for patterns. Instead of looking at each concrete element in isolation, practice networked thinking to uncover abstract patterns and underlying dynamics in the relationship between those elements. Don’t be afraid to use your imagination. Sometimes patterns can be hard to detect, but the simple process of looking for them will help you improve your abstract reasoning skills. Take inspiration from abstract thinkers. Philosophers, artists, and scientists are great abstract thinkers. Like a philosopher, examine the nature of ideas such as success, reality, or community. Like a poet, go from concrete thinking to abstract thinking by using metaphors, simile, analogies, and symbolism. Like a scientist, formulate a theory by going from the particular to the general. Is the concrete event you are currently observing an occurrence of a wider phenomenon? Could you test your hypothesis? Abstract thinking is essential in order to solve complex problems, come up with innovative ideas, and collaborate with other people. It allows us to analyse situations, understand new concepts, formulate theories, and to put things in perspective. Without abstract thinking, we would not be able to grasp concepts such as friendship, hope, democracy, imagination, success, wisdom, happiness, or even love. However, while it’s a powerful tool to add to your thinking toolbox, it should not be the only tool, and it should be used wisely. A balancing game As with any powerful tool, abstract thinking can be a double-edged sword. First, abstract thinking without concrete thinking amounts to imagination without execution. Creativity requires an ambidextrous mindset which balances exploration and exploitation. Once you have figured out why an idea needs to see the light of day, you need to think about how you will make it happen. In other words, you need to go from abstract thinking to concrete thinking. It can also be dangerous for your mental health to always default to abstract thinking, especially when thinking about past events. Psychology researchers explain that “abstract rumination is characteristic of depressed individuals, as is the tendency to experience post-decisional regret.” It is particularly true of thinking about traumatic events, where concrete thinking has been found to be much more helpful than abstract thinking. Despite these caveats, abstract thinking skills are particularly helpful in situations that require thinking outside the box, uncovering hidden patterns, and generating innovative ideas. Just make sure you are balancing it with concrete thinking and monitoring your thought patterns so abstract thinking doesn’t turn into abstract rumination. The post The art and science of abstract thinking appeared first on Ness Labs.
The art and science of abstract thinking
Mild respiratory SARS-CoV-2 infection can cause multi-lineage cellular dysregulation and myelin loss in the brain
Mild respiratory SARS-CoV-2 infection can cause multi-lineage cellular dysregulation and myelin loss in the brain
Researchers found a link between mild Covid infections impaired hippocampal neurogenesis, decreased oligodendrocytes and myelin loss in mice one week after infections persisting until at least seven weeks leading them to conclude that even those with mild symptoms in the acute phase may experience lasting cognitive dysfunction.
Mild respiratory SARS-CoV-2 infection can cause multi-lineage cellular dysregulation and myelin loss in the brain
What’s in a Name? Why Turkey Is Now Türkiye
What’s in a Name? Why Turkey Is Now Türkiye
The country Turkey has changed its name to Türkiye (pronounced as Turkey but with a soft "e" on the end), which is what Turks have called their country since 1923. Many other countries have done this over the years. For example Swaziland officially became Eswatini in 2018, the Netherlands dropped the use of Holland in 2020,the Czech Republic became Czechia in 2013, Rhodesia became Zimbabwe in 1980, Sri Lanka dropped all references to Ceylon in 2011, and Burma became Myanmar in 1989.
What’s in a Name? Why Turkey Is Now Türkiye
Attentional bias: the invisible puppeteer behind our decisions
Attentional bias: the invisible puppeteer behind our decisions
Most people feel that, within the constraints they need to navigate, they are in control of their decisions. But we often automatically follow a train of thought or an external cue without noticing the selective factors in our attention. This phenomenon is called the attentional bias, and it affects many of the decisions we make. When our unconscious takes the lead The attentional bias can be defined as our tendency to focus on certain elements while ignoring others. Jonathan Baron, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, explains: “Attentional bias can be understood as failure to look for evidence against an initial possibility, or as failure to consider alternative possibilities.” Our attention can be biased by external events as well as internal thoughts and emotions. For instance, being hungry may make you pay more attention to food, and holding certain beliefs will skew your thinking towards decisions that are aligned with these beliefs. A famous example of attentional bias based on external events is found in cigarette smokers. Research using eye-tracking technology shows that, due to their brain’s altered reward system, pay more attention to smoking cues in their environment. That’s partly why ​​a staggering 75% of quitters return to smoking within a year. We tend to pay more attention to salient information, whether it’s relevant or not. In an experiment, Dr. Jan Smedslund, Professor Emeritus and Specialist in Clinical Psychology, asked a group of nurses to look through a hundred cards representing what they were told were excerpts from the files of a hundred patients.  For each patient, the card indicated whether the symptom was present or absent, and whether the disease was then found to be present or absent. Some patients had symptoms but no disease, others did not have symptoms but had the disease, some others did not have any symptoms nor the disease, etc. The nurses were asked to figure out whether there was a relationship between a particular symptom and a particular disease. Now, let’s have a look at the table below, which shows the repartition of the cases: Disease present Disease absent Symptom present 37 17 Symptom absent 33 13 Based on this table, Pr. Jonathan Baron points out that it is possible to determine that “a given patient has about a 70% chance of having the disease, whether this patient has the symptom or not.” In other words, “the symptom is useless in determining who has the disease and who does not, in this group of patients.” And yet, after going through the cards, 85% of the nurses concluded that there was a relationship between the symptom and the disease. Dr. Jan Smedslund concludes that “they tend to depend exclusively on the frequency of true positive cases in judging relationships.” Pr. Jonathan Baron adds that “many other experiments have supported [the] general conclusion that subjects tend to ignore part of the table. (…) People who have the chance do not inquire about the half of the table to which they do not attend.” But attentional bias can arise from within our minds as well. In a similar experiment, researchers Richard Nisbett and Lee Ross asked participants the following question: “Does God answer prayers?” Potential answers can be explored with a similar table: Prayer No prayer Manifestation Yes No No manifestation No No Again, people who pray will be more likely to answer “yes” to this question, justifying it by saying “​​many times I’ve asked God for something, and He’s given it to me”, and ignoring the other possibilities. Pr. Jonathan Baron explains: “If you think that God answers your prayers, it stands to reason that some piece of good fortune is a result of prayer.” However, he doesn’t think attentional bias is a fixed trait. He adds: “Further thinking might involve looking for alternative possibilities (such as the possibility that the good fortune would have occurred anyway) and looking for evidence that might distinguish these possibilities from our favored possibility (what happens when you do not pray). Attentional bias can therefore be correctable by actively open-minded thinking.” How to manage the attentional bias While it is impossible to completely get rid of the attentional bias, being aware of the existence of these unconscious processes that act like an invisible puppeteer behind our choices is a first step in reducing their impact on our decision-making. By applying metacognitive strategies to the management of your attention, you can take back control of some of your train of thoughts. Pay attention to your attention. Whenever you feel your attention being automatically pulled into a specific direction, ask yourself why this is the case. Is it a particularly salient piece of information, a cue that is linked to a past or current addiction, an answer that perfectly aligns with your existing values and beliefs? Go beyond the most obvious answer. If you find the answer to a question completely obvious, chances are some of your thinking is based on heuristics that may not be the only way to approach the problem at hand. Are there any alternative explanations? Did you fail to consider a different point of view? What answer would someone with different pre-existing beliefs give to the same question? You can take notes while you brainstorm, and list all of the alternative explanations you come up with. If you are in a work environment, this exercise also works well as a team. Cultivate open-mindedness. None of the previous metacognitive strategies will work if your tunnel vision prevents you from honestly considering the unconscious processes that guide your decisions, and if you are unable to consider alternative ways of thinking. Being open minded is not something you just decide to become. It can be cultivated by asking good questions, reading books outside of your usual interests, and connecting with people who think differently. Proactively managing your attentional bias requires a bit of effort, but it will make you a better thinker, leading to better decisions and a higher sense of self-awareness. It’s worth giving it a try! The post Attentional bias: the invisible puppeteer behind our decisions appeared first on Ness Labs.
Attentional bias: the invisible puppeteer behind our decisions
The Sunday Read: ‘What if There’s No Such Thing as Closure?’ · The Daily (39 min.)
The Sunday Read: ‘What if There’s No Such Thing as Closure?’ · The Daily (39 min.)
In her new book, “The Myth of Closure: Ambiguous Loss in a Time of Pandemic and Change,” Pauline Boss considers what it means to reach “emotional closure” in a state of unnamable grief or ambiguous loss. Boss teases out how one can mourn something that cannot always be described. The pandemic has been rife with “ambiguous loss,” A sense of “frozen grief” pervades great swathes of the global community. Boss believes that by rethinking and lending language to the nature of loss, we might get closer to understanding it.
The Sunday Read: ‘What if There’s No Such Thing as Closure?’ · The Daily (39 min.)
Closing the African American Homeownership Gap | HUD USER
Closing the African American Homeownership Gap | HUD USER
As of December 31, 2020, the rate of African-American homeownership is 44.1 percent, whereas the rate of White homeownership is 74.5 percent. At all income ranges, even at incomes above $100,000, homeownership rates are lower for African-American households than for White households.
Closing the African American Homeownership Gap | HUD USER
Analysis | The economy is feeling the effects of the fading baby boom
Analysis | The economy is feeling the effects of the fading baby boom
As people retire, there will be fewer people in the total pool of existing workers and fewer people will also be looking for work. Even if none of the remaining people who are unemployed find a job, those retirements can drive unemployment down purely as an artifact of how we calculate the unemployment rate.
Analysis | The economy is feeling the effects of the fading baby boom
Home Sales Over $100 Million Exploded in 2021
Home Sales Over $100 Million Exploded in 2021
At least 40 properties in the United States sold for $50 million or more last year, a 35% increase from 2020, and at least eight sold for at least $100 million, a 300% jump from the prior year.
Home Sales Over $100 Million Exploded in 2021
First-time Buyer Share Falls to 26% in November
First-time Buyer Share Falls to 26% in November
The share of first-time homebuyers fell to 26% in November 2021, the lowest since January 2014. Around 24% of existing homes were purchased with all cash--only 7% of first-time home buyers could afford this approach compared to 30% of non-first-time buyers.
First-time Buyer Share Falls to 26% in November
Mortgage rates just climbed past 2021 levels
Mortgage rates just climbed past 2021 levels
Mortgage rates rose to their highest level since May 2020 to 3.22% for 30-year-fixed-rate loans, up 3.11% from the week ending December 2021 and 2.65% one year ago which was the lowest on record.
Mortgage rates just climbed past 2021 levels