Dorte Aagaards book ''Motivation'' is a very interesting study about ''Motivation''.
Most helpful in this age of ''transitions'', where we are always in the process
of leaving something behind, and moving on to something new...
Generating a lot of political turmoil in the process (See: ''Trump Time'').

Certainly, an age where it is difficult to predict where it will all end.


Comments, reflections after having read Dorte Aagaards book Motivation.

Edward Deci when he visited Aarhus University in 2012.

For more than 35 years, Edward L. Deci and his colleague Richard M. Ryan have been thinking about ''motivation''. They are founders of the theory of selvdetermination and has performed numerous experiments to uncover what drives people to act.

Deci believes that there are two forms of motivation: People can either be driven by a) an inner passion or interest (which he call autonomous motivation), or they can be driven by b) external pressures, hope for a reward or fear of a punishment. Deci thinks that we most of us have experienced (in different contexts) both types of motivation.
When we study a subject, because it interests us, it is an inner passion that drives us forward.
But when we perform a task in order to achieve a good grade or in order to avoid losing our job, it's an outside pressure that drives us.
Certainly, authorities often use motivation as a control mechanism, so that people perform the action that the authority would like them to perform.
But we risk to suppress peoples experience of self-determination and competence, if we (always) put people into situations where their behaviour is measured and results in a reward or a (threat of a) bad consequence.
According to Deci, successful motivation is something else:
Here it is important that we recognize that people have a free will, and the right to choose their own path. According to Deci: We need to feel competent, we all need to experience self-determination, and we need to experience belonging.
So, stimulating those needs are what we actually need to do in order to motivate another human being...
- Threats, rewards, demanding language and criticism creates situations that make the recipient feel incompetent and subject to someone else's will.
Instead, people will be motivated by other people's recognition and the feeling of having a choice.
Therefore, according to Deci, motivation people is all about offering people a choice and to be open, interested and appreciative.

Inner motivation makes people curious, and gives them the persistence they need in order to do complicated tasks. A weakening of their sense competency, sense of belonging or sense of self-determination will give the opposite results. Here motivation will be weakened, and people will not be motivated to take new steps forwards.

Dorte Aagaards takes it a step further when she writes that ''Motivation is all about giving people circumstances that allow them become masters of their own lives'' [p. 14]. Indeed, motivation is all about self-realization.

Aagaard writes that motivation exists on 3 levels:
The global level tell us something about how we perceive ourselves. And whether we are generally motivated by out outside- or inner influences.
The contextual level tell us about how motivated we are to learn different subjects, such as physics or english.
The situational level tell us something about our motivation here and now, in whatever task we are involved in right now.
The levels are connected, so a high level of inner motivation on the global level will influence motivation at lower levels.

Albert Banduras theory about Self-efficacy deals with '' the beliefs people hold regarding their power to affect their own situation''.
Here it is stated that our own expectations can influence how well we will deal with a certain task.
Indeed, expectations might be just as important as e.g. IQ.
a) Experiences, successes and defeats, in the past, b) What we have seen other do, c) Verbal feedback, comments from teachers and parents, d) Gut feelings (what out body tells us), determines how likely it is that we will put in the work needed to complete a given task. In short, how motivated we will be.

According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's ''flow theory'', also known as the zone, we perform best when we: a) Know what to do, b) Know how to do it c) Know how well we are doing d) Know where to go e) Have the right mix of challenges and skills, i.e. the task is not too hard, nor is it too easy.
When these condition are present, we are said to be in a state of Flow, and that will obviously create a great sense of motivation.

But Dorte Aagaard's book doesn't only tell us about what creates motivation, it also tell us the mechanisms that lead people to be disengaged and not motivated to do a good job.
One important factor here is self worth. I.e. all people have a need to establish and maintain a sense of self-worth.
So, students will do everything they can to avoid defeats that show them to be stupid, unintelligent losers.
This includes using ''techniques'' that can provide ''cover stories'' for bad test results.
Being ''not good enough'' is a terrifying thought, so it better to do something that can be used as an excuse for poor results:
- Being unprepared for a test, makes it ''ok'' to do poorly at the test
(as the poor result comes because the student is unprepared, tired etc., not because the student is stupid).
- Endless postponements is very logical strategy, if you don't want to face up to the possibility that you might not be as good as you hope to be.
- Blame the teacher for ones own performance.
- An exaggeration of the problems one face in a test, makes failure more understandable.
- Set expectations very low makes it easier to do better (that the very low expectations).
According to the theory, all of these ''techniques'' aren't illogical, it is simply something students do in order to protect their own sense of self-worth.
Moving forward it important that a student feels a certain control over their own situation.
I.e. it is important that performance, and feedback on performance has to do with ''effort, and how much work you put into an assignment'', not something you can't control (like IQ., if we assume that is fixed).
That there is a certain stability in the feedback a student receives. Effort should rewarded.
And students must sense that they have a level of control over the situation. I.e. that it isn't luck that determines the outcome, but effort and how prepared they are that determines the outcome.

In the end, it is the right kind of motivation that creates the right kind of learning environment, where students can improve and learn.
Too much interest in performance, that is ''doing better than others'', ''getting good grades'' etc., only gives ''surface-learning''.
It should feel important and interesting to learn, as it gives useful knowledge.
A deeper kind of learning should also prepare students for bigger challenges, whereas students who are driven by performance-motivation will back away from new challenges, as such challenges can expose weaknesses.

In the end Dorte Aagaard mentions that we should remember that all learning processes are difficult, as they are connected to risks and anxiety.
So, learning needs to take place in a supportive environment, where the student can feel secure and safe, and know that they can (and will) receive all the help they need in order to master new material.
Distractions of all kinds (visual distractions, electronic gadgets, noise) should be removed, in order to create a better learning environment. Students should get a decent amount of sleep, just as they should eat properly.
It is all a part of good learning environment.

It is better to:
- Work on the problems.
- Be positive.
- Do your best.
- Get physical exercise, and time off.
- Have close friends.
- Do something together with other people.

- Do nothing.
- Worry.
- Be concerned about what others think about you.
- Be isolated.
- Blame yourself.
- Do a lot of wishfull thinking.
- Give up.

It is good for motivation:
- If you have confidence.
- Good and safe relations to teachers and fellow students.
- A structured approach to the material you need to learn.
- A sense of purpose.
- If you are focused on understanding and learning, rather than performance.

It is bad for motivation:
- If you are afraid of defeat.
- Have poor relations to teachers and fellow students.
- Are focused on performance (doing well compared to others).
- Have low emotional control, and self control (that makes it impossible to plan).

All in all a very interesting read!

Motivation by Dorte Aagaard.
Frydenlund, 2016.


Simon Laub (Let me Google that for you).


Attended an interesting seminar about transitions yesterday (at EAAA).

Clearly, an interesting psychological phenomenon in todays society
(that happens more often, indeed regularly, and to more people, now than ever before)

In psychological terms, a transition is an inner process (which is necessary),
that allow us to adapt to new circumstances.

A transition consists os 3 phases.

- End of the existing, old world (model).
- Change.
- Beginning of the new world.

People don't like change.
So, first we fight the change (The interesting part is that we apparently all try to fight the change)...
Sure, yes, sometimes change can be good, but we don't know until afterwards...

I.e. transitions start with a period of:
- Rejection of the new things.
- Passitivity.
- Critique.

Until we are ready to approach the new circumstances.

Eventually we will again begin to show:
- An interest (initiative) in the new situation.
- Begin to look for more information.
- And finally, there will be an acceptance of the new circumstances.

All in a all, the transition process is perfectly normal.
And, interesting that its phases can be so accurately described.


Simon Laub (Let me Google that for you).

Trump Time.

Reflections based on the march/april 2017 issue of Foreign Affairs,Trump Time.

The march/april 2017 issue of Foreign Affairs gives a very a illuminating perspective on the ''Trump Presidency''.

Framing it as a ''Jacksonian Revolt'' against a ''Wilsonian/Hamiltonian World Order''.

Where Wilsonians (after President Woodrow Wilson, 1913 - 1921) believe that a global liberal order is a vital U.S. interest.
Wilsonians believe that a world order should based on human rights, democratic governance, and the rule of law. It follows that Wilsonians believe that corrupt and authoritarian regimes are a leading cause of conflict and violence in the world.
Hamiltonians (after the 1st US secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton) also believe that there should be a global liberal order.
1st US secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton.
But Hamiltonians understand a global liberal order in primarily economic terms.
After WW2 the Hamiltonians believed the US should replace the UK as the worlds leader, and thereby contain the Soviet Union. Wilsonians would agree, as long as this didn't meant backing corrupt regimes.

Jeffersonians (after the 3rd US president, Thomas Jefferson, 1801 - 1809) on the other hand would disagree. And argue that a reduction of the US's global profile would reduce costs and risks for the US.
Interests should be understood in a much more narrow way. And interests should always be advanced in the safest and most economical way possible.
3rd president of the US, Thomas Jefferson.
Jacksonians (after the 7th US president, Andrew Jackson, 1829 - 1837) goes even further and thinks that Jeffersonian minimalism is still too much, and takes focus away from the situation at home.

Jacksonians do not think that the US should be understood as a set of intellectual propositions (coming out of the Enlightenment).
Instead, the US should be seen as a nation state, where the state should take care of american citizens, and make sure that there is equality and dignity for all (US citizens). The state should not have any ambitions beyond that.
If the US is attacked, Jacksonians agree that the US should be protected, and Jacksonians are also always worried that US government is about to be taken over by forces that will try to oppress the people instead of protecting it.

Western elites might think that cosmopolitanismz and globalism are inevitable in the 21st century, and certainly much better than tribalism and nationalism. But Jacksonians would of course argue that this is all fine as long as it doesn't change ''the character of the nation''.
And if it does threaten the established order, then it is an enemy that must be dealt with.

Interestingly, the idea that experts give considered, experienced advice worth taking seriously must also be reconsidered in a ''Jacksonian'' popular world, where noone wants to be ruled by ''far away elites''.
Certainly, in a ''popular'' world, all citizens should have their opinions and feelings treated with respect.
Maybe it even follows that everyone should be able to weigh in, not based on the strengths of arguments or evidence, but based on emotions and whatever information they happen to have picked up?

Tom Nichols writes, in ''How America lost faith in Expertise'': ''In the original popular American dream, the ''omnicompetence'' of the common man was fundamental. It was believed that he could, without much special preparation, pursue the professions, and run the government''.
As this is not the case today, it obviously creates a situation where most citizens are at the mercy of the elites, And it probably shouldn't come as a great surprise that this can create resentment towards the elites?

Indeed, maybe, it shouldn't come as a great surprise that a lack of control (in a population that are told that they are in control), might lead to a popular uprising that will demand that everyone should be treated with (much more) respect, even if they can't back up their arguments with anything more than feelings and emotions, and whatever ''Facebook-Knowledge'' they might have picked up...

Indeed, maybe, the whole Trump popular ''Jacksonian revolution'' shouldn't have come as a big surprise.
Maybe, a (too) complex, global world ruled by far away elites, will always run the risk of a''popular Jacksonian revolution'' that promises a simpler world, where ordinary people have a much greater say in the running of their own worlds?


Simon Laub (Let me Google that for you).

Predicting the Future.

Review (4 stars out of 5)
of Nate Silvers book The Signal and The Noise.

Nate Silvers book ''The Signal and The Noise'' is an interesting book about finding the signal in the noise.

The housing bubble in the US might have come as a completely surprise to most people, but Nate Silver reminds us that data, quoting a study by Robert Schiller and Karl Case, going back hundreds of years from The Netherlands and Norway, shows that when real estate prices grow to unaffordable levels a crash almost inevitably follows.
It should have been possible to predict it. Just as it should be possible to predict many other events, if we could only spot the signal in the noise.

Alas, it is apparently not so easy for humans to predict the big events in complex environments.
In the financial markets. Silver reminds us, one month before the great depression of 2007-08 officially started, banks, like the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, foresaw a recession as relatively unlikely. Instead, the bank, and many others, predicted that the economy was to grow at a rate of 2.4 percent in 2008. Signs, like a doubling in foreclosures and mortgage lenders on the verge of bankruptcy was ignored.

Indeed, it is not easy to predict our economic future.
The economy is always changing. An explanation that was true in one environment may not apply to another environment years later. Not to mention that economists might never see the full picture of what is actually going on.

Silver tell us that governments produces data that track more than 45.000 economic indicators. And private companies track more than 4 million indicators. Putting it all in an ''economic blender'' and hoping that it will predict the next crash is somewhat optimistic, as there have only been 11 recessions since WW2, so any model based on these data are going to be ''overfitted'', and therefore not accurate.

And then there is the problem with feedback between economic predictions and policy. Shouldn't a government that sees a downturn try to avoid it? A good prediction should then not only predict the what is coming, but also what governments are going to do about it. Clearly, this is not easy.

Goodhart's Law states, that once government policy makers begin to target an economic variable, it may begin to lose its value as an economic indicator.
Think of cars equipped with GPS equipment that predict trafic jams.
When all systems predict a problem on a certain road, all cars might switch to alternative routes, making the GPS systems prediction all wrong. Meaning that it might actually have been the fastest route to proceed on a road that the systems said were congested.
Feedback in such systems is a tricky thing indeed.

Still, according to Silver, some bubbles might not be so dificult to identify.
E.g. Periods where the stock market has increased at rates much higher than the historical average might very well indicate an upcoming buble. Silver notes that of the eight times that the S&P 500 increased by twice the longterm average over a 5 year period, five times were followed by severe crash (The Great Depression, the Dot-Com Bubble, the Black Monday of 1987 etc.).

People don't seem to pay much attention to such things though. Certainly, the market is not terrible logical or efficient. Indeed, if it were, then there would be no trading. As there would be no money to be made in market that was completely logical and efficient. And where everyone knew everything that was going on.
Silver mentions a Gallup poll from the year 2000 that showed that 67 percent of Americans thought it was a good time to invest. Just two months later the market began to crash. In 1990, only 26 percent thought it was a good time to invest, and then the S&P quadrupled over the next 10 years.

Certainly, predicting the future is a tricky thing.
When we are lucky, we might know that there are parameters out there that we don't know. The socalled ''known unknowns''. But often, the situation is far worse. Then there are ''unknown unknowns'' out there, things that we haven't even considered.
Still, statistics can sometimes help us. Silver mentions statistics that tell us that we might already have enough data to predict the likelihood of terrorists attacks.
Most attacks are small, just like small earthquakes, but there might still be something like a 10 percent chance of an attack that will kill 10.000 in a NATO country in the coming decade, and a 3 percent chance of an attack will 100.000 etc. Rather disturbing statistics indeed.
And, sadly, such distributions doesn't really tell us where the next attack will hit, or if it is possible to prevent it.
Indeed, is it a good thing to precent 10 small attacks, if it makes terrorists more determined to make a big attack?

Predicting the future is not easy.
Still, Silvers books is certainly an interesting read.

Nate Silver failed to predict Trumps win in the 2016 election (Indeed, almost everyone failed to predict this Trump victory)
Silver had the odds at 71.4 % chance for a Hillary Clinton win, and a 28.6 % chance for a Trump win.
On a Trump impeachment he writes, May 22nd 2017:
''I'm pretty sure I'd sell Trump-leaves-office-early stock (whether because of removal from office or other reasons) at even money (50 percent), and I'm pretty sure I'd buy it at 3-to-1 against (25 percent)''.


Simon Laub (Let me Google that for you).


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