When the outcomes are greater than initial expectations, reward prediction errors are positive, and vice versa. Going back to our initial story, Julius Caesar did not expect to find the Queen of Egypt wrapped inside a rug, so he experienced a positive reward prediction error when she emerged.
Imagine that you buy a box of cookies and place it in the drawer in your office. A week later, after an exhausting three hour work meeting, you rush to where the box is to grab some cookies, only to find the contents of the box reduced to a few lousy crumbs. You ask around and you find out that it was your sugar-addicted officemates who finished them off last Friday afternoon. This would be an example of a negative reward prediction error and badly behaved colleagues.
If we are very familiar with our environment, we can create a pretty good mental model of what it is supposed to happen next,and when that happens, we gain a couple of life experience points. In other words, we learn what to expect from the environment and how to respond to it in order to get the best out of each situation. With time, we build habits and routines and we feel less and less inclined to explore riskier alternatives. However, incidents of surprise do not necessarily result from lack of experience and may in fact have more to do with how open we are to new experiences.
Sometimes we sacrifice adventures in favour of stability and comfort.
We comply with the social rules ascribed to our age and gender because life is just easier that way adulting, right? An effective self-defense against 21st century life. On the flip side, an extreme lack of flexibility and openness to surprise can lead to rigidity, which as the word implies, is very disadvantageous. Our world is anything but permanent, and surprises allow beautiful complexities and contradictions to manifest.
They give us fresh air, feed our spontaneity, and provide us with different perspectives. They can inspire our footsteps. When we allow others to surprise us, when we embrace surprises with an open mind, we earn wisdom and we can break down the walls we build with our own prejudices. If we dismiss surprises, if we never leave our comfort zone, how can we improve ourselves and abandon the self-centered bubble we so often get stuck in?
Where there is room for surprise, there is hope for advancement. We are often so busy with our lives that we forget to pay attention to the elements that surround us. But the good news is that surprises can be found literally everywhere. You can find them in your interactions and relationships with friends, family or strangers.
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You can find them on your way to work, in a hospital waiting room, or while hiking in the forest. All you need to do is to let them cross your path in an accepting manner and they may help you tear apart prejudices and preconceptions and fill your world with beauty and wisdom.
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So, dear reader, may your journey be full of surprises. On April 3rd, , I got scammed by a little old lady. As it turns out, this particular little old lady has been running the same scam in the same place for at least 8 years probably longer and as a result, she is actually something of a celebrity in Montreal. Nevertheless, I fell for it, which made me think, which made me want to write about it, which led to this post. As I stop at a crosswalk, I see a little old lady on crutches, clearly struggling and looking quite desperate.
She sees me, makes eye contact, and asks if I can help her, so of course I stop. She explains that her legs are paralyzed and that her disability transport car, which she had paid for the whole day, never came back to get her. My shoulder is dislocated! Why would you pull me like that?? People are just clueless! What an idiot! Could you lend me the money for the car? Do you trust me? Where did you buy it?
It looks so beautiful with your hair color and the blue matches your eyes! Are you Irish? How long would it take for a new car to get here? I was her blessing today. Nobody helps each other. Nobody cares. When I got home and told my flatmates what had happened, they reassured me that even if it had been a scam, I had done the right thing, and they would have done the same.
Their response made me wonder whether most people would, so I decided to ask. The number she used was blocked, and the number she had given me was fake, but the fact that she actually bothered calling has been the biggest mystery of all to me. So anyway, if part of me knew that it might be a scam, why did I give her the money?
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What if it had been my own mother or aunt or grandmother in need and no one had stopped to help her? What if it had all been true?
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Clearly my empathy system had won in a battle of wills against my economic savvy. The real target was my trust, not my wallet.
When we hug or kiss someone, oxytocin increases hence its nicknames , and when we orgasm, it skyrockets. It even helps protect us against stress, anxiety, and possibly depression.
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It all started with a paper published by a team of Swiss researchers including Zak in the highly prestigious scientific journal, Nature , which reported that oxytocin increases trust in humans. Since oxytocin had been found to promote social attachment in animals, the researchers wondered whether it might also play a role in prosocial behaviors, like trust, in humans. They decided to test their hypothesis using a game involving two anonymous players acting as investor and trustee.
The investor is given a sum of money and told that if they choose to transfer some of it to the trustee, the amount they transferred will triple. The trustee is then informed of the details of the transfer, and they have to decide whether they will keep all of the money for themselves or send some of it back to the investor.
So, in order to win, the investor has to overcome their aversion of risk and trust that the other player will choose to share their profits. Interestingly, the researchers found that investors who inhaled a dose of oxytocin before playing the game took more risks than those in a placebo group, suggesting that they placed more trust in the trustees.
To ensure that the effect they were seeing was truly related to social trust and not a decrease in risk aversion, they repeated the same experiment, this time replacing the trustee with a computer, thereby removing the social interaction. In this case, oxytocin had no effect on the investors behavior even though the level of risk they faced was exactly the same.
In other words, the effect of oxytocin administration was specific to risk taking in a social context, or in other words, trust. In fact, researchers studying the role of oxytocin in mediating trust within and between groups have hypothesized that it might even fuel xenophobia, ethnocentrism, and intergroup conflict. Because of this wide variety of effects, it has been suggested that what oxytocin is actually doing is increasing the salience of any social stimuli , which can be either good or bad, and very much depends on the context.
But what about the little old scammer herself? In fact, it has even been shown that both genetic and epigenetic variability in the oxytocin receptor are associated with development of psychopathy. She was manipulating my oxytocin system and at the same time she was immune to the effect that my trust and kindness should have been having on her own. At this point I had read a lot of posts about her online, many of which mentioned that whenever someone who has seen her before calls her out, she totally loses it and starts threatening, cursing, and even hitting them with her crutches.
Since she had seemed so genuinely grateful during my own interaction with her, I suppose a part of me wanted to test this for myself, so I stop. The whole situation was so interesting to me that I briefly considered trying to have a conversation with her, but after two more less-than-polite exclamations from the little old lady I decided to save it for a blog post. Then, I too, simply smiled and walked away. Now before you decide that I either have really bad judgment or low self-esteem, let me assure you that I have neither, and that Donald seemed completely normal based on the tiny amount of information that a Tinder profile and a day or two of smalltalk can provide.
In fact, we could have probably gone through the entire date without the flat-earth topic ever coming up in conversation, had it not been for the kindness of a bartender, who happened to know Donald and was obviously doing me a favor by bringing it up. This is a well-documented psychological phenomenon called the illusion of explanatory depth.
To use a classic example, if you asked the average Joe whether he knows how a toilet works, he will probably say yes with some confidence. Although accurate, even Joe would admit that this is a very shallow understanding of the actual mechanisms at work , which are surprisingly complicated and involve fancy physics terms like siphon effects and momentum when explained properly. Thankfully, the toilet flushes successfully regardless of whether or not Joe can explain how, because someone else who can designed it to do so.
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This illusion is probably a result of the fact that humans have evolved as collaborative beings. We live in societies that require different people to have different roles, and we rely and trust in the expertise of others to an extent to which we can hardly tell where our own knowledge ends and that of another begins. This may not be entirely rational from a survivalist perspective, but it is collaborative, and very much human. So that at least partly explains my inability to defend my own beliefs properly, but what about Donald? He seemed intelligent enough, so how did he get so far off track and into the world of flat-earth conspiracy theory?
You see, the thing about facts is that just like theories, one can simply choose not to believe them. This is a classic example of confirmation bias, our tendency to deny or ignore information that contradicts our beliefs, and embrace information that supports them. Neuroscientists have consistently shown that people actually experience a rush of dopamine an important neurotransmitter associated with reward and pleasure when presented with information that reinforces their beliefs. Perhaps surprisingly, this has nothing to do with intelligence, and instead seems to be genetic.
Evidence suggests that genes associated with dopaminergic function predict individual differences in susceptibility to confirmation bias. Nevertheless, Donald and I parted ways amicably, and I thanked him for an interesting conversation and wished him the best of luck in finding a woman with similar convictions. Like the magic tales that grandmothers whisper to their grandsons before going to bed, love stories in real life tend to follow a predictable structure: beginning, challenge, resolution.
This madness is only temporal: sooner or later, the lovers will face one or multiple crises that will challenge their feelings, emotional ties or mutual commitment. Finally, and after an undetermined amount of time, romantic love usually comes to an end. Like a piece of classical music reaching climax, love stories go in crescendo , beat con passione , die in diminuendo.
Endings tend to be painful, at least for one side. Loneliness invades every inch of the skin. The lovers finds themselves collecting the pieces of their broken identity, hopes and dreams. But, amidst all the self doubts, sadness and pain, there is also ample room for soul searching, new adventures and improvements. Falling out from love can be painfully piercing, breathtaking and sharp.
There is no solution to be found. The pain felt after rejection, moreover, is absolutely useless.
It is not going to make the lovers change their mind and stay. It is useless because the negative feelings can prevent the lovers from moving on. If one lover has decided to leave, the other should accept this decision and let them go. How should one treat their own pain then? It feels impossible to escape from distress after a loss.
Many centuries ago, the roman philosopher Seneca wrote several letters to his family and friends to help them deal with grief. One of his recommendations was to avoid behaviors that amplify self-pity, self-destructive thoughts, or psychological numbness. Breakups are valuable opportunities for changing environments without this having to necessarily imply that you should put an ocean in between you and your ex or for trying new things.
If seeing that old photo on the fridge of you and your ex makes your eyes water, throw it out. There will come a time when memories will not hurt any longer. After a breakup, it is possible that the lovers will never see each other again. It is then important to feel that you have expressed what you wanted to say in a respectful but assertive manner.
If they broke your heart in hundred pieces, tell them. If they treated you disrespectfully, say it. If they manipulated you and acted in a deceiving manner, tell them too. And then accept that they are gone and will not come back. Close this chapter of your life and move on. Avoiding grudges and bitterness inside of you will make the transition to your new life smoother. And if the almighty gods of fortune make your paths cross again, just make small talk or share an inside joke from the past if you are in the mood, but avoid bringing back old feelings.
You can also do like Bob Dylan and write a song about it to give perspective to your thoughts. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental.
The path of totality stretched from coast to coast of the US between Oregon and South Carolina, with some of the most promising weather conditions being predicted for the high desert of Eastern Oregon. Unity must have had more people pass through in the three days surrounding the eclipse than it had in its entire existence beforehand. My dad had reserved us a supposedly coveted spot at Oregon Eclipse Camp, which turned out to be little more than a really expensive ticket to camp on patch of farmland with some porta-potties.
The camp was full of crazy people I mean really, anyone who travels that far into nowhereland to stare at the sun for a couple of minutes in the middle of a cowpat-ridden field has to be at least a little bit nutty , but the good type of crazy that provides an excellent and entertaining atmosphere for eclipse-centered smalltalk and people watching. Please don't cry. Most Heartbreaking Lyric: "I know that a man ain't supposed to cry, but these tears I can't hold inside.
Most Heartbreaking Lyric: "How can a person like me care for you? Most Heartbreaking Lyric: "You tell me that you need me then you go and cut me down. It's too late. Most Heartbreaking Lyric: "When I can't sleep at night without holding you tight. Most Heartbreaking Lyric: "Since you've gone I've been lost without a trace.
Most Heartbreaking Lyric: "These foolish games are tearing me apart. Most Heartbreaking Lyric: "Un-break my heart. Most Heartbreaking Lyric: "The pain reflected in this song ain't even half of what I'm feeling inside. The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard. To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement. Don't show again.