The A-Hole Wolf

There are many myths and misconceptions in science that need to die;

“Autism is caused by Vaccines”, “Gun mufflers silence the sound of guns”,  “redheads and blonds are going extinct”, “Humans only use 15% of their brain”, “One dog year is equal to 7 human years” are a few of many myths and misconceptions people have that science has long since DEBUNKED.

An overlooked misconception – or shall I say a misinterpreted piece of pseudoscience is the idea of the “Alpha Wolf”.  The idea behind this myth is simple; wolf packs are governed by a single patriarch – a male who has risen to the top of the social ladder by brute force. This “alpha male”, according to the myth has access to all the food and the females he desires and any other male who tries to interfere with the “alpha” in his sexual prowl will either be killed or chased out of the pack. There is just one problem with this narrative; it never happens in the wild.

The origin of this myth goes back to the 1960’s when a researcher by the name of L. David Mech made observation notes of a wolf pack. This observation made note of aggressive anti-social behavior the wolves had. The findings were published in the 1970’s and titled; “The Wolf: Ecology & Behavior of an Endangered Species”. The observation was junk science to begin with. The observations were made on…. Wolves raised in captivity. Wolves in the wild do not behave as Mech noted in his book. Science has corrected itself, Mech himself even noted corrections in his website and his book was revised and reprinted in 1981.

No problem -no damage done right? Wrong!

A simple revision has stopped millions from proliferating the myth. National Geographic’s “Dog Whisper” hosted by “professional dog training guru” Cesar Millan has given the myth some steroids. Millan has been busted numerous times using animal behavior modification techniques that border animal abuse and cruelty. His methods stress that the dog owner must be the “alpha of the pack” by resorting to physically punishment and even psychological torture of the dog.

No matter how you may try and pretend – dog brains are not human brains. Dogs, much like young human children lack the ability to link cause and effect. While smacking a child before they touch a hot stove is effective, and pulling a dog back with the leash from sniffing a dead animal is effective – if your learning model is based solely on punishment – neither the dog or the child will learn. Science has found that positive reinforcement is a far better teaching model than positive punishment.

The consequences of using punishment heavy learning techniques has been fully understood and is equally applicable to all higher level animals (dogs, humans, non-human primates, etc). Consequences can range from repeat offense, learned helplessness, resentment, stress, depression and sometimes severe psychosis. Go to any dog park anywhere in the US and you will see the Alpha technique be used and it always ends in disaster – the animal re offends,  the animal becomes aggressive out of frustration and even someone else’s dog becomes the target of the punishment.

Lets step away from the Animal Kingdom and look at the dangers of the “Alpha” paradigm in human society:

While humans are biologically and anatomically animals – we possess a cognitive ability that is not present in any other organism. Attributing and translating animal behavior into humans doesn’t work – in fact human society is stratified and rigorous. So much so that we categories our own species into groups based on sex, weight, height, geographical location and economics. While it is theoretically possible to have social mobility – it only happens once in a blue moon and only when certain steps have been met.

The Earliest Ancestor of the Alpha paradigm in humans comes from Herbert Spencer who extended Charles Darwin’s Natural Selection into human society. Spencer’s Social Darwinism was a misinterpretation of Darwin’s work and stressed that the only way you can have social mobility is by violent ruthlessness – much like Mech’s wolf.

Very recently has the Alpha paradigm crept its way into the dating scene and it became a best seller with Pick Up Artists and it branched off into other subcultures of misogyny. PUA constituents were (and still are) encouraged to be violent and to never take NO as an answer. It mustn’t be said of the disaster this has caused, in the dawn of 2014 Elliot Rodgers went on a bloody rampage in Isla Vista California  – days prior he made numerous YouTube manifestos and every single one of them have elements of Spencer’s Social Darwinism & Mech’s botch study.

The myth of the Alpha doesn’t seem to be dying faster. We can speed up the process by being vocal, learning correct research based dog training, reading animal behavior research and cracking down on any sort of testosterone inspired violence.

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Beware of Junk – Science

I know I said I was going to continue covering play, creativity and genius this month but something came up and I felt like I needed to address it. Yes I’m beating a dead horse but the horse hasn’t completely died which is why it is important that we keep having this conversation….

JUNK science is alive and well  just as fake news despite the crackdown by social media outlets and Google.

I was pushed to comment on this after watching a TED talk video by Molly Crockett a neuropsychologist (AKA neuroscientist). Crockett talks about how marketers use junk science in their marketing efforts to get us to buy a product. Claims like “this will make you smarter”, ” improve your memory” or in the case of lumosity.com “extreme brain training for a healthier brain.”

You may know this already but you may not be as familiar with it. What is pseudoscience? Pseudoscience also referred commonly as junk science is any statement that use scientific principles without actually having any basis in science. Pseudoscience attempts to make a theory without a hypothesis and a hypothesis without any data. Pseudoscience claims are post-hoc assumptions made in a factual statement. Another possible characteristic of pseudoscience is that their claims cannot be tested scientifically (mainly because their theory was made prior to any data collection).

In Marketing, commerce, etc. Pseudoscience can be as innocent in appearance as simply appearing to look scientific. There are two ways you can convince someone that something has more credibility simply by wearing a white lab coat or showing someone a picture of a brain.

While little white lies at times can be harmless – they can be downright dangerous. Pseudoscience is often supplemented with various logical fallacies – the most noted ones to date are anecdotal claims. Anecdotal claims have given strength to pseudoscience such as the anti-vaccination movement, big foot sightings and faith-healing. The anecdotes often go along the lines of ” I know of someone who knew someone who died a week after receiving that new vaccine” or ” I know someone who was seconds from death when all of the sudden we saw improvements just moments after such and such said a prayer.” Anecdotal claims almost always go against well established fact. Vaccines are safe, sure on occasion someone may experience an allergic reaction, vaccination injuries have been known to happen but it’s rare.

Another tactic pseudoscience utilizes is one of our most primitive of emotions – fear.

                          

When IBM’s  Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov in a game of computerized Chess in 1997 it marked the first time an artificial intelligence defeated a chess champion. As one would believe – the fear that A.I would dominate our species was of great concern.

20 years later and despite all the worries of the uninformed – Artificial Intelligence is no more smarter than it was back in 1997 or the 1940’s. Computers have yet to gain autonomy. Despite for Google’s push for autonomous vehicles – computers cannot identify objects the same way that humans can. The war between man and the machine is at a stand still.

Fear is one of the oldest emotions we experience, it’s understandable for survival unfortunately pseudoscience advocates use this human vulnerability to their advantage.  Despite not having a single shred of evidence – many doomsayers proclaim that the apocalypse will occur every New Years.

Pseudoscience & fear-mongering are detrimental to the progressive nature of Science and discovery. Fear that X would lead to Y and cause Z are what lobbyists use to dissuade the funding for scientific research. Fear that vaccines would cause irreversible damage to the human body only leads to to those who need the vaccine the most (children ) from getting it plus the onset of super bugs that come about as a result of mutation from having infected a unvaccinated host.

There is a cure to Pseudoscience – that is real science. You can fight against pseudoscience by asking hard questions, demand evidence, question authority, question any website with a .com or a .net.

Play, Creativity & Genius – Part 1: Play

This is going to be a two part blog updated, I could make it into one but to help keep me focused I find it best to break it up intwo two. I’m going to discuss play and later creativity.
The gorilla, when it is not travelling or eating spends a good amount of it’s day playing. Organisms all across the animal kingdom play. The Dutch historian, Johan Huizinga (1872-1945) wrote a book entitled ” Homo Ludens”. In this book Huizinga argues that play has a big part in how we learn. As children we learn how to interact appropriately with others through play. The paradox of this of course is as we enter grade school play is slowly pushed away from us as we are told that we need to learn rather than play. It appears as we get older w play less but that is only an illusion. What are we doing when we engage in sports? when we try to negotiate? Hell when we engage in politics? It’s all play.
I’ve been accused more times than none of playing way too much. If I’m not tinkering with something in my hands I’m tinkering with a thought in my head, daydreaming none the less.
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Albert Einstein was a theoretical physicist who spent more time in his own head than he did in an actual physical lab running physical experiments. Einstein’s brain was his lab.
Einstein died in 1955. When he died the scientific and the academic world was ready to see what his brain was like. Einstein’s brain is currently at the National Museum of Health & Medicine in Maryland & a small portion at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. Upon the autopsy following Einstein’s death, his brain was dissected (and later digitized for public viewing) to examine where his genius came from. Examination of Einstein’s brain showed that his brain was different than the average. In Einstein’s brain, the region associated with the creation of abstract thoughts and the manipulation of symbols known as the angular gyri was larger than the average on both hemispheres by 15%. Everything else about his brain is what would be expected. The question remains and it is a chicken or the egg puzzle – was Einstein a genius because his angular gyri was larger than average OR is his angular gyri larger because he used it more?
By default the human brain isn’t habituated to thinking abstractly. Our brains prefer to play by the rules and stick to protocol because it is easier (remember our brains have limited capacity and doesn’t like to work harder than it has to). Thinking abstractly – out of the box comes from repetition, practice and habit.
In my early days as a magician, and as a mentalist this day when I receive a new gadget or principle my first instinct is to throw away the instructions and take it part – find a new novel way of using the item. Sometimes I get lucky and reinvent the wheel and sometimes I have to given in and stick to the protocol of it’s original purpose. That leads into my next topic, creativity and I will leave it at that until next month.
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Why Book Live Entertainment Part 1: The Reason For Live Entertainment Over TV/Movies/CDs/Video Games/etc

You should book live entertainers so that we can make a living. The end.

No, that is not why you should book us and that certainly shouldn’t be the focus of the entertainer either. Long before television and radio, people actually had to get out of the house and go pay to be entertained at their nearest theatre or concert hall / dime museum. This wasn’t like going to the movies, going to be entertained was a special event, people paid a good sum of money, they dressed their best and expected to stay the entire day or at least several hours because various performances would be showcased. Then there came the radio, then the motion picture followed by talking televisions. It was originally predicted that the first commercially available TVs would not sell because “no one wanted to sit in front of a box”. Today there is a television in every room in every house here in the United States and at least one TV in every house in Canada, UK, Japan & Australia (the US is more obsessed about TVs than their counterparts).

There is something that live performance has that television can’t provide – real human contact. One of the best things about going to see a show in a theatre is the intimacy between the performers and the audience. Television doesn’t offer that. Live entertainment also requires more use of imagination from the audience, the use of imagination overload is correlated with increase in creative thinking so there is a psychological benefit to live entertainment as well.

“But it’s so expensive to go to a theatre/concert!”. Yes, live entertainment is more expensive to produce, plus the performers don’t get the wide viewing benefit that cinemas offer. As you’ll see, the cost is nothing compared to the other benefits….

Live entertainment is much more flexible. Say you had a date scheduled but something came up and the event had to be postponed for a later date in the near future. Maybe that’s extreme – lets say you have a specific need that needs to be tailored to – any professional live entertainer be it a musician or a mentalist such as myself should have the capability to make adjustments. You can’t get that with television. Live entertainment once again provides that human factor that many answering machines and TV doesn’t offer.

“Why do you charge so much?” Here is the thing about paying for entertainment – you get what you pay for. That saying is more true here than anywhere else. Those that charge less are usually either not full time or they are starting out and lack the experience. Being a entertainer is a profession much like being a doctor or a lawyer, many of us have spent a lot of time, effort and money in improving what we do, studying what we do, getting the needed training/education. We make a living. Now, this may sound like greed but think about this for a second – take performer number 1 who charged $50.00, performer #2 who charges $150.00 and Performer #3 who charges $500.00. How do you perceive the $50 performer in comparison to the $150 versus the $500? Chances are you perceive prestige and respect for the $500 and you feel cautious about the $50. Your gut instinct knows that you get what you pay for. I have found in my own personal experience that charging more, while not always necessary will not only guarantee that I the performer will be able to rest for a while but that I will be treated better and my job will be made a lot easier. The reason for this is simple – we have respect and we take care of the things that we are most invested in.  Remember something you were given for free? How did you take care of that free thing versus the thing that you had to spend a lot of money on? Assuming that free thing isn’t something that is easily replaceable, chances are you treated the expensive object better than the cheap easily replaceable.

“But I’m Still Not Convinced”… People have been throwing events ever since the wheel was invented – especially the Ancient Greeks & Romans. Parties were thrown in celebration and as an attempt to impress friends. This tradition of throwing parties and subconsciously trying to impress people still resonates to the 21st Century. We spend days planning and investing as much money as possible to make it work. People are looking to have a good time, what better way than to include that human factor that comes with live entertainment?

This was a brief bit of persuasion and I will get into me specifically later on in another blog update.

 

What I’m All About

I get asked a lot about what it is that I actually do, sometimes it is easier to show than to explain but if there is time I will often demonstrate. I’m sure those reading have seen videos of me floating about on the web. I’ve done much growing and maturing since many of those videos were posted so they are no longer a great example of my mission in life and the purpose of what I do.

In simple terms I’m an entertainer. I personally am not a firm believer in art for arts sake. The whole history of theatre is filled with moments the show didn’t just entertain – it changed the public opinion. The performing arts has always been a propaganda machine. the Ancient Greeks all the way up to the Middle Ages treated entertainment as a teaching tool or a persuasion technique to change public opinion about an issue.

I’ve been performing since 1996, it wasn’t until the late Summer of 2016 that I had my revelation. I like to think of myself not only as a entertainer but also a educator. My transformation began when I was working a festival. It was in the afternoon about 3 PM, two hours before the festival was to shut down. I was taking a break to reset my gear for the next round of people to pass my booth. I had been doing handwriting analysis demonstrations all day. A young girl who had visited my booth twice sat down next to me (at my booth) and asked if I help people. It was right then and there that I found that people saw more to what I do than I did.

I had recently graduated from Murray State University where I studied psychology and theatre. During my time I took many classes in a variety of fields from biology, art, language, archaeology and anthropology. During my psychology studies I focused a lot on neuroscience and cognitive psychology.

It was at that moment in the twilight of Summer in 2016 that I had to combine my knowledge with my talent as a performer. I rewrote everything, took me 4 months to do so and I came out with a program that is both entertaining and informative. People are no longer just getting entertained – they are coming out with something that they can actually use.

The program I have now involves 3 memory demonstrations, and a lot of demonstrations that revolve around attention and deductive reasoning and 1 that explores the sensation and perception of touch. I won’t go into any details here about the show to spare you, the reader of any spoilers. But it is during the process of these bits that I also give information that they can actually use. I’ll be honest – since what I do is educational theatre, a few of my claims are in all honesty farfetched BUT the science behind it is factual (think Michael Crichton). Being a psychological entertainer has some of it’s own quirks – Unlike other forms of entertainment – I can actually use the skills from the show in the real world.

.I personally believe there are far more interest in having good/supper memory, keen observation and good deduction skills than there are being able to psychically read minds or bend metal objects as I have done in performances past. My experience so far has proven that my assumption is true. Even back in my metal bending days – I had to walk on egg shells as to avoid starting a cult (I even scared someone not on purpose however).

It is my goal in these blogs as well as in my performances to hopefully show you how you too can come to obtain the ability to retain memory better (and longer), spot things that others have missed, etc. In addition I will be commenting on other areas as well.

Please feel free to email me at any time or visit my main website.

Thanks

-Jordan Allen

The Second Version

This is my second blog series, the first one failed so I’m making another attempt. This will cover commentary in psychological science and tales from the stage.

Welcome to the second version of Penny For Your Thoughts. The first one sort of fell through & was extremely disorganized.

Instead of taking a shotgun approach this will focus on my specialty – commentary on neuroscience.  I’ll also revisit & reiterate topics from the first (failed) blog.

Enjoy
– Jordan Allen                                                                                                                                                       Psychological Entertainer/Hypnotist/Speaker                                                                                         http://www.jallenmind.webs.com                                                                                                                              jallenentertainment903@gmail.com