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Consider these five statistics:
- 46% of Americans have less than $10,000 saved for retirement. (Employment Benefit Research Institute)
- 40% of baby boomers now plan to work until they die. (AARP)
- 36% of Americans say they don’t contribute anything at all to their savings. [CNBC]
- 87% of adults say they are not confident about having money for a comfortable retirement. (Lifehappens.org)
- Expected retirement age is up to 67 from age 63. (Zero Hedge)
TheASCDoctor wins the CA national corporate SPIRIT AWARD for 2012. Hooray!
The much anticipated change to the college essay portion of the 2013-14 Common Application has been released. The Common Application is used by over 500 colleges & universities in the USA. There are two big changes: 1) the number of prompts, and 2) their length. The “old” guideline for the essay word length was around 500. The new guideline, just released, limits the number of words to 650, adding the caveat that it will be strictly enforced.
The old version included a single open-ended prompt. Some critics of that prompt have alleged the question was so open-ended that some applicants would blow their opportunity for a close reading by falling into a common writing trap, i.e., drifting off into irrelevancies that clarify nothing.
The 15 member advisory panel that created the new prompts obviously supports the college essay. They believe it can make the difference when deciding an application for admission. Counselors on the panel assert the contention that when test scores and grades do not reveal a candidate’s potential, a well written college essay can be the finger on the scale that tips the application towards admission and, thus, hits the mark.
In a word, the college essay matters. The new prompts are:
- “Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.”
- “Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?”
- “Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?”
- “Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?”
- “Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.”
Johnny Football, A&M QB proves the importance for all Freshmen to start out on the right foot forward from day one and carry it thru all season! #SEC
Confirmation, cognitive, cognitive dissonance, double blind, memory, anchoring, illusion of control, and familiarity biases explained:
Confirmation bias in psychology and cognitive science, confirmation bias (or confirmatory bias) is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions, leading to statistical errors. Confirmation bias is a type of cognitive bias and represents an error of inductive inference toward confirmation of the hypothesis under study. Confirmation bias is a phenomenon wherein decision makers have been shown to actively seek out and assign more weight to evidence that confirms their hypothesis, and ignore or under-weigh evidence that could disconfirm their hypothesis. As such, it can be thought of as a form of selection bias in collecting evidence.
Cognitive bias is any of a wide range of observer effects identified in cognitive science and social psychology including very basic statistical, social attribution, and memory errors that are common to all human beings. Biases drastically skew the reliability of anecdotal and legal evidence. Social biases, usually called attributional biases, affect our everyday social interactions. And biases related to probability and decision making significantly affect the scientific method which is deliberately designed to minimize such bias from any one observer.
Cognitive dissonance is a psychological term describing the uncomfortable tension that may result from having two conflicting thoughts at the same time, or from engaging in behavior that conflicts with one’s beliefs, or from experiencing apparently conflicting phenomena. In simple terms, it can be the filtering of information that conflicts with what you already believe, in an effort to ignore that information and reinforce your beliefs. In detailed terms, it is the perception of incompatibility between two cognitions, where “cognition” is defined as any element of knowledge, including attitude, emotion, belief, or behavior. The theory of cognitive dissonance states that contradicting cognitions serve as a driving force that compels the mind to acquire or invent new thoughts or beliefs, or to modify existing beliefs, so as to reduce the amount of dissonance (conflict) between cognitions. Experiments have attempted to quantify this hypothetical drive. Some of these have examined how beliefs often change to match behavior when beliefs and behavior are in conflict.
Double Blind bias is an important part of the scientific method, used to prevent research outcomes from being ‘influenced’ by the placebo effect or observer bias. Blinded research is an important tool in many fields of research, from medicine, to psychology and the social sciences, to forensics. Blinding is a basic tool to prevent conscious and unconscious bias in research.
Memory bias may either enhance or impair the recall of memory, or they may alter the content of what we report remembering. There are many memory biases including the humor effect, positivity effect and the generation effect. The humor effect states that humorous items are more easily remembered than non-humorous ones. Positivity effects states that older adults favor positive over negative information in their memories. Generation effect states that self-generated information is remembered best.
Anchoring bias in decision-making or focalism is a term used in psychology to describe the common human tendency to rely too heavily, or “anchor,” on one trait or piece of information when making decisions. During normal decision making, individuals anchor, or overly rely, on specific information or a specific value and then adjust to that value to account for other elements of the circumstance. Usually once the anchor is set, there is a bias toward that value. Take, for example, a person looking to buy a used car – they may focus excessively on the odometer reading and the year of the car, and use those criteria as a basis for evaluating the value of the car, rather than considering how well the engine or the transmission is maintained.
Illusion of control is the tendency for human beings to believe they can control or at least influence outcomes that they demonstrably have no influence over. The predominant paradigm in research on unrealistic perceived control has been Ellen Langer’s (1975) ‘illusion of control’. Langer showed that people often behave as if chance events are accessible to personal control. In a series of experiments, Langer demonstrated first the prevalence of the illusion of control and second, that people were more likely to behave as if they could exercise control in a chance situation where ‘skill cues’ were present. By skill cues, Langer meant properties of the situation more normally associated with the exercise of skill, in particular the exercise of choice, competition, familiarity with the stimulus and involvement in decisions. One simple form of this fallacy is found in casinos: when rolling dice in craps, it has been shown that people tend to throw harder for high numbers and softer for low numbers.
Familiarity increases liking or Exposure effect is a psychological artifact well known to advertisers: people express undue liking for things merely because they are familiar with them. This effect has been nicknamed the “familiarity breeds liking” effect. In interpersonal attractiveness research studies, the term exposure principle is used to characterize the phenomenon in which the more often a person is seen by someone the more attractive and intelligent that person appears to be.
Tired of boring signal phrases in reports and papers, such as “she said,” said the writer? Try these signal phrases from Diana Hacker’s great source, “A Writer’s Reference (2009).”
If people feel they don’t have the power to change a bad situation, they stop thinking about it. Saul Alinsky
Saul Alinsky provides a collection of rules to guide the process of change. But he emphasizes these rules must be translated into real-life tactics that are fluid and responsive to the situation at hand.
Rule 1: Power is not only what you have, but what an opponent thinks you have. If your organization is small, hide your numbers in the dark and raise a din that will make everyone think you have many more people than you do.
Rule 2: Never go outside the experience of your people.
The result is confusion, fear, and retreat.
Rule 3: Whenever possible, go outside the experience of an opponent. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat.
Rule 4: Make opponents live up to their own book of rules. “You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.”
Rule 5: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It’s hard to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.
Rule 6: A good tactic is one your people enjoy. “If your people aren’t having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.”
Rule 7: A tactic that drags on for too long becomes a drag. Commitment may become ritualistic as people turn to other issues.
Rule 8: Keep the pressure on. Use different tactics and actions and use all events of the period for your purpose. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition. It is this that will cause the opposition to react to your advantage.”
Rule 9: The threat is more terrifying than the thing itself. When Alinsky leaked word that large numbers of poor people were going to tie up the washrooms of O’Hare Airport, Chicago city authorities quickly agreed to act on a longstanding commitment to a ghetto organization. They imagined the mayhem as thousands of passengers poured off airplanes to discover every washroom occupied. Then they imagined the international embarrassment and the damage to the city’s reputation.
Rule 10: The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. Avoid being trapped by an opponent or an interviewer who says, “Okay, what would you do?”
Rule 11: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. Don’t try to attack abstract corporations or bureaucracies. Identify a responsible individual. Ignore attempts to shift or spread the blame.
According to Alinsky, the main job of the organizer is to bait an opponent into reacting. “The enemy properly goaded and guided in his reaction will be your major strength.”
[Hillary Clinton's senior thesis at Radcliffe was on Alinsky.]