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Books

Mind Control and Behaviour Engineering

Books on body language aren’t nothing new and there are some great resources available from experts such as Desmond Morriss, Paul Ekman and Allan Pease. The information in these books is great for learning to read people and gain an understanding of what’s going through someone’s head based on the involuntary visual cues they give.

The Ellipsis Manual: Analysis and Engineering of Human Behaviour, goes so much deeper.

The book is written by Chase Hughes, who is an expert behaviour profiler who works with government agencies teaching behaviour engineering, interrogation techniques and other psychological techniques which would fit into a James Bond film.

It covers body language and behaviour profiling using Hughes’ Behavioural Table of Elements, a wonderful tool for analysing body language, particularly taking into account climate and other situations which could affect certain cues.

The latter half of the book has been refereed to as “Cialdini on steroids” and I’d say this is an accurate evaluation. Practical persuasion and influence techniques are shown, which wouldn’t feel out of place in a James Bond film. Bestselling author David Barron (aka Dantalion Jones) said “It shows how to make a real life Manchurian Candidate.”

The overarching themes are:

  • Behaviour Analysis (Body Language and Verbal Cues)
  • Human Needs and Profiling
  • Building Rapport
  • Asserting Authority
  • Developing Control and Influence
  • CIA Methods
  • Corrugation Programming (inspired by now destroyed MKUltra documents)

I haven’t even made it half-way through the book yet, but it’s already quite difficult to summarise just how much it covers.  I find the techniques covered in it are just as profound and useful as the knowledge gained from the work of Robert Cialdin, Desmond Morris and other behaviour experts. If you have even a passing interest in body language and human behaviour – read this book. The price is a little higher than for most books, but it’s 100% worth it.

Chase’s website is also a great resource on behaviour profiling with loads of useful info.

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Books

The Cognitive Revolution

In Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari explores the development of humankind.

Harari starts by outlining that humans first evolved in Africa about 2.5 million years ago and we were completely unremarkable until around 70,000 years ago, when human culture began to form.

Most people are aware than Neanderthals co-existed with humans for a time, but Homo Sapiens (meaning “wise man”) and Homo Neadnerthalensis were just two of multiple human species that roamed the earth at the same time. The book explores two opposing theories of Interbreeding and Replacement which outline how homo sapiens evolved and the other human species died out. The reality is likely to be a combination of “ethnic cleansing” and interbreeding. It’s important to note that the average European shares 1-4% of their DNA with Neanderthals, adding further evidence to the theory of interbreeding.

So why did Homo Sapiens survive and prosper, while the other human species died out? Harari explains that human history has gone through 3 large revolutions that other species didn’t:

  • The Cognitive Revolution
  • The Agricultural Revolution
  • The Scientific Revolution

The Cognitive Revolution occurred 70,000 – 30,000 years ago and was prompted by the discovery of fire.

Fire enabled us to cook food, which reduced the amount of energy our bodies needed to use to digest food. This paved the way for a smaller intestinal tract and the development of a larger brain, which used 25% of the body’s energy.

The growing intelligence of our species led to improved communication, which allowed us to organise, collaborate and form relationships that even the other human species at the time couldn’t match. We were able to hunt more effectively, quickly (in evolutionary terms) taking us from the middle of the food chain (400,00 years ago) right to the top.

We were suddenly able to tell stories and share ideas and myths. As far as we understand, we are the only species that can comprehend things that we’ve never personally experienced. These stories and myths (religions, ideologies) facilitated cooperation and led to the creation of ideas such as fairness and justice, which were essential for cooperation between larger groups.

Thanks to our new abilities, we didn’t have to didn’t have to wait for another few million years of evolution to take place for our behaviour to change. The way we behaved and cooperated could be changed by adapting the stories and ideas that we shared. Our brains and bodies have remained unchanged since we passed through the cognitive revolution.

While, we like to think that we are smarted than our ancestors, but there is no evidence that we’re more intelligent than humans 30,000 years ago. As a collective, we possess more knowledge and understanding of the world, but at the individual level, ancient hunters and foragers were for more skillful and varied in their knowledge of the world than modern humans. In fact, we are more likely to pass on undesirable or unremarkable genes nowadays. Undesirable traits have a negative impact on a person’s ability to survive. 30,000 years ago, people possessing these disadvantageous traits often wouldn’t survive long enough to pass them on. Nowadays however, finding food is as easy as walking into a supermarket and modern cities put a huge buffer between us and wild animals.

Once we passed the cognitive revolution, homo sapiens quickly spread throughout the world, travelling across the sea to Australia. 16,000 years ago, humans first made their way across the Siberian peninsular to America and right down to the South America – to our knowledge, the quickest expansion of a species to ever occur.

Even given these remarkable achievements, physically and mentally, we are essentially the same animals that we were 30,0000 years ago. This lack of biological change is partially to blame for many of the stresses we feel in our modern lives. Many of our daily habits and experiences are unnatural to us:

  • Gorging on high calorie foods makes sense in the wild, but not when there is an abundance of food.
  • Humans naturally fall into a bi-phasic sleep cycle where our sleep is broken into 3 parts (2 cycles at night and 1 in the afternoon) not a single 7-8 hour block.
  • A single city contains more people than the average human might meet in 100 lifetimes.
  • The concept of privacy is very new, but so is loneliness; we were always surrounded by a group of trusted friends and family.

The cognitive revolution ended around 10,000 years ago as humans began to built permanent settlements and so began the agricultural revolution. Impressively, this revolution happened independently in many areas of the world. The Agricultural Revolution is responsible for the huge growth of the human population and the creation of towns and cities. I’ll explore the Agricultural Revolution in another post.

If you’re interested in learning more, I’d implore you to pick up Harari’s book Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind – it’s a great read and incredibly informative.

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Books Other

The Checklist Manifesto: Summary

Regardless of the intelligence, skill of experience of the person in question, we inevitable make mistakes . No matter how much we might believe that we’ll remember something and regardless of how many times we’ve completed the task at hand we are still prone to forgetfulness and to human error.

In his book, The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande explains that the use of checklists in our professional lives can greatly reduce mistakes made by human error.

Checklists force us to go through step-by-step and not only prevent us from forgetting tasks, but can prompt other ideas and steps. It’s important to note the a checklist isn’t just a list of tasks, it’s a process and eventually develops into company culture or “that’s just how we do things here.” A well designed checklist can elevate the performance of entire teams and spread across many departments.

It’s important to note however, that to be effective, they must meet a few criteria. They must be concise, clear and collaborative.

  • Concise – A long checklist with no more than 9 pointed per section will eventually be discarded and steps skipped.
  • Clear – Only the important points need to be included, you don’t need to outline every step in the process.
  • Collaborative – At any point, anyone in the team has the authority to halt a project or process if the checklist hasn’t been adhered to properly.

They have been used by airline maintenance crews, pilots and surgeons to great success. Checklists can provide a safety net for our inherent cognitive biases and mental flaws (memory, attention, thoroughness).

The premise of the book is simple enough and the many examples Gawande shares help to really drive home the benefits and effects of using checklist. The Checklist Manifesto is a great read and filled with actionable information – a rare find.

 

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Critical Thinking Logic & Reasoning Smart Thinking

Logical Fallacies: Faulty Deduction

The the last in this series of logical fallacies focuses on the mistakes we all make when making decisions and weighing information.

Anecdotes

Ignoring evidenced gained by a scientific approach in favour of firsthand stories or anecdotes.

Example: “My grandfather smoked 40 cigarettes per day, and he lived until he was 100, so why should I stop smoking?”

Composition

Assuming that the beliefs or characteristics of an individual apply to the entire group

Example: “The recent terrorist attacks were carried out by Islamic groups. Therefore all Muslims must be terrorists.”

Division

Conversely, assuming that the beliefs of a group apply to an individual member

Example: “Many Conservatives don’t believe in evolution, he’s a conservative, so he must also be a creationist.”

Design Fallacy

Assuming that because something is explained or visualised in a positive way, it must be truer.

Example: “Heaven.”

Gambler’s Fallacy

The assumption that the history of outcomes will affect future outcomes.

Example: “The roulette wheel has landed on Black 5 times in a row, I’m going to bet on Red because it’s bound to be read now.”

Hasty Generalisation

Drawing a conclusion from a narrow sample group.

Example: “I was almost hit today by two middle-aged women, women are terrible drivers.”

Jumping to Conclusions

Coming to a conclusion without considering all the evidence and possibilities.

Example: “He said he was working late, but I know he wasn’t in the office. He must be cheating on me”

Middle Ground

Assuming that because two opposing arguments are valid, that the truth will be found in some middle ground.

Example: “I think the car is worth £1,000, but you think it’s worth £5,000, so let’s meet in the middle at £3,000.”

Perfectionist Fallacy

Only valuing perfection and rejecting any solution which is less than perfect.

Example: “What’s the point in introducing stricter gun control, criminals will still be able to get hold of guns anyway?”

Relativist Fallacy

Rejecting a claim or idea because of a belief that the truth is relative.

Example: “That might be true for you, but it isn’t for me.”

Sweeping Generalisation

Applying a general rule too widely.

Example: “These boys are disruptive because they were raised by single mothers.”

Undistributed Middle

Assuming that because two things share characteristics that they are the same thing.

Example: “A scientific theory can be unproven. Evolution is a theory; therefore, evolution is an unproven idea.”

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Critical Thinking Logic & Reasoning Smart Thinking

Logical Fallacies: Cause and Effect

Circular Logic

A conclusion which relies on a premise which is based on the conclusion.

Example: “The Bible is the word of God – I know that because it says it in the Bible and it must be true because the Bible is the word of God.”

Denying the Antecedent

Assuming that a cause is based on the effect when there are multiple possible causes.

Example: “If you get a good degree, you’ll get a good job. If you don’t get a degree, you won’t get a good job.”

Ignoring a Common Cause

Claiming a link between 2 events, when there is a 3rd event which is likely to be the cause.

Example: “During the 60s  there was a sexual revolution, because of that people are dying of AIDS.”

Cum Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

Claiming that 2 events that occur together must have a cause-effect relationship and assuming that correlation = cause.

Example: “Smart people wear glasses, so wearing glasses must make you smarter.”

Affirming the Consequent

Assuming that there’s only one explanation for an observation you’ve made.

Example: “Marriage usually results in children, so that’s why marriage exists.”

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

The claim that because one event followed another, it was caused by it. Another cause-effect fallacy.

Example: “Since Obama became president, ISIS has become more powerful. Therefore, Obama has caused the rise of ISIS.”

Two Wrongs Make a Right

If someone is wronged, then another wrong will cancel it out

Example: “They killed 100 of our soldiers, so we need to kill 100 of their soldiers to make it right.”

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