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Category Archive: books

Autonomy support at work

autonomy support and controlSelf-determination theory (SDT) is one of the most powerful frameworks to understand how human flourishing can develop. Here is a very brief recap of what it is*. SDT assumes two things about human beings: 1) that they are naturally active and growth-oriented, and 2) that they have a tendency toward psychological integration. This second process means that, as people encounter new experiences, they are challenged to integrate them with existing aspects of themselves. This process of integration leads individuals to develop increasingly complex self-structures in which values and regulatory processes from outside are internalized. Click here to read more »

How intelligent groups discover and learn from new ideas

socialphysicslogo2In his new book Social Physics, MIT data scientist Alex Pentland introduces the discipline of social physics, a big data approach to social science. The discipline focuses mainly on how ideas flow through groups and communities and how social learning takes place to enable productivity and creativity. The book describes much large scale research and many core concepts of social physics and it introduces ideas on how groups, organizations, cities, and societies can be made more effective.

One of the studies described in the book is by Wooley et al (2010). This study has demonstrated the existence of a collective intelligence which is different from the individual intelligence of each group member. This collective intelligence turns out to depend mainly on two factors: 1) the equality of conversational turn taking: the less conversations were dominated by a few people only, the more intelligent the group was, and 2) social intelligence: the ability to read each other’s social signals. Click here to read more »

Free will is not an illusion

Indications that free will does not exist

About a year ago I wrote the blog post On the question of whether we have free will in which I referred to the work of Sam Harris, Jerry Coyne, John Bargh and Daniel Wegner who all state that we do not have free will and that our perception of a free will is just an illusion. John Bargh, for example, mentions the importance of automatic processes and says that nearly all human behavior should be seen as automatic responses to environmental triggers. Daniel Wegner has shown that respondents in studies have said that certain of their behaviors were intentional while, in reality, these behaviors were evoked by the experimenter  In that case free will was indeed an illusion. I also wrote about Valery Chirkov and Daniel Dennett who do believe in free will. I ended my blog post in a certain confusion about free will does or does not exist. I wondered whether it wouldn’t be better to ask to which extent we have a free will than to ask whether or not we have a free will.


Book: Free will is not an illusion

9200000002271477 (1)In his book Vrije wil is geen illusie. Hoe de hersenen ons vrijheid verschaffen (Free will is no illusion. How brains give us freedom) Dutch neuropsychologist Herman Kolk  disagrees with these authors who see free will as an illusion. He begin his book by summarizing their arguments and evidence. In addition to Bargh and Wegner  he mentions several other authors such as Michael Gazzaniga, a well-known neuroscientist who says that our brains are determined just like all other physical objects. Kolk also mentions Ap Dijksterhuis, a Dutch social psychologist who has done research which seems to demonstrate that with important decisions it is better to rely on your unconscious thinking than on your conscious thinking. Another important researcher who is mentioned is Benjamin Libet. Libet did research in which he demonstrated that at the moment at which people according to themselves decide to make a certain movement the brain has already begun to prepare that movement 300 ms in advance. Kolk also describes two popular Dutch book which claim that free will does not exist. Victor Lamme wrote De vrije wil bestaat niet (Free will does not exist) in which he says that human behavior is directed by stimulus-response couplings and  Dick Swaab wrote Wij zijn ons brein (We are our brain) in which he argues that free will is an illusion because the vast majority of our behaviors and traits are fixed from our birth on.  Click here to read more »

The meaning of progress

The word ‘progress’ comes from the old French word progres which started to be used in the 16th century and which was on the Latin word progressus (an advance) which comes from the verb progredi (to go forward, advance, proceed), which, in turn, consists of the parts pro (forth, before) and gradi (to walk, go). In general usage, the word progress now has come to mean improvement, advance, betterment, growth, development. Click here to read more »

Abundance – the future is better than you think

I am now reading the book Abundance, the future is better than you think by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. The book is recommended by people like Steven Pinker, Matt Ridley and Bill Gates.


Book description: Since the dawn of humanity, a privileged few have lived in stark contrast to the hardscrabble majority. Conventional wisdom says this gap cannot be closed. But it is closing—fast. In Abundance, space entrepreneur turned innovation pioneer Peter H. Diamandis and award-winning science writer Steven Kotler document how progress in artificial intelligence, robotics, infinite computing, ubiquitous broadband networks, digital manufacturing, nanomaterials, synthetic biology, and many other exponentially growing technologies will enable us to make greater gains in the next two decades than we have in the previous two hundred years. We will soon have the ability to meet and exceed the basic needs of every man, woman, and child on the planet. Abundance for all is within our grasp.

Click here to read more »

The Progress Principle

In 2011, Teresa Amabile, a professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and  Steven Kramer, a developmental psychologist published the book  The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work which is one of the most compelling cases yet for focusing on progress in work. In the book they report on a large scale study into worker performance and motivation.


One thing Amabile and Kramer did was to survey more than 600 managers from dozens of companies, asking them to rank the impact on employee motivation and emotions of five workplace factors: recognition for good work, incentives, interpersonal support, making progress and clear goals. The majority of these managers, chose “recognition for good work”. But a multiyear study which tracked day-to-day activities of 238 people in 26 project teams in 7 companies in 3 industries showed that these managers were not right about this. Click here to read more »

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