The New Psychology of Time

The Time Para­dox, a new book by Philip Zim­bar­do & John Boyd, puts forth an intrigu­ing argu­ment — our atti­tudes toward time, often uncon­scious ones, can strong­ly shape our per­son­al­i­ties and the kind of lives we lead. They can con­tribute to our hap­pi­ness and suc­cess, or our unhap­pi­ness and depres­sion.

The argu­ment goes some­thing like this: Not entire­ly know­ing­ly, we all focus on the past, present or future. And, in mod­er­a­tion, each focus can have some net good. Future-ori­ent­ed peo­ple tend to be ambi­tious and suc­cess­ful; present-ori­ent­ed peo­ple tend to have friends and fun; and past-ori­ent­ed peo­ple often have close fam­i­ly rela­tion­ships. But when we asso­ciate too strong­ly with one of these “time zones” (again often with­out real­iz­ing it), we run into prob­lems. When we’re too strong­ly focused on the future, we sac­ri­fice friends, fam­i­ly and fun. When we’re too present-ori­ent­ed, we leave our­selves open to hedo­nism and addic­tions. And when we cling to the past, we sim­ply get stuck in the past, and depres­sion usu­al­ly fol­lows. The upshot then is that we need to find a “tem­po­ral bal­ance,” and this applies not just to indi­vid­u­als, but to nations, reli­gious groups and social class­es as well. Accord­ing to Zim­bar­do and Boyd, larg­er social groups can tend toward dis­tort­ed sens­es of time. The Amer­i­can finan­cial cri­sis boils down to an extreme focus on the present, or a lack of con­cern for future con­se­quences. That’s essen­tial­ly what the big cred­it give­away was all about.

You may rec­og­nize Philip Zim­bar­do’s name. He’s a wide­ly rec­og­nized psy­chol­o­gy pro­fes­sor who was behind the famous Stan­ford Prison Exper­i­ment (1971). He has served as the pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion. And, last year, he pub­lished The Lucifer Effect, a New York Times best­seller.

To delve a bit more deeply into The Time Para­dox, you should watch (below) the engross­ing pre­sen­ta­tion that Zim­bar­do gave at Google’s HQ last month. Or you can lis­ten to this radio inter­view that aired recent­ly in New York City (iTunes Feed MP3). Last­ly, you can take a sur­vey on The Time Para­dox web site and learn more about your tem­po­ral bal­ance.


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We Didn’t Start the Fire, or The World From 1949 to 1989

If you could sync up a pho­to with every name and event men­tioned in Bil­ly Joel’s “We Did­n’t Start the Fire,” you’d have a mon­tage that offers a pret­ty good glimpse into the sec­ond half of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. That’s what a Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go grad stu­dent fig­ured out when he put this viral video togeth­er. We’ve added it to our YouTube playlist. Thanks Bob for the tip!

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Mozart’s Complete Works

Just a quick heads up: is run­ning a pret­ty good look­ing deal on a box set of Mozart’s com­plete works. The pack­age includes 170 CDs of music. And it also comes with a cd-rom con­tain­ing essays on his works, artist bio’s, text and libret­ti’s. User reviews sug­gest that the record­ing qual­i­ty is quite high. The box set is being sold for $74.99, or 50% off the nor­mal list price. I’m not sure how long this sale will go on.

In the mean­time, if you’re more in the mood for some free Mozart, then spend some time with the clas­si­cal music pod­casts that we have indexed here.

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Books Authors Want (and Plan to Give) for the Holidays

Pen­guin asked its sta­ble of writ­ers what books they plan to give friends dur­ing the hol­i­days, and what books they’d hope to receive. Here’s a quick sam­pling. And if you want to list your own gift ideas, feel free to add them to the com­ments below.

Khaled Hos­sei­ni, author of The Kite Run­ner and A Thou­sand Splen­did Suns, is giv­ing The Brief Won­drous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. And so, too, is Michael Pol­lan (The Omni­vore’s Dilem­ma). It won the Pulitzer after all.

Michael Lewis (Liar’s Pok­er) not so secret­ly hopes to wind up with a copy of Mal­colm Glad­well’s new book Out­liers: The Sto­ry of Suc­cess. He’s not the only one, to be sure.

Friends of Eliz­a­beth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) will be get­ting The Prin­ci­ples of Uncer­tain­ty by Maira Kalman. And, in turn, they may be giv­ing her biogra­phies of great adven­tur­ers like Cap­tain Cook and Ernest Shack­le­ton. (Per­son­al­ly, I’d rec­om­mend Endurance: Shack­le­ton’s Incred­i­ble Voy­age. Great read.)

Last­ly, Nick Hor­by (High Fideli­ty) is offer­ing up Mark Har­ris’ Pic­tures at a Rev­o­lu­tion.

For more book ideas, vis­it the full list and also see our read­er-cre­at­ed list: Life-Chang­ing Books.

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The Birth Of A Tornado

It’s almost eerie to watch how a tor­na­do takes shape. As you’ll see below, it starts with a wisp of noth­ing much and, with­in min­utes, morphs into a ter­ri­ble force. For more pre­cise details on how tor­na­does form, you can check out this dynam­ic pre­sen­ta­tion over at USA Today.

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Top 10 Amazing Biology Videos

This week, Wired has post­ed a piece — Top 10 Amaz­ing Biol­o­gy Videos — that has start­ed swirling around the web. Here you’ll find some seri­ous videos (for exam­ple, a clip below show­ing high speed gene sequenc­ing in action) along­side some lighter videos that fea­ture, um, shrimp run­ning on a tread­mill. This piece is the log­i­cal fol­low up to Wired’s ear­li­er post: 10 Amaz­ing Physics Videos.

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Next in Line for a Bailout? A Major Art Museum

Almost exact­ly a year ago, I caught up with Jori Finkel, a jour­nal­ist who cov­ers the Los Ange­les arts scene, and we talked about an art-world con­tro­ver­sy that she first wrote about in The New York Times. The con­tro­ver­sy focused on muse­ums seek­ing fund­ing from art gal­leries, which can be a direct con­flict of inter­ests, and her lead exam­ple was L.A.’s Muse­um of Con­tem­po­rary Art. Well, it turns out now that MOCA is in seri­ous finan­cial trou­ble, with its annu­al oper­at­ing costs run­ning up to $20 mil­lion and its endow­ment plung­ing below $10 mil­lion. It also turns out that last year’s scan­dal should have sent up some red flags. So we decid­ed to do a fol­low-up inter­view with Jori and get her take on MOCA’s fis­cal cri­sis and bailout plans.

DC: We’ve seen a lot of banks and finan­cial insti­tu­tions look­ing for bailouts, and the more we inves­ti­gate them, the more we real­ize these insti­tu­tions were sim­ply act­ing reck­less­ly. When the his­to­ry of this cri­sis gets writ­ten, I imag­ine that we’ll real­ize that it wasn’t just the banks that mis­man­aged their funds and got caught on a limb. Is that what we’re see­ing here with MOCA?

JF: I’m not aware of any crazy exec­u­tive bonus­es or expen­sive com­pa­ny retreats if that’s what you mean. No, what we’re look­ing at here are two rather clas­sic non­prof­it man­age­ment prob­lems: under-fund­ing and over­spend­ing. L.A. Times crit­ic Christo­pher Knight took MOCA trustees to task for not cough­ing up enough cash, and I’ve also writ­ten a lot about the cri­sis in cul­tur­al phil­an­thropy in L.A. The biggest prob­lem is that Hol­ly­wood types would rather give mon­ey to a cause, envi­ron­men­tal or polit­i­cal, than to the arts.

But it’s naïve just to say the muse­um is under-fund­ed. They were clear­ly over­spend­ing. Their staff bal­looned to 200 while their endow­ment was shrink­ing, and muse­um ambi­tions clear­ly out­stripped their actu­al, legit­i­mate sources of fund­ing. In most busi­ness­es, that would be rea­son to rethink, retrench, down­size. That appar­ent­ly hasn’t hap­pened on a large enough scale here. They seem to have put artis­tic ideals ahead of finan­cial realities–putting what the muse­um should exhib­it ahead of what it can afford to exhib­it.

DC: Dur­ing our inter­view last year, you raised some doubts about how MOCA was fund­ing its major Muraka­mi show. In ret­ro­spect, was that an ear­ly sign that things were going wrong at the muse­um? Were there oth­er red flags?

JF: Yes, I think the fact that MOCA was hus­tling mon­ey for its Muraka­mi show from com­mer­cial deal­ers who rep­re­sent the artist was a sign of finan­cial trou­ble and maybe even des­per­a­tion. It looks in ret­ro­spect like a bright red flag. You raised the per­fect ques­tion last year: Why was MOCA engag­ing in this prac­tice when so many oth­er muse­um lead­ers spoke out against it as uneth­i­cal?

Anoth­er ear­ly warn­ing sign came when the muse­um start­ed clos­ing down the Gef­fen Con­tem­po­rary for a few months at a time. Some reporters are treat­ing this fact like it’s new. It’s not. There was even a time three or four years ago when the MOCA web site car­ried a notice to film scouts—essentially say­ing the Gef­fen is yours for the right price. Can you imag­ine the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art in New York doing this?


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Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash Together in 1969: Free MP3s

Two Amer­i­can icons got togeth­er in Nashville in 1969 and record­ed at least 22 tracks togeth­er, includ­ing some well known clas­sics: Ring of Fire, I Walk The Line, Girl From the North Coun­try, and You Are My Sun­shine. You can lis­ten in on the his­toric col­lab­o­ra­tion for free here.

via Boing­Bo­ing

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