Archive for November 1st, 2009
I was sitting in the middle seat with 3 across on a long red-eye flight recently. My legs were cramped, my back was killing me, my seat only went back about 5 degrees and I could not even extend my elbows beyond the armrests since the seats on both sides of me were occupied. What are all those ads about all the comfort you are supposed to experience when you fly? I haven’t seen any comfort in quite some time. I was wondering how I was ever going to get any sleep on the flight and then I got my answer – I didn’t get any. Of course with the seats being so cramped you can’t open up a computer to do any work. So not being able to sleep and not being able to work I started looking at the magazines in the seat back pocket and I thought I would look for other dubious advertising. Since I could not bend at all I simply tore the interesting pages out of the magazines and stuffed them into my briefcase.
Here are some tidbits from the airlines in-flight magazine.
- An ad for Babel Yak™, “Learning a language is not only good for your career but it makes you look sexy too!” Nowhere in the ad is there any explanation on how learning a language will make you look sexy or is the word even used again, only in the attention grabbing headline, so I guess we will have to let our imaginations run wild.
- “Suntheanine®, the award-winning, patented dietary ingredient for stress.” “…clinically proven to reduce stress, improve the quality of sleep, diminish normal symptoms of PMS, heighten mental acuity, and reduce negative side effects of caffeine.” Then in very small letters on the bottom of the ad, “these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.” My immediate thought was who gave them the unnamed award? Since it was not mentioned anywhere I assume they gave it to themselves. As for “clinically proven”, well let’s just say that I would believe the rigorous study with control group design when I see it. For an ingredient that is supposed to do all those things mentioned, to then state that is actually doesn’t treat, cure or prevent anything is a bit of a letdown. Well at least they are honest in the fine print.
- The screaming headline for Dr. Charles Karrass’s negotiating seminar, “It’s like steroids for your career.” Given all the negative publicity surrounding the steroids scandals in baseball I think I would recommend to Dr. Karrass that he hire a new marketing firm, one not willing to connect his company, however tenuously, with illegal drug use. I have been flying regularly now for about 26 years and I swear it is the same photo of Dr. Karrass in the ads today as it was 26 years ago. I can’t believe that he hasn’t aged in all that time. For a while his son’s picture was also in the ads, but then it disappeared, I guess that did not work out. Maybe dad was so tough in how he wanted to run things that his son left the business. Too bad they couldn’t negotiate on the matter.
- “Cenegenics – GQ suggests it is the path to reversing the signs and symptoms of aging.” Well if a respected scientific journal like GQ says it…. In the ad they show a picture of Jeffrey Life, MD at age 67 and describe him as having a body of a 30 year old, except for his head which looks like a 70+ year old head. If this program works to reverse the signs and symptoms of aging how come it doesn’t work above the neck? Maybe Dr. Karrass is using the program and that is why he hasn’t aged in the last 26 years.
- YogaToes, yes you may not have known it but your toes can do yoga. And if your toes do yoga it will “stretch, strengthen and straighten your toes”. I don’t know about you but my toes are long enough already.
- You too can buy a $14,615 machine that allows you to exercise in 4 minutes per day. They actually have a statement in the ad that says, “The more we tell people about the ROM the less they believe it.” Ok, I don’t need to hear any more then. If you went and purchased this machine and used it exactly the proscribed 4 minutes a day for a year, 365 workouts, each of your workouts would only cost you $40.04 or $10.01 per minute for that year. What a bargain.
I looked and looked hoping to find the magic bullet that would solve the personal problems I encounter. You see, as I have aged I have found that the hairs in my ears as well as my eyebrows have been growing longer, at the same time that the hair on my head has been thinning out. Yes it sounds quite attractive, I know. What did you say? You don’t have any hair in your ears? You don’t know what you are missing. I searched and searched and searched but could not find any product in the magazine that would get rid of the hair growing out of my ears. No even one that would make a somewhat spurious claim. Oh well, maybe on the next sleepless flight I will find my magic bullet.
How do you think you would be received if you embarrassed people in power either political or religious power, not by claiming more or perhaps better knowledge, but simply by asking logical questions that pointed out inconsistencies and inadequacies in their decision-making, showing that the rationale for the various beliefs that they held dear was full of holes? What if you were so confident that your questioning approach was a method that could be utilized to uncover the truth and create a path toward greater understanding, and perhaps better decision-making, that you incessantly applied it every day until you had a both a following and a significant group of detractors? If you were Socrates, causing that embarrassment would lead to the death penalty on charges of corrupting the youth of Athens and disbelieving in the ancestral gods. He was so confident in his approach, now called the Socratic Method that he was willing to die for his beliefs.
Where did that level of confidence come from? How could he be so sure he was right? In essence he did not believe he was right about the content of anything, about his knowledge, what he stated he had was “an open awareness of his own ignorance”, a belief that he felt that those in power did not possess. What he believed in was his method, his approach that if followed would lead to greater insights, and that ordinary people could be taught to question traditional notions and by doing so would be leading a more fulfilling life. Heresy! His belief in his questioning approach was so strong that during his trial he is reported by Plato to have said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”, as he rejected offering up exile or silencing as alternatives to the death penalty to be imposed by drinking Hemlock. How many scientists do you know today who would be willing to die for the right to conduct experiments, or follow a line of inquiry in order to do hypothesis testing?
It is speculated by some scholars that the charges were brought against Socrates because of a sense of pessimism that had engulfed democratic Athens after their devastating loss in the Peloponnesian War to the oligarchic Spartans, a loss of confidence in their political system, and the hunt for a potential scapegoat. You can almost hear the maneuvering, the rationales being offered as to why Athens lost to its rival. “It is that trouble maker Socrates, always questioning, tearing us down, trying to destroy our way of life, never following our lead. He has corrupted our youth by sowing doubt and has brought down the wrath of our gods by questioning their legitimacy. Death to Socrates!” It is easier of course to look back at the ancient past and to state that their behavior appears silly, for we would never act that way today, tearing down those that question our beliefs, would we?
What is confidence? How is confidence acquired? Why are we confident? What are the consequences of a loss of confidence? From a scientific standpoint, confidence can be described as being certain that a hypothesis is correct, and through research numbers can be ascribed to your findings which are interpreted or hedged using a confidence interval (99% or 95% confidence intervals being generally accepted standards), but it is also a psychological construct that is generated by and in what the individual believes to be true, personal hypotheses, if you will. An accountant might say, “I have absolute confidence in my facts and figures and I will stand behind them 100%.” I can also have confidence in my political leadership, my religious beliefs, my doctor, family members, my mailman, my lawyer (well, maybe not). But confidence regarding individuals or institutions and in what you believe to be true about them is often limited to certain very specific circumstances. I have confidence that my mailman will deliver my mail, he has a very good track record over the years, and I know he has the US Post Office standing behind him to support him in his efforts. And while I have that confidence in my mailman, I will not have confidence in him to interpret my EKG results. That piece of confidence I will reserve to my doctor, who I have confidence in because of her track record as my doctor (she once saved my life when I had pneumonia), experience, training, and because of the hospital she works at, which gives her legitimacy because I am going to assume would not let her practice there unless she was competent. In both of these cases I have confidence in these people, in specific circumstances because of their own personal characteristics and because of the organizations with which are somehow affiliated, either through training, experience, or employment.
Confidence is very commonly used and fairly widespread. There are formal on-going efforts to measure Investor Confidence, Consumer Confidence, Purchasing Managers Confidence, and CEO Confidence. There are numerous self-help courses aimed at improving your self-confidence in a wide variety of situations, there is the statistical use of confidence intervals and confidence limits, politically some governments face no confidence votes, and on the dark side of the law there are criminals called Confidence Men. Our current economic situation has been called by some a Crisis of Confidence and some founding fathers somewhere thought it was a good idea for the future of their towns to name them Confidence including, Confidence, Iowa, Confidence, California, and Confidence, West Virginia.