Learning and Thinking As We Age: Yet Another Strike Against Republican Ticket

27 10 2008

How learning and reason decline — painful truths we’d rather deny (and some good news too, so read to the end!) from the former editor of Psychology Today:

The American public is predictably divided on this issue. Obama appears to many to be short on experience and too young to assume such high office, even though John F. Kennedy was 43 when he became president. McCain is considered by others to be too old. After all, Ronald Reagan showed signs of Alzheimer’s disease during his second term in office, when he was in his late seventies. Barely three years out of office, his cognitive impairment had become severe. But could it be that Obama, at 46, is also declining? When are we at our cognitive peak?

At 55, having been a research psychologist for 30 years, I decided to take a dispassionate look at these issues. The process proved to be painful in some respects, but when it comes to cognitive decline, knowing might also be the best defence . . .

Fascinating truths about different types of intelligence and the age cohort at which they typically peak, and also this:

Although not central to the cognition issue, I would be remiss in failing to point out that most of our perceptual and motor capabilities also fit this disturbing pattern: our visual acuity, overall hearing ability, ability to discriminate speech sounds (important during delicate meetings of state), touch sensitivity, and so on. Elderly people sometimes, ahem, face odor challenges because–according to a study conducted in the 1980s — they lose much of their sense of smell in their 70s and 80s. More to the point, reaction time — our ability to respond swiftly to sudden events, which is undoubtedly an important competency for leaders — also follows this pattern.

Especially in our education and home education communities, seems to me we should use this science to inform our politics. So share this article with everyone you know who still believes Obama is the riskier choice and believes their view to be based on facts and truths and objective analysis. Then their new learning can help us all — if they’re not already too far gone cognitively themselves. 🙂

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27 10 2008
JJ

By coincidence, today is the birthday of America’s youngest-ever president, Teddy Roosevelt. TR, who John McCain — as the Man Who Would Be Our Oldest President — admires most and seems to believes he can channel somehow. (See Snook’s blogging the pros and cons of this odd historical comparison: Pit Bull Moose and Mugwumps) :

We see similarities between John Sidney McCain and TR, sure — TR left his daughter to be raised by others while he was off adventuring, he loved to fight even within his own party, his views on race were so belligerent and extreme that President NIXON had to clean up after him . . .[and] “The settler and pioneer have at bottom had justice on their side; . . .
The most ultimately righteous of all wars is a war with savages.
American and Indian, Boer and Zulu, Cossack and Tartar, New Zealander and Maori, — in each case the victor, horrible though many of his deeds are, has laid deep the foundations for the future greatness of a mighty people.”

27 10 2008
JJ

More psychology for America to learn well, this time expert Gavin Becker’s psychology of violence prediction and threat assessment:

McCain explains his constant attacking by saying he “a fighter.”
. . . that fighting on its own is some kind of favorable attribute. I have some resistance to the concept of politicians being fighters (and I’m not fighting it), mostly because fighters need enemies, constant enemies, enemies all around.

So who are McCain’s enemies? Let’s start with the one named most often: Special Interest Groups, a murky term that refers to… well, to every single group on Earth since special interests are the reason groups form — their special interest is the whole idea. So that’s a lot of enemies for McCain. Palin also fights these same groups, she tells us. She fought special interest groups when she was a mayor, and oh damn, there they were again when she was Governor, and now, you gotta just keep fightin’ em, because there they are again.

Another enemy: Washington Insiders. Who are Washington Insiders? The people who actually manage the government, represent the voters, make the laws, have the power. Yeah, fighting them seems the best strategy — fight them to the last man. Then you have victory, another concept these fighters talk a lot about. Normally, being a fighter is not a qualification for anything — other than fighting.

. . .Changing the context is instructive: Instead of running for president, imagine this kind of guy is seeking a promotion with your company. Say he wants to be Regional Manager (which in a sense is accurate to McCain, except that the region is enormous). He sends you lists of his accomplishments (his heroic acts), but you can see that the biggest of them (being a prisoner of war) wasn’t his idea and wasn’t voluntary.

Sure, he’s had some substantial disciplinary actions taken against him (Keating 5), but that’s just because he’s a fighter, or that’s because he was targeted by co-workers who were jealous of him. Yes, he destroyed or lost a lot of expensive comzpany equipment (crashed three aircraft) but that’s because he’s a fighter. OK, so maybe he doesn’t have the temperament you’d want in a pilot, but he’s not applying for the position of pilot. If he were, wouldn’t that be the easiest-ever employment decision? (Try and be comfortable on the flight after you hear “This is Captain John McCain and I’ll be your pilot tonight.”)

This employee’s promotion is half-heartedly supported by other disgruntled, angry, combative, difficult, or gullible employees. Not exactly your stellar performers, but you listen carefully to all their points – even though you’ve heard them all before. After a while, even some of their diehard efforts start to die, and as most co-workers begin to accept that he’s not going to get the promotion, they abandon the cause. And now, this guy’s really a fighter. Now he’s fighting them, he’s fighting you, he’s even fighting the supporters that remain. Why? Because he’s a fighter! Like he told us.

There are several features of the kind of person you never want to hire. My firm tests for the ones that are most predictive of problems. Put McCain-2008 through a few of the actual inquiries we apply when screening candidates:

27 10 2008
JJ

Sarah Palin just gave a speech on morning cable news, in Virginia. Hire us! she trilled and the crowd surged.

Maybe we should print up the above article on why McCain would be a bad idea in any small business, and send it out to all the states she visits this week?

27 10 2008
JJ

So McCain is losing cognitive function. What’s Palin’s excuse, that she never had much to begin with?

27 10 2008
JJ

LOL – love this about Palin going rogue. Note this how they DEFEND her, not attack her! (Just what we need in this time of national economic crisis and two wars — someone no good at “process” questions! LOL again!) ROFL in fact . . .

A Palin associate defended her, saying that she is “not good at process questions” and that her comments on Michigan and the robocalls were answers to process questions.

29 10 2008
JJ

This was dumb too – McCain in Miami:

Opening the day in Miami’s Little Havana, McCain said he would boost the revenue Florida and other coastal states earn from offshore drilling production, which he said would leave the decision on drilling to the states but give them an incentive to increase production.

“We will drill offshore, and we will drill now,” he said. “If we’re going to drill off the state of Florida, you deserve more of those revenues. They shouldn’t be sent to Washington, they should be sent to Tallahassee.”

What’s dumb, you ask? Well around here the issue isn’t even states’ rights. It’s more like South Florida versus North Florida. Broward-Miami-Key West are property rich and consider themselves the moneymakers for the state, and the state capital in north Florida to be a leech on their rightful revenues.

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