Synergy – Ruth Benedict style

Synergy gets used most frequently as a term for the upside of integrating two entities or efforts in such a way that the sum is more than the parts.

For example, the merger of two companies might leverage one companies operational excellence with the marketing prowess of the second company to the benefit of both.

It’s useful to have a word for that but that’s not how I remember Ruth Benedict using the term. Continue reading “Synergy – Ruth Benedict style”

Hygge – might be a useful word

Not quite a word for taking pleasure in a group effort, but perhaps a pointer in the right direction.

From Americans don’t need more money to be happier—they need to be like Denmark in Quartz online magazine, 3/22/18 –  Marie Helweg-Larsen
Professor of Psychology, Dickinson College

Danes have a stable government, low levels of public corruption, and access to high-quality education and health care. The country does have the the highest taxes in the world, but the vast majority of Danes happily pay: They believe higher taxes can create a better society.

Perhaps most importantly, however, they value a cultural construct called “hygge” (pronounced hʊɡə). Continue reading “Hygge – might be a useful word”

A Paucity of Words

What’s wrong with this picture?

Plutchik Wheel of Emotions
Plutchik Wheel of Emotions

This diagram above is from a course on user interaction design.  The teaching:

Motivation is tied to emotion. (Agreed.)

It’s important to understand that when designing user experience. (Agreed.)

And here are all the relevant emotions in one useful diagram! (Agreed…until I started thinking about it.)

Continue reading “A Paucity of Words”

A Few More Words – Part 1

I started my search for by looking for words that might fit the bill in other languages. I’d enjoyed reading Howard Rheingold’s They Have a Word for It: A Lighthearted Lexicon of Untranslatable Words and Phrases and wondered if there was an equivalent dealing specifically with emotions. There was: The Book of Human Emotions: From Ambiguphobia to Umpty — 154 Words from Around the World for How We Feel by Tiffany Watt Smith, a research fellow at the Center for the History of the Emotions, Queen Mary University of London.

Watt Smith lists all words she considers as defining distinct emotions. There are a number of relevant ones in languages other than English. I’ll get to those below. But first, let me quote at length from the last relevant entry, Warm Glow. (Emphasis mine.)

Continue reading “A Few More Words – Part 1”

the Read Me post – Introduction and Table of Contents


The contents here can be divided into three groups:

  1. Tools for strengthening the tribe, i.e. ones connections to family and friends.
  2. Tools for building bridges. How do you communicate with our right- wing uncle or, if you’re the right wing uncle, your left-wing nephew.
  3. An attempt to develop a lexicon for the emotional underpinnings of cooperation and altruism.

There’s a more detailed Table of Contents below or you can click the category in the side panel to see all articles.

Why does this website exist?

Continue reading “the Read Me post – Introduction and Table of Contents”

Coalitional Instincts

John Tooby  –

Every human—not excepting scientists—bears the whole stamp of the human condition. This includes evolved neural programs specialized for navigating the world of coalitions—teams, not groups. (Although the concept of coalitional instincts has emerged over recent decades, there is no mutually-agreed-upon term for this concept yet.) These programs enable us and induce us to form, maintain, join, support, recognize, defend, defect from, factionalize, exploit, resist, subordinate, distrust, dislike, oppose, and attack coalitions. Coalitions are sets of individuals interpreted by their members and/or by others as sharing a common abstract identity (including propensities to act as a unit, to defend joint interests, and to have shared mental states and other properties of a single human agent, such as status and prerogatives).

Wilson quoting Stephen Crane

The Invisible Hook: How Pirate Society Proves Economic Self-Interest Wrong – 2017 December 21  – David Sloan Wilson

Stephen Crane in his short story “The Open Boat”20, based on a real-life experience in which a ship he was aboard sank off the coast of Florida and he found himself in a tiny dinghy with three other men, rowing for their lives toward the shore. Crane could have cared only for his own life, but that was not his psychological experience.

It would be difficult to describe the subtle brotherhood of men that was here established on the seas. No one said that it was so. No one mentioned it. But it dwelt in the boat, and each man felt it warm him. The were a captain, an oiler, a cook, and a correspondent, and they were friends—friends in a more curiously iron-bound degree than may be common. The hurt captain, lying against the water jar in the bow, spoke always in a low voice and calmly; but he could never command a more ready and swiftly obedient crew than the motley three of the dinghy. It was more than a mere recognition of what was best for the common safety. There was surely in it a quality that was personal and heart-felt. After this devotion to the commander of the boat, there was this comradeship, that the correspondent, for instant, who had been taught to be cynical of men, knew even at the time was the best experience of his life (p 353).

I can’t speak for pirates, but countless soldiers have told similar tales of devotion to their comrades during life and death situations and a psychological merging of the self with the group. This is called “fusion” in the psychological literature and is particularly strong in terrorist groups21.

Crane, S. (n.d.). The Open Boat. In Complete Short Stories and Sketches of Stephen Crane. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.