Metacognition In COVID19 Isolation

The mighty Peter McAsh shared a link to Yale’s most popular course: The Science of Well Being, which is designed to address the psychological misconceptions we all labour under that have produced some of the worst depression in human historyLaurie Santos, the professor running the course, describes the course (which has since become Yale’s most popular) as a necessary response to the plunging rates of happiness in her students.  It’s free on Coursera right now.


I’m only a day in and it has already raised a number of interesting questions around how I approach things.  I’m currently watching Martin Seligman’s TEDtalk on positive psychology:


It’s worth your time.  Seligman was a pivotal researcher into applying psychology to finding happiness rather than just treating illness.  I’ve since been sucked into Dan Gilbert’s The Surprising Science of Happiness.  Dan’s book was suggested in the course.  In his TEDtalk he’s hard pitching the idea that our reflexive over estimation of outcomes to our choices makes us select things that make us less happy – we overestimate the opportunities choice gives us and it seldom makes us happy.  He gives the example of Harvard students who select a course that gives them more choice, but those choices produced a lot of unhappy students.  This has some interesting ramifications in a world where choice is considered a sacred right, whether it’s choice of government, partner or anything else.  We’ve designed our society around choice, but choice is a mechanism that defies happiness.


If we’re pre-programmed to select for choice (which I suspect is another word for control), and more choice makes us less happy, then we’re pre-set to make ourselves less happy.  Our consumerist economic system and our democratic systems are designed to make us less happy – and they’re working.


That I’m looking at this at a time when everyone feels hard done by due to their individual freedoms being curtailed by the COVID19 pandemic is pretty ironic.  Perhaps people will find some happiness in their lack of choice, but soon enough that’ll all be forgotten as we struggle to restart all the social systems that are strangling us.






Some post apocalyptic music by Sturgill Simpson helps frame the situation…

Make Art Not Friends

Lookin’ out the window
At a world on fire
Flames see the end is near
Seen all the sights
Tired of the lights
So you can let me off right here

This town’s getting crowded
Truth’s been shrouded
Think it’s time to change up the sound

Yeah, the wheels keep turning
The flames get higher
Another cycle rolls around

Face in the mirror’s all skin and bone
Bloodshot eyes and a heart of stone
Never again, I’d rather be alone
Think I’m gonna just stay home
And make art, not friends

I love saying “No” to all the “Yes” men
Just to see the look on their face
I love how everybody knows what’s best
But nobody knows their place

Sucker every second, stack ’em up to the sky
For every winner there’s a hundred that die
So you get yours, stay out of mine
Here’s to the memories, where do I sign?

Face in the mirror’s all skin and bone
Bloodshot eyes and a heart of stone
Never again, I’d rather be alone
Think I’m gonna just stay home
And make art, not friends

Oh it’s getting hard to find a good friend
So close the door behind you
Falling when more come in
Nobody writes, nobody calls
Nobody bother ’cause I’m over it all

Face in the mirror’s all skin and bone
Bloodshot eyes and a heart of stone
Never again, I’d rather be alone
Think I’m gonna just stay home
Think about my friends




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