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How Much Science Should You Include When Learning Power Dynamics?

I revisited the article and thread today that Lucio wrote about learning:

This made me realise that I have been leaning towards using mainly personal experience and analysis when learning power dynamics.
Hence, I may be fooled by randomness to a certain degree.

My experience in using science with people has mainly been in marketing.
Observing the behaviour of people through metrics for example.
Though I would not say my experience is extensive by any means in terms of breadth and depth.

Learning Indirectly Through Science

However, I learn from this website, Power University, books, people who use science to a certain degree.
So I am indirectly learning from science and applying the principles which have a scientific basis.

As such, it is possible for me to rely on analysis and critical thinking skills to weed out unscientific resources.
And people who claim that, from experience, it works and they have analysed their experiences without scientific grounding.
We all do that to a certain degree but we should weed out people who exaggerate how their principles apply to others.

My posts on this forum have been quite unscientific too.
I have relied on personal experience, analysis, critical thinking and intuition.

Power University's Career Assessment

I took a look at Power University's Career Assessment guide.
It strikes me as a good template to quantify how well you are doing in terms of career and business.
Maybe a good exercise to do every now and then to spot blindspots & areas of improvement.

Science for Yourself

Maybe quantifying things on a large scale, social experiments, are challenging in many areas of power dynamics.
Especially power relations.

So I am thinking I can quantify how things work for myself at least.
That is much more manageable and under my control.

I could keep a front-page table on a journal to keep track of

  • Aggressive comments (Ranked more than 5 on a scale of 1-10)
  • Power moves

And my responses against those power moves.
Then label based on my feeling of how that interaction affected the power in the relationship.

Should I Focus on the Quantitative Aspect?

The qualitative way of learning power dynamics seems to be going well.
Personal experience + Analysis.
Though I am not sure if I am having any strong biases and am missing out on anything.

Focusing on the qualitative aspect helps with the bigger picture though.
Getting too scientific like the article on learning can make you too mired into the day-to-day dynamics.
Steering the power dynamics towards my long-term personal goals may be what's most essential.

The power dynamics principles from ThePowerMoves also seem to generalise very well across different social circles.
If one day I enter a social setting that I am completely lost, it could be an interesting experience to learn from.

it depends on the individual, I'd say.

In learning social-related skills, I'd rank experience before science provided that one has a good enough intuition.

Without at least some good intuition to start with, experience does absolutely nothing because people would do poorly and poorly, without drawing any lesson from it.

Quote from Matthew Whitewood on May 9, 2021, 9:19 am

As such, it is possible for me to rely on analysis and critical thinking skills to weed out unscientific resources.
And people who claim that, from experience, it works and they have analysed their experiences without scientific grounding.
We all do that to a certain degree but we should weed out people who exaggerate how their principles apply to others.

Yes, science isn't just about this or that research, it's about grasping the method and the logic.

That way, you can make the most of your own experience, and assess the various teachers/authors.

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Matthew Whitewood
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Without at least some good intuition to start with, experience does absolutely nothing because people would do poorly and poorly, without drawing any lesson from it.

Before learning any framework for power dynamics, I would say that I may not even reach a satisfactory level after many years.
Or I may become even more biased thinking that emotional intelligence was the main factor in climbing hierarchies.
I don't have a natural feel for power dynamics.
The frameworks on this website really were shortcuts.

In the sense, you did the heavy lifting of combining the 3 pillars into comprehensive frameworks.
Once the rough mental model is in play, it becomes much easier.
It's a matter of tweaking rather than trying to form mental models.
The forum feedback makes the tweaking go in the right direction.

Learning with Science

I probably confused the difference between learning and innovating new ideas with science.
Although as one progresses in the learning journey, they go hand-in-hand.

Learning-wise, I can evaluate the framework based on the scientific methods, logic & statistics used to arrive at the conclusions.
For example, I can look out for numbers and studies in books to evaluate their scientific rigour.
If I'm willing to go the extra mile, I can try to replicate the results but most of the time I don't need to go to that extent.

Innovating new ideas is more complex.
Then greater scientific rigour is needed to avoid coming out with a biased model.
Which you mentioned philosophers tend to do.

Power Dynamics Axioms

This makes me think about certain axioms in power dynamics that don't require scientific backing or proving.
For example, frames are probably one of the fundamentals in power dynamics.
Many power dynamics principles are built on frames. Maybe all.
As such, we don't need to prove that frame exists.

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Lucio Buffalmano

Yes, for some things that one has already grasped and that he is successfully "seeing" and consciously using/influencing in real life, science serves as "confirmation".

WHEN RESEARCH CONFIRMS

So imagine tomorrow one experiment on frames says "this guy who uses frame imposing all the times bent others to his will 80% of the times as measured by XYZ, but over the long run he's lost social capital because people resented him, as measured by questionnaires we administered before and after the interactions".
Then you'd think "yeah, that makes sense... It confirmed what I already knew".

The value added is little because you knew that and had already experienced it and internalized it.

In a way, TPM could start doing some of that research and then claim a title of "research center".
It might be a smart business move, too.
But then it would move much slower, and in large part confirming rather than finding out.
I think there's much more value to be added right now by expanding on new territories rather than confirming and "fortifying through research" what's already been laid out.

WHEN IT CONFIRMS AND ADDS SOME NEW INFO

Probably more often than not though, even a "confirmation" does add at least some value.

For example, science confirming the shorter-term lover / longer-term provider.

It also added value by showing that longer-term also has comparative advantages and can work better in some situations (something that a good chunk of the dating coaches miss on).

WHEN SCIENCE DOES A DIFFERENCE

There are however also plenty of areas in which science adds value.

There are several golden researches or even books that list & summarize hundreds of studies, and those have been eye-opening for some TPM lessons & PU.

One is leadership, where it takes longer to grow experience, and people tend to stick to one style, so it's more challenging to generalize and compare.

Also, the laymen's leadership literature is largely hot air while research was enlightening.

WHEN THE MIX IS BEST

And of course, in many scenarios you'll have all 3 pillars, and then it's best of all.

For example, through both experience/observation and personal inclination, I think I've grown quite skilled at spotting/describing/providing examples and teaching Machiavellianism in a way that can help people become more effective at life.

But now that I've been focusing on the available scientific literature, I've grown an even deeper understanding, including the downsides of Machiavellianism and possible solutions.
That will make the upcoming article/lesson both grounded in solid science, and groundbreaking with the examples, mindsets and "steps" to grow a "Machiavellian intelligence".

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Matthew Whitewood
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thanks a lot for sharing these detailed insights!
It's making me think about how I approach learning and discovery.

Research Going Against Our Intuition Can Be Valuable

This makes me think that looking for research going against our intuition may be what's more value-adding.
For example, the research that CEOs may not have the highest EQ was eye-opening to me.
Then you dug deeper and analysed that CEOs probably have a good feel for people but are focused on winning and getting things done.

Doing Literature Review Harnasses the Value of Science

The first thing that came to mind in science was making hypotheses, conducting experiments & measuring things.
However, as you explained further, reading up on what people have built is also science.
After all, science could not have advanced if people were re-inventing the wheel all the time.
We have to trust what's out there to a certain degree.

Handling New Evidence Against One's Intuition

When there's new evidence that goes against the current literature & frameworks, one should always be open towards re-evaluating one's own experience and mental models.

Though we have to think whether

  • Our Misinterpretation - It's our misinterpretation of how this evidence fits into the framework
  • Using the Wrong Framework - We could be using the wrong angle to look at this new evidence
  • Disruptive - This evidence entirely contradicts the current frameworks.
    We have to re-look at the foundational principles.
  • Incremental - We can expand the framework to explain this new evidence

Going Into Challenging, Complex, Unknown Social Situations

WHEN SCIENCE DOES A DIFFERENCE

There are however also plenty of areas in which science adds value.

There are several golden researches or even books that list & summarize hundreds of studies, and those have been eye-opening for some TPM lessons & PU.

One is leadership, where it takes longer to grow experience, and people tend to stick to one style, so it's more challenging to generalize and compare.

Also, the laymen's leadership literature is largely hot air while research was enlightening.

This is probably why when it comes to complex social situations, preparation, learning and thinking could take precedence over relying on one's intuition.
Science and critical analysis come first.

Which goes back to your insights into power intelligence.
Building a billion-dollar company probably requires more strategic thinking over feeling, the emotional intelligence aspect.

If I'm going to a media interview the first time, probably it's best for me to do lots of preparation, reading relevant books and dress rehearsals with a coach.
I don't think I can rely on personal experience and my own critical analyses.

For daily interactions, my intuition/feeling may be better suited for navigating things smoothly and effectively.
I could rely more on personal experience and some on-the-spot critical analysis.

Reminds me of the book Thinking Fast and Slow.
I would like to read this book when I find the time.
I should read your recommended books on achieving mastery too like Peak.

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Lucio Buffalmano
Quote from Matthew Whitewood on May 11, 2021, 7:04 am

Research Going Against Our Intuition Can Be Valuable

This makes me think that looking for research going against our intuition may be what's more value-adding.
For example, the research that CEOs may not have the highest EQ was eye-opening to me.
Then you dug deeper and analysed that CEOs probably have a good feel for people but are focused on winning and getting things done.

Doing Literature Review Harnasses the Value of Science

The first thing that came to mind in science was making hypotheses, conducting experiments & measuring things.
However, as you explained further, reading up on what people have built is also science.
After all, science could not have advanced if people were re-inventing the wheel all the time.
We have to trust what's out there to a certain degree.

Yes, both great points.

In the specifics of EI, emotional intelligence tests contain items that do not discern well between understanding the emotional dynamics side of interpersonal relationships, focusing on it, and generally being a "good" prosocial person.
So pro-social folks who focus more on it tend to score higher compared to those who may understand it equally well, but don't heavily focus on it -or use it for more selfish ends-.
That's where so far it failed -or gave misleading results-.

That also tells you that some scales and measures might sound very scientific, but unless you understand the concepts and what you're going to measure, science at times might lead you astray until corrected (a third case I guess? When science is counterproductive :).

And yes, absolutely on the second part as well.
There is probably far more scope for impact and value creation in leveraging the already created science, than in conducting it in the day-to-day.

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Matthew Whitewood
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on May 11, 2021, 11:45 pm

In the specifics of EI, emotional intelligence tests contain items that do not discern well between understanding the emotional dynamics side of interpersonal relationships, focusing on it, and generally being a "good" prosocial person.
So pro-social folks who focus more on it tend to score higher compared to those who may understand it equally well, but don't heavily focus on it -or use it for more selfish ends-.
That's where so far it failed -or gave misleading results-.

Thanks for sharing this.
It looks like it could be our typical definition and interpretation of emotional intelligence that causes the issue.
As such, when we conduct tests, we tend to put questions like

  • How well do you empathise with another person's feelings?
  • Do you often consider facts before emotions?
  • Do your friends consider you to be empathetic?

We don't ask questions like

  • When someone is trying to manipulate you, are you able to detect it?
  • Are you able to use aggression appropriately when needed in interpersonal relationships?
  • Can you navigate value-taking relationships for long-term interests?

These are questions testing how well a person is able to navigate manipulative and aggressive behaviour in relationships.
Having a pro-social nature is insufficient for navigating relationships including these behaviours.
We can go further and argue that it takes even more finesse.
I mean it's quite easy to talk to friendly folks, isn't it?

That also tells you that some scales and measures might sound very scientific, but unless you understand the concepts and what you're going to measure, science at times might lead you astray until corrected (a third case I guess? When science is counterproductive :).

I find this very true.
We can say that this is a case of

  • evaluating the wrong hypothesis very well and
  • measuring the wrong thing very precisely & robustly.

If we live in an ideal world where everyone has solid critical analysis and critical thinking skills, these type of studies would not be counterproductive.
I guess they would still be because bad hypotheses waste time and add clutter to the scientific repository.

An analogy would be having a fragile self-image but doing very well to build your self-esteem upon that self-image.

For example, this website gives raw, honest feedback on books.
The bad books get bad reviews.
This is value-adding because we as the readers don't add bad mental models to our minds primarily
We also save time.

HOW TO LEARN SOMETHING NEW BASED ON THE 3 PILLARS

This was an informative discussion.
Learning is complex.
Though I feel that we can boil it down to a few steps when picking up something new.

  1. Stand on the Shoulders of Giants - Learn Existing Knowledge
    Leverage science, existing knowledge bases to build up foundational knowledge.
    Get an idea of the framework although you may not have the feeling aspect of what to do, aka intuition.
  2. Develop a Map, Preferably Get a Coach
    Get a coach to guide you if you are serious and want to learn fast.
    Scott Young from Ultralearning advises developing a map of how to learn.
    Though if you are a beginner, I don't think it's easy to develop a map.
    It was much easier for me to jump right onto Power University and use Lucio's map.
    You also avoid forming bad mental models and practising wrongly which solidifies bad habits.
  3. Build Intuition, Good Habits & Mental Shortcuts with Deliberate Practice Through Personal Experience & Observation
    Once you have a rough foundational knowledge, personal experience and observation become increasingly important.
    This helps you make sense, build intuition, and build good habits, meaning you don't have to think.
    Peak helps to give the breakdown on how to practise with an objective to maximise improvements.

    For a field with no codified training like Power Dynamics, I can emulate Lucio's training and what makes him good.
    For example, keep a journal, keep an eye out on power dynamics in movies, people watch, etc.

  4. Use Critical Thinking and Analysis On Every Step of the Way
    Essential to choose the coach that suits you best.
    Tailor your learning journey according to your personality, time commitments, etc.

Maybe my mental model of learning will change when I read more books like the ones Lucio recommended for mastery.

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Lucio Buffalmano