Lifestyle: agoraphobia

More lifestyle self-tutoring: the tutor shares some reflections about his new favourite phobia, and his own possible ensnarement therein.

To some degree, I assume, we all face anxiety. Some people truly don’t seem to, but perhaps that’s just poise. I freely admit that I do get anxious sometimes, for no reason at all.

Agoraphobia I’ve heard of, but only today did I finally look up its meaning:

agoraphobia: tendency to avoid particular settings for fear of trouble or embarrassment that may happen there. The trouble typically means social difficulty, such as being trapped in a line-up.


I find it hard to imagine someone who doesn’t try to avoid situations of trouble or embarrassment.

I’ve got a bad case of agoraphobia. My family particularly notice it; here are some of my symptoms:

  1. I typically avoid travelling because I don’t like long waits, line-ups, being stuck in a plane for 6-10hrs, etc.
  2. I avoid parking in crowded lots, choosing instead to park further away where there’s more room. (This tendency my family really notice. My wife and younger son think it’s lame.)
  3. I try to avoid grocery shopping at peak times. (I went up one time during lunch break – I learned my lesson.)

In a given situation, agoraphobia can self-generate. Suppose, for instance, you go to a store at peak time. Naturally, you get trapped in a line-up. If you’re like me, now you feel embarrassed, standing there in line, because I should have known better than to shop at that time. If I’d been just a little more agoraphobic, I would have thought twice and planned the shopping better, so it happened outside a busy period.

In a way, it’s embarrassing to talk about this, but it’s also liberating. I’m just glad it’s out in the open:)


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Psychology: human preference of driving to walking

Tutoring psychology, you deal with concepts of motivation. The tutor discusses the human preference to drive rather than walk.

I’ve had a driver’s licence almost 30 years. Yet, I didn’t drive much as a kid, preferring to take the bus, walk, or bicycle.

Driving requires attention, with potentially serious consequences for not being sharp. Walking requires much less concentration, since it carries much less responsibility. In addition, walking offers more control and freedom than driving – you can walk across a field, for instance, rather than being bound to the road.

Driving seems natural to people who do it, but I doubt you could train an animal to drive. The decision-making that driving demands, is uniquely easy for a human.

Perhaps driving precisely mirrors the difference between humans and other animals. Humans have mental machinery that enables them to drive virtually effortlessly. Walking – which almost any land-based animal can do – is much more effort for a human than driving. The reason humans prefer driving to walking is that the human brain is constructed towards thinking, to the point that a human would rather think than put in physical effort.

An eccentric, I still prefer walking to driving, but less than before. With a twelve and fifteen-year-old, I have to drive so often, it gets more natural all the time.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Psychology: what “a fresh set of eyes” means, and what a stale pair can miss….

Psychology can lead to self-tutoring. The tutor brings up something he missed.

A few months after we moved into this house, we welcomed our first child – two years later, our second. Times were busy then.

I remember receiving a spice rack, then seeing it against the wall, in a corner, under one of the kitchen cupboards. It was a good place – out of the way, yet accessible. It doesn’t face outwards, but rather sideways. You can’t miss it, though, if you’re looking for it. I didn’t do much cooking back then, so its location wasn’t so prominent to me as it likely was to Diane.

Years passed. Eventually, for whatever reason, Diane started keeping spices in a drawer; it seems the spice rack on the counter fell from common use.

Attempting a recipe a couple of weeks ago, I needed ginger, but couldn’t find any in the drawer; I went ahead without it.

Today, standing in that corner of the kitchen, I noticed that spice rack, possibly for the first time in years. “How have I been missing it all this time?” I wondered. Remembering I hadn’t been able to find ginger, I scanned the rack’s two small shelves.

Most of its bottles are empty, probably long since. However, its ginger is two-thirds full.

The day I looked for ginger in the drawer, I never thought of that spice rack, because I’m not used to seeking spices there. I see it all the time, without noticing it. Why I noticed it today, all of a sudden – who knows?

Apparently, a person can develop a perception that might be difficult to break from, even to the point of ignoring obvious visual cues.

On detective shows you often hear of a case being given to a different investigator with “a fresh set of eyes.” The validity of the premise, to me, couldn’t be more obvious – especially after today.

So – what else am I missing?(!):)

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Cooking: the found recipe

Tutoring high school subjects, you learn about teenagers. The tutor tells a story about a recipe he found.

On a late-July day in 2013, walking around Robron Centre with my kids, I saw a photocopy lying on the deserted pavement. I knew at once it was a kid’s assignment, cast off with the school year that had ended a month earlier. I picked it up.

I guess there hadn’t been much rain since school had let out. The photocopy was in good condition, somewhat browned from the sun. It was a recipe, likely from a foods class. The title – Apple Coffee Cake – led into a description of the muffin method. The page had neither date nor name. In neat pen, much neater than my writing ever was, the student had answered all the questions following the recipe.

I decided to keep the recipe; I told my kids we’d make it at home. Not immediately, but sometime that fall, when school was already back in, we did. I’ve made it a few times since; my family likes it. The recipe is pinned to the fridge.

I’ve always wondered why the student, having completed that assignment, never handed it in. Likely, by now, they’ve either graduated or are just about to. Do they recall that recipe, that day in foods class, at all?

A teenager’s life is often more complex than an adult’s. Priorities can change invisibly, hour by hour. That’s how you end up with a carefully completed assignment, deserted in a school parking lot, never having earned any credit.

Let’s get those completed assignments in, people:)

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Psychology: the jnd (just noticeable difference)

The tutor brings up a curiosity from psychology.

Around 1860, a scientist named Gustav Fechner was interested in how physical input becomes mental experience – how sensation leads to perception. One of Fechner’s angles for studying that connection was the jnd – just noticeable difference.

A just noticeable difference is the quantity by which two stimuli must differ before the subject can tell them apart. An example is giving the subject two masses that are slightly different. By how much must they differ for the subject to know that one is heavier than the other?

Peoples’ typical jnd depends on what the stimulus is. However, it turns out that 1/30 of the first stimulus is a value for more than one jnd.

This is paragraph one of the two test paragraphs.

This is paragraph two; you may want to study them.

Can you notice the difference between the two test paragraphs?

I’ll be talking more about the fascinating jnd and other facets of psychology.


Weiten, Wyane. Psychology: Themes and Variations. Belmont: Wadsworth, Inc., 1992.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.