Psychology: recognition

More self-tutoring: the tutor discusses a group dynamic.

I’ve been traveling as a chaperone lately. Not often do I spend time on the road with a group, but this weekend I am.

An absolute necessity, when moving in a group, is that it stays together. Yet, with many other groups around as well, getting lost in the shuffle can happen. How do people avoid it?

One rule of thumb I’ve relearned this weekend is to notice a “key character” – often someone who wears a distinct coat or accessory. They’re easy to spot, which their cohorts soon realize. The entire group might be drawn – and kept – together by their recognition of that peculiar hat, shirt, shoes or coat worn by that key character. Just as likely, the key character doesn’t even realize they’ve become the lynchpin.

Recognizing a peculiarity of one of my groupmates, then seeking it and staying near, is how I got by as a kid. I’ve relearned the habit on this trip.

Thank you to all who wear distinct hats, coats, etc. You likely don’t realize how important you are:)


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

Psychology, lifestyle: what is eustress?

More lifestyle self-tutoring: the tutor shares the term eustress.

eustress noun:
a good kind of stress. An example of eustress is the anxiety one might feel while trying to set a new best time for a 5K run. Another is the elevated level of concern one might feel studying for – and then writing – an important exam.

Typically, eustress surrounds a situation the person voluntarily embarks. Furthermore, it likely has a decisive ending. The person perceives a benefit, so is willing to risk effort and uncertainty to gain it. The person believes that, by applying their own wherewithal, they are able to accomplish the objective.


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

Psychology: memory, part 0: why memory might be inaccurate

More self-tutoring: the tutor does initial probing about memory accuracy.

I’m sure I recall having confident memories that turned out wrong when I compared them to other evidence.

Today I read an article from the The New Yorker, by Maria Konnikova, in which she confronts the idea of inaccurate memory.

My understanding of Konnikova’s message is that when you have an emotionally charged memory, your awareness that it happened is strong, but you recall its surrounding details less particularly. However, you think you know virtually everything you experienced, since your memory that it happened, being emotionally fueled, is so strong.

So, with an emotionally important memory, while confidence that it happened might make sense, recall of its surrounding details is perhaps less trustworthy.

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

Psychology: Hallucinations: do they happen in ordinary situations?

With so much coverage these days about paranormal topics, I get immersed in self-tutoring. The tutor comments about the phenomenon of hallucinations.

Often, when someone mentions seeing something they can’t explain, you hear others say, “They probably just imagined it.”

I’ve never been a believer that people typically “just imagine” seeing things. Rather, if they are a truthful witness, I usually believe they saw something – probably something very similar to what they describe, if not exactly it.

I read a few articles about hallucinations today. One points out that, in fact, a hallucination may well be the brain’s filling of details in a picture it deems incomplete or unreal.

The idea of the article seems to be that people are much more likely to hallucinate something they expect to perceive, rather than something surprising.

Therefore, when someone (who is, once again, a truthful witness) does report seeing something surprising, but the situation seems, else-wise, to be normal, they (it seems to me) likely did see something surprising. It may not be exactly as they report, but surprising nonetheless. The brain’s tendency seems to be to hallucinate normal over top of abnormal, rather than the other way.


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

Computer science, English, philosophy: what is a schema?

Tutoring academic subjects, meanings are so important. The tutor shares ideas about the meaning of schema.

a description of a particular subset of reality. The schema will include members of that reality and their properties. It will also include the relationships between them.

A schema might often be shown as a diagram, table or flowchart in order to express the relationships among its members.

A truly good schema will not only describe reality accurately, but will suggest possible relationships before they have even been realized. Hence, schemata (plural of schema) are used not only for teaching, but also for research.

Mish, Frederick C. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 2004.

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

Psychology, probability: a parking game

Tutoring probability, you can imagine so many everyday examples. The tutor shares one.

This morning I went to pick up some groceries.

I like to load groceries through the rear door of the van. However, I also like to drive forward from a parking space, rather than backing up.

I arrived at the supermarket early, so there were many free parking spaces two deep: you could park in the first one or glide through to the second one, which faces an exit lane.

So here are the risks of the game:

  1. Park in the first row, forwards: you have definite access to your rear hatch but you will have to back out if someone parks in front of you.
  2. Park in the second row, forwards: you can definitely drive out forwards, but someone may park behind you, blocking your rear hatch.
  3. Park too close and the relevant possibility above (1 or 2) is much more likely; park further away and it takes longer to walk in and return (and I was, as always, in a hurry).

I opted for a fairly close spot and parked in the second row for guaranteed forward exit. However, I left two empty slots closer to the store. Would someone park behind me?

When I emerged, no one had parked behind me. However, someone had parked right beside me in the same manner as I, one space nearer the store. Obviously, they are willing to move a little closer to the edge.

Did someone park behind them? Who knows:) It’s interesting that they seem to calculate the situation very similarly to how I do:)

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

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.