Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Mental Sets

In my cognitive psychology class we are learning about problem solving and creativity. Today, I got to see it first hand.

One of the biggest road blocks to creative problem solving is mental sets (using the same solution that worked in previous problems even though the target problem could be solved more efficiently another way).


CSI and ISU have had a long standing contract to help Magic Valley students get their bachelor's degrees (and beyond). One of the ways that was devised was a big bus to transport people from Twin Falls to Pocatello and back. A great idea!

Recently, a competing idea is taking a chunk out of the bus program. ISU is now trying to bring more class to the CSI campus through adjunct faculty and telecommunications systems. It is an even better idea!

The problem:

ISU transportation department has been losing money on the Twin Falls commuter bus, and wants to stop that service. Unfortunately, the transition to bringing 4-year degree programs to the CSI campus is lagging behind schedule, leaving students in a bind.

Twin Falls students are able to get their AA degree at CSI, and ISU honors it in full, so that leaves just two years to have to travel. Since they have some classes at CSI, the students only have to travel a few days a week (well, unless you were me this semester and the classes you had to have trapped you into a 5-day-a-week schedule). Not as many people from Twin have to ride the bus as often, and many choose to drive. Unfortunately, the cost of living is skyrocketing, and it would be nice to have a better means of transportation.

No one wants to do the work necessary to find out how to FIX the problem.

I just got out of a meeting between Twin Falls/Burley bus riders (Only three of us in attendance are from Twin, the others are from Burley) and the ISU transportation department. My main comment was that research needed to be done to ascertain the needs of the typical student who has to travel to ISU for classes. Many people are driving/carpooling from Twin Falls to Pocatello for classes, and we need to know why!

Is it cost? It can't be, the bus actually costs less to ride than my 40mpg car.

Is it scheduling? It was and is for me! In order to ride the bus, I have to be at the bus stop at 5:20 a.m., and I don't get home until 6:15 MWF and 7:15 T/Th. I am only taking 13 credits worth of classes, but I have to come 5 days a week. People have told me I should consider work study to fill my time. I would prefer to fill my time taking care of what needs to be done at home: doing errands, cleaning house, getting my car some maintenance and taking care of my kids' needs. When I get home, I am beat. I have time to fix a frozen dinner and go to bed. Many businesses are already closed, so I can't really do errands. It sucks.

Am I the only one who feels that way? Who knows? No one has done any research on the problem to find out.

How many people actually know about and understand the bus system? It took me a really long time to find the Twin Falls bus schedule, and when I did, it was too late to arrange my classes around that schedule. The following two semesters found me traveling to ISU just two days a week, and though the bus was cheaper, I didn't like the hours. I chose to drive. Next semester I will only have to come one day a week. I will probably drive, because the Burley people don't want change!

One of my suggestions was to do some research. If it is found that people are driving to avoid being stranded in Pocatello instead of being with their kids, then a change in bus schedules would help. Apparently it won't help the Burley students. They say no way.

Their solution? We'll pay more. The thing is, they can't pay enough more to make up for the losses the bus has experienced through loss of riders.

I think a couple of us (from Twin of course) offered suggestions that might help. Advertise was the main suggestion, fix the web page was another, and please, do some research and find out why people aren't riding. Throwing money at a failing system will only fail. Fix the problem! Before you can fix the problem, you have to remove yourself from your mental set! It is so hard to do.

Will they? I see no evidence of it.

Why should they? The transportation department doesn't need the headache! The students are holding their breath hoping that the bus will continue long enough to get their degrees. What about the next group of students? Shouldn't we be considering them in the equation?

Burley students are upset, and they should be. ISU will eventually have enough 4-year programs that Twin Falls students won't need to go - unless they want a graduate degree. I don't see a high percentage doing that. When that happens, Burley students will be caught in the middle (almost exactly) and will still have an hour drive to get their education. It is hard to feel sorry for them. I have to go twice as far and spend twice as much time doing it.

I hope clearer heads prevail! I would really hate to see the Twin Falls bus - created 30 years ago - cancelled now.

Does that sound like a rant? Well, it is! This is also my 2nd post of the day, 3rd post of the month!

How do you like my new archive calender? I love it. I have been looking for a blogger archive calendar widget forever! I found it at Phydeaux3, a blog I found reading Blogger Buster which is a blog I intend to use this summer when I work really hard to revamp the old blog and make it as pretty as the universe it exists in.

What Would You Do?

In my experimental psychology class we got to experiment! My group chose to do a questionnaire that listed eight scenarios that one might actually encounter in his or her life. Half were positive scenarios, half negative. The scenarios were followed by a situation that most people will encounter at some point in their lives, and given three choices as to how they would respond. We hypothesized that when people read the positive scenarios they would choose more pro-social responses to the situation and when they read the negative scenarios they would choose more negative responses to the situation.

When we wrote the situations, we borrowed one from the tv show What Would You Do?. In this scenario, a homeless person was being harassed by a group of kids. In the tv show, most people walked by without offering any assistance. In our situation, participants were given three choices, confront the group of kids, call 911, or walk by like you didn't see it. Most people chose to confront the kids.

Apparently, what we think we would do is different than what we would actually do. One explanation why people don't help when they should is the bystander effect. But I suspect that there is another reason why people don't step in.


The Saturday night before Easter, I went to K-mart to get the manicure tool I used on my aluminum sculpture. I had just gotten out of my car when I heard a small child crying and screaming in pain and fear. He was being scolded by an older man. I looked to see what was going on and the man had this child, who couldn't have been more than two years old, by the hand jerking him forward 4-5 feet at a time. "This is abuse!" I said to myself. What would I do?

I did confront the man. I told him that he was abusing the child and to stop. He looked at me and started charging toward me. "What are you going to do about it, huh?" he preened.

I had just purchased a new razor phone with video, and that would have been perfect, except I left it at home. Instead, I pointed to his car and said "I'm going to take your license plate number and turn you in to health and welfare!" This calmed the man a great deal who apologized to me and the child, made up excuses as to why he would behave so badly and that the child was his grandson. I considered following him home to tell the parents, but I didn't. Why?

Because I was scared out of my wits!

It took me a full two hours to calm down from that confrontation. If I saw a group of kids harassing a homeless person, I would think real hard about confronting them. It would depend on the kids. If you confronted the wrong group of kids, they would come after you, wouldn't they? I think 911 would be the option of choice - if you didn't leave your phone at home.

Would I step in if I thought the person's life was in jeopardy? Probably. I don't know how I couldn't. But that's me, and I've been hit by bigger people than me and lived to tell about it. But who knows?

So there it is - fear!

The joke around the house after I got my new phone was that when I saw scenarios like the ones in the experiment that I would hold the phone up and shout "I HAVE VIDEO!" Of course, the one time when I actually stepped in, I didn't have video.

By the way - the results of the experiment were interesting and somewhat counter-intuitive! People made more pro-social choices after reading the negative scenarios than positive. I was quite surprised, and did some research. It turns out that there is a little research that suggests that when people take a hit to their ego, they respond in a way the reaffirms their self concept. I was just excited to get a significant result, even if it didn't uphold our hypothesis!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Got a dirty mouth?

I think I cuss a lot less on my blog than in real life. No one can prove that, though, because real life speaking is not permanently recorded (unless someone has a video!) Cheese and crackers! I can't even write inside jokes on my blog because I haven't written enough! I'll have to work on that.

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou