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Nikki_Olson comments on Scientific Self-Help: The State of Our Knowledge - Less Wrong

138 Post author: lukeprog 20 January 2011 08:44PM

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Comment author: Nikki_Olson 21 January 2011 10:50:56PM *  1 point [-]

"As Christopher Buckley (1999) writes, "The more people read [self-help books], the more they think they need them... [it's] more like an addiction than an alliance.""

'Addiction' strikes me as the wrong way of characterizing the relation.

Comment author: gwern 22 January 2011 12:13:12AM 0 points [-]

Something that increases the need for itself sounds like an addiction to me. Or do you disagree that self-help books increase the desire to use self-help books?

Comment author: wedrifid 22 January 2011 11:57:32PM 0 points [-]

Something that increases the need for itself sounds like an addiction to me.

Assuming it comes along with near irresistible compulsion or physical withdrawal symptoms.

Comment author: Nikki_Olson 22 January 2011 07:54:04AM *  0 points [-]

What is 'increasing the need for itself' when it comes to self-help books? I don't know what that means. Buying more and more? How do you isolate variables enough in experimental design to separate out 'addiction' from 'increasing interest' in this case?

And what is the source of pleasure in self-help? The narcissism? The feeling of being less lost? How do you measure 'feelings of being less lost' as a variable and isolate it as an effect of the books and not from other processes that go on when someone is at a contemplative/reflective point in life?

And besides, getting into a 'way of looking at the world' and then reading more and more about it in attempt to try and get the 'right view' or the 'best view' is a process that could be said to describe other acts more benignly associated with 'trying to figure things out'. Seems to me that 'dependency' is not an entailed/always present feature of the above process.

Comment author: gwern 22 January 2011 02:15:49PM 2 points [-]

And what is the source of pleasure in self-help? The narcissism? The feeling of being less lost?

Fake utility, perhaps - the illusion of progress. Like someone playing World of Warcraft who feels, deep down, that they are accomplishing something more than in their real life and as their real life degenerates in part due to WoW, feels ever more like playing WoW is a good idea.