Sunday, October 30, 2011

Disable Text Shadow Blur Effects in Windows Vista

Recent problem in Windows Vista
Blurry text in all applications including Chrome Browser, IE9, Firefox, IBM Lotus Symphony, and others.
The text display was blurred by a greyish shadow behind the main text.
Made it very difficult to read and was just generally annoying.
The problem is not in the browser or other windows applications.
It is a setting in Vista performance options.

Here's the fix:

Fix for annoying text shadow effect in windows Vista.

Control Panel
Advanced system settings
Performance settings
uncheck everything except
Smooth edges of screen fonts and Use visual styles on window and buttons
Or just click adjust for best performance.

Shadows go away in all applications and browsers under windows Vista.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Why Do People Believe Nonsense? and Why It's Not Always Their Fault.

DRAFT version NOVEMBER 21, 2011

 Psychological Manipulation and Extra-rational Persuasion

Most people are familiar with rational discussion and persuasion though straightforward reasoning. However, there are extra-rational means of persuasion and behavior modification that may be described as psychological manipulation. Psychological manipulation uses an array of sophisticated methods and means of influence to get people to believe things and take actions that are not based on rational thought processes.

Many people fall victim to this type of manipulation every day.  Human vulnerability to extra-rational persuasion provides a partial answer to the often asked question: Why do people believe nonsense?

It may be difficult to read some of the material presented here, but if you understand the techniques of psychological manipulation, you can protect yourself from being victimized.

The material below is a collection of important information on psychological manipulation that everyone should know about. Much of the information presented here, but not all, is based on published literature and some excellent wikipedia articles which are excerpted liberally in the following. 

Many may consider the use of such techniques to be unethical.  Much harm has been done to people, families, and communities who have been victimized by unethical practitioners of psychological manipulation.  In the extreme, dangerous psychopathic individuals use tools of psychological manipulation to choose and then attack their victims.

 The information below will empower you to protect yourself and others. 
Do not use it for evil. Ok? Good. 

First symptoms, warning signs, and red flags.

Warning signs of manipulation:

Behavioral changes
Uncharacteristic opinion changes
Uncharacteristic statements
Promotion of ideologically aligned persons, organizations, literature.
Assumption of uncharacteristic behaviors, style of dress, inappropriate displays.

More on psychological manipulation and control in references below. Includes books by Simon and Braiker.  Links to wiki articles. These have been exerpted and quoted more or less verbatim in much of the following.

Psychological Manipulation and Control

Psychological manipulation is a type of social influence that aims to change the perception or behavior of others through underhanded, deceptive, or even abusive tactics. By advancing the interests of the manipulator, often at the other's expense, such methods could be considered exploitative, abusive, devious, and deceptive.

Social influence is not necessarily negative. For example, doctors can try to persuade patients to change unhealthy habits. Social influence is generally perceived to be harmless when it respects the right of the influenced to accept or reject it, and is not unduly coercive.

Depending on the context and motivations, social influence may constitute underhanded manipulation.

Requirements for successful manipulation

According to George K. Simon, A successful psychological manipulator will remain covert while:

Concealing aggressive intentions and behaviors.

Learning the psychological vulnerabilities of the victim.

Assessing what tactics are likely to be the most effective.

Psychological traits of the manipulator

Having a sufficient level of ruthlessness to have no qualms about causing harm to the victim if necessary.

Covert personality (relational aggressive or passive aggressive).

Ranging to psychopathology.

How manipulators control their victims

According to Braiker

Braiker identified the following basic ways that manipulators control their victims:

positive reinforcement - includes praise, superficial charm, superficial sympathy (crocodile tears), excessive apologizing; money, approval, gifts; attention, facial expressions such as a forced laugh or smile; public recognition.
negative reinforcement - includes nagging, yelling, the silent treatment, intimidation, threats, swearing, emotional blackmail, the guilt trap, sulking, crying, and playing the victim.

intermittent or partial reinforcement - Partial or intermittent negative reinforcement can create an effective climate of fear and doubt. Partial or intermittent positive reinforcement can encourage the victim to persist - for example in most forms of gambling, the gambler is likely to win now and again but still lose money overall.

Punishment traumatic one-trial learning - using verbal abuse, explosive anger, or other intimidating behavior to establish dominance or superiority; even one incident of such behavior can condition or train victims to avoid upsetting, confronting or contradicting the manipulator.

I would include speech content censorship, self-censorship, politically correct speech, and related forms of communication control as forms of psychological manipulation.

According to Simon

Simon identified the following manipulative techniques:

Lying: It is hard to tell if somebody is lying at the time they do it although often the truth may be apparent later when it is too late. One way to minimize the chances of being lied to is to understand that some personality types (particularly psychopaths) are experts at the art of lying and cheating, doing it frequently, and often in subtle ways.

Lying by omission: This is a very subtle form of lying by withholding a significant amount of the truth. This technique is also used in propaganda.

Denial: Manipulator refuses to admit that he or she has done something wrong.

Rationalization: An excuse made by the manipulator for inappropriate behavior. Rationalization is closely related to spin.

Minimization: This is a type of denial coupled with rationalization. The manipulator asserts that his or her behavior is not as harmful or irresponsible as someone else was suggesting, for example saying that a taunt or insult was only a joke.

Selective inattention or selective attention: Manipulator refuses to pay attention to anything that may distract from his or her agenda, saying things like "I don't want to hear it".

Diversion: Manipulator not giving a straight answer to a straight question and instead being diversionary, steering the conversation onto another topic.

Evasion: Similar to diversion but giving irrelevant, rambling, vague responses, weasel words.
Covert intimidation: Manipulator throwing the victim onto the defensive by using veiled (subtle, indirect or implied) threats.

Guilt tripping: A special kind of intimidation tactic. A manipulator suggests to the conscientious victim that he or she does not care enough, is too selfish or has it easy. This usually results in the victim feeling bad, keeping them in a self-doubting, anxious and submissive position.

Shaming: Manipulator uses sarcasm and put-downs to increase fear and self-doubt in the victim. Manipulators use this tactic to make others feel unworthy and therefore defer to them. Shaming tactics can be very subtle such as a fierce look or glance, unpleasant tone of voice, rhetorical comments, subtle sarcasm. Manipulators can make one feel ashamed for even daring to challenge them. It is an effective way to foster a sense of inadequacy in the victim.

Playing the victim role ("poor me"): Manipulator portrays him- or herself as a victim of circumstance or of someone else's behavior in order to gain pity, sympathy or evoke compassion and thereby get something from another. Caring and conscientious people cannot stand to see anyone suffering and the manipulator often finds it easy to play on sympathy to get cooperation.

Vilifying the victim: More than any other, this tactic is a powerful means of putting the victim on the defensive while simultaneously masking the aggressive intent of the manipulator.

Playing the servant role: Cloaking a self-serving agenda in guise of a service to a more noble cause, for example saying he is acting in a certain way for "obedience" and "service" to political party, agenda, or ideology. Invoking external authority.

Seduction: Manipulator uses charm, praise, flattery or overtly supporting others in order to get them to lower their defenses and give their trust and loyalty to him or her.

The pied-piper seduces by charming music and manner. Hypnotizes his victims and leads them to their doom.

Projecting the blame (blaming others): Manipulator scapegoats in often subtle, hard to detect ways.

Feigning innocence: Manipulator tries to suggest that any harm done was unintentional, or blankly denies the accusation. Manipulator may put on a look of surprise or indignation. This tactic makes the victim question his or her own judgment and possibly his own sanity.

Feigning confusion: Manipulator tries to play dumb by pretending he or she does not know what you are talking about or is confused about an important issue brought to his attention.

Brandishing anger: A widely used technique of control and intimidation. Lack of civility is an act. Manipulator uses anger to brandish sufficient emotional intensity and rage to shock the victim into submission. The manipulator is not actually angry, he or she just puts on an act. He just wants what he wants and gets "angry" when denied.

Vulnerabilities are exploited by manipulators

According to Braiker, manipulators exploit the following vulnerabilities (buttons) that may exist in victims:

the "disease to please"
addiction to earning the approval and acceptance of others
Emotophobia (fear of negative emotion)
lack of assertiveness and ability to say no
blurry sense of identity (with soft personal boundaries)
low self-reliance
external locus of control

According to Simon, manipulators exploit the following vulnerabilities that may exist in victims:

naïveté - victim finds it too hard to accept the idea that some people are cunning, devious and ruthless or is "in denial" if he or she is being victimized.

over-conscientiousness - victim is too willing to give manipulator the benefit of the doubt and see their side of things in which they blame the victim.

low self-confidence - victim is self-doubting, lacking in confidence and assertiveness, likely to go on the defensive too easily.

over-intellectualization - victim tries too hard to understand and believes the manipulator has some understandable reason to be hurtful.

emotional dependency - victim has a submissive or dependent personality. The more emotionally dependent the victim is, the more vulnerable he or she is to being exploited and manipulated.

Manipulators generally take the time to scope out the characteristics and vulnerabilities of their victim.

According to Kantor the following are vulnerable to psychopathic manipulators:

too trusting - people who are honest often assume that everyone else is honest. They commit themselves to people they hardly know without checking credentials, etc. They rarely question so-called experts. Trust but verify.

too altruistic - the opposite of psychopathic; too honest, too fair, too empathetic

too impressionable - overly seduced by charmers. For example, they might vote for the phony politician who kisses babies.

too naïve - cannot believe there are dishonest people in the world or if there were they would not be allowed to operate.

too masochistic - lack of self-respect and unconsciously let psychopaths take advantage of them. They think they deserve it out of a sense of guilt.

too narcissistic - narcissists are prone to falling for unmerited flattery.

too greedy - the greedy and dishonest may fall prey to a psychopath who can easily entice them to act in an immoral way.

too immature - has impaired judgment and believes the exaggerated advertising claims.

too materialistic - easy prey for loan sharks or get-rich-quick schemes

too dependent - dependent people need to be loved and are therefore gullible and liable to say yes to something to which they should say no.

too lonely - lonely people may accept any offer of human contact. A psychopathic stranger may offer human companionship for a price.

too impulsive - make snap decisions about, for example, what to buy or whom to marry without consulting others.

too frugal - cannot say no to a bargain even if they know the reason why it is so cheap
the elderly - the elderly can become fatigued and less capable of multi-tasking. When hearing a sales pitch they are less likely to consider that it could be a con. They are prone to giving money to someone with a hard-luck story. See elder abuse.

Motivations of manipulators are often Evil

Manipulators have an array of possible motivations, including:
The their need to advance their own purposes and personal gain at virtually any cost to others.
A strong need to attain feelings of power and superiority in relationships with others.
A desire and psychological need to feel in control (aka. control freakery).
To compensate feelings of inferiority by gaining a feeling of power over others in order to raise self-esteem.

A collection of motivations that make for a dangerous person. 
Can manipulators be psychopaths?

Basic manipulative strategy of a psychopath

According to Hare and Babiak,[4] psychopaths are always on the lookout for individuals to scam or swindle. The psychopathic approach includes three phases:

1. Assessment phase
Some psychopaths are opportunistic, aggressive predators who will take advantage of almost anyone they meet, while others are more patient, waiting for the perfect, innocent victim to cross their path. In each case, the psychopath is constantly sizing up the potential usefulness of an individual as a source of money, power, sex, or influence. Some psychopaths enjoy a challenge while others prey on people who are vulnerable. During the assessment phase, the psychopath is able to determine a potential victim’s weak points and will use those weak points to seduce.

2. Manipulation phase
Once the psychopath has identified a victim, the manipulation phase begins. During the manipulation phase, a psychopath may create a persona or mask, specifically designed to ‘work’ for his or her target. A psychopath will lie to gain the trust of their victim. Psychopaths' lack of empathy and guilt allows them to lie with impunity; they do not see the value of telling the truth unless it will help get them what they want.

As interaction with the victim proceeds, the psychopath carefully assesses the victim's persona. The victim's persona gives the psychopath a picture of the traits and characteristics valued in the victim. The victim's persona may also reveal, to an astute observer, insecurities or weaknesses the victim wishes to minimize or hide from view. As an ardent student of human behavior, the psychopath will then gently test the inner strengths and needs that are part of the victim's private self and eventually build a personal relationship with the victim.
The persona of the psychopath - the “personality” the victim is bonding with - does not really exist. It is built on lies, carefully woven together to entrap the victim. It is a mask, one of many, custom-made by the psychopath to fit the victim's particular psychological needs and expectations. The victimization is predatory in nature; it often leads to severe financial, physical or emotional harm for the individual. Healthy, real relationships are built on mutual respect and trust; they are based on sharing honest thoughts and feelings. The victim's mistaken belief that the psychopathic bond has any of these characteristics is the reason it is so successful.

3. Abandonment phase
The abandonment phase begins when the psychopath decides that his or her victim is no longer useful. The psychopath abandons his or her victim and moves on to someone else. In the case of romantic relationships, a psychopath will usually seal a relationship with their next target before abandoning his or her current victim. Sometimes, the psychopath has three individuals on whom he or she is running game: the one who has been recently abandoned, who is being toyed with and kept in the picture in case the other two do not work out; the one who is currently being played and is about to be abandoned; and the third, who is being groomed by the psychopath, in anticipation of abandoning the current "mark".


Braiker, Harriet B. (2004). Who's Pulling Your Strings ? How to Break The Cycle of Manipulation. ISBN 0071446729.
Simon, George K (1996). In Sheep's Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People. ISBN 978-0965169608. (reference for the entire section
Kantor, Martin (2006). The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. ISBN 978-0275987985.
Robert, Hare; Paul, Babiak (2006). Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work. ISBN 978-0061147890.

and wikipedia articles on psychological manipulation