Cheap Research Using Covert Methods

. . . [using covert methods] to simulate the future
allow our hypotheses to die in our stead

 —  Karl Popper

Imagining the consequences of taking an icy curve too fast, is less expensive than being reminded of the cause-and-effect principles first hand. The purpose of cheap research is to allow your rational and imaginative faculties to work on your addictive trap from a safe distance. Using your cognitive resources to prepare for high-risk situations is wise, because failure to cope with them and lapsing is always costly.

When you encounter a genuine high-risk situation—as you surely will—the stakes will be high. Your actions can never be undone; you will either cope with the crisis or fail. Covert methods allow you to develop an appreciation of the challenges awaiting you, and solve the puzzles before you encounter them in the unforgiving arena of real-time performance.

Covert Tools have their limitations. Observations of how things really play out are more valid than your predictions; actual practice is more useful than Covert Practice. The great advantage of covert exercises is that they are so much less dangerous than putting yourself in a high-risk situation and trying to figure things out then. Moreover, they require much less effort than performing as intended during a real-time crisis, so you can increase the strength of the intended response sequence with minimal risk and effort.

Eventually, you will have to personally cope with the crises that life deals you, but we hope that will not happen until you are ready. Working with High-Risk Situations covertly can prepare you for and help you solve some difficult puzzles from a safe distance. Once you get used to exercising these rational and imaginative faculties, you will be ready to begin your personal research

Collaborator's Note: It is important to start slow. Do not expose yourself to challenges that are beyond your capability. Do not expect to possess the capabilities that we are trying to develop. You are likely to be a novice at this, and like any beginner you will be clumsy at first. However, once you get comfortable utilizing covert methods you will be pleasantly surprised by how quickly you powers grow.

Two basic strategies for utilizing your covert methods:

  1. Imagery and Analysis to Deconstruct a First Lapse

    • The Thought Experiments on the Historical Review page are opportunities to use your mental faculties to develop an understanding of the sequence of events that leads to a first lapse. Most people find that it is difficult to remember the details of the path to relapse. Possible reasons for this include: an understandable motivation to forget about that episode. An alternative, and important, reason why you may find it difficult to remember the sequence that led to a first lapse is that you were not paying attention at the critical moments. People who have been in a car accident remember a lot of detail in the briefest of moments before impact. Unless, of course, they were asleep at the wheel. From the perspective of my collaborator, review the amount of detail you can access. What does this tell you about the path to relapse?

  2. Hardening

    • The Hardening Exercise uses Covert Practice to rapidly boost the habit strength of your intended coping response. Before you do the expensive research of trying out a coping tactic, examine it a few times with your mind's eye.
      Collaborator's Note: Remember, this is cheap research; we want it to be easy, relatively pleasant, and to move along rapidly. So make it a loose flexible process that promotes a curious or playful, attitude, rather than an excessive focus on doing a lot of work. The protocols and data sheets are described in great, often excessive, detail to give you a feel for what we are striving for. In fact, much of the research will be done by the seat of your pants. Please do not worry about or get hung up on the details. The purpose of this exercise is to help you discover the nature of the trap and its solutions as quickly and easily as possible. After all, you may have several traps to solve.

Hardening >>

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