Weekly Roundup 100: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web
Handpicked to satisfy your intellectual curiosity!
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Must Read Articles!!!
Awesome Presentation: The World Is Full of Interesting Things!! – via Creative Internet
Those with a desk job, please stand up – via Washington Post – He is not a waiter or factory worker — he is a team leader at AOL. Ramirez could, if he wanted, curl into the cushiest leather chair in the Staples catalog. No, thanks. He prefers to stand most of the day at a desk raised to above stomach level. “I’ve got my knees bent, I feel totally alive,” Ramirez said. “It feels more natural to stand. I wouldn’t go back to sitting.”
Love Makes You Increasingly Ignorant of Your Partner – via Wired – Long-lasting marriages may thrive on love, compromise and increasing ignorance about one another. Couples married for an average of 40 years know less about one another’s food, movie and kitchen-design preferences than do partners who have been married or in committed relationships for a year or two, a new study finds.
Video: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water – via Fora.Tv – Tap water is safe almost everywhere in the U.S. It takes far more water to make the plastic bottle than it even holds. Most bottled water is simply water from somebody else’s tap! Why on earth does this industry continue to thrive?
Video: Ken Robinson Animation: Changing Education Paradigms – via RSA Animate –
Financial Research Reveals Truth In Rare Disaster Theory – via Finance Professor – Research that supports a theory that investors need to account for rare disasters when making decisions on the stockmarket has been accepted for publication in the international top journal in finance. Professor Ben Jacobsen, of the University’s School of Economics and Finance, worked with two former colleagues on the paper Time-varying Rare Disaster Risk and Stock Returns will feature in the Journal of Financial Economics. They showed there is truth behind the theory that crises – such as wars, financial meltdowns, earthquakes or epidemics – do need to be factored in because of their effect on world markets. Professor Jacobsen, who is a member of the University’s Institute for Advanced Study, says the research will have a major impact on the study of financial markets and expects the measure they have developed to be used in the development of further theory.
The Warren Buffett Bias – via PsyFi Blog – It’s a racing certainty that more people have lost money following the wisdom of the Sage of Omaha than following tips from any number of other so-called gurus. Of course, it’s perfectly correct that virtually every pearl of wisdom dripping from the lips of the Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway is worth a thousand utterances from the plethora of mass market media mavens masquerading as psychic predictors of the unforeseeable. Unfortunately there are two sides to every equation and Buffett, hard though he tries, can only be on one of them. The simplicity of Buffett’s approach and his folksie wisdom belie a tough-minded and intensely focused individual whose career has been marked by a single minded determination to make money. Most people don’t see this, though, what they see are the incredible gains that can be made by actively trading and draw the obvious, but mad, conclusion that what’s good enough for the one person capable of defying the logic of markets is good enough for them. Following Warren Buffett without Warren Buffett’s temperament is a one-way ticket to the poorhouse.
Whats Working In The Music Biz – via Economist – EVEN by the elevated standards of such things, Lady Gaga’s “Monster Ball” concert is over the top. The show, which is loosely organised around the theme of a woman’s search for the ultimate party, features a fountain of fake blood, a burning piano and a host of dancing men. At one point Gaga is encased in a spinning gyroscope. Later she is done up to resemble a remote-controlled snowflake. At about $100 plus parking, nearly all the shows are selling out. Welcome to the supposedly doomed music business.
Five Steps to Prevent a Repeat of the 2007–08 Food Crisis – via Policy Pointers- A statement of steps recommended to prevent another food crisis
Do conscientious people live longer? – via Bakadesuyo- Higher levels of conscientiousness were significantly and positively related to longevity
Miguel’s Favorite Articles
The empathy deficit – via Boston.com – Even as they become more connected, young people are caring less about others. Young Americans today live in a world of endless connections and up-to-the-minute information on one another, constantly updating friends, loved ones, and total strangers — “Quiz tomorrow…gotta study!” — about the minutiae of their young, wired lives. And there are signs that Generation Wi-Fi is also interested in connecting with people, like, face-to-face, in person. The percentage of high school seniors who volunteer has been rising for two decades.
New Video on Time Value of Money – via Financial Rounds- As I mentioned before, I’ve been doing a bit of work with screen recording software. Previously, I’d done a 4-video series on how to use the BA 2+ calculator. Well, I’m at it again.
More on the credit card puzzle – via Economic Logic- Why do people simultaneously hold substantial cash and high interest credit card debt? I previously reported that this could be explained by the demand for liquidity as some goods cannot be purchased on credit. While that explanation seemed to be a good one quantitatively, it does not mean that thtere is no room for other ones as well.
Sensation Seeking Could Be in Your Genes – via Aps – Do you enjoy rock climbing, sky diving, and extreme sports? If so, you are likely a “sensation seeker,” a person who has the urge to do exciting, possibly dangerous things. Sensation seeking has been linked to the neurotransmitter dopamine. In new research published in Psychological Science, scientists analyzed genes in the dopamine system and found a group of mutations that help predict whether someone is inclined toward sensation seeking. Jaime Derringer and coauthors wanted to use a new technique to find out more about the genetics of sensation seeking. Most obvious connections with genes have already been found, Derringer says. Now new methods are letting scientists look for more subtle associations between genes and all kinds of traits, including behavior and personality.
Would you know a psychopath if you saw one? – via Bakadesuyo – This study is the first to demonstrate that features of psychopathy can be reliably and validly detected by lay raters from “thin slices” (i.e., small samples) of behavior. Brief excerpts (5 s, 10 s, and 20 s) from interviews with 96 maximum-security inmates were presented in video or audio form or in both modalities combined. Forty raters used these excerpts to complete assessments of overall psychopathy and its Factor 1 and Factor 2 components, various personality disorders, violence proneness, and attractiveness. Thin-slice ratings of psychopathy correlated moderately and significantly with psychopathy criterion measures, especially those related to interpersonal features of psychopathy, particularly in the 5- and 10-s excerpt conditions and in the video and combined channel conditions. These findings demonstrate that first impressions of psychopathy and related constructs, particularly those pertaining to interpersonal functioning, can be reasonably reliable and valid. They also raise intriguing questions regarding how individuals form first impressions and about the extent to which first impressions may influence the assessment of personality disorders.
A New Theory Of Everything – via Deric Bownds – During the industrial revolution, science gained a reputation for mathematical accuracy and precision. Scientific models were effective at predicting the performance of simple systems, from those that spun and wove to those that created the worldwide web. Less appreciated was the fact that these technologies worked ONLY because, during this same period, humankind had also acquired access to a new and immense store of controllable energy. Instead, we were taught that these riches were due to increases in “economic efficiency” and, like the sciences, economics promised a future that was both predictable and bright. Then a few decades ago, one scientific discipline after another seemed to hit a wall: Although the Uncertainty Principle was at first understood only to affect very small systems, scientists began to realize that some uncertainty was unavoidable, and furthermore that, as it propagates through a complex system, the errors become so large that it is hard to have confidence in any but the broadest of predictions: often only those emerging from thermodynamics.
The Trappings of Success – via Influence People – Ever heard of Marc Dreier? Probably not because he was overshadowed by someone I’m willing to bet you have heard of, Bernie Madoff. What a great name – Madoff – because he made off with everyone’s money! Madoff captured headlines about the same time Marc Dreier was being apprehended because Madoff’s billion dollar Ponzi scheme finally blew up. Marc Dreier was involved in his own fraudulent activity, to the tune of $700 million! No small potatoes but not quite the billion dollars Madoff was bilking people out of so Dreier flew “under the radar,” so to speak.
100 Anthropology Lectures Online – Lots of Video! – via Neuroanthropology – Best Colleges Online, in its Online College Resource Arena, has put together a list of “100 Incredible Anthropology Lectures Online”. Most of them are videos, along with some just audio lectures. There is a lot of great material, and of course, some duds as well.
From Ebooks to No Books -via McLean – Last month, the University of Texas at San Antonio announced it had built the world’s first bookless library. Its Applied Engineering and Technology Library offers access to 425,000 e-books and 18,000 e-journal subscriptions, and librarians say they’ve yet to hear a complaint from the 350-plus students and faculty who pass through its doors daily. “We’ve gotten no negative feedback,” says Krisellen Maloney, library dean at the University of Texas. “We looked at circulation rates, we looked at electronic resources, we looked at requests, and we decided that having the services was more important than the physical books.” She adds bluntly: “When we prioritized the needs, the books weren’t the priority.”
The rise and crash of civilizations – Discover – One of the questions of interest in the study of the evolution of culture is whether there is a direction in history in terms of complexity. As I have noted before in the pre-modern era many felt that the direction of history was of decline. That is, the ancients were wise and subtle beyond compare and comprehension. In contrast, in our era of rapid and boisterous technological innovation and economic growth we tend toward a “Whiggish” model, where the future is gleaming with potential and possibility. But we live in a peculiar time. The reality is that for most of history for most people there was very little change from generation to generation. Malthus reigned supreme. Values were timeless, and quality of life was unchanging.
The Default Network -Your Mind, on Its Own Time – via Dana Foundation – Studies about the brain usually focus on neural activity during the completion of a specific task—remembering a series of words, for example. But over the last 20 years, researchers have been interested in what the brain does during periods of supposed inactivity. They discovered that when someone appears to be doing nothing at all, a network of brain regions—named the default network—is hard at work, allowing for the rich inner lives inside our heads. Applying what is known about the default network to diseases like Alzheimer’s allows for new possibilities for diagnosis and evaluation of treatments.
Do High-Earning Women Live Longer? – via Bakadesuyo- We find that the relationship between earnings and life expectancy is very similar for women as for men: Among women who contributed at least for 25 years, a woman at the 90th percentile of the income distribution can expect to live 3 years longer than a woman at the 10th percentile.
Population Change: Another Influence on Climate Change– via NSF – Changes in the human population, including aging and urbanization, could significantly affect global emissions of carbon dioxide over the next 40 years, according to research results published this week. The research, results of which appear in a paper in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), was conducted by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), a European Young Investigator’s Award, and the Hewlett Foundation.
When in Doubt, Shout! Paradoxical Influences of Doubt on Proselytizing – via Paul Kedrosky – A seminal case study by Festinger found, paradoxically, that evidence that disconfirmed religious beliefs increased individuals’ tendency to proselytize to others. Although this finding is renowned, surprisingly, it has never been subjected to experimental scrutiny and is open to multiple interpretations. We examined a general form of the question first posed by Festinger, namely, how does shaken confidence influence advocacy? Across three experiments, people whose confidence in closely held beliefs was undermined engaged in more advocacy of their beliefs (as measured by both advocacy effort and intention to advocate) than did people whose confidence was not undermined. The effect was attenuated when individuals affirmed their beliefs, and was moderated by both importance of the belief and open-mindedness of a message recipient. These findings not only have implications for the results of Festinger’s seminal study, but also offer new insights into people’s motives for advocating their beliefs.
A radical pessimist’s guide to the next 10 years – via Globe & Mail – The iconic writer reveals the shape of things to come, with 45 tips for survival and a matching glossary of the new words you’ll need to talk about your messed-up future.
Border Bias: My Borders Are My Friends – via Paul Kedrosky – In this research, we documented a bias in which people underestimate the potential risk of a disaster to a target location when the disaster spreads from a different state, but not when it spreads from an equally distant location within the same state. We term this the border bias. Following research on categorization, we propose that people consider locations within a state to be part of the same superordinate category, but consider locations in two different states to be parts of different superordinate categories. The border bias occurs because people apply state-based categorization to events that are not governed by human-made boundaries. Such categorization results in state borders being considered physical barriers that can keep disasters at bay. We demonstrated the border bias for different types of disasters (earthquake, environmental risk) and tested the underlying process in three studies.
You’re not as tolerant for risk as you think – via PopEconomics – A few years ago, Federal Trade Commission economist Patrick McAlvanah sought to understand how the opposite sex influences our tolerance of risk. It was already well known how other spheres of decision-making were influenced: Seeing attractive photos of woman makes men more impatient, for example.
Exercise improves executive function in our aging brains – via Deric Bownds – Research has shown the human brain is organized into separable functional networks during rest and varied states of cognition, and that aging is associated with specific network dysfunctions. The present study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine low-frequency (0.008 to 0.08 Hz) coherence of cognitively relevant and sensory brain networks in older adults who participated in a 1-year intervention trial, comparing the effects of aerobic and non-aerobic fitness training on brain function and cognition. Results showed that aerobic training improved the aging brain’s resting functional efficiency in higher-level cognitive networks. One year of walking increased functional connectivity between aspects of the frontal, posterior, and temporal cortices within the Default Mode Network and a Frontal Executive Network, two brain networks central to brain dysfunction in aging. Length of training was also an important factor. Effects in favor of the walking group were observed only after 12 months of training, compared to non-significant trends after 6 months. A non-aerobic stretching and toning group also showed increased functional connectivity in the DMN after 6 months and in a Frontal Parietal Network after 12 months, possibly reflecting experience-dependent plasticity. Finally, we found that changes in functional connectivity were behaviorally relevant. Increased functional connectivity was associated with greater improvement in executive function. Therefore the study provides the first evidence for exercise-induced functional plasticity in large-scale brain systems in the aging brain, using functional connectivity techniques, and offers new insight into the role of aerobic fitness in attenuating age-related brain dysfunction.
Pressure to compete led to bankers’ recklessness – via IrishTimes – A psychological analysis of interviews with 18 key players in our financial system reveals how – and why – they got it so wrong SIFTING THROUGH the traces of the Irish banking wreckage has become a national pastime, and a painful one at that. Much of the media and public comment, and the response from the Central Bank and regulatory authorities, has centred on the weak enforcement of toothless rules, which resulted in the massive self-deception that is Irish banking.
The Greasy Situation of University Research – via Situationist – A new report, “Big Oil Goes to College,” by the Center for American Progress examines how research universities that accept millions of dollars from oil companies have failed to shield themselves from corporate influence. Here is an excerpt from the report’s introduction.
Can experts play chess without thinking? – via Bakadesuyo- Thus, chess experts were able to judge unconsciously presented chess configurations as checking or nonchecking. A 2nd experiment demonstrated that experts’ priming does not occur for simpler but uncommon chess configurations. The authors conclude that long-term practice prompts the acquisition of visual memories of chess configurations with integrated form-location conjunctions. These perceptual chunks enable complex visual processing outside of conscious awareness.
How habits are formed: modelling habit formation in the real world – via Geary Behaviour Institute – To investigate the process of habit formation in everyday life, 96 volunteers chose an eating, drinking or activity behaviour to carry out daily in the same context (for example ‘after breakfast’) for 12 weeks. They completed the self-report habit index (SRHI) each day and recorded whether they carried out the behaviour. The majority (82) of participants provided sufficient data for analysis, and increases in automaticity (calculated with a sub-set of SRHI items) were examined over the study period. Nonlinear regressions fitted an asymptotic curve to each individual’s automaticity scores over the 84 days. The model fitted for 62 individuals, of whom 39 showed a good fit. Performing the behaviour more consistently was associated with better model fit. The time it took participants to reach 95% of their asymptote of automaticity ranged from 18 to 254 days; indicating considerable variation in how long it takes people to reach their limit of automaticity and highlighting that it can take a very long time. Missing one opportunity to perform the behaviour did not materially affect the habit formation process. With repetition of a behaviour in a consistent context, automaticity increases following an asymptotic curve which can be modelled at the individual level.
Regular exams boost your brain power – via Telegraph- Regular testing actually improves your brains ability to learn, scientists find, in a study that is likely to reopen the debate over the effectiveness of exams.
A Prescription for Doctors – via Decision Tree – In the past few months, since The Decision Tree book came out, I’ve had the privilege to talk with many doctors about the opportunity and challenge of engaging patients in their own health. Some physicians, not surprisingly, have been suspicious, and even hostile to the idea that patients have a role to play. But thankfully, those have been rare exceptions. Most doctors I’ve spent time with have been eager to hear about new tools that might engage their patients, and they’ve been eager to share well-earned advice on where there’s work to be done. It has been a delight and an education to talk about the potential of healthcare with these physicians who are, after all, doing the hard work of providing medical care every day.
Think Again: Global Aging – via FP – A gray tsunami is sweeping the planet – and not just in the places you expect. How did the world get so old, so fast?
The Brain from Womb to Tomb: From IQ to mental illness, how prenatal life affects the brain – via SciAm – It was on the cover of The New York Times Book Review. And the cover of Time Magazine. Suddenly, the obscure science of “fetal origins” is getting popular, in the pages of a new book called “Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives.” Written by science journalist Annie Murphy Paul, “Origins” explores the still-murky but growing research into how the environment in the womb can affect a baby’s life ever after — including the life of the mind. A few questions for the author:
All about My Mother: How Touch Helps Us Take Risks – via SciAm – How that early bond subtly shapes decisions and moods. Strong emotional bonds between mothers and infants increase children’s willingness to explore the world—an effect that has been observed across the animal kingdom, in people, monkeys and even spiders. The more secure we are in our attachment to Mom, the more likely we are to try new things and take risks. Now researchers are discovering that this effect continues into adulthood. A mere reminder of Mom’s touch or the sound of her voice on the phone is enough to change people’s minds and moods, affecting their decision making in measurable ways.
‘Scrapers’ Dig Deep for Data on Web – via WSJ- The market for personal data about Internet users is booming, and in the vanguard is the practice of “scraping.” Firms offer to harvest online conversations and collect personal details from social-networking sites, résumé sites and online forums where people might discuss their lives.
The Impact of Error From Securitization to Foreclosure – via Big Think – There are quite a few misunderstandings, denials, and exaggerations floating around as to what the final outcome might be of “Fraudclosure.” At the current stage, we really do not know how extensive the problems are. We could make wild and unsubstantiated conclusions, but we prefer reason and logic.
Inflation, deflation and investing – via Damodaran – I must confess that I have never seen such dissension and disagreement among economists about whether we are going into a period of inflation or one of deflation. On the one side, there are those who are alarmed at the easy money, low interest rate policies that have been adopted by most central banks in developed markets. The surge in the money supply, they argue, will inevitably cheapen the currency and lead to inflation. On the other side, there are many who point to the Japanese experience where a stagnating economy and weak demand lead to price deflation. I have given up on trying to make sense of what macro economists say but you probably have a point of view on inflation and are wondering how inflation or deflation will affect your portfolio.
How Affect Regulates Conflict-Driven Control – via Sage Journals – Cognitive conflict plays an important role in tuning cognitive control to the situation at hand. On the basis of earlier findings demonstrating emotional modulations of conflict processing, we predicted that affective states may adaptively regulate goal-directed behavior that is driven by conflict. We tested this hypothesis by measuring conflict-driven control adaptations following experimental induction of four different mood states that could be differentiated along the dimensions of arousal and pleasure. After mood states were induced, 91 subjects performed a flanker task, which provided a measure of conflict adaptation. As predicted, pleasure level affected conflict adaptation: Less pleasure was associated with more conflict-driven control. Arousal level did not influence conflict adaptation. This study suggests that affect adaptively regulates cognitive control. Implications for future research and psychopathology are discussed.
The Envy Premium in Product Evaluation – via JCR – Consumers are willing to pay a premium for products that elicit their envy. The more people compared themselves to a superior other, the higher the envy premium was. Yet, the emotion envy and not the upward comparison drove the final effects. The envy premium only emerged for a desirable product that the superior other owned (iPhone) when people experienced benign envy. Benign envy is elicited when the other’s superior position is deserved, and malicious envy when it is undeserved. When people experienced malicious envy, the envy premium emerged for a desirable product that the superior other did not own (BlackBerry). This shows how benign envy places a premium on keeping up, and malicious envy on moving away from, superior others.
The Reliability of Preliminary Earnings Releases – via Harvard Law – The Unintended Consequences of PCAOB Auditing Standards Nos. 2 and 3 on the Reliability of Preliminary Earnings Releases, forthcoming in the Journal of Accounting and Economics, we examine the trade-off that companies face in providing value relevant information on a timely basis through preliminary earnings announcements (PEAs) versus the potential loss of reliability from releasing information prior to the audit report date. Historically, the vast majority of publicly-traded companies wait until after the audit report date (i.e., after the completion of audit fieldwork) to release preliminary earnings information. However, the implementation of Public Company Accounting Oversight Board Auditing Standards No. 2 (“AS2”) on internal control and No. 3 (“AS3”) on audit documentation resulted in delaying completion of the audit for a large number of public companies.
On the Heritability of Consumer Decision Making: An Exploratory Approach for Studying Genetic Effects on Judgment and Choice – via JCR – While constructed preferences have received a great deal of attention, there has been virtually no research regarding the genetic basis of consumer judgment and choice. In this research, we examine a wide range of previously unexplored heritable effects on consumer choices and judgments. Moreover, whereas prior research on heritable traits has typically employed a piecemeal approach, demonstrating each heritable trait separately, we propose an alternative way to simultaneously explore common mechanisms and links among heritable traits and behaviors. Using a classic twins study design, we find a large heritable effect on preferences for (a) compromise (but not dominating) options, (b) sure gains, (c) an upcoming feasible, dull assignment, (d) maximizing, (e) utilitarian options, and (f) certain products. Conversely, we do not find significant heritable effects regarding judgment heuristics, discounting, and other decision problems. We tentatively propose that the pattern of findings might reflect a generic heritable individual difference relating to “prudence.” We discuss the implications of our research with respect to the determinants of preferences and future research on heritable aspects of judgment and choice.
Should human capital be taxed? – via Economic Logic – There is a long standing and quite robust result in the literature, originating with Christophe Chamley and Ken Judd, that physical capital should not be taxed. Larry Jones, Rodolfo Manuelli and Peter Rossi extend this reasoning to human capital. These are very strong results that are not borne by the data, thus either the models are missing something, or economists still have a lot of convincing to do.