Weekly Roundup 104: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web

Handpicked to satisfy your intellectual curiosity!

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Weekly Cartoon:

Video: Hip-Hop Explanation of Currency Wars:

Must Read Articles!

The Top Cultural & Educational Video Sites – via Open Culture – Looking for great cultural and educational video? Then you’ve come to the right place. Below, we have compiled a list of 46 sites that feature intelligent videos. This list was produced with the help of our faithful readers, and it will grow over time. If you find it useful, please share it as widely as you can. And if we’re missing good sites, please list them in the comments below.

Video: Inside Job – via Situationist- Charles Furgeson has produced a powerful documentary, “Inside Job,” about the deep capture of financial (de)regulation.

Benign envy sells iPhones, but malicious envy drives consumers to BlackBerries – via PhysOrg- People are willing to pay more for products that elicit their envy — but that’s only when they are motivated by a positive, benign form of envy, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

I fear your envy, I rejoice in your coveting: On the ambivalent experience of being envied by others– via PsycNet- We present 2 studies on being envied. Study 1 used an emotional narrative methodology. We asked 44 Spanish (23 women, 21 men) and 48 European American (36 women, 12 men) participants to tell us about a recent experience in which others envied them. We classified the antecedents, relationship context, markers of envy, coping strategies, and positive and negative implications of being envied. In Study 2, 174 Spanish (88 women, 86 men) and 205 European American (106 women, 99 men) participants responded to a situation in which they had something someone else wanted. We manipulated the object of desire (academic achievement or having “a better life”). We measured individual differences in orientation to achievement (i.e., vertical individualism), cooperation and interpersonal harmony (i.e., horizontal collectivism), a zero-sum view of success, beliefs that success begets hostile coveting, fear of success, and dispositional envy. We also measured participants’ appraisals, positive and negative emotions, and coping strategies. The findings from both studies indicate that being envied has both positive (e.g., increased self-confidence) and negative consequences (e.g., fear of ill will from others). Being envied had more positive and more negative psychological and relational consequences among those participants who were achievement oriented (European Americans) than among participants who were oriented to cooperation and interpersonal harmony (Spanish)

PROOFINESS: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception – Reviewed by John Allen Paulos – The title of Charles Seife’s new book, “Proofiness,” is a takeoff on Stephen Colbert’s notion of truthiness, the property of statements that have the ring of truth to them but upon a little reflection are seen to be bogus. Likewise, proofiness refers to numbers and statistical arguments that seem convincing but are really somewhere between unwarranted and ludicrous. Seife begins by pointing out that numbers in the news do not inhabit some ideal Platonic realm but result from very fallible measurements that are often based on vague definitions or faulty assumptions.

Pupils’ Perceptions Shape Educational Achievement – via Policy Pointers – This 53-page UK research looks at whether pupils’ perceptions shape their effort, motivation, and educational achievement. More specifically, it examines whether pupils believe that their efforts will be more or less fairly rewarded when they are assessed by their teacher than when they are assessed by an anonymous external examiner

Paying to belong: When does rejection trigger ingratiation? – via PsycNet – Societies and social scientists have long held the belief that exclusion induces ingratiation and conformity, an idea in contradiction to robust empirical evidence linking rejection with hostility and aggression. The classic literatures on ingratiation and conformity help resolve this contradiction by identifying circumstances under which rejection may trigger efforts to ingratiate. Jointly, findings from these literatures suggest that when people are given an opportunity to impress their rejecters, ingratiation is likely after rejection experiences that are harsh and that occur in important situations that threaten the individual’s self-definition. Four studies tested the hypothesis that people high in rejection sensitivity and therefore dispositionally concerned about rejection will utilize opportunities to ingratiate after harsh rejection in situations that are self-defining. In 3 studies of situations that are particularly self-defining for men, rejection predicted ingratiation among men (but not women) who were high in rejection sensitivity. In a 4th study, harsh rejection in a situation particularly self-defining for women predicted ingratiation among highly rejection-sensitive women (but not men). These findings help identify the specific circumstances under which people are willing to act in socially desirable ways toward those who have rejected them harshly

How people see others is different from how people see themselves: A replicable pattern across cultures – via PsycNet – Consensus studies from 4 cultures—in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, and Germany—as well as secondary analyses of self- and observer-reported Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO PI-R) data from 29 cultures suggest that there is a cross-culturally replicable pattern of difference between internal and external perspectives for the Big Five personality traits. People see themselves as more neurotic and open to experience compared to how they are seen by other people. External observers generally hold a higher opinion of an individual’s conscientiousness than he or she does about him- or herself. As a rule, people think that they have more positive emotions and excitement seeking but much less assertiveness than it seems from the vantage point of an external observer. This cross-culturally replicable disparity between internal and external perspectives was not consistent with predictions based on the actor–observer hypothesis because the size of the disparity was unrelated to the visibility of personality traits. A relatively strong negative correlation (r = −.53) between the average self-minus-observer profile and social desirability ratings suggests that people in most studied cultures view themselves less favorably than they are perceived by others

Border Bias: The Belief That State Borders Can Protect Against Disasters – via Sagepub – 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.

Miguel’s Favorites:

Tightwads and Spendthrifts: What happens to them during Holiday Sales – via NSF – Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that traditionally begins the holiday shopping season, is fast approaching and the National Science Foundation is taking a look at the impact of consumerism on tightwads and spendthrifts during the holidays when the pressure to buy increases.

Dramatic study shows participants are affected by psychological phenomena from the future – via BPS – Perhaps there’s something in the drinking water at Cornell University. A new study involving hundreds of Cornell undergrads has provided a dramatic demonstration of numerous ‘retroactive’ psi effects – that is, phenomena that are inexplicable according to current scientific knowledge (pdf).

Video: Antonio Damasio & Marina Abramovic – via Fora.tv – In his new book, Self Comes To Mind, Antonio Damasio, who directs the USC Brain and Creativity Institute and is the 2010 winner of the prestigious Honda Prize for scientific excellence, discusses how the brain uses emotion and feeling to create a sense of self in animals in humans, and how the elaborate version of the human self opened the way for creating the tools of culture. The admired neuroscientist, provocative lecturer and best-selling author will be in conversation with Marina Abramovic, the celebrated, spirited and controversial artist who, since the beginning of her career, has pioneered performance as a visual art form in a quest for emotional and spiritual transformation.

Does Music Improve Recall of Text? – via Cognition & Arts – Have you ever wondered if children’s songs that supposedly help them learn certain concepts are actually beneficial? There are many examples of this, including the ABC’s song and the song with all the states in alphabetical order, along with many others. Are these just for fun, or do they serve a beneficial purpose in making it easier for children to learn these concepts?

Have Casinos Contributed to Rising Bankruptcy Rates – via Bakadesuyo – Bankruptcy rates in casino counties then slightly fall below that of non-casino counties during the fourth through seventh years after opening, increasing once again in the eighth year and thereafter. This cycle corresponds closely to the 6 year statute of limitations period applicable to Chapter 7 bankruptcies.

Economic Parasites – via PsiFiBlog – A question that’s oft-perplexed economists is why some countries are so much less successful, economically, than others. Huge reams of research have been generated developing a wide range of theories until eventually someone came up with the obvious answer. Poor countries are poor because their people are stupid. Fortunately what’s the obvious answer to one set of researchers is the departure point for another group. It turns out that while the simple and straightforward answer has an element of truth about it, it’s only a small part of the story.

Anger Makes People Want Things More – via MNT – Anger is an interesting emotion for psychologists. On the one hand, it’s negative, but then it also has some of the features of positive emotions. For a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, researchers find that associating an object with anger actually makes people want the object – a kind of motivation that’s normally associated with positive emotions.


Let’s talk about sex – via Geary Behavior Center – We develop a directed search model of relationship formation which can disentangle male and female preferences for types of partners and for different relationship terms using only a cross-section of observed matches. Individuals direct their search to a particular type of match on the basis of (i) the terms of the relationship, (ii) the type of partner, and (iii) the endogenously determined probability of matching. If men outnumber women, they tend to trade a low probability of a preferred match for a high probability of a less-preferred match; the analogous statement holds for women. Using data from National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health we estimate the equilibrium matching model with high school relationships. Variation in gender ratios is used to uncover male and female preferences. Estimates from the structural model match subjective data on whether sex would occur in one’s ideal relationship. The equilibrium result shows that some women would ideally not have sex, but do so out of matching concerns; the reverse is true for men.

How to Exploit Your Employer – via James Altucher – I would never hire me. When I was younger I couldn’t last more than 2 or 3 days at a job before I was plotting my escape. I would try to figure out how to game the system: how to build from my current job so I could either have an even better job, make more money, start my own business, or use every spare moment to pretend like I was working so I could write a novel, program a website, or do whatever (with heavy emphasis)

The historical roots of inequality – via Voxeu- US commentators regularly lament the country’s racial and ethnic inequality. This column presents data from 1870 and 1940-2000 to argue that the divide has its roots in the slave trade and that its legacy persists today through the racial inequality in education.

Walmart makes us fat – via Boston.com – One cause of increasing obesity is cheap food. Therefore, it should be no coincidence that the largest company in the world — whose motto is “Save money. Live better.” — may contribute to obesity. And, indeed, the geographic expansion of Walmart stores can explain 10.5 percent of the rise in American obesity since the late 1980s, according to a new study. This translates into a 2.3 percentage point increase in the probability of being obese for residents — especially women, low-income married people, and those in rural areas — near a Walmart store. Nevertheless, Walmart can still justify its motto; the extra medical cost associated with this obesity was only 5.6 percent of the savings enjoyed by the Walmart shoppers.

An Interview with Mark Changizi: Culture Harnessing the Brain – via PLos – I’m delighted today to present an interview with Mark Changizi, the noted cognitive scientist and author. Changizi has a forthcoming book Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man, where he examines how culture can have such an impact on people.

The case for total failure – via Boston.com – In the entertainment world, there may be nothing worse than a major box office bomb. To filmmakers and actors with sensitive egos (which is to say, all filmmakers and actors), a movie that flops is the universe’s way of saying, “Eh, thanks but no thanks” in the least ambiguous possible manner. Flops lose studios insane amounts of money. Flops have irrevocably hurt the careers of filmmakers and actors, with the bewildering exception of John Travolta. They’re cautionary tales told to aspiring filmmakers to make them feel more alive because, to borrow an apt line from Cameron Crowe’s “Elizabethtown,” “it didn’t happen to them.”

Robert Shiller Advocates and Engages in NewSpeak and Dubious Analysis in NYT Piece – via Naked Capitalism – As an article in today’s New York Times makes clear, Robert Shiller has joined a group of behavioral economists that are advocating the use of propaganda and the sublter forms of manipulation of the public that Walter Lippmann famously called “the manufacture of consent.” In one sense, this ugly development is coming full circle. Lippmann and the so-called father of the pubilc relations industry, Eddie Bernays, were both members of the Creel Commission, which in a remarkably short period of time, turned a pacifist US into a nation eager to attack bloodthirsty, baby-bayonting Germans in the Great War. When the public became aware of the scale of the Creel Commission effort and realized how they had been played, Lippmann and Bernays wound up writing books defending this sort of effort.

Does clenching your muscles increase willpower?
– via PhysOrg- he next time you feel your willpower slipping as you pass that mouth-watering dessert case, tighten your muscles. A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research says firming muscles can shore up self-control.

Research brief: More support for Flynn effect
– via iqs Corner – Increases in the scores on IQ tests across generations have been called the Flynn effect (FE). One of the unresolved questions is whether the FE affects all subsamples of the intellectual ability distribution equally. The present study was aimed at determining the size of the FE in moderately mentally retarded individuals. A nonverbal intelligence test developed for children, the Snijders-Oomen Nonverbal Intelligence Test (SON), was administered to 32 retarded adults with a mental age of 3–6 years. Sixty-nine children with a biological age in the same range and with normal intelligence served as a comparison group. Both an older and a more recent version of the SON were presented to all participants in a counterbalanced order. The proportion of items answered correctly was taken as a measure of the dependent variable. It was found that a FE existed in both the group of children and in the group of retarded adults, but that the FE was largest in the latter group. The importance of not using obsolete test norms when diagnosing mental retardation was stressed, and possible causes of the Flynn effect were discussed.

The Danger of Cosmic Genius – via Atlantic – In the range of his genius, Freeman Dyson is heir to Einstein—a visionary who has reshaped thinking in fields from math to astrophysics to medicine, and who has conceived nuclear-propelled spaceships designed to transport human colonists to distant planets. And yet on the matter of global warming he is, as an outspoken skeptic, dead wrong: wrong on the facts, wrong on the science. How could someone as smart as Dyson be so dumb about the environment? The answer lies in his almost religious faith in the power of man and science to bring nature to heel.

Engineering Smarter Drivers – via MIT World- While automakers market increasingly intelligent cars, they may be missing the point. No matter how sophisticated the vehicle’s brain, suggests
Alex (Sandy) Pentland, the smartest element on the road is still the human driver. In search of safe, responsive vehicles, designers should not think of separate components — machine and operator — but rather, an integrated system comprised of two, complementary intelligences.

Marketers resist Behavioral Economics Because of, Well, Behavioral Economics – via Leadon Young -Behavioral economics is overturning many of the long-held “truths” about advertising strategy and building consumer brands. As a result, the marketing game should be changing. But it’s not. Instead, despite the obvious benefits, only a handful of marketers have changed their approaches. And the explanation for this inertia can be found in, well, behavioral economics.

Financial/Investing Related:

Richard Thaler: The Estate Tax and the Laffer Curve – via NYT- First, it is hard to get all the details right, especially since some of them are not yet known. Second, lots of people have strong opinions about this subject, and many of them write to you. After digesting all the e-mails —except for those written in ALL CAPS, which I have learned to delete without reading — I have a few thoughts to add to my column.

Missing Elements in US Financial Reform – via Sleight of Hand – To make firms and regulators accountable to the citizenry, I call for a series of informational reforms designed to exploit econometric advances in the measurement of contingent liabilities. This program has three components: (1) expanding the range of information that financial institutions generate and report; (2) separating bureaucratic responsibility for measuring growth in the safety net from responsibility for limiting safety-net growth; and (3) improving the tools and incentives of safety-net managers.

US house prices have to fluctuate more than elsewhere – via Economic Logic – In retrospect, the recent swing in house prices in the US a unusually large by international comparison. And it is not just the last swing, if you look at local markets, there have been many episodes before the current one where house prices went through a wild ride up or down. What is so special about the US? Is it irrational exuberance, like Robert Shiller has claimed? Or does this have to do with some characteristics of the US economy?

Can Microlending Save Haiti? – via NYT – VENANTE LINO, a small-business owner who lost nearly everything in the devastating earthquake in January, stood in line here along with dozens of other impeccably dressed women, all waiting to pay the latest monthly installment on the emergency loans they received to rebuild their businesses.

Academic Papers:

Expenditure Cascades – via SSRN – Prevailing economic models of consumer behavior completely ignore the well-documented link between context and evaluation. We propose and test a theory that explicitly incorporates this link. Changes in one group’s spending shift the frame of reference that defines consumption standards for others just below them on the income scale, giving rise to expenditure cascades. Our model, a descendant of James Duesenberry’s relative income hypothesis, predicts the observed ways in which individual savings rates respond to changes in both own and others’ permanent income, as well as numerous other stylized fact patterns that are difficult to reconcile with prevailing models.

Prudence with Biased Experts: Ratings Agencies & Regulators
– via SSRN – Why were the rating agencies trusted? When they became required for Federal deposit insurance their incentives for upward bias was common knowledge. The requirement was attacked by a Chicago economist, Melchior Palyi, on philosophical grounds (the expertise is excessively secret) and technical (Moody’s forecasts were inaccurate). The Federal government financed a massive study of bond ratings which developed a technical response to remove the bias. The study required a trade with the rating agencies so the authors wrote prudently to avoid offending the agencies. They disguised the meaning of their procedures and did not discuss the full dimensions of Palyi’s challenge. When the technical methods failed, the loss of memory did not allow us to recover Palyi’s warning about non-transparency.


1,000 Years of European History – An Animated Map (via Paul Kedrosky)

Quantitative Easing Explained By Furry Animals – via My Investing Notebook –

Video: Building the Empire State Building

– via Online Mba –

-via Visual Economics-

Is the US Still the land of opportunity? – via Time

Undergrad Tuition Bubble ? – via Economic Pic

Tax Cheats & Tax Deductions – via CreditLoan

About Miguel Barbosa

I run this site.

14. November 2004 by Miguel Barbosa
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