Weekly Roundup 111: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web

Handpicked to satisfy your intellectual curiosity!

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Weekly Cartoon:

Interesting Fact (not confirmed by me, but interesting to compare things like this-i.e. car accident deaths vs  shootings etc):

Doctors Are 2,300 Times More Dangerous Than Terrorists

Guantanamo Bay isn’t big enough for these criminals:
Number of deaths caused inadvertently by doctors each year: 780,000
Then the number of inadvertent deaths caused by doctors in the US since 9/11 comes out to be about 7 million
Number of U.S. deaths due to terrorism since 9/11  3,000

Conclusion: Doctor’s are 2,300 times as dangerous as terrorists.

Ditch the airport body scanners. Go arrest some politicians and pharmaceutical executives.

Must Read Articles:

For Life Long Learners: MIT Introduces Complete Courses to OpenCourseWare Project – via Open Culture – This week, MIT’s OpenCourseWare project launched OCW Scholar, a new series of courses “designed for independent learners who have few additional resources available to them.” To date, MIT has given students access to isolated materials from MIT courses. Now, with this new initiative, lifelong learners can work with a more rounded set of resources. OWC Scholar takes video lectures, homework problems, problem solving videos, simulations, readings, etc., and stitches them into a structured curriculum. Perfect for the self-disciplined student.

Consumer Spending & Power Laws:

The Truth About Tax Havens – via Sleight of Hand Blog – Krall was supposed to check for suspicious movements through the accounts – of which there were plenty. She raised many red flags. “They [her managers] would say, ‘This was a commission’.” Were these bribes? Commissions on what? “I went back, and never got an answer.” One Swiss-based trust company that had a relationship with her bank displayed almost nothing on its website, bar some photos of a nice fountain in Geneva. “The crap they brought to us was unbelievable. There is no way a responsible trustee should take this on. You would have no idea who the trust settlors were, what the assets were or where they came from. I objected strongly, but the bank took them on.”

The Personality Traits of Successful Investors During the U.S. Stock Market’s “Lost Decade” of 2000-2010
– via Market Pysch- While much has been written about the economic toll of the 2008-2009 financial crisis, few studies have examined the psychological traits of those who thrived in the financial markets of the past decade. Over the past five years data on investment performance, risk management, and behavior was gathered in conjunction with an online personality test on the website www.marketpsych.com. In this paper we are reporting the results of 2,600 individuals who took the “Investing Personality Test” from 2005-2010. The Investing Personality Test includes 60 items from the IPIP-NEO, an open-source personality test based on the “Big Five” factor model. After completing the 60 items, investors who took the test disclosed financial statistics including their prior five year investment returns, largest loss in the prior five years, and made decisions in a series of hypothetical investment scenarios. The authors are publishing these results as a contribution to financial and investment educational programs. Our wish is that the results of this research may help more investors thrive in the coming decades.

Why people underestimate the pain of social suffering – via PsycNet- In 5 studies, the authors examined the hypothesis that people have systematically distorted beliefs about the pain of social suffering. By integrating research on empathy gaps for physical pain (Loewenstein, 1996) with social pain theory (MacDonald & Leary, 2005), the authors generated the hypothesis that people generally underestimate the severity of social pain (ostracism, shame, etc.)—a biased judgment that is only corrected when people actively experience social pain for themselves. Using a social exclusion manipulation, Studies 1–4 found that nonexcluded participants consistently underestimated the severity of social pain compared with excluded participants, who had a heightened appreciation for social pain. This empathy gap for social pain occurred when participants evaluated both the pain of others (interpersonal empathy gap) as well as the pain participants themselves experienced in the past (intrapersonal empathy gap). The authors argue that beliefs about social pain are important because they govern how people react to socially distressing events. In Study 5, middle school teachers were asked to evaluate policies regarding emotional bullying at school. This revealed that actively experiencing social pain heightened the estimated pain of emotional bullying, which in turn led teachers to recommend both more comprehensive treatment for bullied students and greater punishment for students who bully.

The Great Illusion of Social Mobility: Dominant Ideology and what it reveals about the US (Must Read)

More than that, this means the almost complete success of the dominant ideology of meritocracy notwithstanding the opposite results in terms of mobility. Indeed, behind the discourse of meritocracy, one finds massive redistribution of wealth to the top of the social ladder as a matter of policy rather than merit accompanied with increased social control through surveillance society mechanisms and massive extension of the criminal justice system / homeland security complex. And the fact that the social democracies of Europe do a better job when it comes to social mobility must absolutely remain off-limit to policy discussions. What this points to is the fact that the dominant ideology hides the high levels of structural and interpersonal violence in the US society, the former as applied puritan ethic and the latter as a consequences of it. A structurally violent society is also at the same time more interpersonally violent as a consequence.

Pack Mentality Grips Hedge Funds – via WSJ – Hedge funds scooped up shares of credit-card companies like big spenders on a shopping spree, making Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc. among the most popular hedge-fund trades. The bets paid off for a while. But when bad news hit in May, many funds—including 10 hedge funds run by investors connected to the well-known Tiger Management LLC—rushed for the exits, together. Shares plunged.

Damodaran: Herding behavior: Why, so what and what if?
– via Musings on Markets – A news story from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal on hedge funds and their herding behavior provides a good starting point for this discussion. In summary, the article notes the following: (1) Hedge funds seem to buy and sell the same stocks, at the same time, and track each other’s investment strategies. (2) The correlation across hedge funds has increased over time. Hedge fund managers copy each other more than they used to. (3) Hedge funds collectively are under performing the S&P 500 by more and more each year; for 2010, hedge funds generated 10.4% in returns and the S&P 500 earned 15%. On this point, you can take issue, arguing that hedge funds (or at least some of them) are less risky than the market and that the hedge funds may not lag the market on a risk/return basis. However, there is no denying that even on that dimension, hedge fund performance has deteriorated over time. I am not surprised by any of these findings, since they are consistent with existing research.

Corruption interferes with resilience to earthquakes – via Institute of Hazard & Risk – A new study from the University of Colorado published in Nature says that “83% of all deaths from building collapse in earthquakes over the past 30 years occurred in countries that are anomalously corrupt.” It points out that the global construction industry in particular is the most corrupt segment of the global economy based on a recent report entitled: Global Construction 2020: A Global Forecast for the Construction Industry over the Next Decade to 2020 (http://www.globalconstruction2020.com/).

How motivated emotion regulation creates insensitivity to mass suffering
– via PsycNet- As the number of people in need of help increases, the degree of compassion people feel for them ironically tends to decrease. This phenomenon is termed the collapse of compassion. Some researchers have suggested that this effect happens because emotions are not triggered by aggregates. We provide evidence for an alternative account. People expect the needs of large groups to be potentially overwhelming, and, as a result, they engage in emotion regulation to prevent themselves from experiencing overwhelming levels of emotion. Because groups are more likely than individuals to elicit emotion regulation, people feel less for groups than for individuals. In Experiment 1, participants displayed the collapse of compassion only when they expected to be asked to donate money to the victims. This suggests that the effect is motivated by self-interest. Experiment 2 showed that the collapse of compassion emerged only for people who were skilled at emotion regulation. In Experiment 3, we manipulated emotion regulation. Participants who were told to down-regulate their emotions showed the collapse of compassion, but participants who were told to experience their emotions did not. We examined the time course of these effects using a dynamic rating to measure affective responses in real time. The time course data suggested that participants regulate emotion toward groups proactively, by preventing themselves from ever experiencing as much emotion toward groups as toward individuals. These findings provide initial evidence that motivated emotion regulation drives insensitivity to mass suffering.

Promoting De-Escalation of Commitment
– via Sagepub – People frequently escalate their commitment to failing endeavors. Explanations for such behavior typically involve loss aversion, failure to recognize other alternatives, and concerns with justifying prior actions; all of these factors produce recommitment to previous decisions with the goal of erasing losses and vindicating these decisions. Solutions to escalation of commitment have therefore focused on external oversight and divided responsibility during decision making to attenuate loss aversion, blindness to alternatives, and justification biases. However, these solutions require substantial resources and have additional adverse effects. The present studies tested an alternative method for de-escalating commitment: activating broad motivations for growth and advancement (promotion). This approach should reduce concerns with loss and increase perceptions of alternatives, thereby attenuating justification motives. In two studies featuring hypothetical financial decisions, activating promotion motivations reduced recommitment to poorly performing investments as compared with both not activating any additional motivations and activating motivations for safety and security (prevention).

Round Numbers as Goals – via Sagepub – Where do people’s reference points come from? We conjectured that round numbers in performance scales act as reference points and that individuals exert effort to perform just above rather than just below such numbers. In Study 1, we found that professional baseball players modify their behavior as the season is about to end, seeking to finish with a batting average just above rather than below .300. In Study 2, we found that high school students are more likely to retake the SAT after obtaining a score just below rather than above a round number. In Study 3, we conducted an experiment employing hypothetical scenarios and found that participants reported a greater desire to exert more effort when their performance was just short of rather than just above a round number.

Teams work best when members are physically close together – via Collision Detection – Ah, but now comes a fascinating study by three scientists at Harvard: “Does Collocation Inform the Impact of Collaboration?” They wondered whether teams that are located in the same place produce papers that have a bigger impact than teams who are disparate. So they gathered info on 35,000 papers in biomedical research where there was at least one Harvard author, calculated where the authors lived, and examined how influential the papers were — based on how many citations they received. The upshot? Being physically close together is better. Teams that worked in the same place produced papers with a bigger impact than those who lived further apart. This was particularly true when you measure the physical distance between the first and last author of a paper. Check out the scatter plot above: It shows that teams located in the same building did better than teams that were merely in the same city, and teams that were in the same city did better than those that were inter-city.

Does Thermal Imaging Work In Airports – via SPringerLink- We tested the accuracy of thermal imaging as a lie detection tool in airport screening. Fifty-one passengers in an international airport departure hall told the truth or lied about their forthcoming trip in an interview. Their skin temperature was recorded via a thermal imaging camera. Liars’ skin temperature rose significantly during the interview, whereas truth tellers’ skin temperature remained constant. On the basis of these different patterns, 64% of truth tellers and 69% of liars were classified correctly. The interviewers made veracity judgements independently from the thermal recordings. The interviewers outperformed the thermal recordings and classified 72% of truth tellers and 77% of liars correctly. Accuracy rates based on the combination of thermal imaging scores and interviewers’ judgements were the same as accuracy rates based on interviewers’ judgements alone. Implications of the findings for the suitability of thermal imaging as a lie detection tool in airports are discussed.

Is Law School A Loosing Game – via NYT – annual rankings, the prospects of young doctors of jurisprudence are downright rosy. In reality, and based on every other source of information, Mr. Wallerstein and a generation of J.D.’s face the grimmest job market in decades. Since 2008, some 15,000 attorney and legal-staff jobs at large firms have vanished, according to a Northwestern Law study. Associates have been laid off, partners nudged out the door and recruitment programs have been scaled back or eliminated.

Miguel’s Favorites:

Is winner-take-all bad or good for the middle class? Evidence from baseball – via Consider The Evidence – A “winner-take-all” market is one in which the top stars get paid much more than anyone else. It’s an apt description of the American economy in recent decades. Top financiers, CEOs, entertainers, and athletes now routinely earn more than ten million dollars a year, and the share of all income (after taxes) going to the top 1% of households jumped from 8% in 1979 to 17% in 2007.


Galileo: The Stuff you Never Knew – via Boston.com -Given his devotion to empirical fact, it seems odd to think that Galileo’s most important ideas might have their roots not in the real world, but in a fictional one. But that’s the argument that Mount Holyoke College physics professor Mark Peterson has been developing for the past several years: specifically, that one of Galileo’s crucial contributions to physics came from measuring the hell of Dante’s Inferno. Or rather, from disproving its measurements.

On Body Language & Deception
via The Scientist -Professor Sophie Scott is at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London. She is interested in the neurobiology of speech perception, including the evolution of speech and recovery from aphasia (see all evaluations related to aphasia on the F1000 website). She works on on dyslexia and processing of emotional information in the voice, and is involved in a project looking at reading and rehabilitation of patients suffering from partial word blindness, hemianopic alexia. In this video she talks to us about non-verbal expressions of emotion, such as laughter or expressions of disgust, and how universal these are (giving the Himba people of North Namibia, and even rats, as examples). She also talks about the reasons for laughing, and studying the differences between real and fake, or posed, laughter.

Quantum Consciousness is Market Uncertainty -via PsyFi Blog – However odd or downright contradictory we may find financial markets they’re absolutely nothing compared to the bizarre nature of nature itself, which at the sub-microscopic level doesn’t so much defy the application of logic as positively thumb its nose at it. The world of quantum physics is, it seems, quite literally unimaginable. Yet there’s an implication in the physics of the infinitesimal that has profound implications for everything, not the least of which are the random meanderings of investment securities. The science suggests that there is no objective state of reality outside the confines of our own heads. We are, it seems, the ghosts in our own machines.

Making things hard to read ‘can boost learning’ – via Finance Professor -“Researchers found that, on average, those given the harder-to-read fonts actually recalled 14% more. They believe that presenting information in a way that is hard to digest means a person has to concentrate more, and this leads to ‘deeper processing’ and then ‘better retrieval’ afterward”

The Gambler’s Fallacy via Streetwise professor – The biggest news of the last couple of days is the announcement of the BP-Rosneft agreement. Under the agreement, the firms exchange stakes, and will undertake a joint venture (theoretically) to produce oil in Russia’s Arctic.

Forecasting Errors in Evaluating the Value of Apologies – via Sagepub – Apologies are commonly used to deal with transgressions in relationships. Results to date, however, indicate that the positive effects of apologies vary widely, and the match between people’s judgments of apologies and the true value of apologies has not been studied. Building on the affective and behavioral forecasting literature, we predicted that people would overestimate how much they value apologies in reality. Across three experimental studies, our results showed that after having been betrayed by another party (or after imagining this to be the case), people (a) rated the value of an apology much more highly when they imagined receiving an apology than when they actually received an apology and (b) displayed greater trusting behavior when they imagined receiving an apology than when they actually received an apology. These results suggest that people are prone to forecasting errors regarding the effectiveness of an apology and that they tend to overvalue the impact of receiving one.

Video: A Brief History of Product Placement in Movies – via Open Culture -Product placement – it became commonplace during the 1980s, but it has a much longer history, one that goes right back to the beginning of film. Oliver Noble’s video lightly (emphasis on lightly) traces the evolution of conspicuous product placement in film. A little tale of the not-so-good, the bad and the ugly…

Rethinking grief – via Boston.com – You may not have heard of the psychologist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, but you’ve almost certainly heard of her five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. They’re widely used by psychologists, psychiatrists, and grief counselors. Even Conan O’Brien has joked that getting replaced at “The Tonight Show” involved going through the stages of losing a talk show: “Everyone goes through it, I’ve talked to Arsenio, I’ve talked to everybody….It’s just science, man!”

Nostalgia for young adulthood? Rethinking the ‘reminiscence bump’
– via PsychScience – He was in his early 40s, I’d guess. He was friendly and did most of the talking, telling me about his days in high school, just a couple miles down the road. He had been an All-State linebacker on his championship team, and ran track as well. He had been popular and had lots of rich and entertaining stories about his escapades with his buddies and various girls, most of whom had left the area. He married right after high school, took some business courses at the community college, and now he owned this diner and was fairly successful. Still, the best years of his life were high school. I enjoyed taking shelter at that diner, but I remember being saddened by his life story. Here was a man at middle age, still looking back nostalgically at his time as a young man. Had nothing else happened in the intervening years to eclipse his youthful fame and popularity? Was it all downhill from these peak experiences of high school?

Self Control: Hotheads by nature via Wiring the Brain – If some guy spilt your beer by accident, would you punch him in the face? If he was unapologetic, you might at least consider it – you might in fact feel a pretty strong urge to do it. What stops you? Or, if you’re the type who acts on those urges, what doesn’t stop you? New research has found a mutation in one gene that may contribute to these differences in temperament.

How do you get men to take bigger risks? – via Bakadesuyo- The authors report a field experiment with skateboarders that demonstrates that physical risk taking by young men increases in the presence of an attractive female. This increased risk taking leads to more successes but also more crash landings in front of a female observer. Mediational analyses suggest that this increase in risk taking is caused in part by elevated testosterone levels of men who performed in front of the attractive female. In addition, skateboarders’ risk taking was predicted by their performance on a reversal-learning task, reversal-learning performance was disrupted by the presence of the attractive female, and the female’s presence moderated the observed relationship between risk taking and reversal learning. These results suggest that men use physical risk taking as a sexual display strategy, and they provide suggestive evidence regarding possible hormonal and neural mechanisms.

Investing & Finance:

The Groupon Bubble via CJR – If you doubted, even after Facebook’s recent $50 billion valuation, that there’s a mini-bubble inflating in tech land, this morning’s New York Times ought to disabuse you of that notion. The paper reports that Groupon, which turned down $6 billion from Google last month, is in talks with Wall Street for an IPO that Wall Street is pitching to investors valuing the company at between $15 billion and $20 billion

Learning to love the bourgeois via Boston.com – We live in an age of abundance and plenty. Before around 1800, the average European ground out a basic existence on about $3 a day, while today the average American enjoys around $127 a day in food, shelter, energy, and other goods. Millenniums of bare subsistence have given way to two centuries of luxury. What happened?

Bank Capital: Lessons from the Financial Crisis via IMF – Using a multi-country panel of banks, we study whether better capitalized banks experienced higher stock returns during the financial crisis. We differentiate among various types of capital ratios: the Basel risk-adjusted ratio; the leverage ratio; the Tier I and Tier II ratios; and the tangible equity ratio. We find several results: (i) before the crisis, differences in capital did not have much impact on stock returns; (ii) during the crisis, a stronger capital position was associated with better stock market performance, most markedly for larger banks; (iii) the relationship between stock returns and capital is stronger when capital is measured by the leverage ratio rather than the risk-adjusted capital ratio; (iv) higher quality forms of capital, such as Tier 1 capital and tangible common equity, were more relevant.

Trusting people make better lie detectors – via Sageinsight-Trusting others may not make you a fool or a Pollyanna, instead it can be a sign that you are smart. This study analyzed participants responses when they viewed interview tapes of people applying for a job, where half the individuals recorded were being honest and the other half incorporated lies. The results revealed that perhaps surprisingly, people high in trust were more accurate at detecting the liars, the more people showed trust in others, the more able they were to distinguish a lie from the truth. The more faith in their fellow humans they had, the more they wanted to hire the honest interviewees and to avoid the lying ones. Contrary to the stereotype, people who were low in trust were more willing to hire liars and they were also less likely to be aware that they were liars. The interpersonal accuracy of trusting people may make them particularly good at hiring, recruitment, and identifying good friends and worthy business partners.

Learning How To Eat Less: – via Brain Blogger – Researchers have discovered a way for people to eat less: imagine eating. Better than any diet pill, workout routine or all-cabbage-all-the-time regimen, simply thinking about eating food will make a person eat less.


Cultivating Conscience: How Good Laws Make Good People
– via Brookings – How can we get people to behave themselves? Experts often assume that humans are selfish creatures who respond only to punishments and rewards, and who can’t be trusted to do a good job or refrain from lying, cheating and stealing unless given the right “incentives.” Yet every day we see people behaving ethically and unselfishly—few of us mug the elderly or steal the paper from our neighbor’s yard, and many of us help strangers. We nevertheless overlook the good aspects of our own natures and fixate on the bad things people do and how we can stop them.

Contagion Between European and US Banks: Evidence from Equity Prices
– IFW Kiel – This paper employs an Extreme Value Theory framework to investigate the existence of contagion between European and US banks. The fact that many regulators have no detailed data sets about interbank cross-exposures raises the necessity of finding market-based indicators in order to analyze the effects of crises and to quantify the risk of contagion. The Distance-to-default (DD) measure is being employed as an indicator of banks’ soundness. Focusing on the negative tail of the daily percentage changes of the DD, a country-specific indicator variable labeled “Coexceedances” is built measuring the number of banks simultaneously experiencing a large shock on a given day. Based on a multinomial logit model, for each country the probability of observing several banks in the tail is estimated. Controlling for common factors and including foreign countries’ lagged coexceedances allows to interpret significant coefficients of foreign lagged coexceedances as contagion. The main finding is that there is significant bi-lateral contagion between European and US banks. Furthermore the existence of contagion between European banks is verified by the underlying data set.

Language Style Matching Predicts Relationship Initiation and Stability
– via Sagepub – Previous relationship research has largely ignored the importance of similarity in how people talk with one another. Using natural language samples, we investigated whether similarity in dyads’ use of function words, called language style matching (LSM), predicts outcomes for romantic relationships. In Study 1, greater LSM in transcripts of 40 speed dates predicted increased likelihood of mutual romantic interest (odds ratio = 3.05). Overall, 33.3% of pairs with LSM above the median mutually desired future contact, compared with 9.1% of pairs with LSM at or below the median. In Study 2, LSM in 86 couples’ instant messages positively predicted relationship stability at a 3-month follow-up (odds ratio = 1.95). Specifically, 76.7% of couples with LSM greater than the median were still dating at the follow-up, compared with 53.5% of couples with LSM at or below the median. LSM appears to reflect implicit interpersonal processes central to romantic relationships.


The Media Universe – via Chart Porn -It’s surprising to me how often the organizations who create the data are so rarely the ones who take the time to visualize it properly . However in the below example TV habit watchdog nielsen has done a fine job of summing up the television and mobile phone markets. (via)

How The Recession Changed Us

Video: Secret Lives of Projects


About Miguel Barbosa

I run this site.

16. January 2005 by Miguel Barbosa
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