Weekly Roundup 114: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web

Handpicked to satisfy your intellectual curiosity!

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Weekly Cartoon:

Weekly Joke:

(via Investment Banker Jokes)

The economy is so bad that…

I got a pre-declined credit card in the mail.

I ordered a burger at McDonald’s, and the kid behind the counter asked, “Can you afford fries with that?”

CEOs are now playing miniature golf.

If the bank returns your check marked “Insufficient Funds,” you have to call them and ask if they mean you or them.

Hot Wheels and Matchbox stocks are trading higher than GM.

Parents in Beverly Hills and Malibu are firing their nannies and learning their children’s names.

A truckload of Americans were caught sneaking into Mexico.

Motel Six won’t leave the light on anymore.

The Mafia is laying off judges.

BP Oil laid off 25 congressmen.

Congress says they are looking into the Bernard Madoff scandal. Oh great! The guy who made $50 billion disappear is being investigated by the people who made $1.5 trillion disappear!

Miguel’s Roundup:

Willpower, Glucose, and Belief (Sugar & our limited supply of willpower) – via Brain Blogger – It looks like journalists are short on willpower. They give into the temptation to jump to conclusions. At least they do when they report on willpower research. Read one article, and we have a limited supply of willpower. If we use it up, then we simply can’t be held accountable for how much junk food we eat while dithering away the evening watching television.

TED’s “Ideas Worth Spreading” Are Heading to E-Books – via Good – Addicted to the simple genius that is TEDTalks? The popular video lectures have helped millions around the world learn about everything from the rise of China to parenting taboos. Now the renowned clearinghouse of free knowledge and inspiration is set to make its “Ideas Worth Spreading” accessible in another format—the e-book.

The Future of TV (According to Hulu) – via Media Shift – Two days ago, Hulu CEO Jason Kilar fired a shot heard round the media world with this treatise on the Hulu blog. According to the Financial Times and AllThingsD, Kilar’s attack on the entrenched view of TV and cable put him in an uncomfortable position with the joint venture owners of Hulu: Fox, Disney and NBC Universal. We thought it was worthwhile to reprint his post here. The Hulu team is often asked about our thoughts on the future of TV. The following represents our point of view, which has been materially influenced by our daily interactions with users, advertisers, and content owners. We are fortunate to have such meaningful interactions with these three customer sets, and we are relentlessly inventing better ways to serve them.

Does being social improve your immune system? via Bakadesuyo- They were subsequently ex- posed to a virus that causes a common cold and monitored to see who developed verifiable illness. Increased sociability was associated in a linear fashion with a decreased probability of developing a cold.

HuffPo Goes Underwater for Mortgage Story via Huffington Post – When Ernie Soto first wrote HuffPost, his mechanic business was falling apart and he was behind on his mortgage. Efforts to modify his loan had gone nowhere and he was considering filing for bankruptcy, walking away and buying a mobile trailer for his family to live in. “We laugh about it now, but we went through hell and back and back to hell,” he said a year later, after filing for bankruptcy and telling the bank it could have the house.

Does where you meet affect first impressions? via Bakadesuyo – Faces viewed in a positive context were rated as appearing more positive than when in a neutral or negative context, and faces in negative contexts were rated more negative than when in a positive or neutral context, regardless of the emotional expression portrayed. Notably, congruency of valence in face expression and background context significantly influenced face ratings. These findings suggest that human judgements of faces are relative, and significantly influenced by contextual factors.

How to Commit to a Goal – via Psyblog –

1. Indulge: imagine a positive vision of the problem solved.

2. Dwell: think about the negative aspects of the current situation.

3. Contrast: first imagine a positive vision of the problem solved then think about the negative aspects of reality. With both in mind, participants were asked to carry out a ‘reality check’, comparing their fantasy with reality.

Every Mistake Imaginable- The Failure of the EMI record label – via GQ- Today, all four major music companies face similar problems. Physical sales (CDs) still make up roughly 70 per cent of revenues, revenues that have fallen between 30 and 50 per cent in the past five years. Digital is growing, but it’s not going to meet that shortfall. Their best hope now is that the war on piracy gains ground and the vogue for “360-degree” deals – where a label shares the artist’s merchandising, touring and licensing – pays off. But to survive, a label needs scale. Two of the “big four” are the product of mergers, Universal Music Group (home of Lady Gaga and Amy Winehouse) with PolyGram, and Sony Music Entertainment Inc ( Kings Of Leon, Michael Jackson) with BMG, while Warner Music Group (Green Day, REM) was owned by the world’s second-largest entertainment conglomerate Time Warner. In 2004, it was sold to a consortium led by Seagram CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. EMI stands alone; the world’s largest independent music company – and for that it has suffered.

Independent Events, Inference Errors and Super Bowl XLV
via Iterative Path -If millions people register for this free offer, Papa John’s stands to lose big. The costs are not only the cost to make and deliver the pizza but also the lost sales because the franchises will be busy making these free pizzas instead of serving pizzas to paying customers.

Carnegie Mellon Researchers Find Crowds Can Write as Well as Individuals – via Chronicle – Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have found that “crowd-sourced” articles written piecemeal by dispersed writers stack up well against those drafted by one author.

Selling with Psychology – via Chanel N – Clip from an unidentified documentary featuring psychologist Dr. Robert Cialdini describing common techniques of persuasion used in advertising.

Dealing With Information Overload : If This Happens Then Do That – via Digital Disruption – We all seem to suffer from information overload. The channels and amount of information we are expected to absorb, analyze and react to in real-time or near real-time seem to just keep increasing exponentially over time. We’re overwhelmed.

Buyology Phrenology? – via Neurocritic – February 2, 2011 (New York, NY) – Johnson & Johnson, Sony, Crest and BMW appear at the top of the First Annual “Most Desired Brands in the U.S.” Report. The report, released by leading global strategic neuromarketing firm Buyology Inc, is the first to quantitatively type and measure consumer relationships with brands. The full report can be found at

Lure of Lists – via More Intelligent LIfe – Something there may be that doesn’t love a wall, as Robert Frost almost observed. For me there’s nothing that doesn’t love a list. Not of chores, mind you, but of books, films, records and so on. Show me a set of titles branded as “The Top Fifty Novels of the Nineteenth Century” or “The 42 Greatest Singles of the Motown Era” and my fingers practically reach of their own accord towards my Amazon account or Rhapsody playlist. I suspect I’m not alone, given the way such lists choke the web like kudzu. Nor am I the only one who has stashed away files of these lists, ambitiously started, rarely completed. But based on the attestations of my wife, my friends and everyone else I know, I may be more assiduous about list-following than most

Psychology, Mind & Neuroscience: What We See Can Change What We Hear – via Dr X Association – The McGurk Effect is a powerful perceptual illusion that shows an interaction between vision and hearing. The effect is so robust that the illusion persists no matter how hard we try to resist it. Watch the video at least until the split screen demonstration to fully appreciate the power of this illusion.

Chris Rock Talks Marriage, Opportunity Costs – via Spousinomics -Sometimes I think Chris Rock and I were separated at birth. It’s like he invented Spousonomics before we did. Check out his explanation of opportunity costs and marriage. “The #1 reason your woman is so angry: You ain’t her first choice!” Friends, that’s a problem of opportunity costs, what you have to give up to get something else.

Radical Rutgers Professor Maps Toxic Ads, Then Buys Billboards to Publish Her Results– via Good – For Edible Geography, I talked to Kwate about several of her recent studies, including one in which she mapped alcohol advertising in Central Harlem against residents’ drinking patterns. Not only did she discover that an astonishing 25 percent of the outdoor advertising space in the neighborhood was dedicated to selling alcohol, but also that exposure to these ads increased black women’s chances of being a problem drinker by up to 13 percent.

The Psychology of Trial Judging – via Sagepub – Trial court judges play a crucial role in the administration of justice for both criminal and civil matters. Although psychologists have studied juries for many decades, they have paid relatively little attention to judges. Recent writings, however, suggest that there is increasing interest in the psychology of judicial decision making. In this article, I review several selected areas of judicial behavior in which decisions appear to be influenced by psychological dispositions, but I caution that a mature psychology of judging field will need to consider the influence of the bureaucratic court setting in which judges are embedded, judges’ legal training, and the constraints of legal precedent.

More People Now Collect Food Stamps Than Live in California and Colorado Combined – via GOOd – Food stamp usage is up 14 percent from the last fiscal year, with more than 43 million individuals and 20 million families now reliant on the service. That means that as of November 2010, the cost per month of the benefit program is almost $6 billion.

The value of an educated population for an individual ‘s entrepreneurship success – via Entrepreneurship SME – Human capital obtained through education has been shown to be one of the strongest drivers of entrepreneurship performance. The entrepreneur’s human capital is, though, only one of the input factors into the production process of her venture. The value of other input factors, such as (knowledge) capital and labor is likely to be affected by the education level of the possible stakeholders in the entrepreneur’s venture. The education distribution of the (local) population may thus shape the supply function of the entrepreneur. Likewise, the demand function faced by the entrepreneur is also likely to be shaped by the taste, sophistication and thus the education level of the population in their role as consumers. In other words, a population with a higher education level may be associated with (i) a working population of higher quality; (ii) more and/or higher quality universities with a positive effect on research and development (R&D) and knowledge spillovers leading to more high tech and innovative ventures; and finally, (iii) a more sophisticated consumer market. Based on this, we formulate the following proposition: The performance of an entrepreneur is not only affected positively by her own education level but in addition, also by the education level of the population. We test this proposition using an eight years (1994-2001) panel of labor market participants in the EU-15 countries from which we select individuals who have been observed as entrepreneurs. We find strong support for a positive relationship between enrolment rates in tertiary education in country j and year t and several measures of the performance of individual entrepreneurs in that same country and year, including survival and the probability that an entrepreneur starts employing personnel and maintains as an employer for a longer period of time. An implication of our novel finding is that entrepreneurship and higher education policies should be considered in tandem with each other.

Group Norms and Consumer Behaviour – via MPRA – The impact of group norms on forming consumer behaviour is an important attribute of man’s social life. The market segmentation principles acknowledge the presence of this phenomenon. People belong to different age group, professional status, income levels, educational status etc. are seemed to display some specific consumer behaviour that can be attributed to a particular group. The present study attempts to find the influence of certain selected group norms on consumption pattern.

Outsmarting the Liars: Toward a Cognitive Lie Detection Approach – via Sagepub – Five decades of lie detection research have shown that people’s ability to detect deception by observing behavior and listening to speech is limited. The problem is that cues to deception are typically faint and unreliable. The aim for interviewers, therefore, is to ask questions that actively elicit and amplify verbal and nonverbal cues to deceit. We present an innovative lie detection perspective based on cognitive load, demonstrating that it is possible to ask questions that raise cognitive load more in liars than in truth tellers. This cognitive lie detection perspective consists of two approaches. The imposing-cognitive-load approach aims to make the interview setting more difficult for interviewees. We argue that this affects liars more than truth tellers, resulting in more, and more blatant, cues to deceit. The strategic-questioning approach examines different ways of questioning that elicit the most differential responses between truth tellers and liars.

Social Status Biases Economic Sanctions – via Ne.Su.Se – Social hierarchy is persistent in all almost all societies. Social norms and their enforcement are part of sustaining hierarchical systems. This paper combines social status and norm enforcement, by introducing status in a dictator game with third party punishment. Status is conveyed by surname; half of the third parties face dictators with a noble name and half face dictators with a common name. Receivers all have common names. We find that social status has an impact on behavior. Our results indicate that low status men are punished to a greater extent than low status women, high status men, or high status women. Interestingly, discrimination occurs only in male to male interaction. For offers below half, or almost half of the allocated resource, male third parties punish male dictators with common names almost twice as much as their noble counterparts. We find no support for female discrimination. This result suggests that social status has important implications for men’s decisions to use economic punishment, and that this holds true in situations where reputation or strategic concerns have no importance.

1.2 Million Americans Quit Seeking Work Since November 2010 – via political Calculations – The February 2011 Employment Situation report indicates that 228,000 young adults (Age 20-24) found work in January 2011, but that 154,000 older individuals (Age 25+) were no longer counted as being part of the U.S. work force. Meanwhile, teens (Age 16-19) saw a mild improvement, with 43,000 more counted as having jobs in January than in December 2010.

Jury Decision Making: Implications For and From Psychology– via Sagepub – Jury trials play a centrally important role in the law, and they are also of interest to psychologists. The manner in which individual jurors perceive, interpret, and remember evidence, as well as the group processes involved in jury deliberation, can be described in terms of fundamental cognitive and social psychological concepts. Juries provide a real-world laboratory for examining theoretical issues related to reasoning, memory, judgment and decision making, attribution, stereotyping, persuasion, and group behavior. Conversely, psychological research can inform trial procedures, enabling juries to benefit from fairer procedures and reach better outcomes. Thus, jury decision making has implications for psychological theory, and psychological research has implications for legal policy.

Of percentages, decimals, SEC and Rosenberg –  via Jaynath Varma- Whether interest rates, volatilities and other similar numbers are expressed as percentages (say 6%) or as decimals (say 0.06) is a trivial yet vexed issue in finance. I always remind students that when they use an online option pricing calculator, this is one common source of error (the other common source of error is to use an annually compounded interest rate where the software expects a continuously compounded rate). But even I never thought that confusion between percentages and decimals could cause $216 million of losses and an enforcement action by the US SEC. And that too at Axa Rosenberg Group – the firm that (under its original name Barr Rosenberg Associates or BARRA) pioneered quantitative portfolio management and risk measurement for institutional investors.

“Zapping” the Brain Affects Moral Judgments – via Psychology Today – Two nights ago, I caught a fascinating NOVA scienceNow report on a recent study wherein researchers altered individuals’ moral judgments via the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to a region of the brain known to be associated with moral processing (right temporoparietal junction; RTPJ). Specifically, RTPJ has been shown to be active when evaluating the beliefs and intentions of an individual’s actions. In two separate studies, participants were exposed to four possible scenarios involving the actions of an individual, subsequent to which they made a moral judgment about the permissibility of such an act.

The Utility of Scientific Jury Selection Still Murky After 30 Years – via Sagepub – Many attorneys place considerable importance on the jury selection process. In order to more effectively screen potential jurors, attorneys involved in major litigation frequently hire jury selection consultants. Consultants use a variety of survey and observational approaches based on social science research techniques to conduct scientific jury selection (SJS). Over the past three decades, psychologists have engaged in research that has implications for evaluating the utility of SJS. In some cases, these research endeavors have examined the general relationship between background characteristics of research participants and their inclinations to either convict or acquit a defendant. In other cases, SJS techniques have been studied in actual trials, as well as mock trial simulations. In this article, I review these lines of research and conclude that while SJS may have some utility, methodological flaws associated with existing research prevent clear conclusions from being drawn. There is currently a strong need for high-quality evaluative research studies to be conducted on the SJS approach.

This Too Shall Pass, or, In the Long Run, We All Equilibrate – via Streetwise Professor -The controversy over the merits of the CME-NYMEX crude oil futures contract (West Texas Intermediate, WTI, also known as light crude, CL) vs. the Brent alternative is heating up again. In recent months, the spread between WTI and other crudes has widened, with WTI trading substantially lower than Brent, and US Gulf Coast prices (e.g., Louisiana Light Sweet–LLS–and Mars blend). Critics of WTI question the long run viability of the contract. This is economically non-sensical. If there is a problem with WTI, it is a short run one; the very price relations that have drawn criticism provide the signal and incentive that will lead to its correction in the “long run”–as economists define it. Not “in the long run we are all dead” long run, but in the time frame that it takes to make adjustments to fixed capital such as pipelines and refining. This long run will arrive far before most of us are dead (based on reliable actuarial information:)–a period measured in months, rather than many years.

Can China’s Currency Go Global? – via Policy Pointers – A 5-page US assessment of the prospects for the yuan to replace the dollar as an international reserve currency

Trust, Salience and Deterrence – via IFN.se – We present results from a laboratory experiment identifying the main channels through which different law enforcement strategies deter organized economic crime. The absolute level of a fine has a strong deterrence effect, even when the exogenous probability of apprehension is zero. This effect appears to be driven by distrust or fear of betrayal, as it increases significantly when the incentives to betray partners are strengthened by policies offering amnesty to turncoat whistleblowers”. We also document a strong deterrence effect of the sum of fines paid in the past, which suggests a significant role for salience or availability heuristic in law enforcement.

Seeing Through the Eyes of Others: Dissonance within and Across Trading Rooms – via SSRN -In this essay we explore the crucial role of diversity in the context of a financial organization. Trading rooms, like many organizations, face two major cognitive challenges. The first is the challenge of recognizing opportunities. The second cognitive challenge is that of recognizing error. As the organization of diversity, dissonance counters lock-in. As we shall see, disparate valuation metrics in the trading room provide multiple vantage points to test the market. Interaction across these metrics provides opportunities for innovation. We also demonstrate that the organization of dissonance provides traders with opportunities to be reflexive about the models they deploy. Dissonant cues can serve as a kind of epistemic rupture, stimulating traders to reassess and re-calibrate their models. In both cases, dissonant diversity allows the traders to grapple with the mismatches between the representations of the environment they created and changes in the environment itself.

Weekly Infographics:

*Click on images for full screens

Wall st compesation – via Chart Porn

Foreign Exchange Reserves – via Chart Porn

Adults with College Degrees over Time – via Flowing Data

Identity Theft Facts and Figures – via Infographic Showcase –

Is cost of College worth it? – via Submit Infographics

Gambling’s Biggest Losers – via Submit Infographics –

About Miguel Barbosa

I run this site.

06. February 2005 by Miguel Barbosa
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