Weekly Roundup 126: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web

Handpicked to satisfy your intellectual curiosity!

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How to Make Your Lie Go Mainstream in 26 Easy Steps

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Miguel’s Link Fest:

Richard Bookstaber – Is Capitalism Really Like Evolution? via Rick Bookstaber Blog- M&A activity is showing signs of life, activity reaching its highest levels since 2007. What more appropriate symbol of the renewal of the economy, of the emerging spring-time of our business cycle, than the merger of two firms, their culture, management style and business as the genes, and the result of the union a manifestation of the process of economic evolution. This metaphor might be passed off as nothing more than bad writing except that it is the way many people actually view things; capitalist evolution likened to natural evolution, perhaps with the implication that capitalism, like biology, is a fundamental life force.

If people lack power, they clamor for choice, and if they have an abundance of choice they don’t strive as much for power. – via APS – “People instinctively prefer high to low power positions,” says M. Ena Inesi of London Business School. “Similarly, it feels good when you have choice, and it doesn’t feel good when choice is taken away.” Inesi and her coauthors suspected that the need for personal control might be the factor these two seemingly independent processes have in common. Power is control over what other people do; choice is control over your own outcomes.

People don’t really care what they’re doing — just as long as they are doing something.
– via APS – People don’t really care what they’re doing — just as long as they are doing something. That’s one of the findings summarized in a new review article published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. When psychologists think about why people do what they do, they tend to look for specific goals, attitudes, and motivations. But they may be missing something more general – people like to be doing something. These broader goals, to be active or inactive, may have a big impact on how they spend their time.

In the Mind’s Eye: Fusing Neuroscience, Economics and Psychology to Learn How People Make Decisions – Arabic Knowledge@Wharton – via Finance Professor- Neuroeconomics is a convergence of two influences. On the one hand, it’s the neuroscientist who wants to understand what is going on in the brain when people and animals make decisions. They’ve come to the realization that to really understand the neural processes, you have to have a framework for understanding decisions at a behavioral level, and that’s going to come from economics, psychology, judgment and decision-making. You have economists, psychologists, and others who are coming to the realization that neural processes are another source of data that could inform their own theorizing and their own modeling about how people make decisions. This could be a new source of tools for testing theories in economics and psychology.”

Does TV affect your view of the world?
– via Bakadesuyo- Cultivation research has identified several misrepresentations on television and has shown that the more people watch television, the more their beliefs correspond to the television world. In recent years, experimental research has demonstrated that fictional narratives are powerful means to change audience beliefs.

Yet another distortion of democracy
– via Deric Bownds- A recent innovation in televised election debates is a continuous response measure (commonly referred to as the “worm”) that allows viewers to track the response of a sample of undecided voters in real-time. A potential danger of presenting such data is that it may prevent people from making independent evaluations. We report an experiment with 150 participants in which we manipulated the worm and superimposed it on a live broadcast of a UK election debate. The majority of viewers were unaware that the worm had been manipulated, and yet we were able to influence their perception of who won the debate, their choice of preferred prime minister, and their voting intentions. We argue that there is an urgent need to reconsider the simultaneous broadcast of average response data with televised election debates.

Welcome to the Brave New World of Persuasion Profiling – via Wired- Today, most recommendation and targeting systems focus on the products: Commerce sites analyze our consumption patterns and use that info to figure out that, say, viewers of Iron Man also watch The Dark Knight. But new work by Maurits Kaptein and Dean Eckles, doctoral students in communications at Stanford University, suggests there’s another factor that can be brought into play. Retailers could not only personalize which products are shown, they could personalize the way they’re pitched, too.

Surprising Statistics About Hot People Versus Ugly Peopl
– via Business Insider – This post investigates female attractiveness, but without the usual photo analysis stuff. Instead, we look past a woman’s picture, into the reaction she creates in the reptile mind of the human male. Among the remarkable things we’ll show: The more men as a group that disagree about a woman’s looks, the more they end up liking her. Guys tend to ignore girls who are merely cute. Having some men think a girl is ugly can actually work in a woman’s favor.

The News Merchant: The inside story of how tabloid TV news is made, bought, and paid for—and its implications for the news industry and our society – via Atlantic- Interested in booking Joran van der Sloot’s ex-girlfriend for the morning news? Want an exclusive? Got a little cash to spend? Larry Garrison’s the person to call, though most news networks won’t admit they call him. The inside story of how tabloid TV news is made, bought, and paid for—and its implications for the news industry and our society.

The Casino Next Door – via Bloomberg – Inside a one-story building on the edge of a strip mall in Central Florida, Joy Baker calculates the sum total of her morning bets. It’s almost noon, and she’s down $5. Not bad. Her husband, Tony, sits a few feet away. “This is the most fun we’ve had in 20 years,” says Joy, who is 78 and retired. “At our age, we can’t hike. You can’t pay him to go to the movies. This gives us a reason to get up in the morning.”

What Mainstream Publishers Don’t Want You to Know About Door-to-Door Magazine Sales
– via Houston – That kid at your door with a magazine order form will tell you a story — part sad, part hopeful. The truth will be infinitely worse than you can imagine.

How Badoo built a billion-pound social network… on sex via Wired- It’s a 120-million-member social network that’s adding over 300,000 users a day, with more than 4.3 million daily photo and video uploads, and seven billion monthly page views. It has Facebook’s fastest-growing app, with 570,000 new daily users, making it the third-biggest app of all after FarmVille and CityVille. Hugely profitable, it’s forecast to generate hundreds of millions of dollars this year, and is being aggressively courted by venture-capital firms valuing it in the billions. And it’s run from London by a secretive Russian serial entrepreneur who has steadfastly refused to be interviewed or photographed. Until now.

How the Brain of a Blind Person Rewires Itself – via Uveal Blues- Do blind people really have a sharpened sense of hearing? What is the explanation? This article reports the work of Ger man researchers who looked at blind people’s brains to try to answer these questions. They found out that indeed, blind people can under­stand speech even if sped up beyond the maximum rate that sighted people can understand. This seemed possible because the brain areas devoted to vision in people with eye sight turned out to be responding to speech in blind people.

Think Again: Dictators
– via Foreign Affairs- New technologies — from the fax machine to the Internet to Facebook — have invariably been heralded as forces for upending dictatorial regimes. And of course, if cell phones and Twitter made no difference at all, then pro-democracy activists wouldn’t use them. But the real test of technology is its ability to shift the balance of power between dictators and those trying to unseat them — to make revolutions more frequent, faster, or more successful. And though it’s too early to know for sure, the arc of revolutions in 2011 doesn’t look that different so far from the lower-tech upheavals of 1989, or, for that matter, 1848.

Higher Suicide Rates In Happy Places via Uveal Blues – Hawaii, which ranks second in adjusted average life satisfaction, has the fifth highest suicide rate in the country. At the other end of the spectrum, for example, New Jersey ranked near the bottom in adjusted life satisfaction (47th) and had one of the lowest adjusted suicide risks (coincidentally, also the 47th highest rate).

When Words Speak Louder Than Money – via Cantebury- Should one use words or money to foster trust of the other party if no means of enforcing trustworthiness are available? This paper reports an experiment studying the effectiveness of two types of mechanisms for promoting trust: a costly gift and a costless message as well as their mutual interaction. We nest our findings in the standard version of the investment game. Our data provide evidence that while both stand-alone mechanisms enhance trust, and a gift performs significantly worse than a message. Moreover, when a gift is combined with sending a message, it can be counterproductive.

Terror, Security, & Money: Balancing The Risks, Benefits, & Costs of Homeland Security – via OSU- The cumulative increase in expenditures on US domestic homeland security over the decade since 9/11 exceeds one trillion dollars. It is clearly time to examine these massive expenditures applying risk assessment and cost-benefit approaches that have been standard for decades. Thus far, officials do not seem to have done so and have engaged in various forms of probability neglect by focusing on worst case scenarios; adding, rather than multiplying, the probabilities; assessing relative, rather than absolute, risk; and inflating terrorist capacities and the importance of potential terrorist targets. We find that enhanced expenditures have been excessive: to be deemed cost-effective in analyses that substantially bias the consideration toward the opposite conclusion, they would have to deter, prevent, foil, or protect against 1,667 otherwise successful Times-Square type attacks per year, or more than four per day. Although there are emotional and political pressures on the terrorism issue, this does not relieve politicians and bureaucrats of the fundamental responsibility of informing the public of the limited risk that terrorism presents and of seeking to expend funds wisely. Moreover, political concerns may be over-wrought: restrained reaction has often proved to be entirely acceptable politically.

Get Into My Car: The Congested Future of Worldwide Auto Ownership
– via Freakonomics- Given everything we hear about China’s economic miracle, you might think its vehicle ownership rate is about the same as that of the U.S. If so, you’d be partly right. China’s vehicle ownership rate is indeed the same as the U.S. rate — in 1916.

Why people make and why they break promises in romantic relationships.
– via PsychNet- People make and break promises frequently in interpersonal relationships. In this article, we investigate the processes leading up to making promises and the processes involved in keeping them. Across 4 studies, we demonstrate that people who had the most positive relationship feelings and who were most motivated to be responsive to the partner’s needs made bigger promises than did other people but were not any better at keeping them. Instead, promisers’ self-regulation skills, such as trait conscientiousness, predicted the extent to which promises were kept or broken. In a causal test of our hypotheses, participants who were focused on their feelings for their partner promised more, whereas participants who generated a plan of self-regulation followed through more on their promises. Thus, people were making promises for very different reasons (positive relationship feelings, responsiveness motivation) than what made them keep these promises (self-regulation skills). Ironically, then, those who are most motivated to be responsive may be most likely to break their romantic promises, as they are making ambitious commitments they will later be unable to keep.

Understanding Popular Uses of Percentages
via Miller McCune- While “figures lie and liars figure,” that’s no reason not to pay attention to some basic facts about common numerical comparisons.

High tuitions can derail lives – via Boston.com – Going to college is seen as part of the American dream. But what happens when the rising cost of college closes off that dream? According to a new study, the result is bad behavior. Seventeen-year-olds in states with higher community college costs tended to engage in more sexual activity, smoking, drinking, and marijuana use. The effect of community college costs on bad behavior was highest for precisely those teenagers who were most likely to consider community college, consistent with the notion that teenagers with lower expectations of attending college are more likely to stop looking out for the future.

Investor Sentiment As Lon Term Predictors of Markets
– viaEconstor- Recent empirical research suggests that measures of investor sentiment have predictive power for future stock returns over the intermediate and long term. Given the widespread publication of sentiment indicators, smart investors should trade on the information conveyed by such indicators and thus trigger an immediate market response to their publication. The present paper is the first to empirically analyze whether an immediate response can be identified from the data. We use survey-based sentiment indicators from two countries (Germany and the US). Consistent with previous research we find there is predictability at intermediate time horizons.

Mis-directions – via Why We Make Mistakes- Drug labels are notoriously hard to read — and often confusing for those who do read them. Not surprisingly, as many as three in four Americans say they don’t take prescription medicine as directed. And in recent studies, more than half of adults misunderstood one or more common prescription warnings and precautions.

Powerful women ‘will have affairs just like men’ – via Telegraph.co.uk – Women in positions of power are just as likely as their male counterparts to be unfaithful because confidence is a bigger factor in adultery than gender, a scientific study has found.

Are people who believe in conspiracy theories more Machiavellian?
– via Bakadesuyo- “These studies suggest that people who have more lax personal morality may endorse conspiracy theories to a greater extent because they are, on average, more willing to participate in the conspiracies themselves.”

Insider Trading – the Director’s Cut – via PsyFi Blog- Insider trading – the use of inside information about a corporation – to trade its stock to personal advantage is a major concern of regulators everywhere. Laws against this abound, and the penalties if found out are often significant: jail time awaits the unwary insider. Of course, the ultimate insiders are company executives and there have been a lot of studies trying to figure out whether directors are any good at exploiting internal information. The evidence, such as it is, is equivocal and the reason seems to be that these privileged insiders don’t know as much as we think they do. Meanwhile insider trader laws are actually damaging the ability of markets to set prices efficiently: as ever, unintended consequences abound.

Video: The Future Automotive System: The World That Changed The Machine – via MIT –

A behavioral puzzle – how credit cards compete for your businessvia Nudge Blog- You are a consumer looking for a credit card. Good news – There’s lots of choices out there. Ultimately, the feature that is going to determine the “price” of the card is the interest rate. The lower the interest rate, the less the card will cost (put aside added complications around annual fees and scenarios where two cards have the same interest rate but different credit limits).

Creating and marketing a new product? Change the salience – via Nudge Blog- Häagen-Dazs advertises Five as an “All-natural ice cream crafted with only five ingredients for incredibly pure, balanced flavor… and surprisingly less fat!” It does have less fat (and fewer calories), but not because it is made from five ingredients. It has less fat because it uses more skim milk and less cream than the original. To make that easy to see, you’d want to change the salience to something silly like Skim Milk Chocolate ice cream. But who wants to eat that?

Why Doctors Should Be More Empathetic–But Not Too Much More
– via SciAm- This finding raised a further question. Perceiving pain in others typically involves two steps. First people engage in the emotional sharing of pain with another person, and then they make a cognitive appraisal of the emotion. Do physicians automatically feel empathy for the pain of others, but then quickly suppress it? Or is the cognitive suppression of empathy even deeper; has it become more automatic? Is it possible that the physicians no longer even experience the first step of empathy for pain that regular people show on their brain scans?

The Ragged Edge of Silence: The Art of Listening – via Brain Pickings – What 17 years of silence have to do with National Geographic and your ringtone. In 1971, after the devastating 800,000-gallon oil spill in the San Francisco Bay, John Francis, then a young man, pledged to never ride a motorized vehicle again. Two years later, he added voluntary silence to his vow, spending 17 years in silence as he walked the world and became known as The Planetwalker. The first words that he spoke again were in Washington, D.C., on the 20th anniversary of Earth Day. In 2009, Francis, by then a National Geographic fellow with a Ph.D, told his remarkable story in the candid and deeply inspirational

Video Ted Talk – Using nature to grow batteries – via Ted- Inspired by an abalone shell, Angela Belcher programs viruses to make elegant nanoscale structures that humans can use. Selecting for high-performing genes through directed evolution, she’s produced viruses that can construct powerful new batteries, clean hydrogen fuels and record-breaking solar cells. At TEDxCaltech, she shows us how it’s done.

Do People Overestimate Their Desire for Variety. I.E. -Is variety the spice of life? It all depends on the rate of consumption – via JDM- Is variety of the spice of life? The present research suggests that the answer depends on the rate of consumption. In three experiments, we find that, whereas a variety of stimuli is preferred to repetition of even a better-liked single stimulus when consumption is continuous, this preference reverses when the satiation associated with repetition is reduced by slowing down the rate of consumption. Decision makers, however, seem to under-appreciate the influence of consumption rate on preference for (and satisfaction with) variety. At high rates of consumption, they correctly anticipate their own, high, desire for variety, but at low rates of consumption people tend to overestimate their own desire for variety. These results complicate the picture presented by prior research on the “diversification bias”, suggesting that people overestimate their own desire for variety only when consumption is spaced out over time.

Risk Taking of Executives under Different Incentive Contracts: – via Muenchen- Classic financial agency theory recommends compensation through stock options rather than shares to induce risk neutrality in otherwise risk averse agents. In an experiment, we find that subjects acting as executives do also take risks that are excessive from the perspective of shareholders if compensated through options. Compensation through restricted company stock reduces the uptake of excessive risks. Even under stock-ownership, however, experimental executives continue to take excessive risks—a result that cannot be accounted for by classic incentive theory. We develop a basic model in which such risk-taking behavior is explained based on a richer array of risk attitudes derived from Prospect Theory. We use the model to derive hypotheses on what may be driving excessive risk taking in the experiment. Testing those hypotheses, we find that most of them are indeed borne out by the data. We thus conclude that a prospect-theory-based model is more apt at explaining risk attitudes under different compensation regimes than traditional principal-agent models grounded in expected utility theory.

The Joy of Stats – via Tablet Magazine – The brainy, numbers-crunching Jewish fans who’ve revolutionized pro sports and realized every geek fan’s dream are celebrated as heroes at the annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

Violence, a biography – via Boston.com -A new history suggests we don’t kill each other because we’re different: We kill each other because we’re the same

The power of not knowing– via Boston.com – Consider the slight but significant difference between these two sentences: “The word failure isn’t in the dictionary” and “The word failure isn’t in his dictionary.” With the first, the blame falls on the hapless dictionary editor (who works, of course, on what lexicographer Rosamund Moon has called the UAD — “the Unidentified Authorizing Dictionary”).

Are groups more likely to defer choice than their members? – via JDM- When faced with a choice, people can normally select no option, i.e., defer choice. Previous research has investigated when and why individuals defer choice, but has almost never looked at these questions when groups of people make choices. Separate reasons predict that groups may be equally likely, more likely, or less likely than individuals to defer choice. We re-analyzed some previously published data and conducted a new experiment to address this question. We found that small groups of people tended to defer choice more often than their members would. Assuming that the groups used a plurality rule but gave additional weight to individual preferences to defer choice allowed the groups’ responses to be predicted quite well. We discuss several possible explanations of these findings.

When Smaller Menus are Better: Variability in Menu-Setting Ability and 401(k) Plans – via HBS- Economists love menus, which can be used to help understand people’s choices. For example, do we prefer more choices (larger menu) or fewer (shorter menu)? But the menu itself has to be pre-selected. Research by David Goldreich (Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto) and Hanna Halaburda (Harvard Business School) focuses on the menu setter’s decisions about what to include, and how large a menu to construct in the context of 401(k) plan choices.

Can a Kinder, Gentler Company Earn a Bigger Bottom Line? – via Columbia -Is it really possible to do well by doing good — to save the world and earn more money as a result? This apparent free lunch may be possible if today’s conscientious consumers seek products made by kinder, gentler companies — and are willing to pay a premium for them.

Architect Frank Gehry Builds on Virtues of Play
– via Miller McCune- Law professor Robert Benson — part of the panel that offered Frank Gehry the first big commission to draw international attention to his architecture in 1979 — talks to the world-class architect about the benefits of “creative play.”


Video: Un Spilling The Gulf Oil Spil – via Brain Pickings

For Women: How Fat Are You Really
– via Chart Porn –

Profile of Self Described MAC vs PC Users
– via Cool Infographics

About Miguel Barbosa

I run this site.

01. May 2005 by Miguel Barbosa
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