Weekly Roundup 133: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web

Handpicked to satisfy your intellectual curiosity!

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Weekly Cartoon:

Important Videos:

The Elements of Creativity: Everything Is A Remix- via Open Culture- The Elements of Creativity. They come down to this: Copy. Transform. Combine. Nothing is truly original. Everything is a remix, more or less.

Ted Talk – On being just crazy enough - via Ted- Joshua Walters, who’s bipolar, walks the line between mental illness and mental “skillness.” In this funny, thought-provoking talk, he asks: What’s the right balance between medicating craziness away and riding the manic edge of creativity and drive?

Anatomy of a Computer Virus: A 3.5 Minute Primer - via OpenCulture- Now might be a good time to beef up on your knowledge of malware, cybercrime, and cyberwarfare, starting with Stuxnet, a computer virus that was launched against Iranian nuclear infrastructures in 2010 (most likely by the U.S.). For a quick primer on Stuxnet, check out Anatomy of a Computer Virus. It’s only three and a half minutes long, but you’ll learn enough to decide whether or not to set your laptop on fire, sell everything you own, and run screaming for the Yukon.

Inbox Influence shows political contributions by the people in your email - via Flowing Data- While browser plugins like Rapportive tell you the social networks that people in your email belong to, Inbox Influence, from the Sunlight Foundation, uses their data from Influence Explorer, Transparency Data, and Party Time to show a different type of network in your inbox.


Tracking Attention
- via QS- Do you have the energy to do everything but the focus to accomplish nothing? David Charron of UC Berkeley studies multi-tasking, distraction and sustainable attention. He has experimented with quantifying his own attention, and compared himself to a long-time meditator. Check out his results and the interesting audience questions in the video below.

Important Reads:


The Odds of That –Everything You Need To Know About Coincidences
–via For this is not about conspiracy but about coincidence — unexpected connections that are both riveting and rattling. Much religious faith is based on the idea that almost nothing is coincidence; science is an exercise in eliminating the taint of coincidence; police work is often a feint and parry between those trying to prove coincidence and those trying to prove complicity. Without coincidence, there would be few movies worth watching (”Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine”), and literary plots would come grinding to a disappointing halt. (What if Oedipus had not happened to marry his mother? If Javert had not happened to arrive in the town where Valjean was mayor?)

 

Freakonomics Radio, Hour-long Episode 4: “The Folly of Prediction” - via Freakonomics- It’s impossible to predict the future, but humans can’t help themselves. From the economy to the presidency to the Super Bowl, educated and intelligent people promise insight and repeatedly fail by wide margins. These mistakes and misses go unpunished, both publicly and in our brain, which has become trained to ignore the record of those who make them. In this hour of Freakonomics Radio, we’ll dream of the day when bad predictors pay – when the accuracy rate of pundits appear next to their faces on TV, when the weatherman who botches the 5-day forecast by 20 degrees has to make his next appearance soaking wet. We’ll also look at the deep roots of divining what tomorrow brings, from the invention of religion to new understandings of how we make decisions about the future.

Back of the envelope calculations with The Rule of 72 - via Terry Jones- The Rule of 72 deserves to be better known among technical people. It’s a widely-known financial rule of thumb used for understanding and calculating interest rates. But others, including computer scientist and start-up founders, are often concerned with growth rates. Knowing and applying the rule of 72 can help in developing numerical literacy numeracy around growth.

The Hindsight Fallacy: The real reason it’s so hard to predict bubbles - via Slate- The recent sky-high IPO of LinkedIn, along with eye-popping valuations for other social networking and shopping companies, has raised concerns that we are now in the midst of another technology bubble, this one fueled by excessive investor enthusiasm for all things social.

The 1847 lecture that predicted human-induced climate change – via Guardian- A near-forgotten speech made by a US congressman warned of global warming and the mismanagement of natural resources

Feedback Loops Are Changing What People Do - via Seth’s Posterous- The premise of a feedback loop is simple: Provide people with information about their actions in real time, then give them a chance to change those actions, pushing them toward better behaviors.

Johann Hari: How to survive the age of distraction - via Independent- In the 20th century, all the nightmare-novels of the future imagined that books would be burnt. In the 21st century, our dystopias imagine a world where books are forgotten. To pluck just one, Gary Steynghart’s novel Super Sad True Love Story describes a world where everybody is obsessed with their electronic Apparat – an even more omnivorous i-Phone with a flickering stream of shopping and reality shows and porn – and have somehow come to believe that the few remaining unread paper books let off a rank smell. The book on the book, it suggests, is closing. I have been thinking about this because I recently moved flat, which for me meant boxing and heaving several Everests of books, accumulated obsessively since I was a kid. Ask me to throw away a book, and I begin shaking like Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice and insist that I just couldn’t bear to part company with it, no matter how unlikely it is I will ever read (say) a 1,000-page biography of little-known Portuguese dictator Antonio Salazar. As I stacked my books high, and watched my friends get buried in landslides of novels or avalanches of polemics, it struck me that this scene might be incomprehensible a generation from now. Yes, a few specialists still haul their vinyl collections from house to house, but the rest of us have migrated happily to MP3s, and regard such people as slightly odd. Does it matter? What was really lost?


The Truth About Economic Geography and Income Disparity
- via CEP- In the latest of CEP’s ‘big ideas’ series, Henry Overman sketches the evolution of the Centre’s research on economic geography and its interactions with policy debates about global inequality, European integration and urban and regional policy.

The 100 greatest non-fiction books – via Guardian- After keen debate at the Guardian’s books desk, this is our list of the very best factual writing, organised by category, and then by date.

Sooner or later Indians will rule the world of Poker- via Tournaments and cash tables have sent the popularity of the game soaring. “Until a few years ago,” says Abraham, “the two major markets for poker yet to be tapped were China and India. With Macau establishing itself as the hotspot for the Chinese and East Asian market, India is now poker’s final frontier—a rapidly growing market still in its infancy.”


Peace Is Our Profession: Fifty years on, Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex is very much with us. But it’s not inevitable that it must exist forever in this form
- via Democracy Journal Of Ideas- et the complex has proven resistant to reform and invisible in present-day discussion and debate. Today, defense spending accounts for more than 50 percent of discretionary U.S. government spending and at least 35 percent of all global military spending—six times as much as China, and as much as all our “adversaries” put together. And the defense industry, the military, and our politics are tightly interwoven. Defense production occurs in every state. Meanwhile, The Boston Globe last year documented that 80 percent of retired three- and four-star generals take up paid positions with military contractors upon leaving the Pentagon.


The Invisible Army: For foreign workers on U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, war can be hell
– via The New Yorker- More than seventy thousand “third-country nationals” work for the American military in war zones; many report being held in conditions resembling indentured servitude by subcontractors who operate outside the law.

The Policial Economy of Global Financial Liberalization in Historical Perspective - via Oxford- This paper is a first attempt to garner the theory and evidence on the political economy of the first wave of financial liberalisation during the nineteenth and early twentieth century, and of its demise after World War I. Not everyone gained from the process of globalisation (of trade, labour, and finance), which brought about important changes in the structure of the economy and the distribution of income in nations across the world. This paper explores how the economic incentives generated by these dislocations translated, through the political system, into choices about openness to foreign capital and financial integration. The period before World War I is remarkable by the almost absence of restrictions on cross-border capital flows, which may explain the little attention it has received in the historical literature, compared to the extensive study of trade protectionism in this period. After the War, many countries experimented with capital controls which varied in nature and intensity and were intensified during the Depression. Despite the attempt made here to reconcile these stylized facts to models of political economy, the analysis requires a better empirical foundation and some suggestions for further research are also proposed.

Top 5 Regrets of Dying People - via Rationally Speaking- 1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 2. I wish I didn’t work so hard. 3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. 4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. 5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Tim Harford´s “Adapt” – a book review – via Freakynomics- Tim Harford´s new book “Adapt” is a wonderful read but difficult to pigeonhole. There´s interesting stuff about the Iraq war, the finance crisis, development aid, randomized experiments, skunk works, the design of safety systems, whistleblowers, overconfidence and groupthink phenomena, not to mention a truly wonderful explanation of how a carbon tax would work and why environmentalists should embrace it. Even when he covers topics that have been ably covered by others elsewhere, he does so in a light and enjoyable way and manages to dig up new, cool anecdotes. It´s partly a popularization of science, partly a business book, at times it almost moves into self-help territory, and at times it seems to present new and interesting perspectives on big topics (such as financial regulation). Still – though it may sound sprawling, I didn´t really find it so when reading it. At one level it reads like a series of interesting pieces of journalism on different topics, but on another, there´s an underlying thread of ideas that gradually emerges.

Al Gore: Climate of Denial- Can science and the truth withstand the merchants of poison? - via Rolling Stone – But whatever the cause, the referee appears not to notice that the Polluters and Ideologues are trampling all over the “rules” of democratic discourse. They are financing pseudoscientists whose job is to manufacture doubt about what is true and what is false; buying elected officials wholesale with bribes that the politicians themselves have made “legal” and can now be made in secret; spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year on misleading advertisements in the mass media; hiring four anti-climate lobbyists for every member of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. (Question: Would Michael Jordan have been a star if he was covered by four defensive players every step he took on the basketball court?)

If the world was run by doctors - via New Statesman- Politicians work together to tackle political crises, so why not medical emergencies? Malaria can and should be wiped out.

The Origin of Monogamy - via Miller McCune- It turns out that this kind of marriage is much older than anyone had thought, beginning over 6,000 years ago in what is now Turkey. And monogamy likely established itself for a very modern reason: to avoid headaches with inheritance.

Upending Anonymity, These Days the Web Unmasks Everyone - via NyTimes- The collective intelligence of the Internet’s two billion users, and the digital fingerprints that so many users leave on Web sites, combine to make it more and more likely that every embarrassing video, every intimate photo, and every indelicate e-mail is attributed to its source, whether that source wants it to be or not. This intelligence makes the public sphere more public than ever before and sometimes forces personal lives into public view. To some, this could conjure up comparisons to the agents of repressive governments in the Middle East who monitor online protests and exact retribution offline. But the positive effects can be numerous: criminality can be ferreted out, falsehoods can be disproved and individuals

Warren Buffett’s Favorite Valuation Metric: Stocks Are Moderately Expensive - via Pragmatic Capitalist- “On a macro basis, quantification doesn’t have to be complicated at all. Below is a chart, starting almost 80 years ago and really quite fundamental in what it says. The chart shows the market value of all publicly traded securities as a percentage of the country’s business– that is, as a percentage of GNP. The ratio has certain limitations in telling you what you need to know. Still, it is probably the best single measure of where valuations stand at any given moment. And as you can see, nearly two years ago the ratio rose to an unprecedented level. That should have been a very strong warning signal.

Who Wants Keep the War on Drugs Going AND Put You in Debtor’s Prison? - via Naked Capitalism- Welcome to the for-profit prison industry. It’s an industry that wants people in jail, because jail is their product. And they have shareholder expectations to meet.

Memory, emotions and rock ‘n’ roll: The influence of music in advertising, on brand and endorser perception – via Ibanez – This study addresses the extent to which music is capable of modifying the consumer’s perception of the endorser and the brand. A sample of 540 subjects was exposed on random to one of four versions of an experimental radio commercial for a fictitious brand of mineral water differing only in the selection of the background music. The results indicate that music in advertising can significantly influence the perception of the brand endorser, and that the impressions of the brand could be manipulated by means of specific music pieces. The findings of the study also emphasize the effect of music in advertising on emotional reactions and memories evoked. Implications for advertising practitioners are discussed.

Potatoes bad, nuts good for staying slim, Harvard study finds - via Aps- Everyone knows that people who chow down on french fries, chug soda and go heavy on red meat tend to pile on more pounds than those who stick to salads, fruits and grains. But is a serving of boiled potatoes really much worse than a helping of nuts? Is some white bread as bad as a candy bar? Could yogurt be a key to staying slim? The answer to all those questions is yes, according to the provocative revelations produced by a big Harvard project that for the first time details how much weight individual foods make people put on or keep off.


Scientific Evidence Proves Capitalist Ideas May be Innate
- via Aps- Americans have indicated avid opposition to property rights violations throughout the course of U.S. history, whether those violations take the form of taxation, eminent domain, or “open space” laws. According to one psychologist, that sense of being wronged when one’s property rights are violated may be innate, as property ownership may be a natural-born attribute.


Video: What Rainforest
– via Value Investing News-

Spurious? Name similarity effects (implicit egotism) in marriage, job, and moving decisions - via PsychNet- Three articles published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology have shown that a disproportionate share of people choose spouses, places to live, and occupations with names similar to their own. These findings, interpreted as evidence of implicit egotism, are included in most modern social psychology textbooks and many university courses. The current article successfully replicates the original findings but shows that they are most likely caused by a combination of cohort, geographic, and ethnic confounds as well as reverse causality.

There’s something magical about watching patterns emerge from data - via Bad Science- We all know one atom of experience isn’t enough to spot a pattern: but when you put lots of experiences together and process that data, you get new knowledge. This might sound obvious, but following it through – watching patterns emerge from the noise – still gives me a sense of beauty and awe.

Run, Don’t Walk, Away From Forward P/Es - via VRP- One of the most consistent messages I’ve heard throughout my career is that the market is inexpensive or at least “fairly valued” based on next years earnings. We hear it at heights of euphoria and the depths of despair. I don’t recall ever hearing the consensus or even a vocal minority calling the market overvalued based on forward earnings estimates. In fact, we rarely even hear perma-bears cite high P/Es based on forward estimates as the primary cause for concern. Over a decade with low and often significantly negative returns, how can that be?

Decision Making/ Behavioral Economics/Psychology/ Risk:

Limiting Debt May Be Good For Your Mental Health - via SciAm- he relationship between financial status and risk for medical and mental disorders is complex. Premorbid functioning (level of function prior to the onset of a condition) may influence cognitive performance, motivation and the social interaction skills necessary for gaining employment and career success. Failure to obtain (or maintain) a rewarding job can contribute to increased stress and possible reduced access to treatment for medical or mental health conditions. Two recent studies examined the relationship between financial factors and risk for mental disorders. These studies provide potential strategies for the prevention of some common clinical neuroscience conditions.


Scamming Grandma Sadly Common
- via Miller McCune- Scams targeting the elderly are among the most common, but a little skepticism can keep their years golden.

The Fly-on-the-Wall Effect: When Bad Things Happen – via PsychScience- When I was a kid, and had to deal with life’s early disappointments, my parents would always call it a “learning experience.” If I failed to win a coveted academic award or athletic trophy, or if I was rejected by a former best friend, they would assure me that, as bad as I felt at the moment, the pain would help me build character over the long haul. It was a good thing.


What toy makers assume about girls and boys
- via Boston.com- Toronto-based writer Crystal Smith, author of “The Achilles Effect: What Pop Culture is Teaching Young Boys about Masculinity,” was curious about the language used in toy commercials targeting boys. So she decided to conduct an informal study. The mother of two boys herself, Smith kept track of the brands she saw advertised during male-centric television shows –toys like Matchbox, Transformers, and Nerf–and tallied up the nouns and verbs she heard most.

What’s the main thing we can learn from Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert? - via Bakadesuyo- The irony, of course, is that surrogation is a cheap and effective way to predict one’s future emotions, but because we don’t realize just how similar we all are, we reject this reliable method and rely instead on our imaginations, as flawed and fallible as they may be.


Yes Politicians are More Unfaithful.
- via Slate- es, actually. According to a forthcoming psychological study, politicians, executives, industrialists, generals—basically anyone with power—are indeed more likely to cheat than their underlings. The psychologists, led by Joris Lammers of Tilburg University, surveyed 1561 readers of a weekly magazine for professionals. Respondents were asked to rate their level of professional power and then to answer questions regarding their sexual history. According to the researchers’ findings, a higher level of self-perceived power correlates strongly with increased incidence of infidelity and with the belief that one could get away with cheating if one wanted to.

Stereo Types Lead Women To Flirt? - via Boston- People often feel anxious when they’re in a position to confirm a stereotype about their social group — a phenomenon that researchers call “stereotype threat.” A new study shows that women may counter anxiety about gender discrimination by flirting. Female college students who were told they would be interviewed by a man about “quantitative reasoning” — a situation expected to make them worry about gender stereotypes — exhibited more nonverbal flirtatious behavior than if they were given the same interview by the same man but told it would concern “psychological processes.” And men who later watched video of these interviews perceived more sexual intent from the women who were undergoing the “quantitative reasoning” interview than the “psychological processes” one.

Powerful, Intoxicated, Anonymous: The Paradox of the Disinhibited - via APS -Power can lead to great acts of altruism, but also corruptive, unethical behavior. Being intoxicated can lead to a first date, or a bar brawl. And the mask of anonymity can encourage one individual to let a stranger know they have toilet paper stuck to their shoe, whereas another may post salacious photos online. What is the common thread between these three disparate states?


You probably think this paper’s about you: Narcissists’ perceptions of their personality and reputation
- via PsychNet- Do narcissists have insight into the negative aspects of their personality and reputation? Using both clinical and subclinical measures of narcissism, the authors examined others’ perceptions, self-perceptions, and meta-perceptions of narcissists across a wide range of traits for a new acquaintance and close other (Study 1), longitudinally with a group of new acquaintances (Study 2), and among coworkers (Study 3). Results bring 3 surprising conclusions about narcissists: (a) they understand that others see them less positively than they see themselves (i.e., their meta-perceptions are less biased than are their self-perceptions), (b) they have some insight into the fact that they make positive first impressions that deteriorate over time, and (c) they have insight into their narcissistic personality (e.g., they describe themselves as arrogant). These findings shed light on some of the psychological mechanisms underlying narcissism.

Can whether you’re a “morning type” or a “night owl” affect your job performance? - via Bakadeusyo- “Our data, though not statistically significant due to low subject numbers, clearly shows a trend toward morning-type batters hitting progressively worse as the day becomes later, and the evening-types showing the opposite trend,” said principal investigator and lead author Dr. W. Christopher Winter, medical director of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center in Charlottesville, Va.

Are most people unhappy with their jobs? – via Bakadesuyo- Nearly one in three (32%) US workers is seriously considering leaving his or her organization at the present time, up sharply from 23% in 2005. Meanwhile, another 21% are not looking to leave but view their employers unfavorably and have rock-bottom scores on key measures of engagement, a term that describes a combination of an employee’s loyalty, commitment and motivation


Whining is the worst sound in the world, study confirms
- via Msnbc- If you’ve ever thought that listening to your child whine was worse than having a buzz saw cut wood inside your house, it turns out you were right.

Why is Tennis so Difficult to Master? - via Prospect Magazine – This is striking because it is such a difficult game to play. Not to play well, but to play at all. (Squash is easy.) Tennis is like a piano—no fun until you can play it a bit. And as with keyboard so with court: coaching at a young age is hugely advantageous.

Understanding the gift of endless memory - via Aps- nter Dr. James McGaugh, a professor of neurobiology at the University of California Irvine, and a renowned expert on memory. Dr. McGaugh is the first to discover and study superior autobiographical memory, and he is quizzing Owen – his fifth subject – to find out.

Video: The Illusion of Certainty - via BigPicture


Beauty and the Beasts: The Sight of a Pretty Woman Can Make Men Crave War
– via SciAm- Show a man a picture of an attractive woman, and he might play riskier blackjack. With a real-life pretty woman watching, he might cross traffic against a red light. Such exhibitions of agility and bravado are the behavioral equivalent in humans of physical attributes such as antlers and horns in animals. “Mate with me,” they signal to women. “I can brave danger to defend you and the children.”

Does cognitive training work? - via Deric Bownds- Does cognitive training work? There are numerous commercial training interventions claiming to improve general mental capacity; however, the scientific evidence for such claims is sparse. Nevertheless, there is accumulating evidence that certain cognitive interventions are effective. Here we provide evidence for the effectiveness of cognitive (often called “brain”) training. However, we demonstrate that there are important individual differences that determine training and transfer. We trained elementary and middle school children by means of a videogame-like working memory task. We found that only children who considerably improved on the training task showed a performance increase on untrained fluid intelligence tasks. This improvement was larger than the improvement of a control group who trained on a knowledge-based task that did not engage working memory; further, this differential pattern remained intact even after a 3-mo hiatus from training. We conclude that cognitive training can be effective and long-lasting, but that there are limiting factors that must be considered to evaluate the effects of this training, one of which is individual differences in training performance. We propose that future research should not investigate whether cognitive training works, but rather should determine what training regimens and what training conditions result in the best transfer effects, investigate the underlying neural and cognitive mechanisms, and finally, investigate for whom cognitive training is most useful.

Robert Cialdini- How does the world’s most expensive whiskey company use the science of influence? You can do this too- via Forbes- Here’s some amazing news. Diageo recently announced that next year they will be releasing a $150,000 whiskey.

Video:The Science of Meditation - via PsychCentral- Symposium from the Association for Psychological Science 2011 conference on the effects of various (mostly Buddhist) meditation techniques on cognition, affect, and more.

What Do We Pay Attention To? - via Aps – Once we learn the relationship between a cue and its consequences—say, the sound of a bell and the appearance of the white ice cream truck bearing our favorite chocolate cone—do we turn our attention to that bell whenever we hear it? Or do we tuck the information away and marshal our resources to learning other, novel cues—a recorded jingle, or a blue truck?

Arousal Increases Social Transmission of Information - via SagePub-Social transmission is everywhere. Friends talk about restaurants, policy wonks rant about legislation, analysts trade stock tips, neighbors gossip, and teens chitchat. Further, such interpersonal communication affects everything from decision making and well-being ( Asch, 1956; Mehl, Vazire, Holleran, & Clark, 2010) to the spread of ideas, the persistence of stereotypes, and the diffusion of culture ( Heath, 1996; Heath, Bell, & Sternberg, 2001; Kashima, 2008; Schaller, Conway, & Tanchuk, 2002; Schaller & Crandall, 2004). But although it is clear that social transmission is both frequent and important, what drives people to share, and why are some stories and information shared more than others?

The Parent Brain - via SciAm- As Scientific American Mind’s managing editor, I cope with overlapping deadlines for story editing, art planning and production needs. I can only marvel at parents who hold down a job such as mine while also keeping a child safe, well nourished and happy through the vulnerable early years. Human history, of course, proves that we are capable. Whether foraging for berries thousands of years ago or combing over raw prose as I do now, countless generations of women have found a way to balance their daily duties and child care.

Physical Distance May Improve a Negotiating Climate: Buying a house or car? - via SciAm- Buying a house or car? Perhaps you should try making the deal via e-mail. A January study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology suggests nego­tiations are smoother when the parties are separated by distance. When undergraduates who nego­tiated the purchase of a motorcycle over Instant Messenger believed they were physically far apart (more than 15 miles), negotiations were easier and showed more compromise than when participants believed they were closer (a few feet). The experimenters explain that when people are farther apart, they consider the factors in a more abstract way, focusing on the main issues rather than getting hung up on less important points. So next time you have to work out a complex deal, the researchers say, it may be worthwhile to begin from a distance, such as when you are traveling.

Video: Sleep Psychology- Via Channel N- Interview with sleep psychologist Shelby Harris. Topics include adjusting circadian rhythms, sleep hygiene, dreams, nightmares and sleep paralysis, narcolepsy, and her professional view of the movie

Living in a city, or growing up in one, is associated with heightened brain sensitivity to social stress - via BPS Research- Without fanfare or formal announcement, human civilisation has passed a momentous milestone. For the first time, more of us now live in cities than in rural communities. The benefits are numerous: more jobs, better access to educational and health services, more potential friends, and on the list goes. Yet city living has its dark side. Crime, deprivation and inequality are usually higher and so are rates of mental illness, including more anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. A new paper has made one of the first attempts to understand the neural effects mediating this link between urban life and mental strife.

Complicating Choice - via Columbia- Human beings have developed all kinds of ways to tackle life’s everyday decisions in order to make the process of choosing less overwhelming or less time-consuming by simplifying and organizing — for example, ordering the same dish as a dining companion, sorting alternatives by an important feature, or excluding the least familiar menu items from consideration.

Rules of the Road: Using the Science of Persuasion When Buying a Car - via SCiAm- For example, when the chatty salesman at the first dealership discovered, or invented, that we had similar backgrounds, I knew that he was trying to establish rapport, because we are much more likely to do something for somebody we like. It didn’t work.

A curious hysterical blindness – via MindHacks- The New York Times has an extended book review that explores female hysteria in 19th Century Paris while demonstrating a curious hysterical blindness of its own.

Synaesthesia and savantism - via Wiring The Brain- “We only use 10% of our brain”. I don’t know where that idea originated but it certainly took off as a popular meme – taxi drivers seem particularly taken with it. It’s rubbish of course – you use more than that just to see. But it captures an idea that we humans have untapped intellectual potential – that in each of us individually, or at least in humans in general lies the potential for genius.

How Physics Limits Intelligence - via SciAm- Award-winning author Douglas Fox talks about his cover story in the July issue of Scientific American about “The Limits Of Intelligence,” placed there by the laws of physics.

Does Addictive Internet Use Restructure the Brain? - via SciAm- The work, suggests self-assessed Internet addiction, primarily through online multiplayer games, rewires structures deep in the brain. What’s more, surface-level brain matter appears to shrink in step with the duration of online addiction.

Are people with social anxiety preoccupied by social rank? - via BPS Research- People with a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder find social situations nerve wracking, from mixing with friends to speaking in public. A number of explanations have been proposed for why they feel this way, including that they are pre-occupied with creating the right impression. A new study makes a related but distinct claim, which is that people with social anxiety are overly concerned with social hierarchy, and struggle with what’s called the affiliative side of relationships. In simple terms this means they tend to perceive social situations as competitive, judging themselves as having low rank compared with other people, and they also have difficulty forming close relationships.

Taco Bell’s behavioral puzzle – “We haven’t even been able to give away the food, never mind figure out how to sell it online” - via Nudge- Cases like that explain why the bulk of Taco Bell’s marketing budget goes to television (and some radio) ads. Social media remains a small part of the budget because the company hasn’t figured out how, in Blum’s words, to use it to “make the cash register ring.”

The Role of Social Psychological Factors In Purchasing Domestic Products By Iranian Consumers- ICEBR – “Buy domestic” promotions in various countries often urge citizens to help domestic workers whose jobs are threatened by imports. To explain why purchasers might engage in buy domestic purchase activities, researchers develop and test a behavioral model about why people help distressed victims. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of factors underlying consumer choice of domestic vs. foreign products on a sample of consumers in Iran. For this purpose authors use multiple-group structural equation analysis of survey data from Iran to test the model that features seven explanatory constructs drawn from previous behavioral research. Empirical results confirmed the postulated that domestic punches costs, similarity and common fate have significant impact on consumer domestic purchase decisions. However, findings did not lend support for theoretical propositions related to ethnocentric, patriotism, social concerns. Implications for domestic economic are outlined in the conclusions.

How drunk am I? Misperceiving one’s level of intoxication in the college drinking environment- via PsychNet- One effective event-level index that can assist in identifying risky intoxication levels among college students is blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Despite widespread exposure to BAC information, doubt exists as to whether American college students can accurately estimate their own BAC level or drinking behaviors while intoxicated. This study assessed whether students can accurately guesstimate their BAC level and drinking behaviors used to estimate BAC (eBAC) while drinking in social college settings. Participants (N = 225; 56.4% male) consisted of emerging adults attending either a 2- or 4-year college who had at least one alcoholic drink within the 2 hr before assessment. Participants were approached at night when returning from parties and/or alcohol-serving establishments. They completed an initial questionnaire, gave a breath sample to assess breath alcohol content, and then completed an online follow-up questionnaire within 48 hr of baseline assessment. Participants at lower levels of intoxication tended to slightly overestimate their BAC level, while those at higher levels tended to markedly underestimate their BAC level. In addition, discrepancies among breath alcohol content, guesstimated BAC, and eBAC were found as a function of gender. Lastly, differences in eBAC scores did not differ when drinking behaviors were obtained via in vivo versus retrospective methodology. Findings suggest that college students generally have difficulty assessing their BAC level and drinking behaviors while drinking in the college social setting. This study offers particular insight for research relying on estimates of BAC as well as interventions utilizing BAC education.

Why ketamine ( ‘special K’) makes you happy – via Deric Bownds- …ketamine binds to, and blocks, a receptor in the brain called NMDAR, which triggers its anesthetic effects, so Monteggia’s group used other compounds to block NMDARs in mice…the animals depression once again lessened, so the researchers knew that ketamine’s antidepressant effects also depended on NMDAR. Next, the team studied how levels of certain proteins in the brain changed when mice were given ketamine. Blocking NMDARs with other compounds turns off production of some proteins, but ketamine causes the neurons to make more of a protein called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor)…The findings suggest a new set of molecules that ketamine and NMDAR affects, and that means a new set of molecules involved in depression.

Fairness & Cheating- via Repec- We present evidence from a laboratory experiment showing that individuals who believe they were treated unfairly in an interaction with another person are more likely to cheat in a subsequent unrelated game. Specifically, subjects first participated in a dictator game. They then flipped a coin in private and reported the outcome. Subjects could increase their total payoff by cheating, i.e., lying about the outcome of the coin toss. We found that subjects were more likely to cheat in reporting the outcome of the coin flip when: 1) they received either nothing or a very small transfer from the dictator; and 2) they claimed to have been treated unfairly.


What Chess Tells Us About the Value of Perception
– via Freakonomics- The amazing result: At the rapid “simul” pace, Kasparov performed at a rating of 2650: higher than all but half a dozen players in the world! In other words, most of his world-class expertise comes from how he sees and looks at the chess board, not from his calculation ability. The traditional picture of the chess master as a calculating prodigy is bogus.

Testosterone and high finance do not mix: so bring on the women – Guardian- Gender inequality has been an issue in the City for years, but now the new science of ‘neuroeconomics’ is proving the point beyond doubt: hormonally-driven young men should not be left alone in charge of our finances…

Power and Choice:Their Dynamic Interplay in Quenching the Thirst for Personal Control - via Sagepub- Power and choice represent two fundamental forces that govern human behavior. Scholars have largely treated power as an interpersonal construct involving control over other individuals, whereas choice has largely been treated as an intrapersonal construct that concerns the ability to select a preferred course of action. Although these constructs have historically been studied separately, we propose that they share a common foundation—that both are rooted in an individual’s sense of personal control. Because of this common underlying basis, we hypothesized that power and choice are substitutable; that is, we predicted that the absence of one would increase the desire for the other, which, when acquired, would serve to satisfy the broader need for control. We also predicted that choice and power would exhibit a threshold effect, such that once one source of control had been provided (e.g., power), the addition of the other (e.g., choice) would yield diminishing returns. Six experiments provide evidence supporting these predictions.


Scary New Cigarette Labels Not Based in Psychology
- via Aps- There’s no question that the nine new graphic cigarette warning labels designed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which will be on all cigarette packages sold in the United States starting in September 2012, are ghastly. But has rampant gruesome imagery in shows like House emasculated their effectiveness? And will these pictures really convince a jaded smoker to quit or prevent a rebellious teenager from starting?

Entrepreneurship/ Business/ Finance/ Investing:

A Dirty Business: New York City’s top prosecutor takes on Wall Street crime - via The New Yorker – In the fall of 2003, Anil Kumar, a senior executive with the consulting firm McKinsey, and Raj Rajaratnam, the head of a multibillion-dollar hedge fund called Galleon, attended a charity event in Manhattan. They had known each other since the early eighties, when, as recent immigrants, they were classmates at the Wharton School of Business, in Philadelphia. Their friendship, intermittent over the years, was based on self-interest rather than on intimacy. Kumar, born in Chennai, formerly Madras, India, was fastidious and morose, travelling at least thirty thousand miles a month for work, and seldom socializing. Rajaratnam, a Tamil from Colombo, Sri Lanka, was fleshy and dark-skinned, with a charming gap-toothed smile and a sports fan’s appetite for competition and conquest. Kumar was not among the group whom Rajaratnam took on his private plane to the Super Bowl every year for a weekend of partying. “I’m a consultant at heart,” Kumar liked to say. “I’m a rogue,” Rajaratnam once said. Kumar had the more precise diction and was better educated, but Rajaratnam was one of the world’s new billionaires and therefore a luminary among businessmen from the subcontinent. In an earlier generation of immigrant financiers, Kumar would have been the German Jew, Rajaratnam the Russian. Kumar might have felt some disdain for Rajaratnam, but Rajaratnam’s fortune made him irresistible.

Normalcy Bias & Job Creation - via Paul Kedrosky -Latest Stories My friend Gregor and I often talk at length about the idea of “normalcy bias”. It describes our collective fondness for believing that All Things Economic will swing back to “normal”, given time and less screwing around by governments and others. It applies to everything from oil prices, to job creation.

The Surprising Power of Age-Dependent Taxes - via HBS- Professor Matthew Weinzierl helps initiate a resurgence of interest in the idea of age-dependent taxes—that is, the idea of making the tax rate contingent upon the age of the tax payer. Using optimal tax theory as well as data from the US Panel Study of Income Dynamics, he shows how the administratively simple reform of age dependence can make the tax system substantially more efficient and more equitable

Fame, Faith, and Social Activism: Business Lessons from Bono - via HBS- U2′s business savvy in the earliest days serves as a lesson for any MBA student. In an industry notorious for its focus on short-term hits and for taking control of an artist’s work and profits, the band members and their long-time manager Paul McGuiness always looked to build an enterprise that would have a long life.

Financial Salaries and Global Equilibration in Progress (I.E. Everyone’s starting to get 6figure pay checks) - via Information Processing- The US salary figure for MBAs from “leading schools” seems too low to me. Is this apples to apples? Still, it’s incredible what people are earning in China and India. One private equity guy I know told me they are hiring top talent in Beijing/Shanghai for USD $100k+ these days.

Marxism without revolution: Class - via Crooked Timber- On the other hand, there clearly is a self-conscious and generally dominant class, centred on control of capital, but including plenty of people whose source of power and wealth is derived from their job rather than from capital income. On a narrow definition, it includes the top 1 per cent of US households which now receive 25 per cent of all income and hold around 35 per cent of all wealth. More broadly, the top 20 per cent of the population has, in broad terms, increased or maintained its share of national income as the top 1 per cent have become richer. This broader group controls more than half of all income and wealth.


How are inflation targets set?
- via Voxeu- How are inflation targets set and why do they differ from country to country? This column suggests that macroeconomic characteristics such as inflation, inflation volatility, GDP growth, and foreign inflation matter for the process of inflation target setting. It also argues that central bank credibility is important but that the role of central bank independence and government political orientation is limited.

A license to lie, backdated - via Stingy News- “if you are considering an investment in a mutual fund or ETF, you should understand that you will have little recourse if information provided in the prospectus turns out to be misleading or incomplete, even outright fraudulent”

The Rise and Inglorious Fall of Myspace - via Business Week – At its December 2008 peak, Myspace attracted 75.9 million monthly unique visitors in the U.S., according to ComScore (SCOR). By May of this year that number had dropped to 34.8 million. Over the past two years, Myspace has lost, on average, more than a million U.S. users a month. Because Myspace makes nearly all its money from advertising, the exodus has a direct correlation to its revenue. In 2009 the site brought in $470 million in advertising dollars, according to EMarketer. In 2011, it’s projected to generate $184 million.


The Buzz Factory Conde Nast, king of the glossy magazines, was long known as a rich man’s plaything. Now it says it has gotten down to business. But it’s not like any business you’ve ever seen
- via Fortune- A more likely scenario is that merging The New Yorker into Conde Nast will cost the magazine millions of dollars in ad revenue. In an effort to head off an advertiser revolt, the company has already decided to reduce its ad rates by 25%. But since the average New Yorker discount right now is around 50%, it’s hard to see how this will stem the tide. According to an in-house analysis at The New Yorker, in the best of all possible worlds the merger will generate an additional $2 million because of the corporate buying program. That same analysis, however, concludes that the move will put some $12 million in annual advertising revenues at risk.

Why Do Airlines Always Lose Money? Hint: It’s Not Due to Taxes or Fuel Costs – via Freakonomics- It’s been more than 30 years since the airline industry was deregulated in 1978. Since then it’s lost nearly $60 billion on U.S. operations, though most of the losses have come since 9/11. The airlines were already in trouble before the attacks happened. The plunge in demand and resulting liquidity crisis led to billions in government cash and loan guarantees– the first true bailout of the 21st century, and certainly a sign of things to come in the next decade.

Swinging for the fence is not a sustainable wealth strategy- via Wealth Standard- Some of my partners and I recently met with investors that have some commonalities pertaining to how they built their significant wealth. Each of these investors, through a combination of hard work and good fortune, amassed significant wealth by making concentrated bets in relatively few stocks. No doubt we’ve all heard stories about how somebody’s father or grandmother stock-piled shares of a company like Royal Bank, Coca-Cola decades ago. Such stories all end happily with a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

The Eclectic Mix:

Why Do We Miss Old Style Cooking, Especially When We Never Experienced It? - via Laphams Quarterly- Recently, over lunch in Betty Jo’s cozy house in a quiet Huntington neighborhood, I listened to them talk about the farm, and I eventually asked Betty Jo what she thought of her granddaughter’s notion of returning to the land. Betty Jo smiled, but was blunt: “Leave it. There’s nothing romantic about it.” Leave it? But isn’t Green Acres the place to be? Listening to the conversation about food reform that has unspooled in this country over the last decade, it’s hard to avoid the idea that in terms of food production and consumption, we once had it right—before industrialization and then globalization sullied our Eden. Nostalgia glistens on that conversation like dew on an heirloom tomato: the belief that in a not-so-distant past, families routinely sat down to happy meals whipped up from scratch by mom or grandma. That in the 1950s, housewives had to be tricked by Madison Avenue marketers into abandoning beloved family recipes in favor of new Betty Crocker cake mixes. That the family farm was at the center of an ennobling way of life.


Travel Made Humans
- via Overcoming Bias- No primates other than humans are capable of endurance running. … Well-conditioned human runners … can occasionally outrun horses over the extremely long distances that constrain these animals to optimal galloping speeds, typically a canter. … Horses have … narrow ranges of preferred speeds for trotting and galloping and gait transitions that minimize cost. … Human runners differ from horses in employing a single gait. … Humans are thus able to adjust running speed continuously without change of gait or metabolic penalty over a wide range of speeds

Why saving lives can lead to bad statistics- via Statsblog- A recent statistical twist tells a story of tragedy instead of inspiration. Washington DC was reported to have the highest percentage of HIV infection in the country. NBC reported that the infection rate is 3.2 percent, far above the national average. According to the most recent account of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the prevalence over the whole country is less than 0.5 percent.

The biggest market you’ve never heard of - via GigaOm- The tech bubble of the late ’90’s was fueled largely by the promise of universal high-speed Internet access. As millions of consumers gained access to the Internet, new market opportunities emerged. But today, content is so heavy, and networks so overburdened, that more efficient use of the network is a critical behavior.

The Prince Who Blew Through Billions - via Vanity Fair- When two British lawyers, Faith Zaman and Thomas Derbyshire, signed on in 2004 to manage the affairs of Prince Jefri Bolkiah, notorious playboy brother of the Sultan of Brunei, they entered a world of orgiastic wealth: 250 companies, 2,000 cars, luxury hotels, planeloads of women and polo ponies, colossal diamonds. Caught in a feud between the prince and the sultan, they ended up in a court battle over $23 million. Following the couple’s legal victory, Mark Seal gets an exclusive on the story the jury didn’t hear.

The Effects of Weather on Walking Rates in Nine Cities – via Sagepub- This study examined whether locally felt weather had a measurable effect on the amount of walking occurring in a given locale, by examining the observed walking rate in relation to air temperature, sunlight, and precipitation. Web-based cameras in nine cities were used to collect 6,255 observations over 7 months. Walking volumes and levels of precipitation and sunlight were captured by visual inspection; air temperature was obtained from local meteorological stations. A quasi-Poisson regression model to test the relationship between counts of pedestrians and weather conditions revealed that all three weather variables had significant associations with fluctuations in volumes of pedestrians, when controlling for city and elapsed time. A 5°C increase in temperature was associated with a 14% increase in pedestrians. A shift from snow to dry conditions was associated with an increase of 23%, and a 5% increase in sunlit area was associated with a 2% increase.

Swing for the Fences: Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences behind How Sports Are Played - via LRB – Until recently, one of the most remarkable unbeaten records in sport belonged to a football manager, the much reviled Portuguese provocateur and clotheshorse José Mourinho. Before Real Madrid lost 1-0 at home to Sporting Gijón on 2 April, no team managed by Mourinho had lost a home league game for more than nine years, a sequence spanning four different clubs in four different countries (Mourinho has also managed Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan) and lasting 150 matches. It is true that Porto, Chelsea, Inter and Real are all rich and powerful clubs and you would not expect them to lose at home very often – but still, nine years is a mighty long time. Even if you calculate that on average away teams only ever had a 10 per cent chance of beating one of Mourinho’s sides (for some, like Gijón, it might be a lot less, but for others, like Sporting Lisbon, AC Milan, Manchester United or Barcelona, it would be a lot more), the odds against going unbeaten for 150 matches are more than seven million to one.

Why humans (and other primates) lend a helping hand - via Ars Technica- Human society is rife with examples of individuals helping each other, but they can be a confusing and contentious subject for evolutionary biologists. We often help others at our own expense, whether it’s a matter of holding a door for someone or rescuing them from an oncoming train. Where does this behavior come from, and why do we do it? A special issue of PNAS, dedicated to evolution and social behavior, reviews the latest research on cooperation and suggests that humans may differ from other animals in how and why we help others.

Video:The Joy of Easy Listening, BBC Documentary Online - via OpenCulture- In-depth documentary investigation into the story of a popular music that is often said to be made to be heard, but not listened to. The film looks at easy listening’s architects and practitioners, its dangers and delights, and the mark it has left on modern life. From its emergence in the 50s to its heyday in the 60s, through its survival in the 70s and 80s and its revival in the 90s and beyond, the film traces the hidden history of a music that has reflected society every bit as much as pop and rock – just in a more relaxed way.

East Asian sociopaths? - via Information Processing- Some would assert that CEOs and other people in leadership positions are often warm sociopaths. Interestingly, it is claimed that there is a huge variation between groups in the rate of sociopathy. Perhaps this is related to the under-representation of E. Asians in leadership positions in the West, despite their high educational achievements? (Instead of sociopathy other factors like aggressiveness in interpersonal relationships might play a role.)

Infographics:

American Leisure Activity -Economic Data

We Aren’t Exactly Spreading The Wealth- via Chart Porn-

How Many Households Are Like Yours - via Chart porn-

Should You Invest In The Grouponzi? - via Online MBA

2 thoughts on “Weekly Roundup 133: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web

  1. Excellent roundup of so many fascinating, smart links. Your diversity of interests benefits us all. Thanks for including a link to one of my blog posts, I’m flattered!

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