Weekly Roundup 135: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web

Handpicked to satisfy your intellectual curiosity!

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Weekly Cartoon:

Important Videos:

Brilliant video: Society Needs Certain Fictions to Function– Global Sociology-The principles of justice are fiction. When we say that “we are all equal”, it’s a positive fiction but a fiction nonetheless. When we say that “we are all free”, it’s a fiction, but it is a fiction that is fundamental to democracy. We have to act as if we were free, as if we were equal. We have to recognize the fiction of individual merit. But a society that was based exclusively on this principle (individual merit) would be very brutal and very unequal at the same time. And societies that have leaned more towards this model of justice are more unequal than others. When Maradona becomes part of the elite, that does not change at all the position of the poor, even if there are 150 Maradonas, but it makes the poor dream. The history of capitalist societies is not a history of an economic system but the history of the embedding of the economy into society. The only people who believe that there are capitalist societies are the hyper-libertarians (”ultra-liberals, for the Europeans), the Chicago boys, and revolutionaries. Ordinary people know that one can raise salaries, create hospitals, enjoy social welfare, and limit the wealth of the dominant classes

Bertrand Russell & Other Big Thinkers in BBC Lecture Series (Free) – via Openculture– Back in 1948, Britain was making another difficult transition, moving from the trauma of World War II to the chill of the Cold War. Hoping to give radio listeners some clarity on contemporary affairs, the BBC began airing an annual series of lectures — the Reith Lectures — that featured leading thinkers of the day. 60 years later, the tradition continues, and during this long stretch, some legendary figures have graced the BBC’s airwaves: Michael Sandel, Edward Said, John Searle, John Kenneth Galbraith, George Kennan, and Robert Oppenheimer, just to name a few. (And, yes, the list unfortunately skews heavily male.)

John Mack on the inside of the financial crisis
– via Seth Levine– A friend recently sent me a link to a talk John Mack gave at Wharton that I think is absolutely fascinating. I’ve read a number of books and articles about the key events surrounding the financial crisis but I find these sorts of first person accounts so much more interesting. And I think Mack is an extremely engaging person

Connected: 6 Degrees of Separation – via Datavisualization Channel- Connected focuses on investigating the The Human Network. This network is a social structure made up of individuals called nodes, which are connected by one or more intermediates. Nodes may include, friendship, common interest, financial exchange, dislike, intimate relationships, knowledge or prestige. We live in a community of connectors where everyone is at most six steps away from any other person on Earth. I engage my viewers by breaking down the concept behind the six degrees of separation and help them associate with one another on a much smaller scale. My visual output allows the audience to more fully identify with the various forms of human connection through animation and film. This project strives to discover different ways of humanizing connectedness through design that is user friendly and informational. Connected visually represents the relationships that people share, envisions the concept of connectedness, and encourages viewers to explore their own human networks.

Brits Get Rich In China ….– via Walrus Value-Around 2007, the BBC did this great documentary called “Brits Get Rich In China.” It follows three British entrepreneurs on their way to doing business in China. It’s absolutely hilarious. I highly recommend watching this. Especially for anyone doing research in the Chinese space.

How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics – via Fora.tv– Steven J. Ross tells an important story that has escaped public attention: the emergence of Hollywood as a vital centre of political life and the important role that movie stars have played in shaping the course of American politics. Ever since the film industry relocated to Hollywood early in the twentieth century, it has had an outsized influence on American politics. Through compelling larger-than-life figures in American cinema–Charlie Chaplin, Louis B. Mayer, Edward G. Robinson, George Murphy, Ronald Reagan, Harry Belafonte, Jane Fonda, Charlton Heston, Warren Beatty, and Arnold Schwarzenegger– Ross reveals how Hollywood’s engagement in politics has been longer, deeper, and more varied than most people would imagine. The Left and the Right each gained ascendancy in Tinseltown at different times. From Chaplin, whose movies almost always displayed his leftist convictions, to Schwarzenegger’s nearly seamless transition from action blockbusters to the California governor’s mansion, Ross traces the intersection of Hollywood and political activism from the early twentieth century to the present. Ross challenges the commonly held belief that Hollywood has always been a bastion of liberalism. The real story is far more complicated. First, Hollywood has a longer history of conservatism than liberalism. Second, and most surprising, while the Hollywood Left was usually more vocal and visible, the Right had a greater impact on American political life, capturing a senate seat (Murphy), a governorship (Schwarzenegger), and the ultimate achievement, the Presidency (Reagan)

Important Reads:

Brilliant Interview with Steve Jobs
– Via CShonors – One of the things that happens in organizations as well as with people is that they settle into ways of looking at the world and become satisfied with things and the world changes and keeps evolving and new potential arises but these people who are settled in don’t see it. That’s what gives start-up companies their greatest advantage. The sedentary point of view is that of most large companies. In addition to that, large companies do not usually have efficient communication paths from the people closest to some of these changes at the bottom of the company to the top of the company which are the people making the big decisions. There may be people at lower levels of the company that see these changes coming but by the time the word ripples up to the highest levels where they can do something about it, it sometimes takes ten years.

Could all those social contagion studies be wrong!!!Doubts about social contagion
– via Mind Hacks– Slate has an important article about how the studies behind last year’s headlines saying that things like divorce, obesity and loneliness spread through social networks like a ‘contagion’ may not be as sound as the stories suggested.

A War by Any Other Name – via National Interest- There are so many ways in which the United States can find itself in a situation where its armed forces are engaged in action that there are no longer clear guidelines as to what constitutes “peacetime” and “wartime.” Beyond the propensity of presidential administrations to label any major policy initiative a “war” (like the “war on poverty”), the reality is that at least two of these so-called “wars”—the “war on drugs” and the “war on terror”—have led to the deployment of military forces engaged in combat activities. Indeed, the evolution of Plan Colombia—initially billed by the Clinton administration as a drug interdiction program, and approved as such by Congress—into a much more expansive counterterrorism and counterinsurgency program—shows the various policy backdoors through which U.S. personnel can be sent into combat situations without triggering either the War Powers Act or a need for a formal declaration of war. Plan Colombia, in its early days, also showed how Congressional restrictions could be circumvented: in order to reassure Congress that the U.S. military would not be dragged into a Colombian civil war, U.S. military personnel were specifically prohibited from engaging in combat or being present in situations where combat would be imminent. However, there were no such bans enacted applying to contractors in the employ of the State Department.

In Praise of Vagueness – via Paul Kedrosky-Recent-ish paper on a favorite subject: vagueness. The authors show that in certain contexts, like weight loss, it is better to know less than more. The fuzzier the information was, the more weight people lost. People with more precise information gained weight.

The Focused Arrogance of the Highly Creative
– via Miller McCune- New research links creativity with lower levels of honesty and humility.Creative geniuses have long had a reputation for arrogance. “When I paint, the ocean roars,” proclaimed the self-satisfied surrealist Salvador Dali. “Others merely paddle in their bath.” Newly published research suggests the connection between egotism and inventiveness is more than anecdotal. Participants in a large study who consider themselves creative, and regularly participate in creative activities, scored low on a personality test measuring honesty and humility.

Where does your money go? – via The Story- Have you ever wondered what happens when you pay taxes? Ever wonder when it disappears from your pay slip, where exactly it goes? I often do, indeed, I believe citizens have a right to see where it all goes. This handy flowchart from the Department of Finance gives us an idea of exactly what happens our taxes, and indeed the money we borrow. I will make a clearer digital copy soon.

Today’s Rising One-percenters:The growing gap between the very rich and everyone – via Kellogg Insight-Few understand how the gap between the wealthiest 1 percent and the rest of the United States’ population has grown so enormous in the last few decades. In fact, it has not been clear who these one-percenters are. In the early 2000s, scrutiny turned to the growing salaries of top executives at publicly-traded companies such as Home Depot and Oracle. But according to economists Joshua Rauh, an associate professor of finance at the Kellogg School of Management, and Steven Kaplan, a professor at the University of Chicago, it is worth taking another look. After all, top executives of “Main Street” companies comprise only 5 percent of the top .01 percent wealthiest people in the United States—a division whose members earned individual salaries of at least $7.2 million per year in 2004.

Without data, you are just another person with an opinion – via Information Processing– he story of how an introverted German scientist came to judge and counsel schools around the world is an improbable one. As a mediocre student in Hamburg, Schleicher did not particularly care about his classes—to the distress of his father, who was a professor of education. Later, at an alternative high school, teachers encouraged Schleicher’s fascination with science and math, and his grades improved. He finished at the top of his class, even winning a national science prize. At the University of Hamburg, Schleicher studied physics. He had no interest in his father’s field, considering it too soft. Then, out of curiosity, he sat in on a lecture by Thomas Neville Postlethwaite, who called himself an “educational scientist.” Schleicher was captivated. Here was a man who claimed he could analyze a soft subject in a hard way, much the way a physicist might study schools. At the time, 1986, the education establishment was dominated by tradition, theories, and ideology. “You had people dealing with every subject,” Schleicher tells me, “except looking at reality.”

Google+ Invitations: We all want one. Why? – via Social Psychology Eye– Those who pay attention to the online world will probably know that Google+ fever is sweeping the blogosphere. Everyone wants an invite to the “Facebook killer” and invites are pretty hard to come by. If you are lucky enough to have one, you can brag about being in the group early and if not, you are left wondering what is going on in there and will you ever get to be a part of it. Invites are in such demand they are even popping up for sale on ebay for as much as $100.

Inside Google+ — How the Search Giant Plans to Go Social
– via Wired- Google, the world’s largest search company, is formally making its pitch to become a major force in social networking. The product it announced Tuesday is called Google+, and observers might wonder whether it’s simply one more social effort by a company that’s had a lousy track record in that field to date.

A Swedish Burger Chain Says “Minimize Me”
– via HBR– Last week I wrote about how eating less meat was the best way to reduce your food’s carbon footprint. But what do you do if you want to be a responsible corporate citizen and you sell fast food? Well, I think your company would look a lot like Max Burgers, based in Sweden.

World Bank Is Opening Its Treasure Chest of Data – via NYT– The appeal marked a radical departure for the often close-to-the-vest World Bank, which, like its brother, the International Monetary Fund, has been called everything from arrogant to inept. The World Bank, you see, wants the world to know that it is finally opening up, albeit slowly and, at times, a bit painfully.

1955: When Chase Was Too Small to Bail – via CJR- American Banker has a fun flashback that helps show how out of whack our financial system has gotten in the last half century.

The Formula That Killed Wall Street is Alive and Well – via Jayanth– But there are many other areas where Gaussian copulas still hold sway. Last month, the Basle Committee on Banking Supervision published Operational Risk Supervisory Guidelines for the Advanced Measurement Approaches. The paper notes that the most common method of dealing with dependence in modelling operational risk is by use of copulas; and “Of the banks using Copulas, most (83%) use a Gaussian copula.” In addition about 17% of banks, used a correlation matrix which is even worse than a Gaussian copula.

Important Read: Web Demystifies Redistricting – via Miller McCune– One Loyola Law School educator’s redistricting website offers a melting pot of useful information about the practice for all Americans.

How Is Law School Like the NFL Draft?
– via Freakonomics
– Law students who miss out on “Big Law” in 2L OCI are often left with over $100,000 in non-dischargeable student loan debt that can take most of their professional lives to pay off. The high starting salaries of first-year New York City associates hide the bimodal distribution of law incomes — most lawyers earn modest middle-class salaries and have little opportunity to transfer into the “Big Law” salary structure, not when there are thousands of new students clamoring for spots coming in behind them each year.

Fat Chance! Obesity and the Transition from Unemployment to Employment
This paper focuses on estimating the magnitude of any potential weight discrimination by examining whether obese job applicants in Germany get treated or behave differently from non-obese applicants. Based on two waves of rich survey data from the IZA Evaluation dataset, which includes measures that control for education, demographic characteristics, labor market history, psychological factors and health, we estimate differences in job search behavior and labor market outcomes between obese/overweight and healthy weight individuals. Unlike other observational studies which are generally based on obese and nonobese individuals who might already be at different points in the job ladder (e.g., household surveys), in our data, individuals are newly unemployed and all start from the same point. The only subgroup we find in our data experiencing any possible form of labor market discrimination is obese women. Despite making more job applications and engaging more in job training programs, we find some indications that they experienced worse (or at best similar) employment outcomes than healthy weight women. Obese women who found a job also had significantly lower wages than healthy weight women

Why Exercise Makes Us Feel Good – via NYT– Why does exercise make us happy and calm? Almost everyone agrees that it generally does, a conclusion supported by research. A survey by Norwegian researchers published this month, for instance, found that those who engaged in any exercise, even a small amount, reported improved mental health compared with Norwegians who, despite the tempting nearness of mountains and fjords, never got out and exercised. A separate study, presented last month at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, showed that six weeks of bicycle riding or weight training eased symptoms in women who’d received a diagnosis of anxiety disorder. The weight training was especially effective at reducing feelings of irritability, perhaps (and this is my own interpretation) because the women felt capable now of pounding whomever or whatever was irritating them.

Elizabeth Warren, Champion of Consumer Financial Protection – via Business Week– Elizabeth Warren’s admirers often refer to her as a grandmother from Oklahoma. This is technically true. It’s also what you might call posturing. Warren, 62, is a Harvard professor and perhaps the country’s top expert on bankruptcy law. Over the past four years she has managed to stoke a fervent debate over the government’s role in protecting American consumers from what she sees as the predatory practices of financial institutions, and she has positioned herself as the person to oversee a new federal agency to rewrite the rules of lending. Warren is a grandma from Oklahoma in roughly the same way Ralph Nader is a pensioner with a thing about cars.

How we form beliefs – via Deric Bownds- Two long-standing observations about human cognitive behaviour provide Michael Shermer with the fundamentals of his account of how people form beliefs. One is the brain’s readiness to perceive patterns even in random phenomena. The other is its readiness to nominate agency — intentional action — as the cause of natural events.

Taxes are more important than alpha. – via Empirical Finance– In this simple setup, simply rebalancing in a tax efficient way adds 2-5%+ CAGR to your after-tax return–over a 10, 20, or 30-year period, that is some SERIOUS MONEY!

The Pathology of Elite Organizations – via Naked Capitalism- The Times, like Harvard University, where I attended graduate school, is one of the country’s most elite and exclusive institutions. Its ethos can be best summed up with the phrase “You are lucky to be here.” That huge numbers of people at The Times, as at Harvard, buy into this institutional hubris makes the paper, where I spent 15 years—nearly all of them, thankfully, as a foreign correspondent a few thousand miles from the newsroom—a fear-ridden and oppressive place to work. The Times newsroom, like most corporate nerve centers, is a labyrinth of intrigue, gossip, back-biting, rumor, false piety, rampant ambition, betrayal and deception. Those who play this game well are repugnant. They are also usually the people who run the place.

More Than 25 Million Americans Are Unemployed Or Can’t Find Full Time Work – via NPR- The U.S. economy added only 18,000 jobs last month, according to this morning’s jobs report. This is not nearly enough to keep up with population growth, much lower than economists were expecting and way down from the pace of job growth earlier this year.

15 Mistakes Young Researchers Make – via Labcoat Life– Science from the inside is a lot of hard work, failures and frustration. Publication is the culmination of parts of experiments that did not go astray. As such, one would hope that it signifies the amount of novel knowledge that scientists were able to infer from experiments that were neither flawed in design nor in application. At best, publication demonstrates a faultless scientific process.

Decision Making/ Behavioral Economics/Psychology/ Risk/ Sciences:

What type of people get exploited and harassed? – via Bakadesuyo- “People tend to see warmth and competence as inversely related. If there’s a surplus of one trait, they infer a deficit of the other.” In a business context, she says, this means that “The more competent you are, the less nice you must be. And vice versa: Someone who comes across as really nice must not be too smart.” This pattern is the opposite of the halo effect: a plus on one dimension demands a minus on the other. The unconscious logic might be: If she were really competent, she wouldn’t need to be so nice; and conversely, the highly competent person doesn’t have to be nice—and may even have reached the top by stepping on others.

Phil Zimbardo:’Evil Scientist’ Wants To Teach People To Do Good
– via NPR-
Now, in a new project, Philip Zimbardo, the psychologist who created the prison experiment, is trying to show that people can learn to bring out the best in themselves rather than the worst.

Sheena Iyengar on the Art of Choosing – via Situationist- Situationist friend Sheena Iyengar studies how we make choices — and how we feel about the choices we make. At TEDGlobal, she talks about both trivial choices (Coke v. Pepsi) and profound ones, and shares her groundbreaking research that has uncovered some surprising attitudes about our decisions.

Income = Happiness? A Strangely Tough Sell in Aspen – via Freakonomics- I spent last week at the Aspen Ideas Festival, talking about Betsey’s and my research on the Economics of Happiness. You might think that my message—that income and happiness are tightly linked—would be an easy sell in Aspen, which is the most beautiful and most expensive city I’ve ever visited. But in fact, it’s the millionaires, billionaires and public intellectuals who are often most resistant to data upsetting their beliefs. You see, the (false) belief that economic development won’t increase happiness is comfortingly counter-intuitive to the intelligentsia. And it’s oddly reassuring to the rich, who can fly their private jets into a ski resort feeling (falsely) relieved of any concern that the dollars involved could be better spent elsewhere.

The optimism bias – via MPR– Why do most people believe that the future will be much better than the past and present, despite evidence to the contrary? In her new book, Tali Sharot looks at how the brain generates hope and what happens when it fails; how the brains of optimists and pessimists differ; and why we are terrible at predicting what will make us happy.

Book Review – Intern Nation – via Global Sociology Blog– he premise of the book is that internships have exploded in numbers as they have become an almost mandatory of someone’s education in order to gain legitimate entry on the labor market. But Perlin considers them to be “a form of mass exploitation hidden in plain sight” (xiv), with roughly 9.5 million college students, roughly 75% will participate in at least one internship before graduation. He argues that a significant share of those are unethical if not illegal.

How to Land Your Kid in Therapy – via The Atlantic- Why the obsession with our kids’ happiness may be dooming them to unhappy adulthoods. A therapist and mother reports.

Consumer behavioural biases in competition – via MPZRA-This is a survey of studies that examine competition in the presence of behaviourally biased or boundedly rational consumers. It will tackle questions such as: How does competition and pricing change when consumers are biased? Can inefficiencies that arise from consumer behavioural biases be mitigated by lowering barriers to entry? Do biased consumers make rational ones better or worse off? And will biased consumer behaviour be overcome through learning or education?

Damaging the Perfect Image of Athletes:How Sport Promotes Envy – via Lamenta– We explore the behavioural and affective differences between subjects practicing sport activities and subjects not practicing sport. Are athletes more distressed by unfavourable social comparisons and more prone to engage in hostile behaviour than non-athletes? Using experimental methods, we investigate the connection between sport practice and antisocial behaviour. In our experiment we capture the satisfaction subjects derive from unflattering social comparisons by asking them to evaluate their satisfaction after being informed of their own endowment and after being informed of their opponent’s endowment. Then subjects can decide to reduce their opponent’s endowment by incurring a cost. We observe that sport plays a key role on both individual well-being and behaviour: 1) sport practice amplifies the negative impact of unfavourable social comparisons on individual well being and 2) sport practice exerts subjects to reduce others’ income. Besides the satisfaction sporty subjects report from social comparisons predicts their decisions to reduce others’ income. Finally we provide empirical evidences suggesting that envy affects significantly athletes’ satisfaction and behaviour.

How to reduce employee theft without nagging: 4 tips from behavioral economics – via MInd Your Decisions- Employee theft is extremely common. I would hazard that even the best of us has stolen something from an employer. Most people do not view taking a few pens or printing personal material as a big deal. In fact, some people view it as an unpaid benefit of the job.

The Believing Brain: Why Science Is the Only Way Out of Belief-Dependent Realism – via SciAm– Was President Barack Obama born in Hawaii? I find the question so absurd, not to mention possibly racist in its motivation, that when I am confronted with “birthers” who believe otherwise, I find it difficult to even focus on their arguments about the difference between a birth certificate and a certificate of live birth. The reason is because once I formed an opinion on the subject, it became a belief, subject to a host of cognitive biases to ensure its verisimilitude. Am I being irrational? Possibly. In fact, this is how most belief systems work for most of us most of the time.

Importance of Understanding:Learned Helplessness – via You are not so smart– tudies of the clinically depressed show that when they fail they often just give in to defeat and stop trying. The average person will look for external forces to blame when they fail the mid-term. They will say the professor is an asshole, or they didn’t get enough sleep. Depressed people will blame themselves and assume they are stupid.

How a War Protest Can Increase Support for the War
– via SciAm– Lafayette, California is a small, affluent town situated in a cluster of rolling hills twenty miles to the east of San Francisco. In 2006, a local anti-war protestor erected a memorial to the American casualties of the Iraq War on one of those hills, along Highway 24 and across from the Lafayette BART station. He believed that he could increase opposition to the war by “remind(ing) people there are lives being lost, families being devastated.”

Learning To See & Identify– via Charbonniers– When I was first learning to identify things through a microscope, it seemed an impossible task. There was a sea of variously shaped and coloured splauches and each one had to be examined with respect to a long set of specification that had to be memorized. But I discovered after a few of these learning tasks that what was difficult at first became extremely easy. I would just look generally at the microscope field and the cells I was searching for just popped out of the background. A similar thing happened when I was first visiting African game parks. At first I would be scanning the vista with binoculars and taking a long time to spot any animal that was visible. After a while I just looked without binoculars and saw animals, dozens of them. I needed the binoculars to identify them sometimes or to see what they were doing but for finding them in the first place – better just to relax and look. I have often wondered how we learn these search tricks.

Why Did the Absence of the Corpus Callosum in Kim Peek’s Brain Increase His Memory Capacity? – via SciAm– Jeannine Stamatakis, instructor at Ohlone College and other colleges in the San Francisco Bay Area, responds: I met Kim Peek when he gave a presentation at Ohlone College in October 2009, just a few weeks before his passing. During the talk, Peek astonished my students by showcasing his remarkable talent for calendar calculations. Just from knowing my students’ birth dates, Peek was able to determine the day of the week they were born and could recall the front-page news that day.

Why we like to narrate stories to others
– via APS -According to Jonah Berger, the sharing of stories or information may be driven in part by arousal. When people are physiologically aroused, whether due to emotional stimuli or otherwise, the autonomic nervous is activated, which then boosts social transmission. Simply put, evoking certain emotions can help increase the chance a message is shared.

When It Comes to Memory, Practice Seems to Make Perfect
– via APS-A new study shows that just a bit of practice can give a certain type of learning remarkable staying power. Over two consecutive days, volunteers were asked to identify a specific face or pattern from a larger group of images. They found it difficult at first but their ability improved with practice. When they were tested again one to two years later, the participants were able to retain specific information about those faces and patterns.Click here to find out more!

Music and Art – Good for Your Soul and Your Lifespan– via Brainblogger- Friedrich Neitzsche once claimed that without music, life would be a mistake. Researchers in Norway claim that without music, art, or other cultural events, life may also be shorter and less satisfying. A new study, published by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, reports that visiting museums, attending concerts, playing an instrument, and creating art are associated with happier lives. The investigators surveyed more than 51,000 adults to assess their leisure habits and cultural participation and their self-perceived health status and levels of depression and anxiety. Overall, there was a strong correlation between engaging in cultural activities and happiness. The association was not affected by socioeconomic status or educational level.

Modularity and decision making
– via Cognition & Culture- Mechanisms that are useful are often specialized because of the efficiency gains that derive from specialization. This principle is in evidence in the domain of tools, artificial computational devices, and across the natural biological world. Some have argued that human decision making is similarly the result of a substantial number of functionally specialized, or “modular” systems, brought to bear on particular decision making tasks. Which system is recruited for a given decision making task depends on the cues available to the decision maker. A number of research programs have advanced using these ideas, but the approach remains controversial.

Causal and moral responsibility: Antecedents and consequences of group-based guilt – via EJSP- In six studies (N = 1045) conducted in three European countries, we demonstrate distinctions between causal responsibility, group-based guilt, and moral responsibility. We propose that causal responsibility is an antecedent of group-based guilt linking the ingroup to previous transgressions against the victim group. In contrast, moral responsibility is a consequence of group-based guilt and is conceptualized as a sociomoral norm to respond to the consequences of the ingroup’s transgressions and the current needs of the victim group. As such, moral responsibility can be stimulated by group-based guilt and directly predicts individual action intentions. Studies 1 and 2 focus on the conceptual distinctions among the three constructs. Study 3 tests the indirect effect of causal responsibility on moral responsibility via group-based guilt. The remaining studies explore the mediating role of moral responsibility in associations between group-based guilt and compensatory action tendencies, that is, financial compensation (study 4), approach and avoidance tendencies (study 5) and public apology (study 6). Together these studies show that causal and moral responsibility are psychologically distinct concepts from group-based guilt and that moral responsibility plays an important role in shaping the effects of group-based guilt on behavioral intentions.

Can more money actually make you less happy? – via Bakadeusyo– This study provides the first evidence that money impairs people’s ability to savor everyday positive emotions and experiences. In a sample of working adults, wealthier individuals reported lower savoring ability (the ability to enhance and prolong positive emotional experience). Moreover, the negative impact of wealth on individuals’ ability to savor undermined the positive effects of money on their happiness.

Introspection and shyness – evolutionary tactic? – via Deric Bownds– I have previously pointed to the work of Jerome Kagan at Harvard; who, along with others, has shown that some of us are born with a predisposition to be timid and more anxious. The temperament we display in early childhood (introvesion versus extroversion, high versus low reactivity, anxiety in unfamiliar versus familiar situations, etc) is largely genetically determined and persists through life. In this vein Susan Cain has recently offered an interesting article on shyness. She first notes the re-framing of shyness into “Social Anxiety Disorder” by drug company TV adds seeking to sell serotonin reuptake inhibitors (S.S.R.I.), cited Zoloft advertisements

Wishful Thinking: Belief, Desire, and the Motivated Evaluation of Scientific Evidence – via Sagepub– What people believe to be true and what they wish were true can be quite different. One way to resolve conflicts between belief and desire is to engage in biased reasoning in a way that brings beliefs about facts in line with heartfelt desires. Indeed, considerable research has documented ways in which people evaluate evidence in a biased manner in order to reach a particular conclusion ( Kunda, 1990). For instance, classic work on biased assimilation indicates that people whose political convictions are inconsistent with the findings of scientific studies derogate the methodology of such studies ( Lord, Ross, & Lepper, 1979). However, the question of whether such bias in reasoning is due to the motivation to reach a particular conclusion or to purely cognitive factors, such as preexisting theories, expectations, and beliefs, remains an important theoretical issue ( Ditto & Lopez, 1992; Dunning, Leuenberger, & Sherman, 1995; Kunda, 1990; Pyszczynski & Greenberg, 1987; Sherman & Cohen, 2002; Tetlock & Levi, 1982). In the present study, we examined whether desires would trump beliefs based on facts when participants evaluated scientific evidence and whether, after being exposed to ambiguous evidence, participants would change their initial beliefs to conform to their plans and desires. We focused on would-be parents who planned to use day care for their children even though they believed day care to be inferior to home care.

Distract Yourself or Think It Over? Two Ways to Deal with Negative Emotions
– via APS-
A big part of coping with life is having a flexible reaction to the ups and downs. Now, a study which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that people choose to respond differently depending on how intense an emotion is. When confronted with high-intensity negative emotions, they tend to choose to turn their attention away, but with something lower-intensity, they tend to think it over and neutralize the feeling that way.

In Defense of Wishful Thinking
– via SciAm
– In my most recent post and others—and in chats with George Johnson and Robert Wright on Bloggingheads.tv—I rail against biological determinism and defend free will. Some critics accuse me of letting wishful thinking cloud my judgment when it comes to these issues. They say that objective reality is objective reality, regardless of our subjective attitudes toward it. “The man wants scientific results to conform to his notion of the way the world should be,” the evolutionary biologist and free-will denier Jerry Coyne scolds me, “and that’s always been a terrible mind-set for understanding nature.” Actually, science itself demonstrates that our hopes and fears about reality often shape it

Why is a touch on the arm so persuasive? – via Bps Research- A gentle touch on the arm can be surprisingly persuasive. Consider these research findings. Library users who are touched while registering, rate the library and its personnel more favourably than the non-touched; diners are more satisfied and give larger tips when waiting staff touch them casually; people touched by a stranger are more willing to perform a mundane favour; and women touched by a man on the arm are more willing to share their phone number or agree to a dance. Why should this be? Up until now research in this area has been exclusively behavioural: these effects have been observed, but we don’t really know why. Now a study has made a start at understanding the neuroscience of how touch exerts its psychological effects.

Business/ Entrepreneurship/Finance/ Investing:

Fear and Loathing in the Eurozone – via PsyFiBlog– The journalist Hunter S. Thompson popularised a style of journalism that came to be called “gonzo”, operating on the theory that “fiction was the best fact”. If Thompson were still alive today and inclined to cast an eye outside of the USA towards Europe he’d probably be wondering how exactly to make the car crash that is the Eurozone sound like fact.

Goodby To Bricks & Mortar – via Economist – To describe the woes of bricks-and-mortar bookstores is to join the dirge-singing chorus. Everyone knows the tune: sales at bookstores have fallen because buyers are ordering books online or downloading them to e-readers. Bookstores may be great places to browse and linger, but online is where the deals are. In the latest chapter in the Borders saga, the bookstore chain has agreed to sell its assets for $215m to Direct Brands, a media-distribution company owned by Najafi, a private-equity firm, which would also assume an additional $220m in liabilities. This will serve as the opening bid for the company’s bankruptcy-court auction, scheduled for July 19th.

Productivity: The Mother of (Nearly) All Good Things – via Organization & Markets- The mother of all good (material) things is productivity growth. Competitive advantage, firm level growth and survival, profits, economy-wide economic growth, job creation, and destruction, etc. are all outcomes that depend critically on relative productivity and productivity changes. So if you understood productivity really well, you would understand a lot about (material) outcomes across firms, industries and countries, too.

Lessons of the Financial Crisis: The Dangers of Short-Termism – via HLS- There are many causes of this crisis, some of which I will address in my remarks today. But, in my opinion, the overarching lesson of the crisis is the pervasive short-term thinking that helped to bring it about. Short-termism is a serious and growing problem in both business and government. I would like to devote my remarks to explaining what I mean by this, and discussing how I think it plays into the policy challenges arising from the crisis.

The Biggest Green Scam in America – via 5280 – A Denver businessman steals millions with a clean-energy Ponzi scheme

What’s Happening to the US Economy?
– via Project Syndicate – The American economy has recently slowed dramatically, and the probability of another economic downturn increases with each new round of data. This is a sharp change from the economic situation at the end of last year – and represents a return to the very weak pace of expansion since the recovery began in the summer of 2009.

Where Busy Bees and Business Converge: The striking similarities between ecological and organizational networks – via Kelogg- Bees and businesspeople face analogous trials. They compete for resources, they specialize to corner their niche, and they try to survive in changing environments. Words to describe nature have infiltrated the corporate world since the 1960s; however, serious comparisons tend to fall apart. Companies can undergo makeovers but animals cannot alter their genetic makeup. And while industries must obey society’s laws, organisms need not.

Jumps in the Market Make for Jumpy Investors
– via Kellogg- Everyone who invests in the stock market wants to know whether share prices are going to go up or down, since that determines whether they make or lose money. Apart from the price risk, there is another risk that investors face when investing in the stock market, which is known as variance risk. The variance risk is associated with the changing riskiness of the investment environment. For example, the calm period of 2004–2007 was associated with low variance risk, unlike the recent crisis of 2008, which was characterized by large price swings and hence high variance risk. Viktor Todorov, an assistant professor of finance at the Kellogg School of Management, has determined that when there is a jump in the market (a crash or other major event), its effect on prices dissipates much faster than its effect on the “variance risk premium”—how much investors want to be compensated for bearing variance risk.

How Is This Economic Recovery Unlike the Rest? – via Freakonomics- A recent study by a team of economists at Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies argues that the current economic recovery is the worst since World War II for worker pay and job growth — but the best for corporate profits.

Inequality Aversion and Voting on Redistribution – via Coppenhagen– Some people have a concern for a fair distribution of incomes while others do not. Does such a concern matter for majority voting on redistribution? Fairness preferences are relevant for redistribution outcomes only if fair-minded voters are pivotal. Pivotality, in turn, depends on the structure of income classes. We experimentally study voting on redistribution between two income classes and show that the effect of inequality aversion is asymmetric. Inequality aversion is more likely to matter if the “rich” are in majority. With a “poor” majority, we find that redistribution outcomes look as if all voters were exclusively motivated by self-interest.

The Eclectic Mix:

Groupon Therapy
– via Vanity Fair– Starting with a two-for-one pizza deal just three years ago, Groupon has snowballed, becoming a multi-national business with an I.P.O. on the horizon that could value the company at an estimated $20 billion. But is the Web site’s idiosyncratic C.E.O., Andrew Mason—an accordion-playing, ever paranoid prankster-ready to move Groupon forward and fight off a horde of copycats?

New Data Exposes the Staggering Gap Between Rich and Poor Schools – via Good– If you follow education at all you don’t need a database to tell you that there are huge gaps in access to AP classes and resources between students attending schools in rich neighborhoods and those in poor neighborhoods. But sometimes we need a kick in the pants to remind us exactly how deep and wide the disparities really are. Indeed, that’s exactly what the Civil Rights Data Collection, a new data tool from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, gives us.

Forget Big Brother, Little Brother is Everywhere – via Big Picture– Cameras and the totalitarian state aren’t a new combination but today’s Wall Street Journal has an interesting take on the problem. In its story about Cisco’s role in $2.4 billion, 500,000-camera pilot project to run surveillance for the city of Chongqing, we see technology coming to the aid of a Communist government. They’re building a network ostensibly to monitor crime but one that would easily be turned into a panopticon of the population. The story reads like something straight out of George Orwell’s 1984 or Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish. And the tone is one of mild shock that an American corporation would profit by advancing totalitarian aims.

Class, Status and Culture – via Everyday Sociology blog– Status symbols connote distance: distance between me and the person who can afford a Birkin bag and knows what one is; and also distance between law abiding citizens and those who transgress and must indicate this by hanging signs of their activity. Status symbols serve to demarcate boundaries, and the meanings of those boundaries are rooted in cultural contexts.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
– via Boston.com– How did these words become the most important in the Declaration of Independence? The answer starts with a small band of motivated Americans.

Why a man’s face can lie but still produce orgasms – via Economist– THESE days, physiognomy is an unfashionable science. The idea that character is etched into an individual’s face is so much at variance with modern notions of free will that research in the area dwindled long ago. But it is making a tentative comeback. Two recent studies of faces suggest that their features do matter, biologically speaking: they can predict dishonesty and they can provoke orgasm.


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Bye Bye Space Shuttle via Cool Infographics

About Miguel Barbosa

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09. July 2005 by Miguel Barbosa
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