Weekly Roundup 176: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web!

And we’re back. Thank you for your patience.

Handpicked to satisfy your intellectual curiosity!

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Weekly Cartoon(s):


Favorite Links of the Week:

The Situation of Inequality « The Situationistvia thesituationist.wordpress.com – Talk by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett co-authors of “The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger” recorded January 8, 2010 at Hogness Auditorium, University of Washington, Seattle.

Is rising obesity a product of income inequality and economic insecurity?- via lanekenworthy.net – Three decades ago, 15% of American adults were obese. Today 35% are. Obesity has increased in many other rich nations too. Why?Although we burn fewer calories now than in the past, reduced physical activity likely played only a minor role in obesity’s rise. Instead, the main cause was a sharp increase in the number of calories we consume. Why did that happen? The most common story focuses changes in the supply of food. Tasty, high-calorie food became cheaper and more easily accessible in larger quantities, so we began eating more of it.

1 Nick Hanauer’s TED Talk On Income Inequality Deemed Too ‘Political’ For Site (via The Huffington Post)via therearefreelunches.blogspot.com – Multi-millionaire Nick Hanauer has an important message for those who think the rich are America’s job creators. Problem is, he can’t seem to get it out.”For thousands of years people were sure that earth was at the center of the universe. It’s not, and an astronomer who still believed that it was, would do some lousy astronomy,” Hanauer said at a March 1 speech, according to the Atlantic. “In the same way, a policy maker who believed that the rich and businesses are ‘job creators’ and therefore should not be taxed, would make equally bad policy.”
Watch the 5m talk TED talks didn’t want to broadcast, because it was “too political”:

How Short-Termism Invites Corruption-via And What to Do About It — HBS Working Knowledge – A long-term time horizon is most sensible where a business or investor has some edge and when short-term risks associated with a longer-term strategy are hedged and opportunity costs minimized. However, when perverse, short-term incentives artificially encourage executives to ignore high-yielding, long-term opportunities, then the costs of short-termism set in. The recent financial crisis suggests that the rise of short-termism has been especially troublesome in the finance industry. In this paper, Malcom Salter starts by analyzing a case involving the mortgage-banking desk at Citigroup because it can help us think about how short-termism-the collapsed time horizon of both business decision makers and investors-not only sabotages an enterprise’s reputation and value, but also invites individual and institutional corruption. He then examines the key drivers of short-termism in contemporary business, and their potential effects on the behavior of both executives and their organizations. He concludes by proposing mechanisms to deter the corrupting effects of short-termism, including changes in both business and public policy.

How Poverty Damages Health – Anti-poverty programs boost recipients’ wellvia being – Economists have long known that the more money you have, the healthier you are. What has been difficult to sort out is whether money leads to better health or if the two simply go hand in hand. After all, people who are wealthier might simply be more patient and persistent or could simply have had better childhoods.

What Constitutes Torture?via Perceptions change based on personal experience – On a Friday morning in May 2009, conservative radio host Erich “Mancow” Muller decided to prove that waterboarding was not torture—by getting waterboarded himself. A military officer present at the stunt—which took place live, on the air—noted that “the average person can take this for 14 seconds.” Muller lasted less than half that time before halting the procedure. He went on to renounce his previous position on waterboarding, claiming that it is “absolutely torture.”According to Loran Nordgren, an assistant professor of management and organizations, Muller’s about-face on waterboarding was an unusually public demonstration of a phenomenon known as the “hot-cold empathy gap.” “We often need to reason about situations that are inherently emotional,” Nordgren explains, “but we do so without experiencing the emotional state that we have to reason about. Much of my research is interested in how the ‘cold’ rational self predicts how the ‘hot’ emotional self will behave. People get this wrong all the time, and getting it wrong has interesting consequences.”

IHRR’s new magazine Hazard Risk Resilience - via ihrrblog.org – In the first issue of Hazard Risk Resilience we explore the viral term ‘tipping point’ in describing unique events in physical, social and biological systems and what this means for society as a whole; how coffee East Africa’s number one cash crop is threatened by a rapidly changing climate; investigate social housing struggles in Bangladesh after the Cyclone Sidr disaster; and how to regenerate the soil of brownfield land using recycled minerals that can also benefit community wellbeing. These topics and much more are explored in Hazard Risk Resilience.

Video Infographic: The power of network visualization.via mindblog.dericbownds.net – A colleague of mine in the campus Chaos seminar pointed us to this 10 minute talk, which I found very engaging. It is given by Manuel Lima, who is senior UX design lead at Microsoft Bing:

New courses from Harvardvia The Do It Yourself Scholar – Until recently, Harvard University course offerings on iTunesU were limited to computer science courses from Harvard Extension. But now Harvard University has posted three courses on its own iTunesU page. They are:Introduction to Computer Science (iTunes) David Malan..Probability (iTunes) Joseph Blitzstein

The Smart Are MORE Biased To Think They Are LESS Biasedvia www.overcomingbias.com – Problem is, not only are smart folks not less biased for many biases, if anything smart folks more easily succumb to the bias of thinking that they are less biased than others:

The Cognitive Microfoundations Project: a behavioural economics world tourvia www.knowingandmaking.com – There has been much talk about microfoundations on the economics blogs in the last few months [Noahpinion, Mark Thoma, Simon Wren-Lewis twice, Andrew Gelman twice, Karl Smith, Paul Krugman twice, Robert Waldmann, Rajiv Sethi from 2009]. The idea of microfoundations is that a model of the overall economy should be consistent with how individual people act. The aggregate behaviour of variables like GDP, government deficits and unemployment should be derived by adding up the choices of individuals, not by treating the whole population as if it were a single entity.

Why We Don’t Believe In Science - via www.newyorker.com -Last week, Gallup announced the results of their latest survey on Americans and evolution. The numbers were a stark blow to high-school science teachers everywhere: forty-six per cent of adults said they believed that “God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years.” Only fifteen per cent agreed with the statement that humans had evolved without the guidance of a divine power.

Prospectus for Silicon Valley’s Next Hot Tech IPO, Where Nothing Could Possibly Go Wrong.via www.mcsweeneys.net – Forget Facebook. Forget Groupon. Forget everything you know about Silicon Valley. Because Ponzify isn’t like other tech companies. We don’t promise results. We show them to you, on a piece of paper, that has your name and a monetary figure that increases every month.

How We Got the Crash Wrongvia The Atlantic – One of the most seductive narratives about the recent financial crisis is that it was caused by dizzying increases in the amount of leverage on the balance sheets of Wall Street firms, leaving the financial system virtually no margin for error. Leverage, we’ve been told repeatedly, went from about 12-to-1 in 2004 to 33-to-1 in 2008. (Leverage is the ratio of debt or assets to equity; at 33-to-1 leverage, a mere 3 percent drop in the value of a firm’s assets can wipe out its equity.) The reason for the increase, so the story goes, was an underappreciated change, in April 2004, to an obscure Securities and Exchange Commission rule, which let Wall Street off its short leash and allowed unprecedented risk-taking. If not for that, according to the popular press and many accomplished scholars, the crisis might not have happened. The acceptance of this thesis has colored not only how we think about what happened but also the new laws that were designed to prevent the next crisis. The problem is, it’s flat wrong. And because we have misunderstood the facts, we may now be trying to cure the wrong disease.

When commitment contracts expirevia Decision Science News – At Decision Science News, we love the commitment devices. But, as we’ve have spoken about, we have mixed feelings about them, including the nagging concern that commitment devices may not lead to deep-seated changes or habit formation.When the commitment device is gone, do the good habits remain?

Elizabeth Loftus on False Memoriesvia thesituationist.wordpress.com – Beyond Belief Conference in 2006 (includes discussion of the role of litigation in altering people’s memories

You Are Not So Smart Podcast  Episode Three via youarenotsosmart.com – We call these false accounts confabulations – unintentional lies. Confabulations aren’t true, but the person making the claims doesn’t realize it. Neuroscience now knows that confabulations are common and continuous in the both the healthy and the afflicted, but in the case of Cotard’s delusion they are magnified to grotesque proportions.
One of the leading neuroscientists in our era, maybe the leading neuroscientist, is V.S. Ramachandran, and he is the guest in this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast. I’ve included a transcript in the links, since the interview took place in a noisy room. It’s also in the lyrics section of the iTunes track. Ramachandran has written extensively about phantom limbs and paralysis as well as the confabulations often conjured by those who experience such problems. His research includes everything from mirror neurons to synesthesia, and you can find dozens of his fascinating lectures online. He is the director of the University of San Diego’s Center for Brain and Cognition, and he is the author of The Tell-Tale Brain and co-author of Phantoms in the Brain

Choosing Here & Now Vs There & Later- via www.jstor.org – Consumers prefer larger assortments, despite the negative consequences associated with choosing from these sets. This article examines the role of psychological distance (temporal and geographical) in consumers’ assortment size decisions and rectifies contradicting hypotheses produced by construal level theory. Six studies demonstrate that while consumers prefer larger assortments when the choice takes place in the here and now, they are more likely to prefer small assortments when choices pertain to distant locations and times. This decrease in preference for large assortments is due to psychological distance increasing the similarity of the options in a category, making them appear more substitutable. This effect of psychological distance reverses when consumers consider desirability/feasibility trade-off information inherent in the assortment size decision. These findings point to important outcomes of psychological distance, resolving opposing predictions of construal level theory, and identify boundary conditions for the well-established notion that consumers are attracted to large assortments.

Consumers Trust in Feelings As Information - via www.jstor.org – The diagnosticity of feelings in judgment depends not only on their representativeness and relevance, but also on people’s trust in their feelings in general. Trust in feelings is the degree to which individuals believe that their feelings generally point toward the “right” direction in judgments and decisions. Six studies show that a higher trust in feelings (a) increases the reliance on feelings as a judgment criterion, (b) amplifies the influence of ad-induced feelings in persuasion, (c) magnifies the ratio bias in risky choice, and (d) increases the rejection of unfair offers in the ultimatum game. Further, (e) when feelings are highly relevant, they are relied upon regardless of the level of trust, whereas when feelings have low relevance, they are relied upon only if people trust them. Finally, (f) assessments of trust in feelings require significant processing resources. A refined model of feelings as information is advanced based on these findings.

The Local Ladder Effect via SagePub – Dozens of studies in different nations have revealed that socioeconomic status only weakly predicts an individual’s subjective well-being (SWB). These results imply that although the pursuit of social status is a fundamental human motivation, achieving high status has little impact on one’s SWB. However, we propose that sociometric status—the respect and admiration one has in face-to-face groups (e.g., among friends or coworkers)—has a stronger effect on SWB than does socioeconomic status. Using correlational, experimental, and longitudinal methodologies, four studies found consistent evidence for a local-ladder effect: Sociometric status significantly predicted satisfaction with life and the experience of positive and negative emotions. Longitudinally, as sociometric status rose or fell, SWB rose or fell accordingly. Furthermore, these effects were driven by feelings of power and social acceptance. Overall, individuals’ sociometric status matters more to their SWB than does their socioeconomic status.

Infographic: Overfishing visually explainedvia flowingdata.com – As part of their mission to reform destructive fishing practices, Ocean2012 explains the risk of catching too much fish, in motion graphics. I like the pixelated aesthetic.

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