Weekly Roundup 178: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web!
Handpicked to satisfy your intellectual curiosity!
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Understanding Crowd Psychology on BBC Radio 3 – via Sunday Feature – Collective behaviour and how it can be managed is a burgeoning field of science, driven by the demands of music festivals, sporting events and managing protests such as those seen across Britain last summer.
The Mysteries of Money – via www.ribbonfarm.com – Money is more fascinating than the products that earn it, the violence it causes inside and outside our heads, the things it buys, and yes, the relationships it makes and breaks. Not because it is great to have it (though it certainly is), but because it reveals so much about everything it touches, while itself remaining ineffable. More ineffable than even its closest cousins, like information and risk. You can get to roughly equivalent results in thinking about social realities by following the principles: follow the money, follow the information and follow the risk. But follow the money tends to be the most tractable heuristic.
Connectivity of prefrontal cortex predicts cognitive control and intelligence – via mindblog.dericbownds.net – Control of thought and behavior is fundamental to human intelligence. Evidence suggests a frontoparietal brain network implements such cognitive control across diverse contexts. We identify a mechanism—global connectivity—by which components of this network might coordinate control of other networks. A lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC) region’s activity was found to predict performance in a high control demand working memory task and also to exhibit high global connectivity. Critically, global connectivity in this LPFC region, involving connections both within and outside the frontoparietal network, showed a highly selective relationship with individual differences in fluid intelligence. These findings suggest LPFC is a global hub with a brainwide influence that facilitates the ability to implement control processes central to human intelligence.
Why do we only use 3 types of strategic thinking? – via Munich Personal RePEc Archive – Experimental evidence suggest that people only use 1-3 iterations of strategic reasoning, and that some people systematically use less iterations than others. In this paper, we present a novel evolutionary foundation for these stylized facts. In our model, agents interact in finitely repeated Prisoner’s Dilemma, and each agent is characterized by the number of steps he thinks ahead. When two agents interact, each of them has an independent probability to observe the opponent’s type. We show that if this probability is not too close to 0 or 1, then the evolutionary process admits a unique stable outcome, in which the population includes a mixture of “naive” agents who think 1 step ahead, and “sophisticated” agents who think 2-3 steps ahead.
Prisoner’s Dilemma and the Evolution of Inequality – Does Unfairness Triumph After All? – via Neuroanthropology – The key point? There does exist a strategy where a player can “enforce a unilateral claim to an unfair share of rewards.”The implications of this paper are fascinating. For biological evolution, it opens up new thinking about reproductive strategies and life history theory, as well as the direct impact on ideas about the evolution of cooperation.
The Science of Waiting and the Art of Delay – via Brain Pickings – For centuries, leading thinkers …. have told us not to jump to firm conclusions about the unknown. Yet today we jump faster and more frequently to firm conclusions. We like to believe there is wisdom in our snap decisions, and sometimes there is. But true wisdom and judgment come from understanding our limitations when it comes to thinking about the future. This is why it is so important for us to think about the relevant time period of our decisions and then ask what is the maximum amount of time we can take within that period to observe and process information about possible outcomes. Asking questions about timing is crucial, even if we cannot arrive at an answer as specific as ’42.’
New Book: Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius – via Economic History Services – Sylvia Nasar, the author of A Beautiful Mind, has undertaken another ambitious project, this time a larger survey of economic thought. The result is a colorful and fast-moving narrative, brimming with fascinating characters and lively anecdotes. In a word, this book is a pleasure to read. Nasar’s experiences as a successful writer and professor of journalism enable her to bring a distinct talent for story-telling along with an outsider’s perspective to a field too often overlooked within and without the citadels of academe.
Overprecise Punditry – via PsyFi Blog – Despite this reams of words are written each day by pundits safe in the knowledge that today’s news is forgotten tomorrow and that expressing unwarranted certainty is the way to succeed. They’ve learned that extreme, albeit incorrect, precision will fool most of the people most of the time, and no one ever checks.
Good friends can make bad business partners – via www.overcomingbias.com – We find that while collaborating for ability-based characteristics enhances investment performance, collaborating for affinity-based characteristics dramatically reduces the probability of investment success. A variety of tests show that the cost of affinity is not driven by selection into inferior deals; the effect is most likely attributable to poor decision-making by high-affinity syndicates post investment. Taken together, our results suggest that non-ability-based “birds-of-a-feather-flock-together” effects in collaboration can be costly.
Backward Reasoning Over Decision Trees – via Less Wrong – Game theory is the study of how rational actors interact to pursue incentives. It starts with the same questionable premises as economics: that everyone behaves rationally, that everyone is purely self-interested1, and that desires can be exactly quantified – and uses them to investigate situations of conflict and cooperation.Here we will begin with some fairly obvious points about decision trees, but by the end we will have the tools necessary to explain a somewhat surprising finding: that giving a US president the additional power of line-item veto may in many cases make the president less able to enact her policies. Starting at the beginning:
Dan Ariely Classroom Ethics 101 – via danariely.com – On the first day of one of my classes, I asked my undergraduate students whether they had enough self-control to avoid using their computers during class for non-class-related activities. They promised that if they used their laptops, it would only be for course-related activities like taking notes. However, as the semester drew on, I noticed more and more students checking Facebook, surfing the web, and emailing. And I noticed that as these behaviors increased, so did their cheating on weekly quizzes. In a class of 500 students, it was difficult to manage this deterioration. As my students’ attention and respect continued to degrade, I became increasingly frustrated.
How Knowing a Foreign Language Can Improve Your Decisions – via www.scientificamerican.com – Boaz Keysar, Sayuri Hayakawa, and Sun Gyu An of University of Chicago asked this question in a paper recently published in Psychological Science. They studied framing effects, a phenonmenon investigated by Daniel Kahneman and others. When a decision is verbally framed as involving a gain, humans prefer a sure outcome over a probabilistic outcome. When the same situation is framed as involving losses, people sometimes prefer to gamble. For example, given a scenario involving 600 sick individuals and two types of medicines to administer, research participants prefer the medicine which will save 200 people for sure, rather than the medicine which has a 1/3 chance of saving all 600 sick people and a 2/3 chance of saving no one. If the formally identical illness scenario is provided, but framed in terms of how many people will die, then research participants are more likely to choose the probabilistic option. Framing effects are one of the classic examples of how humans deviate from logical reasoning, and indeed, individuals with a propensity for logical reasoning, such as those with Asperger Syndrome, are less influenced by the verbal frame when making these types of decisions.
Life satisfaction and economic growth. – via mindblog.dericbownds.net – Despite its unprecedented growth in output per capita in the last two decades, China has essentially followed the life satisfaction trajectory of the central and eastern European transition countries—a U-shaped swing and a nil or declining trend. There is no evidence of an increase in life satisfaction of the magnitude that might have been expected to result from the fourfold improvement in the level of per capita consumption that has occurred. As in the European countries, in China the trend and U-shaped pattern appear to be related to a pronounced rise in unemployment followed by a mild decline, and an accompanying dissolution of the social safety net along with growing income inequality. The burden of worsening life satisfaction in China has fallen chiefly on the lowest socioeconomic groups. An initially highly egalitarian distribution of life satisfaction has been replaced by an increasingly unequal one, with decreasing life satisfaction in persons in the bottom third of the income distribution and increasing life satisfaction in those in the top third
Rest Is Not Idleness: Reflection Is Critical for Development and Well-Being – via Association for Psychological Science – As each day passes, the pace of life seems to accelerate – demands on productivity continue ever upward and there is hardly ever a moment when we aren’t, in some way, in touch with our family, friends, or coworkers. While moments for reflection may be hard to come by, a new article suggests that the long-lost art of introspection —even daydreaming — may be an increasingly valuable part of life.
Seeing women as objects: The sexual body part recognition bias – Gervais – 2012 – European Journal of Social Psychology – via Wiley Online Library – Objectification theory suggests that the bodies of women are sometimes reduced to their sexual body parts. As well, an extensive literature in cognitive psychology suggests that global processing underlies person recognition, whereas local processing underlies object recognition. Integrating these literatures, we introduced and tested the sexual body part recognition bias hypothesis that women’s (versus men’s) bodies would be reduced to their sexual body parts in the minds of perceivers. Specifically, we adopted the parts versus whole body recognition paradigm, which is a robust indicator of local versus global processing. The findings across two experiments showed that women’s bodies were reduced to their sexual body parts in perceivers’ minds. We also found that local processing contributed to the sexual body part recognition bias, whereas global processing tempered it. Implications for sexual objectification and its underlying processes and motives are discussed.
Atul Gawande: Why the Uninsured Are Still Vulnerable – via www.valueinvestingworld.com – Tens of millions of Americans don’t have access to basic care for prevention and treatment of illness. For decades, there’s been wide support for universal health care. Finally, with the passage of Obamacare, two years ago, we did something about it. The law would provide coverage for people like those my friends told me about, either through its expansion of Medicaid eligibility or through subsidized private insurance. Yet the country has remained convulsed by battles over whether we should implement this plan—or any particular plan. Now that the Supreme Court has largely upheld Obamacare, it’s tempting to imagine that the battles will subside. There’s reason to think that they won’t.
E.O. Wilson: Advice to young scientists – via Video on TED.com – “The world needs you, badly,” begins celebrated biologist E.O. Wilson in his letter to a young scientist. Previewing his upcoming book, he gives advice collected from a lifetime of experience — reminding us that wonder and creativity are the center of the scientific life. (Filmed at TEDMED.)
Susan Sontag on Censorship and the Three Steps to Refuting Any Argument – via Brain Pickings – The main techniques for refuting an argument: Find the inconsistency Find the counter-example Find a wider context
The ‘Busy’ Trap – via www.valueinvestingworld.com – If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.”