Weekly Roundup 186: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web!

Handpicked to satisfy your intellectual curiosity!

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Weekly Cartoon(s):

The Linkfest:

A Big List of 375 Free eBooks for Your iPad, Kindle, Nook and Other Devicesvia Open Culture – If you’re ready to splurge for an ebook reader, then we’re ready to do our part — to hook you up with Free eBooks. If you visit our Free eBooks collection, you’ll find 375 great works. The list includes many classic masterpieces (Tolstoy’s War & Peace, Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, and Kafka’s The Metamorphosis), but also more modern works by such authors as Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Kurt Vonnegut, and even Neil Gaiman.

How Children Succeed book excerpt: What the most boring test in the world tells us about motivation and IQ.via Slate Magazine – Angela Duckworth, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, has made it her life’s work to analyze which children succeed and why. She says she finds it useful to divide the mechanics of achievement into two separate dimensions: motivation and volition. Each one, she says, is necessary to achieve long-term goals, but neither is sufficient alone. Most of us are familiar with the experience of possessing motivation but lacking volition: You can be extremely motivated to lose weight, for example, but unless you have the volition—the willpower, the self-control—to put down the cherry Danish and pick up the free weights, you’re not going to succeed. If children are highly motivated, self-control techniques and exercises—things like learning how to distract themselves from temptations or to think about their goals abstractly—might be very helpful. But what if students just aren’t motivated to achieve the goals their teachers or parents want them to achieve? Then, Duckworth acknowledges, all the self-control tricks in the world aren’t going to help.

Stephen Hawking: ‘There is no heaven; it’s a fairy story’via therearefreelunches.blogspot.com – A belief that heaven or an afterlife awaits us is a “fairy story” for people afraid of death, Stephen Hawking has said.
In a dismissal that underlines his firm rejection of religious comforts, Britain’s most eminent scientist said there was nothing beyond the moment when the

Motivational & Metabolic Effects of Carbohydrates & The Selfvia Control – Self-control is critical for achievement and well-being. However, people’s capacity for self-control is limited and becomes depleted through use. One prominent explanation for this depletion posits that self-control consumes energy through carbohydrate metabolization, which further suggests that ingesting carbohydrates improves self-control. Some evidence has supported this energy model, but because of its broad implications for efforts to improve self-control, we reevaluated the role of carbohydrates in self-control processes. In four experiments, we found that (a) exerting self-control did not increase carbohydrate metabolization, as assessed with highly precise measurements of blood glucose levels under carefully standardized conditions; (b) rinsing one’s mouth with, but not ingesting, carbohydrate solutions immediately bolstered self-control; and (c) carbohydrate rinsing did not increase blood glucose. These findings challenge metabolic explanations for the role of carbohydrates in self-control depletion; we therefore propose an alternative motivational model for these and other previously observed effects of carbohydrates on self-control.

Psychological distance enhances conformity to group normsvia mindblog.dericbownds.net – In yet another of one of those studies that give what would appear to be a generally applicable result, but is based on experiments carried out on two rather selective population represented by undergraduate psychology students at a U.S. college (UC-Davis, and NYU), Ledgerwood and Callahan demonstrate that psychological distance can enhance conformity to group norms, contra the usual association of the distanced or abstracted thinker (think Spock or Obama) with reasoned opinions that resist group pressure.

A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Change: Confirmation Bias in Financial Marketsvia ideas.repec.org – This paper proposes a dynamic model of financial markets where some investors are prone to the confirmation bias. Following insights from the psychological literature, these agents are assumed to amplify signals that are consistent with their prior views. In a model with public information only, this assumption provides a rationale for the volume-based price momentum documented by Lee and Swaminathan (2000). Our results are also consistent with a variety of other empirically documented phenomena such as bubbles, crashes, reversals and excess price volatility and volume. Novel empirical predictions are derived: i) return continuation should be stronger when biased traders’ beliefs are more extreme, and ii) return continuation should be stronger after an increase in trading volume. The implications of our model for short-term quantitative investments are twofold: i) optimal trading strategies involve riding bubbles, and that ii) contrarian trading can be optimal in some market circumstances.

People … do not want to think probabilisticallyvia infoproc.blogspot.com – “Nothing comes to my desk that is perfectly solvable,” Obama said at one point. “Otherwise, someone else would have solved it. So you wind up dealing with probabilities. Any given decision you make you’ll wind up with a 30 to 40 percent chance that it isn’t going to work. You have to own that and feel comfortable with the way you made the decision. You can’t be paralyzed by the fact that it might not work out.” On top of all of this, after you have made your decision, you need to feign total certainty about it. People being led do not want to think probabilistically.

Too Many Choices: Evidence Of Choice Aversionvia Repec– This paper investigates how people value choice. The experiment consists of eliciting subjects’ willingness to accept for various choice sets. This approach allows us to assess whether prior to making their decision, people appreciate a wider set of options or not. In contrast with the existing literature, our experimental protocol controsl for several parameters usually left aside and provides an environment where usual explanations are unlikely to hold, e.g., complexity of task. Our results suggest that on average individuals are choice averse: the value of a choice set is significantly and robustly lower than the one of its preferred element.

Honesty Requires Time (and Lack of Justifications)via pss.sagepub.com – Recent research suggests that refraining from cheating in tempting situations requires self-control, which indicates that serving self-interest is an automatic tendency. However, evidence also suggests that people cheat to the extent that they can justify their unethical behavior to themselves. To merge these different lines of research, we adopted a dual-system approach that distinguished between the intuitive and deliberative cognitive systems. We suggest that for people to restrict their dishonest behavior, they need to have enough time and no justifications for self-serving unethical behavior. We employed an anonymous die-under-cup task in which participants privately rolled a die and reported the outcome to determine their pay. We manipulated the time available for participants to report their outcome (short vs. ample). The results of two experiments support our prediction, revealing that the dark side of people’s automatic self-serving tendency may be overcome when time to decide is ample and private justifications for dishonesty are not available.

Nudges at the Dentistvia ideas.repec.org – We implement a randomized field experiment to study the impact of reminders on dental health prevention. Patients who are due for a check-up receive no reminder, a neutral reminder postcard, or reminders including additional information on the benefits of prevention. Our results document a strong impact of reminders. Within one month after receiving a reminder, the fraction of patients who make a check-up appointment more than doubles. The effect declines slightly over time, but remains economically and statistically significant. Including additional information in the reminders does not increase response rates. In fact, the neutral reminder has the strongest impact for the overall population as well as for important subgroups of patients. Finally, we document that being exposed to reminders repeatedly does neither strengthen nor weaken their effectiveness.

Unwritten rules of the road: Psychology of Trafficvia mindhacks.com – The latest edition of The Psychologist has a fantastic discussion on the psychology of how drivers, cyclists and pedestrians interact.

The Future of Our Big-Data Societyvia Xconomy – Pentland argues that big data—in this case, analyzing details of social interactions and behaviors on a wide scale—will reinvent what it means to have a human society. He compares the impending transformation to the historical development of writing, education, and the Internet.

Elon Musk, 21st Century Industrialist via The Browser – “Friends describe him as Steve Jobs, John D. Rockefeller, and Howard Hughes rolled into one.” Founded PayPal. Made another fortune in solar power. Runs a private space programme. Makes electric cars. Ambition: To die on Mars

Whoa, Dude, Are We Inside a Computer Right Now?via VICE – Two years ago, Rich Terrile appeared on Through the Wormhole, the Science Channel’s show about the mysteries of life and the universe. He was invited onto the program to discuss the theory that the human experience can be boiled down to something like an incredibly advanced, metaphysical version of The Sims.

Theory Of Spain’s Political Classvia The Browser – Don’t expect Spanish politicians to plan a way out of crisis. Why not? Because any credible long-term plan would dismantle the rent-seeking mechanisms from which they benefit. They’re an extractive elite, hoping the storm passes

So you want to be an artist …via FT.com – In short, if you are a hack thinking you were made for higher things, you are probably wrong. Don’t give up the day job. Perhaps your authentic self is the accountant.


The Art of Being Unreasonable Book Reviewvia Mind Your Decisions – The blogosphere is full of the outspoken amateur, the loud voice that brags about funding college with scholarships or winning a sports competition by exploiting a loophole. We should respect these bloggers for their achievements and for sharing their stories. But we should never forget what real success–and making a real impact to society–is.

Infographic: Animated political contributionsvia flowingdata.com – The Forest of Advocacy is a series of animations that explores the political contribution patterns among eight organizations, such as Bain Capital, Goldman Sachs, and Harvard Business School.

Infographic: Living In Povertyvia Global Sociology Blog– Living in poverty in the US (- 0.1% since 2010… can you feel the recovery? The poverty threshold is now at roughly $22,000 for a family of four), according to the Census Bureau (via Le Monde, interestingly enough).


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15. September 2006 by Miguel Barbosa
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