The Situationist

Archive for March, 2010

Joshua Greene To Speak at Harvard Law School

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 31, 2010

On Thursday, April 1st, the HLS Student Association for Law and Mind Sciences (SALMS) and the Harvard Graduate Mind, Brain, and Behavior (MBB) Steering Committee are hosting a talk by Joshua Greene called “Moral Cognition and the Law.”

Joshua Greene is an Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department at Harvard University. He studies emotion and reason in moral judgment using behavioral experiments, functional neuroimaging (fMRI), and other neuroscientific methods.  The goal of his research is to understand how moral judgments are shaped by automatic processes, such as emotional gut reactions, and controlled cognitive processes, such as reasoning and self-control.

The event will take place in Pound 101 at Harvard Law School, from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m.

Free Burritos! For more information, e-mail salms@law.harvard.edu.

For a sample of Situationist discussing Professor Greene’s scholarship, see “The Interior Situation of Honesty (and Dishonesty),” “Moral Psychology Primer,” Law & the Brain,” “Pinker on the Situation of Morality,” “The Science of Morality,” and Your Brain and Morality.”

Posted in Events, Experimental Philosophy, Morality, Neuroscience | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The Addictive Situation of Fatty Food

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 30, 2010

Sarah Klein wrote an article for CNN, titled “Fatty foods may cause cocaine-like addiction,” discussing recent research co-authored by Paul J. Kenny, Ph.D., an associate professor of molecular therapeutics at the Scripps Research Institute.  Here are a few excerpts.

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In the study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, Kenny and his co-author studied three groups of lab rats for 40 days. One of the groups was fed regular rat food. A second was fed bacon, sausage, cheesecake, frosting, and other fattening, high-calorie foods–but only for one hour each day. The third group was allowed to pig out on the unhealthy foods for up to 23 hours a day.

Not surprisingly, the rats that gorged themselves on the human food quickly became obese. But their brains also changed. By monitoring implanted brain electrodes, the researchers found that the rats in the third group gradually developed a tolerance to the pleasure the food gave them and had to eat more to experience a high.

They began to eat compulsively, to the point where they continued to do so in the face of pain. When the researchers applied an electric shock to the rats’ feet in the presence of the food, the rats in the first two groups were frightened away from eating. But the obese rats were not. “Their attention was solely focused on consuming food,” says Kenny.

In previous studies, rats have exhibited similar brain changes when given unlimited access to cocaine or heroin. And rats have similarly ignored punishment to continue consuming cocaine, the researchers note.

The fact that junk food could provoke this response isn’t entirely surprising, says Dr.Gene-Jack Wang, M.D., the chair of the medical department at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, in Upton, New York.

“We make our food very similar to cocaine now,” he says.

Coca leaves have been used since ancient times, he points out, but people learned to purify or alter cocaine to deliver it more efficiently to their brains (by injecting or smoking it, for instance). This made the drug more addictive.

According to Wang, food has evolved in a similar way. “We purify our food,” he says. “Our ancestors ate whole grains, but we’re eating white bread. American Indians ate corn; we eat corn syrup.”

The ingredients in purified modern food cause people to “eat unconsciously and unnecessarily,” and will also prompt an animal to “eat like a drug abuser [uses drugs],” says Wang.

The neurotransmitter dopamine appears to be responsible for the behavior of the overeating rats, according to the study. Dopamine is involved in the brain’s pleasure (or reward) centers, and it also plays a role in reinforcing behavior. “It tells the brain something has happened and you should learn from what just happened,” says Kenny.

Overeating caused the levels of a certain dopamine receptor in the brains of the obese rats to drop, the study found. In humans, low levels of the same receptors have been associated with drug addiction and obesity, and may be genetic, Kenny says.

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To read the entire article, click here.

To read some related Situationist posts, see “The Policy Situation of Obesity,” The Situation of Snacking,” Big Calories Come in Small Packages,”The Situation of Eating – Part II,” The Situation of Eating,” “The Situation of the Dreaded ‘Freshman 15′,” “Our Situation Is What We Eat,” “Social Networks,” Common Cause: Combating the Epidemics of Obesity and Evil,” “The Situation of Fatness = Our ‘Obesogenic’ Society,” Innovative Policy: Zoning for Health,” Situational Obesity, or, Friends Don’t Let Friends Eat and Veg,” “McDonalds tastes better than McDonalds, if it’s packaged right,” “The Science of Addiction, The Myth of Choice,” The Situation of our Food – Part I,” “The Situation of Our Food – Part II,”The Situation of Our Food – Part III,” and “The Situation of our Food – Part IV.”

The American obesity paradox is explored at some length by Situationist Contributors, Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosifon, who devoted a sizeable article to the mistaken but dominant dispositionist attributions made regarding obesity and the actual situational sources of the epidemic. To access their article, entitled “Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America,” click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Food and Drug Law, Public Policy | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Harvard Law Spotlights Situationism

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 29, 2010

The Harvard Law School website last week spotlighted  “a recent interview on the website Big Think.”  Situationist Contributor Jon Hanson, the Alfred Smart Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and Director of  The Project on Law and Mind Sciences at Harvard Law School, delves into an exploration of psychology, ideology and law.”

To read more, click here.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Dan Wegner on “Psychological Studies of the Guilty Mind”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 27, 2010

From the Student Association for Law and Mind Sciences (SALMS) and the Project on Law and Mind Sciences (PLMS) at Harvard Law School, here is an remarkable presentation, titled “Psychological Studies of the Guilty Mind,” by Dan Wegner, one of the most thoughtful and influential social psychologists in the business.

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To review a collection of Situationist posts discussing Dan Wegner’s research, click here.

Posted in Illusions, Implicit Associations, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of Bottled Water

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 26, 2010

From the Story of Stuff: The Story of Bottled Water, releasing March 22, 2010, employs the Story of Stuff style to tell the story of manufactured demand—how you get Americans to buy more than half a billion bottles of water every week when it already flows from the tap. Over five minutes, the film explores the bottled water industrys attacks on tap water and its use of seductive, environmental-themed advertising to cover up the mountains of plastic waste it produces. The film concludes with a call to take back the tap, not only by making a personal commitment to avoid bottled water, but by supporting investments in clean, available tap water for all.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see ““Flow” and the Situation of Water,” and the links that posts contains.

Posted in Abstracts, Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Education, Food and Drug Law, Life, Marketing, Public Policy, Video | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

“Flow” and the Situation of Water

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 25, 2010

From Wikipedia: Flow: For Love of Water is a 2008 documentary film by Irena Salina. The film concentrates on the big business of privatization of water infrastructure which prioritizes profits over the availability of clean water for people and the environment. Major businesses depicted in the film are Nestle, The Coca-Cola Company, Suez, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The first video below is the trailer.  You can watch the movie in 9 (roughly 10-minute) sections after the jump.

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Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Deep Capture, Distribution, Food and Drug Law, Geography, Life, Politics, Public Policy, Video | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Milgram Replicated on French TV – “The Game of Death”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 24, 2010

From NPR:

France is reeling from a documentary about a psychological experiment disguised as a game show. Researchers staged a fictitious reality show to see how far people would go in obeying authority, especially if television reinforces that authority.

The disturbing results have alarmed the French.

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From the BBC, “Row over ‘torture’ on French TV“:

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The hugely controversial Game of Death was broadcast in prime-time on a major terrestrial channel, France 2, on Wednesday.

It showed 80 people taking part in what they thought was a game show pilot.

As it was only a trial, they were told they wouldn’t win anything, but they were given a nominal 40 euro fee.

Before the show, they signed contracts agreeing to inflict electric shocks on other contestants.

One by one, they were put in a studio resembling the sets of popular game shows.

They were then asked to zap a man they believed was another contestant whenever he failed to answer a question correctly – with increasingly powerful shocks of up to 460 volts.

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Egged on by a glamorous presenter, cries of “punishment” from a studio audience and dramatic music, the overwhelming majority of the participants obeyed orders to continue delivering the shocks – despite the man’s screams of agony and pleas for them to stop.

Eventually he fell silent, presumably because he had died or lost consciousness.

The contestants didn’t know that the man, strapped in a chair inside a cubicle so they couldn’t see him, was really an actor. There were no shocks and it was all an experiment to see how far they would go.

Only 16 of the 80 participants stopped before the ultimate, potentially lethal shock.

“No one expected this result,” intoned a commentary. “Eighty per cent of the candidates went to the very end.”

The show was billed as a warning against blindly obeying authority – and a critique of reality TV shows in which participants are humiliated or hurt.

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The claim that “no one expected this result” must be incorrect.  Those who designed this experiment were simply remaking the classic Milgram experiment in which compliance levels were substantial; in this version, however, the pressures to comply may well have been far more significant  than in the original rendition, as this involved group (audience) pressure to continue shocking in a context (game shows) where extreme behavior is now part of the script.

To see why we say that, see the following Situationist posts: “Solomon Asch’s Famous Compliance Experiment,” “Journalists as Social Psychologists & Social Psychologists as Entertainers,” “The Situation of Violence,” Replicating Milgram’s Obedience Experiment – Yet Again,” “Jonestown (The Situation of Evil) Revisited,” Milgram Remake,” The Milgram Experiment Today?.” Gender Conformity,”The Case for Obedience,” A Shocking Situation,” “Zimbardo on Milgram and Obedience – Part I,”  “The Case for Obedience,” Solomon Asch’s Conformity Experiment . . . Today,” “Gender Conformity,” “The Situational Effect of Groups,” and Virtual Worlds, Learning, and Virtual Milgram.”

Posted in Classic Experiments, Entertainment, Morality, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

What Does Situationism Mean for Law?

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 23, 2010

Situationist Contributor Jon Hanson was recently interviewed by Big Think.  Here is his answer to the following question: “What are some of the changes that the legal system should be making?”

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To watch the first part of Hanson’s BigThink interview, see “Jon Hanson on Situationism and Dispositionism,” which also contains other related Situationist links.

Posted in Deep Capture, Education, Ideology, Legal Theory, Situationist Contributors, Video | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Situationism in the Blogosphere – February, Part II

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 22, 2010

blogosphere image

Below, we’ve posted titles and a brief quotation from some of our favorite non-Situationist situationist blogging during February 2010 (they are listed in alphabetical order by source).

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From Law and Mind: “The Law’s Relationship to Self-Interested, Competitive, and Trusting Behavior”

“In “Associations between Law, Competitiveness, and the Pursuit of Self-Interest,” Mitchell Callan and Aaron Kay present and analyze their research regarding whether the existence of law, “implicitly fosters the assumptions that people are self-interested, competitive, and cannot be trusted.” Read more . . .

From Mind Hacks: “Subliminal cigarette marketing”

“The Tobacco Documents Library is an online database of millions of tobacco industry documents made public through court cases. Included are letters written to cigarette companies including several  where the public have complained about ‘subliminal messages’ hidden in adverts.” Read more . . .

From Neurophilosophy: “Your eyes betray the timing of your decisions”

“When it comes to making decisions, timing can be everything, but it is often beneficial to conceal the decision that has been made. Take a game of poker, for instance: during each round, the player has to decide whether to bet, raise the stakes, or fold, depending on the hand they have been dealt. A good player will have perfected his “poker face”, the blank expression which conceals the emotions he feels and the decisions he makes from the other players sitting at the table.” Read more . . .

From Neuromarketing: “The Power of Text”

“What makes an engaging television commercial? If you think visual and auditory appeal – action, sound, music, people, color, etc. – you would usually be correct. Ditto for high production values. An exotic location might help, too. But the recent Super Bowl provided an example that should warm the hearts of copy writers everywere: the Google “Parisian Love” ad.” Read more . . .

From Psyblog: “Conformity: Ten Timeless Influencers”

“Conformity is such a strong influence in society that it’s impossible to understand human behaviour without it. Psychological experiments show that people will deny the evidence of their own eyes in order to conform  with other people.” Read more . . .

For previous installments of “Situationism on the Blogosphere,” click here.

Posted in Abstracts, Blogroll | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

The Neuro-Situation of Moral and Economic Decisions

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 21, 2010

From ThirteenWNET:

To Steven Quartz & Colin Camerer the brain is a huge number-cruncher, assigning a numeric value to everything from a loaf of bread to our most deeply held moral “values.” In that sense, moral decisions are also economic ones. Using a brain scanner (fMRI), they want to catch the brain in the act—to see what it’s doing at exactly the moment a tough moral decision gets made. Their research is pioneering a new branch of neuroscience — neuroeconomics.

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To review a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Legal Brain,” Read My Brain – From Science Friday,” “The Situation of Neuroeconomics and Situationist Economics,” and “The Interior Situational Reaction to Inequality.”

Posted in Behavioral Economics, Distribution, Emotions, Neuroeconomics, Neuroscience, Video | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

The Unproductive Situation of Picking Underdogs in the NCAA Tournament

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 20, 2010

Earlier this week, we blogged about the role of implicit attitudes in the selection of teams for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Today we bring your attention to a New York Times piece by Nicholas Bakalar on a study titled, Match Madness: Probability Matching in Prediction of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.  The study’s authors, Professors Sean McCrea and Edward Hirt, conclude that while betting on the underdogs may make a fan feel good, the decision often proves regrettable.   We excerpt Bakalar’s piece below.

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Some people think that the way to win the office pool in the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament is to pick the promising underdogs to win — and they believe they know which underdogs to pick. But two psychology professors have this advice for them: don’t bet on it.

The problem is that of all the prediction techniques — asking sportswriters, polling coaches, following the Las Vegas odds, and others — none does better than simply predicting that the better-seeded team will win.

“We all feel we can guess right; it’s seductive,” said Edward R. Hirt, a co-author of a study on the subject published in the December issue of The Journal of Applied Social Psychology. “We know that we’re better off just picking the lower-seeded team, but that’s boring.”

A pool involves predicting the winner of each game in the tournament. The person with the most correct picks wins. In the first round, when the No. 1 seeds plays the No. 16s, the outcome is, for all practical purposes, preordained. Although there have been a few close calls, including two 1-point losses, no 16th seed has ever beaten the No. 1 seed since the expansion to 64 teams in 1985.

But the closer the seeding, the more likely an upset becomes. The game between the teams seeded eighth and ninth is virtually a tossup.

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To read the rest, click here.  For a related Situationist post, see Cheering for the Underdog and Jack Bauer and Growing Up Rich.

Posted in Situationist Sports, Social Psychology, System Legitimacy | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Hanson & Kysar To Deliver the 2010 Monsanto Lecture

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 18, 2010

Situationist Contributor Jon Hanson and Yale Law Professor Doug Kysar are co-delivering the 2010 Monsanto Lecture on Tort Law and Jurisprudence tomorrow at Valparaiso University School of Law.  Their lecture is titled “Abnormally Dangerous: Inequality Dissonance and the Making of Tort Law.”  Here’s the abstract.

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At the conceptual heart of tort law rests a choice between negligence and strict liability as the default standard of care for unintentional wrongs. The prevailing American view holds that strict liability should be reserved for rare cases in which an activity poses significant hazards even after a defendant has taken all reasonable care. The types of explanations for that preference have shifted over time from a classical liberal rationale to an economic efficiency rationale.  Neither of those explanations is fully persuasive on its own terms, as a careful examination of leading cases makes clear. So what might explain why courts sometimes prefer a negligence standard, when their logic could as easily have led them to a strict liability alternative?

There is growing evidence from the mind sciences that the reasons people give for their behavior and decisions are rarely causal and are often confabulatory. The field of social cognition, for instance, has demonstrated through countless experiments that “implicit attitudes” and “implicit motives,” which lie outside the purview of introspection, play a far more significant role in shaping our attitudes, ideologies, and behavior than most of us realize—or care to acknowledge. Among the most studied and influential implicit motives are the “cognitive closure” motive and the “inequality rationalization” motive.

Focusing primarily on Judge Posner’s famous and influential opinion in Indiana Harbor Belt R.R. Co. v. American Cyanamid Co., we examine whether an understanding of those implicit processes might help explain why he held that the activity of transporting highly toxic and flammable chemicals through residential neighborhoods was not abnormally dangerous and thus not subject to strict liability (and why, more generally, negligence has so thoroughly dominated strict liability as the default standard of care).  We investigate further whether such implicit dynamics left unexamined might themselves be abnormally dangerous.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Taking Behavioralism Seriously (Part I) – Abstract and Top Ten List,” “Tort Law’s Distributional Injustice,” The Cultural Situation of Tort Law,” Situationist Torts – Abstract,” Robin Hood Motives,” “The Interior Situational Reaction to Inequality,” The Motivated Situation of Inequality and Discrimination,” and “The Situation of Inequality – Guns, Germs, and Steel.”

Posted in Abstracts, Distribution, Events, Implicit Associations, Law, Legal Theory, Public Policy, Situationist Contributors | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Subconscious Human Bias in NCAA Tournament Selection

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 17, 2010

Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated has an engaging column on new research identifying subconscious bias in the selection of teams for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament (a.k.a. March Madness).  We excerpt it below.

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The study, by Jay Coleman, Mike DuMond and Allen Lynch, looked at selection data from 10 tournaments (1999-2008) and found that when seeding the tournament, membership in one of the six BCS conferences is worth an average of an extra 1.75 seeds. The study also found that having a conference representative on the 10-member selection committee resulted not only in a higher seed but also in a better chance of getting an at-large bid. According to the authors, a true bubble team (one with a 50-50 chance of getting in or being left out) would have a 49 percent better chance of getting in if its athletic director is on the committee, a 41 percent better chance if its conference commissioner was on the committee and a 23 percent better chance if a fellow conference AD is a member of the committee.

According to the researchers, Wake Forest would have beaten out Virginia Tech this year even after removing the controls for selection committee bias. Hokies fans should be angrier about their team’s abysmal out-of-conference schedule, but it probably didn’t escape their notice that Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman is a member of the selection committee.

The study’s authors aren’t accusing Wellman or any other selection committee member of deliberately rigging the process. In fact, they realize Wellman wouldn’t have even been allowed in the room when the committee voted to grant Wake Forest an at-large bid, nor would he have been allowed to offer an opinion on fellow ACC member Virginia Tech. What the authors are suggesting is that the selection process setup allows subconscious biases to creep into the proceedings.

To read the rest, click hereFor related Situationist posts, see “March Madness” and “Hoyas, Hos, & Gangstas.”

Posted in Implicit Associations, Situationist Sports | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Tort Law’s Distributional Injustice

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 16, 2010

Anita Bernstein, posted her recent review essay, titled “Distributive Justice Through Tort (And Why Sociolegal Scholars Should Care)” (forthcoming 35 Law of Social Inquiry) on  SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

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Drawing on two books central to an emerging sociolegal literature about tort-Fault Lines: Tort Law as Cultural Practice, a collection of chapters edited by David M. Engel and Michael McCann, and Torts, Egalitarianism and Distributive Justice, a monograph by Tsachi Keren-Paz–this essay argues that tort law in the United States redistributes wealth in ways that ought to trouble sociolegal scholars and enlist their reformist energy. Read together, the two volumes offer considerable description and critique of a distributive injustice, and lead to important proposals for change.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Cultural Situation of Tort Law,” Situationist Torts – Abstract,” “Mark Lanier visits Professor Jon Hanson’s Tort Class (web cast),” “The Distributional Situation of Obesity,” “Robin Hood Motives,” “The Interior Situational Reaction to Inequality,” Martha Fineman on the Situation of Gender and Equality,” “The Blame Frame – Abstract,” “The Motivated Situation of Inequality and Discrimination,” and “The Situation of Inequality – Guns, Germs, and Steel.”

Posted in Abstracts, Book, Distribution, Ideology, Legal Theory | 3 Comments »

The Situation of the Health Care Debate

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 14, 2010

A Harvard Law student wrote a worthwhile post on Law & Mind a few weeks ago about some of the dynamics behind the health care debate.  Here is an excerpt.

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How should an institution inspire collective action?  What’s the best strategy?  The conventional wisdom is that to solve a collective problem, the institution should reward contributors and punish free-riders.  To prevent people from littering, fine them; to induce people to donate to charity, reward them; to move people to invent, lure them with intellectual property . . . .  The implicit reasoning is that the typical human agent is a rational wealth-optimizer who won’t contribute to a public good unless he or she is incentivized to do.  Yet, . . . the rational actor model isn’t an accurate depiction of human nature.  Just as the average person doesn’t make the “rational choice” in an ultimatum bargain, the average person doesn’t jump to contribute to a public good on account of a mere carrot or stick.  The conventional wisdom—that the optimal solution for the collective action dilemma is incentive-based—is a gross oversimplification; the almighty incentive is only one aspect of a rich, complex puzzle.  Nonetheless, the conventional solution is unquestioned in our popular discourse regarding collective action.

Enter [Situationist Contributor] Professor Dan M. Kahan of Yale Law SchoolAs he’s done for quite a while, Professor Kahan challenges the conventional wisdom.  In the “The Logic of Reciprocity: Trust, Collective Action, and Law,” Professor Kahan argues that the traditional solution for a collective problem is often counter-productive, and offers an alternative theory that is grounded in an ecologically valid appraisal of the human animal.

Before exploring Professor Kahan’s theory, though, consider a recent example of the conventional wisdom’s influence on public discourse from an article in Slate entitled, “The Senator’s Dilemma,” published last week.  There, Christopher Beam argues that the Democratic Party’s strategic stance with respect to health care reform can be viewed as a classic collective action problem.  Although Beam’s characterization of the problem is surely correct, his policy prescription is conventional.

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To read the rest of the post click here.

For a sample of related Situationist posts, “Rebecca Onie: Doing Something about the Situation of Medical Care,”  “How Ted Kennedy’s Passing Influences ‘Obamacare’,” The Situation of Racial Health Disparities,” “The Disturbing Mental Health Situation of Returning Soldiers,” “The Racial Situation of Pain Relief,” “The Situation of Medical Research,” and “Infant Death Rates in Mississippi.”  To read other Situationist posts discussing Dan Kahan’s work, click here.

Posted in Conflict, Politics, Public Policy, Situationist Contributors | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Jon Hanson on Situationism and Dispositionism

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 13, 2010

Situationist Contributor was recently interviewed by Big Think.  Here is his answer to the following questions: “What is wrong with our legal system’s notion of human behavior?”; and “What led you to study the link between law and cognition?”

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Hanson’s Chair Lecture on Situationism,” “Legal Academic Backlash – Abstract,” “‘Situation’ Trumps ‘Disposition’ – Part I,” and ““Situation” Trumps “Disposition”- Part II.”

Posted in Ideology, Law, Legal Theory, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

The Policy Situation of Obesity

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 12, 2010

In 2004, Peter Jennings hosted an outstanding report, titled “How To Get Fat Without even Trying,” in which he explored some of the situational factors, including federal government agricultural policies and food industry practices, that  are contributing to Americas  obesity epidemic.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Snacking,” The Benefit of Knowing Your Eating Sins,” “The Situation of Body Image,” “Big Calories Come in Small Packages,”The Situation of Eating – Part II,” The Situation of Eating,” “The Situation of the Dreaded ‘Freshman 15′,” “Our Situation Is What We Eat,” “Social Networks,” Common Cause: Combating the Epidemics of Obesity and Evil,” “The Situation of Fatness = Our ‘Obesogenic’ Society,” Innovative Policy: Zoning for Health,” Situational Obesity, or, Friends Don’t Let Friends Eat and Veg,” “McDonalds tastes better than McDonalds, if it’s packaged right,” “The Science of Addiction, The Myth of Choice,” The Situation of our Food – Part I,” “The Situation of Our Food – Part II,”The Situation of Our Food – Part III,” and “The Situation of our Food – Part IV.”

The American obesity paradox is explored at some length by Situationist Contributors, Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosifon, who devoted a sizeable article to the mistaken but dominant dispositionist attributions made regarding obesity and the actual situational sources of the epidemic. To access their article, entitled “Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America,” click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Education, Food and Drug Law, Life, Marketing, Public Relations, Video | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Mahzarin Banaji at Harvard Law School

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 10, 2010

On Thursday, March 11th, the HLS Student Association for Law and Mind Sciences (SALMS) is hosting a talk by Harvard psychology professor Mahzarin Banaji entitled “Mind Bugs and the Science of Ordinary Bias.”  Here’s the description.

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How deep are the bounds on human thinking and feeling and how do they shape social judgment?  Our focus has been on the mechanics of unconscious mental processes, with attention to those that operate without conscious awareness, intention, or control.  Most recently, we have worked with a task that reveals unconscious preferences in a rather blunt manner, showing that they can sit, at one level, in contradiction with consciously endorsed preferences.  We use the tool largely for theory testing, focusing on questions about the nature of implicit social cognition and its measurement.  The research tool, in vastly simplified form, is also available to the public at a demonstration website (implicit.harvard.edu), offering estimates of automatic preferences toward social groups, political candidates, and academic orientation (e.g., math/science). From such study of attitudes and beliefs of adults and children, I ask about the social and moral consequences of unintended thought and feeling. My work relies on cognitive/affective behavioral measures and neuroimaging (fMRI) with which I explore the implications for theories of individual responsibility and social justice.

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The event will take place in Pound 107 at Harvard Law School, from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Free Burritos! For more information, e-mail salms@law.harvard.edu.

For a sample of Situationist discussing Professor Banaji’s scholarship, click here.

Posted in Abstracts, Events, Implicit Associations, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Situationism in the Blogosphere

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 9, 2010

blogosphere image

Below, we’ve posted titles and a brief quotation from some of our favorite non-Situationist situationist blogging during February 2010 (they are listed in alphabetical order by source).

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From Ambigamy: “Consciously unconscious: Reflections on the annual social psychology conference”

“I just got back from the annual Social Psychology meeting in Las Vegas. Are you following this amazing field? It’s not hard to follow, what with the wealth of marvelously accessible books with monosyllabic titles like Blink, Switch, Nudge, and Sway, not to mention The Hidden Brain, Predictably Irrational, The political brain, On being certain, How we decide, and well, really too many to mention.” Read more . . .

From Brain Blogger: “I Feel Your Pain” – The Neural Basis of Empathy”

“Last month, a terrible earthquake raised havoc in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. While the Haitians in Port-au-Prince are miles away from us, witnessing media images of their physical and emotional suffering moves us tremendously, and motivates many of us to respond to their distress with monetary and other donations. In a sense, this is an amazing human feat—that we are able to feel for other people’s far away tragedies. How is it that we are so moved? This is a question about human empathy, and it has boggled the minds of great thinkers for centuries.” Read more . . .

From BPS Research Digest: “Your left brain has a bigger ego than your right brain”

“Psychologists have used an inventive combination of techniques to show that the left half of the brain has more self-esteem than the right half. The finding is consistent with earlier research showing that the left hemisphere is associated more with positive, approach-related emotions, whereas the right hemisphere is associated more with negative emotions.” Read more . . .

From Cognition and Culture: “Better live in Sweden than in the US: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better”

“Let’s talk about politics for once. It is common knowledge that in rich societies the poor have shorter lives and suffer more from almost every social problem. In a quite fascinating book, The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always do Better, epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett demonstrate that more unequal societies are bad for almost everyone – the well-off as well as the poor (here is the Guardian review, and here is Nature’s).” Read more . . .

From Jury Room: “Lighter Skin, More Like Me”

“[…]It’s a timely piece. As the country becomes increasingly polarized, researchers keep churning out work on our biases and how they result in us modifying how we see others. For example, the Atlantic reports on a study showing that our own partisanship determines how we perceive skin color. The more we believe the person shares our own values and political perspective, the lighter skinned we believe them to be. If we do not believe they share our perspective and values, we see them as darker skinned.” Read more . . .

For previous installments of “Situationism on the Blogosphere,” click here.

Posted in Abstracts, Blogroll | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Sheena Iyengar’s Situation and the Situation of Choosing

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 7, 2010

Last week, Situationist friend, Sheena Iyengar, was interviewed on the Diane Rehm Show (American University Radio) about her new book, “The Art of Choosing.”

The show’s description is as follows:  “The power of choice: Understanding the motivations, biases, and cultural influences that determine the choices, large and small, we make in our lives.”  As interesting as those issues are, the interview itself is at its best when Sheena discusses her own remarkable situation and how that influenced her research.

You can listen to the entire podcast here.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Sheena Iyengar on ‘The Multiple Choice Problem,'”Can’t Get No Satisfaction!: The Law Student’s Job Hunt – Part II,” “Dan Gilbert on the Situation of Our Decisions,”and “Just Choose It! “  To review all of the Situationist posts that discuss the problem with, or illusion of, choices, click here.


Posted in Book, Choice Myth, Classic Experiments, Life, Podcasts, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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