The Situationist

Archive for July, 2012

Susan Fiske — Varieties of Dehumanization

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 29, 2012

From : Situationist Contributor, Susan Fiske recently spoke at the UCLA Psychology Diversity Science Initiative Lecture Series.

Abstract: Americans are becoming ever more aware of our huge social-class divides, for example in income inequality. Even outside socio-economic status, other forms of status divide us (Fiske, 2011). Status-comparison compels people, even as it stresses, depresses, and divides us. Comparison is only natural, but the collateral damage reveals envy upward and scorn downward, which arguably poison people and their relationships. Based on one of the Stereotype Content Model’s two primary dimensions, status/competence, several experiments-using questionnaire, psychometric, response-time, electro-myographic, and neuroimaging data-illustrate the dynamics of envy up and scorn down. All is not lost, however, as other experiments show how to mitigate the effects of envy and scorn.

Initial studies suggest the importance of status, as people value other people by their apparent social status (Cikara, Farnsworth, Harris, & Fiske, 2010). Other data show how scorn down minimizes thought about another’s mind; contempt deactivates mentalizing processes (Harris & Fiske, 2006). Turning to envy up, other studies demonstrate that Schadenfreude (malicious joy) targets envied outgroups (Cikara & Fiske, in press-a). However, counter-stereotypic information, empathy, and outcome dependency can mitigate both scorn and envy (Ames & Fiske, under review; Cikara & Fiske, in press-b; Harris & Fiske, 2007).

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Posted in Conflict, Emotions, Ideology, Morality, Situationist Contributors, Video | Leave a Comment »

Obama Emphasizes Situation: Romney Emphasizes Disposition

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 26, 2012

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Posted in Ideology, Politics, Video | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The Historical Situation of Situationism at Harvard Law

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 24, 2012

Tito Rendas has just posted his terrific paper, “Mind Sciences in the Harvard Law School Curriculum: Tracing the History, Proposing the Proliferation” on SSRN.  We hope to post excerpts from the paper in time.  Here’s the abstract.

This paper explores the contours of the relationship between the mind sciences and the Harvard Law School curriculum, in particular, and the law curriculum more generally. Rather than using a conceptual definition of “mind sciences”, the paper will be based on an illustrative and fairly loose definition thereof. Any discipline that delves into the mechanisms that explain the functioning of the human mind and the reasons behind human behavior is considered a mind science for purposes of this study. Psychology, psychiatry, cognitive science, and neuroscience are examples of the disciplines that fit under the scope of this definition. The paper is divided into three parts.

Part I discusses the ideological sources of the relatively recent law and mind sciences movement at Harvard. Particular consideration will be given to the role played by the legal realists in questioning assumptions that would otherwise prevent the mind sciences from permeating law and policy-making.

Part II conducts an extensive historical review of the law and mind sciences courses in the HLS curriculum from 1957 to 2013. Six trends, and a predicted future trend, were identified.

Part III is normative in its essence, making the case for the expansion of the law and mind sciences curriculum. This argument is predicated on the answers to two other questions: Who should decide whether this expansion should be carried out? And, assuming its desirability, how should we go about it?

You can download the paper for free here.

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Posted in Abstracts, Behavioral Economics, Education, History, Law, Legal Theory, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

BBC Replicates Bargh’s Famous Priming Study

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 23, 2012

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Posted in Embodied Cognition, Social Psychology, Video | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of Success

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 20, 2012

Dave Nussbaum has an excellent new post over on Random Assignments.  Here’s how it starts.

I don’t think Michael Lewis was trying to make a political point when he gave the commencement address at Princeton University last month (watch the whole thing here). Lewis, the author of several bestselling books including MoneyballLiar’s Poker, and The Big Short, knows a thing or two about the interdependence of luck and success and he was sharing his thoughts on the matter with the about-to-be Princeton graduates. Here’s a taste of what he told them:

Life’s outcomes, while not entirely random, have a huge amount of luck baked into them. Above all, recognize that if you have had success, you have also had luck — and with luck comes obligation. You owe a debt, and not just to your Gods. You owe a debt to the unlucky. I make this point because — along with this speech — it is something that will be easy for you to forget.

He’s right about that last point; it is easy to forget. It’s also convenient, Lewis told Jeffrey Brown in a follow-up interview on PBS’ NewsHour. Most people would acknowledge that both luck and merit are important ingredients to success. It’s just that people often like to feel like they are the authors of their accomplishments and ignore everything and everyone else who played a role. “As they age, and succeed,” Lewis told the graduates, “people feel their success was somehow inevitable.”

Now Lewis isn’t trying to deny Princeton graduates (or anyone else) credit for their success. He just wants them to take a minute to “dwell on just how fortunate they are.” His hope is simply that they have some compassion for people who worked just as hard they did but were less fortunate. As it turns out, there’s some research that suggests that taking a minute to dwell on your good fortune might have exactly that effect.

Way over on the other side of the country, on the campus of another elite university, Chris Bryan and his colleagues (PDF) asked Stanford University students to take a minute (or ten) to tell the story of how they got into the prestigious college. Not all the students got the same instructions, though. Half of the students were asked to focus on the role that “hard work, self-discipline and wise decisions played in helping you get here.” The other half were told to focus on the role of “chance, opportunity and help from others.” Neither group had any difficulty writing the essay. As Bryan, who will be joining the faculty at UC San Diego this fall, explained to me in an email:

People writing about merit would tell the story most successful people probably tell themselves by default–reminiscing about the long hours they spent studying, the times they made the “tough choice” they knew to be right, or how they skipped nights out with friends to stay home and work on an important paper. In some ways, the most interesting thing was that most people who got the good fortune instructions had no trouble acknowledging the lucky breaks they had gotten. Many said things like “I definitely worked hard to get where I am but I realize how fortunate I was to be born into a family that could afford to give me the support and resources I needed to succeed.”

So it seems that people are capable of seeing the role of luck and merit in contributing to their success. What Lewis might be particularly pleased to see, though, is how dwelling on luck, and the help they’d received from others, changed people’s attitudes. Compared to the students who wrote about their own merit, students who wrote about the role of good fortune in their success were, on average, more strongly in favor of policies like universal healthcare and access to unemployment benefits, which presumably helps with one’s obligation to the less fortunate. In addition to increasing support for liberal policies, thinking about one’s luck decreased support for conservative policies like building more prisons and instituting a flat tax. As Bryan explained to me, “it’s not that people’s ideology doesn’t matter, it’s just that their views on important issues can move around significantly depending on how they think about their own success. When they’re focused on their own talent and effort, they’re much less willing to contribute to the common good than when they pause to recognize that luck and help from other people played a big part in their ability to succeed.”

Read the rest of the post, which examines the relevance of Lewis’s remarks and Bryan’s research for politics, here.

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Posted in Blogroll, Ideology, Politics, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Law and Mind Sciences Meets Twitter

Posted by Adam Benforado on July 19, 2012

As some of you may already know, you can follow The Situationist on Twitter (@TheSituationist, https//twitter.com/TheSituationist).

And, now, after months and years of irrational resistance, I have also joined up (@Benforado, http://www.twitter.com/benforado).

In my first week, my tweets have been focused on law, psychology, and neuroscience (with sports, art, and culture thrown in) and I hope to provide a steady stream of interesting asides and links that require immediacy or don’t have quite enough meat for a blog post.

In addition, prompted by the broad census of law professors using Twitter that Bridget Crawford is undertaking at the Faculty Lounge, it occurs to me that it would be great to link various law and mind sciences folks who are active Twitter users.

As a result, if you are on Twitter, please add yourself in the comments.  Let’s build the network.  (If I get enough of a response, I’ll repost the list later to facilitate connections).

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Kristina Olson on the Psychology of Inequality

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 15, 2012

At the Fifth Project on Law and Mind Sciences Conference,“Young Children’s Understanding of Social Inequality” (Harvard, 2011) , Kristina Olson made a fascinating presentation, titled “Stress and Reslience: Pathways to Social Disparities in Health.”  The video of her presentation is above.  Here is a short description:

Dr. Olson discusses recent research indicating that even young children (aged 3-5 years), have an understanding of social inequality. In her lab and others, researchers are finding astounding evidence that children routinely notice social inequality, they favor individuals and groups who are high in social status, and they often behave in ways that perpetuate inequalities between individuals and groups. Olson describes these results, their implications, and will describe other behaviors children engage in that might offset some of these biases to uphold or perpetuate the status quo.

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Posted in Distribution, Ideology, Social Psychology, Video | 2 Comments »

The Neuro-Situation of Altruism

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 14, 2012

Situationist friend David Berreby has a post this week on a recent study suggesting a possible link between the brain and altruistic behavior. Here’s how it starts:

In pursuit of the biological basis of morality, researchers are interested in an area of the brain at the boundary of the right temporal lobe and the right parietal lobe (very roughly, it’s located maybe 2 inches above the midpoint of a line between your right eyebrow and your right ear, not that I recommend digging around for it). This right temporoparietal junction has been linked in various ways to moral judgments about the self and others. Now this paper, out today in the journal Neuron, supplies some striking new evidence for this area’s importance. In lab experiments, people with more brain cells in this region were more altruistic than people with fewer.

Yosuke Morishima and his co-authors ran a functional MRI scan of their volunteers at the University of Zurich as they allocated a sum of money between themselves and an anonymous second person. (By the way, “Yosuke,” for an altruism researcher, is an aptonym. It’s a name that means “to give help” or “great support.”) Some of the participants were quite selfish, while others were much more altruistic, giving up a meaningful amount of cash for another person whom they did not know. And it turned out the volunteer’s degree of altruism correlated with the amount of gray matter they possessed at the right temporoparietal junction (“gray matter” consists of neurons (the cells whose activity makes brains brains) as well as the glial cells that support them and their blood supply).

Read the entire post here.

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Image from Flickr.

Posted in Abstracts, Altruism, Neuroscience | Leave a Comment »

Will John Roberts Drift?

Posted by Adam Benforado on July 10, 2012

A number of years ago, Jon Hanson and I wrote an article for Boston Review on the situations that lead Supreme Court justices to drift (or not drift) from their previous ideological moorings, which has gained new relevance in light of Chief Justice John Roberts majority opinion on the constitutionality of the new national health care law.

I am personally skeptical of speculation that this is a sign that Roberts is shifting.  However, I am somewhat more compelled by Richard Posner’s argument that the reaction to his opinion by the Court’s most conservative justices, Republican members of Congress, and the right-wing media may itself lead Roberts to rethink his ingroup allegiances:

Because if you put [yourself] in his position … what’s he supposed to think? That he finds his allies to be a bunch of crackpots? Does that help the conservative movement? I mean, what would you do if you were Roberts? All the sudden you find out that the people you thought were your friends have turned against you, they despise you, they mistreat you, they leak to the press. What do you do? Do you become more conservative? Or do you say, ‘What am I doing with this crowd of lunatics?’ Right? Maybe you have to re-examine your position.

In an interesting interview with NPR, Posner explains how he himself has been influenced politically by a negative reaction to what he characterizes as a growing “goof[iness]” of the Republican Party.  Listen to the interview here.

Also, for those dedicated few interested in how Posner’s situation may have influenced his worldview, check out The Costs of Dispositionism: The Premature Demise of Situationist Law and Economics, in which Jon and I compare the situations of two founders of the law and economics movement, Posner and Guido Calabresi.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Ideology, Law, Politics, Situationist Contributors | Leave a Comment »

Pavlov on the Situation of Salivation

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 8, 2012

BBC’s recreation.

A sample of related Situationist posts:

Posted in Classic Experiments, Video | Leave a Comment »

The Interior Situation of Belief in God

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 6, 2012

From BigThink:

Our Lady of Lourdes appears 18 times to a miller’s daughter collecting firewood in a small market town in France. A young woman leads an army through critical strategic victories in the 100 Years’ War, claiming to be guided by divine insight. In the very first hours of the 20th century, a student asks God to fill her with the holy spirit and begins to speak in tongues.

Are these incidents case studies in undiagnosed mental illness, spiritual transcendence, or something nebulously in between?

It’s an interesting and elusive question for neuroscientists, with big implications on our understanding of consciousness. As the Nobel-prize winning neuropsychiatrist Eric Kandel has said, reductionism — the idea that a system is nothing more than the interactions between its parts — is an extremely successful theory of biology, but as a “theory of everything,” it fails to provide us with a sufficient explanation of a few basic, fundamental elements that shape human perception.

Particularly, religion. Why do we care whether or not God exists? And why do so many people believe? A new generation of neuroscientists is addressing those questions directly, with the ambitious goal of measuring what happens to the human brain during spiritual experiences. Dr. Andrew Newberg is the Director of Research at the Myrna Brind Center for Integrative Medicine and a pioneer in the field of neurotheology. Newberg doesn’t identify with a particular religious group, but he’s fascinated by the profound significance and persistence of human faith throughout history.

Watch the interiew of Dr. Andrew Newberg, a pioneer in the field of neurotheology, here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Evolutionary Psychology, Ideology, Life, Morality, Video | Leave a Comment »

Implicit Bias in Employment Discrimination Litigation

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 5, 2012

Judge Nancy Gertner and Melissa Hart have recently posted their chapter, titled “Implicit Bias in Employment Discrimination Litigation,” (in Implicit Racial Bias Across the Law, Cambridge University Press, 2012) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract.

Judges exercise enormous discretion in civil litigation, and nowhere more than in employment discrimination litigation, where the trial court’s “common sense” view of what is or is not “plausible” has significant impact on the likelihood that a case will survive summary judgment. As a general matter, doctrinal developments in the past two decades have quite consistently made it more difficult for plaintiffs to assert their claims of discrimination. In addition, many of these doctrines have increased the role of judicial judgment – and the possibility of the court’s implicit bias – in the life cycle of an employment discrimination case. This chapter begins by examining the persistence of gender and racial disparity in the workplace despite the fact that laws prohibiting discrimination have been on the books for decades. Social science offers an explanation in the form of studies that describe the role implicit bias plays in those continuing inequities just as the legal system seems especially resistant to integrating their insights. The chapter goes on to explore the ways that doctrinal developments for assessing evidence in employment discrimination cases – the procedural mechanisms that guide the cases through the system – are a one-way ratchet that makes it harder and harder to prove that discrimination occurred and that enables the judge to enact his or her biases.

Download the chapter for free here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Abstracts, Implicit Associations, Law | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Independence Day: Celebrating Courage to Challenge the Situation

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 3, 2012

First Published on July 3, 2007:

Battle of Lexington

With the U.S. celebrating Independence Day — carnivals, fireworks, BBQs, parades and other customs that have, at best, only a tangential connection to our “independence,” — we thought it an opportune moment to return to its source in search of some situationism. No doubt, the Declaration of Independence is typically thought of as containing a dispositionist message (though few would express it in those terms) — all that language about individuals freely pursuing their own happiness. Great stuff, but arguably built on a dubious model of the human animal.

Declaration of IndependenceThat’s not the debate we want to provoke here. Instead, we are interested in simply highlighting some less familiar language in that same document that reveals something special about the mindset and celebrated courage of those behind the colonists’ revolt. Specifically, as Thomas Jefferson penned, “all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

Part of what made the July 4th heroes heroic, in our view, was their willingness to break from that disposition to suffer evils. They reacted, mobilized, strategized, resisted, and fought because they recognized that their suffering was not legitimate — a conclusion that many in the U.S. and abroad vehemently rejected.

Situationist contributor John Jost has researched and written extensively about a related topic — the widespread tendency to justify existing systems of power despite any unfair suffering that they may entail. As he and his co-authors recently summarized:

Whether because of discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, social class, gender, or sexual orientation or because of policies and programs that privilege some at the expense of others, or even because of historical accidents, genetic disparities, or the fickleness of fate, certain social systems serve the interests of some stakeholders better than others. Yet historical and social scientific evidence shows that most of the time the majority of people – regardless of their own social class or position – accept and even defend the legitimacy of their social and economic systems and manage to maintain a “belief in a just world.”

If we truly want to emulate and celebrate the “founding fathers” of this republic, perhaps we should begin by taking seriously the possibility that what “is” is not always what “ought to be.”

Happy Fourth!

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To read a couple of related Situationist posts, see “Thanksgiving as “System Justification”?” and “Patriots Lose: Justice Restored!

Posted in History, Ideology, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Fear of Flying and NBA Players

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 1, 2012

Michael McCann recently posted his article, “Do You Believe He Can Fly? Royce White and Reasonable Accommodations Under the Americans with Disabilities Act for NBA Players with Phobias” (to be published in the Pepperdine Law Review, Vol. 41, 20103) on SSRN.  The article is about Royce White, who will be entering the NBA next season, and what impact his severe fear of flying will have on his NBA career. The article also considers the legal mechanisms that may be available to White under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Here is an excerpt:

* * *

If fear of flying constitutes a disability for White under the ADA, he could argue that the NBA or his team should accept any reasonable request for accommodation. They may disagree about what constitutes “reasonable”. Allowing White to take a train from Boston to New York City, or even a ship to Europe, would probably be reasonable so long as White does not miss meetings, practices or games. Then again, White as a rookie traveling alone, might not gain valuable insight from conversations with coaches and teammates or develop camaraderie with them.

Seemingly less reasonable would be allowing White to miss a road trip. Unless he is injured, suspended or assigned to the D-League (the NBA’s minor league), White will be contractually obligated to play 82 regular season games, along with four to six pre-season games, up to 28 postseason games, and possibly a handful of summer league games. No player signs a standard contract to play in “some games.” Consider the impact of such an arrangement on White’s coach: if White’s only an occasional player, his coach might struggle to set his rotation. On the other hand, professional leagues have carved out exceptions for players to miss road games. This has been true of NBA players recovering from injury. Gilbert Arenas, returning from a knee injury in 2009, was allowed a flexible schedule whereby he would play in all home games but only some road games. Other circumstances have led to similar arrangements. Last year the Central Hockey League allowed Rapid City Rush forward Brett Nylander, a second lieutenant in the Air Force, to only play home games because his military service limited travel.

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To read the rest, click here.

Sample of related Situationist posts:

Posted in Abstracts, Law, Situationist Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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