The Situationist

Archive for the ‘Social Psychology’ Category

Witnessing a Murder?: What Would You Do?

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 14, 2013

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Posted in Altruism, Social Psychology, Video | 2 Comments »

Stereotype Threat for Boys

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 16, 2013

music class

From Eureka Alert:

Negative stereotypes about boys may hinder their achievement, while assuring them that girls and boys are equally academic may help them achieve. From a very young age, children think boys are academically inferior to girls, and they believe adults think so, too. Even at these very young ages, boys’ performance on an academic task is affected by messages that suggest that girls will do better than they will.

Those are the conclusions of new research published in the journal Child Development and conducted at the University of Kent. The research sought to determine the causes of boys’ underachievement at school.

“People’s performance suffers when they think others may see them through the lens of negative expectations for specific racial, class, and other social stereotypes—such as those related to gender—and so expect them to do poorly,” explains Bonny L. Hartley, a PhD student at the University of Kent, who led the study. “This effect, known as stereotype threat, grants stereotypes a self-fulfilling power.”

In three studies of primarily White schoolchildren in Britain, Hartley and her colleague investigated the role of gender stereotypes. They found that from a very young age, children think boys are academically inferior to girls, and they believe that adults think so, too.

The first study looked at children’s stereotypes about boys’ and girls’ conduct, ability, and motivation. Researchers gave 238 children ages 4 to 10 a series of scenarios that showed a child with either good behavior or performance (such as “This child really wants to learn and do well at school”) or poor behavior or performance (such as “This child doesn’t do very well at school”), then asked the children to indicate to whom the story referred by pointing to a picture, in silhouette, of a boy or a girl. From an early age—girls from 4 and boys from 7—children matched girls to positive stories and boys to negative ones. This suggests that the children thought girls behaved better, performed better, and understood their work more than boys, despite the fact that boys are members of a nonstigmatized, high-status gender group that is substantially advantaged in society. Follow-up questions showed that children thought adults shared these stereotypes.

Researchers then did two experiments to determine whether stereotype threat hindered boys’ academic performance. In one, involving 162 children ages 7 and 8, telling children that boys did worse than girls at school caused boys’ performance in a test of reading, writing, and math to decline (compared to a control group that got no such information). In the other experiment, involving 184 children ages 6 to 9, telling children that boys and girls were expected to do equally well caused boys’ performance on a scholastic aptitude test to improve (compared to a control group). Girls’ performance wasn’t affected.

“In many countries, boys lag behind girls at school,” according to Hartley. “These studies suggest that negative academic stereotypes about boys are acquired in children’s earliest years of primary education and have self-fulfilling consequences. They also suggest that it is possible to improve boys’ performance, and so close the gender gap, by conveying egalitarian messages and refraining from such practices as dividing classes by gender.”

Related Situationist posts:

Image from Flickr.

Posted in Implicit Associations, Social Psychology | 1 Comment »

Max Bazerman Speaks at HLS – Thursday!

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 7, 2013

Bazerman Books

Thursday, February 7, 12-1 p.m.
Wasserstein 1015
Professor Max Bazerman (HBS)
“Bounded Ethicality”
Sponsor: Student Association for Law & Mind Sciences

Professor Bazerman will present his recent research on ethical behavior. He argues that, in contrast to the search for the few “bad apples,” the majority of unethical events occur as the result of ordinary and predictable psychological processes. As a result, even good people engage in unethical behavior, without their own awareness, on a regular basis.

Free Thai food!

Learn more about Professor Bazerman’s work here.

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Posted in Choice Myth, Events, Morality, SALMS, Social Psychology | Leave a Comment »

Amy Cuddy on Body Language

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 4, 2013

Situationist friend, Amy Cuddy, delivers a fascinating TedTalk on how body language affects how others see us and on how we see ourselves.  Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.

Related Situationist posts:

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

The #1 Psychology Blog of 2012

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 1, 2013

Top 30 Psychology Blogs of 2012

We are happy to report that Best Online Psychology Schools just published their top 30 psychology blogs of 2012, and placed The Situationist at #1.

The broad field of psychology has numerous approaches, methods, and theories–some say as many of each as there are practitioners. There are numerous high quality blogs operated by psychology professionals from every facet of the field. This list consists of thirty of the most prominent blogs on the topics of psychology and the closely related field of neuroscience. The neuroscience blogs all have a psychology bent to them, explaining the relationship between the inner workings of the human brain as understood by neuroscience and how it relates to human action and thought.

Best Pscyhology and Neuroscience Blogs

1. The Situationist is a prominent social psychology blog in which the author[s] explore human social behavior, examining such phenomena as preferences, choice, and the human will. These choices are explored most often through thought experiments that consist of various situations and the the contributing factors to the choices made in those situations.
Highlight: Why Race May Influence Us Even When We “Know” It Doesn’t

Read about the other 29 blogs on the list here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Awards, Social Psychology | Leave a Comment »

Rising Star Interviews – Dana Carney

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 29, 2013

Dana CarneyIn 2011, APS published a series of “Rising Star” interviews, including several of scholars who are Situationist Contributors or good friends of blog.  We will highlight some of those interviews in weeks ahead.  Here is the interview of Situationist friend, Dana Carney.

What does your research focus on?

I am interested in the incredible power of tiny, ordinary, nonverbal cues.

What drew you to this line of research? Why is it exciting to you?

I was drawn to this research because of how diagnostic these cues can be when trying to make inferences about others’ mental states.

Who were/are your mentors or psychological influences?

I have had so many incredible mentors and I have been influenced by so many wonderful minds — I could fill all of these pages with the names. My very first mentor was Maureen O’Sullvan. Maureen died last year. She has an incredibly special place in my heart and in my mind.

To what do you attribute your success in the science?

I do not consider myself to be successful but hard work and many hours of practice are the most powerful tools we have if we want to become good at something.

What’s your future research agenda?

I am working with my students Andy Yap and Abbie Wazlawek and my former student who is now at Kellogg, Brian Lucas, on some of the powerful ways in which ordinary, everyday, nonverbal behaviors can exert extraordinary impact on thoughts, feelings, and choice.

Any advice for even younger psychological scientists? What would you tell someone just now entering graduate school or getting their PhD?

What you study is an expression of who you are. Leading a life of science is much more akin to being an artist than anything else. It is a part of you, it comes everywhere with you, you see the world only through its lens, it pervades every aspect of who you are and how you think.

What publication you are most proud of or feel has been most important to your career?

I do not generally feel proud of my work but I like some of my papers more than I like others. A recent paper with my very close, dear colleague, Amy Cuddy and my wonderful student Andy Yap is one I like.

Carney, D. R., Cuddy, A. J., & Yap, A.J. (2010). Power posing: Brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance. Psychological Science, 21, 1363-1368.

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Posted in Awards, Ideology, Implicit Associations, Social Psychology | Leave a Comment »

Rising Star Interviews – Aaron Kay

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 23, 2013

Aaron KayIn 2011, APS published a series of “Rising Star” interviews, including several of scholars who are Situationist Contributors or good friends of blog.  We will highlight some of those interviews in weeks ahead.  Here is the interview of Situationist Contributor, Aaron Kay.

What does your research focus on?

My research focuses on the relation between motivation, implicit social cognition, and broad societal issues. I have a particular interest in how basic motivations and needs – including ones that people may not be entirely aware of – manifest as specific social and societal beliefs. These include (but are not limited to) the causes and consequences of stereotyping and system justification, religious and political belief, and the attitudes people hold towards their institutions and social systems.

What drew you to this line of research? Why is it exciting to you?

I was drawn to these issues because I was (and still am) taken by how little we know about some of humankind’s most cherished and steadfastly defended belief systems. I continue working on these issues because I have now to come to realize the extent to which understanding the origins and functions of these beliefs can shed light on basic psychological processes.

Who were/are your mentors or psychological influences?

In graduate school I was very lucky to have two exceptional advisors: Lee Ross and John Jost. They are my most important mentors and their ideas are my most proximal psychological influences. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention three other programs of research that deeply influenced my thinking as a graduate student. John Bargh’s research on the automatic nature of social behavior and motivation, Melvin Lerner’s research on the Belief in a Just World, and Susan Fiske and Peter Glicke’s research on hostile and benevolent forms of sexism all strongly influenced my approach to studying the social mind.

To what do you attribute your success in the science?

Two things, really: In graduate school, I had great advisors. They made it very hard for me not to be productive and excited about my research. Afterwards, my years as an Assistant Professor at the University of Waterloo were filled with brilliant and incredibly energetic social psychologist colleagues. Richard Eibach, John Holmes, Mike Ross, Steve Spencer, Joanne Wood, and Mark Zanna provided the type of support and nurturance that a fledgling academic can only dream about. They didn’t merely drop by every once in a while to see how things were going, but became actively engaged in my research, infusing it with different perspectives and methodological approaches. And while that was going on, I was surrounded by the hardest working and smartest set of graduate students one could hope for.

What’s your future research agenda?

That’s a great question, since it is one that I’d love to know the answer to. I have recently developed a model of compensatory control aimed at explaining a wide swath of beliefs and behaviors, and I imagine I will continue to work on understanding and refining that model. Where exactly that will take me, though, is an open question. Research for me is such a collaborative endeavor that I assume my future research agenda will be dictated, at least in part, by what aspects of my research my students and collaborators are most interested in.

Any advice for even younger psychologists? What would you tell someone just now entering graduate school or getting their PhD?

Lee Ross once told me that he thinks it is important to involve yourself in something “exciting” while in graduate school — that is, an idea or approach or perspective that you feel is new and different in some way. In looking back at my experience and those of my many successful peers, I now see the truth in that advice. I am not suggesting (nor do I think Lee was suggesting) that you need to develop something new yourself, but involving yourself in a larger research program that is doing that is an invaluable experience — or at least it was for me. Many of the most successful research programs  are ones that deviate from what everyone else is doing but in a way that still keeps them relevant to what everyone else is doing. To do this, you need to both understand what is happening in the field and have a desire to break new ground. The former can be learned pretty easily, but my feeling is the latter is facilitated by getting a sense for what it is like to swim in relatively uncharted waters. So, if possible, seek that out.

What publication you are most proud of or feel has been most important to your career?

Kay, A. C., Gaucher, D., Napier, J. L., Callan, M. J., & Laurin, K. (2008). God and the government: Testing a compensatory control mechanism for the support of external systems. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 18-35.

This article was directly inspired by my earliest research in graduate school and now motivates much of my current research. As such, it connects, via one common mechanism, issues I used to work on to issues I am now interested in. So it feels something like a unifying paper to my young career, both temporally and thematically.

Related Situationist posts:

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Sad News: Richard Hackman Dies at 72

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 19, 2013

Richard Hackman

From Harvard Crimson: (obituary of Richard Hackman, who was a generous and thoughtful contributor to the efforts at Harvard Law School to bridge law and the mind sciences):

Over a career spanning nearly half a century, psychology professor J. Richard Hackman garnered widespread esteem and accolades for pioneering the study of team dynamics. But on the side, Hackman quietly devoted countless hours to improving one team in particular—the Harvard women’s basketball squad, for which he volunteered as an honorary coach.

Those who knew him say that gestures like these defined Hackman, who died on Jan. 8 in Boston following complications from lung cancer. He was 72.

“He really lived what he was studying,” said Alexa S. Fishman ‘13, Hackman’s thesis advisee. “He wanted to help and give back to the undergraduate community.”

By all accounts, Hackman was a model team player who practiced what he taught. He was at once a dry wit who knew how to lighten the mood with humor, an attentive mentor and colleague skilled at putting others at ease, and a maverick unafraid to voice dissent when the situation demanded it.

According to psychology professor Daniel T. Gilbert, Hackman’s brand of humor “wasn’t standard comedy.”

“He was funny, quirky, interesting,” Gilbert said. “He was not a guy who sat down and told canned jokes.”

In a thesis prospective meeting with Hackman, Fishman recalled, Hackman deadpanned that her thesis proposal was not up to par. After she offered to take back her proposal, Hackman quickly reassured her that he was not being serious.

“He said, ‘No, no, I’m joking, it’s totally fine,’” Fishman recalled. “He wanted to add a little humor to this meeting that sort of had to happen.”

Hackman, who stood at a commanding six-foot-six-and-a-half stature, was known for taking every opportunity to relax.

“It didn’t matter if he was sitting with the President of the University—when he got comfortable and sat down, he just took off his shoes,” Gilbert said. “If it was possible for him to lay down, he would also do that.”

Those who knew him remembered Hackman for his natural generosity and attentiveness to others.

“Everyone got his attention,” Fishman said. “When he spoke to you and he was talking to you, he was 100 percent focused on you.”

Christopher M. Dial, Hackman’s assistant, said that in their conversations, Hackman was always concerned about how Dial and others were doing.

“He and I would just chat about things that were just everyday,” Dial said. “I’ll miss someone who just checks in and wants to know how you’re doing.”

Colleagues say this caring spirit was matched by an expansive intellect, one that contributed immensely to the field of organizational psychology.

“You could bring him a problem at any level of psychology, and he could help you think it through,” Gilbert said.

Hackman, who came to Harvard in 1986 after 20 years at Yale, conducted research on team dynamics that had substantial real-world implications, including new research methodology within the intelligence community for studying teams and an alternative method for training cockpit crews.

Hackman received numerous awards for his work, among them the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award within the American Psychological Association’s division on industrial and organizational psychology.

But despite the accolades, Hackman maintained a steadfast humility that translated into a distaste for boasting throughout his years of teaching.

“He looked askance at people who spent a lot of time tooting their own horn,” Gilbert said. “Richard had a silencer on his horn, so even when he did remarkable things, he would work to make sure nobody found out about them.”

Even after they had been friends for nearly 20 years, Gilbert said, he only learned about Hackman’s work for the women’s basketball team after he spotted Hackman at one of the games.

But coupled with this humility was what Hackman’s wife Judith D. Hackman described as her husband’s distinctly “contrarian” streak.

“He was often the one who voted no, and everybody else voted yes,” she said. “His ‘no’ was probably the right thing to say.”

Gilbert agreed, calling his friend “a moral beacon” who was “unendingly concerned with what was right and what was wrong.”

Yet those who were close to Hackman said it is the little things that are most irreplaceable about Hackman.

For Judith Hackman, it will be her husband’s daily phone calls; for Gilbert, it will be Hackman’s penchant for barbeque.

“In the last two decades he and I probably hit every good barbecue stand within a 50-mile radius of Boston,” Gilbert said. “I will forever more be eating brisket and ribs by myself.”

Aside from his wife Judith, Hackman is survived by two daughters, Julia B. Proffitt and Laura D. Codeanne; two sons-in-law, W. Trexler Proffitt and Matthew J. Codeanne; and four grandchildren, George R., Lauren E., and Edward M. Proffitt, and Mattox J. Codeanne.

Situationist posts related to Hackman’s research:

Posted in Social Psychology | Leave a Comment »

The Oxford Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 14, 2013

Deaux Snyder Personality and Social Psychology

From PsychCentral (Judy Crook reviews new book edited by Kay Deaux and Mark Snyder):

What’s the difference between personality psychology and social psychology? In essence, personality psychology focuses on the person, while social psychology focuses on the situation—how people act in different situations, or how situations affect individuals. In exploring how and why the two fields might be integrated, The Oxford Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology recounts the history of each subfield, discusses different approaches each takes to research topics, and analyzes the benefits that might come from integrating them.

This is a long reference book, and one not intended for the layperson. However, it turns out that it works quite well as a foundational text for those of us who are not research psychologists but readers simply wishing to learn about psychology. Each chapter follows a general pattern of explaining the foundational theories in each field, discussing ways these theories can be integrated, or providing new theories or frameworks for integration.

Take the book’s coverage of the Big Five Theory. The “Big Five” is a personality theory that provides a way to categorize all personality traits into five areas: extraversion, conscientiousness, openness to experience, agreeableness, and emotional stability. When researchers used it to analyze what makes leaders effective, however, the results were mixed. In the chapter on leadership, Daan van Knippenberg states that “the relationship between personality and leadership effectiveness is modest at best.” Instead, he proposes that social psychology models work better than the Big Five Theory because they analyze leaders “by taking a person-in-situation approach to leadership effectiveness.” Thus, although personality traits such as extraversion may affect one’s ability to lead, he says, we can gain a more complete perspective by analyzing leadership performance in the context of a given situation.

In a book that covers topics as disparate as motivation, prejudice, friendship, leadership, relationships, helping behavior, and antisocial behavior—each topic explored from the two perspectives of personality psychology and social psychology—a lay reader is likely to find several topics of interest. For example, in a chapter on multiculturalism, Veronica Benet-Martinez describes how the study of multiculturalism can be beneficial to both personality and social psychologists. I found her definition of multiculturalism interesting because it is so inclusive: “those who are mixed-race and mixed-ethnic, those who have lived in more than one country…those reared with at least one other culture in addition to the dominant mainstream culture, and those in intercultural relationships.” There is no commonly agreed-upon definition of the term, she tells us.

Much of what psychologists have learned in the last few years has been based on new measuring techniques, including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG). In a chapter called “Neuroscience Approaches in Social and Personality Psychology,” David M. Amodio and Eddie Harmon-Jones discuss how these relatively new techniques measure brain activity, and describe several theories that have been proposed based on these methods. One theory, that of the mirror neuron system, posits “a brain network devoted to understanding other people through their actions.” Amodio and Harmon-Jones state that the term mirror neurons refers “loosely to areas of the brain that are activated both when an individual observes the behavior of another person, and when one performs the same behavior”—i.e., when one mimics another’s actions.

Read the entire review here.

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Posted in Book, Social Psychology | Leave a Comment »

Why Bystanders Walk By

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 7, 2013

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Posted in Social Psychology, Video | 2 Comments »

The Situation of How We Became Fat – Part 3

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 15, 2012

Part 3 of the BBC’s Remarkable Three-Part Series “The Men Who Made Us Fat”:

Jacques Peretti examines assumptions about what is and is not healthy. He also looks at how product marketing can seduce consumers into buying supposed ‘healthy foods’ such as muesli and juices, both of which can be high in sugar.

He speaks with Simon Wright, an ‘organic consultant’ for Sainsbury’s in the 1990s, who explains how the food industry cashed in on the public’s concerns around salmonella, BSE and GM crops. By 1999 the organic industry was worth over £605M, a rise of 232% within two years.

How did the mainstream food producers compete? Peretti speaks with Kath Dalmeny, former policy director at the Food Commission, who explains some of the marketing strategies used by mainstream food producers to keep our custom.

The programme also explores the impact of successive government initiatives and health campaigns, such as the proposal of ‘traffic light labelling’, the introduction of which the food industry lobbied hard against.

But in 2012, when we have an Olympic Games sponsored by McDonalds and Coca Cola, has anything changed?

Related Situationist posts:

For more on the situation of eating, see Situationist contributors Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosfion’s law review article Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America.  For a listing of numerous Situaitonist posts on the situational sources of obesity, click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Distribution, Evolutionary Psychology, Food and Drug Law, Marketing, Public Policy, Public Relations, Social Psychology, Video | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of How We Became Fat – Part 2

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 14, 2012

Part 2 of the BBC’s Remarkable Three-Part Series “The Men Who Made Us Fat”:

Jacques Peretti investigates how the concept of ‘supersizing’ changed our eating habits forever. How did we – once a nation of moderate eaters – start to want more?

Speaking to Mike Donahue, former McDonalds Vice President, Peretti explores the history behind the idea of supersizing. 40 years ago, McDonalds hired David Wallerstein, a former cinema manager who had introduced the idea of selling larger popcorn servings in his Chicago cinema. Wallerstein realised that people would eat more but they didn’t like the idea of appearing gluttonous by going back for seconds. By increasing the portion sizes and the cost, he could sell more food. In 1972, he introduced the idea to McDonalds and their first large fries went on sale.

By the 1980s, we were eating more – and eating more often. Perretti speaks with industry professionals to examine the story behind the introduction of value meals, king-size snacks and multi-buy promotions. How did the advertising industry encourage us to eat more often?

The programme also explores the developments in dietary advice – by 2003, the Chief Medical Officer was warning of an ‘obesity time bomb.’ Peretti speaks to obesity expert Professor Philip James, who made recommendations in his 1996 report that the food industry should cease targeting children in their advertisements. He also speaks with Professor Terry Wilkin, who led a pioneering study into childhood weight gain; and former Labour MP David Hinchliffe, who chaired the 2003 Parliamentary Select Committee on Health.

Related Situationist posts:

For more on the situation of eating, see Situationist contributors Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosfion’s law review article Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America.  For a listing of numerous Situaitonist posts on the situational sources of obesity, click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Distribution, Evolutionary Psychology, Food and Drug Law, Marketing, Public Policy, Public Relations, Social Psychology, Video | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of How We Became Fat – Part 1

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 12, 2012

From Introduction of BBC’s Remarkable Three-Part Series “The Men Who Made Us Fat”:

Around the world, obesity levels are rising. More people are now overweight than undernourished. Two thirds of British adults are overweight and one in four of us is classified as obese. In the first of this three-part series, Jacques Peretti traces those responsible for revolutionising our eating habits, to find out how decisions made in America 40 years ago influence the way we eat now.

Peretti travels to America to investigate the story of high-fructose corn syrup. The sweetener was championed in the US in the 1970s by Richard Nixon’s agriculture secretary Earl Butz to make use of the excess corn grown by farmers. Cheaper and sweeter than sugar, it soon found its way into almost all processed foods and soft drinks. HFCS is not only sweeter than sugar, it also interferes with leptin, the hormone that controls appetite, so once you start eating or drinking it, you don’t know when to stop.

Endocrinologist Robert Lustig was one of the first to recognise the dangers of HFCS but his findings were discredited at the time. Meanwhile a US Congress report blamed fat, not sugar, for the disturbing rise in cardio-vascular disease and the food industry responded with ranges of ‘low fat’, ‘heart healthy’ products in which the fat was removed – but the substitute was yet more sugar.

Meanwhile, in 1970s Britain, food manufacturers used advertising campaigns to promote the idea of snacking between meals. Outside the home, fast food chains offered clean, bright premises with tempting burgers cooked and served with a very un-British zeal and efficiency. Twenty years after the arrival of McDonalds, the number of fast food outlets in Britain had quadrupled.

Related Situationist posts:

For more on the situation of eating, see Situationist contributors Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosfion’s law review article Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America.  For a listing of numerous Situaitonist posts on the situational sources of obesity, click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Distribution, Evolutionary Psychology, Food and Drug Law, Marketing, Public Policy, Public Relations, Social Psychology, Video | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of Poor Choices

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 5, 2012

Social psychologist and Situationist friend Dave Nussbaum has another outstanding situationist post over on Random Assignments.  Here’s how it starts.

One of the obstacles that keeps the poor from rising out of poverty is the tendency to make costly financial decisions – like buying lottery tickets, taking out high interest loans (PDF), and failing to enroll in assistance programs – that only make their situation worse. In the past, these poor decisions have been attributed either to low income individuals’ personalities or issues in their environment, such as poor education or substandard living conditions. New research published this month in Science by Booth Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science Anuj Shah points to a new answer: living with scarcity changes people’s psychology.

The basic idea is that when resources are scarce – when people are short on time, or money, or food – each decision about how best to use those resources takes on greater urgency than when resources are abundant. This focus can have positive effects in the short term, but it comes at the expense of neglecting other, less urgent demands. For example, when they are under the press of urgent expenses like rent and groceries, people may neglect to do routine maintenance on their car and end up with costly (and avoidable) repairs down the road.

Shah, along with colleagues Sendhil Mullainathan of Harvard and Eldar Shafir of Princeton, published five studies in which he studied the effects of scarcity on decision making in various games in which people were paid according to their performance. In each of the studies some people received ample resources with which to play, while others received very few. Moreover, in some studies the players had the opportunity to borrow additional resources with interest. The researchers then observed how scarcity affected the players’ borrowing behavior, their performance, and the psychological processes at play.

Across the studies Shah found that for people who had very few resources, the games took on more urgency. They became more focused on the task at hand in order to make the best use of their scarce resources, but that this added focus came at a price, including mental fatigue, costly borrowing decisions, and poor overall performance.

For example, in an Angry Birds-type of game, in which the object was to knock down as many targets as possible, players who could take only three shots per round spent more time aiming each shot than players who had fifteen shots. This added focus improved performance, but it had downsides. When players were given the opportunity to “borrow” a shot, by giving up two shots in a later round of the game, players who had fewer in shots made counterproductive borrowing decisions that hurt their overall performance.

Read the rest of Dave’s post, discussing possible implications of the research, here.

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Posted in Blogroll, Choice Myth, Distribution, Marketing, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

The Situation of Fraudulent Social Science

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 2, 2012

Stapel

Press Release from Tilburg University:

A culture permeated by ‘flawed science’ surrounded social psychologist Diederik Stapel. This is one reason why his academic misconduct went undetected for so long. The investigation into his practices and the discussion that followed have served as a catalyst for positive change, however. The fraud case has raised international awareness of the importance of scientific integrity. The discussion is now focusing more than ever on replication, data archiving and the general research culture.

This is the conclusion of the Levelt, Noort and Drenth Committees as published in their joint final report on the Stapel case. The report was presented to the Rectors of the universities concerned on November 28. The Committees investigated the periods during which Stapel committed scientific fraud and the publications involved. The Committees identified 55 publications in which it is certain that Stapel committed fraud during his time in Groningen and Tilburg. In addition, eleven older publications by Stapel published when he worked in Amsterdam and Groningen show indications of fraud. The earliest dates from 1996. A total of ten doctoral dissertations supervised by Stapel are ‘contaminated’ (seven in Groningen and three from recent years in Tilburg).

Although Stapel is fully and solely responsible for this extensive case of academic fraud, the Committees are also critical of the research culture in which this academic misconduct was allowed to go undetected. The Committees describe this as “a general culture of careless, selective and uncritical handling of research and data.” They conclude that “…from the bottom to the top there was a general neglect of fundamental scientific standards and methodological requirements.” The Committees point the finger not only at Stapel’s peers, but also at editors and reviewers of international journals.

The three Committees received all possible assistance for their investigation. They conclude that the discussion surrounding the case has led to a series of measures to prevent academic fraud and to investigate suspicions of fraud more effectively. “By establishing committees and issuing reports, organizations such as KNAW (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences), VSNU (Association of Universities in the Netherlands), and the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities (ALLEA) all have contributed to the debate about breaches of scientific integrity and their prevention,” according to the Committees. The recommendations presented by the Schuyt Committee (KNAW) similarly contribute to promoting scientific integrity.

In Stapel’s field, Social Psychology, many initiatives have already been taken to improve research practices. For example, the Association of Social Psychological Researchers ASPO is very active in the field of continuing education, data storage and replication.

An English translation of the final report ‘Flawed Science’ by the Levelt, Noort, and Drenth committees is avaliable online (pdf).

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Morality, Social Psychology | 3 Comments »

Revisiting Milgram and Zimbardo’s Studies

Posted by Adam Benforado on November 23, 2012

A new essay in PLOS Biology returns to the path-breaking research of Stanley Milgram and Situationist Contributor Phil  Zimbardo and asks whether the studies demonstrate the power of blind conformity or something else.  In particular, the authors, Alex Haslam and Stephen Reicher, are interested in the possibility that social identification might be driving the dynamic.  As Haslam explains, “Decent people participate in horrific acts not because they become passive, mindless functionaries who do not know what they are doing, but rather because they come to believe — typically under the influence of those in authority — that what they are doing is right.”

Here is the abstract of the paper:

Understanding of the psychology of tyranny is dominated by classic studies from the 1960s and 1970s: Milgram’s research on obedience to authority and Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment. Supporting popular notions of the banality of evil, this research has been taken to show that people conform passively and unthinkingly to both the instructions and the roles that authorities provide, however malevolent these may be. Recently, though, this consensus has been challenged by empirical work informed by social identity theorizing. This suggests that individuals’ willingness to follow authorities is conditional on identification with the authority in question and an associated belief that the authority is right.

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Posted in Abstracts, Ideology, Morality, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology | 3 Comments »

Baumeister on the Situation of Self-Regulation

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 15, 2012

From YoungMinds:

How do we learn self-control as children?What bolsters will power? What undermines it?Is self-control a skill that can be practiced and taught?How can we encourage young people to perform to their potential?

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Posted in Social Psychology, Video | Leave a Comment »

Happiness or Meaningfulness – But Not Both

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 13, 2012

Roy Baumeister, Kathleen Vohs, Jennifer Lynn Aaker, and Emily N. Garbinsky have just posted their excellent paper, titled “Some Key Differences between a Happy Life and a Meaningful Life” on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract:

Being happy and finding life meaningful overlap, but there are important differences. A large survey revealed multiple differing predictors of happiness (controlling for meaning) and meaningfulness (controlling for happiness). Satisfying one’s needs and wants increased happiness but was largely irrelevant to meaningfulness. Happiness was largely present-oriented, whereas meaningfulness involves integrating past, present, and future. For example, thinking about future and past was associated with high meaningfulness but low happiness. Happiness was linked to being a taker rather than a giver, whereas meaningfulness went with being a giver rather than a taker. Higher levels of worry, stress, and anxiety were linked to higher meaningfulness but lower happiness. Concerns with personal identity and expressing the self-contributed to meaning but not happiness. We offer brief composite sketches of the unhappy but meaningful life and of the happy but meaningless life.

Download the paper for free here.

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Posted in Abstracts, Emotions, Positive Psychology, Social Psychology | Leave a Comment »

Don Kinder on the Role of Race in the 2012 Election – Today

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 1, 2012

“He’s Still Black: The Role of Race in the 2012 Presidential Election”
With Dr. Don Kinder, University of Michigan Political Science
Thursday, Nov. 1, 12 pm
Austin North
Free Chinese food!

In 2008, Americans chose Barack Obama to be the 44th president of the United States. The following morning, The New York Times proclaimed that Obama had succeeded in “sweeping away the last racial barrier in American politics with ease.” With ease? No. There are good reasons to believe that Obama was elected president in spite of his race. But that was then. Four years later, are we any closer to post-racial politics? What role will race play in the 2012 election?

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Posted in Events, Ideology, Implicit Associations, Politics, SALMS, Social Psychology | Leave a Comment »

Judge Nancy Gertner on the Situation of Discrimination Claims

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 27, 2012

From YLJO (the essay of an essay titled Losers’ Rules by Judge Nancy Gertner):

Each year, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts holds an extraordinary panel. All active judges are present to answer questions from the bar. A lawyer’s question one year was particularly provocative: “Why are the federal courts so hostile to discrimination claims?” One judge after another insisted that there was no hostility. All they were doing when they dismissed employment discrimination cases was following the law—nothing more, nothing less.

I disagreed. Federal courts, I believed, were hostile to discrimination cases. Although the judges may have thought they were entirely unbiased, the outcomes of those cases told a different story. The law judges felt “compelled” to apply had become increasingly problematic. Changes in substantive discrimination law since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964were tantamount to a virtual repeal. This was so not because of Congress; it was because of judges.

Decades ago, law-and-society scholars offered an explanation for that phenomenon, evaluating the structural forces at work in law-reform litigation that lead to one-sided judicial outcomes. Focusing on employment discrimination claims, Marc Galanter argued that, because employers are “repeat players” whereas individual plaintiffs are not, the repeat players have every incentive to settle the strong cases and litigate the weak ones.Over time, strategic settlement practices produce judicial interpretations of rights that favor the repeat players’ interests.More recently, Catherine Albiston went further, identifying the specific opportunities for substantive rulemaking in this litigation—as in summary judgment and motions to dismiss—and how the “repeat players,” to use Galanter’s term, take advantage of them.In this Essay, drawing on my seventeen years on the federal bench, I attempt to provide a firsthand and more detailed account of employment discrimination law’s skewed evolution—the phenomenon I call “Losers’ Rules.” I begin with a discussion of the wholly one-sided legal doctrines that characterize discrimination law. In effect, today’s plaintiff stands to lose unless he or she can prove that the defendant had explicitly discriminatory policies in place or that the relevant actors were overtly biased. It is hard to imagine a higher bar or one less consistent with the legal standards developed after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, let alone with the way discrimination manifests itself in the twenty-first century. Although ideology may have something to do with these changes, and indeed the bench may be far less supportive of antidiscrimination laws than it was during the years following the laws’ passage, I explore another explanation. Asymmetric decisionmaking—where judges are encouraged to write detailed decisions when granting summary judgment and not to write when denying it—fundamentally changes the lens through which employment cases are viewed, in two respects. First, it encourages judges to see employment discrimination cases as trivial or frivolous, as decision after decision details why the plaintiff loses. And second, it leads to the development of decision heuristics—the Losers’ Rules—that serve to justify prodefendant outcomes and thereby exacerbate the one-sided development of the law.

Read the entire essay here.

Related Situationist posts:

For a list of Situationist posts discussing the research on implicit bias and the IAT, click here. To review a collection of Situationist posts discussing Nancy Gertner‘s work, click here.

Posted in Implicit Associations, Law, Politics, Social Psychology | Leave a Comment »

 
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