The Situationist

Archive for February, 2009

Monkey Fairness

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 7, 2009

From Youtube:

A pair of capuchin monkeys show very compelling signs of cooperation and a sense of fairness, by working together to solve a problem using tools, and then sharing the reward.

They also show signs of understanding fairness: when unequal rewards are given to one monkey and not another, the monkey receiving the lesser treat would rather go hungry than accept anything less than an equal reward.

From the BBC documentary “Capuchins: The Monkey Puzzle”, narrated by the ever brilliant Sir David Attenborough.

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For some related posts, see “Miscalculating Welfare – Abstract” and “Cheering for the Underdog.”


Posted in Distribution, Emotions | Tagged: , | 7 Comments »

The Calming Situation of Political Message

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 6, 2009

keep-calm-and-carry-onStuart Hughes of BBC News has an intriguing piece on a British poster from WWII that was never used until recently:

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The simple five-word message is the very model of British restraint and stiff upper lip. Keep calm and carry on.

In 1939, with war against Germany looming, the Government designed three posters to steady the public’s resolve and maintain morale. These featured the crown of King George VI set against a bold red background, and three distinctive slogans – “Freedom is in Peril”, “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory”, and “Keep Calm and Carry On”.

Two-and-a-half million copies of “Keep Calm” were printed, to be distributed in the event of a national catastrophe, but remained in storage throughout the war.

The message was all but forgotten until 2000, when a copy was discovered in a box of books bought at auction by Stuart Manley, a bookseller from Northumberland.

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The poster was just one of hundreds produced by the Ministry of Information during the war to influence public opinion.

“The poster was a major medium in a way that it isn’t now,” says Professor Jim Aulich, an expert in propaganda art at Manchester Metropolitan University.

“It wasn’t competing with television. It was one of the main ways of reaching people, through billboards and on public transport.”

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To some, the world in 2009 seems as uncertain as it was in 1939, even if modern-day anxieties focus on redundancy and recession rather than bombs and the Blitz. Perhaps this is why the message still seems so relevant.

Of course, it might be difficult for the current government to come up with a poster with quite the same appeal during this time of economic stress. Context is everything, says social psychologist Dr Lesley Prince.

“If the government is in tune with you, you will listen. If you think the government is working on your behalf, you will listen.”

This was indisputably the case during WWII, but is less clear-cut even in the most troubled period of peacetime.

And a message of such powerful simplicity might not be so forthcoming these days. Today’s government posters attempt to convince the public of an unappreciated danger and get them to modify their behaviour. The “Keep Calm” poster is merely an injunction to think another way and continue acting as you have always acted.

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To read the rest of the article, click here.

Posted in Emotions, History, Life, Politics | 1 Comment »

Wages Are Only Skin Deep – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 5, 2009

Joni Hersch recently posted a fascinating paper, titled “Color, Discrimination, and Immigrant Pay” on SSRN.  This is her latest paper in a larger set of articles on the topic.  Here’s the abstract.

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In “Profiling the New Immigrant Worker: The Effects of Skin Color and Height,” (Journal of Labor Economics 2008), I present strong evidence of a wage penalty to darker skin color among new legal immigrants to the United States. Immigrants with the lightest skin color earn on average 17 percent higher wages than comparable immigrants with the darkest skin color, taking into account Hispanic ethnicity, race, country of birth, education, English language proficiency, family background, and occupation in the source country. This current paper demonstrates that the penalty to darker skin color is not a spurious consequence of omitted variables bias. Instead, discrimination on the basis of skin color is the most likely explanation of the findings.

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To download the paper for free, click here. To read some related Situationist posts, see “Colorblinded Wages – Abstract,” Shades of Fairness and the Marketing of Prejudice,” and “Black History is Now.”

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

Jennifer Eberhardt’s “Policing Racial Bias” – Video

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 4, 2009


At the 2007 Project on Law and Mind Sciences Conference, Jennifer Eberhardt’s presentation was titled “Policing Racial Bias.” Here is the abstract for her talk.

Despite our desire to be egalitarian, racial bias fundamentally alters how we see.  In the first part of her talk, Dr. Eberhardt will focus on the implicit processing of a well-rehearsed, explicit association: the association of African Americans with criminality.  She will argue that this association influences how both ordinary citizens and police officers will perceive and analyze the people and objects they encounter.  For example, the mere presence of a Black face may enhance perceivers’ ability to detect degraded images of crime-relevant objects.  The association of Blacks with criminality may also inform decisions about where and how to look.  Thinking about crime, for example, may alert perceivers to Black faces more so than thinking about other matters.

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In the second part of her talk, Dr. Eberhardt will focus on the implicit processing of an implicit association: the association of African Americans with animals.  Despite the fact that this association is rarely discussed or consciously available, she will argue that it can alter how we see, as well.  She will conclude by presenting data demonstrating the potential importance of this particular association in the context of criminal justice.

Below you can watch a video of Eberhardt’s amazing presentation (31minutes).

Vodpod videos no longer available.

To watch similar videos, visit the video libraries on the Project on Law and Mind Sciences website (here).

For information on the Third PLMS conference (scheduled for March 7, 2009), click here.

Posted in Abstracts, Law, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Juliet Schor on the Situation of Consumption

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 3, 2009

Boston College sociologist (and economist) Juliet Schor is one of the confirmed presenters at the Third Annual Project on Law and Mind Sciences Conference (titled “The Free-Market Mindset:  History, Psychology, and Consequences” and scheduled for March 7, 2009).

Schor’s recent work — as summarized on her website and as illustrated by her brilliant book, Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture — focuses “on issues pertaining to trends in work and leisure, consumerism, the relationship between work and family, women’s issues and economic justice.”

Here are two Youtube videos in which Professor Schor summarizes some of her research and writing.  In this first video (roughly 30 minutes), Schor discusses her book, Born to Buy.

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In the video below (roughly 3 minutes), Schor disccuses some of the forces detailed in two of her previous books, The Overworked American and The Overspent American.

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To learn more about this year’s Project on Law and Mind Sciences Conference at Harvard Law School, click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Life, Marketing, Video | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Criminal Situation of Certain Names

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 2, 2009

baby-namesJohn Cloud of TIME Magazine has an interesting piece on a study finding that adolescent boys with unpopular names are likelier than other boys to be referred to the juvenile-justice system for alleged offenses. We excerpt it below.

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In the Shel Silverstein–penned Johnny Cash hit “A Boy Named Sue,” a father explains that he gave his son so improbable a name because “I knew you’d have to get tough or die, and it’s that name that helped to make you strong.” It turns out that your first name may also help make you a criminal.

In a new study to be published in the March issue of Social Science Quarterly, David Kalist and Daniel Lee, economists at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, find that adolescent boys with unpopular names are likelier than other boys to be referred to the juvenile-justice system for alleged offenses. The researchers conclude that the Ernests, Prestons and Tyrells of America are significantly more delinquent than the Michaels and Davids. Why? (See the top 10 crime stories of 2008.)

The short answer is that our names play an important role in shaping the way we see ourselves — and, more important, how others see us. Abundant academic literature proves these points. A 1993 paper found that most people perceive those with unconventionally spelled names (Patric, Geoffrey) as less likely to be moral, warm and successful. A 2001 paper found that we have a tendency to judge boys’ trustworthiness and masculinity from their names. (As a guy whose middle name is Ashley, I can attest to the second part.) In a 2007 paper (here’s a PDF), University of Florida economist David Figlio found that boys with names commonly given to girls are likelier to be suspended from school. And an influential 1998 paper co-authored by psychologist Melvin (a challenging first name if there ever was one) Manis of the University of Michigan reported that “having an unusual name leads to unfavorable reactions in others, which then leads to unfavorable evaluations of the self.”

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To read the rest of the piece, click here.  For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “John Darley on “Justice as Intuitions” – Video,The Situation of a Name,” “Jock or Nerd? Where Did You Sit at the Dinner Table?,” and “Women’s Situation in Economics.”

Posted in Law, Life | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of Refereeing – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 1, 2009

soccer-refereeVincenzo Scoppa has posted an intrguing article, “Are Subjective Evaluations Biased by Social Factors or Connections? An Econometric Analysis of Soccer Referee Decisions” (35 Empirical Economics (2008)) on SSRN.

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Many incentive contracts are based on subjective evaluations and contractual disputes depend on judges’ decisions. However, subjective evaluations raise risks of favouritism and distortions. Sport contests are a fruitful field for testing empirically theories of incentives. In this paper the behaviour of the referees in the Italian soccer (football) league (“Serie A”) is analyzed. Using data on injury (or extra) time subjectively assigned by the referee at the end of the match and controlling for factors which may influence it (players substitutions, yellow and red cards, penalty kicks, etc.), we show that referees are biased in favour of home team, in that injury time is significantly greater if home teams are losing. The refereeing bias increases greatly when there is no running track in the stadium and the crowd is close to the pitch. Following the 2006 “Serie A” scandal we test whether favouritism emerges towards teams suspected of connections with referees finding that these teams obtain favourable decisions. Social pressure by the crowd attending the match however appears to be the main cause of favouritism.

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To download the article for free, click here.  For a sample of related Situationist posts, see ” I’m Objective, You’re Biased,” “Unlevel Playing Fields: From Baseball Diamonds to Emergency Rooms,” and ” What’s Eating David Ortiz?”  To review the collection of posts on “situationist sports,” click here.

Posted in Abstracts, Situationist Sports | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

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