The Situationist

Archive for April, 2010

Harvard Journal on Law and Mind Sciences?

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 7, 2010

Want to support the creation of a Journal on Law and Mind Sciences at HLS? If so, click here to express your support.

The Harvard Journal on Law and Mind Sciences will be the first journal dedicated to exploring the relevance of the mind sciences for law and policy. The Journal will publish legal scholarship that examines the implications of the mind sciences on the law, and it will also publish reviews of original research in psychology, behavioral economics, and neuroscience with implications for law and policy making.

We hope to provide a consolidated forum for mind science researchers to share their insights with the legal community and to facilitate greater interdisciplinary discussion. The Journal of Law and Mind Sciences stands for the belief that good policy requires an accurate understanding of how human beings actually think and behave.

Please show your support in establishing a Journal on Law and Mind Sciences at Harvard Law School by clicking  here.


Posted in Education, Law, Legal Theory | 1 Comment »

Michael McCullough on the Situation of Revenge and Forgiveness

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 6, 2010

From TempletonFoundation:

Why is revenge such a pervasive and destructive problem? Why is forgiveness so difficult? In “Beyond Revenge,” Michael E. McCullough argues that the key to creating a more forgiving world is to understand both the evolutionary forces that gave rise to these intimately human instincts and the social forces that activate them in our minds today. Drawing on the latest breakthroughs in the social and biological sciences, McCullough offers practical and often surprising advice for how individuals, social groups, and even nations might move beyond our deep penchant for revenge.

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To read a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Punishment (and Forgiveness),” The Situation of Revenge,” “The Situation of Punishment,” and “Why We Punish.”

Posted in Book, Conflict, Emotions, Life, Morality, Video | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

2010 Mind Science Conference at Harvard Law School

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 4, 2010

On April 15 and 16, The Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School, The Project on Law and Mind Sciences at Harvard Law School, the Harvard Program on Ethics and Health, the Gruter Institute, and the MacArthur Law and Neuroscience Project, will be holding a two-day conference entitled “Moral Biology?: What Can Biology and the Mind Sciences Teach Us about Law and Morality?

The conference will examine what relevance developments in the mind sciences and evolutionary biology may have for moral and legal reasoning about responsibility, punishment, racism, cooperation, and addiction.

The event features a public panel open to all (taking place on Thursday April 15 at 5:30 PM at Harvard Law School) as well as several closed-door sessions.

There may be a very small number of spaces available for additional participants for the closed portions of the conference.  If you are interested in one of those spaces, please email Kathy Paras, with a sentence or two describing why the conference would be a good fit for your work and interests.  (Assuming space is available, there is no charge for attending.)

Here is the tentative agenda for the conference:

Thursday, April 15:

8:30am:  Opening remarks

9:00-10:30am: What Does Moral Biology Have to Say about Responsibility and Judgment?

Moderator: Dan Brock


10:30-10:45: Break

10:45am:  Mind Sciences and Punishment

Moderator: Jon Hanson


12:15pm:  Lunch –  On Your Own

1:30-3:00pm:  Addiction/Intervention Paradigm

Moderator: Stephen Morse


3:00-4:45pm: Discussions/Break-out, wrap up, Experimental, Experiential

5:30pm: Public Event at Harvard Law School, Austin West

Moral Biology? What Can Biology and the mind Sciences Teach Us About Law and Morality?

Moderator: I. Glenn Cohen


Respondent: Tim Scanlon

7:15pm  Public Reception Austin Corridor

Friday, April 16

9:00am-10:30am: Biology and Cooperation

Moderator: Yochai Benkler


10:30-10:50: Break

10:50-12:20pm: Mind Sciences and Racism

Moderator: Jon Hanson


12:20pm Conference Close

Posted in Events, Situationist Contributors | 2 Comments »

The Situation of Stanley Milgram’s Obedience Experiments

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 3, 2010

Nestar John Charles Russell is publishing an article, titled “Milgram’s obedience to authority experiments: Origins and early evolution.”  Here’s the abstract.

Stanley Milgram’s Obedience to Authority experiments remain one of the most inspired contributions in the field of social psychology. Although Milgram undertook more than 20 experimental variations, his most (in)famous result was the first official trial run–the remote condition and its 65% completion rate. Drawing on many unpublished documents from Milgram’s personal archive at Yale University, this article traces the historical origins and early evolution of the obedience experiments. Part 1 presents the previous experiences that led to Milgram’s conception of his rudimentary research idea and then details the role of his intuition in its refinement. Part 2 traces the conversion of Milgram’s evolving idea into a reality, paying particular attention to his application of the exploratory method of discovery during several pilot studies. Both parts illuminate Milgram’s ad hoc introduction of various manipulative techniques and subtle tension-resolving refinements. The procedural adjustments continued until Milgram was confident that the first official experiment would produce a high completion rate, a result contrary to expectations of people’s behaviour. Showing how Milgram conceived of, then arrived at, this first official result is important because the insights gained may help others to determine theoretically why so many participants completed this experiment.

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You can download the article for free here. (Thanks to Situationist friend, Brandon Weiss, for sending us this link.)

For a sample of related Situationist posts, “Milgram Replicated on French TV – ‘The Game of Death’,” A Shocking Situation,” “Zimbardo on Milgram and Obedience – Part I,”  “The Case for Obedience,” Replicating Milgram’s Obedience Experiment – Yet Again,” “Jonestown (The Situation of Evil) Revisited,” Milgram Remake,” and The Milgram Experiment Today?.”

Posted in Abstracts, Classic Experiments, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Should Addiction Be Criminalized?

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 2, 2010

From Big Think: Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, argues that abusers should be treated the same as anyone with a debilitating disease.

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Question: How should drug addicts be treated in society?

Nora Volkow: Drug addiction is a disease of the brain. It’s a disease of the brain. We don’t put people that have diseases in the jail or in prison because they actually, that’s what we decide, right? I don’t even dare myself to the concept of putting someone in jail because they have a disease. My brain doesn’t even allow me to think that way.

And yet we do that with addicted people and I’ve thought a lot, why is our society criminalizing the person that’s addicted to drugs? And I think it’s because it has been very hard for people to recognize that our behaviors and our ability to control our desires is basically the product of very complex systems in the brain that enable us to perceive these desires, to control them, to make the right choices. This is very difficult for people that have all of their faculties intact, to understand that not everybody can do it. And so I sort of easier to say, “Well, if I can do it, that person is not doing it because they are choosing to just have a good time.” And so we’ve taken that approach and I guess the other element that happens with drugs, the drive to take these drugs can be so overpowering, so, so overpowering, because it’s hard wiring of the brain, the signaling is this is something that is necessary for survival. That’s what drugs have done in a person that’s addicted. They’ve generated the message as the same intense as if you haven’t eaten. And it’s a signal, you have to eat or you’ll die, you have to drink water or you’ll die, very, very powerful signals. Very difficult to control. You haven’t eaten for one week and you have food in front of you, just try to say no to that food. It’s the same drive.

So they can, when they are in those situations, this intense drive, they can do behaviors that are criminal, they can go and steal, in order to be able to get the drug. Like someone who has not eaten for one week, if they have nothing but to steal the food, they may steal the food. So that leads to the criminal behavior that then leads the person and the system to react very negatively, you should not steal. Of course you should not steal. But people should not be hungry, people should not be in the situation that they have to steal in order to eat. That should not happen. Like a person should not be, not given treatment that is in a situation where their body’s experiencing the drug as if it were a survival need. They should be provided with treatment.

So yes, we should deal with drug addiction as a disease, like we deal with any of the other medical diseases. We should not be criminalizing it. When we criminalize a drug addict, nobody wins. Certainly you’re not going to improve the behavior of that person that is thrown into jail. When they get out of the jail, the first thing they’ll do is relapse. Unless you treat them in jail. If you treat them in jail and you maintain the treatment when they leave jail, then you’re giving them a chance. If you’re throwing them in jail and not providing any treatment or treating them in jail and then throwing them out, they will relapse.

So, and that costs an enormous amount of money, to put people in jail because they are addicted to drugs is very, very costly. It doesn’t make any sense. Your tax dollar goes into the criminal justice system, it’s much less expensive to treat. And if you treat the person, you’re giving that person a chance. And you’re giving the family of that person a chance. So it’s a win-win. You’re basically decrease your cost on criminal behavior, you decrease reincarceration and the person can go back and become an active member of society at all levels.

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To read a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situational Effects of Dopamine,” “The Addictive Situation of Fatty Food,” The Science of Addiction, The Myth of Choice,” Are Video Games Addictive?,” “The Situation of Gambling,” Crazy Little Thing Called Love The Situation of Punishment (and Forgiveness),” “The Situation of Punishment,” “Why We Punish,” Clarence Darrow on the Situation of Crime and Criminals,” and “Law & the Brain.”

Posted in Choice Myth, Food and Drug Law, Law, Neuroscience | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Missing the Situation Leads to Optimism Among Powerful

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 1, 2010

From the University of Kent:

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Power leads to greater errors in forecasts, according to new research led by social psychologist Dr Mario Weick at the University of Kent.

The research, to be published by the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, shows that when people feel powerful they become more optimistic and less accurate in predicting the completion time of forthcoming tasks. The research examined for the first time the planning behaviour of powerful people and found that power drastically reduced the accuracy of forecasts with error rates soaring up to 70%.

Dr Weick, a Research Fellow at the University’s School of Psychology, explained: ‘Time is a crucial factor in people’s everyday lives. Whether they are teachers, policy makers or engineers, people routinely plan their work and estimate the time it will take to accomplish tasks. Interestingly, people often underestimate the time it takes to accomplish tasks. This bias is known as the planning fallacy and derives from a too narrow focus on the envisaged goal. The more people focus on what they want to achieve, the more they tend to neglect impediments, previous experiences and task subcomponents that are not readily apparent. As a result, time predictions are often inaccurate and too optimistic. Power tends to increase people’s focus on intended outcomes. Although this can be beneficial, in the context of time planning we reasoned that power would lead to greater error in forecasts.’

The researchers carried out four experiments, showing that when people felt powerful they tended to underestimate more the time it took to accomplish various tasks, ranging from mundane activities to important projects. Dr Weick said: ‘What appears to underlie these effects is not so much that people in power have greater faith in their abilities or that they see things through rose-tinted glasses, power affects what people focus on when they plan the future, and this seems to be the root of the greater bias in powerful individuals’ time predictions.’

The findings suggest that people who are in charge and deciding on courses of action (eg policy makers) are more at risk to fall prey to biases in their forecasts. The research also proposes ways to alleviate the biasing effects of power. Specifically, forecasting accuracy could be improved by using techniques that draw people’s attention to information that lies outside their focal goal. Moreover, changing the power structure of planning committees could also be a way to render forecasts more accurate (eg by assigning greater weight to the predictions of individuals who do not have power).

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The article, ‘How Long Will It Take? Power Biases Time Predictions’ is forthcoming in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

To review a related set of Situationist posts, see “Neural Origins of Optimism,”Self-Serving Biases,”Some Situational Sources of War,”  “The Situation of Reason,” and “Power Goes to the Head.”

Posted in Choice Myth, Distribution, Life | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

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