The Situationist

Archive for October, 2011

Dr. Richard Wrangham at Harvard Law Tomorrow

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 11, 2011

Student Association for Law and Mind Sciences (SALMS) Speakers Series:
Richard Wrangham, Harvard Primatologist: “Sexual Disparities and the Evolution of Patriarchy”
Wednesday, 10/12, 12-1 pm, Austin West
SALMS serves lunch: Free Burritos!

What can primates teach us about the evolutionary bases of rape, murder, and patriarchy? For several decades, Richard Wrangham, the Ruth Moore Professor of Anthropology and Chair of Biological Anthropology at Harvard, has studied primates in the wild. His work on the ecological and behavior comparisons of chimpanzees and humans has been his greatest contribution to the animal behavior literature. His insights into the cultural similarities between humans and chimpanzees–including our unique tendencies to form murderous alliances and engage in recreational sexual activity–has had profound affects on how scientists analyze primate behavior, non-human and human alike.

In addition to his exhaustive peer-reviewed journal publications, as author of Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence, Chimpanzee Cultures, and as co-editor of Primate Societies, Professor Wrangham’s important observations and theoretical contributions to the field of primate socio-behavior are covered in a variety of works, which range from the textbook to popular science manual. In recent years, Professor Wrangham has been named as a trustee to several important primatological research organizations, including the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, the Jane Goodall Institute and is Chair of the Great Ape World Heritage Species Project.

Read more at the SALMS website..

* * *

Related Situationist posts:


Posted in Events, Evolutionary Psychology | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The Neuro-Situation of Wins and Losses

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 10, 2011

From Montreal Gazette:

A new National Hockey League season is upon us, Major League Baseball playoffs are in full swing and the National Football League’s regular season has been in session for about a month.

As you fixate on your television, watching every move of your favourite athletes and longing for that great play or crucial win that can serve up a rush that can approach orgasm, consider this: New research from Yale University shows even more of your brain than previously thought physically reacts to something perceived as a win or a loss.

A new study, published in the journal Neuron, outlines experiments showing how most of the brain has heightened activity if one wins or loses a competition such as rock-paper-scissors.

It was a broader effect than what was known before to be a reaction of the central part of the brain in releasing dopamine when something good happens, creating a positive feeling in an individual. Conversely, past evidence has also shown this neurotransmitter is suppressed when an unwanted outcome occurs.

The study’s lead author, Timothy Vickery, a post-doctoral fellow at Yale’s psychology department, said it’s possible that the brain has a similar kind of engagement when its owner is watching sports.

“We didn’t look at that directly in this study, but it wouldn’t be very surprising to me if those sorts of second-hand experiences had the same influence, because you’re sort of identifying with your team, and a win for your team is a win for you,” he said.

Vickery said the high engagement sports fans feel when watching a competition likely comes from the previously known function of the basal ganglia, in the middle of the brain, sending out dopamine when a positive outcome is perceived.

It has its roots, he said, in evolutionary tendencies that favour people and animals that are able to make the right choices to improve chances for survival and create results — such as finding food — that induce dopamine-fuelled feelings of joy.

Vickery said the effect can be vicarious when watching other people participate in sports.

“I think it’s fair to say that, to the extent that you experience those wins and losses as your own, it would have a similar effect on your brain as taking your own actions,” he said.

By conducting MRIs on people while they competed against a computer in games such as rock-paper-scissors, the Yale study found that most parts of subjects’ brains, even beyond the basal ganglia, had physical reactions to both wins and losses.

By analyzing the brain as a whole, Vickery said the researchers could determine whether the individual was experiencing a win or a loss, based on subtle differences in the nature of the patterns. He said it is likely this broadly based brain reaction is somehow related to established theories concerning the reward-punishment function at the brain’s centre. The study, however, could not conclude that.

“My suspicion is that it’s not unrelated, that basically that signal gets sent out from the basal ganglia . . . and sort of filters out through the brain, but we don’t know for sure where it’s coming from. There’s still a lot of work to be done.”


Related Situationist posts:

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

Psychic Numbing

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 8, 2011

Situationist Contributor, Paul Slovic and his co-authors (including Situationist friend, Andrew Woods) just posted their superb chapter, titled “Psychic Numbing and Mass Atrocity” (in  The Behavioral Foundations of Policy, E. Shafir, ed., Russell Sage Foundation and Princeton University Press, 2011) on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

* * *

The 20th Century is often said to be the bloodiest century in recorded history. In addition to its wars, the century witnessed many grave and widespread human rights abuses. But what stands out in historical accounts of those abuses, perhaps even more than the cruelty of their perpetration, is the inaction of bystanders. Why do people and their governments repeatedly fail to react to genocide and other mass scale human rights violations?

A chapter in Eldar Shafir’s edited volume, The Behavioral Foundations of Policy, forthcoming from the Russell Sage Foundation and Princeton University Press. Posted on SSRN in advance of publication with kind permission from Princeton University Press.

* * *

Download the chapter for free.

Related Situationist posts:

For related scholarship, see Paul Slovic’s Book, The Construction of Preference.

Posted in Abstracts, Altruism, Book, Distribution, Morality, Situationist Contributors | Leave a Comment »

Trapped: Mental Illness in American Prisons

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 6, 2011

From Movie Website: 

The continuous withdrawal of mental health funding has turned jails and prisons across the nation into the default mental health facilities.

The system designed for security is now trapped with treating mental illness and the mentally ill are often trapped inside the system with nowhere else to go.

Documentary photographer Jenn Ackerman takes us inside the Correctional Psychiatric Treatment Unit of the Kentucky State Reformatory to see how a state is meeting the needs of this growing population.

Related Situationist posts:

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

Milgram Experiment at 50 Years

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 4, 2011

From Yale Daily News:

“The experiment requires that you continue. It is absolutely essential that you continue. You have no other choice, you must go on.”

These were the words spoken to participants of Yale professor Stanley Milgram’s social psychology experiment testing obedience to authority figures. Milgram’s experiment, conducted at Yale in the early 1960s, was one of the most controversial studies in the history of psychology and remains so today — 50 years since the experiment took place.

“This was a landmark study in psychology and in Yale history,” said psychology professor Jack Dovidio. “He had a profound impact on the public recognition, appreciation and, in some ways, concern of the power of psychology.”

“The Milgram experiment,” as it is now called, was designed to observe the extent to which individuals would perform acts that violated their personal conscience when under orders from an authority figure. Milgram hoped such research might explain how the German people allowed for the terrible war crimes committed in the Holocaust, Milgram wrote in his 1974 book “Obedience to Authority.”

During the experiment, a scientist — the “authority figure” — ordered participants to ask another individual a series of questions and administer increasingly painful electric shocks for every wrong answer. The intensity of the shocks started at a level of mild pain when the experiment began but could be built up to lethal doses of electricity as the experiment continued. Unbeknownst to the participant, the setup was fake — there was no real electricity shocking anyone, all other people in the experiment were actors, and the actual purpose of the study was to observe how much pain the participant would inflict under orders. Milgram found that 65 percent of participants administered the final, lethal shock.

The results of the Milgram experiment, published in the December 1963 issue of the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, stunned the public, Dovidio said.

“Much of the public at the time criticized that psychology only told us things about human nature we already knew,” Dovidio said. “This showed there are a lot of things we really don’t know that are important to everyday life.”

In 1963, Milgram told the News that the experiment, which used 43 Yalies as participants and took place in Linsly-Chittenden Hall, reduced several “naturally poised” undergraduates to “twitching, stuttering wrecks, on the verge of nervous collapse.” In the process, Milgram said they proved themselves willing to obey people in positions of higher authority, even suggesting that they would agree to drop a bomb or push a button launching an atomic missile.

Milgram tested over 1,000 men from the Yale and New Haven community, some of whom he said fell into fits of “bizarre” laughter and flashed “unnatural smiles” as they pressed buttons marked “Danger: Severe Shock.”

Equally chilling as these accounts were the questions Milgram’s procedure raised about human testing in psychology. Milgram’s study incited national controversy and led in part to major human testing regulation reform from Yale administrators and the federal government.

“At the time, we didn’t have ethics committees or even consent forms for these tests,” Dovidio said. “Milgram’s study made people think more seriously about the ethics of research.”

By 1980, Yale had instituted reforms mandating that any experiment using paid subjects receive approval by a six-member Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects, and much tighter rules were put in place limiting the degree of deception that could be used in an experiment, a 1980 article in the News stated.

Throughout the reforms, Yale students did not forget Milgram’s role in the controversy. In a 1979 News article discussing potential weekend events at Yale, Arnold Schwartz ’79 suggested “The Milgram Show: Hilarious game show in which students are given a choice of flunking out of Yale or electrocuting fellow students into unconsciousness.”

In 2008 a Santa Clara University professor replicated an altered version of the experiment to see whether people today still obey orders against their consciousness. A 2008 Ohio State University study applied statistical analysis to Milgram’s data, researching which voltages were the crucial turning points in the experiment after which participants refused to deliver further shocks.


Posted in Classic Experiments, History | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Fear and Threat in the Media

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 3, 2011

Related Situationist posts.

Posted in Deep Capture, Emotions, Ideology, System Legitimacy, Video | 1 Comment »

Barry Schwartz Returns to Harvard Law

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 2, 2011

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Events, Life, Morality, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

%d bloggers like this: