The Situationist

Archive for May, 2012

Review of “Ideology, Psychology, and Law”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 30, 2012

Over at The Jury Expert, You can read an insightful review (by Rita R. Handrich, PhD) of Jon Hanson’s recent book, Ideology, Psychology, and Law” (Oxford University Press). [Introductory chapter available, here].

It opens this way:

Trial consultants, and the very best trial lawyers, practice with an awareness of the law, the domain of the case facts, and the way jurors are likely to understand and misunderstand all of it. If these avenues of thought had a single intersection, you would find that Jon Hanson has been living on that corner for 25 years. As a Harvard Law School professor and prolific writer, he has done much to keep me and many others informed of the traffic coming from these diverse directions. . . .

Read the entire review here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Book, Ideology, Law, Politics, Situationist Contributors | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Sapna Cheryan on Stereotypes as Gatekeepers

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 29, 2012

on Apr 27, 2010 Stereotypes as Gatekeepers -

Sapna Cheryans research broadly examines how cultural stereotypes impact peoples choices and behaviors. She is particularly interested in the role that stereotypes play in determining peoples sense of belonging to important social groups.

In this talk, she asks why do women consider a future in computer science to a lesser extent than men? Might this be because the powerful image of the male computer geek makes women feel like they do not belong in the field?

A sample of related Situationist posts:

Posted in Ideology, Implicit Associations, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Leaning Tower Illusion

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 27, 2012

From The Leaning Tower illusion: a new illusion of perspective Frederick A. A. Kingdom, Ali Yoonessi, Elena Gheorghiu Perception. 2007. 36(3):475-477:

Consider the photograph in [above image] of the Petronas twin towers in Kuala Lumpur. Both towers are physically vertical, but in the two-dimensional projection their corresponding outlines are not parallel but converge as the towers recede into the distance. Our knowledge of perspective however compensates for this and leads us to perceive the inclinations of the two towers veridically.

From The Leaning Tower illusion (cont’d):

Our knowledge of perspective however compensates for this and leads us to perceive the inclinations of the two towers veridically. It follows that if the corresponding outlines of a pair of physically identical, receding objects are parallel in the two-dimensional projection, the objects cannot be physically parallel but, instead, must be diverging as they recede from view. This is clearly what we perceive in [above image], where the right-hand tower has been replaced with a copy of the one on the left. Now the corresponding outlines are parallel, and the two towers appear to diverge . . . .

From The Leaning Tower illusion (cont’d)

The illusion is not restricted to towers photographed from below, but works well with other scenes, such as the tram lines in above image. What the illusion reveals is not a failure of perspective per se, but the tendency of the visual system to treat two side-by-side images as if part of the same scene. However hard we try, we seem unable to see the two photographs of the Leaning Tower in figure 1 as separate, albeit identical, images of the same object. Instead, our visual system regards the images as the `Twin Towers of Pisa’, whose two-dimensional projection leads to the `correct’ interpretation that one tower is leaning more than the other.

To view other Situationist posts involving illusions, click here.

Posted in Illusions | Leave a Comment »

Race and Racism Among Children

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 25, 2012

From CNN:

Anderson Cooper details a study that seeks to gain insight into the way black and white children perceive each other.

A sample of related Situationist posts:

Posted in Education, Implicit Associations | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Implicit Bias Conference at HLS – More Details Soon

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 24, 2012

Thursday, June 14, 2012, 9:00 AM
Austin Hall, Ames Courtroom, Harvard Law School
1515 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA<

Despite cultural progress in reducing overt acts of racism, stark racial disparities continue to define American life. This conference considers what emerging social science can contribute to the discussion of race in American law, policy, and society. The conference will explore how scientific evidence on the human mind might help to explain why racial equality is so elusive. This new evidence reveals how human mental machinery can be skewed by lurking stereotypes, often bending to accommodate hidden biases reinforced by years of social learning. Through the lens of these powerful and pervasive implicit racial attitudes and stereotypes, the conference, designed to coincide with the launch of the book “Implicit Racial Bias Across the Law”, examines both the continued subordination of historically disadvantaged groups and the legal system’s complicity in the subordination.

The conference will bring together scholars, judges, practitioners, and community leaders to explore the issues surrounding implicit racial bias in law and policy. It will begin with a compelling overview of the social science. What does science teach us about automatic biases? And what do we still not know? Leaders in the areas of criminal justice, housing law and policy, education, and health care will then present overviews of the impact of implicit bias in their fields. Attendees will hear federal judges’ and leading scholars’ perspective on implicit bias claims in the courtroom and hear experts’ assessment of the future of implicit bias in the law. A lively afternoon session will include simultaneous break-out sessions and roundtable discussions of specific implicit bias related topics. Audience participation will be welcomed and encouraged. The conference will close with a discussion of setting a forward looking and collaborative implicit bias agenda.

Posted in Events, Implicit Associations, Law, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Laura Kubzansky on Stress and Reslience

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 22, 2012

At the Fifth Project on Law and Mind Sciences Conference,“The Psychology of Inequality” (Harvard, 2011) , Laura Kubzansky 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:

This presentation discusses stress and resilience as important mechanisms by which social disparities influence health. It considers how being stressed or resilient is shaped by social environment, and whether these processes influence health.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Distribution, Social Psychology, Video | 3 Comments »

Ichiro Kawachi on Income Inequality and Population Health

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 20, 2012

At the Fifth Project on Law and Mind Sciences Conference,“The Psychology of Inequality” (Harvard, 2011) , Laura Kubzansky 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:

This presentation discusses stress and resilience as important mechanisms by which social disparities influence health. It considers how being stressed or resilient is shaped by social environment, and whether these processes influence health.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Distribution, Video | 2 Comments »

The Situation of “Who We Help”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 19, 2012

Michaela Huber, Leaf  Van Boven, Peter McGraw, and Laura Johnson-Graham recently posted their intriguing article “Whom to Help? Immediacy Bias in Judgments and Decisions About Humanitarian Aid” (Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Vol. 115, pp. 283-293, 2011) on SSRN.

People exhibit an immediacy bias when making judgments and decisions about humanitarian aid, perceiving as more deserving and donating disproportionately to humanitarian crises that happen to arouse immediate emotion. The immediacy bias produced different serial position effects, contingent on decision timing (Experiment 1). When making allocation decisions directly after viewing to four emotionally evocative films about four different humanitarian crises, participants donated disproportionately more to the final, immediate crisis, in contrast, when making donation decisions sequentially, after viewing each of the four crises, participants donated disproportionately to the immediate crisis. The immediacy bias was associated with “scope neglect.” causing people to take action against relatively less deadly crises (Experiments 2 and 3). The immediacy bias emerged even when participants were warned about emotional manipulation (Experiment 3). The immediacy bias diminished over time, as immediate emotions presumably subsided (Experiment 2). Implications for charitable giving, serial position effects, and the influence of emotion on choice are discussed.

Download the article for free here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Abstracts, Altruism, Choice Myth, Distribution, Emotions | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of Gender in the Workplace

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 18, 2012

From Harvard Business Review (part of an op-ed written by Lauren Stiller Rikleen):

The new millennium has not brought much progress for women seeking top leadership roles in the workplace. Although female graduates continue to pour out of colleges and professional schools, the percentages of women running large companies, or serving as managing partners of their law firms, or sitting on corporate boards have barely budged in the past decade.

Why has progress stalled? A recent study suggests the unlikeliest of reasons: the marriage structure of men in the workplace.

A group of researchers from several universities recently published a report on the attitudes and beliefs of employed men, which shows that those with wives who did not work outside the home or who worked part-time were more likely than those with wives who worked to: (1) have an unfavorable view about women in the workplace; (2)think workplaces run less smoothly with more women; (3) view workplaces with female leaders as less desirable; and (4) conside female candidates for promotion to be less qualified than comparable male colleagues.

The researchers also found that the men who exhibited resistance to women’s advancement were “more likely to populate the upper echelons of organizations and thus, occupy more powerful positions.”

Their conclusion? “Marriage structures play an important role in economic life beyond the four walls of the house.” They affect how people view gender roles and how they categorize others. And, as Harvard professor Mahzarin Banaji has documented in her work, using the Implicit Association Test, this can happen even unconsciously.

So even if a male boss explicitly states — and believes — he supports women in leadership, he might still exhibit contradictory behavior or remain oblivious to the obstacles that female colleagues face. Indeed, according to this HBR Research Report from the Center for Work-Life Policy, only 28% of men, compared with 49% of women, see gender bias as still prevalent in the workplace.

I saw this in my own research for Ending the Gauntlet: Removing Barriers to Women’s Success in the Law. Many of the women partners I interviewed described a lack of support and sponsorship from key men in their firms. Several talked to male colleagues who admitted that the success of married women as equity partners invalidated the choices they and their wives had made about how to divide the responsibilities of work and family.

These biases are understandable. It’s natural to seek validation for the choices, and particularly the sacrifices, you have made. But when this expresses itself in attitudes and actions that make it difficult for talented individuals whose choices have been different to advance, it is critical for workplace leaders to intervene.

More.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Distribution, Ideology, Implicit Associations, Law, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

APS 2012 Convention

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 17, 2012

Transparent 2012 logo

24th APS Annual Convention

Summary

The Association for Psychological Science is committed to providing scientists with opportunities essential to achieving excellence in research. That’s why APS holds the premiere international meeting exclusively dedicated to psychological science. The meeting is a great opportunity to network, present your latest findings, and learn about other cutting-edge work being done in your area and in related areas.

Some of the highlights of the convention include the Opening Ceremony and Keynote Address, the Presidential Symposium, the Bring the Family Address, and numerous educational and poster sessions. More information can be found online.

In addition to the Annual Convention, APS is proud to offer the APS-STP 19th Annual Teaching Institute, and several educational workshops. (Additional registration is required for these sessions). The Teaching Institute workshop will take place on Wednesday, May 23, 2012. Subsequent Teaching Institute programming, including a poster session, concurrent educational sessions, and plenary addresses will take place on Thursday, May 24, 2012.

When

  • Thursday, May 24, 2012 – Sunday, May 27, 2012
    6:00 PM – 12:00 PM

Where

  • Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers
  • 301 East North Water Street
    Chicago, Illinois 60611
    USA
    +1 312.464.1000

Websites

This year’s program features:

  • Keynote Address by James S. Jackson, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • Presidential Symposium “Diverse Perspectives: Who Owns Science?” chaired by APS President Douglas L. Medin, Northwestern University
  • Bring the Family Address “Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do the Right Thing” by Barry Schwartz, Swarthmore College
  • Theme Programs:
    • Biological Beings in Social Context
    • Disaster, Response and Recovery
    • Music, Mind and Brain including a special concert featuring Victor Wooten, Five-Time Grammy Award Winner and Bassist for Béla Fleck & The Flecktones
  • There are also workshops, award addresses, special events, and other invited talks, addresses, and symposia by the field’s most distinguished leaders.

To register online, follow this link.

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

The Facial Situation of Presidential Candidates

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 16, 2012

From InMind (an outstanding article by Dr. Theresa DiDonato from a few years ago):

If your citizenship comes with the responsibility – and privilege – of voting, then every few years you face an interesting challenge. Who will you vote for? Whether you choose to support an incumbent, a celebrated war hero, an experienced government official, or a new face on the political scene, psychologists are incredibly curious about the process by which you come to that decision. There is reason to believe that, coming from a thoughtful and prepared voter, your ballot will reflect an objective assessment of candidate qualifications. You may, for example, use the time before an election to analyze debates, weigh social policies, and scrutinize performance records. With a wealth of political information at the tip of your fingers, only careful, deliberative thinking will contribute to your final decision…right?

Recent research in political psychology tells us that conscious deliberation is only part of the story when it comes to the voter-decision process. Information about candidates is further gathered using no mental effort, through processes operating completely outside of our awareness. Visual cues, for example, such as physical appearance, are instrumental in shaping our impressions of political candidates. Consider the case of Richard Nixon, a United States’ presidential hopeful back in September of 1960. Coming off of a hospital visit and sporting a five-o’clock shadow, Nixon participated in the first-ever televised presidential debate against John F. Kennedy, whose recent return from sunny California left him well-rested and tan. There is reason to believe that Nixon’s arguments were superior: radio listeners thought he won the debate. The estimated 70 million TV viewers, however, overwhelmingly preferred Kennedy. Visual information, i.e. Kennedy’s clean-cut confidence versus Nixon’s haggard appearance, is presumed to have influenced the TV viewers, ultimately shaping their global impressions of both candidates (Kraus, 1988).

Fast forward almost fifty years and researchers are just beginning to understand how physical appearance, particularly facial appearance, factors into voter choice. Nixon’s and Kennedy’s facial expression may certainly have evoked emotional reactions from television viewers during that critical debate. Accordingly, research suggests that feelings, like warmth or happiness, in response to a candidate’s facial gestures can influence voters’ attitudes and subsequent decisions (Sullivan & Masters, 1988). Of particular interest to social-cognitive researchers who study person-perception is how the mind translates facial appearance into beliefs about a candidate’s suitability for office. We now know that in the instant we see a person’s face, an array of fast and implicit cognitive processes take place. In that split second, we unconsciously construct ideas about a person’s personality (Bar, Neta & Linz, 2006). We may think a person is kind, strict, or honest, based only on his appearance. As you might imagine, because we make these personality inferences so easily, they can have important implications for a political candidate seeking election. Indeed, early research had found that a candidate’s photograph can communicate a clear image of his “congressional demeanor,” and fitness for office, affecting his voter appeal (Rosenberg, Bohan, McCafferty, & Harris, 1986). But what is it exactly about a politician’s face that influences his popularity? And which trait inferences matter when it comes to our voting decisions?

As most politicians know, people generally favor familiar faces over unfamiliar faces. What they may not be aware of is people also tend to prefer faces that are similar to their own. Such an idea is firmly grounded in evolutionary theory. Our faces tend to be similar to our family members’ faces, and we also generally share genetic material with them. The evolutionary perspective argues that we are fundamentally wired to protect and spread our genes, so it makes sense that we might be biologically-biased to prefer similar faces. Is this preference sufficiently ingrained so that we might actually prefer candidates who resemble us?

Bailenson, Iyengar, Yee, and Collins (in press) used a creative method to test this idea. Building on their previous work (Bailenson, Garland, Iyengar, & Yee, 2006), they examined the influence of facial similarity on voting behavior by actually manipulating the degree of facial similarity between participants and candidates. How? By digitally morphing images of participants’ faces with photographs of current candidates! Essentially, they screened out participants with glasses and facial hair, and used only high-quality photographs. They then used a computer program to morph, or blend, participants’ faces into the faces of real-life United States’ politicians, such as Hillary Clinton. Participants were unaware of the image modifications.

The researchers conducted three experiments in which they showed participants candidate photos that had been morphed with themselves (self-morph) and/or with a random other participant (other-morph). In some cases, these images were of widely-known politicians, like John Edwards or Rudy Giuliani, while other times they were of unfamiliar candidates. Participants rated each candidate on a set of ten positive personality traits (i.e. moral, intelligent, and friendly), reported their party affiliation (Democrat or Republican), and indicated the strength of that affiliation. In the final experiment, participants also saw a brief description of the candidates’ positions on issues like the Iraq War along with their picture.

The intrigue and appeal of these findings are further enhanced by the researchers’ discovery that judgment speed mattered. They found that immediate, first impressions of competence, made after seeing an image for only 100 milliseconds, were superior to deliberative judgments in anticipating the winner of an election (Ballew & Todorov, 2007). This finding seems counterintuitive: how could gut feelings outperform reflective thinking? At the same time, it fits well with one research study focused not on candidate preferences, but on strawberry jam. Wilson and Schooler (1991) asked participants to taste and rate the quality of different jams, and then tested the “accuracy” of these ratings by comparing them with evaluations offered by trained tasting experts. Results showed that when participants were instructed to reflect on why they liked or disliked the jams, they produced ratings that did not corresponded with the experts’ ratings as well as those who simply rated the jams without reflection.

What is it about judging unfamiliar candidates and unfamiliar jams that champions intuition over careful reflection?

Find out and to read the rest of the superb article, here.

Related Situationist posts:

More posts on the situation of politics here.

Posted in Evolutionary Psychology, Ideology, Implicit Associations, Politics, Social Psychology | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Elizabeth Loftus on False Memories

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 15, 2012

From Beyond Belief Conference in 2006 (includes discussion of the role of litigation in altering people’s memories):

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Illusions, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Sam McFarland Interview on The Situation of Empathy

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 13, 2012

From WKU Public Radio:

WKU Psychology professor Sam McFarland has long been fascinated by individuals who put their lives–and the lives of loved ones–at risk in order to save people of a different race, ethnicity, or religious group. Dr. McFarland has an article that’s set to be published in a social psychology journal called “All Humanity is My Ingroup: A Measure and Studies of ‘Identification with All Humanity.’”

In his paper, Dr. McFarland describes the idea of “identification with all humanity” as the ability to view all peoples of the world as part of a sort of extended family, and value the lives of those from different backgrounds equally as those from your own background.

Dr. McFarland recently sat down with WKU Public Radio to talk about his research. Here are some excerpts from our interview:

WKU Public Radio: How did you become interested in the subject of having empathy for people who are different from yourself?

Sam McFarland: “First of all, I became familiar with a number of very heroic examples of people who, during the Holocaust, went out of their way to save Jews from the Nazis. When my wife and I were on an anniversary trip, I read a very interesting book by Kristen Monroe called Heart of Altruism, and she was trying to identify the critical characteristics were of those who risked their own lives and sometimes the lives of their family members to save Jews who were in danger of being killed.

“When she did interviews with those people and interview with others, she discovered the critical characteristics seem to be that they had a sense that all humanity is one family. The feelings transcended nationality, religion, ethnic group, and every other distinction we make about human beings.

“Then I became aware that their were psychologists who had talked about that, such as Alfred Adler and Abraham Maslow. They thought that fully mature human beings transcend the ethnocentrisms that are around them. They care about all humanity–past, present, and future.

“But then I realized that psychology had never really studied this, it had never been measured. So I wanted to see if we could build a rational measure of it, and see if that measure predicts the kinds of things we think it ought to predict. “

Your research paper makes reference to a set of interviews that had been previously done with “Holocaust rescuers”–people who had risked their lives to save Jews during WWII. The interviews found a quality present in the rescuers that became known as “extensivity.” What is that, and how does it factor into what you were researching?

“The particular study you’re referring to was done by a man named Sam Oliner, and his wife, Pearl Oliner. They had been longtime professors at Humboldt State University in California.

“Sam was a 10-year-old Jewish child in Poland during the war. And when the Nazis came to his town, his step-mother told him to run away from the Germans. And Sam ran away, and he was taken in by a Christian family who taught him how to act as a Christian, and say the catechism, for example.

“He survived the war. When he tried to find his parents afterwards, he found out they both had died.

“A number of years later, Sam and his wife decided to go back to Poland and interview a large number of people who had been rescuers like the woman who had saved him. They tried to do comparison studies with those who, you might say, just stood by and watched things happen without doing anything.

“He found that those who had rescued Jews felt a sense of responsibility towards all people, and a sense of empathy towards all people. The feelings transcended whether they were Catholic, or atheist, or communist, or any other thing. It was just part of a sense of who they were.”

Are the characteristics you’re talking about, the empathy towards all peopleare those innate characteristics? In other words, is this a matter of something you’re either born with, or you’re not? Can a grown person be taught these sorts of things?

“Those are great questions that we do not have answers to. That’s the sort of thing we need to explore and understand.

“Why is it that some people develop a sense of “all humanity is my ingroup”, whereas perhaps the majority of people do not? We don’t really know.

“I think we can point to certain kinds of pre-cursors. For example, excessive punitiveness and excessive parental neglect are things we know can make a person what Alfred Adler called “self-bound”, and much more difficult for that person to care about other people.

“So there are certain things that happen in early childhood that can facilitate (empathy), things like parental affection.

“You raised the question if part of it is possibly just genetics. That’s certainly possible. We just simply don’t know at this point.”

Sam McFarland’s article is to be published in a forthcoming edition of The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Listen to the interview here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Conflict, Emotions, Morality, Social Psychology | 1 Comment »

Jonathan Haidt Changes His Situation

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 12, 2012

From BusinessWire:

New York University Stern School of Business today announced that Jonathan Haidt will join its faculty in the fall of 2012 as the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership. Haidt has served as the Henry Kaufman Visiting Professor of Business Ethics at Stern for the 2011-12 academic year.

“Every economic crisis seems to evoke a renewed call for business schools to redouble their emphasis on ethics. The repeated nature of these exhortations suggests that the problem may not be a lack of attention to the issue but the need for thoughtful new approaches. As one of the founders and the pre-eminent researcher in the field of moral psychology, Jonathan Haidt has changed the way that we look at ethics and moral behavior. At Stern, he will bring his knowledge to bear upon questions of design for ethical business systems,” said Peter Henry, dean of NYU Stern.

Haidt is widely recognized for research on the intuitive foundations of morality and how morality and emotion vary across cultures. In recent years, he has used moral psychology to understand America’s ideological and hyper-partisanship. This work is the focus of his best-selling new book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. His work draws consistent praise from both sides of the political spectrum, and is covered often in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Within the Business and Society Program at NYU Stern, Haidt aims to integrate research on moral psychology with research and theory in business ethics, seeking the best ways to create organizations that function as ethical systems, with only minimal need for directly training people to behave ethically. He will create a course at Stern called “Ethical Systems Design.”

Before joining Stern, Haidt was a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Virginia for 16 years, and served as the Laurance S. Rockefeller Distinguished Visiting Professor at Princeton University in 2006-2007. He was the 2001 winner of the Templeton Prize in Positive Psychology, and a 2004 winner of the Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award, conferred by Governor Mark Warner. In addition to his new book, Professor also is the author of The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom.

More.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Social Psychology | Leave a Comment »

Random Assignments

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 11, 2012

Social Psychologist Dave Nussbaum recently launched his blog, Random Assignments.

The blog already contains several posts worth reading, including a series on the important topic of replication in social science.  The first two parts are “Replicating Dissonance” and “Conceptual Replication.”

Here’s a sample of Nussbaum’s writing:

The 1950s were a bleak time if you were a social psychologist interested in the empirical study of thoughts and feelings and how they affect human behavior. At that time, experimental psychology was dominated by behaviorism, an approach which focused exclusively on observable behavior, exiling ephemeral concepts like beliefs and emotions outside the boundaries of proper science. But things were about to change.

The Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, published by Leon Festinger in 1957, was one of those things. The theory was based on the simple idea that when a person simultaneously holds two conflicting beliefs he will experience a feeling of discomfort – cognitive dissonance – and that he will be motivated to end that discomfort by reducing the conflict between the beliefs, often by changing one of them.

Today, the term cognitive dissonance has entered our vernacular and the idea that we change or discard beliefs that don’t suit us seems like common sense. Research on how people rationalize their beliefs has spread to political science, medicine, neuroscience, and the law, and is one of the cornerstones of our understanding of human psychology. But in 1957, at a time when the field of psychology was dominated by behaviorism, the notion was far more controversial. Luckily, Leon Festinger and his colleagues and students conducted numerous experiments that tested predictions derived from Cognitive Dissonance Theory that could not be accounted for by behaviorist principles.

One of my favorite of these experiments (PDF), published by Elliot Aronson and Judson Mills in 1959, had college women reading obscene words out loud (words so obscene that I don’t feel comfortable writing them here myself, but the F word is in there, as is a four-letter word that also means rooster, and remember, this was 1959!). The women were reading these words as an initiation to get into a discussion group about the psychology of sex – they had to prove they were not going to be too embarrassed to take part in the conversation. This was the “severe initiation” condition. Another group of women recited a milder list of words (e.g., prostitute, virgin); this was the “mild initiation” condition. The women then heard a recording of a discussion by the group to which they had gained entry – as it turned out, the discussion was, according to the study’s authors, “one of the most worthless and uninteresting discussions imaginable.”  The question was which group of women would like the psychology of sex discussion group more, the ones who had to undergo the severe initiation or the mild one?

To find out, pay a visit to Nussbaum’s blog.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Blogroll, Classic Experiments, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Money Feelings

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 10, 2012

Hyun Young Park and Tom Meyvis, recently posted their paper, “Feeling Immoral About Money: How Moral Emotions Influence Spending Decisions” on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract:

Prior literature suggests that consumers who feel negative moral emotions engage in a moral compensation process that is generalized and flexible. In contrast, the current research demonstrates that consumers who feel guilty or angry about money seek compensation in a strikingly specific way. We find that feeling guilty about money increases pro-social spending, but not volunteering of time or spending on personal virtues. Moreover, this increase in pro-social spending only occurs when the guilt is moral in nature and the money being spent is the money consumers feel guilty about. The specific nature of this effect suggests that consumers who feel guilty about money try to cleanse the money rather than try to redeem themselves. Feeling angry about money, on the other hand, is shown to decrease pro-social spending, highlighting the need to distinguish between specific emotions when examining how feelings about money affect consumer spending decisions.

Download the paper for free here.

Related Situationist posts:

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The Racial Situation of 2012 Election

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 8, 2012

From University of Washington Newswire:

After the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, many proclaimed that the country had entered a post-racial era in which race was no longer an issue. However, a new large-scale study shows that racial attitudes have already played a substantial role in 2012, during the Republican primaries. They may play an even larger role in this year’s presidential election.

The study, led by psychologists at the University of Washington, shows that between January and April 2012 eligible voters who favored whites over blacks – either consciously or unconsciously – also favored Republican candidates relative to Barack Obama.

“People were saying that with Obama’s election race became a dead issue, but that’s not at all the case,” said lead investigator Anthony Greenwald, a UW psychology professor.

The study’s findings mean that many white and non-white voters, even those who don’t believe they tend to favor whites over blacks, might vote against Obama because of his race. These voters could cite the economy or other reasons, but a contributing cause could nevertheless be their conscious or unconscious racial attitudes.

“Our findings may indicate that many of those who expressed egalitarian attitudes by voting for Obama in 2008 and credited themselves with having ‘done the right thing’ then are now letting other considerations prevail,” said collaborator Mahzarin Banaji, a psychology professor at Harvard University.

In the study, a majority of white eligible voters showed a pattern labeled “automatic white preference” on a widely used measure of unconscious race bias. Previous studies indicate that close to 75 percent of white Americans show this implicit bias.

In a study done just prior to the 2008 presidential election, Greenwald and colleagues found that race attitudes played a role in predicting votes for the Republican candidate John McCain.

The 2012 data, collected from nearly 15,000 voters, show that race was again a significant factor in candidate preferences.

In an online survey, Greenwald asked survey-takers about their political beliefs, how “warmly” they felt toward black and white people, and which presidential contender they preferred. Because the survey was conducted in the first four months of 2012, it included the five main Republican hopefuls – Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum – as well as Obama.

Greenwald also measured unconscious race attitude using the Implicit Association Test, a tool he developed more than a decade ago to gauge thoughts that people don’t realize they have. Different variations of the test measure implicit attitudes about race, gender, sexuality, ethnicities and other topics.

Greenwald found that favoritism for Republican candidates was predicted by respondents’ racial attitudes, both their self-reported views and their implicit biases measured by the IAT. Greenwald emphasized that the study’s finding that some candidates are more attractive to voters with pro-white racial attitudes does not mean that those candidates are racist.

“The study’s findings raise an interesting question: After nearly four years of having an African-American president in the White House, why do race attitudes continue to have a role in electoral politics?” Greenwald said.

He suspects that Obama’s power as president in 2012, compared with his lesser status as candidate in 2008, may have “brought out race-based antagonism that had less reason to be activated in 2008.”

Another possibility is that Republican candidates’ assertions that their most important goal is to remove Obama from the presidency “may have strong appeal to those who have latent racial motivation,” Greenwald said.

Greenwald and his research team will continue to collect people’s attitudes about the 2012 presidential candidates as part of their Decision 2012 IAT study. Now that Mitt Romney has emerged as the presumptive Republican nominee, the researchers are modifying their survey to focus on voters’ comparisons of Romney with Obama.

They plan to post summaries of the data each month until the November election. Anyone can take the test online: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/demo/featuredtask.html

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Haidt on “The Righteous Mind”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 7, 2012

From Wired:

Jonathan Haidt is a professor in social psychology and author of The Righteous Mind, an examination of the intuitive foundations of morality and its consequences. He has some disgusting stories for you.

Imagine, if you will, a man going to a supermarket, buying a ready-to-cook chicken, taking it home, and having sexual intercourse with it. He then cooks it and eats it.

Or imagine a brother and sister who go on holiday, and end up sleeping together. They feel that it brings them closer, and are very careful with birth control so there’s no absolutely chance of pregnancy.

Don’t worry if you found these stories sick and wrong — most people do. But trying to pin down what exactly is wrong with these stories can be tricky. No one is harmed, the food isn’t wasted, the siblings are happy, yet it’s somehow still wrong. This is “moral dumbfounding’, the strong feeling that something is wrong without clear reasons as to why that is. According to Haidt, this offers a deep insight into human morality, and has profound implications for politics and religion.

Haidt’s studies bear out his message is that for every one of us, however rational we think we are, intuition comes first, and strategic reasoning second. That is, we rationalise our gut instincts, rather than using reason to reach the best conclusion. So, with the chicken story, you’re left scrabbling around for reasons to explain why something is wrong when you just know that it is. For Haidt, this is something that modern thinking has failed to recognise. “In America there was a long period where we were trying to teach kids critical thinking, and you never hear about it anymore because it didn’t work,” says Haidt.

Haidt sees our reasoning mind and intuition as a rider on top of an elephant, with the rider (reason) serving the elephant (intuition). But he doesn’t necessarily see this as a flaw. “You need to learn how to get the rider and elephant to work together properly. Each have their separate skill, and if if you think that the rider is both in charge and deserves to rule, you’re going to find yourself screwing up, and wondering why you keep screwing up. I think maturity and wisdom occur when someone gets good integration between the rider and the elephant — and I picked an elephant rather than a horse because elephants are really big and really smart. If you see a trainer and an elephant working together it’s a beautiful sight.”

Not only do we start with a conclusion and work backwards when making moral judgements, the different moral tenets you use define where you lie on the political spectrum. Broadly, the left makes moral judgements mostly based on harm and fairness, while the right has a broader palette — harm, fairness, loyalty, authority, and sanctity.

So when, for example David Cameron suggests children should be more deferential, Haidt sees this as textbook: “That’s the authority foundation right there. Respect for authority is an offensive idea to people on the left, but it is quite sensible to social conservatives. It’s speaking directly to the elephant. Did he suggest this because he has really long been upset about the decline of authority, or is he maybe doing this to appeal to the more working-class traditionalist voters, those who vote Labour but are socially conservative at heart?”

But isn’t this simply another typical liberal college professor finding yet another way to attack the right? Haidt says that his work into morality has changed his politics, making him less of a liberal, and more of a centrist: “I’ve really become less enamoured of liberalism and more enamoured of conservatism. I think both are important. It’s a yin-yang thing, you need both and if you let either side run things they’re going to screw it up in very predictable ways.”

Our flawed post-hoc reasoning, our cherry-picking of evidence to suit our instincts, makes us poor policy makers, and creates politics that is tribal, confrontational and ill-suited to solving the world’s problems. “Our reasoning is very good as a press agent and lawyer,” says Haidt, “But we’re so biased, no individual can design social policy just using reason. But once you can accept what reasoning is and what it is designed to do, you can start to design groups and institutions that can do a pretty good job of it. When you put people together, you can think of each person as being like a neuron, and if you put us together in the right way then you can get some very good reasoning coming out of it.”

Haidt’s plea is for us to avoid the demonisation of those we see as morally suspect by understanding the way we reach these moral judgements. Like any evolved mechanism, our brain is a hotchpotch of compromises rather than a perfectly designed machine. Our understanding of others starts with understanding ourselves.

“It’s easy to see how flawed and biased and post-hoc everyone else is. If you realise that it’s true about you too, at least you’ll be a little more modest, and if you’re a little more modest then you’ll at least be a little bit more open to the possibility that you might be wrong. There is some wisdom to be found on all sides, because nobody can see the whole problem.”

Watch Haidt’s TED talk on “the real difference between liberals and conservatives” below:


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Posted in Book, Conflict, Emotions, Ideology, Politics, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of Political Ideology

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 5, 2012

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The Religious Situation of Compassion and Generosity

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 3, 2012

From UC Berkeley:

“Love thy neighbor” is preached from many a pulpit. But new research from the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that the highly religious are less motivated by compassion when helping a stranger than are atheists, agnostics and less religious people.

In three experiments, social scientists found that compassion consistently drove less religious people to be more generous. For highly religious people, however, compassion was largely unrelated to how generous they were, according to the findings which are published in the most recent online issue of the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

The results challenge a widespread assumption that acts of generosity and charity are largely driven by feelings of empathy and compassion, researchers said. In the study, the link between compassion and generosity was found to be stronger for those who identified as being non-religious or less religious.

“Overall, we find that for less religious people, the strength of their emotional connection to another person is critical to whether they will help that person or not,” said UC Berkeley social psychologist Robb Willer, a co-author of the study. “The more religious, on the other hand, may ground their generosity less in emotion, and more in other factors such as doctrine, a communal identity, or reputational concerns.”

Compassion is defined in the study as an emotion felt when people see the suffering of others which then motivates them to help, often at a personal risk or cost.

While the study examined the link between religion, compassion and generosity, it did not directly examine the reasons for why highly religious people are less compelled by compassion to help others. However, researchers hypothesize that deeply religious people may be more strongly guided by a sense of moral obligation than their more non-religious counterparts.

“We hypothesized that religion would change how compassion impacts generous behavior,” said study lead author Laura Saslow, who conducted the research as a doctoral student at UC Berkeley.

Saslow, who is now a postdoctoral scholar at UC San Francisco, said she was inspired to examine this question after an altruistic, nonreligious friend lamented that he had only donated to earthquake recovery efforts in Haiti after watching an emotionally stirring video of a woman being saved from the rubble, not because of a logical understanding that help was needed.

“I was interested to find that this experience – an atheist being strongly influenced by his emotions to show generosity to strangers – was replicated in three large, systematic studies,” Saslow said.

In the first experiment, researchers analyzed data from a 2004 national survey of more than 1,300 American adults. Those who agreed with such statements as “When I see someone being taken advantage of, I feel kind of protective towards them” were also more inclined to show generosity in random acts of kindness, such as loaning out belongings and offering a seat on a crowded bus or train, researchers found.

When they looked into how much compassion motivated participants to be charitable in such ways as giving money or food to a homeless person, non-believers and those who rated low in religiosity came out ahead: “These findings indicate that although compassion is associated with pro-sociality among both less religious and more religious individuals, this relationship is particularly robust for less religious individuals,” the study found.

In the second experiment, 101 American adults watched one of two brief videos, a neutral video or a heartrending one, which showed portraits of children afflicted by poverty. Next, they were each given 10 “lab dollars” and directed to give any amount of that money to a stranger. The least religious participants appeared to be motivated by the emotionally charged video to give more of their money to a stranger.

“The compassion-inducing video had a big effect on their generosity,” Willer said. “But it did not significantly change the generosity of more religious participants.”

In the final experiment, more than 200 college students were asked to report how compassionate they felt at that moment. They then played “economic trust games” in which they were given money to share – or not – with a stranger. In one round, they were told that another person playing the game had given a portion of their money to them, and that they were free to reward them by giving back some of the money, which had since doubled in amount.

Those who scored low on the religiosity scale, and high on momentary compassion, were more inclined to share their winnings with strangers than other participants in the study.

“Overall, this research suggests that although less religious people tend to be less trusted in the U.S., when feeling compassionate, they may actually be more inclined to help their fellow citizens than more religious people,” Willer said.

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Posted in Abstracts, Altruism, Distribution, Ideology, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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