The Situationist

Archive for January, 2013

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.

Related Situationist posts:

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

The Situational Source of Illusions

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 26, 2013

From National Geographic’s Brain Games:

Interactive experiments, illusions, and mind tricks reveal the inner workings of the ultimate supercomputer—the human brain.

Review many more Situationist posts containing illusions here.

Posted in Illusions, Video | 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:

Posted in Awards, Distribution, Ideology, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology | Leave a Comment »

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Situationism

Posted by J on January 21, 2013

mlk1.jpgThis post was originally published on January 22, 2007.

* * *

Monday’s holiday provides an apt occasion to highlight the fact that, at least by my reckoning, Martin Luther King, Jr. was, among other things, a situationist.

To be sure, King is most revered in some circles for quotations that are easily construed as dispositionist, such as: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Taken alone, as it often is, that sentence seems to set a low bar. Indeed, some Americans contend that we’ve arrived at that promised land; after all, most of us (mostly incorrectly) imagine ourselves to be judging people based solely on their dispositions, choices, personalities, or, in short, their characters.

Putting King’s quotation in context, however, it becomes clear that his was largely a situationist message. He was encouraging us all to recognize the subtle and not-so-subtle situational forces that caused inequalities and to question (what John Jost calls) system-justifying ideologies that helped maintain those inequalities.

mlk2.jpgKing’s amazing “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is illustrative. While being held for nine days, King penned a letter in response to the public statement of eight prominent Alabama clergymen who denounced the Birmingham civil rights demonstrations. The prominent clergymen called King an “extremist” and an “outsider,” and “appeal[ed] to both our white and Negro citizenry to observe the principles of law and order and common sense.”

Regarding his “outsider” status, King insisted that the us-and-them categories were flawed, and that any meaningful distinction that might exist among groups was that between persons who perpetrated or countenanced injustice, on one hand, and those who resisted it, on the other:

“I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. . . .”

“Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

mlk3.jpgIn describing the injustice itself, King sought to remove the focus from individual behavor and choice to the situational forces and absence of meaningful choice that helped to shape that behavior:

“You deplore the demonstrations taking place In Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.”

In terms of his methods, too, Dr. King was a situationist. He understood that negotiating outcomes reflected the circumstances much more than the the disposition, of negotiators. The aim of demonstrations was to create a situation in which questions otherwise unasked were brought to the fore, in which injustice otherwise unnoticed was made salient, and in which the weak bargaining positions of the otherwise powerless were collectivized and strengthened:

“Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused tocivil-rights-protest.jpg negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. . . . Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.”

In the letter, King expressed his frustation, not just with the egregious racists, but also — no, moreso — with the moderates who were willing to sacrifice real justice for the sake of maintaining the illusion of justice. King put it this way:

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’ . . . .”

mlk4.jpgAnd King recognized the role that laws could play in maintaining an unjust status quo. Of course, he criticized the laws that literally enforced segregation, but he didn’t stop there. He criticized, too, the seemingly neutral laws, and the purportedly principled methods of interpreting and applying those laws, that could serve as legitimating cover for existing disparities:

“Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.”

King explained that many churches, too, were implicated in this web of justification — caught up as they were in making sense of, or lessening the sting of, existing arrangements:

“So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are.”


So, yes, Reverend King urged us all to help create a world in which people were “not . . . judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” But King said much more. He recognized and tried to teach those who would listen that getting to that world would mean examining and challenging the situation — including our beliefs, our laws, our ideologies, our religious beliefs, our institutions, and existing allocations of opportunity, wealth, and power.

Judging those who are disadvantaged by the content of their character is not, taken alone, much of a solution. It may, in fact, be part of the problem. As Kathleen Hanson (my wife) and I recently argued, the problem “is, not in neglecting character, but in attributing to ‘character’ what should be attributed to [a person’s] situation and, in turn, to our system and ourselves.” Or, as Martin Luther King, Jr. put it, far more effectively: “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

* * *

For a sample of related Situationist posts, see

Posted in History, Ideology, System Legitimacy | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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:

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The Situation of Habits

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 17, 2013

From Goodlife Project:

Jonathan Fields, interviews New York Times investigative reporter and author of The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg.

Related Situationist Posts:

Posted in Marketing, Neuroscience | 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.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Book, Social Psychology | Leave a Comment »

Michael McCann Taking Situationist Sports to UNH

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 11, 2013

McCann at UNH

Congratulations are in order to Michael McCann (who, among other things, is the co-founder of this blog).  The University of New Hampshire Law School just announced that they are launching the Sports & Entertainment Law Institute under the direction of Michael McCann, who will be moving from Vermont Law School where he directed the Sports Law Institute.  Here’s the announcement from UNH.

Noted sports law expert Michael McCann will join the University of New Hampshire School of Law this fall to launch a new Sports and Entertainment Law Institute. McCann has been a visiting professor at UNH Law during the 2012-13 academic year.

The Sports and Entertainment Law Institute will provide opportunities for students who demonstrate a talent and passion for sports and entertainment law with core skills in these practice areas and opportunities for thoughtful discussion of contemporary legal issues in the field. The Institute will help students gain real-world skills to obtain, and succeed in, careers in sports and entertainment law. Students will have the opportunity to enroll in a wide-range of core and supporting courses.

The Sports and Entertainment Law Institute will be a great pairing with our historic strengths in trademark and copyright law. And we are very fortunate to have Michael McCann, one of the most exciting legal scholars in the country, leading the way.

John Broderick, Dean of UNH Law

The Sports & Entertainment Law Institute will be part of UNH Law’s Franklin Pierce Center for Intellectual Property, which is consistently ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the nation’s best intellectual property law programs.

I’m thrilled to join a school which is deservedly renowned for its intellectual property law program. To launch a sports and entertainment law institute as part of this program is a fantastic opportunity. I can’t wait to work with students in developing hands-on skills in sports and entertainment law, and helping them enter those fields.

Michael McCann, Professor of Law

McCann is a leading expert in sports law, a seasoned sports attorney, and an award-winning teacher, scholar and journalist. He founded and directed the sports law institute at Vermont Law School, where he created the groundbreaking Blue Chips Program, which provides students with the core skills and hands-on experience needed to succeed in the sports world.

McCann is also an accomplished journalist and legal commentator.  He is a legal analyst and writer for Sports Illustrated and and the on-air legal analyst for NBA TV. He also appears regularly on CNN and The Dan Patrick Show to provide sports law commentary. In the past year alone, McCann has covered such issues as: the NFL, NBA and NHL lockouts; the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State and the resulting NCAA penalties and litigation; Ed O’Bannon’s antitrust and intellectual property class action lawsuit against the NCAA; NFL concussion litigation; and Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds’ perjury trials, among many other topics.

McCann has authored 18 law review articles, including articles in the Yale Law Journal and Boston College Law Review, and more than 180 articles for Sports Illustrated and McCann is also the editor-in-chief and publisher of Sports Law Blog, which has been honored by Fast Company as one of Three Best Sports Business Blogs and by the American Bar Association Journal as a Top 100 Law Blog. He also provides timely sports law commentary on Twitter @McCannSportsLaw, which has attracted more than 7,200 followers.

In 2004, McCann served as counsel to college football star Maurice Clarett in his lawsuit against the National Football League and its age eligibility rule. McCann was retained by Clarett’s legal team after a paper he wrote in law school – “Illegal Defense: The Irrational Economics of Banning High School Players from the NBA” – was published in the Virginia Sports and Entertainment Law Journal and read by Clarett’s attorneys. Clarett v. NFL is considered one of the most important cases in U.S. sports law history.

McCann has also taught at Mississippi College School of Law, where he received the Professor of the Year Award in 2007 and 2008 and where he now teaches an intensive sports law course as the Distinguished Visiting Hall of Fame Professor of Law. In 2010, McCann also taught a sports law and analytics reading group at Yale Law School – the first such course to be offered at any law school. Along with Jon Hanson, the Alfred Smart Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, McCann is co-founder of the Project on Law and Mind Sciences at Harvard Law School.

McCann holds an LLM degree from Harvard Law School, a JD from the University of Virginia School of Law and a BA from Georgetown University.

Review dozens of posts on “situationist sports” here.

Review Michael McCann’s SSRN page (including downloadable pdfs to his pathbreaking scholarship) here.

Posted in Situationist Contributors, Situationist Sports | Leave a Comment »

Jeremy Bailenson on Virtual Reality

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 9, 2013

From Pacific Standard (a brief excerpt from a long, worthwhile article about the work of Jeremy Bailenson):

A few years ago, a research psychologist at Stanford University named Jeremy Bailenson effectively proved the soundness of Anderson’s recruitment methods (pdf). A week before the 2004 presidential election, Bailenson asked a bunch of prospective voters to look at photographs of George W. Bush and John Kerry and then give their opinions of the candidates. What the voters didn’t know was that the photographs had been doctored: each voter’s own visage had been subtly morphed together with that of one of the candidates.

In this and two follow-up experiments, Bailenson found what Rudy Rucker, the novelist who wrote Software, would have predicted: voters were significantly more likely to support the candidate who had been made to look like them. What’s more, not a single voter detected that it was, in part, his or her own face staring back.

In another experiment (pdf), Bailenson outfitted college students with head-mounted virtual-reality displays and then sat them across a digital table from an artificial-intelligence agent—a computer program with a human face. The students then listened as the “agent” delivered a short persuasive speech. When the agent was programmed to mimic a student’s facial movements on a four-second delay—a tilt of the chin, a look to the left, a downward glance—the students found it more likeable and compelling. And like the prospective voters, the students showed no sign that they knew they were being mimicked. Nothing, it seems, is more persuasive than a mirror.

Read entire article here.

From Google Talks (Bailenson discusses his work and book with Jim Blasovich, Infinite Reality):

Summary from Google Talks:

The coming explosion of immersive digital technology, combined with recent progress in unlocking how the mind works, will soon revolutionize our lives in ways only science fiction has imagined. In Infinite Reality, Jeremy Bailenson (Stanford University) and Jim Blascovich (University of California, Santa Barbara)—two of virtual reality’s pioneering authorities whose pathbreaking research has mapped how our brain behaves in digital worlds—take us on a mind-bending journey through the virtual universe.

Infinite Reality explores what emerging computer technologies and their radical applications will mean for the future of human life and society. Along the way, Bailenson and Blascovich examine the timeless philosophical questions of the self and “reality” that arise through the digital experience; explain how virtual reality’s latest and future forms—including immersive video games and social-networking sites—will soon be seamlessly integrated into our lives; show the many surprising practical applications of virtual reality, from education and medicine to sex and warfare; and probe further-off possibilities like “total personality downloads” that would allow your great-great-grandchildren to have a conversation with “you” a century or more after your death.

Related Situationist posts:

Image from Pacific Standard.

Posted in Book, Illusions, Video | 1 Comment »

Why Bystanders Walk By

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 7, 2013

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Social Psychology, Video | 2 Comments »

The Situation of Bill Belichick and the “Frank Sinatra Principle”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 4, 2013

Bill BelichickSeveral of us on The Situationist are fans of the New England Patriots and their head coach, Bill Belichick.  Belichick is widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best, football coaches around; he’s often called a “genius”.  Why?  His teams have won 3 Super Bowl championships, and he’s coached in five of the last 11 Super Bowls.  And he seems consistently smarter than other coaches in his strategies and designs.  It’s as if the Patriots begin each game with a sizable advantage in coaching.

But how much of Belichick’s success can be attributed to situation rather than ability and work ethic?  The Washington Post‘s Norman Chad argues quite a bit in his piece Patriots Coach Bill Belichick may be the luckiest man on Earth:

* * *

Let us count the ways Belichick has been wildly fortunate in his NFL head-coaching career:

1. Most coaches would not even get a second chance, as Belichick did, after his four-losing-seasons-in-five stint with the Cleveland Browns from 1991-95.

2. He masterfully sidestepped the moribund New York Jets, who hired him in 2000, quitting one day after getting the job with his infamous, hand-scribbled note, “I resign as HC of the NYJ.”

3. During the second game of his second season as coach of the New England Patriots, Drew Bledsoe got hurt; otherwise, Tom Brady might still be on the sideline, texting Mark Sanchez about good-looking ladies in the stands.

4. The Tuck Rule Game in January 2002, in which Brady fumbled away the Patriots’ last chance against the Oakland Raiders, only to have referee Walt Coleman reverse the call via replay and reverse the course of NFL history for the next decade.

* * *

Belichick is now regarded as a football genius. But without Bledsoe’s misfortune and Brady’s magnificence, Belichick might’ve been Eric Mangini before Eric Mangini, glumly sitting in an ESPN studio dispensing gridiron bromides. Instead, Belichick — with 12 straight winning seasons in New England — has become the ninth-winningest coach in NFL history.

Belichick is a great example of what I call the “Frank Sinatra Principle.” The Sinatra principle states that two singers can be born on the same Hoboken, N.J., block in the same year with similar skills, but one becomes a treasured entertainment icon and the other works the Ramada Inn lounge in Fairborn, Ohio. And it is a result of luck or connections as much as talent and hard work.

* * *

Read the entire article here.  

Related Situationist posts:

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

Trust and Reciprocity Situations Promote Social Common Goods

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 2, 2013

we trust

In the emerging field of tax psychology, the focus on regulation and overcoming tax evasion recently shifted towards searching for situational cues that elicit common goals compliance. Following this innovative behavioral economics quest, Situationist Contributor Julia M. Puaschunder found evidence (download paper here) for trust and reciprocity steering social common goods contributions.

In experiments at the Harvard Decision Science Laboratory, the same participants played an economic trust game followed by a common goods game. The more trust and reciprocity were practiced and experienced by player duos, the stronger they supported common goals together.

The findings portray trust and reciprocity as interesting tax ethics antecedents and hold widespread implications for governmental-citizen relations. Shifting attention from prevailing ‘cops-and-robbers’ attempts to fight tax fraud, new public policy managers are advised to establish a service-oriented client atmosphere. In a socially-favorable societal climate breeding trust and reciprocity, common goals are likely to be reached.

Download the full paper ‘Trust and Reciprocity Drive Social Common Goods Contribution Norms’ for free here.

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