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Richard Hackman on “What Makes for a Great Team”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 26, 2011

Vodpod videos no longer available.
Harvard University professor Richard Hackman spoke in March at Harvard Law School.Professor Hackman has studied the secrets of effective teams ranging from airplane cockpit crews to musical ensembles. In his talk, sponsored by the Student Association for Law and Mind Sciences, Professor Hackman summarized the conditions that increase the likelihood of creating teamwork “magic.” For a brief introduction to Professor Hackman’s recent research on teamwork, check out this Harvard Business Review article on “sand dune teams.”


Posted in Conflict, Distribution, Education, Positive Psychology, Situationist Sports, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of Altruism – Part 2

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 24, 2011

From :

Christopher Boehm, Steve Frank, and Christophe Boesch explore the biological basis of the evolution of cooperation, how and why societies organize to suppress the “free-rider” and how the ecology of societies influence the evolution of cooperation and altruism Series: “CARTA – Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny”

Posted in Altruism, Distribution, Evolutionary Psychology, Video | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

The Situation of Altruism

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 21, 2011


Explore the variety of approaches being used to understand the evolution of human altruism, how the mammalian brain contributes to the development of social behaviors and how the concepts of trade and markets apply to understanding the development of cooperation in humans.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Distribution, Video | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

The Disorderly Situation of Stereotyping

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 10, 2011

From Los Angeles Times:

Picture yourself in a well-kept room — pictures neatly hung on walls, books organized on a shelf, floors clear of junk. Now sit yourself in a room with crooked pictures, scattered books and dirty laundry on the floor. Feeling any different?

In the second room, you might be more apt to keep your distance from a person of another race, believe that Muslims are aggressive or think that gay people are creative, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science.

The idea, said researchers from Tilburg University in the Netherlands, is that people in messy environments tend to compensate for that disorder by categorizing people in their minds according to well-known stereotypes.

Testing the relationship between disorder and discrimination in real-life situations was no easy feat, said social psychologist Diederik Stapel, the study’s lead author. But he got lucky — the cleaners at the bustling Utrecht train station went on strike, leaving disorder in their wake.

“It looked like a terrible mess,” said study coauthor Siegwart Lindenberg, a cognitive sociologist. “Lots of paper cups, chewed-up pieces of pizza, napkins, apple cores — you name it — just lying around.”

It was the perfect setup. The two researchers canvassed the station, asking 40 travelers (all of them white) to fill out surveys about Muslims, homosexuals and Dutch people while in the messy train station. Respondents were asked to rate how accurate they thought both positive and negative stereotypes were for each group.

The researchers asked the travelers to sit down while filling out the survey, noting how far the survey-taker chose to sit from a man positioned at one end of the row. That man was either black or white.

When the strike ended a few days later, the researchers repeated the experiments in the newly tidy station.

The result: When the station was messy, travelers agreed with stereotypes — both positive and negative — about 10% more strongly. They also sat about 25% farther from a black man than they did from a white man.

To pinpoint whether it was disorder or dirtiness that heightened people’s affinity for stereotypes, the researchers went to an affluent neighborhood. They loosened pavement tiles, parked Stapel’s old red Subaru Legacy with two wheels on the sidewalk and left a bicycle lying on the ground, as if abandoned. They asked 47 passersby the same questions about Muslims, gays and Dutch people. They also asked people to donate to a “Money for Minorities” fund.

They repeated the experiment after replacing the tiles, reparking the car and righting the bicycle. Again, they found that people in the disorderly environment stereotyped more. They also gave less money to the minorities fund — 1.70 euros, on average, compared to 2.35 euros for people approached when the street was tidy.

Lab experiments further confirmed that when faced with images of chaos — be it a messy room or a random scattering of triangles and circles — volunteers rated themselves higher on a scale measuring their personal need for structure. When they were allowed to express stereotypical feelings immediately after seeing those disordered pictures, however, their “personal need for structure” scores were lower. Stereotyping satisfied that need, Stapel said.

“This need for order matters a lot more than we might have thought,” said [Situationist Contributor] Aaron Kay, a social psychologist at Duke University who was not involved in the study. Disorder pushes people to find more structure in their lives, he said, noting: “Fishermen who fish on more treacherous seas are more likely to believe in a spiritual God.”

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Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Abstracts, Distribution, Environment, Ideology, Implicit Associations, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology | 1 Comment »

Marjorie Kelly Speaks at Harvard Law

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 6, 2011

Marjorie Kelly, Senior Associate at the Tellus Institute, speaks today at Harvard Law School.  The event is sponsored by SICKLE (Jon Hanson’s Corporate Law Class),

Title: “What Comes Next? The demise of shareholder primacy and the seeds of new corporate design.”
When: Wednesday, April 6, 12:15-1:15 PM
Where: Langdell South

Here’s a bio of Marjorie Kelly:

Marjorie Kelly is a modern revolutionary who wants to democratize economics. She argues that our current economic system is an aristocracy run by corporations that pay shareholders as much as possible and employees as little as possible—while ignoring the public good. CEOs aren’t all bad guys, Kelly says, they’re just operating in a system that forces them to put profits above everything else. That’s what she aims to change with her groundbreaking book, The Divine Right of Capital, which offers ideas on how to move toward a more humane, democratic corporate design.

Kelly’s book is already a modern classic that reveals the mechanisms that lead capitalism to create social ills. She shows how the wealth gap, corporate welfare, and industrial pollution are merely symptoms; the real illness is shareholder primacy—the corporate drive to create more wealth for the rich, regardless of the cost. She says that 99 percent of “investing” is speculation benefiting the financial elite, not small investors.

Ordinary citizens can spur change, Kelly says, by pushing for reform on laws that govern the way corporations operate. “We must design a corporate system in which all economic rights are equally protected, not only the rights of shareholders,” Kelly says. To that end, she advocates two key areas of reform: requiring corporations to be responsible to the public good, and putting more wealth into the hands of those who generated it—the employees.

Kelly isn’t a dreamy-eyed idealist. She is the co-founder and editor of Business Ethics, a leading publication on socially responsible business, and a Missouri-born, third-generation entrepreneur (her grandfather started Anderson Tool & Die in his basement during the Depression). David Korten, author of When Corporations Rule the World, calls Kelly “our Thomas Paine for the new millennium.”

Related Situationist Posts:

Posted in Deep Capture, Distribution, Events, Law | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

SALMS Lecture – Tonight

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 29, 2011

Jon Hanson Evening Lecture and Reception

On Tuesday, March 29th, Professor Jon Hanson will give a lecture entitled “Law, Psychology, and Inequality” at 6PM in Harvard Law School’s Austin East.  A reception with free food and drink will follow!

Posted in Distribution, Events, Law, Legal Theory, Situationist Contributors | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Psychology of Inequality

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 25, 2011

Elaine McCardle wrote a terrific review of last month’s Fifth Annual PLMS Conference.  Her article is the spotlight piece on the Harvard Law School website and includes several excellent videos, photos, and links.  Here’s the story.

* * *

While equality is a fundamental principle of American law and the bedrock of the national psyche, inequality has actually increased in the past four decades in the distribution of wealth, power, opportunity, even health. Yet the topic of inequality has received relatively little attention from legal theorists, and, for the most part, it is ignored in the basic law school curriculum.

A conference last month at HLS, “The Psychology of Inequality,” presented by the Project on Law & Mind Sciences (PLMS), stepped into that vacuum, bringing together scholars, law students, and others to examine inequality from the standpoint of the latest research in social science, health science, and mind science, and to reflect on the implications of their findings for law. The HLS Student Association for Law and Mind Sciences (SALMS), together with a group of roughly 20 students, were instrumental in organizing the conference.

“Inequality matters in ways that are not commonly understood, including in how people see and make sense of the world,” saysJon Hanson, the Alfred Smart Professor of Law and Director of PLMS. “Indeed, the way people respond to instances of inequality – either by equalizing, or by rationalizing – appears to be a very significant factor in how they view markets, regulation, and many important policy and social issues. So when we engage in policy debates, mustering all our best arguments and evidence in favor of a given policy conclusion we shouldn’t be perplexed when our opponent doesn’t budge,” says Hanson. “Such recalcitrance on both sides of a discussion often reflects, not the inadequacy, but the irrelevance, of the reasons being exchanged. Behind it all may be a conflict between largely subconscious urges: some people would rather rationalize inequality while others lean toward equalizing.”

Hanson was one of more than a dozen scholars who spoke at the Feb. 26 conference, the fifth annual conference by PLMS, founded by Hanson six years ago to promote interdisciplinary exchange and collaboration between the mind sciences and the l

egal community. PMLS supports research, writing and conferences in order to dislodge the prevailing “dispositionist” approach of law – which holds that human beings, for the most part, make rational choices based on logical preferences – in favor of a “situationist approach.” Situationsim recognizes that social sciences and mind sciences, including social psychology, social cognition, and cognitive neuroscience, have repeatedly demonstrated that human behavior is influenced by countless factors ignored by the dispositionist approach, which collectively are known as “situation.”

Jaime Napier, an assistant professor of psychology at Yale University, presented her research on the ways in which high-status and low-status groups differ in their rationalizations of inequality. High-status people tend to place blame on individuals for their lot in life, while low-status people tend to see theirs as the natural order of things. Eric Knowles, an assistant professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine, discussed his theory of “malleable ideologies,” through which different groups with a same core ideology – say, “life is sacred” – can come to different outcomes on issues such as abortion or the death penalty. Adam Benforado ’05, a former student of Hanson’s and an assistant professor at the Earl Mach School of Law at Drexel University, presented on the mind-body connection in decision-making, including how seemingly innocuous environmental influences such as room temperature might have significant influence on decisions made by juries and judges. Ichiro Kawachi, a Professor of Social Epidemiology and Chair of the Social/Behavioral Sciences Department at the Harvard School of Public Health, discussed research showing that people of lower social status lead shorter, sicker lives, while other speakers discussed ways that social disparities influence health, how even young children favor high-status individuals, and the drive among humans to view the world as essentially fair.

In addition to national experts in the areas of health, psychology, and mind sciences, a number of HLS faculty contributed to the discussion from their areas of expertise in a panel discussion (see video below), including John Palfrey ’01, the Henry N. Ess III

Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources, an expert on the internet; Lucie White ’81, the Louis A. Horvitz Professor of Law, who specializes in poverty law and international economic and social rights; Robert C. Bordone ’97, the Thaddeus R. Beal Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program; Stella Burch Elias, a Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law and Andrew Woods ’07, a Climenko Fellow and Ph.D. candidate in politics at Cambridge University.

In that discussion, Hanson shared some provocative ideas. The good news, he said, is that humans have an egalitarian impulse, so that inequality causes them discomfort; some resolve the conflict by redistributing so that there is more equality, while others rationalize with reasons that explain the inequality. The bad news, Hanson added, is that it’s not terribly hard to move someone away from the equalizing impulse.

“When you experience fear and threat – personal threat, group threat, system threat – you become a hardcore dispositionist,” said Hanson, snapping his fingers, “just like that!”

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More here. Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Distribution, Education, Embodied Cognition, Events, Ideology, Implicit Associations, Legal Theory, Situationist Contributors, System Legitimacy | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Gender Quotas on Company Boards

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 22, 2011

When: Wed, March 23, 12:00pm – 1:30pm

Where: Langdell South (map)

Sponsor: The Harvard Women’s Law Association in cooperation with Prof. Hanson’s Corporations class.

Description: Women on Board? A discussion on gender stereotyping in business and the pros & cons of gender quotas on company boards March 23, 12pm-1.20pm Langdell South.

Speakers: Prof. Amy Cuddy (Harv Business School) and Prof. Darren Rosenblum (Pace Law School)

Question: A mere 15% of board members of companies are women, the European average is 11.7%, in China it is approx. 7% and in Japan it is even lower. What are the reasons for this disparity and what are measures against it? Some countries, notably Norway, have taken the step to mandate gender quotas for boards of companies. Other countries are debating similar laws. Are gender quotas for boards of companies the right tool to address the problem, or do they lead to unintended consequences?

The discussion will address these questions and the underlying sociopsychological issues.

Co-sponsored by the Harvard Association for Law and Business, the HLS Advocates for Human Rights, the HLS Student Association for Law and Mind Sciences, ACLU and the Harvard Journal of Law & Gender.

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Related Situationist Posts:

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


Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 18, 2011

From Eureka Alert:

Along with the excitement and anticipation that come with heading off to college, freshmen often find questions of belonging lurking in the background: Am I going to make friends? Are people going to respect me? Will I fit in?

Those concerns are trickier for black students and others who are often stereotyped or outnumbered on college campuses. They have good reason to wonder whether they will belong – worries that can result in lower grades and a sense of alienation.

But when black freshmen participated in an hour-long exercise designed by Stanford psychologists to show that everyone – no matter what their race or ethnicity – has a tough time adjusting to college right away, their grades went up and the minority achievement gap shrank by 52 percent. And years later, those students said they were happier and healthier than some of their black peers who didn’t take part in the exercise.

“We all experience small slights and criticisms in coming to a new school” said Greg Walton, an assistant professor of psychology whose findings are slated for publication in the March 18 edition of Science.

“Being a member of a minority group can make those events have a larger meaning,” Walton said. “When your group is in the minority, being rejected by a classmate or having a teacher say something negative to you could seem like proof that you don’t belong, and maybe evidence that your group doesn’t belong either. That feeling could lead you to work less hard and ultimately do less well.”

Walton’s paper, co-authored by psychology and education Professor Geoffrey Cohen, reports that the grade point averages of black students who participated in the exercise went up by almost a third of a grade between their sophomore and senior years.

And 22 percent of those students landed in the top 25 percent of their graduating class, while only about 5 percent of black students who didn’t participate in the exercise did that well. At the same time, half of the black test subjects who didn’t take part in the exercise were in the bottom 25 percent of their class. Only 33 percent of black students who went through the exercise did that poorly.

Walton and Cohen split about 90 second-semester freshmen at a top American university into “treatment” and “control” groups. About half of the students in each group were black; the others were white.

All the test subjects – who were unaware of the full purpose of the exercise – were told the researchers were trying to understand students’ college experiences.

Those in the treatment group read surveys and essays written by upperclassmen of different races and ethnicities describing the difficulties they had fitting in during their first year at school. The subjects in the control group read about experiences unrelated to a sense of belonging.

The upperclassmen had reported feeling intimidated by professors, being snubbed by new friends and ignored in their quest for help early in their college careers. But they all emphasized that, with time, their confidence grew, they made good friends and they developed strong relationships with professors.

“Everybody feels they are different freshman year from everybody else, when really in at least some ways we are all pretty similar,” one older student – a black woman – was quoted as saying. “Since I realized that, my experience . . . has been almost 100 percent positive.”

The test subjects in the treatment group were then asked to write essays about why they thought the older college students’ experiences changed. The researchers asked them to illustrate their essays with stories of their own lives, and then rewrite their essays into speeches that would be videotaped and could be shown to future students. The point was to have the test subjects internalize and personalize the idea that adjustments are tough for everyone.

“We didn’t want them to think of difficulties as unique to them or specific to their racial group,” Walton said of the black test subjects. “We wanted them to realize that some of those bad things that happen are just part of the transition that everyone goes through when they go off to college.”

The researchers tracked their test subjects during their sophomore, junior and senior years. While they found the social-belonging exercise had virtually no impact on white students, it had a significant impact on black students.

Along with improved GPAs by their senior year, the black students who were in the treatment group reported a greater sense of belonging compared to their peers in the control group. They also said they were happier and were less likely to spontaneously think about negative racial stereotypes. And they seemed healthier: 28 percent said they visited a doctor recently, as compared to 60 percent in the control group.

Despite the impressive outcomes, Walton and Cohen say the social-belonging exercise isn’t a quick fix to closing the academic race gap – a problem fed by a host of issues tied to diversity, socioeconomics and public policy. But their research shows how addressing feelings of belonging can improve student performance. And similar exercises may succeed in addressing concerns about belonging among other groups, like first-generation college students, immigrants and new employees.

“This intervention alone is not the answer, but we know more about what types of things help,” Cohen said. “The intervention is like turning on a light switch. It seems miraculous when the lights go on, but it all hinges on the infrastructure that’s already in place.”

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Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Abstracts, Distribution, Education, Implicit Associations, Situationist Contributors | 2 Comments »

Felix Warneken at Harvard Law School

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 28, 2011

Today, the HLS Student Association for Law and Mind Sciences (SALMS) is hosting a talk, “The Roots of Altruism – Evidence from Children and Chimpanzees,” by Harvard University professor Felix Warneken in Pound 100 from 12:00 – 1:00.

In addition to teaching psychology at Harvard, Professor Warneken studies the roots of altruism by conducting experiments with chimps and infants.  Free burritos will be provided!

For more information, e-mail

Posted in Distribution, Evolutionary Psychology, Morality | Leave a Comment »

John Palfrey’s PLMS Conference Reflections

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 27, 2011

The brilliant John Palfrey posted some of his reflections about Saturday’s PLMS conference on his blog.  Here are some excerpts.

* * *

Today, Prof. Jon Hanson is hosting the Fifth Conference on Law and Mind Sciences at Harvard Law School.  The idea, dating back to 2007, has been to “introduce to scholars and students of law and legal theory intriguing, relevant research from social psychology, social cognition, public health, and related disciplines and to stimulate a productive, interdisciplinary exchange between scholars across these fields.”  It’s a rare and fun opportunity to hear from a broad range of mind scientists about their work and how it might intersect with ours in the field of law.

For instance, Dr. Laura Kubzansky (Harvard School of Public Health) discussed the relationship between stress and resilience.  (One data point that jumped out very clearly: the biggest contributor to some terrible health effects is work-related stress.)

Dr. Kristina Olson (Yale psychology department), an expert on children’s social cognitive development, spoke directly to some of the issues that we wonder about in the Youth and Media Policy group at the Berkman Center with respect to social inequalities.  Very young children (aged 3 – 5), her research shows, have an understanding of social inequality.  Even three year olds are more likely to presume that whites in America are more likely to be rich than black Americans (whether or not the children asked were white or black).  Another interesting finding of Dr. Olson’s was the likelihood of small children, each of whom has been allocated a stuffed animal to give to one person, to give the gift to a person who had allocated resources more equitably than others.

Arnold Ho (soon-to-be-minted ph.d. in psychology at Harvard) works on social dominance theory.  He introduced the theory to those of us previously ignorant of it (myself included) and showed how new research on the biased perception of biracials (Asian-White and Black-White biracials, in his work) may serve a hierarchy-increasing function.

There were many additional wonderful presentations and take-aways, especially in Jon Hanson’s own closing lecture.  My three thoughts at the end of the day: 1) how fun it is to feel allowed to be a student again, where the topic on the table is relevant to my area of work, but is not something about which I know the first thing; 2) how much more we can learn about kids and technology if we study the methods and the learning of mind sciences researchers; and 3) how valuable Jon Hanson’s work on the way we make policy judgments generally is for anyone studying the law or making normative judgments about how to order society.

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Read the entire post on John Palfrey’s outstanding blog here.

Posted in Blogroll, Distribution, Education | 2 Comments »

SALMS Liveblogs PLMS Conference

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 27, 2011

Read James Wang’s excellent notes from yesterday’s terrific conference here.

Posted in Distribution, Events, Ideology, Implicit Associations, Law, Legal Theory, Politics | 1 Comment »

Harvard Law Record on Tomorrow’s PLMS Conference

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 25, 2011

From the Harvard Law Record:

Legal scholars have long been borrowing from economists to explain legal rules and doctrine. Examining the law through the lens of social psychological research is a more novel approach, one which will be front and center at the fifth annual Conference on Law and Mind Sciences at Harvard Law School. On Feb. 26 in Austin North, academics and students will discuss the latest research on the psychological causes and consequences of social inequality and its application to law and policy.

The conference, entitled “The Psychology of Inequality,” is an all-day event sponsored by the Project on Law and Mind Sciences (PLMS) and will feature four panels comprised of mostly mind scientists and several legal scholars.

“The larger ambition of the conference is to bring research of social scientists, particularly mind scientists, who are thinking about inequality to a legal audience,” said Prof. Jon Hanson, the director of PLMS.

Hanson has spearheaded planning for the conference, aided by his assistant, Carol Igoe, and about 30 law students, many of whom are part of the Student Association for Law and Mind Sciences (SALMS), which was formed in Fall 2009. Part of the mission of the conference is to facilitate relationships between mind scientists and legal scholars and students interested in social science research – a cross-section of the legal community that is expanding, Hanson said.

“There is a growing sense that we are not going to understand our problems or how to solve them until we better understand ourselves,” he said. “Much legal theory in the late 20th century assumed that people are rational actors, and that our problems will be solved when the law gets out of the way of individuals pursuing their own preferences. Those assumptions are giving way to a sense that we’re not who we’ve imagined ourselves to be and that our problems are partially a consequence of that misunderstanding.”

SALMS President Matty McFeely ‘12 said it makes sense for law students to think about the implications of social psychological research as they embark upon their legal careers.

“The insights into human nature that are provided by psychologists are crucial for people who are going to go on to be future lawyers and policymakers, so they can make laws and judgments that are in the best interest of the people they are going to serve,” McFeely said.

Research about inequality is relevant to almost every legal issue – even those that arise in first-year courses like Torts, Contracts, and Criminal Law, “Inequality and concerns about inequality are fundamental to the law,” Hanson said. “I expect we will learn a lot at the conference about why people understand equality the way we do, why it matters.”

The conference is free and open to the public. Because space and food are limited, prospective attendees are highly encouraged to register online at

Posted in Distribution, Events, Situationist Contributors | 1 Comment »

Fifth PLMS Conference Agenda

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 23, 2011

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tentative Schedule

8:45 – 9:15: Continental Breakfast

9:20 – 9:35: Opening Remarks (“The Psychology of Inequality”)

9:40 – 11:00: Session 1

Inequality and Health Outcomes:

•    9:40 – 10:05: Ichiro Kawachi, “Is Inequality Damaging to Population Health”:

More than two decades of research in the health sciences has shown that social status affects health. Studies in humans and non-human primates demonstrate that individuals lower on the social hierarchy end up with shorter, sicker lives. In this presentation I will review the major theories put forward to explain the association between social status and health. For simplicity, I will use income as the indicator of social status. The major theories are: a) the absolute income hypothesis, b) the relative income hypothesis, and c) the relative rank hypothesis. I will discuss empirical evidence for each theory.

•    10:10 – 10:35: Laura Kubzansky, “Stress and Reslience: Pathways to Social Disparities in Health”:

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

•    10:40 – 11:00: Q&A

11:05 – 12:55: Session 2

Psychology 1:

•    11:05 – 11:30: Kristina Olson, “Young Children’s Understanding of Social Inequality”:

I will discuss recent research indicating that even young children (aged 3-5 years), have an understanding of social inequality. In my lab and others, researchers are finding astounding evidence that children routinely notice social inequality, they favor individuals and groups who are high in social status, and they often behave in ways that perpetuate inequalities between individuals and groups. I will describe these results, their implications, and will describe other behaviors children engage in that might offset some of these biases to uphold or perpetuate the status quo.

•    11:35 – 12:00: Arnold Ho, “The Perception of Biracials and the Maintenance of Group-Based Social Hierarchies”:

Social Dominance Theory (SDT) begins with the basic observation that group-based social hierarchy is a ubiquitous and stable feature of human social organization, and provides a general framework for understanding the persistence of inequality. In this talk, I will provide a brief overview of SDT, and focus on new research documenting how the biased perception of biracials may serve a hierarchy-enhancing function.

•    12:00 – 12:25: Amy Cuddy, “Outcomes of Warmth and Competence”:

I will present a new perspective on stereotyping and discrimination, based on experimental and correlational findings, that helps to integrate the vast research literature on this topic and provides a unifying conceptual framework. Stereotypes cohere into fundamental dimensions of warmth and competence that combine to create specific patterns of emotion and behaviors toward members of various social groups. These stereotype dimensions and the distinct forms of discrimination they foster apply to a wide range of groups, including mothers, ethnic minorities, older people, and people of different nationalities. In contrast to past theories that assumed stereotypes of women, minorities, and foreigners are predominately negative and hostile, these findings show how many groups are stereotyped ambivalently – as competent but cold or as warm but incompetent. These ambivalent stereotypes create more complex, but predictable patterns of discrimination. Knowing which form of ambivalence a group faces can help us to better understand when and how stereotypes are likely to be applied and, therefore, where to concentrate our efforts to combat discrimination.

•    12:30 – 12:55: Q&A

1:00 – 1:45: Lunch

1:30 – 1:45: At end of lunch, special announcements regarding PLMS; SALMS; Online Experiment Clearinghouse

1:50 – 3:45: Session 3

Psychology 2:

•    1:50 – 2:15: Aaron Kay, “The Impact of Social Inequality and Fairness Beliefs on Long-Term Goal Pursuit”:

According to a huge body of literature within social, personality, and organizational psychology, people are motivated to believe that their social worlds operate fairly — that is, that people get what they deserve and deserve what they get. Indeed, even people most at risk for unfair treatment — that is, members of socially disadvantaged groups, such as those low in SES and minority group members — often believe that the world largely operates in a fair and legitimate manner. Are there any benefits to believing that an obviously unfair world is reasonably fair? For those who typically perpetrate or benefit from injustice — members of advantaged groups — the benefits of such beliefs are easy to understand.However, for those who typically suffer from injustice the benefits of believing in societal fairness are less obvious. This raises an intriguing question: What are specific functions, if any, that these beliefs serve for members of disadvantaged groups? In the current research, we hypothesize that the belief in societal fairness offers a specific self-regulatory benefit for members of socially disadvantaged groups, allowing them to more confidently commit to long-term goals. Five studies support this hypotheses, indicating that members of disadvantaged groups are more likely than members of advantaged social groups to calibrate their pursuit of long-term goals to their beliefs about societal fairness.

•    2:20 – 2:45: Eric Knowles, “The Malleability of Ideology”:

Theories of legitimization typically posit that individuals engage in a process of “assortative endorsement,” seeking out and embracing ideologies that match their intergroup motivations. Thus, individuals high in Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) tend to gravitate toward ideologies that enhance levels of intergroup inequality; those low in SDO, in contrast, tend to embrace hierarchy-attenuating ideologies. Whereas assortative endorsement assumes that ideological content is fixed, I propose that many ideologies are highly “malleable.” Although certain features of malleable ideologies remain constant and consensual, other aspects of their meaning are actively construed to meet particular intergroup agendas. I discuss several malleable ideologies, including colorblindness, diversity, and patriotism. Finally, I address implications of the present perspective for understanding sophisticated forms of hierarchy-enhancement, ideological cooptation, and the manner in which individuals compete over the meanings of crucial ideologies.

•    2:50 – 3:15: Jaime Napier, “Essentialism as Rationalization of Inequality among Disadvantaged Group Members”:

System justification theory posits that beliefs that the system is legitimate can serve epistemic and existential needs to manage uncertainty and threat. Members of advantaged and disadvantaged social groups, however, differ in their levels of conflict between needs to feel good about the system and needs to feel good about the group and the self. I propose that differential levels of conflict among high vs. low status group members can lead to different system-justifying beliefs. Specifically, I predicted that high status group members will tend to endorse system-serving beliefs that assume controllability on the part of the self and others (e.g., personal responsibility attributions). Low status group members, by contrast, will instead justify inequality by viewing it as a reflection of the natural order of things. That is, when needs to justify inequality are high, high status group members enhance themselves (and derogate others) on controllable actions, whereas low status group members will derogate themselves (and enhance others) on innate competence. I tested these propositions in the context of racial and gender inequality. Results from five studies converge to support my predictions. By removing the locus of control from the self, group, and system, naturalistic rationalizations of the status quo can serve to reduce the conflicts between ego-, group-, and system-justifying needs.

•    3:20 – 3:45: Q&A

3:50 – 4:05: Coffee Break

4:10 – 5:55: Session 4

Law & Policy:

•    4:10 – 4:35: Adam Benforado, “Fair and Balanced: The Inequality of Embodied Justice”:

Recent research from embodied cognition provides evidence that the body is involved in the constitution of the mind. In this talk, I will discuss current experimental work examining how people’s intuitions about fairness and justice may be linked to sensorimotor experiences of balance, evenness, and symmetry. Although the connection is reflected in many of our legal structures and processes, I suggest that it may be deeply problematic.

•    4:40 – 5:05: Jon Hanson, “Inequality Dissonance and Policy Attitudes”

A great deal of everyday policy commentary and legal-academic debate seems to turn on conflicting attitudes toward markets and regulation. But where do those attitudes come from? Reason, logic, and experience? Based on research I’ve been doing with Mark Yeboah for the last several years, my talk will take up that question and provide evidence suggesting that nonconscious motives — including the desire to assuage the dissonance created by salient inequalities — play a causal role in shaping policy attitudes.

•    5:10 – 5:25: Q&A

•    5:30 – 5:55: Large Panel Discussion – Presenters and Faculty Conferees

o    Bob Bordone
o    Stella Elias
o    John Palfrey
o    Lucie White
o    Andrew Woods

5:55 – 6:00: Closing Remarks

Posted in Distribution, Events | 2 Comments »

1 Week From Today!

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 19, 2011

Learn more here. Register here.

Posted in Distribution, Events | Leave a Comment »

2 Weeks from Today!

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 12, 2011

Learn more here.  Register here.

Posted in Distribution, Education, Events, Situationist Contributors | 1 Comment »

Harvard Women’s Law Association Conference

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 10, 2011


Health & Equality

There is a burgeoning awareness that access to health care is an equality issue.  With inadequate resources to access basic health services, women around the globe are impaired from functioning at the highest level.  At the same time, health disparities perpetuate other disparities, leaving women who lack these resources behind their counterparts elsewhere.  Women’s reproductive health needs make this question all the more stark.  Our panel brings together leading experts in legal and nonlegal fields, who have a holistic perspective on health that grounds legal answers in community-based approaches.

Equality & Economics

Economic inequality influences people’s choices and shapes their worldviews.  As such, it is necessary to continually interrogate the changing role of women in the economy. This panel brings together women who have broken through social and cultural barriers to begin to equalize economic environments.  Coming from different fields in the public and private sector, each panelist has a unique perspective on what it means to equalize the workplace, as well as the broader economy.

Equality on Both Sides of the Bench

Women represent a rapidly rising percentage of litigators and judges.  However, courtrooms remain one of the least gender-balanced arenas.  In this panel, we have brought together leading judges and litigators who have been experience in breaking through inequality on both sides of the bench. We hope that a conversation between litigators and judges will lead to a broad and fruitful discussion about what it means to be a woman in the courtroom, and how we can work to build off of their foundational work to eliminate gender discrimination in courtroom settings.

Equality for Girls

When envisioning the future we want to see, it is imperative to think about how the next generation of women will be educated and nurtured.  Continual efforts to eliminate gender discrimination in the schools and on the streets for girls around the world represent the best chance to positively affect the change we wish to see.  Our girls panel brings together the women who are doing exactly this: influencing the lives of young women around the globe through legal, social, economic, and cultural means.

More details here.

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The Costs of Unemployment

Posted by Adam Benforado on February 4, 2011

It’s week four of my Law and Mind Sciences Seminar, which means students are reading articles about hedonic adaptation.

In reviewing the assigned papers, I was reminded (in a footnote!) of an interesting study by Richard E. Lucas, Andrew Clark, Yannis Georgellis, and Ed Diener from several years ago on how becoming unemployed can alter the set point for life satisfaction.  As the authors explain in the abstract:

According to set-point theories of subjective well-being, people react to events but then return to baseline levels of happiness and satisfaction over time. We tested this idea by examining reaction and adaptation to unemployment in a 15-year longitudinal study of more than 24,000 individuals living in Germany.  In accordance with set-point theories, individuals reacted strongly to unemployment and then shifted back toward their baseline levels of life satisfaction.  However, on average, individuals did not completely return to their former levels of satisfaction, even after they became reemployed.  Furthermore, contrary to expectations from adaptation theories, people who had experienced unemployment in the past did not react any less negatively to a new bout of unemployment than did people who had not been previously unemployed.  These results suggest that although life satisfaction is moderately stable over time, life events can have a strong influence on long-term levels of subjective well-being.

The research is, of course, particularly troubling given our current economic climate.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics from December 2010, 14.5 Americans are currently unemployed — 9.4% of the U.S. labor force. And certain populations are being hit particularly hard, with 15.8% of blacks unemployed and 13.0% of Hispanics.  (As an aside, Google has an impressive charting function that allows you to graph unemployment data by state over time for comparison purposes.  Check it out here.)

What’s to be done?

I hope my students have some answers, but with a largely 3L class trying desperately to line up post-graduation jobs in a terrible legal job market, their minds may be elsewhere.

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Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Distribution, Life | 1 Comment »

Upstream on Environmental Health and Justice

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 9, 2011

Upstream website recently published the above sample of interviews that makes clear how situational or environmental factors are contributing to disease and inequality (Upstream blog here).

Some related Situationist videos:

Posted in Distribution, Education, Environment, Public Policy, Video | Leave a Comment »

200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes

Posted by Adam Benforado on January 8, 2011

I’m getting excited about the Fifth Law and Mind Sciences Conference: “The Psychology of Inequality” that will be held at Harvard Law School on February 26, 2011.

It promises to be a great event.  (As a reminder, you can register for the conference here.)

To whet your appetite, check out this amazing animated graph constructed by Dr. Hans Rosling tracking changes in global health over the last 200 years by country.  It’s well worth the four-minute watch!

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see

Posted in Distribution, History, Video | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

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