Archive for the ‘Education’ Category
Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 19, 2012
Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 9, 2012
Pierre Chandonm and Brian Wansink recently posted their paper “Is Food Marketing Making Us Fat? A Multi-Disciplinary Review” on SSRN. Here’s the abstract.
Whereas everyone recognizes that increasing obesity rates worldwide are driven by a complex set of interrelated factors, the marketing actions of the food industry are often singled out as one of the main culprits. But how exactly is food marketing making us fat? To answer this question, we review evidence provided by studies in marketing, nutrition, psychology, economics, food science, and related disciplines that have examined the links between food marketing and energy intake but have remained largely disconnected. Starting with the most obtrusive and most studied marketing actions, we explain the multiple ways in which food prices (including temporary price promotions) and marketing communication (including branding and nutrition and health claims) influence consumption volume. We then study the effects of less conspicuous marketing actions which can have powerful effects on eating behavior without being noticed by consumers. We examine the effects on consumption of changes in the food’s quality (including its composition, nutritional and sensory properties) and quantity (including the range, size and shape of the packages and portions in which it is available). Finally, we review the effects of the eating environment, including the availability, salience and convenience of food, the type, size and shape of serving containers, and the atmospherics of the purchase and consumption environment. We conclude with research and policy implications.
Download the paper for free here.
Related Situationist posts:
- The Marketing Situation of Doritos (FTC Complaint)
- The Benefit of Knowing Your Eating Sins
- Big Calories Come in Small Packages
For more on the situation of eating, see Situationist contributors Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosfion’s law review article Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America. For a listing of numerousSituaitonist posts on the situational sources of obesity, click here.
Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 21, 2011
From the Harvard Gazette:
Steven Pinker wants you to know that violence has declined.
Despite civil wars in Africa and the Mideast, ongoing strife in Afghanistan, and the barrage of local and national crimes reported on the nightly news, people are living in a much more peaceful era than they might think.
“During the thousands of years humans spent as hunter-gatherers, the average rate of violent death was higher than the worst years of World War II, and about five times higher than the rate of death from all wars, genocides, and human-made famines in the 20th century,” said Pinker, the Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology and Harvard College Professor.
“Believe it or not … today we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species’ existence,” wrote Pinker in his latest book, “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined,” which takes its title from that age-old dichotomy: the devil on one shoulder, whispering temptation, enticing us to act on sinister urges, and the angel on the other shoulder, holding us back with caution and consequence.
“Human nature is extraordinarily complex, and includes both bellicose and peaceable motives. Outbreaks of violence or peace depend on which is more engaged in a given time and place,” said Pinker. “Among the better angels of our nature — the psychological faculties that caused violence to decline — are self-control, empathy, and a sense of fairness.”
But, Pinker added, “My most surprising discovery was that the most important better angel may be reason: the cognitive faculties with which we understand the physical and social world. It was an ironic discovery, given that cognition and language are my research specialty.”
What historical forces have been engaging these better angels? Pinker cites “the outsourcing of deterrence and revenge to a disinterested third party, including the police and court system; the growth of commerce, which replaces zero-sum plunder with positive-sum trade and reciprocity; the forces of cosmopolitanism, such as mobility and literacy, which encourage people to take other vantage points and hence consider their interests; and the growth of education, public discourse, science, and abstract reasoning, which discourage parochial tribalism and encourage people to treat violence as a problem to be solved rather than as a contest to be won.”
To put this all in context, Pinker shows that homicide rates in Europe have declined 30-fold since the Middle Ages. Human sacrifice, slavery, punitive torture, and mutilation have been abolished around the world. And, he said, “Great powers and developed countries have stopped going to war. And in the world as a whole, deaths in warfare may be at an all-time low.”
In his research, Pinker’s favorite discovery was learning that “every category of violence — from deaths in war to the spanking of children to the number of motion pictures in which animals were harmed — had declined.” That, he admitted, “makes the present less sinister, the past less innocent.”
He believes that “forms of institutionalized violence that can be eliminated by the stroke of a pen — such as capital punishment, the criminalization of homosexuality, the callous treatment of farm animals, and the corporal punishment of children in schools — will continue to decline, because decision-making elites will continue to be swept by the humanitarian tide that has carried them along for centuries.”
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“. . . . ‘Better Angels’ made me appreciate the forces of civilization and enlightenment which have made our lives so much more peaceable than those of our ancestors: the police, a court system, democracy, education, literacy, commerce, science, the Enlightenment, and the forms of secular humanism that grew out of it — which are easy to take for granted.”
Related Situationist posts:
- The ‘Turban Effect’,
- Jim Sidanius “Terror, Intergroup Violence, and the Law,
- Steven Pinker Speaks at Harvard Law School
- Another Century of Genocide?,
- The Situation of Violence,
- The Neuro-Situation of Violence and Empathy,
- My Lai Massacre
- Situational Sources of the Holocaust
- Lessons Learned from the Abu Ghraib Horrors,
- The Bush Frame: Us vs. Them; Good vs. Evil; Intentions vs. Consequences,
- Why Torture? Because It Feels Good (at least to “Us”),
- 25 Million Years of Us vs. Them, and
- New Study Looks at the Roots of Empathy,
One series of posts was devoted to the situational sources of war.
- Part I and Part II of the series included portions of an article co-authored by Daniel Kahneman and Jonathan Renshon, titled “Why Hawks Win.”
- Part III reproduced an op-ed written by Situationist friend Dan Gilbert on July 24, 2006.
- Part IV and Part V in the series contained the two halves of an essay written by Situationist Contributor, Jon Hanson within the week following 9/11.
- Part VI contains an op-ed written by Situationist Contributor John Jost on October 1, 2001, “Legitimate Responses to Illegitimate Acts,” which gives special emphasis to the role of system justification.
- Part VII includes a video entitled “Resisting the Drums of War.” The film was created and narrated by psychologist Roy J. Eidelson, Executive Director of the Solomon Asch Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
To review a larger sample of posts on the causes and consequences of human conflict, click here.
Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 11, 2011
From Eureka Alert:
Perceptions of peer drinking of alcohol may be the strongest predictor of excessive alcohol use among college students according to new research by Clayton Neighbors, a professor and director of the social psychology program in the department of psychology at the University of Houston (UH).
Neighbors is the principal investigator for a $2.8 million grant funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) titled, “Social Norms and Alcohol Prevention (SNAP)” to address problem drinking among college students. The five-year study involves 2,000 UH students and three universities, including UH as the primary site of the research study, Loyola Marymount University and the University of Washington.
“College students drink more alcohol than any other segment in the population, leading at times to negative consequences from missing class, risky sexual behavior, depression, driving under the influence, trouble with authorities, injuries and even fatalities,” Neighbors said. “We have established in previous research studies that students overestimate drinking by their peers, and that influences their own drinking. If you can change those perceptions, you can change their drinking.”
The research study starts in January 2012 and will collect campus-wide norms of drinking behavior by screening 2,000 UH students. The students will be invited to participate in the study by e-mail and asked to take a brief computer-based survey to report their demographic characteristics, personality traits and typical drinking behavior, and related experiences. Students who meet the criteria for the study will be asked back to participate in a longer battery of questions. Information gathered from this survey will be used to develop personalized normative feedback (PNF), a brief individualized intervention whereby the students are given feedback in person regarding their own drinking, their perceptions of other students’ drinking and other students’ actual drinking.
“Most students actually drink no more than three or four drinks per week. But most students think their peers are drinking much more than that and their own drinking is based in part on their exaggerated perceptions of their peers’ drinking. Students drink what they perceive to be a ‘normal’ amount, but most overestimate the actual “normal” amount. Students also overestimate how much their peers gamble.” Neighbors said. “The extent to which you have these exaggerated perceptions, the more likely you are to engage in heavy behavioral problem drinking, gambling or whatever the behavior is, so that’s an area we think about in terms of intervention. We have a chance to change the behavior and also inform people of what the actual normal behavior is, so we can give them real factual, truthful information about their peers. We show them what is reality, with the hope of bringing down the problem behavior.”
Neighbors notes this study is unique in that it builds on previous research studies and refines the measure of perceptions of drinking in college students to better understand what social and individual factors lead to their drinking. The overarching goal of the proposed research is to improve the understanding of why, for whom, and under what conditions personalized normative feedback is most effective. “If you are going to use social influence interventions, you really go to know who these people care about,” Neighbors said. “That’s what we’re suggesting, and that is what this data will tell us at the end of five years.”
Image from Flickr.
Related Situationist posts:
Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 20, 2011
Vodpod videos no longer available.
The documentary explores how the media’s misrepresentation of women has led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence. It will premiere in the US tonight at 9pm ET.
Related Situationist posts:
- Sarah Haskins on “Ladyfriend” Stereotypes,
- Selling Products With Sexism,
- Hey Dove! Talk to YOUR parent!,
- Hillary Clinton, the Halo Effect, and Women’s Catch-22,
- Barbie Commercials Across the Decades and the Implications on Female Identity and Objectification,
- “Shades of Fairness and the Marketing of Prejudice,”
- “The Marketing Situation of Children,”
- Sexism: The Worst Part Is Not Knowing,
- Sexual Harassment at Wal-Mart?,
- The Situation of Sexual Harassment,
- “The Situation of Objectification,”
- Sian Beilock and Allen McConnell on Stereotype Threat
- “Women’s Situational Bind,”
- “The Situation of Body Image,”
- The Gendered Situation of Math, Humanities, and Romance
- “The Nerdy, Gendered Situation of Computer Science.”
- “The Gendered Situation of Chess,”
- “The Situation of Gender-Science Stereotypes,”
- “The Situation of Gender and Science,”
- “The Gendered Situation of Science & Math,”
- “Gender-Imbalanced Situation of Math, Science, and Engineering,”
- “Sex Differences in Math and Science,”
- “Women’s Situation in Economics,”
- “Spas and Girls,” and
- “Fitting in and Sizing Up,”
Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 13, 2011
On Joining the Harvard Law Faculty:
On Life After the Bench:
On Being a Passionate Advocate:
On Women and the Law:
Insights from the Federal Bench:
Posted by Adam Benforado on September 4, 2011
As a number of Situationist contributors have chronicled, bringing research from psychology and neuroscience to legal problems has been met with quite a lot of resistance over the years. One of the major impediments has been that this research often tells us things about ourselves and our system that we do not want to hear.
That said, there have been some success stories and it is interesting to think about the particular circumstances that brought them about. The eyewitness identification revolution is just such an example and, as I’ve argued in a recent article, I think the growing advances in this regard have a lot to do with the ability of eyewitness identification researchers “to apply the insights in concrete ways that do not entirely destabilize or threaten the system”:
In a number of cases, legal scholars have managed to negate the anxiety and discomfort entailed in research that calls into question the legitimacy of our existing institutions, structures, or process of justice, by offering the findings cautiously (such that the footings of our legal system are shaken, but not irreparaly cracked) and by translating studies into readily implementable changes that police departments, courts, and others can implement without throwing their operations into disarray. For example, researchers challenging naïve models of how memory works and suggesting that existing eyewitness identifications were deeply flawed, were subsequently able to offer a set of reforms shown to significantly increase identification reliability, including introducing sequential lineups as an alternative to simultaneous lineups, choosing foils that all match the witness’s initial description of the perpetrator, and having police officers use open-ended questions rather than leading ones.
The practical results have been impressive. In 1999, the U.S. Department of Justice issued an 8000-word national guide on the collection and preservation of eyewitness evidence. Some major police departments, like those in Denver and Dallas, have taken aggressive steps to combat the problem. And in mid-August, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a sweeping 134-page decision that honestly acknowledged the scope and gravity of the problem:
Study after study revealed a troubling lack of reliability in eyewitness identifications. From social science research to the review of actual police lineups, from laboratory experiments to DNA exonerations, the record proves that the possibility of mistaken identification is real. Indeed, it is now widely known that eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions across the country
As a result, the Court ordered judges to consider numerous problematic factors that can impact of the reliability of witness identifications and to inform jurors of the risks of misidentification.
New Jersey is a leader in the area of criminal law and the hope is that this decision will have a cascading effect.
I am hopeful that the evidence has just become too overwhelming to ignore and that national change is on the horizon. In the last three decades, there have been more than 2,000 studies on eyewitness identifications and the best estimates suggest that roughly a third of the 75,000 annual eyewitness identifications turn out to be wrong. Indeed, University of Virginia Law Professor Brandon L. Garrett has found that there were 190 mistaken eyewitness identifications out of the first 250 DNA exonerations.
Those are shocking statistics, but, in truth, the battle for meaningful reform has a long way to go. The U.S. has more than 16,000 independent law enforcement agencies that deal with eyewitness identifications and many of them are still doing things exactly as they have always done things. The Supreme Court is set to take up its first eyewitness identification case in 34 years this November, but it’s on a limited issue and presents a poor case for the type of sweeping national agenda-setting that is necessary to truly protect the accused.
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Related Situationist posts:
Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 29, 2011
Physicist Geoffrey West has found that simple, mathematical laws govern the properties of cities — that wealth, crime rate, walking speed and many other aspects of a city can be deduced from a single number: the city’s population. In this mind-bending talk from TEDGlobal he shows how it works and how similar laws hold for organisms and corporations.
Related Situationist posts:
- The Unequal Situation of Seperation
- Some Situational Sources of Longer Life
- Nicholas Christakis on the Situation of Epidemics
- The Stressful Situation of Disease
- Inequality and the Unequal Situation of Mental and Physical Health
- The Situation of Handguns on Urban Streets-Abstract
- “Innovative Policy: Zoning for Health,”
- “The Situation of Social Networks,” and
- “Social Networks.”
Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 9, 2011
From New York Times:
Over the past 50 years, we’ve seen a number of gigantic policies produce disappointing results — policies to reduce poverty, homelessness, dropout rates, single-parenting and drug addiction. Many of these policies failed because they were based on an overly simplistic view of human nature. They assumed that people responded in straightforward ways to incentives. Often, they assumed that money could cure behavior problems.
Fortunately, today we are in the middle of a golden age of behavioral research. Thousands of researchers are studying the way actual behavior differs from the way we assume people behave. They are coming up with more accurate theories of who we are, and scores of real-world applications.
* * *
Yet in the middle of this golden age of behavioral research, there is a bill working through Congress that would eliminate the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences. This is exactly how budgets should not be balanced — by cutting cheap things that produce enormous future benefits.
Let’s say you want to reduce poverty. We have two traditional understandings of poverty. The first presumes people are rational. They are pursuing their goals effectively and don’t need much help in changing their behavior. The second presumes that the poor are afflicted by cultural or psychological dysfunctions that sometimes lead them to behave in shortsighted ways. Neither of these theories has produced much in the way of effective policies.
Eldar Shafir of Princeton and Sendhil Mullainathan of Harvard have recently, with federal help, been exploring a third theory, that scarcity produces its own cognitive traits.
A quick question: What is the starting taxi fare in your city? If you are like most upper-middle-class people, you don’t know. If you are like many struggling people, you do know. Poorer people have to think hard about a million things that affluent people don’t. They have to make complicated trade-offs when buying a carton of milk: If I buy milk, I can’t afford orange juice. They have to decide which utility not to pay.
These questions impose enormous cognitive demands. The brain has limited capacities. If you increase demands on one sort of question, it performs less well on other sorts of questions.
Shafir and Mullainathan gave batteries of tests to Indian sugar farmers. After they sell their harvest, they live in relative prosperity. During this season, the farmers do well on the I.Q. and other tests. But before the harvest, they live amid scarcity and have to think hard about a thousand daily decisions. During these seasons, these same farmers do much worse on the tests. They appear to have lower I.Q.’s. They have more trouble controlling their attention. They are more shortsighted. Scarcity creates its own psychology.
Princeton students don’t usually face extreme financial scarcity, but they do face time scarcity. In one game, they had to answer questions in a series of timed rounds, but they could borrow time from future rounds. When they were scrambling amid time scarcity, they were quick to borrow time, and they were nearly oblivious to the usurious interest rates the game organizers were charging. These brilliant Princeton kids were rushing to the equivalent of payday lenders, to their own long-term detriment.
Shafir and Mullainathan have a book coming out next year, exploring how scarcity — whether of time, money or calories (while dieting) — affects your psychology. They are also studying how poor people’s self-perceptions shape behavior. Many people don’t sign up for the welfare benefits because they are intimidated by the forms. Shafir and Mullainathan asked some people at a Trenton soup kitchen to relive a moment when they felt competent and others to recount a neutral experience. Nearly half of the self-affirming group picked up an available benefits package afterward. Only 16 percent of the neutral group did.
People are complicated. We each have multiple selves, which emerge or don’t depending on context. If we’re going to address problems, we need to understand the contexts and how these tendencies emerge or don’t emerge. We need to design policies around that knowledge. Cutting off financing for this sort of research now is like cutting off navigation financing just as Christopher Columbus hit the shoreline of the New World.
Related Situationist posts:
- “Larry Lessig’s Situationism,”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Situationism
- “Al Gore – The Situationist”
- Psychology of Inequality
- “The Situational Effects of (In)Equality,”
- “The Situational Consequences of Poverty on Brains,”
- “Inequality and the Unequal Situation of Mental and Physical Health,”
- “The Interior Situation of Intergenerational Poverty,”
- “Rich Brains, Poor Brains?,”
- “The Situation of Financial Risk-Taking,”
- “The Situation of Standardized Test Scores,”
- “The Toll of Discrimination on Black Women,”
- “The Physical Pains of Discrimination,”
- “The Depressing Effects of Racial Discrimination,” and
- “The Cognitive Costs of Interracial Interactions.”