The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘social cognition’

The Palliative Function of Ideology

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 6, 2010

Jaime Napier is an Assistant Professors of Psychology at Yale University. Her primary research interest is the effects of societal injustice, including how members of advantaged and disadvantaged groups diverge in their perceptions and explanations of injustice; how political and religious ideologies may ameliorate the outrage associated with perceived injustice; and the consequences of accepting or rationalizing injustice on individual subjective well-being and self-esteem.

At the third annual conference on Law and Mind Sciences, which took place in March of 2009, Napier’s fascinating presentation was titled “The Palliative Function of Ideology.” Here’s the abstract:

In this research, we drew on system-justification theory and the notion that conservative ideology serves a palliative function to explain why conservatives are happier than liberals. Specifically, in three studies using nationally representative data from the United States and nine additional countries, we found that right-wing (vs. left-wing) orientation is indeed associated with greater subjective well-being and that the relation between political orientation and subjective well-being is mediated by the rationalization of inequality. In our third study, we found that increasing economic inequality (as measured by the Gini index) from 1974 to 2004 has exacerbated the happiness gap between liberals and conservatives, apparently because conservatives (more than liberals) possess an ideological buffer against the negative hedonic effects of economic inequality.

You can watch her presentation on the two (roughly 9-minute) videos below.

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For more information about the Project on Law and Mind Sciences, click here.

For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Blame Frame – Abstract,” “The Deeply Captured Situation of the Economic Crisis,” Conference on the Free Market Mindset,” “Sam Gosling on the Meaning of the Stuff in our Situation,” Ideology is Back!,” Barbara Ehrenreich on the Sources of and Problems with Dispositionism,” The Motivated Situation of Inequality and Discrimination,” John Jost on System Justification Theory,” John Jost’s “System Justification and the Law” – Video,” The Situation of Political and Religious Beliefs?,” “The Situation of Ideology – Part I,” and “The Situation of Ideology – Part II.”

Posted in Abstracts, Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Distribution, Ideology, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

The Situation of Stereotype Threat

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 19, 2010

Randy Khalil has a nice article, “‘Stereotype threat’ negatively affects students,” in Wednesday’s Daily Princetonian.  Here are some excerpts.
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Princeton students fall victim to the “stereotype threat,” according to a study led by Adam Alter GS ’09.

The “stereotype threat” is the phenomenon in which reminding people of negative stereotypes associated with their group identity can encourage the fulfillment of those stereotypes.

“When reminded of their group membership, for example, white people struggle athletically, black people struggle academically, women struggle mathematically and men struggle linguistically,” Alter explained in an e-mail. Alter wanted to find out if the way that people are reminded of their group membership determines the magnitude of this effect.

Alter examined the stereotype which holds that students from high schools with low representation at the University feel more unsure about their academic ability when they arrive as freshmen than students from high schools that send many students to Princeton. In a survey of 19 undergraduates, 16 said that students from poorly represented high schools are more anxious about their academic ability than other students.

In Alter’s experiment, which tested 124 students, those from poorly represented high schools performed worse than those from highly represented high schools when the test was presented as a “reliable measure of [their] basic quantitative ability,” according to the study. When the test was presented as a measure of students’ ability to “do as well as [they possibly could],” however, the gap between students from different high schools disappeared.

Alter concluded from the experiment that the presentation of a test as either a “threat” or a “challenge” determines whether negative stereotypes are fulfilled.

“People cope much better with challenges than with threats, so we expected the effects of a stereotype threat to be diminished or eliminated when we framed the threat as a challenge,” Alter explained.

Psychology professor [and Situationist Contributor] Susan Fiske said that Alter’s research adds nuance to the current understanding of stereotype threats.

“What is new here is Alter’s finding ways to overcome stereotype threat by framing the problem as a challenge instead of a threat,” Fiske said in an e-mail.

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Posted in Abstracts, Education, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Dan Gilbert on the Situation of Psychology

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 20, 2009

The good folks at Big Think interviewed Situationist friend Dan Gilbert and asked him about the future of psychology.  Among other things, Gilbert had this to say.

Surely the other big problem facing psychology is the problem facing any behavioral science in the United States of America, which is we have leaders who don’t much appreciate behavioral science. It’s an odd thing, given that virtually every problem you’re trying to solve is a problem of human behavior. These aren’t sciences that gather much respect. And as a result, they’re not sciences that are doing very well in terms of funding. It’s quite possible that psychology as we know it won’t exist as a science in 10 or 15 years if we follow the present course of funding in the U.S.A.

The video of his complete response is below.

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To review previous Situationist posts by or about Dan Gilbert’s work click here.

Posted in Neuroscience, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

The Gendered Situation of Chess

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 10, 2009

Woman Chess PlayerFrom ChessBase News:  “Normally knowing your enemy is an advantage. Not so in chess games between the sexes. In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Volume 38, Issue 2 (March/April 2008) (pdf here), Anne Maass, Claudio D’Ettole, Mara Cadinu, Dr Anne Maass (et al.) pitted male and female players against each other via the Internet. Women showed a 50% performance decline when they were aware that they were playing a male opponent.”  Here’s the article’s abstract.

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Women are surprisingly underrepresented in the chess world, representing less that 5% of registered tournament players worldwide and only 1% of the world’s grandmasters. In this paper it is argued that gender stereotypes are mainly responsible for the underperformance of women in chess. Forty-two male-female pairs, matched for ability, played two chess games via the Internet. When players were unaware of the sex of opponent (control condition), females played approximately as well as males. When the gender stereotype was activated (experimental condition), women showed a drastic performance drop, but only when they were aware that they were playing against a male opponent. When they (falsely) believed to be playing against a woman, they performed as well as their male opponents. In addition, our findings suggest that women show lower chess-specific self-esteem and a weaker promotion focus, which are predictive of poorer chess performance.

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Here’s the article’s conclusion.

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A number of novel findings emerge from the present study that complement cognitively-oriented research on chess. Most importantly, gender stereotypes can have a greatly debilitating effect on female players leading to a 50% performance decline when playing against males. Interestingly, this disadvantage is completely removed when players are led to believe that they are playing against a woman. This may, in part, occur because women choose a more defensive style when playing with men.

A second and more general message of our study is that self-confidence and a win-oriented promotion motivation contribute positively to chess performance. Since women show lower chess-specific self-esteem and a more cautious regulatory focus than males, possibly as a consequence of widely held gender stereotypes, this may at least in part explain their worldwide underrepresentation and underperformance in chess.

Thus, women seem disadvantaged not because they are lacking cognitive or spatial abilities, but because they approach chess competitions with lesser confidence and with a more cautious attitude than their male opponents. Hence, a motivational perspective may be better suited to understand (and prevent) the underperformance of women in the ‘ultimate intellectual sport.’

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You can dowload the entire article here.  To read a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Gender-Science Stereotypes,” The Situation of Gender and Science,Stereotype Threat and Performance,” “The Gendered Situation of Science & Math,” Gender-Imbalanced Situation of Math, Science, and Engineering,” “Sex Differences in Math and Science,” “You Shouldn’t Stereotype Stereotypes,” “Women’s Situation in Economics,” and “Your Group is Bad at Math.”

Posted in Abstracts, Education, Implicit Associations, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

The Situation of Gender-Science Stereotypes

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 8, 2009

Situationist PodcastA BBC podcast of an interview with Situationist Contributor Brian Nosek about Project Implicit’s recent gender-science stereotypes article is available at the BBC World Service’s Science in Action series.

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To read a sample of related Situationist posts about gender and science, see The Situation of Gender and Science,The Behavioral Consequences of Unconscious Bias,” “Stereotype Threat and Performance,” “The Gendered Situation of Science & Math,” Gender-Imbalanced Situation of Math, Science, and Engineering,” “Sex Differences in Math and Science,” “You Shouldn’t Stereotype Stereotypes,” “Women’s Situation in Economics,” and “Your Group is Bad at Math.”

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

Biased? I know you are but what am I?

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 5, 2009

Randy Dotinga, writing for the North County Times, quotes Situationist Contributor Peter Ditto on the bias of our media choices.

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If you’re a conservative, you’re more likely to listen to Rush Limbaugh than turn to National Public Radio. And if you’re liberal, you’re probably don’t spend your time tuned to Roger Hedgecock, Sean Hannity and Rick Roberts.

Pretty obvious, right? Yes, but now researchers have gone and confirmed what we think we know: People like to hear opinions that back up what they already think. In a study published this week in a journal called Psychological Bulletin, researchers say we do indeed turn to sources of information that confirm our biases, especially when it comes to things like politics and religion.

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Peter Ditto, a professor of psychology at UC Irvine, said there’s a bit more to it. We listen to, say, a conservative host because we believe he —- or in rare cases, she —- looks at the world through the correct prism.

“Republicans turn to Fox News not because they think it will confirm their beliefs, but because they believe they are the unbiased keepers of the truth —- and that MSNBC and CNN are biased toward the left,” Ditto said. “Liberals do exactly the opposite.”

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Read the entire article, including comments on social scientists’ tendency to find bias in conservatives, here.  For related Situationist The Maverickiness Paradox,” “Deep Capture – Part VII,” “The Situation of Biased Perceptions,” and posts, see “I’m Objective, You’re Biased.”

Posted in Cultural Cognition, Entertainment, Ideology, Situationist Contributors | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Coloring Situation

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 8, 2009

In the International Herald Tribune, Pam Belluck has a nice summary of recent research indicating that colors matter in ways we probably don’t imagine.  Her article, titled “Accurate red, creative blue: Color counts, study says,” is excerpted below.

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Trying to improve your performance at work or kick-start that novel you want to write? Maybe it’s time to consider the color of your walls, or your screen saver.

If a new study is any guide, the color red can make people’s work more accurate, but blue can make them more creative.

In the study, published Thursday in the online edition of Science magazine, researchers at the University of British Columbia conducted tests with 600 participants to see how cognitive performance varies when people see red or blue. Participants performed tasks in which words or images were displayed against red, blue or neutral backgrounds on computer screens.

Red groups did better on tests of recall and attention to detail, like remembering words or checking spelling and punctuation. Blue groups did better on tests requiring invention and imagination: coming up with creative uses for a brick or creating toys from collections of shapes.

“If you’re talking about wanting enhanced memory for something like proofreading skills, then a red color should be used,” concluded Juliet Zhu, an assistant professor of marketing at the university’s business school, who conducted the studies with Ravi Mehta, a doctoral student. For “a brainstorming session for a new product or coming up with a new solution to fight child obesity or teenage smoking, then you should get people into a blue room.”

Whether color can color performance or emotions has long fascinated scientists – not to mention advertisers, sports teams and restaurateurs.

Consider the Olympic uniform study, in which anthropologists at Durham University in England found that athletes in the 2004 Olympics who wore red instead of blue in boxing, tae kwon do, Greco-Roman wrestling, and freestyle wrestling won 60 percent of the time. The researchers suggested that red, for athletes, as for animals, subconsciously symbolizes dominance.

Perhaps a similarly primal effect was afoot in a 2008 study led by Andrew Elliot at the University of Rochester, in which men considered photographs of women on red backgrounds or wearing red shirts more attractive, although not necessarily more likeable or intelligent.

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In cognitive realms, experts say colors may affect performance because of the mood they transmit.

“When things go wrong or when you feel that the situation you are in is problematic, you are more likely to pay attention to detail, which helps you with processing tasks but interferes with creative types of things,” said Norbert Schwarz, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan. By contrast, “people in a happy mood are more creative and less analytic.”

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[I]n results that appear to align with the Science study’s theory that red makes people more cautious and detail-oriented, Elliot found that people shown red on a test cover before an IQ test did worse than those shown green or a neutral color, and also chose easier questions to answer. IQ tests require more problem-solving, similar to the creative questions that Zhu asked.

Zhu’s subjects, asked what red or blue made them think of, mostly said red represented caution, danger and mistakes, while blue symbolized peace and openness. Also, subjects unscrambled anagrams of “avoidance-related” words, like “danger,” faster with red backgrounds and unscrambled anagrams of positive “approach-related” words, like “adventure,” faster with blue backgrounds.

Besides testing cognitive performance, she also tested responses to advertising, finding that ads stressing “avoidance” qualities, like cavity prevention, or product details, appealed more on red backgrounds, while ads stressing optimistic qualities, like “tooth whitening,” or using creative designs, appealed more on blue.

Interestingly, when different participants were asked if they thought they would do better with red or blue, more people said blue for both detail-oriented and creative tasks. Maybe, Zhu said, that is because more people prefer blue to red.

The study, she cautioned, did not involve different cultures, like China, where red symbolize prosperity and luck. And it said nothing about mixing red and blue to make purple.

Also, Schwarz said, color effects can be outweighed by clear instructions – to be accurate or creative in a task – so color means more when a project can be approached either way.

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To read the entire article, click here.  For some related Situationist posts, see “The Color of Sex Appeal,” The Situation of Hair Color,” and “Shades of Fairness and the Marketing of Prejudice.

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

Categorically Biased – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 3, 2008

Ron Chen and Situationist contributor Jon Hanson recently posted their article, “Categorically Biased: The Influence of Knowledge Structures on Law and Legal Theory” (77 S. Calif. L. Rev. 1103) on SSRN. Here’s the abstract.

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This Article focuses primarily on one slice of social psychology and social cognition research, namely the vast and vibrant field examining the integral role that knowledge structures play in the way we attend to, remember, and draw inferences about information we encounter and, more generally, the way we make sense of our world.

The human system of processing information is, in many cases, an efficient means of understanding our worlds and ourselves. Classification of people, objects, and other stimuli is often both indispensable and ineluctable. Still, as social psychologists have demonstrated, “virtually any of the properties of schematic functioning that are useful under some circumstances will be liabilities under others.” The categories and schemas that operate, usually automatically, influence all aspects of information processing – from what information we focus on, to how we encode that information, to which features of that information we later retrieve and remember, and to how we draw inferences and solve problems based on that information. Given the unconscious and biasing influence of our schemas, combined with the fact that our schemas themselves will often reflect our unconscious motives, we should be mindful, even distrustful, of our schemas and the conclusions that they generate. These effects, the processes that drive them, and the biases they engender are the primary subject of this Article. A central goal is to offer a broad understanding of how individuals utilize categories, schemas, and scripts to help make sense of their worlds. In doing so, we serve another main objective: to provide a comprehensive (yet manageable) synthesis of a vast body of social psychology literature. This overview shold transform how we make sense of our laws and legal-theoretic world.

Part II of this Article is devoted to describing the significance of knowledge structures. Part III briefly summarizes how legal scholars have thus far applied insights about knowledge structures and argues that their most profound implications have yet to be appreciated. Part III then provides a set of predictions regarding the influence of knowledge structures and the biases they likely engender for legal theories and laws.

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To download a copy of the paper for free, click here.

Posted in Abstracts, Deep Capture, Illusions, Law, Legal Theory, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Legal Academic Backlash – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 20, 2008

Situationist contributors Adam Benforado and Jon Hanson have posted their latest article, Legal Academic Backlash: The Response of Legal Theorists to Situationist Insights (Emory Law Journal, Vol. 57, No. 5, 2008) on SSRN. Here is the abstract.

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This article is the third of a multipart series. The first part, “The Great Attributional Divide,” argues that a major rift runs across many of our major policy debates based on our attributional tendencies: the less accurate dispositionist approach, which explains outcomes and behavior with reference to people’s dispositions (i.e., personalities, preferences, and the like), and the more accurate situationist approach, which bases attributions of causation and responsibility on unseen influences within us and around us.

The second part, “Naive Cynicism,” explores how dispositionism maintains its dominance despite the fact that it misses so much of what actually moves us. It argues that the answer lies in a subordinate dynamic and discourse, naive cynicism: the basic subconscious mechanism by which dispositionists discredit and dismiss situationist insights and their proponents. Without it, the dominant person schema – dispositionism – would be far more vulnerable to challenge and change, and the more accurate person schema – situationism – less easily and effectively attacked. Naive cynicism is thus critically important to explaining how and why certain legal policies manage to carry the day.

Naive cynicism often takes the form of a backlash against situationism that involves an affirmation of existing dispositionist notions and an assault on (1) the situationist attributions themselves; (2) the individuals, institutions, and groups from which the situationist attributions appear to emanate; and (3) the individuals whose conduct has been situationalized. If one were to boil down those factors to one simple naive-cynicism-promoting frame for minimizing situationist ideas, it would be something like this: Unreasonable outgroup members are attacking us, our beliefs, and the things we value.

We predict that naive cynicism is a pervasive dynamic that shapes policy debates big and small. We argue that it can operate at a particular moment or over long periods of time, and that it is embraced and encouraged by both elite knowledge-producers and the average person on the street.

This Article examines the reactions of prominent academics to situationist scholarship. As we argue in this Article, na¿ve cynicism, operating as we predict above, has played a significant role in retarding the growth and influence of more accurate situationist insights of social psychology and related fields within the dominant legal theoretical frameworks of the last half-century.

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To download the article for free, click here. To read a collection of related Situationist posts, click here.

Posted in Abstracts, Behavioral Economics, Ideology, Implicit Associations, Legal Theory, Naive Cynicism, Politics, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Gatekeepers Inside Out – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 3, 2008

Situationist contributor Sung Hui Kim’s article, “Gatekeepers Inside Out,” was published in the latest issue of Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, Vol. 21, p. 411, 2008. The article is available to download for free on SSRN. Here is the abstract.

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Gatekeepers Inside Out challenges the conventional wisdom that in-house counsel are simply “too captured” by their senior managers in their corporations to serve as effective gatekeepers of our securities markets. The author revises classical gatekeeping theory introduced by Prof. Reinier Kraakman in his seminal article (Gatekeepers: Anatomy of a Third Party Enforcement Strategy, 2 J.L. Econ. & Org. 53 (1986)). In that article, Kraakman clarified that a gatekeeping strategy requires gatekeepers “who can and will prevent misconduct reliably, regardless of the preferences and market alternatives of wrongdoers.” Although Kraakman did not make much of the distinction, he recognized that successful gatekeepers must not only be “willing” but also “able” to prevent misconduct. Now, consider also that gatekeepers must not only be prepared to “interdict” misconduct but also to “monitor” to detect such happenings in the first place. By combining these two simple observations, we see that potential gatekeepers can be evaluated by their: (1) willingness to interdict, (2) willingness to monitor, (3) capacity to monitor, and (4) capacity to interdict. Using this new framework of analysis, the author compares inside and outside counsel for the gatekeeping role. Along the way, the author departs from traditional gatekeeping theory’s exclusive reliance on rational choice theory and imports empirical findings from social psychology and sociology that illuminate the four conditions of effective gatekeeping. By running inside and outside counsel through this rigorous mill of analysis, the author comes to unexpected conclusions. The analytical framework set forth by the author can also be used to evaluate the effectiveness of other traditional gatekeepers, including investment bankers, securities analysts, accountants, and, yes, even credit agencies.

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Here is a quotation from the article:

[T]o understand the willingness of gatekeepers to interdict misbehavior, it may not be most illuminating to consider costs and benefits consciously calculated based on the model of the rational actor. Indeed, the efficacy of sanctions in constraining behavior may be seriously eroded by various psychological factors. Instead, as social psychology teaches us, we may be inclined toward certain behaviors through cognitive processes guided by the the situation and the roles we inhabit in those situations.

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To link to the entire article, click here. To access a related article by Professor Kim, see “The Banality of Fraud: Re-Situating the Inside Counsel as Gatekeeper.” For related Situationist posts by Professor Kim, see “Why Do Lawyers Acquiesce In Their Clients’ Misconduct?” — Part I, Part II, and Part III.

Posted in Abstracts, Legal Theory, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Gatekeepers Inside Out – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 13, 2008

gate by starrynight1 - flickrSituationist contributor Sung Hui Kim recently posted her forthcoming article, “Gatekeepers Inside Out” (forthcoming in the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics), on SSRN. Here’s the abstract.

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Gatekeepers Inside Out challenges the conventional wisdom that in-house counsel are simply “too captured” by their senior managers in their corporations to serve as effective gatekeepers of our securities markets. The author revises classical gatekeeping theory introduced by Prof. Reinier Kraakman in his seminal article (Gatekeepers: Anatomy of a Third Party Enforcement Strategy, 2 J.L. Econ. & Org. 53 (1986)). In that article, Kraakman clarified that a gatekeeping strategy requires gatekeepers “who can and will prevent misconduct reliably, regardless of the preferences and market alternatives of wrongdoers.” Although Kraakman did not make much of the distinction, he recognized that successful gatekeepers must not only be “willing” but also “able” to prevent misconduct. Now, consider also that gatekeepers must not only be prepared to “interdict” misconduct but also to “monitor” to detect such happenings in the first place. By combining these two simple observations, we see that potential gatekeepers can be evaluated by their: (1) willingness to interdict, (2) willingness to monitor, (3) capacity to monitor, and (4) capacity to interdict. Using this new framework of analysis, the author compares inside and outside counsel for the gatekeeping role. Along the way, the author departs from traditional gatekeeping theory’s exclusive reliance on rational choice theory and imports empirical findings from social psychology and sociology that illuminate the four conditions of effective gatekeeping. By running inside and outside counsel through this rigorous mill of analysis, the author comes to unexpected conclusions. The analytical framework set forth by the author can also be used to evaluate the effectiveness of other traditional gatekeepers, including investment bankers, securities analysts, accountants, and, yes, even credit agencies.

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To read related Situationist posts by Professor Kim, see “Why Do Lawyers Acquiesce In Their Clients’ Misconduct?,” Part I, Part II, and Part III.

Posted in Abstracts, Law, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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