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More on Political Opinions and Tribal Pressures

January 23, 2019 | By | Reply More
More on Political Opinions and Tribal Pressures

At The Atlantic, Jay Van Bavel discusses recent experiments showing that we are not permanently polarized with regard to our political positions. The article is titled, How Political Opinions Change.

In a recent experiment, we showed it is possible to trick people into changing their political views. In fact, we could get some people to adopt opinions that were directly opposite of their original ones. . . . A powerful shaping factor about our social and political worlds is how they are structured by group belonging and identities… We are also far more motivated to reason and argue to protect our own or our group’s views. Indeed, some researchers argue that our reasoning capabilities evolved to serve that very function.

People tend to take more extreme positions of their same viewpoint when challenged with information supporting the opposite view. The trick is to suggest to the person that they actually held the opposite view through false-feedback. The take-away: “people have a pretty high degree of flexibility about their political views once you strip away the things that normally make them defensive.”

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Scientific Reasoning, Tribal Reasoning

January 22, 2019 | By | Reply More
Scientific Reasoning, Tribal Reasoning

It’s not enough to be a scientifically savvy person, because your scientific savviness can be hijacked by your tribal impulses, leading to such things as intelligent people vigorously arguing that climate change is a hoax.

That is the conclusion of Dan Kahan, writing for The Atlantic in “Why Smart People Are Vulnerable to Putting Tribe Before Truth.”

Unless accompanied by another science-reasoning trait, the capacities associated with science literacy can actually impede public recognition of the best available evidence and deepen pernicious forms of cultural polarization.

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Addiction as dysfunctional Bonding – TED talk by Jonathan Hari

November 13, 2018 | By | Reply More

Wonderful TED talk by Journalist Jonathan Hari. Two Quotes stand out:

Professor Peter Cohen in the Netherlands said, maybe we shouldn’t even call it addiction. Maybe we should call it bonding. Human beings have a natural and innate need to bond, and when we’re happy and healthy, we’ll bond and connect with each other, but if you can’t do that, because you’re traumatized or isolated or beaten down by life, you will bond with something that will give you some sense of relief.

. . .

And I think the core of that message — you’re not alone, we love you — has to be at every level of how we respond to addicts, socially, politically and individually. For 100 years now, we’ve been singing war songs about addicts. I think all along we should have been singing love songs to them, because the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.

See also, Rachel Wurzman’s TED talk: How Isolation Fuel’s Opiod Addiction.

The effects of social disconnection through opioid receptors, the effects of addictive drugs and the effects of abnormal neurotransmission on involuntary movements and compulsive behaviors all converge in the striatum. And the striatum and opioid signaling in it has been deeply linked with loneliness.

09:48
When we don’t have enough signaling at opioid receptors, we can feel alone in a room full of people we care about and love, who love us. Social neuroscientists, like Dr. Cacioppo at the University of Chicago, have discovered that loneliness is very dangerous. And it predisposes people to entire spectrums of physical and mental illnesses.

10:16
Think of it like this: when you’re at your hungriest, pretty much any food tastes amazing, right? So similarly, loneliness creates a hunger in the brain which neurochemically hypersensitizes our reward system. And social isolation acts through receptors for these naturally occurring opioids and other social neurotransmitters to leave the striatum in a state where its response to things that signal reward and pleasure is completely, completely over the top. And in this state of hypersensitivity, our brains signal deep dissatisfaction. We become restless, irritable and impulsive.

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Introverts trying to be Extraverted: Difficult to Fake it Til You Make It

October 10, 2018 | By | Reply More
Introverts trying to be Extraverted: Difficult to Fake it Til You Make It

New research reported in Scientific American shows that Introverts will struggle to look extraverted in a hyper-extraverted environment:

Another line of research led by Rowan Jacques-Hamilton investigated the costs of sustained extraverted behavior in everyday life. I highlighted the word “sustained” because it turns out this is a really important caveat. Prior research had shown that no matter one’s placement on the extraversion-introversion continuum, those who more naturally acted extraverted were more likely to feel authentic in the moment. Consistent with that finding, Jacques-Hamilton and his colleagues found that asking participants to “act extraverted” for one week in everyday life had “wholly positive” benefits for positive emotions and reports of authenticity for the sample overall.

However, the important nuance is that more introverted people displayed weaker increases in positive emotions, experienced increased negative emotions and tiredness, and experienced decreased feelings of authenticity over the course of the experiment. This research highlights the costs of repeatedly acting out of character, and also the costs of being forced to act of character (the experimenters explicitly instructed the participants to act in a certain way).

This has deep implications for the well-being of introverts who live in cultures where extraversion is highly valued and emphasized as the ideal way of being. C. Ashley Fulmer and her colleagues investigated the relationship between extraversion and happiness and self-esteem across 7,000 people from 28 societies and found that the positive relationship between extraversion and happiness and self-esteem was much greater when a person’s level of extraversion matched the average level of extraversion of their society. This research suggests that person-environment fit matters quite a bit when looking at the relationship between introversion and well-being. The researchers proposed a “person-culture match hypothesis” that argues that culture can function as an important amplifier of the positive effect of personality on self-esteem and happiness.*

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Coddled Children Grow up Self-Disruptive

September 19, 2018 | By | 1 Reply More
Coddled Children Grow up Self-Disruptive

In The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, Attorney Greg Lukianoff (founder of FIRE) and moral psyhchologist Jonathan Haidt address America’s mushrooming inability to engage in productive civil discourse. Increasing numbers of people are claiming that they cannot cope with ideas that challenge their own world view. They sometimes claim that ideas that challenge their own ideas are “not safe.” In dozens of well-publicized cases, rather than work to counteract “bad” ideas with better ideas, they work to muzzle speaker by disrupting presentations or even running the purportedly offensive speakers off campus.

There is a related and growing problem. We cannot talk with each other at all regarding many many important issues. We shout each other down and use the heckler’s veto. These maladies are especially prominent on some American college campuses, but these problems are also rapidly spreading to the country at large, including corporate America.

Consider this 2016 example featuring the students of Yale having a “discussion” with Professor Nicholas Christakis:

You would never guess it from this video alone, but this mass-meltdown was triggered after child development specialist Erika Christakis (wife of Nicholas), sent this email to students.?This incident at Yale is one of many illustrations offered by Haidt and Lukianoff as evidence of a disturbing trend. ?Here’s another egregious example involving?Dean Mary Spellman at Claremont McKenna College who was run out of her college after committing the sin of writing this email to a student. ?More detail here.?

The authors offer this as the genesis of the overall problem:

In years past, administrators were motivated to create campus speech codes in order to curtail what they deemed to be racist or sexist speech. Increasingly, however, the rationale for speech codes and speaker disinvitations was becoming medicalized: Students claimed that certain kinds of speech—and even the content of some books and courses—interfered with their ability to function. They wanted protection from material that they believed could jeopardize their mental health by “triggering” them, or making them “feel unsafe.”

The solution offered by Lukianoff and Haidt is to take a moment to stop to recognize what they call the “Three Bad Ideas.”

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Haidt on Anti-Fragility and the Safety Culture

July 24, 2018 | By | Reply More
Haidt on Anti-Fragility and the Safety Culture

n this lecture, Jonathan Haidt describes the new Manichean culture, where some groups of people are inherently good and other are inherently bad. Many of the “good” groups have found power in victimhood, demanding (and getting, especially at universities) protection from the authorities. This “safety culture” has proven to be debilitating, infantilizing the protected group. What they actually need is challenges and hurdles, which will make them stronger. People are anti-fragile. As shown with bones, immune systems and helicopter parenting, lack of insult weakens individuals.

Haidt argues that all of this dependence culture has the opposite effect than the one intended. The only group subjected to challenges and insults without no societal support are straight white men (11:00 min), which is much better preparation for holding a job than a lifetime of victimhood, dependence and safety culture.

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Jonathan Haidt: Diversity can only thrive within a shared sense of identity.

July 23, 2018 | By | Reply More

The most perplexing question over the past decade is why the left and right talk past each other. When the one speaks, the other hears nonsense. Diversity is praised by one side and ridiculed by the other. In this presentation, Jonathan Haidt argues that diversity can only thrive within a shared sense of identity. What we have in the U.S. is the lack of a shared sense of identity. This presentation builds upon much of Haidt’s work (not elaborated upon in this talk) on the moral foundations.

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About Google Scientist James Damore

July 15, 2018 | By | Reply More
About Google Scientist James Damore

I know I’m late to the game on this Google incident, but this is such a good illustration about how we, as a society, are unable to talk and think about serious issues except through our ideological filters. Further, some questions that can be explored through science apparently should no longer be even raised.

First, a comment from a Gizmodo article by Melanie Ehrenkranz, who characterizes former Google Engineer James Damore as follows: “The man thinks women are inferior to men as engineers.” That is typical of a lot of how Damore has been treated on the Internet.

Now consider the basic facts about what Damore wrote at Google:

Calling the culture at Google an “ideological echo chamber”, the memo says that while discrimination exists, it is extreme to ascribe all disparities to oppression, and it is authoritarian to try to correct disparities through reverse discrimination. Instead, it argues that male/female disparities can be partly explained by biological differences. According to research he cited, those differences include women generally having a stronger interest in people rather than things, and tending to be more social, artistic, and prone to neuroticism (a higher-order personality trait). Damore’s memorandum also suggests ways to adapt the tech workplace to those differences to increase women’s representation and comfort, without resorting to discrimination.

Damore has given detailed interviews about what happened at Google and why he wrote his comments. That includes this interview with Joe Rogan:

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When the issues are more about tribal identity than the merits of the issues

April 7, 2018 | By | Reply More

To what extent are the issues really about the merits of the issues, rather than about tribal identities?

Zaid Jilani’s article at The Intercept nails it. The title: “A NEW STUDY SHOWS HOW AMERICAN POLARIZATION IS DRIVEN BY A TEAM SPORT MENTALITY, NOT BY DISAGREEMENT ON ISSUES.”

THE LOOSE CONNECTION some voters have with policy preferences has become apparent in recent years. Donald Trump managed to flip a party from support of free trade to opposition to it by merely taking the opposite side of the issue. Democrats, meanwhile, mocked Mitt Romney in 2012 for calling Russia the greatest geopolitical adversary of the United States, but now have flipped and see Russia as exactly that. Regarding health care, the structure of the Affordable Care Act was initially devised by the conservative Heritage Foundation and implemented in Massachusetts as “Romneycare.” Once it became Obamacare, the Republican team leaders deemed it bad, and thus it became bad.

Mason believes the implications of such shallow divisions between people could make the work of democracy harder. If your goal in politics is not based around policy but just defeating your perceived enemies, what exactly are you working toward? (Is it any surprise there is an entire genre of campus activism dedicated to simply upsetting your perceived political opponents?)

“The fact that even this thing’s that supposed to be about reason and thoughtfulness and what we want the government to do, the fact that even that is largely identity-powered, that’s a problem for debate and compromise and the basic functioning of democratic government. Because even if our policy attitudes are not actually about what we want the government to do but instead about who wins, then nobody cares what actually happens in the government,” Mason said. “We just care about who’s winning in a given day. And that’s a really dangerous thing for trying to run a democratic government.”

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