Twitterbot experiment suggests that public disapproval by white men can reduce harassers' use of racist language

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NYU PhD candidate Kevin Munger made a set of four male-seeming twitterbots that attempted to "socially sanction" white Twitter users who habitually used racial epithets (he reasons that these two characteristics are a good proxy for harassment): the bots could be white or black (that is, have names that have been experimentally shown to be associated with "whiteness" or "blackness") and could have 2 followers or 500 of them. Read the rest

Using the science of group conflict to understand Trump's campaign

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In Five Beliefs That Propel Groups Toward Conflict, published in American Psychologist, a pair of researchers lay out the five beliefs that, when transmitted by leaders to their followers, creates a "group conflict" that propels the group forward. Read the rest

Sapiens author says the uncoupling of intelligence and consciousness means the end of humanity

Image: Penguin

One of my favorite books last year (and this year, because I'm re-reading it) was Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, an immensely readable history of the myths humans have invented in order to survive in tribes of millions and billions of people. Those myths include religion, money, politics, corporations, laws, and morality.

Harari's follow-up book is, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, and will be released in February 2017. David Runciman of the Guardian got an advance reader's copy and reviewed it.

The evidence of our power is everywhere: we have not simply conquered nature but have also begun to defeat humanity’s own worst enemies. War is increasingly obsolete; famine is rare; disease is on the retreat around the world. We have achieved these triumphs by building ever more complex networks that treat human beings as units of information. Evolutionary science teaches us that, in one sense, we are nothing but data-processing machines: we too are algorithms. By manipulating the data we can exercise mastery over our fate. The trouble is that other algorithms – the ones that we have built – can do it far more efficiently than we can. That’s what Harari means by the “uncoupling” of intelligence and consciousness. The project of modernity was built on the idea that individual human beings are the source of meaning as well as power. We are meant to be the ones who decide what happens to us: as voters, as consumers, as lovers.

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Storytellers are more attractive, are happier and more satisfied with life

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The Wall Street Journal reports that storytellers—people with a natural inclination to craft concise yet compelling narratives without rambling—were found to be hot by science. Feels good to be a writa.

The results were the same across all three studies: Women rated men who were good storytellers as more attractive and desirable as potential long-term partners. Psychologists believe this is because the man is showing that he knows how to connect, to share emotions and, possibly, to be vulnerable. He also is indicating that he is interesting and articulate and can gain resources and provide support.

“Storytelling is linked to the ability to be a good provider,” because a man is explaining what he can offer, says Melanie Green, an associate professor in the department of communication at the University at Buffalo and a researcher on the study. The men didn’t care whether the women were good storytellers, the research showed.

There is also a "how to" guide for nascent storytellers: master the technical basics, set aside time to practice, build a repertoire of basics, develop a relationship to tense, and get emotional.

Spotted via the sneering Gilfoyles of Hacker News, who seem fabulously angry about this for some reason. Read the rest

WEB Du Bois's infographics on black life, from the 1900 Exposition Universelle

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Activist/sociologist WEB Du Bois compiled a beautiful set of infographics on the state of black life since the end of slavery that were displayed at the "Exhibit of American Negroes" he created with Thomas J Calloway and Booker T Washington for the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris. Read the rest

A look at digital habits of 13 year olds shows desire for privacy, face-to-face time

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Sonia Livingstone, an LSE social psychology prof, gives us a peek into the results from The Class, a year-long, deep research project into the digital lives and habits of a class of 13 year olds at an ordinary school. Read the rest

Before and After Mexico: a Bruce Sterling story about the eco-pocalypse

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Bruce Sterling's announced the first-ever English publication of his story for 25 minutos en el futuro. Nueva ciencia ficción norteamericana, a Spanish-language sf anthology of translated works by anglophone writers whose work is largely unknown in Mexico. Read the rest

Income inequality makes the 1% sad, too

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A study from the notorious socialists at the Harvard Business Review analyzed data from the Gallup World Poll and the World Top Incomes Database and found that in countries with a large degree of wealth inequality, "levels of life satisfaction" go down, and "negative daily emotional experiences" go up, for all populations, including the richest. Read the rest

The Sociology Book just $1.99 as Kindle e-book

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I'm a fan of DK's "Big Ideas Simply Explained series." I have the Psychology Book and the Philosophy Book. Both books go through the history of the subjects, with lots of well-designed infographics. They are written in clear, easy-to-comprehend language and assume no prior knowledge on the part of the reader. I have the hardbound editions, which cost about $15-$20 and are attractive, but if you're looking for a bargain, the e-books are just $5 each. Right now, they are running a special on The Sociology Book e-book for just $1.99. I bought it, and if I like is as much as I liked the other two "Big Ideas Simply Explained" books I have, I'll spring for the dead tree version.

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Is a reputation economy really an economy?

Kevin Simler's 2013 essay on the economics of social status is a great, enduring Sunday sort of longread that should be required of anyone contemplating using the phrase "reputation economy" in polite society. Read the rest

Cognition, categories and oppression

Our minds naturally group things in culturally specific categories -- for Americans, robins are more "bird" than albatrosses -- and we're better at categorizing more prototypical items than outliers -- but what does this mean when we group humans in categories like "real Americans"? Read the rest

Parable of the Polygons: segregation and "slight" racism

Vi Hart and Nicky Case created a brilliant "playable post" that challenges you to arrange two groups of polygons to make them "happy" by ensuring that no more than 2/3 of their neighbors are different. Read the rest

The Terrible Sea Lion: a social media parable

Wondermark's instant classic "Terrible Sea Lion" strip is getting a fresh lease on life as a perfect parable for the experience of posting about #Gamergate and then being haunted by endlessly persistent entitled jerks. Read the rest

Sociology goes inside the police state

The Chronicle of Higher Education talks to a sociologist who spent years living with and learning the stories of people affected by mass incarceration. Read the rest

What we learn about women from research vs. what we learn from evolutionary psychology speculation

An interesting study on female aggression points out the trouble with making declarations about inherent human nature based on speculation about sexual dynamics. New studies, including this one, are finding that women can be plenty competitive and aggressive. At The New York Times, John Tierney points out that old ideas about female passivity were based on "an evolutionary analysis of the reproductive odds in ancient polygynous societies in which some men were left single because dominant males had multiple wives". Read the rest

Eat, sleep, and visit the mall ... for tomorrow we die

Survey-based sociology research in Israel and the United States finds a correlation between fear of death and impulsive shopping. The researchers behind these studies think that the connection represents people using materialism as a coping mechanism to deal with death anxiety. Read the rest

The science of to-do lists

Research says "to-do" lists don't work, writes Daniel Markovitz at Harvard Business Review. That's not exactly what he means, though. Instead of condemning the very idea of "to-do" lists, Markovitz piece makes an interesting case for re-thinking how you use those lists. If you're throwing a jumble of stuff to be done onto a page, that's probably not going to be terribly effective. A better solution involves breaking down how various tasks fit into allotted spaces of time on specific days, and setting up that more realistic list as a part of your routine, rather than just magnetizing it to the refrigerator. Basically, it's not that "to-do" lists suck. It's that some people probably aren't using them effectively. Read the rest

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