A report published in The Lancet by a team of medical researchers shows that when cops in the United States murder unarmed black people, it messes with the mental health of black people who live nearby. Read the rest
Ohio State sociologist Natasha Quadlin set out to study the effect of high academic achievement on women's employment, so she created 2,106 fictional job applicants, half male, half female, across a spectrum of GPAs and college majors, and submitted them via common recruiting sites. Read the rest
America's right-leaning pundit class is really worried that young people, especially students, have become "illiberal" and "intolerant" of free speech because they heckle and protest the likes of Richard Spencer. Read the rest
In a new paper published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, sociologists and criminologists from University at Buffalo (SUNY), the University of Alabama, Kennesaw State University, the State of Georgia, and Georgia State University review 40 years' worth of FBI data on violent crimes and property crimes, correlating this data series with Census data on the influx of immigrants to US cities. Read the rest
There are certain languages that don't differentiate between the present and the future. Estonian is the classic example of a "futureless tongue." According to new research by Efrén O. Pérez, co-director of Vanderbilt University's Research on Individuals, Politics & Society Lab and Margit Tavits, professor of political science at Washington University, language has a sizable impact on how we think about future-oriented policies. As William S. Burroughs said, language is a virus. From their scientific paper in the American Journal of Political Science:
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Can the way we speak affect the way we perceive time and think about politics? Languages vary by how much they require speakers to grammatically encode temporal differences. Futureless tongues (e.g., Estonian) do not oblige speakers to distinguish between the present and future tense, whereas futured tongues do (e.g., Russian). By grammatically conflating “today” and “tomorrow,” we hypothesize that speakers of futureless tongues will view the future as temporally closer to the present, causing them to discount the future less and support future-oriented policies more. Using an original survey experiment that randomly assigned the interview language to Estonian/Russian bilinguals, we find support for this proposition and document the absence of this language effect when a policy has no obvious time referent. We then replicate and extend our principal result through a cross-national analysis of survey data. Our results imply that language may have significant consequences for mass opinion.
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
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.
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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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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