Read The Layered Deceptions of Jessica Krug, the Black-Studies Professor Who Hid That She Is White by Lauren Michele JacksonLauren Michele Jackson (The New Yorker)
During her scholastic career, Krug’s advisers, editors, and colleagues failed to recognize the gap between something thrown-on and something lived-in. That inattentiveness was her escape hatch.

Consider, for instance, the footage that has been circulating from a New York City Council hearing, held over Zoom in June, which shows Krug in her Afro-Latinx pose. She introduces herself as Jess La Bombalera, a nickname apparently of her own making, adapted from Bomba, an Afro-Puerto Rican genre of music and dance. Broadcasting live from “El Barrio,” and wearing purple-tinted shades and a hoop in her nose, she lambasts gentrifiers, shouts out her “black and brown siblings,” and twice calls out “white New Yorkers” for not yielding their speaking time. What stands out, though, is the way Krug speaks, in a patchy accent that begins with thickly rolled “R”s and transitions into what can best be described as B-movie gangster. This is where desire outruns expertise. The Times, in a piece on Krug’s exposure, last week, nonetheless called this a “Latina accent,” lending credence to Krug’s performance. (The phrase was later deleted.) The offhand notation is a tiny example of the buy-in Krug has been afforded her entire scholastic career, by advisers and committee members and editors and colleagues. They failed to recognize the gap not between real and faux, so much, as between something thrown-on and something lived-in. That inattentiveness was Krug’s escape hatch. 

If nothing else, this is indicative of human cognitive bias. We’ll tend to take at face value what is presented to us, but then once we “know” our confirmation bias will kick in on the other direction.

I’m curious if there were examples of anyone calling out her accent contemporaneously? We’re also stuck with the bias of wanting to go with the majority view. When you’re the lone voice, you’re less likely to speak up. This is also evinced in the story of her previous colleagues who had “gut feelings” that something was wrong, but didn’t say anything or do any research at the time.
Annotated on September 19, 2020 at 09:14AM

She introduces herself as Jess La Bombalera, a nickname apparently of her own making, adapted from Bomba, an Afro-Puerto Rican genre of music and dance. Broadcasting live from “El Barrio,” and wearing purple-tinted shades and a hoop in her nose, she lambasts gentrifiers, shouts out her “black and brown siblings,” and twice calls out “white New Yorkers” for not yielding their speaking time. 

I hear this name and immediately think “Bamboléo“! Gipsy Kings! and then this:


Annotated on September 19, 2020 at 09:30AM

Lauren Michele Jackson is a contributing writer at The New Yorker and an assistant professor of English at Northwestern University. 

This is an excellent article on its own without the context, but it is more interesting with the context on the click-thru that Jackson’s first book, the essay collection “White Negroes,” was published in 2019.

I’m curious about the editorial decision to not mention it in the mini-bio here, particularly when the piece is so pointedly about identity and authenticity.
Annotated on September 19, 2020 at 09:57AM

Read A New Theory of Western Civilization (The Atlantic)
Could a marriage policy first pursued by the Catholic Church a millennium and a half ago explain what made the industrialized world so powerful—and so peculiar?
This is the second article on this book that I’ve seen in the last week or so. Perhaps I should add it to my list?

Henrich, who directs Harvard’s Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, is a cultural evolutionary theorist, which means that he gives cultural inheritance the same weight that traditional biologists give to genetic inheritance. Parents bequeath their DNA to their offspring, but they—along with other influential role models—also transmit skills, knowledge, values, tools, habits. Our genius as a species is that we learn and accumulate culture over time. Genes alone don’t determine whether a group survives or disappears. So do practices and beliefs. Human beings are not “the genetically evolved hardware of a computational machine,” he writes. They are conduits of the spirit, habits, and psychological patterns of their civilization, “the ghosts of past institutions.” 

Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:03AM

WEIRD people have a bad habit of universalizing from their own particularities. They think everyone thinks the way they do, and some of them (not all, of course) reinforce that assumption by studying themselves. In the run-up to writing the book, Henrich and two colleagues did a literature review of experimental psychology and found that 96 percent of subjects enlisted in the research came from northern Europe, North America, or Australia. About 70 percent of those were American undergraduates. Blinded by this kind of myopia, many Westerners assume that what’s good or bad for them is good or bad for everyone else. 

This is a painful reality. It’s also even more specific to the current Republican party. Do as we say, not as we do.

This is the sort of example that David Dylan Thomas will appreciate.
Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:09AM

By the time Protestantism came along, people had already internalized an individualist worldview. Henrich calls Protestantism “the WEIRDest religion,” and says it gave a “booster shot” to the process set in motion by the Catholic Church. Integral to the Reformation was the idea that faith entailed personal struggle rather than adherence to dogma. Vernacular translations of the Bible allowed people to interpret scripture more idiosyncratically. The mandate to read the Bible democratized literacy and education. After that came the inquiry into God-given natural (individual) rights and constitutional democracies. The effort to uncover the laws of political organization spurred interest in the laws of nature—in other words, science. The scientific method codified epistemic norms that broke the world down into categories and valorized abstract principles. All of these psychosocial changes fueled unprecedented innovation, the Industrial Revolution, and economic growth. 

Reading this makes me think about the political break in the United States along political and religious boundaries. Some of Trumps’ core base practices a more personal religion and are generally in areas that don’t display the level of individualism, but focus more on larger paternalistic families. This could be an interesting space for further exploration as it seems to be moving the “progress”(?) described by WEIRD countries backward.
Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:19AM

If Henrich’s history of Christianity and the West feels rushed and at times derivative—he acknowledges his debt to Max Weber—that’s because he’s in a hurry to explain Western psychology. 

This adds more to my prior comment with the addition to Max Weber here. Cross reference some of my reading this past week on his influence on the prosperity gospel.
Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:21AM

Henrich defends this sweeping thesis with several studies, including a test known as the Triad Task. Subjects are shown three images—say, a rabbit, a carrot, and a cat. The goal is to match a “target object”—the rabbit—with a second object. A person who matches the rabbit with the cat classifies: The rabbit and the cat are animals. A person who matches the rabbit with the carrot looks for relationships between the objects: The rabbit eats the carrot. 

Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:25AM

Toppling the accomplishments of Western civilization off their great-man platforms, he erases their claim to be monuments to rationality: Everything we think of as a cause of culture is really an effect of culture, including us. 

Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:27AM

He refutes genetic theories of European superiority and makes a good case against economic determinism. His quarry are the “enlightened” Westerners—would-be democratizers, globalizers, well-intended purveyors of humanitarian aid—who impose impersonal institutions and abstract political principles on societies rooted in familial networks, and don’t seem to notice the trouble that follows. 

Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:29AM

Read Why Trump Supporters Can’t Admit Who He Really Is by Peter Wehner (The Atlantic)
Nothing bonds a group more tightly than a common enemy that is perceived as a mortal threat.

A powerful tribal identity bonds the president to his supporters. As Amy Chua, the author of Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations, has argued, the tribal instinct is not just to belong, but also to exclude and to attack. “When groups feel threatened,” Chua writes, “they retreat into tribalism. They close ranks and become more insular, more defensive, more punitive, more us-versus-them.” 

Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 10:34AM

“Motivation conditions cognition,” Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributing writer at The Atlantic, wisely told me. Very few Trump supporters I know are able to offer an honest appraisal of the man. To do so creates too much cognitive dissonance. 

Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 10:36AM

That they are defending a person who is fundamentally malicious, even if he makes judicial appointments of which they approve, is too painful for them to admit. 

But surely in the multi-millions of Republicans, they could find someone who could also appoint those judges, but not have the myriad moral failings that Trump does. For surely if they can’t, then they’re doomed to failure and misery sooner or later.
Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 10:38AM

But what’s different in this case is that Trump, because of the corruption that seems to pervade every area of his life and his damaged psychological and emotional state, has shown us just how much people will accept in their leaders as a result of “negative partisanship,” the force that binds parties together less in common purpose than in opposition to a shared opponent. 

Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 10:41AM

Read - Reading: Behavioral Economics When Psychology and Economics Collide by Scott Huettel (The Great Courses)
Lecture 6: Probability Weighting
"Probability weighting” describes how people tend to convert objective information about probability into a subjective sense of what may happen—which can lead to bias and error. Observe how this applies to real-life situations such as buying life or travel insurance, and learn two tools to change how you deal with probabilities.
Finished lecture 6 on probability and availability heuristic/bias

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RSVPed Attending Design for Cognitive Bias Launch Party!

Come celebrate the launch of my new book, Design for Cognitive Bias. Each ticket includes the price of a copy of the book!

About this Event

Our users have biases and so do we. My new book, Design for Cognitive Bias, explores how design and content strategy can help keep them at bay (or use them for good). Let's celebrate the launch!

  • We'll start with a book reading
  • Then I'll chat with Tiny MBA author Alex Hillman about the book
  • Then we'll do audience Q&A
  • Then we'll do something called an idea exchange. (I'll explain later but I promise it'll be fun!)

Like I said, price of admission includes a digital copy of the book. YOU get a book! And YOU get a book! And YOU get a book! (You get the idea).

Special thanks to Indy Hall for virtually hosting this event!

I'm really looking forward to this. It's been a long road to get here and I hope you'll celebrate with me! :)

My remarkable friend David Dylan Thomas has a a new book entitled Design for Cognitive Bias coming out on August 25th from A Book Apart. Knowing his background and abilities, it will be a must-read for any web designer or developer.

We humans are messy, illogical creatures who like to imagine we’re in control—but we blithely let our biases lead us astray. In Design for Cognitive Bias, David Dylan Thomas lays bare the irrational forces that shape our everyday decisions and, inevitably, inform the experiences we craft. Once we grasp the logic powering these forces, we stand a fighting chance of confronting them, tempering them, and even harnessing them for good. Come along on a whirlwind tour of the cognitive biases that encroach on our lives and our work, and learn to start designing more consciously.

 If you’re free on Friday, August 28th there’s also a launch party for the book! The price of admission also includes a discounted copy of the e-book. RSVP now.

I’m hoping I can talk him into doing a talk or presentation for my friends in the IndieWeb community. He’s a great and thoughtful person and speaker, so I expect to see him around the design and development talk circuit for a lot of the coming year. If you have a conference coming up, I recommend you book him now before he’s over-scheduled.