👓 If You Say Something Is “Likely,” How Likely Do People Think It Is? | Harvard Business Review

Read If You Say Something Is “Likely,” How Likely Do People Think It Is? (Harvard Business Review)
Why you should use percentages, not words, to express probabilities.

Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia

Phil Tetlock, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, who has studied forecasting in depth, suggests that “vague verbiage gives you political safety.”  

This result is consistent with analysis by the data science team at Quora, a site where users ask and answer questions. That team found that women use uncertain words and phrases more often than men do, even when they are just as confident.  

A large literature shows that we tend to be overconfident in our judgments.  

The best forecasters make lots of precise forecasts and keep track of their performance with a metric such as a Brier score.  

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👓 The Marshmallow Test: What Does It Really Measure? | The Atlantic

Read Why Rich Kids Are So Good at the Marshmallow Test (The Atlantic)
Affluence—not willpower—seems to be what’s behind some kids' capacity to delay gratification.

I think I’ve read about the Marshmallow Test about 10 times in the past year and in no source did it manage to mention the miniscule or highly biased sample of the original study.

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🔖 Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier

Bookmarked Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier (Henry Holt and Co.)

You might have trouble imagining life without your social media accounts, but virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier insists that we’re better off without them. In Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, Lanier, who participates in no social media, offers powerful and personal reasons for all of us to leave these dangerous online platforms.

Lanier’s reasons for freeing ourselves from social media’s poisonous grip include its tendency to bring out the worst in us, to make politics terrifying, to trick us with illusions of popularity and success, to twist our relationship with the truth, to disconnect us from other people even as we are more “connected” than ever, to rob us of our free will with relentless targeted ads. How can we remain autonomous in a world where we are under continual surveillance and are constantly being prodded by algorithms run by some of the richest corporations in history that have no way of making money other than being paid to manipulate our behavior? How could the benefits of social media possibly outweigh the catastrophic losses to our personal dignity, happiness, and freedom? Lanier remains a tech optimist, so while demonstrating the evil that rules social media business models today, he also envisions a humanistic setting for social networking that can direct us toward a richer and fuller way of living and connecting with our world.

This looks like an interesting book to read for some related IndieWeb research. Perhaps something Greg McVerry could use in his proposed talk?

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👓 Power Causes Brain Damage | The Atlantic

Read Power Causes Brain Damage (The Atlantic)
How leaders lose mental capacities—most notably for reading other people—that were essential to their rise

This is an impressive thesis and area for research. I’m impressed with their restraint in not making a single mention of Donald Trump here who would be a sterling example, particularly given his background, bullying behavior, and complete lack of any empathy.

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🎧 Bonus: Malcolm Gladwell debates Adam Grant | Revisionist History

Listened to Bonus: Malcolm Gladwell debates Adam Grant by Malcolm GladwellMalcolm Gladwell from Revisionist History

In a special live taping at the 92nd Street Y in New York, Malcolm talks with WorkLife’s Adam Grant about how to avoid doing highly undesirable tasks, what makes an idea interesting, and why Malcolm thinks we shouldn't root for the underdog.

While there was a great conversation here, I was most struck by the incredibly well done and specific nature of the way Gladwell did the embedded advertisement in this episode.

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👓 Why it’s as hard to escape an echo chamber as it is to flee a cult | C Thi Nguyen | Aeon Essays

Read Why it’s as hard to escape an echo chamber as it is to flee a cult by C Thi Nguyen (Aeon)

First you don’t hear other views. Then you can’t trust them. Your personal information network entraps you just like a cult

Something has gone wrong with the flow of information. It’s not just that different people are drawing subtly different conclusions from the same evidence. It seems like different intellectual communities no longer share basic foundational beliefs. Maybe nobody cares about the truth anymore, as some have started to worry. Maybe political allegiance has replaced basic reasoning skills. Maybe we’ve all become trapped in echo chambers of our own making – wrapping ourselves in an intellectually impenetrable layer of likeminded friends and web pages and social media feeds.

But there are two very different phenomena at play here, each of which subvert the flow of information in very distinct ways. Let’s call them echo chambers and epistemic bubbles. Both are social structures that systematically exclude sources of information. Both exaggerate their members’ confidence in their beliefs. But they work in entirely different ways, and they require very different modes of intervention. An epistemic bubble is when you don’t hear people from the other side. An echo chamber is what happens when you don’t trust people from the other side.

A stunning essay that gives me hope that we’re not in a “post-truth” world. On the other hand, we’re going to need to do a lot of work …

hat tip: Ian O’Byrne

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🔖 Moving chairs in Starbucks: Observational studies find rice-wheat cultural differences in daily life in China | Science Advances

Bookmarked Moving chairs in Starbucks: Observational studies find rice-wheat cultural differences in daily life in China by Thomas Talhelm, Xuemin Zhang and Shigehiro Oishi (Science Advances)
Traditional paddy rice farmers had to share labor and coordinate irrigation in a way that most wheat farmers did not. We observed people in everyday life to test whether these agricultural legacies gave rice-farming southern China a more interdependent culture and wheat-farming northern China a more independent culture. In Study 1, we counted 8964 people sitting in cafes in six cities and found that people in northern China were more likely to be sitting alone. In Study 2, we moved chairs together in Starbucks across the country so that they were partially blocking the aisle ( n = 678). People in northern China were more likely to move the chair out of the way, which is consistent with findings that people in individualistic cultures are more likely to try to control the environment. People in southern China were more likely to adjust the self to the environment by squeezing through the chairs. Even in China’s most modern cities, rice-wheat differences live on in everyday life.
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👓 How School Shootings Spread | New Yorker

Read How School Shootings Spread by Malcolm GladwellMalcolm Gladwell (The New Yorker)
An increasingly ritualized form of violence is attracting unexpected perpetrators.

An intriguing article whose theory seems both applicable and timely. It also seems extensible to additional areas, some of which I’ve noted in my annotations.

Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia

Most previous explanations had focussed on explaining how someone’s beliefs might be altered in the moment.

Knowing a little of what is coming in advance here, I can’t help but thinking: How can this riot theory potentially be used to influence politics and/or political campaigns? It could be particularly effective to get people “riled up” just before a particular election to create a political riot of sorts and thereby influence the outcome. Facebook has done several social experiments with elections in showing that their friends and family voted and thereby affecting other potential voters. When done in a way that targets people of particular political beliefs to increase turn out, one is given a means of drastically influencing elections. In some sense, this is an example of this “Riot Theory”.


“But group interaction was such that none could admit this without loss of status; in our terms, their threshold for stealing cars is low because daring masculine acts bring status, and reluctance to join, once others have, carries the high cost of being labeled a sissy.” You can’t just look at an individual’s norms and motives. You need to look at the group.

This might also be the same case with fraternity shenanigans and even more deplorable actions like gang rapes. Usually there’s one or more sociopaths that start the movement, and then others reluctantly join in.


If a riot evolves as it spreads, starting with the hotheaded rock thrower and ending with the upstanding citizen, then rioters are a profoundly heterogeneous group.


Granovetter’s model suggests that riots are sometimes more than spontaneous outbursts. If they evolve, it means they have depth and length and a history. Granovetter thought that the threshold hypothesis could be used to describe everything from elections to strikes, and even matters as prosaic as how people decide it’s time to leave a party.


The first seven major shooting cases—Loukaitis, Ramsey, Woodham, Carneal, Johnson and Golden, Wurst, and Kinkel—were disconnected and idiosyncratic.

Seven though? In such a short time period? These must have known about prior ones or else perhaps the theory doesn’t hold as much water. Similarly suicide could be added as a contagion that fits into this riot model as well.


That’s what Paton and Larkin mean: the effect of Harris and Klebold’s example was to make it possible for people with far higher thresholds—boys who would ordinarily never think of firing a weapon at their classmates—to join in the riot.


He disapproved of Adam Lanza, because he shot kindergartners at Sandy Hook instead of people his own age: “That’s just pathetic. Have some dignity, damn it.”

This model of a dialectic suggests that the narrative can be shaped, both by the individual reader and each actor. Can it also be shaped by the media? If these mass-murderers are portrayed as pathetic or deranged would that dissuade others from joining their ranks?
gandalf511 on Oct 13, 2015

gandalf511, I like the idea you’ve elaborated here, and it may work to at least some extent. One other hand, some of these kids are already iconoclasts who are marginalized and may not put much value or faith in a mainstream media representation. The tougher needle to thread is how to strike a middle ground that speaks to potential assailants?

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👓 Pearson Embedded a ‘Social-Psychological’ Experiment in Students’ Educational Software | Gizmodo

Read Pearson Embedded a 'Social-Psychological' Experiment in Students' Educational Software [Updated] (Gizmodo)
Education and publishing giant Pearson is drawing criticism after using its software to experiment on over 9,000 math and computer science students across the country. In a paper presented Wednesday at the American Association of Educational Research, Pearson researchers revealed that they tested the effects of encouraging messages on students that used the MyLab Programming educational software during 2017's spring semester.
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🔖 The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer

Bookmarked The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer (Perennial Classics)

A stevedore on the San Francisco docks in the 1940s, Eric Hoffer wrote philosophical treatises in his spare time while living in the railroad yards. The True Believer -- the first and most famous of his books -- was made into a bestseller when President Eisenhower cited it during one of the earliest television press conferences.Completely relevant and essential for understanding the world today, The True Believer is a visionary, highly provocative look into the mind of the fanatic and a penetrating study of how an individual becomes one.

The famous bestseller with “concise insight into what drives the mind of the fanatic and the dynamics of a mass movement” (Wall St. Journal) by Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Eric Hoffer, The True Believer is a landmark in the field of social psychology, and even more relevant today than ever before in history. Called a “brilliant and original inquiry” and “a genuine contribution to our social thought” by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., The True Believer is mandatory reading for anyone interested in the machinations by which an individual becomes a fanatic.

h/t

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Reply to Why Trump? by George Lakoff

Replied to Why Trump? by George Lakoff (George Lakoff)
Donald Trump is winning Republican presidential primaries at such a great rate that he seems likely to become the next Republican presidential nominee and perhaps the next president. Democrats have little understanding of why he is winning — and winning handily, and even...

I appreciate the logic you’ve laid out on multiple levels here. I wish it were more widely viewed and shared. There’s an additional linguistic trick which Trump seems to take heavy advantage of as well: doublespeak. I’ve laid out some of the details here: http://boffosocko.com/2016/09/30/complexity-isnt-a-vice-10-word-answers-and-doubletalk-in-election-2016/ though I’ve got a slightly more nuanced approach now a year on and with additional data.

I enjoy your take on Direct vs. Systemic Causation which I bundle a bit more simply under the concept of “complexity”. The example I provide certainly fits well into your argument. It also seems to explain the political divide, which also follows the same party lines, in the ways the country views science in general, but the ideas of climate change and evolution specifically. While the evolution portion may be in direct conflict with the religious right, it doesn’t explain why so many don’t believe in the sciences generally or why they would be climate change deniers. Direct causation would seem to supersede the simple religion argument and explain the backlash against the sciences in general.

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👓 Talking to Boys the Way We Talk to Girls | New York Times

Read Talking to Boys the Way We Talk to Girls (New York Times)
Stereotypically macho messages limit children’s understanding of what it means to be a father, a man and a boy, as well.
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🎧 Flip the Script | Invisibilia (NPR)

Listened to Flip the Script from Invisibilia (NPR)
Psychology has a golden rule: If I am warm, you are usually warm. If I am hostile, you are too. But what happens if you flip the script and meet hostility with warmth? It's called "noncomplementary behavior" — a mouthful, but a powerful concept, and very hard to execute. Alix and Hanna examine three attempts to pull it off: during a robbery, a terrorism crisis and a dating dry spell.

Wow! Just wow! This concept is certainly worth thinking about in greater depth.

I loved the story of police and harassment; it is particularly interesting given the possible changes we could make in the world using these techniques. It shows what some kindness and consideration can do to reshape the world.

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Ben Carson Just Got a Whole Lot Wrong About the Brain | Wired

Read Ben Carson Just Got a Whole Lot Wrong About the Brain (Wired)
TODAY, IN HIS first speech to his staff at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, newly minted Secretary Ben Carson delivered an extemporaneous disquisition on the unparalleled marvel that is the human brain and memory. “There is nothing in this universe that even begins to compare with the human brain and what it is capable of,” he began. “Billions and billions of neurons, hundreds of billions of interconnections.” It was a tangent in a speech about how in America, anything is possible.

Continue reading “Ben Carson Just Got a Whole Lot Wrong About the Brain | Wired”

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🔖 Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini

Bookmarked Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade (Simon & Schuster, September 6, 2016)
The author of the legendary bestseller Influence, social psychologist Robert Cialdini shines a light on effective persuasion and reveals that the secret doesn’t lie in the message itself, but in the key moment before that message is delivered.

What separates effective communicators from truly successful persuaders? Using the same combination of rigorous scientific research and accessibility that made his Influence an iconic bestseller, Robert Cialdini explains how to capitalize on the essential window of time before you deliver an important message. This “privileged moment for change” prepares people to be receptive to a message before they experience it. Optimal persuasion is achieved only through optimal pre-suasion. In other words, to change “minds” a pre-suader must also change “states of mind.”

His first solo work in over thirty years, Cialdini’s Pre-Suasion draws on his extensive experience as the most cited social psychologist of our time and explains the techniques a person should implement to become a master persuader. Altering a listener’s attitudes, beliefs, or experiences isn’t necessary, says Cialdini—all that’s required is for a communicator to redirect the audience’s focus of attention before a relevant action.

From studies on advertising imagery to treating opiate addiction, from the annual letters of Berkshire Hathaway to the annals of history, Cialdini draws on an array of studies and narratives to outline the specific techniques you can use on online marketing campaigns and even effective wartime propaganda. He illustrates how the artful diversion of attention leads to successful pre-suasion and gets your targeted audience primed and ready to say, “Yes.”

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