Friday, July 14, 2017

Ch. 3 The Self

I. Nature of the Self
The Self is a symbol-using social being who can reflect (self-awareness) on his or her own behavior.

A. Evolutionary View of the Self
Self-awareness and symbol usage-and thus the self-may have evolved in our ancestors as a means to better deal with an increasingly complex social environment. For instance, self-awareness not only provided our ancestors with knowledge about their own behavior, but they could also use this inner experience to anticipate how rivals might behave in the future - perhaps in war or in social bargaining - thus giving them an advantage. Similarly, the development of language not only allowed our ancestors to better coordinate group activities, but they could also use this symbolic communication to discuss things not physically present, such as a herd of antelope or a band of hostile warriors. According to this evolutionary view, these two defining features of the self became the means by which our ancestors developed an adaptive advantage in their environment, thus increasing their chances of surviving and reproducing.

In contemplating the adaptive advantage of self-hood in our evolutionary history, numerous social scientists have asserted that these advantages were accompanied by the ability of our ancestors to now ponder their existence, morality and their own self-worth.

B. Brain Regions Associated With Self-Awareness And Self Regulation
The primary neural source for self-awareness is the frontal lobes of the cerebral cortex.

C. Contemporary Self Theories Based On Insights Of George Herbert Mead & William James
In both James's and Mead's theories, the self is described as having two separate aspects, the self as the "I" and the "me"). The "I" is subjective self or the self as active perceiver and initiator of action. The "me" is the objective self or the self as seen from the imagined perspective of others.

(Remember, in this context a subject is an observer and on object is a thing observed.)

Later chapters look at contemporary self theories where essentially the "I" is the self's executive function: it makes decisions, initiates behavior, and exerts control over the self and the environment. The "me" is discussed using the term "self-concept" which is the sum total of a person's thoughts and feelings that defines the self as an object.

II. The Self As Both Target Of Attention And Active Agent
A. Self-Awareness Is A Temporary Psychological State
Self-Awareness is a psychological state in which you take yourself as an object of attention. To have a self-concept you must be able to engage in self-awareness.

Studies on infants and toddlers suggest that we are not born with self-awareness but rather, we develop it around 18 months old.

B. Two types of self-awareness have been identified
1. Private self-awareness is the temporary state of being aware of hidden, private self-aspects. Feeling sad or content, seeing your face in a mirror, or feeling the hunger pangs in your stomach will likely cause you to become privately self-aware.

Intensification of affect - any positive or negative feelings experienced when privately self-aware will be exaggerated.
Clarification of knowledge - private events become clearer and more distinct, thus increasing your ability to accurately report them.
Greater adherence to personal standards of behavior - when privately self-aware you are more likely to act in line with your personal beliefs than to conform to social pressures.

2. Public self-awareness is the temporary state of being aware of public self-aspects (emerges when people are aware of how they appear to others). Being watched by others (ex. about to give a presentation), or having your picture taken.

Evaluation apprehension - These are the butterflies in your stomach before making an important presentation. This is likely because you have learned through experience that public scrutiny often results in either positive or negative outcomes.
Temporary loss of self-esteem - due to realizing that there is a discrepancy between your ideal and actual public self. This explains why you feel bad after a failed presentation or date request.
Greater adherence to social standards of behavior - a heightened degree of conformity.

C. Self-Consciousness Is A Personality Trait
Some people spend more time self-reflecting than others. The habitual tendency to engage in self-awareness is known as the personality trait of self-consciousness.

As there are two types of self-awareness, there are also two types of self-consciousness referred to as private self-consciousness and public self-consciousness. The Self-Consciousness Scale developed 1975 by Fenigstein, Scheier and Buss is a method to measure these two traits.

D. Two Types Of Self-Consciousness Have Been Identified

1. Private Self-Consciousness is the tendency to be aware of the private aspects of the self.

-The effects are essentially the same as of private self-awareness (see above).
-The self-concepts of those high n private self-consciousness are generally more accurate reflections of their actual behavior than those low in private self-awareness.
-Habitual attention to private self-aspects can contribute to depression and neuroticism.

2. Public Self-Consciousness is the tendency to be aware of publicly displayed self-aspects.

-The effects are similar to those of public self-awareness (see above).
High public self-conscious individuals are more concerned about their appearance and are more likely to judge others on their looks.

3. Interaction Between Private and Public Self-Consciousness
-People high on private self-consciousness and low on public self-consciousness are the ones most likely to act according to their true attitudes.
-On the other hand, people high on public self-consciousness, regardless of their level of private self-consciousness, are much less likely to publicly act according to their true attitudes. Therefore, even people high on private self-consciousness that have an accurate understanding of their own attitudes, being simultaneously high in public self-consciousness can lead to behavior that runs counter to those attitudes.

E. Self-Regulation Is The Self's Most Important Function
Self-Regulation is the ways in which people control and direct their own actions. In particular, self-regulation consists of deliberate efforts by the self to alter its own states and responses, including behavior, thoughts, impulses or appetites, emotions, and task performance. The concept of self-regulation is close to the colloquial terms self-control and self-discipline, and many social psychologists use the terms interchangeably.(1) 

One of the important functions of self-regulation is that it provides us with the capacity to forgo the immediate gratification of small rewards to later attain larger rewards.

Control Theory of Self Regulation
In Charles Carver and Michael Scheier’s (1981, 1998) control theory of self-regulation, they contend that self-awareness allows us to assess how we are doing in meeting our goals and ideals. The core idea in control theory is a cognitive feedback loop, summarized by the acronym TOTE, which stands for the steps taken in self-regulation: Test-Operate-Test-Exit.

In self-regulation, engaging in self-awareness allows us to compare how we are doing against some standard. This is the first test phase. When privately self-aware we compare ourselves against a private standard (for example, our own values), but when publicly self-aware we compare ourselves against a public standard (for example, our beliefs about what other people value). In the test phase, if we discover that we are falling short of the standard (for example, not studying enough), then we operate to change ourselves (we study harder). Soon, we again self-reflect—the second test phase—to see whether we are closer to reaching our standard. This test and operate cycle repeats itself until there is no difference between our behavior and the standard. When we meet the standard, the control process ends, we feel happy, and we exit the feedback loop. If repeated attempts to move closer to the standard fail, we feel bad and eventually exit the loop (Silvia & Duval, 2001a).

Self-Discrepancies are discrepancies between our self-concept and how we would ideally like to be (ideal self) or believe others think we should be (ought self).

1. Ideal Self Discrepancies - Discrepancies between our actual self and ideal self (for example, "I with I was more physically attractive") are thought to produce dejection-related emotions, such as disappointment, frustration, and depression.

2. Ought Self Discrepancies - Discrepancies between our actual self and our ought self (for example "I should be helping out more financially") we are vulnerable to agitation-related emotions such as anxiety, and guilt (Higgins et al., 1986)

In most instances, negative emotions hinder the type of self-regulation necessary for achieving longer-term goals (Tice et al., 2001). When people become upset, they tend to give in to their immediate impulses to make themselves feel better. For example, if you are trying to stop smoking, you are likely to grab for a cigarette after having an argument with someone. This “weakness” on your part amounts to giving short-term emotion regulation priority over your longer-term self-regulatory goal of being smoke-free.

Although a high capacity for self-regulation appears to improve your chances for success in life, it should be noted that self-regulating on one task makes it harder to immediately self-regulate on unrelated tasks (Baumeister et al., 1998). In other words, studies have found that exerting self-control in one area causes a subsequent decline in self-control performance in other tasks (see ego depletion). But some researches question this "strength model" of self-regulation believing that the decline in performance these studies find may not be due to an actual decrease in people's ability to self-regulate but instead is caused by a decrease i people's motivation to exert self-control. In other words, after exerting self-control in one activity people may not be less able to exercise self-control in a subsequent task, but are less willing to exercise this control.

III. The Self As A Knowledge Structure
How is the self organized in memory?

A schema is a cognitive structure that represents knowledge about some stimulus, which is built up from experience and which selectively guides the process of new information. A schema directs our attention to relevant information, giving us a framework for assessing it.

Some psychologist use the term self-schema as equivalent to self-concept, while other employ a more restrictive definition. The more restrictive definition is used here and it refers to a cognitive structure that represents how you think about yourself in a particular domain and how you organize your experiences in that domain. Just as self-concept has been previously described as a theory that you have about yourself, self-schemas can be thought of as the hypotheses of this self-theory.

Gender Identity And Gender Schemas Are Important Aspects Of Self-Concept
Gender identity is the identification of onself as a male or female and the internalization of this fact into one's self-concept.

(1)Encyclopedia of Social Psychology: Self-Regulation - link 1, link 2

Friday, July 7, 2017

Roger Scruton: “Why Beauty Matters?”

Vimeo Link


Theodorus Gerardus Jozef "TheoJansen (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈteːjoː ˈjɑnsə(n)]; born 14 March 1948) is a Dutch artist. In 1990, he began building large mechanisms out of PVC that are able to move on their own, known only as Strandbeest. The kinetic sculptures appear to walk.[1] His animated works are intended to be a fusion of art and engineering, and he has said that "The walls between art and engineering exist only in our minds." He strives to equip his creations with their own artificial intelligence so they can avoid obstacles such as the sea by changing course when one is detected. (from Wikipedia)

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Timeline of the Everygreen College Debacle

The following is my attempt to create a timeline of the Evergreen College.

I. Timeline of events

September 21

Two Students Protest/Disrupt Convocation
Two student protesters, AR Rushet and Lawrence Walker, interrupted the invited speaker at a school event referred to as convocation, holding a sign that said “Evergreen cashes diversity checks but doesn’t care about blacks”.(5) An interview in the student newspaper doesn't shed much light on exactly what it was they were protesting. Though there's nothing of substance, there is a lot of talk about their feelings, such as they feel that people of color are treated "like trophies that are super disposable," and that they are "fundamentally unsupported."(10)  You can read more about the incident here(9) and if you really want to get deep, you can read the disorienting interview with the two students here(10). 

November 18
Bret Weinstein Sends Email Criticizing The Strategic Equity Plan
Prof. Bret Weinstein sent an email via faculty email exchange criticizing the Equity Council's Strategic Equity Plan. 

Essentially, the Strategic Equity Plan shifted the college "from a diversity agenda" to an "equity agenda" by, among other things, requiring an "equity justification" for every faculty hire.(7) Weinstein's email criticized the plan in part saying "From what I have read, I do not believe this proposal will function to the net benefit of Evergreen’s students of color, in the present, or in the future"(5) Though I haven't been able to find a copy of the actual email, Weinstein later elaborated on the issue in his article in The Wall Street Journal which you can read here.

January 11
Students Protest/Disrupt the New Police Chief's Swearing In Ceremony
A group of students, including the two students that disrupted the convocation on September 21, brought noisemakers to the swearing in ceremony of Evergreen State College Chief of Police Stacy Brown, took the microphone from Wendy Endress, V. P. of Student Affairs, and chanted “Fuck cops” and "Death to Pigs".(5)(12) Though this is referred to as a protest, it seems the only thing being protested is the fact that cops exist and that the college has a police force.

When it became clear the "protesters" weren't going to quiet down or surrender the microphone, instead of taking action to deal with the disruption, the school's president George Bridges, chief of police Stacy Brown and other members of the administration simply left the reception, effectively canceling the event.(12)  The college later issued code of conduct violations against AR Rushet and Lawrence Walker.(11)

March 15
Weinstein Sends Email Regarding Day of Absence
Every year Evergreen State College has held a "Day of Absence" when students, staff and faculty of color are invited to meet off campus and participate in discussions on race and other social issues. The idea is to leave the campus without it's minority members so those remaining can "reflect on the meaning of their community without these essential members."(1) The following day there is a "Day of Presence," held on campus with similar activities where all are allowed to participate.

This year it was decided that the event would be changed so that on the "Day of Absence," white members of the college were "invited" to leave the campus and minority members were to remain. According to the student newspaper, the "decision was reached through discussion with POC Greeners who voiced concern over feeling as if they are unwelcome on campus, following the 2016 election."(27)

On March 15, Prof. Bret Weinstein responded to a faculty wide email regarding the upcoming 'Day of Absence', protesting the change in the event. You can read Weinstein's email here. This led to a bit of back and forth from various faculty members and Weinstein. You can read the entire series of emails here.

May 10
Student Sends Facebook Post In An Effort To Make Class Mostly Brown/Black 
Student Jamil A. Bee left a post in a Facebook group for students graduating in 2020 requesting PoC (people of color) to take a Media Works class in an effort to make it a mostly brown/black class. Here is an image of the original post. Trying to point out the hypocritical bigotry of the post, another student, Kai-Avé Douvia, posts a copy of Jamil's message except changing "PoC" and "black/brown" with "white". This sparked a huge uproar in the comments section. Allegedly, these comments have since been deleted.(1)(2)(3)

May 14
Confrontation at the Greenery & Police Question Timeko and Jamil
The back and forth culminated in a confrontation on May 14th at the Greenery cafeteria between Douvia and a group of students. I can't tell from accounts if Jamil was present but it seems the argument primarily involved Douvia and another student named Timeko Williams Jr. Some accounts state that threats were made toward Douvia while other say no threats were made. Regardless Douvia reported to police that threats were made against him.(1)(2)(3)

Later that night, a residential director went to Jamil and Williams rooms and told them they had been requested at Police Services.(1) It looks as if they either arrived at the police station with a large entourage or the group showed up shortly after, as a couple of Facebook videos on Jamil's page show a large group of students waiting around the station. After being questioned the two were released a few hours later with no charges filed but in the eyes of the protesters, as indicated in a press release about a week later, this action by the police of investigating a potentially criminal complaint filed with them, was actually an example of harassing institutional racism.(4)

May 15
Students Take Over Discussion with Candidate
Student protesters took over a scheduled conversation with a candidate for Vice President/Vice Provost of Equity and Inclusion to "talk about recent events and the history of racism and administrative stagnancy on campus."(5)

May 19
Boycott of President's 'Conversation about Race'
On May 18 Wendy Endress, Vice President of Student Affairs,  sends an email regarding the heated Facebook messages, Douvia's report to the police for alleged threats made against him, and police questioning of Williams and Bee. There are allegations that the email Endress sent includes false information about the students who were detained but based on the letter I read here, which is asserted to be the email in question, I'm not sure what the uproar is all about.(5)(13)

Some students called for a boycott of the event in a ridiculous press release you can read here.(14)

May 23
Students Confront Weinstein
In the morning of May 23, a group of about fifty protesters disrupt Bret Weinstein’s class. Though Weinstein tried to have a sensible discussion the mob hurled obscenities at the professor, labeling him a racist and demanding his resignation.

The campus police were called, and they in turn called the County Sheriff’s office for backup.(5) When police arrived, student protesters blocked their way which they say was to protect students of color but looked to me to be nothing more than an attempt to keep them from reaching Weinstein. The students claim that police Officer Timothy O'Dell was inappropriately aggressive when he physically tried to push his way through the students. I didn't see any indication of this in the videos but am curious as to why the protesters that blocked police from getting through weren't arrested as this seems to be a clear example of obstruction.


Meeting Held By President George Bridges
After confronting Weinstein, the mob confronted George Bridges, the President of the University, and demanded a meeting with him that afternoon. The mob relentlessly harassed, and belittled Bridges and other members of the administration using bigoted and vulgar language.


Bridges agrees to a meeting which takes place at 4:pm. He kowtows to the students for a bit, then the students begin questioning him, describing their delusional worldviews and making demands. They become more aggressive as the meeting goes on. Eventually it becomes nothing more than a platform for the students to abuse the administrators.


May 24
Students Barricade Library, Occupy Building & Meet with Administrators
About 200 students gathered for a rally on the campus' central Red Square (appropriately named) then marched to president Bridges' office on the third floor of the library chanting "Hey-hey, ho-ho, these racist teachers have got to go". Students literally blocked entrances with furniture to keep the police out which you can see on this video at 4:05. Again protesters hysterically abused administrators, intimidated faculty, and made slanderous accusations of racism.

Students presented Bridges with a list of demands, requesting that they be addressed by 5 p.m. Friday.(4)(5)


On another part of the campus, protesters interrupted a faculty meeting that was being held to honor professors who were recently nominated for emeritus status. Standing at the front of the room the protesters scolded the professors for sitting there "eating cake and chewing" instead of supporting the student. 


Weinstein Told It's Unsafe For Him To Be On Campus
Weinstein stated "Police told me protesters stopped cars yesterday, demanding information about occupants...They believe I was being sought."(25) "“I have been told by the Chief of Police it’s not safe for me to be on campus.” An administrator confirmed the police department advised Weinstein it “might be best to stay off campus for a day or so.”(26)

May 26
George Bridges Addresses Demands
Bridges set a meeting in the Longhouse at 5 p.m. to address the demands made by students. Here's a video of the unbelievable address and further student insanity.

Weinstein Makes Media Appearances
On May 26, Bret Weinstein appears on Tucker Carlson show. Over the next several weeks he appears on various news shows, podcast and YouTube shows including:
May 30 - The Rubin Report
May 30 - The Wall Street Journal
June 2 - Joe Rogan Experience

May 27
Student's Demands Published
Student demands are published in the Cooperpoint Journal.(15)

May 31
Lawmakers Propose Defunding Evergreen
Campus Reform reports that a bill to privatize Evergreen, spearheaded by Republican State Representative Matt Manweller, will be introduced alongside a letter to the state Human Rights Commission requesting an investigation into potential civil rights violations on campus surrounding the incident. Manweller and his colleagues are also discussing the possibility of revoking $24,000,000 in annual funding to Evergreen State College.(20)

June 1
Threat of Violence Closes Campus
On Thursday, June 1st, someone called 911 and told the dispatcher, “Yes, I am on my way to Evergreen now with a .44 Magnum. … I am going to execute as many people on that campus as I can get a hold of. You have that, what’s going on here, you communist scumbag?” The school was immediately shut down as Law Enforcement searched the campus. The campus remained closed on Friday and reopened on Saturday.(16)

June 2 
Faculty Sign Statement of Solidarity with Protesters
More than 50 Evergreen professors signed a statement affirming faculty solidarity with students. It's first two sentences establishes the ridiculous ideology of it's drafters, "We acknowledge that all of us who have power within the institution share responsibility for the racist actions of others. Furthermore, those of us who are white bear a particularly large share of that responsibility." At one point the document specifically demands Weinstein be punished by calling for the administration to "Demonstrate accountability by pursuing a disciplinary investigation against Bret Weinstein according to guidelines in the Social Contract and Faculty Handbook. Weinstein has endangered faculty, staff, and students, making them targets of white supremacist backlash by promulgating misinformation in public emails, on national television, in news outlets, and on social media."

As of 06/19/17, the original Google Docs link to the statement of solidarity shows that it has been removed but I've found copy on scribd here.(17)

June 4

Vigilantes Patrol Campus with Bats
The College Fix reports that a group of vigilantes took to patrolling the campus armed with bats and other weapons. The paper obtained a copy of an email from Vice President for Student Affairs Wendy Endress addressed to "colleagues" which included a message sent to students Sunday by Sharon Goodman, director of Evergreen’s Residential and Dining Service, or RAD, asking the “community patrol” to lay down its weapons. (21)

June 5

Campus Again Closed Due Threat Investigation
The campus was again closed on Monday June 5 “while law enforcement officials review new external threat information received over the weekend.”(16) 

Campus Graffiti & Vandalism
A later reports indicates the closure was actually due to the continued investigation of the original threat, problems with the bat carrying vigilantes and incidents of graffiti and broken windows, which amounted to about $10,000 in damages.(23)

I've collected all the images I could find of graffiti painted throughout the campus here. (Note: I don't know when the graffiti was actually painted.)

June 15
Patriot Prayer Demonstrators Clash With Anarchist Counter Protesters
About 50 or 60 conservative protesters from the group Patriot Prayer marched onto the campus. They were met about 120 masked "anarchists" and students. One arrest was made.(19)

June 16
Graduation Moved Off-Campus
For security reasons, the 2017 graduation ceremony was moved off-campus and relocated to Cheney Stadium.(18)

Vice News Report
Vice News released a video report on the Evergreen protest, which include interviews with some of these students mocking 'free speech'.(24)

June 20

Bridges Testifies In Front of Washington Senate Law and Justice Committee
Bridges spoke at a work session of the Senate Law and Justice Committee regarding the student protests and campus safety. The session also featured testimony from police chief Stacy Brown, Professor Mike Paros, Washington State Patrol chief John Batiste, Thurston County chief Deputy Sheriff Dave Pearsall and Rep. Matt Manweller.(22)

Video1 (entire session)

July 12
First Public Board Of Trustees Meeting Since The Unrest
The board listened to short public comments including comments from Bret Weinstein. 

Video1 (entire meeting)

Originally Posted 06/19/17
Last Updated 07/13/17

(1)The Cooperpoint Journal: Students Questioned About Alleged Harassment
(2)Liberty Hangout: I am a Leftist But an Alien Among My Leftist Peers
(3)Evergreen State College Drama: Some Background
(4)The Olympian: Students allege racism, protest administrators at The Evergreen State College
(5)The Cooperpoint Journal: A Year of Events
(6)The Evergreen State College: The Equity Council
(7)The Evergreen State College Equity and Inclusion Council 2016-2017 Strategic Equity Plan
(8)The Wall Street Journal: The Campus Mob Came for Me-and You, Professor, Could Be Next
(9)The Cooperpoint Journal: Confrontation at Convocation
(10)The Cooperpoint Journal: Complete Interview with Lawrence Walker III and AR Rushet
(11)The Cooperpoint Journal: POC Talk Student Conduct Code Violations Used Against Direct Action
(12)The Cooperpoint Journal: Evergreen "Welcomes" New Chief of Police
(13)Alleged email sent by Wendy Endress on May 18th
(14)Call to boycott the "Talk with the President" event on May 19th.
(15)The Cooperpoint Journal: Students Demand Change
(16)Washington Post: Evergreen State College closes again after threat and protests over race
(17)Faculty statement of solidarity with students
(18)KIRO7: Security tight at graduation ceremony for The Evergreen State College
(19)King5: 1 arrested during clashing protests at Evergreen State College
(20)Campus Reform: Lawmakers propose defunding Evergreen State amid protests
(21)The College Fix: Evergreen official asks student vigilantes to stop patrolling campus armed with bats, batons
(22)The News Tribune: Evergreen president wants more money for campus police
(23)The Washington Post: Evergreen State College reopens after violent threat and property damage on campus
(24)Vice News: Evergreen State College Controversy
(25)The Washington Times: Students Berate Professor Who Refused To Participate In No Whites 'Day Of Absence'.
(26)King 5 News: Professor told he's not safe on campus after college protests
(27)The Cooperpoint Journal: Day of Absence Changes Form

Friday, June 9, 2017

Place where two oceans meet?

A Facebook friend posted the following intriguing video.

It's a striking video depicting two different colors in a large body of water with a definitive separation between the two. The caption says that it's the place "where two oceans meet but do not mix." This of course doesn't make any sense. The ocean is just one large body of water which humans have subdivided into the five oceans for mapping purposes. So what is actually happening in the video?

In actuality, this has nothing to do with two oceans meeting. A little internet searching led me to this article which explains that it is the result of sediment rich water from glacial rivers pouring into the ocean around the Gulf of Alaska. Here's a small excerpt from the article:

"Glacier rivers in the summertime are like buzzsaws eroding away the mountains there," Bruland said. "In the process, they lift up all this material -- they call it glacial flour -- that can be carried out."

Once these glacial rivers pour out into the larger body of water, they're picked up by ocean currents, moving east to west, and begin to circulate there. This is one of the primary methods that iron -- found in the clay and sediment of the glacial runoff -- is transported to iron-deprived regions in the middle of the Gulf of Alaska.

It's also a falsehood that these two types of water don't mix at all, he said.

"They do eventually mix, but you do come across these really strong gradients at these specific moments in time," he said. Such borders are never static, he added, as they move around and disappear altogether, depending on the level of sediment and the whims of the water.

By Ken Bruland
Here's another video capturing the effect

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Green Lake Park

Photo by Marc Henauer

Green Lake (Grüner See), located in Styria, Austria, where every spring the snowmelt from the nearby Hochschwab mountains causes the lake to nearly double in size, submerging a portion of the surrounding park.

Photo by Westend61 GmbH/Alamy

Photo by Marc Henauer

Photo by Andreas Neuburger

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Social Conformity

I. Conformity 
A. Conformity Research
Sherif's Autokinetic Effect Experiments
Psychologist Muzafer Sherif, one of the founders of social psychology,  conducted a classic study on conformity in 1936. His research was partly spurred by his disagreement with the prevailing individualist view that a group was merely a collection of individuals and that no new group qualities arise when individuals form into a collective.(3)

Sherif put subjects individually in a dark room and told them to watch a pinpoint of light and report how far it moved. Psychologists had previously discovered that a small, unmoving light in a dark room often appeared. This is known as the autokinetic effect. After a few trials, the individuals began to establish their own consistent norms. The range among the individual subjects varied from 2 to 12 inches. 

A few days later, Sherif conducted the experiment again but this time he put subjects with different norms together into groups of three and asked them to give their estimates out loud after each trial. Over time, with repeated trials, the individual estimates began to converge, eventually reaching a point of near consensus. Sherif's conclusion was that a group norm had superseded individual norms.

Later when tested alone, Sherif found that participants replicated their original groups' estimates. This suggests that the influence of the group was informational rather than coercive; because they continued to perceive individually what they had as members of a group, Sherif concluded that they had internalized their original group's way of seeing the world.(5)

Conclusion: Sherif's major conclusion was that in ambiguous situations a person is more likely to be influenced by others as they are looking for guidance out of a desire to be correct (informational conformity).

Asch's Line Judgement Experiments
In the early 1950's, psychologist Solomon Asch conducted a series of important studies that demonstrated the power of group conformity.

The basic experiment involved seven participants of which six were confederates (actors given instructions on how to behave) and one was the actual subject. The confederates knew the true aim of the experiment, but were introduced to the subject as other participants.

Asch presented the participants with a card with a line on it, and next to it another card with three lines of varying length labeled "A", "B",  and "C".  Asch explained that the participants task was to call out the letter of the line that matched the length of the line on the first card.

The participants completed 18 trials. On the first two trials, both the subject and confederates gave the obvious, correct answer, but thereafter (as previously scripted) the confederates chose a clearly incorrect line in twelve of the remaining sixteen trials. The wrong answer responses were referred to as the critical trials. 

The aim of the experiment was to see if the subject would conform to the group by choosing the wrong answer or stick to what his eyes were telling him was correct.

Results: Overall, Asch found that subjects conformed to the group by choosing the same wrong answer as the confederates in 37% of the critical trials. Further, 76% conformed to the incorrect judgment on as least one of the critical trials. In contrast, when participants in a control group without the pressure of confederates made judgments, the error rate was less than 1%.(3)

B. Normative and Informational Influence
The experiments of Sherif and Asch provided powerful demonstrations of social conformity but the two experimental models put participants in different situations which seemed to indicate that different psychological processes might be at work. In Sherif's experiments subjects found themselves in an ambiguous reality where they were undoubtedly unsure of the their own abilities to judge the movement of the light. In contrast, the Asch experiments placed subjects in situations where their perception of the lengths of the lines would have been quite certain without the influence of the group.

To explain the different social pressures in these two studies, Morton Deutsch and Henry Gerard (1955) suggested that group pressure derives from two sources: normative and informational influence.(3)

Normative social influence (desire to fit in) occurs when a person conforms, complies or obeys to gain rewards or avoid punishments from another person or group.(3) It is essentially the the desire to fit in by gaining social acceptance or avoid social rejection.(6) Because the answer to the line questions were fairly obvious, the Asch line experiments are generally believed to be to an example of normative social influence. 

Informational social influence (desire to be correct) occurs when the individual conforms, complies, or obeys to gain accurate information.(3) The effect is prominent when a person lacks knowledge or is in an ambiguous situations and looks to the group for guidance.(4) The Sherif experiments are generally thought to be examples of informational social influence as the movement of the light, which was in fact an illusion, was ambiguously perceived by the subjects leading them to seek guidance from others. Additionally, to rule out the possibility that the subjects were simply giving the group answer to avoid looking foolish while still believing their original estimate was correct, a few days later Sherif had the subjects judge the lights again by themselves. Even after eliminating the possibility of group pressure they maintained the group's judgment.(7)

Although in some cases these two influences may operate separately, in reality they often are likely to function simultaneously and are difficult to disentangle.(3)(2)

C. Factors that Affect Conformity
Social/Situational Factors
1. Group Size - Asch found that when he varied the number of unanimous confederates in his line judgement experiments, conformity increased, but only to a certain point. Conformity reached its maximum level when the number of confederates was between three and four but remained fairly stable thereafter.(3)

2. Group Cohesiveness - Group cohesiveness refers to the degree to which a group has a sense of interconnectedness. It arises when bonds link members of a social group to one another and to the group as a whole.(8) In general, people in cohesive groups have greater pressure to conform than people in non-cohesive groups. Friend groups are a good example of this as we are more likely to be influenced by them than by non-friends because we respect their opinions, and desire to please them to remains socially accepted and avoid rejection.(3)

3. Social Support - The presence of at least one other group member going against the majority can decrease the level of conformity. For instance, Asch ran variations of his line judgement study where he included a single confederate picking the correct line. This led to conformity dropping to one-forth the original levels.(3)

If this support is later removed, normative influence again is exerted. In one of Asch’s studies, when the confederate who had previously agreed with the participant switched and began to conform to the majority opinion, the participants’ own level of conformity returned to near the levels observed in the original experiments.(3)

Receiving social support early is more effective than receiving such support after normative pressures have already built up (Morris et al., 1977).(3)

Personal/Individual Factors
1. Self-Awareness - whether behavior is more influenced by personal or social standards is at least partially determined by what aspect of the self is salient (private or public). When people are privately self-aware, they tend to act in line with their own personal standards, but social standards are more influential when people are publicly self-aware (Froming et al., 1982; Kallgren et al., 2000). Thus, being privately self-aware reduces conformity, while being publicly self-aware increases conformity.(3)

2. Self-Presentation - Research found that often underlying the conformity and independence responses of people are calculated assessments of the impressions they are making on those present. Conformity is most likely to occur when self-presenters are alone with those trying to influence them and when the conformity will be viewed as indicating intelligence or open-mindedness. On the other hand, open defiance of influence attempts is most likely under two conditions: (1) when others not involved in the influence attempt are present, and (2) when the attitude of those exerting the influence makes any subsequent yielding seem like weak-kneed surrender rather than intelligent decision making. Under such conditions, it would be difficult to conform and still maintain a public image of independence and autonomy.(3)

3. Desire for Personal Control - Although self-presentation concerns may sometimes explain conformity and nonconformity, on other occasions we may resist social influence simply to feel that we personally control our own actions. Jack Brehm (Brehm, 1966; Brehm & Brehm, 1981) has proposed a theory of psychological reactance, which states that people believe they possess specific behavioral freedoms and that they will react against and resist attempts to limit this sense of freedom. For example, if parents demand that their daughter not date a certain boy, she might defy the parents as a way to restore a feeling of personal control over her own behavior. When reactance is aroused, the forbidden behavior (dating the disapproved boy) becomes more desirable. Similarly, if the daughter believes her parents are trying to coerce her into dating some other boy, reactance results in this boy becoming a much less desirable date than the forbidden male.(3)

Individuals may not conform to social pressures due to their desire for personal control, but this does not mean that they are necessarily acting independently. There are two different types of  nconformity responses. One is independence, which was previously defined as not being subject to others’ control. The person who dates someone not because her parents approve or disapprove but because she genuinely likes her dating partner is demonstrating independence; psychological reactance does not play a factor in her behavioral choices. Anticonformity, on the other hand, is characterized by opposition to social influence on all occasions, and psychological reactance often explains these behavioral choices (Nail et al., 1996). The anticonformist would date people whom her parents disapproved and would not date those whom they approved. Thus, the actions of two people may be identical but may be motivated by very different desires. A person who has a strong desire for personal control could express this either through independence or anticonformity.(3)

D. Minority Influence 
Under certain conditions, the minority can influence the majority. The process by which dissenters produce change within a group is called minority influence.(3)

Serge Moscovici, a forerunner in minority influence, argued that majority influence tends to be based on public compliance (normative influence). Since majorities are often unconcerned about what minorities think about them, minority influence is rarely based on normative social influence. Instead, it is usually based on informational social influence - providing the majority with new ideas, new information which leads them to re-examine their views.(9)

Moscovici believed that the success of minority influence dependent on behavior style which consists of consistency, confidence, appearing to be unbiased and resisting social pressure and abuse. Of these Moscovici believed consistency was most important.(9) 

In a demonstration of the importance of consistency in minority group influence, Moscovici and his colleagues (1969) asked groups of individuals to judge whether the color of projected blue slides was blue or green. Each group consisted of four participants and two confederates. In the inconsistent minority condition the confederates randomly varied calling the blue slide green and blue, while in the consistent minority condition they always claimed that it was green. The results were that when the confederates were inconsistent, their ability to influence the majority was negligible (1.25 percent). However, when the confederates were consistent, more than 8 percent of the time participants conformed to this minority point of view.(3)

E. Power of Conformity
The following are some interesting and amusing videos on the power of conformity.

(2)Social Influence: Compliance and Conformity

(1)Principles of Social Psychology

(3)Social Psychology (Franzoi)

(4)SimplyPsychology: Conformity

(5)Wikipedia: Muzafer Sherif

(6)Boundless: Conformity

Wikipedia: Asch Conformity Experiments

The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

(7)Wikipedia: Social Proof

(8)Wikipedia: Group cohesiveness

(9) SimplePsychology: Moscovici and Minority Influence

Monday, May 15, 2017

Social Influence

Social influence involves the exercise of social power by a person or group to change the
attitudes or behavior of others in a particular direction. Social power refers to the force available to the influencer in motivating this change. This power can originate from having access to certain resources (for example, rewards, punishments, information) due to one’s social position in society, or from being liked and admired by others.(1)

The findings from a number of empirical studies support the commonly held belief that possessing social power increases people’s tendencies to take action, whereas powerlessness activates a general tendency to inhibit action.(1)
Theorists have typically distinguished between three types of social influence: Conformity, Compliance and Obedience. 

Conformity is the yielding to perceived group pressure by copying the behavior and beliefs of others.(1)  

Compliance is publicly acting in accord with a direct request. In compliance, people responding to a direct request may privately agree or disagree with the action they are engaging in, or they may have no opinion about their behavior(1) 

Obedience is the performance of an action in response to a direct command from an authority figure. The major difference between compliance and obedience seems to be that the person making the request is an authority figure while with compliance the person is not.

(1)Social Psychology, Stephen Franzoi

Social Influence and Power

Friday, May 12, 2017

Beriozka Dance Ensemble

The Beriozka (Little Birch Tree) Dance Ensemble, founded in 1948, performing what I think is a version of a khorovod (circle dance).

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Thaddeus Russell's Postmodern Denial of Reality

Thaddeus seems to be making two, not very connected arguments.

1) The first is that the categories of man and woman are so flawed that they are essentially meaningless.

"I think the category of man becomes meaningless...Neither Andy Dick or Yoel Romero are trans people right? They are so different though, physically in every way but we put them both in this silly category called man, what does that mean anymore?"

Thaddeus seems to be playing a little philosophic game where he describes some general characteristic of the category of man, then points to exceptions or variances to conclude that the category is useless.

Of course in reality, the majority of things which humans categorize do not fit into neat little definitional boxes. Thaddeus points to the physical difference between Andy Dick and Yoel Romero as proof that the category of man is problematic. But if that sort of variance is enough of a standard to do away with a category then we would have to do away with a great number of other categories such as dogs (Pug vs great Dane), cats (House Cat vs Lion), birds (Penguin vs Eagle), and so on.

I'm guessing this little bit of sophistry is enough to confuse most people into compliance but Rogan does a good job of pushing back. This forces Thaddeus into his next argument:

2) We shouldn't apply categories to humans if they could be somehow harmful.

"I'm not saying we shouldn't categorize anything ever because we must do that to live in this world. What I am saying is we should probably stop applying certain categories to human beings in the ways we have done, because there are certain inventions, certain social constructs that do nothing but bad things, that do no good and they're only social constructs, like race and gender."

Similar to his first point, I think the application of this standard would lead to some really silly places. For instance, what about the category of obese people. Numerous studies have found that overweight people have a harder time getting a job, are less likely to get salary increases, have less friends and are more susceptible to mental health issue due to social rejection. As unfortunate as this is does this mean we should banish the recognition of weight when applied to humans?

The same thing could be said for the category of unattractive people. They face many of the same problems that obese people face. Does this mean we should no longer distinguishes between beautiful and unattractive people?

All of this seems completely unnecessary as Thaddeus' primary concerns seem to be that prescribed gender roles may restrict an individual from living the way they want to live. He seems to believe the best way to deal with this is to simply deny objective truths. But as history has shown, gender roles are fluid and changing. Society's views on gender (at least in the West) are far more open than they have been at any other time and are likely to continue moving in this direction. No need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Sam Harris Vs. Hunter Maats

I recently watched the following compilation video recommended by YouTube. The first part is Sam Harris on the Joe Rogan podcast complaining about people trolling him on twitter, including a prior guest of Joe's named Hunter Maats. The second part is of Hunter Maats talking about Sam during a previous episode.

Sam's complaint is something along the lines of, ...Hunter's attacks are juvenile...he sends me two tweets then sends me 400 that say you're scared to debate me...there is a level of arrogance and incivility and lack of charity in interacting with other people's views..., etc

Watching the clip of Hunter's conversation with Joe left me wondering if Sam was being overly sensitive. There was certainly a fuzziness to Hunter's criticism of Sam. He talked for quite a while but didn't seem able to convey his critique in a concise manner. In a nutshell, he essentially was saying that Sam is a rationalist, who believes that reason and emotion are separate and that reason should reign supreme.  Hunter is an intuitionist that believes our intuitions and emotions are what drives are reasoning. Hunter believes that Sam's views lead him to communicate ideas in a manner which are unpalatable to those he criticizes (at least I think this was what he was trying to get at).

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Hunter's assertions, to me he didn't come across in a way which made me dislike the guy. Perhaps he was a little arrogant at times but if so, it was fairly mild and not enough to make me think too poorly of him. This is what left me wondering if Sam, the so called rationalist, was letting his emotions get the better of him, being oversensitive to a little criticism.

That's when I checked Hunter's twitter page to see some of the "trolling" Sam was referring to. And holy shit, Sam wasn't exaggerating when he said Hunter sent or directed 400 messages to him. In all fairness, most of the tweets are responses to others people in which Hunter tagged Sam for some reason. But still, I counted over 500 tweets from Hunter from January 1st to April 16th that had something to do with Sam. Though most I'd consider mildly harassing some are downright dickish. The weird thing about this is that Hunter repeatedly points to the work of Jonathan Haidt in support of his view that Sam's rational approach is alienating to religious people.  But strangely, his messages to Sam are completely contrary to what Haidt suggests on how to communicate with people and persuade them to your way of thinking. To quote from his book, The Righteous Mind, he writes:

"If you want to change people’s minds, you’ve got to talk to their elephants. Dale Carnegie was one of the greatest elephant-whisperers of all time. In his classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Carnegie repeatedly urged readers to avoid direct confrontations. Instead he advised people to ‘begin in a friendly way,’ to ‘smile,’ to ‘be a good listener,’ and to ‘never say “you’re wrong.”’ The persuader’s goal should be to convey respect, warmth, and an openness to dialogue before stating one’s own case.

So I'm pretty sure Haidt wouldn't agree with Hunter's snide, obsessed, borderline neurotic approach. Though Hunter maybe winning points with those already in his 'tribe', to the casual observer such as myself, his twitter attacks toward Sam simply make me think he's an asshole.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


Confusing entertainment when ventriloquists Rudi Rok and Sari Aalto get together.

Post-it Note Persuasion

Randy Garner of Sam Houston University found that when asking someone to do something, adding a personal message on a sticky note led to higher response rates.

In one study, Garner randomly selected 150 full time faculty members at major universities to complete a survey. The participants were divided into three groups of fifty:

Group A received the survey and cover letter.
Group B received the survey and cover letter with a personal message written on the upper right hand corner of the cover letter asking “Please take a few minutes to complete this for us. Thank you!”
Group C received the survey and cover letter with a Post-it note attached with the same message that was written on the cover letter in Group B.

The results showed that participants who received the survey with the Post-it note message returned the surveys significantly more than the other two groups.

Group A: 36% completed and returned the survey.
Group B: 48% completed and returned the survey.
Group C: 76% completed and returned the survey.

Garner conducted variations of the experiment and found similar results. He believes the Post-it message is likely viewed by the recipient as a personal appeal or request for a favor, which conjures strong societal norms of polite, reciprocal compliance.

Post-It® GARNER POST-IT PERSUASION Note Persuasion: A Sticky Influence

Monday, April 3, 2017

Misleading Vividness

Misleading Vividness is a fallacy in which a very small number of particularly dramatic events are taken to outweigh a significant amount of statistical evidence. This sort of "reasoning" has the following form:
1. Dramatic or vivid event X occurs (and is not in accord with the majority of the statistical evidence).
2. Therefore events of type X are likely to occur.
This sort of reasoning is fallacious because the mere fact that an event is particularly vivid or dramatic does not make the event more likely to occur, especially in the face of significant statistical evidence.


Joe: "When I was flying back to school, the pilot came on the intercom and told us that the plane was having engine trouble. I looked out the window and I saw smoke billowing out of the engine nearest me. We had to make an emergency landing and there were fire trucks everywhere. I had to spend the next six hours sitting in the airport waiting for a flight. I was lucky I didn't die! I'm never flying again."
Drew: "So how are you going to get home over Christmas break?"
Joe: "I'm going to drive. That will be a lot safer than flying."
Drew: "I don't think so. You are much more likely to get injured or killed driving than flying."
Joe: "I don't buy that! You should have seen the smoke pouring out of that engine! I'm never getting on one of those death traps again!"

Also see Hasty Generalization

The Nizkor Project: Misleading Vividness

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Disabling parts of the brain with magnets can weaken faith in God and change attitudes to immigrants, study finds

Just read this 2015 article in the Independent which discusses a study which found that using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to temporarily shut down the part of the brain that deals with threats and conflict led to decreased belief in God and a more favorable view of immigrants that were critical of the United States.

This seems to support Arnold Kling's "Three Languages of Politics", especially the idea that conservatives generally view the world through the civilzation/barbarism axis. For them, the good is civilized values that have accumulated over time and have stood the test of time; and the bad are the 'barbarians' who try to strike out against those values and destroy civilization. In other words, to some degree, immigrants may set off the threat detectors of conservatives. This study seems to support this notion by showing that shutting down or lowering the threat detection area of the brain led to more pro-immigrant attitudes.

Note-I realize there likely isn't an nice tidy area of the brain that deals with threats and conflict. I'm simply using the language in the article to present the ideas in an uncomplicated (not doubt grossly oversimplified) way.

Here is a link to the actual study which I haven't had a chance to read yet.

Friday, March 24, 2017

La Machine

La Machine is a street theatre company based in Nantes, France. The group was formed by artists, designers, fabricators and technicians in 1999 and is currently led by Artistic Director, François Delarozière.

La Machine is famous for their extraordinary theatrical machines, permanent installations and their own theatrical productions. Some of their past work includes:

2006 - Sultan's Elephant

The Sultan's Elephant was created as part of a show by the same name produced by the Royal de Luxe theatre company. Weighing in at 42 tons the elephant required 22 manipulators to operate.

According to this article from The Guardian, The Sultan's Elephant no longer exists as the "Royal de Luxe were so fed up with being invited all over the world to perform The Sultan's Elephant, they just destroyed it."

2007 - The Great Elephant

A non-exact replica of the Sultan's Elephant was built in 2007 as part of the Machines of the Isle of Nantes permanent exhibit. The main difference between the two is that The Great Elephant was designed to carry up to 49 passengers (it also appears to be far less animated, likely due to it being more of a ride for tourist which no doubt requires far fewer operators).

2008 - La Princesse

La Princesse is a 50 foot mechanical spider which was first showcased in Liverpool, England as part of the 2008 European Capital of Culture celebration. Weighing in at 37 tonnes, the spider has 50 axes of movement and is operated by up to 12 people strapped to its body.

2014 Long Ma

Standing at 40 feet tall and weighing in at 46 tons, the fire breathing dragon-horse Long Ma faced off against La Princesse as part of an event in Beijing celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations between France and China.