Monthly Archives: October 2019

Incentives Matter

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

Bullock, et al., 2013:

In both experiments, all subjects were asked factual questions, but some were given financial incentives to answer correctly. In both experiments, we find that the incentives reduce partisan divergence substantially–on average, by about 55% and 60% across all of the questions for which partisan gaps appear when subjects are not incentivized. But offering an incentive for accurate responses will not deter cheerleading among those who are unsure of the correct factual response, because such people stand to gain little by forgoing it. In our second experiment, we therefore implement a treatment in which subjects were offered incentives both for correct responses and for admitting that they did not know the correct response. We find that partisan gaps are even smaller in this condition–about 80% smaller than for unincentivized responses. This finding suggests that partisan divergence is driven by both expressive behavior and by respondents’ knowledge that they do not actually know the correct answers.

(h/t Bryan Caplan)

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Posted by on October 25, 2019 in cognitive science


Promiscuous Condemnation: People Assume Ambiguous Actions are Immoral


Do people generally view others as good or evil? Although people generally cooperate with others and view others’ “true selves” as intrinsically good, we suggest that they are likely to assume that the actions of others are evil-at least when they are ambiguous. Nine experiments provide support for promiscuous condemnation: the general tendency to assume that ambiguous actions are immoral. Both cognitive and functional arguments support the idea of promiscuous condemnation. Cognitively, dyadic completion suggests that when the mind perceives some elements of immorality (or harm), it cannot help but perceive other elements of immorality. Functionally, assuming that ambiguous actions are immoral helps people quickly identify potential harm and provide aid to others. In the first seven experiments, participants often judged neutral nonsense actions (e.g., “John pelled”) as immoral, especially when the context surrounding these nonsense actions included elements of immorality (e.g., intentionality and suffering). In the last two experiments, participants showed greater promiscuous condemnation under time pressure, suggesting an automatic tendency to assume immorality that people must effortfully control.

Promiscuous Condemnation: People Assume Ambiguous Actions are Immoral

I dub this the Edgelord Effect.

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Posted by on October 24, 2019 in cognitive science, religion


Political Conservatives’ Affinity for Obedience to Authority Is Loyal, Not Blind


Liberals and conservatives disagree about obeying authorities, with conservatives holding the more positive views. We suggest that reactions to conservative authorities, rather than to obedience itself, are responsible for the division. Past findings that conservatives favor obedience uniformly confounded obedience with conservative authorities. We break down obedience to authority into its constituent parts to test the divisiveness of each part. The concepts of obedience (Study 1) and authority (Study 2) recruited inferences of conservative authorities, conflating results of simple, seemingly face valid tests of their divisiveness. These results establish necessary features of a valid test, to which Study 3 conforms. Conservatives have the more positive moral views of obedience only when the authorities are conservative (e.g., commanding officers); liberals do when the authorities are liberal (e.g., environmentalists). The two camps agree about obeying ideologically neutral authorities (e.g., office managers). Obedience itself is not ideologically divisive

Political Conservatives’ Affinity for Obedience to Authority Is Loyal, Not Blind

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Posted by on October 14, 2019 in cognitive science


Love Your Enemies… If You Want To Change Their Mind

If you actually want to persuade somebody else, attacking that other person will drive that person farther in the other direction and it will alienate the people who are listening to your interchange,” Brooks says. ” … To condemn the person is suboptimal because you will never persuade somebody else that what you’re doing is anything more than a character assassination.

NPR: Love Your Enemies And Maaaybe You’ll Get Them To Agree With You

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Posted by on October 12, 2019 in cognitive science, religion


New research indicates political conservatism, disgust sensitivity and orderliness are psychologically interrelated

Individuals who experience more disgust also tend to show a higher dispositional preference for order, according to a new study published in Cognition and Emotion, which could partly explain why there is a positive relationship between disgust sensitivity and political conservatism.

Previous research has found that the way a person’s brain responds to a single disgusting image is enough to reliably predict whether he or she identifies politically as liberal or conservative.

Read more at PsyPost.

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Posted by on October 10, 2019 in cognitive science, religion


About two-thirds of U.S. teenagers (ages 13-17) say they rarely or never discuss religion with friends

Girls are more likely than boys to talk to their friends about religion:

For a Lot of American Teens, Religion Is a Regular Part of the Public School Day

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Posted by on October 4, 2019 in religion


Where people are most likely to say religion is very important in their lives

1. Why do levels of religious observance vary by age and country?

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Posted by on October 3, 2019 in religion

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