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Imagine that due to some mysterious genetic disease, all men went extinct and only women survived, reproducing through a carefully designed gene-mixing procedure. Some of these women work as mathematicians and programmers. Since all men are long gone, a certain kind of genius lore has developed, so that all exceptionally smart mathematicians and programmers are now called "men." For example, somebody might say about a particular talented girl, "She's smart as a man" and nobody would take offense.

By contrast, if somebody said the same thing within the same "math and programming" context today a lot of people would be offended. Why is that? What's the difference?
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WP reports on a small research project in India to learn what rapists think (an ungated version in STimes):

In the interviews, many men made excuses or gave justifications for their actions. Many denied rape happened at all.
One case in particular, participant 49, sent Pandey on an unexpected journey. He expressed remorse for raping a 5-year-old girl. “He said ‘yes I feel bad, I ruined her life.’ Now she is no longer a virgin, no one would marry her. Then he said, ‘I would accept her, I will marry her when I come out of jail.’”
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В ЖЖ очень хороший физик показал, что неплохой (регулярно хохмящий) математик -
мудак; причем физик сделал это деликатно, чтобы поняли только те, кто в теме.

Тут, как минимум, три learning moments: 1) как не стать мудаком, совершив мудацкий поступок; 2) какой правильный поступок нужно совершить, чтобы не стать мудаком в потенциально мудацкой ситуации; 3) как деликатно указать на мудачество, а не мудака, чтобы у окружающих появился шанс чему-то научиться.
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Participants reported getting an energy boost whether they were given the decaffeinated coffee or the caffeinated version.

They could not tell the difference.


If you strongly believe that some potion gives you energy it'll give you the energy.
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Age is probably a more important factor than gender. Moreover, lab vs life discrepancy appears to be a big issue in cognitive abilities research.

Abstract: Adult age differences in a variety of cognitive abilities are well documented, and many of those abilities have been found to be related to success in the workplace and in everyday life. However, increased age is seldom associated with lower levels of real-world functioning, and the reasons for this lab-life discrepancy are not well understood.

Source: doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-120710-100328


TIL: panic

Aug. 13th, 2017 11:43 am
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It turns out that the word "panic" can be traced back to Pan.
The Arcadian god Pan is the best known Classical example of this dangerous presence dwelling just beyond the protected zone of the village boundary.

The emotion that he instilled in human beings who by accident adventured into his domain was "panic" fear, a sudden, groundless fright. Any trifling cause then—the break of a twig, the flutter of a leaf—would flood the mind with imagined danger, and in the frantic effort to escape from his own aroused unconscious the victim expired in a flight of dread.

--- quoted from The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Note, how the ancients externalized imagination. Similarly, all Odysseus' creative ideas were whispered to him by the gods.
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we say you should never trust your gut. You need to take your gut feeling as an important data point, but then you have to consciously and deliberately evaluate it, to see if it makes sense in this context. You need strategies that help rule things out.

- Daniel Kahneman and Gary Klein
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new research from the field of genetics shows that testosterone alters the programming of neural stem cells, leading to sex differences in the brain even before it’s finished developing in utero.

Also on collective male & female intelligence:


In two studies with 699 people, working in groups of two to five, we find converging evidence of a general collective intelligence factor that explains a group’s performance on a wide variety of tasks. This “c factor” is not strongly correlated with the average or maximum individual intelligence of group members but is correlated with the average social sensitivity of group members, the equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking, and the proportion of females in the group.
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...we show that searching the Internet for explanatory knowledge creates an illusion whereby people mistake access to information for their own personal understanding of the information. Evidence from 9 experiments shows that searching for information online leads to an increase in self-assessed knowledge as people mistakenly think they have more knowledge “in the head,” even seeing their own brains as more active as depicted by functional MRI (fMRI) images.


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Если я принимаю решение "от противного", это значит, что мы с противником "живем" в одной категории. Schadenfreude из той же серии. Стандартная ошибка интуитивных решений (по Канеману).

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...to any willing there belongs something willed, which has already made itself definite in terms of a "for-the-sake-of-which". If willing is to be possible ontologically, the following items are constitutive for it:
(I) the prior disclosedness of the "for-the-sake-of-which" in general (Being-ahead-of- itself);
(2) the disclosedness of something with which one can concern oneself (the world as the "wherein" of Being-already);
(3) Dasein's projection of itself understandingly upon a potentiality-for-Being towards a possibility of the entity 'willed'.

In the phenomenon of willing, the underlying totality of care shows through.
The average everydayness of concern becomes blind to its possibilities, and tranquillizes itself with that which is merely 'actual'. This tranquillizing does not rule out a high degree of diligence in one's concern, but arouses it. In this case no positive new possibilities are willed, but that which is at one's disposal becomes 'tactically' altered in such a way that there is a semblance of something happening.

this tranquillized 'willing' under the guidance of the "they", does not signify that one's Being towards one's potentiality-for- Being has been extinguished, but only that it has been modified. In such a case, one's Being towards possibilities shows itself for the most part as mere wishing.

--- Martin Heidegger. Being and Time.

The latter is what the fashion industry is all about.
upd. also note the important distinction b/w willing and wishing.
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I've always wondered why labeling something as "idiotic" or "very very bad" makes people happy. In rational thinking, labeling is considered fundamentally flawed because it simply shows how the labeler positions an object/event on his/her internal value map without explaining the reasoning why s/he does so. As John R. Searle would say, something is good or bad in virtue of something else, not because its intrinsic goodness or badness.

Yesterday, I found a review paper* that describes multiple psychological experiments on Schadenfreude. For example,
In the context of a real-world sports rivalry, Red Sox and Yankees fans report feeling pleasure, and show activity in reward- related brain regions (i.e., right ventral striatum including nucleus accumbens) when they watch their rival fail to score against their favored baseball team, and also against a less competitive team in the same league (i.e., the Orioles). Attaching positive value to outgroup members' suffering may provide motivation for inflicting suffering: People who show more reward-related activity when watching the rival team fail also report being more likely to actively harm the rival team’s fans (Cikara, Botvinick, & Fiske, in press). These findings extend to situations in which the rival fans themselves are in physical pain: Soccer fans exhibited reward-related activity (again, the right ventral striatum) when watching a rival team’s fan receive a painful electric shock; the magnitude of this activity predicted participants’ later unwillingness to relieve the rival’s pain by receiving half of the electric shock themselves (Hein, Silani, Preuschoff, Batson, & Singer, 2010).

It looks like, labeling facilitates Schadenfreude-based pleasure. In other words, a social activity that looks irrational from a purely logical perspective, has significant psychological advantages because it creates positive in-group empathy.

* Cikara, M., E. G. Bruneau, and R. R. Saxe. “Us and Them: Intergroup Failures of Empathy.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 20.3 (2011): 149–153. Web. 13 Apr. 2012.
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And had not Agrippina prevented the bridge over the Rhine from being destroyed, some in their cowardice would have dared that base act. A woman of heroic spirit, she assumed during those days the duties of a general, and distributed clothes or medicine among the soldiers, as they were destitute or wounded.

According to Caius Plinius, the historian of the German wars, she stood at the extremity of the bridge, and bestowed praise and thanks on the returning legions. This made a deep impression on
the mind of Tiberius. "Such zeal," he thought, "could not be guileless...
Agrippina had now more power with the armies than officers, than generals. A woman had quelled a mutiny which the sovereign's name could not check."

--- Tacitus. The Annals.
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395. There is a lack of clarity about the role of imaginability in our investigation. Namely, about the extent to which it ensures that a sentence makes sense.

-- Investigations.

I wonder whether AI is going to have a big advantage over humans in imagining things. Furthermore, two (or more) AI agents equipped with superior imagination can come up with a productive agreement/disagreement much faster than humans. All this comes on top of superior data access, processing, communications, and memory capabilities.


Jan. 31st, 2017 02:08 pm
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It turns out that in the Aeneid Love is a male god:
“So Venus makes an appeal to Love, her winged son:
“You, my son, are my strength, my greatest power—
you alone, my son, can scoff at the lightning bolts
the high and mighty Father hurled against Typhoeus.
Help me, I beg you. I need all your immortal force.”

Virgil (translated by Robert Fagles). “The Aeneid.”
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...time seems to constitute one of the major parameters of the context on which the meaning of social acts and situ­ations depends.

Ac­cording to Durkheim, the real characteristic of religious phenomena is that they always suppose a bipartite division of the whole universe, known and knowable, into two classes which embrace all that exists, but which radically exclude each other. For Durkheim, no way of classifying the universe is more funda­mental to human cognition than the one between these two cate­gories - the sacred and the profane: In all the history of human thought there exists no other example of two categories of things so profoundly differentiated or so radically opposed to one another.
To achieve such an absolute distinction in the human mind, a total separation of these two domains in actuality is essential.

--- Evitar Zerubavel. Hidden Rhythms, 1985.

What would be long-term advantages of such separation? Is this the fundamental feature of our civilization that allows for rule making and rule following?
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To me, the most disturbing message of Haidt's book (The Righteous Mind) is that you can't rationally argue with people on moral issues. The best you can do is manipulate their intuitions to reach a working understanding. Here's how he uses this approach in the book:

“I began this chapter by trying to trigger your intuitions about the five moral foundations that I introduced in chapter 6.”


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