Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government. "Why does public conflict over societal risks persist in the face of compelling and widely accessible scientific evidence? We conducted an experiment to probe two alternative answers: the “Science Comprehension Thesis” (SCT), which identifies defects in the public’s knowledge and reasoning capacities as the source of such controversies; and the “Identity-protective Cognition Thesis” (ICT) which treats cultural conflict as disabling the faculties that members of the public use to make sense of decision-relevant science. [more inside]
Academics are farmers and intellectuals are hunters - and the hunters may be the future of the liberal arts, writes Jack Miles.
Paul Solotaroff of Rolling Stone investigates the life of former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez and the path he took from NFL player to murder suspect.
In 2003, the New York Times published a lengthy article by Lisa Belkin about women who were choosing to leave the workforce to be stay-at-home moms: The Opt-Out Generation. In the the last ten years, the article's conclusions regarding upper-middle-class women's choices about work and motherhood have been debated, studied, rediscovered, denied, lamented, and defended. It's been noted by many that "most mothers have to work to make ends meet but the press writes mostly about the elite few who don’t." Ms. Belkin's piece also never mentioned what what a disaster divorce or the death of a spouse can create for dependent women in such situations. After a decade, the Times is revisiting the topic: The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In.
Why would a liberal education, the deeper acquaintance with a number of diverse modes of symbolic production, enhance our freedom? University of Chicago sociology professor Andreas Glaeser, in his 2005 Aims of Education Address to incoming students, muses: How About Becoming a Poet?
The School of Venus, or the Ladies Delight, Reduced into Rules of Practice (digitized by Google Books) is a delightfully raunchy sex manual from 1680, captured in wonderfully engaging detail. [more inside]
Advice for college grads from two sociologists From the writers of the always-amazing Sociological Images, it is directed towards college graduates, but useful for everyone.
What Do Philosophers Believe? David Bourget and David Chalmers, co-directors of Philpapers.com, have written an article based on the PhilPapers Survey of professional philosophers. It covers the popularity of various views, correlations with age, gender, and geography, a factor analysis that tries to isolate important underlying factors; and discussion of the results of the Metasurvey, bringing out just how surprising some of the survey results are. The article is forthcoming in Philosophical Studies. [more inside]
David Arenberg on being the only Jewish inmate in a state prison.
Social Evolution - The Ritual Animal "Praying, fighting, dancing, chanting — human rituals could illuminate the growth of community and the origins of civilization." [more inside]
In a sense what we have is the Americanisation of Britain, or at least of England. A society where everybody has then sense that they can be anything they want to be, and where hardly anybody can. Crooked Timber's Chris Bertram on the evolution of British society since the seventies.
There are no formal admissions or expulsions. People think they are in it after they have in fact been pushed out of it, or before they have been allowed in: this provides great amusement for those who are really inside. It has no fixed name. The only certain rule is that the insiders and outsiders call it by different names. CS Lewis on The Inner Ring.
Psychohistory, the imaginary scientific field created by Isaac Asimov in his "Foundation" series, may no longer be fiction:
Song Chaoming, for instance, is a researcher at Northeastern University in Boston. He is a physicist, but he moonlights as a social scientist. With that hat on he has devised an algorithm which can look at someone’s mobile-phone records and predict with an average of 93% accuracy where that person is at any moment of any day. Given most people’s regular habits (sleep, commute, work, commute, sleep), this might not seem too hard. What is impressive is that his accuracy was never lower than 80% for any of the 50,000 people he looked at.Full article at The Economist.
And that's a bad idea. Much of standard group behavior data in Sociology/Economics/Psychology is based on Americans. Which don't seem (contrary to universal assumptions) to be shared by a lot of the World.
The New York Times asks seven 'experts': Does makeup ultimately damage a woman’s self-esteem, or elevate it? [more inside]
Unpacking the Beauty Premium, Borland J & Leigh A, unpub., 2013.
The first Australian study of the financial return to physical attractiveness finds its worth an astounding $32,150 in annual salary, with men of above average looks typically commanding $81,750 compared to $49,600 for men with below-average looks.
Men with below-average looks were 15 per cent less likely than normal to be employed and were typically employed for a 9 per cent lower wage. They were also less likely to be married and less likely to married to a woman of high income.
In 2012, 40 percent of Americans didn’t vote. The research on this website is an attempt to determine why so many citizens opt out of this fundamental civic duty, using extensive survey research as well as interviews with nonvoters to give a voice to those who are often ignored or marginalized by politicians and the news media. [via this phys.org article that provides a nice summary]
"Reading is always an act of empathy" - John Green of Crash Course (previously) explains "How and Why We Read" (... and recommends his favorite books). [more inside]
You can accurately judge a person just by looking at their shoes, psychologists say. "Researchers at the University of Kansas found that people were able to correctly judge a stranger's age, gender, income, political affiliation, emotional and other important personality traits just by looking at the person's shoes." Virginia Postrel responded: "The study made a solid contribution to research on first impressions, but it was hardly earthshaking. By getting so much attention, however, it demonstrated a sociological truth: People love to talk about shoes. Even those who dismissed the research as silly often felt compelled to call radio stations or comment on websites, providing details about their own choices. Why this fascination with footwear? " [more inside]
How to Stay Stuck in the Wrong Career (PDF) (non-PDF version requires free registration): Conventional career change methods...are all part of what I call the “plan and implement” model of change. It goes like this: First, determine with as much clarity and certainty as possible what you really want to do. Next, use that knowledge to identify jobs or fields in which your passions can be coupled with your skills and experience. Seek advice from the people who know you best and from professionals in tune with the market. Then simply implement the resulting action steps. Change is seen as a one-shot deal: The plan-and-implement approach cautions us against making a move before we know exactly where we are going. It all sounds reasonable, and it is a reassuring way to proceed. Yet my research suggests that proceeding this way will lead to the most disastrous of results, which is to say no result. (by Herminia Ibarra, who expands on these ideas in her book Working Identity)
A study-based analysis of UK gaming magazines in the 1980s and 90s argues that the analysis of computer games, independent of attributes such as the platform or narrative, becomes more evident after March 1985 when the term 'gameplay' begins to be used in this media.
"This blog is a look at the social movement I call ‘New Domesticity’ – the fascination with reviving “lost” domestic arts like canning, bread-baking, knitting, chicken-raising, etc. Why are women of my generation, the daughters of post-Betty Friedan feminists, embracing the domestic tasks that our mothers and grandmothers so eagerly shrugged off? Why has the image of the blissfully domestic supermom overtaken the Sex and the City-style single urban careerist as the media’s feminine ideal? Where does this movement come from? What does it mean for women? For families? For society?"
Chimp Fights and Trolley Rides from Radiolab's morality episode: "try to answer tough moral quandaries. The questions--which force you to decide between homicidal scenarios--are the same ones being asked by Dr. Joshua Greene. He'll tell us about using modern brain scanning techniques to take snapshots of the brain as it struggles to resolve these moral conflicts. And he'll describe what he sees in these images: quite literally, a battle taking place in the brain. It's 'inner chimp' versus a calculator-wielding rationale."
"Parting with treasure easier said than done: Churchgoers give far less than they think" is the latest feature article from the Association of Religion Data Archives, which "strives to democratize access to the best data on religion." The site includes a browsable archive of religious survey data, a quick statistical roundup, international religious profiles, feature articles on topics like the rise of Mormons, Muslims and nondenominational churches in the USA ("nondenominational and independent churches may now be considered the third largest religious group in the country...Only the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention are larger"), links to sources like the 2010 U.S. Religious Census, a Religion Research Hub (with tutorials and helpful advice on best practices when theorizing, conceptualizing and measuring religious behavior) and lots more.
Perry Anderson's book length three part series on the history of India from the beginnings of its independence movement, through independence and partition into its recent history as a nation-state is the latest in a series of erudite, opinionated and wordy articles in The London Review of Books by the UCLA professor of history and sociology on the modern history of various countries, so far taking in Brazil, Italy, Turkey, Cyprus, the EU, Russia, Taiwan and France. [more inside]
A Confederacy of Bachelors [NYT] Meet the brotherhood of Fortress Astoria: Danaher Dempsey, Luke Crane, Rick Brown and Shyaporn Theerakulstit, best friends and artists. They have no children, no linear career histories, no readily disposable savings. The four men, all heterosexual, approaching 40 and never married, have lived together for 18 years, give or take a revolving guest roommate, cohabitating in spaces like an East Village walk-up, a Chelsea loft and, now, a converted office space in Queens. [more inside]
Excellence is mundane. Excellence is accomplished through the doing of actions, ordinary in themselves, performed consistently and carefully, habitualized, compounded together, added up over time.: An Ethnographic Report on Stratification and Olympic Swimmers (1989) [more inside]
"Why Is the Teen Birth Rate in the United States So High and Why Does It Matter?" Kearney MS & Levine PB (2012) Journal of Economic Perspectives, 26(2): 141–63. [more inside]
The New Elitists (NYT) - "...omnivores seem highly distinct and their tastes appear to be a matter of personal expression. Instead of liking things like opera because that’s what people of your class are supposed to like, the omnivore likes what he likes because it is an expression of a distinct self. Perhaps liking a range of things explains why elites are elite, and not the other way around. By contrast, those who have exclusive tastes today — middle-class and poorer Americans — are subject to disdain. If the world is open and you don’t take advantage of it, then you’re simply limited and closed-minded. Perhaps it’s these attributes that explain your incapacity to succeed." [more inside]
"when i went into cyberspace i went into it thinking that it was a place like any other place and that it would be a human interaction like any other human interaction. i was wrong when i thought that. it was a terrible mistake." Pandora's Vox: On Community in Cyberspace [more inside]
Reflections On The Norwegian Massacre (60 min audio interview) On July 22, 2011, Norway suffered a catastrophe: its main government buildings were bombed, and scores of young people were killed and maimed at a summer youth congress. Nils Christie, a prominent Norwegian sociologist and criminologist, talks with CBC IDEAS about what happened and what it means for his country. [more inside]
According to research recently published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research[DOI: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2011.01711.x], tattooed people drink significantly more than their peers (as well as other risky behaviours).
Brené Brown: Listening to shame. Filmed this month at TED in Long Beach, CA. (YouTube) Also see: The Power of Vulnerability (yt, previously on MeFi), and The Price of Invulnerability. [more inside]
Sam Richards: A Radical Experiment In Empathy (button underneath the video makes "interactive transcript" available, at link) [more inside]
Victorian Farm | Edwardian Farm -- 18 hours of BBC experimental archeology/historical documentaries, online. Archaeologists Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn and historian Ruth Goodman spend two years living the life of rural country farmers.
On November 22, 2011, TEDxBrussels held an all day event whose theme was: "A Day in the Deep Future." Speakers were asked to try and contemplate what life will be like for mankind in 50 years. Overview. [more inside]
Robert Paul Wolff is most famous as the author of In Defense of Anarchism and as the "only person on the face of the earth who has read, cover to cover, Immanuel Kant's Inaugural Dissertation, Karl Marx's doctoral dissertation, and Newt Gingrich's doctoral dissertation." His memoir has also drawn considerable interest. But as a part of his blogging he has habitually offered "micro-tutorials" to encourage his readers to re-acquaint themselves with the classics of what might be called the Heroic Age in the study of society -- the writings of Marx, Freud, Weber, Ricardo, Mannheim, and others. His newest micro-tutorial, on Durkheim's Suicide, begins today.
Sociologist Lauren Rivera of Northwestern spent two years researching the way elite financial and law firms really select their new hires. The original paper is behind a sciencedirect paywall, but Bryan Caplan has a nice write-up about the results. You're much better off with a degree from a tippy-top school than just any Ivy -- but they don't actually care about what you learned there. Your grades don't matter that much as long as they're not bad. Climbing a famous mountain or making a varsity team, especially if you're nationally competitive, would be wise. And oh yeah -- they do care what you got on your SATs. More reax from the Chronicle of Higher Ed and physicist Steve Hsu.
An article in the Guardian asks why do so many Goths stick with their subculture through their adult lives, through career, parenthood and well into middle age. [more inside]
Don't get me wrong, yeah I think you're alright; But that won't keep me warm in the middle of the night
Miss Representation is a film by Jen Siebel Newsom about the images, representations and media constructions that shape American society in a harmful way for women. It explores the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence that result. Shorter trailer here. [more inside]
How did hookworm infections slow the economy of the postbellum South? Do body mites play a role in diseases such as rosacea? Did fermenting seal flippers in Tupperware instead of traditional containers increase Native Alaskan botulism rates? Body Horrors is the blog of microbiologist Rebecca Kreston, who aims to explore the intersection of infectious diseases, the human body, public health and anthropology.
Culturomics, an emerging field of study that applies climate-modeling levels of supercomputing power towards predicting human behavior, using "computerized analysis of vast digital book archives, offering novel insights into the functioning of human society", has been tried with digital news archives. [more inside]
New research shows the Rich truly are different from you and me in one key respect: they feel less empathy (overview of the research here; unfortunately, a full report of the findings is only available behind various pay-walls). Previously, the same team of researchers found that members of the economic upper-class have a harder time recognizing others' emotions.
Social consensus through the influence of committed minorities: We show how the prevailing majority opinion in a population can be rapidly reversed by a small fraction p of randomly distributed committed agents who consistently proselytize the opposing opinion and are immune to influence. Specifically, we show that when the committed fraction grows beyond a critical value pc ≈ 10%, there is a dramatic decrease in the time, Tc, taken for the entire population to adopt the committed opinion. [.pdf] [more inside]