Monday, April 25, 2011

Our Need to Long

"In resolving our need to love, we do not always resolve our need to long."-- Alain de Botton, On Love (UK title: Essays in Love) (1995)

"Could Your Boyfriend's Wandering Eye Save Your Relationship?" -- news summary of this JPSP article by Nathan deWall et al. (2011)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Is it time to reconsider the fundamental attribution error (FAE)?

Pick up any introductory psychology text, turn to the chapter on social psychology, and look for a description of the fundamental attribution error (FAE) . (It's also called the actor-observer hypothesis).* I'd estimate a 100% chance of finding it. It's the error of assuming other people behave in a certain way because of their personality, but I behave in a certain way because of my situation. In other words, assume someone has left a quarter in a soda machine. If someone else picks it up, you think, "He picked up the quarter left in the soda machine because he's dishonest.:" But if you pick it up, you think "I picked up that quarter because someone is going to take it anyway." But a new meta-analysis by Bertram Malle suggests that this error isn't nearly as robust as social psychologists think it is. To quote Malle, the discrepancy is only found when:
[...] the actor was portrayed as highly idiosyncratic, when hypothetical events were explained, when actor and observer were intimates, or when free-response explanations were coded. In addition, the asymmetry held for negative events, but a reverse asymmetry held for positive events.
* To be precise, the actor-observer hypothesis is not the same as the fundamental attribution error, but the differences are unimportant for the purposes of this post. Specifically, the fundamental attribution error is a hypothesis about an error: it assumes the actor is correct, and the observer is making the error.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Towards an economics of unhappiness

Over at Crooked Timber, John Quiggin writes:

For at least the last decade, there has been a boom in work on the economics of happiness. But following Tolstoy[1], I’ve always wondered why we don’t study the economics of unhappiness instead: after all, there’s so much more data.

For the last year or so, I’ve been planning a paper in which I took off from this point and made the case for unhappiness as a driver of economic activity and particularly of economic change (including ‘growth[2]’). But, as usually happens[3] with my thoughts along these lines, it looks as if someone has beaten me to it.

If you follow the link, check out Chris Bertram's first comment too.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Bribery; And a Rebel Sociologist in Libya

From APS comes a new article on the collectivism-bribery connection as researched by Nina Mazar and Pankaj Aggarwal. Both correlational and experimental research support the idea that collectivism predicts bribery. (Unfortunately, the full journal article is in Psychological Science, which I can't access.)

Meanwhile in Libya, a PhD sociology candidate who has embedded himself with the rebel forces is blogging at Revolutionology (found via MindHacks). While some of the posts are the length of short magazine articles, others are snippets that are reminiscent of early P. J. O'Rourke:
Kaboom (Part Ithnayn [Part Two])

Susanne: “Mehdi, are you carrying a gun?”

Mehdi: “No.”

Susanne: “Under the circumstances, don’t you think that might be a good idea?”

Mehdi: “We don’t need one.”

Susanne: “Why not?”

Mehdi: “I have this.” [Rummages in the beat-up Mazda's glove compartment and pulls out a hand grenade.]

Susanne (stunned): “What the hell are you going to do with that?”

Mehdi: “I’m going to throw it at Gaddafi when I see him.”

Also see Kaboom (Part Wahid [Part One])