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The Dark Side of Empathy

Empathy is also associated with ingroup bias and outgroup antagonism. One is more likely to feel the joys and sorrows of some people more than others, especially if they’re the same ethnicity.

Free Will and Decision-Making Machines

It’s hard to wrap one’s head around the idea of being a machine with free will. It would be easier if we expanded our understanding of machine and shrank our notion of free will.

In The Name of Science: Portraying The Other Side as Driven by Fear

According to this trope, the Fearful Conservative is afraid of change and uncertainty, clinging to the safe harbor of habit and tradition, overly controlled, troubled by bad dreams and distressed by disorder. In so many words: fear makes conservatives stupid. The authors usually bolster their case with a few studies and quotes from “experts”, which can be hard to refute if you don’t know what they’re leaving out - namely, evidence to the contrary.

Behind The Headlines: Are Conservatives Driven by Fear? Part II

One thing the articles and opinion pieces don’t mention is the decades of research on personality and political attitudes, covering tens of thousands of participants. And that research is, well, unequivocal: conservatism is not associated with anxiety or fear - it’s most strongly associated with Conscientiousness.

Behind the Headlines: Are Conservatives Driven by Fear? Part I

Azarian wrote a Psychology Today piece titled, “Fear and Anxiety Drive Conservatives' Political Attitudes” …he supported his claims with evidence from four studies. Luckily I was able to locate most of the original studies to see if his conclusions were reasonable. Here’s what I found…

Life Experience, Political Opinions, and Gut Feelings

What I see here is that the two conservative groups have done rather well, despite their limited education. It makes sense to me that they believe most people can get ahead if they work hard - because, for the most part, that’s how it worked out for them. Is that “system justification”, or simply believing in the system upon the evidence of their own lives?

Locus of Control: Truth and Consequences

Locus of control is not just a belief in the head - it is a belief tendency that reflects reality and creates reality. Change the reality and the belief will shift - maybe not in lock-step but in time.

Self-Serving Bias: Truth and Consequences

Self-serving bias: the tendency to take credit for desirable outcomes and blame factors outside one’s control for undesired outcome, e.g., attributing a job promotion to hard work but failure to get promoted to a bad boss. What accounts for this tendency? Here are four possibilities:

Free Will and Constrained Choice: Why People Do What They Do

To simplify a whole lot, there are two schools of thought about why people do what they do. One is that people can’t help it because behavior is an outcome of things that they have no control over, like culture, childhood trauma…The other school of thought says behavior is always “on-purpose”. In other words, behavior is goal-directed - by definition. We therefore choose what we do according to the perceived payoff: what we’re trying to achieve or avoid.

Are Veterinarians Nicer Than Doctors? If So, Why?

I have noticed these differences in the manner of veterinarians and physicians for years. Why the difference? Is it a matter of workload and stress? Status and power? How much can’t be helped and how much is a choice? How much is related to different incentives and payment systems?

The Art of Persuasion: When Fear Does Not Work

Studies on the effectiveness of driver safety messages found that messages that focused on “fear arousal” were more likely to be rejected, while those that focused on concrete, doable behaviors were more likely to be accepted.

The Evolution of Laughter

What do chimps, bonobos, gorillas, orangutans and humans all have in common? We laugh.

Power and Bad Behavior: The Corrupting Effect of Goals

We've heard that power corrupts, which is another way of saying that having power makes it easier to lie, cheat, steal, inflict pain, or otherwise engage in bad behavior. This is partly because powerful people tend to be strongly goal-directed…