“Once formed,” the researchers observed dryly, “impressions are remarkably perseverant.”
A few years later, a new set of Stanford students was recruited for a related study. The students were handed packets of information about a pair of firefighters, Frank K. and George H. Frank’s bio noted that, among other things, he had a baby daughter and he liked to scuba dive. George had a small son and played golf. The packets also included the men’s responses on what the researchers called the Risky-Conservative Choice Test. According to one version of the packet, Frank was a successful firefighter who, on the test, almost always went with the safest option. In the other version, Frank also chose the safest option, but he was a lousy firefighter who’d been put “on report” by his supervisors several times. Once again, midway through the study, the students were informed that they’d been misled, and that the information they’d received was entirely fictitious. The students were then asked to describe their own beliefs. What sort of attitude toward risk did they think a successful firefighter would have? The students who’d received the first packet thought that he would avoid it. The students in the second group thought he’d embrace it.
Even after the evidence “for their beliefs has been totally refuted, people fail to make appropriate revisions in those beliefs,” the researchers noted. In this case, the failure was “particularly impressive,” since two data points would never have been enough information to generalize from.
The Stanford studies became famous. Coming from a group of academics in the nineteen-seventies, the contention that people can’t think straight was shocking. It isn’t any longer. Thousands of subsequent experiments have confirmed (and elaborated on) this finding. As everyone who’s followed the research—or even occasionally picked up a copy of Psychology Today—knows, any graduate student with a clipboard can demonstrate that reasonable-seeming people are often totally irrational. Rarely has this insight seemed more relevant than it does right now. Still, an essential puzzle remains: How did we come to be this way?
In a new book, “The Enigma of Reason” (Harvard), the cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber take a stab at answering this question. Mercier, who works at a French research institute in Lyon, and Sperber, now based at the Central European University, in Budapest, point out that reason is an evolved trait, like bipedalism or three-color vision. It emerged on the savannas of Africa, and has to be understood in that context.
An Idaho House panel revved up bikers' support Tuesday by advancing legislation that would ban law enforcement agencies from profiling motorcyclists.
The House Judiciary, Administration and Rules Committee unanimously supported a bill that defines motorcycle profiling in state law, which includes prohibiting officers for stopping bikers for riding motorcycles or wearing biker garb. Instead, police must have a legitimate reason for stopping, questioning, searching or arresting bikers.
Bikers clad in wearing motorcycle jackets filled almost every seat in the committee room to cheer the panel's decision.
Washington was the first state to ban motorcycle profiling in 2011. According to supporters in Washington, profiling complaints have dropped 90 percent since the law passed.
The Georgia Department of Transportation plans to open the state’s first diverging diamond interchange (DDI) outside of metropolitan Atlanta on Jan. 15 at the intersection of I-95 and SR 21 at Exit 109. DDIs, one…
Hmmmm…it’s half the cost of a new truck and it comes with a 3-year/75,000-mile warranty? Yes. A vehicle remanufacturer in Tyler, Texas rebuilds fleet vehicles, including trucks and vans, in a short amount of time and…
A recent study published in Trulia, a website dedicated to housing issues, has raised eyebrows among those who follow Proposition 13. Indeed, the title of the study itself was marginally inflammatory: “
City planning is not just an art, but also a profession, and like in the professions of law or medicine, its practitioners have a responsibility to learn from past successes and failures. Study of precedent makes it clear that boulevards create street life and enhance real estate value, while highways obliterate street life and sunder real estate value. It is not too late for Lowell to embrace a model that will transform this site from a place that is easy to get through to a place worth arriving at. Similarly, all of our cities, as they contemplate expensive reconstruction of obsolete roadways, have two models to choose from, one led by engineering, and another led by precedent: the study of places we love.
Trading volumes of Brent crude oil futures pulverized records on Thursday after some of the world's top producers on Wednesday struck a deal to cut output for the first time since 2008, seeking to bolster prices stuck at historically modest levels.
HIS inauguration was the biggest ever. Donald Trump could not make it through the first days of his presidency without saying something that was demonstrably untrue. The New York Times dubbed it a “falsehood”. When Mr Trump said that over 3m people had voted illegally, the Times headline was sharper: “Trump Repeats Lie About Popular Vote in Meeting with Lawmakers”. That word keeps recurring. CNN and MSNBC (both cable-news stations) recently said that Mr Trump had lied about the murder rate being the highest in almost a half-century. (It is in fact near historical lows.) Mr Trump says a lot of things that are nakedly false. Are they all lies? There is a difference between falsehood and lying. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a “lie” as a “false statement made with intent to deceive”. It says “falsehood” is “an uttered untruth; a lie. Also false statements, uttered untruth, in general.” Falsehood is thus the wider word, covering lying and “uttered untruth, in general”. Lying requires an intent to deceive—which implies knowing that what you’re saying isn’t true.
What does a journalist know about the contents of Donald Trump’s mind? Certainly, the president cannot resist talking up his own greatness. Some have accused him of suffering from narcissistic personality disorder. Long-distance mental-health diagnoses are beyond the remit of the language columnist. But the media’s overuse of “lie” indicates that journalists gloss all too easily over the fine distinction between “lie” and “falsehood”.
Certain verbs, “factive” ones, can be used only when the information that follows is true. You can’t say, “He admitted that the moon was made of styrofoam” or “She learned that the UN was poisoning the water supply” unless you are aiming for a comic or jarring effect. “Admit”, “learn” and other words like them presuppose the truth of the following clause.
“Lie” is special, a special kind of “anti-factive” verb. Not only must the information in question be false, but the user of the verb “to lie” must know—or have very good reason to believe—that the speaker knows it to be false. If Mr Trump really does have a pathological need to believe fantastic things about his greatness, he may very well think that he must have beaten Hillary Clinton in the popular vote, and that the only reason he didn’t was down to the millions of illegal votes.
For a “lie”, Mr Trump would have to have known the truth. If he did, he told a whopper that immediately gave rise to demands for proof—proof he could not provide. Mr Trump did not modify his words, back down or duck further questions. If he was lying, he was setting himself up for an ever-bigger embarrassment. Instead, the president doubled down, promising a thorough investigation into voter fraud. It’s possible that he believes his own guff. The same goes for the murder rate: Mr Trump said something wildly wrong about something easily checkable, leaving an adviser, Kellyanne Conway, flailing to cover for him by saying that Mr Trump may have been “relying on data perhaps for a particular area; I don’t know who gave him that data”.
Using “lie” strictly is not easy; it is impossible to know another mind perfectly. But politics often has a way of leaving evidence: e-mails, memos, witnesses. Michael Flynn, briefly Mr Trump’s national security adviser, said he never discussed sanctions with Russia’s ambassador. The Washington Post reported that America’s spies knew otherwise. He had to resign. Journalists should be tough when powerful people say untrue things. When those statements first hit the headlines, “false” packs plenty of punch. Reporters should demand to know the reason for the false statements. In cases like Mr Flynn’s, with clear evidence, they can say “he lied”. In cases like that of Mr Trump and the murder rate, journalists should demand to know his sources, perhaps asking whether the president trusts conspiracy-theorist websites over his own FBI. It hardly spares Mr Trump to call him “deluded” rather than a liar. Finally, there is the possibility that the president simply has no regard for the truth at all, not even caring whether he’s right or wrong. In that case, the press lacks an easy term for this kind of falsehood. Many won’t print “bullshit”, one proposed suggestion.
Using exact terms will only make it more powerful when the press catches Mr Trump red-handed in a “lie”. Reporters can be patient as well as precise. His presidency is still young.
When the Academy expanded the best picture category to more than five nominees for the 82nd Academy Awards in 2010, it also made a fascinating tweak to how the votes are counted. It used to be a first-past-the-post system, where all you needed was more votes than everyone else to win. This meant that movies used to be able to win without majority appeal, as all you needed to do was persuade a dedicated minority to pick your movie. But now, instead of picking their choice for best picture, voters rank them. Then they’re counted with instant runoff voting,1 and the impact this has is it’ll award films with broad majority appeal over ones that have strong plurality appeal. Here’s the gist:
Count up all the first-choice votes. If a movie gets a majority, that’s the winner. If none does, eliminate the last-place movie from contention. Take all of the ballots with the eliminated movie at the top. Reapportion them to each voter’s next preferred movie. Go back to step two. For example: Let’s say all the first-choice votes are counted up, and no one has a majority. The last-place movie — “Hell or High Water,” maybe — is eliminated, and all of the ballots that had it as the first choice are reapportioned to those ballots’ second-choice movies. Then the process repeats: If nobody has a majority, the last-place movie — let’s say “Lion” — is eliminated from contention, and the ballots that now have “Lion” as top choice are moved to their next preferred pile. This continues until a movie breaks 50 percent.
The effect that this has is that if “La La Land” were every person’s second-favorite movie, it would win the Oscar. It’s why even if we do get an Oscar shock, the result is usually a film that’s recognized as rather good, if not everyone’s favorite.
Given that it’s won some of the most predictive awards this year, that it’s a relatively uncontroversial film and that the Oscars are poised to award the film with the broadest appeal based on the voting algorithm, “La La Land” looks to be a shoo-in.
Rob Duke's insight:
Here's one of those Arrow Theorem game theory problems. How do you get voting "right"? Primaries take time and don't ensure the "right" outcome, but neither to outright votes, because if my preferred vote doesn't win, maybe there's a second choice that I'd prefer over the actual winner. If that's the case, I may not vote my preference because I don't want to "waste" my vote; but, then if my second choice wins, I may have buyers remorse if it was a followed closely by my actual preference....arghhh!
The Oscar's system described to the right is probably the best, but it tends to push all winners towards the least offensive and not towards the best...which is often beside the point in voting....hopefully, we won't have protests for "NOT MY OSCAR".
A Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI), also known as a double crossover diamond (DCD), is a diamond interchange that crosses traffic to the opposite side of the road across an interchange so vehicles have unimpeded movement onto the freeway ramps. Left-turn movements, which are a typical challenge with standard four-way interchanges, are eliminated with a DDI.
One such way was in building streets with a width of 132 feet. Which is why today, many streets in Salt Lake City—even in the downtown core—are six lanes of traffic wide (some are narrower due to larger sidewalks).
Street width, as well as the length of each block, can make the city feel hostile to pedestrians. The streets are so menacing and crossings so long that the city has placed plastic buckets on lampposts which hold flags that pedestrians can carry to the other side while crossing.
California voters on Nov. 8, 2016 overwhelmingly passed Proposition 54, which mandates 72 hours’ notice before any bill faces a final vote in the Legislature. Will legislators faithfully follow the new law to bring more transparency to their operations or seek loopholes to avoid it?
The Obama administration on Tuesday bowed to months of growing pressure over a 40-year-old ban on exports of most domestic crude, taking two steps expected to unleash a wave of ultra-light shale oil onto global markets.
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