Adam Smith, the18th century Scotsman best known for writing The Wealth of Nations, is widely misunderstood. His insights into technology, ambition, and friendship that are as relevant today as they were in 1759.
The hypothesis of InfoStorms is that modern information technologies are bound to magnify and amplify phenomena for which biased individual and social information processes threaten to distort truth, making us more vulnerable to err than ever before, and on a much larger scale. Informational cascades, pluralistic ignorance, and group polarization – these are all well known phenomena to social psychologists arising from the combination of psychological biases and heuristics in social information processing.
In my new book InfoStorms, written together with Vincent F. Hendricks (Prof. of formal philosophy, University of Copenhagen), we explore how modern information technologies may amplify and magnify these phenomena making us more vulnerable to err than ever, and on a much larger scale. Basically, it’s a book about how hardwired socio-technological ‘rules of thumb’ crafted out of necessity to deal with information overload sometimes bias our individual and social decision-making to the extend where the individual as well as societal impact may become dangerous. Let’s take an example.
What impact is behavioural science having on politics and business? Simplified disclosure, default rules, social norms, and ‘choice architecture’ are all being used to steer people in specific directions. Are these ‘nudges’ improving our decisions? Are they offsetting irrational behaviour? Cass Sunstein, author of Nudge and the previous Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration will discuss these new policies and the question they raise about freedom of choice.
Cass Sunstein (@CassSunstein) is the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School.
Social Media has rapidly grown in importance as a forum for political activism in its different forms. Social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube provide new ways to stimulate citizen engagement in political life, where elections and electoral campaigns have a central role.
Although the presence of social media is spreading and media use patterns are changing, online political engagement is largely restricted to people already active in politics and on the Internet. Other audiences are less responsive. For example, television news together with print and online newspapers are still the most important sources of political information in most EU Member States.
Social media has reshaped structures and methods of contemporary political communication by influencing the way politicians interact with citizens and each other. However, the role of this phenomenon in increasing political engagement and electoral participation is neither clear nor simple. The upcoming European Parliament elections in May will give an indication of the impact of social media in European wide elections with national and European dimension
Although human and animal behaviors are largely shaped by reinforcement and punishment, choices in social settings are also influenced by information about the knowledge and experience of other decision-makers. During competitive games, monkeys increased their payoffs by systematically deviating from a simple heuristic learning algorithm and thereby countering the predictable exploitation by their computer opponent. Neurons in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC) signaled the animal’s recent choice and reward history that reflected the computer’s exploitative strategy. The strength of switching signals in the dmPFC also correlated with the animal’s tendency to deviate from the heuristic learning algorithm. Therefore, the dmPFC might provide control signals for overriding simple heuristic learning algorithms based on the inferred strategies of the opponent.
Neural correlates of strategic reasoning during competitive games Hyojung Seo, Xinying Cai, Christopher H. Donahue, Daeyeol Lee
Abstract: Whether and how the observability of a coworker’s effort influences an employer’s wage decisions and workers’ effort decisions is a central issue for labor organizations. We conduct an experiment using a three-person gift-exchange game to investigate this matter in the context of wage transparency and heterogeneous abilities. We find that showing a coworker’s effort increases both wages and the difference in wages between two heterogeneously skilled workers when the more able worker is observed. The knowledge of a coworker’s effort increases the level of reciprocity exhibited by observed workers (peer effects), whereas it reduces that exhibited by workers who are observers. Overall, displaying coworker’s effort has a beneficial effect on reciprocity. Regardless of their ability, workers exert levels of effort that are positively related to those of their coworkers. This strategic complementarity of efforts is partially explained by inequity aversion.
This post originally appeared at LinkedIn. Follow the author here. Toxic people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people’s buttons. Either way, they create unnecessary complexity, strife, and worst of all, stress....
Drinking this could reduce your brain age twenty years in just three months.Cocoa flavanoids — like those contained in a cup of cocoa — can reverse age-related memory loss in older adults, a new study finds. This is the first direct evidence that an important component of memory decline that comes with age can be improved with a simple dietary change. Typically, normal age-related memory declines are noticeable to people in their fifties and sixties: things like forgetting where the keys are or having trouble recalling a name or word. These changes are much less severe than those which typically occur as a result of devastating dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
Just out these days, our recent paper in the journal Social Neuroscience is about how empathy can drive choices in social dilemmas. In this study, we use both behavioural economics and fMRI scanning to explore how individual differences in empathic ability can affect social behaviours.
This is described in the abstract:
Empathy was related to specific engagement of the mentalising network of the brain.
“Decision-making in social dilemmas is suggested to rely on three factors: the valuation of a choice option, the relative judgment of two or more choice alternatives, and individual factors affecting the ease at which judgments and decisions are made. Here, we test whether empathy—an individual’s relative ability to understand others’ thoughts, emotions, and intentions—acts as an individual factor that alleviates conflict resolution in social decision-making. We test this by using a framed, iterated prisoners’ dilemma (PD) game in two settings. In a behavioral experiment, we find that individual differences in empathic ability (the Empathy Quotient, EQ) were related to lower response times in the PD game, suggesting that empathy is related to faster social choices, independent of whether they choose to cooperate or defect. In a subsequent neuroimaging experiment, using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we find that EQ is positively related to individual differences in the engagement of brain structures implemented in mentalizing, including the precuneus, superior temporal sulcus, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. These results suggest that empathy is related to the individual difference in the engagement of mentalizing in social dilemmas and that this is related to the efficiency of decision-making in social dilemmas.”
(...) humans and other species seem to share basic reactions to inequity, which serves to sustain cooperation. We postulate that the basic emotional reactions and calculations underlying our sense of fairness are rooted in our primate background and offer a model that places these reactions in the context of cooperative relationships.
Evolution of responses to (un)fairness Sarah F. Brosnan1,*, Frans B. M. de Waal
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