Thursday, October 04, 2007

Monkey Business

gnxp links to The Economist and Science, which both tell the story of how chimpanzees play the ultimatum game more rationally than humans. (The ultimatum game featured prominently in my last two experiments on the wary guerrilla and the wary student).

One explanation is that part of humanity's success is an innate ability to be irrational, to focus on cooperative-competition rather than one-against-all-ism. Another, not contradictory, theory would be that chimpanzees are easily disoriented (in the Boydian sense) and unable to keep ideas such as justice or fairness in mind.

21:13 Posted in Cognition | Permalink | Comments (3) | Tags: ooda

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Attitudes and the Explict-Implicit Axis

Both Rosenberg & Hovland (1960, 3) and Triandis (1971,3) break down attitudes into three components: cognitive (what people believe), affective (what people feel), and behavioral (what people do). The chart used to illustrate this troika is reproduced below:

Schematic Conception of Attitudes

However, it strikes me this model can be rationalized if we look at how explicit an attitude is. For instance, cognitive attitudes rely entirely on what people verbally think, while behavioral attitudes might not even reflect what people feel.

Dotted Boxes are Intervening Variables

Yet, I look at this and I think it should tie in somehow to the generations of war and the OODA loop:

But no matter how hard I try, I can't make a mapping (even if I add extra attitude components, like "existential," "observational," etc). Any suggestions?


Rosenberg, M. J., & Hovland, C. I. (1960). Cognitive, affective, and behavioral components of attitudes. In M. J. Rosenberg, C. I. Hovland. W. J. McGuire, R. P. Abelson, & J. W. Brehm (Eds.), Attitude organization and change: An analysis of consistency among attitude components (pp. 1-14). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Triandis, H. C. (1971). Attitudes and attitude change. New York: Wiley.

11:30 Posted in Cognition | Permalink | Comments (6) | Tags: attitudes

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Wary Cannibal

I was reading Hannibal Rising today when I realized that Hannibal Lecter, film's most famous cannibal, is a Wary Guerrilla.

Wary Guerrillas are altruistic super-punishers. They accept absolute losses in order to avenge perceived injustices. They believe that society should speak in one voice and follow an eternal ethical code.

Hannibal Lecter is a particularly artistic wary guerrilla. Indeed, his orientation isn't so much societal or political as it is aesthetic. Hannibal reacts strongly to violations of decorum and etiquette, often eating those he fiends bestial. While we often talk of the aestheticization of violence, Hannibal applies violence in the interests of a true, universal, and eternal aesthetic.

Interesting, no?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Kohlberg's Stages of Amoral Rationalization

"Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development are Balderdash," by Dan tdaxp, tdaxp, 18 November 2006,

"Taxonomies and Their Limits," by Mark Safranski, ZenPundit, 19 November 2006,

Earlier I criticized Kohlberg for his reliance on analysis reason in an area where reason does not influence behavior. Specifically, I attacked his "Stages of Moral Development," which are defined as follows:

First Level
First a focus on loss-aversion, and
Then a focus on income-maximization
Second Level
First a focus on conforming to norms, and
Then a focus on obeying the law
Third Level
First a focus on the Social Contract, and
Then a focus on Universal Principles

In particular, note how moral reasoning goes norm-centric, to law-centric, to contract-centric, to Idea-centric.

Mark of ZenPundit joined the conversation, first giving an excellent summary of Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development:

For those unfamiliar with Kohlberg, his theory was based on an effort of decades collecting cross-cultural examples of moral reasoning, from which he constructed his six stages of moral develpment. The sixth stage is representing ( as I interpret Kohlberg) self-actualized moral exemplars like Mohandas Gandhi or the Dalai Lama ( or whomever) who articulate an appeal to "higher" or " universal" moral truths that superceded their society's - actually, all societies - conventional morality. This is what appears to be ticking off Dan, as one could just as easily argue for including Nietzsche's Ubermensch in the sixth stage, as we could for the Mahatma.

I think Mark's criticism of the Stages as a taxonomy are right on, but my distaste goes deeper. If anything, Kohlberg is measuring amoral or immoral rationalization ability. Kohlberg is measuring a social derivitive of linguistic intelligence. Kohlberg is measuring an ability to please.

Read more ...

07:30 Posted in Cognition | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development are Balderdash

"Reason" hardly matters. As I wrote before:

Rationality may be overrated. Lieberman, Schreiber, and Ochsner noted that "Because behavior is often driven by automatic mechanisms, self-reports of mental processes are notoriously unreliable and susceptible to many forms of contamination" (2003, 682)

Confusing morality with rationalization is insane.

Read more ...

13:30 Posted in Cognition | Permalink | Comments (11)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Blog Reaction to Genetic Influences on Political Behavior

"Scientists study political-genetic link," by Anna Jo Bratton, Associated Press, 2 November 2006, (hat-tip to Mark Safranski).

John Alford's, Carolyn Funk's, and John Hibbing's research on genetic factors in political ideology, "Are Political Orientations Genetically Transmitted?" was recently presented at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. Happily it also made the Associated Press:

Politics may not be in the blood, but it could be in the genes.

That’s the theory a team of political scientists and geneticists is trying to prove with extensive studies of twins, genes and brain scans.

“I perfectly understand that some people are skeptical,” said John R. Hibbing, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who is involved in the research.

Some criticisms of online criticisms:

"Maxedoutmama" argues that this is an example of a hideous alliance of nazis, Leftists, and ecowhackos. However, in between rants she makes an important mistake:

You might, if you are one of those skeptical-gened people, be wondering why the population of Minnesota is reported to be so much more religious and has so much more conservative social beliefs than the current population of northern Europe, given the commonality in the gene pool. Undoubtedly the answer will turn out to be some sort of Reagan-era gene manipulation program spread by ADM, in cooperation with the CIA. Because everyone at DU knows that science is never, ever wrong, unless they have genetic defects that prevent them from achieving enlightenment. They are, after all, the reality-based party. (But even DU is becoming concerned about the "human garbage" theory of political life.)

An answer might me that white Americans are not genetically identical to white Europeans. White Americans are generally descended from those white Europeans who got fed-up and left.

"Cktung" ponders "Honestly I doubt there is one. It's like, is there a gene to decide nice-looking or not? Seriously doubt it. It's probably gene related, but I just don't see how to identify it at molecular level. ." I think Cktung's confusion here is actually reasonable. Just because something is "genetic" doesn't necessarily mean it's part of the DNA that makes proteins. It could be part of the "junk DNA" that seems to gear up genetic processes, or even epigenetic items such as the non-DNA proteins that are passed from parent to child.

"Technologyfilter" notes "They're trying to show that genetics can actually determine our personalities and even social talents--like an adroitness for politics, for example. " He's generally right, but I would be careful about the term "determine." Genes interact with the environment. Ask yourself if your genes "determine" your height: they have a lot to do with it, but grow up eating ramen and I bet you'd be shorter than you are now! (Just ask the North Koreans...)

"John Adam" thinks "I totally believe this to be true. Except that it probably has more to do with intelligence rather than some other trait. Liberals generally have stupid ideas, therefore it doesn't surprise me that more stupid people are liberals.." This is a genetic claim, and it's false. Except for the well noted fact that longer formal education correlates with liberalism, intelligence and political orientation do not seem to correlate with each other.

"Karen Spencer"'s interpretation, Politics can be inherited. That's the headline on the MSNBC website right now. They are saying that researchers are testing if being conservative or liberal is in the genes.." I think this is accurate

"Florida Gaters," in big red leters, screams "Oh, I get it! We can't seem to decide for ourselves the difference between right and wrong." More quietly, Sir Humphrey claims something similar. Nothing like that was said in the article or the lecture, so this post is hard to respond to.

"Amethyst" thinks like a scientist by noting an apparent outlier: I highly doubt it. Both my mother's side and my dad's side of the family are very conservative. I am the only liberal member of my family AFAIK, with the possible exception of my cousin who moved out to California for college... If politics were inherited genetically, then logically, I should be conservative. But I am not, and will probably never be unless the Republicans make a great many changes. Again, genes interact with the environment to determine political orientation. However, the genetic affect apperas to start around age 20 and increase from there. If Amethyst is young, which seems probable, she may just be too young to experience a genetic effect yet.

An online pagan quips that this research is weird. It wouldn't be fun if it was not. :-p

While MSNBC chooses to put science to a public vote, I previously blogged this research. This story is also available on digg.

A personal note, and a disclaimer. It has been my pleasure to have met two of the three original authors. I respect them tremendously. Their writings have expanded my horizons and allowed me to understand our world better. I am grateful for all their help and kindness to me.

Update: katieallisongranju whacks out, hazellouise asks for money to be diverted from my department to border security, Pajamas Media disgraces itself, Simonesmith hosts a threaded discussion, and TheChurchMilitant attacks science, and towelroad is curious.

13:10 Posted in Cognition | Permalink | Comments (6)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Development Biology: Even Quicker and Dirtier Than Usual

If you felt that my quick and dirty literature reviews on learning disabled students and ultimatum game were too polished, too coherent, and too well written, this is the post for you! Below the fold are some sloppily thrown together notes, for my benefit only. I'll try to write an actually readable post later in the day.

Read more ...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Quick & Dirty Literature Review on Students with Learning Disabilities

Like my q&d lit review for the ultimatum game, this post is for my own benefit. If you want something actually interesting dealing with learning, read "Nature and Her Consequences" (part of my series on student nature), or Mark of ZenPundit's "Horizontal Thinking at Cooperative Commons" (which links to "Remember Lateral Thinking?). Or even check out my older series on learning -- Classroom Democracy, Learning Evolved, and Liberal Education.

Read more ...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Blogospheric Reaction to tdaxp's Psychology kick

As I look at my blog's front page, I'm struck that every post is "psychologically," and filed either under Child Psychology, Genetic Polics. Hmm...

Whatever the deeper meaning of that, my two most recent series -- Classroom Democracy and Learning Evolved -- have received some very kind and insightful comments from fellow bloggers. Among others:

  • Education Wonk kindly liked the parliamentary democracy angle enough to include me on Carnival of Education LXXXVIII.

  • Christian Soldiers finds a lot to like from his experience teaching computer science

  • Blunt Object looks at applying evolutionary educational psychology on yourself

  • ZenPundit gives props to Learning Evolved, Introduction through Part II, though quietly avoids referencing Part III or the original Classroom Democracy series. This raises the question: is Mark a commie spy?

  • Lastly, Edgewise is interested in other recent psychology posts.

    Now if I could just follow Curtis' suggestion and tie this into 5GW.... Hmmm...

    Wednesday, October 04, 2006

    Logical Thinking v. Cheater Detection

    This post is inspired my Mark of ZenPundit's latest post, "On Howard Gardner and Creativity."

    Imagine you have a deck of cards with two sides: a blue side and a green side.

    In the first game, called the Watson Selection Task, every card has a number on one side and a letter on the second side. Each represents a logical pair. We draw four cards, two are laying blue-side-up and two are laying green-side-up. We get "16," "61," "P," and "E"

    I tell you "Turn over the minimum number of cards needed to test the hypothesis, 'Every card with an odd number on the blue side has a vowel on the green side." Which cards do you turn over?"


    Now, a second round, called the Cheater Detection Task. This deck also has a blue side and a green side, but here the blue side is an age and the green side is an action. Each represents a person in a bar-and-grill. We draw four cards, two are laying blue-side-up and two are laying green-side up. We get "16 years old," "61 years old," "Drinking Pop," and "Drinking Beer.

    I tell you "Turn over the minimum number of cards needed to test the hypothesis, 'People 20 years old and younger must drink pop.' Which cards do you turn over?"

    The result of the test are generalizable. Questions which require abstract thought, such as the first, take longer to complete and are more error-prone than questions which require finding cheaters, such as the second. This is true even though the questions are logically equivalent. Both make you test a proposition in the term "If p then q." Yet the first relies on your logical thinking ability, so is difficult. (As human logical thinking is very weak.) The second relies on your cheater-detection ability, so is easy. (As human cheater detection is very strong.) The l

    One objection to this is everyone is familiar with the correct answer for the drinking age, so it isn't fair. Yet the results are about the same even when novel social restrictions are used instead of the drinking age game.

    Another objection (made also by Buller, who noted the same finding) is that humans are much better at logical problems that involve obligation than logical problems that are abstract. Yet this "objection" actually proves the point, as it shows that humans do not have a strong logical-computation ability, but have a strong ability for detecting cheaters and a weak ability for solving that which is called logic.