"Living a fully ethical life involves doing the most good we can. - Peter Singer
"Common sense is not so common." - Voltaire

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Moralized Rationality: Relying on Logic and Evidence in the Formation and Evaluation of Belief Can Be Seen as a Moral Issue

Tomas Ståhl, Maarten P. Zaal, Linda J. Skitka
Published: November 16, 2016


In the present article we demonstrate stable individual differences in the extent to which a reliance on logic and evidence in the formation and evaluation of beliefs is perceived as a moral virtue, and a reliance on less rational processes is perceived as a vice. We refer to this individual difference variable as moralized rationality. Eight studies are reported in which an instrument to measure individual differences in moralized rationality is validated. Results show that the Moralized Rationality Scale (MRS) is internally consistent, and captures something distinct from the personal importance people attach to being rational (Studies 1–3). Furthermore, the MRS has high test-retest reliability (Study 4), is conceptually distinct from frequently used measures of individual differences in moral values, and it is negatively related to common beliefs that are not supported by scientific evidence (Study 5). We further demonstrate that the MRS predicts morally laden reactions, such as a desire for punishment, of people who rely on irrational (vs. rational) ways of forming and evaluating beliefs (Studies 6 and 7). Finally, we show that the MRS uniquely predicts motivation to contribute to a charity that works to prevent the spread of irrational beliefs (Study 8). We conclude that (1) there are stable individual differences in the extent to which people moralize a reliance on rationality in the formation and evaluation of beliefs, (2) that these individual differences do not reduce to the personal importance attached to rationality, and (3) that individual differences in moralized rationality have important motivational and interpersonal consequences.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Living with the animals: animal or robotic companions for the elderly in smart homes?

Dirk Preuß and Friederike Legal
J Med Ethics doi:10.1136/medethics-2016-103603


Although the use of pet robots in senior living facilities and day-care centres, particularly for individuals suffering from dementia, has been intensively researched, the question of introducing pet robots into domestic settings has been relatively neglected. Ambient assisted living (AAL) offers many interface opportunities for integrating motorised companions. There are diverse medical reasons, as well as arguments from animal ethics, that support the use of pet robots in contrast to living with live animals. However, as this paper makes clear, we should not lose sight of the option of living with animals at home for as long as possible and in conformity with the welfare of the animal assisted by AAL technology.

The article is here.

Perceiving the World Through Group-Colored Glasses: A Perceptual Model of Intergroup Relations

Y. Jenny Xiao, Géraldine Coppin, and Jay J. Van Bavel
Psychological Inquiry Vol. 27 , Iss. 4, 2016


Extensive research has investigated societal and behavioral consequences of social group affiliation and identification but has been relatively silent on the role of perception in intergroup relations. We propose the perceptual model of intergroup relations to conceptualize how intergroup relations are grounded in perception. We review the growing literature on how intergroup dynamics shape perception across different sensory modalities and argue that these perceptual processes mediate intergroup relations. The model provides a starting point for social psychologists to study perception as a function of social group dynamics and for perception researchers to consider social influences. We highlight several gaps in the literature and outline areas for future research. Uncovering the role of perception in intergroup relations offers novel insights into the construction of shared reality and may help devise new and unique interventions targeted at the perceptual level.

The article is here.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Why Some People Get Burned Out and Others Don't

Kandi Wiens and Annie McKee
Harvard Business Review
Originally posted November 23, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

What You Can Do to Manage Stress and Avoid Burnout

People do all kinds of destructive things to deal with stress—they overeat, abuse drugs and alcohol, and push harder rather than slowing down. What we learned from our study of chief medical officers is that people can leverage their emotional intelligence to deal with stress and ward off burnout. You, too, might want to try the following:

Don’t be the source of your stress. Too many of us create our own stress, with its full bodily response, merely by thinking about or anticipating future episodes or encounters that might be stressful. People who have a high need to achieve or perfectionist tendencies may be more prone to creating their own stress. We learned from our study that leaders who are attuned to the pressures they put on themselves are better able to control their stress level. As one CMO described, “I’ve realized that much of my stress is self-inflicted from years of being hard on myself. Now that I know the problems it causes for me, I can talk myself out of the non-stop pressure.”

Recognize your limitations. Becoming more aware of your strengths and weaknesses will clue you in to where you need help. In our study, CMOs described the transition from a clinician to leadership role as being a major source of their stress. Those who recognized when the demands were outweighing their abilities, didn’t go it alone—they surrounded themselves with trusted advisors and asked for help.

The article is here.

The Simple Economics of Machine Intelligence

Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans, and Avi Goldfarb
Harvard Business Review
Originally published November 17, 2016

Here are two excerpts:

The first effect of machine intelligence will be to lower the cost of goods and services that rely on prediction. This matters because prediction is an input to a host of activities including transportation, agriculture, healthcare, energy manufacturing, and retail.

When the cost of any input falls so precipitously, there are two other well-established economic implications. First, we will start using prediction to perform tasks where we previously didn’t. Second, the value of other things that complement prediction will rise.


As machine intelligence improves, the value of human prediction skills will decrease because machine prediction will provide a cheaper and better substitute for human prediction, just as machines did for arithmetic. However, this does not spell doom for human jobs, as many experts suggest. That’s because the value of human judgment skills will increase. Using the language of economics, judgment is a complement to prediction and therefore when the cost of prediction falls demand for judgment rises. We’ll want more human judgment.

The article is here.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Do It Well and Do It Right: The Impact of Service Climate and Ethical Climate on Business Performance and the Boundary Conditions

Kaifeng Jiang, Jia Hu, Ying Hong, Hui Liao, & Songbo Liu
Journal of Applied Psychology
Vol 101(11), Nov 2016, 1553-1568.


Prior research has demonstrated that service climate can enhance unit performance by guiding employees’ service behavior to satisfy customers. Extending this literature, we identified ethical climate toward customers as another indispensable organizational climate in service contexts and examined how and when service climate operates in conjunction with ethical climate to enhance business performance of service units. Based on data collected in 2 phases over 6 months from multiple sources of 196 movie theaters, we found that service climate and ethical climate had disparate impacts on business performance, operationalized as an index of customer attendance rate and operating income per labor hour, by enhancing service behavior and reducing unethical behavior, respectively. Furthermore, we found that service behavior and unethical behavior interacted to affect business performance, in such a way that service behavior was more positively related to business performance when unethical behavior was low than when it was high. This interactive effect between service and unethical behaviors was further strengthened by high market turbulence and competitive intensity. These findings provide new insight into theoretical development of service management and offer practical implications about how to maximize business performance of service units by managing organizational climates and employee behaviors synergistically.


In conclusion, service excellence has become a strategic imperative for service organizations, and prior research has established an unequivocal picture of the value in building a service climate that guides employees to satisfy customers and generate value. Our findings suggest another indispensable and complementary route to service success: in addition to emphasizing service excellence, organizations should highlight high ethical standards to uniquely inhibit unethical behavior. Additionally, both excellent service behavior and adherence to ethics functioned synergistically. Last, our results showed that the synergy between service and ethical behavior was most salient when the market was turbulent or competitive.

The article is here.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Data Ethics: The New Competitive Advantage

Gry Hasselbalch
Tech Crunch
Originally posted November 14, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

What is data ethics?

Ethical companies in today’s big data era are doing more than just complying with data protection legislation. They also follow the spirit and vision of the legislation by listening closely to their customers. They’re implementing credible and clear transparency policies for data management. They’re only processing necessary data and developing privacy-aware corporate cultures and organizational structures. Some are developing products and services using Privacy by Design.

A data-ethical company sustains ethical values relating to data, asking: Is this something I myself would accept as a consumer? Is this something I want my children to grow up with? A company’s degree of “data ethics awareness” is not only crucial for survival in a market where consumers progressively set the bar, it’s also necessary for society as a whole. It plays a similar role as a company’s environmental conscience — essential for company survival, but also for the planet’s welfare. Yet there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, perfect for every ethical dilemma. We’re in an age of experimentation where laws, technology and, perhaps most importantly, our limits as individuals are tested and negotiated on a daily basis.

The article is here.

Friday, December 2, 2016

New ruling finally requires homeopathic 'treatments' to obey the same labeling standards as real medicines

Lindsay Dodgson
Business Insider
Originally posted November 17, 2016

The Federal Trade Commission issued a statement this month which said that homeopathic remedies have to be held to the same standard as other products that make similar claims. In other words, American companies must now have reliable scientific evidence for health-related claims that their products can treat specific conditions and illnesses.

The article is here.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruling is here.

An Improved Virtual Hope Box: An App for Suicidal Patients

Principal Investigator: Nigel Bush, Ph.D.
Organization: National Center for Telehealth & Technology

One of the key approaches in treating people who are depressed and thinking about suicide is to help them come up with reasons to go on living, and one of the ways that mental health specialists have traditionally done this is to work with their patients to create a “hope box”—a collection of various items that remind the patients that their lives are meaningful and worth living. The items can be anything from photos of loved ones and certificates of past achievements to lists of future aspirations, CDs of relaxing music, and recordings of loved ones offering inspirations thoughts. The hope box itself can take various forms: a real wooden box or shoe box, a manila envelope, a plastic bag, or anything else that the patient chooses. The patient is asked to keep the hope box nearby and use its contents when it seems hard to go on living.

But it is not always easy to keep such a hope box close at hand. A depressed Veteran or service member might find it inconvenient to take the hope box to work, for example, or might forget to bring it along on a trip. For this reason Nigel Bush and his colleagues at the National Center for Telehealth and Technology have designed a “virtual hope box,” a smartphone app that allows the patient to keep all those reasons for living close by at all times.

The entire app description is here.