Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Monday, August 31, 2020

I'm Billy Graham's granddaughter. Evangelical support for Donald Trump insults his legacy.

Jerushah Duford
Originally posted 25 August 20

Here is an excerpt:

Women of faith know better

I have given myself permission to lean into that tug at my spirit and speak out. I may be against the tide, but I am firm in my faith that this step is most consistent with my church and its teachings.

At a recent large family event, I was pulled aside by many female family members thanking me for speaking out against an administration with which they, too, had been uncomfortable. With tears in their eyes, they used a hushed tone, out of fear that they were alone or at risk of undeserved retribution.

How did we get here? How did we, as God-fearing women, find ourselves ignoring the disrespect and misogyny being shown from our president? Why do we feel we must express our discomfort in hushed whispers in quiet corners? Are we not allowed to stand up when it feels everyone else around us is sitting down?

The God we serve empowers us as women to represent Him before our churches. We represent God before we represented any political party or leader. When we fail to remember this, we are minimizing the role He created for us to fill. Jesus loved women; He served women; He valued women. We need to give ourselves permission to stand up to do the same.

If a plane gets even slightly off course, it will never reach its destination without a course correction. Perhaps this journey for us women looks similar. Perhaps you cringe at the president suggesting that America’s “suburban housewife” cares more about her status than those in need, but try to dismiss comments on women’s appearance as fake news.

When we look at our daughters, our nieces, our female students, and even ourselves, we feel the need to lean into that tug on our spirit. You might not have felt it four years ago; we do the best with what we know at the time. However, if we continue to ignore the tug we now feel, how will we ever be able to identify what is truly important to us?

The info is here.

Racism among white Christians is higher than among the nonreligious. That's no coincidence.

Robert Jones
Originally published 27 July 20

Here are two excerpts:

As a white Christian who was raised Southern Baptist and shaped by a denominational college and seminary, it pains me to see these patterns in the data. Even worse, these questions only hint at the magnitude of the problem.

To determine the breadth of these attitudes, I created a "Racism Index," a measure consisting of 15 questions designed to get beyond personal biases and include perceptions of structural injustice. These questions included the three above, as well as questions about the treatment of African Americans in the criminal justice system and general perceptions of race, racism and racial discrimination.

Even at a glance, the Racism Index reveals a clear distinction. Compared to nonreligious whites, white Christians register higher median scores on the Racism Index, and the differences among white Christian subgroups are largely differences of degree rather than kind.

Not surprisingly, given their concentration in the South, white evangelical Protestants have the highest median score (0.78) on the Racism Index. But it is a mistake to see this as merely a Southern or an evangelical problem. The median scores of white Catholics (0.72) and white mainline Protestants (0.69) — groups that are more culturally dominant in the Northeast and the Midwest — are not far behind. Notably, the median score for each white Christian subgroup is significantly above the median scores of the general population (0.57), white religiously unaffiliated Americans (0.42) and Black Protestants (0.24).


The results point to a stark conclusion: While most white Christians think of themselves as people who hold warm feelings toward African Americans, holding racist views is nonetheless positively and independently associated with white Christian identity. Again, this troubling relationship holds not just for white evangelical Protestants, but also for white mainline Protestants and white Catholics.

The info is here.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Prosocial modeling: A meta-analytic review and synthesis

Jung, H., Seo, E., et al. (2020).
Psychological Bulletin, 146(8), 635–663.

Exposure to prosocial models is commonly used to foster prosocial behavior in various domains of society. The aim of the current article is to apply meta-analytic techniques to synthesize several decades of research on prosocial modeling, and to examine the extent to which prosocial modeling elicits helping behavior. We also identify the theoretical and methodological variables that moderate the prosocial modeling effect. Eighty-eight studies with 25,354 participants found a moderate effect (g = 0.45) of prosocial modeling in eliciting subsequent helping behavior. The prosocial modeling effect generalized across different types of helping behaviors, different targets in need of help, and was robust to experimenter bias. Nevertheless, there was cross-societal variation in the magnitude of the modeling effect, and the magnitude of the prosocial modeling effect was larger when participants were presented with an opportunity to help the model (vs. a third-party) after witnessing the model’s generosity. The prosocial modeling effect was also larger for studies with higher percentage of female in the sample, when other people (vs. participants) benefitted from the model’s prosocial behavior, and when the model was rewarded for helping (vs. was not). We discuss the publication bias in the prosocial modeling literature, limitations of our analyses and identify avenues for future research. We end with a discussion of the theoretical and practical implications of our findings.

Impact Statement

Public Significance Statement: This article synthesizes several decades of research on prosocial modeling and shows that witnessing others’ helpful acts encourages prosocial behavior through prosocial goal contagion. The magnitude of the prosocial modeling effect, however, varies across societies, gender and modeling contexts. The prosocial modeling effect is larger when the model is rewarded for helping. These results have important implications for our understanding of why, how, and when the prosocial modeling effect occurs. 

Saturday, August 29, 2020

The Moral Self and Moral Duties

Everett, J. A. C., Skorburg, J. A., & Savulescu, J.
(2020, January 6).


Recent research has begun treating the perennial philosophical question, “what makes a person the same over time?” as an empirical question. A long tradition in philosophy holds that psychological continuity and connectedness of memories are at the heart of personal identity. More recent experimental work, following Strohminger & Nichols (2014), has suggested that persistence of moral character, more than memories, is perceived as essential for personal identity. While there is a growing body of evidence supporting these findings, a critique by Starmans & Bloom (2018) suggests that this research program conflates personal identity with mere similarity. To address this criticism, we explore how loss of someone’s morality or memories influence perceptions of identity change, and perceptions of moral duties towards the target of the change. We present participants with a classic ‘body switch’ thought experiment and after assessing perceptions of identity persistence, we present a moral dilemma, asking participants to imagine that one of the patients must die (Study 1) or be left alone in a care home for the rest of their life (Study 2). Our results highlight the importance of the continuity of moral character, suggesting lay intuitions are tracking (something like) personal identity, not just mere similarity.

The ending:

Finally, it is important to reiterate that our work here seeks to shed light on  ordinary  people’s intuitions  about personal  identity and  moral duties and  not  to  draw  metaphysical  conclusions  about  the  nature  of  personal identity per se. We show that ordinary people think that morality is important for psychological  continuity  and  that this judgment  is  related  to  sub-sequent perceptions of moral duties. It is possible that people are mistaken about  the  nature  of  personal  identity  or  their  moral  duties,  but  that  is a debate for another paper.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Trump Shatters Ethics Norms By Making Official Acts Part Of GOP Convention

Sam Gringlas
Originally posted 26 August 20

Here is an excerpt:

As part of Tuesday night's prime-time convention programming, Trump granted a presidential pardon from the White House. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared from Jerusalem, where he was on official state business, to make a campaign speech with the Old City as backdrop. First lady Melania Trump delivered a speech from the White House Rose Garden. And acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf performed a naturalization ceremony on television as Trump looked on.

The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from engaging in most political activity inside federal buildings or while on duty. Though the president and vice president are exempt from the civil provisions of the Hatch Act, federal employees like Pompeo, Wolf and any executive branch employees who helped stage the events are not.

Ethics watchdogs harshly criticized Trump's merging of official and campaign acts during the Tuesday night telecast.

"The Hatch Act was the wall standing between the government's might and candidates. Tonight a candidate tore down that wall and wielded power for his own campaign," tweeted Walter Shaub, the former head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. Shaub left the office in 2017 after clashing with the Trump administration over the president's failure to divest from his businesses.

This summer, Pompeo and top State Department officials sent memos to employees reminding them they must be careful to adhere to the Hatch Act. Another memo said, "Senate-confirmed Presidential appointees may not even attend a political party convention or convention-related event." That description also applies to Pompeo.

Richard Haass, the longtime president of the Council on Foreign Relations who has served in several Republican administrations, said it's inappropriate for a secretary of state to appear at a political convention while serving as the nation's top diplomat.

The info is here.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Patients aren’t being told about the AI systems advising their care

Rebecca Robbins and Erin Brodwin
Originally posted 15 July 20

Here is an excerpt:

The decision not to mention these systems to patients is the product of an emerging consensus among doctors, hospital executives, developers, and system architects, who see little value — but plenty of downside — in raising the subject.

They worry that bringing up AI will derail clinicians’ conversations with patients, diverting time and attention away from actionable steps that patients can take to improve their health and quality of life. Doctors also emphasize that they, not the AI, make the decisions about care. An AI system’s recommendation, after all, is just one of many factors that clinicians take into account before making a decision about a patient’s care, and it would be absurd to detail every single guideline, protocol, and data source that gets considered, they say.

Internist Karyn Baum, who’s leading M Health Fairview’s rollout of the tool, said she doesn’t bring up the AI to her patients “in the same way that I wouldn’t say that the X-ray has decided that you’re ready to go home.” She said she would never tell a fellow clinician not to mention the model to a patient, but in practice, her colleagues generally don’t bring it up either.

Four of the health system’s 13 hospitals have now rolled out the hospital discharge planning tool, which was developed by the Silicon Valley AI company Qventus. The model is designed to identify hospitalized patients who are likely to be clinically ready to go home soon and flag steps that might be needed to make that happen, such as scheduling a necessary physical therapy appointment.

Clinicians consult the tool during their daily morning huddle, gathering around a computer to peer at a dashboard of hospitalized patients, estimated discharge dates, and barriers that could prevent that from occurring on schedule.

The info is here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Morality justifies motivated reasoning in the folk ethics of belief

Cusimano, C., & Lombrozo, T. (2020, July 20).


When faced with a dilemma between believing what is supported by an impartial assessment of the evidence (e.g., that one’s friend is guilty of a crime) and believing what would better fulfill a moral obligation (e.g., that the friend is innocent), people often believe in line with the latter. But is this how people think beliefs ought to be formed? We addressed this question across three studies and found that, across a diverse set of everyday situations, people treat moral considerations as legitimate grounds for believing propositions that are unsupported by objective, evidence-based reasoning. We further document two ways in which moral evaluations affect how people prescribe beliefs to others. First, the moral value of a belief affects the evidential threshold required to believe, such that morally good beliefs demand less evidence than morally bad beliefs. Second, people sometimes treat the moral value of a belief as an independent justification for belief, and so sometimes prescribe evidentially poor beliefs to others. Together these results show that, in the folk ethics of belief, morality can justify and demand motivated reasoning.

From the Discussion

Additionally, participants reported that moral concerns affected the standards of evidence that apply to belief, such that morally-desirable beliefs require less evidence than morally-undesirable beliefs. In Study 1, participants reported that, relative to an impartial observer with the same information, someone with a moral reason to be optimistic had a wider range of beliefs that could be considered“consistent with” and “based on” the evidence.  Critically however, the broader range of beliefs that were consistent with the same evidence were only beliefs that were more morally desirable; morally undesirable beliefs were not more consistent with the evidence. In Studies 2 and 3, participants agreed more strongly that someone who had a moral reason to adopt a desirable belief had sufficient evidence to do so compared to someone who lacked a moral reason, even though they formed the same belief on the basis of the same evidence.  Likewise, on average, participants judged that when someone adopted the morally undesirable belief, they were more often judged as having insufficient evidence for doing so relative to someone who lacked a moral reason (again, even though they formed the same belief on the basis of the same evidence).  Finally, in Study 2 (though not in Study 3), these judgments replicated using an indirect measure of evidentiary quality; namely, attributions of knowledge. In sum, these findings document that one reason people may prescribe a motivated belief to someone is because morality changes how much evidence they consider to be required to hold the belief in an evidentially-sound way.

Editor's Note: Huge implications for psychotherapy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Uncertainty about the impact of social decisions increases prosocial behaviour

Kappes, A., Nussberger, A. M., et al.
Nature human behaviour, 2(8), 573–580.


Uncertainty about how our choices will affect others infuses social life. Past research suggests uncertainty has a negative effect on prosocial behavior by enabling people to adopt self-serving narratives about their actions. We show that uncertainty does not always promote selfishness. We introduce a distinction between two types of uncertainty that have opposite effects on prosocial behavior. Previous work focused on outcome uncertainty: uncertainty about whether or not a decision will lead to a particular outcome. But as soon as people’s decisions might have negative consequences for others, there is also impact uncertainty: uncertainty about how badly others’ well-being will be impacted by the negative outcome. Consistent with past research, we found decreased prosocial behavior under outcome uncertainty. In contrast, prosocial behavior was increased under impact uncertainty in incentivized economic decisions and hypothetical decisions about infectious disease threats. Perceptions of social norms paralleled the behavioral effects. The effect of impact uncertainty on prosocial behavior did not depend on the individuation of others or the mere mention of harm, and was stronger when impact uncertainty was made more salient. Our findings offer insights into communicating uncertainty, especially in contexts where prosocial behavior is paramount, such as responding to infectious disease threats.

From the Summary

To summarize, we show that uncertainty does not always decrease prosocial behavior; instead, the type of uncertainty matters. Replicating previous findings, we found that outcome uncertainty – uncertainty about the outcomes of decisions – made people behave more selfishly. However, impact uncertainty about how an outcome will impact another person’s well-being increased prosocial behavior, in economic and health domains. Examining closer the effect of impact uncertainty on prosociality, we show that for the increase in prosociality to occur, simply mentioning negative outcomes or inducing uncertainty about aspects of the other person unrelated to the negative outcome is not sufficient to increase prosociality. Rather, it seems that uncertainty relating to the impact of negative outcomes on others is needed to increase prosociality in our studies. Finally, we show that impact uncertainty is only effective when it is salient, thereby potentially overcoming people’s reluctance to contemplating the harm they might cause.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Natural Compatibilism, Indeterminism, and Intrusive Metaphysics

Nadelhoffer, T., Rose, D., Buckwalter, W.,
& Nichols, S. (2019, August 25).


The claim that common sense regards free will and moral responsibility as compatible with determinism has played a central role in both analytic and experimental philosophy. In this paper, we show that evidence in favor of this “natural compatibilism” is undermined by the role that indeterministic metaphysical views play in how people construe deterministic scenarios. To demonstrate this, we re-examine two classic studies that have been used to support natural compatibilism. We find that although people give apparently compatibilist responses, this is largely explained by the fact that people import an indeterministic metaphysics into deterministic scenarios when making judgments about freedom and responsibility. We conclude that judgments based on these scenarios are not reliable evidence for natural compatibilism.

Here is an excerpt from the Discussion:

The most obvious rejoinder for natural compatibilists is to deny that our intrusion items are properly construed as measures of creeping indeterminism. On this view, our items beg the question against compatibilism and our findings can be given a compatibilist-friendly interpretation.Here, the natural compatibilist is likely to appeal to the difference between the unconditional and the conditional ability to do otherwise. In an indeterministic universe, agents can have the unconditional ability to do otherwise—that is, they could have done otherwise even if everything leading up to their decision remained exactly the same. In a deterministic universe, on the other hand, agents merely have the conditional ability to do otherwise—that is, agents could have acted differently only insofar as something (either the past or the laws) had been different than it actually was. Compatibilists suggest that this conditional ability to do otherwise (along with other cognitive and volitional capacities) can ground free will and moral responsibility even in a deterministic universe. Incompatibilists disagree, insisting instead that free will requires indeterminism and the unconditional ability to do otherwise.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Suckers or Saviors? Consistent Contributors in Social Dilemmas

Weber JM, Murnighan JK.
J Pers Soc Psychol. 2008;95(6):1340-1353.


Groups and organizations face a fundamental problem: They need cooperation but their members have incentives to free ride. Empirical research on this problem has often been discouraging, and economic models suggest that solutions are unlikely or unstable. In contrast, the authors present a model and 4 studies that show that an unwaveringly consistent contributor can effectively catalyze cooperation in social dilemmas. The studies indicate that consistent contributors occur naturally, and their presence in a group causes others to contribute more and cooperate more often, with no apparent cost to the consistent contributor and often gain. These positive effects seem to result from a consistent contributor's impact on group members' cooperative inferences about group norms.

From the Discussion:

Practical Implications

These findings may also have important practical implications.Should an individual who is joining a new group take the risk and be a CC (Consistent Contributor)? The alternative is to risk being in a group without one.Even though CCs seemed to benefit economically from their actions, they also tended to get relatively little credit for their positive influence, if they got any credit at all. Thus, future research might explore how consistent contributions can be encouraged and appreciated and how people can overcome the fears that are naturally associated with becoming a CC.

These data also provide further support for Kelley and Stahelski’s (1970) observation that people consistently under estimate their roles in creating their own social environments. In particular, in the contexts that we studied here, the common characterization of self-interested choices as “strategic” or “rational” appears to be behaviorally inappropriate. Characterizing CCs as suckers may be both misleading and fallacious (see Moore & Loewenstein, 2004,p. 200).  If “rational” choices maximize personal outcomes, our data suggest that the choice to be a CC can actually be rational. In this research, we examined CCs’ effects, not their motives or strategies. The data suggest that in these kinds of groups, CCs are saviors rather than suckers.

A serious impediment to the emergence of CCs is the fact that like Axelrod’s (1984) tit-for-tat players, CCs can never do better than the other members of their own groups. This means that CCs cannot do better than their exchange partners: Anyone who cooperates less, even if they ultimately move to mutual cooperation, will obtain better short-term outcomes than CCs. The common tendency to make social comparisons (Festinger, 1954) means that these outcome disparities will probably be noticed. Relatively disadvantageous outcomes are particularly noxious (e.g., Loewenstein, Thompson, & Bazerman, 1989), as is feeling exploited (e.g., Kelley & Stahelski, 1970). Thus, in the absence of formal agreements and binding contracts (which have their own problems; Malhotra & Murnighan, 2002), cooperative action can be exploited. The inclination to self-interested action may even be a common default (Moore & Loewenstein, 2004).


In essence: Economic theories often assume people look out mostly for themselves, cooperating only when punished or cajoled.  But even in anonymous experiments, some people consistently cooperate. These people also (i) perform better and (ii) inspire others to cooperate.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Immunology Is Where Intuition Goes to Die

Ed Yong
The Atlantic
Originally posted 5 August 20

Here is an excerpt:

Immune responses are inherently violent. Cells are destroyed. Harmful chemicals are unleashed. Ideally, that violence is targeted and restrained; as Metcalf puts it, “Half of the immune system is designed to turn the other half off.” But if an infection is allowed to run amok, the immune system might do the same, causing a lot of collateral damage in its prolonged and flailing attempts to control the virus.

This is apparently what happens in severe cases of COVID-19. “If you can’t clear the virus quickly enough, you’re susceptible to damage from the virus and the immune system,” says Donna Farber, a microbiologist at Columbia. Many people in intensive-care units seem to succumb to the ravages of their own immune cells, even if they eventually beat the virus. Others suffer from lasting lung and heart problems, long after they are discharged. Such immune overreactions also happen in extreme cases of influenza, but they wreak greater damage in COVID-19.

There’s a further twist. Normally, the immune system mobilizes different groups of cells and molecules when fighting three broad groups of pathogens: viruses and microbes that invade cells, bacteria and fungi that stay outside cells, and parasitic worms. Only the first of these programs should activate during a viral infection. But Iwasaki’s team recently showed that all three activate in severe COVID-19 cases. “It seems completely random,” she says. In the worst cases, “the immune system almost seems confused as to what it’s supposed to be making.”

No one yet knows why this happens, and only in some people. Eight months into the pandemic, the variety of COVID-19 experiences remains a vexing mystery. It’s still unclear, for example, why so many “long-haulers” have endured months of debilitating symptoms. Many of them have never been hospitalized, and so aren’t represented in existing studies that have measured antibody and T-cell responses. David Putrino of Mount Sinai tells me that he surveyed 700 long-haulers and a third had tested negative for antibodies, despite having symptoms consistent with COVID-19. It’s unclear if their immune systems are doing anything differently when confronted with the coronavirus.

The info is here.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Religious Overclaiming and Support for Religious Aggression

Jones, D. N., Neria, A. L., et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science.


Agentic self-enhancement consists of self-protective and self-advancing tendencies that can lead to aggression, especially when challenged. Because self-enhancers often endorse aggression to defend or enhance the self-concept, religious self-enhancement should lead to endorsing aggression to defend or enhance one’s religion. We recruited three samples (N = 969) from Mechanical Turk (n = 409), Iran (n = 351), and the U.S.–Mexico border region (n = 209). We found that religious (but not secular) self-enhancement in the form of religious overclaiming predicted support for, and willingness to engage in, religious aggression. In contrast, accuracy in religious knowledge had mostly negative associations with aggression-relevant outcomes. These results emerged across two separate religions (Christianity and Islam) and across three different cultures (the United States, Iran, and the U.S.–Mexico border region). Thus, religious overclaiming is a promising new direction for studying support for religious aggression and identifying those who may become aggressive in the name of God.


In sum, individuals who overclaimed religious knowledge (i.e., claim to know fictional religious concepts) supported religious aggression and were more willing to engage in religious aggression. This finding did not emerge for secular overclaiming, nor was it explained through other measures of group aggression. Further, accurate religious and secular knowledge mostly correlated with peaceful tendencies. These results emerged across three studies within different cultures (the United States, Iran, and the U.S.–Mexico border region) and religions (Islam and Christianity). In sum, the present findings have promise for future research on identifying and mitigating factors related to supporting religious aggression.

From a PsyPost interview:

“Overconfidence in what you think God supports or what scripture says is toxic. Thus, humility is a critical feature that is needed to bring out the best and most benevolent aspects of religion,” Jones told PsyPost.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Morality justifies motivated reasoning

Corey Cusimano and Tania Lombrozo
Paper found online


A great deal of work argues that people demand impartial, evidence-based reasoning from others. However, recent findings show that moral values occupy a cardinal position in people’s evaluation of others, raising the possibility that people sometimes prescribe morally-good but evidentially-poor beliefs. We report two studies investigating how people evaluate beliefs when these two ideals conflict and find that people regularly endorse motivated reasoning when it can be morally justified. Furthermore, we document two ways that moral considerations result in prescribed motivated reasoning. First, morality can provide an alternative justification for belief, leading people to prescribe evidentially unsupported beliefs to others. And, second, morality can affect how people evaluate the way evidence is weighed by lowering or raising the threshold of required evidence for morally good and bad beliefs, respectively. These results illuminate longstanding questions about the nature of motivated reasoning and the social regulation of belief.

From the General Discussion

These results can potentially explain the presence and persistence of certain motivated beliefs. In particular, morally-motivated beliefs could persist in part because people do not demand that they or others reason accurately or acquire equal evidence for their beliefs (Metz, Weisburg, & Weisburg, 2018). These findings also invite a reinterpretation of some classic biases, which are in general interpreted as unintentional errors (Kunda, 1990). We suggest instead that some apparent errors reflect convictions that one ought to be biased or discount evidence. Future work investigating biased belief formation should incorporate the perceived moral value of the belief.

The pdf can be found here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Ashoka’s moral empire

Sam Haselby
Originally posted 2 July 20

Here is an excerpt:

At the heart of Ashoka’s ethical project is a concern to bring other beings and their possibilities into view. Consider different ways in which living beings might be excluded from our regard. For example, it is only when we see animals as entirely outside of our moral and political community that it’s possible to see them as meat. In the edicts, we find a concern with how the incarcerated, for greater or lesser periods of time, can also fall out of our consideration as fellow members of our moral community. Housed out of sight, we don’t see them, just as in a metaphorical sense we fail to see them when we treat them as less than us.

As an antidote, Ashoka encouraged his bureaucrats to develop a moral responsiveness with respect to the incarcerated. He says that if his ministers think ‘This one has a family to support,’ or ‘This one has been bewitched,’ or ‘This one is old,’ then they will see them anew, and can work to rehabilitate and reintegrate such a reconsidered prisoner in society. The challenge, Ashoka suggests, begins in our imagination: we must learn to see them entire. In fact, in the case of prisoners, refugees from war, internally displaced peoples, and animals – vulnerable beings, all – Ashoka recommends an imaginative experiment: to see them as individuals who maintain and value relationships with others of their kind, if not with us.

And that is key. The logic of Ashoka’s proscriptions on hunting, fishing and cruelty in animal husbandry in his fifth-pillar inscription can show us why. There, Ashoka suggests that living beings require a secure place in which to thrive, and that different types of places suit different types of beings (such as forests, rivers, or even husks for small-scaled life). He implies that all living beings exhibit different kinds of vulnerabilities and opportunities at various stages of life or at different times of the year (as when fish spawn only in certain lunar months, or sows are in milk). Living beings have patterns of dependency without which they would not be able to survive. By virtue of being a necessity for the flourishing of life, each context, pattern or stage of dependency acquires a moral status.

The info is here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

An experiment in end-of-life care: Tapping AI’s cold calculus to nudge the most human of conversations

Rebecca Robbins
Originally posted 1 July 20

Here is an excerpt:

The architects of Stanford’s system wanted to avoid distracting or confusing clinicians with a prediction that may not be accurate — which is why they decided against including the algorithm’s assessment of the odds that a patient will die in the next 12 months.

“We don’t think the probability is accurate enough, nor do we think human beings — clinicians — are able to really appropriately interpret the meaning of that number,” said Ron Li, a Stanford physician and clinical informaticist who is one of the leaders of the rollout there.

After a pilot over the course of a few months last winter, Stanford plans to introduce the tool this summer as part of normal workflow; it will be used not just by physicians like Wang, but also by occupational therapists and social workers who care for and talk with seriously ill patients with a range of medical conditions.

All those design choices and procedures build up to the most important part of the process: the actual conversation with the patient.

Stanford and Penn have trained their clinicians on how to approach these discussions using a guide developed by Ariadne Labs, the organization founded by the author-physician Atul Gawande. Among the guidance to clinicians: Ask for the patient’s permission to have the conversation. Check how well the patient understands their current state of health.

And don’t be afraid of long moments of silence.

There’s one thing that almost never gets brought up in these conversations: the fact that the discussion was prompted, at least in part, by an AI.

Researchers and clinicians say they have good reasons for not mentioning it.

”To say a computer or a math equation has predicted that you could pass away within a year would be very, very devastating and would be really tough for patients to hear,” Stanford’s Wang said.

The info is here.

Monday, August 17, 2020

It’s in Your Control: Free Will Beliefs and Attribution of Blame to Obese People and People with Mental Illness

Chandrashekar, S. P. (2020).
Collabra: Psychology, 6(1), 29.
DOI: http://doi.org/10.1525/collabra.305


People’s belief in free will is shown to influence the perception of personal control in self and others. The current study tested the hypothesis that individuals who believe in free will attribute stronger personal blame to obese people and to people with mental illness (schizophrenia) for their adverse health outcomes. Results from a sample of 1110 participants showed that the belief in free will subscale is positively correlated with perceptions of the controllability of these adverse health conditions. The findings suggest that free will beliefs are correlated with attribution of blame to people with obesity and mental health issues. The study contributes to the understanding of the possible negative implications of people’s free will beliefs.


The purpose of this brief report was to test the hypothesis that belief in free will is strongly correlated with attribution of personal blame to obese people and to people with mental illness for their adverse health outcomes. The results showed consistent positive correlations between the free will subscale and the extent of blame to obese individuals and individuals with mental illness. The study employed both generic survey measures of internal blame attributions and a survey that measured the responses based on a person described in a vignette. The current study, although correlational, contributes to recent work that argues that belief in free will is linked to processes underlying human social perception (Genschow et al., 2017). Besides theoretical implications, the findings demonstrate the societal consequences of free-will beliefs. Perception of controllability and personal responsibility is a well-documented predictor of negative stereotypes and stigma associated with people with mental illness and obesity (Blaine & Williams, 2004; Crandall, 1994). Perceptions of controllability related to people with health issues have detrimental social outcomes such as social rejection of the affected individuals (Crandall & Moriarty, 1995), and reduced social support and help from others (Crandall, 1994). The current study underlines that belief in free will as an individual-level factor is particularly relevant for developing a broader understanding of predictors of stigmatization of those with mental illness and obesity.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Blame-Laden Moral Rebukes and the Morally Competent Robot: A Confucian Ethical Perspective

Zhu, Q., Williams, T., Jackson, B. et al.
Sci Eng Ethics (2020).


Empirical studies have suggested that language-capable robots have the persuasive power to shape the shared moral norms based on how they respond to human norm violations. This persuasive power presents cause for concern, but also the opportunity to persuade humans to cultivate their own moral development. We argue that a truly socially integrated and morally competent robot must be willing to communicate its objection to humans’ proposed violations of shared norms by using strategies such as blame-laden rebukes, even if doing so may violate other standing norms, such as politeness. By drawing on Confucian ethics, we argue that a robot’s ability to employ blame-laden moral rebukes to respond to unethical human requests is crucial for cultivating a flourishing “moral ecology” of human–robot interaction. Such positive moral ecology allows human teammates to develop their own moral reflection skills and grow their own virtues. Furthermore, this ability can and should be considered as one criterion for assessing artificial moral agency. Finally, this paper discusses potential implications of the Confucian theories for designing socially integrated and morally competent robots.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Disrupting the System Constructively: Testing the Effectiveness of Nonnormative Nonviolent Collective Action

Shuman, E. (2020, June 21).


Collective action research tends to focus on motivations of the disadvantaged group, rather than on which tactics are effective at driving the advantaged group to make concessions to the disadvantaged. We focused on the potential of nonnormative nonviolent action as a tactic to generate support for concessions among advantaged group members who are resistant to social change. We propose that this tactic, relative to normative nonviolent and to violent action, is particularly effective because it reflects constructive disruption: a delicate balance between disruption (which can put pressure on the advantaged group to respond), and perceived constructive intentions (which can help ensure that the response to action is a conciliatory one). We test these hypotheses across four contexts (total N = 3650). Studies 1-3 demonstrate that nonnormative nonviolent action (compared to inaction, normative nonviolent action, and violent action) is uniquely effective at increasing support for concessions to the disadvantaged among resistant advantaged group members (compared to advantaged group members more open to social change). Study 3 shows that constructive disruption mediates this effect. Study 4 shows that perceiving a real-world ongoing protest as constructively disruptive predicts support for the disadvantaged, while Study 5 examines these processes longitudinally over 2 months in the context of an ongoing social movement. Taken together, we show that nonnormative nonviolent action can be an effective tactic for generating support for concessions to the disadvantaged among those who are most resistant because it generates constructive disruption.

From the General Discussion

Based on this research, which collective action tactic should disadvantaged groups choose to advance their status? While a simple reading of these findings might suggest that nonnormative nonviolent action is the “most effective” form of action, a closer reading of these findings and other research (Saguy & Szekeres, 2018; Teixeira et al., 2020; Thomas & Louis, 2014) would suggest that what type of action is most effective depends on the goal. We demonstrate that nonnormative nonviolent action is effective for generating support for concessions to the protest that would advance its policy goals from those who were more resistant. On the other hand, other prior research has found that normative nonviolent action was more effective at turning sympathizers into active supporters (Teixeira et al., 2020; Thomas & Louis, 2014)16. Thus, which action tactic will be most useful to the disadvantaged may depend on the goal: If they are facing resistance from the advantaged blocking the achievement of their goals, nonnormative nonviolent action may be more effective. However, if the disadvantaged are seeking to build a movement that includes members of the advantaged group, the nonnormative nonviolent action will likely be more effective. The question is thus not which tactic is “most effective”, but which tactic is most effective to achieve which goal for what audience.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Four Ways to Avoid the Pitfalls of Motivated Moral Reasoning

Notre Dame
Deloitte Center for Ethical Leadership

Here is an excerpt:

Four Ways to Control Motivated Reasoning

Motivated reasoning happens all the time, and we can never fully eradicate it. But we can recognize it and guard against its worst effects. Use these guidelines as a way to help quiet your inner lawyer and access your inner judge.

Use the "Front Page" Test

Studies have shown that when we expect our decisions to be made public we are more circumspect. Ask yourself, "Would I be comfortable having this choice published on the front page of a local newspaper?" Doing so provides an opportunity to step back from the conditions that may induce motivated reasoning and engage in more critical thinking.

Don’t Go It Alone

While it is difficult to notice motivated reasoning in ourselves, we can much more easily recognize it in others. Surround yourself with the voices of those you trust, and make sure you’re prepared to listen and acknowledge your limitations. You can even make it someone's job to voice dissent. If you're surrounded only by "yes men" it can be all too easy for motivated reasoning to take over.

Avoid Ambiguity

Motivated reasoning becomes more likely when the rules are fuzzy or vague. Rely on accepted standards and definitions of ethical behavior, and make sure that your principles are clear enough for employees to understand what they mean in practice. In ethics training, make sure to use scenarios and stories to show what ethical behavior looks like. If your values or principles are too general, they may provide convenient justifications for unethical behavior instead of guarding against it.

Stay Humble

In addition to intelligence tests, research suggests that we’re touchy about receiving any feedback we don’t agree with. One study found that when participants received negative feedback about their leadership qualities they were likely to use racial stereotypes to dismiss the person giving the feedback. The next time you receive feedback you’d rather ignore, slow down, pay attention, and consider how the feedback could help you grow as a person and as a leader.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Every Decision Is A Risk. Every Risk Is A Decision.

Maggie Koerth
Originally posted 21 July 20

Here is an excerpt:

In general, research has shown that indoors is riskier than outside, long visits riskier than short ones, crowds riskier than individuals — and, look, just avoid situations where you’re being sneezed, yelled, coughed or sung at.

But the trouble with the muddy middle is that a general idea of what is riskier isn’t the same thing as a clear delineation between right and wrong. These charts — even the best ones — aren’t absolute arbiters of safety: They’re the result of surveying experts. In the case of Popescu’s chart, the risk categorizations were assigned based on discussions among herself, Emanuel and Dr. James P. Phillips, the chief of disaster medicine at George Washington University Emergency Medicine. They each independently assigned a risk level to each activity, and then hashed out the ones on which they disagreed.

Take golf. How safe is it to go out to the links? Initially, the three experts had different risk levels assigned to this activity because they were all making different assumptions about what a game of golf naturally involved, Popescu said. “Are people doing it alone? If not, how many people are in a cart? Are they wearing masks? Are they drinking? …. those little variables that can increase the risk,” she told me.

Golf isn’t just golf. It’s how you golf that matters.

Those variables and assumptions aren’t trivial to calculating risk. Nor are they static. There’s different muck under your boggy feet in different parts of the country, at different times. For instance, how safe is it to eat outdoors with friends? Popescu’s chart ranks “outdoor picnic or porch dining” with people outside your household as low risk — a very validating categorization, personally. But a chart produced by the Texas Medical Association, based on a survey of its 53,000 physician members, rates “attending a backyard barbeque” as a moderate risk, a 5 on a scale in which 9 is the stuff most of us have no problem eschewing.

The info is here.

Personality and prosocial behavior: A theoretical framework and meta-analysis

Thielmann, I., Spadaro, G., & Balliet, D. (2020).
Psychological Bulletin, 146(1), 30–90.


Decades of research document individual differences in prosocial behavior using controlled experiments that model social interactions in situations of interdependence. However, theoretical and empirical integration of the vast literature on the predictive validity of personality traits to account for these individual differences is missing. Here, we present a theoretical framework that identifies 4 broad situational affordances across interdependent situations (i.e., exploitation, reciprocity, temporal conflict, and dependence under uncertainty) and more specific subaffordances within certain types of interdependent situations (e.g., possibility to increase equality in outcomes) that can determine when, which, and how personality traits should be expressed in prosocial behavior. To test this framework, we meta-analyzed 770 studies reporting on 3,523 effects of 8 broad and 43 narrow personality traits on prosocial behavior in interdependent situations modeled in 6 commonly studied economic games (Dictator Game, Ultimatum Game, Trust Game, Prisoner’s Dilemma, Public Goods Game, and Commons Dilemma). Overall, meta-analytic correlations ranged between −.18 ≤ ρ̂ ≤ .26, and most traits yielding a significant relation to prosocial behavior had conceptual links to the affordances provided in interdependent situations, most prominently the possibility for exploitation. Moreover, for several traits, correlations within games followed the predicted pattern derived from a theoretical analysis of affordances. On the level of traits, we found that narrow and broad traits alike can account for prosocial behavior, informing the bandwidth-fidelity problem. In sum, the meta-analysis provides a theoretical foundation that can guide future research on prosocial behavior and advance our understanding of individual differences in human prosociality.


Individual differences in prosocial behavior have consistently been documented over decades of research using economic games – and personality traits have been shown to account for such individual variation. The present meta-analysis offers an affordance-based theoretical framework that can illuminate which, when, and how personality traits relate to prosocial behavior across various interdependent situations. Specifically, the framework and meta-analysis identify a few situational affordances that form the basis for the expression of certain traits in prosocial behavior. In this regard, the meta-analysis also shows that no single trait is capable to account for individual variation in prosocial behavior across the variety of interdependent situations that individuals may encounter in everyday social interactions.  Rather, individual differences in prosocial behavior are best viewed as a result of traits being expressed in response to certain situational features that influence the affordances involved in interdependent situations. In conclusion, research on individual differences in prosocial behavior – and corresponding trait conceptualizations – should consider the affordances
provided in interdependent situations to allow for a complete understanding of how personality can shape the many aspects of human prosociality.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

San Quentin’s coronavirus outbreak shows why ‘herd immunity’ could mean disaster

A condemned prisoner touches the mesh fence in the exercise yard during a media tour at San Quentin State Prison.Rong-Gong Lin II and Kim Christensen
The Los Angeles Times
Originally published 11 August 20

Here are two excerpts:

San Quentin is an imperfect setting to help understand when herd immunity might be achieved. Prisons are crowded settings that will promote coronavirus transmission more so than among people in other settings, like those who live in single-family homes.

But the San Quentin experience — as well as other data — does show that, in the absence of a vaccine, “in order to get to something that approaches herd immunity, we’re going to have to get something well on the far side of 50% of people infected,” Rutherford said. “Which comes with a resultant large cost in mortality and severe morbidity.

“If you believe the San Quentin stuff, you got to get up to way-up-there before you start seeing slowing of transmission,” Rutherford said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious diseases expert, last week guessed it will probably require 50% to 75% of a population to be immune before achieving herd immunity — a goal that should be achieved not just through infected people recovering but also through vaccination.

California has a long way to go before the vast majority of residents have been infected.


Sweden famously pursued a herd immunity strategy when it decided not to impose a severe lockdown.

But now, Sweden has among the highest mortality rates among European countries, and has a worse rate than that of the United States.

The info is here.

Mental Health and Clinical Psychological Science in the Time of COVID-19: Challenges, Opportunities, and a Call to Action

June Gruber et al.
American Psychologist. 
Advance online publication.


COVID-19 presents significant social, economic, and medical challenges. Because COVID-19 has already begun to precipitate huge increases in mental health problems, clinical psychological science must assert a leadership role in guiding a national response to this secondary crisis. In this article, COVID-19 is conceptualized as a unique, compounding, multidimensional stressor that will create a vast need for intervention and necessitate new paradigms for mental health service delivery and training. Urgent challenge areas across developmental periods are discussed, followed by a review of psychological symptoms that likely will increase in prevalence and require innovative solutions in both science and practice. Implications for new research directions, clinical approaches, and policy issues are discussed to highlight the opportunities for clinical psychological science to emerge as an updated, contemporary field capable of addressing the burden of mental illness and distress in the wake of COVID-19 and beyond.


Concluding Comments

Clinical psychological science is needed more than ever in response to both the acute and enduring psychological effects of COVID-19 (Adhanom Ghebreyesus, 2020). This article is intended to inspire dialogue surrounding the challenges the field faces and how it must adapt to meet the mental health demands of a rapidly evolving psychological landscape. Of course, sustained change will require strong advocacy to ensure that mental health research funding is available to understand and address mental health challenges following COVID-19. To secure a leadership role, clinical psychological scientists must be prepared to raise their voices not only within scientific outlets, but also in public discussions on the airwaves (radio, cable news), alongside colleagues in other scientific fields. Sustained effort, collaboration with other disciplines, and unity within psychology will be necessary to address the multifaceted impacts of COVID-19 on humanity.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

What is herd immunity?

Joshua Krisch
Live Science
Originally published July 2020

Here is an excerpt:

Herd immunity doesn't always work

The ingredients for achieving herd immunity naturally are well understood. "You want a disease that is guaranteed to produce robust immunity with largely asymptomatic spread, and have a low R0," Altmann told Live Science. But even if the R0 is relatively high and most patients are symptomatic, herd immunity is still possible with an effective vaccine, and a vaccine program that immunizes the population en masse. "Think of our big, public-health vaccination success-stories: Smallpox and polio, both entirely due to massive, sustained vaccine programs with simple, highly effective vaccines," he said.

Robust immunity is necessary to ensure that those who become immune stay that way long enough for the pathogen to die out. Asymptomatic spread helps, because it means that fewer people are likely to die while the population waits for herd immunity to take hold — and increases the likelihood that there will be enough survivors to affect herd immunity in the first place. A low R0, of course, lowers the bar for how many individuals need to be immune before we see the infection rate flatten and decline.

Nonetheless, some diseases that are seemingly strong candidates for herd immunity never quite achieve it. Despite widespread infection and vaccination, chicken pox, for instance, has never been entirely eradicated from the population. That's because the virus that causes chicken pox remains latent in the nerve roots of those who are infected by it, even after they recover and acquire immunity to the disease. As once-infected individuals grow older their immune systems weaken and the virus can reactivate, causing shingles, which can, in turn, cause chicken pox.

"You might have eradicated chicken pox in a small island community, but then somebody's granny gets an attack of shingles and, over a matter of weeks, every kid on the island gets chicken pox," Hunter said. "You've achieved herd immunity, and [it appears] the virus has died out, but it's actually waiting to come out." Similar phenomena have been observed with tuberculosis, according to the WHO.

Vaccine-induced herd immunity can also fail when a vaccine results in only short-lived immunity within a population. Pertussis and mumps recently reappeared long after vaccine programs were assumed to have eradicated these diseases, and studies suggest that, while vaccine noncompliance played a role, the outbreaks were in part due to the vaccines losing effectiveness over time. "In the past few years we've had both pertussis and mumps outbreaks, and those have primarily resulted from waning immunity over time," Poland said.

The info is here.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Hydroxychloroquine RCTs: 'Ethically, the Choice Is Clear'

F. Perry Wilson
Originally poste 5 August 20

Here is an excerpt:

I am not going to say that HCQ has no effect on COVID-19. We can never be 100% sure of that. But I am sure that if it has an effect, it is quite small. Think of a world where HCQ was a miracle cure for COVID-19. Think how different all of these randomized trials would look. It would be immediately obvious.

Straight talk: HCQ is unlikely to kill you. It will kill someone (rare cases of torsades de pointes occur), but it is unlikely to be you or your patients. It really is a relatively well-tolerated drug. But there are adverse effects, as all of these trials show. And given that, our ethical obligation to "first, do no harm" is paramount here. There simply is not good evidence that HCQ has a robust effect, and there is evidence of at least moderate harm. Ethically, the choice is clear.

A few final caveats. Yes, only one of these trials reported on the use of zinc with HCQ (no effect, by the way). But two things on that particular issue: First, we know that many individuals take zinc supplements, so if, as the argument goes, HCQ is a miracle cure when given with zinc, you'd still see a benefit in an HCQ trial because a subset of people — maybe 25% — are taking zinc.

The zinc issue falls into this "no true Scotsman" land of HCQ studies. Any negative study can be dismissed: "Oh, you didn't give it early enough, or late enough, or with zinc, or with azithromycin, or on Sunday," or whatever. That's not how science works. I'm not saying that any of these studies are perfect, just that they are the best evidence we have right now. The burden of proof is to show that the drug works. Though I'm sure that pharma would be stoked to be able to argue that their latest negative trial can be ignored because their billion-dollar drug wasn't given in concert with vitamin C or whatever.

Yes, I know that another Yale professor is saying that HCQ can save lives.

And to those of you who have pointed out that he is a full professor while I am a mere associate professor, you really know how to hurt a guy. I have no idea why he wrote that article and didn't mention any of the randomized trials. But I embrace the academic freedom that he and I both have to present our best interpretation of the data.

The info is here.

An approach for combining ethical principles with public opinion to guide public policy

E. Awad and others.
Artificial Intelligence
Volume 287, October 2020, 103349


We propose a framework for incorporating public opinion into policy making in situations where values are in conflict. This framework advocates creating vignettes representing value choices, eliciting the public's opinion on these choices, and using machine learning to extract principles that can serve as succinct statements of the policies implied by these choices and rules to guide the behavior of autonomous systems.

From the Discussion

In the general case, we would strongly recommend input from experts (including ethicists, legal scholars, policymakers among others). Still, two facts remain: (1) views on life and death are emotionally driven, so it’s hard for people to accept some authority figure telling them how they should behave; (2) Even from an ethical perspective, it’s not always clear which view is the correct one. In such cases, when policy experts cannot reach a consensus, they may use citizens’ preferences as a tie-breaker. Doing so, helps reach a conclusive decision, it promotes values of democracy, it increases public acceptance of this technology (especially when it provides much better safety), and it promotes their sense of involvement and citizenship.  On the other hand, a full dependence on public input would always have the possibility for tyranny of the majority, among other issues raised above. This is why our proposed method provides a suitable approach that combines the utilization of citizen’s input with the responsible oversight by experts.

In this paper, we propose a framework that can help resolve conflicting moral values. In so doing, we exploit two decades of research in the representation and abstraction of values from cases in the service of abstracting and representing the values expressed in crowd-sourced data to the end of informing public policy. As a results, the resolution of competing values is produced in two forms: one that can be implemented in autonomous systems to guide their behavior, and a human-readable representation (policy) of these rules. At the core of this framework, is the collection of data from the

Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Extended Moral Foundations Dictionary (eMFD): Development and Applications

Hopp, F. R., Fisher, J. T., Cornell, D.,
Huskey, R., & Weber, R. (2020, June 12).


Moral intuitions are a central motivator in human behavior. Recent work highlights the importance of moral intuitions for understanding a wide range of issues ranging from online radicalization to vaccine hesitancy. Extracting and analyzing moral content in messages, narratives, and other forms of public discourse is a critical step toward understanding how the psychological influence of moral judgments unfolds at a global scale. Extant approaches for extracting moral content are limited in their ability to capture the intuitive nature of moral sensibilities, constraining their usefulness for understanding and predicting human moral behavior. Here we introduce the extended Moral Foundations Dictionary (eMFD), a dictionary-based tool for extracting moral content from textual corpora. The eMFD, unlike previous methods, is constructed from text annotations generated by a large sample of human coders. We demonstrate that the eMFD outperforms existing approaches in a variety of domains. We anticipate that the eMFD will contribute to advance the study of moral intuitions and their influence on social, psychological, and communicative processes.

From the Discussion:

In  a  series  of  theoretically-informed  dictionary  validation  procedures,  we  demonstrated  the  eMFD’s increased  utility  compared  to  previous  moral  dictionaries.  First,  we  showed  that  the  eMFD  more accurately  predicts  the  presence  of  morally-relevant  article  topics  compared  to  previous  dictionaries. Second, we showed that the eMFD more effectively detects distinctions between the moral language used by  partisan  news  organizations.  Word  scores  returned  by  the  eMFD  confirm  that  conservative  sources place greater emphasis on the binding moral foundations of loyalty, authority, and sanctity, whereas more liberal  leaning  sources  tend  to  stress  the  individualizing  foundations  of  care  and  fairness,  supporting previous research on moral partisan news framing (Fulgoni et al., 2016). Third, we demonstrated that the eMFD more accurately predicts the share counts of morally-loaded online newspaper articles. The eMFD produced  a  better  model  fit  explained  more  variance  in  overall  share  counts  compared  to  previous approaches.  Finally,  we  demonstrated eMFD score’s  utility  for  linking  moral  actions  to  their  respective moral agents and targets.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

How behavioural sciences can promote truth, autonomy and democratic discourse online

Lorenz-Spreen, P., Lewandowsky,
S., Sunstein, C.R. et al.
Nat Hum Behav (2020).


Public opinion is shaped in significant part by online content, spread via social media and curated algorithmically. The current online ecosystem has been designed predominantly to capture user attention rather than to promote deliberate cognition and autonomous choice; information overload, finely tuned personalization and distorted social cues, in turn, pave the way for manipulation and the spread of false information. How can transparency and autonomy be promoted instead, thus fostering the positive potential of the web? Effective web governance informed by behavioural research is critically needed to empower individuals online. We identify technologically available yet largely untapped cues that can be harnessed to indicate the epistemic quality of online content, the factors underlying algorithmic decisions and the degree of consensus in online debates. We then map out two classes of behavioural interventions—nudging and boosting— that enlist these cues to redesign online environments for informed and autonomous choice.

Here is an excerpt:

Another competence that could be boosted to help users deal more expertly with information they encounter online is the ability to make inferences about the reliability of information based on the social context from which it originates. The structure and details of the entire cascade of individuals who have previously shared an article on social media has been shown to serve as proxies for epistemic quality. More specifically, the sharing cascade contains metrics such as the depth and breadth of dissemination by others, with deep and narrow cascades indicating extreme or niche topics and breadth indicating widely discussed issues. A boosting intervention could provide this information (Fig. 3a) to display the full history of a post, including the original source, the friends and public users who disseminated it, and the timing of the process (showing, for example, if the information is old news that has been repeatedly and artificially amplified). Cascade statistics teaches concepts that may take some practice to read and interpret, and one may need to experience a number of cascades to learn to recognize informative patterns.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Your Ancestors Knew Death in Ways You Never Will

Donald McNeil, Jr.
The New York Times
Originally posted 15 July 20

Here is the end:

As a result, New Yorkers took certain steps — sometimes very expensive and contentious, but all based on science: They dug sewers to pipe filth into the Hudson and East Rivers instead of letting it pool in the streets. In 1842, they built the Croton Aqueduct to carry fresh water to Manhattan. In 1910, they chlorinated its water to kill more germs. In 1912, they began requiring dairies to heat their milk because a Frenchman named Louis Pasteur had shown that doing so spared children from tuberculosis. Over time, they made smallpox vaccination mandatory.

Libertarians battled almost every step. Some fought sewers and water mains being dug through their properties, arguing that they owned perfectly good wells and cesspools. Some refused smallpox vaccines until the Supreme Court put an end to that in 1905, in Jacobson v. Massachusetts.

In the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, many New Yorkers donned masks but 4,000 San Franciscans formed an Anti-Mask League. (The city’s mayor, James Rolph, was fined $50 for flouting his own health department’s mask order.) Slowly, science prevailed, and death rates went down.

Today, Americans are facing the same choice our ancestors did: We can listen to scientists and spend money to save lives, or we can watch our neighbors die.

“The people who say ‘Let her rip, let’s go for herd immunity’ — that’s just public-health nihilism,” said Dr. Joia S. Mukherjee, the chief medical office of Partners in Health, a medical charity fighting the virus. “How many deaths do we have to accept to get there?”

A vaccine may be close at hand, and so may treatments like monoclonal antibodies that will cut our losses.

Till then, we need not accept death as our overlord — we can simply hang on and outlast him.

The info is here.

Technology Can Help Us, but People Must Be the Moral Decision Makers

Image for postAndrew Briggs
Originally posted 8 June 20

Here is an excerpt:

Many individuals in technology fields see tools such as machine learning and AI as precisely that — tools — which are intended to be used to support human endeavors, and they tend to argue how such tools can be used to optimize technical decisions. Those people concerned with the social impacts of these technologies tend to approach the debate from a moral stance and to ask how these technologies should be used to promote human flourishing.

This is not an unresolvable conflict, nor is it purely academic. As the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, society is increasingly faced with decisions about how technology should be used: Should sick people’s contacts be traced using cell phone data? Should AIs determine who can or cannot work or travel based on their most recent COVID-19 test results? These questions have both technical and moral dimensions. Thankfully, humans have a unique capacity for moral choices in a way that machines simply do not.

One of our findings is that for humanity to thrive in the new digital age, we cannot disconnect our technical decisions and innovations from moral reasoning. New technologies require innovations in society. To think that the advance of technology can be stopped, or that established moral modalities need not be applied afresh to new circumstances, is a fraught path. There will often be tradeoffs between social goals, such as maintaining privacy, and technological goals, such as identifying disease vectors.

The info is here.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Five tips for transitioning your practice to telehealth

Five tips for transitioning your practice to telehealthRebecca Clay
American Psychological Association
Originally posted 19 June 20

When COVID-19 forced Boston private practitioner Luana Bessa, PhD, to take her practice Bela Luz Health online in March, she was worried about whether she could still have deep, meaningful connections with patients through a screen.

To her surprise, Bessa’s intimacy with patients increased instead of diminished. While she is still mindful of maintaining the therapeutic “frame,” it can be easier for everyday life to intrude on that frame while working virtually. But that’s OK, says Bessa. “I’ve had clients tell me, ‘It makes you more human when I see your cat jump on your lap,’” she laughs. “It has really enriched my relationships with some clients.”

Bessa and others recommend several ways to ensure that the transition to telehealth is a positive experience for both you and your patients.

Protect your practice’s financial health

Make sure your practice will be viable so that you continue serving patients over the long haul. If you have an office sitting idle, for example, see if your landlord will renegotiate or suspend lease payments, suggests Kimberly Y. Campbell, PhD, of Campbell Psychological Services, LLC, in Silver Spring, Maryland. Also renegotiate agreements with other vendors, such as parking lot owners, cleaning services, and the like.

And since patients can’t just hand you or your receptionist a credit card, you’ll need to set up an alternate payment system. Campbell turned to a credit card processing company called Clover. Other practitioners use the payment system that’s part of their electronic health record system. Natasha Holmes, PsyD, uses SimplePractice to handle payment for her Boston practice And Still We Rise, LLC. Although there’s a fee for processing payments, an integrated program makes payment as easy as clicking a button after a patient’s session and watching the payment show up at your bank the next day.

The info is here.

Influencing choices with conversational primes: How a magic trick unconsciously influences card choices

Alice Pailhès and Gustav Kuhn
PNAS, Jul 2020, 202000682
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2000682117


Past research demonstrates that unconscious primes can affect people’s decisions. However, these free choice priming paradigms present participants with very few alternatives. Magicians’ forcing techniques provide a powerful tool to investigate how natural implicit primes can unconsciously influence decisions with multiple alternatives. We used video and live performances of the mental priming force. This technique uses subtle nonverbal and verbal conversational primes to influence spectators to choose the three of diamonds. Our results show that a large number of participants chose the target card while reporting feeling free and in control of their choice. Even when they were influenced by the primes, participants typically failed to give the reason for their choice. These results show that naturally embedding primes within a person’s speech and gestures effectively influenced people’s decision making. This raises the possibility that this form of mind control could be used to effectively manipulate other mental processes.


This paper shows that naturally embedding primes within a person’s speech and gestures effectively influences people’s decision making. Likewise, our results dovetail findings from choice blindness literature, illustrating that people often do not know the real reason for their choice. Magicians’ forcing techniques may provide a powerful and reliable way of studying these mental processes, and our paper illustrates how this can be done. Moreover, our results raise the possibility that this form of mind control could be used to effectively manipulate other mental processes.

A pdf of the research can be found here.

Editor's Note: This research has implications of how psychologists may consciously or unconsciously influence patient choices.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

How to Combat Zoom Fatigue

Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy
Harvard Business Review
Originally posted 29 April 20

If you’re finding that you’re more exhausted at the end of your workday than you used to be, you’re not alone. Over the past few weeks, mentions of “Zoom fatigue” have popped up more and more on social media, and Google searches for the same phrase have steadily increased since early March.

Why do we find video calls so draining? There are a few reasons.

In part, it’s because they force us to focus more intently on conversations in order to absorb information. Think of it this way: when you’re sitting in a conference room, you can rely on whispered side exchanges to catch you up if you get distracted or answer quick, clarifying questions. During a video call, however, it’s impossible to do this unless you use the private chat feature or awkwardly try to find a moment to unmute and ask a colleague to repeat themselves.

The problem isn’t helped by the fact that video calls make it easier than ever to lose focus. We’ve all done it: decided that, why yes, we absolutely can listen intently, check our email, text a friend, and post a smiley face on Slack within the same thirty seconds. Except, of course, we don’t end up doing much listening at all when we’re distracted. Adding fuel to the fire is many of our work-from-home situations. We’re no longer just dialing into one or two virtual meetings. We’re also continuously finding polite new ways to ask our loved ones not to disturb us, or tuning them out as they army crawl across the floor to grab their headphones off the dining table. For those who don’t have a private space to work, it is especially challenging.

Finally, “Zoom fatigue” stems from how we process information over video. On a video call the only way to show we’re paying attention is to look at the camera. But, in real life, how often do you stand within three feet of a colleague and stare at their face? Probably never. This is because having to engage in a “constant gaze” makes us uncomfortable — and tired. In person, we are able to use our peripheral vision to glance out the window or look at others in the room. On a video call, because we are all sitting in different homes, if we turn to look out the window, we worry it might seem like we’re not paying attention.

The info is here.