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
Showing posts with label Conflict. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Conflict. Show all posts

Thursday, June 22, 2023

The psychology of asymmetric zero-sum beliefs

Roberts, R., & Davidai, S. (2022).
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 
123(3), 559–575.


Zero-sum beliefs reflect the perception that one party’s gains are necessarily offset by another party’s losses. Although zero-sum relationships are, from a strictly theoretical perspective, symmetrical, we find evidence for asymmetrical zero-sum beliefs: The belief that others gain at one’s own expense, but not vice versa. Across various contexts (international relations, interpersonal negotiations, political partisanship, organizational hierarchies) and research designs (within- and between-participant), we find that people are more prone to believe that others’ success comes at their own expense than they are to believe that their own success comes at others’ expense. Moreover, we find that people exhibit asymmetric zero-sum beliefs only when thinking about how their own party relates to other parties but not when thinking about how other parties relate to each other. Finally, we find that this effect is moderated by how threatened people feel by others’ success and that reassuring people about their party’s strengths eliminates asymmetric zero-sum beliefs. We discuss the theoretical contributions of our findings to research on interpersonal and intergroup zero-sum beliefs and their implications for understanding when and why people view life as zero-sum.

From the Discussion Section

Beyond documenting a novel asymmetry in beliefs about one’s own and others’ gains and losses, our findings make several important theoretical contributions to the literature on zero-sum beliefs. First, research on zero-sum beliefs has mostly focused on what specific groups believe about others’ gains within threatening intergroup contexts (e.g., White Americans’ attitudes about Black Americans’ gains, men’s attitudes about women’s gains) or on what negotiators believe about their counterparts’ gains within the context of a negotiation (which is typically rife with threat; e.g., Sinaceur et al., 2011; White et al., 2004). In doing so, research has examined zero-sum beliefs from only one perspective: how threatened parties view outgroup gains. Yet, as shown, those who feel most threatened are also most likely to exhibit zero-sum beliefs. By only examining the beliefs of those who feel threatened by others within the specific contexts in which they feel most threatened, the literature may have painted an incomplete picture of zero-sum beliefs that overlooks the possibility of asymmetrical beliefs. Our research expands this work by examining zero-sum beliefs in both threatening and nonthreatening contexts and by examining beliefs about one’s own and others’ gains, revealing that feeling.

I use the research on zero-sum thinking in couples counseling frequently, to help the couple to develop a more cooperative mindset. This means that they need to be willing to work together to find solutions that benefit both of them. When couples can learn to cooperate, they are more likely to resolve conflict in a healthy way.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

The psychology of asymmetric zero-sum beliefs

Roberts, R., & Davidai, S. (2022).
Journal of Personality and 
Social Psychology, 123(3), 559–575.


Zero-sum beliefs reflect the perception that one party’s gains are necessarily offset by another party’s losses. Although zero-sum relationships are, from a strictly theoretical perspective, symmetrical, we find evidence for asymmetrical zero-sum beliefs: The belief that others gain at one’s own expense, but not vice versa. Across various contexts (international relations, interpersonal negotiations, political partisanship, organizational hierarchies) and research designs (within- and between-participant), we find that people are more prone to believe that others’ success comes at their own expense than they are to believe that their own success comes at others’ expense. Moreover, we find that people exhibit asymmetric zero-sum beliefs only when thinking about how their own party relates to other parties but not when thinking about how other parties relate to each other. Finally, we find that this effect is moderated by how threatened people feel by others’ success and that reassuring people about their party’s strengths eliminates asymmetric zero-sum beliefs. We discuss the theoretical contributions of our findings to research on interpersonal and intergroup zero-sum beliefs and their implications for understanding when and why people view life as zero-sum.

General Discussion

Why do Americans believe that when China gains the U.S. loses but that when the U.S. gains, the whole world—including China— gains as well? Why do both Republicans and Democrats believe that the opposing party only benefits its own voters but that their own party’s success benefits all voters regardless of political affiliation?  And, why do negotiators so commonly believe that the other side is “out to get them” but that they themselves are merely trying to get the best possible deal that benefits all parties involved? In seven studies, we found robust and consistent evidence for asymmetric zero-sum beliefs.  Although situations involving two or more parties are either zero-sum or not, we found that people are ready to view them as both zero-sum and non-zero-sum, believing that other parties succeed at their expense, but that their own party does not succeed at others’ expense. Moreover, we found that people exhibit asymmetric zero-sum beliefs when considering how their party relates to other parties but not when considering how other parties relate to each other. Finally, both correlational and causal evidence found that feeling threatened led to asymmetric zero-sum beliefs. The more participants felt threatened by an opposing country, political party, or work colleague, the more they viewed the other party’s gains as coming at their expense. In contrast, feeling threatened did not affect beliefs regarding how much one’s
own gains come at others’ expense.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Political conspiracy theories as tools for mobilization and signaling

Marie, A., & Petersen, M. B. (2022).
Current Opinion in Psychology, 101440


Political conspiracist communities emerge and bind around hard-to-falsify narratives about political opponents or elites convening to secretly exploit the public in contexts of perceived political conflict. While the narratives appear descriptive, we propose that their content as well as the cognitive systems regulating their endorsement and dissemination may have co-evolved, at least in part, to reach coalitional goals: To drive allies’ attention to the social threat to increase their commitment and coordination for collective action, and to signal devotion to gain within-group status. Those evolutionary social functions may be best fulfilled if individuals endorse the conspiratorial narrative sincerely.


•  Political conspiracist groups unite around clear-cut and hard-to-falsify narratives about political opponents or elites secretly organizing to deceive and exploit the public.

•  Such social threat-based narratives and the cognitive systems that regulate them may have co-evolved, at least in part, to serve social rather than epistemic functions: facilitating ingroup recruitment, coordination, and signaling for cooperative benefits.

•  While social in nature, those adaptive functions may be best fulfilled if group leaders and members endorse conspiratorial narratives sincerely.


Political conspiracy theories are cognitively attractive, hard-to-falsify narratives about the secret misdeeds of political opponents and elites. While descriptive in appearance, endorsement and expression of those narratives may be regulated, at least partly, by cognitive systems pursuing social goals: to attract attention of allies towards a social threat to enhance commitment and coordination for joint action (in particular, in conflict), and signal devotion to gain within-group status.

Rather than constituting a special category of cultural beliefs, we see political conspiracy theories as part of a wider family of abstract ideological narratives denouncing how an evil, villains, or oppressive system—more or less real and clearly delineated—exploit a virtuous victim group. This family also comprises anti-capitalistic vs. anti-communist or religious propaganda, white supremacist vs. anti-racist discourses, etc. Future research should explore the content properties that make those threat-based narratives compelling; the balance between their hypothetical social functions of signaling, commitment, and coordination enhancers; and the factors moderating their spread (such as intellectual humility and beliefs that the outgroup does not hate the ingroup).

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Shadow of conflict: How past conflict influences group cooperation and the use of punishment

J. Grossa, C. K. W. DeDreua, & L. Reddmann
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Volume 171, July 2022, 104152


Intergroup conflict profoundly affects the welfare of groups and can deteriorate intergroup relations long after the conflict is over. Here, we experimentally investigate how the experience of an intergroup conflict influences the ability of groups to establish cooperation after conflict. We induced conflict by using a repeated attacker-defender game in which groups of four are divided into two ‘attackers’ that can invest resources to take away resources from the other two participants in the role of ‘defenders.’ After the conflict, groups engaged in a repeated public goods game with peer-punishment, in which group members could invest resources to benefit the group and punish other group members for their decisions. Previous conflict did not significantly reduce group cooperation compared to a control treatment in which groups did not experience the intergroup conflict. However, when having experienced an intergroup conflict, individuals punished free-riding during the repeated public goods game less harshly and did not react to punishment by previous attackers, ultimately reducing group welfare. This result reveals an important boundary condition for peer punishment institutions. Peer punishment is less able to efficiently promote cooperation amid a ‘shadow of conflict.’ In a third treatment, we tested whether such ‘maladaptive’ punishment patterns induced by previous conflict can be mitigated by hiding the group members’ conflict roles during the subsequent public goods provision game. We find more cooperation when individuals could not identify each other as (previous) attackers and defenders and maladaptive punishment patterns disappeared. Results suggest that intergroup conflict undermines past perpetrators’ legitimacy to enforce cooperation norms. More generally, results reveal that past conflict can reduce the effectiveness of institutions for managing the commons.


• Intergroup conflict reduces the effectiveness of peer punishment to promote cooperation.

• Previous attackers lose their legitimacy to enforce cooperation norms.

• Hiding previous conflict roles allows to re-establish group cooperation.

From the Discussion

Across all treatments, we observed that groups with a shadow of conflict earned progressively less and, hence, benefitted less from the cooperation opportunities they had after the conflict episode compared to groups without a previous intergroup conflict (control treatment) and groups in which previous conflict roles were hidden (reset treatment). By analyzing the patterns of punishment, we found that groups that experienced a shadow of conflict did not punish free-riders as harshly compared to the other treatments. Further, punishment by past attackers was less effective in inducing subsequent cooperation, suggesting that attackers lose their legitimacy to enforce norms of cooperation when their past role in the conflict is identifiable (see also Baldassarri and Grossman, 2011, Faillo et al., 2013, Gross et al., 2016 for related findings on the role of legitimacy for the effectiveness of punishment in non-conflict settings). Even previous attackers did not significantly change their subsequent cooperation when having received punishment by their fellow, previous attacker. Hiding previous group affiliations, instead, made punishment by previous attackers as effective in promoting cooperation as in the control treatment.

These results reveal an important boundary condition for peer punishment institutions. While many experiments have shown that peer punishment can stabilize cooperation in groups (Fehr and Gächter, 2000, Masclet et al., 2003, Yamagishi, 1986), other research also showed that peer punishment can be misused or underused and is not always aimed at free-riders. In such cases, the ability to punish group members can have detrimental consequences for cooperation and group earnings (Abbink et al., 2017, Engelmann and Nikiforakis, 2015, Herrmann et al., 2008, Nikiforakis, 2008).

Monday, March 14, 2022

Can you be too moral?

Tim Dean
TEDx Sydney

Interesting introduction to moral certainty and dichotomous thinking.

One of the biggest challenges of our time is not people without morals, according to philosopher Tim Dean. It is often those with unwavering moral convictions who are the most dangerous. Tim challenges us to change the way we think about morality, right and wrong, to be more adaptable in order to solve the new and emerging problems of our modern lives. Tim Dean is a Sydney-based philosopher and science writer. He is the author of How We Became Human, a book about how our evolved moral minds are out of step with the modern world. He has a Doctorate in philosophy from the University of New South Wales on the evolution of morality and has expertise in ethics, philosophy of biology and critical thinking. 

Monday, March 7, 2022

Dehumanization: trends, insights, and challenges

N. S. Kteily and A. P. Landry
Trends in Cognitive Sciences
Available online 15 January 2022


Despite our many differences, one superordinate category we all belong to is ‘humans’. To strip away or overlook others’ humanity, then, is to mark them as ‘other’ and, typically, ‘less than’. We review growing evidence revealing how and why we subtly disregard the humanity of those around us. We then highlight new research suggesting that we continue to blatantly dehumanize certain groups, overtly likening them to animals, with important implications for intergroup hostility. We discuss advances in understanding the experience of being dehumanized and novel interventions to mitigate dehumanization, address the conceptual boundaries of dehumanization, and consider recent accounts challenging the importance of dehumanization and its role in intergroup violence. Finally, we present an agenda of outstanding questions to propel dehumanization research forward.


To deny or overlook the humanity of others is to exclude them from one of the core category memberships that all people share. Still, research suggests that individuals engage in dehumanization surprisingly often, both in subtle ways and, in certain contexts, by blatantly associating other groups with ‘lower’ animals.

We review evidence highlighting the plethora of distinct ways in which we dehumanize, the consequences dehumanization imposes on its targets, and intervention efforts to alleviate dehumanization.

We provide a framework to think about different operationalizations of dehumanization and consider how researchers’ definitions of dehumanization may shape the conclusions they draw about key questions such as the association between dehumanization and violence.

We address a number of theoretical challenges to dehumanization research and lay out several important questions dehumanization researchers need to address in order to propel the field further forward.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Hanlon’s Razor

N. Ballantyne and P. H. Ditto
Midwest Studies in Philosophy
August 2021


“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity” – so says Hanlon’s Razor. This principle is designed to curb the human tendency toward explaining other people’s behavior by moralizing it. In this article, we ask whether Hanlon’s Razor is good or bad advice. After offering a nuanced interpretation of the principle, we critically evaluate two strategies purporting to show it is good advice. Our discussion highlights important, unsettled questions about an idea that has the potential to infuse greater humility and civility into discourse and debate.

From the Conclusion

Is Hanlon’s Razor good or bad advice? In this essay, we criticized two proposals in favor of the Razor.  One sees the benefits of the principle in terms of making us more accurate. The other sees benefits in terms of making us more charitable. Our discussion has been preliminary, but we hope careful empirical investigation can illuminate when and why the Razor is beneficial, if it is. For the time being, what else can we say about the Razor?

The Razor attempts to address the problem of detecting facts that explain opponents’ mistakes. Why do our opponents screw up? For hypermoralists, detecting stupidity in the noise of malice can be difficult: we are too eager to attribute bad motives and unsavory character to people who disagree with us. When we try to explain their mistakes, we are subject to two distinct errors:

Misidentifying-stupidity error: attributing an error to malice that is due to stupidity

Misidentifying-malice error: attributing an error to stupidity that is due to malice 

The idea driving the Razor is simple enough. People make misidentifying-stupidity errors too frequently and they should minimize those errors by risking misidentifying-malice errors. The Razor attempts to adjust our criterion for detecting the source of opponents’ mistakes. People should see stupidity more often in their opponents, even if that means they sometimes see stupidity where there is in fact malice. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Neanderthals And Humans Were at War For Over 100,000 Years, Evidence Shows

Nicholas Longrich
The Conversation
Originally posted 3 Nov 20

Here is an excerpt:

Why else would we take so long to leave Africa? Not because the environment was hostile but because Neanderthals were already thriving in Europe and Asia.

It's exceedingly unlikely that modern humans met the Neanderthals and decided to just live and let live. If nothing else, population growth inevitably forces humans to acquire more land, to ensure sufficient territory to hunt and forage food for their children.

But an aggressive military strategy is also good evolutionary strategy.

Instead, for thousands of years, we must have tested their fighters, and for thousands of years, we kept losing. In weapons, tactics, strategy, we were fairly evenly matched.

Neanderthals probably had tactical and strategic advantages. They'd occupied the Middle East for millennia, doubtless gaining intimate knowledge of the terrain, the seasons, how to live off the native plants and animals.

In battle, their massive, muscular builds must have made them devastating fighters in close-quarters combat. Their huge eyes likely gave Neanderthals superior low-light vision, letting them manoeuvre in the dark for ambushes and dawn raids.

Sapiens victorious

Finally, the stalemate broke, and the tide shifted. We don't know why. It's possible the invention of superior ranged weapons – bows, spear-throwers, throwing clubs – let lightly-built Homo sapiens harass the stocky Neanderthals from a distance using hit-and-run tactics.

Or perhaps better hunting and gathering techniques let sapiens feed bigger tribes, creating numerical superiority in battle.

Even after primitive Homo sapiens broke out of Africa 200,000 years ago, it took over 150,000 years to conquer Neanderthal lands. In Israel and Greece, archaic Homo sapiens took ground only to fall back against Neanderthal counteroffensives, before a final offensive by modern Homo sapiens, starting 125,000 years ago, eliminated them.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Are You a Moral Grandstander?

Image result for moral superiorityScott Barry Kaufman
Scientific American
Originally published October 28, 2019

Here are two excerpts:

Do you strongly agree with the following statements?

  • When I share my moral/political beliefs, I do so to show people who disagree with me that I am better than them.
  • I share my moral/political beliefs to make people who disagree with me feel bad.
  • When I share my moral/political beliefs, I do so in the hopes that people different than me will feel ashamed of their beliefs.

If so, then you may be a card-carrying moral grandstander. Of course it's wonderful to have a social cause that you believe in genuinely, and which you want to share with the world to make it a better place. But moral grandstanding comes from a different place.


Nevertheless, since we are such a social species, the human need for social status is very pervasive, and often our attempts at sharing our moral and political beliefs on public social media platforms involve a mix of genuine motives with social status motives. As one team of psychologists put it, yes, you probably are "virtue signaling" (a closely related concept to moral grandstanding), but that doesn't mean that your outrage is necessarily inauthentic. It just means that we often have a subconscious desire to signal our virtue, which when not checked, can spiral out of control and cause us to denigrate or be mean to others in order to satisfy that desire. When the need for status predominates, we may even lose touch with what we truly believe, or even what is actually the truth.

The info is here.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Tribalism is Human Nature

Clark, Cory & Liu, Brittany & Winegard, Bo & Ditto, Peter.  (2019).
Current Directions in Psychological Science. 


Humans evolved in the context of intense intergroup competition, and groups comprised of loyal members more often succeeded than those that were not. Therefore, selective pressures have consistently sculpted human minds to be "tribal," and group loyalty and concomitant cognitive biases likely exist in all groups. Modern politics is one of the most salient forms of modern coalitional conflict and elicits substantial cognitive biases. Given the common evolutionary history of liberals and conservatives, there is little reason to expect pro-tribe biases to be higher on one side of the political spectrum than the other. We call this the evolutionarily plausible null hypothesis and recent research has supported it. In a recent meta-analysis, liberals and conservatives showed similar levels of partisan bias, and a number of pro-tribe cognitive tendencies often ascribed to conservatives (e.g., intolerance toward dissimilar others) have been found in similar degrees in liberals. We conclude that tribal bias is a natural and nearly ineradicable feature of human cognition, and that no group—not even one’s own—is immune.


Humans are tribal creatures. They were not designed to reason dispassionately about the world; rather, they were designed to reason in ways that promote the interests of their coalition (and hence, themselves). It would therefore be surprising if a particular group of individuals did not display such tendencies, and recent work suggests, at least in the U.S. political sphere, that both liberals and conservatives are substantially biased—and to similar degrees. Historically, and perhaps even in modern society, these tribal biases are quite useful for group cohesion but perhaps also for other moral purposes (e.g., liberal bias in favor of disadvantaged groups might help increase equality). Also, it is worth noting that a bias toward viewing one’s own tribe in a favorable light is not necessarily irrational. If one’s goal is to be admired among one’s own tribe, fervidly supporting their agenda and promoting their goals, even if that means having or promoting erroneous beliefs, is often a reasonable strategy (Kahan et al., 2017). The incentives for holding an accurate opinion about global climate change, for example, may not be worth the 12 social rejection and loss of status that could accompany challenging the views of one’s political ingroup.

The info is here.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Evolutionary Thinking Can Help Companies Foster More Ethical Culture

Brian Gallagher
Originally published August 20, 2019

Here are two excerpts:

How might human beings be mismatched to the modern business environment?

Many problems of the modern workplace have not been viewed through a mismatch lens, so at this point these are still hypotheses. But let’s take the role of managers, for example. Humans have a strong aversion to dominance, which is a result of our egalitarian nature that served us well in the small-scale societies in which we evolved. One of the biggest causes of job dissatisfaction, people report, is the interaction with their line manager. Many people find this relationship extremely stressful, as it infringes on their sense of autonomy, to be dominated by someone who controls them and gives them orders. Or take the physical work environment that looks nothing like our ancestral environment—our ancestors were always outside, working as they socialized and getting plenty of physical exercise while they hunted and gathered in tight social groups. Now we are forced to spend much of our daytime in tall buildings with small offices surrounded by genetic strangers and no natural scenes to speak of.


What can business leaders learn from evolutionary psychology about how to structure relationships between bosses and employees?

One of the most important lessons from our research is that leaders are effective to the extent that they enable their teams to be effective. This sounds obvious, but leadership is really about the team and the followers. Individuals gladly follow leaders who they respect because of their skills and competence, and they have a hard time, by contrast, following a leader who is dominant and threatening. Yet human nature is also such that if you give someone power, they will use it—there is a fundamental leader-follower conflict. To keep managers from following the easy route of threat and dominance, every healthy organization should have mechanisms in place to curtail their power. In small-scale societies, as the anthropological literature makes clear, leaders are kept in check because they can only exercise influence in their domain of expertise, nothing else. What’s more, there should be room to gossip about and ridicule leaders, and leaders should be regularly replaced in order to prevent them building up a power base. Why not have feedback sessions where employees can provide regular inputs in the assessment of their bosses? Why not include workers in hiring board members? Many public and private organizations in Europe are currently experimenting with these power-leveling mechanisms.

The info is here.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Civic honesty around the globe

Alain Cohn, Michel André Maréchal, David Tannenbaum, & Christian Lukas Zünd
Science  20 Jun 2019:
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau8712


Civic honesty is essential to social capital and economic development, but is often in conflict with material self-interest. We examine the trade-off between honesty and self-interest using field experiments in 355 cities spanning 40 countries around the globe. We turned in over 17,000 lost wallets with varying amounts of money at public and private institutions, and measured whether recipients contacted the owner to return the wallets. In virtually all countries citizens were more likely to return wallets that contained more money. Both non-experts and professional economists were unable to predict this result. Additional data suggest our main findings can be explained by a combination of altruistic concerns and an aversion to viewing oneself as a thief, which increase with the material benefits of dishonesty.

Here is the conclusion:

Our findings also represent a unique data set for examining cross-country differences in civic honesty. Honesty is a key component of social capital, and here we provide an objective measure to supplement the large body of work that has traditionally examined social capital using subjective survey measures. Using average response rates across countries, we find substantial variation in rates of civic honesty, ranging from 14% to 76%. This variation largely persists even when controlling for a country’s gross domestic product, suggesting that other factors besides country wealth are also at play. In the supplementary materials, we provide an analysis suggesting that economically favorable geographic conditions, inclusive political institutions, national education, and cultural values that emphasize moral norms extending beyond one’s in-group are also positively associated with rates of civic honesty. Future research is needed to identify how these and other factors may contribute to societal differences in honest behavior.

The research is here.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Moral Grandstanding in Public Discourse

Joshua Grubbs, Brandon Warmke, Justin Tosi, & Alicia James
PsyArXiv Preprints
Originally posted April 5, 2019


Public discourse is often caustic and conflict-filled. This trend seems to be particularly evident when the content of such discourse is around moral issues (broadly defined) and when the discourse occurs on social media. Several explanatory mechanisms for such conflict have been explored in recent psychological and social-science literatures. The present work sought to examine a potentially novel explanatory mechanism defined in philosophical literature: Moral Grandstanding. According to philosophical accounts, Moral Grandstanding is the use of moral talk to seek social status. For the present work, we conducted five studies, using two undergraduate samples (Study 1, N = 361; Study 2, N = 356); an sample matched to U.S. norms for age, gender, race, income, Census region (Study 3, N = 1,063); a YouGov sample matched to U.S. demographic norms (Study 4, N = 2,000); and a brief, one-month longitudinal study of Mechanical Turk workers in the U.S. (Study 5 , Baseline N = 499, follow-up n = 296). Across studies, we found initial support for the validity of Moral Grandstanding as a construct. Specifically, moral grandstanding was associated with status-seeking personality traits, as well as greater political and moral conflict in daily life.

Here is part of the Conclusion:

Public discourse regarding morally charged topics is prone to conflict and polarization, particularly on social media platforms that tend to facilitate ideological echo chambers. The present study introduces an interdisciplinary construct called Moral Grandstanding as possible a contributing factor to this phenomenon. MG links evolutionary psychology and moral philosophy to describe the use of public moral speech to enhance one’s status or image in the eyes of others. Specifically, MG is framed as an expression of status-seeking drives in the domain of public discourse. Self-reported motivations underlying grandstanding behaviors seem to be consistent with the construct of status-seeking more broadly, seeming to represent prestige and dominance striving, both of which were found to be associated with greater interpersonal conflict and polarization.

The research is here.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The New Science of How to Argue—Constructively

Jesse Singal
The Atlantic
Originally published April 7, 2019

Here is an excerpt:

Once you know a term like decoupling, you can identify instances in which a disagreement isn’t really about X anymore, but about Y and Z. When some readers first raised doubts about a now-discredited Rolling Stone story describing a horrific gang rape at the University of Virginia, they noted inconsistencies in the narrative. Others insisted that such commentary fit into destructive tropes about women fabricating rape claims, and therefore should be rejected on its face. The two sides weren’t really talking; one was debating whether the story was a hoax, while the other was responding to the broader issue of whether rape allegations are taken seriously. Likewise, when scientists bring forth solid evidence that sexual orientation is innate, or close to it, conservatives have lashed out against findings that would “normalize” homosexuality. But the dispute over which sexual acts, if any, society should discourage is totally separate from the question of whether sexual orientation is, in fact, inborn. Because of a failure to decouple, people respond indignantly to factual claims when they’re actually upset about how those claims might be interpreted.

Nerst believes that the world can be divided roughly into “high decouplers,” for whom decoupling comes easy, and “low decouplers,” for whom it does not. This is the sort of area where erisology could produce empirical insights: What characterizes people’s ability to decouple? Nerst believes that hard-science types are better at it, on average, while artistic types are worse. After all, part of being an artist is seeing connections where other people don’t—so maybe it’s harder for them to not see connections in some cases. Nerst might be wrong. Either way, it’s the sort of claim that could be fairly easily tested if the discipline caught on.

The info is here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Four Rules for Learning How to Talk To Each Other Again

Jason Pontin
Originally posted

Here is an excerpt:

Here’s how to speak in a polity where we loathe each other. Let this be the Law of Parsimonious Claims:

1. Say nothing you know to be untrue, whether to deceive, confuse, or, worst of all, encourage a wearied cynicism.

2. Make mostly falsifiable assertions or offer prescriptions whose outcomes could be measured, always explaining how your assertion or prescription could be tested.

3. Whereof you have no evidence but possess only moral intuitions, say so candidly, and accept you must coexist with people who have different intuitions.

4. When evidence proves you wrong, admit it cheerfully, pleased that your mistake has contributed to the general progress.

Finally, as you listen, assume the good faith of your opponents, unless you have proof otherwise. Judge their assertions and prescriptions based on the plain meaning of their words, rather on than what you guess to be their motives. Often, people will tell you about experiences they found significant. If they are earnest, hear them sympathetically.

The info is here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Americans have always been divided over morality, politics and religion

Andrew Fiala
The Fresno Bee
Originally published December 1, 2017

Our country seems more divided than ever. Recent polls from the Pew Center and the Washington Post make this clear. The Post concludes that seven in 10 Americans say we have “reached a dangerous low point” of divisiveness. A significant majority of Americans think our divisions are as bad as they were during the Vietnam War.

But let’s be honest, we have always been divided. Free people always disagree about morality, politics and religion. We disagree about abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage, drug legalization, pornography, the death penalty and a host of other issues. We also disagree about taxation, inequality, government regulation, race, poverty, immigration, national security, environmental protection, gun control and so on.

Beneath our moral and political disagreements are deep religious differences. Atheists want religious superstitions to die out. Theists think we need God’s guidance. And religious people disagree among themselves about God, morality and politics.

The post is here.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Navigating Political Talk at Work

David W. Ballard
Harvard Business Review
Originally posted March 2, 2017

Here is an excerpt:

Managers should recognize that the current political environment could be having an effect on people, especially if they’re talking about it in the office. Be aware of employees’ stress levels, share information about benefits and resources that are available to help support them, and encourage appropriate use of your company’s employee assistance program, mental health benefits, flexible work arrangements, and workplace wellness activities that can help people stay healthy and functioning at their best.

Senior leaders and supervisors can communicate a powerful message by modeling the behavior and actions they’re trying to promote in the organization. By demonstrating civility and respect, actively using available support resources, participating in organizational activities, and managing their own stress levels in healthy ways, business leaders can back their words with actions that show they are serious about creating a healthy work environment.

Focusing on common goals and shared values is another way to bring people together despite their differences. As a manager, set clear goals for your team and focus people on working together toward common objectives. When political turmoil is creating tension and distraction, focusing on the work and accomplishing something together may be a welcome reprieve.

Finally, step in if things get too heated. If the current political climate is negatively affecting an employee’s job performance, address the issue before it creates a bigger problem. Provide the necessary feedback, work with the employee to create a plan, and point them to available resources that might help. When tensions turn into conflicts between coworkers, counsel employees on any relevant policies related to harassment or incivility, help them find ways to work together, and involve human resources as needed.

The article is here.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Speaking up about traditional and professionalism-related patient safety threats: a national survey of interns and residents

Martinez W, Lehmann LS, Thomas EJ, et al
BMJ Qual Saf Published Online First: 25 April 2017.

Background Open communication between healthcare professionals about care concerns, also known as ‘speaking up’, is essential to patient safety.

Objective Compare interns' and residents' experiences, attitudes and factors associated with speaking up about traditional versus professionalism-related safety threats.

Design Anonymous, cross-sectional survey.

Setting Six US academic medical centres, 2013–2014.

Participants 1800 medical and surgical interns and residents (47% responded).

Measurements Attitudes about, barriers and facilitators for, and self-reported experience with speaking up. Likelihood of speaking up and the potential for patient harm in two vignettes. Safety Attitude Questionnaire (SAQ) teamwork and safety scales; and Speaking Up Climate for Patient Safety (SUC-Safe) and Speaking Up Climate for Professionalism (SUC-Prof) scales.

Results Respondents more commonly observed unprofessional behaviour (75%, 628/837) than traditional safety threats (49%, 410/837); p<0.001, but reported speaking up about unprofessional behaviour less commonly (46%, 287/628 vs 71%, 291/410; p<0.001). Respondents more commonly reported fear of conflict as a barrier to speaking up about unprofessional behaviour compared with traditional safety threats (58%, 482/837 vs 42%, 348/837; p<0.001). Respondents were also less likely to speak up to an attending physician in the professionalism vignette than the traditional safety vignette, even when they perceived high potential patient harm (20%, 49/251 vs 71%, 179/251; p<0.001). Positive perceptions of SAQ teamwork climate and SUC-Safe were independently associated with speaking up in the traditional safety vignette (OR 1.90, 99% CI 1.36 to 2.66 and 1.46, 1.02 to 2.09, respectively), while only a positive perception of SUC-Prof was associated with speaking up in the professionalism vignette (1.76, 1.23 to 2.50).

Conclusions Interns and residents commonly observed unprofessional behaviour yet were less likely to speak up about it compared with traditional safety threats even when they perceived high potential patient harm. Measuring SUC-Safe, and particularly SUC-Prof, may fill an existing gap in safety culture assessment.

The article is here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

When Disagreement Gets Ugly: Perceptions of Bias and the Escalation of Conflict

Kathleen A. Kennedy and Emily Pronin
Pers Soc Psychol Bull 2008 34: 833


It is almost a truism that disagreement produces conflict. This article suggests that perceptions of bias can drive this relationship. First, these studies show that people perceive those who disagree with them as biased. Second, they show that the conflict-escalating approaches that people take toward those who disagree with them are mediated by people's tendency to perceive those who disagree with them as biased. Third, these studies manipulate the mediator and show that experimental manipulations that prompt people to perceive adversaries as biased lead them to respond more conflictually—and that such responding causes those who engage in it to be viewed as more biased and less worthy of cooperative gestures. In summary, this article provides evidence for a “bias-perception conflict spiral,” whereby people who disagree perceive each other as biased, and those perceptions in turn lead them to take conflict-escalating actions against each other (which in turn engender further perceptions of bias, continuing the spiral).

The article is here.

For those who do marital counseling or work in any adversarial system.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The consequences of dishonesty

Scott S Wiltermuth, David T Newman, Medha Raj
Current Opinion in Psychology
Volume 6, December 2015, Pages 20–24

We review recent findings that illustrate that dishonesty yields a host of unexpected consequences. We propose that many of these newly-identified consequences stem from the deceiver choosing to privilege other values over honesty, and note that these values may relate to compassion, material gain, or the desire to maintain a positive self-concept. Furthermore, we argue that conflict between these values and honesty can be used to explain the unexpected consequences of dishonest behavior. We demonstrate that these consequences need not be negative, and discuss research that illustrates that dishonest behavior can help actors generate trust, attain a sense of achievement, and generate creative ideas. In addition, we discuss recently-identified negative consequences that can result from privileging other values over honesty.

• Dishonesty yields intriguing consequences that scholars have only recently discovered.
• These consequences may stem from actors privileging other values over honesty.
• Privileging other values over honesty can yield positive consequences.
• The valence of the consequence may depend on the value endorsed over honesty.