Researchers are questioning the value of safety-first playgrounds. Even if children do suffer fewer physical injuries — and the evidence for that is debatable — the critics say that these playgrounds may stunt emotional development, leaving children with anxieties and fears that are ultimately worse than a broken bone.
“Paradoxically,” the psychologists write, “we posit that our fear of children being harmed by mostly harmless injuries may result in more fearful children and increased levels of psychopathology.”
Contradictory evidence strengthens the position of the believer. It is seen as part of the conspiracy, and missing evidence is dismissed as part of the coverup.
This helps explain how strange, ancient and kooky beliefs resist science, reason and reportage.
... researchers looked in particular at connections between social-network use and the personality trait that psychologists refer to as "need for cognition," or NFC. NFC, as Professor Zhong explained in an email to me, "is a recognized indicator for deep or shallow thinking."
People who like to challenge their minds have high NFC, while those who avoid deep thinking have low NFC. Whereas, according to the authors, "high NFC individuals possess an intrinsic motivation to think, having a natural motivation to seek knowledge," those with low NFC don't like to grapple with complexity and tend to content themselves with superficial assessments...
The study revealed a significant negative correlation between social network site (SNS) activity and NFC scores. "The key finding," the authors write, "is that NFC played an important role in SNS use. Specifically, high NFC individuals tended to use SNS less often than low NFC people, suggesting that effortful thinking may be associated with less social networking among young people." Moreover, "high NFC participants were significantly less likely to add new friends to their SNS accounts than low or medium NFC individuals."
In the world of propositional calculus, there's absolutely no difference between a rule about traveling to Boston by plane and a rule about eating vegetables to get dessert. But in our brains, there's an enormous difference: the first is a arbitrary rule about the world, and the second is a rule of social exchange. It's of the form "If you take Benefit B, you must first satisfy Requirement R."
Our brains are optimized to detect cheaters in a social exchange.
The folks over at OkCupid analyze large data sets to find surprising results, then blog about them. The latest article is about lightweight questions that correlate to something more serious you want to know. One in particular jumped out at me:
If you want to know...
Do we share the same politics?
Ask him or her...
- Do you prefer the people in your life to be simple or complex?
We were very surprised to find that this one question very strongly predicts a person's ideas on these divisive issues:Should burning your country's flag be illegal?Should the death penalty be abolished?Should gay marriage be legal?Should Evolution and Creationism be taught side-by-side in schools?
In each case, complexity-preferrers are 65-70% likely to give the Liberal answer. And those who prefer simplicity in others are 65-70% likely to give the Conservative one.
This correlation is for a nationwide dataset; it won't be as useful in places where one ideology is much more prevelant than the other. For example, in New York City there are lots of people who like simplicity and yet have Liberal politics.
In one experiment, students were shown a list of words and then asked to recall words from it, after which they were told to type words that were randomly selected from the same list. Spookily, the students were better at recalling words that they would later type.
Earlier this month the Pentagon announced a new effort to build a system aimed at allowing it to scan billions of communications in order to detect "anomalies" in people's behavior that will predict who is about to snap and turn into a homicidal maniac — or, perhaps, leak damaging documents to a reporter.
Citing the case of Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist charged with killing 13 people in Fort Hood, Texas, the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to try to identify, before they happen, "malevolent actions" by insiders within the military. (See coverage by Wired, CNN, or Government Security News.)
The new project is called ADAMS, for Anomaly Detection at Multiple Scales, and anyone who remembers the battles over the Bush Administration's "Total Information Awareness" (TIA) program may be experiencing a major flashback right about now. TIA, also a DARPA project, was based on a vision of pulling together as much information as possible about as many people as possible into an "ultra-large-scale" database, making that information available to government officials, and sorting through it to try to identify terrorists. Eventually shut down by Congress, it was probably the closest thing to a truly comprehensive monitor-everyone "Big Brother" program that has ever been seriously contemplated in the United States. And many of the problems with TIA are equally present with this ADAMS project.
For one thing, the idea is naïve and misguided and it won't work. Statistical data mining has been found to be of limited use in some areas, such as in detecting credit card fraud. But as experts have said, data mining is not good at predicting highly unusual events, because it does not have a large body of examples it can use as a basis for identifying patterns. In fact, there are no patterns with some things. As my colleague Mike German often points out — and he used to work undercover on anti-terrorism cases for the FBI — empirical studies show that there is no such thing as a reliable profile that will predict violent behavior. Incidents in which people turn into homicidal maniacs and begin shooting up their offices are extremely rare and each one has unique origins in the individual psychology, circumstances and life history of the perpetrator.
Unselfish colleagues come to be resented because they "raise the bar" for what is expected of everyone. As a result, workers feel the new standard will make everyone else look bad.
The real form of the question, the one that generates the correct answer simply in its asking, is, "why doesn't having kids-- or getting married or getting a better job or getting laid or anything else I try to do-- make me happy? Oh. I get it. I'll shut up now."
I was sure that color coordinating the baby and the bathroom would make me happier but it didn't... should I have gone with lavender?
This intriguing media criticism suggests not just that the article's subjects are self-absorbed, but the journalists themselves. The Last Psychiatrist calls such articles "cognitive parasites" because even if one disagrees with the articles' conclusions, they can change the way one thinks.