Tagsociology

Seeking Common Ground in Conversations Can Stifle Innovation and Reward the Wrong People

The best baseball players don’t always get elected All-Stars. And the Nobel Prize doesn’t always go to the most deserving member of the scientific community. This, according to a pair of recent studies, is because such recognition can depend upon how well known an individual is rather than on merit alone. Moreover, because it’s human nature for people to try to find common ground when talking to others, simple everyday conversations could have the unfortunate side effect of blocking many of the best and most innovative ideas from the collective social consciousness.

“In our research, we found that people are most likely to talk about things they think they have in common with others, rather than topics or ideas that are more unusual or striking,” said Nathanael J. Fast, a PhD student at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Fast is one of three authors of the paper “Common Ground and Cultural Prominence: How Conversation Reinforces Culture,” with Chip Heath of the Stanford Business School, and George Wu of the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. “This has the effect of reinforcing—or even institutionalizing—the prominence of familiar cultural elements over ones that are perhaps more deserving.”

Stanford Graduate School of Business: Seeking Common Ground in Conversations Can Stifle Innovation and Reward the Wrong People

(thanks G.V.)

The psychology and sociology of drinking

There’s more to alcohol than getting pissed but you’d never know it from the papers. In a period of public hand wringing over ‘binge drinking culture’, our understanding of the ‘culture bit’ usually merits no more than an admission that people do it in groups and this is often implicit in the work of psychologists.

In a recent Psychological Bulletin review on the determinants of binge drinking, psychologists Kelly Courtney and John Polich devote only a few sparse paragraphs to the social issues in an otherwise impressive review, despite the fact that drinking alcohol is one of the most socially meaningful and richly symbolic activities in our culture. […]

But it is not just the meaning of drinks which determine the role alcohol plays in our lives, it is the meaning of drinking as well. Sociologists have been exploring this territory for years and we would do well to read their maps, because it shows us how culture influences not only our views on drunkenness, but the experience of being intoxicated itself. […]

While health campaigns are focusing on risk reduction, research by Sheehan and Ridge with teenage girls in Australia found that any harm encountered along the way tends to be “filtered through a ‘good story,’ brimming with tales of fun, adventure, bonding, sex, gender transgressions, and relationships”.

Mind Hacks: Binge and tonic

Ruining It for the Rest of Us

“Stories of people who ruin things for everyone else…or who are accused of that. [..] A bad apple, at least at work, can spoil the whole barrel. And there’s research to prove it. Host Ira Glass talks to Will Felps, a professor at Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands, who designed an experiment to see what happens when a bad worker joins a team. Felps divided people into small groups and gave them a task. One member of the group would be an actor, acting either like a jerk, a slacker or a depressive. And within 45 minutes, the rest of the group started behaving like the bad apple.”

(via This American Life)

Call For Abstracts: Serial Killers and Philosophy

From the comments on another post:

“Sara Waller (ed.)
Department of Philosophy
Case Western Reserve University

Abstracts for a new title in the Wiley-Blackwell series Philosophy for Everyone, under the general editorship of Fritz Allhoff, are solicited. Previous volumes in the partner series, Epicurean Philosophy, include Wine & Philosophy and Food & Philosophy. Serial Killers & Philosophy broadens the spectrum of topics and activities that inspire reflection on the human condition, while harkening back to the simple pleasures of fava beans and a nice Chianti. Serial Killers & Philosophy will integrate the insights of philosophers and academics from related disciplines, and industry insiders. The abstracts and resulting selected papers should be written for an educated, but non-specialized, audience.
Existential philosophers, postmodern scholars, psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists, and artists have discussed death, violence, and killing, and this volume invites papers in this vein. The scope of the collection is broad, and might include discussions of suspense, or analyses of the portrayal of the murderer and his or her victims in film and writing. Potential contributors might consider Jack the Ripper, Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer, the masked men of Friday the 13th and Saw, as well as the charming Dexter. What aspects do serial killers share, and what makes them different from mass murderers, cult leaders, state officials, CIA operatives, legal executioners, etc.? What drives people to kill repeatedly, and how do the rest of us understand these killers? How and why do we present them to ourselves as entertainment? What is the nature of punishment and retribution and how might justice be involved in, and in response to, serial murder? Interdisciplinary papers spotlighting serial killers and killing as they consider human nature, the paradox of horror-pleasure, mental delusions, sociopathy, and the nature of violence, retribution, justice, etc. are welcome. We invite papers from disciplines ranging from neurology to film theory, as well as contributions from criminal investigation professionals, to discuss the factors behind serial killing. Potential contributors should not feel creatively constrained by the topics listed above.
In the finished volume, we hope to also include writings from such notorious serial killers as Dennis Nilsen and Aileen Wuornos.
Guidelines for Contributions:

Abstract of paper (approx. 250 words) submission deadline: December 15, 2008
Acceptances will be issued by January 15, 2009
Submission deadline for completed papers will be July 1, 2009
Final papers should be approximately 4000-5000 words
Abstracts should be submitted by e-mail to sbw8@case.edu.

Please contact Sara Waller at the above email address if you have any questions about the book. Other proposals for series titles are also welcome; please direct those to Fritz Allhoff at fritz.allhoff@wmich.edu”

Creation Science Wiki: Behold the LULZ

Visit the Creation Science Wiki

For the first 10 minutes I spent bouncing around this website, I assumed it had to be a joke.? The internets have provided us with the too-funny to be real antics of the Landover Baptist Church, and the too-real to be funny hatred of the Westboro Baptist Church. However, the Creation Science Wiki is a very earnest and straight-faced contribution to the field of…well, polite euphemisms have never come easily for me.

They offer a very classical version of Creationism, complete with charts detailing the Biblical age of the Earth, detailed discussion on the Center of the Cosmos, our 6000 year old Universe, and the inspirational story of Robert Gentry, whose career as a nuclear physicist convinced him to become a Young Earth creationist.? (Apparently, this is not a typical path for nuclear physicists to take.) It’s also a wealth of hilarious quotes:

“The age of the universe is far beyond what a typical creation scientist would countenance. In response several young universe creation cosmologies have been proposed.”

Anyways, I don’t present this as smug mockery.? You owe it to yourself to get into an altered state and really immerse your head in this material…suspend your disbelief and open yourself up to the “What If.” It’s fun.

To really up the ante, consider making the pilgrimage to the Creation Museum over in Kentucky. For a less theological and reality-intensive version of the trip, check out The Anatomy of Gummi Bears and Balloon Animals.

The Age of Apathy, and I.D.G.A.D.

‘By far the most dangerous foe we have to fight is apathy – indifference from whatever cause, not from a lack of knowledge, but from carelessness, from absorption in other pursuits, from a contempt bred of self satisfaction’- William Osler (Canadian Physician, 1849-1919)

“It may well be that our means are fairly limited and our possibilities restricted when it comes to applying pressure on our government. But is this a reason to do nothing? Despair is nor an answer. Neither is resignation. Resignation only leads to indifference, which is not merely a sin but a punishment”- Elie Weisel

“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all-the apathy of human beings.”- Helen Keller

“The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”- Plato

“The biggest conspiracy has always been the fact that there is no conspiracy. Nobody’s out to get you. Nobody gives a shit whether you live or die. There, you feel better now?” -Dennis Miller

“The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment”- Robert M. Huchins

“Is it ignorance or apathy? Hey, I don’t know and I don’t care”- Jimmy Buffet

(I originally wrote this to take a look at the apathy prevalent in our society today without intending to look at this as a ‘generational thing’ because it generalizes entire groups of unique individuals, but I discovered that in order to talk about the current situation it was necessary to go back in time and look at the sociological trends that got us here.)

Recently someone sent me a link to the famous article written by Tom Wolfe, ‘The ?Me’ Decade and the Third Awakening’. When it first came out it in the mid-seventies it caused quite a stir. So much so that it became the label for an entire group of young people growing up at that time. ‘The Me Decade’ or ‘The Me Generation’ went on to become the ‘Baby Boomers’ new title. ‘See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.’ Analyze me, listen to me, and talk to me, me…me!! After reading through the article, it occurred to me that Voltaire was right. ‘Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose’. The more that things change, the more they stay the same.

Some friends and I were talking over dinner when their 20 year old son commented on the attitude of some of his generation. He said that his peers are (and I quote) ‘very spoiled, selfish, and unrealistic about work and life in general. They tend to be self-indulgent, messy, and wait for others to take care of things. Some want a good paying job without having to be too inventive or work too hard for it, and many are foolish about handling money. Immediate self-gratification is expected and pursued. There is a tendency to blame others for things and many have to be rescued from their own lack of experience or incompetence.’

The youth of ANY generation has some of these qualities, so what’s different?

Much of the ‘Me Generation’ were the product of hard working parents who grew up during the Great Depression, and who fought and lived through WWI and WWII. Scarcity was the norm, and family and community were of priority. The future rebels of the 60’s grew up hearing about war and the enormous struggle to make ends meet in the quest for the ‘American Dream’. The anti-war protests, civil rights movement, sexual liberation, and other movements of the 60’s and 70’s, were led by a youth whose idealism and vision led them to believe that united together they could ‘change the world’. In essence this was correct. Many things did change, and some issues we’re still fighting for today.

The idealism and self-exploration of the sixties eventually morphed into the self-indulgent, narcissism of the 70’s and 80’s. Out of the communal focus of free love and equal rights for everyone, a scream for individuality and uniqueness emerged. New religious movements and psychotherapy became common place, and intense self-examination and hedonism became acceptable and encouraged. The mottos ‘Do Your Own Thing’, and ‘Do What Thou Wilt’ eventually morphed into disco glitter and glam, metal, punk and goth and ‘whatever turns you on’. ‘You create your own reality, baby. Go and get it!’

The advance in technology in the 90’s created a time of opportunity and optimism. With the ‘dot-com boom’, company mergers and spinoffs, and a fairly decent job market, the growth and expansion seemed limitless. Then suddenly, along with the event of 9/11, the ‘opportunities’ came to a screeching halt. The dot-coms went bust. Corrupt accounting practices were uncovered in large established companies. Many good paying jobs were outsourced or eliminated completely, and rampant corruption was found in the justice department, the political arena, business, financial, and housing markets, which left us little reason to hold on to such positivism.

In today’s social climate much of the idealism and self-indulgence of the past has now turned into apathy. The predominant attitude of today is filled with apathy, victimization, and what I call ‘I.D.G.A.D’ (‘I Don’t Give A Damn’ or I.D.G.A.S: ‘I Don’t Give A Shit’, if you prefer). And this isn’t limited only to the youth. Many adults fit this same profile.

What the HELL happened?!

For many people computers, video games, television, and cell phones take up most of their time and serve as a distraction to what is really going on around them. The rising cost of living and the dwindling of job opportunities have some people working two or three jobs just to pay the bills. Our Bill of Rights are being slowly stripped away by our government, ‘Big Brother’ is watching, and some people are so stressed out that they’re taking pills supplied by Big Pharma to put them deeper into zombie mode.

Take action and try to change things?
Who has the time, energy or motivation?
Lawsuits won by Big Business (which are intimately connected to our politicians and everything else) leave shareholders, disgruntled employees, and potential whistleblowers asking ‘why bother?!’

Information, communication and entertainment are an instant click away. The desire for attention and our ’15 minutes of fame’ are satiated though social networking sites, forums and blogs. The disconnection and isolation the instant world has brought leave many people yearning for community. Which ironically leaves some people all alone with their computers and gadgets trying to ‘connect’; searching for some sort of validity through their virtual worlds.

In spite of the fact that technology has been used mainly as a tool for the expression and exploitation of ‘self’, there has also been an increase in people using it for creating a force to combat the corruption that attempts to blind, silence, and control us. With our rights to protest being threatened (and in some cases protesters themselves being labeled as ‘terrorists’), it’s time to ‘wake up’ and take back the power that we have to make a difference. To take control of our anger and what we’re doing in the virtual world and manifest it onto the physical. Can’t find the time? Take some time off from your networking sites, games, texting and T.V, etc. and get out there. Don’t like this message?

Frankly…I.D.G.A.D.

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