I See Psychology… Everywhere

Risk Assessment and the NFL Draft

I don’t know if Kahneman’s a football fan, but I thought about him when I read this clip from Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column. The context is that the Browns & Bucs are flipping a coin to decide who gets to pick frist.

There was almost a mini-scandal in the coin flip for the third pick in the draft. The Bucs and Browns finished tied for the third pick, because their opponents’ won-loss records were identical. So Friday morning, Savage and Tampa Bay GM Bruce Allen met in a Westin Hotel conference room to break the tie for the third pick of the draft. Imagine the significance here.

Allen came into the room with a coin he wanted to use, one from a military base in Florida. That was fine with Savage. League officials Joel Bussert and Ken Fiore ran it. Allen called heads. And when the coin went up in the air, Allen shouted, “Wait! Wait!” The coin was plucked out of the air. And Allen said, “What are we going to do, let it fall to the floor or catch it and flip it over on your hand?” Let it fall, he was told. He called heads again. It came up tails.

Pretty big stuff. Might be the difference between the guy who can save your team for the next three or four years or the guy who might be a nice, complimentary player. “It was just nice to get a win,” said Savage, sounding like a desperate coach. “We gotta string some wins like that together.”

I’m not naive enough to think that whom you draft doesn’t matter, but I was amused by the handwringing about whether to call heads or tails. I’m sure Allan really regrets his call, but would he have changed his mind beforehand if given the chance?


27 February 2007 Posted by | Quantitative, Social, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Whither Stigma?

anklet.jpgTime was, people would be embarrassed for getting in trouble with the law, but perhaps when pop culture figures glamorize lives of crime, take pride in trips to rehab, and smile in their mug shots, we should expect that the court-ordered ankle bracelet would become a fashion statement.

Not that such things should necessary be career-enders (celebrities get both less and more sympathy than they deserve), but how does one take a stigma and make it a badge of pride?

Link.  Via Neatorama 

13 February 2007 Posted by | Social | Leave a comment

The Neuroscience of the Gestalt–More Face Science

face1902.jpgThe Times has a nice piece on the science of face recognition. They do a nice job discussing the neuroscience behind the tendency to see faces in things. (if you’re interested, see my earlier post on a similar topic.)

Researchers know that we’re predisposed to recognize facial patterns for some obvious reasons, but those faces can become so convincing that many of us interpret them as a miracle. We often see what we want to see, but more often, we see what our brain thinks we should see–it’s working overtime to make sense of meaningless patterns.

It’s a good read, and I think articles like this can go a long way to help people think critically. It’s not that it means people have to abandon their religious beliefs or faith, but they also need to know what the science says might explain such phenomena. Might even be liberating!

13 February 2007 Posted by | Cognitive, Evolutionary Psychology, Physiological, Sensation & Perception | Leave a comment

Gender & Careers: I Really Can’t Believe It

emotional.jpgWow!  A game from the ’60s determines what “gals” will be ready for what careers.

via BoingBoing (as usual)

10 February 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Science of Beer Goggles

All the fun research takes place in Scotland! Seems researchers there have explored the neuroscience of the effect that alcohol has on the perception of attractiveness in other people. Here’s the formula:

β =

(An)2 x d(S + 1)

√L x (Vo)2

      • An is the number of servings of alcohol

      • S is the smokiness of the area on a scale of 0 – 10

      • L is the lighting level of the area, measured in candelas per square meter, in which 150 is normal room lightning

      • Vo is Snellen visual acuity, in which 6/6 is normal and 6/12 is the lower limit at which someone is able to drive

      • d is the distance between the observer and the observed, measured in meters

The formula works out a “beer goggle” score ranging from 1 to 100+. When β = 1, the observer is perceiving the same degree of beauty he or she would perceive in a sober state. At 100+, everybody in the room is a perfect 10.

h/t Billy, who asks how this works if you’re too drunk to do the math!

9 February 2007 Posted by | Physiological, Sensation & Perception | Leave a comment

Terrific New Yorker Piece on Medical Cognition

Here‘s a very nice discussion of the cognitive processes involved in making medical decisions.  When I started reading it, I was prepared to write a letter to the NYer about all the stuff they missed on biases and so on, but I found the article to be very thorough, not to mention well written and clear.

I’ve been interested in communications issues in medical care and related disparities, but the heuristics coverage is more accessible than what I’ve seen in a lot of arenas.  Some good discussion of the work of Kahneman & Tversky and others.

5 February 2007 Posted by | Cognitive, Social | Leave a comment

…and 4 months later…

I’ve been eager to get back to it.  So let’s start with a nice article in the NYTimes about Joe Biden’s lovely comments on Obama:

the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy

Now, I’m not interested in the obvious “gee, this guy is inappropriate” approach to this quote.  Instead, let’s think about what this says about Biden’s schema (Obama is closely associated with “articulate”) which I would say shows what we might call “thinking points.”  Rather than just saying what comes to his mind, Biden watches it, knowing that whatever he says on the campaign trail will be magnified.

Did he know that “articulate” is damning someone by faint praise?  Did he know that it’s probably not the most flattering thing for an African American person to hear?  Does he know that Obama is far more articulate than Biden in the first place?  Probably so on all 3 counts, but I would argue that he doesn’t feel it.  As a result, Biden connects the “African American” and “complement” nodes in his mind and comes out with this quote.

Many people don’t even bother to watch what they say, and we could argue over which is worse.  Do Mel Gibson’s and Michael Richards’ verbal diarrhea indicate higher prejudice than what Biden said.  Probably so, but under stress, they let it all out and took off the filter.  Biden probably did the same thing, after the stress and exhaustion of lots of interviews and briefings.

To Biden, I say, don’t you worry your little head about this.  You just sit there and look pretty.

Is that a complement, Joe?

5 February 2007 Posted by | Cognitive, Social, Stereotyping, Prejudice, & Discrimination | Leave a comment

Wow, You Look Great! Are You Ovulating?

Interesting article here about some research suggesting that women look better–and put more effort into looking good–when they are ovulating.

A study of young college women showed they frequently wore more fashionable or flashier clothing and jewelery when they were ovulating, as assessed by a panel of men and women looking at their photographs.

Although the finding makes sense, it also says a lot about the continuing influence of evolutionary factors in human behavior, even though most of us aren’t consciously contemplating our reproductive viability when we get dressed in the morning!

10 October 2006 Posted by | Evolutionary Psychology, Physiological | Leave a comment

Ok, So Does Weight Cause Cognitive Deficits?

Here‘s another article about predictors of cognitive deficits. Seems more weight is linked to poorer mental acumen. The headline is better than most, in that it doesn’t plead causality, but it still doesn’t clarify theory underlying the phenomenon, although some suggestions come up, and the author mentions a couple covariates that didn’t seem to explain what’s going on. Interesting stuff!

In general, the researchers found, people with a high body mass index (BMI) garnered lower test scores than those with a lower BMI. They also tended to show greater cognitive decline between the two test periods.

Factors such as age, education and general health did not seem to explain the link.

10 October 2006 Posted by | Cognitive, Research, Students | Leave a comment

Mark Foley Party Errors–Intentional or Schema-Based?

foxoreilly_markfoleydem_100306.jpgOne of the things my students and I frequently discuss is the extent to which discriminatory, erroneous, or otherwise unexpected behavior is intentional or not. I may be naive, but I tend to err on the side of assuming that most prejudice and the like are unintentional, or even unknown to the perpetrator.

Well, in the midst of the Mark Foley scandal, which obviously is ripe with psychology, some people with the stomach to watch Fox News noticed that the channel “erred” in labeling Foley as “D-FL.” The accurate tag, of course, would be “R-FL.” Nevertheless, this label remained for a while, and when it was corrected, unlike with CNN, which apparently briefly made the same mistake and announced the correction.

Now, the discounting principle would lead us to lend less credence to Fox’s potential argument of an innocent mistake. But if it was innocent, it may be that a conservative schema led producers (or whoever writes those descriptions) to act on the implicit belief that scandals are Democrat territory or that they were dissociating from Foley. Either way, it doesn’t bode well for the objectivity that most of us would like to see in the media!

via bradblog

6 October 2006 Posted by | Cognitive, Social | Leave a comment