The Living Thing / Notebooks :

Social psychology

Which of those NPR-friendly studies actually replicated?

I’m no social psychologist, but I keep this notebook page around because I want to note somewhere convenient which of the dinner-table conversation starter factoids that people keep telling me have proven to be successful.

Does making someone hold a warm drink make them feel warmly toward you? How about does mentioning money make them greedy?

Lots of these results have imploded in the so called “replication crisis,” which is of interest to me because

  1. The good factoids I am interested in weaponising in applied psephology
  2. All of them, the good factoids and the bad, turn out to be tedious topics of conversation, (“I heard on This American Life that…”) and I would like to have the excuse to shut down at least the erroneous ones expeditiously so I can get at the canapés, without having to fight though explainerism.

See an interesting timeline and recap in Andrew Gelman’s short essay, The winds have changed.

Neuroskeptic dissects money priming

Fan crush moment: Daniel Kahnemann chimes in on priming via the blogosphere:

Clearly, the experimental evidence for the ideas I presented in that chapter was significantly weaker than I believed when I wrote it. This was simply an error: I knew all I needed to know to moderate my enthusiasm for the surprising and elegant findings that I cited, but I did not think it through. When questions were later raised about the robustness of priming results I hoped that the authors of this research would rally to bolster their case by stronger evidence, but this did not happen.

I still believe that actions can be primed, sometimes even by stimuli of which the person is unaware. There is adequate evidence for all the building blocks: semantic priming, significant processing of stimuli that are not consciously perceived, and ideo-motor activation. I see no reason to draw a sharp line between the priming of thoughts and the priming of actions. A case can therefore be made for priming on this indirect evidence. But I have changed my views about the size of behavioral priming effects – they cannot be as large and as robust as my chapter suggested.

Scott Alexander’s admittedly hand-wavey but interesting Devoodooifying Psychology about the kind of results that haven’t replicated:

A single thread seems to run through all of these examples: a shift away from the power of the unconscious. The unconscious doesn’t make you succeed or fail proportionately to your belief in yourself. The unconscious doesn’t change your behavior because of insignificant environmental cues. The unconscious doesn’t make you racially discriminate despite your own better nature. The conscious mind is strong enough to hold onto its preferred beliefs despite brainwashing techniques intended to force it otherwise.

So maybe we should update in general towards less of a role for the unconscious mind?

What is the unconscious mind anyway?


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