The Living Thing / Notebooks :

Social psychology

Which of those NPR-friendly studies actually replicated?

Usefulness: 🔧
Novelty: 💡
Uncertainty: 🤪 🤪 🤪
Incompleteness: 🚧 🚧 🚧

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

The perils and necessities of reasoning about people reasoning about people. See also Dunbar’s numbers, Pop psychology or causality on social graphs.

I assert the inaccessibility of good models of society to you and me, and the increasing availability of such models to large data-mining organisations in the form of weaponised psephology, will increasingly squeeze out democratic agency, whatever that was supposed to be, and make society into the passive object of entrenched power, with everyone except the elites sealed in protective filter bubbles. Although vast global conspiracies have not existed in history, we have become the midwives of the world which will enable them.

Anyway, let’s look at how we look at the world without that.

Replication crisis

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 of

  1. The useful hypothesis I am interested in, in social media weaponisation

  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 explainerist pop psychology.

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?

Refs

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Fletcher, Garth JO, and Patrick SG Kerr. 2010. “Through the Eyes of Love: Reality and Illusion in Intimate Relationships.” Psychological Bulletin 136 (4): 627–58. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0019792.

Goel, Sharad, Ashton Anderson, Jake Hofman, and Duncan J. Watts. 2015. “The Structural Virality of Online Diffusion.” Management Science, July, 150722112809007. https://doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.2015.2158.

Goel, Sharad, Winter Mason, and Duncan J. Watts. 2010. “Real and Perceived Attitude Agreement in Social Networks.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 99 (4): 611–21. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0020697.

Kahneman, Daniel. 2003a. “A Psychological Perspective on Economics.” The American Economic Review 93 (2): 162–68. https://doi.org/10.1257/000282803321946985.

———. 2003b. “Maps of Bounded Rationality: Psychology for Behavioral Economics.” The American Economic Review 93 (5): 1449–75.

Kahneman, Daniel, Paul Slovic, and Amos Tversky. 1982. “Judgement Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases.”

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Sloman, Steven A., and Philip Fernbach. 2017. The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone. New York: Riverhead Books.

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