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Comment: Statistical power (Score 1) 113 113

I realize this is a less sexy/exciting comment than all the speculation on substantive merits... But the studies lack statistical power. N=64 in the first 2 experiments and N=32 in the 3rd. Those samples are much too small to have even a reasonable chance of detecting the effects that are common in behavioral science, even effects that are considered very consequential. (The authors offer a weak and IMHO unconvincing defense of their sample sizes in the discussion.) Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, especially with underpowered studies that use null-hypothesis significance testing.

Comment: Re:The Department of Redundancy Department (Score 2) 628 628

"Make money" is relative. All universities, including the ones like UF that claim to make money, certify that their big-time sports programs are "substantially related" to their educational mission, and the IRS and state tax boards choose to believe it. As a result, the university's revenue from tickets, TV broadcast rights, advertising, and merchandise are tax-exempt. Donations from boosters are tax exempt (and a tax writeoff for the donor). Construction of stadiums and other sports facilities is funded with tax-exempt bonds.

Next time you turn on the TV and see a bowl game or March Madness, realize that as far as tax policy is concerned, you are watching a charity event among nonprofit institutions. If that makes sense to you (something you might ponder in between the action while watching a beer commercial or two), then yes, perhaps UF is making money.

Comment: Re:Commercial (Score 4, Informative) 671 671

If you kill a man, you have committed a murder.

If you kill a man while announcing to a bunch of people, "This could be any one of you, and unless you start acting like I want you to act (or disappear entirely), next time it will be," you have committed a murder. But you have done other things too. You have also threatened a bunch of people with violence.

The legal theory behind hate crimes is that they are like the second case. When you target somebody partially or wholly because of their membership in a group (not just them as a unique individual), you are making an implicit threat against that entire group. When it is a group that has a long history of being targeted with similar violence, your implicit threat carries an especially large capability to intimidate. Hence the need to give special status to hate crimes.

Comment: Re:Faked? (Score 4, Insightful) 175 175

There's faked and then there's faked.

If you mean "they made the whole thing up like the moon landing," then no. There's no reason to believe that kind of conspiracy.

But based on contemporary accounts, even from Zimbardo himself, it's pretty clear that he stepped well past his role as an objective researcher and became an active instigator -- appointing himself warden and egging on the guards. But even with that acknowledged, the fact that he was able to succeed so easily is part of what makes it an important demonstration.

Comment: Re:Movie (Score 5, Informative) 175 175

For the record, Zimbardo has objected to Das Experiment's portrayal of his experiment, on the grounds that (a) it isn't clear which parts are reenactments and which parts are fictionalized, and (b) in his view the movie doesn't properly explain why the study was scientifically important. Read his side of it here.

Comment: Re:I don't worry much about paper (Score 4, Informative) 446 446

From a 2006 NYT article:

...The paper industry is not without its impact. Because of its consumption of energy, the industry -- which includes magazines, newspapers, catalogs and writing paper -- emits the fourth-highest level of carbon dioxide among manufacturers, according to a 2002 study by the Energy Information Administration, a division of the Department of Energy. The paper industry follows the chemical, petroleum and coal products, and primary metals industries.

. . .

The most harmful part of the process is paper production. Breaking down wood fiber to make paper consumes a lot of energy, which in many cases comes from coal plants.

Comment: Re:Are they just worse drivers to begin with? (Score 1) 388 388

I wish I had mod points to mod the parent up.

In an experiment where each subject has only been measured once in each condition, you cannot distinguish stable individual differences (which is what is being suggested) from real but transient effects. Worse, you cannot really distinguish real-but-transient effects from stochastic error except by making some strong statistical assumptions. This is an interesting first result to follow up on, but it's not nearly strong enough to warrant a press release.

Comment: Re:Not going to RTFA; explain? (Score 1) 586 586

Here's a link to the journal article [pdf].

Notwithstanding the summary and press reports, what they actually did was show that the subjects relied less on the actor's mental states and instead just considered harmful consequences. For example consider this scenario (this is one of several scenarios from the actual study):

Janet and her neighbor are kayaking in a part of the ocean with lots of jellyfish. Janet's neighbor asks her if she should go for a swim. It is not safe to swim in the ocean, because the jellyfish sting and their stings are fatal. Because Janet read information that said the ocean's jellyfish are harmless, she believes that it is quite safe to swim in the ocean. Janet tells her neighbor to go for a swim. Her neighbor does, gets stung by jellyfish, and dies.

In different versions of the scenario, Janet either did or did not know that the jellyfish were dangerous, and her actions either did or did not cause harm. Several other scenarios were used that varied in the same ways. After reading each scenario, the subjects rated the actor's moral culpability.

What the study showed was that after TMS stimulation, subjects based their moral judgments more on whether harm was done than on whether the actor knew that her actions would be harmful.

Comment: Re:Everyone leaves their homes (Score 1) 403 403

Criminals will still just sit out in front of your house and wait for the cars the leave.

You've got a very high opinion of criminals.

A smart, patient, motivated criminal could probably get into 90% of ordinary people's homes without too much trouble. But in contrast to the romanticized catburglars in movies, in the real world smart, patient, motivated people don't generally become criminals. Most actual criminals are impulsive dumbasses. This service is perfect for the "I'm jonesing for my next meth fix, where can I get some easily-pawned stuff RIGHT NOW" crowd that make up the vast majority of actual criminals.

Comment: harnessing emotions (Score 1) 124 124

It's not just the amount (though that's part of it). Technology is allowing people to give easily at the very moment that they're seized with the urge to help. Used to be you'd have to go find your checkbook, a stamp, look up an address to send to, etc... which requires a sustained intention that lasts longer than the emotional impulse. Now you just text HAITI to 90999 and instantly satisfy your desire to do something. That makes a huge difference in turning noble motivations into action.
Government

Obama Appointee Sunstein Favors Infiltrating Online Groups 689 689

megamerican writes "President Barack Obama's appointee to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs advocated in a recent paper the 'cognitive infiltration' of groups that advocate 'conspiracy theories' like the ones surrounding 9/11 via 'chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine' those groups. Sunstein admits that 'some conspiracy theories, under our definition, have turned out to be true' Sunstein has also recently advocated banning websites which post 'right-wing rumors' and bringing back the Fairness Doctrine. You can find a PDF of his paper here. For decades (1956-1971), the FBI under COINTELPRO focused on disrupting, marginalizing and neutralizing political dissidents, most notably the Black Panthers. More recently CENTCOM announced it would be engaging bloggers 'who are posting inaccurate or untrue information, as well as bloggers who are posting incomplete information.' In January 2009 the USAF released a flow-chart for 'counter-bloggers' to 'counter the people out there in the blogosphere who have negative opinions about the US government and the Air Force.'"

Comment: Re:Decisions, decisions. (Score 1) 103 103

Ummm, because I posted the part that was germane? The GP said they didn't want others to see their profile pic. The part I quoted said you cannot restrict things that way. The part you quoted was about limiting availability in search, which is not what they were talking about.

Comment: Re:Decisions, decisions. (Score 1) 103 103

GP wrote: "you can no longer have your Profile Pic show up for friends only". The GP was correct. From the new privacy policy:

Certain categories of information such as your name, profile photo, list of friends and pages you are a fan of, gender, geographic region, and networks you belong to are considered publicly available to everyone, including Facebook-enhanced applications, and therefore do not have privacy settings.

Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition. - Isaac Asimov

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