Feeling powerful prevents us from understanding others

Screen Shot 2017-06-20 at 20.58.22

Subjects under the influence of power, [Keltner] found in studies spanning two decades, acted as if they had suffered a traumatic brain injury—becoming more impulsive, less risk-aware, and, crucially, less adept at seeing things from other people’s point of view…

…And when [Obhi] put the heads of the powerful and the not-so-powerful under a transcranial-magnetic-stimulation machine, he found that power, in fact, impairs a specific neural process, “mirroring,” that may be a cornerstone of empathy. Which gives a neurological basis to what Keltner has termed the “power paradox”: Once we have power, we lose some of the capacities we needed to gain it in the first place.

pub. online 06/2017 (in print 07/2017)

On the confluence of political and economic division in America

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 16.51.30

The idea that an increasing sense of material precariousness can lead to cultural retreat from liberalizing “self-expression” values can help us understand why low-density white America turned out to support a populist leader with disturbingly illiberal tendencies. But this idea can also help us understand why our larger national culture seems to be growing apart in a way that has made it seem harder and harder to communicate constructively across the gap.

pub. 02/2017

Okay, this one is a bit of a challenging read. It’s an interesting analysis, though, and from a libertarian rather than liberal source. And there’s fun with data visualization.

In Ethiopia, a test of the conventional wisdom

Screen Shot 2017-04-28 at 20.57.14

Contrary to the expert predictions (and ours), quitting was a wise decision for most. The alternatives were not so bad after all: People who worked in agriculture or market selling earned about as much money as they could have at the factory, often with fewer hours and better conditions. We were amazed: By the end of a year only a third of the people who had landed an industrial job were still employed in the industrial sector at all.

pub. 04/2017

A theory that older folks are no longer seeing more pay in exchange for their professional experience, leading to dissatisfaction, nostalgia–and votes for the far right

Screen Shot 2017-04-23 at 16.21.39

A coda to this piece.

The return to experience is a way to describe what you get in return for aging. It describes the increase in wages that workers normally see throughout their careers….

…“This decline in the return to experience closely matches the decline in attachment to the labor force,” Case and Deaton wrote. “Our data are consistent with a model in which the decline in real wages led to a reduction in labor force participation, with cascading effects on marriage, health, and mortality from deaths of despair.”…

…If returns to experience are in decline, if wisdom no longer pays off, then that might help suggest why a group of mostly older people who are not, as a group, disadvantaged might become convinced that the country has taken a turn for the worse.

pub. 04/2017

Death by disappointment: The complex despair of working-class whites

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 15.37.53

[T]he authors surmise that because it’s no longer possible for this demographic to improve their fortunes with a blue collar job, the disappearance of that steady employment has caused despair to rise over time….

…Distress and the “the failure of life to turn out as expected” frequently leads to alcohol and drug abuse, the researchers write. They also suggest that people also may try to compensate for this distress by overeating, which could lead to obesity and a rise in related chronic disease.

pub. 03/2017

Update 04/2017: The researchers have come up with a new theory.

When lying is seen as a strength

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 16.48.36

This research—and those stories—highlight a difficult truth about our species: We are intensely social creatures, but we’re prone to divide ourselves into competitive groups, largely for the purpose of allocating resources. People can be prosocial—compassionate, empathic, generous, honest—in their groups, and aggressively antisocial toward out-groups. When we divide people into groups, we open the door to competition, dehumanization, violence—and socially sanctioned deceit.

pub. 03/2017