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Power vs Empathy

June 23rd, 2017 Comments off

Sukhvinder Obhi, a neuroscientist at McMaster University, in Ontario, recently described something similar. Unlike Keltner, who studies behaviors, Obhi studies brains. And when he 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.

— Atlantic, August 2017

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Five Personality Traits

February 14th, 2017 Comments off

The five traits (http://www.outofservice.com/bigfive/) spell out OCEAN:
Openness
Conscientiousness
Extraversion
Agreeableness
Neuroticism

Haidt:
(http://moralfoundations.org/):

1) Care/harm:
2) Fairness/cheating:
3) Loyalty/betrayal:
4) Authority/subversion:
5) Sanctity/degradation:

We think there are several other very good candidates for “foundationhood,” especially:

6) Liberty/oppression: This foundation is about the feelings of reactance and resentment people feel toward those who dominate them and restrict their liberty. Its intuitions are often in tension with those of the authority foundation. The hatred of bullies and dominators motivates people to come together, in solidarity, to oppose or take down the oppressor. We report some preliminary work on this potential foundation in this paper, on the psychology of libertarianism and liberty.

1) Care/harm: This foundation is related to our long evolution as mammals with attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others. It underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and nurturance.
2) Fairness/cheating: This foundation is related to the evolutionary process of reciprocal altruism. It generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy. [Note: In our original conception, Fairness included concerns about equality, which are more strongly endorsed by political liberals. However, as we reformulated the theory in 2011 based on new data, we emphasize proportionality, which is endorsed by everyone, but is more strongly endorsed by conservatives]
3) Loyalty/betrayal: This foundation is related to our long history as tribal creatures able to form shifting coalitions. It underlies virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group. It is active anytime people feel that it’s “one for all, and all for one.”
4) Authority/subversion: This foundation was shaped by our long primate history of hierarchical social interactions. It underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions.
5) Sanctity/degradation: This foundation was shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination. It underlies religious notions of striving to live in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way. It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants (an idea not unique to religious traditions).

 

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Mirror Neurons and Aphantasia — A Survey

December 24th, 2016 Comments off

I recently took a survey, part of my interest in mirror neurons.  The object was to see if there is a correlation between the experience of motor-perception of mirror neurons, and the experience of the “inner eye” or phantasia.  There are four questions:

Some people have what could be called an “inner eye.”  When they think of something, they have an image of it in their mind, almost as if in a movie.  Some other people do not experience this inner image when they think of a thing.  Please circle A or B:

A:  I do experience the mental image, or “inner eye.”

B: I do NOT experience an inner image.

Some people hear a high-pitched “ringing in the ears” when they listen intently while in a quiet room.  Some people do not hear a ringing   sound.  Some people hear it all the time, and are bothered by it.  Please circle A, B or C:

A.  I hear a ringing in my ears all the time, and I hate it.

 B. I hear a ringing if I listen intently, but I don’t hear it all the time.

 C. I never hear a ringing in my ears, no matter how intently I listen.

When watching a sports event or other performance involving broad action, some people feel an impetus to move their muscles, but without actually moving them.  For instance, watching a soccer match, when the striker kicks the ball, you may feel something like wanting to kick with your leg.  Or, seeing a pianist playing, you may feel an impetus to move your fingers.  Some people do not experience this “shadow effort.”  Please answer A or B:

A.  I do sometimes experience this impetus to move.

 B. I never experience that kind of feeling.

When sitting quietly in a darkened room, some people can see shapes of light, amorphous clouds, or shadowy figures.  Some people see nothing, only blackness.  Please answer A or B:

A.  I can see shapes and “lights” when my eyes are closed in a dark room.

B.  I see nothing when I close my eyes in a dark room.

The survey was given to a small group of college-educated people, some of whom hold advanced degrees.

Below are the results of the survey:

Exp-Survey_Results

Observations

Surprisingly, the correlation between Inner Eye  and Lights is tremendous. Both involve visual awareness. The correlation between Inner Eye, Impetus and Lights is strong — 9/15 — just not the same individuals.  I suspect many of some of the differences are due to differences in consciousness of stimuli.

Conclusions

The sample is too small to draw any definite conclusions,  but it would be worthwhile to do this survey with a larger sample.

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Ranked-Choice Voting

December 13th, 2016 Comments off

Ranked-choice voting (RCV) means the voter votes for candidates in order of preference.  If there is no clear majority winner, the lowest-ranked nominee is eliminated, and their votes assigned to those voters’ next-highest=ranked candidate, until there is a clear majority winner.

This may not be great for general elections; it is easily used to oust a sitting party for momentary purposes.

But it would be great for primaries!  It would not throw the baby out with the bathwater, if poles were taken more often, giving voters a chance to express their preference without committing to a sudden change in government.

Single-issue candidates, though they may not be eventual winners, would be promoted as champions of their cause, and the other candidates would see the swell of support for that cause.

What I Wish Hillary Would Say

October 1st, 2016 Comments off

I wish she’d say, “Yes, my husband got a bj from someone not his wife, and then he was really embarassed and tried to deny it.  And no, that wasn’t the first time.  But I think that a man is more than his  penis.  I respect Bill for far more than his sexual transgressions, so I stuck with him.”

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Transportation

September 11th, 2016 Comments off

This just in from the year 2020:

Greenville, Thank you! I thank you for making transportation such a moving experience!  (No pun intended.)

I get up in the morning, and walk from my house along those lovely, wide sidewalks that now line all our roads, to the shops on the corner of Woodruff Road at Five Forks.  From there, I get onto the Woodruff Road PeopleMover, which takes me from one mall to another and another, with convenient hop-on-hop-off points along the way.  No more maddening bumper-to-bumper traffic, with soccer-moms on their cell phones careening about and ready to rear-end me.

And it’s not just shopping that your wise transportation policy has made easier for me.   I take the 385 Express Tram from Woodruff Rd. to my doctor’s office at the Patewood complex. Or perhaps we might make a spring excursion to the zoo.  Or we’ll go right downtown, to the Main Street  Mall, which used to be a traffic nightmare but now is a pedestrian’s paradise. With the influx of strollers, even Bergamo opens for late lunch (pranzo in Italian).  It’s amazing how  commercial activity throughout the city has blossomed with the coming of an intelligent transportation policy.

From Downtown, I can hop on the Green line tram to attend a music recital at Furman University, or even travel through Traveler’s Rest via MagneCar right up to the funicular that takes me to Caesar’s Head Park for a summer’s picnic near the Solar Collection site.

Or, from Downtown, I might choose to board the Orange Line, which whisks me out to the game at Clemson. (Okay, I was never really big on tail-gating.) And Anderson’s also just a few stops away on the Blue Line.

For a special treat, I’ll go downtown and grab the BulletTrain to Atlanta — I do love the High Museum, though  I just wish that Atlanta’s transportation would make it easier for the visitor to get to Buckhead.  Every few months, I take the same BulletTrain (in the opposite direction, natch’) to Washington, D.C., to visit my nephew.  Thirty minutes to Atlanta, three hours to DC: Greenville, you’ve become the hub of the universe!  Well, at least my universe.

All this, and totally green and non-polluting—ain’t solar reat?

So thank you, Greenville, for being the progressive town you were always meant to be!

Categories: general rant, Uncategorized Tags:

Who’s Gay Now?

September 10th, 2016 Comments off

Who’s Gay Now?

In 1969, I was living in New York, Greenwich Village, at #7 Gay Street, just around the corner from The Stone Wall Inn, a bar later known for the Stonewall Riot, or just plain Stonewall, in June of that year.  I was outside that place as the “riot” was going on — on the periphery of the crowd, to be sure, but not unaware of what was going on.

In the days after, the Village was alive with organization and discussion of what to do next.  A main subject of debate was, What do we call ourselves?  We were tired of being called ‘homosexual,’ a dry and medical-sounding term.  We certainly were not ‘faggots’, ‘fairies’, ‘queers’, ‘mericons’, or similar disparaging terms; we needed to find our own name, to be able to find our voice.

The term ‘gay’ was not unknown, but not a widely used word; it was used mostly in the musical and theatrical circles, but not in the general population.  But it sounded right — and not just to apply to males.  In the discussions I took part in, we saw that the term ‘gay’ could apply equally well to lesbians and bi-sexuals.  That is, Gay meant someone attracted to the same sex, whether exclusively or not.

The term was later used to encompass the transgendered, anyone who considers themselves ‘queer”, and recently has been used to include intersexuals–that is, people born with both male and female genitalia (google it): thus, the LGBTQI community.

The point was:  Inclusivity.  We’re all in this together, folks; we’re all gay.  No narrow categorizations, no intra-group squabbling,  let’s put an end to these narrow definitions that can be used against us and unite toward the common goal of acceptance in the greater community.  And this effort worked, to the point that gay people can marry their same-sex loves.  It’s been a difficult journey, but we’ve come a long way.

I’ve recently heard some people say, “You’re not gay, you’re bisexual!”  To me, this makes no sense.  Have there never been happily married gay men?  Are lesbians not part of the gay community?  If you’re queer, are you not gay?  Must a man be completely inexperienced with the female sex, to be considered ‘gay’?  Are there no gay people with children born to them?

I’ve considered myself gay for some 68 years.  I know who I am.  I know my most innermost thoughts, my most intimate feelings.  I am happily married to a wonderful woman, whom I love deeply.  I find some men sexually attractive.  I am gay.  I didn’t suddenly change, just because I got married; there was never a Road-to-Damascus moment.

 

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Trump & Republican Party Today

August 3rd, 2016 Comments off

Trump brings together aggression and narcissism with a kind of militant ignorance which can be harmless or even amusing in the make believe world of reality TV or New York real estate but becomes positively dangerous on a national and global stage, thrashing about like a hose spewing fire. As Will Saletan memorably put it, the GOP is a failed state and Trump is its warlord. On his own Trump is simply a bracing case study in abnormal psychology. But he didn’t shoot to within reach of the most powerful office in the world by happenstance. He is the product of a political and cultural breakdown on the American right, a swaggering reductio ad absurdum of every breach and breakdown and violation of extra-statutory norms we’ve seen over the last two or three decades.

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/making-sense-of-the-conflagration

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American Sharia

July 30th, 2016 Comments off

This is from the Republican platform:

We are the party of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The Declaration sets forth the fundamental precepts of American government: That God bestows certain inalienable rights on every individual, thus producing human equality; that government exists first and foremost to protect those inalienable rights; that man-made law must be consistent with God-given, natural rights; and that if God-given, natural, inalienable rights come in conflict with government, court, or human-granted rights, God-given, natural, inalienable rights always prevail; that there is a moral law recognized as “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”; and that American government is to operate with the consent of the governed.

This is almost a perfect description of sharia law I’ve read — it’s just Allah missing, replaced by God. Here’s a passage from the Constitution of Iran:

•    1.the One God (as stated in the phrase “There is no god except Allah”), His exclusive sovereignty and the right to legislate, and the necessity of submission to His commands;
•    2.Divine revelation and its fundamental role in setting forth the laws;…

 

Categories: general rant, Humanism, Uncategorized Tags:

Hanlon’s Razor

June 20th, 2016 Comments off

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

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