by Tyler Cowen
on June 14, 2012 at 7:35 pm
1. Why Berlin is so cheap.
2. Glucose cell to power brain-computer interfaces.
3. Crabtree reviews Boo.
4. Robin Goldstein on The Judgment of Princeton.
5. Do organic foods make you nastier?
Housing in debt-leveraged economies such as the United States and Britain typically absorbs 40% of family budgets. The proportion is around 20% in Germany’s much less indebted economy, where lending has been more responsible.
It’s basically a financial bubble that is based on what the banks can squeeze out of people who are trying to buy houses on credit and the price of credit – the debt service – absorbs all of the rental value. So in the past people used to criticize landlords for squeezing workers living standards but now that you’ve democratized land ownership it’s the banks that are doing the squeezing. But obviously there has to be the rental value there and in America about 40% of a blue collar worker’s income goes to pay for housing.
Now that’s an enormous percentage. You don’t have a bank bubble in Germany so that there you only have 20% of income going to pay for housing.
Out of curiosity, what’s the size of the average German house and how does that compare to the average US house?
# 5: Of course exposure to organic foods is correlated to nastiness! Consuming the stuff is a symbol of righteousness. Such people are almost invariably smug. Probably against having fun.
Observe the customers at Whole Foods. I just go for the tasty stuff. To hell with the organic seal of approval, unless the food tastes better!
5. No, nasty people consume organic foods.
#5: Who participated in the study?
If you crave cheeseburgers, you’ll be cranky if served arugula. If you need a cup of coffee to get started in the morning and get a refreshing cold glass of milk instead, you’ll want to kill someone. When you’re jonesing you’re not exactly in the mood to be altruistic.
It’s like that classic study where people who ate radishes gave up on impossible math problems sooner than people who were given chocolate chip cookies.
Do the study with people who actually eat healthy foods day in and day out by choice, without hidden cravings suppressed by a thin veneer of iron willpower, and you’ll get a different result.
I’d guess this result will not be replicable.
So… carpet-bomb Afghanistan with lollipops?
People who chose organic foods are not like us, so of course they must be objectionable. I am not interested in any other interpretation of the study and, as the results conform to my preconceptions, I see no need to examine the methods. See also Roy Spencer and Edward Wegman.
I doubt this study shows anything about organic food. If you compare organic arugala to a non-organic cheeseburger (the abstract says ‘comfort food’), I’m pretty sure most of the effect is because it’s lettuce, not because it’s organic lettuce.
The paper is gated, but the abstract definitely makes it sound like they say organic when what they really mean is non-comfort food.
“After viewing a few organic foods, comfort foods, or control foods, participants who were exposed to organic foods volunteered significantly less time to help a needy stranger, and they judged moral transgressions significantly harsher than those who viewed nonorganic foods.”
You’re right on the “cheeseburger”, but I’m assuming that your point is handled based on what the control food is. Properly done, this study would use lettuce, organic lettuce or a cheeseburger. Can somebody with full access to the full paper confirm this?
The real problem with the study is that they show the food to the person. They don’t consume it, nor do they choose it (would would introduce an interesting and important self-selection bias).
Its amazing to me the number of these headline making psychology studies that seem cheap and poorly done.
The glucose cell is the exact sort of thing that attracted me to bioengineering in the first place. If you want to have intuitive mind-machine interfaces, you’ll have to run at least the neural detector off the same available power source as the meat.
Well, either that, or we’ll have to plug ourselves in at night.
The wine-tasting results are even worse for the expensive wines than they sound. This was not a bunch of foodies being introduced to a new food and asked to decide which is most tasty. These wine tasters are all part of a cultivated cognoscenti with a specific canon, and as they tasted the wine they were asking themselves the following question: How close is this wine’s taste to that of expensive French wine? So even if the expensive French wine had came out decisively on top it would really not have said anything about how “good” that wine was. The actual result is that expensive French wine doesn’t even taste any more like expensive French wine than inexpensive New Jersey wine does.
It is obvious to me that the same thing would hold for music if you could do the experiment. The problem is that the music experts probably know everything single piece by Mozart and so you can’t take a random Mozart and compare it with a Mozart contemporary.
That doesn’t mean that Mozart was no better than a hack, or that expensive French wines are no better than really cheap wines. But when you get to the top it becomes pretty arbitrary. Some of Mozart’s lesser-known contemporaries were darned good composers.
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