If the world is just, only the guilty are tortured. So believers in a just world are more likely to think that the people who are tortured are guilty. Perhaps especially so if they experience the torture closely and so feel a greater need to overcome cognitive dissonance. On the other hand, those farther away from the experience of torture may feel less need to justify it and they may be more likely to identify the tortured as victims. The theory of moral typecasting suggests that victims are also more likely to be seen as innocents (a la Jesus).
The theory is tested in a lab setting by Gray and Wegner. Experimental subjects are told that “Carol”, really a confederate, may have lied about a dice roll and that stress often encourages people to admit guilt. Subjects then listen to a torture session as Carol’s hand is plunged into a bucket of ice water for 80s. Subjects are then asked how likely is it that the torture victim was lying (1 to 5 with 5 being extremely likely). There are two intervention variables: 1) some of the subjects meet the torture victim before she is tortured, this is the close condition and some do not (distance condition) and 2) in some torture sessions the victim evinces pain (pain) and in others not (no pain). The key figure is shown below:
The most striking result is that in the close condition, the evincing of pain was associated with an increased judgment of guilt, consistent with torture causing cognitive dissonance which is relieved by a judgment of guilt (restoring the just world). But in the distance condition, the evincing of pain was associated with a decreased judgement of guilt, consistent with pain increasing the identification of the tortured as a victim and therefore innocent (a la moral typecasting).
Closeness in the experiment was reasonably literal but may also be interpreted in terms of identification with the torturer. If the church is doing the torturing then the especially religious may be more likely to think the tortured are guilty. If the state is doing the torturing then the especially patriotic (close to their country) may be more likely to think that the tortured/killed/jailed/abused are guilty. That part is fairly obvious but note the second less obvious implication–the worse the victim is treated the more the religious/patriotic will believe the victim is guilty.
The theory has interesting lessons for entrepreneurs of social change. Suppose you want to change a policy such as prisoner abuse (e.g. Abu Ghraib) or no-knock police raids or the war on drugs or even tax policy. Convincing people that the abuse is grave may increase their belief that the victim is guilty. Instead, you want to do one of two things. Among the patriotic you may want to sell the problem as a minor problem that We Can Fix – making them feel good about both the we and the fixing. Or, you may want to create distance – The problem is bad and THEY are the cause. People in the North, for example, became more concerned about slavery once the US became us and them.
I think research in moral reasoning is important because understanding why good people do evil things is more important than understanding why evil people do evil things.
In this short video, Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi for the British Orthodox synagogues, explains how the “beautiful idea” of comparative advantage promotes peace, cooperation and tolerance among all people. Few religious leaders understand economics and fewer still are able to draw out the spiritual and humane dimensions. Yishar Koach!
In a wide-ranging and interesting conversation Daniel Dennett reflects on hypocrisy and whether it may sometimes be optimal:
Suppose that we face some horrific, terrible enemy, another Hitler or something really, really bad, and here’s two different armies that we could use to defend ourselves. I’ll call them the Gold Army and the Silver Army; same numbers, same training, same weaponry. They’re all armored and armed as well as we can do. The difference is that the Gold Army has been convinced that God is on their side and this is the cause of righteousness, and it’s as simple as that. The Silver Army is entirely composed of economists. They’re all making side insurance bets and calculating the odds of everything.
Which army do you want on the front lines? It’s very hard to say you want the economists, but think of what that means. What you’re saying is we’ll just have to hoodwink all these young people into some false beliefs for their own protection and for ours. It’s extremely hypocritical. It is a message that I recoil from, the idea that we should indoctrinate our soldiers. In the same way that we inoculate them against diseases, we should inoculate them against the economists’—or philosophers’—sort of thinking, since it might lead to them to think: am I so sure this cause is just? Am I really prepared to risk my life to protect? Do I have enough faith in my commanders that they’re doing the right thing? What if I’m clever enough and thoughtful enough to figure out a better battle plan, and I realize that this is futile? Am I still going to throw myself into the trenches? It’s a dilemma that I don’t know what to do about, although I think we should confront it at least.
It would be astounding if there were never a situation in which a lie was effective in producing a good result, i.e. a noble lie. But is a rule of noble lies effective? In a long sequence of calls to war, how many have been just and wise and how many have been driven by vainglorious leaders and foolish pride–so which army do you want? I prefer the silver.
Note also that Dennett mixes narrow self interest and rationality in his description of “economists.” But one can be fully rational without being narrowly self-interested. Dennett, for example, cheats a bit with his puzzle. The premise is some “horrific, terrible enemy” but then later the economists ask “am I so sure this cause is just”, to which the answer should be, given the premise, yes. In which case fighting is a rational response.
Instead of long beards and robes, they wear track suits and T-shirts. Their tablets are electronic, not hewn of stone, and they hold smartphones, not staffs. They may not look the part, but this ragtag group of Israelis is training to become the next generation of prophets.
For just 200 shekels, about $53, and in only 40 short classes, the Cain and Abel School for Prophets says it will certify anyone as a modern-day Jewish soothsayer.
The school, which launched classes this month, has baffled critics, many of whom have dismissed it as a blasphemy or a fraud.
Here is more, and for the pointer I thank Asher Meir. By the way, I found this to be an especially odd and ineffective response:
“There is no way to teach prophecy,” said Rachel Elior, a professor of Jewish thought at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. “It’s like opening a school for becoming Einstein or Mozart.”
I wonder what Bryan Caplan will think of this line:
Hapartzy can’t guarantee his course will give his students a direct line to God. But, he says, the syllabus provides the essential tools to bring out the prophet in anyone.
Here is another oddly incorrect statement:
Roie Greenvald, a 27-year-old tennis instructor attending the classes, also showed some skepticism. While he expressed interest in the spiritual development the course offers, one crucial detail stands in the way of his religious elevation.
“I’m not going to become a prophet,” he said. “I don’t think it pays very well.”
The school takes on all comers and it is run by a Russian immigrant and software engineer.
Maybe you are hoping that God will make the check a good one? From the Western Wall in Jerusalem:
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, who oversees Jerusalem’s Western Wall, said a worshipper found an envelope at the site Wednesday with 507 checks in the amount of about $1 million each. They were not addressed to anyone, and it’s doubtful they can be cashed.
Rabinovitch said most are Nigerian. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said some were from the United States, Europe and Asia.
The story is here and for the pointer I thank Mark Thorson.
As the eldest of the three-man team, Mr. Guha. 29, said, he is fluent in 22 subjects related to five-star doting, which include in-room dining, knowledge of international customs and, of course, complaint handling. His skills also extend to fixing the remote, getting spots off the carpet and something called “power dressing.” Mr. Guha says that his primary role, however, is to act as a super-efficient liaison between the guest and the hotel staff — part fixer, part personal assistant, and all yes-man.
“I would never consider a request to be bizarre; we always say it’s challenging,” Mr. Guha said. “I have always been taught that guest is god, and god cannot have a bizarre request.”
Of course I interpret this last quotation in entirely Straussian fashion (furthermore he doesn’t say it’s true, only that he has been taught as such, a classic Straussian move). Here is more, interesting throughout, and for the pointer I thank Apoorv Trivedi.
That is a new paper by Dan M. Kahan, at Yale Law School, and it has to do with what I call “mood affiliation”:
Social psychologists have identified various plausible sources of ideological polarization over climate change, gun violence, national security, and like societal risks. This paper reports a study of three of them: the predominance of heuristic-driven information processing by members of the public; ideologically motivated cognition; and personality-trait correlates of political conservativism. The results of the study suggest reason to doubt two common surmises about how these dynamics interact. First, the study presents both observational and experimental data inconsistent with the hypothesis that political conservatism is distinctively associated with closed-mindedness: conservatives did no better or worse than liberals on an objective measure of cognitive reflection; and more importantly, both demonstrated the same unconscious tendency to fit assessments of empirical evidence to their ideological predispositions. Second, the study suggests that this form of bias is not a consequence of overreliance on heuristic or intuitive forms of reasoning; on the contrary, subjects who scored highest in cognitive reflection were the most likely to display ideologically motivated cognition. These findings corroborated the hypotheses of a third theory, which identifies motivated cognition as a form of information processing that rationally promotes individuals’ interests in forming and maintaining beliefs that signify their loyalty to important affinity groups. The paper discusses the normative significance of these findings, including the need to develop science communication strategies that shield policy-relevant facts from the influences that turn them into divisive symbols of identity.
To put that in Cowenspeak, both sides are guilty, the smart are guiltiest of them all, and the desire for group loyalty is partially at fault. Is it possible you have seen these propensities in the economics blogosphere?
I would stress the distinction between epistemic process and being more right about the issues at a given point in time. Even if various groups of individuals are epistemically similar in terms of how they process information, at some point in time some groups still will be more right than others, just as some sports fans, every now and then, are indeed backing the winning teams. It’s less a sign of virtue than you might think.
There is charm to reading a philosopher who confesses to finding things bewildering. But I regret the appearance of this book. It will only bring comfort to creationists and fans of “intelligent design”, who will not be too bothered about the difference between their divine architect and Nagel’s natural providence. It will give ammunition to those triumphalist scientists who pronounce that philosophy is best pensioned off. If there were a philosophical Vatican, the book would be a good candidate for going on to the Index.
Relative to the average standard deviation by respondent for each outcome…shared ideology increases interest in responding by 12% of that amount, interest in long-term dating by 16%, and assessments of shared values by 20%. By the same comparison, shared lack of political interest increases assessments of likelihood of responding by a statistically significant 18%, but has more modest…effects on interest in long-term dating and assessments of shared values, respectively.
There is much more data in this paper, including a discussion of which issues matter to people the most. Here is one upshot:
…online dating pairings where communication takes place display greater political homogeneity than the population as a whole.
This new study, by a team led by psychologist R. Chris Fraley of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, begins with new mothers describing their intentions and approach in 1991, and ends with a survey of their children 18 years later. In between, it features an assessment of the child’s temperament at age 4.
…“Parents who endorsed more authoritarian parenting attitudes when their children were one month old were more likely to have children who were conservative in their ideologies at age 18,” the researchers report. “Parents who endorsed more egalitarian parenting attitudes were more likely to have children who were liberal.”
Obviously genes are an alternative channel of influence. And this is a stunner:
Also, the Illinois researchers did not gauge the parents’ political beliefs.
So I don’t believe the interpretations at all. Still, it is interesting to see the extent of attitudinal persistence, and furthermore “…our results also showed that early childhood temperament predicted variation in conservative versus liberal ideologies.” I suspect, however, that politics would turn out to be less susceptible to parental shaping than, say, religion or general temperamental approach to religion.
I consider this study radically incomplete, but still it is interesting to see the question tackled with a twenty-year time window and some ex ante planning.
Bringing the search for another Earth about as close as it will ever get, a team of European astronomers was scheduled to announce on Wednesday that it had found a planet the same mass as Earth’s in Alpha Centauri, a triple star system that is the Sun’s closest neighbor, only 4.4 light-years away.
> Put the following text into google: freemason Cowan Tyler What is the result?
Interesting. “Tyler” is the title of an officer in the Masonic hierarchy, while a “cowan” is a stonemason who is not a member of the Freemasons guild. This from “Freemasonry for Dummies”:
The Tyler’s job is to keep off all “cowans and eavesdroppers” (for more on the Tyler, see Chapter 5). The term cowan is unusual and its origin is probably from a very old Anglo-Saxon word meaning “dog.” Cowan came to be a Scottish word used as a putdown to describe stonemasons who did not join the Freemasons guild, while the English used it to describe Masons who built rough stone walls without mortar and did not know the true secrets of Freemasonry.
“Please do not get offended if you see a NATO member blowing his/her nose in front of you,” the guide instructs.
“When Coalition members get excited, they may show their excitement by patting one another on the back or the behind,” it explains. “They may even do this to you if they are proud of the job you’ve done. Once again, they don’t mean to offend you.”
This is news to me, though I would like to see it confirmed:
Fifty-one coalition troops have been killed this year by their Afghan counterparts. While some insider attacks have been attributed to Taliban infiltrators, military officials say the majority stem from personal disputes and misunderstandings.