Why Sexism and Racism Never Diminish–Even When Everyone Becomes Less Sexist and Racist

The idea that concepts depend on their reference class isn’t new. A short basketball player is tall and a poor American is rich. One might have thought, however, that a blue dot is a blue dot. Blue can be defined by wavelength so unlike a relative concept like short or rich there is some objective reality behind blue even if the boundaries are vague. Nevertheless, in a thought-provoking new paper in Science the all-star team of Levari, Gilbert, Wilson, Sievers, Amodio and Wheatley show that what we identify as blue expands as the prevalence of blue decreases.

In the figure below, for example, the authors ask respondents to identify a dot as blue or purple. The figure on the left shows that as the objective shading increases from very purple to very blue more people identify the dot as blue, just as one would expect. (The initial and final 200 trials indicate that there is no tendency for changes over time.) In the figure at right, however, blue dots were made less prevalent in the final 200 trials and, after the decrease in the prevalence, the tendency to identify a dot as blue increases dramatically. In the decreasing prevalence condition on the right, a dot that previously was previously identified as blue only 25% of the time now becomes identified as blue 50% of the time! (Read upwards from the horizontal axis and compare the yellow and blue prediction lines).

Clever. But so what? What the authors then go on to show, however, is that the same phenomena happens with complex concepts for which we arguably would like to have a consistent and constant identification.

Are people susceptible to prevalence-induced concept change? To answer this question, we showed participants in seven studies a series of stimuli and asked them to determine whether each stimulus was or was not an instance of a concept. The concepts ranged from simple (“Is this dot blue?”) to complex (“Is this research proposal ethical?”). After participants did this for a while, we changed the prevalence of the concept’s instances and then measured whether the concept had expanded—that is, whether it had come to include instances that it had previously excluded.

…When blue dots became rare, purple dots began to look blue; when threatening faces became rare, neutral faces began to appear threatening; and when unethical research proposals became rare, ambiguous research proposals began to seem unethical. This happened even when the change in the prevalence of instances was abrupt, even when participants were explicitly told that the prevalence of instances would change, and even when participants were instructed and paid to ignore these changes.

Assuming the result replicates (the authors have 7 studies which appear to me to be independent, although each study is fairly small in size (20-100) and drawn from Harvard undergrads) it has many implications.

in 1960, Websters dictionary defined aggressionas an unprovoked attack or invasion,but today that concept can include behaviors such as making insufficient eye contact or asking people where they are from. Many other concepts, such as abuse, bullying, mental disorder, trauma, addiction, and prejudice, have expanded of late as well

… Many organizations and institutions are dedicated to identifying and reducing the prevalence of social problems, from unethical research to unwarranted aggressions. But our studies suggest that even well-meaning agents may sometimes fail to recognize the success of their own efforts, simply because they view each new instance in the decreasingly problematic context that they themselves have brought about. Although modern societies have made extraordinary progress in solving a wide range of social problems, from poverty and illiteracy to violence and infant mortality, the majority of people believe that the world is getting worse. The fact that concepts grow larger when their instances grow smaller may be one source of that pessimism.

The paper also gives us a way of thinking more clearly about shifts in the Overton window. When strong sexism declines, for example, the Overton window shrinks on one end and expands on the other so that what was once not considered sexism at all (e.g. “men and women have different preferences which might explain job choice“) now becomes violently sexist.

Nicholas Christakis and the fearless Gabriel Rossman point out on twitter (see at right) that it works the other way as well. Namely, the presence of extremes can help others near the middle by widening the set of issues that can be discussed or studied without fear of opprobrium.

But why shouldn’t our standards change over time? Most of the people in the 1850s who thought slavery was an abomination would have rejected the idea of inter-racial marriage. Wife beating wasn’t considered a violent crime in just the very recent past. What racism and sexism mean has changed over time. Are these examples of concept creep or progress? I’d argue progress but the blue dot experiment of Levari et al. suggests that if even objective concepts morph under prevalence inducement then subjective concepts surely will. The issue then is not to prevent progress but to recognize it and not be fooled into thinking that progress hasn’t been made just because our identifications have changed.

Comments

Perhaps the best way to eliminate racism and sexism is to provide convincing evidence that they are biased/anti social beliefs

True. However, only the dead have seen the end of racism, sexism, and war. The "war" part is attributed to Plato, but Santayana does not.

Racism and sexism do not decline because they are needed by the left.

There are downsides of resolving the racism and sexism crises. There would be no work for guys like Jackson, Obama, Sharpton and girls like Gloria Allred.

For a number of years each night, I read to my sons Mother Goose poems. Here goes.

"If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
If turnips were watches, I would wear one by my side.
And if “ifs” and “ands”
Were pots and pans,
There’d be no work for tinkers!"

You're welcome.

Postmodernism is killing the west. Hopefully, Trump and an originalist Supreme Court will help us pull out of this nose dive. I wonder how the notorious RBG is feeling lately. We need to compensate for the "wise Latina".

Crime, illegal immigration can also experience massive declines and at the same time always be a growing, menacing crisis.

No matter how objectively poor many metrics of development are in some countries, most people will always think that's just the way it is, and in fact their country is the best if they cherry-pick a few statistics.

I kind of feel a better headline is, however much sexism, racism, etc. you are used to will seem normal.

Oddly in some ways other countries are much more sexist and women are less worked up about it than in the USA and I'm not sure what accounts for the difference. Maybe nastier forms of sexism are more prevalent in the US despite overall more freedom and opportunity for women but I don't really know.

Why Sexism and Racism Never Diminish'

It is often easy to see Prof. Tabarrok's Canadian roots in such things. That the state he currently teaches in no longer has Jim Crow laws is an objective diminishing of racism.

That the parent institution of GMU first admitted women able to earn a degree in 1920 is another example of an objective standard. 'Hundreds of women attended UVA between 1920 and 1972 as graduate students. Admittance of women, even on a limited basis, was reserved only for white women.' http://voicesandvisibilityuva.org/about-these-portraits/women-at-uva-history/

Oh look at that - white women only. Maybe a Canadian would be surprised to learn that, but for a native Virginian, it is just common knowledge how things used to work in the Commonwealth.

There is a difference between objective and subjective, and it has been 50 years since Virginia could legally ban a man and woman from getting married. There is no Overton window shift there - before the Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia, a black and white American married couple could not legally marry or reside as a married couple in Virginia. Afterwards, they could.

(Careful with this though - 'Most of the people in the 1850s who thought slavery was an abomination would have rejected the idea of inter-racial marriage.' Many of them, certainly - most seems to ignore the Christian grouping that considered all people the same in the eyes of god - this including the Catholic Church, obviously. While acknowledging that some bishops in the U.S. were not opponents of slavery in the least, of course.)

Again for the billionth time you tried and failed to work at GMU so this kind of stuff is so petty. Add to that nursing an aching butt you chose to decamp to a nation that killed six million Jews.

Are you really, really short or something? How does the point fly over your head so often?

"(the authors have 7 studies which appear to me to be independent, although each study is fairly small in size (20-100) and drawn from Harvard undergrads)"

How many studies did they have to do in order to get 7 significant results?

"the authors have 7 studies which appear to me to be independent, although each study is fairly small in size (20-100) and drawn from Harvard undergrads"

Schimmack's incredibility index might have something to say about 7 small studies all turning in significance.

"If the results replicate"... seems like a pretty strong antecedent in today's social psych.

1) It was only four days ago that Alex's co-author gave us reason to view small studies of 20-100 Harvard students with some skepticism: https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2018/06/origins-weird-psychology.html

2) Still, in some ways (including a Michael Huemer sort of way) the results seem quite obvious, and its applications go beyond just race and gender. There's little inclination in most people to meet a concession in their direction with a concession in the other. Much more likely is an attitude of "Thanks for acknowledging I'm right. Here's what else I'm right about."

To take one recent example. I think I'm safe in assuming Steven Pinker has a lot of fans around here. To me, it's obvious that, say, adding John Gray's best critiques of Pinker to the conclusions one takes from Pinker is much more advisable than shunting aside everything Gray argues because he disagrees with Pinker. However, I don't think that's the most common reaction (to say nothing of how much less common it would be among those who mostly agree with Gray and encounter Pinker). Now, walk this back to controversies over race, or gender, or economic distribution. Yeah, the study seems pretty obvious, even if it was W.E.I.R.D.

Is it possible both Gray and Pinker are correct?

Most if the time we are on autopilot and Gray is correct. On occasion, we can exercise our higher cognitive powers and Pinker is correct. We have two ways of thinking - fast and slow. h/t Kahneman

1) I think prejudice is not a lighter form of racism, but something different. And unequal outcomes is something different from either of the two.

The difference is important because the same approach on different problems is not going to have the same result.

2) There's clearly a difference in the distribution of behaviors and preferences between the two biological sexes. Acknowledging that is informed, not sexist.

And difference in preferences (and acknowledgement of such) are not problems to be solved.

3) While I think confusing words might be a sign of progress, it is not helpful. Trying to force women to be like men (and vice versa) is not progressive, it's oppressive. I'm not sure what to do about racial inequality but I don't think calling people racist is useful anymore.

'I think prejudice is not a lighter form of racism, but something different.'

Well, there is definitely a difference between legally forbidding marriage between a black and white person, and saying that the races should not ever marry without being able to actually prevent it, no question.

'but I don't think calling people racist is useful anymore'

Oddly, the racial realists? HBD believers? racialists? white supremacists? ethno-nationalists? think their preferred term(s) to replace racist are extremely useful in identifying themselves. Especially as the shared beliefs among those using such terms are essentially impossible to distinguish from racism anyways.

The more I read your posts the more I realize you have a big axe to grind. It must be a heavy burden to carry around, enough to pull down your ability to reason.

The words racist, Nazi, Hitler et al seem to be swimming around in your head like parasites.

Get help.

I'm guessing you have no idea where I live.

Or of the fact that I am a native Virginian who is actually aware of Virginia's history (and Robert E. Lee was a great man, by the way) compared to non-Virginians, who can be forgiven their ignorance, of course.

The more I read your posts the more I realize you have a big axe to grind. It must be a heavy burden to carry around, enough to pull down your ability to reason.

Ok, Heidi, you are clearly new to this site. It usually only takes a commenter about a day to realize this about Clockwork.

So much for subtlety, right?

Gee, subjectivity versus objectivity in human perception & thought -- nobody has ever noticed or pondered that before.

Also, the current "Politically-Correct" cultural impositions in America are rooted in cultural Marxism. The Heglian foundation of Marxism is stated by Karl Marx as:
“It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.”

Who would have thought that definitions which are based on what some sort of majority, plurality, or consensus of "reasonable people" believe (or conclude) is inadequate for either quantitative or qualitative analysis? And not to be rude or hostile or anything, but what kind of idiot would believe that 18-23 year olds hold opinions which should be assumed to be well-reasoned? Why not ask 4 year olds about Santa Claus? I'm sure they to have done the independent research/analysis!

I would like to apologise on behalf of all of those my age for not having well-reasoned opinions and making those who believe that we do look like idiots.

It's as if we have brains in our heads that process information! But everybody knows that the human brain suddenly appears only after one turns 24!

Accusations of racism and sexism will never diminish as long as they are a useful bludgeon. The accusations don't represent concern for some terrible injustice but a way to gain the upper hand in some way.

If an accusation of racism or sexism no longer changed the direction of a conversation or discussion, no longer forced a defense or reckoning, no longer could stop a debate on the merits, or could be used to cover for some flaw, criminality, the accusations and focus would stop immediately.

The Harvard situation was interesting in that a policy that was designed to exclude people of a certain race was justified by the desire to have some sort of racial utopia. In other words it is all bullshit.

+1

Harvard, sexism, Summers, Asians, Cognitive Dissonance

was designed to exclude people of a certain race was justified by the desire to have some sort of racial utopia.

More precisely, was designed to cut down on the number of Oriental grinds to get people with lower academic performance but bitchin' personalities.

Incorrect. It was designed to cut down on the number of Oriental PEOPLE by PRETENDING that they had inferior personalities. The goal really was fewer Orientals and "inferior personalities" was merely their last resort excuse after the Asian students couldn't be downgraded on any
more objective criteria.

An increasingly powerful bludgeon as zealots in government, faculties and professional accreditation entities use it as a political tool to exclude the ideologically impure. Not to mention the high degree of rent seeking success the social grievances industry has enjoyed.

'The accusations don't represent concern for some terrible injustice but a way to gain the upper hand in some way. '

I believe you are Canadian too.

A case like Loving v. Virginia was not about accusations, it was about a law in Virginia that explicitly forbid marriage based on race. And in case you are curious, a law like Virginia's was explicitly designed to reject not only the idea, but the very possibility of inter-racial marriage.

But in all fairness, I have no idea why Canada has hate speech laws, so differences between Americans and Canadians go both ways.

'the accusations and focus would stop immediately'

Not if some citizen of the Commonwealth of Virginia explicitly called for reinstatement of miscegenation laws they wouldn't.

Loving v. Virginia is a clear milestone in a timeline where it is recognized that people may fall in love with people of different races, and it is ugly and cruel to try to stop them.

I am less sure it will always be considered a victory in the timeline where the NY Times prints an editorial by somebody saying they will teach their child that they can't be friends with a white child, and this seems not anomalous but representative of the viewpoint, indeed the obsession, of the newspaper of record.

"White, liberal Virginian, ashamed of his state's past, points proudly to Loving v. Virginia" - may before long get little more credit than his co-ethnics out to save old statues. Maybe Loving v. Virginia itself will be seen as an embarrassment: that time whites magnanimously let people of color marry them, thus further colonizing their culture.

I have been surprised at the direction history has taken in my lifetime. You might say, well, people on the wrong side of history usually are. That's how you know ... And maybe so. But one of the things I believed was that people didn't matter, all that really mattered was the preservation of ideas. But the ideas too have lost favor.

"I am less sure it will always be considered a victory in the timeline where the NY Times prints an editorial by somebody saying they will teach their child that they can't be friends with a white child"

Perhaps this is the consequence of electing a President who declares only people of his own race can be a fair judge of him in civil trials.

And they named the town of Boonton after you ...

I permit them to use for the licensing fees.

So you can't comprehend that maybe electing a President who demands personal white privilege for himself might just be the cause of some of our problems. Instead the problem is the NYT printing a column by someone who doesn't want their kids to be friends with white people. Yet here's a relevant passage from that column:

As against our gauzy national hopes, I will teach my boys to have profound doubts that friendship with white people is possible. When they ask, I will teach my sons that their beautiful hue is a fault line. Spare me platitudes of how we are all the same on the inside. I first have to keep my boys safe, and so I will teach them before the world shows them this particular brand of rending, violent, often fatal betrayal.

and more importantly:

Let me assure you that my heartbreak dwarfs my anger.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/11/opinion/sunday/interracial-friendship-donald-trump.html

I leave myself open to you finding any such heartbreak in our piece of shit President. Anything like "It breaks my heart that political correctness is so great even a judge with a grandfather long ago who came from Mexico can't judge me fairly". But feel free to go ahead and blame Obama for racial division, insensitive and incivility.

Good God - "heartbreak"? I don't care do u? The 29% of Latino voters who voted for him, must not care that much either. What he said, absolutely. In my state the Latino demagogues overwhelmingly bear out what Trump said, as regards hostility to supporters of the border wall, or any curbs on immigration. And I can't think why outlets like the Times should mind, as such an identity-based remark is so thoroughly in keeping with their worldview, in which all must be kept perpetually at war with one another, forever and ever, amen. He has done his enemy the honor of taking them seriously.

You chose your example poorly. You could choose a dozen things Trump said that I actually wouldn't like, if I paid close attention to him. And I still wouldn't care, don't you see? Because all the anodyne utterances of all the presidents of both parties of my adult life, those presidents whose cabinets were filled by Citigroup memo, could be written on scrolls and thrown into the Dead Sea and we would not be one word poorer for the loss.

Trump in his wild, unfiltered trolling, has said two or three true things. The sound of them is so sweet and improbable, that he could say a thousand rude things without troubling me.

"Only the unacceptable should be published. Everything acceptable has long since been written and published."

I notice you present no facts, no arguments to defend Trump. He supposedly said two or three things you like, which you don't bother to provide....always CYA with plausible deniability I see. You then veer into identity politics. For some reason you think if a candidate gets about 70+% of Latino voters voting against him, that somehow confers some type of respectability on him.

Respectable?! Trump? I think you've confused me with one of your dozens of other correspondents. I'm not trying to pass as progressive. Trump can say whatever he likes. Anyone who is or feigns being frightened or heartbroken over politics is not somebody who should have the franchise. My issues with Trump are over stuff like the Bear's Ears. Sorry to disappoint.

Interestingly, I just read an article this AM about the return of deliberate school segregation to Virginia - wait, no, make that the "$45,485-per-year" Little Red Schoolhouse in Greenwich Village. It's a policy SO woke even the celebrity parents weren't yet awake to it. Probably they'll come around once it's carefully explained to them that the administrators have the very best interests of the minority students at heart, and only wish to protect them from the non-POC kids.

The colored dots test may not apply unless one proves the three color pigments in the retina have equal frequency responses. They do not.

The problem with sexism is that we are not asexual, last time I looked. The problem with racism is we are not uniracial. Null hypothesis rears up in these cases.

Most of the people in the 1850s who thought slavery was an abomination would have rejected the idea of inter-racial marriage.

Yes, to the descendants of the Puritans the thought of slavery was an abomination, since the peculiar institution was no longer a component of their society but was integral to the retrograde southerners. At the same time these residents of the city on the hill enthusiastically and shamelessly went about the attempted extermination of the technologically primitive native Americans that stood in the way of "manifest destiny" and the expansion of the Northeast.

While race discussion is a daily constant in America, it's only about one race, at least as race is perceived by the content of melanin and other visual clues. While a mixed-race has been elected president of the country and others supposedly of a similar genetic background are hugely successful figures in media, entertainment, sports, business and politics, native Americans occupy the most obscure locations in both American geography and culture. There are no significant native Americans.

"... attempted extermination..."

Canards die hard. The Pilgrims and later Puritan colonizers lived in relative peace with the natives. Indeed, there were laws to regulate real estate transactions designed to protect the natives. Of course, there are always lawbreakers, and eventually those violations lead to bad feelings on the part of Massasoit's son King Philip ( I forget his native name). Thus, the aggrieved sachem initiated the devastating King Phillip's War(1675-1678). Once the blood dimmed tide was loosed, both sides were devastated, but especially the natives. The cycle of revenge and retribution combined with blood lust resulted in murder, genocide, mutilation, torture, and widespread property destruction and genocide. As a percentage of total population, the war had the 1st or 2nd most causalities of any American war - it took 100 years for the region to recover the lost GDP. Note that those 100 years brings us up to around 1775 (Lexington/Concord). The native population never recovered. It had an impact on the founding of the nation.

Early North American history is interesting and much more complex and nuanced than the mindless canards shouted out with so much certainty.

If you want to understand the US Constitution, you have to understand US History from 1608-1775. Context matters.

'As a percentage of total population, the war had the 1st or 2nd most causalities of any American war'

Nope. So, more Virginia history, which admittedly has nothing to do with either Puritans or canards - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Powhatan_Wars

Particularly this incident at the start of the Second Anglo-Powhatan War, two years after the Pilgrims arrived and comprised a colony of around 100 people - 'Chief Opechancanough led a coordinated series of surprise attacks by the Powhatan Confederacy that killed 347 people, a quarter of the English population of the Virginia colony.

'If you want to understand the US Constitution, you have to understand US History from 1608-1775. Context matters.'

If you confuse New England's history with America's, well, no surprise there. And American history basically starts in 1607 in Jamestown - undoubtedly the name rings a bell.

There are no mindless canards, the facts speak for themselves.

There are no significant native Americans.

What about Elizabeth Warren?

Sorry folks, I couldn't resist. My sense of humor got the better of me. Most of our politicians are such jokes.

The rejection of inter-racial marriage extended well beyond 1850. Our most racist President, Woodrow Wilson, not only imposed segregation, he advocated eugenics. It was codified in law until the '30s. Here's an interesting article on the influence of Wilson on the American mindset on racism after he became President. My favorite quote:
"It was only after Adolf Hitler gave eugenics and “scientific racism” a bad name that segregation came to seem objectionable."

https://fee.org/articles/woodrow-wilson-progressive-and-dedicated-racist/

So, looking at Canadian history was pretty interesting - 'Unlike the United States, Canada had no blatant laws banning interracial marriage. But while the stigma was more informal in this country, it could be just as terrifying. As Backhouse describes in her 1999 book, Colour-Coded: A Legal History of Racism in Canada, 1900-1950, much of this terror was at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan. In 1927, Klansmen congregated in Moose Jaw, where they burned a 60-foot cross and lectured a large crowd on the risks of mixed-race marriage.

Three years later, on Feb. 28, 1930, some 75 Ku Klux Klan men dressed in white hoods and gowns marched into Oakville, Ont., and burned another massive wooden cross. They had arrived to intimidate Isabel Jones, a white woman, and her fiancé, Ira Junius Johnson, a man presumed to be black but later found to be of mixed Cherokee and white descent. The woman's mother had summoned the KKK to separate them.

The Klansmen kidnapped Jones, 21, and dumped her off at the Salvation Army, where they would keep surveillance on her for days from a car parked outside. In front of the couple's home, they burned a cross and threatened Johnson. During the invasion, the police chief recognized many of the Klansmen as prominent business owners from Hamilton as they plucked off their hoods to shake his hand.

It was only after several black Toronto lawyers pressured the Ontario government that four of the Klansmen were arrested for being "disguised by night," a trivial charge related to burglary. Just one of the four men – a Hamilton chiropractor and father of five – was convicted and given a measly $50 fine. An appeals court eventually sentenced the Klansman to three months in prison. Undaunted, Jones and Johnson married one month after the ordeal.' https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/mothers-day/the-canadian-marriage-at-150-a-look-back/article33962570/

And here is a summary of the Loving case - 'The case arose after Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Jeter, a woman of mixed African American and Native American ancestry, traveled from their residences in Central Point, Virginia, to Washington, D.C., to be married on June 2, 1958. Having returned to Central Point, they lived in the home of Mildred’s parents while Richard, a construction worker, built a new house for the couple. In July 1958, police entered the Lovings’ bedroom in the early morning hours and arrested them for having violated the state’s ban on interracial marriage. At a hearing in a Virginia state court in January 1959, the Lovings pleaded guilty to having violated Section 20-58 of the Virginia state code, which prohibited a “white” person and a “colored” person from leaving the state to be married and returning to live as man and wife. Section 20-58 specified that punishment for violation of the law—confinement in the state penitentiary for one to five years—should be the same as that provided in Section 20-59, which prohibited marriage between “white” and “colored” persons. The term “white person” was defined in Section 20-54 as a person with “no other admixture of blood other than white and American Indian,” provided that the amount of Indian blood was one-sixteenth or less; the term “colored person” was defined in Section 1-14 as a person “in whom there is ascertainable any Negro blood.” Sections 20-59 and 20-54 were derived from provisions of the state’s Act to Preserve Racial Integrity, adopted in 1924.

The judge sentenced the Lovings to one year in jail but suspended the sentence on the condition that the couple leave the state immediately and not return as man and wife for a period of 25 years. Having established residence in Washington, D.C., the Lovings filed suit in a Virginia state court in November 1963, seeking to overturn their convictions on the grounds that Sections 20-58 and 20-59 were inconsistent with the Fourteenth Amendment. After the state court rejected the Lovings’ challenge, the case was accepted for review by Virginia’s Supreme Court of Appeals, which upheld the constitutionality of 20-58 and 20-59 but voided the sentences because the condition under which they were suspended was, in its view, “unreasonable.” Citing its earlier decision in Naim v. Naim (1965), the appeals court ruled that, despite the statutes’ use of racial classifications to define the criminal offenses in question, neither statute violated the guarantee of equal protection of the laws because the penalties they imposed applied equally to both “white” and “colored” persons. The Lovings then appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments on April 10, 1967.' https://www.britannica.com/event/Loving-v-Virginia

Isn't a big part of this conditioning: if one is conditioned to believe blacks are intellectually inferior to whites, women can't do math, and Mexican males are rapists, one is likely to see all manner of evidence that confirms the belief.

Whether one is 'conditioned' or not, black samples score under par on all manner of performance tests (by as much as a standard deviation), women get lower scores on tests of mathematical performance while men earn 57% of the bachelor's degrees in mathematics and statistics, 57% of the master's degrees, and 70% of the doctoral degrees.

rayward's thought process: It would be offensive if X were true. Therefore X is false.

heartbreaking news to rayward ...
mother nature just doesn't care.

Interesting application to tobacco use in the US. For many years, tobacco was promoted and even endorsed in ads by doctors. At one time, over 50% of the adult population smoked. Even though many studies demonstrated that it was a lethal product, the tobacco industry was able to maintain it as benign. It took over 7000 studies showing it to be lethal by the early '70s for the AMA to publicly declare that the "king has no clothes". Nefarious motives along with money can create just enough doubt to allow people to continue their bad habits they want to keep. It's happening now in the food industry with other dangerous products.

The warnings went on cigarette packages in 1966 at the direction of the Surgeon-General. The American Cancer Society was running public service ads at that time, as you can see here from

1967

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmzDLzqQ-A0

and 1968

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmjRkpge-jk

No clue where your '7000 studies' meme came from. The conclusions about smoking were the issue of epidemiological studies. Lung cancer was too unusual prior to 1935 to make the link.

A cigarette smoker of my acquaintance (born in 1908, died in 2001) said it was no surprise in her social circle that tobacco was declared a hazard. "We used to call 'em 'coffin nails'".

Agree the government came out earlier with warning labels. The medical community held out until later due to competing "studies", many of which were produced by the tobacco companies. Here is the link to the article regarding the 7000 studies. It's about the level of proof needed to get a consensus on smoking. The lack of randomized controlled trials (which is not possible with humans with a product considered dangerous) allowed the tobacco companies to perpetuate the myth that smoking was benign. Check out the other articles listed in the article on the history of smoking. Very interesting.

In my view, the tobacco companies delaying the process through bogus studies of accepting smoking as dangerous cost many people their lives. The tobacco settlement and acknowledgement it lied makes that a certainty. As the article suggests, money and bad motives can create a lot of doubt when the level of proof needed has to be a "gold standard" of randomized controlled trials that can't be done on humans. I believe we are now in the initial stages of proving animal products and refined foods (sugar, etc.) are producing similar epidemics of disease. I doubt I'll be alive though to see it implemented since there is so much money to be made from chronic disease creation (food) and treatment (medical/ drugs). In the meantime, buyer beware!

https://nutritionfacts.org/2018/05/17/how-much-proof-do-we-need-to-eat-healthier/

People are pretty chunky to my eyes - at least when I leave my zip code - compared to the adults thirty years ago, and yet seem to be pretty healthy and happy anyway. But I understand obesity is considered a crisis. I wonder if the "Overton window [that] shrinks on one end and expands on the other" will ever wrap all the way around, and smoking will again be considered an aid to maintaining a healthy weight. I never smoked so I didn't pay attention to cigarettes - did the manufacturers ever attempt to make a less toxic cigarette?

"did the manufacturers ever attempt to make a less toxic cigarette?"

Vaping is not toxic. But nicotine is addictive anyway.

Of course vaping is still viewed as evil, by association.

Yes, the tobacco companies created several versions of "healthier" cigarettes. Check out this video that goes through the sordid history and the current chronic disease epidemics caused by food. Type II diabetes is epidemic and obesity is a major risk factor. Numerous other diseases and their relationships with food are also discussed:

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-smoking-in-the-50s-is-like-eating-today/

This explains why the only male friends of mine who get publicly excoriated on Facebook for sexism are the most feminist friends who live in Seattle or San Francisco.

This explains why the only male friends of mine who get publicly excoriated on Facebook for sexism are the most feminist friends who live in Seattle or San Francisco.

No, what explains that is that they hang around unpleasant women who have their number.

So morality is indeed subjective...at least in degree along a fixed set of dimensions. Is there a formal philosophical category for this? It’s not accurate to call it pure relativism of course.

"the same phenomena happens" should read either "the same phenomenon happens." Furthermore, "phenomenon happens" is somewhat redundant. I don't see why folks insist on using Greek words they don't fully understand.

Quite simply because "phenomena" is English. No need to know the etymology of all words. But thanks for signaling your erudition.

Or, said differently, if I say that you are an idiot, I don't mean that you are a private person. If I say you're an imbecile, I don't mean that you forgot your cane. If I say you're a cretin, I don't mean that you're a christian. Or if I say that I've been too nice with you, it has nothing to do with what I don't know.

well, clearly *someone* is an idiot and a cretin. ‘Phenomena’ and ‘phenomenon’ both are English words, and one of them denotes a plurality. But thanks for giving us a wide selection of epithets to call you

I love how the academics fight each other in their small cosmos, trying to be productive with writing sentences nobody understands and on the other hand have no other contribution to the public than struggling in their own circles. I had a very good example in the past, where I was outnumbering the academics by such a huge extent that they all shut up at once in another scientific field. then I stopped and they reappeared with their beautiful complex sentences showing off useless research. please, write in clear words get out of your science inner circles and stop fighting each other et al in each sentence just for the sake of who's the better scientist when both are none.

Agnostic about the distinctions (race & sex bias, scientific ethics, wavelengths of hues: no matter), this is simply the Weber Fechner Law, established science for 150 years.

And, as many other commentators have noticed, it is the ones focused on the distinction that keep the distinction salient.

I suspect that the number of aware people outside academia who have access to the legacy of all our learning and experience now exceeds the number of people in academia who do this dance of the veils of ignorance stuff.

In an interview on Fox Business channel this week, Trump's top economic advisor, Lawrence Kudlow, said that "the deficit . . . is coming down. And it's coming down rapidly". The deficit is rising both absolutely and as a share of GDP. The Fox host, Maria Bartiromo, responded to Kudlow's ludicrous claim, "Of course". Was Kudlow lying, was the host facilitating the lie, are both of them stupid, or have both of them been conditioned to believe that the tax cut would reduce the deficit and thus see the evidence of a declining deficit? Another explanation for Kudlow's ludicrous claim, that "the deficit . . . is coming down. And it’s coming down rapidly", is that by "is" he didn't mean it is happening now, but will happen sometime in the future. Has the public been conditioned to accept such an explanation as not only plausible but acceptable?

This post should be filed under philosophy also. Deconstruction and Originalism. Words change their meaning depending on how the meaning of adjacent words change. Consider the terms equality, liberty and justice. Do you envision the founders believed those words would eventually apply to women and slaves? No, they were products of the cage they were born into.

Progress requires our recognition of the cage and the difficulty of changing the status quo.

Similarly, the reason mildly left wing policies are called "socialist" is because there is so little real socialism to be found.

In non scientific terms we say Cthulhu always swims left.

I wonder if this goes to experience as well. Aggression, sexism, and racism may have declined objectively, but I wonder if folks experience more minor slights the way people once experienced more extreme instances? If so, perhaps this has something to with why women aren’t happier than their less liberated forebears.

Next iteration: "men and women are different", period, is a violently sexist statement coming from a place of privilege and you should lose your job.

Socialists, liberals, feminists and other nitwits are never happy. The Progressives have achieved everything they set out to do 150 years ago. And they're as miserable as ever.

So have the conservatives. The world has been "losing its morals" since the beginning of time.

"Wife beating wasn’t considered a violent crime in just the very recent past."

Eh, yes it was. Do you know that many suggested bring back the whipping post to deal with wife beating?

This reminds me of the problems with eyewitness identification of crime suspects. Unless lineups are very carefully administered, the tendency of the witness is to positively identify someone in the lineup. And, their memory is altered by that identification.

we and a friend just had a discussion about this paper when it appeared in somewhat public news.

here's the result (in german):

interessanter artikel: https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2018/06/sexism-racism-never-diminishes-even-everyone-becomes-less-sexist-racist.html .. "…When blue dots became rare, purple dots began to look blue; when threatening faces became rare, neutral faces began to appear threatening; and when unethical research proposals became rare, ambiguous research proposals began to seem unethical." ist etwas akademisch geschrieben, aber schon interessant
http://blog.fefe.de/?ts=a5c60853
von hier
"Although modern societies have made extraordinary progress in solving a wide range of social problems, from poverty and illiteracy to violence and infant mortality, the majority of people believe that the world is getting worse. The fact that concepts grow larger when their instances grow smaller may be one source of that pessimism."
> mhmm interessant
das ist interessant ja
und hier: for example, the Overton window shrinks on one end and expands on the other so that what was once not considered sexism at all (e.g. “men and women have different preferences which might explain job choice“) now becomes violently sexist.
mindblowing :D
> :D
glaub das hat was mit der evolution zu tuen
> herden mässig oder
ja, das wenn man zb grad raus ist aus dem sexismus und es nichts mehr zu meckern gibt es sich noch steigert dagegen zu sein
so in der art
hast recht, die punkte da sind herden mässig
> ja weil andere es als "abfällig" sehne
jep
genau
des wirds sein
:D
lel

> wieder mal nagel aufm kopf getroffen
> ;)

Our conclusion was "des wirds sein..", what means, "yeah man this is it, it must be true! in an ironic way."

This seems to be an evolutionary heuristic. Evaluating things without bias is possible but it is computationally intense. Even the dumbest of commentators here nonetheless have brains that already demand a relatively huge amount of calories. Humans invest a lot of calories in just maintaining the brain in sleep mode, anything that can save on intense thinking probably helps.

So the 'Overton Window' makes sense. Better to confine your options to the range you are familiar with (shall we eat deer, elk, rabbit or nuts and berries) to stuff you aren't (shall we travel to the ocean and eat stuff that lives in there that we've never seen before?).

Interestingly I think this even works to mollify racism. Imagine your 'racist cop' from the 70's. Despite his 'unadvanced' views on race, if his beat was a minority community he probably nonetheless developed categories inside of 'good people' and 'bad people'. People he trusted and others he knew he couldn't. Outside the job he might not have given credit to anyone from the community but inside, despite racist beliefs, he still ended up working inside the 'window' of his environment even though it contradicted what he might say his ideological principles were.

This comparative assessment might also apply for allergies, where it seems that if we are not exposed to real germs our body can't tell what is dangerous and gets all riled up about pollen and mold, making us miserable.
I find that some women in suburbia living very safe lives (the safest in history) are never the less scared all the time about crime.

I'm sorry but this study exemplifies exactly what I hate about maths/science writings: overly ambiguous and complicated sentences and words. For example, "decreasing prevalence condition" - why not just say "in the case where we decreased the % of blue dots" or something like that. What do you gain from making this so complicated?

I only understood the experiment once Alex wrote this: "When blue dots became rare, purple dots began to look blue; when threatening faces became rare, neutral faces began to appear threatening; and when unethical research proposals became rare, ambiguous research proposals began to seem unethical. This happened even when the change in the prevalence of instances was abrupt, even when participants were explicitly told that the prevalence of instances would change, and even when participants were instructed and paid to ignore these changes."

This was VERY EASY to understand. Why couldn't it be the first sentence?

I agree! Though this was by no means a particularly bad offender, it does stand out for the wide gap between the language of the write-up, and the elementary nature of the thing. I guess people want their stuff to sound as much as possible like they belong in the journal Nature. Not useful, or deserved.

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