Sunday, November 12, 2006

Interesting articles of note #3

In the olden days, the rising middle class showed "visibility" by having their portraits painted. Today, you only need You Tube to announce to the world that you have "arrived!"

In this day and age where time is literally money, we maximize our days (sometimes nights) working. Is napping a sign of laziness? Not necessarily, writes Kurt Kleiner.

Scholars debate the merits of the Anyone-can-edit encyclopedia.

Show me your fingers and I'll tell you who you are! British scientists say your digit length holds clues to your physical capabilities.

You know what I hate about Economics? In the past decades, one of its progeny, the Rational Choice theory, thinks to take over the social sciences. Ratchoice says we humans are utility maximizers. Scholars have all sorts of game theories to explain human behavior based on the assumption that when we make decisions, we always "calculate" the best way to make either relative or absolute gains. As if we were machines!

Take for example, the ultimatum game:

IMAGINE that you are sitting next to a complete stranger who has been given £10 to share between the two of you. He must choose how much to keep for himself and how much to give to you.

He can be as selfish or as generous as he likes, with one proviso: if you refuse his offer, neither of you gets any money at all. What would it take for you to turn him down?

If we were purely "calculating" beings then we would make the rational decision of getting something rather than nothing. But scientists say, our brains aren't wired to work that way:

According to standard economic theory, you should cheerfully accept anything you are given. People are assumed to be motivated chiefly by rational self-interest, and refusing any offer, however low, is tantamount to cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Yet in practice derisory offers are declined all the time. Indeed, if the sum is less than £2.50, four out of five of us tell the selfish so-and-so to get lost. We get so angry at his deliberate unfairness that we are prepared to incur a cost to ourselves, purely to punish him.

Home-schooling in the US allow some devout Christian parents the exclusive right to brainwash their children. Amanda Gefter writes.

We laugh when we're happy. But why do we also laugh when we're mad? Scared? Nervous? Sad?

We weep or laugh to purge ourselves of our conscious reactions to words and things, to lessen our discomfort at seeing or imagining evil, a threatening situation, or the flawed and inferior, the stupid, ugly, or absurdly incongruous. Emotion is displaced action, the sort of feelings we get when we want to do something but can't, when we can't fight or flee, as when a loved one dies, and also the sort of feelings we get when we compare ourselves to others and feel we are superior to them. Humour can also be a sort of aggression, as when a defensive, unsure person assigns nicknames to his associates.
And finally, Charo explains how she fixed my laptop problem.

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