Sunday, April 24, 2011

the first principle is that you must not fool yourself

NewScientist | OUR closest cousins' mental agility has been cast into doubt. Chimps seem curiously unable to use their own initiative to gain the best possible reward if this means behaving in a different way to a dominant group member.

Lydia Hopper of Georgia State University in Atlanta trained a dominant female chimp to exchange one of two types of token for a chunk of carrot. This female was then housed with five subordinate chimps, and they quickly learned to ape her reward-receiving style. But the rules of the game had changed: now, alongside the carrot-giving first token, the second token was worth a better prize of grapes.

But despite four of the chimps exchanging the second token type for grapes while they were learning to get rewards, they all reverted to only exchanging the first token type for carrots- the method the dominant chimp used throughout the experiment (Animal Behaviour, DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.03.002).

Hopper is not convinced that this behaviour means that chimps are less clever than we thought. "Copying what a dominant group member does could help the chimps to maintain alliances," she says, much like the way humans follow fashion trends.

This research answers those of us who have wondered why some people who benefit from gov't health care also run around crying "Get Gov. Healthcare off my back". Both the chimps, and the people crying "Get Gov. Healthcare off my back," are driven by the phenomena we call "pecking order" "dominance" "social hierarchy" etc. I think we resist observing evidence of subservience because it casts a shadow over our foolish but irresistible notion that we are individuals with a free will. Hopper delicately suggests that the chimps changed their actions to "maintain alliances." Maintaining alliances sounds a bit like clever decision-making - evidence, I suggest, that Hopper is driven by an emotional preference for this less-likely but more comfortable explanation. A major reason Capitalism won and Socialism lost is that Socialism proposed that humans act in a kind and rational fashion. People who consider themselves rational often refuse to even acknowledge their own irrationality. Meanwhile, Capitalism funneled the whole gamut of human motivations into a mean spirited, but very successful social order.

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." ~ Feynman


nanakwame said...

Or be made a fool of . Conscientious living is not always wanting to seen or approved of. It is easier to study and define mass today. longevity studies are better than a group no different from Chimps even if shaped by social. I would take 3/4 of these professional and sent them with these social maladies.

ProfGeo said...

One of the challenges in posting to an eclectic site (even one with certain foci) is: Where, oh where to add a comment that is O/T? I have waited long enough for an opening...

The title of the article below does in a way go with the post's illustration (leg up, for the pun-impaired):

Gangs have a leg up on police

Better control of flow of information, NPS study says
Herald Staff Writer
Posted: 04/22/2011 04:10:48 AM PDT
Updated: 04/22/2011 08:25:44 AM PDT

A Naval Postgraduate School study applying counterinsurgency theories to Salinas gang violence has come up with some startling conclusions: Street gangs control and exploit information better than law enforcement, giving them an "information advantage" that city officials must work to overcome.

After lengthy surveys of Salinas police, residents and city employees, three insurgency experts studying at NPS argue that superior control of the flow of intelligence — whether by the gangs or the authorities — will determine who comes out ahead.

For the city to win, the report concludes, a lot will have to change in the relationship between police and residents.

The masters' thesis, "Small Town Insurgency: The Struggle For Information Dominance to Reduce Gang Violence," was written by NPS researchers Laurence H. Arnold and Christopher W. O'Gwin — both U.S. Army majors — and Jeremy S. Vickers, a major in the U. S. Air Force.

The 272-page document was published in December but not distributed to the public until this month. The public version had to be slightly redacted to remove sensitive police information, said Rebecca Lorentz of NPS, who last month presented highlights of the authors' findings to the Community Alliance for Safety and Peace in Salinas.

Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue said he's thrilled to have the help of staff and students at the naval school in tackling the city's youth violence.

"Think about it," he said...


Original paper at:

CNu said...

Don't ever sweat that OT binnis hereabouts Prof. This jawnt'chere right on time. Moves right along the line previously noted about half a year ago thus;

ProfGeo said...

So for the connection, let me pretend the guy in the photo is on his smartphone undert the t-shirt. I should probably not post this one as it challenges my worldview, but I'm not like that. :-)

Is Facebook geared to dullards?
APRIL 17, 2011

Are you ashamed that you find Facebook boring? Are you angst-ridden by your weak social-networking skills? Do you look with envy on those whose friend-count dwarfs your own? Buck up, my friend. The traits you consider signs of failure may actually be marks of intellectual vigor, according to a new study appearing in the May issue of Computers in Human Behavior...