Monday 6 November 2006

On conformism among social psychologists

In a previous post on deliberative democracy, I said that people often attack deliberative democracy on the ground that people are conformists; and they do so by relying on Asch’s famous experiment. This experiment, although one of the best known in social psychology, has suffered from a widespread misunderstanding. In a recent and very challenging paper, Hodges and Geyer reassess Asch’s experiment: a must read.

Picture shows an advertisement to plebiscit Général de Gaulle in France. "Vous êtes la majorité" means "You are the majority".


Sunday 5 November 2006

Justice for all ?

In a recent chronicle in Slate about charity, Tim Harford gives a good argument against the idea that charity is a proof of altruism.

If these do-gooders really were motivated by the desire to do good, they would be doing something different. It would almost always be more effective to volunteer less, work overtime, and give more. A Dutch banker can pay for a lot of soup-kitchen chefs and servers with a couple of hours' worth of his salary, but that wouldn't provide the same feel-good buzz as ladling out stew himself, would it?

He also raises an interesting question about the diversity of beneficiaries. Is it selfish to give to a great variety of organisations (you'll enjoy pointing to 10 different charities and saying, "I gave to all those!") or, as I see it, do we seek a fair distribution of gifts among beneficiaries ?


Saturday 4 November 2006

Campaign Chronicles III

Is Ségolène Royal a rawlsian ? The favorite candidate for french socialist primary elections for presidential election, Ségolène Royal, has suggested to give up the “carte scolaire”, the french system that compels parents to put their children in the particular school of the urban area they live in. The system intends to bring together children from different social classes. By renouncing social diversity, is the potential socialist candidate moving aside for rawlsian principles of justice commanding to favor “the greatest benefit to the least-advantaged members of society”?


Sunday 29 October 2006

Campaign Chronicles II

Few weeks ago, I noticed the willingness of Ségolène Royal, the favorite candidate for french socialist primary for presidential election, to tap into our naïve morality (“I am in favor of the just order.” Well, you’re not alone Ms Royal !). But recently, she has put on the table a much more controversial proposition, namely to create Citizens' Juries to evaluate public policies. This aroused a lot of indignation among politicians (who also are her adversaries). But one can also worry about the open-mindedness of scientists on public deliberation.


Sunday 8 October 2006

The good, the bad and the guy from mixing memory

Chris, from mixing memory, has drawn my attention to a debate that currently takes place between Steven Pinker (the good) and George Lakoff (the bad). It was ignited by a very critical review of Lakoff's last book Whose Freedom? by Pinker. Lakoff responded to the review, and Chris offers his own rebuttal of Lakoff's defence. (Both the review and the answer can be read here, thanks to gene expression)


Monday 2 October 2006

Disappointing is OK, deceiving is not

It has become a truism that trust is easier to destroy than to built. But can every wounded trust be healed? A new study shows that if we tend to forgive people who have been untrustworhty, we never regain complete trust in those who have deceived us (in the experiment at least).


Wednesday 27 September 2006

Darwin under the Black Flag

The Ultra-Left review "Social Anarchism" reviews Steven Pinker's "The Blank Slate", and surprise! It is overwhelmingly positive. Are you seated? Then read on:

"We, along with most other ideologies on the Left, have based our theory on a mistaken concept of human nature. We have learned over the years to distrust words like sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, and above all that dreaded buzzword, “hard-wired” — yet we can no longer ignore the fact that these sciences are probably right about human nature"

Music to my lefty-darwinian ears!

The pictures show PJ Proudhon, the French founder of Anarchism, and a British naturalist.


Wednesday 13 September 2006

Rorty vs. the Moral Mind (bis)

Olivier (see here) pointed out several mistakes in Rorty’s review of Marc Hauser’s last book on morality. I’d like to follow up on his work since I think Rorty’s conception of morality is even more to blame than he thinks.


Friday 8 September 2006

Ségolène Royal on "naive morality"

The favorite candidate for the french socialist presidential primary elections, Ségolène Royal, talked a few days ago about the value of “naive morality”. Is she aware of psychological works on “naive theories” arguing that we have innately prepared intuitions about physical objects, numbers, other people’s psychology or morality ?


Monday 28 August 2006

Rorty vs. the Moral Mind

In his review of Marc Hauser's new book, Richard Rorty doubts that there are biological constraints on moral reasoning. We disagree.


Sunday 27 August 2006

Der Spiegel interviews the freewheeling Prof. De Waal

On his way to becoming a European scientific superstar, Frans De Waal indulged himself in some careless piece of talk with a german journalist, last friday.


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