Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Are Natural Sciences Better Than Social Sciences?

Director general of the Parque del Este zoo, Javier Hernandez pointed to a well known characteristic of gullibility when he commented that swallowed student Erick Arrieta had understimated the animals instinct

Had the unfortunate Mr Arrieta studied social psychology as well as zoology he would have certainly been familiar with the concepts of over confidence effect and optimism bias
which are descriptions of how people consisently overestimate their ability to prevail in situations where their capabilities are really not up to it.

The entertainment form of this behaviour is of course, American Idol and The X Factor auditions, where the delusionally over confident frequently get eaten alive.

Often natural scientists look down on social science as not being 'real' science, i.e. objective, rational and empirically based. The evidence it seems is before us, ssssssssocial ssssssssssciences can play an important role in making sure we don't get digested at work!

I could, of course, be over optimistic in thinking that you will believe this, and go on to Stumble or Digg it :)

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Americans! Are You In A State of Gullibility?

After analysing visitors from the USA to this blog, there are puzzling questions raised. Californians are the most frequent readers of Gullibility. Does this mean that they are the most concerned about being gullible? Might it mean they are most in tune with the tricks and technqiues of social influence and persuasion and therefore show a healthy interest in keeping abreast of instances of gullibility.

People from Rhode Island and South Dakota visit the least. Does this mean they are less concerned with gullibility? Could it mean that they are the most gullible in the USA or perhaps it means they are the most self confident and resilient to being duped and so don't need to read a blog like this?

Here are the visitor stats, what do you reckon is the story behind the numbers?

California 25.86%
New York 7.24%
Texas 5.71%
Florida 4.43%
Illinois 3.49%
Massachusetts 3.43%
Virginia 3.22%
Pennsylvania 3.14%
Georgia 2.95%
Ohio 2.90%
New Jersey 2.58%
Washington 2.17%
North Carolina 1.85%
Maryland 1.82%
Arizona 1.77%
Michigan 1.77%
Missouri 1.56%
Wisconsin 1.37%
Oregon 1.21%
Colorado 1.21%
Connecticut 1.18%
Indiana 1.10%
Kansas 1.02%
Alabama 0.94%
District of Columbia 0.89%
Tennessee 0.83%
Minnesota 0.83%
Kentucky 0.72%
South Carolina 0.70%
Oklahoma 0.64%
Nebraska 0.59%
Iowa 0.56%
Louisiana 0.56%
New Hampshire 0.51%
Hawaii 0.48%
Nevada 0.48%
Utah 0.38%
Alaska 0.35%
Vermont 0.32%
Mississippi 0.27%
New Mexico 0.24%
West Virginia 0.24%
Maine 0.24%
Delaware 0.24%
Idaho 0.24%
Arkansas 0.21%
Montana 0.19%
Wyoming 0.16%
North Dakota 0.11%
South Dakota 0.08%
Rhode Island 0.08%

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

All That Glitters Is Not Gold

image credit - BBC

For Britons, the release of Gary Glitter from a Vietnamese jail makes it clear that all that glitters is not always gold. On the one hand we have Olympic Team GB is glittering in gold, earned through commitment, hard work and talent and on the other hand we also have the news that fallen British pop idol Gary Glitter a convicted paedophile is ducking and diving in an attempt to avoid the restrictions that will be placed on him should he return to Britain.

It seems the psychology of Glitter is characterised by the avoidance of responsibility and in terms of social psychology he has shown a total disregard for the consequences of his behaviour on young and vulnerable people he comes into contact with. Taking advantage of innocence and vunerability is simply manipulation.

Fortunately his powers of persuasion are radically diminished since his time as an influential 70's pop star urging youngsters to 'be in his gang'. The money and social power that his musical success gave him clearly corrupted his judgement and his psychology and he has used his persuasive techniques in a very dark way.

It is puzzling why he couldn't have used his talent to more positive ends. He clearly consciously made a choice. Why couldn't he have made the positive choice that Britain's sports people have done? There is obviously something deficient in his attitude to people, values and norms. How Glitter's mental map of the world is made up is any one's guess, and I'm sure if we examined the 'attitude objects' in his world their elements would differ significantly from the majority.

That is why he needs restraining. He is 'boundary less' in his behaviour and clearly thinks that conventional social rules don't apply. Paedophiles need both their physical location controlling and their mind controlling because it is their take on the world that determines how they act.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Stepping Into The Gullibility Void

What's this!! No gullibility happening in the world at all, everyone is Olympicked Up, politicians like Musharraf are playing a straight bat. Nobody really thinks the Russians are going to leave Georgia completely.

I'm stuck. No one is trying to dupe anyone else any where on the planet, this has got to be first. The closest I've got is a Nepalese Head being sworn in as PM...now you can't be serious...just a head...on its own? That does need checking out.

Oh hang a moment...Jade Goody....yep Jade Goody...she might have just tripped the Gullible Alarm as she entered Indian Big Brother does she really think that this attempt at Impression Management is going to work for her?

Come back gullibility all is forgiven...I should know I signed up for Blogrush too

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Saving Face At The Beijing Olympics

image credit www.davidsanger.com

We might laugh up our sleeves at the gullibility of the Chinese Olympic managers for thinking that mime artist Lin Miaoke and CGI fireworks would ever lastingly provide a convincing face of innocent charm and dramatic excellence to an inquisitive and media savvy world audience.

However in doing this people in the West are considerably underestimating the power and cultural influence of impression management in the Chinese psyche.

The whole concept of Social Face is deeply embedded in the Chinese concepts of Mianzi and Lian such that all other things...including the feelings of little girls are subservient.

Perhaps the only thing that the Chinese are gullible over is the way in which they underestimated the lack of western understanding and acceptance of the so called 'polite lies'

I have first hand experience of getting this wrong the other way around. I was tutoring a class of masters Chinese students and the issue of in class presentations came up. I asked how many students 'feared' doing presentations and duly the whole class put up their hands. I then asked one student if they would like to come to the front of the class and explain what it was they feared and what they thought they were weak at, (thinking this would begin to overcome their worries and show the rest of the class that 'we all worry about the same things' BLUNDER!! The student graciously came to the front and then broke down in tears at having to publicly admit her fears and weak points. In the UK she would have got a round of applause!

I say be careful of criticising cultural norms that you don't understand.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Lin Miaoke Not Quite Karaoke

So the truth is out! Lin Miaoke won Gold for Olympic
Lip Synch-ing

The runner up Yang Peiyi, lost out with lower marks for facial presentation, a rather harsh judgement that was justified on the basis of overall Team China success being more important than individual feelings.

Management writers Pine and Gilmore in their book Authenticity give us a useful way to map out whether we are being duped by organisations, by using a combination of fake and real permutations in a 2 by 2 fake'real matrix. Real-Real being truly authentic, as the person, product, or organisation is truly what it purports to be.

Lin Miaoke is Fake-Real - not what she purported to be, yet presented as the real opening ceremony singer.

Yang Peiyi was substituted because she was said to have flaws...!

The only flaw Lin Miaoke had of course was that she really couldn't sing!!!

Friday, 8 August 2008

How To Check If You Are Gullible

I was reading an interesting chapter in Richard Perloff's recent book The Dynamics of Persuasion that talked about which types of people are the most gullible. Naturally I read the chapter expecting to confirm that they'd be nothing like me and I was in for a shock!

Coincidentally Saboma posted this fascinating link to a site that 'outs' Scammers that stalk dating sites. Yet another example of synchronicity!

Now initially you might think that dating sites are crammed full of potentially gullible people. Perhaps you are thinking that many dating site members are vulnerable, desperate, or 'on the bounce' and so they are easy prey for a Scammer. In reality, given the popularity of dating sites the vast majority of people who join them are 'normal' just like you and me, and that's the key point!

If what Perloff says is true then think again about which people you reckon are the most gullible. If you look at any Normal Population Distribution The 'big middle' of 68.2% of a population is bounded by two sets of smaller populations. According to Perloff its is the 'big middle', typical average Joes like you and me that are the most susceptible to gullibility! Ouch!

The two 'tails' of the distribution in the case of gullibility relate to two other types of person.

At one end of the distribution curve sit people who are in a crisis of some sort, they are emotionally distracted and consumed by their problems. These people are resistant to Scammers because they are so totally absorbed with the details of their situation that they don't pay attention to anything else, and this includes the deceptive and manipulative tactics of people who wish to take advantage of them.

At the other end sit people who are highly Dogmatic These people simply believe that their way of seeing things is right and everybody else's view is wrong. Hardly fertile territory for a Scammer who hopes that you will believe everything they have to say.

So, if Scammers are having a field day on dating sites, then its because the vast majority of dating site members are normal not because they are uniquely stupid, normal people that are open minded, willing to try something new, generous about other people's points of view, polite and not too intrusive, and give people the benefit of the doubt.

To avoid being Scammed in the Dating Site situation we need to 'park' our 'normal' tendencies, we need to ask direct and probing questions and make sure we get objective evidence for claims. The Scammers trade on the fact that societal conventions mean we don't normally do this for fear of creating offence. Well, if the person you are interested in is worth their salt, they won't be offended.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

The Mcanns : Fact and Interpretation

One of the dangerous assumptions about science is that it is believed to be entirely objective and value free. In the Mcann Case it seems that the Portuguese authorities all too readily interpreted the evidence in a way that was conditioned to confirm their prior assumptions. In particular an assumption that the scientific evidence was 'of itself' an unequivocal symbol of 'the truth'.

In philosophical terms it is clear that some real empirical evidence was collected. In other words there was an 'ontological' reality. It was tangible (just) and measurable (to a degree)

Someone, somewhere then placed a subjective interpretation on those facts. The facts did not have any objective meaning, a meaning was placed on them by a human being. One version of meaning was given by the British authorities and it was commendably circumspect and cautious. Another meaning was placed on the facts by the Portuguese authorities and this was astonishingly forthright and over-confident.

How were these two distinct 'attitudes' to the evidence formed? What motivations can we assume pre-disposed the Portuguese official(s) to take the attitude they did? Can we be certain these were benign or might somebody with the power and the authority have reasons for holding the attitude they took ?!!

Kate and Gerry are to be commended for their resilience in being able to resist the persuasive attempts to get them to comply with the Portuguese authority's interpretation of the evidence. The more so given the extremity of the circumstances.