The Wary Student, Part 9: Discussion

The most parsimonious explanation for the results is that humans behave more rationally and less cooperatively when under cognitive load, at least when it comes to retribution. This echoes (Bazerman, White, & Lowenstein, 1995), which found the same increased rationality and decreased fairness when decisions had to be made simultaneously, and fits other findings (Robert & Carnevale, 1997) that socially complex situations create more rational behavior.

The interaction effect shows that cognitive load primarily effects those who would behave cooperatively, but that it has little effect on those who would behavior selfishly. This finding supports the view that humans cooperative warily. Cognitive load did not effect those who acted selfish because they had already ceased cooperating, so could only effect those who have cooperated somewhat already.

Interestingly, a one-way ANOVA with student belief on whether rulebreakers should be forgiven as a factor showed equivalent means across neutral cooperation (F = .253, p = .616), negative cooperation (F = .007, p = .935), and cognitive load (F = .029, p = .864) if the rulebreaker was sorry. Nearly identical results (F = 504, p = .479; F = .504, p = .479; F =.005 , p = 944; sic) were found without the “sorry” clause. In other words, descriptive knowledge about punishment did not translate into procedural knowledge about punishment and, unlike procedural knowledge, did not vary by cognitive load.


The Wary Student, a tdaxp research project
1. Abstract
2. Cognitive Load
3. Cooperative Behavior
4. Method
5. The Experiments
6. Hypotheses
7. Main-Effect Results
8. Interaction-Effect Results
9. Discussion
10. Future Research
11. Bibliography

Brave New War, Aftermath: Mountainrunner’s Review

Mountainrunner wrote a great review of Brave New War yesterday, in which he emphasized that John Robb doesn’t bother explaining the motivation for “global guerrillas”:

When Robb does go into the Why, he, like William Lind and Martin van Creveld who he cites and builds upon, oversimplifies motivations and goals to the extent of ignoring fundamental realities. Not all groups he builds his case on seek to “hollow out” the state. These little details tell us how threats grow and expand and how to shut them down. The details show that in many, if not most, of Robb’s cases it isn’t an attempt to bring down the state or hollow it out, but by a variety of reasons that built up over time. The Why is messy business and he chooses to ignore the causes behind the guerrilla movement, leading to his own catastrophic superempowerment of groups in his examples.

I agree completely. Global guerrillas are two-bit realists more concerned with bothering a government than actually winning. To my knowledge, Robb has never satisfactorily addressed the issue of the motivation of “global guerrillas.” Mountainrunner’s words were the perfect opportunity for Robb to fix this error and address real concerns.


Brave New War, by John Robb

Instead. he pens this:

Knew it was going to happen. Oh well. To tell you the truth, I kinda expected more push-back to an outsider like me from the “conference crowd” guarding the walls around the counter-terrorism money/fantasy machine in Washinton. This guy is the only one to do so publicly.

Now, to the best of my knowledge Mountainrunner is a graduate student at the University of Southern California, and presumably not in a position to “guard the walls around the counter-terrorism money/fantasy machine in Washington.” However – demonstrating his grace — Mountainrunner’s answer is devestatingly funny:

I don’t know that I am trying to protect the “money/fantasy machine”, mostly because I don’t know what he means (a little help?). However, it does sound bad and I would probably agree the “money/fantasy machine” needs to be whacked based on name alone. Whatever it is, my issue with the book pivots on his failure to include and factor in purposes and support systems into the analysis of his guerrillas. Insight into these two not insignificant data sets can’t be dismissed or ignored, but that is just what BNW does.

Brave New War combines insight into a hurtful but ultimately harmless form of terrorism with selective use of buzzwords that flatter potential reviewers. Ultimately, however, it fails to address the issue of motivation (as MountainRunner points out). It has other problems, as well, but those are posts for another time…