Suicide Bombers, 5GWarriors, and Happy Folks

“Teaching the Learning Course: Philosophy and Methods,” by Lewis Barker, The Teaching of Psychology: Essays in Honor of Wilbert J. McKeachie and Charles L. Brewer, 2002, 379-393.

The Feeling of Rationality, The Meaning of Neuroscientific Advances for Political Science,” by Rose McDermott, Perspectives on Politics Vol. 2 No 4., 2004, pp 691-706, http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=266157.

Emotional Processing and Political Judgement: Toward Integrating Political Psychology and Decision Neuroscience,” by Michael Spezio and Ralph Adolphs, unpublished manuscript, http://www.uiowa.edu/~c030111/decisionmaking/grad2005/spezio.pdf.

Notes in reference to the Suicide Bomber Type

“In this way, preferences need not be thought of as fixed and given — uncaused causes — as they currently are in rational choice theory; rather, they can be understood as changing dynamically in response to emotional cues.” (Implications for SBT) (McDermott 2004 699)

“Some intriguing experimental work suggests that game players are affected by mood. Happy players mimic the strategy of their opponent, while sad players make their moves on the bassis of detached analysis of the game itself. Happy players are thus more socially engaged and interactive than sad players.” (implication for Suicide Bomber Type?) (McDermott 2004 696)

Notes in reference to 5th Generation Warfare

“In at least one perverse sense, conspiracy theorists who argue that the government brought about recent terrorist actions get the emotional reality right: inducing anger can make the public more sanguine about the probability of successful retribution.” (5GW implications) (McDermott 2004 697)

“Speed mattered, it was critical for human survival that we recognize and respond to threat quickly.” (McDermott 2004 700)

Notes in reference to Subjective Happiness

“Daniel Gilbert and his fellow researchers found that while a group of junior professors all believed that getting tenure would make them happy, there was no difference in happiness among those who had received, as opposed to those who had been denied, tenure five years later… Alternatively, this finding may result from the fact that people focus primarily on transitions rather than on ultimate future states, a pattern that David Schkade and Daniel Kahneman label the focusing illusion.” (McDermott 2004 698)

“Economic indicators focus exclusively on the marketplace, which, by definition, leaves out some of the most central indicators of health, happiness, and longevity, such as marriage, social support, and exercise. Indeed, once basic material needs are met, more amorphous forms of fulfillment and meaning become primary.” (McDermott 2004 701)

“Surprisingly, income only seems to matter when people feel bad because they are very poor. Winning lotteries, for example, seems to make people less, rather than more, happy. The one exception to the imperviousness of happiness to wealth appears to be social comparisons in wage negotiations…” (McDermott 2004 702)

The rest of the notes are below the fold:


“A detailed syllabus is pedagogically sound to the extent that it sets the students’ expectations for the semester.” (Barker 382)

Specifically, the framework allows that emotional processes not only are inseparable from information processing in human judgment, but that they contribute critically to human judgment and decision making in various ways, including in ways that constitute and do not oppose adaptive outcomes. (Spezio and Adolphs 3)

The law in question is the Yerkes-Dodson Law, which simply states that performance depends on the level of emotion – often defined as arousal – such that performance is low at very low and very high levels of emotion, and optimal somewhere in between (Figure 2). The conceptual framework of the Yerkes-Dodson Law was put forward by Easterbrook (1959) based on original observations by Yerkes and Dodson (1908) in order to unify a literature showing both adaptive and maladaptive effects of emotion on various measures of performance. (Spezio and Adolphs 7-8)

However, it must be emphasized that the use of the term “cognition” to include non-conscious, automatic processing is a specialized usage developed within cognitive psychology/neuroscience, and one that does not overlap with the use of cognition in political psychology, political science more broadly, or most other academic discourse. (Spezio and Adolphs 9)

Proponents of dual-process models often associate the automatic processing system with routine discriminations, judgments or decisions that do not involve situations of novelty or deep conflict. Once novel or seriously conflicting signals arise, the controlled processing system is brought online, taking over from the automatic processing system in order to manage the novel situation or conflict. Such an approach is described for political judgment in Lieberman et al. (2003). (Spezio and Adolphs 9)

Behavioral decision theorists sometimes argue as if it would be desirable for humans to manifest less emotional processing, so that the norms of rational decision making – as set in the laboratory – can be attained. For example, Baumeister and colleagues (2005) suggest that emotional processing concurrent with decision making is so harmful that one would expect an evolutionary advantage for “people with fewer and fainter emotions” (p. 10). Yet a person’s emotional processing systems are known to be involved in effectively judging the emotions of other people (Adolphs 2001, 2002, 2003), and dysfunction in these emotional systems is likely partially responsible for such social deficits as autism (Baron-Cohen 1997; Baron-Cohen et al. 2000; Frith 2003). (Spezio and Adolphs 13)

Moving away from feedforward schemas toward a model involving recurrent, or feedback, connections allows one to account for the complex interplay between goals, emotions and evaluative processes within decision making. (Spezio and Adolphs 15)

One very reliable finding is mood-congruent social attribution, wherein, for example, inducing sadness in a subject covaries with that subject’s attributing sadness to another person. (Spezio and Adolphs 24)

That is, subjects who unscrambled sentences categorized as happy were no more likely to attribute happiness to M than they were to attribute sadness. Subjects who unscrambled sentences categorized as sad were no more likely to attribute sadness to M than they were to attribute happiness. Only when mood induction techniques were used was there a congruence effect between emotional induction condition and emotional attribution. (Spezio and Adolphs 25)

“For my purposes, I will rely on Gerald Clore and Andrew Ortony’s definition: “emotion is one of a large set of differentiated biologically based complex conditions that are about something… Affect refers to the way people represent the value of things as good or bad; it can include preferences as well as emotions and moods. Moods are amorphous states — like emotions, but without specific objects or referents. Finally, feeligns are the actual experience of value.” (McDermott 2004 692)

“Many of our biological processes (heartbeat, immune system, et cetera) are regulated by unconscious information-processing systems; just because a function requires information processing, like emotion, it need not be cognitive in nature.” (McDermott 2004 692)

“Thus the brain’s structural makeup requires that emotional information exert an influence before, and sometimes instead of, higher-level cognitive functioning. this means that rationality, as we understand it, often requires emotional processing first. At least it requires that emotional processing takes place as an integral part of rational cognitive processing. This finding alone begins to undermine theories of rationality that presume that emotion is either not involved in decision making or exists in opposition to the highest-quality decision making.” (McDermott 2004 693)

“To be clear, my argument is not simply that emotion helps form preferences — although it does — and then rational logic takes over. Rather, I suggest that emotion is part of rationality itself, and that the two are intimately intertwined and interconnected processes, psychologically and neurologically.” (McDermott 2004 693)

“Subjects with damaged ventromedial sectors never learned to distinguish between the good and bad decks, and continued to lose money by preferring the decks with high payoffs and high losses. Unimpaired subjects quickly learned to pick from the good decks. Even more interestingly, such subjects learned to make correct decisions long before they could say why they were doing so.” (McDermott 2004 694)

“Marcus, Neuman, and MacKuen predict that anxiety reduces voters’ reliance on habits such as party identification and increases attention to new information, such as a candidate’s issue positions.” (McDermott 2004 695)

“Incidental or anticipatory processes — like anxiety about the future — can partially determine immediate emotions. Anticipatory feelings appear insensitive to probability, but very sensitive to timing and vividness; moreover, they depend on the individual’s sense of control over his or her environment.” (McDermott 2004 695)

“The theory of mood congruence states that individuals are more likely to remember events that are consistent with their present mood. In other words, people selectively take in information consonant with their current mood states.” (McDermott 2004 695)

“Mood influences information processing-strategies as well. Happy people tend to be expansive in their judgements and decisions, using preexisting theories in a top-down manner. Unhappy people, however, tend to focus on details and prefer bottom-up decision-making strategies. In other words, optimism can lead to creative decision making, while pessimism and anger may lead to the opposite.” (McDermott 2004 696)

“Catecholamines improve memory consolidation, making memories for stressful events better than usual and unrelated memories from the same time less distinct.” (McDermott 2004 697)

“People are most likely to make counterfactual comparisons that alter either the first or last link in a causal chain.” (McDermott 2004 697)

“This finding is consistent with the predictions of prospect theory, which points out that people are particularly attentive and averse to loss.” (McDermott 2004 697)

“Systematic work by Daniel Kahneman, Barbara Fredrickson, adn their colleagues demonstrates that people tend to best remember the peak intensity and the end of an emotional experience; they pay little attention to the duration of the experience. As a result, they often make choices that involve more rather than less pain, depending on the pattern by which pain rises and falls during an event.” (McDermott 2004 698)

“Somit and Peterson trace political scientists’ objections to biopolitics and evolutionary explanations to earlier association of biopolitics with Social Darwinism, and the subsequent impalement of social Darwinism on the stake of racist associations.” (McDermott 2004 698)

“It was not until the pathbreaking work of John Von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern that utilities came to represent ranked, measurable, internal assessments of preferences.” (McDermott 2004 699)

“A decision maker’s expected emotional state can be understood as part of that person’s expected utility calculation… Immediate and anticipatory emotion can increase the perceived discount of future payoffs, such that decision makers become more pessimistic about the likely success of their actions.” (McDermott 2004 700)

“Indeed, researchers have discovered that social isolation presents a health risk as great as high blood pressure, obesity, lack of excersise, and even smoking. (This effect is not well correlated with economic indicators.)”
(McDermott 2004 701)

“In short, if happiness derives from social support, governments should place less emphasis on incomes adn more on employment and job programs, encouraging leisure activities — by supporting after-school programs and public parks — and supporting marriages and other family relationships.” (McDermott 2004 701)

Quacking at the Duck

I’ve jumped into four conversation threads over at the Georgetown polisci blog, The Duck of Minerva.

Sorrow” [conversation thread], tdaxp excerpt:

It is tyrannical for a State to protect its citizens right from threats by aliens? Wouldn’t the reverse be far stranger?

This post reminds me of the “Committee to Restore the Constitution” spams I would receive during the last Clinton presidency. Something about two-turners generates these complaints, it seems…

Beware of the Military-Industrial Complex” [conversation thread], tdaxp excerpt:

Big War forces are designed to end state-on-state war. Small War forces are designed to win insurgencies. Different battles, different tools.

One might similar criticize Social Security, because it does not help us catch bin Laden or defend democracies from invasion. That would be equally as bizarre.

Outrages upon human dignity” [conversation thread], tdaxp excerpt:

Strategies are designed to provide a grand unifying vision. Laws are designed to provide clear guidelines of what actions are criminal. They operate in different ways to different ends.

Completely unrelatedly, rikurzhen over at Gene Expression points to the General Social Survey Online Application. Very, very fun.