Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Never put salt in your eyes: social psych edition

Most people are not consequentialists, but most people feel implicitly uncomfortable making moral arguments on non-consequentialist grounds. “Stop what you’re doing, it disgusts and offends me” is less noble than “stop what you’re doing, it will hurt people who can’t stand up for themselves”. This tempts people who are disgusted and offended by things to come up with just-so stories from social psychology for why the disgusting and offensive thing will also hurt people.
I tried writing a post arguing against several of these just-so stories, but it ended up being unbearably long and boring (if you’re ever stuck with insomnia, ask me to give you a trenchant analysis of every study that’s ever been written about stereotype threat). So I’m going to try something different. I’m going to write up some just-so stories using social psychology for the opposite side. I’m going to try to use well-established social psych results to prove that we should have more violence in the media, and be more tolerant of offending women and minorities.
I think some of the arguments below will be completely correct, others correct only in certain senses and situations, and still others intriguing but wrong. I think that modern pop social psychology probably contains the same three categories in about the same breakdown, so I don’t feel too bad about this.
I enjoyed his take on how fighting stereotypes risks reinforcing them.
I can’t find the link for this, but negatively phrased information can sometimes reinforce the positive version of that information. For example, if you tell people “President Obama is not a Muslim”, then a year later, all someone will remember is “blah Obama blah blah blah Muslim”, and eventually “Ohmigod, President Obama is a Muslim!”, even if they didn’t believe that before they heard that fact “corrected”.
Read the whole thing. Old Kids in the Hall played in my head...

The Christmas break now being over, we soon resume normal transmission. Paul Walker was very active over the holidays; catch up with the backlog there if you've been yearning for content.

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