research and art, national security and cages

brooklyn

the lovely brooklyn cityscape wallpaper

 

When giving reasons leads to worse decisions

All the students had to evaluate the posters, but half the participants were asked to provide reasons for liking or disliking them. (The other half were asked why they chose their degree subject as a control condition.) After they had provided their evaluations the participants were allowed to choose a poster to take home.

So what happened? The control group rated the art posters positively (an average score of around 7 out of 9) and they felt pretty neutral about the humorous posters (an average score of around 4 out of 9). When given a choice of one poster to take home, 95% of them chose one of the art posters. No surprises there, the experimenters had already established that in general most students preferred the art posters.

But the group of students who had to give reasons for their feelings acted differently. This “reasons” group liked the art posters less (averaging about 6 out of 9) and the humorous posters more (about 5 to 6 out of 9). Most of them still chose an art poster to take home, but it was a far lower proportion – 64% – than the control group. That means people in this group were about seven times more likely to take a humorous poster home compared with the control group.

I recommended reading the whole article, but the short version is that those people who had to give reasons for liking a fine art poster versus something humorous found it easier to describe their feelings about the funny posters. later, after the lab experiment, those who had to give a reason and had the humorous posters in their rooms had the most regrets. The researchers conclude that giving a rationale for doing something must be because reasoning does not always give the best results. That intuitive thinking must be better in at least some situations. This might be the kind of research paper that gives social science research a bad name. People who have not had much education in fine arts may find, and they usually do, have a difficult time articulating their thoughts about fine art. It is not that they do not have complex feelings and thoughts about it, they just haven’t learned a kind of art vocabulary. Not all, but much of the art that lasts, that ends up in museums and expensive art books tends to have popular appeal based purely on aesthetics, but it also says something. Sometimes not very deep, it is tragic, or joyful, or it might be very philosophical, filled with metaphors. Most people see that, intuitively if you like, drawing on some knowledge the viewer has accumulated over the course of their life – that is a form of reasoning, though different from visceral feelings and first impressions. And while we sometimes do not like to admit it, our choices can be affected simply by having to tell a stranger the reasons we like something. Picking something current and funny tells the stranger that we’re casual or cool. Sometimes liking something very good is seen as snobbery. Even though most artists live modest lives and create art for the joy of creating.

Study for a page of the book “Of Two Squares

Study for a page of the book “Of Two Squares: A Suprematist Tale in Six Constructions”.1920 by El Lissitzky (Born Lazar Markovich Lissitzky, Russian, 1890–1941). While partly political propaganda, “Of Two Squares” is also an important work in the history of the Russian avant garde, Lissitzky, along with Kazimir Malevich, was one of founders of suprematism. His work would go on to have a large influence on the Bauhaus and constructivist movements. Depending on my mood i always circle back around to having a day where I like clean simple lines and limited colors. It probably parallels those days most of us have when it seems like we could or should trim away the excess in our lives. that everything is too cluttered, too much work, too much personal drama, too much other people’s dramas.

It has not even been a week and I’m getting the sense that we’re headed for surveillance state news overload. An important issue will burn out from over and overwrought discussion, accusations and simplistic thinking. As far as i know the current administration is not breaking the law. They’re getting surveillance warrants from the FISA Court just as Congress prescribed. The current program and the way it is carried out started in 2006 after Bush got a hand slap from the courts over his illegal surveillance. So the issue is not necessarily the law, but overreach. Perhaps, and this is largely the fault and responsibility of Congress, there has been some over zealousness in surveillance. The left of center has divided into the support it because they support the president camp and the camp that likes this president, but thinks the surveillance has got too far. This is for the former group and to some extent that tiny group of conservatives that still believe in civil liberties,  When the Bushies Return

And don’t forget that when that next Republican president does come along, his administration is going to be stocked to the gills with people who worked for George W. Bush, just because that’s how things work in Washington. If you’re a Republican seeking to fill those thousands of executive branch positions, the Republicans who have the necessary experience will be Bushies, just as many of the people Obama appointed had worked for Bill Clinton. Dick Cheney himself may not be there (although I suspect that within a few years Cheney will be turned into a horrifying General Grievous-like cyborg1, so there might be a place for him). But you can bet that many of the people who carried out Bush and Cheney’s instructions will be enthusiastically looking to exploit every ounce of power they have, and a few they don’t have but think they might be able to get away with using anyway.

Maybe you feel like you can live with that, and there are enough safeguards in place that even the next Dick Cheney couldn’t abuse them too terribly. But the argument of the administration right now is that they’re gathering all this information, but they aren’t abusing it. They aren’t just looking through people’s records willy-nilly; mostly all this information is just there waiting, and they look at an individual’s records only once they have reason to suspect they might be connected to something fishy. But it isn’t because they can’t, it’s because, they say, they’ve chosen not to. And that may well be true. But is the next administration, and the one after that, going to do the same?

Some of the surveillance may not be nice – like listening to phone calls from England or Italy, but that has always been legal and U.S. intelligence has been doing it for years. Though going through any e-mail that crosses their path, or massive data mining of telephone calls made within the country, that might be excessive.

Candice Myers @Candice_Myers 8h

I have to say, it doesn’t really bother me if the government reads my emails or listens in on my calls – I’ve got nothing to hide.
Retweeted by Nothing To Hide

Alex Glomb @GlombBomb 9h

I don’t like the idea of the government having access to my entire life, but if it stops terrorist attacks, it’s worth it. Nothing to hide.
Retweeted by Nothing To Hide
Matthew Arthur @MArthur87 9h

Why are Americans so concerned about their privacy on the phone and the internet? If you don’t do illegal stuff you have nothing to hide.
Retweeted by Nothing To Hide

As a personal matter what these people feel about the Constitution, their privacy and so forth matters, but only on a personal level. It does not matter whether they have nothing to hide, that is not the point, it is not what is at issue – though certainly they have things to hide. If someone starts video taping them through their window and putting the video on the internet I am fairly confident these same people will be calling the police. If someone walks into their home, since they have nothing to hide, takes their account numbers – bank, phone, drivers license, Social Security number – they’ll offer the nice visitor a beer because they have nothing to hide and it might stop a terrorist, which will make it all worth while. These people might want to look up the history of surveillance states. The former USSR was a surveillance state – with neighbors informing on neighbors – and once in a while someone ended up in a labor camp in Siberia – pretty much a death sentence. The same is still true of China – they have a capitalist economy, but an authoritarian surveillance state. Do these people think maybe stopping a terrorist attack is worth becoming like China. If so why not extend surveillance to everywhere and every form of communication all the time; after all if a terrorist kills you and a domestic sociopath, you’re still just as dead. If absolute personal security means more to you than freedom, you’ll love living in an authoritarian or totalitarian regime. Corporate America would be fine with that. No more uppity workers, no more protests, no more letters to consumer organizations or Congress complaining about pollution, bad service or being cheated in a business transaction. We’ll all be either really safe or like animals living their lives in an extended cage. Be good, behave yourself and never question if maybe, just maybe things done in the name of national security have gone just a little too far.

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