If there’s one common theme that resonates across Western democracies this past year, it’s a rejection of the status quo. Some outsider politicians have ridden this wave of populism to political office or to strong second-place finishes, stretching the boundaries of political expression. Frustration, anger with the status quo, globalization and the tradeoffs that come with it, and inequality are all basic concerns of the voters catapulting these politicians to power.
Globally, it also seems that fault lines have been erected between cultures, religions, genders, and so on.
Regardless of where the frustration comes from, though, polarization along ideological lines and negative rhetoric are pervasive. While polarization is a complex issue (and not something we can explain in its entirety in a blog post), how people process information is a significant factor.
If people are not open to other viewpoints or do not think critically about the negative rhetoric they encounter— which often involves self-reflection— then how can change really be achieved? How can the frustration fueling the polarization be addressed if we cannot compromise?
New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.
Imagine watching a commercial, and the TV or mobile phone on which you are watching immediately knows if you’d like to buy the product being advertised. Imagine feeling stressed out while driving, and your car automatically starts talking to you and adjusting the air and radio controls. Or imagine a video or film that changes the storyline based on your reactions to characters. This is the future, in which devices react not just to our behavioral and physiological clues, but also to our emotions.
Affective computing is the study and development of systems and devices that can recognize, interpret, process, and simulate human the emotional states of humans. It is an interdisciplinary field spanning computer science, psychology, and cognitive science.
Most of the software in the field of affective tracks emotions, like happiness, confusion, surprise, and disgust, by scanning an environment for a face and identifying the face’s main regions—mouth, nose, eyes, eyebrows. The software then ascribes points to each and tracks how other points move in relation to one another. Shifts in the texture of skin, such as wrinkles, are also tracked and combined with the information on facial points. Finally, the software identifies an expression by comparing it with those it has previously analyzed.
Learning to give preference to long-term goals over more immediate ones is known as deferred gratification or patience and considered a virtue in many cultures. However, there is logic behind asking for rewards immediately, and those who live in poverty know this all too well.
The comedian Jerry Seinfeld, once joked “I never get enough sleep. I stay up late at night because I’m ‘night guy’. ‘Night guy’ wants to stay up late. ‘What about getting up after five hours of sleep?’ ‘Oh, that’s morning guy’s problem. That’s not my problem—I’m night guy! I stay up as late as I want.’
Such decisions are described by the theory of intertemporal choice, the idea that decisions have consequences that come at different points in time. People weigh the relative trade-offs of getting what they want in the immediate future with the trouble associated with waiting but potentially getting something better.
We all face these kinds of decisions in our day-to-day lives, from deciding to work now or later or save or spend money, to whether or not we should stay up late to enjoy the night or go to bed early to feel better the next day. In each of these cases, a decision maker needs to assess the utility (or value) of one outcome that is will occur sooner with another one that is more distant in the future.
Few people doubt the merits of pausing to "think things through" before making a decision. Without doing so, we fear we may end up making a decision that leads to harm and misfortune. However, this process is itself a double-edged sword that can lead us astray.
We've all been forced to make tough decisions in life. From career progression and where to live to which route to take on a trip, we navigate life's choices by considering our options and weighing them against each other. In the context of these decisions, we attempt to predict the negative consequences from an action or decision and the likelihood that those consequences will actually occur.
Regret- we seek to avoid it when we can
In a famous study on Regret Theory, Loomes and Sugden present the idea that in making decisions, individuals not only consider the knowledge they have and the resources at their disposal, but also the likely scenarios that will result from their choices. They further suggest that the pleasure associated with the results of their choices depends not only on the nature of those results but also on the nature of alternative results. Individuals consider the regret their future selves may feel if they know they would have been better if they had chosen differently. Likewise, they consider the joy their future selves may feel if the consequences of their decisions turn out to be optimal. Thus, both a cause and a consequence of our desire to avoid losses (loss aversion) is our desire to avoid the pain of regret.
According to researchers, individuals exhibit “regret aversion” when they fear their decision will turn out to be wrong in hindsight. Sometimes, we engage in regret aversion before making a decision, leading us to hem and haw and lose out on opportunities. Other times, we engage in regret aversion after a decision is already made, leading us to hold on to losing assets or undesirable positions because we don’t want to admit our choice was not the best one. Many of the interventions that behavioral economists suggest, such as automatic enrollment, default options, and providing information to consumers, are set up to reduce the ex post regret individuals will face for not doing something that’s in their interest.
Despite its relevance to the broader economy of states, there exists little empirical information on the culture of the banking industry. Identifying the effects of business culture poses several challenges because comparing employees in one sector to those in another can be misleading. Some professions may naturally attract different kinds of people, making it tricky to separate cultural factors from individual ones. Moreover, the financial industry is broad and comprised of many different kinds of businesses and institutions, with some more focused on the consumer and others more focused on fiscal details.
Attempting to shed light on the subject, academics from the University of Zurich designed an experiment inspired by the economic theory of identity. Identity economics states that economic choices are not only based on personal taste but also on what an individual considers to be appropriate. Whether a choice is appropriate or not depends on a person’s social identity– their sexual orientation, race, religion, occupation, or where they live.
In the experiment, 128 employees from an international bank, with an average of 11.6 years of experience in the financial sector, were split into two groups. About half of the participants worked in a core business unit, like private banking, asset management, trading, or investment management. The other half worked in support units like human resources or administration. They were randomly assigned to a treatment or control group.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Out in the Open: This Man Wants to Turn Data Into Free Food (And So Much More)
Let’s say your city releases a list of all trees planted on its public property. It would be a godsend—at least in theory. You could filter the data into a list of all the fruit and nut trees in the city, transfer it into an online database, and create a smartphone app that helps anyone find free food. Such is promise of “open data”—the massive troves of public information our governments now post to the net. The hope is that, if governments share enough of this data with the world at large, hackers and entrepreneurs will find a way of putting it to good use. But although so much of this government data is now available, the revolution hasn’t exactly happened.
Four mobile-based tools that can bring education to millions
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”, Nelson Mandela is famed for saying. Yet access to good quality learning is still denied to millions around the world, particularly in developing countries where teaching standards and education facilities are often poor. The ubiquity of mobile phones is presenting educators with a new, low-cost tool for teaching. Here we look at four mobile-based solutions delivering real results for low-income learners.
The World Cup started in Brazil on June 12. This means that the next few weeks will be filled with anger, anguish, joy, and triumph. Sports fans have always been deeply emotional and obsessed… but also incomprehensible to those who ‘don’t get it.’ Why do fans paint their faces, dye their hair, or engage in bizarre rituals for good luck? Why do we still cheer for our teams despite corruption or other misdeeds?
Edward Hirt, a psychology professor at Indiana University in the US, has researched sports psychology, and he says, "As human beings, we have this desire to feel a sense of belonging or a sense of social connectedness with others, and being a part of different groups (gives) us identities." Scientists have shown that fans who feel personally invested in a team or who attend games and cheer with their fellow fans reap mental health benefits that come from feeling social connected.
In the first study, two participants are asked to play Monopoly, but one player is given more money than the other. Throughout the course of the game, the 'rich' player moved around the board louder, made sounds of dominance and non-verbal displays of power, and became ruder and less sympathetic to the 'poor' player. After the game ended and the rich player won, the rich player talked about what he/she did and bought during the game to explain the outcome- they did not mention the unfair advantage they were given at the start of the game.
Piff believes that Monopoly can be used as a metaphor for many contemporary societies in which some people are born with more access to resources, money and power.
Here is a situation that’s happened to me; maybe it’s happened to you, too. You’re on mission, finishing up a meeting. You’re closing your notebook, your head’s in the next meeting already, and one of the people you’ve just met with asks if you have a second.
Before you can react, she’s telling you her story. It’s a very difficult story, full of experiences you can’t imagine living through yourself. She seems to have gone back into the story in her mind – her eyes are focused beyond you, her hands tremble, and her eyes water.
Assuming you are not a trained social worker, it’s likely you have few skills you can immediately draw on to help her. And you wonder how many others like her are facing similar circumstances.
What does any of this have to do with our business? Our work brings us into contact with people and groups that have experienced extremely stressful events and situations – from grinding poverty, to forced displacement, war and natural disasters. We come into contact with some of the most wounded and most resilient people in the world. While that strength helps them survive in the face of huge challenges, these “invisible wounds” – if not addressed – take a huge toll on them and their loved ones.