An Oath for Scientists – Simine Vazire (sometimes i'm wrong)

[DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in my posts are personal opinions, and they do not reflect the editorial policy of Social Psychological and Personality Science or its sponsoring associations, which are responsible for setting editorial policy for the journal.]

Bear oath1

i've been thinking a lot about what it means to be a scientist.  being a scientist comes with certain obligations, and ignoring those obligations can give science a bad name.  it seems to me we could do more to make scientists aware of this responsibility when they decide whether or not to join the profession.

our most important obligation as scientists, to my mind, is preserving science's credibility. that doesn't mean we can't make mistakes, but above all else, we should be committed to opening ourselves up to scrutiny and correcting our errors.

to make these values a bit more concrete, i tried to adapt the hippocratic oath to scientists. you can tell how solemn this oath is by the use of capitalization.

the values i tried to capture were inspired by Merton's norms, but in the spirit of Merton's norm of universalism, i refrained from naming the oath after him (or anyone). it is very far from comprehensive, and i know it's cheesy, but i ask you, dear reader: if you can't engage in a little facile sentimentality on new year's day, when can you? Continue reading

What Makes a Hero? And What makes a Psychopath? – Scott McGreal (Unique—Like Everybody Else)

Are Heroes and Psychopaths Cut from the Same Cloth? This depends on how important fearlessness is for understanding psychopathy - the answer may be "not that much."

Are Heroes and Psychopaths Cut from the Same Cloth? – Scott McGreal (Unique—Like Everybody Else)

Do evil psychopaths and valiant heroes share a common core? The issue is complicated, but hard-core psychopaths are highly unlikely to be motivated to become heroes.

Romantic Love, Casual Sex, and Human Ecology – Scott McGreal (Unique—Like Everybody Else)

Do harsh environments foster short-term mating, and rich ones long-term commitments? Environmental effects on reproductive strategies are more complicated than one might think.

Can we tell where leeway becomes freeway? – J. P. Gerber – Jonathan Gerber (The personality sentences)

What does it mean to say ‘nobody’s perfect’? Partly, it means that, for non-criminal behaviors, we don’t judge things by one failure, we give leeway. We think about people based on average behavior, not simply by their worst day, as we hope they would do for us. However, at some point, that leeway can become freeway, where someone’s average behavior doesn’t really match where they say it is. Is there a way to test this? I think there is. Consider the following things someone might say to you: a) I usually take 5 minutes in the shower b) I obey Gottman’s rule of saying 5 positive things for every one negative thing to my employees. c) My friend is always about 15 minutes late for parties One thing all these have in common is that they list a specific, self-defined numerical standard (e.g. 5 minutes, 5 positive things to 1 negative, 15 minutes). That person’s standard can be easily tested by: 1. Collecting a little bit of data. Continue reading

“Creativity is talking listening to a cat” – Nancy Martin (1985) cited by E. Paul Torrance (1988) – Jonathan Gerber (The personality sentences)

Possibly the most incredible scene in Runway Project, Season 16 is the one in which Kentaro plays Tim Gunn a piano piece. Afterwards, they have the following conversation… Tim Gunn : What gave you this idea? Kentaro: Well, so I find a dead cat on the street and after I bury the cat I put my ear to the ground and this is the kind of sound I heard. On the face of it, most of us might think that Kentaro’s approach is slightly oddball so I was surprised, when reading a chapter by Torrance on creativity to find that one artistic definition of creativity is “talking listening to a cat…crossing out mistakes”. But how is that a test of creativity? Torrance had two major approaches to understanding creativity. The first was an individual differences approach (seen best in his test of creative thought). For example, people were asked to think of all the uses of a tin can and then their answers were scored for flexibility (number of different approaches/methods), fluency (total number of ideas), originality and elaboration, all of which come from Guilford’s (1956) ideas on creativity. However, both Guilford and Torrance were aware that this approach to creativity was incomplete. Thinking about uses for a tin can doesn’t address larger parts of creativity such as redefining situations and being sensitive to problems in the world. Continue reading

“The most striking correlate of insight is the sense of humor” Allport (1937, p. 222) – Jonathan Gerber (The personality sentences)

Later on (p. 223), Allport goes on to say “in maturity, a sensitive and intricate balance is attained, peculiar to each life, between caring and not caring, between valuing and recognizing the vanity of value”. Allport’s main idea is that you can’t be a fully mature person unless you can laugh at the values you place on life and recognize that they are just one way of seeing life. Intuitively, this idea feels right because we can think of examples and counter-examples: this scene in Home Alone where Old Man Marley seemingly laughs at himself after Kevin helps him realize his familial folly, the bulletproof CEO who can never laugh at themselves, the fragile teen you would never mock in case they melted away. I like Allport’s idea but, as ever, I wondered if it ever bore fruit in research. In looking at this via PSYCinfo and other sources, I came up with the following:
      1. There are four broad styles of humor1 (self-enhancing, affiliative, aggressive, self-defeating) and the closest one to Allport’s view is probably self-defeating humor.
      2. There’s no single facet of the Big Five that seems to tap self-insight very well.
      3. Johnson & McCord (2010) studied humor and personality but had a small sample size (N=31!). They didn’t find much. Continue reading