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657942 Posts in 9260 Topics by 3396 Members Latest Member: - vlozan86 Most online today: 60 - most online ever: 494 (Jul 01, 2007, 02:59:53 PM)
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Author Topic: Woo-ha! Ain't science something?  (Read 41031 times)
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ellaguru
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« Reply #150 on: Jun 01, 2010, 07:32:57 PM »

Deeper than a Guatamalen sinkhole, amirite?
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I also engaged in a rigorous study of philosophy and religion...but cheerfulness kept creeping in.
RavingLunatic
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« Reply #151 on: Jun 04, 2010, 12:13:24 PM »

I get these weekly e-mails from a European website called Vox, which compiles different economic studies and also has occasional downloadable audio interviews with prominent economists. Anyways, one of the studies in this week's report caught my eye. The study itself is more suggestive than conclusive, as the authors themselves concede, but because it's a difficult topic to study, it's noteworthy nonetheless.

The titles is Are Workers Motivated by the Greater Good? Evidence From a Field Experiment. The report is not all that long if you want to read the details, but I'll just quote their conclusion here:
Quote
We find that women's effort is positively affected by an environment that induces warm-glow altruism, while there is no additional impact due to pure altruism. In particular, in the treatment condition eliciting warm-glow altruism, women increase their productivity between the two sessions by an additional 10% compared to women in the control group.

On the other hand, we find no statistically significant differences in productivity changes between the control and any of the treatment groups for male subjects. This unresponsiveness suggests that pro-social preferences are less relevant for men than for female workers in our sample. This finding is consistent with other research on gender differences in social preferences (Croson and Gneezy 2009).

The finding of a gender difference in pro-social behaviour in a workplace setting may have important implications for understanding women’s economic outcomes. If women are indeed motivated by a concern for the social cause pursued by the organisation they work for, then they will be more likely to enter occupations and sectors with characteristics that engender pro-social behaviour (such as health, education and social care) and will require less monetary compensation. Gender differences in pro-social motivation might therefore help explain the observed occupational segregation by gender that accounts for a substantial portion of the overall gender earnings gap.

While our results provide a new insight, it would be inappropriate to draw firm implications for the labour market as a whole from a single field experiment using student workers who exert effort on a short-term job. Further empirical studies are needed to evaluate whether our findings are robust in other labour market settings and populations of workers.

It's one of those ideas that once you read about it, you wonder why you never thought of it before. Given that previous research indicates that women's pro-social preferences are higher than men's, it seems possible, even likely, that at least a portion of the gender wage differential is explicable in this way. Perhaps further research will even enable economists to quantify what sort of penalty women pay for being more pro-social in much the same way that they can now quantify what portion of the male-female wage differential is due to pregnancy/child care furloughs, differences in education, and the like. I would expect it to have pretty much the same conclusions too: that a portion of the observed wage differential could be explained away by women's pro-social preferences, still leaving a significant purely discriminatory wage differential.

Incidentally, the penalty paid by workers with pro-social preferences raises much larger questions about capitalism and the wage labor system in general. It's standardly assumed in economic analysis that higher wages reflect higher contributions to society. If workers are actually paying a wage penalty for pro-social behavior, which is just another term for behavior that benefits society at large, this completely undermines standard economic analysis. Really, this point is obvious, one of the many commonplaces that economists simply overlook or dismiss because it doesn't fit in with their geometrical worldview of things. It's probably unlikely to happen, but if enough research is done that these sort of things can quantified, their effect may gain some respectability and become incorporated in models. Again, given the way that economics in general, like many other academic disciplines, seems to mostly work frenziedly to justify the status quo and existent division of power in society, such a development seems rather unlikely. But one can hope, I suppose.
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Good Intentions
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« Reply #152 on: Jun 04, 2010, 01:25:50 PM »

The conclusion they draw from the correlation between pro-social motivation and income levels is very hasty, and there's a lot that can (and needs to be) said here. Let's start with the pretty abstract but really important point that the experimental result they have says something about groups of people -- groups of women have an increase in average productivity when faced with certain pro-social motivations , whereas groups of men do not -- while facts about the decisions people make (like what income they're willing to settle for) are facts about individual people. This means that when you aggregate groups of people together you might find significant results, but the difference from individual to individual is going to be very small, and it's very likely that there are very many men who are more pro-social than the average woman (just not a majority of such men). The fact that the comparison between men and women isn't direct (like it would be if, say, women sprint 10m further than men in these circumstances, or hold their breath for 10s longer), but between different conditions of the same group (with pro-social motivation women spint 1.1 x avg, where avg is how far they sprint without that motivation) is just going to make the relevance of this finding even less clear for answering why this or this woman earns so much less than her male peers. What that study entails is really hard to determine, and any strong conclusions are most likely going to be cases of the overanalysis of results.
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RavingLunatic
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« Reply #153 on: Jun 04, 2010, 01:42:03 PM »

Yeah, I mean, just looking at a study like that alone, I certainly wouldn't draw any strong conclusions; like I said, it's really more suggestive than anything. The reason I think it deserves some attention is that it accords with some common sense notions that most people would assume as a matter of course. (According to the researchers it also agrees with previous research on the topic, though I'm not familiar with it.)

I understand your objection to a study of any group of people being unable to say much about any particular situation, but that's just the nature of social experiment, is it not? I mean, the same objections apply to clinical studies on medical procedures or drugs, but we don't reject the results simply because studies about groups of people do not necessarily apply to any given individual. It's just the best we can do really because studies of particular individuals, i.e. anecdotes, are even more unreliable.
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Good Intentions
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« Reply #154 on: Jun 04, 2010, 01:53:51 PM »

It's not really an objection, it's an observation about what we can and cannot expect these experiments to do.

Very often a study about the relative behaviour of groups of people gets read as saying that 'members of A group are more X than members of B group'. So, a study result that newborn girls on average stare longer at human faces than newborn boys do gets read as saying that girls are more emphatic than boys, or a study like this one gets read as saying that women are more pro-social than men. But this is a very dubious reading of the result: for one thing, you can have a statistically significant result that As are more X on average than Bs, and still have a situation where the top 40% of group B scores higher than the bottom 50% of A. Here is a pretty excellent look at the type of overanalysis I'm talking about.
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RavingLunatic
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« Reply #155 on: Jun 04, 2010, 02:28:47 PM »

Yeah, I get and agree with all that; the misinterpretation of studies among the general public should definitely be guarded against. That's one of the areas where I think the U.S. education system (and other countries' I'd guess) fail pretty miserably. Public understanding of science and the correct way to interpret statistics is really vital to a functioning democracy, but for the most part they don't even try to teach these things except perhaps to some advanced students. This is one of the reasons I regard the influence of religion as for the most part very negative; critical thinking courses that emphasize practical analysis of modern societal problems, if they were established (as I think they should be) in public schools, would be immediately attacked as undermining religion and traditional faith. There are other obstacles to the establishment of public-school classes on skeptical analysis and logic, such as the fact that industry wants the schools to churn out deferential, mindless automatons to run their machines and follow their orders, but I think entrenched religious beliefs have got to be right at the top of the list. 

Also, the Economist is "the best magazine in the world these days"? Liked that article for the most part, but that sentence gave me a good laugh.
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donblood
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« Reply #156 on: Jun 04, 2010, 02:39:44 PM »

Also, the Economist is "the best magazine in the world these days"? Liked that article for the most part, but that sentence gave me a good laugh.

I think it's definitely in the running.  What don't you like about it?
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Good Intentions
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« Reply #157 on: Jun 04, 2010, 02:47:17 PM »


Did you know Indonesia is at a crossroads?
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donblood
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« Reply #158 on: Jun 04, 2010, 02:56:57 PM »

Does that represent a criticism, or is it just a simpsons reference?
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Good Intentions
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« Reply #159 on: Jun 04, 2010, 03:00:44 PM »

I for one don't appreciate the high-minded attitude the Economist has, trying to act as if its more serious than anything else, while it's still a ad-smeared politically sycophantic package of disposable jingo. But I guess it is better than most other magazines, at least.
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RavingLunatic
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« Reply #160 on: Jun 04, 2010, 03:58:45 PM »

Also, the Economist is "the best magazine in the world these days"? Liked that article for the most part, but that sentence gave me a good laugh.

I think it's definitely in the running.  What don't you like about it?

Well, if you're comparing it to the other most popular mainstream magazines like Newsweek, Time, and the like, sure, it's better, but I basically have the same opinion of it that GI expressed. Harper's for one, even though its subject matter is more diverse, is vastly superior. I'd put The Nation far ahead of it as well. I'm not a voracious reader of news magazines, so I can't really comment much beyond that. I've occasionally heard good things about The Atlantic but can't really say I've read much from its pages.
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donblood
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« Reply #161 on: Jun 04, 2010, 09:54:05 PM »

Well, if you're comparing it to the other most popular mainstream magazines like Newsweek, Time, and the like, sure, it's better, but I basically have the same opinion of it that GI expressed. Harper's for one, even though its subject matter is more diverse, is vastly superior. I'd put The Nation far ahead of it as well. I'm not a voracious reader of news magazines, so I can't really comment much beyond that. I've occasionally heard good things about The Atlantic but can't really say I've read much from its pages.

In its class, though, the Economist beats the crap out of the competition.  Harper's and the Atlantic each have their own thing going own - there's no competition to beat the crap out of.

I guess the title of "best magazine" is pretty meaningless, huh

By the way, GI didn't have an opinion, he had a stupid simpsons reference, which hardly qualifies.
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Good Intentions
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« Reply #162 on: Jun 05, 2010, 03:11:27 AM »

I did give you an opinion as well, if you didn't notice. Maybe the Simpsons reference blinded you.
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donblood
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« Reply #163 on: Jun 05, 2010, 03:31:56 AM »

Nah, your opinion was indistinguishable from the simpsons reference. Both the high-minded thing and ad-smeared thing are, how you say, demonstrably false
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Good Intentions
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Posts: 13882


« Reply #164 on: Jun 05, 2010, 03:43:59 AM »

Have it the way you like it, then.

Anyway, we've lost track of the science here.
« Last Edit: Jun 05, 2010, 03:46:25 AM by Good Intentions » Logged
Ignatius
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« Reply #165 on: Jun 05, 2010, 03:55:32 AM »

No fair calling out gi for an insubstantial argument when your defense is that it belongs to an undefined class of magazines, and also it is the best of these.
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donblood
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« Reply #166 on: Jun 05, 2010, 03:59:25 PM »

I didn't say it was undefined - the harper's/atlantic bit was separate.  It's a weekly news magazine, like Time or Newsweek.  It's a pretty specific and well-defined category.  So suck it, Ig.

Though I apologize for being rude, GI.  I've been generally pissed off lately, sorry about that.
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davy
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« Reply #167 on: Jun 15, 2010, 10:08:11 AM »

Topographical Crime Maps of San Francisco

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Antero
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« Reply #168 on: Jun 16, 2010, 04:38:55 AM »

What an interesting map! 

If I'm reading it right, basically everything spikes in the Tenderloin, except for prostitution which also spikes in the Castro?
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this has been OPINIONS IN CAPSLOCK
Nick Ink
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Posts: 7018


« Reply #169 on: Jun 16, 2010, 06:22:38 AM »

Yes! That Strange Maps site never fails to please:

The Korean tiger:


Marge travels across Europe:


US States as countries of equal population:


And for Jim:
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jm
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« Reply #170 on: Jun 16, 2010, 09:11:18 AM »

That site is one of my favorite things.
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YojimboMonkey
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Posts: 12034


« Reply #171 on: Jun 16, 2010, 09:44:39 AM »

And for Jim:


Thanks Nick!

I thought we had a dedicated thread for awesome maps like the ones from that site but I couldn't find it the other day.  I wanted to post the awesome Chicago Beer Bar Map I found last week.  I did end up posting the link somewhere else but here is an image if you missed it

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milesofsparks
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Posts: 5200


« Reply #172 on: Jun 25, 2010, 03:27:43 PM »

I am SO EXCITED for this:
http://www.israel21c.org/201006238085/health/a-birth-control-pill-for-men

I hope it's for real.  I know it's a long way from mice to men, but still--exciting!
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With some of my research and knowledge I am a little sure about it.
Greg Nog
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Posts: 21629


« Reply #173 on: Jun 25, 2010, 03:35:02 PM »

Oh, man.  That would be great.
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donblood
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« Reply #174 on: Jun 25, 2010, 07:31:02 PM »

That would be super great.  Also hoping this translates to humanoids:

Quote
"The mice behaved nicely, they ate and had sex"
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