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I, like Lizz, thought that the caveats that the authors make in their conclusions are crucial: shocking imagery that provokes strong negative emotions may work to deter nonsmokers from picking up the habit, but in individuals who already have made strong positive emotional connections to the act of smoking cigarettes will not react in the same way: the immediate and powerful positive emotion will overcome the negative emotions induced by the graphics. I agree with Lizz that making these caveats and investigating these effects in their analysis of the implications of their research lend greater credibility to their findings and in fact make this paper more useful to public health advocates and policymakers.
Toggle Commented Nov 10, 2015 on ECON 398 for next Tuesday at Jolly Green General
What I found most fascinating about this piece was the caveat in the discussion section that the "feeling is for doing" model has not yet been reconciled with the emotions of sadness and Schadenfreude: that there is no known goal-oriented or decision-making purpose. I also found fascinating the interaction between emotions and affect, as Lizz details above. I think that this paper, and pyschological/sociological research in general, could benefit from an evolutionary biological perspective in explaining the potential adaptive benefits of certain affects, the rates of these affects occurring within a given population, as well as the utility of emotions including sadness and schadenfreude.
Toggle Commented Nov 3, 2015 on Econ 398 at Jolly Green General
I also, like Hampton, Matt, and Katherine, found the section on ToM – or “mentalizing” – and specifically how ToM contrasts with empathy and compassion (sympathy). In particular I found the discussion of psychopathy and autistic disorder fascinating. Though I disagree somewhat with the chosen definitions of the conditions listed in the glossary (over which there is in fact significant debate), the differences in terms of understanding and co-experiencing emotions/affect and state of mind was a noteworthy finding. Psychopaths have an unusually heightened capacity for ToM but a stunted capacity to experience empathy and sympathy (compassion), making them highly dangerous and manipulative individuals. I also found the contrast between envy (a negative feeling associated with a perceived fortune for another) and Schadenfreude (a positive feeling associated with a perceived misfortune for another). In thinking about this, I think it’s unfortunate that the authors or indeed the research they looked at did not discuss sympathy/pity (or as the book calls it, compassion) which is a negative feeling associated with a perceived misfortune for another, and also compersion, which is a positive feeling associated with a perceived fortune for another. More research into these four types of co-experiencing (for lack of a better word) would be of great interest and import.
Toggle Commented Oct 27, 2015 on econ 398 next two weeks at Jolly Green General
The discussion about the slow demise of the limbic system and the idea of a concentrically older brain, and how this applies to the dual-aspect theory of mind, I found particularly interesting. While I agree that the validity of the limbic system theory has been very much called into question, I would hesitate to conclude from this that there is no truth in the dual-aspect theory of mind (of passions vs. impartial spectator, in Adams' language). To wit, just because different emotions are modulated by very different parts of the brain (and which developed at various times in our evolutionary history), and just because mood is different from emotions and has an impact on behavior and emotions (as well as vice versa) does not mean that there is not a competition between two fundamental "aspects" of the mind. That is to say, just because all emotions are not conferred by a specific and unique part of the brain that is particularly ancient does NOT necessarily indicate that the dual-aspect theory is correct. In fact, it could be that, like language, memory, and indeed consciousness itself, the two aspects of mind are conferred in a complex way and are not modulated by a centralized and localized region of the brain, but are instead an “emergent” phenomenon. We truly are on the cusp of a new paradigm of the study of mind, but that does not mean we should rush to throw out purely philosophical or psychological theories and observations about how the mind works. It is my opinion that the dual-aspect theory will be vindicated notwithstanding new research showing that the conventionally described limbic system is outmoded.
Toggle Commented Oct 20, 2015 on ECON 398 at Jolly Green General
I really enjoyed reading Matt Kinderman and Katherine Hodges’ comments. They both made an elegant and concise argument for how the “unexpected” and unintuitive decisions that people make as studied in behavioral economics, and those decisions’ further analysis in neuroeconomics, may not actually be “irrational.” I’ll quote Matt here: “I don’t think it’s sufficient to say someone is irrational because they behave ‘intransitively’ between three items. I understand that by definition it is an irrational action, but writing off normal human behaviors that we are trying to model makes for very weak models overall.” Katherine also put it well: “I wonder if there is a rational explanation and function behind why choices cannot be explained by simply using a utility model. As of now, the neoclassical economists disregard the unpredictable as irrational, but if brain function can create predictable choice, would the outcomes be irrational?” I find these arguments very appealing. Why couldn’t intransitivity of choice between objects be rational, despite violating GARP? Unfortunately, I think that those who write about “bounded rationality” are probably right: intransitivity of choice really is irrational. Anyone could invent a utility function to describe someone’s irrational behavior, and then describe it as thus being rational. Take the example of intransitivity: if I prefer an apple to and orange, a peach to an apple, and an orange to a peach, someone could come up with exogenous variables that affect the utility I derive from each of these delicious fruits (that exogenous variable could be something as intangible as framing effects that could affect the desire for one fruit over the other in an intransitive sequence, even in the exact same circumstances). Or take the idea of sunk costs: if I waste my time seeing a terrible movie just because I already purchased the ticket, classical rationality theory would say that I am irrational. But if I derive sufficient utility just from the knowledge that I am consuming a product that I had already purchased (and therefore not “wasting” my money), then it could be considered a rational behavior. The simple claim that a person chooses the option which yields the highest utility, or behaves in a way that maximizes utility, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Any behavior can be arbitrarily termed as having the highest “utility” (such as accounting for sunk costs or revealing intransitive preferences). The fact is, intransitivity of choice has been demonstrated and it does in fact violate a core tenet of classical rationality theory. This means that people—and groups of people organizing themselves in markets—do not always behave in rational ways. Macroeconomists have long recognized the significance of “animal spirits” in markets. As economists, we must reconcile this fact, and use behavioral and neuroeconomics to further our understanding of human behavior and market functioning. The good news is that there is considerable evidence that we can actually train ourselves to behave more rationally. This is, as Adam Smith would say, training our “impartial spectator” to wield more power over our “passions.”
Toggle Commented Sep 22, 2015 on ECON 398 at Jolly Green General
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Feb 11, 2014