Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Science proves it: Money really can buy happiness

By Karen Kaplan of the LA Times. Ben Franklin said that time is money and that is the key to a new study. Excerpt:
"The researchers, led by Ashley Whillans, a new professor at the Harvard Business School, began with survey data from nearly 4,500 people from the United States, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands. Survey-takers were asked whether they paid other people to do “unenjoyable daily tasks” in order to “increase their free time.” 

In 28% of cases, the answer was yes. These folks spent an average of $147.95 per month to buy themselves extra time.

What they lost in currency, they made up for in happiness. Whillans and her colleagues found that the people who traded money for time were more satisfied with life than their counterparts who didn’t. They also were less likely to say they felt “time stress,” a condition that was linked with lower levels of life satisfaction.

Just in case their original question was too narrow, the researchers conducted a second survey that asked more than 1,800 Americans whether they spent money to buy themselves “more free time.”

This time, half of the survey-takers answered yes. These folks spent between $80 and $99 per month, on average, so that others would handle chores like cooking, shopping and “household maintenance.”

As before, the people who bought themselves time were more satisfied with life than those who didn’t. And as before, the people who didn’t employ this strategy were generally less satisfied with life because their lack of free time was stressing them out.

These findings held up even after the researchers took into account the amount of money survey-takers spent on groceries — a variable used as a proxy for discretionary income.

“People across the income spectrum benefited from buying time,” the researchers wrote."

Earlier posts:

What Brings More Happiness, More Time Or More Money? (this study found that people that chose more free time over more money tended to be happier)

Does Wealth Make Us Happier? (maybe wealth buys freedom that makes us happier)

Another interesting article is The pursuit of happiness: Author seeks to take its measure and find where people are most content. It quotes former University of Chicago psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He said "Without dreams, without risks, only a trivial semblance of living can be achieved."

Some earlier posts on happiness:

Does Or Can Money Buy Happiness?

Interesting Book: Stumbling on Happiness

Does Money Make You Mean?

Money buys happiness after all

The happiness wars

Dagwood Bumpstead Explains The Hedonic Treadmill

Monday, July 24, 2017

Data show that socially responsible investments can outperform the S&P 500 index

See ‘Robo’ Advisers Betterment, Wealthfront Get In on Socially Responsible Investing: Betterment to use ETFs that track socially responsible indexes; Wealthfront will give clients flexibility to invest directly in stocks by Anne Tergesen of the WSJ.

Adam Smith's "invisible hand" suggests that if you follow your own self interest, you will promote the interests of society. It seems it works out here since investing in socially responsible companies seems to give a slightly higher yield. I have had some posts on this issue of being selfish vs. being altruistic and if they can actually be separated before. So those links are at the end.


"Two pioneers of computer-driven “robo” advice are joining an industrywide trend toward offering socially responsible investments.

Betterment LLC announced Wednesday that it will offer portfolios that favor companies with strong records on the environment, corporate governance, human rights, and health and safety, among other factors. Rival Wealthfront Inc. earlier this month announced similar plans to introduce socially responsible investing options later this year."

"New York-based Betterment is using exchange-traded funds that track socially responsible indexes. Wealthfront, of Redwood City, Calif., says it will give clients the flexibility to invest directly in stocks or avoid ones that don’t meet their criteria."

"Driving the trend is a desire on the part of individuals to spend and invest in ways that are consistent with their values. Data also show that socially responsible investments can outperform over the long run; since 1990, the MSCI KLD 400 Social Index has returned an average of 8.4% a year, versus 7.6% for the S&P 500 index."

"To get exposure to large-cap stocks, the company [Betterment] is using the iShares MSCI KLD 400 Social Fund. The index it tracks, the MSCI KLD 400 Social Index, screens out many companies involved in industries including tobacco, military weapons, nuclear power, adult entertainment and genetically modified crops."

"Wealthfront plans to give clients the option to screen out four sectors: fossil fuels, deforestation, weapons and tobacco.  In addition, it will let clients eliminate individual stocks they wish to avoid."

Is it a retailer’s job to keep shoppers from their vices? (or Adam Smith vs. CVS pharmacy)

Can You Find Virtue by Investing in Vice?

What if companies pledge to adhere to social and environmental accountability guidelines?

Conspicuous Consumption, Conspicuous Virtue, Thorstein Veblen (and Adam Smith, too!) 

For a humorous view of this issue see

A Snickers a Day Keeps the Doctor Away: Why does CVS want to make my migraine cures hard to find? by Joseph C. Sternberg of the WSJ:

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Is Venmo Affecting Friendships?

See Thanks to Venmo, We Now All Know How Cheap Our Friends Are by TEDDY WAYNE of the NY Times. Excerpts:
"The two organizers [of a party] had itemized each woman’s individual expenses, which they had covered, and requested reimbursement through Venmo, an app that transfers money between users who have linked their bank accounts to their phones. Ms. Pennoyer owed $31.98 to one woman and $20.62 to the other."

"In a previous time, the organizers likely would have asked everyone to bring enough cash to repay them in person or to mail a check afterward, courteously rounding down to $30 and $20. But the Venmo request, calculated to the penny, struck Ms. Pennoyer, 29, as emblematic of how the app, the most popular among her fellow millennials for everything from entertainment expenses to rent shares, “changes friendships and makes them more transactional,” she said. “It’s nickel-and-diming everything, literally.”"

"“I have a friend who’s against Venmo because he believes it harms the norm of social reciprocity,”"

"Ms. Pennoyer agreed and recalled childhood taxi rides, when two adults would fight to treat the other. Now, thanks to a host (or perhaps that’s the wrong word) of money transfer and bill splitting apps — such as Divvy, which takes a photo of a restaurant receipt and assigns a bill to each diner — and a fare-splitting feature built into Uber and Lyft (for a 25-cent fee), “that doesn’t happen with my generation,”"

"Once two people have decided to repay a debt with Venmo, there is the additional awkwardness of asking for payment."

"The app also allows users to request payment — in other words, to send an acquaintance a formal invoice."

"Yet, as with anything emoji-speckled or exclamation-point-riddled, there is a performative aspect to the memos, especially since the default mode is that transactions (though not the dollar amount) and contact lists are publicly viewable. Moreover, the app can search one’s phone contacts or Facebook network for users, and its default setting is to add new ones as they sign up for the service. As such, it is like any other social network in that you can lose yourself for hours roaming through the financial transactions of others (or just seeing who someone’s Venmo “friends” are)."

"It is possible to make one’s ledger and contacts private, but many users overlook these options"

"Ms. Pennoyer saw that two of her cousins socialized recently and didn’t invite her."

"easy for a boss to search an employee’s full name on Venmo and discover a payment represented by a suggestive leaf."

"“You can tell who’s hooking up, if there’s enough of a pattern between two people that you thought were just friends but seem to be more than friends, because they leave a trail of clues via Uber payments or breakfast payments,”"

"the strongest demonstration of intimacy might be abandoning the service altogether. Mr. Fuchs and his fiancée used to use Venmo, but in preparation for their recent wedding, the two opened a joint checking account and now pool their expenses there. “We’ve stopped settling up,” he said."

Friday, July 21, 2017

Saudis grapple with fake street sweepers

From the BBC. At the end are links to many posts I have done on fake phenomena.

"Beggars in the Saudi cities of Jeddah and Riyadh have apparently found a new way of getting hold of money - by posing as street sweepers.

According to Arab News, street sweepers in Jeddah only earn 400 riyals ($107; £82) per month, and rely on tips from passers-by to lift their income to a living wage, a fact not missed by people who the paper claims are largely "illegal foreign workers" looking for a slice of this largesse.

Street cleaners work an 11-hour day, six days a week, among rats and feral cats, journalist Essam Al-Ghalib writes. However, they can earn an extra 700 to 2,500 riyals per month in tips on top of the tiny salaries, with most of this extra coming from passing motorists motivated by "a sense of pity and charity".

An official in charge of street cleaning in some Jeddah districts told the paper that there is a problem with imposters "obtaining uniforms and pretending to be street cleaners in order to get money". This pretence involves loitering near traffic lights with a broom and a high-vis tabard, and pestering drivers when they stop at a red light.

Hidden poverty


While Saudi Arabia is home to some of the richest people in the world, unequal wealth distribution means that up to 20% of its citizens are living in poverty. While begging is commonplace and slum districts exist, a 2013 Time magazine feature says they are "largely hidden from sight".
Social media users wondered why Saudi Arabia pays its public service workers so little, with one saying that the government "should show some respect to such workers"; while another said "This country has wealth in abundance yet it fails to pay humane salaries".

One more eloquent commenter wrote about the fake cleaners, saying "It makes me angry to see some of these well fed goons with sporty beards and brooms jostling around the proximity of signals, and snap off handouts from the innocent public, like chameleons catching flies without a wisp of thanks."
But one legitimately-employed cleaner "Mohammed" told Arab News how to avoid tipping the wrong people. "Those who want to give us a tip shouldn't give to those who stand at traffic lights. If you want to give money, give it to the cleaners there who you actually see cleaning"."

A fake job reference can be just a few clicks away.

Fake Economist Fools Portugal.

Slave Redemption in Sudan. (Fake slaves are sold to those who buy slaves and then give them their freedom)

Can A Product Work Just Because It's Expensive?. (fake medicine)

If It Pays To Have Friends, Can You Pay To Have Friends?. (you can hire fake boyfriends)

Study: Half of American Doctors Give Patients Placebos Without Telling Them.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Paying Americans to go to the gym may not be enough to help them build a habit of regular exercise

See People Don’t Exercise Much More Even If You Pay Them to Go to the Gym: Study finds 'quite modest' differences between people who were, weren’t paid to work out by Ben Leubsdorf of the WSJ. Links to related posts are given at the end of this post.
"Paying Americans to go to the gym may not be enough to help them build a habit of regular exercise.
A new study, circulated Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research as a working paper, described a recent experiment in which new gym members were given up to $60 based on attendance over a six-week period. They worked out a bit more than people who weren’t paid to exercise, but in the longer run both groups ended up going to the gym about once a week.

“We don’t find evidence that it persists after the incentive program ends,” said Case Western Reserve University economist Mariana Carrera, one of the paper’s four co-authors. The others were Heather Royer of the University of California at Santa Barbara; Mark Stehr of Drexel University; and Justin Sydnor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Finding ways to encourage healthy behavior, such as exercise and eating a nutritious diet, is a big challenge facing the U.S. health system. More than a third of U.S. adults are obese, driving health problems and deaths from heart disease and other causes. But as the new study suggests, it isn’t a simple matter to nudge Americans to adopt healthier habits like regular workouts.

“There’s no easy solution,” Ms. Carrera said.

According to the new working paper, 690 people who joined a private gym in an unidentified Midwestern city from September 2015 to April 2016 were divided into four groups. A control group received a $30 gift card after six weeks regardless of attendance. The others received gift cards of either $30 or $60, or a gift worth about $30, only if they went to the gym at least nine days in their first six weeks of membership.

The study noted new gym members were “extremely overoptimistic about how often they will visit the gym, and there is a fast decline in their visit frequency over the first few months of membership.” On average, they said they’d go about three times a week, but started off going twice a week and after a couple of months were exercising just once a week.

Differences between people who were and weren’t paid to work out were “quite modest,” the researchers wrote. The paid participants went, on average, 0.14 more times per week than the control group. That difference largely disappeared after the six-week program ended.

“We conclude that the provision of moderately sized financial incentives only moderately helped new gym members establish better habits for using the gym,” the economists wrote.

Other research on this subject has been mixed, the paper said, with some evidence that incentives encourage gym attendance but other studies finding modest and inconsistent gains."

Maybe Exercise Can Help Improve Your GPA

Should your company or insurer reward you for meeting exercise goals?

Should Overweight People Pay More For Health Insurance?

Should We Pay People To Adopt A Healthy Lifestyle?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

In Love and War, Markets Keep Forming

See Finding Love in London in the WSJ.

As bombs rained down on England, two matchmakers arranged marriages for would-be lovers. Caroline Moorehead reviews ‘The Marriage Bureau’ by Penrose Halson. 

Markets are all about bringing people together and entrepreneurs always seem to find clever and new ways to do this, even in tough circumstances. Excerpts:

"In 1938 ... Audrey Parsons [with her partner Heather Jenner, opened],  an agency bringing together bored and lonely spinsters trapped at home with the equally lonely bachelor planters, soldiers and civil servants serving in distant outposts of the Empire."

"the two set up shop as the Marriage Bureau, charging a small sum for initial introductions and a larger one in the event of a successful pairing."

"Before long, there were queues up the stairs. Young ladies languishing in the home counties made the visit, and men on leave from the colonies. But so did milliners and shop assistants, shorthand typists and musicians, aristocratic widows and divorced actresses, along with rat catchers, clerks, clergymen and baronets. There was a blip after war was declared, but soon came growing numbers of soldiers, wishing to find love before leaving, and women not wanting to be left on the shelf."
What were the men and women of that time looking for? Good business owners need to know the tastes and preferences of their customers.
"Women looked for men with dark or wavy hair, tender hearts and accepting natures but objected to false teeth, bigotry, pub crawling or too great a passion for golf. Men seemed to want “average, plumpish” women who liked poultry farming. One man had no objection to “painted finger nails or a dowry”; another requested a “good cook, able to make jam, dress poultry and rabbits.” Many declared that they would not tolerate bossiness, sarcasm or sulkiness."

"Over the years, Heather and Audrey secured thousands of marriages. But whether the male client requesting “no hysteria, no gold diggers” and a taste for mountaineering, or the woman asking for a member of the “Metropolitan police force” interested in literature, philosophy and psychology, ever found a mate is not recorded."

Monday, July 17, 2017

Adam Smith And Joseph Campbell On The Dangers Of "The Man Of System"

Here is a passage from The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Smith at the Library of Economics and Liberty. Smith emphasizes the arrogance and conceit of those who think they can arrange society any way they want. In a separate passage, Smith writes about how this can be dangerous (that follows this longer excerpt). First, Smith discusses the man of humanity and benevolence, then the man of system for contrast. Then I have some quotes that are similar from Campbell.
"The man whose public spirit is prompted altogether by humanity and benevolence, will respect the established powers and privileges even of individuals, and still more those of the great orders and societies, into which the state is divided. Though he should consider some of them as in some measure abusive, he will content himself with moderating, what he often cannot annihilate without great violence. When he cannot conquer the rooted prejudices of the people by reason and persuasion, he will not attempt to subdue them by force; but will religiously observe what, by Cicero, is justly called the divine maxim of Plato, never to use violence to his country no more than to his parents. He will accommodate, as well as he can, his public arrangements to the confirmed habits and prejudices of the people; and will remedy as well as he can, the inconveniencies which may flow from the want of those regulations which the people are averse to submit to. When he cannot establish the right, he will not disdain to ameliorate the wrong; but like Solon, when he cannot establish the best system of laws, he will endeavour to establish the best that the people can bear.
The man of system, on the contrary, is apt to be very wise in his own conceit; and is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it. He goes on to establish it completely and in all its parts, without any regard either to the great interests, or to the strong prejudices which may oppose it. He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might chuse to impress upon it. If those two principles coincide and act in the same direction, the game of human society will go on easily and harmoniously, and is very likely to be happy and successful. If they are opposite or different, the game will go on miserably, and the society must be at all times in the highest degree of disorder.
Some general, and even systematical, idea of the perfection of policy and law, may no doubt be necessary for directing the views of the statesman. But to insist upon establishing, and upon establishing all at once, and in spite of all opposition, every thing which that idea may seem to require, must often be the highest degree of arrogance."
Adam Smith also says in his book The Theory of Moral Sentiments:

"The natural course of things cannot be entirely controlled by the impotent endeavours of man: the current is too rapid and too strong for him to stop it; and though the rules which direct it appear to have been established for the wisest and best purposes, they sometimes produce effects which shock all his natural sentiments."
The "effects which shock all his natural sentiments" are the unintended consequences of on man trying to impose his will on society. He can't know all the effects of all the changes he his bringing to a complex system.

Here is what Campbell has to say. This is from the book The Power of Myth (some parts might only be in the video version of the interview Campbell did with Bill Moyers upon which the book was base):

Campbell condemns "the man of system."  He states this clearly while speaking of the character Darth Vader from the Star Wars movie trilogy.  He is critical of him being an "executive of a system" who has no humanity. The man of system is a government planner, a bureaucrat who wishes to impose his own ideals on society.  Campbell mentions what he thinks is a good Oriental idea:  "You don't force your mission down people's throats." (recall that Smith says the man of benevolence respects individuals, and will not attempt to subdue them by force) Also, "Instead of clearing his own heart, the zealot tries to clear the world." (Smith refers to "furious zealots" who have contempt for open minded people)   Both Campbell and Smith fear the planner who will force his system on the rest of us.  Campbell's views on this are best expressed in his comments on Darth Vader, the evil dark lord of the Star Wars movie trilogy.

"Darth Vader has not developed his own humanity.  He's a robot.  He's a bureaucrat living not in terms of himself but in terms of an imposed system.  This is the threat that we all face today.  Is the system going to flatten you out and deny you your humanity, or are you going to be able to make use of the system so that you are not compulsively serving it?  It doesn't help to try to change it to accord with your system of thought.  The momentum of history behind it is too great for anything really significant to evolve from that kind of action" (this is like Smith saying the current is too strong to be stopped by the impotent endeavours of man)

This is all seen much more clearly in an exchange between Campbell and Moyers from the second televised segment of The Power of Myth called "The Message of the Myth": 

Moyers:  Do you see some of the new metaphors emerging in the modern medium for the old universal truths that you've talked about, the old story?

Campbell:  Well, I think that the Star Wars is a valid mythological perspective for the problem of is the machine-and the state is a machine (emphasis added)-is the machine going to crush humanity or serve humanity? 

And humanity comes not from the machine but from the heart. 

[As the unmasking of Darth Vader scene from the movie The Return of the Jedi  is shown, Campbell continues:]

Campbell:  The father (Darth Vader) had been playing one of these machine roles, a state role; he was the uniform, you know?  And the removal of that mask-there was an undeveloped man there.  He was kind of a worm by being the executive of a system.  One is not developing one's humanity.  I think George Lucas did a beautiful thing there.

Moyers:  The idea of machine is the idea that we want the world to be made in our image and what we think the world ought to be.

[Campbell seemed to agree or at least offered no dissent to this statement of Moyers-again, Smith says the man of system wants to impose his own plan on society, very similar to making the world in your own image]

Campbell put this in a slightly different way when he also discussed the movie Star Wars:

"Here the man (George Lucas) understands metaphor.  What I saw was things that had been in my books but rendered in terms of the modern problem, which is man and machine.  Is the machine going to be the servant of human life?  Or is it going to be master and dictate?  And the machine includes the totalitarian state, whether it is Fascist or Communist it's still the same state. And it includes things happening in this country too; the bureaucrat, the machine-man. "What a wonderful power the machine gives you-but is it going to dominate you?  That's the problem of Goethe's Faust.  It's in the last two acts of Faust, Part Two.  His pact is with Mephistopheles, the man who can furnish you the means to do anything you want.  He's the machine manufacturer.  He can manufacture the bombs, but can he give you what the human spirit wants and needs?  He can't.

This statement of what the need and want is must come from you, not from the machine, and not from the government that is teaching you (emphasis added) or not even from the clergy. It has to come from one's own inside, and the minute you let that drop and take what the dictation of the time is instead of your own eternity (recall Smith says "every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might chuse to impress upon it"), you have capitulated to the devil.  And you're in hell.
That's what I think George Lucas brought forward.  I admire what he's done immensely, immensely.  That young man opened a vista and knew how to follow it and it was totally fresh.  It seems to me that he carried that thing through very, very well" (From The Hero's Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work by Phil Cousineau).

Adam Smith Meets Joseph Campbell

Campbell wrote the book The Hero With a Thousand Faces, which was one of the inspirations for Star Wars. He was interviewed by Bill Moyers in a six hour series in the 1980s on PBS. That series was called The Power of Myth.

Here is one passage:
"“This is the threat to our lives that we all face today. Is the system going to flatten you out and deny you your humanity, or are you going to be able to make use of the system to the attainment of human purposes? How do you relate to the system so that you are not compulsively serving it? It doesn't help to try to change it to accord with your system of thought. The momentum of history behind it is too great for anything really significant to evolve from that kind of action. The thing to do is learn to live in your period of history as a human being. That's something else, and it can be done.”"
Here is another:
"The world is a wasteland. People have the notion of saving the world by shifting it around and changing the rules and so forth. No, any world is a living world if it’s alive, and the thing is to bring it to life. And the way to bring it to life is to find in your own case where your life is, and be alive yourself, it seems to me."
Adam Smith said something that seemed similar in his book The Theory of Moral Sentiments:
"The natural course of things cannot be entirely controlled by the impotent endeavours of man: the current is too rapid and too strong for him to stop it; and though the rules which direct it appear to have been established for the wisest and best purposes, they sometimes produce effects which shock all his natural sentiments."
Smith also seems to be hinting at the law of unintended consequences. Here is a longer excerpt to see the context:
"But though the general rules by which prosperity and adversity are commonly distributed, when considered in this cool and philosophical light, appear to be perfectly suited to the situation of mankind in this life, yet they are by no means suited to some of our natural sentiments. Our natural love and admiration for some virtues is such, that we should wish to bestow on them all sorts of honours and rewards, even those which we must acknowledge to be the proper recompenses of other qualities, with which those virtues are not always accompanied. Our detestation, on the contrary, for some vices is such, that we should desire to heap upon them every sort of disgrace and disaster, those not excepted which are the natural consequences of very different qualities. Magnanimity, generosity, and justice, command so high a degree of admiration, that we desire to see them crowned with wealth, and power, and honours of every kind, the natural consequences of prudence, industry, and application; qualities with which those virtues are not inseparably connected. Fraud, falsehood, brutality, and violence, on the other hand, excite in every human breast such scorn and abhorrence, that our indignation rouses to see them possess those advantages which they may in some sense be said to have merited, by the diligence and industry with which they are sometimes attended. The industrious knave cultivates the soil; the indolent good man leaves it uncultivated. Who ought to reap the harvest? who starve, and who live in plenty? The natural course of things decides it in favour of the knave: the natural sentiments of mankind in favour of the man of virtue. Man judges, that the good qualities of the one are greatly over-recompensed by those advantages which they tend to procure him, and that the omissions of the other are by far too severely punished by the distress which they naturally bring upon him; and human laws, the consequences of human sentiments, forfeit the life and the estate of the industrious and cautious traitor, and reward, by extraordinary recompenses, the fidelity and public spirit of the improvident and careless good citizen. Thus man is by Nature directed to correct, in some measure, that distribution of things which she herself would otherwise have made. The rules which for this purpose she prompts him to follow, are different from those which she herself observes. She bestows upon every virtue, and upon every vice, that precise reward or punishment which is best fitted to encourage the one, or to restrain the other. She is directed by this sole consideration, and pays little regard to the different degrees of merit and demerit, which they may seem to possess in the sentiments and passions of man. Man, on the contrary, pays regard to this only, and would endeavour to render the state of every virtue precisely proportioned to that degree of love and esteem, and of every vice to that degree of contempt and abhorrence, which he himself conceives for it. The rules which she follows are fit for her, those which he follows for him: but both are calculated to promote the same great end, the order of the world, and the perfection and happiness of human nature.

But though man is thus employed to alter that distribution of things which natural events would make, if left to themselves; though, like the gods of the poets, he is perpetually interposing, by extraordinary means, in favour of virtue, and in opposition to vice, and, like them, endeavours to turn away the arrow that is aimed at the head of the righteous, but to accelerate the sword of destruction that is lifted up against the wicked; yet he is by no means able to render the fortune of either quite suitable to his own sentiments and wishes. The natural course of things cannot be entirely controlled by the impotent endeavours of man: the current is too rapid and too strong for him to stop it; and though the rules which direct it appear to have been established for the wisest and best purposes, they sometimes produce effects which shock all his natural sentiments. That a great combination of men should prevail over a small one; that those who engage in an enterprise with forethought and all necessary preparation, should prevail over such as oppose them without any; and that every end should be acquired by those means only which Nature has established for acquiring it, seems to be a rule not only necessary and unavoidable in itself, but even useful and proper for rousing the industry and attention of mankind. Yet, when, in consequence of this rule, violence and artifice prevail over sincerity and justice, what indignation does it not excite in the breast of every human spectator? What sorrow and compassion for the sufferings of the innocent, and what furious resentment against the success of the oppressor? We are equally grieved and enraged at the wrong that is done, but often find it altogether out of our power to redress it. When we thus despair of finding any force upon earth which can check the triumph of injustice, we naturally appeal to heaven, and hope, that the great Author of our nature will himself execute hereafter, what all the principles which he has given us for the direction of our conduct, prompt us to attempt even here; that he will complete the plan which he himself has thus taught us to begin; and will, in a life to come, render to every one according to the works which he has performed in this world. And thus we are led to the belief of a future state, not only by the weaknesses, by the hopes and fears of human nature, but by the noblest and best principles which belong to it, by the love of virtue, and by the abhorrence of vice and injustice."

Saturday, July 15, 2017

People gave up a chance to win money in order to avoid hearing from those with opposing political views

See Liberals and conservatives are similarly motivated to avoid exposure to one another's opinions by Jeremy A.Frimer, Linda J.Skitka and Matt Motyl in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology."

Yesterday's post was on how Adam Smith made observations that were similar to what Jonathan Haidt has been saying in recent years about political polarization. So this research is interesting given that people will give up the chance to win money rather than hear opposing views.

Here are the highlights and abstract, but the whole article is there at the link:


Liberals and conservatives are similarly motivated to avoid crosscutting information.
Approximately two thirds of people gave up a chance to win extra money in order to avoid hearing from the other side.
The aversion applied to issues such as same-sex marriage, elections, marijuana, climate change, guns, and abortion.
The aversion is not a product of already being or feeling knowledgeable.
People anticipated that crosscutting information would produce cognitive dissonance and harm relationships.


Ideologically committed people are similarly motivated to avoid ideologically crosscutting information. Although some previous research has found that political conservatives may be more prone to selective exposure than liberals are, we find similar selective exposure motives on the political left and right across a variety of issues. The majority of people on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate willingly gave up a chance to win money to avoid hearing from the other side (Study 1). When thinking back to the 2012 U.S. Presidential election (Study 2), ahead to upcoming elections in the U.S. and Canada (Study 3), and about a range of other Culture War issues (Study 4), liberals and conservatives reported similar aversion toward learning about the views of their ideological opponents. Their lack of interest was not due to already being informed about the other side or attributable election fatigue. Rather, people on both sides indicated that they anticipated that hearing from the other side would induce cognitive dissonance (e.g., require effort, cause frustration) and undermine a sense of shared reality with the person expressing disparate views (e.g., damage the relationship; Study 5). A high-powered meta-analysis of our data sets (N = 2417) did not detect a difference in the intensity of liberals' (d = 0.63) and conservatives' (d = 0.58) desires to remain in their respective ideological bubbles."