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13: MAR 4


  • Hibbing, John R., Kevin Smith, and John R. Alford, Predisposed, Chapter 4, "Drunk Flies and Salad Greens".
  • Robert Sapolsky, from Behave, Chapter 14, "Feeling Someone's Pain, Understanding Soemone's Pain, Alleviating Someone's Pain." 521-535.

Sapolsky, Behave, C 14, 521-535

  • starts with "exposure to an aversive state" -- we call it empathy, but what is that?
q1: When does empathy lead us to actually do something helpful?
q2: When we do act, whose benefit is it for?
  • sympathy -- feeling sorry for someone's pain.
  • empathy -- includes a cognitive step of understanding the cause of someone's pain and "taking perspective"
  • compassion -- S. suggests this involves empathy plus taking action.
  • basic account of empathy research:
  • we are 'overimitative' - chimp / kids study524
  • mouse studies -- alterations of sensitivity to pain on seeing pain; fear association seeing another mouse exp fear conditioning
  • lots of species engage in consolation, chimps show third party consolation behavior, no consolation behavior in monkeys -- prairie voles!
  • 526: rats, amazing rats -- US/them behaviors, some flexibility
  • 527: describes mechanism of empathy: early emo contagion in kids may not be linked to cognitive judgement as later, when Theory of Mind emerges
  • Some neurobiology: the ACC - anterior cingulate cortex - processes ineroceptive info, conflict monitoring, (presumably cog. dissonance). susceptible to placebo effect. Importantly, ACC activates on social exclusion, anxiety, disgust, embarrassment, but also pleasure, mutual pleasure.
  • ACC also involved in action circuits. Oxytocin, hormone related to bonding. Block it in voles and they don't console. Awwww!
  • How does self-interested "alarm" system of the ACC get involved in empathy? Sapolsky's hypothesis 530: Feeling someone's pain can be more effective for learning than just knowing that they're in pain. Empathy may also be a self-interested learning system, separately from helping action.
  • Cognitive side of things: How do we bring judgements about desert and character to bear on empathic responses?
  • Cognition comes in with less physical pain, judgement abstractly represented pain (a sign), unfamiliar pain.
  • socioeconomics of empathy 533: wealth predicts lower empathy. the wealthy take more candy!
  • especially hard, cognitively, to empathize with people we don't like, because their pain actually stimulates a dopamine response!

Hibbing, et. al. Predisposed Chapter 4

  • Point about fruit flies: taste for glycerol has biological basis, manipulable, yet we'd say the fly "likes" beer. Variation in human preferences yet also biologically instantiated. Focus on this chapter: taste/pref diffs of conservatives/liberals, their basis, connection to politics. Later, cars, stocks,
  • Obama's arugula faux pas. studies (note problems): supports stereotype. similar findings
  • Hibbing et al research 93: expanded preference research to humour, fiction, art, prefs in poetry, living spaces,
  • Market research in politics: mentions RNC, but consider Ethics News! since this came out. BIG issue here.
  • History of research on finding personality traits that predict politcs: Nazi research - Erich Jaensch J and S type personalities; background of trying to understand WW2 atrocities; hypothesis of authoritarian personality Theordor Adorno, note quote at p. 100. F-scale for Fascism. Han Eysenck's work on "tenderminded/toughminded"; 1960's Glenn Wilson. conservatism as resistance to change and adherence to tradition.
  • 70's and 80s research on RWA - right wing authoritarianism. measure of submission to authority.
  • Hibbing et al assessment: criticisms persist in effort to find an "authoritarian personality". But claim, "there is a deep psychology underlying politics"
  • Personality research: Big Five model: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Two of these are relevant to political orientation. conscientiousness connected to research on "cognitive closure"
  • 105ff: review of Haidt's Moral Foundations Theory
  • 108ff: Values theory of Shalom Schwartz. diagram at 109. 10 core values on axis of individual vs. collective welfare and group loyalty versus ind. pleasure. Diagram also looks like an ideological spectrum.
  • PTC polymorphism linked to conservatism.
  • "Conservatives and liberals experience and process different worlds"