SEP 28

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9: SEP 28


  • Robert Sapolsky, C 13, "Morality" pp. 483-493
  • Haidt, Chapter 4, "Vote for Me (Here's Why)" (23)

SW1 Update

  • This afternoon I will send out a link to the folder containing SW1 writing, along with a "key" to show you which animals you are to peer review. Today, we will look at the assignment rubric a bit more and talk about good peer commenting practices.
  • Some thoughts on helpful peer commenting:
  • You are only asked to write two or three sentences of comments, so choose wisely!
  • "gentle criticism"
  • "I'm having trouble understanding this sentence" vs. "This sentence makes no sense!"
  • "I think more attention could have been paid to X vs. You totally ignored the prompt!
  • Wrap a criticism with an affirmation or positive comment
  • General and specific -- Ok to identify general problem with the writing, but giving examples of the problem or potential solutions.

Sapolsky. Behave. C 13, 483-493

Rough topics:

  • Origins of Social/Moral Intuitions in Babies and Monkeys and Chimps
  • More infant morality:
  • weigh commission more than ommision - infants track commission better than ommission, as in adults.
  • prosociality - helper puppet studies,
  • punishment - sweets go to helper puppets
  • tracks secondary punishment - secondary friends study - Babies prefer secondary puppets who were nice to nice puppets and punished bad puppets.
  • Capuchin monkey study (deWaal) - "monkey fairness". (demonstrated also with macaques monkeys, crows, ravens, and dogs), details on 485. google "crows solving puzzles" or "elephants solving puzzles" animals are much more intelligent than we have historically understood.
  • Chimp version of Ultimatum Game - in the deWaal version, chimps tend toward equity unless the proposer can give the token directly to the grape dispensers. 486
  • "other regarding preferences" (Does the animal show awareness of other's preferences?) in monkeys, but not in chimps! Keep this in mind the next time you are thinking about whether to cooperate with a chimp.
  • some evidence of "solidarity" in one inequity study the advantaged monkey (the one who gets grapes) stops working as well.
  • Interesting comment: human morality transcends species boundary. starts before us.
  • Exemptions for testifying against relatives and vmPFC patients who will trade relatives in Trolley situations.
  • vmPFC damaged patient will sacrifice a relative to save four non-relatives.
  • Interesting note about criminal law exemptions.
  • Neuroscience of the Trolley Problem and "Intuition discounting"
  • dlPFC in level condition and vmPFC in bridge condition.
  • Greene's hypothesis: not so much because it is "up close and personal" as we speculated, but in lever condition the killing of the one is a side-effect. In bridge condition, its because of the killing. Different kinds of intentionality. Ok for most people if you push someone out of the way on your way to the lever. Not intentional killing.
  • Loop condition -- you know you have to kill the person on the side track, should be like bridge condition, but test subjects match lever condition, roughly.
  • Hypothesis: Intuitions are local; heavily discounted for time and space. (Think of other examples of this.) Stories in which your reaction to something changes when you learn where it happens.
  • Related point about proximity - leave money around vs. cokes. Cokes disappear. One step from money and the rationalization is easier. (Also in Ariely research) Singer's pool scenario vs. sending money for absolute poverty relief.
  • priming study on cheating involving bankers. 492 - shows "intuition discounting" when primed to think about work identity. more cheating the more primed about "role" - "It's not me"...
  • "But this circumstance is different..."
  • Under stress subjects make more egoistic, rationalizing judgments regarding emoitonal moral dilemmas.
  • [this is not mentioned in the text, but it is what he is talking about: the Fundamental Attribution Error - neuro-evidence for the Fundamental Attribution Error [1]
  • we judge ourselves by internal motives and others by external actions. Our failings/successes elicit shame/pride others elicit anger and indignation or emulation (envy?). The FAE suggests that we explain our own failures more generously than the failures of others. We offer ourselves excuses (inner lawyer) but are biased toward inferring bad intent from others.

Haidt, Chapter 4, "Vote for Me (Here's Why)"

  • Ring of Gyges - Glaucon got it right.
  • Key principle for ethical society: "make sure that everyone's reputation is on the line all the time" (even the babies in the room are keeping track!)
  • Functionalism in psychology applied to morality - What does morality do for us?
  • Tetlock: accountability research
  • Exploratory vs. Confirmatory thought
  • Conditions promoting exploratory thought (def: evenhanded consideration of alt POVs)
  • 1) knowing ahead of time that you'll be called to account; [so, transparency!]
  • 2) not knowing what the audience thinks;
  • 3) believing that the audience is well informed and interested in truth or accuracy.
  • Point: We will tend toward confirmatory thought (Hume - Reason a slave of the passions) unless our reputation is at stake (in which case we are more motivated to justify ourselves to others).
  • Section 1: Obsessed with polls
  • Leary's research on self-esteem importance- "sociometer" -- non-conscious level mostly.
  • Section 2: Confirmation bias and exploratory thought
  • Confirmation bias (def: tendency to seek and interp. evidence to confirm our view)
  • Wasson again -- number series
  • Deann Kuhn -- 80: We are horrible at theorizing (requiring exploratory thought)....
  • David Perkins research on reason giving - IQ only predicts ability to generate "my-side" arguments. Interesting criticism of education here!
  • Section 3: We're really good at finding rationalizations for things.
  • more examples of people behaving as Glaucon would have predicted.
  • Members of parliament cheat on their privileges when they know there is no accountability.
  • Plausible deniability - correct change study. Only 20% speak up unless asked, then 60%.
  • Ariely, matrix-cheating research - Predictably Irrational
  • Section 4: Can I believe it? vs. Must I believe it?
  • When we want to believe something we ask the first question, when we don't want to believe something, we ask the second question.
  • "Motivated reasoning" - 84ff.
  • Section 5: Application to political beliefs: Partisan Brains
  • Does self interest or group affiliation predict policy preferences? Not so much self-interest. We are groupish. (Interesting implications for democracies governed by political parties.)
  • Drew Westen's fMRI research on strongly partisan individuals. We feel threat to dissonant information (like hypocrisy or lying) about our preferred leader, but no threat, or even pleasure, at the problems for the opponent. the partisan brain. Difference in brain activation did not seem to be rational/cog (dlPFC). bit of dopamine after threat passes. (Important point: cog/emo dissonance is painful! -except for good philosophers.)
  • Research suggests that ethicists are not more ethical than others. (89 Schwitzgebel)
  • Mercier and Sperber. Why Do Humans Reason?
  • Good thinking as an emergent property. individual neurons vs. networks. analogy to social intelligence.
  • Statement, 90, on H's view of political life in light of this way of theorizing. read and discuss. introduce term "social epistemology"