This post was edited by dostoevskydr at 2013-9-12 18:14|
Paying Volunteers Makes Them Work Less
Volunteer work, like charity, is something that should be rewarded. But apparently it shouldn’t be rewarded with money.
Researchers tested people’s willingness to volunteer their time for a cause, if they were paid for doing so. Amazingly, when the person was given a monetary incentive to complete the work, the amount of time they volunteered plummeted.
Though this may suggest that people are more likely to do something nice when there’s no question of financial reward, it also means that the ability of organizations to increase volunteers is largely limited to whether or not people feel like volunteering. You only need to refer to an item below to know why that’s a kind of a bad thing.
We Assume That Strangers Are Male
Gender inequality is certainly a hot topic—and since you’re reading this online, you’re presumably already aware of how divisive the issue can be. In spite of the general enlightenment concerning sexism, it appears that gender discrimination is so ingrained in our heads that we’ll generally assume an unknown figure is a man—regardless of what the evidence tells us.
In an experiment published last year, it was found that when presented with computer simulated images of a human body, the majority of people assumed these images were of a man—even when the images shown depicted a female body or silhouette.
If you’re wondering why this is important, think of all the times you’ve seen God—who supposedly lies beyond our imaginations—portrayed as a male. And think of all the times you’ve assumed that a doctor is going to be a man. Our habit of automatic male identification goes partway to explaining why that may be the case; and it presents a problem for anyone who values gender equality.
We’re Easily Persuaded By Authority
If you’ve ever heard of Milgram’s experiments, you’re probably already aware of the concept of submission to authority.
The really surprising thing is how little actual authority a person needs in order to persuade people to do evil things. In one of Milgram’s most famous experiments, for example, participants were asked to administer tiny doses of electricity to another human being from a remote location, as part of a study. As the voltage increased, the actor being “electrocuted”—who had originally given his consent—began to beg for the experiment to stop.
The ordinary people involved in the experiment expressed doubts about the safety of the person they were electrocuting; but all that was needed to make them continue was a man in a lab coat.
If you’re wondering if this weird obedience is exclusively reserved for men in lab coats, it’s not: hustlers in the UK informally tested this theory of social compliance, and figured out that masquerading as an authority figure can be as simple as putting on a fluorescent jacket.
We’re Not Born Equal
“Practice makes perfect” is one of the oldest sayings out there. But in 2013, someone tested whether or not this were actually the case. And as it turns out—it isn’t.
In an experiment aimed at finding out how quickly people were able to grasp the skills behind chess and music, it was found that thousands of hours of practice didn’t necessarily mean that a person would become an expert. In other words, practice alone isn’t enough to learn a skill fully; innate ability and natural talent play a far bigger role than many of us like to think.
Though the researchers stressed that practice does allow a person to become fairly adept at a given skill, the difference between “good and great” doesn’t come down to much you practice—instead, it’s determined by whether or not you as a person are predisposed to have a natural affinity for that skill. Think about what that means: a good many of the kids out there, practicing guitar in the hope of emulating their idol, will never achieve their goal.
We Lie and Cheat When We Feel Bad
Feeling sad, or having otherwise low self-esteem, makes us more likely to do bad things—or at the very least, to justify them more easily.
One of the more famous experiments relating to this theory involved giving a bunch of students a small boost to their self-esteem in the form of a personality test, quickly followed by another experiment in which they’d be presented with an opportunity to cheat another student to earn money.
The results found that students who’d been given positive feedback on their personality tests were far less likely to cheat than those who’d been given bad feedback—for example by being told the test revealed that they were uninteresting. Just think of how often insults much worse than that are thrown around online.
So what was responsible for the correlation? Well, the research concluded that the phenomenon was due to something they dubbed “self-esteem dissonance.” Basically, a person with a high opinion of themselves found it much harder to justify an immoral action, as it clashed more strongly with the way they perceived themselves. It’s easier to justify lying to someone when you have the mindset that no one cares what you do.
We Feel Less Empathy For Other Races
As part of an Italian study on pain relief, both black and white people were asked to watch a short clip of hands being pricked with needles, while scientists monitored the observers’ brain activity and heart rates. Importantly, some of the pricked hands were black, and others were white.
It was noted that both the black and white participants reacted more strongly when they saw a hand of their own race being pricked. To eliminate the possibility that the participants were merely imagining their own hands, the researchers also showed clips of a bright purple hand being pricked. Both the black and white participants had a stronger emotional reaction to the pricking of the purple hand, than to the pricking of the hand belonging to the other race.
Though the experiment was mostly conducted to gauge whether doctors would have more trouble identifying the pain of a patient of a different race, it inadvertently found that we subconsciously draw a distinction between races in our emotional responses.
Concluded ( Karl Smallwood)