Tuesday, July 30, 2013

In the News: Douglas Rushkoff Opinion: Unfair Verdict on Manning

Pfc. Bradley Manning, who provided classified government documents to Wikileaks detailing, among other things, America's undisclosed policies on torture, was found guilty of espionage on Tuesday. The verdict comes on the 235th anniversary of the passage of America's first whistle-blower protection law, approved by the Continental Congress after two Navy officers were arrested and harassed for having reported the torture of British prisoners.

How have we gotten to the place where the revelation of torture is no longer laudable whistle-blowing, but now counts as espionage?

The answer is that government has not yet come to terms with the persistence and transparency of the digital age. Information moves so fast and to so many places that controlling it is no longer an option. Every datapoint, whether a perverted tweet by an aspiring mayor or a classified video of Reuters news staffers being gunned down by an Apache helicopter, will somehow find the light of day. It's enough to make any administration tremble, but it's particularly traumatic for one with things to hide.

That's why they tried to throw the book, and then some, at Manning.

Prosecutors cast simple Internet commands known to any halfway literate Internet user (or anyone who used the Internet back in the early '90s) as clandestine codes used only by hackers to steal data.

That Osama bin Laden could download these files off the Wikileaks website (along with millions of other people) became justification for classifying the whistle-blowing as espionage, an act of war.

And Manning is just one of a record seven Americans charged with violating the Espionage Act in a single administration.

But prosecuting those whose keyboards or USB sticks may have been technically responsible for the revelations is futile. The more networked we become and the more data we collect, the more likely something will eventually find its way out. After all, a security culture based on surveillance and big data cuts both ways.

Moreover, harsh reaction to digital whistle-blowers only increases the greater population's suspicions that more information is being hidden.

In this one leaking incident, Manning exposed allegations of torture, undisclosed civilian death tolls in Afghanistan and Iraq, official orders not to investigate torture by nations holding our prisoners, accusations of the torture of Spanish prisoners at Guantanamo, the "collateral murder" video of Reuters journalists and Iraqi civilians as U.S. soldiers cheered, U.S. State Department support of corporations opposing Haitian minimum wage, training of Egyptian torturers by the FBI in Quantico, Virginia, U.S. authorized stealing of U.N. Secretary General's DNA -- the list goes on.

These are not launch codes for nuclear strikes, operational secrets or even plans for future military missions. Rather, they are documentation of past activity and officially sanctioned military and state policy. These are not our secrets, but our ongoing actions and approaches.

A thinking government--a virtuous one, if we can still use such a word--would treat this as a necessary intervention. Things have gone too far. But ours is a government in "present shock": an always-on, always-connected population puts the administration in a state of perpetual emergency interruption. It's not the phone call at 2 a.m. for which a president has to be prepared, but the tweet at 3, the Facebook update at 4, the YouTube video at 5, and on and on.

In such a crisis-to-crisis landscape, there's no time to implement or even articulate a "grand narrative." A real-time, digital world offers no sense of mission or opportunity to tell a story. There's no Cold War to win. No moon shot to work toward. There are just emergent threats, one after the other after the other. Things just exist in the present, one tweet - or, actually, many tweets - at a time.

This makes it exceedingly difficult to frame our policies and strategies with language and purpose. It's no longer a matter of walking the talk. Without the talk, there's only the walk. We have no way of judging the ethics and intentions of our government except by what it actually does.

Combine this with the transparency that comes with digital technology and our leaders simply have no choice but to do the right thing. It takes more energy to prevent exposure than simply to behave consistently with the values we want to project.

Just as corporations are learning that they can no longer maintain low prices through overseas slave labor without getting caught, a democratic government can no longer maintain security through torture and coercion without being exposed. Betraying our respect for human dignity only makes us less resolved as a people, and less trusted as a nation.

We are just beginning to learn what makes a free people secure in a digital age. It really is different. The Cold War was an era of paper records, locked vaults and state secrets, for which a cloak-and-dagger mindset may have been appropriate. In a digital environment, our security comes not from our ability to keep our secrets but rather our ability to live our truth.

Douglas Rushkoff writes a regular column for CNN.com. He is a media theorist and the author of the new book "Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now."

Lester Young Continuous Line Portrait

I was thinking of Alexander Calder's wire sculptures when I knocked this "continuous line" portrait of Prez out at the Lakewood Starbucks this morning. The idea is you never take your pen off the paper during the entire drawing.

Lest Young (Prez), continous ball point pen drawing by Don Mangus, 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013

In the News: AP Exclusive Report: Signs of Declining Economic Security

by Hope Yen, AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — Four out of Five U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor and loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.

The findings come as President Barack Obama tries to renew his administration's emphasis on the economy, saying in recent speeches that his highest priority is to "rebuild ladders of opportunity" and reverse income inequality.

Hardship is particularly on the rise among whites, based on several measures. Pessimism among that racial group about their families' economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987. In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of whites called the economy "poor."

"I think it's going to get worse," said Irene Salyers, 52, of Buchanan County, Va., a declining coal region in Appalachia. Married and divorced three times, Salyers now helps run a fruit and vegetable stand with her boyfriend, but it doesn't generate much income. They live mostly off government disability checks.

"If you do try to go apply for a job, they're not hiring people, and they're not paying that much to even go to work," she said. Children, she said, have "nothing better to do than to get on drugs."

While racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty, race disparities in the poverty rate have narrowed substantially since the 1970s, census data show. Economic insecurity among whites also is more pervasive than is shown in government data, engulfing more than 76 percent of white adults by the time they turn 60, according to a new economic gauge being published next year by the Oxford University Press.

The gauge defines "economic insecurity" as experiencing unemployment at some point in their working lives, or a year or more of reliance on government aid such as food stamps or income below 150 percent of the poverty line. Measured across all races, the risk of economic insecurity rises to 79 percent.

"It's time that America comes to understand that many of the nation's biggest disparities, from education and life expectancy to poverty, are increasingly due to economic class position," said William Julius Wilson, a Harvard professor who specializes in race and poverty.

He noted that despite continuing economic difficulties, minorities have more optimism about the future after Obama's election, while struggling whites do not.

"There is the real possibility that white alienation will increase if steps are not taken to highlight and address inequality on a broad front," Wilson said.

Sometimes termed "the invisible poor" by demographers, lower-income whites are generally dispersed in suburbs as well as small rural towns, where more than 60 percent of the poor are white. Concentrated in Appalachia in the East, they are also numerous in the industrial Midwest and spread across America's heartland, from Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma up throughthe Great Plains.

More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41 percent of the nation's destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks.

Still, while census figures provide an official measure of poverty, they're only a temporary snapshot. The numbers don't capture the makeup of those who cycle in and out of poverty at different points in their lives. They may be suburbanites, for example, or the working poor or the laid off.

In 2011 that snapshot showed 12.6 percent of adults in their prime working-age years of 25-60 lived in poverty. But measured in terms of a person's lifetime risk, a much higher number — 4 in 10 adults — falls into poverty for at least a year of their lives.

The risks of poverty also have been increasing in recent decades, particularly among people ages 35-55, coinciding with widening income inequality. For instance, people ages 35-45 had a 17 percent risk of encountering poverty during the 1969-1989 time period; that risk increased to 23 percent during the 1989-2009 period. For those ages 45-55, the risk of poverty jumped from 11.8 percent to 17.7 percent.

By race, nonwhites still have a higher risk of being economically insecure, at 90 percent. But compared with the official poverty rate, some of the biggest jumps under the newer measure are among whites, with more than 76 percent enduring periods of joblessness, life on welfare or near-poverty.

By 2030, based on the current trend of widening income inequality, close to 85 percent of all working-age adults in the U.S. will experience bouts of economic insecurity.

"Poverty is no longer an issue of 'them', it's an issue of 'us'," says Mark Rank, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis who calculated the numbers. "Only when poverty is thought of as a mainstream event, rather than a fringe experience that just affects blacks and Hispanics, can we really begin to build broader support for programs that lift people in need."

Rank's analysis is supplemented with figures provided by Tom Hirschl, a professor at Cornell University; John Iceland, a sociology professor at Penn State University; the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute; the Census Bureau; and the Population Reference Bureau.

Among the findings:

—For the first time since 1975, the number of white single-mother households who were living in poverty with children surpassed or equaled black ones in the past decade, spurred by job losses and faster rates of out-of-wedlock births among whites. White single-mother families in poverty stood at nearly 1.5 million in 2011, comparable to the number for blacks. Hispanic single-mother families in poverty trailed at 1.2 million.

—The share of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods — those with poverty rates of 30 percent or more — has increased to 1 in 10, putting them at higher risk of teen pregnancy or dropping out of school. Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 17 percent of the child population in such neighborhoods, up from 13 percent in 2000, even though the overall proportion of white children in the U.S. has been declining.

The share of black children in high-poverty neighborhoods dropped sharply, from 43 percent to 37 percent, while the share of Latino children ticked higher, from 38 to 39 percent.

Going back to the 1980s, never have whites been so pessimistic about their futures, according to the General Social Survey, which is conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. Just 45 percent say their family will have a good chance of improving their economic position based on the way things are in America.

The divide is especially evident among those whites who self-identify as working class: 49 percent say they think their children will do better than them, compared with 67 percent of non-whites who consider themselves working class.

In November, Obama won the votes of just 36 percent of those noncollege whites, the worst performance of any Democratic nominee among that group since 1984.

Some Democratic analysts have urged renewed efforts to bring working-class whites into the political fold, calling them a potential "decisive swing voter group" if minority and youth turnout level off in future elections.

"They don't trust big government, but it doesn't mean they want no government," says Republican pollster Ed Goeas, who agrees that working-class whites will remain an important electoral group. "They feel that politicians are giving attention to other people and not them."

AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta, News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius and AP writer Debra McCown in Buchanan County, Va., contributed to this report.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Marvelmania: Black Light Blockbusters

Black light poster

A black light poster is a poster printed with inks which fluoresce under black light. The inks used contain phosphors which cause them to glow when exposed to the ultraviolet light emitted from black lights.

In the United States, blacklight posters emerged as part of the psychedelic fashion scene between 1967 and 1969. Since then, the art form has gone out of fashion and is generally viewed as a relic of the 1970s.

The Third Eye, Inc.

The third eye (also known as the inner eye) is a mystical and esoteric concept referring in part to the ajna (brow) chakra in certain Eastern and Western spiritual traditions. It is also spoken of as the gate that leads within to inner realms and spaces of higher consciousness. 

In New Age spirituality, the third eye may alternately symbolize a state of enlightenment or the evocation of mental images having deeply personal spiritual or psychological significance. The third eye is often associated with visions, clairvoyance (which includes the ability to observe chakras and auras), precognition, and out-of-body experiences. People who have allegedly developed the capacity to utilize their third eyes are sometimes known as seers

This New York City-based publisher put out scores of intriguing black light posters. (No affiliation with the Redondo Beach surf music club of the same name.) 

They were primarily of the psychedelic, head shop genre of the late 1960s. Poster themes varied from the mystical to political to religion to colorful geometric designs and op-art. Included are works by noted black light artists Orlando Macbeth and Roberta Bell. 

In the early 1970s, Third Eye produced black light Marvel comic book hero merchandise -- posters, jig-saw puzzles, greeting cards, etc. 


The Sterankophile: Hard-Boiled Yeggs

Steranko was the cover model for this October 1970 issue of True Mystery Detective.

From yee Wiki:

Chandler: Red Tide is a 1976 illustrated novel, an early form of graphic novel, by writer-artist Jim Steranko.

The digest-sized book combines typeset text with two same-sized illustrations per page, utilizing no word balloons or other traditional comics text conventions. 

A hard-boiled detective novel in the film noir style, its protagonist is a private detective named Chandler (an homage to author Raymond Chandler) who is hired by a man who claims to have been poisoned by the same people responsible for a notorious gangland slaying. 

Packaged by Byron Preiss Visual Publications and published by Pyramid Books, Chandler was written, drawn, and colored by veteran comics creator Jim Steranko. There is an introduction by crime novelist and former San Francisco private detective Joe Gores, and a foreword by Preiss. The original cover price was one dollar.

Preiss said the book was "created to retail at American newsstands alongside hundreds of other paperback offerings."

The mass-market edition (ISBN 0-515-04078-9), which Preiss said had a "50,000+ press run", was the third in a series from the publisher, and also known as Fiction Illustrated Vol. 3. (It was supplemented by a separate edition for bookstores that was double the dimensions of the newsstand edition. Steranko, through his company Supergraphics, additionally offered the latter in a limited edition of 750 with a signed and numbered signature plate.

Steranko in 1978 recalled the project's genesis:

Chandler was a fill-in book. That particular number of [the] Fiction Illustrated [series] was to have been Ralph Reese's Sherlock Holmes book [eventually published as Fiction Illustrated #4 — Son of Sherlock Holmes (1977)]. Ralph had worked on it for a year, and Byron realized ... that the book couldn't get out in time. He asked me if I would do a book to replace it. There are two men you never ask to fill in on a late deadline: Neal Adams and myself. We're both overcommitted. Byron's a good friend and I tried to do what I could for him, so I said I would do this book. It was produced in 2½ months where it should have taken at least six months to do. It was my first visual novel, and it was a major project.

He elsewhere said that in creating the book he used golden sectioning, "a mathematical formula to arrange elements in a unified structure, to create an image-to-text relationship that readers would be very comfortable with. The text on any given page related only to that page."

Steranko, who retained rights to the character, was then assigned to create a 12-page "Chandler" story for Penthouse magazine, working with executive editor Art Cooper. When Cooper departed Penthouse, the project was canceled and Steranko was paid a kill fee.

Dark Horse Comics had planned to publish a revised edition of Chandler: Red Tide in December 1999, with revamped and more hardboiled art and text by Steranko, but this did not see fruition. Dark Horse Presents vol. 3, #3 (Aug. 2011) included a 13-page Chapter 1 of Red Tide.

Chandler: Red Tide did not meet sales expectations, with Steranko recalling in 2003 that, "When the book appeared it was not embraced by the comic-book community because it didn't have word balloons or captions. Believe it or not, they found that shocking!" 

In 1978, shortly after the book's publication, he said, "I was disappointed in Pyramid's distribution and promotion of it. ... They did a major mailing on it, but there was more that can be done."

Chandler: Red Tide is similar to Harold Foster's comic strip Prince Valiant in that the narrative is carried by a combination of graphics and text blocks without word balloons. 

Steranko used the term "graphic novel" in his introduction, though it was labeled "a visual novel" on the cover.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Matthew Effect

From Wiki:

In sociology, the Matthew Effect (or Accumulated Advantage) is the phenomenon where "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer".

In both its original and typical usage it is meant metaphorically to refer to issues of fame or status but it may also be used literally to refer to cumulative advantage of economic capital. The term was first coined by sociologist Robert K. Merton in 1968 and takes its name from a line in the biblical Gospel of Matthew:

For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken even that which he hath. Matthew 25:29, King James Version.

In the sociology of science, "Matthew Effect" was a term coined by Robert K. Merton to describe how, among other things, eminent scientists will often get more credit than a comparatively unknown researcher, even if their work is similar; it also means that credit will usually be given to researchers who are already famous. 

For example, a prize will almost always be awarded to the most senior researcher involved in a project, even if all the work was done by a graduate student. 

This was later jokingly coined Stigler's Law, with Stigler explicitly naming Merton as the true discoverer.


As credit is valued in science, specific claims of the Matthew Effect are contentious. 

Many examples below exemplify more famous scientists getting credit for discoveries due to their fame, even as other less notable scientists had preempted their work.

A variety of naturally occurring networks such as social networks, human sexual networks, computer networks, and airport networks are scale-free in nature

Among the most popular models to explain this phenomenon operate on the assumption of preferential attachment, which states that the more connections a node has, the more likely it is to acquire more connections in the future. This is also commonly known as the Network Effect.

Laboratory and natural experiments that manipulate download counts or bestseller lists for books and music show consumer activity follows the apparent popularity.

In algorithmic information theory, the notion of Kolmogorov complexity is named after the famous mathematician Andrey Kolmogorov even though it was independently discovered and published by Ray Solomonoff a year before Kolmogorov. 

Li and Vitanyi, in "An Introduction to Kolmogorov Complexity and Its Applications" (p. 84), write:
Ray Solomonoff [...] introduced [what is now known as] 'Kolmogorov complexity' in a long journal paper in 1964. [...] This makes Solomonoff the first inventor and raises the question whether we should talk about Solomonoff complexity. [...]

There are many uncontroversial examples of the Matthew Effect in mathematics, where a concept is due to one mathematician (and well-documented as such), but is attributed to a later (possibly much later), more famous mathematician who worked on it. 

For instance, the Poincaré disk model and Poincaré half-plane model of hyperbolic space are both named for Henri Poincaré, but were introduced by Eugenio Beltrami in 1868 (when Poincaré was 14 and had not as yet contributed to hyperbolic geometry).

A model for career progress quantitatively incorporates the Matthew Effect in order to predict the distribution of individual career length in competitive professions. 

The model predictions are validated by analyzing the empirical distributions of career length for careers in science and professional sports (e.g. Major League Baseball).

As a result, the disparity between the large number of short careers and the relatively small number of extremely long careers can be explained by the "rich-get-richer" mechanism, which in this framework, provides more experienced and more reputable individuals with a competitive advantage in obtaining new career opportunities.

In his 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker refers to the Matthew Effect in societies, whereby everything seems to go right in some, and wrong in others. 

He speculates in Chapter Nine that this could be the result of a positive feedback loop in which reckless behavior by some individuals creates a chaotic environment that encourages reckless behavior by others. 

He cites research by Martin Daly and Margo Wilson showing that the more unstable the environment, the more steeply people discount the future, and thus the less forward-looking their behavior.

In science, dramatic differences in the productivity may be explained by three phenomena: sacred spark, cumulative advantage, and search costs minimization by journal editors. 

The sacred spark paradigm suggests that scientists differ in their initial abilities, talent, skills, persistence, work habits, etc. that provide particular individuals with an early advantage. 

These factors have a multiplicative effect which helps these scholars succeed later. The Cumulative Advantage model argues that an initial success helps a researcher gain access to resources (e.g., teaching release, best graduate students, funding, facilities, etc.), which in turn results in further success. 

Search costs minimization by journal editors takes place when editors try to save time and effort by consciously or subconsciously selecting articles from well-known scholars. 

Whereas the exact mechanism underlying these phenomena is yet unknown, it is documented that a minority of all academics produce the most research output and attract the most citations.


The Halo Effect

From yee Wiki:

The Halo Effect or Halo Error is a cognitive bias in which one's judgments of a person’s character can be influenced by one's overall impression of him or her.

It can be found in a range of situations from the courtroom to the classroom and in everyday interactions. The Halo Effect was given its name by psychologist Edward Thorndike. 

Subsequent researchers have studied it in relation to attractiveness and its bearing on the judicial and educational systems.

Edward Thorndike, known for his contributions to educational psychology, coined the phrase "Halo Effect" and was the first to support it with empirical research.

He gave the phenomenon its name in his 1920 article “The Constant Error in Psychological Ratings”. He had noted in a previous study made in 1915 that estimates of traits in the same person were very highly and evenly correlated. In “Constant Error”, Thorndike set out to replicate the study in hopes of pinning down the bias that he thought was present in these ratings.

Supporting evidence

In "The Constant Error in Psychological Ratings", Thorndike asked two commanding officers to evaluate their soldiers in terms of physical qualities (neatness, voice, physique, bearing, and energy), intellect, leadership skills, and personal qualities (including dependability, loyalty, responsibility, selflessness, and cooperation). 

His goal was to see how the ratings of one characteristic affected other characteristics.
Thorndike's experiment showed how there was too great a correlation in the commanding officers' responses. In his review he stated: 

"The correlations were too high and too even. For example, for the three raters next studied the average correlation for physique with intelligence is 0.31; for physique with leadership, 0.39; and for physique with character, 0.28". The ratings of one of the special qualities of an officer[clarification needed] tend to start a trend in the rating results. If an officer had a particular "negative" attribute given off to the commanding officer, it would correlate in the rest of that soldier's results.

Halo Error

The correlation in the halo effect experiment was concluded to be a Halo Error. The halo error showed that the officers relied mainly on general perception of certain characteristics that determined the results of their answers.

Role of attractiveness

A person’s attractiveness has also been found to produce a halo effect. Attractiveness provides a valuable aspect of the halo effect to consider because of its multifaceted nature; attractiveness may be influenced by several specific traits. These perceptions of attractiveness may affect judgments tied to personality traits. 

Physical attributes contribute to perceptions of attractiveness (i.e. weight, hair, eye color). For example, someone that is perceived as attractive, due in part to physical traits, may be more likely to be perceived as kind or intelligent. 

The role of attractiveness in producing the halo effect has been illustrated through a number of studies. 

Recent research, for example, has revealed that attractiveness may affect perceptions tied to life success and personality.

In this study, attractiveness was correlated with weight, indicating that attractiveness itself may be influenced by various specific traits. Included in the personality variables were trustworthiness and friendliness

People perceived as being more attractive were more likely to be perceived as trustworthy and friendly. What this suggests is that perceptions of attractiveness may influence a variety of other traits, which supports the concept of the halo effect.

On personality

Dion and Berscheid (1972) conducted a study on the relationship between attractiveness and the Halo Effect. Sixty students from University of Minnesota took part in the experiment, half being male and half being female.

Each subject was given three different photos to examine: one of an attractive individual, one of an individual of average attractiveness, and one of an unattractive individual.

The participants judged the photos’ subjects along 27 different personality traits (including altruism, conventionality, self-assertiveness, stability, emotionality, trustworthiness, extraversion, kindness, and sexual promiscuity).

Participants were then asked to predict the overall happiness the photos' subjects would feel for the rest of their lives, including marital happiness (least likely to get divorced), parental happiness (most likely to be a good parent), social and professional happiness (most likely to experience life fulfillment), and overall happiness.

Finally, participants were asked if the subjects would hold a job of high status, medium status, or low status.

Results showed that participants overwhelmingly believed more attractive subjects have more socially desirable personality traits than either averagely attractive or unattractive subjects.

Participants also believed that attractive individuals would lead happier lives in general, have happier marriages, be better parents, and have more career success than the others.

Also, results showed that attractive people were believed to be more likely to hold secure, prestigious jobs compared to unattractive individuals.

Academics and intelligence

Landy and Sigall’s 1974 study demonstrated the Halo Effect on judgments of intelligence and competence on academic tasks.

Sixty male undergraduate students rated the quality of essays which included both well and poorly written samples. One third were presented with a photo of an attractive female as author, another third with that of an unattractive female as author, and the last third were shown neither.

Participants gave significantly better writing evaluations for the more attractive author.

On a scale of 1 to 9, the well-written essay by the attractive author received an average of 6.7 while the unattractive author received a 5.9 (with a 6.6 as a control). The gap was larger on the poor essay: the attractive author received an average of 5.2, the control a 4.7, and the unattractive a 2.7, suggesting readers are generally more willing to give physically attractive people the benefit of the doubt when performance is below standard than others.

In Moore, Filippou, and Perret’s 2011 study, researchers sought to determine if residual cues to intelligence and personality existed in male and female faces by attempting to control for the attractiveness Halo eEfect.

They manipulated the perceived intelligence of photographs of individuals, finding that faces manipulated to look high in perceived intelligences were also rated as more attractive. It was also found that the faces high in perceived intelligence were also rated highly on perceived friendliness and sense of humor.

Effects on jurors

Multiple studies of the Halo Effect in jury outcomes have shown attractive individuals both receive lesser sentences and are less likely to be convicted than unattractive ones.

Efran (1974) found subjects were more lenient in sentencing attractive individuals than unattractive ones even when exactly the same crime was committed.

This has been attributed to people with a high level of attractiveness being seen as more likely to have brighter futures in society thanks to socially desirable traits they are believed to possess.

Monahan (1941) studied social workers accustomed to interacting with people from all types of backgrounds, finding the majority found it very difficult to believe beautiful people are guilty of a crime.

Halo in Reverse

The relation of a crime to attractiveness is also subject to the Halo Effect. A study presented two hypothetical crimes: a burglary and a swindle.

The burglary involved a woman illegally obtaining a key and stealing $2,200; the swindle involved a woman manipulating a man to invest $2,200 in a nonexistent corporation.

The results showed that when the offense was not related to attractiveness (as in the burglary) the unattractive defendant was punished more severely than the attractive one.

However, when the offense was related to attractiveness (the swindle), the attractive defendant was punished more severely than the unattractive one. The study imputes that the usual leniency given to the attractive woman (as a result of the Halo Effect) was negated or reversed when the nature of the crime involved her looks.


Abikoff found the Halo Effect is also present in the classroom. In this study, both regular and special education elementary school teachers watched videotapes of what they believed to be children in regular 4th-grade classrooms.

In reality, the children were actors, depicting behaviors present in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), or standard behavior.

The teachers were asked to rate the frequency of hyperactive behaviors observed in the children. Teachers rated hyperactive behaviors accurately for children with ADHD; however, the ratings of hyperactivity and other behaviors associated with ADHD were rated much higher for the children with ODD-like behaviors, showing a Halo Effect for children with ODD.

Foster and Ysseldyke (1976) also found the halo effect present in teachers’ evaluations of children. Regular and special education elementary school teachers watched videos of a normal child whom they were told was either emotionally disturbed, possessing a learning disorder, mentally retarded, or "normal".

The teachers then completed referral forms based on the child's behavior. The results showed that teachers held negative expectancies toward emotionally disturbed children, maintaining these expectancies even when presented with normal behavior.

In addition, the mentally retarded label showed a greater degree of negative bias than the emotionally disturbed or learning disabled. 

Halo Effect and NGOs

The term "Halo Effect" has been applied to human rights organizations that have used their status to move away from their stated goals.

Political scientist Gerald Steinberg has claimed that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) take advantage of the "Halo Effect" and are "given the status of impartial moral watchdogs" by governments and the media.

Real world applications

In brand marketing, a Halo Effect is one where the perceived positive features of a particular item extend to a broader brand. One famous example is how the popularity of Apple’s iPod has generated enthusiasm for its other products.

The effect is also exploited in the automotive industry, where a manufacturer may produce an exceptional "Halo vehicle" in order to promote sales of an entire marque.

Modern cars often described as Halo vehicles include the Dodge Viper, Ford GT, and Acura NSX.

Criticisms and limitations

Some researchers allege that the Halo Effect is not as pervasive as once believed.

Kaplan’s 1978 study yielded much of the same results as are seen in other studies focusing on the Halo Effect—attractive individuals were rated high in qualities such as creativity, intelligence, and sensitivity than unattractive individuals.

In addition these results, Kaplan found that women were influenced by the Halo Effect on attractiveness only when presented with members of the opposite sex.

When presented with an attractive member of the same sex, women actually tended to rate the individual lower on socially desirable qualities.

Criticisms have also pointed out that jealousy of an attractive individual could be a major factor in evaluation of that person.

A study by Dermer and Thiel has shown this to be more prevalent among females than males, with females describing physically attractive women as having socially undesirable traits.

Devil Effect

The Devil Effect, also known as the Reverse Halo Effect, is when people allow an undesirable trait to influence their evaluation of other traits, such as in Nisbett and Wilson's study on likeable versus unlikeable lecturers.

The Devil Effect can work outside the scope of personality traits and is expressed by both children and adults.

The Guardian wrote of the Devil Effect in relation to Hugo Chavez: "Some leaders can become so demonised that it's impossible to assess their achievements and failures in a balanced way."


The Sterankophile: Sword and Sorcery Savagery

From Wiki:

Sword and Sorcery, or Heroic Fantasy, is a sub-genre of fantasy and historical fantasy, generally characterized by sword-wielding heroes engaged in exciting and violent conflicts. An element of romance is often present, as is an element of magic and the supernatural. Unlike works of High Fantasy, the tales, though dramatic, focus mainly on personal battles rather than world-endangering matters.

A film genre tangentially related to Sword and Sorcery, at least in name, is Sword-and-Sandal, though its subjects are generally oriented to Biblical times and early history, instead of Fantasy.

The term "Sword and Sorcery" was first coined in 1961, when the British author Michael Moorcock published a letter in the fanzine Amra, demanding a name for the sort of fantasy-adventure story written by Robert E. Howard

He had initially proposed the term "Epic Fantasy". However, the celebrated American Sword-and-Sorcery author Fritz Leiber replied in the journal Ancalagon (6 April 1961) suggesting, "Sword-and-Sorcery as a good popular catchphrase for the field". He expanded on this in the July 1961 issue of Amra, commenting:

I feel more certain than ever that this field should be called the sword-and-sorcery story. This accurately describes the points of culture-level and supernatural element and also immediately distinguishes it from the cloak-and-sword (historical adventure) story—and (quite incidentally) from the cloak-and-dagger (international espionage) story too! (Fritz Leiber, Amra, July 1961)

Though not explicitly mentioned in Leiber's letter, the originally Italian film genre known as "Sword and Sandal", depicting heroic adventures in settings derived from the Bible or Greek mythology, was at the peak of its popularity in the US at the time when the letter was written.

Since its inception, many attempts have been made to redefine precisely what "Sword and Sorcery" is. Although many have debated the finer points, the consensus characterizes it by a strong bias toward fast-paced, action-rich tales set within a quasi-mythical or fantastical framework. 

Unlike High or Epic Fantasy, the stakes tend to be personal, the danger confined to the moment of telling. Settings are typically exotic, and protagonists often morally compromised.

Many Sword and Sorcery tales have been turned into a lengthy series of adventures. Their lower stakes and less-than world-threatening dangers make this more plausible than a repetition of the perils of Epic Fantasy. So too does the nature of the heroes; most Sword-and-Sorcery protagonists, travelers by nature, find peace after adventure deathly dull. 

At one extreme, the heroes of E. R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros grieve for the end of the war and that they have no more foes equal to those they defeated; in answer to their prayers, the gods restore the enemy city so that they can fight the same war over again.

The subgenre has old roots. Ultimately—like much fantasy—it draws from mythology and classical epics such as Homer's Odyssey and the Norse sagas.

It is also influenced by historical fiction, begun by Sir Walter Scott, under the influence of romantic collection of folklore and ballads. However, very few of his works contain fantastic elements; in most, the appearance of such is explained away,but in its themes of adventure in a strange society, this led to the adventures set in foreign lands by H. Rider Haggard and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Haggard's works included many fantastic elements.

However, sword and sorcery's immediate progenitors are the swashbuckling tales of Alexandre Dumas, père (The Three Musketeers (1844), etc.), Rafael Sabatini (Scaramouche (1921), etc.) and their pulp magazine imitators, such as Talbot Mundy, Harold Lamb, and H. Bedford-Jones, who all influenced Robert E. Howard. 

However, these historical "swashbucklers" lack the truly supernatural element (even though Dumas' fiction contained many fantasy tropes). 

Another influence was early fantasy fiction such as Lord Dunsany's "The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth" (1910) and A. Merritt's The Ship of Ishtar (1924). 

All of these authors influenced Sword and Sorcery for the plots, characters, and landscapes used.

In addition, many early sword and sorcery writers, such as Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith, were heavily influenced by the Middle Eastern tales of the Arabian Nights, whose stories of magical monsters and evil sorcerers were a major influence on the genre-to-be.

It can also be noted that in its frequent depictions of smoky taverns and smelly back alleys, sword and sorcery draws upon the picaresque genre; for example, Fritz Leiber's city of Lankhmar bears considerable similarity to 16th century Seville as depicted in Cervantes' tale Rinconete y 

Sword and sorcery proper only truly began in the pulp fantasy magazines, where it emerged from "weird fiction." Particularly important was the magazine Weird Tales, which published Howard's Conan stories as well as such important S&S influences as Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith.

In the News: Coffee May Lower Suicide Risk By 50 Percent, Harvard Study Indicates

 by Sara Gates

Keep drinking your morning cup of joe, coffee drinkers. Aside from a jolt of energy, caffeinated coffee may lower the suicide risk in men and women by 50 percent, Harvard researchers indicated in a recent study.

Reviewing data from three large-scale U.S. studies, the team from the Harvard School of Public Health compared the risk of suicide for adults who consumed two to four caffeinated cups per day with that of non-coffee drinkers, those who drank much less coffee per day and people who chose decaf.

The results, published earlier this month in the The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, were striking. Comparatively, the suicide risk for those who drank two to four cups per day was about 50 percent less than the risk for subjects in the other groups. (The total sample included more than 200,000 participants, who were studied for time spans of at least 16 years.)

"Unlike previous investigations, we were able to assess association of consumption of caffeinated and non-caffeinated beverages, and we identify caffeine as the most likely candidate of any putative protective effect of coffee," lead researcher Michel Lucas, a research fellow in the university's department of nutrition, said in a statement.

The team's findings are, perhaps, not surprising since caffeinated coffee has been linked to a lower risk of depression among women in the past. In a 2011 study, also conducted by Harvard researchers, women who drank coffee were shown to have a 15 percent reduced risk of depression as compared to non-coffee drinkers.

Speaking to The Huffington Post, Lucas stressed that it's the caffeine in coffee that's primarily responsible for these effects. He linked the lowered risks of depression and suicide to the impact caffeine has on the brain or, more specifically, on neurotransmitters that have been shown to have an effect on emotions.

And while other drinks like soda and tea also offer caffeine, they don't contain nearly the same levels as coffee.

"Caffeine from coffee is about 80 percent caffeine intake," Lucas estimated. "In one cup of coffee, you could have about 140 mg of caffeine."

"In tea, for example, you have about 47 mg," he told HuffPost, adding that someone would need about three more cups of tea to achieve the same effect as one cup of coffee.

However, as the researchers indicated in the study, moderation is still key. (Though caffeine intoxication was already a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the latest version, DSM-5, added caffeine withdrawal as a related diagnosis.)

"Overall, our results suggest that there is little further benefit for consumption above two to three cups/day or 400 mg of caffeine/day," the authors wrote.

The Harvard study joins a growing body of scientific evidence, which has provided confirmation of the health benefits of coffee.

Last year alone, published research linked moderate coffee intake with delayed Alzheimer's onset, lowered risk of heart failure and reduced risk of basil cell carcinoma -- the most common type of skin cancer.

In the News: Oxytocin Could Increase Anxiety, Fear In Response ToFuture Stress

The "love hormone" may not be as warm and fuzzy as first thought. A new study shows that while oxytocin does play a huge role in social bonding and feelings of love, it also is the reason why terrible events can scar you for life.

This new finding is important because "by understanding the oxytocin system's dual role in triggering or reducing anxiety, depending on the social context, we can optimize oxytocin treatments that improve well-being instead of triggering negative reactions," study researcher Jelena Radulovic, the Dunbar Professsor of Bipolar Disease at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a statement.

The study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience and conducted in mice, explains that oxytocin can not only make us remember stressful situations from the past (like being bullied), but they also increase feelings of anxiety and fear in the face of future stress.

The hormone does this by triggering a molecule called ERK, which itself makes sensations of fear greater because it stimulates fear pathways in the brain's lateral septum region. This molecule is activated for hours after a stressful social experience.

Researchers noted this is the first time oxytocin has been identified to have a function that isn't just boosting feelings of love and connection.

Past studies have looked at the hormone's role in relationships and friendships. For instance, a study in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology earlier this year showed that oxytocin makes people more likely to "tend and befriend" others who have just experienced social rejection.

And a 2012 study showed that oxytocin levels could be a predictor for how long a relationship lasts.

Friday, July 26, 2013

le Fauve (the Wild Beast): Henri Matisse "The Green Line"

Henri Matisse. Portrait of Madame Matisse. (The green line). 1905. 40.50 x 32.5 cm. Oil and tempera on canvas. Statens Museum for Kunst.

Fauvism is the style of les Fauves (French for "the Wild Beasts"), a loose group of early twentieth-century Modern artists whose works emphasized painterly qualities and strong color over the representational or realistic values retained by Impressionism

While Fauvism as a style began around 1900 and continued beyond 1910, the movement as such lasted only a few years, 1904–1908, and had three exhibitions. The leaders of the movement were Henri Matisse and André Derain.

Beach Boys " I Get Around " Live 1964


Hope or Hype?: Wires Deep in Brains Tame OCD --- Sometimes

AP, Reuters - Wires deep in brains tame OCD ... sometimes.

 A critical look at health reporting by Charlie Petit, 2008

Studies of a highly experimental and imprecise experiment on just 16 people are difficult for reporters to handle well.

The statistics are probably iffy. Chances of irresponsibly raising public expectations, if the malady in question is serious and common, are high.

The AP's Stephanie Nano did it anyway, reporting tantalizing results from a study in France that tested a "brain pacemaker" (deep brain stimulation) in patients with serious obsessive-compulsive disorder.

 As Nano included some rather horrific side effects right off the bat and including bleeding into the brain, one suspects public demand for this unproven treatment will be scant. So, she seems to have gotten away with it.

Ditto for Reuters's Gene Emery, the only other writer for a major outlet who appears to have done the piece as soon as the embargo lifted.

The AP's Nano has one non-author's opinion of the work (not exactly an outside authority however - at the Nat'l Inst of Mental Health.

The study has NIH money CORRECTION: No NIH money. The Tracker misread the link as from a list of NIH-funded projects. Hat off to Nano for reaching an independent authority). 

Emery at Reuters has none.

The work is inherently fascinating. Its underlying thesis is, to The Tracker's way of thinking anyway, intuitively solid. Another reason to give the results circulation: they are in the New England Journal of Medicine and have eight full-width lines of authors.

Of interest is the press release (see Grist below), provided in both English and French by the researchers' parent institution.

 It reminds one of a style of press release seldom still seen from US publicists. It's not a ready-to-run story. It is a fact-packed background information store. It compels reporters to craft a compelling yarn all by themselves.

In this internet age, public relations pros know a lot of their releases, especially those of immediate public interest, are going to be re-posted all over the internet.

This may be one reason releases seem increasingly to be in conventional daily journalism form - anecdotal leads, lots of quotes, colorful asides, and so on.

They can tell the story so well (just speculating here of course) that journalists in a hurry easily repeat the press officer's metaphors and angles and even lift the quotes verbatim and unattributed.