Links of the past few weeks: June 20, 2012

Since this is the inaugural page of “Links of the week”, I give you extras. These are my favorite articles that I shared starting June 2012.

What Your Brain Looks Like When You’re Selling Out
This article tries to explain why humans in conflicts tend to act “irrationally”. If humans were fully rational, they would want to avoid their own destruction and at some point they could be bought (if not with money, than perhaps with infrastructure). But we know humans don’t act that way when it comes to sacred matters like religions, the lands of our ancestors, national identity. We can’t set a price to them, and we’ll never sell them even if it’ll cost us our life. People defending a sacred value may be more moved by an apology or some other symbolic concession that brings no economically measurable benefit, but which speaks to their transcendental needs.

The writer David Berreby (one of my favorite behavior science writers) summarizes a very ingenious experiment involving brain image scans. The brain image scans show that the brain areas activated when we’re calculating cost-benefit (“rationally try to maximize our utility”) are different from when we’re refusing to trade our sacred values. This means that sacred values aren’t simply a special form of “utility,” but an entirely different kind of mental work. This has implication on how negotiations should be conducted in conflict areas.

Anak Indonesia dan Lady Gaga
This link gains 333 clicks, so this article is one of the most popular ones that I’ve shared. The writer (disclaimer: the writer, Gita Putri Damayana, is my personal friend) describes how she would explain to her children about the rejection towards Lady Gaga’s concert in Indonesia: that certain hoodlums who carry the banner of Islam, who often use violence to get what they want, were backed by the State to again force everyone else to comply to their own definition of “morality”.

It’s a powerful post, I guess especially because it’s so personal. To the benefit of my readers who don’t speak Indonesian, I’ll translate a part:

So let’s ask ourselves, dear Indonesian parents: dare we to look straight into our children’s eyes, and tell them that we have failed to create a religiously safe place for them? That the Indonesia that was imagined by our founding fathers Soekarno, Hatta, and Syahrir, turns out to be a country where the State succumbs to (fascist) hoodlums? 

If you speak Indonesian, do visit the page and read the comments on the page. And be ready to be even more discouraged about the diverse Indonesia.

How the Selling of Coffee, Cars and Pizza Sheds Light on Chinese Culture
Reading this article, I realize the similarities between Chinese and Indonesian consumer culture.

First and most important, products that are consumed in public, directly or indirectly, command huge price premiums relative to goods used in private. … 
The last rule … is that products (or brands) must address the need to navigate the crosscurrents of ambition and regimentation, of standing out while fitting in.

The Faces of Islam Defenders (PDF)
This is a report from a quantitative-qualitative research conducted by The Setara Foundation on the radicalization of Islam (refer back to Lady Gaga’s link mentioned-above) in Jakarta and West Java. I’m planning to write posts about the so-called Indonesian Muslim’s silent majority: those mainstream Islam who keep quiet about the violent intolerance acts conducted by Islam Defender Front (FPI) in Indonesia. This research is one of my references.

As expected, some people have labeled the foundation as “antek Yahudi” (Jewish accomplice) and the research as part of “Jewish propaganda”.

A Man’s Guide to Wearing Shorts
This link doesn’t even gain lots of clicks, but I find the subject interesting. And gentlemen, reading this might help you. And yes, sometimes when sharing links I feel like I’m doing public service.

A controversial public service television spot against gay teenagers’ suicide (video)
Is there a difference between shooting your own gay son with making him feel unaccepted and unworthy and thus compels to hang himself? If you are a parent, please take time to watch the video. This is not an easy piece to take –or to ignore.

What Believers and Atheists Can Learn From Each Other
My first intellectual passion has always been how religions influence our behavior towards other people who don’t share our beliefs. In technical terms, this subject is classified under “inter-religious group relations” and “psychology of religion”.

The further I study atheism, the more I realize that some atheists behave just like religious fundamentalists. This realization brings me back to the core concept in psychology of religion called religious orientation: when it comes to intolerance, most of the times it’s not about what you believe, it’s about how you believe.

This is why I like this particular post. Let me quote my favorite part. This part is actually written by a Jewish rabbi:

To me, the real problem arises when religion adds another element into the mix: certainty. It’s a toxic combination to have religious authorities with the power to influence others claiming to “know” with 100% certainty that they’re right and everyone else is wrong.

Are You A Narcissist? Use Twitter and Facebook To Find Out
I really like this part:

An individual’s level of narcissism is displayed not in how many Twitter followers they have, but is more closely correlated to how many Tweets they send about themselves. (…)
But on Facebook, the opposite holds true: Narcissism was directly correlated with the number of friends a person has on the social network, and not necessarily by the number of status updates they post about their personal lives.

A Concise Case for Leo: The Perfect Gatsby
Celebrity Gossip, Academic Style by Ann Helen Petersen is one of my favorite anthropology blogs of all time, perhaps. I mean, the pretentious me simply fail to resist celebrity gossip written in such highbrow style. This post is defending why Leonardo DiCaprio is perfectly cast for Jay Gatsby in the upcoming Baz Luhrmann’s film, trying to draw parallel between Gatsby the fictional character and DiCaprio, the real character.

Why Parents of Transgender Children Are Faced With a Difficult Decision
This is a long read that’s tough to swallow, describing poignant stories of how parents of transgender children are facing tough decisions. One of them they have to face really early: should they allow their pre-pubescent transgender children undergo chemical treatment to stunt the growth of secondary sexual organs?

Religion, Tolerance, and Intolerance: Views from Across The Discipline (PDF)
This is a paper written by two Oxford University professors, Russell Powell and Steve Clarke. I consider this as a true gem. It gives a very clear, concise, yet thorough introduction to all the basic concepts of psychology of religion: the definition of tolerance, the link between religiosity and intolerance, religious orientation, right-wing authoritarianism, social identity theory and intolerance. It also gives a quick survey on the evolutionary and anthropology perspective on the emergence of religions.

The Authoritarians (PDF)
Another gem: this is an official free e-book about right-wing authoritarianism, written by the leading and pioneering expert of the field himself, Bob Altemeyer. Right-wing authoritarianism is a psychological trait that explains intolerance to groups who don’t share the same characteristics with ours.

People with high right-wing authoritarianism totally submit and accept of authorities which are perceived to be legitimate and established in society, are aggressive against out-groups and “deviants”, and really adhere to traditions and established social norms.

Atul Gawande’s Commencement Speech: Failure and Rescue
Who is like me, a sucker for inspiring commencement speech? This one is from Atul Gawande, of The Checklist Manifesto and Better fame.

My favorite part:

So you will take risks, and you will have failures. But it’s what happens afterward that is defining. A failure often does not have to be a failure at all. However, you have to be ready for it—will you admit when things go wrong? Will you take steps to set them right? —Because the difference between triumph and defeat, you’ll find, isn’t about willingness to take risks. It’s about mastery of rescue.

David Foster Wallace’s Commencement Speech: The Truth With A Whole Lot Of Rhetorical Bullshit Pared Away
Here’s another inspiring one:

The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re going to try to see it. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship…

Because here’s something else that’s true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism.

There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. 

If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth.

Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already — it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. 

Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay.

Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.

Quality TV Shows That Are Basically Soap Operas
Phew. Now for the more lighthearted side to tickle my cultural snobbery. Mad Men. Downtown Abbey. Twin Peaks.  Twin Peaks??? How dare you?!

This link is coming via one of the nifty link-sharers in my timeline, @YOlivia28, by the way. I recommend you following her.

Happiness Is A Glass Half Empty
An excellent piece (albeit quite long) by Oliver Burkeman from The Guardian. Essentially this article argues the importance of the ideas from Stoicism for today’s life. If anything, this article has piqued my massive interest to visit The Museum of Failed Products in Ann Arbor.

Faces Covered by A Niqab Are Seen As Less Happy and Expressing More Shame
This is a summary from BPS Digest (another excellent blog in psychology, not pop psychology) about an experimental study conducted in The Netherlands.  The study aims to test the effects of the niqab on the facial communication of emotion.

It turns out:

The niqab seemed to change the facial communication of emotion. Participants who viewed the woman wearing a niqab rated her expression of happiness as less intense than participants who viewed the other two videos. Moreover, participants who viewed videos of a woman with her face covered (be that with the niqab or the horizontal bars) rated her expression of shame as more intense, compared with participants who viewed a woman with an uncovered face.

I think it’s really imperative to replicate this study in the non-Arab culture where there’s supposed no stereotypes about women wearing niqab: Indonesia or Malaysia, perhaps?

Queueing theory: What people hate most about waiting in line.
Why Do We Hurry To Wait?
These two articles go hand in hand, they enrich each other. The first one is about the psychology of waiting in line (“We get bored when we wait in line. We really hate it when we expect a short wait and then get a long one. We really, really hate it when someone shows up after us but gets served before us.”) The second one is about the territorial behavior we show when we try to claim a public space.

How New York Beat Crime
Oldies but goodies: it’s good because it explains clearly how to reduce crime drastically we don’t have to conduct a dramatic rebuilding of social structure. And it’s good because it shows Malcolm Gladwell was wrong. Yes, “the broken window theory” was refuted here.

Amazing Fifth Grader Makes the Case for Why Gay Marriage Should Be Taught In School
Let’s end this weekly pick on a higher note. Please watch the video of this kid arguing for same-sex marriage. Are you wiser than this fifth-grader?

This link comes from @MelaoKamisama.


See you next week.

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