If you have been following the recent Cambridge Analytical scandal, Luke Stark‘s recent Slate piece situating psychology within the long history of computer science leading up to the controversy is sure to be of interest. As Stark observes,
I’ve been arguing for years that the integration of digital media devices and psychological techniques is one of the most underappreciated developments in the history of computing. For more than 50 years, this has been the domain of computer scientists who have approached the brain as a “human processor,” just another a machine to be tinkered with. The work has taken place almost entirely in the domain of computer science, with little input from clinical psychologists, ethicists, or other academic fields interested in the messy details of human social life. Understanding that shortsighted perspective, and how it gave rise to companies like Cambridge Analytica, can help us curtail the weaponziation of social media today.
Read the full piece online here.
Now up on New Scientist is a piece by Gina Perry on the Sherif’s Robbers Cave experiment. As Perry writes,
In the summer of 1954, a bus pulled into Robbers Cave State Park in the mountains of rural Oklahoma. The dozen 11-year-old boys on board, all of them strangers to each other, craned to catch a glimpse through the dusty windows of what for most of them was their first summer camp. For a week they explored the park, swam in a creek, and hiked in and around mountain caves. They didn’t know that a couple of days later, a second group arrived, also believing they had the park to themselves.
Social psychologist Muzafer Sherif and his team, disguised as camp counsellors, watched each group bond and form its own identity. The two groups named themselves the Rattlers and the Eagles, each with flag, anthem, dress code, leaders and followers, as well as shared rules and standards. “They staked out their territory,” Sherif’s research assistant, O.J. Harvey, told me. “Everything was ‘our’ – ‘our hideout’, ‘our creek’.”
The full article can be found (behind a pay-wall) here.
New in the online magazine Behavioral Scientist, as part of a special issue on “Connected State of Mind,” is a piece on “A History of Panic Over Entertainment Technology” by Christopher J. Ferguson and Cathy Faye. As they note,
Since the earliest twentieth century, psychologists have been concerned with how technology affects health and well-being. In the 1930s, they weighed the effects of listening to the radio. In the 1960s, they turned their attention to television. And in more recent years, they have expanded their research to video games and cell phone use. Psychologists have always been vocal on questions about the long-term effects of entertainment technology.
However, both the past and present debates suggest that answering questions about the pros and cons of entertainment technology is complicated. Research findings have been mixed and therefore not easily translatable into policy statements, news headlines, or advice for parents. This was true in 1960 and it is true today.
Take, for example, debates regarding televised violence and childhood aggression. Between 1950 and 1970, televisions became a standard presence in American homes. However, not everyone believed they were a welcome addition. Parents, educators, and politicians questioned what they saw as excess violence and sexuality on TV.
In 1969, the Surgeon General’s Office deemed TV violence a public health problem and called on psychologists to provide definitive evidence on its effects. The million-dollar project was modeled on the well-known Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on health-related risks of tobacco use. It was hoped that evidence from the social and behavioral sciences could similarly close the case on television violence and aggressive behavior.
Read the full piece here.