Monday, July 14, 2014

Public shaming is not an effective behavioral change strategy

I am glad to see this by Oliver Burkeman (I blogged about his excellent book last year).  The basic message is simple.  A lot of our bad habits are unconscious attempts to compensate for feeling bad about ourselves in some way.  For example, some people eat emotionally - they eat when they feel bad, not because they are hungry. 

The ironic thing (that Oliver calls attention to) is that one of the ways society attempts to break people of their bad habits is through public shaming.  He specifically mentions an article in the Daily Mail that calls out young women for being fat.  So here is the illogic.  They make the targeted person feel bad about herself, so she compensates by doing more of the habit you are trying to break her of.  Real smart!!!

Extreme political beliefs make you feel superior

For those of you who know me personally, you will know that feeling superior is not just a blog post for me, it is also a personality trait (yes, I do realize and admit it – the first step towards recovery).  But I think that this research will resonate with all of you, either personally or to recognize it in the people around you.

The primary finding of the study is that people at both ends of the political spectrum have more dogmatic views than people in the middle.  Not only are the views more extreme (which is the definition of the political spectrum), but they are also more likely to believe that they are correct than people in the middle. 

This seems contradictory since moderate views (in anything, not just politics) are more often correct than extreme views.  But maybe in order to hold a view that is less likely to be true, you need a more innate and visceral sense of confidence in it. 

They also found a relationship between this confidence and feelings of normative superiority.  In other words, not only did people with more extreme views have more confidence in their views’ accuracy, they also thought their views were inherently better than other views.  This made them less flexible and less likely to compromise.  Just what we need with extreme views!! 

Another interesting set of findings was when they looked at differences in liberal v conservative ends of the spectrum.  One popular hypothesis is that conservatives are more dogmatic than liberals.  Their data showed that both sides are dogmatic, with only a slightly higher level among conservatives. 

They also found a difference in which areas people are dogmatic about.  People who have extreme views about voter identification laws, taxes, and affirmative action are more likely to be conservative.  People who have extreme views about government aid for the needy, use of torture on terrorists, and basing laws on religion are more likely to be liberal.