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A new study finds infants can discern between leaders and bullies
A new study finds even babies can discern who leads and who bullies.
Researchers have just discovered that infants can determine the difference between a bully who coerces people into obedience and a leader who utilizes respect to encourage people to follow them. They also found that the infants have certain expectations of what people facing bullies or leaders will do next.
Even infants know a good leader when they see one
Francesco Margoni, a postdoc at the University of Trento, professor Luca Surian at Trento, and professor Renée Baillargeon of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign carried out the study with a group of 21-month-old children using a series of cartoons.
The first test's cartoons showed a bully coercing other characters into action and then featured a respected leader instructing people to do the same thing.
The cartoons indicated that the bully was mean and that the leader was respected before any other action took place. The bully was identified by showing them striking the characters and stealing their ball, while the leader was bowed to and given the ball as a gift.
The cartoon introduced the leader or bully (yellow) by showing them either being respected by the red characters or attacking them with a stick. The first test featured a large headdress on the yellow figure which was removed or altered for later tests. (Margoni et al. provided by Dr. Baillargeon)
The second half of the cartoon showed the characters going to bed, as the bully or leader told them to do. The bully or leader then left. The cartoons then either showed the remaining characters staying in bed or getting up as soon as the authority figure was gone.
For the test, the yellow figure, now identified as a leader or bully, would command the red characters to go to bed. After the yellow figure left, the red characters would either continue to obey or immediately go back to playing. The responses of the children varied accordingly. (Margoni et al. provided by Dr. Baillargeon)
In studies such as this one, the very young children tend to look longer at an unexpected event before their attention span gives out—as opposed to an expected happening. By comparing how long they spend looking at each cartoon, the researchers can determine what the toddlers were expecting to happen.
As predicted, the infants expected the characters sent to bed by a leader to continue to obey after the leader was gone and paid more attention to the case where they left bed immediately. They were equally as interested in both cases with the bully, however. This suggests that they thought both outcomes were plausible as it was reasonable to take steps to avoid being hit again.
Size doesn’t matter
A second experiment was undertaken to confirm the first, and account for issues of interpretation. Since it is known that infants expect larger individuals to win confrontations, the headdresses of the leader and bully were removed to assure that the larger size of the characters didn’t influence the infants’ expectations.
The results were the same; the children expected a leader to be obeyed in their absence and were split on their expectations on if a bully would be obeyed or not after they left. It suggested that the children were able to distinguish the difference between the two based on behavioral cues and had different conceptions of how they acquired and used power.
It’s nothing personal
The final test sought to prove that power dynamics were the key factor in the infants’ expectations by removing the behavioral cues that one character was a leader and one was a bully and replacing them by showing all the characters positively or negatively interacting before the command to go to bed was given.
To determine if the children were thinking that the obedience to the bully was based on an expectation of further harm in the previous tests, the character who they negatively interacted with, essentially still a bully, remained on screen after ordering them to bed in this test.
It was found that the infants expected the characters to leave bed the moment the character who they positively interacted with went away. They also, however, fully expected the characters to stay in bed when the bully was still present on the screen. This supported the idea that the children who expected the characters to obey the absent bully in previous tests supposed that they might come back.
What does it all mean?
Infants expected cartoon characters to obey a leader they respected and were surprised when they did not. They only partly expected the characters to obey a bully, suggesting that while they understood that the characters didn’t respect the bully that they also grasped the idea of continuing to obey out of fear the bully might return.
It seems that if you want people to follow you even when you're gone, respect works better than fear. Take that, Machiavelli.
What does this mean for how we view authority?
The study suggests that even very young children have an idea of legitimate authority and expect people to do what authority figures tell them. The idea that we have an innate moral psychology and that an understanding of authority is part of it remains a controversial topic.
Johnathan Haidt has written on the subject extensively and suggested it exists. Others disagree, suggesting that our minds are more like blank slates and that any understanding of authority we have must be learned.
The researchers summarized their findings on the matter:
“…our finding that infants expect leaders to be obeyed supports the prior claim by social scientists (e.g., Alan Fiske, Haidt and Graham) that the basic structure of human moral cognition includes a principle of authority: When an individual is acknowledged as a legitimate authority figure by a group, expectations come into play about how the authority figure should act toward the subordinates (e.g., maintain order), and about how the subordinates should act toward the authority figure (e.g., obey their directives). By demonstrating that infants can identify a respect-based leader and expect subordinates to obey this leader, we are one step closer to demonstrating that a principle of authority is indeed part of the basic structure of human moral cognition and emerges early in life.”
After suggesting that these expectations might be innate, the authors then note that “it becomes particularly interesting to look at world leaders today and see whether or not they meet these expectations…”
So, how can I use this?
Dr. Baillargeon suggests that parents can use the findings to reframe their approach when trying to deal with their children’s bad behavior. Comparing the finding that infants grasp the concept of authority figures to our understanding that they grasp the idea of fairness, she explains that:
“Infants do not need to be taught that authority figures should be obeyed, but they may need to be helped to keep their self-interest in check so they respond to authority figures as they should. In other words, infants understand something about how authority figures should be treated, and about the obedience that is owed to them, and this is something that parents and caregivers can build on when interacting with children, by reminding them of what they already know.”
It seems like an understanding of the differences between leadership and bullying develop at a young age and that infants have certain expectations of how people should react to them. The findings support the idea that our minds are structured in a way that innately includes an understanding of authority. While questions of how far the findings of this study go remain open, the study gives us great insights into how our moral psychology develops.
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Why do so many people encounter beings after smoking large doses of DMT?
- DMT is arguably the most powerful psychedelic drug on the planet, capable of producing intense hallucinations.
- Researchers recently surveyed more than 2,000 DMT users about their encounters with 'entities' while tripping, finding that respondents often considered these strange encounters to be positive and meaningful.
- The majority of respondents believed the beings they encountered were not hallucinations.
What are DMT beings?<p>Do DMT entities actually exist in some other dimension, or are they hallucinations that the brain generates when its visual processing system is overwhelmed by a powerful tryptamine?<br></p><p>The late American ethnobotanist Terence McKenna believed that DMT beings — which he called "machine elves" — were real. Here's how he once <a href="https://www.ranker.com/list/dmt-machine-elves-facts/inigo-gonzalez" target="_blank">described</a> one of his DMT experiences:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I sank to the floor. I [experienced] this hallucination of tumbling forward into these fractal geometric spaces made of light and then I found myself in the equivalent of the Pope's private chapel and there were insect elf machines proffering strange little tablets with strange writing on them, and I was aghast, completely appalled, because [in] a matter of seconds... my entire expectation of the nature of the world was just being shredded in front of me. I've never actually gotten over it.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">These self-transforming machine elf creatures were speaking in a colored language which condensed into rotating machines that were like Fabergé eggs but crafted out of luminescent superconducting ceramics and liquid crystal gels. All this stuff was just so weird and so alien and so un-English-able that it was a complete shock — I mean, the literal turning inside out of [my] intellectual universe!"</p><p>McKenna believed machine elves exist in alternate realities, which form a "<a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/old-favourites-the-archaic-revival-1991-by-terence-mckenna-1.3924887" target="_blank">raging universe of active intelligence that is transhuman, hyperdimensional, and extremely alien.</a>" But he was far from the first to believe that DMT is a doorway to other realms.</p><p>Indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin have used ayahuasca in religious ceremonies for centuries, though no one is quite sure when they first started experimenting with the psychedelic brew. The Jibaro people of the Ecuadorian rainforest believed ayahuasca allowed regular people, not just shamans, to <a href="https://atrium.lib.uoguelph.ca/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10214/17902/RichardsonG_202004_HonThesis.pdf?sequence=3" target="_blank">speak directly to the gods</a>. The 19th-century Ecuadorian geographer Villavicencio wrote of other Amazonian shamans who used ahaysuca (known as the "vine of the dead") to contact spirits and foresee enemy battle plans.</p><p>In the West, research on DMT experiences has been sparse yet interesting. The psychiatrist Rick Strassman conducted some of the first human DMT trials at the University of New Mexico in the early 1990s. He found that <a href="https://www.erowid.org/chemicals/dmt/dmt_article3.shtml" target="_blank">"at least half"</a> of his research subjects had encountered some form of entity after taking DMT.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I was neither intellectually nor emotionally prepared for the frequency with which contact with beings occurred in our studies, nor the often utterly bizarre nature of these experiences," Strassman wrote in his book "DMT The Spirit Molecule".</p>
Manuel Medir / Getty<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Whenever I tried to pull any information out of the entities regarding themselves, the data that was given up was always relevant only to me. The elves could not give me any piece of data I did not already know, nor could their existence be sustained under any kind of prolonged scrutiny."</p><p>It's also worth noting that not all people who smoke DMT see beings, and that some see beings that look <a href="https://www.erowid.org/chemicals/dmt/dmt_article3.shtml" target="_blank">nothing like elves or aliens</a>. The diversity of these reports seems to count against the argument that DMT beings exist in some objective alternate reality.</p><p>In other words, if DMT beings exist in some other dimension, shouldn't they appear the same to anyone who visits that dimension? Or do the beings assume a different appearance based on who's looking? Or are there many types of beings in the DMT universe, but most look like elves? </p><p>You might start seeing elves just trying to sort this stuff out.</p><p>Ultimately, nobody knows exactly why DMT beings take the forms they do, or whether they're just figments of overstimulated imaginations. And the answers might be beside the point. </p><p>In the recent survey, 60 percent of participants said their encounter with DMT beings "produced a desirable alteration in their conception of reality whereas only 1% indicated an undesirable alteration in their conception of reality."</p><p>DMT beings may be nothing more than projections of the subconscious mind. But these bizarre encounters do help some people find real meaning, whether it's through personal revelation or the raw power of ontological shock.</p>
So far, 30 student teams have entered the Indy Autonomous Challenge, scheduled for October 2021.
- The Indy Autonomous Challenge will task student teams with developing self-driving software for race cars.
- The competition requires cars to complete 20 laps within 25 minutes, meaning cars would need to average about 110 mph.
- The organizers say they hope to advance the field of driverless cars and "inspire the next generation of STEM talent."
Indy Autonomous Challenge<p>Completing the race in 25 minutes means the cars will need to average about 110 miles per hour. So, while the race may end up being a bit slower than a typical Indy 500 competition, in which winners average speeds of over 160 mph, it's still set to be the fastest autonomous race featuring full-size cars.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"There is no human redundancy there," Matt Peak, managing director for Energy Systems Network, a nonprofit that develops technology for the automation and energy sectors, told the <a href="https://www.post-gazette.com/business/tech-news/2020/06/01/Indy-Autonomous-Challenge-Indy-500-Indianapolis-Motor-Speedway-Ansys-Aptiv-self-driving-cars/stories/202005280137" target="_blank">Pittsburgh Post-Gazette</a>. "Either your car makes this happen or smash into the wall you go."</p>
Illustration of the Indy Autonomous Challenge
Indy Autonomous Challenge<p>The Indy Autonomous Challenge <a href="https://www.indyautonomouschallenge.com/rules" target="_blank">describes</a> itself as a "past-the-post" competition, which "refers to a binary, objective, measurable performance rather than a subjective evaluation, judgement, or recognition."</p><p>This competition design was inspired by the 2004 DARPA Grand Challenge, which tasked teams with developing driverless cars and sending them along a 150-mile route in Southern California for a chance to win $1 million. But that prize went unclaimed, because within a few hours after starting, all the vehicles had suffered some kind of critical failure.</p>
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indy Autonomous Challenge<p>One factor that could prevent a similar outcome in the upcoming race is the ability to test-run cars on a virtual racetrack. The simulation software company Ansys Inc. has already developed a model of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on which teams will test their algorithms as part of a series of qualifying rounds.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We can create, with physics, multiple real-life scenarios that are reflective of the real world," Ansys President Ajei Gopal told <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/autonomous-vehicles-to-race-at-indianapolis-motor-speedway-11595237401?mod=e2tw" target="_blank">The Wall Street Journal</a>. "We can use that to train the AI, so it starts to come up to speed."</p><p>Still, the race could reveal that self-driving cars aren't quite ready to race at speeds of over 110 mph. After all, regular self-driving cars already face enough logistical and technical roadblocks, including <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-53349313#:~:text=Tesla%20will%20be%20able%20to,no%20driver%20input%2C%20he%20said." target="_blank">crumbling infrastructure, communication issues</a> and the <a href="https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/would-you-ride-in-a-car-thats-programmed-to-kill-you" target="_self">fateful moral decisions driverless cars will have to make in split seconds</a>.</p>But the Indy Autonomous Challenge <a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5da73021d0636f4ec706fa0a/t/5dc0680c41954d4ef41ec2b2/1572890638793/Indy+Autonomous+Challenge+Ruleset+-+v5NOV2019+%282%29.pdf" target="_blank">says</a> its main goal is to advance the industry, by challenging "students around the world to imagine, invent, and prove a new generation of automated vehicle (AV) software and inspire the next generation of STEM talent."
A new Harvard study finds that the language you use affects patient outcome.
- A study at Harvard's McLean Hospital claims that using the language of chemical imbalances worsens patient outcomes.
- Though psychiatry has largely abandoned DSM categories, professor Joseph E Davis writes that the field continues to strive for a "brain-based diagnostic system."
- Chemical explanations of mental health appear to benefit pharmaceutical companies far more than patients.
Challenging the Chemical Imbalance Theory of Mental Disorders: Robert Whitaker, Journalist<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="41699c8c2cb2aee9271a36646e0bee7d"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-8BDC7i8Yyw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>This is a far cry from Howard Rusk's 1947 NY Times editorial calling for mental healt</p><p>h disorders to be treated similarly to physical disease (such as diabetes and cancer). This mindset—not attributable to Rusk alone; he was merely relaying the psychiatric currency of the time—has dominated the field for decades: mental anguish is a genetic and/or chemical-deficiency disorder that must be treated pharmacologically.</p><p>Even as psychiatry untethered from DSM categories, the field still used chemistry to validate its existence. Psychotherapy, arguably the most efficient means for managing much of our anxiety and depression, is time- and labor-intensive. Counseling requires an empathetic and wizened ear to guide the patient to do the work. Ingesting a pill to do that work for you is more seductive, and easier. As Davis writes, even though the industry abandoned the DSM, it continues to strive for a "brain-based diagnostic system." </p><p>That language has infiltrated public consciousness. The team at McLean surveyed 279 patients seeking acute treatment for depression. As they note, the causes of psychological distress have constantly shifted over the millennia: humoral imbalance in the ancient world; spiritual possession in medieval times; early childhood experiences around the time of Freud; maladaptive thought patterns dominant in the latter half of last century. While the team found that psychosocial explanations remain popular, biogenetic explanations (such as the chemical imbalance theory) are becoming more prominent. </p><p>Interestingly, the 80 people Davis interviewed for his book predominantly relied on biogenetic explanations. Instead of doctors diagnosing patients, as you might expect, they increasingly serve to confirm what patients come in suspecting. Patients arrive at medical offices confident in their self-diagnoses. They believe a pill is the best course of treatment, largely because they saw an advertisement or listened to a friend. Doctors too often oblige without further curiosity as to the reasons for their distress. </p>
Image: Illustration Forest / Shutterstock<p>While medicalizing mental health softens the stigma of depression—if a disorder is inheritable, it was never really your fault—it also disempowers the patient. The team at McLean writes,</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"More recent studies indicate that participants who are told that their depression is caused by a chemical imbalance or genetic abnormality expect to have depression for a longer period, report more depressive symptoms, and feel they have less control over their negative emotions."</p><p>Davis points out the language used by direct-to-consumer advertising prevalent in America. Doctors, media, and advertising agencies converge around common messages, such as everyday blues is a "real medical condition," everyone is susceptible to clinical depression, and drugs correct underlying somatic conditions that you never consciously control. He continues,</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Your inner life and evaluative stance are of marginal, if any, relevance; counseling or psychotherapy aimed at self-insight would serve little purpose." </p><p>The McLean team discovered a similar phenomenon: patients expect little from psychotherapy and a lot from pills. When depression is treated as the result of an internal and immutable essence instead of environmental conditions, behavioral changes are not expected to make much difference. Chemistry rules the popular imagination.</p>