Psychological Weapons of Mass Persuasion


In short, it is important to remember that psychological weapons of mass persuasion do not need to be based on highly accurate models, nor do they require huge effects across the population in order to have the ability to undermine the democratic process. In addition, we are only seeing a fraction of the data, which means that scientific research may well be underestimating the influence of these tools. For example, most academic studies use self-reported survey experiments, which do not always accurately simulate the true social dynamics in which online news consumption takes place. Even when Facebook downplayed the importance of the echo chamber effect in their own Science study, the data was based on a tiny snapshot of users (i.e. those who declared their political ideology or about 4% of the total Facebook population). Furthermore, predictive analytics companies do not go through ethical review boards or run highly controlled studies using one or two messages at a time. Instead, they spend millions on testing thirty to forty thousand messages a day across many different audiences, fine-tuning their algorithms, refining their messages, and so on.

The complete article

Sander van der Linden — Scientific American

Parents in a Remote Amazon Village Barely Talk to Their Babies—and the Kids Are Fine


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Recently, I heard a podcast on two approaches to parenting – the gardener and the carpenter. Today’s needull looks at a society vastly different from the westernized rich society.

The researchers observed, anecdotally, that language development appears to be slightly delayed in the Tsimané—but this does not seem to matter. The children grow up to be fully functioning, communicative and productive members of the community. In fact, as interactions between Tsimané and other Bolivians increase, many of the children are becoming bilingual in Spanish as well at their native Tsimané language.

The complete article

Dana G. Smith — Scientific American

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The “True” Human Diet


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According to Wiki, “The Paleolithic diet (also called the paleo diet, caveman diet or stone-age diet) is based mainly on foods presumed to have been available to Paleolithic humans.” Today’s needull thinks this might be a myth.

Many paleoanthropologists today believe that increasing climate fluctuation through the Pleistocene sculpted our ancestors—whether their bodies, or their wit, or both—for the dietary flexibility that’s become a hallmark of humanity. The basic idea is that our ever-changing world winnowed out the pickier eaters among us. Nature has made us a versatile species, which is why we can find something to satiate us on nearly all of its myriad biospheric buffet tables. It’s also why we have been able to change the game, transition from forager to farmer, and really begin to consume our planet.

The complete article

Peter Ungar — Scientific American

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