August 5, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 9:54 AM

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 AM


The Case for Lying to Yourself : Some Self-Deception Can Boost Power and Influence; Starts as Young as Age 3 (SUE SHELLENBARGER, 7/30/12, WSJ)

Researchers disagree over what exactly happens in the brain during self-deception. Social psychologists say people deceive themselves in an unconscious effort to boost self-esteem or feel better. Evolutionary psychologists, who say different parts of the brain can harbor conflicting beliefs at the same time, say self-deception is a way of fooling others to our own advantage.

In some people, the tendency seems to be an inborn personality trait. Others may develop a habit of self-deception as a way of coping with problems and challenges.

Behavioral scientists in recent years have begun using new techniques in the laboratory to predict when and why people are likely to deceive themselves. For example, they may give subjects opportunities to inflate their own attractiveness, skill or intelligence. Then, they manipulate such variables as subjects' mood, promises of rewards or opportunities to cheat. They measure how the prevalence of self-deception changes.

In an unpublished study earlier this year, young women were asked to stand in front of a sheet of brown paper and sketch outlines of their bodies. Some were then asked to read a story about dating to put them in a romantic mood. The others were asked to read about buildings and architecture, says Carrie Keating, a psychology professor at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., who led the research.

When the women were asked later to outline their bodies again, those who had read about dating sketched themselves as slimmer, with narrower waists, compared with their earlier drawings, reflecting an effort to "block out any negative information about their bodies" and succeed at the dating game, Dr. Keating says. The women who read about buildings didn't much change their sketches.

As early as age 3, children have what researchers call a "positivity bias"--a tendency to see themselves as smart regardless of their abilities, and to exaggerate positive traits in others, says a 2010 study in the journal Child Development Perspectives. By adolescence, one-fourth of college-bound students rate themselves in the top 1% in their ability to get along with others, research shows.

In a separate study, female students who take leadership positions on campus score higher on measures of self-deception, based on recent research by Dr. Keating. Women who aspire to leadership may have to "conveniently forget about some negatives," such as the fact that "women who behave in a dominant fashion may be perceived as more masculine," Dr. Keating says.

Many people have a way of "fooling their inner eye" to believe they are more successful or attractive than they really are, Dr. Trivers says. When people are asked to choose the most accurate photo of themselves from an array of images that are either accurate, or altered to make them look up to 50% more or less attractive, most choose the photo that looks 20% better than reality, research shows.

Many people deceive themselves to avoid making difficult changes. 

Anything to avoid responsibility.
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Posted by orrinj at 6:13 AM


The Origins of Crisis : Corruption and Nepotism Haunt Southern Europe (Hans-Jürgen Schlamp, 7/31/12, Der Spiegel)

Today, some 144,000 Sicilians get their salary from the state, and one in eight of them is the head of something or other. Many administrative offices are full of people who have no idea what they're supposed to be doing.

When it comes to creating jobs, Sicily's politicians have shown impressive creativity. Some 27,000 people, for example protect the island's meager woodland, far more than the Canadian province of British Columbia employs to tend to its endless forests.

Sicily has in theory been entitled to some €20 billion in EU grants since 2000, but only a fraction of that money has been drawn. The region hasn't undertaken many projects that would be eligible for EU funding, and most of the money it did get was squandered. Motorway bridges without access roads and dams without water testify to the scandal. The mafia has made a killing.

When Sicily tried to finance bars and Christmas nativity scenes with EU funds, Brussels stopped the payout of €600 million. Now the island is at a loss for what to do. Alarmed at the €21 billion in debts Sicily has accumulated, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti wants to dispatch a controller and has demanded that the president of Sicily, Raffaele Lombardo, step down. The Sicilian government has retorted that Rome should pay up and stay out of it, or face a "civil war."

Commenting on the debacle, Rome daily La Repubblica said Sicily was turning into "Italy's Greece." And indeed, Greek -- or Sicilian -- practices can be found in all those southern European countries struggling under the debt crisis. They include using public jobs as election campaign munition, lucrative government contracts for friends and party supporters and political cronyism with deals made for mutual benefit. The true problem of the south isn't the economic and financial crisis -- it's corruption, waste and nepotism.

Countries like Germany and the Netherlands, of course, likewise have examples of incompetent administration, a sluggish justice system and politicians interested solely in preserving their own power. But such problems tend not to be symptomatic. They can disrupt the smooth running of the country and cost a lot of money, but they don't destroy the foundation of the state.

It's a different story in many regions of southern Europe. Employees, tradespeople and small businesses often have to spend more time defending themselves against mindless bureaucratic dictates than they do on running their businesses. Even IKEA, a global player, had to spend six years negotiating with municipal, provincial and regional authorities before it received permission to open a furniture store near the Tuscan city of Pisa.

The extent of corruption and waste seen in parts of the south would be considered intolerable north of the Alps.