Articles to 2017-09-16

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First the link to this week’s complete list as HTML and as PDF.


Abrahao et al. yield interesting consequences for the prevailing condemnatory view about preconceptions. There are many attempts at disproving prejudices by showing that there is at best a tiny correlation behind them with near zero predictive value for the individual case – just like in many high impact studies in the medical, psychological and sociological fields. Lacking any more pertinent knowledge even a tiny bias may yield an appreciable selective advantage in the long run. The positive result reported here is, that people do not cling to their preconceptions but waive them in the presence of better knowledge. Of course any information may be wrong, especially that from a single source. So it is fitting that the more risk adverse subjects stick longer to rules of thumb, that are tried and tested for generations, and wait and see before accepting seemingly contradicting new evidence. All this is biologically adaptive and simply condemning it out of political correctness falls too short.


When people want a good time they seek out easygoing, carefree companions and when they need a shoulder to cry on they prefer empathetic ones. Cheerful and compassionate people have more friends than grinches and scrooges. Thus far Morelli et al. yield little that’s new and few surprises. They do display a glaring example of chartmanship though. The main statement in their figures 3 a and b is, that one set of dots tends to be bigger than the other one, the darker ones. Granted, the few large outliers do belong to that set, but for the rest and the general distribution it’s hard to tell. It seems so at first glance though, because the stronger colour makes them seem larger in comparison than they actually are. There are better ways to make distributions visible and comparable and I wonder why those were shunned here.


Liu et al. is just one more example of negative feedbacks and resilience and demonstrates that not all change has to be for the worse.

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