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Posts Tagged ‘psychology

Experimental philosophy gets real

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“Ten bucks an hour? Sweet!”

A new study confirms what philosophers have long suspected: ordinary folk disapprove of violently killing innocent bystanders. Published this week in Science, the study is turning heads less for its conclusion and more for its methods. Studying folk intuitions in moral dilemmas is nothing new. But in response to criticism that his laboratory experiments lack ecological validity, Harvard’s Joshua Greene decided to take his research out of the lab and into the field.

“Sure, people will say that pushing a man in front of a speeding trolley is wrong on paper,” says Greene, the study’s lead author. “But what happens when they actually get out there and kill a man? Still wrong? Nobody knew because nobody had tested it.”

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February 25, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Psychologists search philosophical mind for bullshit detector, find “friendship deterrence system” instead

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An unfortunate philosopher and his more unfortunate interlocutor fall victim to a friendship deterrence system out of control.

Philosophers pride themselves on being “bullshit detectors,” as having the capacity to recognize and expose bullshit at first sight.  Intrigued by such self ascriptions, a team of psychologists at the University of Washington conducted a study of 37 philosophy professors and graduate students from the US and Canada. Their results will be published later this year in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.  While no bullshit detector was found, they did identify what they call a “friendship deterrence system.”

The team’s lead investigator, Ian Hammersmith, explains: “We were looking for a mental module that automatically deploys in the presence of confused or unclear thought, that seizes on and exploits the dialectical weaknesses of others, and that makes the difference between an easy-going conversation partner and a hard-nosed philosopher with a killer instinct.  We didn’t find a bullshit detector, but we do believe we’ve located a friendship deterrent system, or FDS.”

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February 22, 2012 at 7:10 pm

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