The Importance of being familiar

In academia and elsewhere, as we have noted  many times, there are biased reactions that one can trigger through being identified as a woman.  The general mechanism might be the same for, say, Asians, but the specifics might well be different.

There are other biasing reactions that women and Asians together might trigger that would have  much more of the same content.  We’ve looked at these less, but we did note that insiders have considerable advantages over outsiders at least because the good performances of insiders tend to be remembered more positively for longer periods of time.

We’re grateful to reader L.A. for sending us another example.  Things that are easier to process are ranked better on scales of truthfulness, liking and so on: 

Uniting the Tribes of Fluency to Form a Metacognitive Nation

Alter  & Oppenheimer

Processing fluency, or the subjective experience of ease with which people process information, reliably influences people’s judgments across a broad range of social dimensions. Experimenters have manipulated processing fluency using a vast array of techniques, which, despite their diversity, produce remarkably similar judgmental consequences. For example, people similarly judge stimuli that are semantically primed (conceptual fluency), visually clear (perceptual fluency), and phonologically simple (linguistic fluency) as more true than their less fluent counterparts. The authors offer the first comprehensive review of such mechanisms and their implications for judgment and decision making. Because every cognition falls along a continuum from effortless to demanding and generates a corresponding fluency experience, the authors argue that fluency is a ubiquitous metacognitive cue in reasoning and social judgment.

My library doesn’t have the article on line yet, and I’m hesitant to do much interpreting without reading.  But even the abstract is very interesting.  Facility in processing causes (to some extent) more  positive reaction. I’m pretty sure this has been found to hold true in other areas, such as art.  Over some range of cases, the brain’s reaction to the familiar  and the pleasurable can be at least very similar, if I’m remembering correctly. 

In any case, women giving papers, for example, might be well advised to try to think about how to present their work to moderate the  problems the lack of familiarity of their person and their ideas present.

Or not.  At what point does one decide it isn’t worth it?  What do you think?

Edward Kennedy 1932-2009

During years of political madness, Kennedy often enough remained sane and  insightful.  Heart-sick at his responsibility for the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, we liberal boomers knew he could not be the true hero we’d hoped his brothers would be.   We’ve since learned, I think, that there are far fewer of those than we may then have thought.

I like these comments from the NY Times:

Born to one of the wealthiest American families, Mr. Kennedy spoke for the downtrodden in his public life while living the heedless private life of a playboy and a rake for many of his years.  Dismissed early in his career as a lightweight and an unworthy successor to his revered brothers, he grew in stature over time by sheer longevity and by hewing to liberal principles while often crossing the partisan aisle to enact legislation. A man of unbridled appetites at times, he nevertheless brought a discipline to his public work that resulted in an impressive catalog of legislative achievement across a broad landscape of social policy.  …

In 2002, he voted against authorizing the Iraq war; later, he called that opposition “the best vote I’ve made in my 44 years in the United States Senate.”

It is quite a blow not to have his strong voice during the health care debates.