Are you ‘virtue signaling’? – David Rand, Jillian Jordan

David Rand, Associate Professor of Management Science and Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT Sloan School of Management

From The New York Times 

Expressions of moral outrage are playing a prominent role in contemporary debates about issues like sexual assault, immigration and police brutality. In response, there have been criticisms of expressions of outrage as mere “virtue signaling” — feigned righteousness intended to make the speaker appear superior by condemning others.

Clearly, feigned righteousness exists. We can all think of cases where people simulated or exaggerated feelings of outrage because they had a strategic reason to do so. Politicians on the campaign trail, for example, are frequent offenders.

So it may seem reasonable to ask, whenever someone is expressing indignation, “Is she genuinely outraged or just virtue signaling?” But in many cases this question is misguided, for the answer is often “both.”

You may not realize it, but distinguishing between genuine and strategic expressions of indignation assumes a particular scientific theory: namely, that there are two separable psychological systems that shape expressions of moral outrage. One is a “genuine” system that evaluates a transgression in light of our moral values and determines what level of outrage we actually feel. The other is a “strategic” system that evaluates our social context and determines what level of outrage will look best to others. Authentic expressions of outrage involve only the first system, whereas virtue signaling involves the second system.

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Tune into #TheSourceBook Twitter Chat on October 21 to learn how neuroscience can help you reach your full potential

 

Dr. Tara Swart, psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management will discuss her latest book, The Source, during the next #MITSloanExperts Twitter chat on October 21 at 12 p.m. ET. Our host, Kelly Hoey, will discuss with Dr. Swart how the ancient tools of manifestation and visualization, combined with the latest breakthroughs in neuroscience, can free us of self-limiting behaviors and propel us toward our truest, most authentic selves.

Dr. Swart will describe her own journey from skeptic to believer and share the scientific breakthroughs and personal revelations that changed her from an unhappy, close-minded, and disconnected woman wanting more from life, to a successful entrepreneur living with confidence, purpose, and joy.

Tune into #TheSourceBook Twitter chat on October 21 at 12 p.m. ET to discover a rigorous, proven toolkit for unlocking our minds—and reaching our fullest potential. Use #TheSourceBook and #MITSloanExperts to follow the conversation, ask questions and add your own insight. Make sure to follow @TaraSwart and @jkhoey!

Why do people fall for fake news? – David Rand, Gordon Pennycook

Associate Professor of Management Science and Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT Sloan School of Management

From The New York Times 

What makes people susceptible to fake news and other forms of strategic misinformation? And what, if anything, can be done about it?

These questions have become more urgent in recent years, not least because of revelations about the Russian campaign to influence the 2016 United States presidential election by disseminating propaganda through social media platforms. In general, our political culture seems to be increasingly populated by people who espouse outlandish or demonstrably false claims that often align with their political ideology.

The good news is that psychologists and other social scientists are working hard to understand what prevents people from seeing through propaganda. The bad news is that there is not yet a consensus on the answer. Much of the debate among researchers falls into two opposing camps. One group claims that our ability to reason is hijacked by our partisan convictions: that is, we’re prone to rationalization. The other group — to which the two of us belong — claims that the problem is that we often fail to exercise our critical faculties: that is, we’re mentally lazy.

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2019: A new year calls for new questions – Hal Gregersen

Hal Gregersen, Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center

Hal Gregersen, Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center

From Psychology Today

The New Year is right around the corner and individuals and organizations alike are churning out new goals in a mass ritualized frenzy. The problem is that both on a company-wide level and on a personal level many of these new benchmarks will never be reached.

Ask yourself this: Did you really lose 10 pounds last year? Did you grow your business by 5 percent each quarter? So instead of making a list of brutal stretch goals and then beating yourself up for not achieving them, here’s a better plan for 2019. Ditch the goals and get to work on a list of compelling questions. Yes, questions.

Questions have a curious power to unlock new and positive behavior changes in every part of our lives. They can open up new directions for progress no matter what we are struggling with. My interviews with more than 200 of the world’s most creative leaders—including well-known business executives such as Jeff Bezos at Amazon, Marc Benioff at Salesforce.

Debbie Stirling at GoldieBlox, and Tony Hsieh from Zappos—show that when you are operating at the edge of uncertainty, trying to figure out a better question is a far more productive way forward than trying to figure out a better answer. The right questions can surface a false assumption and give us the energy to do something about it. My research has shown that the best questions, in whatever setting, turn out to have some fundamental things in common.

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Why Americans are unhappier than ever – and how to fix it – George Ward

George Ward, MIT Sloan PhD student

From The Conversation

March 20 is International Day of Happiness and, as they’ve done every year, the United Nations has published the World Happiness Report. The U.S. ranks 18th among the world’s countries, with an average life satisfaction of around 6.88 on a scale of 10.

While that may be relatively near the top, America’s happiness figures have actually declined every year since the reports began in 2012, and this year’s are the lowest yet. The question, then, is whether the government has a role to play in improving the happiness of its citizens. And if so, how might policymakers go about it?

Fortunately, a growing body of work by economists and psychologists can give governments access to the kind of data that can inform the way they think about policy and happiness.

In our new book, “The Origins of Happiness: The Science of Well-Being Over the Life Course,” my colleagues and I provide a systematic account of what makes for a satisfying life.

The role of government

The idea that government ought to focus attention on the well-being of its citizens goes back centuries. Thomas Jefferson himself said, “The care of human life and happiness … is the only legitimate object of good government.”

Historically, this has meant increasing economic productivity and growth to increase personal happiness. But as the data suggest, and many countries are beginning to realize, this isn’t likely to be sufficient. As a result, many governments around the world are now taking steps to broaden their policy goals beyond GDP. Read More »