Posts Tagged ‘Academia’

“Mad Men” is on tonight (and make sure to check back tomorrow for analysis from ACG Blog contributors). You are almost certain to see someone have a drink at the office. Probably not a good idea, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan say.

Scott Rick and Maurice Schweitzer conducted six experiments in which observers

  • “judged the intelligence of targets photographed consuming or merely holding an alcoholic beverage, a non-alcoholic beverage, or nothing”
  • “watched a video clip of a speaker making a persuasive argument, while holding and consuming either an alcoholic or a non-alcoholic beverage”
  • “judged the intelligence of a target photographed without a beverage” after being exposed to alcohol-related advertisements
  • were job managers watching dinner job interviews where the only difference was whether the interviewee, the interviewer, both or neither order a drink
  • were “mildly intoxicated MBA students” giving mock interviews to actors who drank either alcohol or a non-alcoholic beverage
  • “viewed a hypothetical job interview that manipulated the boss’s drink choice.  Participants were then asked what they would order if they were in the job candidate’s position.”

They identified an over-generalized link between alcohol and cognitive impairment—one that exists, but which produces a bias in the observers brought on by just seeing someone holding a drink, or the implication that person has had a drink, despite whether the observer herself has had a drink. Rick and Schweitzer call this the imbibing idiot bias.

The researchers found that

Consuming, or merely holding, an alcoholic beverage reduced perceived intelligence, in the absence of any actual reduction in cognitive performance. We observed this bias even when the person consuming alcohol had his beverage selected for him, suggesting that the bias does not reflect a belief that less intelligent people are most likely to choose to consume alcohol, but rather an implicit association between alcohol and cognitive impairment. We even found that implicitly priming the concept of alcohol caused observers to view targets, holding no beverage at all, as less intelligent. These findings are consistent with an implicit association in memory between alcohol and cognitive impairment.

We also found that alcohol selectively reduced perceived intelligence: Targets were consistently rated as less intelligent, but no less likeable, honest, or genuine, when consuming alcohol.

In interview settings, candidates who consumed alcohol were judged to be less intelligent and less hireable. We document the imbibing idiot bias in informal interview settings with both experienced managers and mildly intoxicated MBA students who assumed the role of a boss in a mock interview.

Prospective job candidates largely fail to anticipate the imbibing idiot bias. Candidates in informal interview settings follow the boss’s lead, even when the boss chooses to consume alcohol. Our demonstration of a robust imbibing idiot bias suggests that this form of mimicry is a mistake.

Their conclusion:

Although people often choose whether to consume alcohol based on its anticipated pharmacological effects (e.g., Capell, 2008), we identify a very different factor that decision-makers should consider. Our work reveals that consuming alcohol can diminish perceived intelligence even when it has no influence on actual performance. Unfortunately, people in a position to be judged largely fail to anticipate the bias. Taken together, the results suggest that what we drink may say more about us than we think.

Essentially, seeing someone drink alcohol makes you think less of their intelligence. It’s not something you consciously decide, and it’s not something you apply to yourself, either, as evidenced by bosses drinking at interviews but thinking less of the candidates who drank. The bottom line, apparently, is don’t drink during any sort of job interview or situation where you’re to be judged, even if the interviewer is enjoying a nice chardonnay.


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Ken Cuccinelli certainly is busy these days. The Virginia attorney general took office just seven months ago and has already distinguished himself as a real go-getter. So far he has:

Cuccinelli lately had his eye on former University of Virginia professor Michael Mann, whose publicly-funded research on climate change Cuccinelli said defrauded taxpayers (Mann now teaches at Penn State). A judge on the Albemarle County Circuit Court Monday rejected Cuccinelli’s request for Mann’s documents and records. The judge found that Cuccinelli had no reasonable basis for believing Mann had defrauded taxpayers and therefore for requesting the documents. The ruling left open the possibility for Cuccinelli to refile civil motions if he can provide more proof for his allegations.

It’s worth noting that an independent investigation of Mann’s work at Penn State found no misconduct in his research.

Reactions from the legal (“Virginia State Judge Screws the Cooch,” says Above the Law), academic (“Win for Researcher Rights,” screams Inside Higher Ed) and scientific (“Virginia Judge Sets Aside Climate Subpoena,” the more reserved ScienceBlogs states) communities has been generally critical of Cuccinelli.

“The Cooch is tripping,” Above the Law said simply.

Writing for Discover, Phil Plait sums up the situation:

In the end, I don’t think Cuccinelli is going to get any traction with this case, except perhaps politically. He has been – haha – feeling the heat about this recently. No fewer than four science/free speech advocacy groups filed an amicus brief against Cuccinelli, there have been numerous press releases by the Union of Concerned Scientists (a group I am hit or miss with, but on this they’ve nailed it), and – while it was unrelated to this case specifically – the EPA has chimed in, rejecting anti-global warming claims.

Cuccinelli is a climate change denier, plain and simple. His attack against Mann was ill-advised and based on nothing but noise. After all the overwhelming evidence against his claims, if Cuccinelli continues to pursue this case I hope people come to realize who is really wasting taxpayers’ money.

Don’t worry, there’s certainly been reaction from the right. Chris Horner at BigGovernment.com seriously questioned the judge’s decision because he failed to disclose that his wife used to work for U.Va.’s Department of Environmental Sciences. Even still, Horner said he thought Cuccinelli would prevail. “I attended the hearing a week ago Friday at which the parties argued the University’s motion to dismiss,” he writes. “The Deputy AG Wesley Russell’s arguments dominated, so badly I almost felt sorry for the University [sic].”

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Stripper, B.A.

Speaking of interesting academic research, I was delighted to find this jewel floating around the British press: “One in four lap dancers has a degree, study finds.”

The picture painted by the researchers, Teela Sanders and Kate Hardy of the University of Leeds, indicates that, contrary to popular opinion that exotic dancers are uneducated and poor, one in four dancers has a postsecondary degree and took home an average £232 ($357) per shift. Most have annual incomes between £24,000 ($37,000) and £48,000 ($74,000).

But it’s not all fun and games. From The Indepedent:

However, the researchers also found dancers’ welfare was often disregarded. They called for better regulation to improve dancers’ safety and security, including the banning of private booths in clubs, arguing that women could be in danger when alone with customers or that standards could be lowered by women offering more than was allowed in dances. Dancers were also open to financial exploitation by the clubs who could impose charges and fines.

As an especial blow to me, The Independent included a case study of “Amber,” a former financial journalist who now makes £40,000 ($61,700) per year as a stripper. “I think it’s everyone’s dream to be self-employed, to not have a boss and to work as much or as little as you want,” she said. “In journalism, it didn’t matter how many hours of overtime I put in, I still got paid the same. Now I can work really hard one week and earn good money, and then I can have a week when I don’t work so hard and don’t earn so much.”


Bonus! The Independent is dubbing it “[t]he first academic research project into lap dancing.” But what about:

And, extra bonus meta-academic research:

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Normally, when a fascinating new article appears in a scientific journal, I’m all over it. Consider 2009 “When Zombies Attack! Mathematical Modelling of an Outbreak of Zombie Infection,” in Infection Disease Modelling Research Progress. (Excuse the misspelling; it’s Canadian).

So imagine my excitement when I heard a journal called Medical Problems of Performing Artists just published “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — Controversies Regarding His Illnesses and Health: A Bibliographic Review.” All right! I thought. To the journal’s website! Alas, MPPA is not a free journal. No problem, I’ll just go to the school library’s website and — NO! I’m not a student anymore! I no longer have 24-hour free access to any article in any journal anywhere anytime. It’s a withering revelation. An examination of Biblical structure in Thomas Hardy’s “The Mayor of Casterbridge” in Modern Language Studies? Denied. That analysis of mythological mining spirits in Cornish Studies? Off limits. A review of the ethics of maritime archaeology in Public Archaeology? Kaput.

(Yes, those are real articles I used for real papers in real classes. Thanks, interlibrary loan!)

That alone is enough to make me consider grad school. But for now, I’ll have to settle for this watered-down New York Times article.

Apparently Mozart has become the puzzle du jour in the speculative diagnostics community. According to the literature review, doctors have thought of at least 118 possible diagnoses for the 18th century composer who died at just 35. The list was compiled by William Dawson, a retired surgeon and Performing Arts Medical Association bibliographer. There’s not much evidence: no body, no doctor’s notes. Most data is from accounts by Mozart’s widow and sister. The various explanations fit into five groups:

  • Poisoning (Salieri!) (Just kidding!) (Or am I?)
  • Infection (including bacterial endocarditis, streptococcal septicemia, tuberculosis, parasitic infestation and rheumatic fever)
  • Cardiovascular disease (stroke and congestive heart failure)
  • Kidney disease (uremia)
  • Miscellaneous (“Schönlein-Henoch syndrome, a rare disorder of the blood vessels”)

“If I had to put two cents on something, it would probably be kidney failure,” Dr. Dawson said. “It was probably the most common diagnosis. People who know more about these things than I consider it the probable principal cause.”

Booooooooooo-ring! I would have voted for Schönlein-Henoch — it’s got umlauts, that’s way cooler.

(By the way, bonus points if you know where the quote from the title came from.)

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The liberalization of students during college is a well-documented trend. So are professors being overwhelmingly liberal. These leanings provide some serious ammo for conservatives criticizing higher education. According to common arguments, right-leaning students are discriminated against, are afraid to speak out against liberal causes such as affirmative action, etc.

But a new study, presented recently at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting, finds that, while some campus conservatives feel pressured and discriminated against, many do not. The researchers, Amy Binder and Kate Wood of the University of California-San Diego, conducted extensive interviews at two schools often attacked by conservatives for liberal bias. For the report Binder and Wood tritely refer to the two institutions as “Eastern elite” (a small, liberal arts college) and “Western public” (a large state school). Conventional wisdom would indicate conservatives feel more comfortable at a larger state school than a smaller private one.

Surprisingly, Binder and Wood found the opposite.


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