Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Learning from Others

Consider sending a little message of support or love. It could be a single-sentence email to a team member at work who's going through a tough time, taking on a new challenge, or preparing for a big presentation. The board won't know what hit them--you're an ace! Maybe you pop a note in your child's lunchbox wishing them good luck on their spelling test and reminding them of the spelling of a tricky word. You're an awesome speller! The very same instructor was given higher ratings when he came across as likable. However, evaluators were not aware of being influenced by an instructor's likability. They did not state, Because I liked him, I rated his appearance more positively. They simply asserted their impression of his appearance, believing inaccurately that whether or not they liked someone held no influence. People routinely fall prey to the halo effect. A term coined by the psychologist Edward Thorndike, this effect occurs when an initial positive impression of a person impacts how favorably the person is subsequently perceived. In this experiment, participants were unaware that perceiving an instructor as likable affected how they interpreted his appearance, accent, and mannerisms, nor did they believe it affected their ratings. Halo effects are pervasive and, as we will see in later articles, have been proven to distort our views in job interviews. What is more, the halo effect did not go away when the evaluators were instructed to use introspection to make sure their judgments were unbiased. For example, when considering whether the instructor's warmth might be clouding the participants' judgment, say, of the math curriculum he planned to introduce, people were quick to come up with stories about why the new math curriculum was superior on its own merits. The term, which is now widely popular, was coined by Paulhus and Williams in 2002 to describe the three darkest personality traits that are unusually malevolent: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Recently, researchers argue that sadism should be added to the dark triad due to its similarities with other conditions. Sadism, as published by the European Journal of Psychological Assessment, meets the criteria found in narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism, while bringing a new element that is foreign to the other dark traits--an intrinsic feeling of pleasure derived from hurting others. In recent years, there have been increasing reports about people getting defrauded by cyber hackers and posers. They commit their fraudulent acts without a single atom of remorse.

These are examples of people with dark triad traits. Throughout history, there are also examples of people who have maliciously put their interest above all others, which shows that dark triad traits have probably been around since the dawn of humanity. You may have met people like this in your school or workplace. Or you may even have some of these traits without knowing it. One thing about people with dark traits is that they are usually aware that they are doing something hurtful to others. You'll MESMERIZE your teacher! It could even be a note slipped under the door of the roommate you exchanged words with the day before to let them know there are no hard feelings and you're eager to get back on a friendly footing. I know we disagree sometimes, but you're a great roommate. Want to meet for dinner tonight? All these messages are random and unanticipated, and that's where much of their impact comes from. You can create messages like these on a regular basis and vary who you send them to, or change up the message or where you hide it. Figure out who needs a boost this week, and make a point of lifting them up. As a bonus, you'll likely find that sending these messages is uplifting for you, too. The message doesn't have to be in your own words. If you don't consider yourself to be much of a wordsmith, motivational or thoughtful quotes can deliver the message you want. Instead of making people question their assumptions, introspection turns out to reassure people that they have been correct all along and that their conclusions are based on sound reasoning. When asked how susceptible they think they are to biases or stereotypical judgments, study participants conclude routinely that they are less biased than the average. It isn't just that being made aware of biases doesn't do the trick. It isn't just that urging introspection about whether your judgments might be biased doesn't work. It turns out that when research participants are asked not to give into their inclination to make stereotypical judgments, things can backfire.

In one experiment on unconscious bias, study participants taking an Implicit Association Test were instructed to suppress the tendency to be more favorable toward flowers than to insects and to whites as compared to blacks. They were unable to do so. A meta-analysis examining twenty-one studies aimed at reducing automatic stereotypes finds that suppression does not work. In extreme cases, instructions to resist stereotypes had the opposite effect, making stereotypes more salient and leading to an increase in biased judgments. For example, students evaluated older job applicants more negatively after watching a diversity training video asking them to suppress unfavorable attitudes toward the elderly. Still, most do not feel bad about it. They don't feel bad, because they have an impaired sense of empathy. Some even lack empathy altogether. On first examination, you may believe there are differences between the three traits that form the dark triad. Some people believe that it is much better to be a narcissist than a psychopath. Some people even proudly say things like, I'm a narcissist. I just can't help it. However, the truth is that these three traits, and the other six traits, all have precariously close links. Psychopaths are mostly narcissists, even though all narcissists may not be psychopaths. All the dark traits stem from the same tendency. Does your partner have a favorite author? Go online, grab a selection of their quotes, and pop them into your secret messages. Do you enjoy poetry? Look up some of the best lines from your favorite poets and use these. The possibilities are endless.

Small, unexpected notes telling a friend or family member you love and support them or sharing some encouragement are a great way to deepen your relationship and create some surprise and delight. Time to Take Your Complaint Public? These days, we can find reviews for anything, and companies are especially sensitive about their reputations. This can certainly be a benefit to us as consumers because we can learn about a company, product, or service before we invest. And when we're not happy with how we're treated and our complaints are ignored, we can go public with the tap of a button. In addition, when trying to suppress racial bias and avoid referring to race in situations where it would have been natural to mention it, people perceive the suppressors as more racially biased. The same is true of hindsight bias. Sometimes referred to as the knew-it-all-along effect, it says that people tend to see the present as more predictable than it really was. When the meteorologist predicts a 50 percent chance of rain, the drenched commuter declares he was 100 percent sure it was going to pour. Research on overcoming this bias has shown a similar pattern. People cannot help but fall prey to it, even after having been taught about the bias and being explicitly instructed to avoid it. Baruch Fischhoff, an early contributor to this research, argued that for de-biasing to have any meaningful impact, it must involve at a minimum the following four steps: awareness of the possibility of bias; This, of course, is a tall order. How many of us have our superego sit on our shoulders to regularly monitor our attitudes and behaviors, analyze them for their root causes, and then give feedback on what to do about them? Arguably none of us, and certainly not all the time. Basically, this means that most dark traits are manifested from a singular disposition common to all: the dark core of personality. Practically, what this means is that people who have the tendencies to portray any of these dark traits are also strongly likely to show one or more of the other eight traits. That is, if you are a narcissist, you have a strong tendency to be a psychopath, sadist, or both. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen surveyed more than 2,500 people. They found a commonality between each of the dark personality traits portrayed by the people they surveyed.

Based on their research, the D-factor is the common denominator present in all dark traits, particularly the dark triad. The dark core of personality, otherwise known as the D-factor, is the general disposition to maximize one's individual utility--disregarding, accepting, or malevolently provoking disutility for others--accompanied by beliefs that serve as justifications. Simply put, all dark traits go back to the underlying human tendency of putting one's interests and goals over others' needs, interests, and goals. Most times, to the extent of gaining pleasure from others' distress--accompanied by different beliefs and perceptions that are used to justify the actions, thus preventing the feelings of guilt, regret, shame, and the like that should naturally be elicited in situations like that. So, people who have one or more of these traits do whatever it takes to get what they want, even if it means hurting other people. Social media can amplify our message and help us air our grievances to tens, hundreds, or even thousands of people, increasing the likelihood of our issue being resolved rapidly and in our favor. A doctor friend was flying to Germany and needed to catch a connecting flight. His first flight was delayed, so he missed his connection. Although he had alerted the airline of the tight time frame before the initial flight left the airport, nothing had been done about it. He ultimately had to purchase a different flight from another provider in order to get to Frankfurt with enough time to enjoy his weekend. My friend was frustrated about being ignored and paying out of pocket through no fault of his own. After various conversations with both airlines and calls to customer service, he was still disappointed by the lack of a sympathetic or helpful response. Many companies have teams of people in customer relations whose job it is to monitor the company's reputation on social media, so my friend turned to Twitter. You might not expect a simple tweet, with a half-life of 24 minutes, to be an effective vehicle for a complaint. You might feel like you're dropping a teaspoon of salt into the ocean and expecting it to be noticed. Often, we do not realize that we are biased, and even more often we do not receive feedback in time to link a specific decision or behavior to our bias. And even if we do, we may well not act on the information received. Put bluntly, changing behavior means work that the vast majority of us are not motivated to do. Yet the $8 billion US corporations alone spend annually on diversity training is spent largely ignorant of this fact. Such training sessions are unlikely to change attitudes, let alone behavior, if they set out only to make employees aware of their biases.

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