- Clare Coffey writes on the opioid epidemic, rightly pointing out the tendency to save people drowning in the river without wondering why they’re falling in, in the first place.
- A recording of David Bentley Hart’s lecture at Fordham on American Orthodoxy has been released online.
- Tali Sharot has an article at the Harvard Business Review about how to motivate people. The most interesting part is the studies of behavior. Apparently, they found that rewards are better at encouraging action while threats are better at discouraging bad behavior. A hospital, struggling to encourage staff to sanitize their hands before entering a patient’s room, decided to try a strategy other than warnings: “An electronic board was placed in the hallway of the unit that gave employees instant feedback. Every time they washed their hands the board displayed a positive message (such as “Good job!”) and the current shift’s hand-hygiene score would go up. Compliance rates rose sharply and reached almost 90% within four weeks…” But although Sharot is a neuroscientist, the actually biological explanations given are disappointing. It does not get much better than references to a vague ‘signal’ being triggered in some part of the brain, which does nothing to confirm the phenomena itself, since everybody already knows that the brain plays a role in behavior.
- Adam Rogers summarizes new research by Ted Gibson and Bevil Conway on names for colors across cultures. If I understood it right, they have built on Berlin and Kay’s earlier finding that each culture divides up and names the color spectrum in roughly the same way. They show there is a possible link with how foreground objects tend to be warmer colors (which are more readily communicable) versus background which tend to be “cool”. We have less need to label background objects, like the forest or the sky, than to label foreground objects, which tend to be warm. Our names for colors, they suggest, developed this way because we develop color words inasmuch as they are useful: “as cultures get more industrialized, they get more color words. First comes black and white (or light and dark), then red. Then a bunch of others.” There is an interesting analogy here with the development of language for numbers.