Posts Tagged ‘race’

A strange dialogue takes place in America on a daily basis.  It’s not quite about race, but around it.  The various TV and radio personalities spew their ratings fueled rants.  The White House plops out carefully crafted press statements.  Blogs and the internet spill forth with anonymous dumps of hatred.

All these things have something in common – it’s not really discussion.  It’s broadcating.  It’s monologuing.

Like so many tough issues we don’t discuss this stuff in a real way in our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces.  One real problem with that is that it’s hard to shift ones view through consumption of a broadcast… typically one tunes into the broadcast they already agree with.  Through dialogue, real in person dialogue, one has to put ones value statements to the test.  Hear them outloud, mash them with others, rebuke, rebut, reform.

It’s hard for me to decipher if it’s a failing of our new modes of communication or our modes of communication are the result of our lack of desire to connect.  Maybe a bit of both.  Either way, the discussion about racial issues isn’t moving along very quickly.

Sure, I have a view about where we are in tolerance and inclusion as a society.  Rather than dump that here… talk to me sometime so we can share our views.

Read Full Post »

Things are complicated out there. You may or may not be aware that your nervous system filters out the massive amount of data that your senses are exposed to. As a matter of conservation of energy (real and metaphorical) you are attending to very little of your environment based on your history and the current value you have for some segment of it.

Let me frame this for your consideration…

Due to our complexity as humans, when things are not there, we sometimes see things. (No, it is not the 60’s.) What’s more, when things are there in front of us and available for our experience, we don’t see them.

Two Experiments to consider…

1. In a recent paper in Science, Whitson and Galinsky (2008) found when individuals are unable to gain a sense of control objectively they will gain it perceptually through illusory pattern perception meaning they will identify “stuff” among a stimuli in their environment that don’t really exist. They are not hallucinating in the usual sense of the word. They are generating information to provide continuity linking what they can just as is sensory data is generated in sensory deprivation experiments.

Whitson, et.al, empirically found that people generate pattern perceptions to make sense of the events in their environment when they experience lack of control of the environmental events they are experiencing.

Now, consider what that means…

  • It means we don’t see the flaws in people we are connected to or that we see the flaws where none exist
  • it means that we see a conspiracy from a new boss when we don’t yet exist to the new boss
  • it means we identify objects in random noise images where there are none
  • it means we see mechanistic cause and effect relationships where no links exist
  • it means we see correlations in economic markets in companies we like
  • it means we don’t see how our behavior is like the behavior of someone we don’t like
  • it means we can’t tell why people like us or dislike us when they do
  • it means that we can’t see the flaws in our children as they lie dead with a needle in their arm
  • it means that we can be more than one kind of person every day of our lives
  • it means that people not like us are suspicious and people like us are allies

Staggering, isn’t it!

Examples of superstitious behavior in the modern world are countless – sports super heroes involved in astrology, learned rituals so complex that someone once referred to a baseball player as “his own seventh inning stretch” due to the time he took to address each pitch. Religion, prayer, sacrificial rituals, appeasements, holidays, traditions, incantations, etc. all come from making relationships where none exist.   Gasuntheit!

When you are uncertain about your environment and don’t perceive you have control, know what is going on, etc., it is disconcerting. In terms of how we learn, not perceiving you have control is an aversive stimulus equal to shock, rejection, pain, or other punishers. Faced with uncertainty, lack of control, people look for patterns [ah, the value of search] in their environments to re-establish control. When it is not there empirically, we try to establish it perceptually with vision playing the lead role.

With the dearth of information and conflicting data sets it is a constant challenge to understand what is related and what isn’t. In an election year the conspiracies exist for those that most not understanding why their candidate is losing since they see the relationships between them and the agenda as a citizen. The media, the polls, the moderators, the economy, the Jews, the youth, the women…etc. are all plotting to undo the trailing candidate.

2. The following video  is based on research by Simons and Chabris from Indiana University. It is very interesting for several reasons, all of which you’ll see if you FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS OF THE PRESENTER EXACTLY.

After you see it spend some time thinking how that affects what your life is like, how research is done and how the world works. After all that, come back write or respond with what you think the implications are of the research.


The lesson here isn’t simple. If we were to want a society free from magical thoughts, then we need expand the tolerance for people to live in ambiguity in some areas, educate people on how feelings and emotions are the exhaust of perceived contingencies and how the environment comes to control behavior via consequences.

J. A. Whitson, A. D. Galinsky (2008). Lacking Control Increases Illusory Pattern Perception Science, 322 (5898), 115-117 DOI: 10.1126/science.1159845

Read Full Post »

John H. Bryant writes:

Behaviorally speaking, what happened when Barack Obama spoke on religion yesterday?For some, like the way I approached the speech and later his presentation, Obama’s speech might have seemed to be about religion… or perhaps the American Black experience… or perhaps the generational tug of our past with what is important to us today. Well, it wasn’t about religion as much as we might think it was.

Yes, we’ve into a shift in religion (Religious Shift in America 2008), energy, globalization, business, etc.

I know what I heard but I noticed something else. My conclusion is there is no Hope for an undefined future condition called ‘a better America’. It has arrived.

What I heard was a shift and a loss of cues that we all have depended upon for so long. Behaviorally they are called SDs or “S – Ds” and stand for ‘discriminative stimuli’. You know, the things we recognize, the brands, the terms, the words, the stimuli out in the environment that we come to recognize as meaning good and bad, smart and dull, etc.; anything that allows us to discriminate one thing from another. While reading the speech that came out in the AM prior to the Barack’s presentation, I couldn’t tell who was speaking. We saw a difficult subject handled without acrimony: race.

Barack Obama speech laid waste to more of the SDs that we’ve all depended on but that are no longer dependable. What are we going to do now if we can’t depend on those old stereotypes? (SDs)

  • We lost the inflamatory rhetoric SD of White, Jackson, Farrakhan and others
  • We lost the ‘done me wrong’ SD
  • We lost the ‘one cause’ explanation for 300 years of bad behavior SD
  • We lost the ‘good guy – bad guy’ dichotomy SD
  • We lost the ‘quick fix’ remedy in my term claim SD
  • We lost the government can make it better pabulum SD
  • We lost the SD of when to have the gut wrenching sinking feeling

I’m a pretty smart guy so I need to figure out the consequences of losing my SDs.

  • How is this going to work if Barack Obama speaks and says things that are not purely Democratic, Republican or Washington centric?
  • How is this going to work if Barack Obama speaks and you can’t tell if he favors those that are white or black?
  • How is this going to work if Barack Obama speaks and he doesn’t instill fear of the future?
  • How is this going to work if Barack Obama speaks and he doesn’t try to make you mistrust those who want him silenced?
  • How is this going to work if Barack Obama speaks and you think he is talking directly to you rather than in lobbyist code?
  • How is this going to work if Barack Obama speaks and you can’t tell why he knows what you value?
  • How is this going to work if Barack Obama speaks and you don’t hear that government knows what is best for you?

Wow, this election is getting complicated. I am going to have to make other associations with Barack Obama when he speaks and that’s hard work because it involves changing my stereotypical SDs.

Read Full Post »

Barack Obama’s speech was so full of interesting threads. The issue of religion and our ever more confusing association with a particular religion, its leaders and its every rule is central to Obama’s speech – and likely some of his more robust and potentially inflamatory arguments.

I’m posting this article recently published by my friend John Bryant (Religious Shift in America 2008). It’s relevant because it digs in deep to the shift in religion in America.

     Religious interest never goes away but in the last decade interest has risen to new levels.  Two studies in particular to be highlighted here mark today’s on-going monologue about religion in America. The first study is not about a shift at all but acts as a reference point for this article. The research is based on structured telephone surveys of more than 2,000 households and in-depth interviews with more than 140 people in 2006 conducted through the University of Minnesota by sociologist Penny Edgell. Researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, homosexuals and other groups as “not sharing their vision of American society.” Furthermore, Americans are least willing to let their children marry atheists.

The Edgell survey was followed by the release in February, 2008, of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. That survey of over 35,000 Americans found that nearly half questioned were not practicing the religion of their parents. While that finding was no big deal for some, it was a bomb for many, especially those involved with the business of religion.

The Pew Forum study confirmed what has been speculated for years about believers:

  •   the long-held belief that denominational loyalty is fraying —
  •   those greatest impacted are mainline Protestant and evangelical churches —
  •  One in six overall (16.1%) reported they were not connected with any particular religious faith —
  •  This number rose to 1 in 4 between the ages of 18 -29 who said they were not affiliated with any religion —
  •  Twelve percent were split 50/50 between a) those that were secular and unaffiliated, and b) those who said they were religious and unaffiliated —
  •  Catholics have seen numbers diminish for almost 40 years and seem to be outside the survey radar —
    • Absolute numbers don’t reflect major declines in the last four years
    • Their age demographic has shifted more rapidly than other Protestant denominations
    • Catholics have the broadest mixture of education levels but declining numbers in the 18 – 29 age group
    • Supported by older populations including high percentage of immigrants who bring that religion with them

After checking out that pdf, go back to Obama’s speech. We’re talking about a major politician speaking to the gray area and the shifting context of truth. Yikes, it will be pretty interesting how this will play out in America.

Post 3 on the speech will be the full analysis of his text.


Read Full Post »

Check out these headlines pulled from Google News regarding the recent Obama speech (full text).  The context and content of the speech make this an excellent media event to analyze.  It’s full of taboo issues  and the stakes are sky high.  Doesn’t hurt that this is an incredibly active political season.

What can we gather about how we consumer, distribute and understand mass media?   How does the context and the entry point affect our consumption of this speech?  How do our own views and history color the speech and alter the path we use to get at this information? How does the content of the speech and the headlines and the sources alter the spread of information?

Obama denounces preacher, urges race healing
Reuters – 37 minutes ago
By Caren Bohan PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Tuesday criticized his preacher’s racially charged sermons but
Obama confronts nation’s race issues
Los Angeles Times, CA – 2 hours ago
The senator condemns his pastor’s remarks as ‘profoundly distorted’ while acknowledging the legacy of racial divide in a bid to quell the latest war of
Obama calls for racial unity
Boston Globe, United States – 3 hours ago
Barack Obama, whose presidential campaign has tried to transcend race, is taking on the issue head-on this morning, trying to quell a controversy over
Excerpts of Obama’s Speech on Race
The Associated Press – 1 hour ago
Excerpts of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s speech on race Tuesday at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, as transcribed by
Transcript: Barack Obama’s Speech On Race
CBS News, NY – 2 hours ago
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama D-Ill., delivers a speech on race in Philadelphia, March 18, 2008. (CBS) A look at the young senator from
Activists go wild over Obama speech
Washington Times, DC – 1 hour ago
Attendees at the Take Back America conference were riveted as Barack Obama gave his address today on race relations in America and greeted his words with
Obama confronts racial divisions in the US
Philadelphia Inquirer, PA – 2 hours ago
By Thomas Fitzgerald Sen. Barack Obama urged people to move beyond the “racial stalemate we have been stuck in for years” in a major speech in Philadelphia
Will Obama’s Speech Work?
Wall Street Journal – 2 hours ago
From a political perspective, Sen. Barack Obama’s speech on race in America this morning in Philadelphia was extraordinary. Obama addressed head-on the bad
Obama addresses America’s racial legacy
MSNBC – 2 hours ago
PHILADELPHIA — Barack Obama gave a sweeping address on race in this country today, using the statements made by his pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright,
Race and Rev. Wright: Obama’s eloquent history lesson
Kansas City Star, MO – 1 hour ago
By Steve Winn, Kansas City Star Editorial Board Sen. Barack Obama met the race issue head-on Tuesday, discussing it with intelligence, sensitivity and the
Did Obama’s Speech Help or Hurt?
Newsday, NY – 1 hour ago
1. Obama finally confronted race head-on — but is that a good thing?. Obama’s meteoric rise — and stunning victories in virtually all-white states like
On Defensive, Obama Plans Talk on Race
New York Times, United States – 3 hours ago
Alex Brandon/AP Senator Barack Obama took part in an MTV discussion with Iraq veterans on Monday in Scranton, Pa. By JODI KANTOR and JEFF ZELENY Faced with
Obama talks frankly about race
Atlanta Journal Constitution,  USA – 1 hour ago
By AJC | Tuesday, March 18, 2008, 11:29 AM Sen. Barack Obama tackled the divisive issue of race and continued to distanced himself from controversial
Obama Confronts Racial Division in US
The Associated Press – 1 hour ago
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Barack Obama unsparingly criticized his longtime pastor’s words while strongly defending the man himself Tuesday in a politically risky
A little parsing of Barack Obama’s race speech
Los Angeles Times, CA – 59 minutes ago
Lord knows Barack Obama’s Philadelphia speech on race is going to get dissected like a high school biology experiment, but one element jumped out as he
Some Quotes From Obama Pastor
The Associated Press – 1 hour ago
Some controversial comments by Barack Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who recently retired: _ In a sermon after the terrorist attacks on
Obama Speech: Rebuking Rev. Wright
Wall Street Journal – 2 hours ago
Sen. Barack Obama confronted white resentment head-on in a way not often seen in a political race. He compared the dark thoughts of white citizens to those
Checking In With The Other Side
CBS News, NY – 1 hour ago
By Kevin Drum (Political Animal) CHECKING IN WITH THE OTHER SIDE….I thing we can safely assume that Barack Obama’s supporters will all swoon over his
Christopher Cooper reports on Sen. Obama’s speech.
Wall Street Journal – 2 hours ago
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, dogged in recent days by his longtime connections to a Chicago pastor cast as radical, delivered what is
‘Special Report’ Panel on the Impact of Barack Obama’s Pastor
FOXNews – 43 minutes ago
This is a rush transcript of “Special Report With Brit Hume” from March 17, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated. SEN.
Update: Barack Obama Discusses Race, Politics In Stirring Speech In PA
AHN – 47 minutes ago
Philadelphia, PA (AHN)-Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama delivered a stirring speech on Tuesday discussing race and politics in the US today,
Obama’s speech on race, Wright saves his campaign — for now
Kansas City Star, MO – 2 hours ago
Barack Obama’s smoothly delivered speech on race wasn’t perfect. But it hit most of the right notes. His campaign for president moves on.
Obama confronts racial division in US
Rock Hill Herald, SC – 1 hour ago
By NEDRA PICKLER and MATT APUZZO · AP Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama D-Ill., listens to her husband speak about
Obama Asks For Continued Fight Against Racial Divide
KCRG, IA – 1 hour ago
Speaking in Philadelphia Tuesday, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama gave an impassioned speech that addressed not only the controversial statements made by the
Barack Obama’s “I Have A Dream” Speech?
HipHopDX, CA – 1 hour ago
After Rev. Wright’s controversial comments about America made their way onto every news channel in the country, some believed Barack Obama would no longer
Obama Holds Forth on Race, Answering Critics
NPR – 2 hours ago
Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) speaks in Philadelphia, Pa., where he condemned “profoundly distorted” sermons by his former pastor, but refused to disown the
Barack Obama Addresses Racial Wounds
NewsOXY, FL – 1 hour ago
Barack Obama addresses pastor’s remarks hoping to silence the storm that has engulfed his presidential campaign. During a televised speech, Senator Obama
Obama’s 13 Applauded Points
MyFox Washington DC, DC – 2 hours ago
During Barack Obama’s speech Tuesday about race and his former pastor’s recent controversial comments, 13 points received applause. They are recounted below
Students Say Obama Needed To Clear The Air
CBS2 Chicago, IL – 1 hour ago
CHICAGO (CBS) ― Some students at the University of Illinois at Chicago made a point of tuning in Tuesday morning to hear what Sen.
Obama: “Not This Time”
Yahoo! News – 1 hour ago
The Nation — Barack Obama could have responded to the controversy that has been ginned up with regard to comments made by his former pastor will a safe and

Follow the consequences.

Headlines are a partial result of past data… what keywords worked in the past… what abstracts attract not just eyes but clicks.  Headlines are a partial result of the editorial bias…

that bias is a combination of reader bias, technology limits (character limits), copy editor, editor…

what about the Google algorithm?  how much “say” does it have it what we see? how we see? when we see?  If not the Google algorithm then the WSJ alerts, or your local paper, or your local news station…

Check this out:


Look at this page!  It has so much automated and semi-automated content.  Look at the context it puts the SUMMARY of the speech in.  How does that affect communication of mass messages?  what do we bring to this experience plus the actual speech and the sub speeches themselves?

No, this isn’t an arbitrary let’s ask really rhetorical questions about politics and the Internet.  How, why, by whom, and when political messages are consumed impacts our world.  The medium matters, the context matters.  For us, as consumers, it matters if we value our content. For media people who make money by making sure lots of people consume content, it helps to understand these aspects.  For advertisers and agencies, it makes a difference where, when and in what context your ads appear. For politicians, it can make or break a campaign to understand the contingencies in message delivery, not just whether the message itself was consumed.

I ask these questions because I don’t have the answers and have only loose hypothesizes at this point and there’s no right answer, just more or less relevant data that gets us closer to understanding the contingencies.

Post 2 contains a behaviorist perspective on the speech itself.  Religion, race, politics, history, future, an appeal to dreams, a call out for responsibility, a call out to ask questions, Obama’s bias, his speechwriter’s bias, text versus oration, timing…. Yikes!


add to del.icio.us :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank :: post to facebook

Read Full Post »