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The Qualiast

The real loser of the 2016 election: “experts”

Daniel Yudkin

The results of the most recent presidential election caused a seismic shift in American consciousness. Conservative voters in the heartland realized their power. Liberals, by contrast, saw the limits of their ideology.

But over and above these political outcomes, the real losers from that night were the so-called experts. 

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Three lessons everyone can take from Burning Man—even those who’d never go

Daniel Yudkin

From a social psychological perspective, Burning Man is one of the most important—and revealing—phenomena of this generation. It’s important because, as its values spread across the globe, it has the potential to influence the course of history. It’s revealing because it shows us what we lack: like bright putty filling in the holes of a rusty bucket, it highlights what’s missing in society.

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Watching the humans watching the gorillas

Daniel Yudkin

Some skeptics of animal intelligence believe that humans, for all their perceptivity about the emotional states of members of their own kind, cannot infer similar states of other organisms.

This is clearly absurd. Just take a look at this gorilla I saw in the zoo the other day. 

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Magic on the sidewalks: A trip to Vietnam

Daniel Yudkin

Like an extremely tall man standing on the far side of a football field, Vietnam doesn’t feel that big when you’re looking at it on Google Maps from your apartment in New York. So when I and my comrade-in-arms Aroop Mukharji booked our flight into the country, we paid little attention to which city we were flying into. We figured we’d just go, bike our way around this bite-size lozenge of a Southeast Asian country, and see, in ten days, just about everything there was to see in the place.

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The real winners at last night's Republican Debate: Clarity and Humor

Daniel Yudkin

Eleven Republican candidates took the stage at the Reagan Library in California last night to convince the American people that they were worthy of electing to the White House. Of course, the entire debate provided just as much entertainment as information, since everybody knows that the voters are going, like third graders dangling a toy off a cliff, to keep threatening to vote for Donald Trump until the very last minute, then, once they realize that people are giving them attention, go the safe route and nominate Jeb Bush. 

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The Social Psychology of Burning Man, Part 1: Trust

Daniel Yudkin

Once upon a time, a tiny dot floating in space exploded like a watermelon struck by a sledgehammer, sprayed matter and energy in all directions, and gave birth to the universe.

That was fourteen billion years ago, and in the meantime, far from slowing down and reversing direction, this expansion has, if anything, picked up the pace, as evidenced by the Doppler “red shift” of distant stars. This fact has led astronomers to postulate the existence of a mysterious force called “dark energy” tearing space apart at its seams.

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The Earth is in love with the Sun

Daniel Yudkin

The Sun is the hottest thing the Earth has ever seen.

First thing every morning, the Earth wakes up and is wowed by that heavenly body. Afternoons it spends gazing dreamily at the Sun’s perfect complexion, its curvaceous figure. It daydreams about the way the Sun can light up a room.

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What Caitlyn Jenner teaches us about self-transformative technology

Daniel Yudkin

The transformation of Caitlyn Jenner has caused quite the kerfuffle around the water coolers and the newsrooms of America. Is that a man or a woman dressed in a little cream-colored bodysuit looking out at us from this week’s cover of Vanity Fair? 

From a social psychological standpoint, what is interesting about this debate is not Caitlyn’s specific gender anatomy, but rather what it says about society. It sheds light on what people consider a person’s true self: how they determine what is--and isn't--authentic. 

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Face-Aging Software Presents Terrible (and Fascinating) Social Dilemma

Daniel Yudkin

How-Old.net, a website that purports to estimate users’ age based on a picture of their face, went viral last week, garnering tens of thousands of hits within the first few hours of its release. The success of the Microsoft-made site, whose algorithm bases its judgments on facial features such as skin creases and laugh lines, showcases more than just technology’s ever-increasing ability to harness information in marvelous new ways. It also highlights several fascinating aspects of human nature.

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In Which I Inadvertently Subject Myself to One of the Most Controversial Psychology Experiments of All Time

Daniel Yudkin

It was the most beautiful airport security line I'd ever seen. Where exactly this beauty came from, I couldn't quite say, but there it was: an incredible aura of magic and mystery surrounding this crowd of waiting people, the likes of which I'd never experienced before. I felt awash with emotion: gratitude, for the guards who patiently asked for our boarding passes and IDs; kinship, with my fellow line-standers who complied so diligently with their requests; and awe, at this remarkable--nay, inspiring--feat of organizational prowess. 

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New Yorkers are at once the most perceptive and oblivious people on earth

Daniel Yudkin

Having spent the first twenty-two years of my life in the relative quiet and seclusion of the Berkshires, moving to the largest city in North American presented certain hardships. Perhaps the most difficult of these had to do with my attention. Everything was always grabbing it, trying to pull it in some direction. Store fronts with posters of girls with naked bellies continuously threatened to make me crash into oncoming pedestrians. Fascinating conversations in coffee shops caused me to forget my work. On the subway, I had to start burying my face in an iPhone game or else I risked getting overstimulated and having heart palpitations somewhere underneath the East river.

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Scientists Should Take a Leaf from the Burning Man Notebook

Daniel Yudkin

I spent the last week of August at Burning Man - the festival of 70,000 that gathers for a week in the middle of the Black Rock Desert in central Nevada - and here's the best word to describe it: extraterrestrial. 

Maybe you've heard it’s a drug-addled hippy-fest filled with silly art and bad music. Maybe you’ve heard that, whatever it used to be, it’s now just where wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneurs come to feign authenticity while sleeping in deluxe RVs and being served chilled mahi mahi on a bed of dry ice. Maybe you’ve heard it’s a place for horny college grads and uninhibited nudists to explore unfettered sexual experimentation at organized events like the Orgy Dome and the Spank Tent.

But these things, if they're true, are trivial compared to what Burning Man is at its core. 

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What happened to Michael Brown is a symptom, not a cause

Daniel Yudkin

Imagine you’re driving down the highway and a horrible clanging noise starts coming from beneath the hood of your car. You quickly pull over at the nearest repair shop and ask the mechanic to fix the problem. After poking around for a little while, the mechanic disappears inside the shop and emerges with a huge wad of foam padding, which he stuffs around the engine before closing the hood. “That should sound better,” he says.

 

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Social psych's "replication crisis" is just your everyday, honest-to-goodness paradigm shift.

Daniel Yudkin

Have you heard? Social psychology is going through a “replication crisis.” Tons of well-known experiments have “failed to replicate,” which means that when researchers tried to repeat the experiment they no longer observed the same effects. This would be like an experiment where you dropped a ball from a leaning tower and it only fell to the ground some of the time. 

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Dog Jealousy

Daniel Yudkin

One of the coolest scientific studies in recent memory was published last week in the journal PLoS One. In this study, psychologists showed that dogs are capable of experiencing jealousy, a “complex” emotion previously thought restricted to humans.

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Subway Democracy

Daniel Yudkin

I genuinely love the New York subway. I love the flat-backed wooden benches, the dark stains of old gum mashed into the concrete, the mustached Macy’s models camped out along the walls. I love the croaky performers and their three-song sets, the comatose drunks hunkered down in the corner, the expectant rush of warmish air that blows over the platform as a harbinger of the oncoming train. This love doesn’t really stem from some kind of fondness for the filthy and the downtrodden, in the way some people might cherish their beat-up ’84 Civic. I don’t, in other words, love these things for themselves. Rather, I love them for this thing they signify, which I think this city does pretty damn well. I admire them because they represent Democracy.     

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