SILENCE ENFORCEMENT DEVICE
http://www.extremetech.com/computing/120583-new-speech-jamming-gun-hints-at-dystopian-big-brother-future

Japanese researchers have created a hand-held gun that can jam the words of speakers who are more than 30 meters (100ft) away. The gun has two purposes, according to the researchers: At its most basic, this gun could be used in libraries and other quiet spaces to stop people from speaking — but its second application is a lot more chilling.

The researchers were looking for a way to stop “louder, stronger” voices from saying more than their fair share in conversation. The paper reads: “We have to establish and obey rules for proper turn-taking when speaking. However, some people tend to lengthen their turns or deliberately interrupt other people when it is their turn in order to establish their presence rather than achieve more fruitful discussions. Furthermore, some people tend to jeer at speakers to invalidate their speech.” In other words, this speech-jamming gun was built to enforce “proper” conversations.

The gun works by listening in with a directional microphone, and then, after a short delay of around 0.2 seconds, playing it back with a directional speaker. This triggers an effect that psychologists call Delayed Auditory Feedback (DAF), which has long been known to interrupt your speech (you might’ve experienced the same effect if you’ve ever heard your own voice echoing through Skype or another voice comms program). According to the researchers, DAF doesn’t cause physical discomfort, but the fact that you’re unable to talk is obviously quite stressful.

Suffice it to say, if you’re a firm believer in free speech, you should now be experiencing a deafening cacophony of alarm bells. Let me illustrate a few examples of how this speech-jamming gun could be used. At a political rally, an audience member could completely lock down Santorum, Romney, Paul, or Obama from speaking. On the flip side, a totalitarian state could point the speech jammers at the audienceto shut them up. Likewise, when a celebrity or public figure appears on a live TV show, his contract could read “the audience must be silenced with speech jammers.”

Then there’s Harrison Bergeron, one of my favorite short stories by Kurt Vonnegut. In the story’s dystopian universe, everyone wears “handicaps” to ensure perfect social equality. Strong people must lug around heavy weights, beautiful people must wear masks, and intelligent people must wear headphones that play a huge blast of sound every few seconds, interrupting your thoughts. The more intelligent you are, the more regular the blasts.

Back here in our universe, it’s not hard to imagine a future where we are outfitted with a variety of implanted electronics or full-blown bionic organs. Just last week we wrote about Google’s upcoming augmented-reality glasses, which will obviously have built-in earbuds. Late last year we covered bionic eyesthat can communicate directly with the brain, and bionic ears and noses can’t be far off.

In short, imagine if a runaway mega-corporation or government gains control of these earbuds. Not only could the intelligence-destroying blasts from Harrison Bergeron come to pass, but with Delayed Auditory Feedback it would be possible to render the entire population mute. Well, actually, that’s a lie: Apparently DAF doesn’t work with utterances like “ahhh!” or “boooo!” or other non-wordy constructs. So, basically, we’d all be reduced to communicating with grunts and gestures.

SPEECH-JAMMING
http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/27620/
How to Build a Speech-Jamming Gun
Japanese researchers build a gun capable of stopping speakers in mid-sentence / 03/01/2012

The drone of speakers who won’t stop is an inevitable experience at conferences, meetings, cinemas, and public libraries. Today, Kazutaka Kurihara at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tskuba and Koji Tsukada at Ochanomizu University, both in Japan, present a radical solution: a speech-jamming device that forces recalcitrant speakers into submission.

The idea is simple. Psychologists have known for some years that it is almost impossible to speak when your words are replayed to you with a delay of a fraction of a second. Kurihara and Tsukada have simply built a handheld device consisting of a microphone and a speaker that does just that: it records a person’s voice and replays it to them with a delay of about 0.2 seconds. The microphone and speaker are directional so the device can be aimed at a speaker from a distance, like a gun.

In tests, Kurihara and Tsukada say their speech jamming gun works well: “The system can disturb remote people’s speech without any physical discomfort.” Their tests also identify some curious phenomena. They say the gun is more effective when the delay varies in time and more effective against speech that involves reading aloud than against spontaneous monologue.

Kurihara and Tsukada make no claims about the commercial potential of their device but list various aplications. They say it could be used to maintain silence in public libraries and to “facilitate discussion” in group meetings. “We have to establish and obey rules for proper turn-taking when speaking,” they say. That has important implications. “There are still many cases in which the negative aspects of speech become a barrier to the peaceful resolution of conflicts, ” they point out.

CONTACT
Kazutaka Kurihara
http://sites.google.com/site/qurihara/top-english
email : k-kurihara [ at ] aist.go.jp

Koji Tsukada
http://mobiquitous.com/index-e.html
email : tsuka [at] mobiquitous [dot] com

ABSTRACT
http://arxiv.org/abs/1202.6106
SpeechJammer: A System Utilizing Artificial Speech Disturbance with Delayed Auditory Feedback
by Kazutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada / 28 Feb 2012

“In this paper we report on a system, “SpeechJammer”, which can be used to disturb people’s speech. In general, human speech is jammed by giving back to the speakers their own utterances at a delay of a few hundred milliseconds. This effect can disturb people without any physical discomfort, and disappears immediately by stop speaking. Furthermore, this effect does not involve anyone but the speaker. We utilize this phenomenon and implemented two prototype versions by combining a direction-sensitive microphone and a direction-sensitive speaker, enabling the speech of a specific person to be disturbed. We discuss practical application scenarios of the system, such as facilitating and controlling discussions. Finally, we argue what system parameters should be examined in detail in future formal studies based on the lessons learned from our preliminary study.”

SPEECHJAMMER
http://www.wired.com/underwire/2012/03/japanese-speech-jamming-gun/

Two Japanese researchers recently introduced a prototype for a device they call a SpeechJammer that can literally “jam” someone’s voice — effectively stopping them from talking. Now they’ve released a video of the device in action. “We have to establish and obey rules for proper turn-taking,” write Kazutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada in their article on the SpeechJammer (PDF). “However, some people tend to lengthen their turns or deliberately disrupt other people when it is their turn … rather than achieve more fruitful discussions.”

The researchers released the video after their paper went viral Thursday, to the authors’ apparent surprise. “Do you know why our project is suddenly becoming hot now?” asked Kurihara, a research scientist at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tsukuba, in an e-mail exchange with Wired.com. (Kurihara’s partner Tsukada is an assistant professor at Ochanomizu University in Tokyo.)

The design of the SpeechJammer is deceptively simple. It consists of a direction-sensitive microphone and a direction-sensitive speaker, a motherboard, a distance sensor and some relatively straightforward code. The concept is simple, too — it operates on the well-studied principle of delayed auditory feedback. By playing someone’s voice back to them, at a slight delay (around 200 milliseconds), you can jam a person’s speech.

Sonic devices have popped up in pop culture in the past. In sci-fi author J.G. Ballard’s short story “The Sound-Sweep,” published in 1960, a vacuum cleaner called a “sonovac” sweeps up the debris of old sounds. The wily German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen had plans for a “sound swallower,” which would cancel unwanted sounds in the environment using the acoustic principle of destructive interference. And in 1984 German film Decoder, special yellow cassette tapes play “anti-Muzak” that destroys the lulling tones of Muzak, stimulating diners at a fast-food restaurant to throw up en masse and start rioting.

But instead of sci-fi, the Japanese researchers behind the SpeechJammer looked to medical devices used to help people with speech problems. Delayed auditory feedback, or DAF, devices have been used to help stutterers for decades. If a stutterer hears his own voice at a slight delay, stuttering often improves. But if a non-stutterer uses a DAF device designed to help stutterers, he can start stuttering — and the effect is more pronounced if the delay is longer, up to a certain point.

“We utilized DAF to develop a device that can jam remote physically unimpaired people’s speech whether they want it or not,” write the researchers. “[The] device possesses one characteristic that is different from the usual medical DAF device; namely, the microphone and speaker are located distant from the target.”

Being at a distance from the target means it’s possible to aim the device at people who are several feet away — sort of like a TV B-Gone, but for people. Bothered by what someone at a meeting is saying? Point the SpeechJammer at him. Can’t stand your nattering in-laws? Time for the SpeechJammer. In the wrong hands — criminals, for instance, or repressive governments — the device could have potentially sinister applications. For now, it remains a prototype.

INSPIRATION
http://www.wired.com/underwire/2012/03/speech-jamming-gun-inspiration/

“One day I just came by a science museum and enjoyed a demonstration about Delayed Auditory Feedback (DAF) at [the] cognitive science corner,” says Kurihara. “When I spoke to a microphone, my voice came back to me after a few hundred millisecond delay. Then, I could not continue to speak any more. That’s fun!”

Kurihara soon realized his adventures in the science museum could be applicable to other fields. He was already interested in developing a system that “controls appropriate turn-taking at discussions.” The science museum visit was his “aha!” moment. “Then I came up with the gun-type SpeechJammer idea utilizing DAF,” says Kurihara. “That’s the destiny.”

Kurihara enlisted the talents of Koji Tsukada, an assistant professor at Tokyo’s Ochanamizu University who he calls “the gadget master.” Tsukada has been involved in a number of strange and intriguing projects, including the LunchCommunicator, a “lunchbox-type device which supports communication between family members”; the SmartMakeupSystem, which “helps users find new makeup methods for use with their daily cosmetics”; and the EaTheremin, a “fork-type instrument that enables users to play various sounds by eating foods”.

Tsukada introduced Kurihara to a parametric speaker kit, which they could use to convey sound in a very direction-sensitive way. “After I explained him my idea, he soon agreed to join my project,” says Kurihara. “It was a marriage between science and gadgets!”

As for SpeechJammer’s potentially sinister uses? “We hope SpeechJammer is used for building the peaceful world,” says Kurihara. The world can only hope.

Scientists say they’re getting closer to Matrix-style instant learning
http://io9.com/5867113/scientists-say-theyre-paving-the-way-towards-matrix+style-learning–but-is-it-safe

What price effortless learning? In a paper published in the latest issue of Science, neuroscientists say they’ve developed a novel method of learning, that can cause long-lasting improvement in tasks that demand a high level of visual performance. And while the so-called neurofeedback method could one day be used to teach you kung fu, or to aid spinal-injury patients on the road to rehabilitation, evidence also suggests the technology could be used to target people without their knowledge, opening doors to numerous important ethical questions. According to a press release from the National Science Foundation:

New research published today in the journal Science suggests it may be possible to use brain technology to learn to play a piano, reduce mental stress or hit a curve ball with little or no conscious effort. It’s the kind of thing seen in Hollywood’s “Matrix” franchise.

Experiments conducted at Boston University (BU) and ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan, recently demonstrated that through a person’s visual cortex, researchers could use decoded functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to induce brain activity patterns to match a previously known target state and thereby improve performance on visual tasks.

Think of a person watching a computer screen and having his or her brain patterns modified to match those of a high-performing athlete or modified to recuperate from an accident or disease. Though preliminary, researchers say such possibilities may exist in the future.

But here’s the bit that’s really interesting (and also pretty creepy): the researchers found that this novel learning approach worked even when test subjects weren’t aware of what they were learning:

“The most surprising thing in this study is that mere inductions of neural activation patterns…led to visual performance improvement…without presenting the feature or subjects’ awareness of what was to be learned,” said lead researcher Takeo Watanabe. He continues:

We found that subjects were not aware of what was to be learned while behavioral data obtained before and after the neurofeedback training showed that subjects’ visual performance improved specifically for the target orientation, which was used in the neurofeedback training.

Is this research mind-blowing and exciting? Absolutely. I mean come on — automated learning? Yes. Sign me up. But according to research co-author Mitsuo Kawato, the neurofeedback mechanism could just as soon be used for purposes of hypnosis or covert mind control. And that… I’m not so keen on. “We have to be careful,” he explains, “so that this method is not used in an unethical way.”

VISUAL PERCEPTUAL LEARNING
http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_videos.jsp?cntn_id=122523&media_id=71600
http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=122523
New research suggests it may be possible to learn high-performance tasks with little or no conscious effort / December 8, 2011

New research published today in the journal Science suggests it may be possible to use brain technology to learn to play a piano, reduce mental stress or hit a curve ball with little or no conscious effort. It’s the kind of thing seen in Hollywood’s “Matrix” franchise. Experiments conducted at Boston University (BU) and ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan, recently demonstrated that through a person’s visual cortex, researchers could use decoded functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to induce brain activity patterns to match a previously known target state and thereby improve performance on visual tasks.

Think of a person watching a computer screen and having his or her brain patterns modified to match those of a high-performing athlete or modified to recuperate from an accident or disease. Though preliminary, researchers say such possibilities may exist in the future. “Adult early visual areas are sufficiently plastic to cause visual perceptual learning,” said lead author and BU neuroscientist Takeo Watanabe of the part of the brain analyzed in the study. Neuroscientists have found that pictures gradually build up inside a person’s brain, appearing first as lines, edges, shapes, colors and motion in early visual areas. The brain then fills in greater detail to make a red ball appear as a red ball, for example. Researchers studied the early visual areas for their ability to cause improvements in visual performance and learning. “Some previous research confirmed a correlation between improving visual performance and changes in early visual areas, while other researchers found correlations in higher visual and decision areas,” said Watanabe, director of BU’s Visual Science Laboratory. “However, none of these studies directly addressed the question of whether early visual areas are sufficiently plastic to cause visual perceptual learning.” Until now.

Boston University post-doctoral fellow Kazuhisa Shibata designed and implemented a method using decoded fMRI neurofeedback to induce a particular activation pattern in targeted early visual areas that corresponded to a pattern evoked by a specific visual feature in a brain region of interest. The researchers then tested whether repetitions of the activation pattern caused visual performance improvement on that visual feature. The result, say researchers, is a novel learning approach sufficient to cause long-lasting improvement in tasks that require visual performance. What’s more, the approached worked even when test subjects were not aware of what they were learning.

“The most surprising thing in this study is that mere inductions of neural activation patterns corresponding to a specific visual feature led to visual performance improvement on the visual feature, without presenting the feature or subjects’ awareness of what was to be learned,” said Watanabe, who developed the idea for the research project along with Mitsuo Kawato, director of ATR lab and Yuka Sasaki, an assistant in neuroscience at Massachusetts General Hospital. “We found that subjects were not aware of what was to be learned while behavioral data obtained before and after the neurofeedback training showed that subjects’ visual performance improved specifically for the target orientation, which was used in the neurofeedback training,” he said.

The finding brings up an inevitable question. Is hypnosis or a type of automated learning a potential outcome of the research? “In theory, hypnosis or a type of automated learning is a potential outcome,” said Kawato. “However, in this study we confirmed the validity of our method only in visual perceptual learning. So we have to test if the method works in other types of learning in the future. At the same time, we have to be careful so that this method is not used in an unethical way.”

CONTACT
Takeo Watanabe
http://www.bu.edu/psych/faculty/takeo/
http://www.bu.edu/visionlab/
email: takeo [at} bu [dot] edu

ABSTRACT
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/334/6061/1413.abstract

“It is controversial whether the adult primate early visual cortex is sufficiently plastic to cause visual perceptual learning (VPL). The controversy occurs partially because most VPL studies have examined correlations between behavioral and neural activity changes rather than cause-and-effect relationships. With an online-feedback method that uses decoded functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) signals, we induced activity patterns only in early visual cortex corresponding to an orientation without stimulus presentation or participants’ awareness of what was to be learned. The induced activation caused VPL specific to the orientation. These results suggest that early visual areas are so plastic that mere inductions of activity patterns are sufficient to cause VPL. This technique can induce plasticity in a highly selective manner, potentially leading to powerful training and rehabilitative protocols.”

brain image
This study found reduced connectivity between an area of prefrontal cortex (PFC, red) and the amygdala (blue). The white matter pathway connecting the two structures (the uncinate fasciculus) is shown in green.

STRUCTURAL ABNORMALITIES
http://www.med.wisc.edu/news-events/news/psychopaths-brains-show-differences-in-structure-and-function/32979
Psychopaths’ Brains Show Differences in Structure and Function

Images of prisoners’ brains show important differences between those who are diagnosed as psychopaths and those who aren’t, according to a new study led by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers. The results could help explain the callous and impulsive antisocial behavior exhibited by some psychopaths.The study showed that psychopaths have reduced connections between the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), the part of the brain responsible for sentiments such as empathy and guilt, and the amygdala, which mediates fear and anxiety.

Two types of brain images were collected. Diffusion tensor images (DTI) showed reduced structural integrity in the white matter fibers connecting the two areas, while a second type of image that maps brain activity, a functional magnetic resonance image (fMRI), showed less coordinated activity between the vmPFC and the amygdala. “This is the first study to show both structural and functional differences in the brains of people diagnosed with psychopathy,” says Michael Koenigs, assistant professor of psychiatry in the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “Those two structures in the brain, which are believed to regulate emotion and social behavior, seem to not be communicating as they should.” The study, which took place in a medium-security prison in Wisconsin, is a unique collaborative between three laboratories, UW-Madison psychology Professor Joseph Newman has had a long term interest in studying and diagnosing those with psychopathy and has worked extensively in the Wisconsin corrections system. Dr. Kent Kiehl, of the University of New Mexico and the MIND Research Network, has a mobile MRI scanner that he brought to the prison and used to scan the prisoners’ brains. Koenigs and his graduate student, Julian Motzkin, led the analysis of the brain scans.


The video shows interactions between microglia (yellow) and dendritic spines (green) in the brain of a living mouse. Each frame is taken 5 minutes apart. The cell body of the microglia in the upper right corner is stable throughout the imaging session, but the microglial processes (looking like tentacles) are extremely dynamic, perpetually changing their morphology and dynamic interactions with small and transient dendritic spines over a span of minutes. http://www.med.wisc.edu/news-events/images-and-video-for-the-media/25328

The study compared the brains of 20 prisoners with a diagnosis of psychopathy with the brains of 20 other prisoners who committed similar crimes but were not diagnosed with psychopathy. “The combination of structural and functional abnormalities provides compelling evidence that the dysfunction observed in this crucial social-emotional circuitry is a stable characteristic of our psychopathic offenders,” Newman says. “I am optimistic that our ongoing collaborative work will shed more light on the source of this dysfunction and strategies for treating the problem.” Newman notes that none of this work would be possible without the extraordinary support provided by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, which he called “the silent partner in this research.” He says the DOC has demonstrated an unprecedented commitment to supporting research designed to facilitate the differential diagnosis and treatment of prisoners. The study, published in the most recent Journal of Neuroscience, builds on earlier work by Newman and Koenigs that showed that psychopaths’ decision-making mirrors that of patients with known damage to their ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). This bolsters evidence that problems in that part of the brain are connected to the disorder. “The decision-making study showed indirectly what this study shows directly – that there is a specific brain abnormality associated with criminal psychopathy,” Koenigs adds.



CRIMINAL JUSTICE IMPLICATIONS
http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=35292
UW-Madison Psychiatry imaging study finds brains of psychopaths are different
by Matt Hrodey  /  11/22/2011

The Koenigs Lab, an appendage of the University of Wisconsin Department of Psychiatry, says something about the multidisciplinary nature of neuroscience. Named for Michael Koenigs, an assistant professor of psychiatry, the lab includes a postdoctoral researcher with degrees in psychology and comparative religion, graduate students with backgrounds in biology, philosophy and English, and a scientist trained in applied math. Centered on the mind and nervous system, neuroscience is exploding, and there’s practically no topic it won’t take on, be it Shakespeare, meditation or consciousness itself. Or psychopathy.

In a paper to be published in the Nov. 30 Journal of Neuroscience, Koenigs, along with veteran UW psychopathy researcher Joseph Newman, will unveil new evidence of a physical basis for the disorder. In the study, Koenigs and Newman use brain scans of 40 inmates (20 psychopaths and 20 others) from Fox Lake Correctional Institution in Fox Lake, Wisconsin. In the scans of psychopathic brains, the researchers discovered poor connections between an important brain segment — the “ventromedial prefrontal cortex” (VMPFC) — and another crucial to emotional processing, the almond-shaped amygdala. The study will be the largest yet published that examines this link, according to Koenigs. Researchers used two types of brain scans: one testing the integrity of “white matter” structures connecting the VMPFC and the amygdala, and another tesing how well they communicate. Both types of scans found a weakened link in the brains of psychopaths.

Better understanding such abnormalities could, one day, reorder how the justice system responds to criminals who have them. “Can we hold them as accountable as someone who doesn’t have these abnormalities?” Koenigs asks. Scientists have studied the connection between the VMPFC and amygdala before. In one experiment using rodents, scientists found that stimulating the VMPFC suppressed the amygdala. Koenigs primarily studies brain injuries, particularly those in the VMPFC, where the brain is believed to regulate emotion, process threats, guide decision-making and direct social behavior. Damage to this segment, located just behind the forehead in the frontal lobes, tends to make patients more aggressive, irritable and less sensitive to others. “They’re not the same person they used to be,” Koenigs says. “They develop very striking personality changes reminiscent of psychopathy.”

Is a VMPFC deficiency to blame for psychopathy? It’s not clear. And scientists don’t know if the VMPFC is failing to regulate the amygdala or if the amydala is failing to send crucial emotional feedback to the VMPFC. “Normally, considering a decision [to rob someone] and the harm you would inflict would be marked with a negative emotional state,” says Koenigs. But in psychopaths, this affect is flat. To do their study at Fox Lake, Koenigs and Newman enlisted a mobile MRI lab run by Kent Kiehl, an associate professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico. The lab, pulled by a tractor trailer, brings the scanner to the inmates. Across the field of neuroscience, researchers are rapidly exploiting the powers of MRI scanning, particularly “functional” scanning, which tracks blood flow in the brain. This flow, because it is directed to busy neurons, is a precise indicator of brain activity. The new study is Newman’s first foray into brain imaging. “There’s a very strong bias toward using brain measurements,” he says, “and there’s been a lot of wonderful progress. People want to see how far we can go.”

Psychopathy is not as rare as some might believe. According to researchers, psychopaths make up an estimated 1% of the U.S. population and between 10% to 20% of the country’s prisoners. In his 30 years of studying psychopathy, Newman has theorized the existence of an “attention bottleneck” in the psychopathic mind that prevents it from fully receiving emotional and other inhibitory signals that say, “Stop! Reconsider! Reevaluate!” The conventional theory on psychopaths is that they lack emotion, be it fear, empathy or guilt, that would otherwise inform decision-making. Newman doesn’t deny that but insists on the importance of attention. “It feels like I’m trying to identify a learning disability,” he says. Our minds unconsciously monitor us. It happens in secret. Our conscious minds don’t know of it until the unconscious sounds an alarm — such as when a nagging suspicion of “having forgotten something” turns out to be true (the oven is still on; the keys were left on the car seat). The psychopathic brain may be very bad at automatically diverting attention to these types of cues if the psychopath is locked into “goal-driven” behavior, a kind of tunnel vision. Such an impairment, if it exists, doesn’t necessarily lead to crime. “Environmental factors are critical,” says Newman. They could be parental abuse, substance abuse or socioeconomic disadvantage. But once classified as a psychopath, an offender is two to five times more likely to reoffend than one who isn’t.

Newman tested his “attention bottleneck” theory in a study published earlier this year. In that study, 87 maximum-security inmates, some classified as psychopaths, sat down in front of computers. Two things appeared on the screen: a square, either red or green, and a letter, either uppercase or lowercase. In some of the trials, researchers startled inmates with a low-intensity shock after showing a red square. (Prisoners were told of the mild “buzzes” before they volunteered.) Each was shocked a total of 24 times, always after a red square. Then, to conclude the trials, the computer asked the prisoners to identify either the case of the letter or the color of the box. The human body, when conditioned to fear something, will startle at its appearance. This is called “fear-potentiated startle.” In the experiment, the red box primed the inmates to startle upon receiving the shock, and they did — with one major exception. In trials where psychopaths first saw the letter, followed by a red square, their startle was greatly diminished. Newman and the other researchers, Arielle Baskin-Sommers, a graduate student at UW-Madison, and John Curtin, a psychology professor, concluded that by presenting the letter first — thereby making the red square “secondary information that is not goal relevant” — the psychopaths fell victim to the “attention bottleneck” as theorized by Newman. They saw the square, but its meaning was not fully absorbed because the letter (and its case) had already won their attention.

There’s growing speculation today that neuroscience could revolutionize the U.S. criminal justice system, overthrowing the old precept of culpability. One indication of the promise of this growing field is a new dual degree program at UW-Madison that will train students in both neuroscience and the law. The “Neuroscience and the Law” track, part of the broader Neuroscience & Public Policyprogram, will allow students to earn a J.D. degree in law and a Ph.D. degree in neuroscience. Applications to join the new track’s first class come due this December. Professor Ron Kalil, a neuroscientist who studies brain injuries and the brain’s innate ability to repair itself, says the new program grew out of a 2010 meeting he had, over coffee, with Pilar Ossorio, an associate professor of law and bioethics. The two left with a “let’s do this” attitude, according to Kalil, but getting university approval for the new track didn’t happen overnight. To make the program official, they needed the approval of four university committees. They succeeded, adding “Neuroscience and the Law” to the existing tracks combining neuroscience and public policy and neuroscience and international public policy. Of neuroscience’s broad range, Kalil says, “At one end you have the study of molecules and proteins that make up parts of neurons, and at the other, the field tries to wrestle with issues that have been on the table since people started to think of themselves as human.” One of these is how to respond to crime, and what punishment is appropriate. “There are a lot of people who are not insane, but they’re not normal,” he says. “Where do we draw the line?”

YOUR BOSS is PSYCHO  (I KNOW, RIGHT?)
http://blogs.forbes.com/jeffbercovici/2011/06/14/why-some-psychopaths-make-great-ceos/
Why (Some) Psychopaths Make Great CEOs
by Jeff Bercovici / Jun 14 2011

British journalist Jon Ronson immersed himself in the world of mental health diagnosis and criminal profiling to understand what makes some people psychopaths — dangerous predators who lack the behavioral controls and tender feelings the rest of us take for granted. Among the things he learned while researching his new book, “The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry”: the incidence of psychopathy among CEOs is about 4 percent, four times what it is in the population at large. I spoke with him recently about what that means and its implications for the business world and wider society.

Q. Are we really to understand that there’s some connection between what makes people psychopaths and what makes them CEO material?
A. At first I was really skeptical because it seemed like an easy thing to say, almost like a conspiracy theorist’s type of thing to say. I remember years and years ago a conspiracy theorist telling me the world was ruled by blood-drinking, baby-sacrificing lizards. These psychologists were essentially saying the same thing. Basically, when you get them talking, these people [ie. psychopaths] are different than human beings. They lack the things that make you human: empathy, remorse, loving kindness. So at first I thought this might just be psychologists feeling full of themselves with their big ideological notions. But then I met Al Dunlap. [That would be “Chainsaw” Al Dunlap, former CEO of Sunbeam and notorious downsizer.] He effortlessly turns the psychopath checklist into “Who Moved My Cheese?” Many items on the checklist he redefines into a manual of how to do well in capitalism. There was his reputation that he was a man who seemed to enjoy firing people, not to mention the stories from his first marriage — telling his first wife he wanted to know what human flesh tastes like, not going to his parents’ funerals. Then your realize that because of this dysfunctional capitalistic society we live in those things were positives. He was hailed and given high-powered jobs, and the more ruthlessly his administration behaved, the more his share price shot up.

Q. So you can just go down the list of Fortune 500 CEOs and say, “psychopath, psychopath, psychopath…”
A. Well, no. Dunlap was an exceptional figure, wasn’t he? An extreme figure. I think my book offers really good evidence that the way that capitalism is structured really is a physical manifestation of the brain anomaly known as psychopathy. However, I woudn’t say every Fortune 500 chief is a psychopath. That would turn me into an ideologue and I abhor ideologues.

Q. Is it an either/or thing? It seems to me, thinking about it, that a lot of the traits on the checklist would be be useful in a corporate ladder-climbing situation. So maybe there are a lot of CEOs who simply have some psychopathic tendencies.
A. It is a spectrum, but there’s a cutoff point. If you’re going by the Hare checklist [the standard inventory used in law enforcement, devised by leading researcher Robert Hare], where the top score is 40, the average anxiety-ridden business failure like me — although the fact that my book just made the Times best sellers list makes it difficult to call myself that — would score a 4 or 5. Somebody you have to be wary of would be in early 20s and a really hard core damaged person, a really dangerous psychopath, would score around a 30. In law the cutoff is 29. There are absolutes in psychopathy and the main absolute is a literal absence of empathy. It’s just not there. In higher-scoring psychopaths, what grows in the vacant field where that empathy should be is a joy in manipulating people, a lack of remorse, a lack of guilt. If you’ve got a little bit of empathy, you’re kind of not a psychopath.

Q. So maybe there’s a sweet spot? A point on the spectrum somewhere short of full-blown psychopathy that’s most conducive to success in business.
A. That’s possible. Obviously there are items on the checklist you don’t want to have if you’re a boss. You don’t want poor behavioral controls. It’d be better if you don’t have promiscuous behavior. It’d be better if you don’t have serious behavioral problems in childhood, because that will eventually come out. But you do want lack of empathy, lack of remorse, glibness, superficial charm, manipulativeness. I think the other positive traits for psychopaths in business is need for stimulation, proneness to boredom. You want somebody who can’t sit still, who’s constantly thinking about how to better things. A really interesting question is whether psychopathy can be a positive thing. Some psychologists would say yes, that there are certain attributes like coolness under pressure, which is sort of a fundamental positive. But Robert Hare would always say no, that in the absence of empathy, which is the definition in psychology of a psychopath, you will always get malevolence. Basically, high-scoring psychopaths can be brilliant bosses but only ever for short term. Just like Al Dunlap, they always want to make a killing and move on. And then you’ve got this question of what came first? Is society getting more and more psychopathic in its kind of desire for short-term killings? Is that because we kind of admire psychopaths in all their glib, superficial charm and ruthlessness?

Q. There’s a certain sour grapes aspect to accusing CEOs of being psychopaths. It’s very tempting to look at anyone more successful than you are and say, “It must be because he’s a monster.”
A. There’s a terribly seductive power in becoming a psychopath stalker. It can really dehumanize you. I can look at, say, Dominique Strauss Kahn, who, if one assumes that what one is hearing about him is true, certainly he hits a huge amount of items on the checklist — the $30,000 suits, the poor behavioral controls, the impulsivity, the promiscuous sexual behavior. But of course when you say this you’re in terrible danger of being seduced by the checklist, which I really like to add as a caveat. It kind of turns you into a bit of a psychopath yourself in that that you start to shove people into that box. It robs you of empathy and your connection to human beings. Which is why people like Robert Hare are kind of useful. I’m against the way that people like me can be seduced into misusing the checklist, but I’m not against the checklist.

PSYCHOPATHIC C.E.O.s
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/12/magazine/12PSYCHO.html
by Michael Steinberger / December 12, 2004

Ever wonder what leads a lavishly compensated C.E.O. to cheat, steal and lie? Perhaps he’s a psychopath, and now there is a test, the B-Scan 360, that can help make that determination. The B-Scan was conceived by Paul Babiak, an industrial psychologist, and Robert Hare, the creator of the standard tool for diagnosing psychopathic features in prison inmates. The B-Scan is the first formalized attempt to uncover similar tendencies in captains of industry, and it speaks to a growing suspicion that psychopaths may be especially adept at scaling the corporate ladder.

Indeed, Babiak and Hare could not have chosen a more propitious moment to roll out the B-Scan, which is now in the trial stage. The recent rash of damaging corporate scandals — combined with legislation making boards far more liable for executive malfeasance — has given companies good reason to screen current employees more rigorously. According to Babiak and Hare, white-collar psychopaths are not apt to become serial rapists or murderers. Rather, they are prone to being ”subcriminal” psychopaths: smooth-talking, energetic individuals who easily charm their way into jobs and promotions but who are also exceedingly manipulative, narcissistic and ruthless. The purpose of the B-Scan is to smoke out these “snakes in suits”. The individual being evaluated does not actually take the test. Instead, it is given to his or her superiors, subordinates and peers. They rate the subject in four broad categories — organizational maturity, personal style, emotional style and social style — and 16 subcategories, like reliability, honesty and sincerity.

Babiak and Hare say that decisions to promote or dismiss ought not to be made on the basis of the B-Scan alone and that it is possible, with good coaching and training, to turn a talented executive with mild psychopathic tendencies into an effective manager. They acknowledge too that strong corporate leadership may require a certain degree of guile, egoism and callousness. But they point out that the frenzied nature of modern business — the constant downsizing, the relentless merging and acquiring — provides a very fertile environment for havoc-wreaking psychopaths, who thrive on chaos and risk-taking. As Hare put it in one interview, ”If I couldn’t study psychopaths in prison, I would go down to the Stock Exchange.”

CONTACT
Paul Babiak
http://www.hrbackoffice.com/index-4.html
email : Inquiry [at] PaulBabiak [dot] com

Robert Hare
http://www.hare.org/
http://www.hare.org/links/media.html
http://www.hare.org/references/main.html
email : contact [at] hare [dot] org

PSYCHOPATHY CHECKLIST
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hare_Psychopathy_Checklist
http://www.hare.org/scales/
Psychopathy Scales

PCL-R   PCL:SV   P-SCAN   PCL:YV   APSD   TREATMENT GUIDELINES

“Dr. Hare has spent over 35 years researching psychopathy and is the developer of theHare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R), and a co-author of its derivatives, thePsychopathy Checklist: Screening Version (PCL:SV), the P-Scan, the Psychopathy Checklist: Youth Version (PCL:YV), and the Antisocial Process Screening Device(APSD). He is also a co-author of the Guidelines for a Psychopathy Treatment Program. The Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, with demonstrated reliability and validity, is rapidly being adopted worldwide as the standard instrument for researchers and clinicians. The PCL-R and PCL:SV are strong predictors of recidivism, violence and response to therapeutic intervention. They play an important role in most recent risk-for-violence instruments. The PCL-R was reviewed in Buros Mental Measurements Yearbook (1995), as being the “state of the art” both clinically and in research use. In 2005, the Buros Mental Measurements Yearbook review listed the PCL-R as “a reliable and effective instrument for the measurement of psychopathy and is considered the ‘gold standard’ for measurement of psychopathy.”


Bison skull pile, 1870s

HR PROBLEM
http://www.humanresourcesmagazine.com.au/articles/51/0c030a51.asp
Catching the corporate psychopath
by Stuart Fagg / 15 June 2005

Rodney Adler, Ray Williams, Bernie Ebbers. These men have much in common. For a start they were once all hailed as successful businessmen and players of acumen, and secondly they are all now behind bars for their roles in the collapse of their companies. Of course they are not the only ones paying for their misdemeanours – there are plenty of share and policy holders who will attest to that. They also have one final thing in common – they all exhibit the behaviours of corporate psychopaths. According to Dr Robert Hogan, a US expert in personality profiling, however, it would seem that the likes of Adler are aberrations in the business world. But corporate psychopaths are far from unusual in the corporate world. By Hogan’s reckoning, the result of decades of research, incompetent and potentially damaging management accounts for some 60-70 per cent of the total pool in the US. When he brought these views to bear initially in the early 1990s, they were not popular and were dismissed by many that refused to believe that there were that many potential corporate psychopaths in US business. However, these days, and particularly having seen the damage wreaked by individuals after the scandals at Enron, WorldCom, OneTel and HIH, boards of directors and the share market are demanding more ethical executives. With the potential for increased liability under the Corporations Act, this trend may continue going forward. All well and good, but what is the impact of these corporate psychopaths? After all, some of the qualities that define such people also define some of the most successful people in business. “Researchers looked at Fortune 1000 companies that had 15 years of performance right at the average of their industry, and then a change and 15 subsequent years of sustained performance significantly above the average for the industry. Out of 1,000 companies they found 11,” Hogan said. “They investigated the 11 companies and found that the constant was the CEO. All 11 CEOs were understated and humble and that’s a stake in the heart for the theory of the celebrity CEO or charismatic leader.”

While background checks and screening are gaining popularity in Australian business, and in some cases being applied at higher executive levels, personality profiling remains a relatively unexplored concept in Australia. However, that may change. The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, for example, is set to publish proposals for standards governing the fitness and propriety of responsible persons in financial institutions. The proposed standards are designed to weed out executives who have been declared bankrupt, failed to manage personal debts or held responsibility in a failed institution. Additionally anyone with a civil or criminal conviction related to dishonesty in dealings with financial institutions will also be barred. “The proposals are designed to reflect community expectations about persons who fill positions of responsibility in these industries and will set minimum benchmarks for people in, or wishing to enter, these industries at director, senior management or advisory level,” said Dr John Laker, APRA chairman. Traditionally, APRA has always focussed on the institution it is regulating, rather than the individuals running the institution. But, recent events in Australia and internationally have highlighted the importance of enuring that people in positions of power at companies are subject to the same scrutiny as the company itself. With regulated entities being required to develop their own policies, personality assessment may become more commonplace in sectors such as the insurance industry. But there is something of a grey area in the assessments. For example, financial markets traders must display some of the more undesirable qualities –ruthlessness, overt smartness and a tendency to gamble – for senior management to succeed in their positions. “We have a lot of data on traders and as a group they are real smart and really crazy,” said Hogan. “But don’t let them into management positions. People like that – Bill Clinton is a great example – tend to self nominate into leadership roles. They think they’re so hot they want to be in charge.”

Background checks and screening may not, however, detect these characteristics and head off the appointment of a potentially damaging executive. “The really bad guys will sail through a background check and will do really well in interviews. They do really well in assessment centres. The really dangerous ones are really smart, really charming and really fast on their feet and people love them.” This is where personality assessment earns its stripes, according to Hogan. Through developing his assessment system, Hogan has amassed an impressive data repository from the 3 million tests that have been carried out using his methodology. This data accurately tracks personality trends in business, and once companies see the data, said Hogan, it’s a relatively easy sell. But what happens if the CEO of the company is the corporate psychopath? “That’s our worst nightmare,” he told Human Resources. “When you assess the management team and see all these problems come from them, how can you fix that? But if you can find a company that’s willing to pay attention to data it’s an easy deal for us.”

“CHAINSAW” AL DUNLAP
http://www.portfolio.com/executives/2009/04/22/Al-Dunlap-Profile

“Picked by the board of Scott Paper Co. as the man to turn the struggling company around, Dunlap earned his nickname by slicing 11,000 employees. When Scott merged with Kimberly-Clark, Dunlap’s payoff was estimated at more than $100 million. Such scenarios are familiar. So are the debates over where to draw the line between painful-but-necessary restructuring and cold-hearted recklessness. Yet Dunlap stood out for the obvious joy he took in slamming his detractors as purveyors of “nonsense,” “rubbish,” and “socialism.” Chainsaw Al was the middle finger of the free market’s invisible hand.

Dunlap’s memoir-cum-manifesto, Mean Business, roughly coincided with his next CEO star turn, which was also to be his last. Sunbeam’s stock surged on the news that the Chainsaw was coming; massive workforce reductions and factory closures followed within months. His book clearly explained what set him apart from “addle-brained” and “weak” executives: “I’m a superstar in my field,” he wrote. Could there be a clearer sell signal? Unable to flip Sunbeam to a new buyer, as he’d done with Scott, Dunlap was stuck actually running the company. He failed spectacularly. Within two miserable years, the board fired him. The tactics he’d used to stave off losses—the company overstated its net income by $60 million, which was real money back then—earned him a civil suit from the SEC and a class-action suit by shareholders. Dunlap eventually settled both and was barred from serving as an officer or director of any public company. You could call Chainsaw Al’s story a fall from grace, but in his case, that’s probably not the proper word.”

UM, TOTALLY
http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/96/open_boss.html
Is Your Boss a Psychopath?
by Alan Deutschman / December 19, 2007

One of the most provocative ideas about business in this decade so far surfaced in a most unlikely place. The forum wasn’t the Harvard Business School or one of those $4,000-a-head conferences where Silicon Valley’s venture capitalists search for the next big thing. It was a convention of Canadian cops in the far-flung province of Newfoundland. The speaker, a 71-year-old professor emeritus from the University of British Columbia, remains virtually unknown in the business realm. But he’s renowned in his own field: criminal psychology. Robert Hare is the creator of the Psychopathy Checklist. The 20-item personality evaluation has exerted enormous influence in its quarter-century history. It’s the standard tool for making clinical diagnoses of psychopaths — the 1% of the general population that isn’t burdened by conscience. Psychopaths have a profound lack of empathy. They use other people callously and remorselessly for their own ends. They seduce victims with a hypnotic charm that masks their true nature as pathological liars, master con artists, and heartless manipulators. Easily bored, they crave constant stimulation, so they seek thrills from real-life “games” they can win — and take pleasure from their power over other people.

On that August day in 2002, Hare gave a talk on psychopathy to about 150 police and law-enforcement officials. He was a legendary figure to that crowd. The FBI and the British justice system have long relied on his advice. He created the P-Scan, a test widely used by police departments to screen new recruits for psychopathy, and his ideas have inspired the testing of firefighters, teachers, and operators of nuclear power plants. According to the Canadian Press and Toronto Sun reporters who rescued the moment from obscurity, Hare began by talking about Mafia hit men and sex offenders, whose photos were projected on a large screen behind him. But then those images were replaced by pictures of top executives from WorldCom, which had just declared bankruptcy, and Enron, which imploded only months earlier. The securities frauds would eventually lead to long prison sentences for WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers and Enron CFO Andrew Fastow. “These are callous, cold-blooded individuals,” Hare said. “They don’t care that you have thoughts and feelings. They have no sense of guilt or remorse.” He talked about the pain and suffering the corporate rogues had inflicted on thousands of people who had lost their jobs, or their life’s savings. Some of those victims would succumb to heart attacks or commit suicide, he said.

Then Hare came out with a startling proposal. He said that the recent corporate scandals could have been prevented if CEOs were screened for psychopathic behavior. “Why wouldn’t we want to screen them?” he asked. “We screen police officers, teachers. Why not people who are going to handle billions of dollars?” It’s Hare’s latest contribution to the public awareness of “corporate psychopathy.” He appeared in the 2003 documentary The Corporation, giving authority to the film’s premise that corporations are “sociopathic” (a synonym for “psychopathic”) because they ruthlessly seek their own selfish interests — “shareholder value” — without regard for the harms they cause to others, such as environmental damage. Is Hare right? Are corporations fundamentally psychopathic organizations that attract similarly disposed people? It’s a compelling idea, especially given the recent evidence. Such scandals as Enron and WorldCom aren’t just aberrations; they represent what can happen when some basic currents in our business culture turn malignant. We’re worshipful of top executives who seem charismatic, visionary, and tough. So long as they’re lifting profits and stock prices, we’re willing to overlook that they can also be callous, conning, manipulative, deceitful, verbally and psychologically abusive, remorseless, exploitative, self-delusional, irresponsible, and megalomaniacal. So we collude in the elevation of leaders who are sadly insensitive to hurting others and society at large.

But wait, you say: Don’t bona fide psychopaths become serial killers or other kinds of violent criminals, rather than the guys in the next cubicle or the corner office? That was the conventional wisdom. Indeed, Hare began his work by studying men in prison. Granted, that’s still an unusually good place to look for the conscience-impaired. The average Psychopathy Checklist score for incarcerated male offenders in North America is 23.3, out of a possible 40. A score of around 20 qualifies as “moderately psychopathic.” Only 1% of the general population would score 30 or above, which is “highly psychopathic,” the range for the most violent offenders. Hare has said that the typical citizen would score a 3 or 4, while anything below that is “sliding into sainthood.” On the broad continuum between the ethical everyman and the predatory killer, there’s plenty of room for people who are ruthless but not violent. This is where you’re likely to find such people as Ebbers, Fastow, ImClone CEO Sam Waksal, and hotelier Leona Helmsley. We put several big-name CEOs through the checklist, and they scored as “moderately psychopathic”; our quiz on page 48 lets you try a similar exercise with your favorite boss. And this summer, together with New York industrial psychologist Paul Babiak, Hare begins marketing the B-Scan, a personality test that companies can use to spot job candidates who may have an MBA but lack a conscience. “I always said that if I wasn’t studying psychopaths in prison, I’d do it at the stock exchange,” Hare told Fast Company. “There are certainly more people in the business world who would score high in the psychopathic dimension than in the general population. You’ll find them in any organization where, by the nature of one’s position, you have power and control over other people and the opportunity to get something.”

There’s evidence that the business climate has become even more hospitable to psychopaths in recent years. In pioneering long-term studies of psychopaths in the workplace, Babiak focused on a half-dozen unnamed companies: One was a fast-growing high-tech firm, and the others were large multinationals undergoing dramatic organizational changes — severe downsizing, restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, and joint ventures. That’s just the sort of corporate tumult that has increasingly characterized the U.S. business landscape in the last couple of decades. And just as wars can produce exciting opportunities for murderous psychopaths to shine (think of Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic), Babiak found that these organizational shake-ups created a welcoming environment for the corporate killer. “The psychopath has no difficulty dealing with the consequences of rapid change; in fact, he or she thrives on it,” Babiak claims. “Organizational chaos provides both the necessary stimulation for psychopathic thrill seeking and sufficient cover for psychopathic manipulation and abusive behavior.”

And you can make a compelling case that the New Economy, with its rule-breaking and roller-coaster results, is just dandy for folks with psychopathic traits too. A slow-moving old-economy corporation would be too boring for a psychopath, who needs constant stimulation. Its rigid structures and processes and predictable ways might stymie his unethical scheming. But a charge-ahead New Economy maverick — an Enron, for instance — would seem the ideal place for this kind of operator. But how can we recognize psychopathic types? Hare has revised his Psychopathy Checklist (known as the PCL-R, or simply “the Hare”) to make it easier to identify so-called subcriminal or corporate psychopaths. He has broken down the 20 personality characteristics into two subsets, or “factors.” Corporate psychopaths score high on Factor 1, the “selfish, callous, and remorseless use of others” category. It includes eight traits: glibness and superficial charm; grandiose sense of self-worth; pathological lying; conning and manipulativeness; lack of remorse or guilt; shallow affect (i.e., a coldness covered up by dramatic emotional displays that are actually playacting); callousness and lack of empathy; and the failure to accept responsibility for one’s own actions. Sound like anyone you know? (Corporate psychopaths score only low to moderate on Factor 2, which pinpoints “chronically unstable, antisocial, and socially deviant lifestyle,” the hallmarks of people who wind up in jail for rougher crimes than creative accounting.)

This view is supported by research by psychologists Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon at the University of Surrey, who interviewed and gave personality tests to 39 high-level British executives and compared their profiles with those of criminals and psychiatric patients. The executives were even more likely to be superficially charming, egocentric, insincere, and manipulative, and just as likely to be grandiose, exploitative, and lacking in empathy. Board and Fritzon concluded that the businesspeople they studied might be called “successful psychopaths.” In contrast, the criminals — the “unsuccessful psychopaths” — were more impulsive and physically aggressive.

The Factor 1 psychopathic traits seem like the playbook of many corporate power brokers through the decades. Manipulative? Louis B. Mayer was said to be a better actor than any of the stars he employed at MGM, able to turn on the tears at will to evoke sympathy during salary negotiations with his actors. Callous? Henry Ford hired thugs to crush union organizers, deployed machine guns at his plants, and stockpiled tear gas. He cheated on his wife with his teenage personal assistant and then had the younger woman marry his chauffeur as a cover. Lacking empathy? Hotel magnate Leona Helmsley shouted profanities at and summarily fired hundreds of employees allegedly for trivialities, like a maid missing a piece of lint. Remorseless? Soon after Martin Davis ascended to the top position at Gulf & Western, a visitor asked why half the offices were empty on the top floor of the company’s Manhattan skyscraper. “Those were my enemies,” Davis said. “I got rid of them.” Deceitful? Oil baron Armand Hammer laundered money to pay for Soviet espionage. Grandiosity? Thy name is Trump.

In the most recent wave of scandals, Enron’s Fastow displayed many of the corporate psychopath’s traits. He pressured his bosses for a promotion to CFO even though he had a shaky grasp of the position’s basic responsibilities, such as accounting and treasury operations. Suffering delusions of grandeur after just a little time on the job, Fastow ordered Enron’s PR people to lobby CFO magazine to make him its CFO of the Year. But Fastow’s master manipulation was a scheme to loot Enron. He set up separate partnerships, secretly run by himself, to engage in deals with Enron. The deals quickly made tens of millions of dollars for Fastow — and prettified Enron’s financials in the short run by taking unwanted assets off its books. But they left Enron with time bombs that would ultimately cause the company’s total implosion — and lose shareholders billions. When Enron’s scandals were exposed, Fastow pleaded guilty to securities fraud and agreed to pay back nearly $24 million and serve 10 years in prison.

“Chainsaw” Al Dunlap might score impressively on the corporate Psychopathy Checklist too. What do you say about a guy who didn’t attend his own parents’ funerals? He allegedly threatened his first wife with guns and knives. She charged that he left her with no food and no access to their money while he was away for days. His divorce was granted on grounds of “extreme cruelty.” That’s the characteristic that endeared him to Wall Street, which applauded when he fired 11,000 workers at Scott Paper, then another 6,000 (half the labor force) at Sunbeam. Chainsaw hurled a chair at his human-resources chief, the very man who approved the handgun and bulletproof vest on his expense report. Dunlap needed the protection because so many people despised him. His plant closings kept up his reputation for ruthlessness but made no sense economically, and Sunbeam’s financial gains were really the result of Dunlap’s alleged book cooking. When he was finally exposed and booted, Dunlap had the nerve to demand severance pay and insist that the board reprice his stock options. Talk about failure to accept responsibility for one’s own actions. While knaves such as Fastow and Dunlap make the headlines, most horror stories of workplace psychopathy remain the stuff of frightened whispers. Insiders in the New York media business say the publisher of one of the nation’s most famous magazines broke the nose of one of his female sales reps in the 1990s. But he was considered so valuable to the organization that the incident didn’t impede his career.

Most criminals — whether psychopathic or not — are shaped by poverty and often childhood abuse as well. In contrast, corporate psychopaths typically grew up in stable, loving families that were middle class or affluent. But because they’re pathological liars, they tell romanticized tales of rising from tough, impoverished backgrounds. Dunlap pretended that he grew up as the son of a laid-off dockworker; in truth, his father worked steadily and raised his family in suburban comfort. The corporate psychopaths whom Babiak studied all went to college, and a couple even had PhDs. Their ruthless pursuit of self-interest was more easily accomplished in the white-collar realm, which their backgrounds had groomed them for, rather than the criminal one, which comes with much lousier odds. Psychopaths succeed in conventional society in large measure because few of us grasp that they are fundamentally different from ourselves. We assume that they, too, care about other people’s feelings. This makes it easier for them to “play” us. Although they lack empathy, they develop an actor’s expertise in evoking ours. While they don’t care about us, “they have an element of emotional intelligence, of being able to see our emotions very clearly and manipulate them,” says Michael Maccoby, a psychotherapist who has consulted for major corporations.

Psychopaths are typically very likable. They make us believe that they reciprocate our loyalty and friendship. When we realize that they were conning us all along, we feel betrayed and foolish. “People see sociopathy in their personal lives, and they don’t have a clue that it has a label or that others have encountered it,” says Martha Stout, a psychologist at the Harvard Medical School and the author of the recent best-seller The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us (Broadway Books, 2005). “It makes them feel crazy or alone. It goes against our intuition that a small percentage of people can be so different from the rest of us — and so evil. Good people don’t want to believe it.” Of course, cynics might say that it can be an advantage to lack a conscience. That’s probably why major investors installed Dunlap as the CEO of Sunbeam: He had no qualms about decimating the workforce to impress Wall Street. One reason outside executives get brought into troubled companies is that they lack the emotional stake in either the enterprise or its people. It’s easier for them to act callously and remorselessly, which is exactly what their backers want. The obvious danger of the new B-Scan test for psychopathic tendencies is that companies will hire or promote people with high scores rather than screen them out. Even Babiak, the test’s codeveloper, says that while “a high score is a red flag, sometimes middle scores are okay. Perhaps you don’t want the most honest and upfront salesman.”

Indeed, not every aberrant boss is necessarily a corporate psychopath. There’s another personality that’s often found in the executive suite: the narcissist. While many psychologists would call narcissism a disorder, this trait can be quite beneficial for top bosses, and it’s certainly less pathological than psychopathy. Maccoby’s book The Productive Narcissist: The Promise and Perils of Visionary Leadership (Broadway Books, 2003) portrays the narcissistic CEO as a grandiose egotist who is on a mission to help humanity in the abstract even though he’s often insensitive to the real people around him. Maccoby counts Apple’s Steve Jobs, General Electric’s Jack Welch, Intel’s Andy Grove, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, and Southwest Airlines’ Herb Kelleher as “productive narcissists,” or PNs. Narcissists are visionaries who attract hordes of followers, which can make them excel as innovators, but they’re poor listeners and they can be awfully touchy about criticism. “These people don’t have much empathy,” Maccoby says. “When Bill Gates tells someone, ‘That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,’ or Steve Jobs calls someone a bozo, they’re not concerned about people’s feelings. They see other people as a means toward their ends. But they do have a sense of changing the world — in their eyes, improving the world. They build their own view of what the world should be and get others recruited to their vision. Psychopaths, in contrast, are only interested in self.”

Maccoby concedes that productive narcissists can become “drunk with power” and turn destructive. The trick, he thinks, is to pair a productive narcissist with a “productive obsessive,” or conscientious, control-minded manager. Think of Grove when he was matched with chief operating officer Craig Barrett, Gates with president Steve Ballmer, Kelleher with COO Colleen Barrett, and Oracle’s Larry Ellison with COO Ray Lane and CFO Jeff Henley. In his remarkably successful second tour of duty at Apple, Jobs has been balanced by steady, competent behind-the-scenes players such as Timothy Cook, his executive vice president for sales and operations. But our culture’s embrace of narcissism as the hallmark of admired business leaders is dangerous, Babiak maintains, since “individuals who are really psychopaths are often mistaken for narcissists and chosen by the organization for leadership positions.” How does he distinguish the difference between the two types? “In the case of a narcissist, everything is me, me, me,” Babiak explains. “With a psychopath, it’s ‘Is it thrilling, is it a game I can win, and does it hurt others?’ My belief is a psychopath enjoys hurting others.”

Intriguingly, Babiak believes that it’s extremely unlikely for an entrepreneurial founder-CEO to be a corporate psychopath because the company is an extension of his own ego — something he promotes rather than plunders. “The psychopath has no allegiance to the company at all, just to self,” Babiak says. “A psychopath is playing a short-term parasitic game.” That was the profile of Fastow and Dunlap — guys out to profit for themselves without any concern for the companies and lives they were wrecking. In contrast, Jobs and Ellison want their own companies to thrive forever — indeed, to dominate their industries and take over other fields as well. “An entrepreneurial founder-CEO might have a narcissistic tendency that looks like psychopathy,” Babiak says. “But they have a vested interest: Their identity is wrapped up with the company’s existence. They’re loyal to the company.” So these types are ruthless not only for themselves but also for their companies, their extensions of self.

The issue is whether we will continue to elevate, celebrate, and reward so many executives who, however charismatic, remain indifferent to hurting other people. Babiak says that while the first line of defense against psychopaths in the workplace is screening job candidates, the second line is a “culture of openness and trust, especially when the company is undergoing intense, chaotic change.” Europe is far ahead of the United States in trying to deal with psychological abuse and manipulation at work. The “antibullying” movement in Europe has produced new laws in France and Sweden. Harvard’s Stout suggests that the relentlessly individualistic culture of the United States contributes a lot to our problems. She points out that psychopathy has a dramatically lower incidence in certain Asian cultures, where the heritage has emphasized community bonds rather than glorified self-interest. “If we continue to go this way in our Western culture,” she says, “evolutionarily speaking, it doesn’t end well.” The good news is that we can do something about corporate psychopaths. Scientific consensus says that only about 50% of personality is influenced by genetics, so psychopaths are molded by our culture just as much as they are born among us. But unless American business makes a dramatic shift, we’ll get more Enrons — and deserve them.

the PSYCHOPATH TEST
http://www.npr.org/2011/05/21/136462824/a-psychopath-walks-into-a-room-can-you-tell
http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/436/the-psychopath-test
aired 05.27.2011

Recently we heard about this test that could determine if someone was a psychopath. So, naturally, our staff decided to take it. This week we hear the results. Ira explains that when the radio staff decided to take a test that reveals who is a psychopath, very quickly everyone came to believe that the highest score would go to either Robyn, Jane, or him. (6 minutes)

Underachievement Test
NPR Science Correspondent Alix Spiegel tells the story of Robert Dixon, who’s in a maximum security prison in Vacaville California and is unlikely to ever get parole because of his score on the psychopath test. The test also is called “the checklist” or, more formally, the PCL-R, which stands for “Psychopathy Check List—Revised.” Alix tells the story of its creation and reports that the man who created the test, Bob Hare, is concerned at how it’s being used today in the criminal justice system. A version of this story aired on NPR’s All Things Considered. (28 minutes)

King of the Forest
Jon Ronson investigates whether corporate leaders can, in fact, be psychopaths by visiting a former Sunbeam CEO named Al Dunlap. This is an excerpt from Ronson’s book, The Psychopath Test. (15 minutes)Song: “If I Were King of the Forest”, Wizard of Oz Soundtrack

Results
Ira and the radio show staff get their results on the psychopath test from Dr. David Bernstein, ofForensic Consultants, LLC., who administered the test to them. (6 minutes)

TAKE the QUIZ
http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/96/open_boss-quiz.html
by Fast Company Staff / July 1, 2005

The standard clinical test for psychopathy, Robert Hare’s PCL-R, evaluates 20 personality traits overall, but a subset of eight traits defines what he calls the “corporate psychopath” — the nonviolent person prone to the “selfish, callous, and remorseless use of others.” Does your boss fit the profile? Here’s our do-it-yourself quiz drawing on the test manual and Hare’s book Without Conscience. (Disclaimer: If you’re not a psychologist or psychiatrist, this will be a strictly amateur exercise.) We’ve used the pronoun “he,” but research suggests psychologists have underestimated the psychopathic propensity of women.

For each question, score two points for “yes,” one point for “somewhat” or “maybe,” and zero points for “no.”

[1] Is he glib and superficially charming?
Is he a likable personality and a terrific talker — entertaining, persuasive, but maybe a bit too smooth and slick? Can he pass himself off as a supposed expert in a business meeting even though he really doesn’t know much about the topic? Is he a flatterer? Seductive, but insincere? Does he tell amusing but unlikely anecdotes celebrating his own past? Can he persuade his colleagues to support a certain position this week — and then argue with equal conviction and persuasiveness for the opposite position next week? If he’s a CEO, can he appear on TV and somehow get away without answering the interviewer’s direct questions or saying anything truly substantive?
SCORE__

[2] Does he have a grandiose sense of self-worth?
Does he brag? Is he arrogant? Superior? Domineering? Does he feel he’s above the rules that apply to “little people”? Does he act as though everything revolves around him? Does he downplay his legal, financial, or personal problems, say they’re just temporary, or blame them on others?
SCORE__

[3] Is he a pathological liar?
Has he reinvented his own past in a more positive light — for example, claiming that he rose from a tough, poor background even though he really grew up middle class? Does he lie habitually even though he can easily be found out? When he’s exposed, does he still act unconcerned because he thinks he can weasel out of it? Does he enjoy lying? Is he proud of his knack for deceit? Is it hard to tell whether he knows he’s a liar or whether he deceives himself and believes his own bull?
SCORE__

[4] Is he a con artist or master manipulator?
Does he use his skill at lying to cheat or manipulate other people in his quest for money, power, status, and sex? Does he “use” people brilliantly? Does he engage in dishonest schemes such as cooking the books?
SCORE__

[5] When he harms other people, does he feel a lack of remorse or guilt?
Is he concerned about himself rather than the wreckage he inflicts on others or society at large? Does he say he feels bad but act as though he really doesn’t? Even if he has been convicted of a white-collar crime, such as securities fraud, does he not accept blame for what he did, even after getting out of prison? Does he blame others for the trouble he causes?
SCORE__

[6] Does he have a shallow affect?
Is he cold and detached, even when someone near him dies, suffers, or falls seriously ill — for example, does he visit the hospital or attend the funeral? Does he make brief, dramatic displays of emotion that are nothing more than putting on a theatrical mask and playacting for effect? Does he claim to be your friend but rarely or never ask about the details of your life or your emotional state? Is he one of those tough-guy executives who brag about how emotions are for whiners and losers?
SCORE__

[7] Is he callous and lacking in empathy?
Does he not give a damn about the feelings or well-being of other people? Is he profoundly selfish? Does he cruelly mock others? Is he emotionally or verbally abusive toward employees, “friends,” and family members? Can he fire employees without concern for how they’ll get by without the job? Can he profit from embezzlement or stock fraud without concern for the harm he’s doing to shareholders or pensioners who need their savings to pay for their retirements?
SCORE__

[8] Does he fail to accept responsibility for his own actions?
Does he always cook up some excuse? Does he blame others for what he’s done? If he’s under investigation or on trial for a corporate crime, like deceitful accounting or stock fraud, does he refuse to acknowledge wrongdoing even when the hard evidence is stacked against him?
SCORE__

Total____
If your boss scores:
1-4 | Be frustrated
5-7 | Be cautious
8-12 | Be afraid
13-16 | Be very afraid

SO CHARMING at FIRST
http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199401/charming-psychopath
by Robert Hare / January 01, 1994

A major part of my own quarter-century search for answers to this enigma has been a concerted effort to develop an accurate means of detecting the psychopaths among us. Measurement and categorization are, of course, fundamental to any scientific endeavor, but the implications of being able to identify psychopaths are as much practical as academic. To put it simply, if we can’t spot them, we are doomed to be their victims, both as individuals and as a society. My role in the search for psychopaths began in the 1960s at the psychology department of the University of British Columbia. There, my growing interest in psychopathy merged with my experience working with psychopaths in prison to form what was to become my life’s work. I assembled a team of clinicians who would identify psychopaths in the prison population by means of long, detailed interviews and close study of file information. From this eventually developed a highly reliable diagnostic tool that any clinician or researcher could use and that yielded a richly detailed profile of the personality disorder called psychopathy. We named this instrument the Psychopathy Checklist (Multi-Health Systems; 1991). The checklist is now used worldwide and provides clinicians and researchers with a way of distinguishing, with reasonable certainty, true psychopaths from those who merely break the rules.

What follows is a general summary of the key traits and behaviors of a psychopath. Do not use these symptoms to diagnose yourself or others. A diagnosis requires explicit training and access to the formal scoring manual. If you suspect that someone you know conforms to the profile described here, and if it is important for you to have an expert opinion, you should obtain the services of a qualified (registered) forensic psychologist or psychiatrist. Also, be aware that people who are not psychopaths may have some of the symptoms described here. Many people are impulsive, or glib, or cold and unfeeling, but this does not mean that they are psychopaths. Psychopathy is a syndrome—a cluster of related symptoms.

Key Symptoms of Psychopathy
Emotional/Interpersonal:

  • Glib and superficial
  • Egocentric and grandiose
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Lack of empathy
  • Deceitful and manipulative
  • Shallow emotions

Social Deviance:

  • Impulsive
  • Poor behavior controls
  • Need for excitement
  • Lack of responsibility
  • Early behavior problems
  • Adult antisocial behavior

Glib and Superficial
Psychopaths are often voluble and verbally facile. They can be amusing and entertaining conversationalists, ready with a clever comeback, and are able to tell unlikely but convincing stories that cast themselves in a good light. They can be very effective in presenting themselves well and are often very likable and charming. One of my raters described an interview she did with a prisoner: “I sat down and took out my clipboard,” she said, “and the first thing this guy told me was what beautiful eyes I had. He managed to work quite a few compliments on my appearance into the interview, so by the time I wrapped things up, I was feeling unusually… well, pretty. I’m a wary person, especially on the job, and can usually spot a phony. When I got back outside, I couldn’t believe I’d fallen for a line like that.”

Egocentric and Grandiose
Psychopaths have a narcissistic and grossly inflated view of their own self-worth and importance, a truly astounding egocentricity and sense of entitlement, and see themselves as the center of the universe, justified in living according to their own rules. “It’s not that I don’t follow the law,” said one subject. “I follow my own laws. I never violate my own rules.” She then proceeded to describe these rules in terms of “looking out for number one.” Psychopaths often claim to have specific goals but show little appreciation regarding the qualifications required—they have no idea of how to achieve them and little or no chance of attaining these goals, given their track record and lack of sustained interest in formal education. The psychopathic inmate might outline vague plans to become a lawyer for the poor or a property tycoon. One inmate, not particularly literate, managed to copyright the title of a book he was planning to write about himself, already counting the fortune his best-selling book would bring.

Lack of Remorse or Guilt
Psychopaths show a stunning lack of concern for the effects their actions have on others, no matter how devastating these might be. They may appear completely forthright about the matter, calmly stating that they have no sense of guilt, are not sorry for the ensuing pain, and that there is no reason now to be concerned. When asked if he had any regrets about stabbing a robbery victim who subsequently spent time in the hospital as a result of his wounds, one of our subjects replied, “Get real! He spends a few months in hospital and I rot here. If I wanted to kill him I would have slit his throat. That’s the kind of guy I am; I gave him a break.” Their lack of remorse or guilt is associated with a remarkable ability to rationalize their behavior, to shrug off personal responsibility for actions that cause family, friends, and others to reel with shock and disappointment. They usually have handy excuses for their behavior, and in some cases deny that it happened at all.

Lack of Empathy
Many of the characteristics displayed by psychopaths are closely associated with a profound lack of empathy and inability to construct a mental and emotional “facsimile” of another person. They seem completely unable to “get into the skin” of others, except in a purely intellectual sense. They are completely indifferent to the rights and suffering of family and strangers alike. If they do maintain ties, it is only because they see family members as possessions. One of our subjects allowed her boyfriend to sexually molest her five-year-old daughter because “he wore me out. I wasn’t ready for more sex that night.” The woman found it hard to understand why the authorities took her child into care.

Deceitful and Manipulative
With their powers of imagination in gear and beamed on themselves, psychopaths appear amazingly unfazed by the possibility—or even by the certainty—of being found out. When caught in a lie or challenged with the truth, they seldom appear perplexed or embarrassed—they simply change their stories or attempt to rework the facts so they appear to be consistent with the lie. The result is a series of contradictory statements and a thoroughly confused listener. And psychopaths seem proud of their ability to lie. When asked if she lied easily, one woman laughed and replied, “I’m the best. I think it’s because I sometimes admit to something bad about myself. They think, well, if she’s admitting to that she must be telling the truth about the rest.”

Shallow Emotions
Psychopaths seem to suffer a kind of emotional poverty that limits the range and depth of their feelings. At times they appear to be cold and unemotional while nevertheless being prone to dramatic, shallow, and short-lived displays of feeling. Careful observers are left with the impression they are playacting and little is going on below the surface. A psychopath in our research said that he didn’t really understand what others meant by fear. “When I rob a bank,” he said, “I notice that the teller shakes. One barfed all over the money. She must have been pretty messed up inside, but I don’t know why. If someone pointed a gun at me I guess I’d be afraid, but I wouldn’t throw up.” When asked if he ever felt his heart pound or his stomach churn, he replied, “Of course! I’m not a robot. I really get pumped up when I have sex or when I get into a fight.”

Impulsive
Psychopaths are unlikely to spend much time weighing the pros and cons of a course of action or considering the possible consequences. “I did it because I felt like it,” is a common response. These impulsive acts often result from an aim that plays a central role in most of the psychopath’s behavior: to achieve immediate satisfaction, pleasure, or relief. So family members, relatives, employers, and coworkers typically find themselves standing around asking themselves what happened—jobs are quit, relationships broken off, plans changed, houses ransacked, people hurt, often for what appears as little more than a whim. As the husband of a psychopath I studied put it: “She got up and left the table, and that was the last I saw of her for two months.”

Poor Behavior Controls
Besides being impulsive, psychopaths are highly reactive to perceived insults or slights. Most of us have powerful inhibitory controls over our behavior; even if we would like to respond aggressively we are usually able to “keep the lid on.” In psychopaths, these inhibitory controls are weak, and the slightest provocation is sufficient to overcome them. As a result, psychopaths are short-tempered or hotheaded and tend to respond to frustration, failure, discipline, and criticism with sudden violence, threats or verbal abuse. But their outbursts, extreme as they may be, are often short-lived, and they quickly act as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened. For example, an inmate in line for dinner was accidentally bumped by another inmate, whom he proceeded to beat senseless. The attacker then stepped back into line as if nothing had happened. Despite the fact that he faced solitary confinement as punishment for the infraction, his only comment when asked to explain himself was, “I was pissed off. He stepped into my space. I did what I had to do. Although psychopaths have a “hair trigger,” their aggressive displays are “cold”; they lack the intense arousal experienced when other individuals lose their temper.

A Need for Excitement
Psychopaths have an ongoing and excessive need for excitement—they long to live in the fast lane or “on the edge,” where the action is. In many cases the action involves the breaking of rules. Many psychopaths describe “doing crime” for excitement or thrills. When asked if she ever did dangerous things just for fun, one of our female psychopaths replied, “Yeah, lots of things. But what I find most exciting is walking through airports with drugs. Christ! What a high!” The flip side of this yen for excitement is an inability to tolerate routine or monotony. Psychopaths are easily bored and are not likely to engage in activities that are dull, repetitive, or require intense concentration over long periods.

Lack of Responsibility
Obligations and commitments mean nothing to psychopaths. Their good intentions—”I’ll never cheat on you again”—are promises written on the wind. Horrendous credit histories, for example, reveal the lightly taken debt, the loan shrugged off, the empty pledge to contribute to a child’s support. Their performance on the job is erratic, with frequent absences, misuse of company resources, violations of company policy, and general untrustworthiness. They do not honor formal or implied commitments to people, organizations, or principles. Psychopaths are not deterred by the possibility that their actions mean hardship or risk for others. A 25-year-old inmate in our studies has received more than 20 convictions for dangerous driving, driving while impaired, leaving the scene of an accident, driving without a license, and criminal negligence causing death. When asked if he would continue to drive after his release from prison, he replied, “Why not? Sure, I drive fast, but I’m good at it. It takes two to have an accident.”

Early Behavior Problems
Most psychopaths begin to exhibit serious behavioral problems at an early age. These might include persistent lying, cheating, theft, arson, truancy, substance abuse, vandalism, and/or precocious sexuality. Because many children exhibit some of these behaviors at one time or another—especially children raised in violent neighborhoods or in disrupted or abusive families—it is important to emphasize that the psychopath’s history of such behaviors is more extensive and serious than most, even when compared with that of siblings and friends raised in similar settings. One subject, serving time for fraud, told us that as a child he would put a noose around the neck of a cat, tie the other end of the string to the top of a pole, and bat the cat around the pole with a tennis racket. Although not all adult psychopaths exhibited this degree of cruelty when in their youth, virtually all routinely got themselves into a wide range of difficulties.

Adult Antisocial Behavior
Psychopaths see the rules and expectations of society as inconvenient and unreasonable impediments to their own behavioral expression. They make their own rules, both as children and as adults. Many of the antisocial acts of psychopaths lead to criminal charges and convictions. Even within the criminal population, psychopaths stand out, largely because the antisocial and illegal activities of psychopaths are more varied and frequent than are those of other criminals. Psychopaths tend to have no particular affinity, or “specialty,” for one particular type of crime but tend to try everything. But not all psychopaths end up in jail. Many of the things they do escape detection or prosecution, or are on “the shady side of the law.” For them, antisocial behavior may consist of phony stock promotions, questionable business practices, spouse or child abuse, and so forth. Many others do things that, though not necessarily illegal, are nevertheless unethical, immoral, or harmful to others: philandering or cheating on a spouse to name a few.

Origins
Thinking about psychopathy leads us very quickly to a single fundamental question: Why are some people like this? Unfortunately, the forces that produce a psychopath are still obscure, an admission those looking for clear answers will find unsatisfying. Nevertheless, there are several rudimentary theories about the cause of psychopathy worth considering. At one end of the spectrum are theories that view psychopathy as largely the product of genetic or biological factors (nature), whereas theories at the other end posit that psychopathy results entirely from a faulty early social environment (nurture). The position that I favor is that psychopathy emerges from a complex—and poorly understood—interplay between biological factors and social forces. It is based on evidence that genetic factors contribute to the biological bases of brain function and to basic personality structure, which in turn influence the way an individual responds to, and interacts with, life experiences and the social environment. In effect, the core elements needed for the development of psychopathy—including a profound inability to experience empathy and the complete range of emotions, including fear—are in part provided by nature and possibly by some unknown biological influences on the developing fetus and neonate. As a result, the capacity for developing internal controls and conscience and for making emotional “connections” with others is greatly reduced.

Can Anything Be Done?
In their desperate search for solutions people trapped in a destructive and seemingly hopeless relationship with a psychopath frequently are told: Quit indulging him and send him for therapy. A basic assumption of psychotherapy is that the patient needs and wants help for distressing or painful psychological and emotional problems. Successful therapy also requires that the patient actively participate, along with the therapist, in the search for relief of his or her symptoms. In short, the patient must recognize there is a problem and must want to do something about it. But here is the crux: Psychopaths don’t feel they have psychological or emotional problems, and they see no reason to change their behavior to conform with societal standards they do not agree with. Thus, in spite of more than a century of clinical study and decades of research, the mystery of the psychopath still remains. Recent developments have provided us with new insights into the nature of this disturbing disorder, and its borders are becoming more defined. But compared with other major clinical disorders, little research has been devoted to psychopathy, even though it is responsible for more social distress and disruption than all other psychiatric disorders combined. So, rather than trying to pick up the pieces after the damage has been done, it would make far greater sense to increase our efforts to understand this perplexing disorder and to search for effective early interventions. The alternatives are to continue devoting massive resources to the prosecution, incarceration, and supervision of psychopaths after they have committed offenses against society and to continue to ignore the welfare and plight of their victims. We have to learn how to socialize them, not resocialize them. And this will require serious efforts at research and early intervention. It is imperative that we continue the search for clues.

{Excerpted from Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us (Simon & Schuster) by Robert Hare, Ph.D. Copyright 1993.}

A Survival Guide
Although no one is completely immune to the devious machinations of the psychopath, there are some things you can do to reduce your vulnerability.

  • Know what you are dealing with. This sounds easy but in fact can be very difficult. All the reading in the world cannot immunize you from the devastating effects of psychopaths. Everyone, including the experts, can be taken in, conned, and left bewildered by them. A good psychopath can play a concerto on anyone’s heart strings.
  • Try not to be influenced by “props.” It is not easy to get beyond the winning smile, the captivating body language, the fast talk of the typical psychopath, all of which blind us to his or her real intentions. Many people find it difficult to deal with the intense, “predatory state” of the psychopath. The fixated stare, is more a prelude to self-gratification and the exercise of power rather than simple interest or empathic caring.
  • Don’t wear blinders. Enter new relationships with your eyes wide open. Like the rest of us, most psychopathic con artists and “love-thieves” initially hide their dark side by putting their “best foot forward.” Cracks may soon begin to appear in the mask they wear, but once trapped in their web, it will be difficult to escape financially and emotionally unscathed.
  • Keep your guard up in high-risk situations. Some situations are tailor-made for psychopaths: singles bars, ship cruises, foreign airports, etc. In each case, the potential victim is lonely, looking for a good time, excitement, or companionship, and there will usually be someone willing to oblige, for a hidden price.
  • Know yourself. Psychopaths are skilled at detecting and ruthlessly exploiting your weak spots. Your best defense is to understand what these spots are, and to be extremely wary of anyone who zeroes in on them.

Unfortunately, even the most careful precautions are no guarantee that you will be safe from a determined psychopath. In such cases, all you can do is try to exert some sort of damage control. This is not easy but some suggestions may be of help:

  • Obtain professional advice. Make sure the clinician you consult is familiar with the literature on psychopathy and has had experience in dealing with psychopaths.
  • Don’t blame yourself. Whatever the reasons for being involved with a psychopath, it is important that you not accept blame for his or her attitudes and behavior. Psychopaths play by the same rules—their rules—with everyone.
  • Be aware of who the victim is. Psychopaths often give the impression that it is they who are suffering and that the victims are to blame for their misery. Don’t waste your sympathy on them.
  • Recognize that you are not alone. Most psychopaths have lots of victims. It is certain that a psychopath who is causing you grief is also causing grief to others.
  • Be careful about power struggles. Keep in mind that psychopaths have a strong need for psychological and physical control over others. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t stand up for your rights, but it will probably be difficult to do so without risking serious emotional or physical trauma.
  • Set firm ground rules. Although power struggles with a psychopath are risky you may be able to set up some clear rules—both for yourself and for the psychopath—to make your life easier and begin the difficult transition from victim to a person looking out for yourself.
  • Don’t expect dramatic changes. To a large extent, the personality of psychopaths is “carved in stone.” There is little likelihood that anything you do will produce fundamental, sustained changes in how they see themselves or others.
  • Cut your losses. Most victims of psychopaths end up feeling confused and hopeless, and convinced that they are largely to blame for the problem. The more you give in the more you will be taken advantage of by the psychopath’s insatiable appetite for power and control.
  • Use support groups. By the time your suspicions have led you to seek a diagnosis, you already know that you’re in for a very long and bumpy ride. Make sure you have all the emotional support you can muster.

http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2009/12/08_survival_of_kindest.shtml
Social scientists build case for ‘survival of the kindest’
by Yasmin Anwar, Media Relations | 08 December 2009

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, are challenging long-held beliefs that human beings are wired to be selfish. In a wide range of studies, social scientists are amassing a growing body of evidence to show we are evolving to become more compassionate and collaborative in our quest to survive and thrive. In contrast to “every man for himself” interpretations of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, Dacher Keltner, a UC Berkeley psychologist and author of “Born to be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life,” and his fellow social scientists are building the case that humans are successful as a species precisely because of our nurturing, altruistic and compassionate traits. They call it “survival of the kindest.”

“Because of our very vulnerable offspring, the fundamental task for human survival and gene replication is to take care of others,” said Keltner, co-director of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. “Human beings have survived as a species because we have evolved the capacities to care for those in need and to cooperate. As Darwin long ago surmised, sympathy is our strongest instinct.”


http://www.ted.com/speakers/isabel_behncke_izquierdo.html

Empathy in our genes
Keltner’s team is looking into how the human capacity to care and cooperate is wired into particular regions of the brain and nervous system. One recent study found compelling evidence that many of us are genetically predisposed to be empathetic. The study, led by UC Berkeley graduate student Laura Saslow and Sarina Rodrigues of Oregon State University, found that people with a particular variation of the oxytocin gene receptor are more adept at reading the emotional state of others, and get less stressed out under tense circumstances. Informally known as the “cuddle hormone,” oxytocin is secreted into the bloodstream and the brain, where it promotes social interaction, nurturing and romantic love, among other functions. “The tendency to be more empathetic may be influenced by a single gene,” Rodrigues said.

The more you give, the more respect you get
While studies show that bonding and making social connections can make for a healthier, more meaningful life, the larger question some UC Berkeley researchers are asking is, “How do these traits ensure our survival and raise our status among our peers?” One answer, according to UC Berkeley social psychologist and sociologist Robb Willer is that the more generous we are, the more respect and influence we wield. In one recent study, Willer and his team gave participants each a modest amount of cash and directed them to play games of varying complexity that would benefit the “public good.” The results, published in the journal American Sociological Review, showed that participants who acted more generously received more gifts, respect and cooperation from their peers and wielded more influence over them. “The findings suggest that anyone who acts only in his or her narrow self-interest will be shunned, disrespected, even hated,” Willer said. “But those who behave generously with others are held in high esteem by their peers and thus rise in status. Given how much is to be gained through generosity, social scientists increasingly wonder less why people are ever generous and more why they are ever selfish,” he added.

Cultivating the greater good
Such results validate the findings of such “positive psychology” pioneers as Martin Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania whose research in the early 1990s shifted away from mental illness and dysfunction, delving instead into the mysteries of human resilience and optimism. While much of the positive psychology being studied around the nation is focused on personal fulfillment and happiness, UC Berkeley researchers have narrowed their investigation into how it contributes to the greater societal good. One outcome is the campus’s Greater Good Science Center, a West Coast magnet for research on gratitude, compassion, altruism, awe and positive parenting, whose benefactors include the Metanexus Institute, Tom and Ruth Ann Hornaday and the Quality of Life Foundation.

Christine Carter, executive director of the Greater Good Science Center, is creator of the “Science for Raising Happy Kids” Web site, whose goal, among other things, is to assist in and promote the rearing of “emotionally literate” children. Carter translates rigorous research into practical parenting advice. She says many parents are turning away from materialistic or competitive activities, and rethinking what will bring their families true happiness and well-being. “I’ve found that parents who start consciously cultivating gratitude and generosity in their children quickly see how much happier and more resilient their children become,” said Carter, author of “Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents” which will be in bookstores in February 2010. “What is often surprising to parents is how much happier they themselves also become.”

The sympathetic touch
As for college-goers, UC Berkeley psychologist Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton has found that cross-racial and cross-ethnic friendships can improve the social and academic experience on campuses. In one set of findings, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, he found that the cortisol levels of both white and Latino students dropped as they got to know each over a series of one-on-one get-togethers. Cortisol is a hormone triggered by stress and anxiety. Meanwhile, in their investigation of the neurobiological roots of positive emotions, Keltner and his team are zeroing in on the aforementioned oxytocin as well as the vagus nerve, a uniquely mammalian system that connects to all the body’s organs and regulates heart rate and breathing.

Both the vagus nerve and oxytocin play a role in communicating and calming. In one UC Berkeley study, for example, two people separated by a barrier took turns trying to communicate emotions to one another by touching one other through a hole in the barrier. For the most part, participants were able to successfully communicate sympathy, love and gratitude and even assuage major anxiety.

Researchers were able to see from activity in the threat response region of the brain that many of the female participants grew anxious as they waited to be touched. However, as soon as they felt a sympathetic touch, the vagus nerve was activated and oxytocin was released, calming them immediately. “Sympathy is indeed wired into our brains and bodies; and it spreads from one person to another through touch,” Keltner said. The same goes for smaller mammals. UC Berkeley psychologist Darlene Francis and Michael Meaney, a professor of biological psychiatry and neurology at McGill University, found that rat pups whose mothers licked, groomed and generally nurtured them showed reduced levels of stress hormones, including cortisol, and had generally more robust immune systems.

Overall, these and other findings at UC Berkeley challenge the assumption that nice guys finish last, and instead support the hypothesis that humans, if adequately nurtured and supported, tend to err on the side of compassion. “This new science of altruism and the physiological underpinnings of compassion is finally catching up with Darwin’s observations nearly 130 years ago, that sympathy is our strongest instinct,” Keltner said.



WHAT DARWIN SAID
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/born-be-good/200902/darwins-touch-survival-the-kindest
Darwin’s Touch: Survival of the Kindest
by Dacher Keltner / February 11, 2009

Two hundred years ago on February 12, Adam Gopnik writes in Angels and Ages: A Short Book About Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life, two pebbles — Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln — were dropped into the sea of life. Their ideas and forms of eloquence have redirected the currents of humanity. One current of Darwin’s thought is well-known. His theory of evolution by natural selection would require new genesis stories about the origins of life forms, less arrogant notions about man’s place in the great chain of being, and a rethinking of our species as one in flux—and with rather hairy relatives.

Less well-known is a second current of Darwin’s thought — his conception of human nature. Think of Darwin and “survival of the fittest” leaps to mind, as do images of competitive individuals — collections of selfish genes — going at one another bloody in tooth and claw. “Survival of the fittest” was not Darwin’s phrase, but Herbert Spencer’s and that of Social Darwinists who used Darwin to justify their wished-for superiority of different classes and races. “Survival of the kindest” better captures Darwin’s thinking about his own kind.

In Darwin’s first book about humans, The Descent of Man, and Selection In Relation to Sex from 1871, Darwin argued for “the greater strength of the social or maternal instincts than that of any other instinct or motive.” His reasoning was disarmingly intuitive: in our hominid predecessors, communities of more sympathetic individuals were more successful in raising healthier offspring to the age of viability and reproduction — the sine qua non of evolution. One year later, in The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals, Darwin countered creationists’ claims that God had designed humans with special facial muscles to express uniquely human moral sentiments like sympathy. Instead, drawing upon observations of his children, animals at the London zoo, and his faithful dogs, Darwin showed how our moral sentiments are expressed in mammalian patterns of behavior. In his analysis of suffering, for example, Darwin builds from pure empirical observation to a radical conclusion: the oblique eyebrows, compressed lips, tears, and groans of human suffering have their parallels in the whining of monkeys and elephants’ tears. To be a mammal is to suffer. To be a mammal is to feel the strongest of Darwin’s instincts — sympathy.

The expression of sympathy, Darwin observed, was to be found in mammalian patterns of tactile contact. Inspired by this observation, Matthew Hertenstein and I conducted a recent study of emotion and touch that was as much a strange act of performance art as hardheaded science. Two participants, a toucher and touchee, sat on opposite sides of a barrier that we built in a laboratory room. They therefore could not see nor hear one another, and could only communicate via that five digit wonder, the hand, making contact on skin. The touchee bravely poked his or her arm through a curtain-covered opening in the barrier, and received 12 different touches to the forearm from the toucher, who in each instance was trying to communicate a different emotion. For each touch, the touchee guessed which emotion was being conveyed. With one second touches to the forearm, our participants could reliably communicate sympathy, love, and gratitude with rates of accuracy seven times as high as those produced by chance guessing.

Sympathetic touches are processed by receptors under the surface of the skin, and set in motion a cascade of beneficial physiological responses. In one recent study, female participants waiting anxiously for an electric shock showed activation in threat-related regions of the brain, a response quickly turned off when their hands were held by loved ones nearby. Friendly touch stimulates activation in the vagus nerve, a bundle of nerves in the chest that calms fight-or-flight cardiovascular response and triggers the release of oxytocin, which enables feelings of trust.

Research by Darlene Francis and Michael Meaney reveals that sympathetic environments — those filled with warm touch — create individuals better suited to survival and reproduction, as Darwin long ago surmised. Rat pups who receive high levels of tactile contact from their mothers — in the form of licking, grooming, and close bodily contact — later as mature rats show reduced levels of stress hormones in response to being restrained, explore novel environments with greater gusto, show fewer stress-related neurons in the brain, and have more robust immune systems. Were he alive today, Darwin would likely have found modest delight in seeing two of his hypotheses confirmed: sympathy is indeed wired into our brains and bodies; and it spreads from one person to another through touch. Darwin, the great fact amasser that he was, would no doubt have compiled these new findings on sympathy and touch in one of his many notebooks (now a folder on a laptop). He may have titled that folder “Survival of the kindest.”


‘GLOBAL COMPASSION’
http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/paul_ekmans_taxonomy_of_compassion/
Paul Ekman’s Taxonomy of Compassion
by Paul Ekman / June 21, 2010

Below is a guide to understanding what these varying forms of compassion are and why they’re so important.

Emotion Recognition is the easiest—the sine qua non. It’s knowing how another person is feeling. Most people don’t need to be taught it, though people with Asperger’s, autism, or schizoprenia do. Realize that the torturer needs emotion recognition: to know how you feel doesn’t imply whether I’m going to try to relieve your suffering or inflict it, or just have no concern. But if I don’t know how you’re feeling, everything else just falls by the wayside.

Emotional Resonance is what Bill Clinton does: “I feel your pain.” I distinguish between two types of resonance: Identical Resonance is when you realize that someone is in pain and you actually physically experience that same feeling yourself. But when you say, “Oh, you poor baby! I’m so sorry you’re feeling that way. What can I do to help you?”—that’s Reactive Resonance. Everybody loves people who resonate; resonance is crucial to our relationships with our loved ones. But if you’re like my daughter, an emergency room worker in San Francisco’s only trauma center, if you feel other people’s pain for 8 or 12 hours a day, you’ll burn out. The Dalai Lama says he feels others’ pain, but just very slightly and just for a few seconds, then it passes.
Not everyone resonates: There’s reason to believe that people with anti-social personalities don’t resonate, but they’re able to act as if they resonate, because they know other people like it, and that allows them to manipulate others.

Familial Compassion is the seed of compassion, planted through the caregiver-offspring bond. It raises very interesting questions about people who were brought up without a single caregiver, or were brought up with a parent who had a very distant attachment. What is their capacity for compassion? Both the Dalai Lama and Darwin would say that they’re going to have problems—without the seed, the flower won’t grow.

Global Compassion was exemplified by the response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. People around the world extended assistance to strangers, of different races and skin colors. Now, we know that not everybody has it—a lot of people acted, and a lot of people didn’t. How do we cultivate global compassion? I consider this one of the most crucial questions for the survival of our children and grandchildren, because the planet won’t survive without global compassion. We’ve got to try to see what we can learn from those who have it without training.

Sentient Compassion is when you extend feelings of compassion toward cockroaches, toward any living being. We don’t know whether people who have global compassion have sentient compassion. But my hunch is that if you’ve got sentient, you’ve got global. The Dalai Lama and Darwin agree that sentient is the highest moral virtue.

Heroic Compassion is like altruism with a risk. It has two forms: Immediate Heroic Compassion is when, without thought, you jump onto the subway tracks to rescue someone. It’s impulsive. Considered Heroic Compassion isn’t done impulsively; it’s done with thought, and it can be maintained for many years. Kristen Monroe, a political scientist at the University of California, Irvine, has done a study of people with heroic compassion, and here are her criteria for it: 1) you must act—not just think about how good it would be to act; 2) your goal is the welfare of the other person; 3) your action has consequences for that person; 4) there’s a good possibility your actions will diminish your own welfare—you’re putting yourself at risk; 5) and you have no anticipation of reward or recognition.

DO the MATH
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20928045.200-the-mathematics-of-being-nice.html
The mathematics of being nice
by Michael Marshall / 21 March 2011

Using mathematics to tackle some of biology’s biggest questions, Martin Nowak has concluded that an ability to cooperate is the secret of humanity’s success. He talks to Michael Marshallabout drawing fire from Richard Dawkins, the perils of punishment, and devising the mathematical equivalent of the rules of religion

Q. Why are you so fascinated by our ability to help each other out?
A. Cooperation is interesting because it essentially means that you help someone else, someone who is a potential competitor. You reduce your own success in order to increase the success of somebody else. Why should you do that? Why should natural selection favour such behaviour? To answer these questions I use evolutionary dynamics, evolutionary game theory and experimental tests of human behaviour.

Q. You say there are five different ways in which we cooperate that give us an edge, in terms of natural selection. Tell me about them.
A. The first one is called direct reciprocity. This is when individuals have repeated interactions, so if I help you now, you may help me later. There is also indirect reciprocity, which takes place in groups. If I help you, somebody else might see our interaction and conclude that I’m a helpful person, and help me later. That’s a reciprocal process relying on reputation. The third mechanism is when neighbours help each other – cooperators survive in clusters. This is called spatial selection, and it plays an important role, not only for people but for bacteria, animals and plants. Then there is group selection: it may be that our group of cooperators is better off than another group of defectors: here selection acts on two levels, because in our group there is more cooperation.

Q. Group selection has had a tricky reputation, and has been attacked by evolutionary biologists. Do you think it has now been rehabilitated?
A. The introduction of the concept of group selection, some 40 years ago, was imprecise. But recent mathematical models explain very clearly when group selection can promote the evolution of cooperation. There must be competition between groups and migration rates should be low.

Q. Unless I’ve lost count, there should be one mechanism left.
A. The last one is kin selection, which can occur when you help a close relative.

Q. You published a paper on kin selection last year that caused a bit of controversy.
A. I have no problem with kin selection when it is properly formulated. My criticism is directed against the current use of inclusive fitness theory, which is the dominant mathematical approach used to study aspects of kin selection.

Q. Can you explain?
A. Inclusive fitness theory assumes that the personal fitness of an individual can be partitioned into components caused by individual actions. This restrictive assumption implies that inclusive fitness theory is a limited approach that cannot be used to describe typical situations that arise in social evolution. The standard theory of natural selection does not make such a limiting assumption. In that recent paper we showed that inclusive fitness theory is a subset of the standard theory.

Q. Inclusive fitness is a key concept of evolutionary biology. No wonder that many biologists, including Richard Dawkins, reacted negatively when you attacked it (New Scientist, 2 October 2010, p 8). Do you think people are now coming around to it?
A. I feel that it is beginning to be appreciated. I would say the negative response rests on a misinterpretation of the paper. People think that we are saying relatedness is unimportant, but this is not at all what we said. People who are open-minded are beginning to realise that the results of our paper are beautiful: simple mathematical models based on standard natural selection are sufficient to explain the evolution of eusociality or other phenomena in social evolution. The strange mathematical contortions of inclusive fitness theory are unnecessary. In other words if you are interested in a mathematical description of evolution, a situation can never arise in which you would need an inclusive fitness approach.

Q. You have also been involved in some other big debates. Can you tell me about your work on punishment?
A. Many people feel that punishment is a good thing, that it leads to human cooperation. So their idea is that unless you cooperate with me, I punish you. It might even cost me something to punish you, but I do it because I want to teach you a lesson. One cannot deny that punishment is an important component of human behaviour, but I am sceptical about the idea that it’s a positive component. I have analysed the role of punishment using mathematics and experiments. I think that most uses of punishment are very much for selfish interests, such as defending your position in the group. Punishment leads to retaliation and vendettas. It’s very rare that punishment is used nobly.

Q. Over the years you’ve applied mathematics to a lot of different areas of biology. Is it your aim to put the whole field on a mathematical footing?
A. Yes. It has happened in many disciplines of science. It’s a kind of maturation process. Without a mathematical description, we can get a rough handle on a phenomenon but we can’t fully understand it. In physics, that’s completely clear. You don’t just talk about gravity, you quantify your description of it. The beautiful thing about mathematics is that it can decide an argument. Some things are fiercely debated for years, but with mathematics the issues become clear.

Q. Unlike most evolutionary biologists, you are religious. Do you think it is a problem for the public perception of evolution that it is seen as supporting atheism?
A. In my opinion, a purely scientific interpretation of evolution does not generate an argument in favour of atheism. Science does not disprove God or replace religion. Evolution is not an argument against God, any more than gravity is. Evolution explains the unfolding of life on Earth. The God of Christianity is “that without which there would be no evolution at all”.

Q. So how do you see religion?
A. I see the teachings of world religions as an analysis of human life and an attempt to help. They intend to promote unselfish behaviour, love and forgiveness. When you look at mathematical models for the evolution of cooperation you also find that winning strategies must be generous, hopeful and forgiving. In a sense, the world’s religions hit on these ideas first, thousands of years ago. Now, for the first time, we can see these ideas in terms of mathematics. Who would have thought that you could prove mathematically that, in a world where everybody is out for himself, the winning strategy is to be forgiving, and that those who cannot forgive can never win?

Q. Do you feel isolated from other evolutionary biologists because of your religious beliefs?
A. No, I don’t think it’s an issue. I once had a great discussion with another biologist about science and religion. He was deeply religious. Two weeks later I read that he had been made head of the US National Institutes of Health. He is Francis Collins.

{Martin Nowak is professor of mathematics and biology at Harvard University. He has a PhD from the University of Vienna, Austria, became professor of theoretical biology at the University of Oxford aged 32, then moved to Princeton University and later to Harvard. His book SuperCooperators: Altruism, evolution, and why we need each other to succeed, co-authored with Roger HighfieldNew Scientist‘s editor, is out this month.}

or CARING WHAT OTHERS THINK
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/05/wisdom-of-crowds-decline/
Sharing Information Corrupts Wisdom of Crowds
by Brandon Keim / May 16, 2011

When people can learn what others think, the wisdom of crowds may veer towards ignorance.

In a new study of crowd wisdom — the statistical phenomenon by which individual biases cancel each other out, distilling hundreds or thousands of individual guesses into uncannily accurate average answers — researchers told test participants about their peers’ guesses. As a result, their group insight went awry. “Although groups are initially ‘wise,’ knowledge about estimates of others narrows the diversity of opinions to such an extent that it undermines” collective wisdom, wrote researchers led by mathematician Jan Lorenz and sociologist Heiko Rahut of Switzerland’s ETH Zurich, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on May 16. “Even mild social influence can undermine the wisdom of crowd effect.”

The effect — perhaps better described as the accuracy of crowds, since it best applies to questions involving quantifiable estimates — has been described for decades, beginning with Francis Galton’s 1907 account of fairgoers guessing an ox’s weight. It reached mainstream prominence with economist James Surowiecki’s 2004 bestseller, The Wisdom of Crowds. As Surowiecki explained, certain conditions must be met for crowd wisdom to emerge. Members of the crowd ought to have a variety of opinions, and to arrive at those opinions independently. Take those away, and crowd intelligence fails, as evidenced in some market bubbles. Computer modeling of crowd behavior also hints at dynamics underlying crowd breakdowns, with he balance between information flow and diverse opinions becoming skewed.

Lorenz and Rahut’s experiment fits between large-scale, real-world messiness and theoretical investigation. They recruited 144 students from ETH Zurich, sitting them in isolated cubicles and asking them to guess Switzerland’s population density, the length of its border with Italy, the number of new immigrants to Zurich and how many crimes were committed in 2006. After answering, test subjects were given a small monetary reward based on their answer’s accuracy, then asked again. This proceeded for four more rounds; and while some students didn’t learn what their peers guessed, others were told. As testing progressed, the average answers of independent test subjects became more accurate, in keeping with the wisdom-of-crowds phenomenon. Socially influenced test subjects, however, actually became less accurate.

The researchers attributed this to three effects. The first they called “social influence”: Opinions became less diverse. The second effect was “range reduction”: In mathematical terms, correct answers became clustered at the group’s edges. Exacerbating it all was the “confidence effect,” in which students became more certain about their guesses. “The truth becomes less central if social influence is allowed,” wrote Lorenz and Rahut, who think this problem could be intensified in markets and politics — systems that rely on collective assessment. “Opinion polls and the mass media largely promote information feedback and therefore trigger convergence of how we judge the facts,” they wrote. The wisdom of crowds is valuable, but used improperly it “creates overconfidence in possibly false beliefs.”


Study participants were asked how many murders occurred in Switzerland in 2006. At the end of each round of questioning, they were given small payments for coming close to the actual answer (signified by the gray bar). At left is the range of responses among participants who received no information about others.

ABSTRACT
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/05/10/1008636108.abstract
Social groups can be remarkably smart and knowledgeable when their averaged judgements are compared with the judgements of individuals. Already Galton [Galton F (1907) Nature 75:7] found evidence that the median estimate of a group can be more accurate than estimates of experts. This wisdom of crowd effect was recently supported by examples from stock markets, political elections, and quiz shows [Surowiecki J (2004) The Wisdom of Crowds]. In contrast, we demonstrate by experimental evidence (N = 144) that even mild social influence can undermine the wisdom of crowd effect in simple estimation tasks. In the experiment, subjects could reconsider their response to factual questions after having received average or full information of the responses of other subjects. We compare subjects’ convergence of estimates and improvements in accuracy over five consecutive estimation periods with a control condition, in which no information about others’ responses was provided. Although groups are initially “wise,” knowledge about estimates of others narrows the diversity of opinions to such an extent that it undermines the wisdom of crowd effect in three different ways. The “social influence effect” diminishes the diversity of the crowd without improvements of its collective error. The “range reduction effect” moves the position of the truth to peripheral regions of the range of estimates so that the crowd becomes less reliable in providing expertise for external observers. The “confidence effect” boosts individuals’ confidence after convergence of their estimates despite lack of improved accuracy. Examples of the revealed mechanism range from misled elites to the recent global financial crisis.

CONTACT
Jan Lorenz
http://janlo.de/blog/
http://www.staff.uni-oldenburg.de/jan.lorenz/
email : jan.lorenz [at] uni-oldenburg [dot] de / math [at] janlo [dot] de

Heiko Rauhut
http://www.soms.ethz.ch/people/rauhut
email : rauhut [at] gess.ethz [dot] ch

Crowdminingschematic2

SO DON’T ASK THEM
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/03/ecodatamining/
Crawling the Web to Foretell Ecosystem Collapse
by Alexis Madrigal  /  March 19, 2009

The Interwebs could become an early warning system for when the web of life is about to fray. By trawling scientific list-serves, Chinese fish market websites, and local news sources, ecologists think they can use human beings as sensors by mining their communications. “If we look at coral reefs, for example, the Internet may contain information that describes not only changes in the ecosystem, but also drivers of change, such as global seafood markets,” said Tim Daw, an ecologist at the UK’s University of East Anglia in a press release about his team’s new paper in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

The six billion people on Earth are changing the biosphere so quickly that traditional ecological methods can’t keep up. Humans, though, are acute observers of their environments and bodies, so scientists are combing through the text and numbers on the Internet in hopes of extracting otherwise unavailable or expensive information. It’s more crowd mining than crowd sourcing. Much of the pioneering work in this type of Internet surveillance has come in the public health field, tracking disease. Google Flu Trends, which uses a cloud of keywords to determine how sick a population is, tracks epidemiological data from the Centers for Disease Control. Less serious projects — like this map of a United Kingdom snowstorm based on Tweets about snow — have also had some success tracking the real world.

These research efforts seem to indicate that people are good sensors, but pulling the information from what they post in human-readable formats and transforming it into quantitative models of the world is tough. The Global Public Health Intelligence Network has developed an epidemic warning system that pulls in data from news wires, web sites, and public health mailing lists. The GPHIN, which is probably the most advanced and uses highly variegated information, only picks up on about 40 percent of the 200 to 250 outbreaks that the World Health Organization investigates each year.

Nonetheless, Daw and and his co-authors from the  Stockholm Univeristy Resilience Centre, say traditional ecological monitoring has its problems, too. Humans can make huge changes to ecosystems faster than the standard methods of data collection can keep up. “The challenge is that existing monitoring systems are not at all in tune with the speed of social, economical and ecological changes,” the researchers write on their blog. By looking at human data, not just fisheries and ecological readings, they think they’ll be able to detect ecosystem tipping points before they happen. “Web crawlers can collect information on the drivers of ecosystem change, rather than the resultant ecological responses,” they write. “For example, if rapidly emerging markets for high value species are known to be socio-economic drivers which lead to overexploitation and collapse of a fishery, web crawlers can be designed to collect information on rapid changes in prices, landings or investments.”

But right now, their plans remain theoretical, and while scraping data seems easy enough, turning it into knowledge is another story. John Brownstein, a Harvard bioinformaticist and co-founder of HealthMap, which does for disease what Daw wants to do for ecology, said that applying the framework to ecology could work. “There’s no reason it can’t be done,” Brownstein said. “The only difference is that this is more difficult. The media and other sources are sensitive and fine-tuned to things like human disease. The threshold for the reporting of a mysterious disease is different from the threshold for an ecological phenomenon.” In other words, while reporters (or Tweeters) will include individual-level death data in human stories, massive die-offs or flora changes could very well go unnoticed and probably unquantified.

And even with disease data, there are serious signal-to-noise challenges. In a paper that Brownstein co-authored last week, he showed that monitoring search terms for disease indicators could have tipped officials off to a deadly outbreak of listeriosis in Canada. But spotting emergent diseases instead of ones that have already caused major damage is a more challenging proposition. “It’s so tough to figure out why people search for specific information,” he said.


EXCEPT : FILTER BUBBLES
http://www.rene-pickhardt.de/algorithmic-information-filter-from-elis-parisers-ted-talks/
Google is filtering and personalizing search results

Eli is pointing out a thing some people might have already noticed. If two different people search for the same thing on Google it is very probable that the search results will be very different. Google is doing this without telling the user that it is acutally filtering the results based on what the algorithm thinks the user might like. According to Eli Pariser Google is using 57 signals to determine the interest of us. Of course this kind of personalization has its good sides. When I am about to buy a new notebook computer y I definitely want to see different Websites if I live in Germany or in the US. This could be due to tax and shipping fees. Which means that I am most probably interested in local stores and not in oversea shops. Still this personalization and filtering is a huge potential for serious problems. We might think we get all the information we need. But in reality we are becoming blinded by the filters Google is using. We have no chance to determine what other information is filtert and potentially available for a certain topic. On the other hand due to the amount of information we need filters and computers to help us. But the systems should be more transparent.

Facebook is also filtering the newsstream from your friends:
I have always been thinking Facebook’s huge success is strongly correlated to the fact that there is hardly Spam on Facebook and the information economy is very smart and user friendly. The attention of users to status updates is very high making facebook a great place for every company to do online and viral marketing. This of course contributes to Facebook’s reach. In fact the information architecture on Facebook is even so smart that your 20’000 followers on Facebook might not receive your status updates since Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm decides it is not relevant to your fans or friends. Edgerank might not have 57 signals but it still takes into consideration:

who your fans are friend with
what other news they like
how heavy they have interacted with you in the past
the time passed since your last status update

Great news isn’t it? Just compare this with my statement in a recent blog post about creating newsletters as a musician in order to communicate with your fans and not solely rely on other services like Facebook or MySpace. You don’t believe the Facebook thing? There is a video about the EdgeRank algorithm used by Facebook to determine which status updates should reach us and which shouldn’t. Feel free to have a look and thanks to the guys from Klurig Analytics for producing such a great video resource:

57 SIGNALS
http://www.thefilterbubble.com/guessing-googles-57-signals
http://www.rene-pickhardt.de/google-uses-57-signals-to-filter/
What are the 57 signals google uses to filter search results?

Since my blog post on Eli Pariser’s Ted talk about the filter bubble became quite popular and a lot of people seem to be interested in which 57 signals Google would use to filter search results I decided to extend the list from my article and list the signals I would use if I was google. It might not be 57 signals but I guess it is enough to get an idea:

  1. Our Search History.
  2. Our location
  3. the browser we use.
  4. the browsers version
  5. The computer we use
  6. The language we use
  7. the time we need to type in a query
  8. the time we spend on the search result page
  9. the time between selecting different results for the same query
  10. our operating system
  11. our operating systems version
  12. the resolution of our computer screen
  13. average amount of search requests per day
  14. average amount of search requests per topic (to finish search)
  15. distribution of search services we use (web / images / videos / real time / news / mobile)
  16. average position of search results we click on
  17. time of the day
  18. current date
  19. topics of ads we click on
  20. frequency we click advertising
  21. topics of adsense advertising we click while surfing other websites
  22. frequency we click on adsense advertising on other websites
  23. frequency of searches of domains on Google
  24. use of google.com or google toolbar
  25. our age
  26. our sex
  27. use of “i feel lucky button”
  28. do we use the enter key or mouse to send a search request
  29. do we use keyboard shortcuts to navigate through search results
  30. do we use advanced search commands  (how often)
  31. do we use igoogle (which widgets / topics)
  32. where on the screen do we click besides the search results (how often)
  33. where do we move the mouse and mark text in the search results
  34. amount of typos while searching
  35. how often do we use related search queries
  36. how often do we use autosuggestion
  37. how often do we use sepell correction
  38. distribution of short / general  queries vs. specific / long tail queries
  39. which other google services do we use (gmail / youtube/ maps / picasa /….)
  40. how often do we search for ourself

Uff I have to say after 57 minutes of brainstorming I am running out of ideas for the moment. This list of signals is a pure guess based on my knowledge and education on data mining. Not one signal I name might correspond to the 57 signals google is using. In future I might discuss why each of these signals could be interesting. But remember: as long as you have a high diversity in the distribution you are fine with any list of signals.

CONTACT
Eli Pariser
http://elipariser.com/
email : epariser [at] elipariser [dot] com

PREVIOUSLY on SPECTRE : the PANIC of CROWDS
https://spectregroup.wordpress.com/2008/11/04/the-panic-of-crowds/

the FOUR CONDITIONS of CROWD-MIND HEALTH
http://kottke.org/04/07/wisdom-of-crowds
The wisdom of crowds you say? As Surowiecki explains, yes, but only under the right conditions. In order for a crowd to be smart, he says it needs to satisfy four conditions:

1. Diversity. A group with many different points of view will make better decisions than one where everyone knows the same information. Think multi-disciplinary teams building Web sites…programmers, designers, biz dev, QA folks, end users, and copywriters all contributing to the process, each has a unique view of what the final product should be. Contrast that with, say, the President of the US and his Cabinet.

2. Independence. “People’s opinions are not determined by those around them.” AKA, avoiding the circular mill problem.

3. Decentralization. “Power does not fully reside in one central location, and many of the important decisions are made by individuals based on their own local and specific knowledge rather than by an omniscient or farseeing planner.” The open source software development process is an example of effect decentralization in action.

4. Aggregation. You need some way of determining the group’s answer from the individual responses of its members. The evils of design by committee are due in part to the lack of correct aggregation of information. A better way to harness a group for the purpose of designing something would be for the group’s opinion to be aggregated by an individual who is skilled at incorporating differing viewpoints into a single shared vision and for everyone in the group to be aware of that process (good managers do this). Aggregation seems to be the most tricky of the four conditions to satisfy because there are so many different ways to aggregate opinion, not all of which are right for a given situation.

Satisfy those four conditions and you’ve hopefully cancelled out some of the error involved in all decision making: “If you ask a large enough group of diverse, independent people to make a prediciton or estimate a probability, and then everage those estimates, the errors of each of them makes in coming up with an answer will cancel themselves out. Each person’s guess, you might say, has two components: information and error. Subtract the error, and you’re left with the information.”

CONTACT
James Surowiecki
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/jamessurowiecki/
email : jamessuro [at] aol [dot] com

HOW CROWDS GET SMARTER
http://www.randomhouse.com/features/wisdomofcrowds/Q&A.html
Q & A with James Surowiecki

Q: How did you discover the wisdom of crowds?
A: The idea really came out of my writing on how markets work. Markets are made up of diverse people with different levels of information and intelligence, and yet when you put all those people together and they start buying and selling, they come up with generally intelligent decisions. Sometimes, though, they come up with remarkably stupid decisions—as they did during the stock-market bubble in the late 1990s. I was interested in what explained the successes and the failures of markets, and as I got further into it I realized that it wasn’t just markets that were smart. In fact, crowds of all sorts were often remarkably wise.

Q: Could you define “the crowd?”
A: A “crowd,” in the sense that I use the word in the book, is really any group of people who can act collectively to make decisions and solve problems. So, on the one hand, big organizations—like a company or a government agency—count as crowds. And so do small groups, like a team of scientists working on a problem. But just as interested—maybe even more interested—in groups that aren’t really aware themselves as groups, like bettors on a horse race or investors in the stock market. They make up crowds, too, because they’re collectively producing a solution to a complicated problem: the bets of people betting on a horse race determine what the odds on the race will be, and the choices of investors determine stock prices.

Q: Under what circumstances is the crowd smarter?
A: There are four key qualities that make a crowd smart. It needs to be diverse, so that people are bringing different pieces of information to the table. It needs to be decentralized, so that no one at the top is dictating the crowd’s answer. It needs a way of summarizing people’s opinions into one collective verdict. And the people in the crowd need to be independent, so that they pay attention mostly to their own information, and not worrying about what everyone around them thinks.

Q: And what circumstances can lead the crowd to make less-than-stellar decisions?
A: Essentially, any time most of the people in a group are biased in the same direction, it’s probably not going to make good decisions. So when diverse opinions are either frozen out or squelched when they’re voiced, groups tend to be dumb. And when people start paying too much attention to what others in the group think, that usually spells disaster, too. For instance, that’s how we get stock-market bubbles, which are a classic example of group stupidity: instead of worrying about how much a company is really worth, investors start worrying about how much other people will think the company is worth. The paradox of the wisdom of crowds is that the best group decisions come from lots of independent individual decisions.

Q: What kind of problems are crowds good at solving and what kind are they not good at solving?
A: Crowds are best when there’s a right answer to a problem or a question. (I call these “cognition” problems.) If you have, for instance, a factual question, the best way to get a consistently good answer is to ask a group. They’re also surprisingly good, though, at
solving other kinds of problems. For instance, in smart crowds, people cooperate and work together even when it’s more rational for them to let others do the work. And in smart crowds, people are also able to coordinate their behavior—for instance, buyers and sellers are able to find each other and trade at a reasonable price—without anyone being in charge. Groups aren’t good at what you might call problems of skill— for instance, don’t ask a group to perform surgery or fly a plane.

Q: Why are we not better off finding an expert to make all the hard decisions?
A: Experts, no matter how smart, only have limited amounts of information. They also, like all of us, have biases. It’s very rare that one person can know more than a large group of people, and almost never does that same person know more about a whole series of questions. The other problem in finding an expert is that it’s actually hard to identify true experts. In fact, if a group is smart enough to find a real expert, it’s more than smart enough not to need one.

Q: Can you explain how a betting pool can help predict the future?
A: Well, predicting the future is what bettors try to do every day, when they try to figure out what horse will win a race or what football team will win on Sunday. What horse-racing odds or a point spread represent, then, is the group’s collective judgment about the future. And what we know from many studies is that that collective judgment is often remarkably accurate. Now, we have to be careful here. In the case of a horse race, for instance, what the group is good at predicting is the likelihood of each horse winning. The potential benefits of this are pretty obvious. If you’re a company, say, that’s trying to decide which product you should put out, what you want to know is the likelihood of success of your different options. A betting pool—or a market, or some other way of tapping into the wisdom of crowds—is the best way for you to get that information.

Q: Can you give an example of a current company that is tapping into the “wisdom of crowds?”
A: There’s a division of Eli Lilly called e.Lilly, which has been experimenting with using internal stock markets and hypothetical drug candidates to predict whether new drugs will gain FDA approval. That’s an essential thing for drug companies to know, because their whole business depends on them not only picking winners—that is, good, safe drugs—but also killing losers before they’ve invested too much money in them.

Q: You’ve explained how tapping into the crowd’s collective wisdom can help a corporation, but how can it help other entities, like a government, or perhaps more importantly, an individual?
A: Well, the same principles that make collective wisdom useful to a company make it just as useful to the government. For instance, in the book I talk about the Columbia disaster, showing how NASA’s failure to deal with the shuttle’s problems stemmed, in part, from a failure to tap into knowledge and information that the people in the organization actually had. And in a broader sense, I think the book suggests that the more diverse and free the flow of information in a society is, the better the decisions that society will reach. As far as individuals go, I think there are two consequences. First, we can look to collective decisions—as long as the groups are diverse, etc.—to give us good predictions. But the collective decisions will only be smart if each of us tries to be as independent as possible. So instead of just taking the advice of your smart friend, you should try to make your own choice. In doing so, you’ll make the group smarter.

Q: When you talk about using the crowd to make a decision, are you talking about consensus?
A: No, and this is one of the most important points in the book. The wisdom of crowds isn’t about consensus. It really emerges from disagreement and even conflict. It’s what you might call the average opinion of the group, but it’s not an opinion that every one in the group can agree on. So that means you can’t find collective wisdom via compromise.

Q: What would Charles MacKay—the author of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds—think of your book?
A: He would probably think I’m deluded. Mackay thought crowds were doomed to excess and foolishness, and that only individuals could produce intelligent decisions. On the other hand, a good chunk of my book is about how crowds can, as it were, go mad, and what allows them to succumb to delusions. Mackay would like those chapters.

Q: What do you most hope people will learn from reading your book?
A: I think the most important lesson is not to rely on the wisdom of one or two experts or leaders when making difficult decisions. That doesn’t mean that expertise is irrelevant, or that we don’t need smart people. It just means that together all of us know more than any one of us does.

EARLY CROWD EXPERIMENTS
http://www.randomhouse.com/features/wisdomofcrowds/audio.html
http://www.randomhouse.com/features/wisdomofcrowds/excerpt.html
by James Surowiecki

As it happens, the possibilities of group intelligence, at least when it came to judging questions of fact, were demonstrated by a host of experiments conducted by American sociologists and psychologists between 1920 and the mid-1950s, the heyday of research into group dynamics. Although in general, as we’ll see, the bigger the crowd the better, the groups in most of these early experiments—which for some reason remained relatively unknown outside of academia—were relatively small. Yet they nonetheless performed very well. The Columbia sociologist Hazel Knight kicked things off with a series of studies in the early 1920s, the first of which had the virtue of simplicity. In that study Knight asked the students in her class to estimate the room’s temperature, and then took a simple average of the estimates. The group guessed 72.4 degrees, while the actual temperature was 72 degrees. This was not, to be sure, the most auspicious beginning, since classroom temperatures are so stable that it’s hard to imagine a class’s estimate being too far off base. But in the years that followed, far more convincing evidence emerged, as students and soldiers across America were subjected to a barrage of puzzles, intelligence tests, and word games. The sociologist Kate H. Gordon asked two hundred students to rank items by weight, and found that the group’s “estimate” was 94 percent accurate, which was better than all but five of the individual guesses. In another experiment students were asked to look at ten piles of buckshot—each a slightly different size than the rest—that had been glued to a piece of white cardboard, and rank them by size. This time, the group’s guess was 94.5 percent accurate. A classic demonstration of group intelligence is the jelly-beans-in-the-jar experiment, in which invariably the group’s estimate is superior to the vast majority of the individual guesses. When finance professor Jack Treynor ran the experiment in his class with a jar that held 850 beans, the group estimate was 871. Only one of the fifty-six people in the class made a better guess.

There are two lessons to draw from these experiments. First, in most of them the members of the group were not talking to each other or working on a problem together. They were making individual guesses, which were aggregated and then averaged. This is exactly what Francis Galton did, and it is likely to produce excellent results. (In a later chapter, we’ll see how having members interact changes things, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.) Second, the group’s guess will not be better than that of every single person in the group each time. In many (perhaps most) cases, there will be a few people who do better than the group. This is, in some sense, a good thing, since especially in situations where there is an incentive for doing well (like, say, the stock market) it gives people reason to keep participating. But there is no evidence in these studies that certain people consistently outperform the group. In other words, if you run ten different jelly-bean-counting experiments, it’s likely that each time one or two students will outperform the group. But they will not be the same students each time. Over the ten experiments, the group’s performance will almost certainly be the best possible. The simplest way to get reliably good answers is just to ask the group each time.

A similarly blunt approach also seems to work when wrestling with other kinds of problems. The theoretical physicist Norman L. Johnson has demonstrated this using computer simulations of individual “agents” making their way through a maze. Johnson, who does his work at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, was interested in understanding how groups might be able to solve problems that individuals on their own found difficult. So he built a maze—one that could be navigated via many different paths, some shorter, and some longer—and sent a group of agents into the maze one by one. The first time through, they just wandered around, the way you would if you were looking for a particular café in a city where you’d never been before. Whenever they came to a turning point—what Johnson called a “node”—they would randomly choose to go right or left. Therefore some people found their way, by chance, to the exit quickly, others more slowly. Then Johnson sent the agents back into the maze, but this time he allowed them to use the information they’d learned on their first trip, as if they’d dropped bread crumbs behind them the first time around. Johnson wanted to know how well his agents would use their new information. Predictably enough, they used it well, and were much smarter the second time through. The average agent took 34.3 steps to find the exit the first time, and just 12.8 steps to find it the second.

The key to the experiment, though, was this: Johnson took the results of all the trips through the maze and used them to calculate what he called the group’s “collective solution.” He figured out what a majority of the group did at each node of the maze, and then plotted a path through the maze based on the majority’s decisions. (If more people turned left than right at a given node, that was the direction he assumed the group took. Tie votes were broken randomly.) The group’s path was just nine steps long, which was not only shorter than the path of the average individual (12.8 steps), but as short as the path that even the smartest individual had been able to come up with. It was also as good an answer as you could find. There was no way to get through the maze in fewer than nine steps, so the group had discovered the optimal solution. The obvious question that follows, though, is: The judgment of crowds may be good in laboratory settings and classrooms, but what happens in the real world?

II. on the UTILITY of PREDICTION MARKETS

ROGUE PROPAGANDIST TRIES to BULLSHIT MARKET
http://www.whistle-safe.org/article.pl?sid=32/07/20/0833218
http://www.cqpolitics.com/wmspage.cfm?docID=news-000002976265&referrer=js
Trader Drove Up Price of McCain ‘Stock’ in Online Market
BY Josh Rogin / Oct. 21, 2008

An internal investigation by the popular online market Intrade has revealed that an investor’s purchases prompted “unusual” price swings that boosted the prediction that Sen. John McCain will become president. Over the past several weeks, the investor has pushed hundreds of thousands of dollars into one of Intrade’s predictive markets for the presidential election, the company said. “The trading that caused the unusual price movements and discrepancies was principally due to a single ‘institutional’ member on Intrade,” said the company’s chief executive, John Delaney, in a statement released Thursday. “We have been in contact with the firm on a number of occasions. I have spoken to those involved personally.” After the internal investigation into the trading patterns, Intrade found no wrongdoing or violation of its exchange rules, according to the company. Citing privacy policies, Delaney would not disclose the investor’s identity or whether the investor was affiliated with any political campaign. According to Delaney the investor was using “increased depth” in the Intrade market “to manage certain risks.” The action boosted the McCain prediction over its previous market value and above the levels of competing predictive-market Web sites. Pundits and politicians have used Intrade to track the fortunes of the two presidential candidates. Through the site, begun in 1999 and incorporated in Ireland, traders buy and sell “contracts” that function as stocks, allowing investors to gamble on the outcome of political, cultural, or even geological events such as the weather.

The company asserts and experts have found that the Intrade market is generally more accurate in predicting the outcome of major events than other leading indicators, including public opinion polls. But the relatively small scale of the market and its lack of outside regulation could leave the system vulnerable to unscrupulous investors, scholars of predictive markets say. Justin Wolfers, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, said the trades in question do not follow any logical investment strategy. “Who knows who’s doing it, it’s obviously someone who wants good news for McCain,” said Wolfers, who has been following the situation closely. McCain campaign spokesman Michael Goldfarb said: “It’s always a good time to buy McCain.”

Ripple Effects
Intrade users first noticed something amiss when a series of large purchases running counter to market predictions sparked volatility in the prices of John McCain and Barack Obama contracts. The investor under scrutiny purchased large blocks of McCain futures at once, boosting their price and increasing the prediction that McCain had a greater chance of winning the presidential election. At other times, according to Intrade’s online records, blocks of Obama futures were sold — lowering the market’s prediction about Obama’s standing in the race. According to Intrade bulletin boards and market histories, smaller investors swept in to take advantage of what they saw as price discrepancies caused by the market shifts — quickly returning the Obama and McCain futures prices to their previous value. This resulted in losses for the investor and profits for the small investors who followed the patterns to take maximum advantage. The activities of the trader, dubbed the “rogue trader” on Intrade’s message boards, raised several questions. For example, the trader purchased large contracts named specifically after McCain and Obama. There were no similar-sized investments, however, in separate instruments that predict a generic Republican or Democratic presidential win — even though both sets of contracts apply to the same event, prices show. Some political news sites, such as realclearpolitics.org, prominently display Intrade’s McCain contract value but do not display the corresponding value for a Republican presidential win. Similar trading patterns were not found in competing predictive market Web sites betting on John McCain , such as the Iowa Electronic Markets or Betfair. This means the trader was paying thousands of dollars more than necessary to purchase McCain contracts on Intrade, where the price of betting on McCain was much higher. On Sept. 24, for example, Obama contracts were trading on Intrade at a price that predicts a 52 percent chance of an Obama victory. At the same time, Betfair and IEM contracts equated to about a 62 percent chance of an Obama victory, according to the political site fivethirtyeight.com. Intrade records show the trader often purchased tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of contracts in the middle of the night, when activity was at its lowest, and in large bursts. In a three-day period from Sept. 30 through Oct. 2, four separate flurries of buying drove the price of the McCain contracts up by 3 to 5 points each. Those numbers eventually settled when the market compensated. “These movements over McCain largely occurred at time when there was no way that any useful information came out that was pro-McCain,” Wolfers said. “A profit-motivated guy wants to buy his stock in a way that would minimize his impact on the price, a manipulator wants to maximize it.”

Rogue Tactics
According to Intrade, the company contacted the investor and used public and private data held by the company as part of its investigation. That included an analysis of the trades made by the investor, tracking of Internet addresses, checking physical addresses and other information. Intrade released details about its investigation in a statement on its Web site. Some Intrade users commented on the company’s message board that the trader may believe in McCain’s chances for victory, despite trends in recent public opinion polls. Indeed, bucking conventional wisdom can be a profit-making strategy. For example, David Rothschild, a researcher and Ph.D. candidate at the Wharton School, said that during the first two presidential debates, the trader bet thousands of dollars on a McCain electoral victory at the same moment that instant polls were suggesting that Obama would win. “That’s equivalent to buying a company’s stock just as negative earning reports come out,” Rothschild said. “It is a bad investment, but may make some observers think that Mr. McCain won the debate, which, again would be the goal of market manipulation.” Also, the trader paid a premium of 10 percent to 20 percent on every dollar traded by not placing similar bets on other Web sites, according to Rothschild’s calculations. Overall, if the trader’s motive was to influence the Intrade market, he was remarkably successful, Rothschild said. The trader’s actions help keep the probability of Obama winning the election on Intrade about 10 percent lower than Betfair and IEM for more than a month. “If the investor did this as investment, not to manipulate Intrade, he is one of the most foolish investors in the world,” Rothschild said.

MARKET MANIPULATION RESEARCH
http://hanson.gmu.edu/biashelp.pdf
http://www.unc.edu/~cigar/papers/ManipIHT_June2008(KS).pdf
http://bpp.wharton.upenn.edu/jwolfers/Press/WSJcolumn/16-Market%20Manipulation%20Muddies%20Election%20Outlook.pdf

PROOF OF CONCEPT?
http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2008/09/intrade-betting-is-suspcious.html
http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/02/manipulation-in-political-prediction-markets/#more-3145
http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2008/01/prediction-mark.html
http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2008/10/manipulation-of.html
“This is big news but not for the reasons that most people think. Although some manipulation is clearly possible in the short run, the manipulation was already suspected due to differences between Intrade and other prediction markets. As a result: “According to Intrade bulletin boards and market histories, smaller investors swept in to take advantage of what they saw as price discrepancies caused by the market shifts — quickly returning the Obama and McCain futures prices to their previous value. This resulted in losses for the investor and profits for the small investors who followed the patterns to take
maximum advantage.”

This supports Robin Hanson’s and Ryan Oprea’s finding that manipulation can improve (!) prediction markets – the reason is that manipulation offers informed investors a free lunch. In a stock market, for example, when you buy (thinking the price will rise) someone else is selling (presumably thinking the price will fall) so if you do not have inside information you should not expect an above normal profit from your trade. But a manipulator sells and buys based on reasons other than expectations and so offers other investors a greater than normal return. The more manipulation, therefore, the greater the expected profit from betting according to rational expectations.

An even more important lesson is that prediction markets have truly arrived when people think they are worth manipulating. Notice that the manipulator probably doesn’t care about changing the market prediction per se. Instead, a manipulator willing to bet hundreds of thousands to change the prediction of a McCain win must think that the prediction will actually affect the outcome. And if people think prediction markets are this important then can decision markets be far behind?”

COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE
http://www.prokons.com/prediction-markets/faq
http://flipflopmoney.com/2008/05/11/intrade-making-money-online-not-the-usual-way/
http://www.intrade.com/
http://us.newsfutures.com/
http://www.biz.uiowa.edu/iem/
http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/
http://www.hsx.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prediction_market
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Election_Stock_Market
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Policy_Analysis_Market
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futures_market
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Efficient_market_hypothesis

http://www.forecastingprinciples.com/PM/
http://www.midasoracle.org/
http://www.chrisfmasse.com/
http://www.predictionmarketjournal.com/
http://www.pmindustry.org/
http://betting.betfair.com/specials/politics-betting/prediction-markets/
http://www.dmreview.com/bissues/20070301/2600311-1.html?bir=1
http://www.ideosphere.com/
http://www.consensuspoint.com/blog/?m=200809

POSITIVE ECONOMICS
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positive_economics
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essays_in_Positive_Economics#The_Methodology_of_Positive_Economics
http://academic2.american.edu/~dfagel/Class%20Readings/Friedman/Methodology.pdf

ORGANIZING without ORGANIZATIONS
http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/interactive/events/2008/02/shirky
http://www.herecomeseverybody.org/
http://www.shirky.com/

‘HERD INSTINCT’ as ECONOMIC MODEL
http://www.forbes.com/2008/10/21/why-bubbles-economy-markets-bubbles08-cx_th_1021harford.html
Why Do Markets Create Bubbles?
BY Tim Harford / 10.21.08

Bubbles are like pornography: Everyone has his or her own opinion as to what qualifies, but it is impossible to pen a precise definition. If you wish to push the metaphor further, both are also fun for a while, if you like that sort of thing, but apt to end up making you feel deflated and embarrassed. Bubbles are also embarrassing for the economics profession. It’s not that we have no idea what causes bubbles to form, it’s that we have too many ideas for comfort. Some explanations are psychological. Some point out that many bubbles have been stoked not by markets but by governments. There is even a school of thought that some famous bubbles weren’t bubbles at all.

The psychological explanation is the easiest to explain: People get carried away. They hear stories of their neighbors getting rich and they want a piece of the action. They figure, somehow, that the price of stocks (1929) or dot-com start-ups (1999) or real estate (2006) can only go up. A symptom of this crowd psychology is that the typical investor displays exquisitely bad timing. The economist Ilia Dichev of the University of Michigan has recently calculated “dollar-weighted” returns for major stock indexes; this is a way of adjusting for investors rushing into the market at certain times. It turns out that “dollar-weighted” returns are substantially lower than “buy and hold” returns. In other words, investors flood in when the market is near its peak, tending to buy high and sell low. The herd instinct seems to cost us money. That is awkward for economists, because mainstream economic models do not really encompass “herd instinct” as a variable. Still, some economists are teaming up with psychologists and even neurophysiologists in the search for an answer.

Cambridge economist John Coates is one of them. He used to manage a Wall Street trading desk and was struck by the way the (male) traders changed as the dot-com bubble inflated. They would pump their arms, yell, leave pornography around the office and in general behave as though they were high on something. It turns out that they were: It was testosterone. Many male animals–bulls, hares, rutting stags and the like–fight with sexual rivals. The winner experiences a surge of testosterone, which makes him more aggressive and more likely to take risks. In the short run that tends to mean that winners keep winning; in the long run, they take too many risks. Dr. Coates wondered if profitable traders were also running on testosterone, and a few saliva samples later it appears that he is right. Profitable trading days boost testosterone levels and tend to encourage more risk-taking, more wins and more testosterone. When the risks didn’t pay off, the testosterone ebbed away to be replaced by a stress hormone, cortisol. The whole process seems likely to exaggerate peaks and troughs. These psychological explanations are likely to help us understand what goes on as bubbles form and how they might be prevented. Yet they make me nervous: It is too easy to blame a bubble on the mob psychology of the market when a closer look at most bubbles reveals that there is much more to the story than that.

For example, one famous early “mania” was the Mississippi bubble, in which countless investors poured their money into the Compagnie des Indes in France in 1720, and lost it. Yet there was more going on than a free-market frenzy: The government could hardly have been more closely involved. The Compagnie des Indes had effectively taken over the French Treasury and legal monopolies on French trade with much of the rest of the world (including Louisiana–hence “Mississippi bubble”). Investors were hardly insane to think that such a political machine might be profitable, especially since the king of France personally held many of the shares. But the king sold out near the top in 1720; within two years, the Compagnie was bankrupt and its political power dismantled.

The government played its own part in the current credit crunch, too. For all the scapegoating of deregulation, thoughtful commentators also point to the Federal Reserve’s policy of cheap money, and Fannie and Freddie’s enormous appetite for junk mortgages–urged all the way by politicians trying to make credit available to poor and risky borrowers. Market psychology was part of the story, but not the whole story. The idea that ordinary people have a tendency to be caught up in investment manias is a powerful one, thanks in part to Charles Mackay, author in 1841 of the evergreen book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. Mackay’s most memorable example was the notorious Dutch tulip bubble of 1637, in which –absurdity!–tulip bulbs changed hands for the price of a house.

It is the quintessential case study of financial hysteria, but it’s not clear that there was ever an important tulip bubble. Rare tulip flowers–we now know that their intricate patterning is caused by a virus–were worth huge sums to wealthy Parisian gentlemen trying to impress the ladies. Bulbs were the assets that produced these floral gems, like geese that laid golden eggs. Their value was no fantasy. Peter Garber, a historian of economic bubbles, points out that a single bulb could, over time, be used to produce many more bulbs. The price of the bulbs would, of course, fall as more were cultivated. A modern analogy would the first copy of a Hollywood film: the final copies may circulate for a few dollars, but the original is worth tens of millions. Garber points out that rare flower breeds still change hands for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Perhaps we shouldn’t be quite so sure that the tulipmania really was a mania. Economists are going to have to get better at understanding why bubbles form from a heady mix of fraud, greed, perverse incentives, mob psychology and government incompetence. What we should never forget is that underneath the apparent hysteria, there is often a cold rationality to it all.

FIELD RECORDINGS
http://betting.betfair.com/specials/politics-betting/prediction-markets/the-betfair-prof/whats-the-connection-between-a-1906-poultry-exhibition-and-t-180908.html
What’s the connection between a 1906 poultry exhibition and the 2008 US election?
by Leighton Vaughan Williams / 18 September 2008

Sir Francis Galton was an English explorer, anthropologist, scientist, who was born in 1822 and died in 1911. To students of prediction markets he is best known, however, for his visit, at the age of 85, to the West of England Fat Stock and Poultry Exhibition, and what happened when he came across a competition in which visitors could, for sixpence, guess the weight of an ox. Those who guessed closest would receive prizes. About 800 people entered. Ever the scientist, he decided to examine the ledger of entries to see how clever these ordinary folk actually were in estimating the correct weight. In letters to ‘Nature’ magazine, published in March of 1907, he explained just how ordinary those entering the competition were. “Many non-experts competed”, he wrote, “like those clerks and others who have no knowledge of horses, but who bet on races, guided by newspapers, friends, and their own fancies … The average was probably as well fitted for making a just estimate of the dressed weight of the ox as an average voter is of judging the merits of most political issues”.

The results surprised him. For what he found was that the crowd had guessed (taking the mean, i.e. adding up the guesses and dividing by the number of entrants) that the ox would weigh 1,197 pounds. In fact, it weighed 1,198 pounds! The median estimate (listing the guesses from the highest to the lowest and taking the mid-point) was also close (1,207 pounds, and therefore still within 1% of the correct weight) but not as close. Some have argued that Galton himself favoured the use of the median rather than the mean, and so was double-surprised when the mean beat the median. Others have argued that the point is incidental and what this tale demonstrates about the wisdom of the crowd is more important than such a fine statistical detail. I think that both these points of view contain some merit. The power of the market to aggregate information is indeed a critically important idea. But it is also important to be able to distinguish in different contexts which measure of the ‘average’ (the mean, the median, or perhaps some other measure) is more suited to the purpose at hand.

Take the stream of opinion polls which contribute to the collective knowledge that drives the Betfair market about the identity of the next President of the United States. If five are released, say, on a given day, what is the most appropriate way of gauging the information contained in them? Should we simply add up the polling numbers for each candidate and divide by the number of polls, or should we list them from highest polling score to lowest and take the mid-point. The convention adopted by sites such as http://www.realclearpolitics.com is to take the mean. But is there a better measure than the mean of discerning the collective wisdom contained in the polls, and if so, what is it? The jury is still deliberating.

CONTACT
Leighton Vaughan Williams
http://www.ntu.ac.uk/research/school_research/nbs/staff/61441gp.html
http://www.ntu.ac.uk/nbs/business/specialist_centres/political_forecasting.html
http://www.predictionmarketjournal.com/
email : leighton.vaughan-williams [at] ntu.ac [dot] uk

‘COLLECTIVE BEST GUESS’ CORRECT within a FURLONG
http://betting.betfair.com/specials/politics-betting/prediction-markets/the-betfair-prof/the-betfair-prof-question-how-do-you-find-a-missing-submarin-080408.html
“Question: How do you find a missing submarine? Answer: Ask the audience”
BY Leighton Vaughan Williams / 8 April 2008

During a car journey between Nottingham and Warwick the other week I was told a story about the value of crowd wisdom in turning up buried treasure. The story was that by asking a host of people, each with a little knowledge of ships, sailing and the sea, where a vessel is likely to have sunk in years gone by, it is possible with astonishing accuracy to pinpoint the wreck and the bounty within. Individually, each of those contributing a guess as to the location is limited to their special knowledge, whether of winds or tides or surf or sailors, but the idea is that together their combined wisdom (arrived at by averaging their guesses) could pinpoint the treasure more accurately than a range of other predictive tools. At least that’s the way it was told to me by an economist who was in turn told the story by a physicist friend.

To any advocate of the power of prediction markets, this certainly sounds plausible, so I decided to investigate further. Soon I was getting acquainted with the fascinating tale of the submarine USS Scorpion, as related by Mark Rubinstein, Professor of Applied Investment Analysis at the University of California at Berkeley. In a fascinating paper titled, ‘Rational Markets? Yes or No? The Affirmative Case’, he tells of a story related in a book called ‘Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage’ by Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew. The book tells how on the afternoon of May 27, 1968, the submarine USS Scorpion was declared missing with all 99 men aboard. It was known that she must be lost at some point below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean within a circle 20 miles wide. This information was of some help, of course, but not enough to determine even five months later where she could actually be found.

The Navy had all but given up hope of finding the submarine when John Craven, who was their top deep-water scientist, came up with a plan which pre-dated the explosion of interest in prediction markets by decades. He simply turned to a group of submarine and salvage experts and asked them to bet on the probabilities of what could have happened. Taking an average of their responses, he was able to identify the location of the missing vessel to within a furlong (220 yards) of its actual location. The sub was found. Sontag and Drew also relate the story of how the Navy located a live hydrogen bomb lost by the Air Force, albeit without reference in that case to the wisdom of crowds. Perhaps, though, that tale is too secret yet to be told! What then, I wonder, would those scientific giants, Karl Pearson and Lord Rayleigh, have made of it all? It was their correspondence, you may recall, in the pages of the scientific journal, ‘Nature’, which answered the classic query of where to find the drunk you left in a field. “Where you left him,” was the answer. Which is all very well, of course, if you were sober enough yourself to know exactly where that might have been!

PREVIOUSLY on SPECTRE : TANGANYIKA LAUGHTER EPIDEMIC, 1962-64
https://spectregroup.wordpress.com/2009/01/03/tanganyika-laughter-epidemic-1962-64/
CROWD-SOURCING the FUTURE
https://spectregroup.wordpress.com/2007/04/05/crowd-sourcing-the-future/
MECHANISM DESIGN THEORY
https://spectregroup.wordpress.com/2007/10/22/mechanism-design-theory/
SWARM INTELLIGENCE
https://spectregroup.wordpress.com/2007/07/16/swarm-intelligence/1

SEE ALSO : FINANCIAL LITERACY
http://annalusardi.blogspot.com/
http://www.dartmouth.edu/~alusardi/media.html

GAIN CONFIDENCE
http://www.gametheory.net/dictionary/
http://www.gametheory.net/tests/
http://www.gametheory.net/games/
http://www.gametheory.net/applets/
http://www.gametheory.net/links/academic-journals.html
http://www.gametheory.net/lectures/
http://www.gametheory.net/books/
http://gambit.sourceforge.net/
http://www.strategy-business.com/library/enews
http://www.ics.uci.edu/~eppstein/cgt/
http://kuznets.fas.harvard.edu/~aroth/alroth.html
http://www.perfecteconomy.com/pg-glossary-of-terms.html
http://www-sop.inria.fr/coprin/ISDG/
http://meganmcardle.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/10/recommended_reading.php
http://www.econlib.org/

DUNBAR’S NUMBER
http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/the_web/article6999879.ece
Our brains can’t handle all our Facebook friends
BY Chris Gourlay / January 24, 2010

WE may be able to amass 5,000 friends on Facebook but humans’ brains are capable of managing a maximum of only 150 friendships, a study has found. Robin Dunbar, professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University, has conducted research revealing that while social networking sites allow us to maintain more relationships, the number of meaningful friendships is the same as it has been throughout history.

Dunbar developed a theory known as “Dunbar’s number” in the 1990s which claimed that the size of our neocortex — the part of the brain used for conscious thought and language — limits us to managing social circles of around 150 friends, no matter how sociable we are. These are relationships in which a person knows how each friend relates to every other friend. They are people you care about and contact at least once a year. Dunbar derived the limit from studying social groupings in a variety of societies — from neolithic villages to modern office environments. He found that people tended to self-organise in groups of around 150 because social cohesion begins to deteriorate as groups become larger.

Dunbar is now studying social networking websites to see if the “Facebook effect” has stretched the size of social groupings. Preliminary results suggest it has not. “The interesting thing is that you can have 1,500 friends but when you actually look at traffic on sites, you see people maintain the same inner circle of around 150 people that we observe in the real world,” said Dunbar. “People obviously like the kudos of having hundreds of friends but the reality is that they’re unlikely to be bigger than anyone else’s. “There is a big sex difference though … girls are much better at maintaining relationships just by talking to each other. Boys need to do physical stuff together.” Dunbar’s study is due to be published later this year.


http://bluebrain.epfl.ch/page18900.html

the SOCIAL BRAIN
http://www.commonsenseadvice.com/human_cortex_dunbar.html

Your brain is hard wired to pay attention to about 150 people. Try to have a relationship with any more than that, and your life will turn to pure crap. Just ask the Military, Gore-Tex, or Krippendorf’s tribe. They’ll all tell you the same thing. One fifty is the way to go. They’ve known for hundreds of years that people work best in groups of 150 or less. Now it’s your turn. The human cortex, responsible for complex thought and reasoning, is overgrown in humans when compared to other mammals. Scientists have argued for years about why this is the case.

One theory holds that our brains evolved because our primate ancestors began to gather food in more complex ways. They began eating fruit instead of grasses and leaves. This involved traveling long distances to find food, and required each species to maintain a complex mental map in order to keep track of fruit trees. More brainpower might have been needed to determine if a fruit was ripe, or to discern proper methods for peeling fruit or cracking nuts. The problem with this theory is that if one tries to match brain size with the eating habits of primates, it doesn’t work. Some small-brained monkeys are eating fruit and maintaining complex maps and some larger brained primates are eating leaves. What does work, apparently, is group size. If one examines any species of primate, the larger their neocortex, the larger the average size of the group they live with.

Anthropologist Robin Dunbar has done some of the most interesting research in this area. Dunbar’s argument is that as brains evolve, they become larger in order to handle the unique complexities of larger social groups. Humans socialize the largest social groups because we have the largest cortex. Dunbar has developed an equation, which works for most primates, in which he plugs in what he calls the neocortex ratio of a particular species – the size of the neocortex relative to the size of the brain – and the equation gives us the maximum expected group size for each species. For humans, the max group size is 147.8, or about 150. This figure seems to represent the maximum amount of people that we can have a real social relationship with – knowing who another human is and how they relate to us.

Dunbar has gone through anthropological literature and found that the number 150 pops up over and over again. For example, he looked at 21 different hunger-gatherer societies around the world and found that the average number of people in each village was 148.4. The same pattern holds true for military organization. Over the years, through trial and error, military planners have arrived at a rule of thumb for the size of a functional fighting unit – 200 men. They have realized that it is quite difficult to make any larger a group than this to function as a unit without complicated hierarchies and rules and regulations and formal measures to insure loyalty and unity within the group. With a group of 150 or so, formalities are not necessary. Behavior can be controlled on the basis of personal loyalties and direct man-to-man contacts. With larger groups, this seems impossible.

Further is the religious group known as the Hutterites, who for hundreds of years, through trial and error, have realized that the maximum size for a colony should be, low and behold, 150 people. They’ve been following this rule for centuries. Every time a colony approaches this number, the colony is divided into two separate colonies. They have found that once a group becomes larger than that, “people become strangers to one another.” At 150, the Hutterites believe, something happens that somehow changes the community seemingly overnight. At 150 the colony with spontaneously begin dividing into smaller “clans.” When this happens a new colony is formed.

Another good example of our hard wired social limits is Gore Associates, a privately held multimillion-dollar company responsible for creating Gore-Tex fabric and all sorts of other high tech computer cables, filter bags, semiconductors, pharmaceutical, and medical products. What is most unique about this company is that each company plant is no larger than 150. When constructing a plant, they put 150 spaces in the parking lot, and when people start parking on the grass, they know it’s time for another plant. Each plant works as a group. There are no bosses. No titles. Salaries are determined collectively. No organization charts, no budgets, no elaborate strategic plans. Wilbert Gore – the late founder of the company, found through trial and error that 150 employees per plant was most ideal. “We found again and again that things get clumsy at a hundred and fifty,” he told an interviewer some years ago.

Take a lesson from this. If you are engaged in a large enterprise or are planning to work for one, realize that large groups rapidly reduce the efficiency of an operation. If each department is separated, especially if there are hundreds or thousands of people involved, complex systems of organizations will be required to keep everyone in check. Peer pressure is much more powerful than the somehow vague concept of a boss or punishment. People will work only hard enough not to get fired in a very large group, but will live up to the expectations of their peers in smaller groups where they have a personal relationship with each of their co-workers. Of course, a small group size is not by any means a guarantee of success. Small enterprises fail all the time. It’s just a concept — an idea to keep in the back of your mind as you vegetate in that basement cubicle.

HUMANS are PACK ANIMALS
http://www.liv.ac.uk/evolpsyc/Evol_Anthrop_6.pdf
http://www.liv.ac.uk/researchintelligence/issue17/brainteaser.html
The ultimate brain teaser / August 2003

Relative to their body size, monkeys, apes and humans have unusually big brains. It has been suggested that this reflects the complexity of their social lives. This hypothesis is gaining support thanks to ground-breaking research by a University of Liverpool scientist, whose methods have been taken up by primate researchers around the world. These same methods could soon shed light on the story of human evolution. Judged by our genomes, there’s surprisingly little difference between humans and chimps: 95% of our DNA is similar, making chimps our closest ape ‘cousins’. Judged by most other measures, there are significant distinctions between the two species. So, how did humans come to be so different to chimps and other apes?

Clearly, brain size plays a crucial role: all primates have big brains relative to their body size, but human brains are disproportionately large. It’s a phenomenon whose origins date back two million years, when the brain size of some of our hominid ancestors started to increase exponentially. Why did these changes take place in primates in general, and humans so particularly? Over the years, scientists have proposed a range of possible explanations. One intriguing suggestion is that primates’ brain size reflects the complexity of their social lives. Primate social systems are much more complex than other species’, routinely involving the formation of coalitions and tactical deceptions – so primates need larger brains to accommodate the computational demands of such complex behaviour. Over the past decade, a Liverpool University scientist has subjected this ‘social brain’ hypothesis to rigorous tests. His methods have been taken up by primate researchers around the world – and soon they will be shedding extraordinary light on the story of human evolution.

Innovative Models
Professor Robin Dunbar is an evolutionary psychologist with an interest in the behavioural ecology of primates – in the interrelations between primates and their environment. Based in the School of Biological Sciences, he is widely known for developing innovative systems models of the socio-ecology of primates, using equations similar to those deployed by economists to model national economies. “Scientists around the world have recorded a huge amount of quantitative information on primates”, he explains. “There’s environmental, demographic and anatomical data, data on diet composition, on the time devoted to foraging, feeding, grooming and so on. “We extracted certain types of data relating to monkeys and apes, and used a series of regression equations to describe the relationships between the different variables. We then combined these various components into a single, integrated systems model for each species. These models enable us to identify defining behavioural characteristics – for instance, limits on the social group size of a particular species and how this varies according to habitat.” Demonstrating that there is, for instance, a species-specific a limit on social group size is one thing; finding a robust explanation for this is another thing altogether.

Significant correlations
The social brain hypothesis suggests that socio-ecological characteristics like this are related to brain size. Robin Dunbar decided to test this hypothesis. He started by focussing on two specific measures of primate social complexity – social group size and grooming clique size. “In primate species, total group sizes may be quite large”, he explains, “but individual primates usually belong to a smaller social sub-group, on which they rely for support when conflicts break out. The number of regular grooming partners they have may be much smaller, though. For instance, chimps belong to social groups comprising about 50 individuals, but they have only two or three grooming partners.”

Robin Dunbar used the volume of the neocortex – the ‘thinking’ part of the brain – as his measure of brain size, because this accounts for most of the brain’s expansion within primates. He found that both measures of social complexity correlated with relative neocortex volume in primate species. Subsequently, he predicted the social group size of some other monkey and ape species from their neocortex volumes – with impressive accuracy. Thanks to his ground-breaking work, and the follow-on studies which it stimulated, numerous features of primate social behaviour can now be predicted from neocortex volume – from the time devoted to social interaction, the level of social skills and the degree of tactical deception practiced to community and coalition size. We can also predict when social groups will split up because their size is unsustainable; Robin Dunbar’s research shows that the volume of the neocortex imposes a limit on the number of relationships that individual primates can sustain in their mental model of their social world.

The human dimension
Humans are primates, too – so do they fit into the pattern established for monkeys and apes? This is the key question which Robin Dunbar sought to answer by using the same equations to predict human social group and clique size from neocortex volume. The results were… ~150 for social group size, and ~12 for the more intimate clique size. He subsequently discovered that modern humans operate on a hierarchy of group sizes. “Interestingly”, he says, “the literature suggests that 150 is roughly to the number of people you could ask for a favour and expect to have it granted. Functionally, that’s quite similar to apes’ core social groups.” As a principal investigator in the 7-year programme of research recently funded by the British Academy, Robin Dunbar will have the resources required to build models of the socioecology of all the great apes and contemporary foraging peoples. He aims to combine these models into a single generic model, which can then be used to illuminate the course of human evolution.

New approach to old puzzles
“Traditionally, our insights have come from ‘bones and stones’ – that’s to say, analysis of fossil remains and any evidence of their material culture, like stone tools. This tell us quite a lot, but on its own, it’s unlikely to tell us much more about either the social or the cognitive development of hominids and early humans”, he says. There are numerous puzzles to solve – for example, why did Neanderthals, some of whom lived at the same time as anatomically modern humans, fail to develop fully-fledged human-style culture? Comparative analyses across primates and contemporary foraging peoples should present new hypotheses – for instance, Neanderthals may have lacked a sufficiently large frontal neocortex to support the social cognitive skills required. Robin Dunbar’s University of Liverpool colleague, Professor John Gowlett and collaborators at Southampton University will then review the archaeological record to see whether there are data to support or undermine such hypotheses. There are two key questions which Robin Dunbar hopes to answer over the next seven years: when did hominid brains develop recognizably human minds – and what triggered this momentous development?

a FUNCTIONAL LIMIT
http://radio-weblogs.com/0107127/categories/networksAsTheOrganizationOfTheFuture/2003/02/22.html

“Primates are, above all, social animals….These analyses suggest that although the size of the group in which animals live in a given habitat is a function of habitat-specific ecologically-determined costs and benefits …..The group size identified by this relationship appears to refer to the maximum number of individuals with whom an animal can maintain social relationships by personal contact.

It is not necessary that all these individuals live in the same physical group: chimpanzees ….Rather, the neocortical constraint seems to be on the number of relationships that an animal can keep track of in a complex, continuously changing social world: the function subserved by that level of grouping will depend on the individual species’ ecological and social context. ….current neocortex size sets a limit on the number of relationships that it can maintain through time, and hence limits the maximum size of its group. This means that although the evolution of neocortex size is driven by the ecological factors that select for group size, we can use the relationship in reverse to predict group sizes for living species

It is generally accepted that the cohesion of primate groups is maintained through time by social grooming Social grooming is used both to establish and to service those friendships and coalitions that give primate groups their unique structure. As might be anticipated, the amount of time devoted to social grooming correlates well with group size, notably among the catarrhine primates However, the relationship between group size and time devoted to grooming appears to be a consequence of the intensity with which a small number of key “friendships” (the primary network) is serviced rather than to the total number of individuals in the group

These primary networks function as coalitions whose primary purpose is to buffer their members against harassment by the other members of the group. The larger the group, the more harassment and stress an individual faces and the more important those coalitions are. It seems that a coalition’s effectiveness (in the sense of its members’ willingness to come to each other’s aid) is directly related to the amount of time its members spend grooming each other Hence, the larger the group, the more time individuals devote to grooming with the members of their coalitionary clique.

The mean size of the primary network is, however, related to the mean group size for the species. This suggests that groups are built up by welding together sets of smaller primary networks and that the total size of the group is ultimately limited not by the number of networks that can be welded together but rather by the size of the networks themselves”

For us the key group size is 150
“it turns out that most organised (i.e. professional) armies have a basic unit of about 150 men (Table 3). This was as true of the Roman Army (both before and after the reforms of 104BC) as of modern armies since the sixteenth century. In the Roman Army of the classical period (350-100 BC), the basic unit was the maniple (or “double-century”) which normally consisted of 120-130 men; following the reforms instituted by Marius in 104BC, the army was re-organised into legions, each of which contained a number of semi-independent centuries of 100 men each (Haverfield 1955, Montross 1975). The smallest independent unit in modern armies (the company) invariably contains 100-200 men (normally three or four rifle platoons of 30-40 men each, plus a headquarters unit, sometimes with an additional heavy weapons unit) (Table 3). Although its origins date back to the German mercenary Landsknechts groups of the sixteenth century, the modern company really derives from the military reforms of the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus in the 1620s. Despite subsequent increases in size to accommodate new developments in weaponry and tactics, the company in all modern armies has remained within the 95% confident limits of the predicted size for human groups. The mean size of 179.6 for the twentieth century armies listed in Table 3 does not differ significantly from the 147.8 predicted by equation (1) (z=0.913, P=0.361 2-tailed).

This fact has particular significance in the context of the present argument. Military units have to function very efficiently in coordinating men’s behaviour on the battlefield: the price of failing to do so is extremely high and military commanders cannot afford to miscalculate. Given that the fighting power of a unit is a function of its size, we might expect there to be considerable selection pressure in favour of units that are as large as possible. That the smallest independent unit should turn out to have a maximum size of about 200 even in modern armies (where technology presumably facilitates the coordination of planning) suggests that this upper limit is set by the number of individuals who can work effectively together as a coordinated team. Military planners have presumably arrived at this figure as a result of trial and error over the centuries.

In the context of the present analysis, the reason given by the Hutterites for limiting their communities to 150 is particularly illuminating. They explicitly state that when the number of individuals is much larger than this, it becomes difficult to control their behaviour by means of peer pressure alone (Hardin 1988). Rather than create a police force, they prefer to split the community. Forge (1972) came to a rather similar conclusion on the basis of an analysis of settlement size and structure among contemporary New Guinea “neolithic” cultivators. He argued that the figure 150 was a key threshold in community size in these societies. When communities exceed this size, he suggested, basic relationships of kinship and affinity were insufficient to maintain social cohesion; stability could then be maintained only if formal structures developed which defined specific roles within society. In other words, large communities were invariably hierarchically structured in some way, whereas small communities were not.

Similarly, in an analysis of data from 30 societies ranging from hunter-gatherers to large-scale agriculturalists, Naroll (1956) demonstrated that there was a simple power relationship between the maximum settlement size observed in a given society and both the number of occupational specialities and the number of organisational structures recorded for it. His analyses suggest that there is a critical threshold at a maximum settlement size of 500 beyond which social cohesion can only be maintained if there is an appropriate number of authoritarian officials. Bearing in mind that Naroll’s threshold is expressed as the maximum observed settlement size, it seems likely that the equivalent mean settlement size will not be too far from the value of 150 suggested by the above analyses.

Other evidence suggests that 150 may be a functional limit on interacting groups even in contemporary western industrial societies. Much of the sociometric research on industrial and other comparable organisations, for example, has demonstrated that there is a marked negative effect of group size on both group cohesion and job satisfaction (as indicated by absenteeism and turnover in posts) within the size range under consideration (i.e. 50-500 individuals: see, for example, Indik 1965, Porter & Lawler 1965, Silverman 1970). Indeed, an informal rule in business organisation identifies 150 as the critical limit for the effective coordination of tasks and information-flow through direct person-to-person links: companies larger than this cannot function effectively without sub-structuring to define channels of communication and responsibility (J.-M. Delwart, pers. commun.). Terrien & Mills (1955), for example, found that the larger the organisation, the greater the number of control officials that is needed to ensure its smooth functioning.

Other studies have suggested that there is an upper limit on the number of social contacts that can be regularly maintained within a group. Coleman (1964) presented data on friendships among print shop workers which suggest that the likelihood of having friends within the workplace reaches an asymptote at a shop size of 90-150 individuals. (The small size of the sample for large groups makes it difficult to identify the precise point at which “saturation” is reached.) Coleman explicitly argued that this was a consequence of the fact that there is a limit to the number of individuals within a shop that any one person can come into contact with. Moreover, his results also seemed to suggest that the large number of regular interactants that an individual can expect to have within a large work group limits the number of additional friendships that can be made outside the workplace.”

CONTACT
Robin Dunbar
http://www.isca.ox.ac.uk/about-us/staff/academic/prof-robin-dunbar/
http://www.biolsci.liv.ac.uk/academic_life/individ_staff_sub.asp?tutorid=52
email : robin.dunbar [at] anthro.ox.ac [dot] uk / rimd [at] liv.ac [dot] uk

Co-evolution of neocortex size, group size and language in humans
http://www.bbsonline.org/documents/a/00/00/05/65/bbs00000565-00/bbs.dunbar.html
The Social Brain Hypothesis
http://psych.colorado.edu/~tito/sp03/7536/Dunbar_1998.pdf
Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language By Robin Dunbar
http://books.google.com/books?id=nN5DFNT-6ToC

as IMPLEMENTED by SWEDISH TAX AUTHORITY
http://www.sweden.se/eng/Home/Lifestyle/Culture/Literature/Reading/Astrid-Lindgren-lives-on/
http://www.thelocal.se/7972/20070723/
Swedish tax collectors organized by apes / 23 Jul 07

A reorganization of workers at the Swedish Tax Authority is partly shaped on studies of apes, according to a leaked internal report. Employees are not flattered by the comparison. The tax authority is currently undergoing its largest reorganization for many years. One of the foundations of the restructuring plan is a report which says that studies of apes show that people work best in groups of 150. The reorganization was announced earlier in the summer. Work is being moved from small towns to larger towns and cities. Around 1,350 people are affected by the move. Economies of scale are a large part of the reason for the reorganization, but the authority has placed an upper limit of 150 employees per office, according to a report seen by news agency TT. The figure is justified using biological studies. “The number 150 returns again and again when discussing the size of a group which has some kind of social commonality. Evolutionary biologists have seen that primates live in social groups of varying sizes,” the report says. A comparison of the size of human brains to those of various other apes allows scientists to calculate the best group size for humans to work in. “Based on this formula we have concluded that the optimum (or largest possible) group of people is 147.8.” The military, the Hutterite religious group and hunter-gatherer societies are also examples in which groups have tended to comprise around 150 people. Employees who have spoken to news agency TT said they “seriously questioned” whether it was serious to compare them to apes. They also said it gave rise to scepticism over the basis of other elements of the reorganization, under which 1,000 people are moving workplace. A list will be published in late August of the offices earmarked for closure. No spokespeople for the tax authority were available for immediate comment on Monday.


photo from “When I got a ‘proper’ job” (Set)

GORE-TEX BUSINESS MODEL in DEPTH : NO BOSSES
http://www.gore.com/en_xx/aboutus/culture/index.html
http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/11/noboss.html
BY Michael Kaplan / October 31, 1997
Working as a business leader in Gore’s military-fabrics division, Terri Kelly often finds herself disabusing outsiders of the notion that life in a world without authority figures is Utopia.

If you’ve nicknamed your boss the Walking Plague, Terri Kelly is a woman you will envy: she’s never had a boss. After graduating from the University of Delaware in 1983 with a BS in engineering, Kelly went to work for W.L. Gore and Associates, a $1.1 billion company best known as a developer of high-tech fabric. If you’ve worn a Gore-Tex jacket, you’ve had a close encounter with a Gore product. A visionary corporation, Gore is built from a blueprint that its founder refers to as a “lattice” (as opposed to a “ladder”). There is no visible hierarchy at Gore — and no job titles. In fact, there are no bosses. Instead, there are leaders who achieve their positions by gaining followers. Business goals are established by consensus. Gore’s internal “structure” was put into place in 1958 by cofounder Bill Gore, an ex-DuPont exec who believed that leaders should be chosen by the people who follow them. Working as a business leader in Gore’s military-fabrics division, Kelly often finds herself disabusing outsiders of the notion that life in a world without authority figures is Utopia.

Fantasy: You’re responsible to no one.
Reality: You’re responsible to everyone.

“Although I’m a business leader for military fabric, I’m a leader only if there are people who are willing to follow me,” says Kelly. “A project doesn’t move forward unless people buy into it. You cultivate followership by selling yourself, articulating your ideas, and developing a reputation for seeing things through.” Here is Kelly’s three-point plan for convincing fellow Goreans to buy in on her projects.

Resolve the potentially fatal flaw.
After conceiving an idea, Kelly scrutinizes the plan to find its weakest link and takes it to the person who oversees that part of the business. “Let’s say I’ve come up with a design for a winter sleeping bag for the military,” she says. “I’d go to the person responsible for marketing the bag and find out whether there’s demand for it. If there isn’t, I’d go back and try to reposition the plan. If he’s excited by the idea and thinks it’s viable, I’d bring him in on the project to help me develop it.”

Give away ownership.
Once Kelly is convinced there’s a market for the sleeping bag, she starts casting about for people from other divisions — manufacturing, design, fabric, sales — to form a core team and develop the product. “It’s a process of giving away ownership of the idea to people who want to contribute and be a part of it. The project won’t go anywhere if you don’t let people run with it.”

Connect the project with the Big Picture.
Unlike people in hierarchical companies, Kelly cannot simply draft the members of her team. She’s got to win them over. Her most reliable tactic is to show how the project will improve Gore’s bottom line.

“People here understand that the growth of our business with the military is absolutely critical to our overall success. If I paint a convincing argument that we aren’t giving the soldier our best product, then Gore employees need to think about that. And I have to show them that through their lack of action, they are opting out of the company’s future.”

Fantasy: There’s no boss standing between you and a raise.
Reality: Everyone stands between you and a raise.

“Salary raises depend on the written reviews of your peers, not on a boss’s recommendation,” says Kelly, who adds that the reviews include a numerical ranking for each person within a particular department. “The idea is that employees are not accountable to the president of the company; they’re accountable to their colleagues.” Achieving a high ranking, Kelly explains, depends in part on your ability to work on high-profile projects. Follow these steps.

Establish your credibility.
“You won’t get invited to join the hot teams until you’ve already contributed to projects that weren’t so attractive,” says Kelly. “To get ahead, you must first demonstrate that you can take ownership of a project and stick with it. Anyone can talk about going the extra mile. First you’ve got to prove to everyone else that you can do it.”

Pursue the team of your dreams.
“When it’s not immediately clear who will be a good fit on a particular team, you hope that somebody will step up and express excitement about being a part of it. People here should never wait around to be asked to join a team. They’ve got to be proactive. They have to volunteer.”

ILLUSION of CHAOS
http://www.workforce.com/section/09/feature/24/29/22/index.html
W.L. Gore believes its egalitarian workforce philosophy–no titles, workers collaborating in small teams–fuels creativity and innovation. But as global expansion raises the need for more formalized practices, can the company maintain itself?
By Patrick J. Kiger / February 27, 2006

At manufacturing company W.L. Gore & Associates, the unconventional workplace culture has become nearly as legendary as the company’s weather-resistant Gore-Tex synthetic fabric is ubiquitous. There is the story of the employee who told company founder Bill Gore that she had to attend an outside meeting where hosts would expect her to have a job title–a custom banished by Gore, who believed that such distinctions stifled freedom, communication and creativity. He jokingly suggested that she call herself “supreme commander.” The employee reportedly liked it so much she had business cards printed with that inscription.

Over the years, the Newark, Delaware, manufacturer has grabbed the lead in numerous markets through technological breakthroughs. That strategy has been facilitated in large part by Gore’s unorthodox workforce management practices, such as a “flat lattice” organizational structure by which the company strives to encourage creativity. “We work hard at maximizing individual potential, maintaining an emphasis on product integrity and cultivating an environment where creativity can flourish,” says Terri Kelly, the company’s new president and CEO. “A fundamental belief in our people and their abilities continues to be the key to our success, even as we expand globally.”

In many ways, little has changed during the history of the 48-year-old firm, which in January placed fifth on Fortune’s list of “The 100 Best Companies to Work For.” Gore’s employees–all “associates” in Gore-speak–still are encouraged to spend at least some of their time developing pet projects in addition to their regular work. Instead of bosses, they have “sponsors” who help them find the place in the organization where their skills and interests will best fit. They recruit one another to work in scores of small teams rather than sprawling bureaucracies, and are evaluated on the value of their contribution to the team rather than strictly upon their work’s bottom-line impact. The privately held company, which had $1.84 billion in worldwide sales in 2005, up 16.5 percent from the previous year, markets more than 1,000 products ranging from heart patches and synthetic blood vessels to plastic-coated acoustic guitar strings that are more dependable than conventional metal ones.

But as Gore has grown–from 3,000 workers in the early 1980s to 7,300 engineers, salespeople, medical device assemblers and others in 45 facilities worldwide today–and shifted to supplying multinational clients whose manufacturing facilities may be scattered around the globe, the company has been compelled to tinker with its trademark culture. For other companies, Gore provides a useful lesson in how to develop more formalized practices without stifling innovation. “From a practice and operations standpoint, we have to do things a little differently,” says Gore human resources associate Jackie Brinton. “But our basic culture hasn’t changed. We still believe in the power of the individual who is given the freedom to do great things and in the beauty of small teams, even though we’re now operating on a global, coordinated scale.”

Getting bigger while staying small
The classic Gore culture began in the basement of the home of Bill Gore, who left DuPont in 1958 to create his own enlightened version of the workplace. Gore built the company upon four core principles–fairness; freedom to encourage others to grow in knowledge, skill and responsibility; ability to honor one’s own commitments; and consultation with others before taking action that could affect the company “below the waterline.” Instead of the typical corporate hierarchy, he created a “flat lattice” organization that not only had no titles, but also no chains of command or predetermined channels of communication.

In Gore’s model, associates communicate directly with one another and are accountable to their peers rather than bosses. Ideally, leaders in the company emerge naturally by demonstrating special knowledge, skill or experience –“followship.” Thomas Malone, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management and the author of The Future of Work, describes Gore as a “miniature democracy.” “The way you become a manager is by finding people who want to work for you,” Malone says. “In a certain sense, you’re elected rather than appointed. It’s a democratic structure inside a business organization.” The $1.84 billion company’s flat organizational structure makes it exceptionally nimble. “If someone has an idea for a new product, they don’t have to go up a hierarchy to find some boss to approve it,” says John Sawyer, chairman of the department of business administration at the University of Delaware. “Instead, they have to find peers in the organization who support the idea and will work with them. That open style of communication allows ideas to come up from the bottom.”

The company developed shred-resistant Glide dental floss, for example, after an associate wondered whether Gore’s industrial fibers could be used for cleaning teeth as well. Engineers at Gore’s Flagstaff, Arizona, plant worked for three years on their own to develop plastic-coated guitar string before they offered the product of their inspiration to the company, which successfully marketed it. In his 2000 best-seller The Tipping Point, author Malcolm Gladwell described Gore’s traditional practice of limiting the size of its plants to roughly 150 workers, because that was the largest group of people who could know one another well enough to converse in the hallway. Today, however, human resources associate Brinton works in a plant with more than 300 fellow associates. More important, associates in multiple countries may have to work together to service a single multinational client.

In addition to encouraging the old hallway chats, Gore now has regular plant communications meetings where leaders share with the associates news about company performance, discuss safety and introduce new workers. “It’s a challenge to get bigger while staying small,” Brinton says. Associates still work in small teams and frequently meet face to face–though in some cases the teammates may be on several continents and do much of their communicating by phone or e-mail. “It’s tough to build relationships by e-mail,” Brinton says. “For us, that’s a work in progress right now. We do bring global teams together physically on a fairly regular basis.” Brinton can’t calculate the expense of such travel, but says it is substantial. In recent years, Gore has also begun subjecting its product development process to more discipline, the University of Delaware’s Sawyer says. While associates still initiate their own projects and build support for them, an evaluation team measures their progress against metrics or goals that must be reached in order for a project to progress.

Illusion of chaos
Gore’s recruiters still spend months and sometimes years filling job vacancies because it isn’t easy to find people who not only have the right business skills, but also are temperamentally and intellectually suited for the unorthodox environment. “It isn’t a company for everyone,” Brinton says. “It takes a special kind of person to be effective here–someone who is really passionate about sharing information, as opposed to controlling it. Someone who can handle a degree of ambiguity, as opposed to ‘Here’s my job and I only do these tasks.’ Someone who’s willing to lift his or her head up from the desk and see what the business’ real needs are.”

Even those select few hires, a fraction of a percent of the 38,000 applications that the company receives annually, sometimes start with the misconception that the company is a place where employees do literally whatever they choose. “There’s certainly a misunderstanding in many cases about what freedom means at Gore,” Brinton says. “People can’t figure out how it might work. It sounds like chaos.” In reality, there is structure at Gore driven by a certain internal logic–and the belief that motivated individuals eventually gravitate toward the things they do best. The non-utopian reality is that associates are hired to fill certain set expectations and meet certain business needs–in Gore parlance, the “core commitment.” They must build credibility by performing those obligatory functions before they can pursue their own ideas and persuade other associates to form a team to work on them.

Ed Gunzel, a 12-year associate at Gore who gradually has become a technical leader, describes his path: “I started out working in new product development, the consumer side of fabrics, and really enjoyed that. But eventually, over time, I saw some areas where I could have a bigger impact, in terms of helping align teams around certain objectives and seeing where we could go with our technology for military, fire and law enforcement use. I saw that need and chose to get involved, and that’s become more of my core commitment than individual products.” These days, Gore associates use the company intranet to seek out opportunities elsewhere in the organization, but personal relationships still remain at the core of the company’s development process–the relationship between an associate and his or her sponsor, and the relationships among sponsors. “The sponsor’s role is to be broadly knowledgeable about the business, to be able to help the associate find opportunities,” Brinton says.

The mentoring process has changed slightly in recent years. In the past, sponsors might have had informal conversations about associates’ performance and prospects. Brinton says that Gore now has a more structured system, the Fall Development Process, in which teams of sponsors meet to discuss whether the associates under their guidance are in the roles that best utilize their skills and to talk about what other opportunities there might be for them in the company. “When we were smaller, everyone knew what was happening everywhere,” Brinton says. “But now that we’ve become broader globally, someone sitting in a single plant might not be able to see all the opportunities.” Even so, “we’re not moving pieces on a chessboard here,” Brinton says. “We’re making recommendations to the associates. They’re the ones who actually make the decision about what role they’re going to pursue. Sometimes, it may be in a different direction than what the sponsor suggests, based upon their passions.”

Gore’s evaluation process looks at an associate’s work but doesn’t focus strictly on the bottom-line impact. “For example, if a sales associate got involved in a training program, the person’s sales numbers may be down, but his or her overall contribution may be up,” Brinton says. “You have to look at the whole person, and whether he or she is making a contribution in a different way.” Additionally, “people can be involved with projects that weren’t successful, but still can be ranked high from a contribution standpoint,” Brinton says. “When you’re an entrepreneurial organization, you’re going to be taking some risks. That doesn’t mean that the person doing that work made less of a contribution. We’re valuing people who take smart risks. And you learn a lot from projects that fail, as well as ones that are successful.”

While other companies have instituted small, self-managed teams and some other aspects of Bill Gore’s philosophy, no imitator has taken those concepts as far as the company he founded, says Henry Sims Jr., a professor of management at the University of Maryland’s graduate business school and an expert on small, self-managing teams. “One of the things that’s different about Gore is that they started with this philosophy,” Sims says. “There’s a lot of evidence that these small, empowered teams can be very effective, but they take a great deal of time and attention to develop. And changing to that system requires a period of difficult and frustrating transition,” he says. “Once teams reach a mature stage, as they have at Gore, they can do things a lot better. They can produce products at a lower cost, bring in new processes more rapidly and smoothly, innovate more quickly.” Brinton says Gore has been able to maintain its unique approach in part because the company remains privately held. “The beauty is that we can make decisions that support our ongoing growth, and not have to just do things because we need to look good for the next quarter,” she says.

SYNANTHROPES
http://beefheart.com/walker/lyrics/crow/icecreamforcrow.htm
http://community.zdnet.co.uk/blog/0,1000000567,10007459o-2000331777b,00.htm
Synanthropy, and ice cream for crow
BY Rupert Goodwins / 5 March 2008

My new favourite word is synanthropy – the study and practice of creating symbiotic relationships between people and animals. I came across it thanks to the ever-giving Metafilter group blog, a pretty fine palace of symbiosis n its own right. It pointed me at A Vending Machine For Crows, a project by polymath techie Joshua Klein that aims to put some of the hundreds of millions of dropped coins back in circulation. It does this by training crows to realise that if they find coins and take them to the machine, they’ll get food. Crows, and corvids in general, are my favourite birds; they’re impressively intelligent, communicative, fast to learn and innovative when problem solving. They also like shiny things: really, what’s not to love?

The benefits of this idea are manifold. Klein posits that if you can get a few crows trained, then the idea will spread naturally throughout the population – and that means that mostly, human intervention can be restricted to seeding the idea and then leaving enough machines around. That makes it very economical – especially if the crows remain unaware of the true market value of the coinage they find. Although I’m sure that economics will take over if the idea catches on; if it’s profitable for the machine operators, then rival devices will appear offering better deals and a wider range of treats – and I do hope crows really are partial to ice cream. Is it perhaps entirely smart to introduce intelligent non-humans into our economy?

Perhaps the most exciting long-term potential for the Crow Vending Machine is that humans will lose a bit more of that apartness when it comes to other animals, and learn to think in symbiotic terms. That can only be advantageous; currently, our attempts to game the world’s ecosystems are clumsy and full of ill thought out missteps. Co-option is better than control. Meanwhile, watch yourself when you’re counting out change for that lunchtime sandwich at the pavement cafe. If this catches on, avian mugging will spread from the seagulls in no time flat.

SMART ENOUGH TO LIVE

HALVED COCONUTS AS PORTABLE SHELTER
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/12/15/2771822.htm

Scientists discover coconut-carrying octopus / Dec 15, 2009

Two scientists at the Melbourne Museum have recorded the first case of tool use in an invertebrate animal. The veined octopus, Amphioctopus marginatus, selects, stacks, transports and assembles coconut shells as portable armour. Many octopuses use available objects such as shells and rocks for shelter, but that is not considered tool use. Dr Mark Norman says what makes these animals so special is the the planned future use of the coconut shells. “It comes at a cost, carrying these shells in this awkward way and it’s a fantastic example of complex behaviours in what we consider the lower life forms,” he said. “I think these sorts of behaviours are everywhere in nature. There’s really complex behaviours that we write off because we think we’re the clever ones.”

He and colleague Dr Julian Finn spent more than 500 hours diving in remote waters off Indonesia to observe and film the animals. They watched the octopuses dig out coconut shells from the ocean floor and empty the shells of mud using jets of water. Dr Finn says it is not unusual for octopuses to live inside coconuts but it is how the veined octopus uses the shells that is unique. “It gathers them together, it stacks them like bowls, covers its whole body over bowls, lifts them up and then trundles along on its arm tips until a predator comes or there’s a threat,” he said. “Then it closes them over like a ball and hides inside.”

This series of actions are among the most complex ever recorded for octopuses. The veined octopus evolved this behaviour by first using clam shells as shelter. However once humans began discarding large numbers of coconut shells they found the perfect armour to protect themselves against fish attackers. The pair have written a scientific paper on the veined octopus which appears in the scientific journal Current Biology.

‘NEVER LAUGHED SO HARD UNDERWATER’ : RESEARCHER
http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(09)01914-9
http://cordis.europa.eu/fetch?CALLER=EN_NEWS&ACTION=D&SESSION=&RCN=31586
Study reveals use of tools by octopuses / 2009-12-15

Researchers often see tool use as a mark of intelligence. Humans, birds, primates and other mammals are all known to use them, and now a report by British and Australian researchers published in the journal Current Biology says that octopuses, an invertebrate, can be added to the list. Until recently, science had perceived invertebrates as lacking the cognitive abilities to demonstrate tool use. While some have been observed using leaves or sand to collect and transport food, researchers have said that these behaviours are different to the tool use seen in mammals and birds.

The new report details a type of behaviour of the veined octopus called ‘stilt walking’: the soft-bodied octopus spreads itself over stacked, upright coconut shells, makes its eight arms rigid, and raises the whole assembly to then amble across the seafloor. The octopus later uses the shells as a shelter, which the researchers say is different to a hermit crab using a discarded shell. ‘There is a fundamental difference between picking up a nearby object and putting it over your head,’ said Mark Norman of the Museum Victoria in Australia, who worked on the project and led the report, ‘versus collecting, arranging, transporting (awkwardly) and assembling portable armour as required.’ The researchers found that the veined octopus exhibits further tool abilities by assembling the coconuts. This confirms the behaviour as tool use, distinguishing it from other object manipulations by octopuses, such as using rocks to barricade a lair entrance.

To study the octopuses, researchers dove for nearly 500 hours between 1999 and 2008 off the coasts of Bali and northern Sulawesi in Indonesia. More than 20 octopuses were studied, and the discovery of the behaviour was a surprise. ‘I could tell that the octopus, busy manipulating coconut shells, was up to something, but I never expected it would pick up the stacked shells and run away,’ stated Julian Finn, also of the Museum Victoria. ‘It was an extremely comical sight – I have never laughed so hard underwater.’ The researchers believe that the behaviour is likely to have evolved using large empty bivalve shells prior to the relatively recent supply of clean and light coconut shell halves discarded by costal communities near the marine habitant of the octopuses. The report concludes: ‘Ultimately, the collection of use of objects by animals is likely to form a continuum stretching from insects to primates, with the definition of tools. However, the discovery of this octopus tiptoeing across the seafloor with its prized coconuts shells suggests that even marine invertebrates engage in behaviours that we once thought the preserve of humans.’

BRAINS WITH TENTACLES
http://www.slate.com/id/2192211/
How Smart Is the Octopus?
BY Carl Zimmer / June 23, 2008

Aristotle didn’t have a high opinion of the octopus. “The octopus is a stupid creature,” he wrote, “for it will approach a man’s hand if it be lowered in the water.” Twenty-four centuries later, this “stupid” creature is enjoying a much better reputation. YouTube is loaded with evidence of what some might call octopus intelligence. One does an uncanny impression of a flounder. Another mimics coral before darting away from a pushy camera. A third slips its arms around a jar, unscrews it, and dines on the crab inside. Scientific journals publish research papers on octopus learning, octopus personality, octopus memory. Now the octopus has even made it into the pages of the journal Consciousness and Cognition (along with its fellow cephalopods the squid and the cuttlefish). The title: “Cephalopod consciousness: behavioral evidence.”

So, is the octopus really all that smart? It depends on how you define intelligence. And if you’ve got a good definition, there are quite a few scientists who would love to hear it. Octopuses can learn, they can process complex information in their heads, and they can behave in equally complex ways. But it would be a mistake to try to give octopuses an IQ score. They are not intelligent in the way we are—not because they’re dumb but because their behavior is the product of hundreds of millions of years of evolution under radically different conditions than the ones under which our own brains evolved.

Grady Hendrix recommended that we avoid the giant squid at all costs. Daniel Engber explained why it’s so hard to find a giant squid and wondered if cats can really sense death. Seth Stevenson reviewed the history of celebratory sports gestures, including the venerable “octopus toss” of the Detroit Red Wings. You’d have to go back about 700 million years to find the moment in the history of life when humans and octopuses diverged. Our most recent common ancestor, scientists suspect, was a little wormlike creature with eyespots and little more. Since then, our lineage evolved bones; theirs evolved boneless bodies they control with water pressure. We’ve accumulated so many and such incredible differences over that time that 20th-century scientists were excited to discover a few deep similarities. In the 1950s, for example, biologists demonstrated for the first time that octopuses have massive brains.

Cephalopods belong to the same lineage that produced snails, clams, and other mollusks. A typical mollusk might have 20,000 neurons arranged in a diffuse net. The octopus has half a billion neurons.* The neurons in its head are massed into complex lobes, much the way our own brains are. In comparison with their body weight, octopuses have the biggest brains of all invertebrates. They’re even bigger than the brains of fish and amphibians, putting them on par with those of birds and mammals. In the late 1950s, Oxford biologist N.S. Sutherland decided to put the big brains of octopuses to the test. He would show them two shapes and reward them for touching one but not the other. They might learn to tell a rectangle in a horizontal position from the same rectangle rotated 90 degrees. And once they had figured out this test, the octopuses knew to select any horizontal rectangle they saw, no matter what its particular dimensions. They were learning what to learn. Over the years, octopuses have shown many more signs of intelligence. They proved to have an excellent memory. They were clever and unpredictable. Jennifer Mather, a Canadian biologist, has tossed toys into octopus tanks and watched as the octopuses inspect them and puff them around with jets of water.* They are playing, she argues. Clams do not play. Humans do.

Mather is also the author of the new paper arguing for consciousness in octopuses. She does not claim that they have full-blown consciousness like we do but a simpler form known as primary consciousness. In other words, they can combine their perceptions with their memories to have a coherent feel for what’s happening to them at any moment. Mather bases her claim not just on how octopuses behave but also on how their brains work. For example, one sign of the complexity of the human brain is that we can be left-handed or right-handed. Our preference comes from one side of the brain dominating over the other—a sign of how the two sides of our brains are not identical. Instead, they divide up mental work and communicate with each other to create a unified sense of reality. Octopuses may not be left-handed (or left-armed), but Mather claims that they show similar kinds of specialization with their eyes. In a 2004 experiment, she and her colleagues found that when they looked out from their dens, some preferred to sit with their left eye facing out, others with their right.

But some octopus experts are skeptical of these bold claims. Many reports of weird octopus behavior come from casual observations in aquariums. Even some experiments have not held up to scrutiny. Last year, Jean Boal of Millersville University and her colleagues found fault with Mather’s experiments on left- and right-brained octopuses. The problem was that the scientists had looked at too few octopuses. It was impossible to rule out the possibility that octopuses might not have any preference at all for either eye. The results of the experiments might simply have been a matter of chance. After 50 years, in other words, we still don’t know that much about what’s going on in the heads of octopuses. Carefully designed experiments will be essential for finding out more, but so will a more octo-centric attitude. What we call intelligence is really just a set of behaviors and abilities that evolved in our ancestors as they adapted to a particular way of life. Octopuses evolved behaviors of their own, but they were adapting to a way of life that’s hard for us to imagine—they were naked mollusks in a world of fish.

The earliest cephalopods, which lived about a half-billion years ago, had shells. Over the next 250 million years, they evolved into giant predators. They shot bursts of water out of siphons to swim—a prehistoric form of jet propulsion.* But their glory was cut short by fish with jaws—our ancestors. Fish could swim faster by bending their bodies than cephalopods could move by jetting. Today, only a single shelled cephalopod survives—the nautilus, which spends most of its life lurking deep underwater. The other living cephalopods lost their shells. While they gave up a defense against predators, they were free to evolve new skills. Squids became fast swimmers. Octopuses instead moved to the sea floor, where they could use their shell-free bodies to explore cracks and crevices for prey. But in order to survive in this new niche, they had to become fast learners. Jean Boal and her colleagues have done some experiments that show how good octopuses are at learning geography. Boal put the octopuses in tanks with an assortment of landmarks, such as plastic jugs, plates of pebbles, and clumps of algae. It took only a few trials for the octopuses to find the quickest route to a hidden exit in the bottom of the tank. What made Boal’s results particularly impressive is that the octopuses were learning two completely different mazes at once. Boal would move them from one to the other after each trial. Somehow, the octopuses could keep track of two geographies concurrently. When octopuses are moving across new terrain, they can perhaps learn the best escape from predators.

Octopuses escape from predators not just by hiding quickly but by deceit. One of the most impressive examples of this deception is what marine biologist Roger Hanlon calls the moving-rock trick. An octopus morphs into the shape of a rock and then inches across an open space. Even though it’s in plain view, predators don’t attack it. They can’t detect its motion because the octopus matches its speed to the motion of the light in the surrounding water. For Hanlon, what makes this kind of behavior remarkable is that it’s a creative combination of lots of behaviors, used to address a new situation. Similarly, when an octopus escapes an attack, it may puff up its body and turn white to scare a predator, shoot off puffs of ink to distract it, zigzag through the water, and then suddenly switch its skin to match the surrounding coral.

There’s not much point in trying to pin this sort of behavior to some human-based scale of intelligence, because our behavior emerged as apes adapted to life spent on two legs, in groups, and using our hands to make tools. We’d fail pretty badly at an octopus-based test of intelligence, but surely we wouldn’t hold it against ourselves.

CROW CAM
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071008132804.htm

Tiny Crow Camera Spies On Clever Birds / Oct. 10, 2007

A new technique developed by Oxford University zoologists enables researchers to ‘hitch a ride’ with wild birds and witness their natural and undisturbed behaviour. The scientists developed miniaturised video cameras with integrated radio-tags that can be carried by wild, free-flying birds. Using this new ‘video-tracking’ technology, they spied on the behaviour of New Caledonian crows, a species renowned for its sophisticated use of tools, recording behaviours never seen before. Observing New Caledonian crows in the wild is extremely difficult because they are easily disturbed and live in densely forested, mountainous terrain. ‘Video-tracking’ enabled the Oxford scientists to obtain particularly intimate observations of crow behaviour. ‘Everyone thought that New Caledonian crows use tools mainly to probe into holes and cracks in rotting wood and tree crowns, but we now discovered that they use tools even on the ground,’ said Dr Christian Rutz, from the Behavioural Ecology Research Group at Oxford’s Department of Zoology.

One crow was seen probing leaf litter with grass-like stems – a mode of tool use, and a tool material, that decades of observation with conventional techniques had missed. ‘This discovery highlights the power of our new video-tracking technology’ said Dr Rutz, who leads the group’s field research. ‘This is the first time that wild birds have been tracked in this way, and it has already changed our understanding of New Caledonian crow behaviour.’ For the study, 18 crows were fitted with ‘tailcams’ with each unit weighing about 14 grams – only slightly heavier than a conventional radio-tag. The units were attached to two tail feathers with strips of adhesive tape, and were designed so that they did not adversely affect the bird’s movements, and could be removed by the crows themselves or would detach after a few weeks with the birds’ natural moulting process.

‘Observing wild birds this closely in their natural habitat has been one of the final frontiers of ornithological field research,’ said Dr Rutz. ‘Whilst video footage has been taken before using tame, trained birds, it is only now that we have been able to design cameras that are small and light enough to travel with wild birds and let them behave naturally. Potentially, this new video technology could help us to answer some long-standing questions about the ecology and behaviour of many other bird species that are otherwise difficult to study.’ A report of the research, entitled ‘Video Cameras on Wild Birds’ was published in Science Express on Thursday 4 October 2007. The research was undertaken by Dr Christian Rutz, Lucas Bluff, Dr Alex Weir and Professor Alex Kacelnik from the Behavioural Ecology Research Group at the Department of Zoology and was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

VIDEO
http://users.ox.ac.uk/~kgroup/tools/movies/crowcamS1_high.mov
http://users.ox.ac.uk/~kgroup/tools/movies/crowcamS2.mov
http://users.ox.ac.uk/~kgroup/tools/movies/crowcamS3.mov
http://users.ox.ac.uk/~kgroup/tools/movies/crowcamS4.mov
http://users.ox.ac.uk/~kgroup/tools/movies/crowcam%20schematic.wmv

CROWS SHOW CULTURAL ADAPTATION

http://www.ted.com/talks/joshua_klein_on_the_intelligence_of_crows.html
http://www.ted.com/speakers/joshua_klein.html

CONTACT
Josh Klein
http://www.josh.is/projects/index.php
email : josh [at] wireless [dot] is

TEACHING CROWS (TO TEACH OTHER CROWS)
TO COLLECT TRASH, IN EXCHANGE FOR PEANUTS
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/14/magazine/14Ideas-section4B-t-003.html
BY Claire Trageser / December 12, 2008

In June, Josh Klein revealed his master’s-thesis project to a flock of crows at the Binghamton Zoo in south-central New York State. The New York University graduate student offered the birds coins and peanuts from a dish attached to a vending machine he’d created, then took the peanuts away. Klein designed the machine so that when the crows searched for the missing peanuts, they pushed the coins out of a dish into a slot, causing more peanuts to be released into the dish. The Binghamton crows quickly learned that dropping nickels and dimes into the slot produced peanuts, and the most resourceful members of the flock began looking for more coins. Within a month, Klein had a flock of crows scouring the ground for loose change. Now Klein is working with graduate students at Cornell University and Binghamton University to study how wild crows make use of his machine. Although his invention might conjure Hitchcock-worthy visions of crows stealing the loose change from pedestrians’ pockets and hands, Klein’s conception is more benign. To Klein, the machine demonstrates the value of cooperating with “synanthropes” — animals that have adapted seamlessly to human environments. “Rather than just killing off a species, why not see if they can do something useful for us, so we can all live in close proximity?” he said. To pursue his research, he founded the Synanthropy Foundation this year. Someday, he hopes, similar techniques may allow us to train rats to sort our garbage for us.

CORRECTION
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/12/magazine/12letters-t-CORRECTIONS-1.html
Vending Machine for Crows / April 12, 2009

An article in the Year in Ideas issue on Dec. 14, 2008, reported on Josh Klein, whose master’s thesis for New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program proposed “a vending machine for crows” that would enable the birds to exchange coins for peanuts. The article reported that beginning in June 2008, Klein tested the machine at the Binghamton Zoo, that the crows learned how to use it and that after a month the crows were actually scouring the ground for loose change.

The Times has since learned that Klein was never at the Binghamton Zoo, and there were no crows on display there in June 2008. He performed these experiments with captive crows in a Brooklyn apartment; he told the reporter about the Brooklyn crows but implied that his work with them was preliminary to the work at the zoo. Asked to explain these discrepancies, Klein now says he and the reporter had a misunderstanding about the zoo.

The reporter never called the zoo in Binghamton to confirm. And while the fact-checker did discuss the details with Klein, he did not call the zoo, as required under The Times’s fact-checking standards. In addition, the article said that Klein was working with graduate students at Cornell University and Binghamton University to study how wild crows make use of his machine, which does exist. Klein did get a professor at Binghamton to help him try it out twice in Ithaca, with assistance from a Binghamton graduate student, and it was not a success. Corvid experts who have since been interviewed have said that Klein’s machine is unlikely to work as intended.

These discrepancies were pointed out to The Times by the Binghamton professor several weeks after the article was published; this editors’ note was delayed for additional reporting. These details should have been discovered during the reporting and editing process. Had that happened, the article would not have been published.

CONTINUING RESEARCH
http://www.wireless.is/projects/crows/

PREVIOUSLY ON SPECTRE : EFFORT TO CORRUPT BIRDS PAYS OFF
https://spectregroup.wordpress.com/2008/03/08/effort-to-corrupt-birds-pays-off/

MEANWHILE : VOLUME DISPLACEMENT
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/08/aesopscrows/
Clever Crows Prove Aesop’s Fable Is More Than Fiction
BY Hadley Leggett / August 6, 2009

Aesop’s fables are full of talking frogs and mice who wear clothes, but it turns out at least one of the classic tales is scientifically accurate. Researchers presented four crows with a challenge from Aesop’s fable “The Crow and the Pitcher”: a container of water not quite full enough for the birds to reach with their beaks. Just like Aesop’s crow, all four birds figured out how to raise the water level by dropping stones into the glass. The crows also selectively chose large pebbles over small ones, and quickly realized that dropping rocks into a container of sawdust didn’t have the same effect. “The results of these experiments provide the first empirical evidence that a species of corvid is capable of the remarkable problem-solving ability described more than two thousand years ago by Aesop,” wrote the researchers in the paper published Thursday in Current Biology. “What was once thought to be a fictional account of the solution by a bird appears to have been based on a cognitive reality.”

The researchers took four adult rooks, a type of intelligent crow, and tempted them with a tasty worm floating on top of a glass of water, just out of reach. Then they placed a pile of small rocks next to the crows. After they assessed the height of the water from the top and sides of the glass, the crows dropped stones into the glass until the water level rose enough for them to grab their prize. Once they’d caught the worm, the birds didn’t keep putting stones in the glass, and they didn’t try to grab the worm until they’d dropped in a certain number of stones. “This number was strongly correlated to the number of stones needed to raise the water level to the correct height,” the researchers wrote, “suggesting that, having assessed the starting level of the water, rooks translated this into an estimate of the number of stones needed.”

Before this experiment, the birds had never been exposed to a glass with water in it, and they’d never used stones as tools. According to the researchers, the only other animal known to perform this kind of task is the orangutan, which has been recorded spitting into a tube to bring a peanut into reach. “Corvids are remarkably intelligent, and in many ways rival the great apes in their physical intelligence and ability to solve problems,” said biologist Christopher Bird of the University of Cambridge in a press release. “This is remarkable considering their brain is so different to the great apes’.” The antics of the four birds — Cook, Fry, Connelly and Monroe — can be seen in the videos below. Cook and Fry snagged the floating worm after just one try, while Connelly and Monroe succeeded after two attempts. Unfortunately, Fry had a bad reaction to one of the worms and gave up in the middle of the experiment.



TOOLMAKING
http://www.sciencemag.org/feature/data/crow/weirmovie.mov
http://www.sciencemag.org/feature/data/crow/

In the Brevia section of the 9 August 2002 issue of Science, Weir et al. report a remarkable observation: The toolmaking behavior of New Caledonian crows. In the experiments, a captive female crow, confronted with a task that required a curved tool (retrieving a food-containing bucket from a vertical pipe), spontaneously bent a piece of straight wire into a hooked shape — and then repeated the behavior in nine out of ten subsequent trials. Though these crows are known to employ tools in the wild using natural materials, this bird had no prior training with the use of pliant materials such as wire — a fact that makes its apparently spontaneous, highly specific problem-solving all the more interesting, and raises intriguing questions about the evolutionary preconditions for complex cognition. The crow’s behavior was captured on video.

THE MOST FAMOUS CROW (ACCORDING TO HUMANS)

“BETTY”
http://users.ox.ac.uk/~kgroup/
http://users.ox.ac.uk/~kgroup/tools/handedness.shtml
http://users.ox.ac.uk/~kgroup/tools/introduction.shtml
http://users.ox.ac.uk/~kgroup/tools/tool_manufacture.shtml

Our experiments on tool selectivity did not examine whether the crows understood how their tools worked. To do this, we gave our subjects a very unnatural material – garden wire – and an unusual problem: some meat in a small bucket, at the bottom of a transparent ‘well’. In the first experiment, the crows were given a choice between a hooked and a straight piece of wire, and could only get the bucket if they used the hook.

As so often in scientific research, the experiment took an unexpected turn. On the fifth trial of the experiment, one of our subjects (“Abel”) removed the hooked wire, leaving the other subject (“Betty”) with only the straight piece. After trying to use this unsuccessfully, she wedged one end of it under a piece of sticky tape and pulled the other end with her beak – creating a hook! – which she then used to retrieve the bucket. When tested with only straight wire, she repeatedly bent it into hooks, using a variety of techniques, indicating that this was not something she just did accidentally on that one occasion (Weir et al. 2002).

These observations were particularly remarkable because it is the first time any animal has been seen to make a new tool for a specific task, without an extended period of trial-and-error learning. It seems that Betty understood that she needed a hook to get the bucket and that she could then figure out how to make a hook from a novel material. We have recently tested her with a different kind of material – flat strips of aluminium – and found that she quickly learned how to modify these as necessary, either to make a hook, or to make them longer or narrower (Weir & Kacelnik 2006). We are currently investigating whether other individuals have the same abilities.

CONTACT
Alex Kacelnik
http://users.ox.ac.uk/~kgroup/people/alexkacelnik.shtml
email : alex.kacelnik [at] zoo.ox.ac [dot] uk

Russell Gray
http://www.psych.auckland.ac.nz/people/Gray/Russell.htm
email : rd.gray [at] auckland.ac [dot] nz

Gavin Hunt
http://language.psy.auckland.ac.nz/crows/gavin-home-page.htm
http://www.psych.auckland.ac.nz/people/Gavin/Gavin.htm
email : grhunt10 [at] hotmail [dot] com

http://language.psy.auckland.ac.nz/
http://language.psy.auckland.ac.nz/crows/
http://language.psy.auckland.ac.nz/crows/video-clips.htm

THE CORVID INTELLECT
http://www.earthlife.net/birds/corvidae.html
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8023295.stm
Meet the brains of the animal world
By Rebecca Morelle / 7 May 2009

“In the past, people thought birds were stupid,” laments the aptly named scientist Christopher Bird. But in fact, some of our feathered friends are far cleverer than we might think. And one group in particular – the corvids – has astonished scientists with extraordinary feats of memory, an ability to employ complex social reasoning and, perhaps most strikingly, a remarkable aptitude for crafting and using tools. Mr Bird, who is based at the department of zoology at Cambridge University and is supervised by Dr Nathan Emery, says: “I would rate corvids as being as intelligent as primates in many ways.”

The corvids – a group that includes crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, jays and magpies – contain some of the most social species of birds. And some of their intelligence is played out against the backdrop of living with others, where being intelligent enough to recognize individuals, to form alliances and foster relationships is key. However, group living can also lead to deceptive behaviour – and western scrub jays (Aphelocoma californica) can be the sneakiest of the bird-bunch. Many corvids will hide stores of food for later consumption, especially during the cold winter months when resources are scarce, but western scrub jays take this one step further. Mr Bird says: “If they are being watched, they will hide their food, but they will do some ‘fake hides’ as well – so they’ll put their beak in the ground, but not place the food. It’s a bit like a confusion strategy. “Sometimes, if they are being watched, then they’ll even go back and hide the food again.”

Corvids’ cognisance of other birds has led scientists to ponder whether they are also aware of themselves. And to test this, scientists use the Gallup mark test, where an animal is marked on a part of its body that it cannot normally see and is then shown its reflection in a mirror. If it notices this mark and tries to remove it, then it suggests that the animal knows it is looking at itself and could possess some kind of self-awareness. So far, only some species of primates have consistently passed this self-recognition test, although more recent studies suggest elephants and dolphins may also respond. But last year, a German team revealed that magpies, marked with a coloured sticker under their beaks, tried to remove it when presented with a mirror – the first time a bird had been seen to pass this test. Professor Onur Gunturkun, from Ruhr-University Bochum, one of the authors of the Plos paper, says: “It throws out the assumption that only higher mammals were capable of self-recognition.”

While the birds’ social intelligence has continued to impress, it is perhaps their physical intelligence, and in particular their tool use, that has stirred the most interest. Recent studies reveal that corvids’ tool-use may at least rival, and even surpass, that of primates, such as chimpanzees. And one species in particular possesses an extraordinary ability – the New Caledonian crow (Corvus moneduloides), which is found on the Pacific island of New Caledonia. Russell Gray and his colleagues from the department of psychology at the University of Auckland have studied this species extensively, and were the first to discover that the birds were crafting tools in the wild. Professor Gray tells BBC News: “They do some really complex looking things. “We have seen that they take a whole branch, chop off the side branches and hone away at the end to create a hook, which they use to get grubs.” Other experiments carried out at field stations have even shown that the birds will use a number of different tools to reach a tasty snack.

Inside the laboratory, captive New Caledonian crows are also helping scientists to better understand tool use and corvid intelligence. And one bird in particular seemed to posses a remarkable ability when it came to solving problems using tools – Betty. Alex Kacelnik, who leads the behavioural ecology group at Oxford University, said: “Betty was captured as a juvenile from the field, and she must have been one-and-a-half years old when she came to us. And we didn’t have any reason to suspect that she was an unusual animal.” However the team discovered, by chance, that Betty was able to perform some remarkable feats that had never been seen before in any other animals. The researchers were testing how New Caledonian crows selected tools by presenting them with a small bucket filled with some food, which was placed in a well, and pieces of wire, some straight and some with a hook at the end. The aim was to see whether the crows would select the bent wire to retrieve the treat-laden bucket. But Betty astonished researchers when she selected a straight piece of wire and then used her beak to bend it into a hook so she could pull up the bucket of food. When she was later tested with just the straight wire, Betty repeatedly bent it into hooks – and other experiments with aluminium strips revealed how she would bend, shorten and lengthen the material to get to her food. This was the first time that any animal had been seen to make a new tool for a specific task, without an extended period of trial-and-error learning.

As scientists discover ever-more intelligent behaviour in corvids, they are now trying to understand why this group has developed these special abilities. And New Caledonian crows’ tool-use is a key focus. Professor Gray explains: “What has led to just this one species in this one little island in the Pacific being able to make these complex tools? It’s an ongoing mystery.” Professor Kacelnik agrees: “This really is the million dollar question. We know that this is heritable – we have demonstrated that if you raise New Caledonian crows, without exposure to any social input, they still would want to use tools to solve problems.” Researchers are also looking at the cognitive processes that underpin this behaviour. Mr Bird says: “The interesting thing is that they can do so many of these clever things that primates can do – sometimes they can do them even better. But their brain is completely different from the mammalian brain. “They don’t have the area of the mammalian brain that is thought to be the area of intelligent cognition – the neocortex. Interestingly, they have another area, the nidopallium, that might do the same job.”

As scientists try to understand this, the research is also driving forward some more fundamental questions about intelligence. Christian Rutz, who also works for Oxford’s behavioural ecology group, says: “There are such enormous semantic issues. How do you define intelligence? How do you define what it means to understand something?” We have to be careful with ascribing intelligence to seemingly impressive behaviours, he says. He explains: “Not everything that looks smart to the human observer is actually smart. “For example, take orb web spiders. These animals build sophisticated structures for foraging, but would we call this behaviour ‘intelligent’? Probably not. He says to understand what the birds are doing and whether this sets them apart in any way, the same experiments need to be carried out, multiple times, on many different species, to properly compare results. Dr Rutz adds: “People tend to think corvid cognition research is now incredibly advanced and we’ve answered most of the questions – I don’t think so, I think it is at the very beginning.”

MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL SYNANTHROPY IN PRACTICE : SNIFFER RATS

HeroRATS
http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/tanzania605/video_index.html
http://www.apopo.org/bringing_minefields_to_the_rats.php
http://www.apopo.org/landmine_detection.php
http://www.herorat.org/en/video/rats-detecting-landmines
http://socyberty.com/issues/unexploded-landmines-call-for-the-herorats/
Unexploded Landmines? Call for The Herorats
BY R J Evans / December 12, 2009

Unexploded landmines still remain a huge problem the world over. What is more, landmine clearance is an expensive business. One man has found a potential solution, however. It may seem like an unlikely combination. Giant pouched rats are not what spring to mind immediately when conversation turns to the global issue of unexploded landmines. However, Bart Weegens, from Belgium has found a low-technology answer to the continuing issue of unexploded mines. A childhood interest in the animals came to mind when he was musing over possible solutions and this led to an extraordinary development.

The idea occurred to Weegens as he realized that rats were both easy to train and had an excellent sense of smell. Combining these two would, he considered, provide a cheap way to detect unexploded mines and – what is more – with limited danger to human life. He founded APOPO, which is a non-profit organization, the aim of which is to train up African Giant Pouched Rats and to deploy them in the field. Not only would the rats be a cheaper alternative to mine clearance methods already in use – he figured that they would be considerably more efficient as well. An army of sniffer rats, would, it seemed save hundreds if not thousands of human lives. Not bad, considering that rats do not generally have a great press with a lot of people.

Having said that, the Giant Pouched Rats used in this project are only a distant relative of the common rat we hold in such great esteem. It is an intelligent species and easy to train – with many new recruits easy to breed. The female of the species can produce up to ten litters a year. Although this is a scary fact, only one to five arrive with each litter, despite the mother having eight nipples. In many African countries they are kept as pets but also are predominantly used as a food source. Perhaps the mine field is a better option than the casserole dish after all.

Initial funding for APOPO was in Belgium. This was given by the Belgian Directorate for International Co-operation. When the rats proved successful in terms of their training it was decided to switch the whole operation to Tanzania in East Africa. There they could be trained in near-to-real conditions and so the team is now based in Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania. The training there proved successful and it was while this was happening that Bart thought of another use for the HeroRATS as they were now called. It had been discovered that the rats could detect tuberculosis in human sputum (the stuff you cough up when you have a cold). Research began on this in 2004.

So, how do the rats do their detection work? There are two methods, direct detection and REST. What happens is that they are trained from young to associate the smell of explosives with a treat – such as a banana or peanut. This reward is vital to the rat doing its work as, akin to our own species – individuals do not like to do something for nothing, after all. The rats move up and down an area the size of a squash court and when they locate a mine they usually sit still and scratch themselves. After that the mines can be detonated by their human helpers.

Why these rats though? As well as having the highly developed sense of smell important in this work they are, as we have seen, easy to tame, breed and train. The cheapness of breeding and maintaining them is further helped by their ability to adapt to a number of environments. Once they are trained the rats seem to actively enjoy performing repetitive tasks and they do not get stressed if their trainers are changed in the way that dogs will. Plus of course – one serious advantage over dogs – they are too light to detonate a mine by themselves if they step on it. A living rat is better than a canine cadaver.

Training is a little time consuming – it can take up to a year. They are trained according to pavlovian principles. A food reward is initially associated with a clicking sound – their favorites being bananas or peanuts. It takes a while for them to learn that a click means food but once they do then the real training can begin. The teaching goes that when they find TNT, indicating it by scratching, then they will hear a click and get their food reward. They are initially trained in cages and once they have learned that indicating a positive sample of TNT means food then they are ready to work in a field of mines.

The REST method of detecting does not involve visiting a minefield at all. REST stands for Remote Explosive Scent Tracing and this is when scent is brought from the mines to the rats. The rats can find explosives present in these samples and it helps to determine the actual boundaries of minefields. This means that more land can be cleared at a quicker rate. Direct detection involves harnessing the rats and proceeding with a systematic search of the minefield. The rat is connected, via a search string, to two trainers and this is how the rat is directed. When TNT is detected the rat will give itself a good scratch and safe detonation can then proceed. In order to ensure that all mines have been detected two or three rats will each search the same area. It is important though, to reward the rat whenever it performs its function.

The HeroRATS are currently deployed in Mozambique where they have enabled over one thousand families to reclaim their land. They have also helped with clearing areas so that power lines can be passed through – so bringing electricity which would not otherwise have been possible to over ten thousand local citizens. It is hoped that they will soon be deployed to Zambia, Congo and Angola as well, but negotiations are still underway. APOPO is actively looking for demining partnerships globally, not just in Africa.