ELECTION TUESDAY

FACT: “Members of the richest quartile of Americans are more than nine times as likely as members of the poorest quartile to make a contribution to a political campaign.”

The Politics of Happiness: What Government Can Learn from the New Research on Well-Being
by Derek Bok

During the past forty years, thousands of studies have been carried out on the subject of happiness. Some have explored the levels of happiness or dissatisfaction associated with typical daily activities, such as working, seeing friends, or doing household chores. Others have tried to determine the extent to which income, family, religion, and other factors are associated with the satisfaction people feel about their lives. The Gallup organization has begun conducting global surveys of happiness, and several countries are considering publishing periodic reports on the growth or decline of happiness among their people. One nation, tiny Bhutan, has actually made “Gross National Happiness” the central aim of its domestic policy. How might happiness research affect government policy in the United States—and beyond? In The Politics of Happiness, former Harvard president Derek Bok examines how governments could use the rapidly growing research data on what makes people happy—in a variety of policy areas to increase well-being and improve the quality of life for all their citizens.

Bok first describes the principal findings of happiness researchers. He considers how reliable the results appear to be and whether they deserve to be taken into account in devising government policies. Recognizing both the strengths and weaknesses of happiness research, Bok looks at the policy implications for economic growth, equality, retirement, unemployment, health care, mental health, family programs, education, and government quality, among other subjects. Timely and incisive, The Politics of Happiness sheds new light on what makes people happy and how government policy could foster greater satisfaction for all.

“Compelling.”—David Brooks, New York Times

“With his clear analysis and outside-the-box ideas, Bok encourages thoughtful consideration of what we should want for ourselves and expect from our government.”—Sarah Halzack, Washington Post

We invite you to read the Introduction here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i9107.pdf

Be sure to check in every Tuesday for a new tidbit from our great selection of politically-minded books.

UT-Austin economist Daniel Hamermesh on Beauty and the Presidency

BEAUTY AND THE PRESIDENCY
By Daniel S. Hamermesh

The physical characteristics of this season’s presidential candidates have received many comments. Texas Governor Perry had a full head of thick dark hair, as does Santorum; Romney’s jawline suggests strength; Obama looks presidential; and even Gingrich and Paul look fairly decent for men in their late 60s or mid-70s. None of the male candidates is follicly challenged. Among recent female candidates Palin and Bachmann would probably be viewed by most observers as good-looking. Indeed, one Republican advisor noted during the 2008 campaign, “If Sarah Palin looked like Golda Meir, would we even be talking about her today?”

Looks might not matter in intra-party leadership contests in parliamentary democracies, where small groups of insiders choose the leader—as the Golda Meir example suggests. Nor might they matter in a one-party state, as the rise of Gustavo Dias Ordaz, Mexican president during the PRI era, from 1964-1970, suggests: When his enemies accused him of being two-faced, he remarked, “If I had another face, do you think I’d go around with this one?”

But do the candidates’ looks matter in elections in a democratic two- or multi-party state? Will their good looks, or their bad looks, affect the outcome of the election? A lot of research has shown that candidates’ looks do affect their electoral chances. In German, Finnish and Australian parliamentary elections better-looking candidates have been shown to be advantaged; and the advantage can be quite large, easily enough in many cases to overcome a large disadvantage resulting from voters’ party preferences. In U.S. gubernatorial elections citizens are able to predict who the winners would be based on very brief looks at the candidates speaking—they know that better-looking candidates are more likely to win.

Why does this happen? One reason is that in these lower-level elections the better-looking candidates get more press coverage. Like you and me, journalists, especially television journalists, prefer to look at better-looking candidates; and they know that you and I do too. We are more likely to watch their broadcast, or buy their magazine or newspaper, if they show us better-looking candidates. With additional press coverage comes more familiarity and a greater likelihood that voters will pick the candidate on Election Day.

In presidential primary elections the same factors are at play. In the early stages of the quadrennial presidential process looks may matter in determining who survives the winnowing process, although there is no research demonstrating this. Even before the first primary or caucus, though, some candidates who might think of running know that their bad looks will be a hurdle that will be difficult to jump early in the process. Knowing this, and thinking that they don’t have enough other advantages to overcome their deficient or perhaps only average looks, they will choose not to run. Even before the primary process is far along, otherwise desirable candidates who are looks-challenged will have excluded themselves from consideration, just as few bad-looking people choose to become movie actors.

Things change as the primary season progresses. People’s views about the (good-looking) candidates who have survived the early rounds become more sharply delineated. The candidates’ faux pas have become impressed on the public mind; their general political inclinations and their stances on specific issues have become widely known. Having heard more about and from the candidates, we feel that we know more about them than we infer merely from looking at their pictures. As with any interpersonal relation, the more familiar we are with people’s other qualities and characteristics, the less their looks matter.

It is not surprising that the major presidential candidates are typically quite good-looking. Their looks have already had an effect on our choices; they have already achieved some prominence, and their looks have been a factor in their initial success. Early on candidates self-selected into the process based partly on looks; and their survival in its early stages depended partly on their looks. By March or April of a presidential year, though, looks are much less important. And by the November election we will not be voting because we think President Obama is better- or worse-looking than Romney (or Santorum, or anyone else); we will be voting based on economic and political considerations.

The old comment is that, with his saturnine looks, Lincoln could not be elected President today. The mass media have greatly increased our familiarity with presidential candidates, initially with their looks, eventually with their beliefs and even their character. Lincoln might well not have survived the early stages of a primary season; but if he did, his character and beliefs might have become more widely apparent to the public than was possible in 1860. Exposure through the mass media might have helped him in a “fantasy-league” general election.

Daniel S. Hamermesh is the Sue Killam Professor in the Foundations of Economics at the University of Texas, Austin and author of BEAUTY PAYS: Why Attractive People are More Successful (Princeton University Press).

Robert Kurzban Talks “The Hypocrite in Everyone Else” on the NYT’s Campaign Stops blog

Hypocrisy and politicians seem to go hand in hand. But are most of us ourselves guilty of the kinds of inconsistencies both in our positions and our moral principles that we condemn so readily in politicians? Robert Kurzban, author of Why Everyone (Else) is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind had a wonderful piece yesterday on NYT.com’s popular Campaign Stops blog on the widespread existence of hypocrisy in human nature, which inconsistencies “merit further reflection” and to what extent we all tend to invoke moral principles only when convenient. An associate professor of psychology at The University of Pennsylvania, Kurzban draws from an array of great examples, from the gay marriage debates, to healthcare, to the cornerstone of all hypocritical outrage: marital infidelity.

Read the New York Times piece here.

What do you think? Are we holding our leaders to higher standards than ourselves? What’s more, is the lack of inconsistency a higher standard, or simply an impossible one?

 

PUP Takes Paris

This just in — a display of our beautiful Collected Works of C.G. Jung series has been spotted at Librarie Galignani in Paris, which was the first bookshop for English-speakers on the European continent! If you find yourself strolling down the rue de Rivoli any time soon, pop in and have a look for yourself. If Paris is not in your near future, check out some of the lovely past window displays on the bookstore’s website!

It all depends on how we look at things, and not how they are in themselves.”

– Carl Jung


If you’re ever in Brooklyn and want/need some drink and knowledge, check out the Secret Science Club as profiled in the New York Times

We were thrilled to read Jennifer Schuessler’s terrific story on the popular phenomenon of bar lecturing (and not in an intoxicated way, but a learned way!)  Check out her story here.  It looks like alcohol and science is a powerful (and successful) formula. 

The Press is pleased to have had the pleasure of working with the Secret Science Club as they’ve hosted talks for a handful of our science authors.  In particular, I was delighted to see friend-of-the-Press Dorian Devins at the SSC getting a mention!

Theoretical Psychologist Nicholas Humphrey discussing SOUL DUST: The Magic of Consciousness at Princeton Public Library on October 12

If you happen to be in Princeton tomorrow, please come out to see theoretical psychologist Nicholas Humphrey discuss his new book SOUL DUST: The Magic of Consciousness at the Princeton Public Library at 7:00 PM.

The New York Times Book Review says:
Soul Dust, Nicholas Humphrey’s new book about consciousness, is seductive–early 1960s, ‘Mad Men’ seductive. His writing is as elegant, and hypnotic, as that cool jazz stacked on the record player. His argument feels as crystalline and bracing as that double martini going down, though you might find yourself a little woozy afterward. And his tone is as warm and inviting as that big, crackling fire, even if the dim flicker does leave things a bit obscure in the corners.”
– Alison Gopnik

Nicholas Humphrey discusses consciousness and performance in the San Francisco Chronicle

Nicholas Humphrey, author of Soul Dust: The Magic of Consciousness, spoke to journalist Kenneth Baker about his original view on consciousness: Humphrey claims that vivid consciousness makes us happy to be alive. This perspective is a result of Humphrey’s specific approach to the “consciousness problem”:

I’ve tried to understand the function of consciousness. Let’s not think about it as a cognitive skill but as a kind of theater, something we lay on in our own heads about who we are and the world in which we’re living. Let’s ask how does consciousness as we experience it affect people’s attitudes toward life… I say that consciousness is a performance we put on, and philosophers who have disparaged the so-called Cartesian theater of the mind have misunderstood the nature of theater. I think the world we make is in no way a simulacrum of the world.

Humphrey also explains the role of natural selection in human consciousness, arguing that vivid consciousness must have effects that lead to reproductive success, but that these effects cannot necessarily be “seen” or quantified:

Conscious awareness gives animals a pleasure in affirming their existence in ways that are life-enhancing. In getting more out of it, you prolong your life. You engage with the world, fall in love with it. The great success of our species has been that creative relation with the world that we have produced from out of our own consciousness. We find the world engaging partly because it’s singing our song, because its qualities are those we’ve imbued it with. In humans, what really changed is that we began to engage in reflection.

Read the rest of the article, including Humphrey’s views on suffering, here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/09/16/RVA71KMU2Q.DTL#ixzz1Zk5UgnIn

Video Series–Daniel Hamermesh explains why “Beauty Pays”

Beauty and Happiness

Daniel Hamermesh, UT Economist and author of Beauty Pays, created a series of five videos describing his research. This first is on the relationship between beauty and Happiness–check back for more on the PUP blog!

Who tops the list of famous intellectual feuds?

According to this web site, Jung and Freud are tops when it comes to academic fist-fights:

Probably one of the most famous rivalries in all of “Western” philosophy and science, Sigmund Freud started out as one of Carl Jung’s most beloved mentors before their close relationship soured. Now considered psychoanalysis’ two daddies, the intellectual juggernauts split mainly because of one massive disagreement — specifically, regarding the human unconscious. Jung didn’t believe his veritable Mr. Miyagi of all things psychological took it seriously enough. Their theories about suppressed and repressed thoughts and emotions lurking in the unconscious existed in harmony, but once Jung proposed the collective unconscious, everything began unraveling. His mentor proposed a structure involving some degree of collectivism, of course, though Jung considered it far bigger and more significant. Freud, on the other hand, saw the unconscious as a supplement to the overall psyche rather than its own unique, influential entity.

Which is good news for PUP as we will publish a new paperback titled Jung Contra Freud: The 1912 New York Lectures on the Theory of Psychoanalysis in December. These lectures, give in the autumn of 1912 are the pivotal moment that ignited this famous feud. This is where C. G. Jung set out his critique and reformulation of the theory of psychoanalysis. He challenged Freud’s understandings of sexuality, the origins of neuroses, dream interpretation, and the unconscious, and also became the first to argue that every analyst should themselves be analyzed.

While some parts of this material have previously appeared in Jung collections, the lectures in their entirety have never before been published as a separate volume. And as if that wasn’t enough, the book also features an introduction by Sonu Shamdasani, Philemon Professor of Jung History at University College London, and editor of Jung’s Red Book.

Now, back to feuding academics — what other feuds make the grade? coming in at number two are Nikolas Tesla and Thomas Edison, while C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien nab the number three spot. Click over to read the complete list of these juicy academic spats.

BOOK FACT FRIDAY

FACT: Among the slaughtered remains found in the Drakensberg Mountains is a now-extinct giant buffalo Pelovoris antiquus, which weighed almost 2000 kilograms and whose modern-day (smaller) descendant is one of the most dangerous game animals in Africa (Milo1998).

A Cooperative Species:
Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution

by Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis

In A Cooperative Species, Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis—pioneers in the new experimental and evolutionary science of human behavior—show that the central issue is not why selfish people act generously, but instead how genetic and cultural evolution has produced a species in which substantial numbers make sacrifices to uphold ethical norms and to help even total strangers.

Using experimental, archaeological, genetic, and ethnographic data to calibrate models of the coevolution of genes and culture as well as prehistoric warfare and other forms of group competition, A Cooperative Species provides a compelling and novel account of how humans came to be moral and cooperative.

“Bowles and Gintis stress that cooperation among individuals who are only distantly related is a critical distinguishing feature of the human species. They argue forcefully that the best explanation for such cooperation is altruism. Many will dispute this claim, but it deserves serious consideration.”—Eric Maskin, Nobel Laureate in Economics

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s9474.pdf

This Week’s Book Giveaway

When confronted with an ethical dilemma, most of us like to think we would
stand up for our principles. But we are not as ethical as we think we are. This week’s book giveaway, Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do about It by Max H. Bazerman & Ann E. Tenbrunsel, examines the ways we overestimate our ability to do what is right and how we act unethically without meaning to. From the collapse of Enron and corruption in the tobacco industry, to sales of the defective Ford Pinto and the downfall of Bernard Madoff, the authors investigate the nature of ethical failures in the business world and beyond, and illustrate how we can become more ethical, bridging the gap between who we are and who we want to be.

“When we think of unethical behavior, the images that often come to mind are those of robbers, thieves, the executives at Enron, or Bernie Madoff. Blind Spots is not just about these criminals, but about a much larger problem—the dishonest actions that we all take while still thinking of ourselves as wonderfully moral people. In this important book, Bazerman and Tenbrunsel show us how we fail to see our own immoral actions in an objective light, and the trouble that this biased view gets us into.”—Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational

The random draw for this book with be Friday 6/24 at 11 am EST. Be sure to “Like” us on Facebook if you haven’t already to be entered to win!

Psychologist Nicholas Humphrey discusses the purpose of consciousness on Wisconsin Public Radio

Our author and psychologist Nicholas Humphrey explored the purpose and meaning of consciousness in his new book SOUL DUST: The Magic of Consciousness on Wisconsin Public Radio’s terrific show Veronica Rueckert Show last Friday, May 13.  They explore how consciousness is possible, what biological purpose it serves,  And why we value it so highly in this absorbing interview.