COVID-19 has changed everything, including how we work (and to be more precise, are employed). But in order to best understand how things have changed, and hopefully to grapple with how they will be, it helps to have studied how they were. Enter Melanie Simms, professor of work and employment at the University of Glasgow ‘s Adam Smith Business School, and the author – in 2019 – of What Do We Know and What Should We Do About the Future of Work?
In this Social Science Bites podcast, Simms explains that while the idea of working from home seemed to be the dominant narrative during the pandemic, it’s only one of two “real headlines.” That’s in large part because the people who talk publicly about working from home are academics and journalists, both groups that did work from home. In fact, Simms relates, in the United Kingdom about 70 percent of workers spent some or all of their time at their workplace.
The less public headline, she notes, is that there seems to be a large group of people who have left the labor market during the pandemic – often women with children. And while improving options for childcare might see more mothers in employed positions, Simms notes a different trajectory for older workers -- almost anyone over 50 who has left the workforce in the last year-and-a-half struggles to re-enter it -- regardless of kind of work they do.
In discussion with interviewer David Edmonds, Simms details that while she does look at global trends, her research mostly focuses on the United Kingdom, and thanks to the regulatory ecosystem and a skew toward the service economy, what’s true in the UK can’t automatically be applied elsewhere.
Among the subjects Simms and Edmonds touch on are the “regrowth” of the middle class female workforce starting in the 1960s; the difficulties that a lack of childcare routinely creates for working women; the aging of the workforce as young people stay in school longer (delaying their entry into the labor marker) while at the same time older workers remain active in the labor market for longer; de-industrialization; labor unions; and the gig economy, which Simms sees as more about how work is allocated than a change in work itself.
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Joel Mokyr on Economic Lessons from the Past
20:06“I tell my students, ‘If somebody utters the sentence that starts with the words, “History teaches us” the rest of the sentence is probably wrong.’ History has no direct lessons for almost anything. Our own age is sufficiently different, sufficiently unique, from what happened in the past that any facile lessons from history are more likely to mislead than to enlighten.” That series of caveats comes from Joel Mokyr, who, perhaps counter-intuitively, is an economic historian. And in fact, the Robert H. Strotz Professor of Arts and Sciences and professor of economics and history at the Chicago-area Northwestern University shows in this Social Science Bites podcast that there’s quite a bit to learn from history if you keep your expectations in check. For example, he explains that “the good old days weren’t all that good and that the very best time to be born in human history is today. That sounds hard to believe in an age where we’re all running around with face masks and facing quarantine, but it’s still true.” For his own part, Mokyr tells interviewer Dave Edmonds, “I use economics to understand history, and I use history to understand economics.” Mokyr’s ties to economic history are deep: he was president of the Economic History Association in 2003-04, spent four years in 1990s as senior editor of the Journal of Economic History, was editor-in-chief of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Economic History, and is currently editor-in-chief of the Princeton University Press Economic History of the Western World series of monographs. From that perch, he explains, presumably with a smile, that his peers work with ‘expired data.’ Economic historians “scour the past looking for large data sets that we can use in some way to make inferences. The issue of causality becomes somewhat of an obsession in economics these days, and economic history is very much a part of this.” In this interview, Mokyr details how the improvement in the human condition he cited above is connected to the Industrial Revolution. “The Industrial Revolution is particularly important because that’s where it all started -- before 1750 almost nowhere in the world were living standards approaching anything but miserable and poor.” Economic activity before the year 1750 was mostly the story of trade, he explains, while after 1750, it became the story of knowledge. “The Industrial Revolution was the slow replacement of trade and finance and commerce by another thing, and that is growing knowledge of natural phenomena and rules that can be harnessed to material welfare of people.” To demonstrate this approach, he offered the example of steel. While it has been made for centuries it wasn’t until 1780 that anyone knew roughly why this alloy of iron and carbon resulted in such a useful metal, and therefore could exploit its properties more by design than by chance. “If you don’t know why something works,” Mokyr said, “it’s very difficult to improve it, to tweak it.” Mokyr’s scholarship has earned him a variety of honors, including the biennial Heineken Prize by the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences for a lifetime achievement in historical science in 2006. He has also written a number of prize-winning books, including The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress, The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy, and most recently, A Culture of Growth.
Karin Barber on Verbal Arts
22:24Verbal arts, explains Karin Barber, emeritus professor of African cultural anthropology at the University of Birmingham, are “any form of words that have been composed in order to attract attention or invite interpretation which is intended to be repeatable in some way.” They are, she continues, central to all sorts of social processes, “just as much a part of people’s lives as kinship or economic activities.” In this Social Science Bites podcast, Barber offers a specific case study of the application of the verbal arts by examining in depth some of the genres common in the Yoruba-speaking areas of Western Africa. Barber said there are more than 30 million people who speak Yoruba, with the largest number in southwestern Nigeria, where much of Barber’s own scholarship has taken place. She describes the study of Yoruba as a large field in academe, with “hundreds and hundreds” of Yoruba scholars building it up. Barber herself grew up in Yorkshire and did her first degree, in English, at Cambridge University. She next studied social anthropology at University College London and after a stint in Uganda was told that if she really wanted to pursue her examination of African theater she should go to Nigeria. Her Ph.D. – based on 37 months of field work studying oral poetic performance in everyday life in a Yoruba town - came from Nigeria’s University of Ifẹ (now Ọbafẹmi Awolọwọ University). Barber then spent the next seven years as a lecturer in the Department of African Languages and Literatures at the University of Ifẹ, where courses were taught in Yoruba. Barber’s scholarship has resulted in several notable books and monographs. The 1991 monograph I Could Speak Until Tomorrow: Oriki, Women and the Past in a Yoruba Town won the Amaury Talbot Prize for African Anthropology; 2000’s The Generation of Plays: Yoruba Popular Life in Theatre won the Herskovits Award of the African Studies Association; The Anthropology of Texts, Persons and Publics from 2007 won the Susanne K. Langer Award of the Media Ecology Association; and 2012’s Print Culture and the First Yoruba Novel won the Paul Hair Prize of the African Studies Association and the Association for the Preservation and Publication of African Historical Sources. In this interview, she tells host David Edmonds about two particular genres of Yoruba verbal arts: ifa, or divination poetry, and oríkì, translated as praise poetry. “Divination is how people govern and manage their lives,” she explains, “so this poetry is really central to how people analyze what’s happening to them and take steps to make sure that things work out as they wish.” Praise poetry, “strings and strings of epithets hailing the subject’s qualities,” meanwhile, “celebrates and commemorates and highlights the essential characteristics of a person or god or a family or town or an animal. Somehow it evokes the inner essence, the inner properties, and activates them, galvanizes them.” This genre, she details, has changed over the years, emphasizing wealth in the 19th century but more personal qualities and achievements today. “Changing power dynamics are revealed, not necessarily in what the verbal arts specifically say, but in the way they are formed, in the way they are transmitted, who reads them or who listens to them.” And so verbal arts matter in a social science context. “All verbal arts are produced in an economic and institutional context. You could ask, why did this new genre appear in this context, this particular moment in history. What caused people to devise this way of commenting on society and formulating ides in this particular way? It’s because of the prevailing interplay of social forces.” For her work, Barber has received a number of high honors, ranging from a Yoruba chieftaincy title - she is the Iyamoye (“mother who has insights”) of Okuku – to appointment as Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2012 and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire earlier this year.
Melanie Simms on Work
31:13COVID-19 has changed everything, including how we work (and to be more precise, are employed). But in order to best understand how things have changed, and hopefully to grapple with how they will be, it helps to have studied how they were. Enter Melanie Simms, professor of work and employment at the University of Glasgow ‘s Adam Smith Business School, and the author – in 2019 – of What Do We Know and What Should We Do About the Future of Work? In this Social Science Bites podcast, Simms explains that while the idea of working from home seemed to be the dominant narrative during the pandemic, it’s only one of two “real headlines.” That’s in large part because the people who talk publicly about working from home are academics and journalists, both groups that did work from home. In fact, Simms relates, in the United Kingdom about 70 percent of workers spent some or all of their time at their workplace. The less public headline, she notes, is that there seems to be a large group of people who have left the labor market during the pandemic – often women with children. And while improving options for childcare might see more mothers in employed positions, Simms notes a different trajectory for older workers -- almost anyone over 50 who has left the workforce in the last year-and-a-half struggles to re-enter it -- regardless of kind of work they do. In discussion with interviewer David Edmonds, Simms details that while she does look at global trends, her research mostly focuses on the United Kingdom, and thanks to the regulatory ecosystem and a skew toward the service economy, what’s true in the UK can’t automatically be applied elsewhere. Among the subjects Simms and Edmonds touch on are the “regrowth” of the middle class female workforce starting in the 1960s; the difficulties that a lack of childcare routinely creates for working women; the aging of the workforce as young people stay in school longer (delaying their entry into the labor marker) while at the same time older workers remain active in the labor market for longer; de-industrialization; labor unions; and the gig economy, which Simms sees as more about how work is allocated than a change in work itself.
Jeffrey Ian Ross on Convict Criminology
19:12“Convict criminology,” Jeffrey Ian Ross explains in this Social Science Bites podcast, is “a network, or platform, that’s united in the perception that the convict voice has been either neglected or marginalized in scholarship or policy debates in the field of criminology in general, and corrections in particular.” Ross, a professor in the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Baltimore, is one of the originators of the concept, he tells interviewer David Edmonds. Seeing “a big gap” in the work of criminology and corrections, in the early 1990s he and Stephen Richards focused on tapping “the lived experience of convicts” for this academic work. Both men had experience with the corrections system – Ross had worked for several years in a correctional institution and later was a social science analysts with U.S. Department of Justice, while Richards had spent three years in federal prison for marijuana distribution before becoming a professor. About half of the people in the field of convict criminology are either ex-convicts, have impacted by the prison system or are prison activists who have or are in the process of getting a PhD in criminology, Ross says. “Many people who have a criminal conviction try to keep it quiet,” Ross says about jobseekers in academe (or anywhere), and he’s proud of the strides convict criminologists have made. “We’ve managed to forge a beachhead and produce very impressive scholarship,” he says, all the while offering authenticity and degree of inside knowledge. Convict criminology, he details, rests on three pillars: scholarly research, mentorship, and some sort of service or activism. All three pillars arise from a “desire and goal to make a meaningful impact on prison conditions.” So mentorship, for example, might involve having ex-cons be mentors in re-entry programs, while scholarly research benefits from both having an inside view that pays extra dividends when interviewing incarcerated or formerly incarcerated subjects and in understanding the nuances of their accounts. Ross has written, co-written or edited a number of books on criminology, including the Routledge Handbook of Street Culture and Convict Criminology for the Future, both out this year. He has received a number of awards over the years, including the University of Baltimore’s Distinguished Chair in Research Award in 2003; the Hans W. Mattick Award, “for an individual who has made a distinguished contribution to the field of criminology and criminal justice practice,” from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2018 Last year he received both the John Howard Award from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences’ Division of Corrections and the John Keith Irwin Distinguished Professor Award from the American Society of Criminology's Division of Convict Criminology.
Molefi Kete Asante on Afrocentrism
25:28Molefi Kete Asante, the chair of the Department of African American Studies at Philadelphia’s Temple University, has long been at the forefront of developing the academic discipline of Black studies and in founding the theory of Afrocentrism, “the centering of African people in their own stories.” In this Social Science Bites podcast, Asante offers an insiders view of the growth of the Afrocentric paradigm, from the founding of the Journal of Black Studies a half century ago to the debates over critical race theory today. “Afrocentricity,” Asante tells interviewer David Edmonds, “is a paradigm, an orientation toward data, a perspective, that says that African people are subjects, rather than objects, and that in order to understand narratives of African history, culture, social institutions, you must allow Africans to see themselves as actors rather than on the margins of Europe, or the margins of the Arab culture, or the margins of Asian culture.” While that might seem a mild prescription, it’s one that has been often ignored. Asante offers the example that the waterfalls between Zimbabwe and Zambia had a name (Mosi-oa-Tunya for one) before European explorer David Livingstone arrived and dubbed them Victoria Falls. “Livingstone is operating in the midst of hundreds of thousands of African people – kings and queens and royal people – yet the story of southern Africa turns on David Livingstone. The Afrocentrist says that’s nonsense; here's a white guy in the midst of Africa and that you turn the history of Southern Africa on him does not make any sense to us.” Asante then details some of his own efforts in centering the stories of Africa and the African diaspora in their own narratives, including the founding of the first academic journal focused on doing so. He details how as a PhD student in 1969, he and Robert Singleton started the effort to create the Journal of Black Studies as a forum for the nascent academic discipline. (The story sees SAGE Publishing, the parent of Social Science Space, and its founder Sara Miller McCune taking an important role as the one publisher that embraced Asante’s proposal in 1970.) “The journal survives,” he explains 50 years later, “based on its relevance to contemporary as well as historical experiences.” At the time the journal was founded, Asante directed the University of California Los Angeles’ Center for Afro American Studies from 1969 to 1973. He chaired the Communication Department at State University of New York-Buffalo from 1973 to 1980. After two years training journalists in Zimbabwe, he became chair of the African American Studies Program at Temple University where he created the first Ph.D. Program in African American Studies in 1987. He has written prodigiously, publishing more than 75 books, ranging from poetry on Afrocentric themes to high school and university texts to the Encyclopedia of Black Studies.
Jennifer Richeson on Perceptions of Racial Inequality
23:21There is inequality in the United States, a fact most people accept and which data certainly bears out. But how bad do you think that inequality is, say, based on comparing the wealth held by the average Black person in America and the average white person? This is one of the questions that Jennifer Richeson, a social psychologist at Yale University, studies. She has news -- bad news -- about both the actual gap and what people across the board think that gap is. First off, the facts. The Black-white wealth gap in the United States is, in Richeson’s words, “staggeringly large.” Citing figures from 2016, she notes that “the average Black family had about 10 percent of the wealth of the average white family.” The actual percentage in wealth improved slightly in the five years since, “but the important thing is that it’s a huge, staggering gap that has been persistent for 50 to 60 years.” With the gap so large and so persistent, you might expect estimates of its size to reflect reality. You would be mistaken, as Richeson tells interviewer David Edmonds in this Social Science Bites podcast. “If you ask the average American on any given day, they will probably say the wealth gap is around 65, 70 percent. … That’s not only wrong, it’s very wrong compared to the actual wealth gap. … Part of the reason we’re so wrong is because we really believe that since the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, things have gotten dramatically better and are continuing to get better.” The perception is that roughly since the Civil Rights era the gap narrowed from about half to near parity. Respondents to these sorts of questions “feel compelled to conform to this narrative of racial progress” in their estimates, a narrative that Richeson has likened to a mythology. “No, things are not fine – they are similarly bad as they were in the 60s. That’s true for the wealth gap, that’s true for the wage gap. Income is slightly better, but not much. It’s a persistent and pervasive staggering inequality that’s stubborn, and our psychology refuses to believe that.” Visions of this delusional economic advancement are shared broadly across the nation’s economic and ethnic strata; “Black Americans,” Richeson says, “are more accurate but still really wrong.” Her research has found that the more you believe in a just world, the more your estimate will underestimate the gap. This suggests in part why Black Americans – with daily experiences of structural inequality – give estimates that are at least a little closer to the mark. “One reason we believe there is this gap between Black Americans and white Americans is because of the differential tendency to believe that outcomes are fair and only determined by your individual effort, talent, hard work.” This massive misperception matters. While “being this wrong about anything is interesting” academically, Richeson says, the magnitude of this misperception affects individual and societal wellbeing; it also undermines the idea behind the so-called American dream, that American society is a meritocracy. American cannot, she says, “just know the truth and do nothing about it.” Richeson, the Philip R. Allen Professor of Psychology at Yale, received the SAGE-CASBS Award in 2020 for her work and will deliver a COVID-delayed lecture at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University later this year. That was one of a number of honors she has accumulated, including a 2007 John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (known as the “genius award”), a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2015), the Mamie Phipps Clark and Kenneth B. Clark Distinguished Lecture Award from Columbia University (2019), the Career Trajectory Award from the Society of Experimental Social Psychology (2019), and a Carnegie Foundation Senior Fellowship (2020).
Jennifer Lee on Asian-Americans
24:23The twin prods of a U.S. president trying to rebrand the coronavirus as the ‘China virus’ and a bloody attack in Atlanta that left six Asian women dead have brought to the fore a spate of questions about Asian Americans in the United States. Columbia University sociologist Jennifer Lee has been answering many of those questions her entire academic career, and across four books, dozens of journal articles and untold media appearances. One of the first questions she answers in this Social Science Bites podcast is who are ‘Asian Americans’? As she tells interviewer David Edmonds, “No one comes to the United States and identifies as an Asian American.” Instead, if asked, they are likely to identify with national origin or ethnicity – say Chinese, or Japanese, or Filipino – rather than with the umbrella construct of Asian American. “’Asian American,’” Lee explains, “was originally conceived as a political identity by student activists at Berkley in the 1960s who coined the term as a unifying pan-ethnic identity to advocate for Asian-American studies in university curricula and to build coalitions with other marginalized groups.” Since then, it evolved into a demographic category, and in 1997 the U.S. Census Bureau grouped together people from East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia under the classification of ‘Asian.’ (Those regions, of course, don’t include everyone from the continent of Asia – where are the Kazakhs and the Uzbeks, for example – and does include people from the islands adjacent to the land mass – Japanese, Malaysians, Filipinos.) “These are groups don’t have a whole lot in common in terms of language, culture, religion, history,” Lee notes, but they are bound by various forms of exclusion in the U.S. But their presence in the United States in growing rapidly. Combined, Asians are the fastest growing demographic in the U.S.; their population is up 27 percent in the last decade to about 23 million people, or 7 percent of the total U.S. population. Immigration is a key component of that growth, notes Lee, who herself emigrated to the U.S. with her Korean parents when she was 3. Some four out of five current Asian Americans are foreign-born, she explains, and continuing immigration replenishes the cohort of ‘new’ Asian Americans. That, she suggests, will keep the category of Asian-American alive for some time. Immigration also contributes to the trope – a trope Lee rejects – that “‘Asians have some set of values that make them successful.” Instead, she argues that due to who has emigrated, America “engineered this idea that Asians are successful.” Asian immigrants coming to the United States are not just a random sample of the population in their countries of origin; they are extremely educated, more likely to hold a B.A. than those who don’t immigrate, and they’re also more likely to have a college degree than the U.S. mean. It’s this ‘hyper selectivity’ that largely accounts for educational and economic accomplishments of America’s Asians, she argues here and in her latest award-winning book, The Asian American Achievement Paradox, written with Min Zhou. Lee offers several data points during the podcast to buttress the idea that innate cultural values are not driving success. For one thing, the distribution of Asian American accomplishments are not evenly distributed: Indian-Americans have exceptionally high educational achievements while Cambodian, Laotian and Hmong Americans have relatively low graduation rates. Plus, Lee says, if ‘values’ drove the success, we’d see the same successes in the immigrants’ Asian countries of origin or in other areas where Asian diasporas are represented – and we don’t. Lee is the Julian Clarence Levi Professor of Social Sciences at Columbia and past president of the Eastern Sociological Society. She is or has been a fellow at the Center for the Study of Economy and Society, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago, and a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation and a Fulbright Scholar to Japan. She will join the board of trustees for the Russell Sage Foundation this fall.
Martha Newson on Identity Fusion
21:01Despite being someone who doesn’t “particularly enjoy the game,” cognitive anthropologist Martha Newson is drawn to football. “Football is one of the most exciting games to watch as an anthropologist,” she explains in this Social Science Bites podcast. “I’m not watching the ball go around the pitch – I’m watching the fans. I’m transfixed by them! You go through all the emotions in a single match.” Newson, based at the universities of Kent and Oxford, describes for interviewer David Edmonds how fans of football often fuse their own identities into a tightly bonded group (even as they retain their individuality). This “identity fusion,” in which fans feel completely immersed in their group, is widely seen outside of sports. Some obvious venues are national identity, religion, or family group, places where individuals will go to extreme ends to defend or protect our group. “The research has expanded to look at how we can fuse to a value or an idea,” Newson notes. But studying football (or soccer) offers some pragmatic advantages to the researcher. For one, the bonding is very public and very passionate. Fused fans will tattoo themselves, for example, an indelible statement that demonstrates they’re much easier to access and observe than say a terrorist cell or secretive political group. And football fandom is diverse culturally and geographically. One study Newson is working on currently taps into fanbases in Indonesia, Australian, Britain, Brazil and Spain. While there are differences in each country, “the love of the fans is quite consistent.” (And it is also love for the fans, Newson says, since it seems to be fusion to their fellow fans, and not necessarily the team or town, that’s the real driving force of cohesion.) Newson has taken an innovative and interdisciplinary approach in her research, conducting surveys of fans, measuring their physiological responses and even drawing on existing and disparate databases like police records of fan violence. And while violence or hostility may be linked in the popular imagination with extreme fandom, Newson’s research offers a more nuanced view. When someone feels their group is being threatened, like a mother bear they may wade in to defend their group. But when things are pleasant, like that same bear, so are they. “Fused fans preferred to be cooperative and altruistic to their rivals over being hostile toward them,” Newson has found. “The more fused you are, you are more likely to be violent than the less-fused fans,” she adds, “but that’s only because you’re looking out for your group in some way.” Identity fusion research also finds that having bonded is a lifetime commitment, regardless of losses (and perhaps abetted by them!). “Once you are fused, you don’t unfuse – fusion really sticks,” Newson explains, adding that the primacy of the bond may wax and wane over time.
Olivier Sibony on Decision-Making
38:03When human judgment enters the picture, so too will errors in human judgment. Think of this as “noise,” just as you might think of a signal-to-noise ratio in an audio signal. And just as in listening to music, this noise is not a feature, but a flaw. In the context of human action, management professor at HEC Paris and former McKinsey senior partner Olivier Sibony defines “noise” as the unwanted variability in human judgment. “When you look at how people make a professional judgment, there is an average error … and that is what has traditionally been called bias in statistics and in the study of judgment. But when you have already identified bias, there is something left, and that is the unshared error, the unwanted variability of errors, that is noise.” In a new book, Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment, by psychologist and Bites alumnus Daniel Kahneman, Sibony, and Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein (author of Nudge), the trio look at the lottery that noise creates in social outcomes, and discuss ways to practice better “decision hygiene” to prevent noise from infecting important outcomes. Coinciding with the release of Noise, Sibony spoke with interviewer David Edmonds in this Social Science Bites podcast about noise as a concept, the types of noise, why acknowledging it matters, and a little on what we can do to avoid it. This is an area of great interest for Sibony, whose own research centers on reducing the impact of behavioral bias. “Bias and noise,” Sibony explains, “are mathematically equivalent in the effect they have on error. Noise causes exactly as much error as bias does for the same quantity of noise or bias. “And so, if you can reduce noise, you can reduce error.” Or put another way, make better decisions. He gives the example of insurance claims adjusters. “When you look at how two of these people judge the same case, what price they set on the same insurance policy or the price they set on the same claim, and you ask them how much they expect to disagree, they say, ‘Of course we’re not going to be in perfect agreement; it’s a matter of judgment, after all. It’s still a calculation – we’re not just adding up numbers and saying, “The answer is X.” Otherwise our job would just be automated. That’s what makes the job interesting – it’s a matter of judgment. So we expect some disagreement between us. But hey! We are all highly qualified, competent people, so we are more or less interchangeable depending on who is available.’” If you ask the adjusters, or their bosses, about how much variability they expect, the answers come back around 10 percent. And if you ask business executives in general what they would expect the difference to be – and Sibony talked to hundreds -- the answers came back at 10 to 15 percent. But looking at the actual variability in real life, he reveals, the differences vary by as much as 55 percent. This isn’t just some peculiarity of insurance. “This was,” Sibony said, “something we found everywhere we looked!” He offers many examples: assessments by financial professionals, x-rays read by skilled doctors, professors grading essays, and many more. What he terms “big differences” appeared repeatedly “More worrisome, perhaps, if you look at how judges sentence people who have been found guilty of a crime … [W]hen the average sentence is seven years in prison, the average difference, the mean difference between two judges is three-and-a-half.” And so, as Sibony notes, when appearing before two judges, you’ve already been sentenced to five years, or to nine years, “just based on the luck of the draw.” This variability, this happenstance in outcomes, matters for a trio of reasons: fairness (“when similarly located people are not treated similarly, it is unfair”); credibility of the underlying institutions; and because we’re routinely making bad (or at least not the best) decisions. In addition to teaching strategy, decision making and problem solving at HEC Paris, Sibony is an associate fellow at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School. He writes often on strategy and decision making in the academic and popular press, and his book Vous Allez Commettre Une Terrible Erreur ! (published in English as You’re About to Make a Terrible Mistake!) received the was awarded the Manpower Foundation Grand Prize in 2019 for best management book. He is also a knight in the French Order of the Légion d’Honneur.
Whose Work Most Influenced You? Part 4
23:17"That’s such a hard question,” Gina Neff, a sociologist at the Oxford Internet Institute, responds when asked what social science research or thinker most influenced her. “It’s like a busman’s holiday for an academic, because so many things have influenced my thinking.” Her answer, by the way, was Ulrich Beck’s concept of the risk society, as explained in this 1986 book. In this montage drawn from the last two years of Social Science Bites podcasts, interviewer David Edmonds poses the same question to 25 other notable social scientists. For many of the guests, the answer proves difficult to pin down to just one person or work (“That’s like asking who’s your favorite kid,” was David Halpern’s first response). For a few guests, the response is instant. “A simple answer, really,” replies Rupert Brown, naming a fellow social psychologist, Turkish-American Muzafer Sherif, and his work in the 1950s. And sociologist Les Back, too, answers instantly: “Don’t even have to think about it: WEB DuBois’s The Souls of Black Folk. DuBois is the writer who captures both the heat and the passion of life and also the cool historical perspective and analysis in the most extraordinary compound of literary expression.” Back, in turn, was mentioned by one scholar: Kayleigh Garthwaite as her great influencer. A number of the guests cited titans from the early days of social science – Max Weber, Karl Marx, Pierre Bourdieu, Emile Durkheim, while others named modern-era titans like Stephen Pinker, Daniel Kahneman, Jonathan Haidt or Jean Piaget. And many named creators of the new canon – Jim Scott cited A.P. Thompson’s Making of the English Working Class, Alondra Nelson picked Troy Duster’s Backdoor to Eugenics, and Gurminder Bhambra tabbed Danielle S. Allen’s Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown v. Board of Education. And no such list would be complete without a wild card, and for that we turn to Michelle Gelfand, who turned to Herodotus’ The Histories and the lessons a 2,500-year-old post-mortem of an ancient war can teach us today: “He was a brilliant cross-cultural psychologist … he also had a really interesting observation — that all humans are ethnocentric. They don’t just think that their culture is different, they think it’s better.” This is the fourth collection in this series (and the 100th Social Science Bites podcast).