In Defense of the Study of Not Serious Things: Aliens and Robots

In Defense of the Study of Not Serious Things: Aliens and Robots

One of the lessons many psychologists learn early in graduate school is to focus on existing topics Grand. We have been taught explicitly and implicitly to focus on phenomena associated with large theoretical frameworks and debates – which have long lineages and a great deal of literature. In fact, these questions are often framed as the kind of research questions that lead to conference talks, high-impact scholarly publications, prestigious jobs, and grant funding. By focusing our collective energies on topics, our field is able to accumulate large bodies of evidence, refine their models, and make new discoveries.

This is all well and good, but it can lead to what social psychologist Paul Rosen once described holes in our understanding of human nature (Rosin, 2007). In Rosen’s own work, he notes that food has been a conceptual gap in psychology, a large part of human life and experience, but is almost entirely absent from psychology textbooks and research programs (Rosin, 1999). Joe Henrich famously pointed out that cultural diversity is another such divide. Psychology was queer, according to Henrich, in the sense that the rich, educated, industrial democracies of the West were over-represented in terms of samples, and it could be argued that these samples are not always highly representative of typed humanity in terms of how people think, feel, and act (Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan, 2010 ). Recently, researchers such as Jamie Krems, Keelah Williams, Jessica Ayers, Athena Aktipis, and a growing number of others have made a compelling argument that female community dynamics have been largely ignored, especially in Evolutionary Psychology (Ayers et al., 2022; Krems et al., 2016; Krems et al., 2020; Williams et al., 2022).

Each of these topics was likely considered at some point in the past Not serious. But if you hold a PhD in Psychology. Today’s student, it is somewhat unlikely that your guide will steer you away from any of them. But what about aliens? Or robots? Or psychic powers? Maybe you should stay away these themes, right? There is probably not much we can learn by focusing our energy on these species Not serious Threads. Or is there?

What if we are not alone?

I’ve always loved The X-Files, especially the alien-themed episodes. But I never would have imagined that I would publish a paper on how we would react to their meeting. But about four years ago, we did this with a team of students.

One day I found myself at a meeting of something called Planetary Initiative. A new project at my university aims to bring various disciplines together to think about the future of man in space. And they wanted people at the table other than people who might work at NASA. Sure, there were astronomers and engineers. There were also dance professors and a curious social psychologist. A few months ago, they started by brainstorming a set of big questions they hope to answer. One of them was: What will happen when we discover that we are not alone? In the years since I fell in love with The X-Files, many astrobiologists, a field that didn’t really catch on when the X-Files started, have been increasingly convinced that we may soon find evidence of life elsewhere. It’s not the gray mutants who are intent on manipulating us genes, maiming our cows, taking over our planet, but microbes, living or dead, on Mars or Europa, or perhaps even bio-fingerprints on exoplanets. What is the likely impact of such a discovery on the psychology of society? Policymakers and scientists have already worried about this for decades, but to my surprise no one has ever asked people how they might feel or react in such a systematic way.

In a group of studies with thousands of participants, we did just that, and found that people expected to experience more positive emotions than negative ones (Kwon, Bercovici, Cunningham, & Varnum, 2018). A pattern that we later repeated in many other societies, and when people were asked to think about the discovery of intelligent alien life as well. We saw the same thing when we used Likert and other survey measures, as well as when we used computer software to analyze the emotional tone of complimentary responses. Perhaps this is exactly what people think when it is hypothetical, and in fact, such intuitions often fail to align with the way we actually act. Well, we also saw the same pattern when we gave people real news coverage of an earlier discovery announcement, the now highly dubious claim that fossilized alien microbes had been discovered on a Martian meteorite.

Why does it matter how this discovery might affect us? For starters, it might be just around the corner. Also, there have been a lot of manual disputes about whether we are Ready to deal with such a discovery. Our results suggest that we may be a somewhat non-mixable species. Despite discoveries that challenge our intuitive understanding of the world (heliocentric solar system, evolution by natural selection, quantum mechanics, and others), we are very much inclined to keep calm and carry on. Or, to paraphrase one of our participants, “I’d be so excited! I read all I could about it on the Internet. I’d text a bunch of my friends. Then I’d go to lunch.”

Bots to steal jobs

What about bots that steal jobs? Surely job-stealing bots are a non-serious topic? I would have agreed to that until I read an article written by Josh Jackson and colleagues (Jackson, Castillo, & Gray, 2021). In a series of studies that also included thousands of participants, they found that the risk is economic Competition With robots it might make people less prejudiced against humans who belong to other groups. For example, those high in Robot anxiety They were less concerned about people of different races and immigrants. Similarly, those who read a fake news article about how robots are increasingly displacing human workers showed a decrease in intolerance towards a variety of outside groups as well. In another study, cues from job-stealing bots led people to be willing to accept outside group members as themselves marriage their children’s partners and as leaders. In another study, Jackson and his team also found that when people were asked to divide money between people of different ethnic groups. These allowances are made more equitable if there are also robot workers in the pool of potential beneficiaries.

Automation continues to spread across a wide range of industries. In fact, at this point, it looks like few industries would be immune to its rise Artificial intelligence Programs that can write articles or win art competitions. The economic and social ramifications of these shifts have been hotly debated. But one largely unexpected consequence of these developments is that increased automation may actually reduce prejudice between groups and conflict between people.

Or, as Jackson and his colleagues put it: “As robot workers become more prominent, differences between groups — including racial and religious differences — may seem less significant, reinforcing the perception of the common human being.” identification (This is Pan humanity). “

The idea that superior identities can be harnessed to reduce intergroup bias is not new (Gaertner, et al., 1993), but creating and maintaining a sense of shared identity can be difficult. The threat of job-stealing bots seems to be one very effective way to do this.

in the next time

Hopefully, these two examples show that studying subjects in a good way can give us important insights into human nature. In this blog, we’ll continue to explore research that’s weird, interesting, and potentially fringe. Stay tuned for a post on how teleportation—the study of things like ESP, precognition, and the like—may have really made mainstream psychology into a more rigorous science.

#Defense #Study #Aliens #Robots

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