Class Warfare, in the Air and on the Ground

 

From the Economist, a report on studies about how economic privilege creates corruption:

Cycling one morning over the East Bay Hills, Professor Dacher Keltner had a near-death experience. “I was riding my bike to school,” he recalls, “and I came to a four-way intersection. I had the right of way, and this black Mercedes just barreled through.”

So he decided to do some research to figure out if rich people — i.e., Mercedes drivers — really were thoughtless and nasty. Turns out, yes:

In some experiments Keltner and his collaborators put participants from a variety of income brackets to the test; in others, they “primed” subjects to feel less powerful or more powerful by asking them to think about people more or less powerful than themselves, or to think about times when they felt strong or weak. The results all stacked the same way. People who felt powerful were less likely to be empathetic; wealthy subjects were more likely to cheat in games involving small cash stakes and to dip their fists into a jar of sweets marked for the use of visiting children. When watching a video about childhood cancer they displayed fewer physiological signs of empathy.

Not so fast, comrade. Those findings may fit a particular, progressive, world view, but they aren’t truly scientific:

When Keltner and his colleagues published an influential paper on the subject in 2010, three European academics, Martin Korndörfer, Stefan Schmukle and Boris Egloff, wondered if it would be possible to reproduce the findings of small lab-based experiments using much larger sets of data from surveys carried out by the German state. The idea was to see whether this information, which documented what people said they did in everyday life, would offer the same picture of human behaviour as results produced in the lab. “We simply wanted to replicate their results,” says Boris Egloff, “which seemed very plausible to us and fine in every possible sense.” The crunched numbers, however, declined to fit the expected patterns. Taken cumulatively, they suggested the opposite. Privileged individuals, the data suggested, were proportionally more generous to charity than their poorer fellow citizens; more likely to volunteer; more likely to help a traveller struggling with a suitcase or to look after a neighbour’s cat.

Members of Ricochet, the following paragraph will not surprise you:

Egloff and his colleagues wrote up their findings and sent them to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which had also published Keltner’s work. “We thought,” says Egloff, “naive as we were, that this might be interesting for the scientific community.” The paper was rejected. They extended their analysis to data from America and other countries, and felt confident that they had identified several more pieces that didn’t fit the jigsaw being assembled by their American peers… Their paper was rejected again.

Egloff … was shocked by the hostility towards his work. “I am not on a crusade,” he says. “I am not rich. My family is not rich. My friends are not rich. We never received any money from any party for doing this research. Personally I would have loved the results of the Berkeley group to be true. That would be nice and would provide a better fit to my personal and political beliefs and my worldview. However, as a scientist…” The experience of going against this particular intellectual grain was so painful that Egloff vows never to study the topic of privilege and ethics again.

And this one really won’t surprise you:

In September 2015, five social psychologists and a sociologist published a paper in the Journal of Behavioral and Brain Sciences that suggested why psychology might show privileged people in a bad light. Left-wing opinion, contended Jonathan Haidt and his co-authors, was over-represented in psychology faculties. This, they suspected, might be distorting experimental findings – as well as making campus life difficult for researchers with socially conservative views. “The field of social psychology is at risk of becoming a cohesive moral community,” they warned. “Might a shared moral-historical narrative in a politically homogeneous field undermine the self-correction processes on which good science depends? We think so.” So does Boris Egloff. “It was a great and timely paper,” he says. “I congratulate them on their courage.” But it came too late for him. “We spoilt the good guys’ party,” he says.

Yes, it seems likely that results that conform to a rigid, dogmatic, and (inevitably, in a university) left-wing perspective will triumph over boring old facts.

So what, exactly, to make of this, from Forbes:

Katherine DeCelles from the University of Toronto Rotman School of Management and Michael Norton from Harvard analyzed an international airline’s database of thousands of incident reports, involving millions of flights. It found that cases of “air rage” are more frequent on flights when there’s a first class cabin. And the unruly and abusive behavior is more likely to occur in both first class and economy class when economy passengers have to walk through the first class section while boarding.

Internal sirens go off at the phrase, “a new study by researchers…” And we’re starting to see a pattern here:

Taking that humbling walk past those already seated in first class becomes a clear reinforcement of their “relatively disadvantaged status,” the authors wrote, which can “prompt negative emotions and aggressive [behavior].” And the antisocial behavior can come from the haves as well as the have-nots.

And then:

The study also found that air rage among first class passengers increased when there were more first class seats, larger cabins, and delayed flights. The incidents in first class were more likely to involve a passenger being belligerent or angry. DeCelles calls this “entitled reactions.”

In economy class, the incidents tended to emotional outbursts, the result of stress, fear or frustration.

Which sounds, frankly, like the ways progressives talk about crime, too. Rich people are evil. Poor people are disadvantaged. And to cap it off:

With first class cabins getting more lush and larger, the risk of air rage could grow. “As both inequality and class-based airplane seating continue to rise, incidents of air rage may similarly climb in frequency,” the authors note.

Inequality! That’s what’s underneath it all!

Before I get too worked up about it, though, I’d like Dr. Egloff to run the numbers again, just to double-check.

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  1. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    But the standard narrative is so much funnier!

    Lawyer: Your Honor, my client has instructed me to remind the court how rich and important he is, and that he is not like other men.

    Mr. Burns: I should be able to run over as many kids as I want!

    • #1
  2. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    If you really want to drive a social scientist bonkers, tell them they’re not real scientists. If you can work in “pseudoscientific nonsense” into the conversation to describe their field even better.

    The truth hurts.

    • #2
  3. Pugshot Member
    Pugshot
    @Pugshot

    The key that alerted me that the Keltner study might be bogus is that he was on a bicycle. I see far more bicyclists refusing to obey the rules of the road (most prominently failing to stop at stop signs) than I see motorists failing to yield right-of-way at intersections.

    • #3
  4. Penfold Member
    Penfold
    @Penfold

    Delayed flights and more access to booze as first class passengers wait in their seats (they were seated first, thus longer) has absolutely nothing to do with inappropriate behavior by first class passengers….. right.

    Not very scientific, I know.  Just sayin.

    • #4
  5. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Pugshot:The key that alerted me that the Keltner study might be bogus is that he was on a bicycle. I see far more bicyclists refusing to obey the rules of the road (most prominently failing to stop at stop signs) than I see motorists failing to yield right-of-way at intersections.

    To your average bicyclist, a car “failing to yield” at a 4-way stop means the car took it’s turn instead of letting the bicyclist barreling through without stopping.

    • #5
  6. Paul Dougherty Member
    Paul Dougherty
    @PaulDougherty

    Maybe it is the case that this Keltner character is small and insignificant  thereby rendering him hard to see on a bicycle.

    • #6
  7. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Extremely anecdotal, but:  there are two Chuck E Cheeze restaurants in town – one in a reasonably well-to-do suburb, and one in a more low-end city neighborhood.  Not the ‘hood, but not great.

    A few years ago the local paper reported that there were approximately twice as many visits by police responding to disturbance calls (fights, etc) at the suburban location as to the city location.

    • #7
  8. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    Miffed White Male:

    Pugshot:The key that alerted me that the Keltner study might be bogus is that he was on a bicycle. I see far more bicyclists refusing to obey the rules of the road (most prominently failing to stop at stop signs) than I see motorists failing to yield right-of-way at intersections.

    To your average bicyclist, a car “failing to yield” at a 4-way stop means the car took it’s turn instead of letting the bicyclist barreling through without stopping.

    We’ve researched this claim at Politi-fact and rate it: Absolutely True.

    • #8
  9. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Austin Murrey:If you really want to drive a social scientist bonkers, tell them they’re not real scientists.

    purity

    • #9
  10. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Other studies have found that drivers give cyclists more room when they think the cyclist is a woman.

    Is the good professor going to fight that privilege?

    • #10
  11. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Austin Murrey:If you really want to drive a social scientist bonkers, tell them they’re not real scientists.

    purity

    To the right of the mathematician, off the page, is a mathematician who only counts in binary.

    Purity ≠ Usefulness. Those who think it does are invited to season their next meal with pure sodium.

    (Meanwhile, there’s a political scientist standing to the left of the sociologist.)

    • #11
  12. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    Austin Murrey:If you really want to drive a social scientist bonkers, tell them they’re not real scientists. If you can work in “pseudoscientific nonsense” into the conversation to describe their field even better.

    The truth hurts.

    As I like to say, Social Science isn’t.

    • #12
  13. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Miffed White Male:

    Pugshot:The key that alerted me that the Keltner study might be bogus is that he was on a bicycle. I see far more bicyclists refusing to obey the rules of the road (most prominently failing to stop at stop signs) than I see motorists failing to yield right-of-way at intersections.

    To your average bicyclist, a car “failing to yield” at a 4-way stop means the car took it’s turn instead of letting the bicyclist barreling through without stopping.

    MWM,

    Perhaps this was a case of left wing eco pseudo-moral privilege. The lefty thinks himself superior because the bike has a smaller carbon footprint and thus expects everyone else to make room for him. Especially, drivers of Mercedes who are members of the oppressor class.

    Give arrogant stupidity a degree and what do you get? Arrogant stupidity with a degree.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #13
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    He obviously didn’t survey seniors in a 55+ community  with roundabouts. . . .

    • #14
  15. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Misthiocracy:

    Purity ≠ Usefulness. Those who think it does are invited to season their next meal with pure sodium.

    • #15
  16. David Carroll Thatcher
    David Carroll
    @DavidCarroll

    So he decided to do some research to figure out if rich people — i.e., Mercedes drivers — really were thoughtless and nasty. Turns out, yes:….

    My ex-wife drives a Mercedes.  Who am I to argue with such findings?

    • #16
  17. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Misthiocracy:

    Purity ≠ Usefulness. Those who think it does are invited to season their next meal with pure sodium.

    More seriously, I agree.

    Denigrating even the attempt at good social science is silly and counterproductive. Likewise, presenting any new social science finding as the equivalent of Newton is dumb.

    • #17
  18. Arizona Patriot Member
    Arizona Patriot
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Misthiocracy:To the right of the mathematician, off the page, is a mathematician who only counts in binary.

    I can’t resist.

    There are 10 types of people in the world.

    Those who understand binary, and those who don’t.

    • #18
  19. Al Sparks Thatcher
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    Penfold:Delayed flights and more access to booze as first class passengers wait in their seats (they were seated first, thus longer) has absolutely nothing to do with inappropriate behavior by first class passengers….. right.

    Not very scientific, I know. Just sayin.

    I don’t fly very much, but when I’m in 1st Class, the drinks aren’t served until after the takeoff.

    • #19
  20. KC Mulville Inactive
    KC Mulville
    @KCMulville

    Philosophers have long taught multiple theories answering the question: “what is truth?”  One of those theories is the Coherence Theory, which says that a statement is true because it conforms to (or coheres with) other statements that are already believed to be true. That presumes, of course, that your other statements are true. If your other statements are false, then conforming to them doesn’t prove truth, it proves error.

    You might scoff and say, “isn’t it unlikely that all … or a huge number … of your other beliefs are false?” Well, if your beliefs were formed in an echo chamber, and taken for granted, which are then used to screen and filter all other statements – then it becomes much more likely that you’ve been living in a false bubble.

    It also explains why the people within the bubble fight so fiercely – and, let’s face it, why they fight so dirty. If all of the beliefs have to be true, then rebutting any of the beliefs could pop the bubble. Or, using a different analogy, pulling one thread could unravel the whole garment. That’s why they’re so protective of each thread.

    • #20
  21. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    KC Mulville: You might scoff and say, “isn’t it unlikely that all … or a huge number … of your other beliefs are false?” Well, if your beliefs were formed in an echo chamber, and taken for granted, which are then used to screen and filter all other statements – then it becomes much more likely that you’ve been living in a false bubble.

    What you’re saying makes sense but I still need to run it by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon before I can like your comment.

    • #21
  22. KC Mulville Inactive
    KC Mulville
    @KCMulville

    Austin Murrey:

    KC Mulville: You might scoff and say, “isn’t it unlikely that all … or a huge number … of your other beliefs are false?” Well, if your beliefs were formed in an echo chamber, and taken for granted, which are then used to screen and filter all other statements – then it becomes much more likely that you’ve been living in a false bubble.

    What you’re saying makes sense but I still need to run it by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon before I can like your comment.

    The ironic part? I learned about the Coherence Theory … in college. It’s like they planted the seeds of their own destruction.

    • #22
  23. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Al Sparks: I don’t fly very much, but when I’m in 1st Class, the drinks aren’t served until after the takeoff.

    You missed out. They do serve them before takeoff. Uh …I only know because we use our miles to upgrade infrequently. Really.

    • #23
  24. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Misthiocracy:

    Purity ≠ Usefulness. Those who think it does are invited to season their next meal with pure sodium.

    More seriously, I agree.

    Denigrating even the attempt at good social science is silly and counterproductive. Likewise, presenting any new social science finding as the equivalent of Newton is dumb.

    But it’s still not really science. It should more accurately called something like Social Studies. Does the work involve some science? Sometimes. Can the knowledge gained be useful? Even important? If done right. But it’s isn’t science in and of itself.

    • #24
  25. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Douglas:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Misthiocracy:

    Purity ≠ Usefulness. Those who think it does are invited to season their next meal with pure sodium.

    More seriously, I agree.

    Denigrating even the attempt at good social science is silly and counterproductive. Likewise, presenting any new social science finding as the equivalent of Newton is dumb.

    But it’s still not really science. It should more accurately called something like Social Studies. Does the work involve some science? Sometimes. Can the knowledge gained be useful? Even important? If done right. But it’s isn’t science in and of itself.

    If research uses the scientific method and is falsifiable, it’s science.

    The fact that many (most?) people who claim to be doing Social Science are actually doing philosophy does not mean that Social Science doesn’t (and/or cannot) exist.

    This argument works just as well for the “real” sciences. A huge amount of climatology eschews the scientific method and/or falsifiability. That doesn’t mean that climatology is never science.

    • #25
  26. JohnnyF Inactive
    JohnnyF
    @JohnnyF

    Without going against the established opinion (except that it is so much fun) I noticed that as  presented in this OP the first study considered small, not noticeable acts of kindness or not, while the larger study showed more noticable and more acknowledged actions. Maybe the rich also dress better, even when it does not matter.

    • #26
  27. Damocles Inactive
    Damocles
    @Damocles

    The funny part to me:

    • A bay area bicyclist thinks other people are privileged!
    • #27
  28. Mountain Mike Inactive
    Mountain Mike
    @MichaelFarrow

    Susan Quinn:

    Al Sparks: I don’t fly very much, but when I’m in 1st Class, the drinks aren’t served until after the takeoff.

    You missed out. They do serve them before takeoff. Uh …I only know because we use our miles to upgrade infrequently. Really.

    I always enjoy my Bloody Mary before takeoff in First Class – speaking for a friend.

    • #28
  29. Mark Wilson Member
    Mark Wilson
    @MarkWilson

    James Gawron: Especially, drivers of Mercedes who are members of the oppressor Kompressor class.

    There, fixed it for you.

    • #29
  30. Mark Wilson Member
    Mark Wilson
    @MarkWilson

    Al Sparks:I don’t fly very much, but when I’m in 1st Class, the drinks aren’t served until after the takeoff.

    Sounds like you’re flying the wrong airlines!

    • #30
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