Monday, August 2, 2021

As we head into the next semester, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic:

I think this is a good time to reflect on some evidence. Although this all comes from a post from the Arkansas Times' Arkansas Blog, a reliable independent paper that's been around a good long while, the evidence is sound.

So far, the evidence about vaccines looks sound. Even with the Delta variant surging through the US currently, there is still little need to worry about breakthrough infections (although some will happen), and even less need to panic about getting severely ill or hospitalized. That is good news. Obviously, the more people who get vaccinated, the better off all of us will be, especially any children 12 and under who are not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination. 

Masks also work. There is a reason we're seeing a return to mask mandates. They mitigate the spread of this novel coronavirus. To the extent that even asymptomatic carriers who were fully vaccinated may be capable of spreading this virus, it seems imperative wear masks indoors or in crowded outdoor areas. This is especially necessary in places where there the vaccine rate has been low.

Some of us will come back to work at colleges and universities required to wear masks for a bit longer. Some of our institutions may even require vaccinations for faculty, staff, and students. I live in a state that is taking the opposite approach. No public school or state agency can mandate masks (thanks to Act 1002 of 2021), and of course our state lagged behind much of the rest of the nation in terms of vaccination. This is far from an ideal environment in which to return to our classes and offices. Yet that is what we are going to be doing. Short of litigation that may or may not be pending to make the legislation null and void, all we can do is our best to survive. If our institutions will still allow for virtual meetings, or at least include a virtual option, then we should probably continue with that. We can advocate for mask usage, but that will probably have minimal effect. We can make sure we're using masks indoors for the time being, even if fully vaccinated. 

Really, we have the tools at our disposal in order to return to some sort of post-pandemic normal. Let's use them.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Public university and college faculty are the targets of the latest moral panic

About November of 2020, I received two sets of cryptic emails. The first set was forwarded from my Department Head, who needed to document the extent to which her faculty were utilizing Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the 1619 Project in their curriculum. The requests came from state legislators whose names I immediately recognized. I'll describe my answers in a moment. The other set of emails were for an FOI request. Those have to be handled expeditiously. In this case, the matter had to do with any personal emails I had received or sent regarding any activity with one of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (DEI) or one of the subcommittees on which I am a member. I complied in each case. Still I found the emails troubling, as they were harbingers of what would become a difficult Arkansas state legislative session for me and mine. 

At the time the emails started circulating, I had some idea about the 1619 Project, to the extent I had found some time to read a New York Times article about it. I had no idea what CRT was, and in a very fundamental sense felt some shame in being ignorant about it. I forwarded the few emails I had at that point regarding my work with one of the subcommittees on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion subcommittee to which I am attached (which has to do with facilities). I sent some emails back to my Department Head regarding the legislative request. I put two and two together and sorted out that the latest moral panic had to do with college and university faculty being too "woke" and "brainwashing" students with CRT. With regard to DEI, whatever I submitted is presumably public record. It will be boring. Most of our concerns are with ADA compliance, as far as my subcommittee goes. 

My emails to my Department Head were fairly straight to the point. I did not use the 1619 project in any of my course curriculum nor did I us CRT. In fact, it seemed odd that as someone who mostly teaches methods and stats courses, I'd do so, even if I knew what CRT was. In my methodology courses, when we cover the topic of research ethics, I do discuss the Tuskegee Syphilis study as an example of very obvious ethical and human rights violations. Those are simply the facts. I am intending to introduce more information on the use of questionable research practices among psychologists tied to the eugenics movement. My main interest is in exposing how extreme devotion to an ideology can blind behavioral scientists to the truth, to the point of cutting ethical corners. In my stats courses, I've been known to spend a moment on how some of the statistical techniques my students are learning are tied to the eugenics movement (Karl Pearson's contributions are obvious). I do so more as a means of communicating that the statistical techniques themselves, although they come from somewhat dystopian origins are worthwhile when used properly as a means of conveying truth. So far, this sounds as exciting as a visit to the dentist's office. When we cover stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination in Social Psychology, I do add some supplementary readings that cover structural racism and sexism. I do so since those are topics that seem to be of practical importance, but largely ignored by a Social Psychology that is more geared toward individual cognitive responses. That can potentially generate some discussion, as this is often a rare opportunity to be exposed to the possibility that one can engage in or benefit from discriminatory behavior quite unwittingly, and due simply to the way the proverbial "rules of the game" are set up. The introductory psych course is set up in such a way that our focus is simply getting students to learn a bit about how psychological science works and pick up on some jargon. Conditioning and Learning is set up so that our focus is largely concentrated on classical and operant conditioning. Not a lot of CRT in discussions about rats running in mazes. 

What I am sharing is hardly a secret. Unfortunately in the eyes of some zealous state legislators, my even mentioning the eugenics movement and its abuses as they pertain to facets of our methodology apparently makes me and others who might teach like me existential threats, who are merely describing facts that any historian of my field worth a darn could recite. Needless to say, this last regular legislative session was rough. We came very close to the legislature giving itself the power to dictate, at least to an extent, what we can teach. In particular, the legislature's majority party wanted to prohibit anything that appeared to be CRT instruction from happening. Given the historically low educational level of our average state legislator, I seriously doubt that any of them have a clue about CRT. Heck, I have a PhD in an area unrelated to where CRT originated, and I have no clear idea. I have little doubt that at least for the near term such efforts would have been tied up in the courts, and we'd likely continue about our business. Thankfully, even with GOP super-majorities in both houses of the state's General Assembly, they failed. Enough else bad happened during the session, including tangible efforts to discriminate against transgender students at the K-12 and college level. That's another story for another day, perhaps. This latest moral panic - that college and university faculty are "corrupting" students with CRT (previously it was Cultural Marxism) is just the latest example of a phenomenon that goes back at the very least to the events surrounding the trial and death of Socrates. These sorts of moral panics end up inflaming subsets of the population who might otherwise have gone about their business, much like I would prefer to go about my business.

I take this sort of thing seriously to the extent that there is a long history of authoritarian political parties and rulers succeeding in dictating what gets taught in the classroom or lab and what is not. The end result bears poorly not only for the academy but for real people who expect that their experts and educators are working to benefit them as opposed to staying in the good graces of despots. One bit of disinformation (a fancy way of saying lie or lies) is that your faculty are "left-wing" - itself a rather loaded term. Someone living on a diet of Fox News or Breitbart probably thinks we're all "communists" simply because some person in a suit paid huge sums of money to make such accusations says so. Such accusations certainly get ratings and clicks, which is great for the advertising business. But intellectually, it is the equivalent of empty calories. The reality is that there probably is a good deal of self-selection that goes on when people choose careers, and it probably is not a surprise that people that are liberal or moderately liberal tend to end up in service sector vocations such as education (including higher education). Beyond that, you probably will quickly realize that when you spend some time with us, you are dealing with a bunch of heterodox thinkers. There are very few of us, at least in my experience, who are willing to even consider toeing a party line. Personally, I think I am incapable of toeing a party line. By my own admission, I am generally liberal. One could probably have read this blog over the last few years and sorted that out. At least that is my hope. That said, how liberal or conservative I appear depends on the issue in question. My preference in primaries is for centrist candidates. That frustrates some of my activist friends and acquaintances. The fun part is that none of that ever even enters the classroom. I am mainly focused on making sure that my course content covers the program and university learning objectives necessary for my students to gain the knowledge base and skill set necessary for them to enter the workforce, graduate programs, and so on. I do that? I am doing my job. End of discussion. Given my teaching load, and the adjunct load on top of my main gig? I have no luxury but to stay focused on those learning objectives. That is my life, at least the professional side of my life. I am far from alone. Naturally, I could show those who are hellbent on avowing that those of us in the academy are enemies of the state are basically benefiting students, communities, and the state economy to no end. It's difficult to argue with ideologues. Instead, we're in the same predicament as Socrates, so many decades ago.

In the meantime, I can recount the frustration of friends and acquaintances from the latter days of the USSR as they recount their work lives. Working as an educator meant being a good party member, which meant stating things that were obviously false and omitting things that were true, in order to demonstrate that they were good party members. The prospects for those who did not demonstrate that they were good party members was not favorable. Struck me at the time as a lousy way to work and to live. I cannot even fathom the garbage science that resulted. I don't really wish to. 

My bottom line is that the last thing I need is a chiropractor or evangelist preacher telling me how to do my job. I have an accrediting body, instructional support staff, and great departmental leadership to keep me honest. That's all I need. There was a scene in the HBO series Chernobyl, in which a scientist tries to communicate with her SSR's party boss what was at stake when the nearby nuclear plant exploded. In the series, the local party boss had enough education to work at a shoe factory before getting to lead the Belarusian SSR. He didn't care. He got off on his power. That likely cost real lives. He seemed to enjoy the rough equivalent of "owning the libs" based on the narrative. It's that sort of thinking that has put our society in a precarious position now. This is the time to ignore party bosses - regardless of party - and listen to educators. We're more attuned to the needs of our students, and have devoted many years of our lives gaining the training to do the jobs we do now. In the meantime, elections have consequences. I really want folks in my state to have opportunities that will change their lives in a positive sense. The last thing I need are a bunch of party bosses standing in my way or in the way of my students. Moral panics are the most idiotic way to do so, if for no other reason than enough real people with real common sense will find themselves with no choice but to question what the party bosses are telling them, as they try to measure that nonsense against their own lived experience.


Saturday, July 10, 2021

Weapons Effect Theory

A little while ago, I made mention that I had noticed the weapons effect, which I had always considered to be a phenomenon, referred to as a theory. In a way I found it amusing. In another way, I think the argument in favor of a weapons effect theory does have some merit. A good theoretical model would at minimum offer an explanation regarding a phenomenon and generate testable hypotheses. In the case of the weapons effect, it would be a relatively narrow theory. Then again, so too was frustration-aggression theory (itself an outgrowth of what was merely a hypothesis). 

We know the origins of what we could call weapons effect theory. We look no further than Berkowitz and LePage (1967). As the details of that initial experiment are detailed elsewhere, I will simply state that Berkowitz and LePage (1967) appeared to demonstrate that under conditions of high provocation, individuals experiencing short-term exposure to weapons showed higher levels of aggression (measured in number of electric shocks given) than those who had not been exposed to weapons. It goes without saying that the claim was highly controversial at the time, and that there were critics who could not replicate the original finding. That story has been told many times (including by me - see Benjamin 2019 or Benjamin, 2021), and bears no repeating here. What probably matters most is that a meta-analysis by Carlson, Marcus-Newhall, and Miller (1990) was supposed to have settled the matter. Short-term exposure to weapons under conditions of high provocation or frustration seemed to lead to a noticeably higher level of aggression than any other condition. Armed with Fail-Safe N as a means of assessing publication bias, Carlson et al (1990) concluded that the case was effectively open and shut. The weapons effect was viable, and it was time to move on. After that, social psychologists and some fellow travelers looked toward underlying processes responsible for this purported effect. That's where theory comes in.

Although the Anderson, Benjamin, and Bartholow (1998) paper referenced Anderson's then General Affective Aggression Model (which would be later abbreviated to General Aggression Model or GAM), I think it is safe to say that what we we actually did was to articulate a distinctive weapons effect theoretical model. Among social cognition models, it is a potentially "warm" theory in the sense that anger and arousal are considered potential antecedents. However, anger (affect) and arousal have never been adequately tested. Rather, testing of the model primarily focuses on short-term exposure to weapons priming of aggressive cognitions - think of these as behavioral scripts and schemas that include all of our semantic and episodic memories and concepts of aggression and violence as well as procedural memories of how to behave aggressively or violently. These memories may be implicit or explicit. Once aggressive cognitions have been primed, primary and secondary threat appraisals are primed, increasing the likelihood that an individual will be biased to perceive stimuli as more threatening than they might have otherwise, along with appraisals of how to best respond. Depending at what happens at the level of appraisal, an aggressive behavioral response might be the end result. Although primarily focused on the situational antecedents, the model keeps the door open to individual differences that might serve as antecedents (including personality traits and life experience). See the figure below. Note that technically this figure is the property of Sage Publications (from Anderson et al,, 1998), and if I am asked to take it down, I will do so:



It's a simple theory, really. One sees a weapon, which facilitates an increase in accessibility of aggressive cognitions, setting up primary and secondary threat appraisals, culminating in increase of aggression. The potential for weapons to prime anger and increase physiological arousal exist as well. It is a model that explains a body of results on a phenomenon, and offers some potential hypothesis tests. So far, so good. So, how well does the weapons effect theory hold up? Depending on whom you read, the weapons effect theory is either sufficiently established that we what we really need to do is to further explore interactions of person variables and short-term exposure to weapons (an endeavor that has barely been undertaken, and then only in a very scattershot fashion), or the body of research suggests the theory is enough of a nothingburger as to be swept into the dustbin of history.

When I finally published my meta-analysis (Benjamin, Kepes, & Bushman, 2018), I think any astute reader would hone in on Table 2 and realize that depending on how how publication bias is assessed, that there is nothing to be concerned about (if one believes random-effects trim-and-fill analyses) or quite serious (e.g., PET-PEESE). Most concerning are studies examining aggressive behavioral outcomes. The effect sizes are arguably negligible. Even when we look at the intervening variables in the model that are the underlying processes responsible for the presumed relationship between short-term weapon exposure and aggression (accessibility to aggressive cognitions and hostile appraisals) we have to keep in mind that the effects for these outcome variables are often small. Establishing accessibility of aggressive cognition is difficult, and numerous methods of measuring accessibility of aggressive cognitions have been utilized with varying degrees of success. Although much of the earlier cognitive priming literature for the weapons effect relied on either reaction times to aggressive versus non-aggressive words in lexical decision tasks or pronunciation tasks, more contemporary studies appear to rely on variations of a word completion task developed by Anderson - an instrument whose validity has been recently questioned. I wonder how many unpublished studies slipped through the cracks. Research on mostly primary threat appraisal has been more of a success story. Much of that work seems to build on research comparing phylogenitic and ontogenetic threats, with weapons being an ontogenetic threat. When individuals are shown arrays of objects with guns or knives embedded, studies appear to find evidence that individuals respond more rapidly to those arrays that have nothing but neutral objects. Effect sizes are small-to-moderate. One must also consider the possibility that arrays including unexpected objects could be just as effective in decreasing reaction times. So, although the pattern of findings looks promising, it's probably far from settled. But ultimately, for a cognitively based theory of the weapons effect to work, there has to be some establishment that aggressive behavioral outcomes are consistently positive. So far, that has not been the case. However aggressive behavior has been operationally defined - number of electric shocks, shock/noise blast levels, amount of hot sauce doled out to a presumed victim, point subtraction, etc., the results have been inconsistent. Some experiments appear successful, but many others do not replicate - either directly or conceptually - the original finding. Furthermore, it is not entirely clear that we are measuring aggression with these operational definitions, nor can we necessarily include intention to harm from the body of research thus far. Furthermore, there has been a tendency for those who do find positive effects to oversell their findings, tying their analyses to not merely the mild forms of aggression that we might be measuring, but to tie that work to acts of violence such as shootings. The theoretical model is not one that was designed to address violence per se, which means that even if we could hone in on consistently reliable findings, we can only speak to a narrow range of possible aggressive behaviors in everyday life, and even then with a good deal of caution and humility. All that being said, we have  a social cognitive model that states that short term exposure to weapons can trigger an aggressive behavioral response, to the extent that aggressive cognitions and hostile appraisals are successfully primed. Without a solid body of evidence pointing to an increase in aggressive behavior in this body of research, the theory falls apart. Unless or until the behavioral outcome piece of the theory is settled, it is a weak theory at best. If research surfaces that debunks any priming effect of weapons on aggressive cognitions, then the theory goes from weak to effectively moot. At that point, why even discuss the matter further?


Left unanswered in the theoretical model is the role of arousal. My impression is that early on, arousal was looked at as a nuisance variable to be measured and ruled out. I know of one explicitly reported arousal study, and it was a pilot study used to select stimulus materials.  As a "warm" theory, I've been a bit taken aback at the lack of interest among those best positioned to examine arousal and affect to actually take the time to do so and report their findings. Nor has the moderating role of individual differences been adequately explored. Aside from some one-offs, very little is known about the role of personality or life events as a moderator of the relationship between short-term exposure to weapons and aggressive behavioral outcomes. 

Research from the last decade has been discouraging. In the last two or three years, we've seen published some ecological valid behavioral work that was either adequately sampled, but showed a small effect size, or what on the surface appeared to be a robust effect, but in which the sample small enough that the statistical test was underpowered. Let's just say that historically experiments testing hypotheses derived from this theory rarely have samples of 15 or more in each cell, and even a sample of 15 per cell is probably inadequate. More traditional experimental research (i.e, in the lab) in recent years appears to suggest the behavioral effect is minimal at best. For example Guo, Egan, and Zhang (2016) found no main effect of weapons on aggressive behavior, and instead used a subsample of individuals who scored as high in external locus of control in order to craft a narrative for their findings. That's just the published research. I am aware of unpublished behavioral experiments (based on personal communication) that have found either a null effect, or even a suppression effect. That should give any of us who either have researched the weapons effect theory or who utilize this theory as part of our pedagogy pause.

Bottom line? As a theoretical model, I am very uncertain that the weapons effect theory is on solid ground. If anything, I am likely to agree with those who would argue that it is not on solid ground at all, and that it is a theoretical model worth abandoning. There appear to be small to moderate effects when it comes to weapons priming aggressive cognitions and hostile threat appraisal. The effect on aggressive behavior appears potentially negligible. I say that as someone whose professional identity was in some significant sense tied to this particular theory. I also say this as someone who has, in the past taught history of psychology to undergraduates, and who has a keen interest in my area's history. The conditions that made a link between short-term exposure to weapons and the very mundane aggression we can observe in the lab are ones in which there was both an increase in violent media consumption (in which weapons were ubiquitous) and an increase in real life violence (something Berkowitz goes into in a 1968 paper) seemed plausible. Since that time, the concept of media violence and real life violence has been effectively debunked. Whether or not a weapons effect theory holds up in the sense that, say frustration-aggression appears to hold up is questionable at best. I think a registered replication report of the original Berkowitz and LePage (1967) would be wise, assuming it were ethically and logistically doable, if for no other reason than to settle the matter once and for all.

I published a meta-analysis, and now there is a retracted study in my database. Should I worry?

Since the title addresses a very real question for me, it's worth asking, as a soon-to-be-retracted article was included in our weapons effect database. Fortunately, Fanelli, Wong, and Moher (2021) address this very question: what impact do retracted studies have on the conclusions we can draw from our meta-analytic findings? In other words, what are the epistemic costs? The good news is not much. The authors took a sample of 50 or so meta-analyses that had included at least one retracted study. The positives are really positive - findings tend to remain robust even after a retracted study or studies are removed. This is especially important to the extent that this finding holds when the retraction was due to something suspect in the methodology or in the data analyses, and not some other issue such as plagiarism. One thing that the authors do note as that much of the problem of retracted studies appearing in meta-analyses is preventable. Many of of the meta-analyses Fanelli et al. (2021) included in their meta-meta-analysis had included studies that had been retracted well before the meta-analyses in question were published. They have their ideas of some systemic corrections that would help. I would recommend including the PubPeer web browser plug-in as one means of screening for potential retractions early on in the meta-analytic database search process. It won't catch everything, especially to the extent that it is underutilized by psychologists, but it could help a bit. I would also recommend searching through the Retraction Watch database. Those are individual actions we can take, and take now. 

Hat tip to Retraction Watch.

Friday, July 9, 2021

The US Republican Party in no Longer Conservative: It is Authoritarian

The data tell the tale. The mass media and still too many of the US intelligentsia refer to the Republican Party (GOP) as conservative, and its politicians and followers as conservatives. I would argue that the party leadership, its politicians, and its activist base abandoned conservatism a long time ago, and took a much more authoritarian turn. And before anyone tries to get too far into the weeds here, I published some research roughly six years ago (and I am far from alone I suspect) distinguishing at least some very substantial facets of conservatism from authoritarianism. That there are actual conservatives in the US who want nothing to do with the GOP in its current form should speak volumes. That I, not only as a professional but as a citizen, also find common cause with the same former GOP conservative dissidents should speak volumes as well. Then again, my personal and publicly political views tend to be at least somewhat heterodox, so there may be a few who frequent this blog who are not entirely surprised by my last statement. But enough of that. What are the data showing?

Last November, the Washington Post published an article in their Business section that had some very useful graphics. The graphics came from a project called V-Dem, which has been very useful in tracking trends regarding the state of democracy across the planet. Here are the graphics published by the Washington Post: 

 

In terms of commitment to democracy, the Democratic Party's policies and behaviors have been stable over several decades. That jibes with my own experiences as a citizen and voter. The GOP is different story. There seems to be some initial lean away from democracy toward the end of the Reagan era, then another noticeable lean away from democracy during the early GW Bush era. Toward the end of GW Bush's term, there is a bit of a move away from democracy. That turn against democracy seems a bit more pronounced around the time that Obama gets the nomination and the Presidency. There is another turn away from democracy once the Tea Party movement within the GOP consolidates its power about a decade ago. And then around the time that Trump rears his head, there is practically a wholesale abandonment of democracy as a set of policies and norms or as an ideal. I suspect that the numbers look worse in 2020, and probably will get worse for a while to come.



In terms of demonization of political opponents, again the Democratic Party shows minimal change. There is some fluctuation starting in 2008, which I suspect is related to John McCain's choice of running mate (he really should have stuck to his guns and chosen Joe Lieberman instead), and Trump's initial run. But notice that the Democratic Party, so far, seems to go back to baseline. Let's hope it continues. The GOP's devolution is striking. Starting with the 2008 electoral season and continuing to the present day, an argument can be made that the GOP leadership, from a policy and practices standpoint has decided that making their political opponents existential threats is an acceptable practice. Once opponents become existential threats, the next graphic is inevitable.




Inciting violence is something I would have never expected of either of our two major parties. And yet, here we are. Once again, the Democratic Party leaders refuse to go there. The GOP leaders on the other hand? Study Trump's speeches, rallies, his inner circle's pronouncements, and so on, and the devolution that takes place during the latter half of the 2010s seems obvious. We've experienced advocacy among Trump's inner circle for martial law if electoral votes did not go a certain way, efforts to commit violence against peaceful BLM protests (note that I am careful to state peaceful - acts of violence are crimes and will get treated as such), and of course the January 6th insurrection, which should be called for what it was: an attempted coup and an act of terrorism. 

The V-Dem data are stark. A major party within the US has gone down the same road as Fidesz in Hungary, a nation that is considered a failed democracy. You read that right. Hungary, a nation I visited seven years ago when there was still some faint hope, is now the EU's only dictatorship. If I were a professional advising the EU, I'd advise their leadership to cut bait. For whatever reason, the ruling party, apparently for at least a few generations, is bound and determined to go back to its alliance with Russia, much as it did when the USSR was running the show in eastern Europe. My impression is that much of eastern Europe is embracing democracy, and has found a place within the EU and NATO. That is a beacon of hope in a very turbulent time.

How does this data tie in more psychologically? It's not entirely clear. There seems to be a substantial cohort of authoritarians who believe the Big Lie that Trump is the rightful President and that his election was stolen from him. From what we know about authoritarianism as a theory, we know that those who are strongly authoritarian will take orders from those whom they consider legitimate leaders. We should not be surprised when one of the defense refrains from the 500 plus (and counting) defendants from the January 6, 2021 insurrection state that they really believed that they were ordered to be there by Trump. From what we know about authoritarians, authoritarian aggression is instigated by those who are identified as legitimate authoritarian leaders. Trump and his inner circle certainly can make that claim, especially to the extent that they contended prior to the 2020 election that the results were not legitimate, advocated violence (including a military coup), etc. About a quarter of the US adult population, and a much larger portion of the GOP base agree with those actions, and some certainly have participated. 

At this point, the bulk of the authoritarians in the US make up the GOP's rank and file. It's no surprise that the party policies have continued to become less and less democratic, and increasingly illiberal. Unlike conservatives (who really are distinct from authoritarians, as even some of my data suggest), authoritarians really do see those who are not with them as a threat, and will follow those whom they see as their legitimate leaders. We've seen that with the events of January 6th. We've seen it again in the way those representing the more authoritarian faction of the party have embraced conspiracy theories surround the last Presidential election, dismissed a very serious public health crisis, and even spread conspiracy theories about the very vaccines that would - if taken by enough of the population - lead us to a post-pandemic era, and engage in moral panics about phenomena that are truly much ado about nothing (your typical college class at a regional university or community college is not going to even mention critical race theory, for example). As long as a certain former President has an iron grip on the GOP, such trends will continue. The implications for GOP policy are clear. We'll see many of its elected officials try to legislate against threats that don't exist (voter fraud is very difficult to pull off with the safeguards in place as of the 2020 elections, CRT is not taught outside of a very few elective courses in largely elite universities), parrot the rhetoric of the former President in order to curry favor with the authoritarian portion of the base (who tend to be most active in primaries) in order to retain elected positions or to gain a chance at winning an election, and making appearances with white nationalist and other fringe militia group figureheads who would, in an earlier era, been avoided and remained marginalized. The GOP's elected officials are in the position taking increasingly antidemocratic actions at least in part because it appears to be the way to win at least primary elections, and if enough opposition votes can be suppressed, maintain a grip on power disproportionate to its overall popularity. There is at least a predictive relationship between the psychological makeup of the GOP base and its rapid movement away from the generally democratic policy positions it once embraced. I don't see that dynamic changing anytime too soon.


Thursday, July 8, 2021

Welcome, visitors from Sweden!

I was just checking my blog stats just out of curiosity, and it looks like a lot of the traffic is coming from Sweden. Although I am not sure quite what the impetus was for the mass influx of readers from Sweden, I don't mind. Welcome. I hope something I wrote was of value to you.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

A half a year has already gone by

Wow. Time flies. I am finishing up two summer courses and preparing to start another. I went to a virtual conference earlier in the spring and it was great to be able to share some data I'd been sitting on for a while. I attended a webinar on demand characteristics late last month, and got to catch the very end of SIPS a few days ago. In between I did my usual AP Psych exam reading. It's been busy.

While I am certainly pretty swamped much of the time, I am trying to take better care of myself. Work/life balance has always been something of a struggle for me, and I get the impression that for much of the last several years, I let work overtake the rest of my life. Lately, I've been trying to cut down on some of my work-related activities. I've rolled off some committees recently, and will likely roll of some more. Obviously, I'll take care of my teaching responsibilities. I am also accepting that with a 4/4 teaching load, it's not particularly realistic to have too ambitious of a research program. I do what I can, and am trying to do better at letting go. Other than that, I had become increasingly sedentary, which is somewhat out of character for me. Working remotely, in particular, in the midst of a pandemic turned me in to something of a shut-in, and that has had some unwanted, although thankfully minor, health implications. So, I've added regular power walks to my daily routine. That's brought me back down closer to a weight I would be comfortable with, and also means that some concerns doctors had last fall are no longer concerns. I've also made sure to just log off all the academic accounts at some point and decompress. That might mean watching a documentary instead, or binge-watching Rick and Morty. I've spent more time with my family in recent months than I had in ages, which is a really good thing. Now to see what the next half of the year brings.