Links for 30 Sept 04


Nostalgia Pics

For reasons which are not entirely nostalgia based – I promise – I’ve been looking through old photos. I’ve scanned a few and put them at the front of the gallery. They cover a random mix of people, in different places and in the date range 1998-2002. I resisted scanning anything from when I was at school – to the chagrin, i’m sure, of any old, nostalgia junky, school-friends who may read this blog (you know who you are).

If you hover the cursor over a thumbnail you get a little caption about that photo…


The Haas Effect

A neat little effect:

Moore says,

If two successive sounds are heard as fused, the location of the total sound is determined largely by the location of the first sound. This is known as the “precedence effect”, although it has been called the “Haas effect”…

This, among other things, stops you getting confused when a sound comes at you from two speakers at once.

Now, if you drop something and record the sound, and then play it back backwards, you can hear the echos that are normally masked.

(Thanks to Nicol, and his supervisor, for the info)

There is more, of course, in the book

B.C.J. Moore, An Introduction to the Psychology of Hearing, 5th Ed., Academic Press, San Diego (2003).


late night book editing quote

Tom: It is Good and True and those are some of our favourite things.

Matt: Good. True. Easy. Choose Two.


Morals on Copyright

The great thing about trying to coordinate book production over three continents is that whatever time of the day or night it is, there is always someone you can ring. I just wish we were working with more people in Japan so I’d have more to do in the hours when the Americans have left work but the Europeans haven’t got up yet.

I’ve hit a momentary lull, so here are some mental notes-to-self on the business of getting permission to reprint figures and excerpts from other people’s books, articles and websites (I am not a lawyer, so there may be errors in my understanding here – it’d love to hear any corrections/qualifications people have):

  • If I publish something again I will try and keep copyright of the figures, so some money-grabbing publisher isn’t trying to charge people to reuse them 60 years after my death (resulting in them not being reprinted usually)
  • If I write something again I will start on the figure permissions early. I imagine this is the sort of thing all authors write on their New Year’s Resolutions list, tell their children, have on an embossed plaque above their desk, etc.
  • In fact, I may even employ someone else to do the figures (preferably someone in publishing who understands the whole damn thing). Unfortunately this means that if write something again I will need to be being paid about 10 times more to be able to afford to outsource any of the work at a decent hourly rate.
  • Emailed permission from publishers/professionals is acceptable (e.g. from the publishers of a journal which holds copyright for the figure in a scientific paper which they’ve published [1]). These guys know what they are doing. Permission from an individual/unprofessional needs to be in writing, signed. When they say “It’s fine” they don’t really know what they are agreeing to (especially since you don’t really know what your publisher will do with the material), so you need to make them read the form and agree to it.
  • Organisations and individuals alike forget about your permission request. Ring them after you’ve emailed them. Keep tabs on all your permission-requests, chase everything after about 10 working days (maximum), don’t let anything drop from your responsibility on the assumption that the other party will do anything about it (rearrange the words “disaster”, “recipe” and “for” to make a common phrase or saying).
  • If the figure/excerpt you are using is a minor part of your work, and/or a minor part of the work you are reprinting from, make sure the copyright holder is aware of that
  • Properly credit everything. It’s a pain to try and source things which other people have used without giving a full acknowledgement of the origin. Sometimes you will just have to go to the library to fully source something. This is worth doing – it is often definitive (compared to google) and sometimes very rewarding (when you find out that something is copyright free or public domain for instance).
  • There are ways round copyright with derivations/redrawings, but I don’t understand them at all. Find out more about this
  • Some things you will just have to drop.

    [1] Another part of the general scam of scientific publishing. Scientists (paid by public money often) write, edit, peer-review and proof the articles for free, draw the figures, etc, etc and then the publishers hold the copyright and make money by selling the journal back to the University libraries (also paid for by public money).

  • Categories

    Quote #55

    Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

    Philip K. Dick


    Get me away from here I’m dying

    London, I’m leaving you
    London, I’ve given you my all and I’m becoming less and less
    London twenty-third of september two-thousand and four
    I can’t stand it any more
    You can keep the casual brutality of the tube
    The hours lost travelling
    A city not built to a human scale
    The rootless anonymity of the crowds
    The indifference of fear

    London, I’m sick of your insane demands
    London, when will you be worthy of your overblown reputation?
    London, when can I go into the supermarkets and buy back the hours I lost commuting?
    I’m addressing you
    Are you really going to let your emotional life be run by mammon?
    Do we all really believe our own PR?
    Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical joke?
    It occurs to me that I am being unfair
    I am talking to myself again

    London, you are a vampire city
    It’s like national service – compulsory, crowded, dirty and with a pervading air of violence. I’ve done my year, I want out
    A hundred pretty distactions and no time or money to do them
    London this is quite serious
    London this is the impression I get from a year of busy insecurity
    London is this correct?
    I’d better get right down to the job
    It’s true I don’t want to be in Westminster or drink in expensive wine-bars, I’m misanthropic and maladjusted anyway.
    London, I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel

    As of now I am based in Sheffield. With apologies to Allen Ginsberg.


    Quote #54

    ‘all things flow and nothing is permanent


    Quote #53, In the Midst of a Putative Peace

    …in the midst of a putative peace, you could, like me, be unfortunate enough to stumble on a silent war. The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out

    – Arundhati Roy


    What has psychology done?

    What has psychology done? A challenge to silence the doubters comes from the BPS in this Month’s issue of The Psychologist

    The Society’s Publications and Communications Board would like to produce a new document to complement the Annual Report, focusing on psychology rather than the Society. This report would outline significant scientific research developments and practical applications from the discipline in the last year.The aim is to promote the usefulness of the discipline to an external audience of research councils, politicians, civil servants, employers and journalists. Before potentially producing this as a separate document in 2006 we would like to pilot the project as a special feature in The Psychologist. Your contributions are sought. We are looking for brief descriptions of:

  • published research from the last year
  • partnerships between academia and the public or commercial sector leading to new products or applications of psychological knowledge; or
  • new professional developments which will have a significant impact on the lives of others.
    …you could even just send one sentence on what has been found, one on why it is important in terms of understanding people or making a difference to their lives, plus the reference. Material has to be intrinsically relevant and interesting to an extremely wide audience with little or no background knowledge of the area, and written in a way that makes it more so. It is a tough task, but this is a great opportunity to show what psychology has been up…This is your chance to silence the psychology doubters by showcasing interesting and useful research from the last year, so get writing. Send your contribution to by Monday 15 November. Feel free to get in touch before then if you have any questions about the process or the suitability of material. [my emphasis]

  • Categories

    The Wisdom of Crowds

    Real laziness here, stealing notes from a review of a book that I can’t be bothered to read
    The Book: The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many are Smarter than the Few by James Surowiecki
    The Review: London Review of Books. The Notes:

    Phenomenon: For many decisions the average of many judgements is often better than the judgement of a single, albeit expert, individual. Example: judging the number of jellybeans in a jar – typically even individuals who have previously been most accurate (‘the experts’) will be outperformed by the average answers.

    Seems analogous to the ‘less is more’ effect. This is, roughly, that sometimes an overabundance of information can distract you from applying an on-average-correct heuristic. Example: Answer this question Which city has more inhabitants: San Diego or San Antonio?. Who should do better at this question, Germans or Americans? The Germans, typically, have little knowledge of the size of American cities. So when given this pair they guess that the one they have heard of is larger (San Diego), and they are correct. The Americans know lots about American cities. They try to use all the information they have to make a correct decision. Which is more politically important? Which has more people I know living in it? Which felt bigger when I visited? Sometimes this information is helpful, sometimes it is distracting. Sometimes decision making based on more knowledge is outperformed by that based on less knowledge (here the analogy with the wisdom of crowds i guess). In one study [1] the German group using their simple recognition heuristic scored 100%. More generally, often neither method/group is always correct, but the simple, one criterion, rule can often be more correct.

    So one mechanism by which the wisdom-of-crowds effect works is probably just reducing the level of knowledge that is contributing to the decision. A dumb kind of wisdom!

    But crowds can often be dumb-dumb too, especially when they become herds. What are the conditions under which they keep their dumb-wisdom, the conditions when a mixture is better than the best expert?


    Requires certain conditions for the crowd to make good decisions: members of group must be willing to think for themselves; they must be mostly independent of each other; must be reasonably decentralised; must be some means of aggregating opinions into a collective judgement. If people start second-guessing each other, or following each other, the crowd becomes a herd and herds are bad at decision making…Crowds do not do well the question is not a straight-forwardly cognitive one. They are not good at moral judgments.

    You might argue that a group of people which are all thinking for themselves isn’t really a crowd. You might also argue that the wisdom of crowds doesn’t apply to moral judgements because individual judgements are non-commensurable in so many ways, not just because they are subject to lots of weird biases. If the choice is the same, but the individuals are making different decisions (e.g. they have access to contradictory information and/or they are using different criteria to select what a ‘good’ answer is) then aggregation isn’t possible.

    I think a more helpful book would not be The Wisdom of Crowds – Why the Many are Smarter than the Few but The Wisdom of Crowds – How the Many can be Smarter than the Few. Anyway, good to have some starting notes on when crowd decisions will outperform individual decisions – and when ’emergent’ decisions will be herd-like and unproductive.


    [1] Goldstein, D. G., & Gigerenzer, G. (2002). Models of ecological rationality: The recognition
    heuristic. Psychological Review, 109, 75-90. Online here


    The Gift

    Speaking to a !Kung bushman called !Xoma about a custom called hxaro, the anthropologist was told:

    Hxaro is when I take a thing of value and give it to you. Later, much later, when you find some good thing, you give it to me. When I find something good I will give it to you, and so we will pass the years together

    Asked about what would count as a fair exchange, !Xoma wouldn’t answer. Would three strings of beads be fair in exchange for a spear? Would two? Would one?

    He explained that any return would be acceptable because we don’t trade with things, we trade with people

    Excerpted from Deborah Tannnen’s (1990) You just don’t understand: Men and Women in Conversation, which is far better, far more sociolinquistically weighty and far more fun than it probably sounds.

    (Mapping of how patterns of hxaro gift exchange between tribes maintain social networks here)


    Links for 15th Sept 2004


    Quote #51

    It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the and that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘Try to be a little kinder.’

    – Aldous Huxley


    Links for 11th of September 04


    The Man Burned…