The irresistible sway of first impressions

Darwinian Business

We make our mind up about people after seeing their faces for barely a fraction of a second.

Far from being trivial, these impressions impact our decision making and have real world implications. For example, politicians that simply appear more competent are more likely to win elections.

Can we reliably discern character from people’s faces, or are we being misled?

In Face ValuePrinceton psychologist Alexander Todorov tells the scientific story of first impressions and argues the snap judgements we make of people’s faces are predictable, yet usually inaccurate.

Alexander Todorov manages to weave the psychological science of first impressions into a grand story, accompanied with slick photography and illustrations on virtually every other page which makes reading the book an engaging aesthetic experience. Face Value would make a great gift for anyone interested in the human mind, laymen and psychology nerds alike.

Physiognomist’s promises

The story starts with…

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How will we pay for all this?

Plain-speaking Economics

The coronavirus pandemic is of course primarily a social crisis, but the fiscal costs are also important. A sharp and sustained deterioration in the public finances could have major implications for future government spending and taxation. Fortunately, there are also some good reasons to be sanguine.

Let’s begin with the bad news. A slump in economic activity is inevitable and even desirable; we actually want most people to stop doing what they would normally be doing, in order to save lives. However, this will also lead to a surge in government borrowing, reflecting both the direct costs of the fiscal measures being taken to protect businesses, jobs and incomes, and the knock-on effects of a steep fall in GDP on welfare spending and tax revenues.

The headline figures are scary. Given all the uncertainties, it makes sense to talk in terms of ‘plausible scenarios’ rather than ‘forecasts’, and any hard…

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Charting coronavirus – down the rabbit hole…

Plain-speaking Economics

I’ve been doing a bit more digging into the data on COVID-19 deaths and some of the different ways to chart the progression of the new coronavirus. Mostly I’m just catching up with thinking already done by others, but hopefully this will still be interesting.

On Saturday I tweeted a link to a handy (if grim) tool produced by ‘Our World In Data’, which allows anyone to draw their own charts. I illustrated this with a simple chart of the total number of reported deaths per million people for a selection of European countries, including the UK (pasted below).  On this metric alone, the UK is currently performing less badly than some of its peers – but also worse than some others.

deaths per capita

Of course, this isn’t a competition, and there is a tragedy behind every number. But I still think it’s worth asking why such large differences exist and whether this…

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‘Intervention is essential, but does not signal a socialist state’

Plain-speaking Economics

The coronavirus job retention scheme is the biggest step the Chancellor has taken so far, both in terms of its nature (subsidising the wages of millions of private sector worker) and cost (potentially many tens of billions of pounds). This raises three questions. Is this degree of state intervention justified? What more is needed? And how will all this support eventually be stopped?

The first of these questions is relatively easy to answer. The government has made the exceptional decision to shut down large parts of the market economy to save many thousands of lives. It is only right that this is matched by exceptional policy responses to protect businesses and jobs, and thus prevent a temporary economic shock from becoming a prolonged depression.

The new wage subsidy scheme is cleverly designed. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has argued that it might encourage businesses to concentrate work among a small…

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THE Great Global Warming “Pause”


THE Great Global Warming Pause - CLIMATISM

BETWEEN the start of 1997 and the end of 2014, average global surface temperature stalled. This 18-year period is known as the global warming “pause” or “hiatus” and has been the subject of much research and debate in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

THE rise in global temperatures that alarmed climate campaigners in the 1990’s had slowed so much that the trend was no longer statistically significant. This despite one-third of Man’s entire influence on climate since the Industrial Revolution occurring since February 1997.

THE pause took a pause during the 2015/16 super El Niño which was the strongest such event in recorded history and helped to make 2015 and 2016 the warmest years in the modern warm period. However, 2017 witnessed the biggest drop in global temps in recorded history, seen across most data sets, bringing temps back inline with 1997-2014 averages, rendering “the pause” alive and well, to date.


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Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

Legal History Miscellany

By Cassie Watson; posted 11 December 2019.

As the current election campaign draws to a close amid increasingly shrill claims and counterclaims, I am reminded of a saying that, while common today, appears to have originated around the time of a much earlier election campaign.[1] In early July 1892 remarks made by “Mr Balfour” — presumably Arthur Balfour MP (1848–1930), then Leader of the House of Commons — were cited by fellow Tories in relation to the three categories of untruths alleged to be inherent in Gladstonian speeches about Irish Home Rule: “lies, damned lies, and statistics.”[2] While the possibility of (another) minority government is one route to pursue regarding this observation,[3] I am more interested in the statistics part of Balfour’s quotation, as the collection, analysis and interpretation of historical data are among the main methodologies utilised by criminal justice historians. The saying itself is now…

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Sex by Deception? Perjury?

@STILLTish. Gender Abolition

Sex by deception: Legal Case.

I was not intending to blog this case. I  fear the bald facts lend themselves to a curiosity born out of prurience. I myself was intrigued so I am not in any position to judge.  It is merely a natural reaction to the facts, as laid out in the case. Transcript

The bare facts of the case are:2FE8543F-E335-4869-B3A3-16817D7267D1 On reflection, I decided to blog as it raises the issue of Sex By Deception, currently a criminal offence. There is talk about reviewing the law.   Stonewall are one of the organisations lobbying for this:

571C4250-82AD-40AE-89F6-2F8F04CF8517Whilst there could be a progressive case for reviewing  the law around sex by deception (I am thinking of Spy cops) it’s also fraught with risk.  I am mainly thinking of  #CottonCeiling here.  The term #CottonCeiling was coined by a trans porn actor and activist, Drew DeVeux. It describes the “exclusionary”…

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Ireland (part three): Ourselves Alone – Eamon de Valera and the Arrows of Adversity

RGS History

dev 32By 1923, the civil war was over. The anti-treaty forces had been crushed, and the new Free State was established. The civil war left its legacy, though, not least in subsequent politics: the two sides of the civil war gave birth to the two political parties that have dominated Irish politics ever since.


The pro-treaty side that now governed (above, in 1923) formed a party that, by 1932, had coalesced into Fine Gael. Meanwhile, Eamon de Valera created Fianna Fail (below). It went on to become its largest party in independent Ireland, as it would remain until 2011.

FF 26If de Valera’s conduct in 1921-22 was at best deeply mistaken, and at worst malign, head discovered statesmanship quickly thereafter. Having lost his seat, he contemplated leaving politics. Instead, in 1926, he broke from and effectively broke Sinn Féin. Then, in 1927, he ate his old words about the oath: Fianna Fáil…

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Civil Rights in Song (5): the Politics of the Folk Revival, and the story of Josh White

RGS History

800px-Josh_White,_Café_Society_(Downtown),_New_York,_N.Y.,_ca._June_1946_(William_P._Gottlieb_09091)The day Martin Luther King stood by the Lincoln Memorial and spoke of his dream, also saw some of the great luminaries of the folk music scene of the day. Among those performing were someone most people have probably heard of: Bob Dylan.  I suspect very few have heard of Josh White. But, White’s story, and the story of America’s folk revival, gives us a slice of American social, political and cultural history. It takes us from the dust bowl to New York City, from the White House to the HUAC.

Cover_of_Francis_James_Child's_''English_and_Scottish_Popular_Ballads''Interest in the traditional music of Europe and America was hardly new. In the later part of the 19th century, James Francis Child was a Harvard academic: he wrote one of the most important studies of Chaucer, for example. What he is perhaps best remembered for is his collection of 305 traditional English and Scottish folk songs, colloquially…

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The Man Who Would Be Queen: Michael Bailey: {Part Three}

@STILLTish. Gender Abolition

Part 3:  The Man Who Would Be Queen: Autogynephiles.

Having seen many references to this book I have finally got around to tackling it.  The full text is available free  here: The Man Who Would Be Queen

Bailey is clearly fascinated with the topic of transsexualism and immerses himself in their subculture to recruit “subjects” for his research. He is not, at least in this book, concerned with the legislative framework to protect transsexuals. He also or doesn’t examine how any such laws that interacts with those enacted to protect the female sex.  His exposition of the underlying, erotic, motivations for transition does, however, reinforce the need for women’s, sex based, rights.

Bailey, uses prominent researcher Ray Blanchard’s  typology of transsexuals which differentiate between HSTS (homosexual transsexuals) and AGP transsexuals. The wider public, and many commentators, are either ignorant about this typology or reject it. Bailey believes transsexualism could illuminate…

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