Thursday, June 7, 2012

Chris Dillow — Self-Perpetuating Inequality

- In the Stanford prison experiment, randomly-appointed "guards" behaved brutally to randomly-assigned "prisoners".
- The Oak School experiment shows that pupils who are randomly deemed intelligent do better than others; this is the Pygmalion effect, whereby people live up or down to expectations.
 - People who are primed to conform to a stereotype of poor academic achievement (African Americans (pdf), low-casteIndians, women on maths tests) do worse in tests than people who are not so primed.
These experiments suggest that it is inequality that generates behaviour, rather than behaviour that generates inequality. In Lewis's story, the boss is greedy because s/he is the boss - she's not the boss because she's greedy. In the Stanford experiment, guards are brutal because they are guards, not because they become guards because they have a nasty nature. And people can differ in academic ability not (just) because of innate differences but because they live up and down to stereotypes.
Read it at Stumbling and Mumbling
Self-Perpetuating Inequality
by Chris Dillow | Investors Chronicle (UK)

We've been through this before in other posts, but it is worth repeating since it is so important culturally and institutionally. It's not just a matter of weeding out the sociopaths but also of changing institutions and social customs like hazing (up over down) and bullying (in over out). These behaviors carry forward into institutional design.

1 comment:

Leo Foresta said...

Thanks for this piece Tom.

These observations reveal something deeper and more essential than the sociological phenomenon of inequality self perpetuation.
They show that ideas in our mind and in our subconscious create reality.
And that ideas consciously or unconsciously held by different individuals resonate in creating reality. Furthermore, symbols play a potent role in ideas and therefore in the creation of reality.
Kind regards,
Leo Foresta