Sociologist Sam Richards: A Radical Experiment in Empathy

It all begins with empathy.

Love this guy. He puts on great lectures and is a fantastic professor. He was named one of the 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.

This Ted Talk hit as high as the 3rd most viewed talk in the world.



Most of the time people are just trying to show off.
Should you ask a question during seminar? By PhD

Most of the time people are just trying to show off.

Should you ask a question during seminar? By PhD


America Has More Prisoners Than High School Teachers

If sitting in a prison cell was a job, it would be one of the most common jobs in the United States. In 2012, there were some1,570,000 inmates in state and federal prisons in the U.S., according to data from the Justice Department.
By contrast, there were about 1,530,000 engineers in America last year, 815,000 construction workers, and 1 million high school teachers, according to theBureau of Labor Statistics.

This does not even include the amount of inmates incarcerated in jails, and is missing 3 states because they didn’t get their numbers in on time. 
Something that is missing from this chart: This is the 3rd consecutive year that the prison population is decreasing. We are starting to see inmate populations level-off and decrease for the first time in decades.  
Which states are in the extremes?

In 2012, states with the highest imprisonment rates included Louisiana (893 per 100,000 state residents), Mississippi (717 per 100,000 state residents), Alabama (650 per 100,000 state residents), Oklahoma (648 per 100,000 state residents), and Texas (601 per 100,000 state residents).
Maine had the lowest imprisonment rate among states (145 per 100,000 state residents), followed by Minnesota (184 per 100,000 state residents), and Rhode Island (190 per 100,000 state residents).

Who are the offenders? First and foremost, men. After that it gets complicated.

In 2011 (the most recent data available), the majority (53 percent) of sentenced state prisoners were serving time for a violent offense, including robbery (14 percent), murder or nonnegligent manslaughter (12 percent), rape or sexual assault (12 percent) and aggravated or simple assault (10 percent). About 18 percent were serving time for property offenses, 17 percent for drug crimes and 11 percent for public order offenses, such as weapon violations, drunk driving, commercialized vice and court offenses.
White prisoners comprised 35 percent of the 2011 state prison population, while black prisoners were 38 percent and Hispanics were 21 percent.  The percentage of Hispanic inmates sentenced for violent offenses (58 percent) during 2011 exceeded that of non-Hispanic black (56 percent) and non-Hispanic white (49 percent) inmates, while the number of black inmates imprisoned for violent crimes (284,631) surpassed that of white (228,782) or Hispanic (162,489) inmates.

Probably not intentional, but there is a lot of new strong empirical research coming out that indicates a school-to-prison pipeline.

America Has More Prisoners Than High School Teachers

If sitting in a prison cell was a job, it would be one of the most common jobs in the United States. In 2012, there were some1,570,000 inmates in state and federal prisons in the U.S., according to data from the Justice Department.

By contrast, there were about 1,530,000 engineers in America last year, 815,000 construction workers, and 1 million high school teachers, according to theBureau of Labor Statistics.

This does not even include the amount of inmates incarcerated in jails, and is missing 3 states because they didn’t get their numbers in on time.

Something that is missing from this chart: This is the 3rd consecutive year that the prison population is decreasing. We are starting to see inmate populations level-off and decrease for the first time in decades.

Which states are in the extremes?

In 2012, states with the highest imprisonment rates included Louisiana (893 per 100,000 state residents), Mississippi (717 per 100,000 state residents), Alabama (650 per 100,000 state residents), Oklahoma (648 per 100,000 state residents), and Texas (601 per 100,000 state residents).

Maine had the lowest imprisonment rate among states (145 per 100,000 state residents), followed by Minnesota (184 per 100,000 state residents), and Rhode Island (190 per 100,000 state residents).

Who are the offenders? First and foremost, men. After that it gets complicated.

In 2011 (the most recent data available), the majority (53 percent) of sentenced state prisoners were serving time for a violent offense, including robbery (14 percent), murder or nonnegligent manslaughter (12 percent), rape or sexual assault (12 percent) and aggravated or simple assault (10 percent). About 18 percent were serving time for property offenses, 17 percent for drug crimes and 11 percent for public order offenses, such as weapon violations, drunk driving, commercialized vice and court offenses.

White prisoners comprised 35 percent of the 2011 state prison population, while black prisoners were 38 percent and Hispanics were 21 percent. The percentage of Hispanic inmates sentenced for violent offenses (58 percent) during 2011 exceeded that of non-Hispanic black (56 percent) and non-Hispanic white (49 percent) inmates, while the number of black inmates imprisoned for violent crimes (284,631) surpassed that of white (228,782) or Hispanic (162,489) inmates.

Probably not intentional, but there is a lot of new strong empirical research coming out that indicates a school-to-prison pipeline.


Many state and federal prisons run above the capacity they were built to hold.
(via)

Many state and federal prisons run above the capacity they were built to hold.

(via)



"Education is not just the filling of a pail, it is the lighting of a fire."
B. F. Skinner

U.S. Regions Exhibit Distinct Personalities, Research Reveals

“This analysis challenges the standard methods of dividing up the country on the basis of economic factors, voting patterns, cultural stereotypes or geography that appear to have become ingrained in the way people think about the United States,” said lead author Peter J. Rentfrow, PhD, of the University of Cambridge. “At the same time, it reinforces some of the traditional beliefs that some areas of the country are friendlier than others, while some are more creative.”  
The researchers analyzed the personality traits of more than 1.5 million people. Through various online forums/media (e.g., Facebook and survey panels), participants answered questions about their psychological traits and demographics, including their state of residence. The researchers identified three psychological profiles based on five broad dimensions of personality — openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism — also known as the “Big Five” personality traits. When the researchers overlaid the findings on a national map, they found certain psychological profiles were predominant in three distinct geographic areas. The data were collected over 12 years in five samples with participants from the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia. Overall, the samples were nationally representative in terms of gender and ethnicity, with the exception of a larger proportion of young people. 

While I think this is is pretty interesting, I disagree with the statement I bolded in the first paragraph. It doesn’t challenge standard methods so much as it adds another dimension that researchers should account for in their models. Some caveats: 1) causality is not accounted for in their model, so the researchers are not able to distinguish whether the pre-established environment causes personality differences between regions or if personality creates the environment; 2) There is a large selection issue. People move, and frequently. Are people self-selecting into these regions? None of those issues are accounted for in the research. 
Interesting nonetheless. 
So how accurate is this map?

U.S. Regions Exhibit Distinct Personalities, Research Reveals

“This analysis challenges the standard methods of dividing up the country on the basis of economic factors, voting patterns, cultural stereotypes or geography that appear to have become ingrained in the way people think about the United States,” said lead author Peter J. Rentfrow, PhD, of the University of Cambridge. “At the same time, it reinforces some of the traditional beliefs that some areas of the country are friendlier than others, while some are more creative.”  

The researchers analyzed the personality traits of more than 1.5 million people. Through various online forums/media (e.g., Facebook and survey panels), participants answered questions about their psychological traits and demographics, including their state of residence. The researchers identified three psychological profiles based on five broad dimensions of personality — openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism — also known as the “Big Five” personality traits. When the researchers overlaid the findings on a national map, they found certain psychological profiles were predominant in three distinct geographic areas. The data were collected over 12 years in five samples with participants from the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia. Overall, the samples were nationally representative in terms of gender and ethnicity, with the exception of a larger proportion of young people. 

While I think this is is pretty interesting, I disagree with the statement I bolded in the first paragraph. It doesn’t challenge standard methods so much as it adds another dimension that researchers should account for in their models. Some caveats: 1) causality is not accounted for in their model, so the researchers are not able to distinguish whether the pre-established environment causes personality differences between regions or if personality creates the environment; 2) There is a large selection issue. People move, and frequently. Are people self-selecting into these regions? None of those issues are accounted for in the research. 

Interesting nonetheless. 

So how accurate is this map?


Mental Health Issues Among Graduate Students

Undergraduate and graduate students alike often suffer from anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues (1, 2). Many students move to new cities or countries to start their degree and thus lack social connections and support, commonly feel overwhelmed by teaching and research loads, and often have persistent fears of failure and inadequacy.
In one study of over 3,000 international graduate students, 44% said they had mental health issues that “significantly affected their well-being or academic performance” (3). In addition, these can lead to graver health concerns, most dramatically suicide, which, among college students across 10 universities, was found to be highest among graduate students (4).

You should hear the stories that circle amongst the graduate students. Very little attention is given to the mental health of graduate students, which are a unique group of college students with different workloads, personal issues, and stressors than undergraduates. 
Click through for the citations.

Mental Health Issues Among Graduate Students

Undergraduate and graduate students alike often suffer from anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues (1, 2). Many students move to new cities or countries to start their degree and thus lack social connections and support, commonly feel overwhelmed by teaching and research loads, and often have persistent fears of failure and inadequacy.

In one study of over 3,000 international graduate students, 44% said they had mental health issues that “significantly affected their well-being or academic performance” (3). In addition, these can lead to graver health concerns, most dramatically suicide, which, among college students across 10 universities, was found to be highest among graduate students (4).

You should hear the stories that circle amongst the graduate students. Very little attention is given to the mental health of graduate students, which are a unique group of college students with different workloads, personal issues, and stressors than undergraduates. 

Click through for the citations.


So what will go on at nudity week?

On Tuesday, Oct. 1, there will be a nude yoga class that promises to “stretch your body perhaps in ways that it hasn’t been stretched before.” Organizers will provide mats, but ask attendees to bring a towel.

There will be nude cabaret, nude open mic night, nude body painting, personal testimonies about nudity and a panel on how issues like race and class intersect with nudity and body image.

Love it. Just make sure there are not a group of skeezy guys in the back trying to get in some sneak peaks. 


"People with advantages are loath to believe that they just happen to be people with advantages."
Charles Wright Mills

"

The public view of murder is especially distorted. They see it as very elaborate or interesting, and as one of the most frequent crimes. But let’s look at reality. Murders are less than 1% of the eight Part I crimes (murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson) (FBI, 2008).

Sherlock Holmes would have no interest whatever in most of the 16,929 murders reported in the United States for 2007 (FBI, 2008). Only 10 involved poison. Only 134 were by strangulation. Only 31 murders were classified as involving rape. Just 11 involved prostitution and commercialized vice. Gangland killings were tallied at 77. The largest category of murder circumstances is “miscellaneous arguments.” Murder is more likely to result from arguments over money or property than from romantic triangles, even if the latter make a better story.

"
— Marcus Felson and Rachel Boba- Crime and Everyday Life

"It is the beginning of scientific wisdom to recognize that not all questions have answers."
— David A. Freeman, Statistical Models and Shoe Leather

Why Prisoner Education Is Key to Reducing Crime

In August, the RAND Corporation released a meta-analysis confirming what criminal justice researchers have been reporting for years: Educating people while they’re behind bars makes them a lot less likely to return to prison once they get out. Specifically, RAND found that inmates who participated in correctional education programs were 43 percent less likely to become repeat offenders than inmates who didn’t.

…Patrick [Research Director] is quick to point out that spending more on prison education means spending less money elsewhere. Not only are criminal justice costs reduced, but “you’re keeping people off public assistance by letting someone come home and make a living wage. You’re keeping people off Medicaid. You’re inspiring these people to care about things that other people care about.”


Once as an undergrad, I went to see a professor in his office to discuss a paper that I was working on (something about PTSD and client-centered therapy). So I strolled into his office, which was in a pretty private location in the psychology department, and he had me sit down in an oversized chair and he sat at his desk.

We started to exchange pleasantries and discuss the paper, when I looked over to my left and noticed something that disturbed me deeply, and still does to this day: he had a large bottle of hand lotion and a box of tissues right next to the chair. He kept hand lotion and a box of tissues next to his oversized chair in his private office. I kept my cool and continued the conversation, and then I noticed he was left-handed. He was left-handed.

He had me sit (and other students for that matter) in the chair where he probably relaxes. Frequently. Frequently enough to keep supplies next to it.

I guess I’ll never really know if that is what he used it for, but I think I’m right about this one.

I like story time.