Monday, February 11
Nicole, Sophia, Billy, and Dan
Another topic studied by social scientists is how people value things in relative terms rather than absolute terms. How much are you willing to pay for a cup of coffee? How do you decide how much an iPhone is worth? What factors change our valuations? In literature, we can also recognize these kinds of relative evaluations in which protagonists make their decisions dependent on others. A related topic we might also consider in this unit is the concept of “defaults”: how marketers learn quickly that consumers tend to make choices based on the path of least resistance. For example, consider organ donations: if people are asked to opt-in (“sign if you want to participate”) to be an organ donor, it results in low participation. However, if they are asked to opt out (“sign if you don’t want to participate), it ensures a larger percentage of potential organ donors. This topic raises issues about how difficult it is for us and literary characters to deviate from the status quo.
Everything is relative, and that’s the point. Like an airplane pilot landing in the dark, we want runway lights on either side of us, guiding us to the place where we can touch down our wheels.
The mind is divided in many ways, but the division that really matters is between conscious/reasoned processes and automatic/implicit processes. These two parts are like a rider on the back of an elephant. The rider’s inability to control the elephant by force explains many puzzles about our mental life, particularly why we have such trouble with weakness of will.
— Jonathan Haidt
READING RESPONSE INSTRUCTIONS:
After completing the readings, add a Reading Response comment to the comment space beneath this schedule post, and respond to a peer’s comment. Your initial Reading Response Comment should answer these two questions for at least one reading from each of the two categories:
- Literature and Social Science: Discuss an objection or parallel you drew from this source.
- What a well-formed question related to this reading that you would like us to ask Professors Dan and Cathy?