Thursday, 24 November 2016

'Fake news' is poison for the body politic – can it be stopped?




Vincent O'Donnell, RMIT University

If prescription drugs contained as much fake content as the news coverage of the 2016 US presidential election, there would be wide demands for government action. But, it was only news.

However, “fake news” can be as poisonous to the body politic as fake pharmaceuticals are to human life. Since the election, self-styled satirist and political disrupter Paul Horner has expressed his fears that his fake news elected Donald Trump.

Democracy stands on fragile pillars of trust, accountability and responsibility. Only when they are in place do citizens willingly consent to be governed. And by choosing to live in a democracy, voters undertake the responsibility to be informed and engaged.

Their representatives, in response, are accountable to represent the balance of electorate interests, but are not delegates – as Edmund Burke established in his Speech to the Electors of Bristol in 1774.
Our democratic edifice rests on the informed voter. Fake news is the concrete cancer gnawing away at the structural integrity of our society.

Facebook, to date, has been a principal metastasising agent. But finally, its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has acknowledged that Facebook is part of the problem. He has committed the company to remedial action.

Facebook has become a news agency, not just a technology company: almost 40% of American adults get their news online.

But then, editorial algorithms can only be so smart.

Je suis satire


Fake news has many faces – some old and familiar, some the product of new technology and the social media revolution.

The first category, satire, has been with us since Aristophanes was in short skirts. It is a necessary and healthy part of a democracy. Modern satire is often based on fake news. Examples abound in theatre, on television and on the internet – The Onion and the Betoota Advocate being two among many. This hoax was a classic, and successful.

The second category of fake news is all about money.

BuzzFeed recently revealed that the Macedonian town of Veles was home to more than 100 websites churning out pro-Trump news. The site was run by young Macedonians with no interest in US politics, but who had every interest in exploiting the advertising revenue from their linkage with AdSense. This guaranteed them income from every page view of their imaginative takes, real or imagined, on events in the US presidential election.

A third and darker category manufactures misleading news for political purposes. Sometimes it simply serves the ideological agenda of a political party; sometimes it is malicious in its falsehoods, seeking to foment distrust and dissent. The far right is particularly adept at this, like the Breitbart attack on successful immigrants from the Middle East.

Criminal intent could be a fourth category. Such sites might use fake news as an initial hook, but are more likely to rely on avarice, greed, lust or loneliness to complete the deception.

How does fake news work?


Fake news works in the same way as effective propaganda.

First, every story begins with factual elements, names, places and events. This forms a connection to the reader’s experience.

The story then moves in directions that accord with thoughts and attitudes the reader has or is predisposed to accept. Thus the particular success of the fake stories with Trump supporters, whose distrust – or hatred – for Democrat Hillary Clinton was visceral.

The story then supports the revelations with facts that are consistent with the imagined events, places them in settings that are generally familiar but less known: foreign cities, small town America, or sleazy porn outlets. The report then corroborates the tale by naming authoritative witnesses or actors who have carriage of the events.

And, crucially, the report adopts the style, presentation and format of genuine news. And it doesn’t help when the mainstream media pick up a story without checking.

Collectively, these elements are going to make Facebook’s task of eliminating fake news extraordinarily difficult without knowledgeable human intervention.

Ways forward


First, there is no substitute for individual scepticism. As has been said about money deals on the internet: “If it seems too good to be true, then it’s certainly not”.

The second is advertiser pressure. Zuckerberg is not responding to fake news out of the goodness of his heart. Advertisers don’t want to be tarred with a fake news association – so, they are saying, “change things”.

The third is source. The established media are failing to capitalise on their source credibility. They have abandoned the check and recheck practices of old in favour of a first to publish, first to correct mentality. That can change.

Perhaps we will see the emergence of a white net, where publishers commit to accuracy above all else, and capitalise on something British thinker David Ricardo would recognise as their competitive advantage. Yes, it would rely on subscriptions, but it would leave all the rest to a free grey net – one that no-one trusts for news.

The Conversation
Vincent O'Donnell, Honorary Research Associate of the School of Media and Communication, RMIT University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Girls just want to wear pants: the push for gender-neutral uniforms




by Evelyn Tsitas,

Girls suffer from conformity and societal expectation from a very early age. It begins as early as primary school, with the uniforms spelling out the inequity – boys get to wear practical shorts and tops that are easy to move in, while girls get dresses that curb their physical activity.

From 2017 female students at Melbourne private school Carey Grammar 
will be able to opt for gender neutral uniforms. In the UK, 80 state schools, including 40 primary schools, allow girls to wear pants and boys to wear skirts. This is part of a government initiative to encourage LGBTQ rights in the classroom.

Even with most school students in American able to wear casual clothes rather than uniform, dress codes throughout the country tend not to be very accommodating to transgender or gender-fluid students.

The moves to gender neutral uniforms are part of a wider recognition of the importance of building a culture of inclusion and diversity. The current school uniforms for girls are part of a legacy of inequity in which women are seen as ornamental accessories first, equal members of society second.

School uniforms prescribed for girls are uncomfortable, impractical and downright stressful – I have been there, and I applaud any school that enables girls to wear a uniform that allows them the freedom of dress boys take for granted.

My own school uniform is seared into my memory, and that of all my friends. Every school reunion, talk will inevitably turn to the uniform and the notorious ‘knicker checks’ and skirt length checks at the girls’ school I attended.

In these enlightened times of equity and diversity, it will seem strange indeed, and a violation of all sorts of rights, when I describe how the Middle School Headmistress would line the girls up and make us expose our underwear to check we were wearing the regulation school colours and sturdy cotton knickers, brown for every day and bright yellow to go under the obscenely short yellow sports tunic.

You lost House points if you turned up to school wearing non-regulation knickers. Those detested Bonds Cottontails that make my stomach turn if I see them lined up crisply in a shop, full of their intentional virginal overtones. Double points were taken off for the naughty fashion forward girls who provoked the Headmistress’s ire by turning up in brightly coloured Witches Britches, which created a shock of static electricity from belly button to knee.

But we girls were not outraged. We were suffering too much to be outraged. Oh, how we suffered in our uniforms. Suffering from the uncomfortable, humiliating, unflattering and restricting school uniform. Suffering from the sports tunic that was so short it meant every girl opted to wear tracksuit pants underneath no matter how hot it was.

How we avoided heat stroke was a miracle. In the middle of summer, on the sports oval, there we would be – dark brown tracksuit pants affording us a modicum of modesty and ability to move without everyone looking at our nether regions.

If that wasn’t bad enough, any girl who had the misfortune of actually having a bust ended up wearing the heavy wool dark brown jumper all summer as well, as the summer sports uniform was cut so that it gaped in the middle buttons across one’s chest, save for those who had not yet entered puberty.

Did I mention this foul ensemble was poly cotton, so mercilessly clung to our puppy fat? I can’t recall if the school produced any sporting champions. It would appear unlikely given the clothing restrictions.

The general uniform was equally as bad. Let me describe it in all its glory – an A lined poly cotton dress, with buttons down the front so each could gape apart in turn, especially if you had a bust. Under a totalitarian regime, peons will find a way to subvert the system, and so we did – we wore the thick jumper year round as a mass protest against ‘the gape’, and the more radical among us would roll the top up so it sat firmly under the bust.

The winter uniform was marginally better because the cold weather afforded us a degree of comfort. We still had to wear jumpers to cover ‘the gape’ in the button down beige shirt, which made us all look like we had jaundice and restricted our movements, but girls with older sisters had it worse. Understandably to save money their parents made them wear their older sister’s heavy wool tunics, which hobbled any activity.

The rest of us ‘got away’ with a flared brown shirt that sat fetchingly on our stomachs, and clung to the thick wool tights that complemented the look. As our parents reminded us, they were paying school fees, so the inevitable tears and snags on the tights had to be stitched up like a scar on Frankenstein’s creature. Younger girls were cautioned against imaginative play in the school gardens lest they snag their hose.

The fact is that at the girls’ school I attended, the uniform in turn infantilised and sexualised us all, and at the end of our last exams, many of us felt compelled to burn the beastly garments which had caused us so much suffering over six long years. I would like to find the people on the School Board and force them to wear that bloody uniform. Did they think it made us more ‘ladylike’? Did they not give a damn?

Despite my experience, I am a strong supporter of school uniforms. Get it right, as they do for boys, and it really is a wonderful democratic form of dress for students. As a working mother, it is one less thing to think about.

As the mother of sons, I have not had a reprise of the misery I suffered for someone else’s vision of what girls should look like.

A school uniform shouldn’t inflict misery on one gender, which is exactly what archaic girls’ uniforms do. Let’s be honest, a dress is a fashion statement, nothing more, and while I admit to being very partial to a fetching dress and high heels in the workplace, I am doing nothing more physically stressful than sitting at a desk, or going to meetings.

Clothing should be appropriate, and at school, girls should be afforded the same comfort and practicality in clothing as boys. Indeed, all children should have the right to be comfortable, and warm, and cool, and able to move without feeling awkward about their bodies or revealing too much flesh because of ridiculously cut outfits.

Anyone who objects to gender neutral uniforms should be forced to wear a school girl’s dress for a week and try and do what we expect girls to do in that unsuitable attire.  It is said that Ginger Rogers could do exactly what Fred Astaire did, but while dancing backwards with high heels on. Let’s not make education a similar exercise for girls because of what we expect them to wear.

This article was originally published on the Online Opinion website


Monday, 14 November 2016

A call for innovative responses to youth justice




By Stan Winford, Principal Coordinator, Legal Programs

The history of youth justice in Australia over the last 200 years or so is characterised by the failure of punitive detention to impact on recidivism or to address at an individual or systemic level the underlying issues which have propelled many young people into the justice system and into custody. Across Australia, youth detention facilities house a disproportionate number of detainees with mental health issues and cognitive impairments, limited educational attainment, and histories of abuse, trauma and victimisation. Detention facilities have effectively become warehouses for vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, failing to effectively support education and rehabilitation, instead engendering criminogenic relationships and behaviour.

Aboriginal people have been more exposed to this failure than any other group, and are devastatingly over-represented in the youth justice system, particularly in the Northern Territory. Not enough has been done by successive governments to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Aboriginal people represent approximately 30% of the population of the Northern Territory, but 96% of children and young people in detention in the Northern Territory are Aboriginal.

Jurisprudence, criminology and behavioural science all tell us that children and young people have a greater capacity for rehabilitation than adults. Yet the evidence shows that detention facilities provide an education in crime, and children who have been detained are more likely to re-offend in future. Detention is also the most costly form of responding to youth offending. Last year, governments across Australia spent $698 million on youth justice, and most of it (62.8 per cent, or $438 million) was spent on detention rather than community based responses. Detaining children and young people in closed environments is inherently unsafe. In the last five years, there have been investigations into youth detention facilities in almost every Australian state and territory. Violence and the use of excessive force appear to be endemic.

The documented backgrounds of children and young people in detention include very high rates of family violence, parental drug and alcohol abuse and contact with child protection systems. Rather than addressing this deep-seated trauma, however, youth detention exacerbates it by imposing additional trauma in the form of an uncompromising and authoritarian environment where violence – from other detainees and from authorities – is a constant threat.

If these costly facilities are not reducing re-offending and are harming young people, the question must be asked: why do we persist with this approach? Can we respond to trauma with trauma informed practices that address the underlying issues rather than their symptoms? Are there innovative alternatives?

It may be that the continued existence of youth detention centres themselves – with their consumption of a disproportionate share of juvenile justice budgets, and their tendency to present a deceptively appealing ‘out of sight, out of mind’ solution to a complex problem – create the greatest barriers to the development and adoption of alternative responses.

Despite this, alternative responses do exist, and demonstrate a path forward for youth justice. In Victoria, for example, Parkville College incorporates culturally appropriate and trauma informed practices, and establishes safeguards for young people in detention. Parkville College is a school within a detention facility in Melbourne.  Parkville College employs a therapeutic and trauma informed approach to learning and teaching. It aims to create lasting change for incarcerated students by establishing positive relationships and addressing the impact of trauma. It offers cultural connections to Koorie students and incorporates effective pathways for young people to maintain their education without interruption while transitioning out of detention.

Critically, it also helps create a safe environment for young people, and treats education as a right not a privilege. In many youth justice facilities, detainees frequently miss out on education because of the unavailability of custodial staff to supervise them, or because the ‘good order and security’ of the facility is prioritised above all else.  Normally, when education meets custody, custody wins. By contrast, if a young person is not available to participate in a class at Parkville College, education staff – having an obligation to teach them – can ask where they are, and for custodial staff to make them available.  Even if there is some valid reason for the absence of the student, the ability for teaching staff to ask the question provides an important measure of accountability. The learning environment established by the presence of teaching staff creates a fundamentally different culture, while the physical presence of teaching staff alongside custodial staff minimises the risk of inappropriate treatment.

Nationally and internationally, there are many other examples of innovative approaches to youth justice like Parkville College. Other jurisdictions are successfully harnessing the opportunities offered by restorative justice, therapeutic justice, justice reinvestment, culturally informed justice approaches, and solution-focussed courts to create more positive outcomes for young people.  Many of these responses are based on ‘user-centred’ approaches to designing solutions to entrenched and systemic problems. They recognise that to have the best chance of identifying opportunities for early intervention and diversion, the trajectory of people’s journeys through justice systems and processes must be understood. These are responses that focus on reducing trauma, and are informed by the people who have the most at stake in seeing them adopted. These responses focus on the power of education to transform young lives, disrupting the ‘trauma to prison pipeline’ and putting young people back on track. Innovative responses like these represent the best opportunity we have to change our approach for the better, so that another generation of young people are not lost to a system that fails to responds to their needs and the needs of the community.

The CIJ has formally provided the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory with a submission on innovative responses to youth justice.  Keep an eye out for the full submission on the Royal Commission website here.

This article was originally published on the Centre for Innovative Justice Blog.  

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

What effect will closet Trump voters have on the US Election?




Alex Kusmanoff, RMIT University; Fiona Fidler, University of Melbourne, and Sarah Bekessy, RMIT University

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump recently claimed “phony polling” is suppressing his vote and predicted the outcome of the US election will be “Brexit times five”.

By “Brexit times five”, Trump is referring to the surprising referendum result in favour of Britain leaving the European Union, an outcome that went against the predictions of most polls. Given the unexpected triumph of Britain’s “Leave” campaign, is it possible that Trump could produce a surprise result of even greater proportions?

Many explanations are put forward to account for voting patterns, especially when they don’t match the polls.

Good sampling methodology – that is, how to choose a group of people likely to reflect the characteristics of the broader population – is key to ensuring accurate and useful results. An understanding of likely voter turnout is also important, especially in the US and other countries where voting is voluntary.

But other factors, such as the language and wording used, can also effect the results of any survey, including electoral polls.

One likely factor in the discrepancy between the pre-referendum Brexit polls and the final result was social desirability bias – the human tendency to portray ourselves in the most favourable light. This bias may not necessarily be conscious. It’s common in social surveys, where the need to be seen to be doing “the right thing” can overwhelm honest responses.

For example, it’s socially desirable for people to disagree with the statement “I sometimes feel resentful when I don’t get my own way”, even though it’s likely everybody has felt this way at some time. Self-reporting of alcohol consumption is typically 40-50% lower than actual consumption rates.
In the case of Brexit, the “Leave” campaign became associated with xenophobia and racism. Because this was regarded negatively by mainstream society, it likely resulted in people understating their support for the “Leave” campaign when asked by pollsters.

Social desirability bias is exacerbated by the presence of other people, so it’s more prominent when survey questions are asked directly by an interviewer, either in person or over the phone.

If social desirability was a factor in the inconsistency between the Brexit polls and the final result, we should see a difference between the polls taken by telephone interviews and those conducted online.
Let’s look at the polls from the final week of the Brexit campaign. Out of five telephone polls, none predicted a win for “Leave”. Out of eight online polls, four predicted a win.

This is particularly surprising because one might expect lower polling for the “Leave” vote in online polls, since this method captures younger voters who were (at least publically) more opposed to Brexit. Assuming no other methodological issues were at play, this suggests that social desirability may have been a factor.

Like the “Leave” campaign, Trump’s campaign is associated with the socially negative attributes of xenophobia and racism, as well as sexism and allegations of sexual misconduct. This is likely to cause a social desirability bias with a tendency for people to under report their support for Trump.

Now let’s look at Trump’s “Brexit times five” claim. In both telephone and online polls taken during the last week of the Brexit campaign, the average result was 46.5% for “Remain” and 44.5% for “Leave”. Excluding the undecided voters, this equates to 51% for “Remain” and 49% for “Leave”.
The result of the actual vote was 48% for “Remain” and 52% for “Leave”. On the basis of this simplistic analysis, and with this particular mix of telephone and online polls, we could argue that social desirability bias suppressed the polled support for “Leave” by around 3%.

As of November 1, the US polling aggregation website FiveThirtyEight says the national averages for the popular vote in the US election are 49.2% for Clinton and 44.5% for Trump, a difference of 4.7% in favour of Clinton.

If Trump is able to achieve “Brexit times five” – that is, gain 15% more votes on election day than the polls would suggest – he would indeed be well-placed for victory. But unlike Brexit, this result would need to be repeated in each state and reflected in the Electoral College votes, rather than just a single national vote.

Although important and often present, the effects of social desirability bias are likely to be relatively minor in polls that are properly conducted, and only likely to cause surprise results in a tight race. The degree to which the polling averages may be misled by social desirability bias depends on the mix of methods used to collect the answers – with a greater reliance on telephone polling more likely to capture a greater degree of bias.

So while it’s possible that Trump’s polling is depressed, and while he may win more votes than expected on Election Day, he’s still unlikely to win the Presidency.

The Conversation
Alex Kusmanoff, PhD candidate, Inter-disciplinary Conservation Science and Research Group, RMIT University; Fiona Fidler, Associate professor, University of Melbourne, and Sarah Bekessy, Associate professor, RMIT University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Revising for exams - why cramming the night before rarely works





Amy Reichelt
, RMIT University

In our five-part series, Making Sense of Exams, we’ll discuss the purpose of exams, whether they can be done online, overcoming exam anxiety, and effective revision techniques.

The date for an important exam is looming. You know you have to study for it. Suddenly, it’s the evening before the dreaded date, and you feel like you haven’t studied enough, if at all. It’s time to cram all the information you can into your brain.

We know that to do well in exams, you have to remember your material to then demonstrate your knowledge during the test. But is an intense night of study an effective way of learning?
Learning information that can then be recalled in an often stressful environment is taxing on the brain.

In the best situations we can forget things like our colleague’s names when trying to introduce them to someone.

In a high pressure situation our brains can easily perform sub-optimally.

How to remember information in the long term


In cognitive psychology, a discrimination can be drawn between deep and shallow processing of information. This is known as the Levels of Processing theory which was proposed by researchers in the 1970’s. They argued that “deep processing” led to better long-term memory than “shallow processing”.

Shallow processed information can be encoded by the brain based on the simple characteristics of the words, rather than the meaning. So the knowledge is only able to be stored in short-term memory stores, where it is only retained for a short period.

To process information deeply, the meaning and importance of the information is encoded. Relations between concepts are linked together in an elaborate manner, so more understanding of the information is able to be demonstrated.

Due to the more meaningful analysis of the material, stronger and more long lasting memories can be formed.

Taking the time to elaborate and assign meaning to information allows easier recall. However, this process takes time, and when an entire subject needs to be crammed into your memory in a short period of time, deep processing can’t be performed.

So cramming can work for a short-term recall of the information, but this information will rapidly be lost.

Re-reading notes is not enough


Re-reading through notes is often not enough to cement information into your memory.
Spider diagrams (above) or mind maps have been found to be more effective then conventional note taking for the retention of memory. from www.shutterstock.com

A way of encoding information more deeply is to write diagrammatic notes. Spider diagrams, mind maps and concept maps are visual stimuli and are more easily remembered than a list of points or blocks of text.

Condensing information down into single word cues can then efficiently trigger the recall of large amounts of information.

Hand writing revision notes can also help you learn information more deeply and helps you to get into the practice of writing rapidly in an exam setting.

Typing on a computer can also increase distraction, as the temptation to procrastinate can increase.

A lack of sleep can affect your performance


Last minute revision is synonymous with a poor night’s sleep, if any sleep at all.

The dilemma presented is that you can either stay up and study to commit as much information to memory as possible, or forfeit a night’s sleep.

Sleep, however, is essential in forming enduring memories – and a lack of sleep is shown to be self defeating in terms of memory recall.

Scientists still do not fully understand why sleep is so important for brain function, but it is known that sleep is important in the consolidation of memory.

This is the process of forming an enduring memory from short-term stores into long-term memory.
Your brain goes through different stages of sleep. The deepest stage of sleep is known as Slow Wave Sleep and this period is proposed to be vital in the consolidation of memories.

The hippocampus is essential in the consolidation of memories, in particular in forming episodic memories, which requires linking the features of a memory together.

Studies have revealed in mice that the neurons in the hippocampus activated during learning a maze became active again during Slow Wave Sleep. The reactivation of neurons is proposed to strengthen the new connections.

So a good night’s sleep after learning new information is essential to forming memories. It’s beneficial to get sleep rather than staying awake and going into an exam without rest.

Procrastination can pile on the pressure


Despite the deadline of exams to study for, mundane tasks suddenly become more appealing, like rearranging a bookshelf, or cleaning your desk, instead of revising for an exam. The tasks we can occupy ourselves with when procrastinating are typically immediately rewarding but only have a short-term value.

The more important task of studying can lead to a bigger reward - passing the exam, however this reward is not immediate.

Humans tend to be motivated for small, immediate rewards. The value of passing a test certainly outweighs smaller, immediate rewards like playing video games; when the deadline approaches, the importance shifts. This usually leads to a long night of study before the exam.

It has been suggested procrastinators may be a certain personality type, in particular people who are thrill seekers.

Leaving an important task until the last minute increases adrenalin and stress hormones, and you can get a rewarding “rush” once its complete. The reinforces the idea that such people work better under pressure.

Familiar environment can prompt memory


Even if you arrive at the exam the morning after a long night of study, feeling sleep deprived and as if you haven’t learnt enough, all may not be lost.

Being in the exam hall at school, college or university can help you recall information. The familiar environment can increase performance as the stimuli around you can prompt memory.

For example, a science exam being taken in a science classroom can cue memories, these cues aren’t present in a strange environment such as taking an exam in a race course hall.

This is known as the environmental reinstatement effect, which occurs because the location you are in can act as a prompt for past memories.

Environmental cues can trigger memory recall, so something as simple as having your pencil case on your desk while studying and again during the exam could assist in prompting memories.

Tips for remembering information

  1. Hand write out your notes instead of typing
  2. Get a good night’s sleep before an exam
  3. Write a revision plan and start early
The Conversation
Amy Reichelt, Lecturer, ARC DECRA, RMIT University
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Why sugar is so much worse for teenagers' brains

Image via iStock


Amy Reichelt, RMIT University
The rate of obesity is increasing worldwide and the increase has been particularly dramatic in young people. Young people are the greatest consumers of high-energy, sugary and fat-laden “junk” foods and sweetened drinks.

The heightened metabolism and rapid growth during puberty can protect against obesity. However, easy access to cheap junk foods and increasingly sedentary lifestyles outweighs the protection from growth spurts.

Diets high in refined sugar and saturated fat not only contribute to weight gain and associated health issues, but also have a profoundly detrimental impact on brain function.

It is known excessive consumption of junk foods damage areas of the brain essential for learning and memory processes. Neurons in brain regions, including the hippocampus, that encodes memories, no longer work efficiently, leading to poorer learning.

This is of great concern as adolescence is a critical formative period for learning about the world. Adolescence is also a time of newly found independence, including food choices.

Recent research in rodents has shown the adolescent brain is at an increased risk of developing diet-induced cognitive dysfunction. Adolescent, but not adult, mice develop memory problems after consuming high-fat diets.

Teenage rats that drank sugary beverages were less able to remember a specific location leading to an escape hatch. This was compared to adult rats drinking sugary beverages, and teenage rats that had low-sugar diets.

The brains of the adolescent sugar-diet rats also showed increased levels of inflammation in the hippocampus, disrupting learning and memory function. Inflammation in the brain can contribute to cognitive decline and dementia.

The negative effects of obesity on the brain have been observed in young people too. Obese adolescents performed worse at maths, spelling and mental flexibility than healthy-weight adolescents. Structural brain scans revealed that obese teenagers had smaller hippocampi. This provides evidence that excessive body fat impacts the brain’s learning centre.




The Conversation, CC BY-ND


Teenage brains are a work in progress


The teenage brain undergoes major developmental changes in terms of structure and function. Adolescence is a period of increased neuroplasticity due to the dramatic changes in connectivity within brain regions.

Brain-imaging studies show that the prefrontal cortex doesn’t fully mature until the early 20s. A major role of the prefrontal cortex is performing executive functions. This term encapsulates behavioural control, attention and decision-making.

Poor regulation of the prefrontal cortex during adolescence can explain the increased risk taking behaviours in teenagers, including dangerous driving, drug use and binge drinking.

Educational efforts to provide teens with information about unsafe behaviours tends to fall on deaf ears. The prefrontal cortex helps us to resist performing behaviours triggered by events in the environment. Resisting these behaviours in the face of immediate reward can be difficult, particularly for teenagers.

Teenage brains love rewards


The risky behaviours teenagers engage in are often immediately rewarding. The brain’s reward system releases the neurotransmitter dopamine when stimulated by pleasurable events, increasing the drive to carry out these activities.

Teenagers are particularly drawn to rewards, including eating tasty foods high in fat and sugar. The adolescent reward system is sensitive to stimulation and may be permanently altered by overactivation during this period.

Combined with the reduced ability to resist rewarding behaviours, it is not surprising that teenagers prefer to eat foods that are easy to obtain and immediately gratifying, even in the face of health advice to the contrary.

Changes in the brain caused by overconsumption of sugary foods during adolescence can manifest in later life as difficulties in experiencing reward. Research has shown male rats that drank sugar water during adolescence showed reduced motivation and enjoyment of rewards when they were adults.

These behaviours are core features of mood disorders including depression. Importantly, this shows that how we eat during adolescence can impact brain function as adults, leading to long-lasting changes in food preference and learning about rewards.

Teenage brains are more plastic


Excessive consumption of junk foods during adolescence could derail normal brain maturation processes. This may alter normal development trajectories, leading to enduring behavioural predispositions – in this case, the habit of consuming fatty and sugar foods, leading to obesity.

Fortunately, the increased plasticity of the adolescent brain means that young people may be more responsive to change. Opportunities to identify and intervene in high-risk youths may avert destructive negative behavioural spirals that may originate in adolescence. This can encourage life-long healthy habits.

The Conversation
Amy Reichelt, Lecturer, ARC DECRA, RMIT University
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

When compulsion becomes crime


Image via iStock
by Rob Hulls, Director, Centre for Innovative Justice
This week is Responsible Gambling Awareness Week, a chance to reflect on how gambling has embedded itself into our culture, and whether the extent to which some participate in it is causing more harm than we currently realise.
Criminal behaviour is one of those potential harms. For a time, it was even a criteria in clinical tools used to diagnose gambling addiction. Whether a symptom of disorder or a consequence, however, the relationship between problem gambling and offending is not well understood.
Certainly, we see the occasional media story about corporate players who, to fund their high stakes habit, help themselves to funds which did not, strictly speaking, belong to them. We may also hear about more ordinary individuals who - perhaps working as a bookkeeper or in a bank - embezzled from their employer to fund a pokies habit and then were sentenced to jail. When we do hear these stories, most likely we think, ‘serves them right’, assuming it is just a consequence of greed.
What we don’t hear about is what might have driven them to obsessive gambling in the first place, or kept them there when it was no longer much fun - about the way in which mental illness or family violence, for example, can drive people to seek solace in bright, warm environments like gaming venues.
Similarly, we don’t hear about how gambling interacts with other factors which drive people into criminal behaviour, or how it might prevent them from getting out again. For, though it may be the primary cause of crime in only a small number of cases, research indicates that gambling can be a significant cause of re-offending. After all, even if an offender has been rehabilitated through their contact with the justice system - receiving effective treatment for mental illness, substance abuse or gambling addiction itself – gambling debt may await them upon release. Often the quickest way to repay that debt, especially for those accustomed to offending, is to commit another crime.
These are just some of the stories emerging from the Centre for Innovative Justice’s research into the intersection of problem gambling and the criminal justice system. Others concern vulnerable people, particularly women, coerced into offending - much of it drug related - as a way of repaying loan sharks from their particular community, or because their partner has spent their Centrelink benefits to fund a pokies habit and left them with no option but to steal to feed their kids In fact, a disproportionate number of inmates of Victoria’s women’s prison are there for offences that can be traced back to gambling debt, whether theirs or their partner’s – women whose children may then be removed and become vulnerable to crime themselves.
This seems a puzzling situation. Nobody benefits, including the community, if vulnerable people with no prior history of offending end up in prison. After all, we know that there is no better training ground for crime. On a cost-benefit analysis alone, therefore, the income we may be deriving from the gaming industry must be weighed up against the other costs.
The legal system needs to understand this issue better if it is going to respond effectively – including by engaging with growing evidence about changes to the neural pathways that can occur as a result of habitual and compulsive behaviour, and the cycle of anticipation and reward in which people can find themselves trapped. Knowledge about neural pathways should then converge with knowledge about offending pathways – the trajectories which can lead problem gamblers into crime, or in which gambling can entrench, or be entrenched by, other forms of anti-social behaviour.
Every case should be viewed independently, of course, and we should certainly guard against gambling becoming an excuse for crime. Courts rightly look for a nexus between an addiction and offending – but they are not currently supported with adequate information about more recognised forms of addiction. Knowledge is further curtailed by the failure of the system to gather any data about gambling, meaning that other factors which may be at play in offending are not addressed in a holistic way.
Our project is about bringing understanding across disciplines together – not to let anyone off the hook, but to seize the chance that contact with the legal system represents to set people on a different path. This therapeutic intervention can come from lawyers, from services, from the judiciary and ideally from all of the above – but it must be supported with shared knowledge across the board.
Whether it is the primary cause of offending by otherwise well-functioning individuals, or just present in the cocktail of chaos in which so many are caught, contact with the criminal justice system is an opportunity to address problem gamblingWe must not let this opportunity go to waste.
This blog was originally published on the Centre for Innovative Justice blog. Visit their page for related content.  

Friday, 7 October 2016

Review: Death by Design at the Environmental Film Festival


Image via iStock

Simon Lockrey, RMIT University

A ringing phone on the peak hour train ride home may be an annoyance to be ignored, and hopefully turned to silent, but these familiar chimes are signs of a digital revolution all around us. These are the personal electronic products we engage with to help organise, connect, entertain, and inform us in an ever faster cycle.

Now they’re ubiquitous. But where do they come from, who makes them, and where do they end up when discarded? Death by Design, a documentary directed by Sue Williams screening at Environmental Film Festival Australia in Melbourne, confronts these questions.

The human cost of the digital revolution


The film begins with the development of the semiconductor industry in California, exploring the human and ecological impacts in those formative Silicon Valley years. The film shows the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition and its successful activism to drive remediation of contamination; and the personal stories of material toxicity, and associated devastation.

Throughout the film toxicity is revisited, and the film paints a fairly bleak picture of labour rights in China. We turn to Ma Jun, the 2015 Skoll Award winner (an award for social entrepreneurship) for creating a national picture of water pollution with data that is now publicly available.

Jun laments the potential human costs across China’s water infrastructure, which begs the question: why haven’t organisations expanding to these new manufacturing regions learnt the lesson from the US industry , or applied Europe’s hazardous waste standards?

What is equally troubling are issues with even stringent auditing processes. Linda Greer, a toxicologist from the Natural Resources Defence Council put it simply: “it’s all about the questions you ask”. A firm’s audit checklist may be thorough in some respects, yet miss key points in others. As such, manufacturing may be considered adequate, yet not address the pertinent problems. Jun’s work has already resulted in supply chain actions in this regard.


Who’s to blame? All of us


The film directs us to the main driver of the large industrial expansions Jun monitors, our daily consumption habits in the west. As Lancaster University professor Elizabeth Shove has portrayed so vividly, the devices of convenience and the rituals they connect to drive consumption, both conspicuous (such as a phone) and inconspicuous (such as the energy it uses).

Consumption implicates us all, and the figures the film lists are breathtaking: from 376,000 Apple iPod sales in 2002 to 51.6 million in 2007, and 10 million Apple iPhone 5s made in a week.

Purchases are only exacerbated by constant upgrading, and consumer inability to repair or refurbish their devices as the US firm recycling firm Ifixit explains. They’ve built a business that enables consumers to circumvent “prescribed obsolescence”, to fix their own electronic products by using their own parts, tools and how-to guides.

Irish firm iameco take this even further, challenging the notion of updatable, upgradable, and reusable computers. Both business models require the breaking down of secrecy shrouding internal access to such products.

Batteries are harder to replace now and screens harder to repair, as repairs become part of manufacturer’s business models.

As Ifixit look to disrupt that disposable model for consumers, the film follows the company to China as they source their own electronic parts, and come full circle.

With such throughput of electronics, e-waste is accepted as a major and growing issue. Darrin Magee, Environment Geographer from Hobart and Williams Smith Colleges estimates that the US generates 3 million tonnes of e-waste alone, with a much smaller amount actually repurposed and recycled. Chinese volumes of e-waste and the human cost of handling are also major problems to address.


Where to from here?


Death by Design suggests that the digital revolution has rewarded us with so many benefits, something that is reasonably clear.

Certainly with all of that success, manufacturers of electronic goods must take responsibility for how products are designed for longevity by extending life cycles, and in managing the toxic issues throughout the entire supply chain.

Part of the solution could include models that build recycling into the design such as the circular economy and cradle-to-cradle models, coupled with an increase in stewardship schemes, some of which are emerging at present.

The final sequence in the film suggests that we, the people, could use our buying power or behaviour to change the system in demands for labour safety, human health and ecological preservation. This is an interesting perspective, and could be linked to new patterns of “enlightened” consumer purchasing.

I wonder though, could it be a sharing economy opportunity? What about maker culture with new democratised technologies to help build what we need to retrofit upgrades?
Others have gone further in calling for moral outrage and collective action on related issues, such as pollution leading to climate change.

In any case, Death by Design is a thought-provoking look at an industry that we interact with every time we swipe, tap or lol. As innocuous as those actions are, substantial sustainability issues remain that we need to face as a society.

Death by Design is screening at the Environmental Film Festival Australia in Melbourne on October 6.

The Conversation
Simon Lockrey, Research Fellow, RMIT University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Industry Value Chains






by Marcus Powe, RMIT's Entrepreneur-in-Residence 



THE MISSING LINK? 


All organisations are in an Industry Value Chain (IVC). Why call it a chain? Each link in the chain represents an organisation in a market, where are you?
An easy way to remember the IVC is to think of the raw materials as a tree. At the other end of the chain is a wooden chair. All the other organisations in between are links in the chain. In this example, there would also be a timber mill, chair manufacturer and the wholesaler. You might be thinking, “How does this model developed by Professor Michael Porter, last century remain relevant?” Wow the Internet!  Strip back the terms and jargon, you still have an IVC.
http://www.linkedin.com/mpr/mpr/AAEAAQAAAAAAAAarAAAAJDY1MWVkOTAyLWZhZmItNGM3Yy05MTljLTQxNzYzODQ1NGYzMg.png


The IVC is simply a way of drawing the market that an organisation competes in. You may be asking yourself, ‘Why would I bother drawing the marketplace?” The answer is simple – by drawing the market you can see how it works, and the more you can see, the better position you will be in to compete. By drawing an IVC you achieve a greater understanding of how your industry actually works.
The first thing that you need to do is identify where your organisation fits into the chain. Then list all of your organisation’s suppliers and their suppliers to determine the upstream links in the chain. Then do the same for your customers and their customers to determine the downstream links.
It is important to realise that each link in the chain represents a mark-up or margin. Although the raw material may cost a few cents, it then has to be refined (or value added), then distributed, manufactured into a final product and then retailed. And each organisation in the link has to make a profit for them by marking up the product. Once you have determined your position in the IVC, you are then presented with several choices. You could use the information to go about an ‘integration’ strategy – (1) vertical (to acquire a competitor), (2) horizontal (to acquire a supplier or customer) or (3) parallel (to acquire an organisation for their existing distribution channels).
Why do this?
Vertical: to increase your market share, to increase your market presence or to enjoy scale economies. It can also give your organisation benefits it otherwise would not receive, such as shorter delivery times, the need to hold less stock, or ownership of a proprietary technology that you don’t want shared with your competitors. It could also lead to your organisation enjoying larger margins.
Horizontal: Achieving brand leverage by putting all products under the same brand. This would have the effect of reducing your overall marketing expenses, yet still achieve greater advertising through your common brand.

Parallel: If both companies share similar inputs, they then are put through the one supplier, giving the organisation a greater negotiating position, which could result in cheaper raw material costs.
That said, there are several downsides to the parallel integration strategy. A lack of focus for the organisation is the main one. If the acquired organisation is not a viable commercial entity, more time, effort or money will be needed to turn the organisation into a viable entity.
Who has the real power?
You are also able to use the IVC to determine who has the power. If the organisation is in a position of power, it can exercise pressure over companies located both upstream and downstream in the IVC. In exerting power, an organisation can insist on quality standards, impose delivery schedules to minimise their own inventory level, and collaborate to make sure that their innovative product/service features are rapidly introduced. This power translates often into sustainable financial and social dividends.

Monday, 1 August 2016

The 'Five Forces' of entrepreneurship


image via iStock
by Marcus Powe, RMIT's Entrepreneur-in-Residence 

Professor Michael Porter created a sensation when he showed the Five Forces Model to the world. No one had really thought about the power of these forces and put them together in such a remarkable way.

Well, they were way back when. I have found using the Five Forces Model in conjunction with the learning curve, industry value chain and adoption curve - to name a few - there is something that most miss, to their peril, when learning the Five Forces Model for the first time.

You must be clear of your position.

The Five Pillars


Where are you?

Are you about to enter the market, are you in the market or about to leave? Without the clarity of your position and intention, the Five Forces is just an interesting way to kill time. When you know where you are, only then can you make the decision to enter, stay or leave. It is only then can you determine whether the market, segment or niche is either attractive or unattractive.

You may know the forces.

1. Competitors
2. Customers
3. Suppliers
4. Substitutes
5. New entrants

The most dangerous, exciting and opportunistic of the forces from the entrepreneur’s perspective are the substitutes.

Substitutes are often created from the driving forces I have discussed in previous posts. The enterprising mindset should be observing the impacts of the driving forces as they create and destroy opportunities and industries. Are you fighting change or going with the flow, reactive or proactive?

The threat of substitutes means how many products in your market can serve as a substitute for your product. A simple example of this is butter and margarine, two different products that are very interchangeable.

The ease with which consumers can substitute your product for another will increase the threat of additional substitutes. If there are many alternative products that can be substituted for your product, and your product is relatively more expensive, it will become harder and harder for you to keep this price point without a Unique Selling Proposition (something that makes your product stand apart from all the substitutes in the market).

You may be asking yourself what makes a market attractive? Then again, you might ask yourself from which perspective?

Little or moderate competition
High barriers to entry to keep the competition out
Few substitute products or services
Buyer and supplier power is low.

You know the old saying; an attractive market usually makes an entrepreneur happy. We need to be happy; after all, happiness is a positive cash flow.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

There's a world of difference between sex and sexism in advertising


Image via iStock

Linda Brennan, RMIT University; Colin Jevons, Monash University, and Glen Donnar, RMIT University

Advertising and sex are two of the oldest professions in the world. Indeed, one of the earliest uses of advertising was to advertise sexual services; prostitutes in Ancient Greece carved ads into the soles of their sandals so that their footprints read: “Follow me”.

Sex and sexism, however, are different things. One is fun and most people do it at some time in their lives; the other is offensive and should never be done at all. But if recent events – from Eddie McGuire to Steve Price – are any indication, it seems sexism, like porn, is something you only know when you see it.

If you need to know how this plays out in advertising, the award-winning Game of Balls ad is sex-in-advertising. The Ultratune ads are sexism in advertising, as is the campaign using pre-teen models in sexualised poses to advertise dancewear.

Given that we do not seem to know what the difference is, let’s start by defining our terms:
  • Sex is an act (no further explanation forthcoming but you can look it up on the internet if you wish). Of course, there are additional meanings, but for the purpose of this article we will use the verb not the noun.
  • Sexism is the assumption that one sex is inferior to the other and/or prejudice or discrimination based on sex or gender and/or insistence on conformity to a sexually stereotyped role.
Sex is fun so it gets attention … and advertisers know that attention is the first step in advertising effectiveness.

The axiom “sex sells” has long standing in “adland”. And if only because something old must surely be correct, it is consistently relied on to create ads that sell.

However, we have found numerous studies showing that, in general, sex does not sell. The only exception to this is when the product directly relates to sex and sexual function, including enhancing desirability.

An irrelevant sexual appeal distracts from rather than supports consumer engagement with the advertised product, service or message. If you get people’s attention through sexual references, they will continue to think about sex because it is more fun than shoes, cars etc. But they are not thinking about purchasing your product; they are thinking about sex.

The assumption that “attention equals purchase” drives many award-seeking creative agencies. Any attention is deemed a positive outcome and is called “earned media”, because the publicity gained will count towards the success metrics in terms of space (calculated in terms of the amount of space you would have paid for if it had been an ad). An ad that creates public outcry is assumed to be good.

But not all publicity is good publicity, and sometimes offended consumers vote with their wallets.
Another advertising appeal that works to gain attention is humour. Humour appeals are designed to evoke positive emotions. Hence, many ads combine sex and humour to maximise the fun value of the attention-getting devices and thereby increase positive brand associations.

Humour is most effective when the sender and receiver possess a shared frame of reference and understand the “rules” of the communication. Without a shared frame of reference, the scope for misunderstanding is increased and the recipient may not “get” the humorous intent.

This partially explains why advertising such as the most complained about ads of 2016 often combine sex and humour appeals. The combination of appeals earns attention, but if you are not the primary target market you may be offended.

In advertising, the right target market will “get it” and the wrong target market is effectively excluded from the communication. And being told to lighten up makes the offended recipient, rather than the offensive sender, responsible for the misaligned communication.

See, for example, the growing popularity of the “non-apology apology”: “I am sorry if you were offended”. A review of the responses to complaints made to the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) will demonstrate mastery of this type of apology.

If the measure of an ad’s success is “earned media”, a complaint does not hurt the advertiser. Even if the complaint is upheld – which is statistically unlikely – the outcome is withdrawal of the offending ad only after it has done its job of creating free publicity. It is often only when there is also potential for a commercial loss that reparation is attempted.

It may be unsurprising that the ads that are most complained about to the ASB, a self-regulatory industry board, are predominantly dismissed. But how can a standards board that claims “40 years of meeting community standards” be so out of step with Australian standards?

The answer may lie in a 2013 report for the board in which exploitative and degrading advertising was explored. The issue of sexist advertising was not covered (the word sexist is mentioned once).

The code of ethics that the ASB upholds requires that for a complaint to be upheld, the ad must be clearly discriminatory, exploitative or degrading, gratuitously violent, present sex, sexuality and nudity without sensitivity to the relevant audience, use obscene or strong language, or present unsafe behaviour when it comes to health and safety. Since the code does not explicitly cover sexism, the board cannot act on sexism, regardless of the number of complaints made.

The board’s attempts to defend itself show that there is societal harm in conflating sex with sexism. The ASB clearly doesn’t get it when it comes to the difference or why it matters.

The act of sex is usually not harmful, but sexism always is. The lack of recognition of sexism in all its guises – humorous, covert or overt – colludes with the system-wide culture that permits and therefore encourages behaviours such as we have seen recently in the media.

Attitudes and behaviours many consider sexist can be invisible to those with a vested interest in maintaining their privileged positions. The perpetrator simply does not “see” their sexism as sexism.
Sexism is not always obviously violent, exploitative or degrading. It can be unintended or disguised innocently as humour, but it is always insidious, offensive to and exclusionary of its victims.

Sex may gain attention, but sexism will not build a 21st-century brand. And perpetrators of the latter cannot be relied on to know when they are being sexist, unless told consistently, clearly and often. So the ASB must review its code to specifically include sexism and bring it into alignment with broader 21st-century community standards.

And it’s time the advertising industry went back to ad school and found a new measure of success beyond attention-seeking. Sexism in or out of advertising is never “just a joke”, it is offensive – and everyone needs to see that.

Linda Brennan, Professor of Media and Communication, RMIT University; Colin Jevons, Associate professor, Monash University, and Glen Donnar, Lecturer in Media and Communication, RMIT University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Overconfidence is responsible for a lot of mistakes, here's how to avoid it

iStock/andykatz
by Adrian R. Camilleri, RMIT University


People are notoriously overconfident. Regardless of the context - sports, finance, politics - people believe that their judgements and decisions are better than they really are. The shock comes later after Steven Bradbury wins a Winter Olympic gold medal, Brexit destabilises financial markets, and Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination.

Overconfidence has been blamed for everything from the sinking of the Titanic to the Great Recession. Research into overconfidence implicates it in impairing judgements across a range of situations including investors’ over-trading behaviour, managers' poor forecasting, their tendency to introduce risky products, and their tendency to engage in value-destroying mergers.

Overconfidence is one of the most powerful cognitive biases because it is so ubiquitous, and causes us to make important judgements and decisions without a sensible degree of consideration. Fortunately, there are some strategies you can use to reduce overconfidence.

How do you know when you’re being overconfident?


Overconfidence is typically measured in terms of judgement accuracy when estimating a range of plausible outcomes. For example, when making a judgement about BHP Billiton’s future share price you could probably imagine a range of plausible prices within which you would be fairly confident the future price would fall. Scientists call this a “confidence interval”.

A confidence interval comprises of two numbers – a lower bound and an upper bound – that together create a range that you are, typically, 80% sure will include the true answer. For example, you might guess that BHP shares one year from today will be $25 and produce an 80% confidence interval with a lower bound of $15 and upper bound of $35.

In this example, you would be asserting 80% confidence that BHP shares in one year will be somewhere between $15 and $30. If asked to create a number different 80% confidence intervals for several different questions then 80% of these confidence intervals should turn out to be accurate and contain the true outcome.

Typically, however, accuracy rates are much lower than they should be. For example, in one comprehensive study, peoples’ 80% intervals contained the correct answer just 48% of the time. Therefore, people’s judgements are overconfident because the range of outcomes they consider plausible often misses the truth.

Why are people overconfident?


Although several theories have been proposed to explain why people are so overconfident, none of them explain all of the observations that scientists have made and so currently there is no overarching theory of overconfidence.

According to one theory, when making a judgement, people make an initial best guess that serves as the starting point and then estimate the range of plausible outcomes by expanding outward from that anchor. For example, if asked to give a plausible range for BHP’s future share price you might use the current share price, which is around $20, as the starting point, and then expand outward from that based on other factors.

According to this anchoring theory, people’s final range of plausible outcomes remains too close to the starting point and, as a result, they appear overconfident because their expected range often does not include the truth.

This theory predicts that setting an explicit anchor by having people first stating their starting point should increase overconfidence and yet research has found the opposite.

A second theory states that, when communicating with others, people prefer being informative to being accurate. For example, most people would prefer to guess BHP’s future share price to be between $15 and $25 than between $1 and $100. The latter is certainly more accurate but is relatively uninformative and not practically useful.

However, when people judge only a narrow set of outcomes to be plausible, they appear overconfident because their expected range often does not include the truth. This theory predicts the degree of overconfidence to change depending on the context (for example, how important accuracy is). However, there’s no evidence that such changes in context affect the degree of overconfidence.
A third theory states that overconfidence actually reflects extremely poor starting point guesses. For example, if you did not know the current BHP share price then your starting point might be way off, say $2,000. In this case, no matter how wide you expanded your range of plausible outcomes from this starting point, you will appear overconfident because your expected range would not include the truth.

This theory has support in laboratory contexts where judgements are made about chance events where the researchers can work out the correct range of plausible outcomes. However, this theory is impossible to test in most typical circumstances when the correct range cannot be calculated.

How can overconfidence be avoided?


Although overconfidence is one of the most powerful cognitive biases, there are some strategies that can be used to reduce it. The most effective strategies encourage consideration of more information and possible alternatives.

One strategy is to conduct a “pre-mortem”. To do this you make a best guess, then assume that guess is inaccurate, and then generate plausible reasons for why the guess was inaccurate. Research has found that overconfidence is reduced after asking people to list arguments that contradict the reasoning that led to the guess.

Alternatively, you can assume that your first guess is wrong and then think of a second guess that is based on different reasoning. Research reveals that averaging these two guesses tends to produce starting points that are more accurate than the first guess alone.

Another strategy uses the “wisdom of the crowd”. The strategy involves collecting the best guesses from others and then using the average of these guesses as your own starting point. Research shows that often the more estimates that are averaged the better, so long as the underlying reasoning (and hence, the errors) are different.

So, when making judgements, be humble, seek out new perspectives, and expect to make mistakes.

The Conversation
Adrian R. Camilleri, Lecturer in Marketing, RMIT University
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.