Jaunty Jargon Recitation: Construal Level

July 19th, 2014

This week’s pick for a chunk of jaunty jargonian text — fun to recite aloud at posh parties and in swanky restaurants — is the abstract of a study just published in the Journal of Consumer Research:

mehtaWhen Does a Higher Construal Level Increase or Decrease Indulgence? Resolving the Myopia versus Hyperopia Puzzle,” Ravi Mehta [pictured here], Rui (Juliet) Zhu, and Joan Meyers-Levy, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 41, No. 2 (August 2014), pp. 475-488.

“Existing inquiry on self-control reveals an inconsistency. The mainstream research on myopic behavior suggests that use of a high versus low construal level should lead consumers to exhibit less indulgence. However, more recent work on hyperopia implies the opposite. This article attempts to resolve this discrepancy. In particular, the level at which a consumer construes information (abstract vs. concrete), interacts with his or her self-focus, and both factors jointly determine consumer indulgence level. When the self is not salient, outcomes implied by the myopia literature ensue. But when the self is focal, the opposite outcomes anticipated by the hyperopia literature obtain.”

You might enjoy reciting it aloud now, to whomever happens to be within earshot of you at this moment.

BONUS: From two of the same three co-authors:

Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition,” R. Mehta, R. Zhu, A. Cheema, Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 39, 2012, pp. 784-99

Making computers better at seeing cats. Dogs, too.

July 18th, 2014

Cats and dogs are among the many objects people are pretty good at recognizing, but computers are not. “Look, this is a cat!” and “Look, that’s a dog!” are cries you are more likely to hear from a person than from a silicon-based computer. (In truth, you are not all that likely to hear people shout those exact statements — but you are very unlikely to hear computers spontaneously ejaculate them.)

But many people, like most computers, aren’t all that great at recognizing which kinds of cats and which kinds of dogs they see….

—so begins another Improbable Innovation nugget, which appears in its entirety on BetaBoston.

The IBM Songbook (an analysis)

July 18th, 2014

It’s been said that “The use of music in organizational management is a rare occurrence.” Rare maybe, but not unknown. A notable exception was Thomas John Watson, Sr. who was long-time chairman and CEO of International Business Machines – more commonly known as IBM. Authors Amal El-Sawad and Marek Korczynski of Loughborough University, UK have analyzed IBM’s ventures in motivational management music in their paper for Group & Organization Management 2007 32: 79.

“There is some dispute about Watson’s interest in music. According to Maney (2003),Watson Sr. loved to sing and dance, whereas his official biographers describe him as ‘tone deaf and unmusical’ (Belden & Belden, 1962), though of course these two descriptions need not be mutually exclusive.”

Bonus [1]: Another, more modern, song about IBM “Cos we are special”

Improbable has not been able to verify the authenticity of this video. Can anyone tell us if it’s an ‘official’ IBM production?

Bonus [2]:

IBM itself kindly provides a list of songs from the songbook, may we recommend :
• Song 17. PAINTING THE CLOUDS WITH SUNSHINE, (By J. P. Saxton, Endicott Factory), and

Note: It’s far from clear whether Watson actually did say “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”

Wellerstein peers at the hair of physicists

July 18th, 2014

Before there was a Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS), there were indeed scientists who had luxuriant flowing hair. Alex Wellerstein, a (or  in the view of pedants, an) historian of science at the American Institute of Physics, peers back at the hair of several physicists in the 1930s. Wellerstein’s essay, called “The Hair of Physicists (1930s)“, says in part:

Sam [Schweber] compared Oppenheimer and Bethe in terms of their ethics and behaviors…. I want to compare them by a different, perhaps more frivolous metric: their hairstyles in the 1930s. Because both young Oppenheimer and young Bethe rocked some considerable hair back in the days before the bomb.

All of the below images come from the amazing Emilio Segrè Visual Archives at the American Institute of Physics — my employer. These are very low-resolution versions of the images in question; the high-res files are impressively detailed. It is one of the perks of the job that I can look through these images; if you’re ever doing anything where you need an image of a physicist, definitely go to the ESVA first.

All right, let’s start with Oppenheimer:

Scanned at the American Institute of Physics, Emilio Segre Visual Archives.

(Thanks to Margaret Harris for bringing this to our attention.)

For more emotional snacking, a patent for culinary theme songs

July 17th, 2014

Innovation can be a matter of joining together things that the patent office — and maybe customers — will approve of. Corn chips, song, and the Internet are obvious influences on US patent 7942311, “Method for sequencing flavors with an auditory phrase,” granted May 17, 2011 to George Eapen of Frisco, Texas. Eapen assigned rights to Frito-Lay, the corn chip behemoth….

—so begins today’s Improbable Innovation nugget, which appears in its entirety on BetaBoston.