Friday, October 5, 2012

changes in referential phrasing in presidential debates

During Wednesday night's presidential debate, @Fritinancy tweeted a quip that got my eye:


She caught on to the fact that Mitt Romney used a variation of the name of The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, often referred to as Simpson-Bowles, but also as Bowles-Simpson.

This piqued my lingo interests so I downloaded the CNN transcript and dug up some fascinating facts.

It is Mitt Romney who first introduces the term Bowles-Simpson and Obama follows his lead, but then Jim Lehrer introduces the Simpson-Bowles variation and Romney follows his lead...until he doesn't. Obama never used the Simpson-Bowles version and Lehrer never used the Bowles-Simpson version.

Here are all instances of the term from the debate:

21:21:38: ROMNEY: …And so what I do is I bring down the tax rates, lower deductions and exemptions, the same idea behind Bowles-Simpson, by the way, get the rates down, lower deductions and exemptions, to create more jobs, because there's nothing better for getting us to a balanced budget than having more people working, earning more money, paying more taxes.

21:28:37: OBAMA:… Governor ROMNEY earlier mentioned the Bowles-Simpson commission. Well, that's how the commission -- bipartisan commission that talked about how we should move forward suggested we have to do it, in a balanced way with some revenue and some spending cuts.

21:31:34: LEHRER: Governor, what about Simpson-Bowles? Do you support Simpson-Bowles?
21:31:34: ROMNEY: Simpson-Bowles, the president should have grabbed that.
21:31:35: LEHRER: No, I mean, do you support Simpson-Bowles?
21:31:36: ROMNEYI have my own plan. It's not the same as Simpson-Bowles. But in my view, the president should have grabbed it. If you wanted to make some adjustments to it, take it, go to Congress, fight for it.

22:11:10: ROMNEY… That's one way one could do it. One could follow Bowles-Simpson as a model and take deduction by deduction and make differences that way.

I can't help but be reminded of the classic Krauss and Weinheimer (1964) experiments Changes in reference phrases as a function of frequency of usage in social interaction. I can't find the paper online, but it involves two participants converging on a shared (typically short) form of a name for an unknown new object.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

knowing your own mind...

How well do you understand your own biases? Is there a way to objectively identify your own biases, without the convoluted mess that is your own conscious meta-thinking?

Why yes, yes there is. Harvard has graciously posted online more than a dozen Implicit Association Tasks. This is a well respected, and kinda freaky, reaction time test that pairs symbols (often words, but can be pictures too) and tests how closely you associate them. It's a subtle and clever test and basically, unbeatable (you can try to *fake* your responses all you want, they'll catch you because of methodological design ... hint .. you can't go too slow).

I recommend everyone giving it a try, if only to get a taste off empirical cognitive science methods.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

a fiendishly clever branding proposal

Dear artists, scholars, good-deed-doers, what if I offered to pay you money to let me place my name in front of yours on everything you do. Every time your name gets mentioned from now on, my name will be mentioned too, usually first. Keep in mind, I'm willing to PAY you for this. You can make some money by letting me brand your work product from now on with my name. I won't do anything else (like help you in any way), but every time you get noticed for your efforts, I'll pay you one time right now to forever let my name be a part of your public notice. All newspaper articles written about you, all magazine profiles, even on any official bios you may post online or in print, my name will now be there, alongside yours.

My question is, how much would you charge me for this? Would the right price be higher than $1,000? $10,000? $500,000?

This is my perspective on the MacArthur Fellowship (aka the Genius Grant).

I don't see the difference between what the MacArthur foundation does and the offer I made above, with one crucial exception: I gave you a choice, they didn't.

The MacArthur foundation never asks you if you want to be branded with their name for the rest of your life. In fact, they don't even tell you that you are a target of their branding campaign until it's too late. And what's the fellows' compensation? A tidy sum, but couched in the offer I make above, I'm guessing almost every single MacArthur fellow would seriously hesitate before agreeing to it, and many would say no.

Am I being cynical? A curmudgeon? Too clever for my own good?

Or is The MacArthur foundation the most wickedly clever viral branding campaign ever? One could argue that they get nothing out of this ... then again, I didn't claim to get anything out of the above proposal either. In the end, I gave you a choice, they didn't.

A linguist asks some questions about word vectors

I have at best a passing familiarity with word vectors, strictly from a 30,000 foot view. I've never directly used them outside a handfu...