Radio Lab: What’s Left When You’re Right?

More often than not, a fight is just a fight… Someone wins, someone loses. But this hour, we have a series of face-offs that shine a light on the human condition, the benefit of coming at something from a different side, and the price of being right.

3 Part Series:

  1. British Gameshow features prisoner’s dilemma, which one contestant solves by promising to always defect.
  2. Enneagram 1 confronts uncooperative bike mechanic and potentially schizophrenic man, to the growing appreciation of possible Enneagram 9, who typically tries to go-along-to-get-along.
  3. Why is left-handedness a 90-10 trait?

What 7 Creepy Patents Reveal About Facebook

Reading your relationships

One patent application discusses predicting whether you’re in a romantic relationship using information such as how many times you visit another user’s page, the number of people in your profile picture and the percentage of your friends of a different gender.

Classifying your personality

Another proposes using your posts and messages to infer personality traits. It describes judging your degree of extroversion, openness or emotional stability, then using those characteristics to select which news stories or ads to display.

Another proposes using your posts and messages to infer personality traits. It describes judging your degree of extroversion, openness or emotional stability, then using those characteristics to select which news stories or ads to display.

Predicting your future

This patent application describes using your posts and messages, in addition to your credit card transactions and location, to predict when a major life event, such as a birth, death or graduation, is likely to occur.

Identifying your camera

Another considers analyzing pictures to create a unique camera “signature” using faulty pixels or lens scratches. That signature could be used to figure out that you know someone who uploads pictures taken on your device, even if you weren’t previously connected. Or it might be used to guess the “affinity” between you and a friend based on how frequently you use the same camera.

Listening to your environment

This patent application explores using your phone microphone to identify the television shows you watched and whether ads were muted. It also proposes using the electrical interference pattern created by your television power cable to guess which show is playing.

This patent application explores using your phone microphone to identify the television shows you watched and whether ads were muted. It also proposes using the electrical interference pattern created by your television power cable to guess which show is playing.

Tracking your routine

Another patent application discusses tracking your weekly routine and sending notifications to other users of deviations from the routine. In addition, it describes using your phone’s location in the middle of the night to establish where you live.

Inferring your habits

This patent proposes correlating the location of your phone to locations of your friends’ phones to deduce whom you socialize with most often. It also proposes monitoring when your phone is stationary to track how many hours you sleep.

How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions

The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work.

So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history.

The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.

Christopher Wylie, who helped found Cambridge and worked there until late 2014, said of its leaders: “Rules don’t matter for them. For them, this is a war, and it’s all fair.

They want to fight a culture war in America,” he added. “Cambridge Analytica was supposed to be the arsenal of weapons to fight that culture war.”

.. Cambridge not only relied on the private Facebook data but still possesses most or all of the trove.

Cambridge paid to acquire the personal information through an outside researcher who, Facebook says, claimed to be collecting it for academic purposes.

.. suspending Cambridge Analytica, Mr. Wylie and the researcher, Aleksandr Kogan, a Russian-American academic, from Facebook.

..  the company acknowledged that it had acquired the data, though it blamed Mr. Kogan for violating Facebook’s rules and said it had deleted the information as soon as it learned of the problem two years ago.

.. In Britain, Cambridge Analytica is facing intertwined investigations by Parliament and government regulators into allegations that it performed illegal work on the “Brexit” campaign.

.. Mr. Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah, a board member, Mr. Bannon and Mr. Nix received warnings from their lawyer that it was illegal to employ foreigners in political campaigns

.. WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, disclosed in October that Mr. Nix had reached out to him during the campaign in hopes of obtaining private emails belonging to Mr. Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

.. The data Cambridge collected from profiles, a portion of which was viewed by The Times, included details on users’ identities, friend networks and “likes.”

.. “Protecting people’s information is at the heart of everything we do,” Mr. Grewal said. “No systems were infiltrated, and no passwords or sensitive pieces of information were stolen or hacked.

.. recruiting Mr. Wylie, then a 24-year-old political operative with ties to veterans of President Obama’s campaigns. Mr. Wylie was interested in using inherent psychological traits to affect voters’ behavior and had assembled a team of psychologists and data scientists, some of them affiliated with Cambridge University.

.. The group experimented abroad, including in the Caribbean and Africa, where privacy rules were lax or nonexistent

.. Mr. Nix and his colleagues courted Mr. Mercer, who believed a sophisticated data company could make him a kingmaker in Republican politics

.. Mr. Bannon was intrigued by the possibility of using personality profiling to shift America’s culture and rewire its politics

.. Building psychographic profiles on a national scale required data the company could not gather without huge expense. Traditional analytics firms used voting records and consumer purchase histories to try to predict political beliefs and voting behavior.

.. But those kinds of records were useless for figuring out whether a particular voter was, say, a neurotic introvert, a religious extrovert, a fair-minded liberal or a fan of the occult. Those were among the psychological traits the firm claimed would provide a uniquely powerful means of designing political messages.

.. Mr. Wylie found a solution at Cambridge University’s Psychometrics Centre. Researchers there had developed a technique to map personality traits based on what people had liked on Facebook. The researchers paid users small sums to take a personality quiz and download an app, which would scrape some private information from their profiles and those of their friends

.. When the Psychometrics Centre declined to work with the firm, Mr. Wylie found someone who would: Dr. Kogan, who was then a psychology professor at the university and knew of the techniques

.. All he divulged to Facebook, and to users in fine print, was that he was collecting information for academic purposes, the social network said.

.. Dr. Kogan declined to provide details of what happened, citing nondisclosure agreements with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica

.. He ultimately provided over 50 million raw profiles to the firm

.. Only about 270,000 users — those who participated in the survey — had consented to having their data harvested.

.. Mr. Wylie said the Facebook data was “the saving grace” that let his team deliver the models it had promised the Mercers.

.. The firm was effectively a shell.

.. But in July 2014, an American election lawyer advising the company, Laurence Levy, warned that the arrangement could violate laws limiting the involvement of foreign nationals in American elections.

.. In a BBC interview last December, Mr. Nix said that the Trump efforts drew on “legacy psychographics” built for the Cruz campaign.

.. By early 2015, Mr. Wylie and more than half his original team of about a dozen people had left the company. Most were liberal-leaning, and had grown disenchanted with working on behalf of the hard-right candidates the Mercer family favored.

.. Mr. Nix has mentioned some questionable practices. This January, in undercover footage filmed by Channel 4 News in Britain and viewed by The Times, he boasted of employing front companies and former spies on behalf of political clients around the world, and even suggested ways to entrap politicians in compromising situations.

.. Mr. Nix is seeking to take psychographics to the commercial advertising market. He has repositioned himself as a guru for the digital ad age — a “Math Man,” he puts it. In the United States last year, a former employee said, Cambridge pitched Mercedes-Benz, MetLife and the brewer AB InBev, but has not signed them on.

Personality Tests: The Sorting Hat

despite the widespread popularity of the Myers-Briggs test, it’s generally not held in high regard by top psychologists who study personality.

.. VEDANTAM: Validity and reliability – these are two of the most important scientific factors to consider when judging the value of any psychological test.

GRANT: Reliability is about whether the test measures what it claims to measure. And so you could look at that in terms of, do you get the same result over time or if different people rate you, did they give similar answers?

VEDANTAM: So if you have a test for HIV, does the test actually give you the answer that you have HIV every time you use the test?

GRANT: Exactly. Does it give you an accurate score? And then validity is essentially, does the test predict anything? So, you know, can it predict what kind of jobs I’ll be happy in or what kind of person I should marry?

.. VEDANTAM: And your thesis about the Myers-Briggs test is what?

GRANT: Well, it doesn’t do very well in reliability or validity. It falls well short of most conventional reliability standards, and the Myers-Briggs proponents themselves will tell you that it doesn’t predict anything.

VEDANTAM: The thing that concerns me about personality tests is less the stuff that might be inaccurate but is mostly just fun, and more the stuff that is increasingly being used to gauge who should be doing what in the workplace, who is best suited for which career to select the people who you want to rise within an organization.

GRANT: It’s a great way to weed out all kinds of diversity. There was a company in Canada not long ago where there was a major acquisition made, and the CEO gave every single person who was acquired the Myers-Briggs and then fired everyone who didn’t match his type.

.. VEDANTAM: Many personality researchers put greater stock in a test known as the Big Five. It measures things like how much you care about the opinions of others versus your own judgment. It also measures qualities such as introversion and extroversion. At first glance, there are similarities between this test and the Myers-Briggs and other personality tests. But Adams says the Big Five has large amounts of peer-reviewed data to back it up. That data, he argues, makes for better predictions.


.. According to Chinese tradition, there’s no better year for a child to be born than the Year of the Dragon. Dragon kids are destined for greatness. Xiao-Qi was a doctor at one of the province’s largest hospitals. He knew it was going to be a crazy year. Pregnant women were already pre-booking rooms at the hospital. Births were going to skyrocket. It was the same all across the country. It seemed that pregnant women were everywhere, dreaming of the greatness of their coming Dragon babies.

.. VEDANTAM: They decided to prove their hypothesis that Dragon kids would fare worse than other kids at school. As it turned out, the Chinese government has a treasure trove of data – the academic performance of middle schoolers, demographic surveys, interviews with parents about their own education and household income. And so the two economists collected all the data, controlled for different variables and crunched the numbers. And they found that in middle school, Dragon kids did better than their peers.

MOCAN: They actually have higher test scores in middle school.

VEDANTAM: These kids also outperform their peers in high school.

MOCAN: Even at the standardized nationwide university entrance exams, Dragon kids score better.

VEDANTAM: And they did better in college.

MOCAN: Individuals who were born in the Year of the Dragon – they are 14 percent more likely to have earned at least a bachelor’s degree.

VEDANTAM: This was not the outcome that the economists expected to find.


.. MOCAN: So if everybody tells them, oh, you are superior, you are smarter than everybody, you are destined for greatness and good fortune, you know, they may believe that this is the case. And their self-esteem – you know that from other research that self-esteem is important in learning. People – kids who have more self-esteem, they do better in school.

VEDANTAM: But when they looked at how children reported their own beliefs about their IQ, there was no difference between Dragon kids and kids born right before and right afterwards.

MOCAN: And Dragon kids are not more confident about their own abilities or about their own future.

VEDANTAM: In fact, the Dragon kids weren’t really smarter. They scored the same on IQ tests. So what explained their success at school?


.. VEDANTAM: It turns out, the success of Dragon babies doesn’t lie with the schools, or the teachers or even with the kids themselves. It’s because of parents like Xiao-Qi and Yangcheng.

YU: (Speaking Chinese).

VEDANTAM: From the moment Han was born, his parents had sky-high expectations for him. That turns out to be the case with many parents of Dragon babies.

MOCAN: The parents of these Dragon children, they are actually more likely to believe, in comparison to other parents, that their children will obtain at least a high school education, at least a college degree. And Dragon parents are more likely to believe that their children will become a leader in professional life in the future. So Dragon parents are different from other parents in the way they sort of believe in their kids’ future.

VEDANTAM: These beliefs become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Parents who believe their kids are destined for greatness act in ways that help their kids achieve greatness. Han’s parents pushed him, giving him master’s-level textbooks in middle school and telling him as a toddler that his goal in life was to get a Ph.D. in America. As Han chatted with his parents, I asked if he could translate a question for me.