Saturday, June 19, 2004

ha! jeremy, you are HILARIOUS!

(picture of posters just re-hung in one corner of the RVSRC)

I just finished re-hanging up my Klee and Kandinsky posters in a corner of my home office (the RVSRC). The Kandinsky frame had somehow gotten a nasty scratch on it that irritated me every time I looked at it, so I took them down until and I eventually got around to getting a new frame.

Why did I have to take down the Klee poster if I took down the Kandinsky poster? Because they go together; they are, you see, an academic in-joke. There is a famous social psychological experiment where groups of eight subjects were shown pictures of paintings by Kandinsky and Klee and asked to indicate on a form which one they prefer. Then they are put in a situation where they get to privately select an allocation of monetary rewards across the seven other group members. Some of these group members have been identified to subjects who preferred the same painting that they did, while other subjects are said to have preferred the other painting (in actuality, experimenters randomly determined which group members would be said to have preferred which painting). The finding that makes this a famous experiment is that subjects gave greater rewards to those group members that they thought preferred the same painting as they did than to those that they thought had disagreed with their preference. Moreover, they would choose to discriminate rather than to offer equal rewards even when doing so meant less money overall for everyone. The experiment is an early study of large literature showing how easy it is to induce people to show ingroup favoritism, even when the ingroup is seemly based on trivial characteristics.

So I have Klee and Kandinsky posters facing off in a corner of the RVSRC, as a nod to the antagonism provoked in this experiment. It amuses me. It amuses no one else, including, I know, you.

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