fairness

The thing that I worry about more is the media’s bias toward fairness. Nobody uses the word lie anymore. Suddenly, everything is “a difference of opinion.” If the entire House Republican caucus were to walk onto the floor one day and say “The Earth is flat,” the headline on the New York Times the next day would read “Democrats and Republicans Can’t Agree on Shape of Earth.” I don’t believe the truth always lies in the middle. I don’t believe there are two sides to every argument. I think the facts are the center. And watching the news abandon the facts in favor of “fairness” is what’s troubling to me.
Altering brain chemistry makes us more sensitive to inequality

What if there were a pill that made you more compassionate and more likely to give spare change to someone less fortunate? UC Berkeley scientists have taken a big step in that direction.

A new study by UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco researchers finds that giving a drug that changes the neurochemical balance in the prefrontal cortex of the brain causes a greater willingness to engage in prosocial behaviors, such as ensuring that resources are divided more equally.

The researchers also say that future research may lead to a better understanding of the interaction between altered dopamine-brain mechanisms and mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia or addiction, and potentially light the way to possible diagnostic tools or treatments for these disorders.

“Our study shows how studying basic scientific questions about human nature can, in fact, provide important insights into diagnosis and treatment of social dysfunctions,” said Ming Hsu, a co-principal investigator and assistant professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

“Our hope is that medications targeting social function may someday be used to treat these disabling conditions,” said Andrew Kayser, a co-principal investigator on the study, an assistant professor of neurology at UC San Francisco and a researcher in the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at UC Berkeley.

In the study, published online in the journal Current Biology, participants on two separate visits received a pill containing either a placebo or tolcapone, a drug that prolongs the effects of dopamine, a brain chemical associated with reward and motivation in the prefrontal cortex. Participants then played a simple economic game in which they divided money between themselves and an anonymous recipient. After receiving tolcapone, participants divided the money with the strangers in a fairer, more egalitarian way than after receiving the placebo.

“We typically think of fair-mindedness as a stable characteristic, part of one’s personality,” said Hsu. “Our study doesn’t reject this notion, but it does show how that trait can be systematically affected by targeting specific neurochemical pathways in the human brain.”

In this double-blind study of 35 participants, including 18 women, neither participants nor study staff members knew which pills contained the placebo or tolcapone, an FDA-approved drug used to treat people with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurological disorder affecting movement and muscle control.

Computational modeling showed Hsu and his colleagues that under tolcapone’s influence, game players were more sensitive to and less tolerant of social inequity, the perceived relative economic gap between a study participant and a stranger.

By connecting to previous studies showing that economic inequity is evaluated in the prefrontal cortex, a core area of the brain that dopamine affects, this study brings researchers closer to pinpointing how prosocial behaviors such as fairness are initiated in the brain.

“We have taken an important step toward learning how our aversion to inequity is influenced by our brain chemistry,” said the study’s first author, Ignacio Sáez, a postdoctoral researcher at the Haas School of Business. “Studies in the past decade have shed light on the neural circuits that govern how we behave in social situations. What we show here is one brain ‘switch’ we can affect.”

never tell someone “life just isn’t fair”. this teaches them life will never be fair, and they should give up trying to make it so. people need to be inspired to fight for justice and equality and intrinsically fairness.

The asymmetries of the classroom are intense. With each teacher responsible for a hundred students or more, the typical kid occupies a teacher’s thoughts for—at best—a minute or two per day. But each student only has a handful of teachers. Every instructor looms large in her world, wielding power over her days, via class periods; her nights, via homework; and her future, via grades. She spends much of her time thinking about the teacher’s demands, the teacher’s expectations, the teacher’s preferences and inconsistencies.

So when a teacher briefly focuses attention on a particular student, it comes with the heat and intensity of a spotlight. A moment the teacher barely remembers might stick with the student for years.

— 

from 

How I Became an Unfair Teacher

It’s easy to forget how tiny, arbitrary, everyday decisions can shape a kid’s school experience. http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/06/how-i-became-an-unfair-teacher/371908/
If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 60 years ago, a liberal 30 years ago and a racist today.
—  Thomas Sowell

Did Fairness Evolve From Spite?

It seems simple: People are more likely to cooperate if everyone plays fair. But a new study suggests that fairness itself arises from an unlikely source: spite. Researchers made a mathematical model based on the so-called ultimatum game. In it, two players are offered a reward, and the first player makes an offer for how it should be split up. If the second player agrees, then they divide it accordingly. But if the second player refuses, then neither gets the reward. As shown in the image above, depending on the interaction of the players, the outcome can be classified as altruism, cooperation, selfishness, or spite. Previous experiments have shown that, over multiple rounds of the game, a culture of cooperation evolves where everyone makes fair offers. But the new study, published online today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, finds that when players start out using multiple different strategies, by making fair or unfair offers, and rejecting or accepting unfair offers, some will act out of spite. These spiteful players deny the first player the reward at a cost to himself. The calculations further show that the antisocial behavior will eventually cause fairness to become the most successful option, because there is no reason to reject a fair offer. In essence, fairness evolves in spite of spite, when players start out using different strategies. Though they warn against generalizing to humans, the researchers point out that if fairness is the basis for a moral society, then paradoxically, spite may have played a role in the evolution of morality.

| via sciencemag.org

Fairness is not equality

In a truly fair society there will still be winners and losers, poor and rich, the lazy and the workaholic.

There will be those who are better prepared for a career because of unique education or family opportunities.

There will be those who choose to live thrifty and those who spend more than they make.

There will be those who are stronger, faster, smarter than you.

Those who are weaker, slower and dumber than you.

There will be those who are sought after by corporations, small businesses, organizations, and non-profits for their people skills, expertise, life experience, customer service, passion for quality, trustworthiness and virtue.

And there will be those who believe that they are entitled to a job and a paycheck regardless of what sort of value they provide for their employer and society as a whole.

No one is entitled to opportunities, education or employment.

All of those things are earned and purchased, and we all have different amounts of money, time, energy, skills, talents, strengths, knowledge, expertise and experiences with which to buy them.

Fairness is the freedom to choose who we hire, how much we pay them and how long they work for us.

Fairness is the freedom to choose who you work for, how much pay you’ll agree to, and how long you work for someone.

Don’t trade away fairness and freedom for the pipe dream of equality.