Thursday, October 31, 2013

Book Review-Subliminal-How your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior

Dr. Leonard Mlodinow’s book Subliminal-How your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior focuses on understanding the underpinnings of human thought and how this impacts just about everything within our lives. He graduated with his doctorate from the University of California Berkeley in physics. He enjoys working with concepts in mathematics, chemistry, laws of nature and the unconscious mind.  Furthermore, he also works as a screenwriter, playwright, and academia. 

Carl Jung once stated, “These subliminal aspects of everything that happens to us may seem to play very little part in our daily lives. But they are almost invisible roots of our conscious thoughts.

The unconscious mind is a two tier system of conscious thought processes and unconscious activity.  Consciousness can only handle and process a small percentage of information. The unconscious is a much stronger system that collects, connects, and processes greater amounts of information for further use. It is a system designed to allow us to focus on one complex task while still being aware of our surroundings. 

Senses plus mind equal the subconscious.  Since the ancient Greeks man has sought to see how the processes work together. The unconscious has its own way of viewing the world and draws information through the senses. For example, research on blindsight indicates that some humans have the amazing ability to see and understand where they are in relation to other objects without the ability to actually see them. The unconscious uses various data from the environment to navigate, function and ensure survival.  This is the reality in which we perceive.

"Your amicable words mean nothing if your body seems to be saying something different"-James Borg

Our subconscious mind also affords the opportunity to understand human beings without formal language. If we listen to the words of someone but fail to have that same impression from their body language, choice of words, and patterns of speech, etc... we are likely to correctly conclude they can’t be trusted. The same process, to a lower level, exists in animals that seek to understand friend or foe when meeting others within the same species. 

"All groups…develop a way of living with characteristic codes and beliefs" –Gordon Allport

Each group creates special meaning and language that impacts their identity. Those outside of the group will have a difficult time understanding what these special codes and language choices mean. As the group forms and identity it is the understandings and subtle impressions they give each other that helps to create the way in which they see themselves. Their approach and beliefs in the world create the in and out group phenomenon.

The book is written for an audience of casual readers. It is something that readers of Psychology Today are likely to pick up. It will make great conversation while dining with others.  It does offer some level of scientific value in terms of giving a broad overview of the subconscious process. It doesn’t go into specific depth on any of the experiments and what their far reaching implications are. You can learn something about neuroscience. It is worth the read and is listed as a best seller.  

Mlodinow, L. ( 2012). Subliminal-How your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior. Vintage Books; NY.  ISBN: 978-0-307-47225-0

Call for Papers: The Journal for Excellence in Business Education

The Journal for Excellence in Business Education, in partnership with the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE), publishes quality manuscripts focusing on current and emerging developments, topics, and trends that relate to and influence higher business education. Manuscripts can come from a variety of settings, including: traditional and non-traditional students, domestic and global education, corporate education and training, as well as in-class, online, or hybrid learning.

Topics include the following:
Organizational Behavior

The journal is open access and double blind reviewed. The quality of the journal is high and follows the right processes for ensuring work is substantial. Open access is beneficial for encouraging readership and greater intellectual development among interested parties. 

Current Publication (Read for Free). Topics currently available include business, teaching, and communication articles.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Principle-Agent Theory in Economic Development

Economic development is seen as a business and government partnership. The author’s Lombard and Morris (2012) analyze how the principle-agent theory can foster public-private partnerships and privatization to foster growth. They use a specific case example to help highlight their overall concept of cross-pollination. It is this cross-pollination that should help develop other projects within the area.

Local entities seek to increase their economic activity as well as the potential spill over benefits of additional employment. They look for and solicit businesses to move into their areas and develop productive capacity. In many cases using approaches such as an advantageous business environment and lower taxes helps nudge businesses to consider local investment. 

The authors use Virginia Beach, Virginia as their case study. The historically suburban city was struggling to create a vibrant business downtown business district. As the project started as a single government entity and a single private entity it was a simplistic way of studying the factors of development. The principle-agent theory appeared to be the most appropriate scientific lens. 

In the development of a public-private partnership the values and goals of the public become more important than individual goals. The principle-agent theory implies that one entity wishes for the task to be completed and the other agree to complete the task (Eisenhardt, 1989).That process can exist between government and company, doctor and patient, or contractor and subcontractor. 

When there is a partnership between government and business it is through an alignment of goals. Governments do not necessarily seek a profit but do seek to minimize costs and increase effectiveness through privatization. Companies that seek profits do so within the defined prices set by the government. A general bidding process can be used to determine interested parties. 

In the case of Virginia Beach the merging of two entities found that there was no core business district. Local decision-makers rezoned the downtown area and used an effective slogan such as “live, work, play” to sum up the genre of their location. Furthermore, they developed the downtown district by having the principle (i.e. government) using an agent (private business) to develop available parking other projects. The bidding process helps to ensure that competent companies compete to reduce the overall price. 

A number of key concepts fold into each other. Using a marketing slogan that sums up the goals of the area may be effective in pitching to future investors. The development of a downtown district helps in sparking increased investment and interrelated projects of growth. More importantly, government can encourage investments in particular areas by being both data rich and offer appropriate guidance in areas of necessary improvement. The principle-agent theory need not apply only to government funded construction but could also apply to potential promotion of areas where outside investment will likely be successful within the economic hub. 

Eisenhardt, K.M. (1989). Agency theory: An assessment and review. Academy of Management
Review, 14(1), 57–74.

Lombard, J. & Morris, J. (2012). Using privatization theory to analyze economic development projects. Public Performance & Management Review, 35 (4).

Twenty-First International Conference on Learning-2014

Twenty-First International Conference on Learning

Date: July 15th to 17th, 2014
New York:
Submission Deadline: November 5th, 2013

The International Conference on Learning is for any person with an interest in, and concern for, education at any of its levels – from early childhood, to schools, to higher education – and lifelong learning in any of its sites, from home to school to university to the workplace.

Topics: Pedagogy and Curriculum Adult, Community, and Professional Learning Assessment and Evaluation Learner Diversity and Identities Educational Organization and Leadership Technologies in Learning Early Childhood Learning Literacies Learning Learning in Higher Education Science, Mathematics, and Technology Learning

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Social Networks Percolate Products and Opinions

Word of mouth fosters social learning about issues, products, and opportunities.  Friends that act and think alike often create clusters and these clusters can influence the purchasing choices as well as the decisions members make. Economists often have difficulty formulating how social networks formulate and influence people’s impressions of products and services. Research by Arthur Campbell (2013) sheds light on how word of mouth in social networks influences perception of value. 

When individuals are interested in a concept or product they are naturally more willing to engage in word of mouth. Generally, as a product’s price is lower it raises the interest level and the potential discussion of the product leading to more word of mouth activity. It is this interaction that brings to the forefront ideas, concepts, and discussions on products that are settled within a group. 

One of the difficult aspects of understanding social networks and diffusion is the complexity of the system.  Despite this complexity, it is known that as activity increases information is spread out to a wider group of people thereby creating more advertisement. The complexity has made chasing down the pieces of information and how they spread difficult.  Yet through models it is possible to understand the process of information peculation in an imperfect manner.

One potential way to look at how information is transferred is in a formula:

Ξ ⊆ { ( i, j ) | i j N }
Everyone is connected to a social network = ( N, Ξ )
Nodes = n
Relationship between individuals i and j = ( i, j ) ∈ Ξ
The probability of a person i passing out information = ν ( θ i , P )

The model is undirected in the sense that information can percolate anywhere. All of the consumers are uninformed and the chance that people will buy a product is based on a percentage of the amount of people that become informed. The timing of the model can be seen as-

(i) Each person in the population becomes informed with independent probability
ε ≈ 0 (later they may also become informed through advertising).

(ii) Informed individuals tell all their friends about the product through WOM
with probability ν ( θ i , P ) and purchase the product if θ i P.

(iii) Step 2 is repeated for newly informed consumers until there are no more
consumers being informed.

The model is impacted by availability of competitive products, information, pricing, and a whole array of other factors that go into the process. When a competitive product or alternative explanation is not available it will naturally impact the options and choices within the social network. Likewise, if more information about a product is available it can impact the eventual agreement and promotion of such products with the group. 

When companies advertise they often seek to hit specific components within the social networks. Those persons that are more socially connected will likely spread their impressions of the products or services more widely. This is a simple function of connectivity to other members and the ability to be an influencer within the network. Most of us would recognize the superstar promoters of products and services.

The paper finds a number of interesting associations of price, information/advertisement, and the connections of the network. Generally, as information passes through the network in “buzz” and in tight clusters the prices remain higher. However, if the information passes more slowly or in dispersed networks the prices will remain lower. Word of mouth is a medium that could be positive or negative in its impact. 

Thinking about how information moves through networks it is important to remember that members will engage in social learning based upon how they evaluate the products against each other. If popular opinion is that the product is not desirable it will hamper others from buying that product. It means that we are social creatures that evaluate the work of products based upon how others view those products within our networks. If their feedback is negative we will come to the conclusion that a product is less worthy. 

Such a model does not necessarily need to work with products alone but could be used within an organizational setting to understand how information moves quickly among members. Each person who obtains the information, evaluates it based upon their social schemata, and then promotes that viewpoint to others. If the information is of significant worth it will move faster while if it is of little worth it will spread slower.  One must have an internal gauge to think independently from their clustered networks and this is unlikely for the majority of the population as they are connected to clusters who think alike.  Thus, our opinions are often a direct result of our social networks.

Campbell, A. (2013). Word-of-mouth communication and percolation in social networks. American Economic Review, 103 (6).