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2018

Elliot AronsonMacmillan Learning author, Elliot Aronson was interviewed by Newsweek on the 20th anniversary of Columbine. In this article Elliot Aronson, well-respected psychologist and professor emeritus from UC Santa Cruz, discusses his research and work on the jigsaw classroom. Regarding schools and school shootings, he favors an approach that makes people not hate each other. That’s the central solution. He first started jigsaw because of school desegregation in Austin, Texas. The main thing is: How do we bridge the gap between people? If they don’t hate each other, they're not going to shoot each other up.

 

Read the full article here:

http://www.newsweek.com/columbine-anniversary-psychologist-prevent-school-shooting-parkland-nra-arming-889146

The Syrian slaughter. North Korea nuclear warheads. ISIS attacks. School shootings. Social media-fed teen depression. Thugs victimizing people of color and women. Inequality increasing. Online privacy invaded. Climate change accelerating. Democracy flagging as autocrats control Turkey, Hungary, China, and Russia, and as big money, voter suppression, and Russian influence undermine American elections. U.S. violent crime and illegal immigration soaring.

 

For news junkies, it’s depressing. We know that bad news predominates: If it bleeds, it leads. But we can nevertheless take heart from underreported encouraging trends. Consider, for example, the supposed increases in crime and illegal immigration.

 

Is it true, as President Trump has said, that “crime is rising” and in inner cities “is at levels that nobody has seen”? Seven in 10 Americans appeared to agree, when reporting to Gallup in each recent year that violent crime was higher than in the previous year. Actually, crime data aggregated by the FBI (shown below) reveals that violent (and property) crime have dramatically fallen since the early 1990s.

 

And is the U.S. being flooded with immigrants across its Mexican border—“evil, illegal immigrants who commit violent crimes,” as a 2018 DonaldJTrump.com campaign ad declared? In reality, the influx has subsided to a point where, Politifact confirms, “more illegal Mexican immigrants are leaving the United States than entering it.” (Should we build a wall to keep them in?)

 

But what about immigrant crime—fact or fiction? “Americans are five times more likely to say immigrants make the [crime] situation worse rather than better (45% to 9%, respectively),” reports Gallup. Not so. Multiple studies find that, as the National Academy of Sciences reports, “immigrants are less likely than the native-born to commit crimes” and are underrepresented in American prisons.

 

For more good news, consider other heartening long-term trends:

  • World hunger is retreating.
  • Child labor is less common.
  • Literacy is increasing.
  • Wars are becoming less frequent.
  • Explicit racial prejudice (as in opposition to interracial marriage) has plummeted.
  • Gay, lesbian, and transgender folks are becoming more accepted.
  • Infant mortality is rarer and life expectancy is increasing.

 

Such trends are amply documented in Steven Pinker’s recent books, The Better Angels of Our Nature and Enlightenment Now, and in Johan Norber’s Progress, and Gregg Easterbrooks, It’s Better Than It Looks. As President Obama observed, if you had to choose when to live, “you’d choose now.”

 

Yes, in some ways, these are dark times. But these are also the times of committed Parkland teens. Mobilized citizens. Machine learning. Immune therapies. #MeToo. #BlackLivesMatter. Low inflation. Near full employment. Digital streaming. Smart cars. Wearable technologies. Year-round fresh fruit. And Post-It notes.

 

To paraphrase Charles Dickens, it is the worst of times, it is the best of times. It is an age of foolishness, it is an age of wisdom. It is a season of darkness, it is a season of light. It is the winter of despair, it is the spring of hope.

The teen years are, for many, a time of rewarding friendships, noble idealism (think Parkland), and an expanding vision for life’s possibilities. But for others, especially those who vary from teen norms, life can be a challenge. Nonheterosexual teens, for example, sometimes face contempt, harassment, or family rejection. And that may explain their having scored higher than other teens on measures of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts and attempts (see here, here, here, and here).

 

But many of these findings are based on older data and don’t reflect the increasing support of gay partnerships among North Americans and Western Europeans. In U.S. Gallup polls, for example, support for “marriages between same-sex couples” soared from 27 percent in 1996 to 64 percent in 2017. So, have the emotional challenges of being teen and gay persisted? If so, to what extent?

 

I’ve wondered, and recently discovered, an answer in the 2015 data from the annual UCLA/Higher Education Research Institute American Freshman survey (of 141,189 entering full-time students at a cross-section of U.S. colleges and universities). The news is mixed:

  • Most gay/lesbian/bisexual frosh report not having struggled with depression.
  • Being gay or lesbian in a predominantly heterosexual world remains, for a significant minority of older teens, an emotional challenge.

 

Can we hope that, if attitudes continue to change, this depression gap will shrink? In the meantime, the American Psychological Association offers youth, parents, and educators these helpful resources for understanding sexual orientation and gender identity, including suggestions for how “to be supportive” of youth whose sexual orientation or gender identity differs from most others.

Would you risk riding to the airport in a self-driving car?

 

If you said no, you aren’t alone. In a 2017 Pew survey, 56 percent of Americans said they would not risk it. That proportion likely has increased in the aftermath of the self-driving Uber car killing a pedestrian on March 19, 2018. Meanwhile, so far this year, around 1200 other pedestrians have been killed by people-driven cars, and few of us have decided not to risk driving (or walking).

 

Time will tell whether, as experts assure us, self-driving cars, without distracted or inebriated drivers, really will be much safer. Even if it’s so, it will be a hard fact to embrace. Why? Because we fear disasters that are vividly “available” in our minds and memories—shark attacks, school shootings, plane crashes—often in settings where we feel little control. “Dramatic outcomes make us gasp,” Nathan DeWall and I conclude in Psychology, 12th Edition, while “probabilities we hardly grasp.”  

 

We do a better job of grasping probabilities in realms where we have lots of experience. If a weather forecaster predicts a mere 30 percent chance of rain for tomorrow, we won’t be shocked if it does indeed rain—as it should about one-third of the time, given such a forecast. We have much less experience with presidential election predictions. Thus many people thought the pollsters and prognosticators had egg on their faces after Donald Trump’s upset win. Statistician and author Nate Silver’s final election forecast gave Trump but a 29 percent chance of victory. Although a 30 percent chance of rain and a 30 percent victory chance are the same odds, an ensuing rain comes as less of a shock.

 

With March Madness basketball games, as with weather forecasts, we fans have more experience. Tweets Silver:

Lesson learned? In domains where we have minimal direct experience, we often don’t get it because the cognitive availability of vivid, rare events may hijack our thinking: “Probabilities we hardly grasp.” But in realms where we do experience life’s uncertainties—as in daily weather variations and sports outcomes—we get it. We appreciate that probabilities calibrate uncertainties. Given enough happenings, anything, however improbable, is sure to occur.