Q&A

Would Exposure to Any Religious Symbol Make Us Less Comfortable With Ambiguity?

As we argue in our article, the more a religion is associated with dichotomy (e.g., teachings promoting a clear distinction between right vs. wrong, or sinful vs. virtuous), the more likely it is that a reminder of that religion makes us uncomfortable with ambiguity. Thus, it depends on the respective typical associations people hold with a certain religion or with a specific symbol.

For example, it is conceivable that some symbolic reminders of a religion make us less tolerant of ambiguity while other symbols of the same religion do not change our reaction to ambiguous information because each leads people to think about different aspects of that religion, or even something completely unrelated to the religion it originates from. Furthermore, it could very well be that religions that emphasize similar dichotomous distinctions in their doctrine activate similar thinking styles whereas other belief systems may render completely different norms accessible and therefore also impact the way we think and behave very differently.

Christina Sagioglou is a graduate student in psychology at the University of Innsbruck.

Q&A

How Does “Quantum Banking” Allow Everyone to Thrive Simultaneously? Jonathon Keats Answers

Money is very old technology. Whether in the form of cowry shells or doubloons or banknotes or bitcoins, it’s based on classical physics: The token is in only one pocket at a time. But quantum mechanics has shown that classical physics is just an approximation of reality. If we want our economic system to be realistic, it should be quantum. The most obvious advantage? In a quantum superposition, money would be in everybody’s pocket at once.

Admittedly, quantum economics is counterintuitive, as is the quantum physics on which it operates. Perhaps the easiest way to understand the underlying theory is by calling to mind a famous thought experiment described by Erwin Schrödinger in 1935, now known as Schrödinger’s cat: A cat is put in a box with some poison. The poison will or will not be released based on the outcome of a quantum event. Since quantum theory requires that quantum events only have definite outcomes if observed, the cat will remain both alive and dead as long as the box is shut. Quantum economics simply enlists quantum phenomena to generate Schrödinger’s cash.

At 20 Rockefeller Plaza, I’m establishing the world’s first quantum bank. The Quantum Bank will have 7 billion accounts—enough to serve the world population—and 7 billion quantum dollars will be generated for each dollar deposited. Cash is deposited by a quantum event: the action of an alpha particle emitted by a uranium glass sphere. The sphere is surrounded by a microscopic grid of 7 billion boxes. The coordinates of each box correspond to one of the 7 billion accounts. The box that the alpha particle exits determines which account gets the cash.

If you were to measure the system, you’d find that the particle would pass through just one box, putting the dollar in just one account, providing the bank with just one dollar in total assets. However, the quantum banking apparatus is metallically shielded so that no external measurements can be made. As in the case of Schrödinger’s cat, quantum uncertainty will prevail. As a quantum particle, the alpha won’t pass through just one box. It will pass through them all. That means all 7 billion accounts get credited. The quantum cash is everywhere at once.

When the Quantum Bank opens for business on June 11, everyone will be invited to claim a free account, sharing as much of their wealth as they wish, or simply living off others’ quantum deposits. Deposits will be accepted in any currency, including dollars, euros, rubles, and yuan. All withdrawals will be in quantum banknotes—printed by the bank in golden ink—at a one-dollar-per-quantum exchange rate. These banknotes can be used wherever they are accepted, or they can be redeposited at the bank to generate even more quantum cash.

Of course, one small quantum bank can’t solve the world’s problems. That’s why all of my technology is open-source, freely available to larger institutions and governments. I would especially invite collaborations with the Federal Reserve and the World Bank.

By making money realistic, we can put the world’s finances in a quantum-economic superposition. Everybody can thrive simultaneously at last.

Jonathon Keats is an experimental philosopher and artist, and his Quantum Bank opens on June 11 at Engineer’s Office Gallery, 20 Rockefeller Plaza (Basement Level), in New York.

Q&A

What Makes Certain Everyday Rituals More Effective Than Others?

Here is what we know:

In a recent study conducted in Brazil, researchers studied people who perform simpatias: formulaic rituals that are used for solving problems such as quitting smoking, curing asthma, and warding off bad luck. People perceive simpatias to be more effective depending on the number of steps involved, the repetition of procedures, and whether the steps are performed at a specified time. These findings suggest that the specific nature of rituals may be crucial in understanding when they work—and when they do not.

In my research in collaboration with various colleagues, I find that even a ritual involving a set of random steps (e.g., Step 1. Draw how you currently feel on the piece of paper on your desk for two minutes. Step 2. Please sprinkle a pinch of salt on the paper with your drawing. Step 3. Please tear up the piece of paper. Step 4. Count up to 10 in your head five times) produces powerful effects on people’s behavior.

I think as long as people believe they are performing a ritual, our research suggests, the ritual is likely to affect their thinking, feelings, and behavior.

Francesca Gino is an associate professor of business administration in the Negotiation, Organizations & Markets Unit at Harvard Business School and the author of the new book Sidetracked.

Q&A

Does Saying No to a Request for a Donation Make Us More Likely to Say Yes the Next Time?

We believe the answer to this question is more nuanced than a simple yes or no. Our research would suggest that whether the two requests (initial donation request and the subsequent request) are related may have an effect on our likelihood to comply with the second request after initially declining the first donation request.

We believe there are two factors at play. First is the moral balancing effect. People who declined to perform a good deed may feel the need to “cleanse” themselves by complying with the second, prosocial request. On the other hand, people desire to remain consistent. So those declining the donation request may want to remain consistent and also decline the second request. While these two effects would suggest two different outcomes, we hypothesized that people’s focus on moral balancing or consistency will depend on whether or not the two requests are related. If they are unrelated, people may think to “cleanse” themselves by complying with the second request after rejecting the first. If related, then people may reject the second request as they do NOT want to appear to be hypocritical by being inconsistent.

Say people rejected an initial donation request from UNICEF to help vaccinate children against polio, and then are asked to make a donation contribution to Reading Is Fundamental. They may feel that complying with the second request can help them cleanse themselves of not supporting the first cause. On the other hand, if the second request is the same request for support for UNICEF, then people’s desire for consistency may be heightened, leading them to reject the second request.

Gary Hsieh is a joint-appointed assistant professor in the departments of communication and telecommunication, information studies and media, and a co-founder of the BITLab, at Michigan State University.

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