How Well Do Books Compete with Your TV set?

As Covid-19 struck, did the amount of books Americans buy go up or down? The options in this pop quiz are a) down 10%, b) flat, no change from 2019, and c) up 10%

The correct answer to this week’s quiz is number 3) because sales rose 8% compared to 2019 book sales.  That’s the “good news,” as people were generally stuck at home while the pandemic raged. The bad news, if you’re a bookstore owner or employee, is that bookstore sales were down 23% versus 2019 given that they were either shuttered or often had limited operations. The bigger picture “bad news” for the book industry is that the percentage of people who read a book on a typical day has declined from 26% to 19% from 2003 to 2017. In comparison, TV / streamed viewing is an activity consuming 10x more of people’s time than cracking open a book. The fear that books may become less relevant in a world driven by TV et cetera was, Joanna Scott says, one of the underlying concerns motivating her latest book, a collection of short stories about the often blurry line between fact, fiction, and the fantasies that play in our heads.

Released today: a pair of podcasts. Episode #56 of my podcast series “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” features Joanna Scott, the author of Excuse Me While I Disappear. Click here to get to the new episode. While on the web site, slide over into the Biography channel to listen to my episode with author Nelson Johnson regarding his book Darrow’s Nightmare: The Forgotten Story of America’s Most Famous Trial Lawyer.

Joanna Scott is the author of 12 books, including Arroganceand Various Antidotes, both PEN-Faulkner finalists, and The Manikin, a finalize for the Pulitzer Prize. Her awards include a MacArthur Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She teaches at the University of Rochester.  

Nelson Johnson is a retired New Jersey Superior Court Judge and the author of four previous books including Boardwalk Empire, which inspired the HBO series about Atlantic City.

Image of New Books network and Dan Hill's EQ Spotlight podcast logo

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

On the 1st Anniversary of George Floyd’s Murder

Photo from Exhibit 17 from Derek Chauvin’s trial was a still-frame image of the police officer glaring at onlookers while his knees rested on George Floyd’s throat. What was Chauvin’s facial expression saying? The answer is both anger (tense lower right eyelid, wide open right eye and lowered eyebrows) as well as fear (eyebrows raised, creating a large wrinkle across Chauvin’s forehead) and Disgust  (curled upper lip and protruding lower lip)

This week marks the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death under the knee of Derek Chauvin. Much has been written about that tragedy, including an article a month ago by John Blake of CNN.

The thrust of Blake’s article—about the harm that indifference to injustice causes—I agree with. As an expert in analyzing facial expressions, however, I couldn’t disagree more with how Blake describes the look on Chauvin’s face as being “one of bored disinterest,” with the “only flicker of emotion” being “annoyance at the crowd” gathered to plead for Floyd’s life. This still-frame image (Exhibit 17 in Chauvin’s trial) actually tells a far different story. There isn’t just annoyance on display; there’s very real anger in how strongly Chauvin is glaring at the crowd. There’s fear, too, as at some level Chauvin must have known that having video bear witness to what was transpiring could put him in legal jeopardy. 

Finally, there’s a hint of a third emotion as well, namely disgust given how Chauvin’s upper lip curls a bit while the lower lip pushes down slightly. Disgust with the victim his knee is suffocating? Disgust with the crowd? With the idea that anybody would dare contest a policeman’s actions? Who’s to say. Disgust is an emotion Chauvin certainly won’t own up to as he appeals a guilty verdict as it would reveal a repugnance for the very people he was sworn to protect and serve.

What inspired you to write the book?

Released today: episode #55 of my podcast series “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” on the New Books Network. The episode features Carla Diana, the author of My Robot Gets Me: How Social Design Can Make New Products More HumanClick here to get to the new episode.

Carla Diana is a robot designer responsible for the creative aspects of Diligent Robotics’ new hospital service robot named Moxi. She created and leads the 4D Design masters program at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, wrote the world’s first children’s book on 3D printing, Leo the Maker Prince, and she cohosts the Robopsych Podcast.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Image of New Books network and Dan Hill's EQ Spotlight podcast logo

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Restoring the Statue of Liberty

An image of this Q&A-  Q: Does the Statute of Liberty celebrate: 1) immigration or 2) Emancipation? A: As originally conceived, #2.  Source: Berry & Gross, A Black Women’s History of the United States

When the French abolitionist Edouard de Laboulaye and designer Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi unveiled their concept for the Statute of Liberty in 1871, the monument include a broken shackle at Liberty’s feet and a chain in her left hand. By 1886, however, the tide had turned. Jim Crow—and Jane Crow—laws were being cemented into place across the South. So a new version of the statute was dedicated instead, leaving black women bereft of their rightful place in the country’s iconography. Since 1886, has there been progress? Yes, but sometimes just barely. Why did black women working as domestic servants in the South join the Great Migration north? Often to escape the risk of rape in their masters’ homes. It’s been a long road forward to commanding figures like Kamala Harris and Serena Williams, among others, leading the charge.

Released today: episode #48 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Kali Nicole Gross, the co-author along with Daina Ramey Berry of A Black Women’s History of the United StatesCheck out the audio link below to get oriented or click on  https://newbooksnetwork.com/category/special-series/dan-hills-eq-spotlight to get to the new episode.

Kali Gross is Acting Professor of African American Studies at Emory University. Her previous books include Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso, winner of the 2017 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in nonfiction.

News Items

My interview on Cynthia Farrell’s podcast “This Is How We Lead” aired this week. Check out “Emotions & Facial Coding in Leadership” by clicking on any of these links below:

Apple Podcasts: https://apple.co/3fCztHJ
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/31w0SCw
Google Podcasts: https://bit.ly/3ctGiZS
iHeart Radio: https://ihr.fm/31x6exq
Pandora: https://bit.ly/3cwVIg0
Amazon Music: https://amzn.to/2PHb5K4

Image of New Books network and Dan Hill's EQ Spotlight podcast logo

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Dark Moon on the Rise

Quote "Across history, what creates the risk of political instability is the behavior of elites." by Jack Goldstone and Peter Turchin

Yesterday’s New York Times includes an editorial, “America, We Have a Problem,” that cites three core ingredients putting America at risk. The ingredients consist of “othering”, “aversion”, and “moralization”: basically, ingredients that denigrate a person or political party that holds opposing views, rather than finding common ground.

Punitive intolerance and anger are often found in tandem, as my latest podcast guest explains more fully. Mix in money, power, and race; then add media-stoked anger and you have a recipe for an explosion.

Calling it the “Turbulent Twenties,” the scholars Goldstone and Turchin have modeled economic and demographic trends that suggest a political crisis is brewing in America, on par with the Civil War era. When the country’s elites are keen on protecting their own selfish happiness, the risk is great that the general public’s feelings of disappointment and distrust will turn to rage. Almost 30 years ago Goldstone predicted the rise of a figure like Donald Trump. Now would be a good time for another Lincoln or FDR.

Anger, Politics, and the Health of American Democracy

Released today: episode #33 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Steven W. Webster, the author of American Rage: How Anger Shapes Our Politics. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Webster is an assistant professor of political science at Indiana University. His research and writings focus on the role of anger in American politics, including the growth of “negative partisanship” in our country, and the ever greater polarization separating Democrats and Republicans.

This episode covers the behavioral implications of anger in American politics, from increased intolerance, blame, and aggression, to an ever-deepening lack of trust in government’s efficacy. Among the topics being addressed is the role of the media and internet in stoking anger; how democratic norms are threatened by partisan taunting; and the way anger invites loyalty to party over country.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Heading into the Storm

Implicit association tests (IATs) suggest a bias in America favoring Whites over people of color

With the Election next Tuesday, America is about to see how well the “glue” holds. Can our courts and police forces provide a sense of justice being impartially served? Or will we descend into bleak partisan chaos if the voting is close?

My concerns focus on the political divide between Democrats and Republicans with regard to the Supreme Court. A majority of the current Supreme Court Justices were appointed by presidents George W. Bush, Jr. and Donald Trump, who both lost the popular vote. Chief Justice John Roberts, Brett Kavanagh and Amy Coney Barrett were all part of the legal team that aided Bush in the fight to count or not count votes in Florida. The Supreme Court eventually ruled in Bush’s favor and the Florida recount ceased, giving the Presidential victory to Bush.

Recently the Washington Post reported that white nationalists were attempting to infiltrate law enforcement . Since wide-spread racial bias seems to exist across our society, aided by stereotypes, what are the odds these extremists could find fertile soil, at times, in trying to recruit allies that give them elbowroom? 

Let’s hope for the best. But if legal maneuvering delivers an Electoral College victory to Trump, despite Joe Biden winning the popular vote, protests could erupt that will make the Black Lives Matter marches seem tame by comparison. Then how will the police respond?  Will fears of racial strife, lost lives and looting make the perversion of democracy seem like the lesser “evil”? Over the next days and weeks leading up to Inauguration Day in January, we’re about to find out.

How to Promote Peace in the Streets

Released today: episode #26 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Thomas Abt, the author of Bleeding Out: The Devastating Consequences of Urban Violence – and a Bold New Plan for Peace in the StreetsListen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Abt is widely considered to be America’s foremost expert on the use of evidence-informed approaches to reduce urban violence. He is a Senior Fellow with the Council on Criminal Justice in Washington, DC. Prior to the Council, he held posts at Harvard University and in the U.S. Department of Justice.  Other media outlets that have covered Abt’s work include the Atlantic, the Economist, Foreign Affairs, the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, MSNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio.

In this episode, the topics range from the human and economic costs of violence, to how a focus on a limited number of bad people, bad places and bad behaviors can improve situations that may otherwise look hopeless. The interview’s final question raises the specter of whether police bias in favor of gun-toting white vigilantes could ever become a serious issue or not.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

How Do Animals and People Handle Threats?

We’re in the stretch drive now of the 2020 presidential race, and from the debates to other staged events what might we learn from animal nature that applies to human nature? Plenty. Do any of these survival techniques remind you of what happens among candidates and in office politics, too:

  • Exaggerating one’s ferocity (growling, baring teeth literally or figuratively);
  • Puffing up one’s capability or accomplishments (to intimidate others);
  • Being or bluffing about being poisonous (therefore all the harder to conquer and absorb);
  • Engaging in deception (through camouflaging or mimicry of a more powerful ally); and finally
  • Being colorful, bright and intense (verbally or physically) to achieve social dominance.

Never forget that evolution sadly isn’t worried about theoretical questions of right and wrong. What works, wins, and winners-take-all wasn’t invented yesterday.

Animals do it, people do it, and in this case I don’t mean “fall in love.” There are five key
tricks of the trade to coming out on top in office politics.

Or Else: The Use & Abuse of Threats

Released today: episode #22 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring David Barash, the author of Threats: Intimidation and Its Discontents. Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Barash is a research scientist and author who spent 43 years as a professor of psychology at the University of Washington, Seattle. He’s written over 240 scientific papers, written or co-written 41 books, and been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. This episode covers three key areas: the natural world, individuals and society, and international affairs.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

A Glut of Disgust in the 2020 Race

Joe Biden on stage in Cleveland with Donald Trump who shows lots of disgust on his face during the 1st presidential debate of 2020

Oscar Wilde’s most famous play is The Importance of Being Earnest. But I’m here today to talk about the importance of disgust. Like contempt, disgust is an aversive, rejection emotion. But the two emotions are cousins, not twins. Contempt is an intellectual or attitudinal emotion—signaling distrust and disrespect. In contrast, disgust is the single most visceral emotion—signaling that something is poisonous: literally, physically, something stinks or tastes bad, and/or is morally repugnant.

In Tuesday night’s first—and I pray only—2020 presidential debate, Donald Trump oozed disgust—showing that emotion 10 times more often than Joe Biden. So what, you might say. Well, research shows that conservative people have greater disgust sensitivity. In other words, given their tried-and-true, less experimental nature, conservatives are far more likely to reject what’s new and unfamiliar. That conservative, disgust-sensitivity bias would seem to suggest that Trump was on-track by showing a glut of disgust on Tuesday. When, though, is lots of disgust too much of a bad thing?

Here are Tuesday’s emotional results:

A chart showing the percentage of facially coded emotion Joe Biden and Donald Trump showed during the 1st Presidential debate of 2020. Disgust is dominant and threatening

In short, Trump went emotionally overboard and likely repelled undecided voters, who tend to be less interested in and, hence, more emotionally low-key about politics. Take the President’s constant interruptions of Biden and even the moderator, Chris Wallace, then add that lack of decorum to Trump’s massive showing of disgust and now you’ve got someone whose bully-dominance is telling voters intuitively, emotionally—beyond words alone—that he’s prepared to blow everything up to get re-elected. Right-wing militia types like the Proud Boys might be delighted. Largely apolitical voters as well as female suburban voters are, however, likely to be left both appalled and profoundly uneasy, tilting them in Biden’s favor.

…he’s prepared to blow everything up to get re-elected.

Does It Smell Right?

The sense of smell is the oldest, most powerful sense we have. Its even the origins of the brain, meaning it should be I smell, therefore I think – not I think, therefore I am.

Why Has Hatred Become So Prevalent Today?

Released today: episode #21 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” podcast series, featuring Berit Brogaard, the author of Hatred: Understanding Our Most Dangerous Emotion(Oxford University Press 2020). Listen to the audioclip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Photo of Author Berit Brogaard and the cover of her book "Hatred" featured on Dan Hill's EQ Spotlight podcast episode 21
What is it that makes hatred so addicting?

What is it that makes hatred so addicting?

Berit is a Professor of Philosophy and a Cooper Fellow at the University of Miami. Her areas of research include the topics of perception, emotions, and language. She’s published five books, four with Oxford University Press over the past decade, plus The Superhuman Mind, published by Penguin in 2015.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • The two-fold nature of hatred, which has both a personal dimension and a group dimension to it. Hatred runs hotter and longer than anger, having more intensity and an attitudinal element.
  • How a 6th trait, honesty-humility, is a contender to supplement to the usual Big 5 personality model because it brings into the equation the role of narcissism, and its likely relationship to contempt.
  • How it is that some relatively privileged white men could be so prone to hatred toward women and minorities, with that hatred growing in times of greater economic inequality.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Clues to What You Might Detect on Stage

Photographs of Joe Biden and Donald Trump with arrows pointing to emotional expressions of anger, sadness, happiness and disgust to help TV viewers of the debates make sense of their emotions.

The fantasy is that citizens carefully, rationally, sift through political messages and information, making consciously informed decisions about which candidate to support based on the issues of the day. The reality is that 75% of Americans can’t name all three branches of government, 20% believe the right to own a pet is enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and 10% of our country’s college graduates think Judge Judy is a member of the U.S. Supreme Court.

So don’t think for a moment that emotions and intuitive, gut-reactions and biases don’t drive election results. How best to spot what a candidate is feeling?

Bear in mind that in ambiguous situations—think presidential debates—how we assess what’s being communicated is 55% from the face, 38% from the voice, and merely 7% from the words. Yes, facial expressions matter. So here is my cheat-sheet guide for you to use while watching the first debate on September 29th when the 7% of Americans who have supposedly not made up their minds may instead make up their hearts.

Chart of emotional expressions to look for in the first 2020 Presidential debate of Joe Biden and Donal Trump

Special Upcoming Roundtable Edition of Podcast

Airing on October 2nd will be a special, one-hour edition of my “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” podcast. It features a pair of political scientists, John Hibbing and Jonathan Weiler, who specialize in the emerging field of biopolitics: how our emotions, personality traits and even, perhaps, our DNA can predispose us to a liberal or conservative political orientation. This special edition will focus on how swing-voters in play may have responded to what they saw and heard during the 1st presidential debate.

Images of the book Predisposed by John R. Hibbing and the book Prius and the Pick up by Johnathan Weiler for Dan Hill's EQ Spotlight

Is It Expensive To Be Yourself?

Released today: episode #20 of my “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” podcast, featuring Timothy R. Clark, the author of The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2020). Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Image of the Author Timothy R. Clark and his Book The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety

How does any organization invite the true, full participation of its members?

Clark is the founder and CEO of LeaderFactor, and ranks as a global authority on senior executive development, strategy acceleration and organizational change. He’s the author of five book, and over 150 articles. Clark earned a doctorate degree in Social Science from Oxford University.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • Why showing respect and granting permission are the keys to unlocking potential.
  • What lies beneath stunning statics like, only 36% of business professional believe their companies foster an inclusive company culture, and only one-third of workers believe their opinions count; whereas, 50% of workers report being treated rudely at work at least once a week.
  • How a leader’s “tell-to-ask” ratio relates to whether that person suffers from the narcissism that limits the effectiveness of so many leaders.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

“Palace” Intrigue

Researchers who study chimpanzees have found they will forgo food, if need be, to maintain a clear view of their leader’s face. Survival depends on knowing how your boss is feeling. Is now a good time to seek a favor? Or is it best to hide and stay out of harm’s way? Human beings are genetically 99% the same as chimpanzees, and we behave similarly. For us, too, palace intrigue provides both entertaining gossip and vital survival tips.

Let’s start with the entertainment. Anybody who watched the final night of the Republican National Convention last Thursday was treated to Melania Trump revealing her true feelings about Ivanka Trump. Melania’s forced smile turned to lip-curling scorn and a glassy-eyed stare the moment Donald Trump’s favorite child passed by the First Couple to join them at the podium. A jealous rivalry for the president’s affection and attention underlies the moment. That the Donald finds his daughter attractive enough to have basically lusted after her on an episode of Howard Stern’s radio show is an open secret.

As to survival, we’re all screwed if the Donald has his way. The second photo shows Food and Drug Administration (FDA) director Stephen Hahn apologizing for hyping the benefits of a Covid-19 plasma therapy the day after Trump bullied Hahn into doing so. Hahn’s forehead wrinkles make his concern transparent. Add in other shenanigans like preferring not to test asymptomatic people (to hide the dimensions of the pandemic), and you’ve got a serious case of Trump trying to have the government protect his re-election interests over our health interests as citizens. Welcome to the jungle.

Data Manipulation

$3.3 Trillion Dollars of Greed, Fear & Inertia

Released today: episode #17 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” podcast series, featuring Paul Offit, the author of Overkill: When Modern Medicine Goes Too FarListen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Why Do Unnecessary and Often Counter-Productive Medical Interventions Happen So Often? 

Offit is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania and the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. A prolific author, he’s also well known for being the public face of the scientific consensus that vaccines have no association with autism.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • The degree to which opportunities to make money and avoid law suits drives the behavior of doctors, though inertia and unwillingness to accept advances in knowledge are also common explanations for being at times too active in treating patients.
  • How the marketing campaigns of pharmaceutical companies can warp treatment plans.
  • The conclusions from countless studies that in at least the 15 common medical interventions covered in this book, many patients are better off with more basic, common sense approaches like eating well, exercise, et cetera.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

Forget Look-Alike, It’s Time for FEEL-ALIKE

Mona Lisa smirking as much as smiling, while also looking sad and angry. Alongside her image, a man with eyes striking wide, mouth ajar, looking frightened.
What is the enigmatic Mona Lisa feeling in Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece? Find out here, plus the emotions shown in Gustave Courbet’s self-portrait The Desperate Man.

Back on May 21st, I posted the blog “For Portraits and Selfies: A Case of Money See, Monkey Not-Quite-Do.” That blog was about people – especially artists – cooped up at home during Covid-19 quarantining, choosing to adopt the poses of famous paintings and photographs. Now it’s your turn. I’m holding a selfies contest in which the winning entry for each image will be chosen based on replicating the expressions shown. The deadline for entries is September 1st. You can submit your entries for either painting or both. Email your entries to dhill@sensorylogic.com.

The two winners will receive a free pass to attend one of the private, virtual lectures that I’m giving in September, based on my recent book First Blush: People’s Intuitive Reactions to Famous Art. The lectures cover findings from my study – the largest ever done involving eye tracking and art, plus the use of facial coding, to capture how participants felt about what they were specifically noticing.

What Is the Emotional Baseline of Republicans and Democrats?

It’s known as biopolitics – research indicating that your political loyalties are often
revealed by which emotions you gravitate to most readily. Watch this video to see if it’s true of you, too, i.e. do you fit your party’s mold?

Exploring Misunderstandings about Trump’s “Deplorable” Fans

Released today: episode #15 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” podcast series, featuring John R. Hibbing, the author of The Securitarian Personality: What Really Motivates Trump’s Base and Why It Matters for the Post-Trump Era (published by Oxford University Press). Listen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Image of Author, John R. Hibbing and his book "The Securitarian Personality" Which has an image of Trump as Uncle Sam on the cover
John H. Hibbing is an expert in the field of biopolitics – how our personality traits and characteristic emotions often reflect our political leanings. This book shows how Trump’s fans are and are not a departure from traditional Republican supporters.

What are the policy implications due to a fundamental distrust and dislike of “outsiders”?

Hibbing teaches political science at the University of Nebraska and has been both a NATO fellow in Science and a Guggenheim Fellow. Media appearances have included Star Talk, The Hidden Brain, and The Daily Show.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • What are people’s biggest misconceptions about Trump’s staunchest supporters? 
  • How are Trump’s fans different from the Republican party’s traditional base?
  • In a battle over the soul of whether America might be a democracy or an oligarchy in the future, which option might securitarians favor and why?

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.