“So, Lone Starr, now you see that evil will always triumph, because good is dumb.”

— Dark Helmet

In a recent article, the unusually well-researched comedy site Cracked.com discussed “5 scientific reasons the dark side will always win,” including:

  • Clenching your fists and thinking evil thoughts can increase strength and willpower. (Hung & Labroo 2011, Schubert 2004, Gray 2010)
  • Particular “power poses” raise testosterone and lower cortisol levels (in both men and women) and increase feelings of power and tolerance for risk. (Carney et al. 2010)
  • Boosts in pride can allow you to work longer and harder on “effortful and hedonically negative” tasks. (Williams & DeSteno 2008)
  • Negative moods can decrease gullibility, increase persuasiveness and social influence, and improve the accuracy of eyewitness recollections. (Forgas 2007, Forgas 2008, Forgas et al. 2005)

Perhaps, then, it could be useful to intentionally cultivate a Mysterious Dark Side, or just ask yourself “What would Voldemort do?” once in a while (please do not murder anyone). I’m definitely going to be giving some of these a try; fist-clenching and power-posing are easy, and as a source of evil thoughts and pride, I already have a dark lord alter-ego I could channel when necessary (I’ll probably need to flesh out his character a bit more than I have so far).

The Cracked.com article mostly links to news stories, so, for your convenience, here are the original papers they refer to:


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7 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 10:56 PM

Too bad for Dark Helmet that, in his particular fictional universe, good may be dumb, but evil is even dumber. ;)

I usually find research of cracked and other similar sites to be unpredictable. I always have to read the original source to have any reasonable level of confidence in their conclusions. Which defeats the purpose of reading sites like cracked for their conclusions at least.

Like in Gary 2010 cracked does not mention that in Experiment 2 where that the results between writing a story about help or harm are within each others error bars. In addition only Gary 2010 seems to be the only paper to be talking about Moral Transformation out of (Hung & Labroo 2011, Schubert 2004, Gray 2010).

Gary 2010 do not make compelling argument that moral transformation is the optimal way to think about these situations, it is however suggestive that something interesting is going on. Many articles like Gary 2010 make arguments that are suggestive that something interesting is going on, but fail to make their conclusions compelling.

I support this effort to analyze the citations.

If anybody takes the time to summarize the other articles, that would be nice! I feel guilty when i notice that skimming a comedy article is more fun than reading through a list of citations.

More on the power of the dark side: IBM's Black Team.

That article has enough good points it might deserve a more prominent link maybe in a discussion post of its own. The real take-home point that a few people who are only marginally better than their peers at something can become much better if they cooperate and dedicate a lot of resources to working together and improving what they do.

This post has similar information.

I've tried the ones about tensing muscles for willpower, crossing arms for persistence, smiling to make myself happy, and taking up more space to seem dominant and they seem to work. I find a hearty laugh is also good at inducing happiness.

I used to have a habit of trying to preempt people in saying what they were trying to say. It helped me understand math, but a few of my friends and family members found it irritating. So now I do more mirroring.

At first, I thought you meant the dark side of epistemology.

Are the effects significant?

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