Concept tossups in the social sciences

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Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by magin »

I've been meaning to post about this for some time, so why not now? Considering that social science, as I understand it, studies concepts, not works (although certain works are extremely important to their fields and deserve to come up), quizbowl social science tends to overemphasize tossups on works (and people), because those tossups tend to be much easier to write than good tossups on concepts. And there's nothing wrong with that; certainly, I would prefer a well-written tossup on a book to a confusing tossup on a concept.

However, works-based social science tossups tend to reward memorized (or fraudulent knowledge) over the actual knowledge of the concepts those works discuss. I'm not taking a moral stance on this (it's going to happen, due to the nature of quizbowl), but aesthetically, I think people who know titles beating people who don't know those titles but understand those concepts is not ideal.

So, can we write good social science tossups on concepts? I'll examine the social sciences, and try to see which fields might contain ground for good concept-based tossups. I think asking about concepts is much easier in bonuses, so I won't address that issue in this thread.

Sociology: I don't think there's much here. Tossups on "power" or "mores" or "rationality" could be written, I suppose, but I'm not sure if they could be written very well, since the names of those concepts overlap with many similarly-named ones. I'd love to be proven wrong, but I think that sociology does not lend itself to many concept-based questions (besides ones like "anomie").

Economics: There are many fine concepts to write about in economics; curves or other economic models, things like "inflation," and so on. I don't think there are other concepts that would make good tossup answers besides those models, but since economics is not my field, perhaps someone could mention some I'm not thinking of.

Psychology: Off the top of my head, I can't think of any works of psychology I would write tossups on. There's all those Freudians, but I count them as social thought, not academic psychology (it's like writing a chemistry tossup on phlogiston theory or a biology tossup on spontaneous generation); I don't have a problem with a tossup on Totem and Taboo, but not as a psychology tossup. On the other hand, I think there are many named concepts in psychology that would make very good tossups (such as emotions, intelligence, sleep, types of memories, and so on), and I think there are many clues out there for such tossups. I tried to write a few psych tossups on concepts for Regionals; I think the stress tossup turned out well, while the lying tossup had some problems. Here they are:

Hill's ABCX model measures this concept in families. Cox developed a transactional model of this concept, which Holmes and Rahe measured from one to one hundred on the Social Readjustment Rating Scale. Another model of this phenomenon, General Adaptation Syndrome, posits that it leads to the successive stages of alarm reaction, adaptation, and exhaustion. This phenomenon, whose name was coined by Hans Selye, causes the the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis to release cortisol, which is known as this type of hormone. It appears in high levels in people with Type A personalities. For 10 points, name this unpleasant physical tension that causes high blood pressure and ulcers.
ANSWER: stress

According to a study by Bella DePaulo, people perform this action an average of more than once a day. J.H. Korn's book Illusions of Reality analyzes the history of this action by social psychologists. According to Leon Festinger, the cognitive dissonance in his 1957 experiment with Carlsmith's 1957 was caused by subjects being unable to justify performing this action. Paul Ekman pioneered the analysis of microexpressions to identify performances of this action, and termed false accusations of it the Othello error. For 10 points, name this action, which is also measured by hooking people up to a polygraph.
ANSWER: lying [or deception; or clear-knowledge equivalents]

Looking back on it, the Festinger clue for the lying tossup should have been something like: "According to Leon Festinger's 1957 experiment with Carlsmith, cognitive dissonance was created in subjects paid one dollar to do this action, but not in subjects paid twenty dollars." Anyway, moving on.

Anthropology: Well, now here we're getting to author-from-works bowl. This category seems dominated by tossups on authors and works, which is probably out of necessity, since outside of tossups on hominids and, say, culture, the cupboard's pretty bare here. I think anthropology tossups on societies like the Yanomamo, Kwakiutl, or even something like the USA (if someone could write such a tossup well) would be good directions to move this category to.

Linguistics: Well, there just aren't too many linguists who could conceivably come up in most tournaments. Tossups on the Great Vowel Shift and Grimm's Law are almost always transparent; you'd have to be a wizard to write those well. The best source for linguistics concept tossups seem to be languages (there are lots of clues for those), and possibly things like tenses (again, if those tossups can be written well. I'm not a linguist, so I don't know).

Political Science: I've pretty much only seen tossups on liberalism and realism, and a smattering of tossups on thinkers like Nye and Waltz. You might be able to write a good Poli Sci tossup on a country, but it would overlap a lot with history, so I don't know if it's possible in reality.

Law: No, not history tossups on Gibbons v. Ogden, but tossups on legal concepts like negligence or torts (Ryan's written a few of these tossups, and I think they're good ideas). As long as people can answer the tossups, I suspect answers like eminent domain or libel (I'm not a lawyer or an aspiring lawyer, so I don't know for sure) would work.

If I've made a mistake in my reasoning, or missed any ripe areas for good concept tossups, by all means, post in this thread.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by JackGlerum »

I like this post a lot. Social Science questions can be awesome but are often watered down, as you have pointed out.
Coral Gardens and Their Magin wrote:I don't think there are other concepts that would make good tossup answers besides those models, but since economics is not my field, perhaps someone could mention some I'm not thinking of.
A quick acfdb search yields many results. Lots of game theory problems (e.g. prisoner's dilemma, chicken), types of goods (e.g. Veblen, public), curves (e.g. Lorenz, Laffer), laws (e.g. Iron of Wages, Okun's), theorems (e.g. Coase's, Arrow's impossibility), and probably a lot of others.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

I think one of the most fertile grounds for Linguistics questions is historical linguistics (that is, genetic relationships between languages). People seem to be able to identify major language families even if they don't know much else from Linguistics. Tossups on a language or group of languages can introduce clues that will one day become answers; a tossup on "Estonian" here and "Altaic" there will lead one day to a tossup on vowel harmony or other features that get used as clues for languages.

The introduction of IR Theory into quizbowl seems to be a decent example of how askable social science can expand over a relatively small amount of time. It seems that (much to the horror of Seth Teitler), a small group of people started writing it around 2006, and now it seems that there is almost one IR theory question per tournament. (One of my teammates even made a neg of "John Mearsheimer" at ACF Regionals!) We're already seeing concept tossups beyond just schools of IR theory too -- Democratic Peace Theory has come up at least once. Since IR theory seems to be PolySci's current foothold, perhaps one day we will see questions on concepts from IR come forward -- maybe even my beloved Stability-Instability Paradox.
Last edited by Skepticism and Animal Feed on Tue Mar 03, 2009 3:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

Also I'm not sure where you classify political theory, such as "the Leviathan" (which can be a book TU or a concept tossup at the same time!) or "Socialism in One Country". If its not Phil, then it could be an additional category under SS.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by Louis XIV and Twenty Million Henchmen »

Coral Gardens and Their Magin wrote:Linguistics: Well, there just aren't too many linguists who could conceivably come up in most tournaments. Tossups on the Great Vowel Shift and Grimm's Law are almost always transparent; you'd have to be a wizard to write those well. The best source for linguistics concept tossups seem to be languages (there are lots of clues for those), and possibly things like tenses (again, if those tossups can be written well. I'm not a linguist, so I don't know).
How about a tossup on "the accusative case" (or something) cross-linguistically? Or a place or manner of articulation? The sound-change canon could probably be expanded with bonus parts on stuff like the Northern Cities shift, or some historical Indo-European ones that could eventually become canonical alternatives to Grimm's Law questions – Verner's Law, Grassmann's Law, Second Germanic Consonant Shift, Verschärfung (although getting a six+-line tossup out of that would be, well, interesting)…

…and my favourite, "Anglo-Frisian brightening". /æ/ ftw!

Or more generic, typologically common sound changes, like rhotacism, assimilation, metathesis, and haplology…most of these would probably be better as bonus parts…
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by Sir Thopas »

Regarding linguistics, are you talking about questions like this? I remember the former went dead everywhere, so I'm not sure if it was actually any good, but I think tossups like this could be done pretty well. I'm planning on writing a few for Trygvebowl, at least.
CO packet 12, tossup 2 wrote:In Burmese, -tɛ and -mɛ indicate the realis and irrealis type of this category. Estonian uses the noun suffix -t to indicate a change to one of these. Japanese uses the inchoative one, while others include the delimitative and the attenuative. In Hebrew, the pi'el group originally signified the iterative one, but is often known today as the intensive one, while the simplest is known as the aorist. In Latin, an infixed t indicates the frequentative one, and every verb has two stems and paradigms dependent on two contrasting types of this. In English, they are marked by auxiliary verbs like “have” and “is,” denoting the perfect and progressive ones, respectively. FTP, name this grammatical category often confused with tense, which indicates the duration, completion, or other temporal quality of a verb.
ANSWER: aspect
Prison Bowl finals 2, tossup 17 wrote:It is unknown whether some word-final syllables in ancient Greek possessed a change in this feature, possibly inherited from Proto-Indo-European. The Romanized Popular Alphabet of Hmong uses word-final consonants to mark these, while one transliteration, known as GR, marks these by changing, adding, or doubling a letter. Yoruba and the Bantu languages have the register form, while others have the contour form. It is thought to have arisen in some cases when syllable-final consonants eroded, and Cantonese has six while Mandarin has four. For 10 points, name these features of some languages which English notably lacks, where the pitch of a word affects its meaning.
ANSWER: tones (prompt on pitch or similar, I guess)
And yes, an anthro tossup involving Nacirema and the like would be pretty awesome.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by The Atom Strikes! »

Regarding economics-- I've noticed that most tossups on economic concepts tend to be transparent if you have any idea what they are at all, especially if they are on some really basic concept like "comparative advantage" or "diminishing marginal returns"
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by Captain Sinico »

I don't know, man. I usually really dislike these questions, even, or especially, when I actually know them (as opposed to frauding them out in the middle somewhere like the vast majority of people.) I hope that they will be used sparingly and it will be realized that, even relative to other types of questions, they are extremely easy to write but very difficult to write well for a wide variety of reasons, a realization that has dramatically not happened in the related case of common-link questions.

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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by Mike Bentley »

Yeah I generally tend to much prefer tossups on works and people in social science. The increase in tossups on various common-link tossups has been really boring to me, and I think it makes it a bit harder to get into the SS canon.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

In principle, it's not unreasonable to compare the current social science canon to be not unlike science history, and so in principle, it's not unreasonable to support a so-called modernization of the canon. In practice, it would take a lot more clues to be a lot better known in order to actually do this. (Want to write a tossup on a term from psychology that evokes a specific answer as well as a tossup on esters does, well, esters? People will have to know a whole lot of real clues about "emotions" or whatever, outside of the context of noted Alexander Bain classic Emotions and the Will or whatever.)

Similarly, I totally believe that the bystander effect is no more inherently fraudable than the Unruh effect, but I also believe that the circuit will have to learn a lot about the former before you can write tossups on it the way you write tossups on the latter (i.e. fewer clues about how Dr. Psych tested this using a screaming baby and a house on fire or whatever).
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by grapesmoker »

I've got nothing against concept tossups but they have to be done right. I think that the problem with these questions, especially if you're giving clues from experiments and stuff, is that it can be possible to know what the experiment was about and still be difficult to puzzle out what exactly is being asked. The other problem is when you dump a whole lot of these questions into one tournament (that's a hypothetical, Regionals did not actually do this) because honestly, most people don't have the psych/econ background to do anything but hear these tossups until the end. So I would say that it's a good idea to introduce these questions through clues on stuff that people already know and in hard parts of bonuses. That way, much of this will trickle down into the collective consciousness of the canon and it'll be easier to write tossups on it later on.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

I more or less agree with Jerry -- "we should have lots more questions about concepts, because they are REALER" is one of those notions which may sound good in theory, but doesn't necessarily work out very well in practice. In law, for instance, it would certainly be nice to have more questions on concepts which are important to the discipline (like "eminent domain"). However, if people don't actually know much about the law, they're liable to write bad questions like the actual eminent domain bonus which came up at regs. In that question, the first two parts were easy and, in the case of Grotius, exemplary of precisely the kind of "this is fake quizbowl social science" phenomenon referred to in the original post; then the third part, "allodial title," is something which people in the law are unlikely to know -- I for one couldn't answer it, and the term doesn't appear in the index of my property law casebook. The question would actually have been much better with a case like Penn Central or Lucas as the third part, but you wouldn't know that if you were just browsing Wikipedia articles on "property law" and saw that "allodial title" receives a page of its own.

If you know enough about a subject to write a well-crafted yet playable question on it (and I don't think either the "lying" or "stress" tossups cited really fit that description), then great, you should definitely get on that. But if you don't, it's much better to write a somewhat banal but competent question on a person or a work than to write a novel but poor question on a concept. Questions on people may be less daring, but they are also harder to mess up if you don't really know the subject.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! »

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:If you know enough about a subject to write a well-crafted yet playable question on it , then great, you should definitely get on that. But if you don't, it's much better to write a somewhat banal but competent question on a person or a work than to write a novel but poor question on a concept.
This is the key issue here, and I think it's similar to tossups on things like dynasties. If you can write a question well, based on knowledge that is not essentially Wikifacts or common quizbowl clues, go for it. Otherwise, don't write a question on "stress" or "Tang" or what have you, since it tends to be frustrating for those playing it.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by women, fire and dangerous things »

CO packet 12, tossup 2 wrote:In Burmese, -tɛ and -mɛ indicate the realis and irrealis type of this category. Estonian uses the noun suffix -t to indicate a change to one of these. Japanese uses the inchoative one, while others include the delimitative and the attenuative. In Hebrew, the pi'el group originally signified the iterative one, but is often known today as the intensive one, while the simplest is known as the aorist. In Latin, an infixed t indicates the frequentative one, and every verb has two stems and paradigms dependent on two contrasting types of this. In English, they are marked by auxiliary verbs like “have” and “is,” denoting the perfect and progressive ones, respectively. FTP, name this grammatical category often confused with tense, which indicates the duration, completion, or other temporal quality of a verb.
ANSWER: aspect
Incidentally, I love that there was a tossup on aspect at CO, but the leadin seems like a hose for "mood." If I had been playing, I would definitely have negged with "mood," since realis and irrealis are types of moods. Maybe some linguists have analyzed those Burmese morphemes as aspectual markers, but it seems unlikely.

Anyway, getting back on topic, I echo what has been said above about linguistics tossups: due to the size of the canon, it's nearly impossible to write a non-transparent linguistics tossup that's also gettable by teams which don't have a linguist (which is presumably most teams). In particular, pretty much every clue about Saussure has become stock, even stuff like Sechehaye and Bally. The solution has to be canon expansion (breadth, not depth), but because of the relative obscurity of linguistics, there are few tournaments that this can be done at.

Writing tossups about, for instance, the accusative case cross-linguistically, or aspect cross-linguistically, is a good idea since one can write deep tossups which are still accessible. The drawback as I see it is that there is a significant risk of linguists not being able to get these tossups early despite a deep knowledge of linguistic theory, just because they haven't studied the particular languages being referred to. However, the above tossup on aspect does a great job of dropping theoretical terms, so that (aside from the Estonian clue) a linguist doesn't have to have studied the language to be able to buzz.
Last edited by women, fire and dangerous things on Fri Mar 13, 2009 8:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by Maxwell Sniffingwell »

everyday847 wrote:People will have to know a whole lot of real clues about "emotions" or whatever, outside of the context of noted Alexander Bain classic Emotions and the Will or whatever.)
Yesterday, this went dead to a room containing at least Guy, Sarah Angelo and I:
Auspicious Incident, packet 7 wrote:1.Sartre discussed it in a 1939 work in which he analyzed it phenomenologically, describing it as “a magical transformation of the world.” One account of it argues that it is comprised of intensity combined with a cognitive label, or its quality. Another theory holds that it originates in the thalamus and that “body” and “mind” are independently activated at the same time and was described in Bodily Changes in Pain, Hunger, Fear and Anger. The most well known theory of it reverses the conventional wisdom and argues that it arises out of physiological arousal, and not the other way around. Schacter’s two factor, the Cannon-Baird, and the James-Lange are all, FTP, theories of what kind of mental phenomena?
Answer: theories of emotion
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by setht »

I'm also largely in agreement with Mike S., Jerry, Andrew and Hannah--concept tossups in the social sciences (like common-link tossups in myth or other subjects) can be very good if they're done right, but they are harder to write well than straightforward, "single-subject" tossups.

On the "lying" tossup I almost negged with "recruiting subjects for an experiment" off the Festinger clue. I realize that answer doesn't fit the Bella DePaulo clue (and it would be a ridiculous tossup answer), but what about answers like "talking" or "employing persuasion"? I think this question epitomizes one of the common problems with concept/common link questions (which Jerry also noted): starting with a series of clues that almost no one will know, followed by a clue that several people know but which points in several possible directions.

Having said that, I know I wrote a number of these questions for SCT. If people would like to discuss them on the SCT forum I'd be glad to get more feedback on which questions worked and which ones were bad ideas.
everyday847 wrote:Similarly, I totally believe that the bystander effect is no more inherently fraudable than the Unruh effect, but I also believe that the circuit will have to learn a lot about the former before you can write tossups on it the way you write tossups on the latter
I can't recall ever hearing a tossup on the Unruh effect (and a packet archive search doesn't bring up any), and frankly I don't want to. That feels like more of an analog to something like the McGurk effect: there's a one-sentence description of what it is, and then you could try to spin things out a bit for a tossup, but it would almost certainly just be a bad idea all around.

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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by naturalistic phallacy »

setht wrote:
everyday847 wrote:Similarly, I totally believe that the bystander effect is no more inherently fraudable than the Unruh effect, but I also believe that the circuit will have to learn a lot about the former before you can write tossups on it the way you write tossups on the latter
I can't recall ever hearing a tossup on the Unruh effect (and a packet archive search doesn't bring up any), and frankly I don't want to. That feels like more of an analog to something like the McGurk effect: there's a one-sentence description of what it is, and then you could try to spin things out a bit for a tossup, but it would almost certainly just be a bad idea all around.

-Seth
There is room in the canon for things that only have short descriptions: bonuses. I feel that many of the previously discussed answer selections would work much better as a bonus part (e.g. lying, emotion). I really don't know what is going on with that emotion tossup, since it seems to include some SCIENCE clues, but that one especially strikes me as poor.

In regards to the political philosophy/IR discussion, I would agree that there should be a place for it in the canon and the distribution since it is something important that can often overlap with other social science disciplines like philosophy or sociology (e.g Arendt, Berlin, Rorty). I would personally advocate for philosophy and social science to be combined in order to eliminate any potential confusion between the two categories.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by setht »

tetragrammatology wrote:There is room in the canon for things that only have short descriptions: bonuses. I feel that many of the previously discussed answer selections would work much better as a bonus part (e.g. lying, emotion). I really don't know what is going on with that emotion tossup, since it seems to include some SCIENCE clues, but that one especially strikes me as poor.
Sure, stuff like Unruh and possibly Zeigarnik are fine for bonuses, I just get nervous when crazy Andy Watkins starts implying that tossing up the Unruh effect is a good idea about a month before his house-written tournament.

I really don't know enough about the study of lying to tell if there's some way to write a question on it that would play well. In my room, the tossup confused me greatly at the Festinger clue, then there was a buzzer race between some other people on "microexpressions."

I actually prefer the emotions question. Schacter, Cannon-Baird, and James-Lange all came up in my introductory psych course (specifically as theories of emotions), and I'm pretty sure I or someone else on my team at AI got the question somewhere a little before the FTP. I don't really know how good or useful the first two sentences are, but starting with the stuff about Cannon's book in the third sentence the clues look pretty solid to me.

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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

setht wrote:
tetragrammatology wrote:There is room in the canon for things that only have short descriptions: bonuses. I feel that many of the previously discussed answer selections would work much better as a bonus part (e.g. lying, emotion). I really don't know what is going on with that emotion tossup, since it seems to include some SCIENCE clues, but that one especially strikes me as poor.
Sure, stuff like Unruh and possibly Zeigarnik are fine for bonuses, I just get nervous when crazy Andy Watkins starts implying that tossing up the Unruh effect is a good idea about a month before his house-written tournament.
CRAZY ANDY is being sure to mention only effects that he's quite sure he will never dare toss up to anybody, precisely because it is a little more than one month before that house-written tournament. (And I know I'll never toss it up because what I know about the Unruh effect is the phrase "Unruh effect" and something involving a connection to Hawking radiation.)
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by Sir Thopas »

women, fire and dangerous things wrote:Incidentally, I love that there was a tossup on aspect at CO, but the leadin seems like a hose for "mood." If I had been playing, I would definitely had negged with "mood," since realis and irrealis are types of moods. Maybe some linguists have analyzed those Burmese morphemes as aspectual markers, but it seems unlikely.
Yeah, I also came across them being called moods at a later date. I don't think anyone negged it off that, though; it either went dead everywhere or was negged for tense. Here was my source:

"Thus, -tɛ, -mɛ and -pi carry, in addition to the meanings 'positive' and 'non-imperative', the aspectual distinctions of realis, irrealis, and punctuative, respectively." --Bernard Comrie, ed., The World's Major Languages, 851.

In retrospect, I probably should have done some further research about it, instead of just trusting that one offhand source.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by cvdwightw »

setht wrote:I actually prefer the emotions question. Schacter, Cannon-Baird, and James-Lange all came up in my introductory psych course (specifically as theories of emotions)...I don't really know how good or useful the first two sentences are, but starting with the stuff about Cannon's book in the third sentence the clues look pretty solid to me.
Seconding this. I had a tossup on Schacter (who I think is way more important than his actual frequency) cut from ACF Nationals, where the giveaway was "namesake two-factor theory of emotion." All three certainly showed up in my intro to psych class.

Another thing with psych is that you can write concrete tossups on experiments, e.g.:
Zot Bowl Finals 1 wrote:This experiment’s hypothesis was based on one introduced by Miller and Dollard, and it also cited Fauls and Smith's work on sex appropriate models of behavior. To avoid a confounding factor noted by Rosenbaum and deCharms, subjects in one group were allowed to play with a fire truck, locomotive, and doll set for two minutes before the experimenter took those toys away. Response categories included "Aggressive gun play" and "Sits on [the namesake object]". For 10 points, name this classic experiment in which children who observed an adult beat up on a 5-foot inflated doll were found more likely to display aggressive behavior, performed by Albert Bandura.
Answer: bobo doll experiment (accept "Transmission of Aggression through Imitation of Aggressive Behavior", as that’s the name of the paper, prompt on anything including "Bandura")
In general, these questions are good because you can find many of the original papers documenting these experiments, and you can search for other articles that cite, discuss, or attempt to repeat these experiments (e.g. the Beck and Cadamagnani experiment that replicated the small world experiment and found that it didn't hold for low-income families).

As far as Jonathan's idea for anthropology tossups on societies, here's a question from Terrapin 2009 that I think may be representative of what he's talking about. Feel free to critique:
Terrapin 2009 UCLA Packet wrote:Daughters of the Dreaming was a feminist book condemning traditional study of these people; that work may be seen as a sequel of sorts to Raymond Evans’ "Harlots and Helots," which questioned several assumptions about the role of women in their society, particularly the exiling of women to Bernier Island. Their kinship systems were classified into "Kareira" and "Aranda" types by Alfred (*) Radcliffe-Brown, while this culture is the first analyzed by Claude Levi-Strauss in The Elementary Structures of Kinship. Fingertips or teeth may be removed in the coming of age Bora ceremony of this culture, which also conducts firestick farming. With a belief system centering on Dreamland and the Rainbow Serepent, FTP, identify this culture which produced the didgeridoo, the collective term for the native peoples of Australia.
ANSWER: aborigines [accept Australian aborigines or clear-knowledge equivalents before "Australia"]
The biggest problem I see with common link tossups is that most people will do one of three things:
1. Take clues, without context, off random Wikipedia and Geocities pages, without really knowing whether the clue is academically relevant or useful. This is bad. It will serve to anger people with knowledge and confuse people without knowledge.
2. Start citing random papers without context. We've had this discussion with science questions before, and I know I'm guilty of this stuff at times, but saying stuff like "Dr. Psych notably studied this" doesn't help anyone, since "Dr. Psych" is probably either known for studying lots of things, or not known for studying anything. Also, if you're quoting a paper, make sure you give some context about why it's important. Even if you're not accessing stuff through a campus library, you should at least be able to view the abstract and tell whether there's a concrete, useful clue about it.
3. Turn it back into the "fill in the blank in the title" question that's the current standard for common link questions.

I am a gigantic proponent of social science tossups on things that are neither people nor works. I would guess that roughly every third or fourth social science tossup I write is of this type. However, these questions are quite difficult to write well, and I would not recommend that people attempt it without being cognizant of the three common pitfalls of writing these questions.

I will close this post by asking for the following, which is slightly off-topic: If your campus library has access to the 1994 issues of the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, I would really like to know whether the VCU Psych Department examined pre-existing evidence or pulled something roughly analogous to the Stanford Prison Experiment in the article "Interpersonal impacts and adjustment to the stress of simulated captivity: an empirical test of the Stockholm syndrome" by Auerbach et al. (misspelled "Auebach" in the Google Scholar search). I came across the abstract when trying to edit a rather poor Stockholm Syndrome question submitted to me for our 2008 Penn Bowl freelance (actual abstract quote: "The present study examined the syndrome within a highly stressful simulated captivity situation"); unfortunately, my campus library does not have the 1994 issues of this journal. I feel that it is early clues like these that make common link questions well-written and interesting; you can discuss some paper that you find interesting and hopefully other people will find interesting too, but still have an accessible answer at the end.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by vcuEvan »

cvdwightw wrote:\
I will close this post by asking for the following, which is slightly off-topic: If your campus library has access to the 1994 issues of the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, I would really like to know whether the VCU Psych Department examined pre-existing evidence or pulled something roughly analogous to the Stanford Prison Experiment in the article "Interpersonal impacts and adjustment to the stress of simulated captivity: an empirical test of the Stockholm syndrome" by Auerbach et al. (misspelled "Auebach" in the Google Scholar search). I came across the abstract when trying to edit a rather poor Stockholm Syndrome question submitted to me for our 2008 Penn Bowl freelance (actual abstract quote: "The present study examined the syndrome within a highly stressful simulated captivity situation"); unfortunately, my campus library does not have the 1994 issues of this journal.


I happened to be in the library and found this journal so I can provide some information. The study took place in 1985 and used airline employees as subjects. There were some similarities to the Stanford Prison Experiment in that the subjects were handcuffed and hooded and the experiment did last for 4 days. It does seem to have been a lot more controlled though, as both captors and prisoners seemingly stopped to fill out surveys about their feelings about each other every few hours.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by cvdwightw »

Adamantium Claws wrote:I happened to be in the library and found this journal so I can provide some information. The study took place in 1985 and used airline employees as subjects. There were some similarities to the Stanford Prison Experiment in that the subjects were handcuffed and hooded and the experiment did last for 4 days. It does seem to have been a lot more controlled though, as both captors and prisoners seemingly stopped to fill out surveys about their feelings about each other every few hours.
Awesome. Thank you.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask »

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:However, if people don't actually know much about the law, they're liable to write bad questions like the actual eminent domain bonus which came up at regs. In that question, the first two parts were easy and, in the case of Grotius, exemplary of precisely the kind of "this is fake quizbowl social science" phenomenon referred to in the original post; then the third part, "allodial title," is something which people in the law are unlikely to know -- I for one couldn't answer it, and the term doesn't appear in the index of my property law casebook. The question would actually have been much better with a case like Penn Central or Lucas as the third part, but you wouldn't know that if you were just browsing Wikipedia articles on "property law" and saw that "allodial title" receives a page of its own.
Could someone post this eminent domain bonus?

I suspect that law is probably going to be the easiest subject to expand the canon with concept questions. There are a lot of named things with specific meanings and oodles of literature backing them up, and I suspect that they're in general more well known than named things in other disciplines. Like, I'd imagine that a question on something like "subpoena" would have pretty good conversion numbers.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by Eärendil »

cvdwightw wrote: As far as Jonathan's idea for anthropology tossups on societies, here's a question from Terrapin 2009 that I think may be representative of what he's talking about. Feel free to critique:
Terrapin 2009 UCLA Packet wrote:Daughters of the Dreaming was a feminist book condemning traditional study of these people; that work may be seen as a sequel of sorts to Raymond Evans’ "Harlots and Helots," which questioned several assumptions about the role of women in their society, particularly the exiling of women to Bernier Island. Their kinship systems were classified into "Kareira" and "Aranda" types by Alfred (*) Radcliffe-Brown, while this culture is the first analyzed by Claude Levi-Strauss in The Elementary Structures of Kinship. Fingertips or teeth may be removed in the coming of age Bora ceremony of this culture, which also conducts firestick farming. With a belief system centering on Dreamland and the Rainbow Serepent, FTP, identify this culture which produced the didgeridoo, the collective term for the native peoples of Australia.
ANSWER: aborigines [accept Australian aborigines or clear-knowledge equivalents before "Australia"]
Is it just me, or is this tossup eminently fraudable beofre the semicolon? The other clues seem pretty well-placed though.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

Eärendil wrote:
cvdwightw wrote: As far as Jonathan's idea for anthropology tossups on societies, here's a question from Terrapin 2009 that I think may be representative of what he's talking about. Feel free to critique:
Terrapin 2009 UCLA Packet wrote:Daughters of the Dreaming was a feminist book condemning traditional study of these people; that work may be seen as a sequel of sorts to Raymond Evans’ "Harlots and Helots," which questioned several assumptions about the role of women in their society, particularly the exiling of women to Bernier Island. Their kinship systems were classified into "Kareira" and "Aranda" types by Alfred (*) Radcliffe-Brown, while this culture is the first analyzed by Claude Levi-Strauss in The Elementary Structures of Kinship. Fingertips or teeth may be removed in the coming of age Bora ceremony of this culture, which also conducts firestick farming. With a belief system centering on Dreamland and the Rainbow Serepent, FTP, identify this culture which produced the didgeridoo, the collective term for the native peoples of Australia.
ANSWER: aborigines [accept Australian aborigines or clear-knowledge equivalents before "Australia"]
Is it just me, or is this tossup eminently fraudable beofre the semicolon? The other clues seem pretty well-placed though.
I remember playing this tossup and thinking afterwards that if I had been feeling really ballsy I would have gotten it there almost solely based on my reading the Uncle Scrooge Adventures story Dreamtime of the Never-Never (or something; it's been ~12 years), which was about the time he spent as a copper prospector in Australia.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by grapesmoker »

Eärendil wrote: Is it just me, or is this tossup eminently fraudable beofre the semicolon? The other clues seem pretty well-placed though.
I think it's slightly fraudable, but I think you have to be really ballsy to buzz there, simply because the space of "these people," even involving things about dreaming, is probably quite large.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by naturalistic phallacy »

grapesmoker wrote:
Eärendil wrote: Is it just me, or is this tossup eminently fraudable beofre the semicolon? The other clues seem pretty well-placed though.
I think it's slightly fraudable, but I think you have to be really ballsy to buzz there, simply because the space of "these people," even involving things about dreaming, is probably quite large.
I don't think many people would buzz there, but perhaps more care could have been taking when selecting the leadin.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by AuguryMarch »

Auspicious Incident, packet 7 wrote:1.Sartre discussed it in a 1939 work in which he analyzed it phenomenologically, describing it as “a magical transformation of the world.” One account of it argues that it is comprised of intensity combined with a cognitive label, or its quality. Another theory holds that it originates in the thalamus and that “body” and “mind” are independently activated at the same time and was described in Bodily Changes in Pain, Hunger, Fear and Anger. The most well known theory of it reverses the conventional wisdom and argues that it arises out of physiological arousal, and not the other way around. Schacter’s two factor, the Cannon-Baird, and the James-Lange are all, FTP, theories of what kind of mental phenomena?
Answer: theories of emotion
This is amusing. As the author of that tossup, years later I look back and I must say.. it sucks. Ironically, I am now in grad school doing research on theories of emotion, so I am far more qualified than I was at the time to judge. In fact, as I recall, what I knew about theories of emotion at the time was what I gathered from a fantastic history of psychology list that Ezequiel shared with me and some random shit I read on the internet. I don't know where I got the "cognitive label, or its quality" line.. it seems a bit incoherent to me now. This is all to say that I largely agree with Andrew and Jerry that it's all good in theory, but in practice it is very hard to do these questions well.

That said, there is a lot of great (and entertaining!) social psychology to be written about that has yet to really enter to canon. I recommend an intro social psych textbook like the gilovich, nisbett and keltner one published by norton. one example... the first social psychology experiment ever was by norman triplett and was about whether people were better at bicycle riding when others are around..this became a whole interesting debate on "mere appearance" effects. Just looking at stuff recently deceased Bob Zajonc worked on (e.g. "mere appearance") could yield a lot, e.g. you could write a neat cross-discipline tossup on "preferences" (they need no inferences, how economists model them from choice data,etc.). The nice thing is that a lot of this is stuff you'd learn in intro psych or intro to social psych. Also if you wanted to get ideas you could look at the yale open lecture project and watch some of paul bloom's intro psych lectures. they are informative and fairly entertaining. Of course the usual caveats about introducing new things into the canon as tossups apply.

Paul

p.s. this is how I might write that tossup now:

Ray Birdwhistell's kinesics was an attempt to formulate a relativist theory of it while more recently, Ambady and Elfenbein found cross cultural accents in its expression. Appraisal theorists argue that dimensions like control and certainty mediate its effect. By contrast, Lisa Feldman-Barrett and James Russell are recent advocates of a "circumplex" theory of it and have argued strenuously against Jaak Panksepp's findings about its basis in animals. Charles Darwin wrote about its "expression in man and animals", that formed the basis for Paul Ekman's work on its recognition by the Fore tribe. One classical theory of it argues that they consist in our interpretation of arousal, rather than it being the cause. Schacter’s two factor and the James-Lange theories all concern FTP, what kind of mental phenomena, examples of which include anger and sadness?
Answer: emotion
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by DumbJaques »

Driveby Litvak tossup!
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

See, that's a pretty good idea for a common link tossup cause it resists transparency and has several theories with the fairly concrete name "X theory of emotion" or the like.

But, I'll use it to illustrate one thing about a lot of these conceptual soc sci tossups - I don't know about anyone else, but that tossup seems pretty hard to me up until James-Lange (and I suspect to most people without lots of background). If I wrote it, I might throw Cannon-Baird or something at you in like the fourth or fifth line to give people who are "quizbowl-savvy" a better chance to buzz, before the list at the end. What all too often happens (I think Magin can be a little guilty of it, for example) is that these tossups feature a lot of pretty great clues at the beginning which very few people will know - and then, when the author decides to consciously try to help people without really deep background, the question gets pretty transparent and guessable. The stress tossup at Regs is an example - if you don't know what's going on with the initial set of clues (and you probably don't, even if you have substantial generalist-level knowledge) - then you're gonna have to buzz on those biology clues, which are quite transparent, and you're fairly likely to just get beaten by someone playing "figure it out". So, what I'm saying is - it's nice if you can work a real "middle level" into these tossups that isn't transparent - one that realistically allows people with good generalist-y knowledge to buzz (and let's face it, on any given subject, most people are pretty much employing generalist-y kind of knowledge, even the best players in this game - you can't be a real specialist on too many things). Some of this may be a function of the canon for now - maybe eventually the "circumplex theory of emotion" will become a good clue you can rely on as a generalist. But, obviously, the thing is (especially in soc sci) - there are a ton of experiments and papers out there, so whether a lot of these things can ever be famous enough to be "relied-upon" clues that the veteran generalist can learn is questionable.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by cvdwightw »

AuguryMarch wrote: I don't know where I got the "cognitive label, or its quality" line.. it seems a bit incoherent to me now.
It makes sense, as the "cognitive label" is more or less how we describe the "quality" according to that theory (you're more of an expert, so you can correct me if I'm wrong); the parsing's a little awkward as it seems to indicate that you're describing the quality of the label itself, rather than the emotion, but if I was ballsy enough I'd reflex buzz off "cognitive label."
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by AuguryMarch »

cvdwightw wrote:
AuguryMarch wrote: I don't know where I got the "cognitive label, or its quality" line.. it seems a bit incoherent to me now.
It makes sense, as the "cognitive label" is more or less how we describe the "quality" according to that theory (you're more of an expert, so you can correct me if I'm wrong); the parsing's a little awkward as it seems to indicate that you're describing the quality of the label itself, rather than the emotion, but if I was ballsy enough I'd reflex buzz off "cognitive label."
Yeah, I guess what I don't like about it is that there is nothing special about the term "quality". I read some account of James-Lange and just borrowed whatever arcane terminology. The benefit of actual expertise is that I know which terms have some real significance in the discipline (e.g. "appraisal" as related to emotions are very important) and which ones are just incidental to the general understanding of the concept. That is one of the hardest things about writing these kinds of theory tossups. I can find others of my old social science tossups where I totally missed the forest for the trees like this because I was trying to be cute and not give it away.

You might "reflex" buzz off that clue because it is to that point the question is describing something phenomenologically experienced with intensity and a cognitive label. (gee, what could that be?) I usually wasn't that clever in 4 seconds of hearing a tossup so tortuously written, and putting those things together constitutes more than what I would term a reflex, so if you can manage that, good for you. It sucks though that the thing that what prevents this tossup from being (perhaps overly) transparent is linguistic obfuscation.

Also what makes this tossup even sillier is the mention of "fear and anger' in the Cannon title before the end.

It's fun to bash my old questions :-)

As to Ryan's point about the difficulty. of finding good middle clues that don't manage to give the whole game away except by being "cute", he's pretty much right. The middle clue presupposes a continuous gradient of knowledge, where what we have particularly in small categories are more often bimodal distributions. In such cases, I think(guess) that middle clues can come out of a kind of slow accretion whereby the 2nd to last clue is taken from the leadin to the bonus part, the middle clues come from the middle clues of previous versions of the tossups (maybe eventually in a bad case, from an old leadin), and then some middle clues get ossified, not because they are one's 50% of the population of experts in the field will know them,but rather because 50% of the population of quizbowl players might. Maybe when you all get some better data collection in place, you can start really understanding your population's distribution of knowledge. I imagine it's going to explode a lot of our myths about these sorts of things.

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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by magin »

I think a few people are misreading my intentions for starting this thread. I don't think tossups on concepts are inherently better than tossups on people or works; tossups on concepts are difficult to write well, and often suffer from problems. However, tossups on people/works in the social sciences are prone to rewarding people who don't understand the underlying concepts that make those people/works important. This isn't a moral judgment; I've made many correct buzzes without having that understanding, and the nature of quizbowl leads to those buzzes (which I will label "clue buzzes"). I'm more impressed by buzzes from people who understand the concepts being described (which I will label "understanding buzzes"); of course, there's no neat dichotomy between clue buzzes and understanding buzzes, and sometimes, the same buzz can be both a clue buzz and an understanding buzz. All this is to suggest that rewarding understanding buzzes over clue buzzes is more optimal, if not always possible.

Furthermore, at levels up to ACF Regionals/Div I Sectionals, the social science canon is fairly limited. I think that this is a result of the limited amount of answer space for people and works; Robert Zajonc and Anthony Giddens are important, but tossups on them would go dead pretty much everywhere. Because of the limited space of askable people and works, I think it's reasonable to try to identify social science concepts that might make good tossups. Through public discussion, I think it would be productive to attempt to find new areas for good, accessible social science tossups.

For instance, the discussion of tossups on societies is something I'd like to explore. I wrote a tossup on the Kwakiutl for Cardinal Classic; would people be interested in seeing more tossups like this? If it has problems, are they fixable, or are they endemic to this kind of tossup?

Helen Codere attempted to correct misconceptions about this group in an article about the "amiable side" of their life. This group displays emus [eh-muss] masks during funerals, and first names children when they are ten months old, in a ceremony where the children's faces are painted with ochre. This society is divided into family groups known as "numaym." This group divides the year into two parts--spring and summer, or "bakoos," and winter, or "tsetseka," when members of this group perform the hamatsa, or cannibal dance. Ruth Benedict argued that this group's society was "Dionysian" in Patterns of Culture. Chiefs in this group attain status through ceremonies where they gave away huge amounts of food and gifts. For 10 points, name this Native American society whose ceremony of the potlatch was described by Franz Boas.
ANSWER: Kwakiutl [accept with astonishment Kwakwaka'wakw]
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by SepiaOfficinalis »

Speaking of the cultures that you suggested to write on, I negged that Kwakiutl tossup with Yanomamo, as I took the first clue to be a reaction to the sobriquet "the fierce people," and they commonly use face paints, so I buzzed there. I think it's a pretty good tossup, although I think that clues other than their terminology that help locate them and describe their lifestyle before the potlatch stuff would be good, but I haven't read any actual anthropological literature on them, so I don't know how widely those terms are spread. Also, a look at Helen Codere's wikipedia page says that the new preferred term for the tribe is the Kwakwaka-wakw, so presumably that should be in the answer line, especially because it's pretty amusing and thus memorable.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

For RMPFest, I wrote a Kwakiutl TU that was multi-disciplinary: it began by describing obscure aspects of their mythology, followed by Kwakiutl myth that was tangentially mentioned by athropologists, and then straight-up anthro clues.

It was well-received from what I recall.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by Sargon »

While I would like more linguisitcs, I think it does not lend itself to making good tossups. Tossups on Particular languages in general seem ill-advised. There is a very limitted number of languages about which people would know enough in principle to legitimately buzz rather than guessing. It is also very hard to write questions that clearly distinguinsh between different languages until the last few lines, let alone in such a way that most players will not have to wait until the give away to know which on was being asked for. The Estonian tossup at the RMP fest was like that; it was painfully obvious we were dealing with Finnish or a related language, but I would wager few people know enough to tell them apart, myself included. I could see tossups on Arabic being essentially "its a Semtic language . . . FTP it's Arabic."

Linguistic concepts would be better, but they suffer from the general problem that it is hard to ask about abstract notions. People could know all the clues and still may not know what exactly is being asked about, while people who know what it quizbowl famous about languages "i.e. a lot of cases= Finnish" will get the tossup. I think the best approach is to go with things like named laws (PIE studies is littered with them), or large groupings (i.e. Sino-Tibetan, Semitic, Afro-Asiatic, Indo-European).

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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by Sir Thopas »

Sargon wrote:The Estonian tossup at the RMP fest was like that; it was painfully obvious we were dealing with Finnish or a related language, but I would wager few people know enough to tell them apart, myself included.
I didn't think this tossup was so bad. Some of the clues were kind of useless, but I'll bold the parts that I really liked and I think were unique and useful, in that they required knowledge about the language, instead of fraudability.
4. Dialects of this language include Mulgi, Seto, and Voro, which are spoken in the southern part of this language’s range. This language has no voiced stops and uses Latin letters designed for voiced stops to represent long unvoiced consonants. Its orthography uses an “o” with a tilde to represent a close-mid back unrounded vowel. Although this language’s direct ancestor is notable for losing palatalization, this language acquired palatalization before front vowels from its neighbors. This language has three vowel lengths: short, long, and overlong. Unlike its relatives, this language lacks vowel harmony, though like its relatives it has translative nouns, agglutination, and over a dozen noun cases. For ten points, name this Uralic language and close relative of Finnish, which you might hear Arvo Part speak in Tallinn.
ANSWER: Estonian [accept: Eesti Keele] {BA}
I think the best approach is to go with things like named laws (PIE studies is littered with them), or large groupings (i.e. Sino-Tibetan, Semitic, Afro-Asiatic, Indo-European).
buzz SZEMERENYI'S LAW. But yeah, IE studies can be milked for the canon.
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No Rules Westbrook
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

I'm cool with that tossup on Kwakiutl, but your options for writing on cultures are fairly limited. Kwakiutil, Zuni, Azande, I guess...then, when we start talking Yanomamo and Nuer and stuff, you're looking at fairly difficult answers. So, I think it's just the same old game as we always play - try to find a reasonable interesting answer with unique clues and write on it. I'm rather proud of the tossup on "liminality" that I wrote a while ago, as an example of a creative tu on an important anthropological concept - granted it's probably fairly hard too.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by grapesmoker »

No Rules Westbrook wrote:I'm cool with that tossup on Kwakiutl, but your options for writing on cultures are fairly limited. Kwakiutil, Zuni, Azande, I guess...then, when we start talking Yanomamo and Nuer and stuff, you're looking at fairly difficult answers. So, I think it's just the same old game as we always play - try to find a reasonable interesting answer with unique clues and write on it. I'm rather proud of the tossup on "liminality" that I wrote a while ago, as an example of a creative tu on an important anthropological concept - granted it's probably fairly hard too.
I think there are plenty of people who have been studied by anthropologists; such questions have the added advantage that they are usually gettable by the end. So I think these are actually very good examples of questions that expand the canon in a meaningful and relevant way.
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Re: Concept tossups in the social sciences

Post by tarkvara »

women, fire and dangerous things wrote:
CO packet 12, tossup 2 wrote:In Burmese, -tɛ and -mɛ indicate the realis and irrealis type of this category. Estonian uses the noun suffix -t to indicate a change to one of these.
Incidentally, I love that there was a tossup on aspect at CO, but the leadin seems like a hose for "mood." If I had been playing, I would definitely had negged with "mood," since realis and irrealis are types of moods.
Not to mention the misleading clue about the Estonian noun suffix -t, which doesn't actually exist as described. As a linguist (and an Estonian-speaker), I would have been doubly misled. Had I buzzed in early, I would certainly have negged.

Still, it's a nice change from the usual toss-ups we get for "linguistics", which bear no relation to what linguists actually do. Imagine how biologists would feel if the only toss-ups they ever saw were on taxonomy and the names of famous biologists.

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