An Olympian on the Couch? The Strange History of Psychiatric Tests, plus more weekly links

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A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • Feeling like an Olympian might be as easy as tuning in to your TV. Reviewing recent research on the experience of being a spectator, Brian Barth writes, “It seems that fans can share much of an athlete’s thrill, without all the talent, training, and exertion.” Though you probably won’t make it on the front of a Wheaties box. (Nautilus)

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Photo: U.S. Army

  • Competing at an Olympic level is a mental and physical roller coaster, so it’s no surprise that at the end of the ride, regardless of their success, participants are wiped out psychologically and physiologically. Some of the most successful athletes—from Michael Phelps to Allison Schmitt—have experienced this post-Olympic dip. To help address the problem, psychologists are working to help athletes create an identity that doesn’t revolve solely around sports, so the crash after the games isn’t so intense. (The Atlantic)
  • Nobody wants to finish last at the Olympics, but those who come in third tend to be happier than those in second. The Behavioral Insights Team dives into the Olympics with a look at the ways loss aversion, happiness, and the scientific method as applied to improvement all play a role in the World’s games. (Behavioral Insights Team)
  • The forthcoming Psychobook explores the history of psychiatric and psychological tests revealing the absurd and often noxious history of mental assessment. Elif Bautman peers into these methodological relics of the past, prompting us to wonder: Are today’s tools much better? (The New Yorker)
  • Psychologist Sanjay Srivastava is teaching a new course this fall, PSY 607: Everything is Fucked. Ok, it’s not a real course, but he did create a syllabus to get you thinking about where psychology is now and where it’s heading. (The Hardest Science and The Chronicle of Higher Education)
  • In the New York Times, David Kirp reviews research by psychologists who hope to boost college graduation rates by increasing belonging and improving mindsets. (New York Times)

 

Max Donates His Body to Social Science, College Diversity, plus more weekly links

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A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • This year, Max Nesterak, co-founder of The Psych Report and News Assistant at NPR’s Hidden Brain, donated his body to social science—hopefully for the better. In a year long experiment, he and the Hidden Brain team attempt to use the latest social science research to help him quit smoking. After six months, what are the results? (NPR)

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Photo: Hugo Rojo/NPR

  • Dr. Robert Heath’s “discovery” of taraxein, the neural substance he believed to be the cause of schizophrenia, brought him accolades and then shame—no other researchers found any evidence for it. Likewise, his experiments with brain stimulation, through which he attempted recondition homosexual impulses, were similarly misguided and ethically dubious. Robert Colville investigates the controversial and forgotten scientist. (Mosaic)
  • Disclosure is seen as the solution when conflicts of interests arise. Potential conflict? Just let the affected parties know, right? It’s not that simple. “There is an underappreciated problem with disclosure,” writes Sunita Sah, a professor of management at Cornell University. “It often has the opposite of its intended effect, not only increasing bias in advisers but also making advisees more likely to follow biased advice.” (New York Times)
  • NPR’s Invisibilia recently explored how “the impulse to fix a problem—the impulse that has led the human species to invent telephones and bicycles and rocket ships—has surprising consequences when it comes to the problem of mental illness.” (NPR)
  • Utilizing online models of communities, much like the video game The Sims, researchers are looking at patterns of human behavior to understand when we’ll cooperate and when we’re tempted to act with our own interests in mind. (Nautilus)
  • A newly issued report, by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, features a chapter on how climate change will influence mental health, highlighting the groups who are most at risk and the potential impact of natural disasters on mental well-being. (U.S. Global Change Research Program)

 

Do Queen Bees Rule the Office? Race-conscious College Admissions, plus more weekly links

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A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • In the workplace, is the biggest barrier women face other women? While, the idea of a queen bee dominating an office might create a buzz, research suggests women, more often, look out for one another. However, their behavior is perceived differently than their male counterparts. Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant explain that “It’s time for all of us to stop judging the same behavior more harshly when it comes from a woman rather than a man. Women can disagree—even compete—and still have one another’s backs. (New York Times).

bee_Main

Photo: Kristine Paulus

  • Do as I say not as I do. Recent research suggests those who espouse moral absolutes may be the most prone to acting hypocritically when large sums of money are involved. (Journal of Economic Psychology)
  • Are selfies ruining empathy? According to psychologist and parenting expert, Michele Borba, yes, they are. In her latest book, Unselfie, she discusses this “selfie syndrome” and provides advice for parents and their children. She suggests that “The problem is that kids are tuning into themselves, and what we need to do is flip the lens and start looking at others.” (New York Times)
  • This past week was eventful for the U.S. Supreme Court. One notably decision was the continued support of race-conscious college admissions. President of the American Psychological Association (APA), Susan McDaniel, revealed her, and the organization’s, support for the decision stating that “Institutions of higher education have a compelling interest in fostering diversity to ensure that all students enjoy an atmosphere that is most conducive to learning.” (American Psychological Association)
  • Three years ago, the scientific community tried to push Andre Fenton and Todd Sacktor’s  research on memory, out of their memory. Undeterred, Fenton and Sacktor have new data on the importance of PKMzeta, a single molecule in the brain associated with altering neurons to form long-term memories. Carl Zimmer explores the story of Fenton, Sacktor, their test-mice, and the controversial molecule, PKMzeta. (Stat News)

-Edited by Rinpoche Price-Huish-

 

Should Little Boys Cry? Moving Forward After Tragic Events, plus more weekly links

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A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • There’s a stigma around boys crying. Toughen up, some say, and they think they’re helping. But research suggests that embracing male vulnerability and emotional openness may help boys improve socially and academically. (NPR)

baby_cry_main

Photo: Amanda Tipton

  • Moving forward from the tragedy in Orlando, a collection of Harvard professors, including psychologist Steven Pinker, came together to share their thoughts on mass shootings and how to make citizens safer. “We need to look at the ways in which we institutionally, ideologically, individually allow ourselves to be governed by prejudice,” says Professor of Public Policy Timothy McCarthy. (Harvard Gazette)
  • Neuroscientist Adriana Galván suggests that the same factors that lead to impulsive and risky behavior in teens might also spur them towards a type of creativity and productivity not seen in any other developmental period. (Aeon)
  • Will the first ever soda-tax in a major US city yield fruitful results? All eyes are turned towards Philadelphia to see if their new soda tax can promote health, while also raising much needed revenue for the city’s education and community improvement programs. (Philly.com)
  • Organizations are increasingly turning to behavioral science for insight into how they can improve their moral and ethical practice. This month, leading behavioral scientists gathered to discuss pathways to improving businesses through the use of nudges and policy at the Ethics by Design conference hosted by Ethical Systems in New York City. (Ethical Systems)
  • There may not be a perfect way to parent your child, but programs that promote the ideas of positive parenting could point you in the right direction, writes W. Douglas Tynan, Director of Integrated Health Care for the American Psychological Association. He reviews some of latest research on ways parents can help their children flourish. (Philly.com)

-Edited by Rinpoche Price-Huish-

 

Disgust as a Moral Compass, Mental Health for Syrian Refugees, plus more weekly links

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A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • By definition, disgust is not tied to people’s ethical or moral values. However, research into the complicated relationship between visceral and moral disgust reveals how the interplay between the two helped define our social development as a species. (Aeon)
  • You may want to hold off on starting that new thriller if you’re having a busy week. Chances are, if you start, you’ll keep watching and watching. According to a study published by Netflix, viewers prefer to binge watch, reinforcing the company’s belief that the best way to release material is as a full season. (New York Times)

Image: HBO

  • There’s a shortage of mental health services in the US. What does this shortage look like if you’re rich and white? Not too bad. But, while mental illness does not discriminate in who it affects, it seems practitioners do, particularly against working class and minority groups. (The Atlantic)
  • As the Syrian civil war continues, psychologists are searching for ways to best tend to the mental health needs of refugees displaced by violence. The Public Mental Health Initiative has shared a guidebook that provides a framework for how mental health professionals can best help this new and growing population of refugees. (Public Mental Health Initiative)
  • Psychologists are increasingly reliant on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk), an online crowdsourcing service, to recruit research participants. However, a closer look at the dependence on these online subjects suggests it may not be “the revolution in social and behavioral science” that was advertised. (Science)
  • Can you picture your childhood home? Research suggests that roughly two percent of the population cannot because of a condition called aphantasia, which prohibits the brain from creating the mental imagery essential for learning. (The Guardian)

 

Is the Brain Really Like a Computer? With Age Comes Wisdom, plus more weekly links

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A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • Ninety-nine billion capabilities but being a computer ain’t one. Current discussion of the brain’s processes relies on an information processing metaphor. But recent neuroscience research calls into question the idea that the brain is a computer, revealing the brain is incapable of even basic computer tasks such as storing memories. (Aeon)

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Image: Samuele Ghilardi

  • You should listen to your grandma. Anil Ananthaswamy explores the research on wisdom, which, it seems, does come with age. (Nautilus)
  • What does science’s replication crisis mean? Eric Bradlow, a quantitative social scientist, explores the benefits of replicating experiments, even when they fail. He finds beauty in the mistakes—”The process is never ending and there will always be more things to uncover.” (NPR’s Hidden Brain)
  • The ability to gain the hearts of their followers is a quality all great leaders share. Claudio Ranieri, the coach of the underdog soccer team, Leicester City, certainly captured the hearts of his players, the fans, and even the world. He and his team overcame 5,000 to 1 odds (the same odds as Elvis being found alive) to capture the prestigious English Premier League title. What else can we learn about leadership from Ranieri’s remarkable triumph? (The Psychologist)

 

A Tonic for Neurotonics? Success of Motor-Voter Registration, plus more weekly links

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A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • Drink this and you’ll be happy. Neuroscience says so. The false claims surrounding the power of neuro ’tonics’ are troubling enough when they come from the beverage industry. But when they come from neuroscientists themselves, the potential cost to science and society gives us even more to worry about. (New York Magazine)

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Image: Kolé Tonics

  • Smelling farts prevents cancer? Skip the gym and drink red wine? Don’t hug your dog? John Oliver breaks down the trouble with how scientific research is reported in the media. (HBO)

  • C.S. Lewis famously stated that “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” Recent research suggests that across cultures, the penchant for doing the “right thing” and the wrong thing seem to be quite similar. Also, we might not be as dishonest as we think. (Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology)
  • If you want people to do something, make it easy. This Friday, the New York Times Editorial Board extolled the virtues of automatic voter enrollment at the DMV, also known as “motor voter registration.” Since automatic enrollment was put in place in Oregon, an average of over 15 thousand people each month have been added to the state’s voter rolls. (New York Times)

Disclosure: Evan Nesterak works in the Duckworth Lab at the University of Pennsylvania and is colleagues with Scott Barry Kaufman at the university’s Positive Psychology Center.

 

Know Thy Future Self, Tracking the Evolution of Language in Real-time, plus more weekly links

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A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • When it comes to keeping up good grades or saving for retirement, research by psychologist Daphna Oyserman suggests that the best way to stay motivated is getting to know your future self. (Aeon)

eyewitness_main2Photo: Sam Breach

  • Eyewitness misidentification causes the majority of wrongful convictions in North America. In a recent study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, psychologists reveal patterns in how a victim’s race and gender can affect the accuracy of eyewitness identification of the perpetrator. (Social Psychological and Personality Science)
  • Of the world’s 19 wealthiest nations, the United States has the second highest overall income level but third highest percentage of citizens living below the poverty line. With poverty threatening the mental health of millions of Americans, the American Psychological Association looks at how psychologists can contribute to a solution. (APA Monitor)
  • According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the U.S. suicide rate is the highest it has been in 30 years. The reasons why remains unclear, though evidence suggests economic instability may be a key factor. (New York Times)
  • By studying the ongoing development of sign languages, researchers are tracking how language evolves in real-time. Counter-intuitive to our hashtagging habits and text message slang, research suggests that “the new generation has come up with richer, more grammatically complex utterances that use ever more parts of the body for different purposes.” (Science)
  • With same sex marriage legal in all fifty states, are doctors justified in refusing to perform hormone treatments, sex change operations, or fertility treatments due to religious affiliations? (Atlantic)

 

The Promise of a Guaranteed Income, Restoring Movement in Paralyzed Patients, plus more weekly links

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A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • After a swimming accident five years ago, Ian Burkhart was left paralyzed from the neck down. But new work in neural engineering has allowed him to regain the use of his right wrist and hand. Neuroscientists linked the portion of his brain that controls movement directly to his the muscles in his arm in order to restore movement to his paralyzed limb, allowing him to play a Guitar Hero-like video game and perform other everyday tasks like swiping a credit card. (Nature, New York Times)
  • Would guaranteeing a basic level of income to all people in a population increase economic productivity and improve well-being? In a radical experiment, the charity GiveDirectly intends to investigate this question by providing a basic income to 6,000 people in Kenya for the next decade. (Vox)
  • Susie Mckinnon has a loving husband and stable job but wouldn’t be able to tell you how she felt on her wedding day or about her most exciting day at work. In fact, McKinnon is unable to relive any of her personal memories due to a rare condition known as severely deficient autobiographical memory. With several people like McKinnon living happily forever in the moment, researchers can’t help but question why we even have episodic memories in the first place. (Wired)
  • Rice University Professor, Utpal Dholakia, warns marketers that “nudging” people to eat more vegetables or pay their taxes on time may not be enough in the long run—you need to motivate them, too. (Harvard Business Review)
  • In July, Chicago lawyer David Hoffman published a critical report detailing the American Psychological Association’s (APA) connection to government interrogation programs. However, several members of the APA have called into question Hoffman’s findings. The APA is now asking Hoffman to reexamine some of his conclusions. (New York Times)

 

NYC’s Summons Gets a Makeover, Bush Healers in the Health System, plus more weekly links

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A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • In 2015, nearly half the people who were issued a court summons in New York City failed to show up to their hearing. This year, Mayor Bill de Blasio, in collaboration with ideas42 and the NYPD, reformed the citywide summons process by introducing text-message reminders and more flexible scheduling of dates, in order to reduce the number of no-shows in the courtroom. (City of New York)

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Photo: Huseyin

  • As globalization infringes upon the indigenous communities in Australia, aboriginal bush healers provide treatment to help close the health gap. Could integrating these traditional techniques into mainstream medicine improve the treatment of social and mental health problems around the world? (Mosaic Science)
  • From public health to consumer finance, big data and complex algorithms can surely help to solve big and complex problems. “But absent a human touch, its single-minded efficiency can further isolate groups that are already at society’s margins.” (The Atlantic)
  • In a day and age when promoting diversity is very much on the minds of employers, white men still dominate most leadership positions in companies. David Hekman explains that, when it comes to diversifying leadership in companies, “breaking up the old boys’ network is the best thing for society in the long run.” (The Atlantic)
  • With the controversy surrounding police encounters, many people believe that requiring police officers to wear body cameras will help provide an “objective” point of view. But according to Seth Stoughton, a law professor at the University of South Carolina, body camera footage is more ambiguous than you might expect. (New York Times)
  • Are emotions contagious? According to Stanford psychologist, Jamil Zaki, they can be. But being a caretaker and alleviating suffering is much easier when you know your boundaries. (Nautilus)
  • For people experiencing a mental disorder, a new method of self-prescribed treatment is available: smartphone apps. But, as Emily Anthes writes in Nature, they still need to be tested. (Nature)

 

Is Speech Really Free if the Government is Listening? May I Call You “They?” plus more weekly links

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A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • How free is your speech when there’s the potential your government is listening? A recent study by Elizabeth Stoycheff found that knowing the government might be listening is enough for people to censor their posts on the internet, even when they presumably have nothing to hide. (Journalism & Mass Communication QuarterlyWashington Post)

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Photo: wiredforlego

  • How much of a person’s identity rests on a pronoun? Research suggests that pronouns play a large role in developing stereotypes of gender norms from a young age. With the expanding discussion surrounding gender identity, a catch-all singular “they” has been suggested to shorten the pronoun divide. However, does “they” provide a universal representation for everyone who does not conform to the traditional use of “he” or “she?” (New York Times)
  • What do Warby Parker, the Mona Lisa, and the “I Have a Dream” speech have in common? They were all created by procrastinators. According to Adam Grant, being a procrastinator is one the qualities shared by “originals”—his term for the creative nonconformists who change the world. In his recent TED Talk, Grant explains how originals don’t behave as you might expect. In fact, they’re likely late and full of doubt. Most importantly, however, they’re more afraid of failing to try than failure itself. (TED)

 

  • A research team lead by Seth Gershenson recently published a study which found that white teachers tend to expect significantly less of black students, than do black teachers, when they evaluate the same student. The researchers explore how these low expectations could impact a student’s academic experience and achievement. (Economics of Education Review)
  • Coexistence with out-groups has reached a critical point as foreign-born and migrant populations continue to increase in countries all across the world. As demographic changes persist, research suggests that previously considered majorities may show resistance to embracing diversity. (APS Observer)
  • Are taxidermists happier at work than lawyers? According to Amy Wrzesniewski, job satisfaction depends on what your work means to you, rather than the job itself. (Hidden Brain)

 

Should We Grade Schools on Grit? DARPA’s Quest for the Super Soldier, plus more weekly links

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A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • Policymakers and educators are increasingly interested in bringing character development and assessment into the classroom. Some want to go as far as employing character assessments, like the grit scale, to measure and reward school performance. Angela Duckworth, who pioneered the research on grit, says not so fast, “Don’t Grade Schools on Grit.” (New York Times)

 

  • The Defense Advanced Research Protection Agency (DARPA) is trying to build super soldiers. Their new training program, Targeted Neuroplasticity Training (TNT), attempts to accelerate the learning process by activating the peripheral nervous system in the brain through stimulation of nerves in the skin. The hope is that TNT will help soldiers speed up their skills in foreign languages, cryptography, and more. (Defense Advanced Research Protection Agency)
  • Should companies prioritize employee satisfaction or the bottom line? Analyzing the link between employee satisfaction and stock market returns over the last 28 years, Alex Edmans found that happier employees mean better long-run returns—between 2.3 and 3.8 percent per year. (Harvard Business Review)
  • Neuroscientist Daniel Barron found jury duty quite unsettling. The legal definition of guilt doesn’t line up with a scientific understanding of free will or responsibility. Writing in Scientific American, he asks whether jurors can accurately discern whether or not a person had the ability to tell right from wrong and wonders to what extent neuroscience should inform our legal conception of criminal behavior. (Scientific American)
  • How do we cope with traumatic experiences? Reflecting on his brother’s kidnapping and murder, David Kushner explores the research on post-traumatic growth, “a psychological phenomenon in which trauma deepens life’s meaning.” (The New Yorker)
  • By overprescribing antibiotics, doctors are contributing to the rise of superbugs which kill 23 thousand Americans per year. Doctor education and incentives don’t seem to be successful in stopping the trend. Simple behavioral interventions, however, like showing doctors how their prescription practices stack up against their peers or requiring them to write quick a “antibiotic justification note,” provide greater promise. (New York Times)
  • From federal tax enrollment to delinquent debt repayment, the White House Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST) has been using behavioral science insights to improve the integrity and efficiency of government policy. With its first year complete, the SBST reflects on its work and looks to the future. (Behavioral Science and Policy)
  • Keep your eyes peeled for the newest behavioral science journal, Nature Human Behavior, accepting submissions starting in April 2016 and launching in January 2017. (Nature Human Behavior)

Disclosure: Angela Duckworth is a member of The Psych Report’s Advisory Board.

 

Race-blind Prosecutors, the Myths of Policing, plus more weekly links

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A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • In the United States in 2010, Blacks made up 12 percent of the national population, but 38 percent of the prison population. The disproportionate imprisonment of Blacks is not simply due to higher rates of criminal behavior. Racial bias, implicit and explicit, and present throughout the criminal justice system, plays a large role. In the latest issue of Behavioral Science and Policy, Sunita Sah and colleagues argue that obscuring the racial identity of the defendant during the prosecution process could ensure that prosecutors’ decisions are based on a defendant’s behavior, rather than race. (Behavioral Science and Policy)
  • Police, it seems, are no better than the general public in distinguishing the myths of their profession from fact. Police officers and non-police officers judge myths like, “Police can tell if a suspect is lying” and “People confess only when they have actually committed the crime they are being charged with” to be true at remarkably similar rates, 39% vs. 37%. (Aeon)
  • As women take over a male-dominated field, the pay drops,” writes Claire Cain Miller in the New York Times. Women are gradually outpacing men in educational attainment and career ambition. Yet, numbers show that they are still getting paid less across the board. So what’s the catch? (New York Times)
  • Work is becoming an increasingly larger part of our lives—encroaching on all aspects of it, from our children’s bedtime routines to time spent in the garden on a weekend afternoon. For the Economist’s Senior Editor Ryan Avent, there is no separation between his work and personal life. Avent explores how perfection of the professional life has coincided with increasing demands on personal time, making work his main source of identity, community, and pleasure. (1843 Magazine by the Economist)
  • How happy are you? According to the World Happiness Report, if you live in Denmark you’re probably pretty happy, right alongside residents of other Scandinavian countries. War-torn countries like Burundi and Syria came in last. The U.S. moved up two spots since last year’s report, from 15th to 13th. (New York Times)
  • Tuning in or tuning out? The Silent Disco, an event where attendees put on earphones and dance in the company of others who do the same, has been described as “shared isolation.” Though some may say those little earbuds create distance, research shows that “when you listen to music, you’re never really alone.” (Nautilus)
  • Can a nationwide sugar tax help reduce obesity? In 2018, the UK aims to find out, when a new “soft drinks levy” goes into effect. The Behavioral Insights Team takes a look how this tax could affect producers and consumers. (Behavioral Insights Team)
  • Brain damage is no joking matter, except in the case of Witzelsucht—an addiction to wisecracking. (BBC Future)

 

Could Google Rig the Election? Law Enforcement’s 21st Century Stockade, plus more weekly links

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A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • Could Google rig the 2016 election? According to psychologist Robert Epstein, “Google now has the power to flip upwards of 25 percent of the national elections in the world with no one knowing this is occurring.” (Aeon)

Image: Google Politics

  • Innocent until proven guilty does not hold true in the land of the internet. Law enforcement groups around the country are using the web to create a twenty-first century stockade, publishing names and mugshots online, often regardless of an individual’s guilt or innocence. (New Republic)
  • You’re already glued to your smartphone, so why not just implant it in your body? Implantable technology is a field with an interesting history and an even more intriguing, if not unsettling, future. Frieda Klotz reports from the “world’s first cyborg fair.” (Mosaic).
  • One of psychology’s most influential theories of self-control—ego depletion—is coming under fire, forcing the many in the field to reconsider the idea that willpower is a limited resource. (Slate)
  • It’s a right-handed world and some of us are getting left out. Psychologist Daniel Casasanto explains how right-hand bias influences how we vote, what we buy, and who we research. (The Atlantic)
  • If a baseball umpire calls a few strikes is he more likely to call the next pitch a ball? In a recent working paper, Daniel Chen and his colleagues report a small effect that “MLB umpires call the same pitches in the exact same location differently depending solely on the sequence of previous calls.”  They also examine how asylum judges and loan officers can fall victim to the same “gambler’s fallacy” as the baseball umps. (National Bureau of Economic Research)
  • Have you ever wanted to see Milgram’s original shock box or Freud’s home videos? You may have your chance if David Baker realizes his dream of a National Museum of Psychology. (Association for Psychological Science)

 

I’m Sleeping with My Boss the Fitbit, Vetoed Bathroom Restrictions for Transgender Students, plus more weekly links

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A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • Gadgets like Fitbit and apps like MyFitnessPal seem to be the perfect way to achieve your fitness goals. Watching every calorie burn and counting every step can only motivate you to keep going, right? Research, noting that these trackers can also act as a 24/7 boss, suggests otherwise. (The Atlantic)
  • Why does Donald Trump appeal to such a broad range of voters? In “The Rise of American Authoritarianism,” writer Amanda Taub looks for an answer in the research on authoritarianism—a psychological profile based on a “desire for order and a fear of outsiders.” (Vox)
  • Governor Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota vetoed a bill aimed at restricting access to bathrooms for transgender students. (New York Times)
  • The Word Bank and ideas42 have teamed up to use insights from behavioral science to fight for health and hygiene in countries around the world, including nutrition in Madagascar, sexual health in South Africa, and sanitation in India. (The Guardian)
  • Anyone who doubted the intelligence of birds will be eating crow after they watch the video below. Ok, don’t actually eat any crows. Just check out the highlights of how they can use tools and find hidden treats in a shell game, a skill previously thought to be exclusive to primates. Maybe being called a bird-brain isn’t such a bad thing after all. (New York Times)

 

  • Apps like Spritz and BeeLine Reader promise to improve your reading speed and efficiency. Do they work? Research by Keith Rayner and colleagues suggests the claims are too good to be true. (APS Observer)
  • With the rapid advancement of AI technology, the question of whether or not a machine could become conscious is no longer restricted to the realm of science fiction. George Musser explores how machines could become self-aware…without humans even knowing it. (Aeon)
  • Loneliness is not just a miserable feeling, it’s a public health issue. In an interview with The Guardian, Psychologist John Cacioppo describes what loneliness is, how it weakens people physically and mentally, and ways to treat it. (The Guardian)

 

Building the Perfect Team, Emoji Labels Signal Healthy Food, plus more weekly links

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A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • In the workplace, why do some teams flourish while others flounder? Charles Duhigg explores the social norms that can enhance or damage the collective intelligence of a group, in his article “What Google Learned from its Quest to Build the Perfect Team.” (New York Times)

hockey_team

Photo: BiblioArchives/LibraryArchives

  • It’s hard to get kids to eat their broccoli. With nearly one-third of children in the U.S. classified as overweight or obese, it’s important too. Can emojis help? Researchers recently explored how emoji-labels could be used to help kids choose healthier foods. (Washington Post)
  • Writing in the New York Times, Eduardo Porter offered a reality check on the power of nudges. Do they really have the power to solve the most complex and pressing challenges like poverty? According to Porter, no. New York Magazine’s Jesse Singal responded: “‘Nudges’ Can’t Solve Poverty—But No One’s Saying They Can.” (New York Times, New York Magazine)
  • Psychologist Paul Bloom describes the silver lining of psychology’s replication crisis. (The Atlantic)
  • What does it mean to make a stupid mistake? You could ask Homer Simpson. Or you could check out Balazs Aczel and his colleagues’ research in Intelligence. Their work, nicely explained by Psychologist David Hambrick in Scientific American, lays out three categories of stupid mistakes: the confidence-skill gap, impulsivity gone wrong, and lapses in attention. All of which begs the question: does knowing how stupid we are make us smarter? (Intelligence, Scientific American)
  • Stigmatized and minority groups have at least one thing in common—they’re not in the majority. That doesn’t mean, however, that these distinct groups will automatically band together. In a recent article, psychologists Maureen Craig and Jennifer Richeson discuss the individual and situational factors that can help bring minority groups together as well as those that might drive them apart. (Current Directions in Psychological Science)
  • “When you consider all the people you know and all the places you go and all the places they go, chances are good that you’ll run into someone you know, somewhere, at some point,” writes  Julie Beck in The Atlantic. “But it’ll still seem like a coincidence when you do.” Psychology can explain how and why we notice coincidences and probability can explain their frequency. But what is it exactly that makes a coincidence a coincidence? (The Atlantic)
  • The Medical College Admission Test, better known as the MCAT, now includes questions on the psychological, social, and biological foundations of behavior. These additions signal the growing importance placed on the role of psychological and social factors in promoting health. (American Psychologist)

 

That’s the Trouble with Research Baby, BIT’s Quest for Better Hiring, plus more weekly links

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A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • When your research participants are babies, there’s no such thing as a flawless experiment. Whether it’s tantrums or throw-up, researchers are forced to adapt their experiments on the fly. This variability and unpredictability, however, doesn’t make it to publication. In the latest issue of Socius, David Peterson describes his ethnographic work in three developmental psychology labs over the course of 16 months, detailing the challenges researchers faced as well as the suite of dodgy research practices they employed to “produce” statistical significance. (Socius)

research_baby

Photo: Deepwarren

  • Diversity makes teams better. Yet, diversity is still lacking in many organizations—see this story on Apple and this one on the Supreme Court. The Behavioral Insights Team is out to solve this problem. They recently launched Applied, a behavioral science inspired recruitment platform to help organizations make fairer and more informed hiring decisions. (NPR, New York Times, Behavioral Insights Team, Applied)
  • Erik Linstrum’s new book, Ruling Minds: Psychology in the British Empire, recalls Britain’s colonial rule in Asia and Africa and explores the contradictory role early psychological science played—from justifying white supremacy on the one hand, to documenting the profound similarities between the British and those they colonized on the other. (New York Magazine)
  • Where does your waste go? New Zealand is aiming to increase the salience of this and other questions that pertain to the everyday decisions we make that impact the environment.  “Tidy Kiwi,” policies are revealing how long-standing and recent nudges are improving New Zealand’s environmental grade. (Misbehaving Blog)
tidy_kiwi

Photo: Jamie Kimmel, Misbehaving Blog

  • Not enough salt? Try cooling down your soup. With insights from neurogastronomy, restauranteurs are learning how to create flavors with temperatures, sounds, sights, and textures. (New Republic)
  • Are fear-provoking tweets contagious? According to computer scientist, Emilio Ferrara, stress responses via social media have proven capable of spreading fear contagion across the world. In Nautilus, he explains “How Ebola Infected Twitter.” (Nautilus)
  • The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recently updated their guidelines to make screening for depression a higher priority within primary care. Their recommendation places screening for depression on the same level of importance as screening for physical diseases like diabetes and hypertension. (The Atlantic)
  • “It would be absurd to suggest that we should do what we couldn’t possibly do,” write Duke researchers Vlad Chituc and Paul Henne in ”The Data Against Kant.” However, according to their forthcoming study on blame and obligation, it turns out we do just that. So who’s to blame? (New York Times)

 

Are Quarterbacks Really that Good-Looking? Love is a Hell of a Drug, plus more weekly links

thepsychlist_green

A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

New England Patriots at Washington Redskins 08/28/09Photo: Keith Allison

  • “Cocaine is a hell of a drug,” said famed singer Rick James. So is love, according to Biological Anthropologist Helen Fisher who describes how “Love is Like Cocaine” in Nautilus. (Nautilus)
  • The Behavioral Insights Team North America is working with cities across the United States to help unite behavioral science and policy at the local level. Here’s an update on a few of the randomized-control trials they’re running in partnership with the Bloomberg Philanthropies What Works Cities initiative. (Behavioral Insights Team)
  • A team of educators and psychologists released a report on the state of teacher training. They found that teacher preparation has failed to incorporate practices rooted in scientific evidence. To remedy the situation, the report offers 6 evidenced-based ways a teacher can help make his or her lessons “stick.” Simon Oxenham digests the report for Big Think. (National Council on Teacher Quality, Big Think)
  • Time or money? If you had to choose one, which would you pick? In a series of studies, researchers from the University of British Columbia recently explored how preferences for time or money related to differences in well-being. (Social Psychological & Personality Science)

 

White House Sets Smart Default to Reduce Child Hunger, plus more weekly links

thepsychlist_green

A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • The White House announced changes to the process by which children are enrolled in the nation’s free and reduced price lunch program. Now, instead of a costly and tedious form, states will be able to automatically enroll children using Medicaid data. The hope is that by setting the default to enrolled more children will gain access to the meals for which they are eligible. (White House, Washington Post)

school_lunch

Photo: US Department of Agriculture

  • What good is a degree in psychology? Inside Higher Ed reports that Florida Governor Rick Scott may be taking aim at one of the most popular majors in the state’s university system. Governor Scott’s concern seems to be the extent to which a major in psychology leads to career opportunities launching a debate about the value of psychology and the purpose of a liberal arts education. (Inside Higher Ed)
  • A team of scientists, from Harvard Medical School, Boston Children’s Hospital, and the Broad Institute, identified a gene that may be responsible for accelerated synaptic pruning—the removal of weak and unnecessary connections as the brain matures—a leading theory of the cause of schizophrenia. The findings, which were published in this week’s Nature, have many who study the disease cautiously optimistic about discovering a potential treatment. (New York Times, Nature)
  • The United Nations’ 9th annual Psychology Day will be April 28th in New York City. The event will focus on “Using Psychology to Address the Global Migration Crisis.” (United Nations)

 

The Impact of Having a Father Drafted to Vietnam, Lumosity fined, plus more weekly links

thepsychlist_green

A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • The impact of the Vietnam draft was not only felt by those men who served, but by their children, too. Jeff Guo reports on the economic impact of having a father eligible for the draft and examines the ways broad government policies can have a lasting, often unforeseen, influence on later generations. (Washington Post)

vietnam2

Photo: Sp5 Robert C. Lafoon Department of the Army Special Photo Office

“Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.” (Federal Trade Commission)

  • Recently, Elizabeth Paluck and her research team conducted a massive intervention involving over 56 schools and 24,000 students to reduce bullying at schools. At each school, 20 to 32 randomly selected students participated in a conflict reduction program. One year later, schools where conflict reduction was “seeded” through these students experienced a 30 percent reduction in social conflict. Further, the more socially connected that the selected students were, the greater the reduction in conflict. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)
  • For Maria Konnikova, the aim of both psychology and writing, though their methods might be different, is the same—understand who we are. (New York Times)
  • No “A” for effort here. Carol Dweck says when it comes to praising effort instead of talent we’re doing it wrong. (Quartz)
  • Care for a slice of humble pie? These award-winning 3-dimensional illusions will provide you with a reminder that what you see and what you think is not necessarily what actually is. (Nautilus)

 

Cognitive Dissonance Trumps All, Why We’re Suckers For Belief, plus more weekly links

thepsychlist_green

A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • There’s some cognitive dissonance going on here: How can Donald Trump be everything people claim to despise in a politician—arrogant, rude, self-promoting—and still do so well in the polls? Stanford University Professor of Organizational Behavior Jeffrey Pfeffer explains. (Fortune)

donald-trump_mainImage: Gage Skidmore

  • According to a recent study, people aren’t so great at calling out profound-sounding baloney for what it really is. By lacing vague BS with a pretentious vocabulary, Cass Sunstein warns voters that politicians are flirting with the ear to gather admiration they may not deserve. (Bloomberg View)
  • We are all suckers for belief,” writes Maria Konnikova. Three-card monte, prize money from a prince overseas, salvation and revolutionary weight-loss pills offered exclusively during 1am infomercials—why do we fall for this stuff? (New York Times)
  • Professor Adam Grant, one of the world’s 25 most influential management thinkers, top business professors under 40, consultant for Google and Goldman Sachs, and Academy of Management award winner, is not a behavioral economist. Though, he is introduced as one several times a week. Busting five myths about psychologists, Grant offers his take on the mixup, and what Freud has to do with it.  (Medium)
  • What’s Up Next? It’s not just a question high school juniors and seniors here all the time, but now a government-backed texting initiative to help students get the college information they need—from SAT and ACT reminders to guidance on applications and financial aid. (Up Next, Wired)

 

Too Busy To Know We’re Not That Busy, Australia’s New Nudge Unit, plus more weekly links

thepsychlist_green

A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

toobusy2Image: Alan O’Rourke and WorkCompass.com

  • Our constant influx of incoming messages, emails, and notifications deems us the busiest generation yet, right? According to the U.K.’s Centre for Time Use Research, this is only a myth. After comparing time diaries from the 1960’s to those of today, researchers found little evidence that today’s generation is working any harder than those in the past. So maybe you do have time to learn a new recipe, write your friend, or brush up on your French. (Fast Company)
  • Following the lead of the UK’s Behavioral Insights Team and the White House Social and Behavioral Sciences Team, Australia announced the launch of BETA, the Behavioral Economics Team of the Australian Government. In collaboration with seven federal government agencies, BETA will aim to use insights from behavioral science to improve policy for Australian citizens. (The Mandarin)
  • Texting patients to remind them of their appointment and inform them of the cost to the health service if they miss it—160 pounds—could save Britain’s National Health Service 1 million pounds a week. An additional 100,000 organ donors joined Britain’s donor registry after a simple phrase was added to the sign up form: “If you needed an organ transplant would you have one? If so, please help others.” Imperial College London’s Professor Lord Ara Darzi explains how “Great communication in healthcare can save lives.” (The Guardian)
  • In a recent article in Scientific American, Scott Barry Kaufman wonders what school might look like if educators move beyond an academic growth mindset and aim instead to cultivate a personal growth mindset in their students. (Scientific American)
  • Solitary confinement,” said Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, “literally drives men mad.” So why are prisons still keeping some people isolated year after year after year? (USA Today)

 

A Council of Psychological Advisers, Suicides in the Golden State, plus more weekly links

thepsychlist_green

A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • If President Obama created a Council of Psychological Advisers to help develop policies and programs based on the latest psychological science what might they recommend? Twelve “Memos to the President,” published in the most recent issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science, provide a clue. (Perspectives on Psychological Science)
  • Silicon Valley has a suicide problem. Hanna Rosin reports for The Atlantic“How could it be that they all lived in a place that inspired jealousy from out-of-towners, where the coolest gadgets and ideas come from, where the optimism is boundless, and where, as Kathleen put it to me somewhat sardonically, ‘people are working on inventions that will slow aging and probably one day stop death’—and yet also a place where a junior in high school is closely familiar with the funerals of other teens?” (The Atlantic)

Featured image: Pete Souza

 

Did the Findings Replicate? You Can Bet on It, plus more weekly links

thepsychlist_green

A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • A great deal of psychology research doesn’t replicate, but that doesn’t mean researchers don’t  have a good sense for good science. When researchers at the Reproducibility Project brought together scientists to bet on which studies they thought would replicate, they did so with incredible accuracy. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)
  • Is the United States in the dumps? Or should we count our blessings? The 2016 Presidential candidates’ half-full or half-empty (not to say half-brained) views of how our country is doing matter. Which led Sonja Lyubomirsky to ask “Will an optimist or a pessimist win in 2016?” (Los Angeles Times)
  • Banking is about dollars and cents. That doesn’t mean current banking practices make psychological sense, particularly for those with lower incomes. ideas42, in partnership with consulting firm Oliver Wyman, is rethinking the ways in which banking can work for those with lower incomes and often volatile financial lives, as well as for the banks who serve them. (ideas42)
  • Meditation came to the West as a fad decades ago but was soon forgotten by most Americans. Now it’s making a distinctly secular resurgence. Jennie Rothenberg Gritz looks at how meditation is becoming a mainstay in our schools. (The Atlantic)
  • Have human languages adapted to climate and terrain? In a recent study of over 633 languages worldwide, researchers suggest that environmental factors such as heat, humidity, and forestry have shaped the acoustic differences between vowel-heavy languages in the tropics and consonant-heavy languages in colder, less-humid regions. (Science)
    1. “He tried to lie and actually did lie.”
    2. “He tried to lie but only thinks he lied.”

    In a recent study published in Cognition, researchers used prompts like these to better understand what makes people consider a lie, a lie—the teller’s intent, or inconsistency with reality. According to researchers, the answer is both. (NPR)

  • For decades the conversation about manipulating genes to make our children smarter, healthier, and taller was limited by the science—it just wasn’t possible. Now, scientists are saying it’s time to have a discussion about the ethics of enhancing genomes as medical advances have made it a conceivable reality. (Aeon)

Featured image courtesy of slgckgc

 

Nudging for Good, Neuroprosthetics, plus more weekly links

thepsychlist_green

A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • When autographing his book, Nudge, Richard Thaler writes just three words: “Nudge for good.” Here’s why. (New York Times)
  • The U.S. Military is bypassing Lumosity (which is, by the way, not supported by science) and going straight to implanting electrodes in people’s brains. Nature reports the military is beginning human trials of “neuroprosthetics” to see if they can help improve the memories of soldiers who’ve experienced head trauma (as well as those who have simply gotten older). (Nature)
  • When tallying up votes at several local San Diego elections, researchers found that voters were more likely to vote no on propositions located lower on the ballot. Researchers suggest that no-voting increases towards the end of the ballot as voters become “decision fatigued” and opt to stick to the status quo rather than make an informed choice. (The Atlantic)
  • Why are you still wearing your lucky socks to game day even though you know as well as anyone they do nothing to change the scoreboard? Jane Risen and David Nussbaum have a clue. (New York Times)
  • How can we solve obesity? How about exercising democracy? Recently, the government in Victoria, Australia brought together 78 ‘everyday’ people for what’s called a Citizens’ Jury, in order to get their input and recommendations for how to solve the obesity epidemic. An inspiring process that produced these 20 suggestions. (Behavioral Insights Team, VicHealth)
  • Hands free doesn’t equal brain free, so put your phone in “Driving mode.” That’s the solution for distracted driving, according to Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris. What about newer cars that offer “heads up” displays, read you your emails and texts, and sync all the functions of your phone into the car’s computer dashboard? An illusion of safety based on the (incorrect) idea that having your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel is enough. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Diets work . . . at first. People lose about 10 percent of their starting weight with most diets, but gain nearly all of it back within 2-5 years. That’s what Traci Mann and her colleagues found after reviewing 60 years of research. With the average Weight Watchers customer re-enrolling in the program 4 separate times, Mann suggests that physiological barriers to preserving weight loss are (ironically) exactly what keep Weight Watchers in business. (New York Magazine)