Editors’ Picks for 2014

Nudging the UK: A Conversation with David Halpern

The UK’s Behavioral Insights Team has generated a lot of attention around the world for using psychology to guide government spending. First, as skepticism, then as acclaim. Led by Psychologist and What Works National Advisor David Halpern, the “Nudge Unit,” as it’s popularly known, is slated to save the U.K. billions of pounds while improving […]

Coerced to Confess: The Psychology of False Confessions

On a spring night in 1989, a 28 year-old white woman was brutally raped and nearly murdered while jogging through Central Park. Early in their investigation, police brought in five black and hispanic teenage boys between the ages of 14 and 16 for questioning. During interrogations lasting up to 30 hours, all five confessed to taking part in the crime. Within 72 hours of the attack, the jogger still in a coma, the NYPD believed they had solved the crime […]

Could It Be Her Voice? Why Scarlett Johansson’s Voice Makes Samantha Seem Human

Early in the movie Her, writer Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) has a conversation with his new Operating System, Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), for the first time. Just moments into the conversation, Theodore expresses amazement: “You seem like a person – but you’re just a voice in a computer.” Indeed, Samantha exists only as a voice in Theodore’s ear […]

Q&A with Nicholas Epley Part 1: We Need to Talk

We possess a fundamental need to connect with one another, yet connecting with others in a meaningful way can be awkward, elusive, and challenging. The gulf between our need to connect with others and our failure to do so is made all the more apparent now that technology allows us to reach nearly anyone, anywhere at anytime, and still, we find it increasingly difficult to make and maintain meaningful social connections […]

To be or not to be? Should Obesity be a disease?

We know that names matter. Many people distrust Obamacare but support the Affordable Care Act. People would rather eat quiche than egg pie. A “Nutrition Assistance Program” sounds more dignified than “food stamps.” A “cold snap” sounds almost tropical, or at least tolerable, compared to a “polar vortex.” So, it matters that the American Medical Association decided, in June of 2013, to name obesity a disease […]

Thinking Appropriately About Climate Change

In his recent State of the Union message, President Obama flatly stated that “Climate change is a fact.” These are fighting words with an influential minority of the American public, and the President may be itching to have this fight.  But saying that climate change is a “fact” is a disservice to the public because it […]

Head of White House “Nudge Unit” Maya Shankar Speaks about Newly Formed Social and Behavioral Sciences Team

Last summer, the news broke that the White House was in the process of setting up its own “Nudge Unit,” modeled after the UK’s version, officially called the Behavioral Insights Team (BIT). Public reaction to the news was a mix between hopeful anticipation on the one hand and big-government alarmism on the other […]

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Google re:Work: Shaping the Future of HR

Google’s Senior Vice President of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, delivers the opening speech “Changing the Nature of Work,” at Google’s re:Work event earlier this fall. Photo: Google oogle is known for its innovative HR practices and office culture, most notably expressed through the array of perks the company provides its employees. Think all-you-can-eat gourmet food, ergonomic […]

Why Not Nudge? A Review of Cass Sunstein’s Why Nudge

he field mistakenly called “behavioral economics” (mistakenly because what it is is psychology applied to domains that are the normal province of economists) has taken the intellectual and political world by storm. The field was given shape by the seminal work of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky—work that started about forty years ago. Kahneman was justly awarded […]

Materially False: Q&A with Tim Kasser about the Pursuit of the Good through Goods

Photo: Devin Caldwell  s Madonna astutely noted in her 1984 song, we live in a material world. Cars, cash, clothes – the allure of stuff promises feelings of success and happiness. It’s a promise that, despite many of us sensing to be an empty one, still wields enormous power over how we structure our lives […]

Metaphors of the Union: Language in the State of the Union Address

To investigate the language used to describe some of the key issues brought up by President Obama in his 2014 State of the Union Address and by Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers in her response, we spoke with Oberlin College Psychology Professor Paul Thibodeau, whose research focuses on metaphors and how language can impact the way people conceptualize […]