Everyone Thinks They Have a Growth Mindset, Empathy Problems, plus more weekly links


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

  • Everyone wants to have a growth mindset—the belief that intelligence can grow with effort. It’s led lots of teachers to say they have it, even as their methods haven’t changed. Carol Dweck, who pioneered the theory, takes to Education Week to discuss how we’re still teaching kids a fixed mindset and what’s to be done. Step one? Admit we have a problem. (Education Week)
  • Who calls for the most severe responses to drug-dealers, murderers, and ISIS? Likely, the most empathetic among us. That’s according to research from Yale’s Paul Bloom, writing this week in The Atlantic. He finds the stories of victims motivate us to seek justice through revenge, and the more empathetic we are, the harsher the punishment we say should be inflicted. Even, as he notes, retaliation doesn’t necessarily help the victims with whom we empathize. (The Atlantic)
  • There’s a correlation we need to talk about. One strong difference stood out to researchers analyzing their first batch of data from the massive and impressively-endowed Human Connectome Project: those with more “positive” traits—higher education, better physical endurance, better memory—had more strongly wired brains than those with “negative” attributes—smoking, aggressiveness, family history of alcohol abuse. Of course, what causes what is still a mystery, but it provides researchers with promising new directions (Nature).
  • Google is killing our empathy. And not just Google, but all apps that let us seamlessly log in and out of human interactions whenever they become boring or uncomfortable. MIT’s Sherry Turkle, writing for the New York Times, looks at how technology is altering our ability to connect in person. She writes, “Our phones are not accessories, but psychologically potent devices that change not just what we do but who we are.” (New York Times)
  • Can partisans separate their feelings about behavioral science from their political orientation? In a recent study, Craig Fox and his colleagues found a “partisan nudge bias.” Of those they surveyed, which nudges they supported depended largely on whether those nudges were described as aligning with their liberal or conservative beliefs. However, without presentation of any specific policy goals, nudges were equally accepted across the political spectrum. (New York Times)
  • If a character on your favorite TV show eats healthier, will you? If she registers to vote, will you follow her lead? Elizabeth Levy Paluck and her colleagues attempted to find out. They embedded socially desirable behaviors in a series of Spanish-language soap-operas to investigate whether behavior product placement can change viewers social behavior. (PloS one)


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