Everyone’s a Phish, the Myth of the Autistic Shooter, plus more weekly links


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

  • The invisible hand wields a phishing rod and we phools are on the hook. So suggests Nobel Prize winning economists George Akerlof and Robert Shiller in their new book Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception. In it they describe how, under our current economic system, companies survive and thrive based on their ability to exploit our emotions and cognitive biases. Cass Sunstein reviews. (The New York Review of Books)
  • This year, the government organizations overseeing the United States’ 2015 Dietary Guidelines decided to drop sustainability as one of the factors they considered when making their recommendations for Americans’ food choices. This had some members of congress applauding the USDA and HHS for “sticking to the science,” illustrating that, well, “sticking to the science” means different things to different people. (NPR)
  • The vast majority of gun crimes are committed by those without mental illness, yet “the myth of the autistic shooter” remains. “It’s very reassuring to have an explanation for acts of horror,” writes Andrew Solomon. “If killings like this are mostly undertaken by people with autism, the thinking goes, and your children and their friends don’t have it, then you are safe.” (New York Times)
  • Malcolm Gladwell explores “how school shootings catch on” in The New Yorker. “The problem is not that there is an endless supply of deeply disturbed young men who are willing to contemplate horrific acts,” he writes. “It’s worse. It’s that young men no longer need to be deeply disturbed to contemplate horrific acts.” (The New Yorker)
  • The link between austerity and mental illness is so strong that some have said if austerity were tested like a medication, clinical trials would have long been halted. Mary O’Hara, writing in Mosaic, looks at the strain cuts to public spending puts on society’s most vulnerable, in the U.K. and around the world. (Mosaic)
  • The way Germany tries to treat pedophiles is radically different from other countries. That is, before they become perpetrators. Kate Connolly reports for The Guardian about a Berlin hospital’s voluntary therapy program for people who fear they might offend. (The Guardian)

Home page image courtesy of Kenneth Lu.


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