Payday Lenders Offer Prepaid Cards, Why Premium Gas Sales Are Up, plus more weekly links


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

  • Payday loans could well be the most exploitative banking practice around, charging mostly low-income consumers astronomical triple-digit interest rates and fantastical fees to borrow small sums of money. Some payday lenders are making it easier for their customers to spend with payday loan prepaid cards. People tend to spend more with cards than cash, so this effectively combines the worst of two evils. God help us. (
  • You could have saved $41 last month. Instead, you bought premium gas. A recent report by JPMorgan Chase Institute shows that when gas prices go down, people buy more expensive gas. (New York Times)
  • Medicaid patients across the state of South Carolina can now expect to pocket $25 for attending an annual health exam, $20 for receiving a mammogram, and $10 for getting a flu shot, thanks to a new incentive program aiming to increase the number of Medicaid recipients receiving preventative medical care. At first blush, many are wondering whether it’s fair to pay people to do what they should already be doing. However, long-term benefits of the plan could persuade skeptics of its worth. (Forbes)
  • You can’t really understand a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, the saying goes. But it doesn’t say anything about compassion. In a recent series of experiments, researchers found those who had actually walked the proverbial mile—as in being bullied, struggling with unemployment, or jumping in a cold lake—were less compassionate towards others facing the same challenges. (Harvard Business Review)
  • The melancholy Sarah McLachlan music cues, and a tear-jerking slideshow of suffering animals takes the screen. Do you change the channel or keep watching the commercial? Synthesizing a large body of evidence, Stanford Psychologist Jamil Zaki illustrates how empathy can be a choice, rather than an automatic process out of our control. (Edge)
  • One interesting thing psychologists have learned from studying bullying over the past two decades is that bullying in rural areas is substantialldifferent than bullying in urban or even suburban areas. It’s worse—more intractable and pervasive. What about cyberbullying? Well, as Maria Konnikova writes, “the Internet has made the world more rural.” (The New Yorker)
  • Are you the bossy oldest, the spoiled youngest, or the neglected middle child forced to be the mediator of the two? There are mountains of studies showing that birth order is an important factor in shaping your personality, but a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports no correlation between the two. Julie Beck reports for the Atlantic. (PNAS, Atlantic)


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