World Bank Launches Behavioral Science Team, Self-Driving Cars Have a Trolley Dilemma, plus more weekly links


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

  • The World Bank launched its own behavioral science team, officially titled the Global Insights Initiative (GINI). The announcement follows the publication of their World Development Report 2015: Mind, Society, and Behavior late last year, which described how behavioral science can inform policy and development. You can watch the announcement here. In addition to the World Bank leadership, Maya Shankar, Dan Ariely, and a number of others shared their thoughts on the new initiative. (Social Science Space, The World Bank)
  • Self-driving cars don’t just need to be able to spot cyclists and merge on the highway, they also have to make ethical decisions. In the case of unavoidable accidents, “should it minimize the loss of life, even if it means sacrificing the occupants, or should it protect the occupants at all costs? Should it choose between these extremes at random?” To decide, manufacturers are polling the public. (MIT Technology Review)
  • Any chef will tell you the eye eats first, but the ear? Nicola Twilley reports in The New Yorker how scientists are changing flavors without ever entering a kitchen. (The New Yorker)
  • Arguments against government assistance, by liberals and conservatives alike, are largely about behavior. One is, welfare makes people lazy. Another, welfare encourages single motherhood. A third, welfare conditions children to be dependent. But as Eduardo Porter reports, recent research suggests cash assistance does none of those things. (New York Times)
  • You bought kale? Treat yourself! Took a vitamin? Treat yourself! Went for a jog? Treat yourself! Alex Hutchinson reviews the “licensing effect,” where we tend to overindulge in bad behaviors for doing good ones. (New York Times)
  • What can measures of non-cognitive ability—also known as character, personal qualities, or virtues—add to the high school and college admissions process? A recent article in the APA Monitor illustrates the benefits of assessing applicants in areas other than standardized test scores. However, as the article points out, many of the measures aren’t yet robust enough and and can often be gamed. A recent paper by Angela Duckworth and David Yeager echoes this point and urges caution in using current measures of character for assessment just yet. (APA Monitor, Educational Researcher)


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