urinating

Of toilets, gender and nudge

Bangladesh’s Very Public Toilet Crisis

People trapped in Dhaka’s notoriously gridlocked traffic have developed various coping strategies. Some take naps. Others work or catch up on social media. My mother likes to text me to complain about the traffic. “Still stuck in Mohakhali,” she writes. “Two hours from Gulshan to Banani!” But one thing binds all commuters together: Make sure you use the toilet before you set off, because there won’t be anywhere to go en route. If I could, I would write a book called “Where to Pee in Bangladesh.” It would be a useful but very short book. It would tell you, for instance, that in our capital city, there are 67 public toilets for over 15 million residents. And of those 67, many have no running water or electricity. According to a 2011 study, only five are fully functional. …[READ]

quit-smoking

Managing nicotine addiction

Smoking, Vaping and Nicotine

“We need a national debate on nicotine,” said Mitch Zeller. Zeller is the director of the Center for Tobacco Products, a division of the Food and Drug Administration created in 2009 when Congress passed legislation giving the F.D.A. regulatory authority — at long last! — over cigarettes. In addition, the center will soon have regulatory authority over other tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, which have become enormously controversial even as they have gained in use. Through something called a “deeming rule,” the center is in the process of asserting that oversight over e-cigarettes. Opponents of electronic cigarettes, which include many public health officials, hope that the center will treat these new devices like it treats cigarettes: taking steps to discourage teenagers from “vaping,” for instance, and placing strict limits on the industry’s ability to market its products. ….[READ]

love-oxytocin

Is oxytocin a myth?

Human Oxytocin Research Gets a Drubbing

There’s a new paper out by Gareth Leng and Mike Ludwig1 that bears the coy title “Intranasal Oxytocin: Myths and Delusions” (get the full text here before it disappears behind a pay wall) that you need to know about if you’re interested in research on the links between oxytocin and human behavior (as I am; see my previous blog entries here, here, and here). Allow me to summarize some highlights, peppered with some of my own (I hope not intemperate) inferences. Caution: There be numbers below, and some back-of-the-envelope arithmetic. If you want to avoid all that, just go to the final paragraph where I quote directly from Gareth and Mike’s summary. ….[READ]

kirk

How to incorporate behavioural insights at the macro level

More Kirk than Spock

Cab drivers have good days and bad days, depending on the weather or special events such as a convention. If they were rational, they would work hardest on the good days (to maximise their take) but give up early when fares are few and far between. In fact, they do the opposite. It seems they have a mental target for their desired daily income and they work long enough to reach it, even though that means working longer on slow days and going home early when fares are plentiful. Human beings are not always logical. We treat windfall gains differently from our monthly salary. We value things that we already own more highly than equivalent things we could easily buy. Our responses to questions depends very much on how the issue is framed: we think surcharges on credit-card payments are unfair, but believe a discount for paying with cash is reasonable. ….[READ]

Safety1

Is it stressful to be a competent worker?

Being a Go-Getter Is No Fun

The phrase “shit hits the fan” has uncertain origins. Some claim it’s a descendant of a World War II adage “the garbage hit the fan.” As the Online Etymology Dictionary has it, it derives from an old poop joke. The Yale Book of Quotations doesn’t have a say on the phrase at all (though “shit happens” is attributed to Connie Eble of Chapel Hill). In any case, people have probably heard the phrase in reference to something gone awry at work or in life. In either setting, when the shit does hit the fan, people will tend to look to the most competent person in the room to take over. And too bad for that person. A new paper by a team of researchers from Duke University, University of Georgia, and University of Colorado looks at not only how extremely competent people are treated by their co-workers and peers, but how those people feel when, at crucial moments, everyone turns to them. They find that responsible employees are not terribly pleased about this dynamic either. ….[READ]

dealingwithstressinastartup

Start-up related stress

The downside of starting up: Depression, anxiety, loneliness, even suicide — the entrepreneurship struggle is real

Mike Gozzo saw the end of his startup coming from a mile away. When he and cousin Steve Panetta started Appifier — software that turned WordPress sites into mobile apps — in 2011, Gozzo thought they’d grabbed life by the horns. “You get so enamoured in this cult of yourself, and the cult of the startup and this machine you’re building,” Gozzo said. Appifier went from a self-funded business, to a member of FounderFuel — a highly regarded Montreal startup accelerator — to the recipient of venture capital and government grants in a relatively short span. Gozzo was pulling 11-hour days. At night, while hanging out with his wife at home, Gozzo would continuously scroll through his emails on his smartphone and take calls from clients. ….[READ]

mind

Optimizing the mind

Hacking the Brain

The perfectibility of the human mind is a theme that has captured our imagination for centuries—the notion that, with the right tools, the right approach, the right attitude, we might become better, smarter versions of ourselves. We cling to myths like “the 10 percent brain”—which holds that the vast majority of our thinking power remains untapped—in part because we hope the minds of the future will be stronger than those of today. It’s as much a personal hope as a hope for civilization: If we’re already running at full capacity, we’re stuck, but what if we’re using only a small fraction of our potential? Well, then the sky’s the limit. But this dream has a dark side: The possibility of a dystopia where an individual’s fate is determined wholly by his or her access to cognition-enhancing technology. ….[READ]