Nomad Woman Crossing Footprints

At a gut level

Do Emotions and Morality Mix?

Daily life is peppered with moral decisions. Some are so automatic that they fail to register—like holding the door for a mother struggling with a stroller, or resisting a passing urge to elbow the guy who cut you in line at Starbucks. Others chafe a little more, like deciding whether or not to give money to a figure rattling a cup of coins on a darkening evening commute. A desire to help, a fear of danger, and a cost-benefit analysis of the contents of my wallet; these gut reactions and reasoned arguments all swirl beneath conscious awareness. ….[READ]


Time is happiness

People who prioritise time over money are happier

A lot of has been written about how focusing too much on materialistic ambitions, at the expense of relationships and experiences, can leave us miserable and unfulfilled. In a new paper published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, a team of psychologists at the University of British Columbia in Canada argue that there’s another important distinction to be made – between how much we prioritise time versus money. Those who favour time tend to be happier, possibly because this frees them to enjoy pleasurable and meaningful activities, although this has yet to be established. ….[READ]


The endowment effect at work

The Weird Psychology of Returning Stuff to the Store

In 2013, a mountain climber named Chad Thomas told The Wall Street Journal that he’d returned a backpack to the outdoor-clothing and -gear retailer REI earlier that year — a backpack that he had, by the way, originally purchased in 2004. Nine years later, it “was getting old and dirty, and I didn’t like it anymore,” Thomas told WSJ. (You don’t say.) At the time, REI had an unlimited return policy, so the store in San Ramon, California, not only accepted the backpack’s return but gave Thomas an additional $17 to match the item’s current price. ….[READ]


The index card

Don’t Let Your Brain Throw Away All of Your Money

The new book The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated has a very simple premise, and it’s explained right there in the title: Everyday investors shouldn’t mess around with “sophisticated” strategies that will only lose them money — even seemingly mainstream ones like stock-picking. Index funds and other safe, reliable options that mitigate risk are a much better bet. The idea for the book originated back in 2013, during a conversation between Dr. Harold Pollack, a University of Chicago social-science professor (and frequent Science of Us source), and Helaine Olen, a New York Magazine contributor and the author of Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry.  ….[READ]

In this June 2, 2014 photo, Wendy Harrison, a waitress at the icon Grill in Seattle, carries food to a table as she works during lunchtime. An Associated Press comparison of the cost of living at several other major U.S. cities found that a $15 minimum wage, like Seattle adopted this week, will make a difference, but won’t buy a lavish lifestyle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Is tipping unfair?

Most Americans Aren’t Ready to Give Up Tipping

Last year, the New York restaurateur Danny Meyer announced he’d be eliminating tipping at 14 of his restaurants by the end of 2016, affecting most of his 1,800 employees’ compensation. That, plus experiments by a handful of open-minded restaurant owners throughout the country and even the management of the chain Joe’s Crab Shack, seemed to signal the stirrings of a shift that would overturn an American tradition that’s now a century-and-a-half old. But any tipping revolution will have to come from the top, because the public isn’t on board ….[READ]


In praise of natural experiments

The experimental turn in economics

Randomized control trials (RCTs) are all the rage at the moment in economics and, increasingly, in the analysis and even formation of public policy. In the world of development economics, in particular, the turn away from conventional empirical methods—the analysis of existing data sets using classical statistical techniques—towards designing RCTs has been pioneered, among others, by economists such as Indian-born Abhijit Banerjee and French-born Esther Duflo, both professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ….[READ]


Cognitive biases in science

Why people fall for pseudoscience (and how academics can fight back)

Pseudoscience is everywhere – on the back of your shampoo bottle, on the ads that pop up in your Facebook feed, and most of all in the Daily Mail. Bold statements in multi-syllabic scientific jargon give the false impression that they’re supported by laboratory research and hard facts. Magnetic wristbands improve your sporting performance, carbs make you fat, and just about everything gives you cancer. Of course, we scientists accept that sometimes people believe things we don’t agree with. That’s fine. Science is full of people who disagree with one another . If we all thought exactly the same way, we could retire and call the status quo truth. ….[READ]