Voting and Stress: Do Hormones Make You a Better Citizen? Voting can be stressful. I learned this the hard way several years ago. I had the “opportunity” to choose between the morally blighted incumbent, who defended a colleague who sent lewd messages to and solicited sex from teenaged congressional pages, and the intellectually blighted challenger, who made outlandish statements and switched parties at the drop of a hat. I was going to be ashamed of my vote regardless of who it was for. And I distinctly remember putting off voting several times on Election Day and then, after deciding I … Continue reading Is voting stressful for you?
The Broken Mirror Mirror neurons are a class of neurons that become active both when an individual performs a particular action and when he observes another individual performing the same action. They were discovered in monkeys in the early 1990s by an Italian research group led by Giacomo Rizzolatti at the University of Parma, Italy: a classic tale of serendipity in science While studying the activation of neurons associated with goal-directed hand movements in monkeys, such as grasping, holding and tearing, the researchers incidentally observed that those neurons would also fire when the monkeys observed the experimenters performing similar actions, … Continue reading A bit of history of the mirror neurons discovery
Hello, Stranger If you’ve ever been on a subway or public bus, you know the rules. Don’t make eye contact, stay as far away from other people as the space allows, and for the love of God, don’t talk to anyone. But what if the rules are wrong? The behavioral scientists Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder approached commuters in a Chicago area train station and asked them to break the rules. In return for a $5 Starbucks gift card, these commuters agreed to participate in a simple experiment during their train ride. One group was asked to talk to the … Continue reading Experiments on talking with strangers
Birthdays American kids tend to be born June through September. I’d thought this was generally due to parents planning to hit a September school enrolment cut-off day: in many US states, if your child turns 5 at or before the start of school in September, the kid’s enrolled; otherwise, you’ve got another year of daycare to worry about. Buckles and Hungerman showed that seasonality in births is due to deliberate timing: women who were trying to conceive showed strong seasonality, while those for whom births were unexpected showed no seasonality. In New Zealand, your child starts school on the fifth … Continue reading What is the most popular month for birthdays and why?
How Sanitary Pads Can Help Women Improve Their Health and Education The business logic is quite simple: Find an unmet need, and then fill it. Even better: Find an unmet need that returns on a monthly basis. That’s the little formula that’s fueling Arunachalam Muruganantham’s thriving sanitary-pad machine business, an undertaking that’s not only making Muruganantham money, but one that will improve women’s hygiene in India and throughout the developing world. Many women living in poverty use rags, newspaper, or even mud to manage their menstrual periods. None of these work very well and can introduce infections or injuries; they … Continue reading How to fill an unmet sanitary need
Our Nudge in Chief The radio talk-show host Glenn Beck has named Cass Sunstein, a professor at Harvard Law School, “the most dangerous man in America.” Given the number of men currently serving life sentences or sitting on death row for serial murder or terrorist acts, not to mention the fugitives on the FBI’s most-wanted list, this is quite a charge. In his own defense, Sunstein, undoubtedly the most prolific legal scholar in the United States, has collected 11 of his most controversial articles—on subjects as diverse as conspiracy theories, climate change, same-sex marriage, animal rights, and “new progressivism”—in one … Continue reading Cass Sunstein’s Conspiracy Theory
A self-fulfilling fallacy? Lady Luck is fickle, but many of us believe we can read her mood. A new study of one year’s worth of bets made via an online betting site shows that gamblers’ attempts to predict when their luck will turn has some unexpected consequences. A common error in judging probabilities is known as the Gambler’s Fallacy. This is the belief that independent chance events have an obligation to ‘even themselves out’ over the short term, so that a run of wins makes a loss more likely, and vice versa. An opposite error is the belief that a … Continue reading Does a run of wins make winning more likely ?