Can Brain Imaging Detect Risk Takers? Risk-taking seems to come naturally for some people – from those who don’t hesitate asking for a new promotion, to those who don’t flinch before artfully diving off a cliff into the ocean below. Others play it safer. While upbringing may have some role in our risk-taking probabilities, there are plenty of cases where siblings raised in the same environment have different tendencies to take risks. Several studies have investigated the correlation between brain structure and risk-taking. In response to the statistic that unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death among adolescents, the … Continue reading Are there risk biomarkers in your brain?
A Blog post on The Unthinking or Confident Extremist? One thing that I’m interested in is how people with strong political beliefs – so-called extremists – differ from people with more moderate political views. With Anthony Evans and Jarret Crawford, I’ve been fortunate to have a paper accepted for publication at Psychological Science (pre-print). In this post I’m going to briefly note some interesting things about the paper besides the actual findings. First, the abstract and a figure: People with extreme political opinions are alternatively characterized as relatively unthinking or as confident consumers and practitioners of politics. We test these … Continue reading Are liberals and conservatives practically the same?
Why Fast-Food Chains Love (and Deny) Having Secret Menus The Harvard Square Chipotle is a standard outpost of the brand, neither antiseptically corporate nor intimidatingly hip, but I felt sheepish as I approached the counter on a recent afternoon and asked, “Do you have a secret menu?” Immediately, the line cook snapped into focus and grinned. “Of course!” he said, then, without missing a beat, “I don’t know anything about that.” Ordering off-menu items has long been something that insiders did at fine-dining restaurants and local spots—places where the menu is based on the will of the chef. The spaghetti … Continue reading Off-menu options for fast-food chains
Is It the Market Going Crazy? Or Is It Traders? Investors looking for why the stock market is in turmoil might want to go back to 1987, when “Walk Like an Egyptian” topped the charts and Janet Yellen, now the Federal Reserve chairwoman but then an unknown, untenured economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, published a paper on the role of irrational behavior in market movements. Titled “Rational Models of Irrational Behavior” and co-written with Yellen’s economist-husband George Akerlof, then a colleague at Berkeley, the paper appeared just five months before Black Monday, the largest stock market crash … Continue reading Are traders affected by chronic patologies?
If you ever need to explain the availability heuristic… …compare opinion polls about controversial topics to reality. From Ipsos MORI: “A new survey by Ipsos MORI for the Royal Statistical Society and King’s College London highlights how wrong the British public can be on the make-up of the population and the scale of key social policy issues. The top ten misperceptions are: 1. Teenage pregnancy: on average, we think teenage pregnancy is 25 times higher than official estimates: we think that 15% of girls under 16 get pregnant each year, when official figures suggest it is around 0.6%[i]. 2. Crime: … Continue reading The top ten of the availability heuristic
What if Age Is Nothing but a Mind-Set? One day in the fall of 1981, eight men in their 70s stepped out of a van in front of a converted monastery in New Hampshire. They shuffled forward, a few of them arthritically stooped, a couple with canes. Then they passed through the door and entered a time warp. Perry Como crooned on a vintage radio. Ed Sullivan welcomed guests on a black-and-white TV. Everything inside — including the books on the shelves and the magazines lying around — were designed to conjure 1959. This was to be the men’s home … Continue reading How our mind can make us younger
Behavioral Insights and Family Planning In yesterday’s blog post, Belle Sawhill posed a fundamental question about human behavior: “Why do people fail to act in their own self-interest?” One could similarly ask “why do people not do the things they profess to want to do?” The context in which she poses this question is especially compelling: in the U.S., 60 percent of all births to young, single women are “unplanned.” Given the potential economic, social, and personal costs of unwed early childbearing, this mismatch between intentions and behaviors presents a puzzle whose solution could yield significant public and private benefits. … Continue reading Is self-control enough for planning?