People may think they act independently. But we catch social behaviors faster than colds. Whether or not we vote, try a new food or wear clear plastic pants will have something to do with whether other people are doing it. Unfortunately, it’s often hard to prove exactly how contagious a particular behavior is, or which behaviors will actually spread.
A new study shows that among runners...
In a famous series of experiments conducted in the 1970s, social psychologist Henri Tajfel asked how little it would take to persuade one group of people to discriminate against another. The answer was almost nothing. Having assigned boys to two groups based largely on random criteria, he asked them to play a game. Each boy had to decide how many pennies to give to members of his own group and...
Kids can have virtual out-of-body experiences as early as age 6. Oddly enough, the ability to inhabit a virtual avatar signals a budding sense that one’s self is located in one’s own body, researchers say.
Grade-schoolers were stroked on their backs with a stick while viewing virtual versions of themselves undergoing the same touch. Just after the session ended, the children often...
Science & the Public
Here’s one good reason why people often take medications and use health products that don’t live up to expectations or just don’t work — digital word of mouth.
The reviews can be glowing. Take this scuttlebutt about a cholesterol treatment: “I have been using this product for 2 years. Within the first 3 – 4 months my cholesterol was down 30 points. Just got cholesterol tested last week:...
Nudges are a growth industry. Inspired by a popular line of psychological research and introduced in a best-selling book a decade ago, these inexpensive behavior changers are currently on a roll.
Policy makers throughout the world, guided by behavioral scientists, are devising ways to steer people toward decisions deemed to be in their best interests. These simple interventions don’t...
Physical abuse at home doesn’t just leave kids black and blue. It also bruises their ability to learn how to act at school and elsewhere, contributing to abused children’s well-documented behavior problems.
Derailment of a basic form of social learning has, for the first time, been linked to these children’s misbehavior years down the line, psychologist Jamie Hanson of the University of...
Reviews & Previews
Why Time FliesAlan BurdickSimon & Schuster, $28
The topic of time is both excruciatingly complicated and slippery. The combination makes it easy to get bogged down. But instead of an exhaustive review, journalist Alan Burdick lets curiosity be his guide in Why Time Flies, an approach that leads to a light yet supremely satisfying story about time as it runs through — and is...
Abnormal is the new normal in mental health.
A small, poorly understood segment of the population stays mentally healthy from age 11 to 38, a new study of New Zealanders finds. Everyone else encounters either temporary or long-lasting mental disorders.
Only 171 of 988 participants, or 17 percent, experienced no anxiety disorders, depression or other mental ailments from late...
Science & the Public
If you spent Thanksgiving trying in vain to convince relatives that the Pope didn’t really endorse Donald Trump or that Hillary Clinton didn’t sell weapons to ISIS, fake news has already weaseled its way into your brain.
Those “stories” and other falsified news outperformed much of the real news on Facebook before the 2016 U.S. presidential election. And on Twitter, an analysis by...
Dogs don’t miss much. After watching a human do a trick, dogs remembered the tricks well enough to copy them perfectly a minute later, a new study finds. The results suggest that our furry friends possess some version of episodic memory, which allows them to recall personal experiences, and not just simple associations between, for instance, sitting and getting a treat.
Pet dogs watched...