You are here

Science in Society

Morality When the Mind is Unknowable

Feature Image

By Rita A. McNamara


A Fresh Approach to Understanding Sexual Assault: A Conversation with Betsy Levy Paluck

Blurry group of people at an outdoor gathering at night under floating lights

It was a chilly Saturday night in April 2016, and hundreds of Princeton University students were getting ready to party. The place: one of the university’s famous eating clubs. They double as both dining halls and social-event spaces, and more than 70 percent of Princeton’s undergraduates are members.

Outside the club, in a tent strung with Christmas lights, Ana Gantman sipped coffee, ordered pizza, and prepared for a different form of evening entertainment—a field experiment that would last until 2 a.m.

The Case for Handgun Waiting Periods

sign up high shaped like a gun with the word guns on it

More than 33,000 people in the United States die from gun-related injuries each year, making firearms the second leading cause of injury-related death. Many of these deaths could be avoided through policy—for example, Australia all but eliminated gun deaths through a series of gun control measures that included a massive gun buyback program, an assault weapons ban, and strict gun-trafficking policies. In the U.S., the current political climate would prohibit such dramatic changes. And yet, we believe there is still room for politically viable gun legislation that will save lives.

A Tale of Two Systems: 19th Century Behavioral Insights From Poe, Austen, and Dickens

black and white sketch of orphans eating quickly while a burly man stands over a big black pot, while holding a ladle upright.

In our first article, about behavioral science and literature, we suggested three reasons why behavioral scientists should be interested in literature. First, both authors and social scientists pursue similar questions about how and why humans think and act as they do. Second, fiction has shaped the concepts that people and societies use to understand their own behavior. Third, literature can open up a wider range of examples that illustrate core behavioral science principles.

A Tale of Two Systems: What Can Behavioral Science Learn From Literature?

Drwaing of Edgar Allen Powe with a raven, another author, with a  quill pen, and Shakespeare holding a skull

Behavioral scientists take pride in the interdisciplinary nature of our research, yet we rarely draw on accounts of human nature generated outside of the social sciences. Just like Horatio, we could benefit from taking Hamlet’s advice to look beyond our usual frame of reference.