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Science in Society

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.

Top Character & Context Posts in 2018

Image of 2018 written in the sand with waves breaking

Here's a recap of our most visited blog posts in 2018. If there's one thing to learn from this list, it's that they are all worth a read.

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12. Hidden Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Class, by Sébastien Goudeau, 2017

I Think, Therefore I Am—Generous?

Image of a hand dropping coins into a jar with the word 'Donate' written on it

Last fall, over a cup of coffee, a close friend shared with me the news of his recent engagement. Amid the congratulations and excitement, I began to hone in on the perfect wedding gift: a specialty Italian espresso maker I knew the couple would cherish. I vividly imagined them opening their gift, their astonishment turning into pure glee.

Why College Campuses Need a “Pride and Prejudice” Approach to Inclusion

Image of mulitracial group of college students walking through a lush green college campus

It’s fall, and universities and colleges have opened their doors for a new academic year and application cycle, freshly determined to brand their institutions as welcoming and inclusive for all. However, recent incidents of racial profiling on campuses are threatening their messages of belonging and these incidents can have far-reaching impacts.

Could There be a Dark Side to a Growth Mindset?

Illustration of two black silhouetted faces looking at each other with the brain highlighted (left brain has a red X through it right brain has a green check mark)

I recently visited a local school in the Bristol area of the UK to talk about an upcoming wellbeing project. As I walked into the head teacher’s office I noticed a poster that detailed a strategy for increasing performance in young students. The centrepiece of that strategy was “Growth Mindset”. At first, I was delighted that brilliant work conducted by an academic in the US (Carol Dweck) had made it all the way across the pond and into this very applied setting. Then, I felt slightly worried.

Unknown Unknowns: The Problem of Hypocognition

Image of blocks of ice resting on a calm beach as the sun sets

In 1806, entrepreneur Frederic Tudor sailed to the island of Martinique with a precious cargo. He had harvested ice from frozen Massachusetts rivers and expected to make a tidy profit selling it to tropical customers. There was only one problem: the islanders had never seen ice. They had never experienced a cold drink, never tasted a pint of ice cream. Refrigeration was not a celebrated innovation, but an unknown concept. In their eyes, there was no value in Tudor’s cargo. His sizable investment melted away unappreciated and unsold in the Caribbean heat.


Race, Violent Video Games, and the Grand Theft Fallacy

Illustration of two gamers physically fighting while another continues to play a video game

Two horrific shootings occurred in Jacksonville Florida at the end of August 2018. Both tragic events occurred during football games, only about 5 miles from each other, and just days apart. The first shooting happened at a high school football game at Raines High School, where 99% of students are racial minorities. The shooting is believed to be gang related. The second shooting occurred at a video game football tournament in an open-air marketplace by a person from an affluent neighborhood.

Does Empathy Have a Dark Side?

Image of front of man's face, half is brightly lit, half is dark

Empathy – defined broadly as the capacity to recognise, feel and/or react compassionately to others’ emotional states – has a tradition of being conceptualised positively.  Manifold societal movements seek to encourage a culture of empathic concern, and a pervading “empathy deficit” was of a particular poignancy to the 44th President of the United States.  In many ways, empathy is a positive social force.  Psychologists have linked a greater propensity to empathise to a multitude of desirable outcomes including

Designing to Avoid “Ordinary Unethicality”: A Q&A with Yuval Feldman

Illustration of man split between a large X and a Check Mark

Yuval Feldman, the Mori Lazarof Professor of Legal Research at Bar-Ilan University Law School in Israel, recently published the book The Law of Good People: Challenging States’ Ability to Regulate Human Behavior. The book examines how behavioral ethics could change legal design and enforcement. I started by asking him to explain what he means by “behavioral ethics.”