Apr 17

Narrowing the Achievement Gap with a Psychological Intervention

There is an academic achievement gap in the United States. Compared to their White peers, African American and Latino American students earn lower grades and are more likely to drop out of school. Recently, a small intervention, aimed at easing the psychological burdens that impair minority performance, has been found to interrupt this downward trajectory, improving the performance of minority students, narrowing the achievement gap, and with long lasting effects.

Dec 20

The Science of Gifts


Is it possible to get gifts down to a science? With gift giving season upon us, there has been a flood of advice for consumers on how to navigate their purchases scientifically. I even got in on the action myself, writing a piece for the Chicago Booth website on some new research by Yan Zhang and Nick Epley about when people appreciate a gift’s thoughtfulness. Reviewing the research – and the journalism – got me thinking about the strengths and the limitations of bringing a scientific approach to exchanging presents. There is a lot to be said for studying gift giving, as long as we remain mindful of its limitations.

Dec 11

It’s the Thought that Counts (sometimes)


My first post for the Chicago Booth website has just gone up and I wanted to share the link — it’s called Using Behavioral Science To Pick The Perfect Holiday Gift. It’s on research by Yan Zhang and Nick Epley on when thoughtful gifts are appreciated. In writing the post I found several recent articles and guides on …

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Nov 28

Choosing Poorly

One of the obstacles that keeps the poor from rising out of poverty is the tendency to make costly financial decisions – like buying lottery tickets, taking out high interest loans, and failing to enroll in assistance programs – that only make their situation worse. In the past, these poor decisions have been attributed either to low income individuals’ personalities or issues in their environment, such as poor education or substandard living conditions. New research published this month in Science by Booth Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science Anuj Shah points to a new answer: living with scarcity changes people’s psychology.

Oct 25

Reform from the Bottom Up


In recent months social psychologists have focused an increasing amount of attention on the soundness of their scientific methods. Although the problems we face are troubling, I believe that the renewed attention they are getting is a very positive trend because a self-critical approach is essential to ensuring the continuing health of the discipline. If, as a scientific community, we were to ignore problems as they became apparent, then our entire endeavor would be undermined. The question, then, is not whether we need to be improving the state of our science, but how we can do so most effectively.

Aug 10

The Psychology of Soda Bans

Will Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on large soda cups work? The New Yorker’s James Surowiecki gives us some compelling reasons to believe that it will, but there is also a case to be made that it could backfire.

Aug 06

Luck vs Merit (Part 2)


Robert Frank discusses the role of skill vs. luck in producing success.

Jul 31

Inescapable Karma

Simultaneously disbelieving karma and “sort of believing it” may be a logical contradiction, but in reality it’s actually very common for people to be “of two minds” when it comes to these sorts of magical beliefs. While some people endorse karma without reservation, many of us would reject the notion that the universe is governed by laws of moral cause and effect, but we often still behave as if we believed it.

Jul 22

Just Post It (update)

An update on Simonsohn’s recently posted paper in which I discuss one of the techniques used to confirm Simonsohn’s suspicions of fraud. The results of the analysis make it clear that the data was not generated by real subjects.

Jul 20

Simonsohn’s Fraud Detection Technique Revealed

Uri Simonsohn’s “secret” paper describing the analyses he used to detect fraud in the Dirk Smeesters and Larry Sanna cases has now been submitted for publication and is available on SSRN. Simonsohn explains the analyses he used to detect and confirm the fraud and calls on journals to make the publication of raw data their default policy.

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