How precision-loving economists make "rigor distortis" errors

Here's the psychology that explains why many economists prefer to be narrowly right yet broadly wrong (they suffer from professional "rigor distortis").

Illustration by Julia Suits, author of The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions, and The New Yorker cartoonist.

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Politics & Current Affairs

We need to give our impulses more credit

We often look at our impulses as a bother. Things to be overcome and controlled, but what if we are looking at them the wrong way?

Are we being too rational?

We all know a person who is unable to control their impulses. The friend who always buys the one thing they like but don't need, the one who drinks just a little too much, the one who can't finish their work because they need to check twitter for a second; all of them attract a little bit of our disapproval.

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Personal Growth

How Thinking in a Foreign Language Reduces Superstitious Belief

A new study shows that “magical thinking” can be reduced by presenting and processing information in a second language.

Photo: Ciocci via Flickr (flickr.com/photos/ciocci)

Superstition is everywhere in our modern lives. Each Friday the 13th, nearly a billion dollars in business is avoided because people are afraid that it will be bad luck to do it that day. In the United Kingdom, traffic accidents increase dramatically on the same day, despite less traffic overall. Even for those of us who consider ourselves rational people, the effects of superstition can still hinder us. We know we have nothing to fear, but fear it anyway.

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Mind & Brain
Beyonce, winner of Best Traditional R&B Performance for 'Love on Top', poses in the press room at the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Social observers are particularly attuned to braggadocio. What do you think of a person who claims to be a better driver, performer or lover than average? Is this person better described as confident or cocky; self-important or honest? Would you put your health or safety in their hands? And what about the opposite type of person, who claims to be worse than others? Would you hire this person for a job? In what field?

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Personal Growth

Why You Don't (and Can't) Think Alone

Science (and life) keep hammering nails “into the coffin of the rational individual." But rationalism and individualism still haunt and systematically mislead—even about where your mind is.

Illustration by Julia Suits, The New Yorker cartoonist & author of The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions

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Surprising Science