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Scientific Encounters

Making Science Real: A Guide

The rest of us rely on mental shortcuts to arrive at our opinions on climate change - mostly to do with trust and perceived plausibility. In other words, how we feel/think about climate change depends in large part on whom we trust or don’t trust, as well as what information, explanations, and opinions fit with our understanding of how the world works. This is not an irrational way for non-scientists to approach a subject as complex as climate change. 

But we could do better. We could live the words “science is real”…

What Do We Know about US Millionaires? It Depends on Whom You Ask.

Not that these survey results are implausible. Plenty of peer-reviewed studies have revealed today’s millionaires to be frugal, hard-working, and mostly from middle-class backgrounds. They buy boring cars. They’re diligent savers. This is not new information - twenty years ago academics Thomas Stanley and William Danko found that 80% of US millionaires were first-generation rich. That is, they did not inherit their wealth.

In The Name of Science: Portraying The Other Side as Driven by Fear

According to this trope, the Fearful Conservative is afraid of change and uncertainty, clinging to the safe harbor of habit and tradition, overly controlled, troubled by bad dreams and distressed by disorder. In so many words: fear makes conservatives stupid. The authors usually bolster their case with a few studies and quotes from “experts”, which can be hard to refute if you don’t know what they’re leaving out - namely, evidence to the contrary.

Behind The Headlines: Are Conservatives Driven by Fear? Part II

One thing the articles and opinion pieces don’t mention is the decades of research on personality and political attitudes, covering tens of thousands of participants. And that research is, well, unequivocal: conservatism is not associated with anxiety or fear - it’s most strongly associated with Conscientiousness.

Behind the Headlines: Are Conservatives Driven by Fear? Part I

Azarian wrote a Psychology Today piece titled, “Fear and Anxiety Drive Conservatives' Political Attitudes” …he supported his claims with evidence from four studies. Luckily I was able to locate most of the original studies to see if his conclusions were reasonable. Here’s what I found…

Locus of Control: Truth and Consequences

Locus of control is not just a belief in the head - it is a belief tendency that reflects reality and creates reality. Change the reality and the belief will shift - maybe not in lock-step but in time.

Self-Serving Bias: Truth and Consequences

Self-serving bias: the tendency to take credit for desirable outcomes and blame factors outside one’s control for undesired outcome, e.g., attributing a job promotion to hard work but failure to get promoted to a bad boss. What accounts for this tendency? Here are four possibilities:

What's Wrong with US Healthcare?

Then again, Americans love their specialists – nothing soothes the soul so much as expensive displays of conspicuous compassion.

The Art of Persuasion: When Fear Does Not Work

Studies on the effectiveness of driver safety messages found that messages that focused on “fear arousal” were more likely to be rejected, while those that focused on concrete, doable behaviors were more likely to be accepted.

The Evolution of Laughter

What do chimps, bonobos, gorillas, orangutans and humans all have in common? We laugh.