Cautionary Tales: a new podcast that tells the intriguing stories of historical "mishaps, fiascos and disasters"

Economist, author, podcaster and radio presenter Tim Harford (previously) has a fantastic new podcast: Cautionary Tales, which Tim describes as "Eight stories of mishaps, fiascos and disasters - served with a twist of nerdy social science." Read the rest

IBM Security survey finds users value "security" over "convenience"

IBM Security's 2018 survey of 4,000 adults worldwide found that for the first time in the history of their research, the majority of users say that they'd take extra steps in the name of "security" even if it meant that their usage would be less "convenient." Read the rest

Short-termism led the Democratic Party to let unions die, and now they've lost their base

For decades, Democrats in power and in opposition have traded away labor laws and rules that protected unions in order to gain short-term advantages in political horse-trades, and now, with union membership down from 26 to 10.7% since the Reagan years, districts that formed Democrats' "blue wall" have been poverty-struck and have flipped for Trump. Read the rest

Comprehensive, open tutorial on using data analysis in social science research

Benjamin Mako Hill (previously) collaborated with colleagues involved in critical technology studies to write a textbook chapter analyzing the use of computational methods in social science and providing advice for social scientists who want to delve into data-based social science. Read the rest

Social scientists have warned Zuck all along that the Facebook theory of interaction would make people angry and miserable

Since the earliest days of Facebook, social scientists have sent up warnings saying that the ability to maintain separate "contexts" (where you reveal different aspects of yourself to different people) was key to creating and maintaining meaningful relationships, but Mark Zuckerberg ignored this advice, insisting that everyone be identified only by their real names and present a single identity to everyone in their lives, because anything else was "two-faced." Read the rest

Anyone who claims that machine learning will save money in high-stakes government decision-making is lying

danah boyd (previously) writes enthusiastically about Virginia Eubanks's forthcoming book, Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, which she calls "the best ethnography I’ve read in years," "on par with Barbara Ehrenreich’s 'Nickel and Dimed' or Matthew Desmond’s 'Evicted.'" Read the rest

Study finds that people vote for strongman "dominance" leaders when they they feel out of control of their lives

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, London Business School organizational behavior scholars Niro Sivanathan and Hemant Kakkar used empirical methods to find the socioeconomic circumstances that predict when voters will elect "dominance-style" strongman leaders like "Donald Trump, Viktor Orban, Rodrigo Duterte, Nicolás Maduro and Recep Erdogan." Read the rest

Americans perceive overweight Asian people as 'less foreign' than skinny Asians

In Unexpected Gains: Being Overweight Buffers Asian Americans From Prejudice Against Foreigners (Sci-Hub mirror), a paper published in Psychological Science, a group of social scientists from UK and US universities as well as Microsoft evaluated the role that weight plays in the perceptions of people of Asian descent in the USA. Read the rest

Majority of Republicans think higher education is bad for America

58% of "right-leaning Americans" believe that colleges and universities "have a negative effect on the country"; only 36% of Republican-leaning voters support higher education. Read the rest

Limn 8: a social science journal issue devoted to hacking

Gabriella Coleman is the hacker anthropologist whose work on the free software movement, Anonymous and the Arab Spring, the politicization of hacking, and the true role of alt-right dank memes in the 2016 elections are critical reading for the 21st century. Read the rest

People really, really suck at using computers

The OECD's 2011-2015, 33 country, 215,942-person study of computer skills paints a deceptively grim picture of the average level of computer proficiency around the world -- deceptive because it excludes over-65s, who research shows to be, on average, less proficient than the 16-65 cohort sampled. Read the rest

Psychology's reproducibility crisis: why statisticians are publicly calling out social scientists

Princeton University psych prof Susan Fiske published an open letter denouncing the practice of using social media to call out statistical errors in psychology research, describing the people who do this as "terrorists" and arguing that this was toxic because of the structure of social science scholarship, having an outsized effect on careers. Read the rest

Bellwether: Connie Willis's classic, hilarious novel about the science of trendiness

It's been nearly 20 years since the publication of Bellwether, Connie Willis's comic novel about scientists caught in the turmoil of bureaucratic fads. I had very fond memories of this book, though I hadn't read it in more than a decade, so I gave the DRM-free audiobook a whirl, and fell in love with it all over again. Read the rest

Robert Charles Wilson's The Affinities: when science changes everything

Amara's Law states, "We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run" -- Robert Charles Wilson's gripping conspiracy novel The Affinities brings the experience of that process to life.

Scientific study: real vampires don't want to be stereotyped

People who claim to be real vampires and must drink others' blood for energy are hesitant to talk to psychological counselors and other helping professionals about their lives because they fear being "judged as being wicked or evil or viewed as being psychotic, delusional or having a psychological problem," according to a new scientific study. Read the rest

Poverty is a tax on cognition

In an outstanding lecture at the London School of Economics, Macarthur "genius award" recipient Sendhil Mullainathan explains his research on the psychology of scarcity, a subject that he's also written an excellent book about. Read the rest

Economics of apologies

Ben Ho is a behavioral economist who studies apologies. He presents an economic theory of apologies that predicts when apologies will change the outcome of disputes, and proposes policies to increase the frequency and sincerity of apologies. The best evidence for economics-driven apology policies are the laws that make doctors' apologies inadmissible in court; Ho cites research that claims that this leads to more physicians' apologies, which reduces patient grief and anger, and cuts down on malpractice suits. Read the rest

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