Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government. "Why does public conflict over societal risks persist in the face of compelling and widely accessible scientific evidence? We conducted an experiment to probe two alternative answers: the “Science Comprehension Thesis” (SCT), which identifies defects in the public’s knowledge and reasoning capacities as the source of such controversies; and the “Identity-protective Cognition Thesis” (ICT) which treats cultural conflict as disabling the faculties that members of the public use to make sense of decision-relevant science. [more inside]
Sociologist Lauren Rivera of Northwestern spent two years researching the way elite financial and law firms really select their new hires. The original paper is behind a sciencedirect paywall, but Bryan Caplan has a nice write-up about the results. You're much better off with a degree from a tippy-top school than just any Ivy -- but they don't actually care about what you learned there. Your grades don't matter that much as long as they're not bad. Climbing a famous mountain or making a varsity team, especially if you're nationally competitive, would be wise. And oh yeah -- they do care what you got on your SATs. More reax from the Chronicle of Higher Ed and physicist Steve Hsu.
What leads cultural tastes and practices to be abandoned? (.pdf) A new PNAS paper by marketing professor Jonah Berger and organizational psychologist Gael Le Mens argues that the faster a trend rises, the faster it's likely to fall, at least as regards longitudinal data of first names given to American children. (Via the Baby Names Blog.) Berger has written before on the drive to non-conform; a 2007 joint paper with Emily Pronin and Sarah Molouki (.pdf) shows that "people see others as more conforming than themselves.... placing more weight on introspective evidence of conformity (relative to behavioral evidence) when judging their own susceptibility to social influence as opposed to someone else's."