Who’s that guy I’m voting for?
As we come up on another major election, the news is filled with so much partisan wrangling that it’s tempting to just tune it out—but this raises the possibility that come Election Day, we might not remember exactly where candidates stand on the issues. By comparing voting decisions of amnesiacs and other people, however, researchers at the University of Illinois and University of Iowa have found that this may not really matter. After reading aloud nine issue positions for each of two political candidates (unidentified by party), the subsequent voting choices of amnesiacs were just about as good—in the sense of being consistent with their own preexisting political views—as the choices of other people. As you might expect, though, the amnesiacs couldn’t recall which position was associated with which candidate, and so, to explain their votes, they resorted to post-hoc rationalizations. For example, one amnesiac “voted for the congruent candidate on one trial because ‘He looks a little bit older so maybe he has more experience,’ but voted against the incongruent candidate on a different trial because ‘He looks a little bit older so maybe couldn’t be in office as long.’” The lesson here: It may be OK to be a clueless voter.
Coronel, J. et al., “Remembering and Voting: Theory and Evidence from Amnesic Patients,” American Journal of Political Science (forthcoming).
Seeing red on the auction floor
If you’re in the market for something, watch out for red flags. Literally. According to a new study, the color red biases auction and negotiation behavior. In the context of an auction like those on eBay, a red background prompted higher bid jumps, higher maximum bids, and a greater likelihood of purchase compared to other color backgrounds. Conversely, in the context of a negotiation or a fixed-price sale, a red background prompted lower offers and a lower likelihood of purchase. This difference happens because the aggression induced by seeing red is channeled differently depending on who you think you’re trying to beat: another bidder or the seller.
Bagchi, R. & Cheema, A., “The Effect of Red Background Color on Willingness-to-Pay: The Moderating Role of Selling Mechanism,” Journal of Consumer Research (forthcoming).
Women: equally good navigators
One stereotype that has plagued women is the notion that they have trouble with spatial thinking; they’re forced to ask for directions, aren’t as good at parallel parking, and so on. But are women really handicapped in this regard? Comparing wayfinding performance at an international orienteering competition, a recent study found that in fact men were no better at it than women. The authors conclude that the typical woman is disadvantaged at spatial thinking only to the extent that she doesn’t get as much experience.
Burke, A. et al., “Women Who Know Their Place: Sex-Based Differences in Spatial Abilities and Their Evolutionary Significance,” Human Nature (June 2012).
Intensive moms are stressed-out moms
A number of recent studies have suggested that childrearing is tough on happiness, even though many people think of having kids as a primary life goal. But parental satisfaction may depend in part on how intensely we approach the task of parenting—and how much we think the job is entirely up to us. In a survey of “mostly Caucasian, married, middle- to upper-middle-class” mothers of young children, psychologists found that mothers who considered themselves to be the most necessary and capable parent and who thought that it was “harder to be a good mother than to be a corporate executive” also reported poorer mental health, with higher levels of stress and depression and lower life satisfaction.
Rizzo, K. et al., “Insight into the Parenthood Paradox: Mental Health Outcomes of Intensive Mothering,” Journal of Child and Family Studies (forthcoming).
Rich white dropouts
It’s generally assumed that affluent kids get more education than their middle-class peers. But it turns out that on average, rich kids find they can get away with less. An analysis by a sociologist reveals that, in a national sample of kids who attended public and private high schools in the 1994-1995 school year, the odds of graduating high school and attending college were actually lower for white and rich kids compared to black and middle-class kids, controlling for other individual and contextual factors associated with educational achievement. In other words, Paris Hilton’s future was bright even if she didn’t graduate high school and go to college, so she didn’t.
Mangino, W., “Why Do Whites and the Rich Have Less Need for Education?” American Journal of Economics and Sociology (July 2012).