Risqué movies, risky sex
The recent shooting at a movie theater in Colorado has resurrected the debate over movies’ influence on society, especially youth. At least with regard to sex, a new study from researchers at Dartmouth finds that movies do indeed influence young people. The researchers stayed in touch with adolescents from the ages of 12 to 14 all the way up to the ages of 18 to 21, from 2003 to 2009. Adolescents who were exposed to more movie sexual content before age 16 were significantly more likely to lose their virginity earlier and engage in riskier sex, even controlling for exposure to movie sexual content at older ages, exposure to TV, family and religious structure, age, race, and gender.
O’Hara, R. et al., “Greater Exposure to Sexual Content in Popular Movies Predicts Earlier Sexual Debut and Increased Sexual Risk-taking,” Psychological Science (forthcoming).
Don’t eat with your ex
If you’re married or in a relationship, and you happen to run into an ex, try to remember this simple rule: Coffee is fine, but breaking bread together may be seen as a betrayal. Researchers at Cornell asked students to report hypothetical jealousy in contemplating a partner engaging in various modes of contact with an ex. Meals seemed to elicit significantly more jealousy than coffees. This was true for both men and women.
Kniffin, K. & Wansink, B., “It’s Not Just Lunch: Extra-Pair Commensality Can Trigger Sexual Jealousy,” PLoS ONE (July 2012).
Worry makes you generous
Don’t jinx it! It might seem a silly superstition, but people really do change their behavior to affect outcomes not in their control. How? One way, it turns out, is that they become more generous, in a bid to improve their karma. In several experiments, people who were made to think about waiting for good news that was out of their control were subsequently more charitable with their time and money. Moreover, people who were more charitable in these situations also became more optimistic about the outcome.
Converse, B. et al., “Investing in Karma: When Wanting Promotes Helping,” Psychological Science (forthcoming).
Banks: they really didn’t learn
Many people have suffered in the recent financial crisis, while banks have faced few repercussions; the hope is that banks and regulators have at least learned from the experience so as to avoid such collapses in the future. But if the results of a recent analysis are any indication, that may not be the case. The banks with the worst stock market performance in the 1998 crash— especially the large banks—also tended to be the banks with the worst performance in the 2008 crash. In other words, they didn’t appear to respond to the earlier crisis by changing their risk cultures and/or business models. These banks relied more on leverage and grew more aggressively. And the fact that the vulnerability of these banks persisted for a decade doesn’t speak highly of regulators.
Fahlenbrach, R. et al., “This Time Is the Same: Using Bank Performance in 1998 to Explain Bank Performance during the Recent Financial Crisis,” Journal of Finance (forthcoming).
Maybe pirates just want a job
Parrots, rum, a life on the high seas: The storybook trappings of pirate life may be more exciting than those of most workplaces. But real pirates, like the rest of us, are ultimately in it for the money. A recent study found that wages and commodity prices go a long way toward explaining trends in local piracy. For example, in Somalia, the sharp increase in piracy beginning in 2008 was largely precipitated by a crisis of increasing inflation and decreasing wages—pushing many Somalis out of legitimate jobs and into piracy. Likewise, in rice- and sugar-producing countries, where rice and sugar production are labor-intensive, piracy increases after rice and sugar prices fall. In oil-exporting countries, where oil production is more capital- than labor-intensive, higher oil prices actually encourage piracy.
Jablonski, R. & Oliver, S., “The Political Economy of Plunder: Economic Opportunity and Modern Piracy,” Journal of Conflict Resolution (forthcoming).
He can be reached at kevin.