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The Boston Globe

Ideas

Uncommon Knowledge

When kids decide black people feel less pain

And more surprising insights from the social sciences

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Previous research has found that both black and white people assume that black people feel less pain than whites after the same injury. Psychologists at the University of Virginia have now traced this bias as far back as childhood. They asked predominantly white, middle-class children to rate the amount of pain that would be experienced by another child — pictured as either white or black — after various minor injuries. There was an increasing racial bias with age, with 5-year-olds having no bias, but 10-year-olds having a significant bias, even controlling for self-pain ratings, racial preferences, stereotypes, parental education, or history of interracial interaction.

 Dore, R. et al., “Children’s Racial Bias in Perceptions of Others’ Pain,” British Journal of Developmental Psychology (forthcoming).

Help you? But I’m on a call

Various states, though not Massachusetts, have instituted laws banning handheld cellphone use while driving. But for society’s sake, we might also want to consider bans on cellphone use anywhere in public. In an experiment “on a sidewalk in downtown Boston,” a man dressed in business attire but wearing a leg brace over one of his pant legs and limping “dropped two magazines about 20 feet in front of a targeted individual” and “feigned trouble reaching the magazines,” requiring the targeted individual “to change his or her direction of walking in order to not help the bystander.” Targeted individuals “using a cell phone were less likely (9.1%) than participants not using a cell phone (72.4%) to help.”

 Puryear, C. & Reysen, S., “A Preliminary Examination of Cell Phone Use and Helping Behavior,” Psychological Reports (December 2013).

Bad news for young female researchers

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Amid the forces holding women back from career advancement, an unexpected one may be that other, more senior women resist collaborating with them. An analysis of “all publications co-authored by full professors with same-sex departmental colleagues over four years in 50 North American universities” revealed that “there were significantly fewer publications co-authored by one senior female with one junior female than by one senior male with one junior male than would be expected,” whereas “no gender differences were obtained when comparing publications with other senior professors or when comparing senior professors with other-gender junior professors.”

 Benenson, J. et al., “Rank Influences Human Sex Differences in Dyadic Cooperation,” Current Biology (March 3, 2014).

Stay in school! It’s good for your finances

What difference does it make if all kids have to stay in school? In a recent study, economists at Wellesley, Harvard, and the Federal Reserve show that basic education matters for financial success, above and beyond people’s inherent ability. Examining the effect of changes in compulsory schooling laws, the economists found that the extra education led to “greater financial market participation, increased equity ownership, higher credit scores, fewer instances of negative investment earnings, less leverage when purchasing a house, less delinquency, and fewer instances of foreclosure. These findings persist when we control for earned income and the magnitudes are likely too large to be attributable solely to the impact of education on wages.”

 Cole, S. et al., “Smart Money? The Effect of Education on Financial Outcomes,” Review of Financial Studies (forthcoming).

Joe said it, so it
must be true

When naming your child — especially if you want that child to go into politics — consider choosing an easy-to-pronounce name. A new study finds that easy-to-pronounce names are judged to be more familiar, less risky, and less dangerous. Also, claims attributed to people with easy-to-pronounce names are judged more likely to be true.

 Newman, E. et al., “People with Easier to Pronounce Names Promote Truthiness of Claims,” PLoS ONE (February 2014).

Kevin Lewis is an Ideas columnist.
He can be reached at kevin.lewis.ideas@gmail.com.

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