Uncommon Knowledge

Does safety gear make the game even riskier?

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 19: Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers hits the helmet of Karl Alzner #27 of the Washington Capitals during the second period at Madison Square Garden on February 19, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
The New York Rangers’ Chris Kreider hits Washington Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner’s helmet during the second period at Madison Square Garden on February 19.

Better safe — then sorry

Safety gear can encourage people to take more risks, offsetting the benefit of the extra protection. In a recent study of hockey players, researchers found that players incurred less penalty time per game in the NHL, where players didn’t have to wear visors, than the same players incurred in other leagues that required visors. This pattern was evident in the 2004 NHL lockout, when players who played elsewhere during that season incurred more penalty time per game than during the NHL seasons before and after.

Chong, A. & Restrepo, P., “Regulatory Protective Measures and Risky Behavior: Evidence from Ice Hockey,” Journal of Public Economics (forthcoming).

Seeing again is believing

In real estate, it’s location, location, location. In politics, it’s repetition, repetition, repetition. People who thought they’d seen a news headline before — even if the item was false — also tended to think it was more likely to be true. In fact, familiar fake news was thought to be truer than unfamiliar real news. Naming the source didn’t matter. Likewise, in experiments, participants who were randomly exposed to a fake news headline were more likely to think it was true when asked about it later, even one week later. This effect held even when the headline had a fact-check warning alongside it.

Pennycook, G. et al., “Prior Exposure Increases Perceived Accuracy of Fake News,” Yale University (April 2017).

Split personality

University of Arkansas students who were mostly white and Republican were randomly assigned to watch the third debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in either of two TV formats. In one, the candidates appeared side by side on a split screen. In the other, the view alternated between the two candidates. Switching back and forth improved students’ assessments of the candidates — particularly Trump, who was rated more active, sincere, attractive, generous, honest, strong, trustworthy, intelligent, and sophisticated in the switching format.

Stewart, P. et al., “Visual Presentation Style 2: Influences on Perceptions of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Based on Visual Presentation Style During the Third 2016 Presidential Debate,” American Behavioral Scientist (forthcoming).

Moderates are overrated


The public, the media, and the political science community lament the ideological polarization of politicians. However, a new study suggests that a one-dimensional, left-vs.-right view of ideology is misleading as a measure of the quality of political representation. Even if politicians seem more extreme than their typical constituent on an overall measure of ideology, they may nevertheless be aligned with the majority position on most individual issues. This actually appears to be the case among real-life congressmen. And in experiments, people prefer an “extreme” politician who happens to be closely aligned with them on many issues, over a “moderate” politician whose positions don’t line up.

Ahler, D. & Broockman, D., “The Delegate Paradox: Why Polarized Politicians Can Represent Citizens Best,” Stanford University (April 2017).

Twenty questions

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In experiments, people who were randomly instructed to ask a lot of questions of a chat partner (who didn’t know about the instructions) were liked more by that partner. Asking follow-up questions was the key behavior; it signaled responsiveness to the partner. Interestingly, people didn’t anticipate this effect. Also, asking more questions made participants more likable to their chat partners, but not to outside observers.

Huang, K. et al., “It Doesn’t Hurt to Ask: Question-Asking Increases Liking,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (forthcoming).

Kevin Lewis is an Ideas columnist. He can be reached at