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Social Studies: Woke unionism, hot stocks, and contagious egos

Surveys at the University of Virginia found that lower-income students spend less time in public spaces on campus, ostensibly because they had a lower sense of belonging.Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

Woke by the union

Surveys show white people who became union members were subsequently more inclined to attribute Black disadvantage to discrimination. Losing union membership did not have the opposite effect, and union membership did not affect other social attitudes on issues like abortion.

Frymer, P. & Grumbach, J., “Labor Unions and White Racial Politics,” American Journal of Political Science (forthcoming).

Belonging on campus

Surveys at the University of Virginia, which is known for iconic historical spaces, revealed that students from lower-income families spent less time in public spaces on campus, ostensibly because they had a lower sense of belonging. And spending less time in public spaces was itself associated with a lower sense of belonging, creating a vicious circle. In an experiment, telling students to use at least one prominent public space on campus during the day made income differences disappear as a factor in the students’ sense of belonging.

Trawalter, S. et al., “Out of Place: Socioeconomic Status, Use of Public Space, and Belonging in Higher Education,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (forthcoming).


Hot stocks

A study found that beauty scores (based on facial geometry) of CEOs of S&P 500 companies were associated with higher company stock prices and CEO compensation, and bigger boosts in stock prices right after the CEO’s hiring, right after earnings news releases with the CEO’s photo, and after acquisitions, even controlling for age, race, gender, and other characteristics of the photo and the company.

Halford, J. & Hsu, H.-C., “Beauty Is Wealth: CEO Attractiveness and Firm Value,” Financial Review (forthcoming).

Contagious egos

In a series of experiments, participants who were informed about another person’s inflated self-assessment on a judgment task went on to give an inflated assessment of their own performance on the same task. They did this despite knowing that the other person’s self-assessment was inflated and thinking it wouldn’t affect the participant’s own self-assessment. The residue of this effect was present even several days later when participants assessed their own performance on a word-puzzle task. There was no effect, however, if the initial person with the inflated self-assessment was a member of a rival group, suggesting that people only tend to internalize the behavior of similar people.


Cheng, J. et al., “The Social Transmission of Overconfidence,” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (forthcoming).