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Social Studies: Surviving bias on ‘Survivor’; outrage on Twitter; don’t quit your day job

Surprising findings from the social sciences.

Geo Bustamante, Karla Cruz Godoy, James Jones, Ryan Medrano, and Cassidy Clark faced host Jeff Probst on "Survivor" in 2022.Robert Voets/CBS

Surviving early bias

In her first commencement speech as a Supreme Court Justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson revealed herself to be a “superfan” of the TV show “Survivor,” in which contestants compete in a tough natural environment and vote one another out. “Survivor,” she said, “holds a number of broader lessons that are helpful for becoming a good lawyer.” Coincidentally, a study just published in a top psychology journal analyzing the first 40 seasons of the show finds that women of color were disproportionately voted out in the early days of competition, while white men were the least likely to get voted out in early days. The good news, however, is that the odds of becoming a finalist were similar across race and gender, implying that white men were more likely to be culled in later days before the finalist stage. Women were less likely to win, though.


Kunz, E. et al., “Surviving Racism and Sexism: What Votes in the Television Program ‘Survivor’ Reveal About Discrimination,” Psychological Science (forthcoming).

Message received

Shortly after sending politically related tweets, the authors of the tweets were direct-messaged by researchers asking the authors to report the level of outrage they felt when sending each tweet. A separate set of partisan Twitter users rated the level of outrage they perceived from the tweets. Perceptions of outrage were significantly higher than what the tweets’ authors reported, and this heightened perception of outrage was greater among users who spent more time engaged with political tweets.

Brady, W. et al., “Overperception of Moral Outrage in Online Social Networks Inflates Beliefs About Intergroup Hostility,” Nature Human Behaviour (forthcoming).

The cost of a cure

In a series of surveys, people were asked to assess fair prices for disease treatments. Consistently, people judged a cure to merit a lower price and more widespread access than a treatment that didn’t offer a cure. For example, if they were told that a new drug was 100 percent effective against a disease, nearly half of the participants thought the price should be below that of an old drug that was 95 percent effective. Survey respondents expressed this same perception even if the scenario was only reframed verbally: More people were against a higher price for a 90 percent effective treatment if it was supposedly deemed a cure by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The researchers suggest this consumer perception could disincentivize investment in cures relative to non-cures.


Isaac, M., “The Cure Effect: Individuals Demand Universal Access for Health Treatments That Claim to Eliminate Disease Symptoms,” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied (forthcoming).


If a young company needs to change its business, is it better to fire or keep a founder in charge? On the one hand, founders could be locked into the initial strategy or structure; on the other hand, founders could have an easier time getting stakeholders to go along with change. A study by two recent PhD graduates of the MIT Sloan School of Management finds that the answer seems to be the latter. After the departure of a founder, young companies were less likely than similar companies to change their line of business or location. And yet companies that did change their line of business tended to perform better, especially around recessions. This supports the notion that the loss of a founder tends to impede necessary change. One exception is when a founder has a lot of previous experience in the company’s original line of business. In these cases, getting rid of them made change to a new line of business easier.


Kim, D. & Kim, M., “Founder Turnover and Organizational Change,” Organization Science (forthcoming).

You will be of service

Is AI going to keep you and future generations from working? Probably not. A recent study analyzed the effect of new automation-related patents on local labor markets with industries that could make use of the patents and found generally positive effects on employment and wages. These positive effects were concentrated in the service sector and nonroutine jobs, suggesting that personal skills are a safe bet for the future.

Mann, K. & Püttmann, L., “Benign Effects of Automation: New Evidence From Patent Texts,” Review of Economics and Statistics (May 2023).