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Uncommon Knowledge

Risk-taking men seem huge!

And more surprising insights from the social sciences

A penalty for all-black coaching staffs

If there’s one place where you might think racism wouldn’t be likely to hold you back, it’s college basketball. Yet, in a study of NCAA Division I assistant coaches who were later hired as head coaches, sociologists found that black assistant coaches who had worked under black head coaches ended up at lower-ranked teams compared to where white assistant coaches or black assistant coaches who had worked under a white head coach ended up, even after controlling for other aspects of assistant coaches’ careers. This placement disadvantage for black coaches who had worked under other black coaches was associated with “a predicted annual pay gap of $341,867.”

Seebruck, R. & Savage, S., “The Differential Effects of Racially Homophilous Sponsorship Ties on Job Opportunities in an Elite Labor Market: The Case of NCAA Basketball Coaching,” Sociological Inquiry (forthcoming).

The Northeast, capital of cranky

If you have always wondered why it’s so fun driving in Boston, here’s one explanation. Surveys of over a million people nationwide revealed three distinct psychological regions. The first region—primarily in the Midwest, Great Plains, and Deep South—has “people who are, on average, conventional, friendly, sociable, compliant, and emotionally stable.” The second region—primarily in the West—has “people who are, on average, creative and relaxed, reserved, and perhaps somewhat socially distant.” The third region—primarily in the Northeast—has “people who are, on average, irritable, impulsive, and quarrelsome.”

Rentfrow, P. et al., “Divided We Stand: Three Psychological Regions of the United States and Their Political, Economic, Social, and Health Correlates,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (forthcoming).

Men’s risky bigness

Men are known for risky and reckless behavior. But why didn’t evolution cull such behavior from the gene pool? Researchers from UCLA asked both Americans and natives of a South Pacific island about their perception of risk-taking men. Although actual risk-taking in men did not appear to be correlated with physical size, people did perceive risk-taking men to be bigger and more apt to fight, which suggests that a reputation for risk-taking makes men seem more formidable.

Fessler, D. et al., “Foundations of the Crazy Bastard Hypothesis: Nonviolent Physical Risk-Taking Enhances Conceptualized Formidability,” Evolution and Human Behavior (forthcoming).

For a refund, be male (or high-status)

It’s been said that women are less likely to try to negotiate in business than men are. But what happens when they do? It depends on their status. When presented with a scenario in which either a woman or a man asked for a refund pursuant to a business transaction, people were less likely to give it to the low-status woman than the high-status woman—or the man, regardless of status. Moreover, the low-status woman was seen as less competent and as having less leadership potential, even compared to the low-status man. On the other hand, the high-status woman garnered a somewhat better reaction than even the high-status man.

Amanatullah, E. & Tinsley, C., “Ask and Ye Shall Receive? How Gender and Status Moderate Negotiation Success,” Negotiation and Conflict Management Research (November 2013).


How climate affects freedom

What explains the vast differences in wealth, culture, and politics that span the globe? According to a Dutch psychologist, freedom and opportunity are partly determined by nations’ particular combinations of climate and wealth. Wealthy areas in demanding climates (cold or hot) have the most freedom and opportunity; poor areas in demanding climates have the least freedom and opportunity; and areas in temperate climates, regardless of wealth, have an intermediate amount of freedom and opportunity. This pattern results because demanding climates “increase closed-mindedness and risk aversion” among the poor but “increase open-mindedness and risk seeking” among the rich. Projections of climate change and income over the next century suggest that the “Turkmens, the Uzbeks, and the Kazakhstanis, for example, will even surpass the Britons, the New Zealanders, and the Dutch in fundamental freedoms.”

Van de Vliert, E., “Climato-Economic Habitats Support Patterns of Human Needs, Stresses, and Freedoms,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences (October 2013).

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