uncommon knowledge

Are you a Scarecrow or a Tin Man? It matters to your politics


Like the Scarecrow, do you prize your brain? Or are you like the Tin Man, prizing your heart? Researchers found that men in general, and Americans in particular, tend to locate themselves in the brain rather than the heart. Likewise, people made to think about being independent were more likely to locate themselves in the brain than people made to think about being dependent on others. And this belief can be a matter of life and death: Where you locate yourself biases your definition of death to be brain death or cardiac death, respectively. It also biases your support for an antiabortion law justified by the presence of a fetal heartbeat. Meanwhile, people who were made to locate themselves in the brain — by being asked to write about it — subsequently contributed more to an Alzheimer’s charity than a heart disease charity. The reverse was true for people made to locate themselves in the heart.

Adam, H. et al., “Who You Are Is Where You Are: Antecedents and Consequences of Locating the Self in the Brain or the Heart,” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes (forthcoming).

Competitive generosity

Guys compete with each other in many arenas, including who has the biggest . . . donation. Researchers in Britain analyzed donations to the fund-raising webpages of runners in the 2014 London Marathon and found that males gave significantly more to an attractive female after another male had made a large donation. This was not the case for donations to unattractive females or when a female had made the previous donation. There was no such one-upmanship among females giving to attractive males.

Raihani, N. & Smith, S., “Competitive Helping in Online Giving,” Current Biology (forthcoming).

The Fox News disruption

Past research has shown that Fox News boosted the Republican vote in the 2000 election. In a new study, two economists confirm this finding and supplement it with evidence that Fox News coverage — as reflected in transcripts from “The O’Reilly Factor” and “Special Report with Brit Hume” — increased viewers’ knowledge of the issues that were covered but also decreased knowledge of issues that weren’t covered, apparently by diverting viewers away from other sources, like newspapers, which might have covered those issues differently.

Schroeder, E. & Stone, D., “Fox News and Political Knowledge,” Journal of Public Economics (forthcoming).

The secrets of sweat


Happiness is contagious, and new research shows that one method of transmission is human sweat. Sweat collected from heterosexual men watching a happiness-inducing video — compared to watching fearful or neutral videos — caused heterosexual women who subsequently smelled this sweat to automatically display happier facial expressions and exhibit more big-picture rather than small-detail thinking.

de Groot, J. et al., “A Sniff of Happiness,” Psychological Science (forthcoming).

The dangers of diversity

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Getting along is a lot harder if our genes don’t. In a new study, three economists found that the genetic diversity of a country’s population was associated with the incidence and severity of civil conflict between 1960 and 2008, even controlling for various factors like geography, ethno-linguistic divisions, legal and political institutions, and economic development. For example, “a move from the 10th to the 90th percentile of the global cross-country genetic diversity distribution (equivalent to a move from the diversity level of the Republic of Korea to that of the Democratic Republic of Congo) is associated with . . . an increase in the likelihood of observing the incidence of one or more intragroup factional conflict events at any point in the 10-year interval between 1990 and 1999 from 14.7 percent to 72.6 percent.”

Arbatli, C. et al., “The Nature of Conflict,” National Bureau of Economic Research (April 2015).

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


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