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UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE

My team doesn’t stink

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My team doesn’t stink

How disgusting is it to smell someone else’s sweaty T-shirt? That turns out to be an us-vs.-them question. University students who smelled a sweaty T-shirt found the shirt significantly less disgusting depending on how the researchers defined the students’ peer group. If the peer group was defined as students in general (vs. nonstudents), even a sweaty T-shirt with a rival university’s logo was rated as less disgusting. If the peer group was defined as students at one’s own university, then the effect only extended to sweaty T-shirts with that university’s logo. And not only were those sweaty T-shirts rated as less disgusting, but the students were more interested in interacting with the wearer, and took longer to go wash their hands and used less soap.

Reicher, S. et al., “Core Disgust Is Attenuated by Ingroup Relations,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (forthcoming).

In this economy, many do feel the burn

Supporters of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are seemingly concerned with economic insecurity (whether caused by Wall Street, trade, or immigration). But if new research is correct, then you should be nice to them, since they’re probably in more pain, too. In a series of experiments, people who were made to feel more economically insecure — by highlighting unemployment in their state or by writing about an economically insecure period in their life — reported more physical pain. Likewise, students at a well regarded university were less able to tolerate having their hand in ice water after being told their university was not top-ranked and, as a result, that their job prospects were weak. Feeling a lack of control appeared to explain this effect, such that those who recalled a time when they lacked control subsequently reported more pain.

Chou, E. et al., “Economic Insecurity Increases Physical Pain,” Psychological Science (forthcoming).

Scoring for free

In 2007, the College Board allowed low-income students to send their SAT scores to four extra colleges for free — beyond the four free reports that everyone gets — and also allowed these free extra reports to be requested after learning the test results (normally, free reports have to be requested before learning the results). Researchers from Harvard and the College Board found that this seemingly trivial change resulted in high-scoring, low-income students being more likely to attend and complete college. In fact, “inducing students to send one additional score report, on average, leads to a 4.9 percentage point increase in the probability of attending college on-time and a 3.3 percentage point increase in the probability of earning a bachelor’s degree within five years of high school completion.”

Hurwitz, M. et al., “Surprising Ripple Effects: How Changing the SAT Score-Sending Policy for Low-Income Students Impacts College Access and Success,” Harvard University (January 2016).

Obama primes gun rights

Whenever President Obama brings up gun control, gun sales jump. For this reason, many have called him the best gun salesman ever. However, his salesmanship may not be entirely the result of buyers’ regulatory expectations (especially given that Congress has steadfastly resisted, even after various high-profile mass shootings). In a new study, white people who were exposed to pictures of black faces (compared to white people who weren’t exposed to black faces) subsequently reported less support for gun control. This effect was stronger among those who reported higher levels of racial resentment. This was also the case in national survey data, where white people who reported higher levels of racial resentment were less supportive of gun control, even controlling for gun ownership, political orientation, gender, and education.

Filindra, A. & Kaplan, N., “Racial Resentment and Whites’ Gun Policy Preferences in Contemporary America,” Political Behavior (forthcoming).

The price of a favor

If you’re in sales, don’t be afraid to ask for help. In several experiments, people adopted the perspective of a customer looking for a vintage item in a store and negotiating with the seller over the price of the item. People were more likely to accept a deal if the seller requested a favor (e.g., please post a positive review). This may seem counterintuitive (why would a customer be more likely to accept a deal with the added burden of having to do a favor?), but it’s a result of people perceiving more reciprocity in the negotiation, and thus more confidence that they got the lowest price. The effect goes away if the deal (i.e., price discount) is generic and not a result of negotiation, or is so big that the deal would be accepted anyway.

Blanchard, S. et al., “The Favor Request Effect: Requesting a Favor from Consumers to Seal the Deal,” Journal of Consumer Research (forthcoming).


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

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