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Do Mom and Dad have a clue? Apparently not.


Unenhanced interrogation of the kids

Do Mom and Dad have a clue? Apparently not. Researchers in Canada videotaped — from four different camera angles — kids who were 8 to 16 years old denying that they had cheated on a test. Some kids had cheated; some hadn’t. These videos were then shown to the kids’ parents, to strangers who happened to be parents of kids who were 8 to 16 years old, and to nonparent college students. Even though adults in each group were fairly confident in their judgments, none of the groups could reliably judge the kids’ veracity, and the kids’ parents were particularly biased to believe the denials.

Evans, A. et al., “Can Parents Detect 8- to 16-Year-Olds’ Lies? Parental Biases, Confidence, and Accuracy,” Journal of Experimental Child Psychology (forthcoming).

All about that bass

We do it like animals. That is, change our tone to signal dominance or submission. In an experiment, groups of four to seven same-sex individuals engaged in a group problem-solving discussion. An individual’s rising vocal pitch in his or her first few utterances predicted a low social rank — as assessed by other group members and outside observers — by the end of the discussion, even though these individuals started off with the lowest pitch. Individuals who attained high social rank tended to lower their pitch. This effect was confirmed in another experiment where participants heard a voice recording that had been altered to either rise or drop in pitch. The deepening voice was perceived as desiring a higher social rank.

Cheng, J. et al., “Listen, Follow Me: Dynamic Vocal Signals of Dominance Predict Emergent Social Rank in Humans,” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (forthcoming).

Mugged by reality

Was the increasing incarceration of the 1980s-1990s a direct response to increasing crime? A new study analyzed survey data from 1998 and found that support for longer prison sentences or the death penalty was not associated with local crime rates, personal or acquaintance victimization, or fear or perceived risk of victimization. Instead, more punitive attitudes were associated with being white, living in more-Republican areas, and watching more local (but not national) TV news. According to the researchers, this pattern suggests that “it was the ‘tough-on-crime’ rhetoric wielded by conservative elites, more than the reality of crime, that drove increased public concern about crime” during that era.

Kleck, G. & Jackson, D., “Does Crime Cause Punitiveness?” Crime & Delinquency (forthcoming).

Fewer sweatshops? Just do it.

Multinational companies have been criticized for tolerating poor working conditions in factories in developing countries. However, a new study finds that what’s good for business can also be good for workers. That’s because high-quality production can benefit from having workers who are treated well. Factories in the Nike supply chain that implemented lean manufacturing — to improve efficiency and quality control — ended up with better labor standards, especially in pay, benefits, and work hours, even controlling for underlying trends. This was particularly the case in India and Southeast Asia, but not in China.

Distelhorst, G. et al., “Does Lean Improve Labor Standards? Management and Social Performance in the Nike Supply Chain,” Management Science (forthcoming).

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