Ideas

UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE

Class warfare at 30,000 feet

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Feel the Bern on board

If you think class warfare is driving us into the ground, wait till you hear what’s happening in the air. Analyzing a database of passenger misbehavior from a large airline, researchers found that incidents in economy class were several times more likely when the plane had a first-class section, even controlling for flight delay and distance, and the number and size of seats. The effect was similar to the effect of experiencing a nine-hour delay. Moreover, in planes with first-class sections, boarding everyone from the front — so that economy-class passengers walked through the first-class section, compared to boarding from the middle — doubled the odds of an incident in economy class and multiplied by nearly 12 the odds of an incident in first class.

DeCelles, K. & Norton, M., “Physical and Situational Inequality on Airplanes Predicts Air Rage,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (forthcoming).

Be all you can be

Growing up in an affluent family may help in a lot of ways, but it won’t make you a better Army officer. Researchers surveyed active-duty graduates of the US Military Academy at West Point, in addition to other soldiers who had been under their command. The researchers also had access to background information from the officers’ original applications to the academy. The researchers found that parental income was associated with higher narcissism among officers, which, in turn, impaired their ability to lead, even controlling for race, gender, subjective social class, and parents’ marital status, education, and job prestige.

Martin, S. et al., “Echoes of Our Upbringing: How Growing Up Wealthy or Poor Relates to Narcissism, Leader Behavior, and Leader Effectiveness,” Academy of Management Journal (forthcoming).

Sizing each other up

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It’s now acceptable to date across class and racial lines, but apparently it’s still weird to date across shapes. When people were asked to judge romantic couples — without pictures but with basic body size information — couples with similar body sizes (both overweight or both healthy weight) got significantly higher ratings than couples with different body sizes. Likewise, people tended to recommend partners with similar body sizes for someone looking for a date and “generally recommended more active, public, and expensive dates, greater displays of physical affection, and earlier introduction to close others” for dates with similar body sizes. These biases held regardless of the judge’s own body size or gender.

Collisson, B. et al., “‘Date Someone Your Own Size’: Prejudice and Discrimination toward Mixed-Weight Relationships,” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships (forthcoming).

First-world problems

Which countries are disproportionately supplying foreign recruits to ISIS? A new study finds that while recruits do tend to come from countries with large Muslim populations, they also tend to come from more developed countries, and countries with more ethnic homogeneity and less inequality. The country’s political system doesn’t seem to matter. The authors of the study suggest that this pattern is consistent with assimilation problems.

Benmelech, E. & Klor, E., “What Explains the Flow of Foreign Fighters to ISIS?” National Bureau of Economic Research (April 2016).

See for yourself

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The hope with dashboard and body-worn police cameras is that the public, the media, judges, and juries will converge on the same verdict after watching video of an incident. Not so fast, according to a recent study out of Yale University. Among a nationally representative sample of Americans who watched several real-life arrest videos, those who strongly identified with the police were less likely to agree that officers displayed or used weapons, used insulting language, were unfair or disrespectful, or acted inappropriately, or that the suspect was complying. Another sample of Americans was presented with another real-life arrest situation (between a white officer and white suspect). Some participants got to see video; some could only read the officer and suspect accounts; some could only read a neutral account; and some could only read the officer account. Those who saw the video were only somewhat more in agreement with each other, compared to those in the other conditions. Moreover, the video caused those who strongly identified with the police to become extra confident in their judgments.

Sommers, R., “Will Putting Cameras on Police Reduce Polarization?” Yale Law Journal (March 2016).

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