Uncommon Knowledge: Creationism and bull markets

AP Images

Testing creationism

Researchers at MIT have found evidence confirming what many educators and science advocates have feared. After Louisiana passed a law allowing public-school teachers to contradict the scientific curriculum, scores on the science part of the ACT (an alternative to the SAT) declined relative to scores in neighboring Texas. There was no similar decline in math scores. At the same time, creationism-related search terms on Google became more common, relative to evolution-related terms, in Louisiana than in Texas. Notably, the decline in science test scores was concentrated in areas with a less-educated population but better Internet service — a further indication that the Internet enabled, rather than inhibited, ideological segregation.

Sen, A. & Tucker, C., “Information Shocks and Internet Silos: Evidence from Creationist Friendly Curriculum,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology (July 2017).

The essence of a bull market

After the presidential election, the stock market extended its recovery into what many now consider bubble territory. Maybe Wall Street traders are just taking a cue from Donald Trump’s alpha-male positioning. In an experiment, groups of men were randomly assigned to receive extra testosterone or a placebo and then trade against each other in a simulated stock market. The extra-testosterone groups were significantly more aggressive in bidding up prices and creating stock bubbles.

Nadler, A. et al., “The Bull of Wall Street: Experimental Analysis of Testosterone and Asset Trading,” Management Science (forthcoming).

Something for the pain

According to a new analysis by a University of Georgia economist, admissions to local treatment facilities for painkiller addiction dropped significantly after the opening of medical marijuana dispensaries. Local drug-related mortality rates were also relatively lower.

Smith, R., “The Effects of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries on Adverse Opioid Outcomes,” University of Georgia (August 2017).

Leaning in, not on


Researchers at Columbia Business School found that female bosses were generally more averse to delegating tasks than male bosses were. Women were more anxious about it and felt more guilt about potentially overburdening subordinates. Telling women that delegation is good mentorship for subordinates helped alleviate women’s negative feelings about it.

Akinola, M. et al., “To Delegate or Not to Delegate: Gender Differences in Affective Associations and Behavioral Responses to Delegation,” Academy of Management Journal (forthcoming).

So bad it’s good

In a series of experiments, marketing professors gave people background stories for various products (e.g., chocolate, a hip-hop song, an artistic drawing, a restaurant dish, bubble soap) and found that a product with a feature that was introduced by accident — even if the feature made the product worse — was preferred over the same product where the same feature was introduced intentionally. Likewise, auctions of original vintage photographs on eBay garnered a higher price if the photograph had an ostensibly accidental feature, like being blurry or double-exposed. People assumed that the accidental product was more improbable, and thus unique. The effect did not extend to creations by novices or utilitarian products.

Reich, T. et al., “Made by Mistake: When Mistakes Increase Product Preference,” Journal of Consumer Research (forthcoming).

Get Today in Opinion in your inbox:
Globe Opinion's must-reads, delivered to you every Sunday-Friday.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

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