Uncommon Knowledge: Anything for a tax cut


By Kevin Lewis

But enough about me

Supposedly, there’s an epidemic of narcissism. But a new analysis of survey data collected over the past several decades from college students from several universities suggests that narcissism may have actually declined, especially during the Great Recession. The discrepant findings are attributed to survey questions being interpreted differently over time. The decline was strongest among African-Americans and weakest among Asian-Americans.

Wetzel, E. et al., “The Narcissism Epidemic Is Dead; Long Live the Narcissism Epidemic,” Psychological Science (forthcoming).

Will she move?

Sexual harassment isn’t the only form of gender discrimination. Stereotypes are another. A sociologist sat in on faculty-hiring meetings in several departments at a major university in a large city. Final decisions on female, but not male, candidates were dominated by discussions of whether she had a partner and would move, given his situation. Committee members engaged in extensive efforts to gather intelligence on a female job candidate’s partners — for example, via Facebook or wedding announcements. And “even when committees were aware of the illegitimacy of directly asking about relationship status, they did not question the use of such information to inform their decisions” — even though such use was against university policy and state law, and even though they knew they were being observed by the sociologist. In fact, one female committee member later claimed to never research the partners of female candidates, even though the sociologist was in the room when she had.

Rivera, L., “When Two Bodies Are (Not) a Problem: Gender and Relationship Status Discrimination in Academic Hiring,” American Sociological Review (forthcoming).

Anything for a tax cut


According to a Boston College accounting expert, corporations that were major contributors to congressional candidates who advocated reducing corporate tax rates then used accounting discretion to raise their actual tax-paying rates right before the 2012 election, in an apparent attempt to avoid negative press for the candidates. This pattern was stronger when supported candidates were in close elections and for corporations that were more strongly associated with the candidates, could afford the hit to earnings, and had a history of low tax-paying rates.

Baloria, V. & Klassen, K., “Supporting Tax Policy Change through Accounting Discretion: Evidence from the 2012 Elections,” Management Science (forthcoming).

Male attention

In a series of experiments with heterosexual young women, psychologists at the University of Utah and Texas Christian University randomly assigned some women to write about a time when their father was physically or psychologically absent for an important life event. Compared to women who wrote about a time when their father was present or when their mother was absent, women who wrote about father absence were subsequently more inclined to interpret male behaviors or faces as conveying sexual interest. Enhanced perception of male sexual interest helped to explain the link found in previous research between paternal disengagement and riskier sexual behavior by women.

DelPriore, D. et al., “The Effects of Paternal Disengagement on Women’s Perceptions of Male Mating Intent,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (forthcoming).

Democrats got away with free trade

According to an analysis of free-trade votes by, and contributions from unions to, congressional Democrats from 1999 to 2012, only private-sector non-service unions withheld contributions after pro-trade votes. Even then, the penalty was only about 6 percent per pro-trade vote. Close general elections attracted much more in contributions than a candidate lost by a pro-trade vote, and incumbents facing primary challenges received about the same regardless of how they voted.

Jansa, J. & Hoyman, M., “Do Unions Punish Democrats? Free-Trade Votes and Labor PAC Contributions, 1999–2012,” Political Research Quarterly (forthcoming).

Kevin Lewis is an Ideas columnist He can be reached at