Uncommon Knowledge: He had us at ‘great again’

US President Donald Trump speaks live via video link to the annual "March for Life" participants and anti-abortion leaders on January 19, 2018 from the White House in Washington,DC. The 45th edition of the rally, which describes itself as "the world's largest pro-life event," takes place on the National Mall -- with other scheduled speakers including House Speaker Paul Ryan. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan SMIALOWSKIBRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

He had us at ‘great again’

In a series of experiments, mostly with Americans, psychologists in Germany found that not only were conservatives more nostalgic — even in a nonpolitical domain — but that nostalgia was the key to their hearts. They endorsed criminal-justice reform, gun control, diversity, and fairness at levels similar to liberals when these issues were presented as a return to the past rather than the present or future. In one example, “participants viewed a genuinely vintage comic strip featuring Superman defending social diversity to a group of schoolchildren” and “were either told that the comic was in its original form and communicated ‘old-fashioned values’ (past condition) or was being modified to reflect ‘modern-day values’ (control condition).” In the control condition, conservatives “strongly rejected the message.” In the past condition, “they equally supported the prodiversity message as liberals,” even though the message itself was the same.

Lammers, J. & Baldwin, M., “Past-Focused Temporal Communication Overcomes Conservatives’ Resistance to Liberal Political Ideas,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (forthcoming).


Political scientists compared the characteristics of Republicans in Congress to their support for Donald Trump during the 2016 election. Most of them (80 percent) supported Trump in the end; female gender and Mormon religious affiliation were the strongest predictors of not supporting Trump. Ironically, establishment politicians — measured by voting record or leadership position — were more likely to support Trump. Ideology was only somewhat important, and electoral considerations were less important.

Johnson, L. et al., “#NeverTrump: Why Republican Members of Congress Refused to Support Their Party’s Nominee in the 2016 Presidential Election,” Research & Politics (January 2018).

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

Lies of the heart

Healthy college students had their heart rate measured at rest and then were shown videos of other college students recounting events that were either real or made up. Those with lower heart rates were better lie detectors — even controlling for gender, body-mass index, and how much they reported exercising. The theory is that being too excited or nervous narrows one’s attention, making it easier to miss subtle signals.

Duran, G. et al., “Resting Heart Rate: A Physiological Predicator of Lie Detection Ability,” Physiology & Behavior (forthcoming).

Radioactive full-time parents


A national survey found that people judged parents, especially fathers, to be worse job candidates if they were parenting full-time, even compared with parents who were just unemployed. In an experiment, fake cover letters and resumes of parents who were looking to relocate with their families were sent to actual white-collar job openings around the country. All applicants were college-educated with the same total work experience. Again, though, applicants who were full-time parents generated the least interest, even compared with parents who had been unemployed for the same amount of time. This was particularly true for fathers in bad job markets and mothers in good job markets. Also worth noting: Employed fathers generated twice as much interest as employed mothers in bad job markets, whereas employed mothers generated more interest than employed fathers in good job markets.

Weisshaar, K., “From Opt Out to Blocked Out: The Challenges for Labor Market Re-entry after Family-Related Employment Lapses,” American Sociological Review (forthcoming).

Smart opportunities for her

In a series of experiments, women reported less interest in majors, internships, or jobs where ideal candidates were described as “brilliant,” “smart,” “intelligent,” and “talented” — as compared with areas described as being for the “dedicated,” “motivated,” “hardworking,” and “passionate.”

Bian, L. et al., “Messages about Brilliance Undermine Women’s Interest in Educational and Professional Opportunities,” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (forthcoming).

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