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    Brainiac

    Some politicians are more equal than others

    Republican presidential candidates, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and businessman Donald Trump argue as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich listen during a Republican presidential primary debate at Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
    AP Photo/Paul Sancya
    Republican presidential candidates during a primary debate at the Fox Theatre in Detroit on March 3, 2016.

    Both before and during the Great Recession, people were more likely to vote for a US senator with an economically liberal voting record, and less likely to vote for an economically conservative senator, when their zip code had higher levels of household income inequality. There was an effect for both Democrats and Republicans and for both high- and low-income voters, but only among voters who actually had some knowledge of the senator’s voting record.

    Newman, B. & Hayes, T., “Durable Democracy? Economic Inequality and Democratic Accountability in the New Gilded Age,” Political Behavior (forthcoming).

    Stereotypes and stats

    In an anonymous online experiment, researchers at Harvard and Stanford asked participants to choose which of two individuals would be more likely to answer hard questions on math or sports, given the individuals’ performance on easy questions on those topics. When the individuals were said to be of different gender, male participants tended to bet on the male even if he had done no better than the female on the easy questions. But discrimination was even worse when birth month, not gender, was the differentiating characteristic, where birth month had been portrayed as predicting ability to answer math or sports questions to the same degree as gender. Birth-month discrimination affected both male and female participants — suggesting that discrimination was simply the result of statistical expectations.

    Coffman, K. et al., “When Gender Discrimination Is Not About Gender,” Harvard University (December 2017).

    From welfare to work

    The Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC, has bipartisan support, and research suggests that the credit has helped poor families over the long run. “Using variation in federal and state EITC benefits over time by family size, results indicate that. . . after a policy-induced $1,000 increase in EITC exposure between ages 13 and 18. . . individuals are subsequently 1.3 percent more likely to complete high school by age 20 and 4.2 percent more likely to complete a college degree by age 26,” leading “to a 1-percent increase in the likelihood of being employed between ages 22 and 27, and a $560 (or 2.2 percent) increase in average annual earnings.” This is partly explained by mothers being more likely to work, without causing much of a reduction in parenting time.

    Michelmore, K. & Bastian, J., “The Long-Term Impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit on Children’s Education and Employment Outcomes,” Journal of Labor Economics (forthcoming).

    People are sheep, or monkeys

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    In a study from researchers at Stanford, the University of Colorado, Duke, and the University of Pennsylvania, monkeys were placed in front of touch screens and repeatedly shown brand logos paired with images of female hindquarters, dominant male faces, subordinate male faces, or corresponding scrambled (control) images. Subsequently, when given the opportunity to choose between logos, the monkeys tended to choose logos that had been paired with female hindquarters or, to a lesser extent, dominant male faces. There was no such response to subordinate male faces, at least among female viewers.

    Acikalin, Y. et al., “Rhesus Macaques Form Preferences for Brand Logos through Sex and Social Status Based Advertising,” PLoS ONE (February 2018).

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    Doing unto others

    Researchers arranged for randomly selected officers of the Seattle Police Department to take part in special meetings with their supervisors. The supervisors asked open-ended, reflective questions about a routine action by the officer and then asked for feedback on their own performance during the meeting. In other words, the supervisors modeled the kind of respectful interaction that officers are expected to have with citizens. In the weeks after these meetings, officers were as active in the community as officers in the control group were, but “were less likely to resolve incidents with an arrest and less likely to be involved in use-of-force incidents.”

    Owens, E. et al., “Can You Build a Better Cop? Experimental Evidence on Supervision, Training, and Policing in the Community,” Criminology & Public Policy (February 2018).

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