Selling distrust

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Selling distrust

Critics say capitalism erodes institutions and relationships. Turns out, working in sales might. A survey of people from different countries revealed that working in a sales-related job was associated with being less trusting, even controlling for other factors. To confirm this experimentally, participants here and abroad were randomly assigned to generate a positive review of a low-quality product. Compared to generating an honest review, generating an artificially positive review caused participants to see people as less honest.

Pitesa, M. et al., “Mandates of Dishonesty: The Psychological and Social Costs of Mandated Attitude Expression,” Organization Science (forthcoming).

Tough on crime

An analysis of violent-crime cases referred to federal district attorneys found that prosecution was more likely when the president talked more about crime, when Congress held more hearings, when the violent-crime rate was higher, and especially when the state incarceration rate was high, even controlling for caseload, type of crime, conservatism of the federal district court, and partisan affiliation of the district attorney. In fact, the latter two factors mattered little relative to the others.

Boldt, E. & Boyd, C., “The Political Responsiveness of Violent Crime Prosecution,” Political Research Quarterly (forthcoming).

Mixed up

In an experiment at Tufts, white students were prompted to talk about campus diversity with a racially ambiguous student who, unbeknownst to them, was scripted by the psychologists. That student self-identified as black in some cases and biracial black/white in others, while providing no race information at all in still others. After the interaction, white students who had interacted with the “biracial” individual were less mentally depleted, had a more malleable view of race, and drew more accurate faces of their interaction partner. Another experiment with white participants found that they expected to be more similar to racially ambiguous individuals labeled as biracial.

Gaither, S. et al., “Resolving Racial Ambiguity in Social Interactions,” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (May 2018).

Branching out for women


In an experiment at an information-technology conference, attendees received an e-mail with networking recommendations from the conference organizer four days in advance. In the control group that received generic advice, “women met fewer new contacts, spent less time talking to them, and added fewer connections on LinkedIn” than men did. However, naming specific (though randomly selected) attendees to connect with allowed women to increase “the number of new contacts met by 57 percent, the time spent talking with new contacts by 90 percent, the number of connections added on LinkedIn by 29 percent, and the odds of changing jobs in the 12 months after the event by 1.6.” There was no such effect for men.

Bapna, S. & Funk, R., “Understanding the Dynamics of Network Inequality: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment on Professional Networking,” University of Minnesota (April 2018).

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Privileged words

A study of Kansas families a couple decades ago estimated that young children in poor black families heard 30 million fewer words from their primary caregiver than children in upper-middle-class families. A new study challenges this view. Analyzing similar data from communities with different socio-economic characteristics around the country, the study finds that word counts are not strongly associated with socioeconomic characteristics, especially when including words spoken by people who weren’t the primary caregiver. “For example, the [Alabama black] children living in poverty heard more words spoken to them per hour than any other children, fully 21 percent more words overall in their everyday interactions with family members than was reported for the children in the Kansas professional homes.”

Sperry, D. et al., “Reexamining the Verbal Environments of Children From Different Socioeconomic Backgrounds,” Child Development (forthcoming).

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