Negotiating, family style

In a series of experiments, pairs of individuals ate snack food and then played business strategy games. When the food was eaten from a shared container compared to separate containers, pairs cooperated more and achieved better results. This was true both when they were strangers and when they were friends. When asked what would happen in such situations, people did predict greater cooperation, but nevertheless, most said they still would’ve preferred to eat from separate containers.

Woolley, K. & Fishbach, A., “Shared Plates, Shared Minds: Consuming from a Shared Plate Promotes Cooperation,” Psychological Science (forthcoming).

Leaning in is her problem

In a survey, researchers at Duke University found that “the tendency to see women as empowered to tackle the problem of gender inequality was related to the tendency to see women as responsible to solve workplace gender inequality,” even controlling for gender and political orientation. Then, in a series of experiments, the researchers found that statements from “Lean In” author Sheryl Sandberg about the perils of women’s self-inhibition increased the belief that women can empower themselves, but also increased the belief that women are responsible for both creating and solving gender inequality. Adding statements about external causes of inequality didn’t much help.

Kim, J. et al., “Lean In Messages Increase Attributions of Women’s Responsibility for Gender Inequality,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (December 2018).



Analysis of soccer matches in the major European leagues revealed that players who scored via deflection off the goalpost garnered significantly better ratings from journalists and fans, and more playing time in the next match, compared to players whose shot deflected away from the goal, even though the two outcomes were as good as random and there was no evidence of differences in performance before or after. The effect was especially strong when such goals changed the outcome of the match.


Gauriot, R. & Page, L., “Fooled by Performance Randomness: Over-Rewarding Luck,” Review of Economics and Statistics (forthcoming).

Speaking fees

Comparing donations from corporate foundations and comments submitted to federal regulatory agencies, a team of economists found that, in the year after receiving a donation, non-profits were nearly twice as likely to comment on the same regulation as the corporation. Comment content was also more aligned. And the relationship seemed to influence the regulator, as “the language of the discussion of the final rule is more closely aligned with that of the corporation’s comments.”

Bertrand, M. et al., “Hall of Mirrors: Corporate Philanthropy and Strategic Advocacy,” National Bureau of Economic Research (December 2018).

Democracy for thee?

Political scientists at the University of Texas found that, in the past couple centuries for territories around the world, “the greater the ratio of Europeans to non-Europeans, the greater the likelihood that the latter would be granted full (or at least partial) political rights and the greater the likelihood that a democratic system of rule would materialize,” with “similar patterns obtained across colonies, across regions within countries, across countries, and through time.” In other words, Europeans brought democracy only when they had secured the majority, a pattern that has diminished only in the last few decades, as democracy and racial equality have become more the norm.

Gerring, J. & Apfeld, B., “Global Democracy for Europeans: A Demographic Story,” University of Texas (November 2018).

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