The Best of the Week


This week’s best includes plenty of psychology with a good dose of morality stories.

Raising a Moral Child – The New York Times – By Adam Grant

What can parents do to ensure a principled heir? This Times author explores many studies on moral development for this piece – genetic, cultural and everything in between.

Success is not the No. 1 priority for most parents. We’re much more concerned about our children becoming kind, compassionate and helpful. Surveys reveal that in the United States, parents from European, Asian, Hispanic and African ethnic groups all place far greater importance on caring than achievement. These patterns hold around the world: When people in 50 countries were asked to report their guiding principles in life, the value that mattered most was not achievement, but caring.

The Moral Subjectivity of the World, Mapped – The Atlantic Wire – By Philip Bump

This short Atlantic piece maps moral attitudes across the globe, like which behaviors are least acceptable.

Around the world, no issue is considered more universally immoral than an extramarital affair, according to research published on Tuesday by Pew Research.

When Were the Dogs of War First Let Loose? – The Wall Street Journal – By Robert Sapolsky

Anthropologists and other scholars continue to argue about the origins of group-on-group conflict.

It’s a hard question to answer. Was this 50,000-year-old skull caved in by accident or violence? Was this long bone gnawed on by a hyena or an enemy? For what species was this arrowhead intended?

Men and Women are Equally Good at Reading Partners’ Sexual Satisfaction, New Study Finds – The Washington Post – By Meeri Kim

Those who rated themselves as having good sexual communication were, predictably, better at judging their lovers’ pleasure levels. But even for those whose verbal communication was lacking, some made up for it by being naturally adept at reading human emotion.

National Geographic Concludes What Americans Will Look Like in 2050, and It’s Beautiful – PolicyMic – By Zak Cheney-Rice

PolicyMic looks at a few studies of interracial relationships as it interprets Nat Geo’s “Changing Face of America.”

Studies have repeatedly shown that young people, especially those under 30, are significantly more amenable to interracial relationships than older adults, while college grads are more likely to have positive attitudes toward them than those with only a high school diploma.


Study: U.S. is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy – BBC News

An oligarchy is a government set up to serve the interests of only a few, as opposed to the many.

“A proposed policy change with low support among economically elite Americans…is adopted only about 18% of the time,” [according to the study]. “While a proposed change with high support…is adopted about 45% of the time.”

Vice magazine’s Dan Tookey called up one of the study’s coauthors, Martin Gilens, for a quick Q & A:

I’ve surveyed people and asked, “Do you think the government cares about what people like me think?” Those surveys show that the majority of middle class Americans doesn’t think it does. And the majority of people at the top of income distribution say in general that the government does.

John Cassidy at the New Yorker, however, offers some words of caution.

Gilens and Page do not use the term “oligarchy” in describing their conclusions, which would imply that a small ruling class dominates the political system to the exclusion of all others. They prefer the phrase “economic elite domination.”

10 of Psychology’s Greatest Myths – RealClearScience

It turns out, a lot of popular notions about psychology actually don’t have much evidence going for them. Subliminal advertising is just the first myth.

In a great many carefully controlled laboratory trials, subliminal messages did not affect subjects’ consumer choices or voting preferences. When tested in the real world, subliminal messaging failed just as spectacularly.