What Makes a Good Gift?

According to behavioral economist Dan Ariely:

the best gifts circumvent guilt in two key ways: by eliminating the guilt that accompanies extravagant purchases, and by reducing the guilt that comes from coupling payment with consumption. The best advice on gift-giving, therefore, is to get something that someone really wants but would feel guilty buying otherwise.

The Value of Superstitions During a Recession

Experimental psychologist Bruce Hood looks at a study in which:

Travis Ng and colleagues investigated the value of Hong Kong car number plates purchased through auction from 1997 to 2009 and found that an ordinary four-digit plate with one extra lucky “8” was sold 63.5 percent higher on average. An extra unlucky “4” by contrast diminished the average four-digit plate value by 11 percent. In Cantonese the number “8” rhymes with “prosperity” whereas the number “4” sounds like the word for “death.” Moreover the fluctuations in the prices of lucky and unlucky plates mirrored the economic fluctuations with unlucky numbers dropping the most during recessions.

Does Nonverbal TV Behavior Transmit Racial Bias?

In Scientific American Mind, Valerie Ross looks at the findings of a recent study in which researchers at Tufts University showed people mixed-race scenes from popular TV shows with the sound cut out:

After watching clips in which black characters were treated less favorably than whites, the viewers’ conscious attitudes about race did not change. But they were faster to associate white people with positive words such as “laughter” and black people with negative words such as “failure”—a sign that this implicit bias had found its way from the TV screen into people’s behavior, the researchers say. After watching clips in which black characters were treated better than whites, however, viewers not only displayed less implicit bias toward blacks, they also showed improved conscious attitudes toward blacks as measured by a questionnaire.

Why Religion Is Not Inherently Delusional

As Matt Rossano, the head of psychology at Southeastern Louisiana University, sees it:

There really is a critical difference between someone worshiping Chewbacca the wookiee in his basement and someone going to church. Since most of us believe that Chewbacca is a fictional character (albeit not one without a certain hairy charm) and not a deity, the wookiee-worshiper is largely singular in his liturgical activities. He must disengage from the community, while at the same time doing a fair amount of mental work to maintain his “wookiee-as-deity” beliefs in the face of a “wookiee-as-Star-Wars-character” world. This may or may not be delusional, but it’s at least worrisome. By contrast, religion requires engagement with a community and this typically facilitates adaptive functioning.
Religion therefore contains a host of properties that actually militate against pathological delusion: (1) its general notions and practices are not obviously contradicted by evidence, (2) it requires very little mental effort to sustain most religious notions, and (3) it encourages community integration which promotes healthy psychological functioning.

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