Test performance, gender, and temperature

Test performance, gender, and temperature

(credit: Nest)

As we move from a season marked by unstoppable heating units and into one dominated by aggressive air conditioning. Figuring out how to optimize the thermostat involves a balancing of individual comfort and energy efficiency. But a new study suggests that there’s an additional factor that should feed into decisions: the performance of any employees or students who happen to be subjected to the whims of whoever has access to the thermostat.

Unexpectedly, the new results show that men and women don’t respond to different temperatures in the same way. And, in doing so, they raise questions about just what we’ve been measuring when other studies have looked at gender-specific differences in performance.

You’re making me cold!

As someone whose mother admonished him to put on sweaters because my bare arms “made her cold,” I’m well aware that there’s a long-standing cliché about the sexes engaging in

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Hunter-gathering seems to have been easier than farming

Hunter-gathering seems to have been easier than farming

Enlarge / An Agta family relaxing in the afternoon. (credit: Mark Dyble)

For most of our history, humans got hold of food like any other animal: by hunting and foraging, moving around to find the best resources. Settling down in one place to cultivate crops is a comparatively recent development. But once it started around 12,000 years ago, agriculture spread through human cultures across the world, fundamentally changing our societies, genomes, and possibly even languages. In many ways, farming seems to have been terrible news for the people who adopted it, leading to poorer nutrition and greater social inequality—but it also resulted in higher fertility rates and a massive population expansion.

Understanding how and why this technological change was adopted remains a challenge. Studies mostly rely on fossil evidence, but there are also clues in the modern world, as some present-day groups of people are moving away

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People drop support for a carbon tax when getting less effective “nudges”

People drop support for a carbon tax when getting less effective “nudges”

Enlarge / A carbon tax would address carbon emissions across sectors, from industry to transport and residential use. (credit: Shiyang Huang / Flickr)

“Nudge” policies have come in for a lot of positive attention. Small tweaks like changing the default on organ donation to opt in (still allowing people to opt out if they choose) seem to be effective at boosting pro-social behaviors. Nudges also work for things like saving for retirement or using less energy while still allowing people freedom of choice.

But nudges like these are “being used as a political expedient,” wrote economists George Loewenstein and Peter Ubel in The New York Times in 2010. Nudges, they wrote, allow “policymakers to avoid painful but more effective solutions rooted in traditional economics.” Now, Loewenstein has teamed up with colleagues David Hagmann and Emily Ho on a series of studies showing how this operates. Their results, published today

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Boys, the wealthy, and Canadians (?) talk the most BS

Boys, the wealthy, and Canadians (?) talk the most BS

Enlarge (credit: Scazon / Flickr)

The existence of what’s colloquially known as “bullshit”—a combination of lies, exaggerations, and inaccuracies that makes it hard to figure out what the truth is—is familiar to all of us. Most of us have come across an individual so skilled in deploying it to advance their goals that we refer to them as “bullshit artists.” Given it’s such a prominent aspect of human behavior, however, you might be surprised to learn that field of bullshit studies is relatively young. Researchers trace BS back to an obscure 1986 essay by philosopher Harry Frankfurt, but it didn’t pick up traction until it was expanded to book form nearly 20 years later.

Even then, another seven years had to go by before other researchers expanded on Frankfurt’s theoretical framework, and empirical studies have only really picked up over the last several years. Now, a group of social

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