Remembering Florence Nightingale in your rough neighborhood

Why do people cooperate? Why do we band together in extraordinary numbers to solve problems? Why do we commit acts of “heroism” to protect or save others, including sometimes people we don’t even know personally? The level of cooperation that humans routinely exhibit poses an evolutionary puzzle and an enigma to economists. The essence of cooperation is the fact […]

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Immigrating to America but speaking your mother’s tongue at home: Diversity trumps frequency

Human beings communicate in nearly 7,000 different languages. A surprisingly—and perhaps concerningly—large number of those languages is “endangered”, with nearly 500 (or 6%-7%) being listed by UNESCO. Scholars have warned that “World languages are now rapidly being lost”, and like the loss of species diversity, this language extinction has been attributed to economic development—the more successful a […]

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Your face reveals how you feel–even to a computer

My last post dealt with lying—not an unimportant topic given that around 60% of people lie at least once during a 10-minute conversation. It is therefore perhaps concerning that people are by and large quite poor at detecting deception, including law-enforcement personnel such as members of the CIA, the FBI, NSA, and DEA (to name but a few […]

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Lying through your dientes is no different from lying through your teeth (almost)

Do you ever lie? Many people would consider this to be a highly confronting question, not only because all of us (sometimes) lie but also because we believe that there is a general moral imperative not to lie. There is actually considerable debate about the moral imperative against lying among philosophers, and it is easy to come up with […]

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When aniseed does not smell at all like lemon: Sugar helps you tell apart smells,

Strawberries taste great. So does Rogan Josh or falafel, though perhaps not all together at the same time. What does it mean for something to “taste great”? Wikipedia tells us that “Taste is the sensation produced when a substance in the mouth reacts chemically with taste receptor cells located on taste buds.” But is that it? No. […]

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People conform–sometimes we even conform with a computer

We are social beings. As much as we admire the “rugged individualist”, from the Lone Ranger to Crocodile Dundee, in reality most of us are sensitive to the behavior of others around us. We conform to “social norms” on a myriad of occasions: when queueing for the bus, when participating in recycling because our neighbors do, when we do […]

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