Are the British More Rational?

Deficits in Britain and America Both countries face "broadly similar deficit challenges," as The New York Times put it in a recent story. "Britain aims to close a fiscal gap of about 10 percent of gross domestic product. The comparable figure in the United States is 9.5 percent." That's where the similarities end.

Work and Suicide

What it means to be without work: Common sense suggests that suicides will increase in times of economic hardship, like all other expressions of psychological distress. So far, however, the evidence has been mixed.

When Reassurance Gives You the Jitters

Trying to Calm the Public Why is it that the efforts to calm the public after Japan’s nuclear disaster didn’t work?

Jobs Are Up, But What Kinds of Jobs?

The media have been celebrating the good news about unemployment. The rate has gone down to 8.8%. But the news obscures the fact that having a job does not provide security for many people.

Why Do the Rich Feel Poor?

And Who is Really Wealthy? A recent survey by Fidelity Investments showed: “Some 42 percent of more than 1,000 millionaires . . . said they did not feel wealthy. Respondents had at least $1 million in investable assets,...”

Making Stupid MIstakes

Seeing and Not Seeing Many simple mistakes are obvious once you see them -- and almost impossible to detect before you do. Writing in The New York Times recently, Joseph Hallinan noted our tendency to infer what we see rather than actually look closely.

Frightened By Japan

Keeping It in Perspective The earthquake and Tsunami in Japan may not have as much of an economic impact on the world as we feared. “Globally, Japan will likely be a growth hiccup,” says The Wall Street Journal. On the other hand, many of us are reacting on a more personal level....

Don't Retire

The Surprising Benefits of Continuing to WorkMore and more evidence suggests that retirement is not good for you. It's not just that we can't afford it, as pensions and other benefits are cut. It's bad for your health. 

The Social Unconscious

The Wisdom of Crowds RevisitedNature is full of examples of animals that pool their wisdom in the service of survival. Man too has that potential, but it is lost in the confusion and noise of individual conflict. 

Plenty of White Collar Crime, But Where Are the "Criminals?"

Is It a Contradiction in Terms?There is no shortage of white-collar crime in business and in government. The press is full of it. But there is little reference to white-collar "criminals." Is that a term reserved for the poor? 

Students' Stress Levels Rise

Is It About Unemployment?A recent survey revealed unprecedented levels of stress among college students in the US. Many commentators leaped to the conclusion that this reflected the uncertain job market. But do high levels of unemployment actually cause stress in students? 

Anxiety, Avoidance, Denial, and Worse

How to Really Mess up Your FinancesI have known patients who never open their mail - including bills. They live in so much dread of bad news that they make a point of avoiding any news at all. 

Unknown Knowns

What Madoff's Bankers Might Have KnownThe line between what we know and what we don't know is not as sharp as we would like to believe. Did Madoff's bankers know about his Ponzi scheme, as he insists they had to? Did they not know? Or did they not know that they knew it? 

Good Anxiety --and Bad

And How to Tell the DifferenceA certain amount of anxiety is useful - even indispensable. If you understand that it is a signal of impending danger, you can grasp its vital importance. When is danger ever entirely absent? 

Self-Esteem in the Marketplace

The Surprising Power of BrandsWe tend to assume that we have confidence in ourselves based on who we are and what we have done - or we don't. We think we feel good about ourselves consistently - or we don't. But it turns out that these internal beliefs are actually quite volatile. 

Love and Money

Thoughts for Valentine 's DayAn important way to be mindful about money is to keep your head when your heart is involved. All too many relationships get into trouble when personal finances are joined before each party gets to understand how far they can trust the other. 

Concentrating Makes You Happy

No Such Thing as a Spotless MindIt's better for the mind to focus on something than to wander -- at least this is the conclusion of a survey by two Harvard psychologists reported in Science. 

What Happened to Bank Reforms

Is It Denial - Or Corruption?The financial reporter for The New York Times Gretchen Morgenson notes that the report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission "makes for compelling reading because so little has changed." It's what's missing that captured her attention. 

Rose Colored Retirements

The Real Problems of "Global Aging"Fewer people retire in the way they used to.... A report in the McClatchy Newspapers calls this erosion of traditional patterns of retirement "one of the biggest demographic shifts in history." 

All Errors Are Human Errors

Another Look At Managing Risk"Any sufficiently complex, tightly coupled system will fail sooner or later," argues Charles Perrow....This combination characterizes financial systems and nuclear power plants, 

Why No Jobs?

Lawrence Katz, a Harvard labor economist, calls the full picture ‘genuinely puzzling.'" (See, "In Wreckage of Lost Jobs, Lost Power.")Perhaps I'm not puzzled because I'm not an economist. 

Following the Crowd

Is It Ever the Smart Thing To Do? It's pretty clear that many of those investors caught by the crash of the credit bubble in 2008 were following the crowd.  But what about the short sellers.... 

Real Leadership and Real Thought

What We NeedMore ink is spilled on the subject of leadership than almost on any other topic in our culture. That's probably a sign of how little we know about it -- and how desperate we are to understand the knowledge and skills we lack. 

Enhancing the Brain

Does Anything Really Work?We all have our personal theories about what helps and what hinders our mind's capacity to think. And our culture is rife with fads. There is probably no more engaging question for us to ask ourselves than how we can enhance our mental powers. But there is little hard evidence about what actually works. 

Why It's Not Possible to Save

And What To Do About ItThe savings rate among workers has dramatically declined over the past few decades. In many countries it's now lower than the rate of borrowing. No surprise. 

Americans Go To Church

"One Nation Under God"More Americans say they go to church than actually do, according to recent research. As Shankar Vedantam reported on Slate, "two in five Americans say they regularly attend religious services," but studies of actual behavior show that the real number is half that. 

Money and Happiness

Are They Related?There is very little correlation, according to a recent study: "happiness does not increase when a country's income increases." 

Is Incest Wrong?

Always? Sometimes? When? Why?Why does the law prohibit incest? Is it just another example of a deep-seated social convention or a prejudice, like the feeling some people have about gay marriage or polygamy? Who is hurt by it? 

The End of Narcissism -- Or Is It a New Beginning?

From the DSM to the MainstreamThe American Psychiatric Association has decided to eliminate Narcissism as a personality disorder. It probably it has to do with the absence of rigorous diagnostic standards, a problem of particular concern to researchers. 

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