Echoes of the Past in Ferguson

To understand why the Black community is so upset by Michael Brown’s death and this grand jury decision, we must understand how similar these events seem to the terrible rhythms of the past, and how those rhythms have never subsided.

Assume a Dangerous Crowd and You Get a Dangerous Crowd

What we have observed over the last few days in Ferguson is that it is not modern, powerful equipment that makes a police force sophisticated in protest situations, but rather how well it understands the psychology of crowds.

Know Your Enemy—and Learn About His Favorite Sport

In 1995, Nelson Mandela knew that his country faced extraordinary times. He knew that the human desire to re-establish justice following injustice, which normally keeps societies intact, would rip his apart. Mandela held South Africa together by eschewing retribution, and persuading others to do the same. And he went to a very important rugby match…

Race and the Injustice System

Given what we know about the psychology of racial and other intergroup biases, it is time our society seriously rethought the logistics—the laws, procedures and policies—of our justice system. Unless she takes her biases into account and acts to mitigate them, Lady Justice will continue to be anything but just.

The Brain's Seductive Allure, and the Science of Persuasion

In which Jay Van Bavel and I hypothesize that recent debates over the persuasive power of brain images will be resolved by classic theories of persuasion, and politely suggest that the question wasn't the right one in the first place...

A Political Fantasy: The Veil of Amnesia

The problem is not that we disagree politically, but that our disagreements are driven so strongly by our political identities rather our values. We have become a society of political victory rather than political principle. The veil of amnesia offers a solution.

Do As The Romans (Or Perhaps the Visigoths) Do

The idea that behaviors are contagious is evocative. But the link between behavior and infection is an imperfect metaphor. Behaviors spread because when we make decisions, we often use other people to guide our choices. To understand social influence requires that we understand why people rely on others as guides.

Whistle-Blowers and the Ellsberg Paradox

Even if he had never leaked the ‘Pentagon Papers’, Daniel Ellsberg would still be famous – though much less so. In the news this week defending Edward Snowden for leaking classified NSA surveillance programs, Ellsberg is also the inventor of the Ellsberg Paradox...