A Con Artist’s Best Accomplice Is You

A couple months ago I got hustled in Istanbul, and it illuminated how much con games are like judo.

Why Candy Crush Is Like Life

Candy Crush is a lot like life. I don’t mean to say life is just a grid of colorful confections waiting to be destroyed by your pointer finger; I mean to say they both rely on the same set of cognitive processes. Here’s a rundown.

Computers Judge Personality Better Than People Do

New research shows that a simple algorithm adding up your Facebook Likes can actually assess your soul better than your soulmate can.
7 Things We Just Learned About Human Nature

7 Things We Just Learned About Human Nature

Uri Gneezy and John List are known for their field experiments, testing hypotheses in the real world.

Does Anyone Care About Mistakes in Your Profile?

We wondered how much typos matter, and exactly how they matter, and ran a couple of quick experiments to find out.
Public Domain

Positive Thinking Leads to Economic Decline

Expressions of positive thinking about the future—in inaugural addresses from 1933 to 2009 and newspaper articles from 2007 to 2009—reliably predicted economic decline.
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Why We Form New Year’s Resolutions

The running joke about New Year’s resolutions is that they don’t outlast the hangover. But if you’re going to make a resolution to improve yourself, New Year’s Eve is a good time to do it. Recent research helps explain why we pick this date for personal renovation, and how we can restart the clock if we slip up.

Awe Increases Religious Belief

An analysis of astronauts’ reports reveals that for many, the awesomeness of spaceflight increased their belief in God. New research may explain why.
Watching “Harry Potter” Enhances Creativity

Watching “Harry Potter” Enhances Creativity

Halloween, with its witches and ghouls and talking foxes, might just be the most creative day of the year.
All Paths Lead to Magical Thinking

All Paths Lead to Magical Thinking

In recent years, psychologists have come to understand religion and paranormal belief as resulting from simple errors in reasoning. What has not been clarified is exactly how the various cognitive biases interact to produce specific ideas about the supernatural—until now.

The Rich Are Differently Moral

You’d have to be pretty cold-hearted to shove someone off a bridge into the path of a train. But from another perspective, that is the most beneficial thing you could do.
Even Top Scientists Believe Everything Was Created by Magic

Even Top Scientists Believe Everything Was Created by Magic

New research suggests even scientists intuitively believe in divine intervention and intelligent design.
The Like Trail

The Like Trail

A paper published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) shows just how revealing Facebook Likes can be.

What Kind of Thinker Believes in God?

A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? Your answer to this question will help me guess whether you believe in God.

How Much Can Jonah Lehrer Be Reformed?

Today Jonah Lehrer gave a talk in which he apologized for his journalistic wrongs and attempted to explain them. It's unclear whether his fundamental personal flaws can be fixed.

The Enigma of Human Consciousness

Wednesday night I attended a panel discussion at the New York Academy of Sciences titled “The Thinking Ape: The Enigma of Human Consciousness,” featuring Daniel Kahneman, David Chalmers, and others.
Our Inner Puritans

Our Inner Puritans

In Sunday’s New York Times I wrote about the influence of the Puritans on modern American culture and morality, but there’s more to the story than could fit in the article...
The Karmic Connection: We Expect Good Fortune After Helping

The Karmic Connection: We Expect Good Fortune After Helping

New research indicates that when we want something from the universe, we’ll invest in karma by doing a good deed.
Are Conservatives More Religious, and Liberals More Spiritual?

Are Conservatives More Religious, and Liberals More Spiritual?

In the United States, religion and politics have always been (fitful) bed buddies. But whether faith drives people left or right (or neither) is not obvious.

Does Autism Lead to Atheism?

In most religions, and arguably anything worth being called a religion, God is not just an impersonal force or creator. He has a mind that humans can relate to.

Can You Be More Dead Than Dead?

In The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion describes the year following the sudden death of her husband. At one point while collecting his clothes for donation, she stops. She can’t give away all of his shoes, for he might need them if he returns. This is the magical thinking of the title.

Are There Really No Atheists in Foxholes?

It’s often said that there are no atheists in foxholes. While this isn’t technically true—a group called The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers even keeps a roster of them—new research suggests that inducing fear of death at least makes atheists a little less entrenched in their beliefs.
Teddy Bears Make You Friendlier—and Maybe Healthier

Teddy Bears Make You Friendlier—and Maybe Healthier

I slept with a Beanie Baby for eight years—from the ages of 18 to 26. Thanks to new research, I can now look back and say it was probably good for me.
Can Emotions Haunt Houses?

Can Emotions Haunt Houses?

In the early 1990s, Trent Reznor (the man behind Nine Inch Nails) purchased the house at 10050 Cielo Drive, in Los Angeles. Before moving in, he learned of its dark past. This is the house where members of Charles Manson’s “family” murdered Sharon Tate and four other people in 1969. Reznor moved in despite (or perhaps because of) these events.

The Unsinkable, Sunk, the Unthinkable, Thunk

April 15 marked the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. If you don’t recall the details, just read one of the many other stories in the media right now, or watch a certain movie by James Cameron (not the one with aliens). Or read the novella Futility, written 114 years ago.

Horoscopes in the East vs. West

Around the world, everyone looks up at the same stars, trying to divine occult truths. But the kind of information they're looking for depends on their personality and on their culture, according to new research.

Spooked by Shakespeare

A short piece by Tad Friend in the January 9 New Yorker demonstrates no fewer than three forms of magical thinking in one column of text. The subject: John Logan, a playwright and screenwriter (recently: Hugo, Rango, Coriolanus). The scene: Bauman Rare Books on Madison Avenue.

Being President Doesn't Hasten Death? Not So Fast!

I must say I am disappointed with what the New York Times has placed front and center on their home page. We have no way of knowing whether the Oval Office shortens life spans.

Self-Control Inspires Trust

A new set of findings reveals not only that people can perceive others' chronic and momentary levels of self-control, but that we use this information to judge others' trustworthiness.

Clenching Your Fists Increases Willpower

According to researchers in a new paper, “Steely muscles can lead to a steely resolve.”