Why Violent Crime Is Shrinking

Rising crime rates during the twentieth century were a small blip on a very steep decline extending back to the fourteenth century and earlier. That stunning conclusion emerged only in the last decade. Causes of most of the long-term decline are currently unknown. That of the past few decades seems simpler.

Does Wealth Equate to Satisfaction?

Yes, we all know that people are happier in wealthier countries, that a nation gets happier as its GDP grows, and that high income people report being happier than their less well paid counterparts (1). Yet, there is a certain hollowness to the wealth equals happiness equation that Maslow understood.

Violent Crime Linked to Male Sexuality

In a recent post, I described how women are catching up on men in terms of criminal violence. Yet, the difference remains large and calls for explanation. Much of the gender difference is explainable in terms of male sexuality and societies where men compete directly for mates have more criminal violence.

Premarital Sex Rises with Economies

I have been analyzing Pew data on acceptance of premarital sex around the globe to see whether it fits in with the ecology of modern life. Is acceptance of premarital sex higher in developed countries? What about the risks of pregnancy, and disease? What about female participation in the workforce?

Can Women be as Violent as Men?

Gender equality is making strides in most occupations, including violent ones such as the military and police. If violent crime is a “job,” as Woody Allen referred to bank robbery in Take the Money and Run, can we expect to see gender equality there also?

Wife Swapping in the Stone Age

Anthropologists are all too familiar with the violence and bloodshed triggered by marital infidelity. Now they are coming to terms with a more mysterious phenomenon—consensual wife sharing. If a man flies into homicidal rages when his wife cheats on him, why would he encourage another man to sleep with her?

Walking to Boost Creativity

We are all familiar with the health problems caused by obesity. These problems are peculiar to a modern sedentary way of life and are virtually unknown in physically active subsistence societies. Now evidence builds that physical activity is crucial for brain health, and even for creativity.

Cities Are Green After All

Many of us are accustomed to think of urban smog as a root cause of global warming and environmental degradation that is pushing us to an existential precipice. Leading environmentalist Stewart Brand thinks otherwise. He explains why he was weaned from the village romanticism of a Mahatma Gandhi.

Are Men or Women More in Demand?

Men generally want to have sex earlier in a relationship than women. This is consistent with the pattern for other species where males are more eager to mate whereas females invest more in young and are more discriminating. How does this pattern play out in modern environments?

The Flynn Effect as Adaptive Change

All living creatures can change to fit in with their environment. Some of that flexibility is due to gene selection but a lot is developmental. The Flynn effect of rising IQ in developed countries is an enrichment effect of modern life. It arises due to the adaptive response of our brain to the increased challenges it faces.

Is Digital Life Risky?

Young people who grew up with digital technologies and cannot conceive of a life without the Internet, digital games, and social media are sometimes called “digital natives” whereas older generations who acquired these technologies as adults are “digital immigrants.” Digital natives have many advantages but “addiction” to screens has its critics.

Why Childhood Stress Crimps Academic Performance

Animals from an environment full of risk remain vigilant and avoid exploring their surroundings. This promotes survival but has the indirect consequence of reducing their cognitive ability. A similar pattern applies to humans and shows up as academic under performance.

Are Men More Caring Where They Outnumber Women?

In romance, as in real estate it is either a buyer's market, or a seller's market. If there is a scarcity of men (or women) in a society, they get the best deal. If men are in demand, they can play the field. If women are in demand, they can hold out for a desirable partner who is kind, intelligent, and affluent.

Marketers' Shocking New Ability to Target Women

During the fertile phase of their monthly cycle, women are prone to greater risk taking. For psychologists, this means that they are more likely to initiate sexual affairs. Marketers discovered that women are more likely to try new brands as well. Now they plan to use this fact in targeted marketing. Assuming that they get away with it, will the scheme work?

Are Humans Unique?

The argument for human uniqueness is of mostly historical interest. As we gained more understanding of animal behavior, we learned that their psychology has more in common with us than had been imagined previously.

Don't Blame Religion for Violence

Violence often breaks out between religious groups. Yet, it is a mistake to blame religion for violence. Unfortunately, warfare is a universal human potential that would still exist if we were all atheists.

All Is Lost!

If a tsunami washes away your home, family and friends, you are entitled to feel that all is lost. Most people bounce back from disasters sooner or later. Yet many people feel catastrophic anxiety in their everyday lives without any catastrophe. Why?

Happiness From the Stone-Age On

Happiness is fairly easy to recognize, and, even. easy to measure. Yet, it is difficult to understand what circumstances contribute most to happiness. One way of addressing this issue is to ask whether modern humans obtain joy in the same ways as our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

Why Waitresses Look Sexy

There is a basic grammar of courtship in birds where the male offers a gift to the female, such as a bit of food, or a piece of nesting material. If the gift is satisfactory, the pair moves on to the next phase of bonding. This grammar also influences men's willingness to donate to women, even in an era of gender equality.

Calorie Labels Are Dieting by Another Name

If we measure calories of fast food, can we reduce the prevalence of obesity? No, because the underlying cause of obesity has surprisingly little to do with diet. Helping people to eat less through food labeling is well intentioned but ignores the science of weight gain.

Why Is Religion So Weak in Maine?

Recent research has clearly shown that religion is much more important in poorer countries. The same principle is true of states as I report in a paper to be published in Cross-Cultural Research. Yet, Maine stands out as a poor state where religion is relatively unimportant. Why?

Conservatives Feel World is Dark and Unsafe

In the current election campaign, Republicans are organizing their message around a theme of fear. That is hardly surprising given scientific evidence that the brains of conservatives are more strongly reactive to threats. For that reason, the campaign strategy is more likely to resonate with their own base than it is to bring in new voters.

Is Narcissism All Bad?

Our social lives are being transformed by electronic networks. We no longer operate as autonomous individuals so much as elements in social networks. That social hothouse may encourage narcissism as a defensive strategy.

Is Religion Fiction?

If Jesus never lived, it would be another shocking example of religious fakery.

The Four Pillars of Creativity

Everyone has untapped potential in some creative field. Yet, some individuals have far more of it than others, e. g., Shakespeare, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, or Steve Jobs. Apart from “creative” genes there are at least three key environmental factors that affect creative accomplishments.

Are Religious People More Spiritual Than Atheists?

Organized religion is easy to define as group participation in beliefs and rituals. There is usually a priest, a place, and a prayer (1). Spirituality is trickier. It is often defined in terms of its opposites: anti materialism, lack of concern with worldly success, out-of-body sensations, and weakening of the ego.

I Text Therefore I Am

The digital revolution has altered not just what we do but who we are. Electronic interconnection is a key feature of the modern community and we are diminished if deprived of

Unequal Societies Are More Religious

The Sermon on the Mount may be the most radically egalitarian document around. Throwing the money changers out of the temple also put the rich in their place. Ditto for the camel passing through the eye of the needle. Yet, Christianity fosters inequality in practice. It reconciles the poor to their misery: It is their opium.

People to Function Like Cells In a Vast Technological Brain

Digital technology fosters intimate connection across vast distances and facilitates global cooperation. Ultimately, the global community will function like a single brain that connects most people and their electronic device

The Commons Comes to Life on the Internet

Many social scientists believe that communities are bad at sharing in commons systems where access to a shared resource is free. Garret Hardin called this the Tragedy of the Commons (TOC, 1). In reality, commons systems work very well and survive for centuries. Now the Commons is thriving on the Internet.

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