Escaping Parental Control

A century ago, most parents dictated who their children socialized with, supervised their meetings with romantic companions, prevented premarital intercourse, and ensured that the young people married suitable individuals. Matters are very different today. Children are less pliant, less empathic, more independent.

Do Religious People Really Live Longer?

This question can be asked in two different ways. One can ask whether religious people live longer than their non religious compatriots. Or one can ask whether people living in religious countries enjoy longer lives than people in secular countries. Oddly, the answers to these questions are very different.

Big Government Kills Religion

Atheism blossoms in developed countries but is virtually absent in poorer nations. One interpretation of secularization is that big government helps citizens to feel more secure and less in need of religious reassurance. In a new study, I have found the most compelling evidence yet for this possibility.

Nice Guys Kill and Forget

Those of us who are old enough remember O. J. Simpson’s bizarre pursuit of the “real killer” of his murdered wife. And the Saturday Night Live skit where his analysis of football plays spelled out “I did it” on the screen. Now Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius seems to be acting from a similar script.

On the Benefits of Failure

We live in a competitive society that has big winners and big losers. Educators, motivation experts, life coaches, sport psychologists and other mentors mainly teach us how to approach success, how to be winners. Few teach us a much more valuable lesson – how to cope with failure.

Will Romantic Love Last Forever?

Many people are asking themselves if their relationship has staying power. In a recent post, I asked whether marriage itself is on the ropes. If marriage is really destined for the slag heap of history, what will that do to romantic love?

Coping with Boredom

If you make the experience more intense, it seems exciting. That simple trick was applied when restaurants used to serve their coffee super hot so no one would notice how bad it tasted. A simple way to make any activity more intense, or less boring, is to do it quickly.

The Health Premium of Marriage: Personality or Sex?

In The Case for Marriage, Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher promote the advantages of marriage. Married people are healthier, wealthier, and live longer, they conclude. As people spend increasing amounts of their lives single, such conclusions are under attack.

The Secret of Performance Under Pressure

Some people freeze under the glare of publicity like rabbits in the headlights. Many seasoned performers show no strain however. What is their secret? How can you learn it?

Does Religion Control Teen Sex in America?

Social scientists often talk about the effects of religion on sexual behavior as though the dogmas of a church were automatically practiced. Evangelicals are the largest religious grouping in America and they are extremely anti-sexual. What about their conduct?

Why Women Are More Sexual in Some Societies

In some societies, female sexuality is suppressed whether by wrapping up the body and face, or restricting freedom of movement. In such restrictive societies, sexual behavior is almost impossible outside marriage. Do women have essentially the same sexual impulses there as in more liberated places?

The Lure of the Incomplete Task

A waiter remembers every detail of an order but promptly forgets them when the plates hit the table. Evidently, the human brain strives to complete ongoing activities and focuses on details of the incomplete task. The lure of the incomplete task transcends memory to motivate a lifetime of creative achievement.

Is the Family Doomed?

If you had a trying time with your relatives this holiday season, the news is good. Such gatherings will soon be a faint memory according to sociologist Joel Cotkin in a new report “The Rise of Post-familism.”

Are Religious People Healthier?

The load of various infectious diseases in a country predicts how religious it is both in terms of belief in God and stated importance of religion

When the world won't end

End-of-the-world predictions are very much in the air between the dreaded 12/12/12 date and the Mayan calendar running out. Cults proclaiming that the end is nigh are dangerous to their members. That is why the cults themselves fail along with their prophecies.

Why Women Worry More

There are few gender differences more reliable than women’s penchant for worrying.

Trauma Resets Personality

Psychologists know that some aspects of personality are virtually unchangeable. These traits are described as “deep” meaning that they are (a) biologically based and (b) difficult to change. You cannot turn a sociopath into a saint or crush the ego of a narcissist.

Does Wealth Really Kill Religion?

The most religious countries of the world are desperately poor suggesting that religion serves as a balm for the miseries of life. In wealthy developed countries, the quality of life is better and religion declines. Yet there are exceptions.

Quitting Cold Turkey: Better Than Smoking Cessation Programs

The vast majority of smokers who quit succeed by themselves. This raises an interesting dilemma for planned treatments both drug-based and behavioral. Are supposed help givers doing the opposite?

Is Not Marrying Harmful to Children?

The impact of marriage on social problems of children is one of the most important, and most researched questions in child development and family studies. Yet, clear answers are hard to find. Children of single parents fare much worse in terms of social problems in the U.S. Yet the same is not true in many European countries.

Why Cultural Determinism Is Not Science

The leading theory in the social sciences is cultural determinism. Yet, it lacks plausibility as a scientific theory. It is often untestable. When tested, it frequently fails. Such failures are widely ignored because social scientists cannot conceive of a plausible alternative. Evolutionary social science may fit that bill.

Are Women More Sexually Faithful Than Men?

We are accustomed to hearing that men are eagerly trying to propagate their genes into future generations via casual sex. If that is true, then one might expect that husbands would be much more likely to have affairs than wives. Are women truly more faithful than men?

Are Religious People Happier?

In religious countries, including the U.S., religious people describe themselves as happier. In relatively godless countries, such as the Netherlands, or Denmark, religious people are not happier. So does religion help people cope with their problems, or not?

Can We Expect Powerful Men Not to Have Affairs?

The Petraeus scandal is a recent example of a well-worn theme from evolutionary psychology. Socially successful men parlay their prestige into conquests in the bedroom. Moralists claim to be appalled. Should they be? Or are we merely observing one of the great truths of human sexual psychology playing out?

Are There Universals in Human Behavior?

Karl Popper defined scientific paradigms as shared belief systems. As science progresses, scientists realize that these beliefs are mostly false and move to a new paradigm. In physics Einstein replaced Newton and was superseded by Max Planck Evolutionary psychology follows cultural determinism but its faith in universals makes it vulnerable.

Does Marriage Have a Future?

The most developed countries point to the future—where they are going, less developed countries inevitably follow. That is true of urbanization, technology, religion, infrastructure, health, life expectancy, and family size to name a few. It is also true of marriage.

The Three Reasons for Polygamy

Both candidates for the presidency owe their very existence to polygamy. President Obama’s father belonged to the polygamous Luo tribe. Mitt Romney’s paternal great grandfathers moved to Mexico to continue the Mormon practice of polygamy then outlawed in the U.S. So the time is ripe to ask what advantages polygamy has over monogamy.

Are You a Sucker?

Social psychologist Robert Cialdini is an expert on manipulative communications (1). Yet, he was the first to admit that he was more vulnerable than most. He was the man accepting the “free” rose from a cult member when accosted in the street.

Why Liberal Hearts Bleed and Conservatives Don't

Political liberals are “bleeding hearts” because they empathize so strongly with the sufferings of others. As Bill Clinton so succinctly phrased it, “I feel your pain.” When Republicans wanted to compete in the empathy department, they had to invent a new terminology to identify this strange bird. They called it a “compassionate conservative.”

Does Religion Protect Against Teen Childbearing?

Just because religious people endorse restrictive views on sexual behavior does not mean that they are going to live up to them.