Being Nice Doesn't Always Work Out

In an earlier post, I argued that nature is not really red in tooth and claw. Most animals spend far more time cooperating than they do tearing each other apart. Yet, there are settings in which being nice can be a losing proposition. A gangster who cares about other people’s feelings might as well shoot himself – before someone else does.

The Big Why of Boston Bombings

The big question on everyone’s mind is motive. Why would two accomplished young men launch horrifying sadistic attacks on civilians in a city that had provided them a safe haven from war? As athletes, why target an athletic event? Why attack the Boston Marathon, a symbol of international friendship in a city that had embraced, nurtured, encouraged, and educated them?

Is City Life Hostile to Children?

How important is the right to reproduce? We may soon find out. The most advanced cities, such as Singapore, Hong Kong, and New York are now so hostile to childbearing that many women have stopped getting married or having babies.

Keeping Up With the Joneses Makes Us Sad and Sick

Being at the bottom of the heap is stressful and depressing. It is bad for health. Poor people are about twice as likely to develop clinical depression and have substantially shorter life expectancy. Living in an unequal society is stressful because there is a pervasive insecurity and lack of social trust.

The Home For Man and Beast

Winning at home may seem a bit like a pupil who excels at lunch. Yet, there are real advantages to the sense of confidence and security accruing to time spent at home. The underlying psychology has deep roots in evolution.

Finally, a Cure for Writer's Block!

Writer’s block is another way of saying that the author prefers the ideal work still locked in the imagination than what they see coming from their keyboard. It is just one case of the more general malady of having great ambitions stand in the way of concrete achievements. Fortunately both can be cured.

What Do Porn Actors Want?

Pornography is a business and the actors are motivated primarily by money. As human beings, they are emotionally affected by what they do, however. Men react differently from women. These differences are essentially the opposite of gender stereotypes advanced by evolutionary psychologists.

Impact of Telecommuting on Family Life

Much of the controversy about telecommuting deals with how well people do their jobs, whether they are productive, collegial, or upwardly mobile. A slightly different topic is what telecommuting can, or can not, do for families. Telecommuters are better able to care for their children and they could benefit from cheaper housing and raise larger families.

Dieting Is Not the Path to Health

Mayor Bloomberg was in the news recently when his attempt to ban large sugary drinks got shot down in the courts. He feels obliged to do something to tackle the epidemic of obesity. He wants New Yorkers to go on a soda diet.

Do Lie Detectors Work?

Calling it a “lie-detector” suggests that a polygraph machine can detect lies. Commonly used in criminal investigations, this device actually measures nervous excitement. It operates on the premise that if a person is telling the truth they will remain calm.

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.