Insights: News

The latest on being green, staying happy, getting a job, stalkers and more.

By Matthew Hutson, Laura Janecka, Lauren Gerber, published July 1, 2010 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Red, White, Blue, And Green

Making environmentalism patriotic

Those concerned about global warming may want to take advantage of this Fourth of July to remind their patriotic friends what life would be like without those amber waves of grain. 

Many Americans remain apathetic or in denial over environmental issues. Researchers Irina Feygina and John Jost of NYU and Rachel Goldsmith of Reed College have found that people who tend to support the status quo—whatever it is—are likely to deny the need to take action to save the environment, and that this tendency explains the higher anti-green sentiments of men, conservatives, and people who strongly identify with America.

But when environmentalism was reframed as a way to preserve the American way of life, the status-quo supporters indicated that they intended to increase recycling and reduce energy use.

So at your Independence Day barbecue, just ask your conservative friends to picture their nice beach house, flag and all, underwater.—Laura Janecka

Fictional Attraction

Stalking on the screen

Among this summer's cinematic slew of romcoms, tearjerkers, and bro-ventures, there's sure to be some stalking—and not just by paparazzi. A recent study of 180 popular films found no fewer than nine instances per movie of unwanted pursuit. And most of it actually came off not as creepy, but as endearing—and successful.

Stalking behaviors range from unsolicited favors (filling a yard with favorite flowers, as in Big Fish) to staged run-ins, surveillance, and worse. In a study by H. Colleen Sinclair and collaborators at Mississippi State University, viewers found anything less than harassment, threats, and violence either neutral or positive. Female pursuers were seen as slightly nutty, but men in that role were seen as charming, and they often got the girl.

Sounds like good fun, but "there's a large body of work to support that media portrayals influence our behavior," Sinclair says. Worse, "it's the intimate stalkers who are the most dangerous, and yet these are the ones we make fun of the most."

Successful Stalking

The Graduate: Boy crashes wedding, makes whole fuss, steals bride.

Twilight: Vampire shadows girl, fends off frat boys, looks good.

There's Something About Mary: Man hires p.i., stalkwardness ensues.
Matthew Hutson

Name That Bride

Taking your man's name can be costly.

In a second part of this study, at the Tilburg Institute for Behavioral Economics in the Netherlands, participants were asked to look at emails supposedly accompanying job applications. They expected applicants with changed names to have less chance of being selected and to earn $14,000 less annually if hired.

Despite the unflattering views of new wives who take their partners' names, 83 percent of the study's female participants said they still plan to change their names when they get married. —Lauren Gerber

Hire Priorities

Just the fax, ma'am

With everyone on Facebook, it's temping for employers to research potential hires online. But according to recent findings, the efficacy of such snooping is as debatable as its ethicality.

In unpublished research conducted by Paige Deckert at the University of Illinois, subjects saw résumés for three (fake) job applicants, one of whom was objectively the most qualified for the position. Some subjects also saw the applicants' Facebook pages. Then they decided whom they'd hire.

Two-thirds of participants who saw only the résumés made the correct call, but those who saw the online profiles got it right only half the time. Deckert credits the poor performace to the dilution effect: Having irrelevant data on hand—even if they don't include drunk party pics—distracts us from the essential facts.

Unfortunately, we tend to think more information is always better, and we're more confident in our decisions when we have it. Maybe that's why 45 percent of employers research candidates on social networks, according to a 2009 survey by CareerBuilder.

Job-seekers, privatize your profiles now, for the good of everyone.—Matthew Hutson

Having a Ball

The joys of hosting the World Cup

South Africa should be in good spirits. It's hosting the World Cup this summer, and a study reveals that living in a hosting country can significantly boost one's happiness.

Two economists, Georgios Kavetsos and Stefan Szymanski of City University London, found life satisfaction especially high in European countries when measured two months after hosting a World Cup or Euro Cup. The boost was 1.5 times greater than that of getting married (but shorter-lived—the playing field had evened out after a year).

"You're going to feel good because all the world's cameras are upon you," Szymanski says. He suspects the opportunity might be an especially big deal for South Africa because it's the first African country to host.

When asked if he had advice for the nation, Szymanski offered, "It's far too late to say 'Don't host this'." (Accommodating the Olympics and other giant sporting events actually drags down the local economy.) "So now I'd say: 'You're having a big party; enjoy it.' "—Matthew Hutson