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category "Big Questions in Society"

Doing ill for ‘the greater good’: Understanding what really went on in the Stanford Prison Experiment

Doing ill for ‘the greater good’: Understanding what really went on in the Stanford Prison Experiment

Just about every highschool and college psychology textbook offers extensive coverage of Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE). The meaning of the SPE seemed obvious — that when given roles with power , people naturally become brutal tyrants. This message has had lasting influence, not only in psychology but in the world at large. However, after researchers have recently gained access to the SPE archives, it has come to light that much of what we thought we knew about the study... / more

The Violence We Have Committed

The Violence We Have Committed

Circle of Willis is a podcast series from Associate Professor and Clinical Psychologist Dr. James Coan. The podcast features interviews with many of today's top social scientists, journalists, authors, and more. In a recent special episode of Circle of Willis, Dr. Coan speaks with five developmental scientists about what may be happening to the children who are currently being separated from their parents as part of a policy to deter immigration and asylum seekers at the southern border to the... / more

Refugees work placement: Call for collaboration

Refugees work placement: Call for collaboration

In the Netherlands only, more than 25.000 refugees arrived this year, and the numbers are rapidly increasing. One of the biggest challenges for refugees is to acclimatize, adapt, and find jobs in a new country. As a group of behavioral change experts, we want to help them, but we need some expert collaborators. This is a call for collaboration with a programmer, translator, and refugee organizations. / more

Empathy and prejudice after attacks in Paris and Beirut

Empathy and prejudice after attacks in Paris and Beirut

In this blog, I will try to explain why we showed more empathy for victims in Paris than in Beirut, and how feelings of fear after such a terrorist attack can lead to prejudice against out-groups, especially against Muslims. / more

Why gender neutral toy aisles might help children’s development stay on target

Why gender neutral toy aisles might help children’s development stay on target

In this blog post I will discuss how Target’s recent decision to do away with gender specific toy aisles could actually help children develop new cognitive skills, and as well as increase their willingness to play with different types of toys. / more

After Trayvon: The science of protecting innocent black men

After Trayvon: The science of protecting innocent black men

Even though the death of Trayvon Martin drew much public attention in the last year and a half, the shooting of an unarmed, innocent black male is in no way an isolated case in America. Jonathan Ferrell, a 24-year-old African-American man in Florida, was recently killed by police officers when he was looking for help after crashing his car. Roy Middleton, a 60-year-old Florida man, was crippled after the sheriff’s deputies mistook him for a car thief and shot him... / more

Why do we sometimes enjoy the misfortune of others?

Why do we sometimes enjoy the misfortune of others?

Have you ever been in a situation where you couldn’t resist a little smile when someone else had a setback? Have you ever experienced joy when another person suffered a mishap? We’ve all probably been in that situation and we’ve all felt that joy. The German language coined the word Schadenfreude—a compound word of the German words 'Schaden' meaning 'harm' and 'Freude' meaning 'joy'—for the pleasure at the misfortunes of others and nowadays it is used as a loanword in... / more

Why do people help strangers when disaster strikes?

Why do people help strangers when disaster strikes?

Marc Fucarile, a 34-year old native of Stoneham MA, lost his right leg, nearly lost his left, was peppered with shrapnel, and suffered severe burns when the second bomb exploded at the 2013 Boston Marathon. Shortly thereafter, from his hospital bed, Marc described his situation saying, “There’s more good in the world than there is bad” (LaPierre, 2013). Given his circumstances, this is an extraordinary observation, one that inspires awe and admiration. His perspective tells us about his character, resilience,... / more