Sunday Links #10

A lot of people rely on Politico for politics news and it does produce valuable reporting. But it’s also frequently misleading and iaccurate. Why? Perhaps Nate Silver is paying them?

Speaking of Politico, here’s an interesting interview with them.

And if you want to improve your political literacy, Cracked points out five ways to spot a B.S. political story in under ten seconds. If the article headline contains the word “gaffe”, ends in a question mark, contains the word “blasts”, says something is a “blow to” someone else’s plans, or is about a lawmaker saying something really stupid, you shouldn’t put much stock in the article.

Giving What We Can interviews Peter Singer on effective altruism.

A comical take on why it might not be so bad to brag about donations. I wrote about this in “To Inspire People to Give, Be Public About Your Giving”.

Some people complain that social science can’t accomplish good things for society or is not rigorous enough to demonstrate anything. Choices Magazine addresses both issues by showing how behavioral economics can be used to steer people toward healthier choices in the cafeteria. For one example, swapping candy at the cash register for fruit lead to healthier impulse purchases while not declining cafeteria revenue. Other examples in the essay are more intriguing.

Scientists had previously used the “marshmellow test” where young children are given one marshmellow and allowed to eat it, but told that if they don’t, they will get three marshmellows in the future. The children who opt to wait and get the three marshmellows are typically considered to be better at “delayed gratification” and “self-control” and have better life outcomes. But a new interpretation shows that perhaps they just come from a more trusting environment and believe adults will actually fulfill their promise of more marshmellows.

People tend to like things that share the same initial as their name. This fact might be surprising, but did you also think it would have startling implications for naming hurricanes? People also donate more to hurricane relief for hurricanes that share their initials – Roberts, Ralphs and Roses donated on average 260% more to the Hurricane Rita relief fund than did people without R initials. So why don’t we just make sure hurricanes are more frequently named after common initials, like “J” or “M”?

You might know Daniel Kahneman and his book Thinking: Fast and Slow which outlines our use of mental heuristics that can fail. But can you pass his quiz of questions that involve these heuristics?

Why do the rich give less than the poor, as a percentage of their income? A couple of reasons are explored – exposure to money drives greed and exposure to need drives generosity.

We have an internet surveillance state – “all of us being watched, all the time, and that data being stored forever.”