Teenage Brains

Beautiful Brains Moody. Impulsive. Maddening. Why do teenagers act the way they do? Viewed through the eyes of evolution, their most exasperating traits may be the key to success as adults. David Dobbs Photograph by Kitra Cahana Although you know your teenager takes some chances, it can be a shock to hear about them. One … Continue reading

The Sexual Fluidity of Women

Meghan O’Rourke … the notion that female desire is based less on intimacy (the old truism) than on the perception of being desired—a notion that, it would seem, complicates feminist notions of owning your sexuality. To take just a few bits of  research from the piece: As Bergner reports, scientists have long wondered why women … Continue reading

Duh, Bor-ing

Somewhere I have read that boredom is the torment of hell that Dante forgot.–Albert Speer, Spandau: The Secret Diaries Joseph Epstein Unrequited love, as Lorenz Hart instructed us, is a bore, but then so are a great many other things: old friends gone somewhat dotty from whom it is too late to disengage, the important … Continue reading

Sex, Sleep and the Law

When Nocturnal Genitals Pose a Moral Dilemma Jesse Bering  It may seem to you that, much like their barnyard animal namesake, men’s reproductive organs the world over participate in a mindless synchrony of stiffened salutes to the rising sun. In fact, however, such "morning wood" is an autonomic leftover from a series of nocturnal penile … Continue reading

Power Corrupts

Jonah Lehrer The news abounds with stories of powerful men behaving badly. It’s a depressing yet predictable spectacle — those in positions of power can’t help but help themselves to the help. They scream at underlings and have sex with the secretaries; they assault hotel maids (or at least are accused of such) and sleep … Continue reading

Commit Yourself

Self-control in the age of abundance Daniel Akst "Love is the only thing that can save this poor creature," Gene Wilder grandly declares to his assistants in Young Frankenstein as he commands them to lock him in a room with his monster. "And I am going to convince him that he is loved even at … Continue reading

Women who start periods early likelier to have girls

WILL a baby be a boy or a girl? If the mother started her period at a young age, it is more likely to be a girl. That’s according to Misao Fukuda at the M&K Health Institute in Hyogo, Japan, and colleagues, who found subtle differences in sex ratios of children depending on when a … Continue reading

More Than 1 Billion People Are Hungry in the World

But what if the experts are wrong? BY ABHIJIT BANERJEE, ESTHER DUFLO For many in the West, poverty is almost synonymous with hunger. Indeed, the announcement by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in 2009 that more than 1 billion people are suffering from hunger grabbed headlines in a way that any number of … Continue reading

Where does good come from?

Harvard’s Edward O. Wilson tries to upend biology, again By Leon Neyfakh On a recent Monday afternoon, the distinguished Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson was at his home in Lexington, talking on the phone about the knocks he’s been taking lately from the scientific community, and paraphrasing Arthur Schopenhauer to explain his current standing in … Continue reading

Are You Raising An Introvert?

R. L. LaFevers photo: PhotoEuphoria, istock photography It’s not easy being an introvert in an extrovert world—especially when you’re a kid. It is even more difficult if none of the adults in the kid’s life recognize that the child is an introvert. This doesn’t happen only when the child’s parents are extroverts, but also with … Continue reading

Ten things we don’t understand

about humans WHAT A STRANGE CREATURE YOU ARE   We belong to a remarkably quirky species. Despite our best efforts, some of our strangest foibles still defy explanation But as science probes deeper into these eccentricities, it is becoming clear that behaviours and attributes that seem frivolous at first glance often go to the heart … Continue reading

Tiger Blood?

What it takes to keep cool under pressure. By Taylor Clark In January, the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords produced a half dozen bona fide heroes, including Patricia Maisch, a 61-year-old woman who snatched ammunition out of alleged gunman Jared Loughner’s hands as he tried to reload. For good reason, people like these earn our respect … Continue reading

Impure Lesbians of Sodom

Why are bisexual women more likely to have tried anal sex? By William Saletan Have you heard the latest report on Americans’ sex habits? The study, Sexual Behavior, Sexual Attraction, and Sexual Identity in the United States, comes from the National Survey of Family Growth, the country’s most respected periodic sex survey. Media reports about … Continue reading

Almost Infamous

Why overnight stars like Ted Williams get into trouble. By Christopher Beam Ted WilliamsThe typical celebrity career arc, with a few variations, is familiar to anyone who has ever waited in a supermarket checkout line: Struggle, breakthrough, fame (or at least fawning media attention), stumble, infamy (or at least media backlash), descent into drugs and … Continue reading

Prada prostitutes

Howard Jacobson  It is time for a grown-up debate about sexuality, says Howard Jacobson, winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize. Memoirs by high-class hookers may be cartoonish, but no less so than accounts that cast prostitutes as victims of rapacious male sexuality “The first thing you should know is that I’m a whore.” Belle … Continue reading

Colonial Studies

Deborah M. Gordon It is easy to imagine that the lives of the ants resemble our own. An ant might feel, as people sometimes do, lost in the crowd. If you look at a city from far away, you see a hive of activity: people going back and forth from home to job and collecting … Continue reading

The Sordid History of Racial Hoaxes

The faked acid attack in Vancouver, Wash., was just the latest in a long line of lies that play on racial fears. The unusual twist: blaming a black woman. By: Nikole Hannah-Jones No one knows why Bethany Storro decided to mutilate her own face with acid late last month. Obviously deeply troubled, she was sane … Continue reading

Is altruism a genetic trait?

By Daniel Hall, Oceanside, Calif. Nicholas R. Eaton, a doctoral student in psychology at Washington University in St. Louis, responds, writing in collaboration with professor of clinical psychology Robert F. Krueger and doctoral students Jaime Derringer and Abigail Powers: People often go out of their way to help perfect strangers for no apparent personal gain. … Continue reading

How to be happy (but not too much)

by Dan Jones  It’s good for your health, it makes you smarter – and our brains are hard-wired for it. New Scientist counts our reasons to be cheerful DOOM and gloom are the order of the day across most of the western world. Economies are faltering, the cost of living is going up and many … Continue reading

Do Women Who Live Together Menstruate Together?

Does sisterhood among women extend to the monthly period? By Anna Gosline  WOMEN’S PERIOD: Some have argued that women’s menstrual cycles begin to synchronize when living together but evidence is spotty. Image: ©ISTOCKPHOTO.COM It’s a classic girl-bonding scenario: While moaning to your roommate about uterine cramps, premenstrual syndrome or some other such periodic inconvenience you … Continue reading

How animals made us human

What explains the ascendance of Homo sapiens? Start by looking at our pets. (Pierre Andrieu/AFP/Getty Images) A prehistoric painting of a bull at Lascaux in southwestern France. By Drake Bennett  Who among us is invulnerable to the puppy in the pet store window? Not everyone is a dog person, of course; some people are cat … Continue reading

How Drunk?

It’s Very Tough To Tell Just How Drunk Someone Is A recent review of studies on intoxication has determined that we are very bad at determining just how drunk someone is. By Christie Nicholson. Most of us might think we are fairly good at spotting the one who has had a few too many. Slurred … Continue reading

Best Defenses Against Cyber-Bullies

Good parenting and self control can help, study finds By Abigail Baird  Psychological research on bullying has been relatively sparse considering how widespread and potentially devastating the phenomenon is. But a recent paper by two researchers at the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University, Carter Hay and Ryan Meldrum, in the … Continue reading

Is This Child Pornography?

By William Saletan. I’m now going to depict an adult and a minor having sex. The adult is represented by the character on the left. The minor is represented by the character on the right. Here is my depiction: &i Have I just committed a crime punishable by 10 years in jail? Under a ruling … Continue reading

Good Riddance to the Population Explosion: Keys to Prevent Unsustainable Growth

The nine billion people expected by 2050 will stress the planet, but cost-effective means can prevent overpopulation By Christopher Mims. Every day, about 350,000 people are born and 150,000 die. Run this loop for a few decades, and the United Nations projects that we’re on track to increase global population by about one-third by 2050. … Continue reading


The surprising moral force of disgust. By Drake Bennett. “Two things fill my mind with ever renewed wonder and awe the more often and deeper I dwell on them,” wrote Immanuel Kant, “the starry skies above me, and the moral law within me.” Where does moral law come from? What lies behind our sense of … Continue reading

Can Money Buy Happiness?

New research reveals that reminders of wealth impair our capacity to savor life’s little pleasures By Sonja Lyubomirsky Money can’t buy you love. Worshipping Mammon foments evil ways. Materialists are shallow and unhappy. The greenback finds itself in tough times these days. Whether it’s Wall Street bankers earning lavish multi-million-dollar bonuses or two-bit city managers … Continue reading

Busting the Myth That Opposites Attract

When it comes to love, we’re ambivalent about "opposites attract". Christie Nicholson reports There’s a strong cultural expression: opposites attract. Think Harold and Maude, Pretty Woman, It Happened One Night—Hollywood has long known the lure of antitheses in love. But real research busts this myth. Psychologists map out such evidence in a new book: 50 … Continue reading

"Animal connection" helps separate humans from other species

By Kate Shaw. For centuries, people have tried to pinpoint what makes humans unique. The most current scientific theory suggests that three main qualities separate Homo sapiens from other animals: the construction and use of complex tools, the use of symbolic behavior including language, art, and ritual, and the domestication of other plants and animals. … Continue reading

The Myth of the Fairer Sex

Women, especially self-proclaimed feminists, must own the truth about our gender’s capacity for violence if we are ever going to be effective in ending it. Courtney E. Martin.  According to new research unveiled this month, women were far more involved in the atrocities committed during the Holocaust than previously thought. Wendy Lower, an American historian … Continue reading

Frans de Waal on the human primate: Fair is fair

How often do we see rich people march in the street shouting that they’re earning too much? Or stockbrokers complaining about the "onus of the bonus"? Protesters typically are blue-collar workers yelling that their jobs shouldn’t go overseas or that they should earn more. A more exotic example was the 2008 march through the capital … Continue reading

Our nature is nurture: Are shifts in child-rearing making modern kids mean?

By John Horgan.  Hrdy is one of my favorite evolutionists. She’s unpredictable, iconoclastic, passionate about her work—unafraid of mining her own life for insights. She earned a PhD at Harvard in 1975, the glory days of sociobiology, and she remains committed to that discipline’s goal of understanding primate behavior in evolutionary terms. She rejects knee-jerk … Continue reading

Bully Or Victim? More Similar Than We Might Think

A new analysis reveals that bullies and victims share more similarities than we might think, with one stand-out difference. Christie Nicholson reports. We might think that bullies are quite different from the victims of bullying. But those who become either a bully or a victim actually share similar outlooks and have similar difficulties dealing with … Continue reading

Are human beings still evolving?

It would seem that evolution is impossible now that the ability to reproduce is essentially universally available. Are we nevertheless changing as a species? The answer is still largely speculative, of course, but it goes to the heart of several interesting controversies about the distinctions between microevolution (changes within and between breeding populations over time) … Continue reading

Living with the Enemy

By Susie Linfield, July 2010 Applying the ideas of Holocaust survivor Jean Améry to present day Rwanda, our author argues that reconciliation after genocide is just another form of torture. “Reconciliation” has become a darling of political theorists, journalists, and human-rights activists, especially as it pertains to the rebuilding of postwar and post-genocidal nations. Nowhere … Continue reading

You Have Superpowers

How to tap the strange power of being wrong By Adam Waytz. False beliefs carry a bad reputation for bringing turmoil and misunderstanding. No less an enlightened thinker than Thomas Jefferson noted, “It is always better to have no ideas than false ones; to believe nothing, than to believe what is wrong.” Mistaken beliefs can … Continue reading

The Failed States Index 2010

The 10 states that fill out the top ranks of this year’s Failed States Index — the world’s most vulnerable nations — are a sadly familiar bunch. Shattered Somalia has been the No. 1 failed state for three years running, and none of the current top 10 has shown much improvement, if any, since FOREIGN … Continue reading

Postcards from Hell

Images from the world’s most failed states. CAPTIONS BY ELIZABETH DICKINSON. For the last half-decade, the Fund for Peace, working with Foreign Policy, has been putting together the Failed States Index, using a battery of indicators to determine how stable — or unstable — a country is. But as the photos here demonstrate, sometimes the … Continue reading

The bright side of wrong

Our tendency to err is also what makes us smart. Here’s what we’d gain from embracing it. By Kathryn Schulz. There are certain things in life that pretty much everyone can be counted on to despise. Bedbugs, say. Back pain. The RMV. Then there’s an experience we find so embarrassing, agonizing, and infuriating that it … Continue reading

The ‘Beauty Bias’ at Work

and What Should Be Done About It. By Lindsay Beyerstein. In her provocative new book, The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Law and Life, Stanford law professor Deborah Rhode argues that workers deserve legal protection against appearance-based discrimination unless their looks are directly relevant to their job performance. Six cities and one state … Continue reading

Gloom merchant

To be truly happy we must be pessimistic, says Roger Scruton. The belief that humanity makes moral progress depends upon a wilful ignorance of history. It also depends upon a wilful ignorance of oneself – a refusal to recognise the extent to which selfishness and calculation reside in the heart even of our most generous … Continue reading