Archive | social

Can We Cooperate Like Cockroaches?

Late last year, I wrote a blog describing an experiment in which rats demonstrated the selfless behavior typical of empathy. If these vilified rodents can exhibit the capacity to understand and feel the emotions experienced by their fellow rats, we humans have little excuse. Judging from your reaction, I touched a nerve. We can also learn something…

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Positive Persuasion through Peer Pressure

What would get people to reuse their towels in hotel rooms? The answer might surprise you, as it’s not saving the environment or saving money. People are more likely to reuse their hotel towels if they are told that everyone else is doing it. This variant of the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ effect seems…

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The Best of Biomimicry

As the name implies, biomimicry is the discipline of designing products by mimicking phenomena that already exist in biology and nature.  The best-known example of this approach is Velcro, which was developed in the 1940s by engineer George De Mestral when he noticed burrs clinging to his dog’s fur after a walk in the woods….

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The science of subtle signals

Mark Buchanan is a theoretical physicist who writes about how physics can be used to understand biology, economics, psychology and other social sciences. His book, “The Social Atom: Why the Rich Get Richer, Cheaters Get Caught and Your Neighbor Usually Looks Like You” is a fun read in the style of The Tipping Point and Freakonomics. In an article…

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To Sleep or To Rest?

As a frequent traveler, I sometimes find myself so time-shifted that I can’t sleep even though it’s late at night. During a recent episode, I wondered whether lying in bed with my eyes closed has the same benefits as actual sleep. Doesn’t my brain and body still get some rest? Not surprisingly, the answer isn’t clear cut. Brian Fung (@B_Fung),…

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