Neuroscience and Social Sciences

If the average person is asked to assess their own driving skills, most will give themselves an above average rating. By definition, half of all drivers are below average, but most people lack the self-awareness to realize this due to a cognitive bias known as illusory superiority.

Every year since 2008, the American Automobile Association (AAA) has conducted a survey in which they determine drivers' attitudes and behaviors in regard to traffic safety. They have confirmed what most of us already suspected: You're a terrible, hypocritical driver. 

The report summarizes its findings bluntly:

[T]he current traffic safety culture... might be characterized most appropriately as...

Are you your dog? Is your dog you? Or, elements of your personality traits anyway. Researchers set out to explore these and other queries.

Can we extrapolate from this new science to apply these questions to your human children?

Faculty from the University of Vienna’s Department of Behavioral Biology in Austria sought to explore the human-dog dyad (aka a group of two -units, entities, humans, animals) suggesting owner and dog social characteristics impact each other’s stress responses and thereby influence coping capacity. Recognizing the human role is more influential, they investigated “intra-individual cortisol variability” (iCV) which is regulated and adjusted by interactions that range from contentious to emotionally supportive. Heart rate (HR) and its fluctuations...

The Brookings Institute recently released a study on what it terms the Privacy Paradox, which argues that our concerns about privacy are not monolithic, but contextual.

What does that mean? For illustration, they use the experience of an adolescent male purchasing condoms. Having had to do so in a time when condoms were behind the counter, I can concur that privacy and its accompanying embarrassment were key concerns as I waited until there was a male pharmacist at the counter.

To find out how that impacts product purchases, Benjamin Wittes and Emma Kohse used Google surveys to ask about buying behavior for products where there might be privacy...

Self-righteousness, gratitude, sympathy, sincerity, and guilt – what if these social behaviours are biologically influenced, encoded within our genes and shaped by the forces of evolution to promote the survival of the human species? Does free will truly exist if our genes are inherited and our environment is a series of events set in motion before we are born?

American biologist E O Wilson made these arguments when he published Sociobiology: The New Synthesis in 1975 and On Human Nature in 1978. Wilson is the father of sociobiology, a field that believes social behaviour in animals, including humans, is biologically...

Man's best friend — the dog — is a versatile creature. Dogs can work as herders, guards, guide dogs and even provide therapy for hospitalized patients. But which dogs are suited to which tasks (and here I mean individuals, not breeds) must be uniquely determined. There are behavioral tests, to be sure, and now there seems to be yet another way to tell whether a dog's personality can suit it to the job of ministering to the sick. And strange as it may seem, whether or not the dog becomes prematurely gray (i.e. before the age of 4 years) could provide the key.

In a...

Even with the hot-button topic of abortion, there is one thing that all people can agree upon: It is preferable to have as few abortions as possible. And recent data from the CDC indicates good news. The abortion rate in America has fallen by about 20% from 2004 to 2013.

The CDC does not require states to provide it with data on abortions. Most do so voluntarily, but a few, such as California and New Hampshire, do not. While incomplete data obviously lowers the total number of reported abortions, it should not (in theory) influence the calculated rate of abortion if we assume that abortion rates in the non-reporting states are similar to those in the 45 states that do report data. (More on that below.) 

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Teachers have a lot to put up with at the moment in terms of workload and stress. But what may come as a surprise to some is that, just like in the playground, bullying can be a big problem in the teaching world.

Research shows that when a teacher is being bullied, the bully is often (but not always) the head teacher – who is increasingly stressed and can sometimes take out their worries about Ofsted inspections on their staff.

And with this in mind, Dr Pat Bricheno and I recently studied the experiences of 39 bullied teachers in the...

In the study of human behavior, it's basically accepted that when left to their own devices individuals gravitate towards things that are familiar to them. Commonality in class, education, race and skin color, and income all influence many of the decisions that we make and those we choose to be with.

That idea also extends to the realm of facial recognition. And a new study indicates that those who observe and come into contact with a wider range of different faces are more prone to instantly "like" (accept) an unknown person based solely by their facial features.

More specifically, the wider your exposure to many different types and shapes of faces -- which, in turn, defines a person's idea of an "average" human face -- the greater the chances that "you like faces that...

The statement, "Statistics isn't science," is about as banal as, "The sky is blue," or, "Puppies are cute." Anyone remotely familiar with the scientific method understands that, just like a ruler or a telescope, statistics is a tool. Scientists use the tool primarily for one purpose: To answer the question, "Is my data meaningful?" Properly used, statistics is one of the most powerful tools in a scientists' tool belt. 

But improperly used, statistics can be highly misleading. If an astronomer only points his telescope at the sun, he won't be able to see the Milky Way behind it. Worse, he will arrive at a very twisted understanding of the universe; he will conclude that everything beyond Earth is orange and fiery. Similarly, if a statistician plugs the wrong numbers into an...

Nate Silver, statistician and election forecaster, said on ABC News that election forecasts that give Hillary Clinton a 99% of chance of winning don't "pass a common sense test." That is certainly true. What he leaves unsaid, possibly because it wouldn't be good for his career, is that all election forecasts that provide a "chance of winning" don't pass the science test.

Earlier, we published an article explaining why there is no such thing as a scientific poll. In a nutshell, because...