1. The hyperlink as a microtransaction of trust.
2. Money-back guarantees in the NBA: The Phoenix Suns to give money back if fans don’t have fun. (HT: V. Brenner.)
3. Fifty Shades of Grey gives all Random House employees $5,000 bonuses.
4. An interview with George Mitchell, the man who innovated fracking.
5. Felix Salmon explains the fiscal cliff with Legos and toys.
Our motto has always been “friends don’t let friends walk drunk.” We might have to add texting to that list. A new paper from BMJ Group shows that walking and texting is really not a good idea. The study looked at more than 1,000 pedestrians in Seattle, and found texting to be a particularly troublesome distraction:
Texters took almost two seconds (18%) longer to cross the average junction of three to four lanes than those who weren’t texting at the time.
And they were also almost four times more likely to ignore lights, to cross at the middle of the junction, or fail to look both ways before stepping off the curb.
In a country where more than 4,000 pedestrians are killed each year in traffic accidents, it seems sensible to do what we can to decrease our chances. The authors write:
Individuals may feel they have “safer use” than others, view commuting as “down time,” or have compulsive behaviors around mobile-device use. … Ultimately a shift in normative attitudes about pedestrian behavior, similar to efforts around drunk-driving, will be important to limit the … risk of mobile-device use.
This is a transcript of the Freakonomics Radio podcast “Have a Very Homo Economicus Christmas.” Kai RYSSDAL: Time now for “Freakonomics Radio”. It is that moment every couple of weeks where we talk to Stephen Dubner, the coauthor of the books and the blog of the same name. It is, yes, yes, it is the hidden side of […] Read More »
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As part of a broader study of the online presence of parties, party leaders, and Presidential candidates in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S., I tested whether and how rapidly their staffs responded to two types of emails (sent from separate fictitious accounts in the official language of each country): one asking for their positions on taxes (a cross-cutting issue that should not strongly differentiate between different types of parties), the other pledging to be willing to volunteer for them and asking for directions on how to do so. Emails were sent in the two weeks prior to national elections between 2007 and 2010 to a total of 142 parties and candidates. The results speak volumes to the lack of responsiveness among political actors: excluding automated responses, only one in five emails received a reply within one business day.
A new paper in the American Economic Review (abstract; PDF), summarized here, finds that Americans aren’t very consistent when thinking about financial risk. Liran Einav, Amy Finkelstein, Iuliana Pascu, and Mark R. Cullen, analyzing how people choose health insurance and 401(k) plans, found that “at most 30 percent of us make consistent decisions about financial risk across a variety of areas.” Their data set includes 13,000 Alcoa employees:
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Because employees were making decisions in both the health-care and retirement domains, the researchers had the opportunity to see how the same individuals handled different types of choices. Or, as Finkelstein puts it, the economists could ask: “Does someone who’s willing to pay extra money to get comprehensive health insurance, who doesn’t seem willing to bear much financial exposure in a medical domain, also tend to be the one who, relative to their peers, invests more of their 401(k) in [safer] bonds rather than stocks?”
This is a transcript of the Freakonomics Radio podcast “The Things They Taught Me.” [MUSIC: Nathan Mathes; “So Alright”] Stephen J. DUBNER: Nobody gets to where they get, or becomes who they become, without some help along the way. Maybe a little help, maybe a lot. So as a writer, I’ve had a lot of […] Read More »
Reader Noah Dentzel claims that crowdfunding has overlooked virtues, and that it is giving rise to products that may never have happened via the traditional business model:
Most companies either a) raise money through traditional financing avenues or b) build a business slowly and invest first and then bring a new product to market. Crowdfunding allowed us to do everything backwards: by pre-selling a product before the tooling for it even exists, we get a good feeling for market demand and we then gain a clear picture of whether or not to move forward.
Meanwhile, because companies like us are financed through consumers (pre-selling), it’s essentially consumer driven business growth and innovation. We don’t have to wait around for angels or VCs, we can allow anyone from around the world (and a good third of our orders are from overseas) to invest in new ideas, new businesses and whatever will be crowdfunded next. What’s also pretty cool is that we’re making this product right here in California which isn’t too typical for a consumer electronic device these days. People ask why we’re not doing it in China and I just tell them that both in terms of quality and cost, we couldn’t afford it if we wanted to–these are some of the twists and turns that you see in the Crowdfunding consumer product long tail of manufacturing.
Dan Kahan‘s research at the Cultural Cognition Project has found that even very smart people fit their knowledge to their ideology. (He has appeared on this blog a few times, and in our podcast “The Truth Is Out There…Isn’t It?”) Kahan has a new working paper (abstract; PDF) on political affiliations and bias, which argues that independents seem to show immunity to the bias that afflicts both conservatives and liberals:
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Social psychologists have identified various plausible sources of ideological polarization over climate change, gun violence, national security, and like societal risks. This paper reports a study of three of them: the predominance of heuristic-driven information processing by members of the public; ideologically motivated cognition; and personality-trait correlates of political conservativism. The results of the study suggest reason to doubt two common surmises about how these dynamics interact. First, the study presents both observational and experimental data inconsistent with the hypothesis that political conservatism is distinctively associated with closed-mindedness: conservatives did no better or worse than liberals on an objective measure of cognitive reflection; and more importantly, both demonstrated the same unconscious tendency to fit assessments of empirical evidence to their ideological predispositions.