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“It’s Fun to Smoke Marijuana”: Full Transcript

This is a transcript of the Freakonomics Radio podcast “‘It’s Fun to Smoke Marijuana’.“ [MUSIC: Jugoe, “Twiddle” (from Hear No Evil Vol. 2)]   Stephen J. Dubner: I’d like you to meet Nicholas Epley.   Nicholas Epley: Professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago.   DUBNER: That’s not as arcane as it sounds. […] Read More »



Does Breastfeeding Reduce Childhood Disability?

A new (gated) NBER paper looks at the relationship between breastfeeding and childhood disability.  The author, George Wehby, finds that a longer duration of breastfeeding is associated with a slightly lower risk of child disability:

Little is known about whether breastfeeding may prevent disabilities throughout childhood. We evaluate the effects of breastfeeding on child disability using data from the National Survey of Family Growth merged to the National Health Interview Survey for a large nationally representative sample of children aged 1 to 18 years from the U.S. including over 3,000 siblings who are discordant on breastfeeding status/duration. We focus on a mother fixed effect model that compares siblings in order to account for family-level unobservable confounders and employ multiple specifications including a dynamic model that accounts for disability status of the prior child. Breastfeeding the child for a longer duration is associated with a lower risk of child disability, by about 0.2 percentage-points per month of breastfeeding. This effect is only observed on the intensive margin among breastfed children, as any breastfeeding has no effect on the extensive margin. We conclude that very short breastfeeding durations are unlikely to have an effect on reducing disability risk.



The Relationship Between Hearing and Memory

We’ve blogged before about how easy it is to create false memories. A new psychology study explores which of our senses are generally more influential in imprinting memory. “As it turns out, there is merit to the Chinese proverb ‘I hear, and I forget; I see, and I remember,” says James Bigelow, a graduate student at the University of Iowa who is lead author of the study.

From Pacific Standard:

The study consisted of two experiments that focused on short-term memory. Participants were exposed to different pictures, sounds, and objects to touch (shielded from view), and then asked to distinguish each thing from a similar item or identify it among a larger group. Sometimes participants’ memories were tested after only a matter of seconds, but in other instances the study stretched the time before recall to a day or even a week. While the accuracy of the participants’ memories declined across the board as time went on, the accuracy of their auditory recall plummeted more rapidly than that of the the other two senses.

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Is Learning a Foreign Language Really Worth It? Full Transcript

This is a transcript of the Freakonomics Radio podcast “Is Learning a Foreign Language Really Worth It?“ [MUSIC: The Jaguars, “Shimmy Go Go” (from The Jaguars)]   Stephen J. Dubner: Hey podcast listeners. You’re about to hear an episode about the ROI, or return on investment, of studying a foreign language. Which might lead you […] Read More »



How Does Pollution Affect Productivity?

A new NBER working paper (abstract; PDF) by Tom Chang, Joshua Graff Zivin, Tal Gross, and Matthew Neidell looks at how outdoor air pollution affects the productivity of indoor workers. They studied the effect of PM2.5, “a harmful pollutant that easily penetrates indoor settings,” on employees at a pear-packing factory in California, and the potential cost savings of eliminating such pollution:

We find that an increase in PM2.5 outdoors leads to a statistically and economically significant decrease in packing speeds inside the factory, with effects arising at levels well below current air quality standards. In contrast, we find little effect of PM2.5 on hours worked or the decision to work, and little effect of pollutants that do not travel indoors, such as ozone. This effect of outdoor pollution on the productivity of indoor workers suggests a thus far overlooked consequence of pollution. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that nationwide reductions in PM2.5 from 1999 to 2008 generated $19.5 billion in labor cost savings, which is roughly one-third of the total welfare benefits associated with this change.



Does Eccentricity Raise the Value of Art?

Artists may often be eccentric, but does eccentricity increase the worth of an artist’s work?  That’s the question asked by psychologists Wijnand van Tilburg and Eric Igou in a new paper on eccentricity and art. Here’s a summary from BPS Research Digest:

Wijnand van Tilberg and Eric Igou tested these ideas across five studies. In the first, 38 students rated a painting by Van Gogh more positively if they were first told about the ear-cutting incident. In two other studies, dozens more students rated paintings by a fictional Icelandic artist more positively and estimated it to be more valuable if they were told he had an eccentric personality, or if they saw a photograph showing him looking eccentric, unshaven with half-long hair (as opposed to seeing a photo showing him looking conventional, with short hair and neat clothing).

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Brain Trauma in Soccer

Our very first Freakonomics Radio podcast focused on brain trauma among NFL players, and its link to chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Researchers now believe they’ve identified the first case of C.T.E. in a soccer player; from The New York Times:

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease linked to repeated blows to the head, has been found posthumously in the brain of a 29-year-old former soccer player, the strongest indication yet that the condition is not limited to athletes who played violent collision sports like football and boxing.

The researchers at Boston University who have diagnosed scores of cases of C.T.E. said Patrick Grange of Albuquerque represents the first named case of C.T.E. in a soccer player. On a four-point scale of severity, his was considered Stage 2.

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Does Online Dating Save You Money?

Our recent podcast, “What You Don’t Know About Online Dating,” offered an economist’s guide to dating online. Here’s one more perk: a report by CovergEx Group estimates that online dating is more cost-efficient than traditional dating. From Business Insider

The ConvergEx folks, using data from statisticbrain.com, note the average courtship time for “off-line,” traditional dating ahead of a marriage runs around 42 months – or two years longer than the 18.5-month, average dating-to-marriage cycle for people who meet online.

And using that data, they came up with a formula.

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