Why Do People Fear G.M.O.’s?

Genetically modified food (or G.M.O.'s) continue to provoke heated debates about safety and labeling, even though scientific evidence indicates they're safe.  Why?  A new article in Cosmos by David Ropeik explores the psychology behind people's G.M.O. fears. Here is Ropeik on why man-made risks "feel" scarier than natural risks.

Beyond those heuristics, several specific emotional characteristics also make G.M.O.'s feel scary. These “fear factors” have been identified in pioneering research in risk perception by Paul Slovic at the University of Oregon, Baruch Fischhoff at Carnegie Mellon University, and others. You can hear them pop up as the young man explains his fears. “It’s just not natural to take the gene from one species and put it in another. It’s just not natural!”

Have You Ever Noticed …

… that people who go around saying “I’m a perfectionist” never are, while people who actually are perfectionists never go around saying it? I have.

An Ounce of Pleasure, a Gallon of Pain

Lecturing on divorce today, I was reminded of the refrain in Clay Walker‘s song, Then What: “Then what, what you gonna do, when the new wears off and the old shines through, and it ain’t really love and it ain’t really lust, and you ain’t anybody anyone’s gonna trust. … When you can’t turn back […]

I Get to Pretend That I Am a Scientist for a Day…

… because today the Science journal published a short commentary [subscription required] written by myself and John List, on the topic of behavioral economics. Our piece begins like this: The discipline of economics is built on the shoulders of the mythical species Homo economicus. Unlike his uncle, Homo sapiens, H. economicus is unswervingly rational, completely […]

Is MySpace Good for Society? A Freakonomics Quorum

Two little words — “social networking” — have become a giant buzzphrase over the past couple of years, what with the worldwide march of Facebook and headline-ready stories about Web-assisted suicides. So what’s the net effect of social networking? We gathered a group of wise people who spend their days thinking about this issue — […]

The Macroeconomics of Love: A Valentine’s Day Analysis

Who says there’s no romance in macroeconomics? Betsey Stevenson and I are currently working on a paper for a forthcoming Brookings Panel, assessing the relationship between levels of economic development and various measures of subjective well-being. We are working with an absolutely fabulous data set: the Gallup World Poll. The good folks at Gallup are […]

Are Men Really More Competitive Than Women?

The conventional wisdom holds that men and women have different abilities when it comes to competition (a view that’s certainly being challenged in the current Democratic primary). Labels like “lacking the killer instinct,” “peacemaker,” and “avoiding confrontation” are commonly assigned to women in competitive environments, while the supposed male knack for thriving in competition is […]

The History and Economics of the Family: A Guest Post

When I tell my non-economist friends that I do research on the “economics of the family,” they often look puzzled. (The funniest response comes from those who think that this is the same as “home economics“; as Betsey Stevenson will tell you, I surely would have failed home ec.) But Tim Harford is a lifesaver, […]

The FREAK-est Links

Is “humanizing” our pets a result of loneliness? What’s the truth behind “shopping momentum”? (HT: Consumerist) Should the rich be spending more to help the economy? How do our brains decide what to store as memories?

The FREAK-est Links

Can studying earthquakes lead to a cure for epilepsy? Should we be able to buy organs? AEI to host a discussion. The irrational truth about humans and money. (Earlier) Ferrari explores switching to ethanol. (Earlier)