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Social Studies: Republicans roll their eyes on climate change; the power of fasting; bumping into people at the office

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 4 days ago Kevin Lewis
Fireworks in Doha, Qatar, commemorated Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the month of Ramadan. © KARIM JAAFAR Fireworks in Doha, Qatar, commemorated Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the month of Ramadan.

Call to action

In an experiment, participants read a paragraph about the effects of climate change. For half the participants, the text included the words “serious,” “catastrophic,” “devastating,” and “severely.” Then the participants reported their intentions to engage in environmentally conscious behaviors. Reading the paragraph that contained those words led Democrats to increase their environmental intentions — and led Republicans to decrease theirs.

Chan, E. & Lin, J., “Political Ideology and Psychological Reactance: How Serious Should Climate Change Be?” Climatic Change (May 2022).

Fast times

One might expect demanding religious practices to deter people from being religious, but a new study of fasting during Ramadan suggests the opposite. The length of Ramadan fasts varies with latitude and the time of year when Ramadan occurs. Sociologists found that people who engaged in longer fasts tended to have higher levels of participation and commitment and were likelier to vote for Islamist political parties. This was true even among Muslims of lower religiosity. It may help explain why policies that are hostile to religious practice inadvertently increase religiosity and hinder social integration.

Aksoy, O. & Gambetta, D., “Commitment Through Sacrifice: How Longer Ramadan Fasting Strengthens Religiosity and Political Islam,” American Sociological Review (forthcoming).


Video: Climate change’s impact on mental health (ABC News)

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Social work

The debate over work-from-home policies is typically focused on what they do to companies’ organizational cohesion and discipline. But a new study highlights another consideration: the value of serendipitous social encounters. Data from a large number of tech startups that were randomly assigned to rooms in the same building reveals that startups that were located close to one another on the same floor — and whose employees happened to encounter one another socially — were significantly more likely to adopt similar Internet technology. And startups whose employees socialized with members of nearby startups were more successful in fundraising, as long as the nearby startups were neither too similar nor too dissimilar.

Roche, M. et al., “(Co-)Working in Close Proximity: Knowledge Spillovers and Social Interactions,” National Bureau of Economic Research (June 2022).

Droning on

Some scholars of the military have argued that drones heighten the risk of conflict, because they’re cheaper and less risky to use than manned aircraft. But drones might lower the risk that an existing conflict will escalate, according to research by a political scientist at MIT. He presented members of the military with scenarios in which a US reconnaissance aircraft is shot down by a surface-to-air missile from a hostile country. The military decision-makers generally felt they had to escalate with force when the downed aircraft was manned, whereas that was generally not the case with a drone.

Lin-Greenberg, E., “Wargame of Drones: Remotely Piloted Aircraft and Crisis Escalation,” Journal of Conflict Resolution (forthcoming).

Bureaucratic inertia

Municipalities around the country have experimented with changes in how they communicate with residents. And many of these cities have done randomized controlled trials to see whether these changes had the desired effect. But when researchers analyzed these trials, they were surprised to find that the cities rarely bothered to follow the evidence. Municipalities were not significantly more likely to adopt changes that had demonstrated positive results. Instead, a change in communication was more likely to be adopted if the municipal representative who pushed for the change was still in office or if the change was a modification to a pre-existing message rather than an entirely new message.

DellaVigna, S. et al., “Bottlenecks for Evidence Adoption,” National Bureau of Economic Research (June 2022).

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