Social Studies

The curve can flatten you

Patients who visited an emergency room that was 10 percent less crowded — because a new emergency room had just opened in the same region — experienced a 24 percent reduction in mortality over the next month and a 17 percent reduction over six months. Changes in patient characteristics or hospital staffing did not explain the effect. Instead, it appears that patients were less likely to leave (against medical advice) when wait times were shorter.

Woodworth, L., “Swamped: Emergency Department Crowding and Patient Mortality,” Journal of Health Economics (forthcoming).

Not immune to his tweets

Compared to people who hadn’t voted for Trump in the 2016 election, those who voted for him were more concerned about vaccination safety — an association explained by being both more conservative and more likely to believe in conspiracy theories. When shown anti-vaccination tweets from Trump, they became even more concerned about vaccination safety, whereas his tweets did not affect those who hadn’t voted for him.

Hornsey, M. et al., “Donald Trump and Vaccination: The Effect of Political Identity, Conspiracist Ideation and Presidential Tweets on Vaccine Hesitancy,” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (forthcoming).

Lost in translation

Western astrology has recently become popular in China, so much so that the way the astrological signs were translated into Chinese has generated nationwide personality stereotypes. Sadly for Virgos, they were translated as “virgins” and are stereotyped as having disagreeable personalities. Research led by an MIT professor found that the Virgo stereotype is having real consequences in China, with discrimination against Virgos in dating and hiring, even though actual Virgo personalities and job performance are not worse.

Lu, J. et al., “Disentangling Stereotypes from Social Reality: Astrological Stereotypes and Discrimination in China,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (forthcoming).

Edison is electric


People were randomly assigned to read a story about a particular scientist overcoming obstacles. The stories were identical except for the scientist’s name. If the scientist was “Thomas Edison,” participants were less inclined to believe that intelligence and scientific talent were innate, and subsequently performed better on a math test, compared to those who read about “Albert Einstein” or “Mark Johnson.”

Hu, D. et al., “Not All Scientists Are Equal: Role Aspirants Influence Role Modeling Outcomes in STEM,” Basic and Applied Social Psychology (March 2020).

Warm that social distance

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While having their brains scanned in an MRI machine, people held a warm or cold object and viewed images of a close acquaintance or a stranger. Not only did participants report feeling more connected to the person in the image when holding the warm object, but holding the warm object specifically increased activity in various parts of the brain, including those associated with social connection, in response to viewing close acquaintances.

Inagaki, T. & Ross, L., “A Body-to-Mind Perspective on Social Connection: Physical Warmth Potentiates Brain Activity to Close Others and Subsequent Feelings of Social Connection,” Emotion (forthcoming).