Social Studies: Vaccine polarization, natural cures, and the rude woman penalty

Special events workers who were forced out of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic marched Tuesday in Salt Lake City.

Presidential vaccines

The current politicization of contagious disease is nothing new. Data from nationwide surveys reveal that, in 2003 during the Bush administration, Republicans were more inclined than Democrats to believe that the smallpox vaccine was safe and more willing to vaccinate. The opposite was true for the swine flu and measles vaccines during the Obama administration. Partisan attitudes were also reflected in actual behavior, as there was a greater decrease in vaccination rates in Republican-leaning California school districts after Obama’s election than in Democratic-leaning California school districts.

Krupenkin, M., “Does Partisanship Affect Compliance with Government Recommendations?” Political Behavior (forthcoming).

Capital of the slave trade

In sub-Saharan African countries where more slaves per square mile were exported during the slave trade, companies today are more likely to be wholly owned or majority-controlled by one individual, a study found, even after taking into account each company’s size and industry, and the country’s climate and geographic characteristics, natural resources, and religion. The slave trade weakened local institutions and social cohesion, the researchers surmised, making it harder for local entrepreneurs to raise money from investors ever since.

Pierce, L. & Snyder, J., “Historical Origins of Firm Ownership Structure: The Persistent Effects of the African Slave Trade,” Academy of Management Journal (forthcoming).

Natural cure

When asked what they would use to deal with various health or household problems, people preferred “natural” products more for preventing than for curing. This was motivated by a presumption that natural products are safer but less potent than typical products — and might not be up to the task of curing. When portrayed as the riskier and more potent option, natural products were preferred for curing.

Scott, S. et al., “Consumers Prefer ‘Natural’ More for Preventatives than for Curatives,” Journal of Consumer Research (forthcoming).

Voting for digits


If the last state unemployment statistic before election day crossed a round-number threshold, incumbent governors lost about 10 more percentage points of the vote than they lost for a similarly sized jump in the unemployment rate that did not cross a round-number threshold. In other words, incumbents fare worse when unemployment goes from 7.9 to 8 percent than they do when it goes from 7.8 percent to 7.9 percent. The effect of round-number thresholds is explained by greater news coverage.

Garz, M. & Martin, G., “Media Influence on Vote Choices: Unemployment News and Incumbents’ Electoral Prospects,” American Journal of Political Science (forthcoming).

The rude woman penalty

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In an experiment, participants engaged in a business decision-making exercise in an online group chat with two other participants, one of whom secretly worked for the researchers. If the plant was female and was rude during the discussion, the other participants became significantly less positive and subsequently did worse on a creativity task. There was no such effect after male rudeness.

Motro, D. et al., “Incivility and Creativity in Teams: Examining the Role of Perpetrator Gender,” Journal of Applied Psychology (forthcoming).