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Vaccinating Against Misinformation

Although “yellow journalism” is probably as old as journalism itself (the term itself dates back to the Pulitzer vs Hearst circulation wars of the mid-1890’s), the rise of the internet has taken inaccurate, sensationalist news stories to epidemic levels. If you’re on social media, you’ve probably seen at least one relative posting and spreading doubtful news stories from equally dubious sources. Unfortunately, lies are catchy. Lies that have been carefully formulated to fuel partisan hatred and attract clicks are even catchier, and every day, the number of phony articles grows, at a seemingly exponential rate, faster than any one person can fact check. And that’s before we even get into the

A Second Look at the Bystander Effect

If you’ve ever read a psychology textbook, you’re probably familiar with the tragic and infuriating story of Kitty Genovese, a 28-year-old New Yorker who in 1964 was stabbed to death near her building in full view of 38 bystanders, none of whom lifted a finger to intervene. This is the birth of the psychological term “bystander effect”: a situation wherein the larger the number of witnesses, the less likely they are to help, and the only problem with this origin story is that it basically didn’t happen. In a 2007 piece in American Psychologist, Rachel Manning, Mark Levine, and Alan Collins examined archival evidence and found there was no proof of 38 people having been present at the time, t

The Dad Factor

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the father figures in our lives—and in the lives of mammals, evolutionarily speaking. Having a huge brain (proportionate to our bodies, at least) comes with its share of hazards. For instance, we must emerge into the world with gigantic heads, and all that grey matter requires so much energy that our young aren’t capable of much more than crying and pooping. The mother of any baby primate typically does her fair share to tend to that helpless bundle of joy, of course, but it’s often just too much of an energy load for any one individual to manage on their own. Evolutionary biologist Sandra Heldstab and colleagues Karin Isler, Judith Burkart and Carel van Sch