School of Arts & Sciences

How superstitions spread

Superstitious beliefs may seem irrational, but they catch on in a society. Using an evolutionary approach to studying the emergence of coordinated behaviors, Erol Akçay and Bryce Morsky showed how a jumble of individual beliefs, including superstitions, coalesce into an accepted social norm.

Katherine Unger Baillie



In the News


Smithsonian Magazine

If Thanos actually wiped out half of all life, how would Earth fare in the aftermath?

Lauren Sallan of the School of Arts and Sciences discussed the hypothetical results of a mass-extinction event, like the one depicted in “The Avengers” movie franchise. “I think humans would figure out a way to [survive], provided that not all of the ecosystems collapse,” said Sallan.

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The Wall Street Journal

How the U.S. surrendered to China on scientific research

In an op-ed, PIK Professor Ezekiel Emanuel and Amy Gadsden and Scott Moore, all of Penn Global, said America’s “lead in science and technology fields has been significantly eroded.” The authors say the U.S. needs to “meet [China’s] strength with strength” by investing in innovation.

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Time

Why spicy food makes your nose run—and why it’s great for you

Paul Rozin of the School of Arts and Sciences explained why we enjoy eating spicy food, a kind of “benign masochism.” “People seem to enjoy pushing the limits of what we can take,” he said.

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Vox.com

Native American activists: The fire at Notre Dame is devastating. So is the destruction of our sacred lands

Sally Gordon of the Law School and the School of Arts and Sciences spoke about the history behind the lack of protections for indigenous people’s sacred lands in the U.S. “The process of eliminating native power and consigning native Americans primarily to reservations meant the appropriation, through treaty or otherwise, of so many millions of acres.”

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The Washington Post

A smarter way to think about willpower

Angela Duckworth of the School of Arts and Sciences and Katherine Milkman of the Wharton School are among co-authors of an op-ed about self-control. While many believe Americans’ willpower is on the decline, the authors write, “the scant scientific evidence on the question suggests that if anything, the capacity to delay gratification may be increasing.”

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