A bunch of relevant recent studies:

1. David Brooks put together a fascinating little survey of recent social science findings in his column this past week, including this nugget about self-control being as much a matter of nutrition as willpower:

“Self-control consumes glucose in the brain. For an article in the journal Aggressive Behavior, Nathan DeWall, Timothy Deckman, Matthew Gaillot and Brad Bushman found that research subjects who consumed a glucose beverage behaved less aggressively than subjects who drank a placebo beverage. They found an indirect relationship between diabetes (a disorder marked by low glucose levels) and low self-control. States with high diabetes rates also had high crime rates. Countries with a different condition that leads to low glucose levels had higher killing rates, both during wartime and during peacetime.”

2. Then, there’s Jonah Lehrer explaining the science behind the timely saying ’tis more blessed to give than to receive’ on public radio:

“There is typically more “reward-related” activity when we donate money than we receive an equivalent amount. Giving is literally better than getting, at least from the perspective of the brain. But this generosity comes with a catch. Yes, we have altruistic instincts. Still, these instincts come with some real blind spots…. our emotions can’t comprehend suffering on such a massive scale. This is why we are riveted when one child falls down a well, but turn a blind eye to the millions of people who die every year for lack of clean water.”

To read the Mbird year-end appeal (hint hint, nudge nudge), go here.

3. Next, an in turns challenging and encouraging report on PsyBlog about truth, simplicity and repetition, esp for those of us who believe in the power of all three:

People rate statements that have been repeated just once as more valid or true than things they’ve heard for the first time. They even rate statements as truer when the person saying them has been repeatedly lying.

And when we think something is more true, we also tend to be more persuaded by it. Several studies have shown that people are more swayed when they hear statements of opinion and persuasive messages more than once. 

If something is hard to think about then people tend to believe it less. Naturally this is very bad news for people trying to persuade others of complicated ideas in what is a very complicated world.

4. Finally, an amusing if fairly ‘duh report about the troubles the privileged have in reading other people’s emotions:

“People of upper-class status aren’t very good at recognizing the emotions other people are feeling. The researchers speculate that this is because they can solve their problems, like the daycare example, without relying on others — they aren’t as dependent on the people around them. A final experiment found that, when people were made to feel that they were at a lower social class than they actually were, they got better at reading emotions.