Friday, June 27, 2014

NSA Full Transparency report

The National Security Agency has posted its first full transparency report. Posted on the official agency Tumblr, the report breaks out the total number of orders for 2013, broken out into FISA orders, National Security Letters, and government requests for business records.

The report details 38,812 targets of National Security Letters, 1,767 FISA orders, and 423 targets of FISA business records requests, consistent with the relatively low numbers offered by President Obama in previous speeches. 

Source: NSA (via the Verge)

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View graphics on NSA Tumblr: IC On the Record

Wealth Levels, Wealth Inequality, and the Great Recession

From the description:
In a new Recession Brief for the Recession Trends initiative, Fabian T. Pfeffer (University of Michigan), RSF president Sheldon Danziger, and Robert F. Schoeni (University of Michigan) explore the extent to which the Great Recession altered the level and distribution of American families’ wealth, looking at the period between 2007 and 2013. While the Recession had a major impact on the net worth of families across the socioeconomic spectrum, it disproportionately affected households at the bottom of the wealth distribution. These households lost the largest share of their total wealth. As a result, wealth inequality in the US has been significantly exacerbated since the onset of the Recession. As of the end of 2013, the authors note that there have been few signs of significant recovery from the downturn.

Source: Russell Sage Foundation

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Interactive Metro Map: Baby Boomers Gaining Jobs, Millennials Standing Pat

From Career Builder News Release:
The jobs recovery has put spotlights on two large sections of the labor force: workers nearing the end of their careers and young adults just beginning them. While the economy has been difficult for both groups, baby boomers now hold a larger percentage of jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and other occupations than before the recession, while millennials have generally struggled to make headway four years into the recovery.

The number of jobs held by baby boomers (age 55-64) grew 9 percent from 2007 to 2013, a gain of 1.9 million. The millennial workforce (age 22-34), however, has not recovered from the recession nearly as fast. With an increase of only 110,000 jobs, employment in 2013 was essentially unchanged from 2007 (.3 percent growth).

This analysis – from CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. (EMSI) – explores the very different stories of millennials and baby boomers post-recession. EMSI’s extensive labor market database pulls from over 90 national and state employment resources and includes detailed information on employees and self-employed workers. 
Source: CareerBuilder

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Comparing Regions: Well-being database of OECD countries

From the news release:
Life expectancy, air quality, safety and other indicators of well-being can vary dramatically within countries, depending on which region you live in. Looking beyond national averages is vital to get an accurate picture of quality of life and to guide local government policy.

The OECD today launched a regional well-being website based on an interactive map covering the Organisation’s 34 member countries. It rates 362 sub-national regions with a relative score out of 10 in eight categories: income, health, safety, services, civic engagement, education, jobs and environment.
Source: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development

Explore the regional well-being website
Learn more about the project

Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics

To test the hypothesis that lecturing maximizes learning and course performance, we metaanalyzed 225 studies that reported data on examination scores or failure rates when comparing student performance in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses under traditional lecturing versus active learning. The effect sizes indicate that on average, student performance on examinations and concept inventories increased by 0.47 SDs under active learning (n = 158 studies), and that the odds ratio for failing was 1.95 under traditional lecturing (n = 67 studies). These results indicate that average examination scores improved by about 6% in active learning sections, and that students in classes with traditional lecturing were 1.5 times more likely to fail than were students in classes with active learning. Heterogeneity analyses indicated that both results hold across the STEM disciplines, that active learning increases scores on concept inventories more than on course examinations, and that active learning appears effective across all class sizes—although the greatest effects are in small (n ≤ 50) classes. Trim and fill analyses and fail-safe n calculations suggest that the results are not due to publication bias. The results also appear robust to variation in the methodological rigor of the included studies, based on the quality of controls over student quality and instructor identity. This is the largest and most comprehensive metaanalysis of undergraduate STEM education published to date. The results raise questions about the continued use of traditional lecturing as a control in research studies, and support active learning as the preferred, empirically validated teaching practice in regular classrooms.
Source:  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)

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Early Life Stress Can Leave Lasting Impacts on the Brain

From Newswise:
A team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers recently showed these kinds of stressors, experienced in early life, might be changing the parts of developing children’s brains responsible for learning, memory and the processing of stress and emotion. These changes may be tied to negative impacts on behavior, health, employment and even the choice of romantic partners later in life. 

Source: Newswise |  Biological Psychiatry

Learn more via Newswise

The Role of Instrumental Emotion Regulation in the Emotions–Creativity Link: How Worries Render Individuals With High Neuroticism More Creative

Based on the instrumental account of emotion regulation (Tamir, 2005), the current research seeks to offer a novel perspective to the emotions–creativity debate by investigating the instrumental value of trait-consistent emotions in creativity. We hypothesize that emotions such as worry (vs. happy) are trait-consistent experiences for individuals higher on trait neuroticism and experiencing these emotions can facilitate performance in a creativity task. In 3 studies, we found support for our hypothesis. First, individuals higher in neuroticism had a greater preference for recalling worrisome (vs. happy) events in anticipation of performing a creativity task (Study 1). Moreover, when induced to recall a worrisome (vs. happy) event, individuals higher in neuroticism came up with more creative design (Study 2) and more flexible uses of a brick (Study 3) when the task was a cognitively demanding one. Further, Study 3 offers preliminary support that increased intrinsic task enjoyment and motivation mediates the relationship between trait-consistent emotion regulation and creative performance. These findings offer a new perspective to the controversy concerning the emotions–creativity relationship and further demonstrate the role of instrumental emotion regulation in the domain of creative performance
Source: PsycNET via Pacific Standard Magazine

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Learn more via the article from the Pacific Standard: For Some, Worry Inspires Creativity 

Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology

From the overview:

Even in an increasingly Red vs. Blue nation, the public’s political attitudes and values come in many shades and hues.

Partisan polarization – the vast and growing gap between Republicans and Democrats – is a defining feature of politics today. But beyond the ideological wings, which make up a minority of the public, the political landscape includes a center that is large and diverse, unified by frustration with politics and little else. As a result, both parties face formidable challenges in reaching beyond their bases to appeal to the middle of the electorate and build sustainable coalitions.

The latest Pew Research Center political typology, which sorts voters into cohesive groups based on their attitudes and values, provides a field guide for this constantly changing landscape.
Source: Pew Research Center

Learn more about the study and typology
What type are you: Take the quiz
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Policies to Address Poverty in America

Millions of people live in poverty in this country. They suffer not only material deprivation, but also the hardships and diminished life prospects that come with being poor. Childhood poverty often means growing up without the advantages of a stable home, high-quality schools, or consistent nutrition. Adults in poverty are often hampered by inadequate skills and education, leading to limited wages and job opportunities. And the high costs of housing, healthcare, and other necessities often mean that people must choose between basic needs, sometimes forgoing essentials like meals or medicine. In recognition of these challenges, The Hamilton Project has commissioned fourteen innovative, evidence-based antipoverty proposals. These proposals are authored by a diverse set of leading scholars, each tackling a specific aspect of the poverty crisis.

Source: Brookings Institution

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View highlights and learn more about the proposals

Your Morals Depend on Language

Should you sacrifice one man to save five? Whatever your answer, it should not depend on whether you were asked the question in your native language or a foreign tongue so long as you understood the problem. And yet here we report evidence that people using a foreign language make substantially more utilitarian decisions when faced with such moral dilemmas. We argue that this stems from the reduced emotional response elicited by the foreign language, consequently reducing the impact of intuitive emotional concerns. In general, we suggest that the increased psychological distance of using a foreign language induces utilitarianism. This shows that moral judgments can be heavily affected by an orthogonal property to moral principles, and importantly, one that is relevant to hundreds of millions of individuals on a daily basis.
 Source:PLoS ONE

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Genetic predisposition to schizophrenia associated with increased use of cannabis

Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug worldwide. With debate surrounding the legalization and control of use, investigating its health risks has become a pressing area of research. One established association is that between cannabis use and schizophrenia, a debilitating psychiatric disorder affecting ~1% of the population over their lifetime. Although considerable evidence implicates cannabis use as a component cause of schizophrenia, it remains unclear whether this is entirely due to cannabis directly raising risk of psychosis, or whether the same genes that increases psychosis risk may also increase risk of cannabis use. In a sample of 2082 healthy individuals, we show an association between an individual’s burden of schizophrenia risk alleles and use of cannabis. This was significant both for comparing those who have ever versus never used cannabis (P=2.6 × 10−4), and for quantity of use within users (P=3.0 × 10−3). Although directly predicting only a small amount of the variance in cannabis use, these findings suggest that part of the association between schizophrenia and cannabis is due to a shared genetic aetiology. This form of gene–environment correlation is an important consideration when calculating the impact of environmental risk factors, including cannabis use.
Source: Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Online Harassment, Defamation, and Hateful Speech: A Primer of the Legal Landscape

This interdisciplinary project focused on online speech directed at women and seeks to provide a primer on (i) what legal remedies, if any, are available for victims of sexist, misogynist, or harassing online speech, and (ii) if such legal remedies and procedures exist, whether practical hurdles stand in the way of victims’ abilities to stop harassing or defamatory behavior and to obtain legal relief. The study concluded that while online harassment and hateful speech is a significant problem, there are few legal remedies for victims. This is partly due to issues of jurisdiction and anonymity, partly due to the protection of internet speech under the First Amendment, and partly due to the lack of expertise and resources on online speech at various levels of law enforcement. Given this landscape, the problem of online harassment and hateful speech is unlikely to be solved solely by victims using existing laws; law should be utilized in combination with other practical solutions. 
The objective of the project is to provide a resource that may be used by the general public, and in particular, researchers, legal practitioners, Internet community moderators, and victims of harassment and hateful speech online.
Source: Fordham Center on Law and Information Policy Report No. 2  via SSRN

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Stigma of Mental Health Care in the Military

While the stigma of mental health treatment for civilians seems to be centered on cultural and financial issues, stigma within the military population is more related to fears of negative career impact and perception of being weak.
Source: Naval Center for Combat & Operational Stress Control

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The New Scarlet Letter? Negotiating the U.S. Labor Market with a Criminal Record

In 2011, nearly 700,000 people were released from either a state or federal prison. These releases added to the roughly six million adults who have served prison time in the past. Many will experience a host of difficulties upon reentering noninstitutional society. Those with minor children (especially incarcerated men) often accumulate substantial back child-support obligations while incarcerated and face the legal requirement to pay down the balance. Many face precarious housing situations and a high risk of homelessness following release. Most have little in the way of assets and receive a very small amount of “gate money” upon release, usually no more than a few hundred dollars. Many will be returned to custody for either parole violations or a new felony offense.

In light of these problems and the sheer number of individuals released from our prisons each year, policymakers at all levels of government are increasingly focused on how to foster and support the successful reentry of former prison inmates. For a myriad of reasons, stable employment is of central importance to the successful reentry of former inmates into noninstitutionalized society. 

Source: Upjohn Institute for Employment Research

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Federal Workforce Statistics Sources: OPM and OMB

From the introduction:
This report describes online tools, reports, and data compilations created by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that contain statistics about federal employees and the federal workforce.

The report also describes key characteristics of each resource and briefly discusses selected methodological differences, with the intention of facilitating the selection of appropriate data for specific purposes. This report is not intended to be a definitive list of all information on the federal workforce. It describes significant and recurring products that contain specific data often requested by Members or congressional staff.
Source: Congressional Research Service via Federation of American Scientists

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We the urban people: The demographic view on 30 world cities

From the description:
Here, we examine the population patterns of the 30 cities included in Cities of Opportunity 6 and take a closer look at two important demographic groups. First, global cities all require highly skilled, working-age people to build the future. Insight into urban professionals comes from 15,000 at PwC who took five minutes to tell us their city story. Second, an increasingly elderly world population calls for wise approaches to urban aging. Solutions being developed in Seoul, Stockholm, and Tokyo show cities working hard to turn lonely old age into a longevity dividend.
Source: Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC)

Learn more on the main report website with infographics
View options for downloading reports, fact sheets and data

Trafficking in Persons Report 2014

From the Methodology Section:
The U.S. Department of State prepared this Report using information from U.S. embassies, government officials, non-governmental and international organizations, published reports, news articles, academic studies, research trips to every region of the world, and information submitted to This email address provides a means by which organizations and individuals can share information with the Department of State on government progress in addressing trafficking. U.S. diplomatic posts and domestic agencies reported on the trafficking situation and governmental action to fight trafficking based on thorough research that included meetings with a wide variety of government officials, local and international NGO representatives, officials of international organizations, journalists, academics, and survivors. U.S. missions overseas are dedicated to covering human trafficking issues. The 2014 TIP Report covers government efforts undertaken from April 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014.
Source:  U.S. Department of State

The 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report report is available in PDF and HTML formats. Due to its large size, the PDF has been separated into sections for easier download.

Learn more on the Trafficking in Persons Web Page

PDF Format
-Introductory Material (PDF)  [8975 Kb]
-Country Narratives: A-C (PDF)  [4743 Kb]
-Country Narratives: D-I (PDF)  [3882 Kb]
-Country Narratives: J-M (PDF)  [4105 Kb]
-Country Narratives: N-S (PDF)  [5513 Kb]
-Country Narratives: T-Z and Special Case (PDF)  [3105 Kb]
-Relevant International Conventions/Closing Material (PDF)  [963 Kb]

HTML Format
-Letter from Secretary Kerry
-Letter from Ambassador Luis CdeBaca
-The Journey from Victim to Survivor
-Definitions and Methodology
-Victims' Stories
-Topics of Special Interest
-Global Law Enforcement Data
-2014 TIP Report Heroes
-Tier Placements
-Country Narratives
-Special Case
-Countries That Are Not States Parties to the Protocol
-Relevant International Conventions
-Trafficking Victims Protection Act: Minimum Standards for the Elimination of Trafficking in Persons
-Stopping Human Trafficking, Sexual Exploitation, and Abuse by International Peacekeepers & Civilian Personnel
-International, Regional, and Sub-Regional Organizations Combating Trafficking in Persons
-Glossary of Acronyms
-A Closing Note

Live infographic: 'Retail in Real-Time'

Retale, a location-based mobile app that aggregates retail circulars, has built a "Retail in Real-Time" live infographic that displays how and where shoppers spend in the U.S. at retail, both online and off. Watch the counter tick off print book and e-book sales second-by-second.

 The "Retail in Real-Time" page provides references to their original data sources.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

When good people do bad things : Reduced self-referential neural response during intergroup competition predicts competitor harm

From the M.I.T. Press Release:
In a study that recently went online in the journal NeuroImage, the researchers measured brain activity in a part of the brain involved in thinking about oneself. They found that in some people, this activity was reduced when the subjects participated in a competition as part of a group, compared with when they competed as individuals. Those people were more likely to harm their competitors than people who did not exhibit this decreased brain activity.

“This process alone does not account for intergroup conflict: Groups also promote anonymity, diminish personal responsibility, and encourage reframing harmful actions as ‘necessary for the greater good.’ Still, these results suggest that at least in some cases, explicitly reflecting on one’s own personal moral standards may help to attenuate the influence of ‘mob mentality,’” says Mina Cikara, a former MIT postdoc and lead author of the NeuroImage paper.
Sources: M.I.T. and NeuroImage
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Download pdf publication: "Reduced self-referential neural response during intergroup competition predicts competitor harm"

American Time Use Survey (ATUS) Data Released

From the summary:
On an average day in 2013, employed adults living in households with no children under age 18 engaged in leisure activities for 4.5 hours, about an hour more than employed adults living with a child under age 6, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Nearly everyone age 15 and over (95 percent) engaged in some sort of leisure activity, such as watching TV, socializing, or exercising.
These and other results from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) were released today. These data include the average amount of time per day in 2013 that individuals worked, did household activities, and engaged in leisure and sports activities. Additionally, measures of the average time per day spent providing childcare--both as a primary (or main) activity and while doing other things--for the combined years 2009-13 are provided. For a further description of ATUS data and methodology, see the Technical Note.
Source: U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics

 Main American Time Use Survey page with links to data files
American Time Use Survey Technical Note 
ATUS Tables
ATUS Charts

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Report of the Task Force on Doctoral Study in Modern Language and Literature (2014)

Charged by the MLA Executive Council in February 2012 “to consider the prospects for doctoral study in modern language and literature in the light of transformations in higher education and scholarly communication” (PMLA 127.4 [2012]: 1024), and funded in part by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the task force met at the MLA office in fall 2012 and spring and fall 2013 and at the 2013 and 2014 MLA conventions in Boston and Chicago. The Executive Council received and approved the task force’s report in February 2014. Statements the task force received from departments engaged in projects related to its charge are included in an appendix. 
Downloadable PDF documents:
 Executive Summary
Report and Appendix

Also available:
A Message from the MLA Executive Council
Article on Inside Higher Ed in response to the report
Chronicle of Higher Education in response to the report: "The MLA Tells It Like It Is."

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Interactive Effect of Moral Identity and the Binding Moral Foundations

Throughout history, principles such as obedience, loyalty, and purity have been instrumental in binding people together and helping them thrive as groups, tribes, and nations. However, these same principles have also led to in-group favoritism, war, and even genocide. Does adhering to the binding moral foundations that underlie such principles unavoidably lead to the derogation of out-group members? We demonstrated that for people with a strong moral identity, the answer is “no,” because they are more likely than those with a weak moral identity to extend moral concern to people belonging to a perceived out-group. Across three studies, strongly endorsing the binding moral foundations indeed predicted support for the torture of out-group members (Studies 1a and 1b) and withholding of necessary help from out-group members (Study 2), but this relationship was attenuated among participants who also had a strong moral identity. 

Source: Psychological Science

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

What Ever Happened to the “Cool” Kids? Long-Term Sequelae of Early Adolescent Pseudomature Behavior

Pseudomature behavior—ranging from minor delinquency to precocious romantic involvement—is widely viewed as a nearly normative feature of adolescence. When such behavior occurs early in adolescence, however, it was hypothesized to reflect a misguided overemphasis upon impressing peers and was considered likely to predict long-term adjustment problems. In a multimethod, multireporter study following a community sample of 184 adolescents from ages 13 to 23, early adolescent pseudomature behavior was linked cross-sectionally to a heightened desire for peer popularity and to short-term success with peers. Longitudinal results, however, supported the study's central hypothesis: Early adolescent pseudomature behavior predicted long-term difficulties in close relationships, as well as significant problems with alcohol and substance use, and elevated levels of criminal behavior.
Source: Child Development

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Risky Music Listening, Permanent Tinnitus and Depression, Anxiety, Thoughts about Suicide and Adverse General Health

To estimate the extent to which exposure to music through earphones or headphones with MP3 players or at discotheques and pop/rock concerts exceeded current occupational safety standards for noise exposure, to examine the extent to which temporary and permanent hearing-related symptoms were reported, and to examine whether the experience of permanent symptoms was associated with adverse perceived general and mental health, symptoms of depression, and thoughts about suicide.
Source: PLoS ONE

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Dementia's Mounting Toll on the U.S. Economy

Dementia costs Americans hundreds of billions of dollars per year, and the annual cost could top half a trillion by 2040 due to the "graying" of the U.S. population. This infographic shows the soaring economic costs and caseload of dementia.
Source: RAND Corporation

Global Uncertainty Fuels Workers' Desire for Retirement Security

The 2013/2014 Global Benefit Attitudes Study examines how employees' preferences for retirement security affects their financial priorities and retirement planning, what makes them join an organization and what makes them stay, and the kind of benefits they desire.

The research was conducted in 12 countries, and the survey was completed by 22,347 employees representing all job levels and major industry sectors. Read More
 Source: Towers Watson

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Labor Force Characteristics of Foreign-born Workers

The unemployment rate for the foreign born in the United States was 6.9 percent in 2013, down from 8.1 percent in 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The jobless rate for the native born fell to 7.5 percent in 2013, also down from 8.1 percent in the prior year. 
Data on nativity are collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of approximately 60,000 households. The foreign born are those who reside in the United States but who were born outside the country or one of its outlying areas to parents who were not U.S. citizens. The foreign born include legally-admitted immigrants, refugees, temporary residents such as students and temporary workers, and undocumented immigrants. The survey data, however, do not separately identify the numbers of persons in these categories. For further information about the survey, see the Technical Note.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Read online report and access data tables

On Eve of World Cup, Brazil Well-Regarded in Much of the World

As Brazil prepares to host its second World Cup, at least half of those surveyed in 24 of 37 countries have a favorable view of the South American nation. Views of Brazil are particularly positive in Latin America and Asia, although in many countries a fair share of people offer no opinion. Brazil gets especially high ratings among young people in many nations around the world. However, Brazil receives low marks in some major Middle Eastern nations.

These are the findings of a new survey by the Pew Research Center conducted in 37 countries among 41,408 respondents from March 17 to May 23, 2014. In total, a median of 54% across the 37 countries have a favorable view of Brazil. Meanwhile, 76% of Brazilians say their country should be more respected around the world than it currently is.
Source: Pew Research Center

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Download topline questionnaire
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Read online overview

The Wisdom of Smaller, Smarter Crowds

The “wisdom of crowds” refers to the phenomenon that aggregated predictions from a large group of people can rival or even beat the accuracy of experts. In domains with substantial stochastic elements, such as stock picking, crowd strategies (e.g. indexing) are difficult to beat. However, in domains in which some crowd members have demonstrably more skill than others, smart sub-crowds could possibly outperform the whole. The central question this work addresses is whether such smart subsets of a crowd can be identified a priori in a large-scale prediction contest that has substantial skill and luck components. We study this question with data obtained from fantasy soccer, a game in which millions of people choose professional players from the English Premier League to be on their fantasy soccer teams. The better the professional players do in real life games, the more points fantasy teams earn. Fantasy soccer is ideally suited to this investigation because it comprises millions of individual-level, within-subject predictions, past performance indicators, and the ability to test the effectiveness of arbitrary player-selection strategies. We find that smaller, smarter crowds can be identified in advance and that they beat the wisdom of the larger crowd. We also show that many players would do better by simply imitating the strategy of a player who has done well in the past. Finally, we provide a theoretical model that explains the results we see from our empirical analyses.
Source: Microsoft Research

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Out of the Shadows: A Tool for the Identification of Victims of Human Trafficking

The landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act made trafficking in persons a federal crime in 2000, but the greatest obstacle to rescuing victims of human trafficking is identifying them. To make identifying these people easier—and subsequently, getting them the services and support they need while also generating evidence against their traffickers—Vera created a screening tool to be used by victim service providers and law enforcement when faced with someone who may be a victim of human trafficking. The tool, a 30-topic questionnaire that was tested by service providers and validated by Vera researchers, is the result of a two-year study funded by the National Institute of Justice.

 Source: The Vera Institute of Justice | National Institute of Justice

PDF Download(s)
Out of the Shadows - Research Summary
Out of the Shadows - Tool and User Guidelines

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Economic scarcity alters the perception of race

When the economy declines, racial minorities are hit the hardest. Although existing explanations for this effect focus on institutional causes, recent psychological findings suggest that scarcity may also alter perceptions of race in ways that exacerbate discrimination. We tested the hypothesis that economic resource scarcity causes decision makers to perceive African Americans as “Blacker” and that this visual distortion elicits disparities in the allocation of resources. Studies 1 and 2 demonstrated that scarcity altered perceptions of race, lowering subjects’ psychophysical threshold for seeing a mixed-race face as “Black” as opposed to “White.” In studies 3 and 4, scarcity led subjects to visualize African American faces as darker and more “stereotypically Black,” compared with a control condition. When presented to na├»ve subjects, face representations produced under scarcity elicited smaller allocations than control-condition representations. Together, these findings introduce a novel perceptual account for the proliferation of racial disparities under economic scarcity. 
 Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)

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