News & Comment

  • Comment |

    The development of autonomous weapon systems, by removing the human element of warfare, could make war crimes and atrocities a thing of the past. But if these systems are unable to respect the principles of humanitarian law, we might create a super-intelligent predator that is beyond our control.

    • James Dawes
  • Comment |

    Science, by its nature, is open to uncertainty and interpretation, but politicization — fuelled by motivated reasoning and advances in the technological environment — is leading to a new level of science scepticism among citizens and scientists themselves. What can be done to address these crises?

    • James N. Druckman
  • Editorial |

    In the face of growing economic inequality, rebalancing the wealth gap at global and national levels is key to alleviating health, educational and lifestyle inequalities — but could our respect for established hierarchies hinder a move toward fairer distribution?

  • News and Views |

    Modelling and experiments have shown that strategic information can undermine ‘altruistic’ cooperation. Using a model that varies the distribution of costs for finding out, it is now shown that information can also promote self-interested ‘strategic’ cooperation.

    • Adam Bear
    •  & David G. Rand
  • News and Views |

    The basal ganglia are a core structure of the human brain with strong and reciprocal connections to most areas of the cerebral cortex. Analyses of human functional MRI data, collected during rest and analysed using a novel approach, support the notion that these connectivity patterns underlie differences in decision-making behaviour.

    • Bernd Weber
  • News and Views |

    How robust is the perceived association between immorality and atheism? Studies across 13 countries demonstrate that immoral behaviour is intuitively associated with atheism: people routinely assume that an immoral person is likely to be an atheist, and this effect is consistent across a wide range of societies, though with notable variation.

    • Adam B. Cohen
    •  & Jordan W. Moon
  • Comment |

    It has long been assumed that grammar is a system of abstract rules, that the world's languages follow universal patterns, and that we are born with a ‘language instinct’. But an alternative paradigm that focuses on how we learn and use language is emerging, overturning these assumptions and many more.

    • Morten H. Christiansen
    •  & Nick Chater
  • News and Views |

    Combining numerical information on-the-fly is crucial for making advantageous decisions, but precisely how humans are able to track and compare magnitudes is unclear. Experiments now suggest that when it comes to performing such tasks, not all numbers are created equal.

    • Rogier A. Kievit
  • News and Views |

    Small interventions in everyday public environments hold great potential to positively impact health behaviours. TIPPME is a framework that will provide consensus and definitional precision across intervention research into the purchase and consumption of tobacco, alcohol and food.

    • Vera Araújo-Soares
    •  & Falko F. Sniehotta
  • Comment |

    Europe has witnessed an increase in covert cultural racism that is reflected in recent political turmoil in its nation-states. Far-right movements and populists are exploiting fear about existential and ontological threats to spur the exclusion of unwanted ‘others’, such as Muslims, Roma, and refugees.

    • Catarina Kinnvall
  • News and Views |

    Recent theories propose that perceptions, decisions, and behaviour rely on many rational neural observers that work to predict the value of stimuli and actions. This Bayesian framework has now advanced into new territory through a study of dopamine's influence on the integration of sensory (new) and prior (old) information in Parkinson's disease.

    • Christopher D. Fiorillo
  • Editorial |

    The on-going European refugee crisis requires a concerted response across EU member states, including policy reform.

  • News and Views |

    Many countries around the world have serious corruption problems at the expense of public welfare. An experimental economic study now identifies conditions that encourage leaders to accept bribes instead of sanctioning free-riders. Possible anti-corruption strategies can have positive effects, fail or even backfire.

    • Manfred Milinski
  • News and Views |

    Experiments show that people dislike inequality, but are they willing to overturn established hierarchies to achieve income equality? A cross-cultural experiment shows that from a young age humans exhibit rank reversal aversion when redistributing resources between the rich and the poor, suggesting that hierarchy preservation is a social norm.

    • Gary Charness
    •  & Marie Claire Villeval
  • News and Views |

    Effort is costly. People devalue personal rewards that require some measure of physical or even mental effort. Laboratory studies now suggest that physical effort is especially costly when engaged to benefit others. Even when people are willing, however, their efforts are often superficial, with people doing what is necessary but no more.

    • Michael Inzlicht
    •  & Cendri A. Hutcherson
  • Comment |

    Basic income is a democratizing reform that is long overdue. A guarantee of basic security is necessary to allow people to stand as more independent. Other institutional adjustments are needed, but basic income will help other policies designed to support human development to be more effective.

    • Louise Haagh