News & Comment

  • News & Views |

    From aardvark to zyzzyva, the world we live in is rich and complex. How is this diversity of objects represented in the human mind? Through an experimental and computational tour de force, Hebart et al. show that people share a mental representation of objects based on a small number of meaningful dimensions.

    • Maximilian Riesenhuber
  • News & Views |

    Perceptions of numerosity, duration and distance play fundamental roles in our behaviour and in our thinking, but how we perceive these abstract quantities is a mystery. Cheyette and Piantadosi provide a model that explains both new and long-standing experimental results on the accuracy and speed with which human subjects report the numerosity of a visible set.

    • C. R. Gallistel
  • Comment |

    Social and behavioural scientists have attempted to speak to the COVID-19 crisis. But is behavioural research on COVID-19 suitable for making policy decisions? We offer a taxonomy that lets our science advance in ‘evidence readiness levels’ to be suitable for policy. We caution practitioners to take extreme care translating our findings to applications.

    • Hans IJzerman
    • , Neil A. Lewis Jr.
    • , Andrew K. Przybylski
    • , Netta Weinstein
    • , Lisa DeBruine
    • , Stuart J. Ritchie
    • , Simine Vazire
    • , Patrick S. Forscher
    • , Richard D. Morey
    • , James D. Ivory
    •  & Farid Anvari
  • Comment |

    Twitter announced on 18 June 2019 that it would remove the precise geotagging feature in tweets. In addition to protecting the location privacy of users, this change also affects human behaviour studies based on geotagged tweets. We discuss the potential impact of Twitter’s decision and how researchers can respond to this change.

    • Yingjie Hu
    •  & Ruo-Qian Wang
  • News & Views |

    Probabilistic mixture models have contributed significantly to advancements in visual working memory research in recent decades. In a new paper, Schurgin and colleagues revisit the basic assumptions of mixture models and suggest that we cannot understand memory without first considering perception.

    • Blaire Dube
    •  & Julie D. Golomb
  • Correspondence |

    The world is waiting for a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. In anticipation of successful trial results, preparations are being made for an unprecedented effort to achieve universal coverage and protection. But the interim measures to mitigate COVID-19 have brought their own severe and negative aftershocks. Global lockdowns and closures of schools and protective services have shone light on the vulnerability of children. Challenges of parenting under the strain of the epidemic are near-universal, and most harsh parenting is not malicious, but triggered by stress, poverty and mental health distress. In the extreme, the situation of fragile families affected by violence and neglect has worsened1, abusers have had increased impunity and victims have been cut off from supportive teachers, social workers and friends. The looming economic fallout and uncertainty is adding yet more pressure onto such family settings, with lifetime and intergenerational consequences for the children affected. But there is a cost-effective and scalable response.

    • Benjamin Perks
    •  & Lucie D. Cluver
  • Comment |

    The impact of pandemics is magnified by the coexistence of two contradicting reactions to rare dire risks: panic and the ‘it won’t happen to me’ effect that hastens spread of the disease. We review research that clarifies the conditions that trigger the two biases, and we highlight the potential of gentle rule enforcement policies that can address these problematic conditions.

    • Ido Erev
    • , Ori Plonsky
    •  & Yefim Roth
  • World View |

    Black early-career researchers suffer racism, discrimination and significant barriers to professional development. Mya Roberson makes key suggestions on how non-Black scientists can support Black early-career researchers.

    • Mya L. Roberson
  • News & Views |

    Electrical stimulation of the human cortex, undertaken for brain surgery, triggers percepts and feelings. A new study documents an ordering principle to these effects: the farther removed from sensory input or motor output structures, the less likely it is that a region contributes to consciousness.

    • Christof Koch
  • Editorial |

    In cases of direct replications or direct critiques of earlier work, feedback from the original authors can have an important role to play in the evaluation process, but such feedback is by definition not impartial. Our signed comments policy allows such feedback to be incorporated in the consideration process, without impacting the objectivity of peer review and editorial evaluation.

  • Comment |

    COVID-19 has not affected all scientists equally. A survey of principal investigators indicates that female scientists, those in the ‘bench sciences’ and, especially, scientists with young children experienced a substantial decline in time devoted to research. This could have important short- and longer-term effects on their careers, which institution leaders and funders need to address carefully.

    • Kyle R. Myers
    • , Wei Yang Tham
    • , Yian Yin
    • , Nina Cohodes
    • , Jerry G. Thursby
    • , Marie C. Thursby
    • , Peter Schiffer
    • , Joseph T. Walsh
    • , Karim R. Lakhani
    •  & Dashun Wang
  • Comment |

    Bias and racism in the biomedical community thwart scientific advancement, reduce the pipeline of diverse clinicians and scientists, and contribute to racial and ethnic health disparities. We advocate for proactive antiracism approaches to eliminate barriers impacting people of colour, promote equity and achieve a more effective biomedical community.

    • Uraina S. Clark
    •  & Yasmin L. Hurd
  • Comment |

    Do purchasable randomised reward mechanisms in video games (loot boxes) constitute gambling? Opinions often rest on whether virtual items obtained from loot boxes have real-world value. Using market data from real transactions, we show that virtual items have real-world monetary value and therefore could be regulated under existing gambling legislation.

    • Aaron Drummond
    • , James D. Sauer
    • , Lauren C. Hall
    • , David Zendle
    •  & Malcolm R. Loudon
  • Comment |

    The scientific community’s response to COVID-19 has resulted in a large volume of research moving through the publication pipeline at extraordinary speed, with a median time from receipt to acceptance of 6 days for journal articles. Although the nature of this emergency warrants accelerated publishing, measures are required to safeguard the integrity of scientific evidence.

    • Adam Palayew
    • , Ole Norgaard
    • , Kelly Safreed-Harmon
    • , Tue Helms Andersen
    • , Lauge Neimann Rasmussen
    •  & Jeffrey V. Lazarus
  • News & Views |

    Stroke can lead to debilitating consequences, including loss of language. An important goal of stroke research is to use machine learning to predict outcomes and response to therapy. A new study compares different approaches to predicting post-stroke outcomes and highlights the need for systematic optimization and validation to ultimately translate scientific insights to clinical settings.

    • Monica D. Rosenberg
    •  & Hayoung Song
  • Editorial |

    This issue features four replication studies. Regardless of their outcome, these studies demonstrate that rigorous replication efforts invariably succeed at improving our state of knowledge and moving fields forward.

  • News & Views |

    Human culture is unique. Or is it? A new study reveals unexpected cultural diversity in the fine-grained details of chimpanzee termite fishing behaviour. These novel findings shed light on the richness of chimpanzee cultural diversity and reveal a narrower gap between the cultures of humans and other apes.

    • Kathelijne Koops
  • Comment |

    Most people in the Western, developed world prefer natural things, especially foods. We posit that there is neither theoretical nor empirical support for the widespread beliefs about the superiority of natural entities with respect to human welfare. Nature is not particularly benevolent.

    • Sydney E. Scott
    •  & Paul Rozin
  • Editorial |

    Insight into human behaviour is key to understanding both the systemic causes of the COVID-19 pandemic and how we can act to mitigate its impacts. Both now and in its wake, we have the capacity to shape and reshape the world we live in.

  • News & Views |

    How do we effectively process the information arriving to our senses to make adaptive decisions and behave appropriately, and which brain areas are responsible? A new study combines multimodal noninvasive neuroimaging in humans to reveal the anatomical locus of efficient sensory evidence accumulation.

    • Megan A. K. Peters
  • Comment |

    Prereg posters are conference posters that present planned scientific projects. We provide preliminary evidence for their value in receiving constructive feedback, promoting open science and supporting early-career researchers.

    • Kimberly Brouwers
    • , Anne Cooke
    • , Christopher D. Chambers
    • , Richard Henson
    •  & Roni Tibon
  • Comment |

    Selfless motivations for charitable giving are often represented as being superior to selfish ones. But, we argue, evidence from the behavioural sciences suggests that such a ‘hierarchy of charity’ may stand in the way of what ultimately matters: generating the most impactful giving overall.

    • Kate M. Laffan
    •  & Paul H. Dolan
  • Editorial |

    There is no business-as-usual during this uniquely challenging time. Here is what we are doing to help the scientific community both in providing much needed evidence to guide policy and in managing the personal impacts of the pandemic on individual researchers.

  • News & Views |

    Regular physical exercise has been proposed as a cost-effective strategy for keeping our brains sharp, but it remains unclear how we can optimise the cognitive benefits of long-term exercise. New findings inform us how exercise intensity, progression and type can increase expected cognitive gains and how this differs by sex.

    • Chun-Hao Wang
  • Comment |

    The debate over whether autocracies or democracies are better at fighting epidemics is misguided. Under President Xi Jinping’s centralized command, his administration has both succeeded and failed at handling the COVID-19 crisis. While it effectively curbed infections within China after the virus had spread, it failed to stem the outbreak before it went global.

    • Yuen Yuen Ang
  • Q&A |

    COVID-19 has started to reach Africa, a continent that has in recent decades faced the ongoing HIV/AIDS pandemic and the Ebola epidemic of 2014–2016. Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, talks to Nature Human Behaviour about the African response to COVID-19.

    • Charlotte Payne
  • World View |

    Growth-at-any-cost economics has health costs, a reality the COVID-19 pandemic brings into sharp relief. Governments must manage the tension between economics and health, but they should not stray from their original mandate to protect people. Too much dependence on the private sector weakened pandemic response, argues Susan Erikson.

    • Susan Erikson
  • World View |

    The stock market provides a view of what investors expect for the future. It is precisely in complex situations such as the COVID-19 outbreak that the prescience of the market is particularly valuable, argues Alexander F. Wagner.

    • Alexander F. Wagner
  • World View |

    In the current absence of medical treatment and vaccination, the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic can only be brought under control by massive and rapid behaviour change. To achieve this we need to systematically monitor and understand how different individuals perceive risk and what prompts them to act upon it, argues Cornelia Betsch.

    • Cornelia Betsch
  • World View |

    The human tendency to impose a single interpretation in ambiguous situations carries huge dangers in addressing COVID-19. We need to search actively for multiple interpretations, and governments need to choose policies that are robust if their preferred theory turns out to be wrong, argues Nick Chater.

    • Nick Chater
  • World View |

    The global practice of monetizing ecosystems to further national economic development has laid fertile ground for the COVID-19 pandemic and others like it, writes Cobus van Staden.

    • Cobus van Staden
  • Editorial |

    Over the past decades, the availability of new methods and digitization has dramatically changed how scientific data are recorded, stored and analysed. This has enabled researchers to pull together the data underlying single research efforts into larger standardized datasets for reuse. The publication of these datasets - in the Resource format in our pages - represents a contribution of exceptional value to the scientific community.

  • News & Views |

    Although disease dynamics of prey are influenced by predator behaviour, little is known about the potential effects of wide-ranging post-industrial hunters. Mysterud et al. describe the movement behaviour of Norwegian hunters using more than 165,000 hunting records from 2001–2017, showing that hunters migrate to and from areas of high prey density, potentially moving pathogens into previously unaffected areas.

    • Chris T. Darimont
    •  & Heather M. Bryan
  • Editorial |

    Behavioural interventions can improve choices across many domains, but we must remember that they are not universally effective.

  • News & Views |

    When making economic decisions, our choices are often influenced by irrelevant information. One prominent explanation appeals to normalisation in neural circuits. A new paper by Gluth and colleagues suggests that instead, attentional processes may be responsible.

    • Christopher Summerfield
    •  & Tsvetomira Dumbalska