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Volume 3 Issue 8, August 2019

Understanding substitution dynamics

A considerable number of ideas, products and behaviours spread by substitution (replacing one item for another), but very little is known about diffusion in substitutive systems. Jin et al. find that early growth patterns in substitutive systems are different than in non-substitutive systems: they follow power laws rather than exponentials.

See Jin et al.

Cover image: Sergey Nivens / Alamy Stock Photo. Cover design: Bethany Vukomanovic


  • The publication of our first two Registered Reports marks a major milestone for Nature Human Behaviour. These studies demonstrate what many researchers know, but is often hidden from the published literature: confirmatory research doesn’t always confirm the authors’ hypotheses.




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  • To win friends, help the needy, avoid exploitation or influence strangers, people must make decisions that are inherently uncertain. In their compelling and insightful perspective on resolving social uncertainty1, FeldmanHall and Shenhav (henceforth F&S) join a growing movement combining computational approaches with social psychological theory2. F&S identify a range of negative and positive aspects of social uncertainty. Here we offer additional ways to think about social uncertainty and suggest potential avenues for future research.

    • Andreas Kappes
    • Anne-Marie Nussberger
    • Molly J. Crockett
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Comment & Opinion

  • Scientists’ own perspectives on research funding are often missing. To address this, we surveyed Danish scientists about their ideal research grant. In contrast to a trend towards larger grants, most surveyed scientists prefer small or mid-sized grants to pursue their ideas and advance their scientific careers.

    • Henrik Dimke
    • Maria Theresa Norn
    • Nikolaj Thomas Zinner
  • Neuroscientists are amassing the large-scale datasets needed to study individual differences and identify biomarkers. However, measurement reliability within individual samples is often suboptimal, thereby requiring unnecessarily large samples. We focus our comment on reliability in neuroimaging and provide examples of how the reliability can be increased.

    • Xi-Nian Zuo
    • Ting Xu
    • Michael Peter Milham
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News & Views

  • Researchers debate whether the adoption of agriculture was done at the expense of leisure time. A new study in ten camps of contemporary Agta hunter-gatherers actually finds that individuals who engage more in non-foraging activities have less leisure time. Results highlight the need to consider the evolutionary costs of the transition to agriculture.

    • Victoria Reyes-García
    News & Views
  • Understanding how misconduct spreads among people in positions of public trust is an essential first step for tackling the problem. A new study of London’s Metropolitan Police finds that transferring police officers with a history of misconduct into a new work group increases the likelihood that the new peers will also engage in misconduct.

    • Ojmarrh Mitchell
    News & Views
  • How do we recognize the individual faces of our family members, friends and acquaintances across the variation that is common in daily life? Zhan and colleagues demonstrate the importance of three-dimensional structure in the representations of known individuals and argue that texture—the surface properties of faces—plays little role in representation.

    • Nicholas Blauch
    • Marlene Behrmann
    News & Views
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Research Highlights

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  • Núñez et al. use bibliometric and socio-institutional indicators to show that over the years, cognitive science has failed to transition to a mature, coherent, interdisciplinary field.

    • Rafael Núñez
    • Michael Allen
    • Arturs Semenuks
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  • Using misconduct data on 35,000 officers and staff from London’s Metropolitan Police Service, researchers demonstrate that earlier misconduct among peers causes an increase in an officer’s own current misconduct.

    • Edika G. Quispe-Torreblanca
    • Neil Stewart
  • Attention and working memory both fluctuate over time. Here deBettencourt et al. demonstrate that fluctuations in attention and memory in distinct tasks are synchronous, providing additional evidence for the tight integration of these cognitive processes.

    • Megan T. deBettencourt
    • Paul A. Keene
    • Edward K. Vogel
  • What aspect of faces do we use to recognize familiar people? Zhan et al. model the three-dimensional information contents that represent faces in the memory of their colleagues. This information is relevant for recognition across viewpoints, age and sex.

    • Jiayu Zhan
    • Oliver G. B. Garrod
    • Philippe G. Schyns
  • Does holding a rose in mind make you see the world through rose-tinted glasses? Combining working memory and perceptual decision-making tasks in three studies, Teng and Kravitz show that internal representations can affect perception of the environment.

    • Chunyue Teng
    • Dwight J. Kravitz
  • Jin et al. find that early growth patterns in substitutive systems follow power laws rather than exponentials. Big data analyses reveal key mechanisms governing substitutions, helping to explain the observed power-law early growth.

    • Ching Jin
    • Chaoming Song
    • Dashun Wang
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Amendments & Corrections

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