By Lydialyle Gibson
Photography by Jason Smith

Anticipation is worse

Misdeeds yet to come stoke greater outrage than misdeeds in the past—and are more likely to provoke calls for harsh punishment, according to a study by Chicago Booth behavioral scientist Eugene Caruso. In one experiment, Caruso told participants about a soft-drink vending machine that automatically raised its prices in hot weather. Those who thought the machine would be tested the following month felt more strongly that the price change was unfair than those who were told the machine had been tested the previous month. Caruso also found that future good deeds stirred stronger emotions than past ones. Charitable donations yet to be made left people feeling better and more generous than donations already given. Publishing his results in the September 20 Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Caruso hypothesized that people respond to future events with heightened emotions as a way to prod themselves to action and wrote that the findings may offer a lesson for “insidious individuals, corporations, or governments”: ask forgiveness, not permission.

Parental help with anorexia

In the first randomized clinical trial to compare treatments for anorexia nervosa, a Medical Center researcher found that a strategy promoting parental involvement works best to restore adolescents to healthy weight and eating habits. Coauthored by psychiatrist Daniel Le Grange, who directs Chicago’s Eating Disorders Clinic, and published online October 4 in Archives of General Psychiatry, the study reported that more than 50 percent of patients in family-based treatment were in full remission after a year, versus 23 percent of patients in adolescent-focused individual therapy. Family-based treatment is an intensive outpatient program that seeks to avoid hospitalization, in which parents help push their children to eat and gain weight.

Beilock says golfers are more likely to sink an easy putt if they don't think about it.

Under pressure

On the last day of the 1996 Masters Tournament, golfer Greg Norman’s victory seemed inevitable. He’d set a course record at the start of the competition and occupied the top of the leaderboard since then. But then he suffered a spectacular meltdown. Six strokes ahead of his closest rival going into the final round, Norman lost the championship by five strokes. “His performance always makes the top-ten sport choke lists,” writes psychologist Sian Beilock in Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To (Free Press, 2010). Having for years studied why talented people fail when the stakes are high—on tests, in games, during concerts, at work—Beilock finds the problem to be information logjams in the brain. Overthinking a task in an attempt to control every aspect, for instance, can overtax the working memory necessary to perform well. And worries about racial, cultural, or gender stereotypes can damage an otherwise high achiever’s performance. In the book, Beilock recommends meditation, practice, and a positive attitude.


Common conceptions about young black people—that they are politically indifferent and unfavorably influenced by rap music and videos—are more stereotype than truth, says political scientist Cathy Cohen. Analyzing results from the Black Youth Project, a national survey of 15- to 25-year-olds she launched in 2003, and following up with in-depth interviews, Cohen produced Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics (Oxford University Press, 2010). Among the book’s findings: black youth are more likely than young whites or Latinos to criticize rap videos for lacking political content, and they also hold more conservative social views than their peers. Forty-two percent said premarital sex is wrong, 55 percent called homosexuality always wrong, and 47 percent disapproved of abortion. Cohen also found young blacks to be politically engaged, although only 42 percent said they felt “like a full and equal citizen of the country,” and 69 percent called racism a persistent problem.


Return to top