KRWG

Shankar Vedantam

Let's say you're a young person, around 30 years old. And you're the kind of person who likes to take risks. So maybe you're taking risks in your sexual relationships. You're not practicing safe sex.

What would make you change your behavior?

That's a question that's long been pondered by public health officials. And now new research from a World Bank-funded team in Lesotho, a tiny country in southern Africa, has produced a surprising answer.

Lottery tickets!

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And I'm sitting in the studio with NPR's social science correspondent, Shankar Vedantam. And, Shankar, do you know why you're here?

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: Geez, David, that sounds really ominous.

(LAUGHTER)

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Believe it or not, there is a downside to cheap gas, even for consumers. There's a way low prices can end up being very costly. To explain, NPR's Shankar Vedantam talked to our own David Greene.

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Why do people sometimes give generously to a cause — and other times give nothing at all?

That's a timely question, because humanitarian groups fighting the Ebola outbreak need donations from people in rich countries. But some groups say they're getting less money than they'd expect from donors despite all the news.

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In recent years, social scientists have tried to find out whether important decisions are shaped by subtle biases. They've studied recruiters as they decide whom to hire. They've studied teachers, deciding which students to help at school. And they've studied doctors, figuring out what treatments to give patients. Now, researchers have trained their attention on a new group of influential people — state legislators.

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Medical tests are rarely a pleasant experience, especially if you're worried that something could be seriously wrong. That's true even though we know that regular screenings and tests often help doctors catch issues early.

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In the land that came up with the phrase "Thank God it's Friday," and a restaurant chain to capitalize on the sense of relief many feel as the work week ends, researchers made an unusual finding in 2012.

Moms who worked full time reported significantly better physical and mental health than moms who worked part time, research involving more than 2,500 mothers found. And mothers who worked part time reported better health than moms who didn't work at all.

Prisoners who are released invariably make it back to the areas where they came from. Does this have a positive or negative effect on crime? Research triggered by Hurricane Katrina offers insight.

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From NPR news this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

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Social science research suggests risky behavior such as braving heights or swimming in deep waters increases your sex appeal. Driving without a seat belt? Not so much.

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Firstborn kids often do better in school and, on average, go on to earn more money than their younger siblings. A new theory tries to explain why.

As science becomes more diverse, scientific collaborators are growing more diverse, too. New research exploring the effect of this change suggests the diversity of the teams that produce scientific research play a big role in how successful the science turns out to be.

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From Syria to Afghanistan, to Russia and Ukraine, the United States finds itself confronting some major foreign policy challenges. There are old rivalries and new one testing the limits of the United States.

NPR social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam regularly joins us to talk about matters related to individual and organizational behavior, but today, he's found some new research that's relevant to the way we think about foreign conflicts and he's in our studios. Shankar, welcome back.

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