Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us


From the Editor

ps-issue

Introducing the New Issue of ‘Pacific Standard’

• September 02, 2014 • 2:00 AM

The science of self-control, the rise of biblical counseling, why middle school doesn’t have to suck, and more in our September/October 2014 print issue.

My mother still lives in the house where I grew up, so in our frequent talks, she’ll give me neighborhood updates. A few months ago, she mentioned that one of our neighbors—a highly respected emeritus engineer from the University of California-Berkeley—was scammed by a phone call. On the line: a young guy in great distress, claiming to be one of our neighbor’s grandsons and saying that he was in trouble. The neighbor, not an easy man to dupe, wired off a lot of money. Then, not two weeks later, Mom told me about another friend—another retired professor—who was so shaken by a call she received that she, too, sent off a lot of money. We figured someone must be targeting retired Berkeley professors. Maybe through Facebook?

“In stressful situations, worries and distracting thoughts essentially rob people of the thinking and reasoning skills they need to make rational decisions.”

When I mentioned these stories to a co-worker, she told me that someone impersonating her son had called his grandmother, who nearly wired off a pile of money. (The grandmother was stopped by relatives who smelled a rat.) Then another friend said, “My fiancée’s grandmother sent off thousands.” The scam seemed to be everywhere.

My mom has two grandsons, and she started thinking about what she would have done if she got such a phone call. If, for just a millisecond, she feared the call was real, wouldn’t she come to the aid of a grandkid? So many friends have said to her, “That would never happen to me, I would never be duped.” But plenty of perfectly savvy people are wiring money to God-knows-where.

University of Chicago psychologist Sian Beilock, who studies how people perform under pressure, points out, “In stressful situations, worries and distracting thoughts essentially rob people of the thinking and reasoning skills they need to make rational decisions.” With that in mind, my mother became convinced that it was imprecise to assume scammers were getting the best of her friends because 70-somethings were somehow more mentally vulnerable than anyone else. (Spoiler: She was right.) All this to say: We asked my mother (who is also a longtime journalist and author) to write a story for Pacific Standard about why this very personal, and very cruel, deception works so damn well.

september-october-2014-cover-largeAs we were building the stories that you will see on this website over the next few weeks (and that are gathered in our September/October print issue) the notions of deception and trust came up a lot. In “How Should We Program Computers to Deceive?,” which you’ll be able to read here on September 3, Kate Greene delves into the question of how much our computers hide the truth from us—and how much they ought to. In “Unreal Estate: The Art of Scrubbing All Identity From a Home” (which will post on September 10), Kyle DeNuccio explores the expensive artifice of home staging. And in the magazine’s cover story, “A Feeling of Control: How America Can Finally Learn to Deal With Its Impulses” (September 15), the psychologist David DeSteno draws an unexpected evolutionary link between trustworthiness, emotion, and self-control.

So as not to deceive our readers, one more disclosure: Our In the Picture feature (September 24), is about the Indian Trust, a program I worked on in my two years with the Department of the Interior.

Of course, you could subscribe to either our print magazine here, or our digital edition of the magazine via the Apple Store Newsstand here, or—brand new—the Google Play store, here. That way you can get all these stories today (voila, no waiting). We hope you do.


For more on the science of society, and to support our work, sign up for our free email newsletters and subscribe to our bimonthly magazine. Digital editions are available in the App Store (iPad) and on Google Play (Android) and Zinio (Android, iPad, PC/MAC, iPhone, and Win8).

Maria Streshinsky
Maria Streshinsky is the editor of Pacific Standard, and was formerly the managing editor of The Atlantic in Washington, D.C. She spent two years working at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

More From Maria Streshinsky

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

December 20 • 10:28 AM

Flare-Ups

Are my emotions making me ill?


December 19 • 4:00 PM

How a Drug Policy Reform Organization Thinks of the Children

This valuable, newly updated resource for parents is based in the real world.


December 19 • 2:00 PM

Where Did the Ouija Board Come From?

It wasn’t just a toy.


December 19 • 12:00 PM

Social Scientists Can Do More to Eradicate Racial Oppression

Using our knowledge of social systems, all social scientists—black or white, race scholar or not—have an opportunity to challenge white privilege.


December 19 • 10:17 AM

How Scientists Contribute to Bad Science Reporting

By not taking university press officers and research press releases seriously, scientists are often complicit in the media falsehoods they so often deride.


December 19 • 10:00 AM

Pentecostalism in West Africa: A Boon or Barrier to Disease?

How has Ghana stayed Ebola-free despite being at high risk for infection? A look at their American-style Pentecostalism, a religion that threatens to do more harm than good.


December 19 • 8:00 AM

Don’t Text and Drive—Especially If You’re Old

A new study shows that texting while driving becomes even more dangerous with age.


December 19 • 6:12 AM

All That ‘Call of Duty’ With Your Friends Has Not Made You a More Violent Person

But all that solo Call of Duty has.


December 19 • 4:00 AM

Food for Thought: WIC Works

New research finds participation in the federal WIC program, which subsidizes healthy foods for young children, is linked with stronger cognitive development and higher test scores.


December 18 • 4:00 PM

How I Navigated Life as a Newly Sober Mom

Saying “no” to my kids was harder than saying “no” to alcohol. But for their sake and mine, I had to learn to put myself first sometimes.


December 18 • 2:00 PM

Women in Apocalyptic Fiction Shaving Their Armpits

Because our interest in realism apparently only goes so far.


December 18 • 12:00 PM

The Paradox of Choice, 10 Years Later

Paul Hiebert talks to psychologist Barry Schwartz about how modern trends—social media, FOMO, customer review sites—fit in with arguments he made a decade ago in his highly influential book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less.


December 18 • 10:00 AM

What It’s Like to Spend a Few Hours in the Church of Scientology

Wrestling with thetans, attempting to unlock a memory bank, and a personality test seemingly aimed at people with depression. This is Scientology’s “dissemination drill” for potential new members.


December 18 • 8:00 AM

Gendering #BlackLivesMatter: A Feminist Perspective

Black men are stereotyped as violent, while black women are rendered invisible. Here’s why the gendering of black lives matters.


December 18 • 7:06 AM

Apparently You Can Bring Your Religion to Work

New research says offices that encourage talk of religion actually make for happier workplaces.


December 18 • 6:00 AM

The Very Weak and Complicated Links Between Mental Illness and Gun Violence

Vanderbilt University’s Jonathan Metzl and Kenneth MacLeish address our anxieties and correct our assumptions.


December 18 • 4:00 AM

Should Movies Be Rated RD for Reckless Driving?

A new study finds a link between watching films featuring reckless driving and engaging in similar behavior years later.


December 17 • 4:00 PM

How to Run a Drug Dealing Network in Prison

People tend not to hear about the prison drug dealing operations that succeed. Substance.com asks a veteran of the game to explain his system.


December 17 • 2:00 PM

Gender Segregation of Toys Is on the Rise

Charting the use of “toys for boys” and “toys for girls” in American English.


December 17 • 12:41 PM

Why the College Football Playoff Is Terrible But Better Than Before

The sample size is still embarrassingly small, but at least there’s less room for the availability cascade.


December 17 • 11:06 AM

Canadian Kids Have a Serious Smoking Problem

Bootleg cigarette sales could be leading Canadian teens to more serious drugs, a recent study finds.


December 17 • 10:37 AM

A Public Lynching in Sproul Plaza

When photographs of lynching victims showed up on a hallowed site of democracy in action, a provocation was issued—but to whom, by whom, and why?


December 17 • 8:00 AM

What Was the Job?

This was the year the job broke, the year we accepted a re-interpretation of its fundamental bargain and bought in to the push to get us to all work for ourselves rather than each other.


December 17 • 6:00 AM

White Kids Will Be Kids

Even the “good” kids—bound for college, upwardly mobile—sometimes break the law. The difference? They don’t have much to fear. A professor of race and social movements reflects on her teenage years and faces some uncomfortable realities.



Follow us


Don’t Text and Drive—Especially If You’re Old

A new study shows that texting while driving becomes even more dangerous with age.

Apparently You Can Bring Your Religion to Work

New research says offices that encourage talk of religion actually make for happier workplaces.

Canadian Kids Have a Serious Smoking Problem

Bootleg cigarette sales could be leading Canadian teens to more serious drugs, a recent study finds.

The Hidden Psychology of the Home Ref

That old myth of home field bias isn’t a myth at all; it’s a statistical fact.

The Big One

One in two United States senators and two in five House members who left office between 1998 and 2004 became lobbyists. November/December 2014

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.