Menus Subscribe Search

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

September 19 • 4:00 PM

In Your Own Words: What It’s Like to Get Sued Over Past Debts

Some describe their surprise when they were sued after falling behind on medical and credit card bills.



September 19 • 1:26 PM

For Charitable Products, Sex Doesn’t Sell

Sexy women may turn heads, but for pro-social and charitable products, they won’t change minds.


September 19 • 12:00 PM

Carbon Taxes Really Do Work

A new study shows that taxing carbon dioxide emissions could actually work to reduce greenhouse gases without any negative effects on employment and revenues.


September 19 • 10:00 AM

Why the Poor Remain Poor

A follow-up to “How Being Poor Makes You Poor.”


September 19 • 9:03 AM

Why Science Won’t Defeat Ebola

While science will certainly help, winning the battle against Ebola is a social challenge.


September 19 • 8:00 AM

Burrito Treason in the Lone Star State

Did Meatless Mondays bring down Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples?


September 19 • 7:31 AM

Savor Good Times, Get Through the Bad Ones—With Categories

Ticking off a category of things to do can feel like progress or a fun time coming to an end.


September 19 • 6:00 AM

The Most Untouchable Man in Sports

How the head of the governing body for the world’s most popular sport freely wields his wildly incompetent power.


September 19 • 4:00 AM

The Danger of Dining With an Overweight Companion

There’s a good chance you’ll eat more unhealthy food.



September 18 • 4:00 PM

Racial Disparity in Imprisonment Inspires White People to Be Even More Tough on Crime

White Americans are more comfortable with punitive and harsh policing and sentencing when they imagine that the people being policed and put in prison are black.



September 18 • 2:00 PM

The Wages of Millions Are Being Seized to Pay Past Debts

A new study provides the first-ever tally of how many employees lose up to a quarter of their paychecks over debts like unpaid credit card or medical bills and student loans.


September 18 • 12:00 PM

When Counterfeit and Contaminated Drugs Are Deadly

The cost and the crackdown, worldwide.


September 18 • 10:00 AM

How Do You Make a Living, Molly Crabapple?

Noah Davis talks to Molly Crapabble about Michelangelo, the Medicis, and the tension between making art and making money.


September 18 • 9:00 AM

Um, Why Are These Professors Creeping on My Facebook Page?

The ethics of student-teacher “intimacy”—on campus and on social media.


September 18 • 8:00 AM

Welcome to the Economy Economy

With the recent introduction of Apple Pay, the Silicon Valley giant is promising to remake how we interact with money. Could iCoin be next?



September 18 • 6:09 AM

How to Build a Better Election

Elimination-style voting is harder to fiddle with than majority rule.


September 18 • 6:00 AM

Homeless on Purpose

The latest entry in a series of interviews about subculture in America.


September 18 • 4:00 AM

Why Original Artworks Move Us More Than Reproductions

Researchers present evidence that hand-created artworks convey an almost magical sense of the artist’s essence.


September 17 • 4:00 PM

Why Gun Control Groups Have Moved Away From an Assault Weapons Ban

A decade after the ban expired, gun control groups say that focusing on other policies will save more American lives.


September 17 • 2:00 PM

Can You Make Two People Like Each Other Just By Telling Them That They Should?

OKCupid manipulates user data in an attempt to find out.


September 17 • 12:00 PM

Understanding ISIL Messaging Through Behavioral Science

By generating propaganda that taps into individuals’ emotional and cognitive states, ISIL is better able motivate people to join their jihad.


Follow us


For Charitable Products, Sex Doesn’t Sell

Sexy women may turn heads, but for pro-social and charitable products, they won't change minds.

Carbon Taxes Really Do Work

A new study shows that taxing carbon dioxide emissions could actually work to reduce greenhouse gases without any negative effects on employment and revenues.

Savor Good Times, Get Through the Bad Ones—With Categories

Ticking off a category of things to do can feel like progress or a fun time coming to an end.

How to Build a Better Election

Elimination-style voting is harder to fiddle with than majority rule.

Do Conspiracy Theorists Feed on Unsuspecting Internet Trolls?

Not literally, but debunkers and satirists do fuel conspiracy theorists' appetites.

The Big One

One in three drivers in Brooklyn's Park Slope—at certain times of day—is just looking for parking. The same goes for drivers in Manhattan's SoHo. September/October 2014 new-big-one-3

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