Figure skating: more corrupt than ever?

Men are generally more dominant and garrulous in social settings than women. However, a new study finds that this pattern can change depending on the racial composition of the group.

In the Olympics, many events depend on subjective scoring from a panel of judges. But confidence in these scoring systems has been undermined by scandals, perhaps most infamously a 2002 pairs skating case in which a French judge “was reportedly pressured by some combination of her national federation and the Russian mafia to vote for a Russian pair in exchange for a Russian vote for a French couple in ice dancing.” In response, the International Skating Union, the ISU, anonymized judges’ scores—on the theory that vote trading would then be harder to carry off—and developed an elaborate score-tabulation system. A new study from a professor of economics at Dartmouth, however, suggests this has all been for naught or, even worse, for show. He finds that, if anything, a competitor with a compatriot on the judging panel can now expect even more nationalistic bias and vote trading. And he thinks the ISU may be part of the problem: “Some of the actions of the ISU after the 2002 judging scandal can only be rationalized as attempts to reduce the perception of corruption by limiting outside monitoring.”

Zitzewitz, E., “Does Transparency Reduce Favoritism and Corruption? Evidence from the Reform of Figure Skating Judging,” Journal of Sports Economics (forthcoming).

Faith boosts willpower

Atheists may wonder why people are saps for religion, but, according to new research, religion actually protects your will from being sapped. Simply exposing people to religion-oriented words embedded in a word puzzle subsequently allowed them to tolerate more of a distasteful drink, delay gratification to hold out for a larger reward, and overcome mental exhaustion to persist longer on an impossible puzzle. Death-oriented words didn’t have the same effect, but morality-oriented words had an intermediate effect.


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