What We’re Reading

In your head:

Placebos are so effective that placebo placebos work: A pain cream with no active ingredients worked even when not used by the patient. Just owning the cream was enough to reduce pain.

Christmas Trees:

Christmas tree production fell nearly 30 percent from 2002 to 2017. National surveys point to the reason: Each year, fewer Americans are putting up trees during the holidays. And those who do are increasingly choosing artificial ones.


Sometimes a narrative lasts for decades. Others play out more quickly. You’re trying to understand with human judgment whether you’re reading real news or fake news. Narratives are inspired by real events. But sometimes they grow without being real themselves. In investing, it’s even harder. You have to judge how other investors are explaining narratives.


American manufacturers are, for the first time, on track to employ more college graduates than workers with a high-school education or less, part of a shift toward automation that has increased factory output, opened the door to more women and reduced prospects for lower-skilled workers.


“The reaction to free shipping goes beyond the normal way of looking at cost and benefit,” Dhar explains. “A 20 percent discount, which would add up to the same $5 or $8 that shipping costs—that’s not as effective as giving free shipping.” In general, Dhar says, shoppers are even willing to pay more overall for the same goods if there isn’t a separate shipping charge. What bothers them most is the nickeled-and-dimed feeling, not the total amount of the tab.

Last days:

In 2017, 29.8 percent of deaths by natural causes occurred in hospitals, and 30.7 percent at home, researchers reported on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. The last time Americans died at home at the current rate was the middle of the last century, according Dr. Haider J. Warraich, a cardiologist at the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System and a co-author of the new research.

Have a good weekend.