Social Basis for Right and Wrong

Bullying stock photo

Stock photo from the New York Times “The Interpreter Newsletter” 3 Aug. 2018

How do students decide what is bullying behavior?  Turns out that the answer to that question is less based on moral teachings and parental examples than we might want to believe.  According to recent research, students decide whether a certain behavior is bullying or not based partially on what they think “social referrents” (people they watched for cues) believe.  Moreover, Dr. Betsy Levy Paluck mapped out the social referrents and their followers in multiple schools and found that by shuffeling the networks, the incidence of bulling decreased 30%.  Dr. Paluck’s research on this topic won her The McArthur Foundation Fellowship, commonly called a “genius award.”

Note:  Students in search of a research topic might take a look at the web pages for other McArthur Foundation grant recipients at



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