Why is there something rather than nothing? […] No experiment could support the hypothesis ‘There is nothing’ because any observation obviously implies the existence of an observer. [Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy]
When people choose not to reveal personal information — to be “hiders” — they are judged negatively by others. Observers rate those who reveal even questionable behavior more positively.
The classic argument is that those of our ancestors who saw more accurately had a competitive advantage over those who saw less accurately and thus were more likely to pass on their genes that coded for those more accurate perceptions, so after thousands of generations we can be quite confident that we’re the offspring of those who saw accurately, and so we see accurately. That sounds very plausible. But I think it is utterly false. It misunderstands the fundamental fact about evolution, which is that it’s about fitness functions — mathematical functions that describe how well a given strategy achieves the goals of survival and reproduction. […] Evolution has shaped us with perceptions that allow us to survive. But part of that involves hiding from us the stuff we don’t need to know. And that’s pretty much all of reality, whatever reality might be. [Quanta]
News of the successful use of ether anesthesia on October 16, 1846, spread rapidly through the world. […] Incredibly, this option was not accepted by all, and opposition to the use of anesthesia persisted among some sections of society decades after its introduction. We examine the social and medical factors underlying this resistance. […] Complications of anesthesia, including death, were reported in the press, and many avoided anesthesia to minimize the considerable risk associated with surgery. Modesty prevented female patients from seeking unconsciousness during surgery, where many men would be present. Biblical passages stating that women would bear children in pain were used to discourage them from seeking analgesia during labor. […] In certain geographical areas, notably Philadelphia, physicians resisted this Boston-based medical advance, citing unprofessional behavior and profit seeking. [Journal of Anesthesia History]
The Sorrows of Young Werther was published in 1774, when Goethe (1749–1832) was just twenty-ﬁve years old. A product of true literary genius, it not only represents one of the greatest works of literature ever written, but it also offers keenly intuitive insight into one of the most terrible and mystifying emotional disorders that plague humankind. Well before Sigmund Freud, and most probably destined to become an important source of Freud’s understanding of melancholic depression, Goethe was able to peer into the soul of those afﬂicted with what is now termed Major Depressive Disorder (and some forms of Bipolar Disorder) and see what is taking place within those who are suffering from it. It is impressive how clearly Goethe grasped the twin roles played in melancholia of narcissistic object choice and extreme ambivalence toward a love object. [The Psychoanalytic Quarterly | PDF]
We present a case with excessive Internet use, with a particular focus on phenomenology and psychiatric comorbidities. Fifteen-year-old girl with childhood onset attention deficit disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, adolescent onset trichotillomania, and disturbed family environment presented with excessive Facebook use. Main online activity was creating profiles in names of mainstream fictional characters and assuming their identity (background, linguistic attributes, etc.). [Journal of Behavioral Addictions]
Many situations in our lives require us to make relatively quick decisions as whether to approach or avoid a person or object, buy or pass on a product, or accept or reject an offer. These decisions are particularly difficult when there are both positive and negative aspects to the object. How do people go about navigating this conflict to come to a summary judgment? […] We demonstrate […] that when positivity and negativity conflict, the valence that is based more on emotion is more likely to dominate. [Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin]
When one is actively looking for an event with loose probabilistic and temporal expectancies on its occurrence, the awareness of otherwise unnoticed events improves. This finding provides new insights on the attentional mechanisms behind the initial stages of serendipity. [Elsevier]
The First Brain — The Brain Occupying the Space in the Skull. All of us are familiar with the general presence and functioning of this brain as a receiver of information which then gets processed. The Second Brain — The brain in the gut. It has been proven that the very same cells and neural network that is present in the brain in the skull is present in the gut as well and releases the same neurotransmitters as the brain in the skull. Not just that, about 90 percent of the bers in the primary visceral nerve, the vagus, carry information from the gut to the brain and not the other way around. The Third Brain — The Global Brain. This is connected to the neural network that extends from each being on this planet beyond the con nes of the skull and the anatomy of the gut. It is inter-dimensional in nature and contains all frequencies of energies (low and high) and their corresponding information. […] Every human being is born with the three brains described above, but Autistic Beings are more connected and more in-tune with all three simultaneously. But make no mistake – most autistic beings are not necessarily aware of the existence or their connection to these three brains beyond their volitional control although they are accessing information from all three to varying degrees almost all the time. One of the manifestations of being tuned-in to this third brain is Telepathy. [Journal of Neurology and Neurobiology | PDF]
Normal aging is known to be accompanied by loss of brain substance. Machine learning was used to estimate brain ages in meditators and controls. At age 50, brains of meditators were estimated to be 7.5 years younger than that of controls. These findings suggest that meditation may be beneficial for brain preservation. [NeuroImage]
The purpose of the present study was to examine the associations of marijuana use with changes in intellectual performance in two longitudinal studies of adolescent twins (n = 789 and n = 2,277). […] Marijuana users had lower test scores relative to nonusers and showed a significant decline in crystallized intelligence between preadolescence and late adolescence. However, there was no evidence of a dose–response relationship between frequency of use and intelligence quotient (IQ) change. Furthermore, marijuana-using twins failed to show significantly greater IQ decline relative to their abstinent siblings. Evidence from these two samples suggests that observed declines in measured IQ may not be a direct result of marijuana exposure but rather attributable to familial factors that underlie both marijuana initiation and low intellectual attainment. [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences]
The war against cocaine rests on a simple idea: If you restrict its supply, you force up its price, and fewer people will buy it. Andean governments have thus deployed their armies to uproot the coca bushes that provide cocaine’s raw ingredient. Each year, they eradicate coca plants covering an area 14 times the size of Manhattan, depriving the cartels of about half their harvest. But despite the slashing and burning, the price of cocaine in the U.S. has hardly budged, bobbing between $150 and $200 per pure gram for most of the past 20 years. How have the cartels done it? In part, with a tactic that resembles Wal-Mart’s. The world’s biggest retailer has sometimes seemed similarly immune to the laws of supply and demand, keeping prices low regardless of shortages and surpluses. Wal-Mart’s critics say that it can do this in some markets because its vast size makes it a “monopsony,” or a monopoly buyer. Just as a monopolist can dictate prices to its consumers, who have no one else to buy from, a monopsonist can dictate prices to its suppliers, who have no one else to sell to. If a harvest fails, the argument goes, the cost is borne by the farmers, not Wal-Mart or its customers. […] The raw leaf needed to make one kilogram of cocaine powder costs about $400 in Colombia; in the U.S., that kilogram retails for around $150,000, once divided into one-gram portions. So even if governments doubled the price of coca leaf, from $400 to $800, cocaine’s retail price would at most rise from $150,000 to $150,400 per kilogram. The price of a $150 gram would go up by 40 cents—not much of a return on the billions invested in destroying crops. Consider trying to raise the price of art by driving up the cost of paint. […] A dollar spent on drug education in U.S. schools cuts cocaine consumption by twice as much as spending that dollar on reducing supply in South America; spending it on treatment for addicts reduces it by 10 times as much. [Wall Street Journal]
We study the effect of the illicit drug business on terrorism for a sample of 58 countries for the 1984–2007 period. We find that in the long run, higher drug prices are associated with more terrorism
Facial hair, like many masculine secondary sexual traits, plays a significant role in perceptions of an array of sociosexual traits in men. While there is consensus that beards enhance perceptions of masculinity, age, social dominance, and aggressiveness, the perceived attractiveness of facial hair varies greatly across women. Given the ease with which facial hair can be groomed and removed entirely, why should some men retain beards and others choose to remove them? We hypothesized that men with relatively sexist attitudes would be more likely to allow their facial hair to grow than men with less sexist attitudes. […] Men from the USA (n = 223) and India (n = 309) […] Men with facial hair were significantly higher in hostile sexism than clean-shaven men; hostile sexism was a significant predictor of facial hair status. [Archives of Sexual Behavior]
Because ovulating (i.e., high-fertility) women are both more attractive to men and also more attracted to (desirable) men, ovulating women may be perceived to pose heightened threats to other women’s romantic relationships. Across 4 experiments, partnered women were exposed to photographs of other women taken during either their ovulatory or nonovulatory menstrual-cycle phases, and consistently reported intentions to socially avoid ovulating (but not nonovulating) women – but only when their own partners were highly desirable. Exposure to ovulating women also increased women’s sexual desires for their (highly desirable) partners. These findings suggest that women can be sensitive to subtle cues of other women’s fertility and respond (e.g., via social exclusion, enhanced sexual attention to own mate) in ways that may facilitate their mate retention goals while not thwarting their affiliative goals. [Journal of Personality and Social Psychology]
Using luteinizing hormone tests to verify ovulation, across two studies (Samples 1 and 2), we found that women whose partners were relatively low in sexual desirability felt less close to their partner (Samples 1 and 2) and were more critical of their partner’s faults (Sample 2) on high-fertility days of the cycle just prior to ovulation compared with low-fertility days of the cycle. Women whose partners were relatively high in sexual desirability felt closer to their partner (Sample 1) and more satisfied with their relationship (Sample 2) on high- than low-fertility days of the cycle. There were no such shifts in women’s commitment to their relationship. Therefore, partner sexual desirability predicts women’s high-fertility assessments of relationship quality but not their intentions to stay in their relationship, consistent with the dual mating hypothesis. These findings suggest that variations across the ovulation cycle in women’s reproductive hormones play an important role in relationship dynamics. [Hormones and Behavior | PDF]
Sally Ride’s tampons might be the most-discussed tampons in the world. Before Ride became the first American woman in space, scientists pondered her tampons, weighed them, and NASA’s professional sniffer smelled them—better to take deodorized or non-deodorized?—to make sure they wouldn’t smell too strongly in a confined space capsule. Engineers considered exactly how many she might need for a week in space. (Is 100 the right number?, they famously asked her. No, Ride said. That is not the right number.) The engineers were trying to be thoughtful, though; reportedly they packed the tampons with their strings connected so that they wouldn’t float away. […] Before women went into space, there were not only the sadly typical concerns that women would become weepy or unable to function during their periods, but also that the menstrual cycle might somehow break in space. Would the blood come out without gravity to pull it from the womb? Maybe it would all pool up in there, or even flow backward through the fallopian tubes into the abdomen—a frightening condition called retrograde menstruation. In the end, someone just had to try it and see what happened. And what happened was … nothing much. The uterus is pretty good at expelling its lining sans gravity, it turns out. [Phenomena | The Conversation]
Passion and sexual satisfaction typically diminish in longer-term relationships, but this decline is not inevitable. We identified the attitudes and behaviors that most strongly differentiated sexually satisfied from dissatisfied men and women who had been together for at least three years (N = 38,747). […] The vast majority of these participants reported being satisfied with their sex lives during their first six months together (83% W; 83% M). Satisfaction with their current sex lives was more variable, with approximately half of participants reporting overall satisfaction (55% W; 43% M) and the rest feeling neutral (18% W; 16% M) or dissatisfied (27% W; 41% M). More than one in three respondents (38% W; 32% M) claimed their sex lives were as passionate now as in the beginning. Sexual satisfaction and maintenance of passion were higher among people who had sex most frequently, received more oral sex, had more consistent orgasms, and incorporated more variety of sexual acts, mood setting, and sexual communication. [Journal of Sex Research]
Stressful, busy days have been linked with increases in angry and withdrawn marital behavior. The process by which stressors in one domain, such as work, affect an individual’s behavior in another domain, such as the marital relationship, is known as spillover. [Journal of Family Psychology]
Previous research has demonstrated that sexual satisfaction and relationship satisfaction are distinct but correlated constructs, but relatively few studies have examined how they are related over time. [PDF]
When leaning forward to kiss to a romantic partner, individuals tend to direct their kiss to the right more often than the left. Studies have consistently demonstrated this kissing asymmetry, although other factors known to influence lateral biases, such as sex or situational context, had yet to be explored. The primary purpose of our study was to investigate if turning direction was consistent between a romantic (parent-parent) and parental (parent-child) kissing context, and secondly, to examine if sex differences influenced turning bias between parent-child kissing partners. […] The results indicated that the direction of turning bias differed between kissing contexts. A right-turn bias was observed for romantic kissing; a left-turn bias was exhibited for parental kissing. There was no significant difference of turning bias between any parent-child kissing partners. Interpretations for the left-turn bias discuss parental kissing as a learned lateral behavior. [Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition]
Consuming alcohol, for example, really can make everyone else appear more physically attractive. […] Also, playing hard-to-get almost never works. […] Despite what many people think, opposites very rarely attract. In fact, decades of research has shown that attraction is most likely to be sparked when two people perceive themselves as being very similar to each other. [Quartz]
This study aims to investigate the frequency and amount of female DNA transferred to the penis and underwear of males following staged nonintimate social contact with females and to compare the findings with the amount of female DNA transferred to the penis and subsequently to the underwear of a male who had engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse with a female. […] It was possible to demonstrate that DNA can occasionally transfer to the waistband and outside front of underwear worn by a male following staged nonintimate social contact. [Science & Justice]
264 right-handed, 246 mixed-handed and 360 left-handed students were requested to indicate on five maps of cinema halls what place they would choose. All three handedness groups showed a preference for the right and a corresponding directional bias towards the left space. However, they differed significantly from each other on the magnitude of this bias which was most pronounced in right and less in left handers. […] It is hypothesized that right, mixed and left handers differ in a large number of behavioral choices and strategies, modeled by cerebrally lateralized mechanisms and that the cinema seating preference is only one of them. [Cortex]
The QWERTY effect postulates that the keyboard layout influences word meanings by linking positivity to the use of the right hand and negativity to the use of the left hand [PDF]
Two mathematicians have uncovered a simple, previously unnoticed property of prime numbers — those numbers that are divisible only by 1 and themselves. Prime numbers, it seems, have decided preferences about the final digits of the primes that immediately follow them. Among the first billion prime numbers, for instance, a prime ending in 9 is almost 65 percent more likely to be followed by a prime ending in 1 than another prime ending in 9. In a paper posted online today, Kannan Soundararajan and Robert Lemke Oliver of Stanford University present both numerical and theoretical evidence that prime numbers repel other would-be primes that end in the same digit, and have varied predilections for being followed by primes ending in the other possible final digits. […] This conspiracy among prime numbers seems, at first glance, to violate a longstanding assumption in number theory: that prime numbers behave much like random numbers. Most mathematicians would have assumed, Granville and Ono agreed, that a prime should have an equal chance of being followed by a prime ending in 1, 3, 7 or 9 (the four possible endings for all prime numbers except 2 and 5). [Quanta]
According to film mythology, the Soviet filmmaker Lev Kuleshov conducted an experiment in which he combined a close-up of an actor’s neutral face with three different emotional contexts: happiness, sadness, and hunger. The viewers of the three film sequences reportedly perceived the actor’s face as expressing an emotion congruent with the given context. It is not clear, however, whether or not the so-called “Kuleshov effect” really exists. The original film footage is lost and recent attempts at replication have produced either conflicting or unreliable results. The current paper describes an attempt to replicate Kuleshov’s original experiment using an improved experimental design. In a behavioral and eye tracking study, 36 participants were each presented with 24 film sequences of neutral faces across six emotional conditions. For each film sequence, the participants were asked to evaluate the emotion of the target person in terms of valence, arousal, and category. The participants’ eye movements were recorded throughout. The results suggest that some sort of Kuleshov effect does in fact exist. [Perception]
Although most people agree that there is such a phenomenon as intuition, involving emotionally charged, rapid, unconscious processes, little compelling evidence supports this notion. Findings support the notion that nonconscious emotions can bias concurrent nonemotional behavior — a process of intuition
Friday the 13th: The Empirics of Bad Luck [PDF]
Most fans in many popular sports pay less for their tickets than conventional economic theory would predict. Which poses the question: are team owners therefore irrational? Not necessarily. There are (at least?) four justifications for such apparent under-pricing. First, say Krautmann and Berri, owners can recoup the revenues they lose from under-pricing tickets by making more in other ways: selling programmes, merchandise and over-priced food and drink in the stadium. Secondly, Shane Sanders points out that it can be rational to under-price tickets to ensure that stadia are full. […] Thirdly, higher ticket prices can have adverse compositional effects: they might price out younger and poorer fans but replace them with tourists […] a potentially life-long loyal young supporter is lost and a more fickle one is gained. […] Fourthly, high ticket prices can make life harder for owners. They raise fans’ expectations. [Stumbling and Mumbling]
…the immaculate ultrawhite behind the French doors of a new GE Café Series refrigerator […] the white hood of a 50th anniversary Ford Mustang GT […] the white used to brighten the pages of new Bibles, the hulls of super yachts, the snowy filling inside Oreo cookies […] All this whiteness is the product of a compound known as titanium dioxide, or TiO2. A naturally occurring oxide, TiO2 is generally extracted from ilmenite ore and was first used as a pigment in the 19th century. In the 1940s chemists at DuPont refined the process until they hit on what’s widely considered a superior form of “titanium white,” which has been used in cosmetics and plastics and to whiten the chalked lines on tennis courts. DuPont has built its titanium dioxide into a $2.6 billion business, which it spun off as part of chemicals company Chemours, in Wilmington, Del., last fall. A handful of other companies produce TiO2, including Kronos Worldwide in Dallas and Tronox of Stamford, Conn. Chemours and these others will churn out more than 5 million tons of TiO2 powder in 2016. China also produces large amounts of the pigment, and its industries consume about a quarter of the world’s supply. Most of China’s TiO2 plants, however, use a less efficient and more hazardous process than the one developed at DuPont. Starting in the 1990s, if not earlier, China’s government and Chinese state-run businesses began seeking ways to adopt DuPont’s methods. Only they didn’t approach the company to make a formal deal. According to U.S. law enforcement officials, they set out to rip off DuPont. “At first, you’re like: Why are they stealing the color white?” says Dean Chappell, acting section chief of counterespionage for the FBI. [Bloomberg]
We investigate the role of networks of alliances in preventing (multilateral) interstate wars. We first show that, in the absence of international trade, no network of alliances is peaceful and stable. We then show that international trade induces peaceful and stable networks: Trade increases the density of alliances so that countries are less vulnerable to attack and also reduces countries’ incentives to attack an ally. We present historical data on wars and trade showing that the dramatic drop in interstate wars since 1950 is paralleled by a densification and stabilization of trading relationships and alliances. Based on the model we also examine some specific relationships, finding that countries with high levels of trade with their allies are less likely to be involved in wars with any other countries (including allies and nonallies), and that an increase in trade between two countries correlates with a lower chance that they will go to war with each other. [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences]
People typically overestimate how much others are prepared to pay for consumer goods and services. [PDF]
-0.5% Interest rate: Why people are paying to save. Negative interest rates, once a theoretical curiosity, are now the stated policy of some powerful central banks. [NY Times]
The academic publishing market that Elsevier leads has an annual revenue of $25.2 billion. According to its 2013 financials Elsevier had a higher percentage of profit than Apple, Inc.
Piper Jaffray analyst Stan Meyers said animated films generally cost about $100 million to make, as well as an additional $150 million to promote. An executive producer who wants to drastically cut costs traditionally has two choices: water and hair. Those are the most expensive things to replicate accurately via animation. It’s no mistake that the characters in Minions, the most profitable movie ever made by Universal, are virtually bald and don’t seem to spend much time in the ocean. [Bloomberg]
Hedge fund “quants” who use computer systems to trade financial markets earned more money than some of the industry’s most famous stockpickers, who posted large losses in 2015. The most prominent among the quants was string theory expert and former code breaker James Simons of Renaissance Technologies, who earned $1.7bn, putting him in joint first place. He was joined in the top 10 earners by former Columbia University computer science professor David Shaw of DE Shaw who made $750m and John Overdeck and David Siegel of Two Sigma who made $500m each. Their success came in stark contrast to some of the biggest names on Wall Street who rely on human investment judgment rather than lines of computer code. [FT]
Imagine standing at a bus stop, talking to your friend and having your conversation recorded without you knowing. Hidden microphones that are part of a clandestine government surveillance program that has been operating around the Bay Area has been exposed.
MasterCard and Visa didn’t make, or even look, for profits for decades. MasterCard started as a not-for-profit membership association, in 1966, and Visa did the same, in 1971. Both associations managed their brands and ran the clearing and settlement systems for banks that issued cards or helped merchants accept cards. These card networks were allowed to charge their members just enough to cover cost and provide working capital. […] Then the banks decided to turn the associations into for-profit companies, IPO them, and cash out. MasterCard IPO’d in 2006, and Visa followed two years later. Now they are very focused on making money. […] Many other multisided platforms haven’t made the leap to making money. […] Standard Setting Organizations (SSOs) are multisided platforms that help members reach agreements over a standard (For example, mobile carriers, handset makers, chip providers and many others have to agree on a common standard — like 4G — for what they do to work together.) The SSO usually publishes a standard and disseminates it at low cost or even for free. That standard may then become a platform for many firms that produce complementary products and their customers. [Harvard Business Review]
Scientists To Open Mass-Cloning Factory in China This Year To Clone Cows, Pets, Humans The ambitious and futuristic facility hopes to be mass-producing one million cows every 12 months by 2020.
Ass eating restaurant in Japan [Thanks GG]
“you only have 100k because of ur url.” “uh no i had 93k before i got this url so excuse u.” [New Republic]
The authors identify customers, termed “Harbingers of failure,” who systematically purchase new products that flop. Their early adoption of a new product is a strong signal that a product will fail—the more they buy, the less likely the product will succeed. Firms can identify these customers through past purchases of either new products that failed or existing products that few other customers purchase. The authors discuss how these insights can be readily incorporated into the new product development process. The findings challenge the conventional wisdom that positive customer feedback is always a signal of future success. [Journal of Marketing Research]
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is based on the theory that some depressions occur seasonally in response to reduced sunlight. SAD has attracted cultural and research attention for more than 30 years and influenced the DSM through inclusion of the seasonal variation modifier for the major depression diagnosis. This study was designed to determine if a seasonally related pattern of occurrence of major depression could be demonstrated in a population-based study. A cross-sectional U.S. survey of adults completed the Patient Health Questionnaire–8 Depression Scale. […] Depression was unrelated to latitude, season, or sunlight. Results do not support the validity of a seasonal modifier in major depression. The idea of seasonal depression may be strongly rooted in folk psychology, but it is not supported by objective data. [Clinical Psychological Science]
Researchers have created a digital audio platform that can modify the emotional tone of people’s voices while they are talking, to make them sound happier, sadder or more fearful. New results show that while listening to their altered voices, participants’ emotional state change in accordance with the new emotion. […] The study found that the participants were unaware that their voices were being manipulated, while their emotional state changed in accordance with the manipulated emotion portrayed. This indicates that people do not always control their own voice to meet a specific goal and that people listen to their own voice to learn how they are feeling. [eurekAlert]
The present research examined whether possessing multiple social identities (i.e., groups relevant to one’s sense of self) is associated with creativity. In Study 1, the more identities individuals reported having, the more names they generated for a new commercial product (i.e., greater idea fluency). […] Results suggest that possessing multiple social identities is associated with enhanced creativity via cognitive flexibility. [Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin]
The Countries Where People Are the Most Emotionally Complex (Cultures that value interdependence, like Japan, win at being deep)
Italian woman turned to firefighters for help after she lost the key to her chastity belt. She explained she wore the belt voluntarily to prevent herself from entering into sexual relationships.
Conventional wisdom and research seem to suggest that partners in dual career-couples have to decide whether they would rather risk their careers or their romantic relationship. There was no negative association between working time and relationship satisfaction.
Harvard psychologist says people judge you based on 2 criteria when they first meet you: Can I trust this person? Can I respect this person?
Scholars have assumed that trust is fragile: difficult to build and easily broken. We demonstrate, however, that in some cases trust is surprisingly robust.
Previous studies have found that facial appearance can predict both the selection and performance of leaders. Little is known about the specific facial features responsible for this relationship, however. One possible feature is mouth width, which correlates with the propensity for physical combat in primates and could therefore be linked to one’s perceived dominance and achievement of greater social rank. […] We observed that mouth width correlated with judgments of CEOs’ leadership ability and with a measure of their actual leadership success. Individuals with wider mouths were also more likely to have won U.S. senate, but not gubernatorial, races. Mouth width may therefore be a valid cue to leadership selection and success. [Journal of Experimental Social Psychology]
How do we know when we have seen enough information, and that we should stop any further input in order to avoid some form of information overload? [PDF]
When we talk we take turns, where the “right” to speak flips back and forth between partners. This conversational pitter-patter is so familiar and seemingly unremarkable that we rarely remark on it. But consider the timing: On average, each turn lasts for around 2 seconds, and the typical gap between them is just 200 milliseconds—barely enough time to utter a syllable. That figure is nigh-universal. It exists across cultures, with only slight variations. It’s even there in sign-language conversations. […] (Overlaps only happened in 17 percent of turns, typically lasted for just 100 milliseconds, and were mostly slight misfires where one speaker unexpectedly drew out their last syllable.) […] This means that we have to start planning our responses in the middle of a partner’s turn, using everything from grammatical cues to changes in pitch. We continuously predict what the rest of a sentence will contain, while similarly building our hypothetical rejoinder, all using largely overlapping neural circuits. [The Atlantic]
In an unusual new paper, a group of German neuroscientists report that they scanned the brain of a Catholic bishop: Does a bishop pray when he prays? And does his brain distinguish between different religions? […] Silveira et al. had the bishop perform some religious-themed tasks, but the most interesting result was that there was no detectable difference in brain activity when the bishop was praying, compared to when he was told to do nothing in particular. [Neuroskeptic]
Under ancient Jewish law, if a suspect on trial was unanimously found guilty by all judges, then the suspect was acquitted. This reasoning sounds counterintuitive, but the legislators of the time had noticed that unanimous agreement often indicates the presence of systemic error in the judicial process, even if the exact nature of the error is yet to be discovered. They intuitively reasoned that when something seems too good to be true, most likely a mistake was made. [A] team of researchers has further investigated this idea, which they call the “paradox of unanimity.” […] The researchers demonstrated the paradox in the case of a modern-day police line-up, in which witnesses try to identify the suspect out of a line-up of several people. The researchers showed that, as the group of unanimously agreeing witnesses increases, the chance of them being correct decreases until it is no better than a random guess. [Phys.org]
Many of our errors, the researchers found, stem from a basic mismatch between how we analyze ourselves and how we analyze others. When it comes to ourselves, we employ a fine-grained, highly contextualized level of detail. When we think about others, however, we operate at a much higher, more generalized and abstract level. For instance, when answering the same question about ourselves or others — how attractive are you? — we use very different cues. For our own appearance, we think about how our hair is looking that morning, whether we got enough sleep, how well that shirt matches our complexion. For that of others, we form a surface judgment based on overall gist. So, there are two mismatches: we aren’t quite sure how others are seeing us, and we are incorrectly judging how they see themselves. If, however, we can adjust our level of analysis, we suddenly appear much more intuitive and accurate. In one study, people became more accurate at discerning how others see them when they thought their photograph was going to be evaluated a few months later, as opposed to the same day, while in another, the same accuracy shift happened if they thought a recording they’d made describing themselves would be heard a few months later. Suddenly, they were using the same abstract lens that others are likely to use naturally. [Maria Konnikova, The Confidence Game]
After 2.5 millennia of philosophical deliberation and psychological experimentation, most scholars have concluded that humor arises from incongruity. We highlight 2 limitations of incongruity theories of humor. First, incongruity is not consistently defined. The literature describes incongruity in at least 4 ways: surprise, juxtaposition, atypicality, and a violation. Second, regardless of definition, incongruity alone does not adequately differentiate humorous from nonhumorous experiences. We suggest revising incongruity theory by proposing that humor arises from a benign violation: something that threatens a person’s well-being, identity, or normative belief structure but that simultaneously seems okay. Six studies, which use entertainment, consumer products, and social interaction as stimuli, reveal that the benign violation hypothesis better differentiates humorous from nonhumorous experiences than common conceptualizations of incongruity. A benign violation conceptualization of humor improves accuracy by reducing the likelihood that joyous, amazing, and tragic situations are inaccurately predicted to be humorous. [Journal of Personality and Social Psychology]
Lucid dreams are when you know you’re dreaming and you can consciously control events as they unfold: it’s like being the director and star of your own Hollywood movie. It’s estimated that about 20 per cent of people get to enjoy them fairly regularly (at least once a month). For the rest of us, a new study in the journal Dreaming suggests a really simple way to increase your odds of having lucid dreams – just start making more frequent use of the snooze function on your alarm clock. [BPS]
“Can I ask you why you’re buying fat-free half-and-half?” I said. “Because it’s fat-free?” she responded. “Do you know what they replace the fat with?” I asked. “Hmm,” she said, then lifted the carton and read the second ingredient on the label after skim milk: “Corn syrup.” […] The woman apparently hadn’t even thought to ask herself that question but had instead accepted the common belief that fat, an essential part of our diet, should be avoided whenever possible. Then again, why should she question it, given that we allow food companies, advertisers and food researchers to do our thinking for us? In the 1970s, no one questioned whether eggs really were the heart-attack risk nutritionists warned us about. Now, of course, eggs have become such a cherished food that many people raise their own laying hens. Such examples of food confusion and misinformation abound. […] Our beloved kale salads are not “healthy.” And we are confusing ourselves by believing that they are. They are not healthy; they are nutritious. […] If all you ate was kale, you would become sick. [Washington Post]
Everyone on Earth is actually your cousin (the most distant relative would be a 15th cousin)
In 2012, a genetic analysis confirmed that Concetta’s enhanced color vision can be explained by a genetic quirk that causes her eyes to produce four types of cone cells, instead of the regular three which underpin colour vision in most humans. Women with four cone types in their retinas are actually more common than we think. Researchers estimate that they represent as much as 12% of the female population. […] A woman has the potential to produce four cone types because she inherits two X-chromosomes. […] The three cone types that most of us have in our retinas allow us to see millions of colours. Each cone’s membrane is packed with molecules, called opsins, which absorb lights of some wavelengths and cause the cone to send electrical signals to the brain. […] Four cones don’t automatically grant you superior color vision. […] Only one of the seven women with four cones behaved as if she actually perceived differences between the colour mixtures that were invisible to everyone apart from her sons. [The Neurosphere]
After medicine in the 20th century focused on healing the sick, now it is more and more focused on upgrading the healthy, which is a completely different project. And it’s a fundamentally different project in social and political terms, because whereas healing the sick is an egalitarian project […] upgrading is by definition an elitist project. […] This opens the possibility of creating huge gaps between the rich and the poor […]Many people say no, it will not happen, because we have the experience of the 20th century, that we had many medical advances, beginning with the rich or with the most advanced countries, and gradually they trickled down to everybody, and now everybody enjoys antibiotics or vaccinations or whatever. […] There were peculiar reasons why medicine in the 20th century was egalitarian, why the discoveries trickled down to everybody. These unique conditions may not repeat themselves in the 21st century. […] When you look at the 20th century, it’s the era of the masses, mass politics, mass economics. Every human being has value, has political, economic, and military value. […] This goes back to the structures of the military and of the economy, where every human being is valuable as a soldier in the trenches and as a worker in the factory. But in the 21st century, there is a good chance that most humans will lose, they are losing, their military and economic value. This is true for the military, it’s done, it’s over. The age of the masses is over. We are no longer in the First World War, where you take millions of soldiers, give each one a rifle and have them run forward. And the same thing perhaps is happening in the economy. Maybe the biggest question of 21st century economics is what will be the need in the economy for most people in the year 2050. And once most people are no longer really necessary, for the military and for the economy, the idea that you will continue to have mass medicine is not so certain. Could be. It’s not a prophecy, but you should take very seriously the option that people will lose their military and economic value, and medicine will follow. [Edge]
Many people are keen on getting a skin tan despite being aware of warnings of health hazards. The present study investigates differences between women regularly using sunbeds and a control group of non-users in the areas of self-concept, narcissistic regulatory modalities, social assertiveness and generalized self-efficacy.
Thirty women users of suntan salons and 34 women who never used one were investigated with standardized psychological questionnaires. In addition, their knowledge about the hazards of using sunbeds and attitudes to tanning were recorded. Statistical evaluation shows that sunbed users demonstrate more object devaluation: that is, other persons are devalued so that they are not even considered worthy of affection. Furthermore, they also display greater anxiety in their feelings and relationships with others. The results of this pilot study support the hypothesis that a tanned skin, by helping sunbed users to achieve their ideal of beauty, enables them to devalue other people and thus possibly to protect themselves from close relationships. [British Journal of Dermatology]
Poor posture can have ill effects that radiate throughout the body, causing back and neck pain, muscle fatigue, breathing limitations, arthritic joints, digestive problems and mood disturbances. It can also create a bad impression when applying for a job, starting a relationship or making new friends. Poor posture can even leave you vulnerable to street crime. Many years ago, researchers showed that women who walked sluggishly with eyes on the ground, as if carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders, were much more likely to be mugged than those who walked briskly and purposely with head erect. […] In a study of 110 students at San Francisco State University, half of whom were told to walk in a slumped position and the other half to skip down a hall, the skippers had a lot more energy throughout the day. […] Leaning forward or slouching can also reduce lung capacity by as much as 30 percent, reducing the amount of oxygen that reaches body tissues, including the brain. [NY Times]
…the differences between “U” (Upper-class) and “non-U” (Middle Class) usages […] The genteel offer ale rather than beer; invite one to step (not come) this way; and assist (never help) one another to potatoes. […] When Prince William and Kate Middleton split up in 2007 the press blamed it on Kate’s mother’s linguistic gaffes at Buckingham Palace, where she reputedly responded to the Queen’s How do you do? with the decidedly non-U Pleased to meet you (the correct response being How do you do?), and proceeded to ask to use the toilet (instead of the U lavatory). [The Conversation]
They’re probably the most familiar interfaces on the planet: the numeric keypads on our mobile phones and calculators. Yet very few notice that the keypads’ design has remained unchanged for nearly half a century. […] Most users do not notice that the keypads of the calculator and phone are inversions of each other. [Smash]
The number of active contributors in Wikipedia has been declining steadily for years, and suggests that a sharp decline in the retention of newcomers is the cause. [PDF]
The tax sleuth who took down the mastermind behind the online drug bazaar known as Silk Road [NY Times]
In an update on an old story, an investment banker asks the client to pay by placing one penny on the first square of a chessboard, two pennies on the second square, four on the third, doubling the number on each square that follows. If the banker had asked for this on only the white squares, the initial penny would double thirty-one times to $21,474,836 on the last square. Using both the black and the white squares, the sum on the last square is $92,233,720,368,547,758. People are reasonably good at estimating how things add up, but for compounding, which involved repeated multiplication, we fail to appreciate how quickly things grow. As a result, we often lose sight of how important even small changes in the average rate of growth can be. For an investment banker, the choice between a payment that doubles with every square on the chessboard and one that doubles with every other square is more important than any other part of the contract. […] Growth rates for nations drive home the point that modest changes in growth rates are possible and that over time, these have big effects. […] If economic growth could be achieved only by doing more and more of the same kind of cooking, we would eventually run out of raw materials and suffer from unacceptable levels of pollution and nuisance. Human history teaches us, however, that economic growth springs from better recipes, not just from more cooking. [Paul Romer]
In 1971 the performance artist Chris Burden stood against the wall of a California art gallery and ordered a friend to shoot him through the arm. That .22 rifle shot was the opening salvo of a movement that came to be called “endurance art”—an unnerving species of performance art in which the performer deliberately subjects himself to pain, deprivation, or extreme tedium. How Art Became Irrelevant
Dole is the world’s largest producer of bananas. It operates the largest refrigerated fleet, or reeferships, in the world.
People forget that Walmart is a $3 billion trucking company; it’s just they only truck for themselves. Amazon China is now registered to deliver its own products to seaports for ocean shipping.
Redbird Reef is an artificial reef located in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Slaughter Beach, Delaware. The reef comprises 714 ‘Redbird’ New York City Subway cars, 86 retired tanks and armored personnel carriers, eight tugboats and barges, and 3,000 tons of ballasted truck tires. [Wikipedia]