Brain


This makes sense to me:

Why Do Sandwiches Taste Better When Someone Else Makes Them?

By Daniel Kahneman

When you make your own sandwich, you anticipate its taste as you’re working on it. And when you think of a particular food for a while, you become less hungry for it later. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, for example, found that imagining eating M&Ms makes you eat fewer of them. It’s a kind of specific satiation, just as most people find room for dessert when they couldn’t have another bite of their steak. The sandwich that another person prepares is not “preconsumed” in the same way.

Via: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/10/02/magazine/29mag-food-issue.html#/cooking

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 The level of complexity of infants’ cries may help to predict which babies are at risk for language delays, new research suggests.

German researchers compared the cries of three groups of 2-month-old babies: 11 with a cleft lip and palate, 10 with cleft palate only and a control group of 50 unaffected infants.

In infants, a “simple cry melody” consists of a single rising and then falling arc, according to researchers. As children age, their cries become more complex. The ability to intentionally segment melodies by brief pauses, for example, eventually leads to syllable production.

By 2 months of age, healthy infants cries display complex melodies more than 50 percent of the time.

Those whose cries show less complexity are at a higher risk for poorer language development two years later.

So, should we make babies cry, to develop more complexity?

Via http://news.yahoo.com/infants-cries-may-predict-later-language-development-200506124.html

According to a new study, having students write about their fears about an upcoming test significantly improves their performance.

Two laboratory and two randomized field experiments tested a psychological intervention designed to improve students’ scores on high-stakes exams and to increase our understanding of why pressure-filled exam situations undermine some students’ performance. We expected that sitting for an important exam leads to worries about the situation and its consequences that undermine test performance. We tested whether having students write down their thoughts about an upcoming test could improve test performance. The intervention, a brief expressive writing assignment that occurred immediately before taking an important test, significantly improved students’ exam scores, especially for students habitually anxious about test taking. Simply writing about one’s worries before a high-stakes exam can boost test scores.

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/331/6014/211.abstract

Robert Krulwich, NPR’s science reporter, is always interesting, but the report below is absolutely fascinating: people cannot walk in straight lines without visual cues.  And researchers don’t know why.  (Check the link for a fascinating video.)

Try this: Put a blindfold on someone, take them to a park or a beach or a meadow and ask them to walk for as long as they can in a straight line. Then watch what happens:

So why, when blindfolded, can’t we walk straight? There is still no good answer.  Jan Souman, a research scientist in Germany, co-wrote a paper last year about this human tendency to walk in circles.

Walking Blindfolded

Jan Souman/ Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics 

Like Asa Schaeffer in our animation, he blindfolded his subjects (if you can call what he did to them “blindfolding;” it’s more like head wrapping) and told them to try to walk straight for up to an hour.

Google Earth Image

Jan Souman/Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics 

They did this in the Sahara Desert. They did it on a beach. As usual, the blindfolded subjects could not keep to a straight line.

Souman also ran the experiment in Bienwald forest in Germany, apparently without blindfolds. As the subjects walked, Jan mapped where they went. Here’s a sample of his results.

Those two red dots mark the start of several walks. He ran these experiments over a series of days.

The Weather Matters

When the sky was cloudy and visibility low (blue lines), the walkers (labeled KS, PS and RF) were unable to stay straight and began to turn.

When it was sunny (yellow lines), the walker (labeled SM) was able to keep a steady and rather lengthy straight line.

Humans, apparently, slip into circles when we can’t see an external focal point, like a mountain top, a sun, a moon. Without a corrective, our insides take over and there’s something inside us that won’t stay straight.

But Why?

In our radio broadcast, Jan and I  explore (just hit the “Listen” button on this page) possible explanations for this tendency to slip into turns. Maybe, I suggest, this is a form of left or right handedness where one side dominates the other? Or maybe this is a reflection of our left and right brains spitting out different levels of dopamine? Or maybe it’s stupidly simple: Most of us have slightly different sized legs or slightly stronger appendages on one side and this little difference, over enough steps, mounts up?

Wrong, wrong and wrong, Jan says. He’s tested all three propositions (the radio story describes the details) and didn’t get the predicted results. There is, apparently, no single explanation for this phenomenon. He is working on a multi-causal theory.

So like walking in circles, we finish where we started: with Asa Schaeffer’s very simple field studies, his graceful pencil lines (especially when our animator Benjamin Arthur gives them beautiful motion) posing the puzzle: How can we be turning and turning and not know it?

Via: http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2010/11/03/131050832/a-mystery-why-can-t-we-walk-straight

Scientists have confirmed a rather simple tip for looking younger that doesn’t require plastic surgery, Botox or expensive anti-wrinkle creams: Hang out with old people.

We underestimate the age of a person in his or her 30s if we have previously looked at pictures of older people, researchers found.

They also found it worked in reverse: We overestimate ages after looking at pictures of younger people.

“People are actually quite good at guessing the age of the person next to them,” said study researcher Holger Wiese, of Jena University in Germany. But in their experiment, “we are able to change the subjective perception of a face.”

The researchers asked 24 young adults to look at pictures of 15 female and 15 male faces. Each image was doctored to show what the person would look like in his or her 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s.

The volunteer were systematically wrong at estimating other people’s ages after they had looked intensely at faces of people of a specific age group.

For example, if many faces of elderly people were shown on the computer first, followed by the face of a middle-age person, the volunteers made out the middle-age person to be substantially younger than he or she was. But after first studying younger faces, the volunteers estimated the middle-age person as being substantially older.

The effect was strongest if the series of older faces and subsequent image of a younger face were the same gender, the study showed.

The results held regardless the viewers’ age and gender, the researchers said. They said they did not yet know how long the effect lasts.

Via: http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/20110107/sc_livescience/howtolookyoungerhaveolderfriends

New studies show that people who are (or feel) physically clean are more inclined to make harsher moral judgments.

The study, with the somewhat Victorian-sounding name of “A clean self can render harsh moral judgment” was conducted by Chen-Bo Zhong at Northwestern University and appears in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

Some 58 undergrads were invited to a lab filled with spotless new equipment. Half of the students were asked to clean their hands with antiseptic wipe, so as not to soil the shiny surfaces. Afterward all the students rated the morality of six societal issues — smoking, illegal drug use, pornography, profane language, littering and adultery — on an 11-point scale ranging from very moral to very immoral. Those who’d wiped their hands made far-harsher judgments than those who didn’t.

“Participants who cleansed their hands before rating the social issues judged these issues to be more morally wrong compared to those who did not cleanse their hands,” the researchers report.

In a follow-up study, hundreds of participants were told to read a short passage that began, “My hair feels clean and light. My breath is fresh. My clothes are pristine and like new,” made harsher moral judgments about 16 social issues compared to those primed to feel dirty by reading a passage that read, “My hair feels oily and heavy. My breath stinks. I feel so dirty.”

I’d really like to see this tested cross-culturally  (does the effect appear across cultures?) and over time (how long does the effect last?).

via Clean People Feel Morally Superior | Wired Science | Wired.com.

This may be the oddest story I’ve ever read, and I’d be very skeptical if this were April 1:

Matt Frerking, 39, from Portland, Oregon, is left immobile if he even has a romantic thought or sees others showing displays of affection.

The affliction has been diagnosed as a combination of the chronic sleeping disorder narcolepsy with cataplexy, a sudden weakening of the muscles which renders the person temporarily immobile but still aware of their surroundings and able to hear.

For Mr Frerking the feeling that sparks an attack is love and being around his family can send him into a state of physical paralysis.

He is unable to put his arm around Trish, his wife of 13 years, and suffers attacks on anniversaries. He can suffer attacks several times a day.

“Holding hands in public is something that we can do for a few seconds at most, and that’s about it,” Mr Frerking said.

“Putting my arm around her is something that I don’t do unless we’re sitting down and I know that it won’t matter that much if I just flop over. I have to limit those things very carefully.” During an interview with ABC News, he described having to avoid “warm and fuzzy” feelings before passing out after looking at photos in his wedding album.

Attacks are also triggered by trailers for romantic films and Mr Frerking said he tries to stave them off by thinking about scientific research.

Adding to the surreality: Mr. Frerking is a neuroscientist.

via The neuroscientist paralysed by love – Telegraph.

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