Categories
Psychology

Memories With Smell May Be More Powerful Than Memories With Sight

What activates memory better, sight or smell? Recently, 2 separate studies have been done to identify how effective both visual memory and smell are. In the first study, researchers showed a group of people images of over 2,500 objects for more than 5 hours. Afterward, they were shown the images again, along with similar images, and were asked to identify which ones they had seen before. The results (published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)) showed that 87% of the future images shown to the participants could be correctly identified as having been shown before or not. However, if asked to recant the image from memory, participants usually only have a very vague idea of what the image looked like.

When it comes to smell, it seems that it has a greater ability to spark personal experiences. In a study published in Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, the researchers found that memories associated with odor tend to be stronger than those associated with sight or language. Also, memories associated with smell tend to form earlier, as researchers found that memories associated with smell can form and stay before the age of 10, but memories associated with sight tend to only be forged strongly between the age of ten and twenty.

More studies may need to be done in these areas, but based on these two studies, there is already strong evidence that smell forms stronger memories than sight. Why is another question, and hopefully more researchers will look into that in future as well.

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Categories
Psychology

What Happens When We’re Rejected? Science Has The Answer

There are many times when we may feel legitimate mental pain: a divorce, a conviction, rejection and more. But it’s not just extremely life-changing events that can bring us down. In the modern world, even off-the-cuff comments on social media or encountering one rude person in your day can have a negative effect on your mental health. That can be traced back to evolutionary times, when being ostracised from the group would have major implications for our survival.

What goes on in the brain when we are rejected or encounter someone rude? A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has an interesting answer that lends credence to the phrase “rejection hurts.” In the study, they analyzed what happened in the brains of 40 volunteers who had been abandoned by their parents. The MRI scanner showed that the same region of the brain is activated when someone is rejected as is activated when someone feels physical pain. “The results give new meaning to the idea that rejection ‘hurts'”, the study states.

As for how to deal with rejection, one may speculate that if it has a similar effect to physical pain, then perhaps it can be treated similarly to physical pain. But there are other methods. According to Guy Winch, a protagonist of TED talks, one should not take it too hard on themselves if they are rejected. It is better to instead give yourself some sensible self-criticism and reflect on what you might want to do if the situation repeats itself.

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Categories
Misc

How Much You Earn May Be Written In Your DNA, Study Says

What do the richest people in the world have in common? A study from the University of Edinburgh has come to an interesting conclusion: these people may share the same genes of wealth. A team led by David Hill looked into the UK Biobank database, which contains over 500,000 genetic profiles of people living in the UK, to try to find commonalities between wealth and DNA. This is an unusual study, and to the best of our knowledge, the first that has been done of this kind.

The study involved taking 286,000 people in the UK Biobank and then dividing them automatically according to income level. For people with lower income, Hill found that there were less advantageous genetic variants, while in the wealthiest group he found several commonalities that could be attributed to a higher level of intelligence. The question is whether that is enough to determine that DNA and wealth are closely correlated.

One of the issues with this study, as mentioned by Julien Larregue, is that it is hard to exactly define the concept of intelligence and that there are many factors that go into someone’s income level. After all, the same person with the same DNA may easily earn differently if they were born in a different country or had a difficult upbringing.

The closest study we found to Hill’s study (where researchers linked income to some other trait) was this one led by Philipp Koellinger, where more than 800,000 people were analyzed to try to calculate someone’s income based on job type, age and sex. But as far as determining with definite certainty whether DNA will influence income, there is just the 1 study for now.

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Categories
Behavior

How Does Counting On Fingers Help Children?

It is an innate behavior of children that they will use their hands to count and work out sums, and parents tend to encourage this behavior. It is only later in life that they are told not to rely on their fingers so much. But how would children’s learning be different if they did not use their fingers so much? That is the question that a new study published in Frontiers in Education aims to answer.

The leader of the study, Tim Jay, has confirmed that counting on fingers definitely makes it much easier for young children to learn mathematics. “The fingers provide children with a ‘bridge’ between different representations of numbers, which can be verbal, written or symbolic,” says Jay.

The study was done with 137 children aged between 6 and 7, who played different mathematical games. Among these 137 children, a small group of them played games that required them to use their fingers in different ways: counting with their fingers, adding their fingers, pressing their fingertips and so on. And the results were clear: the small group of children that had to use their fingers did significantly better. Later, the children who originally played games without using their fingers and then used their fingers also showed an improvement. “Combining finger training and games with numbers could be a tool for teachers to more effectively support children’s numerical understanding,” says Jay.

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Categories
Health

Bacteria Is Helpful Late In Pregnancy, Study Finds

A study from Bar-Ilan University, led by Omry Koren and Yoram Louzon and published in Cell Reports, has discovered that bacteria that make up our microbiome are able to perceive pregnancy and understand the need to move on and help the baby break down sugar in breast milk. Previous research had found that microbiome was responsible for weight gain and inflammatory responses in pregnancy, but what was causing these changes were unknown. In this study, it was found that progesterone regulates microbial composition in pregnancy in a way that helps babies to develop.

To conduct their research, the authors analyzed the changes that took place in bacteria as a pregnancy progressed. They found that there was a major change in the composition of bacteria in the last stage of pregnancy, with an increase in Bifidobacterium. These bacteria are considered crucial for babies to develop.

In their tests, researchers found that there was an increase in the level of progesterone that came with the inflammatory response. When administering progesterone, it was noted that the amount of Bifidobacterium was increasingly rapidly. It could therefore be concluded that Bifidobacterium detects and can respond to progesterone.

“Our results,” concludes Koren, “delineate a model in which progesterone promotes the growth of Bifidobacterium during the last stage of pregnancy. The findings provide new insights to understand the relationship not only between hormones and intestinal bacteria during pregnancy, but also in other conditions in which hormones participate, such as progesterone as a component of fertility treatments or therapy in menopausal women.”

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Categories
Behavior

Fake Smiles May Do More Harm Than Good

Smiling has always been considered to be extremely important, as it eases the mood and acts as a social cue. But according to a recent study, this may only be if the smile is genuine. If a smile is fake, it may actually be doing more harm than good, and can have negative implications for our health. The study was a joint effort from Penn State University and the University of Buffalo.

According to the researchers of this study, people who work in areas that expose them to the public (such as clerks, waiters, taxi drivers and so on) are more likely to go out for a drink after a shift, where they will have spent several hours dealing with people they do not necessarily like and pretending to be happy. The link between having to try to please people with a facial gesture and then consuming alcohol was even stronger in highly impulsive people, and in professions that required constant customer engagement (such as virtual customer service.

Based on these findings, the leader of the study, Alicia Grandey, says “Pretending and suppressing emotions with clients leads to the need to drink more than one’s own work stress or negative emotions.

“If you are impulsive or are constantly being told how to do your job, it may be more difficult to control your emotions during the day. So, when you get home, you don’t have that self-control to stop once you start drinking,” Grandey explains.

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Categories
Psychology

How Do We React To Certain Metaphors?

A new study published in Brain Research has attempted to gain a deeper understanding of metaphors: could they improve mood? Can they play a role in health aging? What about using metaphors to learn abstract concepts? The leader of the study, Vicky Lai, a professor at the University of Arizona, analyzed how and when various different areas of the brain lighted up to try to understand what effect metaphors and language has.

The study shows that understanding the meaning of a metaphor takes significantly more effort for the brain. Previously, various studies with functional NMR or MRI had shown that when someone heard a simple expression such as “this is difficult”, regions of the brain that are associated with difficulty were activated, while if someone heard a saying like “this is good”, areas of the brain associated with pleasure were activated. But hearing metaphors had a somewhat different effect.

In Lai’s study, they had recorded electrical patterns in the brain using brain waves when participants in the study had heard various metaphors, and found that when hearing metaphors, the brain was significantly slower to understand the meaning of what it heard, and the effect was different to when the participant would hear text of the same meaning but in clearer words. More work will still need to be done in this area, and with more participants.

“Understanding how the brain approaches the complexity of language allows us to start testing how it would affect other aspects of cognition,” Lai concludes.

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Categories
Health

Study Examines Relationship Between Weights And Muscle

Many people have reported anecdotally that if they go to the gym over a long period of time, they gradually feel themselves getting stronger, but their muscles do not necessarily increase in size at the same time. According to a new study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, there is a reason for that, and it has to do with the brain. This study provides an example of how training with the same weights for more reps does not necessarily have much of a positive effect, but instead, increasing the weight lifted most definitely is able to create changes in the body.

The study was led by Nathaniel Jenkins and has come up with several answers that evaluate how motor neurons are able to adapt to heavier weights. According to the study, if you try to lift heavier weights, more motor neurons are stimulated, which will increase your strength: “If you want to gain strength, whether you are an athlete, a gym rat or any other person, training with greater weights will help you adapt better,” Jenkins said.

The study was conducted by studying 26 men who were asked to train for 6 weeks on a leg extension machine.  The participants were split into two groups, one who gradually tried to increase the weights they lifted, and one who did not increase weights but performed more reps instead. Speaking of the group that increased weights, Jenkins says, “they were more efficient. They were able to produce the same force, but by activating fewer motor cells. For practical purposes, exercises with greater weight will give better results in your body. It is not only an adaptation of the force, but also of the neurons.”

The result of the study is clear: to continually improve, it’s not sufficient to just do more reps. You have to increase the weight as well.

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Categories
Misc

Stress Among Teachers Is Worse Than We Thought

A study published in the British Journal of Educational Studies has raised the issue of the quality of life that teachers experience. In the study, 1200 teachers were interviewed, and of those just over half reported that they wanted to leave the profession after 10 years. The main reasons given for this were the high workload and the desire for a better work-life balance. In regards to workload, many teachers found that they disliked being supervised and the bureaucracy of teaching.

While most respondents reported that they say teaching as a long term career (75%), not so many teachers reported that they were happy with their job or that they actually intended to stay doing it forever.

As far as the reasons the study found for why people wanted to become teachers, the main reasons were making a difference (about 2 in 3), working with young people (64%) and love for teaching (1 in 2). But once these people started teaching, the boredom and difficulty of the job often dampened their enthusiasm, according to the study.

While many teachers expected a high workload before starting the profession, many reported that it was even higher than they expected, and too much of the job was not focused on teaching, but rather marking exams, evaluation, preparing for reviews and so on – the least creative areas.

“It is not that they were not aware that the teaching was going to be demanding,” the authors point out. “However, they feel that the demands of the work exceed their capacity for adaptation. This raises the questions: what can be done to stop this trend? The general response of the government is that education will improve by reducing the workload, eliminating unnecessary tasks and increasing payment. This can help, and our study continues the discourse that the workload is key. However, it also indicates that part of the problem lies in the culture of teaching, constant scrutiny, the need to perform, and hypercritical management. Just reducing the workload will not address these problems. ”

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Categories
History

Were The Neanderthals Cannibals?

In a recent study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, researchers have taken a look into the lifestyles and habits of neanderthals, and come to some interesting conclusions. The study was conducted by French researchers Alban Fefleur and Emmanuel Desclaux, who studied the remains of neanderthals found in a small cave in southern France. The six neanderthals, according to the researchers, bore characteristics of cannibalism: there were cut marks, dismemberment of finger bones that appeared to have been knawed, and bite marks.

Other examples of cannibalism were also found in Croatia, Spain and Belgium. But what was the reason for such a practice? The bodies in southern France, as analyzed by this study, now bare some clues. Fefleur and Desclaux were able to reconstruct details of the environment at the time and the climate conditions, and found that there was a massive change in the environment, with a much higher increase in temperature. Before and after warming, there were remains of reindeer and wooly mammoths. During the warm period, however, the area lacked large mammals, offering only rodents and insects.

The researchers, therefore, speculate that a lack of large animals and hunting opportunities were what likely led to such barbaric cannibalism in this case. In their analysis of the tooth enamel of the neanderthal remains in southern France, they found signs of stress, illness and malnutrition.

At this stage, the researchers do not believe that there was any ritualistic kind of cannibalism taking place. Rather, where cannibalism did take place, it was only done out of desperation.

Image credit: https://www.nhm.ac.uk/content/dam/nhmwww/discover/human-evolution/neanderthal/neanderthal-model-full-width.jpg.thumb.768.768.png

Categories
Health

Study Asks: What Athletes Will Suffer The Most In The 2020 Olympics?

Global warming is now resulting in higher and higher temperatures in our cities. And this does not just affect the physically weak: even the strongest among us, professional athletes, are affected by rising temperatures. Now, a new study published in Temperature by Taylor & Francis, is making predictions on what athletes will get the most UV solar radiation in the 2020 Olympics. According to their results, the following areas are at the highest risk:

  1. Women’s individual tennis players
  2. The gold medal for men’s golf
  3. The winner of the men’s cycling race

This is due to the hours that these events take place and their duration. The athletes above will have a major risk of sunburn, and a higher risk of skin cancer.

“The winner of the women’s individual tennis will have to compete in 6 rounds, many of which will be at noon,” explains Nathan Downs, leader of the study. “Golfers must also compete in four daytime rounds, and the winner of the men’s cycling race can also expect to be exposed to sunlight for at least 6 hours.”

Results showed that the duration and time of day that the events took place were the main factor in the exposure of UV rays. However, these are not the only factors: clothing also plays an important role. That is why women’s individual tennis players were deemed as a higher risk, as for mobility reasons they will wear fewer clothes than male golfers, for example.

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Categories
Psychology

Researchers Say Facial Expression Is Not The Only Cue To Read Emotion

Is facial expression the only cue we take in when reading the state of a human being? According to a study by the University of Berkeley in California, it isn’t. When it comes to reading emotions, it turns out there are many other factors, including visual context, background and action. The findings will appear later this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This study poses something of a challenge for the decades of research that has taken place before it that focused on facial expression to read emotions.

“Our study reveals that the recognition of emotions is, in the end, a matter of context as much as of faces,” says lead author Zhimin Chen, a PhD student in psychology at the Californian university. To do this study, the researchers blurred out the faces and bodies of actors in many different movies and home videos, and asked participants to read their emotions given how they were interacting with their environment.

The study was able to gather a lot of data in a short period of time. Eventually, this could be used to help interpret emotions from people with disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

“Some people may have deficiencies in recognizing facial expressions, but they are able to recognize emotions within a context,” Chen said. “Right now, companies are developing machine learning algorithms to recognize emotions, but they only train their models in cropped faces and based on facial expression. According to this new work, these ways of studying moods would give totally inaccurate results.”

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Categories
Environment

Are We More Violent Because Of Climate Change?

The effects and consequences of climate change are widely known. However, there may be lesser effects that are not widely considered. For example, could it be that climate change could also be making us more violent? That’s the question posed by Craig Anderson at Iowa State University, who conducted a study that says that extreme heat tends to increase irritability and hostility, which are precursors of violence. In addition, a statistical analysis shows that regions with higher temperatures have a positive correlation with higher criminal acts.

Of course, heat is only one factor that could be altering human behavior, and climate change has multiple consequences. Natural disasters and economic instability that may result from climate change, for example, could cause people to modify their character.

According to Anderson, the most vulnerable group here is children. Bad living conditions and disorganization of families in times of climate change could have a major effect on children who do not have control over their lives to the same degree that adults do.

Speaking of climate change, Anderson stated “It is a global problem with very serious consequences. We need to plan ways to reduce negative impacts. The inadequate supply of food and economic disparity makes it difficult to raise healthy and productive citizens.”

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