20 January 2006

Today in the Science News: Part 2: Human Behavior

Thanks for sticking around for Part 2: Human Behavior. There are some great stories in this section.

Shocker: Politicians found to use spin!:
A scientist at t.u. determined an algorithm to tell if people are lying or telling the truth based on decreased use of words like "I" and increased use of weasel words like "unless." And apparently Paul Martin is a big spinster - much more so than the other Canadian leaders he analyzed.

Next up: analyzing O'Reilly to see just how much spin there really is in the "No Spin Zone." (Not really, but that's what I would do.)

Medical data banks:
This article isn't directly about human behavior. It's about two massive medical databank projects that are calling for volunteers. I think half a million are expected for each. But what interests me is whether volunteers will really allow all of their medical data to be collected in this fashion - including genetic profiles, family history, etc., etc. Even though this information is very useful in studies, how many people are willing to make this sacrifice? I think I touched on the issue briefly a few days ago, but I didn't do more than raise the question.

Granted, the data will be encrypted so that researchers won't have the individual patients' names, just their profiles. But still, I'm not sure I'd be willing to submit all this personal information despite its potential good to mankind. I guess it's one of those situations where people don't do something unless they're sure enough people will do it so that everyone will benefit. (Shoot, what is that called? Theory of Knowledge is way too long ago. Or not long ago enough, depending on how you look at it.)

Another example of such a situation might be when you're getting in the correct lane to exit to I-45 and then people use the lane to your left to get ahead and cut in the line right at the exit. Don't those people realize that their behavior is the reason it takes so long to get on the highway? I never let them in, because they jolly well could have gotten in the correct lane back when I did.


Despite brain tumor concerns, chicks just can't hang up the phone:
Actually, the article is about a study that suggests there is no link between brain tumors and cell phones, which is what I personally think, because if there were such a link, my sister would have bit the dust long ago. But I'd just like to take this opportunity to inform my fellow females that no one wants to know about your shoes or your rash or your oh-so-cute yapping dog. Save your private conversations for private areas. And hang the hell up when you're in the car. Chick driving* is bad enough without adding cell phones to the mix.

*Obviously, my own driving is the exception.

Beer drinkers buy cold cuts and chips, wine drinkers buy cooking oil and chicken:
This is a classic example of one of those studies where researchers wasted a lot of money trying to find out something, when they could just ask me.

And by "chips," I think the Beeb means fries. Chips are called "crisps" in British English if I recall correctly.

Another article on the Sony Reader:
Lots more detail on this e-book viewer than the last article I linked. The human behavior angle here is the question of whether people will actually buy the Sony Reader and download books. (Incidentally, the book download is going to be analogous to iTunes.) As I said previously, I really like the e-tome concept (essentially a hardcover book with e-paper). I do read a lot of e-books, but that's because my nine-foot-tall bookshelf doesn't come to school with me, and most of my favorite books are on Project Gutenberg anyway. But for me, curling up to read a good book is a physical experience that can be delivered by an e-tome, but not by the Sony Reader (the lack of pages is my main complaint). I personally wouldn't buy one.

Primitive people not as stupid as originally thought:
Or at least that's the impression I get from this article. A researcher studied Amazon tribes to see how well they understood geometry, and was apparently shocked to find that they have the ability to understand spatial information.

Lady, do you know how much calculus you have to do in your head just to catch a ball?

Drinking cocoa is good for you:
Because of a chemical in chocolate called epicatechin, which is directly linked to improved circulation and general cardiovascular health. This article is linked to human behavior because it explains what I'm having for dessert tonight and why.

(Actually, I'm going to have a strawberry frozen fruit bar. But when strawberries get back in season, it'll be all chocolate-dipped strawberries, all the time.)

Farmers had more children than hunter-gatherers:
Once again, duh. For one thing, farmers need a good source of cheap labor. But this study has the skeletons to prove that shifting from a hunter-gatherer society to an agricultural society leads to a baby boom.

So, what happens when societies shift from agricultural to industrial? I would guess that birth rates decrease, and because of the corresponding advances in medicine, infant mortality decreases sharply, so that the percentage of live births surviving to adulthood increases. But we won't know for sure until researchers use a bunch of our tax dollars to find out.

Higher education results in a greater belief in the paranormal:
Actually, I don't think a study of 439 college students supports this assertion at all, but it's still pretty interesting. In this study, seniors and graduate students were more likely to believe in paranormal phenomena such as ghosts than freshmen. More accurately, they were more likely to say they weren't sure, rather than checking "Don't Believe." And college students overall are
more likely to be unsure than the general population, even though they also are less likely to state that they do believe.

I'm not explaining it very well, so go read the article for yourself. It's pretty interesting.

And as for my opinion: let's just say I'm comfortable with the idea that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in my philosophy.

The last part of today's science news, Part 3: Miscellaneous, is on its way.


Anonymous M. DuQuesne said...

re: agricultural baby boom - doesn't it just make sense that the farmers would bury all their dead in one place whereas nomads would not have that luxury?

11:47 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Peel said...

Hmm, plausible. I'm not sure of the exact methodology of the research. But it does make sense that birth rates would increase in a more stable situation.

12:11 AM  
Anonymous geoff said...

Marylin Mach vos Savant once said that she didn't like going to MENSA meetings because the people were too preoccupied with the paranormal, ufos, etc. She said that at the higher levels, that preoccupation disappeared and people became more pragmatic, or at least more accepting of life within a provable reality. That's been my experience as well.

11:32 PM  
Anonymous geoff said...

She also said that people who spell her first name "Marylin" instead of "Marilyn" shouldn't even try for MENSA.

11:33 PM  

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