Friday, March 20, 2015

Are Emoticons The New Pick-Up Lines?

Who'd have guessed? 

Men are more jealous when a member of their own sex uses an emoticon in a text to their significant other than women.

According to new research,“Men were more jealous when emoticons—specifically winking ones—were included in messages to their significant other,” says Dr. Denise Friedman, associate professor and chair of psychology at Roanoke College, and author of the study. She adds that women were more jealous when there were no emoticons.

Say what?  

Now I'm lucky because my husband hates computers and only uses one when he absolutely has to.  A few years ago his office moved to electronic medical records and he was forced, kicking and screaming, to enter the digital age.  He wouldn't know an emoticon from a leprechaun.

Men and women also reacted in different ways, depending on how the study questions were asked, according to newswise.com. Women reported more Facebook jealousy in general, especially when surveyed, but men reported equally or more jealousy when allowed to freely respond to a scenario in their own words.

I suppose it's because emoticons connote a sort of intimacy between people.  I can see how a winking one might send a lover over the edge.  




The questions in the study were aimed at college students, who were asked how they would react if they opened their partner's email or Facebook account and found an emoticon from a member of the opposite sex.  Although it serves them right. But don't take it from me.  (I went ballistic recently when a letter in unfamiliar handwriting addressed to my husband came in the mail.  Things blew up when he refused to tell me who it was from.  He's gotten over being scared to come home.)

But here's the crux of the matter. Emoticons convey signs of emotional infidelity to women, while to men, it's all about sex.


“Women react more strongly to signs of emotional infidelity, while men react more strongly to signs of sexual infidelity,” says Friedman. “Because men tend to use winking emoticons to flirt, and women interpret these as flirting as well, men may be reacting to them as signs that their partner is sexually unfaithful. This was likely true in the described scenario which described private messaging between their significant other and an unknown member of the opposite sex.”

Full disclosure: I've never received a winking emoticon, though I've received a fair share of smiley faces.

 “It seems that emotional infidelity online makes women seek social support,” says Friedman, “but sexual infidelity online evokes an aggressive reaction in men. That aggressive reaction to perceived sexual infidelity may have real life implications to consider. For example, romantic jealousy has been associated with spousal abuse and even the murder of one’s wife.”

Well,we won't go there.

But with kids today spending so much time online, forming and sustaining many of their relationships through social media, are they going to learn how to be -- and make -- good partners? Navigating romance and commitment through real life is hard enough.  Can you really do it with a wink? 



Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"Sharenting?" Yes, I'm Guilty

I admit I do it, too.  In fact, I just did it last week, when my son gave a brief talk at Princeton (yes, University) at age 13.  The reality is that Princeton was just the location of the talk, but he did give it to an audience of IEEE members.

That's The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (to people like me who can't even pronounce double-precision floating point format), and yes, we were very proud.

So, of course, the minute we got home, I put it up on Facebook, and went on to get over 30 likes (hey, I know, not much, but it's the most I've ever gotten!).

And now researchers are saying this isn't such a good idea.  

“By the time children are old enough to use social media themselves many already have a digital identity created for them by their parents,” says Sarah J. Clark, M.P.H., associate director of the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health and associate research scientist in the U-M Department of Pediatrics.

I'm guilty.  I posted photos of him taking his first step (ok, so he was almost 17 months), on his first tricycle, jumping into the swimming pool. Last year his co-ed bowling birthday party.  I got in trouble for that one.

There's even a word for it.  It's called "sharenting."

Clark adds that, on one hand, social media offers today’s parents an outlet they find incredibly useful when looking for advice and what other kids are doing (is mine normal?). On the other hand, some are concerned that over-sharing may pose safety and privacy risks for their children.  Not to mention boredom, for friends.

I've thought about that, too, especially after posting the nude one of him at age two, crawling through the garden after a turtle.  

But what is it that we're really trying to do?  I know that I, as an older mom, struggled for acceptance and recognition that I was doing it right, in the beginning.  Here I was, in my late 40s, having a child, and not even knowing how to hold a bottle.  By posting on Facebook, I could look accomplished -- and hide the shame and fear that I didn't have a clue what I was doing.

Of course, today, it's a little different.  I now know, as parents, we're all bumbling through and just have to take it a day at a time.  Do I get upset when friends post parties my son wasn't invited to?  Of course.  Or when their son shoots the winning basket (when my kid's idea of sports is taking his dishes down the hall to the kitchen)?

So why do we do it?  Does anyone really know?  Are we all trying to prove our lives are better than everyone else's?  I do believe that's part of it.

Who hasn't felt overwhelmed when a child gets an award and yours only got runner-up? I know I've been there, or, as has happened recently, their kids make high honors and yours, just honors, because of that "B" in art.

Researchers worry that we're invading our children's privacy when we post stuff about them.  My son isn't crazy when I do it -- and I try to do it rarely -- but it gives me, I admit it, pleasure.  See?  Look.  My kid's doing okay, too.

So the next time you decide to post that sushi is your kid's favorite meal, remember the rest of us out here.  We don't really care.  And I promise.  I won't post the video of Phillip's speech at Princeton (which I almost did, last night) if  you don't post the one about Harry getting the perfect attendance award. 





Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Do You Want to Know What Serious Illness Lies in Your Future?

Would you want to know if you had cancer in your future?  Thanks to all the milestones researchers are making in genes and genetic makeup, you probably can.

According to newswise.com, using a small amount of blood or saliva, a technology called whole genome sequencing makes that possible – and more than half of parents surveyed  said they’d not only be interested in the technology for themselves but for their children too, a new nationally-representative University of Michigan study shows.

For obvious reasons, mothers as a group in the study and parents whose youngest children had more than two health conditions had significantly more interest in predictive genetic testing for themselves and their youngest children while those with conservative political ideologies had considerably less interest. More than three- fourths of parents also showed the same interest in genome sequencing for themselves as they did for their kids.

As a cancer survivor, would I have wanted to know it was coming?  I don't think so.  Knowing me, I would have spent the months and years till it reared its ugly head worrying and obsessing and generally, not enjoying life at all.

Since I find ways to worry about just about everything, I would want to know the exact minute cancer developed in my body, and I would be on the lookout for any telltale symptom while ignoring everything else that happened in in my life.

As usually happens, the disease snuck up on me, on a routine exam.  And I have to say, I'm glad that it did.  I would not have wanted to spend the years prior to my diagnosis thinking 24/7, is it coming today?  Will it be here when I come back from vacation?  Will it make its presence known before my son's fourth birthday (which, it did).

But what about those who want to plan?  Of course, these genetic forays only tell us the chances of developing a certain disease.  They don't yet have 100% accuracy.  It's like the BRCA test for the breast cancer gene.  Yes, your risk is up to 80% for breast (and ovarian cancer), but there's still the lucky 20% who don't get it, even with the gene. (I didn't have it, and I got it.)

he study found that about 59 percent of the total population, including both parents and nonparents, were interested in genome sequencing. Nearly 62 percent of parents said they’d be interested in the complete DNA read for themselves and 58 percent of parents were interested for their children.

Planning to have a child in the next five years was also significantly associated with greater interest in genome sequencing among adults overall but not significant among current parents. Authors speculate this could be because parents who have already had a healthy child may have “minds at ease concerning their own genetic makeup” compared to nonparents.

But what's that old saying?  The past's history, the future a mystery.  Today is a gift. That's why it's called the present.  I'm here in the now (cancer taught me).  And you know what?  It's the best place to live.


What’s Your Genetic Destiny? More Than Half of Parents Want to Know Disease Risks for Selves, Kids

85 % of parents had identical interest for selves and children

Released: 9-Mar-2015 8:05 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: University of Michigan Health System
Contact Information Available for logged-in reporters only
Citations Public Health Genomics
Newswise — ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Would you want to know if you or your children had risk of hereditary cancer, a genetic risk for cardiovascular disease or carried the gene associated with developing Alzheimer’s disease – even if they were risks that wouldn’t be relevant for possibly decades or didn’t have a cure?
Using a small amount of blood or saliva, a technology called whole genome sequencing makes that possible – and more than half of parents said they’d not only be interested in the technology for themselves but for their children too, a new nationally-representative University of Michigan study shows.
Mothers as a group and parents whose youngest children had more than two health conditions had significantly more interest in predictive genetic testing for themselves and their youngest children while those with conservative political ideologies had considerably less interest. More than three- fourths of parents also showed the same interest in genome sequencing for themselves as they did for their kids.
The findings appear in this month's online-ahead-of-print issue of Public Health Genomics.

“As genome sequencing becomes faster and cheaper, we expect the technology to become used more frequently in clinics and the private market. We wanted to know what kind of factors influenced patient demand for this test, especially among parents,” says senior author Beth Tarini, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of pediatrics at U-M’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and researcher at the Child Health Evaluation and Research (CHEAR) Unit.
“Particularly fascinating was that parents’ interest for having predictive genetic testing done for themselves reflected their interest in testing their children too – it appears to be a global decision for the family.”
The study found that about 59 percent of the total population, including both parents and nonparents, were interested in genome sequencing. Nearly 62 percent of parents said they’d be interested in the complete DNA read for themselves and 58 percent of parents were interested for their children.

Planning to have a child in the next five years was also significantly associated with greater interest in genome sequencing among adults overall but not significant among current parents. Authors speculate this could be because parents who have already had a healthy child may have “minds at ease concerning their own genetic makeup” compared to nonparents.
Whole genome sequencing is a laboratory process that examines a person’s DNA makeup in order to provide information about the risk for developing diseases in the future, as well as to diagnose active symptoms or diseases. Currently, the technology is most commonly used to find a medical cause for patients who already have symptoms for an undiagnosed health condition.

While sequencing could reveal risk of a handful of rare and preventable diseases, authors note there is concern for how accurately the information would be interpreted and how useful it will actually be for patients.

“It’s a test that gives you a lot of data but the devil is in the details,” says one author of the study. “First, interpreting the data is challenging, because we are not sure what all of the data means. Second, even if you can interpret the data, then you may not know what to do with the interpretation. Perhaps you learn you have a slightly higher risk of getting prostate cancer or diabetes – neither of which is for certain or in the near future. Now what?”

So it all goes back to how much you want to know, how much you want to prepare for.  As someone who used to live in the future, ignoring the present all around me, I've found staying in the moment is so much better.  Cancer taught me that.  No one knows how much time they have on this earth and these tests probably aren't going to tell you either.

I kind of believe in fate, that what's meant to happen is going to happen. It's how I finally got my son, after five years of failed fertility treatments.  I knew he was out there, and he would be mine some day.  And finally, it happened.

So, you know the old saying?  The past is history, the future, a mystery.  But today is a gift. That's why they call it the present.  It's a good place to live.




Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Do You Have to Be Narcissistic to be a Leader?

This should probably come as no surprise.  But men are more narcissistic than women.

I suspect this is true because women who think highly of themselves are often thought of as vain and self-centered while men who do, aren't. When was the last time someone called George Clooney in love with himself?

With three decades of data from more than 475,000 participants, a new study from the University at Buffalo School of Management reveals that men, on average, are more narcissistic than women, according to newswise.com. 

“Narcissism is associated with various interpersonal dysfunctions, including an inability to maintain healthy long-term relationships, unethical behavior and aggression,” says lead author Emily Grijalva, PhD, assistant professor of organization and human resources in the UB School of Management.

But at the same time, narcissism is also shown to boost self-esteem, emotional stability and the tendency to emerge as a leader.

Think of the people you knew in high school who were good-looking and knew it.  Maybe they were athletes, or ran the newspaper.  How many of them went on to accomplish something really great?  I can think of at least two from mine.
 
The study suggests that men are more likely than women to exploit others and feel entitled to certain privileges. And compared with women, men exhibit more assertiveness and desire for power, Grijalva says.

Research has shown that personality differences, like narcissism, can arise from gender stereotypes and expectations that have been ingrained over time. The authors speculate that the persistent lack of women in senior leadership roles may partially stem from the disparity between stereotypes of femininity and leadership.

Who hasn't been there?  Try to present an alternative idea as a woman at a meeting and get called "bossy" or "over-bearing."  Do it as a man?  You're called strong, intelligent.  In charge.

“Individuals tend to observe and learn gender roles from a young age, and may face backlash for deviating from society’s expectations,” Grijalva says. “In particular, women often receive harsh criticism for being aggressive or authoritative, which creates pressure for women, more so than for men, to suppress displays of narcissistic behavior.”

So is narcissism really just incipient leadership, in disguise?  I guess if you're going to be a leader, you have to think highly of yourself.  But I know people who adore themselves who really don't have much else going for them.  So it seems it's a toss-up, like just about everything else in life. 

Would I call Obama narcissistic?  No.  But would I call Clinton (that's Bill)?  Yes.  Hillary, not so sure. 














Wednesday, March 4, 2015

In Sickness and in Health? Maybe Not, for Men

Why does this not surprise me?  Apparently six percent of marriages end in divorce when the wife gets sick.

We're not talking tonsillitis or the flu, but major, serious  illness, like heart attack or cancer.

I should know.  I was diagnosed with breast cancer 11 years ago, and though my husband went with me to the appointment where we discussed treatment, all I remember is him saying, "This is nothing," as we walked through the parking lot to Tully.

Of course, as the surgeon talked on, telling us that though my cancer was non-invasive, it was the highest grade, which meant they weren't totally sure it hadn't spread outside the milk duct, he kept looking at me.  (Thankfully, it turned out not to.)  Walking out of the office, Larry said, "You were right.  It's something."

I don't remember much about that time.  We had a three-year-old and I was more concerned about taking care of him (and making sure he didn't notice anything was wrong) than dwelling on what was coming.

I had surgery and then six weeks of radiation and was considered "cancer-free."  When it recurred two years later, and more intense treatment was required, Larry was there to drive me and wait until after the seven-hour surgery was done, but shortly after I came out of the anesthetic, he left.  We did have a small child to get home to.

But the next morning when I was ready to go home, I remember calling, anxious to leave, and him saying, "But Phillip is playing Legos!" I was furious, but now, all these years later, I realize he wasn't trivializing my situation but trying desperately to cope with something that was terrifying him.

A new study says the reason men leave marriages is kind of obvious.  It's the stress the illness puts on the marriage, especially if the spouse has to become the caretaker.   (Men are usually okay when their wives can't cook but not when they need someone to actually feed them.)

I was fortunate in that I healed fairly quickly (enough to go our son's kindergarten play four days later).

But I learned something about myself that I'm still learning today.  Like most men, my husband doesn't sense what I need.  And I've learned to do without.  But recently, after taking a bad fall,  running (and not for the first time), when all he did was scream at me for doing it, I just left the house for the ER on my own.  (Of course, all that blood and a swollen nose probably wasn't exactly what he was expecting, first thing in the morning!)

I didn't realize until two days later, when we were in the car going somewhere and I yelled at him for driving too slow, that I got that it was me I should be mad at.  Not him for not figuring out what I needed -- please come with me to the ER -- but for me not telling him.  You know men. They never know.  But for the first time in my life, I really needed him.  And I didn't tell him.  I found it too terrifying to let him in. 

I'm getting better.  My nose isn't nearly so big, and the black and blue under my eyes, while a pretty color, is slowly fading.  And I'm a frequent visitor to the ER because I fall all the time (last winter, it was a broken wrist).  But the lesson I learned is I'm my own worst enemy. If I had asked him, he would have gone with me to the ER.  But I didn't.  I found it too threatening, because, up till now, I have been afraid to be so close.

Don't get me wrong.  He still annoys the hell out of me a lot (most?) of the time.  But when I realized that it was me, not him, keeping me out, I knew I had to stop blaming him, and find a way to come in.  







Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Our Brains Would Let Us Walk Around While We Sleep

Great.  Our brains don't shut off even when we sleep.

True, they're used when we're dreaming and also those awful times when we're just drifting off to sleep and jerk awake.  (That's called a hypnic jerk.  See?  You learned something today.)

But I for one always thought that my brain rested at night so it could get ready for rousing my kid out of bed (actually, fighting is more like it), slicing fruit and pouring Cheerios for his breakfast, showering, making sure he's getting dressed, signing on to the computer to see what's going on at work, making sure he's getting dressed, making his lunch (easy -- he eats only Goldfish, go figure), warming up the car, making sure he's getting dressed, and finally, getting him in and driving to school, then to the grocery store, and on to work.

It's amazing I have any brain left at all.

And that doesn't count making sure my husband stops exercising long enough to take the garbage out.

Ah, it's great, being a soccer mom.

Anyway, a new study has found that it's our brain's GPS that never stops working.  Apparently when we're sleeping, our brains still can seek out direction, which, I guess, only helps if you're a sleepwalker.  (Both my husband and son are, but it still doesn't help Larry's sense of direction.)

Turns out the navigational brain cells that help sense direction are as electrically active during deep sleep as they are during wake time — and have visual and spatial updating cues to guide them.

 In experiments involving mice, during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep -- a stage known for intense dreaming activity in humans and during which brain electrical activity is virtually indistinguishable from being awake -- the "'needle" of the brain compass in their brains surprisingly moved at the same speed observed during awakeness.

Even during what's called "slow-wave" periods of sleep, amazingly it was as if the mice turned their heads 10 times faster than during the time they were awake.

“We have long known that the brain is at work during sleep,” says senior study investigator Gyorgy Buzsaki, MD, PhD, the Biggs Professor of Neural Sciences at NYU Langone and its Neuroscience Institute. “But now we know how it is working in one of the seemingly simpler senses — head orientation — or our sense of where we look at in any given space. The direction sense is an essential part of our navigation system, since it can reset our internal compass and maps instantaneously, as, for example, when we emerge from the subway and try to orient ourselves.”

Buzsaki says the brain actively explores and coordinates its operations "even when it disengages from its interactions with the environment.” In other words, our brains are wide awake even as we sleep.

He says the findings indicate that brains in mammals do not passively wait around to receive sensory inputs, but actively pursue them, just like the active sense of head turning that persisted in the mice during sleep.

So the next time someone's sleeping near you, realize they're not really out.  They can still sense you sneaking to the refrigerator door open at midnight.  Okay.  You caught me.  








Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Teachers: Get Better Grades? Make Them Compete

Does your daughter expect a D on the algebra test?  No matter the amount of studying, she will probably get it.

Not because she's dumb.  Because somehow kids' expectations of how they will do in a class actually affect the outcome, according to a new study.

Research has shown that what a student expects to learn and how they expect to do in a class actually has an impact on their learning, professor Angela King has found.

For example, she says at newswise.com, a student might take a divisional class and assume they will get an A because it’s viewed as their “easy” class. “They are already calculating their GPA based on that A and will do whatever it takes to get that A, while a student who takes a class perceived as more difficult, like an organic chemistry course, just wants to pass the class.”

And sometimes that means they settle for a C, she added, when a little more effort or an alternative study method could help them improve their learning, and their grade.

 It's a little like positive thinking, I guess, though I always got Ds in math and a mountain of positive thinking couldn't have changed that!

But apparently, after working with students to prove her thesis, King found that dividing them up into teams who competed by building up points based on the grades they received (F's deleted points while A's earned extra points) actually started to do better. The big prize? Fifteen-point bonuses on their final exams.

Since most were premed, this was very enticing.

Ironically, the team which won was so far out in front that the other students stopped adding up points (and I guess, let their grades slip).  So much for motivation!