Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Save Our Country: Raise Nice Kids

I found this surprising.

Well, maybe not.  But maybe not.  According to a new study, parents are raising their kids to achieve or be happy, the Washington Post relates.

What's wrong with that?  They're not valuing caring for others.

About 80 percent of the youth in the study said their parents were more concerned with their achievement or happiness than whether they cared for others. The interviewees were also three times more likely to agree that “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.”

Why is this important? Because if we want our children to be moral people, we have to, well, raise them that way, right?

 We've certainly seen enough of the kids who make fun of others for being different, or because they don't wear the right sneakers, or live in the right neighborhood.  And isn't this, at the head of it all, where bullying comes from?

I guess you can't teach morality or empathy if you don't have it yourself.  And that's also something kids learn from their parents.

One of the most important things I taught my son when he was little was to do the right thing.  That meant picking up the box of noodles that fell on the floor while we were walking by in the grocery store.  Telling the cashier she gave you back too much change (and for me, hardly a math wizard, that was big).   Having lunch with the kid who sat by himself.  I was never prouder than when Phillip moved several seats down the cafeteria table so he could talk to the kid who didn't know anyone else.

And this was in high school.

Yes, I still don't always let other cars merge, and do rush to be first in line when we go out to dinner in the summer and I want our table on the patio.  But I'm getting better.  I'm letting people get in front of me in line at the grocery store if they only have a few items (one day I let three!).  And I don't bark, "You're welcome!" when I hold the door and the person doesn't say thank you.  Well, got to work on that one.

But Phillip is noticing it.  "You let that car in?" he said the other day, astonishment in his voice.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Want Your Kid to Learn More? Watch TV With Him. Really.

We've been told to coach our kids' soccer teams.  Sit with them at tea parties.  And when they're older, try to get to know their friends (well, maybe not).

But a new study is now saying that watching TV with them is actually the key.

According to, parents' presence when watching TV with kids affects their learning ability.  Can they think of anything else to blame us for??!!

The study shows an increased physiological change in children when parents view programs with them as opposed to being in a separate room.

While the web site noets that parenting today, for many, has become nothing more than sitting a child in front of a television or handing them a device that plays their favorite video, other studies show that kids become more interested in activities when their parents are involved. And it’s not just being a coach for their child’s youth sports team or attending the school play. It could be as simple as watching TV with the child instead of treating the device like a babysitter.

The study examined the physiological behavior of children who watched television with a parent and those who watched alone.

Using their college’s facilities at Texas Tech, researchers discovered a definitive change in a child’s heart rate and skin conductance, which measures how well the skin becomes a conductor of electricity when stimulated, when that child watches a program with the parent as opposed to watching it with the parent out of the room.

That physiological change is an indicator of how much effort is put into learning from the program as the brain-body connection relates the importance of the program to the parent’s presence.

“I think this is the first time that anybody has looked at the question of why kids seem to learn better from TV when their parent watches them,” says Texas Tech's Eric Rasmussen, an assistant professor of public relations and Justin Keene, an assistant professor of journalism and electronic media, whose research focuses on children and the media and discusses the topic through his blog, ChildrenAndMediaMan.

“All of the other research we know of looks at what happens to children’s learning patterns when the parents are in the room. This is the first time I know of that people are exploring what might be the reasons why children learn better when the parent is in the room.”

Why does this happen?  Some theories suggest the kids determine the program’s importance by the parent’s presence, and others theorize the children determine the program must meet the parent’s approval if they are watching with the child.

Regardless of the motivation, the results were clear – parents who want their children to have a better understanding of the programs they are watching need to be present with their child, sitting next to them, watching the program. It’s known as co-viewing.

“If parents are watching with them, they should know the kids learn things more if they watch with them, whether it’s violence, sex, language, whatever,” Rasmussen adds. “This really suggests that parents need to be more aware of their influence because parents have that influence whether they think they do or not. Just being there is making a difference.”

In the study, some parents watched a clip about whales or men fighting nature, sitting right beside the child on a couch. In other instances, the parent was completely out of the room, out of sight of the child. The heart rate and skin conductance monitors clearly showed an increase of both when the parent was in the room with the child as opposed to when the parent was out of the room, thus indicating a heightened indicator of the effort to learn by the child.

“Researchers have shown that kids are more interested in activities in which the parents are involved, whether that’s at school or reading or whatever,” Rasmussen says. “It makes sense then that kids would be more interested in TV if the parent is more interested in that as well. I think parents being involved in a kid’s life means a lot to kids whether they know it or not.”

And, maybe, the results of this research are as much of a wake-up call to parents as it is an indication of the behavior of the child.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Always Late? You Must Just Be Getting Older

I've never been late in my life (if you don't count my birth, when I waited a week).

But a new study says that I'll be late soon.  It comes with age.

Supposedly that's because young and old use different strategies to estimate the passage of time, according to

I have a friend who was perennially late.  We'd make plans for lunch and I -- always early -- would be sitting there steaming as the minutes ticked by. I knew she was always trying to always get just one more thing done but I took it as a personal insult, that I wasn't important enough for her to be on time.

Ironically, we're still friends.  And now she's early.

Newswise reports that people rely heavily on time estimates of past experiences to plan for future tasks and that outside influences, such as background music, can skew our perception of time, causing even the best-laid plans to go awry.

“Our results suggest time estimates of tasks that we need to incorporate into our later plans, like a drive to an appointment, are often based on our memory of how long it took us to perform that same drive previously,” says Emily Waldum, principal author of the paper and a postdoctoral researcher in psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences.

“Even if you think you estimated the duration of events accurately, external factors unrelated to that event can bias time estimates,” she adds. “Something as simple as the number of songs you heard play on your phone during a run can influence whether you over- or under-estimate the duration of the run.”

In a study that involved taking a trivia quiz, putting a puzzle together and, in some cases, listening to either two or four songs, seniors managed to complete future tasks on time at about the same rate as college undergraduates, although each age group used surprisingly different strategies to estimate how much time they would need to do the puzzle, then repeat a trivia quiz they'd taken before, on deadline.

In the experiment, older adults relied instead on an internal clock to estimate how long it took them to complete the first quiz.  Consistent with other research on internal clocks and time perception,  seniors in this experiment tended to underestimate time taken on the first quiz. This led them to spend a little too much time on the puzzle and to finish the second quiz a bit beyond deadline.

“When younger adults heard two long songs during the first quiz, they performed a lot like older adults, underestimating the quiz duration and winding up a bit late,” Waldum notes. “When they heard four short songs, younger adults overestimated how much time they would need to repeat the quiz leading them to finish it too early.”

Thus, older adults performed about the same, regardless of whether they heard songs or not. For young people though, background music played a big role in whether they were too early or too late, Waldum explains.

While the challenges of being on time may remain largely the same throughout a lifetime, this study suggests that the tricks we use to stay on schedule may evolve as we age.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Immoral People's Characters May be Disgusting, But, Surprisingly, Their Actions Not

OK, I admit it.  I find Donald Trump's character to be pretty, well, disgusting.

A new study agrees with me.  It says that a person's character, more so than their actions, determines whether we find immoral acts to be ‘disgusting,’ according to new research in Psychological Science, as reported by

 “We wanted to know why moral transgressions can be disgusting even when they don’t involve the kinds of things that typically disgust us, like body products, insects, and rotting foods,” says psychological scientist and study co-author Hanah Chapman of Brooklyn College, the City University of New York. “We found that what drives moral disgust seems to be the character of the transgressor — who they are more so than what they do.”

The worse someone’s character is, says Chapman, the more disgusting people typically find them to be.

The research was prompted by differing findings regarding how our judgments of moral violations evoke specific emotional responses: anger and disgust.

 Whether it's groping women -- admitting to it, and then denying it -- or cheating vendors out of money rightfully owed them to because of specious charges of dissatisfaction -- my finding of Trump's behavior and character "disgusting" may be shared by man.

Now, while we find "disgusting" the character of the people who commit immoral (or even moral) actions, the actions themselves are just angering, according to the study.  Research focused on whether a person’s bad character might be what leads us to feel disgust in response to harm and other rights violations.

 In their research, scientists found that the emotion ratings given by participants in the study indicated that  negative character evaluations were associated with greater disgust, but not greater anger.

So what are we to make of this?  I'm not sure.  Unfortunately, Trump elicits both disgust and anger in me so I'm afraid I wouldn't have been a good candidate for this study!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Palter or Lie? Your Choice, But Be Careful

I have a new word for you.  It's "paltering."

And you'll never guess what it means.  But think, truth, and lies. reports that the ability to deceive someone by telling the truth is not only possible, it’s common in negotiations and those who palter can do serious harm to their reputations, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

Why does the name "Trump" come to mind?

Anywho, to date, research has primarily focused on two types of deception: Lying by commission -- the active use of false statements – and lying by omission -- the passive act of misleading by failing to disclose relevant information, notes lead author Todd Rogers, PhD, of Harvard University, at the web site.

"In this study, we make a novel contribution to the deception literature by identifying a third, and common, form of deception," he points out. "Rather than misstating facts or failing to provide information, paltering involves actively making truthful statements to create a mistaken impression.”

Say what?

Paltering is used by politicians commonly, according to Rogers. “Politicians often palter when the truthful answer to a question would be harmful,” he said. “When candidates get questions they don’t want to hear, they often focus on continuing to make truthful statements, but try to mislead listeners.”
One famous example Rogers cited was when President Bill Clinton said “there is not a sexual relationship” between him and former White House intern Monica Lewinski. The Starr commission later discovered that there had been a sexual relationship but it had ended months before Clinton made that statement – thus, it was technically true but clearly misleading.

Or when Donald Trump said he never groped women.

In any event,study experiments confirmed that people in general could distinguish paltering as a distinct form of deception, different from lying by commission or omission.

In a second study, the researchers determined that it is a common form of deception, with over 50 percent of business executives enrolled in an advanced negotiation course at Harvard Business School admitting they had paltered in some or most of their negotiations.

In the experiments, the researchers discovered that people preferred paltering to lying by commission, but the results of being found out can be just as harsh. While palterers tended to think of their actions as more ethical because they essentially told the truth, when the deception was revealed, they were graded as harshly by their counterparts as if they had lied by commission.

“When individuals discover that a prospective negotiation partner has paltered to them in the past, they are less likely to trust that partner and, therefore, less likely to negotiate with that person again, “says Rogers.
“Taken together, our studies identify paltering as a distinct and frequently employed form of deception.”

Rogers postulates that people palter because they have a flawed mental model. Palterers think it is OK because they are telling the truth but their audience sees it as lying.

Monday, December 19, 2016

What Makes An Employee Stay? Would You Believe Energy?

Hiring good people.  Giving them incentives to work hard.  Rewarding them.

All important but did you know the most important key to retention is the energy in your workplace?

According to, research shows that people who energize their work colleagues are less likely to voluntarily leave an organization - unless they are high performers.

A research study has found that people's energy towards colleagues has a major influence on how likely they are to leave their josb voluntarily. IT workers over a four-year period were studied by academics at the Grenoble Ecole de Management (France) and the Surrey Business School at University of Surrey.

Retaining staff is a key focus for companies since staff turnover causes huge costs in terms of recruitment fees, training and loss of organizational performance. It is estimated that replacing a high level executive can cost up to 4.5 times' the employee's salary.

The study reveals that people who have "energetic activations" (the hump you have to get over to get out of bed in the morning) with colleagues are less likely to leave an organization voluntarily than those with low energy towards workmates. However, conversely, energized people who are also high performers are actually more likely to leave an organization - probably because they have good alternatives elsewhere. At the other end of the scale, low performers who do not energize others are likely to be asked to leave.

The research concludes that the people who are most likely to stay in their jobs voluntarily are those who are in the middle of the energy and performance spectrums. The research builds on the idea - developed in the early 2000s - that relationships have a strong bearing on how "embedded" people are within an organization, and how likely they are to leave.

"While there has been much research in the past into staff turnover, there has not been a consensus about what causes people to leave their jobs," say researchers.  "When someone leaves a job, it is rarely a total surprise - usually colleagues and bosses are aware that the person is growing more distant. What this research shows is that having a low level of energizing interactions, which causes an individual to feel isolated in his job, is often a major factor behind their decision to leave."

Other findings:

•Being fired is not necessarily down to poor performance or not being a good fit; it may be because an individual dampens the energy of those around them.

•Findings could help companies to reduce their staff turnover, which represents a huge cost both in terms of replacing people and organisational performance

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Do Thoughts of Death Spur You to Buy?

Now this is weird. Do thoughts of death change our shopping habits?

According to a new study, yes, they do. reports that it's not really what you think, but just that, in this time of holiday merriment, it's easy to become really depressed about reports of plane crashes, terrorist attacks, fatal car accidents and deadly fires, which may lead shoppers to think more about their own mortality than buying that new iPhone for your kid.

Now new research from the John Molson School of Business (JMSB) and HEC MontrĂ©al shows that, for people with certain world views, thoughts of death don't cause us to curl up in our homes and not venture out.  They can actually trigger the buying impulse.

While the habits of spendthrifts don't change after contemplating their own mortality, compulsive shoppers, on the other hand, go out and buy more.

"Previous research shows that thoughts of death lead individuals to strongly defend world views that maintain their self-esteem," researchers say. "In other words, thinking about death will likely make people cling even more strongly to their beliefs because it's a way to cope with mortality.  This indicates that such consumers see purchasing and having goods and services as an important source of self-esteem. When they think about death, they become more inclined to buy because this helps them feel better about themselves."

I don't know about you but a new pair of Manolo Blahnick's always make me feel better (that is, if I could afford them).