Showing posts from June, 2015

Do You 'Friend' Your Doc? Maybe Not

Who would have thought? "Friending" your doctor on Facebook might not be such a good thing.

For quite a while it's been an option for many physicians and patients.  I have to admit I like it.  But now a new study is saying that maybe, duh, we might want to reconsider.

That's because, obviously, it can blur the lines in your relationship.  And not surprisingly, doctors may not like seeing your dog drinking Starbucks from a paper cup flash on their Facebook screens.

The findings from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers suggest a disconnect between what patients expect and what physicians – concerned about confidentiality and being overwhelmed in off-hours – are willing to do when it comes to online dialogue.

“The medical establishment needs to figure out how best to incorporate this reality into their practice while properly ensuring security safeguards,” says study leader Joy Lee, PhD, MS, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Healt…

Are Lying Kids More Intelligent?

It probably should come as no surprise but kids with good memories are better liars.

Or, as some people think, more intelligent.

Say what?

Turns out the higher a child’s verbal working memory -- the ability to process information -- the better their ability to process the verbal information necessary to tell a believable lie.

Verbal working memory contributes to complex social interactions, like lying, because children need to juggle multiple pieces of information while keeping the lie in mind.

Sadly, my son is a good liar.  He doesn't do it often but he's so good at it, I don't usually know he's doing it.  Maybe it's because I trust him (too much?).

I have to admit, I have a good kid.  So when he does something wrong, I don't always see it.  It started out small in elementary school, where we'd ask if he had homework, he would say no, and then we'd find out (in fifth grade) that he never turned in a final paper.  Actually, now that I think about it, it…

How Many Does It Take to Stop a Bully?

Think about this.  If you saw someone in a crowd being bullied, would you try to stop it? 

The startling truth is that, the more people who witness the act, the more likely it is no one will stop it. 

A new study sheds light on the behavior of “bystanders” who “witness” cyberbullying.

According to, "The higher the number of 'bystanders,' the less likely intervention would occur during a cyberbullying incident."

The perceived anonymity of “bystanders” also reduced the likelihood of intervention. However, the closeness that a particular “bystander” felt toward the victim was most consistently related to his or her decision to intervene.

That's why cyberbullying is such a threat.  The perceived “invisibility” offered by digital communication allows for less adherence to societal standards (who hasn't blown the horn from the safety of your car at someone who turns unexpectedly without signalling, yet would never confront someone who doesn't hold…

Conservative or Liberal? One Has More Self-Control

Who has more self control, Republicans or Democrats?

I've already given myself away that I'm a Democrat (and liberal, to boot), but a new study has found that conservatives showed a greater aptitude for certain aspects of self-control, performing better on tasks that test persistence and attention regulation.

At the same time, liberals appear to exhibit greater self-control when confronted with the idea that free will exerts a negative impact on success.

Hmm.  This reminds me of my own confusion believing in God, and then Charleston happens.  A lot of people believe God doesn't cause evil, man does, because of free will.  (But God doesn't stop it either.)

Anyway, the study was an attempt to take a contemporary approach to how liberals and conservatives explain behavior and the consequences of those explanations for self-control.

The behavior of political conservatives is often seen as reflecting a Protestant work ethic, according to the authors, through which pe…

Are You Trustworthy, or Competent? Your Face Tells

How about this?  We can look more trustworthy.  But we can't look more competent.

According to new research,  we can alter our facial features in ways that make us look more trustworthy, but don’t have the same ability to appear more competent, pointing out the limits and potential we have in visually representing ourselves—from dating and career-networking sites to social media posts.

“Our findings show that facial cues conveying trustworthiness are malleable while facial cues conveying competence and ability are significantly less so,” explains Jonathan Freeman, an assistant professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology and the study’s senior author, at “The results suggest you can influence to an extent how trustworthy others perceive you to be in a facial photo, but perceptions of your competence or ability are considerably less able to be changed.”

Why?  Judgments of trustworthiness are based on the face’s dynamic musculature that can be slightly altered, with a n…

Do You Mostly See Angry Faces? You May Be Depressed.

OK.  Here's a new therapy.  Don't look for people who are angry at you.

Sounds pretty simple but we now know that people who pay a lot of attention to angry faces may be more prone to depression.

Up to 80 percent of individuals with a past history of depression will get depressed again in the future. However, little is known about the specific factors that put these people at risk. New research suggests that it may be due to the things you pay attention to in your life. 

I guess we're talking the cup half-full or half-empty.

 It makes perfect sense to me that if we're more attuned to negative things (angry faces), we're probably already more pessimistic.  And I guess those who are pessimistic are more likely to be depressed.

Researchers at Binghamton University recruited 160 women — 60 with a past history of depression, 100 with no history of depression. They showed each woman a series of two faces, one with a neutral expression and the other with either an a…

Hungry? Eat A Cricket

Really.  I'm not kidding.  It's what may save us when drought and infectious disease and the end of the world destroys all the plants and animals and anything else we eat.

Sorry.  That's really depressing.  But the good news is that insects -- I'm not talking cockroaches, let's get real here -- are truly good for us.

Experts say insects are a sustainable alternative protein source with nutritional benefits that can’t be ignored.

One, they're as full of protein as a steak.  A cricket is 65 percent protein whereas beef is about 50 percent. (Think I'd rather have the ribeye). 

Two, they're high in other nutrients.  Insect protein contains a good range of amino acids and they also contain vitamins, minerals, unsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Want a third reason (and possibly the best?)?  They're low in fat.  Many insect species have less than 5 grams of fat per serving.

It's also good for the environment. Insect farming ca…

Memory? It Uses Your Brain, And Your Sight

I remember, years ago, seeing a man expose himself on a busy main street while I was out running.  I immediately went to the police station and was asked to look through a notebook of potential suspects.

I saw someone immediately who looked like the man, but we had seen a movie recently with a villain who (oddly enough) looked very similar.  Figuring that couldn't be the right man, I said I couldn't pick him out of the faces.  The cop pointed to the exact same picture and said, "Is that him?"

Now, if I were a witness on the stand who was asked the same question, a trial might have gone very differently.  (I never heard back, but clearly, he was a frequent flier!)

Turns out that many decisions we make are often influenced by our memories and the confidence we have in them.  (Don't get me started on False Memory Syndrome, that awful -- and false -- idea put forward by groups in the '90s trying to deny sexual abuse memories that surface later in life.)

But how d…

May Baby? Lucky You. October? Not So Much

Born in May?  Lucky for you.  How about October?  Not so much.

Apparently the month you were born in can tell you a lot about your health.  (I was born in June.  Does it count that I was born four days late, and was actually due in May?)

Turns out Columbia University scientists have developed a computational method to investigate the relationship between birth month and disease risk. The researchers used this algorithm to examine New York City medical databases and found 55 diseases that correlated with the season of birth.

But before you start panicking, by identifying what's causing disease disparities by birth month, researchers hope to figure out how they might close the gap.Earlier research on individual diseases such as ADHD and asthma suggested a connection between birth season and incidence, but no large-scale studies had been undertaken. This motivated Columbia's scientists to compare diseases against birth dates and health histories.

And they found 55 disease…

Do We Really See The Colors We Think We See?

When you see red, do you remember it as red?

According to a new study, maybe not. reports that, though people can distinguish among millions of colors, we have trouble remembering specific shades because our brains tend to store what we’ve seen as one of just a few basic hues, a Johns Hopkins University-led team has discovered.

New research disputes standard assumptions about memory, demonstrating for the first time that people’s memories for color are biased in favor of “best” versions of basic colors over the colors they actually saw.

For example, there’s azure, there’s navy, there’s cobalt and ultramarine. The human brain is sensitive to the differences between these hues —we can, after all, tell them apart. But when storing them in memory, people label all of these various colors as “blue,” the researchers found. The same thing goes for shades of green, pink, purple, etc. This is why, they say, someone would have trouble glancing at the color of his living…

Is Bullying Worse Online, or In Your Face?

Who knew? Cyber-bullying is apparently less emotionally harmful than in-person bullying.

I guess it makes sense.  Someone standing in front of you calling you a racist slur is a lot more alarming because he's in your face.  But I maintain that cyber-bullying is every bit as bad, despite the conclusion a new study came to. reports that, contrary to popular belief, cyberbullying that starts and stays online is no more emotionally harmful to youngsters than harassment that only occurs in-person and may actually be less disturbing because it's likelier to be of shorter duration and not involve significant power imbalances, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association.

Although technology-only incidents were more likely to involve large numbers of witnesses, they were least likely to involve multiple perpetrators, the study found. Also, while technology-only incidents were more likely to involve strangers or anonymous perpetrators, t…

Monkees Can Cook. Say What?

Finally, it's been proven.  A monkey can cook better than me.

Turns out they prefer a baked slice of sweet potato to a raw slice (duh!).  But the reality is that scientists from Harvard and Yale found that chimps have the patience and foresight to resist eating raw food and to place it in a device meant to appear, at least to the chimps, to cook it.

As The New York Times quotes researchers, just like humans, "'Many primate species, including chimpanzees, have difficulty giving up food already in their possession and show limitations in their self-control when faced with food.'”

The chimps weren't actually offered baked vs. raw potato, but the opportunity to wait for a cooked slice of sweet potato a bit later (delayed gratification, anyone?), showing foresight and thought, researchers say.
Now, back to my cooking.  I admit I'm not much of a cook.  I don't really like it but am forced into it every night because I have two family members who really like…

Economically Dependent on Your Spouse? You Just May Cheat

Now this is a surprise (at least, to me).

You're more likely to cheat if you're economically dependent on your spouse.

Hmm, when I was, I was terrified to do anything that put me at risk.  Having no income, and nowhere to go, with a small son, when things got shaky I just had to hold on.

Now a new study is saying that, in an average year, there is about a 5 percent chance that women who are completely economically dependent on their husbands will cheat, whereas there is about a 15 percent chance that men who are entirely economically dependent on their wives will have an affair.

OK, I can see the male point (feeling less manly, maybe).  But women? 

“You would think that people would not want to ‘bite the hand that feeds them’ so to speak, but that is not what my research shows,” says study author Christin L. Munsch, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, at “Instead, the findings indicate people like feeling relatively equal in thei…

Is Your Child in Pain? You Can Tell, But Can the Doctor?