Showing posts from December, 2015

Resolution, Schmesolution, We All Make Them, Then Break Them

Ask, don't tell.

No, we're not talking about gays in the military but New Year's resolutions.

Experts say if you ask someone if they're going to exercise in the new year, you're far more likely to get a positive response than if you say, you're a fat pig, you need to lose weight.

We all make resolutions at the new year -- and most of us drop them by about the third week of January.  I know, I'm one of them -- though my determination to lose weight and run at least 3 miles a day every day has stayed strong.  Of course, I've only lost about 5 pounds this year and some people still say, "I saw you out walking," when I'm jogging by.

But asking about resolutions in a simple question can be a game-changing technique for people who want to influence their own or others' behavior, according to a recent study spanning 40 years of research.

 The research looked at the phenomenon in which asking people about performing a certain behavior influ…

Hate Facebook? Love Facebook? Need Facebook?

I have a friend who posts everything she does -- from the restaurants where she drinks wine (holding up the glass to prove it) to the meals she prepares in her kitchen to the new car she bought with a convertible top (posed with a Santa cap and the top down at Christmas), angling for likes.

I guess you would say she's dependent on Facebook

Now a new study says that if what drives you to Facebook is feedback on your posts, or even just news, or games, yup.  You're hooked.

 But that's not necessarily a bad thing, says Amber Ferris, an assistant professor of communication at The University of Akron's Wayne College. at

Ferris, who studies Facebook user trends, says the more people use Facebook to fulfill their goals, the more dependent on it they become. She is quick to explain this dependency is not equivalent to an addiction. Rather, the reason why people use Facebook determines the level of dependency they have on the social network. The study found …

Read This Before You Eat An Oreo Out of a Vending Machine

This might make you think twice the next time you reach for an Oreo out of a vending machine.

A new study has found that harmful bacteria can survive on sandwich crackers and cookies for months.  And months.

According to, researchers at the University of Georgia found that pathogens, like salmonella, can survive for at least six months in cookies and crackers. The recent study was prompted by an increased number of outbreaks of food-borne diseases linked to low-water-activity, or dry, foods.

We won't even get into Chipotle.

“There have been an increased number of outbreaks of diseases associated with consumption of contaminated dry foods. We wouldn’t expect salmonella to grow in foods that have a very dry environment,” says Larry Beuchat, a Distinguished Professor Emeritus and researcher in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, who works with the Center for Food Safety on the UGA campus in Griffin. 

Beuchat and study co-author David Mann, a…

Drink Up! You'll Be Healthier!

They don't know if they're coming or going.  Doctors are now saying that alcohol is good for your heart.  But maybe not so much for your breasts, ladies.

Turns out a whole confluence of studies has found that one drink a day, every day, keeps your heart healthier but may contribute, somewhat significantly, to the development of breast cancer.   But any more than that, not so much.  And as for those who really don't imbibe at all, we could be in the worst shape of all.

According to The New York Times, research into how alcohol consumption affects health has been going on for a long time. A 1990 prospective cohort study included results of more than 275,000 men followed since 1959. Compared with those who never drank alcohol, those who consumed one to two drinks a day had a significantly reduced mortality rate from both coronary heart disease and “all causes.” Those who consumed three or more drinks a day still had a lower risk of death from coronary heart disease, but …

A Christmas Story: Gift-Givers and Giftees

We all know the story of the woman expecting a diamond necklace who gets the Swiffer for Christmas. Or the woodworker, the mani-pedi.
What do you do when you get a gift you really . . .don't want?
Oh, I've been there.
Granted, my husband is Jewish and Christmas has come hard to him. But what do you do when you don't get what you want, from somebody you love but who should know better?
Experts conducting an experiment found that women who got an undesirable gift shrugged it off, while men who got a bad one weren't quite so easy-going. They say it's easier for women to wreck a new relationship with a bad gift. As if.
Larry hasn't always been a, well, great gift-giver. When we first started dating I got a diamond heart one Christmas, a solid gold bracelet another and even one-carat diamond earrings the Christmas I was pregnant with our son ( my idea).
What is the effect of bad gifts given within established relationships? Arthur C. Brooks at The New Yo…

Not Much Difference Between Insomnia and Hours of Normal Sleep

Getting less and less sleep?  Congratulations.  You've evolved to a human.

Humans get by on significantly less sleep than our closest animal relatives. The secret, according to a new study, is that our sleep is more efficient.

Researchers from Duke University scoured the scientific literature and compiled a database of slumber patterns across hundreds of mammals including 21 species of primates -- from baboons and lemurs to orangutans, chimpanzees and people. They then used statistical techniques to account for each species' position in the primate family tree.

They found that humans are exceptionally short sleepers -- getting by on an average of seven hours of sleep a night, whereas other primate species, such as southern pig-tailed macaques and gray mouse lemurs, need as many as 14 to 17 hours.

 Now, I don't particularly care much about the sleep habits of southern pig-tailed macaques, I find it interesting that they make out better than us at night (we won&#…

Want to Get Motivated? Simple. Do It Now

It's pretty much the same old story. But it's still a good one.

Live in the moment.  But now researchers say it will help with motivation, too.

Their point?  Enjoy the task at hand, according to 

A new study from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business finds people value having a positive experience when they are in the middle of an activity, although this matters less to them before or after they start the activity. For example, people value that their work is engaging more when in the middle of a current job then when thinking about future work.

 Because when people look forward to or back on an activity, they tend to underestimate how important it is to actually enjoy doing it, people also underestimate in advance how much the presence or absence of a positive experience will influence their persistence on a task. And further, people may come to regret selecting activities that provide a less enjoyable experience when they are engaging in …

Helicopter Parents: Let Your Teen See the Doc Alone

Helicopter parent. I admit it.  Though it's morel like kamikaze, in my case.

But a new study has alleviated my stress a little.  I let my teenager go in with the doctor alone on annual visits, unlike many other parents.

Just 34 percent of parents say their teen discussed health concerns privately with a doctor without them in the room, and less than 10 percent say their teens can complete their health history form independently.

Although I shouldn't congratulate myself too much.  I'm very lucky, my son is healthy and doesn't have any health concerns at this time.  But I do go in first with him and answer the doctor's questions about his general health, though I'm letting up a little on that, too.

“The majority of parents are managing teens’ health care visits, and their teens may be missing out on valuable opportunities to learn how to take ownership of their own health,” quotes Sarah J. Clark, M.P.H., associate director of the C.S. Mott Chi…

Computer As Therapist: It Knows When You're Mad

Now this is a little eerie.

Computers supposedly know when we're angry.

It's not from banging on the keys.  Or shrieking at it, "You saved it, didn't you?!"  Would you believe it's from the movement of your mouse?

Brigham Young University information systems experts say people experiencing anger (and other negative emotions--frustration, confusion, sadness) become less precise in their mouse movements and move the cursor at different speeds.

Thanks to advances in modern technology, the team can now gather and process enough data points from  cursor movement to measure those deviations and indicate an emotional state.

 Using this technology, websites will no longer be dumb," Jenkins said. "Websites can go beyond just presenting information, but they can sense you. They can understand not just what you're providing, but what you're feeling."

According to research, when users are upset or confused, the mouse no longer follows a st…

Breaking Up is Hard to Do - At Least, with Facebook

Want some reasons to break up with Facebook? 

Experts say there are four but I'm sure you can think of many more.  The time your (ex) fiance changes his listing back to "single" (and this is before he tells you!). The time you learned (as I have, many times) about the parties your kid's not invited to.  The endless stream of kids making high honors, or slugging the winning ball or hot beach vacations when you were just jumped by a loose dog and had your cell phone stolen, to boot (read: me).  

New research from Cornell Information Science discovered four reasons why our relationship with Facebook is complicated, according to

• Perceived addiction – Those who feel that Facebook is addictive or habitual were more likely to return, according to the group’s research. One participant described this habitual aspect by saying, “In the first ten days, whenever I opened up an Internet browser, my fingers would automatically go to 'f'.”

• Privacy and …

Over-qualified? Join the Crowd

I know I've been there.  Hired to flip burgers when I have a B.S. in journalism and have spent many years in (high-paying) corporate environments. 

But overqualified employees are a boon to businesses.  Of course. 

A new study found that, while overqualified  — the condition of employees who believe that their qualifications exceed the requirements of their jobs — has been widely considered harmful for organizations (which is why most companies shy away from such job applicants), it's quite the opposite.

Researchers spent six months conducting interviews and studies of 11 information technology companies in China and discovered that, "when individual employees feel that they are not the only ‘big fish in the pond,’ and when overqualification becomes a norm rather than exception within the group, they tend to have more favorable reactions toward their own over-qualification status and perform better," reports.

A lot of words to say we're cut do…

Internet Use Makes Us Less Cocky -- About What We Know, At Least

I suppose it makes sense.  But a new study says that the Internet is making us less quick to say we know things.

Sure.  That's because anyone anywhere can look up just about anything to confirm you're right (or wrong).

People are less willing to rely on their knowledge and say they know something when they have access to the Internet, suggesting that our connection to the web is affecting how we think, according to

Professor Evan F. Risko, of the Department of Psychology at the University of Waterloo, led a recent study where the team asked about 100 participants a series of general-knowledge questions, such as naming the capital of France. Participants indicated if they knew the answer or not. For half of the study, participants had access to the Internet. They had to look up the answer when they responded that they did not know the answer. In the other half of the study, participants did not have access to the Internet.

The team found that the people w…

Does Your Car Talk to You? Beware

We all know (or should) the dangers of texting and sometimes, even talking on the phone, while driving.  But a new study has found that talking to our car could be just as distracting, too.

Past human factors/ergonomics studies have shown that some in-vehicle technologies intended to help with driving tasks are actually competing for drivers’ attention and undermining driving safety, according to Human factors/ergonomics studies over the past 10-plus years have examined a variety of distractors, including watching TV (yes), emailing and, of course, putting on makeup.

Researchers conducted a series of experiments aimed at determining the relationship between cognitive distraction of various kinds and on-road crash risk. Distracting tasks included listening to the radio, talking on both handheld and hands-free phones, and interacting with voice-to-text e-mail.

Their results from baseline, driving simulator, and on-road conditions using a number of measurement tec…

Want More Productivity from Your Employees? Make Them Eat Lunch Together

When I worked in one office, I often went out to lunch with my colleagues.  They were all women and about the same age, and three of us out of 7 were pregnant at the same time!

But in other offices I either worked through lunch or took lunch alone.

Now a new study is saying that workers who do break bread together are more productive.

Actually, what researchers looked into was if companies who invest in upscale cafeterias or catered meals (think: Google), getting a good return on their investment? According to a new Cornell University study, the answer is yes.

 Cornell professors found that firefighter platoons who eat meals together have better group job performance compared with firefighter teams who dine solo.

Now, I've interviewed firefighters and their meals are one of the high points of their day.  They love sharing the cooking and joking around while someone's at the stove.

“Eating together is a more intimate act than looking over an Excel spreadsheet together. That…

Your Self-Image Determines the Goals You Set

OK, I admit, I failed this test.

 You’re a careful eater, avoiding high-calorie snacks and meals as a rule. But one day at the lunch counter, instead of ordering the usual salad, you’re tempted by a cheeseburger. Will you give in?

I did.

This apparently shows that you're influenced by whether you view yourself as more or less of an independent type, and whether you generally try to be ambitious or maintain the status quo.

This could mean a lot in setting goals, according to a new study, which has shown that how you view yourself may have an impact on setting goals.

Researchers examined two kinds of “self-construal” – that is, how people view themselves. Someone with an “independent” self-image sees himself as distinct from others, while a person with an “interdependent” view of himself aims to fit into the social structure and maintain harmonious relations with others.

Additionally, the study identifies two kinds of goals – those of “attainment” and of “maintenance.” Some…

What Do Psychopaths Really Need?

Everyone is in shock about the mass killings at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs and now, at the campus for disabled adults in San Bernadino.

But how can you be sure you don't raise a pyschopath?

A new study says that parents who don't pay enough attention to their children's distress may, in some very rare cases, not hear their children's cry for help, and then we all know what carnage can happen, after that.

The recipe is pretty simple, at least to me.

How do you stop a child, especially one who has experienced significant adversity, from growing up to be a psychopath? Responsive, empathetic care-giving – especially when children are in distress – helps prevent boys from becoming callous, unemotional adolescents, according to a new Tulane University study of children raised in foster care.

The study showed that intervention can actually prevent such a disastrous outcome.  The destructive condition affects approximately 1 percent of the population, and whil…

How Much Running is Enough? You'd Be Surprised How Little

Now THIS I find truly depressing.

Did you know that you only have to run 1.5 to three miles two or three times a week to be healthy?  So why am I killing myself doing 3-5 miles a DAY every day?

Granted, I'm proud of myself that in late middle age (late late?), I'm still able to do this.  Not that I run very fast.  In fact, some people have said, "I've seen you out walking."  As if.

I'm a little faster than that.  (But not much.)  I can do two miles in about 22 minutes.  Don't ask about the longer runs.

But Gretchen Reynolds wrote in the New York Times this week that all you need to stay healthy is that meager amount I mentioned in the beginning. She says the maximum benefits of running "occur at quite low doses," she says.

I have to admit I was proud when an ER doctor (yes, another fall from running) asked if I had any heart problems because my pulse was so slow.  (Me and Lance Armstrong!  We have the same beats per minute of our hearts -- 45!) …

Stressed? It Can Affect Not Only Your Kids, But Your Grandkids, Too

Now this is depressing.

A new study says that you can affect not only your kids with any stress you may be feeling, but your grandkids, too.

Exposing female adolescent rats to stress before they even become pregnant leads to changes in behavior and the hormonal system not only among their children but also among their grandchildren when they reach adulthood; this according to a new study from the University of Haifa.

 he researchers also found a gene related to stress which expresses itself differently in the brain of individual offspring from the moment they are born. According to the researchers, this finding suggests that it is not maternal care which influences variations in offspring, regarding stress, according to

As in previous studies, the researchers exposed the female rats, when still adolescents, to minor stress involving changes in temperature and routine for a week. Their direct offspring grew up without any stress-inducing intervention, as did the…

So Now They're Saying Sugar-Free is Bad for You, Too?

Just when you thought you had it licked, now it's time to start all over again.

We've all been cutting out soda from our diets, but now did you know that sugar-free drinks can harm you, too?

According to a new study, sugar-free products cause serious dental issues.

Say what?  Say goodbye to your tooth enamel, that's what.

A recent study by the University of Melbourne's Oral Health Cooperative Research Centre goes with the argument against these drinks. The research states that these sugar-free drinks we enjoy can actually cause extensive damage to the tooth enamel.

The research team conducted tests for 23 different types of drinks (soft drinks and sports drinks). Even if the drink is sugar-free, they found that the drinks have acidic additives and if there are low pH levels, they can induce damage to the dental enamel.

The researchers found that there is an occurrence of dental enamel softening and tooth surface loss after the tooth's contact to sugar-free …