July 30, 2014

Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_Book_CoverHarry Potter Helps Reduce Prejudice
That’s the conclusion of research just published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. It finds that, among young people, reading J.K. Rowling’s book series—and, crucially, identifying with the lead character—can reduce bias toward stigmatized minority groups. (Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard)

More on the Dark Side of Oxytocin
Now a team of researchers led by Nathan DeWall has further sullied the reputation of this once idolized molecule. They’ve demonstrated that for certain people in particular circumstances, exposure to oxytocin might actually lead to increased violence. (Christian Jarrett, BPS Research Digest)

New Poll on American Attitudes Toward Arabs and Muslims
How Americans view Arabs and Muslims has gotten worse in recent years, with negative feelings strongest among Republicans and senior citizens, according to a poll released on Tuesday. Only 27 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Muslims, down from 35 percent in 2010, according to the Zogby poll, commissioned by the non-profit Arab American Institute. Favorable attitudes toward Arabs dropped to 32 percent from 43 percent in 2010. (Mary Wisniewski, Reuters)

Deal Reached on Teaching Evolution in South Carolina
A proposed change in South Carolina’s biology standards for teaching evolution is designed to encourage discussion in the classroom. A six-member panel voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend the compromise to the full state Board of Education and Education Oversight Committee. Approval from both is needed for any change to education standards. The compromise essentially defines science and says evolution is a scientific theory. It could end months of disagreement between the boards, which meet again next month, in South Carolina’s latest flap over religion and science. (Seanna Adcox, Associated Press)

No End In Sight? No Problem!
Marcelo Gleiser: Unanswerable questions invoke a feeling of humility, of how science is, in essence, an ongoing mosaic of ideas, a self-correcting narrative of what we can gather of physical reality. This is far from a defeatist view; in fact, it is liberating. What could be more exciting for us to realize than knowledge is an endless frontier? (13.7: Cosmos and Culture, NPR)


July 29, 2014

© 2014 Microsoft CorporationSharing Positive and Negative Events in Our Lives
How often do we share news about ourselves, and which mediums do we choose? What advantages does meeting face-to-face have over texting and vice versa? University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Catalina Toma and graduate student Mina Choi recently set out to answer these questions in what they call the first experiment “to examine social sharing as it takes place via interpersonal media.” Their results, published this month in Computers in Human Behavior, suggest that different circumstances call for different communication tools. (Paul Bisceglio, Pacific Standard)

Facial Features and First Impressions
Scientists have modeled the specific physical attributes that underpin our first impressions. Small changes in the dimensions of a face can make it appear more trustworthy, dominant, or attractive. (Jonathan Webb, BBC News)

I Heart Guns
Ryan Brown: If people in honor cultures feel the need to assert their strength and toughness in life, might this same need manifest itself in how people in honor cultures choose to commit suicide? That might seem like a strange idea. Why would people need to “assert” anything when ending their life? If you think about it, though, how a person chooses to die might be one of the only choices left that a person feels he or she can make, and so that choice could readily take on a great deal of personal significance. If a choice is personally significant, then it’s quite plausible that important cultural ideals might influence that choice. (Honor Blog)

Religion and Political Identity
Even as overall party identification trends in the U.S. have shifted over the past six and half years, the relationship between religion and party identification has remained consistent. Very religious Americans are more likely to identify with or lean toward the Republican Party and less frequently identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, compared with those who are moderately or nonreligious. (Frank Newport, Gallup)

BOOKS
Voyaging in Strange Seas

David Knight’s fresh look at the Scientific Revolution tells the story of modern science’s birth—and adolescence—from angles that usually go unexplored. For Knight, a professor emeritus of science history at Durham University in England, the Scientific Revolution was not confined to the 17th century—it spanned three centuries, roughly from the voyage of Columbus to the French Revolution. It wasn’t just about physics and astronomy, and it wasn’t isolated from what else was going on in the world. (Tom Siegfried, Science News)


July 28, 2014

Alexander Gerst
A Different Perspective
Alexander Gerst: What came to my mind at the time of this photo was, if we ever will be visited by another species from somewhere in the universe, how would we explain to them what they might see as the very first thing when they look at our planet? How would we explain to them the way we humans treat not only each other but also our fragile blue planet, the only home we have? I do not have an answer for that. (European Space Agency)

Oneness Beliefs and Pro-Environmental Behavior
Christians still lag behind members of other faiths in terms of eco-friendly behavior. But newly published research finds a different foundational spiritual belief is associated with environmentally friendly attitudes and actions: The notion of interconnectedness, or the essential “oneness” of creation. This idea, usually associated with Buddhism but attractive to the growing number of Americans who consider themselves “spiritual but not religious,” was linked to concern for the environment in a new study. What’s more, this attitude drove behavior: In one survey, people attracted to the “oneness” idea were more likely to give money to a pro-environment cause. (Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard)

Powerful and Coldhearted
Michael Inzlicht and Sukhvinder Obhi: On the basis of a study we recently published with the researcher Jeremy Hogeveen, in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, we contend that when people experience power, their brains fundamentally change how sensitive they are to the actions of others. (The New York Times)

Behaving Selfishly
Toshio Yamagishi et al tested 564 adults who lived in “a relatively wealthy Tokyo suburb.” The headline result was that 7 percent of the participants displayed “Homo economicus” behavior both in the Dictator Game, and in the more complex Sequential Prisoner’s Dilemma. That is, 7 percent of people always chose to maximize their own expected payoff, regardless of how this disadvantaged anyone else. Who were these 7 percent? (Neuroskeptic, Discover)

An 18th-Century Medical Report of a Near-Death Experience
To his surprise, Dr. Phillippe Charlier found a modern description of near-death experience from a time in which most people relied on religion to explain near-death experiences. (Bahar Gholipour, Live Science)

The End (and Bad Luck) of the Dinosaurs
There’s never a good time for an asteroid impact, of course, but debates have roiled among scholars for decades over whether volcanoes or a long-running decline in species may have played a bigger role in the demise of the dinosaurs. Now a Biological Reviews journal report concludes that the asteroid or comet that created the Yucatan’s Chicxulub crater was indeed the likely leading culprit. Other factors, most notably a vulnerable sub-population of big plant eaters, essentially left the dinosaurs ripe for the asteroid wipe-out. (Dan Vergano, National Geographic)


July 25, 2014

© 2014 Microsoft CorporationTrolley-Problem Problem?
One group of researchers thinks it might be time to retire the trolley. In an upcoming paper that will be published in Social and Personality Psychology Compass, Christopher Bauman of the University of California, Irvine, Peter McGraw of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and others argue that the dilemma is too silly and unrealistic to be applicable to real-life moral problems. Therefore, they contend, it doesn’t tell us as much about the human condition as we might hope. (Olga Khazan, The Atlantic)

Big Data and Death
From lethal disease to murders, to deadly workplace accidents, suicides, fatal domestic violence incidents, and natural disasters, researchers are now harnessing vast amounts of data to more specifically forecast mortality. These death algorithms, based on health and prescription drug records, social media, cellphone trails, crime statistics, and beyond, drive data-based intuition for police departments, communities, hospitals, and corporations to deploy at will—and for all of us at home to digest at our own emotional risk. (Erika Hayasaki, Newsweek)

Unhappy Cities
New research suggests that New York City is the unhappiest major city in the country, after adjusting for income. The researchers, led by Joshua Gottlieb of the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver School of Economics, came to their conclusions by using data from a 2010 U.S. Centers for Disease Control survey on American life satisfaction. (Quick caveat: It’s a “working paper,” which means it hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed.) (Melissa Dahl, Science of Us, New York Magazine)

Meet Gordon College Science Professor and Evangelical Dorothy Boorse
A full-time professor with a doctorate in oceanography and limnology (the study of freshwater systems) and a specialty in wetlands ecology, Dorothy Boorse is also a leader in a national effort to frame environmental problems in Christian terms and to figure out what to do about them. (Jennifer Weeks, The Boston Globe Magazine)

MOVIE
I Origins

“I guess you can call the movie sci-comma-fi as opposed to sci-dash-fi,” writer-director Mike Cahill said of his new film, I Origins, which continues his exploration of science as an engine for emotional storytelling. Building from ideas involving iris biometrics—eyes as a unique identifier—Cahill’s new film exists at the intersection of the headier (some might say trippier) aspects of modern science with all-too-human issues of identity, spirituality, and love. (Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times)

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