Category: What’s Inside Your Brain?

The Strange German Disease Called "Kevinism": Can a Lame Name Mess Up Your Life?

By Sarah Zhang | February 1, 2012 8:33 am

spacing is important Young German Kevins are a few decades behind the U.S. trend.

Another day, another crazy German noun: Kevinismus, which basically means, “You’re named Kevin? Sucks to be you.” According to a study of interactions on the German dating site eDarling, online daters don’t even bother to click on the profiles of users with names that seem foreign and gauche to German ears, like Kevin. The authors suggest that this online neglect due to their unpopular names mirrors lifelong social neglect, which is also responsible for making Kevins smoke more, get less education, and have lower self-esteem.

That all sounds quite dire, but we’re gonna have to bust out the “correlation does not imply causation” card here. While exotic baby names may seem like a disease that most commonly afflicts celebrities, in Germany it’s really about the other end of the economic spectrum. An article on Kevinism [note: this article contains a lot of German] in Die Welt quotes sociologist Jürgen Gerhards, who asserts that Anglo-American names (Mandy, Justin, Angelina to name a few more) are a lower-class phenomenon. It seems that no one has actually crunched the numbers to prove that, but jokes like “Only druggies and Easterners are named Kevin” suggest he’s on to something. (Any Germans want to weigh in?) It seems very possible that German Kevins’ smoking and lack of education has as much to do with their family background as it does with their name.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: What’s Inside Your Brain?

Go Ahead and Gossip—Science Says It's the Right Thing to Do

By Valerie Ross | January 18, 2012 1:58 pm

He did what? Innnnteresting…

Thorough scientific study has revealed that lots of supposed vices can have surprising upsides: alcoholsexcaffeine. Thanks to UC Berkeley researchers, we can now add another so-bad-but-oh-so-good habit to the list: Gossip, their new study suggests, can be a selfless act of public service.

Surreptitiously passing along the news that someone has behaved badly—what’s technically called “prosocial gossip”—can relieve stress, as well as warn others to regard the rule-breaker with a wary eye, the researchers say. (The study didn’t look directly at other forms of gossip—rumormongering, telling lies, anything said to a confessional cam on reality TV—so make of that what you will.)

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Why We Love the Crap We Make, or The Grand Unifying Theory of Regretsy

By Veronique Greenwood | January 9, 2012 11:30 am

fuzzy flipflops
Handmade! And priceless!

Your grandma’s day-glo knitted sweaters are proof: People love the stuff they make, even when what they make is a disaster. It’s a weird little corner of human psychology studied by behavioral economist Michael Norton, who dubs it the IKEA phenomenon, having observed in his own studies that people love the IKEA boxes they assembled themselves more than the identical IKEA boxes assembled by some other dude, and that people consider their wretched origami animals valuable works of art while others call them “nearly worthless crumpled paper.” He speculates that it may be the pride of accomplishment that makes people behave this way, or some warped sense that anything that took more work to make is inherently better.

But anyone who’s wasted a perfectly good Saturday working on a BEKVÄM can tell you that it ain’t love or pride that keeps you from throwing that thing out the window—it’s the fear of having to do it all over again. No, forget IKEA: a better name for this quirk of the mind is the Regretsy phenomenon. Etsy is an online marketplace for people selling handmade objects; Regretsy is the blog that documents the spectacular delusions of the sellers of such objects as these sock-encrusted lampshades. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: What’s Inside Your Brain?

6 Servings of Thanksgiving Science: Ideal Turkey Diet, Black Friday Sales Tricks, Turkey-Phobia…

By Valerie Ross | November 23, 2011 8:17 am

It’s almost Thanksgiving here the US. Before you tuck into your stuffing, pumpkin pie, and cranberry sauce, save a little room for a big helping of science. Here are a few of our favorite Thanksgiving science stories from around the Internet, detailing the research behind fattening turkeys, giving thanks, post-holiday shopping, and more: Read More

From "Freedom!" to "Brains!": Shift In Zombie Narrative Reflects Zombie-fication of Society

By Douglas Main | October 28, 2011 3:01 pm

Life is pretty simple for a zombie. You just wander around and try to eat people’s brains. But it wasn’t always so. In the uncorrupted early years of zombie narratives, zombies were typically the undead slaves of voodoo priests, and their primary motivation was to cast off the yoke of dark magic and rebel against their leaders. For example, the first feature-length zombie film, White Zombie (1932), features a heroine who’s bewitched by a voodoo master (ominously named Murder). When she finally triumphs over him and he is pushed off a cliff, she reverts to her normal, non-zombie self.

No longer. Nowadays zombies have no real motivation. (When polled as to their life purpose, nine out of 10 zombies replied, “Braaaaaiiiiinnnns!!!”)

At least one researcher thinks the shift in the zombie story, beginning in the late 1960s, reflects a greater change in society. “With no voodoo master, today’s zombies have no clear controller to turn against and free themselves from,” says researcher Nick Pearce. “That means there are no effective plans for resistance and no hope for the future. Zombies may well be popular today because they speak to a similar feeling of powerlessness shared by many members of our society.” Whoa. Maybe we’re all zombies!

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To Golf Like the Pros, Pretend You're Using Their Clubs

By Veronique Greenwood | October 28, 2011 2:02 pm

All that golfin’ mojo is just oozing into that club…

Houses where Shakespeare stayed. Shirts saints wore. Shoes worn by famous athletes. It’s not very hard to convince people that something—beauty, saintliness, prowess—leaks from a famous person to the objects they used. But while magic is still not scientifically valid, you can apparently get something from such relics—if you believe.

A new study reports that people who are told that the golf club they’re using belonged to a pro athlete actually putt quite a bit better than people who are just told that the club is a nice one. The researchers split forty-one college students who had golf experience and had followed the PGA tour into two groups, and told one group that their putter had been used by pro golfer Ben Curtis. Out of 10 putts, those subjects sank 1.5 more putts than the control group, on average.

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Sexy Ad Campaign Targeting Monkeys Makes A Splash

By Veronique Greenwood | June 30, 2011 1:21 pm

spacing is important

“Advertising for monkeys” is just too good a phrase to pass up.

Even since ads created for a study investigating whether monkeys respond to billboards debuted at the Cannes Lions ad conference, the headlines have been flowing freely. We learn Yale primatologist Laurie Santos and two ad executives came up with the idea at last year’s TED, after Santos gave a talk on her experiments showing that monkeys that learn to use money are as irrational about it as we are.

Ad firm Proton has now developed two billboards to hang outside capuchin monkeys’ enclosures, and the researchers plan to see whether they will prefer one kind of food, or “brand,” over another when it is shown in close proximity to some titillating photos, including a “graphic shot” of a female monkey exposing her genitals and a shot of the troop’s alpha male with the food.

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Lots of Debt Makes Young People Feel Like They're in Control

By Valerie Ross | June 8, 2011 1:27 pm

Money can’t buy happiness—but debt might just be able to rent you self-esteem, a new study suggests.

Being in the red seems to boost the self-confidence of people in their early-to-mid twenties, the researchers found. Using all sorts of data—financial, psychological, educational, you name it—collected every two years from 3,000 young adults as part of an enormous national survey, they were able to pick out this pattern: The more credit card debt and college loans young adults had, the higher their self-esteem and the more they felt in control of their lives.

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Science Takes on an Important Question: Is the Mommy Cat *Really* Hugging the Kitten?

By Veronique Greenwood | June 3, 2011 12:28 pm

First, before you do anything else, watch the above video. Awwww! The twitching wee feetsies! The mommy cat drawing her baby closer!

When that little number when viral this week, the folks at National Geographic wondered, once the initial cuteness wore off,  how much of this “hugging” business was just us anthropomorphizing? How are we to know that mother cats don’t embrace their kittens before, I don’t know, eating them alive or something? And what about repostings claiming that the twitching kitten is having “nightmares”? What’s the deal here?

So they asked a scientist.

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Scientists to Nightclub Owners: For Happier Customers, Cover Up Pit Stink With Delicious Fragrances

By Veronique Greenwood | May 18, 2011 12:16 pm

orange nightclub
“Refreshing” orange scent perked dancers right up.

Air fresheners aren’t just for Grandma anymore.

Dutch scientists suggest that as smoking bans mean club-goers can now smell all the nasty beer, puke, sweat, and so on in nightclubs, owners may want to spritz their businesses with “carefully selected fragrances [that] can enhance dancing activity, improve the overall perception of the evening, and improve how nightclub goers rate the music as well as their mood,” as a press release puts it. In true scientific fashion, the researchers then went clubbing to test their hypothesis.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: What’s Inside Your Brain?

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