Flashback Friday: How to tell if someone is really in pain or just faking it.

By Seriously Science | March 24, 2017 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Sarah-Rose

Photo: flickr/Sarah-Rose

When it comes to reading people, scientific studies have revealed helpful strategies for situations ranging from playing poker and identifying gonorrhea-infected people by smell alone.  But this study might just prove even more useful. Here, researchers show that it is possible to distinguish between people who are faking pain and those who are actually experiencing it. And although people can be trained to improve their ability to tell the two apart, they have nothing on computer vision — apparently, when it comes to pain, computers are better at identifying when facial expressions are forced and when they are involuntary. Are we one step closer to a Torture Bot? Only time will tell…

Automatic Decoding of Facial Movements Reveals Deceptive Pain Expressions.

“In highly social species such as humans, faces have evolved to convey rich information for social interaction, including expressions of emotions and pain. Two motor pathways control facial movement: a subcortical extrapyramidal motor system drives spontaneous facial expressions of felt emotions, and a cortical pyramidal motor system controls voluntary facial expressions. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: feelings shmeelings

Attractive people are more likely to get divorced.

By Seriously Science | March 22, 2017 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Nils Sautter

Photo: flickr/Nils Sautter

From Brad Pitt to Elizabeth Taylor, many of the most beautiful celebrities also boast rocky private lives. But is this due to their attractiveness, their celebrity, or something else? This study investigated the relationship between physical attractiveness and relationship longevity, for both celebs and normal folks. They found that “those rated as more attractive in high school yearbooks were married for shorter durations and more likely to divorce,” a result that also proved true for high-profile celebrities. The authors go on to associate this effect with the “derogation of attractive alternatives” – i.e., physically attractive people are more tempted by or vulnerable to “relationship threats” (other hot people) when they are dissatisfied with their current relationship. So there you have it: Brangelina may have been doomed from the start. It’s just science.

Attractiveness and relationship longevity: Beauty is not what it is cracked up to be

“Across four studies, we examined the relational repercussions of physical attractiveness (PA). Study 1 (n = 238) found that those rated as more attractive in high school yearbooks were married for shorter durations and more likely to divorce. Study 2 (n = 130) replicated these effects using a different sample (high-profile celebrities). Study 3 (n = 134) examined the link between PA and the derogation of attractive alternatives, a relationship maintenance strategy. Study 4 (n = 156) experimentally manipulated perceived PA and examined its relation with both derogation of attractive alternatives and current relationship satisfaction. Read More

Think getting your alcohol through an IV will prevent a hangover? Think again.

By Seriously Science | March 20, 2017 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Mike Licht

Image: Flickr/Mike Licht

We’ve heard of “eyeballing,” and even trying to get drunk by soaking your feet in vodka, but this is the first we’ve heard of getting drunk by IV. Thank goodness it’s not for recreational purposes! These researchers wanted to know whether “drinking” alcohol through an IV — a practice used for understanding the physiological response to alcohol — would give similar hangovers as drinking the old-fashioned way. Turns out, it does. There goes our plan for Saturday night :(

Characterization of hangover following intravenous alcohol exposure in social drinkers: methodological and clinical implications.

“Hangover refers to the cluster of physiological and behavioral symptoms that occur following the end of a drinking episode. While hangover has been studied after the typical oral consumption of alcohol, the occurrence of hangover following intravenous (IV) alcohol administration in human laboratory studies has not been previously reported. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: ethanol, told you so

Flashback Friday: Drinking alcohol actually makes your face more attractive.

By Seriously Science | March 17, 2017 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/azrainman

Photo: flickr/azrainman

As we’ve previously reported, beer goggles are a real phenomenon. Well, according to this study, drinking doesn’t just make other people more attractive–it also makes you more attractive. Here, researchers asked (sober) participants to look at photos of people who had been drinking and rank their attractiveness. Turns out that drinking a moderate amount (equivalent to two small glasses of wine) made people more attractive, whereas doubling that amount made them less attractive. The authors hypothesize that the increase in attractiveness after drinking could be related to “an increase in red colouration, which in turn is known to be perceived as healthy and attractive.”  Hot! (perhaps literally?)

Increased Facial Attractiveness Following Moderate, but not High, Alcohol Consumption

Aims Alcohol consumption is known to be associated with risky sexual behaviours, but this relationship may be complex and bidirectional. We explored whether alcohol consumption leads to the consumer being rated as more attractive than sober individuals.
Methods Heterosexual social alcohol consumers completed an attractiveness-rating task, in which they were presented with pairs of photographs depicting the same individual, photographed while sober and after having consumed alcohol (either 0.4 or 0.8 g/kg), and required to decide which image was more attractive. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Uncategorized

Study shows dogs know how to lie.

By Seriously Science | March 16, 2017 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Alan Levine

Photo: flickr/Alan Levine

We know that dogs have a guilty look, but can they actually be guilty? Well, according to this study, the answer is… kind of. Here, researchers show that dogs are capable of “deceptive-like behavior.” In a set of experiments, dogs tended to lead a human “competitor” away from food when that human would keep it for himself. However, the same dogs happily lead their “cooperative” owner to the noms, who would give the food to the dog. Bad dog!

Deceptive-like behaviour in dogs (Canis familiaris)

“Deception, the use of false signals to modify the behaviour of the receiver, occurs in low frequencies even in stable signalling systems. For example, it can be advantageous for subordinate individuals to deceive in competitive situations. We investigated in a three-way choice task whether dogs are able to mislead a human competitor, i.e. if they are capable of tactical deception. During training, dogs experienced the role of their owner, as always being cooperative, and two unfamiliar humans, one acting ‘cooperatively’ by giving food and the other being ‘competitive’ and keeping the food for themselves. During the test, the dog had the options to lead one of these partners to one of the three potential food locations: one contained a favoured food item, the other a non-preferred food item and the third remained empty. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals

How do boneworms dissolve bones?

By Seriously Science | March 13, 2017 6:00 am

When whales die, they fall to the floor of the sea. As described in the above video from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, these “whalefalls” provide a huge influx of food to a wide variety of animals and microbes. Not only is the flesh devoured, but the bones are consumed as well, by the aptly named “boneworms.” Many species of boneworms (Osedax worms) help make the entire whale skeleton disappear in less than a decade. These worms burrow the ends of their bodies into the bone and, with the help of endosymbiotic bacteria, turn the bone into food. But how do they manage to burrow into whale bone? Here, scientists from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography found that the worms are able to produce and secrete high concentrations of acid that can literally dissolve bone. It turns out that this is similar to how cells in your own body dissolve bone, including when the roots of baby teeth are dissolved before falling out. Aren’t you glad Osedax worms are only found in the ocean?

How to get into bones: proton pump and carbonic anhydrase in Osedax boneworms.

“Osedax are gutless siboglinid worms that thrive on vertebrate bones lying on the ocean floor, mainly those of whales. The posterior body of female Osedax penetrates into the bone forming extensions known as ‘roots’, which host heterotrophic symbiotic bacteria in bacteriocytes beneath the epidermis. Read More

Flashback Friday: Have a song stuck in your head? Here’s how to get rid of it.

By Seriously Science | March 10, 2017 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/jonny goldstein

Photo: flickr/jonny goldstein

We’ve all experienced it: the dreaded “earworm,” in which a song keeps playing in your head long after you’ve heard it on the radio. The causes of this phenomenon are still unclear, although studies suggest that random events, sounds, and thoughts may be to blame, and it might happen more often when we are thinking too much or too little. But more important is knowing how how to get rid of this “involuntary musical imagery”–especially when you’re already sick of hearing “Royals” on the radio, much less in your head. In this study, researchers surveyed a group of British subjects about how they get rid of earworms. The most common approaches were either exposure therapy — that is, listening to the song in question — or distraction. Interestingly, listening to a “cure tune” was a common approach, and the same cure tunes were actually reported by multiple people in the study. The top song? “God Save the Queen”, followed by “Karma Chameleon”, “Happy Birthday”, “Theme to the A-Team”, “Kashmir”, and “Sledgehammer.” But how did they get “Karma Chameleon” out of their head?

Sticky Tunes: How Do People React to Involuntary Musical Imagery?

“The vast majority of people experience involuntary musical imagery (INMI) or ‘earworms’; perceptions of spontaneous, repetitive musical sound in the absence of an external source. The majority of INMI episodes are not bothersome, while some cause disruption ranging from distraction to anxiety and distress. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: feelings shmeelings

Monkey on Deer Sex: It Happens.

By Seriously Science | March 8, 2017 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Petra Bensted

Image: Flickr/Petra Bensted

If you’re looking for weird interspecies sex, look no further than Japan. Not only do Japanese macaques like to ride deer (!), but according to this study, at least one male Japanese macaque likes to have sex with them… and some of the deer let him do it. Apparently, interspecies sex is really rare in the wild. In fact, the only previous report was that of “sexual harassment of king penguins by an Antarctic fur seal.” As they say, “Whatever spanks your monkey!”.

Interspecies sexual behaviour between a male Japanese macaque and female sika deer.

“Interspecies sexual behaviour or ‘reproductive interference’ has been reported across a wide range of animal taxa. However, most of these occurrences were observed in phylogenetically close species and were mainly discussed in terms of their effect on fitness, hybridization and species survival. The few cases of heterospecific mating in distant species occurred between animals that were bred and maintained in captivity. Read More

Why are pandas black and white all over?

By Seriously Science | March 6, 2017 6:00 am

Photo: flickr/Chi King

Photo: flickr/Chi King

Pandas are weird bears – not only do these vegetarians survive solely on bamboo, but their coloring is also one of the most distinctive in the animal kingdom. Why are pandas black and white? Does this distinct color pattern serve a function? Here, scientists set out to explain why pandas look the way they do. The researchers propose that it’s not about temperature regulation; rather, the white parts of the panda allow it to hide in a snowy background, while its black shoulders and legs help it hide in shade. Not only that, pandas might use their dark ears and eye marks to recognize individuals and communicate. But perhaps more importantly, the black and white coloring has made pandas the butt of some really bad jokes. The effect these jokes have on the survival of the giant panda remains to be tested.

Why is the giant panda black and white?

“Although the external appearances of most mammals are drab browns and grays used to match their backgrounds, certain species stand out as exceptions, perhaps the most notable being the giant panda. Using a comparative phylogenetic approach, we examined associations between different pelage regions and socioecological variables across carnivores and ursid subspecies to shed light on the giant panda’s black and white pelage coloration. Read More

Flashback Friday: Study finds that conservatives pretend they’re happy, but liberals actually are.

By Seriously Science | March 3, 2017 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Anna

Image: Flickr/Anna

Can your political views predict your happiness? Well, according to this study, published in the top journal Science, the answer is “Yes!”. Previous survey results have suggested that conservatives rate their own happiness higher than liberals. However, such studies are difficult to interpret because people tend to be unreliable sources of information about themselves. So these scientists went beyond using such subjective measures, and instead extracted emotional content from publicly available pictures of conservative and liberal members of Congress, as well as the text of the 2013 Congressional Record. Their analysis suggests that despite conservatives’ higher self-reported happiness, liberals actually display greater happiness in real life. Happy now?

Conservatives report, but liberals display, greater happiness.

“Research suggesting that political conservatives are happier than political liberals has relied exclusively on self-report measures of subjective well-being. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: feelings shmeelings, told you so
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Seriously, Science?

Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
Follow us on Twitter: @srslyscience.
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