Do you like your steak black and blue or just blackened? According to this study, your preference may depend on the emotions you feel when looking at raw meat. Here, researchers first showed 1046 Norwegian subjects pictures of either a rare or a well-done hamburger and asked them to indicate whether the image elicited “fear, disgust, surprise, interest, pleasure, or none of these.” The subjects were then told to rate their likelihood of eating burgers done to different levels (see figure below). Although it’s hard to untangle cause and effect in this case, those subjects who experienced interest or pleasure while looking at the rare burger were more likely to want to eat rare meat than those who experienced fear or disgust. My question is this: who are these people who are afraid of hamburgers?
Hamburger hazards and emotions.
“Previous studies indicate that many consumers eat rare hamburgers and that information about microbiological hazards related to undercooked meat not necessarily leads to more responsible behavior. With this study we aim to investigate whether consumers’ willingness to eat hamburgers depends on the emotions they experience when confronted with the food. Read More
Did you find the above “Mr. Bean” clip funny, or just inappropriate? Depending on your answer, we can probably guess your age. That’s because, according to this study, there is a clear association between age and the ability to laugh at socially inappropriate humor. The researchers demonstrated this by showing people of various ages humorous video clips featuring either socially appropriate or inappropriate scenarios. Throughout the video sessions, the participants wore electronic sensors that could detect smiling, giving the scientists a quantitative measure of their subjects’ spontaneous reactions. The result? The older the subject, the less they laughed at the inappropriate clips. The study’s list of sitcom scenes is pretty good (see below), and includes the clip shown above, which was determined to be the most inappropriate of the bunch.
“Identifying social gaffes is important for maintaining relationships. Older adults are less able than young to discriminate between socially appropriate and inappropriate behavior in video clips. One open question is how these social appropriateness ratings relate to potential age differences in the perception of what is actually funny or not. Read More
All of you beardy-weirdy hipsters out there, listen up! If you are ever getting ready to be tried by a jury, be prepared to shave that bad boy. That’s because these scientists have data showing that jurors associate facial hair with criminals, and they are more likely to assume you’re guilty if you have a beard. And no, this study was not sponsored by Gillette.
“Two studies were conducted to measure whether mock jurors would stereotype criminal offenders as having facial hair. Read More
This case study reads like a scene from a sitcom: a magician reaches the climax of his show, in which he pulls a rabbit out of his hat, much to the delight of his audience. Soon after, however, he begins to have an allergic reaction that requires the use of both an inhaler and a steroid shot. It turns out he has become allergic to his rabbit due to the brief periods of exposure during his show, and he eventually has to scrap the rabbit act altogether. Abracad – achoo!
“In this report we describe a case of respiratory allergy induced by an unusual occupational exposure to rabbit. The patient worked as a part-time magician in theatres and private parties and the most popular performance of his show was to pull out a white rabbit from a top hat. Unfortunately, a few minutes after the extraction of rabbit from top hat, the patient experienced the onset of upper and lower airway symptoms, and in some occasions he was forced to stop the show and to use short acting β2 agonists and intramuscular steroids. Read More
Sometimes our brains do funny things. Take this study, for example, in which scientists blindfolded 13 people for 96 hours (four days) and had them record everything they “saw”. Ten participants had visual hallucinations, some of them incredibly vivid and intense, all of which began within the first day of wearing the blindfold. Many hallucinations were of lights and shapes, though some were more elaborate (see below for complete descriptions of many of the visual “trips”). But in every case, the participants knew that they were figments of their brains. Here is one of our favorites: “The hallucinations appeared suddenly 12 hours after blindfolding and evolved into a series of different images, much as in a dream. She reported seeing a butterfly that became a sunset, an otter, and finally a flower. She also reported seeing cities, skies, kaleidoscopes, lions, and sunsets so bright she could ‘barely look at them.’ ‘If there is a sunset or a sunrise I couldn’t look at the sun–because it was too bright–it would seem like all of this light would just collect where the sun was and I just could not look there.’ She stressed the intensity of the hallucinations, commenting ‘sometimes they were much prettier, I think, than anything I have ever seen–I really wish I could paint.’”
Thanks to Jessica P. for spotting this gem!
“The authors report the occurrence of visual hallucinations of varying complexity in 13 normal subjects after sudden, complete, and prolonged visual deprivation. Read More
Chronic back pain is the worst, while having sex is the best! But what if having sex makes your back pain worse? Well, if you’re a man, take heart! A crack team of Canadian scientists set out to determine which sexual positions are most and least likely to worsen back pain. To do this, they observed ten heterosexual couples having sex in a variety of positions, and they measured the movements of the man’s back in each. The verdict? Well, it depends on the type of back problem you have. But if you are one of the many men with flexion-intolerant back pain, you might want to try “Quadruped 1″, with your partner on his or her elbows and knees in front of you. Good luck!
Male spine motion during coitus: implications for the low back pain patient.
“STUDY DESIGN: Repeated measures design.
OBJECTIVE: To describe male spine movement and posture characteristics during coitus and compare these characteristics across 5 common coital positions. Read More
It’s well known that you eat more in general when with other people. But how can the weight of your eating companions affect how much you eat? In this study, the researchers hired a professional actress to put on an overweight prosthesis (AKA a “fatsuit”) and then serve herself some food in front of a group of study participants. They then had the participants serve themselves some food (pasta or salad). It turns out that when the actress took food while wearing the fatsuit , the participants served and ate more unhealthy food (pasta) than when she was “slimmer” (without the suit). Not only that, but when the “fat” actress served herself a large portion of salad, the participants ate less salad. The authors hypothesize that this effect is due to the subjects being less reminded of their health goals when they are around overweight people. Once again, going out to eat just got a little more complicated.
“The purpose of this study was to examine whether or not the presence of an overweight eating companion influences healthy and unhealthy eating behavior, and to determine if the effect is moderated by how the companion serves himself or herself. A professional actress either wore an overweight prosthesis (i.e., “fatsuit”) or did not wear one, and served herself either healthily (i.e., a small amount of pasta and a large amount of salad) or unhealthily (i.e., a large amount of pasta and a small amount of salad) for lunch. Read More
This case report reads a bit like a comedy version of CSI. The laboratory involved was asked to identify the source of the biological weapon deployed at a politician’s office, home, and car. The foul-smelling compounds caused several staff members to become nauseous and vomit. The scientists got to work, using gas chromatography/mass-spectrometry (GC/MS) to identify the stinky molecules. Turns out it was skunk spray. Ewww!
“Our laboratory has been asked to elucidate the origin of a strong “toxic smell” present in a prominent politician’s office, private house and motorcar. This stinky and pungent atmosphere has caused serious nausea and vomiting to several individuals. Read More
Previous studies have shown that Democrats and Republicans can be differentiated from their faces. Well, according to a new study, this also applies to their smells. Researchers from Brown, Harvard and Pennsylvania State Universities tested whether people could tell the difference between the odor of a staunch liberal and a conservative. Turns out the subjects were more attracted to the smells of people with similar political beliefs, some to a surprising extent: “In one particularly illustrative case, a participant asked the experimenter if she could take one of the vials home with her because she thought it was “the best perfume I ever smelled”; the vial was from a male who shared an ideology similar to the evaluator. She was preceded with another respondent with an ideology opposite to the person who provided the exact same sample; this participant reported that the vial had “gone rancid” and suggested it needed to be replaced.” While the mechanism of this phenomenon remains unclear, one thing is certain: politicians stink.
“Mates appear to assort on political attitudes more than any other social, behavioral, or physical trait, besides religion. Yet the process by which ideologically similar mates end up together remains ambiguous. Mates do not appear to consciously select one another based on ideology, nor does similarity result from convergence. Recently, several lines of inquiry have converged on the finding that olfactory processes have an important role in both political ideology and mate selection. Read More
As a scientist, I freely admit that I inspect my poop every day. And after reading this paper, I’m glad I do. That’s because one of the most obvious signs of colon cancer is a bloody stool, and you can only detect it if you’re looking at your doo-doo regularly. But do most people inspect their poops? Well, these gastroenterologists decided to find out. It turns out that I’m in the minority; only 27% of participants looked at every poop and wipe, and a whopping 6% never looked at either their turds or their used toilet paper. And the scary part? There was a clear association between the frequency of scatological viewings and whether they successfully reported bloody stools. So the next time you take a poop, remember to take a peep!
“BACKGROUND: Rectal bleeding is an important presenting symptom of colorectal cancer. The presentation and investigation of patients with rectal bleeding may be delayed if people do not regularly inspect their stool or toilet paper. Read More