Listen up, fellas: science can give you a leg up with the ladies.

By Seriously Science | July 17, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/stephaniewatsonv

Photo: flickr/stephaniewatsonv

 Want to attract the ladies with your dance moves the next time you’re at a club? Apparently, it’s all about the right knee. In this study, researchers used motion-capture technology to film men dancing. They then converted the movements to dancing avatars, which they asked women to rate for dance quality.  They found that women’s perceptions of “good” and “bad” male dancers depended primarily on movements of the neck, trunk, and right knee. More specifically, “A ‘good’ dancer… displays larger and more variable movements in relation to bending and twisting movements of their head/neck and torso, and faster bending and twisting movements of their right knee.” Why the right knee, you ask? According to the authors, 80% of the population is “right-footed”, so the preference is to be expected. (Sorry, lefties!) Be sure to check out the Supplemental Videos from the paper (below) for specific examples on “good” and “bad” dancing.

Male dance moves that catch a woman’s eye.

“Male movements serve as courtship signals in many animal species, and may honestly reflect the genotypic and/or phenotypic quality of the individual. Attractive human dance moves, particularly those of males, have been reported to show associations with measures of physical strength, prenatal androgenization and symmetry. Here we use advanced three-dimensional motion-capture technology to identify possible biomechanical differences between women’s perceptions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ male dancers. Read More

Which bedtime stories teach kids to be more honest? (Hint: it’s not Pinnochio)

By Seriously Science | July 16, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: Flickr/Nestor Galina

Photo: Flickr/Nestor Galina

Here at Seriously, Science? we love scientific studies that help us make the choices we face every day in normal life, and the research reported here is a fantastic example. The scientists decided to test the commonly held belief that telling children classic “moral stories” will help make them avoid dishonest behaviors. They exposed 268 three to seven year-old children to stories where bad things happened to children who lied (“Pinnochio” and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”), stories where the main character benefitted from telling the truth (“George Washington and the Cherry Tree”), or a control story (“The Tortoise and the Hare”). They then reminded the children about the main character’s good, bad, or neutral behavior, and tracked how often the children lied about whether they peeked at a toy when they were told not to. Turns out that the punishment stories did not change the frequency of lying, but the reward studies reduced lying. So, the moral of the study? If you’re trying to teach a child morals, choose bedtime stories featuring the carrot, not the stick.

Can Classic Moral Stories Promote Honesty in Children?

“The classic moral stories have been used extensively to teach children about the consequences of lying and the virtue of honesty. Despite their widespread use, there is no evidence whether these stories actually promote honesty in children. This study compared the effectiveness of four classic moral stories in promoting honesty in 3- to 7-year-olds. Read More

Why you might want to think twice before putting on that little red dress.

By Seriously Science | July 15, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/dskciado

Photo: flickr/dskciado

Red is a significant color in human psychology. Not only do women perceive men surrounded by red as having a higher status, but men see women wearing red as being more interested in sex. So how do women view other women wearing red? Here, researchers show that not only do women see other women in red as being sexually receptive, but they also assume that the red woman is promiscuous, and hence they “are more likely to intend to guard their romantic partner” when confronted by the woman. But we are left wondering is whether women who choose to wear red are actually trying to have more sex, even if subconsciously. Doctoral thesis, anyone?

Red and Romantic Rivalry: Viewing Another Woman in Red Increases Perceptions of Sexual Receptivity, Derogation, and Intentions to Mate-Guard.

“Research has shown that men perceive women wearing red, relative to other colors, as more attractive and more sexually receptive; women’s perceptions of other women wearing red have scarcely been investigated. We hypothesized that women would also interpret female red as a sexual receptivity cue, and that this perception would be accompanied by rival derogation and intentions to mate-guard. Read More

Scientists use MRI to measure precisely how your butt deforms when you sit down.

By Seriously Science | July 14, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: Flickr/StarAlex1

Photo: Flickr/StarAlex1

In our beauty-obsessed culture, people spend a lot of time thinking about the shape of their butts. Although humans have developed mirror technology to help us check them out while standing, we have had very little understanding of the shape of our butts when we sit. Until now, that is! This study used MRI to track how one lucky lady’s butt changed shape while sitting either in a chair with a butt-shaped hole, or on a regular cushion. Spoiler alert: sitting made her butt flatter… at least temporarily!

3-dimensional buttocks response to sitting: a case report.

“AIM OF THE STUDY: The aim of this study was to describe an individual’s 3-dimensional buttocks response to sitting. Within that exploration, we specifically considered tissue (i.e., fat and muscle) deformations, including tissue displacements that have not been identified by research published to date. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: analysis taken too far

Flashback Friday: Spoiler alert! Spoilers actually increase enjoyment of stories.

By Seriously Science | July 11, 2014 9:35 am

Are you one of those people who avoids spoilers at all costs, even going so far as to block people from your Facebook and Twitter feeds who give away the plot of Game of Thrones? If so, listen up — contrary to what you might think, it turns out that avoiding spoilers might not be worth the trouble. According to this study, “spoilers may allow readers to organize developments, anticipate the implications of events, and resolve ambiguities that occur in the course of reading.” In other words, spoilers can actually make you enjoy the story more because you know where the author is going and can appreciate the hints that are given along the way. Whether, as the authors suggest, “birthday presents [might also be] better when wrapped in cellophane” remains to be determined.

Story spoilers don’t spoil stories.

“The enjoyment of fiction through books, television, and movies may depend, in part, on the psychological experience of suspense. Spoilers give away endings before stories begin, and may thereby diminish suspense and impair enjoyment; indeed, as the term suggests, readers go to considerable lengths to avoid prematurely discovering endings … However, people’s ability to reread stories with undiminished pleasure, and to read stories in which the genre strongly implies the ending, suggests that suspense regarding the outcome may not be critical to enjoyment and may even impair pleasure by distracting attention from a story’s relevant details and aesthetic qualities … We conducted three experiments, each with stories from a different, distinct genre, to test the effects of spoilers on enjoyment.
Read More

Sorry, tall guys — turns out short men get more play.

By Seriously Science | July 10, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/elwillo

Photo: flickr/elwillo

Although there are many cultural stereotypes about what types of men have the most sex, there have been surprisingly few scientific studies that actually test these ideas. This recent article describes one such study, and it turns out that most of the results are not terribly surprising. When comparing men’s sexual activity levels based on characteristics such as age, height, weight, and health, the younger, fitter men tended to get more play. However, we were surprised to see that “coital frequency was higher among men with a height of less than 175 cm.” (For those of you who are metrically challenged, that turns out to be about 5  ft 9 inches.) So there you have it, shorter men have more sex. So much for “tall, dark, and handsome”?

Sexual Activity of Young Men is Not Related to Their Anthropometric Parameters.

Many articles have been written about the deterioration of male sexual function, mainly in relation to metabolic diseases and aging. With younger men, unless they have a complaint, sexual issues are rarely discussed during medical consultations. No articles could be found about anthropometric parameters as factors potentially influencing sexual performance.
The aim of this study was to find the anthropometric parameters with the closest correlation with sexual activity.
Main outcome measures included self-reported weekly intercourses, age, body weight and height, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference. Read More

Why having too many talented players on a sports team can actually be a bad thing.

By Seriously Science | July 9, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/keithallison

Photo: flickr/keithallison

You’d think that putting together a sports team would be pretty straightforward: just pick the best players you can get and then hope for the best, right? Well, apparently it’s a bit more complicated than that. According to this study, while adding additional talented players makes the team better up to a point, having too many talented players is actually detrimental. This is likely due to a loss of coordination and teamwork as individual “stars” try to outperform each other. As the authors put it, “Our findings reflect the disappointing fact that teams of superstars often fail to live up to expectations. Consider the disappointing performances of the French national football team in the 2010 World Cup, the Dutch national football team during the 2012 European championship, or the Miami Heat during the 2010–2011 NBA season. All these teams were brimming with individual talent. The current data suggest that selecting fewer top-talent players may produce a better team.” Hmmm… perhaps this can explain Brazil’s defeat to Germany yesterday?

The Too-Much-Talent Effect: Team Interdependence Determines When More Talent Is Too Much or Not Enough.

“Five studies examined the relationship between talent and team performance. Two survey studies found that people believe there is a linear and nearly monotonic relationship between talent and performance: Participants expected that more talent improves performance and that this relationship never turns negative. Read More

Even toddlers experience schadenfreude.

By Seriously Science | July 8, 2014 6:00 am
In the EQUAL condition the mother reads a book aloud to herself while the kids are playing (Figure 1a) the mother is then signaled to take the glass of water and accidentally spill water over the book (Figure 1b). In the UNEQUAL condition the mother placed the peer on her lap and embraced the child while reading a story aloud to that child (Figure 1c) and then she was signaled to accidentally spill water on the book (Figure 1d). At both conditions the child were allowed to play freely.

In the EQUAL condition the mother reads a book aloud to herself while the kids are playing (Figure 1a) the mother is then signaled to take the glass of water and accidentally spill water over the book (Figure 1b). In the UNEQUAL condition the mother placed the peer on her lap and embraced the child while reading a story aloud to that child (Figure 1c) and then she was signaled to accidentally spill water on the book (Figure 1d). At both conditions the child were allowed to play freely.

You are probably familiar with the concept of “schadenfreude,” a German word that means “taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others.” You’ve probably  felt schadenfreude yourself at some point, especially when the person undergoing the misfortune is a target of your envy or hatred. But at what age does this complex emotion develop? In this study, the researchers set out to determine whether very young children also experience schadenfreude. To do so, they created an experimental situation in which a child’s mother was either a) reading a book alone, while the child played with a playmate in the same room, or b) reading a book to the child’s playmate (see Figure at left). In both cases, the mother accidentally spills water onto the book, rendering it unreadable. The scientists then watched the children’s expressions and rated their emotions. As you might guess, the child whose mother was reading the book took more pleasure in the water spilling when the book was being read to his playmate, presumably because he was jealous of the demand on his mother’s attention. The response was seen in children as young as two years old, suggesting that schadenfreude in response to “termination of an unequal situation” develops early in life. 

There Is No Joy like Malicious Joy: Schadenfreude in Young Children

“Human emotions are strongly shaped by the tendency to compare the relative state of oneself to others. Although social comparison based emotions such as jealousy and schadenfreude (pleasure in the other misfortune) are important social emotions, little is known about their developmental origins. To examine if schadenfreude develops as a response to inequity aversion, we assessed the reactions of children to the termination of unequal and equal triadic situations. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: feelings shmeelings, told you so

Study finds people would rather electrocute themselves than spend 15 minutes alone with their thoughts.

By Seriously Science | July 7, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/tomasfano

Photo: flickr/tomasfano

A lot of people these days talk about the importance of “disconnecting”–turning off your cell phone, not checking email, and just relaxing without distractions. Of course, if you’ve ever tried it, you probably found that living distraction-free is easier said than done. Well, according to this paper, you’re not alone. This study–published in the tip top journal Science, no less–found that when participants were asked to spend 6 to 15 minutes in a room by themselves with no distractions, most had a very difficult time doing it. In fact, the authors found that “simply being alone with their own thoughts for 15 min was apparently so aversive that it drove many participants to self-administer an electric shock that they had earlier said they would pay to avoid.” (Unsurprisingly, more men than women chose to shock themselves.) Why do people find it so difficult to spend time with themselves? The authors conclude with some thoughts on this question: “Research has shown that minds are difficult to control…and it may be particularly hard to steer our thoughts in pleasant directions and keep them there. This may be why many people seek to gain better control of their thoughts with meditation and other techniques, with clear benefits. Without such training, people prefer doing to thinking, even if what they are doing is so unpleasant that they would normally pay to avoid it. The untutored mind does not like to be alone with itself.” Looking for something else to do after you’ve finished reading this article? Check out the links below!

Just think: The challenges of the disengaged mind

“In 11 studies, we found that participants typically did not enjoy spending 6 to 15 minutes in a room by themselves with nothing to do but think, that they enjoyed doing mundane external activities much more, and that many preferred to administer electric shocks to themselves instead of being left alone with their thoughts. Read More


Flashback Friday: Why the return trip always seems shorter.

By Seriously Science | July 4, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/wtlphotos

Photo: flickr/wtlphotos

We’ve all experienced it: you travel somewhere new, and it seems to take much longer to get there than it does to get home. What causes this so-called “return trip effect”? You might guess that it has something to do with knowing the route–on the way back, you see landmarks that help you better gauge when you’re close to your destination. Well, you’d be wrong! According to this study, the return trip effect (which makes the return trip seem 17-22% shorter on average!) is seen even when people take different routes on the outward and return trips. It turns out that the return trip effect has more to do with expectations: you expect the initial trip to take less time than it does, but on the way back you adjust your expectations to be more realistic. 

The return trip effect: why the return trip often seems to take less time.

“Three studies confirm the existence of the return trip effect: The return trip often seems shorter than the initial trip, even though the distance traveled and the actual time spent traveling are identical. 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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