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

Most people would not want to know about future events, even if they are good.

By Seriously Science | March 2, 2017 2:08 pm
Photo: flickr/Will

Photo: flickr/Will

If you could see the future, would you really want to?That was the topic of this study, which surveyed over 1000 people to find out their feelings about knowing the outcome of future events. Turns out that 85%-90% of people would not want to know about upcoming negative events (such as death and divorce), and 40% to 70% prefer to remain ignorant of positive events (such as the sex of an unborn child). The researchers propose that risk averse people are more likely to want to remain ignorant of the future, in part so they can avoid the emotional effects of “anticipatory regret.” Would you want to know your fate before it happens? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

Cassandra’s regret: The psychology of not wanting to know.

“Ignorance is generally pictured as an unwanted state of mind, and the act of willful ignorance may raise eyebrows. Yet people do not always want to know, demonstrating a lack of curiosity at odds with theories postulating a general need for certainty, ambiguity aversion, or the Bayesian principle of total evidence. We propose a regret theory of deliberate ignorance that covers both negative feelings that may arise from foreknowledge of negative events, such as death and divorce, and positive feelings of surprise and suspense that may arise from foreknowledge of positive events, such as knowing the sex of an unborn child. We conduct the first representative nationwide studies to estimate the prevalence and predictability of deliberate ignorance for a sample of 10 events. Read More


Dog poop, dead rats, and maggots: this study’s got it all!

By Seriously Science | February 28, 2017 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Edy Perez

Image: Flickr/Edy Perez

Choices, choices. We all make them, and some are more fun than others. It turns out that flies also make choices, and the choices they make are influenced by their current situations. Take this (disgusting) experiment: here, scientists had green bottle flies choose which scent to follow. Either the flies could follow the delicious scent of dog poop (a yummy treat, at least to these flies), or they could choose to follow the odor of a dead rat, the perfect place to lay eggs (blue bottle flies lay their eggs in dead flesh, which provides nourishment to the newly-hatched maggots). It turns out that hungry pregnant flies liked both dog poop and dead rat, while well-fed pregnant flies consistently chose to track down the rat, presumably to unload all their eggs. Honestly, this might be the most disgusting experimental setup we’ve read yet. And that’s saying something!

Acquired Smell? Mature Females of the Common Green Bottle Fly Shift Semiochemical Preferences from Feces Feeding Sites to Carrion Oviposition Sites.

“We investigated foraging decisions by adult females of the common green bottle fly, Lucilia sericata, in accordance with their physiological state. Read More

Flashback Friday: Is it physically possible for a man to sire over 800 children?

By Seriously Science | February 24, 2017 6:00 am
Photo: wikipedia

Photo: wikipedia

It’s clear that men can have more children than women, but can they have hundreds of children? Here, scientists created a computer simulation to determine how many times a day the 17th-century Moroccan Emperor Moulay Ismael would have had to have sex to have his reported brood of 888 kids. Accounting for factors ranging from sperm aging and ovulation to Moulay falling in love and having favorites, they found that the Emperor needed to get frisky 1-2 times a day and have a harem of at least 65 women to achieve his plentiful progeny.
The Case of Moulay Ismael – Fact or Fancy?

“Textbooks on evolutionary psychology and biology cite the case of the Sharifian Emperor of Morocco, Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty (1672–1727) who was supposed to have sired 888 children. This example for male reproduction has been challenged and led to a still unresolved discussion. The scientific debate is shaped by assumptions about reproductive constraints which cannot be tested directly—and the figures used are sometimes arbitrary. Therefore we developed a computer simulation which tests how many copulations per day were necessary to reach the reported reproductive outcome. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: how is babby formed?

Ants on treadmills…for science!

By Seriously Science | February 22, 2017 6:00 am

14875459017_f5433770f2_zFew things are as entertaining as watching animals on treadmills. Although Penguins might be the cutest, these ants are pretty fun, too. Here, researchers set up a hollow styrofoam ball floating on a stream of air as a treadmill for desert ants. To keep the ants from wandering (or simply falling) off the treadmill, the scientists glued the thorax to a small pin. They then were able to precisely track the animals’ movements and behavior as they navigated to their nests. Check out the video (below) to see the ants in action!

Naturalistic path integration of Cataglyphis desert ants on an air-cushioned lightweight spherical treadmill

“Air-cushioned spheres are widely used as treadmills to study behavioural and neurophysiological questions in numerous species. We describe an improved spherical treadmill design that reliably registers the path and walking behaviour of an animal walking on top of the sphere. The simple and robust set-up consists of a very light hollowed styrofoam ball supported by an air stream in a hollow half sphere and can be used indoors and outdoors. Two optical mouse sensors provided with lenses of 4.6 mm focal length detect the motion of the sphere with a temporal resolution of more than 200 frames s−1 and a spatial resolution of less than 0.2 mm. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals

Android vs. iPhone: what your phone choice says about you.

By Seriously Science | February 20, 2017 6:00 am
iphone vs android


Given all the money spent on advertising, it’s no wonder there are stereotypes about iPhone and Android users. But are these real? Is there anything you can predict about me just from knowing whether I use an iPhone or Android (and vice versa – can you predict my phone choice from my personality)? Well, according to these researchers, there really are population differences between iPhone and Android users: if I told them I used an iPhone, they would guess that I’m younger, female, and “increasingly concerned about [my] smartphone being viewed as a status object.” Little do they know that my phone is 4 years old and has had a smashed screen for months. Ha!

Predicting Smartphone Operating System from Personality and Individual Differences.

“Android and iPhone devices account for over 90 percent of all smartphones sold worldwide. Despite being very similar in functionality, current discourse and marketing campaigns suggest that key individual differences exist between users of these two devices; however, this has never been investigated empirically. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: reinforcing stereotypes

Flashback Friday: Facial attractiveness is predicted by parental income during childhood.

By Seriously Science | February 17, 2017 6:00 am

Photo: flickr/Michael Vadon

If you’re like most people, you probably think that looks are mostly genetic–either you’re genetically “blessed” with good looks, or you’re not. But apparently it’s not as simple as that. According to this study, facial attractiveness in high school yearbook photographs increases with paternal education and parental income, “with the latter effect being stronger for female subjects.” In other words, rich kids tend to be more attractive, and especially girls. Whether the parents themselves being rich was related to their looks (which might make the effect genetic after all)…well, we’ll leave that for another study.

Effects of parental socio-economic conditions on facial attractiveness.

“Socio-economic conditions during early life are known to affect later life outcomes such as health or social success. We investigated whether family socio-economic background may also affect facial attractiveness. We used the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (n = 8434) to analyze the association between an individual’s parental socio-economic background (in terms of father’s highest education and parental income) and that individual’s facial attractiveness (estimated by rating of high school yearbook photographs when subjects were between 17 and 20 years old), controlling for subjects’ sex, year of birth, and father’s age at subjects’ birth. Read More

Sleep-deprived judges give out harsher sentences.

By Seriously Science | February 15, 2017 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Joe Gratz

Photo: flickr/Joe Gratz

Add this to the long list of reasons why daylight savings time should be abolished: according to this study, it could cause judges to dole out harsher sentences. More specifically, these researchers found that sleep-deprived judges (in this case, due to the shift to daylight savings time in the spring) gave out 5% longer sentences compared with well-rested judges. So there you have it: just as we hope justice is blind, we should also hope it got enough sleep last night.

Sleepy Punishers Are Harsh Punishers.

“The degree of punishment assigned to criminals is of pivotal importance for the maintenance of social order and cooperation. Nonetheless, the amount of punishment assigned to transgressors can be affected by factors other than the content of the transgressions. We propose that sleep deprivation in judges increases the severity of their sentences. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Crime & Punishment

“Laughter yoga” may be silly, but according to this study, it’s a serious ab workout.

By Seriously Science | February 14, 2017 2:48 pm

They say that laughter is the best medicine. And these days, who wouldn’t benefit from a good laugh? Well, according to this study, your abs also benefit from laughing, even if that laughter is gotten by seemingly artificial means: laughter yoga. Honestly, if this youtube video is at all representative of a laughter yoga session, it looks pretty awesome. And it’s even a better ab workout than traditional crunches. WIN!

Laughing: a demanding exercise for trunk muscles.

“Social, psychological, and physiological studies have provided evidence indicating that laughter imposes an increased demand on trunk muscles. It was the aim of this study to quantify the activation of trunk muscles during laughter yoga in comparison with crunch and back lifting exercises regarding the mean trunk muscle activity. Read More


Flashback Friday: What’s the real difference between what men and women post on Facebook?

By Seriously Science | February 10, 2017 6:00 am
Figure 3. Words, phrases, and topics most highly distinguishing females and males. Female language features are shown on top while males below. Size of the word indicates the strength of the correlation; color indicates relative frequency of usage. Underscores (_) connect words of multiword phrases. Words and phrases are in the center; topics, represented as the 15 most prevalent words, surround. (: females and males; correlations adjusted for age; Bonferroni-corrected ).

Figure 3. Words, phrases, and topics most highly distinguishing females and males. Female language features are shown on top while males below. Size of the word indicates the strength of the correlation; color indicates relative frequency of usage. Underscores (_) connect words of multiword phrases. Words and phrases are in the center; topics, represented as the 15 most prevalent words, surround.

File this under “reinforcing stereotypes“: these scientists use word clouds created from the Facebook messages of 75,000 people to reveal not only the differences between men and women (fighting,  football and xbox vs. babies, emoticons, and shopping), but between introverts and extroverts (anime and computers vs. parties and ‘chillin’).  If this hasn’t paralyzed you from depression, continue reading for a peek at the rest of the word clouds in all their glory. xD 

Personality, Gender, and Age in the Language of Social Media: The Open-Vocabulary Approach

“We analyzed 700 million words, phrases, and topic instances collected from the Facebook messages of 75,000 volunteers, who also took standard personality tests, and found striking variations in language with personality, gender, and age. In our open-vocabulary technique, the data itself drives a comprehensive exploration of language that distinguishes people, finding connections that are not captured with traditional closed-vocabulary word-category analyses. Our analyses shed new light on psychosocial processes yielding results that are face valid (e.g., subjects living in high elevations talk about the mountains), tie in with other research (e.g., neurotic people disproportionately use the phrase ‘sick of’ and the word ‘depressed’), suggest new hypotheses (e.g., an active life implies emotional stability), and give detailed insights (males use the possessive ‘my’ when mentioning their ‘wife’ or ‘girlfriend’ more often than females use ‘my’ with ‘husband’ or ‘boyfriend’). To date, this represents the largest study, by an order of magnitude, of language and personality.”

Bonus figure from the main text:

Figure 6. Words, phrases, and topics most distinguishing extraversion from introversion and neuroticism from emotional stability. A. Language of extraversion (left, e.g., ‘party’) and introversion (right, e.g., ‘computer’); . B. Language distinguishing neuroticism (left, e.g. ‘hate’) from emotional stability (right, e.g., ‘blessed’); (adjusted for age and gender, Bonferroni-corrected ).

Figure 6. Words, phrases, and topics most distinguishing extraversion from introversion and neuroticism from emotional stability. A. Language of extraversion (left, e.g., ‘party’) and introversion (right, e.g., ‘computer’); . B. Language distinguishing neuroticism (left, e.g. ‘hate’) from emotional stability (right, e.g., ‘blessed’); (adjusted for age and gender, Bonferroni-corrected ).

Related content:
Why posting on Facebook could be good for you.
NCBI ROFL: The science of Facebook relationship status: It’s complicated.
NCBI ROFL: Mirror, mirror on my Facebook wall: effects of exposure to Facebook on self-esteem.


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.
Send us paper suggestions: srslyscience[at]gmail.com.

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