Author Archives: Kristen Louise Robertson

Smell Ya Later

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Recently, I was reading a blog post that discussed the fact that men tend to have bigger noses than females.  Apparently, this was due to the fact that men have bigger muscles and need more oxygen for their bodies.  So then I became curious as to if men could smell better than women too, due to their bigger noses.  After researching, I found some pretty interesting material.

In fact, women smell better than men but nobody has been able to figure out why until recently.  A group of scientists examined the dead bodies, who had passed over the age of 55,  of seven men and eleven women.  The thoroughly studied their brains, and especially the olfactory bulb, which is neural structure that creates the sense of smell.  The study found that on average, women have 43% more cells in their olfactory bulb than men do. Thats a huge advantage women have over men!  We know why they can smell better but for what reason?

Dag Olav Hessen on Science Nordic suggests that women are given this ability because, ” women as primary care persons have needed stronger senses, for instance to know whether food was good or bad”.  But if we are talking about gender roles here, (women are caretakers and men are hunters and gatherers), then wouldn’t men need to smell just as well?  Smelling animals and navigating would then essentially be just as important.  Johan Fredrik Storm also suggests that women are subconsciously able to smell similarity in genes, helping them choose partners that have different genes from themselves.

Whatever the reason, these findings are huge.  However, I am not sure that I trust the study conducted, due to the small number of people involved.  Also, since the researchers examined the brains of those who are deceased, how sure can we really be that they have more cells in their olfactory bulbs while living? It could be that we are born with the same amount and that over time, men lose theirs.  Or even that, women gain these cells after they pass the age of 55. Although I am not sure how unethical it would be, if this research was conducted on more bodies of a wider age range, I would be less skeptical of the findings.

Resources:

http://sciencenordic.com/women-smell-better-men

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0111733

Just a “White Lie”?

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Did you know your parents have turned you into a liar? Well, that is, only if they’ve ever lied to you.  Research has found that kids who are lied to by adults, are more likely to lie themselves.  So, maybe if your parents ever catch you in a lie, you can blame it on the fact that they told you Santa was real while you were growing up.

A recent study was conducted by Chelsea Hays and Leslie Carver, which tested the impact of lying on children.  Around 200 3-7 year olds participated in an experiment where they were randomly assigned to be lied to or not.  In one case, the children were told there was candy waiting for them in the room. Once they got to the room, the experimenter then told them that they were lying, there were no sweets for them, and they were actually there to play a game.  In the other case, the children were told they were to go into the room to play the game and there were no lies told.

The children were then asked to play a game in which they were asked to recognize an object with their backs turned to it by using auditory cues.  For example, the sound “Tickle Me”, would play and the child would be able to guess that an Elmo toy was sitting behind them.  The experimenter then acted as if they had to take an urgent call and told the children not to peek behind them at the toys (which of course, almost all of them did).  After being asked if they peeked or not, 88% of the 5-7 year olds who were lied to originally did not admit lying, while 65% of the 5-7 who were not lied to did not admit lying.  For the 3-5 year olds, it did not matter if they were lied to or not, 50% admitted guilt no matter what.

Readers Digest has concluded from research that parents do not think lying to their children affects them.  This could be very detrimental to children’s personalities.  It is very apparent from the study that even the smallest of lies affect the way children view integrity.  However, this study is flawed because it could be that children are not as affected by parental lies as much as they are by a random adults.  But at the same time, it is also possible that they could be affected more by their parents lies.  I would think the latter because children mimic and learn from their parents ways more than they do random adults. I think this study would be more interesting if it was conducted with parents instead.

One other interesting thing about this study is that the 3-5 year olds were not affected whatsoever.  This could be due to the fact that the part in their brains has not yet developed in which they are able to understand they have been lied to.  Even though they weren’t affected, I’m still shocked almost all of the 3-5 year olds lied in the first place!

Resources:

http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2014/11/lying-to-your-kids-will-turn-them-into-liars.html

http://digest.bps.org.uk/2014/11/when-we-lie-to-children-are-we-teaching.html

Drunk Off Power

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How much does power affect us? It can make us do some crazy things of course, but did you know it could go so far as to change the tone of your voice?  According to a recent study, we actually detect power by the nuances in ones voice.

This study was broken down into two parts.  The first experiment recorded 161 college students reading a passage where they dealt with negotiation aloud in their normal voices.  After that, the participants were either assigned a “high-rank position”, where they were told they knew valuable information, or a “low-rank position”, where they were told they were unimportant in the workplace.  Then, the participants were asked to read a script in which they were going into business negotiations into further detail.  According to Psychological Science, “the researchers found that the voices of students assigned to high-power roles tended to go up in pitch, become more monotone (less variable in pitch), and become more variable in loudness than the voices of students assigned low-power roles.”

The second experiment then had new participants listen to the recordings that were conducted in the first part. They were then asked questions about how powerful they thought those recorded were to be. The results were astonishing.  72% of the time the second experiment participants were able to label the “low-rank position” speakers as weak, while 73% of the time they were able to label the “high-rank position” speakers as powerful.

Not only did I find the fact that we are able to identify power in voices so distinctively mind boggling, but I also was stunned by the fact that the pitch in our voices can change simply after reading a script. The study did not say whether or not it was a double blind trial or not but I think this could affect the facts if it weren’t.  If participants know they are being tested for power and are given the “high-rank position”, of course their voices would change to be more assertive  (because generally people want to support they hypothesis of the study).  However, I feel this was a very well conducted study if the participants were not aware they were being tested for power.  Overall, it is still crazy to know that our voices change when we feel powerful and that other people can subconsciously notice!

References:

http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/11/20/0956797614553009.abstract

http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/the-sound-of-status-people-know-high-power-voices-when-they-hear-them.html

Mondegreens

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Have you ever misheard song lyrics, but still can’t seem to get the correct lyrics right? Its a pretty strange phenomenon isn’t it?  Even though we know what the song actually says, we can’t help but only hear the silly phrase we thought it once was.  This, unfortunately, happened to me with Taylor Swift’s song, “Blank Space”.  I know the lyrics are, “got a long list of ex lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane,” but I can’t help but hear, “got along with Starbucks lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane”.  After embarrassingly messing up the lyrics countless times, I decided to do some research on why this problem occurs.

Apparently, the name for misheard song lyrics is called a mondegreen and yes, there is science behind this term.  In a recent study, Claudia Beck allowed participants to interpret song lyrics that often contain mondegreens and analyzed what is going on when they misinterpret them.  The study found that, “previous knowledge of the alternative percept had a strong impact on the strength of altered perception which is in line with frequent reports that these phenomena can have long-lasting effects”.  Essentially, our prior knowledge and expectations influence the way we interpret things.  So, sometimes your brain will try to switch the lyrics around to what is more relevant in your life or what makes the most sense to the mind.

But why would I hear “got along with Starbucks lovers” instead of “long list of ex lovers” if it depends on relevancy?  I mean, it’s not like the word “Starbucks” is more relevant than the word “ex” in my head (or at least I would like to think so).  Well, according to Kinja, “people, especially adult English learners, are desperately trying to regain the thread of meaning, and make order out of a chaos of sounds. Eventually they trick themselves into hearing something that the recognize, even if it doesn’t make sense”.  So, it could also be that, due to the fact that those lyrics are spoken very quickly in the song, my brain could not make sense of it and quickly tried to replace the jumble with “Starbucks”.

Overall, it is nice to know I am not alone in this unfortunate situation.  I am still curious as to why mondegreens have long-lasting effects on us.  How can we overcome mondegreens? It is a question that I am assuming will be answered in the future, with more research done.

Resources:

http://io9.com/the-science-of-misheard-song-lyrics-1579968707

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0084667

“We’re here to work, not make friends”

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Over the summer, my friend and I both got jobs at a sports bar.  Since she was a hostess and I was a waitress, we were able to work as a team together.  At first when we both applied for the job I was unsure of how good of an idea it was.  We are best friends and I could just imagine us goofing off and getting in trouble all the time.  However, it was the complete opposite.  Even though we goofed off sometimes, we were extremely productive together.  We knew each other so well that I could tell when she needed me for a big party of twenty just by looking at her.  We were also more willing to help out each other.  If I dropped a plate of food, I knew she would rush by my side to help me clean up, while other waitresses had to clean up their own messes.  Unfortunately, she quit at the end of the summer and working without her just wasn’t the same.

Many may argue that friendship in the work place is unnecessary with the old saying, “we’re here to work not make friends”. However, these people have it all wrong.  Although work is still about professionalism, research finds that it is actually better to have a few friends around the office.  Donald Clifton, an educational psychologist who founded Gallup, decided to measure the correlation between productivity and relationships with colleagues. Gallup found that “close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50% and people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work.”  No wonder my friend and I worked so well together!

Unfortunately, this is not something all companies have realized yet.  According to Harvard Business Review, “surveys after surveys are showing that employee engagement at work is at an all time low”.  If this is true, this is definitely something that more corporations should be focusing on!  In fact, certain companies like Google and Dropbox are big supporters of workplace friendships and have focused on making the workplace environment friendly and positive.

Although I completely believe friendship does increase productivity in the workplace, I do have some concerns about the research.  Reverse causation could easily come into play, as people who are more productive and involved in their work develop friendships with their co-workers.  Think about it: people who are valuable around the office are probably aware of their surroundings and know their co-workers pretty well.  Despite my suspicions within the study, I had never gave much thought to friendships within the workplace and I am grateful I know this now, especially as a young college student.

References:

http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2014/11/you-need-a-work-best-friend.html

https://hbr.org/2013/07/we-all-need-friends-at-work/

http://www.shrm.org/Research/SurveyFindings/Articles/Documents/SHRM-Employee-Job-Satisfaction-Engagement-Executive-Summary.pdf

Stuff Yourself at Thanksgiving- Without Feeling Guilty!

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Ah, it’s that time of the year. Thanksgiving. The day where 76 million of us gather around a table for dinner and- to say the least- stuff our faces with food. This day has always been a very special day for my family full of traditions. My brothers and I even have a competition to see who can eat the most. However, in recent years, the Thanksgiving meal hasn’t left me feeling so well. I feel sluggish and immediately tired after eating, and my stomach hurts for hours after. I know what youre thinking as a solution- just eat less –but what if I told you there was something else you could do? The answer is simple: drink more water!

Supposedly, having a glass of water with a meal not only causes you to eat less but also causes you to choose healthier options to eat. Bettina Cornwell and Anna McAlister conducted many studies researching the correlation between food and drink combinations. They observed that those who consume a soft beverage before eating, are more likely to choose densely packed with calories food. Those who were given water before eating were more likely to eat vegetables, and more of them too!

So, drinking a glass of water before a meal will not only fill you up (causing you to not eat as much) but will also trick your mind into choosing a healthier meal. Water is also a zero-calorie beverage, so you don’t have to worry about adding extra calories to your meal either!

The Harvard School of Public Health has also researched the affects of beverages. They found that after people consumed a soft beverage, they were actually left feeling less full than if they had the same amount of calories from solid food. So, if you’re much better off eating a 200-calorie sandwich than drinking a 200-calorie soda. Fruit juice is also not a good option. It actually contains the same amount of sugar and calories as soft drinks on average, even though it may be higher in nutrients.

Essentially, it is just best to stick to water.   You will eat less and eat healthier! This Thanksgiving, try drinking a glass of water before you eat and maybe you will opt for the green beans instead of mashed potatoes! Happy turkey day everyone.

 

References:

 

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666312001572

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/sugary-drinks/

Dancing…Working Out Both Your Brain and Body

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I have been dancing ever since I could walk, but the years have not made it any easier.  Coming from a person whose mom owns a dance studio, let me tell you, theres always room to improve and obstacles to overcome.  Dance teachers will sometimes teach you a minute long exercise you have never seen before in less than thirty seconds.  Picking up these combinations is definitely a skill that every dancer has to acquire and it gets easier with time. I have actually noticed that if I take a week or two off from dancing, I can’t pick up combinations like I used to and have to regain the skill.  I really do believe that dancing stimulates the brain almost more than it stimulates the body.

The New England Journal of Medicine has conducted a study reporting the correlation between recreational activities and mental acuity in aging. They examined 469 subjects, all older than 75, on their cognitive activity and asked them to perform, or not perform, in certain recreational activities such as reading, playing board games, playing musical instruments, or dancing for 5 years.  After the 5 years, the experimenters tested the participants for signs of dementia.  Reading reduced the risk of dementia by 35%, bicycling and swimming- 0%, playing board games- 47%, golf- 0%, and dancing- 76%.

So why dancing?  This is unfortunately where the study falls short.  We know that dance improves cognitive levels, but we are not sure why.  Stanford tries to explain the results of the study, “The essence of intelligence is making decisions.  The best advice, when it comes to improving your mental acuity, is to involve yourself in activities which require split-second rapid-fire decision making, as opposed to rote memory (retracing the same well-worn paths), or just working on your physical style.”  Dancing also enhances ones neural connectivity.  Ones brain’s kinesthetic, rational, musical, and emotional functions are all triggered while one is taking a dance class or even just dancing alone in their room.  So, not only does dance help prevent dementia and certain cases of Alzheimers, but it gives your brain a work out!

I am extremely excited about these results, due to the fact that I will probably dance for the rest of my life.  I love the fact that this study was experimental because reverse causation can easily be ruled out.  However, I am a little disappointed with the study because I would like to know more. For example, what type of dance were the participants doing? How long were they dancing for? Either way, I am now inspired to give my Grandma a call and tell her to take a dance class!

Kristen Robertson

Resources:

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa022252

http://socialdance.stanford.edu/syllabi/smarter.htm

Money Buys Happiness… To an Extent

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We hear it everywhere whether we realize it or not; in songs, movies, and TV shows.  Money buys happiness, and unfortunately this conception is a huge part of our culture. Take the movie, “Slumdog Millionaire”, for example.  Jamal, a smart man who was born into extreme poverty, wins twenty million rupees, gets his dream girl shortly after, and the movie ends as we are left feeling as though we will never be as happy as Jamal.  There are endless examples like this and it is the most prominent in music these days, especially rap.

Poverty does not define a persons happiness.  Professor Mariano Rojas from Mexico’s Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, conducted a national survey asking people questions about their incomes and subjective questions about their life satisfaction.  Most people answered that their lives were satisfactory, but in relation to income, the results were surprising.  According to the study, “only 24 percent of people classified as ‘poor’ rated their life satisfaction as low. Furthermore, 18 percent of people in the ‘non-poor’ category also reported low life satisfaction”.  This difference is so low that it is not possible for us to deem one economic class happier than the other.

However, there has been a study conducted by Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School that does not exactly support these findings. Apparently, the more money you have, the happier you will be, until after you reach making an annual salary of 75,000 dollars.  Once one makes $75,000 a year, a persons happiness level will remain constant.  So, why doesn’t the government just raise everyones salaries to $75,000? We’d be the happiest country in the world! It sounds so simple, but after looking further into the study I learned that there are two types of happiness a person experiences.  There is the current emotional mood, day-to-day, happiness and then there is a more static kind of happiness that depends on your overall life satisfaction.  Apparently, the $75,000 rule only applies to the latter. So, just because a person is making $75,000 annually does not mean that they will all sunshine and smiles everyday.

After reading through the second study, I think that the study conducted by Mariano Rojas was poorly conducted.  In his study, he concludes that life satisfaction is a persons happiness, but how can one really measure happiness?  Although the second study also tries to measure happiness, it at least splits it into two categories and describes the two.  I’m not sure if we will ever know if money buys happiness or not until happiness can be more scientifically measured. What do you all think?

Kristen Robertson

Resources:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090907142345.htm

Rojas M. Enhancing Poverty-Abatement Programs: a Subjective Well-Being ContributionApplied Research in Quality of Life, 2009; 4 (2)

http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2019628,00.html

Feeling Ugly? Wear Perfume!

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Have you ever wanted to change the way people view you? What if I told you it was as simple as spraying perfume on yourself?

A recent study conducted by Monell Chemical Senses Center, has revealed that a women’s facial attractiveness ratings can be altered simply by her odor.  In the study, 18 young adults were asked to rate both the attractiveness and age of 8 different female faces. While the participants viewed a photo to rate, a scent was released that they would smell.  There were five scents that could be released, ranging from a pleasant rose smell to an unpleasant fish oil smell. The study found that odor pleasantness directly influenced facial attractiveness.

When it came to guessing age along with the odors released, the results were mixed. According to Science Daily, “visual age cues strongly influenced age perception during pleasant odor stimulation”.  So, older faces were deemed as older than their actual age and younger faces were perceived as younger than their age.  In the presence of unpleasant odors, the ages of those who were older and younger were deemed closer in age. Essentially, if you are a girl and wear pleasant perfume, you are to be perceived as more attractive, but also your age will be perceived more intensely depending on how old you are.

I found these findings extremely interesting. I really liked this study because it was experimental and reverse causation can easily be ruled out, so I trust the findings.  However, I would like to see this study conducted with more than 18 people. There could be many third variables such as geographic location, social class, and nose sensitivity that could potentially be playing a role. I am also very interested to see if there will be future studies conducted on males.  I think that males will be deemed more attractive if they are associated with more pleasant smells, but I am not sure on how their age will be affected. This is something I will definitely look into in the future!

Kristen Robertson

Resources:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140529181652.htm

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2643738/Womens-faces-rated-attractive-presence-pleasant-odours.html

Are You Blushing?

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I’ll never forget my most embarrassing moment.  I tripped down a flight of stairs and landed, face first, directly in front of my middle school crush, only to realize that my pants had ripped in the happening.  As I got up, my girl friend said, “oh my gosh, your face is so red!”, which then led to my face turning an ever deeper red from embarrassment.

The science behind blushing is actually quite simple to understand.  Blushing most commonly occurs when one experiences emotions such as embarrassment, anger, or nervousness.  After one of these emotions is triggered, your body relies on your sympathetic nervous system to either “fight” or “flight”.  From there, according to Inscriptions Journal, “vasodilators are stimulated which causes the peripheral capillaries to expand”.  This results in blood flow to the face and neck, hence why one is deemed as “turning red”.

We often fear that we will be judged poorely if we are seen blushing.  In a study conducted by the University of Groningen, individuals with and without the fear of blushing were tested. Then, half of the participants were told that they were blushing during a conversation.  Even though the participants were not blushing to begin with,  many of them blushed just by someone telling them that they were. This same study also found that those who blushed, felt that they were being judged negatively.

However, we’ve got it all wrong.  A Dutch psychologist, Corine Dijk, conducted a experimental study to test the way people react to those who blush.  He showed photos to volunteers of people who were either blushing or not blushing and along with each picture, an embarrassing story was told about the person pictured to the volunteer.  The volunteers then judged each person and checked off what qualities they would presume the person pictured to have.  The blushers were always judged more favorably.  The study also found that people are more willing to trust and forgive you if you are blushing.  If you think about it, it would be easier to trust someone who obviously feels guilty after a wrongdoing.

So, I definitely am not thankful for my clumsy feet that failed me that day, but maybe I should be thankful for the fact that I blushed.  Even though things didn’t work out with my crush, maybe he felt a little more favorable towards me after seeing my face turn so red.  So, my new advice to everyone would be to blush away!

Kristen Robertson

Resources:

http://www.inscriptionsjournal.org/stop-youre-making-me-blush/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19358973

http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/polisci/faculty/chwe/austen/dijk2009.pdf

Can Drinking Water Improve Exam Scores?

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How do you prepare for an exam? Do you cram and pull and all-nighter? Do you wake up early and eat a well-balanced breakfast? Well, what if I told you that you could improve your test scores simply by drinking water during an exam?

Water plays a huge role when it comes to our bodies.  It could even affect our ability to focus! According to Absopure.com, “water transports oxygen to the brain, which allows it to communicate important messages to the rest of the body”. So, one’s concentration levels can be affected significantly by even the slightest lack of hydration.

Chris Pawson, a scientist from the University of East London, conducted a study to see if drinking water during exams would improve test performance.  He observed 447 undergraduate students across three different groups of students and what beverages they took into exams. The students who took water (and also consumed the water during the exam) scored significantly higher than those who didn’t. Dr Pawson said: “The results imply that the simple act of bringing water into an exam was linked to an improvement in students’ grades. There are several physiological and psychological reasons that might explain this improvement with water consumption.”

So, this study does not make it clear if drinking water itself can cause exam scores to improve.  It could simply be the psychological affects of bringing water itself into the exam.  Whatever the explanation, the next time you take an exam, bring water!

Resources:

http://www.absopure.com/blog/refresh-your-senses/can-drinking-water-make-you-smarter/

http://www.uel.ac.uk/news/press-releases/2012/04/waterexams.htm

Is Facebook Affecting Your GPA?

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Do you find you ever find yourself distracted by Facebook while you should be doing your school work? How many hours do you think you end up spending on Facebook a day? 30 minutes? 2 hours? Afraid to know? Many people, especially college students, use Facebook as a way to communicate with friends and keep others updated about their lives. However, Facebook is doing a lot more than helping us keep in touch with an old friend.

According to Time Magazine, the average college student spends 106 minutes on Facebook a day! However, something more disturbing is what that time correlates with.  A recent study has found that for every additional 1.5 hours spent above the average 106 minutes on the site, your GPA will drop .12 points.  One theory the study suggests is that Facebook distracts us from the school work that we have to do, leading to poorer grades.  However, some scientists disagree with the explanation. For example, Charlie Osburn argues that students who use Facebook more frequently might already be part of a lower GPA group.

Although there is a negative relationship between GPA and extensive use of Facebook, the study does not prove that one causes the other.  This is a perfect example of the fact that correlation does not always equal causation.  I have come up with my own theory after reading the study thoroughly.  I believe that if we weren’t using Facebook to distract us from our school work, we would be using something else to distract us.  Therefore, I think it is us using Facebook as a distraction, not so much as Facebook distracting us.

The more I thought about this study, the more I realized there could be a third variable: Facebook’s affect on our intelligence. Could it be that the more we use Facebook, the less intelligence we become; hence, our GPA decreases?  The results surprised me.  According to a study conducted by Dr. Tracy Alloway, a psychologist from the University of Stirling in Scotland, Facebook use actually increases intelligence.  Tracy has spent a immense amount of time throughout her scientific career studying the working memory.  She explains that the working memory allows people to retain and use information, which is “a far more significant measure of the well-being and intelligence of humanity than, say, IQ”.  Her study found that Facebook, unlike many other social media sites, enhances the working memory.  This is due to the fact that Facebook users have to keep up with all of the friends they have on the site.

So, it can be concluded that Facebook isn’t all that bad for us.  Although it may lower our GPA for unknown reasons, it will increase our intelligence! I am excited to follow up on this in the future to see if more studies have been conducted, but for now, I’ll stick with my own theory of why Facebook lowers GPA.

Kristen Robertson

Resources:

http://www.cnet.com/news/psychologist-facebook-makes-you-smarter-twitter-makes-you-dumber/

http://tracyalloway.com/journal-articles/

http://techland.time.com/2011/12/07/number-of-the-day-0-12/

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/igeneration/facebook-use-lowers-gpa-over-prolonged-sessions/13577

Do Laxatives Help You Lose Weight?

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Now a days, people will do anything to get thin fast.  This includes taking laxatives in order to “cleanse” their bodies.  According to Consumer Health Information Corporation, “Approximately 4% of people abuse laxatives at some point, and as many as 7% of high school students abuse laxatives for weight loss.”  This is a huge problem and people need to realize the consequences that come along with taking the drug.  Laxatives only cause people to lose their body fluids, which doesn’t actually do anything in the long run.  In fact, after taking a laxative, one will become bloated because the body will go through water retention.  Many do not know this and will end up taking more laxatives because they think it will exterminate the bloating.

If laxatives are not used when they are actually needed, the last thing one will experience is weight loss.  However, the three main things one will experience is diarrhea, cramps and dehydration.  Laxatives also make you lose a significant amount of potassium.  According to Hub Pages, “Sodium phosphate is the active ingredient in most laxatives, and it makes you lose potassium. This is bad for your kidneys as well as your heart.”  Scared yet? It gets worse! To all the ladies out there, laxatives can enhance your chances of getting pregnant!  The substance prevents the absorption of medications.  So if you are on birth control, the hormones will not be absorbed correctly.  

Abusing laxatives is a form of purging and it is not the “natural” way to lose weight!  After taking the pill regularly, the body will build up a tolerance.  So one will end up needing more and more pills in order for them to work.  Once one is addicted to laxatives, there are long-term effects.  According to Recovery Ranch, “Internal organ damage may result, including stretched or “lazy” colon, colon infection, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and rarely, liver damage. Chronic laxative abuse may contribute to the risk of colon cancer.”  Essentially, taking laxatives to lose weight is a very idiotic thing to do because not only does it have terrible side effects, but it doesn’t actually help weight loss.

Kristen Robertson

References:

http://www.consumer-health.com/index.php

http://marathon902.hubpages.com/hub/how-to-use-laxatives-to-lose-weight

http://www.recoveryranch.com/treatment-issues/eating-disorders/anorexia/laxative-abuse-some-basic-facts/

Why Do Men Have Nipples?

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Ever wonder why men have nipples? Seems strange, due to the fact that they serve no purpose to men.  Of course, they are extremely important to women because they are used to breast feed, but why men?

Believe it or not, in the early forming stages of a developing embryo, no matter the sex, it follows a female blueprint.  According to Live Science, “Only after about 60 days does the hormone testosterone kick in (for those of us with a Y chromosome), changing the genetic activity of cells in the genitals and brain”.  So, by the time the embryo reaches 60 days and starts to develop its sex, the nipples are already there to stay.

But wouldn’t Darwin’s theory of evolution get rid of male nipples by now? Male nipples are vestigial, meaning they are genetically determined attributes that have lost function over time.  Some evolutionists argue that males were once able to breast feed, and that overtime, the ability has deteriorated.  Other evolutionists argue that males will actually be able to breast feed in the future, and that is why they have nipples now.  So, males are actually going through an evolutionary process right now in their opinion.  Either theory is a strange thing to picture.

However, it is problematic to label nipples as vestigial because they serve as sexual stimulation for both men and women.  According to creation.com, “The presence of an abundance of nervous tissue is a major clue that an organ has a function.” In this purpose, the only difference between male and female nipples is that females have a larger erogenous zones.  So although nipples provide sexual pleasure, there is no evidence as to why they exist yet.

Kristen Robertson

resources:

http://creation.com/is-the-human-male-nipple-vestigial

http://www.livescience.com/32467-why-do-men-have-nipples.html

Hungover?

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Alas, you did it again didn’t you? You went out on a Thursday night knowing about that quiz you have tomorrow morning.  You wake up at 8 am, Friday, with a brutal headache and the second you stand up, you feel as if you may vomit all of last nights memories.  And then you remember that quiz you have to take in just a few short hours….  You have to get rid of this hangover, and fast.

Scientists are still unclear as to what actually causes a hangover, but they are getting close.    According to Scientific American, “Patients with hangovers show changes in the blood levels of several hormones, which are often responsible for some of the hangover symptoms.”  For example, there is a hormone called antidiuretic that is affected by alcohol.  Once this hormone can not work efficiently, excessive urination occurs and the body dehydrates itself.  Also, when your body is going through a hangover, it is actually going through alcohol withdrawal. During a night of excessive drinking, your brain is working quickly to develop a tolerance.  So once this tolerance is disrupted after one has not consumed alcohol in a while, withdrawal symptoms take place.

Although the best cure to a hangover is time, there are other remedies.  Drinking a beverage with a small amount of alcohol in it will postpone withdrawal symptoms temporarily.  However, this is not the best idea because then an even worse hangover will occur later on.  Sticking to the good old H20 is the best way to go because it is the most efficient when curing dehydration.  In order to acquire energy, food is the answer.  Easily digestible foods such as toast, soup, or rice can do wonders.  The best way to get rid of a headache is to take Tylenol.  Aspirin/Ibuprofen thin the blood stream (which alcohol does as well) and can cause seriously dangerous effects to your liver.

Still hungover? You’re not alone.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, “hangovers cost the U.S. alone some $224 billion a year in workplace productivity declines, drinking-related health care expenses, law enforcement, and motor vehicle accident and fatality costs”.  Hopefully one day science will find a cure for hangovers but in the mean time, we will just have to keep pushing through it!

Kristen Robertson

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/in-search-of-a-cure-for-the-dreaded-hangover/

http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2011/p1017_alcohol_consumption.html

Hookah…The “Pure” Way to Smoke

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I’m sure when you think of hookah you think of hippies, fruity flavors and a healthy, non-addictive, form of smoking.  You’re not alone in these thoughts.  According to a study published in 2012, the majority of hookah smokers believe that smoking hookah is significantly better for your health as opposed to smoking cigarettes.  Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case.

The coal used to burn the tobacco is extremely detrimental to ones health.  According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization, “Even after it has been passed through water, the smoke produced by a water pipe contains high levels of toxic compounds, including carbon monoxide, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals.”  Turns out many of us are misinformed about the effects hookah has on us.

Smoking-Hookah

Depending on the amount of hookah one smokes, many hookah smokers actually end up absorbing more toxins than they would if they had smoked cigarettes.  According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “A typical one-hour-long smoking session involves two-hundred puffs, while an average cigarette is twenty puffs.  The volume of smoke inhaled during a typical hookah session is about 90,000 milliliters, compared with 500 milliliters inhaled when smoking a cigarette.”  This means that one typical session of smoking hookah can be equivalent to 10-40 cigarettes!  Just imagine how many cigarettes one is practically smoking if they smoke hookah every weekend!  Although many of us are mislead by the sweet and fruity flavored water pipe, we must educate ourselves on just how deadly hookah can actually be.

Kristen Robertson

References:

http://www.cdc.gov/features/hookahsmoking/

http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2012/12_0082.htm

http://www.who.int/tobacco/global_interaction/tobreg/Waterpipe%20recommendation_Final.pdf

Why is everyone getting diagnosed with ADD?

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When I was younger, many of my teachers noticed I could never focus in class or even sit down for more than ten minutes to work.  This focusing problem was easy to get away with in elementary school, but when I got to middle school, it was a disaster.  I was failing my classes and the school was even thinking about holding me back a year before going into seventh grade.  My dance teacher was also concerned that I seemed to be day dreaming a lot in class and once she told this to my mom, my mom decided it was time to take me to see someone.  The doctor diagnosed me as ADD and prescribed me medication, which changed my life.  My grades changed drastically and I no longer felt frustrated in school or dance.  It has been 7 years since I have been diagnosed but I still can’t help but wonder if the disorder is fictitious now that more and more people seem to be getting diagnosed so easily.

According to Allen Frances, “Attention Deficit Disorder is now two to three more times more common than it was just twenty years ago”.  Why is this happening? Well it could be due to many different things.   One sad, but terrifyingly realistic reason is that drug companies have aggressively advertised their medications as a cure for ADD/ADHD.  They do this while also urging doctors to diagnose more people and persuading parents to get their children checked out.  Also, scientists have created better technology, which makes it easier to diagnose people through tests.  However, technology could be hindering us, as it makes it harder for us to focus on one thing at a time.  In a recent survey, many teachers say that children are constantly distracted by technology and find it impossible to engage them in their school work.  Since technology is constantly entertaining us, it is hard for us to focus on the not-so-entertaining things reality oftentimes has to offer us.

Recently, a dutch psychologist, Laura Batstra, has developed an effective medical approach to diagnosing children with ADD.  She believes that before diagnosing a child with ADD, psychologists, doctors and scientists must observe the child’s environment to see if there are any third variables taking place.  They must also observe the way teachers and parents are interacting with this child.  And finally, they must then try to modify the child’s behavior through counseling or therapy.  Batstra and many others believe that this is the most effective way to prevent children from getting over-diagnosed with ADD.

Unfortunately, there have been no proven reasons as to why ADD is being diagnosed so much more today than ever before.  Although I am glad that I was diagnosed, I will always still wonder about this.  I am excited for what the future holds, as I am sure there will be an explanation one day.

Kristen Robertson

Resources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allen-frances/attention-deficit-disorder_b_1206381.html

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dsm5-in-distress/201105/attention-deficit-disorder-epidemic-real-or-fad

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/01/education/technology-is-changing-how-students-learn-teachers-say.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Laura_Batstra

Initial Blog Post

Hi everyone! My name is Kristen Robertson and I am a sophomore here at Penn State from Columbia, Maryland.  I am taking this science class because my advisor suggested that I take the course. I actually grew up loving science because my dad works at NASA.  The only reason I am not majoring in it is because I am more passionate about advertising.  However, science will always be a big part of my life. I enjoy dancing in my spare time and my favorite show is Breaking Bad.

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