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The new “more likely to be killed by a terrorist than marry over 40” & other things you want to know

Monday, September 11, 2017
posted by Rita Handrich

It is once again time for one of those combination posts that give you scintillating information you know you want to know. Think of these as fun factoids—that you can also use in casual conversation to amaze and educate your friends (or just make them look at you oddly).

The new ‘Educated single women over 40 are more likely to be killed by a terrorist than to get married’ belief 

If you are female and were reading Newsweek back in the 1980s, you may remember their early June 1986 cover illustrating this post. And you certainly remember the hubbub raised by the story itself.

Newsweek magazine waited 20 years to retract a 1986 story that educated 40-year-old women have “as much chance of marrying as being killed by a terrorist,” even though they knew it was bogus. The story became part of popular culture, mentioned in movies and television, and caused many women to panic.

Now however, in 2017, we have a new fear to replace this one—and this one is brought to us by Newsweek’s competitor, Time Magazine. Forget about settling so you can get married. In 2017, “Americans think a major terrorist attack on US soil is more realistic than Republicans and Democrats working together”. That is pretty scary so we’ll move on. Quickly.

Atheists just can’t win—even fellow atheists judge them harshly

A few years ago we did extensive research on attitudes toward atheists and ended up publishing a few blog posts and a full-length article on our findings. The level of negative attitudes and beliefs directed at atheists was very strong. Apparently, things have not improved much for atheists in the intervening years. According to a study published in the journal Nature Human Behavior and summarized at BigThink’s website, “atheists are broadly perceived as potentially morally depraved and dangerous”. The research was conducted across 13 countries on 5 continents and participants self-reported their religious status (religious, agnostic, or atheist). Standardized measures were used to determine whether participants had an anti-religious bias or an anti-atheist bias. Here is what the researchers say about their sample:

“We conducted identical experiments in all 13 sites. We targeted at least 100 participants per experimental condition (anti-atheist bias versus anti-religious bias). There were a total of 3,256 participants for final analysis (69% female, age 16–70 years: mean = 25.07, s.d. = 7.84), with a median of 162 participants per country (range: 129–993). “

Here is how BigThink’s summary describes the research task:

The study’s participants had to react to a fictional situation where they were told to judge a serial killer who mutilated homeless people. Tellingly, when they had to guess the likelihood of the evil character being an atheist or a religious believer, the participants were twice as likely to suppose the sadistic serial killer was an atheist.

One of the surprising findings in this research was that while (as expected) religious people were biased against atheists, fellow atheists were as well. That is, even atheists were more likely think atheists were the “sadistic serial killer”.

Racism and online harassment and the problem of racism in American society

Recently we blogged about the problem of online harassment and included the reality than 1 in 4 Black Americans have faced online harassment because of their race or ethnicity. Now Pacific Standard’s website tells us that “more Americans consider racism a ‘big problem’ than they have at any other point in the last two decades”. In specific numbers, 58% of Americans believe racism is a pervasive issue in 2017. They base the article on a new August 29, 2017 survey out of the Pew Research Center which we also encourage you to read.

You really can do something to sharpen your brain in later life

By now, you’ve probably read the critics of companies promoting their ‘brain games’ as a way of keeping yourself sharp and cognitively clear in later life. So, as it turns out, you don’t really need those new-fangled tools to sharpen your brain. Just do crosswords and other word puzzles!

According to ScienceDaily (summarizing research out of the University of Exeter in the UK) “the more regularly people report doing word puzzles such as crosswords, the better their brain function in later life”. Lest you think this is a small-scale study, the researchers analyzed data from more than 17,000 healthy people aged 50 and over. The study shows there is a link although it can’t tell us just what that link is. We’d say, keep doing that crossword puzzle!

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