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Archive for the ‘Trends and Goofy Stuff’ Category

five minutesThere are many things we read and discard rather than sharing them (and our take on them) with you, but other things we read and grin and think you might want to know. We’ve described these before as odd facts for sharing over drinks or dinner or around the office. It isn’t the most pivotal research we’ve read, but it is usually amusing. These are not the really “important” things, but they might make you grin and result in others looking at you with awe (or at least curiosity).

Altered consciousness using the person next to you (if they will cooperate)

Tina Fey and Steve Martin did this in a fairly unmemorable movie, but only for five minutes. However, if you want to go beyond “rewarding” someone with five minutes of uninterrupted eye contact, you can actually experience “dissociation and hallucinations”. Is that cool or what? The lights must be dim to better bring on a “natural” altered state and if you choose to question whether this is a real study, the citation is at the bottom of this post.

An easy test to see if your new friend is secretly a psychopath

We’ve written before about psychopaths but never seen such a quick-and-dirty test to see if your new friend is someone from whom you want to quickly distance yourself. According to a new study from researchers at Baylor University, people with psychopathic tendencies are less likely to be “affected by contagious yawning”. Yes. You know how when someone yawns and then you yawn back? It’s contagious. Except, the act itself is apparently based in empathy (which the psychopath does not have). The researcher cautions us to NOT presume that “if you yawn and someone else doesn’t, the other person is a psychopath”.

Another way to tell if someone is suicidal

In 2012, we wrote up a study that seemed strange to us on being able to simply look at someone’s face and determine if they were suicidal. Here’s another one where they look at blood tests to assess changes in genes that appear to indicate suicidal thoughts. According to a press release, a questionnaire and blood test together predicted with 92% accuracy which of 108 men receiving psychiatric treatment would develop suicidal feelings over the next year. That is pretty accurate.

Fool people into thinking you are younger than you really are (online anyway)

We’ve all heard the saying “no one knows you’re a dog on the internet”—although, we told you back in 2012 that common wisdom really isn’t true. But this is a way to fool people online into thinking you are younger than your real age. LOL is often used as internet shorthand for “laughing out loud”. By old people anyway. Researchers analyzed Facebook posts for how people expressed laughter and as it turned out, LOL is used by old folks. If you want to be seen as young and tuned in—remove LOL from use and write “haha” or “hehe” instead. Read the researchers blog post here.

Strangers in your mirror and Donald Trump in your refrigerator?

Here are two odd things. One, if you ever see a stranger (who closely resembles you) in your mirror—there’s a name for that: Capgras syndrome for ones own mirror image. A recent publication highlights a case study of a man who came to believe the reflection in the mirror was someone else who lived behind the mirror glass (because he talked to the stranger and the man knew an awful lot about him). And if that isn’t weird enough for you—did you hear about the woman who saw Donald Trump in her refrigerator? Apparently it was pretty shocking for her when she opened a new tub of spreadable butter and saw Donald Trump’s face on her butter. Researchers call this “pareidolia”—it’s when we see familiar patterns that really do not exist or when we see faces in random patterns. They say it’s like the people who see Jesus or the Virgin Mary in their food. Somehow we think the Donald would like joining this small but highly regarded group.

Caputo, G. (2015). Dissociation and hallucinations in dyads engaged through interpersonal gazing Psychiatry Research, 228 (3), 659-663 DOI: 10.1016/j.psychres.2015.04.050


Comments Off on Ten minutes of uninterrupted eye contact causes hallucinations and other important things 

beer goggles and coffeeWe write blog posts about so many different topics that you would be surprised how much ends up on the metaphorical cutting room floor. Here are a few more that didn’t make the cut but with whom we thought you might want to have a passing familiarity.

How is coffee good for you? Let us list the ways…

We’ve written about coffee so much here that Doug has accused me of pandering to the coffee industry. This time, however, we are showing you an infographic with a must-see summary of how coffee “really affects your health”. Sure it’s written by someone who appears to be in the coffee industry but we’re sure it’s all true! Did we say “must see”?

Want more life satisfaction? 

We’ve just found a secret to how you can make that happen. Researchers think life satisfaction is really largely about how much you are able to achieve your goals and “assert your will” on circumstances. They call this “primary control”. New research tells us that “secondary control” may be an avenue for life satisfaction as well. You might think of secondary control as adjusting yourself to accommodate your circumstances. And the researchers (cited at the end of this post) say adapting and accommodating can enhance your life satisfaction!

It’s 2015. Do women and men agree on workplace equity for gender?


If you need more than that concise—yet accurate— answer, here’s a Gallup poll from less than two weeks ago. Gallup says nothing has really changed since 2013. Women remain twice as likely as men to feel overlooked for promotion and 17% of women feel they’ve been denied a raise at work due to gender while only 4% of men feel the same way. So. No. Okay? (This might be a good time to refill that coffee cup since coffee is so good for you.)

Do beer goggles really exist?

These researchers took their research to the “real world” of pubs in the United Kingdom. They chose three different pubs and walked in between 5pm and 11pm and recruited volunteers. Altogether, they recruited 311 pub customers and performed breathalyzer tests to determine blood alcohol level. Then they asked them to rate the attractiveness of various photographs of people. They found no relationship at all between alcohol use and how attractive the participants found the photographed faces. It’s good to see this sort of naturalistic research being done. Of course, others are doing this too. Did you hear about the social psychologists who wanted to measure male testosterone levels? Naturally, you may think, they went to a “adult social club”. The researchers do not name the club but they do say it is also referred to as a “swingers club” or a “sex club”—and they describe it as 18,000 square feet so if you want to do your own naturalistic research, it shouldn’t be hard to find.

Helzer, E., & Jayawickreme, E. (2015). Control and the “Good Life”: Primary and Secondary Control as Distinct Indicators of Well-Being Social Psychological and Personality Science, 6 (6), 653-660 DOI: 10.1177/1948550615576210


Comments Off on Coffee, beer goggles, and workplace equity: More stuff you want to know

random little tidbits 0610Every once in a while we find tidbits that we don’t wish to devote an entire post to but that we think worth sharing. Think of these as party trivia or sound bytes to help you seem intriguing and perhaps more well-read.

The importance of moving:

You’ve seen that infographic on how sitting is killing us all? New research says there are simple ways to counteract that deadly habit. To make it even better—it’s free and something everyone can do. Move. The research itself focuses on walking and you may prefer running, rowing, biking, yoga, or some other activity that suits your fitness and ability level. The formula is simple: Two minutes of walking offsets health harms of an hour sitting. Just standing alone doesn’t do it. You have to move.

You are unique. Your parents are the ones who are so predictable:

Privacy on the internet is really not a thing. But a couple of websites purporting to be able to guess your age (here and here) could make you think you are embarrassingly predictable. They ask for your given name and then tell you how old you are—it’s mortifying. But. We are here to support you. You, yourself are a truly unique and spontaneous creature. Your parents, though? Totally predictable. There are other websites that will (given your responses to a few questions) guess your educational level, your gender (this one pegged me incorrectly), and pretty much anything else you plug into an internet search (e.g., guess my __________). It’s all based on statistical algorithms but still often a bit unnerving.

Online harassment in the form of menacing behavior:

There is an online debate as to whether online harassment truly exists. Of course it exists. According to a new survey from the Pew Research Center, up to 40% of adult internet users have experienced some form of harassment online (mostly involving name-calling or attempts to embarrass someone). Pew offers a nicely designed graphic looking at how men and women experience differing varieties of online harassment. Women are more distressed than men by online harassment. This is a good data-based evidence of the existence of online harassment. Although, one might consider that the person who says online harassment does not exist is likely not worthy of the effort expended to educate.

online harassment

Is it worth your time to publish in academic journals?

It may seem an odd question given the imperative of publication in peer-reviewed journals if you want to achieve tenure at nearly all universities. The answer to the question appears to be “it depends on whether your goal is sharing the knowledge”. Recently, an opinion column on this issue saying only about 10 people ever actually read papers in academic journals. And just last year, a more comprehensive paper argued that sometimes only the editor(s) and the actual author(s) of the paper actually read articles published in academic journals. That’s a pretty sad (and lonely) number of people who are not racing to the library to read your hard work. We know a place (The Jury Expert) that does a whole lot better than that at seeing your hard work to print and getting it read. You might want to think about doing two versions of your work: one for tenure and one for people to actually read and learn from your efforts.

Banish the ear worm!

Finally! In January of 2013 we wrote about some ways to get rid of an ear worm (that thing that happens when a song gets stuck in your head). The recommendations for removing the pesky ear worm just didn’t seem that credible but it was the findings from the research study so we went ahead with it. Now, science marches on and finally, two years and some months later, we have a new study saying you don’t have to not play Sudoku or take on mentally challenging tasks. Instead of depriving yourself, buy some gum and chew it. As the abstract explains so very clearly: “The data support a link between articulatory motor programming and the appearance in consciousness of both voluntary and unwanted musical recollections.”. (All that means is you now have a research-backed reason for chewing gum: It helps remove ear worms.)

Beaman, C., Powell, K., & Rapley, E. (2015). Want to block earworms from conscious awareness? B(u)y gum! The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 68 (6), 1049-1057 DOI: 10.1080/17470218.2015.1034142


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lumbersexualWe know it’s important for you to keep up on new stereotype labels. You know what labels like metrosexual, hipster, and perhaps even lumberjack mean. But lumbersexual?

Tom Puzak, over at GearJunkie wrote about it first a couple of weeks ago and then the term went viral.

“He looks like a man of the woods, but works at The Nerdery, programming for a healthy salary and benefits. His backpack carries a MacBook Air, but looks like it should carry a lumberjack’s axe. He is the Lumbersexual. Seen in New York, LA and everywhere in between, the Lumbersexual is bringing the outdoor industry’s clothing and accessories into the mainstream.”

According to Sociological Images blog, the definition of the lumbersexual continues to evolve:

“Lumbersexuals are probably best recognized by a set of hirsute bodies and grooming habits. Their attire, bodies, and comportment are presumed to cite stereotypes of lumberjacks in the cultural imaginary. However, combined with the overall cultural portrayal of the lumbersexual, this stereotype set fundamentally creates an aesthetic with a particular subset of men that idealizes a cold weather, rugged, large, hard-bodied, bewhiskered configuration of masculinity.”

You may confuse this description with your stereotypes of lumberjacks. There is a critical difference however. Sociological Images continues:

“One of the key signifiers of the “lumbersexual,” however, is that he is not, in fact, a lumberjack. Like the hipster, the lumbersexual is less of an identity men claim and more of one used to describe them (perhaps, against their wishes).”

So, the lumbersexual isn’t really a lumberjack, but more of a costume we could see as the opposite of the metrosexual. Gawker continues to educate us on the lumbersexual:

“To facilitate an easy discussion, it might help you to think of a Lumbersexual as a foil to the Metrosexual, the alleged nadir of masculinity from last decade. So, instead of slim-legged pants, envision pants with a little extra leg room (see: “regular cut”). Rather than be clean-shaven, the Lumbersexual has an unkempt beard. The Metrosexual is clean and pretty and well-groomed; the Lumbersexual spends the same amount of money, but looks filthy. Sartorially speaking, a Lumbersexual is a delicate tri-blend of L.L. Bean, Timberlake, and Sears.”

In case you have not yet figured this out, it’s a label with a bit of sneer in it. The Atlantic calls them “bearded, manly men” while the Daily Beast opines the lumbersexual  represents yet more blurring of the lines between gay and straight as they are “all beards, flannel shirts and work boots”. Jezebel compiles a tongue-in-cheek reference guide to the lumbersexual subtypes (e.g., the Metrojack, the Advanced Lumbersexual, and the Urban Woodsman).

“In conclusion, it’s a nice look, but somewhat misleading—reading these pieces feels like meeting a retro sexy librarian type who isn’t actually into books. With the Lumbersexual, the very things that might draw to you such a manly dressed man are likely to disappoint when you discover he won’t be building a campfire, crafting some bookshelves, or investigating that weird noise outside the tent. But hey, fashion is fashion. And the lumberjack look is still pretty hot, right?”

As far as we can tell, the lumbersexual is an urban male (typically White and heterosexual) who dresses like a lumberjack even though he is far from a lumberjack. While it is a recognizable fashion statement, there are (as yet) no attitudes, values and beliefs attributed to the lumbersexual. While there is a sense that these are men trying to look “like real men” according to a hyper masculine definition—there is no evidence that their attitudes, values and beliefs would line up with what we think of as stereotypically masculine.

In other words, while you know an evocative pop culture label to assign, you have no real idea who that lumbersexual really is on the inside. Appearances have limited value. Obviously, that’s not a good decision-making strategy for voir dire. Even though it might be good for a laugh.


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Do you smell red or blue? 

Monday, November 3, 2014
posted by Rita Handrich

al pacino scent of a womanThis post might well fall into the category of “the route to tenure-track publication credits is not always the high road”. We discard lots of dicey research reports (such as this one) because they add nothing to our goal of improving litigation advocacy. But this one was so weird we found it amusing. Enjoy. But don’t bet your case on anything you learn today.

Al Pacino made fragrance tangible in his role as a blind man in the film Scent of a Woman. Today’s research is not on how women smell, but rather on how we all smell differently based on our own political ideology and the particular ideology of the sniffer. Good grief. You smell like a Libertarian? How exactly does a Libertarian smell? Perhaps a good business plan would be to develop deodorants to either mask or enhance your “political smell” depending on the situation in which you find yourself?

Before you sniff and toss your head in disbelief, the authors would like you to hear that it is well-known that many people choose spouses or partners who are more similar to them in political preference. In fact, say the researchers, political similarity is often more similar than almost any other trait in spouses and long-term partners. (James Carville and Mary Matalin are perhaps the exception that proves the rule.)

The authors say that we are simply drawn to the body odor of those who share our political ideology. And, they set out to prove it (in the inimitable style of sincere and committed researchers). They recruited 146 participants between 18 and 40 years of age (half from a university and half from the general population) and asked them to rate their political ideology on a seven point spectrum ranging from “very liberal” to “very conservative”. The researchers selected the 10 liberals and 11 conservatives with the highest scores on each end of the spectrum and collected “body odor samples”.

This collecting of body odor samples is actually quite an involved process.

“Target participants washed in fragrance free shampoo and soap and then taped one 2×2 Johnson & Johnson gauze pad to each underarm using Johnson & Johnson paper tape, all of which we provided. Participants wore these pads for 24 hours following a strict protocol that prohibited smoking, drinking, deodorants, perfumes, being around strong odors or candles, animals, eating strong-smelling foods, having sex, or sleeping in a bed with any other people or pets.”

Sample pads were then transferred into sterile containers and frozen for one week. Then, 125 participants sniffed and evaluated the body odor of the 20 liberals and conservatives (one had worn their gauze pads for 48 hours and was thrown out of the study) by smelling the vial containing the individual pads.

Each participant sniffed peppermint essential oils in between samples to “refresh the nasal canal”. Participants rated the “attractiveness” of the body odors and were asked to guess the political ideology of each body odor generator. (The researchers had already collected the political ideology of the sniffer-participants.)

So here is what they found (and given their hypotheses, you will likely be unsurprised):

Individual think those more ideologically akin to them smell better than those who are their ideological opposites.

Even more intriguing to us (as we do qualitative research) was one of the stories they told about their research participants:

“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 by another respondent with an ideology opposite to the person who provided the exact same sample; this participant reported that that vial had “gone rancid” and suggested it needed to be replaced. In this way, different participants experienced the exact same stimulus in radically different ways only moments apart.”

This seems totally ridiculous to us. We can tell you (from our pretrial research experience) that people react very differently to the same stimulus (although we never have and never will have them sniff the body odor of the witnesses, parties or attorneys). We often say that a story simply “doesn’t pass the smell test” but this particular scenario has never been what we had in mind. We have had mock jurors request to be reseated because of body odors in the room, but the requests have uniformly been motivated by repulsion, not attraction. And with good reason…

What is also odd to us is that we think political ideology is very tough to measure and we have never found that measuring it on a seven-point scale gives us any data at all relative to the mock juror’s eventual verdict. So why people’s self-description of their political ideology would make them more attracted to the body odor of politically similar others is odd to us. (Although not odd enough for us to find this worthy of further exploration.)

Hopefully, the very real consequences involved in courtroom disputes outweigh the potential attraction to the smell of an unknown other’s body odor. But, just in case, you might want to take special care (and have your client take special care) to not smell either red or blue when you appear in court (whatever that means).

McDermott, R., Tingley, D., & Hatemi, P. (2014). Assortative Mating on Ideology Could Operate Through Olfactory Cues American Journal of Political Science, 58 (4), 997-1005 DOI: 10.1111/ajps.12133


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