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Archive for November, 2012

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The 2D:4D ratio is considered a crude measure to indicate exposure to androgens (testosterone) in the womb. Testosterone exposure in utero has been correlated with various physical and behavioral traits.

The 2D:4D ratio is present before birth, ruling out any environmental causes. It is calculated by measuring the length of the right index finger from the crease where it joins the hand. A similar measure is taken of the right ring finger. Divide the length of the index finger of the right hand by the length of the ring finger. A longer index finger will result in a ratio higher than 1, while a longer ring finger will result in a ratio of less than 1. Ratios lower than 1 are correlated with testosterone exposure in the womb.

Some studies suggest that digit ratio correlates with health, behavior, and even sexuality in later life. Wikipedia has a list of traits correlated with digit digit ratio, including links out to detailed information about each one.

via Digit ratio – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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Being Cruel: It’s Not Blind Obedience; There is Enthusiasm in the Act

We’ve relied on the Milgram Experiment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment) and the Stanford Prison Experiment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_prison_experiment) for explaining how and why ordinary people, like ourselves, can commit acts of extreme cruelty and harm. While they tell part of the story, it seems we may have overlooked other important pieces of human motivation inherent to committing cruel acts. 

A new study argues that “…tyranny does not result from blind conformity to rules and roles. Rather, it is a creative act of followership, resulting from identifying with authorities who represent vicious acts as virtuous. “Decent people participate in horrific acts not because they become passive, mindless functionaries who do not know what they are doing, but rather because they come to believe—typically under the influence of those in authority—that what they are doing is right,” Professor Haslam explained.”

via Human obedience: The myth of blind conformity.

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“This particular genotype affects the sleep-wake pattern of virtually everyone walking around,” Dr. Clifford Saper, chief of neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, wrote

 in the statement. “And it is a fairly profound effect so that the people who have the A-A genotype wake up about an hour earlier than the people who have the G-G genotype, and the A-Gs wake up almost exactly in the middle.”

Moreover, investigators realized as some of the 1,200 older subjects in the project died that these nucleotide sequences were accurate predictors of their time of death, within a range of only a few hours. Patients with the A-A and A-G genotypes typically died just before 11 a.m., while subjects with the G-G combination tended to die near 6 p.m.

“So there is really a gene that predicts the time of day that you’ll die. Not the date, fortunately, but the time of day,” said Saper.

The Atlantic reports researchers believe their results may be due to the human body reverting to its more natural, circadian rhythm-induced state as death approaches, instead of the cycle created by social commitments.

via Gene Predicts Time Of Death Down To Hour, Study Suggests.

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Conclusions

What can we do to encourage people to help more?

  1. Present them with a single, identifiable victim who they can help: people are more motivated to help if they can feel a personal connection with the victim.

  2. Appeal to their emotions: heightened emotional responses encourage altruistic behaviour.

  3. Instill a sense of responsibility to help, and an understanding that doing so is not futile.

via Blog: Why don’t people help others more? – part 1 | 80,000 Hours.

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Drinking as little as half a pint of beer per week during pregnancy can cut a baby’s intelligence by several IQ points.

via Moderate drink during pregnancy can lower baby’s IQ – health – 15 November 2012 – New Scientist.

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Men with partners increase the space they feel comfortable with between themselves and an attractive woman if exposed to the bonding hormone oxytocin.

René Hurlemann at the University of Bonn in Germany and colleagues gave men either a sniff of oxytocin or a placebo before asking them to choose the ideal distance for an interaction with a woman. The distance that they felt was comfortable significantly increased after sniffing oxytocin, but only for men in relationships.

The team conclude that oxytocin discourages partnered but not single men from getting close to a female stranger.

Journal reference: Journal of Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1523/jneurosci.2755-12.2012

via Oxytocin changes partnered men’s behaviour – life – 13 November 2012 – New Scientist.

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The system was still able to identify which animal had been named, despite being trained with patterns generated for English words. For example, the word “horse” and its Dutch equivalent “paard” gave rise to the same brain pattern, suggesting that the activity represented the word’s meaning – the concept of a horse. 

However, the brain patterns that Correia identified were unique to each person. Brains are like faces – the eyes, nose and mouth are all in the same place, but the details can be different, says Davis. “The meanings might be stored in the same area, but the actual neurons would be idiosyncratic.” To read someone’s mind, a machine would first need to learn that individual’s unique representation of each word. “You would have to scan a person as they thought their way through a dictionary,” says Davis.

via Mind-reading scan locates site of meaning in the brain – health – 16 November 2012 – New Scientist.

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