Archive for 'News about research'

Immune system suppression from bungee jumping (study)

Monday, April 24th, 2017

Of all the possible pitfalls* which can affect bungee jumpers, a compromised immune system might not be the first to spring to mind. But spring it did to the minds of David J van Westerloo, Goda Choi, Ester C Löwenberg, Jasper Truijen, Alex F de Vos, Erik Endert, Joost C M Meijers, Lu Zhou, Manuel PFL Pereira, Karla CS Queiroz, Sander H Diks, Marcel Levi, Maikel P Peppelenbosch, and Tom van der Poll, who have collectively examined, by experiment, the effects that a jump might have.

20 volunteers (naive to bungee jumping) were exposed to a bungee jump from an altitude of 60m, at the foundation teaching hospital Onze Lieve Vrouwe Gasthuis, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

“The study site was located at the hospital grounds, where a crane was placed. Bungee jumps took place from an altitude of 60 m, under supervision and guidance from an experienced commercial bungee jump crew. On the morning of the study day, an intravenous access catheter was placed in the cubital vein.“

Half had been previously treated with a three day course of propranolol (a beta blocker) and the control group were not. Subsequent blood analyses showed that :

“Plasma catecholamine and cortisol levels increased significantly during jumping, which was accompanied by significantly reduced ex vivo inducibility of proinflammatory cytokines as well as activation of coagulation and vascular endothelium. Kinome profiles obtained from the peripheral blood leukocyte fraction contained a strong noncanonical glucocorticoid receptor signal transduction signature after jumping. In apparent agreement, jumping down regulated Lck/Fyn and cellular innate immune effector function (phagocytosis). Pretreatment of volunteers with propranolol abolished the effects of jumping on coagulation and endothelial activation but left the inhibitory effects on innate immune function intact. Taken together, these results indicate that bungee jumping leads to a catecholamine-independent immune suppressive phenotype and implicate noncanonical glucocorticoid receptor signal transduction as a major pathway linking human stress to impaired functioning of the human innate immune system.”

see: ‘Acute Stress Elicited by Bungee Jumping Suppresses Human Innate Immunity’ in Molecular Medicine, December 2010.

Note that the volunteers actually did the jumps, but many showed obvious signs of stress before jumping. Therefore further studies might be needed to determine whether the immune system effects were caused by mental strain or by the physical stresses of the jump (or both).

* The physical pitfalls can include, but are not limited to, carotid artery dissection, pulmonary hemorrhage, head injuries, dislocation of the humerus, etc etc.

Coming Soon : Medical benefits from bungee cord injuries.

People’s preferences for complex explanations (new study)

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

Those who are keen on the principle of Occam’s Razor [“Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate” or “Plurality is not to be posited without necessity” or “Keep it simple”] may be surprised, perhaps even dismayed, by a new research project which hints at its unpopularity.

“[…] we find that people have a preference for complex explanations […]”

– explain Jeffrey C. Zemla, Steven Sloman, Christos Bechlivanidis and David A. Lagnado in a new report for Psychonomic Bulletin & Review (March 2017) entitled : ‘Evaluating everyday explanations’.

The team’s experimental research, using a corpus of diverse explanations from Reddit’s “Explain Like I’m Five” (and other online sources) revealed unexpected findings :

“A guiding principle in explanatory reasoning is that of Occam’s Razor: All things being equal, the simplest hypothesis should be preferred. Thus, we initially predicted a negative correlation between subjective complexity and explanation quality. Surprisingly, we observed a positive correlation, with explanations that were rated as more complex also rated as better explanations (R = .49, p =.03)”

Following on from this, the team have a proposal :

“We propose that this preference for complexity is driven by a desire to identify enough causes to make the effect seem inevitable.”

Advertisements for desserts – should they include bite marks?

Monday, April 17th, 2017

Those in the business of marketing desserts might be interested in new research from Donya Shabgard at the University of Manitoba, US, who has investigated, possibly for the first time, the influence of an advertisement’s dessert portrayal on consumer perceptions of desirability. Specifically, should advertisements show desserts with a bite taken out of them or not?

In a series of four experiments, participants were asked to rate faux ads which showed desserts either entire, cut, or with a bite taken out [see image]. The bitten dessert fared well, especially amongst those with dieting experience.

“These findings explain that the bitten dessert is percieved [sic] as more real and authentic in comparison to the cut and whole dessert, and, thus, these perceptions of realness resulted in its positive evaluations.”

.The author points out opportunities for further research :

“It would also be interesting to test whether the effect holds for other food products, such as burgers and pizza, or whether it is limited to desserts, or a certain type of dessert.”

See: Would you like a Bite? The Influence of an Advertisement’s Dessert Portrayal on Consumer Perceptions of Desirability by Donya Shabgard.

BONUS task [optional]: With regard to visual advertising media, which food products would you prefer not to see displayed with a bite already taken out?


Airline Upgrade Guilt – an examination

Monday, April 10th, 2017

Do people with high levels of guilt-proneness tend to have a heightened sensitivity to injustices – what happens if they get an unexpected airline upgrade for example? This question has been examined by professor Anna S. Mattila and professor Lu Zhang of the School of Hospitality Management, The Pennsylvania State University, US along with professor Lydia Hanks at the Dedman School of Hospitality, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, US.

Their research paper: ‘Existential Guilt and Preferential Treatment : The Case of an Airline Upgradeis published in the Journal of Travel Research, September 2013 vol. 52 no. 5, pp. 591-599

“Using the context of an unexpected airline upgrade, we examined factors that influence an individual’s reaction when they are overrewarded compared to others: guilt-proneness and relationship to the other, underrewarded, individuals. Results demonstrated that for individuals high in guilt-proneness, satisfaction with the upgrade and behavioral intent may be qualified by a feeling of existential guilt when they receive benefits that others do not, particularly if they have a close relationship with those others.”

The findings have important implications for the hospitality, airline, and travel industries, say the authors :

“ … for customers high in guilt-proneness, receiving an expected upgrade may, in fact, have unintended negative results. Managers can use this information to make employees aware of the potential detrimental effects of rewarding or upgrading only one member of a party.”

The photo shows a Singapore Airlines suite : “How close is too close? You’ll never have to know”

[ Declaration of interest. The author of this post declares an interest, in that he has been the recipient of an unexpected airline upgrade. No perceptible increased levels of guilt ensued however, existential or otherwise.]

Umpteen reflections on Indefinite Hyperbolic Numerals

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

With apologies to our readers who might already know, Indefinite Hyperbolic Numerals* (IHNs) are words like zillion, jillion, and umpteen. Or, to be exact :

“Indefinite hyperbolic numerals (IHN) are words that (1) resemble numerals morphologically, and (2) act as numerals morphosyntactically within numeral phrases, yet (3) whose direct numerical referent remains indefinite.”

For an in-depth look at them, turn to the work of Professor Stephen Chrisomalis of Wayne State University, US. His paper : ‘Umpteen reflections on indefinite hyperbolic numerals’ appears in the journal American Speech, 2016 volume 91, number 1: 3-33. In which, as part of his investigation, the author has compiled a new table of what he determines to be the earliest origins of IHNs. For example, both squillion and umpteen are found to have appeared as early as 1878, whereas umptillion only surfaced in 1948.

Also see: A load of vague non-numerical quantifiers

*Note: Some call them ‘Numericals’.