Archive for 'News about research'

Automated Acoustic Detection of Mouse Scratching [research study]

Friday, July 7th, 2017

Acoustic detection of mouse scratching has been automated at least once. This report tells about the mice involved, and about their scratching, and about the detection — done acoustically — of that scratching:

Automated Acoustic Detection of Mouse Scratching,” Peter Elliott, Max G’Sell, Lindsey M. Snyder, Sarah E. Ross, and Valérie Ventura, PLoS ONE, vol. 12, no. 7, 2017, e0179662. The authors, at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, report:

“we propose a novel automated method for acoustic detection of mouse scratching. Using this approach, we show that chloroquine-induced scratching behavior in C57BL/6 mice can be quantified with reasonable accuracy… This report is the first method to apply supervised learning techniques to automate acoustic scratch detection…. Mouse scratching occurs in small sets of rapid swipes, which we refer to as scratch bouts. The goal of our procedure is to detect scratch bouts rather than individual scratches….though our results were collected from a single strain and small number of mice tested with a single pruritogen, it is likely that the approach will be broadly applicable to the audio detection of scratch.”

Is the face a window to the soul? (study)

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

‘Is the face a window to the soul?’ – asks Professor Stephen B. Porter, Ph.D. (University of British Columbia-Okanagan) and colleagues, in a 2008 paper for the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science. To find out, they devised an experiment in which undergraduate students were shown photos of both Nobel Peace Prize winners and criminals from America’s Most Wanted list – either for 1/10th of a second or for 30 seconds. The crucial question was – could participants tell the difference between a Nobel Peace Prize winner and someone eluding justice for extremely serious crimes?

“We conclude that intuition lends a small advantage when making assessments of trustworthiness based on facial appearance, but errors are common. However, the knowledge that some targets to be encountered are untrustworthy serves to increase the accuracy of identifying such targets. Finally, extending exposure time beyond a fleeting glance does not change or improve judgments of trustworthiness. Overall, our results suggest that the face is a rather opaque window to the soul. [our emphasis]

See: Is the Face a Window to the Soul? Investigation of the Accuracy of Intuitive Judgments of the Trustworthiness of Human Faces, Stephen Porter, Laura England, Marcus Juodis, Leanne ten Brinke, and Kevin Wilson, Dalhousie University, US, Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 2008, Vol. 40, No. 3, 171–177.

Note: America’s Most Wanted list is currently offline. however, current photos can be found instead via the FBI.

Relative Finger Lengths and The Voices of Bankers [research study]

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Comes yet another discovery about relative finger lengths. The new study is:

Prenatal exposure to testosterone (2D:4D) and social hierarchy together predict voice behavior in bankers,” Erik Bijleveld, Joost Baalbergen, PLoS ONE, vol. 12, no. 6, June 28, 2017, e0180008. The authors, at Radboud University and Utrecht University, The Netherlands, explain:

“Prohibitive voice behaviors are employees’ expressions of concern about practices, incidents, or behaviors that may potentially harm the organization…. In a sample of bankers, we used 2D:4D (i.e., the ratio of the length of the index finger to the length of the ring finger)  [and we] used a self-report scale to measure prohibitive voice. For low-ranked employees, lower 2D:4D was related to using less voice. No such relation was found for high-ranked employees. [Our] findings are consistent with the ideas that (a) people low in 2D:4D tend to strive to attain and maintain social status and that (b) remaining silent about perceived problems in the organization is—at least for low-ranked employees—a means to achieve this goal….

“In any case, by bridging management science and neuroendocrinology, this research suggests a new, biological way of thinking about people’s decisions to (not) use voice.”

We have been striving to keep up with these relative-finger-lengths discoveries, which arrive at an almost overwhelming pace. If you’re new to this exciting field, you might begin by reading about Relative Finger Lengths and Russian Wages, or the relative finger lengths of Sumo wrestlers. For early background, at some length, lay your hands on the special “Meaning of the Finger” issue (September/October, vol. 13, no. 5) of the Annals of Improbable Research.

Stinky-feet-and-cheese researcher’s research gets new attention

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Ig Nobel Prize winner Bart Knols‘s sure-footed malaria-mosquito research is featured in a new Discovery Channel documentary called “Mosquito.” The New York Times celebrates “Mosquito,” contrasting it with the “frivolous” Shark Week films that the TV network is famed for: “Deadlier Than Sharks: A Documentary Spotlights the Mosquito.”

Here’s a promotional chunk of the film:

Knols and Ruurd de Jong were awarded the 2006 Ig Nobel Biology Prize, for showing that the female malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae is attracted equally to the smell of limburger cheese and to the smell of human feet. Here are some of their prize-winning studies:

Preferred Women’s Waist-to-Hip Ratio (Variation over the Last 2,500 Years)

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Researchers Jeanne Bovet, [left] and Michel Raymond [right] of the Institute of the Evolutionary Sciences department, University of Montpellier, France, have been examining pictures of Playboy models and winners of several Miss pageants from 1920 to 2014. They point out that :

“The ratio between the body circumference at the waist and the hips (or WHR) is a secondary sexual trait that is unique to humans and is well known to influence men’s mate preferences.”

But has this always been so? To make steps towards finding out, the team attempted to peer back 2500 years – first by seeking out and measuring antique artistic depictions, and then …

“These vestiges of the past feminine ideal were […] compared to more recent symbols of beauty: Playboy models and winners of several Miss pageants from 1920 to 2014. ”

The conclusions :

“In this study, we demonstrated that the WHR of women considered as symbols of beauty did not vary during the antiquity period (500 BCE — 400 CE) and decreased since (at least) the 15th century in western societies. A closer analysis of Playboy models and Miss pageant winners’ measurements from 1920 to 2014 revealed a reduction, or even a reversion, of this WHR decrease. The universality of one preferred WHR is thus challenged, and the evolution of men’s preferences could be linked to demographic, economic, health or social changes in western societies, which are older than the mass media growth of the 20th century.”

See: Preferred Women’s Waist-to-Hip Ratio Variation over the Last 2,500 Years PLoS ONE 10(4): e0123284.

The authors also provide a table which informs, for example, that the statuette Aphrodite of Amisos [shown above] from the late 1st century BC/early 1st century AD (Anon.) features a (corrected) WHR of 0.733.