Archive for 'Research News'

The Straight Poop: Sociology of Canadian Donut Shops, Ongoing

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

The sociology of Canadian donut shops plays out afresh, as described in a New York Post report headlined “Lady poops on restaurant floor, flings it at cashier.” That report includes action video.

The 1999 Ig Nobel Prize for sociology was awarded to Steve Penfold, of York University in Toronto, for doing his PhD thesis on the sociology of Canadian donut shops. Penfold’s dissertation is: “The social life of donuts: Commodity and community in postwar Canada.” He later expanded it into book form: The Donut – A Canadian History, University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division, 2008. Penfield is now a professor at the University of Toronto.

Many People Look at Many Other Looks at Other People Who May Have Been Drinking Coffee and Thinking

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

The mystery of whether drinking coffee affects people’s minds is still mysterious, thanks to the results of a new, complex academic study of many old, complex academic studies:

Habitual coffee consumption and cognitive function: a Mendelian randomization meta-analysis in up to 415,530 participants,” Ang Zhou, Amy E. Taylor, Ville Karhunen, et al., Scientific Reports, epub 2018. The large team (28 co-authors) reports:

“Coffee’s long-term effect on cognitive function remains unclear with studies suggesting both benefits and adverse effects. We used Mendelian randomization to investigate the causal relationship between habitual coffee consumption and cognitive function in mid- to later life. This included up to 415,530 participants and 300,760 coffee drinkers from 10 meta-analysed European ancestry cohorts. In each cohort, composite cognitive scores that capture global cognition and memory were computed using available tests.”

The people considered to have been drinking coffee may not all have been drinking coffee. The study explains:

“A genetic score derived using CYP1A1/2 (rs2472297) and AHR (rs6968865) was chosen as a proxy for habitual coffee consumption…. Despite the power to detect very small effects, our meta-analysis provided no evidence for causal long-term effects of habitual coffee consumption on global cognition or memory.”

Were the Coffee-Drinkers Coffee-Drinkers?

Part of the same team of researchers did an earlier study on the very question of whether many people thought to have been drinking coffee may have been drinking coffee. They concluded that yes, many people thought to have been drinking coffee may have been drinking coffee. That study is:

Phenotype refinement strengthens the association of AHR and CYP1A1 genotype with caffeine consumption,” George McMahon, Amy E. Taylor, George Davey Smith, and Marcus R. Munafo, PloS One, vol. 9, no. 7, 2014, e103448. The authors report:

“Two genetic loci, one in the cytochrome P450 1A1 (CYP1A1) and 1A2 (CYP1A2) gene region (rs2472297) and one near the aryl-hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) gene (rs6968865), have been associated with habitual caffeine consumption…. We used data from between 4,460 and 7,520 women in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a longitudinal birth cohort based in the United Kingdom. Self-report data on coffee, tea and cola consumption (including consumption of decaffeinated drinks) were available at multiple time points. Both genotypes were individually associated with total caffeine consumption, and with coffee and tea consumption.”

Women and Men at a British Pedestrian Crossing

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Is it daring to cross the street at a designated pedestrian crossing? If so, are women more daring than men—or vice versa? A study explores this question:

Gender Differences in Use of a Pedestrian Crossing: An Observational Study in Newcastle upon Tyne,” Eryn O’Dowd and Thomas V. Pollet, Letters on Evolutionary Behavioral Science, vol. 9, no.1, 2018. The authors, at Northumbria University, UK, explain:

“Evolutionary psychologists have put forward that there are evolved differences in risk taking between men and women. Potentially, these also play out in every day behaviours, such as in traffic. We hypothesised that (perceived) gender would influence using a pedestrian crossing. In addition, we also explored if a contextual factor, presence of daylight, could modify risk taking behaviour. 558 pedestrians were directly observed and their use of a crossing near a Metro station in a large city in the North East of England was coded. Using logistic regression, we found evidence that women were more inclined than men to use the crossing. We found no evidence for a contextual effect of daylight or an interaction between daylight and gender on use of the crossing. We discuss the limitations and implications of this finding with reference to literature on risk taking.”

This passage in the paper gets at what the authors mean by “risk taking”:

“The entrance to the metro station is to the left of the wooden shoulder. The safe route makes use of the crossing, the risky route is effectively ‘jaywalking’ between the metro entrance and the path.”

(Thanks to Joseph H Lynch for bringing this to our attention.)

How to Identify a Narcissist: Check the Eyebrows [research study]

Sunday, May 13th, 2018

Even people who are not narcissists may be fascinated by narcissists. This newly published study directs everyone’s attention to the eyebrows:

Eyebrows Cue Grandiose Narcissism,” Miranda Giacomin and Nicholas O. Rule [pictured here], Journal of Personality, epub 2018. (Thanks to Minna Lyons for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at the University of Toronto, explain:

Though initially charming and inviting, narcissists often engage in negative interpersonal behaviors…. Here, we investigated which facial features underlie perceptions of grandiose narcissism and how they convey that information.

Method and Results: In Study 1, we explored the face’s features using a variety of manipulations, ultimately finding that accurate judgments of grandiose narcissism particularly depend on a person’s eyebrows. In Studies 2A-2C, we identified eyebrow distinctiveness (e.g., thickness, density) as the primary characteristic supporting these judgments. Finally, we confirmed the eyebrows’ importance in Studies 3A and 3B by measuring how much perceptions of narcissism changed when swapping narcissists’ and non-narcissists’ eyebrows between faces.

Conclusions: Together, these data show that distinctive eyebrows reveal narcissists’ personality to others, providing a basic understanding of the mechanism through which people can identify narcissistic personality traits with potential application to daily life.”

Unreadability, candy-snatching, and other improbable research

Friday, May 11th, 2018

Improbable Research: Unreadability, Candy-Snatching, Counter-Clockwise“, in the special Music issue of the Annals of Improbable Research, gathers research about unreadability, candy-snatching, and maybe why some kinds of races are mostly run counter-clockwise. Read the article free (PDF). Then, if you dare, purchase the issue, or subscribe to the magazine.