Sunday, May 3, 2009

Politics and Psychology

During the course of the semester, I focused my studies on politics and psychology. I never knew there were so many psychological aspects that went into deciding whether to vote and who to vote for.

Firstly, I never knew there were so many biological reasons for my political behavior. I've learned that my genes may determine whether I choose to vote or not. I also discovered that if I have low physical sensitivities to loud noises, I may be more likely to support foreign aid and liberal immigration policies. If the opposite is true, I probably favor the death penalty and the Iraq War. I also learned that certain parts of my brain get "excited" depending on what candidate I look at. What this means is controversial, but it shows that politics and psychology are linked.

I also didn't know that some of my political responses were due to my unconscious. I always thought that making a political decision was a conscious effort but this project has shown me otherwise. I've always been against negative political campaigning because I think it's tasteless, but unconsciously I'm drawn to it! One of the reasons is because negative campaigning activates my "fight or flight" response because I think I am in danger. Therefore, I actually respond more to negative campaigning than I do to the tame stuff!

I really enjoyed studying psychology and politics at the same time. It even has prompted me to pursue a double major in Political Science and Psychology. I liked that I was allowed to choose topics that interested me and didn't have to read what someone wanted me to read. I also liked that I had to write a summary and an interpretation. The summary made me work hard to understand what the study was about and the analysis made me understand why the study was important and what it actually meant. To make it better, I would suggest having group meetings instead of just writing blogs. Sometimes I would forget about posting a blog and I think having meetings would help me schedule better and also understand my peers' work more fully. I will add that doing one a week is far better than writing a 10 page research paper which I have to do for my other class :(. I also think some of my classmates would have been interested to hear about our work but I'm not sure the PSYC 100 schedule would be able to accommodate class presentations. All in all, this was a really interesting project and I learned a great deal! I'm sure it will be something I will be studying for a long time!

Voting may be due to nature, not nurture

James H. Fowler and his associates conducted a study on twins in the Los Angeles area in an attempt to discover if political participation was due to genes. Many studies related to political participation have focused on environment and personality factors, such as efficacy and reinforced learning through parents' behavior. The biological aspect of participation has often been cast aside. Using the Los Angeles County voter registration records and the Southern California Twin Registry, Fowler attempted to prove his hypothesis that political participation has a hereditary factor.

Fowler matched up 396 twins from the registry and voting records. He separated monozygotic (identical; share 100% of genes) and dizygotic (fraternal; share 50% of genes) twins to determine the extent that genes have on voting. Only same-sex twins were used in order to limit variables. The voting records used included eight elections from 2000 to 2005.

The results of their findings found that 53% of the variance in voting behavior can be accounted for by genetic affects; in simpler terms, genes play a role in political participation. Shared environment accounted for 35% of the variance. It is widely assumed that MZ and DZ twins share comparable social environments. If this happens to be false, the genetic effect is much greater.

This study confirms outcomes of similar studies, but for different reasons. The voting behavior of parents has been known to have an effect on the political participation of their children. This was often assumed as a result of social influence, but this recent study shows that biological factors may play a great role since shared environment only played a small role in this study. Also, this study confirms that voter behavior is habitual. What was always assumed to be reduced from reinforcement learning may actually be due to genetic variation.

Although this study finds genes as a predictor for political participation, we still do not know which genes are responsible or why. This study will begin to help political psychologists understand biological reasons for voting and open up the minds of many others.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


Whoa, I just realized that there were comments on most of the posts! The only suggestion I have, now that i realized this, is maybe to emphasize the comments a little more. I cant believe i didnt see those until after I wrote my last post... I feel kinda dumb now :)

Aggerssion- Final Post

Over the course of this semester, I wrote my weekly blog posts on the topic of aggression. I read articles that covered aggression in everything from the media to animals and to humans. One thing that I can conclude indefinitely from my research is that aggressiveness, like so many other traits, has strong biological, psychological, and social implications. For instance, in the case of rhesus monkeys, there were two distinctly different promoter genes that controlled the amount of serotonin receptors in the brain. However, monkeys that were genetically prone to aggressiveness could overcome this precursor if they were raised by their mothers. I learned that the biological components involved in aggression were mainly the neurotransmitter serotonin (levels, receptors, re-uptake...) and the hormone testosterone. Higher levels of testosterone as well as lower levels of serotonin can have a hand in aggressive behavior. Overall, ones upbringing is also a good indication of how aggressive he or she will be. This is evident in the case of the rhesus monkeys, as well as in humans; those who are raised in around violent behavior are much more likely to exhibit violent behavior themselves in childhood and adulthood. The media also plays a role in aggressive behavior, although this is easily overcome by good parenting and effective reinforcement. Children, when exposed to violent media , tend to emulate the behavior unless they know that there is a consequence to the action. Popular culture also tends to glorify and reward violent behavior, as in professional wrestling, movies, websites, and even childrens cartoons. However, it is not only physical aggression that is glorified, but verbal aggression is given its fair share of the limelight too. TV shows such as MTV's Yo Momma, rap battles, and again, professional wrestling all tend to reward the contestant who can more offensively verbally assault his opponent    Together, all of these factors (social, psychological, and biological) can explain why we see as much violence and aggressive behavior as we do now-a-days. It is clear that most of this aggressive behavior can be prevented if the warning signs are detected in early childhood, and the proper parental measures are taken.

As far as this blog goes for the Jame's Scholar assignment, I liked it a lot. It allows for a great deal of flexibility, which is nice when you have so many other things to worry about. Also, I feel that delving so deeply into one specific topic really does give you a more thurough understanding of the subject than if we were to blog about, say, a different topic every week. All in all, I feel like I have gained a great deal of knowledge on the topic of aggression, and would not change anything about the assignment if i had the choice to.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Women Prefer Men with Stubble for Love, Sex and Marriage

Going off the study I did last week, I found a very interesting article on attractiveness with men’s facial hair. According to this study women prefer men with stubby facial hair compared to clean shaven faces or beards. Women characterized the men are being tough, mature, aggressive, dominant, and masculine. They were rated as being higher in romance in both short and long term relationships as well.
The researchers used 15 men faces that were visually altered so they all presented a degree of hairiness. They used 5 different types of facial hair including clean shaven, light stubble, heavy stubble, light beard, and full beard. Then they researchers asked 76 women to rate the men are masculinity, aggression, dominance, attractiveness, age, and social maturity. And they desirability for a short term or long term relationship. Overall, men that were clean shaven were rated the lowest out of every group while men with light stubble were rated overall highest.
It is clear that women find certain facial hair attractive. I found that this was somewhat surprising because I would have thought that women would be more attractive to men with a clean shaven look. I thought that they also would present a higher rating in the terms of relationships since they would seem to be more mature, organized, and active. But, I found that the research was able to prove my theory wrong.
I would like to look further into this research and see if they have more studies on this subject. I find this extremely important and am excited to see what I might be able to find. Hopefully I will be able to see other studies that prove this study wrong (I have no facial hair)!


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Men can 'laugh women into bed' with GSOH, say psychologists

Going off of last week’s findings I found a very interesting article on humor. From this latest research in the UK, supposedly researchers have found out the women are more likely to find you more intelligent and honest if the male counterpart is funny. Again women usually are looking for a intelligent male counterpart because they present their ability to provide for their family.

Within this study 45 women were asked to read short descriptions of themselves compiled by 20 men, 10 which were scored very funny and 10 scoring slightly funny. Then, the women were asked how intelligent and honest the men perceived to be. Then on top of this they were asked how likely they were to go into a long lasting relationship with the men.

This study resulted in funny men to be significantly rated higher in intelligence compared to the slightly funny descriptions. On top of this they were also rated to be more honest and were said they would be more likely to become friends with the people who had a funnier description. An interesting aspect of this study was men were less attracted to funny women when the study was reversed.

I thought this article was very informative. I consider myself funny and is always great when you see that women perceive you as being more honest and intelligent. I was extremely surprised that men find funny women less attractive. But, now that I think about it, I am not attracted to girls that can tell a good joke. Usually, if I am laughing with a girl it is because of my own joke.

Next week I think I will try and continue this research and maybe find out what other factors go into what women find so attractive about a certain guy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Is Tony Blair more American than President Obama?

NY Times Op-Ed Columnist Nicholas D. Kristof reported on a study that claims people think Tony Blair is more American than Barack Obama due to the color of their skin.

A study conducted with college students at San Diego State University measured whether race had anything to do with seeming "American." The columnist reported that most college students, when focused on race, found Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister, more American than President Obama. 

Many people would automatically object to this study claiming they are not racist, and this may be true. This study, however, tested the unconscious mind. This research shows that most Americans associate being "American" with white skin.

The actual study asked participants in one group to focus on the personal identity (Barack Obama vs. Tony Blair) and another group to focus on race (Black vs. White). The group that focused on personal identity found Obama to be more American. But the group that focused on race found Tony Blair to be more American. Hillary Clinton was also brought into the mix to bring in gender identity. Still, Barack Obama was only seen as less American when the participants focused on race.

The popular press article got the study pretty dead on. They even brought up oppositions that people may have and shot them down. For example, they brought up the question of whether Obama is seen as less American because he has foreign relatives. Kristof noted that there have been other studies with famous Black sports stars that had the same result as this one. He even brings up talk about the amyglada and how it flashes a threat warning when it perceives people that look different and notes that this may have some evolutionary background.

This article brought an interesting perspective to me. I always claim to have no racial bias but would my unconscious mind prove the same if I underwent this test? As the author mentions, once "people become aware of their unconscious biases, they can overcome them."



Monday, April 13, 2009

Lets get ready to TRASH TALK!

It is well known to most people that professional wrestling, as in the WWE and other such companies, is nothing more than a staged production for the viewing pleasure of the public, and that in reality the mortal enemies that we see fighting each other are actually a group of actors who probably get along very well. But is it that simple? Not according to researcher Ron Tamborini and associates. After carying out a study focused on the effect of "smack talk" on preadolescents and adolescents, the conclusion was reached that there is in fact a high corellation between the viewing of professional wrestling and the use of aggressive language amongst peers in that age group. Whats more shocking is this direct quote from Tamborini's findings "By far the most frequent reason for engaging in verbal aggression was amusement...", which, inconjunction with the finding that the most common type of language used was cursing and vulgarity, should send chills down every parent's spine.

Not only should we be worried that our own children watch this, but also that their pees watch too. It is not a stretch to say that these children may watch wrestling programs and not only emulate the speech that hear, but also the violent actions they observe. What if one child decides that he wants to "tombstone" or "pile-drive" your son or daughter one day? Scary thought huh? Sadly, this had happened before, in the case of Lionel Tate, who at twelve years old killed a six year old girl while immitating the wrestling moves he saw on TV. Now Tate's life is ruined, as he was sentenced to life in jail at the age of fourteen. Who's fault is this? A young boy's who just wanted to be like the "heroes" he saw on TV?

Wrestling used to be a wholesome sport in which rough housing was OK, but no one would cross the line into hateful violence. How can we allow our children to be exposed to such violent speech knowing that they will, most likely, go out into the world talking to others as though they were enemies? How can we risk the possibility that our children may turn into violent heathens as a result of the sometimes psychotic television programs that we allow them to watch? How can we sit another day as the findings of Tamborini and associates go ignored and the World Wrestling Entertainment continues to polute the minds of our children?

Tamborini, Ron, Rebecca M. Chory, Ken Lachlan, David Westerman, and Paul Skalski. "Talking smack: verbal aggression in professional wrestling.(Report)." Communication Studies 59.3 (July-Sept 2008): 242(17). Academic OneFile. Gale. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Why beautiful people are more intelligent

From this short article we see that people perceive that beautiful people are overall more intelligent. Men and women are both equally as likely to classify someone as being more competent and intelligent due to facial attractiveness. But, we can see that even kindergartners are as likely to fall into the same set of data. Children were asked to pick which teacher would be more competent and intelligent which was no surprise when the children picked the more attractive female.

The researchers received very conclusive results when analyzing their data. They first began by measuring the attractiveness of an individual on a 5 point scale. 5 being the highest or most attractive and 1 being very unattractive. Then the individuals were asked to guess the person in the photos IQ. Females were slightly harsher in their graded while they had a net different in IQ of about 7 from 5-1 in attractiveness while males rated about 6 in IQ difference. But, this may be due to the fact that women seem to be more inclined to view men’s ability to provide and support a family, so it is logical that females would be slightly pickier.

This concept helps prove, to some degree, that you can judge a book by its cover. People prefer more attractive individuals because from me previous research shows the individuals the quality of genes the individual has. This is why people have so many prejudices toward other individuals involving intelligence because we attribute intelligence from our first impression.

But, I found it fairly funny when women rated men to be consistently lower in IQ as attractiveness dropped while men rated women in a consistent drop until reaching very unattractive to where they rated slightly higher then the previous set. Ugly chicks must be smarter than not so ugly chicks according to men.
I would love to see this research broken down in to different ages. I would love to see what college students perceive to be intelligent compared to what children or the elderly. I absolutely loved this article and am going try and find more on it next week.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Toy Guns

The press article I chose to read was entitled "Toy Guns: Do They Fan Aggression?" from the New York times. The article discusses the negative affect that toy guns, along with other violent toys such as GI Joe's, may or may not have on the children that play with them. It doesn't so much argue for one side or the other, but rather puts forth the opinions of several professionals in the field of child psychology/psychiatry. Some experts argue that playing with such toys actually fuels the aggressive behavior in children and leaves them more prone to violence in life, wile others believe that a certain level of aggressiveness is normal and necessary for the development of a child. Amongst the later group, there are two differing opinions as well. Some say that the playing of toy guns may in fact increase the level of aggressiveness, albeit by a small amount, and others who say that there is no difference whether or not the children play with toy guns or not. 

One of the people cited in the article was Brian Sutton-Smith, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania. The NY Times cites him as believing that the research done on the topic cannot be conclusive due to the small sample size and the subjective definition of aggression. Rather, according to the Times, he claims that what the teachers call "aggressive behavior" is just normal play, especially for young boys, and is integral in the development of normal relationships with peers as well as in the development f a sense of competition. 

I found the article referred to in a database, and after reading it, I dont think that the article misrepresented Smith's thoughts, but rather condensed a fifteen page work into a meager paragraph. One thing from Smith's paper that I found rather interesting and wish that the press article would have dealt with more was his claim that when teachers don't allow children to play with toy guns, the children use other things, such as flashlights, as guns. And furthermore that the children will sort of hide this from their teachers.

This makes me wonder what is so appealing about guns and violence to children. It seems that from a very young age people are attracted to such things. Is it simply because of the media, or is there something more going on in our brains that associates some sort of positive feeling with aggressive behaviors and violence? I think this is a question that has been and continues to be debated. I wonder if we'll ever really know...

  • "Toy Guns: Do They Fan Aggression?" NY Times 16 June 1988.

    Playfighting as Folkplay amongst Preschool Children

  • Brian Sutton - Smith, John Gerstmyer and Alice Meckley
  • Western Folklore, Vol. 47, No. 3 (Jul., 1988), pp. 161-176
  • Published by: Western States Folklore Society

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Physical Attractiveness and Access to Alcohol: What Is Beautiful Does Not Get Carded

This research focuses on the halo effect in attractiveness. This effect has been related to favorable social situations, positive personalities, higher salaries, and higher GPA’s. Overall, the advantages of being perceived as good looking. Much like the research I did last week with clothing and attractiveness, people attributed better personality traits to people that were good looking.

Researchers also found that individuals that work with someone that is physically attractive create a benefit to both the individuals that were working together. Also, by reversing this researchers saw that individuals perceived the other much differently in many aspects of their personality. Also within that article attractive male graduates had higher salaries even after controlling the initial salaries of their jobs.

These concepts are then narrowed down to giving alcohol to underage individuals. Researchers used the anchoring effect by using older and younger photographs of individuals and saw that they perceived the individuals much closer to the previous stimulus. These tests were used on store clerks, which scored similar results. An interesting aspect of this research was the environment also stimulated people in their beliefs upon someone’s age. If an individual had an infant they perceived the person to be 2.5 years older than their actual age!

Researchers then used these observations in an experiment which manipulated how likely you would ask for identification when it came to alcohol consumption. From the results they received that attractive individuals had a much lower chance of being carded.

Personally, I thought this was an extremely interesting article. The reason that researchers believe they allow them to buy alcohol is to increase the chance of interactions with the individual.

I would have liked to see what images these researchers used. Personally since I am a college student I can’t perceive the age that well between girls. This is why I would have loved to be a test like this. I want to see how bad/good I could possibly do.


The Psychology of Red and Blue America

(I read this article already so I'll post it and then I'll do the other posts that you wanted.)

"A House Divided?" by D. Conor Seyle (University of Texas at Austin) and Matthew L. Newman (Bard College) discusses "red" and "blue" America. The authors found that the increased use of these two terms is likely to increase conflict.

The article notes that "there is a growing perception of a divide in American politics." This can be attributed to the "red and blue map" which became popular in 2000. The map is used in elections and Democratic states are labeled blue whereas Republican states are labeled red.

One big problem with this map is that although the terms Democratic and Republican refer to membership in one group, the map seems to highlight regional and cultural differences among states, making Democratic and Republican refer to something much more than just membership in a group. The authors also point out that "public perception of the average group member tends to be affected by the accessibility of different characteristics, which is in turn driven by the positions of extremists in the group." This is slightly confusing since the labels Democrat and Republican signify moderate groups. The map also implies uniformity, for example in such instances where New York and California may vote Democratically, this does not mean that they share the same values.

An alternative to the "red and blue map" would be a purple map. Rather than just red and blue, this map would show states shaded differently based on how Democratic (or Republican) they are. This would better illustrate states who, for instance, vote 52% Republican and 48% Democrat. Rather than being just red, the state would look more purple.

Many times there are people like former president Bill Clinton- a Democrat, who is a Southern Baptist. Southern Baptists are often associated with the Republican party so this new purple map would help change peoples' views that a political party membership signifies other memberships and vice versa.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Great posts everyone! also... some business.

You all are doing phenomenal jobs on your posts! I'll be commenting more fully tomorrow on some of the posts in the comment section of each.

Now that you have each explored a number of aspects of each of your topics I have some more specific things for you to do for the next couple posts.

For your next post would like each of you to find a popular press article about a journal article that you are interested in and read both the press article as well as the primary source. You should give a general summary and then discuss what the press article gets right & wrong (or misrepresents). For the primary article find something that the press article has missed that you think is important and discuss it.

If you have problems finding something checkout The New Yorker, the NYTimes science section, LATimes, Salon, The Atlantic, anything by Malcolm Gladwell or Oliver Sacks (though they usually write about more than 1 article). I'm also here if you need any help.

For the post after that I would like each of you to attempt to write a short popular press article about another cool journal article (preferably one that doesn't have something already written about it). Try to find something 'sexy' (well at last as sexy as science can be). This doesn't have to be any longer than your usual posts.

Finally, for your last post of the semester (Friday April 24th - or really anytime during that following weekend) I would like you to write a summary post of what you've learned (overarching themes, as well as specifics). It would also be great if you'd offer any suggestions as to what would have been a more valuable experience for this James Scholar project.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Effects of Clothing Attractiveness on Perceptions

Within this research they looked to answer the question of whether clothing my effect our views of attraction between humans. In the study they took 95 participants who listened to prerecorded audio tapings that had 30 suggestions relative to marketing a perfume. As these audio tapings were heard a slide of a women (6 models were used – 3 in attractive attire -3 in unattractive attire) were presented in front of the individual, from this image the participant would rate the female on the competence, work comfort, and sociability.

From the data that they collected, they received results which were expected by many of the experimenters. The females that were dressing in more attractive attire were perceived to be more positive compared to women that were dressed in unattractive attire.

This is a very interesting find because even though some people may be more or less attractive than others they can use clothing to help give them an edge in society. But, I believe that clothing can only take you so far. From my earlier findings you can see that there are many factors that deal with attractions between humans. Clothing seems to be more of an initial response to the individual. From the article you can see that many people simply perceive the women being viewed as more easily approachable/friendly.

I was not surprised in the fact that attractive dressed women would be considered more attractive to men. Initial attractions are more than just facial. It is important to wear clothing to help show others your physical physique because you can see multiple points make up a whole.

I would like to see what images they used in this research. They never showed the images that were used which made me fairly frustrating. I would very much like to see what images they used. Also, I would like to see them use a larger range of models and clothing types to possibly pinpoint as being most attractive.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Life Long Aggression

The article entitled "Continuity of aggression from childhood to early adulthood as a predictor of life outcomes: implications for the adolescent-limited and life-course-persistent models" is about a longitudinal study done on a group of individuals from the time they were eight years old to the time they were forty eight. The study compared the outcomes of both high and low aggressiveness throughout ones life.

There was a moderate amount of aggressiveness found throughout the years in both male and female participants. One finding that I found particularly interesting was that the stable rate of aggression amongst the different age groups was due to the highly aggressive people remaining highly aggressive and the less aggressive people remaining less aggressive throughout the years of the study rather than the individuals fluctuating in aggressive behavior.

The study concluded that, in comparison to those with low levels of aggression, those with continuously high levels had less desirable outcomes. For instance, people who displayed higher levels of aggression were significantly more likely to partake in criminal activities, violate traffic laws, have spousal problems, and act violently than those with low aggressiveness. the outcomes for the people who showed moderate levels of aggressiveness throughout the years did not differ greatly enough from those who had low levels to be statistically significant. Also, those who began to display highly aggressive behavior in early adulthood had more negative outcomes, although not quite as bad as those who displayed the behavior from childhood.

I know from earlier readings that aggressive behavior is mostly caused by a lack of serotonin or serotonin receptors in the brain. This article made me wonder if there is a way to overcome the genetic predisposition for aggression. The study did not start until the kids were eight years old, and had undoubtedly been exposed to many different things, so I think it would be interesting to observe a group of newborns who's parents show highly aggressive behavior being raised in different environments. There is a clear nature vs. nurture battle here, and I'm guessing both play a role, but I think tweaking the study in the article would enlighten us a bit more on the issue.

Huesmann, L. Rowell, Eric F. Dubow, and Paul Boxer. "Continuity of aggression from childhood to early adulthood as a predictor of life outcomes: implications for the adolescent-limited and life-course-persistent models." Aggressive Behavior 35.2 (March-April 2009): 136(14). Academic OneFile. Gale. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Political Attitudes Vary with Physiological Traits

This journal entry, by Douglas R. Oxley and colleagues, finds that political views may have a biological basis. This experiment tested 46 adults in Lincoln, Nebraska with strong political views. Participants filled out information about themselves and then were hooked up to machinery that measured their blinks and skin conductance. 

Skin conductance "has been closely linked with the psychological concepts of emotion, arousal, and attention." It represents sympathetic activity. Harder blinks indicate a heightened "fear state." 

Results showed that "participants whose policy positions suggest more concern for protecting the social unit were distinguished by an increase in skin conductance when threatening stimuli were presented. Those with "measurably lower physical sensitivities to sudden noises and threatening visual images were more likely to support foreign aid, liberal immigration policies, pacifism, and gun control, whereas individuals displaying measurably higher physiological reactions to those same stimuli were more likely to favor defense spending, capital punishment, patriotism, and the Iraq War."

One thing we must remember is that correlation does not mean causation. Because people have lower or higher sensitivities does not mean that is what causes them to have different political views. The amygdala is also crucial to peoples' different responses to threatening images and has been linked to genetics. Therefore, the amygdala could be what affects political attitudes. This article gives one possible reason why people have different beliefs among many other possible reasons.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mosquitoes and Mosquito Repellents: A Clinician's Guide

So, I continued my research on attractiveness with respect to mosquitoes and humans. I may have found the reason why I do not get as frequently bitten as others. From reading a clinical guide, which seemed to be heavily studied, concludes that there is a total of 300 to 400 compounds which are released as a by-products of metabolic processes. Around 100 of these compounds are volatile and can be detected within a human’s breath. But only a few of these chemicals have been isolated and concluded to attract mosquitoes. Carbon dioxide and lactic acid are the two strongest attractants for the mosquitoes.

These chemicals can be detected from up to 36 meters away. Mosquitoes have chemical receptors which are stimulated by such chemicals. But, there are also factors besides these chemicals. It has been cited that body temperature and moisture serves as an attractant. Also, floral fragrances from perfumes, soaps, lotions, and hair-care products may also contribute to the attractiveness to mosquitoes. Lastly, mosquitoes are more attracted to males and least attracted to children.

Overall, I find this clinical guide very informative. I can definitely see why I rarely am bitten by mosquitoes now. It does not seem that I am excreting some magical chemical, it is probably the opposite. I am excreting a small amount of other chemicals. Also, I am not personally a very sweaty person and usually stay on the cool side of things, which overall decreases that probability of being bitten.

I believe that next week I will research species that may be specifically attracted to certain humans. I find it extremely interesting if certain humans may be mentally pointed out.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Enmity in males at four developmental levels: cognitive bases for disliking peers

It has come to be an accepted fact in psychology that rejected or "unpopular" individuals often exibit certain anti social tendencies, such as elevated levels of aggression and assertiveness in respect to their peers. The study reffered to in the article "Enmity in males at four developmental levels: cognitive bases for disliking peers" attempts to determine whether or not age is a factor in the reasons males have for disliking other males.
Four groups of males: preschoolers, primary school children, preadolescents and yond adults, were asked questions about two people, their best friend and the person of the same sex that they dislike the most. They were asked aboout both someone they like and someone they dislike so that they would not place undue emphasis of the person they dislike. They were asked why they disliked their nonfriend so much and why they liked their best friend so muc so that there could be a sort of comparison.

The results were not all that surprising. For the 3 younger groups, over aggressiveness was the number one cause of enmity towards other males. For young adults, however, the number one factor in disliking a peer was aberrant behavior, which is the number two reason in the primary schoolers and preadolescents and the third reason in preschoolers. Although these factors were common throughout, each group also had reasons for disliking peers that were specific mainly to themselves. Rule violation and lack of play were factors for preschoolers, non-help was a factor for primary schoolers, negative evaluation was a factor for pre adolescents, and lack of genuineness, a more abstract reaason, was one for young adults.

I found the study somewhat interesting in that it brings to light reasons we like or dislike people. I found it pretty obvious that aggressive behavior is an undesireable trait in a friend, but never thought about the more abstract reasons such as lack of genuineness or loyalty. The results fit in well with the theories of development that say that more complex thought comes with age. We can see that the reasons the younger boys had for disliking their peers were much more concrete and obvious than the reasons the young adults had. Aggressive behavior seems like a gift in some situations, and a curse in others.

Hayes, Donald S, Elaine S. Gershman and William Halteman. "Enmity in males at four developmental levels: cognitive bases for disliking peers." Journal of Genetic Psychology. v157. n2 (June 1996): p153(8).

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Is Negative Campaigning a Plus?

In "Inside the Black Box of Negative Campaign Effects: Three Reasons Why Negative Campaigns Mobilize," Paul S. Martin lays out research that shows that negative political campaigns actually mobilize people to vote.  They seem to be "a kind of guilty pleasure for Americans." In surveys, people claim to dislike negative ads, but observational data proves otherwise. Martin found that the three mechanisms of voter motivation include republican duty, candidate threat, and perceived closeness of the election.

On the side of those who believe that negative campaigns demobilize voters, most say that people are repulsed by the attacks. On the other side, most argue that "campaign negativity stimulates attention to and awareness of the campaign." The demobilization opponents rely on reading cultural tastes whereas the mobilization side relies on a reading of psychological information.

The first mechanism of mobilization, republican duty, states that Americans share a deep concern for their country and its future. This concern leads them to participate. Negative ads focus on issues and citizens become more aware of problems through the ads since negative attention is "advantaged in attention, memory, and judgement."

The second route claims that campaigns may arouse anxiety which stimulates interest. Emotions, including anxiety, should not be overlooked. When people have strong emotions and feel strongly about something, they are more likely to be interested in the campaign.

The last idea states that "citizens participate in politics if the utility of their participation outweighs the cost of their effort. And the marginal utility of a vote is directly related to the closeness of a race." Negative campaigns signal a "close race" since there is a large amount of advertising. 

To test these ideas, Martin used data from WiscAds. The data was from the 1996 presidential race. During the period of study, Bill Clinton aired 91,432 ads and Bob Dole aired 70,728 ads. 6% of Clinton's ads were negative and 70% of Dole's were negative. Research found that "only Clinton's negative ads produced any anxiety among Democrats and independents, and then the ads influenced only feelings of fear about Dole." Also, Dole was relatively unknown to the public before the presidential campaign. This gave Clinton a "negative advertising advantage- the ability to fill a relatively blank canvas."  Exposure to both sides' negative ads made Republicans think the race was closer than it was. The Democrats did not feel the same. Perhaps this was a result of the Republican's wishful thinking.

To conclude, Martin says that all three routes mobilized voters. This does not mean that negative campaigning is the best method. Positive ads may also mobilize voters but we do not know this because this study did not test them against each other. Also, this study only looked at the 1996 presidential race and not all races may be the same. People may also grow "used" to negative campaigning and get tired of it. Negative campaigning may also have aspects that cause demobilization as Martin did not look closely as this aspect. It would be nice to see an updated version of this study that looks at the negatives of negative campaigning and also looks at positive campaigning.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Material Isolated from Human Hands That Attracts Female Mosquitoes

While researching attractions I came across this article on why mosquitoes find us attractive. From common belief most people believe that this attraction is due to CO2, lactic acid, heat, and moisture which the researchers tested this by having a few set of experiments.

Experiments -
The first experiment used 4 sets of 6 beads which were handled for 10 minutes then allowed to age for 0,15,30, and 45 minutes. Then they observed the attractancy of the beads. Each test was then replicated 16 times. Linear regression analysis was used then to correlate the data.
Next, they tested if they could removed this “attractancy” of the beads by washing them with solvent. They followed the same procedure as before and allowed the beads to drip dry before testing. They replicated these tests 4 times.
The third experiment combined both clean and touched beads which were washed with 10mL of one of five solvent. These samples were tested three times a day with a new population of mosquitoes.
The forth experiment bead were handled and later washed respectively to 100%,50%,25%, or 12.5%. These samples were used for a total of eight test and data points.

In the first experiment they found a direct correlation with the attratancy and the time of aging. The long the beads were let to rest the less attractive they were to the mosquitoes population. Within the second experiment we saw that all five of the solvents were extremely effective by reducing the attraction to the mosquitoes. Which they found similar results in the third experiment as well. Lastly the correlation which they found in the last experiment was what was expected and received a very nice slope to the graphs/data.

I was actually very surprised by this experiment. I thought that it is a very good study because I do want to know why pesky mosquitoes are always there to annoy me. Personally, attractions within any species are fascinating to me. In a case such as this I have noticed that many mosquitoes are not as attracted to me as other people. I never wear bug spray and always seem to be perfectly fine on the hot muggy days in the summer. Personally, I would love to see if certain people are more attractive to mosquitoes. Maybe I am just repulsive to them!

I would like to see research which was based on skin types or colorations. Maybe there is something in people’s genetics that deter such small insects from finding them a tasty meal. Maybe such things as freckles or moles are genetically helpful. Or maybe our psychology and moods help attract mosquitoes. Maybe stress and pheromones send out the dinner bell for such species.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

From affiliative behaviors to romantic feelings: Arole of nanopeptides

This article focuses on the implications of two small nine amino acid poly-peptide chains called oxytocin and vasopressin. It relates the formation of social bonds to the actions of these nanopeptides in the brain. The first type of social bond referred to in the article is the mother-infant bond. It was found that almost all mamals share a simular type of attatchment between a mother and its child. The chemical responsible for the formation of this bond was found to be oxytocin. The hormones estradiol and progesterone along with oxytocin are released durring "vaginocervical stimulation" or, in other words, labor. Oxytocin is also released when a mother lactates, further reinforcing the bond.

However, a father figure is often needed in the life of a young mammal, and since giving birth is specific to females, there must be a way to keep the male around in some cases. This can perhaps be seen most clearly in prairie voles. These rodents are known to form such strong bonds with the opposite sex, that even if one partner died, the other would not find another mate. Studies have shown that the chemicals responsible for this are oxytocin and vasopressin. Vasopressin is more prevalent in males, where as oxytocin is more prevalent in females. Furthermore, studies done on human subjects have shown simular results. When a person was asked to talk about their first date with their significant other, there was found to be an elevated level of oxytocin in their blood.

Another interesting finding is that the formation of these bonds, through oxytocin, also triggers dopamine to be released. Dopamine is the reward system in the body, and its production is commonly stimulated by addictive drugs. So, "love" may actually be addicting.

I found this article very interesting in that it explained something so emotionally confusing and seeming abstract in a concrete and scientific way. When one thinks of love, poetry and heart shaped boxes of chocolate usually come to mind, but never scientific journal articles. The article really shines light on why we feel how we feel about the people we love, and also explains why some people may have difficulty forming the social bonds in which these chemicals play a role. Its's also kind of funny telling your girlfriend that she stimulates an increase in your oxytocin receptors.

Debiec, Jack. "From affiliative behaviors to romantic feelings: A role of nanopeptides." FEBS Letters (2007): 2580-586

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ideal Female Body Shape: Role of Body Weight and Waist-to-Hip Ratio

Overall, this article is about female body fat distribution which correlated to attractiveness, youthfulness, health, and need to lose weight. Drawing of females with different body styles (heavier females with high waist to hips ratios and heavier females with low waist to hip ratios) were shown to females. Within the packet they were ask what was their approximate body composition, the ideal body composition, how similar they are to their ideal female body compositions (0-4, 4 being identical) then how happy they were with their body shape (scale 0-4, 4 being extremely happy). On top of this they were then asked to rank the figures in order of attractiveness, youthfulness, health, and need to lose weight.

From the results the ideal female body composition was a heavier female with the lowest waist to hip ratio (65% and 71%). Then comparing these results with men they determined that they ranked the body compositions similarly to that of the females.
I was very intrigued with this experiment. I found that girl and guys actually think alike when they picture the “ideal” body composition. I have always believed that women always want to be extremely thin, while it seems that men are usually fine with their partner’s physique. I go to the gym frequently and always wonder if I am subconsciously working out to work towards my ideal or to become healthy. I always convince myself I am doing it to become healthy, as for many of my friends they would say the same thing.

Personally, I would like to see this study on males because, males have such a wide range of anatomical builds that it would seem extremely hard for women or men to have an “ideal”.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


I forgot my citation.

Hare, Brian, and Michael Tomasello. "Human-like social skills in dogs?" Trends in Cognitive Science (2005): 439-44.

Human-like social skills in dogs?

This article starts out by talking about an evolutionary trait found in domesticated dogs. When something is hidden under one of two cups and a human points at the correct cup, an untrained puppy will unwaveringly knock it over to retrieve the treat. This seems simple enough, but when placed in the exact same situation, a chimpanzee, a much smarter animal, has no clue which one to pick. This is evidence in favor of evolution through the selection of desired traits in dogs (domestication).

It goes on to talking about a farm in Russia in which they have, since 1959, been domesticating foxes. The traits that were selected for were non-aggressiveness and non-fearfulness towards humans. After a few generations, they began noticing certain traits in the foxes, such as narrower jaws, smaller size, and increased sex-drive, similarly, traits like these have supposedly been seen to evolve in humans as civilization has advanced. There is speculation in the article that we have self-domesticated ourselves and that docility is a prerequisite for civilization, however there is no substantial proof to back up this claim.

Perhaps the most interesting component to this article, at least in my eyes, was that they actually determined what, biologically, causes this increase in docility in the foxes and in humans. Serotonin. The levels of serotonin in the blood of the domesticated foxes was substantially higher than that of the wild ones. This is also the case in humans. Aggressive people have less sensitive receptors for serotonin in their brains, and in turn, less serotonin in their blood.

I found this article especially interesting because it gives a biological explanation for the difference in temperament amongst animals. I always figured that things like temperament and emotions were simply acquired throughout ones life, and were not related to the biology of an organism. It was eye-opening to find out that how aggressive you are can actually be determined by how the receptors for such a small particle in your brain work.

One thing I found peculiar was the suggestion that we self domesticated ourselves. Not so much that we did, i guess, but more of the traits that we supposedly selected for. I have heard multiple times that some of the traits that a woman looks for in a man are the exact opposite of the traits that were seen in the population of foxes. I think it has been shown that men with broader shoulders and a wider jaw are more desirable, but these are traits that signify a higher level of testosterone, and in turn aggressiveness. It seems counter instinctive to select for narrower jaws and smaller proportions.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

This May or May Not be Your Brain on Politics

The 2008 presidential election excited many people, including psychologists. Marco Iacobani, Joshua Freedman, and Jonas Kaplan of UCLA published an op-ed article in the New York Times entitled “This Is Your Brain on Politics.” This article was based off of their non-peer reviewed psychology experiment published in 2006 which scanned the brains of Democrats and Republicans in order to determine a connection between party affiliation and neural activity during the 2004 election.

Twenty registered voters, 10 Democrat and 10 Republican, from Los Angeles participated in the original experiment. There were 5 females and 5 males in each group and they were matched for age. The experiment consisted of the participants having their brain scanned while viewing images of George Bush, John Kerry, and Ralph Nader. After the experiment, the participants filled out a “feeling thermometer” where they rated their feelings on each candidate from 1 to 10.

According to the UCLA clan, there were interesting results. For instance, Republicans felt more positive after viewing George Bush than Democrats did. Another big surprise showed that Democrats felt more positive after viewing Kerry’s face than Republicans.

In anticipation of the 2008 election, the scientists did their experiment again with swing voters. More interestingly, they “found” that when they showed the participants the words “Republican,” “Democrat,” and “Independent,” the amyglada, which relates to anxiety, lit up. Mit Romney also seemed to excite some nerves among the participants. John Edwards had a problem- he caused peoples’ insulas to light up which means that they were downright disgusted. The group couldn’t make up their mind when they saw Hillary Clinton. Their anterior cingulate cortex’s, which aid in decision-making, were aflame.

Sometimes my mom used to reprimand me because I would only hear what I wanted to hear. If she said she would take me shopping, it didn’t mean that she would take me right then. Now, I know what she meant. Obviously, these psychologist’s mothers forgot to tell them that they need to pay attention to everything and not just what they want to hear.

The amyglada, which the men claimed related to anxiety, also relates to anger, happiness, or sexual excitement. How do we know that the group got nervous when the saw Romney and not sexually excited? Maybe the swing voters got all heated up to the words “Republican” or “Democrat,” too. Also, John Edwards might have been able to run for presidency again (had he not been involved in the affair and all). People might not have been disgusted when the saw his face; the insular cortex also relates to happiness, among other things. And Hillary may actually have been getting some sympathy from the participants as the ACC relates to that as well as reward-anticipation.

Also, using a feeling thermometer brings in other problems. Participants rated candidates from 1, “very unfavorable,” to 10, “very favorable.” It has been shown that feeling thermometers are very problematic in polls. If someone has no opinion on the candidate they get confused as to where to place him on the scale. Would the candidate be a “1” or a “5?” It has also been shown that more often than not, people will rate subjects on certain increments like multiples of 2 or 5. For instance, if there was a feeling thermometer from 1 to 100, a person would be more likely to rate a subject as a 45 than as a 47.

Basically, this study teaches us nothing. Or perhaps that if we ever become New York Times worthy psychologists, we better get our stuff reviewed by our peers- before we publish it nationwide.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Sidebar

The list of articles on the sidebar is what I come across daily in the news. Some are legit sciency articles while others are sometimes just silly. If you're looking for something interesting to write about you might want to browse some of those.

Politics and the Brain

Some potentially interesting topics:

Papers to consider on attraction

These papers may interest those of you wanting to focus on attraction:

(I haven't found the original paper though)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Symmetry and Human Facial Attractiveness

Within this experiment the University of St. Andrew’s Psychology Department ran three experiments to see asymmetrical or symmetrical faces were more or less attractive to the viewer. In experiment number one they took 30 Caucasian individuals (15 males and 15 females) who were clean shaven with no jewelry. They manipulated the photos to make a set of normal and symmetrical images. These images were then shown to 49 raters which resulted in 58% for symmetrical faces. Then the experimenters created experiment number two which 30 faces once again (15 males and 15 females) and manipulated them by creating an even coloration and texture. The results of this experiment were the same as the first in which 72.9% of the raters preferred symmetrical faces. Lastly, the experimenters created a last set of faces. These faces included 16 normal and 16 symmetrical. The raters then had to grade them on a 1-7 point scale 7 being the most attractive. From here they took the means and the symmetrical faces scored higher than normal faces.

I was really amazed by the results of this experiment. I never really thought about how my mind might find others more attractive because of their symmetry. I am very interested in other features that my mind might almost find attractive. I have always found to be very attracted to girls because of their eyes and would be interested in finding my so called “favorite”.

I would like to see further research in certain regions of the face. Including eyebrows, eye shape, mouth, nose, and ears to see if we could create an image of the perfect female or male! I’m sure it would use similar methods and I would hope that we could use a wider range of individuals and races.

Article -

Tuesday, February 10, 2009