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