Story links for Tony Delroy’s Night Life July 22

Reading Harry Potter lowers Americans’ opinions of Donald Trump

This is professor Diana Mutz, the Samuel A. Stouffer Professor of Political Science and Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication and in the Department of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania CREDIT: Annenberg School for Communication

This is professor Diana Mutz, the Samuel A. Stouffer Professor of Political Science and Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication and in the Department of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. CREDIT: Annenberg School for Communication

Harry may not be a full-on patronus against the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s appeal, but reading Potter stories does appear to be a shield charm against Trump’s message.

A new study to be published in a special 2016 election issue of PS: Political Science and Politics finds that reading Harry Potter books leads Americans to take a lower opinion of Donald Trump. In fact, the more books the participants read, the greater the effect.

Even when controlling for party identification, gender, education level, age, evangelical self-identification, and social dominance orientation — all factors known to predict Americans’ attitudes toward Donald Trump — the Harry Potter effect remained.

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Why Americans waste so much food

Woman Scraping Food Leftovers Into Garbage BinEven though American consumers throw away about 80 billion pounds of food a year, only about half are aware that food waste is a problem. Even more, researchers have identified that most people perceive benefits to throwing food away, some of which have limited basis in fact.

A study published today in PLOS ONE is just the second peer-reviewed large-scale consumer survey about food waste and is the first in the U.S. to identify patterns regarding how Americans form attitudes on food waste.

The results provide the data required to develop targeted efforts to reduce the amount of food that U.S. consumers toss into the garbage each year, said study co-author Brian Roe, the McCormick Professor of Agricultural Marketing and Policy at The Ohio State University.

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People estimate their own abilities based on others’ performance

High PerformanceRatings of our own abilities are strongly influenced by the performance of others, according to a study published July 20 in Neuron. Interacting with high performers makes us feel more capable in cooperative team settings, but less competent in competitive situations. Moreover, the degree of “self-other-mergence” is associated with activity in a brain region previously implicated in theory of mind–the ability to understand the mental states of oneself and others.

“We found that although people estimated their abilities on the basis of their own performance in a rational manner, their estimates of themselves were partly merged with the performance of others,” says first author Marco Wittmann (@mkwittmann), a doctoral student in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Oxford. “The findings potentially have implications for social interactions in the workplace as well as clinical disorders such as depression.”

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Cinnamon may be fragrant medicine for the brain

cinnamonIf Dr. Kalipada Pahan’s research pans out, the standard advice for failing students might one day be: Study harder and eat your cinnamon!

Pahan a researcher at Rush University and the Jesse Brown Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Chicago, has found that cinnamon turns poor learners into good ones–among mice, that is. He hopes the same will hold true for people.

His group published their latest findings online June 24, 2016, in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology.

“The increase in learning in poor-learning mice after cinnamon treatment was significant,” says Pahan. “For example, poor-learning mice took about 150 seconds to find the right hole in the Barnes maze test. On the other hand, after one month of cinnamon treatment, poor-learning mice were finding the right hole within 60 seconds.”

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Shocking new role found for the immune system: Controlling social interaction

human brain radiography scanIn a startling discovery that raises fundamental questions about human behavior, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have determined that the immune system directly affects — and even controls — creatures’ social behavior, such as their desire to interact with others. So could immune system problems contribute to an inability to have normal social interactions? The answer appears to be yes, and that finding could have great implications for neurological conditions such as autism-spectrum disorders and schizophrenia.

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Pomegranate finally reveals its powerful anti-aging secret

pomegranateAre pomegranates really the superfood we’ve been led to believe will counteract the aging process? Up to now, scientific proof has been fairly weak. And some controversial marketing tactics have led to skepticism as well. A team of scientists from EPFL and the company Amazentis wanted to explore the issue by taking a closer look at the secrets of this plump pink fruit.

They discovered that a molecule in pomegranates, transformed by microbes in the gut, enables muscle cells to protect themselves against one of the major causes of aging. In nematodes and rodents, the effect is nothing short of amazing. Human clinical trials are currently underway, but these initial findings have already been published in the journal Nature Medicine.

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Online braggers don’t get dates

Online DatingAs online dating has become a widely accepted way to attract possible romantic partners, scholars have been taking a closer look at the practice. What makes an online dater successful? Do the same factors that make face-to-face relationships successful also apply in the online dating world?

A new study recently published in the National Communication Association’s journal Communication Monographs asks how specific types of content in online dating profiles affect viewers’ impressions of the profile owner and their intentions to act on what they’ve seen by contacting the profile owner for a date.

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Tiger moms are the same everywhere, study shows

woman upset with situationIt doesn’t matter if you’re an American “tiger mom,” or a Chinese one, evidence shows that parents’ attempts to control children through psychological means (e.g., shaming children) are associated with academic and emotional distress in children.

This is according to a new study by Cecilia Cheung, assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside. Cheung’s study, “Controlling and Autonomy-Supportive Parenting in the United States and China: Beyond Children’s Reports,” was published in the journal Child Development.

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Body-mind meditation can boost attention and health, lower stress

Yi-Yuan Tang, Ph.D.

Yi-Yuan Tang, Ph.D.

Meditation has long been promoted as a way to feel more at peace. But research from a Texas Tech University faculty member shows it can significantly improve attention, working memory, creativity, immune function, emotional regulation, self-control, cognitive and school performance and healthy habits while reducing stress.

Yi-Yuan Tang, the presidential endowed chair in neuroscience and a professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, has developed a novel method of mindfulness meditation called Integrative Body-Mind Training (IBMT).

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