The ugly consumer: Ridiculing those who shop ethically

Fair Trade Indicates Purchase Environment And MerchandiseWhen you don’t seek out ethical products, you denigrate those who do.

No one wants to knowingly buy products made with child labor or that harm the environment.

But a new study shows that we also don’t want to work too hard to find out whether our favorite products were made ethically. And we really don’t like those good people who make the effort to seek out ethically made goods when we choose not to.

In fact, we denigrate consumers who act more ethically than we do, seeing them as less fashionable and more boring. Worst of all, seeing others act ethically when we don’t undermines our commitment to pro-social values.

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Brain structure may be root of apathy

Lazy manCan’t be bothered to read on? It might be due looser connections in your brain

When brain scientists at Oxford University studied apathy, they didn’t expect to see less motivated people making more effort. Their results suggest that for some people traditionally perceived as lazy, it’s biology – not attitude – that might be the cause.

A team of neuroscientists at Oxford, funded by The Wellcome Trust, decided to study young people to see if there were any differences in the brains of those who were motivated compared to those who were apathetic.

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Researchers estimate poverty and wealth from cell phone metadata

cellphone with world mapIn developing or war-ravaged countries where government censuses are few and far between, gathering data for public services or policymaking can be difficult, dangerous or near-impossible. Big data is, after all, mainly a First World opportunity.

But cell towers are easier to install than telephone land lines, even in such challenged areas, and mobile or cellular phones are widely used among the poor and wealthy alike.

Now, researchers with the University of Washington Information School and Computer Science and Engineering Department have devised a way to estimate the distribution of wealth and poverty in an area by studying metadata from calls and texts made on cell phones. Such metadata contains information about the time, location and nature of the “mobile phone events” but not their content. Their paper was published in the journalĀ Science.

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Anti-fat attitudes shaped early in life

Mother with childNew findings from New Zealand’s University of Otago suggest older toddlers–those aged around 32 months old–are picking up on the anti-fat attitudes of their mothers.

The study, involving researchers from New Zealand, Australia, and the US, comes on the back of studies showing that obesity prejudice and discrimination are on the rise.

Professor Ted Ruffman, from Otago’s Department of Psychology, says “anti-fat prejudice is associated with social isolation, depression, psychiatric symptoms, low self-esteem and poor body image”.

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Endurance athletes who ‘go against the grain’ become incredible fat-burners

Abs of fit young womanElite performance on a diet with minimal carbs represents a paradigm shift in sports nutrition.

Elite endurance athletes who eat very few carbohydrates burned more than twice as much fat as high-carb athletes during maximum exertion and prolonged exercise in a new study – the highest fat-burning rates under these conditions ever seen by researchers.

The study, the first to profile elite athletes habitually eating very low-carbohydrate diets, involved 20 ultra-endurance runners age 21-45 who were top competitors in running events of 50 kilometers (31 miles) or more.

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How a raisin can predict a toddler’s future academic ability

Dieter Wolke CREDIT: University of Warwick

Dieter Wolke
CREDIT: University of Warwick

A simple test using a raisin can predict how well a toddler will perform academically at age eight, according to research conducted at the University of Warwick.

Using just the piece of dried fruit and a plastic cup they have devised a test based on how long a 20-month old child can wait to pick up a raisin in front of them.

The toddlers were given a raisin that was placed under an opaque cup within easy reach. After three training runs toddlers were asked to wait until they were told (60 seconds) they could touch and eat the raisin. During the study it was found that those who were born very prematurely were more likely to take the raisin before the allotted time. In a follow on study the academics found that those who couldn’t inhibit their behavior as toddlers weren’t performing as well in school as their full-term peers seven years later.

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Researchers find link between air pollution and heart disease

Air pollutionResearchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have found a link between higher levels of a specific kind of air pollution in major urban areas and an increase in cardiovascular-related hospitalizations such as for heart attacks in people 65 and older.

The findings, published in the November issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, are the strongest evidence to date that coarse particulate matter – airborne pollutants that range in size from 2.5 to 10 microns in diameter and can be released into the air from farming, construction projects or even wind in the desert – impacts public health. It has long been understood that particles smaller in size, which typically come from automobile exhaust or power plants, can damage the lungs and even enter the bloodstream. This is believed to be the first study that clearly implicates larger particles, which are smaller in diameter than a human hair.

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Working up a sweat may protect men from lethal prostate cancer

Man sweating after a workoutA study that tracked tens of thousands of midlife and older men for more than 20 years has found that vigorous exercise and other healthy lifestyle habits may cut their chances of developing a lethal type of prostate cancer by up to 68 percent.

While most prostate cancers are ‘clinically indolent,’ meaning they do not metastasize and are nonlife-threatening, a minority of patients are diagnosed with aggressive disease that invades the bone and other organs, and is ultimately fatal. Lead author Stacey Kenfield, ScD, of UCSF, and a team of researchers at UCSF and Harvard, focused on this variant of prostate cancer to determine if exercise, diet and smoke-free status might have life-saving benefits.

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Positive stimuli provides benefits to the distracted brain

Researchers at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois have identified how your mind processes and differentiates between positive and negative distractions when you're trying to get a job done. CREDIT: Illustration by Julie McMahon

Researchers at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois have identified how your mind processes and differentiates between positive and negative distractions when you’re trying to get a job done.
CREDIT: Illustration by Julie McMahon

You’re walking up your driveway, laden down with groceries, your cell phone glued to your ear. Your mother has just shared your elderly aunt’s phone number, and you’re repeating it as you walk to the door of your house. Suddenly a stray dog, barking and snarling, races across the lawn. Are you able to remember the number?

Rewind the situation and, instead of the barking dog, see a cute puppy bounding across the yard. Do you remember the number now?

Researchers at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are investigating how your brain processes distractions when you’re trying to get a job done.

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Parents’ top fears about teen cellphone use

photodune-413004-teen-girl-using-cellphone-xsParents’ fears about their teenagers’ heavy use of cell phones and social media may be exaggerated, according to a new report from Duke University researchers. However, there are important exceptions in the areas of cyberbullying and sleep disruption.

“Each generation worries about how young people are using their time,” said Candice Odgers, associate professor in Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy and associate director of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy. “We see young people constantly on their phones and assume ill effects, but much of the research to date tells a more positive story.”

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