- [ Watch The Video: Kids Outsmart Grown-Ups: Berkeley Research ]
Yasmin Anwar, University of California, Berkeley
Preschoolers can be smarter than college students at figuring out how unusual toys and gadgets work because they’re more flexible and less biased than adults in their ideas about cause and effect, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Edinburgh.
The findings suggest that technology and innovation can benefit from the exploratory learning and probabilistic reasoning skills that come naturally to young children, many of whom are learning to use smartphones even before they can tie their shoelaces. The findings also build upon the researchers’ efforts to use children’s cognitive smarts to teach machines to learn in more human ways.
“As far as we know, this is the first study examining whether children can learn abstract cause and effect relationships, and comparing them to adults,” said UC Berkeley developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik, senior author of the paper published online in the journal, Cognition.
Using a game they call “Blickets,” the researchers looked at how 106 preschoolers (aged 4 and 5) and 170 college undergrads figured out a gizmo that works in an unusual way. They did this by placing clay shapes (cubes, pyramids, cylinders, etc), on a red-topped box to see which of the widgets – individually or in combination – could light up the box and play music. The shapes that activated the machine were called “blickets.”
What separated the young players from the adult players was their response to changing evidence in the blicket demonstrations. For example, unusual combinations could make the machine go, and children caught on to that rule, while the adults tended to focus on which individual blocks activated the machine even in the face of changing evidence.
“The kids got it. They figured out that the machine might work in this unusual way and so that you should put both blocks on together. But the best and brightest students acted as if the machine would always follow the common and obvious rule, even when we showed them that it might work differently,” wrote Gopnik in her forthcoming column in The Wall Street Journal.
Overall, the youngsters were more likely to entertain unlikely possibilities to figure out “blicketness.” This confirmed the researchers’ hypothesis that preschoolers and kindergartners instinctively follow Bayesian logic, a statistical model that draws inferences by calculating the probability of possible outcomes.
“One big question, looking forward, is what makes children more flexible learners — are they just free from the preconceptions that adults have, or are they fundamentally more flexible or exploratory in how they see the world?” said Christopher Lucas, lead author of the paper and a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. “Regardless, children have a lot to teach us about learning.”
Other co-authors of the study are Thomas Griffiths and Sophie Bridgers of the UC Berkeley Department of Psychology.
- Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Have you ever had voices from a nearby television or radio work their way into your early morning dreams? Now you can have that same experience – only using the heavenly smells and sounds of bacon.
Oscar Mayer has depicted some potential bacon-themed dreams in an epic new video as a part of the ad campaign for its new bacon-themed alarm-clock iPhone app and dongle, which wakes up its users with sounds of sizzling bacon, “bacon-isms,” and tiny puffs of bacon aroma.
"With nearly two million mentions of #bacon on Instagram, it seems people never get tired of bacon. That's why our team decided to develop a device to give folks what they long for most," said Tom Bick, senior director of integrated marketing and advertising at Oscar Mayer in a press release. "As the category leader, Oscar Mayer is thrilled to bring the first-ever, bacon-scented mobile device to market, giving bacon aficionados a new reason to welcome their morning alarm clocks."
The app, dubbed Wake Up and Smell the Bacon, is available for free in the App Store and functions as a conventional alarm clock. However, instead of playing music from a playlist or emitting a series of piercing, blood-curdling sounds – the app tries to gently wake up a sleeping user by playing the sounds of frying meat and pre-recorded “bacon-isms.”
"Experience bacon with all your senses," a voice from the app says. "Like the deepest root, like the stormiest ocean, it's briney cure endures. Bacon exceeds everything you ever imagined."
Unfortunately for chronic cravers of salted pork, the aroma-emitting device that plugs into an iPhone won’t go on sale, but a limited number will be made available through an online contest. To enter to win, contestants must complete a quiz on the Oscar Mayer website by April 4. Contest winners will receive the aromatic device six to eight weeks after applications close, the company said.
According to Mashable, a test run of the aroma device produced smells that were “more jerky than bacon.” The device also comes with a refill of the liquid that becomes those puffs of aroma destined to make their way into human nostrils.
The app, dongle and contest are the latest project from the Oscar Mayer Institute for the Advancement of Bacon, a "consortium of the world's greatest bacon minds dedicated to unlocking the bacon's deepest mysteries for the benefit of bacon lovers everywhere."
Last summer, the “institute” unveiled a campaign just ahead of Father’s Day called “Say It with Bacon” that referenced jewelry ads and the romance surrounding hand-crafted goods.
"Bacon. Is there any meat more noble?" asked Phil Roudenbusch, an ‘Oscar Mayer bacon cut and design chief’ in an online video released by the company.
"I always challenge my team to cut smarter,” he continued. “Because every cut of bacon has its own unique symmetry. Like a snowflake. The bacon will tell you how it wants to be cut.”
While bacon might be a good gift for Father’s Day, it doesn’t help if you’re trying to become a dad. A study released by Harvard University researchers in October found that eating large amounts of bacon and other “processed meat” can significantly reduce a male’s sperm count.
- Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Unlike any other time in history, new words and phrases in the 21st century can spread with viral efficiency.
A new research project at Aston University in the United Kingdom is hoping to track the digital spread of new English terms by analyzing over one billion tweets from both the UK and the US.
“I’m very excited to begin work on this project,” said Jack Grieve, a forensic linguistics lecturer at Aston. “No previous linguistic report has had so much data to work with so we have a great opportunity to map the emergence of new words and their lexical diffusion.”
“In addition to charting the internal movement of words in the UK and US, we hope to look at how words spread across the Atlantic, between the two countries – the first study to do so using the same methods in both nations,” Grieve added.
The researchers said the somewhat spontaneous nature of Twitter interactions make them similar to interactions made during speech. The similarity makes studying Twitter posts particularly significant to the study of the spread of new terms.
The study of new terms spreading on Twitter may have to consider the fact that these terms are being used predominantly by a relatively young age group. A study by the Pew Research Center released in November showed that those who look to the microblogging platform for daily news are becoming younger, more educated, and increasingly rely on their mobile devices.
According to the survey, 16 percent of US adults use Twitter and about half of them use it for their news. Twitter users tend to be younger and more educated “than both the population overall and Facebook news consumers,” the report added.
Pew researchers also found that 40 percent of Twitter news consumers have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 29 percent of the total population and 30 percent of Facebook news consumers.
After analyzing the opening night of the London summer Olympics, the Newton, Connecticut school shootings and the Supreme Court hearings on same-sex marriage, the research team identified three central themes: Twitter users pass along news information as events develop; Twitter conversations about big news events evolve in sentiment and topic; and Twitter can match the sentiment of the general population.
The researchers at Aston University, in a partnership with the University of South Carolina, will also look at recent patterns of human migration to determine how the movement of peoples influences linguistic difference. The US and UK migration patterns will be determined by analyzing millions of online family trees.
“Throughout history, migration has been a key force in shaping and transforming language,” Grieve said. “Very little research, however, has looked at how more recent population mobility has shaped dialect variation today. Hopefully, we will be able to discover new and exciting findings.”
Citing examples such as ‘selfie’, ‘twerk’, ‘vom’, ‘buzzworthy’ and ‘squee’ – the UK researchers noted that new terms are being coined every year and spreading across social media.
- Dipali Pathak, Baylor College of Medicine
What do high heels and dessert have in common? You shouldn’t overindulge in either of them, according to an expert at Baylor College of Medicine.
You should treat high heels like a dessert, saving them only for special occasions, says Dr. Jason Ahuero, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Baylor.
Dangerous for foot, ankle
“Wearing high heels can cause various ankle injuries, including lateral ankle sprains and ankle fractures,” said Ahuero, who specializes in foot and ankle surgery. “Higher heels place your ankle ligaments at a mechanical disadvantage, making them more prone to injury.”
High heels also can accelerate the progression of bunions and even make them more symptomatic, Ahuero says. They also can result in hammer toes, where the joints in the smaller toes are hyperextended, causing deformity and irritation.
This usually occurs when the shoe is narrower in the toe area than your foot. He suggests tracing the outline of your foot and your shoe. If the outline of the shoe is narrower than the outline of your forefoot, then it’s likely not a good shoe for you.
Benefits of lower heel
Ahuero suggests 2- to 2-and-a-half inch heels rather than 4-inch heels, because they put less pressure on your forefoot. He also suggests wearing a thicker heel rather than a narrower heel, such as a stiletto, for added stability and because even though it may make you look taller than a thicker heel, you are not.
He also notes that very high heels may contribute to the development of plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis. Morton’s neuroma, a nerve irritation at the ball of the foot, can also be a source of pain for those who wear high heels regularly.
Ahuero says that if foot pain lasts longer than a few days, a visit to the doctor may be in order.
Selecting the perfect shoe
He also offers the following general tips when buying shoes:
- Measure your foot each time you get a new pair, because feet get longer as we age and each shoe brand varies in size.
- Measure your shoe size while standing up and be sure to walk around when trying on the shoes.
- Don’t buy a pair of shoes if they feel tight when trying them on – they will not stretch out.
- Try shoes on at the end of the day when feet are likely to be more swollen.
- Consider a silicone heel cup or open toed shoes for more comfort.
- [ Watch the Video: Stress Causes Headaches ]
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A new study being presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia from April 26 to May 3, 2014 provides even more evidence that stress really does lead to more headaches.
Researchers surveyed 5,159 people aged 21 to 71, asking questions about stress levels and headaches four times a year for two years. Participants were asked to say how many headaches they had per month and rated their stress level on a scale of zero to 100.
According to the study supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, 31 percent of participants had tension-type headaches, 14 percent had migraines, 11 percent had migraine combined with tension-type headache and 17 percent said the headache type was not classified. Those who had a tension-type headache rated their stress at an average of 52 out of 100, while those with a migraine were 62 out of 100.
The team found that for each type of headache, there was an increase in stress associated with an increase in the number of headaches per month. Those with tension headaches saw an increase of 10 points on the stress scale associated with a 6.3-percent increase in the number of headache days per month.
The number of headache days per month went up by 4.3 percent, and 4 percent for those who had a migraine and tension headache. The researchers said the findings were adjusted to help account for factors that may affect the number of headaches, like drinking, smoking and frequent use of headache drugs.
"These results show that this is a problem for everyone who suffers from headaches and emphasize the importance of stress management approaches for people with migraine and those who treat them," Sara H. Schramm, MD, of University Hospital of University Duisburg-Essen in Germany and lead author of the study being presented at the event, said in a statement. "The results add weight to the concept that stress can be a factor contributing to the onset of headache disorders, that it accelerates the progression to chronic headache, exacerbates headache episodes, and that the headache experience itself can serve as a stressor."
- University of Leicester
Underwear consumption expert Dr. Christiana Tsaousi says TV shows and glossy magazines give the false impression that only one type of underwear can make women feel feminine
TV makeover shows and glossy magazines can leave women feeling guilty for not wearing "sexy" lingerie – especially on Valentine's Day.
But in fact, many different types of underwear could make them feel feminine, according to an expert on underwear consumption.
Dr Christiana Tsaousi, a lecturer in marketing and consumption at the University of Leicester's School of Management, believes underwear choices are hugely affected by personal taste influenced by social background, professional status and upbringing, and why every woman's underwear needs are individual. Her research on the subject is published this week by SAGE in the Journal of Consumer Culture.
The 'shaping' underwear, for example, prescribed by reality TV shows, such as How To Look Good Naked and 10 Years Younger, is an unhelpful way of thinking about how women should choose what they wear, Dr Tsaousi has concluded.
"On Valentine's Day, some women may feel the only way to feel feminine is to wear the "sexy" underwear promoted by the media in general. But this is really not the case."
"Reality makeover shows and media in general have one purpose – to make women look feminine in line with western ideals," she said.
"They present femininity as this thing where you feel nice about yourself because you have a body that needs to be expressed. Having that as an aim, participants on the shows are given underwear that's going to mould the body in a certain way."
But Dr Tsaousi, who has conducted extensive research into the consumption of underwear, says that women think very carefully about choosing the right underwear for the right situation – and that comfort is often as important as "sexiness".
"Women learn to choose underwear for the right situation. In an ideal world, it would be good if reality shows acknowledge that women can feel feminine by wearing different underwear.
"Some women don't like these shows because they always show a specific type of femininity, which is not the reality in most cases. They can make you feel guilty about the way you look and the way you feel about your body if you aren't wearing underwear considered sexy.
"When partners are looking to buy underwear as Valentine's gifts for their wives or girlfriends, they should choose underwear which will fit their partners well and will make them feel comfortable – rather than the stereotypical tiny, uncomfortable types. This will ultimately lead to them feeling nice about themselves."
In her new paper for the Journal of Consumer Culture, Dr Tsaousi interviewed women from a wide range of groups and backgrounds, including university lecturers, young mums, and female rugby players. She looked at the influence of women's upbringing, profession, age, and social status on their underwear choices.
She found that some groups such as the young rugby girls favored "cute" underwear while for others such as academics something that supports their professional dress was the main priority.
"The paper indicates that women's choices in underwear are determined by factors such as our ways of thinking, up-bringing, taste and status in society," Dr Tsaousi said. "The paper also suggests that women make similar judgments about their underwear as they would their outerwear."
For many women another big influence on their taste in underwear is their mother.
"We can't forget that the mother normally buys the first bra for her daughter. It is the first act of being feminine, and introduces girls to the idea that they are becoming a woman," Dr Tsaousi said.
Dr Tsaousi added that the study of the consumption of underwear is an area which has not been explored in detail by academics – but is very important to the market.
"Obviously women's outer dress is visible so it is under scrutiny by others. Underwear on the other hand is hidden but people make similar judgments.
"Other forms of dress have been widely discussed in consumption studies, but underwear is an area that hasn't been fully researched. It is quite important – we see that every day in the market from the variety on offer in clothes shops and specialized underwear shops."
- redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Stereotypically masculine content such as sports and cars are less popular among male Pinterest users than the topics of art, photography and home décor, researchers from the University of Minnesota and Georgia Institute of Technology claim in a new study.
As part of their research, the authors looked at the habits of over 46,000 users of the image-intensive social network. They found that the most popular Pinterest topics tended to be of “traditional female” interest, including food and drink, arts and crafts, home décor and women’s fashion, the university said in a statement.
While there are differences in the type of content collected by men and women, as well as the degree to which they specialized, men were not especially interested in stereotypically male topics. While males pay more attention to sports, technology and cars than women, none of those topics were among their 10 most popular categories.
The study, which will be presented at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing that kicks off this weekend in Baltimore, sheds new light on the photo-sharing habits of the 70-plus million Pinterest members worldwide.
“Pinterest is often seen as a site for women. This representation is so popular that 'Pinterest-for-men' sites have been created,” explained study co-author and University of Minnesota computer science and engineering professor Loren Terveen. “This study shows that men who use Pinterest are also interested in some of these same topics.”
Terveen’s and his fellow investigators looked at a total of 3.1 million pins from over 46,000 Pinterest users between November 26, 2012 and January 15, 2013. They were able to identify the gender of 32,000 of those users, and found a correlation between sharing more diverse types of content with a larger number of followers – but only to a point. Eventually, the increased diversity of images pinned is no longer helpful, they said.
The researchers found that generally speaking, women focus their pinning efforts on fewer categories than their male counterparts. The top five categories amongst females account for a little more than 56 percent of their total activity, while 40 percent of male activity focuses upon their five most frequently used pinning categories.
“This research into Pinterest illustrates the current trends of how members use this social media site, but it doesn't examine either why users behave this way or whether they even are conscious of their decisions on the site,” said study co-author Eric Gilbert, an assistant professor within the Georgia Tech College of Computing.
“Our research has only scratched the surface of what we can learn from social media activity,” he added. “Additional work, particularly using qualitative methods, could explore the background behind some of our findings such as why male Pinterest users are not particularly interested in content we often associate with male interests.”
The study also determined that approximately 10 percent of all pins by men were categorized as Design, making it the second most popular category for males. However, only three percent of pins by women fell in this category, making it just the ninth most popular Pinterest category amongst women.
The categories of Geek, History and Sports were more popular among men, while Kids, Wedding and Holiday & Events were more popular among women. Food & Drink was the top category for both men and women, though on the whole the two genders have significantly different pinning activities across most categories, they added.
“While men collectively have more diverse interests (than women collectively), each individual male user is more likely to specialize in specific categories than individual female users,” the university added. “In summary, the research suggests that to attract many followers, Pinterest users should follow many other pinners, create many boards and pin a lot, post on popular topics, and not concentrate on too few topics.”
- April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The internet, and especially social media, is having an impact on American couples as technology becomes more deeply integrated into people's lives.
A new study published by Pew Internet & American Life Project reveals that couples are feeling both the positive and negative effects of digital communication tools in their relationships.
The researchers found that 27 percent of American adults online who are married or in committed relationships report that the internet has had an impact on their relationships. A majority report that the impact has been positive. However, in some relationships, technology has been seen as a negative source of distraction. For example, 25 percent of cell phone users in serious relationships report that the phone distracts their spouse or partner when they are alone together.
The data was collected from telephone interviews with 2,252 adults aged 18 and older, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from April 17 to May 19, 2013. The interviews — 1,125 by landline, 1,125 by cell phone, including 571 without landlines — were conducted in both English and Spanish.
Technology has changed the face of many relationships, affecting the way the couples communicate, grow closer, plan, fight and make up. The findings examine the role of technology in the lives of married or partnered adults, exploring both the positive and negative effects.
This is the second of two reports about the impact of technology — the internet, social media and mobile phones, specifically — on online dating and romantic relationships. The companion report focuses on the internet's impact on meeting and dating, rather than couples.
- Society for Personality and Social Psychology
Going on a double date may be more effective at reigniting passion in your own relationship than the classic candlelit dinner for two. According to new research, striking up a friendship with another couple in which you discuss personal details of your life will bring you closer to your own partner.
"Passionate love is one of the first dimensions of love to decrease in couples over time as the newness of a relationship begins to wane," says Keith Welker, a doctoral student at Wayne State University. "Relationships have widely been thought to flourish and develop in a broader network of social relationships, while emerging research has suggested that novel, arousing experiences can increase feelings of passionate love."
The new research fuses together the two research areas, showing that novel, high-self-disclosure interactions with other couples can increase feelings of passionate love. Such interactions, the researchers say, may cause us to perceive our partners and the relationship in a new light.
Indeed, perception is vital in a relationship, according to a range of new studies to be presented this week at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) annual conference in Austin. Whether we perceive a long-term commitment as marriage versus merely cohabitating can change how we respond to stress, according to one study, while our perceptions of how much our partner truly wants the best for us predicts psychological health over 10 years in another study.
Double dates to reignite passionate love
Welker, with his adviser Rich Slatcher, had previously studied how self-disclosure increased closeness within couples. They wanted to extend the research to investigate how self-disclosure between couples affects closeness and feelings of passionate love.
"We were expecting that the formation of a friendship between two couples in the lab would increase closeness and relationship satisfaction," Welker says. "However, we found the robustness of the effects on passionate love surprising."
In two studies with about 150 couples, the researchers used the "Fast Friends" activity, originally developed by Arthur Aron of Stony Brook University, a co-author on the new study. Over 45 minutes, couples answered basic "get-to-know-you" questions, such as "What is your idea of a perfect day?" or "Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?" The questions progressed to much deeper, personal topics such as "What was the most embarrassing moment in your life?" or asking for advice on personal problems. "This task has been repeatedly shown to make both strangers and friends closer to each other," Welker says.
In one of the studies, couples who met each other through the high-disclosure Fast Friends activity reported higher feelings of passionate love than those assigned to a low-disclosure task, which involved non-emotional, small-talk questions. In a second study, the researchers found that how responsive another couple was to personal disclosure predicted the increase in passionate love following the Fast Friends task.
"The more that the other couple responds to your self-disclosures in a validating and caring way when on a double date, the more passionate you feel about your own relationship," Welker explains. "Although we still need to investigate why responsiveness from other couples predicts increases in passionate love, one possibility is that having another couple respond positively to yourself and your partner may provide you with a fresh, positive view of your partner and relationship."
In the meantime, this Valentine's Day, Welker suggests picking a double-date activity that facilitates personal disclosure. "Any setting where couples can talk, exchange information about each other, and respond to each other in a validating, thoughtful manner could apply," he says. "One very practical application could be going out to dinner with another couple." But he says to opt for dinner at home, as that will engender more disclosure than a date at a public restaurant.
Marriage signals in the brain
How you view your partner and the commitment level of your relationship significantly affects your health. Researchers have found that being married confers health benefits above mere cohabitation but it may just all be in our heads. It turns out that merely regarding your relationship as a marriage can confer the same benefits, even if you haven't actually tied the knot.
Over the past 20 years of studying relationships, including how couples regulate each others' emotions, Jim Coan of the University of Virginia became interested in the "cohabitation effect" – the idea that cohabiting couples, compared to married couples, are less stable, show fewer health-related benefits, and may even be more likely to divorce if they ultimately marry. "I've always felt personally skeptical of these findings, not really for any strong empirical reason, they just felt intuitively wrong to me," he says.
So Coan set out to explore the effect by comparing how married couples, cohabiting couples, dating couples, and friends handle stress together. He specifically looked at how holding hands during a potential threat can decrease activity in the hypothalamus – a potential neurophysiological marker for the effect of stress on health. The work builds on past evidence that hand-holding helps people regulate their emotions. "Hand-holding is special," Coan says. "It has special symbolic value over and above, say, holding an elbow or an ankle."
Using fMRI, Coan and colleagues collected brain activity from 54 couples — half of whom were married, the other half cohabiting — as they viewed "threat" or "safe" cues in the scanner. Threat cues signaled to subjects that they faced a 20 percent chance of electric shock to their ankle, while the safe cues signaled a 0 percent chance of shock. Some of the time, subjects held the hand of their partner, while other times, they either held the hand of a stranger or faced the cues alone.
Married couples, but not cohabitating couples, had reduced hypothalamic activity in response to threat cues while holding hands with their partners. "The most surprising thing about this is that our cohabiting couples are matched for age, relationship duration, and relationship satisfaction," Coan says. "So why should they respond so differently to supportive hand-holding?"
The answer, he thinks, lies in data he collected with same-sex couples. Coan conducted a parallel study with 26 same-sex couples, none of whom were legally married but half of whom described their relationship as a marriage. They found the same difference in hypothalamic regulation by hand-holding between self-described married and self-described cohabiting same-sex couples. "So whatever the ultimate explanation, I do not think the phenomenon is real," Coan says. "I think it has to do with the conceptualization of one's relationship."
"It may not even be about marriage, per se, but about asserting cohabitation instead," he explains. "Asserting cohabitation is basically asserting that one is not 'locked in' to a commitment."
Marriage is a signal, Coan says, that is intended to convey dependability and predictability. "So I think the take-home implication is that our brains are sensitive to signs that the people we depend on in our lives are predictable and reliable," he says. "And our brains will depend upon — will, in effect, outsource to — those we feel are most predictable and reliable for our emotion-regulation needs."
Health benefits from perceived support
Another big factor in how relationships affect our health is how much we believe our partners care for, understand, and appreciate us. This factor predicts everything from personal growth to emotional stability — above and beyond initial well-being — according to a new longitudinal study.
"The effect of relationships on our psychological and physical health is much stronger than any other factor you can think of," says Emre Selcuk of Middle East Technical University in Turkey. "For instance, the effect of the existence and quality of close relationships on mortality is larger than that of cigarette smoking."
Selcuk and Anthony Ong have been trying to figure out which unique aspects of relationships contribute to this effect. Specifically, they are interested in "perceived partner responsiveness" – the extent to which you think your partner genuinely wants the best for you. This perceived support is distinct from how much support you actually receive from your partner.
Past research has shown the more partner support someone receives, the more at risk that person is for all-cause mortality. However, work by Selcuk and Ong demonstrated that this effect disappeared completely for individuals who perceive their partner as responsive to their needs. Moreover, the new longitudinal study, analyzing a national US sample of more than a 1,000 married or cohabiting people surveyed in 1995/6 and then again in 2005/6, shows that the more perceived support, the better our psychological well-being 10 years later.
These findings come down to perception: "The effectiveness of received support depends on the perceptions of the recipient rather than the amount of actual support enacted," Selcuk says. If you do not perceive your partner as responsive to your needs, "even the best-intentioned support behavior may backfire and lead to worse outcomes," he says. "But if you perceive your partner as really caring for, understanding, and appreciating you, then your romantic relationship will make you a happier and healthier person in the long-term."
The research follows past work by Selcuk and colleagues showing that just a reminder of a responsive romantic partner – such as viewing a photo of your partner – helps someone cope with emotions induced from recalling an upsetting past event. Those who benefited the most from viewing their partner's photograph experienced fewer psychological and physical health problems in their life even weeks after the experiment. The latest analysis found that people who perceived their partner as responsive experienced higher life satisfaction and purpose in life, and lower depression, among other positive psychological attributes, 10 years later.
"Our findings clearly show that having someone in our life whom we perceive as genuinely caring for us, understanding and appreciating our needs, concerns, and goals enhances our ability to recover from negative emotions, improves our psychological well-being, confers protective health benefits, and even affects the very length of our life," Selcuk says. "So anyone who has not chosen their partner yet should do it very wisely because it may very well turn out to be the most important decision they will ever make."
- [ Watch the Video: Height Is Definitely A Factor In Romance ]
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Height plays a big role in determining who is a potential partner for women, according to researchers at Rice University and the University of North Texas.
Researchers looked at how height is a factor when determining who someone wants to fall in love with. The team used data from Yahoo! personal dating advertisements of 455 males and 470 females. They found that woman tended to care more than men about a partner’s height.
“Evolutionary psychology theory argues that ‘similarity is overwhelmingly the rule in human mating,’” Michael Emerson, the Allyn and Gladys Cline Professor of Sociology and the study’s co-author, said in a statement. “However, our study suggests that for physical features such as height, similarity is not the dominant rule, especially with females.”
The average male height in the study was 5 feet and 8 inches with an average age of 36, while the females averaged 5 feet 4 inches and an age of 35 years old. The team found that 13.5 percent of men wanted to date only women who were shorter than they are, while nearly half of the women wanted to date a taller man.
The study continued by recruiting 54 males and 131 females from a US university, asking them to fill out open-ended questions in an online survey. They found that these results correlated with the previous ones, where 37 percent of males wanted to date a shorter woman and 55 percent of females preferred a man who was taller than themselves.
The researchers said the dominant reason a woman preferred to be with a taller man has to do with protection and femininity.
“As the girl, I like to feel delicate and secure at the same time,” said a woman participant in the study who is 5 feet 3 inches tall. “Something just feels weird in thinking about looking ‘down’ into my man’s eyes. There is also something to be said about being able to wear shoes with high heels and still being shorter. I also want to be able to hug him with my arms reaching up and around his neck.”
Those men who admitted that height mattered to them said a partner can’t be so short that it would cause problems in the bedroom.
“I like it when the body of your partner fits yours,” said a male study participant who is 5 feet 11 inches tall. “It also makes it easier to kiss, hold hands and do other activities with your partner.”
George Yancey, a professor of sociology at the University of North Texas and the study’s lead author published in the Journal of Family Issues said the reason for the personal preferences can be explained by societal expectations and gender stereotypes. He said the widespread perception is that tall height is a personal asset for men and a personal liability for women. He also pointed out that this study just gives more support for the social system of patriarchy.
“The masculine ability to offer physical protection is clearly connected to the gender stereotype of men as protectors,” he said. “And in a society that encourages men to be dominant and women to be submissive, having the image of tall men hovering over short women reinforces this value.”
- Society for Personality and Social Psychology
With Valentine's Day around the corner, you may be thinking of pairing up two friends for a date. If you follow your instinct to play Cupid, it'll pay off in happiness – not necessarily for the new couple, but definitely for you.
According to new research, matchmaking, a time-honored tradition, brings intrinsic happiness to the matchmaker. To maximize the psychological benefits of matchmaking, you should take care to introduce two people who not only seem compatible but who would be unlikely to meet otherwise, researchers say.
"At some point, most people have made matches between others – like grabbing two strangers by the arm at a party and introducing them to each other – or can think of a friend notorious for their efforts to make introductions," says Lalin Anik, a postdoctoral fellow at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. She notes that the rising popularity of social networking websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn has made matchmaking effortless and central to social life.
Anik, with her colleague Michael Norton of the Harvard Business School, conducted an in-depth investigation of modern-day matchmaking, examining what motivates us to match others – even when it often goes wrong – and how we can reap the emotional benefits of socially linking others. In four studies, to be presented this week at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) annual conference in Austin, they used surveys, computer games, and in-lab social interactions to show when and why making matches between others boosts happiness.
In one study, the researchers asked groups of participants to engage in a brief "get acquainted" task in the laboratory. They then asked participants to pair others in the group: One group of participants had to match pairs that they thought would get along; another group tried to match pairs that they thought would not get along; and a third group matched people on the basis of a random characteristic – their social security numbers. Participants who selected pairs of people who they thought would bond became happier as a result of their matchmaking. Those in the other two groups felt the same as they did before the task.
In another study, the researchers created a simple computer game in which participants saw a target face and selected one of three other faces with whom they thought the target would best or worst get along. Once again, the matchmakers had the best experience and were willing to play the game much longer than participants asked to pair people on the basis of mutual dislike.
Some participants received monetary rewards for each match made, while others did not. Interestingly, the researchers found that paying people diminished their interest in the game. "Participants who made matches between others for free persisted on the matchmaking task much longer than participants who were offered money," Anik says. These results challenge the rising trend of online social networks providing financial incentives for people to make introductions.
Another surprising result of the new studies, published today in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, was that matchmaking brings the most happiness to those who pair together two people who are less likely to meet. Making matches between people who are already likely to be members of the same social network, for example, two White women, is not as rewarding as making matches between people less likely to be in the same network, for example, a White woman and an Asian man, Anik says.
"There are many reasons why people make matches," Anik says. "Matchmakers may be proud that they have the social acumen to recognize a social link that others hadn't." In addition, people may enjoy matchmaking because they view it as an act of kindness. And, of course, "people enjoy being the key person who made that critical match between newlyweds or between business partners who started a successful venture."
Future work will further explore the costs to people's emotions and reputations when matchmaking goes wrong: Think of setting up two acquaintances on the worst date of their lives.
"The study of matchmaking is especially timely now as social structures, as well as definitions of social ties and friendships, are changing," Anik says. "Our exploration of matchmaking can help people to navigate their increasingly complex social webs."
In the meantime, this Valentine's Day, Anik and Norton encourage everyone to make matches – romantic and otherwise. They suggest caution as well, however, referencing a past episode of The Office: "In a Valentine's Day episode, Michael Scott introduces Eric – who is interested in tool and die repair – to Meredith – who had a hysterectomy – emphasizing the 'repair' aspect as a common ground. Not surprisingly, the introduction is brutally awkward," Anik says. "Matches should be made with the goal of creating meaningful connections."
Anik and Norton are presenting this research in Symposium S-A1, "Let's Get Connected: New and Untapped Routes to Social Connection," (Session A) on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, at the SPSP annual meeting.