In negotiations, two jerks are better than one

Negotiations work best when both sides have matching personality traits — even if they’re both disagreeable — according to research from the University of Georgia Terry College of Business.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that people who are outgoing and accommodating are better suited to negotiate, but a study co-authored by assistant professor of management Fadel Matta found two sides can reach accord through their common discord.

“Normally, you would consider agreeableness — that you’re cooperative and kind — to be a good thing. And being disagreeable — being cold — to be a bad thing,” Matta said.

“But with negotiations we find that’s not necessarily true. The same thing goes for someone who is extroverted. It’s not always a good thing when you’re entering negotiations.”

At their core, negotiations are about a relationship. And like a relationship, they work best when both parties approach it the same way, he said. “If you’re a jerk and I’m a jerk, then it might seem like we’ll never get anywhere in negotiations, but it’s actually more useful to put two similarly minded people together,” Matta said.

Matta and his co-authors based their research on the “Big Five” personality traits from psychological literature — conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness and extroversion. The study in the Journal of Applied Psychology focused on agreeableness and extroversion because of their interpersonal nature.

“A lot of the research on personality shows that it has less of an effect than you would expect in negotiations, but that research has looked only at an individual’s personality,” Matta said. “We decided to look at the combination of personalities between two negotiators.”

The authors surveyed more than 200 individuals about their personalities then randomly assigned them a role in a mock negotiation between two companies. After reading background information, participants negotiated against each other in order to arrive at a settlement on seven issues related to human resource management and compensation. After a settlement was reached, participants were surveyed about their perceptions of the process and their partner.

They found that while one person’s personality could not predict outcomes, the combination of both personalities led to consistent results. Negotiations between individuals with similar scores on agreeableness and extroversion tended to go more smoothly, finish more quickly and leave both parties with better impressions of the other than negotiations between dissimilar individuals, Matta said. Researchers attributed the results to more positive emotional displays, which occur when both negotiators have similar personalities.

“The takeaway when entering negotiations is to consider both parties’ personalities and how they might mesh, instead of just deciding to send in a really well-liked and agreeable person,” Matta said. “It’s the combination of the two people that will determine how well the negotiations proceed.”

The study was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

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Are looks more important than personality when choosing a man?

When mothers and their daughters have to choose potential partners, they do not look much further than skin deep. Mothers are not quite as picky though, and will choose a man who is only reasonably attractive for their daughters. Daughters on the other hand prefer an attractive man, no matter how respectful, friendly, ambitious or intelligent he may be. This is according to the authors of a study in Springer’s journal Evolutionary Psychological Science, led by Madeleine Fugère of the Eastern Connecticut State University in the US.

The research team assessed the mate preference of 80 women between the ages of 15 and 29 years old, and one or both of their parents. Only data collected from the 61 mothers present were analysed for the purposes of the current study. The women were presented with colour photographs of three male targets varying in attractiveness. Each photograph was paired with one of three trait profiles. The “respectful” profile included the traits “respectful, trustworthy, and honest;” the “friendly” profile included being “friendly, dependable, and mature;” and the “pleasing” profile meant that the man was “of a pleasing disposition, ambitious, and intelligent.” The women had to rate the photographs and trait descriptions in response to how attractive they found the man, how favourably they rated his personal description, and whether they’d consider the person as a dating partner for themselves or their daughters.

Physical attractiveness strongly influenced how women and their mothers saw the target men. The attractive and moderately attractive ones came up trumps. Men with the most desirable personality profiles were rated more favourably than their counterparts only when they were also at least moderately attractive. Even when unattractive men possessed the most desirable traits, the mothers and daughters did not view them as potential dating material.

“We conclude that a minimum level of physical attractiveness is a necessity for both women and their mothers,” says Fugére.

It was also found that daughters are pickier than their parents when it comes to choosing between potential mates. Mothers rated all men, even the least attractive ones, as potentially desirable partners for their daughters, while the younger women did not.

“This may signal that unattractiveness is less acceptable to women than to their mothers,” states Fugère. “It might also mean that women and their mothers may have different notions of what constitutes a minimally acceptable level of physical attractiveness, with mothers employing a less stringent standard than their daughters.”

She explains further that when women and their parents are asked their opinion about potential mates, they always rate traits like respectfulness and friendliness as more important than physical attractiveness. “Yet, in doing so, they assume that the potential mates at least meet a minimally acceptable standard of physical attractiveness. However, when a range of attractiveness levels is presented, physical attractiveness takes priority over other characteristics.”

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Risky alcohol consumption can increase at time of retirement

Of retiring employees, 12 percent increased their risky drinking at the time of retirement. However, for most people, there was no change in risky level alcohol consumption around the time of retirement: 81 percent sustained healthy drinking during the follow-up, and in 7 percent of the participants risky drinking was constant, although they experienced a slow decline in risky level alcohol consumption after retirement. In the study, the levels for risky drinking were 24 units per week for men and 16 units for women, or passing out due to extreme alcohol consumption.

Increase in risky drinking was more common in smokers, men and those who reported depression, says Senior Researcher, Docent Jaana Halonen from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. These are known risk factors for substantial alcohol use.

Retirement is a major transition in life and, in the light of these results, it also involves a risk of adopting an unhealthy lifestyle.

  • As baby boomers retire, approximately 70,000 Finns retire each year, so it is a significant social phenomenon. The increase in free time and the changes in the social networks related to retirement can have either adverse or positive effects on public health, says Academy Research Fellow, Docent Sari Stenholm from the University of Turku.
  • Occupational health care and employers could develop operational strategies that could prepare employees for retirement and the changes it can cause. This way, unhealthy changes in lifestyle could be prevented, suggests Jaana Halonen.

Nearly 6,000 Employees from Public Sector Participated in the Study

The study followed 5,800 employees who participated in the Finnish Public Sector (FPS) study and had retired due to old-age between 2000 and 2011. Each participant answered questions on alcohol consumption before and after retirement.


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Journal Reference:

  1. Jaana I. Halonen, Sari Stenholm, Anna Pulakka, Ichiro Kawachi, Ville Aalto, Jaana Pentti, Tea Lallukka, Marianna Virtanen, Jussi Vahtera, Mika Kivimäki. Trajectories of risky drinking around the time of statutory retirement: a longitudinal latent class analysis. Addiction, 2017; DOI: 10.1111/add.13811

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University of Turku. (2017, March 31). Risky alcohol consumption can increase at time of retirement. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 31, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170331120308.htm

University of Turku. “Risky alcohol consumption can increase at time of retirement.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170331120308.htm (accessed March 31, 2017).

 

It’s true: The sound of nature helps us relax

The gentle burbling of a brook, or the sound of the wind in the trees can physically change our mind and bodily systems, helping us to relax. New research explains how, for the first time.

Researchers at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) found that playing ‘natural sounds’ affected the bodily systems that control the flight-or-fright and rest-digest autonomic nervous systems, with associated effects in the resting activity of the brain. While naturalistic sounds and ‘green’ environments have frequently been linked with promoting relaxation and wellbeing, until now there has been no scientific consensus as to how these effects come about. The study has been published in Scientific Reports.

The lead author, Dr Cassandra Gould van Praag said, “We are all familiar with the feeling of relaxation and ‘switching-off’ which comes from a walk in the countryside, and now we have evidence from the brain and the body which helps us understand this effect. This has been an exciting collaboration between artists and scientists, and it has produced results which may have a real-world impact, particularly for people who are experiencing high levels of stress.”

In collaboration with audio visual artist Mark Ware, the team at BSMS conducted an experiment where participants listened to sounds recorded from natural and artificial environments, while their brain activity was measured in an MRI scanner, and their autonomic nervous system activity was monitored via minute changes in heart rate. The team found that activity in the default mode network of the brain (a collection of areas which are active when we are resting) was different depending on the sounds playing in the background:

When listening to natural sounds, the brain connectivity reflected an outward-directed focus of attention; when listening to artificial sounds, the brain connectivity reflected an inward-directed focus of attention, similar to states observed in anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. There was also an increase in rest-digest nervous system activity (associated with relaxation of the body) when listening to natural compared with artificial sounds, and better performance in an external attentional monitoring task.

Interestingly, the amount of change in nervous system activity was dependant on the participants’ baseline state: Individuals who showed evidence of the greatest stress before starting the experiment showed the greatest bodily relaxation when listening to natural sounds, while those who were already relaxed in the brain scanner environment showed a slight increase in stress when listening to natural compared with artificial sounds.

The study of environmental exposure effects is of growing interest in physical and mental health settings, and greatly influences issues of public health and town planning. This research is first to present an integrated behavioural, physiological and brain exploration of this topic.

Artist Mark Ware commented, “Art-science collaborations can be problematic, often due to a lack of shared knowledge and language (scientific and artistic), but the team at BSMS has generously sought common ground, which has resulted in this exciting and successful outcome. We have plans to continue collaborating and I am keen to explore how the results of this work might be applied to the creation and understanding of time-based art (installations, multimedia performance, and film) for the benefit of people in terms of wellbeing and health.”

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Bad cold? If you’re lonely, it may feel worse

Suffering through a cold is annoying enough, but if you’re lonely, you’re likely to feel even worse, according to Rice University researchers.

A study led by Rice psychologist Chris Fagundes and graduate student Angie LeRoy indicated people who feel lonely are more prone to report that their cold symptoms are more severe than those who have stronger social networks.

“Loneliness puts people at risk for premature mortality and all kinds of other physical illnesses,” LeRoy said. “But nothing had been done to look at an acute but temporary illness that we’re all vulnerable to, like the common cold.”

The study is the subject of a paper published this week in Health Psychology.

The researchers drew a distinction between feeling lonely and actual social isolation.

“This paper is about the quality of your relationships, not the quantity,” LeRoy said. “You can be in a crowded room and feel lonely. That perception is what seems to be important when it comes to these cold symptoms.”

Carrying out this task meant finding lonely people, isolating them — and giving them a cold.

A total of 159 people age 18-55, nearly 60 percent of them men, were assessed for their psychological and physical health, given cold-inducing nasal drops and quarantined for five days in hotel rooms.

The participants, scored in advance on the Short Loneliness Scale and the Social Network Index, were monitored during and after the five-day stay. After adjusting for demographics like gender and age, the season, depressive affect and social isolation, the results showed those who felt lonely were no more likely to get a cold than those who weren’t.

But those who were screened in advance for their level of loneliness and became infected — not all of the participants did — reported a greater severity of symptoms than those recorded in previous studies used as controls. The size of the participants’ social networks appeared to have no bearing on how sick they felt.

“Previous research has shown that different psycho-social factors like feeling rejected or feeling left out or not having strong social bonds with other people do make people feel worse physically, mentally and emotionally,” LeRoy said. “So we had that general framework to work with.”

The effect may be the same for those under other kinds of stress, Fagundes said. “Anytime you have an illness, it’s a stressor, and this phenomenon would probably occur,” he said. “A predisposition, whether it’s physical or mental, can be exaggerated by a subsequent stressor. In this case, the subsequent stressor is getting sick, but it could be the loss of a loved one, or getting breast cancer, which are subjects we also study.

“What makes this study so novel is the tight experimental design. It’s all about a particular predisposition (loneliness) interacting with a particular stressor,” he said.

“Doctors should take psychological factors into account at intake on a regular basis,” Fagundes said. “It would definitely help them understand the phenomenon when the person comes in sick.”

“We think this is important, particularly because of the economic burden associated with the common cold,” LeRoy added. “Millions of people miss work each year because of it. And that has to do with how they feel, not necessarily with how much they’re blowing their noses.”

The findings are also an incentive to be more socially active, she said. “If you build those networks — consistently working on them and your relationships — when you do fall ill, it may not feel so bad.”

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Climate change’s toll on mental health

When people think about climate change, they probably think first about its effects on the environment, and possibly on their physical health. But climate change also takes a significant toll on mental health, according to a new report released by the American Psychological Association and ecoAmerica entitled Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance.

Climate change-induced severe weather and other natural disasters have the most immediate effects on mental health in the form of the trauma and shock due to personal injuries, loss of a loved one, damage to or loss of personal property or even the loss of livelihood, according to the report. Terror, anger, shock and other intense negative emotions that can dominate people’s initial response may eventually subside, only to be replaced by post-traumatic stress disorder.

As an example of the impacts natural disasters can have, among a sample of people living in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, suicide and suicidal ideation more than doubled, one in six people met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD and 49 percent developed an anxiety or mood disorder such as depression, said the report.

The impacts of climate on mental health are not relegated to disasters alone. There are also significant mental health impacts from longer-term climate change. Changes in climate affect agriculture, infrastructure and livability, which in turn affect occupations and quality of life and can force people to migrate. These effects may lead to loss of personal and professional identity, loss of social support structures, loss of a sense of control and autonomy and other mental health impacts such as feelings of helplessness, fear and fatalism. High levels of stress and anxiety are also linked to physical health effects, such as a weakened immune system. Worry about actual or potential impacts of climate change can lead to stress that can build over time and eventually lead to stress-related problems, such as substance abuse, anxiety disorders and depression, according to research reviewed in the report.

Climate change is likewise having mental health impacts at the community level. Both acute and long-term changes have been shown to elevate hostility and interpersonal and intergroup aggression, and contribute to the loss of social identity and cohesion, said the report. Certain disadvantaged communities, such as indigenous communities, children and communities dependent on the natural environment can experience disproportionate mental health impacts.

The key to combating the potential negative psychological effects of climate change, according to the report, is building resilience. It includes a section dedicated to offering guidance to aid professionals in supporting and promoting the mental health of individuals and communities and helping them build psychological resilience. One recommendation is to guide people to support and maintain their social networks.

“Individuals’ personal capacity to withstand trauma is increased when they are connected to their networks off- and online,” said the report. “Researchers have found that higher levels of social support during and in the aftermath of a disaster are associated with lower rates of psychological distress.”

The report also emphasized that adopting environmentally friendly policies and lifestyle choices can have a positive effect on mental health. For example, choosing to bike or walk to work has been associated with decreased stress levels. If walking or biking to work is impractical or unsafe, use of public transportation has been associated with an increase in community cohesion and a reduction in symptoms of depression and stress, according to the report. Also, increased accessibility to parks and other green spaces could benefit mental health as spending more time in nature has been shown to lower stress levels and reduce stress-related illness, regardless of socioeconomic status, age or gender.

The report, which was produced in collaboration with psychologists Susan Clayton, PhD, of the College of Wooster, and Christie Manning, PhD, of Macalester College, is an update to Beyond Storms and Droughts: The Psychological Impacts of Climate Change, a report released by the American Psychological Association and ecoAmerica in 2014. A seminal work on the relationship between climate change and psychology, Beyond Storms and Droughts was cited in the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s scientific assessment, The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States. This 2017 update builds on the findings of the first report with new research, expanded emphasis on inequity, deeper guidance for individuals and communities and stories from professionals who are studying and supporting mental health in a changing climate.

A copy of the report can be found online at pdf” title=”http://ecoamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/ea_apa_mental_health_report_web.pdf”>ecoamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/ea_apa_mental_health_report_web.pdf

Alcohol use in veterans with schizophrenia less common than thought; no level safe

U.S. military veterans who are being treated for schizophrenia are much less likely to drink any alcohol than the general population. However, they are equally likely to misuse alcohol. And when they do misuse alcohol, it leads to worsening of their symptoms, according to a new study led by Dr. Alexander Young, a psychiatry professor at UCLA.

Alcohol and drug use disorders are believed to have substantial negative effects on outcomes in people with schizophrenia. However, it has not been possible to know the extent of this problem, because diagnoses and details regarding substance use are typically not documented in people’s medical records, previous research shows.

Prior studies of veterans with serious mental illness have found that heavy drinking prevents them from sticking to prescribed medication regimens. Efforts to reduce alcohol misuse and better ensure that veterans with schizophrenia take their medications would improve outcomes for them and could reduce the incidence of hospitalization.

Researchers randomly selected 801 veterans undergoing treatment for schizophrenia at Veterans Health Administration medical centers in California, New York, Louisiana and Texas. Trained assessors conducted confidential interviews to collect information about their psychiatric symptoms, how well they followed their prescription regimens, alcohol and illicit drug use, quality of life, and use of treatment services.

At these clinics, only 23 percent of those interviewed said that they drank any alcohol in the previous 30 days. Fifteen percent reported some use and 7 percent reported drinking alcohol to intoxication, or “misuse.” In contrast, 56 percent of the general population report drinking in the past month, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The veterans in the study who misused alcohol were less likely to take their medications as prescribed, more likely to use other drugs and had worse quality of life. Both alcohol users and misusers, compared with those who didn’t drink at all, reported less use of general medical, mental health and housing services. Less use of services correlates with worse outcomes.

The findings indicate there is no safe level of alcohol use for people with schizophrenia, suggesting that clinicians should ask patients with schizophrenia about alcohol use or misuse and advise them about risks.

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Entrepreneurs love their companies like parents love their children

A multidisciplinary study, run by researcher Marja-Liisa Halko from the University of Helsinki, asks whether entrepreneurs love their companies like parents love their children. The study used functional MRIs to study the brain activity of fathers and high-growth entrepreneurs. Fathers were shown pictures of their own children as well as other children they knew. Entrepreneurs were shown pictures of their own companies and other companies that they were familiar with.

The results from Finnish fathers were similar to those from previous brain studies primarily conducted on mothers. Looking at images of one’s own child in particular deactivates the parts of the brain that are responsible for the theory of mind and social understanding. Similar deactivations were observed among entrepreneurs who self-rated as being very closely attached to their company.

Low confidence can sensitize to risks

Meanwhile, the activation of the brain areas responsible for rewarding and processing emotions seemed to be associated with the confidence of the research subjects among both fathers and especially among entrepreneurs. High confidence is more typical among men than it is among women.

“Our results indicate that less confident fathers and male entrepreneurs may be more sensitive to the dangers and risks of parenting and entrepreneurship,” says Marja-Liisa Halko.

On the other hand, the results also suggest that overconfidence and the repression of negative emotions may lead to overestimation of the probability of success and overly optimistic assumptions for the company.

The study, entitled “Entrepreneurial and parental love — are they the same?,” was published in the journal Human Brain Mapping.

The study tested the hypothesis that the emotional bond an entrepreneur feels for the company is similar to the bond experienced by a parent towards the child. Entrepreneurs are very emotionally involved with their companies, and this involvement supports the long-term efforts of the entrepreneur. This hypothesis had never before been scientifically tested.

This study, conducted by researchers Marja-Liisa Halko, Tom Lahti from Hanken School of Economics, Kaisa Hytönen from Laurea University of Applied Sciences and Iiro Jääskeläinen from Aalto University, sought to establish that the love an entrepreneur feels for the company is very similar to the love a parent feels for the child.

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Children born to single mothers benefit when biological father joins family

Some of the negative consequences on the wellbeing of a child born to a single mother can be reduced if their biological father joins and stays with the family according to new research from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

However, if the biological father subsequently leaves or a stepfather joins the family instead, these children, on average, do no better cognitively and socially and emotionally than children whose mothers remain alone.

The research published in the European Journal of Population shows that children whose fathers join and stay with the family unit do better, on average, in cognitive tests and suffer less anxiety and depression, when measured at age seven(2), than other children whose mothers are single at their birth.

Dr Berkay Ӧzcan, assistant professor in the Department of Social Policy at LSE and co-author of the study, said: “We looked specifically at children whose parents were not living together when they are born, rather than the children of all single parents. This accounts for 16 per cent of children born in the UK and, as a proportion, this is increasing.

“Our research is the first to distinguish between the very different family trajectories these children experience. It shows the important positive influence a biological father can have on his child’s life if he joins and stays with the family unit. The arrival of a stepfather — in this particular context — does not have a similar impact.”

According to the researchers, the difficulties many children face in adjusting to a stepfather joining the family may offset the benefits he may bring, such as extra resources and parenting.

Dr Berkay Ӧzcan said: “There has been a lot of concern about the well-being of children born to single mothers. However, our research shows that some who live in particular family arrangements are doing better than we previously thought. Perhaps unsurprisingly, those children who experience more stability at home — including if a mother remains on her own — benefit cognitively and socially and emotionally.

“Our research is not intended to encourage people into unhealthy living arrangements because they have a child together, but it could help identify which children need the most help in their early years.”

The researchers compared the well-being of seven year olds, who had been born to single mothers (defined as a mother who is not married to or living with the father of her child at his/her birth), and followed one of four commonly experienced ‘family-paths’. These were: children who lived continuously with a single mother until age seven; children who experienced their biological father moving in and forming a stable unit with their mother; children who experience their biological father moving in and then out again by the age of seven and; children whose mothers form a stable union with a stepfather.

Researchers analysed data from the Millennium Cohort Study, a UK longitudinal study of around 19,000 children who were born in the UK between September 2000 and January 2002.

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People who watch entertainment TV are more likely to vote for populist politicians

People exposed to entertainment television are more likely to vote for populist politicians according to a new study co-authored by an economist at Queen Mary University of London.

The researchers investigated the political impact of entertainment television in Italy over the last 30 years during the phased introduction of Silvio Berlusconi’s commercial TV network Mediaset.

They compared the voting behaviours of people who lived in regions where Mediaset was broadcast versus those where Berlusconi’s network was unavailable. The researchers found that people who had access to Mediaset prior to 1985 — when the network only featured light entertainment — voted on average 1 percentage point more for Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, compared to municipalities that were exposed later as the network rolled out.

The researchers found that the effect persisted for almost two decades and five elections. It is especially pronounced among older people and young people, although it affected these groups in very different ways.

Author Dr Andrea Tesei from QMUL’s School of Economics and Finance said: “Our results suggest that individuals exposed to entertainment TV as children are less cognitively sophisticated and less socio-politically engaged as adults, and ultimately more vulnerable to Berlusconi’s populist rhetoric. Older people, on the other hand, appear to have been hooked by the light entertainment Mediaset provided and were later exposed to biased news content on the same channels.”

Less educated people (high-school dropouts in this case) who were exposed to entertainment TV voted three percentage points more for Forza Italia than their non-exposed counterparts (i.e. high-school dropouts in municipalities where Mediaset wasn’t available). People exposed to entertainment TV as children voted almost eight percentage points more for Berlusconi, compared to same-age individuals who were exposed later.

The researchers found that people who are exposed to entertainment TV as children are cognitively disadvantaged in later life. Those who were exposed as children score five per cent worse than their non-exposed peers in cognitive test as adults; they are also 13 per cent less likely to report an interest in politics, and 10 per cent less likely to be involved in a voluntary group.

The researchers found an even stronger effect among people who were already older (55+) when exposed to entertainment TV. This group voted on average by 10 percentage points more for Forza Italia than non-exposed voters of the same age. The study found that older people exposed to entertainment TV during the 1980s are 16 per cent more likely to report to watch news (traditionally slanted in favor of Berlusconi and introduced on Mediaset in 1992) on Mediaset channels which is traditionally slanted in favor of Berlusconi.

The researchers also found that exposure to entertainment TV does not just increase support for Berlusconi but also for other parties with similar populist features. Indeed, early access to Mediaset appears also to be associated with higher support for the Five-Star-Movement — led by former comedian Beppe Grillo — which first fielded candidates in 2013. These results suggest that Mediaset influenced political attitudes and voting behavior beyond its effect on Berlusconi’s party. In particular, the results suggest a relationship between exposure to light-fare TV and preferences for populist parties and leaders.

The researchers used a combination of research methods, including engineer-developed software to simulate TV signal propagation, econometric analysis based on municipal-level election data, and geo-referenced survey data.

Their results were significant and stood up when controlled for geographical and socio-economic characteristics at the municipal level.

Dr Tesei said: “Our results suggest that entertainment content can influence political attitudes, creating a fertile ground for the spread of populist messages. It’s the first major study to investigate the political effect of exposure among voters to a diet of ‘light’ entertainment. The results are timely as the United States adjusts to the Presidency of Donald Trump.”

The co-authors were Ruben Durante (Universitat Pompeu Fabra and Sciences Po) and Paolo Pinotti from Bocconi University. The research is published in a School of Economics and Finance (Queen Mary University of London) working paper.

Control factors:

The researchers first controlled for local measures of education and economic activity. Second they showed there are no pre-existing trends in voting for any political party before the introduction of Mediaset at the municipal level. Third, their methodology only relies on the signal intensity that is due to exogenous geographical characteristics (mountains, valleys).

The presence or absence of mountains interfering with the line of transmission between the municipality and the antenna is a matter of luck and is unrelated to any characteristic of the municipality. This effectively corresponds to exposing individuals (i.e. municipalities) to a random treatment (i.e. exposure to entertainment TV) and identifies the causal effect of exposure to entertainment TV on voting.

Find the paper online at: http://media.wix.com/ugd/a37348_243705eb069246ddadf39e773005a39a.pdf

 

Children prenatally exposed to alcohol more likely to have academic difficulties

Despite greater awareness of the dangers of prenatal exposure to alcohol, the rates of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders remain alarmingly high. This study evaluated academic achievement among children known to be prenatally exposed to maternal heavy alcohol consumption as compared to their peers without such exposure, and explored the brain regions that may underlie academic performance.

Researchers assessed two groups of children, eight to 16 years of age: 67 children with heavy prenatal alcohol exposure (44 boys, 23 girls) and 61 children who were not prenatally exposed to alcohol (33 boys, 28 girls). Scores on standardized tests of academic areas such as reading, spelling, and math were analyzed. In addition, a subsample of 42 children (29 boys, 13 girls) had brain imaging, which allowed the authors to examine the relations between the cortical structure (thickness and surface area) of their brains and academic performance.

The alcohol-exposed children performed significantly worse than their peers in all academic areas, with particular weaknesses found in math performance. Brain imaging revealed several brain surface area clusters linked to math and spelling performance. The children without prenatal alcohol exposure demonstrated the expected developmental pattern of better scores associated with smaller brain surface areas, which may be related to a typical developmental process known as pruning. However, alcohol-exposed children did not show this pattern, possibly due to atypical or delayed brain development, which has been observed in other research studies. These results support previous findings of lower academic performance among children prenatally exposed to alcohol compared to their peers, which appear to be associated with differences in brain development, and highlight the need for additional attention and support for these children.

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Most remaining smokers in US have low socioeconomic status

After decades of declining US smoking rates overall, most remaining smokers have low income, no college education, no health insurance or a disability, according to research from the Colorado School of Public Health at CU Anschutz.

About 15 percent of US adults — more than 36 million — continue to smoke cigarettes. Half to three-fourths of them have one or more low-socioeconomic disadvantages, and the lowest socioeconomic categories have the highest smoking rates. The study concludes that continuing tobacco use is now concentrated among the least advantaged portion of society.

“It’s unusual to find part of the population experiencing high rates of a health problem and also representing the majority of affected people,” said study author Arnold Levinson, associate professor of community and behavioral health at the Colorado School of Public Health at CU Anschutz. “But with smoking, we have this unusual situation: Americans with lower socioeconomic status today are suffering from epidemic smoking rates, and they make up nearly three-fourths of all our remaining smokers.”

The research, published February in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, used data from a national survey which the University of Colorado directed in 2012.

The continued epidemic can’t be blamed on lack of desire to quit or efforts to quit. According to the report, numerous studies have found no socioeconomic differences in smokers’ desires to quit or attempts to quit. Instead, the disparities persist and have widened because lower socioeconomic smokers who try to quit are less likely to succeed.

“In the last half-century, public health efforts helped cut the smoking rate by more than half, but we probably need to change our strategies for helping smokers quit,” Levinson said. “The methods that worked for the upper half of society don’t seem to be working well for the other half.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the US, causing more than 480,000 premature deaths every year, or one of every five deaths.

Levinson said, “Now the nation’s public health system has a dual moral obligation toward smokers of low socioeconomic class. We must eliminate the disparity in smoking rates, and we must provide cessation-supporting services to the new majority of smokers.”

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Age at immigration influences occupational skill development

The future occupations of U.S. immigrant children are influenced by how similar their native language is to English, finds a new study by scholars at Duke University and the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School.

“The more difficult it is for the child to learn English, the more likely they will invest in math/logic and physical skills over communications skills,” said co-author Marcos Rangel, an assistant professor of public policy and economics at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy. “It is really a story about what skills people who immigrated as children develop given the costs and benefits associated with the learning processes.”

Two factors strongly influence the skills immigrants use as adults, researchers found: immigration before the age of 10, and whether immigrants’ native language is linguistically distant from English.

Immigrants who arrive before the age of 10 pursue occupations very similar to those pursued by native-born Americans. They develop the same range of skills as native-borns, including communication, math/logic, socio-emotional and physical skills.

But for those who are older when they immigrate, the picture is different. After age 10, learning a second language is more difficult, and a child’s particular linguistic background matters more. Some languages, such as Vietnamese, are linguistically very distant from English. Children from those countries are more likely to major in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields than those whose native language is linguistically close to English, such as German.

“Late arrivals from English-distant countries develop a comparative advantage in math/logic, socio-emotional and physical skills relative to communication skills which ultimately generates the occupational segregation we are used to seeing in the labor market,” Rangel said.

The choice of majors made it clear that where these immigrants ended up in the labor market was not just because of different treatment by employers. It was also due to “the way the immigrants themselves look ahead and invest their time in becoming skilled in different tasks,” Rangel said.

The study, published online in the journal Demography on March 20, provides insight into why “some U.S. immigrants find it more attractive to invest in brawn rather than in brain, in mathematics rather than in poetry, in science rather than in history,” write Rangel and co-author Marigee Bacolod, associate professor of economics at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School’s Graduate School of Business and Public Policy.

“Public policy designed to improve the education of English-learners could potentially have distinct long-lasting effects over the assimilation of immigrant children and over the future distribution of skills within the U.S. workforce,” the authors conclude.

The researchers used data from the 1990 and 2000 U.S. Censuses, the 2009 to 2013 American Community Survey and the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and the Occupational Information Network. The researchers also used a measure developed by the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology to determine the distance of a language from English.

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How does spousal suicide affect bereaved spouse mentally, physically?

People bereaved by the suicide of a spouse were at increased risk for mental and physical disorders, suicidal behavior, death and adverse social events, according to a nationwide study based on registry data conducted in Denmark and published online by JAMA Psychiatry.

The study by Annette Erlangsen, Ph.D., of the Danish Research Institute for Suicide Prevention, Mental Health Centre, Copenhagen, and coauthors compared people bereaved by spousal suicide with the general population and people bereaved by spousal death of any other manner.

The study population included almost 3.5 million men (4,814 of whom were bereaved by spousal suicide) and more than 3.5 million women (10,793 of whom who were bereaved by spousal suicide).

Among the findings were:

  • Spouses bereaved by a partner’s suicide had higher risk than the general population of developing mental health disorders within five years of the loss.
  • Spouses bereaved by a partner’s suicide had elevated risk for developing physical disorders, such as cirrhosis and sleep disorders, which may be attributed to unhealthy coping styles, than the general population.
  • Spouses bereaved by a partner’s suicide were more likely to use more sick leave benefits, disability pension funds and municipal support than the general population.
  • Compared with spouses bereaved by other manners of death for a partner, those bereaved by suicide had higher risks for developing mental health disorders, suicidal behaviors and death.

The authors note most people bereaved by suicide do not experience health complications. The study design also cannot establish causality.

“Bereavement following suicide constitutes a psychological stressor and remains a public health burden. … More proactive outreach and linkage to support mechanisms is needed for people bereaved by spousal suicide to help them navigate their grief,” the article concludes.

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Why do people switch their language?

In physics, the movement of particles over time and space is called diffusion. Models of physical diffusion can also be applied to describe the movement of other things — even those that have nothing to do with physics at first sight. “The term interdisciplinary diffusion means using methods from physics to describe the spread of animals, diseases, rumours — or, in our case, languages. This approach allows us to study large amounts of data and play with different scenarios,” explains the study author Katharina Prochazka, a physicist and linguist.

“Microscopic” view of language movement

The interdisciplinary study is based on the principle of cellular automata which is combined here for the first time with detailed empirical data. In this method, the study area is divided into small cells which are all viewed individually as under a microscope. As a result, it is possible to capture changes in language movement on a very small scale. At the same time, the whole region is recorded and described — an advantage compared to other approaches which often only consider the percentage of speakers in the population and offer no information about spatial distribution.

Interaction as the driving force

In their research, Katharina Prochazka and Gero Vogl followed the language movement in Southern Carinthia, Austria, during the periods 1880-1910 and 1971-2001. In this region, two languages — Slovenian and German — interact with each other in an exceptionally well-documented linguistic “ecosystem.” “Our computer simulations show that interaction with other speakers of the same language is the driving force for language spread and retreat. The number of speakers of a language in the same village and the neighbourhood is, therefore, the most important factor. We were able to demonstrate and quantify this using physical methods,” reports Katharina Prochazka. The model developed in the study thus contributes to the fundamental understanding of language shift which happens in many places around the world and mostly affects minority languages.

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