intellectual vanities… about close to everything

Archive for October 2007

Trick or treat…

leave a comment »

… Smell my feet.
Give me something good to eat !!!

The history of “Trick’O’Treating” can be traced back to the early celebrations of All Soul’s Day in Britain. The poor would go begging and the housewives would give them special treats called “soulcakes”. This was called “going a-souling”, and the “soulers” would promise to say a prayer for the dead.

Over time the custom changed and the town’s children became the beggars. As they went from house to house they would be given apples, buns, and money.

During the Pioneer days of the American West, the housewives would give the children candy to keep from being tricked. The children would shout “Trick or Treat!”.

The sneakiest, creepiest surprise this Halloween may actually be in the candy dish. In a study being presented this Saturday at the American Heart Association conference in Orlando shows that people at only half as many mini-size Halloween candies when they kept the wrappers in plain sight The sneakiest, creepiest surprise this Halloween may actually be in the candy dish.

In a study being presented this Saturday at the American Heart Association conference in Orlando shows that people ate almost half as many mini-size Halloween candies when they kept the wrappers in plain sight, according to lead author, Brian Wansink, author of “Mindless Eating”. Having a visual reminder of how much they ate, keeps you honest and eating less,” said Wansink, “Your stomach can’t count, but your eyes can when they seen the empty wrappers.

“Mindless Eating” offers additional strategies you can employ this Halloween to reengineer your environment and help you and your kids mindlessly eat better:

1) Out of sight, out of mind.

If you keep a candy dish with a whole potpourri of Halloween candy on your desk at work, rather than just dumping it, move it away 5, 10 feet. In studies done with secretaries with dishes of chocolate candy on their desk, we found that by simply moving the candy dishes farther away, the secretaries ate considerably less. It takes more work to get up and walk to the opposite side of the room to grab a Hershey’s kiss than when it’s sitting right next to your stack of papers that needs to be faxed.
Similarly, when your kids come home after hours of trick-or-treating, don’t just empty out their pillow cases onto a serving bowl in the middle of the dining room table and let everyone have at it whenever they want. You’ll quickly find your kids spending as much time at the dining room table as they do in front of the TV.

2) Don’t give up your job as nutritional gatekeeper.

Control the amount your family eats — let your kids enjoy the fruits (would that it were literal) of their labor a little bit, and then take away the stash. Divvy it out over a period of time — perhaps allow a couple pieces after they’ve eaten their dinner, set a limit of x number of pieces a day, etc. etc. How you go about it is up to you, but remember your job as the nutritional gatekeeper. After all, without you monitoring your family’s consumption, Halloween will not only come once a year, it will last just one day.

3) Redesign your daily eating habits to accommodate the extra calories that Halloween brings on.

Let’s face it — if kids can go out and get a bag full of free candy, chances are it’s not going to go to waste. But don’t let it be tacked in addition to other unhealthy eating habits. For instance, if your kids have a “goody” every night after dinner, let the Halloween candy be the “goody” that takes the place of the ice cream, brownies, or whatever they normally might have. The same goes for you — if you’re eating out November 2 and can’t decide whether you want dessert, remember that you probably have a considerable amount of Halloween candy left over at home. If you were to order dessert, you’d still be likely to, when you got home, sneak in a Twizzlers or Snickers bar.

Beyond “Mindless Eating”:

4) Back to the roots.

What should be wrong, actually, in going back to apples and buns? I admit, children were kinda shocked, when I tried to buy out from being tricked without at least chocolate. OK, they did not take the fruit, but they did not trick me either. Old trick: confuse the enemy, or, scientifically spoken: confusion as environmental cue that decrease food intake 😉 It is known as “disrupt-then-reframe” from sales strategies…


Customer Manipulation By Means Of Confusion

Written by huehueteotl

October 31, 2007 at 12:17 pm

One In Seven Americans Over Age 70 Has Dementia

leave a comment »

Given the age pyramid, this probably explains the latest presidential election results…

male female
Population of the United States, by Age and Sex,
1950-2050 (millions)

Written by huehueteotl

October 31, 2007 at 11:58 am

TV Is The Opium of The People

leave a comment »

“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.” (Karl Marx: Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, p 1)

‘The foundation of irreligious media criticism is this: Man makes TV, TV does not make man. TV is indeed man’s self-consciousness and self-awareness so long as he has not found himself or has already lost himself again. But, man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man — state, society. This state and this society produce media, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. media are the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against media religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion. Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering.’ Sounds familiar? It is K. M. too, just one paragraph above the mentioned quote, and actually deals with religion. Where media render a magical outlook on the world they are a fair replacement of religion as opium of the people. And as such, they seem to hamper educational achievement in science on top of it.

In his doctoral thesis, Finnish PISA Researcher Pasi Reinikainen studied the country-specific factors connected to the science achievement of eighth-grade students in Finland, England, Hungary, Japan, Russia and Latvia. He found that factors influential to students’ academic performance differ between countries.

Instead of mimicking others, nations should focus on developing further the national factors connected to students’ good or weak achievement, says Finnish researcher Pasi Reinikainen (Credit: iStockphoto)

t is naïve to think that some countries could improve their students’ achievement by copying some features of, say, the Finnish educational system and then pasting them on to their own educational systems. The national systems and cultures just cannot be changed so easily. Instead of mimicking others, nations should focus on developing further the national factors connected to students’ good or weak achievement, says Reinikainen.Focusing on national features is the key to better educational achievement

Reinikainen’s doctoral thesis shows some specific national and cultural features, which the parents and teachers, as well as the research and development of educational systems, should focus on in their attempts to improve the students’ science achievement.

Parents of Finnish students should be aware of the amount of time their children spend watching TV and monitor the programmes their children watch. The time Finnish students spend watching TV correlates negatively with their achievement in science. Watching news, nature programmes and documents, however, seems to have a positive effect on science achievement, Reinikainen explains.

In England, attention should be paid to test frequency. Students who were given tests almost continuously were found to score lower in science than those who were given tests rarely or not at all. The schools giving frequent quizzes and tests, and the nature of these exams, call for further study.

The Hungarian educational system could be improved by making the students do less pair and group work, as they were found to be connected to weak science achievement. Project work was found to have a similar effect.

Often only a few students in the group focus on the task at hand, while the others merely look on. The teachers could take a more active role in guiding group and project work, Reinikainen says.

In Japan, parents should pay attention to the ways their children spend their time. Japanese students do not normally have much spare time since school or school-related activities take a lion’s share of their time. In Japan, the time students spend with their friends has a negative effect on science achievement.

In Latvia, student-centered approach in teaching predicts weaker science achievement and, in Russia, memorizing textbook material and relying on good luck turned out to be very weak learning strategies.

Ranking lists of comparative achievement studies misleading

There is currently a worldwide boom of large-scale international comparative student achievement studies. However, the major outcome of these studies (PISA, TIMSS, CIVICS, etc.) seems to be numerous ranking lists of separate educational contents.

These rankings are not necessarily linked with student learning outcomes in the studied countries, and can often be misleading if used in educational policy making. Huge databases are collected in these assessments but unfortunately the information is often not utilized to its full potential.

Reinikainen’s doctoral dissertation utilized one of these databases, TIMSS 1999, and explored it much deeper than merely to produce a ranking list. The goal of his study was to reveal significant predictors of student science achievement in Finland, England, Hungary, Japan, Latvia and Russia, and to explain the various cultural situations where those achievements have been made.

Source: “Sequential Explanatory Study of Factors Connected with Science Achievement in Six Countries: Finland, England, Hungary, Japan, Latvia and Russia. Study based on TIMSS 1999” has been published as nr. 22 in the series: JyvĂ€skylĂ€ Institute for Educational Research. 263 pages. JyvĂ€skylĂ€ 2007. ISSN 1455-447X, ISBN 978-951-39-2953-4 (print), ISBN 978-951-39-2954-1

Written by huehueteotl

October 31, 2007 at 11:52 am

Sleep Well And Think Better

with 2 comments

Don’t worry, midday snooze will not ruin a good night’s sleep – research from NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center indicates that napping has little effect on sleep onset. And a nap today may be even beneficial for mental processing tomorrow, at least in the elderly.

Napping has little effect on sleep onset — and that a nap today may be beneficial for mental processing tomorrow, researchers say. (Credit: iStockphoto/Scott Dunlap)

People over age 60 sleep two hours less per night than their younger counterparts. Patricia Murphy and Scott Campbell, associate director and director, respectively, of the Human Chronobiology Laboratory at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell, have evidence that a midday nap may improve daytime performance and mood in the elderly. They hold that this might be true for others too.

Their research subjects are all normal sleepers. “By learning more about how normal people sleep, we may gain a better understanding of what is happening in the bodies and minds of those with sleep disorders,” says Murphy.

Study participants spend several sessions in the sleep lab, attached to scalp electrodes and a wrist activity monitor that record their sleep and wakefulness states. They are then asked to perform arithmetic, decision-making and reaction time tests after napping and on the following day.

The subjects showed improved cognitive performance immediately after a nap and into the next day, when compared with days that didn’t include (and weren’t preceded by a day with) a nap. Napping did not seem to affect nighttime sleep.



J Am Geriatr Soc. 2005 Jan;53(1):48-53.!– var Menu15667375 = [ [“UseLocalConfig”, “jsmenu3Config”, “”, “”], [“LinkOut”, “’’ “, “”, “”] ] –>


Effects of a nap on nighttime sleep and waking function in older subjects.


Campbell SS, Murphy PJ, Stauble TN.

Laboratory of Human Chronobiology, Department of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medical College, White Plains, New York 10605, USA. <>

OBJECTIVES: To examine, in older subjects, the effect on waking function of increasing 24-hour sleep amounts by providing a nap opportunity; to assess what effects an afternoon nap may have on subsequent nighttime sleep quality and composition. DESIGN: Two-session, within-subject laboratory design. SETTING: The study was conducted in the Laboratory of Human Chronobiology at Weill Cornell Medical College. PARTICIPANTS: Thirty-two healthy men and women aged 55 to 85. MEASUREMENTS: Polysomnography (sleep electroencephalogram), cognitive and psychomotor performance, body core temperature. RESULTS: Napping had little effect on subsequent nighttime sleep quality or duration, resulting in a significant increase in 24-hour sleep amounts. Such increased sleep resulted in enhanced cognitive and psychomotor performance immediately after the nap and throughout the next day. CONCLUSION: A behavioral approach that adds daytime sleep to the 24-hour sleep quota seems worthy of consideration when presented with a situation in which physiological changes associated with aging may limit the duration of nighttime sleep.

see also:

Chronic Insomnia Can Lead To Anxiety And Depression

Chronically Lacking Sleep? You Can’t Make Up For It

sleep well

not sleepy yet? there are more entries on this topic (yawn)…


Written by huehueteotl

October 31, 2007 at 11:37 am

Even Optimism Has Its Economic Pitfalls

leave a comment »

People who are optimistic are more likely than others to display prudent financial behaviors, according to new research from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

But too much optimism can be a problem: people who are extremely optimistic tend to have short planning horizons and act in ways that are generally not considered wise.

Manju Puri and David Robinson, professors of finance at Duke, report that the differences between optimists and extreme optimists provide important insights into the interaction between psychology and economic and lifestyle choices.

Puri and Robinson developed a novel method to assess individuals’ levels of optimism, drawing on data from the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finance (SCF), a triennial assessment of U.S. families’ financial and demographic information. Although the SCF does not ask about optimism directly, it does ask respondents how long they expect to live. It also collects demographics, and health-related information–the same sort of information that actuaries use to estimate life expectancy.

The Duke researchers combined these data to determine participants’ statistical life expectancies. Then they compared the statistical and self-reported life expectancies and categorized anyone who expected to live longer than the data predicted as an optimist.

“Most of the information we needed was already there, but we had to create a new way of combining it with other existing data in order to extract meaning about optimism,” Puri said.

Puri and Robinson also labeled as “extreme optimists” the top 5 percent of optimists, those who think they will live an average of 20 years longer than is statistically likely.

Optimism indeed relates to a large number of behaviors, they found. In small doses optimism can lead to wise decision making, but extreme optimists “display financial habits and behavior that are generally not considered prudent,” the authors wrote.

Puri and Robinson find that optimists:

  • Work longer hours;
  • Invest in individual stocks;
  • Save more money;
  • Are more likely to pay their credit card balances on time;
  • Believe their income will grow over the next five years;
  • Plan to retire later (or not at all);
  • Are more likely to remarry (if divorced).

In comparison, extreme optimists:

  • Work significantly fewer hours;
  • Hold a higher proportion of individual stocks in their portfolios, and are more likely to be day traders;
  • Save less money;
  • Are less likely to pay off their credit card balances on a regular basis;
  • Are more likely to smoke.

“The differences between optimists and extreme optimists are remarkable, and suggest that over-optimism, like overconfidence, may in fact lead to behaviors that are unwise,” said Puri.

The findings could lead to useful ways to consider individuals’ investment and career planning decisions, and help people understand or overcome personality characteristics that can negatively affect important financial decisions, the authors say.

“Doctors tell us that one or two glasses of red wine a day can be really healthy,” Robinson said. “But no one tells you to drink the whole bottle. It’s the same with optimism. A little bit is really beneficial, but too much can lead to some really bad economic choices.”

 Source:   Journal of Financial Economics, October 2007

Written by huehueteotl

October 30, 2007 at 9:51 am

Resistance Is Futile – Chocolate Wins

leave a comment »

A research project carried out by a University of Hertfordshire academic has found that thought suppression can lead people to engage in the very behaviour they are trying to avoid.

Both males and females who suppressed thoughts of chocolate ate significantly more than those in the control condition, researchers found. (Credit: iStockphoto/Liza McCorkle)

It also found that men who think about chocolate end up eating more of it than women who have the same thoughts.

In his research project, Dr Erskine looked at the effect of thought suppression on action and used eating and chocolate to investigate this further.

He invited 134 young people (67 males and 67 females) with an average age of 22 years to investigate how thinking can affect taste preference. They were given a taste preference task, where they were asked to try two brands of chocolate and answer a questionnaire and they were also given two periods of thought verbalisation where they would have to verbalise their thoughts while alone. Additionally, they were given specific topics to try to think or not to think about.

The results indicated that there is a clear behavioural rebound among both male and female participants and both males and females who suppressed thoughts of chocolate ate significantly more than those in the control condition. Secondly, for males, actively thinking about chocolate can enhance subsequent consumption of that food.

“These findings open the door to a whole host of potential candidates for such effects,” said Dr Erskine. “For example, does trying not to think about having another drink make it more likely, or does trying not to think, or to think aggressively lead to aggressive behaviour? These questions are vitally important if we are to understand the ways in which thought control engenders the very behaviour one wanted to avoid.”

Appetite Article in Press, Accepted Manuscript

doi:10.1016/j.appet.2007.09.006 Copyright © 2007 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Resistance can be futile investigating behavioural rebound

James A.K. Erskinea,

see also:

How To Say “No”

Don’t just eat chucklit guys

eat chocolate, guys!

Written by huehueteotl

October 29, 2007 at 4:48 pm

Cancer Or Security – Visual Screening Wrong In One Third Of Tries

leave a comment »

That fleeting moment of regret between clicking the wrong icon and seeing an unwanted web page pop onto the screen could make a huge difference in improving the accuracy of visual searches in medicine and homeland security.

Visual screening is critical to such things as early cancer diagnosis and airport security, but paradoxically the more rare the object being searched for becomes, the lower the screeners’ accuracy in finding it when it is there. Screeners also tend to respond more quickly when the targets become more rare.

“Even though they’re not under time pressure, people tend to hurry,” said Stephen Mitroff, an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. “They get used to not seeing anything and they’re just hitting that key over and over.”

When people are asked to search for an item that will appear only once in 100 images, they might miss as many as a third of the objects they’re supposed to be finding. Studies of radiologists looking at images to find cancer have shown similar error rates.

But those error rates fall by more than half if test subjects are given the opportunity to immediately reconsider and correct their choices, according to a new study by Mitroff and Duke graduate student Mathias Fleck.

“The high error rate in studies of rare targets appears to come from what we call execution errors — the observers did notice the target, but they responded too quickly,” Fleck said. The sensation should be familiar to most web- and channel-surfers.

But that’s not all there is to it, Fleck added. Studies that tracked the eye movements of trained radiologists found their gaze tended to linger longer on a trouble spot in an image, even when the radiologist went on to say the picture was clear. Their visual system partially picked up on the problem, but the viewer ultimately didn’t recognize the target, Fleck said. So, rare-target errors are both in perception and action.

Each issue should be dealt with separately to improve airport security and cancer screening, Mitroff and Fleck recommend. Perhaps moving the airport screener to a spot where somewhere where the screeners can’t feel the unconscious time pressure of seeing a long line of travelers would help.

The next phase of the Duke research will compare experienced video game players against non-gamers in visual searching tasks. Fleck’s hunch is that the gamers, who spend a lot of time coordinating their hand movements with visual decisions, have a higher accuracy rate at the search-and-click tests. Whether their improved accuracy comes from being able to see faster or to click slower remains to be seen.

Psychol Sci. 2007 Nov;18(11):943-7.

Rare targets are rarely missed in correctable search.

Fleck MS, Mitroff SR.

Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University.

Failing to find a tumor in an x-ray scan or a gun in an airport baggage screening can have dire consequences, making it fundamentally important to elucidate the mechanisms that hinder performance in such visual searches. Recent laboratory work has indicated that low target prevalence can lead to disturbingly high miss rates in visual search. Here, however, we demonstrate that misses in low-prevalence searches can be readily abated. When targets are rarely present, observers adapt by responding more quickly, and miss rates are high. Critically, though, these misses are often due to response-execution errors, not perceptual or identification errors: Observers know a target was present, but just respond too quickly. When provided an opportunity to correct their last response, observers can catch their mistakes. Thus, low target prevalence may not be a generalizable cause of high miss rates in visual search.

Written by huehueteotl

October 29, 2007 at 4:35 pm