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social studies

Brain’s pain-killing powers work better in agreeable people Add to ...

Placebos better for nice people

“Having an agreeable personality might make you popular at work and lucky in love,” says Scientific American Mind. “It may also enhance your brain’s built-in painkilling powers, boosting the placebo effect. Researchers at the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina and the University of Maryland administered standard personality tests to 50 healthy volunteers. … Each volunteer then received a painful injection, followed by a placebo – a sham painkiller. The volunteers who were resilient, straightforward or altruistic experienced a greater reduction in pain from the placebo, compared with volunteers who had a so-called angry hostility personality trait.”

The advantage of smallness

“Big dogs apparently die younger mainly because they age more quickly,” reports NBCNews.com. New research could help unravel the biological links between growth and mortality, scientists told NBC. “Normally, across species, larger mammals live longer than their smaller counterparts. For instance, elephants can get up to 70 years old in the wild, while house mice reach only four years. Puzzlingly, within species, the opposite seems true – in mice, horses and perhaps even humans.”

Being mean can backfire

A new study discovers that when people do things to purposely shun or banish others, they actually end up being equally distressed by the experience, reports Psych Central. “In real life and in academic studies, we tend to focus on the harm done to victims in cases of social aggression,” said co-author Dr. Richard Ryan, professor of clinical and social psychology at the University of Rochester. “This study shows that when people bend to pressure to exclude others, they also pay a steep personal cost. Their distress is different from the person excluded, but no less intense.”

Survival of the friendliest

“Since Herbert Spencer coined the phrase ‘survival of the fittest,’ people often think of the Hobbesian notion of nature as red in tooth and claw,” evolutionary anthropologist Brian Hare tells the New Scientist. “And, of course, many species do use aggression to stay on top. But nature is also replete with examples of species evolving to be friendlier, more tolerant and social. In those cases, the ones which are able to survive by being friendly can out-compete those which are less friendly. Dogs as a species became more tolerant and as a result are one of the most successful mammals in the history of the planet – in terms of quality of life, numbers, distribution. I don’t think there’s any place that humans have gone that dogs have not also gone – even space! If you compare dogs with wolves, that population that decided to eat garbage [left by humans], boy, did they make the right decision.”

Never leave the office?

Interactive car windshields will “transform the car into a mobile office – safely,” according to Harmon, a technology firm. “Harmon’s head up display (HUD) shows the driver things like speed and distance to the car in front, incoming phone calls with the picture of the caller, weather conditions, arrows for navigation, directions and warnings of looming collisions,” says The Daily Telegraph. “This is a large amount of information being delivered into the driver’s line of sight, but Hans Roth, Harman’s director of technology, believes the information is delivered seamlessly enough that it won’t be distracting nor dangerous. With a wave of the hand, Roth demonstrates how a driver could reject incoming information and silence phone calls, should they feel the need. HUD technology is already present in various luxury cars.”

Thought du jour

“Two may talk together under the same roof for many years, yet never really meet; and two others at first speech are old friends.”

Mary Catherwood, U.S. writer (1847-1901)

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