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(Thinkstock/Thinkstock)
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Social studies

Teeth make an impression Add to ...

Spotted by the teeth

“People tend to pick out a face in the crowd more quickly when teeth are visible – whether smiling or snarling – than a face with a particular expression,” reports Psych Central. “The results counter the long held ‘face-in-the-crowd’ theory that proposes angry faces as being the most readily detected in a large group. ‘The research … essentially deals with the question of how we detect social signals of friendly or unfriendly intent in the human face,’ said author Gernot Horstmann, PhD, of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research and department of psychology at Bielefeld University, Germany. ‘Our results indicate that contrary to previous assertions, detection of smiles or frowns is relatively slow in crowds of neutral faces, whereas toothy grins and snarls are quite easily detected.’”

Drunk with power

“Why is it said that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely?” writes Vicki Haddock of The San Francisco Chronicle. “What is it about the psychology of power that leads people to behave differently – and, too often, badly? Those are some of the questions intriguing a group of social scientists, many of them at Stanford University and UC Berkeley. In the past few years, their research has zeroed in on what an intoxicating elixir power can be. And one thing has become clear: The phrase ‘drunk with power’ is often a dead-on description. These new studies show that power acts to lower inhibitions, much the same as alcohol does. ‘It explains why powerful people act with great daring and sometimes behave rather like gorillas,’ said psychologist Cameron Anderson, assistant professor at UC Berkeley who has studied power dynamics.”

Checking on customs

Bolivian customs officers are to be forced to carry special pens, with a hidden camera and voice recorder, in a crackdown on corruption, Orange News UK says. “The government initiative was announced by customs director Marlene Ardaya, who will be issued with her own pen. … She explained that the voice recorders will remain active during all working hours, reports the BBC. The authorities said officials would be selected randomly to have the recordings in their devices checked. The Bolivian Customs Department, with more than 1,000 employees, is seen as one of the most corrupt areas of the government in the South American country.”

Drones come home

“Most Americans have gotten used to regular news reports about military and CIA drones attacking terrorist suspects – including U.S. citizens – in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere abroad,” says The Christian Science Monitor. “By some [U.S.] government estimates, as many as 30,000 drones could be part of intelligence gathering and law enforcement here in the United States within the next 10 years. Operated by agencies down to the local level, this would be in addition to the 110 current and planned drone activity sites run by the military services in 39 states, reported … by the Federation of American Scientists, a non-government research project.”

Collecting graffiti

“It’s getting a lot tougher for taggers to get away with scrawling their graffiti across [San Diego] county,” reports The Union-Tribune newspaper. “A relatively new system is making anonymity difficult and prosecutions easier. Word is getting out, say officials. … At the beginning of last year, the county’s Board of Supervisors announced the launch of a regional pilot project to combat graffiti. The effort uses as its main tool a tracking system that allows law enforcement to link incidents to each other across jurisdictions. The results have been impressive. For instance, one adult suspect was caught writing the moniker ‘SLOW’ on a sidewalk in Imperial Beach last year. Through a review of Graffiti Tracker, he was linked to 218 other incidents. He was prosecuted and pleaded guilty with restitution in the amount of $87,018 (U.S.) to the city of Imperial Beach. He was sentenced to a year in jail and five years’ probation. Graffiti Tracker is a Web-based intelligence sharing and analysis service that allows photographs and location of graffiti incidents to be submitted into a national database. The system uses expensive cameras equipped with Global Positioning components. Reports are then generated that include information and statistics regarding the name or group moniker and location and size of incidents.”

Need an alibi?

“If you find yourself accused of a crime, your best defence might just be to say you were busy watching porn on your computer,” says The Boston Globe. “In a recent study, people judged a suspect whose alibi was watching an X-rated movie as more believable and less likely to be guilty than a suspect whose alibi was watching a regular movie.”

Thought du jour

“Knowledge does not keep any better than fish.”

Alfred North Whitehead

British philosopher (1861-1947)

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