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Social Studies

Classify your friends, don't sit too long, food prescribed Add to ...

Good news, perhaps

"In spite of the cliché that opposites attract," Tom Jacobs writes for Miller-McCune magazine, "considerable research suggests couples - at least those who make long-term commitments - tend to have similar personalities. But are they attracted to one another because of their shared attitudes and beliefs, or do they grow to resemble one another over time? Research just published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences points to the former conclusion. It suggests spousal similarity is more a matter of initial choice than gradual convergence - with the apparent exception of one personality trait. … 'Aggression may be an exception to this general conclusion,' " writes a team led by Michigan State University psychologist Mikhila Humbad. "… 'It is possible that individuals might reinforce each other's aggressive tendencies due to hostile interpersonal exchanges, thereby promoting greater convergence over time,' they note."

Classify your friends

Today, the average Facebook user has 130 friends, Daniel Akst writes for The Wilson Quarterly. "Aristotle, who saw friendship as essential to human flourishing, shrewdly observed that it comes in three distinct flavours: those based on usefulness (contacts), on pleasure (drinking buddies) and on a shared pursuit of virtue - the highest form of all. True friends, he contended, are simply drawn to the goodness in one another, goodness that today we might define in terms of common passions and sensibilities."

Flagpole sitting back?

"A South Florida pastor who spent nearly three days living on a mechanical lift 50 feet [15 metres]in the air has come down from his lofty perch," Associated Press reports. "Pastor T.J. McCormick of Coastal Community Church had pledged to stay on the lift until 1,000 backpacks filled with school supplies were donated for kids in Collier City."

High-tech noodges

"Persuasive technologies" aim, essentially, to guilt and peer pressure us into being better people, John Sutter reports for CNN.com. Some examples he cites:

- "Imoveyou.com is the social network designed to persuade people to exercise more often by engaging them in quick "if/then" challenges with friends. A user might type a challenge like this into the site: 'I will walk the dog for 20 minutes if you will ride a unicycle around the block.' "

- GlowCaps are a simple idea. "A special cap fits on top of a standard pill bottle, and it lights up when the patient needs to take his or her medicine. The caps are also WiFi-enabled and send reports about how well a person is doing at sticking to his or her medication schedule."

- "In hybrid cars … display panels tell the driver how efficiently he or she is driving at any given moment. The Prius plots this information on a bar graph, as current miles per gallon. The Ford Fusion goes a step further, causing a digital plant to grow (or die) on the dashboard screen as a person's driving efficiency increases or decreases."

Don't sit too long

"Park officials in China have found a way to stop people from hogging their benches for too long - by fitting steel spikes on a coin-operated timer," Orange News U.K. reports. "If visitors at the Yantai Park in Shandong province, eastern China, linger too long without feeding the meter, dozens of sharp spikes shoot through the seat. The spikes are too short to cause any serious harm - but long enough to prevent people from sitting on them comfortably. Park bosses got the idea from an art installation in Germany where sculptor Fabian Brunsing created a similar bench as a protest against the commercialization of modern life."

Food prescribed

"The farm stand is becoming the new apothecary, dispensing apples - not to mention artichokes, asparagus and arugula - to fill a novel kind of prescription," Natasha Singer writes for The New York Times. "Doctors at three health centres in Massachusetts have begun advising patients to eat 'prescription produce' from local farmers' markets, in an effort to fight obesity in children of low-income families. Now they will give coupons amounting to $1 a day for each member of a patient's family to promote healthy meals. 'A lot of these kids have a very limited range of fruits ands vegetables that are acceptable and familiar to them. Potentially, they will try more,' said Dr. Suki Tepperberg, a family physician at Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester, one of the program sites. 'The goal is to get them to increase their consumption of fruit and vegetables by one serving a day.' "

Thought du jour

"Facts are what pedantic dull people have instead of opinions. Opinions are always interesting. Facts are only scaffolding, the trellis up which bright opinions grow."

- A. A. Gill

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