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Creative? You might be more likely to cheat

Beware creative types

"Creative people think 'outside the box,' a gift of psychological flexibility that, it turns out, may also apply to their ethics, according to the latest research from the American Psychological Association. Creative types, in other words, may be more likely to cheat," says "The same enterprising mind that allows creative people to consider new possibilities, generate original ideas and resolve conflicts innovatively may be what also helps them justify their own dishonest behaviour, said the authors of the new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology."

Optimist versus pessimist

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"A New York man operating in the dark of night swapped out an old poem with a pessimistic theme in the Times Square subway station for one with a positive tone," says United Press International. "The gloomy poem loomed over transit users for 20 years, the New York Daily News reported. The original eight-line poem, called The Commuter's Lament, reads: "Overslept, so tired, if late, get fired. Why bother? Why the pain? Just go home, do it again.' 'Every time I passed it, I thought, 'Wow, that's a really depressing poem to have in the heart of New York City," said Josh Botwinick, 20, of Riverdale, who papered over the sign Saturday night with his girlfriend Margot Reinstein, 20, of Teaneck, N.J. 'I took the same poem and just made it more optimistic,' he said. Mr. Botwinick changed 'Overslept' into 'Overexited,' and 'So Tired' into 'Energized.' … Marsha Stern-Colp, the widow of the original artist, Norman Colp, complained of the revamping. 'Why be optimistic in these times?' asked Ms. Stern-Colp, 66. 'Be realistic – life sucks. You get through it the best you can.' "

Middle-aged strivers

"In our culture, competitiveness is usually associated with youth," says. "Think of sporting contests, music competitions (both of the classic virtuoso and pop diva varieties), or the pressure-packed process of applying to prestigious universities. It now appears watching eager young performers in action may have skewed our view of the competitive urge. Newly published research suggests the instinct to bet on the superiority of one's skills peaks around age 50. A research team led by University of Oregon psychologist Ulrich Mayr reports this pattern holds true for both men and women, although the willingness of women to compete is consistently lower than that of men throughout the age span." Their study is published in the journal Psychology and Aging.

Old and slower to decide

"Decision-making takes time when we reach the golden years – but not necessarily because older people have a more cautious outlook on life," says the New Scientist. "It might just reflect a lack of the connections to a brain area needed for speedy responses. One explanation for the slowdown is that older people are reluctant to commit the errors associated with a swift response. Birte Forstmann at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, has another theory. She asked 12 young people – around 25 years old – and 12 older people – average age 65 – to decide whether most of the dots in a cloud were moving to the right or the left. Even when told to respond more quickly, the older participants couldn't match the speed of the youngsters."

When toads get jumpy

"Animals could be used to predict earthquakes," says The Telegraph, "because certain species are able to sense chemical changes in groundwater immediately before seismic activity, a study suggests. Experts began investigating the theory after a colony of toads was observed abandoning a pond in l'Aquila, Italy, in 2009, days before the devastating earthquake. They believe that stressed rocks in the Earth's crust release charged particles before an earthquake, which react with groundwater. Animals living in or near groundwater, such as toads, are highly sensitive to such changes. … Although not the first example of abnormal animal activity observed prior to earthquakes, the case of the L'Aquila toads was different in that they were being studied in detail at the time."

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Thought du jour

Poetry's role is to provide spontaneous individual candour as distinct from manipulators and brainwash.

- Allen Ginsberg (1926-97), American poet

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