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The Globe and Mail

Gorillas goo and gah to their babies too

Safiri, a gorilla, carries her newborn baby Kiburi in the zoo of Duisburg, Germany, on Feb. 18, 2011.


Gorillas' baby talk

" 'Do you want to play wiv mummy? Wocka-wocka-woo?' said the gorilla. Well, not quite, but older gorillas have been found to use a modified system of gestures when communicating with infants," writes Michael Marshall of the New Scientist. "Much like 'motherese,' the baby talk human parents use when talking to their children, the gorillas special gestures may help the infants to develop their own communication skills. … No other apes have been seen modifying their signals for infants, although rhesus macaques do change one call when directing it at infants."

Easy for them to say

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"The advice given at commencement addresses is always idealistic," writes Art Markham at Psychology Today. "Follow your dreams. Exercise your artistic side. Encourage people around you to excel. I suppose if it were easy to follow these ideals, it wouldn't be necessary to give graduation speeches about them. But it is fascinating that the advice people are most prone to give is different from the actions that people typically take. Why is that? An interesting paper in the June, 2012 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology … suggests that advice givers and advice takers differ in how abstractly they think about situations. … People giving advice are making suggestions for other people. So, advice givers will think about a situation more abstractly than advice takers. Because ideals are generally abstract concepts that people are trying to live up to, those ideals are more likely to make an appearance in advice than they are to play a role in actual choices."

Got an alibi?

"When a criminal suspect is unable to come up with a solid alibi for his whereabouts during a crime, it doesn't bode well for his case," says The Boston Globe. "But a recent study [in the journal Psychology, Crime & Law] found that alibis are harder to establish than you might think – even if you're innocent. Study participants were asked to come up with alibis … for two-hour time periods that were days or weeks in the past. Participants then attempted to verify their own alibis … Although nearly everyone came up with an alibi, only a small minority of alibis could be corroborated with even moderately credible evidence, and about a third of the alibis were 'mistaken.' "

Learning to look

"Today's signature move is the head swivel," writes Holly Finn in The Wall Street Journal. "It is the age of look-then-look-away. Our average attention span halved in a decade, from 12 to five minutes, according to a study commissioned by Lloyds TSB Insurance. (And that was in 2008.) We miss almost everything; we text while we walk. What makes a person stand out now is the ability to look and keep looking. But as global competition makes us manic about technology … we rush past the humanities, the very fields that teach us how and what to notice. … We need an intervention – and not the psychotherapeutic kind. A 'museum intervention' is now mandatory at Yale's School of Medicine for all first-year medical students. Called Enhancing Observational Skills, the program asks students to look at and then describe paintings – not Pollocks and Picassos but Victorian pieces, with whole people in them. The aim? To improve diagnostic knack."

How to avoid cold callers

A British man, reports Orange Co. UK, has resorted to extreme measures to deter cold-calling telephone salesmen – by adding an extra nine P's to his name. "Tim Pppppppppprice, 49, explained: 'It's pronounced Tim Per-per-per-per-per-per-per-per-per-per-rice. … My theory is that when these salesmen see my name on their list of names to call, they'll think: 'Blow that – I can't even pronounce his name, so I won't call him.' "

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Colourful Cuban names

"In many Latin American countries, traditional names like Jose or Isabel remain popular, but in Cuba anything goes. Parents just love to experiment," writes Sarah Rainsford for BBC News. "Immediately after the 1959 revolution, there was a surge in the number of Fidels, Rauls and Ernestos. But in the 1970s, imaginations really began to fly. That's when the letter Y, rarely used in Spanish names, became a hit with parents competing for ever more exotic sounding creations – Yulieski, Yumilis, Yaraleidis. Even so-called normal names were hijacked: Daniel became Yaniel. … The fashion for names with a Y faded over the years, but other trends have followed. 'There was Dansisy, for instance,' [recalls Cuban writer Jaime Sarusky], dating from the era of distorted foreign words. 'That meant they could dance well. Then there was Dayesi: that is Yes in three languages.' "

Thought du jour

"Some people like my advice so much that they frame it upon the wall instead of using it." – Gordon R. Dickson (1923-2001), science-fiction author

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