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Social Studies

Less studying nowadays, the proverbial male, grandmother whales Add to ...

Soccer? Ho hum

"Americans are frequently accused of being parochial for not loving soccer as much as some countries do, but we're in good company," Allen Barra writes for The Wall Street Journal. "In China, soccer is popular, but no more so than ping-pong and basketball are. … In fact, in seven of the top 10 countries ranked by world population, representing well over 50 per cent of all the warm bodies on Earth, soccer is not the most popular sport. … To be sure, soccer is the world's most popular sport, but rather in the same way that one might call rice the world's most popular food. In many places, it's all that's available or that most people can afford."

Less studying nowadays

"It is a fundamental part of college education: the idea that young people don't just learn from lectures, but on their own, holed up in the library with books and, perhaps, a trusty yellow highlighter," Keith O'Brien writes for The Boston Globe. "But new research, conducted by two California economics professors, shows that over the past five decades, the number of hours that the average [U.S.]college student studies each week has been steadily dropping. According to time-use surveys analyzed by professors Philip Babcock, at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Mindy Marks, at the University of California, Riverside, the average student at a four-year college in 1961 studied about 24 hours a week. Today's average student hits the books for just 14 hours."

The proverbial male

"Hey, nobody's perfect, right? After all, you live and learn. Everybody makes mistakes, and it's well known that experience is the best teacher," Tom Jacobs writes for Miller-McCune.com. "String them together, and these familiar proverbs start to sound suspiciously like rationalizations for questionable behaviour. They reinforce our threatened egos by insisting the offence we just committed, or mistake we just made, wasn't really so terrible after all. And according to new research, they work - for men. It appears women's consciences aren't so easily assuaged. Those are the findings of a study by psychologist Dan Stalder of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, just published in the journal Current Research in Social Psychology. He reports that, for males only, such adages reduce the uncomfortable feelings of cognitive dissonance that arise when our behaviour conflicts with our value system or positive self-image."

Who needs toast?

In Seed magazine, reviewer Eric Michael Johnson writes: "For the husband and wife team Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha in their new book Sex At Dawn … there is little doubt that human beings are an exceedingly sexual species. As an example they detail how in 1902 the first home-use vibrator was patented and approved for domestic use in the United States. Fifteen years later, there were more vibrators than toasters in American homes."

Grandmother whales

"Scientists have discovered an evolutionary reason why humans and whales both have grandmothers," BBC News reports. "As post-menopausal females age, the researchers say, they become increasingly interested and helpful in rearing their 'grandchildren.' This could help explain why female great apes and toothed whales (cetaceans) have lifespans that extend long beyond their reproductive years. They report the findings in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B."

Just along for the ride?

"Studies have found that upon entering an office, people behave more competitively when they see a sharp leather briefcase on the desk, they talk more softly when there is a picture of a library on the wall, and they keep their desk tidier when there is a vague scent of cleaning agent in the air," Eben Harrell reports for Time magazine. "But none of them are consciously aware of the influence of their environment. … In an intriguing review in the July 2 edition of the journal Science, published online [last week] Ruud Custers and Henk Aarts of Utrecht University in the Netherlands lay out the mounting evidence of the power of what they term the 'unconscious will.' … Custers says that it is true that our conscious selves are sometimes voyagers on a vessel of which they have little control, but he does not see this as a cause for helplessness. 'We have to trust that our unconscious sense of what we want and what is good for us is strong, and will lead us largely in the right direction.' "

Kicking sandcastles

In Italy, "More than 150 'public security' laws have been introduced since Silvio Berlusconi, the prime minister, granted extra powers to local councils to help them crack down on crime and anti-social behaviour," The Daily Telegraph reports. "… The coastal town of Eraclea, near Venice, prohibits the building of sandcastles on the beaches because they can 'obstruct the passage' of people strolling."

Thought du jour

"The most important thing in a relationship between a man and a woman is that one of them should be good at taking orders."

- Linda Festa

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