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No substitute for the soothing effect of mom's voice

Galina Barskaya/iStockphoto

No substitute for mom's voice

"Instant messages are ubiquitous and convenient, but something primal may be lost in translation," reports Wired magazine. "When girls, stressed by a test, talked with their moms, stress hormones dropped and comfort hormones rose. When they used IM, nothing happened. By the study's neurophysiological measures, IM was barely different than not communicating at all. 'IM isn't really a substitute for in-person or over-the-phone interaction in terms of the hormones released,' said anthropologist Leslie Seltzer of the University of Wisconsin, lead author of the new study [published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior] 'People still need to interact the way we evolved to interact.' … According to Dr. Seltzer, the results suggest that mom's voice – its tones and intonations and rhythms, known formally as prosodics – triggers soothing effects, rather than what she specifically says."

New and improved? In theory

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"Auto companies have made great strides in improving engine efficiency in recent decades," says The Christian Science Monitor. "But those improvements haven't done much to improve the fuel economy of America's passenger car fleet. Instead, consumers have 'spent' most of these efficiency improvements on bigger, faster cars. … This is a fine example of a very common phenomenon: consumers often 'spend' technological improvements in ways that partially offset the direct effect of the improvement. If you make engines more efficient, consumers purchase heavier cars. If you increase fuel economy, consumers drive more. If you give hikers cellphones, they go to riskier places. If you make low-fat cookies, people eat more. And on and on. People really do respond to incentives."

Pain prompts giving

"Social scientists, politicians and charities spend a lot of time trying to understand what makes people contribute to a cause," says The Boston Globe. "A new study has found an intriguing answer: pain. In several experiments, people were more willing to donate money to benefit victims of tragedy if the prospective fund-raiser took the form of a long-distance run, rather than a picnic. And it wasn't only charitable causes that benefited from pain. When people were deciding how much of their own money to contribute to a group investment, they contributed significantly more to the group when told that their contribution also required immersing their hands in very cold water for a minute."

War games

"The United States army will introduce its own brand of video gaming peripherals as part of promotion efforts targeting young men, it's been announced. The range of weapons and communications gear will be designed to work with some of the world's most popular titles, such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3," The Daily Telegraph reports.

Electronics and estates

"Death in the digital age is a lot more complicated than it used to be," The Seattle Times reports. " 'Traditionally, when somebody was incapacitated or they passed away, family members would call me and I'd go to the house,' says James Lamm, a Minneapolis estate-planning attorney. 'We'd look through the paper records. We'd watch the mail for other bills and account statements. That is how we gathered the financial information to administer the estate.' It's not so easy today, says Lamm. 'Now people can get their electronic e-mail bills and account statements,' he says. 'They may pay their bills online. They may file their tax returns electronically. They may keep important records electronically.' Unfortunately, says Lamm, in too many cases people haven't left the information – passwords and location – the family needs to access those records. 'This is just starting to really hit families,' he says."

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Thought du jour

"There is more refreshment and stimulation in a nap, even of the briefest, than in all the alcohol ever distilled."

- Ovid (circa 43BC-18AD), Roman poet

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