• chevron_right

      Forget the proverbial wisdom: Opposites don’t really attract, study finds

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 4 January - 00:08 · 1 minute

    What draws us to choose romantic partners? A sweeping new meta-analysis suggests we gravitate toward certain shared traits.

    What draws us to choose romantic partners? A sweeping new meta-analysis suggests we gravitate toward certain shared traits. (credit: Muramasa )

    There's rarely time to write about every cool science-y story that comes our way. So this year, we're once again running a special Twelve Days of Christmas series of posts, highlighting one science story that fell through the cracks in 2023, each day from December 25 through January 5. Today: a broad meta-analysis spanning over a century of studies finds that opposites don't really attract when it comes to choosing a mate.

    We've all heard the common folk wisdom that when it comes to forming romantic partnerships, opposites attract. Researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder, contend that this proverbial wisdom is largely false, based on the findings of their sweeping September study , published in the journal Nature Human Behavior. The saying, "birds of a feather flock together," is a more apt summation of how we choose our partners.

    “These findings suggest that even in situations where we feel like we have a choice about our relationships, there may be mechanisms happening behind the scenes of which we aren't fully aware,” said co-author Tanya Horwitz , a psychology and neuroscience graduate student at UCB. “We’re hoping people can use this data to do their own analyses and learn more about how and why people end up in the relationships they do.”

    Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

    • chevron_right

      People can see what you want to know by shaking wrapped Christmas gifts

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Monday, 25 December - 17:18 · 1 minute

    adorable curly red haired toddler in onesie grinning while holding a wrapped christmas present

    Enlarge / Shake, shake, shake: this adorable young child would love to guess what he's getting for Christmas this year. (credit: Johns Hopkins University)

    There's rarely time to write about every cool science-y story that comes our way. So this year, we're once again running a special Twelve Days of Christmas series of posts, highlighting one science story that fell through the cracks in 2023, each day from December 25 through January 5. Today: New research shows it’s incredibly easy for people watching others shake boxes to tell what they’re up to.

    Christmas Day is a time for opening presents and finally ending the suspense of what one is receiving this year, but chances are some of us may have already guessed what's under the wrapping—perhaps by strategically shaking the boxes for clues about its contents. According to a November paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, if someone happened to see you shaking a wrapped gift, they would be able to tell from those motions what you were trying to learn by doing so.

    “There are few things more delightful than seeing a child’s eyes light up as they pick up a present and wonder what might be inside,” said co-author Chaz Firestone of Johns Hopkins University, who studies how vision and thought interact. “What our work shows is that your mind is able to track the information they are seeking. Just as they might be able to tell what’s inside the box by shaking it around, you can tell what they are trying to figure out when they shake it.” Christmas presents are "the perfect real-life example of our experiment.”

    Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

    • chevron_right

      Political polarization toned down through anonymous online chats

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Monday, 21 August, 2023 - 23:11 · 1 minute

    illustration of two phones with chat bubbles

    Enlarge (credit: Carol Yepes/Getty )

    Political polarization in the US has become a major issue, as Republicans and Democrats increasingly inhabit separate realities on topics as diverse as election results and infectious diseases. An actual separation seems to underly some of these differences, as members of the two parties tend to live in relatively homogeneous communities, cluster together on social media, and rely on completely different news sources.

    That's not a recipe for a functional society, and lots of work has gone into exploring the impact of polarization, as well as possible means of reducing it. Now, a team of researchers has tested whether social media can potentially help the situation by getting people with opposite political leanings talking to each other about controversial topics. While this significantly reduced polarization, it appeared to be more effective for Republican participants.

    Anonymity is key

    The researchers zeroed in on two concepts to design their approach. The first is the idea that simply getting people to communicate across the political divide might reduce the sense that at least some of their opponents aren't as extreme as they're often made out to be. The second is that anonymity would allow people to focus on the content of their discussion, rather than worrying about whether what they were saying could be traced back to them.

    Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

    • chevron_right

      Lonely people see the world differently, according to their brains

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Monday, 3 July, 2023 - 16:03

    A person sitting alone at a table with a cake on it. The man is wearing a festive hat.

    Enlarge (credit: D. Anschutz )

    There is a reason countless songs about loneliness exist. Many are relatable, since feeling alone is often part of being human. But a particular song or experience that resonates with one lonely person may mean nothing to someone else who feels isolated and misunderstood.

    Human beings are social creatures. Those who feel left out often experience loneliness. To investigate what goes on in the brains of lonely people, a team of researchers at UCLA conducted noninvasive brain scans on subjects and found something surprising. The scans revealed that non-lonely individuals were all found to have a similar way of processing the world around them. Lonely people not only interpret things differently from their non-lonely peers, but they even see them differently from each other.

    “Our results suggest that lonely people process the world idiosyncratically, which may contribute to the reduced sense of being understood that often accompanies loneliness,” the research team, led by psychologist Elisa Baek of USC Dornsife, said in a study recently published in Psychological Science.

    Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

    • chevron_right

      Study: People think undermining democracy is ok if others do it first

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 23 May, 2023 - 19:51 · 1 minute

    Image of a fractured US capital building, highlighted in red and blue.

    Enlarge (credit: Douglas Rissing )

    Many Americans have been shocked by the frequency with which people who claim to love our democracy have supported blatantly undemocratic efforts to limit people's ability to vote or to selectively discard votes already cast. Unfortunately, this sort of democratic backsliding is far from a US-specific problem. Despite widespread support for democracy in countries like Venezuela and Hungary, people have turned out in large numbers to vote for autocrats.

    A new study performed in the US suggests at least one explanation for the problem: People across the political spectrum appear to believe their political opponents are likely to take anti-democratic action if given the opportunity. And the strength of this belief correlates with a slightly increased willingness to take those actions first.

    Nobody says they like this stuff

    The finding, from a University of California, Berkeley-Massachusetts Institute of Technology collaboration, is based on demographically representative survey populations, which were asked about several potential anti-democratic actions. For example, those surveyed were asked if they agreed with reducing the number of voting facilities in towns that support the opposing party. Similar questions got at things like banning rallies, limiting freedom of expression, ignoring court rulings, or resorting to violence. After being asked for their own opinions, people were then asked whether they thought their political opponents supported these anti-democratic approaches.

    Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

    • chevron_right

      Rewarding accuracy gets people to spot more misinformation

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Friday, 10 March, 2023 - 23:22 · 1 minute

    a gavel hammers on a chat text bubble

    Enlarge (credit: Getty )

    Piecing together why so many people are willing to share misinformation online is a major focus among behavioral scientists. It's easy to think partisanship is driving it all—people will simply share things that make their side look good or their opponents look bad. But the reality is a bit more complicated. Studies have indicated that many people don't seem to carefully evaluate links for accuracy, and that partisanship may be secondary to the rush of getting a lot of likes on social media . Given that, it's not clear what induces users to stop sharing things that a small bit of checking would show to be untrue.

    So, a team of researchers tried the obvious: We'll give you money if you stop and evaluate a story's accuracy. The work shows that small payments and even minimal rewards boost the accuracy of people's evaluation of stories. Nearly all that effect comes from people recognizing stories that don't favor their political stance as factually accurate. While the cash boosted the accuracy of conservatives more, they were so far behind liberals in judging accuracy that the gap remains substantial.

    Money for accuracy

    The basic outline of the new experiments is pretty simple: get a bunch of people, ask them about their political leanings, and then show them a bunch of headlines as they would appear on a social media site such as Facebook. The headlines were rated based on their accuracy (i.e., whether they were true or misinformation) and whether they would be more favorable to liberals or conservatives.

    Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

    • chevron_right

      Breaks taken during psych experiments lower participants’ moods

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 28 February, 2023 - 22:45 · 1 minute

    Image of a child looking extremely bored and unhappy

    Enlarge (credit: Klaus Vedfelt)

    An unfortunate feature of science is that two experiments that are ostensibly looking at the same thing can produce different results. Often, the different results are greeted unhelpfully as the experimenters—and sometimes even the entire field—are accused of being garbage. A more helpful response is to consider whether the experiments, while looking at the same thing, might not be identical. And, if they're not, whether the differences between them might tell us something.

    A new study in Nature Human Behavior describes a subtle way some psychology experiments could differ: if they include breaks to let their participants avoid tiring out. Enforced breaks can cause people's moods to drop and continue dropping if the break drags on. And, since mood affects behavior in a variety of other psychological tests, this has the potential to have a complicating influence on a huge range of studies.

    Waiting is the hardest part

    The work began with an incredibly simple finding. Most studies operate under the assumption that a participant's mood remains relatively stable throughout an experiment. But the researchers here asked participants to rate their mood at the start and end of experiments—and thus at the start and end of breaks between the experiments. The researchers noticed that the mood went down pretty consistently over the course of the break. After a roughly 10-minute break, people assessed their mood as more than 20 percent lower than when the break started.

    Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

    • chevron_right

      The return of Flat Earth, the grandfather of conspiracy theories

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Saturday, 25 February, 2023 - 12:00 · 1 minute

    Image of a flat earth with the Sun in the background.

    Enlarge (credit: Martin Wimmer )

    Off the Edge is not a book about conspiracy theories, exactly. It does get there, but really it is a book about the history of the Flat Earth movement as the sort of original conspiracy theory. It is the second such book, in fact; Christine Garwood wrote Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea in 2007. But it is a whole different world now, conspiracy-theory-wise, so Kelly Weill thought an update was in order.

    Weill covers extremism, disinformation, and the Internet for The Daily Beast , a website whose tagline is “a smart, speedy take on news from around the world.” (A previous editor-in-chief described it as a “high-end tabloid.”) Like the site, the book is well-researched and makes for quick and entertaining, if disturbing, reading.

    The pull of conspiracy

    Weill started Off the Edge when she noticed Flat Earthers repeatedly cropping up in the far and alt-right chat groups and websites she was covering. She said that she initially thought they were a joke because “how could anyone really believe anything so ludicrous?” To find out, she entered their world; the book is in first-person, with Weill frequently recounting her misadventures meeting Flat Earthers and attending their conferences.

    Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

    • chevron_right

      What medieval attitudes tell us about our evolving views of sex

      news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica · Saturday, 11 February, 2023 - 12:35 · 1 minute

    Two sketches of women in Medieval clothing

    Enlarge / Vintage illustration of medieval women wearing kirtles. A kirtle (sometimes called a cotte or cotehardie) is a garment that was worn by men and women in the Middle Ages. It eventually became a one-piece garment worn by women from the late Middle Ages into the Baroque period. (credit: duncan1890 )

    In the illuminating and entertaining blog Going Medieval , Eleanor Janega, a medievalist at the London School of Economics, upends prevalent misconceptions about medieval Europe. These misunderstandings include that people didn’t bathe ( they did ) and that these were the Dark Ages *. Her new book, The Once and Future Sex , is subtitled “Going Medieval on Women’s Roles in Society,” and that's exactly what she does—if by “going medieval” you intend the pop culture meaning of "dismembering in a barbaric manner" which, despite her protestations , you probably do.

    Her main thrust, in the blog and in the book, is that it's easy and convenient for us to envision medieval times as being backward in every way because that makes modern times seem all that much more spectacular. But not only is this wrong, it's dangerous. Just because life is definitely better for women now than it was then, that doesn’t mean our current place in society is optimal or somehow destined. It's not.

    Progress did not proceed in a straight arrow from bad times then to good times now. Maintaining that things were horrible then deludes us into thinking that they must be at their pinnacle now. Janega lays out this argument in the introduction and then spends the bulk of the text citing evidence to bolster it.

    Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments