Tag Archives | Behavior

Do You Live in A ‘Food Swamp’?

FastFoodInteresting article on The Week. It says that it’s really not the lack of access to healthy food (what the USDA terms a “food desert”) but living close to fast-food joints and convenience stores (i.e. a “food swamp”) is what is more influential in eating habits. People like convenience — sure, doesn’t sound like rocket science — but more telling is that fast-food restaurants outnumber supermarkets by 5 to 1 in the U.S. Americans really do like convenience, a hell of a lot. Over cost as well, it seems, since you will get a lot more bang for your buck in a supermarket. Reports The Week:

So what’s the real problem? Many people simply like fast food better. A recent University of North Carolina (UNC) study of the eating habits of 5,000 people over 15 years found that living near a supermarket had little impact on whether people had healthy diets.

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Middle School Children Expelled Over Fight Club (Video)

Middle School Fight ClubOne of these kids obviously broke the first rule of Fight Club. Via Q13 FOX News:

A middle school ‘fight club’ has prompted administrators to expel a number of students. About 23 students were involved in the brawls. A parent tells Q13 FOX that nine children have been expelled.

Q13 FOX News got a hold of the cellphone video of the fights. It shows students roughing each other up in a boy’s bathroom at Steward Middle School in Tacoma.

The students were expelled Monday and now parents are outraged over the decision. A parent we’ll call Morgan says he thinks the move is absolutely ridiculous. He says he would feel differently if administrators had caught them in the act, but they didn’t. School officials say they knew nothing about the organized fights, until relatives brought them to Q13 FOX News.

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This Is What Global Alcohol Consumption Looks Like (Map)

Who knew? Moldovans are the heaviest drinkers in the world, downing more than 18 liters/person every year. And the United States is well behind Europe, with most Europeans drinking nearly double as much as Americans.

So you’re not #1 in this respect, USA. Americans, what are you going to do about this? Via the Economist:

World Alcohol Consumption

Another “fun” fact: Moonshine accounts for almost 30% of the world’s drinking…… Read the rest

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French Man Claims Parkinson’s Pills Turned Him Into ‘Gay Sex Fiend’

RequipReports the AFP via Google News:

NANTES, France — A French father-of-two is to take GlaxoSmithKline to court on Tuesday, alleging the British firm’s drug to treat Parkinson’s disease turned him into a gay sex and gambling addict.

The 51-year-old’s lawyers say their client’s behaviour changed radically after he was first administered the drug in 2003 for the illness, which causes tremors, slows movement and disrupts speech.

Didier Jambart, a married father-of-two who says he has attempted suicide three times, claims he became addicted to Internet gambling, losing the family’s savings and stealing to feed his habit. He also became a compulsive gay sex addict and began exposing himself on the Internet and cross-dressing. His risky sexual encounters led to him being raped, his lawyers said.

The behaviour stopped when he stopped taking the drugs in 2005 but by then he had been demoted in his defence ministry job and was suffering from psychological trauma resulting from his addictions, his lawyers said.

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Brain Scan Can Tell If A Smoker Will Quit

If your New Years resolution is to quit smoking every year, there may be scientific proof as to why you never seem to be able to follow through with it. Or you can keep telling yourself, “I’ll quit tomorrow.” The Vancouver Sun reports:

U.S. researchers have found a way to predict how successful a smoker will be at quitting by using an MRI scan to look for activity in a region of the brain associated with behaviour change.

The scans were performed on 28 heavy smokers who had joined an anti-smoking program, according to the study published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Health Psychology.

Participants were asked to watch a series of commercials about quitting smoking while a magnetic resonance imaging machine scanned their brains for activity.

[Continues at The Vancouver Sun]… Read the rest

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Tightwads and Spendthrifts: A Black Friday Tradition

Black Friday at a Walmart

Black Friday shoppers at Walmart. Photo: Dustin (CC)

From ScienceDaily:

Every year about this time, on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that traditionally begins the holiday shopping season, early-morning consumers stand in long lines eager to purchase some sought after prize. From the outside, it looks as if these holiday shoppers can’t wait to plunk down their cash, but University of Michigan Marketing Professor Scott Rick says consumers often behave differently than they would ideally like to behave.

“Some consumers chronically spend more than they would like, and some consumers chronically spend less than they would like,” he says. Where an individual falls within the range of desiring to spend more or less largely determines whether he or she is a tightwad or a spendthrift, characteristics that determine quite a bit about a person’s spending habits.

Rick says anticipating the psychological pain that goes along with paying money drives some people to spend less than they would like, while not experiencing enough pain causes others to spend more.

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How Behavioral Science is Remaking Politics

While the Republican Party uses grade school techniques for bullying conservatives and libertarians into voting for them, the Democratic Party has more sophisticated, scientific ways of trying to manipulate liberals and progressives. From the New York Times:

Hal Malchow. Source: mshcpartners.com

Hal Malchow. Source: mshcpartners.com

Over the past few days, thousands of Democratic-leaning voters nationwide — including the young people, minorities and unmarried women who were a crucial part of Barack Obama’s 2008 coalition and whom the party is desperate to rouse again on Tuesday — received a message in their mailboxes that effectively said: we’re keeping an eye on you.

The mailers are the handiwork of Hal Malchow, a political consultant who is acting on a theory that first intrigued him four years ago. Before the 2006 Michigan gubernatorial primary, three political scientists isolated a group of voters and mailed them copies of their voting histories, listing the elections in which they participated and those they missed.

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Trauma-Based Mind Control

Tim Boucher

Tim Boucher

Tim Boucher wrote back in 2005:

As far as I understand it (which admittedly is nothing close to first-hand experience), trauma-based mind control is kind of similar to the whole favorite-album phenomenon. The idea is basically that you condition the mind according to certain stimuli. When you experience a sensory trigger, a correlated interior state is achieved. The most common example of this is called Classical or Pavlovian Conditioning:

Classical Conditioning is the type of learning made famous by Pavlov’s experiments with dogs. The gist of the experiment is this: Pavlov presented dogs with food, and measured their salivary response (how much they drooled). Then he began ringing a bell just before presenting the food. At first, the dogs did not begin salivating until the food was presented. After a while, however, the dogs began to salivate when the sound of the bell was presented. They learned to associate the sound of the bell with the presentation of the food.

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Westerners vs. the World: We Are the Weird Ones

Economics Experiments

Joseph Heinrich conducts behavioural economics experiments in the countryside of southern Chile.

Adam McDowell writes in the National Post

The Ultimatum Game works like this: You are given $100 and asked to share it with someone else. You can offer that person any amount and if he accepts the offer, you each get to keep your share. If he rejects your offer, you both walk away empty-handed.

How much would you offer? If it’s close to half the loot, you’re a typical North American. Studies show educated Americans will make an average offer of $48, whether in the interest of fairness or in the knowledge that too low an offer to their counterpart could be rejected as unfair. If you’re on the other side of the table, you’re likely to reject offers right up to $40.

It seems most of humanity would play the game differently. Joseph Henrich of the University of British Columbia took the Ultimatum Game into the Peruvian Amazon as part of his work on understanding human co-operation in the mid-1990s and found that the Machiguenga considered the idea of offering half your money downright weird — and rejecting an insultingly low offer even weirder.

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What If Homosexuality Becomes a Choice … For Parents?

Evidence that homosexuality is biological — and not a lifestyle choice like some on the religious Right believe — is building; gay men are more likely than straight men to have counterclockwise hair wholrs, have longer index than ring fingers, and be left handed or ambidextrous. David France wrote in a 2007 New York magazine article:


Because many of these newly identified “gay” traits and characteristics are known to be influenced in utero, researchers think they may be narrowing in on when gayness is set — and identifying its possible triggers. They believe that homosexuality may be the result of some interaction between a pregnant mother and her fetus. Several hypothetical mechanisms have been identified, most pointing to an alteration in the flow of male hormones in the formation of boys and female hormones in the gestation of girls. What causes this? Nobody has any direct evidence one way or another, but a list of suspects includes germs, genes, maternal stress, and even allergy — maybe the mother mounts some immunological response to the fetal hormones.

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