Tagged: study

Science Tuesday: Are only the foolish fooled?

By Sanah Faroke, Staff Writer

April Fools’ is the day where we all have to be on a constant look-out for the liars, the cheats and the tricksters (and apparently I speak like a 90-year-old woman). Sometimes I forget that naivety can be a little like being foolish. In a previous post, I mentioned that I’m the worst at lying. Well, I’m also really bad at picking up when people lie to me.

Pranks? I get scared every time. That joke about gullible not being in the dictionary? Yeah, I fell for that one too. Here’s the thing to mull over on April Fools’ — are we easily tricked by people, or do we have a knack for tricking ourselves?

It’s possible that we could be eating too many chicken sandwiches at Chick-Fil-A or slurping too many strawberry milkshakes from Johnny Rockets, but according to a study at Oxford University, eating lots of high-fattening food can hurt our cognitive skills. I guess we’re not all that bright, are we?

The researchers studied rats, feeding them at first a low-fat diet and tested their ability to make it through a maze. After fattening them up for about nine days on a high-fat diet, researchers found that the rats were making more mistakes than usual. So, I guess spring isn’t the only reason to be hitting the gym and eating right. A healthy diet makes for a healthy brain.

So what about when we’re voluntarily being, well, dumb?

We’re at such a young age, and even though no one is tricking us into sticking a tongue to a frozen flagpole, it doesn’t mean we don’t do reckless things. According to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, teens and young adults can’t help but overestimate the good that can come, with little regard for the negative risk. Mulling over spring break, eh? Yeah, aren’t we all.

And while we can’t help being reckless, more often than not, we tend to fool ourselves. In a study conducted by Louisa Egan, Laurie Santos and Paul Bloom at Yale University, they compared similar behaviors in self-deception in capuchin monkeys with that of 4-year-old children.

They found that when the monkeys were presented with colored M&Ms they chose one color over another, even though all M&Ms taste like a wonderful piece of chocolate heaven. The same scenario happened with children when stickers were used. So it didn’t really matter which choice they made, it was just about coming up with a solution for which one they picked and justifying it, and in a sense, fooling themselves. Come on, we’ve all done it with shoes, handbags, (ehem) boyfriends, so why not M&Ms?

So what has April Fools’ taught us? Perhaps it’s that we fool ourselves more on the daily than when other people try to trick us on this silly holiday. What more could we want than self-assurance from our own self-deception? It’s kind of like saying you’ll eat a salad for lunch, but really, in an hour, you know you’ll be trudging to the kitchen for some left over Pad Thai. So who’s the fool now? Eh, it’s still kind of us.



Science Tuesday: “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire” — Unless You Can Outsmart It

By Sanah Faroke, Staff Writer

I’m the worst liar. It sounds silly to admit because “everyone lies,” but I don’t have a knack for it. I’d divert my eyes, start to giggle or smile and run away.

A lie, for me, is kind of like stilettos. They are super cute, but if you wear them for six hours, they get tiring. You get blisters and callused heels and it’s almost not worth it. I’m a wedges girl myself, but those who like the long heels prepare themselves. And while girls prepare with band-aids and insoles, fibbers do their part to prepare too.

As painful as heels are, it’s much easier to pretend like those Louboutin’s don’t hurt after years of prep and practice. In the same way, people who lie are prone and do it more easily if they’ve prepped themselves with dialogue, scenarios, cue cards — you name it. Even on the spot lies have to be formulated somehow.

The fact of the matter is, it takes more effort to lie than to tell the truth, and why? Because it takes more brainpower to be a sly fox than to be an innocent sheep.

Brain imaging studies show just that. Xiaoqing Hu, a psychology doctoral candidate at Northwestern University, discovered that lying takes more of a mental effort than telling the truth because being honest is actually a natural default, and in order to come up with a dishonest response, we have to activate it.

In this study, Hu and his team asked volunteers ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions about themselves like their birthday or where they’re from. In some cases, they were told to tell the truth and in and in other cases, they were instructed to lie.

It was found that volunteers took longer to answer the question when they lied, but they actually were much faster to respond when they were telling the truth. However, when the researchers informed the volunteers what the study was about and were instructed to lie as best as they could, the results were different. Volunteers responded much quicker than originally and they lied even faster when they had time to prepare. Volunteers were almost as quick as when they said the truth, so now we can’t even tell! Great.

Hu’s next plan is to test the time it takes volunteers to lie with preparation to when they tell the truth.

The thing is, it’s much harder to keep up with all the lies over the years. It takes cognition, memorization, spontaneity… So, I guess honesty is actually the best policy, unless you get better at the latter.

To watch some true craftiness, see the video below:

Life Hacks: Bouncing Back from Midterms

By Shivani Patel, Staff Writer

To come back from midterms, one must…/PHOTO VIA Flickr user Hash Milhan

For most of us, midterm season just blew over and probably just left us under a pile of depression and sadness.

While we all want to stay underneath the covers for the rest of the semester, life goes on. Instead, we have to learn to deal with the disappointment and move past it.

No, it’s not possible to change your grade but it is possible to change the way you go about studying. Luckily, we still have half the semester to make up for it.

As usual, I have a few tips for you to make sure that you finish strong by the time the end of the semester comes around.

1. Self Control

I mean this both figuratively and literally. Studying requires self-control, as we all know. It is so easy to get distracted by that text from your crush or wash your dishes in the common room sink because they need to be washed again. Electronics will be our downfall, because the devices are just so distracting.

Luckily, there’s an app called Self Control, which lets you set a time during which you cannot access websites of your choosing (I recommend blocking the basics – Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, your email, etc). The best, and worst, part of this app is that when it means x amount of hours, it means that many. If you try to turn it off to get rid of the timer, it won’t work. The only thing you can do is wait it out. For Mac users, this app is free. For you PC users, there is an app called Freedom, but it costs $10 to use so if you find that it is necessary, go for it.

2. Location, location, location

You sleep in your dorm room. You eat in your dining hall. Ideally, you should have a place to study. Kudos to you if you can successfully work at your desk in your dorm room. I, for one, can’t do that because I can’t even see the top of my desk (messy people unite) and because there are just way too many distractions in my dorm. I’m sure this applies to many of you. In my previous post, I found a couple of solid locations for studying. Wherever you are, just make sure that you can keep all distractions to a minimum.

3. Incentives

Motivate yourself! With motivation, you’ll have a much better time completing your work and studying for tests because you’ll have a goal in mind. Whether this goal is to pass the class with an ‘A’ or grab a cheeseburger after you’re done, work towards them.

A good way to implement this is using the reward system. After reading a certain amount of pages, reward yourself with a snack or five minutes on Facebook (which is a bigger incentive than it seems).

4. Breaks

Going off of incentives, taking breaks is a good way to recharge your brain. Staring at the same material for hours will start to strain your eyes and take a toll on your brain. Instead of going crazy studying, take a deep breath and set alarms every half an hour or so. Take a five minute break to do whatever you like and then get back to work. This way, you’ll feel refreshed and you won’t go completely batty after an intense study session.

What’s done is done, but there is light at the end of the tunnel! By taking things into our own hands, those bad grades can and will be made up.

Good luck to you all (I know I’ll need it) and happy studying!

What’s that smell?

By Kimberly Clark, Science Tuesday Editor

Nose close-up

Sniff sniff. Studies say people can’t actually smell olfactory white unless it’s manufactured for them in a lab / PHOTO VIA alscenter.org

The combination of many different frequencies of sound results in that neutral wash of noise known as white noise.

So what do you think will happen if you combine many different compounds of smells?

Take a guess. Trust me, it’s not a trick question.

If you guessed white smell, gold stars for you.

Scientists from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel have discovered a new smell called olfactory white, which is considered to be the nasal equivalent to white noise, according to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Most smells in the natural world are made up of a mixture of compounds. We can easily identify certain mixtures of compounds that constitute smells, but we cannot identify the individual compounds.

For example, that delicious aroma wafting from the nearby Starbucks is definitely coffee, but what makes up the actual smell of coffee?

Don’t try to answer that.

During the study, participants sniffed hundreds of equally mixed smells and compared them. The number of compounds making up each of the smells ranged from one to 43.

The participants identified smells made up of many compounds as smelling more similar to one another, even if the smells did not share any of the same compounds, than smells made up of less.

The scientists concluded that it is not the type of compounds making up olfactory white, but the mix of many compounds that make it a distinct smell. The compounds making up olfactory white have to be equally intense and must encompass the entire range of human smells.

Neat stuff, right? But as fascinating as I’m sure that was for all of you, I know what you’re really wondering.

What does olfactory white smell like?

The participants ranked the smell of olfactory white right in the middle on the scale for pleasantness and edibility. This description is all that we have to work with because unfortunately the only place to experience olfactory white is in a laboratory.

I guess we will have to keep wondering what olfactory white actually smells like.