Neuroscience and Social Sciences

Yes, we know — dogs are warm and friendly and want nothing more than to spend time interacting with their human companions. Cats, on the other hand, have a chillier reputation. Supposedly they're independent, untrainable, and more attached to their homes than the people they share it with.  Well, some recent research suggests that cats have been maligned — they like people more than we (and cat haters in particular) might think.

Dr. Kristyn R. Vitale Shreve from Oregon State University and colleagues assessed the preferences of cats from shelters and of those from households, because, they said, the belief that Felis silvestris catus is not a particularly sociable or trainable animal may be based on "a lack of knowledge of what stimuli cats prefer, and thus may be most...

An interesting thing happened on the way to verifying claims that an emerging technology can assist in concussion prevention and recovery: a resulting phone call with the firm's CEO delivered clarity, transparency and admission of a PR misstep that served to cast his company in a better light than previously thought.

Such is the case for Dr. Henry Mahncke and BrainHQ, which wants to be recognized as the leader in web- and app-based cognitive training to promote brain health. With just a few established players in this digital space thus far – and his contention that his competitors don't have the goods and are prone to making unsupported claims – he wants to reinforce his position that BrainHQ is "the only evidence-based company in this field."

Sounds good to us, because...

Politics makes utter fools out of otherwise rational people. The vitriol aimed at President George W. Bush by his political opponents caused psychiatrist and political commentator Charles Krauthammer to coin the tongue-in-cheek term "Bush Derangement Syndrome." It caught on. Pundits subsequently seized upon the terms "Obama Derangement Syndrome" and "Trump Derangement Syndrome."

Now, it appears as if some psychologists want to give these satirical diagnoses an air of medical authority. An article in Kaiser Health News, which was (unbelievably) reprinted by...

If the average person is asked to assess their own driving skills, most will give themselves an above average rating. By definition, half of all drivers are below average, but most people lack the self-awareness to realize this due to a cognitive bias known as illusory superiority.

Every year since 2008, the American Automobile Association (AAA) has conducted a survey in which they determine drivers' attitudes and behaviors in regard to traffic safety. They have confirmed what most of us already suspected: You're a terrible, hypocritical driver. 

The report summarizes its findings bluntly:

[T]he current traffic safety culture... might be characterized most appropriately as...

Are you your dog? Is your dog you? Or, elements of your personality traits anyway. Researchers set out to explore these and other queries.

Can we extrapolate from this new science to apply these questions to your human children?

Faculty from the University of Vienna’s Department of Behavioral Biology in Austria sought to explore the human-dog dyad (aka a group of two -units, entities, humans, animals) suggesting owner and dog social characteristics impact each other’s stress responses and thereby influence coping capacity. Recognizing the human role is more influential, they investigated “intra-individual cortisol variability” (iCV) which is regulated and adjusted by interactions that range from contentious to emotionally supportive. Heart rate (HR) and its fluctuations...

The Brookings Institute recently released a study on what it terms the Privacy Paradox, which argues that our concerns about privacy are not monolithic, but contextual.

What does that mean? For illustration, they use the experience of an adolescent male purchasing condoms. Having had to do so in a time when condoms were behind the counter, I can concur that privacy and its accompanying embarrassment were key concerns as I waited until there was a male pharmacist at the counter.

To find out how that impacts product purchases, Benjamin Wittes and Emma Kohse used Google surveys to ask about buying behavior for products where there might be privacy...

Self-righteousness, gratitude, sympathy, sincerity, and guilt – what if these social behaviours are biologically influenced, encoded within our genes and shaped by the forces of evolution to promote the survival of the human species? Does free will truly exist if our genes are inherited and our environment is a series of events set in motion before we are born?

American biologist E O Wilson made these arguments when he published Sociobiology: The New Synthesis in 1975 and On Human Nature in 1978. Wilson is the father of sociobiology, a field that believes social behaviour in animals, including humans, is biologically...

Man's best friend — the dog — is a versatile creature. Dogs can work as herders, guards, guide dogs and even provide therapy for hospitalized patients. But which dogs are suited to which tasks (and here I mean individuals, not breeds) must be uniquely determined. There are behavioral tests, to be sure, and now there seems to be yet another way to tell whether a dog's personality can suit it to the job of ministering to the sick. And strange as it may seem, whether or not the dog becomes prematurely gray (i.e. before the age of 4 years) could provide the key.

In a...

Even with the hot-button topic of abortion, there is one thing that all people can agree upon: It is preferable to have as few abortions as possible. And recent data from the CDC indicates good news. The abortion rate in America has fallen by about 20% from 2004 to 2013.

The CDC does not require states to provide it with data on abortions. Most do so voluntarily, but a few, such as California and New Hampshire, do not. While incomplete data obviously lowers the total number of reported abortions, it should not (in theory) influence the calculated rate of abortion if we assume that abortion rates in the non-reporting states are similar to those in the 45 states that do report data. (More on that below.) 

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Teachers have a lot to put up with at the moment in terms of workload and stress. But what may come as a surprise to some is that, just like in the playground, bullying can be a big problem in the teaching world.

Research shows that when a teacher is being bullied, the bully is often (but not always) the head teacher – who is increasingly stressed and can sometimes take out their worries about Ofsted inspections on their staff.

And with this in mind, Dr Pat Bricheno and I recently studied the experiences of 39 bullied teachers in the...