T.V. kids

Yet another study has confirmed the growing consensus that toddlers watching T.V. is not a good idea.  A Time.com blog post cites the following information from the study:

The results, the study authors say, were striking. Based on their analysis, each additional hour of TV that children watched at 29 months corresponded with a 7% decrease in classroom engagement, a 6% drop in math achievement, a 13% decrease in physical activity on weekends, a 10% increase in video-game playing and a 10% greater likelihood of getting teased, assaulted or insulted by classmates. The authors say the findings underscore the importance of limiting TV-viewing during the toddler years, which are a critical time for development.

On average, the study found, children were watching nearly 9 hours of TV per week at 29 months, and nearly 15 hours per week by 53 months. (Children with more educated mothers watched less; those from single-parent homes watched more.) The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under 2 watch no TV at all; children older than 2 should get no more than 1 to 2 hours of “quality programming” each day. Although the TV-watching habits of children in the current study were within or close to the limits set by the AAP, the data suggest the children still suffered negative consequences.

A comment on this posting seems to represent a common response; the comment notes, “As a father of a 3 year old who is obsessed with Dora, I can tell when enough is enough. Some days she gets no TV, other days, she may get 1 or two Doras. Otherwise – it’s outside with the dogs or we play a game.”  But this father seems not to recognize from his rather self-satisfied belief in his parenting skills (which, I am sure are indeed excellent) that not all children are in a position to go outside to a nice yard to play with the family pet nor all parents able to spend an idyllic afternoon playing games with the little one.


Evolving beauty

In a previous post it was noted that physically attractive parents tend to have more daughters than sons.  An article in Timesonline.com (via aldaily.com) clarifies and draws out the inevitable conclusion that follows from that fact.  Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics, observes:

Physical attractiveness is a highly heritable trait, which disproportionately increases the reproductive success of daughters much more than that of sons. If more attractive parents have more daughters and if physical attractiveness is heritable, it logically follows that women over many generations gradually become more physically attractive on average than men.

The article cites the work of Markus Jokela, a researcher at the University of Helsinki, who found that “beautiful women have [16%] more children than their plainer counterparts and that a higher proportion of those children are female. Those daughters, once adult, also tend to be attractive and so repeat the pattern.”  Thus, “Over generations, the scientists argue, this has led to women becoming steadily more aesthetically pleasing.”

As for men, “by contrast, good looks appear to count for little, with handsome men being no more successful than others in terms of numbers of children. This means there has been little pressure for men’s appearance to evolve.”

A study conducted by Joanne Wood of the University of Waterloo in Canada seems to to show that the power of positive thinking cuts both ways: if you think highly of yourself to begin with, positive thinking reinforces your sense of well-being, but you start with low-self-esteem, positive thoughts meant to encourage you only end up depressing you further.  The researchers

questioned a group of 68 men and women using long-accepted methods to measure self-esteem. The participants were then asked to spend four minutes writing down any thoughts and feelings that were on their minds. In the midst of this, half were randomly assigned to say to themselves “I am a lovable person” every time they heard a bell ring.

Immediately after the exercise, they were asked questions such as “What is the probability that a 30-year-old will be involved in a happy, loving romance?” to measure individual moods using a scoring system that ranged from a low of zero to a high of 35. Past studies have indicated that optimistic answers indicate happy moods.

As the researchers report in Psychological Science, those with high self-esteem who repeated “I’m a lovable person” scored an average of 31 on their mood assessment compared with an average of 25 by those who did not repeat the phrase. Among participants with low self-esteem, those making the statement scored a dismal average of 10 while those that did not managed a brighter average of 17.

Dr Wood suggests that positive self-statements cause negative moods in people with low self-esteem because they conflict with those people’s views of themselves. When positive self-statements strongly conflict with self-perception, she argues, there is not mere resistance but a reinforcing of self-perception. People who view themselves as unlovable find saying that they are so unbelievable that it strengthens their own negative view rather than reversing it. Given that many readers of self-help books that encourage positive self-statements are likely to suffer from low self-esteem, they may be worse than useless.

What gives?

A report by Frank Greve of the McClatchy Newspapers (via Consumerist.com) on charitable giving by Americans shows that “America’s poor donate more, in percentage terms, than higher-income groups do, surveys of charitable giving show. What’s more, their generosity declines less in hard times than the generosity of richer givers does.”

Indeed, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest survey of consumer expenditure found that the poorest fifth of America’s households contributed an average of 4.3 percent of their incomes to charitable organizations in 2007. The richest fifth gave at less than half that rate, 2.1 percent.

In terms of income, the poorest fifth seem unlikely benefactors. Their pretax household incomes averaged $10,531 in 2007, according to the BLS survey, compared with $158,388 for the top fifth.

In addition, its members are the least educated fifth of the U.S. population, the oldest, the most religious and the likeliest to rent their homes, according to demographers. They’re also the most likely fifth to be on welfare, to drive used cars or rely on public transportation, to be students, minorities, women and recent immigrants.

However, many of these characteristics predict generosity. Women are more generous than men, studies have shown. Older people give more than younger donors with equal incomes. The working poor, disproportionate numbers of which are recent immigrants, are America’s most generous group, according to Arthur Brooks, the author of the book “Who Really Cares,” an analysis of U.S. generosity.

In sum, “The lowest-income fifth (of the population) always give at more than their capacity,” said Virginia Hodgkinson, former vice president for research at Independent Sector, a Washington-based association of major nonprofit agencies. “The next two-fifths give at capacity, and those above that are capable of giving two or three times more than they give.”

A good one

This is not a joke, but it is very funny. From the NY Times:

Shaquille O’Neal . . . when asked what he thinks about Portland’s Greg Oden. “I don’t,” Shaq said. “I’m a Shogun. You can’t ask me about a low-level ninja.”

For the non-sports fan, Gred Oden is a center drafted first in 2007 (and I assume even non-sports fans don’t need to be told who O’Neal is).

Hear a good one lately?

Two recent articles both cite Robert Provine (who has been mentioned here before in an earlier post) in a discussion of why good jokes are hard to remember.  Natalie Angier’s column in the New York Times is more generally about human memory; from her we get the following:

Really great jokes . . . work not by conforming to pattern recognition routines but by subverting them. “Jokes work because they deal with the unexpected, starting in one direction and then veering off into another,” said Robert Provine, a professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the author of “Laughter: A Scientific Investigation.” “What makes a joke successful are the same properties that can make it difficult to remember.”

This may also explain why the jokes we tend to remember are often the most clichéd ones.

The other article supplies  the following:

Examples of a bad joke:

What do you call a judge with no thumbs? Justice Fingers

Why do cows have bells? Because their horns don’t work.

Examples of a better joke:

A linguistics professor was lecturing his class one day.

“In English”, he said, “A double negative forms a positive. In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative.”

A loud voice from the back of the room piped up, “Yeah, right.”

Human ingenuity

An item was posted on The Consumerist about a small”salad-spinner-like device that you use to handwash your small loads.”  Apparently it really was inspired by the salad spinner.  The item linked to an article that provided some details about the genesis of the product:

While engineering and designing the Smart Touch Salad Spinner for Zyliss, RKS learned that resourceful women were using salad spinners to wash their delicates. Independently, Fran Slutsky, co-owner of leading commercial laundry machine manufacturer American Dryer Corporation, had identified the need for an easy, energy-efficient way to clean small loads of laundry and discovered that salad spinners effectively mimicked washing-machine agitation. After becoming aware of their work for Zyliss, Slutsky enlisted RKS to develop a concept for a hand-powered, high-performance, laundry device for small loads. (Emphasis mine.)