David Dobbs has a fascinating story in the new issue of Pacific Standard, which examines how the environment we live in, the support systems we have, and our feelings of loneliness change the way our genes express themselves. Meaning, each of us come with a blueprint of genes, but researchers like Steve Cole, a Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the UCLA School of Medicine, has found that some genes turn off and on like a dimmer switch depending on the activity in our environment. This is known as gene expression. Genes switch on to heal wounds and fight infection. Gene expression can determine what we look like. Dobbs writes: “When it comes down to it, really, genes don’t make you who you are. Gene expression does. And gene expression varies depending on the life you live.”
In The American Prospect, Monica Potts examines why low-income white women who don’t finish high school in the U.S. have seen their life expectancy drop by five years, while most Americans, including high school dropouts of other races, have seen their life expectancies rise. Though Potts walks us through the story of Crystal Wilson, who lived in Cave City, Arkansas and died at the age of 38, the answer still remains unclear.
And when I say we, it’s really, baseball fans, who will run to stadiums on bobblehead giveaway day.
We talk a lot about how stagnant incomes and rising costs essentials like housing, health care, and education have made it increasingly more difficult for families to put away money for savings and retirement. A recent report by the Census shows that it’s not getting that much better. As Mother Jones reports: “We are now well into our second decade of flat incomes for the non-rich.”
A study by Northwestern University says people with a high debt-to-asset ratio are more likely to be depressed and stressed out. I’m pretty sure we didn’t need a study to tell us this.
In the new September issue of The Atlantic, Jordan Weissmann goes through several studies to examine who psychologists deem to be actual workaholics vs. workers who are just really dedicated to their jobs but not truly addicted to them. Estimates from one of the studies show that 10 percent of the American workforce are workaholics, though a much higher percentage of workers believe themselves to be one. I’d like to believe that I am one but let’s go through some of those symptoms: sleep problems (check), weight gain (check), high blood pressure (nope), anxiety (sometimes), depression (nope). Perhaps I am not a workaholic then, but I am halfway there.
A recent episode of the Freakonomics podcast looked at the following question: Does having a baby girl or baby boy influence whether or not a couple decides to get a divorce or stay together for the kids? Some research says yes, families with first-born girls are likelier to get a divorce, though it all seems dubious to me since divorces are hyper personal and are caused by so many different things.
Jordi Brandts and colleagues got a group of students to predict a sequence of five coin tosses, and then selected the best and the worst predictor. They then asked other subjects to bet on whether the best and worst predictor could predict another five coin tosses. The subjects were told that they would bet on the worst predictor from the first round, unless they paid to switch to the best predictor.
82% of subjects paid to make the switch.
But of course, there is no such thing as an ability to predict the toss of a coin. Most subjects, then, saw skill where there was only luck. And, what’s more, they were willing to spend good money to back this daft opinion.
These people weren’t just idiots plucked from the street. They were fourth year finance undergraduates at one of the best universities in Spain.
Would you bet money on someone you think is a good guesser? Is there even such as a thing as good guessing when it comes to flipping a coin? A bunch of finance students in Spain appeared to think so, which just goes to prove that sometimes people mistake luck for actual skills. [via]
Photo: U.S. Navy
1. It exists everywhere in the whole world, even in Denmark. (“If the gap is still occurring in such an egalitarian society, that suggests the gap is not the intentional result of policy,” Ross says. “It suggests that the gap may arise due to social and psychological factors.”)
2. It gets smaller when the boss has a daughter. “Ross and his coresearchers found that, indeed, a short time after male CEOs had daughters, women’s wages rose relative to men’s, shrinking the gender wage gap at their firms. The birth of a son, in contrast, had no effect on the wage gap.”
Not surprisingly, people with self-control end up happier in their lives. It’s not about denial—it’s about being able to have one drink and thinking, “I’m good, I don’t need another!” (or whatever your demons are), instead of having to fight an inner battle within yourself about why you shouldn’t have something you know is bad for you/can’t afford/will bring you to an early grave.
The Times interviewed Billfold pal Helaine Olen, Julie Nelson, the chairwoman of the economics department at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Tahira K. Hira, a professor of personal finance and consumer economics at Iowa State University and a few others about how women know more about money than what the financial services industry claims. It’s on point.
Slate looked at a study examining if the “Tiger Mom” style of parenting actually results in high-achieving, successful kids and found that no, that may not actually be the case.
Duck penis researcher Patricia Brennan defends the importance of her research into duck penises.
“When you refuse to apologize, it actually makes you feel more empowered,” he said. “That power and control seems to translate into greater feelings of self-worth.”