Studies

Welcome, Robot Bosses

From Phys.org: A study suggesting that humans may be willing to take orders from robot bosses.

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Another Thing About Lattes

In a study led by David DuBois of HEC Paris, people who were observed choosing large coffees, pizzas, and smoothies were rated by others as having higher status. They scored an average of 4.98 on a 1-to-7 scale, versus 3.03 for people who chose the small size. Technically, the study doesn’t apply to managers: The researchers were studying obesity among underprivileged populations, and they found that extra-large food servings can serve as markers of social status. So for policy makers, the research suggests that there might be benefits to altering people’s perceptions about portion size. But this advice jives with the idea of wearing the clothes for the job you want, not the job you have. To take it one step further, surround yourself with the trappings of the salary and lifestyle you want, not the one you have.

This story from QZ says that the size of your latte is a signifier of your status at work—bigger means more power. Well, bigger means more power because people who order the largest size of anything can generally afford to do so. Also: “surround yourself with the trappings of the salary and lifestyle you want, not the one you have” sounds suspiciously like people who like to live beyond their means, so order that large latte if you want it and can afford it and not because it makes you feel important.

Also, good morning! If it’s snowing where you are like it is here, hope you’re somewhere warm with a nice hot drink.

Photo: Jeff Meyer

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What Poverty Does to Our Genes

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.”

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Uneducated, Poor White Women Are Dying Younger

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.

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We ♥ Bobbleheads

And when I say we, it’s really, baseball fans, who will run to stadiums on bobblehead giveaway day.

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A New Decade of Stagnant Incomes

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.”

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I Was a Collegiate Lab Rat

Some of you may have walked past those bulletin boards covered in red and white notices in search of participants to ingest this, or attach themselves to that. Perhaps you’ve gone so far as to take one of the tear-off tabs home with you. It always comes down to one question: “Can it really be that bad?”

Medical research for academic studies has so many variations and degrees of invasiveness. All of it comes down to one thing: a way to make money that requires no previous skills, education, or experience.

I’ve found myself scanning those flyers and considering the possibilities. Sometime before the winter of 2012, I decided science could have its way with me. I found out that it wasn’t free money, but it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever been through, either. Presented now are my experiences and reflections. Hopefully, this can help guide you in the future, when you’re standing in front of those bulletin boards wondering, “What if I did this?”

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Our Debt, Our Blood Pressure

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.

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Workaholics

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.

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Babies and Divorce

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.

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When Luck is Mistaken for Skills

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

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That Pesky Wage Gap

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.”

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