For the penultimate round of the TV show The Apprentice, the competing entrepreneurs must face a series of interviews with a crack team of hardened executives. The implicit, believable message is that these veterans have seen all the interview tricks in the book and will spot any blaggers a mile off. However, a new study provides the reality TV show with a reality check. A team led by Marc-André Reinhard report that experienced job interviewers are in fact no better than novice interviewers at spotting when a candidate is lying.
The researchers filmed 14 volunteers telling the truth about a job they'd really had in the past and then spinning a yarn about time in a job they'd never really had. The volunteers were offered a small monetary reward to boost their motivation. These clips were then played online to 46 highly experienced interviewers (they'd conducted between 21 and 1000 real-life job interviews), 92 interviewers with some experience (they'd interviewed at least once), and 214 students who'd never before acted as a job interviewer. The participants' task was to identify the clips in which the interviewee was speaking truthfully about their work experience, and the clips in which the interviewee was fabricating.
Overall the participants achieved an accuracy rate of 52 per cent - barely above chance performance, which is consistent with a huge literature showing how poor most of us are at spotting deception. But the headline finding is that the more experienced interviewers were no better than the novice interviewers at spotting lying job candidates - the first time that this topic has been researched. Greater work seniority, having more work experience and having more subordinates at work were also unrelated to the ability to spot lying job candidates.
There was a glimmer of hope that interview lie-detection skills could be taught. Participants who reported more correct beliefs about non-verbal cues to lying (e.g. liars don't in fact fidget more) were slightly more successful at recognising which job candidates were lying (each correct belief about a non-verbal cue added 1.2 per cent more accuracy on average). Experienced and novice interviewers in the current study didn't differ in their knowledge about lying cues, which helps explain why the veterans were no better at the task. The more experienced interviewers were however more skeptical overall, tending to rate more of the clips as featuring lying.
"Our results provide the first evidence that employment interviewers may not be better at detecting deception in job interviews than lay persons," the researchers said, "although it is a judgmental context that they are very experienced with."
Although the main gist of the results is consistent with related research in other contexts - for example, studies have found police detectives are no better at spotting lies, despite their interrogation experience - this study has some serious limitations, which undermine the applicability of the findings to the real world. Above all, the study did not involve real interviews, which meant the participants were unable to interact with the interviewees in a dynamic manner.
Reinhard, M., Scharmach, M., and Müller, P. (2013). It's not what you are, it's what you know: experience, beliefs, and the detection of deception in employment interviews Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43 (3), 467-479 DOI: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2013.01011.x
Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.
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Reinhard, M., Scharmach, M., & Müller, P. (2013) It's not what you are, it's what you know: experience, beliefs, and the detection of deception in employment interviews. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43(3), 467-479. DOI: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2013.01011.x
If often seems as though policy-making has devolved into nothing more than a contest where the goal is to blame as many people as possible (but not yourself) for the country’s problems. Fossil fuel companies blame environmental regulations for economic stagnation and high energy prices. Neocons blame civil libertarians for national security weaknesses. And of [...]... Read more »
Rothschild, Z., Landau, M., Molina, L., Branscombe, N., & Sullivan, D. (2013) Displacing Blame over the Ingroup’s Harming of a Disadvantaged Group can Fuel Moral Outrage at a Third-Party Scapegoat. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2013.05.005
While speaking at TEDxMcGill 2009, Jan Florjanczyk — friend, quantum information researcher, and former schoolmate of mine — provided one of the clearest characterization of theoretical physics that I’ve had the please of hearing: Theoretical physics is about tweaking the knobs and dials and assumptions of the laws that govern the universe and then interpolating […]... Read more »
Gardner, A., & Conlon, J. (2013) Cosmological natural selection and the purpose of the universe. Complexity. DOI: 10.1002/cplx.21446
One of the unintended consequences of my (admittedly, somewhat impulsive) decision to name this blog is that I get a fair bit of traffic from Google: people searching for placebo-related information.
Some recent searches have been about the proposed new revisions to the Declaration of Helsinki, and how the new draft version will prohibit or restrict the use of placebo controls in clinical trials. This was a bit puzzling, given that the publicly-released draft revisions [PDF] didn't appear to substantially change the DoH's placebo section.
Much of the confusion appears to be caused by a couple sources. First, the popular Pharmalot blog (whose approach to critical analysis I've noted before as being ... well ... occasionally unenthusiastic) covered it thus:
The draft, which was released earlier this week, is designed to update a version that was adopted in 2008 and many of the changes focus on the use of placebos. For instance, placebos are only permitted when no proven intervention exists; patients will not be subject to any risk or there must be ‘compelling and sound methodological reasons’ for using a placebo or less effective treatment.
This isn't a good summary of the changes, since the “for instance” items are for the most part slight re-wordings from the 2008 version, which itself didn't change much from the version adopted in 2000.
To see what I mean, take a look at the change-tracked version of the placebo section:
The benefits, risks, burdens and effectiveness of a new intervention must be tested against those of the best current proven intervention(s), except in the following circumstances:
The use of placebo, or no treatment intervention is acceptable in studies where no current proven intervention exists; or
Where for compelling and scientifically sound methodological reasons the use of any intervention less effective than the best proven one, placebo or no treatment is necessary to determine the efficacy or safety of an intervention
and the patients who receive any intervention less effective than the best proven one, placebo or no treatment will not be subject to any additional risks of serious or irreversible harm as a result of not receiving the best proven intervention.
Extreme care must be taken to avoid abuse of this option.
Really, there is only one significant change to this section: the strengthening of the existing reference to “best proven intervention” in the first sentence. It was already there, but has now been added to sentences 3 and 4. This is a reference to the use of active (non-placebo) comparators that are not the “best proven” intervention.
So, ironically, the biggest change to the placebo section is not about placebos at all.
This is a bit unfortunate, because to me it subtracts from the overall clarity of the section, since it's no longer exclusively about placebo despite still being titled “Use of Placebo”. The DoH has been consistently criticized during previous rounds of revision for becoming progressively less organized and coherently structured, and it certainly reads like a rambling list of semi-related thoughts – a classic “document by committee”. This lack of structure and clarity certainly hurt the DoH's effectiveness in shaping the world's approach to ethical clinical research.
Even worse, the revisions continue to leave unresolved the very real divisions that exist in ethical beliefs about placebo use in trials. The really dramatic revision to the placebo section happened over a decade ago, with the 2000 revision. Those changes, which introduced much of the strict wording in the current version, were extremely controversial, and resulted in the issuance of an extraordinary “Note of Clarification” that effectively softened the new and inflexible language. The 2008 version absorbed the wording from the Note of Clarification, and the resulting document is now vague enough that it is interpreted quite differently in different countries. (For more on the revision history and controversy, see this comprehensive review.)
The 2013 revision could have been an opportunity to try again to build a consensus around placebo use. At the very least, it could have acknowledged and clarified the division of beliefs on the topic. Instead, it sticks to its ambiguous phrasing which will continue to support multiple conflicting interpretations. This does not serve the ends of assuring the ethical conduct of clinical trials.
Ezekiel Emmanuel has been a long-time critic of the DoH's lack of clarity and structure. Earlier this month, he published a compact but forceful review of the ways in which the Declaration has become weakened by its long series of revisions:
Over the years problems with, and objections to, the document have accumulated. I propose that there are nine distinct problems with the current version of the Declaration of Helsinki: it has an incoherent structure; it confuses medical care and research; it addresses the wrong audience; it makes extraneous ethical provisions; it includes contradictions; it contains unnecessary repetitions; it uses multiple and poor phrasings; it includes excessive details; and it makes unjustified, unethical recommendations.
Importantly, Emmanuel also includes a proposed revision and restructuring of the DoH. In his version, much of the current wording around placebo use is retained, but it is absorbed into the larger concept of “Scientific Validity”, which adds important context to the decision about how to decide on a comparator arm in general.
Here is Emmanuel’s suggested revision:
Scientific Validity: Research in biomedical and other sciences involving human participants must conform to generally accepted scientific principles, be based on a thorough knowledge of the scientific literature, other relevant sources of information, and suitable laboratory, and as necessary, animal experimentation. Research must be conducted in a manner that will produce reliable and valid data. To produce meaningful and valid data new interventions should be tested against the best current proven intervention. Sometimes it will be appropriate to test new interventions against placebo, or no treatment, when there is no current proven intervention or, where for compelling and scientifically sound methodological reasons the use of placebo is necessary to determine the efficacy and/or safety of an intervention and the patients who receive placebo, or no treatment, will not be subject to excessive risk or serious irreversible harm. This option should not be abused.
Here, the scientific rationale for the use of placebo is placed in the greater context of selecting a control arm, which is itself subservient to the ethical imperative to only conduct studies that are scientifically valid. One can quibble with the wording (I still have issues with the use of “best proven” interventions, which I think is much too undefined here, as it is in the DoH, and glosses over some significant problems), but structurally this is a lot stronger, and provides firmer grounding for ethical decision making.
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Little note: Since this post, I’ve been mulling over why Ritalin/Adderall don’t affect cognitive performance of healthy volunteers. Several reasons come to mind. I wasn’t reading the “right” literature (ie studies with positive results – any suggestions?). Stimulants may only influence brain activation patterns, but not performance. In this case, we can only detect differences […]... Read more »
Jacobs E, & D'Esposito M. (2011) Estrogen shapes dopamine-dependent cognitive processes: implications for women's health. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 31(14), 5286-93. PMID: 21471363
Prohibition and the “tobacco control endgame.”
Despite all our efforts in recent years to reduce the percentage of Americans who smoke cigarettes—currently about one in five—the idea of full-blown cigarette prohibition has not gained much traction. That may be changing, as prominent nicotine researchers and public police officials start thinking about what is widely referred to as the “tobacco control endgame.”
Considering the new regulatory powers given the FDA under the terms of the Tobacco Control Act of 2009, as a commentary in Tobacco Control framed it, “will the government be a facilitator or barrier to the effective implementation of strategies designed to achieve this public health goal?”
Two newer approaches have gained some traction in the research community: Reduce the level of nicotine in cigarette products (the FDA is prohibited by law from reducing nicotine content to zero), and continuing to emphasize the non-combustible forms. Plus, everybody pretty much agrees on higher prices.
Here are the six arguments for going all the way:
1) Death. Six million of them a year, worldwide, a number that will grow before it starts shrinking. A billion deaths this century, compared to 100 million in the 20th Century. Robert Proctor, author of The Golden Holocaust and a professor of history at Stanford, whose six arguments these are, calls the cigarette “the deadliest object in the history of human civilization.” So there’s that.
2) Other product defects. The cigarette is defective, Proctor writes in defense of his six arguments in Tobacco Control, because it is “not just dangerous but unreasonably dangerous, killing half its long-term users.” Indeed, it is hard to imagine the FDA green-lighting a drug product like that today. In addition, Proctor claims cigarettes are defective because the tobacco has been altered by flue curing to make it far more inhalable than would otherwise be the case. “The world’s present epidemic of lung cancer is almost entirely due to the use of low pH flue-cured tobacco in cigarettes, an industry-wide practice that could be reversed at any time.”
3) Financial burdens. These can be reckoned principally in terms of the costs of treating smoking-related illnesses. This, in turn, leads to diminished labor productivity, especially in the developing world, a process that “in many parts of the world makes the poor even poorer,” Proctor observes.
4) Big Tobacco’s impact on science. By sponsoring shoddy and distracting research, by publishing “decoy” findings and by otherwise confusing and corrupting scientific discourse on the cigarette question in the advertising-dependent popular media. The tobacco industry has proved to everyone’s satisfaction that it can put politicians and regulators under intense pressure to see things its way. Not to mention other institutions that have been “bullied, corrupted or exploited,” according to Proctor: The AMA, The American Law Institute, sports organizations, Hollywood, the military, and the U.S. Congress, for starters. (Until 2011, American submarines were not smoke-free.)
5) Environmental harms. More than you might think falls into this category: Deforestation, pesticide use, loss of savannah woodlands for charcoal used in flue curing, fossil fuels for curing and transport, fires caused by burning cigarettes, etc.
6) Smokers want to quit. Smoking is not a recreational drug, as Proctor takes pains to point out. Most smokers hate it and wish they could quit. This makes cigarettes different from alcohol or marijuana, Proctor insists. He quotes a Canadian tobacco executive, who said that smoking isn’t like drinking; it’s more like being an alcoholic. This rings true to for the majority of addicted smokers I know, and was certainly true of me when I was a smoker.
So there it is, the case for tobacco prohibition. But hasn’t all this prohibition business been tried and found wanting? We know the results of drug and alcohol prohibition, whatever their rationales: Smuggling, organized crime, increased law enforcement, more money. This argument, says Proctor, has been central to the cigarette industry since forever: “Bans are ridiculed as impractical or tyrannical. (First they come for your cigarettes…)”
Proctor’s response is that smuggling is already common, and people should be free to grow tobacco for their personal use. He advocates a ban on sales, not possession.
There are at least two major obstacles to cigarette prohibition. First, an enormous amount of tax revenue is generated by the production and sale of cigarettes. And the troubling question of a steep rise in black marketeering goes largely ignored or unaddressed. In the same special issue of Tobacco Control, Peter Reuter has sobering thoughts on that front: “Cigarette black markets are commonplace in high tax jurisdictions. For example, estimates are that contraband cigarettes now account for 20-30% of the Canadian market, which has restrained government enthusiasm for raising taxes further. All the proposed ‘endgame’ proposals for shrinking cigarette prevalence toward zero run the risk of creating black markets.”
In the end, Proctor argues that the cigarette industry itself has repeatedly promised to quit the business if its products where ever found to be profoundly harmful to consumers. As recently as 1997, Philip Morris CEO Geoffrey Bible swore under oath that if cigarettes were found to cause cancer “I’d probably… shut it down instantly to get a better hold on things.” Incredible statements like this by company executives go back to the 1950s. Perhaps it’s time to let them stop lying. “The cigarette, as presently constituted,” writes Proctor, “is simply too dangerous—and destructive and unloved—to be sold.”
Proctor R.N. (2013). Why ban the sale of cigarettes? The case for abolition, Tobacco Control, 22 (Supplement 1) i27-i30. DOI: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2012-050811
Photo: AAP/April Fonti
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Proctor R. N. (2013) Why ban the sale of cigarettes? The case for abolition. Tobacco Control, 22(Supplement 1). DOI: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2012-050811
DNA analysis is unearthing the origins of the Minoans, who some 5,000 years ago established the first advanced Bronze Age civilization in present-day Crete. The findings suggest they arose from an ancestral Neolithic population that had arrived in the region about 4,000 years earlier.... Read more »
Stephanie Seiler. (2013) DNA analysis unearths origins of Minoans, the first major European civilization. The University of Washington. info:/
The month of May is a violent thingIn the city their hearts start to singWell, some people sing, it sounds like they're screamingI used to doubt it, but now I believe itMonth Of May ------The Arcade FireToday is Mental Health Month Blog Day, sponsored by the American Psychological Association (APA). It's designed to:...educate the public about mental health, decrease stigma about mental illness, and discuss strategies for making lasting lifestyle and behavior changes that promote overall health and wellness.If the public has been following the recent hullabaloo about how to diagnose mental illnesses, they might be confused about the current and future direction of the field. How did we get here?As most of you know, the American Psychiatric Association (the other APA) is about to release its updated Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the much maligned DSM-5. Weeks before the big launch, however, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) stole the show by announcing that it will be re-orienting its research away from DSM categories:...While DSM has been described as a “Bible” for the field, it is, at best, a dictionary, creating a set of labels and defining each. The strength of each of the editions of DSM has been “reliability” – each edition has ensured that clinicians use the same terms in the same ways. The weakness is its lack of validity. Unlike our definitions of ischemic heart disease, lymphoma, or AIDS, the DSM diagnoses are based on a consensus about clusters of clinical symptoms, not any objective laboratory measure. Instead, the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) framework would become the preferred method for organizing biologically-based research on mental illnesses, with the ultimate goal of constructing a new classification scheme.This caused quite a commotion, leading many to comment on NIMH's shocking repudiation of DSM-5. However, to long-time observers of RDoC's development, this was not a surprise. And the initial lack of clarity on the distinction between the RDoC Dimensional Approach for Research vs. DSM-5 for Diagnosis didn't help matters, nor did the uncertainty about whether NIMH would fund DSM-based research at all.1NIMH issued a press release on May 13 to clarify its position:DSM-5 and RDoC: Shared InterestsThomas R. Insel, M.D., director, NIMHJeffrey A. Lieberman, M.D., president-elect, APANIMH and APA have a shared interest in ensuring that patients and health providers have the best available tools and information today to identify and treat mental health issues, while we continue to invest in improving and advancing mental disorder diagnostics for the future.Today, the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), along with the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) represents the best information currently available for clinical diagnosis of mental disorders Patients, families, and insurers can be confident that effective treatments are available and that the DSM is the key resource for delivering the best available care. The NIMH has not changed its position on DSM-5. As NIMH’s Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project website states, “The diagnostic categories represented in the DSM-IV and the International Classification of Diseases-10 (ICD-10, containing virtually identical disorder codes) remain the contemporary consensus standard for how mental disorders are diagnosed and treated.”Yet, what may be realistically feasible today for practitioners is no longer sufficient for researchers. Looking forward, laying the groundwork for a future diagnostic system that more directly reflects modern brain science will require openness to rethinking traditional categories. It is increasingly evident that mental illness will be best understood as disorders of brain structure and function that implicate specific domains of cognition, emotion, and behavior. This is the focus of the NIMH’s Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project. RDoC is an attempt to create a new kind of taxonomy for mental disorders by bringing the power of modern research approaches in genetics, neuroscience, and behavioral science to the problem of mental illness.So what is RDoC, and how might it be applied to new research projects? From the DSM perspective of categorical disorders (e.g, schizophrenia, major depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder), RDoC embraces diagnostic messiness. Patients previously excluded from a study due to comorbidities, or because they don't meet full criteria? Misfits from the "Not Otherwise Specified" (NOS) category? Now they're in. Specifically, the instructions for RFA-MH-14-050 state:Priority will be given to applications that have a well-justified plan to include patients from multiple diagnostic groups (including Not Otherwise Specified and forme fruste diagnoses) as appropriate for explicating the dimensions and constructs of interest in the study design. Studies that include patients from a single diagnostic group may also be considered if there is a particularly strong justification for examining constructs of interest within one diagnostic category. A defensible approach might be to study all patients presenting themselves at a specialty clinic, e.g., mood disorders clinic, anxiety clinic, or psychotic disorders clinic, regardless of whether they meet criteria for a particular DSM diagnosis.One potential pitfall of this approach is the money required to enroll huge numbers of patients. If commonalities in cognitive function or brain circuitry or especially genetic risk factors are to emerge from studying all patients with mood disorder-like symptoms, then sample sizes must be very large to overcome potential noise in the system(s).The applicant would propose to study one or more of the five different domains, or constructs, that have been fleshed out at NIMH Workshops:Negative Valence SystemsPositive Valence SystemsCognitive SystemsSystems for Social ProcessesArousal/Regulatory SystemsThe possible units of analysis run the gamut from genes to circuits to behavior, and the studies should use specific tasks (paradigms) and self-report measures, as shown in the Negative Valence Systems matrix below.Draft Research Domain Criteria Matrix Animal ... Read more »
Vaidyanathan, U., Nelson, L., & Patrick, C. (2011) Clarifying domains of internalizing psychopathology using neurophysiology. Psychological Medicine, 42(03), 447-459. DOI: 10.1017/S0033291711001528
Dichter, G., Damiano, C., & Allen, J. (2012) Reward circuitry dysfunction in psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders and genetic syndromes: animal models and clinical findings. Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, 4(1), 19. DOI: 10.1186/1866-1955-4-19
1.TAU team takes part in discovering new planet
A team of astronomers at TAU and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have announced the first-ever discovery of an extrasolar planet via induced relativistic beaming of light from the host star.
2.New Method of Finding Planets Scores its First Discovery
- CfA... Read more »
TAU News office. (2013) TAU team takes part in discovering new planet. Tel Aviv University. info:/
A short wrap-up of the Cell Symposium on Microbiome and Host Health in Lisbon, Portugal, May 12-14, 2013.... Read more »
Koren O, Knights D, Gonzalez A, Waldron L, Segata N, Knight R, Huttenhower C, & Ley RE. (2013) A guide to enterotypes across the human body: meta-analysis of microbial community structures in human microbiome datasets. PLoS computational biology, 9(1). PMID: 23326225
Ivanov II, & Honda K. (2012) Intestinal commensal microbes as immune modulators. Cell host , 12(4), 496-508. PMID: 23084918
Blaser M, Bork P, Fraser C, Knight R, & Wang J. (2013) The microbiome explored: recent insights and future challenges. Nature reviews. Microbiology, 11(3), 213-7. PMID: 23377500
The public will never tire of the nature versus nurture debate but here’s a hint: the answer in biology is always both. But if you’ve ever known any twins, you know they can have quite different personalities which, you would think, are attributable to differences in nurture of one sort or another. To understand this better, some scientists […]... Read more »
Freund, J., Brandmaier, A., Lewejohann, L., Kirste, I., Kritzler, M., Kruger, A., Sachser, N., Lindenberger, U., & Kempermann, G. (2013) Emergence of Individuality in Genetically Identical Mice. Science, 340(6133), 756-759. DOI: 10.1126/science.1235294
A group of physicists from the New York University have uncovered how energy is released and dispersed in magnetic materials in a process similar to the spread of forest fires. This finding not only has the potential to deepen our understanding of self-sustained chemical reactions, but also could open new exciting possibilities for energy storage.... Read more »
Subedi, P., Vélez, S., Macià, F., Li, S., Sarachik, M., Tejada, J., Mukherjee, S., Christou, G., & Kent, A. (2013) Onset of a Propagating Self-Sustained Spin Reversal Front in a Magnetic System. Physical Review Letters, 110(20). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.110.207203
Researchers have found that the immune system of the women declines more slowly than men and this could be one of the reasons for the longer life of women - at least in Japan.
Immunity & Ageing
Immune system is the system that recognizes and opposes disease. In the new study, researchers have reported that with the passage of time, men’s ability to oppose the disease decrease more rapidly as compared to women, resulting in increased weaknesses with time.
Researchers from Japan analyzed blood samples of 356 healthy men and women in the age range of 20 and 90. They found that the two components of the immune system; T-cells, which protect the body from infection, and B-cells, which secrete antibodies, declined rapidly in men as compared to women.
Moreover, CD4 T-cells and natural killer cells, two specific types of immune system cells that attack invaders and usually increase with age, increase at a higher rate in women as compared to men.
“Age-related changes in various immunological parameters differ between men and women.” Researchers wrote, “Our findings indicate that the slower rate of decline in these immunological parameters in women than those in men is consistent with the fact that women live longer than do men.”
Hirokawa, K., Utsuyama, M., Hayashi, Y., Kitagawa, M., Makinodan, T., & Fulop, T. (2013). Slower immune system ageing in women versus men in the Japanese population Immunity & Ageing, 10 (1) DOI: 10.1186/1742-4933-10-19... Read more »
Hirokawa, K., Utsuyama, M., Hayashi, Y., Kitagawa, M., Makinodan, T., & Fulop, T. (2013) Slower immune system ageing in women versus men in the Japanese population. Immunity , 10(1), 19. DOI: 10.1186/1742-4933-10-19
The newly-sequenced scarlet macaw genome will provide many important insights into avian and human biology, behaviours and genetics and will contribute to parrot conservation.... Read more »
Seabury Christopher M., Dowd Scot E., Seabury Paul M., Raudsepp Terje, Brightsmith Donald J., Liboriussen Poul, Halley Yvette, Fisher Colleen A., Owens Elaine, & Viswanathan Ganesh. (2013) A Multi-Platform Draft de novo Genome Assembly and Comparative Analysis for the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao). PLoS ONE, 8(5). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062415.s019
Oleksyk Taras K, Pombert Jean-Francois, Siu Daniel, Mazo-Vargas Anyimilehidi, Ramos Brian, Guiblet Wilfried, Afanador Yashira, Ruiz-Rodriguez Christina T, Nickerson Michael L, & Logue David M. (2012) A locally funded Puerto Rican parrot (Amazona vittata) genome sequencing project increases avian data and advances young researcher education. GigaScience, 1(1), 14. DOI: 10.1186/2047-217X-1-14
Guest post by Patrick Rabbitt, commenting on an article that claimed that simple reaction time is slower now than in the Victorian era. Mundane differences in equipment sensitivity may be responsible... Read more »
Michael A. Woodley, Jan te Nijenhuis, & Raegan Murphy. (2013) Were the Victorians cleverer than us? The decline in general intelligence estimated from a meta-analysis of the slowing of simple reaction time. Intelligence. info:/http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.intell.2013.04.006
I am thrilled to announce that this month I am joining a new top-notch science blogging team at Scitable, Nature Education’s award-winning science education website! (But don’t worry, friends. I will continue to post here about animal physiology and behavior every Wednesday). Next week, Scitable will be launching eleven new blogs covering topics like neuroscience, genetics, oceanography, physics and more. I will be co-authoring an evolution blog called Accumulating Glitches together with Sedeer el-Showk (the author of the fantastic nature blog Inspiring Science). To celebrate the launch of these new science blogs, many of us are writing guest posts at Student Voices, another Scitable blog. What follows is the start of my guest post:__ A female western black widow contemplates the tastinessof her suitor. Photo by Davefoc at Wikimedia Commons. Sexual reproduction is a costly affair, but the costs are not usually equal for males and females. Among animals, females generally produce larger gametes (eggs are way bigger than sperm), spend more energy gestating or incubating the young before they are born, and spend more effort caring for the young after they are born. It’s no wonder then that across animal species, females are typically more choosy of who they mate with than males are. But what if the tables are turned and sex is more costly for males than it is for females? Such is often the case for black widow spiders, named for the females’ infamous reputation for making a post-coital snack of their mates. In such a situation where every sexual encounter is potentially the last, who would blame males for being more choosy of their mating partners? But are they? To find out, read the rest of the post here! And to find out more, check this out:Johnson, J., Trubl, P., Blackmore, V., & Miles, L. (2011). Male black widows court well-fed females more than starved females: silken cues indicate sexual cannibalism risk Animal Behaviour, 82 (2), 383-390 DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.05.018 ... Read more »
Johnson, J., Trubl, P., Blackmore, V., & Miles, L. (2011) Male black widows court well-fed females more than starved females: silken cues indicate sexual cannibalism risk. Animal Behaviour, 82(2), 383-390. DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.05.018
It may not be traditionally what you think of as flu season, but lately there’s been a great deal of talk about some viruses that are concerning public health officials and infectious disease specialists. You might have heard of the H7N9 situation in China, and the NCoV virus in France that made headlines. But researchers [...]... Read more »
Squires, R., Noronha, J., Hunt, V., García-Sastre, A., Macken, C., Baumgarth, N., Suarez, D., Pickett, B., Zhang, Y., Larsen, C.... (2012) Influenza Research Database: an integrated bioinformatics resource for influenza research and surveillance. Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses, 6(6), 404-416. DOI: 10.1111/j.1750-2659.2011.00331.x
Pickett, B., Sadat, E., Zhang, Y., Noronha, J., Squires, R., Hunt, V., Liu, M., Kumar, S., Zaremba, S., Gu, Z.... (2011) ViPR: an open bioinformatics database and analysis resource for virology research. Nucleic Acids Research, 40(D1). DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkr859
Some people would think twice before buying a house next to high-voltage power line. Wasn’t there something in the news about these wires causing cancer? Indeed many media have elaborately cited people worrying about the risks of electricity. But often without offering a scientific view on the subject.... Read more »
Draper, G. (2005) Childhood cancer in relation to distance from high voltage power lines in England and Wales: a case-control study. BMJ, 330(7503), 1290. DOI: 10.1136/bmj.330.7503.1290
Heavy metal poisoning is a major health concern across the world. Heavy metal ions frequently leak into the environment from industrial waste causing multiple health problems in humans, animals, and other organisms. While there is no universally accepted definition of … Continue reading →... Read more »
Bertin G., & Averbeck D. (2006) Cadmium: cellular effects, modifications of biomolecules, modulation of DNA repair and genotoxic consequences (a review). Biochimie, 88(11), 1549-1559. DOI: 10.1016/j.biochi.2006.10.001
Schwager Stephan, Lumjiaktase Putthapoom, Stöckli Martina, Weisskopf Laure, & Eberl Leo. (2012) The genetic basis of cadmium resistance of . Environmental Microbiology Reports, 4(5), 562-568. DOI: 10.1111/j.1758-2229.2012.00372.x
LEE JENNIFER G., ROBERTS SAMANTHA B., & MOREL FRANÇOIS M. M. (1995) Cadmium: A nutrient for the marine diatom Thalassiosira weissflogii. Limnology and Oceanography, 40(6), 1056-1063. DOI: 10.4319/lo.19220.127.116.116
Five to seven million companion animals arrive at animal shelters in the US each year, and about half of these are animals being surrendered by their owners. Why do people surrender their pets? To find out, a new study by Jennifer Kwan and Melissa Bain compared dogs being relinquished at three Sacramento animal shelters to those dogs that were there simply to receive their vaccinations.The experimenter spent time at the shelters during the hours when relinquishments could take place, and when vaccination clinics were available. She approached people to ask them to complete the questionnaires, which were available in English or Spanish. A total of 129 people took part; 80 relinquishing owners, and 49 continuing owners. Some people were not approached to take part because their dogs seemed to be aggressive, and the experimenter would have had to hold them while the owner completed the questionnaire. In addition, if relinquishing owners seemed particularly upset or arrived requesting euthanasia of the dog, they were not asked to take part, so as not to exacerbate their distress. It is possible this had an effect on the results.The questionnaire asked about demographic information, attachment to the pet, behavioural problems, and, in the case of relinquished dogs, the reasons why. Participants could rate potential reasons for relinquishment as ‘not a reason’, ‘somewhat of a reason’ and ‘strong reason’, so it was possible for multiple reasons to be given. The results from the three shelters were combined for analysis. Relinquished dogs and ‘continuing’ dogs were equally likely to have attended training classes. The relinquished dogs were significantly more likely to live as outside dogs all of the time, and were significantly older; amongst the male dogs, they were significantly more likely to be intact.Relinquishing and continuing owners were equally likely to have used punishment-based techniques in training their dogs. There was a correlation between the use of prong and choke collars and problems in loose-leash walking. However, it is not possible to know if these were only employed because of difficulties training loose-leash walking, or if they contributed to the problems, for example by misuse or by owners assuming they didn’t need to train if using them.Dogs in the relinquished group were significantly more likely to have problem behaviours than those that were being kept. Sixty-five per cent of relinquishing owners said that a behavioural problem was a contributing factor, and about half said it was a relatively strong influence. Aggression was the most common behavioural problem given as a strong reason for relinquishment.Attachment to pets is a construct that includes knowledge about the pet’s needs, feelings of closeness to the pet, and time spent with them. Attachment scores were significantly lower for relinquishing owners compared to continuing owners. Although not surprising, this is the first time it has been shown using a standard measure of attachment. It would be interesting to know how attachment changes and develops over the duration of an owner’s relationship with their pet. About a third of owners said they were ‘very satisfied’ with their dog’s behaviour. Those who were not so satisfied also had significantly lower scores for attachment, suggesting a link between behaviour and attachment to dogs.Although moving house was a common reason for animal relinquishment, many people had other pets that weren’t being relinquished. This doesn’t mean they gave incorrect information; many rental properties have rules about the number, height or breed of pets. This is also a potential reason for the numbers of pit bulls in the relinquished group, because they are often listed as one of the restricted breeds. While it is surprising to learn that people might relinquish some pets and choose to keep others, it is useful to know as future studies can make a point of learning about kept animals as well as relinquished ones.The most interesting finding of this study is the frequency of behavioural problems as a reason for relinquishment. This is not surprising, but it underlines the need to help owners find better ways of preventing problems in the first place and managing them if they arise. Surprisingly little is known about people's information-seeking regarding behaviour and training issues, and unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation.What are your favourite books or other resources for dog owners? (N.B. Please avoid posting active links because urls usually end up in the spam folder. Thank you!)ReferenceKwan, J., & Bain, M. (2013). Owner Attachment and Problem Behaviors Related to Relinquishment and Training Techniques of Dogs Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 16 (2), 168-183 DOI: 10.1080/10888705.2013.768923... Read more »
Kwan, J., & Bain, M. (2013) Owner Attachment and Problem Behaviors Related to Relinquishment and Training Techniques of Dogs. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 16(2), 168-183. DOI: 10.1080/10888705.2013.768923
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