January, 2010

Jan 10

Caucasoids and Mongoloids “Read” Faces Differently

According to this study, it seems that Caucasoids and Mongoloids don’t examine faces the same way.

Note that this article uses the term “Caucasian” which I assume, based on context, that they are referring to what many people call Caucasoids (to avoid confusion). I.e., roughly the people in Europe, Western Asia, North Africa, and India. (I.e., they are not just referring to people of Caucasia — not just referring to the Georgians, Armenians, Azerbaijani, Ossetians, Kurds, Iranians, Chechens, Abkhaz, Adygei, etc.)

Also, in the article they used the term “Asian”, which I assume should be read as “Mongoloid”. I.e., roughly East Asians.

Caucasians and Asians don’t examine faces in the same way, according to new research. PhD student Caroline Blais, of the Université de Montréal Department of Psychology, has published two studies on the subject: one in Current Biology and the other in PLoS One.

Previous studies have shown that people collect information by mostly studying the eyes as well as the mouth of a face. “The problem is that these studies always used Caucasian test subjects,” says Blais.

Questioning the universality of facial recognition began after studies showed that Asians study faces in an overall fashion, while Caucasians break down faces into distinct parts.
Caucasian and Asian subjects excelled at recognizing someone of their race, yet both had the same level of difficulty in identifying someone of another ethnic group. According to Blais, this says more about the analytical approach of Caucasians and the holistic approach of Asians.

In a second experiment, test subjects had to pinpoint an emotion: surprise, fear, disgust or joy. Asians mostly focused on the eyes and not enough on the mouth, which meant some emotions were wrongly identified.

“Asians had particular problems with negative emotions. They confused fear and surprise as well as disgust and anger,” says Blais. “This is because they avoided looking at the mouth which provides a lot of information about these emotions.”

(Emphasis mine.)


Jan 10

Motivations are different for different personality types

A study that is relevant if you are a teacher. But also interesting from a psychological point-of-view. That different personality types have different motivations for doing things.

Reading this I think I’m what they are describing as “excellence type”, so let my try to share my perspective. While it is not proof of anything (since the sample size is too small and may not be representative). It does offer an additional point-of-view. (Note in my comments below I’m assuming that my experiences are representative of all “excellence types”. I could be wrong. But that’s how the comments are written.)

Those who value excellence and hard work generally do better than others on specific tasks when they are reminded of those values. But when a task is presented as fun, researchers report, the same individuals often will do worse than those who say they are less motivated to achieve.

I’d say it is because the “excellence types” don’t really care when it is presented as being fun (since to them when they hear “for fun” that means “it doesn’t matter“), so it doesn’t really try. They are not winning anything or beating anyone, so who cares?! There’s no thrill in it.

The findings suggest that two students may respond quite differently to a teacher’s exhortation that they strive for excellence [...]

One may be spurred to try harder, while another could become less motivated.

The study also suggests that those who are “chronically uninterested in achievement” are not operating out of a desire to do badly [...] Their differing responses simply may reflect the fact that they have different goals.

Could the “fun type” be lazy perhaps?

“The competitive mindset, the achievement mindset becomes a huge de-motivator for those who don’t necessarily value excellence as much as they value their well-being,” [...] “Perhaps the reason they don’t care to do well is because they want to do something else; they want to enjoy themselves — which is not a bad goal,” [...]
The researchers found that those with high achievement motivation did better on a task when they also were exposed to subconscious “priming” (the flash of a word on a computer screen, for example, that appeared too briefly to be consciously noticed) that related to winning, mastery or excellence. Those with low achievement motivation did worse under the same conditions.

That’s actually a good description of it, I think. The “excellence types” want to win and beat everyone else.

Similarly, when given a choice, those with high achievement motivation were more likely to resume an interrupted task, such as a word-search puzzle, which they were told tested their verbal reasoning ability, than their peers, who were more likely to switch to a task perceived as fun.

But in a final study the researchers found that those with high achievement motivation actually did worse on a word-search puzzle when they were told the exercise was fun and they had been exposed to achievement primes, such as the words “excel,” “compete” or “dominate.” Their counterparts, who were not very motivated to achieve, did better under the same conditions.

Again I’d say it is because “excellence types” just don’t care in this situation, so they don’t bother really trying. (I.e., it doesn’t matter, so who cares.)

These finding suggest that achievement primes inhibit the desire to have fun in those who are motivated to achieve, the authors wrote. But in people who lack achievement motivation, the same cues seem to enhance their desire — and ability — to perform a task seen as fun.

I think they are misunderstanding “excellence types”. When “excellence types” hear the phrase “for fun“, they think, “it doesn’t matter“. But “excellence types” derive fun from competition and winning.

“It’s not that those with high achievement motivation always perform better,” Albarracín said. “You can also get the low achievement motivation folks to perform better than the highs when you present a task as enjoyable and fun.”


Jan 10


More on the political and religious drama that is Greenism. The latest fiasco has been given the name: GlacierGate. From "UN wrongly linked global warming to natural disasters"….

THE United Nations climate science panel faces new controversy for wrongly linking global warming to an increase in the number and severity of natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods.

It based the claims on an unpublished report that had not been subjected to routine scientific scrutiny — and ignored warnings from scientific advisers that the evidence supporting the link too weak. The report’s own authors later withdrew the claim because they felt the evidence was not strong enough.

The claim by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that global warming is already affecting the severity and frequency of global disasters, has since become embedded in political and public debate. It was central to discussions at last month’s Copenhagen climate summit, including a demand by developing countries for compensation of $100 billion (£62 billion) from the rich nations blamed for creating the most emissions.

Ed Miliband, the energy and climate change minister, has suggested British and overseas floods — such as those in Bangladesh in 2007 — could be linked to global warming. Barack Obama, the US president, said last autumn: “More powerful storms and floods threaten every continent.”

Jan 10

African Americans and Basketball

As I mentioned when talking about Samoans and Football, I have observed that what sports a populations tends to be good at depends on what sports people in that population play when they are kids.

However, not everyone can be an professional athlete. There seems to be a heredity component to it.

For African Americans, they seem to disproportionately have the talents needed for basketball.

Here’s an excerpt from an older article, from 1997, from Sports Illustrated…

But many people find it hard to believe that economic incentives alone account for black athletic dominance. These observers offer a simple theory: Blacks dominate sports because they are faster, quicker, better. “If you want a gauge, go to the track meets,” says Bowden. “Who’s winning all those track meets?” Certainly there is a chuckling acceptance, among both blacks and whites, of the inability of whites to leap high and run fast. It’s not that whites won’t play anymore, the thinking goes: It’s that they can’t.

When coaches and players talk about the issue, they usually use the logic of the obvious: Open your eyes. Look around. “If 80 percent of the league is black, that means that black players are that much better than white players,” says Orlando Magic center Rony Seikaly.

The perception of black superiority isn’t found only among white coaches and players. A plurality (34%) of black males in SI’s poll agreed with the statement, “Whites are not as good athletes as African-Americans.” Some 42% of the black males who attend racially mixed schools said that they sensed their white peers backing off from sports because they felt they couldn’t compete with blacks. Jason Webb, a nationally ranked backstroker at Virginia who is half black, half white, says, “In general, it just seems that blacks are more athletic.”

Such talk may not be politically correct, but the underlying fact—that at the elite level blacks are the fastest runners, the most prodigious leapers, the dominant force on NBA courts and NFL fields—is unassailable. While the scientific jury, faced with intriguing preliminary evidence, still debates whether black athletes possess innate physical advantages, the white athlete works in a world that seems already convinced of the answer.


Jan 10

Hayek vs. Keynes Rap Video

Funny :-)


(From EconStories.tv)

Jan 10

Urban Dog Behavior Adaptations in Moscow

There’s an interesting article on dog behavior (H/T Razib Khan): "Moscow’s stray dogs"….

[...] It has become a symbol for the 35,000 stray dogs that roam Russia’s capital – about 84 dogs per square mile. You see them everywhere. They lie around in the courtyards of apartment complexes, wander near markets and kiosks, and sleep inside metro stations and pedestrian passageways. You can hear them barking and howling at night. And the strays on Moscow’s streets do not look anything like the purebreds preferred by status-conscious Muscovites. They look like a breed apart.

I moved to Moscow with my family last year and was startled to see so many stray dogs. Watching them over time, I realised that, despite some variation in colour – some were black, others yellowish white or russet – they all shared a certain look. They were medium-sized with thick fur, wedge-shaped heads and almond eyes. Their tails were long and their ears erect.

(Emphasis mine.)

I think it would be premature to just assume that this look has developed as an or due to an adaptation. (I.e., you need to back up such a claim.) But it is definitely an area one would want to research.

There’s some evidence to suggest that when dogs go feral, they tend to eventually look like the (Australian) dingo. (For example, the Carolina dog looks similar to a dingo.) But I’d imagine that this might not be the only phenotype for feral dogs; as different environments may lead to different feral dog phenotypes.

They also acted differently. Every so often, you would see one waiting on a metro platform. When the train pulled up, the dog would step in, scramble up to lie on a seat or sit on the floor if the carriage was crowded, and then exit a few stops later. There is even a website dedicated to the metro stray (www.metrodog.ru) on which passengers post photos and video clips taken with their mobile phones, documenting the ­savviest of the pack using the public transport system like any other Muscovite.

Quite interesting as well.

Where did these animals come from? It’s a question Andrei Poyarkov, 56, a biologist specialising in wolves, has dedicated himself to answering. His research focuses on how different environments affect dogs’ behaviour and social organisation. About 30 years ago, he began studying Moscow’s stray dogs. Poyarkov contends that their appearance and behaviour have changed over the decades as they have continuously adapted to the changing face of Russia’s capital. Virtually all the city’s strays were born that way: dumping a pet dog on the streets of Moscow amounts to a near-certain death sentence. Poyarkov reckons fewer than 3 per cent survive.
[O]n average, [they] are much less aggressive and a good deal more tolerant of one another [than wolves],” says Poyarkov. Wolves stay strictly within their own pack, even if they share a territory with another. A pack of dogs, however, can hold a dominant position over other packs and their leader will often “patrol” the other packs by moving in and out of them. His observations have led Poyarkov to conclude that this leader is not necessarily the strongest or most dominant dog, but the most intelligent – and is acknowledged as such. The pack depends on him for its survival.

(Emphasis mine.)

I think this would definitely warrant some kind of dog intelligence testing. (Especially a test that doesn’t rely on obedience.)

Jan 10

Canadian Diplomat to Iran was CIA Spy

From "Canada’s man in Tehran was a CIA spy "

The diplomat praised for sheltering Americans during the Iranian Revolution tells The Globe he was made ‘de facto CIA station chief’ in a secret deal between a U.S. president and prime minister Joe Clark

Ken Taylor, the Canadian diplomat [...] actively spied for the Americans and helped them plan an armed incursion into the country.
His intelligence-gathering activities were kept secret by agreement between the Canadian and the U.S. governments [...]

Trent University historian Robert Wright, author of Our Man in Tehran , a new account of the incident released today, strongly implies that then-prime-minister Joe Clark insisted Mr. Taylor’s spying be kept quiet, fearing a negative political fallout if the Canadian public learned that one of its envoys was a U.S. spook.
The request that he provide “aggressive intelligence” for the Americans was made personally by U.S. president Jimmy Carter to Mr. Clark, likely in a telephone conversation on Nov. 30, 1979, according to Prof. Wright.


Jan 10

Aspie Dogs?

Well, maybe not quite an Aspie dog, but canine obsessive compulsiveness seems to be similar to human obsessive compulsiveness.

(Note the usual caveats about them labeling this behavior as a “disorder” where I don’t think that’s accurate, in the layman idea of what a “disorder” is.)

A canine chromosome 7 locus that confers a high risk of compulsive disorder susceptibility has been identified through a collaboration between the Behavior Service at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, the Program in Medical Genetics at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the Broad Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The findings are published in the January 2010 edition of Molecular Psychiatry.

Obsessive compulsive disorder is characterized by time consuming, repetitive behaviors and affects about 2 percent of humans, while the equally distressing canine equivalent, canine compulsive disorder, or CCD, seems to target certain dog breeds, especially Dobermans and Bull Terriers. [...]

The chromosome 7 location most significantly associated with CCD is located within the neural cadherin-2 gene, CDH2. CDH2 is widely expressed, mediating synaptic activity-calcium flux related neuronal adhesion. Dogs showing multiple compulsive behaviors had a higher frequency of the “risk” associated DNA sequence than dogs with a less severe phenotype (60 and 43%, respectively, compared with 22% in unaffected dogs). This highly significant association of CCD with the CDH2 gene region on chromosome 7 is the first genetic locus identified for any animal compulsive disorder, and raises the intriguing possibility that CDH2 and other neuronal adhesion proteins are involved in human compulsive behaviors, including those observed in autism spectrum disorder. [...]

“The CDH2 gene is expressed in the hippocampus, a brain region suspected to be involved in OCD. In addition, this gene oversees structures and processes that are possibly instrumental in propagating compulsive behaviors — for example, the formation and proper functioning of glutamate receptors,” said Dr. Nicholas Dodman, professor of clinical sciences at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and the study’s lead author. Dr. Dodman added that “this finding is congruent with current evidence that NMDA blockers are effective in the treatment of OCD.”

The occurrence of repetitive behaviors and similarities in response to drug treatments in both canine CCD and human OCD suggest that common pathways are involved” [...]


Jan 10

Never Bring A Bomb To A Gunfight

Clayton E. Cramer over at The Armed Citizen gives us another example showing just how invaluable guns are as a tool for self-defense.

From the Kansas City Star

A man who put a container on a pharmacy counter, claimed it was a bomb and demanded prescription drugs left after the pharmacist wielded a shotgun.

The pharmacist at the Kansas City, Kan., pharmacy at 4501 Rainbow Blvd. fired at the would-be robber as he drove off in a car, police said.

It is not know if the robber or his car was hit in the incident about 11:30 a.m., they said. The bomb squad soon determined that the package was not a bomb.


Jan 10

Minimum Wage destroying jobs again. This time in Samoa

In reading and blogging about Samoans and Football I noticed an excerpt from the article, that is yet another example of minimum wage laws destroying jobs.

Football has never been more important to the island than right now, because this season there’s been more than the usual trouble in paradise. The island may lose its tuna industry. One cannery, Chicken of the Sea, has left. And because the U.S. Congress wanted to help Samoa by imposing American minimum wage, Governor Tulafono is worried that the last cannery, Starkist, could look to other shores.

Tulafono said that some economists have estimated that 80 percent of the Samoan economy is wrapped up in tuna canneries.

“Eighty percent of everything that goes on around here,” he stressed, “is dependent on the prescence of the canneries.”

And they just lost one of those canneries on Sept. 30.

“What does that mean to you?” Pelley asked.

“Devastation,” Tulafono sighed.


UPDATE: There’s a video for this available. (H/T David Henderson)