Debunking the myth of the “mean girl,” new research from the University of Georgia has found that boys use relational aggression — malicious rumors, social exclusion and rejection — to harm or manipulate others more often than girls.

The longitudinal study, published online in the journal Aggressive Behavior, followed a cohort of students from middle to high school and found that, at every grade level, boys engaged in relationally aggressive behavior more often than girls.

A team led by UGA professor Pamela Orpinas analyzed data collected from 620 students randomly selected from six northeast Georgia school districts. Students who participated in the study completed yearly surveys, which allowed the UGA researchers to identify and group them in distinct trajectories for relational aggression and victimization as they progressed from grade six to 12.

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In our everyday life most of us pay little conscious attention to how we sense. To be sure, as the opening paragraphs of this introduction have shown, we do pay a great deal of attention to what we sense, but the ways in which we sense most often recede into the background of our awareness. As Leder (1990) has observed, most of our daily experience of our body is marked by lack of reflection, and it is only when routines and habits are interrupted—for example when we suddenly feel sick, or when a sensation overwhelms us—that our own body “awakens” our consciousness of it. In light of this lack of attention, most of us have become accustomed to think of our senses as neutral media that, when they work properly, perform like conduits of external stimuli. Take this book, for example. The texture, color, shape, and size of the pages that you are holding seem to be nothing but rather elementary stimuli that your senses of sight and touch “transmit”—much like information bits—to your brain for processing. There seems to be very little social significance whatsoever in this process, doesn’t it? Perhaps this is why, after all, most people view perception as a rather cognitive affair and sensation as a purely physiological on
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"Somatic Work: Towards a sociology of the senses"

The importance of our senses is immense. I don’t really think that anyone is going to deny that. But are they a purely cognitive function and what are the norms that surround them? Smells and tastes are the easiest to see the cultural influence on our sense and how we perceive them, but what we are perceiving. 

It is interesting to think about how that perception can be manipulated and changed through a well designed (no not capital D, Desisgn). 

Hey smartphone owners — when was the last time you were truly bored? Or even had a moment for mental downtime, unattached to a device?

Many of us reflexively grab our phones at the first hint of boredom throughout the day. And indeed a recent study by the research group Flurry found that mobile consumers now spend an average of 2 hours and 57 minutes each day on mobile devices.

Are we packing our minds too full? What might we be losing out on by texting, tweeting and email-checking those moments away?

Manoush Zomorodi, host of the WNYC podcast New Tech City, is digging into that question. She talked with NPR’s Audie Cornish about a project the podcast is launching called Bored and Brilliant: The Lost Art Of Spacing Out.

Bored… And Brilliant? A Challenge To Disconnect From Your Phone

Illustration credit: John Hersey/Courtesy of WNYC

It’s better to have 4 close friends than 400 casual ones. It’s science. 

Every New Year’s, there’s a rush of pressure to make this year the best one yet by getting out there and meeting new people. But this year, you can skip the resolution to make more friends: Science shows that working on improving the strong relationships you already have will make you happier and healthier in the long run. 

A new study, published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology last month, found that high school and college students have smaller interpersonal social networks than those of students in the past. But despite rising concerns about social media causing feelings of disconnection, the teens actually reported a decline in loneliness. 

Teens feel less isolated because their friendships are stronger

Brain stimulation affects compliance with social norms

Neuroeconomists at the University of Zurich have identified a specific brain region that controls compliance with social norms. They discovered that norm compliance is independent of knowledge about the norm and can be increased by means of brain stimulation.

How does the human brain control compliance with social norms? The biological mechanisms that underlie norm compliance are still poorly understood. In a new study, Christian Ruff, Giuseppe Ugazio, and Ernst Fehr from the University of Zurich show that the lateral prefrontal cortex plays a central role in norm compliance.

Prefrontal cortex controls norm behavior

For the study, 63 participants took part in an experiment in which they received money and were asked to decide how much of it they wanted to share with an anonymous partner. A prevalent fairness norm in Western cultures dictates that the money should be evenly split between the two players. However, this contrasts with the participants’ self-interest to keep as much money as possible for themselves. In another experiment, the participants were faced with the same decision, but knew in advance that they could be punished by the partner for an unfair proposal.

By means of a technique called “transcranial direct current stimulation,” which sends weak and painless electric currents through the skull, the excitability of specific brain regions can be modulated. During this experiment, the scientists used this technique to increase or decrease neural activity at the front of the brain, in the right lateral prefrontal cortex. Christian Ruff, Professor of Neuroeconomics and Decision Neuroscience at the University of Zurich, said: “We discovered that the decision to follow the fairness norm, whether voluntarily or under threat of sanctions, can be directly influenced by neural stimulation in the prefrontal cortex.”

Brain stimulation affects normative behavior

When neural activity in this part of the brain was increased via stimulation, the participants’ followed the fairness norm more strongly when sanctions were threatened, but their voluntary norm compliance in the absence of possible punishments decreased. Conversely, when the scientists decreased neural activity, participants followed the fairness norm more strongly on a voluntary basis, but complied less with the norm when sanctions were threatened. Moreover, neural stimulation influenced the participants’ behavior, but it did not affect their perception of the fairness norm. It also did not alter their expectations about whether and how much they would be punished for violating the norm.

"We found that the brain mechanism responsible for compliance with social norms is separate from the processes that represent one’s knowledge and beliefs about the social norm," says Ernst Fehr, Chairman of the Department of Economics at the University of Zurich. "This could have important implications for the legal system as the ability to distinguish between right and wrong may not be sufficient for the ability to comply with social norms." Christian Ruff adds: "Our findings show that a socially and evolutionarily important aspect of human behavior depends on a specific neural mechanism that can be both up- and down-regulated with brain stimulation."

Literature:

Christian C. Ruff, Giuseppe Ugazio und Ernst Fehr. Changing Social Norm Compliance With Noninvasive Brain Stimulation. Science. October 3, 2013.

(Image: iStockphoto)

In this episode of Invisibilia, NPR’s new show about human behavior, hosts Alix Spigel and Lulu Miller examine how categories define us — how, if given a chance, humans will jump into one category or another. People need them, want them. This show looks at what categories provide for us.

Invisiblia: The Power Of Categories

Illustration credit: Daniel Horowitz for NPR

On Venting Online.

There are a lot of time where I find myself frustrated because I can’t tweet/tumbl things I want to say—i.e. complain about—because there are thousands of people reading. And sometimes I get weirdly upset about that. Which makes me wonder how whining/complaining/venting on the internet became a thing that’s now basically a given right to us as humans, enough so that I feel the inability to do it as a hindrance. But like, why do I feel the need to put those things out there? I am glad I have a reason to second guess myself because as we all know, the internet is forever. And mistakes are easy to make. It’s just strange to me that when I’m angry or upset that has become my first impulse. I’m glad that I’ve taken that freedom away from myself in some ways. It requires me to actually talk to a person about it. Or realize that maybe what I wanted to say in my knee-jerk response was not worth saying anyway.

Things I have not said but wanted to include and are not limited to “I auditioned for that and I really wanted it and it sucks to see it everywhere” “I dislike this person very much can we all please stop glorifying him/her” “I’M ANGRY AND THINGS IN LIFE ARE HARD AND PEOPLE ARE STUPID” so there I said them and I feel exactly the same.

Simple Depiction of Wealth Inequality In The U.S.

Research from the Institute for Policy Studies shows that recent Wall Street bonuses are way out of line with minimum wage earners.  Waaaay out of line.  And that’s just their bonuses.

Make you think twice about raising the minimum wage?  And think about this — there’s a greater economic impact because low-wage people spend most, if not all, of their money because they have to. They have to pay for a place to live, feed their families, clothe their kids, and so on and so forth. That spending has a much greater stimulative effect on the economy.

While high wage earners may spend more on big ticket items, they can also afford to stash extra cash in a bank.

The researchers estimate that every dollar going to low wage workers adds an estimated $1.21 to the economy whereas each dollar going to high-income households adds only $0.39.

How much would you raise minimum wage to?

Prediction as a Humanitarian and Pragmatic Contribution from Human Cognitive Neuroscience

Neuroimaging has greatly enhanced the cognitive neuroscience understanding of the human brain and its variation across individuals (neurodiversity) in both health and disease. Such progress has not yet, however, propelled changes in educational or medical practices that improve people’s lives. We review neuroimaging findings in which initial brain measures (neuromarkers) are correlated with or predict future education, learning, and performance in children and adults; criminality; health-related behaviors; and responses to pharmacological or behavioral treatments. Neuromarkers often provide better predictions (neuroprognosis), alone or in combination with other measures, than traditional behavioral measures. With further advances in study designs and analyses, neuromarkers may offer opportunities to personalize educational and clinical practices that lead to better outcomes for people.

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Times are hard, resources are scarce and you’re broke.

Now, imagine you’ve been given a limited amount of money to distribute among a small group of people. The faces above.

How do you split up the funds?

This is a question at the center of a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Amy R. Krosch and David M. Amodio of New York University set out to determine whether connections exist between economic scarcity and how individuals perceive race. The results form a grim but unsurprising conclusion:

The link is real. And it’s bad news for black people.

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