Psychologists at Stanford University significantly improved reception of vegetables simply by jazzing up the name. According to the study of 28,000 diners, “labeling vegetables indulgently resulted in 25% more people selecting the vegetable than in the basic condition”.
The work explores how food choices changed according to how the food was described. Results show people will eat more vegetables if they are given a gourmet or decadent description, such as crispy, buttery, rich, sizzlin’, tangy or zesty.
According to the authors, the results “represent a robust, applicable strategy for increasing vegetable consumption in adults: using the same indulgent, exciting, and delicious descriptors as more popular, albeit less healthy, foods”
“The majority of people prioritize taste over health when deciding what to eat,” explains Brad Turnwald, lead author of the study, “We suspect that the effects were not just because the words were fancier, but that they evoked specific themes of taste and indulgence that motivated diners to choose them more than the health-labeled vegetables,”
Vegetables with indulgent names like “Zesty ginger-turmeric sweet potatoes” were tested against a basic description (i.e. sweet potatoes), a healthy restrictive name (i.e. “cholesterol-free sweet potatoes”) and a healthy positive name (i.e. “wholesome sweet potato superfood”).
Not only did more diners help themselves to indulgent vegetables, but they also chose bigger portions. The study says “People served themselves indulgently labeled foods 25% more often than they did foods with a basic description, 31% more often than foods with a healthy, but a positive description, and 41% more often than foods with a healthy, yet restrictive spin.”
The strategy is low-cost and challenges the perception that people are choosing these foods strictly based on nutrition. But really, it’s not surprising that better marketing can win over even those who opt for the salad bar.
“We would encourage restaurants and food service establishments to advertise their healthiest products with more of a focus on the inherent tasty and indulgent properties of the food, rather than focusing on the health properties,” says Turnwald.
Summary: According to researchers, bilingual children perform better at voice recognition and processing than monolingual children.
Bilingual children are better than their monolingual peers at perceiving information about who is talking, including recognizing voices, according to a study by NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
The findings, published in the journal Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, suggest yet another advantage of speaking multiple languages beyond the well-known cognitive benefits.
“Bilingual children have a perceptual advantage when processing information about a talker’s voice. This advantage exists in the social aspect of speech perception, where the focus is not on processing the linguistic information, but instead on processing information about who is talking. Speech simultaneously carries information about what is being said and who is saying it,” said Susannah Levi, assistant professor of communicative sciences and disorders at NYU Steinhardt and the study’s author.
Processing who is talking is an important social component of communication and begins to develop even before birth. In her study, Levi examined how children process information about who is talking and sought to understand whether differences existed between children speaking one language or multiple languages.
Forty-one children participated in the study, a combination of 22 monolingual English speakers and 19 bilingual children. The bilingual children all spoke English and either spoke or were exposed to a second language (other than German) on a daily basis. The children were divided by age into two groups: nine years and younger and 10 years and older.
The children completed a series of tasks listening to different voices. In one, they listened to pairs of words in a language they knew (English, spoken with a German accent) and an unfamiliar language (German). The children were then asked whether a pair of words was spoken by the same person or two different people.
In another task, the children learned to identify the voices of three speakers represented by cartoon characters on a computer screen. After listening to the cartoon characters say a series of words, the participants heard a word and would have to decide which cartoon character spoke it.
The tasks revealed that older children performed better than younger children, confirming previous studies that perceiving information about who is talking improves with age.
Levi also found that bilingual children performed better than monolingual children in recognizing and processing voices speaking in both English and German. When listening to English, bilingual children were better at discriminating and learning to identify voices. They were also faster at learning voices. When hearing German, bilingual children were better at discriminating voices.
“The study is a strong test of the benefits of bilingualism because it looked for differences in both a language familiar to all participants and one unfamiliar to them. The bilingual advantage occurred even in a language that was unfamiliar,” Levi said.
Processing who is talking is an important social component of communication and begins to develop even before birth. In her study, Levi examined how children process information about who is talking and sought to understand whether differences existed between children speaking one language or multiple languages. NeuroscienceNews.com image is for illustrative purposes only.
Levi points to several possible explanations for the bilingual advantage. Bilingual children may have more experience listening to accented speech (as the English was spoken with an accent) and multiple languages, may have better cognitive control and focus for the tasks, or may have better social perception – an important tool for perceiving voices.
“While we need more research to explain why bilingual children are better and faster at learning different voices, our study provides yet another example of the benefits of speaking and understanding multiple languages,” Levi said.
About this neuroscience research article
Funding: This work was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, part of the National Institutes of Health (1R03DC009851-01A2).
Source: Rachel Harrison – NYU Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain. Original Research:Abstract for “Another bilingual advantage? Perception of talker-voice information” by SUSANNAH V. LEVI in Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. Published online June 9 2017 doi:10.1017/S1366728917000153
In 1986 the psychology professor James Pennebaker discovered something extraordinary, something which would inspire a generation of researchers to conduct several hundred studies. He asked students to spend 15 minutes writing about the biggest trauma of their lives or, if they hadn’t experienced a trauma, their most difficult time.
They were told to let go and to include their deepest thoughts, even if they had never shared these thoughts before. Four days running they did the same thing. It wasn’t easy. Pennebaker told me that roughly one in 20 students would end up crying, but when asked whether they wanted to continue they always did. Meanwhile a control group spent the same number of sessions writing a description of something neutral such a tree or their dorm room.
Studies have shown expressive writing can reduce the amount of times people visit the doctor (Credit: iStock)
Then he waited for six months while monitoring how often the students visited the health centre. The day he saw the results, he left the lab, walked to his friend who was waiting for him in a car and told him he’d found something big. Remarkably, the students who had written about their secret feelings had made significantly fewer trips to the doctor in the subsequent months.
Ever since, the field psychoneuroimmunology has been exploring the link between what’s now known as expressive writing, and the functioning of the immune system. The studies that followed examined the effect of expressive writing on everything from asthma and arthritis to breast cancer and migraines. In a small study conducted in Kansas, for example, it was found that women with breast cancer experienced fewer troublesome symptoms and went for fewer cancer-related appointments in the months after doing expressive writing.
There is one area where the findings are more consistent and that is in the healing of wounds
The aim of the study wasn’t to look at long-term cancer prognosis, and the authors are not suggesting the cancer would be affected. But in the short-term other aspects of the women’s health did seem better than for those in the control group who wrote about the facts surrounding their cancer rather than their feelings about it.
But it doesn’t always work. A meta-analysis by Joanne Fratarolli from the University of California Riverside does demonstrate an effect overall, but a small one. Nevertheless, for an intervention that is free and beneficial, that’s a benefit worth having. Some studies have had disappointing results, but there is one area where the findings are more consistent and that is in the healing of wounds.
In these studies brave volunteers typically do some expressive writing, then some days later they are given a local anaesthetic and then a punch biopsy at the top of their inner arm. The wound is typically 4mm across and heals within a couple of weeks. This healing is monitored and again and again, and it happens faster if people have spent time beforehand writing down their secret thoughts.
Simply imagining a traumatic event and writing a story about it could have health benefits (Credit: iStock)
What does the act of committing words to paper do? Initially it was assumed this simply happened through catharsis, that people felt better because they’d let out their pent-up feelings. But then Pennebaker began looking in detail at the language people used in their writing.
After the last election, the far-left in our society became a laughing stock. The social justice warriors, the progressives, the regressive left; whatever you want to call them, they became a joke after Trump was elected. And it wasn’t because they lost the election. It was because of how they reacted to losing. We all witnessed what amounted to a nationwide temper tantrum on November 9th. And in the weeks that followed, it became apparent that these people aren’t just childish. They are freaking insane.
However, it may surprise you to learn that these people aren’t just a joke in America. They are the laughing stock of the world. They are looked down upon, even in countries where they don’t have a significant presence.
In China for instance, they have a word for these people. They are called “baizuo” or the “white left” on social media. Which is interesting, because even though China has its fair share of socialists and communists, they don’t have a direct equivalent to our liberal snowflakes. Most of the Chinese are still fiercely nationalistic and anti-immigrant, regardless of political affiliation. That country just doesn’t have a large population of politically correct, affluent liberals (presumably, they were all killed off during the Great Leap Forward). So what does this term mean to the average Chinese citizen?
It might not be an easy task to define the term, for as a social media buzzword and very often an instrument for ad hominemattack, it could mean different things for different people. A thread on “why well-educated elites in the west are seen as naïve “white left” in China” on Zhihu, a question-and-answer website said to have a high percentage of active users who are professionals and intellectuals, might serve as a starting point.
The question has received more than 400 answers from Zhihu users, which include some of the most representative perceptions of the ‘white left’. Although the emphasis varies, baizuo is used generally to describe those who “only care about topics such as immigration, minorities, LGBT and the environment” and “have no sense of real problems in the real world”; they are hypocritical humanitarians who advocate for peace and equality only to “satisfy their own feeling of moral superiority”; they are “obsessed with political correctness” to the extent that they “tolerate backwards Islamic values for the sake of multiculturalism”; they believe in the welfare state that “benefits only the idle and the free riders”; they are the “ignorant and arrogant westerners” who “pity the rest of the world and think they are saviours”.
Baizuo has basically become the go to word for Chinese social media users, who want to trash other people in online debates. It’s also frequently used to make light of what is viewed in China, as the inherent weakness of western democracies. So not only has the far-left made themselves into a joke, they’re making everyone else who supports Western civilization look bad all around the world.
It just goes to show, the people who speak the loudest in society often become the face of that society, even if most sane people aren’t taking them seriously anymore.
While it may not come as much of a surprise to doting dog owners the world over, a new study has suggested that man’s best friend can make us humans understand what they mean through their variety of barks and growls.
The new study, published Wednesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science, has made a number of interesting findings. Researchers enlisted a group of 40 volunteers to listen to a variety of dog growls during numerous tasks.
A total of 18 different dogs were recorded guarding their food, playing a game of tug of war, and facing a threatening stranger. Participants were able to match the growl to the action 63 percent of the time, in what scientists say amounts to much more than just guesswork.
Scientists said that each growl was recognized above the level of chance, with listeners able to understand 81 percent of playful growls, but less adept at recognizing the others.
When it came to recognizing whether the dog was fearful, playful, or being threatening, “women and participants experienced with dogs scored higher,” Farago said.
In research published in January, scientists from the University of Lyon in Saint Étienne, France found that puppies responded better to women’s exaggerated, high-pitched, dog-directed speech, which may help them learn words, much like such talk does with human babies.
In this video, Melissa Dykes of TruthstreamMedia.com shows how the mainstream corporate news media hypnotizes their audiences and how certain “trigger words” are used to turn people into unthinking zombies so they can be easily controlled.
Senior Lecturer in Neuropsychology and Cognitive Psychology, Bangor University
May 4, 2017
Being caught talking to yourself, especially if using your own name in the conversation, is beyond embarrassing. And it’s no wonder – it makes you look like you are hallucinating. Clearly, this is because the entire purpose of talking aloud is to communicate with others. But given that so many of us do talk to ourselves, could it be normal after all – or perhaps even healthy?
We actually talk to ourselves silently all the time. I don’t just mean the odd “where are my keys?” comment – we actually often engage in deep, transcendental conversations at 3am with nobody else but our own thoughts to answer back. This inner talk is very healthy indeed, having a special role in keeping our minds fit. It helps us organise our thoughts, plan actions, consolidate memory and modulate emotions. In other words, it helps us control ourselves.
Talking out loud can be an extension of this silent inner talk, caused when a certain motor command is triggered involuntarily. The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget observed that toddlers begin to control their actions as soon as they start developing language. When approaching a hot surface, the toddler will typically say “hot, hot” out loud and move away. This kind of behaviour can continue into adulthood.
Non-human primates obviously don’t talk to themselves but have been found to control their actions by activating goals in a type of memory that is specific to the task. If the task is visual, such as matching bananas, a monkey activates a different area of the prefrontal cortex than when matching voices in an auditory task. But when humans are tested in a similar manner, they seem to activate the same areas regardless of the type of task.
In a fascinating study, researchers found that our brains can operate much like those of monkeys if we just stop talking to ourselves – whether it is silently or out loud. In the experiment, the researchers asked participants to repeat meaningless sounds out loud (“blah-blah-blah”) while performing visual and sound tasks. Because we cannot say two things at the same time, muttering these sounds made participants unable to tell themselves what to do in each task. Under these circumstances, humans behaved like monkeys do, activating separate visual and sound areas of the brain for each task.
This study elegantly showed that talking to ourselves is probably not the only way to control our behaviour, but it is the one that we prefer and use by default. But this doesn’t mean that we can always control what we say. Indeed, there are many situations in which our inner talk can become problematic. When talking to ourselves at 3am, we typically really try to stop thinking so we can go back to sleep. But telling yourself not to think only sends your mind wandering, activating all kinds of thoughts – including inner talk – in an almost random way.
This kind of mental activation is very difficult to control, but seems to be suppressed when we focus on something with a purpose. Reading a book, for example, should be able to suppress inner talk in a quite efficient way, making it a favourite activity to relax our minds before falling asleep.
But researchers have found that patients suffering from anxiety or depression activate these “random” thoughts even when they are trying to perform some unrelated task. Our mental health seems to depend on both our ability to activate thoughts relevant to the current task and to suppress the irrelevant ones – mental noise. Not surprisingly, several clinical techniques, such as mindfulness, aim to declutter the mind and reduce stress. When mind wandering becomes completely out of control, we enter a dreamlike state displaying incoherent and context-inappropriate talk that could be described as mental illness.
Loud vs silent chat
So your inner talk helps to organise your thoughts and flexibly adapt them to changing demands, but is there anything special about talking out loud? Why not just keep it to yourself, if there is nobody else to hear your words?
In a recent experiment in our laboratory at Bangor University, Alexander Kirkham and I demonstrated that talking out loud actually improves control over a task, above and beyond what is achieved by inner speech. We gave 28 participants a set of written instructions, and asked to read them either silently or out loud. We measured participants’ concentration and performance on the tasks, and both were improved when task instructions had been read aloud.
Much of this benefit appears to come from simply hearing oneself, as auditory commands seem to be better controllers of behaviour than written ones. Our results demonstrated that, even if we talk to ourselves to gain control during challenging tasks, performance substantially improves when we do it out loud.
This can probably help explain why so many sports professionals, such as tennis players, frequently talk to themselves during competitions, often at crucial points in a game, saying things like “Come on!” to help them stay focused. Our ability to generate explicit self instructions is actually one of the best tools we have for cognitive control, and it simply works better when said aloud.
So there you have it. Talking out loud, when the mind is not wandering, could actually be a sign of high cognitive functioning. Rather than being mentally ill, it can make you intellectually more competent. The stereotype of the mad scientist talking to themselves, lost in their own inner world, might reflect the reality of a genius who uses all the means at their disposal to increase their brain power.