Discovered: the emotional content of books is declining; men dominate in the post-recession economy; olive oil wards off Alzheimer's; sleep helps us retain 'competing' memories.
The emotional content of books is declining. Remember the end of Middlemarch? ("That things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.") There's a reason you don't read such passages anymore. Using a special algorithm that identifies the emotional content of certain words and sentence structures, a team of British researchers discovered that, throughout the 20th century, books employed less and less emotional language. In the same study, the researchers found that British English became less emotional than American English. Their theory: "In the USA, baby boomers grew up in the greatest period of economic prosperity of the century, whereas the British baby boomers grew up in a post-war recovery period so perhaps 'emotionalism' was a luxury of economic growth." [PLOS ONE]
Men dominate the post-recession economy. We may indeed be headed toward a society in which women hold the most important positions in business. But we're not there yet, says a University of California-San Diego professor who studied the gender balance at each rung of the economic ladder. "Women are well-represented, at times even over-represented, in the low-paying service jobs," her report found, "but men continue to dominate in the highest paid and most highly regarded careers." Noting recent efforts to combat the trend — such as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In — the author concluded that the gender disparity in prestigious, high-paying jobs results from structural issues (e.g., cognitive biases) rather than the individual effort of women. [Center for Research on Gender in the Professions]
Olive oil wards off Alzheimer's. We've known for awhile that extra virgin olive oil can help combat the onset of Alzheimer's — but not exactly how it does so. Research performed by a scientist at the University of Lousiana at Monroe, however, "[suggests] that the ... protective agent might be a substance called oleocanthal, which has effects that protect nerve cells from the kind of damage that occurs in [Alzheimer's disease]." The effect, which was first hypothesized when scientists determined that Alzheimer's affects fewer people in Mediterranean countries, had previously been attributed to monounsaturated fats found in olive oil. [ACS Chemical Neuroscience]
Sleep helps us retain 'competing' memories. It can be difficult to remember memories which interfere with each other — things in similar locations, or similar words. Sleep, a group of scientists at the University of Chicago found, helps the brain sort through those memories and help you retain both of them. Using two dozen starlings in a series of experiments, the scientists determined that getting sleep increased their performance while being trained to remember two different songs. "Starlings provide an excellent model for studying memory because of fundamental biological similarities between avian and mammalian brains," the scientists noted. Something to think about when you're staying up late tonight. [Psychological Science]
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