Study shows playing football before age 12 can lead to mood and behavior issues

A new medical study has found that children who play football before age 12 suffer mood and behavior problems later in life at rates significantly higher than those who take up the sport later.

The study, published Tuesday in the medical journal Translational Psychiatry, showed those who participated in football before age 12 were twice as likely to have problems with behavior regulation, apathy and executive functioning — including initiating activities, problem solving, planning and organizing — when they get older. The younger football players were three times more likely as those who took up the sport after age 12 to experience symptoms of depression.

September 19, 2017, Washington Post

Damaging Your Phone, Accidentally on Purpose

Every so often, Apple comes out with an updated iPhone. It typically has new features and attracts a lot of buzz, which causes many consumers to lust for an upgrade. As it turns out, all that buzz can also lead to an increase in iPhone accidents.

When a new model is available, according to recent research, people who have iPhones tend to become more careless with the phones they already own.

Phyllis Korkki, New York Times, April 7, 2017

‘Hotter,’ ‘lesbian,’ ‘feminazi’: How some economists discuss their female colleagues

Measuring sexist attitudes and hostility toward women is difficult. But for her senior thesis in economics at the University of California, Berkeley (fittingly, the same university that rejected Strober), Alice Wu found a way.

Wu, who will begin doctoral studies at Harvard University next year, mined over a million posts on the anonymous online message board, Economics Job Market Rumors, to analyze how economists talk about women in the profession. The website, a popular forum for graduate students and faculty members to gossip about jobs and hiring, offers a window into conversations that are otherwise almost impossible to document. And as Wu explains in her paper, “Anonymity presumably eliminates any social pressure participants may feel to edit their speech, and thus creates a natural setting to capture what people believe but would not openly say.”

The 30 words most uniquely associated with women are (in order): hotter, lesbian, bb (Internet terminology for “baby”), sexism, [a vulgar term for breasts], anal, marrying, feminazi, slut, hot, vagina, [another vulgar term for breasts], pregnant, pregnancy, cute, marry, levy, gorgeous, horny, crush, beautiful, secretary, dump, shopping, date, nonprofit, intentions, sexy, dated and prostitute.

The terms most associated with men are rather different. They include: mathematician, pricing, adviser, textbook, motivated, Wharton, goals, Nobel and philosopher. Indeed, the only derogatory term in the list is a slur used against gay men.

Elizabeth Winkler, Washington Post, August 22, 2017

Why you tip as much as you do

The standard view in the field of economics is that tipping in any service encounter where you don’t expect to be a return customer is a behavioral quirk — something that, in a world where humans are rational, return-maximizing actors, really should not happen.

There, researchers found the average tip from diners who were offered wrapped chocolates with their check was 18 percent, but it was only 15 percent under normal circumstances. It turns out friendly gestures from your server can have a surprisingly large impact on your tipping decisions, though you may not realize it. Dozens of experiments with similar designs (using playing cards or other randomizing devices to determine what “special treatment” customers would receive) in a variety of restaurants around the country have reinforced just how much small acts affect tips.

Katherine L. Milkman, New York Times, August 23, 2017

Powerball: Somebody’s gotta win, eventually

Despite widespread acceptance of state-backed lotteries, when Powerball ticket sales declined in all but four states and sales nationwide dropped by 19 percent, the Multi-State Lottery Association decided it was time to do something.

Industry insiders attributed the decline to “jackpot fatigue,” which meant that casual players bought tickets only when a huge jackpot was up for grabs.

The resolution: The association looked at rule changes to address the falling revenue problem and implemented them in 2015….This change meant the overall odds of winning any prize improved, going from 1 in 32 to 1 in 25, but the odds of winning a jackpot would drop from 1 in 175 million to 1 in 292 million.

Psychologists and behavioral economists, however, have long known that the perceived value of a lottery ticket may be quite different from expected value.

Manel Baucells and Gerry Yemen, Washington Post, August 23, 2017

When Are You Really Random? After Age 24


More than 3,400 people from 4 to 91 years old participated in the experiment.

Measuring how participants performed against several factors, including age, sex and educational background, the researchers found a strong trend only with age.

On average, performance improved from childhood to the mid-20s. It then stayed relatively high until the 60s, after which it began to decline.

Steph Yin, New York Times, August 25, 2017

Cats Are Not Medicine. Pets don’t actually make people healthier, according to a new analysis. Ability to own a pet does.

A fat gray cat

It is with sincere regret that I report that this week’s RAND cat-health study did exactly that. The cat owners appeared healthier than people without pets, but the difference went away when the researchers factored in that the cat owners were likely to be healthy for other reasons, mostly bearing on socioeconomic status.

Even the researchers didn’t want to find what they found.

James Hamblin, The Atlantic, August 10, 2017