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Showing posts from July, 2014

Is racism hardwired into our brains?

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I grew up in the sixties, a time great turmoil, attending all white-schools, living in an all white neighborhood, attending an all white church, with friends that all were white.  It was comfortable.  One thing that was stressed to us by family and friends was to avoid the minority sections of town ~ it wasn't safe there.

As I grew older, I joined the military and had my first close contact living and working with blacks and other minorities.  While I was hesitant at first, I made friends.  

In college, there were as many minorities, and as I grew to know them as people, I made friends again, learning along the way that these were people just like me, with the same drives, goals and problems.  

When I entered the work force, the same happened again.  I have to admit that there were and still are times I felt uncomfortable and nervous, but as I learned and grew as a person I came to realize that folks is just folks, for the most part.  

Yet, there are times now where I find myself thin…

A BIG fight is good for happy couples

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Being upset and angry with your partner is normal part of life and is the basis for oh, so much fiction.  What's critical is not just how you or your characters handle resolving the issue that caused the fight, this research points out that a big fight in a couple can bring growth and understanding to both parties - especially if the relationship is essentially happy.  (Sound like most romantic comedies?)

Being critical, angry and defensive isn’t always a bad thing for couples having a big disagreement — provided they are in a satisfying relationship. In that case, they likely will have a “big resolution” regardless of how negative they were during the discussion, according to a new study.

Until now, there have been two opposing ideas on negative communication in conflict: one is to refrain from using it, while the other suggests doing so is a natural part of productive interaction to resolve conflict. But findings from the latest research indicate that "neither theory is quit…

Twitter (& Facebook) use linked to infidelity and divorce

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New research shows that Twitter use could actually be damaging to your romantic relationships.

Twitter and other social networking services have revolutionized the way people create and maintain relationships. Russell Clayton, a doctoral student in the University of Missouri School of Journalism, found that active Twitter users are far more likely to experience Twitter-related conflict with their romantic partners. Clayton's results showed that Twitter-related conflict then leads to negative relationship outcomes, including emotional and physical cheating, breakup and divorce.

In his study, Clayton surveyed 581 Twitter users of all ages. Clayton asked participants questions about their Twitter use such as how often they login in to Twitter, tweet, scroll the Twitter newsfeed, send direct messages to others, and reply to followers. Clayton also asked how much, if any, conflict arose between participants' current or former partners as a result of Twitter use. For example, Clayt…

CRIME: The very heavy mental health toll on children with a parent in a high-risk occupation

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It's something most of us probably never think of.  We're simply grateful to the men and women who conduct manhunts or fight fires, risking their lives to protect us.

But what about the children of these people?  What effect does having a parent away from home, if only for a day, searching for a potentially armed and violent criminal or terrorist?

A study published today describes the effect in short and sweet terms:  it takes a very heavy toll.

As an author, especially of crime fiction, understanding this price paid by the families of first responders is an important element in building a believable story arc and character profiles.  The effects on a family could be devastating, a parent involved in a high-risk occupation, the children traumatized and acting out or withdrawing, putting even more stress on the parent, perhaps creating an ongoing cycle of problems.  It appears it doesn't matter if the parent or family member is killed or injured.  It's the fact that they a…

Are daughters the cause of divorce?

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Fiction is a mirror of reality.  To a degree.  So the more a writer knows and understands about the human experience, the more believable his or her plots and story lines will be.

So here's a fact:  Couples with daughters are more likely to divorce than couples with sons.

I hear eyebrows lifting and lips piercings.  Oh, really?  According to sociological tracking studies, the answer is yes.  Couples with daughters are more likely to divorce.

The obvious question:  Do daughters cause divorce, as some scholars claim?  Or is some other factor in play here?

Here's an answer from new research:  Maybe not ~ due to the "female survival advantage."

The what?  Here's how it works.

The Female Survival Advantage
Simply put, girls at all ages are generally hardier than boys, even in the womb. And because they are more able to survive stressful pregnancies, more girl babies may be born into troubled marriages that are headed for divorce.

Previous studies have argued that fat…

Is it love? Or lust? His eyes will tell you. P.S. So will hers.

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Soul singer Betty Everett once proclaimed, "If you want to know if he loves you so, it's in his kiss." But a new study by University of Chicago researchers suggests the difference between love and lust might be in the eyes after all.

Specifically, where your date looks at you could indicate whether love or lust is in the cards. The new study found that eye patterns concentrate on a stranger's face if the viewer sees that person as a potential partner in romantic love, but the viewer gazes more at the other person's body if he or she is feeling sexual desire. That automatic judgment can occur in as little as half a second, producing different gaze patterns.

"Although little is currently known about the science of love at first sight or how people fall in love, these patterns of response provide the first clues regarding how automatic attentional processes, such as eye gaze, may differentiate feelings of love from feelings of desire toward strangers," not…

Men perceive women in red as more sexually receptive. Do women as well?

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As I've written in earlier posts, I've been a man for most of my life, as least since the age of 25 or so.  I'd never heard of this "wearing red is a sexual signal" thing.  Really? 

Well. 

Hmmm.

Anyway, I can see how an author knowing of this common perception can influence a piece of fiction as a way for a woman character to let "him" know she's interested. 

What the researchers are examining in this study is do women see other women who happen to be wearing red as a threat to their relationship.  It's this sort of detail that helps a story succeed.  While you read this, I'm headed to Piggly Wiggly to look for women wearing red.

If I come back with a black eye, you'll understand.


Women are more likely to wear a red shirt when they expect to meet an attractive man, relative to an unattractive man or a woman. But do women view other women in red as being more sexually receptive? And would that result in a woman guarding her mate against a wo…

Attention writers: Sitting too much stifles creativity, harms your cardiovascular health

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Cardiologists have found that sedentary behaviors lowers cardiorespiratory fitness levels. New evidence suggests that two hours of sedentary behavior can be just as harmful as 20 minutes of exercise is beneficial.

The study, published in today's online edition of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, examined the association between fitness levels, daily exercise, and sedentary behavior, based on data from 2,223 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Sedentary behavior involves low levels of energy expenditure activities such as sitting, driving, watching television, and reading, among others. The findings suggest that sedentary behavior may be an important determinant of cardiorespiratory fitness, independent of exercise.

"Previous studies have reported that sedentary behavior was associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular outcomes; however, the mechanisms through which this occurs are not completely understood," said Dr. Jarett Berr…

Science reveals that most people can't handle being alone (writing)

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Do you like being alone with just your own thoughts for company?  Or to put it another way.  Why do we find it so uncomfortable to be stuck in a room, alone, with only ourselves for company?  Like when you're in your office trying to write your self-assigned 400 words for the day. You're not alone.  Research out of the University of Virginia shows that most people are averse to alone time with nothing to do but think.  We are all, most of us, uncomfortable with nothing to do but think, to the point that study participants gave themselves electric shocks rather than live within their own heads. Interesting results that explain why so many of us find other things to do when we should be writing.  Doing laundry, surfing the interweb, posting to Facebook. Rather that feeling guilty about this, understand that most people respond exactly the same way. Doing something is better than doing nothing for most people.
People are focused on the external world and don’t enjoy spending much ti…

Orgasms and alcohol influence pillow talk

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Orgasms aren't just good for your sexual relationship; they also promote good communication. Results of a new study published in the latest edition of Communication Monographs reveal that in the aftermath of having experienced an orgasm, people are more likely to share important information with their partners. And, that communication is likely to be positive.

"Post-coital communication is likely linked to sexual and relationship satisfaction," said Amanda Denes, Assistant Professor at the University of Connecticut, and lead author of the study. "For this reason, pillow talk may play a pivotal role in maintaining intimacy."

Oxytocin, a "pro-social" hormone, floods a person's brain immediately after orgasm. Elevated levels of oxytocin are linked with a greater sense of trust and reduced perceptions of threat, in addition to lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. This combination may create an environment in which people feel safe disclosing in…

Is it talent? Or hard work? Science has an answer.

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The conclusion of the researchers is this: 

Becoming an expert takes more than practice. 
We all know people, writers in this case, who work very hard at their craft yet never quite achieve success.  Our egalitarian hard work mantra states that if you put in at least 10,000 hours of practice, you'll become good.  An expert perhaps.

Take professional baseball players.  It takes incredibly hard work to make it to the major leagues.  Dedication and perspiration is the least it takes.

Yet, most players hit somewhere around .230 or .250.  Why?  The obvious answer is innate ability.  As coaches will tell you, "you can't teach speed." Apparently you can't teach a .300 batting average or hitting 25+ homeruns either.

I once was part of a critique group with a woman who worked harder than any of the rest of us, and had worked very hard for years.  I don't know how many hours she had put in, but it's a good guess that she had passed the 10,000 hour threshold. Her story…

Men with negative, sexist attitudes towards women use assertive courtship strategies

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This research, while obvious in its conclusions, offers an interesting insight into the dynamics of relationships between men and women.  For Romance authors, especially, this explains why so many women find it so difficult to find a "nice" guy.  Well, nice guys get screened out by the misogynists of society, even though their primary target are women who could be classified misogynists as well.

Guys, if you're wondering why women tend to gravitate toward jerks?  It's because the jerks are so much more aggressive in their courtship, working to screen you out of developing any sort of a relationship with a woman.

Make sense?  Here's the story:

Men with a preference for 'one-night stands' and negative sexist attitudes towards women are more likely to use aggressive courtship strategies. They compete with other men who are also interested in the woman, tease the woman, and isolate her away from her friends. In response, women with a preference for 'no strin…