Wider-faced politicians are seen as more corrupt
New research offers a tip for politicians who don’t want to be seen as corrupt: don’t get a big head.
- New research offers a tip for politicians who don't want to be seen as corrupt: don't get a big head.
- A new study showed people photos of politicians and asked them to rate how corruptible each seemed.
- The results were published this week in Psychological Science by researchers at Caltech.
The volunteers were able to guess with significant accuracy which politicians were corrupt and which weren't. The common denominator between the politicians who seemed guilty? A wide face, a trait that past research has linked to aggressive behavior in men.
In the first part of the study, 100 volunteers were shown photos of 72 politicians, all caucasian males. All images were cropped and rendered black and white. The volunteers rated each politician for how corruptible, dishonest, selfish, trustworthy, and generous they seemed.
The volunteers were able to predict the corrupt politicians about 70% of the time just from looking at the photos.
In the second part of the study, volunteers evaluated photos of 80 politicians, half corrupt and half clean, who had been elected to state and local positions in California. The researchers excluded responses from participants who recognized officials, though there was only one participant who recognized a politician by their face.
Like the first study, the participants correctly identified the corrupt politicians about 70% of the time.
A third part of the study asked participants to evaluate the first set of 72 politicians for traits like corruptibility, aggressiveness, masculinity, competence, and ambitiousness. The volunteers were only able to predict with regular accuracy corruptibility-related traits in this section of the study.
In the last sections of the study, the researchers tried to identify why certain politicians seemed more corrupt than others by measuring and categorizing their facial characteristics, including cheekbone size, distance between the eyes, nose length, and face width. After comparing the prior responses to the facial structure data, the results showed that politicians with wider faces were more likely to be considered corrupt.
To be sure, the researchers compiled 150 photos of politicians and created two digitally manipulated versions of each: one with a narrower face, one with a wider face. The 450 real and digitally altered photos were then shown in random order to 100 volunteers, only one of whom reported realizing the face width of some politicians had been manipulated. That volunteer was excluded.
“As hypothesized, individual-level data showed that face width had a significant effect on inferences of corruptibility; specifically, a participant perceived an official as more corruptible when his face was fat relative to when his face was slim," the researchers wrote.
Still, it's unclear exactly how face width interacts with corruptibility. The researchers wrote that “people who look corruptible might be more likely to be approached by others with the intent to corrupt them, which in turn results in the mutual behaviors required for corruption to occur." Study co-author Chujun Lin also noted that some of the politicians listed as "clean" might actually have been corrupt—they just never got caught.
“It might be difficult to understand why you can look at others' faces and tell something about them," Chujun Lin told a Caltech blog. “But there is no doubt that people form first impressions from faces all the time. For example, on dating sites, people often reject potential matches based on pictures without reading the profile."
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- Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
- Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
- Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
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- U.S. PIRG tested 20 beers and wines, including organics, and found Roundup's active ingredient in almost all of them.
- A jury on August 2018 awarded a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma victim $289 million in Roundup damages.
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Can dirt help us fight off stress? Groundbreaking new research shows how.
- New research identifies a bacterium that helps block anxiety.
- Scientists say this can lead to drugs for first responders and soldiers, preventing PTSD and other mental issues.
- The finding builds on the hygiene hypothesis, first proposed in 1989.
Are modern societies trying too hard to be clean, at the detriment to public health? Scientists discovered that a microorganism living in dirt can actually be good for us, potentially helping the body to fight off stress. Harnessing its powers can lead to a "stress vaccine".
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that the fatty 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid from the soil-residing bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae aids immune cells in blocking pathways that increase inflammation and the ability to combat stress.
The study's senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Christopher Lowry described this fat as "one of the main ingredients" in the "special sauce" that causes the beneficial effects of the bacterium.
The finding goes hand in hand with the "hygiene hypothesis," initially proposed in 1989 by the British scientist David Strachan. He maintained that our generally sterile modern world prevents children from being exposed to certain microorganisms, resulting in compromised immune systems and greater incidences of asthma and allergies.
Contemporary research fine-tuned the hypothesis, finding that not interacting with so-called "old friends" or helpful microbes in the soil and the environment, rather than the ones that cause illnesses, is what's detrimental. In particular, our mental health could be at stake.
"The idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation," explained Lowry. "That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders."
University of Colorado Boulder
This is not the first study on the subject from Lowry, who published previous work showing the connection between being exposed to healthy bacteria and mental health. He found that being raised with animals and dust in a rural environment helps children develop more stress-proof immune systems. Such kids were also likely to be less at risk for mental illnesses than people living in the city without pets.
Lowry's other work also pointed out that the soil-based bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae acts like an antidepressant when injected into rodents. It alters their behavior and has lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, according to the press release from the University of Colorado Boulder. Prolonged inflammation can lead to such stress-related disorders as PTSD.
The new study from Lowry and his team identified why that worked by pinpointing the specific fatty acid responsible. They showed that when the 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid gets into cells, it works like a lock, attaching itself to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR). This allows it to block a number of key pathways responsible for inflammation. Pre-treating the cells with the acid (or lipid) made them withstand inflammation better.
Lowry thinks this understanding can lead to creating a "stress vaccine" that can be given to people in high-stress jobs, like first responders or soldiers. The vaccine can prevent the psychological effects of stress.
What's more, this friendly bacterium is not the only potentially helpful organism we can find in soil.
"This is just one strain of one species of one type of bacterium that is found in the soil but there are millions of other strains in soils," said Lowry. "We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of identifying the mechanisms through which they have evolved to keep us healthy. It should inspire awe in all of us."
Check out the study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.
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