from the world's big
The Limits of Blindness on Choice
Sheena\r\n Iyengar: I think I was always informally thinking about choice \r\nfrom when I was a very young child because I was born to Sikh immigrant \r\nparents, so I was constantly going back and forth between a Sikh \r\nhousehold and an American outside world, so I was going back and forth \r\nbetween a very traditional Sikh home in which you had to follow the Five\r\n K’s. You know never cut your hair, always carry around a comb, never \r\ntake off your underwear other than… I mean never take off your \r\nunderwear even if it was in the shower, dress very conservatively and so\r\n I was living, growing up in a very traditional household and yet at the\r\n same time I was going to school in the United States where I was taught\r\n the importance of personal preference, so at home it was all about \r\nlearning your duties and responsibilities whereas in school it was all \r\nabout well you get to decide what you want you want to eat. You get to \r\ndecide how you’re going to look and what you’re going to be when you \r\ngrow up and when people learned that my parents actually had an arranged\r\n marriage people thought that was the most horrific thing on earth. I \r\nmean how could anybody allow their marriage of all things to be \r\nprescribed by somebody else? And you know I went home and they seemed… \r\nmy parents seemed normal. They didn’t seem to feel like somehow they \r\nhad been victims of some Nazi camp or something. So it was constantly \r\ngoing back and forth between these two cultures that kept raising the \r\nquestion, well, how important is personal freedom? And I think that has\r\n always been of interest to me.
Then, the other thing that \r\naffected my interest in choices growing up was the fact that I was going\r\n blind and that meant that there were lots of questions that constantly \r\nkept arising about how much choices I actually could have. So on the one\r\n hand in school you’re teachers are constantly telling you that you can \r\nbe whatever it is you want to be as long as you put your mind and heart \r\nto it, and yet at the same time I was also getting the clear message of,\r\n well, what can you do really? I mean can you walk to school on your \r\nown? Can you study science? Can you study math? Can you go to a \r\nnormal school? Do you need to go to a special school? What is going to\r\n become of you when you grow up? Are you going to have to live on \r\nsocial security and SSI? Are you going to be able to shave your legs? \r\nAre you going to be able to get married? So it was constantly thinking \r\nabout both choice in terms of possibilities–I mean because choice is the\r\n thing that is supposed to enable you to be whatever it is you want to \r\nbe–and yet, at the same time you have to think about choice in terms of \r\nits limitations. And I think that too ended up affecting a lot of the \r\ndifferent research questions that I later asked was really was about \r\nwell to what extent… How do we balance choice as possibility and choice\r\n as limitations?
Question: Do you approach choice \r\ndifferently from people who have sight?
Sheena Iyengar: \r\n I don’t know if I approach choice any differently than the sighted \r\npeople do, but what I am very cognizant of is that choice does have \r\nlimits and because of that I really try to take advantage of the domains\r\n in which I do have choice. And when I do have choice I try to be very \r\npicky about... or shall I say choosey about when I choose. I don’t \r\nautomatically decide that I must be the one to choose or that it’s \r\nimportant for me to make every choice in my life. I pick what are my \r\npriorities and I limit those priorities to less than five in my life and\r\n really in those particular areas put in the energy to try to make good \r\nchoices. I think of choosing as a… both a fun and an effortful activity\r\n and I think of choice as something that in order for you to really get \r\nwhat you want out of it you have to put a lot into it and so I’m only \r\nwilling to do that for a few different things and for the rest I really \r\njust try to either satisfy, come up with a simple rule or let somebody \r\nelse make the choice.
Question: How did you conduct \r\nyour first study on choice?
Sheena Iyengar: So when\r\n I was a PhD student at Stanford University I used to frequent this \r\ngrocery store called Draeger’s and you know it was… It’s always a \r\nthrilling experience to go into a place that offers you a lot of \r\nchoice. You know it’s like it reminds you of when you’re a kid and you \r\ngo to the amusement park and whether it be Disneyworld or Six Flags you \r\nknow that thrilling moment when you first enter and you know you’ve got \r\nall these possibilities for the day and it’s really a… it’s a wonderful \r\nfeeling. So I used to go to this store called Draeger’s and you had a \r\nlittle bit of that same feeling because this was a store that offered \r\nyou so many varieties, things you’d never contemplated before, you know \r\nlike 250 mustards and vinegars and over 500 different kinds of fruits \r\nand vegetables, or over 2 dozen different types of water and this is at a\r\n time when you know most of us drank tap water, so I used to go to this \r\nstore and examine all the varieties and we used to marvel at all the \r\nchoices out there, but I found that I rarely bought anything and I kind \r\nof thought that was kind of curious. I mean, they had things that the \r\nother grocery stores didn’t have and yet I never bought anything. And \r\nso one day I went to the manager and I asked him whether his model was \r\nworking and he said, “Well, haven’t you seen how many customers we have \r\nin this store?” And yes indeed I had. I mean it was definitely \r\nattracting a lot of customers, even attracting tourist buses that would \r\nland up at this store and people would go through the store and marvel \r\nat all the options, even sometimes take photographs of the various \r\naisles. So the manager agreed to let me do a little experiment where we \r\nput out a little tasting booth next to the entry. We either put out 6 \r\ndifferent flavors of jam or 24 different flavors of jam and we looked at\r\n 2 things. First, in what case were people more likely to buy a jar of \r\njam? The first thing we looked at, in what case were people more likely \r\nto be attracted to the jar or jam, so in which case are people more \r\nlikely to stop when they saw the display of jams and what we found was \r\nthat more people stopped when there were 24 jams. About 60% of the \r\npeople stopped when we had 24 jams on display and then at the times when\r\n we had 6 different flavors of jam out on display only 40% of the people\r\n actually stopped, so more people were clearly attracted to the larger \r\nvarieties of options, but then when it came down to buying, so the \r\nsecond thing we looked at is in what case were people more likely to buy\r\n a jar of jam. What we found was that of the people who stopped when \r\nthere were 24 different flavors of jam out on display only 3% of them \r\nactually bought a jar of jam whereas of the people who stopped when \r\nthere were 6 different flavors of jam 30% of them actually bought a jar \r\nof jam. So, if you do the math, people were actually 6 times more \r\nlikely to buy a jar of jam if they had encountered 6 than if they \r\nencountered 24, so what we learned from this study was that while people\r\n were more attracted to having more options, that’s what sort of got \r\nthem in the door or got them to think about jam, when it came to \r\nchoosing time they were actually less likely to make a choice if they \r\nhad more to choose from than if they had fewer to choose from. And that \r\nreally ended up starting an entire area of research where we began to \r\nlook at "Why is that?" And a large part of that has to do with the fact\r\n that when people have a lot of options to choose from they don’t know \r\nhow to tell them apart. They don’t know how to keep track of them. \r\nThey start asking themselves "Well which one is the best? Which one \r\nwould be good for me?" And all those questions are much easier to ask if\r\n you’re choosing from six than when you’re choosing from 24 and if you \r\nlook at the marketplace today most often we have a lot more than 24 of \r\nthings to choose from. In fact, even in that store Draeger’s they had \r\n348 different kinds of jam actually in the jam aisle. And what we found \r\nover about, say, 10 years of research is that as the number of choices \r\nactually increase people are less likely to make a choice and sometimes \r\nthey do this even when it’s really bad for them. Like, people are less \r\nlikely to invest in their retirement when they have more options in \r\ntheir 401K plans than when they have fewer. People are, even when they \r\ndo make a choice, they’re more likely to chooses things that are not as \r\ngood for them. You know, like, they’ll make worse financial decisions \r\nfor them if they’re choosing from a lot of options than if they’re \r\nchoosing from a few options. If they have more options they’re more \r\nlikely to avoid stocks and put all their money in money market accounts,\r\n which doesn’t even grow at the rate of inflation. Also if they choose \r\nfrom more options than fewer options they’re less satisfied with what \r\nthey choose and that is true whether they’re choosing chocolates or \r\nwhich job offer to accept.
Growing up in a Sikh-American family, the business professor became fascinated with decisions. As she gradually grew blind, she wondered how much her own choices would be diminished.
Want help raising your kids? Spend more time at church, says new study.
- Religious people tend to have more children than secular people, but why remains unknown.
- Conversely, having a large secular social group made women less likely to have children.
Be fruitful and multiply<p>Scientists in the United Kingdom collected data on more than 13,000 mothers and their children. Most of them were religious, but 12 percent were not. The data included information on their church habits, social networks, number of children, and the scores those children achieved on a standardized test.</p><p>In line with previous findings that religious women have more children than secular women in industrialized countries, a connection between at least monthly church attendance and fertility was confirmed. However, religious parents showed they could avoid the pitfalls that having more children can bring. </p><p>Typically, more children in a family leads to reduced cognitive ability and height in each <a href="https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/37/6/1408/729795" target="_blank">child</a>. Some studies find that children do less well in school for each <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13524-016-0471-0" target="_blank">additional sibling they have</a>. This makes a kind of intuitive sense, as parents with more children would have to divide their time, energy, and resources among more people as families expand. One would expect that the larger families would also lead to things like lower test scores. </p><p>Despite the expectation, the children of religious parents didn't have lower scores on standardized tests. There were small positive relationships between the size of the mother's social network, the number of co-religionists helping out, and the children's test scores. However, this association was small, didn't show up in all of the testings, and was unrelated to other variables. </p> These effects might be explained by the size and helpfulness of the social networks around the more religious. Women who went to church at least once a month had more extensive social networks than those who never go or who attend yearly. These social networks of co-religious people mean that there are more people to turn to for help with child-rearing, a point also demonstrated in the data. The amount of aid women got from their fellow churchgoers was also associated with a higher fertility rate. <br> <br> Conversely, an extensive social network was associated with fewer children for secular women. This finding is in line with <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1207/s15327957pspr0904_5" target="_blank">previous studies</a> and suggests that the social networks comprised of co-religious individuals differ from those found elsewhere.
So, how quickly should I join a local religious group?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="6RrmYM8M" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="9eb4740a7d1e10108a75fd2ed627a90f"> <div id="botr_6RrmYM8M_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/6RrmYM8M-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/6RrmYM8M-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/6RrmYM8M-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The study is not without its faults, and more investigations into the relationship between fertility, childcare, ritual, and social networks are needed.</p><p>These findings all show correlation, not causation. Though it might be said the results point towards causation, various alternative interpretations of the data are apparent. The authors note that most religions are explicitly pro-natal. It is possible that religious women have internalized these values and simply choose to have more children than secular women do.</p><p>This idea is similar to a potential interpretation of why large social networks have the opposite effect for secular women. The authors suggest that, in some cases, these more extensive social networks are associated with work and exert an anti-natal influence. Again, the people who build such networks may be people unlikely to have large families under any circumstances.</p><p>However, the researchers' hypothesis endured. The help religious women get from their church-based social networks allows them to have larger families than those who lack these support systems. In some instances, these support systems also prevent the adverse effects of larger families. </p>
The community religion offers<p>As we've mentioned <a href="https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/what-is-secular-humanism" target="_blank">before</a>, religion offers a community, and a community provides social capital. As religion continues to decline in the West, the social bonds of faith communities that used to tie social communities together begin to decay. However, as has been noted by a variety of observers for the last few decades, fewer and fewer new organizations appear ready to replace religion as a source of community in our lives.</p><p>While many different organizations might offer social support that religion once provided the whole of western society, this study shows that different social circles can differently affect the people in them. This finding must be considered by those trying to find new communities to join or the authors of future research. </p><p>The community offered by religious groups provides real benefits to those who join them. As this study shows, having the support network religious community offers allows some parents to avoid pitfalls that bedevil those lacking similar support. It suggests that previous studies demonstrating that group ritual offers benefits like increased amounts of <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797612472910" target="_blank">group trust</a> and <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1069397103037002003" target="_blank">cooperation</a> are onto something and that those benefits have a variety of applications. </p><p>While this study is not without its blind spots, it offers a strong starting point for further investigations into the nature of ritual in our modern lives and how local support networks remain vital in our increasingly globalized world. </p>
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
A neuroscientist argues that da Vinci shared a disorder with Picasso and Rembrandt.
The study<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc3Mjc2NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTA4MDg2NH0.T-98YvLjS9mUCQkgqHyV43Q7h_JIiubrev-Fp_0j4Pg/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C38%2C0%2C579&height=700" id="58346" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="674799ba34e115a2e9a3e94c366bfc26" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Vitruvian Man, by Leonardo da Vinci created c. 1480–1490<p><a href="https://www.city.ac.uk/people/academics/christopher-tyler" target="_blank">Professor Christopher Tyler</a> of the City University of London's optometry division analyzed six pieces of Renaissance art by or held to be images of Da Vinci, including the famous <em>Vitruvian Man. </em>By looking at the paintings, drawings, and statues and applying the same techniques optometrists use on patients, Tyler was able to conclude that the eyes of the men depicted were misaligned.</p><p> He concluded that, if the images he analyzed were truly reflective of how Da Vinci looked, that the great artist had a mild case of exotropia. </p>
How would this have helped him paint?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b221010aa7688734d4d6a41f0df5933f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/j6F-sHhmfrY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><a href="https://shileyeye.ucsd.edu/faculty/shira-robbins" target="_blank">Shira Robbins</a>, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of California at San Diego, who was not involved with the project, explained to <em><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/10/19/leonardo-da-vincis-genius-may-be-rooted-in-a-common-eye-disorder-new-study-says/?utm_term=.d3f44ed91c16" target="_blank">The Washington Post</a> </em>how individuals with exotropia often turn to additional information to help understand the world around them:</p><blockquote>"What happens in some people is when they're only using one eye . . . they develop other cues besides traditional depth perception to understand where things are in space, looking at color and shadow in a way that most of us who use both eyes at a time don't really appreciate." </blockquote><p>Dr. Robbins agrees that, if the artworks analyzed accurately depict Da Vinci, then he probably had exotropia.</p><p>If Da Vinci did have a mild form of the condition, which would allow him to focus with both eyes when concentrating and with one when relaxed, Tyler asserts that the famed artist could have viewed the world in two or three dimensions at will, showing him the world exactly as he would need to recreate it on a flat surface. Quite the superpower for an artist.</p>
Does this mean Da Vinci would have been a hack if he had normal eyesight?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc3MjY5NS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjYwOTgxOH0.eSu3YBpCuaDj59-4lzSeZ1WgwtV2ETGiWHqczzW3how/img.png?width=980" id="9c323" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="edd4e9e9d9c1156a53242df6288d7cc0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
How can we know this? He has been dead for five hundred years.<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c26fc51b0aebbcd6905593015fec79e5"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/LRAptNtN9-A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>There are reasons to be cautious anytime we make claims about people who are long dead. In this case, we have the bonus problem that we aren't 100 percent sure that the images used are supposed to look like Da Vinci. </p><p> That is the major caveat of the idea; all of the images used as evidence of his condition are assumed to look like him. While some of the images, like the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_(Verrocchio)" target="_blank"><em>David</em> by Andrea del Verrocchio</a>, are generally agreed to be based on Leonardo the other pictures are claimed to be reflective of him based only on his statement that "[The soul] guides the painter's arm and makes him reproduce himself, since it appears to the soul that this is the best way to represent a human being." </p><p>Tyler also argues that the portraits he claims are based on Da Vinci share similarities with the images generally accepted to be portraits of him; including similar hair and facial features. This lends weight to the idea that the artist incorporated his own traits into his artwork, including his vision problem. </p><p>Leonardo da Vinci was undoubtedly one of the greatest geniuses of all time. If he had exotropia, then it was merely a minor addition to his artistic skills. It does, however, give us a literal example of how people who look at the world differently can use that vantage point to their advantage to create things we all can appreciate. </p>
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.