Stories tagged social science

Modern tap (Barcelona, Spain)
Modern tap (Barcelona, Spain)Courtesy Tom Raftery

In preparation for the Science Museum's upcoming Social Science event, "Fermentational Informational," I've been reading about weird beer glasses.

Not to be confused with beer goggles, the shapes of these "containers that hold our libations" are apparently pretty important -- at least in terms of understanding

"the technologies and the knowledge at our disposal through the ages."

For serious: Anthropologist Krystal D'Costa says so in Scientific American!

In the libraries i've seen the children have always been living really close to the library or they are old enough to ride a bike or bus to go to the library, mind you this is just a burst or an idea. I mean do you go to the library a lot because you live close to it? I certainly would!


A fun virtual party: with fewer fireballs than I expected.
A fun virtual party: with fewer fireballs than I expected.Courtesy Pathfinder Linden
Well, maybe not “cooler,” but new research suggests that using online interfaces (like Second Life, or mmorpgs) actually improves one’s real-life social skills. And we all know that being cool pretty much goes hand in hand with excellent social skills.

Just ask Jim Stark. Or, like, Ryan Atwood.

I mean it. Ask them.

Anyway, contrary to popular belief, these videogames may be making people better at interacting with other people. The charisma stats in darkened, very nearly empty computer rooms around the planet are skyrocketing. Part of the reasoning here is that being thousands of miles apart and disguised by virtual characters makes it easier for people to approach and interact with each other.

Sort of like how if you were drunk and wearing a teenage mutant ninja turtles mask, you might say things you would have never otherwise considered to people you’ve never even met before. Right?

The research also points out, however, that to interact in an acceptable way in a virtual world, you would have to have at least rudimentary real-world interaction skills. It helps, though, if you’ve got wicked hit points.

The PhD student behind the research said that, over the course of the study, she immersed herself in Second Life.

Also, I’ll soon be publishing my research on how drunk people dressed up as ninja turtles have exceptional personal hygiene and 150+ IQs.


The Purchase College School of Natural and Social Sciences announces its 27th Annual Student Research Symposium which will be held on April 26 from 8:45 AM to 1 PM at Purchase College located at 735 Anderson Hill Road, Purchase, N.Y. This annual event represents the best of the science programs offered at Purchase, and a forum in which graduating seniors can present their yearlong scientific research.

The topics to be presented this year include research on the effects fatty acids on breast cancer cells, Christian iconography and tattoos, the Sub-Saharan economy, the correlation between asthma and income level, social networking and honesty, solving Sudoku, skateboarding as a subculture, children of the AIDS epidemic, the effects of aging on decision-making, and gender influences on preschoolers.

What makes the science programs at Purchase distinctive is that each student works closely with faculty sponsors on original research for their Senior Project, an opportunity most students don’t have at larger institutions. The Student Research Symposium is also unique in that it allows undergraduate students to report on their research in the same way scientists from major research laboratories do at national and international conferences.

This year’s Symposium has an international flavor as Purchase students from the United States, Russia, Kenya, Germany, France and Japan will discuss their research in all areas of the natural and social sciences.

The Symposium consists of concurrent sessions in anthropology, biology, chemistry, environmental studies, economics, math/computer science, political science, psychology, sociology, women’s studies, and media, society & the arts.

Students describe their research during a 15-minute oral presentation followed by five minutes of questions from the audience. Other students participate in a dedicated poster session, in which presenters display their research results with a combination of words, images and graphics.

Presentations will be conducted in both the Natural and Social Sciences Buildings. Afterward, awards will be presented to students for academic excellence, outstanding research and service to the School of Natural and Social Sciences. Lunch will be served.

Registration begins at 8:15 AM in Room 1001 of the Natural Sciences Building. Registration can also be conducted online at, where further information is also available, including directions to the campus. The Symposium is free and open to the public.


Race: Are We So Different?  More about the exhibit
Race: Are We So Different? More about the exhibit

The Science Museum of Minnesota will be the world premiere location of an exhibit about race and human variation called RACE: Are We So Different? on January 10th. I just finished watching the Paula Zahn NOW show on CNN tonight on Racism in America that covered many of the same topics that are discussed in the RACE exhibit, such as white privilege and the history and current status of racial preference in housing. It was interesting, and it was good to see race be openly discussed on national television.

One interesting web-based feature the show featured was a test developed by Harvard University researchers that used a series of words and images to highlight the differences between how we believe we act and think about race and how we subconsciously think about race.

Psychologists understand that people may not say what's on their minds either because they are unwilling or because they are unable to do so. For example, if asked "How much do you smoke?" a smoker who smokes 4 packs a day may purposely report smoking only 2 packs a day because they are embarrassed to admit the correct number. Or, the smoker may simply not answer the question, regarding it as a private matter. (These are examples of being unwilling to report a known answer.) But it is also possible that a smoker who smokes 4 packs a day may report smoking only 2 packs because they honestly believe they only smoke about 2 packs a day. (Unknowingly giving an incorrect answer is sometimes called self-deception; this illustrates being unable to give the desired answer).

The unwilling-unable distinction is like the difference between purposely hiding something from others and unconsciously hiding something from yourself. The Implicit Association Test makes it possible to penetrate both of these types of hiding. The IAT measures implicit attitudes and beliefs that people are either unwilling or unable to report.

It’s pretty interesting research, and a pretty interesting method. I recommend checking out the web site and trying a test or two out for yourself. You may be surprised by the result, and you may not agree with it, but I think it is interesting to learn about what our unconscious automatic preferences are. The RACE exhibit at the Science Museum will, I think, do the something similar to what this test does – give us a chance to look closely at ourselves and examine how we see others.