Daily Archives: July 24, 2008

Energy drinks and risk-taking among college students

Science Daily reports on two studies conducted at the University of Buffalo:

[One study by Kathleen Miller found that] frequent energy drink consumers (six or more days a month)… were approximately three times as likely than less-frequent energy drink consumers or non-consumers to have smoked cigarettes, abused prescription drugs and been in a serious physical fight in the year prior to the survey. They reported drinking alcohol, having alcohol-related problems and using marijuana about twice as often as non-consumers.

They were also more likely to engage in other forms of risk-taking, including unsafe sex, not using a seatbelt, participating in an extreme sport and doing something dangerous on a dare.

[A second study by Miller] found that undergraduates who consumed energy drinks more often were also more likely to develop a jock identity and to engage in risk-taking behaviors. “Ultimately,” she says, “undergraduates’ frequent use of Red Bull and other energy drinks should be seen by peers, parents and college officials as a potential predictor of ‘toxic jock identity.'”

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Low-income lottery players motivated by class consciousness?

New researc from Emily Haisley, formerly a PhD student at Carnegie Mellon and now on the faculty at Yale, and her co-authors “sheds light on the reasons why low-income lottery players eagerly invest in a product that provides poor returns,” according to a Carnegie Mellon press release.

This research is published in the July 2008 issue of the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making here.  The study’s abstract reads as follows:

Despite a return of only $.53 on the dollar, state lotteries are extremely popular, especially among the poor, who play the most but can least afford to play. In two experiments conducted with low-income participants, we examine how implicit comparisons with other income classes increase low-income individuals’ desire to play the lottery. In Experiment 1, participants were more likely to purchase lottery tickets when they were primed to perceive that their own income was low relative to an implicit standard. In Experiment 2, participants purchased more tickets when they considered situations in which rich people or poor people receive advantages, implicitly highlighting the fact that everyone has an equal chance of winning the lottery.

Using the visual system for computation

Science Daily reports on new research by Mark Changizi of Rensselaer:

Since the idea of using DNA to create faster, smaller, and more powerful computers originated in 1994, scientists have been scrambling to develop successful ways to use genetic code for computation. Now, new research from a professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute suggests that if we want to carry out artificial computations, all we have to do is literally look around.

Assistant Professor of Cognitive Science Mark Changizi has begun to develop a technique to turn our eyes and visual system into a programmable computer. His findings are reported in the latest issue of the journal Perception.

A pre-print PDF version of this study is available from Changizi’s Web site here.