Monthly Archives: December 2010

Despite pop culture depictions, is female-on-male violence really on the rise?

Slate reports:

[Pop culture depictions can advance the idea that] Both partners are equally to blame, both partners are equally abusive; women are strong enough to punch, women are not — or no longer — the only victims…

Are women really becoming “as violent as men”? And is that even the question we should be asking in the first place?

People who support women’s rights, and who have worked for decades to get male-on-female domestic violence taken seriously, may find this conversation not just eye-rolling, but deeply troubling. As expert Jill Murray, author, most recently, of “But He Never Hit Me,” puts it: Equating the scope, incidence and danger of male vs. female domestic violence “stands to negate everything we’ve been trying to fight for, all the work we’ve done…”

“We can’t ignore or deny that women can be violent to their partners, whether their partners are men or women,” says Jennifer L. Pozner, author of “Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV” and founder of Women in Media & News. “But by hyping inaccurate studies in news reports and creating salacious narratives on crime dramas, media have for decades tried to create a false equivalence, discussing the few women who have been violent and using those women’s stories as proof that A) there’s ‘just as much’ female-to-male domestic violence as male-to-female, and B) domestic violence isn’t a problem that women have to deal with as victims anymore…”

Experts say the raw, in-a-vacuum numbers don’t even start to tell the whole story of a given relationship, or of the complex dynamics of domestic violence. Other DOJ data shows men are more likely to be attacked with a knife or hit with a thrown object; women are more likely to be grabbed, held or tripped, raped, or sexually assaulted. Perhaps more to the point, females are more likely than males to sustain severe or injurious violence and to require medical treatment.


Google unveils massive database of written language use over time

The New York Times reports:

Google has made a mammoth database culled from nearly 5.2 million digitized books available to the public for free downloads and online searches, opening a new landscape of possibilities for research and education in the humanities.The digital storehouse, which comprises words and short phrases as well as a year-by-year count of how often they appear, represents the first time a data set of this magnitude and searching tools are at the disposal of Ph.D.’s, middle school students and anyone else who likes to spend time in front of a small screen. It consists of the 500 billion words contained in books published between 1500 and 2008 in English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese and Russian.

The intended audience is scholarly, but a simple online tool allows anyone with a computer to plug in a string of up to five words and see a graph that charts the phrase’s use over time…

A scholarly paper describing the creation and preliminary analysis of this corpus has been published by Science (preview available here).

Extreme narcissism will no longer be a mental health disorder

The New York Times reports:

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (due out in 2013, and known as DSM-5) has eliminated five of the 10 personality disorders that are listed in the current edition.

Narcissistic personality disorder is the most well-known of the five, and its absence has caused the most stir in professional circles.

Upper-class individuals less able to read others’ emotions

MSNBC reports:

Upper-class people are less adept at reading other people’s emotions than their lower-class counterparts, according to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science.

“We found that people from a lower-class background – in terms of occupation, status, education and income level – performed better in terms of emotional intelligence, the ability to read the emotions that others are feeling,” says Michael Kraus, co-author of the study and a postdoctoral student in psychology at the University of California, San Francisco.

The article is posted here (abstract available for free; subscription required to read full article).

Woman with brain anomaly does not feel fear

HealthDay (via USA Today) reports:

Researchers who have studied a woman with a missing amygdala — the part of the brain believed to generate fear — report that their findings may help improve treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other anxiety disorders.

In perhaps the first human study confirming that the almond-shaped structure is crucial for triggering fear, researchers at the University of Iowa monitored a 44-year-old woman’s response to typically frightening stimuli such as snakes, spiders, horror films and a haunted house, and asked about traumatic experiences in her past.

The woman, identified as S.M., does not seem to fear a wide range of stimuli that would normally frighten most people.

Weight gain influences brain’s response to food, study finds

Health Day (via USA Today) reports:

Most people probably find drinking a milkshake a pleasurable experience, sometimes highly so. But apparently that’s less apt to be the case among those who are overweight or obese.

Overeating, it seems, dims the neurological response to the consumption of yummy foods such as milkshakes, a new study suggests. That response is generated in the caudate nucleus of the brain, a region involved with reward…

“The higher your BMI (body mass index), the lower your caudate response when you eat a milkshake,” said study lead author Dana Small, an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale and an associate fellow at the university’s John B. Pierce Laboratory…

When asked how pleasurable they found the milkshake, overweight and obese participants in the study responded in ways that did not differ much from those of normal-weight participants, suggesting that the explanation is not that obese people don’t enjoy milkshakes any more or less.

Game show will pit human contenstants against artificial intelligence

The Associate Press (via Huffington Post) reports:

The game show “Jeopardy!” will pit man versus machine this winter in a competition that will show how successful scientists are in creating a computer that can mimic human intelligence.Two of the venerable game show’s most successful champions – Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter – will play two games against “Watson,” a computer program developed by IBM’s artificial intelligence team. The matches will be spread over three days that will air Feb. 14-16, the game show said on Tuesday.