Chart: A ranking of European countries by how much couples argue over household chores

Interesting research. I wonder what, if anything, does this say about sociocultural attitudes towards gender roles, relationships, romantic expectations, or other factors that may contribute to conflict between partners. I’d be curious to see research like this involving other countries across the world.

Recent Research Finds Humans Have Only Four Emotions

From The Atlantic

Conventional scientific wisdom recognizes six “classic” emotions: happy, surprised, afraid, disgusted, angry, and sad. But the [University of Glasgow] scientists studied people’s facial expressions, and the emotions they signal, by showing people computer-generated facial animations. They asked the observers to characterize the faces based on those six basic emotions, and found that anger and disgust looked very similar to the observers in the early stages, as did fear and surprise. For example, both anger and disgust share a wrinkled nose, and both surprise and fear share raised eyebrows.

The thing was, as time went on, the face showed the distinction between the two, but when the emotion first hit, the face signals are very similar, suggesting, the researchers say, that the distinction between anger and disgust and between surprise and fear, is socially, not biologically based.

This leaves us with four “basic” emotions, according to this study: happy, sad, afraid/surprised, and angry/disgusted.  These, the researchers say, are our biologically based facial signals—though distinctions exist between surprise and fear and between anger and disgust, the experiment suggests that these differences developed later, more for social reasons than survival ones.

“These results show that dynamic facial expression models transmit an evolving hierarchy of signals over time, characterized by simpler, biologically rooted signals early in the signaling dynamics followed by more complex socially specific signals that finely discriminate the six facial expressions of emotion,” the study reads.

The researchers posit that the wide-open eyes that come with fear/surprise are a response to “fast-approaching” danger, and that we widen our eyes to get more visual information. The wrinkled nose that comes with anger/disgust, they say, is a response to “stationary danger,” such as pathogens—by wrinkling your nose, you may be less likely to breathe in something harmful.

“Our data reflect that the six basic facial expressions of emotion, like languages, are likely to represent a more complex set of modern signals and categories evolved from a simpler system of communication in early man developed to subserve developing social interaction needs,” the authors wrote. By that they mean these four emotions are the basic building blocks from which we develop our modern, complex, emotional stews.

It’s remarkable how so many seemingly mundane characteristics of our species have vital evolutionary origins for our survival.

Five Ways Languages Affect How We Think

This interesting Cracked article explores the often subtle ways in which languages shape us on both an individual and societal level. These facts also underscore how so cultural misunderstandings stem from our failure to appreciate the way languages shape societies in fundamentally different ways.

This is definitely something to keep in mind the next time we encounter a foreign-language speakers who comes off as abrasive or unpleasant in some way — in many instances, they simply have a different view of the world through the prism of their language, a fact that applies to us as well.

The Scientist to Rule Them All

Obviously, choosing the best scientist period is a futile effort, given the vast variety of scientific disciplines. But even identifying the best scientist within a given field of study can be tricky — how exactly do you determine it? According to a recent report in Natureresearchers at Indiana University Bloomington think they’ve discovered the best way to answer this question:

Their provisional (and constantly updated) ranking of nearly 35,000 researchers relies on queries made through Google Scholar to normalize the popular metric known as the h-index (a scientist with an h-index of 20 has published at least 20 papers with at least 20 citations each, so the measure takes into account quantity and popularity of research).

Through this methodology, they uncovered the following:

It found that as of 5 November, the most influential scholar was Karl Marx in history, ahead of Sigmund Freud in psychology. Number three was Edward Witten, a physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.

You can visit the team’s website at Scholarometer to see the rest of the results. Needless to say, the conclusions have been disputed; aside from questioning the very idea that there is a dominant scientific figure, there’s also the question of whether even this method is effective:

Scholarometer’s success depends on the accuracy of Google Scholar, which is far from comprehensive or consistent. “A user-based tool like Scholarometer can hardly deliver consistent results for fair comparison and field-normalization,” says Werner Marx, who studies scholarly metrics at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, Germany. And the corrected h-index is only one measurement. Experts recommend using a basket of metrics, together with peer-reviewed opinions, to compare researchers.

“I tend not to put a whole lot of weight on these numbers and I’ve never heard of the h-index,” says James Ihle, a biochemist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee — who at one stage placed fourth overall in the Scholarometer ranking. If you, as an evaluator, have to rely solely on corrected h-indices to compare academics, says Ihle, “then you’re dumb, and you don’t understand what you are doing”.
What are your thoughts on the matter?


Finnish Students Don’t Do Homework Or Take Tests

I’ve spoken at length about Finland’s education system before (here, here, and here) and I believe it deserves all the attention it can get, especially since much of this success is due to policies that are applicable in the US (if not elsewhere) — professionalizing the teaching industry, promoting smaller class sizes in conjunction with more student-to-teacher interaction, and so on. I think the following image breaks it down rather nicely, but if you want more information and sources, visit the hyperlinks above.