Neuroscience and Social Sciences

McDonald's. Dell. Chrysler. Rolls-Royce. Sears. Trump. All are companies that bear the names of their founders. Does that matter? One would think not, as Shakespeare told us, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

But new research published in the American Economic Review begs to differ. The authors, all from Duke University, claim that eponymous companies (i.e., companies named after their founders) are more successful than others.

In contrast to Shakespeare, the authors had a different hypothesis: A founder who names a company after himself is sending a signal to the market. That signal, essentially, is: "I'm such an incredibly talented person, that I guarantee my firm will succeed. To prove I mean what I say, I'm going to put my name and reputation...

Nutrition science is notoriously unreliable. The reason is because a substantial proportion of research in the field is conducted using surveys, and people just aren't very good at remembering what and how much they ate. 

The field is further damaged by a sensationalist press, which breathlessly reports every study and converts minor findings into flashy, eye-catching headlines. The latest example of this is a study that linked increased coffee consumption to reduced mortality. In general, media outlets wrote headlines like, "Drinking coffee may reduce the risk of death."

Well, not exactly. A plethora of data shows that coffee probably has some health benefits. However, after reading the original paper, carefully examining the data, and applying a dose of common sense (...

Your risk of death from a car crash, suicide, or homicide is different depending on the day of the week. That's the latest finding from the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The CDC calculated that, on the average day, 103 Americans die in car accidents, 121 from suicide, and 49 from homicide. But that's the average day. As it turns out, people die differently on Monday than they do on Saturday. (See chart.)

On every day of the week except Saturday and Sunday, people were most likely to die from suicide. The highest number of suicides occurred on Monday, which makes intuitive sense, since Mondays suck. The average number of suicides...

American culture is dominated by a can-do attitude. The prevailing belief is that no matter who you are, you can do whatever you want, as long as you work hard enough. When little Johnny says he wants to be an astronaut, everybody cheers his ambition. However, those who know little Johnny are secretly thinking, "You ain't smart enough, kid."

Though we don't like to admit it, intelligence and IQ matter. Creative people tend to have higher IQs. The traditional view is that expertise, in general, requires a higher IQ. One researcher suggested in 1963 that a minimum IQ of 120 is necessary to graduate with a degree in math or physics. Indeed, a person's college major serves as a proxy for intellectual aptitude. Though results vary slightly according to which methodology is used, an...

On May 27th, 1937, 80 years ago tomorrow, the Golden Gate Bridge opened and it quickly became an iconic symbol of San Francisco and American engineering. But in the past 80 years it also became iconic for a darker reason: suicide.

That has caused psychologists like Professor Craig Jackson at Birmingham City University to wonder how we can stop it from being a hotspot for people who want to kill themselves.

When it opened, The Golden Gate Bridge was the largest single-span suspension bridge in the world. It was such an achievement in science and technology that over 1,000,000 people walked across it on opening day. President Franklin...

Last week, a funny and clever hoax was perpetrated against a social sciences journal. The hoaxers wrote an absurd paper on how the penis is merely a social construct. And for good measure, they claimed it made climate change worse. Somehow, the paper passed peer review, and the predictable result was widespread mockery of the social sciences -- and gender studies, in particular -- across the Internet.

Not everybody was amused. A couple of critics raised legitimate objections. One of them noted that Cogent Social...

NYU physicist Alan Sokal thought very little of the research performed by his colleagues in the social sciences. To prove his point, he wrote a paper that used plenty of trendy buzz words but made absolutely no sense. As he later explained, Dr. Sokal wanted to find out if a humanities journal would "publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors' ideological preconceptions."

It would. His paper, "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," was published in the journal Social Text in 1996, and his hoax has earned him a place in scientific history.

Dr....

One of the most positive developments in American culture over the last few years is the increased awareness of bullying in school. Though I was a geek in high school (and proudly remain one today), I mostly hung out with other geeks, so bullying wasn't much of a problem for me*.

But that's not the case for a large number of American kids. According to the CDC, 20% of high school students report being bullied on school property; 16% report being bullied electronically. 

One would think that bullying would stop after high school. One would also think that adults are more mature and considerate once they are in the workplace. But, one would be wrong.

A new CDC report shows...

If you enjoy the wonders of medical research, this is proving to be a very interesting week.

In just two days we've learned that German researchers discovered a key factor that explains why pancreatic cancer is as aggressive and deadly as it is. And now, there's another eye-opening discovery on the same continent, one that may someday lead to ways to improve sleep patterns, providing solutions for jet-lag sufferers and drowsy, night-shift workers alike.

English researchers in Edinburgh have "found a new group of cells in the retina that directly affect the biological clock by sending signals to a region of the brain which regulates our daily (circadian) rhythms."...

Depression and anxiety, as well as severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia, have become more openly discussed in society. Yet, one aspect of mental health remains largely in the shadows: Nightmares.

Not just the product of children's over-active imaginations, about 5% of adults experience frequent nightmares. A study published in 2001 demonstrated that men who suffered from frequent nightmares were more likely to commit suicide than those who did not. However, the study included war veterans, a group who suffers more frequently from nightmares compared to the general population, most likely as a result of PTSD.

So, a new team of researchers wanted to separate veterans from civilians and ...