MEN ARE FUNNIER THAN WOMEN, SO THEY THINK.
One of the most persistent stereotypes around is that men are funnier than women. The evolutionary explanation to this difference says that men’s humor functions to attract women; funny men attract more women opposed to men who are not endowed with a great sense of humor. In this sense, male humor is similar to a peacock’s tale. However, new research suggests that men are only a tiny bit funnier than women. Moreover, it were the men who thought they were funnier while the difference in ratings of male versus female humor was smaller when women did the ratings. 38
The research was performed by Laura Mickes, an associate professor at US San Diego Psychology Department, and her colleagues. They had 16 female and 16 male participants write the captions for 20 New Yorker cartoons in 45 minutes. Participants were instructed to be as funny as they could. In the second part of the experiment, 34 male and 47 female undergraduate students rated the cartoons. One cartoon image was displayed with two random captions and the students had to decide which one displayed the best sense of humor. The process was repeated, with new captions each time, until all possible combinations were judged by the audience and only 16 captions remained. These 16 cartoons were then pitted against each other. The number of rounds that a caption survived in these rounds (from 0 to 5) was taken as the score. The captions were anonymous which ensured that participants were unaware of the sex of the author. Over 90% of participants agreed with the stereotype that men are funnier than women. However, this stereotype was almost wholly absent when they rated the captions. Although captions written by men were judged as funnier than those written by females, this difference was only marginal (0.11 on a 5-point scale). Furthermore, this difference was larger in the ratings of male participants (0.16) compared to the female participants (0.6). This implies that men believe their own jokes to be funnier, while women don’t really care whether humor is ‘male’ or ‘female’. When looking at these findings from an evolutionary
perspective, one wonders if making jokes really helps to attract the ladies. There’s one consolation: if a guy fails to humor a woman into bed, he is still able to entertain his friends.
HEALTH NEW PHENOMENON IN STUDENTS: DRUNKOREXIA
It is well-known that students consume a lot of alcohol. According to the Core Institute, 73% of US students drank alcohol on a regular basis in 2010. Furthermore, 25% of young adults (18-34 years) binge drink (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Binge drinking is more common among men (21%) than women (10%). As a result, many attention has been given to alcohol consumption in prevention programs. While the risks of drinking too much are known to most students, new research suggests that it is the combination of heavy drinking and restricted calorie intake that is most dangerous. Like alcohol misuse, eating disorders are quite common amongst teenagers
and students. The combination of eating disorders such as anorexia, and heavy alcohol consumption –termed ‘drunkorexia’- has destructive long-term health effects. While most health information targets alcohol consumption and eating behavior separately, this research suggests that health advocates should focus on the combination of the two behaviors. The research was performed by Victoria Osborne, assistant professor of Social Work and Public Health at the University of Missouri. She found that 16 % of the participants she studied reported to restrict eating in order to ‘save calories’ for drinking. The motivations they had for this behavior were ‘preventing weight gain’, ‘saving money’ (which could be spent on buying alcoholic beverages later on) and ‘getting intoxicated faster.’ Drunkorexia was three times more frequent among women than men. The combination of restricted eating and alcohol misuse can have dangerous cognitive, physical and behavioral consequences. For instance, by depriving the brain of nutrition and drinking large amounts of alcohol, people run the risk of developing short-term and long-term cognitive problems. These problems include having difficulty in making decisions, studying and concentrating. Besides, people who engage in restricted eating and alcohol misuse also have an enhanced risk for more serious eating disorders and addictive behaviors. Because women metabolize alcohol differently than men, they are more prone to these risks than men. Women can get sick faster when binge drinking than men which can cause damage to their organs. It is important for health promotion programs which target at students to pay attention to the combination of restricted eating and heavy drinking. 39
COMPUTER SCIENCE AND RELIGION COMPUTER DETERMINES NUMBER OF AUTHORS OF THE BIBLE
Scholars have been trying to find out who wrote the holy books (Bible, Torah, Koran) for ages. They suspect that a book such as the bible was not written by one author, but that many authors contributed to it. While researching the holy books and their authors, until now the focus has always been on content-analysis. For instance, in this method passages on law are attributed to a different source than passages on holy rituals. However, professor Nachum Dershowitz of Tel Aviv University’s Blavatnik School of Computer Science and his colleagues have taken a wholly different approach to find out how many authors contributed 40
to these holy books. Instead of analyzing the books themselves, they let the computer decide on how many sources the Torah was based. The problem with content-analysis, which focuses on genre or subject, is that it is subjective. The person who analyses has to decide. Another means to identify different contributors, is by looking at the writing style. Indeed, irrespective of content every author has its own unique style. This could be a preference for certain words (for example, preferring the word ‘investigating’ over ‘looking into’), a preference for certain type of words (such as the frequency of using ‘function’ words or synonyms). These characteristics of a writer are very hard to register with the eye because they are often very subtle. However, a computer algorithm could do the work a lot faster and – when the algorithm is right - more accurate. Furthermore, by focusing on writing style instead of content, the researchers have added a new way to identify different authors. Dershowitz and colleagues wrote an algorithm and tested it by scrambling passages from the two Hebrew books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and asking the computer to separate them. The computer was able to sort the passages with a 99% accuracy. The algorithm was able to categorize by synonym preference, the usage of common words, and to distinguish ‘priesty’ materials (those dealing with issues such as religious rituals) and ‘non-priesty’ passages. Unfortunately, the algorithm is not advanced enough to tell us exactly how many authors contributed to the Bible. However, it does well in identifying transition points where there probably was a transition of one author to another. This will help scientists to count the number of contributors.