Funny: do you recognize all the different kinds of superstition in this video?

Found this video via @LievenScheire, thx!

An inside peek into the pre-show rituals of skeptical magician Paul Zenon, ahead of his appearance at QED 2014. QED was a two-day celebration of science and skepticism, which took place in the Palace Hotel, Manchester on the 12th-13th April 2014.”


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How ‘mediasmart’ are young Canadians? (Infographic & report)

Always nice if a report also summarizes the findings in an infographic. You can download the full report ‘Experts or Amateurs? Gauging Young Canadians’ Digital Literacy Skills’ and it’s summary via

This is the infographic:


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Interesting read: How Dads Influence Teens’ Happiness

On the website of ScientificAmerican there is an adaptation from Do Fathers Matter? What Science Is Telling Us about the Parent We’ve Overlooked, by Paul Raeburn. The influence of fathers on their teenage children has long been overlooked. Now researchers are finding surprising ways in which dads make a difference (so glad to read, actually).

An excerpt from the adaptation:

Empathy is another characteristic that we hope teenagers will develop, and fathers seem to have a surprisingly important role here, too. Richard Koestner, a psychologist at McGill University, looked back at 75 men and women who had been part of a study at Yale University in the 1950s, when they were children. When Koestner and his colleagues examined all the factors in the children’s lives that might have affected how empathetic they became as adults, one factor dwarfed all others—how much time their fathers spent with them. “We were amazed to find that how affectionate parents were with their children made no difference in empathy,” Koestner says. “And we were astounded at how strong the father’s influence was.”

Important to note: this doesn’t mean that families without a father present means that the children are doomed.

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Longitudinal research looks at how children learn aggressive ways of thinking and behaving from violent video games

First of all, this research is not about banning video games. More than 90 percent of children and teens play video games, and researchers say the majority of those games contain some type of violent content. However, that does not mean all games are bad and that children will only develop bad habits. The results that are found in this new study build upon a previous study, published in Psychological Science, that analyzed the influence of prosocial media.

That earlier cross-cultural study, led by Prot, Gentile and Anderson, found that prosocial media – video games, movies or TV shows that portray helpful, caring and cooperative behaviors – positively influence behavior regardless of culture. The study, the first of its kind, tested levels of empathy and helpfulness of thousands of children and adolescents in seven countries.

But the new study, in which a total of 3034 children and adolescents from 6 primary and 6 secondary schools in Singapore (73% male) were surveyed annually for three consecutive years, does show that children who repeatedly play violent video games are learning thought patterns that will stick with them and influence behaviors as they grow older. The effect is the same regardless of age, gender or culture. Douglas Gentile, an associate professor of psychology and lead author of the study published in JAMA Pediatrics, says it is really no different than learning math or to play the piano.

“If you practice over and over, you have that knowledge in your head. The fact that you haven’t played the piano in years doesn’t mean you can’t still sit down and play something,” Gentile said. “It’s the same with violent games – you practice being vigilant for enemies, practice thinking that it’s acceptable to respond aggressively to provocation, and practice becoming desensitized to the consequences of violence.” (source)

Researchers found that over time children start to think more aggressively. And when provoked at home, school or in other situations, children will react much like they do when playing a violent video game. Repeated practice of aggressive ways of thinking appears to drive the long-term effect of violent games on aggression.

Abstract of the research:

Importance  Although several longitudinal studies have demonstrated an effect of violent video game play on later aggressive behavior, little is known about the psychological mediators and moderators of the effect.

Objective  To determine whether cognitive and/or emotional variables mediate the effect of violent video game play on aggression and whether the effect is moderated by age, sex, prior aggressiveness, or parental monitoring.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Three-year longitudinal panel study. A total of 3034 children and adolescents from 6 primary and 6 secondary schools in Singapore (73% male) were surveyed annually. Children were eligible for inclusion if they attended one of the 12 selected schools, 3 of which were boys’ schools. At the beginning of the study, participants were in third, fourth, seventh, and eighth grades, with a mean (SD) age of 11.2 (2.1) years (range, 8-17 years). Study participation was 99% in year 1.

Main Outcomes and Measures  The final outcome measure was aggressive behavior, with aggressive cognitions (normative beliefs about aggression, hostile attribution bias, aggressive fantasizing) and empathy as potential mediators.

Results  Longitudinal latent growth curve modeling demonstrated that the effects of violent video game play are mediated primarily by aggressive cognitions. This effect is not moderated by sex, prior aggressiveness, or parental monitoring and is only slightly moderated by age, as younger children had a larger increase in initial aggressive cognition related to initial violent game play at the beginning of the study than older children. Model fit was excellent for all models.

Conclusions and Relevance  Given that more than 90% of youths play video games, understanding the psychological mechanisms by which they can influence behaviors is important for parents and pediatricians and for designing interventions to enhance or mitigate the effects.

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Funny research: men can’t make themselves sound sexier, women can

In a dark brown voice she said Lola, the Kinks sang, but if she/he would have sounded sexy? Well, new research shows it could be doubtful. The new study published in Journal of Nonverbal Behavior suggests that men cannot intentionally make their voices sound more sexy or attractive, while women have little trouble. Although the study has a relatively small test group, the results are quite interesting.  

From the press release:

“This ability may be due to culture and cuts across cultures and time,” says Susan Hughes, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Albright College. “There is a stereotype of what is a sexual voice in our culture — a low, breathy voice.”

 The research examines the patterns that emerge when men and women intentionally modify their voices to project four traits related to mate selection and competition — sexiness, dominance, intelligence and confidence — and how others perceive these manipulations.

For the study, 40 participants (20 men, 20 women) provided intentionally manipulated voice samples for the desired traits, plus a normal speech sample. Each sample consisted of participants counting from one to 10. Another 40 people assessed the degree to which each sample effectively projected the given trait.

The researchers found that women could make their voices sound more attractive, but men could not. “In fact, although not significantly, it got a bit worse when men tried to sound sexy,” says Hughes.

The difference may be rooted in mate selection, the study says. Women know that men place greater emphasis on attractiveness when choosing a partner, and that voice attractiveness can predict physical attractiveness. Thus, it is beneficial for women to sound sexier to enhance their value to potential mates and to stave off competition from rival females.

Spectrogram analyses of the samples revealed that both sexes slowed their speech to sound sexy/attractive, while women also lowered their pitch and increased their hoarseness. Ironically, men prefer higher-pitch females, but a woman will signal her interest in a man by intentionally dropping her voice, said Hughes.

The study found that both sexes can manipulate their voices to sound more intelligent. Women, however, could not sound more confident. Men could, but only when judged by female raters. This may be true, according to the study, because it’s important for men to project confidence to women (and for women to perceive it), since confidence can indicate financial and personal success, which women value in a potential partner. Men, on the other hand, may be more attuned to detecting male posturing and more inclined to underrate their competition.

Researchers were surprised to find that both men and women could equally and effectively manipulate their voices to sound more dominant. This may indicate a cultural shift. As more women enter traditionally male-dominated roles and leadership positions, they may choose to modify their voices to sound more formidable. As example, the study points to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who received vocal training to sound more domineering when coming into office.

The authors believe the study could have practical applications for vocal coaching, including in the fields of public speaking and acting, and in more effectively communicating with an audience.

Abstract of the research:

Evidence suggests that people can manipulate their vocal intonations to convey a host of emotional, trait, and situational images. We asked 40 participants (20 men and 20 women) to intentionally manipulate the sound of their voices in order to portray four traits: attractiveness, confidence, dominance, and intelligence to compare these samples to their normal speech. We then asked independent raters of the same- and opposite-sex to assess the degree to which each voice sample projected the given trait. Women’s manipulated voices were judged as sounding more attractive than their normal voices, but this was not the case for men. In contrast, men’s manipulated voices were rated by women as sounding more confident than their normal speech, but this did not hold true for women’s voices. Further, women were able to manipulate their voices to sound just as dominant as the men’s manipulated voices, and both sexes were able to modify their voices to sound more intelligent than their normal voice. We also assessed all voice samples objectively using spectrogram analyses and several vocal patterns emerged for each trait; among them we found that when trying to sound sexy/attractive, both sexes slowed their speech and women lowered their pitch and had greater vocal hoarseness. Both sexes raised their pitch and spoke louder to sound dominant and women had less vocal hoarseness. These findings are discussed using an evolutionary perspective and implicate voice modification as an important, deliberate aspect of communication, especially in the realm of mate selection and competition.

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Evidence Based Education Policy and Practice: A Conversation (Francis Schrag)


This is a text that could be used in many classes on education as a starting point for an insightful discussion on evidence based education and gut feeling. Real textbook material, still I haven’t examined if it works :).

Originally posted on Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice:


This fictitious exchange between two passionate educators over making educational policy and influencing classroom practice through careful scrutiny of evidence–such as has occurred in medicine and the natural sciences–as opposed to relying on professional judgment anchored in expertise gathered in schools brings out a fundamental difference among educators and the public that has marked public debate over the past three decades. The center of gravity in making educational policy in the U.S. has shifted from counting resources that go into schooling and relying on professional judgment to counting outcomes students derive from their years in schools and what the numbers say.

That shift can be dated from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 but gained sufficient traction after the Nation at Risk report (1983) to dominate debate over innovation, policy, and practice. Although this is one of the longest guest posts I have published, I found…

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Funny on Sunday: A bookstore with a sense of humor

Found via this tweet:

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2 research presentations on food marketing for kids by Tim Smits

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David Berliner on PISA and Poverty


An interesting letter on the link between scores on PISA and poverty (focus is the US, but relevant for more countries).

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Since there is always a lot of chatter about what international tests scores mean, I invited David Berliner to share his views. Berliner is one of our nation’s pre-eminent scholars of education.

Dear Diane,

A few weeks ago you asked me a question about recent PISA test results and the role that is played by poverty in the scores of the USA and other countries. As I understand it PISA doesn’t compute the poverty-test score relationships in quite the same way we might in the USA, but the results they get are similar to what we get.

Investigations of the poverty-test score relationships in PISA 2012 (OECD, 2013) relied on two variables, each of which was a composite. First, they used a family social class measure that was supposed to capture the income and cultural resources of a family. They combined three factors to get one composite index of family…

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High school should start later, new report delivers arguments

A new report from the University of Minnesota will be hailed as best news for months for many teens as it presents findings from a three-year study on high school start times. It examined whether or not a delay in start times had an impact on students’ overall health and academic performance. And well, it has.

As the John Hopkins Best Evidence in brief summarizes:

The study consisted of three parts. Part 1 involved collecting survey data from over 9,000 students across eight high schools in five school districts. Students were individually surveyed about their daily activities, substance use, and sleep habits. In Part 2 of the study, researchers collected data regarding students’ academic performance, such as grades earned, attendance, tardiness, and performance on state and national tests. The researchers also examined car crash data for the communities involved in the project. Part 3 of the study included an examination of the processes by which local school districts made the decision to change to a later start time.

  • High schools that start at 8:30 AM or later allow for more than 60% of students to obtain at least eight hours of sleep per school night;
  • Teens getting less than eight hours of sleep reported significantly higher depression symptoms, greater use of caffeine, and are at greater risk for making poor choices for substance use;
  • Academic performance outcomes, including grades earned in core subject areas of math, English, science, and social studies, plus performance on state and national achievement tests, attendance rates, and reduced tardiness, show significantly positive improvement with the start times of 8:35 AM or later; and
  • The number of car crashes for teen drivers from 16 to 18 years of age was significantly reduced (by 70%) when a school shifted start times from 7:35 AM to 8:55 AM.    


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