Author: Jen Martin

Mosquito magnets

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Genetics / Health / Medicine / Myths / Zoology

Are you irresistible to mosquitos? We all know someone who gets covered in bites every time they venture outside. Why are some of us so much tastier than others? The deadliest animals Only female mosquitos bite: they need the protein that comes from a blood meal to make their eggs. But there are thousands of species of mosquito, and they have different ideas about who and what is tasty. Some prefer birds, some frogs, some […]

Oldest, youngest, middle or only?

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Anthropology / Myths / Psychology

Are you a rebellious youngest child, a responsible first-born, or perhaps a people-pleasing middle child? Much has been said about how birth order affects personality and intelligence. Is there any truth to the stereotypes? Neurotic, spoiled or independent? Personalities are interesting things. We like to understand our own personalities and wonder how hard it might be to change our personality. We want to know if it’s possible to predict personality, for example on the basis […]

Watch my space

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Anthropology / Myths / Psychology

We all have a bubble around us, a sense of personal space we don’t like to have invaded. How close are you happy to stand next to a friend? A stranger? And how is your comfort zone influenced by your nationality? Invisible bubbles Remember Elaine’s ‘close talker’ boyfriend on Seinfeld, who stood too close? So close that Kramer fell over trying to get away? Most of us have experienced meeting someone who just doesn’t seem […]

A measure of creativity

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Anthropology / Myths / Psychology

Are you creative? Many people believe everyone is creative. But how do we define creativity and how can we measure it? What’s creativity? Creativity is a fascinating thing. We all have an idea of what it means to be creative – perhaps you’re thinking of Leonardo Da Vinci or Steve Jobs. But coming up with a solid definition of creativity has proven challenging. Most researchers use the words ‘new’ and ‘useful’ to describe creative thoughts, […]

Do dogs understand our emotions?

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Evolution / Psychology / Zoology

Dogs give the impression of understanding our every word. How well can dogs read our emotions, and can they really smell fear? Man – and woman’s – best friend Anyone who grew up with, or has a pet dog will agree: dogs have an amazing ability to make us feel understood. It’s in the way their eyes study us intently, often with a sympathetic tilt of the head. Dogs tend to stay close when we […]

It’s not in the way you write

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Myths / Psychology

It’s tempting to think the way you write – big or small letters, straight or on a lean, with or without swirls, neat or messy – says something about your personality. But is there any truth to handwriting analysis? The rise of graphology At first glance, the idea that personality is reflected in handwriting does have some appeal. After all, each of us has our own very personal writing style so perhaps the way we […]

Trumped-up confidence

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Anthropology / Myths / Psychology

Know anyone whose confidence in their own ability far outweighs their actual skills? It’s called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. A question of confidence The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are so sure of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubt. –Nobel Prize Winner Bertrand Russell A lack of confidence is extremely common: seventy percent of us experience the imposter syndrome. Despite good evidence to the contrary, we worry we’re too […]

Hearing accents

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Anthropology / Myths / Psychology

We all speak with an accent, and we judge each other by our accents. Our accents can change gradually, or sometimes dramatically. But if you want to speak an additional language without any foreign accent, you may be facing an uphill battle. Accent, accents everywhere Everyone has an accent. And I’m not just talking about humans. The clicking sounds sperm whales use to communicate with each other vary by region, and Japanese Macaques have local […]

There’s a face in there

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Anthropology / Evolution / Myths / Psychology

Ever seen Elvis in a corn chip? How about a face in a building or a cloud? Spotting faces – even ones that don’t exist – is something your brain is very good at. Do you see what I see? One of my favourite Twitter accounts is Faces in Things. You’d be amazed where people have spied faces and other human and animal shapes. You’ve probably heard about Jesus on a banana peel, the Man […]

How to rock paper and scissors

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Anthropology / Mathematics / Myths / Psychology

We’ve all used rock-paper-scissors to resolve a dispute. Is there a foolproof winning strategy? The earwig and the elephant When all else fails, rock-paper-scissors (also known as RPS) is an excellent way to make a decision. The rules are simple. At an agreed moment – usually after two or three ‘primes’ to get in sync, two people each make a symbol with their hand. The symbols are rock (closed fist), paper (flat hand) and scissors […]