How To: Get Detained By Airport Security

Dangerous Item: Comedians
Don't Bring "˜Em To: Myanmar
The citizens of this country just want to avoid trouble—the kind that starts with a capital "T" and that rhymes with "C" and that stands for "comedy." Once known as Burma, Myanmar has a long tradition of stand-up comedy, usually in conjunction with traditional dance and theatre. But, since the rise of the military government nearly 20 years ago, comedy and comedians are increasingly unwelcome because of their propensity to make jokes at the junta's expense. Jokesters have even spent time in jail. Two members of an act known as the Moustache Brothers were imprisoned, with hard labor, for five years after they cracked some anti-regime jokes at a 1996 rally. A letter campaign by American comedians eventually got the two freed in 2001, but they're now banned from performing their act in Burmese.

Dangerous Item: Camera Phones
Don't Bring "˜Em To: Saudi Arabia
These trendy little devices were banned in 2002 amid concerns that the tiny cameras were being used to secretly photograph women in family or all-female environments where they might not be dressed as modestly as they would in public. In fact, according to news reports, accusations of camera phone use had led to fights at weddings and pat-down searches of students at girls' schools. But, after the ban incited a massive black-market business, the phones were re-legalized in 2004.

Dangerous Item: Vegemite
Don't Bring It To: The United States
In 2006, rumors (fueled by breathless reports by the Australian and New Zealand press) began circulating that the United States had banned the yeast-based, salty spread Vegemite from its shores. Popular (for some strange reason) with folks from down under, the spread contains large quantities of folate, a chemical whose artificial form, folic acid, is tightly regulated by the FDA. Natural folate doesn't fall under the laws, so Vegemite isn't actually in danger of bannination, but the FDA does limit the types and amount of products that can contain folic acid. Why? Because while small amounts of folate are important (particularly for fetuses and pregnant women) nobody knows what side effects it could produce if you were to start eating it in larger doses.

Can You 'Hear' These Silent GIFs?

GIFs are silent—otherwise they wouldn't be GIFs. But some people claim to hear distinct noises accompanying certain clips. Check out the GIF below as an example: Do you hear a boom every time the structure hits the ground? If so, you may belong to the 20 to 30 percent of people who experience "visual-evoked auditory response," also known as vEAR.

Researchers from City University London recently published a paper online on the phenomenon in the journal Cortex, the British Psychological Society's Research Digest reports. For their study, they recruited more than 4000 volunteers and 126 paid participants and showed them 24 five-second video clips. Each clip lacked audio, but when asked how they rated the auditory sensation for each video on a scale of 0 to 5, 20 percent of the paid participants rated at least half the videos a 3 or more. The percentage was even higher for the volunteer group.

You can try out the researchers' survey yourself. It takes about 10 minutes.

The likelihood of visual-evoked auditory response, according to the researchers, directly relates to what the subject is looking at. "Some people hear what they see: Car indicator lights, flashing neon shop signs, and people's movements as they walk may all trigger an auditory sensation," they write in the study.

Images packed with meaning, like two cars colliding, are more likely to trigger the auditory illusion. But even more abstract images can produce the effect if they have high levels of something called "motion energy." Motion energy is what you see in the video above when the structure bounces and the camera shakes. It's why a video of a race car driving straight down a road might have less of an auditory impact than a clip of a flickering abstract pattern.

The researchers categorize vEAR as a type of synesthesia, a brain condition in which people's senses are combined. Those with synesthesia might "see" patterns when music plays or "taste" certain colors. Most synesthesia is rare, affecting just 4 percent of the population, but this new study suggests that "hearing motion synesthesia" is much more prevalent.

[h/t BPS Research Digest]

The Surprising Link Between Language and Depression

Skim through the poems of Sylvia Plath, the lyrics of Kurt Cobain, or posts on an internet forum dedicated to depression, and you'll probably start to see some commonalities. That's because there's a particular way that people with clinical depression communicate, whether they're speaking or writing, and psychologists believe they now understand the link between the two.

According to a recent study published in Clinical Psychological Science, there are certain "markers" in a person's parlance that may point to symptoms of clinical depression. Researchers used automated text analysis methods to comb through large quantities of posts in 63 internet forums with more than 6400 members, searching for certain words and phrases. They also noted average sentence length, grammatical patterns, and other factors.

What researchers found was that a person's use (or overuse) of first-person pronouns can provide some insight into the state of their mental health. People with clinical depression tend to use more first-person singular pronouns, such as "I" and "me," and fewer third-person pronouns, like "they," "he," or "she." As Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the University of Reading and the head of the study, writes in a post for IFL Science:

"This pattern of pronoun use suggests people with depression are more focused on themselves, and less connected with others. Researchers have reported that pronouns are actually more reliable in identifying depression than negative emotion words."

What remains unclear, though, is whether people who are more focused on themselves tend to depression, or if depression turns a person's focus on themselves. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people with depression also use more negative descriptors, like "lonely" and "miserable."

But, Al-Mosaiwi notes, it's hardly the most important clue when using language to assess clinical depression. Far better indicators, he says, are the presence of "absolutist words" in a person's speech or writing, such as "always," "constantly," and "completely." When overused, they tend to indicate that someone has a "black-and-white view of the world," Al-Mosaiwi says. An analysis of posts on different internet forums found that absolutist words were 50 percent more prevalent on anxiety and depression forums, and 80 percent more prevalent on suicidal ideation forums.

Researchers hope these types of classifications, supported by computerized methods, will prove more and more beneficial in a clinical setting.

[h/t IFL Science]


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