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The door-to-door life

I was once a Girl Scout, so I felt the pain of the youth who recently solicited my doorstep, toting miserable little items some wholesaler had signed off on. The details of his pitch were lost in the miasma of pity I was projecting out to him. I begged off by taking one of his pamphlets, but what I didn't know at the time was that his presence was in fact illegal according to the U.S. Department of Labor. For-profit door-to-door sales by minors are handled thusly in CA:

California (1994) - Prohibited for minors under age 16 except the sale of newspaper subscriptions by minors 12 to 16 years of age is permitted if certain conditions are met.

He wasn't selling newspapers, and I couldn't even safely say he was at least 12.

The following states don't permit any kind of door-to-door solicitation by minors:

  • Alaska (1989) - Prohibited for minors under age 18
  • Florida (1991) - images-2.jpgProhibited for minors under age 16
  • Maine (2001) - Prohibited for minors under age 16
  • Missouri (1989/2002) - Prohibited for minors under age 16
  • North Dakota (1993) - Prohibited for minors under age 16

I grew up in Michigan, and from what I can tell it's still kosher for youngsters to darken doorsteps and peddle goods there. Selling Girl Scout cookies to strangers in the lobbies of sepulchral apartment buildings was bad enough. But playing collections agent six weeks later was way worse. I had a man tell me he'd given up yeast for lent, take the cookies from my hands, crumble them, and scatter them all over his front lawn. Let's just say it had a formative impact on my "closing" ability. Were any of you encouraged to canvass neighborhoods as young entrepreneurs?

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Vivid Imagery Makes Poetry More Pleasurable, According to Psychologists
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Contrary to what English teachers led us to believe, most readers don’t judge poetry based on factors like alliteration and rhyme. In fact, a new study published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts suggests that vivid imagery (i.e. sense-evoking description) is what makes a poem compelling, according to Smithsonian.

To determine why some poetic works are aesthetically pleasing while others are less so, researchers from New York University and the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt, Germany, had more than 400 online volunteers read and rate 111 haikus and 16 sonnets. Participants answered questions about each one, including how vivid its imagery was, whether it was relaxing or stimulating, how aesthetically pleasing they found it, and whether its content was positive or negative.

Not surprisingly, taste varied among subjects. But researchers did find, overall, that poems containing colorful imagery were typically perceived as more pleasurable. (For example, one favorite work among subjects described flowers as blooming and spreading like fire.) Emotional valence—a poem's emotional impact—also played a smaller role, with readers ranking positive poems as more appealing than negative ones. Poems that received low rankings were typically negative, and lacked vivid imagery.

Researchers think that vivid poems might also be more interesting ones, which could explain their popularity in this particular study. In the future, they hope to use similar methodology to investigate factors that might influence our enjoyment of music, literature, and movies.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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Why Reading Aloud Helps You Remember More Information
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If you're trying to commit something to memory, you shouldn't just read the same flashcard over and over. You should read it aloud, according to a new study from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.

The research, published in the journal Memory, finds that the act of reading and speaking text aloud is a more effective way to remember information than reading it silently or just hearing it read aloud. The dual effect of both speaking and hearing helps encode the memory more strongly, the study reports. The new research builds on previous work on the so-called production effect by Waterloo psychologist Colin MacLeod, who is also one of the current paper's authors.  

The current study tested 95 college students over the course of two semesters, asking them to remember as many words as possible from a list of 160 nouns. At one session, they read a list of words into a microphone, then returned two weeks later for a follow-up. In some situations, the participants read the words presented to them aloud, while in others, they either heard their own recorded voice played back to them, heard recordings of others reading the words, or read the words silently to themselves. Afterward, they were tested to see how much they remembered from the list.

The participants remembered more words if they had read them aloud compared to all other conditions, even the one where people heard their own voices reading the words. However, hearing your own voice on its own does seem to have some effect: it was a better memory tool for participants than hearing someone else speak, perhaps because people are good at remembering things that involve them. (Or maybe, the researchers suggest, it's just because people find it so bizarre to hear their own recorded voice that it becomes a salient memory.)

The findings "suggest that production is memorable in part because it includes a distinctive, self-referential component," the researchers write. "This may well underlie why rehearsal is so valuable in learning and remembering: We do it ourselves, and we do it in our own voice. When it comes time to recover the information, we can use this distinctive component to help us to remember."

The message is loud and clear: If you want to remember, you should both read it and speak it aloud.

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