iStock
iStock

Young Toddlers Know When You’re Lying, Say Scientists

iStock
iStock

We have not been giving our little ones enough credit. Psychologists working with young toddlers say the kids are capable of recognizing when someone else is pretending, cheating, or straight-up lying. The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Psychologists use a test called the false-belief task to gauge whether a person knows that other people’s thoughts are different from their own. The classic test involves a story in which a protagonist with incomplete or inaccurate information must make a choice between two items. Before the protagonist acts, psychologists ask the person taking the test which item they think the protagonist will select. If the test-taker realizes that their ideas differ from the protagonist’s—that the protagonist has a false belief—they can guess that the protagonist will make the wrong choice.

Kids under the age of 4 generally fail this test, and psychologists generally take this as an indication that younger children don’t understand other people’s thoughts or beliefs. But in doing so they’ve overlooked one major element: their test depends on the test-taker’s ability to understand the questions and articulate a response. Like many tests of cognitive ability, the bias is built right in.

One team of researchers recognized this issue and decided to design a better test. They created a simplified version with pictures and more basic questions, then brought in 144 kids aged 2 and a half. The simplified test made both the testing procedure and the questions themselves easier for the children to understand. They could guess that the protagonist was about to make a mistake. They knew her thoughts were not the same as their own.

Renee Baillargeon of the University of Illinois was a co-author on the study. "Our study shows that when the task is made simpler, even 2-and-a-half year olds succeed," she said in a statement. "So the ability to answer questions about persons with false beliefs is present very early in development, contrary to what was traditionally thought."

Co-author Peipei Setoh of Nanyang Technological University noted that this false belief—that little kids weren’t clever enough to figure it out—could be negatively affecting the way we raise them.

"If parents believe that children do not understand complicated matters, they may tell simpler versions of the truth and 'dumb down' what they view as complicated content for kids. Parents of young children and early childhood educators should be aware that children's early cognitive abilities may be more advanced than previously thought."

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Health
Feeling Down? Lifting Weights Can Lift Your Mood, Too
iStock
iStock

There’s plenty of research that suggests that exercise can be an effective treatment for depression. In some cases of depression, in fact—particularly less-severe ones—scientists have found that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants, which don’t work for everyone and can come with some annoying side effects. Previous studies have largely concentrated on aerobic exercise, like running, but new research shows that weight lifting can be a useful depression treatment, too.

The study in JAMA Psychiatry, led by sports scientists at the University of Limerick in Ireland, examined the results of 33 previous clinical trials that analyzed a total of 1877 participants. It found that resistance training—lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing push ups, and any other exercises targeted at strengthening muscles rather than increasing heart rate—significantly reduced symptoms of depression.

This held true regardless of how healthy people were overall, how much of the exercises they were assigned to do, or how much stronger they got as a result. While the effect wasn’t as strong in blinded trials—where the assessors don’t know who is in the control group and who isn’t, as is the case in higher-quality studies—it was still notable. According to first author Brett Gordon, these trials showed a medium effect, while others showed a large effect, but both were statistically significant.

The studies in the paper all looked at the effects of these training regimes on people with mild to moderate depression, and the results might not translate to people with severe depression. Unfortunately, many of the studies analyzed didn’t include information on whether or not the patients were taking antidepressants, so the researchers weren’t able to determine what role medications might play in this. However, Gordon tells Mental Floss in an email that “the available evidence supports that [resistance training] may be an effective alternative and/or adjuvant therapy for depressive symptoms that could be prescribed on its own and/or in conjunction with other depression treatments,” like therapy or medication.

There haven’t been a lot of studies yet comparing whether aerobic exercise or resistance training might be better at alleviating depressive symptoms, and future research might tackle that question. Even if one does turn out to be better than the other, though, it seems that just getting to the gym can make a big difference.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Keystone/Getty Images
arrow
science
Uncombable Hair Syndrome Is a Real—and Very Rare—Genetic Condition
Keystone/Getty Images
Keystone/Getty Images

Everyone has bad hair days from time to time, but for roughly 100 people around the world, unmanageable hair is an actual medical condition.

Uncombable hair syndrome, also known as spun glass hair syndrome, is a rare condition caused by a genetic mutation that affects the formation and shape of hair shafts, BuzzFeed reports. People with the condition tend to have dry, unruly hair that can't be combed flat. It grows slower than normal and is typically silver, blond, or straw-colored. For some people, the symptoms disappear with age.

A diagram of a hair follicle
iStock

Although there have been only about 100 documented cases worldwide, one of the world's leading researchers on the condition, Regina Betz, of Germany's University of Bonn, believes there could be thousands of others who have it but have not been diagnosed. Some have speculated that Einstein had the condition, but without a genetic test, it's impossible to know for sure.

An 18-month-old American girl named Taylor McGowan is one of the few people with this syndrome. Her parents sent blood samples to Betz to see if they were carriers of the gene mutation, and the results came back positive for variations of PADI3, one of three genes responsible for the syndrome. According to IFL Science, the condition is recessive, meaning that it "only presents when individuals receive mutant gene copies from both parents." Hence it's so uncommon.

Taylor's parents have embraced their daughter's unique 'do, creating a Facebook page called Baby Einstein 2.0 to share Taylor's story and educate others about the condition.

"It's what makes her look ever so special, just like Albert Einstein," Taylor's mom, Cara, says in a video uploaded to YouTube by SWNS TV. "We wanted to share her story with the world in hopes of spreading awareness."

[h/t BuzzFeed]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER