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Study Finds Male Tennis Players Are More Likely to Choke Under Pressure

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High-stakes situations can rattle anyone, but a new study suggests that it might affect men and women differently—at least in tennis. As Quartz reports, a paper published by the IZA Institute of Labor Economics finds that in the setting of Grand Slam tennis, when there’s a lot of money at stake and thousands of fans watching, men are more likely to fold under the pressure than women.

The paper examined whether or not players choked under pressure by looking at data from all four Grand Slam tournaments in 2010, examining whether players’ performance improved or declined as the stakes got higher. Grand Slam tournaments are some of the highest pressure events in tennis, and the prizes, which are equal for both men’s and women’s events, can be up to $3.5 million. Using these 2010 tournaments, the researchers looked at more than 4100 games for each gender.

Based on comparing the probability of winning with actual performance, the researchers found that “men consistently choke under competitive pressure.” The probability of winning was based on data such as who served first (a competitive advantage), the player’s height and BMI, and rankings based on performance throughout the year before the tournament. If players who arguably should have won a set based on those data ended up losing, the researchers could reasonably conclude that pressure might have played a role, especially when they compared data across the tournament.

Women did choke occasionally, but only half as often as men did. And, as the researchers point out, individual sets matter a lot in women’s tennis, because while men’s matches are best-out-of-five, women play best-out-of-three. So if a woman loses her first set, she has to win her next one to stay in the game, while men can lose two.

The study makes a compelling case that women in professional tennis are better at holding themselves together in high-stakes situations than the men of tennis, but that may not apply to other realms. Not all of us are Serena Williams, and obviously, professional athletes differ from the rest of us in a ton of ways. Previous studies [PDF] have shown that women also tend to fare better in same-sex competition than when competing with men, so there’s reason to believe that this study might not apply to the workplace or other non-gender-segregated competitions. However, it does indicate that if you were the betting type, you’d be wise to put your money on ladies.

[h/t Quartz]

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Food
Learn to Spot the Sneaky Psychological Tricks Restaurants Use
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While dining out, you may have noticed (but perhaps didn’t question) some unusual features—like prices missing dollar signs, or burgers served on plates that could accommodate a baby cow.

These aren’t just arbitrary culinary decisions, as the SciShow’s Hank Green explains in the video below. Restaurants use all kinds of psychological tricks to make you spend more money, ranging from eliminating currency symbols (this makes you think less about how much things cost) to plating meals on oversize dinnerware (it makes you eat more). As for the mouthwatering language used to describe food—that burger listed as a "delectable chargrilled extravagance," for example—studies show that these types of write-ups can increase sales by up to 27 percent.

Learn more psychological tricks used by restaurants (and how to avoid falling for them) by watching the video below. (Or, read our additional coverage on the subject.)

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Animals
Owning a Dog May Add Years to Your Life, Study Shows
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We've said that having a furry friend can reduce depression, promote better sleep, and encourage more exercise. Now, research has indicated that caring for a canine might actually extend your lifespan.

Previous studies have shown that dog owners have an innate sense of comfort and increased well-being. A new paper published in Scientific Reports and conducted by Uppsala University in Sweden looked at the health records of 3.4 million of the country's residents. These records typically include personal data like marital status and whether the individual owns a pet. Researchers got additional insight from a national dog registry providing ownership information. According to the study, those with a dog for a housemate were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease or any other cause during the study's 12-year duration.

The study included adults 40 to 80 years old, with a mean age of 57. Researchers found that dogs were a positive predictor in health, particularly among singles. Those who had one were 33 percent less likely to die early than those who did not. Authors didn't conclude the exact reason behind the correlation: It could be active people are more likely to own dogs, that dogs promoted more activity, or that psychological factors like lowered incidences of depression might bolster overall well-being. Either way, having a pooch in your life could mean living a longer one.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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