This Week I Learned That…
- Famous writers used telegrams to convey short messages in the same way that people use text messaging today. In his history of written communication, The Tyranny of Email, literary critic John Freeman explains how a few great writers used the telegraph. James Joyce, writer of some of the most complex literature ever created, sent this telegram to his brother when his child was born: “SON BORN JIM.” Wishing to know how the sales of his new novel were going, Oscar Wilde sent this telegram to his publisher: “?” The reply? “!” And then there’s a classic prank pulled off by none other than American satirist Mark Twain. Sending a telegram to a gathering of twelve elite men, Twain got them all to immediately evacuate town. The message: “FLEE AT ONCE. ALL IS DISCOVERED.”
- Increasing the minimum wage actually doesn’t increase unemployment. Not surprising? Well, it is to a lot of smart people–namely classical economists. If the minimum wage is raised, the theory goes, employers will simply offset the cost by hiring fewer workers. In the cover story of its February 17, 2014 issue, Business Week tells of a study in which the effect of a minimum wage hike was empirically measured by looking at two branches of business located in neighboring states. In one state, the minimum wage increased and, in the other, it stayed the same. However, after the change, there was no significant difference in the levels of unemployment within each branch. While empirical research is also now being done to reinforce the traditional economic theory, this study was key in challenging long-held assumptions about how labor economics actually works on the real world.
- When they make music, children become more helpful, more cooperative, and better at solving problems. In an article for PsyBlog, Jeremy Dean recounts a study in which one group of children made music and another group of children listened to a story. After these exercises, both groups were given a series of tests to measure the social effects of the activities. Making music turned out to be far more beneficial. For example, children in the musical group for 6 times more likely to cooperate and 30 times more likely to be helpful than the children from the other group. This study contributes to a growing body of research suggesting that more music education in schools may not be such a bad idea.
- Journalists today actively use social media for research and promotion, but they prefer to be pitched via email. On her blog, Spin Sucks, PR professional Gini Dietrich recounts recent research conducted by marketing software company Vocus. when 256 journalists were surveyed, about half of them said they used social media for gathering information about developing stories as well as for sharing their stories with their audiences. More than 75% of them said they were pitched most frequently through Facebook, but 45% of them said they preferred not to be pitched through social media. A striking 91% confessed that their most preferred form of contact to be pitched for stories was through email.
- While children used to be contributors to household economic productivity, raising them is now a substantial financial burden to the household. In her thoroughly researched book on the history and social psychology of parenting, All Joy and No Fun, writer Jennifer Senior cites the following data from the USDA: the average total cost of raising a child to adulthood is $212,370 for the lower class, $295,565 for the middle class, and $490,830 for the upper class. In many ways the role of children has changed dramatically since the movement for and introduction of child labor laws. Children are not only forbidden from working until they reach a certain age, but the latter half of the 20th century introduced the very concept of “the allowance.” While throughout human history children have been seen by parents as financial assets, they are now only consumers of the family’s financial resources.
- In speed dating, women are actually no less picky than men and choosing a partner. Traditionally, speed dating has been used as a real-world laboratory for psychologists in understanding the differences in courtship rituals between men and women. In most speed dating events, women remain idle while men rotate. And the data suggests that women tend to rate their potential partners more selectively than men in these speed dating events. In his book on female sexual desire, What Do Women Want?, writer Daniel Bergner tells of an experiment in which the roles were reversed. This time, men sat idly while the women did the rotating. And, in the speed dating event, the results were reversed–the men were more picky than the women.
- Comedians, on average, are literally crazier than non-comedians. Obviously, comedians have to be a little unusual to generate some of the comic material that most of us would never even consider. But, psychotic? Most of us wouldn’t go that far. Fast Company, however, tells of some recent research conducted on over 500 professional comedians–having the comics complete standard tests measuring psychotic behavior. It turns out that, yes, comedians are substantially more psychotic than the average person.
featured image courtesy of MDGovpics, licensed via Creative Commons.