Taped confessions can be misleading, manly men recover faster, and researchers selectively erase rats' memories.

Male Gaze
Women, if a man’s gaze keeps wandering conspicuously southward while he’s talking to you, don’t be insulted: He probably does the same thing to his bros. According to a study conducted by the Nielsen/Norman Group, reported in the Online Journalism Review, when women examine a photo of a person, they concentrate on the face, but when men view the same photo, they fixate on both the face and more private regions. 255 New Yorkers participated in an eyetracking test evaluating the effectiveness of news sites. At one point, subjects looked an image of baseball player George Brett and were told to gather information about his sport and position. Eyetracking equipment showed that women looked almost entirely at Brett’s head, fixating for just a little while on his shoulder and the surrounding area. Men, too, spend most of the time on and around Brett’s head, but also spent a long while focusing on his crotch. When both sexes explored the website of the American Kennel Club, they exhibited the same behavior: Women couldn’t escape those big puppy eyes, but men drifted toward the pooches’ personal areas. The researchers say these results could help web editors pick photographs that best suit their audience.

Seeing is Believing
According to a study published in the March issue of the journal Psychological Science, video confessions that only show the suspect can bias judges and law enforcement officials into believing the confession was voluntary. False confessions are not uncommon in the criminal justice system; more than a quarter of the wrongful convictions that are overturned by DNA evidence at some point include an admission of guilt, lead author Daniel Lassiter said. In the study, 21 judges and 24 law-enforcement officers viewed tapes of a (staged) confession. Subjects who saw a tape that focused exclusively on the confessor rated the confession as more voluntary than those who saw tapes that focused on the detective or on both parties equally. Lassiter has been researching videotape interrogation for 20 years, and his studies have contributed to pushes for policy change in Wisconsin, Virginia, and New Zealand.

Stouthearted Men
Real men aren’t defeated illness and injury. A study recently published in the journal Psychology of Men & Masculinity concludes that men with brain or spinal cord injuries who conform to masculine roles display greater improvement one year after leaving the hospital. Researchers evaluated patients on 17 masculinity-related indicators. While many of them correlated negatively with psychological help-seeking, some, including a desire for status and success, were associated with physical independence following hospitalization. “It has long been assumed that men are not as concerned and don’t take as good of care of their health,” said lead author and University of Missouri-Columbia psychologist Glenn Good, “but what we’re seeing here is that the same ideas that led to their injuries may actually encourage their recovery.”

Dude Looks Like a Lady
Perhaps the topic’s a bit taboo, but have you ever been walking down the street and seen a really attractive man, of the “pretty boy” variety, only to realize a few seconds later that he’s actually a she, and not much of a looker at all? Well, a study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences might indirectly shed some light on this phenomenon. According to the researchers, perceived physical attractiveness results from compatibility between biological sex and socially specified gender cues. The researchers used different kinds of stimuli, including animations, static line-drawings, and dynamic line-drawings, to portray body shape and motion. For each stimulus, subjects provided judgments of sex, masculinity, femininity, and attractiveness. When sex was given or judged as female, a stimulus was more likely to be judged attractive if it was feminine, and vice versa for male stimuli. The researchers suggest that cues for masculinity and femininity can be culturally based, so different people might be considered more or less attractive in different cultures.

Not Total Recall
If you can’t remember one crazy night long ago, perhaps you were treated with an amnesia-causing drug and stripped of a specific memory. The authors of a recent study published in Nature Neuroscience have found that they can block a single recollection in a rat without interfering with the rest of its memory. The researchers trained rats to fear two tones by exposing them to electric shock as they heard the sounds. They gave one set of rats an amnesia-inducing drug and exposed them again to one of the tones, and another set repeated the tone while sober. Afterwards, the control group of rats still feared both tones, while the drugged group had forgotten the painful association with the tone they heard under the influence but still feared the other tone. The scientists say their study might be useful for treating post-traumatic stress disorder by allowing doctors to rid patients of traumatic memories. Perhaps it can help the rest of the world forget, say, middle school.

These Boobs Were Made for Walkin’
Something strange is afoot. A 22-year-old woman discussed last year in the Dermatology Online Journal, suffered from pseudomamma, an “unusual presentation of supernumerary breast tissue” on the bottom of your foot. The woman came for medical care for a lesion on her foot, but when the doctors examined it, they found the lesion was actually a well-formed nipple. In the surrounding tissue, the doctors found hair follicles, eccrine glands, and sebaceous glands, and at the base of the nipple they found fat tissue. Ouch, ouch, and a little bit of ew. Apparently, while most supernumerary breast tissue is found along the mammary line, pseudo-breasts have been found on the face, back, and thigh. The doctors believe this is the first recorded case of supernumerary breast tissue on a foot. Hopefully, it’s also the last.

Originally published March 19, 2007


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