Scientific News

Can kindness improve our well-being?

In recent years, a great deal of research has been devoted to something known as "prosociality:" our ability to care about others and help them, without expecting anything in return. Some of these studies have highlighted a positive relationship between prosocial behavior and the well-being of people who are particularly altruistic and kind. Using a meta-analysis, this study examines the strength of this correlation. Can caring about others and showing kindness towards them really do us good?

Generally, research on prosocial behaviors has suggested that people who engage in these behaviors are likely to have better mental and even physical health than those who spend less time ...

Can we control dreams?

Is the movie Inception really science fiction? Released in 2010, the film directed by Christopher Nolan features the character of Dom Cobb (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), tasked with implanting an idea in an individual’s mind while they are dreaming in order to commit the perfect crime. But there’s no ulterior motive behind this study, which discusses the development of a device used to for what scientists call “targeted dream incubation.”

The research led by Adam Haar Horowitz (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT) aimed to demonstrate the possibility of manipulating people’s dreams during the first phase of sleep via an electronic device. This first phase ...

Do infants like being imitated?

The desire to imitate is generally considered a major driver of social cognition in infants. Nevertheless, this “finding” has been largely theoretical until now. The current study from Lund University in Sweden aimed to provide concrete evidence of the effects of imitation on social interaction between babies and adults. Do babies like being imitated?

For babies, the theoretical benefits of being imitated has been widely touted. Imitation by adults encourages the development of socio-cognitive skills, including self-awareness, theory of mind (understanding the intentions and mental states of others) and the acquisition of cultural norms. But as the authors of this study ...

Are babies altruistic?

We define altruistic behavior as helping others even when it comes at a cost to ourselves. And sometimes this may mean giving up food! Researchers at the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington (I-LABS, Seattle) developed an experimental protocol to find out if toddlers were willing to sacrifice part of their snack for the benefit of a stranger. It was an opportunity to see if the spirit of giving begins at a very young age…

For the moment, only humans have been shown to offer food to someone in need even when the giver himself may need it. Of course, in many circumstances, bonobos will share food, but they will not spontaneously give a valuable ...

If we know the right choice, why don’t we always make it?

On your way home from work you hit a traffic jam caused by a broken down truck. You decide to take a different route that turns out to be faster and you're home even earlier than usual! Will you take the new route the next day even though your usual route is better most of the time? A study conducted at the University of Ohio looked at our decision-making when it comes to choosing between what worked yesterday and what normally works best. What if your most recent experiences were preventing you from making good decisions?

As Ian Krajbich, one of the study’s co-authors explains, the study was designed to explore “this tension between doing what you should do, at least from ...

Can a person's empathy by predicted?

“Empathy is a cornerstone of mental health and well-being. It promotes social and cooperative behavior through our concern for others. It also helps us to infer and predict the internal feelings, behavior and intentions of others.” This is how empathy is defined by Dr. Marco Iacoboni. With his colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Iacoboni is seeking to determine whether it's possible to detect and predict empathy in the brain.

Empathy is based in part on the brain’s ability to reflexively and unconsciously process the experiences of others, whether observed or inferred, the same way we do for ourselves; a phenomenon known as “neural ...

Do parrots control probability?

Keee-aa! This is the powerful call of the nestor kea or simply the “kea,” a species of mountain parrot (the only one in the world) that lives in New Zealand. This bird has recently surprised scientists by demonstrating its remarkable skills in the field of probability. Indeed, two researcher from the University of Auckland (New Zealand) have shed light on the kea's ability to make complex judgments based on statistical, physical, and social information.

Doctoral student Amalia Bastos and Professor Alex Taylor (the authors of the study) developed a three-part protocol to demonstrate that the parrots are able to draw logical inferences from the different types of ...

Is power masculine or feminine according to young children?

Generally, power is more highly associated with men in social representations. But what do these representations look like in children? The present study aimed to identify the emergence of these representations in preschoolers around the world. Do young children attribute more power to men or women? Here’s what they found out.

The researchers at the Institute for Cognitive Sciences - Marc Jeannerod (CNRS/Claude Bernard University Lyon 1) in collaboration with the Universities of Oslo (Norway), Lausanne and Neuchatel (Switzerland) conducted three experiments.

In the first, they showed an image of two non-gendered figures to over 400 children (ages 4 to 6) in ...

Can the brains of adults and babies synchronize?

In a previous article (Can we comfort others by simply holding their hands?), we saw that the brainwaves of two individuals can synchronize simply because they are near each other, regardless of whether or not they are touching. This new study conducted by researchers from Princeton University shows that adults and babies could also be on the same wavelength.

As the authors of this research point out, most of the earlier studies on so-called “neural coupling” were done with adults (for example, when watching movies together). Elise A. Piazza (from the Princeton ...

Fake news: can we create our own misinformation?

Research on misinformation is beginning to multiply, especially when it comes to the mechanisms of thought that explain why we are all potential victims of fake news. A recent study shows that, in addition to external sources (partisan media, for example), there’s also a more surprising source of misinformation: ourselves. Depending on our biases, our memory can sometimes play tricks on us…

Jason C. Coronel (a professor of communications at Ohio State University), Shannon Poulsen, and Matthew Sweitzer (all doctoral students at Ohio State) carried out a two-part study in order to shed light on the role of digital facts in misinformation and how it is spread.

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