TIME Research

Liberals are More Honest Than Conservatives When They Smile

President Barack Obama speaks at Georgia Tech
David Goldman—AP

But conservatives report being happier

In the “who’s happier?” race, a whole body of research shows conservatives report being happier. Four new studies published in Science hint at a possible reason why. Most happiness research is based on subjective, self-reported data, as opposed to objective measures of happiness, which can be harder to study. The new research highlights a difference between the two.

The studies, led by Sean Wojcik, a doctoral student in psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine, first confirmed what’s already known: In a survey of 1,433 people, political conservatives reported being more satisfied with life than liberals. But researchers found another pronounced trend else among conservatives: They were more likely to judge themselves and their circumstances in an overly positive way.

That may explain the happiness gap, the researchers thought. To test it, they embarked on a series of studies. In one, they analyzed transcripts from Congress to determine the kinds of emotionally charged language people used, and found that liberals used more positive words than conservatives. In another study, researchers assessed photos of Congress members and gauged the smiling intensity of the delegates, finding that liberals were more intense and genuine smilers. “We saw greater activation of the muscles around the eye,” says Wojcik. “That typically indicates more genuine feelings of happiness and enjoyment.” The same held true in non-politician liberals, according to an analysis of the profile photos of liberally and conservatively aligned LinkedIn users.

So when conservatives say they’re happier, but liberals actually display happier behavior, who is, in fact, happiest?

It’s impossible to call. “It really depends on how you measure and define happiness,” Wojcik says.

Wojcik says he plans to study the impact of the benefits of this kind of “self-enhancement” seen in conservatives but less in liberals. So far, research suggests it’s related to an increased ability to care for others, more creative and productive work and better mental health, Wojcik says.

“It’s not that conservatives are lying about their happiness,” Wojcik says. “They just have a more confident style of self-assessment where they evaluate themselves positively across a whole bunch of different kinds of traits, and happiness just appears to be one of them.”

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 13

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Amid the rancor and theatrics in Washington, it’s easy to forget how remarkable it is that the U.S. and Iran are talking at all.

By George Perkovich at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

2. A critical step in drug research is understanding the impact on the heart. That’s why bioengineers built a beating heart on a silicone chip.

By Sarah Yang at the University of California at Berkeley

3. Americans are quitting their way to a stronger economy.

By Aaron Nathans in the Daily Economy

4. Just because we’re able to edit the DNA of tomorrow’s children, does that mean we should?

By Antonio Regalado in MIT Technology Review

5. America has its own ion collider, and its funding is in danger.

By Natalie Walchover in Quanta

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME neuroscience

A Drug Has Been Found That Reverses a Precursor to Alzheimer’s

Researchers now want to proceed to substantial clinical trials

Researchers at John Hopkins University have found that low doses of a drug more commonly used to treat epilepsy can reverse a condition that increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

According to statements issued Wednesday, the epilepsy drug, called antiepileptic levetiracetam, calms hyperactivity in the brain — a well-documented symptom of people with amnestic mild cognitive impairment, which is a condition that heightens the possibility of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The team, lead by neuroscientist Michela Gallagher, now wants to pursue substantial clinical trials.

“What we want to discover now, is whether treatment over a longer time will prevent further cognitive decline and delay or stop progression to Alzheimer’s dementia,” Gallagher said.

The researchers studied 84 people with an average age of 70. Participants received various doses of the drug, as well as a placebo, and the scientists used imaging technology to map brain activity.

TIME Research

Homeopathy Is Not an Effective Treatment, Experts Say

Medical experts in Australia say there's not enough evidence to support the practice

Medical experts in Australia have concluded that an alternative form of medicine called homeopathy doesn’t have enough evidence to support its effectiveness.

The idea behind homeopathy is that substances that can make a healthy person sick can also, in some cases, treat a person who is ill. For example, if a healthy person gets burning or watery eyes from cutting an onion, the idea is that a person with a cold who has those same symptoms could benefit from a very tiny dose of an onion remedy.

But in a review of 225 studies on homeopathy, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in Australia concluded that there’s no high-quality scientific evidence to support the use of the practice. “Although some studies did report that homeopathy was effective, the quality of those studies was assessed as being small and/or of poor quality,” the NHMRC said in a statement. “These studies had either too few participants, poor design, poor conduct and or reporting to allow reliable conclusions to be drawn on the effectiveness of homeopathy.”

In the United States, past data has suggested that millions of American adults and thousands of children use homeopathy. The National Institutes of Health in U.S. says “there is little evidence to support homeopathy as an effective treatment for any specific condition.”

The NHMRC concluded in its report that Australians should not use homeopathy as a substitute for other proven and effective treatments.

“People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness,” said NHMRC CEO Warwick Anderson in a statement. “People who are considering whether to use homeopathy should first get advice from a registered health practitioner and in the meanwhile keep taking any prescribed treatments.”

Read next: The Sugar Industry Shaped Government Advice On Cavities, Report Finds

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TIME Research

How Tetanus Shots Help Fight Brain Cancer

syringe-hand
Getty Images

Patients who got the tetanus booster lived more than two years on average

Researchers who have harnessed the body’s immune system to fight cancer have found a way to make the approach work even better, using an ordinary tetanus vaccine.

They used their double-vaccine approach to greatly lengthen the lives of patients with one of the deadliest types of cancer — the brain tumor glioblastoma.

“Patients with glioblastoma usually survive for little more than one year. However, in patients who received the immunotherapy, half lived nearly five years or longer from their diagnosis,” said Dr. John Sampson of Duke University Medical Center, who oversaw the study.

The team has been using what is…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME animals

Scientists Just Found Out How Chameleons Change Color

What color is #ThisChameleon?

Scientists may have finally unlocked the mystery behind chameleons’ unique ability to change color.

The explanation is that the reptile’s skin is made up of tiny mirror-like crystals, contained within reflective pigment cells called iridophores. That’s according to a new study published in the journal Nature Communications.

When the chameleon gets excited, or anticipates danger, the iridophores expand or contract to enable the crystals to reflect different levels of light, thereby changing its skin color.

The researchers used a combination of microscopy, high-resolution videography and color-based numerical modeling to arrive at this discovery.

“When the skin is in the relaxed state, the nanocrystals in the iridophore cells are very close to each other — hence, the cells specifically reflect short wavelengths, such as blue,” Michel Milinkovitch, a professor of genetics and evolution at the University of Geneva in Switzerland and the lead author of the study, told Live Science.

Milinkovitch further explained that, when excited, the nanocrystals spread further apart to reflect longer wavelengths like yellow, red and orange, which combine with blue to produce different hues.

If any of those hues is white, gold, black, or blue, we might just have chameleons breaking the Internet soon.

Read next: The Weird Reason Humans Shake Hands as a Greeting

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Heart Disease

Depression and Stress Could Be ‘Perfect Storm’ for Heart Disease Patients

The combination of depression and stress may increase the chance of a patient dying of heart disease

Intense stress and depression in people with coronary heart disease creates a “perfect storm” that can increase the risk of death, according to a new study in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

Overall, patients with both conditions are nearly 50% more likely to die or experience a heart attack as a result of heart disease than those with low stress or depression. The results were most apparent in the first two and a half years after observation began.

“The increase in risk accompanying high stress and high depressive symptoms was robust and consistent across demographics, medical history, medication use and health-risk behaviors,” said lead study author Carmela Alcántara, a researcher at Columbia University Medical Center.

The study, which looked at nearly 4,500 adults, expanded on previous research that found that both depression and stress can independently increase the risk of heart disease. The study suggested that some previous research may have misattributed the cause of heart-disease death to stress or depression independently. In reality, the study suggests, the interaction between stress and depression may have led to death rather than either independent factor.

The study traced participants for an average of nearly six years and asked patients to self-report symptoms of depression and stress. Overall, 6.1% of study participants had both high stress and intense symptoms of depression. Only 5.6% of the total sample had high stress alone, and 7.7% had intense symptoms of depression alone.

Researchers said the results suggest that doctors may want to consider additional methods to treat heart disease that include interventions to treat stress and depression.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

This Is Where Young People Are More Likely to Commit Suicide

Gun ownership may be affecting youth suicide rates, study finds

Young people who live in rural areas kill themselves at twice the rate as youth who live in cities, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

There aren’t clear-cut explanations for suicide, but geographical differences seem to play a role, the researchers found. People who live in rural areas have less access to mental-health services, more stigma surrounding help-seeking and freer access to guns than their urban counterparts.

The study, which looked at data from more than 66,000 young people ages 10 to 24 who died by suicide in the U.S., found that the gap between the urban and rural suicide rates grew significantly from 1996 to 2010.

About half of the people in the sample used a firearm to end their lives, followed by a third who died by suffocation. In rural communities, young people were more likely to use a gun — no coincidence, according to the study authors, since suicide rates in urban communities dropped alongside a decline in urban gun ownership.

Geography may partially explain the difference between rural and urban suicide rates, according to the study. Mental-health services can be harder to access in rural areas; more than half of rural communities in the U.S. don’t have a local mental-health worker like a psychiatrist or psychologist. Those who do have access to mental-health resources may be reluctant to use them because of stigma, and self-reliance is often seen as virtue in rural communities, the study says. Remote locations also mean smaller social networks and fewer people to rely on providing help. High unemployment and flailing economies have also depressed small towns.

MORE: Suicide Rate for Young Women Rises in U.S.

An editorial accompanying the study by Frederick Rivara, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, acknowledges that political forces make tougher gun laws unlikely. He argues instead for storing weapons safely. Various safe storage methods, including trigger locks and gun safes, can reduce the risk of suicide by as much as 70%, Rivara writes.

“The problem of suicide and the issue of firearms are very complex public health concerns,” writes Rivara. “But, in the United States, they also appear to be integrally linked and demand our attention.”

TIME Research

Low Testosterone Levels Are Not the Cause of Less Sex but the Result of It

So says a new study conducted on a large group of older men in Australia

It’s normally thought that lower testosterone levels in older men lead to less appetite for sex. However, an intriguing new study from Australia finds that a decline in testosterone levels appears to be the result of a lower libido. That’s according to a report in Science Daily.

“In older men, decreased sexual activity and desire may be a cause, not an effect, of low circulating testosterone level,” concluded lead study author Benjumin Hsu, from the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health.

The research followed men who took part in the Concord Health and Aging in Men Project — a study of 1,705 Sydney men ages 70 or over, described by organizers as “one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive study of the health of older men ever conducted anywhere in the world.”

During a two-year period, scientists found that baseline serum testosterone levels in men did not predict a decline in sexual activity or libido. By contrast, a decline in testosterone was strongly related to less sex and less desire.

Researchers behind the new report stress that it remains unclear what other age-related factors may be behind the reduction in testosterone levels.

[Science Daily]

TIME Research

This New Drug Turns ‘Bad’ White Fat Into ‘Good’ Brown Fat

GC-1 could have the potential to treat obesity and metabolic disease

Scientists claim they have found an experimental drug that turns “bad” white fat cells into “good” brown ones.

Known as GC-1, the drug speeds up metabolism, or the burning off of fat cells, reports Science Daily. Researchers found it caused weight loss in fat mice.

“GC-1 dramatically increases the metabolic rate, essentially converting white fat, which stores excess calories and is associated with obesity and metabolic disease, into a fat like calorie-burning brown fat,” said study author Kevin Phillips of the Houston Methodist Research Institute.

Until recently, scientists thought only animals and human infants had these energy-burning “good” brown-fat cells.

“It is now clear that human adults do have brown fat, but appear to lose its calorie-burning activity over time,” Phillips added.

He calls white fat a “metabolic villain” when you have too much of it, whereas people with more brown fat have a reduced risk of obesity and diabetes.

GC-1 works by activating receptors for the thyroid hormone, which help regulate how your body turns food into energy.

Phillips’ team tested the drug on hundreds of mice who were genetically obese or who had diet-induced obesity. They found genetically obese mice lost weight and nearly 50% of their fat mass in two weeks. Diet-induced obese mice also showed improvements.

The drug was also tested on white fat cells grown in a lab, and researchers say they found evidence that the drug turned white fat into the brown variety.

Phillips hopes the drug, which has not yet been tested on humans, has the potential to treat obesity and metabolic disease.

The results of the study will be presented at the Endocrine Society’s 97th annual meeting in San Diego on Friday.

[Science Daily]

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