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January 11, 2019

Weekend reads: The psychology behind lighting up a room (or driving everyone crazy)

Daily Briefing

    Ben Palmer's reads

    Do you know someone who just lights up a room? (Or who always puts you on edge?) Here's why. Everyone knows that person who enters the room and puts the crowd at ease. According to research conducted about a decade ago, the way an individual makes those around him or her feel—called "affective presence"—is actually "a consistent and measurable part of [a person's] personality," Julie Beck writes for The Atlantic. In one study, two researchers put business school students into two groups and had them spend a semester enrolled in the same classes and working together on a group project. The participants then rated how each member of the group made them feel. The researchers found for many people, their emotions could be explained by the affective presences of certain group members. But there's a flipside, too: In addition to individuals who immediately put others at ease, some people have a negative affective presence. As study co-author Hillary Anger Elfenbein said, "To use common, everyday words, some people are just annoying. It doesn't mean they're annoyed all the time."

    Just how well does Botox treat migraines? Botox injections are used to treat migraines, but just how effective are they? A study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery analyzed data from 17 studies—involving 3,646 patients overall—that tested Botox injections against placebos for migraine treatments. While researchers found that Botox injections resulted in an average of 1.6 fewer migraine attacks per month than placebos, Botox had more side effects, including muscle weakness, double vision, and neck pain.

    Danielle Poindexter's reads

    What this medieval skeleton taught researchers about women's history. Blue specks of pigment found inside a medieval woman's jaw might prove that women played a bigger role than previously thought in creating luxury manuscripts in western Germany in the 11th and 12th centuries. The jaw, found buried near a monastery, was marked by small specks of pigment made from lapis lazuli stones, which were used by monks to illustrate religious and luxury texts. Historically, men are thought to have been behind more than 99% of luxury books created before the 12th century. But researchers said that the woman, who might have been a scribe or painter, most likely obtained the blue marks from licking her brush while she was creating manuscripts. 

    Chill factor: Are there benefits to working out in the cold? When Dutch athlete Wim Hof said that exercising in cold temperatures can make people healthier by improving circulation and generating weight loss, researchers set out to "debunk" his claims. So are there any health benefits to working out in frigid temperatures? According to researchers, mildly cold environments can increase a person's brown fat levels, which can burn extra calories and generate heat—but one would have to be chilly all day in order to burn 100 to 200 extra calories. Meanwhile, researchers said Hof's claim that exposure to extreme cold improves circulation by sending more blood to your core is a largely untested theory—and that, for some people, it could result in spiked blood pressure. However, other researchers did observe that Hof and a group of his trainees, who claimed they could suppress their immune systems at will with cold-weather training, were less likely than a control group to react to a test designed to provoke the immune system. Ultimately, though, all the researchers agreed that "[t]here simply hasn't been enough research to say one way or another" whether cold-weather training makes you healthier.

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