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July 12, 2019

Weekend reads: This bird learned to dance—on its own. Watch him bust a move.

Daily Briefing

    Ben Palmer's reads

    Some types of sitting might be worse than others. Research has long suggested that sitting isn't great for your health—but a new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association has found that certain types of sitting, like the sitting at work, may be less harmful than other kinds of sitting, such as sitting and watching television at home. For the study, researchers analyzed data from nearly 3,600 African American adults. The researchers found that those who said they were "often or always" sitting at work did not have a higher risk of death or heart disease, but those who said they watched at least four hours of television each day had a 50% higher risk of heart disease and death compared with those who watched television for no more than two hours per day. Jeanette Garcia, first study author and an assistant professor of sport and exercise science at the University of Central Florida, said the difference may stem from the way people sit while at work versus at leisure—at the office, you might "brea[k] up sedentary time" by performing tasks or talking to a friend, whereas when you're watching TV, you stay seated the whole time, may be more likely to snack or drink, among other factors.

    Birds just wanna have fun. A recent study has found that birds may be able to learn how to dance without instruction from humans. For the study, published in Current Biology, a team of researchers filmed Snowball, a Sulphur-crested cockatoo, as the bird danced to two songs at different tempos—"Another One Bites the Dust" and "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," each of which were played three times. The researchers found that Snowball has 14 unique, music-prompted dance moves, including a "headbang with lifted foot" and "voguing." Study co-author Aniruddh Patel, a psychologist at Tufts University and Harvard University, said the findings suggest cockatoos may have the cognitive complexity to learn how to dance, potentially more so than primates.

    Danielle Poindexter's reads

    Will forcing a smile help with happiness? Probably not, study suggests. A new study has challenged the enduring "facial feedback hypothesis," first posited by Charles Darwin in the 1800s, that theorizes your facial expression can inform or change your mood. For the study, researchers reviewed 50 years' worth of data, including almost 300 studies testing the theory, and found that if smiling can actually boost happiness, as the hypothesis suggests, it's only by a little bit—specifically, the researchers concluded that if 100 people smiled, only about seven would likely feel happier than if they hadn't smiled. Similarly, on the flipside, the study also found that the effects of scowling and frowning on people's emotions were also "extremely tiny," according to study leader Nick Coles. The reason for this, according to Paula Niedenthal, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is that "not all smiles are genuine smiles of joy"; there are smirking smiles and beaming smiles and simpering smiles and all kinds in between. In fact, while most research suggests that smiling isn't harmful to your mood, at least one other study published this year found that being forced to regularly put on a smile—such as service workers being required to smile for customers—can have negative effect.

    How goats express their feelings. Goats may be able to detect emotional changes in the calls of other goats, according to a new study. The researchers found that when the emotion of a goat's call changed, the likelihood that other goats would look toward the sound changed. The goats' heart-rate variability was also greater when goats heard positive calls versus when they heard negative calls. "Our results suggest that non-human animals are not only attentive, but might also be sensitive to the emotional states of other individuals," said Luigi Baciadonna, lead author of the study from Queen Mary University of London.

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