Updated 25 June 2015

4 wacky health headlines

Every now and then a study emerges that has people wondering what the researchers, and funders, were thinking. Here are 5 headliners that need a closer look.


Breakthroughs in treatment and health are reported daily as researchers across the globe analyse everything from genetics to viral outbreaks. But every now and then a study emerges that has people wondering what the researchers, and funders, were thinking. Here are five headliners that need a closer look:

1. Selfish kids have immature brains

While this may only come as a surprise to the selfish kids in question, it certainly may give hope to their parents. The study found that selfish behaviour in young children may be the result of an immature prefrontal cortex, and the research could impact on education policy in the future.  Which is all good.

2. After ovulating women spot snakes faster

According to this study, women who have just finished ovulating are quicker at detecting snakes than at other times during their menstrual cycle.  The findings suggest that this reflex may be influenced by hormone levels at a stage when a woman may be pregnant and protective towards her foetus. 

What the study didn’t cover is how many other things may appear snake-like to a woman at this time of her cycle – including family members and the person who stole her parking spot outside the supermarket.  But no-one is going to fund that study.

3. Optimism clouds judgement in ICU

While this research has a strong point - family members may have to make important treatment decisions for critically ill loved-ones, and need to have a clear understanding of the situation – it’s easy to wonder what value being pessimistic would hold. Take the information being given by specialists seriously, seems to be the real message this study is bringing across.

4. Typing on the right side of keyboard = positive emotions

This study may have more implications for marketing and branding purposes than for real life. The researchers found that the meanings of words in English, Dutch and Spanish were related to the way people typed them on the QWERTY keyboard.  Generally, words with more right-side letters were rated more positive in meaning than words with more left-side letters. This effect was not changed by either letter frequency, word length or handedness.

This effect was even found when people judged the meanings of fictitious words like “pleek,” and was strongest in new words and abbreviations like “LOL” and “greenwash”. The authors suggest that because there are more letters on the left of the keyboard midline than on the right, letters on the right might be easier to type, which could lead to positive feelings. 

Which may not really be useful in day-to-day life. Especially since most of this sentence uses letters on the left-hand side of my keyboard, and I’m not feeling any worse than before.

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