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Uncommon Knowledge

Why to drink beer out of a straight-sided glass

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Chug it straight (and slow)

Do you find yourself chugging down beer too quickly? Maybe you just need a different glass. Researchers in Britain asked people to consume a beverage from either a straight-sided or curved glass while watching a nature documentary. Starting from a full glass of beer—but not a full glass of soda—people drank more slowly and took more time between sips while drinking from a straight-sided glass. Also, when asked directly to judge the halfway point of the glasses, people tended to judge its location below the actual halfway point, especially for the curved glass.

Attwood, A. et al., “Glass Shape Influences Consumption Rate for Alcoholic Beverages,” PLoS ONE (August 2012).

More kids, poorer kids

Hey, parents: When you think about your legacy, would you rather leave more descendents or better-off ones? A new study from Sweden suggests that you may have to make a choice. The researchers analyzed data on fertility and socioeconomic success across four generations of Swedes and found that “relatively high fertility did not compromise the survival, mating success or reproductive success of grandchildren or great-grandchildren,” but that low fertility, especially in affluent families, made subsequent generations more affluent. So, if you’re a ruthless Darwinian, have lots of kids—but if you want your heirs to enjoy creature comforts, consider holding back.

Goodman, A. et al., “Low Fertility Increases Descendant Socioeconomic Position but Reduces Long-Term Fitness in a Modern Post-Industrial Society,” Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences (forthcoming).

When we stop
smiling

Continue reading below

When the photographer says “cheese,” do you smile? A recent analysis of thousands of yearbook photos from Michigan schools suggests that it depends on your gender and race—and that there are particular moments when those social identities become salient to kids. Early in elementary school, there is little difference across gender and race in how much kids smile. However, by the third grade, white boys are smiling less than white and black girls—a divergence which grows over time until senior year, when their propensity to smile rebounds. Black boys smile as much as the girls until the sixth grade, when their tendency to smile falls precipitously, well below even white boys (although, like white boys, they recover somewhat by senior year). The smiling deficit for black boys is especially pronounced in majority-black schools.

Wondergem, T. & Friedlmeier, M., “Gender and Ethnic Differences in Smiling: A Yearbook Photographs Analysis from Kindergarten through 12th Grade,” Sex Roles (October 2012).

KKK? More like $$$

Today, most people think of the Ku Klux Klan as a fringe group driven purely by racism. Yet, at its peak in the mid-1920s, the Klan is estimated to have had millions of members—and in large part the racism seems to have served as a means to make money. Two economists have analyzed the Klan’s rise and fall in that period using “internal Klan documents,” and concluded: “Our statistical analysis shows little evidence of a relationship between Klan activity and Black or foreign-born migration, lynchings, or politics during this time period. Rather, the 1920s Klan is best described as an enormously successful marketing ploy: a classic pyramid scheme—officials at the top getting rich off of the individuals at the bottom—energized by sales agents with enormous financial incentives to sell hatred.” The Klan’s rapid collapse after a 1925 scandal was exacerbated by the fact that the organization’s aggressive recruiting efforts had brought in many members with “marginal” allegiance.

Fryer, R. & Levitt, S., “Hatred and Profits: Under the Hood of the Ku Klux Klan,” Quarterly Journal of Economics (forthcoming).

Don’t trust a sinner

A prominent themE of the New Testament is “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Nevertheless, theologically conservative Christians may have more trouble with this maxim than other Christians. Using data from a national survey, sociologists found that theologically conservative Christians—who tend to believe in the authoritativeness of the Bible, the existence of hell, being born again, and proselytizing—were less likely to report trusting other people, even controlling for factors like education, involvement with church, or living in a small community. The authors theorize that this effect is due to theologically conservative Christians’ belief in the sinfulness of mankind.

Hempel, L. et al., “Trust in a ‘Fallen World’: The Case of Protestant Theological Conservatism,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (September 2012).

Kevin Lewis is an Ideas columnist.
He can be reached at
kevin.lewis.ideas@gmail.com.
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