UBC Reports | Vol. 52 | No. 8 | Aug. 3, 2006
In the News
Highlights of UBC Media Coverage in July 2006
Compiled by Basil Waugh
Mindless Reading: The Dangers of Zoning Out
Scores of U.S. dailies, including USA Today and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, carried an Associated Press story on the ill effects of mindless reading, a phenomenon in which people take in sentence after sentence without really paying attention.
In a new study of college students, researchers from UBC and the University of Pittsburgh established a way to study mindless reading in a lab.
Their findings show that daydreaming has its costs. The readers who zoned out most tended to do the worst on tests of reading comprehension. The study also suggests that zoning out caused the poor test results, as opposed to other possible factors, such as the complexity of the text or the task.
Camouflaging Personality Disorders
Robert Hare, UBC Prof. emeritus of Psychology, comments in a New York Times story on U.S. soldiers who attacked an Iraqi family last March, raping and killing a young woman after executing her parents and her younger sister in their home.
The accused ringleader, who was discharged in May, pleaded not guilty after his arrest June 30. The U.S. Army has said it discharged Green for a “personality disorder.”
Hare said he had not reviewed the Iraq case and could not comment on it specifically. “But I can say that when you have a psychopathic offender, quite often he will manipulate others, he can be a puppet-master type,” he said. “Others are attracted to his sense of certainty, his sense of power, to the fact that he can do things others have trouble doing.”
Choosing the Right Dog for Your Family
Stanley Coren, UBC Prof. of Psychology, comments in an Associated Press story in the Chicago Tribune and Alabama’s Birmingham News on choosing the right dog for your family.
“Common complaints when a dog doesn’t seem to be working out are that it’s too big and strong, or too active. If you’re choosing between two breeds, go for the smaller and less active — unless your family’s idea of a quiet Sunday is jogging 26 miles,” says Coren, author of Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses.
Scientists link global warming to natural disasters
UBC professors Greg Dipple and Phil Austin comment in a Global TV story that links global warming to increases in the number of forest fires in B.C.
“Quite clearly there is warming and quite clearly human activity is increasing the greenhouse gas content of the atmosphere,” says Dipple of UBC’s Dept. of Earth and Ocean Sciences. “The predictions are, I believe, one to four degrees in the next 50 years or so.”
Austin, of UBC’s Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences, adds: “Year after year, the summers are going to get dryer and they’re going to get hotter. The hotter soils lead to increased dryness through evaporation and more stress on the trees, so they burn more easily.”
From the bush, a harsh homecoming
The Globe and Mail reports on Uganda’s child soldiers and the difficulties they face re-entering society after life in the Lord’s Resistance Army or the Ugandan army.
Erin Baines, who heads the conflict-and-development program at the UBC’s Liu Institute for Global Issues has been working for a year to find ways of smoothing these homecomings and beginning the process of repairing community relations.
“No one is looking at this. People are just expected to be able to live together,” says Baines. “Amnesty has been seized on like a mantra, but saying you’re forgiven and being accepted back are different things.”