Issue 25

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In this issue:


  • What makes conspiracy theories so appealing?

  • What might be happening when you just "click" with someone.

  • A painkiller we're all aware of, but probably don't use as often as we could.

  • A surprising factoid about doctor biases, a questionable hangover cure, and how genetics made it into your rice pilaf.


Hey there! We just wanted to let you know that after this issue, we will be taking a much needed summer vacation. See you in August!
~Lab Leaks


Still believe that birds are real?

Can’t believe what gullible sheeple you are. *takes off tin foil hat*... Sorry, we got a little carried away for a second, but in case you’re wondering, this story is about the psychology of ~conspiracy theories~.

You had me concerned for a second.

Don’t worry, we at Lab Leaks know birds are real (except Pootoos, those are definitely fake). But what drives people to believe in such outlandish conspiracies? While there are tons of different causes, there are a few that psychologists believe are major contributors.

Tell me more.

First off, there’s economic inequality, aka when Jeff Bezos has 30 gazillion dollars while many of us live paycheck-to-paycheck. As economic inequality in a society increases (for example, as in Germany from 1871-1918), people tend to experience increased perceptions of social dysfunction and chaos. In such conditions, conspiratorial thinking can serve as a tool that falsely restores a sense of order (for example, “things are bad because the Jews control all the wealth”).

What else?

There’s also collective narcissism, i.e. when a group believes that they are better than everyone else. Psychologists have found that individuals with extreme collective narcissism (for example, white supremacists) often struggle to explain why others don’t acknowledge their superiority. As a result, they frequently resort to conspiracy theories as explanations (for example, “white people are being politically oppressed via replacement by non-white people”).

That's…alarming.

Here’s one more — historical trauma. When groups of people experience a major, traumatic historical event (for example, the Greek economic crisis), the resulting feelings of victimhood and powerlessness can lead them to believe in conspiracies as sufficient explanations (for example, “the German Fourth Reich caused this because they want to financially conquer Europe”).

So what can we do about it?

Education and spreading awareness are a good start. And if you’re gonna confront someone who seems to latch on to every new conspiracy theory, empathy and kindness can go a long way. These are tough conversations, but left unchecked, well… we all know what can happen.

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The Leak: Conspiracy theories are more common than ever in the post-truth era, and social/psychological factors like economic inequality, historical trauma, and collective narcissism aren’t making things any better. Here are some tips to help if you know someone who’s gotten sucked deep into the conspiracy hole, and in the meantime, make sure to beware of feathered government drones (#birdsarentreal).


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Ever felt like you met someone and immediately got along?

Move aside, “love-at-first-sight” — today, we’re talking about “friendship-at-first-sight”. Why is it that sometimes you meet someone and instantly “click”? Is it your genes? Is it your jeans?? A new study points to a surprising culprit: body odor.

Explain.

The scientists carrying out the study wanted to figure out whether people’s social chemistry could actually be related to…chemistry. To do this, they collected body odor samples from 20 pairs of non-romantic “click friends” who’d gotten along swimmingly since the first time they’d met. The researchers used a device called the “electronic nose” to figure out the chemical makeup of each person’s smell.

What did they sniff out?

The scientists found that click friends’ body odors were much more similar to each other compared to the odors of other random people, suggesting that smell might’ve played a role in nurturing their friendship.

Anything else?

Next, the researchers took things one step further by inviting a bunch of strangers to the lab to play a game (like Squid Game, but less murder-y). Participants were paired up and asked to slowly mimic each others’ body movements. At the end, the scientists asked each person whether they’d felt a connection with their partner. Lo and behold, the pairs who reported that spark had much more similar body odors compared to pairs who just weren’t feeling it.

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The Leak: A new study shows that people who just click have fairly similar body odors. Don’t mind us, just gonna go sniffing people at the grocery store in search of a new best friend.


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Do you cope with pain using music?

We don’t just mean breakup songs or the unbearably heart-wrenching emotional pain of coming second place in Mario Kart — music can help numb physical pain too. Since the 1960s, scientists have known that people’s experience of pain goes down when they listen to music. But why?

The experiment: In a new study, researchers played Bach’s Réjouissance for a group of mice (now that’s what we call ~cultured~). While the mice enjoyed tunes, the scientists injected their paws with a painful solution (ouch) and poked them to see whether they would flinch or pull back in pain.

What did they find?

Mice who listened to music were less likely to react to the painful solution in their paws, but only when the volume wasn't set too high. The researchers also peeped into the mice’s brains and found that low-volume sounds can inhibit activity in the thalamus (a brain region that is crucial for pain perception), which probably explains why your Spotify playlist can sometimes double as a painkiller.

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The Leak: According to a new study, soft music can dampen down on the parts of your brain that perceive pain and produce an analgesic effect. Make sure to leave your headphones on the next time you go in for a root canal.


While we're on the topic of pain...

A new study shows that cranky docs on the night shift are less likely to prescribe painkillers or empathize with their patients’ pain complaints. Guess you’d better wait until the morning to go see the doctor if you’ve got a painful boo-boo.


Tired of hangovers?

This week, a new “hangover prevention” pill called ‘Myrkl’ hit the shelves in the UK. Myrkl is composed of two gut-friendly bacteria that can break down that last shot of vodka into water and carbon dioxide, thereby reducing the effects of alcohol on your body. The only problem? It may not actually work.


Rice of the Planet of the GMOs.

Scientists have figured out three genetic mutations that allowed unruly wild rice to become the staple crop that we eat. Fingers crossed this discovery paves the way for genetically modifying superior strains of rice in the future.


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