July 29, 2014

Business & technology: Making advances in Florida

Advances are being made in the fields of business, engineering, computer science, agriculture, physical education, astronomy, history, psychology, politics, marine science and music.

Amy Keller | 6/1/2012

History

» Fat Chance
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Heather Parker
Heather Parker
Heather Parker, a history professor at Saint Leo University in Pasco County, says she got interested in researching the history of obesity in this country from 1850 to 1960 because of her physician husband’s experience treating numerous patients with weight-related health problems. What Parker found was that Americans have always worried about being fat but saw it as an aesthetic issue rather than a health issue until the 1940s and 1950s. Since the late 1800s, she says, health care professionals have counseled that the only way to lose weight is to eat less and exercise more. But people have continuously looked for easier ways, and diet “charlatans have continued to take advantage of them.” In the late 19th century, Parker says, the so-called “summersault cure for obesity” became the rage and caused one woman to end up “stuck between the wall and a door.”

Psychology

Eye Tracking
An FAU study can help detect autism earlier.

» Lip Readers
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Watching how infants respond to speech over time could lead to earlier diagnoses of autism. Research by David Lewkowicz, a psychology professor at Florida Atlantic University, and FAU doctoral student Amy Hansen-Tift reveals that when infants enter the “babbling stage” at around 6 months old, they shift their focus of attention from the speaker’s eyes to the speaker’s mouth and continue to do so until about 1 year old, when they begin to shift their gaze back to the speaker’s eyes.

“In other words, infants become lip readers when they first begin producing their speech-like sounds,” says Lewkowicz.

Autistic children, by contrast, are still focused on a speaker’s mouth by 2 years of age. Lewkowicz’s findings suggest that if the shift does not occur by the time an infant is 14 months he may be at risk for developing autism. “If so, this would provide the earliest behavioral confirmation of impending developmental disability and would give clinicians an early start on intervention procedures.”


Michael McCullough
» Religious Experience
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A study by Michael McCullough, a psychology professor at the University of Miami, finds that religious people are better able to forgo immediate rewards in order to gain larger rewards in the future. Some 277 students who participated in the study were given a “monetary choice questionnaire” in which they were offered a small immediate monetary reward today or a larger reward later. By a wide margin, more religious students were willing to receive more money later.


Politics

» A Vote for the Voice
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UM Voice pitch
Winners have lower-pitched voices.
University of Miami and Duke University researchers have confirmed conventional wisdom among political consultants that voters prefer candidates who have lower-pitched voices. Casey Klofstad, an associate professor of political science, teamed up with colleagues at Duke University who are experts in acoustic analysis and recorded “candidates” saying, “I urge you to vote for me this November.” The recordings were then manipulated to create a higher-pitched version and a lower-pitched version. Regardless of gender of the listener or the gender of the speaker, the “voter” preferred the “candidate” with the lower-pitched voice.

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