So, in my ongoing science communication efforts, I have been experimenting with visual formats for summarizing research/complex scientific concepts in simple-to-understand and fun ways.
Thus, my #ResearchMonday series on Instagram (which, of course, features #ResearchCat). It was during the last live Twitter Chat with our Science Communication Journal Club that I realized something: participants were sharing amazing sources and articles on the topic, but I absolutely knew I was not going to read them in the nearest future considering other priorities. That’s when I wished there could be some simple memes or visual summaries of key points i’d find useful (and that would truly encourage me to read the rest of the paper).
I very much like Instagram’s swiping posts, since it’s fantastic for self-paced story telling. Thus, this is where I’ve been playing with simple overviews of research articles. Click on each to go to see them:
Note: If new to Instagram, hover over the image & note the small arrow buttons on its sides (<) and (>). Click these to swipe through the post!
So far, I’ve been choosing papers I have most expertise in- health and nutrition. However, as you can see I’ve attempted to cover some very different topics as well (conscious AI!) The format is most definitely NOT set in stone, and I’d love any feedback on improvements.
Sooo it has been accomplished! I have been awarded my PhD in Global Health from Arizona State University.. It’s been a long journey from post-USSR Ukraine to receiving one of the highest honors worldwide- a Doctor of Philosophy degree from a such a fantastic and innovative American institution as ASU!!
Dr. Hruschka was in Bangladesh so I was hooded by the amazing Dr. Jehn!
Families! My parents (right around me) flew from Ukraine for this 🙂
With Dr. Hruschka (right; my mentor) and Joe Hackman (left; my colleague!)
This summer I will be working with the Risk Innovation Lab at ASU on publishing a couple of perspectives on science and health. I’m extremely excited about this opportunity to get into science communication and hope to post more about that soon! In the meantime, some of my other publications:
So.. Yesterday I defended my doctoral dissertation. I’m not sure I believe this yet, but I do think i’m not dreaming right now. Almost teared up as my committee members shook my hand and congratulated me. What a journey!
I thank my committee for all the advice and support given yesterday: Daniel Hruschka, Alexandra Brewis, and Meg Bruening. I also could not have finished all the data collection (>80 lengthy interviews!) on time on my own without my 8 apprentices. My undergraduate assistants have been quite amazing.
In terms of the bigger picture- there are so many people to thank, so many that have played key roles in my academic journey. The foundation was laid down when I was 5 years old when, despite having to go to the assigned elementary school, my grandmother and parents managed to enroll me into an English-specialized school on the other end of the city. This was right after USSR ended and Ukraine was newly independent and chaotic… Yet my family had the foresight in those rough times to send me on the ambitious path in life!
I do plan to post a short video with some results of my dissertation work soon, since many of my students and colleagues couldn’t be there. Stay tuned!
A brief digest of food and nutrition-related items that caught our attention recently. Got items you think we should include? Send links and brief descriptions to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
1) I have emailed my PhD committee… my entire dissertation!!! I can’t even fully believe it- are all those months of torturous writing/rewriting/re-rewriting finally over? I assume i’ll need to make changes once I get comments back but- the entire thing is written and sent out, you guys. Best. Christmas. Ever.
I suppose here’s my dissertation-writing wisdom: I’d recommend Not starting a new RA position simultaneously. Preferably, get a dissertation completion grant/fellowship. The time commitment is just too insane. On another hand, I don’t regret getting an RA this past semester- it has added a lot of new skills to my toolbox. Other than this- just stick to it, write daily, and get frequent feedback from your adviser, colleagues, your lab students, and anyone willing to read! Chances are- the process will probably be horrific, but you will make it through.
2) My second chapter on Human Food Preferences is out in the Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science ( DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_2943-1 ). Woohoo! This is my favorite one. I was writing these chapters in the summer while traveling and collecting data. I was very nervous back then- instead of beginning my dissertation, I spent 6-7 weeks on these guys. But I made it and i’m glad I pulled it all off within half a year!
My first encyclopedia chapter is finally published!
I was researching and writing this one while traveling across 3 countries this summer and collecting data, so the whole process was not necessarily a piece of cake. Thus, i’m extra pumped this is finally available! If you want to read the chapter but can’t access it, feel free to email me and i’ll send you the PDF 🙂 -> mvoytyuk (at) asu.edu
NOTE: It’s actually highly ironic for me to write on how cooking could have been instrumental in the evolution of our large brains- I spent 2 years as a highly motivated raw vegan! Indeed, I took several “raw cooking” and educational courses in different parts of the U.S. (Illinois, California), was a private raw “chef”, and taught raw veganism workshops for over a year at a food co-op I managed.
This chapter doesn’t actually comment on whether there could be health benefits to eating a diet higher in uncooked foods. It does focus on highlighting the fact that we appear to be particularly adapted to cooking. So, I’d say it does notsupport a 100% raw vegan diet as a worthy endeavor.
Click HERE for the encyclopedia page, and here is the short intro:
The disproportionately big human brain is a conundrum – it is larger than would be expected for a primate of our size, and it is a very energetically expensive organ. Since human basal metabolic rate (BMR) is not elevated to match such a big brain, the extra energy needed to sustain it suggests a dietary explanation. Feeding the large brain would likely require a shift to a high-quality diet: one comprised of energy-rich, easily digestible foods. This hypothesis is supported by a number of anatomical features: smaller teeth, jaws, stomachs, and a shorter large intestine. Two key elements of human subsistence – cooking and meat eating – have been proposed as a possible means of achieving this high-quality diet.
I went to a great talk at ASU’s Evolution & Medicine center, where Dr. Stearns from Yale University discussed tradeoffs 🙌🎓. I’d love to invest the rest of this day into summarizing what i’ve learned but i’ve got a dissertation to write, jobs to apply to, etc. etc… So a really short science communication bit is all i can manage!
Short version: Look at this chart.. It shows how mental illness is a result of a conflict between paternal and maternal genes. Notice how autism and szchisophrenia manifest most at the extremes of a newborn’s birth weight.
Long version: “Imprinted brain theory” argues that maternal & paternal set of genes might have antagonistic reproductive interests: father “turns off” genes that down-regulate fetal growth, resulting in enhanced growth. Mother turns on these genes, inhibiting growth.. Both actions result in normal range of weight of the newborn.
The mother is 50% related to each of her offspring.
The logic behind conflicting interests from the parents is such: since a father is uncertain that a woman’s other and future children will be his, it may be in the father’s reproductive interest for his child to use mother’s resources MORE, while the mother’s interest (considering she’ll be 50% related to all her current and future children equally) is to limit this and have resources for future kids. With polygamous mating, offspring’s genes from the father will be selected to extract MORE from the mother, and maternal genes will be selected to resist such increased extraction of bodily resources.
To simplify: father needs current baby to use up as much of mother’s resources to grow bigger/stronger/have higher chance of future reproductive success because he can’t be sure her other kids will actually be his.
A conflict arises when action of one parent is cancelled by disrupting imprinting- so disruption of maternal interests would result in an uninhibited expression of paternal interests. Such disruptions result in abnormally low or high birth weight (along with other factors such as behavioral aspects- the extremes of which are considered mental illnesses). Extreme genomic imprinting in favor of MATERAL genes will result in lower birth weight, and is argued to cause psychosis (schizophrenia spectrum) while the opposite causing autism spectrum disorders. The chart above shows how such abnormalities in weight are indeed associated with autism & schizophrenia.
Well, this short post will be off my usual topics.
My husband & I have just been (once again) discussing how villains in various forms of media are often shown enjoying classical music (my husband is an orchestral conductor, thus the topic) . We’re suspecting it has to do with trying to portray their higher intelligence. But why do we think super intelligent people are into “classical music”?
First of all, a bit of interesting information that particularly pleases the rock fan in me: “more intelligent”* individuals prefer reflective and complex genres of music (classical, jazz, blues, and folk), but they also prefer “intensive and rebellious” music (alternative, rock, and heavy metal) (Rentfrow & Gosling, 2003). I will keep putting “intelligence” in brackets because measuring such a complicated construct.. well, i’ll keep taking it with a grain of salt.
I was in a mood to procrastinate on my own work, so i began looking up studies on music and intelligence. I quickly noticed this one- since I love evolutionary perspective on all the things, I was immediately biased to read further!
These guys propose an alternative hypothesis to the more intuitive suggestion that classical music is more complex thus highly intelligent people enjoy it more. This explanation is one I myself assumed- classical orchestral pieces are definitely more complex in their design than a modern 3-minute pop song containing up to 4 chords. In this study, Kanazawa & Perina apply the Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis hypothesis (Kanazawa, 2010), which suggests that more intelligent individuals have less difficulty with evolutionarily novel stimuli- such as classical music.
…people of “higher intelligence” might find it easier to like classical music because such music is more evolutionarily novel, not because it is more complex
The Savanna-IQ interaction hypothesis is a logical union of two theories: 1) evolutionary psychology argues that human brains (like any other organ of any other species) are adapted to the conditions of the “ancestral environment”, not necessarily the current one. As a result, they might find it difficult to comprehend and deal with situations that did not exist in the past; and 2) evolutionary psychological theory of the evolution of general intelligence posits that “general intelligence may have evolved as a domain-specific adaptation to solve evolutionarily novel problems, for which there are no predesigned psychological adaptations”.
Bringing that back to music: people of “higher intelligence” might find it easier to like (thus have higher preference for) classical music because such music is more evolutionarily NOVEL, not because it is more complex (music, in its evolutionary origin, is considered vocal by a recent theory- see Mithen, 2005). So the “novelty” of such music is driven by it being instrumental (evolutionarily unfamiliar) and not vocal (evolutionarily old). To summarize, the prediction is: “more intelligent individuals today are more likely to appreciate purely instrumental music than less intelligent individuals because such music is evolutionarily novel, while general intelligence has no effect on the appreciation of vocal music”.
The authors test this theory in US and Britain. They measure music preference, intelligence*, and some control variables (e.g. social class and education). I was of course particularly interested in how “intelligence” is measured: this study used a verbal intelligence test that asks people to select a synonym for a word out of five candidates (verbal intelligence is highly correlated with general intelligence). As for music preference, respondents had to rate liking for different types of music, which researchers categorized as mostly vocal (15 genres) or mostly instrumental (3 genres) in the analysis. Their results in both cultural groups show that individuals who score higher on the “intelligence” test indeed are more likely to prefer :purely or largely instrumental music, while measured intelligence has no effect on preferring purely or largely vocal music. Social class and education also predict liking for instrumental music, but they do not confound the statistically significant effect of intelligence (they don’t explain it away).
This is interesting.. an immediate alternative view is that people want to “show off” their intelligence by publicly expressing a taste for instrumental music (like classical and jazz), but it’s still not clear why such genre of music came to be associated with higher intelligence in the first place. Perhaps the Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis can explain why such an association developed and, once this association is popularly known, it’s easy to explain people’s motivation to cultivate this preference (to “signal” intelligence). Lastly, it’s important to clarify that this hypothesis does NOT propose that preferring evolutionarily novel values and preferences is MORE ADAPTIVE in the current environment- it doesn’t increase reproductive success in any way.
My “research” on an off-topic took me less than an hour. This is obviously not my area of expertise so if you have any comments- please feel free to share!
Kanazawa, S., & Perina, K. (2012). Why more intelligent individuals like classical music. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 25(3), 264-275.
Mithen, S. (2005). The singing Neanderthals: The origins of music, language, mind and body. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson.
Rentfrow, P. J., & Gosling, S. D. (2003). The do re mi’s of everyday life: The structure and personality correlates of music preference. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84,1236–1256.
The annual American Anthropological Association (AAA) meeting has ended! This is my 3rd year attending and it is still as crazy, overwhelming, and fun at the first time. 🙂
The 2015 meeting was in Denver, CO (gorgeous gorgeous city! My first time there) and I wanted to write down a couple of impressions and things learned from this year’s event.
SO, first of all- what I presented on.. This September I began collecting my dissertation data. I also got accepted for a poster session for the Anthropology Society for Food & Nutrition at the AAA, thus I knew I’d better have an interesting poster ready by mid November. :S
It was rushed & stressful (when is it not?), I had to put together the poster & print it from Finland (I was traveling constantly before the AAAs!) but it got done.
My poster showed some preliminary results of how people (from mostly urban southwestern US) talk about healthy eating. I mostly focused on results from the pile sorting interview (presenting visual “maps” of how the 42 cars people sorted can be represented in 2 dimensions when averaged over 30 participants). I also talked about the several distinct “theories” of healthy eating that emerged from the interviews (using Q sort agreement rankings). I got good feedback and some very crucial suggestions for further work!
Two hours of poster talking! :S Exhausting but great.
Of course, I also attended a bunch of amazing talks! Some of my favorites are summarized here:
Dr. Hruschka’s talk in the Environmental Anthropology session was one of the best (he is also my PhD committee chair :P). In his presentation, he mentioned the highly fashionable explanatory model called the reverse gradient. This is an observed pattern in the US (& other high-income countries) where poor women have higher levels of fat (on average) than women who are more wealthy (this is reversed when compared to the REST of the planet, where increasing resources correlate with increases in body weight).
Many assume it has to do with poverty and not having time and resources to eat well and exercise. But actually, a great deal of data supports a different explanation: the body capital hypothesis. This hypothesis proposed that the anti-fat discrimination in marriage and jobs actually limits the economic mobility of people (particularly females) who have more body fat. So- husbands and employees seem to discriminate against heavier women.
Another cool talk I heard was by Dr. Tamar Kremer-Sadlik (UCLA)who looked at the “ecology of eating perspectives” or the context in which eating takes place. Her study video recorded typical dinners in US and French families. They noticed that the existence of courses (so like a salad, main dish, dessert) reduced competition between foods and resulted in kids eating more vegetables. In other words- if your dinner table’s meal structure has few divisions into course (US families tended to have a single course + dessert, so all foods were served together), the presence of vegetables an be easily overshadowed by everything else available. In order to “share” a meal, you need to collaborate- if you have a single course, that collaboration exists whether you specifically eat the vegetable part of the dish or not (as you take some of the food offered).
In the French family dinners, they saw a lot more division into courses (starter, main, salad, cheese, yoghurt and fruit). To be collaborative during each course, one has to eat some of whatever is served at each course. If most of the courses include vegetables, the kids would overall eat a lot more vegetables over dinner. To quantify this difference: 47% of American kids didn’t touch vegetables, while only 10% of French kids didn’t.
One last fun lecture I went to was called “Pet Ownership as Cues of Character” by a group from University of Colorado Springs (Evolutionary Anthropology session). They began by saying that many studies have found that women and men attenuate to cues of attractiveness differently: women seem to pay more attention to cues of character os success. For example, one study showed that women rated men paying positive attention to an infant as more attractive, while men did not rate photos of women differently (whether they were paying attention to infant or ignoring it).
So this group hypothesized that perhaps women conflate cues of parenting ability into attractiveness. They tested it with pet ownership, instead of having a baby! They asked US respondents to rate photos of individuals in 3 scenarios: paying attention to a dog, ignoring the dog, and a neutral/reading book photo. To their surprise, they found that only MEN rated women as MORE attractive and as MORE desirable partners when shown the photo where women pay positive attention to the pet.Women were not rating males with pets as more attractive. While the study could have some important flaws, that’s a pretty cool and intriguing outcome.
There were a LOT more talks I found fascinating, but it is too overwhelming to mention them all 🙂 #AAA2015
I am in my first year of the PhD track in Global Health (GH). While GH is interdisciplinary, my main grounding is in medical anthropology*, and my specific interest is nutrition. I am not an anthropologist by training- my undergraduate degree was in business, my master’s degree- in health promotion. I have always had an interest in nutrition- first personally, then academically. I myself tried all sorts of diets and eating styles- I became most interested in the raw vegan diet in 2007; got certified as a raw chef and educator; taught classes as the health food store I managed; was a private raw chef, and so on.
Currently, I am interested in exploring how people use food as medicine. I plan to focus on the raw vegan diet and the “paleo diet”- two examples of eating styles that are often perceived as pristine or “the way we are meant to eat”.
I will be posting thoughts and information I encounter along the way. My goals are to explore:
-how to eat to feel good, look good, and maintain health
-how food can affect our health, mood, looks,etc.
-psychology of eating (why people at what they eat, etc)
*Medical anthropology(MA) attempts to understand human health and illness, in short. The longer explanation is:
MA is the study of health, illness, healthcare, & related topics from a broad anthropological perspective. It draws upon cultural, biological, and linguistic anthropology to better understand those factors that influence health & well being, experience & distribution of illness, prevention & treatment of sickness, healing processes, social relations of therapy management, and cultural importance of pluralistic medical systems.