Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Communication


The increasing prevalence of social media means that we often encounter written language characterized by both stylistic variation and outright errors. How does the personality of the reader modulate reactions to non-standard text? Experimental participants read ‘email responses’ to an ad for a housemate that either contained no errors or had been altered to include either typos (e.g., teh) or homophonous grammar errors (grammos, e.g., to/too, it’s/its). Participants completed a 10-item evaluation scale for each message, which measured their impressions of the writer. In addition participants completed a Big Five personality assessment and answered demographic and language attitude questions. Both typos and grammos had a negative impact on the evaluation scale. This negative impact was not modulated by age, education, electronic communication frequency, or pleasure reading time. In contrast, personality traits did modulate assessments, and did so in distinct ways for grammos and typos.

Concepts: Evaluation, Personality psychology, Assessment, Educational psychology, Writing, Modulation, Communication, Big Five personality traits


Human body odors have important communicative functions regarding genetic identity, immune fitness and general health, but an expanding body of research suggests they can also communicate information about an individual’s emotional state. In the current study, we tested whether axillary odors obtained from women experiencing psychosocial stress could negatively influence personality judgments of warmth and competence made about other women depicted in video scenarios. 44 female donors provided three types of sweat samples: untreated exercise sweat, untreated stress sweat and treated stress sweat. After a ‘washout’ period, a commercial unscented anti-perspirant product was applied to the left axilla only to evaluate whether ‘blocking’ the stress signal would improve the social evaluations. A separate group of male and female evaluators (n = 120) rated the women in the videos while smelling one of the three types of sweat samples. Women in the video scenes were rated as being more stressed by both men and women when smelling the untreated vs. treated stress sweat. For men only, the women in the videos were rated as less confident, trustworthy and competent when smelling both the untreated stress and exercise sweat in contrast to the treated stress sweat. Women’s social judgments were unaffected by sniffing the pads. The results have implications for influencing multiple types of professional and personal social interactions and impression management and extend our understanding of the social communicative function of body odors.

Concepts: Male, Female, Gender, Sociology, Emotion, Communication, Body odor, Impression management


What are you working on? You have certainly been asked that question many times, whether it be at a Saturday night party, during a discussion with your neighbors, or at a family gathering. Communicating with a lay audience about scientific subjects and making them attractive is a difficult task. But difficult or not, you will have to do it for many years, not only with your family and friends, but also with your colleagues and collaborators. So, better learn now! Although not usually taught, the ability to explain your work to others is an essential skill in science, where communication plays a key role. Using some examples of the French Regional Student Group activities, we discuss here (i) why it is important to have such communication skills, (ii) how you can get involved in these activities by using existing resources or working with people who have previous experience, and (iii) what you get out of this amazing experience. We aim to motivate you and provide you with tips and ideas to get involved in promoting scientific activities while getting all the benefits.

Concepts: Skill, Communication, Graphic communication


Dogs are particularly skilful during communicative interactions with humans. Dogs' abilities to use human communicative cues in cooperative contexts outcompete those of other species, and might be the result of selection pressures during domestication. Dogs also produce signals to direct the attention of humans towards outside entities, a behaviour often referred to as showing behaviour. This showing behaviour in dogs is thought to be something dogs use intentionally and referentially. However, there is currently no evidence that dogs communicate helpfully, i.e. to inform an ignorant human about a target that is of interest to the human but not to the dog. Communicating with a helpful motive is particularly interesting because it might suggest that dogs understand the human’s goals and need for information. In study 1, we assessed whether dogs would abandon an object that they find interesting in favour of an object useful for their human partner, a random novel distractor, or an empty container. Results showed that it was mainly self-interest that was driving the dogs' behaviour. The dogs mainly directed their behaviour towards the object they had an interest in, but dogs were more persistent when showing the object relevant to the human, suggesting that to some extent they took the humans interest into account. Another possibility is that dogs' behaviour was driven by an egocentric motivation to interact with novel targets and that the dogs' neophila might have masked their helpful tendencies. Therefore, in study 2 the dogs had initial access to both objects, and were expected to indicate only one (relevant or distractor). The human partner interacted with the dog using vocal communication in half of the trials, and remaining silent in the other half. Dogs from both experimental groups, i.e. indicating the relevant object or indicating the distractor, established joint attention with the human. However, the human’s vocal communication and the presence of the object relevant to the human increased the persistency of showing, supporting the hypothesis that the dogs understood the objects' relevance to the human. We propose two non-exclusive explanations. These results might suggest that informative motives could possibly underlie dogs' showing. It is also possible that dogs might have indicated the location of the hidden object because they recognised it as the target of the human’s search. This would be consistent with taking into account the objects' relevance, without necessarily implying that the dogs understood the human’s state of knowledge.

Concepts: Psychology, Human, Natural selection, Thought, Motivation, Object, Communication, Apex predator


The effects of selectively different experience of eye contact and gaze behaviour on the early development of five sighted infants of blind parents were investigated. Infants were assessed longitudinally at 6-10, 12-15 and 24-47 months. Face scanning and gaze following were assessed using eye tracking. In addition, established measures of autistic-like behaviours and standardized tests of cognitive, motor and linguistic development, as well as observations of naturalistic parent-child interaction were collected. These data were compared with those obtained from a larger group of sighted infants of sighted parents. Infants with blind parents did not show an overall decrease in eye contact or gaze following when they observed sighted adults on video or in live interactions, nor did they show any autistic-like behaviours. However, they directed their own eye gaze somewhat less frequently towards their blind mothers and also showed improved performance in visual memory and attention at younger ages. Being reared with significantly reduced experience of eye contact and gaze behaviour does not preclude sighted infants from developing typical gaze processing and other social-communication skills. Indeed, the need to switch between different types of communication strategy may actually enhance other skills during development.

Concepts: Psychology, Memory, Eye, Visual perception, Grammar, Communication, Nonverbal communication, Nonviolent Communication


Connectivity is the key process that characterizes the structural and functional properties of social networks. However, the bursty activity of dyadic interactions may hinder the discrimination of inactive ties from large interevent times in active ones. We develop a principled method to detect tie de-activation and apply it to a large longitudinal, cross-sectional communication dataset (≈19 months, ≈20 million people). Contrary to the perception of ever-growing connectivity, we observe that individuals exhibit a finite communication capacity, which limits the number of ties they can maintain active in time. On average men display higher capacity than women, and this capacity decreases for both genders over their lifespan. Separating communication capacity from activity reveals a diverse range of tie activation strategies, from stable to exploratory. This allows us to draw novel relationships between individual strategies for human interaction and the evolution of social networks at global scale.

Concepts: Interaction, Sociology, The Key, Communication, Individual, Global, TiE, Draw


When established communication systems cannot be used, people rapidly create novel systems to modify the mental state of another agent according to their intentions. However, there are dramatic inter-individual differences in the implementation of this human competence for communicative innovation. Here we characterize psychological sources of inter-individual variability in the ability to build a shared communication system from scratch. We consider two potential sources of variability in communicative skills. Cognitive traits of two individuals could independently influence their joint ability to establish a communication system. Another possibility is that the overlap between those individual traits influences the communicative performance of a dyad. We assess these possibilities by quantifying the relationship between cognitive traits and behavior of communicating dyads. Cognitive traits were assessed with psychometric scores quantifying cooperative attitudes and fluid intelligence. Competence for implementing successful communicative innovations was assessed by using a non-verbal communicative task. Individual capacities influence communicative success when communicative innovations are generated. Dyadic similarities and individual traits modulate the type of communicative strategy chosen. The ability to establish novel communicative actions was influenced by a combination of the communicator’s ability to understand intentions and the addressee’s ability to recognize patterns. Communicative pairs with comparable systemizing abilities or behavioral inhibition were more likely to explore the search space of possible communicative strategies by systematically adding new communicative behaviors to those already available. No individual psychometric measure seemed predominantly responsible for communicative success. These findings support the notion that the human ability for fast communicative innovations represents a special type of complex collaborative activity.

Concepts: Psychology, Assessment, Educational psychology, Behavior, Human behavior, Communication, Behaviorism, Dyadic


Social media has created networked communication channels that facilitate interactions and allow information to proliferate within professional academic communities as well as in informal social circumstances. A significant contemporary discussion in the field of science communication is how scientists are using (or might use) social media to communicate their research. This includes the role of social media in facilitating the exchange of knowledge internally within and among scientific communities, as well as externally for outreach to engage the public. This study investigates how a surveyed sample of 587 scientists from a variety of academic disciplines, but predominantly the academic life sciences, use social media to communicate internally and externally. Our results demonstrate that while social media usage has yet to be widely adopted, scientists in a variety of disciplines use these platforms to exchange scientific knowledge, generally via either Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or blogs. Despite the low frequency of use, our work evidences that scientists perceive numerous potential advantages to using social media in the workplace. Our data provides a baseline from which to assess future trends in social media use within the science academy.

Concepts: Scientific method, Science, Empirical, Communication, Social sciences, Pseudoscience, Social media, Fields of science


There is a positive correlation between recall of tobacco-related television news and perceived risks of smoking and thoughts about quitting. The authors used Cision US, Inc., to create a sampling frame (N = 61,027) of local and national television news coverage of tobacco from October 1, 2008, to September 30, 2009, and to draw a nationally representative sample (N = 730) for content analysis. The authors conducted a descriptive study to determine the frequency and proportion of stories containing specified tobacco topics, frames, sources, and action messages, and the valence of the coverage. Valence was generally neutral; 68% of stories took a balanced stance, with 26% having a tenor supportive of tobacco control and 6% opposing tobacco control. The most frequently covered topics included smoking bans (n = 195) and cessation (n = 156). The least covered topics included hookah (n = 1) and menthol (n = 0). The majority of coverage lacked quoting any source (n = 345); government officials (n = 144) were the most quoted sources. Coverage lacked action messages or resources; 29 stories (<4%) included a message about cessation or advocacy, and 8 stories (1%) contained a resource such as a quitline. Television news can be leveraged by health communication professionals to increase awareness of underrepresented topics in tobacco control.

Concepts: Sample size, Sampling, United States, Tobacco, Communication, Hookah, Radio, Frame


When infants and adults communicate, they exchange social signals of availability and communicative intention such as eye gaze. Previous research indicates that when communication is successful, close temporal dependencies arise between adult speakers' and listeners' neural activity. However, it is not known whether similar neural contingencies exist within adult-infant dyads. Here, we used dual-electroencephalography to assess whether direct gaze increases neural coupling between adults and infants during screen-based and live interactions. In experiment 1 (n = 17), infants viewed videos of an adult who was singing nursery rhymes with (i) direct gaze (looking forward), (ii) indirect gaze (head and eyes averted by 20°), or (iii) direct-oblique gaze (head averted but eyes orientated forward). In experiment 2 (n = 19), infants viewed the same adult in a live context, singing with direct or indirect gaze. Gaze-related changes in adult-infant neural network connectivity were measured using partial directed coherence. Across both experiments, the adult had a significant (Granger) causal influence on infants' neural activity, which was stronger during direct and direct-oblique gaze relative to indirect gaze. During live interactions, infants also influenced the adult more during direct than indirect gaze. Further, infants vocalized more frequently during live direct gaze, and individual infants who vocalized longer also elicited stronger synchronization from the adult. These results demonstrate that direct gaze strengthens bidirectional adult-infant neural connectivity during communication. Thus, ostensive social signals could act to bring brains into mutual temporal alignment, creating a joint-networked state that is structured to facilitate information transfer during early communication and learning.

Concepts: Infant, Brain, Causality, Neuroscience, Eye, Experiment, Communication, Adult