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Concept: Improve


Kawaii (a Japanese word meaning “cute”) things are popular because they produce positive feelings. However, their effect on behavior remains unclear. In this study, three experiments were conducted to examine the effects of viewing cute images on subsequent task performance. In the first experiment, university students performed a fine motor dexterity task before and after viewing images of baby or adult animals. Performance indexed by the number of successful trials increased after viewing cute images (puppies and kittens; M ± SE = 43.9±10.3% improvement) more than after viewing images that were less cute (dogs and cats; 11.9±5.5% improvement). In the second experiment, this finding was replicated by using a non-motor visual search task. Performance improved more after viewing cute images (15.7±2.2% improvement) than after viewing less cute images (1.4±2.1% improvement). Viewing images of pleasant foods was ineffective in improving performance (1.2±2.1%). In the third experiment, participants performed a global-local letter task after viewing images of baby animals, adult animals, and neutral objects. In general, global features were processed faster than local features. However, this global precedence effect was reduced after viewing cute images. Results show that participants performed tasks requiring focused attention more carefully after viewing cute images. This is interpreted as the result of a narrowed attentional focus induced by the cuteness-triggered positive emotion that is associated with approach motivation and the tendency toward systematic processing. For future applications, cute objects may be used as an emotion elicitor to induce careful behavioral tendencies in specific situations, such as driving and office work.

Concepts: Better, Psychology, Improve, Attention, Performance, Behavior, Human behavior, Behaviorism


We investigated whether sprint interval training (SIT) was a time-efficient exercise strategy to improve insulin sensitivity and other indices of cardiometabolic health to the same extent as traditional moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT). SIT involved 1 minute of intense exercise within a 10-minute time commitment, whereas MICT involved 50 minutes of continuous exercise per session.

Concepts: Improve, Obesity, Sensitivity and specificity, Exercise, Running, Endurance training, Interval training, Long slow distance


Life course epidemiology has used models of accumulation and critical or sensitive periods to examine the importance of exposure timing in disease aetiology. These models are usually used to describe the direct effects of exposures over the life course. In comparison with consideration of direct effects only, we show how consideration of total effects improves interpretation of these models, giving clearer notions of when it will be most effective to intervene. We show how life course variation in the total effects depends on the magnitude of the direct effects and the stability of the exposure. We discuss interpretation in terms of total, direct and indirect effects and highlight the causal assumptions required for conclusions as to the most effective timing of interventions.

Concepts: Improve, Biology


Tens of millions of people are currently choosing health coverage on a state or federal health insurance exchange as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. We examine how well people make these choices, how well they think they do, and what can be done to improve these choices. We conducted 6 experiments asking people to choose the most cost-effective policy using websites modeled on current exchanges. Our results suggest there is significant room for improvement. Without interventions, respondents perform at near chance levels and show a significant bias, overweighting out-of-pocket expenses and deductibles. Financial incentives do not improve performance, and decision-makers do not realize that they are performing poorly. However, performance can be improved quite markedly by providing calculation aids, and by choosing a “smart” default. Implementing these psychologically based principles could save purchasers of policies and taxpayers approximately 10 billion dollars every year.

Concepts: Health insurance, Improve, Decision theory, Thought, Performance, Choice, Finance, Choice architecture


An in-class computer-based system, that included daily online testing, was introduced to two large university classes. We examined subsequent improvements in academic performance and reductions in the achievement gaps between lower- and upper-middle class students in academic performance. Students (N = 901) brought laptop computers to classes and took daily quizzes that provided immediate and personalized feedback. Student performance was compared with the same data for traditional classes taught previously by the same instructors (N = 935). Exam performance was approximately half a letter grade above previous semesters, based on comparisons of identical questions asked from earlier years. Students in the experimental classes performed better in other classes, both in the semester they took the course and in subsequent semester classes. The new system resulted in a 50% reduction in the achievement gap as measured by grades among students of different social classes. These findings suggest that frequent consequential quizzing should be used routinely in large lecture courses to improve performance in class and in other concurrent and subsequent courses.

Concepts: Better, Improve, University, Academia, High school, Social class, Educational assessment and evaluation, University of Cambridge


High levels of acute and chronic stress are known to impair problem-solving and creativity on a broad range of tasks. Despite this evidence, we know little about protective factors for mitigating the deleterious effects of stress on problem-solving. Building on previous research showing that self-affirmation can buffer stress, we tested whether an experimental manipulation of self-affirmation improves problem-solving performance in chronically stressed participants. Eighty undergraduates indicated their perceived chronic stress over the previous month and were randomly assigned to either a self-affirmation or control condition. They then completed 30 difficult remote associate problem-solving items under time pressure in front of an evaluator. Results showed that self-affirmation improved problem-solving performance in underperforming chronically stressed individuals. This research suggests a novel means for boosting problem-solving under stress and may have important implications for understanding how self-affirmation boosts academic achievement in school settings.

Concepts: Improve, Understanding, Stress


To characterize effects of alemtuzumab treatment on measures of disability improvement in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) with inadequate response (≥1 relapse) to prior therapy.

Concepts: Better, Improve, Multiple sclerosis


Epidemiological evidence suggests that consumption of flavonoids (usually via fruits and vegetables) is associated with decreased risk of developing depression. One plausible explanation for this association is the well-documented beneficial effects of flavonoids on executive function (EF). Impaired EF is linked to cognitive processes (e.g., rumination) that maintain depression and low mood; therefore, improved EF may reduce depressionogenic cognitive processes and improve mood. Study 1: 21 young adults (18-21 years old) consumed a flavonoid-rich blueberry drink and a matched placebo in a counterbalanced cross-over design. Study 2: 50 children (7-10 years old) were randomly assigned to a flavonoid-rich blueberry drink or a matched placebo. In both studies, participants and researchers were blind to the experimental condition, and mood was assessed using the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule before and 2 h after consumption of the drinks. In both studies, the blueberry intervention increased positive affect (significant drink by session interaction) but had no effect on negative affect. This observed effect of flavonoids on positive affect in two independent samples is of potential practical value in improving public health. If the effect of flavonoids on positive affect is replicated, further investigation will be needed to identify the mechanisms that link flavonoid interventions with improved positive mood.

Concepts: Better, Psychology, Epidemiology, Improve, Effect, Affect, Emotion, Affect theory


Recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEpo) increases haemoglobin mass (Hb(mass)) and maximal oxygen uptake ([Formula: see text] O(2 max)). PURPOSE: This study defined the time course of changes in Hb(mass), [Formula: see text] O(2 max) as well as running time trial performance following 4 weeks of rHuEpo administration to determine whether the laboratory observations would translate into actual improvements in running performance in the field. METHODS: 19 trained men received rHuEpo injections of 50 IU•kg(-1) body mass every two days for 4 weeks. Hb(mass) was determined weekly using the optimized carbon monoxide rebreathing method until 4 weeks after administration. [Formula: see text] O(2 max) and 3,000 m time trial performance were measured pre, post administration and at the end of the study. RESULTS: Relative to baseline, running performance significantly improved by ∼6% after administration (10∶30±1∶07 min:sec vs. 11∶08±1∶15 min:sec, p<0.001) and remained significantly enhanced by ∼3% 4 weeks after administration (10∶46±1∶13 min:sec, p<0.001), while [Formula: see text] O(2 max) was also significantly increased post administration (60.7±5.8 mL•min(-1)•kg(-1) vs. 56.0±6.2 mL•min(-1)•kg(-1), p<0.001) and remained significantly increased 4 weeks after rHuEpo (58.0±5.6 mL•min(-1)•kg(-1), p = 0.021). Hb(mass) was significantly increased at the end of administration compared to baseline (15.2±1.5 g•kg(-1) vs. 12.7±1.2 g•kg(-1), p<0.001). The rate of decrease in Hb(mass) toward baseline values post rHuEpo was similar to that of the increase during administration (-0.53 g•kg(-1)•wk(-1), 95% confidence interval (CI) (-0.68, -0.38) vs. 0.54 g•kg(-1•)wk(-1), CI (0.46, 0.63)) but Hb(mass) was still significantly elevated 4 weeks after administration compared to baseline (13.7±1.1 g•kg(-1), p<0.001). CONCLUSION: Running performance was improved following 4 weeks of rHuEpo and remained elevated 4 weeks after administration compared to baseline. These field performance effects coincided with rHuEpo-induced elevated [Formula: see text] O(2 max) and Hb(mass).

Concepts: Better, Hemoglobin, Oxygen, Erythropoietin, Improve, Carbon monoxide, VO2 max, Knitting


Guarding behavior is an important activity in sub-social insects, and this behavior is believed to improve the survival of offspring. Sclerodermus harmandi (Hymenoptera: Bethylidae) is one of most powerful epizoic parasitoid wasps, and it parasitizes Monochamus alternatus, a borer of wood and also the primary vector of the pinewood nematode Bursaphelenchus xylophilus. After laying eggs, S. harmandi exhibits sub-social behavior involving the female tending the clutch of eggs until emergence (guarding behavior). In this study, the benefits of this maternal care with regard to improvements in the survival of offspring were examined. During the developmental stages, only offspring in the egg and larval stages were sensitive to guarding behavior. A positive relationship between the survival of the offspring and the duration of guarding was detected with logistic regression analysis. A female replacement experiment demonstrated that multiparous S. harmandi stepmothers showed guarding behavior and that this behavior improved the survival of the immature offspring, whereas nulliparous stepmothers failed to exhibit the guarding behavior. These results indicate that S. harmandi females display maternal care and that this behavior improves the survival of offspring.

Concepts: Better, Regression analysis, Logistic regression, Improve, Insect, Nematodes, Wasp, Bursaphelenchus xylophilus