Vital Statistics

A roundup of some interesting studies making news. As always, a mention here doesn’t mean an endorsement.

1 in 25 business leaders may be psychopaths

Over at TIME, STATS fellow Maia Szalavitz discusses a new study that finds 1 in 25 business leaders may be psychopaths, a rate she points out, “that’s four times greater than in the general population.” The research team studied 203 American corporate professionals who had been chosen by their respective companies to participate in a management training program.

Psychopathic traits were evaluated using a standard checklist developed by a psychopathy expert. Psychopaths are characterized as being amoral and concerned with only their own power. It is possible that psychopaths may be overrepresented in the business environment because it caters to their strengths.

Do family dinners keep teens out of trouble?

A new study shows that family dinners may help keep teenagers away from drugs and alcohol:  58 percent of U.S. teens sit down for family dinners at least five times a week. It was found that teens who spend more time with their parents at the dinner table, spend more time with their parents in general.

On the other hand, teenagers who reported infrequent family dinners also reported spending less time with their parents. These teens were more likely to have used alcohol and to have at least one friend or classmate who engages in drug abuse.

 Optimism may be in your genes

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that optimism, self-esteem, and mastery may possibly have a genetic base rooted in the hormone oxytocin (aka the “love” hormone).

The study, which examined 326 participants, involved a survey and the analysis of genetic material in the saliva, looking for a combination of two variants, “A” and “G”.  Those with two “G’s” may be more likely to be optimistic; however, the study found the gene may also backfire. Certain combination of genes, such as one or two A’s may be associated with less optimism and more symptoms of depression.

 The traditional police lineup may need to be altered

According to new research by the American Judicature Society, the traditional police lineup may need some tweaking. The more common simultaneous lineup, when witnesses look at groups of people standing in front of them or in photos, can result in a higher amount of misidentifications. Witnesses tend to compare one person to another and decide who looks most like the suspect; a problem if the suspect is not actually included in the lineup. The researchers say a sequential lineup is more effective. In this method, a person looks at each person individually and says whether he or she is the suspect.

Both procedures had similar outcomes in identifying the suspect; however, the sequential method resulted in less misidentification. In the simultaneous lineups, a suspect was misidentified 18.1 percent of the time compared to 12.2 percent of the time when using the sequential method. The latter also produced fewer “not sure” responses from witnesses.

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