Scientific Discovery

From Santa sceptics to gifts people really don’t want — science for the holidays

Research reveals how Scrabble experts use their brains, the drink not to serve at your party, and how to how to deal with ‘animalistic’ customers

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<strong>The Elsevier Research Selection for Journalists:</strong> If you are a credentialed journalist writing about science and would like to receive the Elsevier Research Selection, email the <a href="">Elsevier Newsroom</a>.For this special holiday issue of the Elsevier Research Selection, the Elsevier Newsroom is featuring research studies related to seasonal festivities — including what can go wrong.

The Elsevier Research Selection (ERS) is an email spotlighting interesting, topical research articles for health and science journalists. The research included is peer reviewed, has not been press-released or covered in the media, and is not embargoed. 

Articles are available to credentialed journalists through free access to ScienceDirect, the world's largest repository of full-text scientific information.

In addition, Elsevier has made these articles freely available to the public for three months, until January 31, 2016.

Christmas lights and ladders: a dangerous combination for middle-aged men

“Oh the weather outside is frightful”: Severe injury secondary to falls while installing residential Christmas lights

Injury | doi:10.1016/j.injury.2015.09.014

A group of researchers in Canada have found that accidents involving Christmas lights resulted in an average hospital stay of 15.6 days, with a significant 12.5% of patients also requiring long-term care or rehabilitation. The findings, published in Injury, show that middle-aged men falling off ladders made up the vast majority of the patients.

How does he know if we’re naughty or nice?

Children's understanding of physical possibility constrains their belief in Santa Claus

Cognitive Development | doi:10.1016/j.cogdev.2014.12.006

A study published in Cognitive Development looked at whether children's reasoning about Santa becomes more sceptical as their understanding of physical possibility becomes more developed.  Results suggest that children's acceptance of adults’ testimony about Santa depends not only on the story they are told, but also on the child's own understanding of physical possibility, such as whether it is feasible to travel around the world in one night or fly in a reindeer-drawn sleigh.

We all want some figgy pudding

Sweet Christmas: Do overweight and obese children associate special events more frequently with food than normal weight children?

Appetite | doi:10.1016/j.appet.2015.10.010

Special events such as Christmas and birthdays can often be a time to indulge in sweet treats.
A study published in Appetite set out to find whether overweight and obese children would associate special events with food more often than normal weight and leaner children. Researchers asked the children to write down five words they associate with such occasions. They found that, contrary to their prediction, the lower a child’s BMI, the more they linked special events with food. It is suggested that perhaps this is because parents of leaner children restrict access to treats, reserving them for specific, relatively rare occasions.

How to win over the in-laws: a guide to gift-giving

When doing good is bad in gift giving: Mis-predicting appreciation of socially responsible gifts

Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes | doi:10.1016/j.obhdp.2015.07.002

Gifts that give back to society, such as a donation to a charity in the recipient’s name, have become increasingly popular. Research published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes investigated how well these gifts are received. The researchers found that givers overestimate the impact of socially responsible gifts, focussing on the symbolic meaning more strongly than on the person receiving. The study suggests that givers often miss a trick in not buying a personal present, an opportunity to strengthen their bond with an individual.

Is Santa at risk of slipping, tripping and falling?

Jeopardizing Christmas: Why spoiled kids and a tight schedule could make Santa Claus fall?

Gait & Posture | doi:10.1016/j.gaitpost.2014.12.010

Referring to his white beard and deep voice, it seems widely accepted that Santa Claus is 65 or above. However, one-third of seniors at this age have been reported to fall once a year, due to multiple factors such as bad weather, multi-tasking and cognitive impairment. Research published in Gait & Posture suggests that Santa Claus may be at risk of falling, given his stature, the applied load of his sack of presents, and cognitive interference tasks such as checking his Christmas list while steering the sleigh. The study advises that the emotional stress of completing his delivery, and the heavy load of presents tremendously increase Santa’s risk of falling, and that he might benefit from physical training to remain stable under pressure. This guidance might be sage for seniors in general!

The great Christmas commercial battle

The success of viral ads: Social and attitudinal predictors of consumer pass-on behavior on social network sites

Journal of Business Research | doi:10.1016/j.jbusres.2015.10.151

What makes a Christmas advert go viral? A new study published in Journal of Business Research may help marketers crack the formula. For example, whether or not an individual would share a Christmas commercial on social media was significantly predicted by a positive attitude toward the brand. Participants were also more likely to forward it if it was received from a friend rather than a company. The results suggest that achieving advertising success is at least partly under marketers’ control, and that getting the initial elements right will help to ensure ‘viral’ sharing on social networking sites.

Energize with beer, or wind down with wine: match the party mood to the booze

Functional or Emotional? How Dutch and Portuguese conceptualise beer, wine and non-alcoholic beer consumption

Food Quality and Preference | doi:10.1016/j.foodqual.2015.11.007

For many the festive season comes hand-in-hand with an increase in alcohol intake. Are consumers ready to substitute alcoholic drinks for healthier equivalents? A study published in Food Quality and Preference suggests not. Consumers establish positive emotional associations when thinking of wine and beer: wine evokes a low arousal response such as calm and loving, whereas beer is associated with emotions such as adventurous and energetic. Although the healthier alternative, non-alcoholic beer evokes neutral and negative emotional states, such as rational, conscious, and disappointed.

Scrabble stimulates experts’ brains in unexpected ways

This is your brain on Scrabble: Neural correlates of visual word recognition in competitive Scrabble players as measured during task and resting-state

Cortex | doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2015.03.015

The popular board game Scrabble can cause conflict, with challengers reaching for the dictionary to verify words. Competitive Scrabble players devote considerable time to studying words and practicing word game related skills such as anagramming. In a study published in Cortex, researchers compared the brain activity and connectivity in 12 Scrabble experts and non-experts. Results showed that the experts made use of brain regions not generally associated with meaning retrieval in visual word recognition, but rather those associated with working memory and visual perception.

Jingle Hell: dealing with ‘dysfunctional’ and ‘animalistic’ customers

Bad behavior and conflict in retailing spaces: Nine suggestions to ease tensions

Business Horizons | doi:10.1016/j.bushor.2015.09.004

‘Tis the season for festive shopping, and the January sales are just around the corner. A recent study published in Business Horizons identified three types of retail conflict plaguing the aisles: customer-to-customer, customer-to-employee, and employee-to-employee. Territorial behaviour, invasions of personal space, and verbal aggression were just some of the problems identified. Solutions included ‘training’ customers by publicly correcting them, and implementing ‘customer rules’ to motivate good behaviour.

Race against time as melting ice reveals historical sites

Managing frozen heritage: Some challenges and responses

Quaternary International | doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2015.10.067

Archaeological and historical remains of great value are emerging from melting snow and ice across the globe due to rising temperatures and changing weather patterns. Research published in Quaternary International highlights the new challenges facing heritage management teams, such as the need for archaeological, glaciological and meteorological expertise. Teams would also benefit from affordable, reliable and effective remote-sensing technologies, and the targeted use of drones, hunting cameras and sensors.

Elsevier Connect Contributor

Sacha BoucherieSacha Boucherie works closely with Elsevier's journal publishers, editors and authors at one end and with science journalists and reporters at the other end with the aim of spotlighting and promoting interesting, topical research articles. She is based in Elsevier's Amsterdam headquarters and holds a master's degree in social psychology at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

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