Of our five senses, the one we pay the least attention to, and science studies the least, is touch. Yet recent experiments indicate that we may be vastly underrating the first sense we develop. Everything from the feel of the chair you sit on to what you're holding can influence your behavior and the decisions you make.
Imagine yourself touching this. You'll be kinder in the comments.
Over a series of studies, scientists found that they could easily manipulate people's feelings and perceptions based on nothing more than what the subjects were touching. Holding heavier objects, for instance, made men think more seriously about things, which in turn made them more likely to donate money to charity if asked. Men holding lighter objects were less likely to donate to charitable causes. People handling rough objects were more likely to see neutral social situations in a bad light, saying that other people were obviously in a bad mood. That means that the answer to arguably the most frequently asked question over the course of human history -- "What the fuck is your problem?" -- might be as simple as "The tag on this new underwear is digging into my ass."
He killed millions. But in his defense, that shirt looks wicked itchy.
Perhaps the most shocking find was that your hands didn't have to be the things doing the touching. People who sat in hard chairs were more likely to maintain a hard line in negotiations and were less receptive to their partner's way of thinking. So watch out for that next time you try to convince your boss you need a raise. If instead of a chair she offers you a pile of ducklings to sit on, you're basically screwed. After all, to be truly effective, ass kissing probably needs to be taken in new, horrifically literal directions.
We've all heard by now how Al Gore campaigns to save the environment while using an inordinate amount of energy at his mansion. The British have their own green punching bag in Prince Charles, another prominent green campaigner who's regularly called out in the tabloids for things like taking private flights to pick up awards for his environmentalism. And of course, we all know some obnoxious "go green" advocate who smugly carries his groceries in reusable bags and then loads them into his SUV.
No, but you are an asshole.
According to studies, if you took better care of the environment you would be more likely to be a selfish, lying, cheating and stealing douche bag. No, they haven't isolated a connection between old-man ponytails and super villainy. Behavioral psychologists believe it has something to do with a psychological mechanism called "moral balancing." It's the same reason you tell yourself not to worry about that second beer after finishing a big exam.
It's a different mechanism that tells you not to worry about that 11th beer after finishing that big 10th beer.
The theory goes that the better you are in one way, the less good you feel like you have to be in others. What makes green behavior special is that with most types of good behavior -- studying for the aforementioned exam or running a marathon -- there's an obvious, long-term return on your investment (one step closer to graduation and one of those shiny tinfoil blankets, respectively). With ecologically conscious behavior, the world isn't exactly in a rush to pay you back. Your grandkids are the ones who get to reap all that sweet breathable air.
To compensate, you cut yourself more breaks when no one else is looking. In the linked study, the green participants were more likely to steal from a group or cheat at video games. In the real world, you might tell yourself it all balances out in the long run when you hit a kid with your smart car.
Besides, your car probably sustained more damage than that kid.
So while your tiny carbon footprint might be saving the rain forest, and your ethical clothing may be saving some kids in the Third World, your lying and cheating is making life hell for those around you. And that's not even mentioning the bumper stickers.
Around 80 to 90 percent of people reading this will consume caffeine in some form today. If you're one of them, you know the drill: You feel like an extra in a zombie flick until you get your fix, and you're ready to conquer the world when it's finally coursing through your veins. Of course, you'd also know that drill if you were addicted to cocaine, heroin or any other hard drug. But your caffeine addiction isn't a problem, right?
She isn't about to suck that dick for an iced mocha.
Actually, studies show that caffeine addiction can be like a tightrope walk for your sanity. One espresso shot too many on your coffee break, and you risk flying off the handle into a barely controlled rage. Skip your coffee break, and you'll find that you're just as irritable, with the added bonus of flulike symptoms. It's a vicious cycle that is starting earlier than ever, with increasing numbers of elementary school children consuming caffeine each year.
That's because caffeine actually amplifies your stress level. The same properties that make you feel five different shades of alright in normal quantities can easily push you right past that jittery feeling until you're having a nervous breakdown for no goddamned reason. This happens because your body doesn't know what's making your heart race. It could be a second cup of coffee or a masked gunman. All it knows is that when your heart starts freaking out like this, that usually means it's go time.
So it starts pumping stress hormones into the feedback loop now racing back and forth between your brain and your heart. Next thing you know, that inconsequential email you were just going to dash off to the boss has suddenly become the most important thing you've ever done. You'd think that your brain would put the brakes on at this point, but unfortunately it's too busy trying to figure out what you're going to do when you get fired for choosing the wrong synonym for "motivated."
Incentivized? Driven? Fuck this, I quit!
So that cup of coffee that's supposed to get you through the workday can also make you think the workday is impossible to get through. Then there's the fact that according to studies, everyone from teenagers to prisoners is quicker to express anger after consuming caffeine, and you've got a recipe for disaster. Lawyers have actually tried (and sometimes succeeded) in using caffeine intoxication as a defense for murder and running people over. The U.S. Army even recognizes its very anger-inducing effects.
Before you decide to quit the caffeine habit once and for all, you should know that you're still going to be an asshole. At least for a few months, anyway. Caffeine is a drug, and you get withdrawal symptoms from it just like anything else that's addictive. When an alcoholic wakes up in the morning with the shakes and pours himself a highball, we judge him but how many of you can't function in the morning before your cup (or three) of coffee? Those withdrawal symptoms can then lead to ... you guessed it: high irritability, quickness to anger, depression, and anxiety if you have even one less serving of caffeine a day.
Everyone knows that happiness makes you smile, anger makes you frown and louder-than-expected farts make you raise one eyebrow and point at the guy next to you. Well, scientists have found that our facial muscles are actually controlling your emotions more than you think. If that's not weird enough, Nicole Kidman's weird new face is indirectly responsible for the discovery.
Botox has been making women look sexier since the 1980s, assuming you're sexually attracted to smooth skin and people with awesome poker faces. See, in addition to firming up facial skin until wrinkles disappear, Botox also firms up everything else on your face, until people can't tell whether you're smiling warmly or weeping in terror. But hey, it's not like conveying emotion is your job or anything.
She's just a surprised as you are. You can see it in her eyes.
Well, according to a recent study, injecting Botox into your face not only makes you look like you have no emotions, it actually inhibits your ability to feel them at all. We tend to think of the relationship between our emotions and our face as a one-way street, but apparently your brain likes to check in with your facial muscles before deciding what emotion it should feeling at any given moment. Even if you have every reason to be delighted, if your brain checks in and you're not smiling, you'll still be unhappy. We need a complex series of interactions to occur involving our body, hormones and brain to truly feel something like happiness. And it turns out the part involving our facial muscles is way more important than previously thought.
Researchers found that the people who'd frozen their faces with Botox had lost the ability to feel strong emotions, or in some cases, pretty much any emotion. The study participants didn't even feel affected by "emotionally charged" videos. This is all good news for those of us who haven't yet injected poison into our faces. The study, and others like it suggest that smiling when you're down will actually make you feel happy. If you're one of the millions of women (and some men) who sought the fountain of youth, and ended up with the internal and external emotional range of the T-1000 ... well, at least you aren't that kid who got slapped on the back while making a stupid face in fifth grade. He probably needs help tying his shoes by now.
But that doesn't mean that they were worse parents. They still obviously loved their kids, just like parents today. Well, unless the kid's slovenly disregard for her figure was disgracing the family. Then all bets were apparently off ...
Yes, the Gilbert Atomic Energy Lab came with real live radioactive materials. It was supposedly low-level radiation and "completely safe and harmless!" though this is 1950 we're talking about. It's impossible to know if they were using the modern definition of the word "safe" or the Iver Johnson Revolver definition.
This toy was unofficially promoted by the U.S. government, which advertised a cash reward along with the toy to anyone who used the toy's Geiger counter to find uranium. There was presumably an additional reward for the first brave little boy to successfully use his Gilbert Atomic Energy Lab to kill a communist.
There are two possible messages from this 1905 ad for a Gillette Safety Razor. The first is that nothing quite says "safe thing for your baby to play with" like a stick with open blades at the end.
Or you could make the fairly logical assumption that in the early 20th century, it was considered a crippling birth defect if you didn't have a thick, full beard at three months. Thus, prior to the invention of the Gillette Safety Razor, parents would have to shave the baby with a straight razor, and this product finally made it safe for the infant to shave himself.
This 1906 ad for Rainier Beer not only encouraged young people to start drinking but specifically says to make a "habit" out of it. Oh, but don't worry -- it "brings the glow of health."
This one has to get credit for going above and beyond Young Fritz up there. After all, that kid could have sneaked a cigar out of Old Fritz's stash without him knowing. But, no, here they're issuing a clear call to the terrifying old men of the world: "Find a young girl and make her drink beer with you." Really, the most irresponsible part of the ad is that it doesn't warn him to hide her revolver first.
Yes, the 1960s were a magical time, when wild animals were sold in comic books. Where were they getting all these monkeys and raccoons from anyway? Do we want to know? Is there a connection with the fact that the spider monkey is today on the endangered species list? Surely not -- it says right on the ad: "Live delivery guaranteed." These were clearly professionals when it came to cramming monkeys into cardboard mailing tubes.
Also, notice that the monkey is advertised as eating the same food as humans and "even likes lollipops." This is why most houses in the 60s smelled strongly of raccoons and monkey diarrhea.
This ad for Young Fritz Cigars is actually from the label inside the cigar box, so it's not technically an advertisement. But is that better, or worse? In that spot it becomes more like product directions. "INSERT INTO MOUTH HOLE OF CHILD. IF IT CRIES, GIVE IT A SECOND ONE."
Wait, is that "Young Fritz" there in the picture? So the mascot itself is a child smoking? Hell, maybe we should just be happy they did a drawing instead of making an actual kid puff away on a stogie during a photo shoot.
That's right, in 1952 Santa didn't bring shiny red bicycles or teddy bears down the chimney. He lugged down a gigantic box that seems to contain about two thousand Camel cigarettes.
OK, we admit that Santa gets used in ads aimed at adults, too. And after all, it's not like it actually shows kids smoking or anything. Unlike ...
Stop and think about the last time you struggled with getting a "childproof" pill bottle open. Now look at this 1890 advertisement for Ayer's Cathartic Pills, which makes pill containers look like a giggling wonderland for naked toddlers to frolic in. "Hey, look, Steve brought a huge stick of butter! Ha-ha, the old days are frickin' rad you guys!"
By the way, if you don't know what cathartic pills are or why it's a terrible idea for children to take handfuls of them, let's just say they uh, evacuate the bowels, which is not particularly something that children or babies need help with. And if you're giving them out in the copious amounts you see here, you might as well give them a non-Iver Johnson revolver to play with.
Seriously, check out the dazed, stupefied look the kid on the left is sporting, while her sibling tries desperately to somehow open the giant bottle with a spoon. Both can be explained by the fact that Ayer's Cherry Pectoral, a self-proclaimed cure-all for any throat or lung problems, contained opium.
Yeah, don't wait for Mommy and Daddy to pry open the 50-gallon drum of opium juice, young Sally. We'll show you how to get the lid off with common household utensils. Just don't depend on little Mary for help -- she'll be spending the next three days marveling at how the whole world seems to be covered in fur.
At what age should you be ashamed about your lack of a deep, sexy tan? About two weeks, if you're living in 1960 and believe this ad for a Du Pont Health Tan Sun Lamp. This was decades before infant spray-tans were available, so concerned mothers had no choice but to hold their babies under its "long tanning rays" for hour after hour.
Fortunately, you can mount it on your bed and "Sleep Under It." Though the baby wouldn't know when to turn over to keep his South Beach tan even, so you'd presumably have to strap him to some kind of rotisserie device that'd slowly twirl him around.
In the past, the average five-year-old girl was more of a man than most modern men will ever be. Apparently, little girls took revolvers to bed just in case they needed to kill a dude during their nap. This ad appeared in Harpers in 1904, in case any time travelers are wondering what era to avoid if they don't like playing the most permanent game of freeze tag possible.
We're thinking that generation's whole mindset can be summed up by this ad's two warnings: "Absolutely Safe" and "they shoot straight and kill." These were a people who saw no contradiction in those two statements. If you got shot, it was your own damned fault for getting in front of the gun.
We understand that the 1950s were a different time -- you apparently weren't allowed to file a liability lawsuit until you first proved your worth by fighting a bear in the courtroom. Still, we're fairly certain that even back then, babies needed oxygen to survive.
This Du Pont Cellophane advertisement actually looked to raise the bar beyond mere irresponsibility by promising that this product could asphyxiate a number of babies at once.
Photographers who had been taking shots of the riots in Greece were surprised to notice that one individual could be spotted in all of them. In fact, he has shown up at every protest in the capital for the last two years and many before that. Since the country is on the brink of bankruptcy, that's a lot of protests -- meaning the rioter is either really committed to the cause or really, really bored.
The reason for the photographers' surprise: The rioter was a dog.
His name is Kanellos, and he can be seen dodging cans of tear gas:
Remaining smug when being blasted by a water cannon:
Encouraging protesters to attack the police:
And patrolling the gates of Hades:
Some claim the original Kanellos died two years ago at around age 17, and the one showing up since then is his successor, Thodorius ... which would be even more awesome, because it would mean Kanellos' example is inspiring other dogs to rise up against man's oppression. By the way, he also inspired someone to record an anthem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FTaVgqSiIk&feature=player_embedded
We can't tell you Kanellos organized all those protests too, mainly because we're afraid to get on his bad side.
Red is a lurcher who lives at the Battersea Dogs Home in London. Within a few weeks of his arrival, strange things started happening there, with staff arriving every morning to find the rooms strewn with food and piss. Either that the dogs were somehow sneaking out of their kennels, or Keith Richards was stopping by at night.
What they saw was newcomer Red using his nose and teeth to open the latch of his kennel ...
... and then repeating the same procedure on the kennel of his best pal, Lucky.
The pair then patrolled the room, deciding which of their fellow canines were cool enough to come to their parties (which involved up to nine other dogs). The rest would look on in impotence and pretend they didn't even want to get invited.
In the middle of the celebration, Red would sneak away and take his girlfriend to his room for some private time.
Trying to turn Red's outrageous behavior into something positive, a spokeswoman for the dog home remarked that lurchers aren't usually known for their intelligence and that Red is remarkably inquisitive and easy to train.
As anyone who's been bored enough to watch Animal Planet late at night will tell you, the octopus is a creature of very high intelligence (and occasionally, precognitive powers). But what would happen if they directed all that impressive brain power specifically toward causing trouble? World chaos, probably, because it took one octopus doing that to turn an entire aquarium upside down in Coburg, Germany.
Bored with the unbearable dullness of life in an enclosed tank (and possibly suffering from a little ADD), Otto the octopus is constantly looking for ways to keep himself entertained. And since he lives in a fucking aquarium, he needs to go to great lengths to achieve that, mostly in ways that involve being a jerk to his neighbors. Like when he starts juggling the hermit crabs, or rearranging everything inside the water tank to cause stress to its other inhabitants.
And if that isn't enough, he starts throwing rocks and cracking the glass.
But that's not what made Otto famous -- that would be the time he endangered the entire aquarium. In a fit of boredom, Otto decided he'd had enough of the light shining down on his tank and realized he had the intelligence and the means to do something about it. Swinging himself onto the edge of his tank, he took aim at the light and squirted a jet of water toward it, killing that light ... plus every other light in the building.
Otto's squirt short-circuited the electrical supply to the entire aquarium, which could have had fatal implications for the animals residing in it when the electrical pumps in the tanks stopped working. The aquarium workers fixed the problem as soon as they noticed it ... and then Otto did it again. And again, and again, until the staff held a three night vigil, sleeping on the floor of the aquarium, and finally realized how he was doing it.
Barney is a macaw living in the Nuneaton Wildlife Sanctuary, in the UK. When Barney arrived there at the tender age of two, they noticed he had already acquired a large vocabulary from his previous owner ... and it consisted entirely of nasty fuck words. Since we have no idea who the previous owner was, we're going to go ahead and tell you it was Gordon Ramsey.
But anyone can drop a few F-bombs and think he's being clever. It's all about context, and Barney knows this well. That's why one time, during a visit from the local mayor, Barney looked her in the eye and told her she could "fuck off." He then turned to a vicar and a couple of policemen who happened to be standing by (apparently they were shooting a Benny Hill sketch there) and proclaimed, "You can fuck off too, wanker." No, really.
Barney is already sounding like our hero, but his exploits didn't stop there -- or even with him. When two African Grey parrots moved into his cage, Barney took it upon himself to teach them his favorite words: "fuck," "bollocks" and "twat."