Dogs Are the Most Admired Animal, Fish Are the Least

Humans are biased about pretty much everything, including, it turns out, animals.

We were struck by a recent report that included a chart on animal stereotypes, based on a 2015 study from Princeton’s Susan T. Fiske and Verónica Sevillano of the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.

The study asked 135 Americans to rate animals for warmth and competence, two factors that have been shown to play a major role in how we view almost everything. In short, we feel admiration for things rated warm and competent; contempt for the cold and incompetent; pity for the warm and incompetent; and envy for the cold and competent.

It turns out humans admire the hell out of dogs, with cats, horses, and monkeys as runners-up. These animals were grouped in the study as “companion” animals.

Meanwhile, lions, tigers, and bears — the “predators” — are seen as fairly competent but cold. The likes of rabbits, hamsters, and ducks — “prey” — are seen as warm but incompetent. Fish, lizards, snakes — called, perhaps unfairly, “pests” — are seen as cold and incompetent.

Animal stereotyping, as with most stereotyping, can be harmful if unchecked. As Fiske and Sevillano note: “[T]he negative image of hyenas in the United States makes them a perfect target for aggressive human practices. Recently, the image of wolves in the Unites States has suffered the same fate.”

Here’s Why Building IKEA Furniture Gives You Anxiety

Anyone who’s ever thrown their Ikea Färlöv against a wall in a mid-construction rage might have their heritage to blame. According to a new study, spatial anxiety is an independent, diagnostically different feeling separate from general anxiety, and it might be rooted in a person’s genes. Prospective parents be warned: Building Ikea furniture might be an excellent test for a relationship, but fighting couples might very well pass on that anxiety to their kids.

In a study published Wednesday in Scientific Reports, researchers from King’s College explain that certain subjects are known to cause specific anxieties, such as mathematics and spatial tasks, but the actual roots of those anxieties are largely unexplored. By examining the origin of and the relationship between three types of anxiety — general, math-induced, and spatial — they hoped to determine whether anxiety treatments need to be specialized according to subtype.

Spatial anxiety is, fittingly, described as the anxiety that people feel while dealing with situations that have a spatial component — like using a map to navigate a new city, or figuring out how to build Ikea furniture from a set of frustratingly text-free instructions. To determine its roots, the researchers examined data from 1,464 pairs of identical and fraternal twins who took part in the Twins Early Development Study, a long-term analysis of twins born in the United Kingdom between 1994 and 1996. The twins took a series of online tests designed to measure their levels of general, mathematical, and spatial anxiety. Meanwhile, the researchers examined the genetic variation of the pairs of twins to determine how much of their anxiety was caused by genetic versus environmental factors.

The researchers found that for all three types of anxiety they focused on, 30 to 40 percent of anxiety measurements could be pegged to genetics, while “non-shared environmental factors” explained the rest. Because identical twins share 100 percent of their genetic makeup and fraternal twins share 50 percent of their genes, the scientists could determine when anxiety had a genetic correlation.

Exactly which genes lead to each type of anxiety has yet to be determined, but they seem to be related to the processing capacity of the brain. The results indicated that each type of anxiety had its own “specific neuronal and cognitive processes” in addition to the base-level physiological and cognitive processes shared by all three forms of anxiety. For example, mathematics anxiety was more strongly associated with the disruption of visual working memory, while general anxiety interfered more with the verbal working memory system. Spatial anxiety could be further broken down into subtypes of stress — navigation anxiety and rotation-visualization anxiety — differences that have to do with differences in DNA, study author Margherita Malanchini, Ph.D., explained in a video.

Interestingly, one gender-related result that they expected to observe did not occur: While women demonstrated “significantly higher levels of anxiety than males did in all domains,” the researchers couldn’t peg this difference to environmental factors. Previous studies have found that women who think math is important and are aware of the social stereotypes about women and math tend to feel more anxious about math than men, but this study didn’t find any differences related to these environmental factors.

If Ikea furniture building sends you into a panic, take heart: While you can’t readily change your genes (at least, not yet), you can change your environment to make it less anxiety inducing. Previous studies have found that anxiety is easily passed on when people try to help each other and that enjoying an experience is more important than intelligence when it comes to successfully solving problems. Next time you’re faced with the prospect of Ikea furniture building, you may want to skip the pictogram instructions and just make a request to Task Rabbit.

Study: First-Born Children Are More Intelligent

According to a study recently published in the Journal of Human Resources, first born children tend to be more intelligent than their younger siblings. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh believe this is a result of the first-born child receiving more mental stimulation from parents during early developmental stages of life.

In the study, data from the U.S. Children of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth on nearly 5,000 children was collected. The children were monitored from pre-birth until they turned 14, and they were assessed every two years.

These assessments ranged in categories, from reading to vocabulary to matching letters. Information concerning environmental factors, such as family background and economic conditions was also collected.

The results of the assessments showed that first-born children typically outperformed their younger siblings, even as early as age one. Though the younger children were receiving the same emotional support as their oldest sibling, researchers found that parents gave their first-born children more support with tasks that develop thinking skills, including reading with the child, crafting and playing musical instruments.

It was also recorded that mothers took higher risks during pregnancies with their second and third children—such as increased smoking. These findings help explain the “birth order effect,” a phenomenon in which the first-born child makes more money and gets a higher education than his or her younger siblings.

Describing the study’s results, Ana Nuevo-Chiquero of the University of Edinburgh School of Economics said that “broad shifts in parental behavior are a plausible explanation for the observed birth order differences in education and labor market outcomes.”

Spending Too Much Time On Facebook May Harm Your Health

After a long week, if there’s not much on TV, you may spend some time on Facebook. Could this decision hurt your health?

A new study suggests it might, though the answer is complicated. Researchers found that “liking” people’s posts and clicking links posted by friends was associated with worse reports of mental health, physical health and life satisfaction.

The new findings suggest there is likely some level of “social media activity and communication over social networking sites [that] is beneficial, but too much probably gets you in trouble,” said Thomas Valente, a professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California who was not involved with the study.

The “sweet spot” for any person’s social media use may depend on many factors, including personal traits like age, said Valente, who studies health-promotion programs but was not involved in the new study.

“I really applaud these authors for doing this work, [but] there’s a lot of work [yet] to be done trying to understand the effects of social networking sites specifically and social media in general,” Valente told Live Science.

In the new study, Holly Shakya, an assistant professor of global health at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, and her collaborator Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis, director of the Human Nature Lab at Yale University,analyzed data from about 5,200 people with an average age of 48 over three time periods. The study participants rated their mental and physical health on a scale of 1 to 4 and life satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10, and reported their body mass index (BMI) numbers. The participants also allowed the researchers to access to their Facebook data.

In addition to finding that people who gave out more “likes” had worse health, the researchers found that those who updated their Facebook status more often reported having worse mental health, on average, than those who updated their status less often.

Moreover, these links were shown to grow over time, suggesting both that people whose health is worse may turn to Facebook and that using Facebook may make things worse, the investigators said. The researchers also found that people with higher BMI may use Facebook more but not that Facebook leads to higher BMI, the scientists wrote in their study, which was published in January in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

People’s social media use is a complex topic, and studies don’t agree on whether too much Facebook is harmful.

One study, published last year in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture, found that people who show off their romantic relationships on Facebook were more likely to report that higher quality relationships. But this was the case only if their affection was authentic, the researchers said. In the study, relationship authenticity was measured using questions such as, “I share my deepest thoughts with my partner even if there’s a chance that he or she won’t understand them,” and “I’d rather think the best of my partner than to know the whole truth about him or her.”

Another paper published last year showed that accepting more friendships on Facebook was associated with living longer, but initiating friendships didn’t confer the same benefit. All told, the people in the study who engaged in moderate levels of online socializing and high levels of offline socializing fared the best, the researchers reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Valente also vouched for the potential of social media and social networks to help people improve their health. He pointed to communities for people affected by rare diseases as a particularly bright spot, because these groups can provide access to information and support that many people are unable to receive offline.

On the flip side, research has also linked spending lots of time on social media with increased risk of depression and eating disorders, and has shown that giving it up for a week may make people happier. Without conclusive evidence for or against Facebook’s health-improving abilities, the best route for now is probably moderation and self-awareness, Valente said. He also emphasized the importance of knowing when to take a break and the value of in-person interactions.

Findings From One Of The Most Comprehensive Studies Ever On Marijuana’s Health Effects

The change in national attitudes towards cannabis and in legal access to marijuana around the US over the past several years is staggering.

As of last fall, 57 percent of adults in the US said that marijuana should be legal, with only 37 percent taking the opposing view, which is essentially a reversal of the opinions held just a decade ago.

And after November’s elections, a full 20 percent of the US population lives in a state that has voted to legalise recreational use – and far more live in states with some access to medical marijuana.

But this obscures a crucial fact. From a scientific perspective, there’s still a ton we don’t know about cannabis.

A massive new report released today by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine gives among the most comprehensive looks ever (and certainly the most up-to-date) of exactly what we know about the science of cannabis.

The committee behind the report, representing top universities around the country, considered more than 10,000 studies for their analysis, from which they were able to draw nearly 100 conclusions.

In large part, the report reveals how much we still have to learn – but it’s still surprising to see exactly how much we know about certain health effects of cannabis.

This summation was sorely needed, as is more research on the topic.

“The policy has outpaced science, and it’s really too bad,” Staci Gruber, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery program at McLean Hospital, told Business Insider.

“As a scientist, I think the goal is always to try very hard to get to the findings and to be able to disseminate those findings, so that we can make good decisions grounded in science. [Cannabis] has been around for thousands of years; it’s not like we just made it in a lab.”

Having good research is essential so that we know “how best we can use it; what are the safest ways; and what are the real risks”, Gruber added.

Surprising findings on cancer, mental health, and more

Before we dive into the findings, there are two quick things to keep in mind.

First, the language in the report is designed to say exactly how much we know – and don’t know – about a certain effect.

Terms like “conclusive evidence” mean we have enough data to make a firm conclusion; terms like “limited evidence” mean there’s still significant uncertainty even if there are good studies supporting an idea; and there are different degrees of certainty falling in between these levels.

For many things, there’s still insufficient data to really say anything positive or negative about cannabis.

Second, context is important. Many of these findings are meant summations of fact, not endorsements or condemnations.

For example, the report found evidence that driving while high increased the risk of an accident. But the report also notes that certain studies have found lower crash rates after the introduction of medical cannabis to an area.

It’s possible that cannabis makes driving more dangerous and that crashes could go down after introduction if people take proper precautions.

We’ll be working on providing context to these findings over the next few days but wanted to share some of the initial findings first.

With that in mind, here are some of the most striking findings from the report:

  1. There was conclusive or substantial evidence (the most definitive levels) that cannabis or cannabinoids, found in the marijuana plant, can be an effective treatment for chronic pain, which is “by far the most common” reason people request medical marijuana, according to the report.

    With similar certainty, they found cannabis can treat muscle spasms related to MS and can help prevent or treat nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy.

  2. The authors found evidence that suggested that marijuana increased the risk for a driving crash.
  3. They also found evidence that in states with legal access to marijuana, children were more likely to accidentally consume cannabis.

    We’ve looked at these numbers before, and seen that the overall increases in risk are small – one study found that the rate of overall accidental child ingestion went from 1.2 per 100,000 population two years prior to legalisation to 2.3 per 100,000 population two years after legalisation.

    There’s still a far higher chance parents call poison control because of kids eating crayons or diaper cream, but it’s still important to know that some increased risk exists.

  4. Perhaps surprisingly, the authors found moderate evidence (a pretty decent level of certainty and an indication that good data exists) that cannabis was not connected to any increased risk of the lung cancers or head and neck cancers associated with smoking.

    However, they did find some limited evidence suggesting that chronic or frequent users may have higher rates of a certain type of testicular cancer.

  5. Connections to heart conditions were less clear. There’s no evidence to support or refute the idea that cannabis might increase the risk of a heart attack, though there was some limited evidence that cannabis smoking might be a trigger for a heart attack.
  6. There was substantial evidence that regular marijuana smokers are more likely to experience chronic bronchitis and that stopping smoking was likely to improve these conditions. There’s no real evidence to say that that cannabis does or doesn’t increase risk for respiratory conditions like COPD or asthma.
  7. There was limited evidence that smoking marijuana could have some anti-inflammatory activity.
  8. Substantial evidence suggests a link between prenatal cannabis exposure (when a pregnant woman uses marijuana) and lower birth weight, and there was limited evidence suggesting that this use could increase pregnancy complications and increase the risk a baby would have to spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit.
  9. In terms of mental health, substantial evidence shows an increased risk for developing schizophrenia among frequent users, something that studies have shown is a particular concern for people at risk for schizophrenia in the first place.

    There was also moderate evidence that cannabis use was connected to a small increased risk for depression and an increased risk for social anxiety disorder.

  10. Limited evidence showed a connection between cannabis use and impaired academic achievement, something that has been shown to be especially true for people who begin smoking regularly during adolescence (which is also shown to increase the risk for problematic use).
  11. One of the most interesting and perhaps most important conclusions of the report is that far more research on cannabis is needed. Importantly, in most cases, saying cannabis was connected to an increased risk doesn’t mean marijuana use caused that risk.

And it’s hard to conduct research on marijuana right now.

The report says that’s largely because of regulatory barriers, including the Schedule 1 DEA status of marijuana and the fact that researchers often can’t access the same sorts of marijuana that people actually use.

Even in states where it’s legal to buy marijuana, federal regulations prevent researchers from using that same product.

Without the research, it’s hard to say how policy makers should best support legalisation efforts – to say how educational programs or mental health institutions should adapt to support any changes, for example.

“If I had one wish it would be that the policy makers really sat down with scientists and mental health practitioners” as they enact any of these new policies, Krista Lisdahl, an associate professor of psychology and director of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Brain Imaging and Neuropsychology lab, told Business Insider.

It’s important to know what works and what doesn’t and what needs to studied more. This report does a lot to show what we’ve learned in recent years, but it also shows just how much more we need to learn.

In studying cannabis, “we’re not really after the good or the bad, we’re after the truth,” says Gruber.

To Your Brain, Religion Is Similar To Sex And Drugs

Religion may ponder questions about meaning of existence that lie beyond science’s purview, but that doesn’t mean science can’t tackle how religion works. Now a new study suggests some intriguing possibilities about how religious and spiritual experiences trigger the reward and attention centers of the brain.

Past studies on the neuroscience of religion had been all over the map, with researchers unable to agree on a seemingly simple a question like which region of the brain is involved in a spiritual experience. That uncertainty, along with the fact that such experiences are complex and vary wildly among individuals, led some researchers to think that every brain might process religion differently. But now researchers at the University of Utah have found that intense religious experiences consistently activate the reward circuits in the brain.That’s the same part of the brain that activates during more licentious experiences like drinking, having sex, or taking drugs.

“There’s one major reward pathway in the brain,” researcher Jeffrey Anderson told Vocativ. “Whether you’re talking about gambling or love or sex, it’s the same basic circuits that process that pleasure.”

The researchers reached this conclusion by putting 19 devout Mormons in an MRI. For an hour each, they watched religion-themed videos, read from the Book of Mormon, and listened to quotations from Mormon and other religious leaders. As clinical and artificial an environment as an MRI might be, the participants consistently reported that they were “feeling the Spirit” — the Mormon term for sensing a close connection with God — and many cried or otherwise felt extreme emotions over the course of their scans.

This new research fits in with other recent studies that indicate the reward circuits of the prefrontal cortex may be crucial to religious experiences across many cultural groups. One study found Parkinson’s patients who had suffered damaged to this part of the brain reported reduced levels of religiosity.

“To a believer, I would imagine that our results might not be too surprising,” said Anderson. “These are rewarding experiences. Of course they’re going to associate brain regions associated with reward and increased attention and morality.”

But is this just a one-way phenomenon, or could the rewarding nature of religion shape how people respond to it in the first place? If religious experiences do activate the brain’s reward pathways, it’s possible that some people respond to religion as a whole because of those good feelings they know are coming.

“If religious and spiritual experiences ultimately trigger reward responses, that brings up the question of conditioning,” said Anderson. That could make them more receptive to the drier, doctrinal parts of religion, even those beliefs that they might reject in a less neurally rewarding context. “Is it possible that any religious ideal, if you’re where there’s music and social rewards and reinforcement, and those get paired with doctrinal concepts, then virtually any religious idea could become rewarding?”

That idea requires further study, and it’s still an open question whether the neural activity of 19 devout Mormons are truly representative of how spiritual experiences affect the brains across the world’s cultures and religions. It’s also possible atheists and agnostics might experience similar reward activation when spending time in nature or contemplating the universe.

But Anderson suspects religious experiences might indeed be similar, irrespective of the particular faith.

“Even if the messages or gods are very different, are we feeling it in the same way, in the same parts of the brain?” he said. If that is indeed the case, Anderson hopes this research might help people understand how their beliefs are far more alike than they are different.

Study Finds That Alcohol Is A Much Bigger Gateway Drug Than Marijuana

A 40-year long study has found alcohol use makes one much more likely to try harder drugs than marijuana would. This is quite contrary to what many of us were led to believe growing up. If you grew up in America, you likely heard at one point or another that marijuana was a gateway drug. That was the main anti-selling point. Not that marijuana was harmful but that it could lead to more dangerous things. There’s now research to end this rumor once and for all.

The Research

Combined efforts from Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and Brian C. Bennett the creator of “Truth: the anti-drug war,” found that Alcohol caused “far more personal and social damage than any other drug. Illegal drugs comprise less than 20 percent of substance-use disorders in the U.S.”

Many Americans would be surprised by these statistics. So much focus has been put into combating illegal drugs while the abuse of legal drugs like prescription opioids and alcohol is causing the most damage.

The Truth

The results from the 40-year-old study compelled William Martin, director of the Baker Institute’s Drug Policy Program to share the data with the public. On the program’s website, Martin is quoted claiming, “marijuana’s reputation as a ‘gateway’ drug is not supported, even for more marijuana use. More than half of respondents under 60 have used it during their lifetime, but fewer than 10 percent use it regularly.”

This number is much lower than the amount of Americans who tried and now use alcohol regularly.

“In 2014, 87.6 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime, 71.0 percent reported that they drank in the past year; 56.9 percent reported that they drank in the past month.”

16.3 million adults ages 18 and older had Alcohol Use Disorder in 2014 alone.

The Baker Institute’s study wasn’t the first one to reveal alcohol was the real gateway drug all along.Research from the Journal of School Health found “the vast majority of respondents reported using alcohol before either tobacco or marijuana initiation.”

Researchers added, “alcohol was the most widely used substance among respondents, initiated earliest, and also the first substance most commonly used in the progression of substance use.”

This may be due to the greater availability of alcohol but to a teen, marijuana is just as available as alcohol and tobacco. Researchers also showed that the earlier kids began drinking alcohol, the more likely they were to try other drugs. They did not provide similar data on tobacco and marijuana because not enough people used the two substances at a young age.

Final Hit

More research would need to be done to make alcohol a definitive gateway drug. However, the dangers of alcohol are bad enough that our parents and teachers should have been warning us about alcohol instead of marijuana as a gateway drug. Much of the negative stigma surrounding marijuana was created without any sufficient supporting evidence. With marijuana still on Schedule, I of the Controlled Substances Act people will probably continue to turn to alcohol. Even though, existing data shows alcohol is more likely to lead to further illicit drug use.

Study Finds That Your Dog Loves Your Praise More Than Treats

The next time you want to treat your pooch, you might want to consider giving it some kind words rather than a snack, because new research suggests that many dogs would rather get our praise than our prosciutto.

The first-of-its-kind study mixed brain-imaging data from canines with a series of behavioral experiments, and came to the conclusion that dogs really do value the relationships they have with their owners. In other words, we’re not just a means to get food.

“We are trying to understand the basis of the dog-human bond and whether it’s mainly about food, or about the relationship itself,” said neuroscientist Gregory Berns from Emory University.

Berns’ team studied 15 dogs, with each animal being monitored through almost 100 separate trials. Only two of the dogs were found to clearly prefer food over praise from their owners, with the other 13 either preferring praise or appearing to like both equally.

To get an idea of what kind of owner behaviorr the dogs were most interested in, the researchers trained the dogs to associate three different objects with three different outcomes: a pink toy truck meant a food reward, a blue toy knight represented verbal praise from the owner, and a hairbrush acted as a control object that signified no reward at all.

Neural activity was recorded using an fMRI machine as the dogs were tested on each of the three objects. Four dogs showed stronger neural activation for praise, compared with just two dogs that showed a stronger stimulus for food, while in the nine others, the levels were around the same for both.

Next, the dogs were shown around a Y-shaped maze, with one path leading to a bowl of food, and the other leading to the dog’s owner (facing away from the dog). The dogs that showed a stronger response to praise in the first experiment also chose to go to their owners instead of the food 80 to 90 percent of the time in this second test.

According to the researchers, the results suggest that the stronger neural stimulus spotted on the brain scans does affect the way the dogs will behave.

Academics have been trying to figure out ‘man’s best friend’ for a century at least: right at the start of the 1900s, Ivan Pavlov found that dogs ‘learned’ to start salivating when their owners (and the possibility of food) appeared, rather than just at the sight of the food itself.

That in turn gave rise to the idea of classical conditioning as a way in which animals can learn to connect certain objects and people with certain consequences. But the relationship between people and dogs might not be as clear-cut as Pavlov thought.

“One theory about dogs is that they are primarily Pavlovian machines: they just want food and their owners are simply the means to get it,” said Berns. “Another, more current, view of their behaviour is that dogs value human contact in and of itself.”

It’s worth pointing out that Berns’ study is definitely on the small side, with only 15 animals taking part.

But until there’s further research with a bigger pool of animals, as dog lovers, we’ll take any evidence we can get that our canine companions really do care about interaction just as much (if not more) as where their next meal’s coming from.

This Study Alleges There Aren’t Racial Disparities in Police Shootings

Does a new study really show that there’s no racial bias in police shootings?

That’s how the New York Times reported Harvard economist Roland Fryer’s new study, which analyzed data from several police departments across the country to measure racial differences in police use of force. Quoctrung Bui and Amanda Cox reported:

A new study confirms that black men and women are treated differently in the hands of law enforcement. They are more likely to be touched, handcuffed, pushed to the ground or pepper-sprayed by a police officer, even after accounting for how, where and when they encounter the police.

But when it comes to the most lethal form of force — police shootings — the study finds no racial bias.

But diving deeper into the study, those conclusions are based on some fairly shaky ground. Specifically, the data the study uses only looks at racial biases after a police officer engages with a suspect. That excludes a key driver of racial biases in policing: that police are more likely to stop black people in the first place, producing far more situations in which someone is likely to be shot. The study also looks at a fairly limited number of police departments, meaning its findings may not apply nationwide.

To understand all of that, let’s break down what the study found and the reasons to be skeptical of the sweeping conclusions some are drawing from the research.

The study claims to find no signs of racial bias in lethal police shootings

The New York Times’s description of the study’s findings is correct: There were racial biases in police’s non-lethal use of force, but no detectable racial biases in shootings.

Specifically, black and Hispanic people experienced 50 percent more incidents of non-lethal force. That disparity was consistent in two different data sets: one from New York City, and one from the Police-Public Contact Survey. According to the researchers, several controls, like the civilian’s age, gender, and behavior, slightly reduced but didn’t fully explain the disparities.

In terms of lethal uses of force, however, the study claimed to find no racial disparity in police shootings, based on two data sets.

First, Fryer’s team found that officers in 10 municipalities across three states were roughly equally likely to shoot either black or white suspects who had not attacked them, and black and white victims of police shootings were about equally likely to be unarmed.

But this only looked at cases in which someone was already shot — leaving out cases in which an officer could have fired but chose not to, potentially because of racial bias. So Fryer’s team then focused on detailed police shooting reports from Houston, which let the team look at reports of not just shootings but all arrests in which lethal force may have been justified. Once again, they found no evidence of racial bias — in cases where lethal force was reportedly warranted, police officers weren’t more likely to shoot just because a suspect was black.

That may seem surprising. But it also comes with enormous caveats.

The study is very limited — and some of its suggestions are refuted by other data

As Fryer put it to the New York Times, the lack of evidence of racial disparities in police shootings is “the most surprising result of my career.” But there are several reasons I’m actually not too surprised now that I’ve read the study and its methodology.

For one, the study is looking at a very limited pool of police departments in terms of shootings: 10 jurisdictions in three states in the first data set, and just Houston in the second data set. The study even acknowledges that there are questions about whether the data is nationally representative.

Worse, the data runs into a big problem with selection bias. For police shootings, the researchers looked at data that police departments gave up willingly. A few, including New York City, didn’t hand over their shooting data to the researchers. It’s possible the police departments that refused did so because their data would confirm racial biases. We just don’t know.

The Houston data — the second data set used for police shootings — is also built on police reports of what police claim are arrests in which lethal force was warranted. But given the video evidence we’ve seen in the past couple of years, there’s good reason to not take police at their word. How many of those reports were written to suggest a black suspect was justifiably shot when he in fact wasn’t, just because the officer may have feared drawing scrutiny?

Perhaps the biggest problem with the study, however, is that it only looks at potential biases after police have initiated an encounter. So the study found that police aren’t more likely to shoot an unarmed black suspect over a white one once the suspect was stopped — but it didn’t look at whether an unarmed black suspect is more likely to be stopped in the first place.

That’s a big deal: It’s possible that racial disparities in police shootings are driven by how often police stop black people. We know, for instance, that black Americans are disproportionately likely to be pulled over in traffic stops. If police are really equally likely to shoot anyone, regardless of race, in traffic stops, then it would make sense that the people who are pulled over more end up getting shot more often.

Thankfully, we actually have four data sets — from the FBI, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and Fatal Encounters — to see whether black people are truly shot more often without trying to erase the potential racial disparity in stops. These data sets are clear: There are big racial disparities in police’s lethal use of force.

For example, Dara Lind found racial disparities in the FBI data: Black people accounted for 31 percent of police killing victims in 2012, even though they made up just 13 percent of the US population. The data is incomplete because it’s based on voluntary reports from police agencies around the country, but it’s some of the most comprehensive data we have — certainly more comprehensive than Fryer’s study.

It’s unclear why the study didn’t look at these data sets. (Fryer didn’t return an email or phone call asking for comment.) But they show that at some level, there really is a racial disparity. People are not just imagining things.

Despite big limitations, the study provides some possible answers

The limitations don’t mean Fryer’s study lacks any important takeaways. For one, the study does suggest that racial disparities in police shootings may not come at the moment that a police officer decides to fire his or her gun, but rather at the time a police officer is deployed or a cop decides to stop someone. Or perhaps it’s a result of socioeconomic and other systemic disparities that lead to higher crime in minority neighborhoods, which lead to police interacting with these areas much more often. It will take far more research to find which one of these possibilities is right, but Fryer’s data gives a clue.

But the data doesn’t show that police shootings are free of racial disparities. There is plenty of other data out there to thoroughly refute that suggestion.

The study also suggests that non-lethal use of force by police is racially biased. And it leads Fryer to conclude with this powerful statement:

Much more troubling, due to their frequency and potential impact on minority belief formation, is the possibility that racial differences in police use of non-lethal force have spillovers on myriad dimensions of racial inequality. If, for instance, blacks use their lived experience with police as evidence that the world is discriminatory, then it is easy to understand why black youth invest less in human capital or black adults are more likely to believe discrimination is an important determinant of economic outcomes. Black Dignity Matters.

Study Finds That People Who Value Time Over Money Are Happier

Though money – or the lack thereof – is often cited as one of the most stress-inducing aspects of life, a new study has found that those who value time over money are generally happier compared to those who would rather amass more wealth.

These findings suggest that it doesn’t really matter which of the two a person has more of – instead, it’s all about a person’s mentality toward the two, with the person who values their time more than their money being more likely be happier despite the amount of green in their wallets.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) asked more than 4,400 people a simple question – which would you rather have more of: time or money? The participants were then asked questions designed to gauge their level of happiness, reports Brian Resnick for Vox.

The team found that most people – 64 percent of those questioned – wanted more money, but those who wanted more time were generally happier. This suggests that it’s not so much about what people have – it’s about which one they want and, therefore, deem more important.

“What matters is the value people place on each resource,” the team writes in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. “Beyond the amount of these resources people have, happiness is linked to the resource people want.

Interesingly, the team found that the demographics that wanted more time were different in many ways to those interesed in more money. On average, the older participants were, the more likely they were to favour time – which makes sense, seeing as they were more likely to have the ultimate time sap in their lives: kids.

Older participants were also more likely to work more, and therefore have more money, which could explain why they coveted free time more.

The Washington Posts Christopher Ingraham brings up a great question about this point: “Could happiness be less a function of wanting time, and more a function of having money?” For the answer, he turned to one of the study’s leaders, Hal Hershfield, from UCLA.

“By statistically controlling for already existing levels of wealth, we show that choosing time over money has a positive effect on happiness over and above wealth,” Hershfield told Ingraham in an email.

This suggests that people, despite differences in income, are happier when they value time over money.

The new findings seem to back up a previous study from earlier this year that found similar results. David Nield reported for us back in January:

“Researchers from the University of British Columbia in Canada recruited more than 4,600 participants and found an almost even split between those who prioritised their time and those who prioritised their wealth, but the older participants were more likely to favour time over money. The team also found that those who put time first tended to be happier overall.”

Similar results were found in the recent study, but were taken a step further to control for factors like age and wealth.

There’s an important note that needs to be made here, though. The study doesn’t mention whether or not they surveyed people living below the poverty line.

It stands to reason that a person struggling to pay for their basic living conditions – water, food, somewhere to sleep – would be tremendously happier with financial security than a bit more free time – a point that’s backed up by another study from earlier this year that found a physical link between poverty and childhood depression.

So what’s the takeaway here? The study suggests that if you want to become a happier person – and you already make enough money to provide the essentials – you should start placing more value on time because those who do are happier. After all, it’s arguably much easier to control your spare time than it is your bank account.