Jun. 25, 2013

How to Be a Better Boss, the Power of Peer Pressure, and More

by Jordan Davidson

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Speak Softly and Carry a Big Carrot
The boss makes you fetch lattes, never says “good job,” and calls you in on weekends. Maybe it’s time to work for someone who follows a research-based recipe for good leadership. Pyschologists say that managers who ignore feedback, disrespect employees' ideas, and blame others are destructive to business. In contrast, effective managers rein in their egos, give employees a sense of self-control, and allow staff to unplug on days off. They also forgo the stick to offer carrots in the form of positive feedback on tasks well done.
 
Cargo of Escargot
Biologists in England collected hundreds of grove snails scattered across Europe, sequenced their DNA, and found that a distinctive variety with a white-lipped shell only exists in Ireland and the distant Pyrenees—and nowhere in between. In a study published in PLoS ONE, the researchers suggest that the snails hitched a boat ride—either inadvertently or as a food source—with migrating bands of Stone Age humans traveling from Spain to Ireland some 8,000 years ago along.
 
All the Cool Kids Are Doing It
If your kid caves in to peer pressure, it’s not because he’s incapable of making rational decisions—he just enjoys being one of the gang, new research suggests. “The key may be that the reward centers of the brain get more activated in adolescence, and seem to be activated by our peers. This heightened rush of neurotransmitters brings the teenager more pleasure than the same experience might in an adult,” writes Shirley S. Wang. Plus, researchers say that peer pressure isn’t always bad. Kids might push others to excel in positive ways, and what’s more, learning to cope with pressure is a valuable skill to becoming an adult.
 
Sugar for Brains
Scientists have created a syrup made of water, fructose, and a chemical called alpha-thioglycerol that helped mouse brain tissues appear more transparent, a new study in Nature Neuroscience reports. Immersing brain tissue in a fructose-based mixture “reduces the light scattering that makes the tissue appear opaque,” writes Francie Diep, allowing the delicate pathways in the brain to show through. So far, the biologists behind the syrup have only dunked mouse organs in the sweetener, but they say it should work well for human brain tissue, too.
About Jordan Davidson

Jordan Davidson is a freelance writer based in New York.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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