Is learning a programming language like learning any other kind of language? Intuitively, you might expect the answer to be no. Programming languages are made up of different components than natural languages, and they’re used for a different purpose. But a new study from researchers at University of Washington suggests that to some extent the…

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The idea that something is a swear word doesn’t seem to be defined by innate properties of the word as much as by the fact that you’re simply not supposed to say it in polite company. In other words, a swear word becomes taboo when we collectively decide that we’re going to consider it taboo.…

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People like animals. People also like to eat animals. This presents an obvious problem. It’s challenging to make a convincing case to yourself that you think animals are cute and want to protect their welfare in between swallowing mouthfuls of pork. You might recognize this as a classic example of cognitive dissonance, where people have…

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Humans are evolved to recognize emotions in each other’s nonverbal behavior. To some extent, we apply that ability not just to other humans but to animals as well. Nowhere is this more true, perhaps, than in the case of dogs. As far as animals go, dogs can be pretty expressive in demonstrating their emotions, which…

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Although people with high levels of social anxiety don’t necessarily leave as bad an impression as they think, there is some evidence that those without social anxiety receive more favorable assessments overall when meeting new people. As the authors of a recent study point out, this is the irony of social anxiety: being afraid of…

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Finally you get the long-awaited envelope! You tear it open and read the first sentence. We regret to inform you… No one likes getting a rejection letter. And few people like writing them either, possibly with some sadistic exceptions. Is it even possible to write a good rejection letter? Actually, a new study from researchers…

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The internet has given psychologists new opportunities to study subtle differences in the way people use language, and whether those differences can predict which people are most at risk for mental health conditions. Last year, for example, researchers found that the language in people’s Facebook posts could predict their depression risk. In that study, language…

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The language we use to talk about gender makes a difference. Last year, for example, I wrote about a study showing that previously being exposed to gender-neutral language affects how likely people are to assume that a “specialist” is male. But a new study suggests that even seemingly innocuous language that doesn’t directly reference gender…

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How we make sense of events that have happened to us affects how we see our place in the world around us. As I wrote about last year, for example, studies suggest that how people frame their life stories seems to be a key component of identity. Our life stories aren’t static, though. We’re constantly…

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