If Pigeons Were Brilliant, Would They Flock?

UC Davis Study Finds People Flock, or Behave Similarly to Others, Despite Reasoning Abilities

By Karen Nikos-Rose

Crowd panics, market bubbles, and other unpredictable collective behaviors would not happen if people were smart about these things and just thought through their behavior before they acted. Right? That’s the perspective in economics, and even psychology and sociology.

Pigeons

“Let’s be smart about this, guys” (Via PBS.org)

But a UC Davis researcher looked at how people behave in simple reasoning games and found that people are usually driven to “flock,” or behave similarly to others in a given situation. Seth Frey, an assistant professor of communication at UC Davis, said this happens “even when people use the fancy reasoning processes that are supposed to make humans so special.”

Agricultural Index Insurance Pairs Economics, Natural Sciences For Climate Resilience in East Africa

By Alex Russell

For poor and subsistence farmers in developing countries, a severe drought, flood or other catastrophe can cost them everything. In response to these kinds of climate-related risks, farmers often choose to minimize their exposure to loss. They might avoid higher-cost improved seeds that promise bigger harvests or riskier but profitable cash crops. Both of these strategies can keep them poor.

Maize farmers in Tanzania. Agricultural index insurance could help small farmers like these invest in higher-value crops and increase their income.

Podcast: Intensive Training for Parents Referred to CPS Improves Child Physiology

Traumatic experiences, such as maltreatment as children, can influence how our mind and body react to stressful situations. UC Davis psychologist Paul Hastings and colleagues at the University of Washington have shown that intensive training for parents referred to Child Protective Services can improve physiological reactions to stress in their young children.

Listen: Three Minute Egghead: Parenting and Child Physiology (Soundcloud)

More information

Training for Parents Referred to CPS Improves Toddler’s Physiological Regulation (UC Davis News)

Listen to more episodes of Three Minute Egghead on Soundcloud or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Study Challenges Evolution of How Humans Acquired Language

By Karen Nikos-Rose

A gene implicated in affecting speech and language, FOXP2, is held up as a “textbook” example of positive selection on a human-specific trait. But in a paper in the journal Cell on Aug. 2, researchers challenge this finding. Their analysis of genetic data from a diverse sample of modern people and Neanderthals saw no evidence for recent, human-specific selection of FOXP2 and revises the history of how we think humans acquired language.

Brain graphic

What makes us human? The FOXP2 gene has been associated with uniquely human language abilities. But a new study with a wider variety of people shows no evidence of selection for FOXP2 in modern humans. (Image by Brenna Henn, UC Davis)

Immigrants, Jobs and Local Economies: Not So Simple

By Lisa Howard

During the early days of the Great Depression, when many Americans were desperate to find jobs, state and local officials in the United States began forcibly repatriating Mexicans, including American citizens of Mexican descent, to Mexico. Between 1929 and 1935, hundreds of thousands of Mexicans left the United States. Some estimates put the number at 500,000 to over a million.

Latino farmworkers 1930s

Mexicans picking cantaloupes in Imperial Valley, California, May 1937. Although the intent of Mexican repatriation was to create more jobs for Americans, a UC Davis study shows most native-born workers didn’t take the jobs left behind by Mexican laborers. (Credit: Dorothea Lange, Farm Security Administration, Library of Congress)

Science in the Palm of Your Hand: How Citizen Science Transforms Passive Learners into Engaged Scientists

By Karen Nikos-Rose

Third-grader Jessica was quiet in group discussions and did not see herself as a strong science student. But after an eight-week unit in school where she was able to read, write about, collect data on and even draw and photograph ladybugs for a project, she began to see herself as scientist in her own right – explaining the life stages and lifestyles of ladybugs to grownups with conviction.

Citizen science projects can engage kids, a UC Davis study finds.

Jessica became a citizen scientist.

Rugosity and Concentricity: In Urban Planning, Look to Edges, Not Just The Core

By Karen Nikos-Rose

Catherine Brinkley is a professor of human and community development and human ecology at UC Davis. So it’s interesting that in a recent published paper, she advocates that cities should work more like coral reefs — supporting a diversity of niches and uses for sustained vigor and resilience. In ecology and medical sciences, the term for a physical form with such topographic complexity is rugosity.

Rugosity versus concentricity

Traditional urban planning favors “concentric” layouts with a downtown core surrounded by suburbs and farmland (right). But Catherine Brinkley argues instead that cities should plan for “rugosity” (left) with more interfaces between functions.

UC Davis Releases New Version C-STEM Studio for Teaching Math with Coding

The Center for Integrated Computing and STEM Education at the University of California, Davis, has released version 4 of its popular C-STEM Studio software suite. In addition to free breakthrough tools for teaching math, coding, robotics and making, this major update includes expanded support with textbooks and curriculum for Lego Mindstorms NXT and EV3 robots, Raspberry Pi computers and Arduino control boards as well as Barobo Linkbots. These hardware platforms and related curriculum are seamlessly integrated in C-STEM Studio for learning math with hands-on physical computing and real-world projects.

C-STEM Studio is compatible with robots widely used in school classrooms.

Anxiety and Children with Fragile X Syndrome

By Kathleen Holder

Anxiety is a common problem for children and adults with fragile X syndrome, magnifying their struggles living with an inherited intellectual disability. New UC Davis research could lead to new ways to identify and treat their anxiety at a young age—even in infancy.

The study led by developmental psychologists Jessica Burris and Susan Rivera found that infants and young children with fragile X syndrome, unlike typically developing children, tend to have their attention specifically captured by angry faces rather than happy ones. That sort of “attentional bias” toward angry faces is a pattern associated with anxiety.

Haiti Adopts Food Fortification, Following UC Davis Advice

The government of Haiti recently announced a program to fortify wheat flour with iron and folic acid, following a recommendation by UC Davis researchers who calculated that adding these nutrients to wheat flour during milling would prevent infant deaths and improve the health especially of women and children.

Farmers in Haiti’s Artibonite Valley

The new Haitian program, known by its French acronym RANFOSE, is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). In addition to adding folic acid and iron to wheat flour, it will fortify vegetable oils with Vitamin A and salt with iodine. RANFOSE will increase the availability of high-quality, fortified staple foods across the country and expand the local production and importation of fortified foods, according to a US Embassy news release.