Are smart people less racist?

This year’s lily-white Oscar nominations list has once again sparked a new debate on racism in Hollywood. A new study from the University of Toronto is adding to this already searing-hot debate by indicating that, while the smarter population of white people are less likely to be prejudiced against black people, they are no more likely to support policies that remediate racial inequality.

Researcher Geoffrey Wodtke analyzed the data from a survey of over 44,000 white respondents, conducted over the period between 1972 and 2010. The survey showed that white people with higher verbal ability are less likely to hold anti-black prejudice and more likely to support racial integration in principle. For example, 46 per cent of respondents who scored the lowest on the verbal ability test think that “blacks are lazy”, while only 29 per cent of those who scored the highest agreed with that. 

There is, a catch however; the same white people who had been deemed smarter were found to be no more likely to support remedial policies, such as government aid for black people, tax incentives for businesses to move to largely black areas, and increased funding for predominantly black schools. They are even less likely to support preferential hiring policies.

So, are the smart ladies and gentlemen who voted in the white-only Oscar nominees racist? This study suggests that there is no simple answer to this question.

— Hariyanto Darmawan

For seniors, poor sleep may increase stroke risk, study says

If you are not yet convinced that lack of sleep and physical health are intimately intertwined, yet another study has come forward, this time showing a new link between stroke risk and a poor night of rest.

The study, which has contributions from the University of Toronto, showed how sleep fragmentation — waking repeatedly during sleep — is associated with brain blood vessel damage and increased stroke risk.

The study assessed sleep fragmentation and brain blood vessel damage in 315 autopsied individuals. On average, participants experienced seven disruptions per hour of sleep.

The team, which was led by Dr. Andrew Lim, an assistant professor of neurology at U of T, found that sleep fragmentation was associated with arteriole (small arterial blood vessels) wall thickening and tissue death. This effect was due to inadequate blood flow in an area of the brain called the subcortex.

Lim and his fellow researchers noted that such associations remained statistically significant even after controlling for factors such as total daily rest and activity, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, pain and depression.

Lim explained in a press release that the types of damage observed can result in chronic progressive cognitive and motor deterioration in addition to increased stroke risk.

Lim however cautioned against inferring a causal relationship between sleep fragmentation and blood vessel damage. According to Lim, it is possible that the blood vessel damage caused the sleep disruptions, or that there was an underlying mechanism that was the cause of both issues.

— Hannah Fung

Did Your Child Learn to Lie Early? This May be Why

In our society, the ability to lie can be harmless and sometimes – as in the case of white lies – necessary for social interactions in adulthood. Typically, lying emerges in children aged two-to-three years old, and develops rapidly from the third to the seventh year. But how is it that lies come about, and why are some children more likely to verbally deceive than others?

A team of researchers, including Xiao Pan Ding and Dr. Kang Lee from U of T’s Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, are among the first to link lying in children to their understanding of individual mental states. 

According to their recently published study, the more a child grasps that their own beliefs, desires, intents and perspectives differ from others, the more they will lie.

In the study, three-year-old children who were initially incapable of lying were split into two groups, where half had mental state training in the form of story-telling, verbal exercises, games and executive-functioning tasks, and half had non-mental state training involving more quantitative tasks. After twelve days of training, follow-up tests determined that the mental-state training group had a significantly higher likelihood of lying than the control group. The effects of lying persisted for a month after the practise.

  Laura Nguyen

Cheap jewelry; high cost

While you think you’re paying a low price for the latest trendy jewelry at Aldo and Ardene, you may actually be gambling with your health.

In a recent investigation by CBC Marketplace involving researchers from the University of Toronto and École Polytechnique de Montréal, 50 pieces of costume jewelry from different stores were tested for cadmium, a carcinogenic heavy metal. Seven pieces from Aldo and Ardene were found to contain between 15 and 7000 times more cadmium than deemed child-safe by Health Canada. A pendant hanging from one Ardene necklace was comprised of almost pure cadmium — the highest quantity Canada has documented for an object like this.

The risk does not lie in wearing the jewelry, but in chewing or ingesting it. If chronically exposed to this toxic metal over a period of time, issues such as kidney failure and bone loss could arise. Cadmium can also damage the central nervous system, affect blood pressure, and cause other complications. Cadmium exposure is particularly dangerous for children, as their bodies absorb cadmium more easily. An Aldo bracelet charm, which contained 79 per cent cadmium, would be enough to release dangerous amounts of it into the body of a small child if consumed. According to Health Canada, there have so far not been any reported cases of sickness from ingesting cadmium jewelry.

Regardless, Aldo has still stated that it would remove the toxic jewelry from stores, while Ardene said it would look further into the matter.

— Sophia Savva