How Mass Marketing Affects Our Minds
April 25, 2019
After you read this sentence, pause for a moment to think back on advertisements you first heard when you were a child.
Perhaps you recall a favorite jingle or the catchphrase of a cereal mascot. You probably can remember more than just one.
On this week's radio replay, we look at the shelf life of commercials. According to University of Arizona researcher Merrie Brucks, an ad we watched when we were 5 years old can influence our buying behavior when we're 50.
"Children are vulnerable to messages that are fun and sound good. Because their minds are so open to all of that. They're open to everything," Brucks says.
We discuss Brucks' research about cereal commercials in the first portion of the show. Later in the program, we delve into the history of the advertising industry with Tim Wu, author of The Attention Merchants. In his book, Wu reveals the techniques media companies have developed to hijack our attention.
"You go to your computer and you have the idea you're going to write just one email. You sit down and suddenly an hour goes by. Maybe two hours. And you don't know what happened," Wu says.
"This sort of surrender of control over our lives speaks deeply to the challenge of freedom and what it means to be autonomous."
Listen to the program at NPR.org.
Letting Kids with Anxiety Face Their Fears
April 17, 2019
The first time Jessica Calise can remember her 9-year-old son Joseph's anxiety spiking was about a year ago, when he had to perform at a school concert. He said his stomach hurt and he might throw up. "We spent the whole performance in the bathroom," she recalls.
After that, Joseph struggled whenever he had to do something alone, like showering or sleeping in his bedroom. He would beg his parents to sit outside the bathroom door or let him sleep in their bed. "It's heartbreaking to see your child so upset and feel like he's going to throw up because he's nervous about something that, in my mind, is no big deal," Jessica says.
Jessica decided to enroll in an experimental program, one that was very different from other therapy for childhood anxiety that she knew about. It wasn't Joseph who would be seeing a therapist every week -- it would be her.
The program was part of a Yale University study that treated children's anxiety by teaching their parents new ways of responding to it.
"The parent's own responses are a core and integral part of childhood anxiety," says Eli Lebowitz, a psychologist at the Yale School of Medicine who developed the training.
For instance, when Joseph would get scared about sleeping alone, Jessica and her husband, Chris Calise, did what he asked and comforted him. "In my mind, I was doing the right thing," she says. "I would say, 'I'm right outside the door' or 'Come sleep in my bed.' I'd do whatever I could to make him feel not anxious or worried."
But this comforting -- something psychologists call accommodation -- can actually be counterproductive for children with anxiety disorders, Lebowitz says.
AAP Urges Recall of Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play Sleeper
April 10, 2019
From the American Academy of Pediatrics:
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) calls on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to issue an immediate recall for the Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play Sleeper, which has been tied to 32 sleep-related infant deaths, according to a new analysis by Consumer Reports.
AAP urges parents to stop using the product immediately. Stores should remove the Rock 'n Play Sleeper from their shelves. A warning issued by the CPSC and Fisher-Price on April 5 did not go far enough to ensure safety and protect infants, according to the AAP.
"This product is deadly and should be recalled immediately," said Kyle Yasuda, MD, FAAP, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "When parents purchase a product for their baby or child, many assume that if it's being sold in a store, it must be safe to use. Tragically, that is not the case. There is convincing evidence that the Rock 'n Play inclined sleeper puts infants' lives at risk, and CPSC must step up and take immediate action to remove it from stores and prevent further tragedies."
Last week, the CPSC and manufacturer alerted consumers to stop using the product when the infant reaches 3 months of age or is capable of rolling over, citing 10 infant deaths that occurred in the Rock 'n Play. The Consumer Reports article, published April 8, tied a total of 32 deaths to the Rock 'n Play, including the 10 noted in last week's warning.
Consumer Reports concluded that these 32 deaths, between 2011 and 2018, included babies even younger than the 3-month threshold cited in the initial warning, which is alarming. The cause of death listed for some babies was asphyxia, or the inability to breathe caused by the babies' position. AAP urges parents of children of all ages to immediately stop using the Rock 'n Play.
Read more from the AAP.
Eating Fish May Help City Kids With Asthma Breathe Better
April 3, 2019
It's long been known that air pollution influences the risk -- and severity -- of asthma. Now, there's emerging evidence that diet can play a role, too.
A new study finds that higher consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish such as salmon, sardines and lake trout, and in some plant sources such as walnuts and flaxseed, is linked to reduced asthma symptoms in city kids who are exposed to fairly high levels of indoor air pollution.
"We know that asthma is a disease that's driven by inflammation," explains Dr. Emily Brigham, a pulmonologist at Johns Hopkins University and co-author of the study. As our bodies digest fish, the omega-3 fatty acids generate byproduct molecules known as "pro-resolving mediators" that make their way into our lungs. "They help to resolve inflammation," Brigham says.
Given this anti-inflammatory effect, Brigham and her colleagues had a hunch that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help attenuate the effects of air pollution on kids' symptoms. To study this, they tracked the diets and indoor air pollution levels (from sources including smoke, dust and allergens) in the homes of 135 children, mostly African-American and all with asthma, in Baltimore, Md.
For more, please visit NPR.org.