Livin' on the MDedge

America’s peas problem and freshly grated tattoos


 

Hold the peas, pass the spiders

There’s an old saying – and by “old,” we mean that we just made it up – in the medical-humor business: When in doubt, find a survey.

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Some group is always surveying somebody about something and coming up with a wacky assumption or misguided opinion held by a minority of the respondents. It’s a classic go-to move for the desperate writer.

And look, here’s one now. According to a recent survey conducted by OnePoll for VeggieTracker.com, 83% of Americans like – and this makes us feel oogie just thinking about it – peas. Blecch. Even more amazing? About a quarter of the 2,000 respondents said that they had never even eaten a vegetable. That might explain a good bit of the country’s obesity problem.

And then there’s the survey that OnePoll did for Mattress Advisor, which questioned 2,000 Americans about sleep science and myth. Among the results: 23% believe that an hour of sleep before midnight is worth more than two after, 25% think that sleeping on your left side helps digestion, and 15% said that circadian rhythm was the proper term for the body’s blood flow.

Our favorite, though, was the myth that you swallow eight spiders a year while you sleep. We’ve never heard that one, but 20% of respondents thought it was true.

We’re glad that it’s just a myth, but even spiders would be better than peas.

The politics of pretty

It’s an age-old political question: Did a majority of U.S. voters back Martin Van Buren in the 1836 presidential election because he pushed the popular policies of his boss, fellow Democrat Andrew Jackson? Or was it the suave sideburns of Jackson’s stylish vice president that trumped (see what we did there?) the clean-shaven Whig William Henry Harrison?

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The evidence-backed answer: Probably both.

Researchers at the University of Freiburg in Germany conducted two style-or-substance studies to determine how much political advantage a pretty face confers. The first study examined the impact attractive looks and the ability to appear competent riding atop an Abrams tank (ooooh, sorry, Dukakis fans), er, the ability to look competent in photos had in Germany’s 2017 Bundestag elections.

The study’s precise answer: 3.8 percentage points. That’s the polling advantage candidates gained by being judged more attractive than their competitors. Admittedly, the researchers also found it helped to be more than just a pretty face – the unaesthetic quality of relative competence also played a positive role.

The second study took the same approach to U.S. House of Representatives races. In that research beauty contest, America’s aesthetically attuned voters delivered up to an 11-point advantage to the prettiest person.

Now, as anyone will tell you who’s watched congressional TMZ – a.k.a. C-SPAN – beauty in politics is a relative matter. As one of our colleagues noted after visiting the Bureau of LOTME’s Washington hometown and seeing several political stars up close and personal: “Washington is Hollywood for the not so good lookin’.”

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