Parents’ choice to find out baby’s sex before birth reveals more than the gender of their offspring. According to a recent study from Ohio State University, a woman’s decision to learn her baby’s sex before birth may be an indicator of her child-rearing beliefs. According to the researchers, mothers who are more open to new experiences, have higher levels of conscientiousness, and have more egalitarian views about the roles of men and women in society tend to wait until delivery to learn their baby’s sex. Mothers who scored higher on a test of parenting perfectionism, meaning they had unrealistically high expectations, were slightly more likely to learn their baby’s sex in utero. Furthermore, mothers who reported higher levels of curiosity and independence were less likely to learn their baby’s sex before birth. The research focused on 182 expectant mothers in Columbus, Ohio who participated in a study to track behaviors across the transition to parenthood. The research team administered a variety of tests to pregnant women to measure personality, gender role beliefs, and expectations regarding parenting perfectionism. Approximately two out of three of the expectant mothers in the study knew their baby’s sex before birth. Mothers who knew the sex of their child before birth tended to have lower levels of education and lower household incomes, and were less likely to be married than mothers who waited for a delivery-room surprise. Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, one of the members of the research team, believes this study is a starting point to address questions about the implications that this knowledge may have for future parenting. The study will appear in an upcoming edition of Personality and Individual Differences.
Cat lovers and dog lovers may have more differences than just the type of pet they prefer, according to new research from Denise Guastello, PhD, of Carroll University. The findings, which were presented at the annual Association for Psychological Science meeting, suggest that there are both personality and intelligence differences between the two types of animal lovers. After surveying 600 college students, researchers determined that dog lovers tend to be more outgoing and extroverted; cat lovers are more inclined to be open-minded, sensitive, and introverted. Dog people prefer following rules closely, while cat people preferred being expedient to being a rule-follower. “One explanation for these personality differences could be due to each owner’s choice of environment,” said Guastello. “It makes sense that a dog person is going to be more lively because they’re going to want to be out there, outside, talking to people, bringing their dog. Whereas, if you’re more introverted and sensitive, maybe you’re more at home reading a book, and your cat doesn’t need to go outside for a walk.” Beyond personality, though, cat lovers scored higher on intelligence tests than their dog-owning counterparts. Furthermore, fewer people identified as cat fans. Just 11% of the surveyed group chose cats as their pet of choice, while 60% of those surveyed preferred dogs. The remaining members of the survey group either responded that they liked both animals equally or they didn’t identify with either type of pet. Though this study focused on college students, a 2010 study of more than 4,500 people came to similar conclusions. Guastello believes this study’s results could be used to improve pet therapy, helping to create better owner-pet matches.

Can a student’s classroom have an impact on their ability to learn effectively? According to a new study out of Carnegie Mellon University, there seems to be evidence that highly decorated classrooms may be a distraction for students.

Researchers Anna V. Fisher, Karrie E. Godwin, and Howard Seltman focused their research on how classroom displays affect a child’s ability to maintain focus and learn lesson content. Their results, published in Psychological Science, found that children in highly decorated classrooms were more distracted, were off task more often, and demonstrated smaller learning gains than their counterparts in a classroom where the decorations had been removed.

The study placed 24 kindergarten students in laboratory classrooms for six science lessons on topics that were unfamiliar to the students. Three lessons were taught in a heavily decorated classroom. Three lessons took place in a classroom without decorations. Although results showed the children learned in both environments, they reported more educational gains in the sparsely decorated classroom. In the undecorated room, children responded to test questions correctly about 55% of the time as opposed to 42% of the time in the decorated classroom.

Furthermore, the time students spent off-task was higher in the decorated classroom (38.6% of time spent off-task in the decorated room, 28.4% of time spent off-task in the undecorated room).

Although researchers do not suggest that teachers remove decorations from their classrooms, they believe more research needs to be done to understand the effect visual environment has on learning and attention.

Researchers at the Salk Institute may have new clues about schizophrenia after studying skin cells of individuals diagnosed with the disorder. Using neurons generated from a patient’s skin cells, scientists were able to use new technology to regress those cells back to an earlier stem cell form. Those stem cells were then grown into very early stage neurons, called neural progenitor cells (NPCs). NPCs are similar to the cells in the brain of a developing fetus. Researchers documented these NPCs behaved strangely in the early stages of development, offering clues that may aid in earlier detection and treatment of schizophrenia. Until now, scientists have only been able to study the brains of cadavers, making it difficult to determine when in the developmental process changes began to occur to the brain. The cells taken from people with schizophrenia differed in two ways: They had abnormal migration patterns and greater levels of oxidative stress. Researchers found that current antipsychotic medications, however, did not improve the migration patterns. The study supports the idea that neurological dysfunctions that lead to schizophrenia may begin in the brain of a fetus. The full results of the study are available in the April issue of Molecular Psychiatry.