February 19, 2009
Vol. 28 No. 10

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    Chicago In the News

    The Chronicle’s biweekly column Chicago In the News offers a digest of commentary and quotations by a few of the University faculty members, students and alumni who have been headlining the news in recent weeks. Chicago faculty members are some of the most frequently quoted experts, so space allows publishing references to only selected examples. To read many of the full newspaper articles mentioned in this column, visit the University News Office Web site: http://news.uchicago.edu.

    Study links gesture, vocabulary
    Research by Susan Goldin-Meadow, the Beardsley Ruml Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology, and Meredith Rowe, University Postdoctoral Scholar, reported an association between gesturing, socioeconomic status and vocabulary ability in a published study in the Friday, Feb. 13 issue of Science. The psychologists studied children from 50 Chicago-area families of various ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds and found that high-income, better-educated parents gestured more frequently to their children, who gestured more in return. They found that babies who gestured more at 14 months old also tended to have better vocabularies at 54 months. “At 14 months, you can’t see a difference with their speech, but you can already see a difference in their gestures,” Goldin-Meadow said. “And children’s gestures can be traced back to parents’ gestures.” Articles about the study appeared in Time, the Daily Telegraph, the Associated Press and Reuters news wires and on Chicago Public Radio and the BBC.

    Darwin stands up through time
    Robert Richards, the Morris Fishbein Professor in the History of Science and Medicine, and the College, underscored the genius of Charles Darwin in a Monday, Feb. 9 article in The New York Times. The world celebrated the scientist’s 200th birthday on Thursday, Feb. 12. Richards noted that Darwin’s interest in a variety of subjects—fossils, breeding, anatomy and plants—helped form theories that became the foundation of modern biology. “That very comprehensive view allowed him to see things that others perhaps didn’t. He was so sure of his central ideas—the transmutation of species and natural selection—that he had to find a way to make it all work together.” Richards also was quoted in the Chicago Tribune.

    Love not a universal language
    Ted Foss, Associate Director of the Center for East Asian Studies, debated the universality of the phrase “I love you” in a Friday, Feb. 13 article in the Chicago Tribune. Between American and Japanese cultures, the article stated, those three words are not one in the same. “There is a verb for love in Japanese,” Foss said. “But you wouldn’t get a card that says, ‘I love you.’ It might say, ‘I like you very much’ or ‘You’re all that I need.’” The story stated that the Japanese assume that if you are close enough, you can read each other’s minds. The article also quoted Yuki Miyamoto, who received her Ph.D. from the Divinity School before becoming an assistant professor at DePaul University.

    Christian Leuz

    Economy can be over-regulated
    Christian Leuz, the Joseph Sondheimer Professor in International Economics, Finance and Accounting at Chicago Booth, warned against excessive financial regulation in a Monday, Feb. 9 opinion piece in Forbes. Leuz stated that aside from being costly, excessive regulation can “stifle financial innovation, reduce the flow of credit to worthy firms and consumers, and impede economic growth.” He argued that more regulatory scrutiny also could worsen the economic downturn. “Thus, rather than placing a heavy regulatory burden on firms and banks at all times, we need to think of actions we would like regulations to take only if and when market forces begin to weaken,” he wrote. “It seems worthwhile to think about how we can make our regulatory framework more dynamic to match the dynamic nature of our capital markets.”

    Israel threatening its future
    John Mearsheimer, the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor in Political Science, argued in a Monday, Jan. 26 opinion piece in The American Conservative that in Gaza, Israel has started another war it cannot win. He wrote that Israel is not interested in a meaningful cease fire or viable Palestinian state; instead it hopes to create “disconnected and economically crippled enclaves” that would be cut off at the border, by air and water—a strategy known as the “Iron Wall.” Although he notes a sea change in the West regarding sympathies toward the region, Mearsheimer wrote that Israel “is determined to employ the Iron Wall strategy to get the Palestinians in Gaza to accept their fate as hapless subjects of a Greater Israel.”

    Taking a mulligan on interview
    A Wednesday, Feb. 11 article in Scientific American on choking under pressure cited Sian Beilock’s 2008 study of novice and skilled golfers. Scientists have, in recent years, used more counterintuitive insights in studying the circumstances that cause choking. Beilock, Associate Professor in Psychology and the College, found that novice golfers performed less accurately when speed was emphasized but skilled golfers responded just the opposite. “These golfers were really hurt when we asked them to pay too much attention,” she said. “What happens under stress is that they do start worrying, and in response to that, they start monitoring their performance.”

    Gene testing may replace drugs
    Richard Schilsky, Professor in Medicine and Associate Dean for Clinical Research, was quoted in a Monday, Feb. 16 Associated Press story on gene testing for cancer treatments. The story reported that oncologists are using genetic testing rather than pricey, cure-all cancer treatments that won’t work in 40 percent of patients. The downside is that few tests have won backing from major medical groups, leaving research studies as the best alternative for patients. “A bad test is as dangerous to a patient as a bad drug,” said Schlisky. “The tricky part is to figure out which of those (genetic differences) are clinically important and which are just variations that exist.”

    Looks aren’t everything
    A Wednesday, Feb. 11 article in USA Today on the nature of physical attraction between heterosexual couples included research from Dario Maestripieri, Professor in Comparative Human Development and the College. Research has shown that socially desirable people expect the same qualities in a partner. “At some point, people get a sense of what they look like and how attractive they are. There’s sort of a mating market where people are attractive to partners similar in value.” He said a less attractive man could use money or status to lure a more attractive woman.