Behind China's Economic Success: Its Grammar - Pacific Standard

Behind China's Economic Success: Its Grammar

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Greed

People who speak languages that weakly distinguish the present and future, such as Mandarin and German, are more apt to be successful in the future, argues Yale Business School’s Keith Chen in a new paper. Languages like English, Korean, and Russian require speakers to explicitly refer to the future--such as I “will go” and I’m “going to.” But languages that do not emphasize the difference between present and future allow speakers to conceptualize the future in the same vein as the present, and so the future doesn’t seem so distant, and preparing for the inevitable tomorrow takes precedence today.

Chen analyzed data from 76 developed and developing nations, ranging from personal information—like an individual’s economic decisions, the languages spoken at home, retirement assets, and general health—to national data such as a country’s savings rates, GDP, GDP growth rates, demographics, and how many languages are common within the nation. Unhappily for those for whom this article is in their native language: speakers who include a distinction for present and future are 30 percent less likely to save money. And those who grammatically join present and future? They “save more, retire with more wealth, smoke less, practice safer sex, and are less obese,” Chen concludes.

Gluttony

If your child refuses that split-pea soufflé, look in the mirror for a reason—genes play a significant role in children’s eating behavior, particularly being picky. A study led by Myles Faith examined 66 pairs of twins between the ages of 4 and 7 and found that genetics could predict avoiding new foods, known as food neophobia, about three out of four times. The researchers also compared food neophobia and body fat measures in parents and children; if a parent was overweight, their child was only overweight if he or she avoided new foods.

Lust

It appears Rick Springfield was ignoring biology when he penned "Jessie’s Girl". A University of Missouri study found that adult males’ testosterone levels dropped when they interacted with a marital partner of a close friend, a biological mechanism that researchers feel keeps men from constant competition. Lead researcher Mark Flinn says testosterone levels generally increase when men are interacting with a potential sexual partner or an enemy’s mate; these new findings suggest that men’s minds evolved to protect essential alliances.

Wrath

A recent study helps detail why toddlers get a reputation for being “terrible.” Researchers presented scratch-and-sniff stickers to three groups of different age levels—those 3 to 4, 5 to 6, and 7 to 8. When members of the youngest group were asked to share some of the coveted stickers, many refused or offered only one. The researchers discovered that the kids in this bracket knew sharing was the right thing to do, and many expected their peers to cough up a few stickers to share. In contrast, most all 7- and 8-year-olds split their stickers evenly while 5- and 6-year-olds were divided into sharers and non-sharers. The study concludes that although toddlers may know wrong from right, they have yet to develop the decision-making skills to make the moral choice.

Pride

Find yourself defending your choice of whole milk? Although low-fat milk has long been recommended as the healthier cereal-companion, a new study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood found that low-fat milk was associated with higher weight in children. This surprised authors Mark DeBoer and Rebecca Sharft, who told NPR they had hypothesized the opposite result. The researchers are still unsure why—perhaps whole milk makes you fuller overall and keeps you from eating other high-calorie food—and other doctors are quick to say low-fat milk is still the healthier choice.

Sloth

In his opinion piece “Let’s Not Spring Forward” at Scientific American, Bora Zivkovic offers a history of Daylight Savings Time and an impassioned argument for why we should be rid of it. The idea for DST came about in 1895 from Kiwi entomologist George Vernon Hudson, who wanted more daylight hours to study his bugs. Germany was the first country to adopt DST, in 1912. The United States followed in 1918, in part because of changes brought about by the war with Germany. Zivkovic describes the spring and falling of DST as a “clash between sensitive, eons-old biology deep within our cells, and human-imposed time-keeping traditions that are barely a century old.” He argues that DST no longer makes sense in the context of our modern lives and does nothing more than cause traffic accidents to increase, workplace injuries to go up, cases of depression to spike and incidents of heart attacks to rise.

Envy

If you find yourself jealous of the inner-peace of your more spiritual peers, know that they don’t have a monopoly on it. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology:General found that non-believers who perform rituals receive the same comforting benefits as practitioners who believe. Of the participants studied, those who performed a ritual after experiencing a loss reported a lesser feeling of grief compared to those who didn’t. Merely going through the motions brought about a greater sense of control and comfort, thereby easing the coping process.

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