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Creativity and dim bulbs

There are certain times when you want the lights turned way down low, says Pacific Standard magazine. One such time, according to recent research, is when you need to think creatively. "Darkness increases freedom from constraints, which in turn promotes creativity," report Anna Steidle of the University of Stuttgart and Lioba Werth of the University of Hohenheim. A dimly lit environment, they explain in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, "elicits a feeling of freedom, self-determination, and reduced inhibition," all of which encourage innovative thinking. However, the researchers note, creativity consists of two distinct phases: generating ideas, and then analyzing and implementing them. The latter requires analytical thinking and, in a final experiment in their study, participants did better on that task when they were in a brightly lit room. "Creativity may begin in the dark," Steidle and Werth write, "but it shouldn't end there."

Weight loss and memory

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"Swedish researchers found that older overweight women who dieted went on to score better in memory tests after they had lost weight," says The Daily Telegraph. "Previous studies had shown that obese people have worse episodic memory – the ability to remember the events that happen during your life – but the new findings suggest this may be reversible, the scientists said." In research at Umea University, 20 overweight women with an average age of 61 were assigned to six-month diets. Their episodic memory was tested before and after. Their performance improved after they lost weight, and brain scans taken during the exercise suggested they had become more efficient at storing and recalling memories.

Foxy intelligence

"Two men walking along a dirt road in Russia spotted a wild fox walking with a jar on its head, in a new video that's making the rounds on the blogosphere. Defying the notion that foxes are shy of humans, the animal walked right up to the men, presumably to ask for help," says United Press International. "After one man wrestled the jar off the fox's neck, it immediately ran back into the forest. The Huffington Post managed to translate the dialogue from one of the Russian man, who joked, 'Where's my thank you?' when the fox rushed away."

U.S. work force unhappy

Seven out of 10 U.S. workers have "checked out" at work or are "actively disengaged," according to a recent Gallup survey. Only 30 per cent of workers "were engaged, or involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their workplace." The poll examined worker engagement beginning in 2010 and ending in 2012. Among the 100 million people in the U.S. who hold full-time jobs, 30 million are actively engaged. The "not engaged," who are just going through the motions at work, account for 50 million, says the Los Angeles Times. The third type, the 20 million labelled "actively disengaged," hate going to work.

Chickens are quite bright

"Newly hatched chickens are capable of skills that can take human babies months or even years to master, new research has revealed. Fields of intelligence ranging from structural engineering to self-control appear to come more naturally to chickens than toddlers, and professor of animal welfare Christine Nicol [at Britain's University of Bristol] said we should no longer think of chickens as stupid," reports The Independent. "In one test, the birds were allowed access to more food the longer they waited to start eating. While 93 per cent of hens were able to grasp this skill, comparable studies have suggested many humans cannot exhibit this kind of self-control until the age of four."

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Thought du jour

"Truth and reality in art do not arise until you no longer understand what you are doing."

Henri Matisse, French artist (1869-1954)

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