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We're happier than before the financial crisis

The world is happier?

"Despite global economic gloom, the world is a happier place than it was before the financial crisis began," The Economist reports. "That is the counterintuitive conclusion of a poll of 19,000 adults in 24 countries by Ipsos, a research company. Some 77 per cent of respondents now describe themselves as happy, up three points on 2007, the last year before the crisis. Fully 22 per cent (up from 20 per cent) describe themselves as very happy – a more important measure, says Ipsos's John Wright, since whenever three-quarters of people agree on anything, 'you need to pay attention to intensity in the results.' All such polls come with a health warning. The level of happiness is self-reported – and the term means different things to different people."

Put on your thinking coat

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"Schoolchildren grappling with a tough assignment are encouraged to 'put your thinking cap on.' But parents and teachers offering this advice may be focusing on the wrong garment," reports "Perhaps students should instead slip into their thinking jackets. That's the implication of a newly published study, which found wearing a white lab coat – a piece of clothing associated with care and attentiveness – improved performance on tests requiring close and sustained attention. Importantly, the effect was not found when the garment in question was identified as a visual artist's coat. 'The clothes we wear have power not only over others, but also over ourselves,' Northwestern University scholars Hajo Adam and Adam Galinsky write in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology."

Bestowing your kisses

"Do you xxxx? Sorry to be impertinent. Perhaps you simply xx or x? … Truly, in this age of emotional incontinence, the etiquette of text and e-mail signoffs is becoming a minefield," Melissa Kite writes for The Spectator. "In the ever-intensifying arms race to display more and more emotion, even if it is entirely bogus, we are sending little figurative snogs to perfect strangers. We are ending the most businesslike e-mails with a valedictory expression of love and longing when a 'Kind regards' would do. I'm starting to long for the days when all letters culminated with, 'I beg to remain, sir, your most humble and obedient servant.' At least we knew where we were then. Now even the simplest of messages can become a car crash of extraneous fervour."

Those standoffish cardinals

Addressing the question, "Why are cardinals the last species at my feeder every evening?" Julie Craves writes in BirdWatching magazine: "Cardinals tend to be wary, uneasy or skittish around feeding stations. You'll often hear them uttering their mild-alarm 'chip' notes when they are in the vicinity. I have seen their preference for visiting feeders at dawn and dusk, when fewer birds are present, characterized as 'shyness' as well as general intolerance of other birds."

When dolphins meet

"When meeting strangers in the wild, dolphins whistle signature tunes that may be the animal equivalent of 'Hello, my name is …' stickers," reports LiveScience. "These signature whistles have been observed in captive dolphins for decades, but new research is the first to reveal how these sea mammals use the sounds when one pod meets another in the ocean. 'It's not just 'I'm so-and-so,' but the other information also in that whistle is, 'I'm so-and-so, and I'm interested in making contact in a friendly way. I'm not attacking,' said study researcher Vincent Janik, an expert in animal communication at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland."

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He might be bluffing

Police in Prince George's County, Md., "are on the lookout for a man they believe has committed a string of bank robberies by threatening to detonate a nuclear weapon," says The Washington Post. "Police have released surveillance images of the suspect, who they believe has robbed at least four banks in the county since late December. … In each incident, police said, the suspect handed a note to a bank teller demanding money and fled on foot. Each note contained a threat to detonate a nuclear weapon. The suspect did not show any visual evidence of such a device, according to police spokesman Cpl. Evan Baxter."

Optimistic if stressed?

"Feeling stressed changes how people weigh risk and reward, according to new research," Psych Central reports. "A new article published in Current Directions in Psychological Science reveals that people who are under stress pay more attention to the upside of a possible outcome. It's a bit surprising that stress makes people focus on the way things could go right, said Mara Mather, PhD, of the University of Southern California, who co-wrote the paper with doctoral student Nicole Lighthall."

Thought du jour

"The sentimentalist is always a cynic at heart. Indeed, sentimentality is merely the bank holiday of cynicism."

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Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

Irish author

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