Monitor on Psychology - October 2011 - (Page 21)

Manatees’ exquisite sense of touch may lead them into dangerous waters A manatee’s entire face is about as sensitive as your fingertip, according to research presented at APA’s 2011 Annual Convention by New College of Florida psychology professor Gordon Bauer, PhD. That’s an important finding because it helps explain why the endangered Florida manatee so often gets ensnared in fishing nets, hooks and traps, said Bauer. “Their strong tactile orientation may be at the root of their problem with fishing gear,” he said. “It’s how they investigate things.” Bauer and his colleagues tested two manatees’ sense of active touch by presenting them with pairs of plastic plates with vertical grating, and rewarding them for selecting the one with the wider ridges. The manatees investigated the plates by rubbing them with their faces, which are covered in fine hairs, and the less sensitive manatee was able to distinguish between gratings that were just 0.15 millimeters apart — about onetenth of the height of a grain of sugar. (The more sensitive manatee detected gratings just 0.05 millimeters apart.) Motion-sensing hairs cover the entire body of the manatee, though they aren’t spaced as closely on manatees’ backs and bellies. The body hairs help manatees detect slight vibrations in the water, according to a second experiment by Bauer. In that study, Bauer blindfolded the manatees and muffled their facial hairs with a mask, then set a ball vibrating in the water. Using their body hairs only, the animals detected very slight vibrations between 15 and 150 hertz. This highly developed sense probably helps manatees navigate by detecting the surface, bottom, current and objects in the water — though, unfortunately, it hasn’t helped them steer clear of the motor boats that are decimating their population, Bauer said. —S. DINGFELDER OCTOBER 2011 • MONITOR ON PSYCHOLOGY 21 A manatee’s entire face is as sensitive as your fingertip, research finds. What does psychology have to do with the efforts by horticulturists to create a better tomato? At the APA 2011 Annual Convention session “From Psychophysics to Horticulture: Understanding and Increasing Palatibility of Nutritious Foods,” Linda M. Bartoshuk, PhD, described her work with “supertasters” to isolate the stuff that dream tomatoes are made of. Supertasters are people with many more tastebuds (or, fungiform papillae) than average tasters. “Supertasters live in a neon food world. The rest of us live in a pastel world,” she said. Supertasters and regular tasters were tapped to help with the project. But the first step was to figure out what flavor elements of the tomatoes — called volatiles — influence the fruit’s taste. Some volatiles make tomatoes taste sweet, others salty — or worse. “Since 1989, all the people working to make tomatoes taste better were using the wrong volatiles,” she said. Working together, researchers were able to isolate the correct volatiles. When those volatiles are intensified through cross-breeding, tasters perceive the tomatoes as sweeter, and it’s this sweetness that people associate with a better tomato. Bartoshuk called it “an extremely reachable goal” to break through the ceiling of what people perceive as the best tomato they’ve ever tasted to the nirvana of someone’s absolute favorite food. “We can’t add sugar,” she said, “but we can add volatiles.” —K. MILLS Building a better tomato

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Monitor on Psychology - October 2011

Monitor on Psychology - October 2011
President’s Column
Subtle and stunning slights
From the CEO
Live science on the showroom floor
Zimbardo re-examines his landmark study
Ready, set, mentor
Attention students and ECPs: Self-care is an ‘ethical imperative’
Suicide risk is high among war veterans in college, study finds
Psychotherapy is effective and here’s why
From toilet to tap: getting people to drink recycled water
What’s ahead for psychology practice?
A push for more accountability is changing the accreditation process
Peer, parental support prove key to fighting childhood obesity
Popular media’s message to girls
Bullying may contribute to lower test scores
A consequence of cuckoldry: More (and better) sex?
Manatees’ exquisite sense of touch may lead them into dangerous waters
Building a better tomato
How will China’s only children care for their aging parents?
‘Spice’ and ‘K2’: New drugs of abuse now on the market
Many suspects don’t understand their right to remain silent
In Brief
Boosting minority achievement
Where’s the progress?
And social justice for all
Helping new Americans find their way
Segregation’s ongoing legacy
A new way to combat prejudice
Retraining the biased brain
Suppressing the ‘white bears’
How to eat better — mindlessly
Protect your aging brain
Must babies always breed marital discontent?
Outing addiction
Flourish 2051
The danger of stimulants
Keys to making integrated care work
Is technology ruining our kids?
Facebook: Friend or foe?
The promise of Web 3.0
NIMH invests in IT enhanced interventions
Science Directions
Science Directions
PsycAdvocates work to safeguard key programs
The psychology of spending cuts
APA’s strategic plan goes live
Visionary leaders
Vote on bylaws amendments

Monitor on Psychology - October 2011