Bits of Books - Books by Title

Black Sheep

The Hidden Benefits of Being bad

Richard Stephens

Simple measure of rat anxiety - how long it takes them to eat a food pellet in a bright unfamiliar area. Rats who had had female company, but not bred (not in season) took twice as long as rats who'd had plenty of sex - ie twice as anxious. Sim results with humans when use measures of stress such as blood pressure. Having sex reduces stress.

Test called Iowa Gambling Task where players draw cards from 4 decks - some decks have more cards which pay a small monetary amount; some of the decks have more cards that take away small amounts. Most people eventually (unconsciously) figure out the better decks to draw from. Except when the experimenters sabotage their uncs by printing pornographic scenes on the backs of the cards.

Alcohol and drug addiction is a lot more situational than genetic. Rat Pack study to check earlier study where bored rats continuously pressed button delivering morphine. Rat Pack study split rats into 2 groups - one in an enriched environment with lots of toys and friends, and the control in a barren single cell.Rats could choose to drink either water or morphine. Found it was boredom/depression that led to morphine preference.

Also experience Vietnam vets, many of whom seemed addicted when in service, but kicked habit when back civilian life.

Three quarters of people described as drug addicts when young give up without help from doctors. They simply find more purpose in life, through family, career, or simply growing older. The quarter who still stuck seem to be more due to lifestyle and personal choices/circumstances, rather than a physical dependence.

Very difficult to work out health benefits of drinking. The 'control group' of non-drinkers are unusual in modern Western society and we don't know why they've opted out of drinking. Sometimes may be due to other health issues, which may be skewing the apparent benefits for drinking.

"The answer may not be in the bottom of a bottle, but it never hurts to check" (Gandhi)

Arse first appeared in English about 1000AD. Problem that so similar to ass that the new word donkey adopted.

Swearing is a special case of speech - even seems to be stored in different part of brain. Multiple cases of people with brain damage causing different types of aphasia (inability to speak or speak intelligibly) yet still being able to swear fluently and clearly.

Parachuting: "No matter how smart you are on the ground, you get stupid the first time you fall out of a plane." 11% parachuting fatalities occur not because of equipment failure or accident, but because the person freezes when main chute fails to open, and fails to muster the mental capacity to recognize the problem and pull the reserve chute ripcord. Stress/fear interfered with normal mental processes.


WHETHER it's skiving, sex, speeding or drinking alcohol, everything fun seems to have a warning attached. So why does behaving badly feel so good?

Richard Stephens, a senior lecturer in psychology at Keele University, UK, may not sound like the obvious person to tackle the science of deviance until you discover that he has won an Ig Nobel prize for his work on swearing. And since swearing is a particular vice of mine, I was keen to read about any advantages fruity language might confer.

Black Sheep: Why being bad isn't all bad

In Black Sheep, Stephens ranges far and wide, surveying the psychological and physiological research into our character flaws. He writes with the glee of someone at a theme park, which is fitting since he tells us that a ride on a roller coaster is beneficial for asthma. He also includes chapters on those other roller-coaster rides: love and sex. Who knew, he says, what fun scientists had been having: "We've seen how sexual arousal lights up the brain's reward pathways in the same way as drugs and watching your football team score ... a demonstration, if one was needed, that sex is officially fun.'

You feel that Stephens has pored over each research paper in its entirety. He is not afraid to pick apart poor methodology, praise ingenuity or point out fun details. Describing one study linking alcohol and creativity, he writes: 'while having their eight shots of vodka, the volunteers watched a DVD of one of my favourite Disney movies - Ratatouille'.

And the benefits of cursing? Stephens suggests that it is key to in-group social cohesion and that people who know more swear words are more fluent linguistically - great news for my fishwife tendencies. His own research suggests swearing helps us cope with physical agony.

But the painkilling effect becomes less potent for habitual swearers. Bugger.

More books on Behaviour

Books by Title

Books by Author

Books by Topic

Bits of Books To Impress