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The Tell

Little Clues That Reveal Big Truths About Who We Are

Matthew Hertenstein

Our brains basically prediction machines. Constantly trying to identify patterns so can guess what will happen next. Obvious evo advantage of being able to predict what someone else will do from very small samples of data.

Hard to predict who will develop autism. At first all had was anecdotes from parents recalling behaviour from years before. Problem that not necessarily remember salient events, and, what applies to one autistic child doesn't necessarily apply to others. Next step was to analyse home movies, but parents only video scattered events. Then identified autistic kids, and studied their younger siblings (who are about 20 times more likely to develop autistic symptoms themselves).

Girls raised with negligent or absent fathers get pregnant earlier. Makes evo sense because thinking "I don't know how long I'll be here so I'd better reproduce asap".

Study of people looking at photos of strangers, were able to guess extroversion, self-esteem, religiosity. Extroverts stood energetically, relaxed, smiled with unfolded arms, looked healthy and neat and better dressed. Introverts tenser, folded arms, more tired, smiled less. We can also judge most of these things from just a head and shoulders pic, even without jewellry etc. And surprisingly, we can even do this with chimps - we can pick the leader just from a photo.

Can judge someone's intelligence just from how they read a newspaper - just 3 minutes of them read aloud headlines and sub-titles. Got same results even if viewed video without sound - so non-verbal clues are what important. In fact, what noticing is how 'bright' they appear - how confident and clearly they speak.

Wide-faced men are more aggressive, but this doesn't apply to women. In other studies, beefy faced men 3 times more likely to lie, and 9 times more likely to cheat on a test when given opportunity.

Study of dating preferences showed women valued education level, height, age and resources. And prefer men who can demo kindness, humour and commitment.

Truth Wizards - most people can detect liars at about level of chance. The Wizard project analysed 15,000 professionals like police, and found just 50 Wizards - people who were right at least 80% of the time. Turns out they detect changes in body language and facial expressions that most don't see.

Well known study showing that can predict student assessment of lecturers based just on 6 sec videos even without sound. Turns out evaluating enthusiasm. The top-ranking teachers were very expressive - they stood and moved around the classroom, orientating towards and engaging students - came across as warm and enthusiastic. So basically being evaluated by presentation style rather than their knowledge or teaching skill.

(Problem that student evaluations one of most impt things that college boards consider for employing teachers. And if kids get bad grade they downgrade their teacher. So strong incentive for less rigorous courses and grade inflation.)

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