Today in research news: boredom makes people hostile, scientists think the moon may be younger, being hopeful is a better way to lose weight and, yes, scrabble players are smart.

  • If everyone read like competitive Scrabble players...Maybe we'd be better readers. That was our first thought at this University of Calgary study that demonstrated these players gift for word recognition and recall (20 percent faster at recognizing English words than non-competitors). "Scrabble players have honed their ability to recognize words such that they have actually changed the process of reading words," said the lead researcher, Ian Hargreaves, in a news release. [Eurekalert]
  • When aiming to lose weight, might as well try hopefulness. In one experiment, a Texas A&M professor roped 59 college students into writing either "happy" or "hopeful" themed essays. "While they wrote the essays, the students were given M&Ms and raisins to snack on," described Healthland. "Both groups ate about the same amount of raisins, but those who were primed to feel happy ate 44% more M&Ms than those who were focused on their hope for the future." [Time Healthland]
  • It's easier to be mean to outsiders when you're bored. University of Limerick psychologists conducted five experiments under the thesis that, as Miller-McCune described, "boredom is more than a simple lack of stimulation"--it's an existential condition of meaninglessness. In one of the experiments, Irish students were asked to play the judge of a hypothetical where an Englishman (i.e. the outsider) attacked an Irishman. The bored participants doled out longer (i.e. harsher) verdicts. [Miller-McCune]
  • Dragging yourself to the gym to do crunches may not be worth the effort. The gym is worth it, but new research seems to be is questioning the value of the stomach crunch. The Times Well blog synthesizes several  published studies and paraphrases this response from exercise professor Brad Schoenfeld: "No one needs to perform hundreds or even dozens of crunches." Six to eight crunches a few times a week would be plenty, he said. [The New York Times]
  • Scientists are second-guessing how old the moon may be. The previous estimate could be 200 million years off, says scientist Lars Borg at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Borg used dating methods on a moon rock and found that it was only 4.36 billion years old. He and his colleagues then used that figure as evidence for their paper published in Nature that theorized the younger age. [New Scientist]