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Minds and Matters: Researchers Say Old Timers are Right About Young Whippersnappers

by on August 04, 2012 7:22 AM

As a young lad, I pledged that I would never sound like all the old timers who gathered around the tattered, ill-padded chairs of the barber shop, hid their faces in Field & Stream magazine and discussed the endless ways that the younger generation failed them.

That pledge ends today.

According to two Penn State researchers, if tweens -- the current term for "young whippersnapper" -- send and receive a lot of text messages, their language skills suffer.

Drew Cingel, who was an undergraduate Penn State student in communications at the time of the study, and S. Shyam Sundar, Distinguished Professor of Communications and co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory, report that tweens often read and type messages that use abbreviations, omissions and other language shortcuts when they text. When tweens were required to use more formal language -- for instance, on a grammar test the researchers administered -- they struggled to use proper rules of language.

I can hear myself now at the barbershop. "Maybe we didn't have fancy-schmancy texting when we were young, but, at least, we knew not to spell the word, 'great,' with the No. 8!"

Then, all the customers would LOL.

You can read more about the study here.

Here are a few more examples of research happening at Penn State:

Polar Bear Evolution Linked to Climate Change

There's no doubt that environmental groups have used the link between polar bears and climate change to raise awareness for their organizations. Now, an international group of scientists believe they have found an evolutionary link between polar bears and climate change. An analysis of newly sequenced polar bear genome suggests polar bears may have interbred with brown bears during climatic warm periods.

"Maybe we're seeing a hint that in really warm times, polar bears changed their life-style and came into contact, and indeed interbred, with brown bears," said Stephan Schuster, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State, and a research scientist at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

You can read more here.

Violence Can Cause Long-lasting Stress for Kids

Children who witness violence have a hard time shaking off the incident. A group of researchers from Penn State and University College report that children show signs of physical stress up to a year after they are exposed to community violence.

Elizabeth Susman, Jean Phillips Shibley Professor of Biobehavioral Health, Penn State said that while the link between exposure to violence and depression and violence is well known, the long-term effects of this exposure is less understood. The scientists recruited 124 adolescents, ranging in age from 8 to 13 and living in small city and rural communities, to participate in the study.

The team measured the children's stress responses by comparing the cortisol levels present in samples of their saliva collected before and after the stress test was administered.

You can read about the study here.

Buried by Research

While we all write about research at Research Communications, A'ndrea Elyse Messer, head science and research information officer, was up to her elbows in research at Penn State's summer archaeological project in Tel Akko, Israel.

Messer joined a group of students and instructors who were unearthing the archaeological secrets of Akko--sometimes referred to as Acre.

The town sits on the Mediterranean Sea in northern Israel and has been a major trading center since ancient times. Tel, by the way, is the Hebrew word for mound or hill.

Heading off to the sunny Mediterranean may sound like the first scene of an Indiana Jones movie, but this is hard work -- and important work. As Messer said, "So we dig, looking for clues to who lived there and how they lived."

You can follow her journey with a series of video and blog posts.

Interested in finding out more about the research? Friend us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or check out our blog, Penn State Research Matters.

Matt is a Research and Technology Information Officer at Penn State. He also is a Public Relations Manager and Adjunct Journalism Instructor at the university.
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