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New World’s oldest dog may have been dinner, plus worrisome PTSD and artful dodging in this week’s news

4:47pm, May 16, 2011
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Scoring with evasive answers
Deftly dodging questions pays off — just ask successful politicians. That’s because people often don’t notice when someone avoids a question by talking about a similar topic, say Harvard psychologists Todd Rogers and Michael Norton. Listeners focus more on whether they like a speaker than on the content of a response, the researchers find. Detection of question dodging shoots up when listeners are told to pay attention to the relevance of a videotaped speaker’s answers to questions or if queries are displayed on-screen during answers, the researchers report in an upcoming Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied. —Bruce Bower

Oldest New World dog
DNA extracted from a 9,200-year-old skull fragment previously excavated in a Texas cave confirms that the bone comes from the oldest known dog in the New World, not a product of interbreeding between dogs and wolves. An analysis of mitochondrial DNA from the find, to appear in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, indicates that ancient American dogs were domesticated from wolves in eastern Europe and western Asia. Researchers found the dog bone in fossilized human feces, indicating that early New World settlers not only kept dogs but ate them, say anthropologist Raul Tito of the University of Oklahoma in Norman and his colleagues. —Bruce Bower

Daily worries inflame PTSD
Escalating worries about money, children and other aspects of daily life often stir up symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, at least among working class refugees. Cambodian immigrants to the United States who fled genocide and now experience trauma symptoms often experience worry-induced panic attacks, says a team led by psychiatrist Devon Hinton of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “Worry attacks” spark and inflame PTSD symptoms such as traumatic memory flashbacks, a sense of impending doom and startle reactions to sudden noises, Hinton and his colleagues report in an upcoming Social Science and Medicine. The current clinical definition of PTSD doesn’t include worry attacks. —Bruce Bower

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