Data Points

By Zachary Block '99 / March / April 2004
June 15th, 2007

The Meaning of Fat

Are women punished for being overweight? That’s the hypothesis of a new study that links obesity in retirement-age women to lower net worth. Fat men of the same age were more likely to be wealthy than lean men of a similar age, according to the study in the January Research on Aging. “In this cohort of men, higher body mass might be a resource itself in the accumulation of wealth … and/or an outcome of success,” the researchers, including Brown medical student Laura Wheeler, write. “In this cohort of women, however, higher body mass might be a symbol of weakness and/or social undesirability and thereby might limit access to means of accumulation of wealth.”

Proust Was Right

It wasn’t the sight of his beloved madeleine but its smell that sent Proust reeling back to his childhood. Now a group of Brown scientists, led by Assistant Visiting Professor of Psychology Rachel Herz, has documented neurological evidence of odor’s emotional power. Writing in a recent issue of Neuropsychologia, the researchers found significantly greater activity in two regions of the brain associated with emotion and memory when a group of women was exposed to personally significant odors than when the women were presented with related visual cues or other scents. The experiment involved five women who attached positive memories to the sight and scent of a specific perfume.


Remember the Y2K scare? Some people reacted to the end of the twentieth century by building shelters and stocking up on food, while others did … nothing. According to a study of Y2K attitudes conducted by former Brown postdoc Benjamin Rodriguez and colleagues at the Catholic University of America, women were much more likely than men to both express anxiety over Y2K-related problems and prepare for potential calamities. “It might have something to do with women’s perceptions of societal responsibility,” says Rodriguez, who is now an assistant professor at Southern Illinois University. “Women [are socialized to] have more things to be concerned about, taking care of their families, taking care of their homes.” The results were published in the January Computers in Human Behavior.

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March / April 2004