What Does Your Voice Say about You?

Everyone has at some point been charmed by the sound of a person’s voice: but can we believe our ears? What can a voice really reveal about our character? Now an international research team led by the University of Göttingen has shown that people seem to express at least some aspects of their personality with their voice. The researchers discovered that a lower pitched voice is associated with individuals who are more dominant, extrovert and higher in sociosexuality (more interested in casual sex). The findings were true for women as well as for men. The results were published in the Journal of Research in Personality.

The researchers analysed data from over 2,000 participants and included information from four different countries. Participants filled in questionnaires about themselves to measure personality and provided recordings of their voice so that the pitch could be measured using a computer programme. This is the first time that an objective digital measure of voice pitch has been used in a study of this kind, rather than subjective ratings of how “high” or “deep” a voice might sound. The researchers measured “sociosexuality” by collecting responses about sexual behaviour, attitude and desire. They also collected data to provide ratings of dominance and other character traits such as neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness. The number of participants helps to confirm the robustness of the findings: the study involves the largest number to date compared to similar research in this theme.

The researchers found that people with lower pitched voices were more dominant, extroverted and higher in sociosexuality (eg were more interested in sex outside a relationship). However, the relationship between voice pitch and other personality traits (such as agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness or openness) seems less clear. It is possible that these traits are not expressed in the pitch of voices. The researchers found no difference between men and women.

“People’s voices can make a huge and immediate impression on us,” explains Dr Julia Stern, at the University of Göttingen’s Biological Personality Psychology Group. “Even if we just hear someone’s voice without any visual clues – for instance on the phone – we know pretty soon whether we’re talking to a man, a woman, a child or an older person. We can pick up on whether the person sounds interested, friendly, sad, nervous, or whether they have an attractive voice. We also start to make assumptions about trust and dominance.” This led Stern to question whether these assumptions were justified. “The first step was to investigate whether voices are, indeed, related to people’s personality. And our results suggest that people do seem to express some aspects of their personality with their voice.”

Source: Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

Israeli Company Plans to Produce Cultivated Fat, Whole Steaks at Its Forthcoming Pilot Facility

Jennifer Marston wrote . . . . . . . . .

Bioprinting startup MeaTech 3D this week became the latest cultivated meat company to announce a pilot production facility, which the company intends to have operational in 2022. The plant’s location is yet to be announced. MeaTech said they will use the facility to increase the production of cultured chicken fat from Peace of Meat, a Belgian company MeaTech acquired in December of 2020.

MeaTech says cultured fat can “significantly enhance” the texture, flavor, and mouthfeel of plant-based meat alternatives, giving them an altogether “meatier” taste than is available with current plant-based meat analogues. MeaTech said in this week’s announcement that it plans to license its cultivated fat tech — including cell lines and bioprocesses — to other companies wishing to improve their plant-based products.

However, cultivated fat is only one part of MeaTech’s overall plan. In tandem, the company will continue to develop a process for whole cuts of cultivated meat — namely steak and chicken breast — using 3D bioprinting tech.

Developing full cuts of cultivated meat is far more difficult than making minced products for burgers or chicken bites. With full cuts of meat, the various cells, including those for muscle, fat, blood vessels, and connective tissue, have to grow together, on scaffolding, to achieve the desired cut of meat. This is a significantly more intricate process than simply growing the different cells then manually combining them at the end, as can be done for a patty or nugget.

Aleph Farms, also based in Israel, is the other notable company attempting to produce whole cuts of cultivated meat. Earlier this year, the company said they had developed a 3D bioprinted Ribeye steak from cultivated protein.

So far, MeaTech has printed a carpaccio-like layer of meat. A full steak or chicken breast is in all likelihood years away. While the forthcoming pilot production facility will first be used to scale up production of Peace of Meat’s cultured fat, it will eventually incorporate MeaTech’s bioprinting tech to produce the aforementioned whole cuts of meat.

Source: The Spoon

The Science of Picky Shoppers

Katie Bohn wrote . . . . . . . . .

There are hard-to-please customers in almost every industry, with certain people being picky about which clothes, houses and even romantic partners they will consider.

A new series of studies has found that shopper pickiness can go beyond shopping for the “best” option. The researchers define what it means to be “picky” and also developed a scale for measuring shopper pickiness.

Margaret Meloy, department chair and professor of marketing at Penn State, said the findings could help companies devise the best strategies for satisfying their pickier customers.

“If a company knows they have a lot of picky customers, they may need to change the way they reward salespeople or dedicate specific salespeople to their pickiest customers, because picky shoppers have very narrow preferences and they see perceived flaws in products others wouldn’t notice,” Meloy said. “Alternatively, a company may allow picky shoppers to customize their products to satisfy their idiosyncratic preferences. It’s not just about offering the best products, but offering the products that are best for the picky customers.”

Meloy added that even the most robust promotional strategies, like offering a free gift with purchase, may fail with picky customers.

Previous research has found that about 40% of people have family or friends they would consider “picky,” suggesting the trait is common. The researchers said it might be helpful for retailers to have a better understanding of what being “picky” means for their customer base, and what those customers may need from a product or shopping experience.

Meloy said that while pickiness affects a customer’s shopping habits and therefore affects a company’s business, there hasn’t been much research done on defining pickiness or investigating how it influences a customer’s behavior.

“In marketing, we call customers who want the absolute best version of a product ‘maximizers,’” Meloy said. “But with picky customers, the best is more idiosyncratic. For them, it might not be about getting the best quality, but getting the precise version of a product they have in their head — a shirt in a very precise shade of black, for example. We wanted to explore this a bit more.”

For the paper — recently published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology — the researchers performed a series of studies to create a scale for measuring shopper pickiness and to identify the consequences of that pickiness on customer behavior.

The first series of studies focused on developing the scale. The researchers said they created a series of questions that would help uncover the psychological dimensions of pickiness while also avoiding using the word “picky,” since the word tends to have negative connotations. Once the researchers were confident the scale accurately measured pickiness, they conducted additional studies to examine the possible consequences of pickiness.

The researchers found that people who scored higher on the picky shopper scale tend to have a small window of what they consider acceptable, which the researchers described as having a small latitude of acceptance and a wide latitude for rejection. These shoppers were more likely to reject a free gift when offered as a thank you for participating in a survey.

“This may seem irrational to some people who may not understand why a person would reject things that come at no cost,” said Andong Cheng, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Delaware who earned her doctorate at Penn State. “We speculate that it could be psychologically costly for picky shoppers to take free items that they don’t like because possessing these items is a source of irritation for these individuals.”

Additionally, the researchers found that picky people didn’t change their opinions based on a product’s popularity. When they were informed that their top choice of a product was less popular than other options, people who scored high on the picky scale weren’t swayed by that information. They stuck with their original selection.

Meloy said the results support the theory that being picky is a general personality trait that isn’t just present in one situation or area of a person’s life.

“We looked at a range of contexts to see whether being picky in one domain meant you were likely to be picky in others,” Meloy said. “Sure enough, individuals who were picky in one domain were picky in other domains. For example, if you tend to be picky while shopping for groceries, you’ll probably be picky shopping for clothes, as well.”

Meloy said the findings also illustrate the importance of a company understanding and tailoring their business practices to their customer base.

“If you know you have a lot of picky customers, you might not want to bother with offering free products or promoting products by saying how popular they are with other people,” Meloy said. “It’s just not going to work as well with picky customers. These companies will need to come up with strategies that give customers more control to better align their idiosyncratic preferences with the company’s offerings.”

Source: The Pennsylvania State University

Reducing Blue Light with a New Type of LED that Won’t Keep You Up All Night

To be more energy efficient, many people have replaced their incandescent lights with light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. However, those currently on the market emit a lot of blue light, which has been linked to eye troubles and sleep disturbances.

Now, researchers reporting in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces have developed a prototype LED that reduces — instead of masks — the blue component, while also making colors appear just as they do in natural sunlight.

LED light bulbs are popular because of their low energy consumption, long lifespan and ability to turn on and off quickly. Inside the bulb, an LED chip converts electrical current into high-energy light, including invisible ultraviolet (UV), violet or blue wavelengths. A cap that is placed on the chip contains multiple phosphors — solid luminescent compounds that convert high-energy light into lower-energy visible wavelengths. Each phosphor emits a different color, and these colors combine to produce a broad-spectrum white light.

Commercial LED bulbs use blue LEDs and yellow-emitting phosphors, which appear as a cold, bright white light similar to daylight. Continual exposure to these blue-tinted lights has been linked to cataract formation, and turning them on in the evening can disrupt the production of sleep-inducing hormones, such as melatonin, triggering insomnia and fatigue.

To create a warmer white LED bulb for nighttime use, previous researchers added red-emitting phosphors, but this only masked the blue hue without getting rid of it.

So, Jakoah Brgoch and Shruti Hariyani wanted to develop a phosphor that, when used in a violet LED device, would result in a warm white light while avoiding the problematic wavelength range.

As a proof of concept, the researchers identified and synthesized a new luminescent crystalline phosphor containing europium ((Na1.92Eu0.04)MgPO4F). In thermal stability tests, the phosphor’s emission color was consistent between room temperature and the higher operating temperature (301 F) of commercial LED-based lighting.

In long-term moisture experiments, the compound showed no change in the color or intensity of light produced. To see how the material might work in a light bulb, the researchers fabricated a prototype device with a violet-light LED covered by a silicone cap containing their luminescent blue compound blended with red-emitting and green-emitting phosphors. It produced the desired bright warm white light while minimizing the intensity across blue wavelengths, unlike commercial LED light bulbs.

The prototype’s optical properties revealed the color of objects almost as well as natural sunlight, fulfilling the needs of indoor lighting, the researchers say, though they add that more work needs to be done before it is ready for everyday use.

Source: American Chemical Society

Two Compounds Can Make Chocolate Smell Musty and Moldy

Chocolate is a beloved treat, but sometimes the cocoa beans that go into bars and other sweets have unpleasant flavors or scents, making the final products taste bad. Surprisingly, only a few compounds associated with these stinky odors are known. Now, researchers reporting in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry have identified the two compounds that cause musty, moldy scents in cocoa — work that can help chocolatiers ensure the quality of their products.

Cocoa beans, when fermented correctly, have a pleasant smell with sweet and floral notes. But they can have an off-putting scent when fermentation goes wrong, or when storage conditions aren’t quite right and microorganisms grow on them. If these beans make their way into the manufacturing process, the final chocolate can smell unpleasant, leading to consumer complaints and recalls.

So, sensory professionals smell fermented cocoa beans before they are roasted, detecting any unwanted musty, moldy, smoky or mushroom-like odors. Even with this testing in place, spoiled beans can evade human noses and ruin batches of chocolate, so a more objective assessment is needed for quality control.

In previous studies, researchers used molecular techniques to identify the compounds that contribute to undesirable smoky flavors, but a similar method has not clarified other volatile scent compounds. So, Martin Steinhaus and colleagues wanted to determine the principal compounds that cause musty and moldy odors in tainted cocoa beans.

The researchers identified 57 molecules that made up the scent profiles of both normal and musty/moldy smelling cocoa beans using gas chromatography in combination with olfactometry and mass spectrometry. Of these compounds, four had higher concentrations in off-smelling samples. Then, these four compounds were spiked into unscented cocoa butter, and the researchers conducted smell tests with 15-20 participants.

By comparing the results of these tests with the molecular content of nine samples of unpleasant fermented cocoa beans and cocoa liquors, the team determined that (–)-geosmin — associated with moldy and beetroot odors — and 3-methyl-1H-indole — associated with fecal and mothball odors — are the primary contributors to the musty and moldy scents of cocoa beans. Finally, they found that (–)-geosmin was mostly in the beans’ shells, which are removed during processing, while 3-methyl-1H-indole was primarily in the bean nib that is manufactured into chocolate.

The researchers say that measuring the amount of these compounds within cocoa beans could be an objective way to detect off-putting scents and flavors, keeping future batches of chocolate smelling sweet.

Source: American Chemical Society