Insights: News

The latest news on Daylight Savings, pornography and politics.

By Vanessa Pinto, Hara Estroff Marano, Karina Martinez-Carter, published on March 15, 2011 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

The Downside of Daylight Savings

Springing ahead may make us fall behind.

Daylight savings time begins March 16, and most of us lose an hour of sleep. But there may be more at stake than some Zs: The cyclical disruption to circadian rhythms, minor as it seems, actually hampers long-term intelligence.

Researchers in Indiana (where only a few counties observe the time change) looked at 10 years of SAT scores in public high schools across the state, and found that DST-observing counties had average scores 16 points lower than those of the counties that don't spring ahead.

The findings, reported in the Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, don't reflect short-term fogginess after a time change, as the test is offered seven times a year. Rather, researchers blame thrown-off circadian rhythms and attendant disruption in melatonin function, which indirectly tax the body and brain.

Because the SAT tests aptitude, investigators cautiously suggest DST observance leads to brain damage. "Two points would be major," says Notre Dame researcher John Gaski. "Sixteen is staggering." —Vanessa Pinto

Sex Post Facto

Does the easy reach of porn protect kids against sex crimes?

Sexual abuse of children declined 5 percent between 2008 and 2009. The drop not only continues a trend dating from 1992, it defies expectations that crime rates rise during economic setbacks.

Many factors contributed to the decline, reports sociologist David Finkelhor, head of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. "A huge amount of criminal justice activity" deters other offenders, and awareness campaigns have alerted the public to the danger (even if many parents overreact in curtailing kids' activities).

But Finkelhor thinks the biggest cause of the drop may be the availability of SSRI antidepressants, the first of which, Prozac, was released in the U.S. in 1988. "There's been tremendous growth in the percentage of the population taking such agents," he says. "They decrease sexual interest, and most are prescribed by family physicians." Sexual abuse of kids, he says, is often engaged in by those with psychiatric problems; they may be using kids as an outlet.

Sexuality researcher Milton Diamond at the University of Hawaii cites another factor: the accessibility of pornography. Diamond tracked sex crimes in the Czech Republic before and after laws decriminalized sexually explicit material, including kiddie porn (which can be created digitally). "Cases of child sex abuse immediately dropped markedly," he reports in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. By encouraging "the simple expedient of masturbation," porn keeps children from being used as "substitute subjects," he says.

But sex crimes against children were declining in the Czech Republic before porn legalization, says Finkelhor. Many who commit these crimes possess kiddie porn, "but we don't know whether that plays a role or reflects the same predilection." —Hara Estroff Marano

In the Red, White, And Blue

Political involvement boosts bottom lines.

Managers and bosses looking to raise their firms' bottom line should consider getting political. As a company's political activity (e.g., lobbying and funding campaigns) increases, so do profits, indicates a meta-analysis in the Journal of Management.

The traditional view: Politically active corporations develop government relationships that lead to financial advantages. "I can't say whether they're getting unfair benefits or if they're just doing good business and getting involved in politics," observes University of South Florida researcher Sean Lux.

The Supreme Court lifted corporate limits on campaign spending in January 2010—so expect upticks in requests to chip in to your employer's Political Action Committee, Lux says. —Karina Martinez-Carter