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Materialism a predicting factor for how people cope with stress

The more materialistic people are, the more they will go on shopping sprees when exposed to trauma, according to researchers at the University of Haifa who studied residents of the southern development town of Sderot when it was exposed to rocket and missile fire from Gaza terrorists. Prof. Eli Somer, who led the study, along with researchers from Temple University in Philadelphia, found that emotional stress and pressure is relieved in materialistic people by buying things they don’t need but want to show off with. “The problem is that instead of reducing the stress, it actually intensifies it in materialistic people. Long-term exposure to stress like what faced the people of Sderot causes people to try to cope in various ways.

Recently, it was suggested that one way is by making purchases. Some researchers thought this would relieve stress, while others thought it would intensify it.” Together with Dr. Ayala Rubio of Temple University, Somer investigated the influence of traumatic threats and how much people cared about property and goods.

They queried 139 residents of the southern town who had been exposed to the fire from Gaza and a control group of 187 people from another Israeli city who had not been exposed to danger. They were also asked about their shopping habits, stress levels, materialism and other ways they used to relieve stress. The researchers found that continuous exposure to danger caused Sderot residents in general to show a higher level of consumption. They spent more of their time ordering goods from stores and via the Internet, and they spent more on their purchases.

In addition, materialistic people who try to cope with danger had a higher level of purchasing when the rockets fell than did their less-materialistic counterparts, who found more solace and help in people rather than goods. While lower-income residents purchased somewhat more just to “change the atmosphere” or “escape” reality, materialistic people spent extravagantly to improve their mood – but the goods they purchased lowered their morale rather than elevated it, the researchers found.

They also discovered that materialistic people exposed to continual stress avoid sharing their problems with others and try to “control their destiny” by going out to shop. The level of a person’s materialism is thus a predicting factor for their ability to cope with trauma.


Traffic noise upsets not only people; it can also distress wildlife, especially birds. A firstof- its-kind study by researchers at Boise State University in Idaho documents this problem. Biologists have known for some time that bird populations decline near roads, but pinpointing noise as a cause has been a problem because past studies were conducted in the presence of the other confounding effects of roads. These include visual disturbances, collisions and chemical pollution, among others.

“We present the first study to experimentally apply traffic noise to a roadless area at a landscape scale, thus avoiding the other confounding aspects of roads present in past studies,” said Dr. Christopher McClure, of the department of biological sciences. “Understanding the effects of road noise can help wildlife managers in the selection, conservation and management of habitat for birds,” added Prof. Jesse Barber, who also participated in the study.

Researchers created a phantom road on a ridge southeast of Lucky Peak, near the Idaho Bird Observatory’s field site. Putting speakers in trees, they played roadway sounds at intervals, alternating four days of noise on with four days off during the autumn migratory period. The researchers conducted daily bird surveys along their phantom road and at a nearby control site.

“We documented more than a one-quarter decline in bird abundance and almost complete avoidance by some species between noise-on and noiseoff periods along the phantom road,” Barber said. “There were no such effects at control sites. This suggests that traffic noise is a major driver of the effects of roads on populations of animals.” The findings were recently published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.


A clinical study has demonstrated the feasibility of using an innovative, live 3-D holographic visualization and interaction technology to guide minimally-invasive structural heart disease procedures. Royal Philips and RealView Imaging Ltd. said they have completed the pilot study on eight patients in collaboration with the Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Petah Tikva.

In addition to viewing the patient’s heart on a 2-D screen, doctors in the interventional team were able to view detailed, dynamic 3-D holographic images of the heart “floating in free space” during a minimally- invasive, structural heart disease procedure, without using special vision equipment. The doctors were also able to manipulate the projected 3D heart structures by literally touching the holographic volumes in front of them. The study demonstrated the potential of the technology to enhance the context and guidance of structural heart repairs.

“The holographic projections enabled me to intuitively understand and interrogate the 3-D spatial anatomy of the patient’s heart, as well as to navigate and appreciate the device-tissue interaction during the procedure,” said Dr. Einat Birk, pediatric cardiologist and director of the institute.