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Research Notes headline

International Study Examines Popular Trend Changes

Anthropology Associate Professor Carl Lipo, along with faculty at Durham University, England, as well as Western Carolina University and Indiana University, have shown that popular trends such as fashion, music or names are nothing more than a result of people randomly copying each other.

The article titled “Regular rates of popular culture change reflect random copying” appears in the May issue of the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. It shows that cultural ideas do not necessarily become fashionable because they have some particular merit or function that helps them to thrive in a particular society, but simply spread by random copying, which has a predictable turnover rate.

Lipo, who also is a researcher at CSULB’s Institute for Integrated Research on Materials, Environments and Society (IIRMES), said that the results demonstrate how relatively simple models can be used to explain remarkably complex phenomena.

The theory of “random drift” in cultural or consumer trends assumes that a small number of “innovators” generate new ideas, while the majority of the population copy ideas randomly from other people. Copying continually lifts a tiny fraction of new ideas from obscurity into outstanding popularity. What the trend will be cannot be predicted—it is completely random.

Researchers to Examine Motor Learning Across Different Ages

Three CSULB researchers have been awarded a four-year, $875,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct research and testing on motor capabilities with a focus on the elderly.

Titled “Age-dependent Changes in Motor Learning Capabilities,” the study will focus on methods for teaching motor learning and motor control, which predict that learning and retention will be more robust when practice requires higher levels of cognitive processing.

Principal investigator Michael J. Cohen, a volunteer faculty member in CSULB’s Department of Kinesiology, along with co-investigators Michael G. Lacourse, associate dean of the College of Health and Human Services, and Douglas E. Young, professor of kinesiology, will oversee the project.

The proposed research will compare learning of a new motor skill (lever aiming task) across four age groups under conditions of blocked (static) or random (dynamic practice) along with conditions of constant or limited knowledge of results. “These learning methods have been successful in many motor learning situations—laboratory-based, sports-based, rehabilitation-based—and it’s also shown to be successful in other areas such as verbal learning,” Cohen said. “So, it’s being used more and more and it appears to be a very effective way to teach motor skills and for rehabilitation compared to giving someone the same moves over and over and followed by immediate feedback after every trial.”

Two experiments will look at how well individuals learn, retain and transfer skills over several days, while another experiment will use magnetic resonance imaging to examine whether individuals can compensate for the loss of both motor control and cognitive function by recruiting other relevant brain areas.