Plants ‘talk’ to plants to help them grow

Contact: Hilary Glover hilary.glover@biomedcentral.com 44-020-319-22370 BioMed Central

Having a neighborly chat improves seed germination, finds research in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Ecology. Even when other known means of communication, such as contact, chemical and light-mediated signals, are blocked chilli seeds grow better when grown with basil plants. This suggests that plants are talking via nanomechanical vibrations.

Monica Gagliano and Michael Renton from the University of Western Australia attempted to grow chilli seeds (Capsicum annuum) in the presence or absence of other chilli plants, or basil (Ocimum basilicum). In the absence of a neighboring plant, germination rates were very low, but when the plants were able to openly communicate with the seeds more seedlings grew.

However when the seeds were separated from the basil plants with black plastic, so that they could not be influenced by either light or chemical signals, they germinated as though they could still communicate with  the basil. A partial response was seen for fully grown chilli plants blocked from known communication with the seeds.

Dr Gagliano explained, “Our results show that plants are able to positively influence growth of seeds by some as yet unknown mechanism. Bad neighbors, such as fennel, prevent chilli seed germination in the same way. We believe that the answer may involve acoustic signals generated using nanomechanical oscillations from inside the cell which allow rapid communication between nearby plants.”

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Media Contact

Dr Hilary Glover Scientific Press Officer, BioMed Central Mob: +44 (0) 778 698 1967

Notes to Editors

1. Love thy neighbour: facilitation through an alternative signalling modality in plants Monica Gagliano and Michael Renton BMC Ecology (in press)

Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central’s open access policy.

2. BMC Ecology is an open access, peer-reviewed journal that considers articles on environmental, behavioral and population ecology as well as biodiversity of plants, animals and microbes.

3. BioMed Central is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector. @BioMedCentral

Psychological Science in the Public Interest claims those that question popular belief lack cognitive effort: Recommends “debiasing” Campaigns

Engineering Evil: A very entertaining article in the venue of double speak. To question scientific conformity is to be in question yourself. ūüėČ

PRESS RELEASE

September 19, 2012  For Immediate Release

Contact:   Anna Mikulak   Association for Psychological Science   202.293.9300 amikulak@psychologicalscience.org

Misinformation: Psychological Science Shows Why It Sticks and How to Fix It

Childhood vaccines do not cause autism. Barack Obama was born in the United States. Global warming is confirmed by science.  And yet, many people believe claims to the contrary.

Why does that kind of misinformation stick? A new report published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, explores this phenomenon. Psychological scientist Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Western Australia and colleagues highlight the cognitive factors that make certain pieces of misinformation so ‚Äústicky‚ÄĚ and identify some techniques that may be effective in debunking or counteracting erroneous beliefs.

The main reason that misinformation is sticky, according to the researchers, is that rejecting information actually requires cognitive effort. Weighing the plausibility and the source of a message is cognitively more difficult than simply accepting that the message is true ‚Äď it requires additional motivational and cognitive resources. If the topic isn‚Äôt very important to you or you have other things on your mind, misinformation is more likely to take hold.

And when we do take the time to thoughtfully evaluate incoming information, there are only a few features that we are likely to pay attention to: Does the information fit with other things I believe in? Does it make a coherent story with what I already know? Does it come from a credible source? Do others believe it?

Misinformation is especially sticky when it conforms to our preexisting political, religious, or social point of view. Because of this, ideology and personal worldviews can be especially difficult obstacles to overcome.

Even worse, efforts to retract misinformation often backfire, paradoxically amplifying the effect of the erroneous belief.

‚ÄúThis persistence of misinformation has fairly alarming implications in a democracy because people may base decisions on information that, at some level, they know to be false,‚ÄĚ says Lewandowsky.

‚ÄúAt an individual level, misinformation about health issues‚ÄĒfor example, unwarranted fears regarding vaccinations or unwarranted trust in alternative medicine‚ÄĒcan do a lot of damage. At a societal level, persistent misinformation about political issues (e.g., Obama‚Äôs health care reform) can create considerable harm. On a global scale, misinformation about climate change is currently delaying mitigative action.‚ÄĚ

Though misinformation may be difficult to correct, all is not lost. According to Lewandowsky, ‚Äúpsychological science has the potential to counteract all those harms by educating people and communicators about the power of misinformation and how to meet it.‚ÄĚ

In their report, Lewandowsky and colleagues offer some strategies for setting the record straight.

  • Provide people with a narrative that replaces the gap left by false information
  • Focus on the facts you want to highlight, rather than the myths
  • Make sure that the information you want people to take away is simple and brief
  • Consider your audience and the beliefs they are likely to hold
  • Strengthen your message through repetition

Research has shown that attempts at ‚Äúdebiasing‚ÄĚ can be effective in the real world when based on these evidence-based strategies.

The report, ‚ÄúMisinformation and its Correction: Continued Influence and Successful Debiasing,‚ÄĚ is published in the September issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest and is written by Stephan Lewandowsky and Ullrich Ecker of the University of Western Australia, Colleen Seifert and Norbert Schwarz of the University of Michigan, and John Cook of the University of Queensland and the University of Western Australia.

The report also features a commentary written by Edward Maibach of George Mason University.

The full report and the accompanying commentary are available free online.

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For more information about this study, please contact: Stephan Lewandowsky at stephan.lewandowsky@uwa.edu.au.

Psychological Science in the Public Interest is a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. It publishes an eclectic mix of thought-provoking articles on the latest important advances in psychology. For a copy of the article “Misinformation and Its Correction: Continued Influence and Successful Debiasing” and access to other Psychological Science in the Public Interest research findings,¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† please contact Anna Mikulak at 202-293-9300 or amikulak@psychologicalscience.org.