By Lydialyle Gibson
Photography by iStockphoto

Hands to words

More gestures may mean shorter language delays for brain-injured children.

For children with brain injuries who may be slow to develop language, gestures seem to be a call for help. Chicago psychologists Susan Goldin-Meadow and Susan Levine and psychology PhD student Eve Sauer followed the progress of 11 toddlers who’d suffered brain lesions in the womb or during birth. At 18 months, eight of the children had very low vocabulary development; four months later, only five children— the same five who made the fewest gestures—were still delayed. As a group, the 11 produced at least as many gestures as typical toddlers. Publishing their findings in the March Child Development, the researchers suggested that children with language difficulties may use gestures to signal that they need help. Encouraging more gestures, the researchers said, may help speed language development.

Financial regulators out-regulated

In uncovering corporate fraud, the Securities and Exchange Commission turns out to be a bit player on a crowded stage, and employee whistle-blowers are more than twice as likely as SEC regulators to bring company wrongdoing to light. Studying 216 corporate fraud cases from 1999 through 2004—among them Enron, WorldCom, and HealthSouth—Chicago Booth researchers Adair Morse and Luigi Zingales found a “wide range of often improbable actors,” motivated in part by the money they stood to gain or lose. In 14.5 percent of the cases, short-sellers uncovered the fraud; analysts in 13.8 percent; and the media in 13.2 percent. Employees ranked first, at 17.1 percent. The SEC, meanwhile, detected the fraud in only 6.6 percent of cases. With coauthor Alexander Dyck, a University of Toronto economist, Morse and Zingales will publish their findings in a forthcoming Journal of Finance.

Patient-care baton dropped

The patient hand-off from one physician to another during hospital shift changes doesn’t always—or even usually—go as smoothly as those physicians imagine. More often than not, important information gets left out or misunderstood. In a study in the March Pediatrics, Medical Center internist Vineet Arora, AM’03; Chicago psychologist Boaz Keysar; psychology PhD student Shiri Lev-Ari; and Berkeley medical anthropologist Michael D’Arcy, AB’07, observed hand-offs between first-year residents at Comer Children’s Hospital after the overnight shift. Sixty percent of the time, information that the outgoing intern identified as the most important wasn’t communicated, nor were the rationales for medical decisions. Yet interns on both sides of the conversation gave the hand-offs high marks, overestimating the quality of their communication. The researchers suggested that to-do items and if-then advice were more effective communication tactics, and they also warned about the consequences of further shortening intern hours: more hand-offs mean less fatigue but perhaps more misunderstandings.

Birth of federalism

Federalism is everywhere and nowhere in American legal and political history,” writes Law School assistant professor Alison LaCroix in the introduction to The Ideological Origins of American Federalism (Harvard University Press, 2010). Historians celebrate the founders for establishing a political framework that divided authority between federal and state governments, but “the precise circumstances of federalism’s birth remain obscure.” Here LaCroix traces it to 18th-century colonial assemblies. To colonists, the notion of a multilayered government—one imperial, the other provincial—seemed uncontroversial. The British Empire disagreed, insisting there was only one supreme legislative authority. As colonists struggled to divide political power without running afoul of Parliament, federalism emerged as a “normative vision.” Challenging traditional historical accounts, LaCroix claims that federalism’s roots were ideological more than institutional: it was “not a necessary adaptation to make an already designed system work; it was the system.”


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