Research Roundup: Coronavirus misconceptions, ‘baby talk,’ young adults vaping

March 25, 2020, 11:44 a.m.

Each week, The Daily’s Science & Tech section produces a roundup of the most exciting and influential research happening on campus or otherwise related to Stanford. Here’s our digest for the week of March 15 – March 21.

Coronavirus myths widespread among general public

Beliefs about coronavirus driven by misinformation are prevalent, according to a study published on March 20 in “Annals of Internal Medicine.”

Misconceptions include the beliefs that common surgical masks are “highly effective” in protecting one from the virus, that one can get infected by the virus from receiving packages originating from China and that children who get infected are at an increased risk of death.

The online survey contains 22 questions and was administered to 6,000 participants in the U.S. and the U.K.

“This was a cheap and quick way of getting at least a sense of what knowledge and perceptions the public has about the coronavirus,” Pascal Geldsetzer, an instructor of medicine, told Stanford Medicine’s blog SCOPE.

The findings suggest that 90% of survey participants understand that washing one’s hands, avoiding close contact with sick people and avoiding touching one’s eyes, ear, mouth and nose are all effective at preventing viral infection.

“The results weren’t all bad,” Geldsetzer told SCOPE. “The survey also showed that people generally had good knowledge of the symptoms of COVID-19 and generally understood the main mode of transmission.”

Babies enjoy when adults engage in ‘baby talk’

Babies universally enjoy when adults engage in high-pitched “baby talk” with them, according to a study published on March 16 in “Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science.”

“We think babies’ preferences probably come partly from their experience with baby talk at home, but also partly because more melodic speech just sounds nicer to them,” psychology associate professor Michael Frank told Stanford News.

The study was conducted with 2,329 babies across 16 countries, ranging in age from 3 to 15 months, with an average age of 9 months. Researchers collaborated in labs across North America, Europe, Australia and Asia. According to researchers, babies in Africa and South America will soon be included in the study.

“Often parents are discouraged from using baby talk by well-meaning friends or even health professionals,” Frank told Stanford News. “But the evidence suggests that it’s actually a great way to engage with your baby because babies just like it — it tells them, ‘This speech is meant for you!’”

Young adults and nicotine vape products

Young adults who use vape products do not know how much nicotine is contained in their vaping products, according to a study published on March 16 in “Journal of Adolescent Health.”

“If we asked how many milligrams of nicotine are in a Juul pod, for example, we found the answers were all over the place,” pediatrics professor Bonnie Halpern-Felsher told Stanford Medicine News. “The Juul and other pod-based e-cigarette packaging is so confusing and misleading. The packaging should be regulated.”

The researchers surveyed 445 participants aged from 17 to 24 years old. They found that 58% of teens use pod-based e-cigarettes because they were easy to hide. And 55.6% of pod users indicated that the smell vape products produce is less noticeable than other e-cigarettes.

“Teens are not using these pod-based products more than other e-cigarettes because of health or the flavors offered,” Halpern-Felsher told Stanford Medicine News. “They tell us, ‘It’s because we can hide these, and the smell produced is less obvious.’ This ability to ‘stealth use’ is concerning.”

“I really hope these findings will be used to further regulate e-cigarettes,” she added.

Contact Derek Chen at derekc8 ‘at’

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