sealPurdue Lifestyles Briefs

February 1999

Purdue study finds physical jitters give away fear

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A copy of the study "The Repressive Coping Style and Fright Reactions to Mass Media" is available from Glenn Sparks at (765) 494-3316, e-mail,

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Who's afraid? Check your pulse before you say.

In a study of reactions to a scary movie, Purdue University communication researchers found that some people will tell you that they were not frightened, but physical measures indicate otherwise. Communication Professor Glenn Sparks says the people who reported some of the lowest levels of fear may have been the most frightened.

Those persons most likely to give a conflicting report are what researchers call "repressive copers." They repress negative emotions as a way of dealing with unpleasant circumstances.

In the study, 59 students were individually shown segments of the suspense movie "When a Stranger Calls." Their physical arousal was recorded at specific intervals by body sensors monitored by a computer. Afterwards, students were asked to rate their fear on a scale of 0 to 9. Previous psychological tests indicated that 30 of the students were repressors, and 29 were non-repressors.

The study revealed that repressors were likely to rate their level of fear during the film as low, but the physical measures for them were 2 to 3 times greater than those of non-repressors.

"It could be that because they successfully repress emotions, these persons are not aware of their true reactions," Sparks says. "It's also possible that repressors are aware of their negative emotional reactions but simply choose to deny them to others."

Although this study looked at young adults, Sparks says some children may use the same coping method. He says parents often are advised to talk with their children about frightening situations on television or in movies. "If a child uses the repressive coping style, then just talking to him might not reveal his true emotional reaction," Sparks says.

Sparks suggests that if children view suspenseful programs and movies, then parents should watch with them and gauge their children's fear based on physical reactions. "If the child says he's fine, but looks scared, then you probably ought to find something else for him to watch," he says.

The study has been accepted for publication in the journal Communication Research.

CONTACT: Sparks, (765) 494-3316; e-mail,

Study finds how green tea may prevent cancer

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Green tea, long associated with good health, has new scientific evidence to back its claim.

Purdue University researchers Dorothy Morre and D. James Morre (pronounced MORE-aye) found that EGCg, a compound in green tea, inhibits an enzyme required for cancer cell growth and can kill cultured cancer cells with no ill effect on healthy cells.

"Our research shows that green tea leaves are rich in this anti-cancer compound, with concentrations high enough to induce anti-cancer effects in the body," says Dorothy Morre, professor of foods and nutrition in Purdue's School of Consumer and Family Sciences.

The findings suggest that drinking more than four cups of green tea a day could provide enough of the active compound to slow and prevent the growth of cancer cells, she says.

Although all teas come from the same botanical source, green tea differs from black tea or other teas because of the way the tea leaves are processed after they are picked. For black tea, freshly picked leaves are "withered" indoors and allowed to oxidize. With green tea, the leaves are not oxidized, but are steamed and parched to better preserve the natural active substances of the leaf.

Epidemiologists have found that people who drink more than four cups a day of green tea seem to have a lower overall risk of cancer, but scientists were unsure how the tea produced these effects. This research is the first scientific evidence to explain precisely how EGCg works within a cell to ward off cancer.

Morre and her husband, who is the Dow Distinguished Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Purdue, show in their independent study how green tea interferes with an enzyme that's necessary for the growth of many types of cancer cells, including breast, prostate, colon and neuroblastoma.

The results were presented in December at the 38th annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology in San Francisco.

CONTACT: Dorothy Morre, (765) 494-8233; e-mail,, or James Morre, (765) 494-1388; e-mail,

Goldberg contestants 'tee up' in 1999

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Video and photographs of past contests are available. Journalists will not be allowed on the stage with the machines during the competition, but they are welcome on stage before and after the contest. Purdue will provide video and photo pool coverage and direct audio and video feeds. An ISDN line is available for radio interviews. Video b-roll, photos and a news release will be available the afternoon of the event. Satellite assistance is available. If you have questions, call Grady Jones, Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2079; e-mail,

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue University students will be adding a new hazard to the game of golf in the 17th annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest on Feb. 13.

The competition honors the late cartoonist Rube Goldberg, who specialized in drawing whimsical machines with complex mechanisms to perform simple tasks. Each year, Purdue students are challenged to build actual working machines that Goldberg himself might have dreamed up. The everyday task for 1999 is to tee up a golf ball. Previous contests have asked students to make a cup of coffee, put a stamp on an envelope and screw in a light bulb -- in 20 or more steps.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held at 11 a.m. in Purdue's Elliott Hall of Music. The winner of the competition will represent the university at the National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, to be held at Purdue on April 10.

Students will build their machines by combining the principles of physics and engineering with common objects, such as marbles, mouse traps, bicycle gears, small kitchen appliances, rubber tubing and plenty of duct tape. The goal is to tee up a standard golf ball in a complicated and humorous fashion within a specific time limit. Each machine must run, be reset and run again in nine minutes. Points are taken off if students have to assist the machine once it's started. The teams also will be judged and awarded points based on the creative use of materials and use of related themes.

The local contest is organized by members of the Purdue chapter of Theta Tau, with support from industrial sponsor General Electric. It was first held at Purdue in 1949 and ran until 1955. The fraternity revived it in 1983 to celebrate National Engineers' Week, and the university has hosted the national contest since 1988.

Last year's campus contest was won by the Purdue student chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. Its machine was based on the theme "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" and used 26 complex steps and all manner of toy vehicles to turn off an alarm clock.

The national competition, which attracts teams from across the country, has been won the past two years by a team from the University of Texas, Austin. In addition to the Purdue contest winner and the Texas team, the 1998 national event also featured machines built by students at Oakland University, Rochester, Mich.; Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.; the University of Wisconsin at Madison; and Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.

CONTACT: Joe Martin, contest chairman, (765) 743-5276; e-mail,

Compiled by Beth Forbes, (765) 494-9723; e-mail,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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