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Moving Day

The relationship held even after controlling for family characteristics that are known to be associated with childhood obesity, such as maternal marital status, education, race, ethnicity and symptoms of depression, as well as whether the child participated in structured after-school activities.

Why would fearful parents tend to raise obese children? Lumeng suspects the big reason is that parents of children in unsafe neighborhoods don't let their kids go out as much.

Lumeng and her colleagues noted that some urban planners have urged creative land use planning and zoning laws to redesign neighborhoods with an eye toward making them safer. That may not work unless parents' underlying fears are addressed.

"No matter how neighborhoods are redesigned to allow children to walk to school or the neighborhood store, parents must feel safe allowing their children to do so," they wrote.

Big Eyes

On April 17, 1953, Hall of Fame slugger Mickey Mantle hit a 565-foot home run to left-center field in the District's Griffith Stadium, and the New York Yankees went on to win 7-3 over the perennially hapless Washington Senators. It was the longest home run ever hit in the old park. "I just saw the ball as big as a grapefruit," Mantle told reporters after the game.

The Mick was on to something, according to two University of Virginia psychology researchers, who say they have found that hot hitters do perceive the ball to be bigger than it actually is, while those mired in a batting slump say that it's smaller.

Jessica K. Witt and Dennis R. Proffitt interviewed 47 softball players after their games in community recreational leagues around Charlottesville, where the university's campus is located. They showed them eight different-size circles on a board and asked them which represented the size of a regulation softball.

They found that those who'd had a good day at the plate picked circles that were larger than the actual size of the ball, while those who had done poorly chose circles that were smaller, they report in the December issue of Psychological Science. Moreover, the batters who had gotten a hit at least half of their times at bat picked the biggest circle. morinr@washpost.com


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