Tag Archives: Control Group

Freaky Friday: Beer!

by Richard

As long as there’s been humanity (well, almost as long and, when we’re talking about this subject, almost is pretty good), there’s been beer. Not that you dudes would probably recognize it as such, but it’s beer all the same. It turns out that beer, aside from its obvious benefits of making you taller, more good looking, smarter and funnier, has some significant health benefits.

A new study published in the American Philosophical Rectitude Informal Library’s latest edition of Federal Octogenarian Obfuscation Legends found that drinking beer can actually extend your life.

“We were as surprised as anyone,” said study leader Dr. Wilbur H. Ogilvy. “Our results seemed so counterintuitive, we actually performed the study several times. Just to be sure.”

Ogilvy said the study consisted of finding 750 young men and dividing the group into two, allowing one to consume beer as often as they wanted over a period of several days while in a congenial environment. The control group, those who were not given any beer to consume, were kept in a small room. The only view out of that room was into the lush surroundings of the experimental group, who were consuming the beer.

“Over the course of the weekend, the control group experienced several significant fatalities,” Ogilvy said. “Most notably when one member of the group became so incensed that he could not join the experimental group that he began hitting his fellow control-group members over the head with a broken chair.

“Normally, we would have stepped in and given medical aid, but that might have compromised the experiment. Also, we didn’t really notice for a while, considering most of our researchers had — somehow — found themselves as members of the experimental group. They were really busy. That beer wasn’t going to drink itself, you know. So get off my back, dude. Just, you know, get off my back.”

While the experimental group did see a statistically significant rise in certain subtle side effects (explosive reverse peristalsis, persistant vertigo, an uncontrollable desire to sing “Lynnard Skynnard” songs and a raging desire for pizza), Ogilvy said it was nothing that was really worth talking about.

So, good news, dudes. Sounds like a good excuse to go out and get a couple of cold ones. There’s scientific evidence that it’s good for you. And that’s real.

Share on Facebook

Freaky Friday: Verbal Sight

by Richard

It turns out that my wife, known to me as She Who Must Give Instructions — Twice, was right again. Being told what to look for can actually make it more likely that you’ll find it.

In a research study published today, scientists reveal that spoken language can alter your perception of the visible world.

The study in PLoS Onereveals that people given a series of visual tests had dramatically different scores when they were prompted first with a verbal cue. Asked to find a specific letter in a crowded picture, people were much more likely to find that letter when they were given the auditory cue “letter B” beforehand. Interestingly, being shown an image of the letter B before looking at the picture did not help them pick out the letter B any better than a control group could.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, we’ve all done word searches in elementary and middle school when the teachers were looking for a little time killer and didn’t want to have to do too much work. With every word search, there’s a word bank to show you the words for which you’re searching. I always found that I did better when I read the words out loud to myself, rather than just reading the words.

The interesting thing to me, though, is I always find words that aren’t in the word bank. A question of looking too hard or just not focusing on the task at hand? I always came down on the side of working too hard, but my teachers kept harping on focus. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.

Interestingly, although auditory verbal cues increased detection sensitivity, visual cues did not. This finding makes some sense when one considers that linguistic cues involve a non-overlapping format of sensory information that is globally statistically independent of the visual format of information in the detection task itself. By contrast, visual cues involve the same format of information as the detection task, and therefore do not provide converging sensory evidence from independent sources when the to-be-detected stimulus is presented.

Which means that there needs to be a combination of verbal and visual stimuli for this to work, to let you target what you’re looking for.

This has some pretty significant implications for parenting, dudes.

I mean, I know I’ve left notes for the little dudes before and returned to find absolutely nothing accomplished because they couldn’t find what I’d written about. After reading about this, I realized that the little dudes did do better when I gave them the note and also went over it with them.

Something to think about the next time Zippy the Monkey Boy tells me he can’t find that missing shoe when it’s sitting on the floor in the middle of the room.

Share on Facebook

Freaky Friday: Ohm, Mahnee, Pahdmay, E=MCsquared

by Richard

Toss the coffee. Flush the energy drink. If you’re trying to keep up with those perpetual motors we call little dudes and dudettes, there might be a better way to help you think your way around those obstacles you love so much: It’s called meditation. No, really.

Scientists have found in a recent study that brief periods of meditation can help to improve your cognition, that is make your thinkin’ parts do more, um, thinkin’ better.

While past research using neuroimaging technology has shown that meditation techniques can promote significant changes in brain areas associated with concentration, it has always been assumed that extensive training was required to achieve this effect. Though many people would like to boost their cognitive abilities, the monk-like discipline required seems like a daunting time commitment and financial cost for this benefit.

Surprisingly, the benefits may be achievable even without all the work. Though it sounds almost like an advertisement for a “miracle” weight-loss product, new research now suggests that the mind may be easier to cognitively train than we previously believed. Psychologists studying the effects of a meditation technique known as “mindfulness ” found that meditation-trained participants showed a significant improvement in their critical cognitive skills (and performed significantly higher in cognitive tests than a control group) after only four days of training for only 20 minutes each day.

I dunno, but it sounds doable to me. Of course, I’m the idiot who thought it was a good idea to try and use dish soap in the dishwasher and didn’t expect to see all those bubbles flowing all over my kitchen floor, so I’m not sure if I’m the right person to start advocating this. Still. What the heck. Competence or lack thereof has never stopped me before, so why now?

The experiment involved 63 student volunteers, 49 of whom completed the experiment. Participants were randomly assigned in approximately equivalent numbers to one of two groups, one of which received the meditation training while the other group listened for equivalent periods of time to a book (J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit) being read aloud. Prior to and following the meditation and reading sessions, the participants were subjected to a broad battery of behavioral tests assessing mood, memory, visual attention, attention processing, and vigilance.

Both groups performed equally on all measures at the beginning of the experiment. Both groups also improved following the meditation and reading experiences in measures of mood, but only the group that received the meditation training improved significantly in the cognitive measures. The meditation group scored consistently higher averages than the reading/listening group on all the cognitive tests and as much as ten times better on one challenging test that involved sustaining the ability to focus, while holding other information in mind.

So, I guess what they’re saying is that one ring really doesn’t rule them all. Either that, or they found the Lord of the Rings as insufferably boring as I did.

The meditation training involved in the study was an abbreviated “mindfulness” training regime modeled on basic “Shamatha skills” from a Buddhist meditation tradition, conducted by a trained facilitator. As described in the paper, “participants were instructed to relax, with their eyes closed, and to simply focus on the flow of their breath occurring at the tip of their nose. If a random thought arose, they were told to passively notice and acknowledge the thought and to simply let ‘it’ go, by bringing the attention back to the sensations of the breath.” Subsequent training built on this basic model, teaching physical awareness, focus, and mindfulness with regard to distraction.

I love the irony here. In order to think better, you’ve got to settle down, clear your mind and do no thinking at all. I wonder if that’ll help me with the diet. To lose the weight, I’ve got to sample the food even more. Hmm. This might have possibilities.

Seriously, this does sound good.However, I have one teeny, tiny problem with this. If we’re going to be using this to help us outthink the little dudes and dudettes running riot through our house, when are we going to get the 20 minutes a day to train ourselves and then the time we need to settle down calmly and start doing the actual meditation?

I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly not going to get up any earlier than I’m already forced to do just so I can do this. Maybe I can come up with a solution. Let me meditate on it for a while. Wait! What?

Share on Facebook