Thursday, 8 September 2011

Stunning stupidity

In these intellectually retarded times, mistaking correlation for causation is so common that it takes something really special to grab my attention. But every once in a while, someone puts the cart before the horse in a way that is so monumentally bone-headed that it almost becomes a work of art.

For example, it seems obvious that people who have greater willpower will be more likely to give up smoking. Obvious, that is, unless you are the Daily Mirror...

Quitting smoking gives you stronger willpower than current or non-smokers, study finds

Giving up smoking not only improves your health – it raises your willpower, too.

Quitters have the strongest activity in their brain’s frontal lobes, which control behaviour, a study found.

Experts took MRI scans of current, ex and non-smokers as they performed tasks to test skills linked to smoking, such as avoiding distraction by cigarette-related images.

Smokers lost concentration before others, the Trinity College Dublin study said. Prof Hugh Garavan added in NeuroImage that quitting helped “exercise control”.

Wow. Just wow.

9 comments:

Jean said...

I have trouble understanding this sentence:
"Experts took MRI scans of current, ex and non-smokers as they performed tasks to test skills linked to smoking, such as avoiding distraction by cigarette-related images."

So cigarette quitters have to concentrate more to avoid being distracted by cigarette-related images? Is that their story?

Henry Crun said...

I also have trouble understanding this sentence:
"Experts took MRI scans of current, ex and non-smokers as they performed tasks to test skills linked to smoking, such as avoiding distraction by cigarette-related images."

How on earth does an "expert" take an MRI scan of someone whilst they are performing some sort of task? When I had an MRI scan, I was asked to lie on a table-thing which moved into a large machine so that I could be scanned.

This report in the Mirror has a distinct whiff of bullshit about it. Or it could just be the Mirror.

Anonymous said...

Smacks of Phrenology to me.
Or even more sinister it implies that smokers are somehow "different" in brain function to non smokers.
The really are Nazi's now.

Anonymous said...

How long after the smokers entered the no smoking (including the grounds) hospital were these tests conducted? I think I'd have been losing concentration.

Wow said...

I have often referred to James Repace as the Artiste®. His and the work of Stantonitis Glands, and most others in TC, could be taken seriously if it was displayed in places like, say, the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art……. if it was viewed as contemporary art. For example, in addition to a complete lack of skill – a thorough incompetence, it takes some flair - a certain arrogant panache - to arrive at pre-determined conclusions by disregarding as many relevant factors and violating as many rules of scientific, causal, and statistical inference as possible. Now that’s A-R-T. It would be on a par with, say, viewing crayon scribbling done by elephants. There is an aesthetic dimension in work where, regardless of how poor it is, it far exceeds all expectations given what is known about the author(s) of the work and his/her capacity.

I certainly would be willing to pay money to enter an art gallery to view this sort of work displayed on a wall for both its amusement and shock value. In fact, it could be displayed right next to the elephants’ crayon scribbling.

Twenty_Rothmans said...

This report in the Mirror has a distinct whiff of bullshit about it.

I have to disagree there. While I'd prefer not to eat one, cowpats have a rustical odour that's reminiscent of happy holidays in the country.

Professor Garavan's work smells more strongly of a freshly-deposited, firm, steaming human stool.

With the aid of a simple kitchen fork, you can reconstitute one to resemble not only the form ,but the function of your average Daily Mirror reader's brain.

Angry Exile said...

This passes for research these days? Boggle.

Mr A said...

Hmmm, I don't know. Given that this "research" involves smoking it probably is bullshit. But I can certainly see this one making sense (unlike all the usual "smoker more dangerous than cyanide," "smoke travelling down electrical cables," "smoke pixies steal children's Xmas presents" rubbish that normally gets churned out).

After all we know that the brain, like muscles, becomes more efficient at something the more you do it - more neurological connections are forged. So while it may indeed be the case that people with strong willpower find it easier to give up, it may also mean that those who have given up have developed those bits of the brains that control behaviour because they've just spent the last 2 months constantly training their brain with "Must. Not. Smoke." messages.

That said how you can actually come to any conclusions from that finding without using the ex-smokers as a control (by measuring their willpower BEFORE they gave up), I don't know. And the task they made them do (with "cigaretet-related images" seems completely irrelevant),

But unlike most of the crap they pump out, there may be something to this, even if they have misinterpreted their findings.

Frank Davis said...

Wow, elephants don't 'scribble'. Not these ones, anyway:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=He7Ge7Sogrk