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Bad Reporting, Not Email, Worse Than Marijuana 290

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the it-happens-but-needs-correcting dept.
MoNickels writes "Turns out, those endless news reports and blog entries in April about "texting makes you stupid" were inaccurate. As linguist Mark Liberman at LanguageLog now reports by way of apologizing to Wilson, it wasn't Wilson's fault, but that of "rotten science journalism." Psychologist Glenn Wilson was reported to have done a study said that chat and email, as the Guardian put it, "are a greater threat to IQ and concentration than taking cannabis." But Wilson says, "This...is a temporary distraction effect—not a permanent loss of IQ. The equivalences with smoking pot and losing sleep were made by others, against my counsel, and 8 [subjects] somehow became '80 clinical trials.'" The original Slashdot story was covered back in April."
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Bad Reporting, Not Email, Worse Than Marijuana

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  • Finally... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WilliamSChips (793741) <full.infinity@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Monday September 26, 2005 @07:07PM (#13654928) Journal
    /. admits they made a mistake...
  • The Reason (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cached (801963) on Monday September 26, 2005 @07:09PM (#13654938)
    The reason that such things occur i because I think that we can not do much about media sensationalism or the scientific ignorance of many journalists. On the other hand , there's no reason why better information about science and technology should not also be available to the public.
    • If we want real scientific information to be available to the masses, we should get the scientific journals to publish their material online for free. There's probably a lot of highschools, and maybe some colleges and universities who don't have proper research material, such as access to current scientific journals. I don't see why scientific journals have to only be for those who are paying. If you're only choice for free science news is Fox, then that's what you'll have to settle for.
    • Re:The Reason (Score:2, Insightful)

      by PlacidPundit (881182)
      The reason that such things occur i because I think that we can not do much about media sensationalism or the scientific ignorance of many journalists.

      Well, what we really need to be able to fix is ignorant journalists who think they know everything. Which is about 99% of them.

  • Why report good? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hogger@NoSpaM.gmail.com> on Monday September 26, 2005 @07:10PM (#13654943) Journal
    Why report properly when this means that you'll be scooped-up by a botching competitor?

    Media don't sell news, they sell eyeballs. When you buy a paper, you're the product and not the client.

  • by Sr. Pato (900333) on Monday September 26, 2005 @07:10PM (#13654947) Homepage
    ... And aye dont feal any more stupider.
  • by fredistheking (464407) on Monday September 26, 2005 @07:11PM (#13654950)
    But the real question is whether causal marijuana usage really has a lasting effect on your IQ.
    • by Sorthum (123064) on Monday September 26, 2005 @07:15PM (#13654984) Homepage
      That depends entirely on who funds the study. :)
    • Re:really that bad? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Peyna (14792) on Monday September 26, 2005 @07:22PM (#13655023) Homepage
      http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn2140 [newscientist.com]

      Of course, how many pot smokers do you know that just give up and quit?
      • by ZiakII (829432)
        Of course, how many pot smokers do you know that just give up and quit?

        probally close to 300+

        but then again I'm in the miltary
      • Re:really that bad? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sm00f (819489)
        I've just gave up and quit multiple times myself, you might feel a bit edgey and bitchy for 2-3 days after but then you are fine, not any worse than caffeine withdrawal IMO. of course if I had the $ and a good supply I'd never quit because marijuana gives me brilliant ideas and more creativity for my job.
        • I've just gave up and quit multiple times myself

          Good job on that

        • by syukton (256348)
          of course if I had the $ and a good supply I'd never quit because marijuana gives me brilliant ideas and more creativity for my job.

          I agree 100% with this statement. Lester Grinspoon MD, a former Harvard professor and all-around genius, has some things to say about his first experiences with marijuana, when he was in his 40s [marijuana-uses.com]. He came to the conclusion that everything should be thought about both stoned and straight, in order to gain a great deal of perspective on any matter.

          Marijuana effects everyone differ
    • by Bonhamme Richard (856034) on Monday September 26, 2005 @07:31PM (#13655070)
      I knew this one girl in my high school who had some SERIOUS concentration problems after smoking pot for a while.

      Freshmen year she was on the all Honors / A.P. course track, and by senior year she was in all the "Basic Remedial XYZ for dummies" courses. She talked a bunch of people out of smoking pot after she stopped.

      I try not to judge people, but it wasn't worth risking to me.

      • And I have smoked since I was 15. Got As in HS before and after the fact. Got As in college and a BS is EE.
        • Hey, they're your brain cells to risk.

          I told you, no judgements, just a little personal story...

        • I had to quit cause I got so annoyed by the people who clearing are acting the experience instead of enjoying it. That's even more annoying than knowing people are mixing the ounce with lawn grass.

        • I was just recently in Amsterdam, and of course had to visit a coffee shop. I took the lighest weed there. Mind you, i only smoked pot 3 times prior to this.

          So, as I was there, feeling the effects(after having to use "the cone", ie joint roller for dummies), and felt nice and relaxed. I whipped out an issue of BBC Top Gear, and read it. I must say, if anything, weed increased my reading comprehension skills!

          For their little car reviews(paragraph or 2), I was able to nicely visualize the car in question.
      • by justin12345 (846440)
        Correlation is not causality.
      • by Hatta (162192) on Monday September 26, 2005 @09:22PM (#13655630) Journal
        Severe depression can also cause sudden failure in school, and
        drug use of any kind is often associated with depression. It is
        likely that she is using marijuana as a scapegoat, people love
        blaming their problems on drugs.
    • Re:really that bad? (Score:5, Informative)

      by khayman80 (824400) on Monday September 26, 2005 @07:35PM (#13655091) Homepage Journal
      I've got another journal article (from the American Journal of Epidemiology) regarding this topic: http://www.ukcia.org/research/CannabisUseAndCognit iveDecline.html [ukcia.org]

      Long story short: a study involving repeated IQ tests of nearly 1400 participants over a time period of 12 years showed absolutely no statistical correlation between marijuana use and cognitive ability.

      • Re:really that bad? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ToxicBanjo (905105)

        I can confirm that.

        I'm a successful software developer and IT admin with a long standing contract with a multi-million dollar company and I have been smoking pot off and on for 15 years. I have seen a lack of concentration while I'm high but nothing in regards to loss of mental capacity in the long run.

        In fact, some of my most creative work has been while I was intoxicated.

        I'm also a long time sufferer of Migraine with Aura and have not only noticed a decline in frequency but also a significant decli

      • by G27 Radio (78394) on Monday September 26, 2005 @08:31PM (#13655379)
        a study involving repeated IQ tests of nearly 1400 participants over a time period of 12 years showed absolutely no statistical correlation between marijuana use and cognitive ability.

        All the scientific studies show this same thing. All the studies showing that marijuana use does permanant damage always turn out to be bullshit. OK, saying "all the studies" might sound like a generalization--but actually try to find one that uses any kind of scientific method and shows that marijuana is bad for you. It's suprisingly hard considering what a great evil people claim it to be. It's truly evil that very sick people aren't allowed to use this cheap, easily produced drug to help them through their illnesses. It's illegal for no good reason.

        BTW, if you sit around the house and smoke pot incessantly, it's true that you're probably not going to accomplish much with your life. Don't think that just because pot isn't inherently bad for you that you can't abuse it.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Causal use? As far as I know, people always get high after they smoke, rather than before. ;)
    • Re:really that bad? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jkauzlar (596349) * on Monday September 26, 2005 @07:49PM (#13655167) Homepage
      I'd heard this about Carl Sagan and just looked it up in Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:
      Carl Sagan was an avid user of marijuana, although he never publicly admitted it during his life[4]. Under the pseudonym "Mr. X," he wrote an essay concerning cannabis smoking in the 1971 book Marihuana Reconsidered, whose editor was Lester Grinspoon. In the essay, Sagan commented that marijuana encouraged some of his works and enhanced experiences. After Sagan's death, Grinspoon disclosed this to Sagan's biographer, Keay Davidson. When the biography, entitled Carl Sagan: A Life, was published in 1999, the marijuana exposure stirred some media attention.

      I remember in college having roommates who would do just about everything, including homework, while stoned. Personally, I could never remember the details of a movie I'd watched while stoned, so I can't imagine it could be good for schoolwork. Most of the potheads I knew never made it far, and some are doing really great, but Carl Sagan and scores of successful writers (like the entire beat generation from the 50's & 60's) have shown that pot doesn't have to make you stupid if you're motivated to begin with.

      If you ever listen to Dr. Drew on radio loveline you know they can tell a pothead, even if he isn't stoned, from the initial drawl of their 'hello.' The apparent IQ effect on potheads probably has a lot to do on the kind of people smoking it and where their priorities lie.

      • Dude! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by jkauzlar (596349) * on Monday September 26, 2005 @08:03PM (#13655244) Homepage
        This website [cannabisculture.com] also lists Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Feynman, among others.

        This website [veryimport...theads.com], while not too reliable-looking, lists several surprising names, including notable politicians (but we're discussing IQ here, so ignore those) and cites Bill Gates as a possible pothead. Most of the names listed are musicians (like Bob Marley-- duh!) and actors and writers, and if you're going to talk about them, you can just go ahead and list about every musician since the 50's :)

      • State dependence (Score:5, Interesting)

        by wytcld (179112) on Monday September 26, 2005 @10:01PM (#13655793) Homepage
        It's well-known through research that memory is best for things which you experienced when in a similar state. So you remember sad things better when you're sad, happy when you're happy, stoned when you're stoned, straight when you're straight, tired when you're tired, and so on. This makes biological sense: You're most likely to have use for the lessons of a part of the past when you're next in a most similar situation.

        It's also part of how we are able to key our personalities for different functions: That morning cup of coffee; the happy hour drink after work.

        This is a separate effect from that which can be occassioned by heavy drinking or (perhaps) really heavy pot smoking, where the circuits for laying down long-term memory appear to be interrupted so that even going back to a similar state won't retrieve the memories. But it's a confounding factor in reports about pot. Someone who's normally a bit depressed, but becomes happy when stoned, will remember things from the time when stoned just fine -- when they're stoned again. However, in their accustomed depressive state, not so much.
    • I took one of those one-day/one-credit courses from Andrew Weil, http://www.drweil.com/ [drweil.com] , before he metamorphed into the alternative health dude and was still known as the post-Tim Leary drug researcher.

      He told us about the early research he participated in that showed people can learn to compensate for the effects of marijuana and show little statistical difference from controls in a driving simulator. Grant didn't get renewed to pursue that line further. He said that in itself was a lesson learned.
    • No way (Score:3, Funny)

      There's no way that casual...wait, what was I saying? Could you repeat the question?
  • The real problem? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GenKreton (884088) on Monday September 26, 2005 @07:11PM (#13654951) Journal
    It seems that regardless of how many mistakes are made in scientific journalism that the root cause of the problem will never be addressed.

    As long as money is the motivation for making and reporting discoveries, we will have skewed results (actual and/or reported) and our efforts may, more often than not, be focused in the wrong directions.

    Are the days of curiosity forcing advances in science and eagerness to discover and learn promoting good journalism and sharing over with?
    • by Vellmont (569020) on Monday September 26, 2005 @08:25PM (#13655351) Homepage

      As long as money is the motivation for making and reporting discoveries, we will have skewed results (actual and/or reported) and our efforts may, more often than not, be focused in the wrong directions.

      I think you're got it a bit wrong. The problem isn't that money is the object, the problem is that the way to get that money (at least for mainstream media) is to get eyes and ears of consumers reading/watching/listening. The facts don't matter to that end, and are hard to discover when they're wrong. There's little motivation to get the story right because the market for science reporting is small. Stories aren't corrected tommorow, tommorow there's another story. Hell, a lot of the time even the mainstream stories are dead wrong, just look at what happened to Dan Rather. Even when the media reports that it's dead wrong, the motivation is still finding eyeballs and ears, not fixing mistakes.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 26, 2005 @07:12PM (#13654961)
    It is a non-issue to realize that most of the modern day losses in productivity come from distracted workers using the internet for personal pleasure rather than company projects. This distraction effort splits the focus of the individual and causes a decrease in the finite amount of cognitive processing ability given to any one task. Marijuana on the other hand results in modification of the reward pathway system in the brain. So there is an actually psychochemical difference in the brain which leads to addiction. Between the two, marijuana actually modifies the brain negatively while email only distracts. I really wish these people had taken the time to realize this before putting out a sensationalist piece of work.

    -----

    Wow... just Wow [audiworld.com]
    • Assumptions... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sheetrock (152993)
      Our brains are influenced by much of what we do. Wandering away a bit from this "scientific study", I wonder if we are being permanently and negatively affected by increasing the pace at which we are being asked to task-switch due to technology.

      The original article, despite its unfortunate lack of correctness, did give me pause to question whether permitting and accepting distraction with the sort of ease and frequency that is now present between cellphones and e-mail and fax and the Internet is actually

    • Reference, or makin' shit up?
    • by centipetalforce (793178) on Monday September 26, 2005 @09:40PM (#13655719)
      PArtially correct... marijuana does alter the reward pathway system in the brain. But it depends on the person who's using it whether it's a negative or positive effect. Me, when I smoke I become extremely motivated to finish something I started, and this has had a a hugely positive effect on my life, as I have become self employed and live a comfortable lifesyle thanks to ganja. And you are wrong about it being addicting... it is indeed habit forming but with moderation a person can smoke every day for years (like I have) and give it up for months when necessary with no ill effect whatever (like I have).
    • by Hatta (162192)
      Marijuana on the other hand results in modification of the reward pathway system in the brain. So there is an actually psychochemical difference in the brain which leads to addiction.

      Marijuana isn't addictive.

      Between the two, marijuana actually modifies the brain negatively while email only distracts.

      Marijuana does not modify the brain. It affects it yes, but once it's gone the brain
      is the same. Also, an adverse effect on attention does not preclude other positive
      effects. For instance it has positive effec
    • by g0at (135364) <ben@zyIIIgoat.ca minus threevowels> on Tuesday September 27, 2005 @12:59AM (#13656393) Homepage Journal
      Marijuana? Addiction? Show me some proof.

      I smoke weed from time to time. I sure ain't addicted.

      -ben
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 26, 2005 @07:12PM (#13654962)
    From Wiki "Carl Sagan was an avid user of marijuana, although he never publicly admitted it during his life. Under the pseudonym "Mr. X," he wrote an essay concerning cannabis smoking in the 1971 book Marihuana Reconsidered, whose editor was Lester Grinspoon. In the essay, Sagan commented that marijuana encouraged some of his works and enhanced experiences. After Sagan's death, Grinspoon disclosed this to Sagan's biographer, Keay Davidson. When the biography, entitled Carl Sagan: A Life, was published in 1999, the marijuana exposure stirred some media attention."

    Billions and billions of stars... whoa man far out.
    • So you're saying he kept losing count, and had to settle for "billions and billions"?
    • by sp0rk173 (609022) on Monday September 26, 2005 @07:48PM (#13655157)
      Richard Feynman [wikipedia.org] was an out user of recreational Marijuana, and he was one of America's leading physicists.

      Of course, the burn out down the street who does nothing with his life except collect welfare is also an out user of marijuana. Bottom line? Everyone's different. Bottomer line? The burnout down the street might not want to do anything with his life, whereas Richard Feynman dug physics and math. Pot tends to lead you to do what you want, as opposed to what you should. Maybe if he didn't smoke, Feynman would have been some kind of accountant helping people get rich instead of contributing to the world of physics. Which would have been better? Who knows.

      Anyone who's ever gone to a scientific conference can tell you that marijuana might not actually have any effect on IQ. Many, many scientists are pot heads, especially the especially bright ones.
      • Evidence Please? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ieshan (409693)
        "Pot tends to lead you to do what you want, as opposed to what you should."

        Empirical evidence please? It seems to me that, as you put out, we're actually talking about "proof by the exception" (look! I can point out a few famous people who used pot!) rather than "proof by the rule" (the majority of pot users are non-famous random joes, and it seems to have a very small, temporary impact on their ability to judge the world in a reasonable matter).

        "Many, many scientists are pot heads, especially the especiall
      • Surely... (Score:5, Funny)

        by jesdynf (42915) on Monday September 26, 2005 @08:07PM (#13655275) Homepage
        Surely you're toking, Mr. Feynman?
      • by fafalone (633739) on Monday September 26, 2005 @09:26PM (#13655652)
        I don't know what kind of scientific conferences you go to, but I suspect they were before longitudinal studies on marijuana's effects on IQ were published. For example, Fried et. al. concluded in a peer reviewed article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (166, p. 887) that marijuana use does have an effect on IQ; a negative impact for heavy use, and a positive effect (and more positive than not smoking even) for light use; it also showed there was no deficit for former users who had not smoked for more than 3 months.
        "Results: Current marijuana use was significantly correlated (p 0.05) in a dose- related fashion with a decline in IQ over the ages studied. The comparison of the IQ difference scores showed an average decrease of 4.1 points in current heavy users (p 0.05) compared to gains in IQ points for light current users (5.8), former users (3.5) and non-users (2.6)."
      • all the best wizards [badgas.co.uk] smoke ganja too...
    • Ok, then, so let's go rerun the experiment with a Slashdot-sized set of subjects. If your Slashdot ID is even, go have some pot. If it's odd, go send some text messages to other odd-numbered Slashdotters tonight. End of the evening, we'll see who's got better karma, who had a better evening, and who just stayed home and ordered pizza...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 26, 2005 @07:13PM (#13654970)
    I was having this discussion with a co-worker just the I'm sorry, what were we talking about?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 26, 2005 @07:14PM (#13654976)
    This is why undergraduate degrees in journalism shuold be abolished. Aspiring journalists need to get a background in something, anything, so that they have a better grasp of specific subjects and general critical thought.

    News media also need to not be profit-driven, but I also want a pony.
  • I blame the man for lowering my IQ and for takin my stash...
  • At least.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Gavin86 (856684) <gavin,b,lynch&gmail,com> on Monday September 26, 2005 @07:15PM (#13654982) Journal
    At least being stoned all the time makes dupes more tolerable when I don't remember reading them the first time.
    • At least being stoned all the time makes dupes more tolerable

      Hmmm... maybe I should try that instead of bitching about the dupes. What do you expect from a bunch of ninth grade mentalities who seem incapable of using a simple search function on slashdot or google? Maybe the posters are stoned too. It would explain why they don't remember the dupes. And if they type anything in the search fields stoned they'll laugh their asses off when they type in the search term "don't make me get my flying monkey."
  • Well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Mister Transistor (259842) on Monday September 26, 2005 @07:15PM (#13654986) Journal
    Article title is definitely true! With pot I'm only disoriented for an hour or two, but sucky reporting leaves me in a confused daze forever...
  • Well... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Donniedarkness (895066) <Donniedarkness AT gmail DOT com> on Monday September 26, 2005 @07:17PM (#13654999) Homepage
    At least Wilson got some publicity!

    Honestly, I doubt his report would have gotten around quite as much if it would have been reported correctly. And now that the correct info is getting out, he's getting even more publicity. In the end, I think that Wilson probably is going to benefit from this.

    • Re:Well... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by imidan (559239)
      Thing is, most academic researchers don't rely on popular media for either distributing their research or for learning about other people's. Wilson doesn't care about "publicity," at least not the kind that he gets from places like The Guardian. He's presented his findings in a peer-reviewed academic journal and at conferences attended by other researchers interested in his field. That's the only way that researchers are taken seriously by their peers.
  • shouldn't that be (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Unski (821437) on Monday September 26, 2005 @07:18PM (#13655003) Journal
    marijuana reporting, er, not bad email, is better than..

    er..

    toast! I want toast!
  • Obviously those people at the Guardian have not yet read Slashdot.
    Welcome to our information age crack house.
  • Sounds like... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Paladin144 (676391)
    Sounds like that reporter was smokin' crack.

    [rimshot]

    Oh come on! For once, it's ontopic! :-)
  • by phizman (742537)
    If you spend all day emailing jokes and images, then it should be pretty obvious you are going to take a hit to the IQ. Not all people discuss stupid sh*t though email/im/irc.
  • Meanwhile.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Mr2cents (323101) on Monday September 26, 2005 @07:43PM (#13655135)
    You can't trust wikipedia! Trust the mass media!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 26, 2005 @07:49PM (#13655164)
  • Sorry I completely lost track of what you were saying hahahaha

    No seriously what?
  • This is perhaps slightly astray of the topic, but what's more important than noting that this study has been overhyped and stretched by the media into something it isn't, is Liberman's mention [upenn.edu] of Open Access journals [earlham.edu]. I'm overjoyed to read that the key scientists involved with some journals have rebelled against the overbearing corporate presence in the world of the scientific journal and have taken their expertise with them to found new journals based on principles of open access to all.

    The point of journ
  • I reject outright that smoking pot affects your IQ in a negative way. In fact, I assert that it increases your intelligence. Whether that results in an increase in IQ points or not is a topic for another discussion. But the point remains that smoking pot stimulates you to think in different ways ... and variety of thought processes and perspectives is particularly important in the intelligence of an individual. I would even say it's the most important.

    Now, I have never seen a study released by an inde
  • by yotto (590067) on Monday September 26, 2005 @10:51PM (#13655982) Homepage
    On the one hand, this realization flies in the face of contemporary linguistic thought. On the other hand, OMFG U GOT SO PWNX0RZD!!@!~!~!
  • Do *NOT* be like this guy! [nearlygood.com]

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