Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Believing headlines makes you stupid

The headline in the Telegraph reads "Attending meetings lowers IQ: research".

That seems obvious enough, as witness any number of meetings I have attended.

But you have to look beyond the headline. The description in the story doesn't talk about meetings as such. Read Montegue, the lead author, was quoted as deprecating meetings but the rest of the details didn't match.

I got suspicious, and looked up the original paper in the Royal Society Bulletin. What they really studied was what happens when a small group is told your IQ. People did better on the tests when they worked alone than when they were in a group with everybody knowing everything at once.

So people get worse at IQ tests if they think that other people are judging them along the way. Not a huge surprise, but nothing like the headline. (BTW, truncated graphs like Figure 2(c) aren't a very honest way of expressing the data; they make the differences look larger than they are.)


Texan99 said...

Still, I can personally attest to the brains running out of my ears as a result of meetings.

james said...

Many meetings have arguments that, when parsed, turn out to involve misunderstandings instead of actual disagreements: The story of the Tower of Babel recapitulated.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Truncated graphs are indeed one of the devil major works.

The research inspires a post. Thanks. BTW, when I took out my captcha for posting, I began to get lots of Russian spam. Fortunately, it's all in old posts, where it is unlikely to annoy anyone.