Joe_Harvey: October 2011 Archives

A study was completed to see how effectively a false memory could be planted in a subject. The researcher spoke with the relatives of the subject to get important details of an event in the subject's childhood, like a wedding. The researcher would then relate the story to the subject and see how much of the event they remembered. The researcher would then add a false event, such as spilling a large punch bowl on the bride's parents, and see if the subject would recall it. In the first interview, the false event was always realized. This makes sense because the event is completely foreign to the subject. When the same situation was brought up in a second interview, 18 percent of the subjects claimed to remember the false event actually happened! This increased to 25 percent in the third interview.
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This is a case of source monitoring confusion, where the subject doesn't recognize the origin of the memory. They are confusing the actual source of the memory, the previous interview, with the reasoning that the memory was formed at the wedding or whatever event was being relayed to them. It's a case of cryptomnesia, where the subject is taking memories generated by their relative's (although false), and thinking they generated the memories themselves. The subjects can't find a reason why their relatives would all lie about a situation and that helps to strengthen their belief in the event. This very study was mentioned in the book, and I have linked to the actual article in SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. This is incredible proof of the malleability of our memories.

Memory Study

In this blog post I will be looking at cupping to relieve pain. To perform the procedure, one simply has to heat the air bulbous cup and attach the cup to the back of the patient. As the hot air cools it's volume decreases, creating pressure which pulls skin into the cup.

This supposedly opens the pores to let toxins out, improve blood flow, and restore "qi," an eastern measure of energy flow and well-being. Wet cupping is the same process, but you cut the skin on the back first so that the cup fills with blood. Using what we have learned in psychology, one must be skeptical of these claims. Let's look at qi. This can not be seen as scientific because it can not be disproved. There is no measure of qi or tangible evidence of whether it exists at all. There are no studies to prove toxins are released or that blood drawn in wet cupping is more toxic than the rest of your blood. All of the support is anecdotal! I found one research study, performed in Iran, that claims to scientifically quantify the benefits. They claimed that headache severity went down 66% and patients experienced 12.6 fewer days of headache per month. These results aren't reliable for two reasons. First; there is no control group. It's not even an experiment since we have nothing to compare the results to. The recovery could be due to the placebo effect, people feeling better because of treatment. Secondly, a person reporting their headache on a pain scale is not hard data, it is subjective to that persons perception. For these reasons I don't feel that cupping is a scientifically sound form of healing.

Here is a video of the procedure:
Video Demonstration

Ear Candling!

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The process of ear candling claims to combine the sciences of pressure and thermodynamics to relieve your ears of unwanted wax. The process basically involves creating a seal on the ear with a wax coated cloth cone, referred to as a candle, which you light on fire. Supposedly the air in the tube is heated and rises, creating a vacuum that pulls toxins and earwax from your inner ear.


This is quite an extraordinary claim, but is there any proof? A proponent of the treatment will say that the proof is that there is a buildup at the base of the cone right next to the ear canal. Unfortunately the process does not work as advertised. In this case it was easy to prove the claim that earwax and toxins are removed from the ear was false. The simpler answer is that the buildup is just candle wax. The experiment, as told in link 1, was to simply burn a candle over an empty cup and see if anything collects at the base of the cone. The same buildup was there with or without an ear. This result is quite easily replicated. A rival hypothesis was that the burning cone could not heat the air enough to create a vacuum with the strength to remove anything from the ear. Another experiment, see link 2, was devised to take the temperature at different spots in the cone while it is burning. The maximum temperature reached was 22 degrees Celsius. This is lower than the core temperature of the human body; therefore a vacuum is not created. The only way a person could feel better would have to be the placebo effect, where they think they are getting better simply because they are receiving treatment. Otherwise the only possible results are no changes or getting candle wax in your inner ear!,20,2005

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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Joe_Harvey in October 2011.

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