Research Methodology For The Lose

Hello, Jigglers! Here I am, browsing Google News, when what do I see but yet another “health” article about food and eating.

Why Saying No to Foods May Be Harder for Women

I am sure you can deconstruct most of the issues with the article yourselves. You’re smart readers.

However, having just returned from a physics conference I would like to note one thing.

For the study, which appears in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers asked 13 women and 10 men about their favorite foods. The participants said they liked a variety of dishes and desserts, including lasagna, pizza, brownies, ice cream and fried chicken.

I am sorry, but a study of 23 people does NOT provide enough data to make statistical inferences about an entire species. NO. Also, did they have a control group of any kind? Did they try this with another group of people who hadn’t been fasting? Were the study’s participants (I like how the word “participants” is used to hide the fact that they’re actually “experimental subjects,” a concept which squicks us out) all in the same age group? Including that information could help to support the thesis of those who did the study, if they compared women of childbearing age to women who were not.

And, of course, they jump right to the “biological imperative” explanation, instead of allowing for factors like, oh, I dunno… Maybe the crazy-ass body pressure that women experience which is so inextricably tied up with food in our dumbfuck culture?

Seriously. You don’t just look at 23 different brain patterns and start claiming things about how evolution and baybeez mean all women are weak-willed face-stuffers.

Scientific research methods. Learn them. Use them. Get back to me later.

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11 thoughts on “Research Methodology For The Lose

  1. I like how the word “participants” is used to hide the fact that they’re actually “experimental subjects,” a concept which squicks us out

    Participants is the appropriate term because it denotes their willingness to participate in the research. “Subjects” is a term that is not used as often anymore because it denotes being subjected to something unwillingly which flies in the face of the international regulations that govern human subjects research.

  2. Epic fail, indeed. And yet that study’s findings (such as they are) will be shoved down our throats. And when we find better designed, longer lasting, more controlled studies that prove something different, we will be accused of ‘cherry picking’ the evidence and dismissed.

    Bah humbug.

  3. Actually, according to APA guidelines you are suposed to call the people participating in your experiment “participants” not “subjects” – people were called “subjects” for years but since they are actually actively choosing to participate (and can stop the experiment at any time) this is not seen as an appropriate label. Also, studies involving any kind of brain scanning usually have only about 10 people in each group – and they usually do find statistically significant findings nonetheless. Still, it is always tricky to extrapolate from participants take from one population to the whole of human kind – findings often differ among different age groups and cultures for example.

    I actually find the finding of the study interesting. I do, however, share your concern about their interpretation. All that can be said from this study is that women and men (from a certain population) have different brain activation patterns when shown desirable food and when asked to inhibit the desire for the food after fasting and that the brain activation pattern in women seems to correlate with that of someone who is hungry while the activation pattern in men seems to correlate with that of someone who is not hungry. There could be all kinds of reasons for this. For example, men and women could use different suppression strategies some of which cause rebound (unlikely, but possible). Or women could be more likely to chronically undereat/ diet which might make suppression harder (in any case women have been found to eat less in a social setting than when alone while the reverse is true for men – something that seems to contradict the authors explanation of their findings). It is also possible that men’s bodies tolerate short-term fasting better than women but that after a longer time of fasting both men and women show the same reaction. Also, in case participants were told about the fast beforehand it is also possible that men at more than women in “preparation” while women ate their usual amount. This would have made the women hungrier (although I would guess that they took baseline measurements for each participant to rule that out).

    Actually, I don’t get how this study would say anything about overeating at all – to do that participants should NOT have been hungry. I get that this is tricky (since it would be possible that some people would have overeaten before coming to the lab while others might have undereaten, etc. and the study becomes very hard to control). Yet, you cannot say anything about the behavior of a person who has eaten sufficiently in the last day to nourish him or her body by doing a study about someone who has been fasting.

  4. I always assumed that men could lose weight more easily than women because their relatively greater muscle mass led to differences in metabolic needs.

    Come to find out, it’s because my brain has been eating when I wasn’t looking. Silly brain–always wanting to eat.

    Maybe they should do a study to see who needs to breathe first when one’s face is submerged in water. It would make as much sense.

  5. Since I just got an email over the fatstudies list with headlines/ links to articles reporting this study’s findings in an incorrect way… I think what is also important to point out is that at least in this article there is no talk of an actual behavioral measure. If this reflects the actual study than it is completely unclear if the group of women would have eaten more “tempting” food than the group of men. As great as brain scans can be they cannot replace behavioral data. Saying that women would have eaten more if they had had the chance because brain areas that we think are associated with hunger were more or less active is circular reasoning. (Still – this is a problem in how this study is reported, not necessarily in the actual research methods.)

  6. You know what irritates me most about the reporting of this study? They don’t believe the women. I am sick and tired of women not being believed about their very selves. Depression, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and more. Until it’s measurable women’s reports of their experience are just dismissed. These women *reported* that they felt *less* hunger with the cognitive tricks, yet their brains light up just the same, ergo the women are lying; I have not seen any speculation whatsoever that perhaps different areas of their brains or a different type of function in their brain might be responsible. Nope, they must not be right (or be lying) about their own subjective experiences.

    *Growls fiercely*

  7. Participants is the appropriate term because it denotes their willingness to participate in the research. “Subjects” is a term that is not used as often anymore because it denotes being subjected to something unwillingly which flies in the face of the international regulations that govern human subjects research.

    I stand corrected. :)

    Great comments, folks!

  8. Hi jigglibits :)
    i want to comment in your blog, but i am any problem with my english :D
    so… i am sorry if my english bad, and i want just to say good night & succes for you :)

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