Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Got a Snickers and I'm Not Afraid to Use It

In these troubled times (10:36 and 10:37 A.M., Eastern), isn't it comforting to know you have something to count on? I refer, of course, to the scientific research community, which is still there for you, as it has always been, to remind you that everything you like will destroy you.

I recently received a charming such reminder in the form of the following Time article, which I found via the exhaustive research method of poking around randomly online and eating things instead of doing work. The piece, written by Alice Park, is entitled:


What parent hasn’t used candy to pacify a cranky child or head off a brewing tantrum? When reasoning, threats and time-outs fail, a sugary treat often does the trick. But while that chocolate-covered balm may be highly effective in the short term, say British scientists, it may be setting youngsters up for problem behavior later. […] The research was led by Simon Moore, a senior lecturer in Violence and Society Research at Cardiff University …. [who] had been investigating the factors that lead children to commit serious crimes, when, during the course of his work, he discovered that "kids with the worst problems tend to be impulsive risk takers, and that these kids had terrible diets - breakfast was a Coke and a bag of chips," he says.

Needless to say, this is the kind of thing that can really get your dander up (assuming you have dander and it is down to begin with). Me, I was so incensed I nearly had to spit out my Good 'n' Plentys and abandon my thoughts of brutality. Just where do these namby-pamby, wussy-ass, weeniemeister "researchers" get off revealing their "findings" just because they happen to have "terminal degrees" and "evidence" and "more knowledge of the topic than I, personally, do"? This must end. The time has come for us, the besmirched candy-eating, to take a stand and PUNCH SOME SENIOR-LECTURER FACE MWA HA HA HA HAAAHAHA ha...

A-heh. Actually, what I meant to say was, "make our voices heard." Yes, make our voices heard. Sure, we on the other side may not yet have our Ph.D.*, but even so we bring many fine credentials to the "table," such as:

1. Many years of candy-eating experience in the field of eating candy.
2. References available on request.
3. No, we don't have to prove it.
4. Also, we LIKE candy.
5. So SHUT UP.

It is on this basis that we should like to propound** our OWN theory on the link between candy-eating and crime, which we arrived at only after countless seconds of turmoil and brooding and occasional breaks to blow-dry our hair. It was imperative to us that we formulate this theory based on our extensive store of knowledge from our academic career, at least until we realized we HAVE no such store of knowledge, so we settled for basing it on something we vaguely remember from psychology class last year. This is the idea of the "third variable"***, which goes something like this: often enough, in the study of psychology, cause "A" will seem to lead to effect "B," but this is before you examine the situation at hand much more closely and conclude that, in fact, there is no one very attractive in your psychology class.

Whoops, sorry, wrong conclusion. What we meant to say was, you end up realizing that, in fact, you have ignored the influence of a third variable.**** I am thinking particularly of the iconic psychology study in which a test group of chronic oversleepers all died before age 50, so researchers were all set to propose a link between oversleeping and premature death, until further studies revealed that these individuals had in fact been hit by Mack trucks. See? Third variable! You get how it works?*****

"Well, whoop-de-do for you, Little Miss University-pants," you are saying, "but how does that relate to the case at hand?" Well, I will tell you, by means of deft segue. The Time article goes on to state:

Moore's analysis suggests a correlation: 69% of people who had been convicted of a violent act by age 34 reported eating candy almost every day as youngsters; 42% of people who had not been arrested for violent behavior reported the same. "Initially we thought this [effect] was probably due to something else," says Moore. "So we tried to control for parental permissiveness, economic status, whether the kids were urban or rural. But the result remained. We couldn't get rid of it."

In other words, our current hypothesis goes something like this:


Now what if I were to tell you what the article shamelessly withholds from your trusting eyes -- namely, that these same 69% were later determined, via exhaustive laboratory tests, to be assholes? That's right. And what's more, in their youth, there is a strong chance that they were -- you guessed it -- younger assholes. Say it with me: THIRD VARIABLE.

So actually our hypothesis should go something like this:


Never let it be said that I am not a courageous pioneer in the sciences.****** In fact, I believe I may say without fear of modesty that, if you would like to bestow upon me large amounts of money for my pioneerings, I will courageously accept it. Then I will spend it on Gummi worms and a phaser. As a pioneer, it's the least I can do for our nation's future. And I sincerely mean that.

Well, okay, also this special message to our nation's youth: Remember, kids: EAT CANDY.

* In fact, we may, hypothetically speaking, have changed our major so many times that our academic advisor now slugs Pepto-Bismol at the mere sight of us.

** pro.pound n. A unit of English currency that is no longer Olympic-eligible, and now spends its days touring with "Stars on Ice."

*** As opposed to the second one, or the first, you see.

**** 'Dja see it coming?

***** It's okay if you don't. You don't go to Bolumbia. (Unless, of course, you do, in which case: Idiot.)

****** Especially as of next week, when I change my major.

©2009 Nicola McEldowney
The Snark Ascending


Yet Another Steve said...

Tsk, you missed the fourth variable. It's understandable, you're young. And sane.

Anonymous said...

By the silken thighs of Mogg's Maternal Aunt... I had no idea munch that the Hallowe'en candy glup that I was purchasing and giving out snarf was tainted by curses.

Per Metraton On Agla Mathon, verbum pythonicum, mysterium salamandrae, conventus sylvorum, antra gnomorum, daemonia Coeli God, Almonsin, Gibor, Jehosua, Evam, Zariatnatmik, veni, veni, veni!

Sorry, just my Tourette's acting up again.

I used to get my dander up about such things until I discovered Selsun Blue. Which is people, by the way.

Anonymous said...

And while I'm thinking about it, your concluding premise is sound. I decided long ago that crotchety old people used to be crotchety young people.

brett said...

This is a great post. I just had one of the ‘Doh!’ moments and ran back to correct my own site before publishing my comment. You see my own comment form did not match what I’m about to advice. I get less comment than you, so never noticed any problem. I’ve changed it now anyway so here goes.

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