Myths debunked in mission to explain science validation

Dec 13, 2013 by Kerry Faulkner
Myths debunked in mission to explain science validation
The Mozart music and intelligence study is an example of how one scientific study does not make a final conclusion. Credit: Jackson Latka

Sugar is not the cause of hyperactivity in children, nor does classical music make babies smarter but some scientific evidence does exist supporting the popular notions that mobile phones, tight underwear and bike riding really could reduce sperm health.

These are the 'verdicts' prominent WA autism researcher and UWA Winthrop Professor Andrew Whitehouse reaches in his new book Will Mozart Make My Baby Smart.

In it Prof Whitehouse has taken some of the world's most common myths around pregnancy and childbirth and tested their validity using worldwide scientific research around them.

And while some of the myths have a basis in , Prof Whitehouse warns one scientific study does not make a conclusion.

"It is entirely possible that a research team may design the most rigorous study that includes all the necessary checks and control, and the result is still a fluke," he says.

"Replication of the study findings is just as important as the initial result."

The Mozart and intelligence study is an example. A 1993 study of 33 college students at the University of California found Mozart's music had made the students smarter; each participant's IQ was eight to nine points higher after listening to the than when measured after students had sat in silence or listened to a relaxation tape instead.

Prof Whitehouse says the finding amazed the world but proved very difficult to replicate. A review of all the studies into the field was conducted in 2010 which found country and western and rock music also led to a small boost in IQ.

The review found the key was not Mozart's music but the ability of some music to grab the listeners' attention; the increased levels of attention and arousal lead to better performance in certain tasks.

Prof Whitehouse says science is a marvellous thing, allowing people to make sense of the world. Most importantly he says, when conducted properly science is blind.

He says he was compelled to write the book to show non-scientists the sheer beauty that science can shine on the world.

"I am one of those people who believes telling people about science is just as important as conducting the science in the first place," he says.

"Science doesn't care about the trends of the day, common lore, or what your best friend swears in correct after their third pint of beer.

"Science is the ultimate killjoy and the supreme validator wrapped into one. Frustrating maddening exhilarating."

Explore further: New study turns autism research upside-down

Related Stories

New study turns autism research upside-down

Nov 13, 2013

Information from the families of 1200 children with autism will be collected from next month to begin the largest autism data study in Australia which includes a team of WA researchers.

A sonata a day keeps the doctor away

Jan 07, 2010

The music they listen to doesn't have any lyrics that tell them to grow, but new research from Tel Aviv University finds that premature babies who are exposed to music by 18th-century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart gain ...

Recommended for you

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

2 hours ago

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

5 hours ago

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

17 hours ago

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 11

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

210
2 / 5 (4) Dec 13, 2013
Darn! There goes my project to save the world's IQ levels by making the world's first, Country-Western-Rock-Rap-Hip-Hop-Soul-Classical-Mariacchi-Square-Dance-TexMex-OPERA! Darn! Guess I will just have to send out 7.5 Billion pion lesson discount coupons for Christmas...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone and,

word-to-ya-muthas!
210
2 / 5 (4) Dec 13, 2013
My first comment got posted twice and the system would not let me remove the second post so I made this post to get rid of it...sorry...but I still wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New year and maybe I will make that Opera anyway...for the fun of it and to provoke thought and comment.

word-
cantdrive85
1.8 / 5 (10) Dec 13, 2013
Sugar is not the cause of hyperactivity in children,


Obviously, that "study" was performed by people without children.
cantdrive85
1.4 / 5 (10) Dec 13, 2013
Sugar is not the cause of hyperactivity in children,


Obviously, that "study" was performed by people without children.
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (4) Dec 13, 2013
Prof Whitehouse says the finding amazed the world but proved very difficult to replicate.


Not surprising because having a cell phone in your pocket is no different than carrying a warm flat rock in it as far as biology is concerned....
freethinking
1.4 / 5 (9) Dec 13, 2013
Now time to debunk AGW....

Only problem with AGW going the way of junk science is money.
julianpenrod
2.7 / 5 (6) Dec 13, 2013
And, yet, falsehoods proliferate, are quoted repeatedly by "experts", form the basis for entire alterations in people's way of living. Condemnations of eggs, warnings on drinking coffee, demonizing of all cholesterol, asserting people would be the picture of health with no salt in their diet. Then admitting it was all a lie when an entire generation has already had its health wrecked, for many, likely permanently! Where is the vaunted "science" warning that claims are made supposedly irresponsibly, or insisting that reproducibility is necessary before stating these things conclusively?
Incidentally, note the "logic" Modernmystic utilizes. It's opined that the claim that Mozart raises IQ was difficult to replicate and Modernmystic says that that's necessarily because call phones in your pocket don't affect sperm count!
COCO
1 / 5 (3) Dec 16, 2013
good point Freethinker - while science is at it how about a real 911 investigation ? - the NIST MYTH continues to be the official narrative - perhaps time to put that with AGW as unfortunate sophomoric aberrations and get back using the scientific method.
Maggnus
5 / 5 (2) Dec 19, 2013
scottfos
5 / 5 (2) Dec 19, 2013
Do you think the Apollo moon landings might have been faked or that Britain's Royal family maybe, just maybe, conspired to assassinate Princess Diana because they didn't like her very much?
...
If you answered yes to any of these conspiracy theories then a new study published today has found that you probably also think the science of human-caused climate change is some sort of hoax and you might think too that there's no good evidence for vaccinating children.


merely showing with stats what we all empirically knew already. thanks for the link Maggnus
cls1
not rated yet Dec 21, 2013
I have a meta-conspiracy theory. "Elvis isn't dead" and "the moon landings were faked" and bigfoot and the Area 51 UFO coverup were invented to be used as chaff when people ask "who killed the Kennedys" and "what did Cheney know on Sept 10".

More news stories

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

Tiny power plants hold promise for nuclear energy

Small underground nuclear power plants that could be cheaper to build than their behemoth counterparts may herald the future for an energy industry under intense scrutiny since the Fukushima disaster, the ...

Hand out money with my mobile? I think I'm ready

A service is soon to launch in the UK that will enable us to transfer money to other people using just their name and mobile number. Paym is being hailed as a revolution in banking because you can pay peopl ...