Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The illusion of memory and thumbsucking

Iiiiiiiiiiiiiitttt's Tuesday! Time for weekly highlights from the New York Times Science Section.

There's a study that shows that the older we get, the more trouble we have separating truth from myth where health information is concerned. Almost every shred of information we get on health topics contains "facts" and "myths," and we're all capable of understanding what we've read or been told at the time. However, says psychologist Ian Skurnik, warnings often have the opposite effect of what was intended, especially for older people:

This common problem arises, Dr. Skurnik said, because in laying down a memory trace, the human brain seems to encode the memory of the claim separately from its context - who said it, when and other particulars, including the important fact that the claim is not true. The detailed memory of the experience of learning the information begins to fade almost immediately, and the contextual clues fade faster than the core claim.
Sounds pretty complex - just remember "Don't trust your memory." (Whoa - there's a contradictory statement. How can I remember if I'm not supposed to trust . . . )

Now on to thumb-sucking. For some reason the Times felt the need to confirm that thumb-sucking does, indeed, cause buck teeth. Well, big duh! As a former - and proud - thumb-sucker, I can testify that, yes, if one continues to suck thumb after age 6, one gets to spend many jolly hours in the orthodontist chair. Still, that's the only drawback I can find for the habit - that, and looking stupid. No calories. No cancer (unless you've dipped your thumb in a vat of radioactive goo. Very soothing and stress-relieving. Believe you me - there are times when I wish this thumb still tasted like it did when I was 6.

There's also a good article about the mental health effect of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the displaced children. I think we all knew that this would be a biggie from the git-go. I hope good people are taking care of our chirrins. (And adults, too.)

So ends the weekly science lesson. Now on to more important things like sex, drugs, and rock/roll.

No comments: