No one like Dunkin Donuts coffee more than me. So when there’s a study that suggests I may be psychotic, I take notice.
A study: 92 normals listened to white noise through headphones. They were asked to count how many times they heard the song, “White Christmas” playing in the noise. Most people heard it 1-3 times. In fact, it was never played.
The study then groups the subjects into high/low caffeine and experiencing high/low stress– all by self report; so this isn’t a study of the effect of caffeine itself, but of the type of person who drinks caffeine or is stressed.
The result was this:
The correct way to interpret these results is to say that X predicted Y, e.g.
stress alone did not predict tendency to hallucinate
the combination of stress and caffeine predicted tendency to hallucinate
Most people attempt to critique a study by looking at the Results section, or at statistical significance, but the big money is usually in the Introduction or methodology.
The study authors want to be making a more general point about psychosis and even schizophrenia; and about the toxicity of excessive caffeine. All valuable discussion topics, but this study has nothing to do with those.
The subjects were also measured for overall hallucination proneness (formal scales) and there was no correlation between those scores and actually hallucinating the song in this study.
Consider that while almost everyone heard the song at least once, no one reported hearing a different song. The only song anyone reported hearing was White Christmas.
So the study is more likely measuring suggestibility.
Research efforts should also focus on determining the mechanisms of action by which caffeine and stress promote hallucinatory experiences.
I agree, but that has nothing to do with this study. It’s about the type of person likely to respond to the words of a researcher, which is also worth looking into if you have the grant money. Does high stress and caffeine predict psychosis? No. At best, this study suggests a quick way to screen potential dates, volunteers from the audience, and rubes.
What is the best and healthiest coffee to drink? Not a joke: the answer might be Dunkin Donuts.
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