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Seth RobertsRSS Feed of this column.

I am a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley and author of Read More »


Two papers in the latest issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition provide more support for the idea that omega-3s improve brain function.

The first was a cross-sectional study involving about 2000 persons 70-74 years old in Norway. Their fish consumption was measured and they took a battery of cognitive tests. The more fish you ate, the better your score on every test, even after adjustment for several things.

Here’s a nice essay about the Women’s Health Initiative, a nine-year mega-million-dollar experiment to measure the effect of “healthy eating” especially a low-fat diet.

The Flynn Effect is the steady improvement in IQ scores over the last 50 years or so in many places. It was documented by James Flynn, a professor of moral and political philosophy at the University of Otago. Flynn gave a talk at Berkeley recently. I asked him how the Flynn Effect came to be.

Of course. He didn't. And dozens of writers you have never heard of, much less read, much less quoted in everyday conversation, have. These wrongs are corrected in an alternative universe described here. The Biology/Medicine Prize has also been fairly ridiculous, although at least Robert Gallo hasn't gotten one:

Jane Jacobs tells a story about a handed-down meatloaf recipe: After the loaf is made, the end is cut off. “Why?” she asked. “We’ve always done it that way,” she was told. The original recipe was for a smaller oven, it turned out; the end was cut off to make the loaf fit in the oven.

In 2000, Hal Pashler and I published a paper called “How persuasive is a good fit? A comment on theory testing.” For more than 50 years, experimental psychologists have supported mathematical theories by showing that the equations of the theory could fit their data. We pointed out that this was a mistake because no account was taken of the flexibility of the theory. A too-flexible theory can fit anything. However obvious this may sound to outsiders, the practice we criticized was common (and continues).