If it’s on TV, it must be true…not quite

August 6, 2008

Ted Allen has a new show called “Food Detectives” and it aired for the first time last night.  It’s a relatively entertaining show, although I think there have been some shows like it in the past that answer some of its “mysterious” questions, one being Myth Busters.  Anyway, the point of this post…

One of the myths being tested was that ginger can prevent motion sickness.  The way they go about testing their hypotheses is relatively satisfactory (i.e., a control group and an experimental group), but this one had one huge glitch.

When testing, they properly gave some participants a placebo, which is great, ergo preventing false positives.  When the teacup ride was over (8 minutes, I believe), the group that had taken the ginger pills were not as sick as when they performed the control (where no one had taken anything).  The conclusion: taking ginger before motion-related events does indeed prove helpful and will make you less sick.  Not quite…

What they failed to do was test other spices and/or other perennial plants (I can’t say for certain which ones as I’m not very familiar with its similar species aside from what’s listed in the Wikipedia entry).  All they had done on the show is prove that ginger could potentially help with nausea produced by motion sickness, but it wasn’t conclusive that ginger is indeed the main factor in attenuating the nausea.  In my opinion, this is a huge flaw in the show’s scientific reasoning.  

Similarly, in my thesis, I must prove that complex morphological decomposition does occur and that the effects are not due to semantics (e.g., deduction-deduct), morphologically apparent words (e.g., hideous-hide), or orthographic overlap (e.g., brothel-broth).  I must use such conditions or else my results cannot be conclusive.  I cannot just, say, use morphologically complex words (e.g., stupidity-stupid) and a non-related control (e.g., pepper-friend) and conclude that complex morphological decomposition does indeed occur in early stages of lexical access/processing.  

Not only would this be silly of me and my claim, I would look like a fool.  But I suppose if it’s good enough to be on television, people must believe it.

It’s been way, way, way too long

May 4, 2008

Wow.  It’s been so long since I’ve posted here that I almost forgot about it.  Several people have left some comments and I’m sorry I haven’t replied, but I somehow don’t get the emails when someone leaves a comment.  Sorry.

Anyway, I’d like to start posting here more often in order for me to get out some ideas (or other psycho-neurolinguistic matters).  My interests have slightly changed since my last post almost a year-and-a-half ago.  I’m much more into (English) lexical processing now.  So I now do things like masked priming studies (psycholinguistics) and EEG experiments (neuro).  My thesis will be on the decomposition of morphologically complex words in English, primarily productive and unproductive suffixes.  I’d like to post more of this soon.

I hope to get some feedback from anyone on this topic either now or when I start posting some topics.  It will help to clear out my thoughts.  🙂

Yeah, I know him…

December 1, 2006

How do we know what words are? Do we need context? Or does the single lexical item suffice? That’s too broad of a question for this post, so I’ll just post a word and I wanna see if anyone knows about it. I can guarantee that this word, as is, in isolation will not be as quickly recognized as in context. There are other factors involved as well, but let’s just start here for today.


        (yes, they are all the same word. The only question is which one is which?)

        I am always annoyed by this. Maybe it’s a virus…

        Words and/in pages

        December 1, 2006

        I think the strangest thing is when we think of an advanced degree program requirements in anomalous  ways. Take this, for example.

        These degrees are supervised by Professor X, and result in a written research thesis of around 80,000 words.

        Wow. 80,000 words? Okay, so that’s roughly 320 pp, so why couldn’t they say 320 pp? In this publications defense, it is from the UK. But then that makes me wonder about the way they perceive not just situations differently from the way we do here in the states, but the way that advanced degree programs are perceived. Personally, I think this is torture only because it’s harder to look at and absorb such a large number. Would you rather hear 80,000 or 320? I would choose 320. But that’s just me.

        It is true that we have to keep in mind that although 80,000 is large, it is measured in words, as opposed to pages. There’s a difference. Conceptually, a page (or pages, whatever) is larger than, say, a word, since words are the things that fit onto a page. So something seems to happen when we say 320 pages as opposed to 80,000 words. Something in our mind neutralizes these numbers and they somehow become one-of-the-same. My guess is that it happens because since the concept itself is large and that includes a small(er) number,  it becomes of the same level with 80,000 since that large number is part of a small measuring unit (words per page).

        So does this mean that concepts are scarier than the words? Or is it that they are the same? Do they play off of each other? Neutralize each other?

        Weird. Maybe someone knows something about this.

        (a)telicity and number

        July 12, 2006

        i still seem to have a problem with events in regard to telicity/atelicity. if an event is bounded, an entity is bounded if it is conceptualized as having a clear boundary in time and/or space, then the event is labeled telic. if the event is unbounded and does not have a solid endpoint, then it is labeled atelic. fine, it’s not the definition i’m having problems with.

        the problem arises when certain sentences are used to express with theory. for example:

        1. John built the house in a week/*for a week.
        2. John built houses *in a week/for a week.

        (*) indicates that the sentence is ungrammatical–this term ungrammatical can be tricky because it often times refers to the sentence as not possessing the meaning that it is intended to possess. anyway, many theories have come forth indicating that you will usually find that telic events have a definite determiner, while atelic events have an indefinite. fine again. but this is where is starts to get shady for me.

        if you read (1-2), you will notice that (2)’s in a week can definitely be grammatical. could i hear someone saying *john built houses in a week? you bet. could you? the only problem i see with that sentence is that it doesn’t specify a number of houses that john built, therefore deeming it ungrammatical. but in order for an event to be bounded, are we now needing number to play a role in its determination? you can also see the same problem (though this one is more problematic than 2) in (1)’s *john built the house for a week. this could possibly be said, but as i’ve stated, it’s a bit more problematic than (2). (1) has the meaning that the house is in the process of being built, but is not yet done. (2) has the meaning that the houses were indeed completed but we are unaware as to the number of houses built in that week’s timeframe.

        so number correlates with (a)telicity. so then does that make number the main determiner in events, whether bounded or unbounded?