Tl;dr: would you like to exchange money for an extra-rigorous epistemic spot check or automating me out of a hobby? I have an opportunity for you.
Most of you reading this probably know the epistemic spot check series on this blog, in which I somewhat-arbitrarily check claims early in a book to calibrate my trust level in said book.
I’ve been approached by a pre-public prediction market org to see if we can scale ESCs using a forecasting tournament. As conceived of right now, I would extract claims from a book and put them in the tournament, where anyone could bet on how I would eventually rule on the claim. I then check a subset of the claims (the others resolve as “ambiguous”) and money is distributed to the winners. In order to standardize things, this will be done with more rigor and consistency than is usually seen in epistemic spot checks.
We currently have prize money to distribute to the winners, but not to cover my time. We’re looking for $1,000-$2,000 depending on the book and any particular requests you have. If you’re feeling generous, more prize money would not hurt either.
If you’re at all interested, e-mail me at elizabeth – at – this- domain and we can chat.
Epistemic spot checks typically consist of references from a book, selected by my interest level, checked against either the book’s source or my own research. This one is a little different that I’m focusing on a single paragraph in a single paper. Specifically as part of a larger review I read Ericsson, Krampe, and Tesch-Römer’s 1993 paper, The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance (PDF), in an attempt to gain information about how long human beings can productivity do thought work over a time period.
This paper is important because if you ask people how much thought work can be done in a day, if they have an answer and a citation at all, it will be “4 hours a day” and “Cal Newport’s Deep Work“. The Ericsson paper is in turn Newport’s source. So to the extent people’s beliefs are based on anything, they’re based on this paper.
In fact I’m not even reviewing the whole paper, just this one relevant paragraph:
When individuals, especially children, start practicing in a given domain, the amount of practice is an hour or less per day (Bloom, 1985b). Similarly, laboratory studies of extended practice limit practice to about 1 hr for 3-5 days a week (e.g., Chase & Ericsson, 1982; Schneider & Shiffrin, 1977; Seibel, 1963). A number of training studies in real life have compared the efficiency of practice durations ranging from 1 -8 hr per day. These studies show essentially no benefit from durations exceeding 4 hr per day and reduced benefits from practice exceeding 2 hr (Welford, 1968; Woodworth & Schlosberg, 1954). Many studies of the acquisition of typing skill (Baddeley & Longman, 1978; Dvorak et al.. 1936) and other perceptual motor skills (Henshaw & Holman, 1930) indicate that the effective duration of deliberate practice may be closer to 1 hr per day. Pirolli and J. R. Anderson (1985) found no increased learning from doubling the number of training trials per session in their extended training study. The findings of these studies can be generalized to situations in which training is extended over long periods of time such as weeks, months, and years
Let’s go through each sentence in order. I’ve used each quote as a section header, with the citations underneath it in bold.
“When individuals, especially children, start practicing in a given domain, the amount of practice is an hour or less per day”
Generalizations about talent development, Bloom (1985)
“Typically the initial lessons were given in swimming and piano for about an hour each week, while the mathematics was taught about four hours each week…In addition some learning tasks (or homework) were assigned to be practiced and perfected before the next lesson.” (p513)
“…[D]uring the week the [piano] teacher expected the child to practice about an hour a day.” with descriptions of practice but no quantification given for swimming and math (p515).
The quote seems to me to be a simplification. “Expected an hour a day” is not the same as “did practice an hour or less per day.”
“…laboratory studies of extended practice limit practice to about 1 hr for 3-5 days a week”
This too is a book with no page number, but it was available online (thanks, archive.org) and I made an educated guess that the relevant chapter was “Economy in Learning and Performance”. Most of this chapter focused on recitation, which I don’t consider sufficiently relevant.
p800: “Almost any book on applied psychology will tell you that the hourly work output is higher in an eight-hour day than a ten-hour day.”(no source)
Offers this graph as demonstration that only monotonous work has diminishing returns.
p812: An interesting army study showing that students given telegraphy training for 4 hours/day (and spending 4 on other topics) learned as much as students studying 7 hours/day. This one seems genuinely relevant, although not enough to tell us where peak performance lies, just that four hours are better than seven. Additionally, the students weren’t loafing around for the excess three hours: they were learning other things. So this is about how long you can study a particular subject, not total learning capacity in a day.
Many studies of the acquisition of typing skill (Baddeley & Longman, 1978; Dvorak et al.. 1936) and other perceptual motor skills (Henshaw & Holman, 1930) indicate that the effective duration of deliberate practice may be closer to 1 hr per day
“Four groups of postmen were trained to type alpha-numeric code material using a conventional typewriter keyboard. Training was based on sessions lasting for one or two hours occurring once or twice per day. Learning was most efficient in the group given one session of one hour per day, and least efficient in the group trained for two 2-hour sessions. Retention was tested after one, three or nine months, and indicated a loss in speed of about 30%. Again the group trained for two daily sessions of two hours performed most poorly.It is suggested that where operationally feasible, keyboard training should be distributed over time rather than massed”
“We found that fact retrieval speeds up as a power function of days of practice but that the number of daily repetitions beyond four produced little or no impact on reaction time”
Many of the studies were criminally small, and typically focused on singular, monotonous tasks like responding to patterns of light or memorizing digits. The precision of these studies is greatly exaggerated. There’s no reason to believe Ericsson, Krampe, and Tesch-Römer’s conclusion that the correct number of hours for deliberate practice is 3.5, much less the commonly repeated factoid that humans can do good work for 4 hours/day.
Epistemic Spot Checks is a series in which I fact check claims a book makes, to determine its trustworthiness. It is not a book review or a check on every claim the book makes, merely a spot check of what I find particularly interesting or important (or already know).
Today’s subject is The Dorito Effect, which claims that Americans are getting fat because food is simultaneously getting blander and less nutritious, and then more intensely flavored through artificial means. This is leaving people fat and yet malnourished.
Claim: Humans did not get fatter over the last 100 years due to changes in genetics. True. People are fatter than their ancestors, indicating it’s not a change in genetics (although genetics still plays a role in an individual’s weight).
Claim: Casimir Funk discovered that an extract of brown rice could cure beriberi in chickens. True.
Claim: In 1932, the average farm produced 63 sacks of potatoes/acre. By the mid 1960s, it was 200 sacks/acre. True.
Claim: Everything is getting blander and more seasoned. More seasoned. Blander food.
Note that both sources were provided by the book itself.
Claim: “We eat for one reason: because we love the way food tastes. Flavor is the original craving”. This doesn’t jive with my personal experience. I definitely crave nutrients and am satisfied by them even without tasting them.
Claim: “In 1946 and 1947, regional Chicken Of Tomorrow contests were held.” True.
Claim: Over time the Chicken Of Tomorrow winners consistently weighed more, with less feed and less time to maturity. True.
Claim: Produce is getting less nutritious over time. True(source provided by author).
Extremely trustworthy, and therefore worrisome, given the implication that food is becoming inexorably worse. Dorito Effect is unfortunately light on solutions, so you might just freak yourself out to no purpose. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a kick to start eating better, this could easily be it.
As a reminder, epistemic spot checks are checking a book’s early claims for truth/scientific validity/coherent modeling, to determine whether it’s worth continuing. After a few books I concluded that scientific backing didn’t seem that predictive of a book’s helpfulness, and started focusing on modeling. But that wasn’t predictive either.
I never officially decided to quit this project, but I can no longer get excited about checking out a new book, because nothing short of trying it seems to have any predictive ability of whether or not it is helpful. This leads me to believe that most of the effects are placebo effect, not in the sense of “imagined” as people usually use the word, but in the sense that it’s your own brain doing most of the work, and people just have to try things until something clicks for them, starting with the cheapest. I find this answer deeply unsatisfying, but what are you gonna do?
I read part of the book The Polyvagal Theoryand went to a two day seminar by the author, Stephen Porges. I went because I thought there was a strong possibility EFT worked by affected the vagal nerve, and thought maybe polyvagal theory could explain how. I ended up pretty disappointed.
Once I was at the seminar I was very interested in a protocol Porges developed called Safe and Sound, which purports to cure a number of things including many symptoms of autism, plus misophonia (which I have), by playing songs with certain frequencies filtered. Porges showed very impressive videos of autistic children going from non-functional to neurotypical-passing. He bragged about a 50% improvement rate. He played a sound sample and even on hotel sound system speakers, it had a very definite affect on me, relaxing many muscles. So of course I ordered it.
In a failure of order of operations I didn’t look up the results until after I’d ordered it (I really wanted my misophonia fixed, plus the demo had been so impressive). The paper tries very hard to hide this, but what actually happened was not an average 50% improvement in some patient metric, but that 50% of patients showed any improvement. Given that autism is a high variance disease and children are often receiving multiple interventions, this basically means “didn’t make anything worse, probably”.
But I’d already ordered the thing, so I decided to try it. This was kind of an ordeal, btw. Safe and Sound is available only through “trained professionals”, even though the protocol consists in its entirety of listening to some songs on an MP3 player. And I checked, there’s nothing magic about the MP3 player or headphones they send you, you could do it with any reasonably good pair you had lying around. Based on this, I have to assume the 3-digit price tag and gatekeeping are entirely about prestige, because they’re certainly not about helping people or making money (I’m sure he could make more selling the CDs without the gatekeeping).
The protocol did have an effect, in that it consistently made me very sad. It didn’t have any effect on my misophonia, even though I tried it twice. The occupational therapist tried to insist it had worked because I was blunter and more confident in my last conversation with her, but no, sweety, that was because I was more sure your system was bullshit. Then she recommended I give them more money to do other protocols, which I inexplicably declined.
I am fighting the urge to get into the science of polyvagal theory, because it is really really interesting and has a lot of explanatory power. I put off writing this for five months because I wanted to do a more scientific review. But the empirical results are not just bad, they’re bad while proponents are claiming they are good. I can’t trust someone who does that.
For bonus points, when I asked some pointed questions during the seminar, Porges blew me off. So I’m not going to give polyvagal theory any more brain space, even though it would be so cool if it was true.
The scientific claims would be far less supported than the author implies. The best case scenario was “as terrible as your average therapy research.”
The book’s prescriptions work for me anyway, in the sense that they make me calmer and happier and enable me to take better actions.
This book is about EFT, which stands for emotional freedom technique. I write that in a very small font in the hopes you won’t notice how stupid it sounds. EFT is also known as tapping, because the primary action is tapping your fingers against your face.
I originally learned about EFT in a book that went full blown magic about it: you tap your fingers on your face, it changes energy currents in your body, and the universe magically gives you what you want. There’s no point evaluating the science in books like that; they are what they are. The Tapping Solution markets itself as the more studious cousin of that book. It keeps the energy channels but backs off the magic gifts claim, offering the much more defensible explanation that tapping changes something in you that lets you create better outcomes.
The basic idea of EFT is you tap out a pattern on your body, mostly your face, while repeating a statement about something with a lot of negative emotional affect for you, especially ones that activate the sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight/freeze). Repeat until you feel better.
[There’s a lot of different techniques claiming to be The Best EFT Script and, while I suspect there are individual variations in what works best for each person, I can’t possibly care about the intra-EFT wars. Any script you use should just be a starting point for making your own anyway.]
Why would tapping improve your mood? I have some guesses:
It makes anxiety et al. boring. There are a lot of activities where people deliberately activate their SNS (sky diving, horror movies, drugs), so there must be something fun rewarding about being activated. Plus, lots of the things that happen to you in response to anxiety are quite pleasant. People cuddle you and bring you ice cream. You put off doing the stressful thing. I don’t think many people deliberately push themselves into hysterics for the attention, but I do think these benefits bias how people handle their stress. Tapping does not offer those kinds of rewards; after two or three rounds of tapping, you are bored. There are times I have gone and done the stressful thing because I would rather deal with it than have to do another round of tapping. It’s nice to have my intolerance for boredom harnessed for good.
I suspect this is some of how cognitive behavioral therapy works as well. Having taught myself both, EFT is less work and yet harder to develop an immunity too, although hybrid systems do better still.
A sense of control lowers stress. Having A Thing You Can Do While Stressed that you think lowers your stress level is already lowering your stress level. You can dismiss this as a self-fulfilling prophecy, but that’s only the point if you’re actually evaluating the concept of energy meridians. If what you want is to calm down so you can respond to comments on your code review, it doesn’t matter if it’s a placebo.
Something something vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is this weird nerve that skips the spinal cord and runs all over your body, including most major organs and a lot of your face.
Its tasks include:
Parasympathetic (relaxing) stimulation of all major organs except the adrenal glands.
Parasympathetic stimulation of muscles around the mouth and larynx.
Possibly reduces systemic inflammation
Sympathetic (fight/flight/freeze) stimulation of blood vessels.
A bunch of sensory stuff around the face.
Activity on your face is already known to affect your body via the vagus nerve.
Cold water on the face slows down your heart, and this is attributed mainly to the vagus nerve.
Direct electrical stimulation of the nerve is touted as a cure for all kinds of stuff. My sense is the science on that is… optimistic, but there is a reason it is being done to the vagus nerve and not something else.
There’s an alternate EFT script that involves tapping only on the hands. I have fond this to be a calming distraction at best. Hands are also pretty innervated, so this points to the effects being due to something specifically in the face, as opposed to sensitivity in general.
So I don’t know what’s going on, but I suspect the effect of tapping is mediated via the vagus nerve.
It’s a framework for breaking your problem into bite sized chunks, which is the ideal size for problems to be. EFT practices vary in how much you work off a verbal script you’re given, vs introspect on your own issues and tap on what comes up. I predict script-style work to be at best competitive with relaxation exercises, and only introspective EFT leads to actual improvements.
Who knows, maybe energetic meridians are a real thing, or at least a workable metaphor for a real thing. Lots of things sound stupid until you know how they work.
In particular, if you mixed up the explanations for EFT and the much more legitimate EMDR (deliberate eye movements rewiring your brain), I’m not convinced anyone could tell which one was the Officially Sanctioned Therapy and which was the crackpot treatment.
How I evaluated this book: usually when doing these checks I evaluate any statement I find interesting. In this case, I’m sticking to the ones for which the author explicitly claims scientific backing. For stuff that is essentially running on placebos and metaphors, I find a calm, confident, made up explanation is better than a hedged, hesitant, literally true one, so I’m not going to investigate the obviously exaggerated claims. But if you’re going to claim scientific validity, I am going to check.
Claim: “The amygdala is the source of emotions and long term memories, and it’s where negative experiences are encoded (p4)”.
True. Simplified, but obviously trying to explain how the amygdala was relevant to a particular concept, not give a comprehensive overview of our friend the amygdala. The amygdala is in fact so good at emotional memory that it can be invoked by visual cues even in people blinded by brain damage. This confused me at first, so let me note that the amygdala is not involved in fight/flight/freeze, but the longer, cortisol-driven chronic kind of stress.
Claim: Stimulating acupoints calms down the amygdala, and this is observable in fMRI and PET machines (p5).
Misleading, either bad faith or credulous. Bothstudies cited were done with acupuncture, not acupressure or tapping. I consider that relevant evidence for EFT, but dislike that he tried to make it even stronger evidence by hiding that both studies involved needles. The effectiveness of acupuncture appears to have large if weak support; I very quickly pulled up many more studies demonstrating the exact same thing, all of which were tiny (the largest was 18), and used fMRIs, which are suspect.
In general, studies of acupuncture have shown that it kind of works, but Official Legitimate Chinese Medicine Points don’t do any better than a random spot, so this adds more legitimacy to randomly stabbing yourself than it does to meridian points.
Claim: Other studies show that pressure works just as well for stabbing, maybe even better for anxiety (p5).
Seems legit. I didn’t find any citation for this but I’m willing to spot him that touching works better than stabbing for anxiety.
Claim: A study demonstrated that EFT reduces cortisol levels in the saliva (p5).
True, evidence weak but better than I guessed. The study cited is real, and with some effort I even found a full PDF. EFT did better than both a support group and no treatment on both a symptoms assessment and cortisol levels (24% decrease vs 14%). The differences in symptoms between EFT and the other groups are small, and some were not statistically significant. OTOH, every one of them goes in the same direction. I find this pretty compelling, assuming they published every trait they recorded. As usual, small study, vulnerable to p-hacking, etc.
Claim: This John Hopkins approved doctor agrees with us (p7).
Misleading, possibly very. The named person (David Friedman) does exist, but he’s a doctor of psychology, not psychiatry. The level that JHU approves of him is unclear. On his CV (PDF) he lists himself as “research associate”, “instructor”, and “faculty.” None of these words are “professor”, which makes me think he was an adjunct and certainly didn’t have tenure.
Claim: Competing systems telling you to never think about the negative are idiotic. True things are true (p8). In particular The Secret is bullshit.
Seems legit. “Make bad things approachable” just seems like a better tactic than wishing really hard. I also enjoy watching different alt modalities fight with each other.
Claim: Meridians have been scientifically validated, they’re called Bonghan channels (p10).
False. The official name of Bonghan channels is the primo-vascular system, and there’s minimal evidence it exists. Given that it’s pretty hard to prove that there’s a link between them and meridians in any scientific sense. But it’s established fact within the meridian community, so it’s at least well sourced bullshit.
A few more notes on The Tapping Solution.
As expected, Tapping Solution has failed the RCT test. What about the model test?
Well, it’s a fairly vague model, and energy meridians can be used to power anything. On the other hand it avoids my biggest complaint about heal-yourself-with-the-placebo-effect books, and also religion, certain parts of medicine, and psychology, which is that the solution to failure is often do the same thing harder. Tapping by and large avoids that trap. For actual physical problems you’re encouraged to see a doctor first, then tap, and if that doesn’t work see a doctor again. If a particular tap isn’t working you’re given alternate prompts to try. Additionally, tapping claims that often it will work so well you’ll forget you will ever upset about something, and the solution is not to hand over money to the nice man to keep the good vibes flowing, it’s to keep track of how upset you are at the beginning of the session. That level of empiricism shouldn’t make a book stand out, but it does. Tapping Solution, although not every book on EFT, is also pretty clear that you’re not imposing your will on the universe, you’re calming down so you can take better actions.
I don’t want to write out instructions for tapping because I believe the process of reading a book adds a lot of value over a quick run through (the same way doing yoga is better for you than waving a magic wand and becoming more flexible). But to help you decide if even starting the book is worth your time, here are some genres of problems I think tapping is most appropriate for:
Somaticizations, especially back pain.
Emotions you find too overwhelming to deal with, especially anxiety.
Legit life problems that are just too big to deal with all at once and need to be broken into bite size pieces.
Simplicity: very low. “Magical energy currents” sounds simple in that you can explain it quickly, but it takes a very long time to explain what things it can’t do and why.
Explanation quality: poor. Merdians can power anything.
Explicit predictions: okay. You have to make your own explicit predictions, but the book very much encourages you to do so.
Acknowledging limitations: mixed.
Relative to other heal-yourself-with-the-placebo-effect systems, The Tapping Solution is modest in its claims about what your mind can do. It goes out of its way to establish that the mind-body connection is in fact a connection, it doesn’t mean your body is a hallucination you can will into whatever form you want.
And then on the next page there’s a story of how a woman cured her lung cancer with EFT. So it’s not amazing on this axis.
Measurability: extremely good. This is where EFT really shines. They claim it’s such a good technique you will forget you ever had a problem, and encourage you to keep track so you won’t forget.
I’m deliberately not giving a lot of details on how to do it yourself, because I think there might be value to going through the book beyond the technique.
I taught this technique to five people, one of whom had a good response to it. Counting myself, that’s 1/3 successes, which is not great. But it’s cheap enough and has high enough potential I still recommend trying it.
Full Catastrophe Living is a little weird, because between the first edition and the second a lot of science came out testing the thesis. For this blog post, I’m reviewing the new, scienced-up edition of FCL. However I have ordered the older edition of the book (thanks, Patreon supporters and half.com) and have dreams of reviewing that separately, with an eye towards identifying what could have predicted the experimental outcome. E.g. if the experimental outcome is positive, was there something special about the model that we could recognize in other self-help books before rigorous science comes in?
I originally planned on fact checking two chapters, the scientific introduction and one of the explanatory chapters. Doing the intro was exhausting and demonstrated a consistent pattern of “basically correct, from a small sample size, finding exaggerated”, so I skipped the second chapter of fact checking. I also skipped the latter two thirds of the book.
You’ve probably heard about mindfulness, but just in case: mindfulness is a meditation practice that involves being present and not holding on to thoughts, originally created within Buddhism. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction is a specific class created by the author of this book, Jon Kabat-Zinn. The class has since spread across the country; he cites 720 programs in the introduction. Full Catastrophe Living contains both a playbook for teaching the class to yourself, the science of why it works (I’m guessing this is new?), a section on stress, and followup information on how to integrate meditation into your life.
Claim: Humans are happier when they focus on what they are doing than when they let their mind wander, which is 50% of the time.
Accurately cited, large effect size, possible confounding effects. (PDF). The slope of the regression between mind wandering and mind not-wandering was 8.79 out of a 100 point scale, and the difference between unpleasant mind wandering and any mind not-wandering task was ~30 points. Pleasant mind wandering was exactly as pleasant as focusing on the task at hand. Focusing accounting for 17.7% of the between-person variation in happiness, compared to 3.2% from choice of task.
People’s minds are more likely to wander when they’re doing something unpleasant, and when they are having trouble coping with that unpleasantness. The study could be identifying a symptom rather than a cause.
The study population was extremely unrepresentative, consisting of people who chose to download an iPhone app.
Claim: Loss of telomeres is associated with stress and aging; meditation lengthens telomeres by reducing stress (location 404).
Research slightly more theoretical than is represented, but theoretical case is strong. (Source).First, let’s talk about telomeres. Telomeres are caps on the ends of all of your chromosomes. Because of the way DNA is copied, they will shorten a bit on every division. There’s a special enzyme to re-lengthen them (telomerase), but leading thought right now is that stress inhibits it. Short telomeres are associated with the diseases of aging (heart issues, type two diabetes) independent of chronological age. This is hard to study because telomere length is a function of your entire life, not the last week, but is pretty established science at this point.
Mindfulness reduces stress, so it’s not implausible that it could lengthen telomeres and thus reduce aging. The authors also present some evidence that negative mood reduces the activity of telomerase. This is a very strong theoretical case, but is not quite proven.
Claim: Happiness research Dan Gilbert claims meditation is one of the keys to happiness, up there with sleep and exercise (location 461).
Confirmed that Gilbert is a happiness researcher and said the quote cited, although I can’t find where he personally researched this.
Claim: “Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University have shown, using fMRI brain scanning technology, that eight weeks of MBSR training leads to thickening of a number of different regions of the brain associated with learning and memory, emotion regulation, the sense of self, and perspective taking. They also found that the amygdala, a region deep in the brain that is responsible for appraising and reacting to perceived threats, was thinner after MBSR, and that the degree of thinning was related to the degree of improvement on a perceived stress scale.” (location 502)
Accurate citation, but: small sample size (16/26), and for the first study the effect size was quite small (1%) for regions of a priori interest, and the second had quite wide error bands (source 1) (source 2). However the book does refer to these findings as preliminary.
Claim: “They also show that functions vital to our well-being and quality of life, such as perspective taking, attention regulation, learning and memory, emotion regulation, and threat appraisal, can be positively influenced by training in MBSR.” (location 508).
Misleading. These are really broad claims and no specific study is cited. However, source 2 above has the following quote: “The results suggest that participation in MBSR is associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.” This is a very carefully phrased statement indicating that mindfulness is in the right ballpark for affecting these things, but is not the same as demonstrating actual change.
Claim: “Researchers at the University of Toronto, also using fMRI, found that people who had completed an MBSR program showed increases in neuronal activity in a brain network associated with embodied present-moment experience, and decreases in another brain network associated with the self as experienced across time. […] This study also showed that MBSR could unlink these two forms of self-referencing, which usually function in tandem.” (location 508).
Accurate citation, small sample size (36) that they made particularly hard to find (source). I can’t decipher the true size of the effect.
Claim: Relative to another health class, MSBR participants had smaller blisters in response to a lab procedure, indicating lower inflammation (location 529).
True, but only because the other class *raised* inflammation (source). Also leaves out the fact that both groups had the same cortisol levels and self-reported stress. So this looks less like MBSR helped, and more like the control program was actively counterproductive.
For the record, this is where I got frustrated.
Claim: “people who were meditating while receiving ultraviolet light therapy for their psoriasis healed at four times the rate of those receiving the light treatment by itself without meditating.” (location 534)
Accurate citation (of his own work), small sample size (pdf).
Claim: “we found that the electrical activity in certain areas of the brain known to be involved in the expression of emotions (within the prefrontal cerebral cortex) shifted in the MBSR participants in a direction (right-sided to left-sided) that suggested that the meditators were handling emotions such as anxiety and frustration more effectively. […]
This study also found that when the people in the study in both groups were given a flu vaccine at the end of the eight weeks of training, the MBSR group mounted a significantly stronger antibody response in their immune system”
Accurate citation (of his own work), slightly misleading, small sample size. Once again, he’s strongly implying a behavioral effect when the only evidence is that MSBR touches an area of the brain. On the other hand, the original paper gets into why they make that assumption, so either it’s correct or we just learned something cool about the brain.
Claim: MSBR reduced loneliness and a particular inflammatory protein among the elderly (location 551).
Not statistically significant. (source) More specifically; the loneliness finding was significant but uninteresting, since the treatment was “8 weeks with a regular social activity” and the control was “not.” The inflammation finding had p = .075. There’s nothing magic about p < .05 and I don’t want to worship it, but it’s not a strong result.
I also researched MBSR in general, and found it to have a surprisingly large effect on depression and anxiety.
To the extent Full Catastrophe Living has a model, it’s been integrated so fully into the cultural zeitgeist that I have a hard time articulating it. It could be summarized as “do these practices and some amount of good things from this list will happen to you.” Which kills my hypothesis that having a good model is necessary to getting good results.
You Might Like This Book If…
I don’t know. I found it a slog and only read the first third, but the empirical evidence is very much on mindfulness’s side and I don’t know what better thing to suggest.
Thanks to the internet for making it possible for me to do these kinds of investigations.