Friday, December 11, 2015

Commentaries on Correlations....

"Illness makes you unhappy but unhappiness itself doesn't make you ill, says study

This was the title of a news item posted  this morning and it referred to research undertaken in the UK, where a million British women were studied  to find out whether happiness or the lack of it was connected to mortality

Then  you suddenly see news items  like  "Text messages that end in a period seen as less sincere" based on a study carried out at the Psychology Department ,  SUNY Binghampton, NY.  The big excitement is that texts ending in, say, an exclamation mark  are seen as more sincere.  

Sometimes, it is "Eating to impress: Men eat more food when dining with women"  , something declared by research done at the Cornell University Food and Brand lab.

While one has the utmost respect for the type studies done and published  to define the use of certain medicines for patients of various ages/types etc, or the utility of certain diets/therapies  for people with unusual health conditions,   I often wonder whether common sense situations today are digitized simply because quick correlations are available thanks to computers.  Digitization, also gives a certain false  sense of "documenting" , which is what publishing papers in journals is all about.  

Happiness and unhappiness cannot be digitized regardless of how much Intel is Inside.  It would not bother me ,  if sickness causes unhappiness or vice versa.  

I've seen a little boy, forced to stay home from primary school, due to an infectious disease, feverish and sleepy, and he suddenly perks up when his best friend from the neighborhood, drops by with a bunch of Chacha Chowdhury comics collected by her at various Railway stations while travelling.  She isn't allowed to spend time with him, but for the next few hours, his room reverberates with guffaws and cackles.  Possibly his fever abates a bit.  He has a great nap post that, and the disease runs its normal course. His happiness has been a temporary mix of the happiness of having a friend visit, bring him his favourite books, and a temporary victory of Chacha Chowdhury and school bunking,  over a scratchy itchy skin and a mild fever.      
I've seen a lady  undergo a mastectomy 25 years ago, people visiting her in hospital over the next few days, with fruits and flowers,   she and  her caretaker relative deciding that the fruits might go waste, and then peeling and cutting them and mixing them with yogurt ordered from the hospital pantry. It doesn't end there. They offered a bowl of this to the doctor who came on his rounds the next morning, who remarked favourably on her cheerful frame of mind. 

Mind you, she ate only what was prescribed for her post surgical situation. No doubt,  she was yet coming to terms with her traumatic surgery and future, but what you saw was a sense of making the most of a tough situation. Even the doctor remarked favourably. I don't know if this qualifies under happy, unhappy, smart or anything more.  But what had to happen , later happened.  

And so it is really about a bringing up where you learned to ignore the troublemakers, and enjoy things that made you feel optimistic, albeit temporarily. Sometimes , it is about keeping busy , a ploy all mothers know.

About the research regarding text messages mentioned above, I so wish they had met my 3rd standard English teacher in school. So many things we have known over decades , and someone does correlation studies simply because some machines do them so fast,  and publishes them. And I wonder if there are studies forthcoming about the effect of colons and semicolons, not to mention question marks. 

It is naive to think being happy makes you less ill.  Or that if you are ill, you are going to be unhappy.  Happiness is a dynamic mix of a sense of physical well being, a sense of mental relaxation, and a feeling of being cared for. Happiness and unhappiness cannot cause mortality or survival.   What is physical well being for one person, maybe over-the-top fuss for someone else.   

Most of all , we need to stop digitizing life.  It isn't about being 0 or 1.   

But a great and fluid mixture of many fractions, having to do with hope, despair, cheer, anger, gratitude, and perhaps, relief.   Publishing such "research" in forums which also announce new pharmacological discoveries to treat cancers, hitherto considered untreatable, is downright wrong. 

And about that research about men eating more when dining with women to impress them, I wait with abated breath to read research studies,  about Statin usage by men vis a vis women, whether eating more is a function of happiness or vice versa,  whether the woman being a vegetarian mattered , whether the amount of alcoholic drinks imbibed has something to do with the temporary happiness, or once again, vice versa.....

But wait . Here is a new one. "Color affects ethical judgments of brands, research suggests.."  Companies choose colors are part of their brand identity. And University of Oregon folks did research on how color shapes our opinion about whether companies are eco-friendly and so on.  This was published in the Journal of Business Ethics.  Turns out that blue is greener than green where consumers are concerned about someone being eco-friendly. 

I so wish someone would come to India, and do research on Fairness Creams, the connections to ingredients banned abroad, Fairness , beauty, fairness, ethics ,  truth, lies, the ability to land a job,  and the making of money.  

The question is which multinational will be willing to fund the research.  

Publishing is दूर कि बात ......



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