Thursday, May 29, 2014

I'm a Cynic of This Study on Cynicism's Link to Dementia

This study is an excellent example of why I tend to be cynical of headlines and reporters telling me about health and science.  One might easily get the impression that one should shun philosophy (and religion?) from the first line of the article:
"Cynics are three times more likely to develop dementia than those who have faith in humanity, a study has shown."
Wow.  A study has SHOWN that cynics are three times more likely to develop dementia than those who have faith in humanity.  I'm interested!  Please say more...
Academics asked nearly 1,500 people with an average age of 71 to fill out a questionnaire to measure their levels of cynicism.
They were asked how much they agreed with statements such as “I think most people would lie to get ahead”, “it is safer to trust nobody” and “most people will use somewhat unfair reasons to gain profit or an advantage rather than lose it.”
So having common sense and believing in original sin will turn you crazy, eh?  Let's read on....
Those taking part were monitored for eight years, during which time 46 of them were diagnosed with dementia. 
Well, 46 out of 1500 ain't bad.  I'm liking my chances!!
Of the 164 people with high levels of cynicism, 14 people developed dementia, compared with nine of the 212 people with low levels of cynicism.
14 out of 164 out of 1500??  Compared to nine out of 212 out of 1500???  [Why write out 'nine' instead of using the numeral '9' when all the other numbers are expressed as numerals?] So FIVE more people in the cynical group developed dementia. How do the moderately cynical fair, I wonder?  How about a healthy dose of cynicism?  I'm REALLY liking my chances!

The last sentence of the article doesn't exactly reflect the first sentence:
Dr. Doug Brown, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “While this research attempts to make a link between higher levels of cynical distrust and risk of dementia, there were far too few people in this study that actually developed dementia to be able to draw any firm conclusions.
WHY did I waste me time reading this article?  And why did YOU waste your time reading this blog post?


  1. We have been over this before, Tullius, but I wager that MOST (er, informed) writers prefer to utilize words for (1)-(9) and numerals for the rest...I dare say that most PHILOSOPHERS do so, as do most scholars generally.

    [I can picture you screaming at your computer, waving your fist at my cheeky makes me smile broadly.] :)

  2. Monash,

    I don't have the Chicago Manual in front of me, but I do believe that the rule you mention gets thrown out the window when you have numerals used in the same sentence. And FOR GOOD REASON. Switching back and forth in one sentence is unsightly!

    As far as what most F's prefer I refer you to Crito.

  3. Fortunately I do have wit:

    9.3: Spell out whole numbers up to (and including) nine, and use numerals for the rest.

    9.7: If you're juggling a bunch of numbers within the same paragraph or series of paragraphs, be flexible with the number style if doing so will improve clarity and comprehension. For example, use one number style for items in one category and another style for another category: "I read four books with more than 400 pages, six books with more than 100 pages, and 200 articles with less than four pages."

    Uh...boom, Crito.

  4. I assume that you're not leaving anything out in 9:4-9:6ff. If not then Chicago is D-U-M-B.

    MLA gets it right: