Psychology Study Representation by a Press Release Essay
The article titled “Go easy on Coffee, you could start seeing things” was published in the Daily Mail in January 2009. Based on research conducted by Jones and Fernyhough from Durham University, it is clear that the press release captured the essence of the research findings, but also contained several misrepresentations of the same.
The first misrepresentation- “you could start seeing things”
The first misrepresentation is contained in the press release title, “you could start seeing things” (Daily Mail 1), and is supposedly meant to be a description of the hallucinatory experiences that can occur in a person if he or she consumes a given quantity of caffeine. Medically, however, hallucinations can take place in a number of sensory modalities. Such include seeing, hearing, or sensing “things”, which in reality are not there. The press release hence missed the point of what the researchers meant by using the “seeing things” description. To avoid misrepresenting the facts, it would have been better to write “go easy on coffee, you could start hallucinating”.
Failure to identify the research hypothesis
The author of the press release also failed to identify the basis of the first hypothesis that the researcher worked with. Having noted that the biochemical cortisol had a “key role in translating the experience of psychosocial stressors into biological factors associated with psychosis”, the researchers had worked on the assumption that a person who experiences hallucinations after drinking a certain amount of caffeine had to have given stress levels (Jones and Fernyhough 562). By failing to capture the researcher’s assumption, the press release is misleading readers that any person, whether stressed or not, is exposed to the risk of hallucination upon drinking a given amount of coffee.
The omission of vital details
In relation to the stress factor, the press release further missed another important detail. According to the researchers, not only did caffeine intake correlate with being prone to hallucinations, but it was also “positively related to stress levels” (Jones and Fernyhough 564). Having failed to mention the relationship between stress levels, the stress hormone- cortisol, coffee intake, and hallucination-proneness, the press release further omitted the researcher’s admission that they could not rule out the possibility that proneness to hallucination “could be a cause, rather than a result of increased caffeine intake” (Jones and Fernyhough 564).
The press release’s omission of such vital details was therefore tantamount to giving its readers half-baked information regarding the findings. Readers on the other hand could easily have interpreted the information as absolute truth. As such, my observation is that the press release could have been more objective by incorporating the limitations stated in the research.
Misrepresentation of facts
According to the press release, all 219 research participants were asked about “how often they suffered hallucinations” (Daily Mail 1). Judging by the elaboration of the research process as authored by Jones and Fernyhough, the respondents were not “asked” per se. Rather, their proneness to hallucination was assessed using a 16-item Launay-slade scale. This misrepresentation of facts further suggests that the press release could have misled leaders into believing that participants were asked for a straight yes or no answer about whether or not they hallucinate.
The press release would have been more accurate if the author indicated that the respondent’s proneness to hallucination had been assessed using a 16-item questionnaire. The term ‘questionnaire’ would have been a simpler description of the term Launay-slade scale, which is clearly too technical for laymen readers.
The press release further states that high consumers of caffeine “were three times as likely to have had problems as those who rarely drank coffee” (Daily mail 1). This sentence was meant to suggest that high caffeine consumers were three times more likely to suffer hallucinations that non-caffeine consumers. Reading through the research findings, however, there is no specific part of the research that directly supports the assertion made in the press release. As such, the author of the press release could have done a better job at informing people of the preliminary research findings, by stating that people who drank huge quantities of caffeinated products were more likely to experience hallucinations than non-caffeine users.
Nonfactual crediting of ‘sensing the presence of ghosts’ to the journal article
The final misrepresentation by the press release is apparent in the statement that indicates that high-caffeine content consumers were more prone to thinking that they had sensed ghosts. The press release terms this statement as a direct report from the ‘Journal of Personality and Individual Differences’ (Daily Mail 1). Reading through the research findings, however, one realizes that Jones and Fernyhough do not, in any part of their journal article, directly make reference to caffeine users ‘sensing the presence of ghosts’. This means that the Press Release writer must have interpreted the hallucinations mentioned by the researchers to include ‘sensing the presence of ghosts’.
Since this part of the press release is not factual, it should not have been written at all. This is because even though the writer could have used the term ‘hallucination’ instead of ‘sensing the presence of ghosts’, it would still be a repetition of what had been stated elsewhere in the press release. Overall, the press release succeeded in communicating the findings that caffeine intake could lead to hallucinations but failed to inform its readers of the conditions or assumptions made by the researchers.
You Can Now Improve Your Cognitive Performance, Mood Using Caffeine- Report Confirms
It has now been confirmed that caffeine has anti-depressant effects and hence its ingestion can help people improve their cognitive performances and moods. In findings published in the Nutritional Neuroscience Journal, researchers from Cardiff University discovered that the consumption of caffeinated drinks led to increased alertness and an increased ability to understand new information.
The research was conducted on a sample made up of 25 habitual-caffeine consumers, who had been deprived of any caffeinated substance prior to the research, and 25 non-caffeine consumers. The research sample in each category was given 2 mg/kg caffeine and its effect on each participant’s performance abilities and mood determined through an assessment that measured their mood, attention, and reaction time, both before and after consumption of the caffeine. The results showed that the comprehension abilities and emotional states had improved in both the habitual caffeine consumers and non-consumers.
However, researchers found out that while caffeine re-introduction to the habitual consumers reduced anxiety, its consumption by the non-consumers caused them anxiety. An increase in the hedonic tone among the sampled group was also noted and translated to mean that caffeine had a positive effect on people’s moods.
Unlike what most people would expect, the report states that caffeine withdrawal does not have any negative effects on people’s comprehension abilities or emotional status. As such, the researcher concludes that further research needs to be done in order to specifically identify the caffeine effects on people.
Jones, Simon & Fernyhough, Charles. “Caffeine, Stress and Proneness to Psychosis-like Experiences: A preliminary Investigation.” Personality and Individual Differences 46 (2009): 562- 564.
The Daily Mail. “Go Easy on Coffee, you could Start Hallucinating.” 2009. Print