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benkuhn comments on Lifestyle interventions to increase longevity - Less Wrong

120 Post author: RomeoStevens 28 February 2014 06:28AM

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Comment author: benkuhn 27 February 2014 04:52:39PM *  2 points [-]

Are you referring to the "Mozart Effect" studies? That's what I found in the book (or at least the parts of the preview that were accessible), but Mozart is actually classical, not baroque. The effect seems to be small and specific to one particular type of task, according to this Nature meta-analysis:

Rauscher et al. 1 reported that listening to ten minutes of Mozart's music increased the abstract reasoning ability of college students, as measured by IQ scores, by 8 or 9 points compared with listening to relaxation instructions or silence, respectively1. This startling finding became known as the 'Mozart effect', and has since been explored by several research groups. Here I use a meta-analysis to demonstrate that any cognitive enhancement is small and does not reflect any change in IQ or reasoning ability in general, but instead derives entirely from performance on one specific type of cognitive task and has a simple neuropsychological explanation.

As a side note, if you're going to cite studies it would be great to continue Romeo's trend of actually linking to the relevant studies, since there's not enough info in your comment to find the ones you're referring to and I don't own Wiseman. I don't really trust Wiseman (or pop-sci books in general) to interpret findings with anything remotely resembling rigor.

Comment author: zedzed 27 February 2014 05:38:40PM 3 points [-]

See edit.

Thanks for suggesting I put in sources. It didn't occur to me, but it really should have.

I generally don't trust pop-sci either, but Luke recommended Wiseman repeatedly, and since I trust Luke, I see Wiseman as a way of getting useful results without the work of reading all the science myself, much the same way I just give to Givewell's recommended charities rather than evaluate them myself. I could, but they have a comparative advantage, and I'm guessing you'll agree doing the verification is expensive. If there's a flaw in this reasoning, I'd appreciate a head-ups. Thanks!

Comment author: benkuhn 28 February 2014 12:28:29AM *  4 points [-]

For clarity, I don't trust Wiseman since I've never read anything and my prior for pop-sci is low. Luke's endorsement is a positive update to his credibility.

Fully verifying is expensive, but spot-checking is cheap (this post took me about 10 minutes, e.g.). Similarly, most people barely check GiveWell's research at all, but it still matters a lot that it's so transparent, because it's a hard-to-fake signal, and facilitates spot-checking.

Re: music--it looks like you were referring to a different study on the benefits of listening to music than the one I found in Amazon's preview of Wiseman. "Listen to classical music <to reduce blood pressure when stressed>" would have been another high-VoI addition to the OP.

Further studies indicate that "self-selected relaxing music" has the same effect, and that it's probably mediated by general reduction of SNS arousal. This suggests that (a) if you're doing an SNS-heavy task, like difficult math, you may not want to listen to music at the same time; (b) anything else you would expect to move you around the autonomic spectrum should work the same way (e.g. meditation). On the other hand, neither of the studies asked subjects to do anything while listening to music, so it's unclear whether the effect would stay visible. A possibly interesting meta-analysis is here. If doing anything while listening to music makes the effect go away, then I would guess that meditation or the autonomic-spectrum navigation that CFAR teaches is a more efficient way to reduce blood pressure.

I don't know if Wiseman went into any of those in his book, but my take-away is to do some research before installing any new habit.

Comment author: Will_Sawin 28 February 2014 02:54:30PM 1 point [-]

Difficult math is SNS-heavy?

Comment author: benkuhn 01 March 2014 04:17:41AM 1 point [-]

At least according to Val, activating System 2 requires SNS activity.

Comment author: Anomylous 09 December 2014 10:03:56PM 0 points [-]

Anecdote: My mom once tried to invoke the Mozart effect by putting on his music while me and my sister were doing schoolwork, hoping that it would make us more productive. It had just the opposite effect - we sat there and enjoyed the music, rather than doing our math assignments.