Should you get wasted the night before a big exam?

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Eric Barker  -  
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Sure, why not? Despite what I recently posted about drinking negatively affecting performance in college, this study says that binge drinking the night before a test doesn’t negatively affect grades:

In a first-of-its kind controlled experiment, researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) and Brown University have found that surprisingly, binge drinking the night before a test does not impact college students’ test performance – although it can affect their moods, attention and reaction times.

The study, which appears in the April 2010 edition of the journal Addiction, was conducted by Jonathan Howland, professor of community health sciences at BUSPH , and Damaris Rohsenow, research professor at Brown’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies.

The study found that intoxication in the evening did not affect students’ next day scores on academic tests requiring long-term memory, or on tests of recently learned material. Binge drinking did, however, slow participants’ attention/reaction times and worsen mood states – impacts that could affect safety-related behaviors, such as driving.

Howland said the research team was surprised by the test-taking results because some prior studies have found that occupational performance was impaired the day after intoxication. But, he explained, “We looked at one particular academic outcome. Test-taking is only one measure of academic success.”

The researchers also noted that binge drinking could affect other types of academic performance, such as essay-writing and problem-solving requiring higher-order cognitive skills.

“We do not conclude… that excessive drinking is not a risk factor for academic problems,” the researchers wrote. “It is possible that a higher alcohol dose would have affected next-day academic test scores. Moreover, test-taking is only one factor in academic success. Study habits, motivation and class attendance also contribute to academic performance; each of these could be affected by intoxication.”

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The 4 Psychological Techniques That Increased Navy SEAL Passing Rates

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Eric Barker  -  
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Ever since reading The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228 I’ve been interested in Navy SEAL training, particularly the psychological aspects.

In his blog at Psychology Today, Bakari Akil covers a History channel documentary The Brain and what it revealed about the four techniques the Navy used to increase passing rates in the elite SEAL program:

Goal Setting

“With goal setting the recruits were taught to set goals in extremely short chunks. For instance, one former Navy Seal discussed how he set goals such as making it to lunch, then dinner.”

Mental Rehearsal

“With mental rehearsal they were taught to visualize themselves succeeding in their activities and going through the motions.”

Self Talk

“As far as self talk is concerned, the experts in The Brain documentary made the claim that we say 300 to 1000 words to ourselves a minute. By instructing the recruits to speak positively to themselves they could learn how to “override fears” resulting from the amygdala, a primal part of the brain that helps us deal with anxiety.”

Arousal Control

“And finally, with arousal control the recruits were taught how to breathe to help mitigate the crippling emotions and fears that some of their tasks encouraged.”

How successful were these techniques?

This very simple four step process increased their passing rates from 25 percent to 33 percent, which is excellent in a rigorous program as theirs. It demonstrates that achieving success doesn’t always have to be a complex process. A few minor additions and tweaks may be all that is needed.

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