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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Is group studying more effective?

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Eric Barker  -  
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Not if you want to remember anything:

Humans routinely encode and retrieve experiences in interactive, collaborative contexts. Yet much of what we know about human memory comes from research on individuals working in isolation. Some recent research has examined collaboration during retrieval, but not much is known about how collaboration during encoding affects memory. We examined this issue. Participants created episodes by elaborating on study materials alone or collaboratively, and they later performed a cued-recall task alone, with the study partner, or with a different partner (Experiment 1). Collaborative encoding impaired recall. This counterintuitive outcome was found for both individual and group recall, even when the same partners collaborated across encoding and retrieval. This impairment was significantly reduced, but persisted, when the encoding instructions encouraged free-flowing collaboration (Experiment 2). Thus, the collaborative-encoding deficit is robust in nature and likely occurs because collaborative encoding produces less effective cues for later retrieval.

Source: “When two is too many: Collaborative encoding impairs memory” from Memory & Cognition

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How can you improve learning while you sleep?

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Here’s What The Research Says About Whether You Could Really Become Batman

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Maybe, but even if you could, you wouldn’t last long.

In his book Becoming Batman: The Possibility of a Superhero, E. Paul Zehr discusses what it would take to become the caped crusader as well as the practical limitations inherent in being a superhero without superpowers.

He was interviewed about it in Scientific American:

Keeping in mind that being Batman means never losing: If you look at consecutive events where professional fighters have to defend their titles—Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Ultimate Fighters—the longest period you’re going to find is about two to three years. That dovetails nicely with the average career for NFL running backs. It’s about three years… The point is, it’s not very long. It’s really hard to become Batman in the first place, and it’s hard to maintain it when you get there.

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