Tag Archives: mindlab

“Men like to receive Father’s Day cards!” says postal service

Father’s Day 2014: Study shows men are more emotionally sensitive than women – they’re just also better at hiding it

It is tempting to stereotype dads as gruff, unfeeling beasts who wouldn’t be overly moved whether you remembered to get them a Father’s Day card or not.

There certainly doesn’t seem to be the same outpouring of emotion to mark the annual day of parental celebration as we tend to see on TV and online for Mother’s Day, to make a simple comparison.

Yet according to a study carried out by neurologists at Mindlab, men are actually more sensitive than women when it comes to all sorts of emotional stimuli – they are just also better at keeping it under wraps.

Source: Independent, 13th June 2014

royalmail-13062014-independent

It seems that men are really the more sensitive sex, after all – or, at least, so says a marketing research company masquerading as legitimate science. But who were Mindlab acting on behalf of, in running this ‘research’?

The research was carried out in association with the Royal Mail, which also took the opportunity to test (and rank) the reaction displayed by men to typical Father’s Day card messages.

In fact, the research was less about sensitivity than it was about which cards men most want to receive… ahead of Father’s Day.

“It’s important to get Christmas dinner right!” says supermarket, via marketing scientists

“It’s important to get Christmas dinner right!” says supermarket, via marketing scientists

Christmas is just around the corner, and with it the annual stress over getting that family meal just right. Fortunately, research published in the Daily Express (by Nathan Rao, who potentially contributed barely a word to it) has the answer to your prayers: a scientific formula to follow.

Admittedly, if your prayers involve a scientific formula published in the Express and Daily Mail, to guide your Christmas Dinner preparations… well, you have a very curious idea of religion. But, I guess, evidence that yours is the one true god, so, y’know, Mazel Tov.

First things first – just how scientific is this article? Well, it’ll come as little surprise to you to find the scientist behind this is one David Lewis – founder of neuro-marketing company Mindlab International, and no stranger to this very blog. David has appeared in the press a number of times over the last few years, often (in my opinion) trading his scientific legitimacy in for publicity.

Personally, I find this deeply problematic – not least given that many people’s only experience of science is what they see in the newspapers. Stories such as this paint a skewed view of what legitimate science is, portraying scientists as little more than zany stereotypes, conducting silly work. Which leads to comments like this, from the Daily Mail story:

Really! I’m sure the science community has better things to do than spend time on this!! It’s the one time of the year when your definitely allowed to have a few extra spuds!

What the commenter – and many like him – doesn’t realise is that it’s likely no real science was done in the name of this article. Rather, a company looking to garner some attention in the press found an academic willing to lend their name – and with it, the legitimacy of their profession – to what is in essence an advert.

Which leads us to the company behind this story:

The perfect plate was created for Aldi by TV food psychologist, Dr David Lewis, of Channel 4’s Secret Eaters and eating expert Dr Margaret Yufera-Leitch…

An Aldi spokesperson added: ‘Everyone likes to treat themselves at Christmas but the traditional turkey dinner is the one meal where people feel most pressured that everything should be perfect…

‘By shopping at Aldi, families really can relax knowing that they are serving top quality, award-winning foods without breaking the bank.’

And by hiring scientists like David Lewis, Aldi can secure legitimate-seeming stories in at least two national newspapers, without breaking the bank.

“Technical jargon can be confusing!” says technology retailer, via marketing scientists

Have you ever noticed how tricky it can be when people use complicated technical jargon? The Daily Mail has:

It’s all geek to me! Even a foreign language is easier to learn than tech talk (but women are better than men at deciphering jargon)

The pangs of anxiety when trying to learn Latin or Greek will be familiar to many from their school days.

But compared to comprehending the latest tech jargon – or technobabble – most adults find understanding foreign languages a relative doddle.

With the advent of the digital age and increased reliance on computers, the use of tech terminology has become commonplace, to the bafflement of many.

Researchers found phrases such as ‘reboot’ [restart digital device], ‘megabyte’ [unit of digital memory] and ‘ISP’ [internet service provider] were much more confusing than words such as ‘boulangerie’ [bakery in French], ‘kalinichta’ [goodnight in Greek] and ‘ostrovia’ [cheers in Russian].

Source: Daily Mail, 23 January 2013

Technical terminology, then, can be opaque and confusing… but, of course, this isn’t just a piece of generic commonsensical knowledge, but an angle pitched to get a company into the press. In this instance, specifically:

Following the research, commissioned by Geek Squad, the technology support partner of Carphone Warehouse, the 10 most confusing technobabble terms will no longer be used.

So, a company which prides itself on translating technical jargon, says technical jargon can be confusing. In fact, let’s hear it in their own words:

Geek Squad member Chris Tufts said: ‘The tech industry is constantly innovating so there will always be some new terminology for consumers to get to grips with. 

‘It can be a real barrier, and prevents some consumers from getting the most out of their gadgets.

‘At Geek Squad, we effectively become tech translators. It’s great when you see customers have that light bulb moment and suddenly they understand a part of the product spec that’s mystified them for years.’

So far, so neat. The only thing left to do is take a look at where the research was carried out:

In a study involving 16 participants, scientists from Mindlab monitored their reaction to different phrases by measuring sweat levels and the brain’s electrical activity.

When challenged with tech terminology, the results showed participants experienced greater confusion and stress than when confronted with a foreign language.

Neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis said: ‘Trying to understand a language you are not familiar with can be extremely frustrating for anyone. 

Superficially, this seems like good solid research – conducted by a neuropsychologist, using reasonable methodology, as part of ‘Mindlab’. At the surface, it seems legit – however, on closer inspection, Mindlab is just another marketing company, whose gimmick is to use the word Neuro now and then, given that they’re run by people with science backgrounds.

In fact, we’ve seen David Lewis before – he was the chap who came up with the formula for the perfect beer, and regularly appears in the news as a science voice for hire.

How would I describe the reliability of this article, then? Well, to use a technical term… it’s bollocks.

“Scientists find the formula for the perfect pint!” says pub chain who paid those scientists

What factors go into creating the perfect beer? It’s an age-old question, if you believe The Sun and the Daily Mail, who both declared the search for the ultimate tipple was over, after scientists (or ‘Beer Boffins’ according to The Sun) discovered the formula to creating the perfect pint:

How to pour the perfect pint: Scientists devise complex formula for ale lovers (though following it after you’ve had a few could be tricky)

Scientists claim to have cracked the code of every drinker’s dreams – what makes a perfect pint.

Based on surroundings, music volume and the number of drinking partners, researchers have devised a formula that can calculate what makes a perfect pint for any given individual.

The equation also takes into account the availability of snacks, the ambient room temperature, and the number of days until you are required back at work.

Source: Daily Mail, 19 October 2012

Scientists discover formula for the perfect pint… And they had supped around 1,000 drinks along the way!

BEER boffins reckon they’ve finally discovered the secret of the perfect pint

For centuries, Brits have debated what it is about a favourite tipple that makes it stand out from the rest. Now experts reckon they have finally cracked it – after asking 1,000 volunteers around the country to take part in a mass survey for brewers Taylor Walker.

The result is a mathematical formula that takes into account everything from pub ambience to the time of day and what snacks are available in your local boozer at the time you consume the pint.

Source: The Sun, 19 October 2012

So far, so good – and the formula produced certainly looks like science: 

E = -(0.62T2 + 39.2W2 + 62.4P2) + (21.8T + 184.4W + 395.4P + 94.5M – 90.25V) + 50(S + F + 6.4)*

But what does this actually mean? Handily we’re provided a helpful key:

T = The ambient temperature in degrees Celsius 

W = The number of days until you are required back at work

P = The number of people with whom you are drinking 

M = Related to your mood whilst drinking the pint 

V = Related to the volume of the music being played

S and F are related to the availability of snacks and food.

Decoding the formula, we can see that the ‘beer boffins’ have concluded that the perfect pint occurs when a drinker is in pub is of ambient temperature with snacks available, where the music isn’t too loud, with lots of people around (but not too many), at a time when the drinker has a large number of days until having to go back to work.

Those beer boffins, how DO they do it?

Still, that said, just because the formula matches what we might come up with ourselves with a moment to think about it, doesn’t make it false, right? Well, no – but it might make it irrelevant, especially if the source was less than genuine…

The complex formula was devised after researchers polled 1,000 volunteers from up and down the country on what conditions they preferred when drinking their pint.

Dr David Lewis, who calculated the formula at Mindlab on behalf of pub chain Taylor Walker, said: ‘Following all of our research we developed a formula for the perfect pint.

In fact, the formula was commissioned by a pub chain – presumably to then declare that they not only know how to make the perfect pint, but that a pint in their pub is scientifically guaranteed to be the perfect pint.

As for the survey of 1,000 volunteers from up and down the country – the article certainly makes it sound like these volunteers had to visit many pubs, sample many drinks and really put themselves through their paces before offering their opinions, doesn’t it? After all, as The Sun declared:

…and they had supped around 1,000 drinks along the way!

So what was the research methodology carried out by these scientists? It was… an online poll via friends of the site OnePoll:

So much for volunteers, and so much for legitimate research.

And what of Dr David Lewis, the scientist behind the research? What role do they, and their so-called ‘Mindlab‘ play? How much legitimacy do we have there?

At Mindlab International we provide cutting-edge insight into the behaviour of individuals in a wide range of situations.

Our proprietary Neurometrix2 technology will allow you to make better informed business decisions, improve sales and enhance brand efficiency.

In other words, Mindlab may be scientists, but they’re very clearly also a brand and market research company, masquerading behind the banner of scientific legitimacy. And they have form – from this year in the Daily Mail alone:

The point here is clear – while the formula Mindlab were paid by a brewery to come up with may describe reality, and may fit in with what we know, that doesn’t make it real science. When the source is so clearly commercially-motivated, and the goal is to achieve publicity, discussing the merits of the research is to be taken in by the smoke and mirrors of the trick. The only story here is that Taylor Walker and Mindlab wanted to get headlines, and they succeeded.